Part 2: Best Resolutions and Best of Intentions, but Losing a Little Steam?

In part 1 of this article, we talked about a list of resolutions that are nearly universal in the tradition of annual rebirth and revitalization which include lose weight, spend less, learn more, or do something to better your life in some way. In the second part, we want to discuss HOW you can stick to the promises that you made to yourself!

The key is to make sure you are setting realistic goals that you can reach. Many people set the bar too high or make their goal too vague. For example, rather than establishing a normal healthy weight loss goal such as losing one pound per week, a person might proclaim that they are going to lose 50 pounds without really laying out a plan for the appropriate time frame in which they will accomplish this goal. This can lead to a sense of defeat if he/she doesn’t see rapid weight loss.

And whether it’s weight loss, controlling our spending, getting better grades in school, or asking for a promotion at work, our resolutions always take us out of our comfort zones. With that in mind, it’s vital that we set smaller and very precise goals for ourselves—goals that will be easier to reach and help us build our confidence in our ability to succeed.

Start Small, Finish Big.

As you attain these smaller goals, your satisfaction will soar. Nothing helps me put that truffle back in the box like remembering that the last time I stepped on the scale, I was five pounds lighter, and I liked that. Celebrating each small success makes it easier to keep going. Before you know it, you will have reached your goal.

Many people find it helpful to track their progress in writing. You can look back on your journey later and really appreciate the work you put in. Sometimes, reading back over it and recalling the struggle is all it takes to find the motivation to keep going. And who knows, you may use your story later to inspire others facing the same challenges.

It is also important to put a number on it. Instead of just some vague goal like losing weight, set an attainable goal that will be easy to reach like one pound per week for four weeks. That may seem like a small amount, but according to the CDC, people who lose their weight slowly and steadily are much more likely to keep it off because true healthy weight loss is not going to come from a temporary diet, but from adopting a new lifestyle long-term. And, the CDC also says that 1 to 2 pounds per week is an ideal goal. To lose one pound per week, you would need to burn off 500 more calories than you consume on a daily basis (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories).

If your goal is to “spend less money,” make this goal less ambiguous by budgeting exactly what money you will spend and where it will go. Make use of a budgeting app like Mint or PocketGuard. You can also just plot it out on a spreadsheet. Whatever method you prefer, by tracking how you spend, it becomes much easier to see where you may be wasting money on things you don’t really need. That is how you start. Once you can highlight the less important recipients of your hard-earned cash, you can figure out how much money could potentially be saved by cutting those things out of the budget.

The key is to take baby steps. Make small changes initially, like opting to brew a cup of coffee for yourself in the morning at home rather than spending $4 at Starbucks every day. Whatever your vice, chances are that you can see big changes in your pocket at the end of the month once you start taking a closer look at your spending trends and making conscious efforts to peel back a little bit at a time.

Remember, write it down, take baby steps, and make sure you know exactly where your target is before you shoot the arrow. With sensible small goals, structured plans for accomplishing them, and a willingness to accept that you just might make a few blunders along the road to victory but that doesn’t mean you give up, the group of people celebrating success this year will probably include YOU. Go do it!

 

Part 1: Best Resolutions and Best of Intentions, but Losing a Little Steam?

Chances are pretty good that like over 40% of other Americans, with the dawn of 2019, you resolved to lose weight, spend less, learn more, or do something to better your life in some way. This list of resolutions is a nearly universal tradition of annual rebirth and revitalization. Sounds good, but how’s that working for you?

By now, for many of us, our gusto has turned to dust-o. When that alarm beeps at 5 am to remind us it’s time to go running, the bed feels a little warmer and more comfortable than it ever has before. Did you swear off chocolates but then, after realizing you just popped your third truffle into your mouth, decided that it’s too late to turn back and “to heck with those resolutions”? Just finish the box? No way! Come on, you can do this. Everyone is entitled to a mistake or two. Enjoy that truffle; don’t beat yourself up over it, but don’t feel the need to finish off the box. If you fall down, get up and keep going!

So, how do we go about maintaining the excitement and zeal to hold fast to our well- intentioned resolutions? Do many people really make it through to the end of the challenge and succeed, or do most of us just make the resolutions for fun and never really bother with it for very long? Sadly, about 80% of people fail in their resolve by the second week in February, according to U.S. News & World Report.

What is the reason for making our resolutions on New Year’s anyway? When did this whole idea start and why? As it turns out, ancient Babylonians and Romans seem to have started the tradition by making promises to their gods about trying to be better people by returning items they had borrowed and repaying people to whom they owed money. The early medieval knights vowed to remain chivalrous while Christians sought forgiveness through prayer and made resolutions about living more holy lives.

The tradition of making New Year’s resolutions still has a place in current religious practice, not only remaining a practice among many Christians, but also during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which finds its faithful reflecting upon their actions over the previous year and seeking forgiveness for their sins.

The tradition is very much rooted in religious beliefs and has been sustained through the ages as humans forever aspire to be better than they are. It is a noble desire, and each year, there are always those who do find success in reaching their goals. Do not fool yourself into thinking that just because many people give up, it is an unworthy goal or a waste of time or effort. On the contrary, if you do it right from the very start, you’ve got this. And the cliché that anything worth having is worth fighting for, well, that is a life truth.

So, what does it take to keep the flame burning and not giving up on those promises we make to ourselves? We’ll dive into that in part 2 of this article!

Sugary Sweet… Not Such a Treat?

From birthday parties to holiday feasts, nearly every joyous occasion we celebrate is accompanied by a host of sugary desserts that puts on pounds and leaves our blood sugar sky high. While there is a definite rapture in the taste of these decadent delights, it isn’t only the taste that makes it so hard to resist the chocolate lava cake or the key lime pie. Your brain actually gets a kick too.

Sugary Sweet... Not Such a Treat?

When you eat sugar, or even look at an enticing dessert, dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is part of the brain’s complicated reward system enabling us to anticipate and experience pleasure, floods into your mesolimbic pathway. We then experience a blissful sensation. The more often we reward our brains with sugar, the greater our dopamine response becomes. This is why people will experience “sugar cravings.” Much like an addiction, sugar is a difficult temptation to resist, especially when we are confronted with it in so many places. The real kicker is that sugar is included in so many foods you eat, you may not even realize when you’re eating it. Did you know that iodized salt contains a tiny quantity of sugar in the form of dextrose? Yep. You heard it right folks, there is sugar in your salt.

The reason it’s important not to consume too much sugar is the indisputable connection between sugar consumption and obesity. Obesity greatly increases the chance of developing type 2 diabetes. It has also been linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular disease. There has even been some speculation and provocative research by Rainer Klement and Ulrike Kammerer in Germany (1), about slowing cancer growth by restricting sugar in the diet of cancer patients.

Excessive sugar intake contributes not only to weight gain and its associated problems, but also to tooth decay. If you are able to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, you will probably also reduce your risk of developing many of these medical conditions.

So, how can you ski that sugary slope without landing face first in a dopamine-filled ditch? Well, the good news is that there are many healthy alternatives to sugar which are easy to find at almost any grocery store. Here are some natural alternatives:

1. Stevia is extracted from the South American plant known as Stevia Rebaudiana. It is a natural sweetener with zero calories. In human studies it has shown no connection to adverse health effects, and in fact has some health benefits.

2. Xylitol is extracted from the wood of birch trees and from corn, and exists naturally in many fruits and vegetables. A sugar alcohol, the taste is similar to that of sugar but it has 40% fewer calories with a total of 2.4 calories per gram. Like Stevia, xylitol does not share the harmful effects now attributed to sugar and also has some health benefits.

3. Erythritol, like xylitol, is a sugar alcohol with even fewer calories. It only has 0.24 calories per gram, which is 6% of the calories in sugar. Tasting even more like sugar than stevia or xylitol, many people find this an easy change to make. Your body can not break down erythritol and so it is simply excreted in your urine without having the negative impacts that sugar has.

4. Yacon Syrup is another sweetener derived from a South American plant, the yacon plant, also known as Smallanthus sonchifolius. This sweetener is a dark liquid bearing a similar consistency to molasses. The sugar molecules in yacon syrup can not be digested, and therefore the caloric impact it has on the body is about 1.3 calories per gram. This sweetener has also been shown to reduce the feeling of hunger by suppressing the hormone ghrelin, which may help you curb your eating. This syrup should not be used for cooking, because high temperatures break down its structure. It is fine for sweetening tea or coffee, oatmeal, and cold foods.

It is important to note that one side effect shared by all of these sugar substitutes, except for Stevia, is that in excess, they may cause some individuals to experience bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Also, Xylitol is extremely toxic to canines, and care should be taken to keep it away from dogs.

So, the next time you are staring down the dessert table at your cousin’s wedding, maybe you can check to see if any of the items were made with a natural sugar substitute. You might be able to enjoy the satisfaction of sweetness without the guilt or worry that comes with sugar.

(1) Klement, Rainer J and Ulrike Kämmerer. “Is there a role for carbohydrate restriction in the treatment and prevention of cancer?” Nutrition & metabolism vol. 8 75. 26 Oct. 2011, doi:10.1186/1743-7075-8-75

Starting a Healthier Lifestyle in 2019? Lettuce Help You with That!

Here are some fantastic options for shaking up your salad routine!

Everyone is familiar with the good old salad standby: iceberg lettuce. But if you’ve walked into any major produce department lately, you’ll notice an enticing assortment of leafy varieties that may be unfamiliar. These can offer great options for spicing up your salads with something a little more exotic and healthy. Here are some of the options you’ll likely encounter:

Arugula
Arugula, the funny-sounding name that reminds one of the horns on old cars, has a distinctive peppery flavor that really brings an exciting zip to your salads. The texture is different from iceberg lettuce, as the leaves of this plant are skinny rather than broad, with a softly undulating border and a smooth surface. This leafy treat weighs in high in vitamins K and A and is a good source of fiber and protein.

Kale
This curly-leafed green has grown wildly in popularity in the past few years and is now finding a place in everything from salads to oven baked-chips and smoothies! While it may seem like a new and passing fad, this vegetable was grown by the ancient Romans.

Kale has a somewhat bitter flavor, and the texture can be rather tough. If you find either to be an issue, you can tear it into smaller pieces in your salad, so as not to have the flavor overwhelm the other ingredients. And give it a good massage with an oil-based dressing to soften the texture.

Kale is one of the most nutritious options for salads with 1,021% of the recommended daily value of vitamin K, 308% of the RDV for vitamin A, and 200% of the RDV for vitamin C. With its incredible vitamin potency, it is no surprise that kale has become a hero among the health-conscious.

Spinach
This leafy green became famous after Popeye the Sailor Man gulped it down in his daily cartoon and suddenly burst out with muscles—doing impossible stunts with his superhuman strength—attributable to the magical can of spinach. While this vegetable is certainly healthy, it probably won’t turn you into a muscle-bound superhero in one sitting. It does taste fabulous raw, with a slightly astringent, earthy flavor and is a great complement to any salad. With a huge amount of vitamin K and vitamin A, it beats arugula for nutritional value. It’s also a good source of fiber and protein. While it can’t compare with kale for these vitamins, its dark green leaves boast more folate than kale, making it a definite health bonus for any salad.

Swiss Chard
Boasting even more vitamin K than kale, this superfood could be next on the list of fashionable health foods. Swiss chard, slightly bitter to the taste, contains 1,038% of the RDV of vitamin K, with 122% of the RDV of vitamin A. Chard is also an excellent way to work vitamin C, iron, magnesium, and manganese into your diet and is reputed to have a slightly milder flavor than kale. Another bonus to adding this leaf to your salad is its highly interesting coloration: dark green leaves and a vividly red stem and veins. It adds a very colorful appeal.

Radicchio
Another ancient companion to your salad, radicchio was mentioned by Pliny the Elder in his 79 A.D encyclopedic Naturalis Historia, commenting that this velvety red-leafed plant was good for insomnia and blood purification in addition to boasting a nice taste. He notes that it was Egyptians who bred this variety from the chicory plant.

Radicchio has a bold flavor, somewhat spicy, and is also pleasingly colorful with its purplish red leaves accented by white stem and veins. It resembles red cabbage but has quite a different flavor. A tasty addition to your salad!

Watercress
Once a staple in the diet of Roman soldiers and used medicinally by Hippocrates (the father of medicine),  it should be no surprise that watercress is bursting with nutritional goodness. Unfortunately, over time, the plant became known as the food of the poor and was less fashionable in comparison to the new varieties of salads that were cultivated over the next 100 years.

This ancient green is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables such as broccoli, arugula, kale, and Brussels sprouts. It is high in vitamins K, C, and A. With a tender texture but a slightly peppery taste, this dynamic green is a wonderful addition to your leafy repertoire.

The Lettuces
Whether you prefer iceberg, leaf, Boston, or romaine lettuce, most have a similar mild flavor. The four most common categories are looseleaf, crisphead, romaine, and butterhead. The iceberg lettuce we are so familiar with is a great example of crisphead, with a round head of tightly packed leaves. The butterhead variety is also mostly rounded, but with the leaves being more loose and smooth (usually found in the grocery store in plastic clamshell cases).

While romaine lettuce has rather long leaves and a robust spine, the looseleaf varieties grow as rosettes, with loosely gathered leaves—easily harvested one leaf at a time rather than by the entire plant.

The mild flavors of all the lettuces make them an ideal base upon which to add the spicy, bitter, and peppery varieties of leafy greens listed above.

Whatever exotic varieties of greens you choose to add to your salads this year, don’t be afraid to try something new! Variety is the spice of life, and this is especially true with greens.

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Food Leftovers – How Long Will They Keep?

Over the holidays, you are likely to be preparing a large meal for family and friends. But what to do with all the leftovers? In a short time, you and your family members will be sick of eating turkey or ham sandwiches, hash, or other leftover-inspired dishes.

Knowing prior to a holiday how long you can store certain cooked foods will help you avoid having to throw out food as well as ensuring that it is safe to eat.

These factors influence how long leftovers will keep:

1. How long food is left to sit out at room temperature after a meal. Family and friends often sit around the table talking after a holiday meal and may lose track of time. Turkey, stuffing, gravy, and other side dishes should be refrigerated within two hours of the time it was cooked—not from the time it was served.

2. Whether meat was cooked to the correct temperature

  • Turkey should be cooked until it reaches 165°F as measured by a food thermometer. The temperature should be checked in the thickest part of the breast, the deepest part of the thigh, and the innermost part of the wing.
  • Fresh or smoked ham should be cooked to a temperature of 145°F and allowed to rest for three minutes. Reheat fully cooked ham to 140°F.
  • Beef, pork, veal, and lamb should be cooked to 140°F and allowed to rest three minutes.

You can store leftovers for 3-4 days in the refrigerator. If you have a larger quantity of food than you can eat within that time, freeze part of it within two hours of the time it was cooked.

If turkey was cooked with stuffing inside, remove the stuffing and store it separately from the leftover turkey meat.

You do not have to let hot food cool off before putting it into the refrigerator but divide it into smaller portions to allow it to cool off more quickly in the refrigerator.

From a registered dietitian, the following guide is helpful.

A Guide to Storing Food Leftovers

Food Fridge Freezer
Turkey, cooked 3-4 days 2-3 months
Meat (ham, beef), cooked 3-4 days 2-3 months
Gravy 1-2 days 2-3 months
Cranberry sauce 10-14 days 1-2 months
Stuffing, cooked 3-4 days 1 month
Mashed potatoes, yams 3-5 days 10-12 months
Soup 2-3 days 4-6 months
Vegetables, cooked 3-4 days 2-3 months
Pumpkin pie, baked 3-4 days 1-2 months

 

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.