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Habits to Cultivate

By Charlyn Fargo

This shelter-in-place time has had me thinking about habits – the things I do on a daily basis to stay healthy. I think it’s because so many habits were changed unexpectedly – driving to work, going to the gym, eating out. My daily commute is now up the stairs to my office; my workout is a two-mile walk in the neighborhood; we eat all our meals at home.

To be honest, some of the new habits are refreshing. I love to cook; I love to be outside and walk. There are certain advantages to working at home. I admit I miss personal interaction, and yes, there is Zoom, but it’s not the same.

We can use this time at home more (and even with the lessening of restrictions, I think we’ll be home more) to create some healthier food habits.

I’ve shared before that my mom had breast cancer twice in her life – battled and won both times – only to have her heart eventually give out. Because of my breast cancer history, I’m tuned in to healthy habits to cut my odds of having breast cancer.

When it comes to food, the latest recommendations are tried and true. Focus on vegetables, fruits and whole grains. The rest of your plate should be filled with lean protein (poultry, fish, lean beef or pork). The goal is to try to eat more plant-forward meals. Veggies, fruits and whole grains offer fiber, which helps us feel full and can help keep our weight at a healthy number.

When it comes to alcohol, less is better. Just two to three servings of wine, beer or liquor a day increase your risk of breast cancer by 20% compared with women who don’t drink at all. A five-ounce glass of wine a day only increases your risk slightly.

And don’t skip working out. Regular physical exercise lowers the risk. (We knew that, right?) That’s where good habits take over.

Keep making meals at home. Add quinoa to your salads; switch to brown rice and whole-wheat bread. Check the label to make sure that slice of bread has at least 3 grams of fiber. If you want a glass of wine, have it with a meal. And get some exercise daily. Make it part of your routine.

Go ahead and schedule that mammogram. The time it takes is well worth the peace of mind it gives you. Some of us need them yearly; some need scans as well as mammograms. Listen to your doctor.

We can turn this shelter-at-home time into a benefit. Like my mom would say, make a list of what you want to accomplish each day, and check it off as you go. Just be sure to add exercise and healthy eating.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at charfarg@aol.com or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD.

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