Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Just a few minutes a day of physical activity can create and enormous impact.  “The biggest impact of physical activity on improved longevity and quality of life can be achieved by almost anyone,” according to Dr. Steven Blair, professor at the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.  “If a person simply walks 10 minutes, three times a day, five days a week, then they will improve their aerobic fitness, feel better, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.  We have strong evidence that this amount of exercise is beneficial and it is certainly feasible for most adults to get this amount of physical activity.”  

2. Eat less and better at home

According to a March 31, 2008 American Diabetes Association press release, a healthy meal need not be costly. Eating well and spending less are not mutually exclusive,” said the ADA’s Ann Albright, Ph.D. “In fact, healthier foods can actually save you money by reducing portion sizes and buying fewer high-calorie, high-priced foods.”  Tips include buying white eggs, boneless cuts of meat and using non-fat dry milk more.

3. Reduce the size of portions in restaurants

Smaller portions will cost less for the restaurants to make, leading to higher profits per serving.  Smaller portions will lead to less food being eaten.  In a 2005 study, “Bad popcorn in big buckets: portion size can influence intake as much as taste,” published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, moviegoers were given stale popcorn in big buckets, and they ate 34 percent more than those given the same stale popcorn in medium-sized containers.

When moviegoers were served fresh popcorn in large tubs, they ate 45 percent more.  One of the researchers, Dr. Brian Wansink, a professor of marketing and applied economics at Cornell University, noted: "We're finding that portion size can influence intake as much as taste.  Large packages and containers can lead to overeating foods we do not even find appealing."

4. Plant a garden

Few things taste better than a home-grown tomato, as much of the nation learned during World Wars I and II, when Victory Gardens produced up to 40 percent of all vegetables consumed nationally.  The more time and effort needed to plant and maintain a garden, the less time you will have to drive around in your SUV and shop, and you will be getting a bit of exercise.

5. Spend more time with family and friends

Take the time to spend time with the people most important to you --- your friends and family. This can include playing games together, walking around the neighborhood, and sharing family dinners.  After all, isn’t that what life is about – how we spend our time?

As for my family’s efforts in these areas; we walked to school today, and are planning on planting garden in the backyard.  I protested a bit at first, but have finally given in to the idea that fresh home-grown vegetables might be more important than the view from our living room.

While our finances might be a little tighter for a while, maybe we can savor life a bit more, tighten our belts and, when the flush times return, maybe we will remember, as Amanda Richardson noted, not to return to our wasteful ways.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.