Published on December 20, 2018

To Make New Year’s Resolutions or Not To, That Is the Question!

By Teresa Farrell, Registered and Licensed Dietician at Essentia Health.

Teresa Farrell, Registered and Licensed Dietician

It seems we are constantly on a quest to become a better version of ourselves; very commendable indeed. A lot of us will make New Year’s Resolutions, which is a great thing to do. The problem is when we set our sights too high or our resolutions/goals are too vague. We want to eat better and exercise more. What does eat better and exercise more actually mean to you and what is your motivation for doing so? We need to be very clear when we are making resolutions/goals. In fact, goals should be ISMART.

Inspiring: what is your inspiration/motivation to make a change and is it enough to keep you going for the long haul? We need to be inspired to reach our goals vs thinking it is something we should or need to do. I think this step is critical: think about being inspired to do something vs doing something out of obligation or guilt. We are more likely to succeed if we are inspired! Remember, if you really want something you will find a way, if not you will find an excuse.

Specific: goals need to be specific. “I will exercise more” is vague, “I will exercise 20 minutes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9:00 am” is specific.

Measurable: our goals need to be measurable, otherwise how do we know if we are truly making progress? In the above example exercising 20 minutes, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays is measurable.

Attainable: when you set goals be sure that they are attainable, or you are setting yourself up for failure. Setting a goal of exercising an hour every day is probably not attainable right away if you haven’t been exercising at all. It’s okay to start small and build your way up to a greater goal.

Realistic: this goes hand in hand with attainable. Be sure your goals are well thought out. You may want to walk outside every day, but in the middle of winter in Minnesota that may not be realistic! It’s good to have a backup plan, in this case you could walk inside on a treadmill, up and down the stairs in your home, at the mall or even walk in place to achieve your walking goal.

Timely: in what amount of time do you want to achieve your long-term goal? For example, by the end of the month or in 6 months.

At the end of a set time frame it’s good to make your goals even SMARTER. ISMART plus E for evaluate, evaluate how it is going regarding accomplishing your long-term goal and R: redo/reset your goal or method of achieving that goal if need be.

If you want to improve your heart health you may decide to eat more plant-based proteins and less animal proteins. Your ISMART goal could look like this:

I: I am inspired to decrease my cholesterol and avoid heart disease, especially since my father died of a heart attack at age 63.

S: I will decrease my cholesterol over the next 6 months and have my lab work redone. I plan to do this by eating more dried beans and less meat.

M: I will eat a meal containing dried beans once a week.

A: I will attain/achieve this by using the bean recipes I already have and trying new ones.

R: I feel this is a realistic goal.

T: I will begin doing this immediately and maintain it.

E: I will evaluate how good I’m doing at working toward my goal in 1 month and

R: reset my plans for achieving it if I need to. If you are doing good with your initial goal and feel you will stick with it, it may be time to add another goal in your effort to achieve the final goal. In the above example you could add a goal of eating 1 ounce of nuts daily.

Be careful not to try and make too many changes at once. This can become overwhelming. Once you’ve achieved one goal add another.

Navy Bean Soup Ingredients:

1 (16 ounce) package dried navy beans

6 cups water

1 (14.5 ounce) can of low sodium diced tomatoes

1 onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

½ pound chopped ham

1 cube chicken bouillon

2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon dried parsley

2 teaspoons garlic powder

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

3 cups water


1. Combine beans, water, tomatoes, onion, celery, garlic, ham, bouillon, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, garlic and bay leaf in a stock pot; bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer for two hours

2. Add additional water. Season with pepper. Simmer for an additional two hours. Discard bay leaf.

Nutrition information per serving, serves 9:

130 Calories

12 grams of protein

25 grams of carbohydrate

2 grams of fat

1 gram of saturated fat

485 mg of sodium

11 grams of fiber

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