Forming healthier habits in new year

Photo by baranq/

Most of us make resolutions on New Year’s Day and, despite our best intentions, give up on them well before the first of February.

But did you know that it takes 21 days to form a new habit and 6 months to make it a routine? If you start today, by early summer, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier, happier you!

Try these easy tricks to create 3 new habits that, in just 21 days, will produce a real and lasting change well into the new year.

1. Drink more water

Start your day with a nice, big glass of water — before your coffee or tea. This simple trick will rehydrate you after a long (or short) night of sleep and help wake up your body and your brain! Even a 2 percent level of dehydration can have a significant impact on your physical and mental performance.

Keep a water bottle nearby

After you have your first glass of water, fill a water bottle and keep it with you. Keep it in the car, in your sports bag, in your purse, and on your desk. Refill and sip it all day. Aim to drink half of your ideal weight in ounces everyday. For example, if your ideal weight is 120 pounds, drink 60 oz. of water. That’s less than 4 16 oz. glasses a day. If you have one before breakfast, you’re already 25 percent there! Good start!

2. Get Active

You don’t have to work out 2 hours a day at the gym but you do need to do something that gets your heart rate up… every day. Bike, hike, walk, jog, belly dance, ski, whatever!

Mix up your routine to keep it interesting. Some people like to exercise first thing, before the day gets away from them. It helps them feel energized and ready to take on the day. For others, a mid-day break is what they need to power through the afternoon doldrums. I like to workout at the end of the day to release stress. It helps me refocus and enjoy time with my family. Figure out what time works best for you.

Schedule it — in writing

Add your workout plan right into your daily planner. Commit to it just as you would a doctor appointment or an important meeting. Think of it as putting your oxygen mask on first so you can help others. It’s that important! Get your family on board and find a buddy to help keep you accountable. You’ll be helping each other!

Sneak “small acts of fitness” into your day

Small changes can really add up to big results when you choose action over inaction. If it helps, just pretend you have a doctor’s prescription for these behaviors and you’ll need to report back on how well you followed his or her orders.

Always take the stairs, never the elevator or escalator. Park as far as you can from the office, the mall entrance, the dry cleaner and the grocery store and walk. Think of your heavy grocery bags, or small children, as weights and make each “lift” count! At home, take the stairs 2 at a time, slowly. Believe me, these small acts of fitness really add up!

3. Plan Meals

If you know what your menu plan is for the week, you won’t be tempted to impulse buy or opt for pizza. It saves time and money too!

Make a weekly grocery list and stick to it

Replenish your staples and choose organic, lean meats, seasonal fruits and veggies, and fresh herbs that fit your menu. Only buy what you need. Avoid processed food, sodas and junk food. Keep a variety of healthy foods at home for quick, easy snacks and meals.

Make “Dinner in a Bowl” with pasta, protein and veggies

I know, you’ve probably been told that pasta is fattening and that carbs are bad. The truth is that pasta is a complex carbohydrate that can be a nutritious part of healthy diet. If you balance the carbs in the pasta with high-quality, lean protein, good fats and lots of healthy, fresh veggies, then it becomes the perfect nutrient-rich mix that you need to replenish your energy reserves and nourish your body. Pasta tastes great too.

Photo by Elena Shashkina/

Try one healthy pasta recipe once a week

If you do this for a full 6 months, you’ll have 24 easy and nutritious pasta recipes that you can rely on. Recipes you can easily adapt to what’s in season, what’s available locally and your family’s preferences. You can include a few special occasion recipes too like meaty lasagna and pasta Alfredo for those times when you need to feed a crowd or just want some serious comfort food! Remember to watch the portion size, savor the meal slowly, follow with a healthy, fresh salad and enjoy the moment…la dolce vita (the sweet life).