Many of us have health-related goals, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, or joining the neighborhood health club. While it is common to set high goals, experts say that setting smaller goals could do more for our health.
“Small steps are achievable and are easier to fit into your daily routine,” says James O. Hill, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. “They are less overwhelming than a big, sudden change.”
Here are 10 simple steps to try (and in line with starting small, pick just one or two of these to implement at a time):
- Aim for 7 – 8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep is essential for allowing your body to get the repair and restoration it needs. It can also affect your mood and impact your weight. People who are sleep deprived tend to eat more than those who get a full night’s sleep.
- Take more small steps. Use a pedometer or fitness watch to count your daily steps; then add 2,000, roughly the equivalent of one extra mile. Keep adding 1,000 to 2,000 each month or so until you take 10,000 steps on most days. This isn’t a magic number; the key is to get your body moving.
- Change your routine. If you always do the same workout, try to change it up. Your body likes to be surprised. So, if you always walk or run the same path, vary the distance or try adding hills. Add bodyweight exercises like push-ups or use dumbbells or resistance bands to add strength. Adding variety keeps your workout interesting, which means you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
- Switch three of your grain servings each day to whole grain. If you’re like the average American, you eat less than one whole grain serving a day. Examples of whole grains are quinoa, brown rice, whole-grain bread and pasta (different from multi-grain), and oats. Whole grains increase your fiber intake, which is essential for gut health and digestion.
- Eat your greens. They’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber but low in calories. Eating a diet rich in leafy greens can offer numerous health benefits, including reduced risk of obesity, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Have a green salad or smoothie in the summer or sauteed greens if it’s cold outside. If you have a salad, pay attention to the extras on top. Croutons, cheese, bacon bits, and dressing can add up quickly, so focus on the vegetables and be sparing with the extras.
- Choose healthy fats. Fat is an essential macronutrient, but it has a lot of calories. So, opt for high-quality fats such as avocado, coconut oil, nuts, and seeds instead of choosing greasy chips or fried foods.
- Get plenty of calcium for strong bones. It’s also essential for healthy nerves, muscles, and hormones. Unfortunately, about 8 out of 10 men and 9 out of 10 teen girls and women don’t get the recommended calcium. You can get creative with foods that have calcium, such as kale, broccoli, soy, almonds, oranges, and chia seeds.
- Downsize. The smaller the bag, bottle, or bowl, the less you will eat. Research has shown that this even applies to using smaller utensils. To make a simple switch, trade your 12-13 inch dinner plate for an 8-10 inch plate. You’ll serve yourself less, which can save you hundreds of calories.
- Drink warm water between meals. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime if you’d like. Have a sip every twenty minutes or so to keep cravings at bay.
- Keep a food journal. Write down what you eat over the next few days and look for problem spots. Often, just writing things down can help you eat less. If you want to keep your food journal handy, you can use one of the many apps available for tracking what you eat.
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