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Start the New Year with a Healthy Eating Plan

Contributed by Gloria Brien, RD, CDE Memphis VAMC

two different types of salads in bowls If you are like most people, you ushered in the New Year a few pounds heavier with feelings of guilt and frustration. Your second thought is about resolutions. You resolve to eat better, exercise more and lose weight. A new year means new beginnings. What better way to treat yourself than with a new healthy eating plan? Sometimes New Year's resolutions lead to disappointment because people try to do too much too soon. Take small steps and make one change per week such as:

  • Skip second helpings at meals

  • Eat salads with plenty of vegetables like tomatoes, broccoli or carrots

  • Eat lean meat that is grilled, baked or broiled rather than fried

  • Switch from whole milk to 1% or fat free milk

  • Add one serving of fruits or vegetables to your diet each day

  • Start walking for 10 minutes each day and work up to 30 minutes each day

Make Smart Choices from Every Food Group

Your body needs the right fuel from a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods. Where can you find these smart choices? Look to the four corners of your grocery store:

  • Fruits and vegetables from the produce aisles

  • Whole grains near the bakery

  • Low fat milk products from the dairy case

  • Lean proteins from the meat department

Get the Most Nutrition from Your Calories

a picture of various breadsHigh-fat, high sugar food and drinks, such as snack foods, candy, and soft drinks provide empty calories and little nutrition. Eat smarter with fewer calories by eating and drinking smaller portions and making empty calorie choices less often. Watching portion sizes is an easy way to cut back without cutting out. Half of your plate should be filled with vegetables, one fourth with lean meat and one fourth with grains. To round out your meal, add an eight ounce glass of low fat milk and a serving of fruit for dessert.

Small Changes Add Up

Here are great ideas that will cut calories from your daily intake without your even noticing:

  • Downsize Your Dishes
    Use smaller plate and bowls to help you eat less.

  • Savor Your Meals
    Eat slowly to help you feel more satisfied.

  • Leave Some Food on Your Plate
    Focus on your internal signs of satisfaction and less on eating food because it is on your plate, especially if you grew up in the "clean plate club."

  • Rethink Your Drinks
    High calorie beverages like soft drinks, juice, energy drinks and alcohol add calories just like food. Try to replace these drinks with plenty of water.

Balance Food and Exercise

Most of us take in more calories than we spend on our daily activities. Finding a healthier balance means fitting more activity into your day. The minimum for good health is 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each day. You can break up exercise into 10 minute sessions throughout the day. To reach a healthy weight, you may need to exercise longer for 60 minutes a day.

Learn More

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Updated/Reviewed: January 19, 2016