How to be Your Healthiest Self: 100 Tips for 2021

Every new year brings hope for new beginnings. While we are still facing the ravages of the pandemic, there are thing we can control to be our healthiest self in 2021. And it doesn’t take a gym membership, an expensive piece of exercise equipment, or organic foods. Nope, just simple steps to better health. Food & Fitness After 50 is based on eating well, moving well, and being well. Here are 99 tips to help you do that and one bonus tip at the end.

Eat Well

Photo credit: The Ginger Network

Tips to increase fiber

  • Add leftover veggies to scrambled eggs.
  • Top casseroles with crushed high fiber breakfast cereal.
  • Add oatmeal to homemade chocolate chip cookies.
  • Make lentil soup; dried lentils are easy to use and inexpensive.
  • Eat fresh, in-season fruits more often than drinking fruit juice.
  • Choose whole wheat bread, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta at least half the time.
  • Use more canned beans and peas as main dishes.

Tips to eat more fruits and veggies

  • Top hot or cold breakfast cereal with berries or bananas.
  • Make your own trail mix with dried apples, cherries, raisins, and apricots.
  • Add chunks of sweet potato and winter squash to any soup or stew.
  • Add grated apple or pear to pancake batter or muffin mix.
  • Top pizza with at least 2 veggies: peppers, onions, mushrooms, or tomato, are good options.
  • Spread unsweetened applesauce on toast in place of jelly or jam.
  • Add a can of drained mixed veggies to your favorite canned soup.
  • Combine canned pumpkin with yogurt and cinnamon for a smoothie.
Photo credit USDA ARS

Tips for healthy snacks

  • Drink vegetable juice for a mid-morning or afternoon pick-me-up.
  • Bake an apple and sprinkle with cinnamon and a pinch of brown sugar.
  • Eat a handful of nuts…peanuts, pistachios, almonds, walnuts, and pecans are all great snacks.
  • Popcorn is a whole grain, healthy snack; just don’t drown it butter.
  • Cut up some veggies and keep them visible in the fridge so when you are searching for a snack, they are ready; kids love to dip them in Ranch dressing.

Tips for choosing nutrient-rich foods

Photo credit: NCBA
  • A smart portion of lean beef (3-ounces) is rich in iron, zinc, and B-vitamins for healthy aging.
  • Eat more seafood; aim for at least twice per week. Frozen seafood and canned or pouch tuna and salmon are affordable choices.
  • Choose a variety of colorful fruits and veggies, but don’t overlook white veggies, like onions, potatoes, or cauliflower.
  • Skip the egg white omelet and eat the yolk, all the good nutrients are in the yellow part.
  • Embrace a Mediterranean eating pattern; rich in seafood, beans, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and olive oil.
  • Eat cold cereal and milk; even sugar-sweetened cereals contain needed vitamins and minerals, and they keep good company when you add milk.
Photo credit: The Ginger Network

Tips for increasing bone-saving nutrients

  • Drink low-fat dairy milk.
  • If lactose-intolerant, drink calcium-fortified soy milk.
  • Buy dried milk powder….it is the original whey protein and lots cheaper.
  • Drink kefir.
  • Eat canned salmon.
  • Mix up yogurt choices: Yogurt in a tube for kids, and for adults, Icelandic, Greek, or regular yogurt all contain bone-building nutrients.
  • Choose 100% orange juice with added calcium.
  • Rediscover cottage cheese; rich in protein and calcium.
Photo credit: Chris Rosenbloom

Tips for reducing sodium

  • Drain and rinse canned beans, even the low sodium versions, to reduce sodium by about 40%.
  • Eat fewer salty protein foods, like cured meats, cold cuts, sausage, bacon, and smoked meats and fish.
  • Enjoy unsalted nuts.
  • Read labels for hidden sodium; salt is often the first ingredient in seasoning blends like lemon pepper, poultry seasoning, Italian seasoning, or other herbal seasoning blends.
  • Make salad dressing at home with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar for a truly salt-free dressing.
  • Check labels on poultry and look for products that don’t have added saline broth.

Tips for managing your weight

  • Obesity is a chronic disease and is not caused by lack of willpower; learn how to get good care at the Truth About Weight.
  • To help motivate you to maintain your weight as you age, monitor it. Personally, I weigh myself every day to help me keep my weight within a certain range.
  • Aim for good health, not a number on the scale.
  • Start strength training. We lose muscle as we age, and muscle is an engine that helps burn calories.
  • Spread your meals throughout the day; aim for 3 meals a day and if you snack, keep the portions small.
  • Share an appetizer and split an entrée when you dine out or order take out to cut the calories in restaurant foods.
  • If you drink alcohol, stick to the Dietary Guidelines Advice of 1 drink/day for women and 2 drinks/day for men; remember you don’t have to drink alcohol to be healthy and less is better than more in many ways.
  • Ditch the extreme diets, including “cleanses” and “detoxes.” Your body can clean and detox you just fine.

Tips for grocery shopping

  • Embrace canned, frozen, and dried fruit…. they all count toward the minimum 5 a day serving of fruits & veggies.
  • Inventory what you have in the fridge, freezer, and pantry and plan meals and grocery trips around what is on hand.
  • Consider buying private label brands to save money on items you buy frequently.
  • Eat fresh fruit in season; mandarins and citrus fruits are at their peak in taste and lowest in price right now.
  • Forget about shopping the perimeter; the center aisles have an abundance of healthy foods.
  • Get weekly grocery store specials sent right to your phone by; it replaces the circular that used to come in the printed newspaper.

Move Well

IStock photo

Tips for getting stronger

  • Start a progressive, resistance exercise program with weights…either machines or free weights or exercise bands will do the job.
  • Include weight training at least twice a week; lift a weight until your muscle says, “no more.”
  • After a strength workout, recover by feeding your muscles with quality protein: a small carton of yogurt, a stick of string cheese, or glass of milk will do.
  • Learn to breath properly through each strength move.
  • Lie flat on your back and move to a standing position. Try this every day and move in different ways to get to a standing position.
  • Think beyond muscle strength; exercise also helps mental strength.

Tips for getting and staying in shape

  • If you have been inactive, “start low and go slow” to avoid injury.
  • Try micro-bursts of exercise; just 10 minutes a day and gradually increase to 30 total minutes.
  • All movement counts: gardening, housework, and dancing to your favorite tunes keeps you moving.
  • Walking is great way to get in shape. If you are a regular walker, pick up the pace with the aim to walk at least 3 miles per hour.
  • Make it fun; doing what you like to do makes it easier to keep it up.
  • Try a new sport, like Pickleball, or clean up your bike and go for a ride.
  • Use your smart watch or phone to set hourly reminders to get up a move; walk around the room, up and down the stairs, or perform some squats.
  • Consider trying HIIT (High Intensity Interval Workouts) if you are looking for a challenge.

Tips for improving your ABCs…agility, balance, and coordination

IStock photo
  • Try practicing yoga or Tai Chi.
  • Stand on one foot while brushing your teeth. Try closing your eyes to make it more challenging.
  • Try activities that require agility, like dance aerobics.
  • Practice walking forward, backwards, and side-to-side in your home, on level ground.
  • Try walking heal-toe while looking over your left shoulder, then back it up and look over your right shoulder.

Be Well

Tips for preventing disease

  • Stay up to date with vaccinations.  For the recommended vaccination schedule from the CDC, click here.
  • Don’t blame your genes for everything; the environment works with genes to manifest disease.
  • Continue cooking at home even after the pandemic is under control; family meals lead to good health for everyone in the family.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables; conventionally grown produce is just as nutritious as organic.
  • Use healthy fats and oils (olive, canola, soybean, etc) and use saturated fats (butter, coconut oil) sparingly.
  • Check out all the free information on the websites devoted to preventing chronic diseases: American Heart Association, American Diabetes Association, The Arthritis Foundation, National Institutes of Health, or MyPlate.

Tips for better sleep

  • Put down the phone or tablet an hour before getting into bed.
  • Invest in room darkening shades.
  • Keep the room cool, even if it means extra blankets on the bed.
  • Skip caffeinated beverages and foods after noon.
  • Keep to a schedule; get up and go to bed about the same time each day.

Tips for staying socially connected

Photo credit: Bob Murray
  • Celebrate your friends!
  • Get savvy with technology to stay in touch with younger family members.
  • Volunteer in your church, civic associations, or community organizations.
  • Join a book club, a knitting club, a gardening club, or anything that is of interest to you.

Tips for managing stress

  • Spend time in nature.
  • Meditate for at least 10 minutes a day; apps like Headspace or Calm can help you with guided meditation.
  • Go for a walk and enjoy your surroundings without listening to music, an audiobook, or podcast.
  • Focus on your breath by practicing mindful breathing each day.
  • Read a book or listen to your favorite music.

Tips for keeping your food safe

  • Wash your hands before food preparation; your hands are the dirtiest things in your kitchen!
  • Invest in a digital meat thermometer to cook foods, including reheated and frozen meals, to the correct internal temperature.
  • Practice the 2-hour rule; cooked foods and restaurant leftovers should be refrigerated within 2 hours.
  • Use a separate cutting boards for meat and produce.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables under cool running water before eating.
  • Avoid raw milk, raw cheeses, and unpasteurized juices.
  • Wash reusable shopping bags.
  • Clean your grill after every use.

By my count, that is 99 tips! For the 100th tip, remember to enjoy food. It is so much more than the nutrients it contains. Food is love, connection, and comfort!  

What’s your favorite way to stay healthy? Drop me a comment and let me know!

Chris Rosenbloom is a registered dietitian and nutrition professor emerita at Georgia State University. She is co-author of Food & Fitness After 50. Follow her blog at https://chrisrosenbloom.com/fit-to-eat-blog/.