Tag Archives: healthy snacks

12 Simple Ways to Eat Less and Feel Better

usda my plate-984891711_v2.grid-4x2Do you eat when you’re bored? Stressed? Or wait until you feel starved and then overeat? Is it hard to judge portions, or do you end up with super-sized meals at restaurants?

Many factors can contribute to how much you eat. The good news is that you can control most of these factors and eventually turn them into healthy eating habits.

Here are 12 simple ways you can eat less on a daily basis and feel better about what you eat:

Serve yourself healthy foods first.
Load your plate up with the healthiest food choices first. Whether you’re eating at home, a restaurant or a buffet line, dish up the veggies, whole grains, and fruits before the fattier meats or side dishes. Then, you can go back and sample a few less healthy options or have a small dessert.

Use smaller plates and bowls.
The size of your dishes gives your brain cues on how much you’re “supposed” to eat. The bigger the dish means that you can have more food. In a study, people at a Chinese buffet who got a large plate served themselves 52% more food, and ate 45% more of it, than those who had smaller plates.

Use taller glasses.
Just like less food looks like more food on a smaller plate, height makes things look larger than width, even if the volume of both glasses is the same. You can cut down on liquid calories by choosing taller glasses rather than shorter, fatter ones.

Eat protein for breakfast.
Most studies recommend eating breakfast every day to help kick start your metabolism. But, you only get the true benefits of breakfast if it’s high in protein. More protein can suppress your appetite and reduce subsequent eating throughout the day. Skip the pancakes and waffles, and grab an omelet instead.

Eat three meals a day.
While we’ve all heard that we should eat more, smaller meals throughout the day, research is showing that three bigger meals a day may still be the best way to control your appetite. However, skipping meals will make controlling your appetite more difficult. If you eat healthy at regular meals, you shouldn’t need any additional food.

Hide unhealthy snacks.
Studies have shown that people eat a lot more food when the food is visible, rather than putting it away where it can’t be seen. The harder food is to get to may also deter some of your snacking habits. Even better yet, keep tempting junk foods out of the house. And, on the flip side, keep healthy foods prominently displayed and easy to reach.

Order the “small” choice.
A larger container or plate can tempt you to eat more food. You may be full or even think it doesn’t taste that good, and still feel obligated to eat it. When it comes to movie popcorn, french fries, or fountain drinks, choose the smallest size option and you’ll eat less.

Take a doggy bag.
Restaurant portions are most likely going to set you up to overeat. You want a good deal for your money, but those large portions can contain more than 1,200 calories without including dessert. One trick is to divide the food on your plate in half before you start eating. Then stop eating when you’ve finished half and ask for a to-go container. You’ll have a healthier meal and leftovers for tomorrow.

Pack your lunch for work.
Even better than eating out for lunch during the week, pack your own lunch. You will be able to control the portions and select a balance of healthy foods. It’s also more cost effective and can help ensure that you eat those leftovers.

Know your weaknesses.
We all have food weaknesses. The food you can’t resist. The food you can’t stop eating. Or the food you eat even if you’re not hungry. Think about your food weaknesses. Once you recognize what they are, you can learn to avoid eating them. Don’t buy them at the grocery store. Bypass the co-worker who always brings yummy homemade desserts. You can avoid the food until you gain the strength to give up the craving.

Don’t eat from a package.
When you can’t see how much you’re eating, you’re more likely eat double or triple the proper portion. Who can eat just one potato chip out of the bag? Use a plate, bowl or even a napkin so that you can see how much you’re going to eat. And put the package away so you won’t be tempted to dump out more.

Eat slowly and savor your food.
Eating should be enjoyable. There is a benefit to slowing down and appreciating your food. Take your time between bites and chew thoroughly. When you eat more slowly, you can recognize when you’re beginning to feel full. You can stop eating before you clean your plate and feel too full. Drink water while you’re eating. These simple steps can help you cut back on unnecessary calories.

By following these simple tips, you can learn to eat less, still feel full and feel better about your eating habits.

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9 Simple Ways to Handle Stress

relaxOur lives are filled with stress. It’s impossible to avoid. You’re already late for an appointment and get slowed down by road construction. Your boss dumped a proposal on you that’s due tomorrow. Your schedule is hectic, and you need to be in two places at once.

Research shows that some stress can be good for you. However, if you’re dealing with persistent – long-term stress, such as a sick parent or a demanding boss, it can actually lead to a variety of health issues.

Here are 9 simple and practical ways to copy with stress in your daily life:

Enjoy some fresh air
Make it a point to get outside every day. Research shows that vitamin D from sunlight can elevate your mood by releasing feel-good serotonin. Taking in the sights, sounds and smells around you will take your mind off your worries or frustrations. Even feeling the wind on your face can lift your spirits.

Take a walk
When you’re stressed, it’s easy to turn to bad habits to make you feel better, such as a candy, cigarettes or caffeine. Next time you’re feeling anxious, go for a quick stroll. Studies show that even 10 minutes of exercise can provide a mental boost. Better yet, climb a few flights of stairs. Climbing stairs requires you to pay more attention to what you’re doing and helps vent frustrations.

Rely on rituals
You probably already have rituals that help you relax, and you may not even realize it. For example, you may read the newspaper as you eat breakfast, listen to music while you clean or take a bath before going to bed. Our bodies naturally crave routines, so focusing on regular rituals can help you relax physically and mentally. If you’re feeling stressed, make sure you stick to your regular routines.

Put down the junk food
Do you handle stress by eating? In hectic times, you may choose comfort foods, such as refined carbs or sugary snacks. You will most likely experience a sugar crash, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish. Extra calories can also quickly add up to extra pounds. The next time you’re feeling anxious, make sure you have healthy snacks on hand, such as fresh fruits, vegetables or a handful of nuts.

Get out of your head
Stress likes to mess with your mind. Do you ever get stuck in an ongoing loop of negative thoughts or playing back conversations in your head? A great way to get out of your own head is to engage in fun activities that put your focus on your hands or body. For instance, you can cook, knit or crochet, climb a rock wall or play a sport. When you do something creative or an engaging activity, you fall into a rhythmic pattern and your brain helps you relax and feel more grounded.

Visualize calm
Find a quiet area and create a happy place for a few minutes each day. Just sit still, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Clear you mind and concentrate on thinking about nothing stressful. It’s harder than you think! Find a comforting and calming image that works for you and helps you relax. Read more about relaxation techniques.

Focus on the present
It’s easy to get sucked into worrying over things that have already happened or imagining what could happen in the future. Let go of thoughts about the past and future, and focus on the present moment. Be aware of where you are and what’s happening right now. Think about how the air feels on your skin, the sound of your kids laughing or a friend telling you about their day. Being mindful of the present can help you let go of stressing about the past and future.

Express your gratitude
Take a few moments each day to express gratitude. It can be as simple as going over the good things that happened that day before you go to sleep. You can write your feelings in a journal. Or, you can let friends and family know you are grateful for them. Research has shown that showing more gratitude releases hormones that make you feel good and lowers stress levels.

Connect with your spiritual side
Spirituality can boost happiness in times of stress. Many religious groups and native tribes use prayer beads to guide their spiritual practice. Having something to hold while communicating with a higher spirit can provide comfort and routine. Prayer can also help you pass your worries over to God and give you peace.

Learning how to cope with stress on a daily basis can help you improve your overall health and well-being. Take the time each day to acknowledge stress and find ways – like the tips above – to help you let it go and live a more balanced life.

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!

14 Healthier Treats to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Screen Shot 2015-04-13 at 10.22.24 AMI love dessert. And I’m an equal opportunity dessert eater. I like it all – pies, cakes, cobblers, ice cream, cookies, brownies, chocolate – anything that’s sweet and decadent.

However, it can be difficult to maintain healthy eating habits when you love all things dessert. And, basically anything that will satisfy your sweet tooth is most likely going to sabotage your healthy diet.

We have blogged about the dangers and health risks of eating too much sugar in the past. The average American eats and drinks 22 teaspoons – or almost half a cup – of added sugar each day. The American Heart Association recommends that women eat only 6 teaspoons per day and 9 teaspoons a day for men.

Here are 14 ways you can satisfy your need for something sweet and stick to your healthy habits:

Dark chocolate
Eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate (1.4 ounces) can improve your mood and reduce stress levels. So, you can enjoy a small bit of chocolatey goodness without the guilt.

Frozen yogurt
If you’re having a craving for ice cream, substitute frozen yogurt as a good alternative. It’s the same consistency as regular ice cream and it tastes almost as sweet.

Yogurt with toppings
Top a cup of plain Greek yogurt with your favorite treats – crumbled graham crackers, granola, nuts or fruit. You can even add some shaved dark chocolate. You get a decadent dessert without all the added calories.

Jell-O brand cups
Jell-O has single serving cups in many varieties and flavors. You can get pudding cups that have the same creamy flavor as cheesecake but with much less fat and calories. You can even make your own pudding from a powdered mix, using skim milk to keep it healthy. Add your own toppings for more flavor and fun.

Fresh fruit
Any piece of fresh fruit will offer enough natural sugar to fill your sweet tooth craving. It’s also an extremely healthy choice for added nutrients and fiber. Mix up your fruit and create tasty fruit salads.

Dried fruit
Dried fruit is handy to pack on the go as a quick snack and is a great way to have a sweet treat. Make sure if you’re buying packaged dried fruit that you check for no added sugar.

Fudge popsicle
With a fudge popsicle, you can get an ice cream fix along with the great taste of chocolate. It has fewer calories than regular ice cream or even slow-churned ice cream.

Nutella popcorn
You can make another chocolatey treat with Nutella and popcorn. Pop a small bag of natural popcorn and top it with 1 tablespoon of melted Nutella. It’s crunchy along with the perfect amount of sweetness!

Chocolate Nutty Pretzels
A salty and sweet combo may also help you with those sugary cravings. Microwave one square of dark chocolate and one teaspoon of natural peanut butter until both are melted. Then dip pretzels or pretzels rods for a great snack.

Sorbet
Keeping a pint of healthy sorbet on hand is a great option for filling a dessert craving without resorting to ice cream. You can even make your own sorbet if you’re feeling adventurous!

Frozen grapes
Put a bag or container of grapes in the freezer for a few hours, and you’ll have a long-lasting, sweet treat with antioxidants and other nutrients. Grapes also contain resveratrol, which may help lower bad cholesterol levels and be good for your heart.

Trail mix
You can make your own trail mix. Simply combine a healthy mix of nuts, such as almonds, walnuts, peanuts, or pistachios, with dried cranberries, cherries or raisins. You can also add in a few dark chocolate pieces for a great snack with good nutrition, too.

Animal crackers
A good-sized handful of animal crackers has just 120 calories and about 7 grams of sugar. While kids like to snack on them, adults can enjoy them, too!

Chocolate milk
Need a sweet treat during your day? Chocolate milk is good for you and boosts calcium and vitamin D, which research shows is important for preserving cartilage and joint health. Chocolate low-fat milk has also been shown to replenish stores of energy and nutrition after a vigorous workout or activity.

Now I want to eat something sweet, and you probably do, too! A healthy diet means eating a variety of foods and eating them all in moderation. Just be sure to watch portion sizes and treat yourself to these healthy dessert options.

8 Ways to Fit Healthy Habits Into Your Hectic Life

time-1128278-mDoes it ever seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything you need to do? Lately, that seems like every day for me.

How can I fit in healthy habits when I don’t have any time? Then, I just feel more stressed and out-of-sorts because I didn’t fit everything in.

Decide what you truly want to accomplish and prioritize your life around your goals. When you make the time for healthy habits, you’ll have more energy, lower your stress levels and achieve more life balance.

Here are 8 ways you can fit healthy habits into your hectic daily routine:

Track your time
For a day or two, write down everything you do and what time you do it. Then, take a look at your routine. Does anything stick out to you? You may be watching more TV than you realized, or playing games on your phone. You might be able to break that time down and fit in your healthy habits.

Ask yourself: What tasks take longer than they should? Do I need to change my priorities to cut out things that are less important than more healthy options? What can I say no to?

Cut your to-do list
Highly successful people often have very short to-do lists. You may be overestimating what’s realistic to get done in a day. Cut your planned to-do list down by 25% to take into account all those things that can come up and derail your plans. Then, you can keep from overloading yourself. Make sure your healthy goals are at the top of the list!

Drink more water
Be sure you’re drinking water throughout the day. Water is an all-purpose, healthy drink. It helps your digestion, circulation, aids in weight loss, improves your skin and more. If you feel fatigued during the day, it could be because you aren’t properly hydrated. Water can also help you feel full and keep colds at bay.

Stock up on healthy snacks
One of the quickest ways to derail your eating habits is to grab an unhealthy snack when you’re hungry and on the go. When you go grocery shopping, pick up portable, healthy snacks. For instance, baby carrots, string cheese, fresh fruit, nuts, and single-serve packs of yogurt, applesauce, crackers, etc.

Buy frozen, healthy ingredients
One of the biggest deterrents to sticking to your healthy eating habits can be making time to prepare nutritious food. Purchase frozen, ready-to-cook ingredients. Frozen fruits and vegetables still have a high vitamin and mineral content. You can also buy frozen boneless chicken breasts and a variety of frozen seafood in single-serve packages. These are great options for quick, healthy meals.

Try interval training
A busy schedule means your workout may get left out. You can fit in a great workout in 20 minutes. Short bursts of high-intensity exercise can actually be more effective.

Walk it out
The average job means sitting at a desk in front of a computer for a big part of the day. Then, consider your commute to work, eating lunch and dinner, and then relaxing on the couch at the end of the day. You may find that you spend as much as 80% of your day sitting down. Sneak in some extra exercise by running errands on foot, taking the stairs, and parking at the end of the parking lot. All those extra steps you take add up!

Give yourself some slack
Are you trying to create a 4-course meal every night for dinner? Obsessing about creating the perfect presentation for work? Worrying about whether your kids’ favorite outfits are washed? Focus on getting tasks done, not striving for perfection. You can have leftovers or a quick, healthy meal for dinner. The presentation will be fine, and the kids have plenty of clothes to wear.

Go to bed
Sleep is one thing you can’t cut to get more done. When you don’t get enough sleep, you will be less efficient during the day, your energy level suffers, and your cognitive function is reduced. Lack of sleep can also make you more susceptible to getting sick. By getting enough sleep, you are more likely to have the energy to get more done during the day.

Making healthier choices may be a matter of making more time. Decide what you truly want to accomplish to create a more balanced life. Then, use these tips to fit your healthy habits into your daily routine!

10 holiday diet mistakes to avoid

Eat healthy balanced diet during holidaysI am feeling pretty guilty after attending many scrumptious feasts over the Thanksgiving holiday. I ate a little bit of everything and then had some more.

Like many Americans, I am now in panic mode as Christmas and New Year’s approach. These holidays bring more opportunities to overeat and make poor food choices. Not to mention, I will meet up with friends and relatives I don’t see very often, and I want to look my best.

At times like this, many of us turn to diets and less than healthy eating habits in hopes of looking and feeling better by the next round of holiday gatherings.

Here are 10 diet habits you should avoid and tips on what you should do instead:

Skipping breakfast
While skipping breakfast seems like a good way to cut calories, it can sabotage the rest of your day. Eating a healthy, filling breakfast that is high in fiber and protein can help you feel more full throughout the day. Studies show that breakfast can jump-start your metabolism and help you maintain a healthy weight.

Ignoring food groups
Different diet plans call for avoiding different types of foods. The latest fad may mean leaving out gluten, carbs, meat, dairy, sugar or fats. Yet, we need all of these nutrients for a balanced diet and for our bodies to work properly. Even dairy may help our bodies burn more fat by supplying calcium.

Forgetting about snacks
We often consider snacking a bad habit, but eating healthy, nutritious snacks actually helps  control hunger and aids in weight loss. Snacking on a handful of nuts, a cup of yogurt or some veggies can keep you on track and make those bad choices less appealing.

On the other hand, too much nibbling can be detrimental to your good eating habits. You grab a pastry and iced coffee at the morning meeting. You snack on pretzels at your desk. You finish your child’s chocolate shake. All of these extra calories can add up throughout the day.

Drinking diet sodas
It can be tempting to fill up on diet sodas. The fizzy drinks make you feel full and can taste good, too. Diet sodas may actually be sabotaging your weight loss. It has been found that artificial sweeteners may be linked to weight gain.

The answer: drink more water. Water is essential for burning calories. If you become dehydrated, your metabolism slows down. When you drink eight or more glasses of water a day, you burn more calories.

Starving yourself
When people want to lose weight fast, they tend to think that eating less will get the best results. By drastically reducing your calorie intake, you actually send your body into starvation mode, and it starts storing fat to get you through the lean times. A better approach is to make a modest cut to calorie intake and then maintain that level for a long period of time.

Cutting out the fat
It isn’t so much the fat we eat that causes weight gain as much as it’s the total amount of calories and bad fats that lead to health problems. We need to cut down on the trans and saturated fats found in meat and processed foods. We still need to include good fats in our diets, such as those found in olive oil and fatty foods.

Thinking good calories don’t count
We think because some foods are good for us, we can eat as much as we want. However, you still need to keep your total calorie intake in mind. Just because whole grains, beans, chicken and cheese are good for you, doesn’t mean you should eat 10 tacos in one meal. Even fruits and veggies eaten in excess can be converted to fat.

Leaving out exercise
When we get busy with preparing for the holidays, it may be easier to drop your exercise routine so that you can fit more into your busy days. Yet, if you keep up your exercise routine, you can eat more of the things you enjoy and still lose weight. Exercise can also help you relieve the stress brought on by the hectic holiday season.

Setting unrealistic goals
Deciding you want to lose 30 pounds between now and Christmas is probably unrealistic. You need to set a more realistic goal, such as planning to lose 1 to 2 pounds a week. You should also set other goals, such as running a mile without stopping or swimming a certain amount of laps in the pool. You will feel pride and accomplishment without relying solely on weight loss.

Using a diet at all
For the most part, I feel like “diet” is a bit of a four-letter word. Any time you are being deprived of food, you are more likely to fail in your eating habits. It’s more important to change your lifestyle and create a balance among all of the aspects of living a healthy life. You need to make healthy eating, exercising, getting enough sleep and relieving stress into habits that you can live with every day.

12 foods that reduce stress

Citrus fruits help alleviate stressWhen I feel stressed, I want to indulge in food choices that are bad for me. I start craving comfort foods like candy bars, potato chips, cookies or even iced coffee.

Those foods we like to grab when we’re having a rough day can actually increase our stress levels. You should avoid too much coffee and other caffeinated drinks. They can cause anxiety and make it harder to concentrate. Salty snacks and sweet treats can be full of simple carbohydrates that will spike your blood sugar, and then cause you to be tired and unmotivated when you come down from the sugar rush.

The good news is there are foods that can help you lower your stress levels. Here are 12 healthy foods that can alleviate tension and are good for you:

Turkey
Turkey contains tryptophan, which is a feel-good amino acid that triggers the production of serotonin and melatonin. These chemicals have a calming effect and can help you feel more relaxed.

Citrus fruit
Oranges, grapefruit and other citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C and can help boost your immune system. The vitamin C also brings down your blood pressure after a stressful situation, helping relieve anxiety.

Nuts and seeds
Nuts are packed with Omega 3 and Omega 6 essential fatty acids and can help reduce stress. Almonds have B and E vitamins, which are good for your immune system. Walnuts and pistachios help lower blood pressure. Sunflower seeds have that feel-good tryptophan.

Salmon
Salmon has Omega 3 essential fatty acids and helps boost your serotonin levels. Salmon and other fish also help keep the stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, at a steady level.

Avocados
Avocados sometimes get a bad wrap because they are high in fat. But, it’s a good kind of fat. They also contain potassium, which helps decrease blood pressure and has a relaxing effect.

Spinach
Spinach gives you magnesium – a mineral that helps you feel more calm. Magnesium can also prevent headaches and a feeling of fatigue. Spinach is also a good source of fiber and can boost your energy levels.

Oatmeal
Oats have magnesium, which we know is calming, and potassium to help lower blood pressure. In addition, the complex carbohydrates in oatmeal can help you produce more serotonin.

Sweet potatoes and carrots
These orange, root vegetables can help you boost your serotonin levels with fiber and carbohydrates. They also have beta-carotene and other vitamins that are good for boosting immunity.

Green vegetables
Green veggies, such as broccoli and kale, are great sources of vitamins. These nutrients can help replenish your body in times of stress.

Bananas
Bananas are known for potassium which helps fight fatigue and are good for your blood sugar. Bananas are also a great source of carbs and can help produce serotonin. Choose a banana over other sugary or starchy options.

Whole grains
Brown rice and whole wheat choices are better for you than white rice or bread. Whole grains are full of B vitamins and serotonin, which help you relax without feeling fatigued.

Dark chocolate
If you’re hit with a chocolate craving, opt for a dark chocolate snack. Dark chocolate contains magnesium which helps alleviate tension. It also has theo bromine and can naturally elevate your mood. Just remember to indulge in moderation.

The next time you feel like hitting the vending machine or ordering french fries, consider one of the healthy options above. Not only can you help reduce your stress levels, you will also feel good about making a healthy food choice.