Three shortcuts to help you nail that New Year’s resolution

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With time, energy and willpower at a minimum right about now, there’s no more critical moment to make a solid game plan for the resolutions you’ll utter on January 1st.

What initially seems doable may, in fact, prove impractical, so set yourself up for success by taking a moment to reconsider your approach – and give these three shortcuts a shot to help you realize those resolutions, once and for all:

#1: Aim for 80 percent

We come crashing out of the gates every year saying, “This one will be different!” And it usually is. For two weeks. Then the holiday high wears off, so it’s important to reevaluate and be realistic about your goals.

First, recognize that adopting an “all-or-nothing” mentality rarely works. Just as perfection isn’t attainable, it’s difficult to expect to hit the gym every day or eat clean at every meal. Inevitably, you’ll miss a workout or veer off course diet-wise, then one day or one cookie turns into one week or one bag, respectively. It’s a slippery slope trying to get back on track after getting tripped-up.

Second, re-frame your definition of success, focusing on changing your behavior 80 percent of the time. If your goal is to eat well, it’s much more palatable to try for five days of healthy meals and two “off” days, giving yourself a better chance to actually follow through.

#2: Cut some corners

No one has access to an endless supply of money, motivation or time when it comes to doing what it takes to get healthy, so it’s important to cut yourself some slack. Instead of making excuses, take stock of your potential blind spots, and don’t be afraid to rely on people and programs to help you make good on those resolutions.

For example, if you find yourself skipping too many workouts due to an overloaded schedule, setting an appointment with a trainer is a terrific way to keep yourself accountable each week. Or if you fall back on fast food after a long day at work, try a meal delivery program such as Nutrisystem, with its portion-controlled meals in microwave-ready packages.

Make it easier on yourself by making it foolproof. Take stock of your weak spots and plan accordingly, whether it’s sleeping in workout gear to make it easier to work out in the morning, or simply prepping a week’s worth of meals on Sunday to take the guesswork out what you’ll be eating each day.

#3: Use positive reinforcement

When all else fails, don’t be above bribing yourself into better habits. Nothing’s quite as motivating – or satisfying – as being rewarded for hard work. And depending on how you’re tracking against your goal, you may need to readjust and make the qualifying milestones smaller in order to maintain momentum.

The best rewards are non-essential items; when you don’t need something, it’s a lot easier to want to earn it. Try relating your treat to working out (a race entry for a month of running or a special yoga class for a week of weight lifting), and enjoy benefits that are two-fold: Not only do you gain that extra burst of motivation, but you are also reinforcing good behavior in the process. Start with a small reward; you’d be surprised how even a $10-20 indulgence can work wonders.

How are you planning to keep yourself on track with healthy habits in the New Year? 

Undo holiday damage with ‘Deck the Halls’ workout

DeckTheHalls1

‘Tis the week of Christmas, and you might be feeling less than motivated to break a sweat amid the festivities. Or maybe you’ve been cooped up inside, and the opposite is true: You’re just itching to burn off some extra energy.

Either way, I’ve got a great solution that’s both challenging and fun — all you need is a deck of cards and some comfortable workout clothing and shoes…no other gear required!

Work through the entire deck (52 cards) if you’ve got the time or the inclination; otherwise pull one at a time, performing the prescribed moves for a set number of cards (e.g. 25 cards’ worth of moves) or duration of time (e.g. 30-minutes worth of moves).

If you’ve got access to machines and want a more cardio-focused workout, add a five-minute warm-up and cool-down, plus five-minute intervals on the machine every five cards.

If you’ve got weights and want to work in additional strength training, try holding them while performing some of the moves (lunges, squats), or mix things up with a set of bicep curls, shoulder presses, rows, etc. after every few cards drawn.

However you do it, enjoy! And maybe even challenge your relatives to get in on the fun to make fitness a family affair this holiday 😉

DeckTheHallsWkt

Healthy holiday tips from Skinnygirl Bethenny Frankel

Source: Shutterstock.com

Source: Shutterstock.com

Before you resign yourself to having to undo a bunch of holiday damage come January, consider some of talk show host and former reality star Bethenny Frankel’s words of wisdom on how to partake without going overboard. Her no-nonsense approach to this month’s festivities just may allow you to enjoy the rest of 2013 without regretting it later.

Here are seven of her healthy holiday tips to keep in mind throughout the season:

1. Half and half hot chocolate: If you’re in the mood for the sweet stuff, cut it in half with coffee. You’ll still get the shot of sugar, but save a few calories in the process.

2. Spoil your dinner: Smart guests know not to show up to parties empty-handed, but smart eaters know not to show up with empty tummies. Eat a fiber- and protein-packed snack before you make the rounds and you won’t be as tempted to “belly” up to the buffet.

3. Invest wisely: The holidays call for celebration, not deprivation, so go ahead and enjoy the seasonal treats. Just have a plan on where you want to spend your calories (i.e. alcohol versus desserts) and stick to it.

4. Ditch the clean plate club: The simplest yet most-ignored principle of eating is to stop when full. Don’t feel guilty for leaving a few bites – or even skipping the big entrée and snacking on more manageable appetizers.

5. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate: Order cocktails on the rocks to get some water from the diluted ice cubes, alternate alcoholic drinks with water, and aim to drink more H2O throughout the day. Water keeps your system running properly, helps to curb appetite and – contrary to popular belief – helps beat bloat.

6. Splash it with soda: Add a dash here and there to any cocktail in place of full-strength heavy mixers. You’ll cut calories and enjoy a new bubbly take on your go-to holiday drinks.

7. Beware of the binge: Finally, don’t go into the holidays with an all-or-nothing mentality; this will only lead to a binge. Instead, make smart choices, but don’t hold yourself to unrealistic expectations.

By following a few common sense guidelines for healthy holiday eating, it is possible to ring in the New Year without wishing for your old figure!

For more healthy eating ideas and lifestyle tips, visit Bethenny’s website here.

Impress holiday guests with a sweet treat that won’t break the calorie bank

Source: Romas Foord

Source: Romas Foord

Apples, cranberries and pumpkins may get all the glory this season, but don’t forget about an oft-overlooked juicy gem: Pears. Not only is their soft, sweet, buttery flesh delicious, but they’re also pretty healthy.

For example, did you know that…

  • …the hydroxycinnamic acid found in pears is associated with preventing stomach and lung cancer?
  • …pears are a hypo-allergenic fruit, meaning that those with food sensitivities can usually eat pears with no adverse effects?
  • …Quercetin, an antioxidant found in the skin of pears, helps prevent cancer and artery damage that can lead to heart problems?

So save the best for last this season, and end a special meal with this lovely inverted pie dessert featuring caramelized pears.

It’s the perfect finale for parties because you don’t have to worry about being overly fussy; the more haphazardly this dessert is constructed, the more rustic and charming it looks!

Pear Tarte Tatin (6 servings)

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • 4 peeled ripe Anjou pears, cored and halved lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 5 (14 x 9-inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
  • 3 tablespoons crème fraîche

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Coat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with 1.5 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of sugar into pan. Arrange 7 pear halves (cut sides up) in a circle in pan; place remaining pear half in center.
  3. Cover skillet, and place over medium-low heat. Cook, without stirring, for 15 minutes or until sugar mixture is bubbly and caramelized. Place pan in oven. Bake at 400° for 5 minutes.
  4. Place oil and remaining butter in a bowl. Microwave on high for 30 seconds or until butter melts. Lay 1 phyllo sheet horizontally on a flat work surface; brush lightly with butter mixture. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons sugar evenly over phyllo.
  5. Place next phyllo sheet vertically on top of first. Repeat procedure twice with remaining butter mixture, sugar and phyllo, ending with phyllo. Fold edges in to form a 9-inch circle.
  6. Place phyllo circle in pan over pears, pressing gently. Bake at 400° for ~16 minutes or until filling is bubbly and crust is browned.
  7. Remove from oven, and let stand for 5 minutes.
  8. Place a plate upside-down on top of pan; invert tart onto plate. Cut tart into 6 wedges, and top each wedge with 1/2 teaspoon crème fraîche.

Nutritional Information (per serving): 

Calories: 258
Fat: 10.3g
Saturated fat: 4.4g
Monounsaturated fat: 2.9g
Polyunsaturated fat: 1g
Protein: 2g
Carbohydrate: 41.7g
Fiber: 3g
Cholesterol: 17mg
Iron: 0.5mg
Sodium: 79mg
Calcium: 70mg

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light magazine

Fight the flu: 8 tips for beating bugs this season

Source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

With widespread outbreaks inevitable and not a cure in sight, there’s no denying it could be another nasty cold and flu season.

While over-the-counter treatments can bring some relief and help shorten the duration of symptoms, your best bet is to take a preventative approach to try to ward off bugs before they take hold.

Below are a few immunity-boosting tips to help stave off sickness this season:

1. Get a flu shot. Yes, the CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in defending your body from viruses. Although there are many different flu viruses circulating, the vaccine is designed to protect against the three that research suggests will be most common.

2. Wash your hands. One of the simplest yet most effective ways in which you can stop bugs from entering your body is by practicing the correct hand washing technique. Use warm water, plenty of soap and do it for about 20 seconds (Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice).

3. Mind your diet. Sugar can suppress the immune system, so cut back on holiday sweets and alcohol, wherever possible. Instead, load up on antioxidant- and vitamin-rich fruits and veggies, which help keep your immune system running strong.

4. Manage stress levels. Another immunity-killer is both chronic and daily stress, which will leave your body ill-equipped to fight infections. Decrease stress by taking some time out, whether that’s practicing meditation, getting a massage or simply going for a walk.

5. Get ample rest. Along those same lines, a tired body is one that’s also more prone to illness. Aim for a good stretch of uninterrupted sleep each night, ranging anywhere from seven to eight hours for most adults.

6. Break a sweat. The health benefits of exercise are endless, including increased circulation and blood flow, which helps keep your immune system oxygenated and strong – not to mention, it’s a terrific way to reduce stress (see No. 4 above).

7. Stay well hydrated. Most of us need around half an ounce of non-caffeinated fluids for each pound of body weight daily to maintain proper hydration. This helps detox the body, carry nutrients to cells and keep mucous membranes moist, which lessens the likelihood of cold or flu bugs invading your nose or lungs.

8. Look on the bright side. Finally, do yourself a favor, and lighten up. Scientific evidence shows that laughter not only helps people breathe easier, but it also massages the heart and vital organs and may increase the release of disease-fighting cells of the immune system.

What are your secrets to staying well during cold and flu season? 

10 tips for healthier eating at this year’s holiday parties

Source: PGOA Media

Source: PGOA Media

Most of us have a love/hate relationship with holiday appetizers; we love to eat them, but hate the toll they take our waistlines come January.

Here are my 10 tips on how to indulge in delicious party starters without finishing the season filled with regret.

1. Start with a strategy. “Heavy appetizers” do not a meal make; although it may sound counter-intuitive to eat dinner beforehand, you’ll be less apt to overindulge at that next soirée if you arrive without a grumbling tummy.

2. Come prepared. Better yet, bring your own delicious dish to a potluck, and rest assured you’ll have something good to snack on without blowing your healthy eating habits over the holidays.

3. Make simple swaps. Get creative with traditional recipes; use yogurt in place of sour cream, try ground turkey instead of beef, drop creamy dressings in favor of vinaigrette, and sprinkle a salad with walnuts instead of croutons, just to name a few.

4. Go nuts…in moderation. Fast and festive, protein-packed and full of “good” fat, nuts are a favorite holiday snack. They’re healthy, too – just not in an excessive number of handfuls.

5. Corner the crudités. Fill up on veggies during the first round, and you’ll not only squeeze in a few of your recommended daily servings, but you’ll also be less tempted by the siren song of the pigs-in-a-blanket platter on round two.

6. Amp up flavor, not fat. It’s easy to make a meal of the cheese tray (guilty, as charged), but try to target dry, aged varieties over soft ones; not only will you need to nibble less of a bolder-tasting cheese, but it’ll also pack fewer grams of fat and calories.

7. (Try to) fly by anything fried. Does this one need any explanation? But if you simply can’t part with a family-favorite recipe, try baking for the same crunchy texture with diminished damage to the diet.

8. Seek smarter dips (and dippers). Steer clear of anything that oozes, skip the chips, and opt instead for something veggie-based, such as this Seven-Layer Fat-Fighting Dip from TV’s Dr. Oz.

9. Rethink the drinks. By all means, toast to the season with your favorite cocktail or glass of wine – just don’t go overboard, lest you’ll be tempted to throw caution to the wind…diet, and otherwise (and, let’s face it, no one likes a sloppy party guest).

10. Remember, less is more. Follow the lead of the French, originators of the phrase “amuse-bouche” (meaning, “amuse the mouth”), and go for for quality over quantity by offering a refined selection that is light, luxurious and, most importantly, memorable.

How do you retain some sense of self control at holiday get-togethers? 

How to stay healthy during holiday travel

Source: ShareCare

Source: ShareCare

‘Tis the season to head home for the holidays, but getting from point A to point B can really mess with your body during peak time for colds and flu.

The sheer stress of the journey – from flight delays and crowded planes to a disruption in sleep schedules and eating habits – lowers your body’s defenses, making you more susceptible to illness. But take a few precautionary measures, and you’ll be well on your way to a much happier holiday.

Here are the top five tips for steering clear of sickness, whether you’re traveling to a winter wonderland via plane, train or automobile:

1. Wash your hands.

It’s the No. 1 rule from experts; with a greater concentration of people and germs indoors, disinfecting hands and other frequently-touched surfaces (think shopping cart handles, airplane tray tables, etc.) is extremely important. When soap and water aren’t available, go for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, such as these from Bath & Body Works.

2. Get plenty of sleep.

The frenetic pace of the holidays often results in sleep deprivation, which not only affects your immune system, but can also make you more susceptible to overeating, lethargy and mood swings. Aim for six to nine hours a night, and supplement with naps in between. Try the J-pillow ($31.95), an update to the 40-year-old U-shaped travel accessory, which was named a 2012/13 British invention of the Year.

3. Eat well (and often).

Just like the advice of not going grocery shopping on an empty stomach, the trick here is to make smarter meal choices well before hunger hits. Pack high-protein, low-sugar snacks in your carry-on for quick access and to stay energized throughout your trip. Check out FitSugar’s list of healthy road trip snacks, which will help tide you over to the next meal without falling prey to the fast food rut while on the road.

4. Stay hydrated.

To add insult to injury with air travel, there’s a serious lack of humidity in the cabin, which leads to dry noses, throats and mouths. To combat dehydration and help keep mucus membranes moist (so they can do their job), bring on the drinks! But skip the sugar, caffeine and alcohol; instead, sip eight ounces of water for every hour in the air. Check out BluFit Bottle, a smart water bottle that works with your phone to record your water drinking habits and help keep you hydrated and healthy.

5. Sneak in some exercise.

Think there’s no time for exercise between shopping for presents, running errands and attending parties? Think again; it’s easy (and dare I say – fun?) to incorporate heart-pumping activities into the holiday hubbub. Park farther away at the mall, take the stairs at work, shovel snow, count pre-party housecleaning as cardio, and don’t forget to walk the dog, which will help you both burn off excess energy. When all else fails, try making some form of physical activity a tradition, such as heading over to the Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square for some fun and fresh air for the whole family.

Here’s to a happy, healthy holiday season!