small step

ONE Step at a Time

Eating healthy and exercising are good for your overall health and well-being, right?! Well, yeah! However, starting and maintaining a healthful lifestyle may, at times, seem daunting. Trying to eat a balanced diet, exercise 30 minutes 5 times a week, sleep a minimum of eight hours a day, and stay hydrated all while working, going to school, and spending time with family and friends; honestly, just writing that made me feel overwhelmed.

But do not fret. Though starting and maintaining healthful habits can be intimidating, there may be a solution within reach. What is it? Consider making small healthy changes that complement your lifestyle and preferences.

Studies show incorporating a small healthful change into your current lifestyle, as known as the “small changes approach,” can lead to improved health and healthy choices over time. Specifically, the “small change approach” suggests reducing your consumption of food or increasing your output of energy (exercising) by 100 calories. Although the approach recommends reducing a specific number of calories, promoters of “small changes” encourage food and beverage swaps that lead to a balanced diet, as opposed to counting calories.

Intrigued? Perfect! Now here is the fun part. How can you, a student, a parent, and/or a busy professional, make a change? Consider a slight alteration in your physical activity and/or food choices. Below is a list of suggestions outlining ways you can adopt ONE small change:

1. Replace ONE Drink

Replacing one sugary sweetened beverage (SSB), like soda or juice, for water, can decrease your calorie intake by as much as 200 kcal. If you miss the flavor of soda or juice, infuse your water with fruits and vegetables. Cucumber, Mint, and Lemon water is a refreshing take on SSB’s. Soaking pineapple and strawberries in water can give you the sweet kick you may crave. For more flavored water recipes, click here.

A glass cup filled with water

2. Swap ONE Snack

Similar to the study above, consider swapping an unhealthy snack for a healthful one. To create a healthy snack, combine foods high in nutrients like fiber, protein, and vitamins. Think apples and peanut butter, hummus and whole wheat pita, unbuttered air popped popcorn and trail mix, the possibilities are endless! Visit the American Heart Association for additional easy snacking ideas.

Red apples

3. Go on ONE Walk

During the day, when are you walking? Maybe to your car, possibly around your job, or to class? Wherever you have opportunities to walk, consider extending the time and/or distance. If you are parking at a store, park further away from the front door. Take the stairs at your job. If you have time, take the long way to class. Karan Ishii wrote a fantastic article full of tips on how to make the most of your walking opportunities. Check it out!

Challenge yourself! Try ONE! If you would like to share, post on your social media with #uclalivewell.


Erica Lee MPH, RD, is the UCLA Upstream Obesity Solutions Grant Coordinator. In her capacity as a coordinator, she teaches UCLA health professional trainees the importance of healthful nutrition practices. In her free time, you can find Erica running, cooking a new recipe, and gardening.