Diet & Exercise Basics for the New Normal

Nowadays, it is so easy to get bombarded with lots of information and misinformation about diet, exercise, health, immunity, and more. Whatever social media platform we’re on, we cannot escape the posts, ads, and commercials that promote health – even more now that we are in a pandemic!

It’s good to see that more and more people and brands care about health. But amidst all these, it is the best time to be reminded that simplicity is key. The simpler the information is, the easier it is to absorb and, hopefully, apply.

Before we get started with this Diet & Exercise 101, read this out loud:

You are awesome! Share this image on social media if you really believe it.

Indeed, exercise and diet go hand-in-hand when it comes to maintaining a good lifestyle. It helps you feel good now by lifting your mood, promoting cardiorespiratory health, and maintaining bone and muscle strength. It will also help you feel good later by lowering your risk for chronic degenerative diseases.

What makes a SANE diet?

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A SANE diet considers not just your health and fitness goals. More importantly, it considers your food preferences, living set-up, food resources, and budget. SANE stands for:

  • Safe. This means that your food must be cleanly sourced, prepared, cooked, and stored. Observing food safety helps keep people safe from food-borne illnesses. This is especially true for the more at-risk individuals, including children, the elderly, pregnant women, and the immuno-compromised.
  • Adequate. Adequate means not too little and not too much – just enough. This points to energy balance and weight management. A good diet keeps us in a healthy range of weight that allows our body to function at its best.
  • Nutritionally-balanced. Our food must contain the nutrients that our cells need not only to survive but to thrive. Vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants allow our cells to replenish themselves after keeping us active and alive today. 
  • Economically-sustainable. Our food spending habits will vary based on our living set-up, food preferences, budget, and lifestyle in general. We should not force ourselves into a healthy style of eating that we cannot afford long-term. If a specific diet is not economically sustainable, it is not the right one for you.

How do I properly exercise?

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To tell you honestly, there is no quick answer for this. Like diets, an exercise program is best provided individually after proper testing and consultation. A good exercise coach would have to assess your goals, timeline, and readiness for physical activities. You would also need to learn the basics – such as a proper form – before doing more strenuous exercises.

I firmly believe that you should consult with a credible nutritionist-dietitian and personal trainer at least once in your life. But, understandably, having a personal trainer might not be an accessible option for everyone because of the pandemic. There are credible exercise coaches that you can find on Youtube while making sure that you observe the following:

  • Type. Cardio is not the only type of exercise – 15 to 30 minutes on the treadmill is enough! There’s strength training, flexibility, and core work, and they all help our bodies in different ways. Grab a calendar and schedule when to do different types – or combinations of them – weekly.
  • Timing. What time of day do you work out? How much time will you exercise? How long will you rest between sets? How long will you recover in between workout sessions? What time should you eat before and after the workout? With a consistent routine, you will be able to listen to your body and act intuitively. However, it makes it a tad easier to consult with a professional, especially when you’re just getting started.
  • Intensity. You can gauge the intensity of your workout objectively, a.k.a. how you feel. But more proactively, you can gauge it based on your heart rate. When you start by checking on your heart rate, you will understand why you or someone you know did not lose weight even when doing Zumba religiously.
  • Progression. When you exercise consistently, your body gets stronger and will eventually catch up to you. This means that you might feel that the same exercises are not as effective as before; you might describe this as you plateauing. So you can start by trying out new physical activities. But this can also mean that you now need more planned, guided, and targeted exercises provided to you by a professional exercise coach.

Speaking of trying out something new, have you tried making a savory dressing using fresh fruit? I did it for the first time, and I was so amazed by the outcome. Try out this easy recipe:

Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

Blueberries in savory culinary applications? Why not? Blueberries are delicious and versatile, and they’re packed with nutrients that are great for you!

When you add blueberries to your diet, you add a new source of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and manganese that contribute to your overall wellness.

Step 1. This is a quick recipe so gather all the ingredients that you will need.

  • 1 cup fresh blueberries, washed & drained
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ⅓ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp prepared mustard or Dijon mustard
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • ¾ cup avocado or olive oil

Step 2. Add all ingredients – except the olive/avocado oil – into a blender and process until pureed.

Step 3. Add the oil and blend until emulsified. Then season according to taste. Experiment!


  • More blueberries for the fresh flavor.
  • More honey for sweetness.
  • More vinegar for tartness.
  • More mustard for punchiness.
  • More salt to bring it all together.
  • More honey/mustard to make it thicker.

Step 4. Serve on a salad, or with lean roasted poultry, pork, or beef. It might even taste amazing on an avocado toast with eggs.

I served this Fruity Green Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinegar on my second pandemic birthday. I packed it individually and gave it to my friends in the same building. And it was a hit!

On top of the basic lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumber, I added ripe mango, dragonfruit, pomelo, a lemon wedge, and the blueberry dressing. All in all, a fresh, colorful, delicious, and nutrition-packed salad. Tag me @juliannemalong and @usblueberriesphl on Instagram when you try it!

Final Words

Simplicity is key, and the simplest way to a healthier and happier you is to keep your diet and exercises in check. Going back to basics, (1) your diet must always be sustainably SANE, and (2) your exercises must be challenging enough while being safe for you to do. Keeping these in mind while also applying these daily will surely benefit you now, and your future self will definitely thank you for it!

If you think this article has helped you, feel free to share it with a friend or loved one who needs a healthy reminder today.

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