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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Healthier Holiday Cocktails

The holidays are a challenging time because there are so many more delicious foods everywhere. For some people, this is a time of year when they consume more alcohol. Unfortunately, most of these cocktails are loaded with calories. Here are some tips that can help keep the celebration—but not increase your waistline!

  • Choose cocktails that don’t add a lot of calories beyond the alcohol with high-calorie mixers. Order soda water and a splash of cranberry juice or diet soda as the mixer.
  • Have a non-caloric beverage (such as water, iced tea, or decaf coffee) in between alcoholic drinks.
  • Order your drink with extra ice.
  • Set a goal to stick to the alcohol recommendations for adults: 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. A drink is 5 ounces of wine, 1½ ounces of liquor, or 12 ounces of beer.

Try some of these lower-calorie beverages instead!

Made-over Eggnog egg nog

Ingredients:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 5½ cups low-fat or skim milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup Splenda or alternative sweetener
  • 2 TB. cornstarch
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 TB. vanilla
  • ½ tsp. (plus additional for sprinkling) ground nutmeg
  • ⅓ cup dark rum (optional)

Directions:

  1. In a bowl, with a whisk, beat eggs and egg whites until blended; set aside.
  2. In a heavy 4-quart saucepan, with heat-safe spatula, mix 4 cups milk with sugar, cornstarch, and ¼ teaspoon salt.
  3. Cook on medium-high until mixture boils and thickens slightly, stirring constantly. Boil 1 minute. Remove saucepan from heat.
  4. Gradually whisk ½ cup simmering milk mixture into eggs; pour egg mixture back into milk in saucepan, whisking constantly, to make custard.
  5. Pour custard into large bowl; stir in vanilla, nutmeg, rum (if using), and remaining 1½ cups milk.
  6. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 6 hours or up to 2 days.
  7. Sprinkle eggnog with nutmeg to serve. Makes about 6½ cups.

Serves: 13  Serving size: 1 cup
Calories: 90   Fat: 2g  Carbohydrates: 10g  Protein: 6g

 

Sparkling Pomegranate Cocktailpomegrante drink

Ingredients:

  • 1½ cups pomegranate juice
  • ¼ cup grenadine
  • 1 (750-milliliter) bottle Prosecco or dry sparkling wine, chilled
  • 6 lime slices (optional)
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)

Directions:

  1. Combine pomegranate juice and ¼ cup grenadine in a 2-cup glass measure.
  2. Divide the juice mixture evenly among 6 Champagne flutes or wine glasses. Top each serving evenly with wine, and garnish each serving with lime slices and seeds, if desired.

Serves: 6  Serving size: ¾ cup
Calories: 164  Fat: 0  Carbohydrates: 21g  Protein: 0g

 

Spiced Hot Cidercider

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups apple cider
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 whole cloves
  • ½ cup applejack (apple brandy)
  • 2 TB. cinnamon schnapps
  • Cinnamon sticks, for garnish

Directions:

  1. Bring apple cider, cinnamon stick, and cloves to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Add applejack and schnapps. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and serve hot.

Serves: 6  Serving size: ¾ cup
Calories: 143  Fat: 0g  Carbohydrates: 23g     Protein: 0g

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Topics: nutrition healthy habits healthy eating recipes snacks calories holidays

Finding Motivation to Beat the Holiday Workout Blues

Finding Motivation_2I don’t know about you, but often during the holidays it just seems easy to blow off your daily workout. You have done well up to this point, staying committed and getting yourself into the gym or out for a run. But with the dark evenings, busy work schedule, and possibly some travel, it tends to be the first thing to take off the list. It’s important for your body to take a break, but if you need some tips on how to keep yourself going, keep reading!

Here are some tips I have come up with to beat the holiday workout blues:

  • Keep it on the schedule. One of the best ways to make sure that you are getting your workout in is to keep it on your schedule. If you have it set in place, it’s not as easy to skip it and head home for some Monday Night Football instead!
  • Meet your workout buddy. If you don’t have one, now is a great time to find one. Find someone that you can be accountable to and make sure you’re getting yourself to the gym.
  • Try a home workout. It’s okay to stay in if you can’t seem to get yourself to the gym; there are plenty of things you can do at home to keep yourself fit. Some ideas are pushups, lunges, squats, planks, and going for a run.
  • Get up early to get it done. If you get your workout done in the morning, you won’t have to think about it the rest of the day! Then once you get out of work and it’s dark, you can just go home and relax.
  • Try something new. This is a great time to try a class or something that you haven’t done before. Try new group fitness class or meet with a health fitness instructor to get a fresh and new personal workout plan.
  • Keep yourself accountable. Check it off in your calendar, put your plan on the fridge, or track your workout in the NIFS app to keep yourself focused on what you need to be doing and create your own accountability.

Whatever it may be for you, find that one thing that keeps you clicking along. You will have to indulge at some point over the next month and half in something that you may have not normally ingested, and if you keep up the workouts, it’s okay! It’s all about discipline during these holiday months, but do your best to keep yourself on track in your exercise to limit the workout blues!

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

Topics: exercise at home motivation workouts holidays accountability new year's

Healthy Holiday Eating: The Practical Way

GettyImages-495329828The holidays are HERE! We all know what happens around the holidays. I see two extremes in my practice as a Registered Dietitian:

  • The vicious cycle of dieting all year to lose the “holiday weight” or to get bloodwork back to normal after all the holiday meals. People accomplish their goals just in time for the holidays to start again—and gain back the weight and drive our doctors nuts with outrageous bloodwork again.
  • The person who is terrified to “lose all their progress,” brings their own “healthy” meal to the gathering, and completely avoids the yummy meal—even at the cost of social, mental, and emotional health. Let’s be honest: that behavior distances people socially, and not having Grandma’s famous pie is just sad. 

Honestly, both are unhealthy approaches and they are, frankly, unnecessary. Let me be real clear: what we do consistently over time is what has the greatest impact on our health, not what we do on one day, two days, or a couple holidays. We can break these cycles! You don’t have to gain weight or ruin your bloodwork over the holidays. You also do not have to bring your own “healthy” meal, avoid Grandma’s cooking, and face a socially awkward and sad situation.

There is a way to enjoy the holiday food with family and friends all while pursuing your health goals. Here are the action steps.

Be Active

Get up and moving. This can be as simple as taking a walk with family, going on a morning stroll before the gathering, walking the dog, or playing a game that has you up and moving (such as Wii, tag, Twister, or Simon says). You can also get in a quick 20–30-minute workout before all the festivities start that day, or wake up early to get in a full lifting session. Don’t overthink this; a short 20–30-minute workout with high intensity is very effective! (Here are some workouts you can do when traveling.)

Follow Your Eating Routine

Forget the “don’t eat anything to save calories for all the food tonight” method. That leads to a very hungry person, which makes overeating at the gathering much easier. Go about your morning as you normally would. Eat breakfast (if you eat breakfast). Have your typical snack and lunch. Fill up on fiber-rich sources, such as fruit and veggies, along with lean proteins. All these options will help fill you up and nourish your body. You will walk into the gathering satisfied and ready to eat your Grandma’s holiday meal.

Hydrate 

Be sure to stay hydrated with plenty of non-caloric fluids (mainly water) the days before, the day of, and the days after holiday gatherings. Liquids take up room in your stomach, meaning staying hydrated contributes to proper regulation of hunger/satiety cues. Again, this helps reduce overeating. Additionally, holiday foods tend to be high in sodium. You will want plenty of water to offset the negative effects that a high sodium intake has on your hydration status. Trust me, you will feel much better if you stay hydrated.

Eat the Holiday Meal

For heaven’s sake, do not bring your own meal, measuring cups, or scales to the gathering! Eat the holiday meal. Fill up your first plate with all your favorites—the ones that grandma and momma only cook once or twice a year. Be mindful of portion sizes. Then, if you want, go back for a second plate. For that plate, pick two or three more things that you want some more of. Take a portion of each and enjoy it.

Enjoy the Meal

Sit down with each plate. Take a nice deep breath. Start eating. Chew each bite thoroughly. Slow down your eating. Be present at each bite, soaking in all the yummy goodness of that home cooking. Don’t be afraid to pause between bites and converse with family around the table. This not only helps you enjoy family around you and to be present in that moment, but it also gives your body time to send you satiety cues. When we eat super-fast, we do not allow our body enough time to signal “I AM FULL.” Be present and listen to what your body is telling you.

Have a Conversation

During the meal, talk with your family and friends, even if you are the one having to initiate conversation. DO IT! Think about one of the true reasons for the season. Hint: it is not food and gifts. Sure, food is a huge part of it. But we gather to be with family and friends to celebrate our blessings, our year, and our religion, and to give thanks. Conversing really embraces what holidays are all about and shifts your focus to more than just the heap of food in front of you.

Eat Dessert

Find your favorite deserts and eat a serving. I promise, eating dessert will not derail your health goals. I’d argue this action will actually help your health goals because Grandma’s famous pie sure does positively contribute to mental and emotional health.

Get Right Back to Your Typical Regimen the Next Day

Wake up the next day and get back to your typical routine. Exercise as you normally would. Eat your normal meals and snacks. Honor your physical health with nutritious options. Sleep. Do this on the days you are not at a holiday gathering. Back to the idea of consistency, there are more non-holiday days than there are holiday days and gatherings. Be on your game and remain consistent during those weeks and days, knowing that another gathering full of food and fun is right around the corner. Repeat steps 1–7 during the next gathering.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: healthy eating snacks holidays breakfast hydration Thanksgiving christmas meals emotional blood sugar dinner

Tips for a Healthy Halloween

GettyImages-1267397092Halloween is a day full of fun, costumes, treats, friends, and family! With all the food and candy, is it even possible to be “healthy” and still enjoy the festivities? The answer is YES. Take a look at these SPOOK-tacular tips to keep you and your family in good health.

Find a Balance

Halloween comes around once a year. It’s a time to feed your social and mental health, which may require easing up on the physical health guidelines for a moment. Remember, any decision you make for your physical health that comes at the expense of your social and mental health may not be all that great after all.

Let’s be honest, Halloween is FUN. The candy is FUN. Trick-or-treating is FUN. All this feeds our mental and social health. Plus, think about it: daily nutritional choices consistently over time have the greater impact on your health than nutrition choices on one holiday.

What does this “balance” look like? Keep reading.

Use portion control and omit the “off-limits” mentality.

All foods in moderation can fit into a healthy regimen. Instead of making candy off-limits, work it into your established routine. Still have breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Make those meals nutritious, including fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. At each meal, offer one serving of Halloween candy to everyone. Instead of the full-size pieces, make them like the “fun-size” or “snack-size.” This allows everyone to enjoy a sweet, while filling up on the nutritious foods that are important for physical health.

Make festive, healthy options.

On the day that you all go trick-or-treating, really get into the spirit! Make nutritious meals that are Halloween themed. Some examples include:

  • Green-goop smoothie with Halloween straws: Include low-fat Greek yogurt, spinach, chia seeds, pineapple, and low-fat milk of choice. Try this recipe.
  • Monster teeth: Slice a green apple. Smear peanut butter on one side of a slice (bottom lip of the mouth). Stick yogurt-covered raisins in the peanut butter. Smear a little more peanut butter on another apple slice and place on top of the raisins for the top lip.
  • Boo-nana pops: Cut bananas in half and place a stick in the end as a handle. At the tip of the banana, add two chocolate chips as eyes. Serve frozen, cold, or at room temperature.
  • Devil spiders: Make deviled eggs. On the top, put an olive in the center for the spider’s body. Then put slices of olives around the outer edge of the egg for the legs.
  • Cute pumpkins: Peel Cuties/clementines/mandarins. Slice celery into small sticks. Place a celery stick at the top of each mandarin for the pumpkin stem.
  • Yo-yo graveyard: Scoop nonfat Greek yogurt into cups. Crumble some chocolate cookies on top (just a thin layer to cover the top) for the dirt. Write “Boo” on graham crackers for tombstones. Place one tombstone in each yogurt cup.
  • Spider sandwich: Make a sandwich of choice. Cut the sandwich into a circle. Place chocolate chips as the eyes (use peanut butter to help them stick). Use pretzels as the legs, sticking them into the bread or middle of the sandwich, with the tips sticking out.
  • Ghost cheese sticks: Get individually wrapped mozzarella cheese sticks. Take a sharpie and make black dots for the eyes and a block dot for an open mouth. These make perfect snacks while you are out and about trick-or-treating.

This ensures everyone is filling up on nutritious options high in fiber and protein, which leaves less room for tons of candy. Now, do not mistake this for “NO ROOM” for candy. There is still room, but not as much. You are just making sure everyone is properly nourished and still having fun in the process.

When you get home that night, enjoy a few pieces of candy with the kiddos, then put it in a non-accessible place. You are in control of when and how much the kids get. You are also in control of when and how much you get as well. Refer to what I said about portion control to plan your approach here. Remain consistent so that you and the kids both have a clear understanding of when candy will be served. For example, one individual piece will be served with each meal. It gives both you and the kids something to look forward to and does not make candy off-limits, but instead teaches proper portion control and provides a positive relationship with all foods. In the long run, this reduces binging or obsessing over any one food.

Stay active.

One of the best things you can do is to get everyone moving and active. Be sure to get in a workout on the big day, even if it is a quick 20-minute HIIT session at home, or try this spooky workout. Get the kiddos moving with you! Walk from house to house instead of driving during trick-or-treating. Go on a walk in your costumes if you are not trick-or-treating this year. Or just go on a walk in your regular clothes and enjoy all the house decorations. You can also play games:

  • Monster Tag: The tagger is a monster and anyone they tag becomes the monster.
  • Monster vs. Ghost Freeze Tag: If the monster tags you, you become frozen until one of your ghost teammates unfreezes you. The goal is for the monster to freeze all the ghosts!

ENJOY HALLOWEEN!

Have fun with your family. Soak in the moments. Laugh a lot. Feed your mental and social health, knowing it will benefit your physical health in the long run and that choices you make consistently over time matter the most. Stay safe.

As always, reach out to your NIFS Registered Dietitian if you need some holiday nutrition support.

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This blog was written by Sabrina Goshen, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

Topics: staying active healthy eating holidays kids sugar halloween

Scrooged: Growing Older Is Getting Old (Three Keys for Aging Better)

shutterstock_119305324Getting old sucks. That’s right, I said it: getting old sucks. I might be the only one in the fitness world to say it, but it does. I know I’m supposed to be positive about the inevitable passing of time and what each of us face in our journeys—and I’m positive it is not fun at all. No matter whether you are turning 20 or 70, we are all getting older and it is getting old! If you can’t tell by now, I am a bit grumpy about some of the aspects that each passing birthday has in store; and much like Ebenezer Scrooge, I say, “Bah humbug” to it all!

In a previous post, “This is 40,” I mentioned how quickly some physical attributes can change, and not in a good way. I recently purchased some readers (which are currently aiding me to write this blog) because my eyesight is beginning slip, I guess. I sometimes make a bunch of noises when I get-up, and it takes a few steps to get upright. The other day I went for what I used to consider a short run, and had to stop three times to stretch out. When goofing around with my nephews, I have to first ask myself, “Will this activity result in me hurting myself?” before I participate. Bah humbug, right? And yep, I’m still pretty grumpy about the whole thing!

You Will Be Visited by Three Goals

Okay, now that I’m done complaining about it, what can you do to help growing older go more smoothly? In the coming weeks, you will be visited by three goals that can change your life. These three different goals cover the concepts and strategies that can help minimize some of the effects of getting older. What are these goals, you ask?

  • Eat well.
  • Move more.
  • Recover better.

Wait, you’re telling me you’ve heard of these goals before? (Hopefully you’re picking up on my sarcasm!) That’s right, there’s no crazy new idea here. But no matter how we in the health and fitness world try to gift-wrap the keys to living long and living well, you all still don’t do it. Crazy, right? Who knew shutting your pie hole, getting off your butt, and resting properly could have positive effects on your health and longevity? So why aren’t more of us doing these simple things that can change the game forever?

Gear Up for a Better Christmas Future!

During the visits from these goals, they will walk you through the how and why of each goal and the steps to take to be better as you age and not the other way around. Recipes, videos, and workouts will all be part of these visits, covering an array of strategies that can help.

It’s not too late! You can change; we can change! Listen to the messages these goals have for you during each visit, implement them, and say “bah humbug” to getting old and say “Whoopee!” to being awesome for life!

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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: holidays recovery goals healthy lifestyle aging

Thomas’s Top Ten: Healthy Holiday Inspirations

IMG_8604Holidays are times when you can relax and reflect, spend time with friends and family, and indulge in copious amounts of turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, and pie. Well, maybe don’t eat so much pie. But we do have plenty of reasons to not only be grateful, and to be inspired for the future.

Top Ten Things That Inspire Me

You probably have a hundred things you are excited about for the next decade. I have compiled my personal Thomas’s Top Ten list of things I am inspired by and that make me smile.

  1. Good health: There’s a lot to say about good health, such as being able to do things you like to do, go places you want to visit, and experience everything life has to offer. Being in the fitness industry predisposes a person to being health-minded, but it’s not an easy road and definitely something not to be taken for granted.
  2. Good friends: Spending time with friends is important. Like good health, this isn’t always easy and sometimes there are roadblocks along the way. I believe my favorite place on earth is wherever my best friend is at that time.
  3. Pets: If you have pets, you instantly have a built-in best friend. When treated well, these little animals can give you love and affection after a long day at work, or give you the inspiration to go out and exercise when you are tired.
  4. Sunshine: Sunshine is such an important aspect of life that it comes in at number four on my list. Without the sunshine, there is no life. Go out on a sunny day and see for yourself. There is something to be said for rainy days too… without rain, there would be no trees, flowers, or rivers.
  5. Fresh air: I am grateful for fresh air, even if it’s cold and crisp. Being able to breathe well is something to be thankful for because it isn’t easy for everyone. Fresh air can improve your sleep as well as overall well-being.
  6. Clean water: Having a clean water source and plenty to go around is a beautiful thing. All too often, we take having clean water for granted. Our bodies need water to function well—and being able to stay outwardly clean doesn’t hurt, either.
  7. Good sleep: Sleeping is where we recharge our batteries. After a long day of work and play, our bodies need sleep to rebuild muscle and alleviate mental fatigue. Also, sleeping in on the weekend is okay!
  8. Books: I am very grateful for not only the ability to read, but also all the books that inspire me in life and work. Even further, books allow not only for education, but also relaxation. There is something to be said about someone who enjoys being an active participant in their entertainment. Also, you can multiply your happiness when you share your books with your friends.
  9. Music: Sometimes people can associate music and songs with nearly every aspect of their lives. You can almost define certain life events with music (what was your high school spirit song, or are there any songs that you remember from elementary school?). Also, music helps inspire and motivate people to exercise. Over the years, music may change, but the effect is still the same.
  10. Mountains: This can be taken both literally and metaphorically. Mountains are amazing. Thousands of years old, stoic, and everlasting, mountains can be a destination for relaxation (vacation), exercise (hiking), and relaxation. Thinking outside the box, a “mountain” can represent your own personal goal for the coming year. I am thankful for mountains because they are the ultimate reason for pursuing a healthy lifestyle.

What Inspires You?

What ideas are on your Top Ten list? I’m sure there are many I have failed to list that are as important or possibly more important than the ones I have listed. Take a few moments and jot them on a piece of paper. That’s how I started this blog!

Looking forward to a New Year and new decade is an exciting prospect. NIFS will be looking help you reach your goals, motivate you, and educate you with the most knowledgeable and expert advice available. Happy holidays and have a GREAT 2020.

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To read more about the other NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: Thomas' Corner holidays inspiration new year healthy living

10 Simple Ways to Stay Healthy While Celebrating the Holidays

GettyImages-1056454610’Tis the season for swapping Christmas cookies, candy bowls, Hanukah dinners, holiday parties, and New Year’s Eve libations. We’ll take this month to refocus on a 10 simple ways to keep your body properly nourished and healthy this holiday season while keeping in mind that it is okay and certainly encouraged to partake in the 2020 holiday season festivities. New Year’s Resolutions are a great time to start new habits, but why not get a head start?

  1. Embrace seasonal foods. Your favorite strawberries may now be upwards of $5 for a small container, but December is a great time to try out pomegranate and pears. Root veggies, squash, and kale are also easy on the budget and packed with nutrients. (See some recipes here.)
  2. Fit in a body-weight workout. If you can’t make it to the gym, create a circuit at home, or take along some simple workout equipment for travel when visiting friends and family. Head out for an unofficial 5K run, run up and down your stairs, take the dog for a snowy walk, or take commercial breaks to a new level by doing squats and push-ups for the entire break. Alternatively, make a plan to carve out just 15–30 minutes per day to get in a walk around the neighborhood—no matter what the weather might bring!
  3. Start your day off right with breakfast. Front-load your nutrition at the beginning of the day—often the easiest meal to focus on and one that can stay consistently healthy. Oatmeal, yogurt with fruit and nuts, egg (or tofu) scramble, and smoothies are great “go-to” meals.
  4. Try the Plate Method. While you fill your plate with holiday favorites like green bean casserole or mashed potatoes (made with a generous portion of heavy cream and butter), make sure that half of your plate always has some type of vegetable on it. Try roasted carrots, sweet potatoes, asparagus, or green beans for easy sides.
  5. Observe bedtime. Try and stick to a normal sleep routine to give yourself energy to tackle your holiday parties, keep your focus on your health goals, and avoid snacking at 3 a.m.
  6. Have a game plan. What was your biggest obstacle the year before in sticking to your goals? Holiday parties? Make sure to take your own healthier sides. Are there Christmas cookies on the counter and you’re grabbing one every time you walk by? Make a small batch this year and plan to keep them out of sight. Also try portioning out ahead of time. Wrap up each cookie and label it with the day of the week you plan to eat it.
  7. Give healthy stocking stuffers. Give the gift of healthy eating—stuff kids’ stockings with items like clementines or Cuties, nuts, and popcorn instead of Reese’s Cups, M&M’s, or fun-size chocolate bars.
  8. Focus on the moments. Put down your phone at mealtimes and any “down time” you might have. Put together a puzzle, go for a relaxing walk, read a book, and make conversation at mealtimes.
  9. Stay hydrated. 8-12 cups of water/day is recommended. Carry a water bottle around with you—it’s easy to forget to hydrate during the cold months, but it’s crucial to helping control those cravings and to keep your body running in tip-top shape.
  10. Pick a habit. Pick one specific habit to choose and one to lose! Focus on a specific goal. Instead of the more general “lose 10 pounds,” focus on action steps to get there like “Work out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 30 minutes at the gym” or “Plan to make at least HALF of lunch and dinner at every meal a type of vegetable.” Instead of cutting out sweets completely, make a plan that says, “ice cream happens on Friday nights only.” Or focus on physical activity habits, screen time habits, etc.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Hehman, MA, RD, CD. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: winter fitness healthy eating holidays circuit workout Thanksgiving traveling christmas seasonal eating

Back Away from the Sugar: Making Better Nutrition Choices

Screen Shot 2019-04-25 at 5.16.05 PMEaster might be over, but the candy lingers. There is no escaping the colors of the sugary candy that is around every corner. From jelly beans to chocolate bunnies and Cadbury eggs, the temptations are endless and the calories are empty.

Too Much Sugar Is Harmful

Sugars are caloric, sweet-tasting compounds that occur widely in nature, including in fruits, vegetables, honey, and human and dairy milk. We are born with the desire or preference for sweet taste. The presence of lactose in breast milk helps ensure that this primary source of nutrition for infants is palatable and acceptable. Chemically and with respect to food, sugars are monosaccharide or disaccharide carbohydrates, which impact sweet taste. Most foods contain some of each.

Monosaccharide is a single molecular unit that is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. The most common monosaccharides are glucose, fructose, galactose, and mannose.

Disaccharide is sugar containing two monosaccharides that are linked together, and which are broken down in the body into single sugars. The most common disaccharide is sucrose, which is also known as table sugar.

What Happens When You Eat Sugary Candy

When you consume Easter candy, you are getting a large dose of sugar. Whether it’s in the form of high-fructose corn syrup or cane sugar, it slams into your system like a bowling ball, and the effects are disastrous. Within the first 20 minutes or so, your blood-sugar level spikes as the sugar enters your bloodstream. It arrives there in the form of glucose, which is your body’s main source of energy. This sudden rise in blood glucose stimulates your pancreas to start pumping out large amounts of insulin, which is the hormone that helps your cells take in the available glucose. Some of this glucose is used instantly for energy, but the rest is stored as fat by insulin, to be used later.

Sugar is ok in moderation just be mindful, especially around the holidays when sugar is so easily accessible.

But the holidays alone aren’t the only times that we can allow these choices to creep in. Daily your efforts to eat well may be sidetracked by busy schedules, business dinners, birthday parties, evenings out with your friends, fundraising banquets, breakfast meetings, church dinners…the list goes on.

Alternatives for Healthy Eating and Celebrating

Here are some healthier alternatives. Don’t forget that you also have the option to meet with our Registered Dietitians on staff to help you get on the right path.

Let’s look at ways to enjoy Easter and not feel like you have to munch on carrots and lettuce the whole day. Alternatives to candy:

  • Very dark chocolate (choose some with very little sugar)
  • Nuts
  • Fresh fruit
  • Whole-grain crackers and pretzels
  • Cheeses
  • Popcorn

And start thinking about next Easter with these non-food ideas for kids’ Easter baskets:

  • Play dough
  • Balls
  • Jump ropes
  • Sidewalk chalk
  • Crayons
  • Garden starter set
  • Butterfly habitat
  • Beading supplies
  • Swimming toys
  • Card games

The possibilities are honestly endless. It’s just a matter of taking the time to think healthier and smarter next Easter!

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan, Weight Loss Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss snacks holidays diabetes sugar blood sugar

Healthier Recipes for New Year’s Day Food Traditions

GettyImages-651123318Every year on New Year’s Day my husband’s grandma makes cabbage. She says it’s good luck. I had never heard of this tradition, and then someone else told me they eat black-eyed peas for luck, also. I decided to look into it and there are actually quite a few foods that people eat every year on New Year’s Day hoping that the next year will be prosperous and lucky for them—all because of a meal they consumed on the holiday!


Lucky Foods

Here are some whole foods that are considered lucky in various cultural traditions.

  • Black-eyed peas: During the Civil War era, black-eyed peas (also known as field peas) were grown to feed cattle. During a siege in Mississippi, the town was cut off from all food supplies for two months. People were close to starvation and had to resort to eating the crops typically reserved for livestock. If it wasn’t for the lowly “cowpeas,” as they are also known, many people would have died, so this started the tradition of black-eyed peas bringing luck.
  • Pork: Ever hear the expression “high on the hog”? This saying originated because pork was seen as a symbol of wealth and prosperity. Particularly in Pennsylvania Dutch areas, slow-cooked pork is a traditional dish for bringing luck on the first day of the year.
  • Cabbage: This tradition started in Germany and Eastern Europe. It is typically harvested in late fall and then requires a six- to eight-week fermentation process, which means sauerkraut is ready around January 1. Cabbage has lots of symbolism because the strands of cabbage can symbolize a long life, while cabbage itself can symbolize money.
  • Lentils: Italians started this tradition because they believed the flat legumes resembled a Roman coin. They would typically serve it with pork so they could be doubly lucky!

And even after the holiday, you can continue eating whole foods with these recipes for seasonal winter vegetables.

Recipes for Good Luck

Here are a couple of recipes for you to try this New Year’s Day to bring luck all year!

GettyImages-499394216Slow Cooker Pork and Sauerkraut with Apples

6 thick-cut pork chops
4 tart apples, peeled and sliced
1 large onion, sliced
1 quart sauerkraut
½ tsp fennel seed, or to taste

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brown pork chops in hot skillet, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Drain.
  2. Arrange apples and onion in the bottom of a slow cooker; top with browned pork chops. Pour in enough water to cover the bottom of the slow cooker.
  3. Cook on High for 3 hours (or on Low for 6 hours). Add sauerkraut and fennel seed to pork chop mixture. Cook for 1 more hour.

Makes 6 servings.

Slow Cooker Spicy Black-Eyed Peas

6 cups water
1 cube chicken bouillon
1-pound dried black-eyed peas, sorted and rinsed
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
8 ounces diced ham
4 slices bacon, chopped
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1½ tsp cumin
salt, to taste
1 tsp ground black pepper

  1. Pour the water into a slow cooker, add the bouillon cube, and stir to dissolve.
  2. Combine the black-eyed peas, onion, garlic, bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, ham, bacon, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt, and pepper; stir to blend.
  3. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours until the beans are tender.

Makes 10 servings.

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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: holidays winter protein whole foods new year's vegetables

Holiday Fitness: Equipment That Fits in Your Suitcase

GettyImages-533342462’Tis the season for holiday traveling, holiday parties, not having as much time to hit the gym, and eating more calories than are in your average diet. Spending time with family and friends is so important over the holiday season, but taking care of your health and fitness is just as important.

The key to this success is making exercise a priority. A few ways to do that are by committing to workout programs, scheduling in your workout times, committing to a fitness goal, and maybe even purchasing a few fitness essentials that fit in your suitcase to use conveniently when you are traveling.

Suitcase Equipment Essentials and Exercise Guide

Resistance Bands (average price $3–$8)

You probably have used a resistance band in your Small Group Training, Barre Fusion, or Circuit Training classes, or seen them being used by others in the gym. Versa Loops are a great tool to take with you during the holidays. These bands are very cost-effective and weigh almost nothing, nor take up much space.

A NIFS Fitness Center staff member can help you create an on-the-go workout plan using the band. Stop by and see an instructor for quick and effective band workouts.

The key to success is taking action. Just because you buy a mini versa band does not mean you will stay in shape like magic if it sits in your suitcase. Take time to schedule 20 to 30 minutes a few times a week to break a sweat and work on stability, mobility, and core strength with this amazing fitness tool.

Jump Rope (average price $10–$12)

Jumping rope is a great addition to a gym workout to get your heart rate up, but is also a great piece of equipment that you can easily add to your suitcase to torch calories anywhere and at any time. You can burn up to 10 calories a minute jumping rope. Pulling this piece of equipment out of your suitcase can definitely balance out the extra calories you consume during the holiday. Do it for 10 to 15 minutes straight for an endurance workout, or combine it with body resistance toning exercises for a great go-to HIIT workout.

TRX (average price $70–$130)

TRX is a great piece of fitness equipment that you can pack up to go anywhere. At moderate intensity, someone might burn up to 250 calories during a one-hour training session. TRX straps are light and easy to take anywhere. When you’re in town, taking classes at NIFS is a great way to learn proper form and new moves, but this equipment can be hung in door frames or places around the house to also get in a great sweat and total-body workout.

Running Shoes (average price $60–$150)

Running is a free, very effective workout that is great for burning calories. If you don’t have a pair of running shoes already, they can come at a price but make a great investment for staying accountable to keeping weight off over the holiday season (if you pack them in your bag and use them). If you are healthy enough for running, grab some shoes and hit the pavement or indoor track here at NIFS.

Some Other Holiday Wellness Tips

In addition to this equipment you can easily use to help stay fit over the holidays, don’t forget about the importance of diet.

  • Remember portions. Overeating is very easy to do at holiday functions, so set your mind to eating for results. This means practicing portion control and not overloading your plate or having too much sugar and alcohol. Keep on a balanced diet through your normal lifestyle and allow yourself a little extra only on special occasions.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “no” in the office. Just because a co-worker brings in a treat, does not mean you have to have all the holiday cookies and cupcakes. Maybe commit to having one a week even if someone brings in something new daily.
  • Have an accountability buddy. Find someone you trust and who also wants to stay healthy over the holiday season. Make goals together—like working out 4 to 5 times each week, or eating only one holiday dessert a week—that you commit to and achieve together so you don’t feel like you’re doing it alone!

Holidays are a great time to have fun, so enjoy doing everything you love like spending time with friends and family while also living a healthy lifestyle.

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This blog was written by Brittany Ignas, BS in Kinesiology, 200 Hour Yoga Alliance Certified, Stott Pilates Certified, and NIFS Fitness Program Coordinator. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: running equipment holidays accountability resistance TRX traveling portion control fitness equipment