Nutrition For the New Year

Nutrition For the New Year

by Kim Hardin, RD


Do your New Year's resolutions include something about your diet or eating habits? If so, how about adding the word "nutritious" to your resolution? Instead of a short-term, unrealistic diet that you'll only be starting again next January, how about developing nutritious eating habits that will prepare you for your second 50 years? Our five-step plan will show you how.


1. Keep a Food Journal


A good place to start is with a food journal. Write down everything you eat for three or four days. Include information about how the foods are prepared, as well as the amount you eat. You'll probably need to get out your measuring cups and refresh your memory about serving sizes - a cup is probably smaller than you think.


A food journal offers two important benefits:

  • It can increase your awareness of what you're eating: You may start thinking about some of the foods you choose, and you'll probably discover some eating triggers. (Did you eat because you were really hunger or were you just bored or depressed?)
  • It can help identify areas that need improvement: Are your portion sizes too big? Are you eating enough fruits and vegetables?

2. Review the new 2005 Dietary Guidelines

  • Eat a variety of foods within the basic food groups while choosing foods that limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, salt, and alcohol
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Engage in regular physical activity: 30 minutes per day on most days; 60 minutes per day if you need to decrease weight
  • Keep trans fats as low as possible and consume less than 10% of calories from saturated fat and less than 300 mg of cholesterol per day
  • Keep total fat intake between 20% and 35% of calories with most fats coming from poly- and monounsaturated fats

Adults need:

  • 6 servings from the grain group (at least 3 should be whole grains)
  • 9 servings from the fruit and vegetable group (approximately 2 cups of fruit and 2 cups of vegetables from all five subgroups: dark green, orange, legumes, starchy, and other vegetables)
  • 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free dairy per day
  • 2 servings (lean, low-fat, or fat-free) from the meat, poultry, and fish group

Fruits and vegetables are one area where most people usually fall short. Studies show that roughly 11% of Americans eat no fruits or vegetables. Wouldn't you rather bite into a juicy peach than pop a vitamin A pill?


3. Look at Your Portions


For many people, it's not what they eat but how much they eat. We Americans tend to think bigger is better. For healthier eating, keep the following portion sizes in mind.

  • 1 serving = 1/2 cup of cooked pasta
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1 small piece of fruit
  • 1/2 cup of green beans
  • 3 ounces of cooked meat (about the size of a deck of cards)

4. List the Areas You Need to Improve


For an enjoyable, creative way to work on your nutritional training, start with two or three items, and write your list in positive terms. Instead of saying, "No more cookies,"you might write, "Add two more fruits or vegetables per day."


5. Be Realistic, Adventurous, and Flexible with Your Plan


With a little creativity, a positive attitude, and a workable plan, you'll be ready to rock and roll into your second 50 years! For more information on good nutrition, visit www.nal.usda.gov/fnic.