Celebrate the Beauty of Youth
You lead a busy life. Being young is exciting, but it can also be hectic. Juggling school or work and keeping up with family, friends, and volunteer activities may leave little time for yourself. Being physically active and eating healthy can give you the energy you need to keep up with life's demands and live your best life, regardless of your age.
This information, part of a series of materials for a program called Sisters Together: Move More, Eat Better, shows you how to make regular physical activity and healthy eating part of your daily routine, even when you think you don't have the time. Use this information to help yourself, as well as friends and family members, get healthier. It's never too early or too late to start making small changes to improve your health.
Why should I move more and eat better?
Even though you may be young and healthy now, your chances of developing health problems increase as you get older. Being physically active and making healthy food choices now may lower your chances of developing the following conditions as you age
- type 2 diabetes, or high blood sugar
- high blood pressure
- kidney disease
- heart disease
- certain kinds of cancer
Besides being good for your overall health, moving more and eating better also have many other benefits, such as helping you
- have more energy for work, school, play, and family
- feel good about yourself and your health
- look good in the latest styles
- manage weight gain
- manage stress better
- tone your body—without losing your curves
- be a role model for friends and family members
How can I start to move more?
Physical activity can be fun when you do things you enjoy. Try
- taking a dance, yoga, cycling, or other group-fitness class at a nearby community or recreation center
- walking briskly through a mall or park, or around a local school track, if it's safe to do so
- playing with your children or nieces, nephews, or friends' children—dancing, jumping rope, or playing hide-and-seek or tag
- jogging, running, or bike riding
If you can, try being active with a friend or a group. That way, you can cheer each other on, catch up, and feel safer when you're outdoors.
Think you don't have time for physical activity? The good news is you can still benefit by being active for short periods of time throughout the day—even 10 minutes at a time. When you're trying to find time for physical activity, remember that any activity is better than none. So try to move more by making even these small changes to your daily routine
- Get off the bus or subway one stop early if you're in a safe area and walk the rest of the way to where you're going.
- Go for a walk during breaks or at lunchtime while at work or school, if your schedule permits.
- Put physical activity on your daily to-do list. For example, plan on being active right before or right after work, before you get too distracted or busy with other things.
What if I don't want to mess up my hair?
Your hairstyle doesn't have to stand between you and your physical activity
- Try a natural hairstyle, short haircut, braids, twists, locs, weaves, or wigs.
- Wrap a scarf around your hair; when you're done with your workout, remove the scarf and let your hair air dry.
Tip: Some people find physical activity may make their hair look dull or lead to salt buildup. To keep your hair healthy as you stay fit
- Cleanse your scalp with a clarifying product when needed.
- Avoid harsh products that may strip hair of natural oils.
- Limit the use of heat on hair, such as dryers and curling irons. If you use heat, keep on low settings to protect hair from damage.
- For styling ideas, consider viewing YouTube videos and visiting other relevant online hair groups and communities to be informed and inspired.
How can I eat better?
Eating healthy can be a challenge when you don't have time to cook or there seem to be fast and casual food places around every corner. Eating healthy means including vegetables, fruit, protein, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free dairy foods in your meals. These foods provide important nutrients such as vitamins and minerals—and some also provide fiber.
When planning meals, think about making them healthier by including
- a salad or mix of different-colored vegetables such as spinach; sweet potatoes; and red, green, orange, or yellow peppers
- fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, or nondairy products such as soy, almond, or rice milk with added vitamin D and calcium
- different-colored fruits, including apples, bananas, and grapes
- lean beef, pork, or other protein foods such as chicken, seafood, eggs, tofu, or beans
- whole grains such as brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and whole-grain cornmeal
To eat healthier without spending a lot of time in the kitchen, try the following tips
- Buy frozen or pre-cut veggies. Add veggies to a salad, stir-fry them with chicken, or microwave them and add to whole-grain pasta and pasta sauce for a quick meal.
- Make enough food for extra meals when you cook. A whole cooked chicken and casseroles with whole grains and veggies may last a few days, so you don't have to cook another meal every day. Be sure to freeze or refrigerate leftovers right away to keep them safe to eat.
- Grab a quick and easy first meal. You can start your day with something simple yet healthy. Try a banana, apple, slice of whole-wheat toast with a teaspoon of peanut butter, or oatmeal topped with berries and a few walnuts. Or you could make oatmeal the day before and heat it up when you're ready to eat it.
Sometimes we may eat even though we're not hungry. Being distracted by television or certain emotions, such as being bored, stressed, or sad, may make you eat without paying attention to how much you're eating or whether you're even really hungry. Be aware of when, where, and why you eat; and try not to do other things while you're eating so you can keep your focus on your food.
Make sure you're getting enough folate, a B vitamin that helps the body make healthy new cells and prevents birth defects in babies. Dried beans and peas; cereals with added vitamins and minerals; citrus fruits and juices without added sugar, like orange juice; and leafy green vegetables such as spinach and turnip greens are all good sources of folate. A multivitamin also may provide folate in the form of folic acid. All women and teen girls who could become pregnant should get 400 micrograms of folate a day. If you're pregnant, aim for 600 micrograms a day.
Can I still have my favorite foods and drinks as part of a healthy eating plan?
You can enjoy your favorite foods and drinks in healthy ways when you're hanging out with your friends, co-workers, and family, whether at home or out and about. Try these tips
- If you eat pizza, order vegetable toppings like mushrooms, peppers, and spinach instead of salty, high-fat meats like pepperoni or sausage.
- Split a favorite dish or meal with a friend, or eat half and bring the other half home for the next day.
- Downsize your coffee drink from an extra-large to a small, and replace whole milk with low-fat or fat-free milk. Skip the whipped cream and sugary flavored syrups altogether.
- If you're cooking at home, tweak recipes by using less butter, sugar, and salt.
- Limit alcohol intake to one drink a day, and replace sugar-sweetened beverages with water or unsweetened tea. Remember that alcohol and juices, soda, and other sugar-sweetened drinks add unwanted calories.
Control your food portions
You can still enjoy your favorite foods as part of a healthy eating plan if you watch your food portions. Eating smaller portions and not having seconds may help you cut down on calories and fat. If you love macaroni and cheese, have just a small portion, and try making it yourself with low-fat or fat-free milk and cheese. Have a kiddie cone of ice cream or frozen yogurt, or a thin sliver of pie without the whipped cream.
Have a recipe-makeover potluck
Invite some friends over and have them bring their favorite dishes "made over" for eating healthy. Before the potluck, you could plan an outing to a local farmer's market to buy vegetables that are fresh and in season. Each person can explore changing a favorite recipe by using
- herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavor
- canola, olive, or corn oil instead of butter or shortening
- carrots, red peppers, or other in-season vegetables in casserole and pasta dishes to add color, fiber, and vitamins
After your meal, vote on the best recipe. You may even decide to create a cookbook that includes all of the new healthy recipes.
Enjoy these action-packed years of your youth! Love, laugh, and spend time eating healthy meals and being active with family and friends. Support each other in staying healthy, active, and strong!
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and other components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support research into many diseases and conditions.
What are clinical trials, and are they right for you?
Clinical trials are part of clinical research and at the heart of all medical advances. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat disease. Researchers also use clinical trials to look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses. Find out if clinical trials are right for you.
What clinical trials are open?
Clinical trials that are currently open and are recruiting can be viewed at www.ClinicalTrials.gov.
This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.
The NIDDK would like to thank Samuel Klein, M.D., Washington University School of Medicine; Thomas N. Robinson, M.D., M.P.H., Stanford University