Goal setting and resolutions often go hand in hand with starting a brand new year. For many of us, the COVID-19 pandemic sidelined some of our 2020 aspirations by limiting the time we were able to spend at the gym or distracting us from the healthy eating goals we set last January. But with a new year comes a new opportunity to make some small changes to our daily routines that can have a huge impact on our overall health and well-being.
If the holidays left you with a shrinking bank account and an expanding waistline, you aren’t alone. Exercising and sticking to a healthier diet are the two most common goals this year followed by saving more money, according to a recent YouGov.com poll.
Resetting your healthy habits doesn’t have to be too expensive. There are plenty of low-priced or free solutions to help us meet our annual resolutions, and we’re here to help you with some suggestions. Below are five budget-friendly New Year’s resolutions from our health and wellness experts for a happier, healthier you!
Go on a sugar strike.
Too much refined white sugar can have a negative effect on your health. Refined white sugar contains a lot of calories with no essential nutrients or vitamins, fiber, protein or fat. This type of sugar is often added to foods to change the taste and make it more appealing. While not all sugars are bad for us, this is the type that we want you to avoid as much as possible.
Consuming too much of the sweet stuff can lead to a myriad of issues including diabetes, heart disease, liver problems and premature aging. Even if you are mindful of keeping obvious culprits like ice cream and candy at bay, be wary of foods that may seem healthy. For example, flavored yogurt can pack as much as four extra teaspoons of sugar in each serving. 25 grams of sugar, or about six teaspoons, is the recommended daily amount, so eating just one cup for breakfast could easily catapult you over the limit for the day.
Try mixing plain or Greek low-fat yogurt with a no-calorie plant-based sweetener like Swerve, or simply add fresh fruit for a satisfying, protein-packed alternative.
Become a part-time vegetarian.
A widely-publicized study has linked processed and red meats such as bacon, sausages, hot dogs, veal and beef to increased risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease. This doesn’t mean you have to give up bacon entirely at your weekly brunch but do try to limit the amount of red or processed meat you eat each week.
Try substituting your morning eggs and sausage with red peppers, egg whites and soy chorizo for a flavorful punch without the added solid fat you would get with bacon or sausage. For dinner, grilled portobello mushroom caps or seared, marinated tofu steaks are great alternatives to steaks on the grill.
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Cigarettes are harmful to your health and your wallet. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease in the United States with 400,000 lives lost and more than $170 billion dollars in direct medical costs annually. Smoking-related illnesses also contribute to more than $156 billion in lost productivity costs each year.
Quitting is hard. Statistics show that it can take a person between six to 12 times attempting to quit before they are successful. But it’s certainly worth it. Health benefits aside, people who smoke a pack a day save a whopping $2,300 each year after they quit smoking.
Curb your screen time.
Technology is woven into the fabric of our lives these days, especially with many of us working, learning and socializing remotely due to the pandemic. Too much sedentary activity caused by screen time, or time spent in front of a device like a smartphone, tablet, television or computer, can lead to sleeplessness, obesity, anxiety and depression.
Reducing daily screen time can lead to a healthier lifestyle for you and your family. Make sure to weave in other activities such as family board games, puzzles or going for a walk instead of watching a movie or playing a video game.
Makeover your workout.
If a fancy gym membership is either too expensive or out of the question right now because of the pandemic, we have some good news. There’s no need for a costly gym to jump-start your fitness regimen. With a little creativity, daily activities and free online resources can become great tools for burning extra calories.
Here are a few ways to create a budget-savvy workout:
- If you are looking to upgrade your home workout equipment inexpensively, I always recommend resistance bands. They're very inexpensive and versatile, and the packs usually come with an assortment of resistances and an exercise chart for ideas too. Resistance bands travel well, and storage is much easier than finding a place for weights or a treadmill.
- Download a free workout app to mix up your exercise routine. The Active app is one that I recommend to clients because it has tons of workouts. It's one of my favorites because it's very easy to use and you can pick the type of workout, duration and even equipment or body weight.
Sometimes you have to get creative and fit exercise in without doing a formal workout. Here are some things I do to exercise when life gets in the way:
- Wall sit while brushing your teeth.
- Stand up when putting on makeup or doing your hair.
- If you’re in an office, use the work printer that's further away so you get more steps.
- Take the stairs when you can.
- Walk when you can and park a little further away from your destination too!
- Set get up and walk reminders throughout the day.
- Stretch breaks & desk exercises are great even if you’re working from home!
- Do 10 to 20 lunges, squats or push-ups when you wake up or before you go to bed. Pick a time that works and hold yourself accountable.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Dec. 28, 2018.