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Easy Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle
Adding Veggies, Fruits and Exercise to Your Life Is Simple!

A recent Michigan study revealed shocking statistics: few Americans follow the four basic rules of healthy living. In fact, only 3% 1) don't smoke; 2) exercise regularly; 3) eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day; and 4) keep their weight in a healthy range. To break down the numbers, 76% of Americans are nonsmokers while 40% maintained a Body Mass Index between 18.5 and 25, but less than a quarter of Americans exercised or ate an adequate amount of fruits and vegetables. Small percentages did two or three out of four, but just that measly 3% managed to do it all.

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These numbers are appalling, especially when you consider that it is not that difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are many ways to fit vegetables, fruit and exercise into your life, no matter how busy you are. The 3% of Americans who are already living healthy aren't heroes, miracle workers or fitness fanatics (well, perhaps some of them are fitness fanatics, but not that many). They're just people who have integrated a few small habits into their lives that perhaps you haven't yet. A healthy lifestyle may be just a few easy changes away.

Following are suggestions that will help you integrate exercise, fruits and vegetables into your life. Take those that seem the simplest to you and add them to your life gradually. When you feel comfortable with one change, add the next one. Don't worry about doing any of them perfectly; strive for being consistent instead of perfect. After a while, you may discover that healthy living takes a lot less effort than you ever imagined!

Easy ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet:

  • Make fruit your friend — take a banana, apple, pear or one-serving piece of fruit along with you where ever you go.
  • Add an extra veggie to your dinner, or have salad in addition to your dinner vegetable.
  • When ordering at a restaurant, ask for more vegetables instead of the rice or potato. And request that they be steamed — many eateries drench everything, including vegetables, in oil. Are steamed veggies too plain for you? Ask for a side of low-fat dressing and use as a dip.
  • Are you eating fast food? Most places have salads these days, so get a salad instead of fries (and the low fat dressing, of course.)
  • Enjoy a big bowl of vegetable soup and some crusty bread for a light, high-veggie lunch or dinner. Or have a cup of vegetable soup as a snack.
  • Take advantage of the season — enjoy the fruits that are naturally available at that time of year. Apples really do taste better in the fall and winter; berries and watermelon are best in the summertime. When you taste fruit at its peak you are inclined to want it more often. A good time to have in-season fruit is for dessert — if you don't want to eat it plain, add a dollop of low fat sour cream or yogurt.
  • Do you have a candy machine at work? Let it grow cobwebs! Snack on raisins, dried cranberries or baby carrots instead.
  • Need a fast breakfast? Flip on the blender and whip up a fruit smoothie.
  • Got time to make breakfast? Have a veggie omelet.
  • Quick pasta dinner: toss veggies in the boiling water along with the pasta. Cover with your favorite ready-made marinara sauce.

Easy ways to fit exercise into your life:

  • Walk! Take a brisk walk during work breaks, after lunch or dinner and any other chance you get. Walking actually does two things — it gets you moving and it clears your mind. So an especially good time to take a walk is when you're mulling over a problem. Walking will help put things in perspective.
  • Whenever possible, take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Do you really have to watch that television show? If the answer is yes, then lay out an exercise mat in front of the TV and exercise during the commercials. You can fit in at least 15 minutes' worth of exercise during an hour-long show.
  • Here's a slightly more advanced version — get a stability ball and use it for your in-front-of-the-TV exercises. Sit on it when you're actually watching the show.
  • Schedule in workouts the way you do the rest of your life — enter it in your calendar the same way you do all your other appointments.
  • If you work at a desk, stretch every 15 minutes to half an hour. Set the timer on your computer to remind you.
  • Stand and sit up straight! While good posture isn't exactly exercise, it keeps you more fit in the long run.
  • When you're in line at the bank or the store, you can do some subtle calf raises and no one will be any wiser.
  • While you're talking on the phone, do a few wall squats and leg stretches.
  • Waiting for the water to boil? Do some incline push-ups with your hands against the counter edge. Microwaving for a moment or two? Do jumping jacks while the food's nuking.
  • Get a few of those DVDs that have 10-minute workouts. Whenever you have an extra 10 minutes to spare, toss one on.

If you just add a few of the habits listed above, don't smoke and keep your weight in a healthy range, you too can be one of the healthiest 3%!

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