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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Alkaline Water: Is It Worth the Hydration Hype?

We all know it’s essential to stay hydrated in the summer, and that the best way to do so is by drinking plenty of water. But is there a certain type of water, such as “alkaline” water, that offers better hydration? Here’s what our Registered Dietitian has to say.

GettyImages-170440672Alkaline vs. Acid

Alkaline water is typically fortified with small amounts of “alkalizing” minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and/or sodium in order to increase its pH, making it less acidic. The pH scale is used to specify the acidity or basicity (alkalinity) of a water-based solution. The pH scale ranges from 0, highly acidic, to 14, highly basic. For perspective, some everyday liquids and their respective pHs include

  • battery acid (pH = 0)
  • tomato juice (pH = 4)
  • baking soda (pH = 9)
  • bleach (pH = 13)

Pure water has a pH of 7, alkaline water typically has a pH of 8 or 9.

The Hypothesis

Some individuals hypothesize that drinking water with a higher pH than that of the body’s blood (between 7.35 and 7.45 for healthy individuals) can help decrease acidity in the body by raising its overall pH. However, the pH of the body is tightly regulated by our kidneys and lungs, and excessive acid buildup is unlikely, unless an underlying health condition is present, such as kidney or respiratory failure, severe infection, uncontrolled diabetes, or physical muscle trauma. Even in cases such as these, a lot more would need to be done than drinking water with a slightly higher pH than that of the body. With a pH of closer to 2–3, stomach acid likely neutralizes the water immediately, regardless of how high its pH is. And even if the extra “alkaline” in alkaline water was able to make it into our bloodstream, it would quickly be filtered by our kidneys and removed from the body by way of our urine.

Is It Safe?

Overall, alkaline water is still water; therefore, it is generally safe for consumption and serves its main purpose: to hydrate you. However, any out-of-the-ordinary health benefits boasted on the label are likely just a marketing tactic. Nevertheless, alkaline water is a great choice for hydration, especially when compared to sugary, high-calorie beverages such as soda, sugary sports drinks, and/or juice. Be sure to stay hydrated this summer by drinking plenty of water—alkaline or not!

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition summer hydration water myth busters

Everything You Need to Know About Electrolytes and Exercise

GettyImages-611081148Sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and chloride are all electrolytes, or minerals that fulfill essential roles within the body. More specifically, sodium, chloride, and potassium work together to maintain fluid balance within the body, while magnesium and calcium promote optimal muscle function and aid in energy metabolism.

An imbalance in one or more of these electrolytes can lead to disrupted bodily functions, which may present as dizziness, headache, fatigue, irregular heartbeat, muscle cramps, dark-colored urine, mental confusion, or nausea and vomiting. Typically, the average adult is able to maintain adequate electrolyte levels by consuming a well-rounded, healthy diet and staying hydrated.

How Are Electrolytes Related to Exercise?

Electrolytes are primarily lost through urine and sweat, which is why it’s so important to hydrate before, during, and after physical activity. The amount of electrolytes lost during exercise varies greatly from person to person, but also depends on the length and intensity of exercise, the individual’s body composition, the type of clothing worn during exercise, and the environment or climate in which the exercise is performed. On average, athletes can lose anywhere from 1 to 3 liters of fluid per hour of intense exercise, and in turn lose a significant amount of fluids and electrolytes.

How Do I Properly Replenish Electrolytes After Exercise?

Electrolyte replacement is most important during high-intensity activity that occurs for longer than 1 hour, or anytime when heavy sweating occurs, such as in high temperatures. Typically, water and a balanced snack are enough to replenish electrolytes after most exercise sessions. Ideally, choose a snack that has a balance of sodium- and potassium-rich foods, such as a banana with peanut butter, a hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit, or yogurt with nuts. However, for physical activity that lasts longer than 60–90 minutes, a carbohydrate-containing (10–20 grams per 8 ounces) electrolyte replacement beverage may be appropriate. Be cautious, as many electrolyte replacement beverages are high in added sugars and empty calories.

Remember, just like not consuming enough electrolytes, too many electrolyte-rich foods can cause electrolyte imbalances with undesirable side effects. Speak with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RD/RDN) to learn more about your individualized fluid, electrolyte, and other nutrition needs.

This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

 

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Topics: exercise nutrition hydration sports nutrition

Five Nutrition-Focused New Year's Resolutions That Aren’t About Weight

GettyImages-1358382035While having a New Year’s Resolution to “lose more weight” isn’t a bad thing, it’s not easy. And depending on how much you want to lose and in what time frame, it’s not always realistic. To benefit your overall health without focusing on your weight, try setting (and sticking to) some of the following nutrition-related resolutions going into 2022.

Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

About 80 percent of the US population doesn’t meet their fruit intake recommendations, while close to 90 percent do not meet their suggested vegetable intake (source: CDC). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage adults to consume around 2–2.5 cups of fruit per day and 2.5–3 cups of vegetables per day. Although this may be a lot for some, simply aiming to eat one additional fruit or vegetable each day is still beneficial.

Drink More Water

Water is essential for the body. It aids in digestion, regulates body temperature, cushions joints, and helps remove wastes from the body. Not drinking enough water increases the risk for dehydration, which can cause dizziness, confusion, fatigue, headaches and dry skin and mouth (source: CDC). A general rule of thumb is to consume at least 1 milliliter of water for every 1 calorie consumed. For example, if you consumed 2,200 calories per day, you would want to aim to consume 2,200ml, or 2.2 liters of water per day.

Consume Less Alcohol

Excess alcohol intake has both short- and long-term health consequences. In the short term, drinking too much can result in risky behaviors, injury, or violence. Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of high blood pressure and heart disease, certain cancers, weakened immune system, learning and memory issues, and social problems. Most professional health organizations such as the CDC and WHO agree that men should limit alcohol intake to less than two drinks/day, while women should aim for less than one drink per day (source: CDC).

Decrease Sodium Intake

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest consuming less than 2,300mg of sodium per day to promote optimal health and reduce the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death for adults in the US. However, in the US, the average sodium intake for individuals older than 1 year of age is ~3,400mg/day. Strategies for reducing sodium intake include cooking at home more often, using herbs and spices to season foods rather than salt, and consuming fewer packaged/prepared foods.

Limit Saturated Fat Consumption

Like sodium, excess saturated fat consumption is linked to an increased risk for heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10% of daily calories, while the American Heart Association recommends even less, at less than 5–6% of daily calories from saturated fat per day. Saturated fat is found in most animal-based foods such as beef, poultry, pork, full-fat dairy products, and coconut and palm oils. To cut back on saturated fat, reduce your intake or eat smaller portions of the foods listed above and replace them with healthier options, such as fat-free or low-fat dairy and lean cuts of meat.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition resolutions weight loss healthy eating hydration goals new year's sodium alcohol dietitian fruits and vegetables fats healthy living

Stay Properly Hydrated: Your Kidneys Will Thank You

Screen Shot 2022-05-23 at 10.49.44 AM

Greetings NIFS friends and fitness aficionados! As warmer days come, we will be subject to higher instances of dehydration. This might seem fairly obvious and straightforward, but what really happens to your body, namely your kidneys, as you reach these states of dehydration? We are told to drink “x” amount of water every day, but is that right for everyone? How does taking supplements effect our kidneys, especially when we do not have enough water? What can we do to help alleviate the effects of dehydration and protect our kidneys from chronic kidney disease? Taking time now to address these concerns will help keep you healthier as you get older.

GettyImages-1202329799What Do Your Kidneys Do?

You might be asking yourself, “What’s so special about kidneys?” The answer to this can be found at the National Kidney Foundation website. Basically, your kidneys allow your body to remove excess waste and fluid from the body via the bloodstream, help in regulating blood pressure, create red blood cells through erythropoietin, keep your bones healthy through processing vitamin D with calcium and phosphorus, and keep your body’s pH levels balanced so that you don’t become too acidic. So, nothing major right? The importance of your kidneys cannot be overstated, and keeping them safe should be a priority.

How Does Dehydration Affect Your Kidneys?

For starters, one of the main kidney functions involves removing waste from the body (this is a filtration process through urination). When there is a lack of water, a buildup of this “waste” happens. This could lead to kidney infections, kidney stones, and even kidney failure. To prevent all of this, adequate water intake is a necessity. Many sites, such as The Mayo Clinic, suggest roughly 8 glasses of water (closer to 3.7 liters for men and 2.7 liters for women) while other reputable sources, such Dr. Roxanne Sukol at The Cleveland Clinic suggest, “Your size, activity, metabolism, location, diet, physical activity and health all factor into how much water you need.” Basically, your needs will vary depending on the situation (if you sweat a lot, you may need to drink more than someone who doesn’t sweat as much).

How Can Supplements Affect Hydration?

Dietary and workout supplements vary in nature and are rarely regulated by any government agency. This being said, the components in our supplements, such as a pre-workout drink, may contain an immense amount of caffeine. Caffeine has been proven to cause dehydration in the body. With this dehydration, any other substances that need to filter through the kidneys have a harder time processing and the filtration process becomes more and more taxed. At some point, the initial dehydration becomes a huge problem. The safest bet, if you are using any supplements, is to make sure you are always drinking ample amounts of water and staying within the recommended serving sizes noted on the container.

Are You Dehydrated?

If you are unsure that you are drinking enough water, there are several tests to see whether you are dehydrated. Over-the-counter urine sample tests are designed to tell whether you are dehydrated. If you do not have access to these tools, you can use thirst as an indicator (although thirst is the afterthought of dehydration and you should drink up before this occurs). Drinking the recommended daily amounts of water per day might seem like a daunting task, but you can use strategies to create an interval so that you don’t drink all your drinks at once.

Where Can You Get More Information?

There is so much to gain from taking care of your kidneys. Your health, happiness, and life depend on it. For more information about taking care of your kidneys and advice about incorporating water into your daily regimen, contact a NIFS Fitness Specialist at 317-274-3432 ext. 262, or reach out via email at tlivegnood@nifs.org.

Thank you for reading… muscleheads rejoice and evolve!

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This blog was written by Thomas Livengood, NIFS Health Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.
Topics: Thomas' Corner hydration disease prevention water supplements dietary supplements kidneys kidney health

Staying Hydrated When Exercising This Summer

GettyImages-868150638Did you know the human body is composed of about 50 to 60 percent water? Throughout the day, your body uses and loses fluid by way of natural body processes such as sweating, breathing, creating saliva, making and excreting urine, and having bowel movements. Losing more water than you consume can quickly lead to dehydration, which typically presents as excess thirst, headache, dizziness, weakness, digestion problems, and/or nausea. These symptoms typically resolve once you rehydrate your body.

How Much Water Do I Need Each Day?

The amount of water needed each day is different for everyone and varies depending on your age, gender, weight and height, activity level, and health status. For example, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding or those with chronic diarrhea often have increased fluid needs, while some individuals, such as those with kidney disease or congestive heart failure, may need less. Consuming alcohol and caffeine may also increase fluid excretion, thus requiring an increase in fluid intake.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to hydration because you can achieve normal hydration status with a wide range of total water intake. Total water intake includes plain drinking water, water in beverages, and water that is found in food sources, such as in watermelon or cucumbers. On average, close to 20 percent of total fluid intake comes from food sources.

Instead of an established recommended intake level for water consumption, an Adequate Intake level for total water was set to prevent dehydration and its side effects. The Adequate Intake for total water for adult men and women is 3.7 liters and 2.7 liters each day, respectively. However, water consumption below the adequate intake doesn’t automatically put you at risk for dehydration. A good rule of thumb is to consume HALF of your body weight in OUNCES of water. For example, an individual who weighs 150 pounds should aim to consume 75 ounces of water each day (150 pounds / 2 = 75 ounces).

For more individualized fluid recommendations, please speak to your physician or a registered dietitian (RD/RDN).

How Do I Know If I’m Drinking Enough?

The simplest way to determine your hydration status is by looking at the color of your urine. Pale urine is typically indicative of proper hydration and gets darker the less hydrated you become. It is possible to consume too much water, so if you’re urinating frequently or your urine is clear, you may be drinking too much.

Suggestions for Staying Hydrated

Here are some tips for increasing your fluid intake.

  • Purchase a reusable water bottle.
  • Opt for water rather than soda and/or sugary drinks.
  • Wear clothing that is made of moisture-wicking material and fits loosely, to help you keep cool.
  • Bored of water? Add fruit to still or sparkling water. Try out some of these suggestions: Mint, lemon, and strawberry slices; cucumber and melon slices; orange and lime slices; apple slices and cinnamon sticks; cranberry and orange slices; orange slices and cloves; pineapple slices and raspberries.
  • Consume foods with a high water content such as watermelon and cantaloupe; strawberries; grapes; lettuce, cabbage and spinach; celery and carrots.

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This blog was written by Lindsey Recker, MS, RD, NIFS Registered Dietitian. To learn more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: nutrition summer hydration water outdoor exercise

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

5 Tips for a Safe Return to Fitness After Quarantine

GettyImages-1134331738Do you remember the last time you went on an extended vacation, came back home, jumped into the gym and your favorite class and thought you could pick right back up where you left off? You might remember feeling like you were not going to make it through the class and were so sore for days on end. And that was just after a vacation consisting of a long rest, relaxation, and food freedom. Just think what you may encounter once you return to your favorite class or training group after two to three months of quarantine.

Now if you have been able to keep up your training intensity during this time, that’s awesome, and what I’m talking about might not apply to you. But I would argue that most of us, even with the best intentions, might not have been exercising at the same intensity in which we left our favorite facility. And if you jump back in too fast, at too furious of an intensity, you could find yourself with far worse than a case of sore muscles—and maybe even losing your lunch during class.

As you make your way back into your gym and classes, here are five helpful tips that will aid in keeping you safe and free from injury so you don’t get knocked out for another couple of months.

Reset Your Mindset

I think the most important step in getting back to your previous fitness level is being okay with not being at your previous fitness level. There is no room for negative self-talk because your deadlift isn’t Instagram-worthy right now, or running a mile is now incredibly challenging when it was once a warm-up. Think short-term adjustment at the beginning as you get your legs back underneath you. Find the little victories and be proud of them as you continue to ramp back up to previous intensities.

Start Slow and Add Gradually

Stave off injuries or worse by starting slow and adding intensity progressively throughout the first 8–10 sessions back. Starting off too heavy or too fast can lead to physical injuries as well as emotional setbacks. Build some confidence every session, and you will be back to your prime self in no time, safely! 

Do an RPE System Check

Do a frequent body system check using Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. The Borg Scale is a rating chart from 6–20 of how hard you feel yourself working at any one given task. There is a modified version that is a simple 0–10 rating system. Either one correlates well with your heart rate and can provide a quick and reliable audit of how your body is reacting to exercise. If you feel like you are barely moving, you may be at a 6 or 7 (1,2); or if you feel like if you keep up the current intensity you may lose that lunch I mentioned earlier, you may be at an 18–20 (8–10). It’s quick and easy, does not require equipment, and can provide an accurate intensity level check. Do frequent system checks throughout your workout, and if you feel you are pushing to the higher numbers of that scale, you may want to back it down and gradually work up to that intensity level.

Warm Up/Prep for Movement

Take the time to properly warm up and prepare yourself for the work at hand. This message is not new, and should always be practiced, but even more so now that you may have had a lengthy layoff. Consider this as part of your workout and you are more likely to complete it every time; don’t treat it as an option that is nice to do if you have the time. Make time! Foam rolling and soft tissue techniques, dynamic warm-up drills, and stability work should all be completed before jumping into a training session or your favorite class. Five to seven minutes can save you months in rehabbing an injury that could have been avoided.

Hydrate and Recover

Same as above, not a new message but a super-important one these days! Start hydrating now if you have been lacking in that area. Don’t wait until midway through a training session to start fluid intake. If you are following the rule of thumb and ingesting half your body weight in ounces of water daily, you are in a great position. Just like your warm-up, take the time to cool down and perform recovery drills post workout. These will help with soreness and increase mobility while slowing down your mind to focus on the victories you just grabbed in the workout. Slow down the systems and reward yourself for a job well done!

***

We were confident that this day would come when we could get back to our gyms, groups, and classes and get moving like we did before everything changed. Now that it is here, please take the proper steps in protecting yourself against injury or even worse. It may take some time to get back to where you once were, but it will be well worth it!

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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: injury prevention hydration recovery warming up mindset quarantine

Winter Weight Loss and Fitness: Pushing Through the Cold

GettyImages-1125853893There is no debate that it’s easier to make healthier choices and lose weight in the spring and summer months. The sun is shining and warm, the days are longer, and you feel motivated to get outdoors and be active. But when the cold, harsh months of winter come around, all motivation goes out the window. Let’s take a look at ways to keep your motivation high and get over those hurdles of temptation.

Temptation Is All Around

The cold months are full of occasions that bring temptations. Hot chocolate, cookies, cakes, holiday parties, and family and friend gatherings are everywhere. If you’re not careful, it can be easy to slip into the mindset that all indulgences are bad. When you label your food choices as “good” and “bad,” every decision becomes a loaded one. Any time you stray from your eating plan, you might feel a bit of guilt or shame. These emotions can trigger the body’s stress response, and when stress is involved it can set you up for more trouble.

Instead of sweating over the “shoulda, coulda, wouldas,” try making food choices that are right for you. Plan ahead, or maybe choose one small indulgence per day to satisfy your sweet tooth and engage in those fun winter activities.

Come Out of Hibernation and Get Motivated to Exercise

The snow is falling and ice is everywhere. The days are still short and daylight is minimal. Winter itself is enough to tank your motivation to exercise. Who wants to go out into the freezing weather to go for a run or to the gym when you can curl up on the couch with a blanket and be perfectly content? There are tons of ways you can stay active from the comfort of your own home.

  • Stay active while watching your favorite show or movie: Every commercial/intermission, get up and knock out a circuit of 10 pushups, 10 squats, and 10 crunches. Maybe even jog in place until the show comes back on.
  • Use apps: We have cut the cord when it comes to cable. We use our Apple TV, which is just like having an iPhone on your TV. Download an exercising app that you can play on your TV and get a quick 15–20-minute workout.

Keeping up with a fitness routine will help with more than weight loss. The benefit of working out is that it gets oxygen to the cells, keeps your body working, and gets you energized.

Staying Hydrated

It is so easy to indulge in all the sweet, alcoholic seasonal drinks such as eggnog. Don’t forget to make sure you are staying hydrated. Fun fact: According to a 2003 study on the metabolic effects of different water temperatures published by The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, when you consume liquids that are colder than your core body temperature, your body has to work to warm it up, and it burns extra calories in the process. So consider drinking ice water instead of hot chocolate!

Drinking water can give your immune system a boost and prevent you from getting sick during peak cold and flu season. Drinking water can also increase your metabolism and help you feel full longer. This in turn could help curb your appetite and enable you to maintain healthy eating habits.

Come Visit Us!

Get bundled up and come and see us. We would love to have you in one of our classes, write a program for you, conduct your assessments, provide training for you, or be here to walk around the track with you. Whatever you need from your staff at NIFS, please ask and let us help set the tone for the new year!

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

Topics: NIFS winter fitness fitness center motivation weight loss hydration winter

Get an A+ in Back-to-School Nutrition

GettyImages-1026132188Whether you are starting your first year in college, sending your kids off to school, or are teaching classes this school year, make sure that your nutrition stays at the top of your priority list. It can be easy to get bogged down in your day-to-day routine and quickly lose sight of your goals. Follow these steps to help you stay on track this year.

1. Eat Breakfast

It’s okay to be a creature of habit and eat the exact same meal every morning, as long as it is nutrient dense and keeps you satisfied throughout the morning. Pair a little protein (about 15–20 grams) with a carbohydrate. This gives your brain the boost it needs, but also helps keep you full so that you don’t arrive at lunch with a growling belly.

A few ideas to try:

  • Oatmeal with berries and a spoonful of peanut butter (try making overnight oats for easy grab and go).
  • Scrambled egg with sautéed veggies and whole-grain toast.
  • Banana or apple slices with a thin layer of almond butter on whole-grain toast.

2. Take Snacks

Your body needs a little fuel throughout the day to keep energy levels high and keep you focused. Just like breakfast keeps you full throughout the morning, you want to make sure you aren’t arriving to your next meal famished—otherwise, people have a tendency to eat too much, too quickly. Keep the pantry and fridge stocked with healthy and easy snacks so you can grab one and go in the morning.

A few ideas to try:

  • The original fast-foods: bananas, apples, oranges.
  • A variety of nuts such as pistachios, almonds, and pecans.
  • Granola bars such as Larabar or KIND snacks.
  • Hummus and veggies.
  • Whole-grain crackers and guacamole.

3. Practice Smart Hydration

Skip high-calorie beverages and aim to increase your intake of water. Opt for alternatives like flavored sparkling water, unsweet tea, or fruit-infused water to mix up your choices. (Here are some more tips for proper hydration.)

4. Make a Meal Plan

Just like you plan a time to do homework, work out, or go to sports practice, don’t put your nutrition on the back burner to everything else. Sit down as a family or roommates and write out your plan for the week. Start with breakfast—this is often the easiest. Next, plan dinners—dinner often will help you fill in your lunch plans with leftovers. From here, make your grocery list. This not only helps keeping you out of the closest fast-food joint, but it also helps with budgets—a win for everyone!

Meals do not need to be complicated. Keep the Plate Method in mind. Simply try to make half of your plate fruits and veggies, keep protein portions to one quarter of your plate, and make the other quarter of your plate whole grains.

5. Allow for Splurges

After a long day of exams, helping with book reports, or grading papers, everyone deserves a little treat, right? Try to avoid rewarding yourself with food at the end of every day, but also know that if you plan for some of your favorites you will be less likely to over-eat these items when you “cave” at 3 AM on a Tuesday! Take the kids for Friday night ice cream every week, hang with your friends and enjoy a slice or two of your favorite pizza, and then plan to get right back on track with healthy eating after that. One meal or snack will not throw you off track.

Sweet alternatives:

  • Chocolate hummus with fruit
  • Dried and pitted dates filled with almonds or dark chocolate
  • “Nice cream” (frozen banana blended with peanut butter)

***

We at NIFS hope your school year gets off to a great start. Best of luck in the 2019–2020 school year!

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

Topics: nutrition snacks lunch breakfast hydration school meals meal planning

Healthy Eating Habits from Registered Dietitians

GettyImages-937435294There are so many diets out there that it can be confusing as to what you should follow and who you should listen to when it comes to healthy and balanced eating. If you aren’t sure where to begin to change your current routine, take a look at these tips that Registered Dietitians (the experts in healthy habits) recommend.

  • Eat breakfast daily. The most important meal of the day should not be missed. Aim for three food groups that combine a mixture of fiber and protein to keep you full and start your day off right. Oatmeal mixed with a nut butter and fruit, a whole-wheat English muffin with an egg and a glass of milk, a smoothie with frozen fruit and veggies and Greek yogurt, or a veggie omelet and toast are some quick, balanced, and fabulous options to have in the morning.
  • Eat mindfully. Mindful eaters will eat less than those who are distracted by their phone, television, computer, and emotions. Paying attention to whether you are hungry and then choosing foods that sound satisfying is the key to mindful eating.
  • Stay hydrated. Dehydration causes slowed metabolism, mindless eating, and feelings of false hunger. Drinking water throughout the day can help combat these. Have a reusable bottle on your desk at work as a visual reminder to keep drinking all day. (Here are tips for staying hydrated the easy way.)
  • Snack. Aim to have something to eat every four to five hours. A snack helps keep you satisfied until your next meal and prevents overeating caused by going too long without fuel. Be sure to grab a snack that has some fiber and/or protein to help you stay full and give your body the nutrients it needs. (Here are some easy smoothie recipes.)
  • Eat dessert. Believing that all foods—even dessert—can fit into a balanced diet is important. If you deprive yourself of your favorite foods, it can lead to a vicious cycle of guilt eating and feeling bad about your choice. Instead, enjoy your dessert with a balanced meal and then move on.

Following this advice from Registered Dietitians is the first step in lifelong balanced eating. Try to make each one a habit, so that healthy eating becomes a lifestyle instead of a challenge. Find out more about NIFS nutrition services

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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: healthy habits weight loss healthy eating snacks breakfast hydration mindfulness dietitian