Five Health Habits to Start the New Year Off Right

The time for reflection and resolution is upon us! And if you’re like most, the allure of a fresh start is too tempting to not set (or at least think about setting) a few New Year’s resolutions. But before diving in and resolving to lose weight, find love, or pay off your debt, take a few moments to consider how successful you’ve been at meeting past resolutions. If you have a history of abandoning your resolutions at the first set-back, I recommend reading my previous post on Setting Successful New Year’s Resolutions. Once you understand how to craft your resolution for success, it’s time to consider the health habits that are worth your time and attention in 2019.

New Year’s Resolution # 1: Get 7-9 Hours of Sleep per Night

This goal is number one for a reason. Sleep is the foundation from which all other health habits are formed. And studies show that adequate sleep plays a role in maintaining a healthy weight and may even lower the risk of type 2 diabetes (1).

So how much sleep is enough? According to The National Sleep Foundation, adults aged 26-64 years need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night (2). If you’re struggling to meet this, try to figure out why. Are you staying up too late? Do you have difficulty falling/staying asleep? Do you wake up too early? If you are unable to improve your sleep on your own, make an appointment with your doctor who can screen for sleep disorders. And don’t forget to track your sleep in your Cronometer account! Doing so may help you pick up on problematic sleep patterns.

New Year’s Resolution # 2: Meditate

Meditation may seem like a new trend, but the practice has been around for 5000 years (3), and for good reason. Regular meditation has been associated with improved mental and emotional health, structural and functional changes in the brain, improved pain tolerance, as well as better academic and work performance (5). Like most health behaviours, the benefits of meditation are experienced when practice is consistent. If you are new to meditation, set a goal of meditating for just 5-10 minutes per day. To help you commit to this, schedule it in your agenda and set an alarm. And remember, you can track both your mood and minutes of meditation in your Cronometer account under biometrics.

New Year’s Resolution # 3: Move More!

We all know that exercise is important for health, fitness, mood, and sleep. Yet, only 22.9% of American adults meet the minimum requirements of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week (5).

When it comes to exercise, there is no right or wrong way to move your body. Find something that you love to do and do it as often as possible. You may find that exercising in the morning, or on your way to or from work, is easier to commit to than trying to workout in the evening after a long day. Accountability is also an important factor when it comes to forming a new habit, so find a friend or family member that can help you stay motivated. Finally, if you’re curious about the energy expenditure of your favourite activities, check out the comprehensive exercise database in Cronometer.

New Year’s Resolution # 4: Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Today’s nutrition climate is more contentious than ever before. Doctors, dietitians, health gurus, your barista, friends, and family all seem to have an opinion on what constitutes the *best* diet. And while dietary accord is unlikely to be reached any time soon, most (credible) nutrition experts agree that we should be eating way more fruits and vegetables than we currently are.

According to the Global Burden of Disease study, a low intake of fruits and vegetables was one of the top 10 risk factors for death (6). In fact, worldwide, 3.4 million deaths can be attributed to a lack of fruit intake and 1.8 million deaths to a lack of vegetable intake (in case you’re keeping score, that’s MORE deaths from a lack of fruit vs. vegetable intake!)

So, how many fruits and vegetables should you be eating? According to the World Health Organization, we should be consuming a minimum of 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day, which equates to 3 cups of spinach, plus 1 cup broccoli, and 1 ¼ cup of blueberries (6). However, when it comes to fruits and vegetables, more may be better. My rule of thumb is to include a side dish of vegetables (as large as possible) at both lunch and supper and fruit with breakfast and each snack. (For additional questions on the health benefits of fruit, check out this blog post.)

New Year’s Resolution # 5 – Limit Restaurant Meals

Life is busy. I get it. At the end of a hectic day, many of us feel overwhelmed at the prospect of cooking a meal and instead, spring for the easy and less stressful option of takeout. But in most cases, the convenient choice isn’t the healthy choice, since a typical restaurant meal has anywhere from 600-1200+ calories, on average.

Here’s where meal planning and prepping can save the day. I believe that each one of us has at least a few hours on the weekend and during the week to cook a couple of healthy meals. And if there are older children and a partner in the house, then the division of labour should be even easier. Some of my favourite ‘cook once, eat twice’ meals are: seitan roast, sweet potato chili, chickpea ‘toona’ (think tuna salad, but with chickpeas), shepherd’s pie, and lemon-lentil soup. We also keep roasted chickpeas, cooked grain, and chopped vegetables on standby in the fridge in case we need to throw together a quick bowl. (For additional meal planning tips, check out this blog post.)

Have a New Year’s Resolution you think is worth sharing? Leave us a comment below or join in the discussion on the forums!  

References:

  1. Nancy L. Kondracki N.L. The Link Between Sleep and Weight Gain — Research Shows Poor Sleep Quality Raises Obesity and Chronic Disease Risk. Today’s Dietitian, 2012;14(6):48. Available from: https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/060112p48.shtml
  2. National Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times, (n.d.) Available from: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times/page/0/1
  3. Eisler M. The History of Meditation. The Chopra Centre, n.d. Available from: https://chopra.com/articles/history-meditation
  4. Hassed C. The health benefits of meditation and being mindful, n.d. Available from: https://www.monash.edu/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/694192/The-health-benefits-of-meditation-and-being-mindful.pdf
  5. Health.gov. 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans Summary, n.d. Available from: https://health.gov/paguidelines/2008/summary.aspx
  6. Lock K, Pomerleau J, Causer L, Altmann D.R, McKee M. The global burden of disease attributable to low consumption of fruit and vegetables: implications for the global strategy on diet. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 2005;83(2):81-160. Available from: https://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/83/2/lock0205abstract/en/

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