Have you vowed that this year is the year you finally drop that last 10 pounds, work out more or simply make your heath a priority? If so, we’re here to help. We have some simple but effective expert tips aimed at helping you put your health first – without making any drastic changes to your daily routine.
Beth Aldrich is a national healthy lifestyle and nutrition expert and author of the new book Real Moms Love to Eat: How to Conduct a Love affair with Food, Lose Weight and Feel Fabulous (Penguin Books, January 2012). She shares her top tips for staying healthy and feeling great.
Say yes to smoothies
Hide nourishing ingredients that you might not normally eat in a smoothie, Aldrich advises. Try adding kale, spinach or beet chard into your next blended beverage. “If you don’t like the taste, don’t worry — the potent taste mellows out when you add the fruit. It’s a sort of bait-and-switch dietary trick you play on yourself, and the perfect way to introduce more greens into your diet,” she explains. The more you make these power-packed drinks, the more fiber you take in, making you feel fuller longer; more energy also makes you feel better. Eventually, you’ll even start craving the taste of those greens.” Greens are also loaded with vitamins (including C, beta-carotene and folic acid), calcium and magnesium, and antioxidants, which help reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol levels and protect the immune system, she tells us.
Make healthy foods accessible
Accessibility is key if you want to make staying healthy a much simpler process. One of the best ways to do this is to keep crunchy fruits and veggies at hand. “The easier they are to grab, the more likely you are to eat them,” Aldrich says. “If you pre-cut carrots, cut a bunch so you have them all week long; store them in a glass container so they stay BPA-free.” To avoid limp veggies (especially lettuce and celery), wrap them in a dry paper towel and poke a few holes in the produce bag so they stay fresher longer. You can also place a bowl of apples near sunlight, where they will stay fresher longer, she advises. If you’re wondering which color apple is the best, choose red. It’s packed with the most nutrients.
Manage your stress
Keeping your stress level in check is an important factor when it comes to losing weight, maintaining a healthy weight and preventing type 2 diabetes, says Aldrich. “When you are stressed, your body releases cortisol, which can increase your appetite and make you crave sweets and simple carbs like chips and cookies. Next thing you know, you are 10 pounds up,” she says. Consider doing yoga, exercising more and incorporating deep breathing exercises daily to keep anxiety at bay.
Calories can really add up in drinks but Aldrich stresses that you don’t have to give up anything you love. “If you love soda, think about how much lighter, better, more energetic and classier you will feel if you swap even one of your daily sodas for club soda with a splash of fresh juice. Or lighten up your morning OJ with club soda and a wedge of fresh orange. Yum!” Really try to avoid diet sodas too, she advises. “Studies have shown that aspartame can be linked to headaches, brain tumors and diabetes.”
Avoid processed foods and sodium
Try to remember to get most of your foods from the outer aisles of the grocery store, which are where the most natural, non-processed foods are. “Stay away from those frozen microwavable ‘diet’ meals, as they are a sodium trap, don’t taste good and will leave you wanting more food,” Aldrich says. Young people should be getting 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day; if you are middle-aged or older or have high blood pressure, that should be less than 1,500 milligrams per day. “Too much salt causes your body to hold on to water, putting more pressure on your circulatory system, which can trigger a whole cascade of health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease and kidney failure,” she explains.