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9 Noteworthy Nutrition Goals for the New Year

Eat More, Not Less!
  -- By Sarah Haan, Registered Dietitian
It’s hard to ignore the refreshing feeling a new year brings. It’s a chance to re-evaluate your life and think about where you might like to make changes. Statistics show that most resolutions don’t work, so we’re going dive into noteworthy goals for the new year. If you’re already a pro at setting goals (thanks to SparkPeople), then these nine ideas will help you kick start the year to higher health. Choose to focus on one, some or all nine throughout the year.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Research shows that increasing the number of fruits and veggies you eat, especially above the touted 5-a-day, decreases your risk of health ailments like high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This year, resolve to up your intake of produce to bring your disease risk down. More fruits and veggies mean more fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, plus more flavor and color added to your meals. Remember, when you’re adding more fruits and veggies to your diet, you can choose from fresh, frozen, canned, or dried varieties—just remember to buy packaged items without added sugar, oil or salt.
Get started: Aim for 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Get going this year by adding fruits and veggies to your diet! Put dried fruit in your chicken salad sandwich, frozen spinach in vegetarian lasagna, or double the diced peppers, mushroom and onions in your morning omelet. Every extra bit counts! To find out what counts as a serving, click here. Then use SparkPeople's QuickTrack tool to track your daily servings all year long.
Eat More Healthy Fats
It’s becoming better known (thankfully!) that the average American needs more Omega-3s, and that we should be consuming more heart-healthy unsaturated fat and less saturated fat. We've learned that unsaturated fats decrease inflammation in our bodies, which is linked to lower disease risk and better disease management. So what are you waiting for?
Get Started: Aim for at least 26 grams of healthy fat each day.
The USDA Dietary Guidelines advise that approximately 20% of your calories should come from unsaturated fats each day (and no more than 10% from saturated fat.) That's about 26-40 grams for people eating between 1,200 and 1,800 calories each day. Start by switching ground beef to tuna or salmon, and top your salad with slivered almonds instead of shredded cheese. You can also expand your use of avocado. Use the tasty fruit as a sandwich spread, whole-wheat cracker dip, salad topper or omelet partner. You can see your specific fat recommendations, and track your intake, on your SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker.
Pump Up Your Protein in the Morning
Our busy schedules mean we consume most of our protein in the latter half of the day. But protein keeps us full and energized, and our bodies constantly use this cell-building substance. Studies show that people who balance their protein distribution throughout the day are more successful at maintaining a healthy weight.
Get Started: Eat at least 15 grams of protein at breakfast.
Eat about 25% of your daily protein requirements at breakfast. That's 15 grams for someone eating 1,200 calories daily. (To discover and track your protein needs, visit your SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker.) To meet this goal, include foods like hard-boiled eggs, fat-free yogurt or Greek yogurt, and cheese made from 2% milk in your breakfast. Adding diced chicken to your eggs, or almonds to cereal can also help you rack up a few grams of protein in the a.m.
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Experiment with Different Types of Grains
Americans eat more wheat than any other grain. Sure, whole wheat is high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and it’s a great way to energize yourself, but other grains have much to offer in way of nutrition, too. Why not try some new types of whole grain this year?
Get Started: Cook a new type of whole grain each month.
Choose from many varieties of quinoa, barley, buckwheat, oats, bran, corn, flaxseed, kamut, millet, rice, rye, sorghum, and spelt. Then search cookbooks and recipe websites for your grain of choice. Place the recipes you find in a folder and when you’re ready, you can tackle a new grain each month!
Improve Your Culinary Skills
Some bare-bones cooking skills are required to live a healthy lifestyle. If you rely on convenience foods and restaurants too much, you will not only likely over-consume calories, but you would also be spending far too much money on food. This year, look for ways you can improve your cooking skills to make healthy eating more fun!
Get Started: Create a new recipe each week.
The best way to learn about cooking and improve your skills is to practice. Lay out a game plan. Anything from cooking classes to informative cookbooks can help you improve your skills. Choose one or two new techniques or cooking methods and find the resources available for each. You can get plenty of pointers from Chef Meg's cooking videos on SparkRecipes.com, too. Keep a journal to track the new culinary techniques you learned and how they helped you. Then, you can look back on December 31 and see how far you've come.
Design a Health-Encouraging Kitchen
Who wants to cook in a dirty, cluttered or disorganized kitchen? Cleaning up your food prep and storage areas is a great way to promote healthy eating. When healthy foods are accessible and easy to create, you're more likely to consume them.
Get Started: Make time for a kitchen makeover.
Set aside a day (or a few weekends depending on how much reorganizing you’re doing) to assess your kitchen and decide which changes you need to make. A few suggestions to kick-start your kitchen into a health-supporting room is to designate an area (clipboard, binder, etc.) to place healthy recipes you’d like to cook. Move your produce draws up to eye level in your fridge, or place a basket in the cupboard filled with healthy snacks and ready-to-go fruits.
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Spice Up Your Diet
When you're trying to eat healthier, taking out fat and salt to save calories and sodium may leave you with tasteless, boring food. But you can add flavor and color back to your recipes (without all the calories) by adding the right amount of herbs and spices. Unless you're a trained chef, knowing how much of what kind of spice to add may take some guessing and checking, but by following new recipes and experimenting in your kitchen, you'll find your way through the world of spices.
Get Started: Cook with one new spice each week.
A good place to start is your own spice rack. Review what you already have (be sure to check expiration dates) and set on the counter each seasoning you have never cooked with, then find a recipe to try it and have fun! This article can teach you more about herbs and spices and the best ways to use them; be sure to try both fresh and dried varieties and enjoy the flavor!
Eat More Meals at Home
No doubt about it: Home-cooked meals are tough to implement. With planning and practice, making more meals in your kitchen and enjoying them at your dinner table can help you reach several goals: eating healthier, cutting calories, saving money, and increasing family time.
Get Started: Aim to eat dinner at home at least 4 nights per week.
Try a reusable weeklong calendar plan your meals in advance. Organize your grocery list and write down what meals you’re shopping for on the list so you remember what you planned to make while you’re bustling through the grocery store. It may take some extra prep time each weekend and some 15-minute meals on busy nights, but this is a doable resolution that you won't regret.
Eat More Meatless Meals
Vegetarian meals can be higher in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and lower in calories, fat and saturated fat. Often, they're cheaper, too! Many nutrition experts agree that our health would benefit if we took an “old-fashioned” approach to eating, where meat acts as more of a side dish instead of the main event on our plates. Why not try it?
Get Started: Go meatless one day per week.
Simply giving up meat one day a week can result in health and environmental benefits. If you already eat a "flexitarian" diet, try working up to two or three days without meat. Don't just remove the pepperoni from your pizza and call it a vegetarian meal. Instead, try to make a valiant effort to include nutritious plant-based proteins like soy products, beans, legumes and nuts with each vegetarian dish you choose. Start slowly, and you may end up finding new dishes you truly enjoy!
There you have it! Nine worthwhile nutrition goals that focus on eating MORE, not less. How's that for a nice change for the new year?