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Originally published Monday, December 31, 2012 at 5:30 AM

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Tips for creating a healthy lifestyle that lasts

Nutrition columnist offers helpful tips for keeping a New Year’s resolution for healthy eating.

Special to The Seattle Times

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On Nutrition

New Year’s resolutions: We love to make them, but we tend to break them. If you’re resolving to lose weight or eat more healthfully in 2013, ask yourself why. If you answer something like, “Because I make a resolution every year” or “Because I should,” reconsider that resolution.

If you don’t have a genuine reason for wanting to change and a strong source of motivation to back you up, you’re setting yourself up for failure and disappointment come February or March. Simply making a resolution is not as motivating as you might think. Need proof? Look at how few people keep their resolutions.

So what if your answer was something like, “I’m tired of feeling blah, and I’m ready to make some changes. January 1 seems like a good day to start.” OK, now you have something to work with.

But even if you are motivated and raring to go, your changes need to be sustainable. One way to create a healthy lifestyle that lasts is to prioritize a handful of small changes, then implement them one at a time until they become second nature. If you’re resolving to eat more healthfully, start by making changes to one meal or snack at a time.

Do you regularly skip breakfast, then find yourself wolfing down a doughnut or a candy bar midmorning? If time is the issue, brainstorm three quick-to-fix, maybe packable, breakfast options that will fuel your mornings. For example, yogurt with a little granola, toast with nut butter and a piece of fruit or high-fiber cereal with low-fat milk and a sliced banana.

Do you hit a fast-food joint for lunch almost daily? If you don’t have time to brown-bag your lunch, explore healthier to-go options near your work, or bring a high-quality frozen meal and a piece of fruit. You can always pick one day a week to splurge on that burger and fries.

Do midafternoon hunger pangs send you running to the vending machine? Pack a nourishing, satisfying snack like veggie sticks with hummus, an apple with a small handful of nuts or a string-cheese stick.

Do you walk in the door after work so famished that you snack until you’re too full for dinner — which you then eat, anyway? Have something healthful (like the afternoon snack ideas) at the ready. Try to take the edge off your hunger without ruining your appetite.

Do you rely on takeout or prepared frozen meals for dinner many nights? Make big batches of soups, stews or casseroles to create your own healthful freezer meals. Cooking extra on Sunday can yield a couple days of tasty leftovers. Become a master of a few quick all-in-one dishes like stir-fries. Capitalize on healthy conveniences like prewashed salad greens and precut fresh or frozen veggies.

There are 12 months in the year. If you made one healthful change each month (maintaining each change as you add the next), imagine how great you’ll feel when you welcome 2014!

Next time: Can you trust food labels?

Carrie Dennett: nutritionbycarrie@gmail.com.

Dennett is a graduate student in the nutritional-sciences program at the UW; her blog is nutritionbycarrie.com.

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