Friday, June 28, 2019

12 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health

It seems like every week there is a new health food craze, exercise machine, supplement or fad diet being shoved down our throats making it difficult to know what actually works. Losing weight and staying healthy is not always an easy journey but the first step is realizing what changes need to be made and committing to a program that helps you achieve those goals.

Limiting your food intake or forcing yourself into a grueling workout regiment is not always realistic. Your goals should be gradual and easy to maintain without disrupting your lifestyle.

I’ve tried countless diets that only led to short-term results because they were too restrictive. Food is one of life’s simple pleasures and we should be able to enjoy our favorite treats in moderation without feeling guilty.

These days I am trying to make healthier choices, drop a few extra pounds and live my best life. If you are interested in doing the same, I’ve listed a few tips and products to help you get started without counting calories.

1. Vitamins & Supplements
I try to consume a balanced diet but when I don’t get all the nutrients I need from food, vitamins are a great option.

A few of my favorite supplements include:

*Sproos Up Your Gut ($49.99 per tub) - This collagen enriched powder aids in digestion and gastrointestinal health. The apple cinnamon flavor tastes great in smoothies and helps support bones, ligaments, joints, connective tissue, blood vessels, tendons and skin. Read more about this brand by clicking HERE.

*Espira ($40.00) by Avon is a plant power protein that can be mixed in almond milk or smoothies. The vegan, gluten-free formula provides essential amino acids, 22 g of protein and a long list of plant extracts and vitamins for the maintenance of good health and digestive enzymes. Each serving is 120 calories and the powder is available in rich chocolate and creamy vanilla with no soy, dairy or nuts. (Available at

*Ultimate Flora ($45.99) is my go-to probiotic for daily immune support. It contains 50 million active cultures to ensure a healthy microbacterial environment in the intestinal tract. I take one capsule 2-3 times a week to improve gut health. It also helps fight off food poisoning and prepares my body for travel.

*Gummy Vitamins are ideal for people who don’t like popping pills and the delicious fruit flavor makes them easy to take. Nature’s Bounty Skin Hair and Nails ($9.79 at Walmart) helps maintain bones, cartilage, teeth and gums while metabolizing fat. I also like Vitafusion Multi Vitamins ($9.97) because they provide a healthy dose of essential nutrients.

*Estro Smart helps women coping with hormonal imbalance, acne, painful menstruation and PMS symptoms. It is a natural supplement that balances estrogen - progesterone levels to halt abnormal cell growth including fibroids, cysts and endometriosis. It also helps maintain a healthy cervix and prevents HPV, cervical cancer, irregular periods, breast pain, back aches and more. You can use it to treat specific symptoms or maintain reproductive health.

*Carl Jung Red Wine ($6.99) is technically not a supplement but it does work in much the same way. My dad claims that it “saved his life” by lowering bad cholesterol and keeping it in check after his bypass surgery. It tastes a bit like Kombucha and is said to be more effective than regular red wine because it does not contain alcohol which can inhibit the antioxidants. (Please note that these findings are not based on medical research).

*Emergen-C Immune + is always in my pantry because it helps fight cold and flu viruses while boosting the immune system. The box contains 30 individual single serving packs for $11.97 and you simply mix the crystals in cold water (flat or sparkling). Along with 1,000 mg of Vitamin C (more than 10 oranges) it also contains essential antioxidants and B vitamins.

*Jamieson Immune Shield Zinc Lozenges with Echinacea and Vitamins
At the first signs of cold, flu and dry or sore throat take one lozenge and let it dissolve slowly. It helps ease and even stop throat irritation quickly.

A few other supplements I take include: magnesium, Myco 10 Immunomodulating Mushroom Complex to defend against pathogens and Wild Elderberry Concentrate which contains antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. Elderberry is also known to help fight off cancer, prevent and manage diabetes, treat cold symptoms, improve heart health, reduce blood pressure and protect against harmful bacteria.

**Please note that you should always consult a health care practitioner before starting a new diet or supplement. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice.

2. Drink the Right Kind of Water
I know it sounds cliché but the quality of water you drink is just as important as the amount you drink. In many countries (including Canada), tap water contains contaminants that don't taste very good.

In my house we mainly drink 3 types of water. The first is Reverse Osmosis which refers to water that has been thoroughly filtered to remove scaling minerals, unpleasant taste, odor, chlorine, herbicides, pesticides, sand, rust, silt and sediment. The water is forced under pressure which removes 99% of dissolved solids such as lead, copper, sodium, nitrates and bacteria.

The second type of water we buy is alkaline which has a higher pH to neutralize acid in the body. Studies suggest that it prevents acid reflux and controls symptoms of diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol so blood flows more freely. Alkaline water is also beneficial for colon cleansing, immune support, weight loss, pain and cancer resistance.

Flow offers a variety of lightly flavored alkaline spring water including my favorite - Organic Blackberry + Hibiscus. This water is a fantastic source of natural electrolytes and there is no sugar, juice, calories or preservatives. The boxes are made of 100% recyclable material and the fruit blends are perfect for picnics, road trips, parties and refueling after a workout. I love the smooth refreshing taste and I actually feel better when I drink at least one box per day. You can pick up a 12 pack at Metro, Sobey's, Whole Foods and other grocery retailers for about $25.00.

Fiuggi Water is something I heard about when my husband was suffering from kidney stones. The water comes directly from a natural spring in Italy and gained recognition after Pope Anticoli di Campagnac claimed that it dissolved his kidney stones without medication. It worked wonders for my husband and since then the water has become part of our daily routine. I also use the carbonated version to alleviate stomach pain and detox my kidneys.

While on-the-go I usually take my Brita Water Bottle ($24.99) so I can fill up anywhere and limit my use of plastic waste. The BPA-free, durable bottle is available in a variety of eye-catching colors and comes with a built-in filter that cleans the water as you drink.

It also has a carrying loop, one-hand push-button lid (which comes in handy during workouts) and an enclosed straw for fewer spills.

The filter should be changed every 2 months and a 2 pack cost $7.99. For a full list of retailers please visit

3. Eliminate Soft Drinks and Sugary Juice
I often refer to soft drinks as empty calories because they are loaded with sugar but don't actually fill you up. Personally, I rather eat my calories but cutting out or drastically reducing the amount of soda you drink can help shed extra pounds.

Juice is generally okay if it is all-natural and cold pressed with no added sugar. Try making your own delicious recipes or whip up a tasty smoothie.

Naturally flavored water with a hint of carbonation mimics the satisfying soda fizz and diet sodas (free of artificial sweeteners) are usually available at health food stores and select supermarkets.

4. Make Exercise Enjoyable
If working out seems like a chore or punishment then maybe it is time to change the way you move. I am not a fan of public gyms. I don’t like sweaty crowds or waiting in line to use equipment that has been improperly cleaned. My former gym became a weird hook-up spot for singles looking to mingle and like most people I signed up and never went.

I prefer physical activity that does not feel like exercise. Summer is a great time for swimming, biking, hiking and planning fun activities with friends. I also enjoy walking around the mall or park with my husband. If you aren't the sporty type, a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood a few times a week might be all you need. Keep it simple and have fun.

I also created a small home gym with an elliptical, weights, workout videos, yoga mat, jump rope, exercise ball, resistance bands, treadmill and an Ab Lounger.

It doesn't take much to work up a good sweat so if you don't have any equipment there are free workout programs online. The key is finding an activity you enjoy so it doesn't feel like torture.

5. Reduce Sitting Time
If you work a 9-5 desk job chances are you spend too much time sitting. If I’m not downtown attending media events or traveling, I’m usually cooped up in my office writing, editing or answering emails.

Recent studies suggest that sitting for prolonged periods of time can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and cause weight gain.

It is important to take frequent breaks. Get up and stretch, go for a quick walk (indoor or out) and if your office has stairs go up and down a few times a day to get your heart pumping. While you’re sitting, compression stockings can help improve circulation. I also wear mine on long overseas flights.

Standing desks have become quite popular recently. They allow you to work standing up and fold down when you are ready to sit. 

6. Pamper Yourself
Stress can make you much more susceptible to illness so if you are over-worked and on-edge, it is important to relax and enjoy some YOU time.

Do something calming, take a vacation or pamper yourself at least once a week. I plan a spa evening every Friday after work which consists of deep conditioning my hair, applying a good face mask, reading and meditating to clear my mind.

GlamGlow Supermud Clearing Treatment $75.00 at Shoppers Drug Mart 

After a long day I like using Dr. Teal’s invigorating Epsom Salt Bath Soak and Body Lotions ($7.98 at Walmart). The lightweight, nourishing formulas include: Ultra Rich Shea Butter, Rejuvenating Eucalyptus and Coconut Oil enriched with vitamin E. The creams absorb quickly and drench skin in layers of healing moisture that lasts all day without greasiness, parabens or phthalates. 

7. Improve Your Sleep Habits
Sleep allows the body to recuperate, heal and recharge the immune system so we can fight off disease. It is also imperative for cognitive functioning and overall health. For more information read my article – 10 Tips to Improve Your Beauty Sleep.

8. Read Labels and Make Better Choices
Many years ago I made a habit of reading food labels. You’d be surprised how many seemingly “healthy” foods are packed with extra sugar or salt to compensate for the low fat content. There are also many preservatives, processed additives and artificial flavors to look out for so read every package that goes into your shopping cart.

Some of the small changes I’ve made include: purchasing free-range, antibiotic-free meat and eggs, eating lean white meat (usually chicken breast because I'm not a big meat-eater), buying organic whenever possible and incorporating more fruit and veggies. I also limit my dairy intake, look for low sodium snacks and replace some of my favorite carbs with healthier options like rye bread, spelt pasta and quinoa instead of rice.

You don’t have to eliminate everything (life’s too short) but cutting back or making healthy substitutions when possible can help you lose weight, feel better and really make your calories count.

9. Snack Better
If you don’t have healthy snacks readily available, it is easy to grab a bag of Cheetos or M&M’s and stuff your face. Fruits and veggies are great but sometimes I crave a few chips and a nice chunk of chocolate.

Instead of depriving yourself and triggering cravings, look for low fat alternatives. At my local health food store I found delicious supergrain turmeric chips loaded with flaxseed, algae protein, pumpkin, quinoa and seasoning. They are vegan, kosher, gluten-free and non GMO.

If you are going to eat chocolate, the darker the better! Nestle makes an addicting fruit and nut bar with rich dark cocoa, whole blueberries, hazelnut and almonds.

Popcorn is my favorite snack so I pop my own organic kernels with a sprinkle of Himalayan pink sea salt and a drizzle of organic grape seed oil (instead of butter). Making your own munchies is great idea because you know exactly what’s in them.

Don’t get discouraged if you have a bit of a sweet tooth, there are many low-sugar options available as well. Ice cream is my favorite dessert (I will never give it up) which is why Halo Top has become a staple in my freezer.

There are 16 mouth-watering flavors including: Peanut Butter Swirl, Mint Chocolate, Cookies & Cream, Sea Salt Caramel, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Pancakes & Waffles and Birthday Cake. Most of the pints are 80 -130 calories per serving and just 6-11 g of sugar so you never feel guilty about enjoying dessert. The non-daily pints are made with coconut cream and retail for $6.99.

10. Portion Control
I think the key to sticking with a healthy lifestyle is to enjoy food in moderation rather than cutting everything out of your diet and dreaming of lasagna.

If you tend to overeat, gradually reduce your portion size and drink more carbonated water with each meal (the gas makes you feel full). Cut down on carbs and load up on veggies or lean protein. Sometimes it helps to use a smaller plate or bowl.

Avoid eating heavy meals late at night or before bed because your body has to work harder to digest them and you don't burn many calories while sedentary. I eat dinner at 6 p.m. and refrain from snacking throughout the night.

I also find creative ways to cook my veggies like cauliflower pizza crust, roasted sweet potato fries and spicy chicken wraps with fresh green salad topped with fruit and homemade dressing.  

Mix things up so you aren't always eating the same foods. Try new recipes and cook with fresh herbs like turmeric, dill, cilantro, rosemary and mint to amp-up the flavors of your dish.

11. Meal Prep
It is easier to eat healthy when you already have everything prepared and at your disposal. Plan your meals and shop before the week begins so you are not tempted to hit the drive-thru.

12. Limit Fast Food
I’ve never been a burger joint kind of girl. When I eat out I prefer tasty dishes at good restaurants prepared by chefs who actually know what they are doing.

For example pizza is my favorite food but I no longer eat at fast food chains where I can’t be sure if the cheese and meat is real or genetically modified. Instead I eat at restaurants that serve high quality wood burning pizza with fresh ingredients.

Finding healthy options at fast food chains is not impossible but it depends on what you order. Wraps, sandwiches, fajitas, chicken breast, burritos and salads are usually healthier alternatives if the meat is not high in sodium or preservatives. Cut down on grease and fat when possible and always opt for quality.

I try my best to follow all of these tips but traveling makes it difficult. Sampling local cuisine is part of the cultural experience so I don’t obsess about calories. I also tend to exercise more on vacation because there is usually a lot of walking involved in touring a new destination.

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