Healthy Hints

Does your BMI add up?

Body mass index or BMI is an estimate of body fat and a ratio of weight to height. A BMI range of
18.5 to 24.9 for adults is considered normal. People who are overweight (BMI of 25 to 29.9) have too much body weight for their height. People who are obese (BMI of 30 or above) almost always have a large amount of body fat for their height. The higher the BMI, the greater your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, breathing problems and some cancers.

Although BMI can be used for most men and women, it does have limits. It may overestimate body fat in athletes and others who have a muscular build. It may also underestimate body fat in older people and others who have lost muscle. To find out your BMI and see how you compare to your peers, go to .

Make it a habit today to …
Find your normal range 
 If you’re not there, don’t get discouraged. Set a realistic goal and a healthy, long-term strategy.

You don’t need a whole paycheck for a wholesome meal

Buying nutritious food doesn’t have to hurt your wallet. You can make sensible choices for fewer cents by:

  • Going with beans instead of meat: Replace meat with canned or dried beans, which are much cheaper. Many recipes made with meat, such as chili, soups and salads, are delicious with beans.
  • Trying canned or frozen fruits and veggies: Compare the price and the serving size of fresh, canned and frozen forms of the same fruits or veggies. Canned and frozen items may be less expensive than fresh ones. For canned items, choose fruit that’s packed in 100% fruit juice and veggies with “low sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.
  • Buying store brands: When possible, skip the fancy labels. You’ll get the same or similar product for less money. If your grocery store has a membership card for discounts, sign up.
  • Planning for leftovers: Prepare and freeze veggie soups, stews or other dishes in advance. Add leftover veggies to casseroles or blend them to make soups. This saves time and money.
  • Sticking to your list: Think ahead, make a grocery list and stick to it! And don’t shop when you’re hungry.

Make it a habit today to …
Shop smart – With a little planning, you can keep your meals simple, healthy and affordable.

See your way to a brighter future

Don’t lose sight of your eyes. Along with your annual physical, be sure to get a professional eye exam every year. Your eyes also need daily protection, just like your skin. Wear sunglasses to shield them from the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays. And rest your eyes throughout the day. If you spend a lot of time at the computer, you sometimes forget to blink and your eyes get tired.

You can also help your eyes stay healthy with the right lifestyle choices:

  • Eat lots of veggies and fruits, which are rich in vitamins and minerals, and fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. This lowers your risk for getting diabetes or other conditions that can lead to vision loss.
  • Avoid eye injuries by using protective goggles or other gear when playing sports or working around chemicals and dust.
  • Quit smoking. Research has linked smoking to an increased risk of eye disease and cataracts.

Make it a habit today to …

Focus on your vision – Your eyes need daily attention to stay healthy.

Help your kids do as you do

In the past 30 years, the rate of childhood obesity has increased. Now, about 17% of American children ages 2 to 19 – or one in six kids – are obese.

Because children are heavier today, they are getting health problems that used to be found only in adults. Research suggests that obese children are at risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other health issues. Once rare in children, type 2 diabetes now accounts for a significant portion of all new diabetes cases in kids. Plus, obese children are more likely to become obese adults.

The best way to help your kids avoid obesity or lose weight is to be a good role model. If they see other family members eating well and moving more, they may just follow your example. To help your child get and stay healthy:

  • Limit how much time they spend in front of a TV or other screen to less than two hours a day.
  • Plan an hour of physical activity into your child’s day. You can break it up into smaller amounts of time that add up to 60 minutes.
  • Shop, cook and plan for healthy meals. Buy healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables and whole grain bread. Replace sugary drinks with water or low-fat milk.
  • Start with a healthy breakfast every day. Instead of sugary cereals or pastry, serve whole grain cereal with low-fat milk, oatmeal or whole grain toast with a piece of fruit.

Accepting your children at any weight will help them feel better about themselves. With your support and encouragement, you can help them learn healthy habits that will last a lifetime.

Make it a habit today to …

Set an example – Be the change. Help your children learn healthy lifelong habits today. 

Combat cholesterol
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance in your blood. When there is too much, it builds up on the walls of your arteries and can slow down or stop blood from getting to your heart. In fact, the higher your blood cholesterol, the greater your risk for developing heart disease or having a heart attack.

There are different kinds of cholesterol in your blood, and a blood test can tell you and your doctor
how much of each kind you have.

What do your cholesterol numbers mean?

  • Total cholesterol – Less than 200 mg/dL is desirable.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) cholesterol – This is the kind that can build up and block the arteries. LDL levels lower than 100 mg/dLare optimal.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol – This kind can keep cholesterol from building up in the arteries.  HDL levels of 60 mg/dL or more help lower your risk for heart disease.
  • Triglycerides – This isanother form of fat in your blood that can raise your risk for heart disease if you have too much.  Levels that are borderline high (150-199 mg/dL) or high (200 mg/dL or more) may require treatment.

Ask your doctor what your cholesterol levels should be and how often you should get tested.

To lower your risk for high blood cholesterol:

  • Eat healthy. Reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet.
  • Watch your weight. Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you need to.
  • Be physically active. Try to fit in at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most, if not all, days.

Make it a habit today to …

Know your numbers – Have your cholesterol checked regularly. Visit for tips on lowering your cholesterol.

Put your teeth into it

Taking care of your teeth and gums may help your smile, but it’s also important for your general health. The bacteria in an unhealthy mouth can affect the rest of your body. And research shows that gum disease is linked to serious conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

To keep your mouth healthy, you should:

  • Take care of your teeth and gums by thoroughly brushing and flossing.
  • Go to the dentist regularly for exams and teeth cleanings. Checkups can help your dentist spot early signs of oral health problems.
  • Eat wisely. Avoid sugary snacks. And choose fresh, fiber-rich fruits and vegetables.
  • Say no to tobacco. Cigarettes, pipes and tobacco raise your risk for gum disease, oral and throat cancers, and fungal infections in your mouth.
  • Limit how much alcohol you drink. It increases your risk for oral and throat cancers.

Make it a habit today to …

Brush up on good health – Visit your dentist regularly to catch oral health problems early.

Shed your risk for diabetes

A few pounds can make a big difference when it comes to diabetes. Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood sugar resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both.  Studies show that people at high risk for type 2 diabetes can prevent or delay the disease if they lose as little as 10 to 14 pounds (if they weigh 200 pounds) by walking 30 minutes, five days a week and making healthy food choices.  Keep in mind that small steps can lead to big rewards.

To get started on your weight-loss journey:

Step 1 – Move more.  Get at least 30 minutes of physical activity, five days a week.  Walk during your lunch break.  Park your car farther away from stores or your office. If you haven’t been active for a long time, talk to your doctor about the best physical activity plan for you.

Step 2 – Make healthy food choices.  Go with foods that are low in fat, sugar and calories. Limit portion sizes.  Eat a variety of colorful fruits and veggies.  When you’re thirsty, drink water, which is calorie-free. And eat healthy snacks between meals so you don’t get too hungry.

Make it a habit today to …

Make lifestyle changes – Move more and eat healthy.  Go to to learn how.

Variety is the spice of life

As a melting pot, the U.S. is full of different cultures and their foods. This diversity of flavors can help us cook more exciting meals with healthier ingredients.  Add a little Mexican-inspired cilantro and garlic instead of salt to bring new life to a stew – or replace a buttery mashed potato side dish with hearty Indian-style lentils.

Whether you’re borrowing herbs and spices from another country or preparing your own special dishes in a healthier way, your choices are endless!  Go with more chili, garlic, ginger, basil, oregano, curry, low-sodium soy sauce and cilantro – and less salt, gravies, creams and heavy sauces. Try baking a meal you traditionally fry. And include more fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, seafood, lean meats and low-fat dairy options in your new and improved menu.

Make it a habit today to …
Get inspired –
 Look to other cultures for healthier ways to prepare your meals.

Nature’s candy

Fruit is awesome!  Eating more vegetables and fruits as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce your risk for some chronic diseases.   In addition to being high in fiber and vitamin C, most fruits are naturally low in fat, sodium and calories. Plus, fruits can sweeten a recipe and be made into lovely desserts.

The best time to buy different fruits is when they’re in season and at their peak flavor. Since the fresh kind doesn’t last long, stock up on dried, frozen or canned (in water or 100% juice) fruit to have a supply on hand. Make most of your choices whole or cut-up fruit, rather than juice, so you get the dietary fiber benefits too.

Make it a habit today to …
Add some fruit – 
Keep a bowl of fruit on the table or counter as a visible reminder to have some with every meal.

Beware fitness myths!

Have you heard that you should stop exercising as you get older?  Or that women shouldn’t do weight training activities because they’ll get too muscular? These are both common fitness myths.

The truth is that staying active is one of the best ways you can stay strong and fight aging, as well lower your risk for many serious health problems, like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers and bone density loss. Women, who are more prone to osteoporosis, can especially benefit from weight training activities that keep their bones, muscles and joints in good shape.

So, the next time you hear someone making excuses for why physical activity is bad for you, get the facts! Your quality of life depends on it.

Make it a habit today to …
Get the facts 
– If you have concerns about working out, talk to your doctor. 

Shake the salt habit

Americans have a taste for salt, but salt plays a role in high blood pressure.  Everyone, including kids, should reduce their sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt).  Adults age 51 and older, African Americans of any age, and individuals with high blood pressure, diabetes or chronic kidney disease should further reduce their sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day.

Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods such as pizza; cured meats, such as bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meats; and ready-to-eat foods like canned soups.  To minimize how much sodium you have each day:

  • Eat processed foods less often and in smaller portions – read the nutrition label so you know how much sodium they have.
  • Have fresh foods, which are generally lower in sodium.
  • Skip adding salt when cooking.

Salt is in fact sodium chloride and is a necessary mineral for a healthy human body.
Make it a habit today to …
Cut back on salt –
 Fill up on low-salt foods, like veggies and fruits. And flavor your dishes with healthy herbs and spices.

Use your plate as a canvas

Eating vegetables is important because they provide vitamins and minerals. Plus, most are low in calories.  Fitting more vegetables in your meals is easier than you may think.

  • Cook fresh or frozen vegetables in the microwave for a quick-and-easy dish to add to any meal.
  • Be ahead of the game.  Cut up a batch of bell peppers, carrots, or broccoli.  Pre-package them to use when time is limited.
  • Brighten your salad by using colorful vegetables such as sliced red bell peppers, shredded radishes, and chopped red cabbage.
  • When eating out, order an extra side of vegetables or side salad instead of a fried side dish.

Make it a habit today to …
Upgrade your meals –
 Make a powerful salad with brightly colored veggies. They’re nature’s superheroes!

Take the pressure off

About one-third of Americans have high blood pressure, which raises your risk for heart disease and stroke. If you don’t have high blood pressure, you can take steps to prevent it.  Healthy lifestyle habits can help you to maintain normal blood pressure.

  • Eat healthy and limit sodium (salt) and alcohol.
  • Be physically active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.  Staying at a healthy weight can help you control high blood pressure and reduce your risk for other health problems.
  • Learn to relax, manage stress, and cope with problems to improve your emotional and physical health.
  • Quit smoking.  Smoking can damage your blood vessels and raise your risk for high blood pressure.

If you’re having trouble keeping your blood pressure in check or have a family history of the condition, talk to your doctor about your options.

Make it a habit today to …
Take control of your lifestyle –
 Relax, have fun working out, eat well and lower your risk for high blood pressure!

Don’t overdue your barbecue

Barbecuing in the great outdoors is fun, relaxing and gets your family, friends and neighbors together.

Some studies suggest there may be a cancer risk eating charred food cooked by high-heat cooking such as barbecuing, grilling, frying, and broiling. To make sure your cookout stays safe, take a few simple steps:

  • Don’t char meat or poultry when cooking over a high heat source, like an open flame or hot metal surface, for too long.
  • Remove any fat you can see that can cause a flare-up.
  • Precook meat and poultry in the microwave right before putting it on the grill to release some of the juices that can drop on coals.
  • Keep turning the meat or poultry over, so no one part gets charred.
  • Don’t eat charred pieces of meat or poultry.
  • Throw out the gravy from meat drippings.

Now, you can fire up that grill with peace of mind!

Make it a habit today to …
Get rid of the burn –
 Don’t overheat your meat and poultry!  Even a little char is too much.  

Get active, stay young 

You can’t do much without healthy bones, joints and muscles. As you age, it’s especially important to protect your “moving parts” with aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercises.

These activities can slow the loss of bone density that makes you weaker and more likely to get hurt as you get older. They also lower your risk of arthritis and osteoporosis down the road. You may not be able to look young forever, but you can help yourself feel young for many years to come.

Make it a habit today to …
Move it or lose it –
 Do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobics and two days of muscle strengthening each week.

Sweating with friends is more fun

Getting motivated to work out on your own can be hard. On the other hand, having a friend join you for the workouts makes it fun! Exercising in groups has lots of great benefits. Two or more people can energize and support each other to keep moving. They can also help make physical activity a part of each other’s daily routine and provides a reason to meet up a few days each week.

Plus, when you meet your health goals, it’s nice to have cheerleaders applaud your success and encourage you to set new goals. If you’re feeling nervous about walking or jogging alone, another person can make you feel safe and also challenge you. So, find a buddy and get active!

Make it a habit today to …
Get a workout buddy –
Ask a friend, neighbor or family member to take part in your physical fitness challenge.

Easy doesn’t have to be greasy

It’s easy to stray off the healthy eating path. When you don’t plan your meals, you’re more likely to choose a fast food drive-through or microwave a chicken pot pie.

If your schedule makes it hard to find time for food shopping or cooking, try creating a weekly menu of healthy recipes you can use. This menu should include food that’s simple and quick to prepare, has healthy protein choices such as lean meats or poultry, whole grain and vegetable ingredients, and stays yummy as leftovers. Shop in bulk and, for perishable items, go with frozen or canned options with no salt added. Then, when it’s time to whip up a meal, you’ll have everything you need.

Make it a habit today to …
Eat well –
 Stock up on healthy grab-and-go snacks such as apples, oranges, bananas or fruit cups with no added sugars.

Keep your heart beating strong

The most common type of heart disease is coronary heart disease (CAD), which can lead to a heart attack. You can reduce your risk for CAD through healthy lifestyle changes.

These include eating more heart-healthy foods that are high in fiber and low in saturated fat and cholesterol, maintaining a healthy weight, being active and avoiding smoking and alcohol.

Make it a habit today to …
Boost heart health  Control your cholesterol and blood pressure levels for a healthier heart.

Take your time!

Is stress affecting your mood and sleep? Then, it’s time to push back. While being active and having hobbies can help, you can also do simple things – like take frequent breaks.

Relaxation is also very important. One technique is imagining a peaceful place in your mind and, then, thinking of all the sights, sounds and smells of that place. You can also practice deep breathing, with a focus on slow, deep and regular breaths, or tensing and relaxing the muscles in your body. If none of these work for you, find a way to relax that does. Whatever you do, take time out to de-stress.

Make it a habit today to …
Give yourself a break 
 Let go and relax. Imagine a peaceful place, breathe deeply or do whatever helps you de-stress.

Eat the best, leave the rest

Eating out can be great – especially when you don’t have time to prepare a meal or want to celebrate a special occasion without the work. The problem is that ordering can feel like a guessing game if you’re watching your diet. But, there are ways to stay in control and keep your restaurant visit healthy. Start by ordering water, unsweetened tea or other sugar-free drinks. Then, fill up on low-calorie appetizers, such as salads and grilled vegetables, instead of bread and creamy soups.

For the main dish, choose broiled, grilled or steamed foods over fried ones. The same goes for sides: Say no to fries and yes to baked potatoes. You can also ask for smaller portions or share your meal with your fellow diner(s). If it’s still too much food, get a container before you begin eating and put half away to take home.  Choose fresh fruit for desserts.

Make it a habit today to …
Get your food facts –
 If you’re not sure about your dish’s calorie, fat or sugar content, ask your server.

One checkup a year can mean a lifetime

Your yearly health exam is your doctor’s way of tracking your health. It’s also how your doctor can rule out or take care of serious health problems. If an issue is caught early, it’s easier to treat and your chances for a full recovery are better.  If you already have a condition or are in a high-risk group for getting one, work out a checkup schedule with your doctor that makes sense for your health and lifestyle.

Take charge! Your checkup is an hour of your day that can add years to your life. Just remember to bring in any questions or concerns you have and be honest about your health and family history. Use preventive care, like your yearly exam, screenings and vaccines that may be covered by your health plan.

Make it a habit today to …
Take preventive steps – 
Don’t wait to get sick! Ask your doctor how you and your family can stay well.

Don’t “just do it.” Have fun!

Do you always have excuses when it comes to physical activity? Not enough time? Bad weather? No fun?

Being active is important to your health, so it’s time for you to look at why you can’t fit physical activity in – and then find reasons why you can! Have to work through lunch? Try taking three 10-minute walks throughout the day instead. Raining outside when you want to jog? Find an indoor track or power walk in the mall. And if you just hate the idea of physical activity, make what you love work for you. You can garden, dance, do yoga or play running games with your kids and pets. The goal is to get moving.

Make it a habit today to …
Exercise on your terms –
 Don’t let excuses keep you on the couch. Match your workout with your lifestyle.

Are you making time for good health?

It’s hard to make healthy choices when you’re stressed. If you never seem to have time to make healthy choices for yourself, then you might need to look at your priorities.

Where does your time go? Are you enjoying life and staying active? Or, do you find yourself mostly staring at a screen or running errands? An activity log is a good way to track your day. Try it for a week to see what happens to all those precious hours.  Then, work on scheduling the important stuff, like family meals, exercise and relaxation. It’s okay to pencil in a “break” for 10 minutes. After a while, your time should feel less stressful and more balanced.

Make it a habit today to …
Schedule “me time” –
 Make time for a healthy, social and balanced lifestyle.

Take risks with your recipes, not your health

When you want to get creative in the kitchen, marinating is a great way to bring lots of flavor to your meals. You just soak raw food in a liquid mixture – often vinegar, wine or oil and various herbs and spices.

Because raw food carries a lot of bacteria, it’s important to take special care when you marinate. Meat or poultry should be kept in the refrigerator at 40°F or below. And if you want to use marinade as a sauce on cooked food, set some aside before putting any raw meat in it. Also, never reuse marinade unless you boil it first.

Make it a habit today to …
Marinate safely – 
Cook poultry to at least 165°F – and beef, pork, lamb and veal to at least 145°F. 

A muscle is a terrible thing to waste

You hear a lot about aerobic activity for your heart, but what about your muscles? You use them for everything you do – from getting out of bed to brushing your teeth and driving. Keeping your muscles strong not only helps you stay active, but also protects you from injury, disability and the effects of aging.  Yet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only about 30% of adults in the U.S. do enough muscle training.

One way to change that is calisthenics, a form of exercise that focuses on your major muscle groups.  It includes activities like push-ups, sit-ups, squats and lunges.  You can start slowly as a beginner and build up your workout as you build your muscles. For best results, do these activities at least two days a week.

Make it a habit today to …
Get fit
– You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or use big machines. Simple body weight exercises can help strengthen your muscles just as easy.

Lead by example

When you make decisions, think about others who might be paying attention. Like when you snack on carrots or order a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a burger … These are great choices for your health, and they may also encourage your kids or even your neighbors to make better choices for their health.

What you do affects others around you. Your family and friends notice when you’re losing weight or when healthy food is around you. And they just might follow your lead. So, take pride in your positive influence … and take responsibility for the little things you do. You might make a big difference.

Make it a habit today to …
Fill the candy bowl with fresh fruit –
 Be a good role model by taking good care of you.

Plan for success

Want to shed some pounds? Set yourself up for success with the right goals. You may have a long-term goal for your scale. But, in the short term, start with two or three simple goals. These could be adding fruit to your breakfast, not eating after 8 p.m. or walking for a half hour during lunch. Make sure your goals are realistic and healthy.

If you have a bad day, take a deep breath and get back on track the next day. Need help with your goals? Go to and check out SuperTracker. This app from the United States Department of Agriculture can help you figure out how much and what to eat, how to track what you eat and your weight, and much more!

Make it a habit today to …
Set daily goals –
 Small changes can lead to big results.

Before you get physical …

Are you pumped and ready for action? Not so fast! You should always warm up before you exercise. Warming up loosens your muscles and increases your heart rate, breathing, blood flow and temperature. All of these changes help prepare your body for activity, so you can enjoy the full benefits of your workout and help protect yourself against injury.

Don’t take shortcuts to getting in shape. To maximize the benefits of your workout, prepare your body before you get active.

Make it a habit today to:
Prep your body – Warming up can be quick and stress-free. Try walking 5 to 10 minutes before exercising. #HealthyHabit

Let music set the mood for your workout!

If you’ve ever taken a gym class or jogged a few miles, you know how music can take the edge off … or add an edge! Music works as a distraction when things get tough. It also helps you focus when physical activity requires a certain rhythm or pacing such as when you’re timing exercise repetitions to the beat of a song. You can choose your music, depending on how intense you want your workout to be.

Don’t sweat in silence! Add music to your fitness routine for less pain and more gain.

Make it a habit today to:
Listen to music – Whether you need motivation or relaxation, choosing the right music can help you get through it.

Dealing with stress

Stress goes hand-in-hand with modern life. While we can’t always avoid it, we can figure out how to cope with stress. Some people find positive ways, like exercise, community service or relaxing hobbies. Other people struggle and turn to escapes like junk food or drugs and alcohol. It’s very important that you find support from friends, loved ones or professionals who can help before your stress feels overwhelming.

You can also prepare your mind and body to handle stress better by taking care of yourself. This means eating healthy, exercising regularly, getting plenty of sleep and having a routine to your days.

Make it a habit today to:
Stay active – 
Get your mind off stress while helping others and improving your health. It’s a win-win strategy.

How many calories do you think you drink? 

You may be counting calories for every bite you eat, but are you keeping track of what you drink? Water is the perfect calorie-free beverage.  Fill a clean, reusable water bottle and toss it in your bag or brief case to quench your thirst throughout the day. .  If you’re gulping down regular sodas and other sweet drinks, you may be adding a lot of unnecessary calories to your diet.

Next time you go for a sugary drink, look at the calorie information on the label. Also, check out the serving size. A single serving might only be 100 calories, but if the bottle holds 2.5 servings, you’re up to 250 calories.

Make it a habit today to:
Read nutrition labels – 
Don’t be fooled. Having a large soda with that healthy salad adds 100s of calories to your meal. 

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program …

Americans are heavier today than they were 20 years ago. We also spend a lot more time eating while staring at a screen – on a cell phone, computer, personal digital assistant (PDA) or TV. Plus, we’re choosing screen time over being active. And when your body takes in more calories than it burns, you end up with extra pounds.

So, be aware of how you eat and use your time. Forget the Web and meet up with a friend for a walk instead. Go to lunch with a coworker and enjoy a good meal with good conversation. At home, make screen time your physical activity time. Work out without missing your favorite show.

Make it a habit today to:
Limit your screen time – 
Unplug for your meals and talk to each other!

Nature’s original fast food

Fruits and veggies are low in calories and full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. How important are they to your diet? The United States Department of Agriculture and recommend making them half your plate at mealtime.

If you’re having trouble getting fresh fruits and veggies, use frozen, canned or dried. With the canned option, watch out for too much sodium or salt. Save over-ripened fruit for smoothies with fat-free milk or low-fat yogurt – or bake muffins or bread with it. If your family isn’t crazy about fruits and veggies, try adding them to casseroles, salads, soups and sauces, where they’ll be harder to taste.

Make it a habit today to:

Pile on the good stuff – Learn how to prepare fruits and veggies for maximum nutritional value. Get tips at 

Let gardening grow on you

Many of us are trying to get more fruits and veggies into our diet. Want to make it easier? Try planting your own! It can be a garden in your yard, raised beds or pots on your patio. And if you don’t have room, get your neighbors involved. Community gardens are a great way to grow good food and bring people together. They can be set up on empty lots or in parks and schools.

Another benefit to having your own garden or a communal one is you can keep everything pesticide-free. Some flowers and herbs act as natural pest control. So, have fun, enjoy the “fruits” of your labor and plant safely.

Make it a habit today to:
Plant your healthy meals – If you’re a new gardener, easy starter plants are tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and herbs. 

Prevention isn’t seasonal

Flu season starts around October and usually peaks in January/February. But, you can catch the flu all year long.  Symptoms may be minor, like a runny nose or sore throat, or very serious – even life-threatening. Your best protection is to get the flu vaccine each year. It’s even safe for babies as young as 6 months. Talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about the vaccine.

Because it’s spread through contact with affected people and things, washing your hands often is a great way to kill germs. You should also keep away from people who are sick. If you get the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after fever passes so you don’t get others sick. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.

Make it a habit today to:

Take matters into your own hands – Stop the flu in its tracks with preventive care and good hygiene.

“Happy Birthday” and let’s eat

You may not see them, but germs can be on your food, all around you, and can be dangerous. Thousands of people die in the U.S. each year because of contaminated food. Soap and water are your best defense against food-related illnesses. To keep germs from spreading, you should wash your hands throughout the day. Scrub them for 20 seconds – or about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. On the go, use hand sanitizer with at least a 60% alcohol base.

Clean hands are especially important when you handle food. You should make sure to clean counter tops, cutting boards, dishes and other preparation areas. Never mix fresh fruits and veggies with raw meat, poultry or seafood. And don’t place cooked food back on plates that held uncooked food.

Make it a habit today to:
Sing “Happy Birthday” for your health – Wash your hands before, during and after making meals!

Pass me MyPlate, please!

Deciding what to put on your plate at meal time can be hard. You want to eat healthy, but you also want to feel satisfied. The good news is that you don’t have to figure out nutritional value versus calories on your own.

Forget the old Food Pyramid. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a new online tool called MyPlate. It can help you and your family make smarter choices in a fun, engaging way. Check out how MyPlate can make mealtime easier at

Make it a habit today to:

Pass the plate and the website too.  – Start your healthy eating journey! Visit for ideas and resources.

Be sure to eat the whole thing

Whole grains are a very important part of a healthy, balanced diet. Barley, quinoa, wheat berries and other whole grains are full of protein, fiber, vitamins and iron our body needs. There is also strong evidence that whole grains may lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

The biggest challenge may be knowing what a whole grain is and where to find it. To help you do that, the Whole Grains Council created an official packaging symbol, called the Whole Grain Stamp, to help you find whole grain-rich foods where you shop.

Make it a habit today to:

Jumpstart your day with fiber – Breakfast is great. But a high-fiber breakfast is even better.

Improve your health one step at a time

Walking helps you stay fit and healthy. Being active even lowers your risk for serious health problems, like heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, depression and some cancers.

Yet, more than half of adults in the U.S. don’t get enough physical activity. What is enough? Adults need at least 2.5 hours and children about an hour of “moderately intense” aerobic activity each week for better health. This can include walking briskly, dancing, gardening and biking. A good test to see if your workout is making an impact is whether you can talk, but not sing, as you’re doing it.

Make it a habit today to:

Put your best foot forward – Walking can be easy – even fun. Try walking quickly for at least 10 minutes, 3 times a day.

Eat more to gain less

Americans eat a lot more calories today than they did just a few decades ago. Part of the problem is fast food and super-sized portions. You know, the servings that have doubled or tripled our food intake at restaurants – and even at home.

The key is to choose foods that are packed with health benefits and fill you up, without the calories! Some good examples are fresh vegetables and fruit.

Make it a habit today to:

Fill up, not out. Make little changes, like having one healthy fruit or veggie at every meal and eating in more.

You never lose when you snooze

Getting a good night’s sleep can help you in many ways. It can keep your heart healthy, lower your risk for cancer and diabetes, reduce stress and even promote weight loss.

Yet, 70% of American adults say they don’t enough rest. And they’re not only missing the great benefits of sleep, they’re also raising their chances of having memory loss, low energy, poor mood and accidents. For your health and well-being, make sleep a priority today!

Make it a habit today to:

Use your bed for sleeping, not social networking – To catch up on Zs, unplug and pass on late-night drinks or large meals.

Quitting saves more than one life

There are bad habits and there are bad habits. When you smoke cigarettes, cigars or pipes, you don’t just hurt yourself. Every exhale puts more than 250 dangerous chemicals into the air.

Secondhand smoke, like smoking itself, is a risk factor for four leading causes of death in the U.S. These include heart disease, cancer, respiratory illness and stroke.

Children who breathe secondhand smoke are especially at risk. They have higher rates of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), acute respiratory infections, ear problems and severe asthma. So, don’t be polite. If someone’s blowing smoke your way, walk away. No amount of smoke is safe.

Make it a habit today to:

Step away – Go to for more information on quitting or avoiding secondhand smoke.

Protect the skin you’re in

Everyone thinks about sun safety during the summer or at the beach. But, it’s important to protect yourself all year long even on cloudy and hazy days. The sun, as well as tanning beds and sunlamps, gives off ultraviolet (UV) rays – an invisible kind of radiation. Too much exposure to UV rays can damage your skin and eyes, and lead to cancer.

The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m day light savings times are the most hazardous for UV exposure.    Easy options for UV protection are to use sunscreen, wear full-coverage clothing, sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats, and stay in the shade. Be sure to use sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection.

Make it a habit today to:

Choose your cover – Wear sunscreen, hats, sunglasses and seek shade. Bring on the protective layers!

Dance to your health’s delight

Whether you’re eating three or six meals a day, maintaining a healthy weight comes down to what you eat, how much you eat and how much energy you use. We gain weight when we eat more calories than we burn. So, it’s really important to couple balanced meals with an active lifestyle.

Everyone has personal calorie needs in order to function. It’s just a matter of making sure your energy in (calories from food) equals your energy out (daily energy expenditure) over the long run to maintain weight. Once you learn your daily calorie needs, you can plan the right kind of diet and exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

Make it a habit today to:

Dance off the pounds – Hate the gym? Love to dance? Burn calories with activities that work for you!

Neighbors helping neighbors

Health affects everything: Your quality of life. Your emotional and mental well-being. Your relationships, work and finances. Even what you do for fun.

So, don’t take your health for granted. Spread a healthy living message to everyone you know. It’s not hard to do. You can ride your bike more and motivate others to do the same. Or, start a community garden that gets your neighbors moving and socializing. Good health is contagious, and little choices can make a big impact.

Make it a habit today to:

Pay it forward! – Look for fun ways to practice good health, while improving the health of your community.

Nothing spells health like H20

More than 60% of your body is made of water, which you need to function. When you sweat, go to the bathroom or even breathe, you lose a lot of that water. And the best way to get it back is through food and drink.

How much water does the average, healthy adult need in a day? There’s no one formula that fits every person, and it depends on things like your age, health, activity level and the climate you live in. But generally, men should drink about 13 cups (3 liters) and women about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of water daily.

Make it a habit today to…

Sip the day away – To get all that water down, try drinking slowly with a straw and adding fruit.