Forming Healthier Habits in the New Year

Most of us make resolutions on New Year’s Day and, despite our best intentions, give up on them well before the first of February. 

But did you know that it takes 21 days to form a new habit and 6 months to make it a routine? If you start today, by early summer, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier, happier you!

Try these easy tricks to create 3 new habits that, in just 21 days, will produce a real and lasting change well into the new year.

1. Drink More Water

Start your day with a nice, big glass of water – before your coffee or tea. This simple trick will rehydrate you after a long (or short) night of sleep and help wake up your body and your brain! Even a 2% level of dehydration can have a significant impact on your physical and mental performance.

Keep a water bottle nearby

After you have your first glass of water, fill a water bottle and keep it with you. Keep it in the car, in your sports bag, in your purse, and on your desk. Refill and sip it all day. Aim to drink half of your ideal weight in ounces everyday. For example, if your ideal weight is 120 pounds, drink 60 oz. of water. That’s less than 4 16 oz. glasses a day. If you have one before breakfast, you’re already 25% there! Good start!

2. Get Active

Exercise Safely this Winter runningMaridav /

You don’t have to work out 2 hours a day at the gym but you do need to do something that gets your heart rate up… every day. Bike, hike, walk, jog, belly dance, ski, whatever!

Mix up your routine to keep it interesting. Some people like to exercise first thing, before the day gets away from them. It helps them feel energized and ready to take on the day. For others, a mid-day break is what they need to power through the afternoon doldrums. I like to workout at the end of the day to release stress. It helps me refocus and enjoy time with my family. Figure out what time works best for you.

Schedule it – in writing

Add your workout plan right into your daily planner. Commit to it just as you would a doctor appointment or an important meeting. Think of it as putting your oxygen mask on first so you can help others. It’s that important! Get your family on board and find a buddy to help keep you accountable. You’ll be helping each other!

Sneak “small acts of fitness” into your day

Small changes can really add up to big results when you choose action over inaction. If it helps, just pretend you have a doctor’s prescription for these behaviors and you’ll need to report back on how well you followed his or her orders.

Always take the stairs, never the elevator or escalator. Park as far as you can from the office, the mall entrance, the dry cleaner and the grocery store and walk. Think of your heavy grocery bags, or small children, as weights and make each “lift” count! At home, take the stairs 2 at a time, slowly. Believe me, these small acts of fitness really add up!

3. Plan Meals

If you know what your menu plan is for the week, you won’t be tempted to impulse buy or opt for pizza. It saves time and money too!

Make a weekly grocery list and stick to it

Replenish your staples and choose organic, lean meats, seasonal fruits and veggies, and fresh herbs that fit your menu. Only buy what you need. Avoid processed food, sodas and junk food. Keep a variety of healthy foods at home for quick, easy snacks and meals.

Make “Dinner in a Bowl” with pasta, protein and veggies

I know, you’ve probably been told that pasta is fattening and that carbs are bad. The truth is that pasta is a complex carbohydrate that can be a nutritious part of healthy diet. If you balance the carbs in the pasta with high-quality, lean protein, good fats and lots of healthy, fresh veggies, then it becomes the perfect nutrient-rich mix that you need to replenish your energy reserves and nourish your body. Pasta tastes great too.

Try one healthy pasta recipe once a week

If you do this for a full 6 months, you’ll have 24 easy and nutritious pasta recipes that you can rely on. Recipes you can easily adapt to what’s in season, what’s available locally and your family’s preferences. You can include a few special occasion recipes too like meaty lasagna and pasta Alfredo for those times when you need to feed a crowd or just want some serious comfort food! Remember to watch the portion size, savor the meal slowly, follow with a healthy, fresh salad and enjoy the moment…la dolce vita (the sweet life).

Here’s an easy recipe to start you off:

Recipe: Spaghetti with Garlic, Shrimp and Parsley

Elena Shashkina /

This quick and easy pasta recipe for spaghetti with garlic, shrimp and parsley is one of my go-to favorites for a fast, delicious school night dinner or light weekend supper. It serves up high-quality shrimp protein, heart-healthy olive oil, immune-boosting garlic, vitamin C from the lemon, and antioxidants, minerals and dietary fiber from the fresh parsley…and tastes amazing! The key to this recipe is to use fresh herbs, real lemon and not to overcook the shrimp…you just want to warm them and blend the flavors. I keep several bags of frozen shrimp in my freezer just for this dish.

Ingredients (serves 4 for dinner, 6 for lunch)

1 lb. (16 oz.) package of spaghetti
1 (24 oz.) package frozen, (cooked and peeled) large shrimp (35-45 pieces)
2 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tbs. butter
2-3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced (more to taste)
A handful of FRESH flat-leaf Italian parsley, rinsed, dried and rough chopped
1-2 tbs. FRESH lemon juice (1/2 a lemon)
1 tsp. fresh lemon zest
Salt and fresh-cracked black pepper to taste


Put a large pot of water on to boil. (Use 4 quarts/litres for a pound of pasta.)
While the water is heating place the frozen shrimp in a colander in the sink and run lukewarm water over them until thawed, about 5 minutes. (Don’t leave them in a bowl of water, the water should be moving). Once the shrimp are thawed, remove the tails (optional). Do this under running water to make it easier. Place the clean shrimp on paper towels to dry.

Once the water is at a rolling boil, add 2 tbs of salt and drop in the pasta. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Follow the cooking time on the package (about 10 minutes) or until just al dente (firm to the bite). The pasta will continue to cook once combined with the sauce so slightly underdone is perfect!

While the pasta is cooking add the olive oil to a medium-size cold saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Add the minced garlic and stir until fragrant, about a minute or two. Don’t allow the garlic to brown or it will be bitter. Add the butter, half of the fresh parsley, the lemon juice, and the lemon zest. Season lightly with salt and fresh-cracked black pepper and stir. Add in the shrimp and toss until well coated. Reduce the heat to low. You just want the flavors to blend and the shrimp to warm. You do NOT want to cook the shrimp. If your pasta will take a while, just take the shrimp pan off the heat and let it sit. The flavors will continue to blend.

A minute before the pasta is done, carefully reserve a 1/2 cup of the starchy pasta water and set aside. Drain the pasta and add the hot pasta back into the hot pot, off the heat. Add the shrimp and sauce, scraping with a rubber spatula to get every tasty bit. Toss gently. Add the pasta water, a splash at a time, to smooth out the sauce to a lovely, satiny finish. Add the remainder of the fresh parsley. Serve immediately with a green salad, crisp white wine and fresh bread.

To make it a meal in a bowl, add a cup of fresh or frozen peas, broccoli or asparagus pieces to the pasta water during the last 2 minutes. Drain with the pasta and toss with the sauce.

Here’s to Your 3 New Habits and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

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Christine Coughlan is the Publisher of
Cover photo by Marian Weyo /

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