This shelter-in-place time has had me thinking about habits — the things I do on a daily basis to stay healthy.

I think it’s because so many habits were changed unexpectedly — driving to work, going to the gym, eating out. My daily commute is now up the stairs to my office; my workout is a two-mile walk in the neighborhood; we eat all our meals at home.

To be honest, some of the new habits are refreshing. I love to cook; I love to be outside and walk. There are certain advantages to working at home. I admit I miss personal interaction, and yes, there is Zoom, but it’s not the same.

We can use this time at home more (and even with the lessening of restrictions, I think we’ll be home more) to create some healthier food habits.

I’ve shared before that my mom had breast cancer twice in her life — battled and won both times — only to have her heart eventually give out. Because of my breast cancer history, I’m tuned in to healthy habits to cut my odds of having breast cancer.

When it comes to food, the latest recommendations are tried and true. Focus on vegetables, fruits and whole grains. The rest of your plate should be filled with lean protein (poultry, fish, lean beef or pork). The goal is to try to eat more plant-forward meals. Veggies, fruits and whole grains offer fiber, which helps us feel full and can help keep our weight at a healthy number.

When it comes to alcohol, less is better. Just two to three servings of wine, beer or liquor a day increase your risk of breast cancer by 20 percent compared with women who don’t drink at all. A five-ounce glass of wine a day only increases your risk slightly.

And don’t skip working out. Regular physical exercise lowers the risk. (We knew that, right?) That’s where good habits take over.

Keep making meals at home. Add quinoa to your salads; switch to brown rice and whole-wheat bread. Check the label to make sure that slice of bread has at least 3 grams of fiber. If you want a glass of wine, have it with a meal. And get some exercise daily. Make it part of your routine.

Go ahead and schedule that mammogram. The time it takes is well worth the peace of mind it gives you. Some of us need them yearly; some need scans as well as mammograms. Listen to your doctor.
We can turn this shelter-at-home time into a benefit.

Like my mom would say, make a list of what you want to accomplish each day, and check it off as you go. Just be sure to add exercise and healthy eating.


Q: I know I need to eat more fish, but I worry about the mercury levels. Should I eat fish anyway?

A: Fish should be included in a healthy meal plan. It is high in protein, low in saturated fat and a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D and B2, iron, iodine, magnesium and potassium. Eating fish once or twice a week may reduce the risk of several chronic diseases, including stroke, depression, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.

The key is to choose low-mercury fish such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines and herring. Pregnant or nursing women should avoid fish with high levels of mercury, which include large, longer-living fish such as shark, swordfish and large tuna. Canned light tuna is made from smaller tuna, so it has lower levels of mercury than large tuna.

When it comes to eating fish, the health benefits outweigh the small risk of mercury for most of us. Enjoy fish one to two times a week. Choose fish high in omega-3s, and opt for canned light tuna.

Salmon with Chopped Tomatillo Salad

Adding bold flavors to food can transform an ordinary dish into something memorable. Try this Salmon with Chopped Tomatillo Salad from EatingWell magazine for a new take on this healthy fish.


» 1½ pounds salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces

» 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

» ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, divided

» ½ teaspoon ground pepper, divided

» ½ teaspoon ground cumin

» 8 ounces tomatillos, husked, rinsed and chopped

» 1 medium tomato, chopped

» ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped

» ½ cup red onion, chopped

» 1 medium jalapeno pepper, chopped

» 2 tablespoons lime juice


Position rack in upper third of oven; preheat broiler to high. Place salmon on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil, and sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and cumin. Broil the salmon until it is opaque and flakes easily with a fork, 6 to 9 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine tomatillos, tomato, cilantro, onion, jalapeno and lime juice with the remaining 1 tablespoon oil and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Serve the salmon over the salad.


Serves 4 (4 ounces salmon and 1 cup salad each)

Per serving: 267 calories; 29 grams protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 13 grams fat (2 grams saturated); 66 milligrams cholesterol; 4 grams total sugars (0 added); 2 grams fiber; 434 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian at Hy-Vee in Springfield, Ill., and the media representative for the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at, or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois, and the current president of the Illinois Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Contact her at, and follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd. The opinions expressed are her own.