Secrets to setting health priorities

Sep 19, 2010 at 4:50 p.m. ET

When it comes to eating healthy, we all have the best intentions, but when our lives get hectic, our nutritional goals become less of a priority. That’s why we gathered expert advice to help you and your family set realistic health priorities. Check out these secrets to stay on track for life!

Woman sharing meal

1Put yourself first

For most women, this is easier said than done. But according to health and fitness consultant Tari Rose, it's the first step toward a healthy family. "I like to explain to women that they have to take care of their own bodies first so that they're healthy, fit, and have better self esteem and, therefore, have more to give to their families," Rose said.

2Determine your daily food plan

You'll need to understand portion control in order to create menus that work for you and your family. Professional chef, author, and healthy living expert Jennifer Iserloh recommends doing your homework on, a site created by the United States Department of Agriculture. Using the interactive tools, determine your allotments for carbs and calories. You can also enter basic information about yourself to find out the amount of each food group you need daily.

3Look it up

Your daily pumpkin spice latte tastes like pure bliss, but its 310 calories certainly don't. Iserloh suggests looking up the calories and fat of your favorite packaged, take-out, or coffee drink. "I used to sip a 500-calorie coffee drink that I had no idea was the same amount of calories for an entire meal! I learned to make a knock-off version at home for 150 calories," she said. Most fast food companies dedicate a page to nutritional information, just like this one for Starbucks.

4Be realistic

Rose recommends starting with smaller, more realistic goals and building on them for more staying power. "At first, commit to just three 20-minute cardio-type workouts (like walking or running) a week. After a month of consistency, add in two resistance training sessions a week like pilates, weight lifting, or sculpting. These sessions should be no more than an hour. Added on top of your cardio sessions, you'll be working out for a maximum of 3 hours in the entire week," Rose said. "Small, realistic goals accumulating over time set you up for the longtime overall goal of health and fitness for life!"

5Make one change a week

Each week, choose one high fat or high calorie food or beverage and replace it with a healthy alternative. "For instance, take out soda and replace it with an unsweetened ice tea with lemon. The next week, replace your white flour processed bagel with a whole grain one. Make one change a week until healthy eating becomes more natural," Rose said.

6Eat smaller portions

Most restaurants don't practice realistic portion control. To stay in control the next time you're dining out, Iserloh suggests sharing a salad to start, then ordering just one main course with extra side plates to share.

7Veg out

Include plenty of veggies in your health plan. Stock up on the veggies with the most vitamins and minerals. Iserloh recommends these five top vegetables for nutrition and versatile cooking: carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower.

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