5 Ways to Make Your Best Health Habits Even Better
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It's easy to begin a new year focusing on all the things you're doing wrong, but maybe it's time to pat yourself on the back for the things you're doing right. Take a minute to focus on the progress you've made in your own life, then challenge yourself to set the bar a smidge higher.
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You might try... choosing whole grain–rich foods with a carb-to-fiber ratio of 10-1.
Why It Matters: A Harvard study found that while grain products bearing the stamp were indeed higher in fiber and less likely to contain trans fat, they also contained significantly more calories and sugars than products without the label. Go beyond the stamp and check that for every ten grams of carbs, there's at least one gram of fiber; whole grain products with that ratio contained more fiber and less sugar and sodium for the same amount of calories.
**The Whole Grain Stamp is a label created by the Whole Grains Council to identify products with at least eight grams of whole grains per serving.
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You might try... going digital with your food diary.
Why It Matters: Food diaries are a proven tool for slimming down. In a 2012 study, when postmenopausal overweight and obese women tracked what they ate, they lost about six pounds more than those who didn't, according to research in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
But digital diaries may be even more effective than handwritten ones. When adults who enrolled in a supervised weight loss program used a mobile app, they lost almost eight pounds more in three months than subjects who were encouraged to record their intake with pencil and paper, reveals a small study in JAMA Internal Medicine. "The feedback from an app is immediate and reinforcing," says Bonnie Spring, PhD, lead study author and director of the Center for Behavior and Health and professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern.
Bonus: A separate study found that you'll stand a greater chance of logging more complete information and skipping fewer days of recording when using an app. Check out Lose It! and MyFitnessPal—they're both free and go beyond calorie tracking to show you the nutritional breakdown of your food and help you see where your diet might be lacking. Now you actually have a good excuse to keep your phone on the dinner table.
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You might try... walking as you talk.
Why It Matters: When you heard that cell phones might cause brain cancer, you had no trouble switching to a headset. Yet your phone could now be turning you into a couch potato. Researchers at Kent State University who examined fitness levels among college students found that, after completing treadmill tests, students who use their phone the least (an average of 100 minutes a day) had a 21 percent higher VO2 max—the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use and a well-established measure of fitness—than those who use their phone most. Higher levels of VO2 max are associated with lower risk of heart disease. So if you're going to talk, make sure you're on the move while you do it.
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You might try... switching to glass or stainless steel.
Why It Matters: Kudos for ditching drinking vessels that contain bisphenol A, an endocrine-disrupting chemical that's been linked to reproductive issues, obesity, thyroid problems, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease in adults, as well as asthma in children. The hitch: In phasing out BPA, companies are turning to other chemicals, namely bisphenol S (BPS) and bisphenol F (BPF), that could potentially be just as dangerous, says a new report in Environmental Health Perspectives.
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You might try... claiming a spot near the window at the office.
Why It Matters: A small study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine discovered that workers with access to windows had more sunlight exposure by day and logged about 46 minutes more zzz's thanks to waking less throughout the night. "Light exposure during the day can increase your melatonin levels at night," says study coauthor Phyllis Zee, PhD, director of the Center for Circadian and Sleep Medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Zee's research team also found another surprising trend: Office workers with windows were more physically active after work, and exercise has also been shown to improve sleep quality. Can't move your office desk near a window? Steal as much time outside—at lunch and during breaks—as you can to help keep your circadian rhythm on schedule.