For the past few years, I have been using July as a sort of gauge to see how well you have lived in the first half of the year.

This is generally a great time to take a mental inventory of the things you have done thus far to live a healthy life and maybe challenge yourself to finish the second half of the year strong.

Before we dig into things that you can work on, let me first acknowledge that this has been a very different year. You may have started out strong, and when the pandemic hit and life as we knew it changed, you may have gotten off track. If that sounds like you, it is OK. We still have six more months to get ourselves moving in a positive, forward direction.

Let us start with goal setting. You need to have a specific task to focus on. When you have a broad idea that you want to be healthier, it is much harder to achieve versus when you pick something more defined.

When setting goals, I suggest limiting it to two. I also suggest choosing one that will be easier to attain and one that might make you have to stretch a little bit more. Why an easy one and a more challenging one? We all like to succeed. Picking something that is in your wheelhouse and easier to achieve will help build your confidence for the more challenging goal.

To help get you started, I have a couple of suggestions of simple things you can do to improve your health. My No. 1 goal for this time of year is to eat more fruits and vegetables. It’s summer time, and there is no better time to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables than right now. What is not to love about summer produce?

I always choose plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, beans, corn, peaches, berries and melons. Loaded with a variety of vitamins and minerals and tasting their best in season, you just can’t go wrong with eating more of these. Need recipe ideas? Check out Want to grow your own, but not sure how? Look to for great information on choosing plants and growing tips.

Another great option for the summer is utilizing fresh herbs. Reducing salt in our diet can be helpful, and substituting herbs and spices is a great way to do this. If you have not tried fresh herbs, you are missing out!

This year I am growing basil, peppermint, lavender and mint. The nice thing about herbs is you can grow them year-round if you have a place in your home to keep them in the colder months. The Clemson extension website is a great resource for growing your own if you are new to this. My one lesson learned is not to plant mint in the ground. It spreads everywhere!

After some less humid days, it is starting to heat up again. If you struggle drinking water, maybe this is the goal for you. Your body is mostly made of water and would really like you to fill it back up with the same. If you are not a water drinker, try adding a small glass at each meal and work your way up. If you need some flavoring, try some fruits, vegetables and herbs in your water for a naturally refreshing taste. There are also numerous water flavorings that are no calorie or low calorie. My latest go-to has been True Lemon-flavored lemonades or True Lime-flavored limeades.

Usually, summertime means vacation. In the year of the pandemic, you might be less likely to venture too far from home, or you might be opting for visiting places with less people around. Or maybe you are planning the ultimate staycation. Whichever option you choose, make sure you are getting in some physical activity.

Neptune Park has opened. Kalmia Gardens is here with beautiful walking paths. We have access to two lakes right here in Hartsville, and our state parks are open. Many places have some new rules or regulations during this time. Prepare ahead by checking their websites or Facebook pages to find all the details.

During these past few months, stress levels may have climbed. Finding ways to actively promote stress reduction and self-care are important. Eating mindfully can be a powerful tool to help improve your health and well-being.

What does that mean? How many of you find yourself eating a meal and then not remembering what you ate? Eating mindfully means that you enjoy the flavor, the textures and the aromas, and by doing this you get more enjoyment out of your meal. Eating mindfully also leads to eating less, because you are more in tune to your body’s actual needs and can recognize when you are full instead of stuffed.

In the more relaxed, longer days of summer, eating as a family is usually easier to achieve. During this pandemic, you might feel as if you have had more than your fair share of family time, but taking a good look at what activities you do together as a family is important. Family meals are a great way to connect and have meaningful conversation and interaction. Start cooking together, plan mealtime to be electronic free time and you will be developing good eating and social habits in your children.

Lastly, snack healthy. Summer treats can be fun, but we need to find balance in the types of snacks we keep around. Fruits and vegetables, low-fat yogurts, snack cheeses are just a few options for healthier snacks. For more snack ideas, search

We have made it halfway through 2020. Take a moment to do a check-up on your health habits. Take a moment to really think about how healthy your habits are. Small changes add up, and taking care of your health should be a priority.

Until next time … live healthy.

Kimberly Alton, RD, CSSD, LD, is the director of food and nutrition services at Carolina Pines Regional Medical Center.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.