Do you want to make 2019 a healthy year? Did you or someone you know make a health-related goal or intention for 2019? I imagine the answer is most likely a yes! Let me give you a Registered Dietitian’s perspective and define what being healthy means to me. I will also give you my top 5 tips for how to begin working towards your health intentions.

Healthy means you are at an optimally-functioning physical, mental, biochemical, and spiritual level. Naturally translating to a life where your quality of life is not inhibited due to an ailment and you are feelin’ good!

#1. Pay attention to your blood sugar

Paying attention to blood sugar levels is vital for weight management, energy maintenance, avoiding (or managing) blood sugar diseases, and more. It is a foundation for health that is so often overlooked or misunderstood. All carbohydrates (carbs) turn into sugar in the blood. Whether it is an apple, a sweet potato, a donut, soda, or beans – it provides sugar to the body. This is not necessarily a bad thing, every body needs sugar (glucose) for energy. The key is avoiding major spikes or drops in blood sugar, maintaining steady levels, and understanding which foods impact blood sugar levels.

This topic is quite expansive, but the following are major takeaways to keeping blood sugars stable:

  • Do not eat carbohydrate foods alone. Always pair with healthy fat and/or protein.
  • Choose fiber-filled and nutrient-rich options over the refined and processed counterparts.
  • Eat every 4-6 hours, especially if sensitive to hypoglycemia (blood sugar drops).

#2. Listen to (and move!) your body

Move your body every single day. If there are tips that all health practitioners could agree on it would include the importance of daily body movement. Whether it is a 10 minute morning stretch, a 30 minute lunch walk, or a sweat-drenched workout at Orange Theory Fitness – it all adds up to a more active lifestyle. The key is finding a form of exercise that is actually enjoyable. If you are looking at the clock every 2 minutes, that may be a sign to keep searching for “the one”.

It is also important to honor what your body is trying to tell you, which begins with listening to it. I know what it’s like to talk yourself into going to a spin class when your body is yelling at you “please don’t go”! Ladies in particular, listen up! The reason you could be feeling that way is due to where you are in your menstrual cycle (aka where your hormones levels are at). And it works against you to workout in a way that goes against the body’s natural response during that time. For example, there’s a part of the cycle where hormone levels are pushing the body into fatstoring mode. Therefore engaging in high-intensity workouts is actually counter-productive to your health goals during this time. It would be more beneficial during those days to engage in something lighter like an easy hike, a low intensity yoga class, or a walk outside.

#3. Mentally cleanse

Take notice of what thoughts take up the majority of your mental space. Pay attention to which ones are negative or bring you down. Those have got to go! Whatever the process may be, mine is by writing them down. Writing down thoughts can reduce the mental chatter, or what is referred to as “monkey mind” in yoga. By taking them out of your head you’re able to categorize and come up with actionable steps to soothe or eliminate the negativity or worry. Go into 2019 with a healthy mind!

#4. Transform your taste buds

Did you know you can train your taste buds? Like most things, taste buds are adaptable. And absolutely in our control! Due to the sugar overload in the food market, the perception of what is “sweet” is very different for each person. On average it takes a couple of weeks for the taste buds to transition. Keep this in mind if letting go of sweets or reducing sugar consumption are intentions for the new year. Whether you go “cold turkey” or slowly transition, the taste buds will adapt. It just takes some time so be patient with yourself.

#5. Eat more plants

Vegetables, fruits, legumes oh my! Having a plant-forward diet means including more plant-based foods. It does not necessarily mean vegan or vegetarian. Plants contain so many natural and powerful health tools! To name a few of the best: fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins. By adding more into the diet it is an automatic way of boosting your health status.

Everyone has a different “starting point”. For some a good starting point would be finding a vegetable that is palatable and enjoyable to eat. Others may be ready to experiment with at least 1 entirely plant based meal per day.

Regardless of where you’re starting from, here are some tips to including more vegetables into the diet:

  • Include more greens (arugula, spinach, kale, lettuce, swiss chard, etc.)
    • In smoothies
    • As a salad
    • Into sauces
  • Mix non-starchy vegetables into (or replace) grains
    • Cauliflower rice
    • Zucchini noodles
    • Beet chips
  • Many people enjoy crunchy snacks, replace your chips with a crisp alternative. Add a dip to make it more palatable!
    • Bell pepper strips
    • Carrot “chips”
    • Cucumber slices

In conclusion

Although I think that health intentions can (and should be) made year-round, the beginning of a new year does ignite a sense of “cleansing” or “new” for many. An excuse to start fresh. This article was meant to show smaller and actionable steps to take towards larger and broader health goals. What are things you’ve started doing in 2019 to better your health?

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