Dietician’s Digest: A new year, a new you: 5 habits to keep this year

Published 10:20 pm Thursday, January 2, 2020

Dietitian’s Digest by Emily Schmidt

Emily Schmidt


It’s likely that you’ve already created a mental list of the traits or habits you’d like to eliminate from your life this brand new year. On the other hand, you probably haven’t given much thought to all of the things you’d like to keep in your life. It’s not always about restriction or what you need to rid your life of; sometimes the most important thing is recognizing your current positive habits. Pat yourself on the back if you’re already doing these things, and keep up the great work throughout 2020.

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1. Fall asleep early. Feeling guilty for tucking yourself in a little earlier than you used to? This isn’t necessarily a bad habit. Lack of sleep can negatively impact our health in many ways, including our eating and exercise habits. If we’re not well-rested, we are not as likely to make healthy choices throughout the day due to increased appetite, low energy levels and sleep-deprived clouded judgement. This year, resolve to continue being the sleeping beauty you deserve to be, and stop feeling so guilty for it. If you’re the opposite and tend to sleep poorly, do yourself a favor, if possible, and give a slightly earlier bedtime a chance — it might make a world of difference the next day.

2. Take the bathroom breaks. People often complain to me that they don’t like to increase their water intake because it means they’ll be running back and forth to the restroom all day (and night!) long. Of course, this can be an extreme irritation if it’s in excess, so you should find the right balance. Keep in mind the average person needs two to three liters of fluids daily (more or less depending on age, activity level, certain medications and more), and urine levels should be pale yellow. Lemonade-colored urine is much healthier than apple juice!

3. Eat the plants! Many of the foods that nourish our body and mind best are plants. Whether they’re from the ground, tree, bush or vine, eating plants is a great thing you can continue doing for your body. Full of fiber and complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein, vitamins, minerals and a multitude of other benefits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, fruit and whole grains are food groups that you can continue to enjoy.

4. Enjoy dining out with your friends and family. Think the new year means forgetting social events? Certainly not. You can still head to the restaurant as socialization is a normal and healthy part of life. However, just be conscious of your choices — choose the lighter entrée, split a dish or appetizer with a friend, and go light on sugary drinks by sticking to water or unsweetened beverages. Now go use up those Christmas restaurant gift cards, especially locally in Albert Lea.

5. Finally, keep eating the peanut butter. Unless of course you don’t like it, or you’re allergic — then that’s an obvious no (although there are sunflower, almond, cashew and other nut/seed butters too). People are often amazed when I tell them that peanut butter is, in fact, quite nutritious. “I’m trying to eat healthier — guess I need to quit eating peanut butter,” a patient might tell me when we’re discussing heart-healthy eating. Not necessary. Yes, you should be careful with the portion size (one to two tablespoons), but other than that, enjoy the unsaturated fats, vitamins and minerals, and protein whether you like it creamy or crunchy.

Basically, I’m telling you to sleep more, drink more water, enjoy eating with loved ones and eat plant-based foods — even peanut butter! If you’ve been doing some or all of these things successfully in 2019, don’t stop in 2020. If not, here’s your dose of healthy inspiration — it’s never too late. Happy new year!


Albert Lea resident Emily Schmidt is a registered dietitian at Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea. She enjoys writing, cooking and spending time with her son and family.