Healthy Eating Tips for Keeping Your New Year’s Resolutions

If eating healthier is one of your top new year priorities, that’s great. The thing is, “I’m going to eat healthier this year” is one of those well-intentioned but too-hard-to-define goals that isn’t nearly as easy done as said. (That’s one reason it’s so damn hard to keep resolutions.) So if the big idea is healthier eating, you’ll have better success if you break it down into bite-sized mini-goals like these healthy eating tips we’ve gathered from registered dietitians.

The one-little-thing-at-a-time approach can be used for any number of new year’s resolutions—or anytime resolutions—you make. The truth is, when you set one big giant goal, it can be hard to know where to start and easy to lose your momentum. But if you set smaller goals to reach along the way, you’re making progress and meeting mini-milestones as you go. And we all know little feels quite as good as checking something off your to-do list.

Want to get fit? Start with a weekly fitness plan to put you on the right track and give you specific workouts to crush at the gym (no more wandering aimlessly from machine to machine). Determined to actually get eight hours of sleep a night? Start by tackling the surprising sleep mistake that’s making you so darn tired all the time. And as for that healthy eating goal? Tricks like eating veggies with breakfast and snacking on two pieces of fruit everyday are super simple ways to upgrade the eating habits you already have. These tips are so easy to follow, you’ll have no problem getting your new habits to stick.

Read on for some of the smartest, easiest ways to make every day healthier—and tastier, too. Here are nine healthy eating tips registered dietitians swear by.

1. Reduce your sugar intake, little by little.

Cutting back on sugar is a gradual process and doesn’t happen overnight, but once you start to cut back on it, you’ll realize you don’t need as much of it as you once thought. And it doesn’t have to be complicated. One easy thing I like to do to cut is use Truvia Nectar, because it has 50 percent fewer calories than sugar. I put it in my Greek yogurt, tea, or anything else I usually put honey, sugar, or agave in.

— Chelsea Elkin, M.S., R.D., C.D.N.

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2. Add veggies to breakfast time.

One health-protective habit I often recommend is aim to fill half of every mealtime plate or bowl with non-starchy veggies. For most people (including me!), that’s easier to do for lunch and dinner than for breakfast. So, my eating resolution this year is to include veggies in one way or another at every breakfast. I see plenty of non-traditional breakfasts in the future!

— Jackie Newgent, R.D.N., culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook

3. Save booze for the weekend.

Not only does alcohol intake add empty calories to the diet, but it can lead to poor diet and fitness decisions the following day. My rule of thumb: Skip out on the alcohol during the week and save that special glass of wine for weekend activities.

— Nora Minno, R.D., C.P.T., an NYC-based registered dietitian and personal trainer

4. Practice mindful eating.

A big goal of mine for the new year is to eat more mindfully. The last couple of months have been super-hectic and I have found myself rushing through meals more than usual. [This year], I want to take more time to taste and appreciate everything that I put in my mouth. Food is such a delightful sensory experience, and a privilege! Furthermore, there’s evidence to suggest that practicing mindful eating may assist with portion control, weight management, and possibly even digestion, which are all important factors for long term health.

— Edwina Clark, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., and head of nutrition and wellness at Yummly

5. Incorporate more probiotics and prebiotics into your diet.

Although research is still in the early stages, this is an emerging area of science that were are going to be hearing more and more about. Prebiotics are natural, non-digestible fibers that are linked to promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut. Good choices are: bananas, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans, and whole-wheat breads. Probiotics are active cultures that help change or repopulate intestinal bacteria to balance gut flora. Consuming probiotics may boost immunity and improve overall GI health and the best sources are yogurts, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, and tempeh. Having a combination of prebiotics and probiotics in our diets can be a very powerful step to improving our overall health.

— Laura Manning, R.D., clinical nutrition coordinator in the department of gastroenterology at The Mount Sinai Hospital

6. Finally get into meal prep—seriously, it’s a game changer.

A weekly meal plan can help you eat better, save money, and time during the week. I really like this type of resolution because it is positive, no restriction, doesn’t involve dieting.

— Rebecca Clyde, M.S., R.D.N., C.D., blogger at Nourish Nutrition

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7. Eat two pieces of fruit a day.

Even though I know as a nutrition expert how healthy fruit is, I don’t eat enough of it in the winter months. (That’s a hard confession to make!) This year I am going to really attempt to eat two pieces of fruit per day. With oranges, clementines, pears, and apples galore it shouldn’t be so hard, and I can always get my fill of berries as long as I am willing to pay more for them. I will include one piece with my lunch and one piece as part of my daily afternoon snack.

—  Keri Gans, M.S. R.D., author of The Small Change Diet

8. Eat out less often.

Around the holidays, people eat out a lot at restaurants or other people’s homes. When you’re not cooking, you have less control over what you’re actually eating, and all of these celebrations can unintentionally lead to consuming extra fat, salt, and sugar. I usually recommend making January a cook-at-home month. Make a weekly meal plan, and focus on lighter, seasonal comfort fare like bean soups and roasted vegetables.

— Maxine Yeung, M.S., R.D., owner of The Wellness Whisk

9. Stock your pantry with fewer sweets (which is not the same as cutting out sweets for good, by the way).

Resolving to never eat a sweet again takes a lot of effort and can create a feeling of deprivation. A more realistic resolution would be to create an environment in which you can consume fewer sweets without having to rely solely on your willpower. Research shows that when sweets are within arm’s reach or even within our sight, we are much more likely to consume them than if we have to go out to the store to buy them.

— Patricia Bannan, M.S., R.D., author of Eat Right When Time Is Tight

10. Drink two glasses of water before leaving the house every morning.

When thinking about resolutions or lifestyle changes, try to think SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound). One that I recommend: Drink two cups of water before leaving the house each morning. If your goal is to drink two cups of water every morning, you can measure success every single day: You either do it, or you don’t!

—Wendy Lopez, M.S., R.D., C.D.E., co-founder of Food Heaven Made Easy

11. Always carry a water bottle, and be mindful of your hydration throughout the day.

Water is important for so many reasons: it helps keep your energy up and your metabolism running, supports immune health and digestion, helps reduce headaches and fatigue, and is essential in fueling your workouts, to name a few things. (Editor’s note: This article explains how much water you need every day, and how to get it.) Consider tracking your water intake with an app like Daily Water.

—Tara Ostrowe, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D

12. Learn new ways to cook dark leafy greens.

There are many different ways to eat healthy, but one thing everyone can benefit from is getting plenty of dark green leafy vegetables—kale, mustard greens, collard greens, swiss chard, spinach, and broccoli are all great choices. This year, I’m recommending that my clients experiment with new ways of cooking leafy greens, then add their favorite new recipes to their weekly meal planning routine.

—Emily Kyle, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.N.

13. Keep healthy staples in the freezer.

Something I do and often recommend to my clients is to always have certain staple foods on hand for a hassle-free way to eat well year-round. I always have frozen blueberries in the freezer, because this Chocolate Chunk Blueberry Smoothie is one of my favorites. It’s delicious, has just 4 ingredients, and is a good source of protein and fiber. (Here are 8 healthy freezer staples we love.) It’s such an easy resolution to stick with, and it really makes a difference!

—Patricia Bannan

Andrew Purcell, Carrie Purcell

14. Eat more meatless meals.

Plant-based meals are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and low in saturated fat. I’ve added lots of vegan meals to my regular rotation—to replace meat, I cook with plenty of beans, because they’re a good source of vegetarian protein. I especially like chickpeas, black beans, and cannellini beans. Also, I find that if I’m at a fast-casual lunch spot (like Chipotle), there are actually tons of vegan options, and I don’t even miss the meat.

—Michelle Dudash, R.D.N., Cordon Bleu-certified chef, and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families.

15. Banish weight and diet talk.

This time of year, “diet talk” is all around us. Resolve to not participate in body bashing or diet-related conversations. Whether that means you leave the room to get away from the conversation, change the subject, or have a few go-to come-backs at the ready. So if someone says “I’m not having that, I’m trying to be good” you can say “I have exciting plans this holiday season, I’m going to insert plans here that have nothing to do with dieting“. Or respond to diet talk with “I’m loving this new intuitive eating thing I’m doing. It helps you tune into your natural hunger and fullness cues and allows you to have a healthier relationship with foods. You don’t have to count things and it feels great!”.

Alissa Rumsey, M.S., R.D., nutrition therapist and creator of the Five Minute Mindful Eating Exercise

16. Get rid of all the things you associate with dieting.

Grab a trash bag and clear your schedule for at least an hour. Spend about 10-20 minutes per room and quickly remove everything that reminds you of diets. Everything. In the kitchen, toss those “healthified” foods that really don’t taste good to you. In the closet, remove those “goal weight” clothes and wear what fits and flatters your body now. You can always donate clothes to someone in need, which is a valuable and sustainable way of repurposing fashion. On the bookshelf and coffee table, toss all the diet plans and magazines that keep telling you how “wonderful” life will be when you take up less space. Then, spruce up these areas with things that boost your mood—photos from a memorable vacation, pretty flowers, a lovely scented candle, and really great books.

—Rebecca Schritchfield, R.D.N., author of Body Kindness

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