From Maria: Switching to a healthier lifestyle can sometimes seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be!
Focusing on one baby step at a time can lead to a huge improvement in your health. There’s no need to make many changes at once if you don’t want to—try adopting one of these habits at a time.
1. Fill half your plate with vegetables or fruit at every meal
One of the easiest habits we can take on to improve our health is to simply eat more fruits and vegetables—according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nine out of ten Americans are not eating nearly enough of them. Fruits and vegetables aid in our digestion, deliver a variety of important nutrients, fill us up and can even protect us against certain chronic illnesses and diseases. At breakfast, top your oatmeal with a cup of berries and at lunch or dinner, order a few sides or appetizers to ensure that 50% of your plate is filled with nutrient-rich powerhouses.
2. Make water your drink of choice
Skip the sodas and sugary drinks, and reach for water to hydrate throughout the day. Not only are you avoiding unnecessary calories and sugar, you’re giving your body what it needs to function. Water aids in digestion, flushes out waste, gives us energy, improves the appearance of our skin and so much more. Get a refillable one-liter glass water bottle and fill it up at least twice a day.
3. Set aside time to move your body—everyday
Ideally, we should be exercising at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week, but even ten minutes here and there will make a difference. On days when you can’t fit in a full workout, you can still take the stairs, get off the subway one stop early or squeeze in a ten-minute dance break during the day. Getting your heart pumping and the oxygen flowing will not only refresh and reinvigorate you, but it will also boost your mood and your immunity, so you’re both happier and healthier.
4. Be eternally optimistic
The healthiest people don’t complain or make excuses—they are natural problem solvers and look on the bright side of things. No obstacle is going to hold them back from achieving what they want. A positive mental outlook will help you pursue your goals in every area of your life, including your health.
5. Think and plan ahead
Eating well and exercising regularly becomes easier (and even more enjoyable) the longer you keep at it. But, with our hectic schedules and, sometimes, a lack of options, maintaining our healthy habits sometimes requires a little forethought. Going on a long flight and the airline has dismal options? Pack a lunch and snacks from home. Have a work dinner at a not-so-healthy restaurant? Eat something nutritious before and order something small there. Know you’ll be working late next week and won’t have the energy to cook? Batch cook on the weekend, find a healthy meal delivery service or order pre-prepared dinners to have on hand.
6. Get adequate sleep
Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, decreased productivity and brain fog. Not to mention, you’ll likely be more irritable, so don’t skimp on your shut eye. Sleep is time for our body to repair itself and you’ll need to give it adequate time to recharge. Most people require between seven to nine hours a night, so listen to your body, set a bed time and get snoozing.
7. Don’t diet; just eat real food
The healthiest people don’t embark on crash diets or constantly restrict themselves. They simply eat real food—unprocessed vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds and high-quality animal products—the vast majority of the time. They avoid the overly processed and nutritionally bankrupt foods (snack aisle, I’m looking at you). They also understand that what you do the majority of the time is much more important than what you do once in awhile. So, a slice of birthday cake or a French fry when they feel like it, is a once-in-awhile indulgence that they don’t feel guilty for or let snowball into a fast and junk food extravaganza.