Tips for Starting the New Year Healthy

EATING SEAFOOD like salmon (above) is a great way to get healthy omega-3 fatty acids into your diet. Photo: Paula Doebrich.

By Paula Doebrich

The new year is always a time for grand resolutions and plans to start implementing new healthy habits. While I suggest you take care of yourself year-round, any excuse to get started is great! A few simple changes to your daily routine can make a big difference. Here are some of my favorite tweaks that don’t require too much work.

  • Make drinking water a habit. Hydration is important for many processes in the body and drinking enough can help your metabolism work more efficiently. Especially in the colder months, many people forget to have enough water. Try to have one glass before each meal and snack you eat. Aim for at least 8 cups of water per day and set reminders to drink if you think you might forget. Remember, water isn’t the only source of hydration. Diluted juice, seltzer, or coffee and tea in moderation count too.
  • A diverse diet is the one that will benefit your health most, so try to add variety to your diet. Having a colorful veggie or fruit with each meal is a good way to ensure you are getting a variety of vitamins and antioxidants in your diet. It is recommended to make approximately half your plate veggies or fruit. Don’t forget to enjoy a variety of other foods, such as high-fiber whole grains, lean protein from eggs, dairy, or beans, as well as healthy fats from nuts and vegetable oils.
  • Have seafood twice per week. Most Americans don’t meet this guideline, which is unfortunate, because seafood is a source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Those fats are good for us because they help lower triglycerides, improve brain health and mood, and could also lower inflammation in the body. This protects against many diseases. Additionally, seafood is a good source of lean protein that is needed to build and maintain muscle mass.
  • This one might surprise you, but people who don’t sleep enough are more likely to gain excess weight and have trouble losing it. You might have noticed that when you are tired you tend to have more cravings for high energy foods and feel like you have a bigger appetite. There are several reasons for this, including a shift in hormones. Sleep deprivation causes a hormone called ghrelin to be more active. This hormone signals hunger. Another hormone, leptin, that is responsible for sending satiety signals to the brain, becomes less active when we are exhausted. Getting six or more hours per night is recommended.
  • Indulge in a healthy way. A good diet has space for some fun foods here and there. People who try to cut them out completely usually fail. A healthy lifestyle is one that fits into your life, leaving room for all your favorite foods and celebration. Have one small treat each day to make sure you can stick to your new lifestyle long-term.

Paula Doebrich, MPH, RDN is the owner of the private nutrition practice Happea Nutrition, where she helps people improve their health through evidence-based advice. Her approach is based on making eating well simple and enjoyable. Paula believes that a healthy diet should fit into your lifestyle, not the other way around.

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