21 New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Actually Keep

These mini-goals will arm you with healthier habits for the new year.

December 12, 2012
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How many times have you declared on January 1 that you'll go to the gym every single morning at dawn? Or that you’ll lose 20 pounds? If every year you make a big, sweeping resolution, you're probably setting yourself up for disappointment. "Pick smaller, doable steps that you can actually achieve," says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet.

That’s what’s great about these 20 bite-size goals. They're within your grasp, and will put you on track for a fitter lifestyle, a slimmer waistline, and better health. Just don’t try to implement them all at once, cautions Gans. "If you do them all in the first week you’ll set yourself up for failure," she says. "Even with minute changes you’ll feel overwhelmed. Try to make one change at a time." Will you keep your 2015 resolution?

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1. Eat breakfast every day

"If there's one thing people need to do better it's making sure they do not skip breakfast. It sets the tone for the rest of the day," Gans says. "If you skip breakfast, chances are you'll overeat later on." Just don't reach for these belly-busting breakfasts.

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2. Park your car in the last spot in the lot

Instead of cruising around looking for a space up front, resign yourself to parking in the back of the lot at work. Not only will you save yourself time and frustration, but you'll guarantee yourself two short walks a day.

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3. Make an appointment with exercise

A starting point is to simply put exercise on your calendar at the beginning of the week or month, the same way you'd jot down a doctor's appointment or business meeting. "Once it's there, it's out in the universe," Gans says. "Once you've made the commitment, hopefully you'll actually go."

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4. Eat an apple a day (or an orange, a pear…)

"Commit to one piece of fruit a day," Gans says. "Notice I'm not saying eat the two to four recommended servings a day. I just want people to start somewhere. Then I hope that one serving feeds into wanting more." For an even bigger payoff, replace dessert with fruit every night. You'll get all the health benefits of the fruit, while saving calories.

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5. Take the stairs instead of the escalator

"Any time you see an escalator and stairs, take the stairs," Gans says. If you spend just 15 minutes walking up stairs a week, you'll ditch close to 150 calories.

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6. Pack your lunch once a week

Kill two birds with one stone. "Besides saving money, you give yourself more control over what you eat," Gans says. "Your meal has been decided for you, so you won't be as tempted by peer pressure to eat something else." Just think how many calories you'll save by eating a homemade turkey-on-whole-wheat when your cubby-mate goes out for burgers!

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7. Upgrade your salad greens

Pump up your salads by trading iceberg and romaine lettuce for dark, leafy greens like kale, radicchio, arugula, or endive. By doing so you'll add vital nutrients like fiber, calcium, vitamin C, and iron, folate, and beta-carotene to your plate.

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8. Keep a supply of healthy snacks at the office

Put a stop to 4 PM vending-machine runs (and the fat and calories that inevitably follow) by keeping your own stash of low-calorie snacks close at hand. Individual-portion cheeses like Babybel, almonds, or nutrition bars all make good choices, according to Gans.

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9. Return your supermarket cart

After you load your car, walk all the way back to the grocery store to return your cart. "It gives you a little more exercise," says Gans. Besides, stray carts could dent carts--and annoy fellow shoppers.

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10. Keep low-fat or fat-free milk in the fridge

Calcium doesn't only keep our bones strong--it may lend a hand with weight loss, according to a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Additionally, sipping some moo-juice before you snooze can boost muscle protein synthesis, which plays a part in building and repairing muscle tissue, according to research in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. If you keep milk on hand, you'll be more likely to gulp down glass as part of your post-workout snack, stir it milk into soups, or use it as a muscle-building bedtime snack.

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11. Include a vegetable with dinner every night

Veggies provide countless nutritional benefits--and very few calories. Most Americans don't come close to the two to three cups recommended a day, so make a point to include at least one on your menu every night. "It could be even as simple as topping your pizza with broccoli," Gans says.

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12. Go meatless on Mondays

The average American eats about eight ounces of meat daily, which is roughly 45 percent more than the USDA recommends. By going meat-free one day a week, you can cut back on heart-harming saturated fat while incorporating other nutrient-dense, plant-based protein sources. Try building your meals around edamame, tofu, nuts, beans, and quinoa.

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13. Try one new fruit or vegetable every month

Explore what's in season at your farmer's market, and then test your culinary prowess by cooking with something new. "The more tasty varieties you discover, the more you'll enjoy a healthy meal plan," says Dr. Lisa Davis, Director of Research and Development for Medifast.

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14. Keep hand weights on the sofa

Having a pair of weights nearby will encourage you to exercise when you would normally be vegging out. "Strength train during the commercials," Davis suggests. "If the ads are on, your muscles are engaged!"

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15. Stand up every time the phone rings

Spending the day glued to your office chair is hazardous to your health. Extensive amounts of sedentary time--even among people who exercise regularly--is associated with larger waist circumferences, as well as other poor health indicators, according to one study. However, people in the study who took the most breaks during the day (even as short as 1 minute) had smaller waists on average. Ensure that you get enough time on your feet by standing every time you take a call.

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16. Experiment with one new activity per month

Even regular gym rats could stand to spice up their routines by giving new activities a go. Plus, part of the secret to sticking to an exercise habit is finding something you really like to do. Commit to trying new things until you find one that hits the spot. "Bowling, hula-hooping, ballroom dancing, fencing, or martial arts--try as many as you can," Davis says.

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17. Hit the gym for 10 minutes every day

When it comes to weight loss, the key is consistency. It might seem silly to head to the gym for just 10 minutes on a busy day, but continuing this daily ritual will stop you from turning an off day into an off week (or month). It's important mentally and emotionally to commit to those 10 minutes.

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18. Start every meal with water

Before you chow down, swig a glass of H2O. It will fill you up and help prevent overeating, because sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger. If you need help getting enough water, stick a Post-it on your computer at work as a reminder to sip, or keep a bottle bedside.

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19. Ditch packaged diet foods

Low-fat versions of your favorite foods may seem healthier than their full-fat counterparts, but they're often high in added sugars and sodium. What's more, low-fat foods lure people into consuming more calories, and also lead many to increase their view of an appropriate serving size.

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20. Trade one of your dinner dates for an exercise date each month

We're guessing most of your social activities revolve around dinner and drinks. Mix up your routine by centering at least one meet-up on fitness instead of food. Rather than going to lunch, go to a yoga class. Trade dinner and drinks for Zumba and post-exercise smoothies. Gab over a run instead of over coffees. In addition to substituting one somewhat unhealthy activity for a healthy one, you'll be more likely to commit to exercise if you've agreed to go with a friend, Gans says.

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21. Spend Sunday evenings preparing fresh ingredients for the week ahead

Fight your Sunday night blues while getting your week off to a healthy start. "Peeling and chopping now means more convenient, healthy meals all week long," Davis says.

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