18 Healthy Habits for 2018
Hey there, Mamas! Here is an update to the very first article I posted on RDNMama. I’ve fine-tuned it and added a few tips to help make 2018 your healthiest year yet!
- Do a “detox” detox! No, that’s not a typo. So often we will start off the year with a “cleanse” or “detox” to make a fresh start. These (often expensive) supplements are, at best, a waste of money, and at worst, semi-starvation aids that deplete your good gut bacteria and contribute to dehydration and muscle wasting.
- Pick up some dumbbells! As women, we tend to get stuck on a cardio mentality. Years of cardio plus low-calorie diets can actually result in muscle breakdown – decreasing your metabolism. Certainly, there are benefits to cardiovascular exercise, but strength training has many benefits. It can help improve bone density, increase your metabolic rate, and, over time, increase your insulin sensitivity – reducing your risk for diabetes.
- Eat more fiber! Fiber is a type of non-digestible carbohydrate found only in plant foods (think fruits, veggies, and whole grains). Non-soluble fiber helps promote gut health and regularity. Soluble fiber helps remove cholesterol and other less than optimal compounds that can be found in our guts. It also helps increase feelings of fullness so we don’t overindulge and feel more satisfied. Also, foods high in fiber tend to have plenty of antioxidants as well – another bonus! More about fiber here.
- Eat breakfast! We make our kids do it, so why don’t we? Use the MyPlate method to create as balanced a meal as possible. Many of our breakfast foods come from the grain group (cereal, pancakes, etc…), so try pairing it with some protein (an egg), fruit, or dairy (milk or yogurt). This will give your breakfast more staying power and a higher nutritional punch! Use the MyPlate method for all of your meals to create more balanced meals and snacks. Aim for at least three different groups each meal and at least two for snacks to get the most nutritional bang for your buck. Check out this toddler-approved breakfast recipe.
- Snack Smart! Use snacks as gap fillers – that is, those food groups you weren’t able to squeeze in to your meals should make up your snack. Breakfast was a bowl of cereal with milk and fruit? How about a hard-boiled egg and veggie sticks for a between-meal nosh? Nix mindless munching. Those calories (that you’re not even appreciating) add up quickly! If you’re eating a food that comes out of a larger container, like pre-made trail mix or pretzels, put some in a separate bowl first. That way, you’ll have to get up to get more. No more “Well, the bag was full five minutes ago…” The “Apple Test” can be another way to eat mindfully – if you feel like eating, ask yourself: Could you eat an apple (or chicken breast or other healthful item) and be satisfied? If the answer is yes, then you’re probably physically hungry. If not, it’s more likely an emotional hunger.
- Watch out for portion distortion! Eating healthy foods but still not losing weight? Use measuring cups and spoons, along with food scales, to help ensure that your portions are consistent with typical serving sizes. Be sure to check your food labels! Many packages contain more than one serving, so you might be getting two or three times the amount of calories and fat you’re expecting. Using smaller dishes can also help with portion control.
- Brush up on labels! We already talked about portion size, but there is so much more to gain from looking at food labels. If you are watching your weight, calories and fat are good to watch. Remember that foods with less than 30% of calories from fat are considered “low-fat”. Foods with 20% or more of the daily value (DV) are considered a good source. Aim for low amounts of total and saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium and high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Head here to see what label claims, like low-fat, really mean. Check out this RDN Mama article which breaks down dietary fats, especially those double-whammy trans fats. Want more info on informed food choices? This RDN Mama article could be just what you’re looking for.
- Eat more beans! This might sound weirdly specific, but beans pack a heavy nutritional punch! They are high in soluble fiber (which helps lower cholesterol), packed with protein (7 grams in ½ cup), loaded with antioxidants (different ones depending on the color of bean you choose), and very economical. Dried or canned (be sure to rinse to remove up to 40% of the sodium or look for “no added salt”) beans are non-perishable, so they last for a long time, which makes them a great pantry staple. Trust me, your waistline and wallet will thank you for this one!
- Be a food safety stickler! This is especially important when we are packing the kids’ (or our own) lunches – you know, the ones that sit out for hours before we eat them. One in six Americans is afflicted with a foodborne illness each year! Prevent that from happening to you and your family by: washing your hands, separating raw meats from ready-to-eat foods, using a food thermometer to ensure thorough cooking, and refrigerating food to slow bacteria growth. A good rule is to always keep hot food hot and cold food cold – so Mamas, be sure to send an ice pack or thermos with your little one so you don’t get that dreaded call from school! Packing lunches the night before ensures that eating healthy won’t cause you to run late and won’t have you resorting to less healthy options in a pinch. Don’t forget about the littlest members of your family! Check out RDN Mama’s article on Formula Safety here.
- Try new foods! Many of us get stuck in a food rut – the same foods day after day, week after week. BORING! Make a plan to try a new food once a week – or even once a month – to bust out of that rut! By choosing a fruit or veggie different from your usual picks, you will be getting different vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Afraid the kids won’t like it? Kids will often be more willing to try a food that they picked out or helped prepare.
- Get cooking! Now that we have our food safety up to snuff, let’s get cooking! By cooking at home, you can save money (and calories) and sleep well by knowing everything you put into your body. Play around with herbs and spices to increase your intake of antioxidants and to (literally) spice up every day staples. See MyPlate recipes for some ideas to get you started! Check here, here, and here for easy, toddler-approved recipes! For information on my Baby-Led Weaning workshops, see here.
- Prioritize family meals! Family meals encourage healthy eating habits, for kids and parents. Many of us think of dinner as a “family meal”, but go with what works in your family. Maybe weekend breakfast is a good time to start this custom. Make a goal of having a family meal at least a few times weekly. Remember that family meal time means no electronics – use some old-fashioned conversation. For more on family meals, check out this RDN Mama article!
- Dine out while still reaching your goals! For those days you know you won’t be able to or won’t have time to cook, plan ahead. Many restaurants provide online or on site nutritional information. This makes it easy to choose a dish that fits with your goals (or at least help you realize those picks which are way off base). Also, trying to apply MyPlate to your menu selections to help with portion control.
- Drink more water! Water does so much for our bodies – from transporting oxygen to ridding our body of waste. The Institute of Medicine recommends 13 cups a day for men and 9 cups a day for women, but your perfect amount will depend on your activity level, among other factors. Not to get too personal, but you’ve found the right amount if your urine is the color of light lemonade.
- Set goals! Whether you want to meet your goals by next month, next year, or the next decade, write out where you want your life to be; what you want to accomplish. With every decision we make, ask yourself: Will this bring me closer to or further away from my goal? For more on goals, see here and here.
- Banish negative self-talk! We want to be a good role model, not only for our children, but for all of those around us. That is really hard to do if we keep telling ourselves that we aren’t good, pretty, thin, fast, perfect, etc… enough. Don’t beat yourself up if you eat a “bad” food. If you want a cookie, eat a cookie – and ENJOY IT! Then move on with your day. Don’t focus on what you consider flaws on your body – we all have things we’d like to change. Rather, move your attention to what your body can do: run a 5k, grow beautiful babies, smile.
- Be active! We don’t want to be the parents (or grandparents, or aunts and uncles) who are forced to sit on the sidelines because we literally cannot keep up with our kids! Physical activity can help with so much: weight management, increasing energy levels, blood pressure control, and regulation of blood sugar, just to name a few. Plus, your kids will cherish the memories you make running around together. It’s good to aim for 150 minutes a week (30 minutes, 5 days a week), but it’s okay to split that up into more-manageable 10 minute increments. Find activities you enjoy, such as a walk with co-workers after lunch or a game of basketball in the evening with your family. Head here for 8 awesome benefits of exercise, plus tips to get started!
- Consult with an RDN! We talked here about the importance of RDs when trying to eat healthfully, but just in case you’re in need of a refresher: RDs personalize eating plans for YOUR health and wellness goals, provide motivation and support, and help you to live a healthier lifestyle. Find an RDN near you.
Tell me, Mamas: What habits are you hoping to add this year?