Step into the new year with a healthy lifestyle, not a resolution

By Phyllis Picklesimer
Media/Communications Specialist, U of I ACES News and Public Affairs

URBANA, Ill. — Although the most popular New Year’s resolutions revolve around health, including eating healthier, becoming more fit, or losing weight, few Americans maintain these resolutions over the long term, said Caitlin Huth, a University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator and registered dietitian.

As the new year approaches, commit to making small changes that will create larger health benefits over time,” Huth said.

Small changes, such as consuming 100 fewer calories each day, can result in a 10-pound weight loss over one year, she said.

Achieve this weight loss by exchanging 2 cups of whole milk each day with 2 cups of 1 percent milk, or exchange one toaster pastry for one cup of orange segments,” she suggested.

Not only can you reduce calories this way, some changes will improve the quality of your diet, she said.

Drinking 1 percent milk instead of whole milk reduces fat intake while still giving you the same amount of calcium and vitamin D. Eating an orange over a toaster pastry gives you more fiber, vitamin C, and potassium while reducing fat intake,” she said.

Following are some other small changes that can help you live more healthfully:

If time to cook is tight, add healthy conveniences to your shopping cart. For example, use plain instant brown rice or plain instant oatmeal that cooks quickly or use frozen vegetables without sauces so you don’t need to spend time cutting or washing. Using leftovers or making multiple batches of a recipe can also save time when preparing future meals.

If cost is a concern, buy foods that are in season, such as oranges, grapefruit and other citrus fruits, now available for winter. If fresh fruits and vegetables seem too costly, compare the prices with frozen or canned versions. They are just as nutritious, so pick what is right for your budget.

If exercise or physical activity is challenging for you to get in regularly, know that some activity is always better than no activity. Even a 10-minute walk two or three times a day helps to manage weight, improves energy and contributes to better overall health. Walking, whether it’s done in your neighborhood, a mall, your home or almost anywhere, is a free and effective way to achieve better fitness.

If other aspects of your health are an issue, join your local Extension office for programs they are offering on heart disease, diabetes, food budgets, and other topics. These programs will give you tips and skills to make healthy choices.

In making a healthier lifestyle for yourself, find one small step you want to stick to and let it become part of your everyday routine, Huth said.

Maybe that means changing one item that goes into — or now leaves — your grocery cart, asking for a kid’s-sized drink at a fast-food chain, or finding one motivator for a single healthy change, like that pair of walking shoes that’s on sale or playing more with your kids,” she noted.

You can start taking small steps toward a healthier lifestyle at any time, not just on New Year’s Day, she said.

From the Jan. 1-6, 2014, issue

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