Friday, September 30, 2016

Build a Healthy Lunchbox

It’s every parents' struggle: how do you pack a lunch box with foods that are healthy yet still appealing to your kids? With a few simple tips, you can win the lunch struggle and make school lunch a happy and healthy part of your child’s day.
  1. Include your child in preparing their lunch. Give them the opportunity to choose which healthy options they would prefer. They will be more likely to eat all of their lunch instead of throwing it away if they have a choice in their meal selections.
  2. Add a fun treat to their lunch. Healthy options include fruit cut into fun shapes or a homemade trail mix.
  3. Add color and variety to their lunch. No one wants to eat the same foods every day. Add small portions of colorful fruits and veggies and make sure to mix it up and choose a different fruit and/or veggie each day.
  4. Don’t overwhelm your child. A typical school lunch only lasts 20 minutes. Pack them enough food so they can realistically eat during the time period and do not throw their lunch away. Focus on filling their lunch box with foods that are quick and easy to eat.
Bottom Line: A nutritious lunch is important to help your child focus and get through their school day. Finding a happy balance between a lunch that is nutritious and delicious is a win/win for both you and your child! Looking for some lunch box inspiration? Check out these recipes

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FODMAPS: Friend or Foe?

Many people suffer from gastrointestinal discomfort without knowing the cause or how to ease their discomfort. For some people, FODMAPs may be the culprit. FODMAP is an acronym for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.

FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates that pull water into the gut, which can cause bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation. These symptoms may be remedied by following a low-FODMAP diet. A low-FODMAP diet calls for elimination of foods that are high in fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans and polyols.
  • Fructose is found in fruits and sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup and honey.
  • Milk, ice cream and soft cheeses are all high in lactose.
  • Polyols are sugar alcohols and are found in foods such as sugar-free foods, peaches, cherries, mushrooms and cauliflower.
  • Galactan-rich foods include beans, broccoli and soy-based products.
  • Foods that are high in fructans include wheat, onions and garlic. 
To determine which FODMAPS are causing gastrointestinal discomfort, foods high in any of the FODMAPs should be eliminated for six to eight weeks. Those with sensitivity to FODMAPS should feel relief upon elimination of high-FODMAP foods. After six to eight weeks, the reintroduction period begins. FODMAP foods should be gradually reintroduced one group at a time in order to decipher which foods cause discomfort. It is important to reintroduce as many FODMAP foods as possible to prevent limiting too many of these healthy nutrient-dense food choices from the diet.

Bottom Line:  The low-FODMAP diet can be very helpful for those suffering from gastrointestinal problems, such as IBS. The low-FODMAP diet eliminates many healthy, nutrient-dense foods, so it should only be followed by those hoping to ease gastrointestinal distress. If you are interested in trying a low-FODMAP diet to ease your symptoms, consult a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) to ensure that you follow a plan individualized for you.

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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Why Try Chia?

A funny tune may come to mind when you hear the word “chia.” Cha-cha-cha-cha-chia! Chia is more than the clay pots with greenery posing as fur or hair. It is a seed named Salvia Hispanic L, a traditional food in central and southern America. Chia seeds have a high oil content and are a good source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, specifically alpha linoleic acid (ALA). Chia seeds may be small, but they pack in protein, carbohydrates, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc.

Research suggests that consuming chia seeds may help reduce cardiovascular risk factors by lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. The seeds are very mild in taste and are considered by some to be flavorless. They can be eaten raw, whole or ground. Depending on what you put them in, chia seeds serve as a nice added crunch to a dish or a pleasant gelatinous texture when added to liquid. To add some omega-3s and extra fiber (five grams per tablespoon) to your meal, try these easy tips to incorporate chia seeds into the foods you already eat:
  • Raw Chia (crunch): sprinkle on cereals, salads, vegetables, toast or rice
  • Soaked Chia (gelatinous): swirl in yogurt, juice, smoothies and baked goods
  • Chia Sprouts: add to sandwiches, salads and soups just before serving

Bottom line: Don’t let the size of chia seeds fool you; these tiny seeds are nutrient dense, packed with omega-3s and fiber. Research suggests consuming chia seeds may improve cardiovascular risk factors and make a great addition to a heart healthy diet. Interested in growing your own chia sprouts? Get more information on growing and using chia sprouts here.

Source 1 Source 2

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Save Money With Exercise

Looking for another incentive to exercise? A new study revealed that regular exercise can reduce yearly health care costs by $2,500. It is known that a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and some forms of cancer. The worldwide economic cost of sedentary lifestyles is $68 billion per year resulting from a combination of missed work days and medical bills. Researchers recently looked into exactly how much money a sedentary lifestyle may be taking out of your wallet.

The study analyzed the exercise habits of 26,239 men and women and then divided them into two groups, those who exercised frequently and those who did not. They based their criteria for frequent exercise on the Physical Activity Guidelines that recommends moderate exercise for 30 minutes, 5 days per week.

The researchers then looked at participants medical spending for the year 2012. They found that those who met the exercise guidelines had significantly lower medical costs, with an average savings of $2,500 for the year. Those who lead active lifestyles saved, on average, $400 per year on prescription medications alone. These individuals also visited the doctor’s office less often and had fewer trips to the emergency room.

This study focused the beneficial effects of exercise on cardiovascular health, indicating yearly savings may be much greater when considering the impact of physical activity on other chronic diseases. Additionally, those with good health weren’t the only money savers; those with heart disease who had a consistent exercise routine also had significant medical savings compared to those with heart disease who did not exercise.

Bottom Line: If a healthier lifestyle isn’t enough of a reason to exercise, then consider the benefits of exercise on your wallet. A consistent exercise routine keeps you healthy and delivers long-term financial savings. If you find a gym membership to be too cost prohibitive, consider running, walking or hiking, or look into free or low-cost exercise classes offered in your community.

Source 1   Source 2

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Healthy Meals on a Budget

Cooking healthy can be convenient AND affordable. Leanne Brown, author of Good and Cheap, suggests the following:
  • “Give grains a chance.” Think beyond quinoa and explore many raw ancient grains in your local market. If you can make a dish with one grain, you can surely make it with another. Don’t feel like you have to follow recipes strictly. For example, swap out quinoa for barley, farro or bulgur in your next dish.
  • “Skip the pre-washed, pre-packaged produce.” Choosing produce that’s in its most natural state not only saves on labor costs but also allows you to be more resourceful. For example, buy beets whole so that you can roast them and use the greens in a sauté. This eliminates food waste, packs an extra nutrient punch and adds a meal or two. Try to keep an eye on what’s in season and adjust recipes accordingly when possible. Produce is not only less expensive but also packs more nutrition and flavor when consumed at peak freshness.
  • “Don’t be afraid to experiment.” Get creative in the kitchen in order to keep mealtime exciting. When you read about other cultures or travel to new places, take note of varying food combinations. For example, Brown suggests adding popcorn to salads in place of croutons as they do in Peru. Substituting ingredients can liven up any recipe.
  • “Repurpose veggies that are past their prime.” Just because those wilted greens aren’t salad worthy doesn’t mean they can’t be thrown in stir fry, soup or quiche. The zest of citrus fruit can give the simplest dishes, such as hummus, ample flavor. Brown also suggests using leeks and scallions from root to tip rather than only the white part in order to avoid food waste. 

Bottom Line: Many claim that healthy food is too expensive or cooking meals takes too much time, but there are many ways to save money and time in the kitchen while still nourishing your body. Before getting overwhelmed, start with a few simple tips and tricks to make the meal prep process easier; small steps add up fast!

Source 1 Source 2

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Is Sleep Deprivation Hurting Your Health?

Do you have trouble falling asleep? How many hours are you logging? Is your sleep interrupted? Recent research links sleep deprivation to memory, learning and mental health disorders. Science has proven that the brain’s neurons can become over connected and muddled with electrical activity when deprived of sleep, which prevents new memories from being properly stored. Sleep is essentially a ‘reset button’ for our daily activities of memory, learning and adaptation. It is hypothesized that the brain’s cells strengthen throughout the day as more information is retained and eventually become saturated. The brain is able to absorb and store this information while making room for tomorrow’s activities when at rest. Missing just one night of adequate sleep can decrease neuron responsiveness and impair the process of writing memories.

Christoph Nissen, the psychiatrist conducting the study, found that therapeutic sleep deprivation can be used to treat mental health disorders through alteration of brain connectivity. About 60 percent of participants showed significant improvement in mood, motivation and cognitive function within hours. Many patients did relapse after the following night’s sleep. Though this may not be a sustainable method of treatment, these findings provide a deeper understanding of the brain and shifts in mood.

Nissen says “This work shows us that sleep is a highly active brain process and not a waste of time. It’s required for healthy brain function.”

Bottom Line: For the general population, research has proven that eight hours of sleep every night is crucial to optimal brain function and memory retention. If you are having trouble falling asleep, turn off your electronics and give this foam rolling routine a try.


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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Exercise Tips: Getting Started

Starting a new exercise routine can be daunting if you are not in a regular habit of working out. It is recommended that everyone gets 150 minutes of exercise per week. Here are some tips to help you get started: 

  • Assess your own level of fitness and come up with goals that you can realistically achieve. Consult with your doctor to make sure you are healthy enough to begin a new exercise routine.
  • Find something that you enjoy! If you enjoy your workout, you are more likely to continue for the long-term. Don’t be afraid to try a few different workouts until you find the one that is right for you.
  • Start slow. Build up to your goal workout instead of trying to achieve your ultimate objective right away. If your goal is to run your first 5K, start off with one mile and build up to running a 5K.
  • Add variety to your exercise routine. It can be boring to exercise the same way every day. Mix it up with different classes and activities. Aim for two days of strength training and three to four days of cardio per week.
  • Make exercise a habit. It’s much easier to maintain your workout if you build it in to your daily routine. Try to exercise at the same time each day at a time that fits into your schedule.

Bottom Line: Exercise plays an important role in maintaining health. Beginning a new exercise routine can be challenging but following the tips above will help you maintain your fitness routine and reach your goals.

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