6 Things You Should Do Every Day for Better Health, According to an R.D.
If you listened to all the advice out there about staying healthy, your head would never stop spinning. The list of "must-dos" from the wellness industry is long. Do this (celery juice, supplements, elderberry), don't do that (carbs, fat, sugar)...the list of advice is not only long, it's confusing as well. For the record, I'm not endorsing these tips, just trying to demonstrate all of the different pieces of advice coming at us (Here's a little more on why I think following the wellness industry's advice can become problematic.)
But what if instead of being complicated, there were some simple things you could do every day to help yourself stay healthy? They may feel basic, but these research-backed habits are easy enough to add to your routine and can help you lead a healthier life.
Related: 10 Foods Women Should Eat Every Week
1. Drink water
Staying hydrated helps keep your brain focused, your heart healthy, your joints lubricated, your skin healthy and more (learn more about what water does in your body.) It's important to drink up. There's no hard and fast rule for how much water to drink. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recommend women get 91 ounces of fluid daily and men 125 ounces, from a combination of food and drink. But these are just general guidelines that will vary from person to person, especially when it's hot or you're exercising a lot. Drinking water is an easy and free way to help keep your body healthy. It doesn't have to be plain water either. Add a slice of lemon or cucumber, drink sparkling water, even coffee, tea and hydrating foods can help you meet your needs.
2. Eat your vegetables
I'm just going to keep saying this on repeat. It's one of the most agreed upon pieces of nutrition advice from experts—and yet, most Americans still don't get enough vegetables. The USDA recommends that most adults get between 2 1/2 to 3 cups of vegetables daily. 1 cup is considered 1 cup of most raw or cooked vegetables, and 2 cups of salad greens. Vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. They deliver a lot of nutrition—think cancer-fighting compounds, brain-boosting power and heart-healthy nutrients. Eating plenty of fruit also helps you get more nutrients in your diet.
So how can you eat more? Try canned and frozen vegetables to cut down on prep time and save money. Serve baby carrots and cucumber slices as a pre-dinner snack. Roast them to bring out their sweetness and make them even more delicious. Try taking our Eat More Vegetables Challenge for even more ideas.
3. Eat plenty of fiber
Another key nutrient most of us aren't eating enough of—fiber. Fiber is found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds. It helps reduce your risk of chronic diseases, like heart disease and diabetes, keep your gut healthy, keep you satisfied and helps you poop. Basically, fiber is really good for you. Women should be eating 25 grams of fiber daily, men 38 grams. To get more in your diet, choose whole grains like oats and whole-wheat pasta, eat plenty of fruits and veggies, use beans as a protein-source and snack on nuts and seeds. These high-fiber recipes might help inspire you in the kitchen.
If you're currently eating a low-fiber diet, be sure to introduce fiber slowly into your diet and drink plenty of water.
4. Move your body
You don't need to exercise for hours to reap the benefits of movement. Staying active is linked to a longer, healthier life, reduced risk of chronic diseases, less stress, better mood, improved strength and more (learn more about the mental health benefits of exercise). If you don't have time for a full workout, squeeze in some movement when you can. Stop and take a 5- or 10-minute walk. Do some squats while you watch TV. Park further away. Go up and down your stairs one more time. Try these top 5 exercises for your health, according to a Harvard doctor. Squeeze some movement into your day however you can to reap the benefits for your health. Rest days are OK too, but in general staying active on most days is good for your health.
5. Skip screens before bed
One of the best things you can do for your health is to make sure you're getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep every night. I know for many of us, that's easier said than done (these 4 tips from a sleep expert can help). Research shows sleep plays a role in keeping our brains and hearts healthy, as well as benefiting our mental health (we all know how irritable we can be after a night of little sleep, but chronic sleep deprivation is linked with mental health disorders).
Try for a consistent bedtime every night and avoid scrolling your phone or tuning in to the TV right before you fall asleep. Screens can mess with your sleep by stimulating you right when you're supposed to be winding down (not to mention, if you're tuning in to the news it can stress you out). Instead, try and get sleepy by reading a book for 20-30 minutes before falling asleep.
6. Take care of yourself
That's right. I'm talking about self care. Self care is not all massages and pedicures and facials. It can mean whatever feels good to you, but make sure to take some time for yourself every day. Maybe it's peacefully sitting with your cup of coffee for a few minutes before everyone else wakes up. Maybe it's writing in a journal. Maybe it's meal prepping so you will have healthy food later. Maybe it's going for a walk. Self care will look different to everyone, but it's important to take care of yourself by doing things you enjoy.