I’m sure many of us are happy to say goodbye to 2020 and have plans to kick off the new year with resolutions, lifestyle changes and programs to improve our well-being. I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions as I always break them so I prefer to make small changes as I go. So in this blog, I’m providing some simple tips and guidelines on diet and exercise that you could consider and easily adopt as part of your new lifestyle in 2021.
It’s often easier to add something to a diet than to eliminate something completely. So, here are some suggestions on what to add to your diet to improve your overall well-being when it comes to eating.
- Fat – Opt for healthy fats like olives, avocados, flax seeds, MCT oil and fat from pasture-raised meats and wild-caught small fish
- Fruit – Stick with low-glycemic fruits like berries and grapefruit and eat them whole with the fiber, not in juice form
- Non-starchy veggies, cruciferous vegetables and mushrooms – Kale, Swiss chard, lettuces, fennel, leeks, cucumbers, radishes, onions, garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, shiitake, button and portobello mushrooms
- Nuts – Almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pine nuts, pistachios, walnuts, flax seeds, chia seeds. Read my blog on nuts.
- Protein – For plant protein, beans are a great option. Check out my blog here. For animal protein, opt for wild-caught, grass-fed and/or pasture-raised. Fatty fish like wild salmon, sardines, mackerel, and anchovies are great for their omega-3 content. And remember the “condi-meat rule” – small portions are all you need.
- Seeds – Black cumin, hemp seed, flax seed, pumpkin seed, sesame seed. Check out my blog on seeds here.
Now here’s what to limit or avoid:
- Dairy – Avoid conventionally-raised dairy that includes milk, butter, yogurt, ice cream. If you are sensitive to dairy, it’s best to avoid or limit consumption. Many of us are lactose intolerant and that’s our body’s way of telling us to NOT eat it. I think it’s funny that Lactaid is so popular. We still insist on eating something that our bodies are telling us otherwise. I will occasionally indulge in ice cream and rich dairy products with Lactaid knowing that I am creating inflammation in the body – but infrequently, I think it’s ok.
- Gluten can be tolerated by some people based on their genetic profile but not others – so if you’re like me and cannot process gluten, limit foods like wheat, rye, and barley to avoid inflammation caused by these proteins.
- Refined grains, processed foods – If its shelf life is for months/years and it comes out of a bag or box and has ingredients that you cannot comprehend (or pronounce), just don’t eat it!
- Sugar of all types including high fructose corn syrup, sugar alcohols, cane sugar, aspartame and artificial sweeteners. And that includes not only drinks but in dressings, dried fruits and even frozen foods. Real maple syrup and sustainably-raised honey are good in moderation – but remember, just because it’s natural doesn’t mean you should eat a LOT of it.
If you’re planning to add more movement and strength training in the new year, adding variety to spice up your workouts will create sustainability and fun to your new lifestyle. Here are some options to add to your training program:
- High Intensity Interval Training – There is compelling research that shows that high intensity interval training (short bursts of high intensity exercise) provides significant health benefits like boosting your body’s production of fat-busting enzymes, human growth hormone, while improving insulin sensitivity and blood sugar regulation. This is one of the most efficient and effective forms of exercise and it can be done in under 20 minutes. Here’s one to try.
- Hiking – If you are a fan of the outdoors, hiking is a fun activity that can make your body work harder as you navigate through the different terrains and long distances. Here is a map of all the trails in the US. Just enter the city and state where you are interested in hiking and all the trails will come up.
- Jump Rope – Jump roping is inexpensive and one of the most effective cardio exercises you can do. It’s quick and challenges your endurance and your hand-eye coordination. And you only need 10 minutes to get started! Check out this video.
- Rowing – If you’re in search of a low intensity workout that is a calorie crusher, try a rowing class. It’s a low impact exercise that engages the core muscles on your legs, glutes and lower back without beating up your joints. If you’re looking for something a bit more pedestrian try paddle boarding or kayaking.
- Swimming – This is considered the king of all exercises because it works every muscle in your body and builds strength, endurance and cardiovascular fitness. Also, it’s fantastic for those with excess weight and/or joint problems. Look for your local Y or a fitness center that has a lap pool so you can get in 30 minutes of swim time.
- Treadmill – How about walking or running on the treadmill on a virtual trail with rivers and waterfalls? Try this video to simulate being outside enjoying nature. It’s a 45 minute virtual walk.
- Yoga – There are many health benefits of practicing yoga like strength, balance, flexibility and stress reduction but did you know that research indicates that yoga can provide similar benefits as other moderate to vigorous exercises? Yoga was found to be superior to other forms of exercise for improving self-reported outcomes on aerobic fitness, muscular strength and health status on older adults. It’s also been found to benefit those who are already aerobically strong as yoga strengthened the running performance of distance runners. Similarly, yoga performed for 8 weeks led to improved balance, leg strength and muscle control in young athletes. Need we say more? If you want to do yoga but don’t want to pay for a class, try the Yoga with Adriene series. There’s something for everyone on this site.