By Emma Kilburg
Most people made some kind of health goal during early quarantine, and whether the goal was to lose weight, eat more vegetables, or workout more, very few people actually achieved it. At the recent one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 lockdown, many people have been looking back at their former goals and assumptions about the pandemic laughing at their naivety. However, with COVID cases lowering daily and more and more Americans getting vaccinated every day, many have decided to try to pick up their health related goals they set over a year ago. But after what for so many of us has been a year of surviving off of potato chips and takeout and remembering that vegetables exist only when we see them at the grocery store, many people have no idea where to start. Well, this list of five easy, doable ways to be healthier could be the push you need.
- Get into making healthier recipes
One of the common hobbies people have picked up during the pandemic has been cooking. Unfortunately, not many of us have gotten into making healthy recipes; instead, we have gotten great at making things like pasta and cakes. One easy way to get healthier is directing that same enthusiasm towards healthier dishes! Learn the best ways to make smoothies or which combinations of vegetables and fruit and add-ins like nuts and meat make the best salads. Learn how to make delicious sauces, dressings, and spice mixes that can turn a boring bowl of broccoli into something you actually look forward to eating. You don’t have to stop making and eating other things you love, but when you learn to be excited about your salad or roast vegetables with salmon, it will be a lot easier to stay on track.
- Find easy substitutes
There are so many healthier substitutes for less healthy foods that you can swap into your meals without having to change anything else. From chickpea pastas with fewer carbs, 70 percent more protein, and more the double the fiber of white pasta, to cauliflower rice that has double the fiber, less than 1/10 of the calories, and significantly more vitamins than white rice, to ice creams with double the protein and half the calories, fat and sugar of traditional ice creams, we truly are so lucky to be living in a time where there are so many amazing products on the market that allow these swaps to be so easy. You don’t need to buy specialty products to make swaps either! Try swapping out white bread for whole wheat bread for extra fiber, vitamins, and minerals, sub out the American bacon for Canadian bacon for a decrease in calories, fat, and sodium, and ditch the heavy cream for milk in your morning coffee for a decrease in fat and calories.
- Take advantage of the warming weather
Jumping right into long runs and high-intensity workouts when you haven’t worked out in a long time can make people too intimidated to even try. Instead of trying to force yourself into doing things you may not be ready for, take advantage of the warming weather and go for casual walks or bike rides outside. An hour-long walk can burn 200-300 calories, and even a casual, hour-long bike ride can burn 400. Regardless of the amazing physical benefits, the mental health benefits of stepping away from technology and the craziness of pandemic life to be outside in nature can be just what you need to de-stress.
- Flavor your water
Drinking enough water can be a huge struggle. After all, water is boring! For some people, adding some flavor to water can be just what they need to get in those important ounces. Slice up some citrus-like lemons or oranges, a cucumber, fruit like pineapple, melon, or fresh strawberries, or even herbs like basil or mint and add it to a pitcher of water and leave it in the fridge overnight. The next morning you will have delicious, flavored water. Iced or hot, unsweetened caffeine-free tea can also be an amazing option for you if fruit isn’t enough. Unsweetened carbonated water, preferably one without a bunch of artificial sweeteners and flavors, can be the perfect choice for soda-addicts.
- Use your friends or family to keep you accountable
It can be hard to maintain your motivation to be healthy when you are all on your own. Doing things like working out with a friend a few times a week can help make sure you won’t hit snooze when your alarm tells you it’s time for your workout. You can also make some sort of healthy eating challenge with a group of friends. Let’s say you had the goal to drink 64 ounces of water, eat four servings of vegetables, and eat 60 grams of protein per day. You could start a challenge where you get a point for each one of those goals you hit, and the person who gets the most at the end of each week wins.