By Jeff Howard
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our homes have been our office, restaurant, shopping mall, fitness club and place to unwind and de-stress. But have you ever wondered what a perfect day at home would look like? By perfect, I mean a day that is an ideal day towards making you a healthier version of yourself.
1. Start your day with a glass of lemon water.
Simply add the juice of half a lemon to your glass and the lemon juice can aid in protecting you against inflammatory diseases such as fungal infections and osteoporosis. Next, brew your coffee but don’t drink it right away. Many things naturally happen to our bodies when we wake up, such as the production of the hormone cortisol which is a sort of natural caffeine. I recommend waiting an hour after you wake up to have your first cup of coffee or caffeinated beverage of choice to allow your body to wake up on its own first.
2. Exercise in the morning to jump start your day.
Working out first thing when you wake up improves your energy levels, your circulation and encourages proper lymphatic function. Just 20 minutes every day can make a difference! Mix up cardio and weights throughout the week for all-over toning and general health.
3. Eat a healthy, balanced breakfast or choose to intermittently fast.
If you normally eat breakfast, there are three key ingredients it should contain: protein, fiber and healthy fats. I advise you to avoid consuming sugary carbohydrates like pancakes, bagels, muffins and cereal because they will not give you the energy you need to get your body going in the morning and are more like a dessert. Instead, try consuming eggs with avocado slices or Greek yogurt with berries and nuts.
You can also try intermittent fasting and skip breakfast entirely, but do not do so without consulting with your doctor first. This latest trend has proven successful for some and there are several versions of the diet. Most people opt for an eating window of 12 p.m.- 8 p.m, meaning you skip breakfast and only eat within those eight hours.
4. Stay hydrated and snack smart.
When we are slightly dehydrated, it can lead to a lowered mood, decreased concentration and a false sense of hunger. Keep water or other low-sugar drinks on hand to sip throughout the day to maintain a healthy hydration level.
When it comes to snacking, pick foods that will give you a slow release of energy that contain protein and low to no added sugar. Pairing a protein with a complex carbohydrate is a smart choice. For example, try snacking on half an apple with almond butter or another nut butter of your choice.
5. Eat a healthy, low-fat lunch.
I encourage you to think ahead when it comes to lunch by choosing things you can make in advance and take with you to work. Avoid too much fat at lunchtime, as it promotes afternoon lethargy. Lunch is a time when you can have pasta, potatoes and other good carbohydrates. Avoid foods that are high in sugar and low in protein, like pizza, pre-made sandwiches and fried foods. Instead, opt for meals rich in protein, fiber, whole grains and healthy fats. Foods like eggs, lean meat, beans and chickpeas are high in protein. Brown rice or quinoa is a good source of fiber. Salmon, avocado and olive oil are all rich in healthy fats.
6. Exercise mid-afternoon.
Most of us have a mid-afternoon slump somewhere between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m, but you can keep yourself going through the day by choosing a healthy lunch and doing some moderate exercise in the afternoon. A simple 10 minute walk or run up and down the stairs will help. If your schedule doesn’t permit a morning workout and the evening is more convenient, make sure you have a healthy snack and are hydrated before your evening workout.
7. Choose an easy, healthy dinner.
Just like your lunch, your dinner should fuel you up for your day tomorrow, not slow you down. Be realistic by choosing something that doesn’t require a lot of time or effort to make, otherwise you may make unhealthy choices. Including green vegetables is always a good choice, as are meat sauces and grains left in their purest form. It’s not the pasta or potatoes that are unhealthy for us, but what we add to them. Try to choose lean proteins like fish, lamb, beef or chicken. Portion control is also very important. Once you have finished your single serving, wait 10 minutes before getting a second helping. You will be amazed at how full you feel after waiting.
8. Take time to relax.
After dinner, it is important to take time to reflect or do something enjoyable for you. Not allowing yourself time to relax combined with high-stress levels can make you vulnerable to a number of health issues such as depression and elevated blood pressure. Find an activity that relaxes you, and then set aside some time every day to do it. This could be as simple as taking a few minutes to remind yourself of everything that is going well in your life.
9. Limit your screen time.
Turn off your phone and computer at least an hour before bed to allow your body to shift into sleep mode. You should also avoid vigorous exercise in the late evening. These measures will help you wind down when it’s time to sleep.
10. Go to sleep at a reasonable hour.
I recommend getting between six to 10 hours of sleep each night depending on your own personal needs. Some of us can get by on six hours, but be honest with yourself and your needs. If you feel better with more sleep, be mindful of that when choosing your bedtime and setting your alarm clock.
Here are a few quick tips to organize your pantry and fridge to help put your healthy routine into action.
1. Try organizing foods into categories, such as putting all of your nut and seed butters together in one section.
2. Place the oldest dated items first. You can even consider doing it alphabetically, but make sure to always keep some healthy choices front and center.
3. Try not to buy for a month. Use what’s already in your pantry and start planning meals using canned tomatoes, beans, pasta, rice and other items if possible.
4. Get rid of unhealthy snacks and treats and replace them with smaller portioned and healthier items. Place the snacks and treats behind the healthier meal items or on a top shelf.
5. Create a healthy need to eat shelf at eye level in your pantry and refrigerator. Once a week, move food that needs to be eaten soon to that shelf and try to work those items into your meal rotation.
Your home is your oasis and I hope this advice and proposed routine will guide you towards making healthier choices while spending time at home. And hopefully, with these tips, you can become a healthier, better version of yourself.
Jeff Howard is a world-renowned fitness presenter who resides in Louisville.