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Food/Nutrition Columnist Author: Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN - Food and Nutrition Columnist - Last Updated: Sep 7, 2017 - 10:06:33 PM

Spring Cleaning for Health

By Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN - Food and Nutrition Columnist -
Mar 24, 2014 - 12:04:21 AM

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( - Now that winter is behind us, it is the perfect time to focus on your health. What does healthy look like? It doesn't have to be massive changes in the way you live and eat. It can be a simple matter of paying attention to what you do daily and making small incremental changes toward eating better and moving every day. As you take charge of your health, you inspire those around you - family, friends and coworkers - to do the same. Healthy living can be contagious!

Don't fall for fad diet claims. Diets come and go but one thing never changes - calories count. If you really want to lose weight, cutting calories and increasing activity are proven strategies for success. If a serving of food equals:

  • 40 calories - it is a low calorie food
  • 100 calories - it is a moderate calorie food
  • 400 or more calories - it is a high calorie food.

This simple shortcut can help you make a quick decision about which food to pick. If a bag of potato chips says it contains 100 calories in a serving, ask yourself, when was the last time you ate 15 chips and stopped? Serving size and the portion you eat may not always be the same.

Grab a buddy and get active. Being active does not mean an expensive gym membership. A workout buddy can even be your dog who will love a jog or walk in the park. We know that small bouts of activity done throughout the day add up to calories burned, muscles exercised and lungs expanded.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you work on the tenth floor, get off the elevator on the sixth. Every flight counts whether it is up or down. Walk the mall once before you start shopping. Ask an office mate to go window shopping at lunch. Talk and walk more, eat less. Lift weights or walk on the treadmill while watching your favorite TV show.

Eat more fruits and vegetables. There is no getting around this one, fruits and vegetables are nature's superfoods. The more you eat the healthier you will be. Five servings a day are good, 9 are ideal. If you rarely eat any, start with one at each meal -juice for breakfast, an apple at lunch and broccoli for dinner. OK, you hate broccoli, how about sliced peaches, raw carrots or watermelon wedges at dinner. Be creative, think about options you've never considered before. The goal is to eat more. The combination you choose is not important. How about fresh strawberries sprinkled with a little sugar for dessert?

Though fun to eat, the following cannot be counted toward your daily fruit and vegetable intake because of their high fat, sugar and sodium content.

  • Deep fried, battered vegetables
  • Candy or chocolate coated dried fruits
  • Heavily sugared or salted foods - dill pickles or candied fruits
  • Fruit leathers, fruit roll-up or gummy fruit snacks
  • Fruit and vegetable drinks with a small percentage of real juice

Stay hydrated. You don't have to tote around a water bottle everywhere you go, but you do need to drink enough fluids daily. Everything counts, except alcohol. Even coffee and tea can be part of your daily fluid intake. Though both are slightly dehydrating, neither causes you to lose as much fluid as once believed. If you are not a water drinker, jazz it up to make it more appealing.  Freeze any fruit juice you enjoy in ice cube trays and use the fruit cubes to flavor water, seltzer, or even diet ginger ale. You add flavor and a small nutrient boost with very few calories. Being well hydrated helps your body work more efficiently, prevents constipation, lowers blood pressure, and helps to prevent wrinkles.

Be a good role model. Research has shown that poor health habits can be spread through our social network - work, school, and home. We tend to imitate the behaviors of others. Be a positive influence. Order your latte without whip - save calories and make your coworker think twice. Eat an apple and hand one to your child, instead of a cookie or chips. Remember, monkey see, monkey do. Go outside and play catch with the kids instead of watching a TV show. As the days get longer and warmer you can do something active as a family after dinner.

Bottom line: The road to good health is always under construction. You will hit a pothole or two. Shrug it off and go right back to working toward a healthier more active you. Good health is worth the effort.

© NRH Nutrition Consultants, Inc.
Jo-Ann Heslin, MA, RD, CDN is a registered dietitian and the author of the nutrition counter series for Pocket Books with sales of more than 8.5 million books.

Look for:

The Diabetes Counter, 5th Ed., 2014

The Fat and Cholesterol Counter, 2014

The Most Complete Food Counter, 3rd ed., 2013

The Calorie Counter, 6th Ed., 2013

The Complete Food Counter, 4th ed., 2012

The Protein Counter, 3rd Ed., 2011

The Ultimate Carbohydrate Counter, 3rd Ed., 2010

The Healthy Wholefoods Counter, 2008

Your Complete Food Counter App:

For more information on Jo-Ann and her books, go to:


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