Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean hours of training at the gym and eating only salad leaves. It’s about making easy-to-manage healthy choices in your day-to-day living. When it comes to adopting new healthy habits and making them stick, there are lots of little things you can do that will make a big difference in the long run (and not make you crazy in the process). So, instead of trying to upgrade your health with a huge makeover, try these nine small, practically painless moves instead for long-lasting results.

1. Eat a variety of foods!  For good health, we need more than 40 different nutrients, and it is not about a single food or meal, but a balanced food choice over time that will make a difference.  
2. Ease yourself into getting more sleep with five-minute increments.  Completely abandoning your to-do list, whether it’s business or personal, to go to sleep three hours earlier just isn’t realistic. Instead, try going to bed five minutes earlier each night (or every few nights, if this is really tough for you) until you hit the seven to nine hours the National Sleep Foundation recommends for adults.
3. Replace saturated with unsaturated fat!  Fats are important for good health and proper functioning of the body. However, too much of it can negatively affect our weight and cardiovascular health. Some of these tips could help us keep the balance right:

  • We should limit the consumption of total and saturated fats (often coming from foods of animal origin), and completely avoid trans fats; reading the labels helps to identify the sources.
  • Eating fish 2-3 times a week, with at least one serving of oily fish, will contribute to our right intake of unsaturated fats.
  • When cooking, we should boil, steam or bake, rather than frying, remove the fatty part of meat, use vegetable oils.

4. Enjoy plenty of fruits and vegetables!  Fruits and vegetables are among the most important foods for giving us enough vitamins, minerals and fibre. We should try to eat at least 5 servings a day. Perhaps an apple and a piece of watermelon as snacks, and a good portion of different vegetables at each meal.
5. Reduce salt and sugar intake!  A high salt intake can result in high blood pressure, and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Here are a few different ways to reduce salt in the diet:

  • When shopping, choose products with lower sodium content.
  • When cooking, salt can be substituted with spices, increasing the variety of flavours and tastes.
  • When eating, it helps not to have salt at the table, or at least not to add salt before tasting.

As for sugar, it provides sweetness and an attractive taste, but sugary foods and drinks are rich in energy, and are best enjoyed in moderation, as an occasional treat. We could use fruits instead, even to sweeten our foods and drinks.
6. Eat regularly and control the portion size.  Eating a variety of foods, regularly, and in the right amounts is the best formula for a healthy diet.  Skipping meals, especially breakfast, can lead to out-of-control hunger, often resulting in helpless overeating. Snacking between meals can help control hunger, but snacking should not replace proper meals. For snacks, we could choose yogurt, a handful of fresh or dried fruits or vegetables (like carrot sticks), unsalted nuts, or perhaps some bread with cheese.  Paying attention to portion size will help us not to consume too much calories, and will allow us to eat all the foods we enjoy, without having to eliminate any.
7. Drink plenty of water!  Hydration is very important because, well, our bodies are made up of a whole lot of water!  Water is the best way to stay hydrated, and it’s also calorie-free!  How much water is enough? According to the World Health Organization, the minimum water requirement for a 70 kg human (154 pounds) is three liters (100 ounces) per day. But, to keep things simple, we suggest aiming for eight, 12-ounce glasses of water per day (96 ounces).
8. Maintain a healthy body weight!  The right weight for each us depends on factors like our gender, height, age, and genes. Being overweight increases the risks of a wide range of diseases, including diabetes, heart diseases, and cancer.  Excess body fat comes from eating more than we need. The message is reasonably simple: if we are gaining weight, we need to eat less and be more active!
9. Get on the move, make it a habit!  Physical activity is important for people of all weight ranges and health conditions. It helps us burn off the extra calories, is good for the heart and circulatory system, maintains or increases our muscle mass, helps us focus, and improves overall health well-being. We don’t have to be top athletes to get on the move.  150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity is advised, and it can easily become part of our daily routine. Suggestions include:

  • use the stairs instead of the elevator,
  • go for a walk during lunch breaks (and stretch in our offices in between)
  • make time for a family weekend activity

Don’t wait…Start now! And keep changing gradually.  Gradual changes in our lifestyle are easier to maintain than major changes introduced all at once. While maintaining a healthy lifestyle takes work, perseverance and consistency pay off and keep you from spiraling back into old, unhealthy habits.

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