Don't Worry If You've Given Up on Those Resolutions—Try our Healthy Habits Checklist Instead
We've put together our EatingWell Healthy Habits Checklist to help make your day just a little bit healthier—without having to restrict yourself or set unrealistic goals.
We're nearly halfway through January, which means many of us have already given up on those New Year's resolutions we so optimistically brought with us into the new year. By the end of February, nearly 80% of resolution-makers will quit, while another 12% will give up before year's end, according to U.S. News & World Report. Needless to say, if you're frustrated with yourself for already quitting your resolution—you're not alone!
Our theory is, starting a restrictive diet plan, buying an expensive gym membership or even setting a "goal weight" aren't typically the paths to better health. The research is clear that diets don't work—most of us end up gaining any lost weight back and more—and there's no need to shell out tons of money on boutique fitness clubs or fancy specialty foods and drinks, when some of the most nourishing foods at the grocery store are actually the cheapest.
We've compiled a checklist of seven healthy habits help you get healthier this year—no membership or meal plan required—that can be catered to your specific health journey. Maybe you want to try to hit all seven goals every weekday, or maybe you just want to check off three of these each day to start.
Starting small with prioritizing just a few of these healthy habits will help you get well on your way to your healthiest self yet in 2020—as long as you don't let perfect be the enemy of good. Even our registered dietitians on staff don't follow all of these habits every day of their lives, but they are great goals to aim for most days.
There's not much science to back up the whole "8x8" glasses of water per day recommendation, however, staying hydrated is extremely important for your health. Hydration comes partially through some foods like watermelon, kidney beans and yogurt, you still need to prioritize sipping on some good ole H2O.
Keep that reusable water bottle close by (our senior nutrition editor is obsessed with her Hydroflask) to help keep your mind sharp, skin glowing and hunger cues regulated. Let your body guide you throughout the day on when to fill up—and be sure to drink extra after exercise.
Move Your Body
We're not saying you need to hit the gym or get an intense workout in every day—rather find ways to make movement a part of your everyday routine. Maybe it's taking an extra lap around the block with your dog or taking the stairs at work—even gardening and cooking count as movement!
Aim for 30 minutes a day of intentional movement at least five times per week, and you'll enjoy it even more if you make it a social event. Catch up with your partner on a short hike or call your sister while you take on the elliptical machine. And no, you don't need fancy athleisure gear for any of these activities!
Eat Veggies Twice
Eating more vegetables is one of the best things you can do for your health. Our dietary guidelines advise consuming 2 1/2 servings of vegetables each day. A serving is equivalent to one cup of cooked, raw or canned veggies—or two cups of leafy greens. Try wilting some greens into your favorite pasta dish or snack on some carrots and hummus in the afternoon. You can even sneak vegetables into your morning smoothie if you're not a fan—try greens, cucumber or cauliflower. And if you've never tried crispy brussels or zucchini fries, you're in for a real treat.
Consuming vegetables is linked to dozens of different health benefits. Cruciferous vegetables and alliums (think onions and garlic) show to significantly reduce your risk of cancer, while leafy greens and tomatoes boost heart health.
Snack on Fruit
We've heard some pretty wacky nutritional advice over the years, and one of the top offenders is that we shouldn't be eating fruit because "it has too much sugar." Just like vegetables, consuming fruit is associated with dozens of health benefits—from helping us manage a healthy weight to protection from several major chronic diseases. Plus, certain fruits, like raspberries, are an incredible source of fiber—an essential nutrient a whopping 95% of Americans miss the mark on.
Our dietary guidelines advise consuming two servings a fruit a day—either one cup of raw, frozen, cooked or canned fruit; a ½ cup of dried fruit or a cup of 100% fruit juice. We love getting a little fiber-rich fruit at breakfast, but it also makes a great snack to energize you for your next meal. Fruits like oranges and bananas are super convenient for keeping in your work bag.
Fill Up on Fiber
Luckily, if you're prioritizing those fruits and vegetables, filling up on fiber will be a breeze. Fiber is essential for proper digestive, immune, bone and gut health—plus it shows to help you get full and stay full longer. This is especially important for anyone trying to lose weight healthfully.
Adding more fiber to your diet is as simple as prioritizing more plant foods. Swapping out your white pasta, rice or bread for whole-grain versions, adding more fruits and veggies to your meals and incorporating more heart-healthy fats like nuts and avocado are surefire ways to help you reach (or even surpass) our daily 25g recommendation for women and 38g recommendation for men.
Opt for Plant Protein
We're not talking Impossible Burgers and Tofurkey here. Wholesome plant proteins, like chickpeas, lentils and black beans—are nutritional all-stars. Beans have been recognized by experts as the ultimate longevity food, as they are loaded with protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.You just might be surprised how many of these foods have more protein than meat.
Not only is loading up on plant protein good for your overall health—but also for the planet. Maybe eating one plant-based meal feels extremely out of your comfort zone, and that's totally fine. Start with serving a meatless meal one day a week, and slowly try to incorporate it into your weekly meal routine. We have dozens of delicious meatless recipes to help you get started.
Make Sleep a Priority
Emerging research is showing us just how much sleep is tied to our overall health and well-being. It can even be a major influence on our weight. Getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep on a regular basis improves your mental health, ability to stay focused, immune system and even your complexion.
But it's not enough just to get those eight hours. Research is also finding that we need to be going to bed and waking up around the same time each day—yes, even on the weekends. Sleep expert Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., M.T.R., told us that some of the biggest sleep mistakes he sees are people not getting out of bed as soon as their alarm goes off in the morning and not giving themselves time to wind down before going to sleep. Try to experiment with a sleep and wake routine that work best for your lifestyle and take note on how your sleep quality and duration is impacted.