Want to Improve Your Overall Health?

Then make good living easy to do, or like 88 percent of Americans, you just won't do it.

Buy all the groceries you want, but learn to make time to actually prepare them. (Photo by Jeffrey Hamilton.)

If I asked you how many servings of fruits and vegetables you eat per day, what would your answer be? What about how many minutes of physical activity you get every week? You should be eating nine servings of produce a day (think, roughly half-a-baseball- to a full-baseball-sized amount, depending on the type of fruit or vegetable) and getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week. But according to a recent survey by the American Heart Association, only 12 percent of Americans are meeting those goals — although a solid 90 percent want to do better. The culprit? Time. According to the survey results, almost across the board, lack of time is why most people are not meeting the recommendations.

That means that the best way to meet the recommendations is to make your daily life convenient for healthy living. This might mean buying fruit to keep in a bowl on your kitchen table for snacking or getting off the train a few stops early on your way to work, just to walk a few extra steps. Whatever it is, it must be a priority and it must work for you. Here are a few recommendations to get you started on your path to improving your health:

Increase your fruit and vegetable intake:

  • Try to eat a fruit or a vegetable with everything you eat. For example, substitute vegetables for dipping in salsa or hummus, instead of tortilla chips or crackers.
  • Sneak vegetables into spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, and casseroles. I love to cook spinach or kale in a sauce pan until it wilts and then add it to spaghetti sauce. You’ll be surprised how an entire bag of spinach will cook down to a very small amount.
  • Add veggies in an unlikely place, such as a smoothie or muffins. Shredded carrots are excellent in bran muffins and spinach tastes great in a smoothie with a banana, yogurt, mango, and milk (I prefer almond milk in my smoothies).
  • Keep frozen berries on hand year around for a great addition to oatmeal and yogurt.
  • For a sandwich mix-up, substitute sliced apple or banana for the jelly on your peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich.
  • Try something new. While at the grocery store, pick out a new fruit or vegetables for tasting that week.

Increase your weekly physical activity:

  • Boston is a great city for exercise. Take the stairs whenever possible, exit the train a few stops earlier on a nice day, or try biking to work — an easy experiment to try with Hubway back again for the new season. You can even make a pact with yourself to avoid escalators and elevators on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, forcing you to take the stairs.
  • Take advantage of online fitness deals from money-savers like Groupon, Living Social, and Google Offers. Local gyms also regularly run specials, and if you time it right, in some places, you can purchase a gym membership for as low as $10 per month!
  • Try workouts you can do at home like planks, push-ups, and sit-ups.
  • Next time you plan to meet with a friend for lunch or go to the movies for a date, make it an active time instead. Take a fitness class together, walk along the Charles, or go for a hike.

Finding ways to make eating well and staying active an easier part of your life will help you accomplish your goals. Share what works for you in the comments section below!