What if the secret to living a healthier life came down to just a few simple choices every day? Turns out, it does.
Rebecca Lewis is a registered dietitian and the nutrition expert at meal prep delivery service, HelloFresh, where she collaborates with staff chefs to create nutritional guidelines for recipes while keeping things tasty, interesting and fun for customers.
Helping people live healthy lives is Lewis’ top priority. Here are her tips on what you can do to live your best, healthiest life.
1. Give thanks
Gratitude is one of the greatest stress relievers, says Lewis. Instead of focusing on what’s stressing you out, train your brain to celebrate the joys in your life. “Take the time to realize it’s a matter of perspective,” Lewis says. Keeping a gratitude journal will help you refocus on the positive and carry over that energy into other parts of your life. Finding these small things to be grateful for can set the tone for the rest of your day — and your life.
2. Move your body
Create a reason to move around every day, even if that means just taking the stairs or going for a walk. This can have a huge impact on overall health and longevity, Lewis says. “Our bodies are designed for movement — not for sitting at a desk all day only to go home and sit on the couch.” Aim for 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week. So whether you hit the gym, join a sports league or simply dance it up in your living room, the goal is just to get moving.
3. Get some shut-eye
Historically, sleep was a valued activity, but in this age of 24-hour entertainment and long work hours, the sentiment has shifted to the oft-clichéd: “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” Lewis stresses that getting enough sleep each night (6-8 hours to be exact) is the most important thing you could do for your body. Sleepytime is when your body repairs itself, allowing your brain to fix any damage that occurred during the day, and when short-term memory is converted to long-term. A lack of sleep can also prompt your body to pump out more cortisol and ghrelin (the hunger hormone), causing you to reach for unhealthy snacks throughout the day.
4. Quench yo’ thirst
The human body is a machine and water is its most important fuel — one that constantly needs to be replenished. Lewis recommends 64 ounces a day, an amount that equates to about eight glasses. In addition to the internal benefits of H2O, there are some external ones too. “Drinking enough water is one of the best ways to make your skin glow and look beautiful,” Lewis says.
5. Taste the rainbow
When shopping for food and filling your plate, look to include a diverse range of colors — and no, technicolor cereal doesn’t count. From a nutritional perspective, the more brightly-colored a vegetable is, the better it is for you. This means staying clear of those middle aisles in the supermarket, where processed and packaged foods live. If it comes in a box or a bag, that means the food is shelf stable and full of salt and preservatives. “Try to make your refrigerator fuller than your pantry,” Lewis says. “If you’re refrigerating your food, it’s probably fresher.”
6. Eat more fish and fiber
Americans tend to be chronically inflamed, Lewis says, by a lot of stressors (like lack of sleep and long work hours) dominating their lives. These bad habits can send the body into what she calls a “low-grade, chronic inflammatory state.” The good news: Eating fish, which is full of Omega-3s, helps fight that. Lewis recommends 8 oz. a week.
She also recommends adding more fiber to your diet, which will help you stay satiated longer and will stave off snack attacks. Things like whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables are all high in fiber and will do the trick.
7. Make your meal the main event
Stop treating meals like they’re unimportant. So many of us are guilty of this: We eat while scrolling through our phone, while sitting in front of the computer at work or while watching TV. “When you eat, just eat,” Lewis says. Take the time to eat your food and pay attention to what it is you’re eating — what it tastes like, feels like, smells like, looks like. This mindfulness practice will help you tune back in, stay connected to your food and get in the way of accidental overeating. Even better? Eat with people. Food is inherently social and research has shown that when you share meals, you perform better academically, socially and emotionally.
8. Cook at home more often
If you think you don’t have the time to cook at home, that it’s too hard or you just don’t feel like buying groceries, HelloFresh is a great solution for eating well. “We shortcut you to the stove,” Lewis says. “We do all the shopping and prepping, deliver it to your door and give you step-by-step instructions with photos.” The truth is, in the average American home, 50% of food dollars are spent on meals prepared outside the home. Outsourced meals end up being higher in fat, sugar, calories and salt — all the things that can contribute to an unhealthy lifestyle. It’s also unlikely that you’re getting a lot of whole grain, fruits or vegetables when you’re eating out all the time. HelloFresh makes it quick and easy for you to eat well, no matter your cooking skills, so you can get a meal on the table you feel good about in just about 30 minutes.