Everywhere we turn, there seems to be an influx of mixed messages about the foods that we should and should not be eating and the things that we should or should not be doing for optimal health. As a registered dietitian nutritionist, it’s my job to sift through the confusion and help make eating as simple and enjoyable for people as possible.
Let’s start here: an overwhelming amount of research shows that a diet rich in fiber-filled fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and plant-based fats, while low in refined carbohydrates and highly processed animal meats, has been linked to longevity and wellbeing. But, of course, the research doesn’t stop there.
According to a nearly 80-year-long study out of Harvard, who you’re enjoying your meal with is an essential factor in overall health – not just the foods that are on your plate. During the study period, the researchers looked at the highs and lows, and the triumphs and failures of the participants over the course of their lives. The surprising revelation? The relationships they formed with their spouse, family, friends, and community had a profound influence on protecting against mental and physical decline as they age. Simply put, those who have secure, warm relationships live longer and happier lives.
Since February is the signature month of love, as well as National Heart Health Month, here are a few ideas for ways to nurture your relationships, now proven to be a form of self-care that’s good for your health.
- Host a brunch potluck with your friends. Don’t worry too much about the menu or how ready-to-entertain your place looks. What’s most important is spending time with the people you love. Kick off the weekend with a casual brunch potluck and serve these Gluten-Free Classic Pancakes for a guaranteed crowd-pleasing dish.
- Treat your co-worker to a surprise breakfast. Prepping a nutritious morning smoothie for yourself before heading out the door? Double the recipe and make one for your co-worker who would appreciate the thoughtful gesture. This Pineapple Kale Express is chock-full of nutrient-rich foods and is downright delicious.
- Have a dinner date with a long-distance family member. Thankfully with technology, the world has gotten smaller seemingly overnight. Set up a time when you and your family member can Skype or FaceTime over dinner. This Tantalizing Tomato Basil Soup is an easy dish to slurp on in-between the catch-up conversation.
- Leave a random act of kindness for your neighbor. Amidst our busy, multi-tasking, all-day-every-day lives, neighbors can feel like strangers passing by. Sweeten their day and yours by dropping by with a surprise dessert in tow. Our Chocolate Avocado Pudding is surprisingly good-for-you, too!
We’d love to hear from you. What are some ways that you nurture the relationships in your lives? Let’s keep the momentum going even after February has passed!