By Marie A. Spano, MS RD/LD, CSCS, CSSD

November is Healthy Lifestyles month and the best way to lead a healthy lifestyle is by taking charge of your health and focusing on things you can do to improve it. Nutrition and physical activity can make a huge impact on your health, so take the team approach and “pair up” to decrease your risk of developing a variety of chronic diseases while improving your overall disposition and outlook!

To make it manageable, I suggest that for the month of November, focus on two small changes that yield big results – produce and physical activity.

1) Pair Your Veggies with a Little Fat

The American Cancer Society 2010 Dietary Guidelines and the American Heart Association all recommend eating plenty of fruits and vegetables to lower some disease risk factors. Though adding more produce to your diet can do wonders, produce is better when paired with a little fat (think salad dressing or vegetables like avocados or olives). Our bodies need fat to absorb the wide array of antioxidants and fat-soluble vitamins, found in our fruits and veggies. Also, don’t forget to include a variety of colorful produce for eye appeal, to not only make your taste buds dance, but because the different brilliant hues of fruits and veggies correspond to a different array of antioxidants—which means the more variety of colors, the more variety of these disease fighting compounds! Plus, adding produce to your diet will displace other, less healthy, foods and help with weight management.

2) Pair Good Nutrition with Exercise

Though obesity is associated with a number of chronic diseases, physical activity can do wonders, even if you are not overweight. So, don’t be a slave to your scale (in fact, if it drives you nuts, throw it out!). Instead, focus on how you feel after a workout. You should feel more energetic and happy, have a better attention span and sleep better at night. Having trouble getting started? Think outside the “gym box” and consider other ways to add physical activity to your day. Head out to a new trail you’ve never hiked before or take lessons for something new – rock climbing, yoga or zumba. The more fun and variety you add to your fitness routine, the more likely you are to keep it up!

Though November is Healthy Lifestyles Month, preventative health should be on your mind year-round. Although you can’t control your family history, you can take charge of your own health. Luckily a healthy lifestyle is one of the best defenses against some types of chronic diseases. Plus, leading a healthy lifestyle builds confidence and a positive outlook on life.