It is estimated that roughly 40 percent of Americans set New Year’s resolutions. Many of these will be health-related goals like eating healthier or losing weight. Statistics show that only 8 percent of people actually stick to their resolutions. Why do so many of us fail and what can be done to improve our chances for a successful and healthy new year?

A common reason we don’t reach our goals is that they are overly ambitious or unrealistic. The harder something is to maintain, the less likely we will stick with it. The willpower we have when initially setting these goals quickly fades when we realize how difficult they are to keep. So instead of “shooting for the moon,” focus on smaller, more realistic changes. Choosing modest goals could be the difference between giving up in February and creating long-lasting lifestyle change. If your goal is to exercise more, schedule a realistic three to four days at the gym instead of aiming to go seven days per week.

New Year’s resolutions typically focus on the negative, like what we have to “give up,” instead of focusing on the positive. If you are working on cutting back on sweets, try replacing dessert with a healthier alternative like fruit or yogurt. Instead of vowing to never dine out again, make it a special event once a week. This strategy will prevent lifestyle changes from being viewed as a negative experience or punishment.

Change one thing at a time to avoid feeling overwhelmed. Remember that perfection is unattainable and that minor setbacks don’t mean you have failed. Don’t throw in the towel just because you missed a day at the gym. Resolve to get back on track. Remember that any effort towards your goal is better than no effort at all.

Finally, seek out support from those around you who care and are willing to listen. Friends and family can offer encouragement when things get difficult. If your goal is to be more physically active, think about joining a gym or exercise class to help with accountability. If your resolution this year is to eat healthier or lose weight, consider meeting with a dietitian to get personalized advice.

If you prefer a group setting, a weight management class, such as the Mayo Clinic Diet Program, may be a good option. The Mayo Clinic Diet Program is a 12 week class which provides information on weight loss, nutrition, physical activity and other healthy lifestyle behaviors. It is facilitated by a registered dietitian with an exercise physiologist and a psychology counselor as guest speakers. The next session starts Jan. 24, so don’t wait to register as seating is limited! For more information or to register call 608-392-9587. To learn more about the Mayo Clinic Diet Program and other classes, visit www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org.

Popular New Year’s resolutions include eating more healthily and drinking less alcohol. Having better-for-you alternatives to usual classics may make you more likely to stick with your health goals. Below are a couple recipes to get you off on the right foot this year!

Champagne fooler

Dietitian’s Tip: This champagne substitute has all the sparkle and taste but half the calories of the real thing.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups unsweetened apple juice or apple cider
  • 1½ teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cups lemon-flavored sparkling water

Directions

Chill a champagne or wine glass. Mix the apple juice, lemon juice and sparkling water in a glass. Serve.

Nutrition information: Per serving (5 oz or ⅔ cup): Calories 55, sodium 4 mg, fat 0 g, saturated fat 0 g, carbohydrates 14 g, fiber 0 g, protein 0 g

Recipe from: Mayo Clinic Staff

Chicken sliders

Dietitian’s Tip: Using lean ground chicken breast can reduce the calories and fat found in traditional sliders made with beef or pork.

Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 10 ounces chicken breast, ground
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 1 fresh chili pepper, minced
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seed, crushed
  • 4 whole wheat mini buns
  • 4 lettuce leaves
  • 4 tomato slices

Directions

Mix first 7 items together and let set for 1 hour. Form into 2-ounce patties. Grill or broil in oven until patties reach a minimum internal temperature of 165 F. Serve on small whole-wheat buns with lettuce and tomato.

Nutrition information: Per serving (1 prepared slider) Calories 195, Sodium 166 mg, Fat 3 g, Saturated fat 0.5 g, carbohydrates 22 g, fiber 4 g, protein 20 g

Recipe from: Mayo Clinic Staff

Jamie Pronschinske, RDN, is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System.

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