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An estimated 50 percent of New Year's resolutions involve hitting the gym or embarking on a new dietary regimen. The goal, of course, is to start the new year off on healthier footing.

Unfortunately, few challenges are greater than switching up your diet, particularly if you have been eating the same foods for years. On the plus side, sometimes just changing your perception of the term "diet" can help set the stage for success.

Breaking down a healthy diet

While there's no such thing as a perfect diet, studies suggest that emphasizing healthful foods (such as vegetables, fruits and whole grains) and limiting potentially harmful foods (like those loaded with sugar, salt, fat and chemicals) can have positive health effects. A few diets that have solid evidence behind them:

The Mediterranean diet

A Mediterranean-style diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, heart-healthy olive oil, nuts, seeds and lean protein (including lots of fish and beans). Studies show that following a Mediterranean-style diet helps lower blood pressure and protects against chronic diseases ranging from cancer to stroke. One reason it boasts so many health benefits is because it focuses on whole, unprocessed foods that are nutrient-rich and mostly free of sugar, sodium and harmful fats.

The DASH diet

DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) is similar to the Mediterranean diet in that it focuses on eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy, and minimizing red meat and sweets. Designed for people with high blood pressure, the DASH diet not only helps keep blood sugar and blood pressure levels steady, but it also helps people lose weight.

The MIND diet

A combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets — the acronym stands for the Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay — the MIND diet prioritizes eating healthful foods and avoiding potentially harmful ones. What sets the MIND diet apart is its emphasis on eating foods that nourish the brain, including nuts, berries and fatty fish.

Diets that may be suspect

Several popular diet plans, including the keto diet, the Whole 30 diet and paleo call for eliminating certain foods and sometimes entire food groups. While these approaches may help you lose weight (if they lower your overall calorie intake), they also come with some significant drawbacks, including nutrient deficiencies, malnutrition and other maladies.

Most concerning, fad diets aren’t practical for long-term weight management. If you choose to go the trend diet route, be sure to work with a registered dietitian or other medical professional. Always remember that the common denominator in any healthful eating plan is not ditching entire food categories or trying to starve yourself, but rather emphasizing less processed foods, especially fruits and vegetables.

Diets redefined

Long-term change requires commitment, planning and a strong support network. Want to change your eating habits for good? Here are four strategies to help you set the stage for success:

  1. Plan ahead: Change isn't easy. It can be downright discouraging at times. You'll fare well if you plan ahead and prepare your home and work environment to support healthier eating habits. Keep fresh fruits and vegetables on hand and limit your access to unhealthy processed foods and snacks.
  2. Get help: Consider meeting with a dietitian to customize your plan and provide tips, strategies, ideas and accountability for your new approach to eating. A professional can help you troubleshoot as challenges arise and also hold you accountable so you're better equipped to meet your goals.
  3. Build a support network: Surround yourself with like-minded friends and family members. Knowing others are working with you can help you manage during difficult times.
  4. Keep it positiveInstead of fixating on when or how you've failed to eat as planned, focus on how you're supporting yourself to make better eating decisions.

Losing weight and eating healthy don't happen overnight — even if you begin on New Year's Day. Instead, developing a healthier relationship with food is often a long, circuitous journey. Expect setbacks along the way. Those mishaps and mistakes will help you build the skills and resilience you need to succeed over the long haul.

Looking for more info and want to make an appointment with a registered dietitian? Call 1-855-434-5483 or visit Nutrition Services on henryford.com.

Subscribe to the Henry Ford LiveWell blog to receive weekly emails of our latest tips and recipes.

Patricia Jurek, RD, MBA, is a registered dietitian and the manager for Henry Ford Macomb Hospital’s Center for Weight Management. 

Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.

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