As spring approaches, I look forward to longer days and the time to spend outside after the work day is over. I always enjoy looking for spring flowers and planning the gardens to add color to the emerging green landscapes. Another spring topic is that of making good choices concerning our health or trying to improve our habits on a daily basis. What does that mean to you? Have you ever thought about what things you might change to improve your health? Or the health of your family?
The American Heart Association recommends the following several steps to help us live a long and productive life. Many of the suggestions are simple additions to the meals you may already be planning. Others are just ways to make you aware of the possibilities of things you can do to set a good example. Remember, all we need to do is take one step to get started. Change happens slowly and becomes a habit with each day that it is practiced. Take the first step and try one of the following suggestions:
- Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups. Think about what you’ve had to eat today. Consider that most of us need 2 cups of fruits and 2-1/2 cups of vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables give us so many vitamins and minerals to keep our bodies healthy. They also help to control our weight because they have so few calories compared to other food choices we might make. According to MyPyramid, our suggested grain intake has changed to six, one ounce servings. The goal is to have at least three of those as whole grains to provide more fiber in our diets and also help us feel fuller when we eat which helps with weight control too. We need to drink at least three (8 ounce) servings of milk or equivalent in dairy products to keep healthy bones and teeth, and 5-6 ounces of protein on a daily basis. Remember that we are the ones setting the examples that our children will use to build their eating habits for life.
- Use up as many calories as you take in. How many calories do you need? It’s about 1800-2000 for women and 2000-2500 for men (with many variables). The point here is to be active, find something active to do every day for at least 30 minutes. If time is an issue, break it down into smaller parts and talk a walk on your morning break or park in the spot farthest from the store door. What is something you really enjoy doing? Walking, biking, hiking, swimming, sledding, ice or roller skating are all great ways to get exercise and enjoy spending time together as a family. When we practice those activities, our children tend to understand how important they are to us and then become important to them as they grow older.
- Eat fewer nutrient -poor foods. There are so many foods for us to choose from. The grocery stores stock over 200,000 items and you and I choose the same 100 products from week to week. If we use the nutrient label we can better understand that there are high-calorie and low-calorie foods and beverages. Every time we purchase a product, we are voting for it to become a part of our life. High-calorie foods generally have more saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium, which contribute to many health issues down the road. Read food labels carefully and evaluate if this product is worth adding to your diet.
- Watch portion sizes, both at home and when you are eating out. We tend to “eat with our eyes” and expect larger portions than we really need. Of course, if we’ve paid for it, we are going to get our money’s worth and enjoy all of it, right? Not necessarily. Remember, you can take part of it home (and refrigerate quickly) or share with a family member or friend and both leave satisfied, not stuffed.
After reading this information, just choose ONE of the above things to try. When you incorporate that one thing into your life, try another. This is not new information; it just takes most of us hearing it multiple times before we realize we need to change something to feel better. Spring is coming – maybe that will be a motivating factor.