Mastering Your Smart Nutrition Resolutions: A Proven Guide for the New Year

Published on: 12/19/2023
New year's fireworks going off on a mountainside above a village
As we embrace the holiday season, joyous social gatherings abound, we find ourselves savoring delicious treats, indulgent drinks, and delightful desserts. As the New Year makes its grand entrance, so does the age-old tradition of creating diet-focused resolutions, a cultural phenomenon that often comes hand in hand with the equally prevalent tradition of breaking these goals within a few weeks. This year, let’s shift our focus to smart nutrition resolutions, leaving behind the unrealistic goals of the past.Before we dive in, it’s essential to acknowledge that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with aspiring to enhance nutrition, fitness, and overall health right after the holiday season. You are surely not alone in this desire! I am right there with you 😊. This is referred to as the “fresh-start effect” where goals center around a time-related milestone—like the start of a new year (1). I encourage and celebrate health goals at any time of year. But, let me share with you some strategies to help you see more success and well-being than the typical New Year’s resolutions.Why we should think about smart nutrition New Year’s resolutions 
Research shows that most people who make New Year’s resolutions give up on them before the end of January (2,3). It’s not the fault of the person who gives up. Resolutions are often too ambitious, inflexible, framed negatively, and are attempted without support. These are just a few of the reasons they’re difficult to stick with. 

I want to propose a different way of making health goals. A way that is more achievable, sustainable, and can more easily become lifelong regular habits.

*Fun fact: two-thirds of the personal goals that people make New Year’s resolutions about involve eating habits, physical health, and weight loss (1). We are surely not alone.

There are a few things to think about when considering smart nutrition New Year’s resolutions.

First, there’s no physiological necessity to wait for a particular date to take a step towards better health. You can begin by eating slower, incorporating more fruits and vegetables, and practicing mindful eating—stopping when you’re full–from your very next meal. Your decision to pursue a fresh start can begin right here and now.

Secondly, the motivation behind many nutrition-focused goals may have unhealthy origins. Rather than coming from a place of love, empowerment, and future health, there are many not-so-healthy reasons some people make nutrition-focused New Year’s resolutions:

  • Social pressures and expectations have hit an all-time high. Social media🙄 and others around you may be in on diet fad frenzies.
  • Comparing your current health status to others and feeling guilty about it.
  • Many of us look at this time of year as a free pass to overindulge during the holidays (2) and then refer back to number two⬆️…and the cycle continues 😑.

Finally, goals centered solely on diet, as opposed to adopting smart nutrition resolutions, often prove to be unrealistic and unattainable. Unlike the classic breakup line, ‘It’s not you, it’s me,’ in this context, it truly is not about you; it’s about the nature of the goal itself. These goals can lead to disappointment, shame, guilt, and possibly even worse health habits and outcomes. Some experts believe there may be a link between certain diet-focused New Year’s goals and worsened well-being (3). Plus, unrealistic health goals may spark or contribute to the yo-yo dieting. 

A better way to set nutrition resolutions

Making smaller, more sustainable changes can lead to more success. This is not the first time I have shared this fact, yet studies continue to show that realistic and flexible goals are also more likely to contribute to—and not take away from—a sense of well-being (3). So who does not want more of that?! Here are some research-backed strategies to help you make better health resolutions at any time of the year.

  • Have more flexible goals

What makes a goal flexible? Goal flexibility means having the ability to handle setbacks and adjust your approach as needed. This positive impact of having more flexible goals may be because when reaching a goal becomes difficult, adjusting the goal may help to maintain a sense of well-being. Being able to handle challenges and opportunities makes us feel like the bosses of ourselves and the future—basically, we’re the superheroes of our own story!💃🏽

  • Have more flexibility in the way goals can be reached

In 2021, a study checked out “goal tenacity,” which is like being the velcro of goals – super sticky! But, turns out, that being too stubborn with goals can make you as unhappy as Patrick Mahomes after a referee call he did not like 🙂. It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole – it does not work. And watch out, because if you play the “all-or-nothing” game, goals might just storm off the field if things don’t go perfectly. Plus, if your goal strategy is completely inflexible, it might bring along depression and anxiety (3). So, maybe let your goals dance a little and bring in some touchdown goofiness! (these are worth the 3:45-minute watch!)

  • Keep your nutrition resolutions around the positive outcomes you’d like to achieve (rather than the negative outcomes you want to avoid)

In other words, keep your resolutions and goals approach-oriented, where your goal is to achieve a positive result (4). For example, a goal of getting fitter and stronger is a positive, approach-oriented goal that is more likely to be achieved, rather than an avoidance-oriented goal such as not getting diabetes.

  • Enlist support

Hell yes, we can not go at it alone! (4). Having someone, like a friend, family member, or coworker, can have positive effects when it comes to reaching goals.

Examples of smart nutrition resolutions 

Here are a few examples of small, flexible health goals that can become sustainable over the long term. Keeping them SMART is key, and adjusting when you accomplish your time range. Whatever goals you choose to make, set them from a place of self-love❤️and positivity.

  • Snack smarter: I will eat a produce + protein snack for my mid-afternoon hangry time, at least 4 times a week, for the next month. 

Check out some of my favorite produce + protein snacks here.

  • Choose water: I will consume at least 16 ounces of water between lunch and dinner, at least 5 days a week, for the next two months. 
  • Practice eating more mindfully: I will eat lunch away from my desk and computer, in a chair, at a table, at least four times a week for the next three weeks. 

A great exercise to remind yourself how mindful eating feels for you.

  • Listen to your body and be kind to yourself: I will eat dinner when I feel physically hungry, but not overly hungry, and enjoy my balanced meal, at least three nights a week for the next four weeks.

Eat according to your body’s clock

All of these goals are adding healthy habits, and not taking things away! Taking care of yourself is like the VIP pass to the happiness party, but hitting health goals isn’t the secret handshake. You’re already a superstar, deserving of love and kindness. Let’s add self-love, self-care, and kindness to your goal list – because you’re worth it, challenges and all! So what if you didn’t conquer Mount Everest today? Cut yourself some slack! You haven’t failed; you’re just taking a detour through the scenic route (always my favorite route, even when it is by mistake 😉). Keep rocking that self-love anthem, listen to your body’s beats, and spread kindness like confetti. (5,6)

Some final thoughts on mastering your smart nutrition resolutions

How we choose our health goals can make a big difference in how long we’ll stick with them, how they impact our well-being, and how much success we see. Remember not to be too hard on yourself when challenges arise, because they will. Allowing yourself some flexibility in how you set and reach your goals, opting for positive goals, and enlisting support can help you improve your health and maintain well-being throughout the year. Keep it light, keep it fun, and let those healthy vibes roll.

Remember, attainable goals for healthier lifestyle habits can be made any day of the year, including today…

Do you need help setting yourself up for success when it comes to health- or nutrition-focused goals? As a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist, and National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, I’d love to help. Grab your free ticket to a complimentary 10-minute session with me – we’ll chat about you and sprinkle some positivity on whatever you fancy!

As we step into the promising realm of 2024, it’s no surprise that many of us are eager to embrace resolutions centered around eating habits, physical well-being, and weight management. Channeling our motivation into healthier choices is always a positive endeavor, regardless of the season. To kickstart the new year, let’s usher in 2024 with revitalizing recipes that nourish not just our bodies but also our minds and spirits. Happy New Year! 🎉

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BLUEBERRY DETOX SMOOTHIE
This could be breakfast, lunch, or an anytime snack. It brings the summer twist of blueberries (albeit, frozen), detoxifying greens, and nutritional powerhouse seeds. Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, providing essential nutrients for heart health and brain function. Additionally, they are a excellent source of fiber, promoting digestive health and helping to maintain a feeling of fullness. Hemp seeds are packed with a balanced ratio of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that support heart health and reduce inflammation in the body. They are a great plant-based source of complete protein, containing all essential amino acids, making them a valuable addition to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Let’s get the blender whirling! INGREDIENTS
1 cup blueberries, frozen
1 cup spinach or kale, destemmed, loosely packed
½ banana, frozen, cut into chunks
1 Tablespoons chia seeds
1 cup almond or hemp milk, unsweetened 
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder, unsweetened
1 Tablespoon almond butter
½ Tablespoon hemp seeds, optionalPREPARATION
Place all ingredients in blender and process until smooth. Makes one serving.


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BUTTERNUT SQUASH DETOX SOUP
This soup could be frozen in single servings, consumed as a cup before a meal to help take the edge off your appetite, or consumed as the main course of your meal with some added protein. Butternut squash is a nutritious vegetable rich in vitamins A and C, providing immune system support, promoting healthy skin, and supporting vision. It also contains fiber and potassium, contributing to digestive health and blood pressure regulation. Cashews are another nutritional powerhouse! They are a good source of healthy fats, particularly monounsaturated fats, which are beneficial for heart health. They provide protein, essential minerals like copper and magnesium, and vitamins such as B6, supporting energy metabolism and overall well-being. Consuming cashews in moderation is key due to their calorie density, which makes them a perfect fit in this winter-warming bowl of goodness. 🥣INGREDIENTS
1 sweet onion,chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon curry powder
3 Tablespoons yellow miso paste
2 cups butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed (or frozen and defrosted!)
1/2 cups cashews, raw
8 cups water (plus more as needed, for consistency)
1 Tablesoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to tastePREPARATION
In a large soup pot, sauté onion and garlic gently in olive oil until softened and fragrant.
Add curry powder and miso paste and stir to coat onions.
Add cauliflower, squash, cashews and water. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until cauliflower is soft, about 15-20 minutes. Add more water if necessary to keep cauliflower covered. Remove from heat and let stand until cool enough to purée.
Purée soup (in batches if needed) in blender, covering open center with a towel to allow for steam to escape. 
Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Ladle soup into bowls and drizzle with olive oil if desired just before serving.


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MAPLE ROASTED SWEET POTATO, WALNUT, AND KALE SALAD
I cannot stop making this zingy salad! The sweet potatoes, walnuts, kale, and balsamic dressing are such satisfying combination of sweet and sour. This nutritional combination provides a mix of complex carbohydrates, heart-healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals, supporting overall health, brain function, and immune system strength. 
INGREDIENTS

SALAD
8 cups kale, washed, destemmed, and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled, and chopped into bite-sized cubes
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1/4 cup walnuts, raw, chopped
DRESSING
6 Tablespoons white or red balsamic vinegar 
3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt to tastePREPARATION – dresssing
Add olive oil, vinegar, garlic, maple syrup, and mustard in a small bowl.
Whisk to blend well. Season with salt to taste. Set aside.

PREPARATION – salad
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Place sweet potato in a bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of olive oil,
maple syrup, and a few dashes of salt. Place on a parchment-lined
baking sheet and bake until soft and edges are browned; about 20
minutes.
Meanwhile, place kale in a large bowl. Massage for 3 minutes until
Softened. When the sweet potatoes are done, remove them from the oven and let them cool. Add to the kale along with walnuts. Toss with dressing just before serving.


Matisyahu – One Day (YouTube Version) 
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References
(1) Oscarsson, M., Carlbring, P., Andersson, G., & Rozental, A. (2020). A large-scale experiment on New Year’s resolutions: Approach-oriented goals are more successful than avoidance-oriented goals. PloS one, 15(12), e0234097. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0234097
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7725288/(2) Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. (2019, January). Re-thinking your New Year’s resolutions. The Nutrition Source. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/2013/12/20/re-thinking-your-new-years-resolutions/(3) Dickson, J. M., Moberly, N. J., Preece, D., Dodd, A., & Huntley, C. D. (2021). Self-Regulatory Goal Motivational Processes in Sustained New Year Resolution Pursuit and Mental Wellbeing. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(6), 3084. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18063084
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8002459/

(4) Pychyl, T. (2009, February 8). Approaching Success, Avoiding the Undesired: Does Goal Type Matter? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/blog/dont-delay/200902/approaching-success-avoiding-the-undesired-does-goal-type-matter

(5) Canadian Mental Health Association. (2022, December 7). Rethinking your New Year’s resolutions. https://cmha.ca/news/rethinking-resolutions/

(6) Bradley, G. (n.d.). 7 New Year’s Resolutions That Will Actually Make You Feel Good. National Eating Disorders Association. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/blog/7-new-years-resolutions-will-actually-make-you-feel-good

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With a longstanding dedication to healthy cooking and eating, I promote nutrition with a rebellious twist: the belief that perfection is not required for success on your wellness journey. 

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