Many of us have made a commitment to do better in 2017. For me, it is a personal decision to get healthier and in the process decrease the probability of chronic disease.
I cannot count the number of calls and inquiries about weight management I receive at this time of year. I always advise that a healthy lifestyle has three essential elements: adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, weight management and physical activity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 13 percent of Americans consume the recommended 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit every day, and less than 9 percent for vegetables. I know it isn’t easy, but making an effort will be positive for your overall health.
Try different vegetables, use herbs and spices for seasoning and purchase fruits and vegetables that are in season. I learned I actually like kale. I mix it with cabbage, make salads and incorporate it into soups — much to my children’s dismay. With fruits, I have found that smoothies are a great way to mix it up.
To keep me motivated, I always remember this statement from the American Cancer Research, which is, “The risk for cancer can be reduced 20 percent by just eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.”
Weight management is the second platform for a healthy lifestyle. American Cancer Research says, “The risk of chronic disease can be reduced by 60 percent to 70 percent by making sensible food choices, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active on a regular basis.”
While I am by no means at my optimal weight, I have employed some strategies to help me achieve my goals. Reducing the amount of sodium in my diet by seasoning with herbs and spices, using no-salt-added canned, frozen or fresh vegetables, and reducing hidden sodium from processed meats, pizza, bread and condiments has helped.
Sometimes it’s not what I eat, but how much of it. Controlling portions is important. Dietary guidelines suggest we eat 2-3 ounces of meat, poultry or fish per serving. As a reference, 3 ounces is about the size of a deck of cards — a lot smaller than one would think!
Physical activity also helps in achieving a healthy lifestyle. Learning to incorporate physical activity into jam-packed schedules is a different kettle of fish. It is recommended to do at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five or more days per week.
For me, walking and gardening — in my case, helping with pine straw, leaves and pine cones — have been my go-to activities. The yard is clean and I have done my activity for that day. You may find it easy to incorporate more walking in familiar places like the grocery store. I park farther from the building and walk around the entire store.
Dancing also has been a fun way to get moving. The unintended benefit is that my entire family gets involved because my husband and children also enjoy dancing.
Finally, be smart about your choices and persevere. It may be best to begin with small changes and gradually build up to larger ones. Don’t quit! If you fall off the wagon and don’t meet your goals one day, there is always tomorrow.