Photo: Jim Esposito/Getty
Bike to Work Tomorrow
Why wait for Bike to Work Day to jump on a fun, self-powered mode of transportation? Instead, do it tomorrow! You'll fit some exercise into your work week. Challenge yourself today by preparing for tomorrow's ride. Here are some tips:
- Download a trusty bike map.
- Get your bike tuned at the local bike shop.
- Fill your tires with air.
- Make sure your lock and key work if you need to keep your bike outside.
- If you prefer to change out of your ride clothes, pack a change in a backpack or messenger bag.
Seek Out Resistant Starches
Resistant starch, a lesser-known fiber with some of the benefits of soluble and insoluble fiber, is poised to burst onto the nutrition scene with something like a 21-carb salute. Like other fibers, resistant starches defy digestion until they reach the large intestine, possibly contributing to colon health, satiety, management of bodily sugar levels and the presence of good bacteria. They are found in such carbohydrate-rich foods as potatoes, whole grains and beans. Today, challenge yourself to eat something that contains this nutrient.
Try New Phytonutrients
Many Americans get their beneficial phytonutrient intake from just a few fruits and vegetables. Although some is definitely better than none when it comes to these health-promoting plant compounds, variety is also good. Today, challenge yourself to go for more densely nutritious substitutes. Some examples:
- Raspberries instead of strawberries
- Kale instead of spinach
- Sweet potatoes instead of carrots
- Papaya instead of oranges
- Watercress instead of mustard
Photo: Bloom Productions/Getty
Challenge Your Brain
Research suggests that your brain benefits from intellectual tasks, just like your body benefits from physical exercise. Today, get your mind going by doing something stimulating. Try a crossword puzzle, play some cards, read a book, attend a lecture—anything that gets your mind active and that you might enjoy doing regularly.
Photo: Nancy R. Cohen/Getty
Look Carefully at "Low-Fat" Foods
Does "low-fat" automatically mean "good for you"? In a word, no. Low-fat foods can still pack plenty of calories and/or sugar, since the label only means that the food in question is 30 percent lower in fat than the standard product. This is particularly concerning if the original is very high in fat and calories. Furthermore, sugar levels are not considered in applying the low-fat label, so if you're trying to reduce your consumption of ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup, you'll want to give your packaged food labels a thorough read, even if they do say "low-fat." Today, challenge yourself to make smarter choices when it comes to low-fat packaged foods, and read those food labels carefully.
Photo: Martin Barraud/Getty
Grab the Green
Yeah, we know you already know the nutritional value of a nice bunch of fresh, leafy greens. But when was the last time you added a new green to your repertoire or prepared familiar ones in a fresh way? Today, challenge yourself to whip up a festival of green flavors, using some of these tips:
- Sauté seasonal greens with garlic and pine nuts
- Blend exotic summertime greens like mizuna or arugula into salad
- Be sure to stock frozen spinach for sprinkling on pizzas, stuffing in omelets or dressing up white-bean soups
- Chop swiss chard and sprinkle over homemade Greek tzatziki
Photo: Jacqueline Veissid/Getty
Think "Just One More"
From push-ups and crunches to jogging and squats, you can challenge yourself by adopting a "just one more" approach. Today, challenge yourself to do "just one more" of whatever exercise you're doing, whether it's a pull-up, a mile run or a three-minute fast-walking interval.
Photo: Ion-Bogdan DUMITRESCU/Getty
Capture the Krill
There's a new player in the omega-3 fatty acid market: krill oil. Antarctic krill are small crustaceans whose oil contains substances that reduce LDL cholesterol and might offer other healing properties. Today, challenge yourself to find out more about this promising, shrimp-like creature and its nutritional properties.
Photo: Trinette Reed/Getty
Cookie Concerns? Just Bake It
Fragrant, chewy and totally comforting—nothing says "welcome home" like a homemade chocolate chip cookie. If you've got the yen for one and want to indulge without lowering your natural standards, challenge yourself to follow these tips for an all-natural treat.
- Cut back slightly on sugar amounts (up to a 1/3 less doesn't affect texture much), and use the least-processed sugar or alternate natural sweetener. (Agave, stevia, honey, maple or rice syrup, date sugar and dried cane juice are options, but read up first on how they impact baking results.)
- Stick to whole-wheat flour instead of refined flours. (Some cookies, like backpacker and chocolate chip, are more forgiving with grainier flours than others.)
Photo: Dougal Waters/Getty
Exercise Your Right to Take It Easy
Taking it easier, both mentally and physically, can have surprising health benefits. The urge to go longer, stronger and harder is built into modern Western culture, but it can work against the natural cycles of our bodies. Relaxing can lower blood pressure, increase blood flow to muscles, improve concentration and boost confidence, all health helpers that not only improve the way we feel, but also allow us to better enjoy the activities we do choose to pursue. Also, as you get older, make sure your self-care and exercise regimens are still age-appropriate. Today, challenge yourself to examine your lifestyle generally, with an eye to setting aside time for stress reduction and relaxing your approach to strenuous pursuits.
The 9 health numbers that really matter