Tag Archives: nutrition

The Workplace Pantry: Boosting Productivity and Morale

Many offices around the U.S. have created office pantries as a benefit for employees, while others have not yet embraced this new trend. Research has shown that an office pantry offers many advantages in addition to providing snacks and drinks for employees; in fact, several studies have shown that office pantries improve employee productivity, increase employee morale, and foster a feeling of inclusivity.

Office pantries are communal areas where employees can gather to relax and take a break from work. Well-equipped office pantries offer complimentary coffee, drinks, snacks, a microwave, refrigerator, and other items of convenience. They cut down on the need for employees to leave the office to grab a coffee or snack and can offer healthier options than some traditional vending machines.

Fostering Positive Workplace Culture
According to a survey by the Australian Institute of Business, 73 percent of respondents said a full pantry would make them feel happier at work, and 57 percent thought it would boost employee morale. The office pantry serves as the center of the office community and can foster relationship building, bonding, and collaboration. These positive benefits can lead to employees feeling an increased sense of personal belonging to the company.

Additionally, according to Staples Business Advantage, 53 percent of office employees think that a well-stocked pantry contributed to their perception of an inclusive office culture. Employees felt the office pantry demonstrated that the company cared about their welfare and valued their work. According to Inc. Magazine, 60 percent of working professionals mentioned that having free snacks in the office makes them feel “valued and appreciated.”

Increased Employee Productivity
Studies have shown that providing a well-stocked pantry improves employee productivity. It ensures that workers are kept well-fed, refreshed, and satisfied. After all, hungry employees will not perform at their best. In a study, 57 percent of working professionals stated that they buy their own snacks and beverages at work, and one in two employees reported leaving the office to get coffee or a snack at least once per day and sometimes up to five times per day.

When employees had access to nutritious snacks close by in a central office pantry, it helped make them more productive and better focused on work—cutting down on trips to nearby coffee shops or convenience stores to get snacks or coffee. Additionally, by having a convenient place to grab a snack or heat up a lunch brought from home, employees may not need extended lunch breaks, thus allowing for more flexible work schedules.

Stocking An Office Pantry
Setting up an office pantry is fairly simple. Most offices already have some sort of kitchen area that you can add to, or you can designate another area as the office pantry. Offering a couple of small tables and chairs where employees can sit and relax on breaks is also a plus.

There are a few things every office pantry needs:

  • A source of caffeine – Offer a coffee maker and kettle for tea as well as providing complimentary coffee, a selection of teas, milk or creamer, sugar, and packets of artificial sweeteners.
  • Snacks – Offer a variety of non-perishable, healthy snacks such as fruit or dried fruit, packets of nuts, crackers, granola bars, and pretzels. Individually packaged items work best.
  • Drinks – A well-stocked fridge is also a nice addition for employees to have access to soft drinks, juices, bottled water, and energy drinks.
  • Microwave – Providing a microwave is helpful for employees who prefer to bring lunch from home; they can quickly heat it up and eat at their desks.
  • Supplies – Be sure to provide and regularly restock items such as napkins, paper plates, plastic cutlery, and paper cups.

If you’re interested in adding an office pantry to your business, we have helped many companies do this and would love to help you get started!

Foods to Boost Metabolism

Our metabolism, or the rate at which our bodies burn calories, is largely determined by age, height, and genes. However, there are a few ways to increase your body’s energy use and boost metabolism. One way is through exercise, and the other way is through eating the right food.

While eating certain foods can speed up or slow down your metabolism and will effect weight loss, it’s actually much more complex than a simple “eat this food to boost your metabolism and lose weight.”

For weight loss and weight maintenance, the amount of food we eat also matters. Eating a well-balanced meal that is high in protein, fiber, and good fats will make you feel fuller and will be more satisfying so that you are less likely to overeat at the next meal. On the other hand, if you do not eat enough calories, your body will use your muscles for energy, resulting in a loss of muscle mass and a sluggish metabolism.

There is no one miracle food that can have such a profound effect on metabolism that it would cause you to lose weight. But there are certain foods that may help increase your metabolism, as well as other foods that you should only eat in moderation or eliminate altogether.

Here are five foods that help boost your metabolism.

1. Avocados – Avocados are  high in both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats that can help promote satiety. They can also help reduce inflammation in the body. If you are trying to lose weight, just be careful of portion sizes and stick with eating only one-fourth to half an avocado.

2. Chili peppers – Spicy foods like chili peppers can help rev up your metabolism. Chili peppers in particular contain capsaicin, which experts have found can speed up metabolism.

3. Beans – Beans are a great source of protein and contain lots of fiber that helps to keep you full.

4. Whole grains – Replacing white flour products with whole grains that contain lots of fiber will keep you full longer, and according to a 2017 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating whole grains may create a “modest increase” in resting metabolic rate.

5. Eggs – Eggs are high in protein, low in calories, and fill you up. They’re also a good source of B vitamins, which have been shown to increase metabolism.

Working these foods into a well-balanced, healthy daily diet along with a regular exercise program can help boost your metabolism. At the same time, there are certain foods you should avoid that can slow down your metabolism. These include refined grains like those found in processed, packaged foods, sugary drinks such as fruit juice, energy drinks, soft drinks, and alcohol, as well as granola and soybean oil.

How Diet Affects Menopause

If you’re a woman of a certain age, you may already be feeling some of the symptoms of hormonal changes, even if you haven’t officially gone through menopause yet. The time leading up to menopause is a transition known as perimenopause and can start anywhere from a woman’s late 30s to mid-40s. This stage can last from five to ten years until you go through actual menopause. Menopause is defined as the absence of a menstrual period for 12 consecutive months.

As a woman goes through the hormonal changes of perimenopause and menopause, she may experience some unpleasant and uncomfortable symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, insomnia, and irregular periods. Women may also gain weight or find that they cannot lose weight as easily as when they were younger.

Menopause also occurs at a time in a woman’s life when her metabolism is already slowing down as a normal part of aging, so this tendency to gain weight is a bit of a double whammy. As if this were not enough, women are at a higher risk for diseases including osteoporosis, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes after menopause.

But the news is not all bad! There are lifestyle changes you can make to ease the symptoms of menopause, prevent weight gain, and reduce your risk for developing certain diseases. One of the key ways to do all of this is through diet and nutrition.

1. Increase Your Intake of calcium and vitamin D.
The loss of estrogen that comes along with menopause can weaken bones and increase the risk of osteoporosis. Both calcium and vitamin D are essential nutrients that protect your bones, so eating foods rich in these nutrients daily can help lower your risk of osteoporosis. You can get adequate calcium from dairy foods such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, as well as from green, leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens. There are also lots of calcium-fortified foods such as cereal and juices that can boost your calcium intake as well.

Vitamin D is equally important,  and the best way to get enough is by spending a short time outdoors daily to get natural vitamin D from the sun. If you don’t spend much time outdoors or have had skin cancer or are at a high risk for skin cancer, you can also talk to your doctor about vitamin D supplementation. It’s also found in oily fish, eggs, and foods such as milk or juice that are fortified with vitamin D.

2. Maintain a healthy weight.
Weight gain is common during both perimenopause and menopause, and women tend to gain excess body fat around their waists, which increases the risks for developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Women who are heavier also tend to experience worse menopausal symptoms. One study found that women who lost at least 10 lbs. or 10 percent of their body weight over the course of a year were more likely to eliminate hot flashes and night sweats.

3. Eat your veggies and fruits.
A diet rich in varied fruits and vegetables has been shown to prevent a number of menopausal symptoms. Additionally, fruits and vegetables fill you up and keep you from overeating more unhealthy foods, which can lead to weight gain. They may also help prevent diseases, particularly heart disease (which can be a higher risk after menopause), and help maintain bone health.

4. Avoid trigger foods.
There are certain foods that can trigger hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings, especially if eaten at night. Caffeine, alcohol, sugary foods, and spicy foods seem to be the biggest trigger foods for worsening menopausal symptoms.

5. Eat enough protein.
Getting enough protein in your diet can help prevent the loss of lean muscle mass that occurs with age. Focus on lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, legumes, nuts, and low-fat dairy foods.

In addition to eating a healthy diet, regular exercise can help ease menopausal symptoms and help maintain a healthy weight.

How to Protect Your Health During the COVID-19 Crisis

Taking Care of Your Mental Health During the COVID-19 Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic is something most of us have not experienced in our lifetimes. The disruptions to our daily lives that have happened over the past week, and which will likely continue to happen for weeks to come, are difficult and challenging for everyone. These changes impact every aspect of our lives from our financial stability to our health, our children, our aging parents, and more.

While this shutdown of life-as-we-know-it is going to be challenging, it is necessary to do our part in helping to control the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. Closures of schools, colleges, restaurants, and other establishments may seem extreme, but experts are telling us they are crucial right now to try and “flatten the curve” of this viral outbreak. “Flattening the curve” is the idea of slowing a virus’ spread so that fewer people need to seek treatment at the same time.

This is why the U.S. and many other countries are implementing “social distancing” guidelines that limit the number of people going out in public and large group gatherings. The “curve” researchers are talking about refers to the projected number of people who will contract COVID-19 over a period of time. The goal with social distancing is to prevent a sharp rise in the number of people with the virus so the nation’s healthcare systems do not become overloaded beyond their capacity to treat people, as is currently happening with devastating results in Italy.

More than likely, you are already experiencing the effects of closures and social distancing. That may mean your children’s schools are closed or your company is having employees work from home for a few weeks, or both. Most of us are accepting staying at home for the time being as the new norm. This means not going out to eat, not visiting movie theatres, the gym, or other public places, and no playdates or other gatherings.

Protect your mental health
Just as important as protecting your physical health during this pandemic is protecting your mental health. Uncertain times such those we are experiencing right now can have a significant impact on your mental health. You are likely to feel stress surrounding what these shutdowns will mean financially for you and your family, what it will mean for your children’s education, and for your parents and other elderly family members’ health. All of this uncertainty can increase anxiety, and if you already suffer from anxiety and depression, it can make it much worse.

Some tips to ease stress and anxiety during this national crisis and help protect your mental health include the following:

Limit reading or watching repetitive coverage of the virus on various media. It will only make you more anxious. Stay informed by designating just one hour a day to read updates from trusted news sources—social media is notorious for spreading false information. An overload of information and the 24/7 news cycle will only increase your anxiety during these uncertain times.

Focus on the things you enjoy at home.  Replace social media and news with reading books, watching movies or shows, or listening to podcasts that entertain you and uplift you.

Maintain relationships, but do so virtually.
Since you can’t visit with elderly family members right now or with other friends, make time to engage in video chats, phone calls, emails, and texts. You and your kids can plan weekly video chats to stay connected with friends and to check in on elderly relatives. 

Add structure to your day.
Having a schedule will give you a feeling of control, which is important right now. Kids will benefit from having a daily schedule since it will help them to focus on things they need to do and will help to divert them from thinking about the virus. This is especially important if you will be working from home, and/or if your children will be participating in online learning during this time.

Create a plan for yourself and your family. Keep a list and use it; include needed supplies like food and medications, as well as contacts for your doctors and other important numbers. Using a list will give you a feeling of control in this unpredictable situation.

Practice self-care. Get back to the basics—get enough sleep, eat well, practice good hygiene, and get some exercise. You can work out at home, or better yet, get some fresh air by going for a walk, a run, or a bike ride in your neighborhood while still maintaining social distance. Experts agree that the best thing we can do during this health crisis is to take care of ourselves.

Remember to breathe. If you feel yourself starting to tense up and become anxious about this pandemic, take a time-out and practice deep-breathing exercises.

“Maintaining balance in daily life and not letting your day be consumed by the ‘next headline’ is important to maintaining perspective in the uncertainty of daily life,” said Nathaniel Van Kirk, PhD., coordinator of inpatient group therapy at McLean Harvard Medical School and the coordinator of clinical assessment at McLean’s OCD Institute.

 

Which Diet Is Best for You?

Types of Diets

When it comes to diet and nutrition, there are a wide variety of options available, but often, deciding which type of diet would be best for you can be overwhelming. From vegan to paleo to low-carb and everything in between, all of these different styles of eating claim to be the best for nutrition, weight loss, and overall health.

Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Following a particular diet is a very personal choice and one that should be based on personal preferences, lifestyle, your state of health, any medical conditions you may have, and for some, on moral or religious beliefs. There is not one perfect diet plan—each has its benefits and pitfalls.

To help you decipher the differences in some of the most popular diet plans, here is a brief breakdown of each type.

Vegetarian
Following a vegetarian diet involves omitting meat, fish, and poultry from your diet. There are variations of vegetarianism, such as choosing not to eat any red meat, but eating seafood and poultry. Pescatarians (those who eat no meat but do eat fish) will only eat seafood but no meat or poultry. Some vegetarians choose to consume dairy products and eggs, while others do not.

Many people often adopt a vegetarian diet for religious or personal reasons, as well as ethical issues, such as animal rights. Some people may decide to become a vegetarian for environmental reasons.

In addition to the ethical and environmental reasons for not eating meat, a vegetarian diet may lower your risk for chronic diseases and some cancers, improve heart health, help with weight loss, and provide your body with important nutrients. In fact, studies show that vegetarians tend to have better quality diets than meat-eaters and a higher intake of key nutrients like fiber, vitamins C and E, and magnesium.

However, a vegetarian diet may also increase the risk of certain nutritional deficiencies. Cutting meat and other animal products from your diet could potentially create deficiencies in iron, protein, omega-3s, calcium, and vitamins D and B. Being low in these nutrients can cause fatigue, anemia, bone loss, and thyroid issues. To minimize that risk, it’s important to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, as well as other protein sources such as beans, nuts, and soy.

Vegan
Veganism has become more popular recently and is a form of vegetarian diet that eliminates all meat and animal products, including dairy products, eggs, fish, poultry, and animal-derived products such as honey. A vegan diet offers all of the same benefits as a vegetarian diet as well as reducing one’s intake of cholesterol and saturated fat. Much like vegetarians, vegans must have a well-planned diet and find ways to ensure that they get enough protein and vitamin B12 in their diets.

Paleo
A Paleo diet is a dietary plan based on foods similar to what might have been eaten during the Paleolithic era, which dates from approximately 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. The diet includes foods that could be obtained through hunting or gathering, including lean meats, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. A paleo diet limits foods that became common when farming emerged about 10,000 years ago, which includes dairy products, grains, and legumes.

The concept of the paleo diet is to return to a style of eating that is closer to what early humans ate. It relies on the belief that our bodies are genetically mismatched to the modern diet that emerged with farming practices. To follow a Paleo diet, you would chose to eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and fish, and oils from fruits and nuts, such as olive oils and walnut oil. The diet eliminates grains, legumes, dairy products, refined sugar, salt, potatoes, and highly-processed foods.

The benefit of following a Paleo diet is that it’s rich in vegetables, fruits, and nuts, which are all part of a healthy diet. Paleo diets promote weight loss, improve glucose control, reduce blood pressure, and lower cholesterol. The chief difference in the Paleo diet compared to other healthy diets is the absence of whole grains and legumes, which are considered good sources of fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. Also missing from the diet are dairy products, which are good sources of protein and calcium.

While the Paleo diet does offer some health benefits, there are no long-term clinical studies about the potential risks of the paleo diet.

Keto
The Keto diet has become very popular. It is essentially just a variation of a low-carbohydrate diet, such as Atkins (which has been popular for many years). The keto (short for ketogenic) diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet. It requires you to drastically lower your carbohydrate intake and replace it with fat. This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis, a state where your body becomes very efficient at burning fat for energy instead of carbs. Keto diets are very popular because they can promote rapid and significant weight loss, as well as help regulate blood sugar levels.

The keto diet completely omits fruits, grains, legumes, and sugar. Instead, followers eat fish, low-carb vegetables, cheese, meat, poultry, eggs, and fats. The disadvantages of this diet include something known as “keto flu,” where people feel symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, dizziness, nausea, and emotional changes when beginning the diet. Additionally, because there is a lack of long-term research on the keto diet, doctors caution that it could cause kidney damage, nutritional deficiencies, and other side effects.

Mediterranean
The Mediterranean diet is based on the fact that people living in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea tend to live longer and suffer fewer health problems than Americans. The diet is low in red meat, sugar, and saturated fat and high in fruits and vegetables, nuts, and “good” fats, which is believed to be one of the reason’s these people are healthier and live longer.

The Mediterranean diet is really more of an eating pattern than a structured diet. It emphasizes eating fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, olive oil, and flavorful herbs and spices. It emphasizes eating fish and seafood at least a few times a week and poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt in moderation, while saving sweets and red meat for special occasions. It also involves having a glass of red wine most days. The Mediterranean diet offers many health benefits and is a very healthful way of eating. The only downside to this diet is that it may be too expensive for some people to maintain.

 

 

Eating to Strengthen Your Immune System

Boost Your Immune System With These Healthy Foods.

Winter is prime season for colds and flu, and while there are lots of practical things you can do to reduce your risk of getting sick, such as washing your hands and getting enough rest, eating well also plays an important role in keeping your immune system healthy. Eating an overall healthy diet on a regular basis is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, but there are also several foods that have specific qualities that can boost the immune system that you may want to add to your diet, especially during flu season.

Help protect yourself from infections by incorporating these superfoods into your diet.

  • BlueberriesBlueberries contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can help boost your immune system, particularly the respiratory tract’s defense system. Research has found that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.
  • Garlic – While garlic has long been used as a home remedy to prevent common colds, some research has suggested that eating foods that contain the herb may help reduce the number of colds a person gets every year.
  • Green tea – Like blueberries, green tea contains flavonoids that may reduce the risk of viral infections. Green tea only contains a very small amount of caffeine so it can be safely consumed or substituted for coffee or black tea.
  • Oranges – Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is what many people are already familiar with to help prevent or treat a cold. While scientists are still not sure exactly how it helps, vitamin C may reduce the duration of common cold symptoms and improve the function of the immune system. Other citrus fruits, fruit juices, and some vegetables, such as red peppers, that contain vitamin C can also be beneficial to keeping germs away.
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butters – Certain nuts are high in vitamin E, which is another antioxidant that strengthens your immune system. Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds, and peanut butter are good sources of vitamin E.
  • TurmericTurmeric is a yellow spice used in cooking and has also been used in alternative medicine. Its main ingredient, curcumin, is believed to lower the risk of many diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It’s action as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant strengthens the body’s immune response.
  • Spinach – Spinach is a super food that contains vitamins C and E as well as flavonoids and carotenoids, all of which can boost your immune system.
  • KefirKefir is a fermented drink that contains live cultures of bacteria that are beneficial for health. Several studies have shown it can fight off bacteria, reduce inflammation, and increase antioxidant activity.

Adding these foods to your diet may help strengthen your immune system and reduce your risk for colds and viruses, but eating a balanced, healthy diet along with good lifestyle choices such as exercising, not smoking, and getting enough sleep will go a long way toward keeping you healthy year-round.

 

How to Eat for Heart Health

February is American Heart Month, a designated time led by the American Heart Association to help raise awareness of heart disease, and to encourage people to live a healthy lifestyle by making small changes that can lead to better heart health.

One of these small changes is eating a healthy diet, and it’s one of the best things you can do for your heart. There are certain foods that can help lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol to help lower your risk for heart disease. Working these foods into your diet on a regular basis is a simple lifestyle change that can have big benefits for your heart health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) caution that eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, or sodium can be bad for your heart. Avoiding these types of foods or limiting their portions and incorporating more heart-healthy foods into your diet is a great way to reduce your overall heart disease risk.

A diet that is rich in whole foods, limits processed foods, and includes whole grains, nuts, fish, olive oil, and lots of fruits and vegetables is the best way to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. Making a few small swaps can make a huge difference.

These 15 foods are good for your heart, and you should include some of them in your daily diet.

1. Fish – Choose seafood that is high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and trout.
2. Nuts – Snack on almonds or walnuts; just be sure to watch your portion sizes since nuts are high in calories.
3. Berries – Colorful berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are full of fiber and phytonutrients that are great for heart health. Add a serving to your yogurt or cereal, or eat them as a healthy snack.
4. Seeds – Flaxseeds and chia seeds contain Omega-3s, fiber, and phytoestrogens that can boost heart health.
5. Oats – There’s a reason oatmeal is the preferred breakfast cereal, as it can help reduce cholesterol and provide lots of other nutrients and fiber.
6. Legumes – Beans and lentils such as garbanzo, pinto, kidney, or black beans are high in fiber, B-vitamins, minerals, and more. Cook them in a chili or soup or serve them as a side dish at meals.
7. Red wine – If you crave that glass of wine after work, just make sure it’s red and keep it at a 4-ounce serving to help improve your good cholesterol levels (HDL).
8. Soy – Edamame, tofu, and other soy-based foods are great to work into meals for a heart boost.
9. Vegetables – Choose red, yellow, and orange veggies that contain carotenoids for the best health punch. Eat veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, and tomatoes regularly to get the most benefit.
10. Leafy green vegetables – Eat your greens! Substitute spinach, kale, collard greens, or bok choy for lettuce in salads and sandwiches. Add broccoli and asparagus as sides for meals.
11. Fruits – Select fruits rich in beta-carotene like oranges, cantaloupe, and papaya.
12. Whole grains – An easy swap is to switch to whole grain breads, pastas, and rice instead of white-flour versions. The more whole grains you eat, including oats, rye, barely, and quinoa, the more heart benefits you get.
13. Avocados – Avocados are a great source of “good” fat and potassium that can reduce cholesterol and decrease heart disease risk.
14. Olive oil – Use it for cooking in place of vegetable oil, and add it to sauces and vinaigrettes to improve overall heart health.
15. Dark chocolate – You can still enjoy dessert, just replace milk chocolate with dark chocolate, and choose those with the highest percentage of cocoa to counteract the sugar content.

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.

 

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.