Life Times Newsletter

Winter 2007
Vol. 9, No. 1

Take small steps to better health

Linda S. Rellergert, MS
Nutrition & Health Education Specialist

The shortest route to better health comes in small steps rather than giant leaps. Little changes are easier than big ones, yet add up to great improvements over time. Each small step is movement in a healthier direction and far better than grand goals that prove too ambitious to attain.

The best place to begin is with the step that sounds the easiest. A quick success provides encouragement to keep going, and leads to more successes. Setting the bar too high is more likely to lead to failure.

Break lofty goals into small, manageable steps like the examples given below. Experts say a new habit requires at least 21 days to become established. Wait until this new step has become firmly rooted before taking another. One step will lead to moreóand to better habits that last for life.

Here are some small steps to try:

For healthier eating habits

  • Eat one more piece of fruit every day. Whole fruit has fiber and more phytochemicals than fruit juice.
  • Try a new vegetable every week. Recipes are available in grocery store produce aisles, as well as in the newspaper.
  • Set out a bowl of fruit to tempt snackers at the office and at home.
  • Add one more whole-grain food per day. Whole-grain foods like graham crackers, brown rice, oatmeal, popcorn, and whole-wheat bread have more flavor and fiber than enriched grain products like white rice, white bread, pasta or pretzels.
  • Keep a bag of washed, cut up raw veggies handy for a quick snack. Place it next to a container of salad dressing and in a visible spot in the refrigerator.
  • Order soup and salad combo instead of burger with fries once a week.
  • Eat breakfast. Something (even leftover pizza or spaghetti!) is better than nothing. Eat breakfast at coffee break time if food is unappealing early in the morning.
  • Drink milk with at least one meal for the essential calcium, phosphorous and other bone builders it contains.
  • Eat to satisfy hunger rather than boredom or an emotional need. Hobbies, volunteering or physical activity make better ways to use time.
  • Serve snacks on a plate or in a bowl. An open bag or carton is an invitation to eat mindlessly until itís all gone.
  • Resign from the "Clean Plate Club." Eat until youíre comfortably full. Eating more food than needed is as wasteful as leaving it on the plate.
  • Use water in place of one soft drink per day. Soft drinks, fruit-flavored beverages and sports drinks bring little to the table besides calories. Water is a better thirst quencher than these other beverages.

For improved fitness

  • Take a two-minute walk during your lunch break. Almost everyone can walk for this short time period. Next week increase it to five minutes.
  • Park farther away from the door than you normally do. (Keep safety in mind, of course!)
  • While watching TV, exercise during commercials. Try calisthenics, like push ups and scrunches. Or keep hand weights next to your easy chair, and put them to use while the ads play.
  • Energize with a fitness break instead of a coffee or soda break. Take a quick walk around your house or office building instead of drinking a caffeinated beverage when the mid-afternoon slump hits.
  • Make a play date. Kids arenít the only ones who need to schedule time for fun with friends. Make plans for a game of basketball, ping pong, shuffleboard, bowling.
  • Walk around the block after dinner. Take along your child, spouse, or a friend.
  • Fit in a few wall pushups while waiting for copies at the copy machine, or for the clothes dryer cycle to end.
  • Stuck in a traffic jam? Neck and shoulder stretches will relieve tension and aid flexibility.
  • Do leg lifts or calf raises while talking on the phone.
  • Use the appointment calendar feature on your computer to remind you to take a stretch break.

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University of Missouri Extension Editor: Roxanne T. Miller