The mission of the American Council on Exercise (ACE) is to get people moving.
By Amanda Vogel
Every day is another chance to make important decisions about what you eat and when— or if—you work out. Your daily health choices might seem trivial in the moment, but all those small decisions add up to either positive behavior change or a string of potentially health-harming habits. Here's how to make the most of everyday opportunities to eat well and stay (or get) in shape.
1. Daily Health Moment: At the Breakfast Table
It's tempting to skip breakfast if you're running late or not in the habit of preparing an a.m. meal. However, eating a nutritious breakfast will boost energy and prevent you from becoming ravenous later in the morning and possibly bingeing on sugary or processed foods.
Even if you don't skip breakfast, you might be in the habit of pouring yourself a second or third cup of coffee, especially if you're feeling sluggish. Skip the coffee and take a brisk walk around the block instead. Even a small amount of activity sets a positive precedent for the day ahead—and it's a healthier way to wake up compared to another java jolt.
2. Daily Health Moment: Lunch Break at Work
Use your time wisely so you can squeeze in a well-balanced meal and maybe even a workout or at least a brisk walk. Avoid eating out if it involves long lines and/or facing a restaurant menu with few healthy choices. Packing a lunch from home ensures you'll get the nutritious foods your body needs and carves out more time for activity, even if it's just a quick walk around the block.
3. Daily Health Moment: Leaving Work
The choices you make right as you're leaving work can have a major impact on your overall health, motivation and efforts toward behavior change. For example, even if it's most convenient to head home before the gym, consider making a beeline for the gym instead. Stopping off at home can derail workout plans when you're faced with household chores, unexpected requests from family members or simply the prospect of sitting on your comfy couch with your feet up!
To avoid getting sidetracked, pack your gym bag each morning or the night before you plan to exercise. Bring the bag to work so you can head straight to the gym from there. This small step makes it less tempting to blow off exercise when you've had a hard day or are invited to happy hour with co-workers.
4. Daily Health Moment: The Dinner Rush
Use meal prep to get a leg up on ensuring you'll have healthy snacks for the rest of the week. For example, when you're already peeling and slicing vegetables, don't stop at just what you need for that night's dinner.
Drop carrot sticks and zucchini or pepper slices into containers you can use for dinners later in the week or to pack in lunchboxes. You'll also be more likely to reach for something healthy to snack on when it's already prepped. For example, dip sliced-up veggies in hummus for an afternoon or post-workout energy boost.
5. Daily Health Moment: An Hour Before Bedtime
Avoid sabotaging a day of healthy eating and activity with a late-night binge on cookies, cereal, chips or other snack foods. Set the mood for bedtime and lessen the likelihood of nighttime snacking by brushing your teeth after dinner. It's a simple way to signal to your brain and body that eating is over for the day.
Finally, encourage a restful night's sleep in the hour or so before you slip into bed. Designate quiet time: Dim lights, turn your phone off, meditate, etc. The better you sleep, the more energy and clarity you'll have each day to make smart choices toward long-lasting health.
This article originally appeared at ACEFitness.com.