Cheater's Guide to Healthy Living

If you know the recommendations but can't find time to follow them, this 'Cheater's Guide' is for you

By Sherry Rauh
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD

Eat more vegetables, exercise almost every day, and don't forget the sunscreen. If you know the recommendations but can't find time to follow them, this "Cheater's Guide" is for you.

Cheater's Guide to Healthy Living

WebMD compiled the following guidelines and shortcuts based on input from leaders in the fields of nutrition, dentistry, dermatology, mental health and physical fitness.

  Guidelines Shortcuts
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Limit saturated fats, trans fats (also called hydrogenated fats), cholesterol, and salt
  • Try fruit smoothies, V8 and drinkable vegetable soups; add dried fruit to cereal or trail mix
  • If you're hooked on fast food, choose a side salad, fruit cup, or yogurt instead of a side of fries
Oral Hygiene
  • Brush and floss your teeth every day
  • Sorry, no shortcut for brushing and flossing
Skin Care
  • Apply sunscreen with SPF 30 year-round
  • Look for moisturizers and makeup that contain sunscreen
Mental Health
  • Read the local paper; play video games
  • Practice "belly breathing" for one minute at a time; make the most of relaxing activities you already do -- listening to music, walking, stretching
Physical Fitness
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes on most days
  • Exercise for 15 minutes twice each day or 10 minutes three times each day
  • Sneak in exercise during ordinary activities -- take the stairs at work, carry your own groceries, lift weights during the nightly news

Read on for more tips and tricks to transform your busy lifestyle into a healthy one.

If you're not eating the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables, American Dietetic Association spokesman Dave Grotto, RD, suggests getting the most out of the fruits and veggies you do eat. That means looking for variety and intensity of color -- cherries, berries, and pomegranates are good examples, as are squash, spinach, sweet potatoes, and deep red tomatoes. To squeeze in more vegetables during your day, look for juice blends that contain green vegetables and try pouring tomato sauce over a side dish. Drinkable vegetable soups are a good option for people who need to eat on the go.

"Try to add one positive thing rather than avoiding things," Grotto tells WebMD. "That's less stressful than giving up something." For example, if you're hooked on the drive-through at lunchtime, Grotto suggests having a side salad with your burger. This strategy adds nutrients to your diet without drastically changing your routine.

  Quick Picks for Each Food Group
Grains High-fiber whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, or rice
Vegetables Juice blends that contain green vegetables, drinkable vegetable soups, tomato sauce, V8
Fruits Fruit smoothies, dried cherries or berries added to cereal or trail mix, fruit cup as a side dish
Dairy Drinkable yogurt with active cultures -- go low fat or fat free
Meats/Proteins Soups with beans and legumes, deli sandwiches with lean meats, edamame (young soybeans that can be eaten like nuts). Bake it, broil it, or grill it.
Fats Olive oil added to salad or pasta, trail mix with nuts and seeds

Oral Hygiene

While some studies have suggested that mouthwash might be a substitute for flossing, the American Dental Association maintains that flossing is the best way to remove food particles and reduce plaque between teeth. But if you can't manage to floss every day, what about committing to two or three times per week? WebMD put that question to American Dental Association spokesman Richard Price, DDS. His reply: "Sure, if you're going to wash your face every third day or shower every fourth day."

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, if you only have time to do one thing for your skin, applying sunscreen is by far the most important. Using sunscreen daily may prevent premature aging and skin cancer. If you're looking for a shortcut, dermatologist Robin Ashinoff, MD, points out that many moisturizers and makeup contain sunscreen. She adds that moisturizers and makeup are optional, but sunscreen is not.

"Make the most of activities that already help you relax...Find out what it is that helps you and enhance that."

Mental Health

Reading every day can help keep the mind sharp, says Kenneth R. Pelletier, PhD "but it doesn't have to be Tolstoy. Reading the local paper or Reader's Digest will do." If you prefer video games, Pelletier, who is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Arizona School of Medicine, and chairman of the American Health Association, says there's good news. "Playing video games increases reaction time and has a positive effect on short-term memory."

As for a shortcut to stress management, Pelletier suggests making the most of activities that already help you relax. "All of us do something to naturally relax," he tells WebMD. "Some of us breathe, some look out the window, some listen to music, some stretch. Find out what it is that helps you relax and enhance that. If you find stretching helps you, try a yoga class. If breathing helps, try a breathing-orientated meditation."

In his book, Stress Free for Good: Ten Scientifically Proven Life Skills for Health and Happiness, Pelletier explains that techniques like abdominal breathing take just 10 minutes to learn, one minute to practice, and 10 seconds to have a calming effect. "Taking two or three deep breaths into your abdomen will immediately slow you down, refocus you, and center you," he says.

Physical Fitness

You might be able to take a minute out of your busy day to practice deep breathing, but squeezing in 30 minutes of exercise probably sounds impossible. The trick is to take a creative, flexible approach to physical activity. "You don't have to do 30 minutes straight," says Harold Kohl of the CDC's Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity. "You can actually improve your health by accumulating shorter bouts of moderate-intensity physical activity. Take a 10-minute walk at 4 miles per hour in the morning, at lunch and in the evening, and you have done it."

"Everyone has 10 minutes," Kohl tells WebMD. "Get up 10 minutes earlier. Go to bed 10 minutes later. Walk around the field during your child's soccer practice." Look for periods of inactivity -- such as television time -- that you can convert to exercise time.

"You have to make physical fitness a part of your life," says Walter R. Thompson, PhD, author of the ACSM Fitness Book. "You always have time to eat, whether it's sitting at your desk or in your car on the way to work." He tells WebMD a similar multitasking approach can help you sneak in physical activity throughout your day. "Park on the top level of your parking garage at work and walk down. Park in the farthest spot at the grocery store. Push the cart out and unload the groceries yourself. These little lifestyle changes can have a small but noticeable benefit." While 30 minutes of continuous exercise is a surer way to get in shape, minor changes in your daily routine can boost your fitness level without a major time commitment.

Published May 16, 2005.

SOURCES: USDA Dietary Guidelines. American Dietetic Association. American Dental Association. American Academy of Dermatology. American Psychological Association. American College of Sports Medicine. National Sleep Foundation. Dave Grotto, RD, American Dietetic Association spokesman; director of nutrition, Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care, Evanston, Ill. Richard Price, DDS, American Dental Association spokesman. Robin Ashinoff, MD, director of Dermatologic Mohs and Laser Surgery, Hackensack University Medical Center. Kenneth R. Pelletier, PhD, clinical professor of medicine, University of Arizona and University of California, San Francisco; chairman, American Health Association; co-author, Stress Free for Good: Ten Scientifically Proven Life Skills for Health and Happiness. Harold Kohl, PhD, epidemiologist, Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, CDC. Walter R. Thompson, PhD, professor, Georgia State University; author, ACSM Fitness Book.

©2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.

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Last Editorial Review: 6/2/2005