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January 5, 2011 • Healthy Living

Healthy New Year's Resolutions

Ring in the New Year with a renewed commitment to take charge of your health!  Here are some simple, yet powerful “healthy resolutions” to place you and your family on the path to optimal wellness.

Give yourself an “oil change.”  Make extra virgin olive oil your oil of choice for room temperature, low heat and cold food preparations.  This “make-me-healthier” fat is filled with powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory plant chemicals in combination with monounsaturated fatty acids that provide numerous cardiovascular benefits, including reducing bad (LDL) cholesterol, boosting good (HDL) cholesterol,  decreasing the clotting-tendency of the blood and reducing blood pressure.  Extra virgin olive oil is a fat that you can love that will love you back!

Go 100% whole grain.  Always choose 100% whole grain breads, cereals and grain products over their refined counterparts, like white bread and white rice. Refined carbs predispose to weight gain and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In contrast, true whole grains offer a spectacular package of health-boosting nutrients and have been shown to improve metabolism, promote heart health, decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, and provide protection against many forms of cancer.  Look for “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” on the package or label.  Physically intact whole grains like brown rice, oatmeal, barley,  quinoa etc. are the healthiest options.

Dump your liquid, sugary calories!  Sugar fortified beverages like sodas, fruit drinks, and sports drinks, offer zero nutritional value, increase your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome and cost you money. Clean, pure water is dirt cheap and 100% healthy so make this beverage your first choice.

Eat more beans! This economical superstar food is overflowing with nutritional goodness.  Beans are versatile,  satisfying, packed with health- boosting nutrients and have been shown to lower your cholesterol, protect your heart, decrease your risk of some cancers, stabilize your blood glucose and insulin levels and aid in weight loss. And they are delicious too! Strive for a serving daily. (Check out my Black Bean Burger and my Healthy Bean Salad recipes)

Get your beauty rest.  Inadequate sleep zaps energy and brain power and boosts appetite. Recent science shows that sleep loss can increase your risk of weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure and depression.  Aim for at least 7 hours a night.

Control your portions! Given our super-sized American food culture, portion control is paramount to weight control.  A fantastic visual guide for practicing portion control is your own two hands cupped together.  With the exception of fruits and veggies (because more is better!), limit what you eat at meals to what fits into your two hands cupped together.  Your waist line will thank you.

Don’t skip meals – especially breakfast.  Skipping meals slows metabolic rate (calorie burning), compromises your energy, and sets you up for ravenous hunger which leads to excessive snacking, dietary indiscretions and true binging. Regular consumption of the right foods is fundamental to appetite control so do eat breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Get real. Always choose whole, fresh foods courtesy of nature over their factory-made, processed counterparts.  The extraordinary triumph of optimal nutrition can only be had from eating real foods.

Include a small handful of nuts (about 1 oz) in your diet daily.  These delectable morsels score a perfect ten when it comes to health-promoting performance.  They supply healthy fats, a full compliment of minerals, vitamin E, fiber, B-vitamins and cholesterol-lowering plant sterols.  A growing body of science suggests they are helpful for weight loss, diabetes protection and reducing inflammation in the body. A rock-solid body of science reveals that indulging in a small handful of nuts daily can reduce your risk of death from heart disease by a whopping 30-50%!  All varieties – including peanuts – are great for you!

Make sure you move.  Studies now confirm that the human body must accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (brisk walking) most days of the week to maintain health.  Choose physical activities that you enjoy and know you can commit to long term.  Walking is fantastic.

Be sure to include some form of dark leafy greens in your diet each dayDark leafy greens are unequivocally the nutrient Goliath – providing more beneficial compounds per unit calorie than any other food.  Think of them as Mother Nature’s multivitamin.  For best results, include them raw and cooked.  I am so thankful for collards, kale, spinach, Swiss chard and the delicious array of lettuce greens now widely available. (Try my Delectable Kale Salad and my Sauteed Kale recipes)