To keep healthy in the new year, the key is in sustaining positive change.
As Jan. 1 passes, people may be tempted to make sweeping resolutions to change their diet and start an ambitions exercise program in hopes of losing weight. But often, those drastic overhauls aren't sustainable in the long run.
"People want to lose those pounds. If you try to do too much at once, it's too overwhelming and you won't stay with it. Take it slow, but steady," Diane Thorne, public health nutritionist for First District Health Unit, said.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Diane Thorne, public health nutritionist for First District Health Unit, holds two different plates showing different serving sizes of meat. The larger piece represents 8 ounces, while the smaller slices represent three ounces. Three ounces is the recommended serving size.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Beverage sizes make a difference in calorie consumption. Pictured is soda sizes of 12 ounces, 20 ounces, and 33 ounces. An actual serving size is 8 ounces. The juices compared are 4 ounces, 15 ounces and 16 ounces.
"The key is to make simple changes. Stick with one change until you've got it down, and then add another," she added.
People might start with one simple goal, such as eating each meal at the table, eating breakfast every day, or switching from regular soda to diet, Thorne explained. Once that goal has been practiced regularly and has become a habit, people can add a new one.
The first step for many may be just staying aware of what they consume. Writing down each beverage and each food can offer insight into where the extra calories are coming from.
"When you're setting realistic goals, and writing down what you consume, pay attention to the beverages. Liquids don't register as food, and you don't feel full," Thorne said. "If you drink a calorie-packed beverage, you're just adding calories tacked on to what you're already consuming."
"One can of soda can add an extra 120 calories," she added. "If you're adding one can of soda a day, that's 12 pounds of extra weight over a year's time."
Thorne explained that all sweetened beverages, such as flavored coffees, sports drinks and juice add extra calories. An easy way to cut beverage calories is to order fat-free coffees made with skim milk or using a non-caloric sweetener instead of syrups or sugar, choosing to eat whole fruit instead of drinking fruit smoothies or juice, and drinking skim milk instead of whole milk.
"All milks have the same basic nutrition. Just the fat, cholesterol, and calorie content varies," Thorne said. "One percent or skim milk has fewer calories, but it doesn't change the nutritional composition of your diet."
Portion control, exercise
Cutting back on portion sizes is also a good way to cut calories, though people should also be aware of the nutritional content of what they're consuming.
"A good way to make sure you're getting a balanced meal is to divide the plate into quarters. Half of that plate should be fruits and vegetables, one quarter of it meat, and one quarter of it pasta, bread or rice," Thorne said.
"To cut back on portion size, one thing that helps is to use smaller plates and smaller glasses. The smaller size makes it look like you've got a full plate of food," Thorne said.
In addition to keeping track of nutrition, regular exercise is the extra key that will help people stay healthy in the new year.
"If you're sitting in front of the TV and eating healthy, you're only doing half of it," Thorne said. "Nutrition and physical activity go hand in hand."
Thorne advised starting slow with exercise, gradually adding in extra movement until it becomes a part of a person's lifestyle.
"Walking is a good thing to start with," she said. "There are walking clubs at the mall or the dome, and you can even walk in your house. You could start just doing 10 minutes at a time."
"Even daily activities count," she added. "Housecleaning and walking up stairs add extra minutes of activity."
Mostly, though, people shouldn't give up and become discouraged if they miss a day in working toward their goals.
"There are Web sites where you can log your daily exercise and food intake, so you can see where you sit," Thorne said. "But if you mess up one day, don't worry about it. Just start again the next day."