New year and resolutions are almost synonymous but in many instances, the resolutions last about as long as the New Year's festivities. Unrealistic goals, such as "I will lose 20 pounds by the first of February" or the vague "I'll watch my weight this year," are doomed from the start.

For a resolution to succeed, it must have three elements - it must be possible, positive and programmed. For example, if you have a weight problem, a possible and positive resolution is: "I resolve to lose 20 pounds, at the rate of one pound a week, by adjusting my diet in such a way that it will not harm my health." The programming may come as a series of sub'resolutions, such as keeping a diary of what you eat, learning to count calories, and increasing your exercise.

One scheme that we like involves using a calendar and penciling in a resolution for every month. If you map out your year with the right resolutions, you just might end December still adhering to several and not feeling guilty about the ones you abandoned after a month. Here are our suggestions for 1978:

JANUARY - Start the year with a new cookbook that emphasizes low-fat, low-calorie dishes. Each week, experiment with a new herb or flavoring, such as tarragon, borage or savory. Use fruit in new ways, like in marinades, and instead of heavy meat dishes, try a Chinese concoction loaded with vegetables and small amounts of meat, chicken or fish.

February - Traditionally, this is a month spent indoors, quietly munching away and getting fat and flabby. Why not resolve to learn a winter sport? Or join an exercise club or an exercise class at the "Y."

MARCH - Devote March to developing good eating habits. Learn to count calories, weigh or measure portion sizes and keep a daily record of your weight and what you eat. The best way to lose is in small, regular amounts, and following a careful eating program will accomplish just that.

APRIL - Put on your boots and slicker and get out-doors, even if it is showering! An hour's brisk walk each day is one of the best forms of exercise, and by April it's warm enough to enjoy the outdoors. Walk whenever you can, and on weekends treat the entire family to a ramble through the neighborhood.

MAY - Time to get into bathing-suit shape, and for many people, this means a reducing diet. Put the good habits you learned in March to practical use and combine them with the April walks. Add daily calisthenics to tone up muscles and, by month's end, you should be in shape for the beach.

JUNE - Fresh fruits and vegetables are now in season. If you're not growing them in your own garden, at least buy them in your local market. Serve them with little preparation as possible so that you can enjoy their natural flavors - and preserve most of their nutrients.

JULY - Plan an active vacation. Hike along mountain trails, spend a week at a tennis camp, ride and swim at a dude ranch - the possibilities are almost endless.

AUGUST - Everyone deserves a lazy day now and then, and what better time than the so-called "dog days" of August? Spend an afternoon relaxing in a hammock with a book. Pick a good one about food, and the time will be well spent. A few examples include "Food" and "Food and Agriculture," both readings from Scientific American can published by W.H. Freeman & Co., "Man and Food" by Magnus Pyke, published by McGraw-Hill; and "By Bread Alone" by Lester R. Brown, published by Praeger Publishers.

SEPTEMBER - Back to school. If the meals served in the school cafeteria do not meet your standards of good nutrition, resolve to pack good box lunches for your lunches for your youngster. And if no breakfast or midmorning snack is provided by the school, you may want to add more milk and an extra half sandwich for your younger children. Resolve, too, to have nutritious foods, such as carrot and celery sticks, nuts and dried fruits, on hand for after school snacks.

OCTOBER - Learn how to prepare some of the marvelous, but often neglected, fall vegetables that are now in season. There are all sorts of interesting and nutritious dishes that you can make from white and sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas, cabbages, broccoli, brussel sprouts, parsnips, squash and pumpkins. We bet that you'll fins at least one or two that will become family favorites.

NOVEMBER - Holiday time again, and time for a double-barreled resolution: Cook and eat in moderation. While this may sound impossible, it needn't be. Slow down on eating the turkey and trimmings and take time to enjoy converstion with family and friends. You'll find that you're eating less and enjoying it more.

DECEMBER - Give a gift of food to others who are less fortunate, especially the world's needy children. Gifts to UNICEF, CARE or an international charity affiliated with your church or synagogue are true expressions of the holiday spirit. If you make and keep no resolutions in 1978, we hope that you will join us in this one.

Happy New Year (and successful resolutions) from both of us.