Tell the truth: How did you do with last year’s New Year’s resolutions? And the ones from the year before that? It can be overwhelming to decide how to magically change your life for 2016 -- so don’t. Instead, test-drive these simple healthy habits that are doable, approachable, but will still make a big difference in your well-being. You can do anything for one day. And if something works for you, keep it going!
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Take a nap. Dr. Robert Oexman, director of The Sleep To Live Institute, says “Napping can help with the feeling of exhaustion from not getting enough nighttime sleep. It can increase your cognition by promoting the same level of memory improvement as a full night of sleep. It helps you process your emotions so you not only think better but you feel better after a nap.” Dr. Oexman recommends napping for 30 minutes to feel refreshed, not groggy.
Move all your healthy snacks to eye level. “Rearranging your cupboards can be very helpful when it comes to making healthy snacks your default go-to option,” according to Molly Morgan, RD for Nuts.com. “Keep your healthy snack picks at eye level in the cupboard and keep the more indulgent snacks out of sight on a higher shelf and in an opaque container. This set-up can help guide you quickly grab healthy snacks.”
Stand, don’t sit. Sitting for long periods of time can’t be fixed with an hour at the gym, and increases the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Try taking phone calls standing up and read meeting materials while pacing. Standing boards, such as the FluidStance Level, that encourage minor motion can also help.
Keep fruit on the countertop. “This will help you stay full while providing you with important vitamins and minerals,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, New York City-based dietitian, contributing blogger for WeightWatchers.com. “Make this easy for yourself by storing fruit on the countertop (I like to store mine on a pretty pie plate) and a bowl of cut fruit front and center in the fridge. Studies show that keeping fruit visible leads to eating more of it.”
Make cooking part of your Sunday "fun day." Abby Langer, RD, of Abby Langer Nutrition, recommends cooking up two proteins on Sundays; one meat or fish option and a vegetarian protein since protein can be “the most daunting part of dinner,” and to then build meals around them during the week. Bonus: You can use them for lunches too. This is a big help if you tend to get home from work starving, give up and order takeout, says Langer.
Wear your tracker. “Though they may seem trendy and in some cases quite fashionable,” Marisa Moore, RDN, media spokesperson, consultant and owner, Marisa Moore Nutrition, assures us that, “wearing a fitness tracker may actually encourage you to get in some extra steps.” Moore says, “Even if the step counts are not completely accurate, pedometers have been shown to motivate and increase physical activity.”
Put broccoli on your dinner plate. You know you should be eating your veggies, yet 9 out of 10 Americans aren’t getting enough, especially dark green ones. Dark green veggies are low in calories yet nutrient-dense, packed with folate, fiber, vitamin A and more, for weight management, heart health, cancer prevention and an overall healthy diet. It’s as simple as filling half your plate with steamed broccoli tonight.
Move all your treats to a hard-to-reach shelf in the pantry. “Keeping treats out of mind may make you less likely to frequently snack on them,” says Gorin, MS, RDN. A Cornell University study found that people who keep candy, cereal, dried fruit and soda on the countertop weigh between 21 and 32 pounds more than those who don't.
Get your flu shot. There’s still time — for better or for worse, flu season runs until May. Dr. David Greuner, a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon based in New York, says that the winter holiday season is an “especially high-risk period, with parties, travel and exposure to crowds in general creating more opportunities for cold and flu germs to spread.” He urges, “If you haven’t gotten the shot, call your doctor right away, or visit the CDC's HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find flu shot locations."
Drink water, morning, noon and night. Every single cell in the body needs water to function -- from temperature control and staying well to lubricating joints and the digestive system -- water is absolutely essential. Start your day with a full glass of water and keep a water bottle in eyesight throughout the day. For those who embrace the Internet of things, Thermos has a “Connected” bottle with smart lid that lets you customize and digitally monitor your water intake; you can also sync to the Fitbit app.
Keep skin happy with warm -- not hot -- showers. The American Academy of Dermatology knows how to keep skin, the body’s largest organ, healthy. They recommend showering with warm water, washing with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser and limiting shower time to five to 10 minutes. Afterwards, gently blot your skin dry with a towel instead of rubbing or wiping and moisturize immediately; they suggest using creams with olive or jojoba oil, rather than a lotion.
Put fish on the menu. The USDA recommends that Americans eat two to three seafood meals each week to meet the omega-3s necessary for reducing the risk of heart disease. Rima Kleiner, MS, RD, says, “Swap fatty red meat for heart-healthy salmon to get in your necessary servings!”
Outsource sous-chef duties and still have home-cooked meals. Want to cook more, but don’t feel kitchen confident? Many services are cropping up to do most of the meal prep for you, leaving the best part of cooking -- the actual cooking -- to you. HelloFresh is one that focuses on good nutrition (which is why they have an in-house dietitian), with balanced meals in the 500-700 calorie range that are based on lean meats, whole grains, vegetables and fruit. Once they show you how easy it is, you can always venture out on your own to make meals from start to finish.
Eat the right portions for YOU. Lisa Young, PhD, RD, author of "The Portion Teller Plan," says, “In my experience as a nutritionist, the key to permanent weight loss is practicing portion control.” Young recommends incorporating products that help you eat less, such as buying single-serve snack packs or using portion plates such as those created by Livliga can help you get on track.
Move more, have fun and forget calling it exercise. “Don't call it exercise,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, owner of BetterThanDieting.com and author of "Read It Before You Eat It." “So many of us say we don't have time to exercise, but we do love to dance, ride bikes, walk our dogs and go for brisk walks. Any way you can move your body is better than sitting in a chair or car -- it doesn't have to be formal to keep you fit."
See nuts, eat nuts for eye health. “Most people don't realize how healthy nuts really are,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD, nutritional partner at the American Macular Degeneration Foundation. Amidor suggests adding them to a trail mix, sprinkled over yogurt or oatmeal, or topped over a green salad. She says, “Nuts are brimming with healthy fat and vitamin E, an antioxidant that is important for a healthy immune system, skin and eyes.” A serving of almonds is 23 nuts; for pistachios, it’s 49 kernels, and for walnuts, it’s 14 halves.
Schedule all your doctor’s appointments. According to Linda Dominguez, certified nurse practitioner, January is the time to make all your doctor's appointments. She says, “If you need to reschedule, well, you have 12 months to make it there.” Here’s her list of appointments to make: general practitioner, gynecologist (for women), dermatologist, dentist, nutritionist, optometrist and allergist.
Add veggies to every meal. “Veggies are packed with fiber to fill you up with very few calories,” says Lyssie Lakatos, RDN, CFT, author of "The Nutrition Twins' Veggie Cure" and co-founder of NutritionTwins.com. “Plus, they’re nutrient powerhouses, packed with phytonutrients and anti-inflammatory compounds, so they’re a sure-fire way to instantly improve your health, assist in weight loss and fight disease.” Lakatos suggests adding peppers and onions to your omelet, stacking sandwiches with lettuce, tomato and cucumber, and adding broccoli, peas and carrots to your pasta.
Keep the bedroom cool for good sleep. “Optimum temperature equals optimum sleep,” says Dr. Robert Oexman. “Your room temperature should be around 67 degrees. A cool room allows your core body temperature to drop, which is necessary to fall asleep and stay asleep,” he says.
Cook once, eat twice. Rima Kleiner, MS, RD says, “Double your recipes and freeze half for later to provide solutions for busy nights. Thaw, re-heat and you have a healthy meal in no time! A few healthy, backup meals in the freezer go a long way when you've had a busy day.”
Donate most of your closet. The average closet in 1930 had 36 items; today, the average is 120 items, according to Cladwell, makers of an app that helps you create minimal and versatile wardrobes for each season. They say most people don’t even wear 80 percent of what’s in their closet. So, get in your closet and sort through everything, keeping only what you absolutely love.
Spruce up your diet with spices. “Common herbs and spices add flavor to food without calories, fat or sodium, so they help you if you’re looking to lose weight,” says Tammy Lakatos Shames, RDN, CFT, author of "The Nutrition Twins' Veggie Cure" and co-owner of NutritionTwins.com. “Plus, they’re packed with phytonutrients so they may help protect against diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Make your food taste better and fight weight gain and disease -- it’s a win-win!” Lakatos Shames suggests adding oregano and basil to pasta, rosemary on chicken and tumeric on eggs.
Go back to basics with beans. It’d be hard to meet daily fiber needs without eating beans, and they’re also a great plant-based protein. It’s easy to soak dried beans overnight, but even easier to have canned beans on hand -- just make sure they're low in sodium. Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, owner of BetterThanDieting.com and author of "Read It Before You Eat It," reminds us that beans are an “inexpensive source of protein and fiber, they are convenient to shop for and store and they keep you feeling satiated.” She suggests adding them to salads or in your favorite dishes.
Understand your spending habits. We don’t often stop and take stock of our financial health. The first step is awareness, so grab three highlighters and go through your last three credit card statements to understand where you’re spending money on. Jeff Motske, president and CEO of Trilogy Financial recommends using three different colors to categorize expenses as "necessary," "important," and "frivolous."
Try a plant-based meal. Even if you're a meat lover, give plant-based meals a try -- they're good for you and better for the environment. Fill your plate with veggies, whole grains and plant proteins from foods such as soy (e.g. edamame, tofu), quinoa, nuts or beans. Melanie Lipps, MS, RD, suggests an interesting option from TOLERANT Foods: Legumes in the shape of pasta that provide over 20 grams of protein per serving, “to help keep you fuller longer while getting in both your carbohydrates and protein.”
Think of one thing you're grateful for. “Practicing gratitude is the surest path to joy,” says Lori Kenyon Farley, Project Juice co-founder. She says, “It’s impossible to have an irritable thought and a grateful thought at the same time, making gratitude especially effective. Studies have shown that having a positive outlook on life can help people avoid or healthfully manage diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and depression.
Snack like the stars for a day. Celebrity trainer Harley Pasternak has trained celebs like Megan Fox, Kanye West, Adam Levine and more. “Almonds make for a great on-the-go convenient snack. Their combination of protein, fiber & healthy fat will stave off hunger for hours! Plus, they're perfect to throw in your backpack or purse or car.” Pasternak recommends adding sliced almonds to your salads, smoothies and even soups to make a light meal more filling, and add a dash of healthy fat in the process.
If you have to sit, practice good posture. Sitting, while not ideal, is the reality of many of our work days. Slouching makes it worse. A study found that good posture tells your brain you’re in a stance of power, which increases testosterone for a confidence boost, while lowering the stress hormone cortisol. Spend a day focusing on your posture, stacking your spine, relaxing your neck and shoulders. If you need a little help, Lumo Lift makes a handy wearable device that buzzes when you slouch. Its magnetic clasps make it super simple to wear. It’s not noticeable until it buzzes you! And of course, there’s an app for easy data syncing.
Try dried plums (aka, prunes) for strong bones. Despite their well-deserved rep for helping with constipation, dried plums are emerging as unlikely heros for strong bones. They contain vitamins and minerals such as potassium, copper, boron and vitamin K which may have bone protective effects. The research on improving bone mineral density is tied to 10-12 dried plums a day. They work as snacks or in recipes, especially to replace fat and sugar in baking.
Make your nightcap a cherry juice. “Consider drinking some cherry juice,” says Dr. Robert Oexman. He says cherries affect melatonin levels, the body's sleep hormone. Oexman says, “Try a glass of tart cherry juice before hitting the sack. Research shows that the juice helps some insomniacs sleep deeper.”
Keep your Facebook privacy and security settings in good shape. This tip comes from Facebook HQ: Take control of your sharing (and over-sharing). Privacy Checkup walks you through three quick steps to help make sure only the people you want can see your stuff. You can review who you're posting to, which apps you're using, and the privacy of key pieces of information on your profile. Some security tips: Log out of unused apps, turn on login alerts and remember the strength of your password is more important than frequency with which you change it.