(I write for the Vancouver Province and this article first appeared in The Province on January 7, 2013 click here to view online version)
You know the drill, it’s the beginning of another new year and you want to make some positive changes to your life.
You’ve written down that you’re going to lose those last 10 pounds, again. You’re going to dust off your gym membership card, if you can find it, and go every single day rain or shine, dark of night, even when you’d rather be lounging on the couch, watching reruns of Two and a Half Men and eating day old doughnuts. Sound impossible? Not if you add a game plan.
Cue the band! Hit the confetti button! Here comes the 2013 Healthy Habit Game Plan to the rescue.
Here’s how it works. Each month pick one new habit from the list below. The next month pick another new habit. Keep adding so by the end of 2013 you’ll have twelve new Healthy Habits that will translate into a healthier, happier you. It’s all up to you the order you choose. Start with the new habit that really grabs you and build on that success. You can do this.
To watch the segment from Breakfast TV in Toronto with Dina Pugliese click here.
Healthy Habits Game Plan
Bump up your fruits and vegetables
Mother Nature didn’t mess round when she created fruits and vegetables. These rock stars provide your body with disease fighting antioxidants, soluble and insoluble fibre, vitamins and minerals.
People who eat 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables every day live longer healthier lives. Lost you at the thought of eating7-10 servings every day? Trust me; it’s easy as long as you know what a serving size looks like. (click here to see what a serving size looks like as seen on CityLine)
- 125 mL (½ cup) cut up vegetables or fruit
- 125 ml ( ½ cup) berries
- 125 mL (½ cup) 100% juice, vegetable or fruit, limit juice consumption to one serving a day
- 250 mL (1 cup) raw leafy vegetables (spinach, arugula, romaine, etc.)
- 125 mL (½ cup) cooked leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, bok choy, etc.)
- 250 mL (1 cup) salad
- ¼ cup (60 mL) dried fruit
Start by adding one extra fruit or veggie every day for the first week. Every week add one more serving per day. Goal: eating four fruits and six vegetable servings per day forever.
Must haves every day:
- one serving of leafy greens
- an orange coloured fruit or vegetable
- an apple
If there is a magic bullet – its exercise. We were meant for movement not parking out butts in front of the computer or TV. Thirty minutes of walking (strolls don’t count) makes a huge impact on your long term health. Move it or you’ll rust. Every week add 10 more minutes of walking. Tip – use a pedometer. Goal: 30-60 minutes of walking six – seven days a week
Eat fatty fish
Attention British Columbia and coastal cities in Canada – we have a treasure chest of nutrients swimming on our shores. Two servings of fatty fish per week like BC salmon, sardines, anchovies, herring, mackerel, or rainbow trout will help with brain function plus reduce your chances of having a heart attack or stroke. Add one serving a week. Goal: two servings per week
Power of Friendships
Strong social networks keep you young at heart which translates into a younger heart. Centenarians have rich social lives, take a page from their book and cultivate friendships. Goal: Join a club, gym, meet friends for coffee, attend church, or volunteer.
Switch to whole grains
Ditch the white stuff and choose what your body really needs. When you refine a grain you remove the bran (a source of fibre) and the endosperm (where most of the health benefits are). What you’re left with is empty calories which your body readily absorbs spiking your insulin levels. Goal: Switch from white or whole wheat bread to 100% whole grain whole wheat bread plus the following:
- Switch from white rice to brown
- Switch from pearl barley to pot barley
- Switch from instant oats to whole grain oats, includes instant whole grain oats
- Add wheat germ to whole wheat flour when baking or use stone ground whole wheat flour
- (for the recipe for 100% Whole Grain Irish Soda Bread click here, and scroll down to the recipe)
Learn a new skill
Stretching your brain stretches your wellness score. Goal: Learn something new this year, pick something you love and just do it. Learn a new language, how to play a musical instrument or how to cook, knit, garden
Kick the sweet tooth habit
Excess simple sugars contribute to LDL cholesterol build ups so its bye, bye pop and sweetened drinks and adios sugar in your coffee or tea. (This includes artificial sweeteners which still make you crave more sweet flavours)
Canadians are ramping up their sweet tooths’ and along with it the size of their pants. By simply switching from pop to water flavoured with a splash of 100% juice or a squeeze of lemon plus eliminating that spoonful of sweeter in your morning java or cuppa you can save your waistline from expanding as well as decrease your chances of having a heart attack or stroke.
While you’re at it, start eliminating all sugary treats. Bonus for menopausal women, this might help in the hot flash department.
Goal: Stop drinking sweetened drinks, go cold turkey. (If sweetened caffeinated drinks are your deal, eliminate one drink per day, a rapid elimination of caffeinated drinks has been linked to caffeine withdrawal headaches)
Nuts for your good health
Add a small handful of nuts every day and lower your chances of developing heart issues. All nuts contribute a different pedigree of power, so mix them up. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios and peanuts are on my must have list. Size really matters in this category – limit it to ¼ cup (60 mL) per day. Pack a serving as a portable snack. For a recipe for Sweet and Spiced Walnuts click here. Goal: having one serving 4-7 times a week.
Make beans your friend
Sure they make you toot, but better the odd toot than a heart attack. These economical treasure troves of vitamins, minerals, fibre, protein and antioxidants also have a low glycemic index which helps keep insulin levels riding on an even keel.
You don’t have to become a full blown vegetarian to benefit from eating more bean based meals. Start by committing to one bean meal a week. Goal: by year’s end eat three-five bean based meals a week.
Add beans to your day:
- hummus with cut up veggies
- bean salads
No fuel in your car’s tank and your car won’t go anywhere; no fuel in your body’s tank and the same thing happens to you. Oh, sure, you can still function, but you’re running on a compromised mode. Goal: seven days a week
No time for breakie? Packable choices:
- Piece of fruit and a yogurt
- Whole grain muffin – for the recipe for Whole Grain Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins click here
- Peanut butter and whole grain crackers
Keeping the pressure off
Managing stress is really one of the most important ways to stay well. We all have stress in our lives but the way in which each of us copes with it makes a difference. Goal: Become proactive about combating stress by choosing one of these: Yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, any aerobic activity (includes walking), talking with friends
The act of helping others is a gift that keeps on giving. Ask anyone who volunteers on a regular basis why they reach out to others and the answer is because everyone wins. When we practice kindness we make this world a better place. Hold the door, wave a driver in, smile, say thank you, visit your elderly relatives, volunteer at a food bank. There are a so many ways we can make a difference. Goal: one kind act every day.