NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Coconut Oil: Good or Bad Nutrition?

ThinkstockPhotos-690357892.jpgCoconut oil definitely seemed like the food craze of the year in 2016. People were putting it on and in everything, from baked goods to coffee and lots of food choices in between. People were using it as moisturizer and hair cream; it was the cure for all! However, in June 2017 the American Heart Association came out with a statement advising against using this oil. So, should you ditch those giant bottles in your pantry, hold onto them just in case more research flips the advice again, or keep using it daily?

What Are the Arguments Against It?

The reason for the new report is that 7 out of 7 studies found that coconut oil, which we know is very high in saturated fat, raised LDL or bad cholesterol levels. They established no difference between it and other high-saturated-fat oils like butter and beef fat. Interesting to know is that coconut oil is 82% saturated fat versus 63% in butter and 50% in beef fat.

One reason coconut oil was touted to be so healthy and good for you was the high amount of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which the body can break down much more easily than the longer-chain triglycerides found in fatty meats, dairy, and oils. MCTs have been found in studies to raise heart-healthy HDL cholesterol and help with weight loss by increasing your metabolism, which is why so many people see the benefit of this oil. Keep in mind that it is a fat, which means it is very calorie dense. One tablespoon has 117 calories. Therefore, if weight loss is your main goal, you still need to calculate this in when coming up with an appropriate calorie count for you.

Use Other Plant-Based Oils

What we do know is that plant-based fats such as olive and vegetable oil, nuts, and avocados have been found time and time again to be heart healthy. These are the type of fats that should make up the majority of fat in your diet on a daily basis. Using these oils for cooking and baking should be a priority. Adding in other fats sparingly can be a part of a healthy diet.

Nutrition Advice Is Always Changing

The science of nutrition is constantly changing, so it is important to be aware of this. That’s why the policy of a balanced diet with everything in moderation is key. Even if every new research study showed the health benefits of coconut oil, that still doesn’t give you a pass to consume it in unlimited quantities. And remember, many of those wonderful uses are completely calorie free when you aren’t ingesting it!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition calories fat diet trends

Fabulous Farmers’ Markets: Nutrition and Healthy Summer Fun

ThinkstockPhotos-492361906.jpgOne of my favorite things to do during summer in Indiana is to visit the various farmers’ markets around the Indianapolis area. As a dietitian I am a sucker for the fresh fruits and veggies, but I also love the homemade desserts, candles, pasta, kettle corn, fresh flowers, and other wonderful items you can find.

The Top 5 Reasons to Shop at Your Local Market

Here are my top 5 reasons why visiting your local farmer’s market is a must.

  1. Support the local community. Since the produce is grown and purchased locally, the money remains in the community and stimulates the local economy. Also, when you shop at the farmers’ market you are cutting out the middle man, and the product is generally less expensive than if you purchased it in the grocery store.
  2. Eat foods that are in season. Farmers’ market produce is picked ripe and sold soon after picking. Supermarket produce, on the other hand, can take up to two weeks to travel from the farm to the store, even when it is in season. The produce tastes richer and more flavorful and the nutrients are better retained. This handout for Indiana allows you to see which produce is in season so you can plan ahead for meals and shopping on your next outing. If you don’t live in Indiana, check with your local government websites to see if they have a similar calendar to help you make the best local eating choices.
  3. It’s good for you. The average American eats 4.4 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The current recommendations are 9 servings per day. Picking up multiple servings of fruits and veggies and incorporating them into recipes, meals, and snacks is a great way to get closer to the 9-serving-per-day-goal. This will guarantee you are meeting your recommended vitamin and mineral nutrition requirements, increasing your daily fiber intake, and acquiring cancer-fighting antioxidants. Locally grown produce is also lower in pesticides and chemicals.
  4. You can talk to the farmers who grew the food you are about to eat. You can meet the farmers who grew your food, ask when it was picked, how it was grown, and ways to prepare it. When else do you get the opportunity to learn so much about what you are putting in your mouth?
  5. There is certain to be one that fits your location and schedule. I love being able to go to the local farmers’ market close to work on my lunch break mid-week to grab items to get me through the rest of the week. Saturday mornings it’s off to the farmers’ market closer to my house to purchase goodies for the weekend and first part of the next week. To find out farmers’ markets close to you, check out the Farmers Market Directory on the USDA website.

An Inexpensive Way to Stock Up for Healthy Eating

Whether you are picking up items for tonight’s dinner or for the whole week, the local farmers’ market is an inexpensive, healthy alternative to the grocery store. Try to get there early to get the best variety and options. Not all vendors accept credit cards, so be sure to have cash on hand. Finally, bring along your own reusable grocery bag to put all of your goodies in so it is easier to carry home your fresh, delicious finds.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition healthy eating summer Indianapolis vegetables antioxidants local eating

Allison Anderson on the Benefits of NIFS Tri-Training

Allison-3.jpg It’s triathlon season and 2016 program participant Allison Anderson is coming back for another round. Many people come back to try something a second time, and for Allison there was no question whether she was going to tri again!

I took some time to talk with Allison about her experience with the NIFS Tri-Training Program and what inspired her to do it. Take a few moments to hear what she has to say.

What made you decide to
join NIFS Go Girl Tri-Training Program?

I saw the Go Girl training advertised on the NIFS Instagram. I immediately thought, "I can swim, I can ride a bike, and I can run/walk 3 miles. Let's do this!" The training was intense, but it prepared me for what was ahead. I was also interested because it was an all-female race. It seemed a little less intimidating than competing in a male/female triathlon.

What was your favorite part of the training?

Swimming! I was a swimmer in high school and was missing the workouts. The swimming aspect of the tri was the deciding factor for me. I was ready to take on the challenge again.

What did the group training program offer you that you wouldn’t have been able to do on your own?

The training program offered a full training plan, the opportunity to find others that were around the same level, and information on appropriate nutrition and food choices.

Allison-1.jpgWho would you recommend this training program for?

This training program would be great for any woman interested in participating in a triathlon. There are multiple levels of intensity, so it is appropriate for everyone. The NIFS staff is helpful with all levels, encouraging beginners and challenging veterans. 

Do you have any recommendations for those in the training program?

Have fun and follow your training plan. Following the training plan to a t will help you be as successful as you can. Making a friend who works at the same pace is encouraging and gives you accountability to keep working out, even when the whole group isn't working together. It's also nice to see that someone is working toward the same goal as you are. 

***

If you are a woman looking for a new challenge like a triathlon, or maybe you’re a seasoned veteran in triathlons but are looking for a training group, the Women’s Triathlon Training Program may be just what you are looking for!

Spaces are limited! Register now so that you don’t miss out!

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS nutrition group training swimming triathlon accountability triathlon training program

Hawaii 5-0: Five Island Wellness Habits We Should All Practice

ThinkstockPhotos-124816527.jpgBack in March I spent 5 fantastic days in Maui with my wife and her family, and as you can probably imagine, I had the best time of my life there! I have been so lucky these past 9 years to be included on my wife’s family vacations and have had the opportunity to visit some amazing places, each one better than the last. For that, I am extremely thankful!

Having the opportunity to travel is a pretty new concept to me, and the memories that are made and the realignment after some time off are priceless. I am beginning to believe that taking time to travel and explore new places ranks pretty high on the wellness scale, and I would urge anyone to make it happen. Maybe it’s not Maui, but do make it a goal to travel to a new place often and experience what the world has to offer.

Maui provided so many new experiences for me, some very surprising and unexpected and some life-changing. For example, wild chickens run around all over the place and are not that afraid of the human folk. SPAM isn’t discontinued; it thrives in the islands (still scratching my head on that one). And oh, jet lag is truly a thing; I never put much stock in the jet lag phenomenon, but it’s legit.

What I will take with me forever after this amazing, probably once-in-a-lifetime trip, are some of the life habits of the true islanders. Now of course it is still America, and there are those who take the island for granted and act as many do here in the mainland. But those who are native to the island or who are truly captured by the immense spirit of its origins and traditions, these are 5 habits they practice. I think anyone can benefit from them, no matter where they are in the world.

Aloha the One You’re With

Easily the most recognizable Hawaiian term, aloha has a lot more meaning than simply “hi” and “bye.” Hawaii is not the Hi and Bye state! Aloha means love and affection, as well as hello and goodbye. I think it’s a very good thing that when you see someone you let them know you care about them, and when they must go, you remind them that you love them. Make it a point to tell the ones who mean the most that you love them the most. And while you’re at it, share a little love with a stranger by simply holding the door for them, or buying that cup of coffee for the next person in line. Saying Mahalo, or thank you, for everything to everybody can go a long way toward making someone’s day. Bottom line: share the love!

Pau Hana: Make Time for Recovery

Work is done (pau hana); it is time to chill! Hawaiians work hard so they can relax even harder, and how can you not find relaxation in a place like that? But we usually don’t find time to relax and recover; instead we find more things to do, work out even harder, and not get a good night’s sleep of 7–8 hours a night. Taking time off, in this case from exercise, should be viewed as part of your training. When you find times throughout your day to relax, even for a few minutes, it can add productivity to your work day and help keep you fresh for family time when you get home as well as help lower stress levels. Now we may not be able to stretch out on the beach for a nice long nap every day, but we can find ways to chill out and retool that work for us.

Ono Grinds: Good Nutrition That’s Delicious

Good food (ono grinds) can be found all over Maui and includes items you may not find anywhere else. Have you ever had eggfruit? Neither had I until I visited Maui, and it is delicious. You can find fresh local fruits and vegetables as well as lean meats that are native to Hawaii all over the place there. Hawaiians take their food very seriously, I found. And I can argue that you can find the same quality of foods near you. You may have to skip out on the eggfruit for now, but there are plenty of markets, even year round, that can supply you with fresh fruits and vegetables. I don’t think I need to reiterate the importance of choosing foods that are close to their source; we’ve covered that many times in the past. Find a market and go shop there! While you’re there, pick up something you’ve never tried before and go for it. You never know; you might find your new favorite food. Hawaiians take pride in their food and how they enjoy it, as should we.

Hoike ia & Nani: Adventure and Beauty

Search for hoike ia (adventure) and find nani (beauty) whenever you can! Some of my fondest memories of my trip were long, relaxing walks along the ocean to soak up and be mesmerized by the beauty that surrounded me. Breathtaking views of sunrises and sunsets, whales breaching, and turtles swimming were served up in abundance. It was impossible not to become entranced with it all and find yourself searching your soul and losing yourself in the moment. So many opportunities for adventure and being surrounded by nature were available to me daily, and I took advantage of every minute. From snorkeling and whale watching, to watching the sunrise at the top of the largest volcano on the island and then riding a bike down the side of it, there were so many adventures and so much beauty to be had.

You may not have a volcano right outside your back door, but there is beauty and adventure to be had anywhere, you just have to take time to act on it and then appreciate it. This beauty and adventure will not be found in the television or on Facebook, you have to get out there and seize it.

Ohana and Moolelo: Family and Tradition

I learned the Hawaiian translation for family (ohana) early in the trip and found that ohana means a great deal to the people who live there. I couldn’t help but feel the overpowering sense of family and moolelo (tradition) with the people who live on the island. I truly felt as if I was part of the large Hawaiian ohana by the way I was treated by most. We attended a luau during our time there and the tradition that was on display was captivating. We were treated as if we had lived there for years, and they truly felt that we were a part of the family, even if it was just for that night. That’s a feeling that is pretty rare in most places, but it doesn’t have to be. I was pretty jealous that they make such a huge deal about their heritage, traditions, and ohana that we here in the mainland just don’t do.

If you take anything from this post, please make your ohana the most important thing in your life. Don’t let a day go by without telling those people that make up your ohana how much they mean to you. These most important people in your life may not always be here; cherish and celebrate them with your own ohana mau moolelo (family traditions) as much as you can.

***

My trip to Maui has left me with long-lasting changes to the way I view the world and treat each day. And although I am describing takeaways from the islands, you can find inspiration and meaning anywhere. It will all be determined by the way your eyes perceive what you are looking at. Find the beauty, search for some adventure with your ohana, take time to relax and recover while enjoying some ono grinds, and spread the love!

Mahalo and Aloha!

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This blog was written by Tony Maloney, ACSM Certified Exercise Physiologist and Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition stress recovery inspiration wellness

Exercise and Nutrition Tips for Pregnancy

ThinkstockPhotos-585091536.jpgAfter spending some time a few weeks back with my pregnant sister-in-law, it dawned on me the essentials of knowing what to do in terms of nutrition and exercise during each trimester of pregnancy. We spent some time working out together and talking about what is safe, what to avoid, and the changes that the body goes through. And while most of the blogs that we write tend to revolve around our comfort level and expertise, I thought I’d get out on a limb a little bit and write about some key things regarding exercise and nutrition while pregnant.

 

Trimester 1 (Weeks 1–12)

Nutrition: Not a lot of nutrition changes occur during the first trimester of pregnancy. During this time you might experience some of the more common unpleasant side effects of all of those hormones your body is producing—mainly nausea. Most research shows the best way to keep the nausea at bay is to constantly keep some food in your stomach. This could be crackers, fruit, half a sandwich, yogurt, etc. The key is to eat frequent meals throughout the day. For those that have nausea the worst in the morning, this might mean setting an alarm in the middle of the night to have a snack. Your calorie needs are not higher during this time and your weight should stay the same.

Exercise: During your first trimester, it’s typically okay to continue most things. You should continue whatever workout program you have been doing. Exercise is good for both you and your baby to assist in your mood, energy levels, weight, and overall health, so keep exercising; and if you don’t currently work out, try to start moderately. While most exercise is good, there are some things that you want to avoid. Make sure you avoid exercises done laying on your back, movements where your feet are in the air above your head (common in yoga and headstands), too much twisting of the abdomen, and explosive movements. Pay attention through the entire pregnancy to your temperature: keep yourself cool and regulate your breathing, being sure not to be overly strained.

Trimester 2 (Weeks 13–27)

Nutrition: The key thing to keep in mind is that you are not eating for two. Your body and your baby require only an additional 300 extra calories per day for the second and third trimester. Ideally, these calories will come from food sources that are good for you and the baby. Here is a list of important nutrients and an average goal to achieve:

  • Protein: 75–100g each day to help with brain development and increasing your blood supply for the baby. Lean sources such as chicken, cooked fish, pork, eggs, beans, and nuts or nut butters are important to incorporate at meals and snacks. Keeping track with a food-logging app such as MyFitnessPal is the easiest way to reach your goal.
  • Calcium: 1,000mg each day to help form the baby’s bones and tooth buds. This is around three to four servings of dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, or cheese each day. In addition, eating foods such as leafy greens and fortified foods is another way to reach this goal.
  • Iron: 27mg per day is ideal to help increase blood volume. The best sources of iron are leafy greens, whole grains, and lean seafood.
  • Folic acid: 600–800mcg per day to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. This can be achieved by consuming a balanced diet with plenty of fruit, veggies, whole grains, and lentils.

Exercise: It is important to continue your fitness routine; however, you want to choose activities that are low impact like walking or swimming. Most exercises during this trimester are safe in moderation. Because of the muscles being distended, you want to avoid exercises that are done overhead like the military press. Also, be sure to eliminate jumping exercises or things like outdoor biking where there is potential to fall onto your stomach. Continue to avoid exercises on the back and keep your heart rate and breathing under control.

Trimester 3 (Week 28–birth)

Nutrition: While trimester 2 and 3 follow the same nutrition guidelines, there are some important things to keep in mind with foods while being pregnant. Some foods have been known to cause harm to the developing baby. The best way to avoid this is to be sure all meats have been cooked to their proper temperatures. Also, reducing or eliminating the caffeine from your diet is recommended. Sticking to 200mg or less per day (the amount in 1 cup of coffee) is ideal. In addition, avoid fish high in mercury such as shark, swordfish, and mackerel and have only small amounts of canned white albacore tuna. Finally, deli meats have been known to have listeria, so if you are eating it heat up your meat in the microwave to kill any possible bacteria.

Exercise: It is important to continue low-impact exercises. If you are a runner or someone used to high- to moderate-intensity exercise, make sure that you consult your physician before continuing your routine. During the third trimester, there should not be any lifting of heavy weights due to the stress it puts on the ligaments. Again, do nothing on your back. The important thing is to get adequate rest and hydration as you prepare to meet your little one.

As you can see, exercise and nutrition are both essential pieces to having a healthy pregnancy and birth of your child. If you have any questions regarding either your exercise routine or nutrition, consult your doctor at the start of your pregnancy to ensure a safe trip down baby lane!

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager, and Angie Mitchell, Registered Dietitian. For more information about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: exercise nutrition fitness center pregnancy

How to Hydrate During Half Marathon Training

ThinkstockPhotos-650727070.jpgHydration is just as important, or maybe even more important, than proper nutrition and a balanced training plan. Dehydration is the largest contributor to fatigue when training or running. Our body sweats to regulate body temperature and complete many other functions that keep us healthy. When our body loses fluid and electrolytes through these processes, it needs to be replaced.

In order to be hydrated enough to enjoy your race, it’s important to think about consuming fuids before, during, and after the run.

Before: The days leading up to the race or a long run, it is important to really focus on constantly drinking water throughout the day so that on the day of the long run or race you are just topping off your tank. A general recommendation is to drink half of your body weight in oz. Example – a 150lb person would consume 75 oz of water.   It’s recommended to stop drinking about 30 minutes before a long run or race so you have time to use the facilities.

During: Drinking while running a half marathon may sound like a challenge, but actually taking a second to drink the water provided along the race course will make you feel SO much better at the finish line. Try to drink 16-20 oz an hour. This will vary depending on how much you sweat, how hot it is and the intensity of your exercise.

After: Proper hydration helps with recovery, so it’s essential to replenish when you complete your race. It’s typically recommended to drink about 24 oz for every pound of body weight lost during the race.

Now, you may be wondering about sports drinks. Sports drinks are higher in calories and sugar than water and they also contain electrolytes like potassium and sodium that your body lost through sweat. The purpose of sports drinks is to help replenish your body of the nutrients it lost. If you are running for more than an hour, sports drinks may be a better option to help you recover.Now that you understand WHEN to hydrate, let’s talk about HOW to hydrate:

How to Hydrate for a half marathon

Water Bottle:

I carry this water bottle with me throughout the day. I love that it has the measurements on the side, so I can monitor how much water I consume. Because I carry it with me, I am more inclined to drink throughout the day rather than all at once when I think about it.

Hydrating Fruits and Vegetables:

Foods such as lettuce, grapefruit, watermelon and broccoli have a high water content. Consuming foods like this throughout the day will help your hydration levels stay balanced.

Homemade Sports Drink:

This homemade sports drink is the perfect balance of carbohydrates and electrolytes to help you refuel AND it’s made with real ingredients. The citrus are thirst quenching and provide simple carbohydrates that are easily digested. Pure maple syrup is lower on the glycemic index, which means that these carbohydrates are digested at a slower rate for longer lasting energy. Water and the coconut water are both fluid, and the coconut water is also a source of electrolytes to help your body maintain balance.

It’s very simple to make at home, and I’ll include the link in the comments below!

The takeaway here is to make sure to drink water throughout the day, and when you are completing your longer runs or the actual race make sure to consume water or a sports drink every hour and immediately following the race to help maintain energy levels and aid in the recovery process.

Comment below with your favorite ways to hydrate and I’ll see you next time with more half marathon training tips!

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, nutirition specialist. Follow Tara on her blog, Treble in the Kitchen. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition running mini marathon hydration Mini-Marathon Training Program

3 Foods to Eat Before You Run

ThinkstockPhotos-617595994.jpgWe all know that having a wonderful training program is important, but that’s only one piece of the pie. Another key part of successfully training for a half marathon or endurance activity is having proper nutrition

If you don’t fuel your body with the nutrients it needs – a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and fat – you are likely to bonk and run out of energy mid run. And that isn’t fun for anyone! When I plan my foods to eat before a long run or workout, I make sure it has:

  • Easily digested carbs for long lasting energy
  • Protein for muscle repair and recovery
  • Small amount of Fat

It’s also important to make sure to consider the timing. Everyone is different, so it’s important to pay attention to what foods your body digests well and what makes you feel best.

It’s typically recommended to eat between 3 hours or 30 minutes before a workout.

My 3 favorite foods to eat before a long run or hard workout are:

  • A couple of dates stuffed with nut butter
    • Dates are filled with simple sugar, which is typically easily digested and the nut butter gives your body a bit of protein for recovery and healthy fat.
  • Larabar®
    • Larabars® are easy to grab. The ingredient list is full of real foods (dates, dried fruit, nuts) so they are a great source of those easily digested carbohydrates.
  • Carrots and Hummus
    • The hummus and carrots provide essential carbohydrates and the chickpeas in the hummus also provides the necessary protein for recovery with a small amount of fat.

Those are some of our favorite foods to eat within a 3 hour window before completing a long run.


Nutrition for the Pre-Run

Remember that everyone is different, and different foods and different timing may make you feel great! Try looking for your best source of carbs, protein and fat to eat within that 3 hour window before running. And make sure to do ALL experimenting before race day. Trying something new on race day could throw your entire race off!

Be sure to comment below with some of your favorite foods to eat before a training run!

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This blog was written by Tara Deal Rochford, nutirition specialist. Follow Tara on her blog, Treble in the Kitchen. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: cardio nutrition mini marathon protein carbs

The Danger of Yo-Yo Dieting and Weight Loss

ThinkstockPhotos-76755839.jpgYou lose 15 pounds. Then gain back 10. Then it’s time to try the newest diet out there and you lose 20 pounds. Then gain 20 back. Does this cycle sound familiar? This is called yo-yo dieting, or the cycle of gaining and losing the same pounds over and over again. This cycle is dangerous because of its long-term health effects. Hopefully reading through these dangers will prevent you from trying the next fad diet craze and instead adopt the theory of “slow and steady!”

Increased Risk of Heart Disease

The main concern with yo-yo dieting—or weight cycling, as it is also called—is heart disease. In November 2016, the American Heart Association released a study that found an increased risk of coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death in postmenopausal women who had yo-yo dieted. They found that the more times a person had lost and gained 10 pounds, the more hazardous it was to their hearts. Another theory for the danger is the sudden shifts in fluid and electrolytes, such as potassium, that can cause deadly heart arrhythmias.

The recommendations are to not lose more than 1 pound per week to help with these sudden changes in the body. The best way to do this is to use nutrition to decrease overall caloric intake by 250 calories per day while expending 250 calories through activity. We know that overall weight loss is still healthier for the heart than not losing at all. However, how you lose the weight is just as important.

After reading this, some people might think “Well, I guess I shouldn’t try to lose weight again for fear of regaining and doing more damage.” That is not the case. Even if it is your tenth time attempting to lose weight, it is beneficial to all parts of the body to lose the weight. This time, though, make it a realistic goal and then take off the weight slowly so that it stays off.

Top Weight-Loss Tips

The people who are most successful in losing weight and keeping it off all do a few things that have helped them keep achieving their goal:

  1. Follow a consistent exercise routine.
  2. Weigh themselves, but not more than once per week.
  3. Eat a diet based around produce, lean protein, and whole grains.
  4. Don’t skip meals.
  5. Control portion sizes.

Instead of signing up for popular fad diets, follow these five rules to lose weight and keep it off!

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss heart disease diets weight cycling

How to Make Weight Loss Successful

weight-loss-2.jpgLosing weight can be one of the most frustrating things to work at. We all know someone who has gone through it or may have experienced ourselves the constant ups and downs and carrying the heavy burden that goes along with it.

7 Steps to Reaching Your Goal Weight

It’s easy to feel defeated, let down, and not motivated to keep going when you don’t see the results that you want. And though sometimes the mountain seems impossible to climb, I am telling you that you can do it! By taking some simple steps, you can make weight loss your success story.

  • Log your workouts. While logging things can become tedious and something to easily obsess over, logging your workouts is a great way to keep you accountable and stay on track. With the million different apps and fitness wearables out there, logging your exercise is simple. The other additional perk that comes with logging your workout is that you can tangibly see the improvements you are making along the way.
  • Log your food. Logging your food is another great way to stay on track and focused to meet your goals. With nutrition apps out there like MyFitnessPal and Lose It!, food tracking is easy. Many of the apps even allow you to scan the barcode, and off you go. If apps aren’t your thing, log your food on paper. It’s important to find whatever works for you and realistically know how much you can eat per day to get you to where you want to be.
  • Get a support team. You need to find people around you to be your backbone. Friends, family, coworkers, or workout buddies will help you during the highs and lows of weight loss. It’s not all going to be easy, so when those times come that you need someone there to keep cheering you on, having a support team in place is key.
  • Discover how to fill idle time. We all are guilty: bored eating! You have nothing else to do so you find something to eat. And often the choices that you make during idle time are not the healthiest options. Find other ways to fill that down time so that you are not adding in a bunch of unnecessary calories.
  • Stop weighing yourself everyday. This is one of the most dangerous things when trying to lose weight. While I encourage getting on the scale routinely for accountability and progress checks, daily is not the answer. When people weigh themselves every single day and tend to not see the numbers drop on a 24-hour basis, depression and frustration set in. Do yourself a huge favor and weigh only every other week.
  • Take it easy. While your overall goal may be to lose 30 pounds, make sure that you have smaller markers to get to in the process. Too often we see people go to the extremes when trying to lose weight and not giving themselves enough time to get there. Don’t set yourself up for failure; your overall goal is of course to lose weight, but if you want to keep that weight off and have a much healthier lifestyle, take it slow and do it right!
  • Get to the root of the problem. Although this is listed last, it is probably the most important yet most challenging one. And though it’s an uncomfortable topic to bring up, we must talk about it. For every person who struggles with their weight, there is also a deeper struggle that has nothing to do with pounds. And often that reason is a deep-rooted issue that needs to be dealt with. Maybe you find comfort in food, or it’s your outlet for something challenging you are going through. Whatever the case may be, you are the only one who knows that. Work as hard as you can to deal with the root of the issue and find freedom in your weight loss.

Do It for Your Health

There are tons of ways to get to your goal. The most important thing is that you do it for yourself, for your family, and for your health. Here’s to a successful weight-loss journey!

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If you need help getting started NIFS has developed a serious weight loss program for people serious about weight loss. Ramp Up to Weight Loss is a 14-week membership that includes personalized plans and one-on-one workouts. Click below to learn more about Ramp Up.

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This blog was written by Amanda Bireline, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss accountability apps

Is Chocolate REALLY Good for You? The Nutrition Behind the Treat

ThinkstockPhotos-71264413.jpegYou’ve seen it on the news and read articles in magazines, but is it really true? Can chocolate actually be good for you? Isn’t it too delicious and forbidden to be a food that can help with heart disease? Of course nutrition is confusing and things change all the time about what is good and isn’t so good for you, so what is the deal with chocolate?

The good news is that yes, chocolate is good for you; there have been plenty of studies proving that there are health benefits to chocolate. It does matter, however, how much and what type of chocolate you are consuming. So before you grab that king-size Hershey bar, read below to learn what to do and understand the benefits when it comes to eating chocolate in the appropriate amounts.

The Nutrition Science of Chocolate

The cacao bean, which is the base of chocolate candy, is loaded with nutrients called flavonoids. Flavonoids help protect from environmental toxins and repair damage to the body. They provide antioxidants that help the body resist cell damage from free radicals. The main flavonoids are flavanols, which can reduce blood pressure, improve blood flow, and make blood platelets clot more easily.

ThinkstockPhotos-510580190.jpegCocoa naturally has a very strong taste, so it has to go through many steps to form your favorite type of chocolate. And through this processing many of the flavanols are lost. Most commercial chocolates are highly processed, and therefore have the lowest amount of antioxidants. However, dark chocolate that has undergone minimal processing will have the highest amount of flavonoids. As far as cocoa goes, the best choice is one that hasn’t undergone Dutch processing, which is when they treat it with an alkali to neutralize the natural acidity. (For more about how chocolate is created and how to enjoy it, check out this book.)

Be careful about the type of dark chocolate you choose, though. Typically one that contains over 70% cocoa will give you more of the heart-healthy benefits. And watch out for the extras such as caramel, nougat, and pretzels that are added to the chocolate. Those can add a ton of extra fat and calories to the treat, and are not high in nutritional value.

How Much Chocolate Should You Eat?

There is currently no established serving size for the amount that is healthy for your heart. So the general recommendation is to stick to 1 oz. of dark chocolate per day. This is the equivalent of one square of baking chocolate, 54 chocolate chips, or 6 Hershey’s kisses.

Other Foods Rich in Flavonoids

Dark chocolate isn’t the only way to get in flavonoids, though. They can be found in many foods such as cranberries, apples, onions, peanuts, tea, and red wine. So make sure to enjoy chocolate a few times a week, but also incorporate other foods that have many of the same disease prevention benefits.

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This blog was written by Angie Mitchell, RD, Wellness Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers click here.

Topics: nutrition disease prevention antioxidants chocolate