Go Green and Get Lean

We've certainly heard that making a few 'green' changes can be good for the planet. But did you also know that it can help shed pounds? Move over popular diet plans, the best way to trim your waistline could be to think green.

1. Grow your own food: A backyard vegetable or herb garden can produce a number of edibles that are healthy, inexpensive and can help keep a trim figure. Gardening has been shown to be a very effective means to burning calories, especially when you rely on manual tools for the work. The rewards of digging, planting and sowing could be better meals and a lighter you when you step on the scale.

2. Skip the car on occasion: A study of households with at least one vehicle by Experian Automotive revealed that households with three or more cars are the single largest group among American car owners. The average American household has 2.28 cars. Many times one of the cars is an SUV or pickup truck while the other is a sedan or compact car. This can add up to a large amount of auto emissions and fuel consumption for the average family. Keeping the car parked in the driveway or garage and taking a greener mode of transportation once in a while is a healthy option. Walking, bicycling or in-line skating to nearby stores or even your job will help to burn calories and clear the air.

3. Limit beef and dairy products: Cutting back on fatty meats and high-calorie dairy items and substituting more fresh vegetables and legumes can lead to a smaller waistline and improve other aspects of your health. What's more, according to the Alternative Consumer, the 1.5 billion cattle required to meet dairy and beef needs are estimated to produce up to 18 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. That's more than cars, airlines and all other forms of transportation combined.

4. Take the stairs: Elevators and escalators require a lot of energy for operation. When possible, skip these conveniences for the classic method of scaling different levels -- the staircase. Feel the burn as all parts of your legs get a workout and your heart starts pumping.

5. Start recycling in earnest: Fill up pails of used aluminum cans, plastic products and newspapers. The simple act of hauling those pails to the curb or to the nearest recycling center can burn a few extra calories.

6. Reduce your dependence on fast food or prepackaged meals: These convenience foods tend to be high in packaging and preservatives -- two items that spell trouble for the planet and your health. Limiting consumption of these foods will help you feel better all around.

7. Create a backyard oasis: Planting trees, shrubs and plants is green and a good workout in itself. However, a beautiful and environmentally friendly yard may also entice you to spend more time outdoors with the family or pets engaging in physical activity. This is beneficial to overall health and weight loss.

If you've been waiting for the right reason to start thinking green, the side benefit of weight loss and improved health could be just the inspiration you need.

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