Creating sustainable healthy eating habits

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Health goals are by far the most common New Year’s resolutions, but changing how you eat isn’t easy. Mary Cherne Schoenfelder, a clinical dietitian at St. Luke’s explains why healthy eating goals can be difficult to achieve and maintain: “Often people set really big goals when it comes to nutrition. Nutrition is one of those day to day habits, and that’s hard to change. People also have a very all or nothing mindset when it come to healthy eating, and it can be hard to include that flexibility.” Mary tells us it’s easy to get discouraged and then give up.

We can combat this by setting SMART goals: Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-oriented. Mary suggests going small goal by small goal to get to a bigger accomplishment. For example, rather than trying to drink an entire gallon of water a day, you can drink an extra glass or two instead within a certain time frame.

“Most of the time we want to eat fruit, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and heart healthy fasts. But sometimes, we should eat sweets. We should have a little pop or chips. We need flexibility in our diets.” Mary warns against eliminating food groups because it cuts out important nutrients, “Unless you have an allergy or a medical reason to cut out a food group. I wouldn’t recommend it.

If you would like to lose weight, Mary suggests thinking about it as an outcome rather than a goal: “We lose weight when we change our behavior. So let’s change our behaviors to work towards that goal of weight loss.” It’s important to have realistic expectations: “For many people, 1-2 pounds per week is a realistic and safe amount of weight to lose. So keep in mind that losing 10 pounds could take a couple of months.”