The Best Time to Do 14 Common Healthy Habits

Reduce Stomach Bloating: 9 Daily Habits That Flatten Your Belly

Have a cavity filled in the afternoon iStock/Stigur Karlsson The painkilling effect of dental anesthesia lasts longer in the afternoon than it does in the morning. In one study, lidocaine kept nerves numb up to five times longer when it was injected in the early afternoon compared with early morning. Don’t miss these 11 home […]

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“Healthy” Hygiene Habits That Are Bad for You

Cleaning out your ears with Q-tips

cotton bud, swab clean health care on white backgroundang intaravichian/Shutterstock

Some people swear on Q-Tips to dig out ear gunk, but medical experts will warn you not to try it. And for good reason—those seemingly harmless cotton swabs have caused countless catastrophes, from punctured eardrums and ear infections to even hearing loss. According to Brande Plotnick, MS, MBA, the ear canal doesn’t even need to be “cleaned.” Enough water enters the ear canal during showers to naturally slough away wax that has accumulated. Find out what your earwax reveals about your health

Bubble baths/bath bombs

Fizzy bath bombstikstofstudio/Shutterstock

Soaking in scented suds seems like the perfect way to unwind after a long day, but you may just find yourself with irritated skin and a nasty yeast infection. The fragrances and harsh detergents inside your favorite bath bombs can strip protective oils from the vagina and mess with the natural pH balance of the skin. Jen Gunter, MD, tells Safe Bee that bubble baths increase your odds for uncomfortable dryness, vaginal infections, and even bladder infections. These are the 13 things your vagina wants to tell you.


fragment of fountain water drops in the airAleksey Stemmer/Shutterstock

Gynos everywhere agree that douching isn’t exactly recommended for your health. Wendie A. Howland, principal of Howland Health Consulting, tells Reader’s Digest that douching disturbs the normal pH and washes out beneficial bacteria, leading to an array of possible infections. A study from Environmental Health even found that douching products increase your exposure to harmful chemicals called phthalates, which can disrupt your hormones, increase your risk of chronic disease, and lead to reproductive problems down the line. Find out the other daily habits that can mess with the health of your vagina.

Hand sanitizer

Soapy foam on woman's handsMr.Teerapong Kunkaeo/Shutterstock

If you’re a habitual pumper, you may actually be doing more harm to your health than good. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns that triclosan, a synthetic compound found in hand sanitizer, is a poor (and dangerous) replacement for soap and water. And worse, “Data suggests that long-term exposure to certain active ingredients used in hand sanitizer could pose health risks, such as bacterial resistance or hormonal effects.” Be sure to avoid these handwashing mistakes.

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Air dryers

Metal hand dryer on the white tiled wallXanderSt/Shutterstock

Sure, air dryers are better for the planet than paper towels, but research from the Mayo Clinic shows that paper towels easily trump electric dryers when it comes to personal hygiene. Electric air dryers fail at wiping away the leftover bacteria after washing, and even worse, they can literally spread it to the entire room, creating a contagious mist that contains many types of fecal bacteria. This reach is pretty powerful—studies found a substantial number of airborne bacteria within a radius of approximately 2 meters from the user.

Relaxing in the shower

Water jet from a shower head in the bathroomJanny2/Shutterstock

There’s nothing like lingering in a long, hot shower, especially first thing in the morning. But is it good for your skin? Alan J. Parks, MD, founder of DermWarehouse, tells Healthy Way that hot showers strip protective oils from your skin, so you should always keep them as short as you can. Better yet, take them at night—hot showers are actually most beneficial at night, according to science. The cooling process that happens afterward slows down the body’s metabolic activities (like digestion, breathing, and heart rate), making for an easier sleep transition. You’ll also want to avoid these other showering mistakes.

Washing your hair every day

young man washing his hair, taking a shower with foam on his head holds fingers in hair in bathroomAlena Pl/Shutterstock

While most of us have been conditioned (pun intended) to rinse and repeat ad infinitum, your locks may be paying a toll. Washing your hair on a daily basis strips away the natural oils that the hair needs, leading to dry, brittle locks, even if you have oily hair. These are other hair-washing mistakes you’re probably making.

Moisturizing too much

Closeup of male hands pumping out cream from white bottle on forefinger. Taking care of your skin - F 2.8Dodokat/Shutterstock

If you have dry, itchy skin, it seems natural to want to slather on the lotion every chance you get. But this may not always be the smartest alternative. According to the experts at Garnier, applying excessive moisturizer at night can create a tolerance, which trains the skin to produce less natural emollient, making it even drier in the long run. This results in a vicious cycle where your skin is no longer producing necessary nutrients, which only causes you to moisturize more. To prevent the problem, apply just a thin coat of moisturizer or try using an oil-free balm instead.

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Brushing your teeth right after a meal


Sticklers for oral hygiene may make a dash for the toothbrush after every meal, but that’s a mistake. That’s because certain foods, especially those containing citric acid, can weaken tooth enamel, and brushing too soon after eating damages the enamel in its already weakened state. Mayo Clinic recommends waiting at least 30 minutes after a meal so saliva can neutralize the acid in your mouth and strengthen the enamel on those chompers. Always be sure to avoid these other mistakes when it comes to brushing your teeth.

Exfoliating too much

girl cleaning her body with loofah body scrub, bathroomMosayMay/Shutterstock

You may feel like you’re taking extra good care of your skin with frequent scrubs, but in reality, you could be damaging your epidermis (the outermost layer of your face), stripping the pores of their much-needed barrier against the environment. According to Dermatology Alliance, your glands produce more oil to compensate, and as the skin fluctuates between too dry and too oily, it gets stuck in a cycle of imbalance. Ditch the scrub and switch to chemical exfoliants that are free of parabens and safe to use on a weekly basis.

Sneezing into your hand

Body language. Sick young african man in pink hoodie covering face with hands; sneezing; isolated on gray backgroundDamir Khabirov/Shutterstock

Covering your sneeze with your hand is better than sneezing into the abyss, right? Nope. Using your hands and subsequently touching food, money, or other people is a clear recipe for contagion. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most serious respiratory illnesses are spread by touching objects with contaminated hands. For the sake of everyone around you, politely sneeze into your elbow. Find out the hygiene habits you should STOP doing in public.

Spritzing fragrance in underwear

Close up of spraying perfume bottle on a dark grey background.MSharova/Shutterstock

Although most people have enough sense not to spray perfume directly into the nether regions, you might try deodorizing your underwear instead. The truth is that anything chemical near the genitals can interfere with your natural pH, and it’s likely you’ll be stuck with a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or urinary tract infection (which ironically, all end up causing worse smells than what you started with). Do yourself a favor and let your self-cleaning vagina do the work—it knows what it’s doing.

Next, make sure you never, ever touch these body parts.

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Healthy Lunch Ideas That Aren’t Salad

Asian-Style Farro Buddha Bowl with Crispy Baked Tofu

Courtesy Jessica Levinson

A healthy lunch idea from Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN makes an all-in-one balanced meal filled with whole grains, vegetables, and lean protein. It’s an easy make-ahead meal, and you can individualize it depending on your taste preferences. Baking the tofu at a high temperature will give you a crispy outside without the added calories and fat from frying. This meal is bursting with vitamin A from sweet potatoes and vitamin C from Brussels sprouts—your body will thank you for this nutritious midday meal. Learn more about farro as a healthy vegan protein source here.

Nourish Lentil Bowl

Courtesy Sharon Palmer

With a foundation of lentils and toppings of roasted squash, onions, mushrooms, pomegranates, and pecans, this lunch from Sharon Palmer, MS, RDN is a fresh spin on the bowl craze—which often features a whole grain as a base. But what about featuring a pulse as a base? The lentils are rich in fiber and protein, and the vegetables add vitamins, minerals, and more fiber (squash is rich in vitamin A), while the pomegranates provide a dose of vitamin C and phytochemicals, and the pecans are rich in heart-healthy fats. This recipe provides everything you need for a balanced, healthful meal—you can also meal prep it. Make it up on your easy day of the week, and package several servings up to grab and go for lunch during the week.


Tamari Freekeh Bowl

courtesy Tracee Yablon Brenner

This tamari freekeh bowl from Tracee Yablon Brenner, RDN, is one of the healthy lunch ideas that’s packed with nourishing avocado, tomatoes, red leaf lettuce (or your favorite leafy green), and a nutrition booster of hemp seeds. A 3-tablespoon serving of hemp seeds equals 10 grams of protein and 10 grams of omega 3’s, the healthy fats. Half your daily servings of vegetables are covered in this delectable lunch. Freekeh, an ancient grain, is getting lots of attention these days and for good reason—it’s full of fiber. Personalize your lunch with hard-boiled egg, cheese chunks or nuts. It also happens to be one of the top seven healthy carbs for diabetics.



Quinoa Edamame Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette

Courtesy Jennifer Hunt

Jennifer Hunt, RDN shares a ramped up salad. Vibrant and flavorful, this hearty grain and veggie bowl is the perfect complete meal. One large serving contains 22 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber, keeping you pleasantly satisfied all afternoon. It is also rich in vitamins A and C, supporting healthy immune function through the flu season. Serve it as is, over a bed of baby spinach or mixed greens, or stuffed into a hollowed-out bell pepper. Check out these tricks nutritionists use to eat more protein.


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Crockpot Salsa Chicken Bowls

Courtesy Kelli Shallal

Talk about one of the easiest healthy lunch ideas ever: Kelli Shallal, MPH, RDN created these five-ingredient crockpot salsa chicken bowls that she says, “It can be pulled from the freezer and a can of beans, that makes them the most convenient healthy meal ever!” Shredded chicken provides flavorful lean protein to keep you full for hours. The beans provide energizing carbs, a little bit of protein, and a ton of fiber. Then, you mix it with taco-flavored cauliflower rice, which helps keeps your carb levels in check.


Avocado Yogurt Soup

Courtesy Abbie Gellman

Avocado and yogurt combine to provide a natural creaminess to this unique soup from culinary nutritionist, Abbie Gellman, MS, RDN. Your prep couldn’t be simpler—dump the ingredients into a blender, then pour it into bowls and garnish with chopped cucumber and cilantro. This cold soup boasts high amounts of protein and healthy fats, with a kick of vitamin C from fresh jalapeno peppers. Full of healthy fats, learn why they’re so important here.


Roasted Radish Greens and Grains Bowl

Courtesy Whitney English

This warm comforting bowl created by Whitney English, MS, RDN, is packed with flavor and color! You get nearly 12 grams of fiber—about half of your daily needs in one bowl. It also delivers about 15 grams of plant-based protein thanks to the chickpeas and brown rice, and you’ll be knocking off two servings of veggies. If you haven’t tried roasting radishes, you’re in for a tasty treat!



Tuna & Edamame

Courtesy Jessica Levinson

Ready in less than 10 minutes, this healthy lunch idea from Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN is one efficient meal: Put the tuna edamame salad between two slices of whole grain bread, scoop it up with whole grain crackers, or add it to a bed of mixed greens, and lunch is done! Try packing this in bento boxes for the kids. You can swap out canned salmon, if you prefer. This egg-free, nut-free, gluten-free lunch is sure to please.

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Mango Farro Salad with Tomatillo Dressing

Courtesy Chissy Wilson

Tomatillos take center stage by spicing up this tasty lunch from Christy Wilson, RDN. Ingredients include the high protein, high fiber ancient grain, farro, vitamin C-rich red pepper, chile and tomatillos, and toasted pepitas that contain zinc, which boosts your immune system. Rich in vitamins A and C, mangoes seem to help reduce inflammation. Each lunch serving has less than 300 calories, no added sugar, 5 grams of fiber, and a mere 30 mg of sodium. And if you’re looking to get more vitamin C, here are ten foods with more than an orange.


Chickpea Salad Sandwich with Sweet Apple Slaw

Courtesy Natalie Rizzo

Natalie Rizzo, MS, RDN, is an athlete and a vegetarian. She admits it’s really hard to find a good meat-free sandwich that isn’t just cheese, lettuce and tomato, which is not just boring but lacks enough protein to keep her full for hours. Rizzo created a chickpea salad that you can make on Sunday and enjoy all week long. It doesn’t contain any mayo, but it subs in a mixture of mashed avocado and cottage cheese so you get healthy fats and a bit more protein. Winner!

Turkey Bacon Ranch Bowls

Courtesy Kelli Shallal

This easy sheet pan recipe comes from Kelli Shallal, MPH, RDN, and it creates a balanced meal in one shot. The turkey bacon provides savory flavors and filling protein. The Brussels sprouts are low in calories, high in nutrients, and loaded with fiber to provide satisfying volume. Sweet potatoes give you healthy complex carbohydrate that will top off your energy for the afternoon. Don’t miss these healthy vegetables you didn’t know you liked.

Korean Beef Bowl with Cauliflower Rice

Courtesy Chrissy Carroll

A delicious Korean beef bowl from Chrissy Carroll, MPH, RDN, is sure to satisfy your taste buds. Rather than loading you up with simple carbs from white rice, this dish uses cauliflower rice. Nutritionally, it’s a triple threat—in a good way! It’s rich in veggies, protein-packed, and loaded with vitamins and minerals. With just one serving you’ll cover more than your daily need for vitamin C (thanks to the broccoli), a quarter of your iron needs (hello lean beef), and over 1000 mg of potassium (more than double found in one banana—here are ten foods with more potassium than bananas). And, it only requires seven ingredients!


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Tortilla Soup

Courtesy Sharon Palmer

Need a warm lunch for your winter day? Sharon Palmer, MS RDN, shares a vegan, gluten-free tortilla soup that hits the mark. Using pantry staples such as canned tomatoes, frozen corn kernels, and canned black beans, this soup can be made year-round. Nutrient-rich with vitamin C, folate, potassium and fiber, you’ll feel satisfied with less than 150 calories per serving. The recipe makes enough to meal-prep on the weekend, and enjoy the soup for your work-lunch all week long.


Adult Lunchable

Courtesy Kelli Shallal

Eat like a kid! The healthy adult lunchable from Kelli Shallal, MPH, RDN, is a fun way to enjoy finger foods as an adult. With this mix-and-match, personalized combo, you choose your favorite ready-to-eat lean proteins, healthy fats, and veggies. Upgrade your dessert with a nutritious goodie that will give you energy and satisfy your sweet tooth, like these treats.


White Turkey Chili

Courtesy Abbie Gellman

Nothing warms you up from the inside out like a bowl of chili. Chef Abbie Gellman, MS, RDN created a healthy and hardy chili perfect for lunch. This chili is perfect for prepping over the weekend and enjoying throughout the coming week. Rich in protein from lean ground turkey and white cannellini beans, this chili is also an excellent source of fiber (thanks to the bulgur, onions, and zucchini). At less than 400 calories, it’s also easy on your lunch calorie budget. Here are some more ways to sneak fiber into your diet.


Beet and Goat Cheese Quinoa

Courtesy Jessica Levinson

Get healthy carbs, lean protein, and delicious veggies in one balanced dish from Jessica Levinson, MS, RDN. This beautiful mix is delicious on its own or tossed with salad greens. Add grilled chicken breast or a piece of fish for a protein boost. Don’t have time to roast your fresh beets? Look for ready-to-serve roasted beets in your produce refrigerator case. Beets are rich sources of fiber, folate, and iron. And don’t toss the beet greens—just stir-fry them with a bit of olive oil and garlic for a side dish rich in the B vitamin, folate. Here are some more ways to cook up quinoa.

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Thai Buddha Bowl

Courtesy Chrissy Carroll

What’s a Buddha bowl, you ask? Basically, it’s a combo of cooked and raw vegetables with a grain on the side. (You can add fish or lean meat if you want more protein.) Chrissy Carroll, MPH, RDN shares her take on the Buddha bowl craze with a flavorful combination of raw veggies, cooked quinoa, and a quick homemade peanut sauce. With more than half of your day’s needs for fiber, this lunch will keep you full throughout the afternoon. You can prep this ahead of time for convenient grab-and-go meals all week long; it’s an easy vegan, gluten-free lunch packed with vitamin A (more than your daily needs) and healthy fats from the avocado and peanut butter.


Curried Lentil Quinoa Soup

Courtesy Sharon Palmer

Looking for a lentil soup with a kick? Try this Indian-inspired soup with a tikka masala spice blend from Sharon Palmer, MS, RDN. If you can’t find the blend premade, mix up your own with a blend of garam masala, ginger powder, paprika, fenugreek, cumin, nutmeg, cardamom, chili, and caraway seeds. This soup’s packed with a ton of vegetables (carrot, sweet potato, onion, and peas), and bulked up with fiber-rich quinoa and lentils. It boasts a whopping 20 grams of fiber—more than half of your daily requirement—in just one serving. Here are more great protein sources for vegans.

Turkey Lettuce Wraps

Courtesy Christy Wilson

Asian-inspired lettuce wraps get a healthy makeover by Christy Wilson, RDN, who explains that “this is a quick, simple and a great way to incorporate lots of colorful and nutrient-rich vegetables into a family meal.” This dish is bursting with vitamin A thanks to all the carrots, and the mushrooms provide your body with vitamin D. Using crispy, lettuce leaves as the wrap is an excellent way to control calories while boosting fiber and antioxidants.

Bean and Barley Chili

Courtesy Abbie Gelman

If you’re in the mood for a vegan chili option, this is for you. Abbie Gellman, MS, RDN offers a delicious twist on the traditional bean chili by adding barley for additional fiber and protein. Mixing up different beans (black, white, pinto, and navy) creates a beautiful dish packed with fiber. Smoky chipotle peppers and a smidge of cocoa powder and honey blend for a sweet, spicy lunch that’ll satisfy your taste buds and hunger.

Next, don’t miss these healthy lunch ideas from around the world.

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Things Every Healthy Home Should Have

An organic mattress

Comfortable white bed in the roomAfrica Studio/ShutterstockGeneric mattresses can be a major source of chemical exposure, especially when manufacturers use highly toxic, flame-retardant chemicals including polybrominated diphenyl ether, or PBDE. PBDEs are associated with brain and reproductive damage, thyroid problems, and even cancer. As companies aren’t legally bound to disclose these harmful ingredients, a safer bet for a sound night’s sleep and long-term health is an organic mattress, that’s chemical-free, hypoallergenic, and sustainable and biodegradable, so it’s good for the earth, too. One to try is the Zenhaven Mattress by Saatva is made of organic wool and natural latex.

Here are the signs it’s time for a new mattress.

A cast iron skillet

Top view of cast iron skilletMiyuki Satake/ShutterstockHave you noticed how trendy those stunning fire engine red cast iron skillets are from Le Creuset? People are all about them, so much so that the French brand has come out with some seriously bold colors like pink and lavender. But it’s not just the bright colors people are into; they are also better for your health.

Though a nonstick pan makes for easy cleanup, they may contain certain chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, which has been deemed “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Meanwhile, cook with a cast iron skillets and you’ll not only avoid harmful chemicals, your food will be infused with good-for-you iron, too. Check out the safest types of cookware you should be using.


Air purifier

Air purifiery_seki/ShutterstockFrom bacteria-laden household surfaces and household pollutants that cause allergies, an air purifier is a smart addition to your home. Try Molekule Air Purifier, which uses a patented technology, Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO), that works at the molecular level to eliminate indoor air pollution. It’s so stylishly designed, you can buy it at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.


Himalayan salt lamp

Himalayan salt lamp on table near color wallAfrica Studio/ShutterstockHimalayan salt lamps are made from pure, food grade Himalayan salt crystals, and it seems every boutique and big chain is selling them these days. And while they certainly do provide a relaxing, warm glow, they also emit the same healthy negative ions as a nice walk along the ocean. “Generally speaking, negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy,” Pierce J. Howard, PhD, told WebMD. “They also may protect against germs in the air, resulting in decreased irritation due to inhaling various particles that make you sneeze, cough, or have a throat irritation.” Even if the benefits of Himalayan sea salt lamps aren’t proven, there’s no downside to displaying one in your home.

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Bright colors

Spacious apartment in grey with colorful wall decor and you eschew the power of color, know that there are many studies that reveal the color you choose to paint your walls, or the colors you pick for your rugs, furniture, and drapes, can seriously impact your mood. In a Dutch study, participants found yellow to evoke feelings of happiness, while researchers at the University of British Columbia found that blue induces relaxation and creativity.


Cooking utensils

High angle view of bamboo spoons arranged in a row on white tableNatalie Board/ShutterstockMuch like the need to steer clear of nonstick pans, you should also avoid cooking utensils that have cheap, chemical-ridden coatings or are made with toxic glues and adhesives that can all leach into your food. Bamboo cooking utensils that are “organically certified ” are made from certified organic resources that won’t put you at risk and are also better for the environment. You’ll also find bamboo cutting boards, dinnerware, and utensils to round out your healthy kitchen and dining essentials in the Bambu line of organically certified products. You should also reconsider your use of plastic wraps and food containers.

No shoes in the house

Collection of shoes on shelvesAfrica Studio/ShutterstockResearch has been revealing the health benefits of going barefoot indoors. In one study, researchers at the University of Arizona found that there are, on average, nearly 421,000 different bacteria present on the bottoms of 96 percent of shoes. Pesticides, tar, lead, mold, and cleaning chemicals can also get tracked in your home via your footwear—so trade those shoes at the door for a cute pair of slippers!



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How to Be Healthy on a Cruise, According to Nutritionists

Take a gym class

yogaanekoho/shutterstockGyms, fitness classes, active excursions, stairs and strolls. It’s easy to be active on a cruise ship these days. Janis Isaman is the owner of Calgary-based fitness studio, My Body Couture, and she admits that the onboard gym is a bore. Isaman challenges you to try out a new fitness class. Onboard ship fitness instructors realize most guests are new and won’t be in more than 1-2 classes, so tailor the class accordingly. And, don’t forget to browse these expert travel tips before booking your cruise.

Try an active excursion

shoesBlazej Lyjak/shutterstockAlix Turoff, dietitian and personal trainer, recommends choosing an “active” excursion. “If you are getting off the ship for the day, book something that will get you moving, such as hiking, rock climbing and swimming with sea life.” Excursions are available for all levels of fitness. Dietitian and experienced cruiser, Carolyn O’Neil admits her favorite excursion was kayaking with salmon in Sitka, Alaska. O’Neil shares, “I paddled for hours spotting bald eagles and climbing in and out of the kayak at various scenic spots.”

Bring your step counter

bandRimmaBondarenko/shutterstockAll of those steps add up! Use a phone app or pedmeter to track your mileage. (And you don’t have to spend big money on a fitness tracker—here’s why.) Aim for 10,000 steps during the day—walk the decks, explore the ports, and stroll in the afternoons. O’Neil states that she climbs stairs constantly on ships—”the funny thing, on a big cruise ship it’s hard to remember where everything is going on because there’s so much. I often race up to Deck 10 only to find out the event I’m looking for is on Deck 2. Then I must run back to my cabin on Deck 7 because I forgot my sweater or something. So, phew! I just earned another cocktail!” Dietitian Amy Gorin advises, “End your night with a walk around the cruise ship. You can look at those beautiful stars!”

Start with a smart breakfast

breakfastjannoon028/shutterstockSure, there are abundant healthy choices in the beautiful buffets. But be smart! Avoid the temptation to eat continuously from morning to noon to evening to late-night. For breakfast, Turoff encourages the egg and fresh fruit stations. Whole-grain oats, Greek yogurt, and fresh fruit are healthy starts for your day. “Don’t give yourself the excuse to eat things you don’t really want just because it’s free or included. You will ‘pay the price’ in other ways,” reminds Turoff. And, remember these simple swaps for a healthier breakfast.

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Buffet line strategies

buffetRawpixelDOTcom/shutterstockOne positive point to the buffet scene—you can survey the offerings, prioritize what you want, and make decisions before you even grab your plate, states dietitian Judy Barbe. “Sit at a table where you aren’t facing the buffet,” recommends dietitian Mary Purdy, “as your brain will inevitably tap into its own human nature to want to head back for more!” O’Neil shares that some cruise lines provide smaller plates and bowls, helping you to avoid overfilling a platter-sized plate. Healthy choices are always available, including fresh vegetables, fruits, whole grains, yogurts, grilled seafood, shellfish and lean proteins. Most cruises focus on local cuisine, so you’ll find fresh salmon on Alaskan trips, and tropical fruits with jerk chicken in the Caribbean. Take the opportunity to try vegetables you’ve never seen before or unique salads with creative ingredients. You may find a new favorite!

Dining room wisdom

foodpetereleven/shutterstockPrefer a pre-set meal or a more upscale dining experience? Delicious and exciting flavors await! Go in with a strategy to enjoy and savor dinner, without overdoing it. Barbe reminds that it’s not a requirement to order every course—cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, salad, entrée, and dessert. Which do you want more—a cocktail, an hors d’oeuvre, or a dessert? And, speaking of prioritizing, Gorin recommends saving dessert for when you really want it or when it’s a unique and creative dish. “You know what cheesecake and ice cream taste like!”

Take your time

dinnerGeorgeRudy/shutterstockPractice mindful eating. Dietitian Lauren Harris-Pincus advises, “remember that you don’t need to finish the whole portion. Stick to the three-bite rule for desserts and other higher-calorie foods. It’s not like a regular restaurant where you pay for each dish individually so you feel the urge to finish it.”

Recruit a waiter

waiterOlenaYakobchuk/shutterstock“Your wait staff is your friend,” reminds O’Neil. Often times you’ll have the same waiter each evening. Ask them questions about food preparation, portion sizes, and substitutions. Service on ships is extremely professional and indulging, and they want to please customers. They’ll help you identify the lighter dishes to enjoy, and will likely remember your favorite beverage and salad dressing the next night too. Don’t miss these 17 tricks to make cruise trips easier

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Go easy on the liquid fun

drinksNealPritchardMedia/shutterstockTuroff warns, “Be careful of very caloric cocktails. Don’t be afraid to ask for a cocktail to be made without sugar or simple syrup. One of my favorite “tropical” skinny cocktails is coconut rum, club soda, a splash of pineapple juice and a fresh orange slice.” If beer is your drink of choice, remember that you can drink beer almost anywhere. Choose local specialties and limit yourself to one drink, and check out these healthy ways to enjoy alcohol anywhere.

Food safety

meatmavo/shutterstockWith documented outbreaks of norovirus and E.coli on cruise ships, it’s critical to consider food safety while cruising. Cruise lines take food safety very seriously nowadays. For example, you won’t find the captain shaking every passenger’s hand, and you’ll find hand sanitizer at the entrance to every eating area. O’Neil states that passengers are not permitted to fill their own plates at the buffet line for the first couple of days. Instead, they’re served according to their choices by the foodservice staff. This cuts down on potential contamination with multiple hands in the serving area. Here are some more tips to keep illness at bay while cruising.

Want to boost your resistance ahead of the cruise? Dietitian Lindsey Toth Bristol recommends supplementing with probiotics to improve your gut’s natural immunity. And, definitely, WASH your hands! Often. It’s the optimal way to avoid food-borne illnesses.

Healthy cruise trips

meditateCreativeFamily/shutterstockThere’s a wide variety of cruise flavors out there—here are some little-known cruise lines you won’t wan’t to miss. And if you’d rather limit the temptations, consider cruising with a line specializing in healthier food options. Holistic Holiday at Sea offers plant-based or vegan Caribbean cruises, complete with a variety of speakers, cooking classes, and yoga workshops. Weight Watchers Cruises offers an experience with like-minded shipmates focusing on healthier dining options, activities galore, and opportunities to learn lifestyle modifications.

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Things Healthy People Do Before 10 A.M.

They meditate

Relaxed young sportswoman doing yoga and meditating in studioDean Drobot/Shutterstock

Before you roll your eyes at the thought, remember that meditation doesn’t have to be a lengthy, drawn-out process to be effective. As Lillie Rosenthal, MD, explains, setting your intention for your day helps you connect your mind and body, allowing you to reset and reboot your central nervous system. “Upon opening your eyes in the morning, instead of racing to put on the coffee, take a brief pause,” she recommends. “Do some gentle breathing, breathing in for four counts in and breathing out for eight counts, taking in the ‘good’ and letting out ‘negative’ feelings.”

Say these morning mantras and you’re guaranteed to have a brighter day.


They take a break from their phones

Young black woman with arms crossed looking out of windowMonkey Business Images/Shutterstock

It’s not enough to pause before hopping out of bed. Bryce Kennedy, life coach, says the healthiest of people avoid their phone as long as possible. In fact, well-known entrepreneurs including Oprah, Seth Godin, and Tony Robbins stress the importance of prioritizing your time, without distractions. “Nothing or no one is allowed to enter that space. It is a time for reflection, writing, brainstorming, and flow. It is a small window that is open and needs to be caught in order to be used. Once the phone is turned on, emails checked, news read, texts replied to, etc. the window is closed,” Kennedy says.

Turns out, giving up social media has a host of wonderful benefits.

They take a shower

Shower woman washing hair showering in bathroom at home. Unrecognizable person from behind rinsing shampoo and conditioner from her long hair in warm bath with modern ceiling rain water nozzle head.Maridav/Shutterstock

Bad news if you prefer to rinse off before you go to bed at night, Tania Elliott, MD, allergist and chief medical officer of EHE says it’s a healthier tactic to hop in the shower in the a.m. Not only does it help you feel extra alert and more awake, but when you add eucalyptus or peppermint you help stimulate your level of concentration via your nasal passages. (Add a drop of an essential oil to a diffuser near your tub.) Clean and ready to impress your boss? Yes, please!

They read something inspiring

White cozy bed and a beautiful girl, reading a book, concepts of home and comfort, place for textUximetc pavel/Shutterstock

Consider the last book you read or article you clicked on via Facebook that left you smiling once you paged through it. Cali Estes, PhD, a life coach, says healthy people continuously seek sources of inspiration to keep them in the right frame of mind. “Spend ten minutes reading any article that will help you obtain your goals. This can be business, personal, self esteem-related or anything that will give you tips and tricks you can apply throughout the day,” she suggests.

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They connect with others

Happy african american couple using a tablet in the kitchen.bbernard/Shutterstock

While having “you” time is necessary to regenerate and recenter, Jeana Anderson Cohen, founder and CEO of Sweat Life says spending time with others—especially those who lift you up and support you—is essential to your daily health. “Your family, your friends, your children, the groups you dedicate your time to—those connections are shown to be the greatest determinant of happiness. And happiness is not so surprisingly tied to your health. Try sending a text or an email to one person you miss in the morning with the intention to join them for a coffee or lunch in the near future,” she says.

They stay positive

Laughing babe in bed, overhead viewsanneberg/Shutterstock

Did your mom ever nudge you to talk to yourself as you would to your best friend? Probably so—and it’s worth applying that logic as an adult. Sonia Satra, life coach, says many people harp on the reasons they’re not measuring up, from not sleeping enough to contributing enough and the list goes on. “The best way to combat those ‘not-enough’s’ is to shift your focus by asking questions that will give you helpful, powerful answers,” she suggests. For example, ask yourself: What do I have enough time for? What am I already doing well? What am I grateful for? What do I want today to look like?

Need more advice on treating yourself like a friend? Start with these 10 ideas for being nicer to yourself.

They practice gratitude

Student writes notes into notebook on white desk with black pen, top viewmatejknezevic/Shutterstock

Even though the practice of gratitude is something that’s been trendy lately, Kien Vuu, MD and motivational speaker, says the benefits of being thankful are timeless. That’s why starting each day focusing on your blessings maintains your health in a long-term way. “Writing down things you are grateful for every morning releases feel-good hormones that prime your body for health and wellness. The emotion of gratitude cancels out fear and stress as well as reduces the production of cortisol, aka the stress hormone. This is a great emotional priming technique that allows you to better handle any stressors that may arise during the day,” he says. Practicing gratitude also has these other health benefits.

They exercise

Handsome african american basketball player preparing for free throw.bbernard/Shutterstock

While hitting snooze once (or twice or three times) is a tempting prospect when you didn’t catch quite enough Zzzs, Dr. Rosenthal says starting your day with movement does wonders for your health. “It gets you out of your heads and into your body. It stimulates the neurotransmitters in the brain and keeps you physiologically younger and more agile,” she notes. When you put a good workout on your priority list, you strengthen your cardiovascular health, curb your appetite, increase your consciousness, build muscle, and boost your overall happiness. Don’t miss these other benefits of morning workouts.

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They eat breakfast at 10 a.m.

Fried eggs with toasts and coffee on the tableEduard Zhukov/Shutterstock

Believe it or not, there’s a big benefit to fasting, according to Dr. Rosenthal. When you go without food for ten or more hours, your blood sugar normalizes and your metabolism is restarted. This is why the healthiest of people wait to eat breakfast until 10 a.m., when enough time has passed from their midnight snack. A doughnut, of course, won’t do your body good though, which is why Dr. Rosenthal recommends focusing on nutritious options, including unprocessed foods, such as oatmeal or a homemade smoothie with fruit and vegetables. You’ll also want to avoid these 17 breakfast mistakes.

They hydrate

Woman holding a glass of the watergraphbottles/Shutterstock

Considering our bodies are mostly made of H20, it’s likely no surprise that continuously chugging this natural wonder is a must for a long life. Dr. Rosenthal says the majority of us wait to chug water until we feel thirsty, and by then, it’s too late. She recommends drinking at least 12 to 16 ounces of water right after you wake up and drinking a minimum of two liters total throughout the course of your day. “Try adding lemon to water which is alkaline and adds a favorable PH balance to the body. Do your best to avoid sugary drinks and diet drinks which are heavy on artificial sweeteners and chemical additives which the body processes as sugar anyway,” she adds.

They keep their space clean

Laptop computer on desk, view from aboveKaspars Grinvalds/Shutterstock

Technically this is a task that should be completed before you tuck yourself in for the night, but Kennedy stresses it’s a must in order to start off your day on the right foot. Clearing off your workspace might not seem like such a big deal, after all, it’s just a few papers and a coffee cup, but it’s more about the mental message it sends your brain and confidence. “When the mind sees clutter, it elicits shame, guilt, and anxiety, creating confusion and chaos,” he explains. “If your desk is clean and you sit down to that first thing in the morning—Wow!—a completely different feeling. There is a sense of empowerment, a clean slate, and a new beginning.” He suggests removing papers, pictures, office supplies, corporate nonsense, books, and whatever else you may store to make room for more creativity. Read on for the morning habits of successful people.

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Healthy Vegetables That Can Harm You

You have heartburn

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An unidentified substance in tomatoes and tomato-based products can cause acid reflux. People with digestive upset could try eliminating tomatoes for two or three weeks to see if things feel better. These 33 healthy foods are way more nutritious than you thought.

You take blood-thinning drugs

Gloria Tebelman/, Istock/Erickson Photography

If you take a blood-thinning drug such as warfarin (Coumadin), it’s important to maintain steady blood levels of vitamin K—sudden increases can lessen the effects of the drug. That means it’s important to be consistent with your vegetable intake, since this is where most of your vitamin K comes from. Try to eat similar amounts of vegetables every day. If you like veggies that are particularly high in vitamin K, such as kale, Swiss chard, spinach, mustard greens, and turnip greens, stick with half a cup a day, eaten at about the same time daily.

You have a history of kidney stones

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One in five people who form calcium oxalate kidney stones (the most common type) have high levels of oxalates in their urine. If you have a history of kidney stones, limit oxalate-rich foods, such as rhubard, spinach, beets, and beet greens. These are the 8 clear signs you’re not getting enough vegetables.

You have gout

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Watch your asparagus intake. The spears contain purines, substances that promote the overproduction of uric acid that precipitates painful attacks of gout.

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You have certain allergies

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Eating such foods as artichokes may provoke an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to ragweed allergens. People sensitive to latex may have an allergic reaction to avocados. Many people sensitive to aspirin may suffer an allergic reaction to radishes, which contain salicylates, compounds similar to the drugs’ active ingredients. These are the 21 common food myths that are wildly untrue.

You have an inflammatory GI disorder

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If you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease, your doctor might recommend avoiding or minimizing your intake of cabbage, which contains bacteria that live naturally in the intestinal tract and cause gas and bloating. You might also want to limit your intake of other cruciferous veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts if they trigger symptoms.

You’re watching your weight

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Be picky about eggplant-based dishes. Eggplants’ spongy texture soaks up fat. In fact, deep-fried eggplants soak up four times as much fat as French-fried potatoes. Keep calories to a minimum by baking, broiling, roasting, or stewing. If sautéing, use a nonstick pan and little oil. On the other hand, these are some of the healthiest vegetables you can eat.

You have an underactive thyroid

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Turnips contain two goitrogenic substances, progoitrin and gluconasturtin, which can interfere with the thyroid gland’s ability to make its hormones. These compounds don’t pose a risk for healthy people who eat moderate amounts of turnips, but anyone with hypothyroidism should cook this vegetable since cooking appears to deactivate goitrogens. Find out more about the 17 “healthy” foods you actually need to avoid.

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“Healthy” Food Rules Nutrition Experts Ignore

You have to count calories to lose weight

Man counting calories on tableAfrica Studio/ShutterstockA lot of people swear by the “calories in, calories out” method of weight loss, but if this rule were true, deprivation diets would work, says Rebecca Cafiero, an integrative nutritionist. “My motto is don’t count calories, count nutrition. I’d rather learn to eat the right foods if that means not having to spend all my time tracking calories and macros in My Fitness Pal,” she says. Eating nutrient dense foods are just one of the 50 things your doctor wishes you knew about weight loss.

You must drink 8 cups of water a day to stay hydrated

Pretty young woman drinking a bottle of ice cold waterDeborah Kolb/ShutterstockSetting an arbitrary number of how much water you should drink every day is silly, Cafiero says. The problem is that it doesn’t take into account the weather, your diet, your individual body’s needs, or a host of other factors that influence hydration. Instead, she says to focus on how you’re feeling and how things are working out in the bathroom. “Water, via urine, is your body’s way to eliminate toxins,” she says. “Would you rather that waste be carried out on a slow moving stream or a fast moving river?” For the record, she drinks way more than eight cups a day.

White sugar is the devil

sugarbitt24/Shutterstock“One of the nutrition rules I’ve set for myself is to eliminate refined sugar, but it’s a rule I break pretty often,” says Laurie Smith, a nutritionist at Jack City Fitness. “Why? I’m an addict!” At the end of the day, we’re all human and sometimes you just need a cookie. “Usually, I try to tame the sugar beast by using natural sweeteners like honey or stevia, but that doesn’t always work,” she adds. Obviously, moderation is key. Don’t miss these 15 other health myths that make doctors cringe.

Never skip meals

Woman in the blue shirt is eating at a sushi restaurant in summer, close-upprogressman/ShutterstockEver get so into something that you forget a meal or two? No worries, nutritionists do it too. “There are times that I am so busy with life and work and kids that I forget to eat a meal,” says Sarah Remmer, RD, child and family nutrition expert. “Then I end up being overly hungry and subsequently overeat later. It happens!” If this happens to you, she says to simply remind yourself to do better the next meal and not beat yourself up or feel guilty.

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Fast food is strictly forbidden

close up of african american woman about to eat vegan meatless cheese burger at restaurantJoshua Resnick/ShutterstockIt’s a myth that nutrition pros always eat clean, says Remmer. While that’s the goal most of the time, they are just as tempted by that value meal with fries and a soda as you are, especially when they’re tired. “Although I try to make sure that most of the food I eat is made from whole food ingredients and not overly processed, there are definitely times that I eat processed foods out of convenience,” she says. Her tip? Choose the healthiest of the convenience food options available.

Avoid all packaged foods like the plague

Kidney Beans on a Spoon with blurred cans in the backgroundHandmadePictures/ShutterstockA popular nutrition rule is to shop the perimeter of the store—produce, dairy, meat—and avoid all the packaged stuff in the center. Nonsense, says Jessica Levinson, RDN, CDN, culinary nutrition expert. “I break that one all the time,” she says. “There are so many packaged foods like canned beans, canned fish, crushed tomatoes, and broth that are nutrient-rich and make eating healthy so much easier and convenient.” Not to mention, they’re budget friendly.

Never eat in front of the TV

Young woman having popcorn while enjoying a moviewavebreakmedia/ShutterstockEating in front of your TV, computer, or phone can distract you from your hunger signals, causing you to eat more. Yet even the best nutrition pros succumb sometimes. “Sometimes I just need to veg out with a bowl of popcorn!” Levinson says. That said, she recommends being smart about your snacking by portioning out what you’ll eat (as in, put the popcorn in a bowl; don’t eat it straight from the bag) and start with a fresh fruit or veggie before moving on to snack foods and treats.

Skip the bread basket

basket of bread in restaurantCarlos Amarillo/ShutterstockCarbs have gotten a bad rap recently in the nutrition world, especially simple carbs… like warm, delicious, fluffy, white bread. But you don’t have to pass on every bread basket, says Erin Akey, certified nutritionist and kids nutrition expert. “While too much bread is definitely not a good thing due to the fact that it is usually empty calories, I do love a really good artisan bread with a really nice cheese or tapenade,” she says. She just has one bread rule: Don’t waste the calories on any old bread; make sure you get the good stuff.

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Fried foods are public enemy #1

Woman holding and eatting fried chicken in white plate on white tableoYOo/ShutterstockFried foods are a no-no on pretty much every diet, but there’s a reason they’re the cause of so many cravings, especially when they remind you of your childhood or culture, says Johane M. Filemon, RDN, of Wonderfully Nutritious. “I am a registered dietitian, it’s true, but I am also an island girl and fried plantains are one of my weaknesses,” she says. “We should limit our intake of fried foods, but it is okay to allow ourselves to enjoy some foods that makes us happy every now and again. Again, moderation is the ticket.” Don’t fall for these 13 common food myths that just aren’t true.

Eat every three hours to keep your metabolism going strong

Business woman eating lunchsukiyaki/ShutterstockYou’ve likely heard the “rule” that it’s better to eat five or six mini-meals a day to keep your metabolism running fast. That’s not only ridiculous, but it’s not realistic for most people, Filemon says. “I’m a mom of three with a busy nutrition practice. Sitting down to eat six meals a day just isn’t going to happen in my life right now,” she says. “Really, ‘meals’ are relative to each person, and your metabolism won’t slow down if you eat fewer meals.”

No late-night snacking

foodAfrica Studio/ShutterstockNot eating after a certain point—say, after dinner or 6pm—is a common rule for losing weight. But this is one rule made to be broken, says Joel Palau, RD, of My Swift Body. “I eat past 6 pm every day because I prefer to work out in the evenings and I need to fuel my body after a tough workout,” he says. Ultimately, what’s more important than how late you eat is how many calories you ate throughout the day and the quality of those calories, he adds.

Pass on pasta

Italian pasta in wooden bowlff-photo/ShutterstockPasta is often one of the first things to go when trying to health-up your pantry, which is too bad, Palau says. You can have your favorite spaghetti bolognese or fettucine pomodoro and still eat healthfully. “Carbs are the body’s preferred energy source,” he says. “I consume bread, rice, and pasta year round and they are some of my favorite foods.” The trick, he adds, is to skip the processed junk and go for freshly made noodles in moderation. Look out for these other myths about carbs that are wrecking your diet.

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Coconut oil is a super food and you should eat it on everything

Jars of coconut oil for cooking, LondonJeff Blackler/ShutterstockCoconut oil is everywhere these days, from face creams to hair treatments and, of course, in many, many foods. It’s gotten to the point where many people consider coconut oil their preferred source of fat and think nothing of adding it to nearly everything they eat. Not Mindy Haar, PhD, a registered dietitian and Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Affairs at New York Institute of Technology. “At the end of the day, coconut oil is still a saturated fat,” she says. (Not to mention highly caloric!) “I think olive oil, a monounsaturated fat, is a much better choice.”

Ditch all wheat products and stay away from gluten

Whole wheat bread cut on slicesMarkus Mainka/ShutterstockThe backlash against wheat, once considered a staple crop for humanity, has been sharp and severe in recent years. But unless you’re among the one in every 100 Americans who have celiac disease, there is no reason for you to avoid whole grain wheat products, Haar says. They’re high in fiber and full of nutrients.

Skip the artificial sweeteners

Woman Adding Artificial Sweetener To CoffeeSpeedKingz/ShutterstockZero-calorie sugar substitutes, like the kind often found in diet sodas, claim to let you have your cake and eat it too. But recent research has shown that these processed products may be doing more harm than good, increasing your cravings for sweets and causing you to overeat later. And yet, they can still be really tasty, says Pam Sherman, nutrition expert and personal trainer. “I found this amazing no-calorie, sugar-free caramel syrup. The ingredient list is awful and full of words I don’t know and cannot pronounce,” she says. “However, adding this to hot cocoa is unbelievable! So creamy and delicious.” Check out these other rampant health myths that need to die already.

Fight those PMS cravings

Many (many) women struggle to stick to their diets the week or so before their period. Thanks to hormones, cravings are high and willpower is low. Instead of fighting it, Sherman says she just gives in. “Yes, sugar and junk food are awful for our bodies; they are inflammatory, can lead to eating more sugar, cause energy crashes, really mess up your sleep and the list goes on and on,” she says. Normally, she tries to steer clear of the sweet stuff, but when it comes to PMS? “I indulge. I have a little of what I’m is craving. If not, it can lead to a full-on binge.”

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Fatty foods will give you a heart attack

Avocados-Are-About-to-Get-Ridiculously-More-Expensive_263066297_Nataliya-ArzamasovaNataliya Arzamasova/Shutterstock“Unfortunately, fat has gotten a bad rap from the media and scientific literature as a major cause of cardiovascular issues,” says Alex Robles, MD, founder of White Coat Trainer. “What people fail to realize is that the science behind those links is based on very poor quality fats. Fat is a very important nutrient that we need to consume significant amounts of. I don’t fear fat and I eat plenty of it!” His favorite fatty foods are nuts, nut butters, avocados, olive oil, seeds, and even dark chocolate. Here are ten more myths about fat that are affecting your health.

Pizza is a diet buster

Casual blond lady eating pizza slice outdoor in typical italian street restaurant on hot summer day. Traditional italian fast food eatery.Matej Kastelic/ShutterstockFor Robles, focusing on eating healthy 80 to 90 percent of the time means that he eats what he likes, guilt-free, the other times. His favorite splurge? Really great pizza. “Having whatever I want 10 percent of the time does not have any significant impact on my fitness routine, my body composition, nor my energy levels,” he says.

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day

Indian Man Enjoying Breakfast At HomeMonkey Business Images/ShutterstockFor several decades, dieters have been told that they should always eat breakfast, and it should ideally be the biggest meal of the day. But when it comes to omelettes and oatmeal, Christa Biegler, RD, could take or leave it—and she often leaves it. She says she doesn’t sweat missing her morning meal, however, as intermittent fasting can have amazing health benefits. Next, find out the 37 secrets nutritionists won’t tell you for free.

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Healthy Foods That Are Dangerous to Overeat

Reduce Stomach Bloating: 9 Daily Habits That Flatten Your Belly

Broccoli s_derevianko/ShutterstockFirst off, it’s worth highlighting that most people don’t even come close to getting as many vegetables as they should in their daily diet, so don’t use this as an excuse to avoid the greens you need. Think of this warning as inspiration to eat the rainbow when it comes to your vegetables. “Broccoli […]

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Ways to Keep Your Heart Valves Healthy

What do your heart valves do? 

3d renderings of human heart3drenderings/ShutterstockYou may think you know everything about your heart but you may be missing an important piece of the puzzle. Your ticker is equipped with four heart valves, with the main one being the aortic valve. “It’s the valve that controls blood flow coming out of your heart into the rest of your body. It’s under the greatest stress,” says Elizabeth Klodas, MD, founder of Preventive Cardiology Consultants in Edina, Minnesota. After all, it’s working overtime for you. “It’s amazing that our valves don’t give out when we’re five. The aortic valve opens and closes like a door 60 times a minute 24/7. It’s a resilient, almost miraculous design that can keep going for 100 years-plus,” she adds. Take this quiz to see how much you know about your heart.

They naturally wear down

Vein with ValveGiovanni Cancemi/ShutterstockWith all that opening and closing, they’re bound to see wear and tear eventually. “As people get older, it’s not unusual to see a thickening of the heart valves or a bit of an accumulation of calcium on them on a heart ultrasound,” says Dr. Klodas. A potentially life-threatening condition is called aortic stenosis, a severe thickening that begins to interfere with blood flow out of the heart. “Untreated, this has a worse outcome than metastatic cancer,” she says. A heart valve replacement is one possible treatment.

Eat real food

Assortment of fresh fruits and vegetablesAlexander Raths/ShutterstockHeart smart moves take care of your ticker as a whole, including your heart valves. And that means managing your cholesterol. “People who have high cholesterol have more accelerated narrowing of their aortic valve,” says Dr. Klodas, who’s also the co-founder of Step One Foods. (Also be sure to avoid these foods that harm your heart.) Rather than jump to medications, she suggests looking at the quality of your diet, especially when it comes to carbohydrates. “The more processed and farther away the food is from its original form, the more likely you are to have high cholesterol,” she says. Insulin spikes from refined carbs drive LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, she explains. Focus your diet on minimally processed beans, greens, nuts, seeds, fruits, veggies, and grains.

Watch your blood pressure

Close up photo of blood pressure measurementOcskay Bence/ShutterstockIn the past, a blood pressure reading above 140/90 was considered high blood pressure. New guidelines, however, have lowered those numbers. The cut off is now 130/80. “High blood pressure is the second most preventable cause of heart disease,” says Ravi Dave, MD, the director of interventional cardiology at UCLA Health. (Smoking is number one, he adds.) The update now allows “more patients to get diagnosed with high blood pressure early on to prevent problems down the line.”

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Keep them healthy how-to: Stop smoking

Close up man hand smoking cigarette.iamporpla/ShutterstockYou can blame lighting up for one of every three deaths of heart disease, according to the Surgeon General’s Report on Smoking and Health. It accelerates plaque buildup in arteries, leads to clot formation, and can raise blood pressure. Quitting is not only smart for your heart as a whole, but will also have a positive impact on the working parts inside. The only answer is to quit, says Dr. Klodas. The good news is that stopping the smokes confers a multitude of benefits, some of which are immediate.

Save on salt

grilled salmon with spring vegetables on white plate, soft focusGaak/ShutterstockWhile sodium guidelines have become controversial lately if you have high blood pressure or are at an increased risk for heart disease, you should cut back. Aim for no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day, says Dr. Klodas. It can be really difficult to do, but cooking more fresh foods at home will go a long way in reducing your intake. After all, 70 percent of the sodium in the average person’s diet comes from packaged or restaurant food. Avoid these 13 foods that have alot of sodium.


See your doctor

Doctor (gynecologist or psychiatrist) consulting and diagnostic examining woman patient's health in medical clinic or hospital healthcare service centerChinnapong/ShutterstockThough Dr. Dave says that there is little that can be done to target heart valves specifically outside of choices that lower cardiovascular disease risk, you can stay on top of your health to know if you have a problem. Heart valve issues may stem from congenital heart defects—here’s where you can learn more about congenital heart defects. One sign that something is awry? You have a heart murmur. “It’s a red flag for valve disease,” he says, adding that you’d need to visit your doctor on a regular basis to monitor it.

Know your risk

Dentist cleaning perfect teeth of a beautiful mouth femalePop Paul-Catalin/ShutterstockIf you have a known valve deformity, there are additional things you need to be on the lookout for. For example: dental cleanings. Something as minor as that can dislodge bacteria into your bloodstream, infecting a valve. “Bacteria can stick on them and create more havoc,” says Dr. Dave. The damage can cause a leaky heart valve, which can be dangerous; you may want to discuss potential preventive options—like antibiotics—with your doctor. It’s yet another reason to be informed about your health and work closely with your healthcare provider.

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Keep moving

Two pretty legs in pink shoes walking to cameraonixxino/ShutterstockYes, you hear enough about how you need to exercise, but don’t let that intimidate you if you’re more of a couch potato now. All you need to do is move a little, a habit that will help you live longer. “What most people want to achieve is healthy longevity. It’s not a cholesterol number. It’s not a healthy valve. It’s being aware, active, and vital into your 90s, and being free of debilitating disease,” says Dr. Klodas. People who achieve that stay active in their day-to-day lives, she says. It’s not a spinning class or a triathlon, but simple movement doing the things you love, like hiking on the weekends, walking with your dog, or taking a stroll to grab lunch.

Stay mindful

Close-up of hands of sporty young beautiful woman in white clothes meditating indoors, focus on arms in Namaste gesturefizkes/ShutterstockFinding short periods during the day to focus on the present moment can go a long way in protecting your heart. People who score the highest in measures of mindfulness had an 83 percent higher prevalence of good heart health compared to those who rank low in it, according to research published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Making time for these meditative moments was associated with a lower likelihood of smoking, more physical activity, and a healthier BMI and fasting glucose level, all of which fine-tune your ticker.

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