Do-It-Yourself Minestrone Soup

Vegetarian Minestrone Soup

Do-It-Yourself Minestrone Soup | Johns Hopkins Medicine
The best classic, hearty Italian soup with tomatoes, red beans, vegetables & barley – instead of pasta -.


I still my old cooking book. Even though these recipes could be under the “Not-So-Healthy” options, they had been my faves.

  Is there anything that could be done to rescue them using the right substitutes, I wondered. While remaining positive, prevails the doubt if my family would actually the healthy style.

This was a challenge for me but at the same time an opportunity to have a lot of fun.

The Minestrone Soup has three particular ingredients which make it different from traditional vegetable soups: Short pasta, pancetta & basil.  Pasta is high on carbs, pancetta is Italian bacon saturated with fats and sodium.

By medical recommendation we should avoid consuming them, so here is where the party begins looking for the adequate replacements. My husband said that changing those ingredients would make a different recipe: A super-deli vegetable soup but not the Minestrone.

Despite his encouraging comments, I decided to name it the vegetarian version of the Minestrone Soup.


A couple of years ago, I discovered this whole grain called “barley” with an interesting chewy, pasta- consistency that makes the times for “risotto” (an Italian dish of rice) in many recipes.

Barley is an outstanding food source for dietary fiber, selenium, and tryptophan, niacin, manganese, copper, and phosphorus. At 270 calories per cup, barley is a low-calorie food.  I have used the “pearled barley,” which is more common and what most grocers sell.

The amount of protein pack on this cereal goes way beyond the commercial pasta making it something worth trying.

After doing some research on the vegetarian substitutes for the Italian bacon (pancetta), I found that sauté mushrooms slices add the “umami” flavor that process meat provides to some dishes.

Interesting, isn´t it? Let me tell you I finally put hands on the recipe with an extreme success, so  I encourage you to give it a shot.

  Check for yourself how it is possible to enjoy of all the Italian flavors on this broth ….. without pasta!


Prep time: 20 min.  Cook time: 1 hr

YIELD: 6 – 8 portions


  • 2 large carrots, diced.
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 medium white onion, diced.
  • 1/3 c. chopped fresh chives.
  • 1 medium potato, diced.
  • 1 lb. of mushrooms, sliced.
  • 3 handfuls fresh Baby spinach
  • 2 Tbsp. of tomato paste
  • 6 c. of chicken broth or vegetable stock – low sodium (if you prefer, you can use homemade chicken broth). For vegetarians, use vegetable stock.
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, diced.
  • 1 can of Red Kidney Beans (16 oz) or 2 c. of the homemade kidney beans.
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
  • 2-3 fresh basil leaves ó 1/2 tsp. of dried basil.
  • 1/2 c. of pearled barley  *(you can use 1 c. of short pasta if you prefer)
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed.
  • 2 Tbsp. of avocado oil.


  1. Warm the avocado oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, sauté the sliced mushrooms until lightly browned.
  2. Add the white onion,  garlic, and the chives stirring often, until the mushrooms have softened and the onions are turning translucent.

    (See picture A)

  3. Add the celery, potatoes, tomatoes, and carrots. Cook them stirring constantly until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. (See picture B)
  4. Add the kidney beans, broth and tomato paste to the pot. Cover and bring to boil. Let it simmer for 20 minutes approx.

      (See picture C)

  5. Add the spinach, barley and basil leaves. Season it with salt and pepper. (See picture D)
  6. Simmer until vegetables and barley are tender, about 30 minutes approx.

      (See picture E)

  7. Serve warm and enjoy!

*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Picture APicture BPicture CPicture DPicture EVegetarian Minestrone Soup

*Pearl barley:  It is the most common form of barley. It’s still chewy and nutritious, but less so than hulled barley because the outer husk and bran layers have been removed. The polished grains are also softer and take less time to cook about 40 minutes.



7 Coronavirus Myths That Could Hurt You & Your Family

Do-It-Yourself Minestrone Soup | Johns Hopkins Medicine

During periods of stress and uncertainty — the current coronavirus outbreak — we naturally gravitate towards any information that has the potential to make us feel more in control.

An unfortunate side effect of this is how easily misinformation spreads because of how thirsty we are for any intel that could give us an advantage.

In our current pandemic situation, this has taken the form of alleged “cures” or “treatments” for the novel coronavirus. 

We get it: you’re scared — we are too.

So when your aunt’s friend’s nephew who she claims is a doctor, forwards an email made to look it was written by experts at Johns Hopkins University with insider information on how to stop or beat the virus, it’s understandable that you click on, repost or forward it.

To its credit, — typically a haven for conspiracy theories and incorrect information — has started cracking down on posts that are spreading false claims about the virus, redirecting users who click on these posts to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) “myth busters” page.

But there’s plenty of harmful fake facts floating around elsewhere. Now is the time to improve your information literacy, checking that any claims you’re taking seriously came from a reputable source.

But to make things a little easier, we’ve put together a list of some of the most common coronavirus myths that could hurt you or your family. There’s plenty more than this out there, but it’s a start.

Myth: Using a saline rinse can prevent coronavirus infection

Nope, this is not a thing, according to the WHO who says that there is no evidence that rinsing your nose with saline solution could prevent you from getting infected with the novel coronavirus.

This myth has been around for quite a while, but usually in the context of treating the common cold.

There is limited research indicating that using a saline spray could potentially shorten the length of a cold, but no evidence on it preventing respiratory infections. 

Myth: Listerine kills the virus

Chances are decent that someone in your life either reposted or forwarded you an email providing an “excellent summary” of COVID-19 advice, allegedly put out by Johns Hopkins University.

First of all, this absolutely did not come from anyone at the prestigious university and research hospital. (Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins does have an excellent coronavirus resources page with actual scientifically valid information.

) One of the most popular claims on this “excellent summary” post is that Listerine — yes, the mouthwash — can help you fight the virus.

As Snopes points out, this is categorically false, as is the information that this post provides: that Listerine is 69 percent alcohol, and therefore can be used as an antiseptic. Most Listerine has an alcohol content of around 27 percent, which is not close to being high enough to do anything to the virus.

Myth: Dry, warm and dehumidified environments make it harder for the virus to spread

This is another gem from the fake Johns Hopkins email, which says that COVID-19 needs “moisture to stay stable, and especially darkness. Therefore, dehumidified, dry, warm and bright environments will degrade it faster.” The president has also helped perpetuate this claim, previously stating that “when it gets a little warmer [the virus] miraculously goes away.

” As great as this would be, it doesn’t appear to be the case.

Because we’re still learning about the virus every day, scientists aren’t 100 percent certain how it will progress, but in a letter to the president earlier in April, the members of a National Academy of Sciences committee clarify that weather is unly to have a major impact, given how few people are immune to the virus right now.

Myth: Eating garlic could prevent coronavirus infection

As someone who truly loves garlic, I was hoping this one was true, but sadly, it’s not, according to the WHO. “Garlic is a healthy food that may have some antimicrobial properties,” the organization points out. “However, there is no evidence from the current outbreak that eating garlic has protected people from the new coronavirus.”

Myth: Hand dryers can kill the virus

Wouldn’t it be amazing if something found in nearly every public restroom could stop the coronavirus? Of course it would, but hand dryers cannot kill the coronavirus, the WHO says. Instead, the organization recommends the usual hand-washing or hand-sanitizing routine.

Myth: Taking hot baths can prevent coronavirus

There has also been a rumor swirling around that taking hot baths could prevent you from being infected by the coronavirus. But again, the WHO says this is not correct. Your normal body temperature won’t change taking a hot shower or bath. But what very hot water can do it burn you, so skip this one, too. 

Myth: 5G networks spread the coronavirus 

This is one of the newer myths that has been circulating. Basically, people think that the coronavirus is somehow able to travel via 5G mobile networks. But again, the WHO says that this isn’t true, pointing out that COVID-19 has been spreading in countries without 5G mobile networks. 

How to be a smarter media consumer 

As we mentioned before, it’s now more important than ever to be media literate, given that false incorrect information can literally harm you or your family. But with all the information and media coverage out there, how do you spot the fake news? Here are a few tips for being a smarter consumer of media and information:

  • Always check for a link: This should be your first step. If you see a tweet, post or email forward that’s just text without any type of link to the source, you’re better off skipping it. 
  • Make sure the source of information is reliable: So you found a link to a source — that’s a great first step! Now, take a look to see if the site hosting the information is trustworthy. If it’s a major and respected news organization — the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN Rolling Stone or Lifehacker — you can be relatively confident that the articles are factual. News sites with a clear political bias, Fox News, can be tricky. Ideally they would only provide fact-based information, but things can get murky because the pandemic has turned out to be very political. Also, be aware that satirical sites The Onion publish humor articles and could be confusing to people who aren’t familiar with these sites. 
  • Use the SIFT method: If you’re looking for a step-by-step process for checking the credibility of a news article, you may want to try the SIFT method. This involves stopping, investigating the source, finding better coverage and tracing claims made in the article. Here’s more detailed information on this strategy.  
  • Get your information directly from authoritative sites: Instead of relying on social media or email forwards to get information on this global public health crisis, why not go straight to the sources. These sites are regularly updated as soon as we learn something new about the virus and are a great place to find quick, accurate information. Examples include: the WHO, the Centers for Disease Control, Johns Hopkins University and the Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health.  

Global pandemic or not, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking news sources and developing a healthy information diet, full of credible, fact-based sources. 

Looking to stock up on (a responsible amount of) essentials for quarantine? Here’s a few must-haves in case you or a loved one is sick and unable to make a supply run:


Endometriosis and The Gut – What’s the Connection?

Do-It-Yourself Minestrone Soup | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Doesn’t it seem “the gut” is implicated in pretty much every health condition? Well, endometriosis is no exception! 

In fact, March is Endometriosis Awareness Month

I have heard endometriosis described as the incredibly common disease… you have never heard of — which captures it perfectly. 

Endometriosis affects an estimated 1 in 10 women during their reproductive years (between the ages of 15 to 49), which is approximately 176 million women worldwide. 


That it takes a woman an average of 9 years to get an accurate diagnosis from the onset of symptoms, which commonly includes gynecological complaints, such as:

  • painful menstrual cramps
  • heavy menstrual bleeding
  • bleeding between periods
  • pain with intercourse
  • association with uterine fibroids

But, what is Endometriosis?

Endometriosis is typically a non-cancerous gynecological condition, but it can reportedly cause a significant amount of pain for the sufferer. 

It is an inflammatory disease in which tissue, very much the type that grows inside the uterus – grows outside of it, forming lesions that are often found in clusters, called endo implants. 

This tissue responds to the hormone fluctuations that dictate the menstrual cycle in the same way it would if it were found inside the uterus. However, un the uterine lining (the endometrium), this tissue can’t break down and shed at the end of a cycle – which normally marks the period. 

So, instead, it causes inflammation, leading to scar tissue buildup over time. This results in many symptoms, including extreme pain both during and outside of the regular menstrual cycle. 

My Personal Connection With Endometriosis

On a personal note, it was my own extended battle with this condition that spurred on my passion for nutrition and led me down my current career and business path. (Most people don’t know that!)

After years of terrible pain, missing school and work, and being told at 20 that if I didn’t have a baby then, that I never would due to the infertility issues I would ly face as a woman with endometriosis — I went ahead with surgery in my early twenties. 

Unfortunately, many women, my surgery was not successful, and I continued to live with chronic and severe pain. 

Looking for other options in the face of the failed surgery, I ordered a book on “nutrition & endometriosis” and started researching diet and lifestyle changes. 

Then, several months later, I thankfully started to heal. But I now realize that this is not always the outcome for many women who are suffering — as I did for all those years.

Shortly after that, I found myself preparing to apply for graduate school in clinical nutrition and officially kick started my career in this field, dedicating myself to women’s health and nutrition – which I’ve been doing for over 10 years now!

As painful as this experience has been, both physically and emotionally, I am thankful for the critical role it played in awakening my deep passion for all things nutrition. 

But also how nutrition, as part of a holistic approach to health optimization could help women, just me, with various hormone imbalances, including endometriosis. 

“On a personal note, it was my own extended battle with this condition that led me down my current career and business path. As painful as this experience has been, both physically and emotionally, I am thankful for the critical role it played in awakening my deep passion for all things nutrition.”  – Stacy Roy, MS, CNE, BCHN

Symptoms of Endometriosis: Extreme Bloating and “Endo Belly”

Along with extreme pain, fatigue, infertility (endo is one of the leading causes), and heavy menstrual bleeding, endometriosis can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms, such as:

  • Pain with bowel movements and urination
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Constipation and/or diarrhea
  • Bloating (sometimes extreme, even giving the appearance of being pregnant)

While rarely talked about, “endo belly” is a term sufferers of this condition have been known to describe the uncomfortable, often painful, and extreme bloating they experience.

Those with this condition are also more prone to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which may also lead to extreme bloating, further contributing to “endo belly”.

The Endometriosis – SIBO Connection

Included in the Mayo Clinic’s list of causes of SIBO: 

  • Complications after abdominal surgery
  • Certain medical conditions, Crohn’s disease, radiation enteritis, scleroderma, celiac disease, diabetes or other conditions that can slow movement (motility) of food and waste products through the small intestine 
  • Structural problems in and around your small intestine, including scar tissue (intestinal adhesions) that can wrap around the outside of the small bowel

Additionally, research indicates that, in a group of 50 women diagnosed with endometriosis, 40 also had SIBO. In this case, it is thought that the inflammation induced by endometriosis can alter the gut microbiome, often leading to SIBO, among other pervasive digestive problems IBS.

“In one key study, a full 90% of women with endo presented with GI symptoms—and, it is important to note, only 7.6% of the women had [endo] implants on the bowel itself. 

Thus, some experts say, the diagnosis of GI disorders, especially SIBO, in the appropriate setting, should trigger consideration for the possibility—if not the lihood—of endometriosis as an underlying cause.”  – Stephanie Eckelkamp, Health & Nutrition Editor, MBG Health

But, what exactly is SIBO?

As I wrote in this article, SIBO is a condition when bacteria (or other microorganisms, good or bad) grow control in the small bowel/intestine, which should remain relatively low in bacterial count, as compared to the colon (or large bowel/intestine).

Colonization of this area also ends up damaging the cells lining the small intestine otherwise known as “leaky gut” (or increased intestinal permeability), which also impairs the digestive process and overall absorption of nutrients.

This can exacerbate nutritional deficiencies and allow toxins, pathogens and undigested protein molecules to enter the bloodstream that, in turn, cause widespread inflammation, food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, and other undesirable immune reactions.

Read more HERE about the symptoms of Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth.

Supporting Digestive Health When You Have Endometriosis

Recent research indicates that the gut’s role, specifically the gut microbiome, may be an important factor that needs to be explored in much greater detail as it pertains to endometriosis. [1]

Working with a nutritional professional, who is also experienced in functional medicine, is a good place to start as they can create a diet plan customized to your health and needs AND they can also order the proper tests – and analyze them for you. (Sort of a health detective!) 

They can also help to identify nutrient deficiencies and other imbalances within the body and, again, help you implement a customized protocol, as needed for your specific health issues.

Tips to minimize digestive symptoms associated with Endometriosis – and to ease the discomfort of “endo belly”:

  • Anti-inflammatory eating plan, and other dietary measures, such as:
    • increasing soluble fiber intake (to prevent constipation), and reducing or eliminating sugar, gluten, dairy & soy
  • Low FODMAPs, especially if SIBO is indicated (but only short term)
  • High-quality supplements: curcumin, omega-3 fatty acids, evening primrose oil, and those for liver support (e.g. NAC, DIM, calcium D-glucarate, and other estrogen detoxifiers)
  • Blood sugar balance
  • Castor oil packs
  • Avoid xenoestrogens
  • Peppermint and/or ginger tea after eating

And lastly, probiotics have also been found to positively impact endometriosis and its associated digestive complaints. 

One study found that the specific strain, Lactobacillus gasseri OLL2809, significantly improved reported pain in endometrial patients compared to placebo after 12 weeks. [2]

But, be sure to check with a qualified health practitioner when implementing any of these or other suggested supplements and nutritional protocols that have a therapeutic indication.

Do you suffer from endometriosis and/or SIBO (or other persistent gastrointestinal issues)?

Need help navigating all of the confusing information on the web and what course of action may be right for you, as an individual?



10 Steps to a Healthier You

Do-It-Yourself Minestrone Soup | Johns Hopkins Medicine

SUCCESS combed through studies and spoke to experts to identify the definitive 10 no-frills, real-deal tips you need to become your healthiest self yet. No matter what’s going on in your life, it’s really easy to put these steps into action every single day. No ifs, ands or buts.

You already know it’s the most important meal of the day—it jump-starts your metabolism, delivers sustained energy and can help keep cravings in check. Sorry, doughnut lovers, but all breakfasts are not created equal. To put your best nutritional foot forward, the star players are protein and fiber.

In a University of Missouri study, women who ate a 300-calorie high-protein breakfast including eggs experienced less hunger throughout the morning and consumed fewer calories at lunch compared to those who ate a low-protein breakfast or none at all.

When you don’t have time to scramble eggs in the a.m., opt for oatmeal.

After eating a bowl of oatmeal, participants felt fuller longer, as compared to when they downed the same number of calories from cold cereal and milk, according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Clinical Nutrition. Credit beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber in oats that slows how quickly food moves through your digestive system and keeps you satisfied for hours.

Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and dairy is the surest way to consume a wide variety of important nutrients your body needs. “These are the foods that make up a balanced diet, prevent disease and give you the lasting energy you’re looking for,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, director and owner of BTD Nutrition Consultants in New York  City.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition guide, MyPlate, is a very effective visual guide to every meal. Here’s how it works: Draw an imaginary line down the middle of your plate. Fill one half with fruits and vegetables. Divide the other side in half once more.

Put protein such as fish, chicken or beans in one section and add a serving of whole grains, such as brown rice or whole-wheat pasta, in the other. Have a serving of dairy, such as a glass of milk, a cup of yogurt or some cheese with each meal to meet your calcium quota.

“Dairy contains a beautiful combination of protein and carbohydrates along with blood-pressure-lowering potassium,” Taub-Dix says.

Unsaturated fats such as those found in olive oil, avocados, nuts and seeds can reduce your cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.

A recent study in the journal PLOS ONE found that people who eat tree nuts—almonds, Brazil nuts, walnuts and pistachios—are less ly to be obese than those who don’t.

Because nuts can also be high in calories, just have about handful a day.

Healthy fats can also make foods more filling. Researchers found that adding half an avocado to lunch significantly decreased hunger over the next three hours, according to a Nutrition Journal study. Slice avocado into salads and soups, or spread it on a sandwich instead of mayo.

Eating a predominantly whole-foods diet doesn’t have to mean swearing off packaged foods entirely. “Processed isn’t always a negative word, and as long as you read nutrition labels you can identify processed foods that are actually really good for you,” says Taub-Dix, author of the book Read It Before You Eat It.

Scan nutrition labels to ensure that foods you choose contain some fiber and protein—to help keep you full—and very little sugar and sodium.

Check the ingredients, and if the words partially hydrogenated oil appear, place it back on the shelf because it means the food contains artery-clogging transfats.

If you’re searching for a snack, Taub-Dix suggests including a balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat for lasting energy. For example, have a few whole-grain crackers with slices of Mini Babybel cheese or baby carrots with hummus.

In a perfect world, you’d prepare all your meals at home so you could control exactly what goes into them. But you live in the real world, where business lunches and networking dinners are the norm. So you easily take in excess calories without even realizing it.

A recent study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that fast-food joints aren’t the only ones to blame. Researchers studied smaller Mexican, American, Italian, Chinese, Japanese and Thai restaurants and found the average restaurant meal contains 1,327 calories, or 66 percent of the average person’s allotment of 2,000 calories per day.

For portion control, start with a broth-based soup minestrone, which helps fill you up on fewer calories before your entrée arrives.

When eating at home, serve your meal on a salad plate instead of a larger dinner plate and leave the serving platters on the kitchen counter instead of on the dining table.

Research shows you are less ly to go for an extra helping if it’s more than an arm’s length away.

Feeling sluggish? Don’t head to the vending machine for a sugar buzz. Instead, try downing a glass or two of water.

Even mild dehydration can affect your mood, energy and ability to think clearly, and may also contribute to anxiety and tension, according to University of Connecticut researchers.

They found that people experienced the same effects of mild dehydration whether they were sitting or walking on a treadmill for 40 minutes. So even if you spend most of your day planted in front of a computer, it’s crucial to keep a water bottle nearby.

Aim for eight 8-ounce glasses of H2O per day. When possible, choose water over sugary drinks, which pile on calories, deliver zero nutrition and can set the stage for diabetes. Diet soda has its drawbacks, too. A recent Johns Hopkins study found that people who drink diet beverages consume more calories from food.

It’s called working out for a reason. It’s work. That’s why Rachel Cosgrove, a certified strength and conditioning specialist who owns Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, Calif., suggests experimenting until you find exercise you actually .

“When you find something you truly enjoy, you’ll be more ly to do it, stick with it and experience all of the benefits that come from a more active lifestyle,” she says.

Among those benefits: improved focus and productivity.

A Swedish study found that when people built exercise into their workday, they accomplished more at work, were able to take on more responsibilities, and were sick less often.

You may discover that running, cycling or swimming is your thing. Or perhaps you enjoy power yoga, or spin classes… playing basketball or racquetball. Discover what kinds of physical activity rev your engine; instead of avoiding exercise you’ll find yourself looking for opportunities to do it.

You don’t have to spend hours in the gym each day to build a leaner, healthier body. “The key is working at a higher intensity for a shorter period of time,” Cosgrove says. She recommends two to three 30-minute strength-training sessions that get your heart rate up per week (you can also separate your cardio and weight-training sessions).

The Busy Body Workout

Strength and conditioning specialist Rachel Cosgrove developed this exercise program specifically for SUCCESS readers who are short on time.

It targets every major muscle group over two separate workouts. Keep your rest periods short—about 30 seconds between exercises, so your heart rate stays elevated the entire time.

After completing all four exercises, rest for two minutes and do a second set.

Day One

• Plank, 30 seconds

• Squats holding dumbbells, eight to
10 repetitions

• Bent-over dumbbell rows, eight to 10  reps

• Step-ups (place right foot flat on a step, step left foot up to meet it, lower left foot back down), eight to 10 reps
each side

Day Two

• Side plank, 30 seconds each side

• Lateral lunge, eight to 10 reps each side

• Rotating T-Stabilization Push-up (after a push-up, turn your body to face the side so you’re balancing on one arm and reach the opposite arm toward the ceiling to form a “T”), four to five reps each side

• Romanian Deadlift (hold dumbbells in each hand, bend at the waist until torso is parallel with the floor and stand back up), eight to 10 reps

You may want to read this standing up: Sitting for long periods of time increases your risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and death. A University of Leicester study found this sad reality holds true even if you exercise regularly. The harmful effects of desk jockeying are due to more than just the fact that sitting burns few calories (though that certainly plays a role).

Inactivity may reduce levels of an enzyme your muscles produce called lipoprotein lipase. Insufficient levels of this enzyme are associated with decreased HDL (good) cholesterol and heart disease. What’s more, when you don’t move around enough your muscles are less effective at gobbling up glucose, which can put you at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Seek out ways to incorporate more motion into your daily life. Set a cellphone reminder to stand and move around for a few minutes every hour. Take your phone calls on your feet. And you may also want to consider investing in a standing desk, or even a treadmill desk.

When your schedule gets full, sleep is often the first thing to go (giving up sleep is the only way to build more hours into your day), but the opposite should be true.

ZZZ-time helps you feel rested so you can face the challenges of your day with a clearer, fresher mind.

Plus inadequate rest can affect appetite-related hormones: Participants consumed 22 percent more calories when they snoozed for only four hours compared to those who clocked eight hours between the sheets, according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Keeping a consistent bedtime is also key—people who sleep and wake around the same time every day have less body fat than those whose sleep schedules vary more widely.

One of the best things you can do to improve your sleep quality: Power down. The more you use your smartphone after 9 p.m., the less you sleep, the worse your sleep quality, and the more mentally fatigued you feel the next day, according to Michigan State University researchers.

About an hour before bed, turn off all those glowing rectangles and unwind with a warm shower, calming music and a book (not an e-book). Two hours of exposure to light from a tablet reduces concentrations of melatonin, a hormone essential for sleep, by about 22 percent, according to a study in Applied Ergonomics.

Jen McGivney