Build healthy eating habits in the New Year with advice from a registered dietician at Blue Cross


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Loading up on veggies and more from local businesses like Local Source Market & Grocery is never a bad idea. Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

It comes as no surprise that about 45% of Americans made improving their diet a New Year’s resolution in 2020. Forming healthy eating habits that last can be difficult with an oversaturation of information currently out there. So, we reached out to Colleen Lovett, a Clinical Health Coach at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, for advice we can trust.

If it’s too good to be true it probably is

selective focus photography of tape measure
Don’t focus on the scale, focus on how you feel! Photo via Unsplash

With an onslaught of celebrity influencers on social media, consumers come face-to-face with promising promotions and diets guaranteeing quick results every day. While the offer may seem tempting, it’s more than likely not a safe solution.

“If a diet offers quick results or cuts out whole food groups, these are often red flags it might not be sustainable long term. Focus on small changes you can maintain over time and work to set small, achievable goals that are realistic for you and your lifestyle.”

Colleen Lovett, Clinical Health Coach, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

A few other mistakes you could be making and how to rectify them when it comes to healthy eating habits

Get-slim-quick diets aren’t the only things you should keep off your radar. There are little habits and misinformation in your everyday life that might be sabotaging your goals.

For example, lower calorie diets seem like the simplest way to lose weight. But they don’t always provide substantial nutrition.

“If you can, focus on boosting your intake with nutrient-dense foods like lean proteins, fruits, leafy green vegetables and complex sources of fiber from whole grains. Plan your plate by color and ‘eat the rainbow’ by including dark leafy greens, bright-colored fruits, and whole grains.

A simple formula I encourage for meal planning is a protein (chicken, beef, pork, eggs, beans, lentils), vegetable (think anything green!), a grain or carbohydrate (think brown rice, sweet potatoes, corn, peas, pasta), and a fruit.”

Colleen Lovett

Another challenge standing in your way is seeing healthy eating as expensive. But, everything doesn’t have to be “fresh” to be healthy.

It’s true! Frozen and canned foods can be equally as nutritious as fresh items. Additionally, be on the lookout for canned options with reduced-sodium or no added salt.

“You can also give a good rinse under the sink to reduce added sodium before cooking. Frozen fruits and vegetables offer variety and can last longer than fresh produce. Look for items without seasoning or sauce to get the most nutritional value.”

Colleen Lovett

Since you now know what not to do, let’s dive into tips that will actually get you on your way to creating healthy eating habits.

Let’s start by setting some realistic goals

healthy eating habits, veggies
Did you know the Market at Pepper Place offers curbside drive-thru pick up for a safe, COVID-friendly way to get fresh produce? Photo via Jacob Blakenship for Bham Now


“In terms of healthy eating, find areas you may be struggling in. If you are finding it hard to get enough vegetables in your day, set a goal to add something green to your plate each meal. If you skip meals or forget meals, work on setting reminders through your phone or post-it notes to ensure you’re meeting your nutrition needs.”

Colleen Lovett

What’s another big factor that determines how we eat? Time. If your schedule makes it difficult to prepare home-cooked meals, there are still areas to find healthy options when eating out.

This looks like swapping a fruit salad for fries and choosing baked or grilled items when available. Another tip—leave off part of the bun for an easy way to reduce simple carbohydrates.


Physical activity and eating go hand-in-hand, but again time restraints come into play. Try starting small, such as 10-minute intervals throughout the day.

Maybe it’s a quick YouTube search for a fitness video or finding a couple of your favorite songs to get you up and dancing. Turn exercise into something you love and gradually increase the amount of time a day you commit.

Soon, you’ll be hitting those goals without even realizing it! Check out more activities to get you moving in Birmingham while staying socially distant.


Harvest Roots Kombucha
Have you been to Harvest Roots Kombucha Taproom in Avondale? Photo via Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

Going back to when we talked about mistakes you could be making, hydration is another one. It’s possible you could be confusing hunger for thirst.

“The rule of thumb for water intake is half your body weight in ounces. If this seems daunting, start small and try to aim for 8 ounces of water at meals.

Forgetting to drink? Find a water bottle you love and label it with rubber bands or tape with times of day as a reminder to get your fluids in! If you do not like water, try dropping in fresh citrus fruits or berries to add flavor without the sugar. Seltzer and sparkling water can also provide hydration with a little fizz!”

Colleen Lovett

Don’t forget about external factors also affecting healthy eating habits

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Journaling and keeping a food diary are both ways to reduce stress and keep you on track to healthy eating. Photo via Unsplash

Reaching for junk food when life starts to become too stressful to handle? It’s a reflex a lot of people have, but there are other ways to handle the stress that won’t throw you off those goals.

“Sometimes stress can reduce our appetite, and sometimes stress can push us to eat for comfort. Find stress relief that works for you like journaling, walking outside, or even reading. Food journaling and noting feelings during meals can also help you focus on reasons behind eating behaviors.”

Colleen Lovett

Remember, it’s all about finding what works for you

Those are some pretty simple guidelines to live by and get you rocking and rolling on a healthier lifestyle. Keep in mind, however, while this is great advice to follow, there’s no one-size-fits-all option.

Everyone’s body is different. If you’re looking to make changes, reach out to your primary care physician. Blue Cross members also have access to MyBlueWellness myBlueWellness and coaching programs.

For more information about how Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama can help, visit their website. Or, follow them on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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