Category Archives: Feeling Rested

11 Ways to Cut Sugar Out of Your Life

teaspoon-of-sugar_01I know that I eat too much sugar. I want to cut back but it’s really hard. Sugar is so tasty!

The average American consumes about 32 teaspoons of sugar a day. The American Heart Association recommends women eat no more than six teaspoons of sugar per day.

You’re probably eating sugar throughout the day without even realizing it. Sugar is added to foods that don’t even taste that sweet, including breads, condiments, sauces and all kinds of processed foods and many low-fat products.

Cutting down on sugar can be one of the best ways to improve your health and your weight. Here are 11 ways you can lower your sugar intake and start feeling better:

Read food labels
You’ll soon realize how often sugar is added to foods when you look at the ingredients. Check the grams of sugar and choose products with the least sugar per serving. In addition, ingredients are listed in the order of how much exists in the product. If sugar is near the top, that’s a red flat that it’s loaded with sugar.

Learn sugar’s other names
When you read labels, you need to look for more than just the word sugar. It hides under many tricky names, such as high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, corn sugar, sucrose, dextrose, honey, cane sugar, cane crystals, maple syrup, molasses and brown sugar.

Buy unsweetened
Now that you know where sugar hides, you can choose to buy foods that are labeled “no added sugar” and “unsweetened.” You’ll find many unsweetened versions of common foods in most grocery stores. You can pick up sugar-free non-dairy milk, nut butters, applesauce, oatmeal and canned fruit.

Don’t go fake
When you start reducing your sugar intake, you may be tempted to switch to artificial sweeteners. These types of sweeteners can mess up your taste for sweet. Your body will be expecting to receive calories and nutrition, but artificial sugars won’t give your body these things. Studies have shown that fake sweeteners may actually lead to weight gain, not weight loss.

Incorporate more protein and fat
Unhealthy carbs are loaded with sugar and can cause blood sugar to rise rapidly. Then, it crashes only to leave you hungry again. To avoid these ups and downs, add more protein, healthy fats and fiber to your meals to slow down the release of blood sugar in your body.

Add spices
While you’re cutting down on sugar, swap it our for healthy spices in your foods. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamon will naturally sweeten foods and reduce your cravings.

Eat real foods
The closer a food is to its original form, the less processed sugar it will contain. Foods in their natural form, including fruits and vegetables, usually present a more healthy option to added sugar.

Drink water
Sometimes drinking water can help with sugar cravings. It turns out, what we perceive as a food craving can actually be thirst. In addition, water offers many other health benefits.

Move your body
Exercise at the gym, do yoga or go for a walk. When you move, you will help reduce stress and tension, boost your energy and decrease your need for a sugar boost.

Get enough sleep
What does sleep have to do with cutting down on sugar? Several studies have found that sleep deprivation of two hours or more under the recommended seven to nine hours leads to overeating and junk food cravings. Getting the proper amount of sleep can help you curb cravings and cut down on your sugar intake over time.

Stick to it!
Cutting down on sugar may feel like an impossible task. But now you have the tools to reduce your sugar intake. Eventually, your taste buds will adjust. Overly sweet foods like ice cream and candy will start to taste too sweet. When you may have normally eaten a whole slice of cake, you’ll find that a few bites will be enough. And, you’ll notice that the natural sweetness of fruits and vegetables tastes better!

16 Habits of Extremely Healthy People

healthy-life-sign-250x165As we head into cold and flu season, I wonder how some people always seem to stay so healthy. I blame my kids for spreading germs, but I’d like to think there are things we can do to stay healthier during the fall and winter months.

Real health is about more than just the physical aspects of wellness. It encompasses much more. You need to include your mental, emotional and spiritual health in your plans for a healthy lifestyle.

While there’s no magic plan or potion that will guarantee your health, you can take steps to increase your overall health. In the process, you may also boost your immune system to ward off those pesky cold and flu germs.

Here are 16 habits that healthy people incorporate into their daily lives:

Look on the bright side
Healthy people are optimistic. They don’t waste time and energy complaining. If they need to make a change in there lives, they do it. A positive mental attitude goes along way to promoting and supporting other healthy behaviors.

Commit to a healthy life
Healthy people aren’t born that way. They have made a choice to live a healthy lifestyle. They take it one day at a time just like the rest of us. Do healthy people slip up and revert to bad habits occasionally? Absolutely. However, they know not to let one setback hold them back and continue to actively work toward living a healthy life.

Eat for nourishment
Eating right isn’t just about what you eat. It’s also about how much you eat. Your body will let you know when you’ve had enough. Healthy people pay attention to their bodies and listen when it tells them they are full. You can stop eating when your hunger is satisfied, and before that bloated, full feeling sets in.

Believe in moderation
Healthy people don’t deprive themselves of the foods they love. They eat healthy the majority of the time, but enjoy their favorite unhealthy foods once in a while without feeling guilty. Eat a couple pieces of pizza or have a cookie. Just remember to stay on your healthy course the rest of the time!

Enjoy exercise
I am not here yet. Healthy people actually enjoy exercising. How do they do it? They spend time doing exercises they actually like doing and avoid those they hate. If you hate to run, don’t run. If you don’t like going to a gym, don’t go. Find things you like to do: taking walks outdoors, swimming laps, riding your bike or doing yoga.

Balance work and play
With technology taking over our lives, many people never really clock out from their jobs. You may check emails from your phone or send work texts at dinner. Healthy people know that work is important, but they also know that our health suffers when we don’t take time for us. Make sure you maintain a good balance between work and play.

Drink water
Everyone knows they should drink more water, but healthy people actually do it. Drinking at least six, eight-ounce glasses of water a day can help you in so many ways. You can control your appetite, avoid dehydration and be more mentally attuned. Keep a refillable water bottle with you everywhere you go.

Eat healthy snacks
Snacking can make or break your health goals. Healthy people choose snacks like vegetables, fruits, almonds and other nuts. Replace processed snack foods with raw types of snacks, and you’ll develop an important healthy habit.

Reduce stress
Some stress is a good thing. It keeps us on task and prepares us to handle important challenges. But, chronic stress can be bad for your overall health. It can even weaken your immune system. Take time to relax and do things you enjoy. Say no to stress!

Get enough sleep
Without enough sleep, your immune system doesn’t have the resources it needs to fight off illness. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night. Keep a regular sleep schedule, avoid caffeine at bedtime, relax and make your bedroom an oasis.

Just say no
Healthy people are attuned to their own needs. You can say no to friends and loved ones. It means that you are respecting yourself. When you’ve reached your limit, listen to your mind and body, and say no. Your friends and family will understand.

Kick bad habits
If you smoke or drink alcohol, it can weaken your immune system. Smoking is also likely to give you additional health problems. While a glass of wine or a couple of beers is okay, overdoing it can cause you to get sick more often.

Get a pet
Dogs and other pets aren’t just good to have as companions. They can help you get exercise and improve your health. Pets have been found to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels, contributing to a healthier heart. Dogs can also be good for your immune system and help you relieve stress.

Have a laugh
Laughing can be good for you. Research as shown that laughter may help boost your immune system. Laughing and smiling also help relieve stress and put you in a good mood.

Live in the moment
Take time to enjoy life’s little pleasures. Be thankful for everything that is good in your life. The ability to appreciate the things you have, regardless of what else might be going on, helps you maintain a peaceful mindset rather than focus on what you don’t have.

Be kind
Healthy people treat others how they want to be treated. Creating a habit of kindness and respect will make you feel good about yourself and build strong relationships with your friends and family. Small acts of goodness can change your life – and can impact someone else’s life, too. Be compassionate, and you’ll give off a healthy glow!

11 Exercise Benefits You Don’t See

exerciseWhat’s the most common reason why people exercise? To lose weight. Yet, physical activity provides so many more benefits. Do you want to feel better? Need more energy? Want to live longer? Then get out there and get moving!

Here are 11 important benefits to exercising that you don’t see:

Improved mood
If you’re in a bad mood or have had a stressful day, you can blow off some steam by going for a brisk 30-minute walk or working out at the gym. Exercise stimulates brain chemicals that make you feel happier and more relaxed. You may also feel better about yourself because you fit a workout into your day.

Energy boost
When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is move. Yet, when you use energy to exercise, it gives you an energy boost. By exercising more regularly, you may also be able to eliminate fatigue and find that you have a lot more pep.

More confidence
Working out can make you look better on the outside. It can also make you feel better on the inside. Exercising can make you feel more empowered and boost your self-esteem. You feel ready to conquer anything.

Sleep better
We need our beauty rest so that our bodies can recover, repair damage, renew energy and clear the mind. Exercise is an all-natural sleep aid. People who exercise regularly have less insomnia and a higher quality of sleep.

Reduce stress
Exercise calms your body and your brain. After you work out, the levels of stress hormones – such as adrenaline and cortisol – drop. Especially after aerobic exercise, stress and anxiety melt away. You may also be able to cope more easily with stress when you feel confident about yourself.

Pump up your heart
If high blood pressure and heart disease run in your family, exercise can help you strengthen your heart. Being active boosts HDL or “good cholesterol” and lowers unhealthy triglycerides. Physical activity keeps your blood flowing and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Combat disease
In addition to giving you a healthy heart, regular physical activity can help you prevent or manage a wide range of health problems. Do you have a family history of certain types of diseases? Get moving and reduce your risk of stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes depression, certain types of cancer, arthritis and falls.

Relieve arthritis pain
Regular exercise can help ease your pain if you have arthritis. It can make your daily activities easier. Consider non-impact exercises like swimming. These types of exercises can be easier on your joints.

Strengthen bones
It’s important to keep our bones and muscles strong as we get older. Weight-bearing exercise, such as weight-lifting, walking, tennis and dancing, can help you strengthen and build bones. It can also help ward off osteoporosis and improve balance and coordination.

Look younger
People who work out often look younger than their friends. Now research has found that exercisers are truly younger on a cellular level than their peers. Exercise more and feel free to lie about your age!

Live longer
In addition to looking younger, regular exercise can add years to your life. You don’t have to be a hard-core fitness buff. Just get up and get moving. Even a little exercise can help you live longer than not exercising at all.

The bottom line: exercise is a great way to feel better, gain confidence, combat disease and improve chronic health conditions. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. So get moving!

6 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

crossword_background_001I worry about my brain. As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia increases, I want to do more to protect my memory and cognitive function.

While we wait for a cure for Alzheimer’s or better treatments for dementia, what can you do to help prevent the diseases? You can lead a more brain-healthy lifestyle that can slow down the process of deterioration. No matter what your age, you can take steps now to keep your brain healthy.

Here are 6 ways to start improving your brain health today:

Stay active
Physical activity is a valuable part of living a more balanced life and can also lower the risk of cognitive decline. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50%.

In addition to protecting against Alzheimer’s and dementia, creating a regular exercise routine can also boost your mood, increase energy levels and reduce stress.

Read more about the benefits of exercise.

Eat a healthy diet
Your brain needs a nutritious diet to perform at its best. Make sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. Focus on creating good eating habits that reduce inflammation and provide a steady supply of fuel.

Here are more diet tips to keep your brain healthy and protected:

  • Follow a Mediterranean diet – This approach to healthy eating includes a balanced diet rich in fish, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fresh produce.
  • Avoid trans fats and saturated fats – You should reduce your intake of full-fat dairy products, red meat, fried foods, fast food and processed foods.
  • Eat heart-healthy options – If you’re following a diet plan that’s good for your heart, it’s also going to be good for your brain. When you reduce your risk of heart disease, you’re also helping protect your brain.
  • Add omega-3 fats – Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Eat cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel and sardines.

Keep mentally active
When you continue to learn new things and challenge your brain throughout life, you are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s a good idea to follow the “use it or lose it” approach. Activities that involve multiple tasks or include different types of stimulation, such as communicating, interacting and organization, will offer the greatest benefits and protection.

Here are more ways to exercise your brain.

Have a social life
We are social creatures. Relationships are important to our health. If you are isolated, you’re not thriving and neither is your brain. Studies show that the more connected we are and the more relationships we have, we test better for memory and cognition.

Do you have trouble making friends? Here are a few ways to build a strong support system and develop new relationships.

  • Volunteer – There are so many great causes you can support and giving back is good for your health!
  • Make weekly plans with friends – Take the initiative and get together with friends. You can go to the movies, visit the park, creating a walking group, or check out local museums.
  • Take a class – Join a gym or sign up for classes at a local college. It’s a great way to meet new people and stimulate your brain.
  • Get to know your neighbors – You may have people nearby who have similar interests to you. Make it a point to know your neighbors.

Manage your stress
Chronic stress takes a toll on the body as well as on your brain. Stress can lead to shrinkage in key memory areas of the brain, hamper nerve cell growth and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

There are many things you can do to prevent stress and keep your stress levels in check. Even the foods you eat can help you control stress.

Get plenty of sleep
Your brain needs to rest. A good night’s sleep helps your brain function at maximum capacity. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are cranky and tired. Lack of sleep also impairs your ability to think, solve problems and store or recall information. Deep, REM state sleep is important for memory formation and retention. Most adults need at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re getting less sleep than that, your health, productivity and creativity can suffer.

To protect your brain health, embrace a balanced lifestyle that will improve your overall health. A balanced life includes exercising, eating a nutritious diet, establishing good relationships, reducing stress, and getting plenty of sleep.

11 Ways to Stay Healthy This Summer

summer33It’s hard enough to keep a healthy routine going on a daily basis. Summer can definitely bring its own challenges. Your routine may change based on school or work schedules. There are more daylight hours, along with hot and humid weather.

You can maintain your healthy routine and incorporate summer fun into those long, lazy days.

Here are 11 easy ways to keep you and your family safe and healthy this summer:

Set a schedule
When school gets out, your routine may go out the window. Or, you may change your work hours to enjoy more of the summer weather. Keep up your good habits, such as eating regular meals, exercising and getting enough sleep. With additional daylight hours, it is tempting to spend more time on the run and get to bed later.

Fuel up with breakfast
Start the day with a healthy breakfast. A balanced breakfast includes protein, carbs and fiber. You and your kids will have a sharper mind, more energy and better nutrition to tackle the day.

Protect your skin
Sunscreen isn’t just for the beach or swimming pool. You need to apply sunscreen any time that you’re going to be outside, even on a cloudy day. You may spend more time outside during the day than you realize. You want to especially protect your most exposed areas, such as your face, ears, neck and backs of hands. These areas are most affected by skin cancer.

Stock up on healthy snacks
Studies have shown that kids gain less weight during the school year. That’s because schools have scheduled meal times, portioned meals and prevent kids from snacking through the day. Adults also tend to grab unhealthy snacks on the go during the warm summer months. Having healthy snack options on hand can be good for your entire family to create healthy eating habits.

Drink plenty of water
We know that drinking water helps promote good health. With warmer temperatures, it’s even more important than ever to stay hydrated. Even if you’re simply relaxing outside, your body temperature is still rising. Drinking water keeps your body functioning properly and can even help you lose weight.

Eat together as a family
A family that eats together stays healthy together. Dinnertime can be an opportunity to build your family relationships. Kids may be having a rough time with friends or other concerns. The dinner table is a place for kids to express themselves, which can help kids learn to talk about problems rather than turn to unhealthy eating habits. Regular eating times and dining together can also allow you to encourage healthy eating habits. It’s a chance for adults to relax and unwind, too!

Limit the Internet
You and your family may spend too much time on computers, tablets or smartphones surfing the Internet and playing games. Make it a point to turn off the devices and spend more time together as a family. You can have a picnic or go watch an outdoor movie. You can declare dinnertime or family fun night device-free zones.

Get outdoorsy
Exercise is great for the whole family and can be more fun when enjoyed together. You can pick different outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, swimming, playing frisbee or starting a neighborhood baseball game. Many city parks have ball diamonds and sand volleyball courts.

Sleep well
With the long summer days, it can be tempting to stay up late. Keep up your good sleeping habits and stick to the same bedtime and wake-up schedule.

Take a vacation
Spend some time relaxing and enjoying what summer has to offer. Even if you only have a few vacation days, you can still find time to unwind. You can plan a stay-cation and camp out in the back yard or spend time at the local swimming pool. Take a day off during the week and go to an amusement or water park.

Have fun!
Try something new. Make it a point to unplug and spend time relaxing over the summer. Get outside, enjoy the weather and act like a kid again!

10 Ways Stress Affects Your Health

Stress pinned on noticeboardStress is a personal thing. What might stress me out may not bother you, and vice versa. A little bit of stress is good for motivation and may help your memory. However, ongoing stress can impact your health in negative ways. Increased doctors visits and serious illnesses may be linked to stress.

Stress can come from a short-term frustration, such as a traffic jam or waiting in line, or a major life event like losing a job or divorce. Either way, it can affect our bodies and our overall health.

Here are 10 ways that stress may be impacting your health, and you don’t even realize it:

Triggers cravings
Cortisol, a hormone released during times of stress, may trigger cravings for sugar and fat. If you already have a higher body mass index, you may be even more susceptible to cravings. The key is to know your stress triggers and stock up on healthy snacks. Or, make sure you don’t have unhealthy treats on hand when you know you may be guilty of emotional eating.

Causes weight gain
Stress can also be correlated with weight gain. In addition to the cravings caused by the stress hormone cortisol, higher levels of cortisol may also be linked to more belly fat. You may also have poor eating habits when you’re more stressed.

Messes up your memory
When you’re stressed about getting to an important appointment on time, it can be harder to remember where you put the car keys or when you last filled up the gas tank. Stress seems to fog up your memory and make it harder to remember simple things.

Raises blood sugar
Stress is known to raise blood sugar levels. If you’re at risk for Type 2 diabetes, stress can substantially increase your risk of developing the disease. For those who already have Type 2 diabetes, blood sugar levels are higher when under stress.

Impacts your vision
Stress can cause a range of eye symptoms – from eye twitches to hysterical blindness. In both cases, it’s important to find the underlying causes of the emotional stress and then try to eliminate the causes of the stress.

Gives you headaches
The “fight or flight” chemicals that are released during a stressful event can cause vascular changes that give you a headache or migraine. It can happen while you’re stressed or during the “let-down” period afterwards. Stress can also make you tense your jaw muscles or clench your teeth, both of which can create a tension headache.

Keeps you up at night
Work issues or life events can keep you tossing and turning at night. Loss of sleep is linked to a number of health conditions and creates a vicious cycle. Insomnia increases your stress and keeps you up even more at night. Getting a better night’s sleep can help you cut down stress before it starts.

Creates digestion problems
Heartburn, stomach cramps and diarrhea can be caused by stress, or can be worsened by stress. Bouts of constipation and diarrhea, or irritable bowel syndrome, are also thought to be partially fueled by stress.

Weakens your immune system
Chronic stress can make it harder for you to fight off viruses and bugs. It lowers your immune system by creating hormonal changes in your body.

Makes you age prematurely
I want to live as long as possible. Traumatic events and chronic stress are both thought to shorten the telomeres in your chromosomes. This change causes your cells to age faster. It seems that exercising vigorously three times a week may be enough to counteract the effects.

We all know that chronic stress is bad for us. Our modern society creates a long-term state of stress, and it’s hard on our minds and bodies. If you’re feeling stressed, find ways to relax and learn to let go of stress!

12 Ways to Indulge Yourself on a Budget

Have you been struggling with deadlines or a demanding boss all day? Fighting with the kids or your spouse? Do you just need a break and some self-indulgence?

As I start to see a glimpse of spring and warmer weather, I feel like it’s time to have a little fun. There are many small and unexpected ways to put a little bliss back into your life. Part of finding your balance is also about taking care of yourself.

Here are 12 small ways you can indulge yourself without breaking the bank or feeling guilty:

Go outside
Take a stroll in the woods. Research has found that being out in nature for as little as 5 minutes benefits your mental and physical health. If you can’t get outside, then at least look outside. Even a window view of nature can elevate your mood. Just think about it – it’s unnatural to spend our time in windowless buildings when we used to spend our whole existence outdoors.

Clean out a drawer or closet
To me, cleaning for fun seems to be in opposition with my basic nature of avoiding housework. However, I have to say, there is something relaxing about organizing a part of your life when everything else is feeling chaotic and out of control. So, organize a closet, desk, pantry or junk drawer – and enjoy the feeling of peace.

Play your favorite song
Listening to a favorite song can trigger the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine in the brain. All that matters is that it’s a melody that stirs you. Repetition nurtures the pleasure – so play it again and again!

Have a glass of wine
If you enjoy a glass of good wine or even sipping a cold beer, then indulge your senses with new flavor selections or drink it along with a great meal. You can soak in the pleasure of simply relaxing with your favorite beverage.

Keep a momento on your desk
Do you eat a small snack in the afternoon to boost your energy? Try placing something emotionally important to you on your desk where you work for a mental boost. You may have a souvenir from a special vacation, a favorite photo from your wedding or a keepsake from when your kids were small. Glancing at this momento during the work day is sure to give your spirits a quick lift.

Soak in the tub in the dark
Run a really hot tub full of water, dim the lights, burn a candle and give yourself a full hour to unwind. You can even use some mint or lavender oil to add a lovely scent to the bath. Close your eyes and relax in the warmth.

Pet a dog
It doesn’t even have to be your dog. Pet any dog or cat to enjoy the benefits. Physical contact with animals increases the chemicals in the brain associated with pleasure and decreases those associated with stress.

Eat some chocolate
Few things feel as indulgent as eating dark chocolate. Make sure you eat it slowly and savor the flavors. Make the experience last! Plus, dark chocolate may lower your blood pressure, increase blood flow and improve your “good” cholesterol levels.

Put the kettle on
Even with a coffee shop on every corner, the average American drinks more than 9 gallons of tea a year. Drinking green or black tea can reduce stress hormones over time. And, there’s just something indulgent about sitting down with a warm cup of tea.

Create a soothing scent
People have been using aromatic herbs for centuries to create great smelling scents. Now research shows that aromatherapy may be good for you. Breathing in natural perfumed scents can lift your mood. You can also stop and smell the flowers, literally. You’ll be enjoying the outdoors and taking in nature’s own aromas!

Take a nap
One of my greatest pleasures is to take a short nap during the day. Snuggle up in a comfy spot with pillows and a fluffy blanket. As we’ve mentioned in past blogs, naps are good for your mind and body. They can help improve your concentration and lift your mood. Taking a 10 – 20 minute nap in the afternoon can give you the boost you need to enjoy the day.

Give
Humans are altruistic by nature. When you act generously, you will feel joy. Find a charity or cause to support and make a donation. In addition, volunteering and helping others – without expecting anything in return – is actually good for your health.

Happiness can be elusive at times. You can create your own small pleasures and put some joy back in your life. What are your best tips for rewarding and refreshing yourself without spending a lot of time or money?