Four People Walking on a Road

Small Steps to Better Health

Do you want to live a healthier lifestyle, but are not sure how to begin?

Most people are motivated to live healthier when they are diagnosed with a chronic illness such as cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes.  This is because we know that lifestyle habits such as staying physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthful foods, and not smoking work together to help achieve better health.  Lifestyle interventions can significantly reduce health risks such as high blood pressure, high blood fats, high blood glucose and overweight/obesity which can lead to these chronic illnesses.  However, you don’t need to wait until you are diagnosed with a chronic disease to live healthier.  Think prevention and ways you can reduce your health risks and improve your well-being.

Woman Doing Tai Chi on a Rock

Keep moving to stay healthy.

While our intention to practice healthy living is honorable, it requires action to learn what to do and the motivation to adopt practices that improve and maintain good health.  Healthy living should be a way of life encompassing many aspects including healthy eating, regular physical activity, and maintaining a healthy weight.  Temporary changes in behavior are short-lived and do not significantly reduce health risks.

So what works for you?  While everyone has a different health profile, it has been shown that small steps can bring about big rewards leading to better health.  As you plan your health goals think about research-based recommendations and what small, significant changes you can make to improve the quality of your life.

Consider these suggestions as a smart start to get you going.

Choose nutrient-rich foods more often than energy-dense foods.

Select your foods carefully.  Use the Nutrition Facts food label to make healthful choices.  Select foods that are rich in protein, healthy fats, healthy carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and iron.  Reduce intake of foods containing unhealthy fats such as saturated fats and trans fats, excess sodium, and added sugars.

Eat a variety of food in reasonable portions.

A simple way to practice portion control is to use plates, bowls, and cups that hold reasonable size food servings based on your calorie requirements.  Make meal planning easy by using a 9-inch plate.  The size of the plate will help to moderate your portions and prevent over eating.  Click here to visit USDA MyPlate Everything You Eat and Drink Matters – Focus on Variety, Amount, and Nutrition to learn how to set-up your plate.

Eat more fresh foods and less processed foods.

Fresh foods are healthier than processed foods for a variety of reasons.  In particular, processed foods tend to contain excess amounts of unhealthy fats, sodium, added sugars, and calories.

Stay Active

Check with your healthcare provider first before beginning any physical activity program. Once you get the green light to be active, develop a plan that will work for you and get going!