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Healthy resolutions

The New Year is the perfect time to refocus attention on health and wellness.

Most of the time, our resolutions are too broad: something along the lines of "lose weight" or "start exercising." Turning those good intentions into results is difficult if you don't know where to focus. So in preparation for the New Year, we've prepared a list of 13 healthy resolutions.

Select one or two items from the list at a time. Focus on those points for four to six weeks until they become habits. Then, if you'd like, select another one or two items. By working on two items for six weeks each, by the end of the year, you could meet all 13 resolutions and make this year one of your healthiest years yet.

  1. Schedule your annual wellness visit or checkup with your doctor and dentist. Preventive care is one of the best ways to actively maintain your well-being. It's also a valuable tool for detecting health problems before they become serious. Remember to schedule any annual screenings your doctor recommends.

  2. Eat at least five fruits and vegetables per day. Fruits and vegetables contain essential vitamins, minerals and fiber that could help protect you from chronic diseases. To enjoy the most benefits, go for a full spectrum of colors: leafy greens, yellow squash, orange sweet potato, red bell peppers and purple grapes. Don't forget black beans and white garlic.

  3. Drink six to eight glasses of water daily. Without water, your body can't digest and absorb vitamins and nutrients. Water detoxifies the liver and kidneys, carries away waste from the body, and helps your circulation and concentration. Coffee, tea and sodas will dehydrate you, so focus on six to eight glasses of water.

  4. Schedule a weekly walk with family or friends. Walking is the new prescription for health. And the good news is it's free. It can help you lose weight, reduce your risk for coronary heart disease, cancer and stroke, and can boost your HDL, or "good," cholesterol. Walking with friends is an enjoyable way to step toward better health.

  5. Eat one less dessert per day. This can reduce daily caloric intake by anywhere from 400 to 1,200 calories per day. It will also lower your daily intake of sugar and fat, which can show definite returns in a trimmer waistline.

  6. Get more sleep. Adequate sleep helps concentration, memory and our body's natural ability to repair cellular damage. Chronic lack of sleep increases the risk for developing obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and infections. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

  7. Purchase an inexpensive piece of exercise equipment — and use it twice a week. Regular exercise results in higher energy levels, increased focus and decreased stress. The greatest benefits come from 30 minutes per day, but start the habit with 20-30 minutes twice a week. Consider a stability ball, light weights or a new exercise DVD.

  8. Clean unhealthy snack foods out of the pantry — and keep them out. For many people, there is a substantial gap between healthy snack choice intentions and actual snack choices. Empower yourself to make healthy choices by giving unhealthy foods only a small amount of shelf space in your pantry.

  9. Purchase one or two kitchen gadgets to make healthier eating simpler. Inspire yourself to develop healthier recipes with equipment that makes them easier to prepare. Consider some non-stick pans, a salad spinner, air popcorn popper or rice steamer.

  10. Set aside one evening a week as "good health night." Try a new healthful recipe. Replace red meats with fish or grilled chicken. Eat a fresh salad or raw vegetables. Include a whole grain, such as brown rice or whole wheat rolls. Then exercise together as a family.

  11. Set a weight cap. The average adult gains — and keeps — one to two pounds every year. That adds up to as much as 20 pounds every ten years. Yet healthy eating and exercise habits can keep your weight steady. This year, commit to maintaining your current weight or even losing a pound or two.

  12. Begin reading nutrition labels. Americans tend to eat too much fat, sugar and salt, while not eating enough high fiber foods. This tendency makes us vulnerable to weight gain, cardiovascular disease and even cancer. Nutrition labels can help you identify the foods that are culprit in your diet.

  13. Give up your diet. Rather than following fad diets, commit to healthy lifestyle changes that you can live with for life. Fad diets are often nutritionally deficient, which can create conditions — such as food cravings, hunger, depression and fatigue — that sabotage your weight loss goals. Rather than dieting, which only offers short-term solutions, consider developing new, healthier eating habits. You'll feel better and most likely your weight will stabilize as well.

GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention welcomes the opportunity to share this general information. However, this article is not intended to be relied upon as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.