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20 easy habits for a year of good health

Healthy family cooking

Who needs new year’s resolutions that will be over before February? Here are 20 health goals you can stick to all year, that will become healthy habits.

 

1. Eat an extra serving of veges

If you do one thing, and one thing only this year, make it this: adding extra veges at every meal and in your snacks, if you can. Eating more veges means you’ll very likely eat less junk, without even really trying. And you’ll give yourself a raft of other health benefits, too.

 

2. Develop a liking for legumes

Legumes – including all members of the pea family, along with soybeans and peanuts – and pulses (chickpeas, lentils, peas, broad (fava) beans, mung beans and others) are some of the best plant sources of plant protein, as well as a useful source of carbohydrate. They contain iron, folate, magnesium, potassium and fibre. There’s also evidence to suggest they may lower the risk of heart disease, lower cholesterol, help manage blood sugar and help with weight management.

 

3. Sprinkle on the seeds

Seeds have tons of benefits: fibre, healthy fats, minerals and vitamins. They’re also often cheaper than nuts. Use them in all the ways you would nuts: as a snack; toasted and sprinkled over salads and curries; and blended and made into creamy butters.

 

4. Try something new

A widely varied diet is great for our nutrient intake and our gut microbiome. Expand your palate and improve your health by making a point of trying a new food, ingredient or recipe one day every week. If you like it, incorporate it into your regular diet for good.

 

5. Put temptations out of sight

Changing our habits is a bit easier when we set up our environment to help us. Take advantage of our human, natural inclination to laziness and put tempting treats you want to limit in inconvenient places: at the back of a high cupboard, inside closed containers. You’ll be surprised how ‘out of sight, out of mind’ works as a behaviour changer.

 

6. Make water the default drink

It’s a top tip from many a health expert: water should be the main and first drink for everyone in the family. Chill it in jugs in the fridge or buy an inexpensive jar with a tap and keep it on the bench. Add fruit or vege slices to make it fun to drink.

 

7. BYO container

Feeling bad about all the plastic in your life? Take a stand and vow to never use a plastic takeaway container again. Bringing your own to the supermarket or your local takeaway is becoming far more acceptable, and you can be part of the important movement towards a happier planet.

 

8. Create a junk-free kitchen

Want the family to stop eating so many packaged snacks? Enlist everyone to create a junk-free kitchen. Ditch the processed snacks and make your own or buy in bulk and portion at home.

 

9. Prep ahead

Eating healthily every day is mostly about planning. If you have time one evening, prep the ingredients for another meal while you make dinner, so on a busy night you’ll save time and the temptation to call for takeaways.

 

10. Include incidental movement

Moving our bodies is essential for physical and mental wellbeing. Add some incidental exercise into your day by taking the stairs instead of the lift; walking to meetings instead of driving; having standing meetings; or start a walking school bus.

 

11. Take a breathing break

It’s easy to get caught up in work or family life, and it can be really stressful. Make a point of taking five minutes at some point every day and taking a few deep, slow breaths to regain a sense of calm.

 

12. Head outside, daily

Natural daylight is important for our circadian rhythms, our vitamin D status and our general wellbeing. Getting outside, even for a few minutes, can be a good mental health boost, too. Try a short walk, mid-afternoon, if you’re prone to a 3pm energy slump.

 

13. Feast on fish

Fish and seafood are components of the diets of the world’s healthiest people, and they can be part of ours, too. Incorporate a fish meal into your week, and don’t forget budget-friendly canned fish also counts.

 

14. Get around the table

Eating together as a family or a group has mental and physical benefits. In busy family life, it can be tricky, though. Make a goal of eating together, round the table, even once a week. Ban all tech from the table for extra benefits and better social connection.

 

15. Think ‘plant slant’

You don’t have to be vegan to get the benefits of a plant-based diet. Think ‘plants first’ when planning your meals and you will be eating like the world’s healthiest populations do. You can incorporate animal protein, just keep serving sizes more like a garnish than the main focus.

 

16. Slow down

No matter what you spend your life doing, chances are you’re doing it fast. It’s a great idea to catch yourself – at least once a day – and remind yourself to slow down, even a little bit. Doing so while eating is a good idea; it’ll give your body and brain a chance to register your sense of fullness.

 

17. Cook more

Cooking for yourself means you’re in control of what goes into your body. Make a point of cooking one more meal a week, than usual, from scratch.  You’ll likely eat more healthily without even trying. And you might enjoy yourself and de-stress a bit, too.

 

18. Make a plan

Planning goes a long way when it comes to healthy eating. Making a meal plan – even just for dinners – can help with shopping, budgeting and cooking. Get the whole family involved and encourage everyone to have a go at cooking a meal too.

 

19. Boost your breakfast

Breakfast is an opportunity to get some good nutrition in early in the day. Boost it by thinking: can I add vegetables? Fibre in the form of whole grains, nuts, seeds or fruit? Protein from eggs, yoghurt or milk?

 

20. Eat all the colours

Every time you sit down to eat, take a look at your plate. Does it have lots of colour? Aim to eat a rainbow every meal, every day.

First published: Jan 2020

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