Five ways to get your vegetable patch off to a great start
Live long with these tips. Credits: Calaimage/ Paul Bradbury
Bad health habits are literally taking years off your life, according to a new Canadian study. But we have strategies for curbing the worst offenders.
We have bad news and good news. First, the bad: whether it’s being a couch potato, smoking, letting one glass of Chardonnay turn into the whole bottle, or indulging in a giant bowl of chips and dip, our most beloved vices are killing us. Or rather, they’re drastically reducing our life expectancy, says a new study recently published in the peer-reviewed journal PLOS Medicine. It found that smoking, eating junk food, vegging out and drinking can actually slash almost six years off the life expectancy of both men and women.
The study, authored by Dr. Doug Manuel, a senior scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and professor at the University of Ottawa, focused on the worst habits, which contributed to nearly half of all deaths reported in Canada. Using a predictive algorithm Manuel and his team created, population health surveys at the individual level were examined to learn just how dangerous these vices can be. The findings were dramatic—“smoking, by itself, was associated with 32% to 39% of the difference in life expectancy across social groups,” the study says.
But that’s where the good news comes in: though their impact can’t be understated, you can combat unhealthy habits—or at least tame them. Here are the 4 guilty pleasures that are worst for your health, and what you can do to curb them.
While only about 20 per cent of Canada’s total population smokes, it is still the reigning health hazard for Canadians. When lighting up again, remember that the overall loss of life expectancy is an estimated 2.8 years. Coming up with a smoking cessation plan can help you butt out.
2. Eating Junk Food
A poor diet can shave off 1.2 years of your life, so we think it’s safe to say that giving into your sweet tooth at every craving is not a good call. To head off that 3pm junk food craving, don’t skip meals, and keep healthier snack options on-hand.
3. Physical Inactivity
With all the hours you put in at the office, it can be hard to find the opportunity and motivation to head to the gym. But yoga, Pilates, running or even going on 15-minute walks will add an extra 2.6 years onto your life. The solution? Changing your perspective.
4. Consuming Alcohol
Drinking has the least impact of these four vices—drinking contributed to a two-week decrease in life expectancy, but we know heavy drinking impacts your health in other ways. That’s why it’s important to drink with restraint.
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Infused water Source: Ryan Brook
Weight loss goals can seem insurmountable. To lose each pound of fat, you need to cut 3,500 calories, and that number can sound scary. But taking little steps to cut just 100 or 200 calories at a time goes a long way. Use two of these tips each day and you'll lose a pound in a little over a week—no starvation necessary.
We all know about the dangers of soda, but even drinking unsweetened juice will give you a sugar rush at a rate of 120 calories per cup. And chances are you don't just drink a cup. Individual serving-size bottles of juice are typically about 450 mL, and can clock in at over 200 calories. But if you're a juice drinker, it can be hard to switch to water right away. Try muddling some watermelon and mint into your water to get all kinds of flavour, and a touch of sweetness, for almost no calories. Or make iced tea using a fruity flavoured tea, and skip the sugar.
Who doesn't love pasta? But when your fettuccine comes with around 400 calories in two cups (even before the sauce!), you can feel guilty about eating it. Try replacing half the pasta with a cup of zucchini that's been cut into thin strips to match the shape of the pasta. Just throw it in the water a couple of minutes before the noodles are done. You'll still get the flavour and texture of the pasta that you crave, but with almost half the calories, because that cup of zucchini has just 30 calories.
Did you know that half a cup of barbeque sauce can contain about 250 calories? If you're someone who uses sauces liberally, this could be a big source of extra calories for you. Instead, give your meats a spice rub, which contains virtually no calories. And keep an eye on stir-fry sauces, such as teriyaki. You can often get a lot of flavour using spices (think fresh ginger, garlic and herbs) and little soy sauce, instead of using a rich sugar-filled sauce.
According to a study from the New England Journal of Medicine, potato chips are in fact the biggest contributor to obesity. In a study that found Americans gain about a pound a year, chips were the biggest cause of that weight gain. Though a serving might have about 160 calories, chances are you eat at least two to three times that. Instead, bake a cup of kale mixed with a teaspoon of oil and a bit of salt to make your own kale chips. For about 70 calories, you'll get a much more nutrient-dense snack that won't make you pack on the pounds.
If you haven't yet heard of cauliflower rice, you're missing out. This simple recipe is the perfect low-calorie replacement for white rice, which will set you back about 250 calories. Just process cauliflower florets in a food processor or grate them with a box grater, then cook with a bit of water or oil until soft. Use it for the bed of rice below meat or fish, or on the side of a curry dish. The cauliflower mimics the texture of rice but has only about 30 calories per cup.
Hamburger buns can easily contain 200 calories or more. Instead of a bun, sandwich your burger or chicken breast with veggies that contain almost no calories. You've heard of using lettuce instead of a bun, but how about grilled portobello mushrooms? Or a tomato cut in half? If you can't give up bread entirely, try a small wrap, which should cut the calories in half. Thinking outside the bun will help you lighten up your meal.
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