Q&A: What Can I Do to Recommit to My Healthy Living Goals for the Year?
You started the year motivated and committed to the healthy lifestyle goals you set for yourself. And you held strong for weeks! Congratulations! But now distractions, time constraints and burnout are creeping in, and you need real-life inspiration to recommit to your plan. You’ll find it here!
Registered dietitians Marianne Liakos and Alexa Schmidt are passionate about helping people reach their nutrition and wellness goals. Discover their best ideas for staying positive, making healthy choices, carving out time for exercise and aiming higher, especially when your energy or motivation needs a boost.
Q: I feel like I’m at my wit’s end trying to eat healthy food, work out regularly, and find balance. What’s the simplest thing I can do to work towards my goal?
A: Keep it simple, says Schmidt. “Pick one specific and measurable goal to start. Create a plan and set a time frame.” This will allow you to check in and re-evaluate your progress. Once you have achieved that goal, it will be easier to set another goal. Starting any new plan can be difficult, so just remember that every step counts, no matter how small. If you’re squeezed for time right now, a 10-minute power walk daily will do the trick. Or maybe a structured plan like Mindful’s Abs Challenge will help you focus on one achievable fitness activity.
Q: I’m so busy this year, and I’ve put other things before my resolutions. What advice do you have for making healthy living a priority?
A: Put your healthy living choices on your to-do list and keep them there. Scheduling time for a walk is a priority, so treat it like an important appointment. Shopping for healthy food and preparing wholesome meals are also key to achieving wellness because food has the power to prevent and heal certain health conditions, says Liakos. Rethink your priorities, and put your health at the top of the list!
The Mindful website is filled with ideas for healthy living. From Smart Ways to Start the Day to Making the Most of Your Lunch Break, discover super-easy ideas to keep you focused on a healthy lifestyle.
Q: How can I keep my bad habits from creeping in?
A: It’s important to check in with yourself to see what you liked about the positive changes. Schmidt recommends making a list of the changes you’ve seen (such as having more energy and getting better sleep) to bring them front and center and post them in a visible place. Focusing on the “why” can motivate you to get back on track!
Participating in a challenge, like the Eat for More Energy Challenge and the 7-Day Hydration Challenge on Mindful’s website can help you set goals with a specific start and end date. You’ll maintain your focus on positive changes and find support in the challenge community to start new and healthy habits.
Q: Do you have suggestions for adding zip to the healthy dishes I make at home?
A: Start experimenting with herbs and spices, suggests Liakos. They please the palate and are rich in antioxidants for good health. Coat chicken breasts with olive oil and add seasonings such as ginger, oregano, paprika, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme. Try one at a time or combinations to find your favorite flavors. The flavoring possibilities for veggies are endless: try dill + cucumber, curry powder + green beans, sage + squash, peas + mint. Get creative!
A great place to start exploring herbs and spices is the recipe section on the Mindful website. Check out the dishes Garlic Chili Edamame and Smoked Salmon Bruschetta to see how new ingredients can add spice to your meal!
Q: I’m craving a burger and fries even though I’m committed to making healthy menu choices. Any advice?
A: “How about enjoying that favorite burger with a side of broccoli or a tasty piece of grilled chicken with side of spinach and fries?” asks Schmidt. Pick and choose what you are really feeling at that moment. If you want both the burger and fries, enjoy them for lunch! Choose a lighter breakfast and dinner. It’s about finding the balance throughout the day and week that makes a real difference.
You can satisfy your burger craving in other ways, too. If you’re eating in a Sodexo café, you can try the new beef-and-mushroom blend burger that’s big on flavor and lower in calories, sodium and cholesterol than traditional ground beef. You’ll find this new beef-and-mushroom blend in many Mindful burgers, including the Aztec Burger, Greek Burger and San Antonio Burger. And be sure to explore the Mindful website for flavorful and delicious burgers like Ellie Krieger’s Salmon Tzatziki Burger.
Q: Is there just one thing I can do to see a tangible change in my life quickly?
A: Exercise! If the word “exercise” sparks negative emotions, then it’s time to make a change, offers Liakos. How about a friendly game of frisbee after work? Maybe a walk in the park or around campus? How about cleaning the house? (Yes, that’s right—cleaning is exercise!) Make a commitment to move for at least 20 minutes each day, get out of your comfort zone and sweat a little. You’ll feel great and the positive effects will begin almost immediately!
Q: Snacking has always been a big part of my “together time” with friends and family. What are good strategies for dealing with the munchies?
A: You can plan a fun food preparation activity, like one of these: 1. Challenge friends or family members to use specific ingredients to create a healthy snack, then do a taste testing. 2. Research recipes together, gather ingredients and prepare snacks to eat during movie or game night. 3. Pick an exotic fruit and decide how to use it in a new salsa or dipping recipe. Liakos suggests that you can be creative with ingredients and make snacking a fun and nutritious activity.
You’ll find many delicious snack recipes on Mindful’s website, such as Apple Pie Yogurt Parfait, Chocolate Dipped Strawberries with Nuts and Mango-Yogurt Breakfast Pops with Granola that show how to indulge in a healthy way!
Q: I’ve realized that my health improvement plan isn’t necessarily part of my family’s plans. How can I forge ahead with—or without—them and achieve my goals?
A: Extending an invitation to family members may be just the thing to get them excited about healthy eating and exercise, says Schmidt. One family member may be enthusiastic about trying a new recipe. Another person may agree to join you for a walk before dinner. If the invitation isn’t accepted at first, forge ahead. Once everyone sees you making health a part of everyday living, they may decide to jump on board.
Q: I’m trying to stick with healthy foods, but I’m really hungry all the time. Are there any “free” foods to help me feel fuller?
A: “Free” foods are any item less than 20 calories per serving, such as one cup of cucumbers, celery, or lettuce, explains Schmidt. These options are always great, but it’s best to strive for a satisfying combo of lean protein (like skinless chicken and turkey, eggs, beans, and yogurt) and fiber (such as oatmeal, brown rice, berries, carrots, and broccoli) to fill you up and energize your body. Try flavorful options like Greek yogurt with berries or turkey wrapped around carrot sticks to tide you over between meals!
Be sure to explore Sodexo’s Mindful program in your café. Mindful’s full plate, full flavor philosophy is about eating great food that not only satisfies but also feels like an indulgence. Look for the Mindful logo that identifies dishes and menu options with delicious, healthy and satisfying portions. The recipe section of Mindful’s website features more than 100 healthy recipes to help you bring Mindful’s philosophy home to your kitchen.
Marianne Liakos is a campus dietitian with Sodexo at SUNY New Paltz Dining Services and has more than 10 years of experience working with college students. In addition to her role as a dietitian, Liakos also teaches wellness and nutrition classes and is a board-certified Sports Dietitian who enjoys helping athletes fuel for optimal performance.
A registered dietitian at Binghamton University Dining Services, Alexa Schmidt works to enhance the health and well-being of students, faculty, and staff on campus through nutrition consultations, guest lectures, nutrition programs, education materials, special diets, and more. She chairs the Nutrition Committee for Binghamton University’s Healthy Campus Initiative and serves as an adjunct faculty member for the Health and Wellness Studies Department, for which she teaches online nutrition courses.