The concept of New Year's resolutions is something that has always left me a bit cynical. Much like with super-restrictive fad diets, time after time I see people make resolutions with totally unrealistic parameters, only to fail. And this failure inevitably leads to self-loathing, self-doubt, and some sort of resolution backlash.
Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but the only resolution I’ve ever personally managed to stick to involved not spending money at a certain high-profile coffee chain for one year, and I did that, but only because I had other places to get my half-sweet chai tea lattes. The thing that made that resolution successful was that it was about making a change, not about giving something up.
So what if, when it comes to health-minded resolutions, we took a similar approach? What if instead of about giving things up, eating less of this or drinking less of that, we make 2017 the year of more? In that spirit, here are my five nutritionist-approved New Year’s Resolutions:
Eat More Vegetables
Forget about dieting or cutting carbs or eating clean. Let’s just plain and simple eat more vegetables. When we eat more vegetables that fill us up with dietary fiber, we tend to eat less junk. And all that fiber not only helps to keep our digestive tract healthy and happy, but it also slows the rate at which sugars are absorbed into our bloodstream and prevents spikes in our blood sugar levels. So for 2017, think about how you can incorporate more vegetables into your life.
I like to keep a stash of pre-washed and chopped veggies on hand for snacking, so when I’m thinking of reaching for crackers or some unhealthy snack, it’s just as easy to reach for something nutritious instead. Try pairing your vegetables with some protein – like carrot sticks and hummus, celery with peanut butter, or a green salad with cottage cheese. The combination of protein and produce is satisfying, blood sugar friendly, and heart healthy.
Drink More Water
If you’re trying to move away from drinking sugary or artificially-sweetened soft drinks, or even fruit juices, make your resolution to drink more water. Often the trick to breaking a habit is replacing it with a new one. Making sure you stay hydrated is a good health-minded goal to have, especially because being hungry and thirsty can often feel the same, so when we drink more water we generally make healthier food choices as well.
If straight-up water doesn’t float your boat, try mixing it up with some infusions -- I love cucumber, mint, or orange slices in my water. If you’re accustomed to drinking fruit juice, start by cutting it down with water. I actually prefer water with a tiny splash of juice in it, but start with whatever blend works for you, even if it’s only 10% water. Eventually you’ll find yourself adding more and more water and less and less juice, and you’ll be surprised at how little juice you actually need to flavor your water.
Get More Sleep
More sleep: the holy grail of resolutions. It’s a tough one since we’re all so busy and connected these days, but sleep is so important for our health. This is a case of less leading to more. Less screen time can lead to more sleep – can you watch one less episode of your favorite Netflix program so you can get to bed a bit earlier? Or shut down your phone thirty minutes earlier? We could all benefit from putting our devices down and getting a bit more shut-eye.
From a nutrition perspective, sleep is important. We tend to make poor food choices when we’re tired, reaching for salty, fatty, unhealthy convenience foods, and even larger portions than we would when well rested. Let’s make 2017 the year of more sleep!
Maybe last year’s resolution of running your first marathon was a tad ambitious, but there’s no doubt we all could benefit from moving more. And hey, if you did run a marathon, that’s awesome! You’re amazing! But let’s not forget about the small stuff. Like closing the computer and taking a 5 minute walk around the block every hour or so. Or getting off the bus a couple of stops early so you can walk and stretch your legs a bit. When we move more, we feel better and when we feel better we make healthier choices. It’s the truth! So let’s all make sure we move more in 2017.
Cooking has got to be one of the single best things you can do for a healthy lifestyle. When you cook at home, no matter what you make, it will almost certainly be healthier than anything you get in a restaurant, any sort of takeout, or any frozen pre-made meal.
Feel like pizza? Make your own! In the mood for French fries? Get that oven heating up! It’ll be fun to make, taste great, and will hands down be lower in salt, sugar, and fat than if you had eaten out. I do love a celebratory dinner out at a nice restaurant, and some Fridays are just begging for delivery, but if we can keep these indulgences to special occasions and cook at home more it’ll be the best thing we can do for our wallets and our health. Cook more!
So there you have it. Here’s to a healthy and happy 2017 – the year of more!
Food preparation photo via Shutterstock.