Five Steps to Healthy Living (Part 2)

Katherine PasourBy Katherine Pasour8 Minutes

In the first article in the series, we reviewed the amazing aspects of God’s special creation—the human body.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well (Psalm 139:13-14).1

Because we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” and our body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20), we can honor God by caring for our bodies and living a healthy lifestyle. In the first segment of this series, we focused on the numerous benefits of developing and maintaining an active lifestyle and choosing appropriate strategies to cope with stress. In Part 2, we focus on making healthy nutrition choices, enjoying an active social life, and developing and maintaining healthy sleep habits.

Making Healthy Nutrition Choices

Perhaps you are like me—healthy eating is a challenge. God gifted us with taste buds to enjoy our food. We all have those favorite foods—some of which are not good for us. One key point is moderation, keeping our serving sizes (portions) small. Another important strategy is recognizing that changing our eating habits is a long-term commitment. It is important to develop eating habits that we can maintain for a lifetime. Fad diets (which usually involve drastic changes that may be harmful to our bodies) are not a lifestyle change we should make permanent. Below are six tips for choosing healthy foods that will provide needed nutrients, while reducing intake of fat and sugar (the high-calorie culprits).

Fruits and veggies — We should choose five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day (prepared in a healthy way). Fruits and vegetables are packed full of important nutrients: vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water. “Superfood” vegetables and fruits are typically brightly colored — spinach, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, berries, broccoli, leafy greens, etc., are very high in beneficial nutrients and antioxidants (which act to fight diseases and inflammation in our bodies). Besides being a healthy addition to our daily diet, fruits and veggies are filling and help keep us from eating too much of the foods that aren’t so good for us. Fresh is always best, followed by frozen. Try to avoid canned foods because of the high sodium and sugar content. Preparation of food is key to its nutritional value. Frying adds a tremendous amount of calories to foods. Rich dressings, butter, or sauces also pile on the calories.

Whole grain products provide great benefits for us — increased nutrients and fiber. Processed grains (such as white breads, white rice, or pasta) result in significant loss of nutrients. For those with gluten intolerance, try to find other sources of fiber. Keep in mind the need for moderation when consuming bread and other grain products.

Lean protein — No matter our age, protein is essential for building and repairing body tissue. If you are a meat eater, try to choose healthier options such as chicken, fish, beans, and legumes. Beef and pork, if consumed at all, are best as occasional options, being very high in fat content.

Low-fat dairy — Yogurt, skim milk products, and cheese (in limited quantities) are good sources of protein and calcium. Ice cream, although very tasty, is high in fat and sugar and should be part of our “occasional” list of goodies.

Water — Water is an essential and healthy beverage. We should strive for sixty-four ounces of water daily and limit consumption of sugary drinks such as soda or any sweetened beverage. Diet sodas are not a healthy alternative.

Things to avoid when possible — fried foods, processed foods (such as deli meat), prepared foods (frozen dinners are very high in sodium), fast food (again, very high in sodium and calories), sodas and other sweetened beverages, and high-calorie desserts.

So … what can we eat without guilt?

When preparing our plate of food, emphasis, whenever possible, should be on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains. Salads (careful with the dressing) are an excellent choice. Try to substitute fruit for high-calorie snacks. Drink lots of water and reduce sweetened beverages as much as possible. Keep in mind that diet sodas are often sweetened with artificial sweeteners that are not good for us.

Participate in and Enjoy a Healthy Social Life

We are created to be social. Although Covid-19 reduced our ability to intermingle as we once did, we have social media, online meetings, and our telephones. Those are still viable options for social interaction. But we need more … Quiet time is important, but ongoing isolation is not healthy for us. Maintain social groups — family, church fellowship, colleague interaction, book clubs, exercise buddies, hobby groups. Some sort of social interaction on a regular basis is vital to our well-being.

Establish and Maintain Healthy Sleep Habits

Sleep is good for our health. Our body rests and rejuvenates during sleep. “Good” sleep is vital for our good health. As a professional or in times of crisis, we perhaps learned to exist, while still being productive, on small amounts of sleep. Not a good habit for a healthy lifestyle. We need seven to nine hours of good sleep each night to restore our bodies and be at our best.

For good sleep:

  • Try to keep bedtime and getting up hours on a consistent schedule,
  • Avoid computer work, or any screen time, for two hours before bedtime,
  • Make sure you have a good mattress and pillow, and
  • Only take naps during the day if they don’t interfere with reasonable sleep at bedtime.

As in most aspects of our lives, balance is critical when striving for a healthy lifestyle. Small changes add up to positive benefits. We can begin by selecting an unhealthy habit and substituting a positive one. Start with one or two lifestyle changes. Gather support from family, colleagues, and others working to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

We can honor God with our bodies by working toward a healthier lifestyle!