How to have your healthiest year yet

Jan 9, 2012 at 5:45 p.m. ET

The start of a New Year means lots of resolutions and a marked increase in gym memberships. But rather than make goals only to let them fall by the wayside, we suggest making this your healthiest year yet. To help put you on the path to better health all year, we put together our top five healthy living tips.

Woman eating healthy garden salad

Tweak your attitude

First things first: If you really want to make this year your fittest and healthiest yet you're going to have to commit to more than just losing a few pounds. We don't disagree that getting down to or maintaining a healthy weight is very important, but we also know that being healthy is a way of life -- not a three-month goal that lasts only until you can fit back into your skinny jeans. So this year, commit to making your health a priority, not just weight loss or increased gym sessions. Make your goal being healthy for life. It might sound like a tall order but the more you believe that what you're doing (eating more vegetables, exercising, curbing processed foods) benefits your life as a whole (rather than just to achieve a temporary goal), the more likely you are to stick to all of your health-based goals.

Get the family involved

Being a busy mom can mean workouts get abandoned and healthy meals get replaced by whatever you have time to shove in your mouth. This year, try trading your solo sweat sessions for exercise time with your family. If your goal is to work out four times a week, make one (or more) of those times a family activity. Go for a walk, rent some skates and head to the local rink, go swimming at the local pool or build a snowman in the yard -- anything to get your heart rate up. If you can combine family time with burning calories, you'll be much further ahead than if you simply wait for down time. The down time might never come, so use the time you have!

Focus on more fresh foods

Boxes and anything that can be popped in the microwave direct from the freezer are convenient. But are they healthy? Probably not. Anything processed will never have the same nutritional punch as something fresh (despite what the box might tell you). So this year put your health first by focusing on as much fresh food as possible. If there are vegetables you've never tried before, buy some and look up a recipe or consult food blogs or foodie friends on what to do with your purchase. The more you expand beyond lettuce, carrots and celery (which can get pretty boring, pretty fast) the more likely you'll be to load your shopping cart with fresh produce. Even in winter, leafy greens, cabbage, squash and root vegetables abound, and they are all loaded with nutrients. Pick up some new produce items and get cooking.

Make meals at home more fun

Going out for dinner is fun -- we love it, too. But too many meals out can pack on the extra pounds. Cut back on restaurant meals and make your meals at home more fun. Cook as a couple or a family, test out new recipes once a week to expand your repertoire, invite friends over, add new foods (aim for three new items every month) and rather that eating in front of the TV, make your meals more memorable. Light candles, turn on some music, serve an appetizer first (veggies and hummus is a quick and healthy choice), and take turns talking about your day. This will help ensure more quality family time and healthier food for everyone.

Get moving in new ways

Fitness doesn't just have to mean going to the gym. If you can only fit in one trip to the gym a week, supplement your workouts with other ways of burning calories. Walk to the grocery store when you only need a few items, join a sports team, get some friends together and start a weekend walking club, take your kids to the park to play -- there are numerous ways to stay fit that don't involve a treadmill or weight machine. Make a list of at least 10 ways you like to move (from swimming to yoga to tossing a ball with your kids) and create a loose schedule featuring everything you've listed. With so many options you're sure to stick to your goal to be more active.

More healthy living tips

5 Fitness fads to avoid in the New Year
Simple ways to snack smart
Make a whole grain New Year's resolution