Small changes can mean big results in your health

Written By:  Cindy Chan Phillips

We often hear about the BHAG in the corporate world of setting business goals – Big Hairy Awesome Goals. When it comes to our health, however, small changes can mean big results for health. Let’s look at a few simple tips:

Physical activities
The American Heart Association and the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity exercises to improve health. That is only 30 minutes a day. Even 10 minutes of physical activity at a time can add up to healthy benefits.  Aim for a quick walk at lunch time, or before settling in for your favorite evening television show. One of my former clients, a college professor, chose instead to get off the campus bus one stop earlier. My favorite tip is to purchase an extra pair of walking shoes when on sale and keep them by your office desk or in the car trunk.

Reduce empty calories
A latte drinker? A large cup of flavored latte with whole milk gives you close to 300 calories and 11 gram of fat. That is more calories and fat than a simple bowl of lean beef chili, but without the health sustaining nutrients. Try switching your order to a smaller cup of coffee with reduced fat milk for a couple of days each week – at less than 1/3 of the calories and ¼ of the fat. There is nothing wrong with enjoying some ice-cream for dessert. Think about serving ½ cup in a smaller bowl instead of filling up that large bowl.

Sneaky salt
Can’t break your salt habit? The average American takes in more than 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day- almost 2,000 milligrams more than the American Heart Association recommends for ideal heart health. More than 77 percent of sodium consumption is from processed, prepackaged, and restaurant foods. An abundance of sodium intake is linked to elevated blood pressure, which can increase your risk for heart attacks, stroke and kidney disease. What can you do?

  • Read the nutrition facts label and compare and find foods lower in sodium –preferably less than 140 milligrams of sodium for low-sodium versions.
  • Look for ‘no-salt’ versions of canned vegetables and beans or if you can’t find them, drain and rinse vegetables and beans to remove some of the sodium.
  • Limit portion sizes of prepackaged and restaurant foods

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Eating better
Fruits provide heart-healthy fiber and vitamins. Simply bring fruit to work every day and leave the fruit on your desk as a healthy snack to cure that mid-morning crave (It means stocking up on fruits when grocery-shopping). Leave some fruits out on the kitchen counter for convenience to grab-and-go. Many of us are not hydrating enough. Bring your favorite water bottle to work, and keep drinking from it through the day.

It’s all about setting realistic, incremental and enjoyable goals to achieve health.

Article by Cindy Chan Phillips, MS, MBA, RD,
Director of Nutrition Education, New York Beef Council

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