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The new year can be an exciting, and sometimes overwhelming, time. While you may have your own resolutions planned out, save yourself some stress by not even worrying about these three healthy habits and their three simple alternatives.

Hope Cristol
December 20, 2016

Come January, holiday chaos is behind you, while the New Year thrills with the promise of starting fresh. You might have a list of lofty resolutions, from weight loss to a kitchen remodel. Or you may just want to restore healthy habits that slipped away in November and December, when your willpower was no match for the procession of baked goods.

Of course, motivation for change is notoriously hard to maintain once the calendar turns to spring. To set you up for a greater chance at success, we're sharing three healthy habits you really don't need to worry about—and the simple alternatives to try instead.

Don't Obsess About Your BMI If You're Trying to Slim Down

BMI, or body mass index, is a measure of your body fat based on height and weight. (Use an online quick BMI calculator to get your measurement.) But it doesn't tell the whole story about your health. For one, BMI doesn't take into account that muscle weighs more than fat, nor does it consider fat distribution: Where you carry your weight matters. As BMI increases, so does the risk of heart disease—but mostly if you have a lot of fat around your middle.

Healthier Habit: A brisk, 30-minute walk on most days will help keep weight in check—and you'll feel it every time you zip your pants, no BMI calculator necessary.

Don't Shun All Processed Foods

One way to eat healthier in 2017 is to make everything from scratch using the freshest ingredients. You'll shop only the perimeter of the grocery store, as you've been told for years, and you'll know every ingredient going into your body. It's a great way to eat if you have plenty of time and money to spare.

If you don't (and who does?), it's time to rethink your definition of processed foods. Keep in mind that most of the health benefits of avoiding processed foods come from giving up cookies, chips, certain breads, and other highly refined products—not natural foods that have been "processed" for convenience. So don't feel bad about buying frozen produce, canned instead of dried beans—or any other processed but generally healthy food. Just keep an eye on sodium.

Healthier Habit: Instead of worrying that your food comes in plastic or cans, focus on eating more produce and whole grains. Remember that in general, the fewer ingredients on the label, the better.

Photo: Randy Mayor

Don't Give Up Coffee

Although caffeine is indeed addictive, an abundance of research shows coffee has numerous health benefits, unlike sodas and energy drinks. A large study published in 2015 in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that coffee was associated with lower risk of death from heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes, and other causes.

The proof of coffee's perks has been mounting for more than a decade. The benefits of coffee include a decreased risk of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and diabetes, and improved liver function.

Healthier Habit: Transition to black coffee. Research suggests milk or cream negates the health benefits, and sugar or syrups just add empty calories.