All the Small Things: Small Changes Add Up

Ever want to get healthier but unsure of where to start? Today’s post has some ideas that might help you out.

One thing that many people struggle with when it comes to improving health is knowing where to start. Unfortunately, since it’s hard to tailor the information to the individual, the best (and albeit snarky) answer is “somewhere” or “anywhere.” There’s many places one can change their diet for the better when it comes to their personalized goals.

One place to start is with beverages, specifically calorie-dense ones. According to Eat This, Not That, commonly consumed beverages are alcohol, sports drinks/value-added water, and soft drinks. These all contribute to your daily caloric intake should you choose to drink them. Since the Calories from these drinks predominately come from sugar (aside from alcohol, which has it’s own detriment to health), it might lead to diabetes further down the line.

The smart ass answer to how to reduce the calories from beverages is to not drink them. This is not a helpful answer, but it is truthful. Reducing the amount you drink of them (rather than simply not partaking) is a good method to managing your calories. This can be done by ordering a smaller size of drink, especially with regards to coffee-beverages. Another method is to change what beverages you’re drinking. Black coffee and tea offer more protective benefits than heavily sweetened or high amounts of cream. While they are more of an acquired flavor, the difference between a large coffee (a 16 oz whole-milk late from Starbucks is around 280 Cal, whereas 16oz of black coffee is at most ~5 Cal).

Another small change that can be beneficial is to include fruits and vegetables at meals and as snacks throughout the day. Fruits and vegetables are high in vitamins and minerals, and low in Calories. When compared to other snack items such as candy or chips, these items can save you from the extra Calories that oil and sugar have, or from the salts in several snack items. Limiting high-Calorie foods and opting for foods with higher nutritional value might also positively impact health. One example is lowering blood pressure by exchanging the salt in many foods for the potassium that is present in many fruits and vegetables.

One concern people have with regards to fruit and vegetable consumption, especially with regards to fruit, has to do with their high volumes of sugar. While being concerned with the total amount of sugar from foods is a good thing overall, especially with certain dietary restrictions or diseases, the sugar from fruits is overall minimal, and the benefits from the vitamins and minerals outweigh the detriment from the sugar that’s present.

One last way you can make small changes that improve your health has to do with your activity level. Increasing the amount of activity, both from exercise or non-exercise activity can improve your overall well being. Even if the activity is something simple, such as lifting a small amount of weight a few times, or getting up from your computer and walking a bit.

For the majority of people, it’s recommended that you get 150 minutes of moderate activity, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week, in addition to some strength training. This can be anything from a brisk walk, to a hard sprint on a treadmill. Not everyone has access to a gym though, so some basic ideas include quick periodic walks wherever safe, or to fill an empty jug with water, and use that for strength exercises.

Many people desire weight loss or health improvement, but do not know where to start. Simple, easy methods to achieve this goal is to reduce high-calorie drinks, increasing the amounts of fruits and vegetables at meals over starchy or fatty foods, and increasing the amount of exercise per week.

Have any simple tips for health improvement, weight loss, or exercise? Feel free to comment them below!

By The Nutrition Punk

I am a dietitian living in Portland, Oregon. I write about a variety of nutrition and heath topics, with the goal of improving people's understanding of food and nutrition so they may be empowered against all the misinformation that is out there.

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