• Health Tips to Start the New Year Right

Published on December 27, 2016

Health Tips to Start the New Year Right!

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The New Year gives an opportunity to turn over a new leaf. How about starting 2017 with a new approach to healthy eating and lifestyle habits? Cottage Health's Stacey Bailey provides provides some tips to make healthy eating a daily practice.

Portions, Portions, Portions!

Eating too large of portions is the biggest (literally) reason people overeat. Try not to eat anything bigger than your fist or palm and balance your plate. ¼ of your plate should be protein, ¼ starch, and ½ vegetables and/or fruit. If you are still hungry after 20 minutes, eat more vegetables to provide a lot of bulk (fiber) and few calories.

Your body might take a few weeks to adjust to a new (lower) calorie level so give your stomach a chance to adapt to eating less. Also remember that when you eat out you will most likely be served larger portions than what you would do at home.

Remember that you do not have to eat your entire plate, try to eat only until you are full and take the rest home. If you know this is going to be difficult, try ordering ½ portions or even putting half in a box before you start eating.

Go for Whole Grains

Whole grains such as oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice are important because your body does not digest them as quickly as more refined (white) carbohydrates. This helps keep you fuller longer and keeps both insulin and blood sugar levels more stable. This is due to the high fiber content which also helps lower cholesterol levels.

White foods have already been processed so your body does not have to do much work to digest them. They pass through your digestive system quickly, provide very little nutrition (they have been stripped of many nutrients) and then in turn make you hungry again right away. White foods include white bread, rice, pasta, packaged cookies, crackers, and many cereals. Look for “whole grain” or “whole wheat” as the first or second ingredient on the label.

Aim for 5-9 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables Daily

Vegetables and fruits are nutritional powerhouses and loaded with essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other antioxidants. They have many health benefits including: lower blood pressure, lower risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke, and fewer digestive problems (ie: less constipation which can lead to diseases such as diverticulitis).

Fruits and vegetables are also good sources of fiber which just like whole grains can help to fill your stomach for fewer calories.

Healthy Fats Instead of No Fats

Fats are an essential part of our diet. They play an important role in making us feel full and satisfied after eating (think about eating a plain bagel vs a bagel w/ PB). So instead of avoiding fats, which often leads to overeating in attempt to find more foods to satisfy us, reach for fats from healthy sources.

Healthy fats include mono and polyunsaturated fats such as olive oil, grapeseed oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, and nut butters. Also, omega-3 fats from foods such as salmon or tuna help decrease inflammation and can protect the heart.

Limit your intake of both saturated and trans fats as these fats raise the risk of heart disease. Most of these fats are found in high-fat dairy products, meats, fried and processed foods.

Make Friends with Fish!

Fish is a great lean protein source and also contains omega-3 fats. Most of us do not get enough omega-3 fats in our diet which can cause an imbalance and lead to inflammation. This can then lead to health problems such as heart disease.

If you just can’t stomach eating fish 2-3 times per week, try other sources of omega-3 fats such as walnuts or flaxseed.

Choose Lean Protein Sources and Lower-Fat Dairy Foods

Eat more skinless white meat chicken, turkey, and fish and less red meat. Beans, legumes, tofu, nuts and seeds are also good vegetarian protein sources. If you do eat red meat, chose lean cuts such as loin, round, or 90-95% lean ground beef, and limit to once per week or less.

Choose low-fat dairy products in place of the full fat versions or look for alternatives such as soy, almond, or rice. Most “alternative” milks offer similar nutrients as cow’s milk but typically contain less calories and no cholesterol.

Try to Eat Less Processed Foods

Although it’s difficult to eat 100% of your foods fresh, cutting back on anything boxed, bagged, or canned is a step in the right direction. Most processed foods contain added salt, sugar, preservatives, and/or fat. Looked for canned foods with less or no added salt, and avoid buying canned or frozen items with additional sauces (which tend to add a lot of extra calories).

Rinsing things like canned beans can also lower the sodium content. If you have to buy canned or frozen vegetables or fruit, chose the frozen variety. Look for frozen meats without breading or sauce.

Limit Liquid Calories

Soda, juice, coconut water, fancy coffee drinks, and most commercial smoothies are simply calories in a cup that have little or no nutritional value. They also do not fill you up like solid calories, so you will not compensate for those calories by eating less. Most people do not realize that their morning Frappuccino or mocha is setting them back 300-500 calories without eating.

Although some smoothies offer protein, vitamins and minerals, many are very high in calories and sugar. They also don’t fill you like food does and you may find yourself still hungry despite drinking 800 or so calories!

Avoid the Juice Cleanse

There is no scientific evidence that our bodies require a “cleanse” or “detox” to get rid of toxins or waste in our system. Our bodies are adept at digestion and elimination on a regular basis. Besides the expense, a cleanse can leave you tired and grumpy as you are not getting a balanced diet or enough calories to function! Start making healthier food choices instead and you will naturally cleanse your body!


Physical activity is one of the most important steps you can take towards a healthier future. If you are not currently exercising, start slowly and build up. Aim for at least 30 minutes at least 5 days a week.

Also remember to strength train all of your major muscle groups at least twice a week and stretch. Pick activities you like so you will stick with it. Working out with friends or having a gym to go to can also help keep you motivated.

Aim for more activity on a daily basis- take the stairs, park further from your office or the grocery store, and walk or ride your bike to places instead of driving.

Exercise Your Mind

Turn off the TV! Playing games that stimulate your mind, doing crossword puzzles or reading helps keep your mind sharp and engaged. This may help lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Get Enough Sleep

Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Getting a good night’s rest leaves you refreshed and alert and ready to tackle the day. Adequate sleep can also help reduce stress and can also help with weight loss.

Studies have shown that people who do not get enough sleep tend to be hungrier during the day and are more likely to overeat. Sleep also helps you heal from illness or injury.

Meditate, Pray or Find the Time to Relax

Everyone needs some downtime to rejuvenate and feel refreshed. Try to take at least 10-15 minutes each day to do something relaxing such as reading a magazine or book, stretching, praying, meditation, or going outside to sit in the sun (or a combination of all)!

Most of us have so many things going on day-to-day that we have to make an effort to relax. You will find it might give you the strength and energy to make it through the rest of your day (or the next)!

Learn It’s Okay to Take Care of YOU

So many times we focus on taking care of everyone around us that we forget to take time for ourselves (especially true with women). Remember that if you aren’t healthy you won’t be around for the other people in your life.

Make yourself a priority and try to remember that you also want a good quality of life as you get older so you can enjoy being with your loved ones!

Be Grateful!

We all have things to be thankful for in our lives, even when we are feeling overwhelmed. So you might not be able to do everything on this list all of the time but be thankful for the things you can do and changes you can make. Be thankful that you have made it to 2017 and do the best you can to make it a great year.

People with a positive attitude and thankful heart tend to be healthier and live longer. Surround yourself with your friends and family and make an effort to spend time or interact with at least one friend on a daily basis. Interacting with others also keeps us healthy and engaged!

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