Whether you are just starting to embark on the journey of living a healthier life or you are a health and nutrition guru whose diet is already full of superfoods, I think these top 10 tips for healthier living serve as a solid framework to build your habits upon.
Working in the hospital, I come across patients that are a heck of a lot different than the friends and accounts I see while scrolling through my instagram feed. Mountain Dew drinking, cigarette smoking, and low physical activity abound – a far cry from the kale smoothie drinking, GMO-free and organic eating, and highly active people I follow on instagram. It’s a beautiful reminder that we are all different, and we are all a work in progress. I believe that health and wellness is a continuum or a journey, some love it and some hate it. Kinda like a long road trip – some people LIVE for long car rides, while others shudder at the thought of spending more than an hour in the car.
I think the same can be said about adopting a healthier lifestyle – some people eat, sleep and breathe the healthy, active lifestyle, while others roll their eyes and don’t give it a second thought. While I dream that everyone would fall into the former group, I do respect those that fall into the latter group. They are the ones that make my job challenging, but fun and meaningful. Likewise, the majority of the patients that I see in the hospital at work fall into the latter group. In an effort to encourage some change (or at least prompt even a slight contemplation of change!), I created a handout to give my patients outlining my top 10 basic tips for healthier living. Many people may read over it and think these are simple and “obvious” tips, however I’ve found it has been extremely eye-opening for many of the patients I work with.
Check out my 10 tips below, and if you want to download a copy of the handout yourself, I’ve included a downloadable PDF!
Eat more fresh vegetables and fruits.
I encourage patients to make the bulk of their daily intake a variety of vegetables and fruit. If you can’t afford all fresh veggies, frozen and canned are perfectly fine!
Cut out soda and sugary beverages. Drink water.
If you can’t cut out completely, at least cut back! Soda and sugary beverages are full of empty calories and little to no nutritional value. Having one on occasion is fine, but I always encourage water as your main beverage.
Limit processed and packaged foods.
Chips, crackers, snack foods, sugary cereals, and frozen dinners (to name a few) are often inundated with excess fat, sugar and sodium to increase shelf life and flavor. Excess fat and sugar = excess calories, that we often don’t even realize we are consuming.
Be aware of portion sizes.
This falls in line with everything – even healthy foods! Too much of a good thing is still too much. Read package labels, learn what an appropriate serving of your favorite foods looks like, but don’t kill yourself if you overdo it on chips and guac every once in a while!!
Eat every 3-4 hours.
Some people find this helps to manage cravings and out of control hunger. I explain it like this, after going 8-10 hours during the day without eating, most people will more than likely overindulge when they finally sit down for a meal. Rather than waiting to cook or prepare something healthy, it’s easier and more tempting to reach for something quick, easy, fast…and usually full of fat and refined carbs. Smaller meals more frequently can help increase satiety levels and reduce cravings. Along the lines of that…
Have a protein, carbohydrate and fat at every meal.
…when we combine all three of these macronutrients in our meals and snacks, our blood sugar is better stabilized, and we have a better chance of feeling full and satiated. What sounds more filling – a piece of toast, or a piece of toast topped with peanut butter with banana slices?
Enjoy all things…in moderation.
I never tell anyone that they have to completely cut out or omit a specific food or food group for the rest of their life. I mean, let’s be real…that is NOT realistic. That being said, if you want a cone of Ben and Jerry’s Americone Dream ice cream, then have it! If you want cheese in your burrito, go for it. This tip circles back to tip #4 and watching portion sizes.
Cut back on added sugars.
Sugary beverages, soda, salad dressings, peanut butter, protein powders, packaged oatmeal….added sugars are almost EVERYWHERE these days. The recommended daily amount of added sugar intake is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men – that equates to 25 and 36 grams, respectively.
Cook in more, eat out less.
When you cook and prepare your own foods, you know exactly what all is going into what you are eating. Again, I’m not saying you should never eat out again!!!! It all goes back to all things in moderation, however having the bulk of your intake consist of fast food and higher fat meals from restaurants can take a toll on your waistline if you aren’t cautious.
Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
I know – what does this have to do with being healthier? A lot! Improves memory and attention, curbs appetite/hunger cravings via regulating hormones, lowers stress and cortisol, and improved immune function are just a few of the benefits of sleep. When we go without adequate sleep, our appetite-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin get off balance. Ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating hormone, increases, which is why we often reach for higher fat and carb-heavy meals and snacks when we are tired and exhausted.
That’s it! Below is a link to the downloadable PDF. Do you have any additional tips or tricks that have helped you on your journey to living a healthier life? If so, please share!