Four Healthy Habits to Adopt in 2019

Our doctors, nurses, and dietitians provide easy-to-adopt tips for a healthier new year.

If you’re like many Americans, December is a busy time filled with holiday parties, after-work events, and numerous trips in search of the perfect gift. This can lead some to neglect their exercise habits, overindulge in sweets and savories, and get too little sleep.

Come New Year’s Day, many people choose to reset, aiming to trim their waistlines, get to the gym regularly, and engage in overall healthy behaviors. Thirty-seven percent of people in a new-year survey said they planned to focus on eating healthier and getting more exercise. Twenty-four percent planned to focus on self-care.

The good news? With a few minor tweaks, say NewYork-Presbyterian doctors, nurses, and dietitians, it’s easy to establish a healthier lifestyle.

Eat Right

In addition to getting enough fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, focus on protein in the morning, says Dr. Rekha B. Kumar, an attending endocrinologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an assistant professor of medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine. Packing your breakfast with protein will keep blood sugar and some “hunger hormones” more stable throughout the day, helping to control your appetite. Egg-white omelets, Greek yogurt, and protein shakes are examples.

A good way to make sure you don’t end up reaching for chips or a chocolate bar when you need a snack is to eat before you feel famished, says Alexandra Rosenstock, RD, CDN, a clinical dietitian for ambulatory adult GI at the Center for Advanced Digestive Care at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center. If somebody’s waiting too long to eat, sometimes they can go for things they weren’t planning on having just because they’re very hungry or their blood sugar is low. Instead, her advice is to grab something healthy that you have already prepared. Take the time to think about having it in the fridge or accessible at work.

Get Enough Sleep

Eight hours a night is optimal. Dr. Daniel Barone, a neurologist and sleep medicine expert at the Center for Sleep Medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and an assistant professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medicine, says to aim for that by establishing a regular bedtime and wake-up time, avoiding caffeine later in the day, turning off electronics an hour before bedtime, exercising regularly, avoiding naps, cutting out alcohol, and paying attention to the possible signs of sleep apnea.

Protect Yourself From the Flu

While getting a flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu, you can take other steps too. Dr. Melissa Stockwell, the medical director for the NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Immunization Registry, called EzVac, says the first thing to do is wash your hands often to protect yourself from germs. It is best to wash your hands for 20 seconds, which is equal to singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice. If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer. You should avoid close contact with people who are sick. It is also important to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Finally, in general, it is important to get enough sleep, drink enough fluids, eat well, exercise, and manage your stress.

Exercise Regularly

Staying physically fit has numerous benefits, including boosting cardiovascular and muscular health, and fighting disease. But exercise can also positively affect the body by relieving stress, reducing depression, and improving cognitive function.

There are many ways to squeeze in the American Heart Association-recommended 150 minutes of weekly exercise into 30-minute increments, according to Lauren Pendergast, RDN, CDN, NYPBeHealthy well-being coach, including:

  • Take a 30-minute walk at lunchtime or plan some walking meetings.
  • Do strength training with a kettlebell or hand weights while watching TV.
  • Leave home with a little extra time in the morning so you can walk all or part of the way to work. For example, try getting off the subway a few stops early and walking the rest of the way.
  • Do 15 minutes of jump-roping when you get up in the morning and again when you get home a night.
  • Do squats at your desk for 10-minute increments three times per day.

For more wellness tips, visit Nutrition & Wellness or find a doctor.