3 Pillars of Health to Optimize Year-Round

Here are 3 pillars of health to focus on year-round that can be paired with any of your health goals.

At the start of the New Year, everyone puts so much focus on exercise and diet, but nothing will happen as planned without enough sleep. And as a dietitian, my nutrition recommendations aren’t complete until I’ve tackled your sleep habits too.

So today I have partnered with National Dairy Council to share with you 3 key pillars of health that can help optimize your wellness in the New Year and beyond.

3 Pillars of Health

There are 3 key areas I recommend focusing on to maintain good health and to prevent disease. These include:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Sleep

All 3 are important, but of course it is difficult to keep all of them going perfectly. If I were to prioritize them based on my personal and professional experience with helping people reach their health goals, I would say they fall into the following order: sleep, nutrition, then exercise.

Keep reading for more on what to target for each one, and simple additions to make with your habits.

Pillar #1: Nutrition

Nutrition takes pillar number one, because food fuels everything that you do. When it comes to a balanced eating pattern, you want to include the 5 main food groups:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Lean proteins
  • Whole grains
  • Dairy products

Eating a balanced diet with a variety of foods will supply key nutrients to optimize gut health, immune health, and overall wellness.

Milk is a great addition to your daily meals or snacks since it contains vitamins A and D, protein, selenium and zinc. These are all important to normal immune function. And the protein in milk and dairy foods like cheese and yogurt help to sustain your energy.

Lastly, the probiotics found in dairy foods, like yogurt and kefir, can support digestive health as well.

Pillar #2: Exercise

Staying physically active and combining strength-building exercising with moderate-intensity (or moderate and vigorous-intensity) exercise each week is recommended for good health and disease prevention.

And how you fuel before and after is just as important as putting in the physical work. Consuming carbohydrates and quality protein is key.

Dairy plays a valuable role as a source of both carbohydrates (e.g. in milk and yogurt) and high-quality protein – which milk, cheese and yogurt provide. Dairy foods also supply the essential amino acids the body cannot make on its own. And milk can also help meet the three of the R’s of recovery – rebuild, refuel and rehydrate.

Pillar #3: Sleep

Most adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep. Sleep helps the brain reset each night to function at its best. And a lack of sleep can increase risk of chronic diseases.

With lack of sleep, you are more tired, which can lead to poor eating choices and lack of exercise. There is also a connection between lack of sleep and obesity. This is why I say sleep comes first, and really is the foundation!

“Milk is a source of tryptophan and melatonin, which both play a role in sleep. Research suggests that eating dairy foods as a part of a healthy and balanced diet can improve sleep quality.”

If you know you fall into the group that needs more sleep, I have a nice trick for you. Protein can contribute to feeling more satisfied, which could possibly help you sleep a little better.

Plus, protein, which milk provides, can help with muscle repair while sleeping – especially those who do vigorous exercise. So, including a drink or snack with dairy in the evening, such as my Honey Chamomile Milk Tea, can help check all of these boxes for those zzzs.

Next Steps to Optimize the 3 Pillars of Health

Now that you know the three key pillars – nutrition, exercise, and sleep – I challenge you to assess each one in your life. Could you start by improving one of them with a small change or new habit? 

Even the smallest adjustments can make a big difference. Wishing you a happy and healthy start to the New Year!

For more information about the health benefits of dairy, visit US Dairy.

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