January 18, 2013

5 simple steps to help you lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle.

All around the town of New Ulm, Minnesota, people are posting lower weights, getting more exercise and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure thanks to the Heart of New Ulm (HONU) Project. HONU is a 10-year effort with the outrageous goal of eliminating heart attacks and persuading the people to drastically reduce their weight. Among the program participants, 981 people have lost a collective 7,961 pounds and very preliminary results show a 24 percent reduction in heart attacks after 15 months of the project. (Read the full story here.)

To help citizens get a jump-start, HONU created the Take Five! Community Health Challenge. Here we've highlighted the 5 key elements so you can get healthier at home.

-Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., Nutrition Editor

1. Set a Goal to Lose 5 Pounds

Little things add up: losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can improve your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, as well as help lift your self-confidence and energy levels.

How to do it: If you want to lose a pound a week, try this simple formula: Your current weight x 12 = the number of calories needed each day to maintain your current weight. To lose 1 pound a week, cut 500 calories a day. It is not recommended to go below a 1,200-calorie day.

2. Be Active 5 Days a Week

Physical activity plays a key role in both losing weight and maintaining weight.

How to do it: A 155-pound person burns 176 calories walking (a 15-minute/mile pace) for 30 minutes, 352 calories running (a 10-minute/mile pace) for a half hour or 372 calories swimming laps over 30 minutes.

3. Eat 5 Times a Day

Eating on a regular schedule can help you feel satisfied throughout the day.

How to do it: Start the day with breakfast; eat lunch, dinner and two healthy snacks. Follow EatingWell's 5-Day, 1,500-Calorie Slim-Down Meal Plan.

4. Eat at Least 5 Servings of Fruits and Vegetables Each Day

Only 14 percent of Americans are eating the recommended amount of produce each day.

How to do it: Up your intake by eating a fruit and/or vegetable at each meal and snack and you'll be getting more of the nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins and fiber your body needs. Try EatingWell's Low-Calorie Produce-Packed Dinner Recipes.

5. Take 5 Minutes for Yourself Each Day

It'll help you manage stress-a must-do, considering 85 percent of health problems may be stress-related.

How to do it: Close your eyes, breathe, smile!