AARP is passionate about helping our St. Louis members and all Missourians 50+ live life to the fullest. We work on important issues like health care and financial security - and we like to have fun too! We’re proud to help the St. Louis community become the best it can be. We invite you to find out more about what we’re doing in your community by visiting aarp.org/stlouis. AARP in St. Louis – Living Actively. Connecting Locally.
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Week 1: Health Benefits of Meatless Meals
When people hear that they should try to substitute a meatless meal or two in their daily diet, some might tend to think “how can I do that?” Removing meat from your diet may sound hard; however, if done in moderation the process can be eased. By starting with replacing one meal per day with a meatless meal, you are taking one step forward in living a healthy lifestyle. Research shows that people who eat red meat are increasing their exposure to suffering from heart disease, stroke or diabetes. Processed meats also increase exposure to those diseases.
Eating more fruits and vegetables or having a vegetarian or plant-based diet can help support heart health, increase your body’s antioxidants and vitamins, and help with weight loss. Planning out your meals for the week can help you think of dishes that are meatless. Good examples are lasagna, soup, or pasta salad. Or try replacing the following protein-rich foods for meat in your favorite recipes: Beans and legumes are great in casseroles and salads. Vegetarian refried beans are a good substitute for meat in burritos and tacos. To help with meal planning ideas, visit recipes.aarp.org.
Week 2: The Importance of Gratitude
A New Year always brings about change and reflection. When setting personal goals for the New Year, a person may think about what took place in the previous year, which will cause them to do something different in the New Year. As you are reflecting about your life, you will start to think about all of the good things that have taken place and the new things that you are looking forward to. In thinking about the good things that have happened in your life, you begin to experience a feeling of happiness and gratitude. Being thankful for the small things helps you to receive more out of life. Being grateful that you are breathing, able to smell the flowers, enjoy your family and friends, and etc., allow you to stay in a positive state of mind that will allow you to stay focused on your goals.
A gratitude journal will help you keep the big picture in perspective. To start the journaling process, pick out a notebook to capture your thoughts. Next select a time that works best for you to reflect upon your day. Finally write down what you are thankful for. Don’t allow the concept of journaling daily to feel overwhelming. This exercise is supposed to be peaceful. Maybe start off with journaling for 5 to 10 minutes about what you are thankful for. The more often you journal you will start to spend more time with the process because it will help you with planning out your New Year goals at the same time!
AARP St. Louis is all about Living Actively and Connecting Locally visit aarp.org/st.louis to learn what we are doing in your community.
Week 3: Benefits of Cross-Training
Cross-training exercising is a good way to add variety to your workout routine. You may be wondering what is cross-training. Cross-training is doing a variety of exercises that engages more than one muscle group at the same time. The exercises don’t just consist of lifting weights. The exercises could be as simple as taking a walk, bike ride, running, dance class, or etc. One of the benefits of cross-training is to allow yourself to experience new ways to get your body moving and start enjoying the benefits of exercising.
As stated earlier, walking is a great form of cross-training and one of the easiest things to incorporate in your daily routine. AARP Wellness Ambassador, Denise Austin, has provided some great tips and benefits on walking. To learn more about what Denise has to share, read her article.
If you are looking for new ways to start moving, AARP hosts a variety of active living events in St. Louis. We invite you to join us later this year for Boomers and Bikes or Trail Trekkers! For more information on these and other AARP activities in your community, visit aarp.org/stlouis. We look forward to connecting with you!
Week 4: How to Rethink what You Drink
Making healthy lifestyle changes can be overwhelming. There are a lot of things for a person to consider changing. The changes can range from what to eat, how to exercise, and what to drink. When it comes to what liquids we should fuel our bodies with, a lot of health experts will recommend water. Of course that should be the natural drink of choice because the average human adult body is made up of 50% – 60% water, and we need water to help replenish our bodies.
However, what are you supposed to drink if your thirst is not quite craving the taste of plain H2O (water)? Sometimes you may reach for a nice sugary beverage. That could consist of soda, flavored teas, juices, or alcoholic beverages. Health experts will say that having a healthy non-water beverage is okay, as long as it’s in moderation. But what are you to do if you just can’t make the shift to non-sugary drinks? You can learn the facts about sugary drinks. Knowing the facts may help shift your beverage choices when getting something to drink. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is a good resource for educating yourself about sugar-sweetened beverages and consumption. Click here to learn more about what the CDC has to say.
Finally, if you are looking for new ways to start moving, AARP hosts a variety of active living events in St. Louis. We invite you to join us later this year for Boomers and Bikes or Trail Trekkers! For more information on these and other AARP activities in your community, visit aarp.org/stlouis. We look forward to connecting with you!
Week 5: Incorporating fish into your healthy diet
The foods you eat can either advance your healthy lifestyle change or defeat it. There are numerous studies that show that adding fish to your diet can be healthy for you. Fish is a low-fat high quality protein. It is filled with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins such as D and B2 (riboflavin). These essential nutrients keep our heart and brain healthy. AARP Staying Sharp recently published an article about the health benefits of fish. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least two times per week as part of a healthy diet.
You might be thinking I like fish, but how do I incorporate it into my diet. Below are three steps that you can take to help you incorporate more fish into your diet.
Visit the Seafood Department in your local grocery store. Normally the people working in the seafood department are trained to know about the seafood they are selling. Ask the employee what fish is fresh and what fish has a mild or bold taste. Knowing what your food palette prefers will help you to start incorporating fish into your diet.
Skillet, Oven, or Grill? Fish can be prepared a variety of ways. Be open to trying out different preparation methods. Grilled fish is delicious but pan seared fish taste just as good!
Fish tacos anyone! Fish typically pairs well with any type of vegetable. Think about the type of flavors you like and do not be afraid to add fish as one of the ingredients. The Healthy Living section on AARP.org has a great recipe tool to will help you find recipes that use fish.
Week 6: The Real “Veggie Tales”: What do the different Color Veggies Provide?
The recommended amount of fruits an adult should consume in a day is 1.5 to 2 cups. The recommended amount of vegetables is 2 to 3 cups per day. The health benefits of eating fruits and vegetables can lower your risk for certain types of preventable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity.
The colors of fruits and vegetables provide health benefits to the body. So now when you go into the produce section, you may choose the purple grapes over the green grapes, or you may decide to have both! The University of California Berkeley Wellness website has an article that discusses “The Benefits of Colorful Produce”. Reading this article will educate you about the nutritional l value of red, orange, blue, yellow, and other colors of fruits and vegetables. You will now become more knowledgeable about why you are consuming these foods. And knowledge is power!
Hungering for more knowledge? Enjoy these articles from AARP.org: “Purple Reign”, “Eat Red for a Heart Healthy Diet”, and “Try Blueberries, Colorful Fruits and Veggies to Help Memory and Health”.
The Healthy Living section on AARP.org has a great recipe tool that will help you find recipes that use vegetables and can help you disguise them in meals.
Week 7: Combatting Exercise Boredom
You are now over half-way through the Small Changes program. You have been implementing changes to your diet and workout. However, now you may start to experience some exercise fatigue and may start to feel bored with your workouts.
Here are some tips to recharge your exercise batteries:
- Add variety to your routine. Instead of always working out on the treadmill, maybe use the elliptical or a different piece of equipment.
- Try a group class. Adding a fitness class like Zumba, Cross Fit, or Turbo Jam will definitely add variety to your routine. The music that is played in these classes will rejuvenate your spirits and inspire you to want to keep moving.
- Have a friend join you. Our friends can be some of our biggest cheerleaders. Implementing the buddy system can help keep you focus and accountable to your workouts.
Needing some exercise variety for when you are unable to make it to the gym? AARP’s Health Ambassador, Denise Austin has a variety of exercise videos that you can do in the comfort of your home.
So don’t stop moving! Add more variety! Excitement awaits!
Week 8: Sleep and Obesity: What’s the Connection?
Most of us have heard growing up that it is important for us to go bed in timely manner so that we will feel rested in the morning. As we age, we may feel that our body doesn’t require a lot of sleep in order for us to be healthy. But that is not the case. According to the National Sleep Foundation, an adult between the ages of 25 – 64 needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep. If you are getting less than 7 hours of sleep, your body could start to become unhealthy and you could start to gain weight. Feeling tired decreases your energy to want to exercise, make smart food choices, and eat more because you’re up later.
Follow these simple healthy sleep tips and you will be ensuring that you are getting enough sleep and keeping the pounds at bay.
- Develop a sleep schedule and stick to it.
- Exercise daily.
- Make sure the temperature in your bedroom is comfortable.
- Turn off electronics before bed.
If you’re a caregiver and needing a little bit more guidance, read the article “Caregivers at Risk for Weight Gain” on aarp.org. It’s full of helpful tips that will make sure that you are getting the rest that you need to take care of your loved one.
If you need to activities to help keep you alert throughout the day, then join AARP St. Louis for one of our healthy lifestyle activities! We believe in Living Actively and Connecting Locally in our communities! To learn more about AARP St. Louis upcoming events visit aarp.org/stlouis.
Week 9: Fiber (Soluble and insoluble) and what it does for You
What's the Difference between soluble and insoluble fiber?
Dietary fiber is the part of plant-based food that mostly passes through your digestive system without breaking down or being digested. There are two types of fiber: soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water, and includes plant pectin and gums. Insoluble fiber doesn't dissolve in water. It includes plant cellulose and hemicellulose.
Most plants contain both soluble and insoluble fiber, but in different amounts. Fiber is an important part of a healthy diet and supports many different body systems.
Soluble and insoluble fibers have unique benefits.
As soluble fiber dissolves, it creates a gel that may improve digestion in a number of ways. Soluble fiber may reduce blood cholesterol and sugar. It helps your body improve blood glucose control, which can aid in reducing your risk for diabetes.
Insoluble fiber attracts water into your stool, making it softer and easier to pass with less strain on your bowel. Insoluble fiber can help promote bowel health and regularity. It also supports insulin sensitivity, and, like soluble fiber, may help reduce your risk for diabetes.
- men, age 50 and under - 38 grams per day
- women, age 50 and under - 25 grams per day
- men, over 50 - 30 grams per day
- women, over 50 - 21 grams per day
Sources of soluble fiber
Good sources of soluble fiber include:
- citrus fruit
Sources of insoluble fiber
Good sources of insoluble fiber include:
- whole-wheat flour
- wheat bran
- green beans
Both soluble and insoluble fibers are important for a healthy diet. They help fight diabetes and some cancers, and support cardiovascular and digestive health.
If you need to activities to help keep you alert throughout the day, then join AARP St. Louis for one of our healthy lifestyle activities! We believe in Living Actively and Connecting Locally in our communities! To learn more about AARP St. Louis upcoming events visit aarp.org/stlouis
Week 10: Meditation and Stress Relief
We are all living busy lives and there are a lot of things vying for our attention. May it be family, friends, or work; there is a never ending to-do list. Sometimes things can become overwhelming and our blood pressure starts to rise. We are starting to feel stressed out! Stress can cause adverse effects to our bodies and it affects each of us differently.
Stress can lead to ulcers, heart disease, or having a stroke. So how can we combat stress? First we need to acknowledge that we are stressed. Second, we need to take a deep breath and then exhale. Third, we need to engage in a relaxing activity such as meditating.
Meditating is an individual experience. It could be taking a yoga class, a spiritual retreat, a scenic walk, it is whatever allows your mind to calm down and forget about the pressures of the world.
AARP St. Louis offers a variety relaxing activities visit www.aarp.org/stlouis to find the activity that’s right for you!
Week 11: Wrap Up
Congratulations! You’ve reached the end of the Small Changes for Health journey. Now it’s time to talk about how to check your progress. Numbers are important, but it’s not all about the scale. Experts say that paying attention to just four numbers can help you better track your own progress towards a healthier you.
- Body Mass Index (BMI): This is a simple calculation based on the ratio of height to weight. It doesn’t differentiate between muscle mass and fat, but it’s a better health metric than just stepping on the scale. The normal BMI range is 18.5 – 24.9. You can calculate your BMI here.
- Blood Pressure: This is a good indicator of overall health and can be easily tracked. About 80 million people in the U.S. have high blood pressure – and the good news is that it can be controlled with medication if necessary. If you haven’t been monitoring your blood pressure on a regular basis, you should know that anything higher than 120/80 puts you in the danger zone. Click here to understand more about your blood pressure reading.
- Cholesterol: The goal here is to have a total cholesterol level less than 200. If it’s higher than 200, your doctor may want to dig a bit deeper into the components that make up your total cholesterol level (i.e. HDL “good” cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglycerides).
- Blood Glucose: This test measures the amount of sugar in the blood and allows doctors to assess your risk of diabetes. A reading of less than 5.7% is considered normal, while 5.7-6.4 is considered pre-diabetic. Anything higher results in a diagnosis of diabetes.
Visit your doctor annually, keep track of these numbers and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier you. Congratulations on taking the first step by joining us on the Small Changes for Health journey! For more information and support on sustaining a healthier you, visit the AARP website or join AARP in St. Louis for an upcoming active living event!
For more information and resources about healthy behaviors and active lifestyles, visit aarp.org/health.