The internet is filled with ‘hacks’ to take your health to the next level, but people need a few health habits before a hack will even make a dent.
Health Hacks vs Health Habits
Butter in your coffee, dark chocolate for the anti-oxidants, drinking cold water, timing your food, whatever. Those selling you on health hacks [usually] mean well, and often have a degree of truth behind them, but they are designed with a specific person in mind – The person who wants to micromanage their nutrition, fitness, and health, and lifestyle.
These people, who are likely already maxing out their health, want to get to the next level, even if the next level isn’t really worth hitting. At least not with the effort that hacking often takes.
Hey, if your diet is already good (mostly unprocessed food, you cook most of your own meals, you’ve minimized bad fats, eat tons of veggies, limit desserts to special occasions, and get enough quality protein), then go ahead and hack away at the supplement store or vitamin shop.
If, however, you’re eating fast food regularly, making bread, pasta, pizza, and grains the base of your own personal food pyramid, you might want to rethink. If you think that a sandwich with a few slices of lunch meat and a leaf of iceberg lettuce is getting in your protein and veggies, then there’s really nothing you can add that’s going to hack you to good health.
Health habits on the other hand…
The internet is filled with hacks. What the internet is not filled with is simple little habits that add up to good health over time. Good habits are simply not exciting or sexy for most people. People want a pill or a hack, even when they need something far simpler.
Health habits are simple little things that you can and actually will do. Simple things that are also designed with a specific person on mind – The person who doesn’t want to micromanage anything, but wants to be healthier anyway. Heck, most people just want to be healthy, not have to work to be healthy. It can be hard, especially at first. It gets easier.
Our goal is to get you to go from where you are now to a little better tomorrow, one little, easy, doable habit at a time.
Cook your food
One of my favorite health habits is cooking your own food. I don’t even care what you cook, but just cook it. Not heat it from frozen, reheat leftovers from a restaurant, or add water to the contents of a box, but make something from ingredients you buy at the store. Just cook.
Studies show that when people cook at home, they eat less food and eat fewer calories, and the food they do eat has more nutrition.
Here’s a excerpt from our upcoming book, Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well – 52 Ways to Feel Better in a Week.
The true cost of processed food
Processed food is cheap; even eating out can be cheap when you buy from the fast food value menus.
Unfortunately, because of the low costs of packaged and prepared foods, and today’s tendency to fill our days with soccer practices, video games, and television, people are just not cooking, and it’s taking a toll on our health and waistlines more than it is on our wallets.
Each meal eaten out
- increases calorie intake by approximately 134 calories over a meal eaten at home
- reduces fruit and vegetable serving consumption by over 22%
- reduces whole fruit consumption by over 32%
- reduces consumption of dark green and orange vegetables by 31%
- decreases dietary quality by two points on the Healthy Eating Index (HEI), enough to drop the consumer from Fair to Poor.
These things add up quickly. The more meals you eat out or from a box, the more extra calories you consume, the less nutrition you get in exchange, and the more weight you tend to gain, even as nutrition from vitamins, minerals, and high quality protein, fats, and carbohydrates plummets.
The solution is really simpler than you’d imagine: cook and eat at home.
Is that enough?
Maybe, but even if it’s not enough, it is enough to make you healthier than you were yesterday. In a week, you’ll be healthier still. Keep this habit going, even 80% of the time, and you’ll be a lot healthier in a month, and amazingly healthier in a year.
Reference – Todd, J.E. et al.“The Impact of Food Away From Home on Adult Diet Quality”, ERR-90, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, February 2010