Daylight saving time is over, the trees are almost bare of leaves and you've finally had to pull out your winter hats -- but that's no reason to abandon your quest for better health. Try these 10 ideas for small improvements you can make in your day-to-day life. Your body and mind will thank you.
1. Buy a plant
Now that it's cold out, you're probably not opening the windows and letting in fresh air as often as you'd like, and that means your indoor air quality is suffering. Compensate by adding a houseplant or two to your decor. Studies show that plants can remove toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde and benzene from the air -- different species process different substances, so make sure you have a variety of plants. Top performers include spider plants, gerbera daisies, Boston ferns and English ivy.
2. Make a pot of soup
Nothing warms you up on a chilly day like a steaming bowl of homemade soup. For optimal health benefits, choose a recipe that's high in veggies and legumes and low in fat -- so go for something like lentil or black bean rather than cream of mushroom or clam chowder, and serve with whole grain toast or croutons.
Flexibility exercises often get pushed aside in favour of calorie-blasting cardio and muscle-toning weight training, but they're just as important to your overall well-being. Make sure to stretch all your major muscles after every workout, and consider adding stretch breaks throughout your day to keep muscles and joints limber.
4. Assess your beverage intake
One of the main culprits in weight gain is often the empty calories found in beverages, whether they be beer or wine, cocktails, pop, juice or fancy coffee drinks. Your body has a hard time gauging the intake of liquid calories, and at 139 calories in a can of Coke and more than 200 in a tall latte from Starbucks, it's easy to find yourself taking in an extra 500 calories a day -- which adds up to a pound a week. Try paying attention to what you drink in a day, and figure out where you can cut back without noticing. Have sparkling water at lunch, for instance, instead of a can of pop, and go for skim milk in your cappuccinos.
5. Kill germs
Cold and flu season is here, but that's no reason to succumb to every virus that crosses your path. Along with washing your hands often and taking care of your immune system, make sure to disinfect around your home and office -- doorknobs, phones and computers are all frequently handled objects that cold viruses can live on for hours, so make sure to keep them clean.
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6. Drink green tea
Green tea has a lot going for it. It's a calorie-free, antioxidant-rich thirst quencher that's said to increase your metabolism and help your body burn fat -- and it offers enough caffeine to boost your energy without the extreme highs and lows you get from coffee. Add a cup or two of green tea to your daily routine, whether it be first thing in the morning or as a post-lunch pick-me-up. There's a plethora of varieties available, so try different kinds to find your favourite.
7. Start your Christmas shopping
There's nothing like the stress of an incomplete shopping list to dampen your holiday spirit. Get ahead of the game this month by spending an evening or two placing gift orders online -- you'll beat the rush and leave yourself time in December to enjoy the season (not to mention time to sneak in extra workouts to balance out all the holiday treats).
8. Go for whole grains
Refined grains (think white flour and white rice) gained their popularity mainly because they could be stored for long periods of time without going bad, as opposed to whole grain products, which are much more perishable. However, the process of refining grains strips out the valuable nutrients and fibre that your body needs. Pay attention to your grain intake, and try upping the level of whole grains in your diet by using whole wheat pasta, brown rice and bread made from whole wheat flour. If you (or your family) really prefer the taste of white, then use a blend -- mix white and brown rice or pasta, for instance, or make sandwiches with one slice of white and one slice of whole wheat bread.
9. Get outside
Sure, it's getting chilly out, but that's no reason to start hibernating just yet. Take advantage of any good weather by spending time outdoors. Whether it's cleaning up the yard, jumping in the leaves with your kids or something farther afield like horseback riding or hiking, the fresh air and exercise will do you good -- just make sure to dress for the weather.
10. Downsize your dishes
It's amazing how susceptible we are to the power of persuasion -- study after study shows that people eat more food if it's served on bigger plates, and are satisfied with less when meals are presented on smaller dishes. Take advantage of this trick of psychology by using smaller plates and bowls for your food. You don't have to worry about going hungry -- if you clear your plate and still want more, you can always go back for seconds. But you may be surprised by how much your portion sizes decrease.
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