I don’t know about you, but as we head into 2020, and a new decade, I’m really feeling the old adage, the days are long but the years are short. This year, my kids grew taller, met new milestones and learned something new. They matured, but still needed their mama. There were meltdowns and sibling fights, but also plenty of laughter and hugs. Above all else, I feel accomplished and proud and I hope you do too, whether it was potty training, sleep training or encouraging your child to try a new vegetable. So as you look towards to the new year with a renewed hope and optimism, a new perspective and a fresh start, chances are, you’re looking for realistic New Year’s resolutions that actually work for you and your family.
When it comes to making New Year’s resolutions, more than 55 percent of people make them about eating healthy, healthy habits and exercise, according to a 2016 study in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
Yet between fad diets, strict food rules and unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves—especially as moms— it’s no wonder 80 percent of people don’t follow through.
That’s why it’s important to make realistic New Year’s resolutions that are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time bound) and more likely to stick. Here are 10.
1. EAT MORE WHOLE FOODS
One of the best things you can do for you and your family’s health is to swap some of your processed foods for whole foods at meals and snacks.
Fast food and processed, packaged foods are high in calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar which are all linked to childhood obesity and other chronic health conditions.
Even if your kid is stick thin now, eating this way conditions his taste buds for this type of food and creates unhealthy habits that could continue throughout his lifetime.
Instead, do your best to have a diet made up mostly of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and healthy fats which will give kids the vitamins and nutrients they need to grow and stay healthy.
2. COOK MORE
Although it may not be one of the most popular tips, cooking more is actually one of the best realistic New Year’s resolutions.
You may not like to cook, think cooking is too difficult, too time consuming or isn’t worth all the effort, but cooking more meals at home strengthens family bonds, gives kids real-life skills, helps with picky eating, and can save your kid’s life.
The good news is that cooking doesn’t have to take a lot of time, brainpower or effort. For help, check out my blog posts:
3. MAKE TIME FOR SELF-CARE
When it comes to realistic New Year’s resolutions, you might think there’s no way self-care will make it on the list.
The thing about self-care however, is that it doesn’t have to be a weekend getaway with friends or even an hour-long massage.
Instead, find ways to carve out five or ten minutes to take a bath, listen to a podcast, use a meditation app, or go for a brisk walk.
Related: 10 Tips for Self-Care All Moms Need
4. MOVE MORE
You already know all of the physical and mental benefits of exercise and although making it a priority may not seem like a realistic New Year’s resolution, it’s totally doable.
Sign up your kid for a new sport or dance class. Take a bike ride, go to the park, or take a walk after dinner around the neighborhood.
Raining or snowing? Have an indoor dance party or play Twister. Anything that encourages your kids to get up and moving, counts.
5. GO TO SLEEP 30 MINUTES EARLIER
Despite all of the benefits of a good night’s rest, most kids and adults don’t get enough shut-eye.
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2014 Sleep in America poll, many kids don’t get enough sleep and some get less than their parents think they need.
Their 2018 poll showed much of the same: only 10 percent of adults prioritize their sleep over other aspects of daily living such as eating healthy and exercise, work and hobbies.
Lack of sleep can affect energy levels, mood and behavior, and performance at school and work.
Insufficient sleep can also lead to weight gain because the hormones that affect appetite can get all out of whack. Ghrelin, “the hunger hormone” which tells our bodies to eat, ramps up while leptin, a hormone that decreases appetite, slows down, which makes it more likely that you’ll overeat.
Although turning in an hour or more earlier may not be a reality, chances are, 30 minutes is doable.
It may require that you create new habits such as serving dinner earlier or shifting schedules a bit.
Also, power down devices 1 to 2 hours before bed time, use black-out shades and find ways to wind down before bed such as reading, meditation or prayer.
6. MAKE A GROCERY SHOPPING LIST
Although meal planning is one of the best ways to eat healthy and save money, it may be too time consuming—at least for now.
Instead, one of your realistic New Year’s resolutions can be to make a grocery shopping list every week.
As you start to make your list, go through your refrigerator, freezer and pantry and see what you need to replenish so you don’t buy something you already have.
Also, think about the week ahead so you can plan accordingly. Perhaps you need to bring the team snack to soccer or maybe you need a fast meal on hand for a night when you know you’ll be getting home late—add it to the list.
Most of the foods on your shopping list should be those located in the perimeter of the store like fruits and vegetables, meat, fish and poultry and dairy and eggs.
In the interior sections, you can find healthy foods like beans and legumes, canned salmon, sardines and tuna fish, whole grains like brown rice, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables, but stay away from highly-processed foods and snacks.
7. ENCOURAGE HEALTHY HABITS
In the spirit of 2020 optimism, focus on small, simple ways to encourage healthy habits instead of focusing too much on kids who are picky eaters, refuse to eat, or eat too much.
Need ideas? Read “50 Best Healthy Eating Habits for Kids.”
8. CUT DOWN ON THE DEVICES
Electronic devices are such a big part of our lives, but emerging research finds adverse health effects, especially when it comes to our kids.
According to a November 2019 study in JAMA Pediatrics, device use in preschool-age children can change the structures of the brain, and is associated with lower expressive language, processing speed, and emergent literacy skills.
Another recent study found kids who are first exposed to smartphones, tablets, TV and video games before 18 months of age, as well as multiple devices in the bedroom, is associated with sleep disruption and emotional and behavioral difficulties in preschool children with neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism, language delays and learning disorders.
When you consider that screen time also encourages sedentary behavior, can lead to weight gain, affects sleep, and can prevent play time, hands on exploration and face to face social interaction, there’s no doubt that curbing electronic use is a good idea.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommendations for screen time for kids, but it doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul overnight. Set a timer so your kids understand the expectations and then start to cut back 10 minutes at a time, or cut down on the number of days.
9. TRY SOMETHING NEW THIS YEAR
The key to making realistic New Year’s resolutions is to make sure they’re novel and fun.
For example, instead of purging every last bit of junk food from your pantry on January 2, which will most likely lead to resistance, try something new.
Pick out a new vegetable to cook, test out a new recipe, try a new cooking method, use a new appliance, or serve dinner in a new way such as buffet instead of family-style.
10. PRACTICE MINDFUL EATING
One of the best things you can do for and your family’s health is to practice mindfulness at meals.
Mindfulness can help everyone slow down, really taste their food, and savor every bite. When you’re present and using all of your senses to eat, you’re less likely to overeat and become an emotional eater, and more likely to enjoy each other.
There are several mindfulness techniques you can try but if you’re looking for a good place to start, I recommend Dr. Susan Albers, who has written several books on the subject, including her new one, “Hanger Management: Master Your Hunger and Improve Your Mood, Mind and Relationships.”