SIMPLE strategies to improve your health

SIMPLE strategies to improve your health

by Betsy Ramirez, MEd, RDN
Stripes Okinawa

Do you want to lose weight? Do you want to eat healthier? Do you just want to improve your overall health? This may even seem unattainable, but it doesn’t have to be. Making small changes every single day can improve your health and well-being. Use the SIMPLE strategy to get you on track to a healthier life.

Sip on more water.

You need water. Your body needs it for metabolism, circulation, waste removal and temperature regulation. Your health can be adversely affected if you aren’t drinking enough H2O. A recent study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that even mild dehydration may impair cardiovascular function.

How much do you need? According to the USDA, your water needs depend on your age, activity level and outdoor temperature. Most children require around four cups a day and adults need no fewer than eight cups a day.

Signs you aren’t drinking enough water:
- Thirst
- Dry mouth
- Decreased urine output and darker urine
- Sleepiness or tiredness
- Headache
- Dizziness
- Constipation

Increase your fruit and vegetable intake.

You can decrease your risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes and cancer just by increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. Only 6 percent of Americans eat their recommended amount of vegetables, and only 8 percent of Americans eat the recommended amount of fruit. You can save yourself trips to the doctor by using food as preventive medicine. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and fiber that help prevent disease.

Easy ways to get more produce in your day
- Eat fruit for breakfast! Place it on your cereal, oatmeal or yogurt.
- Grab fresh fruit when heading out the door.
- Have fruit with nuts for a mid-morning snack.
- Make half your plate fruit and vegetables at lunch and dinner.
- Have veggies with dip for a snack.
- Have a fruit and veggie plate on hand if your family tends to snack a lot, especially before dinner.

Move more.
The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity a week for adults; this includes both aerobic and resistance training. Children and adolescents should be getting at least 60 minutes of physical activity a day.

Ways you can move more
- Take a walk with your family.
- Park farther away from a store or building.
- Take the stairs.
- Walk your pet
- Ride your bike.
- Play with your kids.

Plan your meals and snacks.

Planning ahead makes healthy eating so much easier. Choose a day to map out your week for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Keep a binder to stay on track, and use it to store your favorite go-to recipes. Prepping fresh veggies or fruit for snacks ahead of time will save you time, and they will be ready to go when you need them.

Limit your sugar intake.

The USDA’s 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans has finally addressed sugar consumption. The recommendation is limiting added sugar consumption to 10 percent or less of your total daily caloric intake.

It’s important to know the difference between added sugars and natural sugars:
- Natural sugars occur in fruit and milk/milk products.
- Added sugars are added to products and have no nutritional value.
- The FDA has recently updated the Nutri¬tion Facts Label. Added sugar has been added to the label under carbohydrate.

Evaluate where you are.

Take the time to evaluate where you are in your life and what small changes you can make. Talk to your doctor about your intentions to make these changes and see if you can enlist the help of other healthcare professionals, like a dietitian. Look for local classes in your area that are offered to help meet your goals. Finally, be mindful of how you treat your body. Ask yourself if the foods you are choosing are nourishing. If you aren’t moving, start small and add in physical activity one to two times a week.

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