30 Healthy Lifestyle Habits to Adopt Every Day
Day 1: Snack On an Apple
An apple a day won't just keep the doctor away, it will keep your waistline from expanding. A 2003 study in the journal Nutrition found that women who ate three apples a day for three months lost more weight than those who were fed a similar diet with oat cookies for snacks instead of fruits.
Day 2: Make Sleep Top Priority
Sleep may be one of the most important, yet often overlooked, components of getting lean. Sleep helps your muscles recover. What's more, according to a 2010 study from the University of Chicago, skipping sleep can sabotage your efforts to lose fat through dieting. You should aim for seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night, so it your top priority tonight. (See: Why Sleep Is the Most Important Thing for Weight Loss and Overall Health)
Day 3: Replace the Rice with Broccoli
At one of your meals today, double the amount of vegetables on your plate and skip the starch. A simple way to do it: Serve stir-fry over a bed of broccoli instead of rice. (Or turn the broccoli into rice!) The florets of the broccoli will soak up the sauce and juices from your dish just like the rice would have. Plus, you have the added cancer-fighting addition of indole 3-carbinol, a potent anti-cancer nutrient found in vegetables like broccoli and cabbage. (Also try making vegetable steaks instead of meat.)
Day 4: Use a Foam Roller After Your Workout
Using a foam roller to perform self-myofascial release (a fancy way of saying "to massage the connective tissue surrounding your muscles, bones, and tendons") is one of the least expensive yet most effective ways to recover from your workout. By using your own body weight to roll on the foam, you can improve flexibility, function, and performance and reduce injuries. Plus, it feels amazing! (Here's a full guide on how to use a foam roller.)
Day 5: Don't Multitask During Lunch
Do you habitually eat lunch at your desk or in front of the TV? A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who multitask while eating lunch (study participants played solitaire) felt less full and ate more food 30 minutes later than those who were not distracted during lunch. Next time you sit down to eat, do just that—and nothing else. Taking 10 minutes to focus on and enjoy the food you're eating will leave you more satisfied and more in control of your appetite. (It's called mindful eating, and here's how you do it.)
Day 6: Check Your Progress In Your Training Log
If you don't have a training log, start one today! Keeping accurate records of your workouts helps you track your progress and see that your hard work is paying off. Is there anything more motivating than that? (Need a workout plan? Try this four-week strength-training plan.)
Day 7: Have a Healthy Smoothie for Breakfast
Skip smoothies sold at your local smoothie bar or fast-food joint, as they're usually packed with tons of sugar. Instead, toss these ingredients in the blender for a healthy meal on the go: 1 scoop of your favorite protein powder; 1 small handful of walnuts; 1 cup of spinach or kale; 1 to 1 1/2 cups of blueberries, strawberries, peaches, or bananas; a couple ice cubes; and 2 cups of water. Blend until the ice is completely crushed. (We also have way more healthy smoothie recipes that are perfect for breakfast.)
Day 8: Do a Bonus Abs Exercise
Planks and side planks are an excellent way to strengthen your core, fast. Find one minute today to fit in an extra plank. If you can't hold the position for the full 60 seconds, hold as long as you can and then repeat as many times as necessary to total 60 seconds of work. (See what happened when one woman tried planking for five minutes a day for an entire month.)
Day 9: Put One Person On Notice
Tell someone (husband, boyfriend, sister, friend, etc.) about your health or fitness goals today. If the people you surround yourself with know what you're doing and your plan for accomplishing it, they'll be more likely to support you and not ask you to do things that would impede your progress. (Also consider using an online support group to help you reach your goals!)
Day 10: Hit the Sauna
Sauna therapy is an excellent tool for recovery because it improves blood flow, helps eliminate toxins, and relaxes the muscular and nervous systems. Recent medical research has even linked regular sauna use to easing symptoms of depression.
Day 11: Plan Your Meals for the Week
Trying to decide what you're going to eat in the morning while you're rushing to get out the door is a recipe for diet disaster. Take 10 minutes tonight to plan out all your breakfasts for the week. Having a weekly nutrition plan will increase your likelihood of following through and eating breakfast every morning. (The 30-Day Meal Prep Challenge covers all the basics.)
Day 12: Continue to Challenge Your Body
If you can easily finish the maximum number of reps for the prescribed amount of sets, increase the resistance by approximately 2.5 to 5 pounds for upper-body exercises and 5 to 10 pounds for lower-body exercises. (That's just one way to get out of a workout rut.)
Day 13: Identify Three "Fallnacks"
"Fallbacks" are exercise and diet options that you can fall back on if life gets in the way of your plan. Nutritionally, this may mean having a stash of Larabars in your car or desk drawer so you always have a healthy food option. When it comes to your workout routine, you may find that an a.m. workout can prevent a crazy workday or p.m. slump from convincing you to skip the gym. Take a little time today to identify three fallbacks (diet or exercise) that you can use if your day doesn't go as planned.
Day 14: Embrace Strength Training
The more muscle you have, the higher and hotter your metabolism runs. In fact, strength training can help boost your metabolism by as much as 15 percent! A faster metabolism means you'll burn more calories all day long (even sitting in front of your computer) and get lean and toned faster. (The other benefits of lifting weights will also convince you to get to the weight room.)
Day 15: Snack On Pistachio Nuts
Pistachios have two main advantages over any other nuts. First, you get to eat more pistachios per ounce than any other nut. One ounce of pistachios is about 40 nuts, while one ounce of almonds is only about 22 nuts. Second, it takes a lot longer to eat one ounce of pistachios, thanks to their shells. This longer snacking time means you'll eat more slowly and feel full for a longer time.
Day 16: Reminder: Big Weights Do Not Mean Big Muscles
Contrary to what many women think (and what some misguided fitness professionals will tell you), lifting weights will not make you "big and bulky." Women lack the testosterone levels necessary to achieve a significant amount of muscle gain. The truth is that lifting weights will help you get leaner and will increase your bone density, which is critical for the prevention of osteoporosis—a disease affecting 44 million Americans, 80 percent of whom are women. (See: 5 Reasons Lifting Heavy Weights Won't Make You Bulk Up)
Day 17: Have Vegetables at Breakfast
Add a healthy kick to scrambled eggs by including salsa. Not only will it boost the flavor of your morning meal, but tomatoes are packed with lycopene, a nutrient that's been found to reduce cancer risk. Your body can absorb more lycopene from cooked or processed tomato products like salsa. (Try these other vegetable-filled breakfast ideas that don't include omelets.)
Day 18: Kick It Into High Gear!
After you finish a strenuous strength-training session or a high-intensity interval workout, your metabolism can stay elevated for up to 24 hours (what we call the "afterburn" effect). Ultimately, this results in more total calories burned and leads to a leaner, toned body. So push yourself during each training session—your results depend on it!
Day 19: Don't Drink Any Extra Calories Today
A study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that reducing your calorie intake from liquid calories like colas, sweetened teas, and lattes leads to greater weight loss than if you reduced your calories from other foods. There seems to be "black magic" associated with sugar-sweetened beverages—avoid them!
Day 20: Learn the Truth About Muscle
Despite what most people say, muscle does not weigh more than fat! One pound of muscle and one pound of fat both weigh—no surprise—one pound. The biggest difference is that a pound of muscle takes up much less space than a pound of fat. The lesson? Focus on the way your body feels and how your clothes fit rather than the number on the scale. (Here's everything you need to know about building muscle and burning fat.)
Day 21: Have a "Regular" Coffee Today
Be wary of the lattes at your local coffee shop, as they're often loaded with extra sugar and empty calories. Pure coffee beans contain powerful health-boosting antioxidants. Don't erase these benefits with a waistline expanding helping of whole milk and added sugar. Opt for regular coffee and add a splash of your own cream and zero-calorie sweetener—or try to drink it black.
Day 22: Don't Try to Out-Train a Poor Diet
It doesn't matter how many hours you spend at the gym each week: if you don't clean up your diet, you will not see the results you want! A study from the University of Texas found that without dietary control, people who completed a 12-week program of resistance training and high-intensity interval training lost a disappointing 1 percent of body fat. Don't let your hard work go to waste! (That's exactly why Harley Pasternak says working out is the least important part of losing weight.)
Day 23: Swap Some Carbs for Protein at Each Meal
Just for today, replace some of the carbohydrates (rice, pasta, cereal, breads) in your diet with protein (meat, beans, egg, fish, etc.) at each meal. Researchers at the University of Illinois put people on either a traditional high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet or a moderate-protein diet. At the end of four months, all study participants lost the same amount of weight, but those who ate more protein lost 22 percent more fat and gained more muscle, leaving them looking fit and trim. The high-carbohydrate group was left "skinny fat."
Day 24: Always Static Stretch After Your Training Session
One of the biggest benefits of post-workout static stretching (reaching forward to a point of tension and holding the stretch) is that it helps relieve muscular tension from your workout and it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that helps slow down your heart rate and helps you relax.
Day 25: Have Greek Yogurt Instead of Regular Yogurt
In addition to being much creamier than regular yogurt, Greek yogurt has twice as much protein and nearly half as many carbohydrates. Look for the fat-free version and add flaxseed meal or slivered almonds for a tasty, protein-packed snack.
Day 26: Get the Most Out of Your Cardio Session
When performing your energy system training (cardio training), always try to push the intensity of your work intervals. If using a rate of perceived exertion scale to monitor intensity, your work intervals should fall between 7 and 8.5 (i.e., very hard to very, very hard) during your session. Perform as many of your work intervals at the higher end of the RPE range for fastest and best results. (Also try HIIT training, which comes with tons of benefits.)
Day 27: Enjoy Healthier Spaghetti
Spaghetti squash has a fraction of the calories and carbohydrates as regular pasta, and it's super easy to prepare. Simply cut the spaghetti squash in half lengthwise, remove the seeds, microwave 7 to 8 minutes on each side (face up, then face down), and then run a fork down the length of the squash. It will come out like spaghetti noodles. Add sauce or pesto and you'll never know the difference! (Also try these other healthy pasta alternatives.)
Day 28: Eat Your Way Lean
Remember: A lean muscle is simply one with less fat covering it, which means leanness is accomplished mostly through your diet. Yes, proper training will help speed up the process, but slimming down starts at the mouth so make cleaning up your diet a top priority.
Day 29: Have a Healthy Indulgence
Eating healthy doesn't mean that you need to deprive yourself of delicious flavors and foods. (See: Please Stop Feeling Guilty About What You Eat) Try one of these healthy desserts for a snack that satisfies your sweet tooth or—if you're really dying for that ice cream or pizza—go ahead and indulge in something "unhealthy." (Just don't make it an all-the-time thing.) Life is all about balance, right?
Day 30: Recover with an Epsom Salt Bath
Take a hot Epsom salt bath for 15 to 20 minutes to help your body recover. Magnesium sulfate, its scientific name, has been shown to help muscles relax and reduce inflammation. Epsom salts are a strong vasodilator, which means they will increase blood flow to the muscles as well as the surface of the skin. Plus, the magnesium absorbed through your skin helps build strong bones, manufactures proteins, and releases energy from muscles, in addition to numerous other benefits. Take one or two baths per week and you'll notice a big difference in how you feel.