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Monday, April 21, 2014

How to Steer Clear of the Drive-thru

The average American eats fast food 3 times per week.  That can add up to as much as 190,000 calories per year (which equates to 54 pounds of weight gain if not worked off in physical activity). 
Wow!  The average American's 159 trips to the drive-thru can really add up in more ways than one. 
Here are some strategies to help you drive past the drive thru.
  1. Discuss the changes you want to make as a family.  If everyone is accustomed to hitting the drive thru after soccer, dance and karate practice each week, they might be a little surprised or a little mutinous if you drive straight home without any explanation.  Healthy nutrition should be a family affair and everyone deserves to know the reasons behind the healthy changes.  
  2. Emphasize the monetary as well as the health benefits.  Money and time are the big motivators in our society.  So use that to your advantage.  Calculate the money you can save by avoiding the drive-thru.  You may even want to make plans for a fun family activity or "stay-cation" with the drive-thru funds you save.
  3. Have a planned menu in place.  More often than not, the siren-song of the drive-thru is extra tempting when we don't have dinner planned.  Take a few minutes each week to write down that week's menu.  Again - family input here is key if you want them on board.  
  4. Plan B.  There will inevitably be times when you find yourself out longer running errands than you expected, or you forgot to get dinner into the crockpot that morning.  Instead of hitting the drive-thru, hit the grocery store instead.  Have everyone choose their favorite sandwich item, grab some whole grain bread and some fruit, and Viola! you have a quick, healthy dinner to enjoy when you get home. 
  5. Emergency car food.  As for the times when you are far from home, stuck in traffic, or dying of hunger with no grocery store in sight, keep a few things tucked away in the glove compartment of your car.  Dried fruit, nuts, individual nut butter packets, pretzels or whole grain crackers and water bottles are great ways to stave off the crave and keep you out of the drive-thru line.
Not only will you save money and calories, but you'll be teaching your children that eating out (whether in a sit-down restaurant, or from a drive-thru) is an occasional, once-in-a-while thing. . . not a routine occurrence.  That - more than anything - is reason enough to steer clear.  

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Tax Season Taxing Your Health? Eat Wisely to Reduce Stress

Life's hectic pace seems to intensify this time of year with tax season and a change of season bringing all their extra work and worry.  But whether or not this is an unusually stressful time of year for you, chances are that your stress is taking it's toll on your health.  Most, if not all of us, have higher than optimal levels of stress hormones circulating in our systems.  While these chemicals serve the purpose of instigating the fight or flight response, they aren't meant to chronically circulate even in moderate levels in our bloodstream.  Heart disease, high blood pressure, inflammation and even obesity can trace some of their roots back to the stress hormones our bodies produce. So in addition to regular physical exertion, relaxation and balancing your time priorities, keep in mind that what and how you eat can help your body reduce it's stress load.

  • Water.  Drink plenty and frequently.  Keeping well hydrated allows your body to metabolize and utilize nutrients optimally.  Also proper hydration can help stave off stressful health problems such as fatigue, headaches and urinary tract infections.

  • Fruits and veggies.  These foods are loaded with antioxidants that not only improve our immune response, but also help lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation.  The fiber and water content also help keep your digestion regular (which, when not regular, can be a real source of stress).
  • Nuts and avocados.  Heathy fats are helpful with reducing inflammation and the body's stress response.  Plus, these foods are also loaded with vitamins and minerals that, for most Americans, fall into the inadequate category.  Nuts are great at providing protein as well as fiber so they make a healthy, convenient snack that can keep your hunger at bay better than most snack foods.

  • Turn to the dark side . . . of chocolate that is.  Dark chocolate has its fair share of antioxidant qualities and has been proven to improve mood.  So if chocolate appeals to you - go to the dark side. 

  • Obey your hunger signals and eat regularly.  Often in the midst of stress, we delay or put off eating so that we can get through the report that is due, or the work that's piled up.  But when we ignore our body's natural signals to eat, we end up working less and less effectively.  Brain function and overall energy levels drop off when you go too long between meals.  So keep some healthy snacks (like fruit, nuts, high fiber cereals) on hand and don't skip lunch.  Taking those needed breaks will allow your body to perform better at work and at play.
  • Enjoy your food.  A delicious meal that is savored and enjoyed can bring a lot of pleasure and do a lot to reduce some of that damaging stress-response.  Take time to actually taste the food, enjoy the company, and savor the experience of nourishing your body with delicious, healthful food.  Think about it - if you made it a goal to slow down and mindfully enjoy three meals a day - you'd have three built-in opportunities to relax during the day.  Sit down, slow down, take some deep breaths, stretch and then enjoy the flavors that await.