Food & Drink

A 4-week challenge for better health

To Your Health columnist Shelly Wegman offers four tips to help you improve your health one week at a time, including eat more vegetables.
To Your Health columnist Shelly Wegman offers four tips to help you improve your health one week at a time, including eat more vegetables. cliddy@newsobserver.com

Here are four challenges to help you improve your health one week at a time.

Week 1: Eat More Vegetables

Aim for three to five servings of vegetables a day. Vegetables are a great source of vitamins and minerals and provide antioxidants and phytochemicals that fight cancers. A serving is 1/2 cup cooked vegetable or 1 cup leafy greens. Add a large salad at lunch and get in 2 servings. Add a handful of spinach to your scrambled egg for breakfast. Grill some asparagus for dinner or snack on some carrots, celery and broccoli with hummus. Fill half of your plate with vegetables to help with portion control.

Week 2: Less Added Sugar

I’m talking about the added sugar in candy, desserts, pastries and beverages, such as tea, soda, juice drinks and coffee drinks. Recommendations are for no more than 6 teaspoons sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men. One 12-ounce soda has up to 10 teaspoons of sugar. Some cereals have as much as 4 or 5 teaspoons of added sugar per serving, so check the label. Cut out candy, desserts and sweetened beverages for one week and see how you feel. Often people report they don’t get that “afternoon slump” and they have better energy levels. Try these snacks instead: Freeze grapes when you want something cold and sweet. Add berries to your oatmeal. Have an apple with some peanut butter.

Week 3: Exercise

The recommendation is 150 minutes of activity per week. Exercise improves blood pressure, lowers LDL-cholesterol (the bad one) and it can increase HDL-cholesterol (the good one). It also lowers triglycerides and improves blood sugar. If you don’t exercise at all, start with just a few minutes each day. Park farther away at work or when you go to the store. Take a yoga class. Use the stairs instead of the elevator. Work in the garden. Go dancing.

Week 4: Eat more at home

Try to eat one more meal a week at home. Between work, school and children’s activities, it’s easy to find yourself dining out more often. Eating outside the home costs more and you don’t have as much control over your food choices. Instead, try these suggestions: Grill some extra chicken and toss it into a salad with some strawberries for lunch the next day. Cut up fruit or grab those frozen grapes and some cheese to take to the kid’s sports practice. Make homemade pizza.

Take the challenge and take control of your health one week at a time.

Shelly Wegman is a registered dietitian at Rex Wellness Centers in Raleigh and Garner. Email: shelly.wegman@unchealth.unc.edu

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