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Monday, Jan. 13, 2020

New Year, Healthy Mindset

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Small Changes to Make in the New Year

It’s the new year, which means new year’s resolutions are on our minds. Many of us may find it difficult to keep our resolutions all year or even through late January. Some resolutions, like an entirely new diet plan or a rigid exercise routine, can be hard to maintain. Instead of making resolutions that are stressful and tough to keep up with, try making one of these small, realistic health changes to your lifestyle.

Practice mindful eating.

It’s very easy to become distracted when we’re eating, especially if we’re trying to fit lunch in before our next meeting or appointment, or we’re checking emails or social media during dinner. While we may feel more productive multitasking during a meal, distracted eating can lead to overeating. Try to eat mindfully during at least one meal per day (or week). Slow down your eating, pay attention to your food, and enjoy the qualities of every bite. Practicing mindful eating helps us notice when we are full.

Move more.

Every movement matters, and small changes can lead to improved health in the long run. Take the stairs instead of the elevator to get your heart pumping. When watching TV, try doing stretches, squats or push-ups during commercial breaks. Take a 10-minute walk in the morning, evening or during your lunch break. If you find it difficult to remember to move more during a busy day, set alarms on your phone that prompt you to get up and move.

Cook at home.

Making more meals at home can help save money and extra calories. If you’re accustomed to eating out and the idea of cooking at home seems tiresome, start small. Start with cooking one meal at home each week. Once this becomes routine, start cooking two or three meals weekly. Cooking at home doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Find recipes for one-pot, one-pan, slow cooker or pressure cooker meals. Cooking a recipe you’re not familiar with often requires a little more effort and time, so aim for trying no more than one new recipe each week if you have a busy schedule.

Make small swaps.

Swap refined grains for whole grains, which provide fiber, iron and B-vitamins. Whole wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, popcorn and wild rice are some examples of whole grains. Instead of 2% milk, try making a gradual change to 1% or skim milk, which helps cut down saturated fat intake – snack on plain, unsalted nuts, seeds or popcorn instead of chips. Instead of topping your salad with a creamy dressing like blue cheese or ranch, try using a vinaigrette instead, as it has more heart-healthy fats. Replace dessert with a fresh fruit that you enjoy. Start with one simple swap until it has become routine, then add on another new healthy swap.

Try new foods.

An important part of maintaining a healthy diet includes eating a variety of foods. Each food has a different nutrient profile, so keeping variety in your diet can help you get all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs. If you find yourself eating the same foods every week, make it a point to vary your diet. Set a goal to try one new fruit, vegetable or whole grain each week.

Drink more water.

Most of us don’t drink enough water each day. Aim to drink more water, which helps regulate body temperature, cushions our joints, protects our tissues and helps get rid of wastes. Drinking enough water can also help curb appetite. Easy ways to add more water to your day include drinking a glass of water with each meal and keeping a water bottle on hand all day.

Small changes may not seem as exciting in comparison to a drastic new year’s resolution, but they may be more realistic for some. If you find yourself struggling to keep up with your new year’s resolution, try taking smaller, sensible steps instead.

Abigail McAlister is an asssistant extension agent (general nutrition) for the LSU AgCenter. Her main focus is adult nutrition education and promotion in Caddo and Bossier parishes. She can be reached at amcalister@agcenter.lsu.edu.

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