Importance of Living a Healthy Lifestyle

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Living a healthy lifestyle may mean something different from one person to the next. For some, health is defined by living a disease-free life. For others, healthy is being able to play with grandchildren or perhaps adhering to a weekly exercise schedule. Though the definition of healthy may differ between people, living a healthy lifestyle is a fundamental component to achieving your optimal mental and physical well-being.

Components

According to the authors of a March 2003 study published in “Age and Ageing,” people who engage in unhealthy habits — such as smoking, a poor quality diet, and physical inactivity — are at increased risk for premature health decline and death. Though many factors contribute to your overall health, diet and physical activity are leading determinants of your level of health and quality of life. A nutritious diet of whole grains, lean meats, vegetables, fruits and healthy fats is necessary for weight management. A balanced diet also helps maintain energy levels throughout the day. Regular physical activity, which includes a variety of aerobic and strength-building exercises, prevents weight gain that can lead to a plethora of chronic conditions. Additionally, lifestyle habits — such as not smoking and limiting alcohol intake — contribute to a healthy life. Allowing your body to rest each day by getting a proper amount of sleep is also important to achieving a healthy lifestyle.

  • According to the authors of a March 2003 study published in “Age and Ageing,” people who engage in unhealthy habits — such as smoking, a poor quality diet, and physical inactivity — are at increased risk for premature health decline and death.
  • Additionally, lifestyle habits — such as not smoking and limiting alcohol intake — contribute to a healthy life.

Disease Prevention

Reasons to Live a Healthy Lifestyle

An inactive lifestyle is a prominent cause for chronic diseases. Fortunately, many of these conditions are manageable and can be prevented by engaging in physical activity most days of the week and by being mindful of your food and lifestyle choices. Your diet also impacts your risk of developing diabetes. In a hallmark 16-year study published in March 2001 by “The New England Journal of Medicine,” participants who maintained a body mass index of 25 or less were found to have a significantly lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes compared to people with higher BMIs 1. Diets high in saturated fat, sugar and processed foods will quickly lead to added pounds. Being overweight increases your risk for high blood pressure, arthritis and certain forms of cancer.

  • An inactive lifestyle is a prominent cause for chronic diseases.
  • Your diet also impacts your risk of developing diabetes.

Longevity

Focusing on a healthy lifestyle not only improves your quality of life, but it may add years as well. Authors of a June 2002 article published by the “American Journal of Public Health” concluded that smoking cessation before age 35 adds 6 to 8 years of life, while quitting at age 65 still adds 1 to 4 years of life expectancy 6. Being mindful of your diet, physical activity and stress levels allows you to effectively balance all aspects of your life and might increase your life span. Maintaining regular physical examinations aids with early detection and treatment of medical conditions. In addition, your doctor can recommend lifestyle habits that contribute to a longer and healthier life.

  • Focusing on a healthy lifestyle not only improves your quality of life, but it may add years as well.
  • In addition, your doctor can recommend lifestyle habits that contribute to a longer and healthier life.

Mental Health

How to Lose 45 Pounds in 2 Months

Learning how to effectively deal with stress plays a significant role in maintaining your health. In a September 2012 article published by “Computational and Mathematical Methods in Medicine,” the authors concluded that leading a healthy lifestyle by engaging in regular physical activity and eating a balanced diet promotes low levels of stress, especially in women 1. Finding ways to release anxiety and handle daily pressures can keep stress levels low. Some people find participating in yoga or breathing techniques each morning helps them mentally prepare for the day ahead. Spending a few minutes in thoughtful reflection before going to bed may help improve your quality of sleep. And regular exercise increases your brain’s ability to memorize and learn.

  • Learning how to effectively deal with stress plays a significant role in maintaining your health.
  • Some people find participating in yoga or breathing techniques each morning helps them mentally prepare for the day ahead.

Best Healthy Living Blogs of 2020

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Living a healthier life might seem like a tall order — the nutrition, the exercise, the inner happiness! But having some friendly advice at your disposal, whenever and wherever you need it, makes it easier and more fun. With just a click, these awesome blogs filled with tips, tricks, and personal stories will inspire you on your journey to wellness.

Delish Knowledge

Think of this as healthy vegetarian cooking, made simple. Writer Alex is a registered dietitian, and her ingredient shopping tips and cooking videos — check out the one for vegan paella! — are the next best thing to an office visit. Vegetarians or anybody curious about the lifestyle can consider this blog their starter kit for plant-based recipes that range in ingredients and complexity.

The Real Food Dietitians

This blog is for people who love their Instant Pot, slow cooker, and Whole30 plan. It features recipes for each, plus tips for meal prep efficiency. Not only are there tons of dietitian-authored recipes, but you can also opt in for customized meal plans.

Fit Bottomed Girls

For those who get frustrated with the status quo and ideals of what we “should” be, Fit Bottomed Girls offers a refreshing change of pace. The founders, both certified fitness pros, preach confidence and body positivity. They take a thoughtful approach to fitness, instead of quick, lose-fat-in-10-days results. Their roadmap to a healthier life is a combination of nutrition-packed recipes, doable daily workouts, and a good dose of meditation.

Fit Foodie Finds

Fit Foodie Finds is a wellness blog tailor-made for serial Instagram scrollers. The gorgeous photos of healthy meals are just as exciting as making them. Who knew oats could look so pretty? Healthy living posts primarily focus on recipes, but they also include workouts (booty, legs, you name it), do-it-yourself (DIY) beauty, mental health, and relationships. Style-conscious readers will love it, too, with its gallery after gallery of fashion articles.

Mommypotamus

Moms looking for that trust-me-I’ve-been-there perspective and healthy ways to take care of their families and themselves will find it on Mommypotamus. This blog is full of information for pregnant women and first-time moms, touching on everything from ultrasound safety to birth plans. You’ll also find a wealth of content on motherhood, natural health, clean beauty, and more.

Toby Amidor Nutrition

Blogger Toby is a registered dietitian and author who helps home cooks up their game with the latest in nutrition and food news, including ingredient recalls and safety tips. Toby helps you see your kitchen in an exciting new way and reignite your love of cuisine and cooking. There’s a heavy focus on creative meal prep, along with more serious articles on things like foods to fight depression.

Peanut Butter Fingers

This blog will resonate with anyone looking for friend-to-friend advice from someone who’s built a career around motivating people — blogger Julie is a personal trainer. She puts on her motivational hat to pen posts ranging in topic from beauty routines she swears by to floor exercises that make you feel the burn. Be sure to check out the recipe index and workout feeds.

The Healthy Maven

For those who want a 360-degree approach to self-care, with advice for betterment in the workplace, home, gym, and on the go, look no further. The Healthy Maven offers recipes for every type of meal under the sun (salads, sides, soups, and more), DIY tips (you’ll learn how to make your own yoga mat spray), and quick workouts. If you like where all this is going, there’s a supplementary podcast run by blogger Davida with guest wellness experts.

Fitful Focus

Fitful Focus is ideal for skeptics who need a confidence boost. Blogger Nicole made a life change in 2012, losing 10 pounds and finishing her first marathon, and she could be just the cheerleader you need. The name says it all: Get fit, be full, stay focused. If that sounds up your alley, you’ll enjoy the vegan and gluten-free recipes, ab workouts, and discount codes for your online shopping list.

Bites of Wellness

Diet-conscious individuals who love a good cheat day will enjoy this blog that shows you how it’s done, with easy 10-minute healthy recipes and some indulgences, like sweet potato donuts. The content is geared toward carb- and fat-burning food choices, along with life tips to keep the metabolism going, like “you need sleep to lose weight.” Many recipes are available in e-book format.

Nutrition Twins

Busy bees that don’t have a lot of spare time but still want to stay on top of fitness and wellness trends will love Nutrition Twins’s approach to info — quick and digestible while hitting on all the buzzy topics. Find exercises to do while sitting in your office chair, quick detoxes to do at home, and more. There are also articles targeted at the long game, like how to train your taste buds to enjoy healthy foods.

Eating Bird Food

If you dream about having a holistic nutritionist on speed dial, meet blogger Brittany. She has tons of tips for living a balanced life using alternative medicines and vegan ingredients. Brittany shares recipes you won’t find just anywhere (hello, chocolate chia pudding), along with travel stories on wholesome goodness in hidden-gem cities, like Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Charleston, South Carolina.

The Art of Healthy Living

Becky Stafferton is the health enthusiast behind the Art of Healthy Living, an expert-written blog dedicated to information about diet and fitness, as well as beauty and overall well-being. You can easily navigate this blog based on each of these categories, and you can also find reviews for specific diets, beauty treatments, vacation spots, and more. Check out the recipe section to help you stay on track with your own health goals while giving you a chance to try something new.

Natural Living Ideas

Fitness and nutrition are certainly key components to healthy living, but some might argue that green living is just as important. If you’re curious about what a green lifestyle is all about, check out Natural Living Ideas. You will learn how to start your own garden, as well as other topics related to farming, aromatherapy, DIY cleaning products, and much more. If you’re a coffee lover, you can even learn how to recycle used coffee grounds to use in your garden.

Nutrition Stripped

Nutrition is at the heart of any healthy lifestyle, but getting started with the “right” eating plan can be overwhelming. Nutrition Stripped can be a good place to start if you’re looking for ways to change your eating habits to ones that are more nutritious and mindful without sacrificing taste. Run by nutritionist McKel Kooienga, readers can learn important information about the importance of nutrition and overall health, while also learning some new (and tasty) recipes. If you want to work with McKel, you can also check out her opportunities for paid memberships as well as one-on-one coaching.

The Full Helping

A plant-based diet is far from limiting, and this blog is proof of that. If you’re new to a vegan lifestyle or are looking to experiment with more plant-based meals, consider using The Full Helping as a starting point. This blog is run by Gena Hamshaw, a registered dietitian who has developed numerous recipes and written cookbooks dedicated to the goal of living life to the fullest (and if her Vegan Pantry Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese recipe has made you hungry, you’re not alone!). If you’re curious about working with Gena directly, you can check out her nutritional counseling opportunities.

The Fit Foodie

Any personal trainer will tell you the importance of nutrition in achieving your fitness goals. In a world that increasingly offers fitness “convenience” foods, it can be difficult to get started in the kitchen making your own whole food-based meals. This is where Sally and her blog, The Fit Foodie, can help. You will easily find pre- and post-workout snacks and lean meals, as well as plant-based and low-carb recipes to fit a variety of eating plans. Sally also offers tips on green living and better working conditions to help round out your healthiest life yet.

A Healthy Slice of Life

On this blog, former health coach Brittany Dixon explores three important keys to her healthy life: food, family, and travel. The food section focuses on healthy, yet easy-to-prepare meals, which is perfect for busy parents. You can also find a combination of plant-based and paleo recipes — focus on the plan that works best for you! Interested in learning how Brittany adapts healthy eating to other aspects of her life? Check out the rest of the blog for tips on parenting, homeschooling, travel, and more.

Balanced Black Girl

Les Alfred started this blog two years after five years writing her fitness blog, The Balanced Berry. She wanted to host an online space where diverse voices could have the difficult conversations about wellness. Les is determined to make the wellness space a diverse community where women of color can find information and stories that reflect their culture and interests.

Unlikely Martha

This is blogger Mimi’s “virtual porch” where she invites visitors to join her for tips and tricks that keep home, family, business, and social life together and balanced. She offers her take on just about every topic for a healthy life and home, including motherhood, travel, home organization, recipes, and DIY projects, as well as fashion and beauty. Juggling her roles as a wife, mother, and business owner isn’t always easy. She admits on some days she winds up as an “haute mess.” Her goal is to provide valuable solutions and products that help women get their lives together, one day at a time.

OK, Dani

Dani Faust writes this personal development and life mastery site. She wants to empower women to design their own lives to promote healing and lead happier, healthier lives. Dani describes herself as a spiritual life and manifestation coach. She is also a mindfulness and meditation practitioner and teacher. She also hosts the Manifest It, Sis podcast. She says she can help others transform their lives because she has done it herself. Her content talks about how to shift energy and tap into your inner spirit to manifest the life you want.

Ourselves Black

This image-rich site offers content, narratives, and podcasts promoting mental health and positive coping within communities of color. You’ll also find resources related to mental illness and treatment. Content ranges from personal narratives to medical expert opinions. In the Field Notes section, you’ll find audio and visual clips from community members around the world answering the question of the month. The podcast section features interviews with leading mental health experts.

BLAC

This is the online home of BLAC magazine, providing lifestyle content for African Americans living in and near Detroit. BLAC is an acronym for Black Life, Arts & Culture. Though the content covers people, places, and issues of interest to the Detroit community, topics are often of general interest beyond Detroit. For example, take a look at “New Reads from Black Women Authors” or “Black in Hollywood.” BLAC has become an all-digital magazine during the covid-19 pandemic, starting in April. You can click through the current issue online, as well as browse through other content on the site.

If you have a favorite blog you’d like to nominate, please email us at [email protected]


9 lessons from the world’s Blue Zones on living a long, healthy life

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I’ve spent over a decade studying the areas in the world where people live longer and healthier lives than anywhere else on the planet. These “Blue Zone” regions are incredible because the people there live not only longer, but better. Besides having a large percentage of people that live to 100, the aging population also remains active well into their 80 and 90s, and typically do not suffer the degenerative diseases common in most of the industrialized world.

Blue Zones regions are Ikaria, an island in Greece; Okinawa, an island in Japan; the Barbagia region of Sardinia (Italy); Loma Linda, a small city in California, and the Nicoya peninsula in Costa Rica

With my Blue Zones team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers, and epidemiologists, I found the evidence-based common denominators of all the Blue Zones regions. We call them the Power 9:

1. Move Naturally. Moving naturally throughout the day — walking, gardening, doing housework — is a core part of the Blue Zones lifestyle.

2. Purpose. The Okinawans call it ikigai and the Nicoyans call it plan de vida. Knowing why you wake up in the morning makes you healthier, happier, and adds up to seven years of extra life expectancy.

3. Down Shift. Stress is part of life, but Blue Zones centenarians have stress-relieving rituals built into their daily routines. Adventists pray, Ikarians nap, and Sardinians do happy hour.

4. 80% Rule. People in Blue Zones areas stop eating when their stomachs are 80% full and eat their smallest meal in the early evening.

5. Plant Slant. Beans are the cornerstone of most centenarian diets. Vegetables, fruit, and whole grains round out the rest of the diet and meat is eaten in small amounts.

6. Wine @ 5. Moderate but regular consumption of wine (with friends and/or food) is part of the Blue Zones lifestyle.

7. Belong. Being part of a faith-based community adds four to 14 years to life expectancy.

8. Loved Ones First. Having close and strong family connections (with spouses, parents, grandparents, and grandchildren) is common with Blue Zones centenarians.

9. Right Tribe. The world’s longest lived people have close friends and strong social networks.

After spending so much time in these Blue Zone areas and traveling around the world lecturing and presenting my research, I wanted to find a way to bring these longevity lessons home.

Bringing the Blue Zones to the United States

There’s no physical fountain of youth — you don’t have to move to these far-flung places to add years to your life. It also can’t be chalked up to just “good genes.” The Danish twin study shows us that genes dictate only 20% of longevity. Lifestyle and environment account for the rest. During my time in all the Blue Zones regions, I saw, firsthand, how the environment dictated the lifestyle of the world’s healthiest people. They weren’t trying to be healthy.

Looking at the Power 9 principles, it was a daunting task to figure out how to apply the common practices found in the Blue Zones to the United States. Our built environment (the man-made surroundings in which we live, work, and play) facilitates our unhealthy lifestyle. The great majority of Americans live in places built for cars and not pedestrians, which affects not just moving naturally (walking, biking, hiking), but the other Power 9 principles as well.

We spend so much of our daily lives in our cars commuting to work, stores, and yes, even to the gym. This only increases stress and leaves precious little time for cooking healthy meals, socializing with friends and family, and getting involved with volunteer work. We have mod cons so that we don’t have to lift a finger and every store and restaurant is filled with easy, unhealthy choices. So every year, we become more unhealthy, heavy, stressed, and lonely.

In 2009, I partnered with Healthways to start the Blue Zones Project, which brings the Power 9 longevity principles to whole communities. To do this, we focus on changing built environments — we want to make the healthy choice the easy choice. Instead of just focusing on the individual, the Project creates sustainable, long-term changes that affect the entire community and future generations.

Just as it sounds, the Blue Zones Project is no easy task. Changing the way a community moves, eats, and connects requires working with local governments, businesses, schools, and religious organizations. Our experts work with city planners and local government to create sidewalks and bike paths, clean up local parks, and make it easier and more fun to be active. We work with restaurants, grocery stores, schools, and large employers to make healthier foods more accessible and less expensive. We also work with local community groups and religious institutions to create walking groups and other opportunities for residents to meet new people, create new connections, and improve their lives with volunteer work or new hobbies. By improving the places people live, work, learn, and play, we make it easier for people to move naturally, make new friends, and eat healthy.

The results have been dramatic. Albert Lea, MN was the first project city. In just one year, citizens added 2.9 years to their lifespans and healthcare claims decreased by 49%. Participating businesses saw a 21% decline in absenteeism.

In three Southern California beach cities, obesity, smoking rates, and health risks dropped dramatically in five years. This translated to $12 million in healthcare savings in these cities. Another Blue Zones Project city, Naples, FL, currently ranks first on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index for 2016. There are currently 42 Blue Zone Project cities across the United States, and we continuously receive new applications from communities and cities all over the country that see the need to create lasting change.

The Top 10 Health & Wellness Podcasts

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My obsession with podcasts started about five years ago, and has been growing ever since.

Podcasts are such a great way to learn, open your mind and expand your knowledge in a passive way. I listen to podcasts while I drive, walk, workout, meal plan and meal prep. They are the perfect tool for staying connected, learning and feeling understood!

While you can listen to podcasts on pretty much any topic imaginable, here are my favorites in the health and wellness space!

The show that makes healthy living not suck! Talia Pollock is a breath of fresh air and super down to earth. She releases weekly upbeat, hilarious episodes about eating, moving and thinking healthfully. If you want to stop taking “getting healthy” so dang seriously, this is the show for you.

Listen to my chat with Talia here

I love Kevin Rose’s show because he’s a lot like me – a tech nerd at heart, with a burning curiosity about health and wellness. Kevin interviews some pretty awesome people to explore how to reach peak personal and professional performance while living a minimal and balanced life.

I really love the variety of guests and topics on the Ultimate Health Podcast. The co-hosts, Jesse and Marni, will teach and inspire you to reach your maximum potential through their interviews with world-class experts in the health and wellness community.

I love this podcasts because it digs into all the topics I’m always curious about! Davida’s interviews always inspire, entertain and comfort – knowing you are not alone in your struggles.

Ben Greenfield is the ultimate bio-hacker. I love hearing about the experiments he’s trying on himself, and learning about his findings. He also has some really great guests on the show to discuss every health and wellness topic you could imagine!

This one is for those of you who love to geek out over the science. I’m constantly on the search for evidence-based nutrition resources to cut through the noise and echo chamber. Dr. Ruscio delivers cutting edge information in health, nutrition and functional medicine in a way that is applicable and easy to understand.

Rich Roll is super well known in the plant-based and vegan communities. His episodes are like a master-class in personal and professional development. Rich delves deep with the world’s brightest and most thought-provoking thought leaders to educate, inspire and empower you to unleash your best, most authentic self.

Wow! Oprah’s podcast, “Super Soul Conversations” has some really great interviews that will help you awaken, discover and connect to the deeper meaning of the world around you. She chats with thought-leaders, best-selling authors, spiritual luminaries, as well as health and wellness experts. All designed to light you up, guide you through life’s big questions and help bring you one step closer to your best self.

Vibe Tribe is new on the scene, but Becka and Rachael are coming out hot! Their episodes focus on a variety of topics like meditation, nutrition and self-love.

If you have been thinking about getting into meditation, but haven’t found the right guide, look no further. Tara Brach is all about radical acceptance. She’s a leading western teacher of Buddhist (mindfulness) meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. These podcasts will open your mind and effectively guide you through meditation so you can reap the benefits.

What are your favorite health and wellness podcasts? Let us know in the comments below!

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Students and Communities Explore Healthy Lifestyles in a Culturally Based Curriculum

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Pimatisiwin. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2012 Jan 23.

Published in final edited form as:

Pimatisiwin. 2011 Winter; 8(3): 151–168.

PMCID: PMC3263817

NIHMSID: NIHMS346862

, Ph.D., DETS Principal Investigator, , DETS Steering Committee Co-chair, , MSW, DETS Principal Investigator, , DETS Professional Development Trainer, , RN, Ph.D., DETS Science and Health Curriculum Specialist, , MS, Epidemiologist, DETS Curriculum Coordinator, and , DETS Curriculum Specialist

Abstract

From exploring knowledge from wise members of the community to investigating the science of homeostasis, students learn healthy ways of living through a new hands-on curriculum, Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools: Health Is Life in Balance. The curriculum integrates science and Native American traditions to educate students about science, diabetes and its risk factors, and the importance of nutrition and physical activity in maintaining health and balance in life. Applying an inquiry-based approach to learning, the curriculum builds skills in observation, measurement, prediction, experimentation, and communication, and provides healthy lifestyle messages and innovative science activities for all students. The curriculum is now available to teachers and health educators at no cost through a federal grant.

Health Is life in Balance incorporates interdisciplinary standards as well as storytelling to help children understand important messages. Implementation evaluation of the curriculum indicated improved knowledge and attitudes about science and health, positive teacher and student comments, and culturally relevant content. The lessons highlighted in this article give a glimpse into this hands-on curriculum which integrates science and Native American traditions, looking to our past and listening to the wisdom of our Elders, to gain powerful information for healthy, holistic living. The circle of balance is a theme in many indigenous belief systems and is woven into the lessons, providing enduring understandings of health behaviours that can prevent type 2 diabetes in the context of Native American cultural themes.

Keywords: diabetes education, American Indian/Alaska Natives, inquiry science, K–12 curriculum, culturally relevant curriculum, healthy lifestyles, community health

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We need to stop people before they start the diabetes journey. We need to act before people develop the disease. This will be a huge challenge. Affecting the required behavioural change and creating healthy environments will require unparalleled cross-sectoral collaboration. International Diabetes Federation President, Professor Jean Claude Mbanya, University of Yaounde, Cameroon, at the World Diabetes Congress, Montreal, Canada, October 2009.

Collaboration by eight US Tribal Colleges and Universities and the National Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) and the Indian Health Service (IHS) has produced a potentially powerful tool for stopping the diabetes journey before it starts by teaching children and teenagers the facts of diabetes and diabetes prevention. Teachers and health educators worldwide now may access a free, innovative K-12 curriculum, Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools: Health Is Life in Balance. The curriculum develops enduring understandings of the science of diabetes and the health behaviours that can prevent type 2 diabetes using inquiry learning methods in the context of indigenous cultural themes.

According to the NIDDK (2008), 23.5 million people aged 20 and older or 10.7% of the population had diagnosed diabetes in 2007. American Indian and Alaska Native adults are affected disproportionately with 16.3% of the population having a diagnosis of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes, once considered an adult disorder, is now emerging in all populations of youth in the United States. Among American Indian and Alaska Native youth aged 15–19 years, cases of diagnosed diabetes increased 68% from 1994–2004 (Indian Health Service Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention, 2008).

DETS: Health Is Life in Balance invites students from kindergarten through 12th grade to explore the science of healthy lifestyles using a science-based inquiry approach. Activities in the lesson units for each grade build skills in observation, measurement, prediction, experimentation, and communication.

This culturally relevant curriculum integrates science and Native American knowledge and traditions, learning about the past and listening to the wisdom of Elders to gain powerful information for healthy, holistic living. The concept of balance, a widely prevalent theme throughout many indigenous belief systems, is woven into the curriculum, providing healthy lifestyle messages and innovative science activities for all students.

Overview

In this article, we will provide an overview of the DETS curriculum and describe a sample lesson activity from an elementary unit in more detail. The curriculum is designed to build understandings from kindergarten through high school; however, the middle and high school units can be used effectively with students who have not experienced the elementary units.

In the K–4 lessons, which are organized as multidisciplinary grade-level units, students explore the circle of balance in four areas of their lives that promote good health when working together in harmony. They develop understandings of what diabetes is, how it develops, and how it can be prevented and treated. Students find out how glucose comes from food and how it relates to diabetes. In learning the science of healthy food and activity choices, students acquire the skills to prevent obesity and diabetes. The colourful, appealing Eagle Books, developed by the CDC’s Native Diabetes Wellness Program, are incorporated into the elementary lessons, using storytelling as a powerful way to reinforce children’s inquiry learning.

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Students discuss the reasons we eat, and explore the digestive process, thinking like scientists as they investigate how the body uses food. They use graphic organizers to construct the sequence by which food becomes glucose, and depict how the cell draws in glucose from the bloodstream. With greater understanding of diabetes as “having too much glucose in the bloodstream” and how diabetes occurs in the body, students explain everyday ways they can keep themselves healthy. Finally, students investigate energy balance: how energy in (from food and drinks) balances with energy out (from growth and activity) to support natural growth without excess weight gain. Students compare traditional diet and active lifestyle of early hunter-gatherer ancestors to our present American diet, recognizing science and traditional wisdom, and describe present-day food and activity choices that promote health and prevent disease.

There are two middle school social studies units which develop understanding of the interactions of lifestyle and health for both individuals and communities. Students compare environments and ways of living in the past and present and consider their influences on health. After examining the environments and lifestyles of their own communities, students present suggestions for community actions that support health. In the middle school science unit, students explore how scientists have learned about diabetes and how to treat it, learning about diabetes as they follow the trail of discovery. Students explore the roles of health care professionals in a diabetes clinic and community actions that could help prevent type 2 diabetes.

The high school level science unit uses models to develop understandings of how the body regulates blood sugar, which in turn illustrates homeostasis. In the science unit, personal stories of young people with diabetes portray the experience of living with diabetes, showing how knowledge of regulating blood sugar is used by the students’ peers. The high school health unit uses interviewing and data analysis to develop understandings of risk factors and how to reduce some risks through lifestyle changes. Then, students apply the information about risk reduction in role playing activities that explore how health professionals work together in diabetes care and prevention.

The DETS units take about four weeks to complete. Typically, schools supplement their regular curriculum with DETS units. Because the DETS units are aligned with national science, health, and social studies education standards, it is easy to blend them into an established curriculum. The curriculum is a creative approach to helping students live life in balance. It should reduce the incidence of diabetes in youth and improve the care of type 2 diabetes among the population. The DETS curriculum units weave together inquiry learning, exposure to science and health-related careers, and AI/AN cultural and community knowledge.

The instructional content of the curriculum units focuses on these enduring understandings:

At the K4 level, students will

  • develop a concept of health through balance in life;

  • identify how making healthy food choices and being physically active every day can prevent diabetes;

  • explore the concepts of balance and imbalance through learning activities and visual aids and apply these concepts to maintaining health; and

  • explore four areas of their lives — body, mind, feelings, and the world —that work together in harmony to promote good health.

All K–4 units are interdisciplinary curriculum units emphasizing health science with strong language arts components; the kindergarten units are suitable for both K and pre-K levels.

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At the grades 58 level, students using the social studies unit will be able to

  • describe lifestyle in terms of dietary patterns, physical activity levels, and personal choices; and

  • identify environmental changes that can be made to improve or maintain personal health and the health of families and communities.

At grades 5–8 level, students using the science unit will

  • understand, as the result of scientific investigation and the accumulation of evidence, that disease develops slowly across time; and

  • understand that diabetes is a disease in which a person’s body is not able to use glucose properly.

At the grades 912 level, students using the science unit will

  • learn through analyzing case studies how the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of a person’s life are affected when someone has diabetes and how to use those aspects of life plus input from the community to regain balance and health;

  • understand by using models how the hormones insulin and glucagon regulate blood glucose levels and maintain homeostasis; and

  • understand how problems with the body’s use of insulin disrupt the homeostatic regulation of blood glucose and lead to diabetes.

  • learn by conducting interviews with community members what others know about diabetes and what misconceptions about diabetes are common;

  • participate in role playing to learn about careers in health professions that deal with diabetes;

  • learn about the risk factors for type 2 diabetes including which can be controlled through personal behaviour and which cannot; and

  • learn that people can reduce their chances of getting type 2 diabetes by making lifestyle changes.

A Sample Unit

The K–12 DETS curriculum includes critical thinking and life-application activities throughout — too many to describe usefully in an article. Therefore, one sample elementary unit, Being Smart about Being Healthy, is highlighted here. This unit teaches the dynamic nature of scientific knowledge by helping students voice their knowledge about healthy choices using persuasive science-based communication techniques that reinforce health and prevent illnesses. The students analyze advertising techniques, seek reliable facts about the products, and create their own messages using both facts and advertising strategies.

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Outside the classroom, students hear many messages about food choices — few of them designed to promote health. On the average, children watching television will see one food commercial every five minutes, adding up to about three hours of food-related commercials each week. Most of these commercials promote breakfast cereals loaded with sugar, foods high in fat, candy, sweetened soft drinks, and fast food restaurants (Story and French 2004). Consequently, critical thinking about health messages is an important element of the curriculum, and featured in the sample activities.

Effecting changes in children’s eating behaviour toward healthier choices in opposition to the multimillion dollar advertising campaigns for foods of questionable nutritional content is a formidable but vital task. As Professor Mbanya stated, it will require collaboration across all sectors. A key role for educators in this collaboration is guiding students in developing the science understandings and critical thinking skills they need to become discerning consumers of foods and providing practice in applying those skills. Even young students can begin to evaluate products and to understand the motivation behind commercials. They can start learning the science of nutrients, food groups, and portion size to make healthier choices by reading food labels. As they mature, they can apply new knowledge and more sophisticated analysis to their decision-making. Through practicing skills for expressing persuasive arguments for good food choices and physical activity, students can gain deeper understandings of both argumentation and life science.

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In this unit, which uses the Eagle Book, Tricky Treats, students discover how advertisements sometimes are “tricky” and how they can become smart at making healthy food choices. They analyze advertisements for strategies including: games or promotions, use of celebrities cartoon characters, free toys or trading cards, wearable advertisements, exaggerated health or beauty benefits, bright colors, etc. Students examine nutrition labels and rank products based on the amounts of sugar, fat, and fiber contained in the food. Scientists have discovered that people who eat the lowest fiber and the most sugar, fat, and refined starches have a higher risk for diabetes (Willett et al. 2006). Students evaluate which foods are everyday foods and sometimes foods.

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In this culminating activity, students have the opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned by planning, advertising, and conducting a celebration feast which features healthy food choices and physical activity.

Outcomes and Indicators of Success

By the end of this activity, students will demonstrate their understanding by

  • planning a menu for a feast and selecting healthy foods

  • comparing their menu to the MyPyramid food choice recommendations

  • designing an advertisement or commercial for their feast, highlighting healthy foods and physical activity

  • performing their commercial or advertisement for their class and guests

  • explaining their good food choices to guests of the celebration feast, and

  • demonstrating the Round Dance as a physical activity to promote good health

In addition to these authentic assessments of student learning, the Teacher Resource CD provided with the curriculum has samples of written tests for teachers to use in classrooms.

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Let’s Celebrate!

  1. Break the students into groups of three or four depending on the size of the class and ask groups to brainstorm ideas for creating a feast within their community. Each group will:

    • Determine the types of food and physical activity they will have at the feast.

    • Conduct a search through the grocery store (or magazines) for examples of specific foods they want to include in the feast.

    • Divide selected items into specific food groupings, and evaluate if they have planned a balanced meal with correct portion sizes

    • Invite parents and community members to attend, celebrate community diversity, and enjoy students’ learning and creations.

  2. At the opening of the celebration feast, remind students to take time to show respect and thanks for the food and each other.

    An important part of every meal is taking a moment before eating to give thanks for the food — showing appreciation for the food itself, for the labour of those who produced and prepared it, for the animals and plants that gave their lives to nourish us, and for the earth that gave us the gifts that made it all possible (water, soil, air, rain, nutrients). It promotes good environmental stewardship in thinking about protecting our resources so we can enjoy colorful, healthful, nutritious foods whose flavors delight our mouths.

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  3. Students explain how they planned a healthy meal or snack for the celebration and demonstrate to the visitors how to easily measure the recommended portion size using their hands.

  4. Using persuasive advertising techniques that advertisers use, students act out an ad or commercial for nutritious foods and physical activity as part of a balanced life.

    Students create a skit for a commercial or design an advertisement on paper by drawing or cutting out pictures and pasting them on the paper. Then present their advertisement or commercial it to the guests at the celebration so that they can to elaborate on what they have learned.

  5. Students lead the guests in a Round Dance, a friendship dance of unity.

    Dancing is an important part of the celebration feast and a fun, healthy physical activity. Have the students practice a simple round dance in preparation for the feast. Explain to students that Native Americans have used this dance for many years to celebrate friendship and unity among all people. It is also used to celebrate balance in life and health. The round dance drumbeat sounds like a heartbeat. The beat will speed up as the dance gets faster, just as your heartbeat speeds up when your body is working hard. Have the students hold hands in a circle and move one small step to the left (clockwise) when they hear the drum beat. Then have the students let go of each other’s hands and increase the speed of the beat so that all students are dancing vigorously. Students may move their arms in front of them in a motion like scrubbing clothes on a washboard or shake rattle-type rhythm instruments in time to the beat as they dance.

  6. Challenge the students to propose their own list of “smart snacks” that the school can have available for students.

    As a class, construct a list of five healthful snacks that students can eat every day based on what they learned about nutritional components, food groups, and portions.

Research Methods

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Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools: Health Is Life In Balance Curriculum was tested in collaboration with 63 American Indian/Alaska Native and non-Native teachers and 1,500 American Indian/Alaska Native and non- Native students across 14 states using a three step process of pilot testing, beta testing, and finally implementation testing.

The implementation test of the DETS curriculum was conducted by eight Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and seven “Sister Sites” (Tribal Nation participants beyond the immediate regions of the eight TCUs), in classrooms during the fall 2007 and winter 2008 school semesters across 14 states: Arkansas, California, Florida, Kansas, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, South Dakota, Washington, and Wyoming.

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The school settings testing the curriculum were mostly small rural tribal or public schools with a 50–100% AI/AN student body. Schools were typically on reservation land or in close proximity based on geographic locations of the participating TCUs and Sister Sites. The data collection process followed guidelines of all agencies involved for protection of human subjects with strict sensitivity to the anonymity of individual students and teachers.

To measure knowledge and attitude gains, pre-post standardized assessments were used in all participating classrooms. A national evaluation study (Dodge Francis et al. 2009) examined the success of the implementation of the Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools (DETS) K–12 curriculum relative to three goals:

  1. Increase the understanding of health, diabetes, and maintaining life in balance among American Indian/Alaska Native students (Teach about diabetes);

  2. Increase American Indian/Alaska Native students’ understanding and application of scientific and community knowledge (Value and use scientific and traditional knowledge);

  3. Increase interest in science and health professions among American Indian/Alaska Native youth (Encourage science and health careers).

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Evaluation Results

Data were collected at three grade bands: elementary (25 teachers, 386 students), middle (23 teachers, 893 students), and high school (15 teachers, 240 students). Results indicated pre-to-post achievement gains at all grade-levels (elementary, middle, and high school).

Student Data

Goals Elementary Middle High School
1 (Teach about diabetes) Pre-post statistically significant gains (t = 8.83; p<0.001) Pre-post statistically significant gains (t = 7.68; p<0.001) Pre-post statistically significant gains (t = 5.24; p<0.001)
2 (Value and use scientific and traditional knowledge) No data available Pre-post statistically significant gains (t = 15.35; p<0.001) Pre-post statistically significant gains (t = 11.07; p<0.001)
3 (Encourage science and health careers) Of the 21 students who changed career goals from pre- to post-assessment, 64% changed to science Of the 26 students who changed career goals from pre- to post-assessment, 33% changed to science Of the 18 students who changed career goals from pre- to post-assessment, 33% changed to science

Teacher Data

Teachers’ Rating Elementary Middle High School
Easy to use/Very easy to use 95% 96% 89%
More engaging than similar curricula 95% 95% 77%
Strong/Very strong Native American content 100% 100% 82%

Teachers found that the curriculum was easy to use, was more engaging than similar curricula, and had strong indigenous cultural content. Overall, the data show that the DETS curriculum was effective for its three goals. Strong achievement gains were found across all three grade bands. Eagle Book supplements for the elementary-level units were well received by students, and teachers rated them highly relevant to curriculum content. In a pre-post career-choice analysis, there was some movement toward careers in science and the health professions. (For a more detailed discussion of the research findings, see Dodge Francis et al. 2009.)

Although these data summarize only results of the implementation tests, the short-term and long-term effects of this curriculum will be reflected in the improvement in the health of participating youth and communities, which we hope to evaluate in long term studies in local regions.

Qualitative Outcomes Assessment

In addition to their quantitative ratings, teachers and students who participated in the curriculum test have been generous in providing qualitative comments and reports. Teachers and students who tested the curriculum reported that the majority of students — not just American Indian/Alaska Native students — enjoyed the lessons and gained valuable knowledge about diabetes and healthy living. Data also indicated that the cultural component, vocabulary, activities and the overall content were appropriate for their grade levels.

Features teachers particularly liked include: At-a-glance and day-by-day overviews, specification of teaching standards, clear layout, and the preparation descriptions and supply list at the beginning of each unit. When asked what they liked or disliked the most about the lessons in the unit, Being Smart about Being Healthy, students reported that they liked doing the commercials, the celebration of community diversity, and the round dance. One student reported “I liked everything ‘cause it was all so interesting and some [lessons] give you facts about it [diabetes]. I might even like science more.”

Teachers said that some students who are usually disinterested in science participated actively in DETS: Health Is Life in Balance lessons and engaged with the lesson content. The teachers thought that the active learning format and connections between the content and students’ own lives captured the students’ interest. Teachers appreciated the opportunity to learn more about diabetes since some of their students have been diagnosed with diabetes and many of their students have family members with the disease. Teachers who felt they lacked background knowledge in Native American culture were particularly pleased to have the cultural components integrated into the materials and to have teacher resources on Native American topics. Other unexpected outcomes include student lobbying for change in vending machine selections at schools and the positive effects of the curriculum in students’ families.

The DETS curriculum is designed for flexibility. For example, teachers creatively adapted the celebration feast for their school contexts. Using the lesson to involve students in deciding how to make a regular school event — a Halloween party, for example — healthier, was a popular option. Alternatively, teachers had each group of students plan a weekly healthy classroom snack or had the students plan an after-school or community event.

One teacher’s comment sums up the outcomes:

The students are definitely more aware of their food and activity choices. They understand that the choices they make today will affect the rest of their lives. It has been time well spent and may improve the future health of some of our students.

According to these teachers, active science learning can counteract advertising tricks.

By empowering students to resist commercial messages as well as teaching them the facts of diabetes and diabetes prevention, educators direct their students toward a path of healthy, balanced living and away from the diabetes journey.

Summary

The DETS: Health Is Life in Balance curriculum is a K–12 sequence of science-based, inquiry format lesson units that teach about diabetes and the healthy lifestyles that can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. In a sample unit from the curriculum, students analyze food advertisements, compare the advertising claims to nutrition facts from food labels, and create their own counter-advertisement, learning about the science of nutrition while they practice argumentation skills. The curriculum provided significant knowledge gains in prepublication testing and is available to teachers and health educators now at no cost. Print materials can be ordered, or educators worldwide can download the entire curriculum and supporting materials from the web.

Production of the Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools: Health Is Life in Balance curriculum is funded by:

  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases/NIH;

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Native Diabetes Wellness Program;

  • Indian Health Service (IHS) Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention;

  • Office of Science Education/NIH; and

  • Tribal Colleges and Universities partnership.

Footnotes

1Acknowledgements: The authors would like to express our sincere gratitude to Dr. Patti Laboucane-Benson, editor, and two anonymous peer reviewers for their constructive comments and substantive suggestions for the improvement of this manuscript, and to the Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools Curriculum and Publication Group..

Contributor Information

Lynn Aho, Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Baraga, Michigan.

Joni Ackerman, DETS Professional Development Trainer, Fort Peck Community College, Poplar, Montana.

Shelley Bointy, Haskell Indian Nations University, Lawrence, Kansas.

Marilyn Cuch, Northwest Indian College, Bellingham, Washington.

Mary Hindelang, Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Baraga, Michigan.

Stephanie Pinnow, Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, Baraga, Michigan.

Suzanne Turnbull, Fort Peck Community College, Poplar, Montana.

References

  • Francis Dodge, Carolee Doug Coulson, Kalberer Bonnie, DeBruyn Lemyra, Freeman William, Belcourt Janet DETS Curriculum and Publications Group. The significance of a K-12 diabetes-based science education program for tribal populations: Evaluating cognitive learning, cultural context, and attitudinal components. Journal of Health Disparities: Research and Practice. 2009 in review, forthcoming. [Google Scholar]
  • Indian Health Service Division of Diabetes Treatment and Prevention. Diabetes in American Indians and Alaska Natives: Facts At-a-Glance. 2008 Available at http://www.ihs.gov/MedicalPrograms/Diabetes/index.cfm?module=resourcesFactSheets_AIANs08.
  • Mbanya Jean Claude. International Diabetes Federation; Montreal, Canada: 2009. Oct 22, quoted in press release “President of International Diabetes Federation calls for concerted action to stop diabetes epidemic” 2009. Available at: http://www.idf.org/president-international-diabetes-federation-calls-concerted-action-stop-diabetes-epidemic. [Google Scholar]
  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. National Diabetes Statistics, 2007 fact sheet. Bethesda, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health; 2008. Available at: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/statistics/index.htm#y_people. [Google Scholar]
  • Story Mary, French Simone. Food advertising and marketing directed at children and adolescents in the US. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. 1:3. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-1-3. Available at: http://www.ijbnpa.org/content/1/1/3. [PMC free article] [PubMed] [CrossRef]
  • Willett Walter C, Koplan Jeffrey P, Nugent Rachel, Dusenbury Courtenay, Puska Pekka, Gaziano Thomas A. Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries. 2. New York: Oxford University Press; 2006. Prevention of chronic disease by means of diet and lifestyle changes; pp. 833–850. Available at: http://www.dcp2.org/pubs/DCP/44/Section/6351. [CrossRef] [Google Scholar]

One-Week Healthy and Balanced Meal Plan Example

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Posted in Healthy lifestyle

Planning a daily menu isn’t difficult as long as each meal and snack has some protein, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and a little bit of fat. Here’s what you need to know about each meal:

  • Eating breakfast will help you start your day with plenty of energy. Don’t ruin your breakfast with high-fat and high-calorie foods. Choose some protein and fiber for your breakfast; breakfast is also a good time to eat some fresh fruit.
  • A mid-morning snack is totally optional. If you eat a larger breakfast, you may not feel hungry until lunchtime. However, if you’re feeling a bit hungry and lunch is still two or three hours away, a light mid-morning snack will tide you over without adding a lot of calories.
  • Lunch is often something you eat at work or school, so it’s a great time to pack a sandwich or leftovers that you can heat and eat. Or, if you buy your lunch, choose a healthy clear soup or fresh veggie salad.
  • A mid-afternoon snack is also optional. Keep it low in calories and eat just enough to keep you from feeling too hungry because dinner is just a couple of hours away.
  • Dinner is a time when it’s easy to over-eat, especially if you haven’t eaten much during the day, so watch your portion sizes. Mentally divide your plate into four quarters. One-quarter is for your meat or protein source, one-quarter is for a starch, and the last two-quarters are for green and colorful vegetables or a green salad.
  • A complex carbohydrate-rich evening snack may help you sleep. Avoid heavy, greasy foods or foods high in refined sugars.
Verywell

A Week of Healthy Meal Plans

Studying a few examples may make this whole meal planning thing easier, so here’s a full week’s worth. You don’t need to follow the days in order; you can choose any meal plan, skip one, or repeat as you like.

This week’s meal plan was designed for a person who needs about 2,100 to 2,200 calories per day and doesn’t have any dietary restrictions. Your daily calorie goal may vary. Learn what it is below, then make tweaks to the plan to fit your specific needs.

Each day includes three meals and three snacks and has a healthy balance of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. You’ll also get plenty of fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes.

Every plan includes three meals and three snacks to keep you feeling satisfied all day long. Some days even include a glass of beer or wine. 

Feel free to add more water, coffee, or herbal tea to any day, but keep in mind that adding cream or sugar also adds calories. It’s OK to swap out similar menu items, but keep cooking methods in mind.

Replacing a sirloin steak with grilled chicken is fine, for instance, but replacing it with chicken-fried steak isn’t going to work because of the breading changes the fat, carb and sodium counts—and the calories. Finally, you can adjust your calorie intake by eliminating snacks if you want to lose weight or eating larger snacks if you want to gain weight.

Day 1

Today’s meal plan contains about 2,250 calories, with 55% of those calories coming from carbohydrates, 20% from fat, and 25% from protein. It also has about 34 grams of fiber.

Breakfast

  • One grapefruit
  • Two poached eggs (or fried in a non-stick pan)
  • Two slices whole-grain toast with one pat of butter each
  • One cup low-fat milk
  • One cup of black coffee or herbal tea

(Macronutrients: Approximately 555 calories with 27 grams protein, 63 grams carbohydrates, and 23 grams fat)

Snack

  • One banana
  • One cup plain yogurt with two tablespoons honey
  • Glass of water

(Macronutrients: 360 calories, 14 grams protein, 78 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fat)

Lunch

  • Chicken breast (6-ounce portion), baked or roasted (not breaded or fried)
  • Large garden salad with tomato and onion with one cup croutons, topped with one tablespoon oil and vinegar (or salad dressing)
  • Glass of water 

(Macronutrients: 425 calories, 44 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, 9 grams fat)

Snack

  • One cup carrot slices
  • Three tablespoons hummus
  • One-half piece of pita bread
  • Glass of water or herbal tea

(Macronutrients: 157 calories, 6 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fat)

Dinner

  • One cup steamed broccoli
  • One cup of brown rice
  • Halibut (four-ounce portion)
  • Small garden salad with one cup spinach leaves, tomato, and onion topped with two tablespoons oil and vinegar or salad dressing
  • One glass white wine (regular or dealcoholized)
  • Sparkling water with lemon or lime slice

(Macronutrients: 646 calories, 42 grams protein, 77 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fat)

Snack

  • One cup blueberries
  • Two tablespoons whipped cream (the real stuff—whip your own or buy in a can)
  • Glass of water

(Macronutrients: Approximately 100 calories, 1 gram protein, 22 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat)

Day 2

If you eat this whole menu, you get about 2,150 calories, with 51% of those calories coming from carbohydrates, 21% from fat, and 28% from protein. The meal plan also has 30 grams of fiber.

Breakfast

  • One whole-wheat English muffin with two tablespoons peanut butter
  • One orange
  • Large glass (12 ounces) non-fat milk
  • One cup of black coffee or herbal tea

(Macronutrients: approximately 521 calories with 27 grams protein, 69 grams carbohydrates, and 18 grams fat)

Snack

  • Two oatmeal cookies with raisins
  • Glass of water, hot tea, or black coffee

(Macronutrients: 130 calories, 2 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fat)

Lunch

  • A turkey sandwich (six ounces of turkey breast meat, large tomato slice, green lettuce and mustard on two slices of whole wheat bread
  • One cup low-sodium vegetable soup
  • Glass of water

(Macronutrients: 437 calories, 59 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fat)

Snack

  • One cup (about 30) grapes
  • Glass of water or herbal tea

(Macronutrients: 60 calories, 0.6 grams protein, 12 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fat)

Dinner

  • Five-ounce sirloin steak
  • One cup mashed potatoes
  • One cup cooked spinach
  • One cup green beans
  • One glass beer (regular, lite or non-alcohol)
  • Sparkling water with lemon or lime slice

(Macronutrients: 671 calories, 44 grams protein, 63 grams carbohydrates, 18 grams fat)

Snack

  • Two slices whole wheat bread with two tablespoons jam (any variety of fruit)
  • One cup non-fat milk
  • Glass of water

(Macronutrients: Approximately 337 calories, 14 grams protein, 66 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fat)

Day 3

Today’s meal has about 2,260 calories, with 55% of those calories coming from carbohydrates, 20% from fat, and 25% from protein. It also has 50 grams of fiber.

Breakfast

  • One medium bran muffin
  • One serving turkey breakfast sausage
  • One orange
  • One cup non-fat milk
  • One cup black coffee or herbal tea

(Macronutrients: approximately 543 calories with 26 grams protein, 84 grams carbohydrates, and 15 grams fat)

Snack

  • One fresh pear
  • One cup of flavored soy milk
  • Glass of water, hot tea, or black coffee

(Macronutrients: 171 calories, 6 grams protein, 34 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat)

Lunch

  • Low sodium chicken noodle soup with six saltine crackers
  • One medium apple
  • Water

(Macronutrients: 329 calories, 8 grams protein, 38 grams carbohydrates, 17 grams fat)

Snack

  • One apple
  • One slice Swiss cheese
  • Sparkling water with lemon or lime slice

(Macronutrients: 151 calories, 5 grams protein, 21 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fat)

Dinner

  • 8-ounce serving of turkey breast meat
  • One cup baked beans
  • One cup cooked carrots
  • One cup cooked kale
  • One glass of wine

(Macronutrients: 784 calories, 84 grams protein, 76 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fat)

Snack

  • One cup of frozen yogurt
  • One cup fresh raspberries

(Macronutrients: Approximately 285 calories, 7 grams protein, 52 grams carbohydrates, 7 grams fat)

Day 4

By the end of today, you’ll consume about 2,230 calories, with 54% of those calories coming from carbohydrates, 24% from fat, and 22% from protein. You’ll also get about 27 grams of fiber.

Breakfast

  • One cup whole wheat flakes with one cup non-fat milk and one teaspoon sugar
  • One banana
  • One slice whole-grain toast with one tablespoon peanut butter
  • One cup of black coffee or herbal tea

(Macronutrients: approximately 557 calories with 18 grams protein, 102 grams carbohydrates, and 12 grams fat)

Snack

  • One cup grapes and one tangerine
  • Glass of water, hot tea, or black coffee

(Macronutrients: 106 calories, 1 gram protein, 27 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fat)

Lunch

  • Tuna wrap with one wheat flour tortilla, one-half can water-packed tuna (drained), one tablespoon mayonnaise, lettuce, and sliced tomato
  • One sliced avocado
  • One cup non-fat milk

(Macronutrients: 419 calories, 27 grams protein, 37 grams carbohydrates, 19 grams fat)

Snack

  • One cup cottage cheese (1-percent fat)
  • One fresh pineapple slice
  • Four graham crackers
  • Sparkling water with lemon or lime slice

(Macronutrients: 323 calories, 29 grams protein, 38 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fat)

Dinner

  • One serving lasagna
  • Small garden salad with tomatoes and onions topped with one tablespoon salad dressing
  • One cup non-fat milk

(Macronutrients: 585 calories, 34 grams protein, 61 grams carbohydrates, 23 grams fat)

Snack

  • One apple
  • One cup non-fat milk

(Macronutrients: Approximately 158 calories, 9 grams protein, 31 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fat)

Day 5

This delicious meal plan includes three meals and three snacks and has approximately 2,250 calories, with 53% of those calories coming from carbohydrates, 25% from fat, and 21% from protein. And lots of fiber—over 40 grams.

Breakfast

  • One piece of French toast with one tablespoon maple syrup
  • One scrambled or poached egg
  • One serving turkey bacon
  • One cup orange juice
  • One cup black coffee or herbal tea

(Macronutrients: approximately 449 calories with 16 grams protein, 57 grams carbohydrates, and 18 grams fat)

Snack

  • One cup sliced carrots
  • One cup cauliflower pieces
  • Two tablespoons ranch dressing
  • Glass of water, hot tea, or black coffee

(Macronutrients: 223 calories, 4 grams protein, 18 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams fat)

Lunch

  • Veggie burger on a whole grain bun
  • One cup northern (or other dry) beans
  • One cup non-fat milk

(Macronutrients: 542 calories, 38 grams protein, 85 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fat)

Snack

  • One apple
  • One pita with two tablespoons hummus
  • Sparkling water with lemon or lime slice

(Macronutrients: 202 calories, 5 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fat)

Dinner

  • One trout filet
  • One cup green beans
  • One cup brown rice
  • One small garden salad with two tablespoons salad dressing
  • One glass of beer
  • Sparkling water with lemon or lime slice

(Macronutrients: 634 calories, 27 grams protein, 78 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams fat)

Snack

  • One cup cottage cheese
  • One fresh peach

(Macronutrients: Approximately 201 calories, 29 grams protein, 16 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams fat)

Day 6

Today’s meals and snacks have about 2,200 calories, with 55% of those calories coming from carbohydrates, 19% from fat, and 26% from protein. You’ll also get about 31 grams fiber.

Breakfast

  • One cup corn flakes with two teaspoons sugar and one cup non-fat milk
  • One banana
  • One hard-boiled egg
  • One cup black coffee or herbal tea

(Macronutrients: approximately 401 calories with 18 grams protein, 72 grams carbohydrates, and 6 grams fat)

Snack

  • One cup plain yogurt with one tablespoon honey, one-half cup blueberries, and one tablespoon almonds
  • Glass of water, hot tea, or black coffee

(Macronutrients: 302 calories, 15 grams protein, 46 grams carbohydrates, 8 grams fat)

Lunch

  • One cup whole wheat pasta with one-half cup red pasta sauce
  • Medium garden salad with tomatoes and onions and two tablespoons salad dressing
  • Glass of water 

(Macronutrients: 413 calories, 11 grams protein, 67 grams carbohydrates, 12 grams fat)

Snack

  • One and one-half cup cottage cheese
  • One fresh peach
  • Glass of water

(Macronutrients: 303 calories, 43 grams protein, 23 grams carbohydrates, 4 grams fat)

Dinner

  • Four and one-half ounce serving of pork loin
  • Small garden salad with tomatoes and onions topped with two tablespoons oil and vinegar (or salad dressing)
  • One small baked sweet potato
  • One cup asparagus
  • One glass wine (regular or dealcoholized)
  • Sparkling water with lemon or lime slice

(Macronutrients: 500 calories, 46 grams protein, 35 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams fat)

Snack

  • Five graham crackers
  • One cup non-fat milk
  • One cup strawberries

(Macronutrients: Approximately 279 calories, 10 grams protein, 50 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fat)

Day 7

Today’s menu contains about 2,200 calories, with 54% of those calories coming from carbohydrates, 22% from fat, and 24% from protein. There are also 46 grams of fiber.

Breakfast

  • One cup cooked oatmeal with one-half cup blueberries, one-half cup non-fat milk, and one tablespoon almond slivers
  • Two slices turkey bacon
  • One cup non-fat milk to drink
  • One cup black coffee or herbal tea

(Macronutrients: approximately 442 calories with 26 grams protein, 59 grams carbohydrates, and 14 grams fat)

Snack

  • One cup plain yogurt with one tablespoon honey, one-half cup strawberries, and two tablespoons almond slivers
  • Glass of water, hot tea, or black coffee

(Macronutrients: 343 calories, 17 grams protein, 41 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams fat)

Lunch

  • Six-ounce baked chicken breast
  • Large garden salad with tomatoes and onions and two tablespoons salad dressing
  • One baked sweet potato
  • One whole-wheat dinner roll.
  • Glass of water 

(Macronutrients: 498 calories, 47 grams protein, 63 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fat)

Snack

  • One cup raw broccoli florets
  • One cup raw sliced carrot
  • Two tablespoons veggie dip or salad dressing
  • One fresh peach
  • Glass of water

(Macronutrients: 112 calories, 3 grams protein, 25 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fat)

Dinner

  • 3-ounce serving of baked or grilled salmon
  • One-half cup black beans
  • One cup Swiss chard
  • One cup brown rice
  • One whole wheat dinner roll with a pat of butter
  • Sparkling water with lemon or lime slice

(Macronutrients: 671 calories, 38 grams protein, 91 grams carbohydrates, 19 grams fat)

Snack

(Macronutrients: Approximately 62 calories, 1 gram protein, 15 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams fat)

A Word From Verywell

Planning healthy meals isn’t difficult but if you’re not used to it, the planning can take a little practice. The examples we provided should give you a great start.

Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t stick to the plan exactly as outlined—it’s OK to make variations that fit your lifestyle and needs. Just do your best to incorporate healthy choices into your day—vegetables, fruit, lean proteins, beans and legumes, and whole grains are always smart bets.

How can healthy living choices prevent birth defects?

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January is National Birth Defects Prevention Month, a time for raising awareness of how frequently birth defects occur and what can be done to help prevent them. This year, the theme is “Making Healthy Choices to Prevent Birth Defects – Make a PACT for Prevention.” In this article, Medical News Today will explore precisely how a PACT can be made.

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Every year, around 120,000 babies are born with birth defects in the US – 1 in 33 children.

Birth defects are conditions that are present when a baby is born and can affect nearly every part of the body. Some conditions such as cleft lip can be easy to diagnose, while others – such as deafness or heart defects – may only be discovered following diagnostic testing.

Each year in the US, around 120,000 babies are born with birth defects – one every 4.5 minutes. In total, birth defects affect 1 in 33 babies born in the country and are the cause of 1 in 5 infant deaths during the first year of life.

According to March of Dimes, birth defects are not only common and critical, they are also costly. Each year, birth defects-related hospital costs in the US exceed $2.6 billion.

Birth defects are caused by a variety of different factors that can lead to conditions forming at any stage of pregnancy. Genetic inheritance, individual behavior and environmental factors can all work together to result in birth defects.

The following is a list of 10 of the most common birth defects in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • Down syndrome – 6,037 cases a year
  • Cleft lip (with or without cleft palate) – 4,437 cases a year
  • Cleft palate without cleft lip – 2,651 cases a year
  • Atrioventricular septal defect (hole in the heart) – 1,966 cases a year
  • Absence of malformation of the rectum and/or large intestine – 1,952 cases a year
  • Gastroschisis (hole in the abdominal wall) – 1,871 cases a year
  • Tetralogy of Fallot (a combination of heart defects) – 1,657 cases a year
  • Spina bifida without anencephaly – 1,460 cases a year
  • Reduction deformity, upper limbs – 1,454 cases a year
  • Reversal of the heart’s two main arteries – 1,252 cases a year.

“Birth defects can have a serious physical and emotional impact, not only on those affected, but also on their families and communities,” says Coleen Boyle, director of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

With these points in mind, preventing birth defects can have a widespread positive effect.

Experts do not know what causes more than 60% of birth defects, though they are aware there are certain measures that can be taken in order to reduce the risk of their occurrence.

“Although not all birth defects can be prevented, there are steps women can take to increase the chances of having a baby born without birth defects,” explains Leslie Beres, president of the National Birth Defects Prevention Network (NBDPN). “Small steps like visiting a health care provider regularly and consuming 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid daily before and during pregnancy can go a long way.”

The “P” in PACT stands for planning ahead. If a mother wishes to have a healthy baby, it is best to start preparing prior to conception. The majority of birth defects occur during the first 3 months of pregnancy, when the baby’s organs are forming, so being prepared from the get-go can improve a baby’s chances.

According to the CDC, around half of pregnancies are unplanned. As a result, all women of childbearing age are recommended to follow advice to ensure the best possible health for babies.

Foods high in folic acid

  • Asparagus, cooked, 1 cup: 243 mcg
  • Beef liver, braised, 3 ounces: 215 mcg
  • Black-eyed peas, boiled, ½ cup: 179 mcg
  • Lentils, boiled, ½ cup: 179 mcg
  • Broccoli, cooked, 1 cup: 168 mcg.

Learn more about folic acid

Health care professionals identify folic acid – also referred to as folate – as being incredibly important for healthy babies. Folic acid is a B vitamin that reduces the risk of neural tube defects affecting the brains and spines of babies.

If all pregnant women took 400 mcg of folic acid each day during the initial stages of pregnancy, up to 70% of neural tube defects could be prevented.

Such is its importance, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated in 1996 that all grain products labeled as “enriched” had to have folic acid added to them.

Since this mandate – known as folic acid fortification – was passed, a 36% reduction in cases of spina bifida and a 17% reduction in cases of anencephaly (incomplete formation of the brain, skull and scalp) have been recorded.

Genetic counseling can also be an important part of preparing for a healthy pregnancy. Geneticists help people to learn about genetic conditions and find out what the likelihood would be of their child being born with a genetic birth defect, as well as advise screening for genetic conditions.

The “A” in PACT stands for avoiding harmful substances. Harmful substances include drugs such as alcohol and tobacco, as well as substances that can be found in the environment, workplace or home.

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Smoking during pregnancy can cause babies to be born with oral clefts, one of the most common birth defects.

As stated earlier, almost half of pregnancies in the US are unplanned, meaning that babies can be inadvertently exposed to harmful substances before the mother is aware of being pregnant.

In addition to causing birth defects, harmful substances can have other severe consequences including premature birth, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and miscarriage. They can also affect a woman’s health and ability to become pregnant.

According to March of Dimes, smoking during pregnancy causes 20% of oral clefts (lips and palates). Even if a woman smokes before realizing she is pregnant, quitting can still improve the chances of her baby avoiding certain health problems, such as low birth weight.

Some jobs involve exposure to fumes or toxic metals that can be hazardous to the health of unborn children. These should be avoided where possible; ask questions about such hazards in the workplace or consult a doctor if you have any concerns.

Good forward planning is the best way to prevent harmful substances from affecting the health of unborn children. Even if pregnancy does not occur, avoiding harmful substances is beneficial to overall health enough to make this worthwhile.

The “C” in PACT stands for choosing a healthy lifestyle. “A mom’s health during pregnancy has a direct impact on her baby’s health,” says Dr. Siobhan Dolan, medical advisor to the March of Dimes. “There are many things a woman can do to help give her baby the best opportunity to be born healthy.”

There are many other things that women can do to live a healthy life and reduce the risk of the baby developing a birth defect. Key to choosing a healthy lifestyle is following a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and treating long-term conditions such as diabetes.

The babies of women who are overweight have an increased risk of birth defects. Overweight mothers also have an increased risk of miscarriage and complications related to delivery and labor.

Following a healthy diet is crucial to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and any changes in diet need to be long-term rather than viewed as a quick fix. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean proteins and healthy fats and oils is recommended by the NBDPN.

Diabetes can affect the chances of a baby being born with a birth defect if it is not controlled properly. Blood sugar needs to be kept at a healthy level. As many people are unaware that they have this metabolic disease, seeking testing from a doctor may be a good idea for women who are unsure.

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that affects 2-10% of pregnant women, occurring when the body is unable to produce enough insulin to cope with the increased demands of pregnancy. Living a healthy lifestyle could halve this risk, according to study reported by Medical News Today in October 2014.

There are many infections a mother can catch that can increase the risk of birth defects. These include:

The risk of catching these infections can be easily reduced by paying close attention to personal hygiene, making sensible lifestyle choices and getting appropriate vaccinations. However, all potential shots should be discussed with a doctor due to the potential for adverse effects.

“Eating a healthy diet and working toward a healthy weight, keeping diabetes under control, quitting smoking and avoiding second hand smoke and avoiding alcohol – all can help increase the chances of having a healthy baby,” says Leslie Beres.

The “T” in PACT stands for talking to your doctor. Regular contact with a doctor can greatly help with planning ahead, avoiding harmful substances and choosing a healthy lifestyle.

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Regular check-ups with a doctor or midwife mean that any risks to mother or child can be dealt with as soon as possible.

All medications should be discussed with a doctor prior to being taken, including prescription medication, over-the-counter medication and dietary and herbal supplements.

Use of opioid-based painkillers in early pregnancy could double the risk of babies being born with serious heart defects, and other pain medication can also lead to spina bifida or gastroschisis – a hole in the abdominal wall.

Vaccination history should be discussed with a doctor. There are some vaccinations that are best received before becoming pregnant, such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Others such as Tdap – for whooping cough – should be received during pregnancy.

The flu vaccine is best given at specific times, depending whether it is flu season when pregnancy begins or not. Researchers have found that a flu shot given during pregnancy can protect both mother and baby (for up to 6 months) from flu. Pregnant women are more susceptible to severe illness caused by flu.

An important part of planning a pregnancy can be exploring family history. This process is best done with the assistance of a doctor, who can help to identify any relevant information that may influence care during pregnancy. A doctor may recommend specific genetic or nutritional counseling depending on a family’s medical history.

Pregnant women should have regular check-ups – referred to as antenatal care – arranged with a doctor or midwife. These are vital in monitoring the health of both mother and baby and identifying any health risks that may arise as soon as possible.

Men can also play a part in preventing health defects, even if a lot of the onus is on women to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Offering support to people who are considering parenthood can make a difference, particularly when significant lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, are involved.

The American Pregnancy Association (APA) state that raising awareness of Birth Defects Prevention Month – by sending an email to everyone in your address book, for example – could help. “It is free and could easily prompt someone considering parenthood to have a wellness exam or seek genetic counseling,” they suggest.

As some birth defects can run in the family, it is important that men participate fully in any investigations into family medical history that take place.

In recent years, Medical News Today has reported on studies suggesting that a father’s diet and occupation can also influence the risk of birth defects in their infants.

These studies have suggested that men should ensure they receive adequate levels of folate, and men working in certain jobs – including computer scientists, landscapers and hairdressers – were associated with a higher risk of having children with birth defects.

Even if the findings of these studies have not been incorporated into the recommendations of groups such as the NBDPN, if men decide to make similar lifestyle changes to their partners, they could provide an additional level of encouragement that might make big changes a little bit easier.

Birth defects are a widespread health issue, but it does not have to be as prevalent as it is. One of the keys to lowering its prevalence is through raising awareness.

“Many people don’t realize how common birth defects are,” says Coleen Boyle. “Most of us know someone affected by these conditions: a child born with cleft lip and palate, a young girl with Down syndrome, a co-worker who has lost a baby due to a severe heart defect.”

National Birth Defects Prevention Month is well placed at the start of the year. The majority of recommendations for reducing birth defects are linked to living a healthy lifestyle. With the turn of the year fresh in people’s minds and impetus for change in the air, January is a great time for people thinking about children to build the foundations for a happy and healthy pregnancy.

“The New Year will be full of surprises,” says Dr. Dolan. “So even if you’re not pregnant, but want children in the future, resolve to give them a healthy start in life.”

Our Towns: What Happens After the Election

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This note is to kick off a resumed set of chronicles in the “Our Towns” series, after  time away for a long Atlantic project on the origins of this era’s public-health and economic disaster.

The results of that project are here: “Three Weeks That Changed Everything.” If you’re wondering, the three weeks I have in mind are: January 1, 2020—when first mentions of an outbreak of a new “pneumonia type disease” in central China would have appeared in the CIA-produced “President’s Daily Brief,” at the White House, which in normal governing circumstances would have triggered the beginnings of a coordinated federal response—through January 22, when the first diagnosed case of COVID-19 turned up in the United States. I argue that at the start of that time, it might have been possible to contain the disease near its point of origin, before it became a global disaster. By the end of that time, the U.S. had made fateful decisions that put us on our current catastrophic path.

In a bleak way, the past few months have underscored a message Deb Fallows and I have been discussing for years: At a time of federal-government paralysis and worse, the functionality and cohesion at many points in local- and regional-level America have been the main source of resilience.

I am careful to say “at many points” rather than “everywhere,” because some governors, and a handful of mayors, have followed the disastrous federal example of treating the pandemic as another front in the national-politics war, rather than as public-health emergency. But most governors (of both parties), plus an overwhelming majority of mayors (whose offices are usually not strongly partisan), and a larger and larger share of corporate, private, and non-profit organizations have offered such traction, practical-mindedness, and civic spirit as the nation can display at the moment.

Of course, these dispersed efforts are not enough, in coping with a disaster of this scale. If national governance fails, the whole nation suffers—as does the world, which in previous disease crises had relied on the U.S. to take the lead (again, as my Atlantic piece argued). But local, statewide, regional, and private/NGOs are what we have work with—and learn from, and expand—right now.

To kick things off today, three developments that shed light on how the parts of America that still work can be applied to the parts now so badly failing.


1) “Our Common Purpose: Reinventing American Democracy for the 21st Century,” from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences:

I know, I know: Another commission report, with another lofty title, from another worthy institution, grappling with another of our biggest public challenges. But this one is different and is worth paying attention to. (For the record: I saw an early version of the report but had nothing to do with its preparation or contents. The web version of the report is on the Academy’s site here, and a free downloadable PDF is here.)

The report’s diagnosis of America’s civic, cultural, and governing problems will be recognizable to most readers. The real payoff is the recommendations. There are 31 of them, in six categories, and they’re both impressively ambitious and surprisingly practical-minded, which means that—in theory—they are achievable.

For instance, the sweep of the ideas involves proposals as consequential (and logical) as changing the Supreme Court to fixed 18-year terms for justices, with one nomination every two years; or switching to ranked-choice voting in presidential, congressional, and state elections, to avoid third-party “spoiler” results; or adopting the Australian model in which voting in federal elections is an expectation-of-citizenship, like showing up for jury duty. Significant as such changes might be, only one of the 31 proposals would require amending the Constitution—all the rest could be done by Congress or state legislatures, or would require no legal changes at all. The one exception is this—essentially, correcting the Supreme Court’s ruinous Citizens United ruling from 2010:

RECOMMENDATION 1.5 Amend the Constitution to authorize the regulation of election contributions and spending to eliminate undue influence of money in our political system, and to protect the rights of all Americans to free speech, political participation, and meaningful representation in government.

There’s a lot more in the report, not all of which I agree with, but the vast majority of which would make America more workable at all levels of governance. Another example: stronger incentives to encourage a year of national service. And allowing states to create multi-member congressional districts, if in so doing they could reduce gerrymandering and ideologically “safe” seats.

Congratulations to the three directors of the project, Danielle Allen, Stephen Heintz, and Eric Liu, and to their colleagues who held meetings and citizen-hearings all around the country in coming up with their recommendations. This should be one of the roadmaps for digging out of the current rubble. For more on the fixed-term Supreme Court proposal, see a note* at the end of this item.

Also: If you’re looking for a wry, quickly readable, yet informed and edgy discussion of the same topic, I highly recommend Democracy In One Book or Less, by David Litt. Readers of Litt’s previous book, Thanks, Obama, will need little prodding to get his new work. Litt was a young White House speechwriter for Barack Obama, and that previous book, published in 2017, was one of the funnier and more self-aware entries in the special niche-literary category of speechwriters’ memoirs. His new book is not exactly like Schoolhouse Rock, the corny-but-informative ’70s-era video series on how democracy works, including such classics as “I’m Just a Bill.” But it’s in the same spirit: whimsy and pop culture, enlisted toward the end of knowledge. Here’s the Washington Post review of Litt’s book. Read it!

And in the same “bonus reading tips” spirit, please check out Joe Mathews, of Zócalo Public Square, on the useful thought experiment of California declaring independence (it won’t happen, but it’s clarifying to think about); and Quint Studer, a successful businessman who has become a civic leader in Pensacola, Florida, on how to broaden understanding of what it takes for democracies to survive.


2) Right to Start, from the Right to Start Fund and Victor Hwang:

Victor Hwang, originally trained as a lawyer, is a longtime tech entrepreneur and startup evangelist. I came to know him in his years with the entrepreneur-minded Kauffman Foundation, based in Kansas City. While there he emphasized the foundation’s findings that a huge share of America’s net job growth comes from brand-new, startup firms. Bigger firms obviously employ more people, but as time goes on they have little net job creation.

The graph below, produced by the Kauffman Foundation, illustrates the pattern: In most recent years, long-established firms (gray line) either shed more jobs than they create, or add only modest numbers overall. By contrast, new firms (blue line) have added one to two million jobs nearly every year. The point is obvious once you think about it: Since startup firms, by definition, have no existing jobs to lose, every job they create is a net plus. But Hwang and his Kauffman colleagues have long emphasized a less obvious implication: that if an economy wants new jobs, it needs to foster the creation of new firms.

“New” firms are responsible for most net job creation in the U.S. economy. (Graphic courtesy of the Kauffman Foundation)

Now Hwang has devoted himself full-time to policies at the national, state, and local level that will make it easier rather than harder to start a small business, a small factory, even (someday) a small restaurant. Obviously this is all the more important now, as the small businesses that have been so crucial in city-by-city revival (as I described here) have come under new, intense pressure.

At Kauffman, Hwang helped write the “America’s New Business Plan” policy guideline, which begins this way:

America’s future depends on entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs not only embody the American spirit, they also power our economy. The new businesses they start account for nearly all net new job creation… [Yet] starting and building a business has become harder and rarer in most of America….

America remains a nation with vivid entrepreneurial dreams. More than 60% of Americans have a dream business in mind they would love to create, and more than 40% would quit their job and start a business in the next six months if they had the tools and resources they needed…

There is a hole at the center of our economic discussion where hope should be.  

Victor Hwang and his colleagues wrote that, and the rest of the manifesto, before the pandemic upended everything. But I think their recommendations for state legislators and regulators (here), for local officials and policy makers (here), and for federal candidates and office-holders (here) are worth your time and attention.

Update: Victor Hwang’s organization has just released a video from Tulsa, about “The Legacy of Black Wall Street” there. The reference is of course to the “Tulsa Race Massacre” of 1921, whose centennial the city is planning to observe in appropriate ways next year.


3) The Career Certificates Program, from Grow with Google:

Back at the dawn of time, I wrote an Atlantic cover story called “The Case Against Credentialism.” It argued that the American higher-education system and associated “meritocracy” had less and less to do with the abilities that should enable people of different backgrounds to get ahead, or with the professional competence that society needed.

That is: Parents understood that getting children into the right preschool helped them get into the right prep school, which helped them get the right test scores, which helped them get into the right college, which helped them … in some general way. (Mainly by getting to the top rather than the bottom of an unequal economy.) But as a society looked at the twin goals of maximizing opportunity and rewarding real performance, it made less and less sense to enable a system that gives such an edge to those who start out with advantages.

This is a point many people recognize in principle, though it is hard to implement in practice. It’s a reason Deb and I have given such emphasis to community colleges over the years, for instance here (about Kansas and Michigan) and here (about Ohio). Community colleges matter because they are the part of the U.S. educational system most committed to matching people who need opportunities with the opportunities this era has opened up.

The high-tech industry is not often seen as a vehicle of rapid class mobility within the United States. For people from around the world, yes! Less so for people without financial or educational advantages inside the U.S.

In the past few years, Deb and I have often referred to initiatives by Grow With Google, a non-profit arm of Google started in 2017 and devoted to applying advanced tech tools to job-search, civic resilience, and local-startup ends. (For the record: Grow With Google was an underwriter for some of our travel and reporting last year. Deb and I had known, liked, and collaborated with members of this organization in the time well before their business relationship with the Atlantic—and have stayed in touch with them thereafter.)  

This past week Grow With Google announced a new program to offer transferrable certificates, in a variety of tech-related fields. The crucial aspect here is the standardization and nationwide (or international) transferability of these credentials. The training may be under Google’s auspices, but the goal is a credential that people can use to show their proficiency when applying for jobs elsewhere.

“Everyone says ‘Bachelor’s degree or equivalent’ in job listings,” Lisa Gevelber, VP of Global Marketing and a leading figure in Grow With Google, told me last week. “But there was no standard definition of what that ‘equivalent’ is.” Five years ago I wrote about an effort in San Bernardino, California, to provide a standardized, transferrable credential in machine-tool and similar skills. Grow With Google is trying to do that on a much broader scale, in an array of skills that have much faster-than-average growth in job availability, and much higher-than-average wages. In addition to tech-related fields like IT support, the certificates cover project-management and data-analytics skills that can be applied in a range of industries.

“A college degree is just out of reach for lots of folks, but a great job doesn’t have to be,” Gevelber told me. “People want to get started, but they don’t know what would be a specific, realistic pathway.” The new certification program, operated in partnership with 100 community colleges around the country (and eventually with “career technical” programs at many high schools), intends to offer the same kind of specific “here’s the next step” certification that people intending to be lawyers have with the LSAT and law degrees, or that aspiring pilots have with FAA certifications. The program also offers its students extensive free “soft skill” training—practice in writing resumes, preparing for job interviews, and generally filling in the background that people from more advantaged backgrounds would already have. Students in these programs pay $49 per month to Coursera, which hosts them. Lisa Gevelber said that students typically finish in three to six months, at a total cost of $150 to $300—and that Google is funding 100,000 scholarships, in addition to other reduced-cost options.

Standardized degrees for professional-class America—the BA, the PhD, the law and medical and related credentials—have been indispensable tools of mobility and opportunity for many people. Standardized and portable credentials for the rest of America are also important, which is why I think this initiative deserves notice.


The main theme of my pandemic article was that people have thought hard about  “gray rhino” challenges—problems that, unlike “black swans,” are foreseeable and inevitable, but whose timing is unknown. In earlier administrations, they had come up with plans that could have saved us incalculable suffering, cost, and woe.

Something similar is true of these civic and economic plans. People have thought about this! We should listen to them.

How social isolation affects mental and physical health

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Posted in Healthy lifestyle
  • Social isolation can negatively affect mental health, as well as physical health. 
  • Research has found that perceived social isolation and loneliness are associated with depression, cognitive decline, poor sleep quality, a weaker immune system, and potential heart problems. 
  • Here are some of the best ways to stay mentally and physically healthy during social isolation. 
  • This article was medically reviewed by Mayra Mendez, Ph.D., LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center. 
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

More than three in five Americans report feeling lonely, and that number has been rising. And now, the coronavirus outbreak has led even more of us to experience some level of social isolation. 

It’s widely recommended that everyone practice social distancing, which means staying six feet away from others and keeping trips to public spaces like grocery stores to a minimum. Moreover, people who have potentially been exposed to the coronavirus are told to quarantine at home for at least 14 days. 

Social isolation, at such a stressful time, can contribute to anxiety and have a negative impact on mental health. Here’s how you can stay as mentally healthy as possible. 

Social isolation can negatively affect mental and physical health 

Humans are social animals, and being isolated can have a big impact on our health, says Zlatin Ivanov, MD, a New York-based psychiatrist. 

“All our systems, including social, psychological and biological, have developed around social groups and interaction with one another,” Ivanov says. “Social isolation in most cases would bring the negative effect of loneliness, anxiety, and sometimes depression.”

Social isolation is hard to define, but what matters most is whether a person feels lonely, which scientists refer to as perceived social isolation. While this can have negative effects on mental health, it can also harm physical health. 

For example, research has found that perceived social isolation is associated with depression, cognitive decline, heart troubles, and a weakened immune system. In addition, one study found that loneliness can lead to a 30% increase in risk of coronary artery disease and stroke. The study’s authors suggest this is because of higher levels of stress, poor sleep, and unhealthy lifestyle habits — which are more likely to occur with less social interaction and accountability. 

Families with immunocompromised children, who have to practice social distancing in normal circumstances, are also known to suffer physical and mental health consequences. Plus, Ivanov says the effects of isolation get worse with time. 

“The longer the period of isolation, the more likely it becomes for the individual to show signs of anxiety, loneliness, and depression and other mental afflictions,” he says. 

How to stay mentally healthy during social isolation 

Many studies about the negative effects of isolation have looked at people who are not readily able to communicate with others. But that’s not the case with coronavirus, where millions of people are physically isolated but able to keep in touch via technology. 

One important way to protect your mental health during social isolation is continuing to communicate with those you love, using technology like video chat. 

Ivanov also recommends the following:

  • Exercise: Exercise is a well-documented stress reducer. It boosts endorphins (our feel-good chemicals) and decreases stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline. Even during social isolation, you can still safely go for a run, workout at your desk, and maintain strength and muscle.  
  • Meditate: Research has found that meditation can reduce anxiety and depression. A 2019 study of mobile meditation apps found that 10 minutes per day of meditation made college students feel less depressed and more resilient. The more they used the apps, the stronger the results were — though further research is needed to gauge whether these benefits can last over long periods of time. 
  • Connect with nature: Getting outdoors, especially into sunshine and green space, can improve mood by slowing activity in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that has been associated with anxiety. If you can’t get outside, listening to natural sounds (like that of rain or birds) or even looking at pictures can help. 

Overall, these activities can stimulate the production of neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins, all of which promote mental health and stability, Ivanov says. 

Focusing on what you’re grateful for — like spending time with family or getting to try a new hobby — can also help lift your mood and combat the effects of isolation. For example, one small study of 32 healthy people found that gratitude meditation could improve mental health and emotional regulation. 

The researchers used brain imaging scans and found that connections in the brain were activated during the meditation, and participant’s heart rates were lowered. Further research is needed, they said, to study the potential long-term effects. But overall, Ivanov says meditating on what you’re grateful for can be a helpful tool to try. 

“We need to stay aware of what makes us happy and brings joy to our daily life,” Ivanov says.

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Do you have a personal experience with the coronavirus you’d like to share? Or a tip on how your town or community is handling the pandemic? Please email [email protected] and tell us your story.

Is an unhealthy lifestyle more harmful for poor people?

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Posted in Healthy lifestyle
A socioeconomic gradient has been observed in morbidity and mortality in the UK and elsewhere.

1

  • Mackenbach JP
  • Stirbu I
  • Roskam AJ
  • et al.
Socioeconomic inequalities in health in 22 European countries.