Monthly Archives: November 2017

Setting up a Workplace Wellness Challenge

Get Fit As A Team!

Uh-oh! With the holidays lurking around the corner and the cold weather making people want to hunker down and eat comfort food, it can be especially difficult to focus on nutrition and fitness. HR departments can make a big difference by creating a health and fitness challenge to help keep employees focused on staying healthy during the holidays. Read on for some tips and tricks for setting up a wellness challenge that works.

Workplace Wellness Challenge

What is a workplace wellness challenge? It’s a fun, community-oriented activity where colleagues compete against each other in a friendly contest. It’s a way to hold each other accountable toward a shared goal of better health, and it can provide that extra boost to help people stay motivated—especially during the holiday season.

Most workplace challenges have users self-report their activities or results, as regulations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prevent companies from requiring this kind of information. However, wellness challenges work best when participants want to join, not when they’re forced to, so the regulations shouldn’t impact the success of the challenge.

Challenges can tackle any aspect of nutrition and fitness—from avoiding snacks to walking up the stairs every day. Technology can help with organization, communication, and tracking: for instance, people who use fitness trackers can easily connect and compare number of steps or miles covered. People who use the USConnectMe app can easily get access to nutritional data for all the food they purchase, making it easier to track data for calories, fat, protein, fiber, and important nutrients.

Challenges are also a good way to bond with coworkers while promoting a healthy lifestyle. Try organizing monthly healthy potluck lunches or group activities like walking around the building several times a day. Challenges can last a week, a month, or even longer. You may even hold a “pop-up” challenge for one day, challenging co-workers to go a whole day without eating any added sugar (for instance).

The point of wellness challenges is to have fun and stay healthy, not to win a large monetary prize. However, it’s nice to offer an incentive whenever possible. Team t-shirts are a great reminder of the group goal, and gift cards for healthy activities or food are always welcome. For more information, check out these resources from the Society for Human Resource Management, and start your challenge!

How to Minimize the Damage on Thanksgiving

Lighten Up!

Traditionally, people have thought of Thanksgiving as a chance to overeat: to stuff ourselves as full as the turkey we just consumed.

How to lighten up Thanksgiving recipes

While Thanksgiving can still remain a time to share some favorite foods around the table with family, it doesn’t have to be a complete disaster to the diet. Some simple adaptations to common recipes can minimize the damage; maybe you can even stay awake long enough to watch the game!

Adaptation #1: Mashed Potatoes

For a lot of people, Thanksgiving starts and ends with mashed potatoes. Rich, creamy, and satisfying, they’re the perfect vehicle for gravy and the perfect food to set the foundation for our postprandial food coma. Traditional mashed potatoes can come in at 250 calories and nine grams of fat per serving, so it’s a good place to do a makeover. Make them healthier by substituting a higher fiber vegetable for some of the potatoes: cauliflower, parsnips, and turnips are good choices. Replace heavy cream and butter with low-fat milk and light sour cream or nonfat Greek yogurt. To replace the lost flavor, try add-ins like roasted garlic, caramelized onions, or a little grated cheese.

Adaptation #2: Sweet Potato Casserole

Your grandmother’s sweet potato casserole recipe probably calls for canned yams in syrup, pats of butter, and a topping of marshmallows. While this gooey treat may have the joy of nostalgia, it’s a truckload of sugar (almost 40 grams!) before you even get to dessert. Lighten it up by enjoying the natural sweetness of the yams by roasting them in the oven. Toss cubed sweet potatoes in coconut oil and sprinkle with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and ground cloves. Spread them on a baking sheet and roast at 350 degrees for about 60 minutes, until the cubes are soft and form a crisp, caramelized crust.

Adaptation #3: Green Bean Casserole

Think: with all the rich food on Thanksgiving, do you really need your green vegetable to be doused with a can of creamy condensed soup? This yummy Thanksgiving staple, which as a green vegetable dish should be one of the healthier ones at the table, actually clocks in at over 275 calories, 21 grams of fat, and a whopping 10 grams of saturated fat. If tradition dictates that you must have a green bean casserole at the table, check out these five tips on making it healthier (hint: start by ditching the canned soup). Even better, keep your green beans healthy by simplifying this dish: sauté fresh or flash-frozen green beans with a little minced shallot and olive oil, or pan-roast them with garlic. The touch of bright freshness will serve as a great counterpoint to the rest of the rich, heavy dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at USConnect!

Myths and Facts Everyone Should Know About Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, so for today’s post, we want to dispel some myths—and share some facts—about this oft-misunderstood disease.

myths and facts about diabetes

Myth #1: Diabetes is a single disease

Fact: The term “diabetes” actually encompasses several different illnesses: type 1, type 2, gestational, and pre-diabetes. Type 1 and type 2 are the two main types of diabetes, and they both affect the way the body regulates its blood sugar (also known as blood glucose) with the hormone insulin. Insulin is produced by the pancreas. Gestational diabetes (a temporary disease that sometimes begins during a woman’s 24th week of pregnancy) and prediabetes (when the body’s blood sugar is higher than normal but not yet high enough for a type 2 diagnosis) are both types of type 2 diabetes in that they affect how the body uses insulin, not how the pancreas creates it.

Myth #2: Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have the same treatment.

Fact: With type 1 diabetes (T1D), the body doesn’t make enough insulin, while with type 2, the body doesn’t use insulin properly (also known as insulin resistance). Consequently, people with T1D need to inject insulin into their bodies, either with a pump that’s attached to their body or with shots throughout the day and night. Type 2 diabetes, on the other hand, can be managed with diet and exercise, or sometimes with medication.

Myth #3: People get diabetes from overeating or from eating too much sugar.

Fact: While poor diet and lack of exercise are indeed risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes, several other factors, like genetics, come into play. Lots of people live very unhealthy lifestyles without ever developing diabetes, while others eat healthily and exercise regularly and still get it. There is no lifestyle component to developing T1D; it develops most often in childhood (it is often called “juvenile diabetes”) and seems to develop as a result of some combination of genetics and viral exposure.

Myth #4: People with diabetes can’t eat any sugars or starches.

Fact: People with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can certainly eat some sugars and starches (carbohydrates, which are turned to sugar in the blood). However, they need to watch their sugar and starch consumption and potentially counteract it with insulin. USConnect’s The Right Choice for a Heathier You™ program helps people see detailed nutritional information so they can make informed choices about what they eat.