As many of you know, I had the great opportunity to do a Healthy Living segment for, The Daily Share on HLN News last Friday. I had about 4 minutes to discuss what I think are the top three things we can all do to get healthier in the New Year.
With so little time, I really wanted to focus on simple, tangible steps that people felt they could easily integrate into their daily lives. Here are my top three:
- Drink more water
- Focus on eating a mostly whole-foods diet
- Make time for self-care
WATER. Our bodies are made up of about 60-70% water. Our blood, 90%. Our brains, 80%. And our livers, about 97%. Given that, it’s easy to see why keeping hydrated is so incredibly important. Without it, our organs and our bodies will not function at an optimal level.
The basic rule is that we should be drinking about half our body weight in ounces. That means, if you weigh 150 lbs, you should be drinking at least 75 ounces of water a day. However, if we’re drinking coffee, soda, energy drinks or other dehydrating beverages during the day, we’ll have to up our intake a lot more to make up for the water we’re losing.
I know it’s hard to remember to drink water sometimes so, what to do? First, carry a water bottle around with you everywhere. When I was commuting over an hour each way to work every day, I would make sure to drink a bottle going into work and one on my way home. And during work, I challenged myself to drink one bottle before lunch and one after. These days, there are even apps you can download like Waterlogged, that will give you reminders throughout the day to help you reach your daily hydrating goals!
WHOLE FOODS DIET. A whole foods diet means eating 1-ingredient foods that have not been processed and do not contain any additives or preservatives. So mostly anything that comes in a box or is packaged, is not a whole food. Here are some examples:
- An apple is a whole food, apple juice is not. Most apple juice has added sweeteners and preservatives. Plus, all the fiber has been removed, which means that the sugars will go straight into your bloodstream spiking your glucose levels.
- A piece of baked chicken is a whole food, chicken nuggets are not. Chicken nuggets contain all kinds of chemical additives and artificial ingredients our bodies do not recognize. This can cause inflammation. While inflammation can be a part of the body’s healthy immune response, it can become chronic by eating too many processed and refined foods. More and more research is showing that chronic inflammation can be a leading factor in the cause of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
- A tomato is a whole food, jarred tomato sauce is not. Some jarred tomato sauces can have as much as 10 grams of sugar in just a half cup. That’s more than 1/3 of what are sugar intake should be for the day! And our bodies will respond much better by eating unrefined, naturally occurring sugars that are found in whole foods like fruits.
I plan on doing a more in-depth post on this topic but in the meantime, here are a couple quick tips on easily adding more whole foods into your diet.
- Pack up some raw almonds and an apple in your bag so you are less likely to run to the vending machine when you all of a sudden get hit with hunger.
- When possible, plan 2-3 hours on a Sunday to prep and cook some staples for the week. Make a batch of brown rice and/or quinoa, cut up and organize some vegetables for salads or sautéing, and make a sauce or dressing to top it all off. If you have time, make a soup that you can portion out and freeze so you always have something hearty and healthy to eat when time is tight. By taking some time up front, you’ll be saving yourself time during the rest of the week.
SELF CARE. To me, this is a big one. It’s an area I think we all could use some help with, myself included. On a simple level, self-care is really about finding healthy ways to better manage our stress and making time for ourselves.
I totally understand that slowiong down can be a huge challenge living in our fast-paced world. We work too many hours, have too many obligations for our kids after school and on the weekends, and too often, many of us are struggling to just make ends meet each month. It’s way too stressful!
And that kind of chronic stress takes a toll. It weakens our immune system leaving us vulnerable to anything from a cold to a more serious illness. We really need to make self-care a priority and not feel guilty about it! I think it’s akin to when you’re going through the safety measures on a plane and they tell you that you need to put your oxygen mask on first, then you put it on the person next to you. Because if we don’t take proper care of ourselves, how can we properly take care of others?
Again, I know this is a huge challenge. However, I think there are some easy things we can find time for each day/week to help us relax. For example, every time you get to a stop light, remember to take a few deep, slow breaths. At least once a week, make the time to take a bath with Epsom salts and if you’re feeling fancy, add in some lavender essential oil. Or just go for a walk around the block with your family after dinner. Anything that helps you to slow down and reconnect with yourself, your family and your community in a way that’s meaningful to you is great!