5 (actually) attainable New Year’s resolutions, dietitian-approved

Reach for the stars. Aim high. We get these instructions to live our best life seemingly all the time. But when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, getting stuck in the “go big or go home” mindset may set yourself up for failure. 

This is especially true when it comes to resolutions revolving around what you eat. According to dietitian Valerie Agyeman, founder of Flourish Heights, a women’s health nutrition practice, digital platform and community helping women nourish a better relationship with food, our annual “do better” goals should have a common thread.  

“The [goals] should be attainable. When it comes to making healthy choices about eating, it’s so important to be realistic,” she says. “That’s the only way to turn those choices into habits. First figure out what wellness means to you. [Ask yourself:] What does my health look like now? And, where do I want it to be [in the] long term?” 

Agyeman advises using your answers as a foundation to build resolutions that will stand the test of time. 

“Filling your body with nutritious fuel means the most when it’s sustainable,” she says. And while the dietary objectives will be specific to your unique health picture, Agyeman has a few general suggestions to making a fresh start with food in 2022.

No. 1: Add more fruits, veggies and fiber to your diet

Agyeman is a big proponent of eating vegetables, pointing out that you can’t overdo it when it comes to these nutritional powerhouses. She suggests bumping up whatever amount you’re eating now, even if that means starting slowly. 

“These foods are packed with the fiber, vitamins and minerals that are essential to overall health and to supporting your immune system and giving you more energy each day. Your body can’t get enough of them,” she says. “Some of my nutrition clients barely eat any produce and grains, so I tell them to begin by adding one vegetable to things they’re already enjoying,” she says. Agyeman promises it’s easier than you think, and it’s often budget-friendly too. 

“Add veggies to eggs — or add fruit to yogurt; add beans to your favorite soup,” Agyeman suggests. 

No. 2: Look for probiotic and prebiotic-rich foods

“A healthy gut supports our overall health — from immunity to digestive health, [to] fertility and much more,” Agyeman says. Our diet plays a role in achieving gut health, and Agyeman explains how probiotic and prebiotic foods work in tandem. 

“You want to add in good bacteria from probiotic-rich foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi — and don’t forget prebiotic-rich foods like onions, bananas and asparagus to help feed those good bacteria in your gut,” Agyman says.

No. 3: Add more herbs and spices

While using more herbs and spices in your recipe repertoire is a healthy way to enhance a dish’s taste without additional sodium or fat, according to Agyeman, they have their own inherent value too. 

“Herbs and spices are great to use in cooking, not just because of the flavors and aroma they provide, but because of the many nutrients they offer,” she says. “If you find that you always go for added salt, try switching it up with herbs like rosemary, thyme, dill, or even ginger and garlic instead for added flavor.” 

<p>This <a href="https://feastandfield.net/cook/dinner/simply-delicious-grilled-salmon/article_61dae43e-eab4-11eb-ba2b-efb65ef552f6.html" target="_blank">delicious grilled salmon</a> is easy to make and nutritious, too. Photo by Bethany Goodrich.</p>

No 4: Aim to eat fish twice a week 

Agyeman is not the only one preaching this wisdom; many health organizations recommend eating fish two days a week.

“This supports heart health, mental health and overall wellness,” Agyeman says. “Fish such as salmon, sardines and pollock are a great source of high-quality protein and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids — among other essential nutrients.”

That’s the why.  As far as how, Agyeman’s recommendation echoes what she says about eating more veggies: “Add fish to foods you already love — from salads and pastas to soups and stews — or make a delicious sheet pan salmon with roasted veggies,” she suggests.

No 5. Create a mindful relaxation routine

When we hit our stress ceiling, it’s easy to seek comfort in food. Agyeman knows this well. “Speaking from real life working with my clients, stress comes up in the conversation all the time, and how quickly it can lead to emotional eating,” she says. The many (sometimes competing) demands on our time and energy require us to be proactive. 

“We may not be able to eliminate stress, but we can prioritize controlling how we manage it,” Agyeman says. “Self-care takes a plan. Create a routine that will work for you, but try and incorporate it regularly.”