Thursday, May 21, 2009

Spring into Shape

Spring is the time we come out of hibernation from the cold weather, ice and snow and think about getting in shape for warmer weather activities. We often want to slim down in preparation for wearing shorts, bathing suits and sundresses. What can we do to accomplish these goals? 1. Eat lighter. People tend to eat heartier dishes in winter, which may mean added fat and calories. Supermarkets and farmer’s markets will have an increasing variety of produce at an affordable price as local fruits and vegetables come into season. Fruits and vegetables have a high water content (80-96%), no fat, few calories and fiber. The low energy density fills us up on fewer calories and the fiber slows digestion so we don’t get hungry as quickly. We also get lots of Vitamins A and C, phytonutrients and antioxidants to strengthen our immune system and prevent chronic diseases. 2. Cook creatively. Use a variety of vegetables and lean proteins to make a stir-fry, an entrĂ©e salad or tasty grilled meal. Broiling and poaching are also fast and low-fat ways to prepare foods. 3. Be discriminating when choosing beverages. Sodas, sweetened teas, fruit drinks and fancy coffee concoctions can add up to several hundred extra calories per day to your diet and do not fill you up so you eat less food. Instead, drink water, unsweetened beverages or low or non-fat milk. 4. Snack sensibly. People who eat 5-6 mini-meals per day are more easily able to maintain a healthy weight. Plan your snacks so they include 2-3 healthy choices from the food groups—whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean proteins. Skip the chips and cookies and have nonfat yogurt with fruit, low-sodium tomato juice with whole grain crackers, or a small bowl of cereal with skim milk and ½ banana. 5. Walk for wellness. If you have been inactive over the winter, start gradually and add some distance each week. Get a walking partner so you can motivate each other. Walking is a great time to touch base with your spouse or friends without the distraction of television or other activities. The sunshine on our skin enables our bodies to produce Vitamin D, which is lacking in many older adults. Breathing in the fresh air results in increased oxygen circulation and energy. Being out in nature with all the beautiful trees and flowers lifts our spirits, and the endorphins created by the activity relieves depression. Other physical activities like stretching, strength training or working outdoors can help us build and tone muscle, increase metabolism and improve our appearance. So, while planning your garden and your summer vacation, don’t forget to schedule in healthy meals and regular physical activity. The result will be a healthier and happier you! What are strategies you use to get in shape?

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