- Eat More Vegetables.
This is the number one piece of nutrition advice I give to anyone and everyone, and would often even give it to myself. I have never once worked with a client that I did not recommend to increase their vegetable intake. Even if you are doing a pretty good job of getting vegetables in, you can always eat more. Vegetables are always going to give you the most bang for your buck. They are low in calories, high in nutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber. I believe they are almost impossible to overeat as most people will just simply fill up before eating too many. There are thousands of types of vegetables and numerous ways to prepare them. If you claim you do not like vegetables, keep trying new ones. Try cooking them a different way, add a little salt and butter or dipping sauce to keep them interesting. Add them to smoothies, soups, frittatas, sauces. There are endless ways to add vegetables to your meal and they can have a significant impact on your health.
2. Move As Much As Possible.
For years we have heard about trying to get in 10,000 steps/day, taking the stairs or parking further away. These small amounts of movement might seem insignificant but they can really add up. Research shows that many people, after working out earlier in the day, actually end up sitting more that day since they already exercised. They feel they have more of an excuse to be less active that day because of their earlier workout. Though working out is great, it does not counteract sitting at your desk for 8 hours. You need to keep moving throughout the day for optimal health. This might be challenging for many with a desk job but just moving around your desk and office can help.
In 2005, the concept of NEAT, Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis was introduced. This concept is the idea that daily movements such as standing, walking and basically fidgeting can have an impact on how many calories we burn each day. Studies show that NEAT can burn up to 350 calories a day! Stand up when you answer the phone, get up every hour for a few minutes and walk around the office. Try to have walking meetings if possible. Try to take a few breaks during the day for even 5-10 minute walk breaks. Every step does really count. Just move.
3. Sleep More.
I actually feel somewhat of a hypocrite typing this as I should be sleeping and not staying up to write a blog but I know that I should sleep more. We all probably should. I also know that at times it is literally impossible even with the best intentions. Like the night I got into bed early and was so excited for my 8 hours of sleep, only to be woken by my toddler at midnight demanding a bedtime story about “Frog and Toad.”
Sleeping and parenting little ones often do not go hand in hand but sleep is crucial for everyone. As with food and exercise, sleep can have huge impact on your overall health. Your body and mind need time to rest, recover and restore. When we do not sleep enough, our cravings, energy and hunger levels are out of whack. We are often grouchy and sluggish. Research shows that with less than 6 hours of sleep, our blood sugar becomes elevated the following day which can lead to inflammation. Most experts say 8 hours is ideal with some needing 7 and others needing 9. However, many hours you need to feel good, make it a priority.
4. Cook at Home More.
I love to cook but I realize that not everyone does. Even if you do not love to cook, please know it is one of the most impactful things you can do for your and your family’s health. Eating at home has so many benefits including eating less calories, fat and sodium overall, not to mention saving a significant amount of money. The time to connect with your kids and significant other is also hugely important.
Cooking at home does not mean cooking boring chicken breast and vegetables all the time. It also does not mean cooking super elaborate meals. I cook a wide variety of foods. Some are super simple like putting pre-made burgers on the George Foreman (yes, they still exist and I use mine often), steaming a vegetable and making some type of quick cooking whole grain/starch. Other nights when I have more time and feel more creative, my meals are a little more involved like chicken enchiladas. I also often try to re-create restaurant favorites like nachos and pizzas but they are signiciatnlty better for you when made at home. I can control the ingredients, portion sizes and add extra nutritional value with added vegetables.
It does help that my sister is a professional chef and has helped me significantly over the years to become a better cook, which I am forever grateful for. But just as with anything, getting better at cooking takes practice. The more you cook, the better you will become and we generally enjoy things we are good at. Keep trying new recipes. If you do not enjoy it, try super simple recipes. Pick a protein, starch or whole grain and a vegetable. Super flavorful meals can be put together in just 20 minutes. Keep trying, cooking at home matters.