A shopper looks at the produce aisle in Hy-Vee on Thursday night. County engagement specialist in nutrition and health education Gina Lucas recommends a balanced diet incorporating fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meat.

For many, January is the time of New Year’s resolutions. Eating healthier is an especially popular resolution, but a few months into the new year, many have given up on their goal.

As MU Extension county engagement specialist in nutrition and health education, Gina Luca educates residents of Andrew and Buchanan counties on a variety of diet and health topics and serves as a connection between communities and MU Extension.

Lucas recommends a balanced diet of five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day, lean protein and whole grains.

“Half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables,” Lucas said. “A little less than a quarter of your plate should be some kind of grain. We also recommend a protein, and for those avoiding meat it doesn’t have to be meat.”

Any diet that focuses on one specific kind of food should be treated with caution, according to Lucas. The Keto diet, which requires participants to get 75% of their calories from fat, has been gaining popularity in recent years, but Lucas warns of unintended consequences.

“If done incorrectly, you can have electrolyte imbalance, dehydration. It can be very dangerous for those who are diabetic or those who have some kind of heart condition,” she said.

Intermittent fasting has similarly risen in popularity. Followers fast for several hours a day before consuming all of their calories during a dedicated eating window.

“It can lead to binge eating or overeating,” Lucas said. “This is another diet that’s not safe if you’re diabetic. It can impact your energy levels, it can lead to nutrient deficiencies.”

The best diet is balanced, according to Lucas, and accompanied by physical activity. It’s recommended to moderately work out for 150 minutes a week or vigorously for 75 minutes a week.

“If you’re not anywhere near that, get better,” Lucas said. “Some activity is better than none. Five minutes of physical activity does have benefits.”

Anyone who wants to make a change should start slowly by incorporating more healthy foods and exercise step by step.

“If you end up failing, start again,” Lucas said. “It doesn’t have to be Jan. 1 to make a positive change.”

Every Missouri county is covered by a MU Extension office that offers help and advice for people looking for more information. To learn more, visit https://extension2.missouri.edu.

Jessica Kopp can be reached

at jessica.kopp@newspressnow.com. Follow her on Twitter: @NPNOWKopp.