A Guide to Vegetarianism

The choice to go vegetarian is a personal one. Sometimes it is for medical reasons, sometimes ethical, sometimes both and sometimes neither. Whatever the reasons for your choice to go vegetarian, you

The choice to go vegetarian is a personal one. Sometimes it is for medical reasons, sometimes ethical, sometimes both and sometimes neither. Whatever the reasons for your choice to go vegetarian, you will have to make some very large changes and to pay much more attention to the foods you eat. Would it not be great if there was a guide to help you through the change, a road map of sorts that you could use to point the way? Well, now there is. This article will serve as your tool kit and provide the information you need in order to make the transition to vegetarianism easier.


What Is A Vegetarian Anyhow?

Before you choose a vegetarian diet, you need to answer this simple question. What kind of vegetarian diet are you going to follow? In the broadest sense, a vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat, poultry or seafood. But in reality, that definition is not nearly so clear-cut as it seems to be. There are several types of vegetarian diets. Lacto-ovo vegetarians will not eat meat but will eat eggs and drink milk. They will also consume cheese and other dairy products. This is the most common type of vegetarian. Ovo vegetarians eat only eggs, but do not consume dairy products or eat any meat. Lacto vegetarians consume dairy products but do not eat eggs or any type of meat. Vegans will not consume any dairy, eggs or meat. They will not also wear leather or use any other animal products whatsoever. Research is the key here. Read up on the types of vegetarian diets. Pick the one that best fits your needs. Talk to your medical professionals. Your doctor may know of reasons that a vegetarian diet would not work well for you, and they will most assuredly have information on how to more effectively transition from your normal diet to a vegetarian one.


Make Menus and Find Recipes

Going vegetarian is not easy if you do not have a game plan. To these ends, making menus can be very helpful. A menu works as a road map of sorts. It provides a framework with which you can build the week’s meals. Be sure to check your grocery store to find out what vegetables and fruits are in season, as well as if they have vegetarian-friendly versions of your favorite products. For example, there are delicious tofu-based versions of many meat-based dishes, for example hamburgers, chicken nuggets and deli sliced turkey. These foods can make your adjustment to the vegetarian lifestyle far easier. Also, good recipes are a must-have. There are many vegetarian cookbooks out there. Chances are your local library or bookstore stocks these cookbooks. The Internet is also another good source of recipes. Aim to try a new recipe once weekly. That way your pool of vegetarian-friendly foods is always increasing and you will feel far less burned out.


Make Substitutions

Just because you are embracing a vegetarian lifestyle, it does not mean you have to give up your favorite foods. As mentioned above, there are a number of vegetarian options for dishes in most supermarkets. If your supermarket does not have these vegetarian options, they could very easily stock them for you. Many vegetarian versions of meat-based dishes are made with tofu. Tofu on its own is pretty flavorless. However, the lovely thing about it is that it soaks up the flavors of anything you cook with it. This means if you like spicy foods or sweet foods you can simply season the meat alternative you choose as you would normally and the tofu will suck up all the flavors. As a bonus, many of the vegetarian tofu products have almost the same consistency as meat. Chances are, you may not even miss meat at all.


Start Out Slowly

When adjusting to vegetarianism, it is important to start slowly. Cutting out red meat first is probably the best place to start. Of all the kinds of meat out there, red meats such as beef are the most unhealthy. Clearing these out of your diet will drastically improve your health as well as making the rest of the adjustment process easier. When you have grown accustomed to the lack of red meat, you can wean yourself off of other types of meats as well.

There are many reasons to become a vegetarian, some medical and some personal or ethical. Whatever your reasons are, a vegetarian diet can be much healthier than a diet which contains a lot of meat. No matter which vegetarian diet fits your needs best, there are still several steps you need to make to adjust to being a vegetarian. Now, with this article as your guide, you are fully ready to embrace your new, exciting lifestyle and all the challenges and rewards that come with it.



There are many reasons to become a vegetarian, some medical and some personal or ethical. Whatever your reasons are, a vegetarian diet can be much healthier than a diet which contains a lot of meat. No matter which vegetarian diet fits your needs best, there are still several steps you need to make to adjust to being a vegetarian. Now, with this article as your guide, you are fully ready to embrace your new, exciting lifestyle and all the challenges and rewards that come with it.

Fats: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Stop! Put down that donut. Unhand that candy bar. Before you take another bite, there are some things about fats you need to know. Did you realize that not all fats are bad for you? Some fats, eaten in the proper proportions can help keep your body healthy. If you did not know this small but important fact, do not worry. Many people do not know. It is far easier to think of all fat as evil that needs eradicating, but this article will disprove that notion. We will discuss the difference between good fats and bad fats, and the ways both affect your body, as well as steps to help you make better choices in what types of fats you eat. We will also clarify some of the tricky terminology surrounding the subject of fat, giving you a road map forward. If you are curious, then please keep reading. Oh, and you can pick up the donut now.


The Good

It is a common misconception that all fats are bad for you and go straight to your hips. This is completely untrue. Some fats, in healthy quantities pose a benefit to the body and are actually necessary for good heart health as well as other bodily functions. However, not all fats are created equal. Unsaturated fats are known as good fats, and they come in two types, mono unsaturated and poly unsaturated, based on their chemical composition. These types of fats help protect your heart, lower blood cholesterol and help insulin work more efficiently, which is particularly useful if you have Type II diabetes. As a bonus, unsaturated fats are really easy to add into your diet. Chances are good that you already get your recommended daily allotment of these fats, especially if you like any of the following foods: avocado, olives, peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, natural peanut butter, fatty fish such as tuna, salmon and mackerel and pumpkin seeds. There are also unsaturated oils. However, be careful with these. There are two types of unsaturated oils. The first type are cold-pressed oils such as peanut, sesamae and extra-virgin olive oil. These oils have been used in Asian cooking for hundreds of years and support your good health. The other type are more recently developed industrially manufactured oils such as soybean, corn, canola and safflower. These oils are manufactured generally using genetically modified crops and in a way that damages the fats, turning them into dangerous trans fats.


The Bad

As we have discussed before, not all fats are created equal. Just as there are good fats, there are also bad fats. These fats are saturated fats and trans-fats. These are the fats which do all the bad things that people have attributed to fats in general for so many years. They clog your arteries, add to your waistline and cause heart disease. Perhaps surprisingly, even a good fat can become a bad fat if it is damaged. Some fats, such as flax seed oil, must be stored in the refrigerator in an opaque container. If they are not properly stored, they will turn into saturated fats, and nobody wants that. Also, if you are going to use nuts and seeds, please be careful. Never eat or cook with nuts or seeds after they start smelling rank or tasting bitter.


The Ugly

We have briefly touched on the effects of bad fats, like the ones found in a lot of donuts, candy bars,  and potato chips, but we feel it is a good idea to discuss these effects in greater detail. Saturated fats and trans fats can cause plaques to build up in the arteries. These plaques are sticky like super glue, and they actively haul in proteins, more fats, and other types of molecules. Eventually, a plaque could even rupture, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke as the blood vessel holding the plaque will be blocked. These bad fats can also lead to fat deposits around the waistline. These fat deposits, in turn decrease the efficiency of insulin which may lead to Type II diabetes or worsen it in those who already have it. In short, saturated fats and trans fats can make your health vastly worse than it would otherwise be.


Fats are very important to your health. However, they are not equally healthy. Unsaturated fats can benefit the body in a number of ways such as improving the health of your heart as well as increasing insulin efficiency for Type II diabetics. Saturated fats, however, will damage your body in various ways and can undo your healthy choices. Think of that before you eat your next donut.

Nutrition 101: Getting Started

Going to the supermarket can feel like walking into a car dealership if you are trying to eat nutritiously. Every item on the shelves claims to be nutritious in one way or other, even things that you likely know blatantly are not, such as candy bars and potato chips. Every product is screaming at you from the shelves like a used car salesman hawking his wares, using all the buzz words. Every food claims to be low fat, low carb, high in protein, low in trans fat. If you do not know what these words mean, or the names of the chemicals you are shoving into your mouth, it will be hard to make the important, healthy choices you need to make. This article will serve as your guide through the labyrinth. We will discuss everything someone just starting out on this journey of healthy eating should need to know in order to not be duped by all the sales claims. This way you will know what nutrients you need, what quantities you need them in, and you will not overspend on the latest fad. If you are just beginning on the journey of healthy eating, just stick with us, and we will get you out the other side.


Too Much, Too Little

Multivitamins can be very useful in enhancing the amount of those nutrients you get too little of in your regular diet. However, taking more than one multivitamin can lead to overdoses of some of them. This overdose can lead to illness as your body attempts to cope with the excess. Furthermore, some vitamins are rendered useless if they are not in a harmonious balance with others. That is why it is so important to make sure that your nutrient intake is in balance as much as you can. There are many ways to insure a correct balance of nutrients. Do not take more than one multivitamin. Make sure to always pick foods from the five food groups at every meal. Check for your serving size based upon your height, weight and activity levels.


Balancing Act

There are five food groups. It is very important to eat a good balance of foods from each group to maintain good health. Many diets insist that you cut out or cut down on certain nutrients such as protein or carbs. However, this is not a good idea. If you cut down on carbs or protein or any other form of nutrition, then chances are likely that the only thing you will succeed in doing is unbalancing your metabolism. The key is balance and moderation. Each food group requires a person to eat different amounts of foods from that group.


Drink Water

The last helpful nutrient is water. Water is necessary for every single process within our bodies. It cools us off, carries nutrients throughout the body, is a major component in most of our organs and cells and helps flush out waste. Humans can live for a couple of weeks without food. However, it is impossible to live more than a few days without water. Some water comes from the foods we eat. However, that water is not nearly enough to power all your body’s processes. To gain the necessary water to maintain healthy, it is important to drink enough of it during a day. The average person needs six to eight glasses of water per day. Many of us, however, do not drink nearly that much and instead fill up the defecit with sugary soft drinks and coffee which can lead to dehydration, issues with blood sugar, and weight gain.


Watch Out For Refined Sugar

Many foods contain refined sugar. It is very important to look out for this sugar in your diet as it can lead to a lot of problems in the long-term. Perhaps the biggest of these problems is diabetes which, if untreated can be fatal. There is no cure for diabetes, and treating it may involve several painful needle pricks a day on top of the needle pricks necessary to test your blood sugar. One would think refined sugar would be easy to spot if you avoid candy, soda, cakes and pies but that isn’t the case. Refined sugar exists in every sort of food from fried rice to potato chips.


Good nutrition is very important. If your nutrition is poor, your health will suffer. Poor nutrition also leads to several diseases, including heart attack, heart disease, stroke, various cancers and some forms of Diabetes. These conditions, though they can be managed are incurable. This means if you are diagnosed with one, you will have it for the rest of your life. Perhaps unsurprisingly, those whose health is bad  report symptoms as diverse as chronic fatigue, irritability and bloating. This is just scratching the surface. Now, however, you have the keys you need to unlock good nutrition and change this grim prognosis. It is never too late to make healthier choices. And you do not even have to make all the changes at once. Every small change you make has a cumulative effect on your health and can make you happier and less ill. With these simple keys, you might even shut up the used car sales talk of the choices at your local supermarket.

Fainting: When to Seek Medical Advice

If you have fainted before, you know that moment of blackout can be confusing, disorienting or even scary. But how do you know if you need to seek medical advice?

Fainting can be an indicator of a serious medial problem. Let’s take a closer look into what fainting is and what it means.

What is fainting?
Fainting is defined as a brief loss of consciousness due to temporary shortage of blood flow to the brain. The medical term for fainting is “syncope.”

It is serious?
Most of the time, a single fainting incident is not a serious concern. These non-serious fainting episodes can be caused by a couple of different things.

One is the vasovagal reflex. The vasovagal reflex can be triggered by everyday events like fear, pain, stress, holding your breath, coughing, or even urinating. Because of its link to a trigger, this cause for fainting is usually easy to identify.

Another non-serious cause of fainting is orthostatic hypotension. This refers to a sudden drop in blood pressure, triggered by a change of position. Common causes for this include standing up too fast, becoming dehydrated, or taking certain medications.

However, fainting can be a sign of very serious medical conditions, so experts advise that any fainting incident be treated as a medical emergency.

These conditions include heart or blood vessel issues like heart disease, a blood clot in the lungs, or a heart vale problem. It can also be a sign of a nervous system problem like a seizure, stroke or transient ischemic attack (or TIA—also known as a mini-stroke).

What to do
If you feel faint, lay down or sit and put your head between your knees. This can restore blood flow and prevent a blackout.

But if you do pass out, always get medical attention. Experts recommend that any loss of consciousness like fainting be treated as a medical emergency.

Always Seek Medical Advice

As many as 4 in 10 people will faint at least once in their lives, according to Patient. Though it’s usually nothing to be concerned about, fainting can be a sign of a serious medial problem, so you should always seek medical advice following an episode.

Eating for Heart Health

February is National Heart Month, and since it is just around the corner, more and more people have begun to think once again about their own heart health. It is no secret that heart health is very important, but many people often do not know where to get started when it comes to learning about their options. A lack of information and education is one of the biggest hurdles most people have to get over before they can begin to do something about their own heart health. Read on to get started on your first step toward a healthier, happier heart.


National Heart Month

What exactly does National Heart Month mean? This important annual event focuses on the causes, treatment, and prevention of heart disease in American adults. Unfortunately, 25% of all deaths in the United States are caused by heart disease. It is the goal of National Heart Month to educate individuals on their options and potential risk factors when it comes to this life threatening illness. Throughout the month of February, the American Heart Association sponsors various events around the country to help educate the population about heart disease and how to maintain a healthier heart. Through these events, doctors and nurses are encouraged to share their knowledge with local communities, and to teach individuals and families how to make a difference in their own lives. You can get started early by learning how to eat better to improve the health of your most vital organ.


Cut Back On Fats

Trans fats and saturated fats are not good for your heart or for the rest of your body, either. Cutting back on both of these unhealthy types of fat can help lower your cholesterol, which in turn keeps blood flowing freely through your arteries and reduces your risk of artery disease. Saturated fats should make up less than 7% of your daily caloric intake, and trans fats should comprise less than 1% of what you eat in a day. Trans fats are much more dangerous, but you can cut them out by cooking with healthy oils instead of butter or shortening. In some cases, you might even be able to cut out fats and oils from your cooking altogether! If this is not possible, consider even healthier alternatives, such as avocado in place of butter in certain recipes.


Watch Your Portions

No matter what you eat, watching your portion control is a good way to help lose or maintain your weight and keep your heart operating as it should. Even if you’re eating a lot of salad or other healthy choices, it is possible to consume far too many calories in a day by piling your plate with too much food. Never eat until you feel too full. It is best to always stop before you feel uncomfortable, to allow yourself to digest fully without packing in even more calories you do not need. If you have trouble controlling how much food you take, consider using a smaller plate, like a salad plate, to help you feel like you are eating more. Learn what a serving size of grains looks like versus a serving size of meat or vegetables, and you will be well on your way to heart-healthy eating in no time.


Eat Your Vegetables

Of course, no item on the dinner menu is as healthy as a nice serving of vegetables (or sometimes fruit). Fruits and veggies both provide plenty of minerals and vitamins, and some have even been shown to help with weight loss by increasing the amount of fiber in your daily intake. When you eat more vegetables and fruits, you will be less likely to reach for high fat content foods, which will only make your heart that much healthier. Choose fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables as opposed to canned items that may be packed with sodium. If you do eat canned fruit, be sure it is packed in water or in its own juices, and never in syrup. Limit vegetables that have been fried, since the breading and oils used in their preparation will negate all the benefits of the veggie itself. Remember that raw and fresh is always better!


Focus On The Right Foods

There are several different foods that can make your heart healthy diet that much easier (and delicious). Fill up your plate with these tasty ingredients and you can be sure you are making a difference for your whole body.

Salmon: Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, salmon and other similar fish are known for reducing plaque in the arteries and helping with irregular heart beats. Consume fatty fish like salmon two or three times a week. Do not eat too much fish in a week, however, due to the risk of mercury poisoning.

Citrus: Particularly in women, frequent consumption of citrus fruit can help reduce the risk of blood clots and associated problems such as clot-related stroke. Vitamin C and flavonoids are both present in citrus fruits, and they both help blood move properly and keep your heart beating evenly.

Oatmeal: Oatmeal is a fiber-filled breakfast treat that can help reduce cholesterol by soaking it up and moving it out of the body. Eat old-fashioned oatmeal that you prepare on the stove rather than the instant variety, which is usually full of sugar. Add a little honey and cinnamon instead of plain white sugar for healthy flavoring alternatives.

Tomatoes: Load up on tomatoes to enjoy the benefits of having plenty of potassium in your diet. Potassium is great for your body overall, and since tomatoes are high in antioxidants, they help move bad cholesterol out of your system while leaving the good. Best of all, they are a flavorful addition to just about any meal!

Blueberries: Fill up on blueberries to help reduce your risk of having a heart attack. When you consume blueberries at least three times a week, you receive tons of antioxidants that can help reduce your blood pressure and keep your heart pumping at a healthy r

25 MORE Winter Comfort Food Ideas

Winter is the time of year when everyone wants some comfort food!  When the weather gets colder, the wind begins to howl and the snow starts falling, most people want to reach for the kind of food that warms them up from the belly out and makes them feel like they are back at home again.

Check out these 25 ideas for your next winter comfort food craving, and get ready to enjoy the best foods of the season!



Layer up some noodles and cheese with vegetables or meaty filling for a hearty winter meal.


Fried chicken

Although perhaps not the healthiest comfort food around, fried chicken is a great way to warm yourself up on a cold day.



It does not matter how you prepare them—potatoes are always an excellent comfort food.  Baked, mashed, or sweet potatoes in a casserole are all good choices.


Beef stew

Combine beef with broth, red wine, and carrots to complete this classic comfort meal.


Tuna casserole

This is an inexpensive way to feel better when the cold weather has you down.


Tomato soup

Perhaps everyone’s favorite classic comfort food, tomato soup pairs well with any main course.


Biscuits and gravy

This traditional Southern United States classic combines warm, fluffy biscuits with white gravy made from sausage drippings.


Macaroni and cheese

Try this kid-friendly dish when you want something warm and gooey to satisfy your craving.



A bit like beef stew with noodles in it, stroganoff is a hearty cold weather classic.


Sausage and peppers

Throw together this simple Italian dish of peppers filled with tomatoes, rice, and cheese.


Meat loaf

Another affordable option, meat loaf is easy to make and even easier to enjoy.


Homemade burgers

Make your burgers from scratch at home to keep out the unwanted greasy ingredients you might find in fast food restaurants.


Chicken pot pie

A creamy chicken pot pie with a warm, flaky crust is sure to lift your spirits during the wintertime.


Pork chops

Cook up some pork chops in the stove or skillet to create a home cooking favorite that is sure to please the whole family.



Another traditional Southern United States staple, cornbread is the first step toward making your own turkey stuffing at home.  It is also great on its own with some butter melted on top!


Potato soup

Mix up a pot of potato soup and load it with bacon, chives, and cheese to soothe your spirits and fill your stomach.


Chicken and rice

Serve a warm piece of baked chicken over a pile of seasoned rice and you will feel the comfort in no time.



Despite its spicy nature, gumbo is a great way to unwind with a soup filled with hearty proteins and tasty veggies.


Clam chowder

Have this warm and soothing soup along with bread, sandwiches, or clam cakes, or enjoy a big bowl all on its own.


Corned beef and cabbage

Cook your corned beef and cabbage in the slow cooker to enjoy the aroma all day long.


Roast turkey

Of course, roast turkey has become a traditional holiday entrée, and with good reason!  Eating a piece of warm roast turkey during the cold months warms up the body and the soul.


Shepherd’s pie

Layer cooked ground meat with peas, corn, carrots, and mashed potatoes for this traditional and oh so simple dish.


Chocolate drop cookies

Chocolate, peanut butter, and dry oatmeal are the only ingredients you need for these classic cookie treats.


Chocolate brownies

Nothing says comfort like a batch of brownies served straight out of the oven with ice cream on top.


Pumpkin pie

Grab a slice of this holiday classic with a little whipped cream to round it out.




The next time you find yourself longing for comfort food, reach for one of the items on this list.  You’ll be glad you did!

Cholesterol: Fact and Fiction

If you ask a random person on the street if they have heard of cholesterol, chances are they have. It is also highly likely that they hold some common ideas concerning this vital compound, its role in the human body, and the damage elevated levels can cause. These ideas are spread so frequently that many people consider them truth. But are they? If you are a person who is concerned about your heart health it can be very important to get informed. Keep reading as I shine a light on what cholesterol is, how high LDL can damage your health and how to lower your cholesterol. I will even debunk some myths along the way.


What Is Cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance found in nearly every cell of the human body. Your body uses this compound to make vitamin D and some hormones as well as substances to help you digest the food you eat. It is not necessary to get cholesterol from food. Your body makes its own. But that does not mean cholesterol is not present in foods you eat. Cholesterol travels through your body in small packages called lipoproteins which are made of fat or lipid on the inside and protein on the outside. There are two types of lipoproteins, High-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) Having healthy levels of both types of cholesterol is important for your body’s continued functioning, but high levels of LDL can be a large problem.


The Effects of High LDL Cholesterol

High LDL cholesterol is a condition whereby you have too much cholesterol in your blood. By itself, it usually has no symptoms so most people do not realize when their cholesterol is high. High cholesterol silently causes plaque build-up in the coronary arteries. This build-up can be very dangerous as it can lead to atherosclerosis, the hardening of the coronary arteries, those closest to the heart. Plaque build-up narrows the arteries, restricting the flow of oxygenated blood to the heart. Eventually, a plaque can rupture, forming a blood clot on the surface. This clot, if it grows big enough may cut off the blood supply to a section of the heart muscle. This is called a heart attack, and if blood flow is not restored quickly, the section of muscle will soon die. Untreated heart attacks can lead to serious problems or even death. Plaque can also build up in other arteries as well, leading to such problems as strokes and peripheral artery disease.


Lowering Your Cholesterol

If you have high cholesterol, do not fret. Though it is a risk factor for heart disease, it is something which can be controlled. Avoid trans fats, found in baked goods, fried foods, and even frozen pizza crusts. Read food labels and look for partially hydrogenated in the name. That is a fancy word for trans-fat. Losing weight is another way to lower cholesterol. Losing just ten pounds will lower your LDL by eight per cent. And make sure to fill up on fiber. People who ate just ten more grams of fiber than they normally would lowered their LDL cholesterol drastically, and raised their HDL as well.


Cholesterol Myths

As you continue your research into cholesterol, you are bound to come across some very insidious myths. Here are a few of them, so that you do not fall prey to misinformation. It is often thought that eating eggs will make your cholesterol rise. While it is true that eggs do contain a lot of dietary cholesterol, not all of that makes it into your bloodstream. If your level of dietary cholesterol rises, your body simply compensates by making less cholesterol of its own. As an added note, it is often thought that children cannot have high cholesterol. Sadly, this is untrue. With the increasing rate of childhood obesity in America, more and more children have high cholesterol and may develop heart disease. That is why it is important to practice good health habits, not just for you but for your entire family as well.


Being a savvy consumer is very important. One step toward that goal is education, especially where your health is concerned. Now you know what exactly cholesterol is, what it does in the body, how high blood cholesterol can affect your health, and even how to lower it. Perhaps the next time you see a person on the street or in a diner spreading misinformation about cholesterol and its risks you can shed some light on the subject and help them in turn.

25 Comfort Food Ideas to Get You Through Winter

Sure, we all try to eat healthy most of the time, but sometimes those dark, cold winter days pile up. When that happens, you need that special warmth that only a true comfort food can offer.

Here are 25 of our best ideas to munch and enjoy. Click the link for a recipe for each.

  1. Macaroni and cheese
  2. Grilled cheese
  3. Mashed potatoes
  4. Loaded baked potatoes
  5. Corn chowder
  6. Potato soup
  7. Chicken noodle soup
  8. French onion soup
  9. Chili
  10. Chicken pot pie
  11. Beef stew
  12. Cornbread
  13. Roast beef
  14. Onion rings
  15. Meatloaf
  16. Oatmeal
  17. Fried chicken
  18. Lasagna
  19. Baked beans
  20. Tomato soup
  21. Swedish meatballs
  22. Chicken and dumplings
  23. Baked ziti
  24. Fettuccine alfredo
  25. Chocolate chip cookies

The next time winter cravings hit, you’ll be ready to strike with some of the season’s tastiest and most satisfying foods. Bundle up and bon appetit!

10 Ways to Avoid Getting Colds and Flus this Winter

In the winter, the risk for catching a cold or flu skyrockets. With temperatures dropping, stress levels rising and all that extra time hunkered up together indoors, it’s no surprise that we’re all a little more vulnerable.

But with the holidays, celebrations, and all the fun to be had in the snow, winter is no time to catch a cold or flu. Leave those achy, sniffly days behind and stay healthy throughout the winter with these 10 tips to avoid getting a cold or flu this winter.

  1. Wash your hands
    We touch even more things over the course of the day than most of us even realize. From keyboards to doorknobs and more, those germs add up quickly. And that leaves you at risk.

To protect yourself from all those germs, wash your hands frequently, using soap and lathering for at least 20 seconds. Also, keep your hands away from your eyes and nose.

  1. Get vaccinated
    Health experts say getting your flu vaccine is one of the best ways to stay healthy. The good news is, it’s increasingly easy to get your shot—and with minimal discomfort.

Not only can you get your vaccination at just about any neighborhood drug store, but there’s also new ways to receive your vaccination. In addition to the traditional shot, you can now also opt for a nasal spray or a new microinjection option, which uses a needle just 10 percent of the size of the traditional needle.

  1. Exercise
    Nothing makes you want to skip the workout and stay in bed like a cold, dark morning. But as it turns out, winter may be the most important time to hit the gym. In fact, working out helps boost your body’s germ-fighting cells for as long as three hours afterward.

People who work up a sweat at least five days a week have been shown to have 43 percent fewer days with a cold during the chilly months, according to an Appalachian State University study.

But don’t go overboard—extreme exercise (like marathon runners who run over 60 miles a week, according to the study) can counteract the benefits.

  1. Bundle up
    Winter’s cold temperatures can be one of the greatest seasonal factors increasing your risk for illness. Shivering in itself reduces your body’s natural defenses against colds and flues. The cold outside is inevitable, but you don’t have to feel it.

The best defense against low temperatures? Listen to your mom and bundle up before heading out.

  1. Take your vitamins
    In winter, it gets harder to get the vitamin D our bodies need from natural sources like the sun. And that’s only one of many vitamins the body needs to thrive. Vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, and many other nutrients all help your body fight off infections.

Taking a daily vitamin can keep your body full of the nutrients it needs and ready to take on the germs you inevitably come across in your daily life.

  1. Eat well
    This one’s pretty basic, but that doesn’t make it any less important: Eat less junk food and more nutrient-rich fruit and veggies. Getting your greens in is especially important this time of year.

Strengthen your body’s natural defenses against colds and flus by adding green vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli or Brussels sprouts to at least two meals each day.

  1. Sanitize your space
    While washing your hands is critical, it’s not something you can do constantly. But flu germs can stay alive on surfaces for over two hours, according to Dr. Oz. Sanitizing surfaces can help bridge the gap.

Especially pay attention to frequently touched and shared surfaces like door knobs, remote controls, keyboards, and refrigerator handles.

  1. Get out and have fun
    Curling up under a blanket at home may feel good, but it’s not the best thing for you. A study from Carnegie Mellon University actually showed that people who are more socially active are better at fending off colds. So braving the cold to spend time with friends is a healthier choice. 
  1. Sleep
    Another important way to keep your immune system strong is to make sure you get enough sleep each night. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body’s germ-fighting T-cell count goes down. So do yourself a favor and get your beauty rest.
  1. Drink water
    Water plays an important role in flushing toxins from the body, so don’t skimp on it during the wintry months. When you’re dehydrated, it’s harder for your body to flush out and fight germs.

And if you’ve already caught a cold or flu, keep on sipping—drinking lots of water can help get past an illness faster, too.

Stay healthy all winter

Winter can demand a lot of your immune system. Between the parties, the stress and the frigid temperatures, there’s a lot of ways your body can work against you during the flu and cold season.

But the good news is, there is a lot you can do to keep yourself out of the doctor’s office. These 10 tips will keep your immune system strong all winter so you can reduce your risk of colds and flus, and enjoy the perks of the season.