Lifestyle

Chronic Pain: What We Know And How To Manage It!

Chronic Pain

It’s important to note that all pain is real! Chronic pain is not “all in your head.” It is pain that persists beyond the acute stage (greater than two months). It often occurs independent of actual tissue damage, meaning that there is no damage to muscle, tendon, ligament, bone, etc that is causing the pain.

Chronic pain involves changes that occur within the brain in response to pain that lasts for long periods of time. Areas in the brain that are not associated with perceiving pain begin to perceive signals as pain – meaning that activities that should not cause pain are now painful! This can significantly affect the quality of one’s life.

Chronic pain affects almost 1 in 3 people worldwide! The cost in the US is about $600 billion annually for medical treatment, lost wages, and lost work time. Chronic pain is the most common reason to seek treatment and the most common reason for disability and addiction. The cost of treatment for chronic pain in the US is even greater than those for cancer, heart disease, dementia, and diabetes care.

Currently, chronic pain is not managed well by healthcare providers. A common treatment is the use of opioids. Opioids (e.g. codeine, morphine, hydrocodone (Norco), oxycodone, fentanyl) are meant for short term management of acute pain. They are not meant for long term management of chronic pain. Medication alone cannot treat chronic pain. When other treatments are added in addition to medication, outcomes are shown to be better. Some people on long term opioid treatment actually experience the side effect of hyperalgesia (or hypersensitivity) which increases pain!

How to Manage

There are several other ways to manage chronic pain in addition to medication.

Exercise – start with light, painfree activities and increase as you are able

Reduce stress as stress causes increased inflammation which can lead to increased pain

Learn more about your condition – learn how others manage to control their pain and maintain their function

Keep up with normal activities as much as possible

Improve your overall health

Avoid bed rest and inactivity – Bed rest will not improve your pain and may make it worse, as it leads to other problems such as weakness, weight gain, and poor circulation.

Consume an anti-inflammatory diet
– Emphasizes plant-based foods and anti-inflammatory spices: turmeric, ginger
– Nutrient deficiency is common in chronic pain and can be worsened by long term use of analgesics (common deficiencies include vitamin D and magnesium)
– Make sure you have the correct intake of omega 3 fatty acids

Make sure you are hydrated
– Dehydration can amplify chronic pain symptoms such as headaches, muscle aches, joint stiffness, and fatigue
– Proper hydration is key in managing pain and improving our body’s function
– Caffeine intake to address loss of sleep, fatigue, and headaches can contribute to dehydration
– The recommendation for appropriate amount of water varies but 64 oz is a great place to start

Make sure you are getting enough sleep
– Position modification
– Stretching before bed
– See if there are other factors other than pain that are contributing to loss of sleep
– Caffeine intake
– Stimulants such as light or noise
– Use of cell phones or other electronics prior to bed

Physical therapy or occupational therapy to increase strength, increase mobility, and improve function as well as to address pain

Be your own advocate when seeking treatment. Only you know what you are feeling and how it affects you. Work to find the treatment that is best for you!

This blog was specially written by our friend and guest writer Rachel Zimmerman, DPT.

Rachel is clinic director at ATI Physical Therapy in Green Bay, WI. You can find out more about her clinic or find a location near you at ATIpt.com!

The Selfish Reason You Should Volunteer!

Life is busy. It is for everyone. BUT…our community wouldn’t be a community at all without everyone doing their part and chipping in! Not only is volunteering important to make our community a better place, but volunteering can have a slew of health benefits. Check this out!

Volunteering can can reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, provide a sense of purpose, connect you to others, add fulfillment to your life, and even be FUN! This week we are going to dive more into the health benefits of volunteering and where you can volunteer and how to get started!

The Selfish Case For Volunteering

1. It Makes You Happy!

By measuring hormones and brain activity, researchers have discovered that being helpful to others delivers immense pleasure. Human beings are hard-wired to give to others. The more we give, the happier we feel. Volunteering increases self-confidence. You are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals!

2. It Preserves Your Health!

Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not. Older volunteers tend to walk more, find it easier to cope with everyday tasks, are less likely to develop high blood pressure, and have better thinking skills. Volunteering can also lessen symptoms of chronic pain and reduce the risk of heart disease – the leading cause of death in the U.S.!

3. It Keeps You Moving!

Tough Schedule? Instead of volunteering for an organization, you could always do something yourself like take time to go pick up trash from a park or by a river or on a beach. Set up some garbage or recycle bins on places that might not have them like walking trails or outdoor places.

4. It Fosters Connections and Purpose!

Volunteering can help you make new friends with similar interests! Not ready to go at it on your own? Grab your family, kids, friends, etc! Set an example for others. Change drives change!

Find something that works for you and something that will provide a sense of purpose, something that resonates with your soul. Older adults, especially those who have retired or lost a spouse, can find new meaning and direction in their lives by helping others. Whatever your age or life situation, volunteering can help take your mind off your own worries and add a sense of purpose and value.

Now What?

How do I get started?

ASK! Ask your friends, schools, work, do some research online, etc.

For our members in Northeast Wisconsin, you can look into: The NEW ZOO, the CP center, Botanical Gardens, Golden House, Paul’s Pantry, St Vincent de Paul, or in St Louis The Ronald McDonald House (www.rmhcstl.com/‎) and so many more! The possibilities are endless.

Check out The Volunteer Center of Green Bay. https://www.volunteergb.org/ or Volunteer Match in St. Louis www.volunteermatch.org/St_Louis/Volunteering‎.

Your local United Way is also a great resource. United Way of Brown County or United Way St. Louis.

Additional Resources

We have a good list of suggestions to begin with for you here, but of course there are incredible numbers of organizations doing good for your local community, and they almost all could use a helping hand!

Do you love to garden? Check out the botanical gardens. Green BaySt Louis or check out The Farmory in Green Bay or the Food Bank in St. Louis.

Have a passion for cooking? Help prepare food at the homeless shelter or drive for meals on wheels. You can check out other opportunities through the county Aging & Disability Resource Center.

Perhaps consider contributing to a better world on a small scale, by being a mentor to children by partnering up with a “little” through Big Brother’s Big Sisters. Or in St Louis at the Crisis Nursery!

Prefer a “Hands On” approach? Volunteer at Habitat for Humanity! One of the many jobs at the Habitat for Humanity store is lifting and carrying items to and from the customers car and merchandise preparation. On a build site, volunteers lift, climb, and walk during construction tasks staying very active! Take a look at www.habitat.org to locate opportunities to help in your area.

5-Minute Hacks that Can Change Your Life!

Let’s say you sleep 9 hours a night and work 8 hours a day – that doesn’t seem like you have much time left huh? Only 7 hours in fact, and for most of us we are taking kids to school or sports, cooking food, cleaning, etc to boot!

But let’s break this down into usable units…you have EIGHTY-FOUR 5-minute chunks left of your day. Right now we’re going to ask you to use only SIX of them to better your health and quality of life. Think you are up to the challenge?

1. Listen to Your Favorite Song

Music activates just about every area of that brain that has been mapped so far. If you are looking to calm down, a slow-tempo song that soothes you will help the most. Make sure it’s also in a calm environment where you can hear and focus on the music, maybe put some headphones on and dim the lights. Looking for a mid-day pick me up? Get in the car and crank up the volume on that up-tempo song that makes you want to sing your heart out!

2. Declutter One Small Area

Being organized helps save time in all areas of your life…not searching for those lost keys, documents…appointment reminders! Knowing things are organized also improves your mental focus and reduces stress.

Have 5 more minutes? Take a look at your calendar and organize a busy day. Planning ahead can make sure you don’t miss your child’s basketball game…or your favorite workout!

3. Call a Friend or Loved One

Social connection reduces the incidence of depression, high blood pressure, and all-cause mortality. The bad news? Social media and text messaging don’t count for as much.

Now we all have that person who we know will NEVER let us off the phone in 5 minutes, save that conversation until you are ready to settle in or maybe schedule a date to meet out for coffee. Call someone you know will understand that you have only 5 minutes and just want to connect for a moment. Watch your mood lift as you hang up the phone!

4. Go to Bed 5 Minutes Earlier

Not tired yet? Read, meditate, pray, or try some light yoga to bring your body into a peaceful state for sleep. Turn off the phone and TV! Getting 7-9 hours of sleep helps prevent heart disease, inflammation (i.e. during recovery from your workouts!), obesity, depression, and stress. Try setting your alarm to actually remind you that it’s time to go to bed!

5. FLOSS!

It is never too late! Your gums may bleed for a couple days but that will subside as your gums heal. Not flossing/cleaning the gunk out between your teeth will cause plaque build-up which can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and can be a risk factor for heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. If that isn’t enough, flossing can drastically reduce bad breath…a win-win for everyone!

6. 5-Minute Workout

For starters, just making the decision to work out even for only 5-minutes will ignite the motivation for more! Start with 5-minutes, whether it be stretching, a quick jog, or holding a few planks. When it comes to exercise, something is always better than nothing.

Here is a simple 5-minute workout: Choose a higher intensity move, like speed squats, and run through it in Tabata format. 20 seconds work, 10 seconds rest, 8 rounds. 1-minute rest or cool down/stretch. BAM! 5-minute workout that will boost your energy, and make you feel accomplished.

Seriously everyone, I just read this entire article aloud. It took me THREE MINUTES!

So Here’s #7 – Read This Blog Post Every Day!

Until you know it by heart anyway, and you have fully integrated these 5-minute fixes into your life.

Gear Up For Your Spring Garden!

The winter can start to feel quite long this time of year – especially with seemingly endless winter vortices, storms and bitter cold – but Spring planting, gardens, and produce are just around the corner!

If starting seeds indoors, now is the time to start your broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, lettuce, and eggplant! As soon as the soil can be worked, spinach and parsley seeds can be tossed in the ground! This week we’re talking about different ways to obtain and grow your own local produce.

Find help in growing your own produce through your local county horticultural department!

In the Green Bay, WI area go to https://www.co.brown.wi.us/ and navigate to Departments/ UW-Extension area you will find tons of resources like classes and articles to help you with gardening needs (and a lot of community resources that you may not even know about!).

There is specifically a page for Urban Horticulture and Natural Resources Program which has weekly articles and resources for soil testing, plant identification, and more.

Find Local Produce Through a CSA:

What is a CSA? In Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA), a farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public in return for a seasonal fee of anywhere from $350-$700 depending on the farmer and program.

Shares typically consist of a box of produce, but other farm products may also be included like jams, baked goods, eggs, soaps, herbs, and more! Many farmers will team up with other local farmers or businesses to provide the largest selection of fruit, vegetables, animal, and/or dairy products they can.

Now is the time to get signed up! Typically farmers take a survey from their pledged consumers before the planting season so they can be sure to provide as much of the things you want as they can. What could be better??

You can find local CSA’s by searching www.localharvest.org. Wisconsin members check out the CSA delivered right here to Ellipse Fitness Allouez! Healthy Ridge Farm, now offering ½ shares too!

Read our past blog post on CSA’s here!

Get to Your Local Farmer’s Market!

Not sure where to find one close to you? Check out localharvest.org and click on Farmer’s Markets where you can search your city or zip code to see a map and listing of markets near you!

The Green Bay WINTER Farmer’s market, weekly at the KI Center, just wrapped but, keep an eye out next season to satisfy your needs for local products when it is frosty out!

Community Garden Blitz!

In the Green Bay area, the Brown County UW Extension teams up with New Leaf Foods with a program called Green Bay Garden Blitz, to provide the resources and knowledge of urban gardening by selling and installing raised garden beds, with the help of volunteers, at a low cost ($175 for an 8’x4’ rot resistant box including delivery, installation, and soil)!

They also provide experienced gardener mentors for new growers. Since 2014, 547 gardens have been built in Green Bay through this program. This year even local public schools will benefit from boxes being installed at school locations allowing classrooms to learn first-hand about healthy food and nutrition (www.newleaffoods.org).

6 Must-Haves to Deck Out Your Kitchen!

Have you ever wondered how those celebrity chefs always look overjoyed to be running around the kitchen cooking??

Look closer and you’ll notice they have all the proper tools, things are organized and measured out, and you probably haven’t ever seen them do the dishes!

You might have to enlist a friend, spouse or kids to take care of that last one, but this week we’re helping you deck out your kitchen to make sure you have what you need to enjoy cooking and food prep!

Start Simple: Get the Basics

1. Sharp Knives

Make sure you have sharp knives to work with! If you don’t have a good knife sharpener at home, go and get one. There’s nothing worse than trying to cut a tomato with a dull knife – you might as well use a hammer. Preparation time can be cut in half with the right knives!

2. Silicone Cookware

Do you have silicone cookware in your home? If not, it’s a must! Silicone utensils have become fairly commonplace, but now it comes in the form of muffin, loaf, and cake pans – even parchment! The non-stick capability is unbelievable AND it’s dishwasher safe!

Silicone bakeware can go straight from the freezer to the oven, and utensils won’t scrape your cooking surfaces!

*Not sure if it’s 100% silicone? Give it a pinch test. When you pinch the silicone material, if it changes color, stay away. If it looks the same, you are good to go

3. Quality Pots and Pans

Have you ever tried to cook with a wobbly pot on a cooktop? Not only is it annoying, but you’ll get uneven cooking. Still working with scratched up teflon pots and pans you’ve had for 10 years? It might be time for an upgrade!

There are some that swear by cast-iron skillets (*be careful of scratching a cooktop) and there is a “Cadillac” of pans, the carbon steel option is what most restaurants reach for – like cast iron for heat retention, but a fraction of the weight.

Have you ever used a “Chef’s Pan” AKA “Saucier Pan”? With their higher edges they can not only work for standard frying, and sautéing, but also take the place of a soup kettle for smaller batches and are excellent for “one-pan” type dishes.

4. Baking Sheet

Did you know a cookie sheet is defined as a sheet without sides, or just a small lip, and a baking sheet has a rimmed edge? The rimmed edge can be helpful to contain juices and oils for general cooking.

Look for a pan with a 10-18 gauge rating (the lower the gauge, the thicker/more durable the pan) to avoid warping and thus more uniform baking. A good quality sheet with uncoated aluminum can provide a, surprisingly, non-stick environment! You can use baking sheets to make full meals with one sheet a million different ways – just check out this Roast Chicken and Veggies Recipe!

5. Box Grater

With a high quality 4-sided box grater you can make food prep a breeze! The largest setting is perfect for the most common, cheeses of course but also vegetables like zucchini, apples, carrots, onions, cabbage, and more! Even tomatoes if you are using for sauce!

There is the side for smaller shreds. The prickly side for grating things like hard cheese and zesting citrus. The slicing side can take the place of a mandolin in a pinch.

TIP: Freeze cheese for a short time to making shredding easier.

TIP 2: Save your knuckles by purchasing Food Grade Cut Resistant Gloves!

6. Measuring Cups

Did you ever wonder why you need one of those glass type measuring cups for liquid? Why can’t you just use a regular measuring cup?

Standard measuring cups are meant for solids where you can just scrape along the top to get a precise measurement. Liquid measuring cups indicated 1C = 8 oz but it means one cup = 8 FLUID ounces.

Dry ingredients differ in weight, i.e 1C of flour = 4.5 ounces, not 8oz. If your recipe calls for ounces of dry ingredients, make sure to weigh it!

TIP: Yogurt should be measured in a liquids cup.

It Takes More Than an Apple a Day to Keep the Doctor Away!

This week we are highlighting an exciting new App from NutritionFacts.Org called Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen.

NutritionFacts.Org is a free website that curates the piles and piles of research out there and scours it to weed out bias, flawed studies, and more to provide short summary videos and articles on every health topic you can imagine.

Recently, they released this FREE app. Rather than food plans, it offers a daily list you can check off of the healthiest foods that are ideally consumed on a daily basis. This week we’ll look at a few of the checkbox categories and offer ways to incorporate them into your diet. Download the app and follow along to add an additional check to your list each day!

Get it here for Apple – or here for Android

Incorporate More Beans!

Blend various types of beans with spices to make spreads for sandwiches or vegetable dips! Add pureed beans to thicken soups! The possibilities are endless!

Here’s a 5-Minute Black Bean Dip!

Add Berries!

Berries can be added to many whole grain-based dishes, like quinoa and kale salads. Have you tried the Costco bagged kale salad with cranberries and pepitas? Yum!

More Flaxseed Please!

Try adding flaxseed to your oatmeal, smoothies, dressings, or anything you’d like adding a slightly nutty flavor too! Packed full of healthy omega-3 fats and fiber!

Eat More Cruciferous Veggies!

Add more cruciferous vegetables to your day like red cabbage in your tacos, broccoli or kale in a pasta dish, or even roasted Brussel sprouts on your salad!

Add Whole Cooked Grains!

For a more filling meal, try adding whole grains like barley, buckwheat, quinoa, farrow, oat groats, or millet to soups and salads!

Simple Tips That Will Change Dieting Forever

Not Sure Where To Begin?

We have all been there. It is time to make a change. You feel like you need to make a major shift in the way you eat. A friend had great success with this or that extreme diet, while someone else you know had terrible results.

There is so much information, and honestly so much BAD information out there with regards to dieting and proper nutrition that sometimes it can be overwhelming. Making drastic changes, cutting, slashing, restricting, etc can lead to a very short-lived diet change for most of us. Try taking it one step at a time and incorporating these basic ideas!

1. Eat Intuitively!

Intuitive Eating is associated with lower body fat and better relationships with food. Eat intuitively by rating your hunger on a scale from 1 (weakness/dizziness has set in) to 10 (you may have to roll me out the door/filled to the point of feeling sick).

Really listening to your body before eating, to determine if you are truly hungry, and while eating slowing down to let your body detect fullness levels, will keep you on the right track with intuitive eating. Try it at your next meal!

2. Think Abundance Instead of Restriction!

Start by adding an additional serving of vegetables to your day. Once that becomes habit, add two servings. When eating intuitively, the vegetables will start to take the place of more calorie dense food choices like starches or junk food!

3. Check Your Portions!

Our friends at Precision Nutrition suggests a palm of protein, a cupped hand of carbohydrates, a fist of vegetables, and a thumb of fat for most. If you are still hungry, add another fist of vegetables. Click the image for a great article on portion control!

Still hungry after intuitively eating? Add a small amount of protein. It will take a number of weeks (maybe even months) to work through and find the amounts and timing that works best for you body, lifestyle, and schedule. There is no one-size fits all in nutrition, but start from a baseline and build from there.

4. Don’t Give Up All Your Favorites!

The IDEA Fitness Journal suggests “Flipping” your ingredients. Instead of that traditional burrito, ask for a burrito bowl which puts all the ingredients of a burrito into a bowl instead of a wrap.

Instead of eating ice cream with fruit on top, try a spoonful of ice cream on top of a bowl of fruit!

Instead of a steak dinner with a side of potato and vegetable, try a salad with sliced steak and cubed potatoes on the side.

(Source: Padgett, Cassandra MS . “Nutrition Hacks Based on Hard Science” IDEA Fitness Journal, January 2019: 46-49. Print)

5. Beware of False “Health Food”!

Be cautious of “Food Halos” – foods high in sugar or artificial ingredients that are packaged to appear healthy and may even be lurking in the “health food” section of the grocery store!

Tuna and chicken salads for instance are often laden with heavy amounts of mayo. Making your own? Try swapping out the mayo for plain Greek yogurt.

Think instant oatmeal is a healthy go-to breakfast? Be watchful of high sugar levels! Consider using one pack and adding plain rolled oats, walnuts, and berries to balance out the load…even better, start with plain oats and build your own oatmeal so you are aware of what is going into it!

6. Build Healthy Habits!

The most important thing to remember is that building healthy habits and determining the right path for YOUR body will take time. Determine your priority in nutrition. Where can you make an easy change that will have significant results for your health and wellness?

Is it more water every day? Maybe you drink several sodas per day and just swapping them out with water will yield you incredible benefits!

Need to eat more vegetables? To trim out the excess snacking or late-night eating? Work on ONE habit first and do not move on until it’s mastered. For many, this will take at least a week or two. In some cases, much longer.

It may take more time than you’d like – scratch that, it WILL take longer than you’d like – but in the long run when it’s just part of what you do and you are well on your way to your goal, it will seem like a blink in time.

Take it one step at a time…

Pets and Health: Bigger Than You Thought!

According to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey (yes that is a real thing!), 68% of US households – about 85 million families – own a pet.

Studies have shown that dog owners particularly decrease their risk of death in general by 33 percent compared with those without a pet!!

This week we’ll talk about how pets can have a positive impact on your health from stress to fitness! Don’t have a pet? Go check out the local humane society and/or pet sanctuaries!

Pets and Stress Response:

Now this may depend on the person – and on the pet – but numerous studies have shown that pets can help lower blood pressure and regulate the heart rate during stressful conditions. Even when they are not with you at the time! Pretty amazing. Outside of casual health benefits, therapy animals can be used for more extensive needs, such as equine therapy for conditions from depression, to anxiety and post-traumatic stress!
Check out this link for info on therapy dogs!

Pets and Staying Active:

Pets can help you stay active, particularly if you have a pet that requires outside time. Walking the dog for instance is an activity that will force you to get outside in even the harsh winter conditions instead of loafing around when the weather is poor! Going for a short walk can have tremendous health benefits when compared with hours of sitting uninterrupted.

Pets and Mental Health:

On the same idea as licensed therapy pets, pets love you for who you are without judgement, which can lead to feelings of acceptance that one may not always get from family or society! Dog parks can be a great way to get active with your pet as well as have a social outlet with others that share a common interest.

Find local parks, and establishments, where you can bring your dog along at www.bringfido.com. Check out the activities area for local dog parks and outdoor options.

Pets and Allergies:

The National Institute of Health has suggested “children exposed to high indoor levels of pet or pest allergens during infancy have a lower risk of developing asthma by 7 years old.” (Source) A similar earlier study found homes with cats had a protective effect, having made allergy-related antibodies, against asthma symptoms in young children. Some scientists believe pets carry microbes that stimulate the immune system so that children don’t become allergic. (Source)

A Pet a Day Keeps the Doctor Away:

Two studies involving the same participants 5 years apart showed that people who had a pet both at the first and second touchpoint had the fewest doctors visits of the group, followed by the group who had no pet the first round and had then acquired one within the 5 years preceding the next.

Take a moment to think about that!

Dog, Cat, Horse, Fish, Bird – any pet counts!

More Resources:
http://www.center4research.org/benefits-pets-human-health/
https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/features/6-ways-pets-improve-your-health#2

Plant-Based Eating Tips and Recipes!

It’s no longer a secret that shifting towards plant-based/whole foods eating, which minimizes processed foods, is best for your overall health.

Plant-based eating limits, or eliminates, animal products and focuses on fruits, vegetables, legumes, seeds/nuts, and whole grains which provides higher amounts of many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Many think of vegetarian’s when they think of plant-based eating, but there are numerous varieties of eating plant-based. This week we’ll look at the differences among them and maybe find a plant-based style that works for you!

But FIRST: To kick off your New Year, today’s mission for you is to go through your cupboards and toss, donate, or give away all those foods that do not fit your health and fitness goals – and start anew! Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with some healthy recipes too!

Which Plant-Based Diet is Right For You?

No matter who you are, we believe the majority of your diet should be plant-based. Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t be healthy eating animal products, just that we should strive to allow plants to make up the majority of our calories and nutrition. Let’s discuss some varieties of primarily plant-based diets:

Vegetarian

Even within this meat-less category there are numerous forms:

Lacto-Vegetarian – Including dairy products such as milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.

Ovo-Vegetarian – Including eggs only

Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian – As you may have guessed, lacto-ovo-vegetarians exclude meat but allows for dairy and eggs.

Pescatarian

Essentially, vegetarians that exclude dairy and eggs but do include fish. Fatty-fish, like salmon area great way to get your omega-3’s in. For the most benefit, look for wild caught salmon vs farmed.

Not a big fish fan? Try Sea Cuisine which offers sustainably caught seafood with a variety of tasty flares like Mediterranean crusted salmon, tortilla crusted tilapia, and summer herb crusted cod. They also offer non-crusted fish like blacked Cajun salmon. Available in most grocery stores in the frozen fish area.

Flexitarian

Flexitarians are “casual” vegetarians that occasionally eat meat, fish, dairy and/or eggs. For many it is hard to make the switch altogether away from animal products and still adequately meet nutritional needs – at least until they figure out strategies and recipes that allow them to do so. Not everything has to be a clean break!

Vegan

While veganism and vegetarianism crossover much of the same territory – veganism tends to take things to another level by even excluding products from insects – like honey for instance – and in some cases branching beyond what goes in your mouth and abstaining from using non-dietary animal products like wool.

To cover all ends of the spectrum, on this extreme we have Raw Veganism, which also do not cook their foods above 104-118 degrees F, instead relying primarily on preparation methods of blending, dehydrating, soaking, and sprouting.

Recipes

Plant-based eating doesn’t mean you have to eat exotic flavors and try crazy new dishes if you don’t wish!

Try this “Burger” In A Bowl from our friends at Precision Nutrition! Squeeze a dollop of ketchup and mustard over a cup of warm, cooked, lentils and top with a chopped pickle and dash of hemp seeds. This 300 calorie dish serves up 25 grams of protein!

Chopped Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing:
This lacto-vegetarian dish includes some chickpeas with a healthy dose of cabbage, tomatoes, and cucumber along with some healthy fat to keep you full and satisfied!

The dressing blends an avocado with a small amount of plain Greek yogurt, and is a great dressing to keep on hand for any kind of salad!

Get the full recipe here!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos:

Interested in becoming plant-based but don’t know where to start? Try increasing the number of meatless meals you serve. Find ways to include more greens daily. Try substituting a more vegetarian take on already favorite dish like chili or Mexican dishes (sweet potato and black beans versus ground beef in this recipe).

Thai Peanut Quinoa Salad:

This vegan and vegetarian friendly dish includes a major dose of veggies – cabbage, carrots, green onion, snow or snap peas, and cilantro – plus quinoa for a protein boost! (Use maple syrup instead of honey to complete as a vegan dish).

Get it here!

Plant-based diets can tend to be deficient in specific micronutrients like vitamin B-12, calcium, omega-3’s, and vitamin D. You may want to consider getting tested for these nutrients and/or supplement for them if you become a plant-based eater or vegetarian/vegan. Good luck!

Low Calorie Mocktails for a Guilt-Free Party Season!

Between Christmas and the New Year celebrations, the drinks are usually flowing and can cause havoc on fitness goals. We know it’s not reality for most to avoid all alcoholic drinks this season, so instead let’s talk about ways you can lighten up your cocktails!

Sparkling Water can be a magical ingredient when it comes to lightening up your cocktails. Stock up and get ready for healthier mixology 101 this week!

Moscow Mules

These are certainly a buzz drink right now! Everywhere you look it’s Copper Mugs and Ginger Beer. Unfortunately, they are also loaded with sugar! Topping 20 grams per glass and loaded with around 200 calories. Many ginger beers contain unwanted ingredients and most don’t even have actual ginger in them!

Here’s how to create a 100 calorie low sugar Moscow Mule. It combines ginger root, water, stevia, lemon juice, sparkling water, vodka and mint. Get the recipe here – YUM!

Green Tea Toddy

Jazz up your cocktail with green tea antioxidants! Brew 8 ounces of green tea and chill 1/2 for the next drink on our list!

For this one, use 4 ounces of the hot green tea and dissolve 1 oz of honey in it. Add 2 ounces of bourbon and toss in a cinnamon stick for flare. Simple AND delicious!

Fizzy Sparkling Mocktail

Use the leftover tea that you chilled in the fridge:

Pour 1/2 cup of Cherry Sparkling Hint Water over 1/2 cup of chilled green tea. Add fresh mint for an added minty boost and top with 2 oz Vodka if desired!

Blackberry Mocktail

Crush some blackberries in a glass. Add ice and 2 TBSP of lemon juice. Add 4 ounces of HINT Blackberry Fizz water. Enjoy and be Angelic!

Not feeling so angelic? Add 2 ounces of vodka and enjoy!

Too Much Work You Say??

Looking for a single step, lower calorie drink? Try the new White Claw Hard Seltzer. With 110 calories per can, it combines seltzer water, a spike of alcohol, and some natural fruit flavors to give you the feel of a cocktail without the load of calories and sugar.