Nutrition Goal Setting: Beat the Winter Blues

Ah winter, the wonderful time of year when it’s dark at 4:50 pm, there is no limit to the number of layers that will keep you warm or how high your heating bill can climb.  

Winter isn’t a season we traditionally associate with goal setting or health and fitness, but its 

a great time to take stock and set some intentions for the second half of the year. 

When we look to setting health and fitness goals, it may seem intuitive to shoot for some pretty lofty and rambunctious goals, such as aiming to go for a 15km run every single day or never letting a carbohydrate, pastry or drop of alcohol touch our lips ever again. However, we can often fall short of our own expectations and fall off the bandwagon harder than when we jumped on it. 

Instead of approaching our goals with an ‘all or nothing mindset, let’s look at some ways to introduce small dietary tweaks that make healthy eating more enjoyable and sustainable in the long run! (e.g. carbs are in abundance, and wine is not off the menu!) 

1. Instead of removing foods from our diet, let’s focus on adding nutrient-dense options!

When we make the focus of our goal removing foods that we enjoy (but may not be the most nutrient-dense), we run the risk of feeling restricted. When we feel restricted, our body defaults to its basic survival behaviours and fixates on the foods we are no longer ‘allowed’ to have which can result in a binge.

Instead of focusing on restriction, let’s switch to focusing on adding more nutrient-dense foods to our diet.

For example,  instead of saying my goal is to not eat chocolate for the next month, let’s switch to ‘I want to include a serving of fruit or veggies to my snacks’

This can include:

  • Having a piece of chocolate (or two!) but adding ½ cup of berries to provide an antioxidant punch to our morning or afternoon tea! 
  • Have some chips and dip, but add a serving of carrot sticks
  • Having a bowl of cereal but adding an apple or banana 

When we put our focus on addition rather than restriction, we feel more satiated by what we are eating and are more motivated to make more consistent healthy choices in the future.

2. Focus on having consistent meals and snacks

As previously mentioned, health and fitness goals often revolve around food restriction. This is not limited to food groups, it can extend to limiting the number of meals/snacks we ‘should’ be having in a day and how many hours a day we’re ‘allowed’ to eat for.

When we skip meals, particularly breakfast, we put ourselves at risk of overcompensating later in the day. Getting too hungry is a large catalyst for overeating, which can lead to falling into a cycle of bingeing and restriction.

A way to counteract falling into this cycle is to be consistent with our meal times.
Aiming to eat consistent meals and snacks throughout the day, such as 3 meals and 2 small snacks is a great place to start. In addition, aim to keep the window between eating to 3 -4 hours, to avoid getting too ravenously hungry. 

 

The following is a sample day of eating consistent meals and snacks: 

7am – Breakfast (oatmeal / smoothie / eggs on toast)

10am – snack (fruit / nuts / small chocolate)

1pm – lunch (salad / sandwich / leftovers)

4pm – snack (popcorn / crackers and cheese / yoghurt) 

7pm – Dinner (cooked meal / leftovers)

* meal timing will change based on life commitments, work schedules, kids’ schedules – adapt to what works best for you!

 

3. Focus on mindful eating

When looking at ways to improve our nutrition, aside from looking at WHAT we eat, we also need to take stock of HOW we eat. A big question I often ask when I’m seeing patients or clients is what does your meal time look like?

Are you sitting down to eat with minimal distractions? (not a huge possibility when you’re caring for littlies I know!)
Are you truly enjoying your meals? Are you eating with the TV on? or with your family?
Are you paying attention to your food?  Are you noticing the textures and savouring each mouthful? Are you allowing yourself to enjoy foods deemed as treats?

These questions allow you to gain a greater awareness of how you eat and how that affects not only your satiety but your relationship with food. The current literature shows that when we eat mindfully we have a greater capacity to look at our relationship with food and make improvements, taking greater pleasure from our food and improvements to our digestion and satiety. 

 

I hope some of these tips were helpful in some way! And please remember with every new goal we are striving for progress, not perfection! 

 

Maddie Lawson

Provisional Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)

M.Diet, R.Nut – BSc.

 

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