Achieve your healthy New Year's resolutions by following alive's 12 Months of Wellness series. This month we show you easy ways to improve your nutrition.
It’s that time again: New Year’s resolutions are upon us. But before we write a laundry list of the same things we’d like to change, fix, and improve in our lives, let’s do things differently this year.
New Year’s resolutions
Attempting to make major life changes all at once in the form of New Year’s resolutions can be overwhelming and unrealistic. alive’s 12 Months of Wellness will focus on one theme each month in 2013. Each theme will be broken down into weekly steps, allowing us to stay focused and goal oriented all year long.
Using the SMART philosophy of goal setting, we’ll help you set goals that are
- Specific (breaking them down into precise, small weekly actions)
- Measurable (charting them easily on a calendar and assessing them regularly)
- Attainable (making one small change at a time)
- Realistic (customizing them, based on your unique situation)
- Timely (achieving each action within a set time period)
Join us online!
Throughout the year, we invite you to share your progress and experiences in the 12 Months of Wellness by joining us on social media.
Stay tuned for our ongoing Twitter, Facebook, and blog posts on alive.com. Drop us a line via blog or Facebook comments, or by using the Twitter hashtag #2013alive to let us know how you’re doing on your 2013 journey!
The year ahead
Here’s a brief overview of the topics we’ll be tackling this year.
Check out the “let’s talk nutrition” section starting below to get the New Year started on track—by eating healthy after the indulgence of the holidays.
Family and relationship building
When the daily grind gets us stressed out, we tend to neglect the ones we care about most. February will put the emphasis back on those we love.
Focus on fitness
The most popular resolution among Canadians was exercising more or losing weight. Our March suggestions will help you build up to a balanced fitness routine.
Find and follow your “bliss”
What’s your passion? This month will be all about getting to know yourself better, and then creating a game plan to follow your bliss.
De-clutter and get organized
May is the time to get spring cleaning! Throughout the month, we’ll offer tips for tackling the clutter in your space and learning how to eliminate the stuff that’s weighing you down.
Connect with nature
Research shows that spending time in nature can make us happier, more relaxed, and even healthier. The month of June will challenge us to connect with nature in simple but meaningful ways.
Our personal choices can make a big difference. In July we’ll explore simple ways in which we can make a positive impact on Mother Nature.
Volunteering benefits the community, helps us expand our horizons and develop new skills, and may even make us happier. This August, we offer advice for getting involved in the community.
Get to work
Work can be a fulfilling outlet for our passion or simply a way to bring home a paycheque. The month of September will be dedicated to helping us discover our career path.
In October we focus our attention on being more carefree and joyous. We’ll challenge you to laugh more, rediscover a childhood hobby, and spend time with friends.
Break a bad habit
Whether it’s smoking, nail biting, or nagging, many of us have a bad habit we just can’t seem to shake. Break it for good this time with willpower and the four steps we’ll explore in November.
Learn to de-stress
Filled with party planning and family events, December is a stressful time of year. But that’s why it’s the perfect time of year to learn to cope with everyday stressors in healthy ways.
Download your January week-by-week planner here.
January: Let’s talk nutrition
The World Cancer Research Fund advocates healthy eating as one of the top ways to prevent cancer. They recommend limiting the intake of fast foods, salty foods, and red meats; avoiding sugary drinks and processed meats; and eating plenty of nonstarchy fruits, veggies, and legumes.
Similar recommendations are made by the Heart and Stroke Foundation and the Canadian Diabetes Association, making it clear that a healthy diet is key for the prevention of chronic diseases. And of course, to reduce potential chemical residue, choose organic whenever possible.
The following steps make achieving this healthy diet easier. Try to build on your healthy habits each week, adopting the new weekly tip while still engaging in the healthy habits of the previous weeks. And of course, keep it up all year long!
Mix it up!
Maybe you already do one of the steps in our five-week January planner, or maybe you want to add a little something extra to one of the weeks’ goals. Here’s your chance to mix it up and personalize your January nutrition planner by adding to—or swapping out—the steps in your weekly planner with these extra goals.
Go for a week without buying your lunch. Instead, brown bag it by taking leftovers from home. Our article “Resolve to brown bag it” can help you get started.
Expand your horizons: push yourself out of your comfort zone by trying a new healthy food. Hempseeds, dried seaweed, sardines—you might surprise yourself and end up loving it.
Go meatless once a week. A meat-free diet can be not only a healthy choice but also environmentally friendly: the Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. Check out our Meatless Monday blog posts on alive.com for weekly inspiration.
Choose more whole foods by shopping the perimeter of the store. That way, you’ll avoid the middle aisles, where most of the processed foods reside.
Research local healthy cooking classes and community kitchens. Now is also the time to start looking into your local community supported agriculture options, farmers’ markets, and community garden plots. Who knows what you can discover in your own town?
Week 1: January 1 to 5 – Start right
We’re often told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s true: eating a balanced breakfast gives us a head start on acquiring the nutrients we need during the day, helps prevent an energy slump before lunchtime, and may even help us maintain a healthy weight.
Matthew Kadey, an Ontario-based registered dietitian and food writer, offers tips for crafting a balanced breakfast: “Ideally, a well-balanced breakfast should include protein (for example, Greek yogourt, eggs); carbohydrates (for example, fruits, oats); and healthy fats (for example, nuts, almond butter). Too often, breakfast is very carb heavy, which can result in low energy levels by the time mid-morning rolls around.”
Along with advocating for a balanced breakfast, Mary Bamford, an Ontario-based registered dietitian, suggests broadening our view of breakfast pleasure by including our favourite foods in healthy ways. “Identify your absolute favourite breakfast foods,” she says, “Are they poached eggs, bacon, steel cut oats, pancakes, muffins …?
“To remain healthy and happy, do you need to find more time or nutrition for your favourite foods? For example, you can make very wholesome muffins and pancakes. Can you make a quadruple batch of dry ingredients and have them ready to go for faster prep time in the morning? Or if you love eggs, you can make a large frittata and freeze single servings to reheat quickly.”
Week 2: January 6 to 12 – Cut out the bad
When our bodies need only so many calories in a day, why waste them on foods with little nutrition that may have serious health consequences? Two no-nos we can easily replace in our diets are sugar-laden soft drinks and hydrogenated oils (better known as the notorious trans fats).
Statistics Canada states that beverages (including soft drinks) account for 35 percent of adults’ daily sugar intake. And studies have found that higher soft drink consumption is linked to diabetes, a higher body weight, and a lower intake of essential nutrients. Instead of standard pop, drink water (add lemon or lime wedges for a burst of flavour), green tea, or natural soda sweetened with calorie-free stevia.
Trans fats are often added to baked goods, some margarines, and fried foods for a longer shelf life. Trans fats both raise levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower levels of HDL (good) cholesterol in the body, thereby increasing the risk of heart disease. Avoid products with the following terms listed in the ingredients: trans fats, shortening, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated.
Week 3: January 13 to 19 – Add the good
Once you’ve got a solid foundation and have cut out two of the worst nutritional offenders, it’s time to bring in the goodness! Kadey advises, “For good health, you want to fill your daily diet with as many nutrient-dense foods as possible. You’ll also start feeling like a million bucks.”
Canada’s Food Guide recommends adults consume at least one leafy green every day. Hailed as superfoods, dark leafy greens such as spinach, chard, and kale contain vitamins A, C, and K and minerals such as calcium and iron. Add them to your smoothies; sauté them with olive oil and garlic or throw some into your soups, stews, and pastas.
Fibre does much more than keep us regular—it can help us feel full longer and maintain a healthy weight. Plus a diet high in fibre can even help protect us against colorectal cancer. Make sure you get both insoluble fibre (found in veggies, wheat bran, and whole grains) and soluble fibre (found in oat bran, nuts and seeds, and legumes) in your diet to reap maximum rewards.
Omega-3 fatty acids are so important because our bodies can’t make them—we need to get them through our diets. However, many of us do not obtain sufficient quantities through our food. These healthy fats benefit our cardiovascular systems, brain functioning, joint health, and mood. They can be found in fatty fish and some nuts and seeds such as flax and walnuts.
Week 4: January 20 to 26 – Get some help
It can be tricky to obtain all the nutrients we need through diet alone. Always check with a health care practitioner to make sure a supplement is right for you, and then drop by your local natural health retailer to find some great options.
Two supplements that Kadey finds particularly beneficial are vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. “Most Canadians are deficient in vitamin D, particularly in the winter months,” Kadey says. “The long chain omega-3 fats present in certain fish have been shown to help fend off a range of maladies. Most people do not eat enough of these fats for good health.”
Smart choices on the go
When one child needs to be brought to piano lessons, the other needs to be taken to swimming, you have to get to the bank before it closes, and the in-laws are coming to visit on the weekend, ordering in pizza can be mighty tempting.
Resist the urge with these healthy eating tips for people on the go, provided by Matthew Kadey.
Week 5: January 27 to February 2 – Plan ahead
Meal planning, Kadey says, “can save you a lot of time and money. [It is] essential to healthy eating. If you’re not prepared, you are more likely to grab convenience items, which are often nutritionally lacklustre.”
To combat this, Kadey recommends that we “… spend a lazy Sunday afternoon making big batches of healthy items such as bean salads.” We can use these when we’re more time pressured.
Another important step in meal planning is deciding what to cook for the week ahead. This way, you only have to visit the grocery store once a week and you won’t forget anything.
Nutrition Boost Giveaway!
Win an assortment of organic snacks, cooking supplies, healthy cookbooks, and more to support your nutrition needs as we kick off alive’s 12 Months of Wellness. Enter at alive.com/contests.
Be sure to check back for each of our monthly giveaways!