25.5% of St. Charles County residents believe that healthy behaviors and lifestyles are the most important factors for a healthy community. And with 35% of our residents identifying themselves as either somewhat healthy, unhealthy, or very unhealthy, it’s important that we discuss healthier habits that we can all work into our daily lives.
We know that changing habits isn’t easy for most, and that’s why we’ve put together a list of simple adjustments you can make to live a healthier lifestyle.
1. Make Your First Meal of the Day a Healthy One
You don’t have to eat breakfast every day, but your first meal of the day should be packed with nutrients including protein and healthy fats. This is the best way to start your day.
If you’re grabbing your favorite box of cereal to start each day, it’s time to make an adjustment. Most breakfast cereals are loaded up with sugar and refined carbs– which will spike your blood sugar, cause you to crash a few hours later, and leave you craving more carb-heavy meals.
Instead, make eggs. They are high in protein and healthy fats, and studies show that replacing grain-based breakfasts with eggs can help you lose fat. If eggs aren’t an option, any high-protein, nutrient-packed food will do.
2. Add More Protein
Protein boosts your metabolism and actually reduces your appetite, which sets you up for eating less and eating healthier. Studies show that high protein diets boost metabolism by 80 to 100 calories per day– imagine burning more calories when you’re not even exercising!
Aside from being a great benefit to your muscle mass, bone strength, and low blood pressure, eating protein can help you lose weight by reducing your calorie intake.
Looking for good protein foods? Try meat, poultry, fish and other seafood, eggs, almonds, beans, legumes, and high-protein vegetables such as broccoli and edamame.
Simply adding more protein to your diet makes other diet adjustments far easier.
3. Cut Out Sugary Beverages
Sugar in liquid form is dangerous to our diets because our brains do not process those calories in the same way they do whole foods. So you end up consuming far more calories than your brain can compensate for.
Many studies show that sugar-sweetened beverages may be the most fattening factor in the modern diet. Soda and fruit juice should be avoided. Opt for sugar-free drinks instead (check the nutrition label).
4. Exercise with Family and Friends
A healthy lifestyle is not complete without physical activity. 22% of St. Charles County residents think lack of exercise is the most important risky behavior in our community. It can be difficult to find the time for exercise in your day, but some simple tweaks to your daily schedule can incorporate more physical activity than you think. Plus, exercising with people makes the habit much more likely to stick.
It doesn’t have to be much– you can take walks during your lunch breaks with coworkers, play outside with your children for 30 minutes after work, and park a little farther away when running errands so you walk a little extra. Even better: find a physical activity you actually enjoy doing with people and you’ll get healthier while also having fun!
5. Replace Bad Carbs with Good Carbs
Sugar and refined carbs are the bad carbs and they are some of the unhealthiest parts of our diets. Not only are they low in nutrients and fiber, but they also contribute to overeating. Some examples of bad carbs include breads and grains, pasta, cereal, beer, and starchy vegetables like potatoes.
Instead of bad carbs, replace them with healthier carbs such as vegetables, fruits, and healthier grains like rice, oats, and quinoa. Visit the St. Charles Farmers Market– it’s open on Saturdays from 7 AM to 12 PM. Or you can visit Lake St. Louis Farmers and Artist Market, open Saturdays from 8 AM to 12 PM.
6. Mind Your Sleep Schedule & Stress Levels
Sleep and stress levels have a major impact on your overall health.
Studies show that not lack of sleep is linked to obesity– 55% increased risk of obesity in adults and 89% in children. You can improve your sleep by avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening, sleeping in a dark room with an absence of blue light (from screens), and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule.
Similarly, excess stress has proven to raise your cortisol levels which leads to gaining fat and a higher risk of long-term health problems. While stress can be more challenging to manage than sleep, there are several accessible tactics for getting a handle on your stress. Meditation, yoga, and aerobic exercise can help with stress, but if you’re really struggling with stress, it’s best to seek professional help– especially if it’s starting to affect your mental health.
7. Treat Healthy Living as a Hobby
You may get stressed out by the thought of trying to live healthier– it can seem like a huge undertaking. But when you change your mindset to consider healthy living more of a hobby rather than a chore, you’re committing yourself to a lifetime of improvement. Sure, your health may not be where you want it to be today, but when you treat your health as a hobby, you’re far more likely to improve over time.
And remember– you’re not alone. You’re surrounded by a community of people who are trying to live healthier lives. Reach out to the people around you and work on your healthier lifestyles together– because healthy living is easier when we work together!
St. Charles County is a community that cares about their health. While 65% of residents consider themselves healthy or very healthy, we still have a lot of work to do. When we work together to become a healthier community, we are Community Strong.
Register to Community Strong St. Charles County for resources and events to help us live healthier together.