Feel your best everyday with 12 easy health tips

From eating more popcorn to sharing meals, these everyday tips will have you feeling great in no time!
By Chatelaine

12 ways to feel your best

Be your own biggest cheerleader!

Psst. Want the secret to eating healthier, exercising more and quitting bad habits (like smoking)? Just believe you can, say Australian researchers, who found people with a you-go-girl attitude are more likely to stick to positive changes than the Debbie Downers out there. "When you believe in yourself, you're less likely to make bad choices," says study co-author Sonja Cornelia Kassenboehmer.

Try it today: Root for your health with this cheer (pompoms not required), from our resident cheerologist, assistant editor Alanna Glassman. "Brick wall, waterfall, girl you think you got it all. And you do! 'Cuz you do. So BOOM with that attitude!" —Dominique Lamberton

Two women stand at the end of hike cheering in workout gearPhoto: Masterfile

Sweeten with colour

Make your hot cocoa taste even better without adding extra calories by serving it in a dark cream or orange mug. These colours can make it appear sweeter (and intensify its aroma), says a new study by British researchers. —Anna Redman Brown Pantone mugs, Jan 13, p94Photo by Erik Putz

Keep calm and make your brain strong

Stress doesn't just clutter your mind — it can hurt, too. Yale researchers say chronic worry can literally shrink your brain. They discovered a single genetic switch that appears to cut connections between neurons under prolonged stress. Without these connections, new genes can't be expressed, so the brain starts to lose volume. And this decrease can lead to emotional and cognitive decline. Avoid it by arming yourself against your worry triggers.

Take action! Designate moments in your day for relaxation, even if it means just a few minutes to close your eyes and breathe deeply or to take in some soothing sounds. Check out to listen to nature's best relaxers (like the ocean) right from your desktop. —Alanna Glassman

Frame, Brain, Keep Calm, Jan 13, p94Istockphoto

Take a laugh break (to excel at work)

Next time you need a quick pick-me-up, look no further than the laugh-out-loud photos of cats at Not only will they lighten your mood, they'll help you focus on tasks. Japanese researchers reviewed all things kawaii (cute) and found looking at pets can approve your ability to concentrate by 44 percent. —Anna Redman Cat with clown wig and bow tie, Jan 13, p93Photo by GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Getty Images

Pop to slim down

When you need a salty fix, reach for popcorn, not chips. Those who munch on a cup of the air-popped treat are significantly more satisfied than their chip-loving friends, says a recent study. And they eat less at their next meal! "Popcorn offers great flavour and nutrition at a satisfying portion size," says researcher Dr. Kristin Reimers.

Snack smarter: Since one cup of potato chips is a dense 150 cals, while the same amount of popcorn is only a super-light 15, you can feel full and slim down with every delicious bite. —Laura Fader

Bowl of popcornIstockphoto

Choose carrots (not cake)

Good news! You can train your brain to make healthier choices. Research says the more we practise willpower and arrange each day around more nutritious food options, the easier it is to sidestep temptation. "Self-control can change what the brain wants," says researcher Cendri Hutcherson. So with practise, you'll stop craving bad foods!

Try it today: Keep fruits and veggies in plain sight, like an apple on your desk at work. —Lora Grady

Chocolate cake missing a slice, Jan 13, p96Photo by George Caswell/Getty Images

Share your meals, reach your goal faster!

Nutritional compatibility may be the secret to long-lasting love (and weight loss!). Try meatless Mondays or ditching junk food as a team. "Eating in sync helps couples enjoy meals together, without splurging," says dietitian Lauren McCormack. "You're more likely to stay on track with mutual support. Bonus: few fights over the shopping list!" —Alanna Glassman Man feeding woman a strawberry, Jan 13, p96Photo by Chris Craymer/Trunk Archive

Read the label, lose the lbs

Nine pounds — that's how much weight you could avoid gaining in a year just by reading nutrition labels. Be aware, compare and watch for these five facts, says dietician Leslie Beck.

Nutrition facts:
Serving size: Identify how big a single portion is, measure it out and stick to it.
Calories: A daily calorie intake for healthy weight loss is 1,200 to 1,600.
Saturated & trans fats: Anything higher than 10 percent isn't a heart-healthy choice.
Sodium: Be mindful of the number (5 percent is low, so you're good to go). High-sodium foods add extra stress to the kidneys and heart.
Fibre: The higher, the better. You're aiming for 25 grams a day. Fibre improves digestion, satisfies appetite and regulates blood sugar. —Laura Fader

Feel your best everyday with 12 easy health tipsGetty Images

Sweat away stress

Kick anxiety to the curb with cardio. A study by the University of Maryland shows workouts can have strong effects against worry. Regular exercise helps strengthen our body's reserve of the mood-enhancing effects we achieve when we sweat it out, says researcher Carson Smith. He found that a 30-minute gym session quelled anxiety levels better than simply sitting quietly and relaxing.

Take action! Instead of brooding, hit the gym for a whole new kind of stress-busting. —Kari Pritchard

Woman running on treadmill, Jan 13, p98Getty Images

Shape up quicker

New research reveals just 30 minutes is the exercise sweet spot for optimum weight loss. A Danish study found that men who worked out for a half-hour a day over 13 weeks lost up to two pounds more than those clocking a solid 60 minutes. 

Try it today: Timing is everything. Pushing too long isn't necessarily best for achieving weight-loss goals. —Kari Pritchard

Woman riding mountain bike, cycling, bicycle, Jan 13, p98Corbis

Get addicted to activity

Step counter? Check. Calorie counter? Check. Completely addictive? You bet! (It's also a watch!) The brand new Nike+ FuelBand has everyone in our office talking, walking — and gawking at each other's wrists. Simply plug your personal details into the Nike+ website, set your fuel goal — and the sleek band (which, BTW, mixes in surprisingly well with other wrist candy) does the rest. It tracks your daily activity and its motivating light strip changes colour to chart your progress. When you reach your goal, fireworks go off. It's visual, simple and just plain cool.

Bottom line: It truly makes you want to do more activity, whether it's taking the stairs, walking to get your lunch or knocking out 50 jumping jacks right before bed. It even inspired our editor in chief to walk over an hour to work this week. How's that for motivation? —Laurie Jennings

FuelBand, Jan 13, p98The Nike FuelBand

Try a new reading buddy

Sharing a book with a dog can help children improve their fluency up to 30 percent, says a study by the University of California. Kids who felt nervous about reading found relief in a canine's company. "Reading is one of the best ways for children to gain confidence. Plus, dogs will almost always lend a friendly ear, and they won't laugh if you stumble over words," says Michael Amiri, co-author of Shellie, The Magical Dog, a kids' book and teaching aid. That sounds pawsitively perfect to us! —Anna Redman Woman reading in bed with dog, Jan 13, p100Images/Getty Images


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