Your Health, Your Choice | October

What’s the deal with meatless meals?

Eating a plant-based meal every now and then can help you lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. Mixing in some meatless meals won’t require you to give up your carnivorous ways. You can eat lean meat, just less of it!

“Most of the cholesterol-raising saturated fats that Americans eat come from meat and full-fat dairy products such as whole milk cheese,” said Alice Lichtenstein, D.Sc., a professor of nutrition. “If you decrease your daily intake of animal fat, you’re going to decrease your intake of saturated fat.”

Taking meat off the menu won’t make it boring; there are more options than you think. Craving a burger? Try a savory grilled portabella mushroom burger. Going meatless is as simple as moving vegetables and fruits from a side dish to a starring role. You should also seek out high-fiber whole grains, beans and legumes, unsalted nuts, and lower fat and fat-free dairy foods. These tend to be high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and other important phytonutrients.

Try eating one meatless meal a week. Sticking with it can quickly make you start feeling lighter and your wallet fatter: People who eat less meat tend to consume fewer calories, and foods such as beans are one of the most cost-effective sources of protein available. Meat typically costs more per pound than other protein sources.

You don’t have to go cold turkey on meat to adopt a heart-healthy eating style. Are you a fan of chicken or fish? Skinless poultry and fish containing omega-3 fatty acids are good protein choices and easy to prepare in healthy ways. When you do eat meat, choose the leanest cut available, reduce your portion size to no more than six ounces cooked, remove all visible fat, and cook in a healthy way to avoid excess saturated fats. And remember, a meatless meal doesn’t automatically translate to less saturated fat.

“You can drop meat, but if you substitute quiche for steak, you’re not going to get any advantage in terms of heart health,” Dr. Lichtenstein cautioned. Make sure you’re making healthy swaps.

More tips for going meatless:

  • Stock the refrigerator and pantry with plant-based alternatives like veggies, beans, nuts, whole grains and tofu.
  • Find recipes for meatless meals The American Heart Association offers hundreds of healthy, delicious plant-based entrees in our cookbooks and online recipe center.
  • Go veggie at work If you have access to an office kitchen, keep a few convenient meatless foods you like, such as veggie burgers, on hand for a quick, meatless lunch.

Reaping the mental health benefits of exercise is easier than you think

Wondering just how active you need to be to get a mental health boost? It’s probably not as much as you think. You don’t need to devote hours out of your busy day, train at the gym, sweat buckets, or run mile after monotonous mile. You can reap all the physical and mental health benefits of exercise with 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. Two 15 minute or even three 10 minute exercise sessions can also work just as well.

Even a little bit of activity is better than nothing. If that still seems intimidating, don’t despair. Even just a few minutes of physical activity are better than none at all. If you don’t have time for 15 or 30 minutes of exercise, or if your body tells you to take a break after five or 10 minutes, for example, that’s okay, too. Start with five or 10 minute sessions and slowly increase your time. The more you exercise, the more energy you’ll have, so eventually you’ll feel ready for a little more. The key is to commit to do some moderate physical activity—however little—on most days. As exercising becomes habit, you can slowly add extra minutes or try different types of activities. If you keep at it, the benefits of exercise will begin to show.

Exercise at your right time for good sleep

Regular exercise can help you get a good night’s sleep. The timing and intensity of exercise seems to play a key role in its effects on sleep. If you are the type of person who gets energized or becomes more alert after exercise, it may be best not to exercise in the evening. Regular exercise in the morning can even help relieve insomnia, according to a study.

What’s your stance?

Summer is ending, and the days are getting shorter. Do you find yourself slipping into a slump? One easy solution: Fix your posture. Good posture improves selfconfidence and exudes an aura of dignity. (Try sitting or walking with bad posture for 30 seconds; then switch to a good posture for 30 seconds. Go ahead, we’ll wait…. Notice the difference?)

It is also important to maintain good posture for a variety of physical reasons, such as: improved breathing, reduced risk of neck, back, and shoulder injuries, increased blood circulation, more mobility and strength, and an overall better quality of life.

Posture can worsen with age and increase the pains associated with arthritis, joint issues, and nerve complications. Everyone’s ideal posture is different. A healthy posture is a combination of the correct alignment of your hips, spine, neck, and jaw, as well as healthy and active supporting muscles. Here are some pointers to maintain good posture:

  • Exercise. Strengthening the supporting muscles will help align your body and encourage good form.
  • Move. Holding any position will lead to muscle fatigue and muscle failure. Remind yourself to get up and move around every 20 minutes.
  • Sit closer. Avoid subconsciously leaning or hunching over to see the t.v. or computer screen.
  • Get your vision checked. Poor eyesight can cause you to thrust your head forward.

Exercise of the month: Wall Slides

  1. Stand with your back against a wall so your tailbone, shoulder blades, and head are all pressed against the surface.
  2. Place your hands on the wall at shoulder level with your elbows bent at 45 degrees and your palms facing forward.
  3. Slowly extend your arms up the wall. Raise your hands comfortably above your head while keeping your tailbone, shoulder blades, and head stationary and in constant contact with the wall.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position. You should take about 5–10 seconds to reach up, and another 5–10 seconds to lower your arms.
  5. Repeat 8–12 times, three times each day.