7 simple steps for a healthy, happy 2013

By Lynn Maarouf

Statistics tell us the “average” American gains a lot of weight over the holidays. Many people who usually eat well are pressured by loving hosts to eat high-calorie foods they would never choose on an ordinary day.

Let’s look at a few simple steps to stay healthy and make it a lucky 2013:

1. Move it! The best time to exercise is before a holiday meal. It gets your metabolism revved-up to burn those calories off faster. Take a trip to the gym or spend an hour walking before you eat. A nice piece of cake will be at least 300 calories. It would take a minimum of 50 minutes of walking for most of us to burn that off.

2. Fill up with fiber and water. Eat a high-fiber cereal with at least 8 grams of fiber in the morning. This helps you feel less hungry and decreases the temptation to overeat. Aim for 20 grams of fiber a day and a big appetite won’t be a big problem. Break out those sandwich thins for five extra grams of fiber. And drink enough water to help that fiber swell and take up lots of room.

3. Sodas, maybe not? Water is essential at times of the year when tempting food is everywhere. Try some Propel for calorie-free, liquid energy, but be careful about sodas and liquor. Each 12-ounce soda equals 24 minutes of walking for most women to burn off and 20 minutes for men. Ditto with alcohol. It would take about an hour to walk off the calories in three alcoholic drinks — unless you are planning on dancing the night away.

4. Use high-tech tools. As America’s waistlines expand, so do our fitness options. Old or new, whatever music suits you, put on some music and dance. Search for fitness and nutrition apps for your iPhone or Android. Check out MyFitnessPal and calorie counter apps that help you track your workouts and add up the calories that you ate and burned. Many of these apps are free.

5. Healthy desserts. Research continues to point to healthy foods as disease fighters. Make a spiced fruit salad, nut bread or a light pudding — foods that have a nutritional value, not just sugar and fat.

6. Manage stress. Holidays cause stress, which can lead to overeating. One of the best ways to manage stress and rev up your metabolism is a quick trip to the gym or a walk in the crisp morning air. Consider a good book, meditation or yoga. Make sure there is some “me” time in your schedule.

7. Sleep off some pounds? More studies are pointing to lack of sleep as a cause of weight gain. Turn off the 10 o’clock news and get a solid eight hours of sleep. Not getting enough sleep increases our risk for accidents too. Something as easy as eight hours of sleep could increase our chances for weight loss — science suggests that it will — so why not give it a try?

Check off the tips you feel you can use and get 2013 off to a healthy and happy start!

Lynn Maarouf is a registered dietician offering diabetes education and nutrition counseling at the Stark Diabetes Center at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston.

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