Making healthy choices is a good habit to get into, but doing the same thing every day can become dreary, uninspiring or downright boring. Variety is a spice that’s good for your body and your brain.
“Routines that help us stay on track are good, but ruts that keep us from exploring what else is out there, learning or growing are not beneficial,” said Kandice Abramson, dietitian, from Samaritan Weight Management Institute. “If you’re feeling bored, uninspired or frustrated about the healthy choices you’re making, the chances are you’re stuck in a rut.”
A rut can develop from a routine you started as a way to develop a good habit. Doing the same exercise, for example, or eating the same salad every day.
“The brain needs exercise just like your muscles do,” said Abramson. “If you’re feeling bored, keep the good habits you’ve created but explore a new way of doing it so your brain stays engaged and you keep moving toward your health goals.”
Abramson highlights three routines that can easily turn into a rut, and some inspiration to help you rediscover enjoyment in healthy habits.
Mix-it-up at Breakfast
It turns out your diet also benefits from variety. Eating the same breakfast every morning can make your day a little simpler, but you could be missing out on an opportunity to meet your five-a-day recommendation for fruits and veggies.
Instead of the same old eggs and bacon, look for ways to add variety to breakfast with an assortment of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. These foods can lower your risk of chronic diseases, cancer and obesity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The next time you’re shopping for produce bring home a fruit or vegetable you’ve never tried before.
This Week Try...
Monday – Avocado or nut butter on whole-wheat toast with a side of fruit. So easy, you might even be doing this one already. If plain avocado is too bland, try adding tomato, jalapeno or red pepper flakes, and squeezing fresh lemon or lime juice on top. Bonus tip: For a little extra protein, and to help keep you feeling fuller longer, try topping your avocado toast with an egg or pairing the side of fruit with plain yogurt.
Tuesday – Hot, whole grain cereal topped with fruit and nuts. Choose sturdy grains like steel cut oats or whole oats kernels (called grouts), hulless barley (not pearl) or farro that can be put in a slow cooker or pressure cooker the night before and timed to be ready for breakfast. Or try cereal like rolled oats that can cook quickly in the microwave — just steer clear of packets with added flavors. Top with berries, nuts, and a dash of cinnamon and honey.
Wednesday – Smoothie with Greek yogurt, fruit and kale. Fresh or frozen fruit work equally well. Try combinations like blueberry-orange, peach-mango-banana, pomegranate-cherry, or kiwi-strawberry. Don’t forget the greens! If kale has too strong a flavor for you try spinach, and add a tablespoon of nut butter or part of an avocado if you find yourself getting hungry before lunch. A little milk or juice can help the mixture run smoothly through your blender. Freeze leftovers into popsicles for an afternoon snack.
Thursday – Tofu or eggs and veggie scramble with whole-wheat toast or wrapped in a corn tortilla. For veggies, try tomato, bell pepper, onion, asparagus, mushroom or zucchini and finish with a handful of fresh chopped herbs like parsley, chives, cilantro or basil added at the end. Vegetables can be chopped the night before and put in the fridge.
Friday – Breakfast sandwich with egg, tomato, spinach and basil. Choose a whole-wheat English muffin or small bagel to keep you full longer and increase your fiber intake, and don’t skimp on the veggies.
Vary Your Exercise Routine
Endurance, strength, balance and flexibility are the basic categories of exercise but many people only focus on one or two. According to the National Institutes on Aging, doing some of each will give you the most benefits.
Participate in exercise you enjoy, but look for ways to round out your workout each week. Add a few stretching and balance exercises before and after every workout, and mix up your weekly routine with a variety of endurance and strength training options.
This Week Try...
Monday – Interval training. You can make any type of exercise into interval training. If you are used to walking, add in some slow jogging or jumping jacks to get your heart pumping. Introducing high-intensity intervals helps build endurance and muscle strength.
Wednesday – Strength training. Strength training is good for building strength in your muscles as well as your bones. You can use weight machines at the gym, hand weights, a resistance band or your own body weight. Squats, lunges, planks and push-ups are a great place to start at home.
Friday – Yoga, Pilates or Tai Chi. These types of exercise can improve your strength, flexibility and balance. Look for beginner classes on YouTube or find a class at your local SamFit.
Change-up Your Evening Activities
After a long day of work or errands it can be tempting to spend your evening relaxing in front of the TV, browsing online, or both at the same time if you’re really talented. While there’s nothing wrong with a little unwinding, research suggests that sedentary behavior is associated with a higher risk for chronic disease and depression. Instead, Abramson recommends using your free time to pursue activities that bring you joy and that engage your mind.
This Week Try...
Monday – Read a book. Novel, biography, cookbook or coffee table book, there’s no wrong choice.
Tuesday – Spend time outside. Even in the winter months a night time walk or star gazing is possible. Warmer months offer other activities from gardening or a yard project to watching the birds, or talking with neighbors.
Wednesday – Play a game. You can play board games with your family, invite friends over or dig into a tricky puzzle on your own.
Thursday – Reconnect with a hobby. There are lots of reasons why the hobby you used to love has been pushed to the wayside. Spend a little time rediscovering what you once enjoyed, or learn something new that fits your life now.
Friday – Make a date with friends. Friends and a fulfilling social life are an important aspect to health and happiness. Make time each week to connect with others.
The idea of changing your routine can be overwhelming, even if you’re bored or unhappy.
“Start small,” Abramson recommends. “Don’t worry about being perfect the first time; embrace the process of learning something new.” Commit to trying just one new idea and then another, you’ll be glad you did!