Positive Nutrition and Physical Activity Habits: The key to a healthier life 

Nutrition and physical activity go hand-in-hand, working together to improve health. Together, they decrease the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and many other diseases. 

Healthy Nutrition Habits

Good nutrition habits are an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Our bodies need important nutrients like carbohydrates, protein, and fats that we can only get from the foods we eat. The key to healthy nutrition habits is choosing the right foods so that our bodies feel their best. A great tool in developing healthy eating habits is MyPlate. MyPlate was developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to model a healthy plate. MyPlate shows that half our plates should be fruits and vegetables, one quarter should be protein and the other quarter should be grains. 

Making a lot of diet changes at once can be difficult but starting small and creating healthy habits can set you up for success. So, what are some simple, healthy nutrition habits? 

  • Include a fruit or vegetable in at least one meal a day. Canned, frozen or fresh options provide your body with important vitamins and minerals.
  • Watch your sodium intake. Choose foods labeled “low sodium” when possible.
  • Choose whole-grain products if you can. The extra fiber is good for your gut and heart health.
  • Choose lean cuts of meat like chicken or fish over meats like bacon or sausage that are high in saturated fat.
  • Choosing home-cooked meals over fast-food meals more often.

Healthy Physical Activity Habits

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend that we try to get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per week and that at least two of the days include muscle strengthening exercises. 150 minutes can sound overwhelming, but it can be broken down into 30 minutes 5 days a week. Those 30 minutes don’t have to be done all at once; you can break it into chunks of 10 or 15 minutes 2-3 times a day, whatever fits your schedule.

Getting our hearts pumping during exercise plays a major role in our heart health as we age. That’s why the type of exercise we do is so important. Aerobic activities include brisk walking, jogging, biking, and swimming. These activities get our heart rate up and can help contribute to weight loss or maintenance. Strength training can also increase your heart rate, but it has a more important job of creating lean muscle mass which strengthens our bodies and protects our bones. 

Try these easy, at-home exercise tips to reach your physical activity goals: 

  • Take a walk around your house or your neighborhood with family, friends, or a pet.
  • Use commercial breaks when you’re watching tv to do some squats, lunges, push-ups, or other bodyweight exercises.
    • Pro tip: You can do push-ups from your knees until you build up enough strength to do them from your toes. 
  • Use things like laundry detergent to add extra weight to your exercises if you don’t have hand weights.
  • For stability, hold on to the back of a chair while doing standing exercises.

If you’d like more resources for physical activity check out the CDC’s website or the American Heart Association. They both offer useful information on the importance of physical activity and offer ideas on how to get active. 

How do I make these habits stick? 

The best way to adopt healthier habits is to start with a small. Pick one thing you want to change and focus on it. Once you’ve mastered that one healthy habit you can introduce another one. The longer you practice healthy habits the easier it will be to turn them into a healthy lifestyle.

Here some ideas for healthy habit goals: 

  • Start looking at the nutrition facts label on food items you buy and eat. The nutrition facts label shares a lot of information, like how many servings of the food are in the package, how many calories per serving and how much sodium is in a serving. 
  • Switch out a sugar-sweetened beverage, like soda or sweet tea, for water at least one time each day.
  • Add an extra fruit or vegetable to one meal a day.
  • Take 10 minutes each day to go for a walk with your family, friends or pets. Keep increasing the time you spend walking until you reach 30 minutes.

Your goals should be personal to you and should be something that you think you can achieve. When creating health goals, we want them to be SMART or 

  • Specific: Be clear and detailed with your goals. Name a specific thing you want to do or change.
  • Measurable: Give your goal a number, like “drink 4 glasses of water a day” or “walk 4 days a week”. When you give your goal a number it’s easier to track. 
  • Achievable: Try not to aim too high or too low. Make sure it’s a goal you feel comfortable that you can reach. 
  • Realistic: Be honest with yourself and choose realistic goals for yourself. Know your limits and what you can realistically achieve in the timeframe you give yourself. 
  • Trackable: When your goals are specific and measurable, they’re easy to track. You can use a journal or an app to track your progress. 

Using SMART goals can help you create realistic and achievable goals so that you feel motivated to continue with your healthy habits. Use realistic goals to help you stick with healthy habits. These habits and goals make it easier to adopt a healthy lifestyle. If you’d like more information on SMART goals and how to create them, these articles can be helpful: