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Keep it simple: Consistency, positive attitude key to eating healthy in 2020, dietitian says

Eating healthier this year comes down to setting realistic goals — and accepting that indulging on a Friday night isn't the end of the world, one registered dietitian says.

Fad diets and strict meal plans aren't the way to go, registered dietitian says

Produce is shown in a grocery store in Toronto on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018. Dietitian Desiree Nielsen says people should focus on positive additions to a daily diet, such as eating three cups of veggies or drinking over two litres of water. (Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press)

Eating healthier this year comes down to setting realistic goals — and accepting that indulging on a Friday night isn't the end of the world, one registered dietitian says.

It's a common New Year's resolution to eat healthier, but registered dietitian Desiree Nielsen says fad diets and strict meal plans aren't the way to go.

Instead of thinking about cutting out foods perceived as "bad," Nielsen said people should focus on positive additions that are manageable.

This can be as simple as eating three cups of veggies or drinking over two litres of water every day. 

"Our resolutions are usually reactionary: I'm never eating sugar again, I'm never drinking again, I'm never eating pizza again," she told CBC's The Early Edition. 

"Never is a really, really long time. If you focus on the not and the never you will inevitably give up on it and then inevitably feel guilty or shameful."

Avoid the fads

Some popular diet plans, like the ketogenic diet and other low-carb diets, should be left in 2019, Nielsen said. 

But diets like it that eliminate processed foods and certain carbohydrates and sugars can highlight how we live in a "carbaholic nation," Nielsen added.

People typically consume double the recommendations for added sugar, so saying goodbye to hyper processed food is a smart bet, she said. 

But it doesn't take a specific diet to reap the benefits from eating simple, plant-based, unprocessed, single-ingredient foods: think apples, chickpeas and broccoli.

"If you do that, if most of your plate looks like that, you can pretty much forget every single fad diet you've ever learned and you're going to be far healthier than the rest of the population," Nielsen said. 

'It's just food'

And if meal prepping for hours on a Sunday doesn't fit into your schedule, starting with small, attainable goals can still make all the difference over time. 

For habits to stick, it's important to minimize anxiety over food and the desire for instant results, Nielsen said.

Consistency is key when making changes, she said. 

"There is no failing. It's just food. We have to remember at the end of the day, yes, food is powerful and yes, it's a huge part of if we feel sick or not," Nielsen said.

"But it's just food. If you have Twinkies and beer on a Friday night, you haven't ruined everything."

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