Like a roomful of noisemakers at midnight on New Years Eve, the abundance of health and fitness advice at the start of every year can create a cacophony of confusion. Do get more rest; dont eat fatty foods; quit smoking; reduce stress; drink less; exercise more.
It can be deafening and, ultimately, defeating.
To help cut through the racket, weve reached out to experts in food, health and fitness and compiled this streamlined list of their top tips for a healthier New Year.
Dr. Zorba Paster, family physician, Dean Health: My New Years resolutions.
Every year I have to come up with something new Ill do to improve my life. The problem, as you all know, is that resolutions dont last. We stop doing what we said wed do and think that once we fall off the wagon, why bother to get back on?
So my first resolution is to follow my resolutions. We have to start somewhere, so Ill start with the basic premise: Ill do it.
My second resolution is to remember every day that sitting is the new smoking. Being too sedentary is a bad habit we need to break. I was a smoker briefly but stopped back in 1970. I didnt start exercising regularly until about 10 years ago, and I still dont do enough. So I resolve to climb more stairs, walk more at lunch and sit less.
Next, follow a Mediterranean diet. Folks who live along the Mediterranean Sea live longer than we do. Their plates are filled with colorful fruits and vegetables, with smaller portions of meat and poultry. Fish is an important protein in their diet. Their oil is olive oil. And their favorite snack isnt pork rinds, its roasted nuts.
Resolution number four is to learn something new every day. I know it sounds trite, but its worth trying. Your brain is a muscle use it or lose it. That means more reading, writing, thinking, doing, and less sitting in front of a screen like a couch potato.
And my final resolution is to engage in more acts of kindness. From the person who hands me my coffee in the morning to the guy who cleans my office at night, I will always try to smile and mean it. A real, honest-to-goodness thank you. Do it. Youll make my day.
Matthew Hanson, fitness director, Pinnacle Health and Fitness: Starting and maintaining a new fitness routine.
Make the time. Set aside time for fitness and give that time priority in your life.
Start slow. Twenty minutes a day for two or three days is a good start. As you get fitter, you can begin to increase that to the recommended 20-40 minutes of vigorous activity three to five times per week.
Go at it with a friend. Husbands, wives or friends are great motivators to get you working out. On those days when you just dont have the motivation, they can encourage you or give you that guilt feeling if you let them down by not going.
Do cardiovascular exercises. This is the best way to burn fat running, cycling or your favorite elliptical machine are great places to start. Exercises such as crunches can give you better-looking abs once you burn off all the fat on top of them.
The best exercise is the one you like to do. Whatever the activity, if you like it, you will most likely continue to do it.
Variety is the spice of life. Dont be afraid to try something new. You may find you really like it.
Get started today. Theres no time like now to start. Many health clubs have deals on memberships. If motivation is your problem, hire a personal trainer to get you started. We are not all a bunch of fitness freaks most of us are just like you!
Amanda Turner, registered dietitian, and Katie Mitchell, director of fitness, for Curves International: Tips to stay on track with food and health goals.
Keep a food diary. Recording what you eat can help keep you on track with weight-loss goals and may make you think twice about taking that extra helping of mashed potatoes at dinner. Enter your food intake right after eating, so you remember it accurately.
Measure your portions. This will help you be more accurate with your portions. If you are out and cant measure, follow these guidelines: A fist is about one cup; tip of thumb is one tablespoon; tip of pinky is one teaspoon. For meat portions, palm sized is approximately four ounces.
Never go to a social gathering hungry. Eating a high-fiber or protein-based snack like a turkey rollup and an apple will help fill you up and prevent you from eating less healthy foods. If you do arrive hungry, drink a glass of water before you grab a plate.
Avoid liquid calories. Caloric drinks do not satisfy your hunger as much as solid foods can. Choose calorie-free beverages like water, unsweetened tea and black coffee. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one glass of wine, beer or small cocktail with a calorie-free mixer such as soda water, Crystal Light or diet soda.
Add activity. Look for efficient and effective workouts. Seek a fitness program that combines strength training with cardio fitness you need it all in order to protect and increase muscle, burn fat, strengthen the heart and lungs, and promote flexibility.
Taiya R. Bach, registered dietitian nutritionist, UW Health: Healthier eating in the New Year.
Plan ahead for lunch. Cook up a storm on the weekend and put portions into freezer-friendly containers. This provides an easy lunch to reheat in the microwave. Its also more affordable and usually healthier than eating out or dining in the work cafeteria every day.
Use snack-size baggies. Fill these up with cut fruit or vegetables, trail mix or other healthy options for an on-the-go snack. Bag them ahead of time to prevent overfilling when youre in a rush or eating directly out of the package.
Plan a weekly dinner menu. When cooking for a family, trying to figure out what to serve on a nightly basis is tough. Planning a menu makes life easier and makes it less likely youll fall back on convenience foods such as frozen pizza or go out to eat or get takeout, which might not be as healthy.
Cook with a slow cooker. Its a great way to prepare a million things, from soups and casseroles to dips and even desserts.
Keep to the basics. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins are best. Limit the processed packaged foods that tend to be high in sodium, sugar and fat.
Be mindful. Really try to think about what you are eating and how you are feeling. Consider why you might be overindulging in certain foods or at certain times of the day. If something is really tasty, savor it. Also, keep a food diary to track trends. There are a ton of smartphone apps to help you along the way.
Remember to enjoy yourself! So much of the focus with food is negative limiting your portions, cutting back on fat. Consider trying something different for the New Year that may have a food focus, like taking a cooking class with a friend, signing up for a supermarket tour or planning for a summer garden.
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