Health

Top five healthy habits to start this January

Even if you didn't make a New Year's resolution, work these habits into your routine. They're an easy path to a healthier 2012!

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Whether or not you made specific New Year’s resolutions, we can all afford to pick up some healthy habits for 2012. For that reason, I have put together a top-five list that promises to give your health a boost without draining your time or your wallet.

1. Keep a wellness diary: Getting and staying balanced requires you to be committed, organized and motivated. For this reason, I recommend buying a small notebook that you can easily fit in your bag or purse, and recording your wellness habits (the good, bad and ugly) on a day-to-day basis. The first page should have a list of your goals (emotional, physical and psychological), a reasonable time frame to achieve them and an action plan on how to achieve them. If you are unsure of the last two, then return to that page a few weeks later. Then, on a daily basis. I encourage you to note the following: food, drink and supplements (including timing); sleep habits (duration and quality); weight and measurements (once weekly); exercise; and relaxation habits. If you would like public accountability to keep you on track, you can also do this on a blog or start a Facebook fan page.

2. Once-a-week yoga: If you are not yet a “yoga person” then that’s all the more reason to become one in 2012 — the benefits are endless. One study from Ohio State University, published in Psychosomatic Medicine, indicates that yoga may reduce inflammation. There are many types of yoga — my favourites are Ashtanga, Anusara and Hatha — but find the practice that suits you best. Ashtanga is often called power yoga, while Hatha is a less intense workout. Anusara is my favourite because I feel it falls nicely between the two. A yoga class or a yoga DVD to practice at home are both excellent options.

3. Know your Ps, Fs and Cs: I can’t stress how important it is to be able to swiftly recognize the difference between a protein, a fat and a carbohydrate. A good rule of thumb is to take a look at the back of the nutrition label. While many items may have components of all three, whichever of the three macronutrients it is highest in will determine which category the food belongs in.

For example, almond butter has a small amount of protein in it; however, it is highest in fat, so it would be considered a fat source when you are compiling your meal. You can be low on carbs at a meal or snack, but avoid being low on fat or protein. Your carbohydrate choices should be mainly vegetables, along with low-glycemic fruit (such as berries). A good rule of thumb is to stick to the parameters listed below for your three meals per day. You should aim to consume half of these amounts at snack times. I use CalorieKing or OnTarget Nutrition to make sure I am in balance 90 percent of the time, with that final 10 percent left for my weekly cheat meal. I encourage you to do the same.

Women:
Protein: 25–30g
Fat:  9–12g
Carbs: 20–30g

Men:
Protein: 35–40g
Fat: 12–15g
Carbs: 30–40g

4. Stock up on shaker cups: Shaker cups are to me what resealable lunch bags were to my mother years ago. They can be purchased at almost any health food store for under $10. If I know that I will be out of the house all day, I will put a scoop of whey protein isolate in my shaker cup along with a little bit of cinnamon, a serving of ground chia seeds or ground flax seeds, and a tablespoon of almond butter. When I am ready for a meal, I just add water, shake well and drink. The almond butter becomes a tasty little “cookie” at the bottom of the shaker that can be eaten separately. I also recommend having an assortment of glass containers in which to store and carry your meals so you aren’t tempted to stray from your diet.

5. Switch your salt to Celtic: Think twice before completely removing salt from your diet. Yes, I realize this may be a shocking statement, but recent studies summarized in the Portuguese Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism have revealed that sodium intake restrictions may increase insulin resistance and induce changes on inflammation markers. Table salt, however, is not the best option when it comes to keeping a healthy level of salt in your diet. I encourage you to use Celtic sea salt instead. Unlike table salt, which is stripped of all minerals and trace elements except sodium and chloride during processing, Celtic sea salt contains between 80 and 90 live elements found in seawater, with no added chemicals or preservatives. You can purchase Celtic sea salt at most health food stores.