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Slow and steady wins the race when changing your family’s eating habits

I have often wondered how many people make New Year’s resolutions about eating more healthfully. It’s got to be a huge number, right?

And how many of those people fall short of their ambitious goals? They start off robust, but after a few weeks, life gets in the way, old habits stake their place and the resolution fades.

We all know that any significant, lasting change takes time. I believe it takes at least a year, if not two, to transform the way an individual or a family eats. I also believe we should recognize that it doesn’t, and shouldn’t, happen overnight and then adjust our expectations accordingly.

So if you are one of the people who yearn to get healthier in 2013, I suggest you take a slow, methodical approach to change. Don’t just make a resolution; make a plan, a realistic plan.

Start with a list of the specific things you’d most like to change about the way you or your family eats. Every family is different, so scrutinize yours. What’s missing? What’s not working? For some it might be switching your kids from drinking juice to water, or eating more meals together as a family. For others it might be learning how to cook leafy greens, revamping breakfast to include more healthful proteins, or curbing a sweet tooth. We are all so different.

Prioritize 12 items from your list, assign each to a month, and add them to your calendar. Obviously learning to cook garden vegetables is a better goal in late spring or summer when veggies are fresh and in season. Sitting down to dinner as a family might be a more realistic goal in January when life seems to slow and more inside.

Tackling one specific goal each month provides enough time to unearth recipes, shop for ingredients and experiment. It is also enough time to introduce a new routine. At the end of each month, you and your kids might not be processed-food-free or entirely aboard the whole-grain train, but you will surely have made progress toward your goal. And that progress can continue into the months to come.

Remember, progress is the goal. We all need to scrap perfection! We don’t need to be sugar-free, 100 percent whole grain or making every single meal from scratch the first year. Rather, next December it should feel very satisfying to say that you learned how to cook leafy greens, your kids drink less juice, and you sit down to dinner twice a week. Those are positive changes that will last. And what is the point of a resolution if it doesn’t last?

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