Making healthy lifestyle changes can seem daunting, especially when you have to start over completely. But the key is to prioritize small, daily habits that will add up over time.
A big part of that is finding your deepest motivation for change. What drives you to be your best self?
1. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
They provide important vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They also contain phytochemicals, which are chemicals that may help protect against certain diseases. The risk of certain health problems in men, such as heart disease, cancer, and high blood pressure.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that you fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables each day. This goal can be tough for some people, especially those living at or below the poverty line. Fortunately, many resources are available to make it easier to eat more fruits and veggies. These resources include food assistance programs, grocery stores that sell affordable produce, and recipes that incorporate fruit and vegetables into meals.
Try adding one or two servings of fruit and/or vegetables to each meal to start. Some examples of vegetables include dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, and carrots. Some examples of fruits include apples, bananas, and mangos.
If you don’t like certain fruits or vegetables, experiment with different varieties and cooking techniques to see if you can find ones that you enjoy. Cooking and baking can help mask the taste of some vegetables, and sauces and curries can add flavor to a vegetable that you might not want to eat on its own. Vegetables and fruits that are canned, frozen, or dried can count towards your daily intake, but be sure to look for options that are lower in sodium and added sugar. Limit fruit juice, as it does not have the same nutrients as whole fruits and can be high in calories.
2. Eat More Whole Grains
Whether you’re looking to improve your health or are just trying to cut out the processed sugar in your diet, adding whole grains is one of the best ways to do it. Grains are the most nutritious carbohydrates and can help reduce your risk of obesity, heart disease, and high cholesterol. They also provide a good source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals like iron, folate, magnesium, and B vitamins. The best grains to include in your diet are brown rice, quinoa, farro, and buckwheat.
Unlike refined grains, whole grains have all three parts of the grain kernel—bran, germ, and endosperm. When grains are milled to make flour, the nutrients from these parts are lost. This makes it difficult for foods made with flour to be considered a healthy choice. Instead, opt for bread and pasta labeled as 100% whole wheat or whole grain, as these contain more of the original grain.
Eating whole grains can boost your gut health, improve your blood pressure and lower your cholesterol levels. They can also help improve your mood, increase your energy, and prevent chronic inflammation that contributes to diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes.
Aim for at least six 1-ounce servings of whole grains a day. This can be easy to do by choosing whole grains over refined grains in your meals and snacks, including breakfast cereals, pasta, bread, soups, salads, and granola bars. Look for the words “whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” on the ingredient label, and be sure that it is listed as the first ingredient. The Whole Grain Stamp is another great way to identify a food that contains a serving of whole grains.
3. Get More Sleep
Sleep is crucial to good health, but it can be difficult for many people. A lack of sleep can cause a variety of problems, including poor memory, low mood, stress, and weight gain. Many of these issues can be prevented with healthy sleeping habits.
It is recommended that adults get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. To make sure that you are getting enough sleep, start by observing your patterns. Make note of how much you sleep each night when you sleep, and if you have trouble falling asleep or staying awake.
During the day, you can also improve your sleep patterns by avoiding sugary foods and excessive caffeine. Having a regular workout routine is another great way to promote better sleep, but it is important not to work out too close to bedtime for Better Sleep When you get enough sleep, your immune system is stronger and you are less likely to catch colds or other illnesses. Getting enough sleep can also help you maintain healthy body weight, improve your mental health, and reduce chronic inflammation.
The best ways to get more sleep include establishing a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and practicing good sleep hygiene. This means turning off all electronics an hour or so before bed, ensuring that the room is dark, and using a white noise machine or earplugs to mask any unwanted noises. It is also important to avoid consuming large meals right before going to sleep and to limit your alcohol and caffeine intake.
4. Stay Active
Being physically active has a wide range of health benefits for every age, ethnicity, and fitness level. It can help you sleep better, reduce your risk of chronic diseases and illnesses, keep your bones and muscles strong, and improve your mood and overall mental health.
However, many people find it challenging to get enough physical activity. This is because most people spend much of their day sitting, whether at work, on transport, or during leisure time. Sedentary behavior increases your risk of many non-communicable diseases such as heart disease and diabetes, and it can also increase your risk of weight gain and obesity.
The good news is that there are lots of ways you can be more active without hitting the gym. Daily aerobic activities, such as walking, and muscle-building exercises are both important for healthy living. The key is to find something you enjoy and stick with it, so you can make it a part of your routine.
Some ideas for activities to consider include taking a walk, riding your bike to work or the grocery store, or taking a dance class. Alternatively, you could play games with your family that requires physical activity, such as hide and seek or jumping jacks. Even tasks like mowing the lawn, washing the dishes, vacuuming, sweeping, and gardening can count as moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity.
Keep in mind that it can take a while to turn a new activity into a habit, so don’t give up if you occasionally fall off the wagon. Instead, focus on keeping the momentum going and try to do a little bit more each time.
5. Get More Sleep
Like eating healthy and exercising regularly, getting adequate amounts of sleep is a critical component of overall health. During the time we are sleeping, the body performs numerous healing and maintenance processes that affect nearly every organ system. Consistently not getting enough sleep can have serious, long-term effects on our health and wellness.
While we are snoozing, the body releases hormones that repair tissues, boost brain power, control metabolism, and reduce stress and inflammation. Getting sufficient amounts of sleep each day can help prevent heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and weight gain. It also helps keep our energy levels high to give us the energy we need to exercise, work and play.
A recent study in the Journal of Physiotherapy found that people who sleep more than seven hours per night have a lower risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. The researchers believe that this is because of the role sleep plays in maintaining a healthy metabolism, regulating hormones, and strengthening the immune system.
Poor quality sleep is associated with several health issues including heart disease and depression. In addition, lack of sleep increases the risk of injury and accidents, especially motor vehicle crashes. The good news is that you can get better quality sleep by implementing a few simple changes. This includes going to bed and waking up at the same times each day, creating a relaxing bedroom environment, avoiding electronics before sleep, and adopting a relaxing pre-sleep routine such as reading a book or meditating.
Improving your sleep habits can be just as important as changing your diet and exercising. With just a few small changes, you can start feeling healthier and more energized than ever before.