5 Ways to Exercise as A Family

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If you are among the many who find family to be one of the biggest sources of stress this time of year, let’s take a different approach to the next family gathering. Let’s make moves, together.

Families that move together, bond together. Studies show that when individuals engage in exercise together, afterwards they naturally feel happier with their relationship. Endorphins > stress = happiness. Let’s not forget, exercise is also a good way for us all to ward off that Santa stomach.

So, your approach for this holiday season: less fighting, more moving. If you feel the urge to snap at Uncle Bill, at your mom or dad, or to snap within your own self from stress, make moves instead. We’ve got 5 ideas below for doing it together.

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5 Ways to Power Up Your Walk and Lose Weight Faster

Walking women

At LifeVest, we don’t take walking for granted. Requiring little else but our own two feet, walking helps us stay fit (burning about 100 cals/mile), smiling, thinking clearer, and feeling all around healthier. It has the lowest dropout rate of any exercise and can be an enjoyable and powerful tool for losing, or maintaining weight — especially with the tricks below.

We’ve got 5 ways for powering up your walk so you can get slimmer even faster, without needing to break into a full out run. So, ready to walk this way?

Walking

1.  Small strides make big differences:

While it might seem counterintuitive, the best way to boost your speed is to shorten your stride. Taking smaller steps enables you to take more of them, which results in an increased momentum and calorie burn.

MoveTip: The next time you’re out on a walk, time yourself for 50 steps. Then, see if you can fit 100 steps into that same amount of time by shortening your stride.

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How to Fight Sugar Cravings This Holiday Season

Holiday Sugar Guide

First it’s Halloween. Bowls of candy begin to cloak your office’s kitchen counters like a captivating costume. As you’re working through a tough project or a mundane weekly task, your mind is thinking candy, and perhaps your hands start to follow.

Then comes November. Aunt Jane, Cousin Joey, coworker Christy – they’re all making pie. There’s apple and pumpkin, soon to be followed by December’s 12+ days of cookies. Pretty soon, you feel your pants are fitting a bit snugger, and you’re energy is flying up and down like a reindeer sleigh running out of steam.

As sugar season (aka, the holidays) nears full swing, temptations are bound to show up frequently, which is why we’re bringing you a game plan to keep your health on track. Remember, a healthier you = a better feeling you = a happier you. Avoid reaching for the candy bowl, and you’ll keep your energy levels from crashing and all those empty calories from packing on the pounds.

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We’ve got 5 sweet, sugar-free escapes in the printout* above, so whenever the sugar fairy tries to cast its spell, you can turn away towards an even better alternative. Print it out and hang it by your desk or kitchen.

When temptation arises, turn to this guide and choose the option that feels most appealing to you. Go in with the mindset of each being a pleasant experience (or “sweet escape”, as we at LifeVest like to call it). This will set yourself up to enjoy each choice, and also make it so you won’t feel deprived.

Click here to keep reading…


Pumpkin Green Monster Smoothie

Pumpkin Green Monster Smoothie

In honor of Halloween and the season of pumpkin everything, we’re replacing bad monsters (300 calorie, 38 grams of sugar pumpkin lattes) with good monsters by inviting this recipe into our kitchen.

The creamy shake is packed full of nutrition and fill-you-up fiber, making it a great choice to add to your weekly, or even daily, breakfast rotation.

Feel free to play around with any toppings, as well as the thickness by adjusting the amount of soy milk you add to the blender. Sometimes we let this green monster spread its mighty power to a bowl, and dive in with our spoon instead of a straw. Regardless, get this good guy on your (table)side.

Click here for recipe…


5 “Healthy” Foods with Hidden Sugar

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There’s no way to sugarcoat it – sugar is bad & we’re eating too much of it.

On average, Americans consume 156 pounds – or 31 five-pound bags – of sugar per year. Yikes! When considering its linked to everything from diabetes to high blood pressure to heart disease, that’s some Sour Patch Kid news right there. In fact, many experts believe our collective sweet tooth may not just be making us fat, but bringing us to our death. Poison alert, poison alert!

Some of you might be thinking, “I’m no Cookie Monster. I don’t eat candy or drink soda, so I’m fine.” It’s a thought that some of us here at the LifeVest have held, too. Yet, according to the latest guidelines from the World Health Organization, no more than 100 daily calories (25 grams) should come from sugar, and with it often lurking in unexpected places, that’s a number that can add up quickly.

From bread to breakfast to salad dressing, here are five hidden sources of sugar that could be taking a toll on your health without you even knowing it, along with the best options to keep these “healthy” foods actually beneficial to your health.

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8 recipes for a healthy pizza

Since 40+ million Americans eat pizza on any given day, we decided it’s time to turn one of the nation’s favorite junk foods into a meal with more merit. Your average slice packs in more fat, sodium and refined “bad” carbs than can ever be claimed healthy. Enter the deep dish arena and you run the risk of piling 770 calories onto your plate in just one slice. Yikes!

Luckily, pizza has the potential to be an award-winning meal if you power it up with the right ingredients and give its crust some care. In fact, it presents the perfect platform to load up on summer veggies, which you’ll see in many of the recipes included below. Let your mood and your meal help you choose which to try first!

8 recipes to power up your pizza:

Carrot and Kale Farm Pizza

Click here for recipes…


Music apps to help you pump up your running routine

Music meets movement.

We’re all about making fitness feel like fun, not torture. (Frisbee, anyone?) However, a new study reveals that there is some validity to the idea of “no pain push, no gain”, showing that intense exercise changes the body and strengthens muscles in ways that milder physical activity simply can’t match. The New York Times explains the details here, but in short, if you want to improve your fitness, you’re going to need to push yourself. That means, not just up and off the couch, but slightly beyond your comfort zone.

It’s suggested that during moderate exercise, you should be able to talk, but not sing, while during vigorous activity, you will not be able to say more than a few words without pausing for a breath. So while you might not be able to sing the songs these apps bring you, they are all designed to help you pump it up for greater workout benefits.

4 Music Apps for Pumping Up Your Running Routine

Click here for music apps to make you move…


5 Tips for a Better Burger for Your 4th of July

Burger on the grill

Cut loose this 4th and let your freedom flag fly by joining us in a little (Indepen)dance celebration. Dancing burns around 440 calories per hour, so get grooving. First, however, we’ve got some suggestions on how you can healthify your burger so you feel every bit as good as it will look on your plate

  • Ground control – be mindful of your meat: Packages labeled as “regular ground beef” can contain as much as 30% fat. Opt for leaner cuts like ground sirloin or chuck, and/or packages labeled 90%. Ground chicken and turkey can be even better choices, but me sure to choose ones labeled with “white” or “breast” meat only, or dark, fattier cuts may end up in your grounds.
  • Bring a bun with a benefit: You’d be surprised at the amount of excess sugar and sodium in an empty-calorie white bun. Opt for whole wheat instead. WW buns pack in fiber to make you feel fuller for longer.
  • Size matters: Your patty shouldn’t be bigger than your palm, or about 3-oz., the standard serving size for beef. Mini sliders like this make sizing even easier.
  • Pile on the veg: Like whole wheat buns, the fiber in veggies will fill you up and keep you from snacking later on. Consider also adding in items like diced carrots or greens into the actual patties for a boost of flavor and nutrition. To go all veg., try one of these tasty options.
  • Topping swap: Skip the cheddar and bacon, and swap them for equally flavorful ingredients. Heart-healthy, creamy avocado replaces any need for cheese, while ingredients like arugula or marinated mushrooms power up the flavor.

Today’s typical burger weighs in at 600 calories, and holds more fat than we even want to add up. Luckily, the suggestions above can help you build a better burger for your body and cut back on both of these. Cheers to doing things homemade and executing your freedom to make a smarter choice.


Top 5 Reasons to Workout in the Morning

morning workout

Wake-up, workout. You lace up your running shoes, get ready to rock and roll, and head out for some quality time with the morning sun. The birds are chirping, your endorphins are flowing, and the day is started on a fresh foot.

For some of us, that’s a challenging vision – the thought of waking up any earlier than needed seems nearly impossible. You’d be surprised, however, at all the benefits a rise and shine workout can bring. Some of these perks are so good you may just find yourself convinced to set your alarm a tad earlier and embrace the morning – for your body’s sake.

Here are our top 5 reasons for sweating it out in the a.m.:

  • You’ll kick off the day with a revved up metabolism, meaning you’ll burn off more calories you consume throughout your waking hours. Studies also show that working out in the morning burns 3 x more fat compared to other time slots.
  • You won’t have to squeeze it in before happy hour, or worry about rushing a workout in before any of the other outdoor evening activities that abound this time of year.
  • You’ll head off to work in a happier, more focused state of mind. That rush of endorphins you get after exercising is proven to enhance your mood and fuel you with extra energy throughout the day. Exercise is also shown to increase your ability to focus and concentrate, which will help you plow through the day and accomplish your goals.
  • You’re likely to have better long-term results. Research shows that those who exercise in the morning are more consistent exercisers than those who wait till the afternoon or evening.
  • You will sleep better. Studies suggest that wakeup-and-workout’ers sleep better than evening exercisers. Poor quality of sleep can plays a huge role in weight gain, since sleep influences certain hormones that control our appetite. Morning workouts will not only burn calories all on their own, but the improved ZzZ’s they ensue may also help control and reduce your appetite overall.

Fewer scheduling conflicts, improved mood and energy levels, and some quality “you” time…need we say more? Good.

Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Gear up the night before. Save precious morning minutes by having your workout outfit already picked out, and your music playlist ready for the play button to be pushed. With your gear waiting for you, it’ll make it harder to crawl back into bed once you get up.
  • Go to bed earlier. Sounds like a no-brainer, but if you want to be up by 5 or 6 a.m. to train, and feel good about it, a 10 p.m. bedtime will make all the difference.
  • Have breakfast waiting for you. What’s better to reward your efforts than an exciting meal to refuel afterwards? Rushing around to fit breakfast in, however, is never fun. Negate that scenario with Overnight Oats, a LifeVest favorite that combines protein-packed yogurt with fiber-filled oats and sliced banana for a side of potassium.

Before you say no, we want to challenge you to one additional a.m. sweat session per week. Whether it’s yoga, a jog/walk, trip to the gym, etc., push yourself through it, and then become mindful of noticing how you feel throughout the rest of your day. You may also notice how it begins to become easier as you make it a routine!


Chia Seeds: Good Things Come in Small Packages

Chia seeds

By Theresa Berenato

Prior to this year, your first thought at the word “chia” was probably the pet plant from the ‘80s, right? The one where “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” rang across a slew of seemingly never-ending commercials, and where you’d spread the seeds on a ceramic cat or dog, water it, and watch it grow. “Ch-ch-ch-chia!” was everywhere.

Chia pets eventually faded out, but today, chia again has become ubiquitous – this time as an ingredient topping health food charts. Whether or not you’ve consumed the black seeds, likely you’ve heard about them via the news or in health magazines. So what’s with their reemergence and all of the sudden buzz?

To find the answer, we’ll delve into the health benefits they hold as well as some of their fun culinary usages. It’s pretty clear the cool factor of these little seeds goes far beyond their initial value in creating fast-growing Christmas gifts.

The Origins of Edible Chia

Chia, technically known as Salvia hispanica, is a traditional food in central and southern America. Here, it’s been a staple long before any sort of household chia pet, dating back to early Mayan and Aztec civilization. Originally, it was the chia seed oil that was used for cooking because of its widely-believed health benefits. Chia seeds produce little pretty white or purple flowers that can grow up to 1-1.5meters tall. The plant it produces is technically an herb.

It’s the seeds, however, that are all the rage at the supermarkets. You can generally find them anywhere that has a bulk aisle, near the other nuts and seeds. Although, there’s always the option to grow your own! Hubpages gives you step-by-step instructions on how to do so.

What makes chia seeds super-stars?

Chia seeds come in two varieties – white and black – and range in size from 1 to 2 mm. Both are equally nutrient-packed, and are praised for their high level of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are an essential nutrient for human health that the body can’t make on its own – meaning, we must consume this nutrient through food in order to survive. When optimal levels are consumed, omega-3s help lower blood pressure, protect against autoimmune disease/cancer, and lower the risk of other heart-related diseases. These polyunsaturated fatty acids are the building blocks of our hormones and support our nervous system.

A whopping 20% of a chia seed is made up of omega-3s, making them a “superfood” for the brain and heart. As a result, studies show that adding them to your diet can aid in decreasing LDL, or “bad”, cholesterol levels and increasing HDL, or “good”, cholesterol. Another 20% of each seed is made up of protein. Bonus: they contain all eight essential amino acids, making this 20% act as a complete protein. They hold five times the amount of calcium as milk, seven times more vitamin C than oranges, three times as much iron as iron-boasting spinach and twice the potassium of bananas. It goes without saying, these little guys certainly pack a lot in.

Chia seeds also have a high fiber content. Fiber slows the rate that sugar is absorbed in the blood stream, which keeps your blood glucose levels from rising to quickly and creating sugar crashes. Aside from the health benefits chia’s fiber brings to the table, it also enables the seeds to create a gel-like substance when mixed with water. This gel can be generated within all sorts of foods, like oatmeal or smoothies, to add a unique texture that doesn’t compromise flavor. Gel yeah!

Speaking of food, I’m ready to eat…how should I use these little seeds?

Part of chia seeds’ quickly growing popularity stems from the fact that these health food stars can be used in virtually anything. They are mild in flavor, meaning they’ll add lots of nutrition without being overbearing or intrusive.

The US Dietary Guidelines recommends staying within 48 grams per day. Think of them like sesame seeds and throw them on top of:

–       Salads
–       Soups
–       Cereals
–       Yogurt
–       Baked goods (such as bread products)
–       Smoothies
–       Beverages (such as fruit juices)
–       Wherever your culinary imagination takes you!

If you’re curious about their gel properties, The Kitchn brings us a handful of recipes where you can test this out.

This is a no-brainer…

If you can’t already tell, the chia seed is a pretty resourceful food. Chia seeds have left their mark by benefiting our health in the past, and will continue to do so for the future. Start by adding chia seeds in your yogurt in the morning, your soups at lunch, and in your salad by dinner. These simple small steps can add a boost to your diet without you even realizing it.