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At Brown Bag, we know that a lot of you have made New Year’s resolutions that include getting healthier and/or losing weight.  We also know that sometimes small changes have big results, and most of the time it’s easier to make small changes—and stick with them—than to make drastic changes.  For example, instead of cutting soda out of your diet altogether, you could cut down to one soda a day.  Pick the time for your soda, look forward to it, and when you get it, savor it.  There’s something to be said for anticipation.  In the meantime, carry a water bottle around with you, order water (or sparkling water) at restaurants.  You’ll get used to drinking more water (which is good for you in lots of ways, not just for cutting calories), and you’ll cut some empty calories (and chemicals) from your diet.  If you decide later, that you’d like to give up soda for good, it won’t be nearly as hard.

There are other small changes you can make in 2014 that will jump start you on your road to better health.  Give some of these a try:

  1. Love your orange juice in the morning?  Great! Eat an orange instead of pouring a glass of OJ!  Why, you ask?  Same difference, right?  No, not really.  When you eat fresh fruit you get more benefits than a glass of juice because fruit has more water in it and more fiber, while a glass of juice just has more sugar.
  2. Start your meals with a salad—even a small one.  You’ll be getting your veggies and filling your stomach with lots of fiber and vitamins and minerals.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t still have a main course, but it will probably mean that you’ll eat less of the main course, which will likely be much higher in calories and fat than that delicious salad.  No one’s asking you to eat like a rabbit—just to eat your veggies first.
  3. It’s cold outside and lots of us are going heavy on the soups right now.  Here’s the trick with soups—choose a veggie-based soup (one with a tomato base, for example) rather than a cream-based soup.  In other words, if you have a choice, choose the Maryland Crab Soup over the Cream of Crab Soup.  You don’t have to eat soups that are veggies only—feel free to add some whole wheat pasta, lean meats or seafood, even a little cheese, just hold the cream (and you’ll be holding the calories).
  4. Lots of people are trying diets that cut out carbs (especially the bread and pasta-type carbs), but sometimes, cutting something out of one’s diet completely can make a person crave it even more.  It’s mostly psychological, but if you’re one of those people who always want what they can’t have, you know how this works.  How about reducing your carbs and choosing whole grains instead of refined grains?  Make the switch to whole grain pastas instead of regular, white pastas; brown rice instead of white rice; whole grain bread rather than white bread; and add some quinoa to your meal plan! These changes are less painful than going cold turkey on carbs and offer health benefits, as well.
  5. Looking for a late-afternoon snack to hold you over until dinner?  Put down the chips!  We know it’s easy to run to the vending machine and grab a bag, but most vending machines sell nuts or nuts and dried fruit mixes now, as well.  Quick and easy but smarter—less calories, less bad fats, more nutrients.  Or how about throwing a banana, apple or orange in your bag on the way out the door?  All of these fruits travel well and make a convenient snack on the go.

New Year’s resolutions are great but some people find that every year they make these grand resolutions to “change their lives” and the changes are just too big to stick to.  So, start small.  Implement a few of these simple changes.  When you get used to them, when they seem like a part of your regular routine, add another.  Before you know it, you’ve made some pretty substantial changes to your waistline (and your overall health!).  We’ll be here waiting with your favorite, healthy breakfasts and lunches!