Posted by: Kara @ The Foodie Dietitian | February 29, 2012

Guest Post: Leap into Healthy Habits and Live Longer

My dear friend and colleague, Stephanie, wrote a post just in time for the Leap Year! She provides some simple, effective tips on how you can take steps to live a healthier and longer life. As for me, I’m traveling this week for work. First stop: Charlotte. Second stop: Las Vegas! Thanks, Steph for the great post!

Leap into Healthy Habits and Live Longer
By: Stephanie Horton, MS, RD

New England Dairy & Food Council

Every four years, Leap Year grants us an extra day to enjoy.   This gift of extra time to enjoy family, friends and fun activities is precious, so why wait around another four years before adding more time to your life? By incorporating some simple, healthy habits into your daily routine, you can not only add extra days to your life but also increase the quality of that time.

Treat yourself to some extra living by following these four simple strategies that can help you live longer and feel better.

1. Eat breakfast – Whether you’re heading to school, the boardroom, or staying home, breakfast is an important way to give you the energy you need. Consistently eating a healthy breakfast has been linked to improved concentration and performance, lower cholesterol, decreased weight and increased energy levels.

Plan breakfast around at least three of the five food groups, especially low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, fruits and whole grains.  Including three food groups – for example, a yogurt, orange, and whole-wheat toast – offers the right nutrition for energy that will last until lunch.

It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  Grab ‘n’ go breakfasts for those rushed mornings might include portable items like yogurt, granola bars, fruit and single-serve milk in a plastic, re-sealable container.

2. Keep your heart healthy – Did you know that cardiovascular disease is the #1 cause of death in the U.S.?  Eating the right foods can help decrease your risk for heart disease now and extend your life longer into the future.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a major risk factor for heart disease.  Experts suggest following a Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan to help control your risk of hypertension.  The DASH eating plan is a low-fat eating plan rich in calcium, potassium and magnesium and includes two to three servings of dairy foods and eight to ten servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  For more information, visit the “Heart Health” section at

3. Get out and play – Research shows many important benefits of physical activity including decreased medication dependence, decreased weight and increased bone health and quality of life. Try to achieve 30-60 minutes of physical activity at least five days each week.  That may seem like a lot, but remember, it doesn’t have to happen all at once.  Take a ten minute walk during your lunch break, always park the car in the furthest parking spot or take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Encourage the entire family to get more active by making small changes together that will add up to a big difference.

4. Focus on the food groups – Choosing nutrient-rich foods from each of the five food groups is a good way to guide your daily eating choices.  Each food group – dairy, fruits, vegetables, grains and protein – provides nutrients that are important for healthy living.  For example, dairy products provide a unique combination of nine essential nutrients that play a crucial role in helping to promote bone health, healthy blood pressure and a healthy weight.  Because of these benefits, experts recommend eating at least three servings of dairy foods each day.  Visit to learn about each food group, how much you should be eating and practical tips to help you incorporate more of these super foods into your life.

Make the extra days in your life count with better health.  For more information about healthy habits and the health benefits of different foods, visit



  1. Hope you’re having an amazing trip! Thanks for sharing the post!

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