New Year’s resolutions are easy to make, and even easier to break. Stephanie Hunstad MD, a family medicine doctor at Western Family Physicians, discusses realistic goals worth making for life – not just 365 days.
#1: Eat More Whole Foods
Dr. Hunstad understands that it’s not always realistic for people to completely cut out processed foods, so instead, she suggests cutting back.
To determine whether a food is “whole” Dr. Hunstad says to ask yourself: Could I find this food in nature somewhere?
“If it comes in a bag, box, wrapper or can, try not to eat as much of it,” she explains. For patients trying to eat a cleaner diet, she challenges them to make one meal each week from scratch.
#2: Aim for Five Servings of Fruits and Vegetables a Day
Dr. Hunstad says very few of the kids she sees are getting the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables, which is five to nine daily. She says instead of labeling foods as “off limits,” to focus on whole foods you should be eating. “They find that, naturally, they start eating less of the foods they shouldn’t be eating,” Dr. Hunstad points out.
One way she's made healthy eating fun and engaging for her kids, is by making it a contest, where everyone keeps track of their daily fruit and vegetable intake, and whoever eats the most, gets a prize. Dr. Hunstad also suggests aiming to try one or two new fruits or vegetables each week to keep meals from becoming boring.
#3: Cut Back on Sweetened Beverages – especially Pop
“Pop is one thing that can cause a lot of health problems – and that includes diet pop,” Dr. Hunstad points out. “I have a lot of patients that drink diet pop and studies show there’s a correlation between diet pop consumption and the risk of type II diabetes, so it’s really not much better than regular pop, despite being much lower in sugar and calories.”
#4: Reduce Caffeine Intake
In some people, especially those who are susceptible to headaches, migraines, anxiety, insomnia or depression, caffeine intake should be minimized.
If you are caffeine-dependent, Dr. Hunstad suggest slowly weaning off, to avoid withdraw symptoms, or switching to green tea, which has low levels of caffeine. “Green tea has a lot of anti-cancer properties and a lot of antioxidants, and can be a better longer term alternative to coffee,” Dr. Hunstad adds.
#5: Start Meditating
Meditation – as little as 10 minutes a day – helps the body calm down, Dr. Hunstad says. It also decreases heart rate and blood pressure, and is especially helpful for people with anxiety, stress or insomnia. “But, you have to do it regularly,” Dr. Hunstad points out. “It’s regular, daily practice.”
#6: Take up Flossing
Flossing isn't only good for your teeth. “There’s a real connection between our dental health and our heart health,” Dr. Hunstad explains.
She recommends keeping floss right by your toothbrush to serve as a reminder. Floss picks, which are textured picks that clean between the teeth, may make flossing easier for some people.