7 Steps Toward a Healthier New Year

Microplastics can end up on this plate in several ways. (Photo: Jacek Chabraszewski/Shutterstock)

It's easy to slide into bad habits during the holidays, so I've always appreciated that the new year is directly after Christmas. It gives you a fresh start. If you are looking to better your habits this year, here are seven steps you can make towards a healthier diet and lifestyle.

1.Remove refined products from your diet

This is a big one. Refined flour and sugar can have a wide-reaching impact on your health, yet it's also challenging to remove them from your diet. After all, sugar and white flour are everywhere. What I've found the most helpful in removing refined sugar and flour from my diet, is replacing them with better, healthier options. I might not be eating a doughnut, but I can enjoy a bowl of berries with a drizzle of organic cream. I might be skipping the milkshake, but enjoying a delicious smoothie. (Here is one favorite, Mango Orange Smoothie.) You don't have to be deprived; you simply replace your favorite sweets and desserts with something healthier. If you are going to have success in this area, you do need to have healthy options around, so stock up.

2. Get moving

If you are like me, you spent far too much time sitting down. I write a lot, sitting at the computer. I teach piano, sitting by the piano. I teach my 5 year-old, sitting at the table. Not being active enough has caused an increase in headaches for me. I find that even a 20-minute walk out in the fresh air does me a world of good. Some health experts advocate the 20-minute workout as being sufficient for improved health and increased weight loss.

We will be moving in a couple of months into the city. There it will be much easier to walk. It's about a 15-minute walk to my favorite grocery store, coffee shop and playground. I am looking forward to making the change, but meanwhile, driving a couple of minutes to a nearby park and letting the kids play while I take a brisk walk around the playground is quite adequate.

3. Remove high omega-6 oils from your diet

Unfortunately, the majority of us have an imbalance of omega-3 fatty acids to our omega-6 fatty acids. This imbalance can lead to a variety of serious problems. One way to reduce that imbalance is to reduce your intake of high omega-6 oils, such as canola, safflower, and corn. Also avoid processed foods, as they generally contain a lot of omega-6 rich oils. Being what I consider a traditional foodie, I recommend more traditional fats and oils such as coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, duck fat for cooking, and butter.

4. Add healthy seafood to your diet

Don't just take out food from your diet, but add healthy food into your diet. If seafood isn't your favorite food, try my Seafood Fried Rice recipe. It's a lovely way to get in some salmon.

5. Make your own chicken and beef broths

This frugal option is not only delicious, but also provides a wealth of nutrition and health benefits. Homemade is a far cry from the boxed or canned watery and salty broths you find at the store. These rich broths are good enough to want to sip alone and make any soup delicious. They also contain an amazing amount of nutrition. Read The Healing Power of Broth for more information on this amazing food.

6. Add more produce to your diet

Health experts squabble about how many fruits and vegetables are necessary for good health. All I know is that when I eat plenty of produce, I feel much better. Lots of produce coupled with protein has dramatically helped my energy. I feel that dark greens, like arugula, romaine and watercress are especially helpful. Make yourself a large salad for lunch (with protein and a homemade dressing) and serve one or two vegetables at dinner.

7. Add cultured foods into your diet

Chlorine in our bathing and drinking water and antibiotics wage war against the healthy flora in your body. Eating naturally fermented and cultured foods, like yogurt, homemade sauerkraut, coconut or milk kefir and kombucha, can help restore a healthy digestive system. A healthy digestive system helps keep your whole body working smoothly.