Speaking of healthy ways to spend your day, have you ever tried eating like an Italian?
Joining a gym, stressing less and dropping those last few pounds are perfectly adequate New Year’s resolutions, but they’re not the only good-for-you goals to aim for directly after January 1. If you’re behind on the promises you made on January 1 or just want to get even healthier, why not make a couple more now? This year, we challenge you to all your get-healthy energy on (arguably) your most important asset: your heart.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), heart disease is the No. 1 killer of both men and women in the U.S. In fact, nearly half a million Americans die every year from heart disease. As you age, your risk of heart disease also increases, making it more important than ever to focus on a heart-healthy lifestyle. Elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides are common cardiovascular issues among adults, says registered dietitian Jenny Champion. They can all be caused -- or exacerbated by -- a poor diet, weight gain, lack of physical activity, genetics and smoking.
Try these simple, effective resolutions now to boost your heart health:
1. Be active, but not just at the gym.
You may already hit the gym, but what does your routine outside of the weight room look like? Boosting your activity throughout the day can significantly improve your cardiovascular health, says Champion, who recommends getting at least 150 minutes of exercise weekly. It’s as simple as taking the stairs at work, walking short distances instead of hopping in the car, and even taking your family on a long weekend hike in lieu of an afternoon spent on the couch.
2. Limit your fat intake.
Calories get a lot of time in the spotlight right after January 1, but what about fat intake? Reducing the amount of saturated and trans fats you eat you can help reduce blood cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease, according to Mayo Clinic. Limit the solid fats, like butter, you use in cooking, and when possible, use low-fat substitutions. Consider buying lean meats, and when you do use fats, opt for olive or canola oil.
3. Stay hydrated.
Champion suggests drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially as you increase your daily activity level. Swap any sugary, calorie-laden sodas and drinks with water, seltzer and tea. Add a drop of fruit juice for some as a low-calorie flavoring.
4. Focus on fiber.
Eating a diet that’s full of fiber-rich whole grain cereals and produce and low in saturated fats and cholesterol can improve triglyceride and cholesterol levels while helping you maintain a healthy weight, Champion says. Start your day with a high-fiber cereal (one great option: Kellogg’s Raisin Bran®, which contains 7 g fiber per serving).
5. Fill up on fruits and veggies.
Consider adding a vegetable to every meal and a fruit to every snack each day, Champion says, to increase your fiber intake and fill up on nutritious, vitamin-packed foods that prevent cardiovascular disease. Keep fresh fruit on hand to eat throughout the day, and choose dinner recipes that make veggies the star of the plate.
“Healthy eating and exercise go hand-in-hand,” Champion says. “When you’re more active, you’ll feel better and be more inclined to fuel your body better. The same goes for your diet -- when you eat better food, you’ll be more energized to get outside and get moving!”
Baby, it’s cold outside – too cold to work out, in fact! If you’re finding yourself moving less and eating more warm, hearty meals this season, you might be starting to get worried about your waistline. Here’s how to fight the battle of the bulge and still come out on top by summer.
1. Don’t believe it’s inevitable.
If you have the expectation that you’re going to pack on extra pounds, odds are you probably will. “People expect to gain weight in the winter, so it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy,” says registered dietitian Robyn Flipse. But it’s not fated to happen that way. You can enjoy holiday parties and homemade baked goods without abandoning all self-control.
2. Cut back on comfort foods.
During winter, we crave the comfort of the hearth, but heavy, warming foods simply contain more calories than cereals or salads. If you can’t shake your mac ’n’ cheese craving, make a lighter version with low-fat milk and reduced-fat cheese. And if you did go overboard with fettuccine Alfredo at lunchtime, balance it out with a serving of wholesome cereal at dinner. (One to consider: 120-calorie Kellogg’s® Special K®. Not only does it tout 11 essential vitamins and minerals per serving, but with so many varieties -- including Kellogg's® Special K® Cereal Fruit & Yogurt and Kellogg's® Special K® Cereal Vanilla Almond -- your taste buds won’t get bored.)
3. Watch your alcohol
“The first drink is not the problem,” says Flipse. “But if you go for the second drink, you lose your discretion, so you may be eating more carelessly than if you were sipping a cup of tea.” And don’t forget, alcohol itself contains a fair number of calories (especially cream-based and sweet concoctions).
Embrace the cold weather.
The need to remain active to stay slim is important all year long; so if you’re the type to hibernate in the winter months, make a concerted effort to exercise more. Use the snowy landscape as an excuse to try snowshoeing or ice-skating, and you may be invigorated by the change in your exercise routine. And if you really can’t handle the cold, there’s always the shopping mall (do indoor laps!) and exercise DVDs.
Daylight savings has gone away -- making for dark, early nights -- and the temptation to get comfy is overpowering. “But clothes with elastic waistbands are very forgiving,” says Flipse. “It’s very easy not to notice you’re expanding underneath them.” Stick to pants that are belted or fitted, and you’ll be less likely to pack on extra pounds.