With a little more unexpected time at home, it’s a great time to make a new start on your healthy lifestyle. For years, doctors have advocated a healthy diet, regular exercise, stress relief and weight control. A new study confirms there are tangible benefits.

A Dutch study finds that the presence of all these healthy lifestyle factors was associated with two extra years of good health compared with those high-risk lifestyles. Another study found that those without any lifestyle risk factors lived, on average, six years more without chronic disease compared with those who had two or more risk factors.

And in case you’re still not convinced, a third study showed that without any risk factors, people lived, on average, nine years longer before the onset of any chronic disease.

We now have time to take a daily walk or do an online workout video, cook a homemade meal (with plenty of vegetables, fruit and whole grains) and get a little extra sleep.

What most of us seem to lack isn’t really the time (like we profess) but the desire to improve our habits.

That’s why I highlighted these studies this week. The choices you are making now toward a healthier lifestyle really do make a difference down the road.

Just what combination of healthy lifestyle factors is needed?

A new study, published this month in JAMA Internal Medicine, answers that question. The researchers designed a prospective study comprising over 116,000 people from 1991 to 2006 and included 12 European studies.

Participants were scored on each of four lifestyle factors, including smoking, body mass index, physical activity and drinking. They found healthy body weight essential to a healthy lifestyle profile, along with physical exercise, absence of smoking and less than one drink a day for women and two for men.

The end result? Ten more years of healthy life in men and 9.4 more in women, compared with men and women with the lowest lifestyle scores.


Q: With warmer weather here, how should I store nuts?

A: Despite their reputation as a pantry staple, walnuts and other nuts should be stored in your refrigerator or freezer to maximize shelf life. Many nuts are high in fat, albeit a healthy fat — walnuts, for example, are a good source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids — and storing them in the fridge or freezer helps maintain freshness and quality of those good fats.

Black Bean and Rice Burritos

We’re all cooking a bit more as we shelter at home. And we’re all trying to go to the grocery store less. So I tried to choose a recipe whose ingredients you might already have in your pantry/freezer/refrigerator. If not, substitute where you can.

This recipe for Black Bean and Rice Burritos is from Cooking Light’s Five Star Recipes.


» 1 tablespoon salt-free garlic and herb spice blend

» ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

» 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, undrained

» 1¾ cups long-grain rice, cooked without salt or fat

» 6 (8-inch) tortillas

» ¼ cup (3 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese

» ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sliced green onions

» ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons salsa

» ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons nonfat sour cream


Combine first three ingredients in a medium saucepan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, five minutes, stirring mixture occasionally. Remove from heat, and stir in rice.

Spoon about ⅓ cup bean mixture down center of each tortilla. Top each tortilla with 2 tablespoons cheese, 1 tablespoon green onions, 1 tablespoon salsa and 1 tablespoon sour cream; roll up.


Yield: 6 servings (serving size: 1 burrito)

Per serving: 332 calories; 16.2 grams protein; 58.9 grams carbohydrates; 5.7 grams fat; 9 milligrams cholesterol; 5.1 grams fiber; 573 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 charfarg@aol.com, 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 charfarg@aol.com, and follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd. The opinions expressed are her own.