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To Your Health: Colorful Meal Options and Stress Reduction

Last updated: Dec 16, 2019

As appears in: Montclair Local

As the year comes to a close, most of my appointments are annual checkups. With the holidays upon us, it is the perfect time to regroup and make a resolution to focus on healthy habits. Here are three hot topics I typically discuss with patients.

Eat the Rainbow 

The problem with the American diet is the majority of people do not know what their plate should look like. When we think about portioning, the outdated food pyramid comes to mind. During every checkup, I reeducate my patients about their plate using: www.choosemyplate.gov. Many are surprised to hear that half their plate should be fruits and veggies, while protein and carbs should only be a quarter each. 

When my husband and I cook at home we portion out each food group and save the rest for another night. This is especially important during the holiday season. When we make a plate at a party the tendency is to load up on pasta and meat with maybe a tiny side salad. Make your meal colorful and do not pile the food too high. 

Health advantage: Eating nutritious foods will keep your weight in check and strengthen your heart. When there is too much unhealthy fat in the body, it increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol. 

Stay Active 

In our busy lives, it is hard to find the time to get enough exercise. During the holidays, this only gets tougher. When I tell my patients the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five times a week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week, they often say, “but when?!” 

I advise them to find a workout that fits their schedule. As a working mom, hitting the gym five times a week is not realistic so instead I pack in high-intensity workouts twice a week on my days off. Be creative—for example, take the dog for a brisk walk to get your heart rate up. And if you do not exercise, start slow—get active twice a week and increase the frequency over time. 

Health benefit: Cardiovascular exercise, which includes running, swimming, or boxing, protects your body from heart disease. Weight training builds bone and muscle strength.

Reduce Stress 

We all know that the most wonderful time of the year can also be the most stressful. I like to remind my patients—and myself—that we can’t help others if we can’t help ourselves. People often try to make friends and family feel better at the expense of their own health. Sometimes, it is OK to say “no” too. 

Health benefit: If you are feeling overwhelmed, try talking to a friend. Sharing your burden is a proven way to relieve stress. Research shows that deep breathing exercises can lower your heart rate and blood pressure. Journaling has also been found to reduce anxiety, boost mood, and improve immune system function. Try writing down three good things that happen every day. 

You can’t change everything at once. Try taking one piece of advice to heart in the new year. Whenever I leave my son at daycare to take a yoga class or get a haircut, I feel guilty. But I need that time for my mental health— it makes me a better mom, wife, and physician. And that goes for healthy eating and exercise too. When we feel and look better, we are happier and have better relationships with those around us. So have a happy holiday and remember 2020 is the perfect time for a new start!

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