Easy habit-changing tips for a healthier you in 2015

Featured article in the Winter 2015 Issue of Nutrition Close-Up; written by Christopher R. Mohr, PhD, RD

It’s that time of year. Men and women everywhere are feverishly trying to pinpoint their “bad” eating and exercise habits and pledging to adopt a healthier lifestyle. It’s 2015, a new year and a new you! Unfortunately, this habit-changing alarm bell probably went off at the same time last year. And quite likely the year before that, too.

It’s not that New Year resolutions can’t be effective. It’s just that a change in mindset is usually required to make them stick. Most resolutions fail because we set unrealistic goals— as if going to extremes will make us more determined to succeed—which invariably leads us down a path that rarely leads to a permanent change of bad habits. Habits die hard!

How can 2015 be different? What can we do to improve our health without focusing on giving up this, eating less of that, or promising this will be the year we are out of bed every day at 5 a.m. to make time for a 90-minute exercise session?

Let’s examine a few tips and strategies that can lead to solutions to improve health.

Eat breakfast daily. While this seems elementary, it’s one of the most important and effective strategies to jumpstart change. Current research shows that barely more than 60% of men ages 20 to 29 are eating breakfast.1 Unfortunately, more and more clients are questioning the benefits of eating breakfast, as a small but vocal minority is saying now that breakfast eaters are not necessarily leaner and healthier. But a protein-rich breakfast provides essential fuel to the brain and muscles in the morning. Studies show that eating 25-30 grams of protein each morning can also help increase feelings of fullness throughout the day.2 Here’s a favorite tip for the time-squeezed among us racing out the door in the morning: Add 2 whole eggs and 3 egg whites to a large (empty) coffee mug. Whisk, then add a handful of cheese, 1/2 cup of beans and cook for two minutes in the microwave. Enjoy it with a piece of fruit and your protein-rich, nutrient-dense breakfast is done.

Eat a veggie and/or fruit with every meal. This is a simple addition that is a positive change anyone can make to measurably improve nutrient intake. It doesn’t take much effort, but focusing on adding foods— versus a typical ‘dieting’ mentality of subtracting foods—is a powerful step in the right direction. In fact, the higher the daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the chances of developing heart disease. One study found that those who ate less than 1.5 daily servings were 30% more likely to have a heart attack or stroke compared to those who averaged 8 daily servings.3 Considering heart disease is the leading cause of death in men, affecting 1 out of 4, this is certainly one healthy habit to add to your new eating regimen.

Include protein with each meal. While research shows that the overall average protein intake of Americans is within current guidelines, the timing of protein consumption in the U.S. is far from optimal. Most Americans eat very little protein in the morning, not much more at lunch, and save the majority of their protein intake for dinner. Instead, try to encourage clients to divide their protein intake more evenly throughout the day. This is not only effective for maintaining energy levels throughout the day, but also for stimulating muscle protein synthesis as well. Several research studies by Dr. Heather Leidy, Dr. Douglas PaddonJones, and others have confirmed this notion of the importance of protein timing.2,4 This is particularly true for the growing number of baby boomers (born 1946-64), where muscle loss is a common consequence of aging. Most data suggest eating 25-30 grams of protein at each of the three main meals throughout the day to optimize this benefit of dietary protein, and perhaps adding more protein-rich snacks as needed.

As health professionals, we know clients are successful at making short-term changes. Permanent change is much more challenging. Encourage clients to incorporate these tips into their daily routine. While not profound, they are small steps that will count toward the larger picture. These simple tips will help move the needle in the right direction and give clients the jumpstart they want in 2015.

Christopher R. Mohr, PhD, RD is a nutrition consultant, spokesperson and speaker who presents around the world. Dr. Mohr works with a variety of clients and corporations, including Reebok, The National Cattleman’s Beef Association and more.


1. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. What We Eat in America, 2001-2002, Table 5: Percentage of Americans eating breakfast on any given day and location where eaten, 2001-2002. U.S. Dept of Agriculture, Agriculture. Internet. www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/…/pdf/0910/Table_1_NIN_GEN_09.pdf (accessed November 24th, 2014)

2. Hung HC, Joshipura KJ, Jiang R, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of major chronic disease. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004; 96:1577–84.

3. Paddon-Jones D, Leidy H. Dietary protein and muscle in older persons. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2014;17:5-11.

4. Leidy, HJ, Ortinau LC, Douglas SM, et al. Dietary protein and muscle in older persons. Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97:677-88.