Dietitian's top six wellness resolutions for 2022 - and the best tricks on how to keep them

We all start the new year with the best intentions for a healthy, happy lifestyle, but let's face it - things get in the way. Work, family and commitments can put paid to even the best-laid plans. 

It's all well and good to aim for home-cooked meals five nights a week, but when an eight-hour shift turns into a 12-hour day, no one would blame you for making a wrong turn and accidentally driving through McDonald's on the way home.

Other times, our new year's resolutions simply aren't attainable. You may have drunkenly declared to ditch the animal products at 12:15am on January 1, but when reality sets in, the sun rises and you're faced with a fridge full of meat and cheese, that rum-fuelled resolve rapidly wavers. 

According to new research from WW (formerly Weight Watchers) Global Health & Wellness Study, nearly half of Kiwis (41 percent) are struggling to create and maintain a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Meanwhile, 48 percent are prioritising weight loss in 2022 - yet 49 percent don't know what to believe about health and wellness with the abundance of contradictory information available. 

The study also found that 30 percent of surveyed Kiwis have reset last year's resolutions with new-and-improved goals for 2022, while 40 percent have reduced their resolutions to smaller, more manageable objectives for the year ahead.

While many people launch into the new year with their list of goals, buoyed by their newfound motivation, that determination often slips by February.

According to dietitian Nicole Stride, a Sydney-based health and nutrition expert at WW, that's because people often set lofty, extreme goals which are either too difficult to achieve or maintain, or are simply insurmountable. 

"Committing to visiting the gym every day or cutting out whole food groups are among some of the common approaches which fail to last," Stride tells Newshub. 

To continue the year on the right foot, Stride has shared six simple wellness goals which are small and manageable, but also powerful when repeated over time - as well as her top tips on how to make those resolutions stick.

Dietitian Nicole Stride
To continue the year on the right foot, Stride has shared six simple wellness goals which are small and manageable, but also powerful when repeated over time - as well as her top tips on how to make those resolutions stick. Photo credit: Supplied

Eat more vegetables

'More vegetables, more often' can be your mantra for 2022, says Stride. Most of us aren't eating enough of the good, green stuff. A great way to start is by being specific - instead of trying to fit in five-plus every day, try adding one new, non-starchy vegetable to every dinner for the month, such as broccoli or spinach.

"This isn't too much to ask and will get you experimenting with flavours to keep it interesting," Stride says.

If you do want to hit that five-a-day margin, servings of fresh fruit are also important. There is an abundance of delicious fruits that are currently in season - think watermelon, mango, grapes, peaches and plums - and are super easy to incorporate into your diet.

"Aside from the obvious of having a piece of fruit as a snack, these summer fruits are particularly great in salads. Think watermelon and feta or mango with prawns and avocado," Stride suggests.

"Another great way to add an extra serving of fruit is for dessert. Try grilled pineapple or peaches for a natural caramelisation that doesn't include added sugar. Pair fruit with low-fat yoghurt for a healthy dessert that's still satisfying."

There is so much fresh, delicious seasonal produce to try.
There is so much fresh, delicious seasonal produce to try. Photo credit: Getty Images

Get more physically active

Nearly half (48 percent) of Kiwi adults report insufficient or no physical activity, yet it's so crucial for good health - from weight loss to energy levels to reducing the risk of chronic diseases to boosting your mood. 

"You don't have to sweat it out at the gym every day to reap the benefits. Be realistic and make your goal happen by entering it into your schedule, e.g. 'I'm going to increase my exercise routine from three days per week to four days per week by adding a 20-minute strength training session on Fridays this month'," Stride suggests. 

While so many people are still working from home, this can be used to your advantage. Get creative and look online for inspiration. There's a plethora of quick and easy ways to workout, whether it be in your lunch break or in-between tasks.  

"The key to any exercise routine is to find something you enjoy doing, because this means you're more likely to stick with it long-term. There's lots of at-home workout inspiration available online - think 20-minute yoga classes, mat pilates, or bodyweight workouts that are affordable and don't require fancy equipment," Stride says.

"If you're looking for incidental activity ideas, try picking one or two moments in the day to add exercise. For example, do some push-ups against the kitchen bench whilst you're waiting for the kettle to boil; stand up and do some squats during the TV commercials; or try calf raises while brushing your teeth - these small bouts of exercise all add up across the day!"

If you're stuck at your desk for most of the day, try scheduling a reminder in your phone calendar every hour to get up and stretch for five minutes. If you often have meetings via Zoom, try joining some with your camera turned off so you can stand up and walk around while on the call, Stride advises.

Working from home? Workout from home too!
Working from home? Workout from home too! Photo credit: Getty Images

Meet new people

Having a community of like-minded allies can be particularly helpful when it comes to achieving your goals. They can offer support, be a sounding board for struggles, a source of inspiration and motivation, and can provide a little reality check when you need it. 

If this goal seems daunting, think about how you might break it down into something more bite-sized. For example, your goal could be to sign up for fitness classes or a community-based programme.

If the thought of exercising in a public setting or group environment is enough to break a sweat, Stride suggests bringing a buddy in tow.

"One option is to ask a friend or family member to be your buddy and come along with you. That way you've got someone familiar with you that can support you whilst you're getting to know new people and finding your feet," she says.

"Take comfort in knowing that it's normal to feel anxious about trying something new, especially when it involves exercise."

Sometimes you just need someone to hold you accountable.
Sometimes you just need someone to hold you accountable. Photo credit: Getty Images

Take time during the workday for yourself

Whether you're working from home or returning to the office, it's important to set boundaries to ensure you're giving yourself the space and time you need to reset each day. Try sticking to your given lunch hour every day for the next month and use the time to stretch your legs or walk around the block. 

"Planning ahead is a simple step that provides accountability and keeps conflicting meetings off your schedule. While you might have to shift the time slot, you can approach each day knowing there's a block of time reserved for you," Stride says. 

Whether you're working from home or from the office, it can be incredibly easy to graze on unnecessary snacks throughout the day. From the fridge to the vending machine, it's all too easy to take your little breaks with a side of chips or chocolate. The good news is there are plenty of healthy, yummy and easy-to-prepare snacks that you can have on-hand during the day - without reaching for a packaged or processed alternative. 

"Easy snack options to keep at your desk include unsalted nuts and rice cakes. If you have time to plan ahead, making a batch of healthy bliss balls can go a long way in satisfying your sweet tooth," Stride recommends.

"If you have a fridge at the office, taking low-fat yoghurt and dips like hummus or tzatziki is a great option. Pair it with fruit or veggie sticks for a filling snack."

Use your lunch break to stretch your legs.
Use your lunch break to stretch your legs. Photo credit: Getty Images

Drink more water

Drinking water offers a number of benefits, but one of the unsung heroes is that staying hydrated forces you to get up and move periodically throughout the day. Hydrate (or at least find your way to the kitchen tap) every hour to get moving more often. Tracking your water consumption in an app can also help build your awareness of how much you're actually drinking, and when it's time to top up. 

"If you're looking to up your water intake, try using a water bottle that has a tracker on it. This will help you stay on track to hit your daily water target," Stride suggests. 

"If you struggle to enjoy water on its own, add some flavour with fruit - for example, frozen berries or lemon and lime to mix things up. Sparkling water also counts towards your water intake and is another way to stay hydrated."

Make water more fun with fruits or a nice drink bottle.
Make water more fun with fruits or a nice drink bottle. Photo credit: Getty Images

Refine your bedtime routine

Getting good-quality sleep each night will impact all aspects of your life, from your energy levels to your mood and how well you function day-to-day. Not getting enough rest can set your other resolutions up for failure, even if you're doing everything else right.

Stride suggests creating a bedtime routine that is easy to stick to and helps you unwind from the stresses of the day - even better if it includes things you enjoy, like stretching or a relaxing cup of tea.

"To help you get a better night's sleep, look to create a bedtime routine that helps you unwind. For example, make yourself a cup of herbal tea, turn off your devices an hour before bed, or do some stretches to relax your body and calm your mind. You might choose to do one of these things or a series of them. The key is consistency, as this will help you form a habit that prepares your body for sleep each night," Stride says.

Want to take it a step further? Keep screens and distracting devices out of the bedroom, she suggests.

"Setting boundaries can help you focus more on the activities you really want to prioritise, including sleep. If you're cleaning in the kitchen, checking emails from your couch, or starting any project within an hour of your bedtime, it may keep you up later than intended. Try implementing a routine that includes wind-down time in the hour before you go to bed, even if you need to break it down into baby steps with 10-minute increments."

Craft a bedtime routine that's right for you.
Craft a bedtime routine that's right for you. Photo credit: Getty Images

Top tips for keeping your resolution

Once you have identified your resolution, follow these steps to make sure it becomes reality.

  • Write down your resolution: Don't stop there - also include the steps you will take to keep it so that your goal is clear and specific.
  • Keep things simple: Break a big goal into a series of smaller goals. Want to lose 20kgs? Break the goal into 5kg increments and celebrate the small wins along the way.
  • Start small: If weight loss or a healthier lifestyle is your goal, start by changing something simple, like swapping one snack per day for a piece of fruit. The benefits will add up without majorly impacting your lifestyle.
  • Mark your achievements: Each time you make a small change towards reaching your goal, like adding five minutes to your daily walk, for instance, put a star on your calendar so you can visually see your progress.

And if you already feel like you've failed and are close to giving up on your goal completely, don't fret just yet - Stride says it is possible to get back on track. 

"Think of the reason why you set the resolution - what is the feeling you want to experience when you achieve that resolution? Then, find a way to keep this front of mind: For example, put your 'why' as your phone wallpaper, screen saver, or on the mirror in the bathroom. This will help you stay motivated and on track when things get tough," she says.

"Don't be too hard on yourself if you do slip up. No one is perfect and it's unrealistic to set those expectations for yourself. If you slip up, learn from it so you can try to avoid it from happening again and then move on. Start again at the next opportunity you get and purposefully make a choice that moment that ladders up to your resolution."