Adding, Not Subtracting, for a Healthier New Year

It’s officially the new year, and with that brings about 23942309482094383240984 articles, posts, and advertisements about how you need to change your body to be happy, or only eat raw vegetables for the next 3 months, or exercise for hours every single day of the week or all will be lost.

But guess what?

You don’t have to do any of that.

The new year brings renewed commitment to living a healthier lifestyle – I mean, I know I too am ready to grab a few more salads than I did during the holiday madness, just because that’s what my body is craving – but if you go into the new year with a very rigid or overwhelming (“I’m going to change EVERYTHING and be perfect starting today”) approach to nutrition or wellness, it won’t be sustainable.

Something that my AnneTheRD nutrition coaching clients have mentioned they really like about working with me is that rather than focusing on what they shouldn’t eat, or what they should remove from their diets, we instead talk about what to ADD.

anne-mauney-138photo credit: Taylor and Ben Photography

I’ve shared this post previously but wanted to update it and share it again because I think it’s so important.

Because here’s the thing – there’s no reason to cut out sugar or wine or bread or whatever it is that article told you to do to be healthy.

That’s the quickest way to end up feeling deprived – which will later end up with you finding yourself face down in a pan of brownies (or whatever it is you were trying to avoid).

(See also: Why I Don’t Recommend Whole30)

So instead of doing that, how about we focus on simply adding in more foods and things this year that will make you feel really good physically, but in a balanced, sustainable way?

Here are some examples, but I encourage you to come up with others that resonate with you personally.

Try implementing them one at a time, only adding another one once the one before it feels like a sustainable habit!

1) Add more veggies to your meals.

This does not mean you have to eat a salad – for example, if you’re a sandwich fan and not really into salads, simply add some veggies onto your sandwich, or raw on the side! I love broccoli slaw on sandwiches – crunchy and it doesn’t change the flavor. (Check out my Healthy Sandwich Recipes post for more ideas!)

Healthy Sandwich Recipes - Healthier Tuna Salad Sandwich

I also love adding lots of veggies to pasta dishes (check out my mix + match easy pasta recipes guide for some inspiration) – the added volume makes it so much more satisfying (and colorful)!

Another old favorite tip: serve your dinners atop some wilted baby spinach – just microwave the spinach for 30 to 45 seconds on high and it will wilt down nicely for you.

2) Add more protein and fat to breakfast.

Seriously, guys – there’s nothing wrong with carbs unless we are ONLY eating carbs by themselves (I’m looking at you, piece of fruit, or instant oatmeal with water, or bagel) without any protein and fat to give the meal (or snack) staying power.

Do yourself a favor and have a breakfast that doesn’t leave you starving by 10 a.m. I share some recipes below that will help with this, and also be sure to see my Tips for Fast Weekday Breakfasts post. 

fast easy breakfast egg filled muffins

3) Add a carb to lunch.

I see this mistake time and time again with new clients – they try to be “good” and skip the carb at lunch, only to have serious sugar cravings in the afternoon.

Be intentional about adding a carb to lunch – and even enjoying it!

4) Add an afternoon snack.

Not being hangry will make your day much less stressful – as will being able to calmly prepare dinner rather than just frantically grabbing whatever you see first.

Not getting too hungry also makes it much easier to be mindful of eating slowly and not ending the meal too full. There are some snack ideas below, and also be sure to check out my no bake snack ball recipe formula to easily mix + match to your heart’s content! 

5) Add more water throughout the day.

I carry a water bottle with me EVERYWHERE so I don’t forget.

6) Add one extra workout per week (unless you are already doing workouts most days – rest days are important, too, so in that case add a rest day!).

If you enjoy it, consider adding another – and if you don’t, try something else. No point in forcing it.

Exercise should be your fun “me time” – something that removes rather than adds stress. You GET to work out – you don’t HAVE to work out.

7) Add 30 minutes or 1 extra hour of sleep every night.

Getting adequate sleep makes healthy eating (and crushing workouts) way easier. It will also help with your sugar cravings! (If you’re looking for help in this area, check out my How to Get Rid of Sugar Cravings blog post.)

8) Add one night of cooking at home per week. 

Check out my easy stir fry recipes post or my mix + match easy sheet pan dinners post for some quick dinner inspiration that won’t have you slaving over a hot stove for hours!

Mix & Match Sheet Pan Dinners - Combine whatever proteins, veggies, and seasonings you have on hand for EASY, quick and healthy weeknight meals!

And now, here are some of my favorite recipes and tips from over the years that will inspire you to enjoy some healthier eats in a non-restrictive, actually yummy and satisfying way.

Easy dinner recipes:

salmon with mustard dill sauce

Healthy (but satisfying) snack recipes:

red lentil granola bars

Power breakfasts:

high protein oatmeal (1)

Happy new year, my friends!

What are your favorite foods/things to add to your life when you need a bit more balance or want to feel physically healthier?


  1. 1

    I always love your recipe round ups- I get so many good ideas! Thanks for sharing.

  2. 2

    This is so well-put! We love having a bed of greens with our meals, and my husband introduced the idea of wilted spinach under our waffles. We usually have one sweet and one savory waffle. The spinach is colorful, adds more nutrients and texture, and it helps keep our waffles soft when we heat them. He has Celiac Disease, and we’ve discovered Van’s GF Ancient Grains waffles. They warm nicely with spinach. Thanks for such wonderful encouragement and sound advice!

  3. 4

    Agree with all these things! I used to eat cereal for breakfast and didn’t understand why I was hungry an hour later. Now I have a fruit smoothie with Greek yogurt and protein powder plus peanut butter toast and it is so much more satisfying!

  4. 6

    I need to keep in mind to plan my afternoon snack. I’m so much happier when I have a healthy balanced snack ready to go. If I don’t plan ahead – I reach for all the chocolate and I just keep reaching for food until it’s time to make dinner. Pre-cut veggies and hummus to the rescue! And adding carbs to lunch is a game changer. I usually feel guilty when I do – but I’m going to work on not feeling that guilt, because I definitely have more energy in the afternoons when I eat carbs at lunch.

  5. 8

    Thanks Anne! I love this idea of adding not subtracting, and not putting too much pressure on yourself in the new year! I sent this to my whole family :)

  6. 10

    I love this article about adding more to your life and not depriving yourself. I do lower sugar greek yogurt and a wheat type of cereal for breakfast. The protein plus carbs do keep me full until lunch and sometimes even after. I love adding in more veggies, especially frozen in the winter. For me broccoli and peas are the best as they keep a good snap and taste as well as cook up pretty quickly. I do a quick sautee of them with some fresh grated parm cheese as it makes for a flavorful and filling addition to lunches and dinner.

    • 11

      Sounds great! I’d consider adding some healthy fat (like nuts/seeds) to breakfast too – would give it even more staying power! :)

      • 12

        Interesting! That would be nice to have some crunch but I was worried about the fat/calories even though they are of the healthier variety. I’ll try some pumpkin, sunflower, or pomegranate. I could see the pomegranate adding a nice touch to plain yogurt. Thanks for the great suggestion.

        • 13

          Please don’t worry about fat or calories! It will be much more satisfying, and lead to more stable energy throughout the day. Fat is your friend. :)

  7. 14
    TrackBuddy says

    What a great idea! I love the idea of adding all the things you mention here…and for me in 2017 it’s going to be balanced by subtracting STUFF. (As in literally getting rid of things that all too quickly pile up around my house…)

  8. 15

    You will be so proud of me – I ate two dates with PB before AND after my workout yesterday, and then ate my regular breakfast at work. Woohoo! Today I just went for a short run so I skipped it….er…forgot. Lol. Baby steps!!

  9. 17

    My 11 yo son likes those oatmeal packets every morning for breakfast. What do you suggest adding to them to amp up the staying power?

  10. 19

    I love the idea of ADDING allll the things, and I think smoothies are a fun way to experiment with how much nutrition you can pack into one meal. I just bought maca root powder for the first time this week, added it to a cashew milk, protein powder, and pumpkin smoothie, and now I have a new go-to dessert-y type treat with tons of health benefits :)

  11. 21

    Love this so much. Thanks, Anne. I just read about adding eggs into oats and I really want to try it now. I have a hard time enjoying carbs, but I’m slowly working on enjoying them.

  12. 23

    Love your snack suggestions! Rather than trying to eliminate sugar from diet all together, I’m just trying to eat less of it and make healthier choices – a flavored greek yogurt or homemade bar, rather than a candy bar or pastry.

    • 24

      That’s great, Stephanie! A tip: eat those healthier choices at times when it doesn’t matter to you either way — but if you have a specific craving to mindfully enjoy something like that pastry, have it and slowly savor it. If you try to have something healthier when it’s really not what you want, it can backfire later on. Just something to think about :)

  13. 25

    Thank you! LOVE this mindset of adding and not subtracting with all of these crazy new year new year stuff floating around! Setting so many people up for disappointment and unhealthy deprivation!
    Quick request, I’d love a post on getting more protein in your diet when you can’t have dairy. It’s always a challenge for me and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

    • 26

      For breakfast, a great non-dairy protein option is actually nuts/seeds! :) And of course eggs. Soymilk also has some protein so that’s a good alternative – or some almond and other non-dairy milks now have some protein added!

  14. 27

    Thanks for sharing practical advice! I feel like I spent the first few days of New Years talking people out of juice cleanses :)

  15. 29

    Isn’t so crazy that oatmeal and water is the worst food in the whole world, but if you prepare it with whole milk, peanut butter and some fruit, it becomes the best thing you can ask for when you wake up in the morning?

  16. 31

    This is such a great post! It’s so easy to strive for perfection and then fall into a binge of weakness. Love your tips and recipes!!!

  17. 33

    I love this, it’s exactly how I coach my clients too! Instead of saying I’m not going too, start saying what you will do, what you shouldn’t do will naturally disappear. I never tell my clients not to drink soda, I tell them to drink more water and then they have a hard time getting in soda and all of a sudden aren’t drinking it anymore!

  18. 34
    Sandy Hemsher says

    Hi. Recently found your blog. I have lost most of my stomach and intestines due to malignant tumor, and had 2 complete reroutes of digestive system and a gastric bypass as result of tumor the last 3 years. Life and eating has been a struggle. Dealing with bleeding issues, hair loss and vitamin deficiency right now. I tried your protein pancake. This has become my daily breakfast. Going to try your overnight oats next. And sauerkraut tuna salad is dinner tonight. I am now a faithful follower. Thank you for all the information!!

  19. 38

    Great post and the mental aspect of adding more verses subtracting which is not healthy-
    I love a Dijon mustard rubbed salmon with dill, old bay, and citrus zest smoked on a cedar plank soaked overnight in water / apple juice. Served the fish with veggies tossed in pasta as I use the juices of the veggies as my sauce.
    Progress not perfection helps me from losing focus of my health goals!

  20. 40

    Positive and achievable steps versus “this year I will be perfect” – I so agree!

  21. 41

    As a fellow RD, I love love love this! I see many patients doing these same things or trying to be too extreme. Thanks for sharing realistic and balanced diet advice. I hate the current culture of demonizing or avoiding foods.
    I have a sticker at work that says Create healthy habits, not restrictions! Happy new year!

  22. 43

    I love this attitude and the suggestions! Going to try to implement this myself! Thanks!

  23. 45
    Roadrunner says

    What a sensible, thoughtful post! Thanks very much. Great to have you revisit this one. Best wishes for a great year ahead.

  24. 46

    Anne, I love seeing this sort of RD-related content on your blog again :) I know your time is limited as it has to be balanced with being a mama, but if you do have the time, I’d love to see more posts like this!

  25. 47

    I’ll definitely try to do more nutrition related posts as time permits! Let me know if you have any specific topic requests. :)


  1. […] guys! I’m so glad many of you enjoyed my “Adding, Not Subtracting, For a Healthier New Year” post […]

  2. […] often asked what my #1 tip is for making healthy eating easier. Besides adding and not subtracting (<- check out that post for more details), my other best tip is this: never get too hungry. […]

  3. […] written about my approach of adding healthy changes rather than subtracting foods before, and one of my favorite recommendations for a change to start with is eating a breakfast […]

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