You know that health care costs are going to keep going up. As nice as it would be if health insurance companies, hospitals and doctors could all get on the same page and figure out some incentives for healthy living, and as nice as it would be to end up with health care reform that is effective, we’re probably just going to see increased costs. This means that it’s up to you to reduce your health insurance costs and other health care costs. One of the best ways to improve health is to live a healthier lifestyle. While you can never fully protect against accidents and some diseases (like cancer and genetic diseases), you can improve your overall health and reduce your chances of heart disease, obesity and diabetes — all of which can get quite costly.
If you are looking to improve your health, you can take a few small steps to change your lifestyle so that you are developing habits that can keep you on the right track. Here are 10 simple ways you can work toward improving your health:
- Get an hour more of sleep per day: Good sleep helps your body function better. If you aren’t getting 7-9 hours of sleep, try to add an hour of sleep to your routine. Depending on your age, you will need to decide on quantity versus quality when it comes to sleep.
- Set out some easy-to-eat fruit: I struggle because I have a sweet tooth. One thing that has helped me cut back on candy is to have grapes, dried mangoes, prunes, clementines (fast and easy to peel) and other sweet fruits readily available. That way, when I wonder into the kitchen looking for an easy snack, the fruit is right there. And it’s sweet enough to satisfy my craving — most of the time.
- Replace one drink per day with water: Instead of that sweetened “sports” drink, or that soda, drink water. Replace one can/Big Gulp/20 oz. bottle each day with water. If you must have flavor in your water, there are low calorie options that lightly flavor your water for you. Even drinking a glass of lowfat milk is better for you than a 20 oz. soda. At the very least, downgrade the size of the sweetened drinks you are guzzling.
- Daily relaxation: If you take 15-20 minutes each day to relax, via yoga, meditation, some sort of journal writing, or non-demanding reading, you can improve your health by reducing stress. It can even help you lose weight more efficiently when combined with other healthy behaviors!
- Slow down at mealtime: Give your body time to register that it is consuming food and getting full. This way, you will consume fewer calories, and possibly enjoy your food more. Not to mention you can enjoy extra time with your family.
- Replace one meat entree a week with a vegetarian alternative: You can boost your health by eating less red meat. Pick one entree a week, and replace it with a tasty vegetarian entree. Not only will you boost your health, but you will be living greener. At the very least, replace one beef, chicken or pork entree with a fish entree.
- Walk a little more: You’ve heard the advice about parking your care further from the store. This is actually good advice! You can walk a little more throughout the day. Take five minute mini-walks two or three times a day when you go on break. Adding more vigorous exercise to your schedule is even better.
- Replace white bread with brown: White bread, rice and pasta is less healthy than brown varieties. You’ll be surprised at how flavorful whole grain bread can be, and amazed at the different varieties (and colors) of rice available. You can ease into whole grain pasta by getting the mixed pastas that combine white and wheat.
- Add variety to your salad: Replace boring iceberg lettuce with flavorful spinach (which is much better raw than cooked, IMO), red lettuce and other leafy vegetables found in “spring mix” bags. These colored leaves are higher in nutrients, and they can add a little more variety to your meals. Bonus points if you grow your own!
- Pay attention to portions: Try reducing your portion sizes of meats and breads, and increasing your portions of fruits and vegetables. Watch portion size: a six ounce sirloin is actually two serving sizes of beef. Add an extra vegetable side to your meal to make up for the smaller entree portion.
Of course, if you have habits like smoking or excessive alcohol consumption, you will want to go for moderation or even completely kick the smoking habit. That will have the largest positive impact of anything that you try on your health.
You tell us if there are some other ideas that you have tried and how it worked out. We would love to know about them.