All posts by USConnect

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), more than 30.3 million people in the US have diabetes (that is 9.4% of the US population). And 7.2 million people may be undiagnosed. The count is rising every year.

What is diabetes?

Diabetes  is a chronic disease that affects how your body turns food into energy. The insulin hormone, which is made by the pancreas, helps the body turn blood sugar into energy. Blood sugar levels are a measure of how well a person’s body uses glucose. A diabetic person has high blood sugar (glucose) when his/her body does not produce enough insulin or because his/her body cells do not respond adequately to insulin, or both.

How are diabetics classified?

Type 1 – The body does not make insulin. It can appear at any age but is usually  diagnosed in children and young adults. Their bodies do not make insulin,  and they must take it to stay alive.

Type 2 –  The body does not make enough insulin or use it well. One can develop type 2 diabetes at any age, but it most often occurs in middle-aged to older people. This is the most common type of diabetes.

Gestational Diabetes – This diabetes type develops in some pregnant women but usually  goes away when the baby is born.  About 50% of women with gestational diabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.

Risks for developing diabetes

A person’s risk for developing diabetes depends upon a number of factors, some of which can be controlled and some (age, family history, ethnicity) which cannot.

Some of the risk factors that can be controlled are these:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having a low level of  HDL (good) cholesterol, or a high level of triglycerides
  • Being physically inactive
  • Having a history of heart disease or stroke
  • Having a history of gestational diabetes

Getting an A1C test (sometimes called the hemoglobin A1C) at your next physical will indicate whether you have diabetes or are at risk for developing it. The higher your A1C levels, the greater your risk of diabetes complications. With an A1C level over 6.5 percent, type 2 diabetes is indicated.

Enjoy a Stress-free Thanksgiving Feast This Year!

In today’s job-focused culture, we find ourselves in our kitchens just before Thanksgiving with the stressful task of preparing a turkey and side dishes to have everything ready for the big “sit down” on Thanksgiving. 

Here are some ways to reduce that stress and enjoy the preparation, the meal, and the company of family and friends: 

  • Clean your house a week before the big day, so you do not have the added stress of last-minute housecleaning as well as meal preparation. 
  • Plan your table(s) for the number of people expected and check (or even lay out) tablecloths, napkins, centerpieces, etc., to be certain you have everything you need. (Polish silver at least one week earlier if you’re going fancy.) 
  • Plan your menu at least a week in advance of the big day and make a list of everything needed to prepare each dish.  
  • Shop to have all ingredients on hand. That way, you won’t stress in the middle of meal preparation when you realize you don’t have a crucial ingredient. 
  • Make some things a day or two early and refrigerate or freeze. 
  • Thaw your turkey (if frozen) in the refrigerator for about 24 hours for each 4-5 pounds.  
  • Set your table(s) the day before: it’s a big stress-buster to know that this task is done. 
  • Simplify your meal. Cut down on the number of side dishes. Just a few well-chosen, loved recipes will be just as satisfying and help to discourage guests from over-stuffing themselves. 
  • Ask for help. You could request that one or two family members come early to help with the preparation or bring a side dish. 

Just remember, your family really doesn’t care if everything is made from scratch and perfect. They want you to be able to relax and enjoy time spent with them. Make that a priority and forget about some unrealistic goal. 

 

Tips to Avoid Gaining Weight After You Stop Smoking

Do you plan to participate in the Great American Smokeout this month (Nov. 15) and kick the nasty habit once and for all?

You can do it!

We all know that smoking is an addiction which produces withdrawal symptoms when stopped. But did you know that the  physical withdrawal symptoms last only a few days to about a week. After that, it is the psychological symptoms (cravings) that are the most difficult to overcome. But cravings will lessen the longer you resist the urge to smoke until finally, you find that you really have quit smoking.

Some people say they smoke because it helps to keep them from gaining weight, and experts have said that it is common for people to gain some weight when they give up the habit permanently. Since smoking increases metabolism, quitting causes your metabolism to slow slightly; however, most smokers gain less than 10 pounds.

For those who gain more weight, it is likely that they use food (especially sweets and high-caloric foods) to help curb nicotine cravings.

Here are four tips to help keep you from gaining weight after stopping smoking:

1. Plan for healthy eating before you quit smoking.

Stock your kitchen with healthy food choices so when the urge to snack hits, you will have them within easy reach. You may start to crave sweets after you quit (your sense of taste and smell improve)—and satisfying these cravings can prevent you from reaching for a cigarette. Just make sure the sweets you eat are not calorie-laden, sugary treats. (Fruits like grapes, strawberries, sugar-free candy and gum are acceptable substitutes).

2. Substitute the cigarette in your hand with something else.

Your body and brain are accustomed to the pattern of constantly putting your hand to your mouth when smoking, so replace the smoking pattern with an alternative. According to the AHA (American Heart Association), eating a food like air-popped popcorn will take time to eat, keep your hands busy, reduce the urge to smoke, and help you to feel full. (Five cups of air-popped popcorn has only 150 calories.)

3. Drink lots of water. It not only keeps your body hydrated, but also fills you up and lessens the desire to snack.

4. Amp up the exercise! If you are sedentary, adding exercise or increasing the exercise you already do will increase your metabolism. Walking and extra 30-45 minutes a day can make up for the metabolism slow-down from quitting smoking and keep your weight stable.

Smoking releases thousands of toxic chemicals into your body, which damage your heart, lungs, and other organs. But quitting, even after years of smoking, can reverse these effects and add years to your life.

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween Candy: Eat This, Not That!

If you’re like most parents, you can’t resist raiding your child’s trick-or-treat bag on Halloween night. Or maybe you’re not a parent but can’t fight the urge to eat those Fun-size candy bars you are giving out on Halloween.

Either way, all that Halloween candy can be really tempting. You can indulge and not completely derail your healthy eating habits by choosing your treats wisely and keeping portions to a minimum. In other words, don’t eat a whole bag of Fun-size Twix bars in one sitting! Leave most of the candy to the little ghosts and goblins after you satisfy your sweet tooth with one of these small treats.

Eat this: Fun-size Kit Kat bar
Not that: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup

While both candy bars are high in sugar and calories, that snack-size Kit Kat has 3 grams of fat and 7 grams of sugar compared to a Reese’s peanut butter cup that clocks in at 10.5 grams of fat and 6.5 grams of sugar. And who can eat just one?

Eat this: Dark Chocolate
Not that: Milk Chocolate

Dark chocolate contains antioxidants and has less sugar than regular milk chocolate candy bars. Keep portions small though and stick with fun-size options.

Eat this: Sweet Tarts
Not that: Skittles

If hard candy is your weakness, you’re better off choosing Sweet Tarts rather than Skittles candies. Sweet Tarts have 2.4 grams of sugar per min-bag while Skittles have a whopping 14.5 grams of sugar per mini-bag.

Eat this: Smarties
Not that: Fun-size chocolate bar

Smarties have only 5 grams of sugar and no fat, while most fun-size chocolate bars contain 7 grams of sugar or more, and 3 grams or more of fat per bar.

Eat this: Jelly Belly jelly beans
Not that: M&Ms

Jelly Bellies have only 35 calories per serving and no fat, but M&Ms (all varieties) are loaded with both fat and sugar.

What to Do With Leftover Pumpkin Guts?

It’s almost Halloween and chances are, you’re getting ready to carve a Jack O’lantern. If you’re planning on some pumpkin carving fun with your family, don’t just throw out those pumpkin insides. There are lots of easy recipes you can make that put those pumpkin parts to good use.

Plus, pumpkins are one of the most nutritious fruits around—they’re packed with antioxidants, fiber, potassium, and Vitamin C. And don’t forget about the seeds! Pumpkin seeds contain antioxidants, magnesium, zinc, and fatty acids and make a great fall snack.

Roast pumpkin seeds

Roasting pumpkin seeds is really easy and can be fun for kids too. You can eat them alone as a snack or mix them with other nuts and dried fruit for a healthy, seasonal trail mix. Just put them on a nonstick pan (in one layer), and sprinkle a little salt or other seasonings for taste,  and then roast them in the oven at 300 degrees for 45 minutes.

Make pumpkin soup

Pumpkin soup makes a great seasonal meal as the weather gets colder. Use those leftover pumpkin insides to make this creamy pumpkin soup recipe.

https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/9191/pumpkin-soup/

Bake a loaf of pumpkin bread or muffins

Separate the seeds from the pumpkin flesh, and use the flesh to make a puree for pumpkin bread or muffins. Follow this recipe to make delicious pumpkin bread or divide into a muffin pan to make pumpkin muffins.

https://eatingrichly.com/how-to-cook-a-whole-pumpkin-and-recipe-for-pumpkin-gut-bread/

Make pumpkin juice

As you are cleaning out your pumpkin to carve, place the stringy bits and seeds into a large bowl, and soak in hot water to help soften. Mash up these pieces, and then strain so you are left with a bright orange juice. Use the pumpkin juice in smoothies or sauces.

 

Staying Motivated to Exercise During Cold Weather

The weather is starting to get colder and the days shorter, which can make exercising the last thing you want to do. When it’s dark outside, it’s easy to stay snuggled in your warm bed and skip your morning workout, but with all of those holiday treats right around the corner, this is no time to slack off. How can you stay motivated to exercise in the colder months?

Set goals and make a plan.

Don’t wait for New Year’s resolutions; set goals for yourself now and make a plan to meet them. Whether your goals are to get fit, lose weight, or de-stress, or all of the above, schedule your workouts on your calendar just as you would a work meeting or doctor’s appointment. Treat these appointments just as you would any other important appointment, and then get the satisfaction of marking it off your “to do” list.

Move indoors.

If it’s too cold to do your regular run, walk, or bike ride outdoors, move your workout inside. You don’t need to belong to a gym to work out indoors. There are plenty of things you can do at home to stay fit: use workout DVDs or get free workouts on YouTube. If you have the space and it’s in your budget, invest in a treadmill or stationary bike to use at home. You can also try out fitness classes at places other than a standard gym—yoga studios, dance studios, and recreation centers. They offer all types of classes that often don’t involve a monthly contract.

Enlist a partner.

It’s always harder to skip a workout if someone else is depending on you. Partner with a friend to work out together this fall and winter. Bundle up and head out for a walk or run together, or find something else active you can do together such as playing indoor tennis, swimming indoors at a local YMCA, or trying out a new fitness class.

Ward off winter blues.

Remind yourself why working out, even when you don’t want to, always makes you feel better. Exercising on dark, cold days can help you keep away the winter blues by boosting your body’s endorphins. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is real and affects 10 to 20 percent of people, and exercise is one way to prevent or lessen its symptoms.

Reward yourself.

Staying motivated to exercise throughout the colder months is challenging. Reward yourself for staying active by treating yourself to a soak in a hot bath or a relaxing massage for sore muscles. Also, make sure you are getting enough sleep.

How Sleep (or Lack of) Affects Your Overall Health

Americans are not getting enough sleep. According to the CDC, adults need between seven to eight hours of sleep per night, but most people average only six hours per night or less. Insufficient sleep can do more than make you cranky and groggy  – poor sleep can have lasting effects on your overall health, especially if it becomes a chronic problem.

Weight gain

Lack of sleep has been linked to being overweight, especially in women. Without enough sleep, you may be hungrier than usual and have cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. Additionally, your body’s ability to signal when you are full may also be hindered, which can all lead to unwanted weight gain.

Weakened immune system

Even when you’re only moderately sleep-deprived, your immune system will be comprised. You’ll be more susceptible to catching colds, the flu and other viruses, and recovery time will take longer.

Poor mental performance

In short, poor sleep will keep your brain from functioning optimally. Concentration, memory, and cognitive function are all affected by sleep deprivation. When you’re overly fatigued, you’ll have a harder time learning something new and paying attention. This can impact your creativity, decision making, problem solving, and work or school performance.

Heart health

Your risk for developing high blood pressure or worsening high blood pressure if you already have it is increased if you get less than six hours of sleep per night. Over time, lack of sleep can increase your risk for developing heart disease despite other factors such as age, weight, and exercise habits.

Premature aging

If you’re regularly skimping on sleep, you’re more likely to get premature wrinkles and sagging of your skin, in part because cortisol, the stress hormone that’s released when you are sleep deprived, can break down collagen in your skin.

Improve your sleep habits

The good news is, many of the negative effects of sleep deprivation can be reversed or avoided by improving your sleep habits so you get quality sleep. Aim for eight hours per night.

  • Choose a bedtime and stick to it, even on weekends.
  • Avoid TV, smartphones, tablets, or computer screens before bed. These can be stimulating and affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Don’t eat or drink late at night, especially avoid caffeinated beverages past 6 p.m. Water is OK.
  • Create a bedtime routine, such as brushing your teeth, showering or taking a warm bath, and listening to soft music or reading a book.
  • Make sure your room is dark except for a very soft nightlight if needed. This means TVs, smartphones, and other devices are turned off completely.

 

 

 

 

Pumpkin Spice Season: Choosing the Best Options

It’s officially fall, or as it’s come to be known in recent years, pumpkin spice season!

pumpkin-spice

Pumpkin spice has taken over everything from food products to drinks to candles to cleaning supplies. When it comes to food and drinks, there are healthy pumpkin spice choices and some that are just laden with sugar or artificial ingredients, nothing more than seasonal gimmicks to get you to buy junk food.

You can enjoy your favorite seasonal spice and still maintain a healthy diet if you chose the right pumpkin spice foods. And if you cannot resist that Pumpkin Spice Latte, as long as it isn’t an everyday indulgence, you can still enjoy it in moderation and not completely derail your diet.

Learn which popular pumpkin spice products are good choices and which ones to limit to special treats or not at all.

Limit these pumpkin spice options, or avoid them altogether:

  1. Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte – At 380 calories for a 16 oz. with 14 grams of fat and a whopping 49 grams of sugar (even more for larger sizes), this popular coffee drink should remain an occasional treat and not an everyday habit this season.
  2. Dunkin’ Donuts Pumpkin Donut – This dessert packs 19 grams of fat and 19 grams of sugar per donut, and who can eat just one?
  3. Nestle Coffee-Mate Pumpkin Spice Liquid Coffee Creamer – Think you can save money and calories by making your own version of a pumpkin spice latte? Think again. While this creamer claims to be free of trans fats, it contains partially hydrogenated oils, which are a source of trans fats.
  4. Clif Bar Spiced Pumpkin Pie Energy Bars – There are good protein bars and bad protein bars, and this one falls into the latter category. With only 9 grams of protein, it contains 23 grams of sugar, and will only give you a temporary energy boost before leaving you tired and sluggish.
  5. Chobani Flip Pumpkin Harvest Crisp – While this yogurt does contain probiotics and protein, it also comes in at 200 calories and 17 grams of sugar. This one qualifies more as a dessert than a healthy snack.

Say yes to these pumpkin spice products:

  1. Pumpkin Spice Cheerios – Like their original cereal, Pumpkin Spice Cheerios are low in calories and high in whole grains. A serving does contain 8 grams of sugar but is a better breakfast choice than a pumpkin spiced baked treat.
  2. Chobani Pumpkin Spice Blended Yogurt – Curb pumpkin spice sugary cravings with this Greek yogurt that’s packed with protein and live active cultures but still low in calories.
  3. Kashi TLC Pumpkin Spice Flax Crunchy Granola Bars – With whole pumpkin seeds and flax seeds, this treat can satisfy crunchy cravings while providing healthy nutrients. And one serving is two bars!
  4. Pumpkin Spice Quaker Instant Oatmeal – A fall favorite for mornings that’s convenient and easy to make, this oatmeal is low in calories, fat, and sodium.
  5. Yasso Pumpkin Cheesecake Bar – This frozen yogurt bar tastes like the real thing and with only 120 calories and 5 grams of protein, it makes a great substitute for sugary pumpkin spice desserts.

 

 

HR Focus: Recognizing Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Every October, the entire country turns pink. While it may be pretty, wearing pink or offering pink products does little to educate employees about breast cancer or raise money for the cause. In October, which has become the nation’s annual observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, your company should develop a plan to provide information and education to employees on breast cancer prevention and early detection, as well as to find meaningful ways to raise funds for breast cancer research. Participating in Breast Cancer Awareness Month can help align your company with a worthy cause if done properly.

Here are some impactful ways your company can get involved this October:

Provide breast cancer prevention information and educational materials to employees and clients and their families.

Advocate for the cause by being proactive in helping employees take charge of their health. Connecting your company to breast cancer prevention can bring good will to your brand while providing useful information for women. Create a handout (with breast cancer facts, risk factors, mammogram information, and how to perform a self-exam) that employees can take home and use. Or add your logo to these pocket sliders (small interactive slide charts in which you match up the bullet point and view information and tips in the cutout window) available at  https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/2317504/Pinktober%20Promos.pdf?t=1537766091314.

Share breast cancer facts and prevention tips on your company’s social media.

Get creative on Facebook and Instagram by sharing photos and memes with prevention tips and breast cancer facts for the entire month of October.

Share breast cancer and nutrition facts.

There is a lot of misinformation about the causes of breast cancer, especially when it comes to diet. As a food service company, clarifying the connections of breast cancer and diet can have a big impact. Share the facts through educational materials, blogs, newsletters, and social media. A good place to start is https://breast360.org/topics/2017/01/01/breast-cancer-and-nutrition-facts-and-myths/.

Share survivor stories.

Sharing breast cancer survivor stories and photos is also a powerful way to recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month. If you have employees or clients who are willing to share their breast cancer stories, include their photos and stories in your company’s blog and/or newsletter with links to your social media.

Organize a company team for a Breast Cancer Walk/Run or other event.

There are numerous Breast Cancer Walks/Runs and other fundraising events happening in October all over the country. Find a local event and organize a company team to get involved by fundraising and participating the day of the event. At the event, your team can wear t-shirts with your company name and logo and give away promotional products to promote your partnership.

 

 

 

The Keto Diet – Is It Safe?

You’ve probably heard of the Keto Diet or known someone who’s following it. It has gained popularity  in recent years because it can result in quick and sometimes extreme weight loss. But is it safe?

The Ketogenic (Keto) Diet requires a person to eat little-to-no-carbohydrates and instead consume mostly high-fat and protein-rich foods. The purpose of the diet is to change your body’s metabolism so it reaches a state called “ketosis.” This means that instead of your body getting energy from carbohydrates, once in ketosis, your body shifts to burning fats for energy. This can then result in significant weight loss.

However, nutritionists and doctors have cautioned about following this type of diet. Not only is it hard to follow long-term, but it also omits many fruits and vegetables that are necessary for important nutrients. It may also pose cardiac risks, especially for those who already suffer from heart disease or high blood pressure or have other risk factors.

A challenge to follow

While eating a diet full of meat, cheese, and butter may sound appealing to some, the Keto Diet actually requires complex eating plans to get the right amount of proteins, fats,  and carbs to put the body into ketosis.

Followers of the diet also develop what’s known as the “keto flu,” which can cause symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, nausea, constipation, or diarrhea, fogginess, and increased hunger. Symptoms usually start three days to one week after starting the diet and can last up to two weeks or more.

Not enough nutrients

Because the diet restricts carbohydrates to only 2-4 percent of the diet, nutritionists say it’s not sustainable long-term. You will need to take supplements and vitamins since you won’t be getting essential nutrients from foods, and you may also need fiber supplements to keep your digestive system working properly.

Not only are you depriving your body of crucial nutrients found in fruits and vegetables, but (like most people) you may start to crave bread or pasta—then give in to those cravings. As soon as carbohydrates are reintroduced, any weight lost will be quickly regained.

The ketogenic diet is a very restrictive plan that really only provides a temporary, quick fix. Because it’s too difficult to stick to, you would be better off making a lifestyle change by eating a well-balanced diet that incorporates good carbs, such as whole grains, combined with healthy fats and moderate amounts of proteins, with a focus on whole foods and less heavily processed foods. Add in portion control and exercise, and you’ll be on your way to a healthy, long-term weight loss.