How are your New Year Resolutions going? Are you still a regular at the gym? Are you eating healthier? Are you being more positive and getting your sleep? If you’re like many, by February, those good intentions for improved health begin to fall by the wayside. Well, all is definitely not lost. Drastic lifestyle changes may be tempting but can be tough to maintain after a few weeks. A more realistic approach is to make a few small and easy to follow changes that are more likely to become a part of your daily routine. These healthy habits add up to a noticeable improvement in your overall health.
1. DRINK MORE WATER
Water is a necessity for almost every organ in your body to work at his prime level. It’s also great for beautiful and healthy skin, hair and nails. To meet the recommended 8 cups of water per day it’s important to track how much you are drinking during a regular day. If you’re drinking less than 8 (I know I was), try scheduling times to get in the rest. For example, a glass of water before your morning coffee or tea really kicks off your day and gets your digestion revved up. Try carrying a refillable water bottle with you to stay hydrated throughout the day. Often thirst is mistaken for hunger. Therefore, drinking more water can actually decrease your appetite allowing you to consume less calories…..BONUS!
Infusing your water with fruit and herbs makes a refreshing and visually appealing drink that’s easy to make in batches and keep on hand. Make it by soaking the ingredients in a pitcher for 6 hours or overnight. The longer you soak the ingredients, the stronger the flavor will be. Cut the fruit into thin slices to expose more surface area to the water to help the flavors meld. Squeeze the fruit and muddle the herbs to release even more of their flavor directly into the water.
My favorites fruits include lemons, oranges, strawberries and pineapple. For herbs I like mint, a pinch of basil, ginger and rosemary. My favorite veggie infusion is definitely cucumber.
2. EAT WHOLE GRAINS
Whole grains are actually the seeds of the grains. Wheat, corn and oats are the usual suspects. They provide fiber, are packed with energy-producing complex carbohydrates and several essential vitamins and minerals. Refined grains, on the other hand, have been stripped of many nutrients through the milling process. Also, the healthy outer shells of the seeds have been removed. Easy changes like eating whole grain bread and pasta and brown rice instead of their white varieties really incorporate whole grains into your diet. Plus they taste great, really hearty and satisfying. Here are some of my most favorite whole grains:
QUINOA (pronounced “keen-wa”). It’s a versatile, gluten-free whole grain that’s great as a side dish or a main course. Learn all about it here.
FARRO. It’s another ancient grain, like quinoa, but it has a more rice-like texture. It’s a nutritional powerhouse with a unique nutty flavor. Farro was a mainstay in the diet of ancient Romans. It is high in fiber and a good source of iron and protein. It is easily digested making the nutrients easily absorbed into the body. Try two of my favorite farro recipes here and here.
3. EAT FRUITS AND VEGETABLES
One great way to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet is by making smoothies for quick energy-rich breakfasts and snacks. Berries, bananas and citrus fruits are all great smoothie choices but for an extra nutritional boost try adding spinach, kale or cucumbers. The fruit masks the flavors of the veggies.
If you avoid fruits and veggies because of the prep work they require, try making them more convenient by washing and cutting them up at the beginning of the week and storing them in bulk in airtight containers in the fridge.
4. EAT HEALTHIER FATS
Fat has always been thought of as bad, especially when you’re trying to get healthy. However, fat is an important part of the diet when it comes from the right sources. Saturated fats and trans fats are mainly found in cream, butter and processed oils. They raise cholesterol levels and therefore can increase the risk of heart disease when consumed in excess.
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, come from vegetables and natural oils and are an important source of energy that can actually improve cholesterol levels. Try replacing butter and fatty red meats with healthier alternatives such as olive oil, avocados, nuts and chicken.
5. EAT LEAN PROTEIN
Lean protein is heart healthy and key for remaining satisfied and energized for long periods of time. Since protein is vital for building muscle, this nutrient is highly effective when paired with exercise. Fish, chicken and turkey are great protein choices. White meat is generally a bit leaner than dark meat and removing the skin can help cut down on calories. Baked, steamed, roasted and grilled are the healthiest cooking methods for your lean proteins.
There’s no better time than then the present to resolve to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle. Do you have a positive change that you’ve made to your overall health? As always, I’d love to hear about it. Here’s to a healthy and happy 2015……..