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Simple Steps Toward a Healthier Lifestyle

By Rachel Reiff Ellis

To get healthier, you don’t have to overhaul your whole life all at once. Big journeys start with a few steps. And when it comes down to it, a healthy lifestyle is all about the basics.

“Put in simplest terms, we need to eat well, sleep well, and move our bodies,” says Julia Nordgren, MD, of Palo Alto, CA. She’s the author of The New Family Table: Cooking More, Eating Together & Staying (Relatively) Sane.

Focus on small changes first, and you’ll build a foundation for a healthier you. Here are some to try.

Make a Few Food Switches

When you’re improving your diet, you don’t need to limit yourself to a strict list of foods. In fact, diets that cut out entire food groups don’t often stick in the long run. High-calorie treats are OK every once in a while, but the bulk of your menu should consist of:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Whole grains
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy
  • Lean meats, fish, eggs, beans, and nuts 

Start with simple snack-time switches, Nordgren says. When you’ve got the munchies:CONTINUE READING BELOW


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  • Reach for crunchy carrots with hummus instead of chips and dip.
  • Trade your afternoon candy bar for apple slices and peanut butter.
  • Replace that midday soda with a fresh-fruit smoothie — or better yet, water.

At meals, fill more of your plate with fruits and veggies, Nordgren says. Go for at least half a plate’s worth, and eat the rainbow. More colors in your meal mean more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for you.

Find Exercise You Enjoy

It’s the secret to making exercise a habit — and that’s good for your whole body.

“Exercise is the one thing that truly impacts every body system,” says Nordgren. “It’s even good for your sex life!”

Her advice: Reframe how you think about it.

“Instead of saying, ‘I should get on a treadmill for 30 minutes because my doctor will yell at me if I don’t,’ think, ‘I should call my friend and go for a hike so I can hear all about her latest adventures!’

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