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New Year, New You: Kick Start a Healthier Lifestyle in 2018

cooking healthy .

Did you resolve to lose weight, dust off that old gym membership or cook healthier meals at home this year? If so, you’re in good company: Healthy lifestyle goals are some of the most common New Year’s resolutions, according to researchers. Unfortunately, despite our best intentions, these resolutions can prove difficult to keep. Research shows that more than 90 percent of people who make resolutions struggle to keep them.

So what can you do to keep your healthy New Year’s resolutions in 2018? Rather than one big goal like “lose 30 pounds” or “workout every day for a month”, the American Psychological Association advises setting smaller, measurable goals that will lead to long-term behavioral changes. When you focus on smaller changes you can track, you’ll clearly see your progress over time, making it more likely you’ll stick to your plan for a healthier lifestyle.

In this spirit, these are four small behavioral changes that can help you build a healthier lifestyle for 2018:

1. Reduce sugar intake with simple food swaps. Every day, the average American consumes more than three times the recommended sugar intake, which may increase the risk for weight gain and health problems. If you’re worried about your sugar intake, you may be looking for ways to cut sugar from your diet. Simple food swaps can help you make healthier choices. For example, try using cinnamon instead of sugar packets to bring flavor to your coffee. Opt for plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries rather than flavored yogurts, which tend to have higher sugar counts. Or, try eating a whole piece of fruit like a banana rather than drinking fruit juice; you’ll still enjoy a sweet flavor, plus the fiber in the fruit will help you stay full longer.

2. Start prepping your meals on the weekends. If your goal is to cook more meals at home, set yourself up for success by doing your meal planning and prepping on the weekends. Consider which items you can make in advance and enjoy throughout the week, like a large salad, a pot of soup or a roasted chicken. Prep common ingredients in advance, like chopping onions, washing lettuce or roasting vegetables. You can mix and match these different components during the week for faster cooking. If meal planning sounds overwhelming, consider signing up for a meal delivery kit that will bring all the ingredients and recipes straight to your doorstep.

3. Focus on activity. If your goal is to be more active but you dislike working out at the gym, consider other opportunities for incorporating movement into your day. Can you go for a 30-minute walk after dinner each night or bike to work when the weather is nice? Rather than doing a “dinner and movies” date night, what about hiking in a local park or trying a new activity like kayaking or indoor rock climbing? Remember, you don’t have to go to the gym every day to be active. Being more active can be as simple as taking the stairs rather than the elevator or choosing a space towards the back of the parking lot.

4. Prioritize sleep. Getting enough high-quality sleep is important for our physical and mental health, yet many of us are chronically exhausted due to ongoing sleep deficiency. If you’re struggling to get through the workday due to constant fatigue, consider your current sleep schedule. The National Sleep Foundation recommends sticking to a consistent bedtime each night. Try making your bedroom “screen free” and resist the urge to look at your smartphone before bed. Blackout curtains, an eye mask, and a white noise machine can help minimize sleep disruption.

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