When it comes to building and preserving health, every little bit helps. Here are five easy health promoting habits that take almost no time, willpower or forethought and which can benefit the whole household.

  1. Crush your garlic first. Garlic’s superfood status is believed to come from allicin, which is formed from when alliin and alliinase, two compounds stored separately within the garlic clove, combine. It takes 10-15 minutes for allicin to completely form, but once formed it is relatively heat stable. Make it a habit to chop your garlic at the start of dinner prep to allow maximum time for allicin formation before the garlic hits the heat. (Alternatively, eat garlic raw such as in salsa or hummus.) Beat garlic breath by chewing parsley or fennel seeds after your meal.
  2. Slip a veggie under your lip. Do you have a tendency to graze while you cook? After your garlic is chopped, slice a sliver from the next veggie on your list (or take a green bean from the bag of frozen veg, if your days are as busy as ours–and we know they are!) and slip it between your teeth and upper lip. This will discourage meal-prep snacking, which may result in lower caloric intake overall, and better digestion when you do sit at the table to eat your meal. Use this tip to make it a habit to eat your meals sitting down, once they are prepared.
  3. Put a straw in your drink. Having trouble drinking the water you know you need to feel your best? Add a straw. It’s not clear why, but most people will drink more of a drink with a straw in it! Keep a stash of straws on hand and make it a habit to stick a straw in your water glass when you fill at the start of the day. Do the same when offering water to the children, spouses and parents you care for.
  4. Spice up your meals. Herbs and spices are chock-full of health promoting compounds! From the memory-enhancing benefits of rosemary, to the anti-inflammation of turmeric, the anti-viral properties of basil, the antioxidants in cinnamon and the anti-cancer chemicals in oregano, your spice cupboard is a veritable medicinary. When studied, we often find that the beneficial effects of herbs and spices are increased when used together, and that a “culinary amount” of a seasoning is perfectly adequate for conveying health benefits. (Here, a mere ½ tsp of rosemary offered significant cognitive benefits while larger amounts did not.) So, make it a habit to season your food well, perhaps with an extra pinch of this or that. Your whole family will benefit.
  5. Simmer in stock. Use mineral rich broths and stock in any savory recipe calling for water, from rice to braising meats and stewing vegetables. (Boiling pasta might be an exception to this rule.) Stock imparts extra flavor and minerals, and using broths made from bones will add gelatin to a meal. In addition to being great for hair, nails, skin and joint health, gelatin is a protein sparer, which means it helps the body use the other proteins present in the meal. Make it a habit to keep stock on hand and use it instead of water when cooking grains, veggies and meats. (Want to do more? Make it routine to freeze bones and vegetable ends and peels–carrot tops, onion skins and celery leaves are great–, then make your own broth by simmering them together with water in a slow cooker overnight.)