Eat Smart

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Set yourself up for success this year with seven simple practices.

NutritionJan2014Being born healthy is a blessing, but maintaining that health is a matter that takes constant supervision. Not all things healthy need to be boring or difficult to incorporate into your daily routine! Try these seven steps to health, and you’ll be well on your way to a happier new you.

1. Increase your intake of fresh produce.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends filling half of your plate every meal with fruits and vegetables. Missing that mark? Toss all those fruits and veggies in a smoothie or salad. Try new produce that you haven’t tried in years — be open-minded!  You’ll boost your immunity, and take in tons of vitamins and minerals.

2. Don’t underestimate the value of quality sleep.
This should be equally as important as eating well and exercising. If you are not sleeping well, find out why. It is essential to your well-being.

3. Increase your pure water consumption.
Now that the weather is cooler, we tend to drink less water. The average American walks around in a dehydrated state. This causes brain fog, decreased energy levels and food cravings, to say the least. Aim to drink half of your body weight in water ounces every day. For example, if you weigh 200 pounds, drink 100 ounces of water a day.

4. Lower sodium while amping up flavor.
According to the American Heart Association, excess salt can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart failure and numerous other maladies. Instead of going straight for the salt shaker when your meal needs a jolt, try spicing food up with, well, spices — like black pepper, cayenne, turmeric or chili powder. And don’t forget herbs: basil, for instance, is a great all-purpose flavor enhancer.

5. Drink tea instead of soda.
You probably already know that soda is a great way to add lots of extra sugar and calories to your diet. If you really miss sipping a flavored beverage, try tea (either hot or iced). Make sure to brew it at home, as pre-brewed, store-bought tea often contains just as many calories and sugars as soda. Freshly brewed, flavored tea works perfectly in the evening to kick sugar cravings.

6. Start eating breakfast.
The health benefits of breakfast are well-established: Along with jumpstarting your brain, eating a good breakfast (including protein, carbohydrates, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals) actually lowers your risk of heart disease. If you find you aren’t hungry first thing in the morning, try warming up your digestive system with a mug of hot water and lemon juice.

7. Cook with fresh garlic.
Along with giving meals a flavorful, low-calorie kick, fresh garlic can boost immunity — thanks to its antioxidant benefits. It can also help lower blood pressure.