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Learn to Manage Food, Not Avoid It

The key to achieving success with nutrition goals is to create a plan that is realistic, manageable and measurable, according to nutritionist Fran Johnson of Saint Luke Institute.

New Year’s resolutions to eat better or lose weight are popular, but may be too broad to be followed successfully. Those goals must be broken down into small steps, said Johnson, with the ultimate goal being to manage food – not avoid it.

A nutrition-related resolution “has to be something that you can see progress with and something you can evaluate to see if it’s working,” she said.

Johnson recommends first reviewing one’s eating patterns in order to craft a good resolution. One way to do that is to keep a food journal for a week or two and document what is eaten, when and where. Then troublesome habits – like regularly skipping breakfast, indulging too frequently in sweets or eating on the run too often – can be identified and addressed with a specific plan.

One benefit of a nutrition-related resolution is that there are always opportunities for improvement, Johnson noted, because we have to eat to survive.

“There are lots of different ways and times to intervene,” she said. “We are always making food choices.”

Johnson cautioned against embracing diets or plans that subscribe to an “all or nothing” approach because they can create a sense of deprivation or failure.

Instead, she encourages goals that limit the “impulse opportunity.” For example, she recommends making a commitment to having a breakfast of
a high-quality protein and fat to fuel oneself in the morning, which will help avoid dependence on caffeine, fast food or snacks to get through the day. Another idea is to stop buying ice cream at the grocery for a nightly dessert, but allowing oneself to order dessert when out to dinner.

Even if someone is frustrated in his or her commitment to eating healthier, there is always the chance to start fresh, Johnson noted.

“Our calendars allow opportunities, every day, to get back on track,” she said.