Tag Archives: summer

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 to avoid getting sick

Stay healthy and avoid getting sickA cold in the summer? The flu in the fall? When I was young, it seemed like we only got sick in the winter.

Now, we have to fight off sickness all year long. My daughter had a head cold last week. My husband, my son and I were all slowed down by upset stomachs this weekend. Why are we getting sick in the summer?

The reality is germs are around all the time. Viruses, such as those that cause colds and the flu, live longer on surfaces in the winter (about 5-7 days). In the summer or during warm weather, germs die off much faster (in about 24 hours).

These days we spend our time shut up in the house, in an office, or commuting to work. If you touch things that others are touching and then rub your face or touch your mouth, you are exposing yourself to germs.

Maintaining a healthy, balanced lifestyle can go a long way toward keeping you healthy. Here are 10 things you can do to avoid getting sick this summer and fall:

Wash your hands
The most effective way to combat germs is wash your hands often. Every time you touch a door knob, stair railing, phone or pen, you may be coming into contact with a virus. By washing your hands frequently, you can help minimize your chances of getting sick.

Keep your cool
When it’s warm outside, you can overdo it and become sick. However, most heat-related illnesses don’t happen from overexerting yourself on a hot, muggy day. Heat stroke occurs when your body simply can’t regulate your temperature. A chronic illness can put you at an even greater risk for health problems in hot weather. So, keep cool and protect yourself during hot weather.

Focus on the positive
Having a positive attitude can improve your immunity. People who are described as happy, enthusiastic and calm tend to be less likely to catch colds. A positive outlook may help you become more resistant to germs.

Protect your food
Summer and fall typically mean more picnics, backyard gatherings or dining out on your patio. Warmer temperatures and the lack of access to clean water when eating outdoors can increase the chances of contracting food poisoning.

Be sure to clean produce thoroughly before peeling or cooking. Keep your sodas or drinks in a separate cooler from your cold dishes since the drink cooler will be opened more often. You will be able to store your perishable foods at a more constant temperature. Make sure cold foods stay below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and check grilled foods with a meat thermometer to make sure they have been properly heated to kill bacteria.

Say no to stress
Constant worrying causes your cortisol levels to rise and stress hormones can weaken your body’s overall immunity. So, worrying about getting sick – along with chronic stress – can actually increase your chances of getting sick. Take time to relax.

Work your body
Exercise can calm the mind and relieve stress. In addition, getting your heart rate up, strengthening and toning can all help boost your immune system. So, getting in the routine of exercising can help you stay healthier and stave off sickness.

Eat for health
What you eat can also help you maintain good health and ward off germs. Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole-grains and lean meats.

Go to sleep
Sleep is one of the best ways to keep healthy. You need a good, solid 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. If you can get into bed and fall asleep right away, stay asleep through the night and wake up refreshed, then you are more likely to be protected from colds and viruses. A good night’s sleep also raises your melatonin and improves immunity.

Hang out with friends
While you may think that spending time with others would increase your chances of getting sick, it actually helps you stay more healthy. There is evidence that being an extrovert can help protect you from developing colds and illnesses. Your friends may even help you live longer!

Watch out for bugs
Ticks, mosquitoes, spiders and many other summer insects can make you sick. Use insect repellent every time you’re outside to prevent bug bites. West Nile virus and Lyme disease are very real health concerns. Watch out for bug bites and treat them with anti-itch cream and antibiotic ointment to avoid itching and getting an infection.

Keeping the main aspects of your life in balance, including eating right, exercising, getting enough sleep and managing stress, can help keep you healthy. What are your tips for staying healthy and avoiding colds and illnesses all year round?

5 unexpected causes of summer stress

Relax and enjoy stress-free summerSummer is all about lazy days, soaking up the sun and having fun, right? Then why does it seem so stressful?

I work from home — which sounds like it would be the ideal way to spend the summer. But, my family seems to conveniently forget that I am supposed to be working. Who is the finder of all things lost? Me. Who has to figure out what to eat for lunch AND dinner? Me. Who does all of the extra summer laundry, picks up the wet beach towels and chauffeurs everyone to everything? You guessed it. Me, me and me.

When I proclaimed a few days ago that I was stressed, my husband and kids looked at me like I had lost my mind. Why would I possibly be stressed? It’s summer, after all.

Here are some unexpected sources of stress and how you can deal with them this summer season:

Demanding kids?
Summer means that kids are home from school for three long months. While it’s nice to sleep in a little later and escape from homework and school activities for a while, it means the kids are around ALL the time. There’s bickering and boredom. Then, there’s driving to summer activities or sports practices and trying to keep up with house cleaning and laundry. Or, finding babysitting, working and still managing to do everything else.

My kids have summer chores which seems to cut down on the boredom. If they say they’re bored, I find them something to do. It also helps to come up with new ways to keep them busy. So far this summer, my kids have built a fort in the basement, been explorers in the woods behind our house, and hidden things around the house for each other to find.

Too much to do?
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of summer and want to do everything you can to soak up the fun. However, you may have to set boundaries on the commitments you make. With more daylight hours, we try to pack in even more social activities. We tend to think of negative or frustrating experiences as stressful, but having too much to do can add to your stress level. Remember to pace yourself and turn down invitations if you feel you’re too busy to have fun.

Vacation worries?
Vacations are important for health, happiness and relieving stress. However, planning and actually executing a vacation can be very stressful. Allow plenty of time to plan your vacation so that you won’t feel pressured to get everything done at the last minute. Or, if the financial strain of going on vacation could be adding to your stress, consider taking a staycation instead. A staycation is a stay-at-home vacation. You may be surprised at how many cheap things there are to do in the summer right in your neighborhood.

Covering for co-workers?
Does it feel like there is someone on vacation at work every week during the summer? When everyone else goes on vacation, it may make your job more stressful. Your co-workers may also be distracted by summer fun and not as productive at work. Summer may actually add to your workload. Try find a balance between co-workers’ schedules and your own.

No down time?
You may need to create your own down time in the summer. Sundays can be a great time to rest and unwind. You may already go to church services on Sunday morning. Many religions also believe that Sunday is a day to reflect and rejoice in the blessings of life. You can set aside Sunday as the day to take a break from work, technology or other stresses in your life.

While summer can be one of the best times of the year, it can also add to your stress levels. Be sure to give yourself permission to relax this summer. Do you have any tips for a stress-free summer?

13 cheap things to do in the summer

Cheap, fun things to do in the summerIt’s summer. The kids are out of school. And they are driving me crazy.

We normally go on a week-long vacation, but with baseball and softball games, practices, volleyball camps and more, we just haven’t found a good time to go. Instead, we decided to fit in several short, mini-vacations over the summer.

Or, you might be feeling frugal and want to save some money this summer. You can find plenty of things to do that won’t break the bank while also entertaining your family.

Here are 13 cheap, fun things you can do this summer to keep the family busy and make great memories:

Have a picnic
Hang out at a local park for part of the day. You can grab a blanket, make some sandwiches and pack some snacks. Find a great spot and set up your picnic gear. You can even bring a frisbee, or ball gloves and a baseball, and play games.

Get a season pass
It may be worth getting a family season pass to the local zoo, community pool or amusement park. You can go in with friends or another family and split the cost of the pass. Season packages usually cover admission and park fees, so you can go anytime you want in the summer without taking a hit to your pocketbook.

Go camping
If you have a tent and camping gear, going camping can be an extremely cheap getaway. Find a local campground or park that allows camping, and pitch your tent. It’s a great way to leave all of the stresses of modern life behind and get back to nature.

Outdoor movies
You may be surprised to learn that there are still drive-in movie theaters out there. You can visit driveinmovie.com to see if there are any drive-ins near where you live. You may also be able to find a neighboring town or city that holds summer movies in the park. You can even go old-school and create your own outdoor movie. Simply take the TV and DVD player outside, or borrow a projector from a friend and hang up a sheet.

Visit museums
Many museums have days that are free, or when they charge reduced admission. You can also get a membership to share with others and make it even more cost-effective.

Take a hiking or biking trip
Pack some water bottles and snacks and take off on an adventure. Find a local hiking trail or biking path and get out there. You can enjoy the weather, relax and get some exercise.

Attend a festival
Check the newspaper, your local historical society or the chamber of commerce to see if there are any festivals coming up in your area. Most activities are free, and you might learn something new!

Concerts in the park
Your city or a nearby city may offer free weekly concerts somewhere in town. You can pack a blanket and a picnic, and go enjoy live music.

Go mini-golfing
I forget from summer to summer how much fun it is to play miniature golf. At least once when we play, the game will be interrupted by hysterical laughter. Mini-golf is relatively inexpensive and provides great entertainment. You may also be able to find batting cages in your area. If the weather is bad, you can take the fun inside and go bowling.

Visit a farm
Many areas have local farms that will let you pick your own fruits and vegetables. Others may have farm festivals that include petting zoos, free music or hayrides.

Make your own water park
I recently checked on ticket prices at a water park near us. It’s $40 a ticket! That’s $200 for a family of five. I am thinking about creating our own water park. We have a kiddie pool and a sprinkler. We can also get out the slip and slide, poke holes in an old garden house, and create our own fun!

Take a tour
There are many businesses and organizations that offer free tours. We once toured a dairy farm that walked you through how ice cream is made and then gave free samples. You may be able to tour a vineyard or brewery – obviously the kids won’t get samples there, but it’s still fun to see. You can go to your local police or fire station. Some factories will also give tours of certain areas of their operations.

You can find ways to volunteer in your community. See if your local humane society or animal shelter wants volunteers to come play with the animals or take them on walks. Or, visit a local nursing home or assisted living center and play games or do crafts with the residents. Help clean up local parks. You may find that volunteering does as much for you as it does for the organizations and people you help!

If you want to save money or you’re having trouble finding the time to go on a full-fledged vacation, then think about taking several mini-vacations. What cheap, fun things do you like to do in the summer?

8 healthy grilling tips for summer

Healthy grilling tips for summerAhh, there’s nothing like the smell of the barbecue grill to make my mouth water. I love grilling in the summer. For one thing, cooking outside keeps me from heating up the kitchen. And, there are usually fewer dirty dishes to wash when I grill out.

While the high temperatures and charring are what give grilled foods their great flavor, they may not be the healthiest for you. Grilling can lead to the production of several carcinogens, including Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs), Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs), and Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs).

HCA comes from cooking beef, pork, chicken and fish at high temperatures and may contribute to a risk of colon, stomach and other cancers. PAHs are found in smoke and charred meats. They have been classified as carcinogens. AGEs can be found in the browned areas of grilled meat. These substances have been linked with heart disease and diabetes.

I know this sounds scary, but you can take steps to drastically lower the amount of toxins you create when grilling. As you fire up the grill, here are some tips to help you enjoy barbecue season and create healthy, nutritious meals:

Clean your grill
Keep your grill clean by scrubbing it with a grill brush before and after you grill food. Cleaning the grill cuts down on carcinogens that can build up and helps make your food taste better.

Beware of the burn
You can cut down on HCAs and PAHs by cooking meats at a lower heat. You can also line the grill with tinfoil to prevent the drippings that cause flare ups and create toxic smoke. If you cut meat into smaller pieces, it will cook faster at a lower heat. Flipping your food often can keep HCAs as low as possible.

Add bold flavors
You can add bold flavors that enhance the taste of your food without adding very many calories or fat. Some favorite flavor enhancers include Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, tomato paste, molasses, soy sauce and, of course, BBQ sauce.

Mix up marinades
Healthy marinades made with good ingredients and spices can help cut down on HCAs. The reason it works is not completely clear. It may be the marinade creates a protective layer between the proteins in the meat and the grill heat. Or, the antioxidants in the marinade may combat the carcinogens.

You can use a mixture of oils, vinegar and herbs and spices, such as cloves, rosemary, ginger, paprika, oregano, black pepper, garlic powder and more.

Use lean cuts of meat
Leaner meats will produce fewer PAHs. Trim off as much excess fat as you can before you grill. You should also avoid grilling processed meats, such as hot dogs and bratwurst. I know they taste good, but they are linked to a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and other health risks.

Take the skin off chicken
Take the skin off the chicken before you grill. Much of the fat and saturated fat found in chicken is in the skin, which is why we are encouraged to go skinless. Put your rub or marinade directly on the chicken before you grill.

Throw on some vegetables
The best part about grilling vegetables is that they don’t produce HCAs like meats can. In addition, veggies have antioxidants and phytochemicals that can help lessen the damage that HCAs, AGEs and other cooking toxins may cause to your body. Some veggies you can grill include onions, corn on the cob, mushrooms, zucchini, asparagus and new potatoes.

Keep the servings small
It can be tempting to pig out when you grill out. You should still keep your portions small even when you’re eating from the grill. To encourage smaller portions, cut the meat in smaller sizes. It will be less tempting to overeat. Of course, you can also eat more veggies and fruits to make up for the smaller serving of meat.

Use these tips for a safe and healthy grilling season. Do you have favorite recipes for marinades or cooking on the grill? We would love to hear them!

13 fun outdoor exercises

canoeing outdoor exerciseSummer is coming and I can’t wait to get outside. I am looking forward to sunshine and warm weather. I have also developed an intense dislike for my treadmill over the winter months.

So, I’ve been searching for some fun ways to exercise outside. If you’re tired of going to the gym, getting on the treadmill in your basement, or doing exercise DVDs on your TV, then it’s time to step outdoors for some fun and effective workouts.

Here are 13 fun ways to burn calories and enjoy the great outdoors:

Hit the trails or go hiking in the woods. If you can add hilly terrain, that’s even better. You can create a more difficult workout by sprinting up inclines.

Stair climbing
Find your local football stadium or another set of stairs in your neighborhood, and walk or run up and down the steps. This can replace the treadmill incline or StairMaster machine. It gives you a grueling workout and strengthens your legs, glutes and abs.

You can pedal the pounds off on your bicycle. Push yourself to set a strong pace and power up the hills. You can tighten and tone your legs, hips and butt as well as get your heart rate going.

Find a friend and hit the tennis court. You can burn calories and work your arms, shoulders and back along with your leg muscles. Or, set up a net in the yard and play badminton with your family. It will give you a workout and probably be good for some laughs, too.

Get in a row boat and paddle around the lake. You may have a rowing club in your area that offers lessons. Or, go on a canoeing excursion over the weekend. A rowing machine is a good workout, but there is no substitute for the real thing!

You can swim in your backyard pool, at a community center or in a nearby body of water. Swimming is great cardio exercise and will strengthen your back muscles. You can do water aerobics to help you tone up overall. Or, play tag or hit a beach ball around with your kids. You’ll get a workout and have a little fun.

Beach volleyball
Burn fat and soak up some sunshine at the same time. Please remember to wear your sunscreen, though. I play sand volleyball at my local park (there’s no beach near me, unfortunately) in the summer, and I can tell you that it works muscles I didn’t know I had!

Play a round or two of golf. However skip the golf cart and carry your own clubs. You can tone your arms, shoulders, back and abs. Plus, you can walk briskly between holes and enjoy nature.

Get out your roller skates, or grab a pair of roller blades and let it roll. You can do laps around the park, or get more serious and put together a game of street hockey. You’ll get an aerobic workout while toning your abs, thighs, glutes and more.

Join a summer softball league, set up a regular game with friends, or get out and play ball with your kids. You’ll work your whole body and have a great time.

If your dog will fetch (mine won’t), then play frisbee. Or, grab a few friends and head for the park. You can even play in your yard. Tossing a frisbee back and forth will work your arms, chest, shoulders and abs. And if your partner doesn’t have great aim, you’ll work your legs, too.

Bending, squatting and twisting to plant flowers and pull weeds will tighten your core and tone your thighs and butt.

Just get out and walk. Walk with friends. Walk the dog. Take in the scenery and smell a few flowers.

So, get outside, get moving and get your blood pumping! What types of outdoor workouts do you enjoy? Do you have fun ways to exercise in the summer?