24 ways to be healthier with little effort

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The new year is a common time to think about self-improvement.

Luckily, there are lots of ways to better your lifestyle without throwing your daily routine out of whack.

We’ve put together a list of some relatively small changes you can make to your life right now to start living healthier.


Eat fruit instead of candy.

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Flickr/Amy Moss

Candy is sweet because it contains processed sugar, usually high-fructose corn syrup. Fruit is sweet because it contains natural sugar, but it’s still good for you because it’s also rich in fiber, which helps you digest the sugar more slowly.


Shop on a full stomach.

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Justin Sullivan/Getty

Studies show that people who snack before a grocery trip buy fewer unhealthy foods, possibly because they aren’t driven to make impulse buys out of hunger.


While you’re at it, learn how to cook.

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Flickr / Rainer Stropek

Studies have shown that dieting doesn’t work, because cutting out entire foods only makes you want to eat more of them. But cooking at home is linked to eating healthier, saving money on dining out, and boosting self-esteem.


Drink your coffee black.

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Studies suggest that coffee is good for you – some even suggest that drinking three to five cups a day could lead to a longer life. Eliminating milk, cream, sugar, or flavorings will cut calories and maximize coffee’s health benefits. And don’t worry – drinking black coffee won’t make you a psychopath!


Swap the butter on your toast with mashed avocado.

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Shutterstock/Alice Day

Avocados are a good source of healthy fats. The fleshy green fruit is a mainstay on the “superfood” list – it’s high in nutrients like potassium, magnesium, vitamins C and E, and fiber.


Substitute your white bread with whole wheat.

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Whole-wheat bread is higher in fiber than regular white bread, and fiber fills you up and helps with digestion by slowing down the absorption of sugars.


Choose coloured plates that contrast with your food.

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If your goal is to eat less in order to save calories, then choose a coloured plate that has a high contrast to the foods in your meal. This recommendation is based on a 2012 study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, which found that people serve themselves more food than they realize when the colour of the plate matches the colour of the food.

So, if you want to eat more green beans, then it would be a good idea to use a green plate. But if you want to control your portions of high-calorie starchy foods, like bread, pasta, or rice, then stay away from white, yellow, or orange plates.


Drink plenty of water.

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The benefits of staying hydrated are numerous, from keeping your body fluids balanced to having more energy. Some fitness experts even claim you can lose weight if you drink water before every meal.


Pick up the pace.

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Power walking won’t just get you to your destination sooner. One 2013 study of nearly 40,000 regular walkers found that slower walkers had a higher risk of dying than their more briskly paced peers.


Park farther away from your destination (or get off your bus or train one stop early).

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LAKRUWAN / Getty Images

This is an easy way to squeeze more physical activity into your daily routine. Walking burns calories, may help reduce anxiety, and even strengthens bones. And exercise isn’t just good for your body – it can help keep your brain healthy, too.


Take the stairs.

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This is an easy way to burn calories and tone leg muscles when you can’t find time to squeeze in a traditional workout.


Stand on one leg while brushing your teeth.

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Shutterstock/OLEH SLEPCHENKO

This is an easy multitasking activity that can improve your balance, which is critical to your health, especially as you get older.


Wash and dry your hands regularly.

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Flickr/Sarah Laval

Washing your hands with soap and water gets rids of germs and drying off prevents the spread of bacteria, and is one of the most effective ways to prevent infection. Just make sure you are doing it the right way.


Wash your bed linens, too.

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stillframe/Flickr

The folds of your bed sheets can be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus that can even make us sick, New York University microbiologist Philip Tierno told Business Insider’s Erin Brodwin. Our pillows alone can house as many as 16 species of fungus each.

To prevent microbes from lurking near your mouth and nose, Tierno recommends washing sheets once a week, a practice that is also emphasized by the authors of a 2017 study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.


Wear sunscreen.

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It may smell funny, but it’s one of the best ways to prevent skin cancer. After all, you don’t want to end up looking like this.


Wear sunglasses, too.

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Luke MacGregor/Reuters

Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion accessory. Protecting your eyes from the sun’s UV radiation is just as important as protecting your skin, whether you’re mowing the lawn, going for a bike ride, or playing a sport outside.


Buy a plant.

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Shutterstock/Suthikiat Thaiprasansup

Is your office kind of drab? Bringing plants into the office can make you feel happier at work, according to study that monitored the effects of plants on two large commercial offices in the UK and The Netherlands.


Moisturize.

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A good moisturizing regimen can prevent dry, flaky skin. But moisturizers come in different types that have varying effects, so it’s important to know what type or types you’re using.


Meditate for about 30 minutes a day.

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At least a dozen executives swear by the relaxing technique. Research suggests that meditation can help you handle stress, improve memory and awareness, and lower blood pressure. One study found that people who meditated for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, for a month (11 hours total) saw changes in a part of the brain involved in self-regulation.


Read a book.

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Chris Jackson/Getty

Expand your knowledge, reduce stress, and briefly cut ties with the internet. A small 2012 study found that reading about someone else’s awe-inspiring experience made people more satisfied, less stressed, and more willing to volunteer than other people.


Silence your phone at night.

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Flickr/m01229

Occasionally unplugging may help stressed individuals achieve a state of complete relaxation. It’s especially a good idea to avoid phones in the hour or so before bed, since the light from phones can interfere with your ability to fall asleep.


Go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends.

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Shutterstock/Kite_rin

When you go to bed and wake up at a different time during the week and on weekends, it can lead to a phenomenon called social jet lag, which can throw off your body’s natural sleep schedule.


Move your work desk near a window.

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Shutterstock

A very small 2014 study found that people who worked in offices with windows did more physical activity and slept longer during the night than people in windowless offices.


Finally, nourish those close relationships.

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Flickr/Adán Sánchez de Pedro

A 75-year study by Harvard psychologists found that close relationships were the key to living happier, healthier lives. What’s more, a lack of social connections could be as big a risk to your health as smoking, scientists say.