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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

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 2019 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.

I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it is important for you to know what you’re getting yourself into when you reach for that fluffy pink and yellow Peep. Brace yourself…this might hurt.

Sugar Is Harmful to Your Body

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.

I know what you’re thinking, “But it’s Easter and it only happens once every year!” No it doesn’t! There are always going to be excuses to eat poorly. Valentine’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve also “only happen once a year!”

The holidays alone aren’t the only times that we allow the excuses to take over. Daily your efforts to eat well are sidetracked by busy schedules, which include business diners, birthday parties, evenings out with your friends, fundraising banquets, breakfast meetings, church dinners… the list goes on.

Alternatives for Healthy Eating and Celebrating

At some point, you have to stop making excuses and start making better decisions to put your health first. 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:

  • Dried fruit (eat with protein such as nuts)
  • 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

How to Maintain Healthy Eating During the Holidays

GettyImages-613788476The holidays technically started on Thanksgiving, and now the season is officially in full swing. For many of my clients, the holiday season means a variety of different things. There are office parties, celebrations with friends, and even traveling to visit family. The festivities of the holidays can be a lot of fun, but they can also be stressful, especially if you are trying to stick with a healthy eating plan and fitness regimen.

It would be easy to sit here and say that the holidays really are just three days out of the year—Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day—and only those three days are the days you can eat whatever you want. Right? But truth be told, it’s not so much what happens on those three days as it is what happens in between that matters most.

To help keep you on track with weight loss or weight management, I’ve created a holiday survival guide. Try these out—good health and good cheer will follow.

Office Parties

Keep the alcohol in check. Besides the added calories, you don’t want to become this year’s office party joke. Slow down when drinking by having a glass of water in between cocktails. As hard as it might be, leaving the eggnog behind and sticking with wine, beer, or drinks that are not made with juice or added sugar, is a sure-fire way to cut calories. If it becomes too hard to cut back, maybe the best idea is not even starting in the first place. Whatever your choice may be, remember to enjoy the festivities and the company of co-workers.

Getting Together with Friends

Whether it’s out to dinner or meeting at a friend’s house, good choices will keep you on track. Being mindful when ordering will set you up for success. Veggies instead of French fries? Yes, please! Fish over a hamburger? Absolutely! Water rather than soft drinks? Keep it coming! Bread? Desserts? Alcohol? Choose the one you can’t do without during this holiday season and enjoy only that one.

Traveling Out of Town

Visiting family out of town can always be tricky, but it doesn’t have to completely throw you off your game. Here are a couple of ways to help keep you on track and ensure you don’t set yourself up for failure.

  • Go grocery shopping. You’ve reached your destination and realize that there isn’t any produce to be found in the house anywhere. The solution? Go shopping! Try to lighten the load of relatives who are preparing for a big family holiday get-together and offer to go grocery shopping. You will lessen the load and set yourself up for success.
  • Come prepared. If your travel plans consist of driving, come prepared with your own food. Making on-the-go snacks will not only allow you to stay on track, but it will also help you avoid stopping at the drive-through or wanting to spend extra money on food when you already have some. Pack those snacks!
  • Offer to cook. Along with helping to grocery shop, why not guarantee not only you, but the whole family gets a healthy meal by cooking? Prepare it just the way you would at home and it’s sure to be a hit. Here are some holiday recipes that include superfoods.

There are plenty of other tricks and tips you can use to help you survive the holidays in a healthy way, including workouts that work when you’re on the road. At the end of the day, don’t beat yourself up if you gave in to an extra cookie, or ate a little bit more than you had planned. Learn from it, move past it, and start fresh. And most important: ENJOY EVERYTHING ABOUT THE HOLIDAYS!

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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: weight loss healthy eating holidays weight management Thanksgiving traveling new year's christmas meals dining out

Thanksgiving Success Strategy: Eat Sensibly and Keep Moving

GettyImages-1036967134Not long from now, families all over America will be sitting down to a meal that looks back to that first Thanksgiving, in which the Pilgrims celebrated the harvest after a harsh winter. The year was 1621, and Governor William Bradford proclaimed a day of thanksgiving, which the colonists celebrated as a traditional English harvest feast.

George Washington declared Thanksgiving a holiday in 1789, and in 1941 Congress passed a resolution which decreed that the holiday should fall on the fourth Thursday of November.

Feasting together is as old as the human race. It is a way of celebrating and enjoying time with family and friends. But if we are not careful, we can overdo the festivities and end up setting ourselves back over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

Just How Big Is Your Meal?

It’s hard to believe, but the average Thanksgiving meal contains 3,000 calories and 229 grams of fat. And most of us don’t limit ourselves to one indulgent meal. It’s typical to snack and celebrate all day long.

The trouble comes when we have to deal with those extra calories that we have packed into our bodies. “A 160-lb. person would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours, or walk 30 miles to burn off a 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving Day meal,” said Dr. Cedric Bryant, ACE chief exercise physiologist, in this article. Many people start by snacking throughout the day, and that combined with the meal can lead to a total caloric intake of 4,500.”

Nutrition and Fitness Tips for Turkey Day

The good news is that you don’t have to forgo your favorite holiday foods. There is room for a little indulgence at a holiday feast! The secret is to have a plan as we head into the holiday season. By staying on top of both your calorie intake and your physical activity, you can enjoy your favorite foods in moderation and emerge on the other side just as fit as you are now.

  • Plan your meals. If you know that you are going to be having some heavy, celebratory meals in the upcoming days, limit your intake at other meals to help keep your diet balanced out. Don’t skip meals, but make them lighter and be sure to include plenty of healthy, lower-calorie foods. For instance, if you are going to have a big lunch, eat a smaller breakfast and dinner.
  • Look at the big picture. Keep up with how you eat during the several days surrounding Thanksgiving. It’s not a good idea to indulge at every opportunity that presents itself. If you splurge heavily one day, take it easy the next.
  • Keep moving. The last thing you need this time of year is a slowed-down metabolism. Staying active is a great way to give your body a fighting chance to negotiate the extra calories you will be consuming. To get the biggest bang for your exercise buck, do regular strength training moves. Even after your strength training session has ended, your metabolism and calorie burn remains high.

Strength Exercises You Can Do Anywhere

Here are some simple strengthening exercises you can do no matter where you are—whether in your office at work or at the in-laws’ house.

  1. Push-ups. If you aren’t used to doing push-ups, start with your hands on a raised surface such as a desk. As you gain strength, you can gradually move to doing them fully on the floor.
  2. Lunges. For extra credit, hold dumbbells or other heavy objects in your hands while lunging.
  3. Squats. To do a proper squat, start with your feet shoulder width apart. Begin to lower your body as if you were going to sit in a chair. Try to reach a level where your quads are parallel, and then stand back up.
  4. Step-ups. Find the nearest step, and with alternating legs step onto the step with one leg and then step back down. Again, holding heavy objects in each hand will increase the effect.

There is no need to pack on the pounds this Thanksgiving. Figure out your strategy now, and then when the festivities start, just work the plan!

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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: healthy eating calories holidays exercises Thanksgiving strength workout

Thinking About Diabetes During the Halloween Candy Season

GettyImages-500664508It’s Halloween time, and that can only mean one thing: sugar, lots of sugar! Toward the end of summer, stores start to taunt us by placing all of the Halloween candy out on display. What’s worst of all is that the candy is in tiny, easy-to-eat servings. By the time the actual day of Halloween rolls around, we’ve already been thumbing through fun-sized candy the entire month.

Each holiday has its traditional treats we enjoy, but Halloween takes the prize for being the most focused on candy. And no matter how hard you try to avoid it, the temptation of it all might possibly get the best of you.

Can You Fight the Temptation?

While one piece of candy won’t make or break your health, very few of us stop at just one. In fact, most see Halloween like we see other festive holidays from Thanksgiving and Christmas, to cookouts in the summer: a perfect reason to indulge in whatever kind of temptation is available.

But those temptations can eventually start to take a toll and contribute to the current epidemic of type 2 diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 40% of Americans, or more than 100 million adults, are living with diabetes or pre-diabetes. Without significant changes, as many as 30% of people with pre-diabetes will go on to develop type 2 diabetes.

What Is Diabetes?

Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use as energy. The pancreas, an organ that lies near the stomach, makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugars to build up in your blood.

Why Put Down the Halloween Candy?

The more sugar you eat, the harder your pancreas has to work to produce insulin and keep your blood sugar within in a safe/healthy range. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not produce any insulin, when the pancreas produces very little insulin, or when the body does not respond appropriately to insulin, a condition called “insulin resistance.”

How Can You Prevent Diabetes?

Perhaps you have learned recently that you have a high chance of developing type 2 diabetes. You might be overweight or have a parent, brother, or sister with the condition. Here are some ways you can lower your risk.

These simple lifestyle changes are what will send type 2 diabetes out of your life like a kid running out of a haunted house. Choose future health over present pleasures.

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This blog was written by Ashley Duncan B.S., ISSA-CPT, Nutrition Specialist, ACE-HC,
NIFS Weight Loss Coordinator. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition weight loss healthy eating holidays NIFS programs diabetes sugar dietitian halloween

Fall Superfoods: Recipes for Delicious, Healthy Eating

GettyImages-531781862The air is crisp, football season is in full swing, and the plentiful bounty of summer’s gardens is all gone. Instead of reverting back to the frozen fruit and veggie staples that are typical of fall and winter, experiment with some of the tasty foods that give fall the name the harvest season!

Favorite Fruits and Vegetables for Seasonal Eating

Here are some of my favorite fall foods and the nutrients they provide.

  • Apples: Easy and portable for a lunch bag or a snack. They are also high in fiber and can help decrease cholesterol. (Read more about apple nutrition.)
  • Acorn squash: Packed with Vitamin A and C to keep your immune system healthy during flu season.
  • Brussels sprouts: These little balls of cabbage are known to be cancer fighters.
  • Grapefruit: Citrus comes into season in late fall, so grab these pink treats that are high in fiber and immune-boosting properties.
  • Parsnips: Not as starchy as a potato and loaded with fiber, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants.
  • Pears: Another fruit that comes in season in the fall and is full of Vitamin C and fiber.
  • Pumpkin: The most popular of the fall produce is great for more than decorating! One cup of canned pumpkin has 7 grams of fiber, which is one-third of your daily needs.
  • Spaghetti squash: This fun alternative to pasta is high in beta carotene, potassium, and antioxidants.
  • Turnips: Surprisingly high in Vitamin C; if you eat the greens, you add a ton of Vitamins A, C, B6, and calcium and magnesium.

Fall Recipes

Try these recipes as a way to incorporate some of these fall powerhouse foods into your meals.

Turnip, Apple, and Acorn Squash Soup

1 acorn squash, peeled and chopped
3 medium turnips, peeled and chopped
3 small or 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
4 tbsp olive oil
2 cups water or low-sodium vegetable broth
½ tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)

  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add chopped acorn squash, turnips, apples, and salt and pepper to pot and continue to cook on medium for 5–10 minutes, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook until ingredients are softened, about 45 minutes.
  3. Once ingredients are softened, add water or low-sodium vegetable broth and continue to cook for another 5–10 minutes on medium heat until soup is warm.
  4. Remove pot from heat and add through blender or food processor, or use immersion blender.
  5. Garnish with fresh or dried cilantro and serve. Serves 4.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pears and Pistachios

1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise
3 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
1 pear, halved lengthwise and cored
¼ cup shelled pistachios, chopped coarsely
Juice of ½ large lemon

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Place the prepared Brussels sprouts on a baking sheet and pour on the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the pear halves, cut sides-down, on the baking sheet, making sure there is enough oil to coat their cut surfaces.
  2. Roast the Brussels sprouts and pear for about 20 minutes. Then turn the Brussels sprouts so that both sides become caramelized. Check the pear—it might not be caramelized at this point.
  3. After another 10 minutes, turn the Brussels sprouts again. Flip the pear. Reduce the oven heat to 375°F.
  4. Add the pistachios—you just want to heat them up and toast them slightly. 
  5. After 5 minutes, remove the baking sheet from the oven. Squeeze lemon juice directly over all the ingredients. Use your spatula to chop up the pear halves. Toss everything thoroughly. Serves 2.

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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 recipes holidays fall fruits and vegetables seasonal eating