Basics

If Not Sugar, Then What??

Last week we talked about some of the harmful effects of added sugar. BUT, if you are going to have sugar, which kind is the right choice? This week we’ll look at honey, coconut sugar, brown sugar, raw vs white sugar, and even stevia. We have to realize there isn’t a simple answer when it comes to added sugars/sweeteners. Added sugars is where the clear majority of health issues lie. Watch your labels and start playing sugar detective to know what you are eating!

Honey

Honey contains a few more calories than table sugar but unlike stevia or table sugar, it contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants making honey more like a food than a sugar. Unfortunately, most non-raw honey has been filtered, heated/pasteurized and processed thereby negating many of the health benefits in an attempt to prevent crystallization once on a store shelf.
(Caution: If you are allergic to bees, raw honey could potentially cause reactions!)

Coconut Sugar

Coconut sugar/coconut palm sugar (not to be confused with palm sugar) is made from the sap of coconut trees and is less processed because the sap is extracted and then placed in heat to dry. It has a couple minerals and antioxidants and a lower glycemic index than table sugar thanks to inulin (a type of fiber). Coconut sugar contains the same number of calories as table sugar, but the amount of nutrients is negligible unless large quantities are consumed so it should really not be consumed for its “nutrition” – it is still ultimately added sugar.

Raw Cane Sugar

Raw cane sugar (also called turbinado sugar) is extracted from the sugarcane plant and not refined. Although in large amounts, no sugar is “good”, raw sugar would be a better alternative than white table sugar since it retains some minerals. Raw sugar includes unrefined cane juice or powder (Sucanat and Rapadura) and date sugar.

Beware: White sugar can be labelled in disguise as refined or dried cane juice and refined cane sugar!

Stevia

While all of our article has been designated to explaining different types of sugar, we wanted to take a moment to acknowledge a natural sweetener that appears to be in good standing. Stevia is a sugar-free and calorie-free South African herb made from the leaves of the stevia plant. It has a glycemic index of zero so it doesn’t raise blood sugar. It appears stevia COULD be your best choice for a sweetener without the additional calories of local honey, etc BUT be careful of overly processed stevia products as in general the word “processed” often means “processed with chemicals”.

Also, be aware of overuse as it can cause you to develop more of a taste for sweets. According to Livestrong.com “crude stevia extracts and whole-leaf stevia are not approved, the Mayo Clinic notes, because there are concerns about their effects on the kidneys, cardiovascular system and blood glucose levels.”

In summary, granulated white sugar/table sugar is the most chemically processed and refined of sugars. Brown sugar is just white sugar with added molasses, thus containing even more calories and sweetness. Choosing artificial sweeteners vs a “better” sugar is a choice you have to make based on the information available to you. There is no simple answer it seems. Our advice? Watch your labels, know your sugars, and choose what is best for you while exercising moderation!

Step Up Your Snack Game!

Healthy Eating can be quite a challenge. Nearly anyone who has tried to make positive changes to their diet can admit this. As you start to build new habits however, you might find that meals are more manageable, but what do you do when hunger strikes in between meals? For many of us, our workplace has a room similar to this one that begs to answer the question…

The word “Snack” is most often associated with something less healthy, or natural, than a small meal, but keep thinking about how you can form your days around small meals, whether that is 3 or 5 times a day. No matter what though, sometimes you need that fast snack. Here are some great options for you:

Be prepared!

Keep It Simple

Roll a piece of cheese or a pickle in some lunch meat to get a quick protein boost. Look for natural meats without added nitrates and a short ingredient list.

Chia Pudding

Whether for a breakfast or for a snack, chia pudding can fit the bill! Simply combine chia seeds with coconut milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and maple syrup.
Get creative by adding protein powder, fresh fruit, cocoa powder…you name it!
Check out the recipe here!

Ellipse Breakfast Muffins

Need a quick breakfast that can be eaten as is or jazzed up? Check out our Classic Ellipse Breakfast Muffins with just oatmeal, egg beaters, applesauce, and baking soda.
Add-On’s: nut butter, yogurt, etc
Add-In’s: fresh or dried fruit
Add-With’s: cottage cheese and fruit!

Need Something Salty?

Try roasted chickpeas! Toss drained chickpeas with olive oil and salt/garlic salt and bake 30-40 minutes at 450 degrees until browned and crispy. Want a little kick? Add a dash of cayenne pepper!

Apples A New Way

Apple Snack

Have a sweet tooth that NEEDS to be tamed NOW? Try slicing an apple all the way across to get full flat circles slices. Spread nut butter on the slice and add toppings like chopped nuts, unsweetened coconut, or even a few dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs.

Make a "Small Meal"

“Crack Slaw” has a great combination of protein, vegetables, and seasonings! The recipe calls for Dole Coleslaw mix but consider using broccoli slaw for an extra vitamin boost! Find it here!

Sweet Craving?

Get your sweet fix by mixing peanut butter (or powdered peanut butter) with plain greek yogurt and maybe even a dash of sugar-free pudding mix to make a great fruit dip!

Multivitamins have NO effect on Heart Disease, Cancer or overall Mortality??

According to the medical journal “Annals of Internal Medicine”, there is no evidence that multivitamins have any effect on cognitive decline, heart disease, cancer, or overall mortality. Wait what??

However, adequate intake of vitamins/minerals from food and/or supplements IS necessary to prevent deficiency, promote optimal health, improve nutrient partitioning and promote fat loss and muscle gain.

Ditch The Multivitamin or Not??

Ideally, just supplement the specific nutrients you are deficient in. Avoid supratherapeutic doses of vitamins – doses greatly in excess of recommendations. And know what you are working with: low-fat diets for instance can inhibit adequate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Perhaps your diet just needs a little tweaking; all of your vitamin and mineral requirements CAN and arguable SHOULD BE met from actual food intake by eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

If you struggle with medical ailments, check with your healthcare provider to see if specific vitamins or nutrients may need to be supplemented.

Taste The Rainbow!

…can we say that?

Vitamins are “any of a group of organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and nutrition and are required in small quantities in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body.”

We have overwhelming access to a variety of fruits and vegetables all year round, and there truly is no reason outside of a medical complication or deficiency that one should require a daily multivitamin.

If you use a vitamin/mineral supplement, look for one providing nutrients derived from whole foods. Be sure this includes natural forms of vitamin E rather than the synthetic versions. Vitamin A should come from precursors like carotenoids and not preformed retinoids for instance. Labdoor.com is an independent company that creates a quality score for label accuracy, product purity, nutritional value, ingredient safety, and projected efficacy!

**Check with your healthcare provider as special populations often need special consideration with supplemental vitamins. Those on blood thinners need to take precaution before adding in supplemental vitamin K. Those on a plant based diet might benefit from supplementing with iodine, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Those suffering from malabsorption syndromes will need to adjust their micronutrient intake accordingly. Always check with your healthcare provider before supplementing your diet.**

Vitamin D: The not-really-a-vitamin Vitamin

“Vitamin D” is actually the one vitamin your body is capable of synthesizing on it’s own! All you need is sunlight. Because of this you may meet your requirements for this vitamin with no effort at all in the Summer, but come Winter you may be totally deficient! (Especially for those of us in the North experiencing extended periods of below freezing temperatures and reduced daylight hours).

Getting adequate vitamin D can improve mood AND provide long-term protection against cognitive decline and bone deterioration. Many studies show that deficiency in vitamin D is also associated with increased susceptibility to infection and immune dysfunction!

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/

What to Eat, When to Eat, and What it Means for Your Workouts

Thankfully, it seems the era of fad-diets, fat-free, no-carb or other diets that entirely slash a whole category of macronutrients is coming to a close! But with that said, it is still difficult to find reliable information on proper nutrition! Let’s take a look at how eating factors into the effectiveness of your workouts, and maybe we can make sense of some of this.

“What should I eat before/after my workout?”

For most of us who exercise for health and not training for a high-level competition, our meals will contain some combination of high quality protein, high quality carbohydrates, healthy fats, and some fruit and vegetables 1-2 hours before and/or after your workout to get the maximal benefit. Whether it is “and” vs “or” will partly depend on the intensity/duration of your activity, daily caloric intake and what is on the menu for the rest of your day

Break it down for me: What’s important – and Why?

Protein can help maintain muscle size, reduce muscle damage, provide your bloodstream with amino acids when it needs them most, and helps you adapt to your exercise over the long term! But most people are at least somewhat aware of the importance of protein for strength training – what about carbohydrates?

Pre-Exercise carbs fuel your workout and help with recovery/muscle retention with even shorter, intense workouts. Post-exercise carbs however should come from whole foods like fruits and vegetables because these are better tolerated by the system than insulin-spiking refined carbohydrates and are just as good at restoring muscle glycogen over 24 hours.

Alright…but tell me more about “When”.

If you ate a normal-sized, balanced meal a couple of hours before training (or a smaller shake closer to training), then you have 1-2 hrs after training to eat your post-workout meal and still maximize the benefits of workout nutrition.

But if you are like many who work out early in the morning or directly after leaving work, and you ate only a small meal within the last 3-4 hours before your workout, or you are in a fasted state, then you should consume a meal within one hour after your workout to prevent a slowed recovery. A whole food meal pre/post workout provides many things including important phytonutrients that build muscle, supply energy, decrease inflammation, and boost recovery.

Ya know, it just isn’t the same for me!

You might be right! In the end, the total amount of protein and carbohydrate consumed over the course of the day is far more important to lean mass gain, fat loss, and performance improvements than any specific nutrient timing strategy. If you are a high-quality eater (you are only looking to tweak minor things) check out this infographic that further breaks down your meals by body type!

When in doubt, keep it simple and fill each nutrient slot:
Protein – Scrambled Eggs with veggies
Fat – 1 “thumb” of cheese
Carb – 1 slice of Ezekial toast or fruit

Now we’ve got some recipes to help make finding a well-balanced, complete meal a little easier for you!

Asian Scrambled Eggs:

Shake up your eggs with a few new elements like some incredibly healthy ginger root and nutritious snow peas!
Check the recipe here!

Classic Protein Pancakes:

Rolled oats, eggs, cottage cheese, fruit – these pancakes have everything you need to call them a complete meal!

Find this recipe and more on our previous blog post here!

PB & Chocolate Banana Shake:

1 scoop choc protein powder, 1 fistful of spinach, 1 banana, 1 “thumb” of peanut butter, and 8 oz choc unsweetened almond milk. Blend and enjoy!

Need even more ideas? How about Banana Cream Pie Oatmeal?? Peaches and Cream Omelet?? You can find those and MORE in Precision Nutrition’s Gourmet Recipes List!

Five Stretches You Shouldn’t Live Without!

…and sometimes – it is that simple!

Flexibility and “warming up” are two of the most highly underrated fitness principles around. Sure, many people warm up before an intense workout, but what about the rest of your day? As soon as you wake up – what has your body been doing for the last several hours? Lying still.

As soon as you step foot out of bed you begin placing demands on your body to lift, bend, and hustle around to keep up with your day. Start your day with a bit of injury prevention and increased blood flow, and you might be amazed at how it makes you feel.

Start from the ground up!

Plantar Fasciitis and other foot issues can make stepping out of bed painful or challenging due to the foot being in a pointed position through much of the night. Try flexing the foot up towards you and holding for 20 seconds 3-5x/foot. This can be done by sitting on floor and using a towel to pull the upper foot toward you. Or sit on your heels with shins and feet flexed under you. Sit back on your heels for the same amount of time. If you have a step nearby, you can also let your heels hang off of it like you would a calf stretch. All these movements bring your toes closer to your shin in a flexed position, stretching the foot fascia, and helping you get ready for the day!

The World’s Greatest Stretch??

We didn’t name it, but with a name like that it has some serious expectations to live up to, and it does a decent job! This awakens all the major muscle of the body. Hold each position for a few seconds and perform 3 movement patterns per side. This stretch is great to utilize throughout the day since it also stretches out the main muscles affected by sitting for long periods of time!

Watch the video to see what the buzz is about!

Wake up your spine!

The Cat/Cow Stretch can help relieve tension in your spine, morning or night, by opening it up and decompressing vertebrae. Set up in a quadruped position (all-fours: wrists under shoulders, knees under hips) and inhale while gently moving the chest/belly toward the floor so the spine is in extension. Exhale as you press into your hands, tuck the tailbone under, pull the chin toward the chest and round the back upward allowing the shoulder blades to move apart. Perform 10 reps or as many as you have time for.

You’ve got a litte tension in the those shoulders…

Wake up the spine and shoulders in the morning by simply standing and standing tall & reaching the arms overhead as if trying to reach the ceiling. Then work into a reverse shoulder stretch – clasping the arms behind you and lifting hands gently toward the ceiling near your edge and hold for 20 seconds.

Get off my back already!

Several statistical analyses have put the number of Americans suffering from chronic back pain above 10%. Our spine is the root of basically all movement, so we are driving home the importance of maintaining mobility and joint health in your back!

The Cobra stretch awakens the body with full extension of the spine, neck, shoulders, and chest. Lay on the floor, belly down. Place your hands under your shoulders, press into the floor, and lift the chest. Keep the abdominal muscles turned on, and draw the inner thighs towards each other to avoid hinging at the low back.

Watch the video for a demonstration!

Instant Gratification in the Kitchen!

Maybe one of the trendiest gifts last year was The Instant Pot!

Did you receive one and feel intimidated to get started? Have you been looking at these things wondering whether you should add another gadget to your kitchen? Well this week, we’ve got some tips and recipes that might just have you falling in love with it!

Why make the switch?

“But I love my crock pot!” Well, maybe the most important reason is the difference between cooking with pressure vs conventional methods.

Pressure-cooking retains much more of the nutrients from your food! Boiling only retains around 40-75% of nutrients vs 90-95% with pressure! The higher the temperature and cooking time, the more nutrients are lost.

Still not convinced? Pressure cooking also reduces cooking times, reduces energy costs of cooking and makes cleanup easier! With this tool, whether you can stand the heat or not – you won’t need to spend all day in the kitchen.

No Soak Chickpeas!

If you’ve ever made beans from dry, the time it takes from soak to complete can be more than you want to take on vs just resorting to buying in cans. Chickpeas seem to be especially challenging to get right. These Instant Pot beans will change your mind! Check it out:

Rinse and drain 1# pound bag of dry chickpeas and toss in Instant Pot. “Pressure Cooker” setting on HIGH and adjust to 35 minutes. Naturally release pressure for 15 minutes and then quick release the rest. Voila! Refrigerate or flash freeze any extras.

Hard Boiled Eggs!

Now admittedly – hard boiled eggs aren’t all that hear, so why have we included them on this list? Have you ever had a hard time peeling eggs when their fresh? The Instant Pot has you covered! Toss 1 cup of cold water in the pot. Place eggs (however many fit comfortably) on the trivet in your pot. Set to “Pressure Cook” on HIGH for 8 minutes. Quick release your pressure and submerge eggs in cold water. Enjoy easy to peel hard boiled eggs in a hurry!

Whole Chicken??

Oh it’s fast…Save yourself a trip to the store, a few dollars and a whole mess of sodium by cooking up a juicy, tender chicken in about 30 minutes!

Place 2 cups of water, 1 medium onion, 2 large carrots, 4-5 cloves of garlic, and 3 stalks of celery chopped in the Instant Pot. Add the trivet. Separate the skin on the breast of the chicken and shove in some salt, thyme, and oregano. Place the chicken breast down on the trivet. Set the pot pressure to “Meat or Poultry” and set time to 25 minutes. Naturally release the pressure and the chicken falls right off the bone!
*(Note, the bigger the chicken the more time this takes to come to and down from pressure. You may need to allow for up to 1.25 hrs of pot time to be safe)*

Chicken Stock/Bone Broth!

Health gurus everywhere are raving about bone broth these days, and for good reason. Google “health benefits of bone broth” and you might be surprised – there are a lot!
It’s good for digestion, hair, skin, nails, liver, and more! Chicken stock can be intimidating to think about if you’ve never done it, but really it is simple.

Grab your chicken carcass from yesterday’s whole chicken and some assorted veggies like onion, carrots, celery, and fresh herbs (these veggies can be the left-overs from other choppings including leaves, skins, etc.). Toss it all in your pot with 1-2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and 1 tsp salt. Add water until your pot is filled 2/3 of the way. Select “Soup” set the pressure to “Low” and time to “120”. Let the pressure come down naturally and strain the liquid. Done! And that is a tiny fraction of time it takes on the stove-top.

Chuck Roast In A Flash!

Place a 3-4 pound roast in your instant pot and cover with 5 wedged potatoes, 1 small bag of baby carrots, 2 quartered medium onions, and 2 cups of water combined with 3-4 beef bouillon cubes.
Place the lid on your pot and set on Pressure Cook (normal pressure) and set time to “60”; letting the pressure naturally release after. Prep for about 90 minutes of “pot” time, and you’ve got a wholesome meal that couldn’t be easier!

The Year of YES!

Maybe 2018 should be deemed The Year of YES!

I think we have all had those days …

  • I walked by the dog the other day thinking I should take her for a quick walk, but I kept going to the couch. Have you ever done this too? I wonder if my tail would wag as happily as my dogs’ at the invitation to go on a walk.
  • My kids wanted to go to the park, but I tried to talk them out of it. I don’t want to just sit there when I could be getting things done.  They talked me into it anyway.  They wanted me to play with them.  I was tired so I sat on the bench and waited mindlessly scrolling on my phone.
  • The kids are glued to their iPhone or iPad so often that I can hardly get their attention. Suddenly I have two notifications pop up on my phone and immediately log in to check.  I’ve read about having technology blackout times to refocus on important things in my life.
  • I have friends that are always inviting me to one run or another. Most recently it was a mud run.  I was afraid I would make a fool out of myself, having them wait for me or even hurting myself.
  • My significant other comes home and asks almost nightly if I want to go for a walk. I’ve turned them down citing a long day, rain, cold, smog…
  • I turned down my neighbors invite to come over to swim in their pool because I was worried that I would actually have to show up in a swimsuit.

I could be wrong, but I don’t think I’m alone here.  All these scenarios can be and are often very real.  What if we said yes just a little more often?

Fitness isn’t some crazy lifestyle requiring hundreds of hours in a gym, extremes in food or special equipment that costs thousands of dollars.

Fitness is a hundred simple choices a day that we have to make anyway.  Walk the dog or kick back on the couch? Throw the ball around with the kids or scroll a small screen?

Eat an apple or eat a cookie? Drop into the gym a few times per weeks with a friend or make an excuse not to go?

The foundation of fitness can be easy. We simply do the stuff we have to do anyway everyday a little differently.  We have to eat, so let’s eat some good food instead of pulling through that drive-thru on the way home.

The kids will do what we do. If we move, they move. If we sit, they sit.  Let’s set the tone for an active life that will propel them into adulthood.

Simple walks a few times a week with our spouses can at least give us time to communicate uninterrupted or at its best assist us in earning a few more quality years together.

Fitness can be easy. Just move every day until you can’t.

And if you move every day you will most likely have many more days in your life to spend with your loved ones and to do that “when I retire”.

Let’s make 2018 the year of YES!  SURE!  I’M IN!

Set Yourself Up For Holiday Success!

Here at Ellipse Fitness Training Center we wish you and your families a very happy holiday! As this season comes to a close we have a few last minute tips, tricks and reminders to help you stay on track with your goals!

Maintain a regular schedule – Try to not to veer off your normal sleep, eat, and workout schedule during the busy holidays! Illness is opportunistic with large jumps in nutrition, sleep, and/or workout routines, so remain consistent to lessen your likelihood of getting sick. If you know you will be feasting at dinner, have a lighter balanced lunch like a salad with grilled chicken.
During busy times, try to schedule your days out ahead of time to maximize your time and keep those important appointments with yourself too!

Give to others – The holidays can be, for some, a stressful time. One thing that can put the holidays back in perspective is gratitude and giving to others. Let’s all find a way to help others this holiday season! There’s still time to ring bells for the Salvation Army, help out at a soup kitchen, cook a meal for a shut-in neighbor, shovel someone’s driveway after a snowstorm, and rekindle that feeling of doing something good. Remember all the blessings that are bestowed on our own lives.

Eat your meat (protein) – Our friends over at Examine.com concluded a recent analysis with this sentiment: “Since you’re going to splurge on food, focus your overeating on protein-rich foods. Not only does this have the greatest likelihood of minimizing fat gain during the overeating itself, but protein’s well-known satiating properties might help reduce overeating to begin with. As a bonus, if you are looking to manage blood sugar levels, eating protein before starchy carbohydrates has been shown to reduce post-meal blood glucose and insulin responses.“
Check out the full article here: https://examine.com/nutrition/meta-minimizing-fat-gain/

Seek out the better alternatives – Instead of the spinach and artichoke dip, think guacamole and salsa with vegetable crudites (remember? Bite size cut up veggies!). Instead of the pigs in a blanket, seek out the shrimp cocktail or meat kebabs. Bring your own healthier dessert! Here’s a super simple one:
Baked Apples
Core 2 honeycrisp apples and fill with stuffing (Mix 1 T walnuts, 1 T raisins, 1 T dried cranberries, ½ t cinnamon, ¼ t nutmeg).
Place apples in a loaf pan w/ ¼ c water on bottom and cover with foil. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes until apples are tender!

Bring a dish to pass – Plan ahead! Ask if you can bring a dish to your next outing. Bring something that you know you can eat that is still a healthy option. Try some of these appetizers from previous blog posts:

Spinach dip made with cottage cheese and greek yogurt

Fresh Fruit dip made with applesauce and yogurt

Ellipse Classic cottage cheese ranch dip

Relax and recharge – As the hustle and bustle picks up in these last days before Christmas, give yourself permission to relax. Sit back with your kids, significant other, pets – whomever – and watch a movie, play a board game, or simply enjoy each other’s company. Give yourself permission to do something non-productive for a while to re-center and recharge. When you are feeling at your best you are at your best for those around you too. Thank you for taking time for yourself and recharging with Ellipse Fitness! Happy Holidays!

Attitude, Grattitude and What It Means For Your Happiness

At Ellipse Fitness Training Center we focus on giving you the tools to not only build a healthy body, but a healthy mind as well because we know that the two are unbelievably interconnected! So let’s talk about your attitude…

Not like that! We mean your approach to life, the way you respond to situations, and the way you are affected by things you have absolutely no control over.

Let’s face it though – just reading this post will not make you happy. There is no magic happy pill (at least none that doesn’t come with a laundry list of horrifying side-effects). BUT these suggestions will help you to live a life filled with more gratitude, awareness, and joy – and those are foundational building blocks of happiness and fulfilment!

RESPOND

You have probably heard the old saying that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond. Two different people can go through the exact same experience and respond completely differently! Although the future is unpredictable we can work on responding to uncertainty in a healthy way. Pay attention today to how you respond to different situations, and reflect on what is at the root of your anger, disappointment, or fear. Reactions often emanate from the fear of something being taken away. Which leads to our next point…

YOU'RE NOT ALONE!

Always remember this! When going through challenging times or unfamiliar situations it is easy to feel alone and outnumbered. Working in the fitness industry, we often hear others tell us how they are afraid to workout because they are self-conscious, do not believe they can perform certain moves, or think they are not “fit enough”. Remember that everyone started somewhere. No one was born with six-pack abs, coming out of the womb doing perfect push-ups… We are all in this together!

SMILE!

Yes, you! It sounds cliche, but smiling legitimately helps improve our moods and attitudes throughout the day! Going grocery shopping? Try making eye contact and giving a warm smile as you pass a stranger. What have you got to lose? Really? You might even make a new friend! Did you know smiling naturally releases dopamine, endorphins and serotonin into your body? All good chemicals that make you relax and feel happy!

CONTROL

LET GO! You have none – or at least very little – over most of the situations presented to you on a day-to-day basis. We stress ourselves out by worrying how things will turn out, or trying to change the people around us. Then the moment something does not go our way? We lose it. Whether you prefer to subscribe to the belief that everything happens for a reason or not, recognizing that you have much more control over your reactions than anything else is not only liberating but will greatly impact your mental health.

CONNECT

500 friends on Facebook, but you’ve never felt more isolated… With social media on the rise, feelings of loneliness and isolation are also increasing. In 2004, a study showed that over 25% of Americans said that they had no one to share a personal problem with. 13 years ago! Although real friendships are not born overnight, when nurtured they can grow into something you wonder how you ever lived without! Here at Ellipse Fitness we love that our membership is a close community! Those who feel connected to others on a personal level are much more likely to have higher self-esteem, lower blood pressure, and lower rates of anxiety.

Now, this next one may be the most important…

PRACTICE GRATITUDE DAILY

Let’s break that down

• Practice
– performing an activity repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. You’ve got to put it to work! And do so in REAL TIME! Not quietly at home in the evening. Is it cold out? Get in your car before leaving your home for work and take a moment to say to yourself, “It is incredibly fortunate that I do not have to walk to work today.”

• Gratitude – readiness to show appreciation. Not just the act of showing appreciation, but the state of being prepared to show appreciation. Expect nothing, and just observe as fortunate situations present themselves to you. Then actively show your appreciation. Smile and say thanks to a co-worker who held the door for you. Did your spouse over-cook your favorite dish at dinner? Someone just made you a meal, a hot one at that. Few things are as deserving of gratitude.

• Daily – hopefully you don’t need a definition here, but this is the operative word. Daily put into practice the action of appreciation, and try to always remain prepared to show appreciation at any moment. This one small shift in perspective can and has changed the lives of many!

Health Education Week: Heart Health

In honor of Health Education Week we are bringing you some discussion on tips, reminders and education on heart health and diet! Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among all adult populations in this country, and although there is a genetic element to it, it’s been demonstrated that lifestyle is far more significant!

Below we will talk about some of the most common dietary choices out there that lead to cardiovascular disease:

Trans Fats

The vast majority of us have heard one way or another that Trans Fats are bad. Consuming them tends to raise LDL (bad) cholesterol AND lower HDL (good) cholesterol – a double whammy! Honestly though, you may have to scour the grocery store to find any products that list it on the label. So why are we still talking about it?

Deep Fried Foods are one common source of trans fats for many people out there. We get it: it is tough to beat french fries! And over here in Wisconsin you may be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t occasionally drooled over some deep fried cheese curds.

IMPORTANT: Pay attention to the temperature suggestion on your cooking oil! Over-heating oil (generally it will start smoking when this occurs) actually turns it into Trans Fat! Many are unaware of this, and it is a large part of the reason that deep fried foods is particularly culpable.

Margarine is another common Trans Fat consumed by many people out there. It was once thought that because margarine is plant-derived and lower in saturated fat than butter that it was a preferable substitute, but research shows that the partially-hydrogenated oils that make up margarine are significantly more detrimental to your health!

Baked Goods such as donuts, cakes, cookies, pies, etc. tend to contain high volumes of Saturated and Trans Fat.

What Can I Do About It?

Craving Deep Fried Food?

Try making your own by cutting up potatoes or sweet potatoes, adding olive oil and bake away! Haven’t tried Delicata Squash yet? Here’s another chance to try! Slice in 1/3” moon shaped pieces, toss with some olive oil, salt, and pepper and roast for a French fry feel!

Too Deeply Biased Against Butter?

Moderation and a natural choice would be my go-to suggestion, BUT I know that many people have taken butter out of their diet for so long that there is no going back. Or perhaps you are intolerant of dairy or have chosen to go 100% plant based? Find a spread that does NOT contain partially-hydrogenated or hydrogenated oils, and little saturated fat.

Snack Time?

Choose a healthier option by making your own healthy “treats” at home or eating fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth! Try a simple granola bar recipe and make it your own. Click here for an EASY and KID-TESTED Grab-and-Go Granola Bar recipe.

Processed Meat

Bacon, sausage, pepperoni, salami, cold cuts and cured meats. These processed meats tend to include a lot of added salt and preservatives. In addition, the n-nitroso, formed from sodium nitrite, in processed meat are linked to various forms of cancer. (Why do they add this to processed meat? To preserve the red/pink color of the meat, to improve flavor by inhibiting fat oxidation, and prevent the growth of bacteria). Try limiting processed meats to once a week or less as well as choosing fish, poultry, or lean red meat as an alternative.

The daily recommendation for sodium intake is 2,300mg max. The average U.S. adult consumes over 4,000mg PER DAY! Added salt can be found in packaged foods including chips, crackers, breads, canned products, condiments, and almost anything you see that is packaged in the stores. Try to avoid too many processed foods (whole foods have 0 added salt for the record!) and/or try to use other flavor enhancing techniques such as using natural spices, lemon juice, herbs, and more!

If processed meats are a staple in your home? Seek out nitrate/nitrite free lunch meats, bacon, sausage etc and keep an eye the sodium levels!

Added Sugar

When you “drink your calories” with sugar sweetened drinks your brain is not able to process the sugar intake as quickly, limiting the brain’s ability to say “You’re full – please stop!”

A high-sugar diet may also stimulate the liver to dump more harmful fats into the bloodstream. This leads to over-consumption, increased risk of inflammation, elevated blood glucose levels, and increased risk of heart disease.

Choose water whenever possible or at least an unsweetened beverage. You can also add fruit, cucumber, or herbs like mint to your water to change up the flavor if you struggle with plain ol’ life-giving, magical H20