Staying Healthy Through Winter

Is it harder for you to get out of bed on winter mornings when the temperature is low and it’s darker outside? You’re not alone. 

A sleepy Caucasian man turning an alarm offCold weather and fewer daylight hours create challenges in getting motivated to eat healthy and be physically active. When healthy habits are ebbing, your immune system weakens, increasing your risk of getting sick with a cold or the flu. About 20% of Americans get the cold or flu each year.

Despite the changes in weather, winter doesn’t have to be an unhealthy time for hibernation — you can use this time to take charge and refocus on your health. 

To get started, I’ll share some wellness tips I’m following to maintain good health and fitness this winter.

Curb the Carbs

Cold weather can increase carb and comfort food cravings (for me, it’s pre- and post-holiday cookies). After carb-filled foods are consumed, the brain hormone serotonin increases, causing cravings to continue throughout the day. Translation: The more carb-filled foods you consume, the more you crave. To break this cycle, eat protein-rich foods at breakfast (eggs, yogurt, hummus, low-fat cheese, etc.) for high energy throughout the day. To avoid afternoon carb cravings, I keep healthy snacks available like whole-grain crackers, peanut butter, and trail mix with nuts.

Up Your Fiber   

Foods with soluble fiber decrease inflammation and boost your immune system. Fiber stimulates infection-fighting T-cells which help you recover from infections faster. Apples, oats, nuts, avocados, citrus fruits, berries, and flaxseed are good sources of soluble fiber. Try adding two tablespoons of flaxseed to oatmeal or soups, or tossing sliced oranges or strawberries into salads or plain Greek yogurt.

Spice It Up

spicesFood-flavoring garlic, onion, ginger and cilantro have immune-boosting properties. Turmeric, used in Indian foods, contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. You can sprinkle turmeric on food, however when I’m feeling sluggish, I make a ‘turmeric tea’ (recipe below). Turmeric tea bags are also available at most stores.                                                           

Get Active: Outdoors or Indoors

Plenty of outdoor activities like ice skating, playing hockey, winter walks or runs in local parks are fun and can help you stay fit during the colder months. If you don’t want to be outdoors, check out your local library for online workout videos ranging from yoga, strength training, and aerobics you can do at home. Don’t like to work out alone?  Take a group fitness class at your local gym or community center where you can socialize and meet new people.  Bowling, swimming, and dancing are also great indoor activities.

Catch some sleep

Did you know, lack of sleep can make you sick? People who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after exposure to common cold viruses. Lack of sleep prevents your body from fighting infections and impacts how fast you recover. To boost your immune system get 7-8 hours of sleep for adults, 9-10 for teens and over 10 for school-aged children. Sleep routines are important too. Go to bed the same time each night, avoid caffeine 6 hours and smoking 2 hours before bedtime.

Turmeric TeaCloseup of tumeric powder spice on a spoon

  1. Boil 3 to 4 cups of water on the stove.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons of turmeric and stir.
  3. Simmer for about 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Strain the tea into another container.
  5. Add in honey, fresh squeezed lemon or orange juice, and milk to taste.

Is Your Drinking Water Another Source of Sodium?

Most Americans consume 3,000-5,000 milligrams of sodium per day, which is 25-55% more than the recommended 2,300 mg/day. For those on a restricted sodium diet, this amount is 2-3 times higher than the recommended 1,500 mg/day. Lisa recently provided tips to reduce sodium in your diet, as most of the salt you get is from food. But if you have high blood pressure or on a restricted sodium diet, have you considered whether your drinking water could be another source of sodium?

For example, if you have a home water softener to treat hard water, the water you drink can have significant amounts of sodium. One study showed that the average sodium concentration of softened well water was 278 mg/L. So, if you limit your sodium intake to 1500 mg/day, you would consume 45% of your allotted daily sodium when drinking the recommended 2.5-liters of water per day (which translates to eight 12-ounce glasses).

How much sodium should be in your drinking water?
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends sodium concentrations of 30 to 60 mg/L for drinking water. For those on a sodium-restricted diet, the EPA recommends 20 mg/L of sodium in drinking water. If your water is supplied by a public utility, your provider may have the sodium concentration data available. If you rely on well water, or your public utility does not have the data available, we recommend that you test your water very three years, using a certified lab. Testing is the only way to get accurate results for water sodium levels.

Living on a salt-restricted diet requires a lot of changes in how you cook and dine out. If you’ve been trying to limit your sodium intake, check your drinking water in case it could be acting as a source of sodium. (Photo by Katii Bishop)

How does sodium get into your drinking water?
Sodium can occur naturally in water, but it can also be derived by human activities, like:

  • Water softeners
  • Agricultural chemicals
  • Road de-icing salts

Studies in Maryland have shown that salt used for deicing roads has increased sodium and chloride concentrations in streams and shallow groundwater. The levels of sodium from road salts exceed the EPA-recommended limit.

How can you reduce the sodium in your drinking water?

If you have a water softener, make sure that you actually need it by testing for hardness, iron, and manganese. Consider switching to potassium chloride, instead of using sodium chloride, if:

  • Your water has a hardness of “hard” (120 mg/L) or higher,
  • You’re experiencing scale build up in pipes and dishes, or
  • You’re treating for elevated iron and manganese (rust staining).

If you do not have a water softener, you can use a reverse osmosis filter at the faucet(s) where you drink. These small filter units are termed point of use (POU) filters and can be installed under the sink.

You have heard the saying: You are what you eat. Since our bodies are 60% water, then perhaps you are also what you drink. And good quality drinking water is fundamental to your health.

Plant-based Protein: The Newest Trending Nutrient

I recently attended the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo to hear about emerging nutrition research and trends in foods. Dozens of vendors promoted plant-based protein products, which came in the form of shakes, bars, powders, pastas, and more. When walking through the massive exhibit hall, it was clear that protein was the trending nutrient!

Protein food sources are either animal-based or plant-based. All animal proteins and some plant proteins, like quinoa and soy, are “complete proteins” and contain all nine essential amino acids necessary for good health. Plant proteins that are missing amino acids can be combined together—like rice and beans, or hummus and pita—to become “complete” and provide all nine essential amino acids.

It’s no surprise that the food industry is responding to consumer’s desires for more protein, especially in plant form. Consumers are eating more plant-based proteins to reduce their carbon footprint and intake of animal foods. Consuming more plant-based foods is linked with longevity and reducing chronic conditions like, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

Protein is an essential nutrient. Consuming the daily recommended protein amount in your diet can help maintain weight loss.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. For example, a 150-pound woman requires a minimum of 54 grams(about 8 ounces) of protein daily. To calculate your personal protein needs, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2 then multiply by 0.8 grams. Pregnant and breastfeeding woman need slightly more protein, at 1.1 or 1.3 grams of protein per kilogram, respectively. Athletes and very active adults also need more protein.

To calculate your RDA for protein, enter your weight into the following equation:

[weight, in pounds] ÷ 2.2 × 0.8 = grams of protein

Many plant-based foods provide high-protein content. Soy products like tofu, take on flavors of the dish it’s prepared in. Edamame is a great snack or addition in stir fry Slide1 (2)dishes. Lentils add crunch to stews, salads or rice. Chickpeas, the key ingredient in hummus, is a healthy sandwich spread alternative. Peanuts (really a legume) and almonds, two of the “Heart-Healthy 7” nuts, are great additions to salads or trail mixes. Quinoa, an alternative for pasta or rice, is terrific in salads. One tablespoon of chia seeds boosts the protein in smoothies, yogurt, and puddings. Beans eaten separately are incomplete proteins, but become “complete” when eaten with grains.

One of my favorite protein-packed snacks is this recipe for roasted chickpeas. It’s delicious and filling.

Whether you eat a traditional or plant-based diet, most Americans consume enough protein. The key is balancing nutritious choices by including more plant-based, nutrient-rich foods and keeping unhealthy, highly processed foods to a minimum.


Find Out Your Risk Of Getting Diabetes In 60 Seconds

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 25% of the people in the U.S. who have Type 2 diabetes do not know it. Men are more likely to go undiagnosed, simply because many of them do not schedule routine check-ups with their doctor. But sixty seconds can make a difference in your health. The Diabetes Risk Test, offered by the American Diabetes Association, is an anonymous questionnaire that can reveal your risk for developing Type 2 diabetes in one minute. The American Diabetes Association developed the test so that you can take it yourself or on behalf of someone you love.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes, and with increasing rates of childhood obesity, adults and children are both at risk. Over time, diabetes can affect many parts of the body and lead to other health problems like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, and circulation problems that may lead to amputation. New evidence shows that people with Type 2 diabetes are also at a greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. 

The good news is you can prevent or delay some of the complications by acting quickly. 

The Diabetes Risk Test asks seven questions related to the risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. Some of the risk factors you can’t change, such as:  

  • Age: As you get older, your risk for diabetes increases. One in four people over the age of 60 have diabetes.
  • Gender: Men are at a higher risk of having Type 2 Diabetes, but so are women who had diabetes during their pregnancy (gestational diabetes).
  • Race and Ethnicity: Certain racial and ethnic groups, such as African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and Native Americans are more likely to develop diabetes.  
  • Family history: If you had a parent, brother or sister who had diabetes, your risk increases.

Other risk factors relate to lifestyle choices that influence your risk. 

  • Weight: The risk of having Type 2 diabetes increases as you get heavier.
  • Physical Activity: People who are inactive and/or overweight have an increased risk for diabetes. 
  • Blood Pressure: Having high blood pressure also contributes to your risk. 
Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and daily physical activity can help you prevent and manage not only Type 2 diabetes, but also heart disease, high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and cancer.

Knowing your risk for Type 2 diabetes is the first step to taking control of your health. Take the Diabetes Risk test. If your risk level is high, follow up with your health care provider. If there are lifestyle changes to lower your risk, start today.  Making a few small changes can have a big impact on your weight and your health. 

Make Good Nutrition A Lifestyle

March, being National Nutrition Month, is the perfect time to assess your diet as part of your daily lifestyle. Ask yourself if you’re ready to make changes and willing to try new things. Having the right mindset is critical to successfully changing behaviors for your health.

Here are some questions to get you on track for improving your diet.

How many fruits and vegetables do I eat a day?
You should aim for 5-9 servings a day. Try filling half your plate with a good balance of fruits and vegetables, and include all colors of the rainbow: broccoli, red peppers, purple cabbage, oranges, yellow squash, blueberries, onions, and others to have a variety of colors and tastes. Avoid eating the same ones every day.

Be wary of fruit and vegetable juices, which are often high in calories and low in fiber. Pre-made smoothies are another so-called “healthy” food to avoid. They are typically made with canned fruits that have added sugars.

Juices_Pixabay 1995433_1920
An easy way to get a variety of fruits and vegetables is to blend up a smoothie or juice. Make a protein-packed smoothie with frozen or fresh fruit (no sugar added), low-fat milk, and plain Greek yogurt. You can add natural peanut butter, nuts, or seeds for extra protein. If you don’t like the thickness of smoothies, just blend up your fruits and vegetables with water to make a healthy, filling juice. Image courtesy of Favorece.

Do I eat enough protein every day?
The average adult should consume 46-56 grams of protein a day. Lean meats, poultry, and fish are rich sources of protein (roughly 7 grams of protein per ounce), as are eggs, beans, nuts, and seeds. Protein is also found in dairy foods (milk, yogurt, and cheese), grains, and vegetables. Eating a variety of foods will provide adequate protein in your daily diet.

Do I include whole grains in my daily diet?
Whole grains have more nutrients and fiber than refined grains. Aim for three servings per day, which can include whole wheat/grain bread, brown rice, and whole grain cereals, like oatmeal. Cereals and snack crackers that state “Made with whole grain” may contain minimal amounts. Instead, check the ingredient list—the first flour listed should be whole grain or whole wheat flour, not bleached or unbleached wheat flour.

How often do I eat?
Experts suggest eating every 4-5 hours during the day. This helps maintain blood sugar and energy, and prevents cravings and overeating. Eating often means eating smaller “mini-meals” throughout the day or including snacks between meals to keep the cravings away.

Where do I eat most of my meals?
Eating at desks, in cars, or in front of a screen leads to distracted eating. Take a few minutes out of your busy schedule to mindfully eat your meals instead of multitasking through them. Being a mindful eater can help you reduce your calorie intake and lead to an overall healthier lifestyle.

Whole foods should always be your first choice when making selections for a healthier diet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. For individual nutrition counseling, find a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area by checking the Academy’s website. Their website also includes helpful articles, recipes, videos, and educational resources on healthy eating.

Use Process Goals To See Greater Progress

When my first child turned one, I felt terrible about my body and my goal was to get back into my pre-pregnancy jeans. Seven years and another child later, I’m still wearing the same postpartum pants, but that doesn’t mean I’m the same person. Would I like to be in my pre-pregnancy jeans? Of course! But I’ve also realized, that’s not really the goal for me anymore.

My goal to get back into my jeans is considered an outcome goal—it’s results-oriented. Focusing on a specific outcome might be a great motivator, but it’s also harder to control. So, despite working with a trainer and nutritionist, I couldn’t get back into my jeans. Outcome goals can also drive you to make unsustainable choices. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle requires building on healthy habits—a crash diet to lose 20 pounds won’t be healthy or sustainable, but slowly adjusting the meat:vegetable ratio on your plate, adding more exercise, or weaning yourself off sodas will be. These actions are processes that can be achieved through process goals. Process goals give you more control over your efforts and results, so that you can build your confidence and avoid getting frustrated to the point of quitting.

For me, my process goals were to learn:

  • Why I had such a strong sweet tooth at 9:00pm.
  • How to make the few hours I have to exercise effective and fun.

With the guidance of my nutritionist and trainer, a lot of hard work, and my fair share of frustration, this 7-year process has taught me:

  • How to manage my sweet tooth and prevent hangry mommy moments.
  • That the new mom doing exercises that I consider warm-ups will probably drop her baby weight by the next time I see her. I can feel really badly about that (which I did, for a while), but that’s not my body and no amount of frustration will change that.
  • That I’m naturally strong and by leaning into what my body can do, I can outperform someone half my age in push-ups and squats.

I used to hate lifting weights, but my trainer taught me how to get in, push myself, and get out. Now, I can tolerate it. It hasn’t always been fun, but I needed to experience this process to achieve the results that keep me coming back. I may not fit in my old jeans, but my legs are more muscular than when I was riding a bike 8-10 hours/week. I’m also faster and more agile than ever.

Today, my cholesterol levels dictate whether I need to lose the baby weight—not my vanity. Is that success? It is for me. I don’t feel bad about my body any more. I’ve also learned a lot, and I know I’m doing everything I can to get healthy at this point in my life. All I can do is commit to the process, see what happens, and adjust when life inevitably changes again. So my goals now are to manage my sweet tooth, get to bed earlier, hit the gym three times a week to work off stress and pump up my endorphins, and constantly look for more opportunity to get healthy.

If you’re not where you’d like to be with your goals, assess whether you’re focused on the outcome or the process. If you’re just worried about results, try aiming for processes that will support the outcome. And when you set those process goals, remember to make them S.M.A.R.T.

Healthy Steps To Prevent Cancer

More than one third of adults (38.4%) will be diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes. Children are at risk for developing cancer, too. Maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, and consuming healthy foods and moderate amounts of alcohol can prevent nearly half of all cancer diagnoses. As we celebrate National Cancer Prevention Month, now is a perfect time to make positive changes to reduce your risk of cancer. But do you know what actions to take?

The American Institute for Cancer Research’s campaign, Cancer Prevention: Together We Can, includes 10 cancer prevention recommendations.

  • Be a healthy weight. Next to not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing that reduces your risk of cancer.
  • Be physically active. Walk more and sit less! Aim for 150 minutes weekly of moderate activity and walk a few minutes every hour.
  • Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. Aim to fill at least two-thirds of your plate with vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.
  • Limit “fast foods” and processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars. Consuming “fast-foods” and a “Western-type” diet causes weight gain and obesity; both linked to 12 different cancers.
  • Limiting red and processed meats to 12 to 18 cooked ounces per week decreases risk of colorectal cancer.
  • Limit sugar-sweetened drinks. Excessive amounts of sugary drinks causes weight gain and obesity, and increases cancer risk. Drink more water!

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If you have a soda habit, try weaning yourself off with fruit-infused waters.

  • Limit alcohol. Alcohol in any form is a linked to six different cancers. If you choose to drink, limit 1 drink for women and 2 for men per day.
  • Don’t use supplements for cancer prevention. Most people can get the nutrients they need to reduce their risk of cancer by consuming a healthy diet.
  • Breastfeed your baby, if you can. For mothers, breastfeeding lowers cancer-related hormone levels in the body and babies are less likely to become overweight and obese, a risk for some cancers.
  • After a cancer diagnosis, follow all these recommendations as much as possible.

Ready to take action? Get AICR’s 30-Day Cancer Prevention Checklist for eating smarter and being more active and recipes for cancer prevention. Then kick start your diet with a Winter Berry Smoothie Bowl recipe, one of my favorite snacks all year long.

Go Ahead & Go Red For Women’s Heart Health

Heart disease is the leading killer of women. One in 3 women die each year—many from heart attacks because they didn’t recognize the symptoms. Most people associate a heart attack with sudden severe chest pain and pain radiating down the left arm, but women often experience milder symptoms that go untreated. Nearly 80% of cardiac events can be prevented just by knowing what to look for and making lifestyle changes.

Know the Symptoms of Heart Attacks in Women
According to the American Heart Association, women may experience the following symptoms:

  • Discomfort or pain in the chest that can last more than a few minutes, or go away and come back.
  • Difficulty breathing a few weeks before experiencing a heart attack,
  • Irregular pain in one or both arms, back, neck, jaw, or stomach, and/or
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as nausea and fatigue, in the weeks and days before a heart attack.

Trust your intuition if you are not feeling normal and seek medical care.

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You can read stories of other women’s experiences with heart disease at the Go Red For Women website.

Take Action to Prevent Heart Disease
Knowing your risk factors and taking action is the first step in preventing heart disease. Here are some suggestions for shifting towards a heart healthy lifestyle. Remember to start off slow—choose one behavior and build up slowly to achieve your goal.

  • Quit smoking and try to avoid secondhand smoke as well.
  • Get active. You want to move for 150 minutes per week.
  • Manage your stress by balancing work, family and personal time.
  • Get annual check-ups to monitor your blood cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and heart health. Learn about your family’s medical history, especially related to heart disease.
  • Adjust your diet.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables, which can help you consume less high-fat foods, such as meat, cheese and snack foods.
  • Control your portions—overloading your plate and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories than you need.
  • Eat more whole grains like whole wheat bread, oatmeal and brown rice.
  • Be picky about your fats. Choose healthy monounsaturated fats (olive oil or canola oil) and polyunsaturated fats (certain fish, avocados, nuts and seeds). Eat less saturated and trans fats by limiting butter, margarine and shortening in your diet, and trimming fat off your meat.
  • Choose low-fat protein sources like lean meats, poultry without the skin, heart-healthy fish, low-fat dairy products, and legumes, such as beans, peas and lentils.
  • Use less salt—this includes salt you add while cooking or sitting at the table, and the salt from canned or processed foods, such as soups and frozen dinners. Eating fresh foods and making your own soups and stews can reduce the amount of salt you eat.

As women, we tend to be the caregivers and put others ahead of ourselves. However, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t take care of others. Now is the time to make your health a priority! To learn more, get more tips, and make a commitment pledge, go to