It’s the end of March and I’m just now discovering that it has been National Nutrition Month. How did that not make it onto my calendar? 😉 Did you know that? Okay, so occasions like this are obviously not big national events, but who says that they can’t be great excuses to make some positive changes in your lifestyle?
Even in these last few days of March, you can begin making some choices that, if you stick with them, could become habits for the remainder of the year and beyond. Here are just a few ideas of little choices you can make to improve the nutrition you and your family get on a daily basis.
1. Snacks. Choose fruit, nuts, and veggies instead of prepackaged foods for snacks. This is an easy one to do. Just pack some grapes, an apple, baby carrots, raisins, or cashews in your children’s lunch instead of that bag of chips or gummies. Do the same for yourself. When you are tempted to go the pantry for chips, crackers, or cookies, grab an apple instead.
2. Drinks. Stop drinking soda. Would you ever think to consume 9 teaspoons of sugar in just one sitting? Probably not. That’s what you’re doing every time you drink a can of soda. This may be a good time to stop. Does it sound impossible? Just begin cutting out one per week. If you only drink one a day, that’ll be easy. I know people who drink multiple cans/cups of soda each day. Replace it with water, juice, or better yet lemon water!
3. Green Veggies. Try to include green veggies somewhere in your meals each day. Throw some steamed spinach or broccoli into a smoothie. Make a kale salad. My latest favorite is brussels sprouts. Roast some of those and mix in a little garlic, parsley butter sauce and it’s easy to forget about anything else on the menu!
It’s the number one new year’s resolution because it’s, among other things, not very easy to do. It’s not the weight loss itself that’s difficult, it’s the changes, the choices we have to change that we prefer to keep as they are, that make the process difficult. But, if you think of weight loss in the context of baby steps, then everyone can do the following three things and lose weight this year (even with just about one quarter of the year behind us)!
1. Baby steps. Make one healthy choice this week. Instead of having dessert every night, cut it out during the week or on the weekend. The following week, make an additional change while keeping the first one. Maybe you can eat an apple instead of a bag of chips as part of your lunch.
This concept is backed by a study done by the National Institute of Health, which showed that people lost more weight and kept it off for longer periods of time when they made small, gradual changes to their lifestyles.
2. Skip commercials. I know that technology now often allows us to fast forward through commercials. However, for those of us who still have commercials to sit through, take the time to get your body moving. If you don’t see commercials anymore, just hit that pause button for a minute or two for a workout. Anyone can do a 1-2 minute workout, right? Do as many jumping jacks as you can in a minute. Attempt a few push ups. Jump rope.
Did you know that adding five minutes of exercise (cardiovascular) translates into burning 30 to 50 calories? Burning that many calories per day means potentially losing 4 pounds in a year. Just imagine what 10, 15, or 20 minutes a day could do.
3. Make your own lunch. Don’t go to the vending machine, or the fast food restaurant, or even the grocery store for a something quick and easy for lunch. Make your own. You’ll cut calories, sodium, and sugar because processed foods are full of all those obstacles to your weight loss. You’ll save money and feel better as a result.
What baby steps have you taken to lose weight?
Could you use a thrifty and yummy health tip today? We all know that there are so many things we have to think about making sure we get. Vitamin C. Vitamin D3. Omega-3s. Minerals. Anti-oxidants. Protein. Water. Good fats. The list goes on and on. We know that. That’s why it’s so nice to find out that there are yummy sources of multiple elements of a healthy diet. If I can kill two birds with one stone (and have it be an enjoyable experience), then that’s what I want to do.
Dark Chocolate. We have already read about the anti-oxidants in dark chocolate. We also know that dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa) contains mood boosting compounds. But, did you know that chocolate that is 70-85% cocoa is a great source of fiber? Yep. One gram of dark chocolate contains 3 grams of fiber. So, get your antioxidants, your fiber, and feel good about it all with a yummy treat.
Almonds. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E, B complex vitamins, minerals, such as potassium, calcium, iron, and zinc. But, they are also rich in fiber. Another surprise, right? One cup of almonds contains 4 grams of fiber. Just remember to keep it to about a cup, though, because those calories add up quickly with nuts!
Avocados. There’s a reason it’s called a superfood. In just one fifth of a medium sized avocado, you get about 20 minerals and vitamins. The fat in avocados is the “good fat,” which assists in weight loss by satisfying hunger and increasing metabolism. In addition to all the properties that contribute to its “superfood” status, avocado contains 7 grams of fiber in just one half of an avocado. How could you not include avocado in your next meal, whichever meal it may be!
What are your favorite “multipurpose” foods? 😉
We have all heard that we all need calcium for strong, healthy bones. But did you know that calcium is also responsible for muscle and nerve function as well as enabling our blood to clot normally? Calcium deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, and women have an increased risk with age. We tend to think, however, that getting the proper amount of calcium requires the recommended three glasses of a dairy product daily. Most of us are not drinking three glasses of milk in a week, much less a day! I know people who are allergic to dairy; they surely cannot drink that much milk. In reality, though, we can get calcium from many other non-dairy sources.
In case you are allergic to dairy or you, like me, outgrew your desire to drink that much milk a few decades ago, here are a few foods that may interest you.
Non-Dairy Milks. Soy, rice, and nut milks also provide calcium. Keep in mind that in addition to drinking the milk, you can also cook with it and still get the much needed calcium.
Kale. There’s a reason it’s called a superfood. It’s full of so many nutrients… including calcium. One cup of kale will meet 10 percent of the daily requirement.
Bok Choy. I’m thrilled to see Bok Choy on the list because we had a garden full of it last season. One cup of shredded Bok Choy will give you 15 percent of the daily requirement. Maybe we should plant Bok Choy again? Hmmm…
Broccoli. Broccoli is one of my all time favorite veggies. It’s full of lots of vitamins and minerals, including calcium. One cup of chopped broccoli will provide you with 5 percent of the daily requirement. Oh, eat two cups worth! Make it 10 percent at dinner alone!
Spinach. Here’s another one of my favorites. It tastes great no matter how it’s cooked and it’s full of nutrients. One cup of this dark leafy veggie amounts to 25 percent of the daily requirement! I’m happy to say that we do have spinach seeds planted in our spring garden.
How do you get your calcium?
I’m sure some of you are already rolling your eyes at the thought of not taking a shower every day. Of course, if you are like me, then you are hopeful that your current pattern might be justified by some authority on health and medicine. Well, if you are in that second group, you are right.
Dr. Joseph Mercola makes the claim that daily showers are actually not good for our health. He explains that we all have beneficial bacteria living on our skin. It works to fight off bad bacteria we are exposed to. But every time we lather up our favorite shower soap, gel, or shampoo, we rid our skin of that good bacteria and the protection it provides. He also suggests that limiting showers would be one major way to conserve water for the sake of the environment.
The natural question arises, of course, about how often to shower. Dr. Mercola suggests that if there’s need, because of body odor, to shower more than once per week (which used to be the standard before the advertising industry got a hold of the bathing and showering market), then it’s important to limit the amount of soap used.
Here are a few tips for healthy showering according to the doctor.
1. When showering, make sure you use warm, rather than hot, water. That’s a tough one because I do love a hot shower at this time of the year. Hot water is harder on the skin than warm water is.
2. When you shower, limit your use of soap to the areas that most need it. He suggests arm pits, groin, and the soles of your feet.
3. As soon as you get out of the shower, moisturize! He suggests getting a generous scoop of coconut oil to seal the moisture all over your body.
Do you shower every day? What do you think of the concept of limiting showers for the sake of our health and our environment?
Years ago, when I was a member of a gym, I used to joke that the gym would finally be back to normal in March. We all know why. Those who had “resolved” to get fit got discouraged, didn’t see all the weight loss or fit-ness happen fast enough, or just gave up. Well, even if you are not a member of a gym, this is the time (if you did make a resolution) that your resolve, your motivation, your hope is tested. Don’t give up! Here are a few tips to help you maximize your weight loss in case you didn’t see the results you’d hoped for in the last two months.
1. Vary your workout. Be sure that whatever you consider your workouts include aerobic activity, strength training, and stretching. Cardio alone may not be sufficient for weight loss. Strength training builds muscle, and more muscle translates into better metabolism. So, be sure you’re working on building your strength at least twice a week. If you do the same workout every day, change it. Add weights. Increase weights. Add time. Add intensity. Do interval training. All those changes will change your workout, strengthen your muscles, and improve your ability to lose weight.
2. Watch those extra calories. Sometimes when we work out, we give ourselves the liberty to indulge more than we would when we are not working out. There’s not much room for indulging if you are trying to lose weight. If you want something special, then be sure to cut the equivalent number of calories elsewhere.
3. Exercise is not just what happens at the gym. Be careful not to let yourself get lazy the rest of the day. Let your workout time inspire you to keep moving. If you slow down from your normal pace, you may also cut the number of total calories you’d normally burn on any given day. So, take the stairs and park a little farther. The more you move, the more calories you’ll burn.
How do you maximize your workouts?
There are so many expensive products claiming to make your hair smooth, shiny, and healthy. These products may very well do just that. However, at this point in my life, I can’t see myself ever putting a lot of money into my hair. On a limited budget, putting food on the table takes precedence over shiny hair. But, did you know that putting certain foods on that table will give you strong, healthy, shiny hair? Talking about killing two birds with one stone.
Here are some of the foods that will nourish your body and your hair.
1. Fish. Salmon and tuna, in particular, are full of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. All of those are essential for healthy hair. If you’re not a big fish eater, taking some fish oil supplements every day sure can’t hurt!
2. Dark leafy greens. Aren’t they good for just about everything?! Well, they are full of vitamin A, iron, calcium, and vitamin D. It’s easy to make a salad out of spinach or kale; of course, sautéing spinach takes only about 5 minutes. So, include some of those dark leafy greens in your meals each day.
3. Nuts. Almonds, pecans, and walnuts, in particular, are full of protein, minerals, biotin, and vitamin E. All of which are necessary for healthy hair. Just sprinkle a few into your salad, onto your cooked vegetables, or into a little bowl for a snack.
4. Sweet potatoes. What a sweet way to take care of your hair…and to treat yourself! Sweet potatoes are full of vitamin A. You and your hair will also get vitamin C, iron, and calcium when you eat a sweet potato.
5. Eggs. Eggs have gotten a bad rep over the years. I think they have finally been redeemed as a good-for-you food. And because they are a great source of protein, iron, biotin and contain vitamins A and E, they are great for your hair, too!
These are some fun and tasty ways to take care of your hair, don’t you agree?
Health trends come and go so often that it can actually be difficult to keep up! Some trends last long enough that we may not question their veracity. So, here are a few health tips for those of us who are watching our weight, trying to eat healthy, and aiming to live healthy lifestyles.
1. “Diet” Foods. You know what I mean. It’s usually in the frozen section with a big label telling you how much fat and how many calories are in the tiny box that contains an entire meal. Or, maybe it’s a protein bar that’s supposed to take the place of a meal. In either case, the “diet” food is supposed to sate your hunger with fewer calories than a non-diet meal. There are problems with this type of food. First, most people are left unsatisfied and hungry. Next, it’s normally full of additives and preservatives that are simply not healthy for your body, even if you are not trying to lose weight. Last, our bodies burn more calories from real, whole foods than they do processed foods (probably because of all those preservatives). Go with real food. Stay away from processed foods, regardless of their labels.
2. Fat. For decades, we were told to avoid fat. Foods were labeled “low fat” and “fat free.” And if you grew up in my era, you equated “low fat” and “fat free” with “healthy.” But, in reality, our bodies need good fats, like the fat we get in avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, and flax seed. That fat helps increase our metabolism, thereby helping burn more calories. We also tend to be more satisfied eating real foods with real fat than we do “low fat” foods. As a result, we actually eat less when we eat real foods with good fat.
3. Moderation. Moderation is important even if you are eating good, healthy food. It’s possible to overeat anything, even good, nutritious, healthy, whole foods. Listening to our bodies is critical. It’s great to replace your processed cereal with oatmeal for breakfast. However, it’s possible to eat too much oatmeal. It’s great to have smoothies for lunch. However, it’s possible to have too much.
How do you maintain a healthy lifestyle?