By Allegra Burton, MPH, RDNSaturday, 1 March 2014 

Any time of year is a good time to check in on healthy and not so healthy habits. Here are some realistic goals to shoot for and habits to keep - habits that can and should become part of your lifestyle for the long term.

Habits to Keep

Eat more fruits and vegetables:

  • Have fresh fruit or a side salad instead of french fries or chips at restaurants.
  • Include lettuce and tomato on your sandwich – even better if it’s a dark green lettuce such as romaine. The darker the leaf the more nutrients it packs.
  • When you’re traveling by airplane choose tomato juice or orange juice mixed with sparkling water instead of soda. And bring your own snacks – fresh and dried fruit and nuts are healthy options that can help keep you fueled until your next meal - they are also better bets than the giant cookies and potato chip stacks sold on the plane.
  • Pack a baggie of cut-up fruit and/or veggies to bring to work to snack on when you get the late-morning or afternoon munchies. For added flavor and protein dip them in peanut butter or bean dip such as hummus.
  • Add vegetables such as diced or shredded carrots, red pepper, squash, and spinach to sauces, soups, casseroles and pasta sauces.
  • Buy a juicer and experiment with combinations of fruits and vegetables – carrot, celery, beet, apple, orange, blueberry…be creative!

Eat less “junk food” and more of what’s good for you:

  • Keep healthy snacks at home and in your desk drawer and office refrigerator – vending machines rarely offer much in the way of good nutrition. Healthy options include dried fruit and nuts, baked corn chips and salsa or hummus, plain nonfat greek yogurt with fruit, string cheese and whole grain crackers, and low-sodium vegetable juices.
  • Read food labels! Watch out for foods that are made with high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and lots of artificial ingredients that you can’t pronounce.

Exercise! Re-energize your workout:

  • If your workout has started falling by the wayside due to demands at work and at home, experiment with trying to fit your workout in early in the morning or during your lunch hour. Last-minute meetings and tasks can’t get in the way of an early morning run.
  • Listen to your body to help prevent and properly treat injuries in a timely manner. If your knee becomes painful after runs, ice it and try swimming instead of running until the pain resolves.
  • Mix it up - try cross training – your body will benefit from a variety of activities and you won’t burn out – physically or mentally - from engaging in just one activity.
  • Add yoga to your life! Yoga provides numerous benefits.
  • Renew your gym membership, map out a new running/biking route, join a running club, buy some new gear – all will help motivate you to stay fit.
  • Set new fitness goals – register for a race sometime later in the year and train with that in mind; gradually increase your pace and/or distance on runs, bike rides and swims; add strength training to your cardio workout; add a new routine to your ab workout; start doing yoga!

Habits to Break

Turning to sugary, high-fat foods for an energy boost and to help relieve stress:

  • Sugary, high-fat foods won’t make the stress go away or provide lasting energy and could lead to feeling sluggish during workouts, weight gain and other unwanted health effects.
  • Instead, grab a healthy snack (see above), take a walk, a yoga class or pick up the phone and call a friend.

Giving up on your healthy eating plan because you had two pieces of cake last night:

  • It happens to all of us. You’re allowed to indulge from time to time.
  • Just don’t overdo it and get right back on the wagon the next day.

Skimping on sleep.

  • Not getting enough sleep can negatively impact health, lead to weight gain, moodiness, stress, forgetfulness and an inability to function at your best.

Do your best to maintain healthy habits and ditch those that are not doing you any good. Check in with yourself every few months to monitor your progress and keep yourself honest. You’ll be glad you did!