The first in our series on how to stay on track with your New Year’s resolutions dealt with the topic of exercising more. Another popular resolution for many people is to change their diet so that they can eat more healthily. This resolution is often motivated by a desire to lose weight, but it can also stem from the need to make a change for other health reasons. Some of the motivating factors behind making a resolution to eat more healthily include:
1. Improve overall health
2. Increase energy and vitality
3. Feel stronger
4. Alleviate unpleasant physical symptoms
5. Avoid foods the body is sensitive to
6. Combat food allergies
7. Improve sleep quality
8. Look better
As with the resolution to exercise more, incorporating dietary changes can also be difficult. A common problem with changing your diet to eat more healthily is solving the dilemma of how to accomplish incorporating healthier foods into your diet without spending a lot of money. As we mentioned in the first segment of this series on how to stick with your New Year’s resolutions, one third of those of us who make resolutions tend to break them before the end of January. To help you avoid that, we offer some expert advice on how to stay on track with your resolution to eat more healthily, without breaking your budget:
1. Make easy substitutes. Using your current food budget, do some research before you go grocery shopping next time, and see what you can substitute from the “not so good for you” category for an item from the “better for you” category. You may find that something from the produce aisle costs the same or even less than something from the processed food aisle, especially if you take advantage of seasonal sales on fruits and veggies. A bag of baby carrots just might be less than that family sized bag of caramel corn, and it’s definitely healthier!
2. Start slowly. In light of achieving long term success and making your goal to eat more healthily manageable, we suggest you begin by adding one or two healthier food choices into your daily diet, rather than doing a total dietary revamp all at once. You are much more likely to stick with changes that are taken on gradually. For instance, if you are a “junk food junkie” it may not be possible for you to quit cold turkey on January 1st, but you may be able to handle switching out one or two favorite foods for a healthier version. Think crunchy sweet potato chips or kale chips instead of greasy potato chips, or veggies and hummus instead of chips and dip.
3. Cut back on fast food. You spend more money in this category than you think. Make it a priority to have meals at home, or elements to make a meal, and start driving by those fast food drive throughs. If you take just a little time to think ahead and do some meal planning when you shop, you will have what you need to resist those tacos and French fries that are not nearly as healthy or satisfying as the taco salad and sweet potato fries you can make at home, probably for less money.
4. Make it fun! If you have kids in the house, you are setting a great example for them when you eat healthier. Kids live what they learn, and the kitchen is a great place to learn how to take care of their bodies by eating healthy food. Get them involved in meal preparation by making it fun for them with contests (who can make the goofiest face with carrots, cherry tomatoes, olives, pickles, and alfalfa sprouts?) and rewards (let them choose the healthy dessert that day).
5. Pamper yourself once a week. Have a day you look forward to (but don’t need to feel guilty about) by discovering a restaurant with healthy menu options. Stay within your food budget, but look around your town for an affordable healthy restaurant, or a restaurant that has at least a few healthy options. If you don’t have one meal out a week in your food budget, make that a goal.
We applaud your efforts to eat more healthily and improve your diet! Not only will you save money on health care as your health improves because of your healthier diet, but your New Year’s resolution to eat more healthily has many other benefits, too. You can add years to your life, and vitality to those years. You will drop inches from your waist, feel better during the day, sleep better at night, and look better all the time. You’ll spend less time at the doctor’s office, too, because your new way of eating will boost your immune system, and you’ll find that you get sick less often.