This year will be the healthiest year yet! New workout gear? Check! Fridge stocked with leafy greens? Check! Wine bottle sealed tight? Check! Does this sound like a distant memory now that January is nearing an end and reality is setting in? It doesn't have to be.
Despite all of the good intentions, if you're struggling to stay on track with those New Year's resolutions right around now, you're not alone. In fact, Monday, January 21 has been dubbed "Blue Monday," the most depressing day of the year, because many people feel down and out on this particular Monday as dreary weather, mounting debts, and a sense of failure from backing out of New Year's resolutions, all converge perfectly to make the day a complete bummer.
But don't let "Blue Monday" get you down. Instead of throwing in the towel, lace those sneakers up a little tighter and find some motivation in these tips to keep your mood and energy high and your make your healthy intentions a reality!
- Write it down to drop a pound. Write your goals down and re-read them regularly. Keep them somewhere in plain view like on your bathroom mirror, on your fridge or as the screensaver on your phone.
- Create a supportive environment. Out of sight out of mind. Get rid of the tempting junk and stock your cupboards and fridge with nutritious foods. Wash and cut up vegetables as soon as you're done shopping so that you have healthy grab and go snacks. Have mini-cheeses, single yogurts, nuts and seeds on hand for when hunger strikes.
- Allow yourself to indulge. Sound too good to be true? Allowing yourself to indulge from time to time can actually help you stay on track. What you want to be mindful of is portion size. Don't deprive yourself to an extreme, only to find yourself licking the crumbs from a once full box of cookies. Instead, allow yourself your favourites in moderation, including beverages like soda pop or pizza. You'll find sticking to your goals a lot more manageable.
- Don't skip meals. If this seems like a good way to cut calories and fast track your weight loss, think again. This will only leave you feeling tired and grumpy. Eating nutritious foods every three to four hours will give you the boost you need to get through the afternoon and make that after work gym class.
- Make the switch. Change at least one meal a day to incorporate low-calorie foods. Replacing a baked potato with steamed broccoli, for example, can be enough to reduce your calories for that day and help you to lose weight.
- Find the balance. Fill your plate with a combination of colourful fruits and vegetables, high fibre whole grains and lean proteins. Protein and fibre slow digestion and stabilize blood sugars to help you stave off cravings and keep mood and energy up throughout the day.
- Get your zzzz's. Make sure you get enough sleep. Not getting enough sleep can affect your mood and energy levels, and increase your cravings for unhealthy foods.
- Buddy up for workouts. You wouldn't break plans to meet your girlfriend for a glass of wine would you? Make plans together to go for a walk outside or to do a fitness class at the gym, instead. This way you avoid the high-calorie food and drinks of your usual catch-up and burn some calories instead.
- Don't expect perfection. If you fall off the wagon, get back on! Veering from the plan or having a "bad" day is bound to happen and definitely isn't the end of the world. Don't beat yourself up; use it as motivation to review your plan and get back on track.
THE GOOD NEWS: Edamame is full of protein and fibre. SNACK TIP: Buy frozen edamame beans and keep them in your office freezer, says registered dietician Diana Steele of Eating For Energy in Vancouver, B.C. Pop them in the microwave and add cherry tomatoes for a quick and wholesome snack.
THE GOOD NEWS: Cucumber is packed with vitamin K (needed for strong bones) and low-fat cheese is full of calcium. SNACK TIP: Steele recommends making mini cucumber sandwiches by taking low-fat cheese and turkey and wedging them in between two slices of cucumbers — the kids will also love this one.
THE GOOD NEWS: Low calories and tons of fresh fruit. SNACK TIP: Start a smoothie club at work. Steele recommends having one person make smoothies at the office for everyone in the club once a week. Keep this role rotating and try flavours like mixed berries and tropical fruit.
THE GOOD NEWS: Apples can boost your immune system and natural peanut butter is full of protein. SNACK TIP: Dip sliced apple pieces in plain Cheerios for a crunchy snack.
THE GOOD NEWS: Eaten in portions, homemade trail mix can be packed with fibre, according to MyFitnessTrainer.com. SNACK TIP: For kids, Steele recommends making a homemade trail mix with seeds and dried fruits (avoid nuts because of allergies) and for yourself, add in popcorn or even whole wheat pretzels.
THE GOOD NEWS: When made at home, muffins are low in fat and packed with healthy oats and dried fruits or vegetables. SNACK TIP: No, we're not talking about the store-bought kind or the sugary ones you pick up from a bakery. If you still want to snack on muffins, Steele suggests making a batch of zucchini pumpkin muffins. Check out a recipe here.
THE GOOD NEWS: If you are buying tortillas from the store, avoid ones with excessive salt, sugar and corn, according LiveStrong.com. For the most part, homemade tortillas are not as bad as the store-bought kind. SNACK TIP: Take a whole wheat tortilla and spread almond butter on top. For an extra nutritional boost, wrap it around an banana. This is the perfect afternoon snack, Steele says.
THE GOOD NEWS: Greek yogurt is a great source of calcium, protein and probiotics (which is good for your digestive system), according to SheKnows.com. SNACK TIP: Mix berries or granola with a cup of sugar-free Greek yogurt, Steele says.
THE GOOD NEWS: Apples in general have been known to prevent types of cancer and sugar-free apple sauce is a great fibre booster in the morning, according to FitDay.com. SNACK TIP: Sprinkle crushed graham crackers over sugar-free apple sauce.
THE GOOD NEWS: Forget butter and salt, making popcorn in an old-fashioned pot over the stove with seasoning and a touch of oil can actually be a healthy snack. SNACK TIP: For a good evening snack, mix over-the-stove popcorn with flax seed oil and a bit of your favourite seasoning.
Follow Lindsay Jang on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LindsayPleskot