01/04/2012 05:06 pm ET Updated Jan 05, 2012

New Year's Resolutions: Don't Bite off More Than You Can Chew

Yes. It's that time of year again. You have a clean slate and want to make 2012 the year that you finally lose that last 20 pounds, get in shape or finally become vegan. Making New Year's resolutions is a tradition. But the unfortunate truth is the majority of the resolutions are forgotten by February.

I've learned that setting lofty resolutions year after year can become an exercise in setting yourself up for failure. Sometimes it's because you try to do too much too soon. Before you bite off more than you can chew, consider a new approach: set realistic goals and implement small changes throughout the year to achieve them.

Make small changes.
Even if you have 100 pounds to lose, it starts with the first one. Focus on making small changes to get there. Here are a few ideas to get you moving toward healthier eating with ease.

  • Cut back on just 100 calories a day. This may sound insignificant but this small change can yield a 10 pound weight loss by the end of the year. And it's easy to find 100 calories to leave behind. Skip a trip to your coworker's candy dish, the dollop of mayonnaise on your sandwich at lunch or a pat of butter at dinner.
  • Double up on vegetables at dinner. More veggies on the plate equals = less room for higher calorie rice, potatoes or meat. But please... don't drown your veggies in butter and cheese.
  • Finish your meal with a cup of hot tea. This signals the end of the meal and just like brushing your teeth after dinner, it makes you less likely to keep snacking.
  • Start dinner with a broth based soup or veggie salad (with low calorie dressing like a vinaigrette). Choosing this as an appetizer over bread, chips and dip or wings can work wonders. In fact, it's been shown to reduce the total calories you take in at that meal.
  • Swap salad croutons for pistachios, almonds or walnuts. This simple swap adds a dose of healthy fats and delivers the crunch that we look for in a salad.
  • Go meatless once per week. Meatless Mondays took off a few years ago and continues to gain traction. There are lots of vegetarian recipes out there. Try a tasty black bean burger, stuffed Portobello mushrooms, eggplant lasagna or a hearty bean chili for starters.

Set SMART(ER) goals
Skip the half-baked resolutions and set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timely. Be sure to revisit them to Evaluate and Reevaluate your goals as the year progresses. This process will help you make plans not just resolutions.

That means instead of just saying you want to lose weight. Put some thought into it. How much do you want to lose and in what timeframe? How will you do it? What will be your reward? This method has been shown to help keep your eye on the prize and readjust as needed. Use this method for your loftiest and most humble goals.

So you see it doesn't have to be all or nothing. With this, you can set yourself up for a year full of healthy changes one bite at a time.