Sarah Chalke remembers having a bad bout of the flu when she was a child. “It knocked me off my feet,” recalls the actress, who played a doctor on the hit NBC/ABC series Scrubs and is starring in the upcoming ABC sitcom How to Live with Your Parents for the Rest of Your Life. That’s why the 36-year-old has gotten the shot every year for the past two decades. “I’m a huge believer in the vaccine,” she says. “I’d rather get a quick shot than be down for the count for a week and a half.”
Sarah has another good reason to get the vaccine: her 3-year-old son, Charlie. “I feel it’s even more important to get it now so I don’t bring illness home to my family,” she says. “He will be vaccinated every year, and so will all members of my family.”
This year, Sarah joined the American Lung Association’s Faces of Influenza campaign to raise awareness of the flu and encourage people to get vaccinated. “A lot of people don’t realize how serious the flu is,” says Sarah. About 226,000 Americans are hospitalized annually because of the infection and up to 49,000 people die in a given year, according to the campaign.
Sarah is also an advocate for breast cancer awareness and prevention. As an ambassador for the Susan G. Komen Passionately Pink for the Cure program, she designed a T-shirt with the words courage and strength. She also appeared in Komen-sponsored public service announcements dedicated to breast cancer awareness. “I know a lot of people who have battled and survived breast cancer,” says Sarah, who starred in the Lifetime TV film Why I Wore Lipstick to My Mastectomy, which recounted the true story of Geralyn Lucas, a woman who was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 27. “It was a powerful experience playing her and meeting her,” she says.
Sarah doesn’t just promote a healthy lifestyle; she leads one herself. “The key is to find foods and activities you really enjoy,” she says. “If they make you happy, you’re more likely to stick with them.” Here, her best advice for staying active and vital:
Fill your plate with veggies, fruits and whole grains.
Sarah’s favorite breakfast is steel cut oats with walnuts and berries. Lunch is usually a salad with beets, goat cheese, walnuts and avocados, accompanied by a dressing of balsamic vinegar and flax oil. Dinner might be barbecued salmon (a favorite in Vancouver, British Columbia, where she grew up), along with grilled veggies.
Find the right balance.
“I eat healthy and I eat dessert because I love it,” says Sarah. “I’ll just go for a power walk afterward.” Her favorite indulgences? Dark chocolate, ice cream, and blackberry and pumpkin pie.
Go for healthy splurges.
“I try to find healthier substitutes for desserts I love,” says Sarah. For instance, she often chooses cholesterol-free and sugar-free coconut ice cream over other varieties.
Fit exercise into your life.
“I try to do something active every day,” says Sarah. “After a long day at work, I’ll go on a hike or a bike ride with my son.” She also enjoys yoga.
Change up your fitness routine.
“I get bored if I go to the gym every day, so I’ll switch things up,” says Sarah. “If I take a hike one day, I might go to a yoga class the next day. That way, I don’t get in a rut.”
Protect your skin.
“I wear sunscreen every day,” says Sarah.
Find ways to relax.
“I just started meditating this year,” says Sarah, who sets aside 20 minutes a day to do so. “I found it helps quiet your mind. It even helps me sleep better.” One of her favorite activities, however, is spending time with her preschool son. “Children this age are completely present in whatever they’re doing,” she says. “Spending time with them helps you be present as well.”
“Getting enough sleep is a game-changer,” says Sarah. “I try to get eight hours a night.” Whenever she feels sleep-deprived, she’ll grab a 20-minute power nap. “It makes a huge difference,” she says.