Minor changes for major impact

Small steps for health

There are some things in life we don’t have direct control over – like when it rains and our shoes get wet (free laundry?). Or like when we walk down the road and bird poop falls from the sky (good luck?). Or when the vending machine runs out of M&Ms (even better luck – for our health, at least?). Luckily, however, life is not all surprises, and one thing we can control is choosing how to take care of our bodies. Many people hit the cookie jar after a long, strenuous day at work, or buddy up with the couch instead of our running shoes, even when we know the latter is what we really need. Even us LifeVesters can admit to doing that from time to time.

The important thing is to become aware of your triggers for unhealthy behavior so that you can then realize how to change them. A few simple choices in a different, healthier direction can end up drawing a major impact.

Below, we’ve got tips for 5 common challenges that take a lot of us by the belly.

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Plan ahead: Easy & energizing snacks for the whole week

Snack Smart

By Theresa Berenato

Have you ever fell victim to the afternoon slump? Do you feel sluggish around 2 or 3 o’clock, maybe even a little hungry? You had lunch around 12, and now you feel the need for a pick-me-up. The next time you want to reach for a soda, energy drink, or your third cup of coffee, stop and think about this. There are plenty of foods that contribute to a more productive and energetic workday, and that won’t pack on too many excess calories. If you’re truly hungery – and aren’t eating out of boredom or stress – a healthy snack becomes a much better mid-afternoon tool than another caffeinated beverage to fuel you through the rest of your day.

Start with these simple suggestions to plan out how you can snack smart. Then, consider devoting just 30 minutes each Sunday to pack ahead so you can stay on track all week, and stay energized, too.

Easy grab-and-go items for snacking smart and planning ahead:

Vegetables: Everyone knows vegetables are a great low-cal source of nutrients and fiber. They also aid in maintaining a healthy lifestyle by reducing the risk of heart disease and protecting against certain types of cancers due to all of the antioxidants they contain. However, we know sometimes it’s hard to reach for a salad when a sleepy-eyed craving for cookies is calling your name.

Our pick: The next time that happens, don’t turn into the cookie monster. Instead, try kale chips. Did you know that one cup of kale contains a mere 33 calories and provides over 200% of the daily-recommended intake of vitamin A. If that isn’t eye-opening, I don’t know what is! (Please bare with our Vitamin A induced jokes. We’re just trying to wake you up.) Kale chips are a great substitute for potato chips and are fun and easy to make. You’d be surprised at how equally addicting they can be. Check out this spiced up rendition via A Spicy Perspective for a snack that’ll kick your potato chip cravings to the curb.

Fruits: Like vegetables, basic knowledge tells us fruit is a stellar snack choice. In general, fruits are low in fat, sodium and calories. Plus, they serve as a naturally sweet alternative to dessert and the array of calorie-loaded candy taunting you from your local vending machine.

Our pick: Speaking of dessert, check out this one-ingredient ice cream recipe from The Kitchn. This is the kind of ice cream we’ll fully endorse as a snack option. Add some nuts for a 2-ingredient, LifeVest-approved ice cream or some cinnamon for a spicy twist.  Bananas have been shown to aid in fighting depression because of their high levels of tryptophan, which is then converted into serotonin in your body. Serotonin is the chemical in your brain that makes you happy. Take it from us, banana ice cream always puts a smile on our face.

Nuts: Nuts may be small but they are packed with protein. Proteins are the building blocks for enzymes, hormones, and vitamins – all things your body needs in order to function (and not fall asleep after lunch). Numerous studies have shown that people who eat nuts are less likely to have heart attacks or die from heart disease, and are less likely to overeat as a whole. Much of this is due to the fat they contain. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, but fat isn’t healthy?” Nuts contain some fat but in most cases it is the healthy fat (monounsaturated), which helps to lower LDL or the “bad” cholesterol. This fat also keeps you feeling fuller for longer, preventing you from overeating at subsequent meals.

Our pick: Portion control is still key when it comes to nuts. Though they are largely made up of the healthy kind of fats, they are still considered energy-dense. This is why packing ahead and creating pre-portioned bags is a good way to ensure you don’t over do it when a snack attack comes on. Stick to a small handful, or one ounce, when preparing ahead. This is considered one serving of nuts. If you’re looking to jazz it up a bit, try these no-sugar-added Curry Sunflower Oat Energy Bars. Filled with Vitamin E packed sunflower seeds (good for maintaining healthy skin) and fiber-filled oats, these bars will bring an abundance of energy to your afternoon desk. Just like with nuts, make sure to pre-portion these ahead of time and stick to a square the size of your palm.

Wash it down – H2O first, healthy snacks second.

As you start yawning, reach for your water bottle before anything else. Your body needs water to in order help hydrate your cells. Hydrated cells are happier cells, which brings about a happier you! Dehydration can cause fatigue, so if you start dragging, make a mental note of whether or not you’ve been rehydrating throughout the day. Then take a swig of water, and let out a nice refreshing AHHH. Whether your co-workers find that annoying or not, it beats a yawn for sure.

Stay hydrated

How to Stay Healthy On Superbowl Sunday

Healthy Super Bowl

While it’s not possible to predict for certain the final outcome of the Superbowl game, you can guarantee a win for your body. Take some conscious steps before and during game-day celebrations, and you can be sure to feel like a champion, no matter how the game plays out.

Don’t believe me? Think of it this way: feeling physically good when the 4th quarter concludes will make a win from your favorite team feel that much better. And if your team loses? Walking around the following day with a headache and a sense of heaviness will only make that loss feel worse.

Stick to these simple tips to keep it healthy on Superbowl Sunday, and wake up the next morning a winner.

Pre-game Rituals:

Wake up and work it out: Fit in some of your own on-field running before the social festivities begin. Starting the day off right can set a healthy tone for the remainder of your day. Hit the gym. Take a run. Go to a yoga class. You name the exercise of your desire. The key is to get moving before hours of TV time follow and tempting snacks fill the room. Then head into an afternoon of watching others sprint their butts off, knowing you’ve already sweated it out yourself.

Get cookin’, good-lookin’: Superbowl parties tend to be filled with lots of calorie-heavy snacks. While you can’t stop your friend from bringing his favorite 7-layer-burrito dip, you can make sure to show up with a healthy side of your own. Guarantee there’s at least one nutritious and delicious option on the table by cooking up your own touch-down treat. For some ideas to get started, check out FitSugar’s roundup of lightened up SuperBowl fare.

Prime-time Tips:

Utilize the water cooler: There’s nothing like kicking back with a beer once the first kickoff goes down. If planning to consume a brew or two, however, make sure to be mindful of moderation and to alternate with water. Make a goal to consumer one full glass per quarter. And when you’re feeling thirsty, reach for a glass of H20 first before allowing yourself to have a beer. This will keep you conscious of how much alcohol you are consuming throughout the evening so that Monday morning isn’t clouded by a hazy fog and your own bloated stomach. (Also take a peek at what Men’s Health list of top recommended low-cal Beers, here.)

Fumble away certain foods: Football players on average consume 3,000-7,000 calories per day.There will undoubtedly be some food on the table that’s best left to the other players around you. (Although, we recommend you encourage them to eat healthily with you, too.) Don’t drop the ball on your body by filling up on unhealthy choices. Instead, try to steer clear of fried foods, and opt to fill at least 3/4’s of your plate with options from the veggie plate or fruit bowl. Save the last 1/4 for a treat of your choice, and eat slowly to fully savor it. Also, be weary of dips, which are often mayonnaise or cream cheese laden and filled with a surprising amount of calories. The 150 added calories from a can of soda is also an easy option to sidestep.

Get up and cheer: To combat too much couch-sitting, get up and root from your feet ever so often. Designate commercial breaks as a time to hop up and move around. Grab a glass of water, or simply walk around the room a bit. During game-play, let someone else have your chair for a few minutes and sit down on the floor and stretch. Every bit of movement counts.

Post-game wrap-up:

Walk and talk: Consider asking your friends/family to take a walk with you and continue enjoying the time with those around you. Get some fresh air by walking around the neighborhood. Use it as a time to exchange thoughts about the game or catch up on what’s in store for next week. A post-game stroll is a good way to wake back up, get your energy flowing, and walk off some of that food and drinking from the afternoon. Hit the streets so you can send yourself home feeling refreshed.

Hit the water cooler (again): Just like your favorite team’s players, you should revisit the water cooler throughout the day, and make sure to rehydrate post-game. Superbowl food is often salty, and alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it interferes with the balance of salts and water in the blood and can cause dehydration. This is what triggers headaches, hangovers and fatigue. Stay pumped up by fueling up with extra water.

When Cravings Attack

Cravings attack

By Lizzie Meyers

It strikes when you least expect it: You’re sitting at your desk, feeling satisfied from lunch. Yet, suddenly, out of nowhere, the chocolate cake sitting in the fridge pops into your mind. Once the craving takes over, often there’s no turning back.

Unfortunately, the holiday season makes mouth-watering treats all too accessible. Before falling victim to leftover Thanksgiving pie or mom’s homemade peppermint bark, put these crave-curbing tips to use.

1. Drink Water

  • If you’re craving something salty, this may be your body’s way of telling you that it’s dehydrated. Hold off on the potato chips and go for a big glass of water instead. Chances are, the hydration and the full feeling obtained from the water itself will curb your cravings for the time being.

2. Distract Yourself

  • Ever notice how cravings often occur when you aren’t doing anything particularly riveting? Too often, we eat out of boredom. It’s a mindless habit that can pack on some serious pounds when not kept in check. Next time you find yourself reaching for a snack as you watch TV or catch up on emails, switch directions for a moment. Get up and take a walk, or call a friend, or do five minutes of stretching. Focusing momentarily on something else can help you forget those unwarranted cravings.

3. Indulge without indulging

  • Most cravings can be satisfied with much healthier options than the high-cal, fatty foods that people tend to reach for most. See below for some better alternatives.

If you’re craving this: Try eating this:

Chocolate – Chocolate! But skip the milk and white. In moderation, dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa) is a low-calorie, heart-healthy way to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Potato Chips – Kale chips or taro chips are a much healthier substitute for a bag of Lays. A small handful of lightly salted nuts may also do the trick, and will lend a dose of protein, too.

Sugar – Rather than indulging in products packed with refined sugars, opt for the most natural sugar fix of all: fruit. Eat alone or add your favorite variety to non-fat yogurt for a satisfying and filling snack.

Keep these simple guidelines in your back pocket the next time a leftover pumpkin pie sneak attacks your mind. If these tricks fail to satiate, this could mean that you are truly hungry. In that case, opt for a snack containing protein and fiber to eliminate your hankerings and keep it on the small side.