Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and Eating Well
Small Steps Better Than Giant Leaps
Linda S. Rellergert, MS, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension
The shortest route to better health comes in small steps rather than giant leaps. Little changes are easier than big ones, and they add up to great improvements over time. Each small step is movement in a healthier direction and far better than grand goals that prove too ambitious to attain.
The best place to begin is with the step that sounds the easiest.
Experts say a new habit requires at least 21 days to become
established. Wait until this new step has become established
before taking another. One step will lead to more, and to
better habits that last for life.
Here are some small steps to try.
For healthier eating habits:
- Eat one more piece of fruit every day. Whole fruit has fiber and more phytochemicals than fruit juice.
- Try a new vegetable every week. Recipes are available in grocery store produce aisles, as well as in newspapers.
- Set out a bowl of fruit to tempt snackers at the office as well as at home.
- Add one more whole grain food every day. Whole grain foods like graham crackers, brown rice, oatmeal, popcorn, and whole wheat bread have more flavor and fiber than enriched grain products like white rice, white bread, pasta or pretzels.
- Keep a bag of washed and cut up raw veggies alongside a container of salad dressing placed in a visible place in the refrigerator, handy for a quick snack.
- Order soup and salad combo instead of burger with fries once a week.
- Eat breakfast. Something is better than nothing. Eat breakfast at coffee break time if food is unappealing early in the morning.
- Drink milk with at least one meal for the essential calcium, phosphorous and other bone builders it contains.
- Eat to satisfy hunger rather than boredom or an emotional need. Hobbies, volunteering or physical activity make better ways to use time.
- Serve snacks on a plate or in a bowl. An open bag or carton is an invitation to eat mindlessly until it is all gone.
- Resign from the "Clean Plate Club". Neither good manners nor a concern over wasting food dictate eating beyond a level of comfortable fullness. Eating more food than needed is just as wasteful as leaving it on the plate.
- Use water in place of one soft drink per day. Soft drinks, fruit-flavored beverages and sports drinks bring little to the table besides calories. Water is a better thirst quencher than these other beverages.
For improved fitness:
- Take a two-minute walk during your lunch break. Almost everyone can walk for this short time period. Next week increase it to five minutes.
- Park farther away from the door than you normally do (keeping safety in mind of course). By parking away from other cars, you’ll be less likely to get scratches and dents on your car and sneak in a little extra walking.
- While watching TV, exercise when commercials come on. Try calisthenics like push ups and crunches. Or, keep hand weights next to your easy chair and put them to use while the ads play.
- Energize with a fitness break instead of a coffee or soda break. Slip out of the office for a quick walk around the building instead of drinking a caffeinated beverage when the mid afternoon slump hits.
- Make a play date. Kids aren’t the only ones who need to schedule time for fun with friends. Make plans for a game of basketball, ping pong, shuffleboard, bowling.
- Walk around the block with your child or spouse after dinner.
- Use the time waiting for copies at the copy machine or for the clothes dryer cycle to end to do wall pushups.
- Stuck in a traffic jam? Neck and shoulder stretches will relieve tension as well as aid flexibility.
- Do leg lifts or calf raises while talking on the phone.
- Use the appointment calendar feature on your computer to remind you to take a stretch break.
Last update: Tuesday, May 05, 2009