We turned to nutritionists, dietitians and other health experts for their best advice on how to make each week healthier. Habits are formed over time and it's important to remember that what you do now will affect your health down the line.
Take a look at these expert hacks for a healthier week and start building better habits now.
You’ve likely heard that in order to drink more water you should bring a water bottle with you throughout the day, but it can still be tough to know if you’re drinking enough. Alex Powell of Synergy Fitness Personal Training recommends rubber bands for tracking your intake. Simply put rubber bands around your water bottle and take off one band for every time you refill the bottle. At the end of the day, you’ll know you met your goal when all the bands are off.
Small substitutions can make a huge difference in terms of nutrition. “In baking, substitute applesauce for the oil in the recipe. This trick keeps the moisture in without really changing the taste of the end product,” recommends Rene Ficek, a registered dietitian and the lead dietitian nutritionist at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating. “Using low fat Greek yogurt…can replace sour cream or cream cheese in a recipe.”
“This simple concoction helps re-hydrate you after a long night's sleep and warms up your body, literally and figuratively,” said Annie Lawless, a certified holistic health coach, Suja Juice co-founder and creator of Blawnde.com. “Add a dash of cayenne pepper if you need an extra boost in the morning to get you going.” The combination is also said to aid in reducing inflammation and keeping skin healthy.
In an age where you’re constantly reminded of the sun’s ability to damage and prematurely age your skin, many shy away from direct contact. As a result, not only might you be vitamin D deficient, but when you skip the sun you’re missing out on several other benefits. “Get some sun! (In moderation, of course),” said Lawless. “I’m talking about 15 minutes of everyday exposure whether that be eating lunch outside, walking around the neighborhood or reading a book on your patio. Sun is refreshing, gives us energy and promotes Vitamin D production.”
“At the end of your day, lay in bed and open your arms so they are at a 45-degree angle between your head and shoulder, keeping your shoulders down, allowing your chest to open up. You can also try this with a pillow under your back. You may feel a gentle stretch, but it’s fine if you don't. Hold this for
around 3 to 5 minutes while breathing slowly into your abdomen,” said Katherine Creighton Crook, a sport and remedial massage therapist, based in London. “It's one of my top tips I give clients and it helps so much with various problems related to working at a desk and stress. Think of this as a way to counteract how you may have been sitting and standing most of the day. Opening and stretching your chest like this can improve posture, help neck and shoulder pain that is related to posture and can sometimes help with tension headaches. Lastly, holding this stretch for a few minutes before you go to sleep along with deep breathing will help you relax and make it easier to fall asleep.”
Note: this stretch may not be good for those with certain shoulder injuries.
One of the best things you can do to maintain a healthy brain is to increase the amount of omega 3s you eat. “Eat more fatty fish, like salmon—it’s packed with omega 3 which can help keep you in a good mood,” said Candice Schreiber, a registered dietician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. In addition to the mood boost, including omega 3s in your diet may help prevent mental health decline and heart issues, according to scientific studies.
Many burger places and other restaurants routinely toss buns on the grill and while extra crisp isn’t bad for you, the add-ons may be adding calories. “[They’ll] put butter or oil on each side of a bun before grilling. The seemingly small amount of fat is about 100 calories, and those calories are from saturated fat,” said Rene Ficek, a registered dietitian and the lead dietitian nutritionist at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating.
“Besides water and milk, there really are no other beverages that need to be in a healthy diet,” said Ficek. “Most other drinks we chose like soda, sports beverages, coffee drinks and even juices like coconut milk, orange juice and pomegranate juice are loaded with sugar.”
“It can be easy to forget that alcoholic beverages can be very high in calories,” said Ficek, the lead dietitian nutritionist at Seattle Sutton's Healthy Eating. She suggests opting for dry wine over sweet wine, as sweeter wines typically have an additional 100-150 calories per glass. “Use club soda as a mixer—it pairs well with vodka or gin, can help hydrate to prevent a hangover. Lemons and limes can help flavor the drink without adding calories and can also add a nutritional boost of vitamin C. Say no to adding juice, sports drinks, energy drinks or soda to any alcoholic beverage.”
“Most of the time, we confuse hunger and thirst,” said Ficek. “Instead of reaching for potato chips when hunger strikes…chug a big glass of water, cup of green tea or seltzer. The volume in your stomach can take away the hunger pangs so you don't indulge in unhealthy, fatty snacks.”
“Sleep is so important,” said Dr. Pete Sulack, the founder of Unhealthy Anonymous and a leading stress expert. “If you are sleep deprived, your body produces more ghrelin, the chemical in your brain that says ‘I'm hungry’ and less leptin, the chemical in your brain that says ‘I'm full.’ A lack of sleep also raises cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone that creates (and keeps) belly fat.”