1. Fill up with Fiber. The average American consumes 15 to 16 grams fiber a day. We should aim to eat much more, closer to 40 grams of daily fiber. It fills us up with minimal calories. Fiber-packed sources include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lentils, beans, and peas
Case study: Let’s say you’re traveling and need to grab a bite to eat. If you go to a local diner, you could easily ask for steamed greens and beans, like the Brussels Sprouts & Lentils dish at the Silver Diner. Compared to fish tacos, the veggie dish has twice as much fiber, nearly identical amounts of calories and protein, and no cholesterol. Studies show when we make the veggie choice every day, it’s easier to keep our blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and body weight in a healthy range.
2. Favor Green Vegetables. Eat at least one leafy green vegetable each day. Research shows leafy green vegetables help stabilize blood sugar and reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes. Plus, they provide calcium and iron in their most healthful form.
3. Ditch Problem Foods. If cheese, meat, chocolate, and sugar call your name and derail weight-loss efforts, leave these foods aside for a few weeks. See how you feel. This timeframe is long enough to see a difference, but short enough to make it manageable.
Case study: Try replacement foods that emulate your favorite staples. If you normally have a chocolate or candy bar, try fresh fruit with carob chips or blend steamed soymilk with cacao powder. If your afternoon snack is an apple and a hunk of cheese, try a nut-based cashew cheese blend. If it’s cheese crackers, opt for a base of cucumbers or whole-wheat pita bread and add hummus with roasted red peppers
4. Exercise. Exercise is not an especially strong calorie-burner. But it does burn some calories—about 100 calories for every mile you walk or run. Plus, it’s tough to eat a bowl of ice cream while you’re jogging. So lace up your sneakers. Aim for 40 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, a few times each week. This can be as simple as going for a brisk walk with a friend, running for a four-mile loop around the neighborhood, or signing up for a water aerobics class. The key is to find something that keeps your heart rate up and to stick with it.
Case study: Instead of turning to the television after dinner, grab a family member or friend and go for a brisk walk. Your energy rebounds and your sleep is better, too. It also provides cognitive benefits. Regular exercise reverses brain shrinkage and improves memory.
5. Sleep. Our brains need time to recharge and fully function. By incorporating adequate sleep into your wellness routine you’ll reboot the regions of the brain that need it. My rule is lights out by 10 p.m.
6. Social Support. Take advantage of peer pressure by creating your own social support groups, which might be spending more time with family or volunteering at the library. Music counts, too.
Case study: When I was in medical school 30 years ago, music was my stress-reducer. I recruited some great musicians, and we’re still making music today. It turns out that the same parts of the brain’s reward center than are turned on by alcohol, drugs, and junk food can be stimulated in a healthier way by social interactions, exercise, and music, amazingly enough.