What to do when you don’t have time to workout

Even the most dedicated gym junkies can have days where they are just flat out and can’t make it to the gym. That’s OK! No one is ever going to get their routine perfect 100% of the time. Period. However, even on those days where you’re stuck in the car or in back-to-back meetings, there is a lot to be said for getting a little movement in. So what can you do on those days where your calendar simply doesn’t allow for your 3 mile run?

1. Stretch it out

If you’re spending a lot of time behind the wheel or at your desk, some stretching will go a long way to help you feel better, keep your muscles limber, and get you a little more energized. Try opening up your chest to counter hunching by clasping your hands behind your back and pressing them away from you. Stretch out those hamstrings by extending your legs and reaching for your toes (you’ll get a little lower back release as well!). Or try a seated twist to give your spine some lovin’. Here are a few more examples of exercises you can do at your desk. 

2. Find the opportunities for movement that you can

Every little bit helps, so find those opportunities to get your blood flowing when you can, even if it’s just little things. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Try parking a little further than usual to get a little bit of a walk in. Or set a reminder to get up and take a quick spin around your office every hour or so. This will give you a few extra moments to recharge and re-energize.

3. Work your legs

If you have a little bit of time for a workout but aren’t sure what to do, working your legs will help you get maximum burn for what little time you have. Your legs contain one of the biggest muscle groups in your body and bigger muscles mean more calories burned because it takes more to move them. Working some squats, lunges, and resistance band exercises will get those legs moving and those calories burning.

Getting even a little bit of movement in will help you de-stress, feel better, and have better energy. It will also help counteract some of what sitting all day can do to our bodies. So move when you can and don’t stress about your missed workout.

Don’t Do These Things

Don’t – Try to compensate by eating too little

Skipping a meal or two to compensate for a missed workout is not going to achieve any good. If anything, it will leave you cranky, tired, and less able to recover from your regular workouts. Yes, you do not need to consume as many calories on days when you’re not working out. So be mindful and pay attention to your hunger cues instead of trying to overcompensate. Eat healthful foods when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re satisfied. I can promise you that the impact of one skipped workout is not as drastic as you may worry it is.

Don’t – Try to make up for it with an excessive workout the next day

This just isn’t how our bodies work. You can’t make up for a missed workout by pushing yourself too hard the next day. All that’s likely to get you is injured or too sore to workout the next time. Just pick back up where you left off.

Don’t – Beat yourself up about it

Like I said before, no one will ever get their routine perfect 100% of the time. We are human and life happens. Be gentle with yourself and don’t let this missed workout derail your efforts. Just assure yourself that you’re getting a break today and you will get back into your routine tomorrow. The wonderful thing is, you can always start back on your routine. 

Back to School Immune System Support

Somehow it’s already that time of year: the kids are head back to school and they are bringing a whole lotta germs back home with them at the end of the day. We’ve all been there. We hear that one student has a bug and the next thing you know, it’s gone through the class and their families like wildfire. That first whisper of illness doesn’t need to be a cause for panic, though. Here are some of my best tips as a health and nutrition coach to support your immune system for greater health this fall.

1. Practice good hand washing for the whole family

Why it’s important. It seems that everyone loves their hand sanitizer these days, and I get it – it’s convenient, it gives you peace of mind, it can be effective. However, there are numerous drawbacks to regular hand sanitizer use: dry skin, increased bacterial immunity, damaged skin cells, exposure to excess chemicals with unknown long-term results, and even a weakened immune system (our immune system works based on remembering exposures). Further, there is little to no evidence that hand sanitizers are any more effective than good old soap and water. In fact, they may be less so in some instances.

What you can do. Given all of that, I encourage you to keep the sanitizer use to a minimum and focus on hand washing and good hygiene habits. Teach your kids to wash their hands before eating, keep their hands away from their face and mouth before washing, and turn hand washing into a routine – maybe as soon as they get home from school, before every meal, and before bed. This will help keep immune systems healthier and germs to a minimum.

2. Get enough sleep

Why it’s important. Getting enough sleep is critical to maintaining good health, proper body function, growth and development, and normal energy levels. Without enough sleep, we are more susceptible to bacteria, viruses, and pathogens. Children require more sleep than adults do because they are building and growing little bodies into big bodies plus staying active and constantly learning and acquiring new skills. Sleep requirements will vary depending on how old your child is. Here is a great resource on children’s sleep needs.

What you can do. Keep your kids on a regular bedtime every night preceded by a bedtime routine. The regular bedtime will help them get in the habit of sleeping at that time. Having a bedtime routine focused on winding down will help your kids relax and they will come to associate it with preparing to sleep, making bedtime a little easier. It’s important that this routine: 1.) be low-key, not energizing, and 2.) not involve ipads, smartphones, or TV as blue light disrupts our natural sleep patterns. Some ideas: start with teeth brushing and a warm bath, incorporate story time in the child’s bed, keep bedroom lights low, give your little one a little soothing back rub.

3. Eat the Rainbow

Why it’s important. Eating as many different fresh fruits and vegetables will help keep your immune system healthy. Brightly colored plants contain phytonutrients – special defenses plants have evolved to protect themselves that can protect us and keep us healthy as well when we eat them. Different colored produce contains different phytonutrients so it’s important to eat a variety.

What you can do. We all know kids aren’t always the most open to new foods, vegetables in particular. Try these tips to help: 1. Make eating these foods as interesting and interactive as possible. Kids love color. Ask them what color string beans they want or challenge them to get as many colors onto their plate as they can. 2. Don’t make a big deal of them not eating the foods on their plate; this is not helpful and can create more issues. 3. Just keep on putting the foods in front of them time after time and eventually they will try them.

4. Spice It Up

Why it’s important. Most herbs and spices contain antioxidative compounds that can help support our immune systems, such as thyme, oregano, cinnamon, and rosemary.

What you can do. Don’t be afraid to get “spicy” in the kitchen. Sprinkle some cinnamon onto apple slices for a snack (or onto your coffee grounds before brewing!), sprinkle some fresh herbs onto your chicken, or stick a big sprig of rosemary into your bottle of olive oil to infuse it.

5. Stay Active

Why it’s important. Regular exercise or physical activity is also a great way to keep your immune system working well. The increased blood flow created by exercise massages the lining of your blood vessels, prompting them to release more compounds that act as natural “medicines” to keep us healthy.

What you can do. Make sure that your kids get plenty of opportunity for active playtime. This can mean taking them to the playground, signing them up for sports, letting them play in the yard, taking family walks regularly, or taking up family activities together like hiking, biking, or skiing. When the weather is poor, a game of charades or Hyperdash are great options. Our bodies were made for movement and it’s especially important that we move enough as growing children. Keeping active also means keeping screen time to a minimum.

6.  Stay hydrated

Why it’s important. Our bodies depend on water to stay optimally functional. Being hydrated helps keep our muscles lubricated and moving, helps us absorb water-soluble nutrients from the foods we eat, helps keep our bowel movements regular, and helps flush out our bodies.

What you can do. For children, the current recommended water intake is 1 ounce of fluid per pound of bodyweight per day. For adults, it’s 1/2 ounce of fluid per pound of body weight per day. This can be asking a lot, not just in terms of consuming that much, but time spent eliminating that much as well… if you know what I mean. What I advise is: 1. drink before you’re thirsty, especially if you’re sweating or active, 2. make water the number one option for beverages, and 3. in general, if your urine is clear and light yellow in color, you’re in good shape for hydration. You can encourage kids to drink more water in a number of ways: give them a fun cup or straw they like to drink out of, toss some fresh or frozen fruit in it, and keep soda and juice out of the house.

Healthy Dorm Room Essentials

It can be a challenge to keep health a priority in college with so many demands on your time and energy. So today I wanted to share with you some of my favorite products that will help make staying healthy easier.

  1. This sleep mask that is super comfortable and provides complete blackout

We all know that sufficient sleep is critical for our health, but between night owl roommates and screens casting blue light all around us, there are so many sleep disruptors in college. This sleep mask can solve many of them! The eye pads are adjustable to any face so they provide complete blackout without putting pressure on your eyes. It’s also comfortable regardless of sleep position and stays in place. Plus, it comes with a set of ear plugs and a handy travel case that also keeps it intact in the washing machine.

manta sleep

2. These resistance bands that will make it easy to squeeze in a workout in your dorm room

I love these loop bands because they are compact and portable and allow you to get in a highly effective strength or resistance workout anywhere at any time. The variety of resistance levels means you get to choose the challenge of your workout. If you’re short on time, you could even use them while you’re studying!

resistance bands

3. This durable water bottle that will help keep you hydrated on the go

The water bottle will withstand being bounced around, dropped, and who knows what else a busy college student will throw at it. That’s what I recommend this water bottle to help you stay hydrated anywhere you find yourself.

hydroflask

4. These slider disks will help you get a core-burning workout in your dorm room

When I teach barre classes, I incorporate sliders into most of them because for something so simple, they are crazy effective. If you’ve been too busy to make it to the gym, you can get an intense core workout in just a matter of minutes with these sliders. Plus, they take up next to no space even in the smallest dorm rooms. A strong core is critical for good posture, which is especially important when you spend a lot of time seated at a desk.

sliders

5. These nutritionist-developed snack bars

There are 2 things I know to be true: 1. eating healthy is really difficult in college, and 2. most snacks bars have a weird texture and taste like crap. Plus, a lot of popular “health” bars are actually not really healthy. As a health coach, I love Zing bars because they are a nutritionally balanced AND tasty option for snacking on the go.

Zing Bars

6. This pretty yoga mat

I think everyone needs a good yoga mat, even if you just lay on it while you’re reading. I like this mat from Gaiam because it is thick and durable and it comes in a variety of great patterns.

gaiam mat

7. This set of stainless steel food containers with leak-proof lids

Don’t skip a meal because you have a paper to turn in. Grab your dinner before the dining hall closes in one of these containers and take it to go. Or you can pack up some snacks and take your studies on the go to the library or the grass in the Quad. The leak-proof lids are key and the stainless steel means there are BPA free and you don’t have to worry about them shattering like a glass set could. It also means easy cleaning.

stainless food containers

8. This amazing, aluminum-free deodorant

I have tried A LOT of natural deodorants with one of two outcomes: a. they don’t work or, b. I have a painful, irritating reaction to the baking soda in them. After seeing a bunch of ads and reading some testimonials, I decided to give Lume a try and I’m so happy I did. This deodorant is free from aluminum, parabens, and phthalates as well as baking soda so you are not rubbing chemicals on your body right near some very important glands and you are also not risking a skin irritation either. The other thing I like about Lume is that a little bit goes a long way and it even lasts up to 72 hours – that’s nuts.

Lume

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please note that this page does contain affiliate links and, as such, I may receive some compensation for purchases made through these links.

This made me so angry

The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, as one does, and I came across a post that made me stop and say out loud, “are you kidding me?” It was a post by a parent looking for some advice and it included a screenshot of the snack list that their child’s summer camp sent around to parents in case their child has food allergies, etc. This is that list:

snack list

As a certified health coach, when I look at this list I see:

Sugar, artificial colors, chemicals, trans fats, and more sugar.

Presumably, the children at this camp will be spending their days and doing activities inside and outside. These are not foods that will nourish and support these busy growing bodies. These are foods that are high in calories but very, very low in nutrition. They are deliberately designed to be hyper-palatable (in other words, super duper tasty to our human senses) so we want more. This hyper-palatability and lack of nutrition make it very easy to overeat these foods. Beyond that, more problems have been associated with these food ingredients, including tooth decay, attention problems, hyperactivity problems, hormonal issues, chronic illness, and obesity (for more on the link between food and childhood behavioral issues, check out The NDD Book by Dr. William Sears). These are not foods I want to see fed to children 5 days a week.

That’s not to say that I’m a fanatic – anyone who knows me will tell you that I am the exact opposite of a fanatic and the first one to dig into a bag of salt and vinegar potato chips. Are these foods OK to eat once in a while as a treat? Absolutely. Once in a while is perfectly fine. It’s when these foods are routine that we really have a problem.

What struck me about this list is that there is not a single healthy option on the list – even the “alternative” snacks are questionable (not to mention, what child is going to be OK with having plain Cheerios while their friends are having bright orange Cheetos? Show me one…I’ll wait.)

So if you disagree with this diet as a parent, your options are to send your kid with an alternative snack and a. listen to your child push back about how none of their friends have to eat that and they feel left out, b. your child gets picked on by the other kids for bringing their own healthy snacks (and we know kids tease each other about the most menial things), and c. be labeled the fanatical, overbearing parent.

While I have not reached out to the camp as I don’t know which camp it is, I assume that their argument in favor of these snacks is what we hear time and again about healthy food: budget.

OK. Here’s the thing: you can buy a box of Zebra Cakes for $2.25 and that gives you 10 mini cakes (5 packages of 2). Most kids are going to want both cakes, so you’re only feeding 5 kids with that box. You can buy a 2-lb bag of carrots for $1.50 and feed around, oh say, 10 kids. You can use the cost savings there to buy a jumbo tub of dip (like hummus) for the carrots… The budget argument doesn’t really hold up, huh? To do it even cheaper, you could turn making hummus to dip the carrots into an educational activity for the kids and have them make their own with a can of chickpeas and some oil. (More more information on eating healthy foods on a budget, check out this video of my workshop on it).

The old adage is “healthy habits start at home.” This is absolutely true; but, if your child is then being fed unhealthy foods by their care providers 5 days a week, that can really undermine all of your efforts at home. It’s like you, as a parent, teaching them “please” and “thank-you” at home and then having them taught “now” and “give me” 5 days a week at school.

I know for a fact that most in-school, after-school, and camp programs operate on a very tight budget and I am 100% sympathetic to that. And I understand that the government has massively rolled back any healthy food initiatives for school lunches. This is a huge issue but I don’t think the situation is completely hopeless. My impression is that many of the decision-makers for these programs are going into planning under the assumption that healthy foods are simply unaffordable. But there are many, many ways to get and prepare healthy foods on the cheap.

Do you know of any camp programs with menus like this one? I would love an introduction to try to begin to have conversations with directors about how healthy menu changes can be implemented. Please send me an email at wellandsimplehealth@gmail.com.

On a personal note, are you a parent who has been struggling to get your children to eat healthier foods? If so, we should talk. Please feel free to email me at wellandsimplehealth@gmail.com.

 

Further reading:

If you want to learn more about the effects of manufactured foods on our brain, check out The Hungry Brain by Stephan J. Guyenet.

If you want to learn more about the links between food additives and sugar and childhood attention and behavioral issues, check out the NDD Book by Dr. William Sears.

Morning Health Mistakes You Might Be Making

It seems like every blogger, influencer, & self-help author has some morning habit that you simply MUST adopt to become the healthiest version of you. And that advice is put out there with the best intentions. But are these habits truly all they’re cracked up to be? Here are some popular morning habit mistakes that you could be making.

1. Going overboard with your smoothie

Smoothies can be a great option for breakfast on-the-go and for getting some added fruits and veggies in. But it is very easy for that smoothie to get out of control. Excessive fruit and fats and servings that are too large are very common pitfalls. Another issue is making your smoothie too thin to be satisfying so you become ravenous later and derail your healthy diet.

Instead: Keep your smoothies to just 1 cup of fruit, add some veggies, and keep your portions on the smaller end of things.

2. Skipping breakfast

Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day because it provides you with the nutrients you need to get your day going at your best and can help keep your body’s cortisol levels (“stress hormone”) closer to their normal range. Studies have also shown that people who eat breakfast are more likely to weight less than people who skip it because it helps keep your hunger more manageable throughout the day.

Instead: If you’re not a breakfast person, try to just have something small but healthy to hold you over until you can have something more substantial. Some almonds or a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter are good options.

3. Taking a something-is-better-than-nothing mentality towards breakfast

While whether or not you eat breakfast is important, WHAT you eat for breakfast is just as important. Starting your day with a sugary donut is going to spike your blood sugar levels and it won’t keep you feeling full for very long.

Instead: Focus on eating whole foods that are high in fiber and protein. This will keep you feeling full longer.

4. Reaching for some juice

It’s made from fruit, so it must be good for you, right? Not so fast. Juice is fruit without the fiber. So, yes, you’re getting some of those nutrients, but you’re also drinking a big glass of sugar with no fiber to buffer it. That can add up to blood sugar issues and weight gain over time.

Instead: Have some water and put some fruit in it to infuse it with the flavor, like lemon, lime, or berries.

5. Having a bowl of “healthy” cereal

Here’s the thing about cereal, most options have too much sugar and not enough fiber and protein in them to be worth it.

Instead: Try some oatmeal (unflavored) with plain yogurt and fruit instead.

The Truth about Juice Cleanses and Detoxes

Juice cleanses and detox programs are still all the rage – with nearly every holistic company pushing one and even local cafes creating their own. They claim they can help you lose weight, rid your body of toxins, restore your pH, give you more energy and help you sleep better, make you stop craving junk food – the list goes on and on. But are these (often really expensive) programs all they’re cracked up to be?

The short answer is “no.” Living off of juice for a week is not going to result in any lasting improvements to your help. On the contrary, it could actually do more harm than good.

The Problem with Cleanses and Detoxes

The first issue with juice cleanses is that they’re juice. When you juice a fruit or vegetable, you eliminate all of the fiber in that plant. That leaves you with very little if anything to buffer against all of the sugar in it. Essentially, you’re drinking straight sugar with some vitamins and minerals added to it. Subsisting off of this alone and not balancing it with food containing protein and fiber can result in unhealthy spikes in your blood sugar that stress your body out. Sustained high levels of your body’s stress hormone, cortisol, have been linked to a host of health problems, not to mention retention of abdominal fat. Add to this the fact that, since juice does not satisfy hunger,  you are likely to over consume it when you’re already taking in far more sugar in a glass of orange juice than is in one orange.

Another factor that makes these cleanses more of a problem than a solution is the impact they could have on your metabolism. While restricting calories in the very short term might make you drop a few pounds, over time severely restricting calories for a week or on and off again over time can slow down your metabolism, making it even harder to lose weight. Not to mention, many people will overcompensate by overeating once they are back on regular foods again, making them gain back what they may have lost and then some. I bet they didn’t advertise that on the box.

The final nail in the coffin for juice cleanses and detox programs should be that they are completely unnecessary and there is no scientific evidence to support their effectiveness. Your body already has a highly-efficient detoxification system built in. Your body is not a swamp full of toxins. You do not need to starve yourself for a week to help support your body’s detoxification system. On the contrary, doing so can deprive your body of the nutrition and energy it needs to do its cleanup job.

So What Should You Do?

If you truly want to support the health of your body and keep it as toxin-free as possible, eat an organic, plant-based, whole foods diet. Eat lots of plants, drink lots of water, avoid pre-packaged, processed foods, and, when you do eat meat, make sure it is clean, quality meat not treated with all kinds of antibiotics and hormones. Doing this will give your body the right kind of fuel it needs to support ongoing health.

 

 

Product Review: Simply Lite Sugar Free Dark Chocolate

A sweet tooth is one of the biggest struggles I see with people who are trying to lose weight or eat healthier. Dark chocolate carries several health benefits but many of them are lost or cancelled out when lots of sugar is added to the products. Now, I typically steer well clear of anything labeled “sugar-free” because I don’t do artificial chemical sweeteners, but I picked this up and saw that it contained none so I figured I would give it a try to see if it could be an alternative for chocolate lovers.

IMG_20181231_172101.jpg

How is it sugar-free?

Rather than sweetening this product with sugar, Simply Natural Foods sweetens the chocolate bar with sugar alcohols, maltitol specifically. Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories than sugar because they cannot be easily absorbed by your body. Maltitol in particular contains about half the calories of sugar but has a higher glycemic index than other sugar alternatives but a lower GI than sugar.  Therefore, it’s important not to overeat foods containing sugar alcohols and diabetics may want to consult with their physician on such products. Another factor that may persuade you to consume sugar alcohols in moderation is that they very often can have a laxative effect due to their poor absorption rate. In fact, the label on these chocolate bars contains an advisory to that effect.

How Do Simply Lite Bars Compare to Others?

I was curious about just how much of a difference there was between this and other comparable bars. So I put together a chart of other bars with similar cacao proportions and calculated each out to a 25 gram serving.

simply lite 100 cal 15g carbs 0g sugars

As you can see, Simply Lite indeed contains fewer calories (but not a lot fewer) but slightly more carbohydrates than other bars. The product label includes a net carb calculation that subtracts both the grams of fiber (3) and the carbs from the maltitol (11) from the total carb count, leaving 1 g of net carbs. It states that they subtract maltitol’s carbs from the total because “its conversion requires little or no insulin and does not cause an appreciable increase in serum glucose levels”. As stated above, it is true that maltitol bears a significantly lower glycemic index than sugar, but it is important for diabetics to take into account their total carbohydrate consumption. However, for those watching carbs as part of their diet (keto, South Beach, what-have-you), the net carb count is helpful.

Flavor and Texture

I didn’t dislike the flavor of the Simply Lite bar but it was obviously different from a sugar-sweetened bar. Ever so slightly less sweet perhaps? Hard to put my finger on but my thought was “meh”. It doesn’t have a chemically taste though, which is nice. The texture is on the drier, more crumbly side than other bars. It reminded me a little bit of the texture of Mexican stone ground chocolate. It lacks that creamy, satisfying mouth feel that other chocolates have but part of that is due to the cacao concentration – the more cacao, the less creamy and the more bitter.

Inulin

One of the ingredients listed on this product is inulin, a vegetable fiber that is commonly added to processed foods to increase their fiber content. This may be why Simply Lite’s fiber content was slightly higher than that of other chocolate bars. This higher fiber content also lowers the net carbs and glycemic impact of the food. One thing to note about this ingredient is that overeating it can also cause some gastrointestinal upset, including gas, bloating, flatulence, and diarrhea.

In Conclusion

While this bar may be an alternative for those with a sweet tooth who are looking to cut down their sugar intake, there are several trade-offs made with Simply Lite’s chocolate bar. With two ingredients known to cause gastrointestinal upset when consumed too much, it’s important to limit your consumption of this product, unless you don’t mind some extra time in the bathroom. The taste and texture are definitely not the same as “the real thing” so some may not be big fans of this alternative. My final verdict on this is that I would rather buy regular dark chocolate and make sure that I’m enjoying it in small amounts.

What to do with the Halloween candy scaries

If the thought of storing several jumbo bags of “fun-sized” candy in your house for the next couple weeks has your despairing, if you’re wondering how you’re going to resist eating your child’s candy loot, if you’re thinking of just skipping Halloween for the sake of your diet altogether, then read on. If not, power to you, but read on anyway in case you know someone this would be helpful to 🙂

Halloween is just the first of several upcoming holidays known to fill our homes with less-than-healthy temptations. From the giant bags of candy you buy to pass out to the trick-or-treaters to the orange bucket of candy your own child brings home, this can be a tough time for those of us looking to watch our waistlines, reduce our sugar intake, or just eat healthier in general. So here are my tips for having fun this spooky season without going off the rails completely.

1.Out of Sight, Out of Mind

Once you’ve bought your stock of candy to give out on Halloween night, don’t keep it out in the open or in an easily accessible location. Each of us probably knows all too well how easy it is to pop open one of those bags for “just a few” pieces of candy and have that turn into needing to go buy more candy. It’s not you and it’s not all just a lack of willpower. Our bodies are programmed to crave those caloric, sugary, fatty foods, especially this time of the year and junk food companies known exactly how to capitalize on that from the ingredients they use all the way down to the packaging.

Take those bags of candy and store them somewhere out of the way and out of your sight until Halloween night (make sure you remember where you put them, of course). It has been proven that when junk food is within our vision or easily accessible to us, we will choose that over healthy options most of the time (even if we don’t really want to). Putting those bags of candy away will help keep you on track and eliminate that extra temptation.

2. Participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project

If candy is your arch nemesis and you would prefer to just not have it in the house at all, then grab a teal pumpkin and hand out non-candy items (like glow sticks, bookmarks, funky erasers, etc.) on Halloween to help include children with food allergies in the spooky fun. This will keep your stress about overindulging at bay and will also benefit kids with food allergies who just want to trick or treat like their friends. Learn more about the Teal Pumpkin Project and register your address online here.  

3. Have some fun and then be done

Life is all about balance and you should absolutely get a chance to enjoy some sweets this Halloween season. The key is setting a stopping point and sticking to it. One of the best parts about Halloween as a kid was always bringing a piece or two of candy with you to school in your lunch box. So I suggest keeping the candy around for just one week after Halloween. Allow yourself and/or your kids, just one or two pieces a day (assuming they’re the “fun size”) and stick to that. Once that week is up, get rid of the candy. You can throw it out (I know, I know) or you can donate it, which is what I recommend because it’s also a great way to teach your kids about helping others and sharing. There are loads of veterans organizations that collect leftover candy to send to troops overseas in their care packages. A simple Google search should point you to one near you.

4. Hand out healthier snacks instead

I know that neighbor tends to get a bad rep, but you could hand out healthier options such as mini boxes of raisins, snack bags of pretzels, or clementines to toss out just a few ideas. Doing this will keep more sugar out of your house and you might actually be doing another parent or child a favor as well.

5. Don’t beat yourself up

Most importantly, if you do overindulge, don’t beat yourself up about it. Getting down on yourself is a recipe for a downward spiral and kicking your own butt at the gym isn’t going to undo it. The best thing you can do for yourself in situations like that is to own that you didn’t do what you had hoped you would and resolve to do better going forward. This is important not just for yourself but for your kids who, whether you know it or not, watch your every move and hear your every word. This is a chance to teach them how to love themselves and have a healthy relationship with food.

 

Bonus advice:

While we’re on the topic of setting an example for our kids, watching the language that you use around food is also really important. Dubbing some foods “bad” or saying they’ll make you fat can very adversely affect your child’s relationship with food going forward and can create feelings of shame around it. So when you’re talking to children about why you’re giving away the leftover candy or limiting how much you eat, I suggest using language along the lines of: this isn’t everyday food so we are only going to have a little and then share with some other people. Foods like fruits and vegetables help keep us from getting sick and help us do better in school, but candy doesn’t do any of those things for us so we don’t need to eat a lot of it. Instead we have a little and we focus on eating more of the foods that help us grow bigger and smarter.

 

Have a Healthy Freshman Year

The first year in college is a very exciting time, but it is also an enormous adjustment for many college students. The lack of parental/caregiver oversight, freedom to set your own schedules, competition, stress, and having the ability to choose when and what you eat can often mean that health takes a backseat to other priorities, particularly during that first year of college. I can tell you based on my own personal experience that the dreaded “Freshman 15” is just the tip of the iceberg since eating habits are strongly linked to other factors, such as stress. So here are my tips for keeping healthy when you head out to college.

Eating Healthy

1. Keep healthy snacks in your dorm room

In college, I lived next door to the Mediterranean-themed dining hall, which, for me, meant bringing back tupperware containers full of baklava to snack on when I was studying later on at night during my first semester. That went as well for my waistline as you would think it did. When we are stressed out or up late, we are particularly susceptible to binging on unhealthy foods. Those foods actually increase the amount of the stress hormone cortisol in our bodies. So it is super important to make sure that these foods are an occasional treat and not a study-time staple. Keeping healthy snacks handy in your dorm room and back pack will help make sure you avoid this too-common pitfall.

2. Plan ahead

At most schools these days, you can check what the dining hall is serving online before you walk over for dinner. This is awesome because it allows you to plan your meals ahead of time and strategize around those temptations.

3. Hit the salad bar

A healthy plate should be at least 1/2 vegetables and hitting the salad bar can make sure you hit this benchmark. Starting your meal with a salad is also a great way to make sure that you don’t overeat more caloric or unhealthier foods later on in your meal. It has also been shown to buffer against the blood sugar spike we experience from simple carbohydrates and could mitigate some of the effects of fatty meats on our circulatory system as well.

4. Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is critical for your health in so many ways. Drinking enough water keeps your skin healthy, keeps your joints working properly, helps cleanse out your body, promotes cardiovascular health, helps you absorb nutrients from food, and can keep you from overeating.

5. Be present at meal time

It is so easy to eat a whole meal and hardly even notice it when you’re super distracted my homework, friends, etc. You will enjoy your meals more and feel more satisfied as well as diminish your likelihood of overeating if you pay attention to your eating.

6. Don’t wait until you’re starving to eat

When you’re really cramming or trying to meet a deadline, it can be easy to skip eating until you can’t ignore those hunger pangs any more, but you’re not doing yourself any favors this way. You will work better and more efficiently if you eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re starving. When you wait that long, you often end up opting for something unhealthy or inhaling way too much food. You’re better off having a snack or taking a meal break – chances are you weren’t getting as much done as you could anyway because you were being distracted by hunger and your brain was starving for the nutrients it needs to function properly.

Healthy Movement

1. Find a fitness routine that you actually like

It’s no secret that if you hate something, you won’t do it. Once you have your schedule down, finding some type of physical activity that you like – whether it’s playing a sport or going to the gym or taking a fitness class – is key to keeping physically active, especially when student life is often so sedentary. It’s also important to know yourself and what it takes for you to make something habit. Are you easily self-motivated so setting your own schedule works for you? Do you need external accountability so registering for a class or being part of a team is a must for you to stick to something? Asking yourself these kinds of questions will help you find what works for you.

2. Find a fitness buddy

Having a fitness buddy is a great way to keep yourself motivated and active. It’s also a great way to build a good new friendship.

Feel Healthy

1. Get enough sleep

College students are incredibly sleep-deprived. This can negatively impact academic performance, can increase stress levels, has been linked to higher body weight, can increase inflammation, and can contribute to depression. Practicing good sleep hygiene and getting a good night’s sleep (8 hours) is critical to overall health. Make sure that you have enough time to sleep for 8 hours. Keep electronics and their blue light out of your bedroom. Use sleep masks and ear plugs if you need to – even a little light can disrupt our sleep.

2. Find your stress relief tricks and make time for them

College is stressful. Period. And stress can have some very negative effects on our health, including weight gain, decreased immune system function, sleeplessness, and hypertension. It is so, so important to have healthy ways to manage your stress at your disposal, especially when it can be very easy to turn to unhealthy ways of coping. When I was in college, exercise and coloring were my go-tos when the stress got to be too much. I also had a great group of friends to turn to when I needed them. Try to have a variety of stress relief techniques you can use depending on what your situation is.

3. Use the school’s resources

From one-on-one therapy sessions to support groups to student mentors, there are a number of resources available to college students these days to support your mental and emotional health. If you are struggling – no matter what with – these resources are there for you to use and I guarantee you are not the only one to use them.

 

 

Product Review: Explore Cuisine Organic Edamame Spaghetti

Pasta is a staple for many of us and our families – it’s easy, quick, convenient, and yummy. But white pasta is full of “bad” carbs and empty calories and the whole grain versions are still quite calorie-dense and easy to overeat. Plus, if you’re sensitive to gluten, neither of those are a good option. For these reasons, I’m always looking for new pasta alternatives. One that I am a big fan of is the Ultra-Grain pasta from Hodgson Mills, which is a whole wheat & quinoa blend. I’ve tried rice pastas before and am not really a fan of the texture – they tend to be kind of gummy. I’m also not really a fan of black bean pastas because you can taste the bean flavor and the texture is off to me as well. This week I decided to give Edamame pasta a try.

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Nutrition

Explore Cuisine’s edamame pasta has a lot going for it nutritionally. The first thing that I noted was that it is organic and non-GMO. If you are not familiar with edamame, it is a soy bean and 93% of soy sold in the US is genetically modified. If it is not labeled organic or non-GMO, you can bet that your soy is genetically modified. So that earned this pasta it’s first point from me.

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Explore Cuisine Edamame Spaghetti dry

The second major eye-catcher is that it contains 24 grams of protein per serving. That is huge and, coupled with the 13 grams of fiber per serving, means that this is a very filling pasta that will leave you feeling sated for a long time after. It also makes it hard to overeat it because you start feeling full very quickly.

 

This pasta is also pretty low-calorie at just 180 calories per serving. This means there is wiggle room for the calories added by what you top it with (check out my veggie-loaded pasta sauce recipe here or give a cauliflower alfredo sauce a try). Another perk: this paste is a great source of calcium, iron, and potassium.

If you’re anything like me, you’re probably thinking at this point “OK but how big is a serving?”. According to the box, a serving is 2 oz, but it doesn’t indicate whether that is dry or prepared. It does say that there are 4 serving per box, so I would say just take 1/4 of the prepared box. Trust me, it will fill you up.

Ease of Prep

Some non-flour pastas are kind of high-maintenance when it comes to prep; not the case with this spaghetti. Your bring the water to a boil, dump it in, and it’s done in 3-5 minutes. This is faster than many pasta varieties so I really liked that. It’s definitely a quick and easy dinner option.

Taste and Texture

OK but what is it like?! I really, really like this spaghetti. It has just a very light, savory flavor to it so it can work with pretty much any sauce/topping. The texture is very satisfying. It’s definitely different from a flour pasta’s texture, a bit chewier, but in a good way. Especially where it’s a fine spaghetti, the chewy, almost meaty texture is nice and give you that full mouth feel.

I had just one serving and it left me feeling very satisfied and full for the rest of the night. The best part was probably that I didn’t experience that awful bloated feeling that I often get after eating a regular pasta. I just felt well-fed! We prepared it as a sort-of shrimp scampi with olive oil and lemon juice plus shrimp and sautéed onions and peppers. I was worried that doing such a light sauce meant its flavor would be drowned out by the taste of the pasta, but that was not the case at all! It turned out delicious.

Overall:

I would give Explore Cuisine’s Edamame Spaghetti 5 stars.

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Our version of shrimp scampi that we made with the edamame pasta