This year, make goals that will impact your long-term nutrition, and not just your short term waistline!

When I ask people about their nutrition goals, the answer is usually a variation of this sentence: “I want to lose X pounds!” However, this is more of a wish without a plan to back it up. When I ask how they plan to lose the weight, I often hear something like, “I’m starting this diet, cleanse, or weight loss program,” or the ambiguous, “I’m just going to be more diligent about eating better and working out.”

I’ve seen many start these diets, cleanses, and weight loss programs. They may lose weight…even a lot of weight. I’ve had family members lose close to 80 pounds, but then they gain the weight back once their diet, cleanse, or program was over. They didn’t improve their nutrition, they improved their waistline for a short period of time.

This year, I’m challenging you to make actual nutrition goals…ones that are not about the pounds, but about providing your body with the nutrition it needs for a lifetime, not just ‘til March. Skip the fad diets, cleanses, and promising programs, and make goals that will set up future habits to help your nutrition!

I challenge you to pick one or more of the habits I’ve listed below, then pick a time frame to monitor the goal. Make sure you give it at least a month to help you create a habit. Place reminders around you (my favorite is the mirror) to keep you on track. After your set time frame, you don’t have to be as strict, but you won’t be done, ‘cause this isn’t a short-term goal. You’re setting up lifelong habits!

Future habit #1

Short-term: Eat at least one serving of vegetables every time you eat. Breakfast, meet spinach, afternoon candy bar, meet baby carrots. I literally mean every time you eat or drink anything other than water.

Long-term: This will help make eating vegetables a habit, so when you’re preparing a meal or grabbing a snack, you’ll remember to include vegetables.

Why: Vegetables are low in calories and high in bulk, helping you to eat less and lose weight. They’re also high in phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, all of which will help to keep your body functioning well and will ward off disease.

Future habit #2

Short-term: Drink water! No soda, juice, or energy drinks. Aim for 0.5-1 ounces of water for every pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, that would be 80-160 ounces of water. I think the best way to go about this is to track water bottles. For example, if I want to drink 120 ounces a day, and my water bottle is 20 ounces, I just have to refill my water bottle 6 times. 6 seems less daunting to me, and is a great way for me to keep track. I’d recommend doing this for multiple months to kick the soda, juice, or energy drink habit and really cement in the water habit.

Long-term: You can occasionally have other drinks. I personally love to have Italian sodas on my birthday, but I mostly drink water.

Why: Dehydration can cause fatigue, low energy, headaches, dry skin, constipation, and more. This can make it hard to focus, learn, exercise, and do the things you like to do. Although often overlooked, water is the most important nutrient our bodies need.

Future habit #3

Short-term: Eat breakfast everyday, and make it a balanced meal with fruits, veggies, whole grains, and a protein.

Long-term: Eat breakfast everyday, and make sure it’s balanced 90% of the time.

Why: Breakfast has been shown to help with weight loss, increases brain activity, and assist in avoiding excessive snacking later on in the day. Breakfast eaters also tend to have higher-quality diets, including larger amounts of vitamin A, C, riboflavin, calcium, zinc, and iron.

Future habit #4

Short-term: No refined flours. In other words, make sure all the grains and flours you’re eating are just whole grains for two months. This is a hard one, so doing it a little longer can help make it a habit and not a quick fix. This means that all treats, breads, pasta, tortillas, etc. are made from whole grains. Rice needs to be brown rice or a sub like barley or quinoa.

Long-term: Hopefully, this challenge will create a habit for you to order brown rice instead of white at restaurants, purchase whole grain breads, pastas, and tortillas, and look for ways to sub refined flours with whole grains whenever you bake.

Why: Whole grains contain more nutrients and fiber than their refined counterparts. By using whole grain, you keep the nutrients that are lost in the germ and bran, like fiber, protein, folate, riboflavin, thiamine, niacin, and more.

Future habit #5

Short-term: Eliminate one unhealthy snack. It might be soda, chocolate, chips, pretzels, or sugar-coated cereal. Maybe you have an afternoon soda everyday. Eliminate it for at least a month. By doing this, you’ll hopefully break this habit and convince your body to crave healthier foods.

Long-term: You can have the occasional eliminated food, but make it an occasional treat, not a habit.

Why: When we consume many of our daily calories from junk food, we use our calories without getting all the nutrients we need. We also tend to over-consume calories, sugar, and salt, leading to weight gain and high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

Future habit #6

Short-term: Only eat out twice a month for 6 months. This includes ice cream trips, coffee, lunch, dates, everything.

Long-term: Life happens, and things like vacations, business trips, or holiday parties might mean eating out a little more, but always aim for twice a month.

Why: The average American spends half their food budget on eating out. Yikes! That’s way too much! When we eat out, we often consume more calories, fat, sugar, and salt, and fewer vegetables, than when we eat at home. This can lead to weight gain, fatigue, and future health problems. Enjoy homemade, healthy meals, and you body and wallet with thank you.

This year, make nutrition goals that will set you up for a lifetime of good health!

Megan Ostler MS, RDN
iFIt Dietitian