By Sarah Haan, for SparkPeople
It's hard to ignore the refreshing feeling a new year brings. It's a chance to re-evaluate your life and think about where you might like to make changes. Statistics show that most resolutions don't work, so we're going dive into noteworthy goals for the new year. If you're already a pro at setting goals, then these five ideas will help you kick-start your health goals in 2013. Choose to focus on one, some or all five throughout the year.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Research shows that increasing the number of fruits and veggiesyou eat, especially above the touted 5-a-day, decreases your risk of health ailments like high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This year, resolve to up your intake of produce to bring your disease risk down. More fruits and veggies mean more fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, plus more flavor and color added to your meals. Remember, when you're adding more fruits and veggies to your diet, you can choose from fresh, frozen, canned, or dried varieties-just remember to buy packaged items without added sugar, oil or salt.
Get started: Aim for 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
Get going this year by adding fruits and veggies to your diet! Put dried fruit in your chicken salad sandwich, frozen spinach in vegetarian lasagna, or double the diced peppers, mushroom and onions in your morning omelet. Every extra bit counts!
Eat More Healthy Fats
It's becoming better known (thankfully!) that the average American needs more Omega-3s, and that we should be consuming more heart-healthy unsaturated fat and less saturated fat. We've learned that unsaturated fats decrease inflammation in our bodies, which is linked to lower disease risk and better disease management. So what are you waiting for?
Get Started: Aim for at least 26 grams of healthy fat each day.
The USDA Dietary Guidelines advise that approximately 20% of your calories should come from unsaturated fats each day (and no more than 10% from saturated fat.) That's about 26-40 grams for people eating between 1,200 and 1,800 calories each day. Start by switching ground beef to tuna or salmon, and top your salad with slivered almonds instead of shredded cheese. You can also expand your use of avocado. Use the tasty fruit as a sandwich spread, whole-wheat cracker dip, salad topper or omelet partner.
Pump Up Your Protein in the Morning
Our busy schedules mean we consume most of our protein in the latter half of the day. But protein keeps us full and energized, and our bodies constantly use this cell-building substance. Studies show that people who balance their protein distribution throughout the day are more successful at maintaining a healthy weight.
Get Started: Eat at least 15 grams of protein at breakfast.
Eat about 25% of your daily protein requirements at breakfast. That's 15 grams for someone eating 1,200 calories daily. To meet this goal, include foods like hard-boiled eggs, fat-free yogurt or Greek yogurt, and cheese made from 2% milk in your breakfast. Adding diced chicken to your eggs, or almonds to cereal can also help you rack up a few grams of protein in the a.m.
Experiment with Different Types of Grains
Americans eat more wheat than any other grain. Sure, whole wheat is high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and it's a great way to energize yourself, but other grains have much to offer in way of nutrition, too. Why not try some new types of whole grains this year?
Get Started: Cook a new type of whole grain each month.
Choose from many varieties of quinoa, barley, buckwheat, oats, bran, corn, flaxseed, kamut, millet, rice, rye, sorghum, and spelt. Then search cookbooks and recipe websites for your grain of choice. Place the recipes you find in a folder and when you're ready, you can tackle a new grain each month!
Improve Your Culinary Skills
Some bare-bones cooking skills are required to live a healthy lifestyle. If you rely on convenience foods and restaurants too much, you will not only likely over-consume calories, but you would also be spending far too much money on food. This year, look for ways you can improve your cooking skills to make healthy eating more fun!
Get Started: Create a new recipe each week.
The best way to learn about cooking and improve your skills is to practice. Lay out a game plan. Anything from cooking classes to informative cookbooks can help you improve your skills. Choose one or two new techniques or cooking methods and find the resources available for each. Keep a journal to track the new culinary techniques you learned and how they helped you. Then, you can look back on December 31st of next year and see how far you've come.
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By Sarah Haan, for SparkPeople
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