We certainly hope you have a wonderful holiday season! No matter what holiday you celebrate, though, the season is usually accompanied by an excess of food and drink, late hours, some added stress, and maybe even a winter cold. Those of us who have Celiac disease, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, or who are trying to live a gluten-free life are especially challenged during the holiday season, where everywhere you turn there are cookies, snacks, homemade breads, stuffing, rolls and cakes.
So, many of us look forward to January with renewed intentions to get back on track and move towards a healthy year. With this New Year’s resolution in mind, here are 5 simple ideas to help you make 2016 your best year ever! Pick one, or try all five. They will definitely help you get on track with a healthier lifestyle.
Healthy New Year’s Resolutions
1. Expand Your Grains
If you have been eating gluten-free for awhile, you may have fallen into a rut by choosing the same foods over and over. The most common starch choices include rice, potatoes, and corn. While these foods may reduce your chance of unintentionally eating gluten-based starches, this strategy can wreak havoc on your overall health because these foods do not include a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals that are recommended for a healthy diet. So, in 2016, look to super-grains to mix things up and provide a wider variety of food options. Great choices include:
- Buckwheat for breakfast with nuts and yogurt
- Cooked quinoa salad with beans and veggies for lunch
- Amaranth granola for a mid-afternoon snack
- Salmon and wild rice for dinner
Make sure to check the label on all super-grain products, to ensure that they are gluten-free. Many commercial brands of cereal or rice blends may include wheat, rye or barley, so double-check each label. In January, try to eat super grains at least once per day.
2. Add More Greens
Dark leafy greens are one of the healthiest food choices you can make. They are loaded with fiber, folic acid, magnesium, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin K, phytochemicals, and beta-carotene. Leafy greens also contain substantial amounts of iron and calcium, as well as plenty of antioxidants like quercetin. This month, try to eat greens at least once per day. (After January, try to eat them at least three times per week.) There are so many to choose from including swiss chard, bok choy, spinach, collard greens, brussel sprouts, kale, and cabbage. Raw kale makes a great salad sprinkled with flaxseed oil, lemon juice and topped with pine nuts and parmesan cheese. If you don’t like your greens raw, try sauteing them with a small amount of olive oil, a chopped onion, and some chicken or vegetable broth.
3. Double-down on Cross Contamination
Cross contamination is a real threat to those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Even a microscopic amount of gluten can cause an auto-immune reaction that can damage your intestines or cause gastrointestinal issues. So, this month, try to eat at home most days, and bring a healthy lunch to work. Cross-contamination from food served at restaurants is a major concern for those with Celiac disease. There are numerous instances where a restaurant may not take as much care as you would at home, from using one toaster for both wheat and gluten-free products, or by inadequately washing bowls, cutting boards, or utensils. Grills, barbecues and fryers are also common sources of cross-contamination at restaurants.
So, for the most control over your diet, commit to reducing the amount of cross contamination you are exposed to by monitoring your food preparation and being extremely careful when dining out. This month, try to limit your visits to restaurants to once or twice per week. Research some gluten free blogs and recipe sites, and consider forming a gluten free potluck group in your neighborhood. The more control you have over your diet, the better you will feel!
4. Exercise 10 Minutes Every Day
People with gastrointestinal issues, Ulcerative Colitis, or Celiac Disease may not always feel inclined to exercise, due to stomach pain, discomfort, and fatigue. But, exercise is an extremely important part of a well-balanced life and can lead to a better metabolism, increased self-esteem, less depression, better sleep, less anxiety and more energy. So, get into the habit of exercising every day. Even 10 minutes can make a big difference. Here are several easy way to sneak in 10 minutes of exercise every day:
- Walk around the block at a brisk pace. You can even do this while on the phone.
- Ride a stationary bike for 10 minutes: Do a two minute warm-up, then six minutes at a gradually increased intensity, and then finally, do a two minute warm-down.
- Dance to four songs while listening to your ipod or the radio.
- Climb 5 flights of stairs at the beginning of your day and after lunch.
- Play catch or frisbee with your child at a park, or in your front yard.
By getting into the habit of exercising every day, you may be able to gradually increase your exercise time to 15, 20 or even 30 minutes each day.
5. Reduce your Stress
Modern life is stressful, so commit to making a few changes in 2016 that will help you manage and reduce your stress levels. Chronic stress is quite debilitating and can result in headaches, high blood pressure, psychological issues, muscle aches, fatigue and gastrointestinal problems. In order for stress relief to work, you must pick an approach that takes your personality and personal preferences into account. Take some time to think about the things that you most enjoy in life. If you have a pet, like a cat or dog, make an effort to spend time with them every day. Many studies have proven that petting a dog or cat can help reduce your blood pressure and gives you a more positive outlook on life.
Active people need to spend regular time outdoors, and exercise is well-known to help reduce stress levels. Other people need a more contemplative approach to stress reduction, so should consider a yoga class, prayer circle, or chanting session. The point is, you must understand yourself first, in order to determine your best approach for stress reduction.