Tag Archives: wellness

Spring-Clean Your Mood!

When the days grow longer and become warmer, we all feel like breaking out of our winter ruts and changing our routines.  While you are spring-cleaning your house, why not spring-clean your mood as well? We have some ideas that can help you get healthier and put the winter blues behind you.

Bring Nature Inside

Find some fresh flowers in the garden or cut some beautiful foliage to put in a vase. The flowers will bring color into the house, and you can enjoy their sweet fragrance as well. According to Deborah Serani, a psychology professor at Adelphi University and author of Living with Depression, “Studies show that having greenery in your life reduces stress, reduces depressed mood, improves attention and concentration, reduces high blood pressure, and creates an atmosphere of beauty.  Adding plants and flowers works wonders for your well-being.”

Aromatherapy has become quite popular as a way to enhance mood, and the natural aromas flowers bring can be just as effective as oils. Not only do they provide a pleasing look and scent, but having plants in the house also raises the oxygen levels as well, making the air healthier and easier to breathe.

Remove Clutter to Revitalize

Getting rid of things no longer of use to you not only improves your living space, but it is beneficial for your state of mind as well. A cluttered space can induce stress and anxiety. Mary Jo Kreitzer, RN, Ph.D, said, “Since the earliest times, humans have needed to be sensitive to their surroundings to survive, which means that we have an innate awareness of our environment and seek out environments with certain qualities.” She elaborated that humans tend to seek out places where we can feel safe and secure—without too much stimulus—and places that provide physical comfort as well.

Your psychological comfort is affected by your surroundings. It is important that you let go of things you really don’t have room for, to keep your space uncluttered and soothing. As you sort through the things you truly want and need versus things that are only cluttering up your space and your life, you hone your identity and begin to understand what is truly important to you. This can bring joy and a sense of tranquility.

Rearrange for a New View, and a New You

Simply rearranging your furniture can be a major mood enhancer.  When moving into a new home, many of us will just put our couches and tables into whatever arrangement seems obvious. There are often other arrangements we never consider which could create a much better flow of energy in a room. The positioning of furniture can have a huge impact on your mood and on your enjoyment of your living space.

Omar Elbaga suggested on TinyBuddha, “Balance is more important than symmetry. The rule of thumb is to think outside the box and don’t decorate in the most obvious way.” Try turning your couch at an angle, with chairs positioned for easy conversation. Or, if you have the couch in the center of the room, experiment with pushing it up against a wall. You can often make a room look bigger just by the way you arrange the furniture.

According to Psychology Today, by rearranging your furniture, you can elevate your mood and instill satisfaction, effectiveness, comfort, and creativity. This is another way that you can spring-clean your way to better health.

Make the Most of your Mow…

Now that Spring has sprung, we must deal with fast-growing grass and weeds in the yard. While we tend to think of yard work as a chore, it is also a great opportunity to get some good exercise. You may want to opt for a push-mower instead of a riding mower and let working in the yard count as your daily exercise.

While the physical health benefits of exercise are reason enough by themselves, we also get the added boost of mood improvement from regular exercise. Exercise increases serotonin, which helps your brain to regulate sleep, appetite, and mood; overall, exercise helps alleviate chronic depression. Exercise also reduces certain chemicals in the immune system which can worsen depression.

A recent study has linked routine physical exertion with improvements in memory in older adults. We do a lot of bending and lifting when we work out in the yard, so spring cleaning outside offers an amazing amount of unexpected benefits. Fitness guru Jillian Michaels says that gardening “can burn up to 256 calories an hour, and lawn mowing 160 calories per half-hour.”

So, when you look out your window at the overgrown grass and the dandelions, instead of thinking of mowing it as a chore, think of all the good you are doing for your body, mind, and mental health by “spring-cleaning” your mood while you mow.

Is It Time for a Little Spring Cleaning?

Spring cleaning is a popular worldwide tradition. Why spring? While the roots of this tradition are unclear, some suggest that European winters are responsible. In the days before central HVAC systems, Europeans barred their homes against the cold by shutting windows tightly and lighting fires all winter long. By the end of such a winter, houses were stuffy, musty, and dirty from all the soot from the fires. Spring was a good time to open the windows, air out the house, and clean out the winter’s dirt.

 

Spring Cleaning for your lifeThe way we live—and clean—has changed, but the tradition of spring cleaning remains. Many people take this time of year to take stock, declutter, and deep clean their homes and workplaces. Is now a good time for you to do the same? Here are some ways to do your own spring cleaning.

  1. Spring clean your diet: You don’t have to go whole hog with the Whole30 in order to eat more cleanly. “Eating clean” doesn’t mean eating without making a mess, or washing your food before you eat it; it means limiting processed foods and eating more whole foods, like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins.
  2. Spring clean your exercise routine: Try something different to spice up your physical fitness. Walk to work once a week, work out with a virtual trainer, or try a cardio dance class. The break in routine will help you burn more calories and maybe have some fun!
  3. Spring clean your workspace: How many Post-it® notes are stuck to your computer? How many unread emails are in your inbox? How many folders can you see on your desk, or tools left out in your workspace? If the answer is more than five, then set aside some time this spring to do a big clean of both your physical and your virtual workspaces to enjoy a nicer environment and increased productivity.
  4. Actually spring clean your home: Even if you don’t have dust from sooty coal fires all over your home, spring is a great time to donate old clothes and furniture, take old taxes to a professional shredder, and clear the cobwebs from the corners. Read more here to do a really deep spring clean.

 

Breakfast Is for Champions

Which is better for losing weight: eating breakfast or skipping it? There is no definitive answer, but many nutritionists and weight loss experts agree that eating a nutritious breakfast is a crucial part of an overall healthy lifestyle.

The Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit medical organization whose weight-loss program is based on solid research and clinical studies. Part of the Mayo Clinic Diet is making it a habit to eat a healthy breakfast as often as possible, which helps people lose weight and keep it off by

  • Reducing hunger later in the day.
  • Helping to promote healthy choices throughout the day.
  • Providing more energy for physical activity.

According to Mayo Clinic staff, the building blocks to a healthy breakfast include these foods:

  • Whole grains
  • Lean protein
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Fruits and vegetables

With USConnect’s The Right Choice… for a Healthier You™ program, you can find nutritious breakfast choices like whole-grain oatmeal, nonfat yogurt, fresh produce, and even hard-boiled eggs. The Mayo Clinic’s research shows that people who regularly eat these types of breakfasts not only lose weight, but they also control their cholesterol and blood sugar, get more vitamins and minerals, and perform better at work.

If breakfast isn’t part of your usual morning routine, the Mayo Clinic has some recommendations to help you get into the healthy habit:

  1. Get into the habit by starting with something small and portable, then work your way up.
  2. Replace added sugar with the natural sweetness of fruit and spices like cinnamon.
  3. Prepare in advance and have healthy foods at-the-ready so you’re not adding to the morning rush.
  4. Don’t limit yourself to breakfast food; there’s no reason not to eat a turkey sandwich on whole wheat for breakfast.
  5. Make it portable so you can eat as you commute.
  6. Split your breakfast up into micro-meals if you don’t feel hungry first thing in the morning.
  7. Change slowly. As we discussed with setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, it’s easy to give up on a goal when you try to do too much at once. Start with a healthy breakfast once a week, and then move up from there.

How to Protect Yourself From the Flu

Flu 2018: How to Protect Yourself

Buckle up: this year’s influenza virus (flu) is a doozy. Every year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tracks how widespread the flu is in each state. And this year, for the first time in 13 years, flu activity is “widespread” across the entire continental United States; only Hawaii has escaped the 2017-2018 flu season.

This year’s flu features the H3N2 strain of the influenza A virus, which is more difficult to treat and deadlier to vulnerable populations, like infants and people over 65 years old. H3N2 is also much more difficult to prevent with the flu vaccine. The CDC reports that “flu vaccines provide better protection against influenza B or influenza A (H1N1) viruses than against influenza A (H3N2) viruses,” with average vaccine efficiency of only 33 percent against H3N2 viruses, compared with 61 percent efficiency against H1N1, and 54 percent against Influenza B.

So does that mean you should just skip the flu vaccine? Absolutely not! Even if it’s only 33 percent effective, it will help you to reduce your chance of getting the flu by one third? If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, it’s not too late; flu seasons can often stretch into May, and the CDC is starting to see more strains of influenza B and H1N1 show up as well. So run, don’t walk, to your nearest pharmacy to get this vaccine.

Apart from getting the vaccine, the CDC also recommends these precautions to keep the germs at bay:

  • Avoid close contact.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.
  • Clean your hands.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits.

You can also boost your immune systems with heathy choices from USConnect’s fresh meals, snacks, and beverages. Look for antioxidant-rich foods like spinach and blueberries, or vitamin C-rich citrus. Drink plenty of fluids; get plenty of rest, and hopefully you can avoid the flu when it comes knocking.

How S.M.A.R.T. Are Your Goals?

If you’re like 41 percent of Americans, you made a New Year’s resolution this year. And if you’re like 21 percent of Americans, your New Year’s resolution had to do with losing weight or eating healthier. Unfortunately, if you’re like 91 percent of Americans, you will not be successful in fulfilling your resolution.

What are SMART goals?

While there are many factors that contribute to a person’s success or failure in achieving his or her goals, one way to improve the chances of success is to change the goals themselves. Someone whose goal is to lose 50 pounds or to only eat salads for every meal is likely to be disappointed by his/her results. If your goals are unrealistic, you’re unlikely to be able to achieve them.

How are your goals? Are they SMART? Use this acronym to do a reality-check on your resolutions:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Realistic
Time-bound

Although the idea of the SMART goal originated in business management in the early 1980s, it provides an excellent guide for nutrition and fitness resolutions. When you set your goals, ask yourself this question: are they SMART?

Specific: Instead of setting a general goal, such as, “I will eat more vegetables” or “I will eat more fiber,” be specific in what actions you will take: “I will eat five servings of vegetables a day” or “I will eat at least 25 grams of fiber a day.”

Measurable: Vague goals are easier to ignore. Make sure your goal is something you can measure and record your progress in accomplishing. If you want to get at least 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day, you can keep track of it, especially with fitness trackers.

Achievable: This is a big one for nutrition and fitness goals. If fresh food is not easily available at work, then it may be hard for you to eat vegetables three times a day. If you live in a very cold climate, it may not be feasible to walk outside every day, so you should find a way to exercise indoors.

Realistic: You need to know your own personality and how you react to challenges. Is it realistic for you to cut out sugar for 30 days, or is that something that will be too difficult? Would it be more realistic to cut down on sugar, like to 10 grams a day? Realistic goals are much easier to keep.

Time-bound: Set a time frame for your goal, like for the month of February or the first quarter of the year. Knowing that you have a start and end date will help you do what you need to do to meet your goal.

 

Setting up a Workplace Wellness Challenge

Get Fit As A Team!

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

Workplace Wellness Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

Myths and Facts Everyone Should Know About Diabetes

November is National Diabetes Awareness Month

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

myths and facts about diabetes

Myth #1: Diabetes is a single disease

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

How Should Food Service Providers Respond?

It’s finally fall, and as you watch the leaves turn yellow and orange, you may also notice the rest of the country turning pink. That’s because it’s October, when the country observes National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

breast cancer awareness month

The first National Breast Cancer Awareness Month was in 1985: the result of a partnership between the American Cancer Society and the pharmaceutical company that is now AstraZeneca. The goal, as the name of the program states, was to raise awareness about breast cancer and to encourage women to get mammograms.

In the three-plus decades since its inception, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month has grown into a mammoth industry, with many companies turning their products pink for the duration. The success of the awareness program has spawned a slew of critics—many asking if the goal is still to raise awareness or if it’s really to raise profits. This puts foodservice providers in a bit of a bind. Ignoring National Breast Cancer Awareness Month might come across as callous, but slapping a pink ribbon onto everything might seem like a cynical play for extra revenue. Luckily, a few guidelines can keep your company from making a costly misstep.

For starters, make sure to avoid pinkwashing. Pinkwashing (like greenwashing) is cloaking a product in feel-good cause marketing without doing anything meaningful for that cause: for instance, labeling food with pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness, but not actually donating any money to organizations that do breast cancer research or support women with breast cancer.

Even worse than a meaningless pink ribbon, however, is putting a pink ribbon on something that actually has links to breast cancer. This was the case in 2014, when breast cancer nonprofit giant Susan G. Komen for the Cure partnered with drilling company Baker Hughes on pink “Drill Bits for the Cure.” Baker Hughes drill bits are used for fracking, which has been linked to cancer-causing chemicals. The partnership was a public relations nightmare for all parties involved and for the breast cancer awareness movement. More germane to foodservices companies is the similar PR brouhaha when Susan G. Komen partnered with Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) on “Buckets for the Cure,” promising a massive donation to Komen. However, a high-fat diet has also been linked to a higher risk of breast and other cancers, so KFC came under a lot of heat for cynical pandering.

If you’re looking to support breast cancer organizations through foodservice products, start by deciding where you want to donate money. Charity Navigator is a good resource for figuring out how much of your donation will actually go to funding breast cancer research and treatment. Then, choose products to connect to your donation. Because of cancer’s link to unhealthy lifestyles, choose products that are low in fat, salt, and sugar. Finally, market your partnership, and make sure to be transparent about how and where you are donating.

 

 

March into Good Nutrition for National Nutrition Month®

New Year’s resolutions? That’s so old hat. March is National Nutrition Month®, and it’s a great time to recommit to a healthier lifestyle.

Use National Nutrition Month to commit to a healthier lifestyle!

National Nutrition Month®, which started in 1973 as National Nutrition Week, is a nutrition education and information campaign of the Academy of Nutrition and Dieticians. This year, the theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward,” and it encourages everyone to make healthier food choices. Even small changes, made consistently, can have a big effect.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dieticians provides a robust toolkit on how to celebrate and promote National Nutrition Month®; it includes ways to get people involved with special events, banners, and educational materials. It even includes games like this timeline of fad diets. Along with such gems as the Baby Food Diet (14 jars a day), the Banana Diet (self-explanatory), and the Cabbage Soup Diet (the main side effect was flatulence), you’ll notice that similar fads tend to reappear again and again. For instance, 1985 saw the Caveman Diet which bears a striking resemblance to the Paleolithic Diet that is so popular today.

Most of all, National Nutrition Month® is about making healthy choices. It aligns with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Not sure where to start? Check out MyPlate.gov which offers tracking tools, tip sheets, and even customized healthy eating checklists.

National Nutrition Month® is a perfect fit with USConnect’s program: The Right Choice … for a Healthier You™. The Right Choice … for a Healthier You™ is managed by USConnect’s staff dietician and offers nutritional guidelines for fresh food products on each vending machine′s touch screen. Benefits managers and others can use National Nutrition Month® to promote workplace health by making sure employees are aware of these healthy guidelines.

 

 

 

 

 

4 Tips for Eating Healthier in the Summer

Healthier Food Options for the Summer

It’s summertime, and the living is easy. Maybe a little bit too easy, especially for vacationers who tend to throw all caution to the wind and eat whatever they want when they are away from their routine. While the danger of summer weight gain is especially sharp for children, adults, too, can be at risk for packing in the calories during the summer months. Here are some tips and tricks to keep you healthier—but still happy—this summer.

4 tips for healthier eating this summer

Don’t Eat: Mayonnaise-laden potato or pasta salad. Mayonnaise packs a fat wallop: 10 grams of fat and 90 calories per tablespoon.

Replace with: If you’re craving the starchy goodness of potato or pasta salad, replace the mayonnaise-based dressing with an olive oil-based one. To retain a creamy consistency, try adding some Greek yogurt to the mix.

Don’t Eat: Fried clams. This  beach-town favorite contains 500 calories and 26 grams of fat for just ¾ of a cup!

Replace with: Steamed clams. Clams are a great source of protein and vitamin B12, so you should still eat them—just avoid the deep fryer. Steamed clams are traditionally served with drawn butter (melted butter), which should obviously be consumed sparingly.

Don’t Eat: Ice cream sandwiches. An unknown New York (genius) pushcart vendor invented the ice cream sandwich in 1899 when he served vanilla ice cream between two graham crackers. The treat has evolved since then, and it’s often a behemoth of two chocolate chip cookies surrounding a full serving of full-fat ice cream. These delicious sandwiches can contain 500 calories and loads of saturated fat.

Replace with: Make-your-own ice cream sandwiches. By choosing smaller portion sizes and healthier ice cream and cookies, you can create a frozen treat that won’t break your diet. Graham crackers, the original “bread” of the original ice cream sandwich, make a great choice!

Don’t Drink: Sodas or sugar-laden juices and teas. As we’ve previously discussed, sodas are across the board unhealthy, and many juices and iced teas are loaded with sugar.

Replace with: Reach for water or unsweetened tea, especially during the hot summer months when dehydration threatens.