Being healthy can feel like a chore—you think that you have to cook special food or try trendy fitness classes to achieve any healthy goals. However, when I talked to some really healthy individuals—from the founder of Whole30 to a sleep doctor—none of them brought up any scary superfoods or crazy workout routines.
Turns out, being healthy is just about making a few very simple, but very good, choices.
1. They plan ahead
Melissa Hartwig, Whole30 co-founder and NYT bestselling author, premakes her breakfast so that all she has to do is take a few minutes to heat it up in the morning. Whether it's a vegetable frittata, a breakfast hash, or egg muffins, planning your mornings ahead makes them less hectic. She also stashes "emergency food" in her fridge, purse, and desk at work for days when her schedule doesn't allow her time to make a nutritious meal, or her body really needs something to get through a long afternoon meeting. These include microwaveable soups in the fridge, hard-boiled eggs ready to go for a snack, and in real emergencies, baby food pouches! These are chock full of good nutrients and Hartwig has been known to grab one from her purse when she's stuck in traffic on her way to a meeting.
2. They always have breakfast
Hartwig's make-ahead breakfasts are all savory, and she is "very generous" with what she considers breakfast food. "My favorite breakfast right now is ground beef sauteed with a whole bunch of veggies and a drizzle of hot sauce or homemade ranch dressing." She makes two pounds of this at a time, and divvies it up into separate containers that are easy to grab in the morning. Hartwig believes a savory breakfast sets you up for a healthier day.
"If you start your day off with something sweet it's like you are conditioning your taste buds to crave something sweet throughout the day," she explains. Though popular, smoothies and acai bowls are a giant hit of sugar in the morning, which can contribute to hunger cravings or mood volatility throughout the day.
3. They are consistent (even on weekends!)
Not sure why you're having trouble falling asleep? One factor could be your varied sleep schedule. Dr. Rebecca Robbins, postdoctoral researcher at the NYU School of Medicine and co-author of Sleep for Success! says, "Healthy sleep is all about sleep routine. Keeping a consistent bedtime is important for sleep health so as to align your circadian rhythm with your environment and schedule. When we keep our bedtime consistent, we can fall asleep faster into deeper rest than if we kept different schedules."
Hartwig also favors consistency, and never lets a weekend derail her healthy habits. Most weekends, she keeps her breakfast meal and time the same, which helps her stay on target. When it comes to a boozy brunch that could derail a productive day, she plans ahead of time what she'll choose to indulge in and what she'll pass on in order to keep herself healthy and accountable for her weekend. "Having a plan makes it way easier to follow through with your healthy commitment when the temptation is right in front of you," she says.
4. They carve out time and space for themselves
Jen Kluczkowski, founder of Mindfresh and advanced certified Jivamukti Yoga teacher has designated a windowsill in her apartment as a "designated space to sit and meditate." She spends at least 15 minutes every day—morning, afternoon, or evening—to sit in her space and practice mindfulness and meditation. The best part of this personal space? "When I look at it when i'm walking by, it just makes me feel calm even though i'm not sitting there," Kluczkowski says. "It makes me want to return to it."
5. They don't use alarms
If you're the type to hit "snooze," your alarm clock may be doing more harm than good. "Unfortunately, setting an alarm clock then planning to hit snooze results in fragmented sleep," Robbins says. "The best solution is to start a sleep schedule that will allow for as close to seven hours as possible. Set your alarm clock for the latest time you can wake up, and commit to getting out of bed when your alarm goes off."
6. They have a bedtime routine
Kids have a very specific bedtime routine—a bath, a story, and lights out. Doing the same as adults will make it easier to wind down and fall asleep, Robbins says. "Whatever soothes you and helps you unwind is precisely what we should be doing before bed." Take 15 minutes every night to step away from your phone and read a book or listen to a meditation app. Robbins uses night creams with soothing scents that make it more peaceful for her to fall asleep.
7. They slow down
Whether it's slowing down to eat lunch or taking moments throughout the day to feel grateful, Kluczkowski believes that living presently and mindfully "makes everything in life a little more colorful and a little more rich." The easiest way to do this? Just work on keeping your attention on the task at hand, whether it's washing dishes, going for a run, or making dinner. "I think of this as attention training," she says. "We're training our mind to work on points of focus, and when we can do that it makes us feel more grounded and more centered."