Healthy Living 101
Ever find yourself feeling like you 'need a cleanse' or a drastic change in lifestyle and diet in order to get back to a state of health you once enjoyed? Perhaps your goal is to lose some weight or to gain back some of that precious energy you had months or years ago? Do you find yourself dependent on caffeine, caving into sugar cravings during the day, or salty late-night snacks? Is it all you can do to muster the energy to get home after work to make supper, only to crash on the couch afterwards and stay there the rest of the night (never mind getting to the gym or going for a walk in the evening!) Does the thought of starting a new healthy routine overwhelm you?? Keep this in mind: It doesn't have to be complicated! It is possible to see improvements in your energy, weight loss and in other departments by adopting a few simple lifestyle changes. This isn't to say that all health goals are easy to achieve, but it is important to ensure that you are addressing your body's most basic needs and creating a home environment that facilitates healthy living on a day-to-day basis. In my opinion, it is always best to start with simple changes and go from there! HERE ARE MY TOP 10 HEALTHY LIVING TIPS TO GET YOU STARTED ON YOUR HEALTH GOALS:
1. Water Water is essential to health. Yes, you can survive on very little water, but if you are looking to thrive, then ensuring your body is properly hydrated is key! Did you know that in order to produce one unit of energy, called ATP, you need water? Water aids digestion (prevents constipation), aids mineral absorption, helps to regulate body temperature, 'lubricates' joints, eases muscle tension, and helps clean our blood. So how much water should you drink? Aim to drink half of your body weight (pounds) in ounces daily (to about a maximum of 250 lbs body weight). For example, if you are 150 lbs aim to drink 75 oz of water daily (divide ounces by 8 to get cups of water per day). Keep in mind, if you are physically active, drinking alcohol, taking certain medications, or sweating, you may need to increase your daily water beyond this formula. Generally speaking, it is better to drink water or herbal teas at room temperature or hot. Keep in mind that herbal teas that naturally contain no caffeine count towards your daily amount of water. Water can also be infused with lemon, lime or other tasty fruits for extra flavour. Or try a homemade healthy 'iced tea', by chilling your favourite herbal tea, adding some lemon and honey or Stevia for a touch of sweet. Sorry, coffee, pop, juice and other non-water beverages do not count. In fact, many of these beverages are dehydrating. It is best to drink your daily water between meals, waiting at least 30-45 minutes before and after eating to resume drinking. Furthermore, it is best to drink the majority of your total daily amount in the early part of the day and less in the latter part of the day. Try starting each day with at least 2 cups of warm water with lemon. Lastly, be sure to finish your daily water at least 3 hours before bedtime—you don't want that water disturbing your sleep at night! 2. Breakfast Always Most people do best with eating breakfast within an hour or so of waking. As mentioned previously, be sure to drink about 2 cups of warm water with lemon on waking, and then wait about 30min before eating your breakfast. The warm water is a nice 'wake up call' to your stomach after a night of sleep. What you choose to eat for breakfast will depend on your individual needs and desires, but keep in mind that a hearty breakfast will give you the energy you need and help stave off cravings later on in the day. If your appetite is low, or you struggle with morning nausea, be sure to discuss this with your naturopathic doctor, as there could be underlying health reasons which may need to be addressed. At the very least, a nutritious breakfast smoothie can be an easy on-the-go option for those that feel they don't have time for creating a big spread or for those with a low morning appetite. Breakfast foods should be low in sugar, high in fibre, and provide a good source of protein whenever possible. 3. Protein Foods that are a good source of protein will provide lasting energy and satiation through the day. Dietary protein is necessary for growth, immune function, tissue repair, and is a major source of energy for the body. Protein helps to prevent dips in blood sugar during the day. The amount of protein each person needs will be dependent on their body weight, age, and health status. It is crucial that the first meal of the day have adequate protein to help give you that boost you need (aim for a breakfast that provides a minimum of 10 grams of protein, and possibly upwards of 25 grams). Ever important is it to explore plant-based sources of protein rather than relying exclusively on animal sources—e.g. legumes, whole grains such as quinoa, seeds, and broccoli. One tip I often suggest is to have a vegetarian breakfast and lunch, and save animal-based protein for the supper meal. A 'lighter' lunch, filled with plant-based protein, will often keep energy levels up at a time of day when many people feel they could use a nap! 4. Meal Prep I cannot preach the benefits of weekly meal prep enough! Planning meals for at least 5 out of 7 days per week can save time, money, and prevent rash decisions after a long day at work. This does require some time investment in the beginning, but after a few weeks you will get the hang of it! I often find that 3-4hrs is sufficient to prepare all the necessary food for 5 days. For example, you will want to prepare for at least 2 breakfast options, salads/ soups/ leftovers for lunches, 2-3 supper meals, and have some healthy mid-afternoon snacks on hand. Once you know what you are making, you can also plan your grocery shopping list – this will prevent food-wasting and save you money! Planning ahead can also mean making large batches (e.g. Soup) and canning/ freezing for a later date. It's such a relief when you wake up on a Tuesday morning and your lunch is ready to be packed and dinner can be reheated after work! 5. Get Moving! Sitting is the new cigarette smoking, so they say! Find small, creative ways to increase your physical activity every day. Park farther from your destination to allow for a longer walk, take the stairs, go for a 15-20min walk over your lunch or coffee break, take your bike to work, get on the treadmill while you watch your favourite program, follow a 15min online guided yoga video, play outside with the kids, turn on some music and dance like nobody's watching, do jumping jack's for 5min during a break at work, etc. If you feel you are up to the challenge, join a fitness program or gym and set a realistic goal of going 1-2x per week for starters. And if that is not in the budget, simply going for a 30-45min walk 3-5 days per week can be a great form of exercise for beginners. 6. Sleep I'm always amazed at how many of my patients are sleep-deprived yet complain about feeling tired! The average adult does best with about 8hrs of sleep per night, with a portion of that sleep before midnight. It is necessary for most people to allow time to 'unwind' before falling asleep (at least 1hr), and some may do best with a small snack before bed to prevent night-wakings due to blood sugar fluctuations. Aim for a bedtime between 9-11pm and plan to be in bed for 7-8hrs each night. Short naps can be helpful during the day, but the keyword is 'short' – aim for a10-20min nap if you feel you need it. For some, part of the problem can be an underlying sleep disorder, which may be related to hormone changes, mental health issues or pain syndromes—if this sounds like you, be sure to talk to your naturopathic doctor about what else can be done to help. 7. Vegetables Would it shock you to hear that you should aim to eat 3-9 cups of vegetables daily? While 9 cups may sound shocking, 3 cups should be totally do-able. Tips: salads, raw veggies with hummus, roasted vegetables, vegetable soup, noodles made from zucchini or spaghetti squash, green smoothies, or vegetable stir-fry. Vegetables are filled with vital vitamins and nutrients, are a good source of fibre, and are low in calories. 8. The Avoid & Limit List While a little here and there may not be a big problem, there are some foods and beverages everyone should consider limiting or avoiding altogether. These items provide no benefit to your overall health, and often present a health risk. Here is the list:
>1-2 cups coffee in the morning
refined carbohydrates (white bread, baked goods, pasta) & foods with added sugar
trans- and saturated fats (e.g. deep-fried food, fast food)
red meat & pork
cured meats & processed/ luncheon meats
barbequed/ charred foods (especially meats)
foods with preservatives, colour, and artificial sweeteners.
9. Screen-Time We live in a digital age where there is little to no escape from screens for most of us. Many of us rely on our devices to stay connected, keep us organized and perform at our jobs. What we all need to recognize is that screen-time is exhausting for our brains. We (especially children) need time away from the screen, to relax and rejuvenate. Furthermore, social media can be an unrecognized source for anxiety. Set personal boundaries for you and your family –e.g. No screen time at the dinner table, 1-2 hours before bedtime, and set personal limits for daily usage outside of work. Consider periodically doing a 'social media cleanse', by stepping away from these platforms to focus on real-time life and maintaining connections in other formats. When we limit our screen time we often find ourselves feeling calmer and more focused. 10. Journal Keeping a daily journal is a great way to monitor your habits, your progress and to keep you accountable. It can also be an outlet to express your deepest, most private feelings. Journals can act as a great point of reference when looking back at how far you have come. A journal can be used to track your diet, your specific health concerns, your feelings/emotions and your personal health goals. Better health is within your reach! Whether you are in need of a health coach or want to try a few things before connecting with a naturopathic doctor, consider putting this Top 10 list into action and see if you can feel the difference. I'm willing to bet that within a couple of weeks of following these guidelines you will almost undoubtedly notice a difference!