Top 10 ways to improve your health

Monday , March 19, 2018 - 5:00 AM

The Standard-Examiner talked to three educators who said making healthier choices doesn’t have to require major life changes.

Here are the top 10 ways they suggested to improve one’s health this spring:

1. Cook at home.

“When you prepare your meals at home, you control what goes into them,” said Ann Henderson, Utah State University Extension agent in Box Elder County. “This not only makes them healthier, but it may also limit ingredients that contribute to diseases like diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease. You can include lots of vegetables, roasted chicken rather than fried and balanced portions of protein, carbohydrates and fats.”

Make noodles out of zucchini, suggests Teresa Hunsaker, a family and consumer science educator at Weber County’s USU Extension. “They are not that expensive to buy or make with a machine.”

2. Eat only when hungry.

“Eating when you feel worried, tense or bored also leads to overeating. Instead, go for a walk to help you feel better,” said Jacqueline Neid-Avila, nutrition assistant professor at Davis County’s USU Extension.

She also suggests limiting other activities while eating. “When we eat and multitask, it also tends to lead to overeating,” Neid-Avila said.

“Check your habits for emotional eating,” Hunsaker said. “Do you reach for chocolate when you are stressed, or carbs when you are tired? When you are eating to fill a void in your life, find ways to replace the food choices and the void with healthier options.”

Taking a class, finding a group to walk with and finding a new hobby are among the suggestions Hunsaker had to avoid emotional eating.

Slow down while eating and stop eating when full, Hunsaker said.

“Give your body and your brain time to relax from the stress of daily life,” Neid-Avila said. “Take a mental or physical break to help you feel better without turning to food as a reward.”

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3. Eliminate unhealthy foods.

“Replace your candy dish at home or at work with a bowl of fruit or nuts,” Neid-Avila said. “Put your unhealthy foods in a place that is hard for you to reach rather than out on the counter. I like to put chocolate in my freezer.”

“Always be on the lookout for healthier substitutions in your snacking,” Hunsaker said. “Eat a rainbow of color — have fruits and vegetables from every color spectrum on the rainbow. Sometimes we get stuck in a rut eating just peas and carrots, or just apples.”

Changing one’s attitude about healthy foods also improves one’s choices, Hunsaker said.

4. Grow a garden.

“Not only are you moving more to prepare, weed and plant, but you are growing healthy foods,” Hunsaker said about the virtues of gardening. “It doesn’t need to be a garden that takes up a lot of space. ... You can grow a lot of salad greens, cherry tomatoes and peppers in containers.”

5. Develop relationships and nurture them.

“People need positive, lasting relationships throughout their lives,” Henderson said. “Take time to enjoy activities with friends and family at least once a week.”

6. Be giving.

“Do something simple like smiling, sharing a compliment, opening a door, listening or talking to someone,” Henderson said. “Volunteer in the community. Read with children at a school. Coach a sports team. Make quilts for a hospital or shelter or a cheery tray favor for Meals on Wheels. It may change your perspective about your own situation.”

7. Set small, achievable goals.

Setting achievable goals encourages success, Henderson said.

“When you focus on a really large goal, like losing 50 pounds, it may seem overwhelming,” Henderson said. “But losing one to two pounds each week is doable. When one goal is accomplished, then set another one and start to work on that.”

8. Think positively.

“Think more positively than negatively about your life, your circumstances, other people,” Hunsaker said.

Suggestions for adding positivity Hunsaker offered included keeping a gratitude journal, purging negative people and negativity, and living a life of purpose.

“Self-acceptance empowers you to move on and make positive changes,” Neid-Avila said. “If you do not like your body, you are not going to take care of it.”

9. Move more.

“While you are on the phone, walk or step in place,” Hunsaker said. “This increases your heart rate, but also may help keep the conversation shorter.”

She suggests not using the word “exercise.”

“Jump, wiggle and giggle,” Hunsaker said. “We don’t call it exercise. We are increasing our burning of calories by raising the heart rate.”

When Hunsaker is vacuuming, she will turn on some Zumba music and “bust a move.” She also suggests doing jumping jacks between steps of making the bed and adding some dance movements to bringing the laundry up the stairs.

“You might as well make it fun and increase the burning of calories,” she said.

Setting a goal to replace 30 minutes of television a week with moving more is a start Hunsaker suggests. Then increase that time of moving until it’s 30 minutes a day.

“You could always ride your stationary bike while watching TV,” she said.

“If you are meeting with colleagues and can walk while you meet, that helps to get you moving throughout the day,” Neid-Avila said.

10. Use common sense.

Suggestions include: 

■ Drink water.

■ Stay out of the sun or use sunscreen.

■ Don’t smoke.

■ Limit sugar intake.

■ Get plenty of rest.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or on Facebook at Facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.

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