Healthy Habits: Dr. Ellen Friedman starts and ends the day with gratitude

It can sometimes be difficult to find ways to stay healthy, so we’ve asked members of our Baylor College of Medicine community to share what they do in their daily lives to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Dr. Ellen Friedman, professor of otolaryngology and director of the Center for Professionalism at Baylor, shares some of her healthy habits with us.

An infographic with a picture of Dr. Friedman and a quote: “I try to live with gratitude and kindness, and as part of that, every evening I review my conversations to see if what I’ve said was necessary, helpful, true and kind.” Question: What health decisions start your day?

Answer: A number of years ago a young patient made a big impact on my life. He was on a quest to increase the number of people who start every day by saying a traditional Jewish prayer of expressing gratitude to G-d for granting them another day to live, and I have been saying this prayer daily since then.

Q: What is your go-to healthy breakfast?

A: I love breakfast tacos with pico de gallo, which isn’t truly unhealthy, right? In the winter I enjoy oatmeal topped with a little bit of brown sugar.

Q: What is your favorite type of exercise?

A: I am not a huge exercise fan, but I do walk a lot. I wear a Fitbit and I aim for 8,000 steps a day, which I read is just as effective as 10,000.

Q: What have you done to stay healthy during COVID-19?

A: I have found the pandemic extremely challenging. The isolation, uncertainty and duration were exhausting. As a partial remedy we established rituals or routines that added some regularity to our days, for example, we have spaghetti every Sunday night, we play a sort of silly table game, SkipBo, after dinner and we use Zoom liberally to stay in touch with family and friends. I also returned to painting with watercolors.

Q: What is your favorite healthful snack?

A: I love every food in the Mediterranean diet, which is reported to be particularly healthy. I am fond of nuts, fresh fruit and hummus.

Q: Do you take vitamins and if so, which ones?

A: I do take vitamins beyond the standard ones, including tumeric and fish oil.

Q: What do you include in your child’s lunch?

A: My child is 27 and he makes his own lunch, and he is very health conscious. He is a Kosher pescatarian at the moment.

Q: How do you make an unhealthy recipe healthy (healthy substitutions)? 

A: Generally, I start with a healthy recipe and limit the truly unhealthy recipes that I use. Since I only prepare rich, unhealthy foods infrequently, when I prepare them I pretty much stick to the recipe and shamelessly indulge. I may lower the amount of some of the least healthy ingredients I use without making an actual substitution.

Q: What hobbies do you have to help you relax?

A: I love to listen to music, read for pleasure, go to museums and paint with watercolors.

Q: What is your go-to Houston restaurant for a healthy meal? 

A: There are incredible restaurants in Houston. I enjoy Niko Niko’s in Montrose, which is great healthy Greek food, and it’s the restaurant where I went on my first date with my husband!

Q: What is your favorite health tip that you live by?

A: I try to live with gratitude and kindness. I freely admit that I am a work in progress and as part of that, every evening I review my conversations to see if what I’ve said was necessary, helpful, true and kind. This is a wonderful exercise.

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