Sure you know to be healthy you need to exercise, eat a healthy diet of lean protein, good fats, fruits, veggies, and whole grains and watching your calorie intake to keep off excess weight, but you can go even beyond that in striving to get healthy. Here’s some tips to add to your health toolbox to help you keep your goal of attaining optimal health.
Get your zzz’s – The quality of sleep you get is as important as the amount of sleep so make a plan to have your sleep time be uninterrupted. Marni Hillinger, MD, a medical resident in New York City, lets those close to her know when she will be sleeping to avoid phone calls and texts during that time or she just turns her phone off when going to sleep. Think of what types of interruptions could interfere with your sleep and come up with ways to cut down on these. You might need to put a sign on the doorbell saying ‘Out of Order’ or make sure you take the dog outside just before going to bed. Whatever in your situation that interrupts your sleep that you can do something about, plan for it and do it.
Get your brain on board – In his book Mindless Eating, Brian Wansink, a Cornell University professor, has lots of ways to convince the brain that the body isn’t being starved with smaller portions and deprived by eating healthier foods. For example, using a smaller plate can insure you aren’t piling as much food on it. In one study he reports that using a 10 inch plate in place of a 12 inch plate can equal a consumption of 22% less food over a year’s time. Just putting less food on a bigger plate doesn’t work as well because your brain looks at the empty space on the plate and tells you it’s not enough, but seeing a smaller plate filled with food and little empty space satisfies it. Wansink also has found that using a plate the same color as the food on it causes you to put more on because the brain can’t tell the difference as easily between the plate and what is being put on it. He recommends using a dark green or blue plate that will contrast with light colored foods that are heavier but that don’t contrast with leafy green veggies and other vegetables that are OK to fill up on.
Kill off germs – Your immune system helps kill off bacteria and viruses once they get into your system, but an even better way to avoid getting sick is to cut down on those invaders getting in your system in the first place. That means washing your hands with soap and warm water throughout the day, any time you will be handling food, and of course after using the bathroom or performing other hygiene activities where germs can get on your hands. According to University of Arizona in Tucson microbiologist, Charles Gerba, PhD, your kitchen sponge is one of the worst culprits in your home for storing germs. He recommends that you run it through the dishwasher weekly or put in your microwave for 30 seconds to help keep it germ-free.
Healthy food – Besides avoiding unhealthy fatty and sugary foods and simple carbs, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats, there are certain foods you can add to your diet to give it an extra health punch. Carrots are one of these that make a great snack, are easy to pack for the day and full of vitamin A from the antioxidant beta-carotene that is great for fighting off free radical damage to cells, healthy eyes, hair, skin, reducing elevated LDL oxidation, supporting immune system health to fight off infections, and is important for bone health. Jackie Newgent, author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes, gives some other ideas of ingredients that you can easily add to meals for extra health benefits including flaxseed for extra fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, turmeric for extra antioxidant protection, hummus for extra protein and fiber and pistachios for phytosterols that help lower cholesterol levels. You can also fill in the nutritional gaps lacking in your diet by taking these packets of wholefood supplements that give you the powerhouse nutrition of AFA bluegreen algae, digestive enzymes, and probiotics. Easy to take with you on the go and lots of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, trace minerals, and phytonutrients. And since snacks between meals are one area that really blow the healthy diet, find healthy food options for snacks like carrots, air-popped popcorn, green smoothies, or this snack bar fortified with sprouted grains, greens, and bluegreen algae with a healthy balance of protein, fats, carbohydrates, fiber, and micronutrients from whole-food sources, with no chemical additives or dairy.
Clock your steps – You know exercise is good for your health, but with busy schedules it’s often hard to get to the gym or find time to squeeze in a regular exercise regimen. If this is a problem you face, look for ways to add movement into your day naturally. You might park further away from your office building and walk the rest of the way, take the stairs instead of the elevator, go for a walk on your lunch break, or walk around your office while talking on the phone. Look for any movement you can do that works for your situation. Studies also show that keeping track of how much moving you are doing increases the amount you do. So try wearing a pedometer that measures how many steps you take or a device like the Fuelband from Nike that not only measures your steps but also tells you how many calories you are burning off. And whenever you can, get your movement going outside as according to founder of the Stress Institute in Atlanta, Kathleen Hall, PhD, getting out in the fresh air for a walk can increase the flow of oxygen to the brain and increase production of endorphins and energy giving you a lift in mood and energy level.
Take the easy way – Brian Wansink offers more tips to encourage healthy eating with suggestions such as storing healthy foods in see-through containers or plastic wrap and foods that are not as healthy in foil or non-transparent containers. This makes the healthier foods easier to see when you look in the fridge for something to eat. You can also put the healthier foods in the front of the refrigerator or pantry and the unhealthier choices in the back or a high cabinet where it isn’t as easy to get to them. He also suggests that putting unhealthy foods in places that require you to do more and healthy foods in easy to get to places or making it easier to serve the healthier foods than the unhealthy ones can help you more easily select healthy food. This same principle works for just about any type of behavior so you can apply it to your exercise time too. For example, setting out your exercise clothes and shoes the night before will give you less to do in getting in your exercise the next morning.
All of these are simple suggestions that just about anyone can incorporate into their day for just that little extra boost of health benefit. Pick one, two or pick them all and make the commitment to boost your health up to the next level.
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