By: Elisa Abbott
We all have a goal to be and stay healthy. After all, good health is what lets us work and play well. Sometimes, though, working toward a healthy lifestyle gets a backseat on our list of priorities. We get busy; we have to put in long hours at work; we party a bit too hearty; we spend too much time on our screens. And we play the “tomorrow game” – we’ll change things, eat better, exercise more, etc.
But here’s the thing about health – it’s a never-ending process that requires daily attention. And that daily attention will not only keep you active and happy, it will lower your long-term health care costs. Many of the diseases that are most debilitating and costly can be avoided – obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. The good news is that there are some really simple and effective steps you can take starting today that will not require major changes in your lifestyle.
Here are 10 such steps:
1.Water, Water Everywhere
You don’t have to limit your liquid intake to just water, but here is what you can do today. Substitute one other drink for water. If you have three cups of coffee, drink two and a glass of water. If you usually drink a soda with lunch drink a water instead. If you go out for happy hour with friends, order water with your drink and drink it in between cocktails. Pretty simple. (By the way, you should actually drink eight glasses of water a day, and they even come in flavors now).
Oh, those great cookies, and those chocolate-covered caramels in the frig. They are easy to get at and require no preparation. And they satisfy a natural craving we have for sweets. Unfortunately, they just add fats and sugars to your body. How about the next time you are at the grocery store, you pick up no-preparation fruit instead? Actually, almost all types of fruit require no more than peeling or gentle washing. Put those front and center on your counter or in your frig. Grab a few grapes, strawberries or a banana instead of that cookie or candy. Even if it satisfies your craving for sweets half of the time, you are ahead.
3.Slow Down at Mealtime
We are such a hurried people these days. And that sense of being in a hurry often transfers over to mealtimes. We scarf down our food, often while on our devices, just to get the meal over with and onto the next thing, even if it is just sitting more with our devices. But here’s the thing about eating fast. We don’t feel full quickly, and we tend to eat a lot more than if we slow down. When we spend more time chewing and in between bits, we slow down the pace. The slower the pace, the fuller we feel on less. Over time, this reduces overall caloric intake. And here’s another easy tip – drink a full glass of water before you begin a meal – you’ll eat less.
4.A Few More Zzzz’s
Sleep is one of the things we most often scrimp on. We stay up late on the computer or watching movies; we set our alarms, and off to work we go. Here is a medical fact: it is during sleep that your body renews itself and fights off infections. There are some simple things to do here. Add some additional sleep to your schedule. If you do not work but get less than 7 hours a day take a nap. If you do work, take a nap when you get home, before you eat or begin your evening routine. You really cannot make up sleep loss on a weekend – it doesn’t work that way. You need 7-8 ours out of every 24.
5.Replace One Meat Entrée with an Alternative Once a Week
There are two things you can do here. The worst culprit is red meat. If you do nothing else, substitute one red meat entrée with chick or fish. Even better find a vegetarian alternative for a meat entrée. There are so many vegetarians these days, that recipes are all over the web. And food manufacturers are producing a lot of meat substitutes that taste just like meat. Next time, you make spaghetti, use meat substitute crumbles for ground beef. And there are veggie burgers that taste like the real thing. The other big plus? Cow farts account for 1/3 of the methane gas pumped into the atmosphere. If everyone would reduce their red meat consumption, we could impact the environment.
We circle parking lots looking for someone to pull out so we can get that space right up close to the store. We grab the elevator instead of the stairs. During work breaks, we mosey on over to that soda and snack machine. Instead, choose to park farther away, choose to use the stairs, and choose a short walk with a granola bar during breaks. Dong these things on a regular basis adds to your exercise time and cardio-vascular fitness. And so little real effort is involved.
7.Dump the Iceberg Lettuce
There is no nutritional value in regular iceberg lettuce. If you eat salads, and you should, get with greens that have much more nutritional value – romaine, bib, spinach, etc. And add other stuff like nuts and berries. Want to make this really easy? Most grocery stores carry bags of salad already prepared with all of these great ingredients. Make it a goal to have two salads a week, minimum.
So important. Our days are stressful and we run from one activity to the next. Those days turn into a stress-filled life. Find just 15 minutes of time to turn off everything, to just sit and meditate, do some Yoga, or just pick up a book and read. Your body will thank you in the long run. The other side benefit? You’ll have more energy afterward.
9.Replace refined flour with whole grains
This is so easy to do. Even if you don’t bake, at least replace white brad for whole grains – wheat, oatmeal, etc. what you will probably find is that, over the long run, you will prefer whole grains to refined flour and rice. If you use wraps and tortillas, buy whole grain options. Whole grains pastas are another great option. Start with the combined white and wheat pastas and move to all whole grain over time.
10.Smaller Portions of Non-Healthy Foods
When you plan your meals, even in a restaurant, lower or eliminate the portions of the unhealthy food options. Eat 6 rather than 8 ounces of meat; reduce portions of refined pastas and rice; eliminate refined flour breads. Instead, substitute another veggie for those unhealthy options. At that restaurant, forego the fries and add another healthy side.
All of these 10 steps are easy to implement. And you are not being asked to alter your lifestyle in any significant way – just change a few things!
Of course, if you are consuming large amounts of alcohol or smoking, you are adding to your health risks in big ways. Even if you cannot eliminate these “vices’ right now, at least make a commitment to reduce this consumption. This is one of the most important things you can do for long-term health.
Elisa Abbott is a freelancer whose passion lies in creative writing. She completed a degree in Computer Science and writes about ways to apply machine learning to deal with complex issues. Insights on education, helpful tools and valuable university experiences – she has got you covered;) When she’s not engaged in assessing translation services for PickWriters you’ll usually find her sipping cappuccino with a book.