Bowls filled with delicious fruit, granola and yogurt.

Spring into Smarter Eating Habits

Every 365 days, we welcome the new year with health and wellness goals. We start the month strong with a diet overhaul and a vow never to eat another sweet, but how long can that last? When looking to keep and maintain your goals, relying on healthy habits is vital. Below are five smart and easy ways to up your health and wellness game this spring.

Make "new" your normal: Making "new" your normal may seem so last year but trying out-of-the-ordinary recipes provides some significant health benefits! New ingredients give access to a broader range of vitamins and minerals, and studies have shown individuals who maintain a diverse diet are less likely to suffer from certain health issues. Moreover, mixing it up helps curb the dreaded "healthy eating boredom," which so often deters wellness goals. The beginning of weight loss journeys can be overwhelming, and regularly eating the same meals eliminates a big part of that stress. Over time, this game plan tends to leave taste buds searching out something "more fun" (re: not healthy). Stay on track for your goals and steer clear of those excess calories by finding new vegetables, proteins, or spices to re-energize your excitement for healthy eating. You can take this a step further and try to add these superfoods into the mix.

Drink more water: It's probably no surprise water made the list. After all, it tends to make a splash when it comes to smart and healthy habits. Drinking enough water can help with headaches, support regular bowel movements for a happier tummy, may increase energy, and can boost physical performance. Not like we needed another reason to love H20, this liquid friend has an equally important impact on brainpower! For the average adult, water composes around 73% of the brain, and a mere 2% decrease in hydration can lead to fogginess, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Remembering to drink water throughout the day can be challenging, but linking daily activities with it (e.g., always drinking a glass of water before each meal or returning to your office space) helps form the habit. If bland water has you down, infused water is a great way to liven it up!

Fill Your Plate: This year, let's add more instead of taking away. *Insert sigh of relief here* When you're making your plate, remember to fill at least half of your plate with vegetables. Think greens, dark reds, and oranges for a wide range of benefits. Veggies take a small hit on your caloric intake while still being loaded with nutrients and fiber. A high fiber diet helps keep you feeling full--a major perk when trimming calories--and can promote a healthy gut! Prioritizing space for veggies on your plate also ensures you crowd out the unhealthier options without feeling deprived. Constant restriction can cause a severe rebound effect when trying to lose weight. Let this year be the year you shift your mindset to a higher quality meal with more nutrients to fuel your body AND higher quantity by keeping your plate and tummy full!

Don't eat distracted: If you've ever thought, "I can't remember what I ate" or "Did I eat this morning?" you're not alone. For most of us, eating is done in conjunction with something else. While we can function on autopilot, it takes a hit on calories consumed. Allowing meals to stand alone is a big step forward on the path to healthier eating. Research shows it can take about 20 min for your brain to let you know that you're full. You're eating, and scrolling, and eating some more, and before you know it, you've missed the initial "full" signal leaving you uncomfortable and overfed. Missing this signal isn't the only benefit, though. Noticing your plate's nutritional content is much more likely without a screen and engaging with your food, opposed to a screen is an easy way to make healthier choices. Distraction-free eating may not be in the cards at every meal but choosing one meal per day can help bring yourself back to food awareness. Plus, we all deserve a little screen-time break now and then! Remember, slow and steady wins the healthy eating race!

Be kind to yourself: This may be the most important tip. You probably know the emotional benefits self-love provides, but what about physically? Studies have shown people who are more understanding and forgiving towards themselves are more likely to choose the healthier option. Say you "slip up" and have a full day of indulgence. What's your next step? Do you criticize or understand? Take the time to notice how you genuinely talk to yourself. Beating yourself up or harping on food choices you wish you hadn't made tends to create a long-lasting negative effect. Instead of throwing out any goals after one (or two or fifteen) poor eating days, notice the choices and then show yourself some compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. The journey to wellness isn't a straight path and it's not black and white! While this habit may be the most challenging, it is the most rewarding.