Healthy Living

Woman exercising


At GW we recognize the importance of our employees health by offering programs that promote healthy living and teamwork among GW staff and faculty. Your Life at GW is making it easier for you by pulling everything you need to help you meet your health and wellness goals into one place. GW offers a wide range of wellness programs that promote healthy living, community, and teamwork among GW staff and faculty.

Fitness & Recreation

Walking, swimming, cycling, jogging, or any of a wide variety of other activities can help your heart and can relieve tension, anxiety, and even anger. Brisk walking for as little as 30 minutes a day can bring heart-health benefits and reduce your risk for stroke by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) levels and high blood pressure. Exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself, and your health, so don’t put it off for another day.

Even on a busy schedule, Your Life at GW can help you find creative ways to make time for exercise.

Summer 2019 Free Group Exercise Classes

Free group exercise classes for faculty and staff have been scheduled for Summer 2019. For more information and schedule, check out the News and Events page.

Fitness and Recreation Resources

Walking Meeting Guide

Why a walking meeting?

  • Physical activity energizes you and makes you more alert.

  • Different environments can inspire new ideas and stimulate creativity.

  • Time outdoors, in nature, with fresh air and light, improves your physical and mental well-being.

  • Walking and talking side by side cuts through hierarchical work distinctions and sets you and your colleague at ease, which enhances a positive working spirit.

  • Walking also burns calories and stimulates oxygen flow around the body for increased brain function, which may increase the ability to solve problems faster.

  • Being outdoors also can increase confidentiality, which can allow colleagues to work privately without interruptions.

  • It also saves office resources when there are fewer machines running, which makes the workplace more sustainable and green.

How to Run a Walking Meeting:

  1. Organize everything you’ll need for the meeting beforehand and include an agenda.

  2. Make sure everyone gets the memo about wearing comfortable shoes.

  3. Consider having the walking meeting early in the workday to set the tone for the day and/or late in the afternoon when colleague’s energies are spent.

  4. Figure out how long the walking meeting should be with a consideration of the participant’s fitness levels.

  5. Check the weather so rain or cold doesn’t become a barrier to conducting the meeting outside.

  6. While walking meetings are well suited for small groups, with some committee planning, meetings can accommodate larger groups.

  7. Avoid noisy roads that are distracting and dangerous it may be helpful to plan your route in advance.

  8. A leader/organizer is not needed for smaller groups, but may be necessary for large groups. Very large groups may even need a leader with several assistants.

  9. If there is need to record the discussion or decisions, designate someone to take notes or use a voice recorder.

GW Walking Routes:

GW Campus Recreation provides a list of recommended walking routes on its website for the Foggy Bottom Campus and a handout of walking route for the Virginia Science and Technology Campus (PDF).

Or, you might consider trying out this self-guided GW walking tour of the Foggy Bottom or Mount Vernon campus.

Capital Bikeshare Discount

GW faculty and staff are now eligible for a discounted Capital Bikeshare annual membership of only $25 (regularly $85). Enjoy all the perks of Capital Bikeshare membership for less than 50 cents a week! This discount is for benefits eligible faculty and staff only.

For details and to receive your discount code, please visit the Benefits Administration website.

Read more information about Capital Bikeshare.

Don't forget GW Lerner Health and Wellness Center also offers a shower-pass program to the university's gym. This program provides discounted semester-long gym memberships to the gym to cyclists and pedestrian commuters to use the shower and locker facilities.

Exercise Resources at GW

Through the Department of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, GW offers faculty and staff several weekly exercise classes each semester.

Lerner Health and Wellness Center (LHWC), located at 23rd and G Streets in Foggy Bottom, is available to faculty, staff, students and community affiliates. LHWC provides discounted gym memberships to GW employees as well as exercise classes throughout the year.

Food and Nutrition

The food you choose every day affects your health today, tomorrow and in the future. Many major causes of illness in the United States are related to a poor diet and an inactive lifestyle. Eating and patterns that are focused on consuming fewer calories, along with making informed food choices, can help you attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health.

The Eat Well Guide below, which was put together by Your Life at GW and the Urban Food Task Force, will help you identify healthier options when choosing what to eat.

Eat Well Guide

The food you choose every day affects your health today, tomorrow, and in the future. Many major causes of illness in the United States are related to a poor diet and an inactive lifestyle. Eating and patterns that are focused on consuming fewer calories, as well as making informed food choices, can help you attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health. This guide will help you identify healthier choices when choosing what you eat.

This guide was created through a partnership between the Urban Food Task Force, Your Life at GW, and the Office of Sustainability.

Choosing Healthy Foods

Eating healthy is not about strict diets, staying thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, making informed decisions, and keeping yourself as healthy as possible.

Healthy eating begins with learning how to “eat smart”. It’s not just what you eat, but how you eat. Making the right food choices can reduce your risk of illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and depression.

According to the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines and individual needs to:

  • Make smart choices from every food group.

  • Find your balance between food and physical activity.

  • Get the most nutrition out of your calories.

The following resources were developed to help you make healthy food choices based on the 2010 U.S. Dietary Guidelines.

Developing Healthy Eating Patterns

Before you eat, stop and think about what is going in or on your plate, cup, or bowl. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommends you focus on foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein foods which contain the nutrients you need without too many calories.

Changing your diet completely to meet all the recommended guidelines may not be realistic. Instead it is suggested you start small and focus on the following areas to improve your diet and your health:

♦ Balance your calories

  • Enjoy your food, but eat less.
    • Take the time to fully enjoy your food as you eat it. Eating too fast or when your attention is elsewhere may lead to eating too many calories. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues before, during, and after meals. Use them to recognize when to eat and when you’ve had enough. Being physically active also helps you balance calories.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
    • Use a smaller plate, bowl, and glass. Portion out foods before you eat. When eating out, choose a smaller size option, share a dish, or take home part of your meal. The WebMD Portion Size Plate gives you easy-to-understand guidelines to help you avoid some common portion-size pitfalls.

♦ Foods you should increase

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
    • Look for vegetables that are red, orange, or dark-green. Add fruit to meals as part of main or side dishes or as dessert. 
  • Make at least half your grains whole grains.
    • To eat more whole grains, substitute a whole-grain product for a refined product—such as eating whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. 

♦ Foods you should reduce

  • Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals ― and choose the foods with the lower sodium.
    • Use the nutrition facts label to choose lower sodium versions of foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals. Select canned foods labeled “low sodium,” ”reduced sodium,” or “no salt added”. Read more information on reading nutrition facts labels.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks.
    • Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar and calories in our diets.

More Resources:

View the Tips for developing a healthy eating pattern handout.

Nutrition Glossary

Understanding nutrition terms can be difficult. Below are definitions for commonly used terms on this website.

Information on understanding and reading food labels can be found in this handout.


Calorie is a unit of measurement for energy. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) uses 2,000 calories per day as a general reference level on nutrition labeling. Our upper limit of 750 calories for one meal represents about 37% of total calories for the day. Calories can be found on nutrition labels.


Cholesterol is a soft, waxy substance present in all parts of the body including the nervous system, skin, muscles, liver, intestines, and heart. It is both made by the body and obtained from animal products in the diet. Cholesterol is manufactured in the liver for normal body functions including the production of hormones, bile acid, and vitamin D. It is transported in the blood to be used by all parts of the body.


The USDA's 2005 Dietary Guidelines recommend that total fat be limited to 20 to 35% of calories. Assuming 2,000 calories per day, the recommended fat intake for a full day is between 44 and 78 grams.

Fruits and/or vegetables

According to the FDA, fruits and vegetables are, in general, low in calories and fat but high in vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. It is recommended that most adults consume approximately 2 cups of fruits and 2.5 cups of vegetables each day.

Portion size

The amount of a food consumed in one eating occasion.

Lean protein

Lean proteins are foods that provide a rich source of protein but little, if any, fat. Examples of lean proteins are: eggs, white meat poultry, lean beef, tofu, fish, and turkey.

Saturated fat

Saturated fats are often called to as "bad" fats because they raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body, increasing the risk of heart disease. Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature and mostly come from animal products. The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines recommend that saturated fat be limited to 10% of total calories. Assuming 2,000 calories a day, the maximum recommended saturated fat intake for a full day would be 22 grams.


Sodium is an essential mineral and electrolyte that supports many functions of your body. When consumed in moderation, sodium can be part of a healthy diet. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends that Americans consume no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day.

Whole grains

According to the FDA, whole grains provide vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are essential for good health. Whole grains are low in fat and a good source of dietary fiber. Some examples of whole grains include whole wheat, bulgur, bran, barley, wild rice, whole oats, buckwheat, and quinoa.

Eating Healthy While Dining Out

Dining out is fun, but choosing the right foods is often challenging when you’re trying to eat healthy. While most people can make nutritious choices when eating at home, it’s easy to let healthy eating habits slide when dining out and order items that are high in fat, calories, sodium, and cholesterol. It doesn’t help that many dishes offered at restaurants are prepared in a manner that makes them even higher in fat and calories than the same dish would be if it were prepared at home.

Despite these challenges, eating a healthy meal when dining out is still attainable. You just need to make sound nutritional choices and know what to order and what to avoid. The following resources will help you make healthy choices when dining out.

Portion Control When Dining Out

When you’re dining out it is easy to overeat because of the large portion sizes at restaurants. Here are some great tips when dining out that will help you reduce the amount of food you eat:

  • Share your meal, order a half-portion, or order an appetizer as a main meal. Examples of healthier appetizers include tuna or chicken salad, minestrone soup, and tomato or corn salsas.

  • Take at least half of your meal home. Ask for a portion of your meal to be boxed up prior to when it is served so you will not be tempted to eat more than you need.

  • Stop eating when you begin to feel full. Focus on enjoying the setting and your friends or family for the rest of the meal.

  • Avoid large beverages such as sugar-sweetened soft drinks because they have a large number of calories. Instead, try drinking water with a slice of lemon. If you want to drink soda, choose a calorie-free beverage or a small sugar-sweetened soft drink such as seltzer water or sparkling water.

You Have Control When Dining Out

When ordering, don't be afraid to ask to have something cooked in a healthier manner. Many foods at most restaurants will probably fit into a healthy diet if prepared with low-fat ingredients and less salt. Ask your server if the kitchen can alter preparations to meet your needs, or you can also call ahead before you choose your restaurant. Below are a few suggestions from the American Heart Association about what to look out for and how to order when dining out:

  • Look out for the words fried, au gratin, crispy, escalloped, pan-fried, sautéed, or stuffed. These foods are often high in fat and calories. Instead look for the words steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached, or roasted.

  • Avoid butter. Request that your meal be prepared with vegetable oil (made from canola, olive, corn, soy, sunflower or safflower) or soft margarine instead of butter. Also you can ask for soft margarine or olive oil for your bread.

  • Have gravy, sauces, and dressings served on the side, so you can control the amount you eat or skip them completely.

  • Ask if the restaurant has fat-free or 1 percent milk instead of whole milk.

  • If you would like to eat dessert, many restaurants can offer you fruit or sherbet instead of high-fat pastries and ice creams even if they aren't on the dessert menu.

Helpful Resource:

Learn more from the American Heart Association about talking with your server, eating healthy at a fast food establishment, ordering from a menu, and more.

Local Food Establishments Nutrition Information


Many food establishments on or around campus provide nutritional information, click the links below for more information:

Au Bon Pain



Corner Bakery Café


Domino’s Pizza

Dunkin Donuts






Not all restaurants list nutritional information, especially those with rotating seasonal menus. For healthy eating guides and tips, please visit the USDA’s MyPlate website.

Healthy Grocery Shopping

Healthy cooking starts with choosing the right foods at the grocery store. If your kitchen is stocked with wholesome ingredients, your meals will be good for you and your family.

Shopping for healthy foods isn't too difficult, but it helps to have a grocery list ready. Take your list to the store and stick to buying the items on your list; don't add any extra junk foods. In fact, if you stay out of the junk food aisles, you will do just fine.

Planning your meals and menus takes time, but you will save lots of money and serve your family some healthy and tasty foods. Below are some quick tips to help you shop for healthy foods on a budget.

  • Meal planning is key. Start by planning a week or so’s worth of meals. Be sure to include breakfast, lunch if you pack your own, dinner, and snacks. You can save time by building up a recipe file with your favorite dishes.

  • Shop with a list. By planning your shopping list, you give yourself a clear plan and can resist the seductive call of aisle upon aisle of junk food, thereby saving your family and yourself from an overload of empty calories.

  • Buy a water-filter pitcher instead of expensive individual bottles of water.

  • Food-shop with a full stomach!

  • It costs a lot more to buy the parts of a chicken, so buy a whole chicken and cut it up yourself.

  • When meats are on sale, you can buy larger quantities and freeze individual cuts in freezer paper or freezer bags to take advantage of the savings.

  • Think of the departments (dairy, produce, meat, and so on) as separate stores within the supermarket. Target the sections that are safe to browse through, such as the produce section.

  • Buy bulk items when they are on sale. Same with canned goods, frozen vegetables, fish and seafood. Look out for special sales and promotions.

  • Read the nutrition labels. See guidelines on how to read a nutrition label.

  • Buy in season. Sure, it’s tempting to buy strawberries in December, and once in awhile that’s fine. However fresh fruit and vegetables are best when purchased in season and when they come from relatively close to home. They often cost less and are tastier.

  • Make sure the bread you are buying is whole wheat bread. If the first ingredient is refined wheat flour, then it’s made from the same wheat as white bread, which means the wheat was stripped of fiber and nutrients, and, in some cases, dyed brown for a fake healthy appearance. What you’re really looking for are the words “whole wheat” in the ingredients list.

  • Think about leftovers. Roast a whole chicken for dinner and use the extra meat for sandwiches or for a chicken stir-fry. You can also prepare your foods in larger quantities for do-it-yourself frozen meals that you can add to any weekly menu

  • Fresh produce is often a good buy, especially when in season, but choose carefully and don’t buy more than what you will eat in a few days so you don’t waste due to spoilage.

  • Choose cheaper, leaner cuts of beef. You will reduce the amount of saturated fat in your meals (which is better for your health). The cheaper cuts of beef typically need to be cooked at lower temperatures and for longer periods of time. They are perfect for beef stews, soups, and in crockpot meals.

  • Make your own snacks with mixed nuts, dry cereals, raisins, and other ingredients. Divide the snacks into individual portions and keep them in bags to control calorie intake.

Helpful Resources:

The American Heart Association Grocery List Builder helps you plan out your lists and find foods that are heart healthy.

External Resources

Below is a list of some of the most helpful external resources on eating well. 

General Resources:

Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020 are science-based advice on how to eat for health. The guidelines encourage all Americans to eat a healthy diet and be physically active. Click the link above to see all of the guidelines recommended by the USDA.


Based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, MyPlate is designed to help you understand and incorporate the Guidelines into your life. MyPlate illustrates the five food groups using a familiar mealtime visual: a place setting. The MyPlate website includes interactive activities, a daily food planner, and helpful, easy to follow tips. provides easy, online access to government information on food and human nutrition for consumers.

American Heart Association

The American Heart Association encourages you in a healthy lifestyle with a variety of resources and healthy eating tips.

Fruits & Veggies-More Matters

We all know that fruits and vegetables add important nutrition to our diets, but how much should we eat? And how can we make this nutrition stuff easier, tastier, and more enjoyable? To answer these and other questions, Produce for Better Health Foundation offers the Fruits & Veggies—More Matters health initiative. In simple, user-friendly ways, the website offers expert cooking advice, nutrition information, and shopping tips.

The Nutrition Source

The Nutrition Source is a web site maintained by the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and aims to provide timely, evidence-based information on diet and nutrition for the public.

National Eating Disorders Association

The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting individuals and families affected by eating disorders. Their website provides information about eating disorders and recommendations for receiving treatment for an eating disorder.

Mayo Clinic “Nutrition and Healthy Eating”

Includes multiple types of nutrition and health information: interactive graphics and videos, expert answers to food and nutrition questions, an expert blog written by registered dietitians, and other resources.

Vegetarian Resource Group

Collection of resources for a vegetarian diet to include meal ideas, recipes, child and teen nutrition, and meat substitutions items. Some materials are available in Spanish. Offers a free email newsletter.

Resources for children:

BAM Body and Mind

BAM! Body and Mind is an online destination for kids created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), designed for kids 9-13 years old, BAM! Body and Mind gives them the information they need to make healthy lifestyle choices.

Quit For Life Smoking Cessation

The Quit For Life® Program, brought to you by the American Cancer Society® and Alere Wellbeing, is the nation’s leading tobacco cessation program. It can help you or an eligible dependent overcome physical, psychological and behavioral addictions to tobacco through coaching, a customized quitting plan, and a supportive online community.

Expert Quit Coaches® help participants gain the knowledge, skills, and behavioral strategies to quit for life. Participants have unlimited access to phone- and web-based coaching, as well as to Web Coach®, an online community for e-learning and social support. They also receive a printed workbook that helps guide them through the quitting process.

The program uses the 4 Essential Practices to Quit For Life:

  • Quit At Your Own Pace – Quit on your own terms, but get the help you need, when you need it.
  • Conquer Your Urges to Smoke – Gain the skills you need to control cravings, urges, and situations involving alcohol.
  • Use Medications So They Really Work – Learn how to supercharge your quit attempt with the proper use of nicotine substitutes.
  • Don’t Just Quit, Become a Nonsmoker – Once you’ve stopped using tobacco, learn to never again have that “first” cigarette.
  • Includes Text2Quit Program- Normally $29.99, Text2Quit is included free when you call the Quit For Life Program.

By mastering the 4 Essential Practices to Quit for Life, the chance of quitting is eight times more successful than by quitting cold turkey. You or a loved one could be the next person we help quit tobacco. You may qualify for nicotine replacement therapy. The program is free, confidential, and it works.

Call 1-866-QUIT-4-LIFE (1-866-784-8454), or visit QuitNow for details or to enroll.