Lunden Souza: Little changes make big difference

05/12/2012 1:34 AM

05/12/2012 1:58 AM

There really is not any easy fix or easy way to just magically become fit and healthy.

There are advertisements all over the place that try and convince us otherwise, but we soon come to realize it takes consistency and dedication.

There is no need to overwhelm yourself with all of these lifestyle changes at once. Instead, strive for short-term goals and establishing good little habits that, when combined, help to create a better whole.

When it comes to food, several substitutions can be made to really improve your diet. One of my favorite foods to substitute is French fries.

Instead of going to a restaurant and ordering a side of greasy fries, go to the grocery store, buy frozen sweet potato fries and bake them at home. If you order sweet potato fries at a restaurant, chances are they are fried in the same fashion as regular fries.

Another simple dietary substitution is coffee creamer. Half and half -- as well as some flavored creamers -- have a lot of fat and sugar. Switch to unsweetened almond milk or skim milk to cut calories.

A lot of Americans choose cereal as their morning breakfast, which can be really high in carbohydrates and sugar, and very low in fiber and protein. Switch to oatmeal with fresh berries, flax seeds and extra cinnamon for a much more balanced and healthier breakfast.

When dining out, a common misconception is that a salad is the healthiest and most figure-friendly item on the menu. That can be false, because the dressing can make or break it.

Ranch dressing has approximately 150 calories 16 grams of fat per 2 tablespoons. Go for some good fats by ordering olive oil and vinegar on the side to keep the salad nice and healthy.

On the physical side, there are minor changes you can make to increase calories you burn.

When you are at work, school, the mall or office, always try to take the stairs instead of the elevator -- your butt and thighs will thank you. Instead of slowly patrolling around a parking lot for a close spot, park a little bit farther away and walk that extra distance.

When you are on the job, instead of just sitting in the break room, go on a brisk 10- to 15-minute walk. Bring your iPod and an easy on-the-go snack to break up the day a little bit.

A final change you can make is trying to avoid drive-throughs. Not just drive-through food, which is an obvious health flop, but drive-through bank tellers and drive-through coffee shops. I know sometimes you have a small window in which to get errands done, but when possible, try to add the extra steps.

Small changes can make such an impact in your life without having to strain the brain.

Throughout my five years in college, I always took the stairs up the buildings and all the way to the upper campus. For five years, approximately three days a week, I was always taking the stairs.

I am sure that really helped when there were times I could not make it to the gym or squeeze in a workout because I had to study or finish a project.

There's no need to be overwhelmed -- just get started.

Lunden Souza can be reached at lundensouza@gmail.com.

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