Eat More Veggies! 7 Sneaky Ways to Get More Vegetables into Your Diet

Americans don’t eat enough vegetables. This is a commonly known fact. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only one in 10 adults are getting enough fruit and vegetables in their daily diets. Yet government guidelines recommend that adults eat at least two to three cups of vegetables per day as well as at least one-and-a-half to two cups of fruit. So, how can you change your diet and modify your cooking to make sure you’re meeting the recommended guidelines?

Maybe you aren’t a big fan of broccoli, or you aren’t sure how to prepare vegetables in an appealing way. Or maybe, like many people, you just find it inconvenient to eat all of those veggies when there are quick and easy packaged meals ready to go.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to eat enough vegetables because they are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, which can help keep you healthy and help fight off disease, as well as help you maintain a healthy weight.

Here are seven creative ways to incorporate vegetables into your cooking that are both easy and appetizing.

1. Make vegetable-based soups.
Soups are a great way to incorporate several vegetables at once. You can make vegetables the base of the soup by puréeing them and adding spices, meats, noodles, or more veggies. Some examples of vegetable-based soups include tomato soup, carrot soup, creamy cauliflower soup, mushroom-spinach soup, and of course classic vegetable soup. You can find some delicious soup recipes here.

2. Try Veggie Noodles.
If you crave pasta but are watching your carb intake, veggie noodles are a great low-carb alternative and a way to get in several servings of vegetables in one meal. The most common vegetables used for noodles are zucchini, carrots, spaghetti squash, and sweet potatoes. You will need a spiralizer for making veggie noodles: you insert veggies into the spiralizer, and it processes them into noodle-like shapes. Veggie noodles can be eaten just like regular pasta—just add another vegetable-based sauce, such as tomato sauce, and add meat if you like. Toss in some mushrooms and onions, and you’ve met a big portion of your daily vegetable requirement.

3. Add Vegetables to Sauces.
Speaking of noodle dishes, another easy way to increase vegetable intake is by adding them to sauces. When cooking a sauce, such as a marinara sauce, just add in other veggies like chopped onions, carrots, peppers, or spinach. You can also puree other vegetables to make them into a sauce on their own, such as butternut squash or spinach.

4. Use Cauliflower for Carbs.
Cauliflower pizza is all the rage right now. With the popularity of gluten-free and low-carb diets, substituting cauliflower for flour-based crusts allows you to still enjoy pizza, plus it adds in a full serving of vegetables. Blend more veggies into your pizza sauce or add them as toppings for a veggie-rich meal.

Cauliflower rice is another carb alternative and can be substituted for regular white or brown rice. You can use either a food processor or box grater to make cauliflower rice. It’s even easier to cook than regular rice, either on the stove top or in the microwave. You can serve it as a side or use it as a base for other recipes that mix in meat and other vegetables.

5. Blend Veggies into Smoothies.
Smoothies are a really easy way to eat more vegetables and are especially appealing if you have picky kids. They won’t even be able to taste the vegetables or know they are in these yummy drinks! Blending in green, leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale with fruits such as mangoes, strawberries, bananas, and peaches packs both fruits and veggies into one sweet, icy drink that you or your kids can have for a quick breakfast-on-the-go or for an anytime snack.

6. Try a Lettuce Wrap.
Using lettuce or other leafy vegetables such as kale or spinach as a wrap instead of a bun or tortilla is one of the easiest ways to eat more vegetables. They can be used for several types of dishes including bunless hamburgers or hot dogs, or a low-carb sandwich.

7. Make a Veggie Omelet.
Omelets don’t have to just be for breakfast, plus they’re an easy way to sneak in more veggies. Almost any type of vegetable tastes good in an omelet, but the most popular ones are mushrooms, onions, peppers, spinach, and tomatoes. Add in some cheese and/or meat for a filling meal.

By getting creative with using vegetables in your cooking, you’ll be able to increase your daily intake and learn to love eating vegetables.

 

 

 

Eating Right for Gut Health

Everyone experiences digestive problems from time to time. Symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion, gas, bloating, constipation and abdominal discomfort are common and can be caused by a variety of things including diet, age, health conditions, and certain medications. But when digestive distress becomes a constant problem and interferes with your day-to-day life, it may be time to reexamine your diet and make some changes that can help alleviate unpleasant symptoms and lead to better digestive health.

Scientists have discovered in recent years that in addition to improved digestive health,  the GI system is linked to many other aspects of health from immunity to emotional health to chronic illnesses including cancer and Type 2 diabetes. This link is believed to lie in the microbiome—the bacteria and other microorganisms that inhabit the stomach and intestines.

It’s important to note that persistent digestive problems should always be checked by your doctor. If you’ve been cleared medically of any underlying health conditions, then changing your diet can help regulate digestion and improve your overall gut health.

The Big Three
Improving gut health revolves around three major sources: foods containing fiber, probiotics, prebiotics, or a combination of all three.

  • Fiber, found in plant-based foods, aids in digestion as it helps regulate the speed at which food moves through your gut.
  • Probiotics in foods are live microorganisms or so-called “good bacteria.” These foods are created through the fermentation process and can encourage a healthy digestive tract.
  • Prebiotics are necessary for probiotics to work in helping the flora in your gut to flourish.

While there are a lot of over-the-counter probiotic/prebiotic supplements available on the market, these types of supplements are not well-regulated, so you don’t know if you’re actually getting what is on the label. It is much more beneficial to get these nutrients through food rather than supplements. The best foods for all three sources are whole foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products.

Focus on Fiber.
Most Americans do not get enough fiber in their diets. The recommended daily amount of fiber for women is 25 grams and 38 grams for men. Increasing the fiber in your diet should be done gradually, especially if you aren’t already eating a lot of fibrous foods, because adding too much too quickly can cause cramping and gas. By increasing your fiber intake gradually, digestive symptoms should also gradually improve.

To increase your daily fiber intake, eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, and try adding more of these particular foods to your diet:

  • Legumes such as chickpeas, lentils, navy beans, and white beans
  • Berries such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries
  • Whole grains such as barley, bran, and bulgur

Promote Probiotics and Prebiotics.

Research on probiotics and prebiotics is relatively new, so there is currently no specific recommendation for daily intake. Eating a variety of foods containing probiotics several times a week can help regulate digestion and ease mild digestive symptoms.

The best sources of probiotic foods include:

  • Yogurt
  • Kefir
  • Sauerkraut
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Miso
  • Kombucha
  • Pickles
  • Cheeses – Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, cottage cheese

Prebiotics are found in fiber-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, although not all plant-based foods contain prebiotics. Some of the best sources include bananas, nuts, whole wheat, and corn.

By revamping your diet to include more of these foods that promote a healthy gut, you can lessen or eliminate symptoms of digestive distress and improve overall health.

 

Exercise 101: Starting an Exercise Program for the New Year

If you’ve made it your New Year’s resolution to start an exercise program, you’re not alone. The majority of New Year’s resolutions are fitness-related, with 65 percent of those who make resolutions vowing to exercise more, according to Inc. com. Perhaps you aren’t just wanting to exercise more or run a 5K, but instead, you’ve never really exercised much before and want to start being more active, but aren’t sure where to begin.

Here are some tips to get you started on an exercise program so you can make a lifestyle change, and not just burn out after a couple of weeks and quit by the end of January.

Get a checkup.
Before beginning any sort of exercise program, it’s important to check with your doctor first. If you’ve been inactive for a while or are over 45, you should consult a doctor to make sure you don’t have any underlying health conditions or limitations that could put you at risk for injury during exercise.

Choose an activity you enjoy.
Exercise doesn’t necessarily have to mean a strict, time-consuming workout at the gym. There are so many different types of exercise that it’s best to start with something you enjoy doing, so there’s a better chance you’ll stick to it. You can always try something new later on after your fitness has improved. Activities such as walking, dancing, biking and even gardening are good ways to get started moving, especially if you’ve led a mostly sedentary lifestyle in recent years.

How much exercise?
For heart health, the American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardiovascular exercise most days of the week. If you can’t do a full 30 minutes, even as little as 5-10 minutes will still offer benefits, and you can increase the duration as your fitness level improves.

As a long-term goal, the American College of Sports Medicine’s current recommendations for physical activity include at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise per week. You can achieve the 150 minutes any way that works best for you—for example, you can work out for 30 minutes five days per week, or do a 40-minute workout every other day.

Set realistic goals.
Create an exercise plan that has clear, achievable steps and goals. For example, set goals to exercise for 30 minutes three times per week to begin. After a few weeks of sticking to that plan, increase to four days and increase the duration of how long you exercise. Continue to build on this type of schedule as your fitness improves. Once you’re exercising regularly for as many days as you can, you can also set more long-term goals, such as completing a 5K.

Create a habit.
You are more likely to stick to an exercise program if you can make it a regular habit. If you schedule your workout at the same time every day, such as after or before work, you’ll be more likely to stick to it long term. Use your online calendar or a print calendar to schedule your workouts into your day just like you would other appointments. Set reminders on your phone or use fitness trackers if that keeps you motivated.

Stay hydrated.
Make sure you are drinking enough water throughout the day to keep your body properly hydrated. If you’re exercising in hot temperatures, it’s also important to replenish fluids during exercise, and always drink water after you finish your workout to help your body recover.

Warm up and cool down.
Be sure to always warm up before each workout. Stretching your muscles will help prevent injury, increase flexibility, and help reduce muscle soreness after working out. Similarly, cooling down after a workout is equally important. Light walking or stretching after a workout can help return your breathing to normal and help reduce muscle soreness.

Listen to your body.
If you’re just beginning and are not used to strenuous exercise, start slowly and pay attention to your body’s limits. If you feel any pain or discomfort during a workout, stop and rest before continuing. By starting slowly and building up the intensity of your workouts over time, you’re more likely to stick with it and less likely to injure yourself.

Reward yourself.
Regular exercise has all kinds of wonderful benefits for our bodies including increased energy, improved sleep, improved emotional health, weight loss, and improved overall health. But these types of benefits are long-term rewards. To motivate yourself to stick with an exercise program long term so you will reap these types of health benefits, it’s important to give yourself short-term rewards when you reach a fitness goal or even after completing a week of workouts. These rewards can be anything you enjoy such as a hot bath, watching a show on Netflix, a manicure/pedicure, a new pair of sneakers or new workout clothes. Just make sure you only allow yourself the reward after you exercise.

20 Tips for 2020: How To Realistically Set and Keep New Year’s Resolutions.

If you’re like most people, every year you set several big, lofty goals for the New Year: maybe it’s to lose 30 pounds, to eat cleaner or to exercise more, or even to run a 10K. Most New Year’s Resolutions revolve around losing weight or exercise goals, and most people have given up their goals by February. There’s a reason that gym is packed the week after New Year’s and practically empty come Valentine’s Day!

According to a study conducted by the University of Scranton, just 8 percent of people achieve their New Year’s goals, while around 80 percent fail to keep their New Year’s resolutions.

You can keep and attain those New Year’s resolutions and be successful. By setting realistic and attainable goals and making a few other changes, you can make 2020 the year you accomplish your goals. Here are 20 tips for 2020 to get you started and to help you reach your goals.

1. Plan ahead. Don’t wait until New Year’s Eve to make your resolutions. Plan your goals well ahead of December 31.

2. Don’t make too many resolutions. To increase your chances of success, it’s better to pick one realistic goal and set small steps to achieve it rather than making a list of several resolutions.

3. Don’t make the same resolution year after year. Perhaps you’ve made the same resolution each year—to lose 30 pounds, for example. And every year, you’ve failed to reach your goal. Instead, this year, break down that big goal into smaller goals such as “lose 10 pounds by April 1″ or “exercise 3 times per week.” Then re-evaluate and set new goals after you reach your first small goal.

4. Set attainable and meaningful goals. When making your resolutions, be specific and have identifiable steps of how you will reach your goal. One way to do this is by following the SMART acronym – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. Learn more here.

5. Write it down. Write down your resolution and break it down into smaller steps that you can follow to help you reach your ultimate goal.

6. Post it somewhere visible. After writing down your goals, post them on your fridge or bathroom mirror, or wherever they’ll be most visible for you to see daily to help keep yourself motivated.

7. Plan a time frame. Buy a calendar or use an online tracker so you can plan your action list for the coming weeks and months. This way, you can assess your short-term progress and make adjustments along the way.

8. Track your progress. Using that same calendar or online tool, track your progress. Record little achievements as well as big ones. For example, if you made it to the gym four times one week, record it.

9. Set rewards along the way. To help yourself stay motivated, reward yourself along the way. For example, if your goal was to lose 30 pounds, reward yourself for your first five pounds lost. Rewards can be such things as treating yourself to a spa day or buying yourself a new pair of sneakers, but stay away from food-based rewards especially if your resolution is to get healthy in the new year.

10. Announce it to friends and family. Tell your family and friends about your resolutions, and ask them to help support you in the new year. You could also post it on social media to enlist the support of your friend network and to help keep yourself accountable.

11. Enlist a partner. If you have a friend who has the same or similar goals for the new year, partner with them to help keep each other motivated and accountable.

12. Find digital support. If you can’t find a real life partner, look for support online. There are numerous online support groups for diet and exercise programs, as well as social media groups.

13. Take advantage of technology. Make use of tools such as Fitbits, trackers, cell phones, or other online support tools to help you track your progress and stick to your goals.

14. Have a plan to deal with setbacks. You will experience setbacks along the way, but as long as you have a plan on how to deal with them, they don’t have to unravel all of your progress. If you fall off your healthy eating plan, for example, get right back on it the following day.

15. Don’t beat yourself up. Don’t obsess over occasional slip-ups. Take things one day at a time and use your plan for handling setbacks.

16. Keep trying. Once you’ve had a setback, or several, you may feel completely discouraged and ready to give up. If by mid-February you feel like you want to throw in the towel, don’t! Recommit yourself for 24 hours. Then set another 24-hour goal and build from there, and soon, you’ll be right back on track.

17. Know when to take a break. Burnout will happen if you don’t allow yourself to take breaks. Find time every day to relax and especially to let your mind relax and not hyper-focus on reaching your goal.

18. Be patient. Change takes time. Be patient with yourself and know that change won’t happen overnight or even in one week or month.

19. Re-evaluate after six weeks or six months. Check in after a period of time and re-evaluate your goals. Are you where you wanted to be? What changes can you make to help you reach your goal? Have you already reached or surpassed your initial goal? What can you do to keep improving yourself?

20. Celebrate all successes. If your resolutions revolve around weight loss or exercise goals, it’s important to have small, measurable ways to see progress. Don’t base your goals only around a number on the scale. Take your measurements before starting a weight loss or exercise program, and periodically remeasure to see changes. Are you feeling less winded when taking the stairs at work? That’s progress too! Celebrate all of your successes, no matter how small.

The Benefits of Exercise During the Holiday Season

Maintaining a regular exercise routine during the busy holiday season is important and not just because of the risk of gaining unwanted pounds, although that’s one good reason. While it may be tempting to skip your workouts with the idea that you’ll start back again after the New Year as part of your resolutions, you really should make exercise a priority even when the holidays place extra demands on your already hectic schedule. Exercise can help you face many of the challenges and stressors of the next few weeks.

Check out some of these exercise benefits:

Preventing holiday weight gain. The most obvious benefit of continuing a regular exercise schedule is avoiding the dreaded holiday weight gain. Exercising consistently can protect you from the effects of up to a week of overeating, according to a study from the University of Michigan.

Less risk of losing workout gains. While skipping one or two workouts won’t affect your overall fitness, if you regularly miss workouts during the holidays, you could face significant losses. Both cardiovascular fitness and strength could suffer if you start skipping workouts regularly; you could lose many of the benefits you’ve worked so hard to gain.

Reducing stress. Even though the holidays are meant to be a joyful time, they can produce added stress for a lot of people. The extra demands on your time, gift shopping, food preparation, visiting relatives, traveling, house guests, and financial worries can add up to lots of increased anxiety and stress. Exercise can reduce stress by releasing endorphins that make you feel good. It also provides you with an outlet to take out some of that stress and frustration, and gives you a guaranteed dose of daily time for yourself.

Reducing symptoms of S.A.D. Many people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.), a  mood disorder related to change in seasons and less daylight during winter. Sufferers may feel depressed, fatigued, experience sleep problems and appetite changes, and have difficulty concentrating, among other symptoms. Exercise can help relieve depression and elevate mood. In addition, doing an outdoor workout during the day allows you to get much-needed sunlight exposure, which can benefit mood disorders.

Lowering blood pressure. Exercise lowers blood pressure—and does so right away. Whether you take a daily walk, run, or swim laps, every time you finish a workout, your blood pressure decreases and remains lower for several hours, which is beneficial for your overall health. If you’re prone to high blood pressure, the added stress as well as extra salty and rich holiday foods may raise your blood pressure, so sticking to a regular exercise routine can help keep your blood pressure in check.

Holiday Eating Without the Guilt

Food is everywhere during the holiday season. From office parties to family gatherings to school functions to cookie exchanges, celebrations this time of year revolve around food. And really good food too—it’s hard to resist all of the rich desserts, creamy dips, cheese balls, hors d’oeuvres, and eggnog this time of year, nor should you have to. But you also don’t want to completely unravel the healthy eating habits you’ve established this year or gain any unwanted pounds.

How can you enjoy all of the holiday goodies without feeling guilty? Here are some holiday eating tips that will allow you to savor every bite this season while still maintaining moderation and hopefully doing minimal damage to your waistline.

Skip seconds.
Don’t pass up your favorite holiday foods, but do skip seconds. By filling your plate with the foods you enjoy the most, you will be more mindful of not overeating.

Less is more.
Choose to eat two of your favorite Christmas cookies instead of four; have just one crescent roll instead of two, and so on.

Make a swap.
If there are specific foods you don’t want to miss out on, such as pecan pie or gingerbread, then limit other foods at the meal such as bread or potatoes to save on calories.

It’s OK to say no.
Remember, it is perfectly acceptable to turn down food offered to you by others. Simply say, “No, thank you,” or “I am full,” when offered something you don’t want. You are not obligated to eat everything the host offers.

Leave the leftovers.
Pass on the leftovers. Try to limit your indulgence to a special occasion such as a party or family gathering, then get back to your regular, healthy eating patterns the next day. Leftovers in the fridge are too tempting to grab when you’re in a hurry instead of making a healthy meal.

Tackle the buffet, but in moderation.
When faced with a bountiful buffet table, fill your plate with moderate portions. It may be tempting to sample everything, but instead, get one small serving of the dishes you like the most, and then feel free to add more fresh veggies or fruits to keep you full. Use a small plate to help control portions.

Take just a bite.
Have just a few bites of that rich, creamy dessert rather than the whole thing. You don’t need a large amount of food to enjoy celebrating with family and friends.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!
If you plan to enjoy alcoholic drinks, be sure to drink one glass of water between every alcoholic drink to stay hydrated and to help with digestion.

Give yourself permission to enjoy all of the foods you may not normally eat the rest of the year, and then get back on track with your regular routine the next day.

Enjoy the Holiday Season with Less Stress

The holiday season is in full swing, and if you’re like most of us, you’re already feeling the pressure to shop, decorate, cook, send cards, and attend every party or event to which you’re invited. But stop right there! This time of the year doesn’t have to stress you out; there are many ways you can plan your holiday to reduce stress and put some enjoyment back into the season. After all, it’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year—not the most stressful!

Let go of expectations.
The pressure to feel a certain way during the holidays is everywhere. Words like “joy,” “wonder,” and “celebrate” are plastered on everything from coffee mugs to sweaters, but many people find this time of year to be overwhelming and stressful. Overcommitting to events and trying to create the “perfect holiday” can drain any enjoyment out of the season. Comparing yourself to friends’ perfectly staged photos on social media can add another layer of expectation that your holiday should look and feel a certain way. The reality is that endless to-do lists, obligations, busy schedules, and travel logistics can often overshadow the idyllic Hallmark Christmas-movie images you have of the perfect holiday.

By letting go of all these expectations, you can free yourself of a lot of unnecessary stress. Decide what is most important to you for the holidays: Is it spending time with family? Attending church services? Giving to those in need? Focus on what makes the holidays most enjoyable for you and let go of the things that cause too much stress. If that means not sending out holiday cards this year, that’s okay. Or if it means keeping decorations to a minimum, or declining some holiday invitations, or even canceling a trip to visit family, then do so without guilt. Let go of unrealistic expectations and obligations that you dread so you can find the true joy and wonder of the season.

Make a to-do list.
Getting organized and making a list of everything you need to do for the holidays from gift-giving to dates for each child’s holiday concert and class party will help you manage stress, so you know what’s happening and when. Plus, checking off tasks from your to-do list will give you a certain satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.

Set a budget and stick to it.
Overspending and worries about money are two of the biggest stressors of the holiday season. To lessen the worry over spending too much, decide how much money you can realistically afford to spend. Consider all of the different aspects of holiday shopping including gifts, decorations, food, travel, cards, and clothing. Divide your budget into these categories and assign a dollar amount to each. If the numbers aren’t lining up, take a second look to see what changes you can make to save money. Track your spending as you go and be leery of putting too many purchases on credit cards to avoid getting a huge shock in January when your credit card statement arrives.

Learn to say no.
There is a heightened sense of obligation during the holidays—office parties, neighborhood gatherings, gift exchanges, helping with fundraisers, and visiting far-away family you only see once a year, etc. Committing yourself to every party or event you’re invited to is a sure way to add unnecessary stress. Learn to say no without guilt. You are in charge of your calendar, and you are not obligated to appear everywhere you’re invited. Lightening your schedule will instantly relieve a huge amount of the stress you feel this time of year, and it will leave time for things you really want to do.

Avoid overeating.
Sweet treats and rich desserts are intrinsic to holiday celebrations. You can still enjoy them without overdoing it. Don’t view this time of year as giving you free reign to eat whatever you want, whenever you want. Try to stick to a healthy eating plan, and enjoy a treat or two when you are at a party or event;  just don’t go overboard with the candy canes, cookies, and eggnog. Overeating will make you feel sluggish and add more stress and unwanted pounds. Try to fit in your regular exercise routine even when your time is limited. Exercise will help lower stress levels and keep holiday weight gain at bay.

Make time for downtime.
No matter how hectic the holidays get, make sure to take some time to unwind and recharge. Do things that help you relax and that you enjoy, whether that’s watching a Netflix show, reading a book, or taking a warm bath. Carve out time in the early morning or late evening for yourself; it will help you to keep your sanity in all the chaos!

 

Turkey Day Training: 6 Ways to Get Your Family Active on Thanksgiving Day

With numerous visiting relatives and all the cooking, cleaning, and prepping, it can be hard to find time to fit in a workout on Thanksgiving Day. But making time to exercise can be easy if you make it a family affair.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So go ahead and indulge in the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes with gravy, and pumpkin pie knowing you have a plan to burn off the excess calories. It doesn’t have to require a gym; there are lots of ways to get active while spending time with your family.

Here are some ideas to make incorporating exercise into your Turkey Day festivities fun for the whole family:

Sign up for a “Turkey Trot”
Many areas now hold Thanksgiving Day 5K runs or “Turkey Trots,” usually to benefit a local charity. Starting the day with a community run or walk is a great way to curb your cravings and minimize any damage you may do later from overindulging. It’s also a fun way to spend time with your family and friends, while also giving back to the community. And isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Take a Walk
If a formal race isn’t your speed, even taking a brisk 30-minute walk after your Thanksgiving dinner can have health benefits. Again, grab your family or friends, lace up your sneakers, and get outside for a walk around the neighborhood. You’ll also be making memories and maybe even starting a new, healthy family tradition.

Play a Game of Touch Football
For many families, a friendly game of touch football after a big Thanksgiving meal is an annual tradition. Don’t just sit on the sidelines this year; join in and have fun while burning calories. If football is not your thing, you can kick around a soccer ball or shoot some hoops. The key is to make it fun for everyone—for both the kids and adults—and get moving.

Take a Hike
Head to a local hiking trail with the whole family to explore nature and get some exercise. There are usually trails for all levels of hikers, so choosing a beginner or intermediate trail is a good idea if you have young children or elderly family members joining in the fun.

Play Interactive Video Games
Chances are, there will be kids at your Thanksgiving Day celebration who will want to play video games. Keep them from zoning out in front of a screen all afternoon by choosing one of many fitness video games where the whole family can get active. Games such as Just Dance, Wii Sports, or Wipeout require players to move and offer some friendly competition. This is also a great option if the Turkey Day weather in your area is too cold or rainy to get outdoors.

Hit the Black Friday Sales
Many stores now open on Thanksgiving night for shoppers to get an early start on their Black Friday shopping. Bring along your family and friends and hit the stores—all that standing in line and walking around shopping centers are a fun way to fit in a walk and get a head start on your holiday shopping.

 

Healthier Thanksgiving Day Options

Thanksgiving is a holiday that’s meant to be enjoyed while surrounded by good food, family, and friends. It is perfectly okay and even expected to indulge at Thanksgiving dinner and enjoy your favorite foods. But you also don’t have to let this one day derail your healthy eating.

Traditional Thanksgiving foods are actually great for both eating healthy and for satisfying your cravings. Thanksgiving staples such as sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberries, corn, pumpkin, and, of course, turkey are all nutrient-rich dishes—the key is in how they are prepared.

Here are some alternatives for some of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes to make them into healthier options:

Sweet Potato Casserole/Candied Yams
Classic sweet potato casserole or candied yams are often made with lots of butter, sugar, brown sugar, and marshmallows. It’s basically less of a side dish and more of a dessert. For a healthier option, you can bake, roast, boil, or mash sweet potatoes and top them with a tiny bit of maple syrup and fall spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Check out the following recipes. 

Stuffing 
While these may be easier, boxed stuffing mixes are usually high in sodium and preservatives. They are also usually made using white bread, so starting with a whole wheat bread base automatically makes it a better option because it contains more fiber and is better for digestion. Using low-sodium chicken broth and fresh spices to round out your stuffing makes a flavorful, healthier version. Here are some other healthy stuffing recipes.

Turkey
As the main event of the Thanksgiving meal, turkey is a lean protein that can be a very healthy choice as long as it’s prepared properly. They key is to prepare the turkey without adding too much sodium and extra calories. Try some of these recipes for cooking your turkey.

Cranberry Sauce
Canned cranberry sauce is quick and easy, but it’s also chock full of sugar and sodium. Cranberries are a super food, so don’t skimp on this side dish. Fresh cranberry sauce is easy to make and can add a colorful and healthful option to your holiday meal. This easy cranberry sauce recipe uses fresh or frozen cranberries and orange or lemon zest.

Pumpkin Pie
Don’t skip dessert, especially if it’s pumpkin pie that is full of healthy beta-carotene and fiber. Ditch the whipped cream and use more spices and other ingredients to keep the sugar content as low as possible when making your pie. Try one of these healthy pumpkin pie recipes.

The Sweet Truth: 6 Myths About Diabetes Debunked

Diabetes is one of the most misunderstood chronic diseases. With November being Diabetes Awareness Month, it’s time to debunk some of the many myths that surround diabetes. Not only is it important to understand the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as was discussed in last week’s blog, but there are numerous misconceptions and untruths about this chronic condition that not only affect how people with diabetes are viewed but also how people with diabetes take care of their health.

Myth: Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.
Fact: Sugar does not cause diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that is caused by a complex variety of factors including genetics, family history, viruses, and environment. While Type 2 diabetes is more common in individuals who are overweight, it is not caused directly by sugar alone;  a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle can make one more susceptible for developing diabetes if they are predisposed through genetics and a family history.

Myth: People with diabetes cannot eat sugar.
Fact:
Every person with diabetes has been asked, “Can you eat that?” And the answer is YES! Dessert and sweet treats are not off limits to people with diabetes. While foods with a high sugar content can raise blood sugar levels, so can any food containing carbohydrates. The key is moderation and a balancing act with medications. The amount of sugar a person with diabetes can eat depends on the individual and the medications he or she takes.

Many years ago, people with diabetes were told not to eat any sugar at all, but with new research and better diabetes treatments, people with diabetes can now consume sugar safely. This has remained the biggest myth about diabetes that many people still believe today.

Myth: Insulin cures diabetes.
Fact:
Insulin is a treatment and a life-saving medication, but it is not a cure. There currently is no cure for diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin for their entire lives.

Myth: Being overweight causes Type 2 diabetes.
Fact:
Another common misconception, but this assertion is also untrue. While being overweight or obese is a risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes, there’s a lot more to diabetes than weight alone. To develop diabetes, you must be genetically predisposed. If you have this genetic component, maintaining a healthy weight and eating healthfully can delay, but will not entirely prevent diabetes.

Myth: Women with diabetes should not get pregnant.
Fact:
While movies like “Steel Magnolias” would lead one to believe that this is true, women with diabetes can have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. While a woman with diabetes, especially Type 1, is considered a high-risk pregnancy, as long as her diabetes is under good control and she works closely with a team of medical experts, she can safely deliver a healthy baby.

Myth: Diabetes is not that serious.
Fact:
Diabetes causes more deaths than breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined. When not managed properly, diabetes can cause long-term complications that can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. In the short-term, chronically high blood sugar can lead to Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), which can be fatal, and people who take insulin can suffer from low blood sugar, which if left untreated, can lead to unconsciousness and sometimes even death.