Sleep is a remarkably productive and critical part of life; it’s the time when the brain and body recharge for another day. Yet, most of us simply aren’t getting enough sleep. Stress, everyday demands and your smartphone are likely culprits negatively impacting your sleep.
Either too little or too much sleep can make it tough to function at your best. Sleep better and wake up feeling more rested with this advice.
- Eat meals (especially dinner) at the same time each day and at least two to three hours before bedtime.
- Limit naps to 30 minutes at least six to eight hours before bedtime.
- Stay active. Any activity is good. For best results, get moving 20 to 30 minutes most days, at least four to six hours before bedtime.
- Limit your caffeine intake and avoid it after noon. Also avoid stimulants such as decongestants and nicotine.
- Go to bed at the same time every night and get up about the same time every morning — even on weekends.
A healthy amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours a night. If self-care techniques don’t help, talk to your health care provider.
One of the best ways to change unhealthy eating habits is to keep track of them, which makes sense considering most of us underestimate what we actually eat in a day. Identifying patterns of unhealthy eating choices in the record you keep, you can begin to change them.
Create a food record that includes the following items:
- Date and day of the week. Also note the exact time or the general time of day — such as morning, lunchtime or evening.
- All foods you eat and drink. Be specific on the types and amounts, and include details such as added fats, sugars — like butter, honey and other sweeteners — and beverages.
- Portion sizes. Measure or estimate the size in volume, weight or number of items.
- Your location when you eat. Write down where you are, whether it’s in your car, at your desk or on the couch — and whether you’re eating alone or with someone else.
- What you’re doing while you eat. Pay attention to what else you may be focused on, such as watching TV or socializing at a restaurant.
- Your mood. How do you feel — happy, sad, stressed out?
Be honest and record every bite of food you eat. If you don’t record everything, you won’t have an accurate picture of your intake. For the most accurate results, try to record your food intake within 15 minutes of the time you eat. Use a daily food journal to help keep you accountable.
Your incentive to do regular core exercises should be more than skin deep! A strong core — the muscles around your trunk and pelvis — helps prevent injuries and allows you to enjoy physical activity and perform everyday tasks with ease. Read on to learn more about why you shouldn’t neglect this vital area of your body.
Core exercises improve your balance and stability
Core exercises train the muscles in your pelvis, lower back, hips and abdomen to work in harmony. This leads to better balance and stability, whether on the playing field or in daily activities. In fact, most sports and other physical activities depend on stable core muscles.
Core exercises don’t require specialized equipment or a gym membership
Any exercise that involves the use of your abdominal and back muscles in a coordinated fashion counts as a core exercise. Examples of a classic core exercises are bridge, front plank and pushup.
Core exercises can help tone your abs
Want more-defined abdominal muscles? Core exercises are important. Although it takes aerobic activity to burn abdominal fat, core exercises can strengthen and tone the underlying muscles.
Strong core muscles make it easier to do most physical activities
Strong core muscles make it easier to do everything from swinging a golf club to getting a glass from the top shelf or bending down to tie your shoes. Weak core muscles leave you susceptible to poor posture, lower-back pain and muscle injuries.
Core exercises can help you reach your fitness goals
Cardio exercise and muscular fitness are the primary elements of most fitness programs. But a truly well-rounded fitness program includes core exercises in the mix as well. Whether you’re a novice taking the first steps toward fitness or a committed exerciser hoping to optimize your results, a well-rounded fitness program is the best way to reach your goals.
Whatever your destination, a vacation provides plenty of opportunities for fitness. The key? Fit physical activity into your plans — and make it fun!
- Consider a vacation centered on an activity such as hiking, biking, rafting, backpacking, golfing, yoga or swimming at a beach.
- Choose lodgings that offer a pool, fitness facility, spa or guided activities.
- When making reservations, ask about activities appropriate for your family.
- Inquire about nearby walking or running paths.
- Pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes, a bathing suit and sunscreen.
- If you’re renting equipment, make sure it’s well maintained and meets safety standards.
- If you rent a bicycle or in-line skates, include a helmet and pads.
- Wear the right clothes. Dress in layers if necessary.
- Explore the sights by walking, biking or hiking.
- Try something fun you’ve never done— such as snorkeling, water skiing or kayaking.
- Walk to restaurants, shops and attractions.
- Go out dancing in the evening.
- On a road trip, take breaks for short walks, a game of catch or stretching.
- At airports, walk the terminal.
- Try camping, and carry your gear.
- If the weather’s bad, consider indoor activities, such as in-line skating or walking through a museum.
- Consider a walking tour.
- End the day with a dip in the hotel pool.
Be sure to introduce children to new activities gently, and build in time for naps for younger ones.
Most nutrition experts recommend ground over whole flaxseed because the ground form is easier to digest. Whole flaxseed may pass through your intestine undigested, which means you won’t get all the benefits.
Flaxseed’s health benefits come from the fact that it’s high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as phytochemicals called lignans. One tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseed contains 2 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids (includes the omega 3s), 2 grams of dietary fiber and 37 calories.
Flaxseed is commonly used to improve digestive health or relieve constipation. Flaxseed may also help lower total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
You can buy flaxseed in bulk — whole or ground — at many grocery stores and health food stores. Whole seeds can be ground at home using a coffee grinder or food processor.
Tips for including flaxseed in your diet:
- Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your hot or cold breakfast cereal.
- Add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to mayonnaise or mustard when making a sandwich.
- Mix a tablespoon of ground flaxseed into an 8-ounce container of yogurt.
- Bake ground flaxseed into cookies, muffins, breads and other baked goods.
Like other sources of fiber, flaxseed should be taken with plenty of water or other fluids. Flaxseed shouldn’t be taken at the same time as oral medications. As always, talk with your doctor before trying any dietary supplements.
By Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
Can you count your grandmother’s beloved bread pudding as a healthy recipe? Scrumptious as it may be with four cups of whole milk, one stick of butter and four eggs, you probably wouldn’t find it on a list of healthy recipes. But you don’t have to remove it from your recipe box. Just modify that bread pudding with a few simple change-ups, and you’ve got another healthy recipe for your collection — not a fat and calorie disaster.
Here are three techniques you can use to help create healthy recipes. Remember, these are just some examples. Use your imagination and experiment to find other ways to create healthy recipes — maybe you can even serve them to Grandma!
Reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt
You can often reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt without sacrificing flavor in healthy recipes. Use these general guidelines:
- Fat. For baked goods, use half the butter, shortening or oil and replace the other half with unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana or prune puree. You can also use commercially prepared fruit-based fat substitutes found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores.
- Sugar. Reduce the amount of sugar by one-third to one-half. Instead, add spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg, or flavorings such as vanilla extract or almond flavoring to boost sweetness.
- Salt. For most main dishes, salads, soups and other foods, you can reduce the salt by half or even eliminate it. You can reduce salt by half in baked goods that don’t require yeast too. For foods that require yeast, you may need to experiment: Some salt may be necessary for leavening to keep baked goods from being too dense or flat.
Mindful eating is an effective weight-loss strategy that encourages you to slow down and pay attention to your food, noticing each sip or bite you take. It helps focus your senses on exploring, savoring and tasting your food, and teaches you to follow hunger cues. Put mindful eating into practice with these ideas as you prepare and eat meals. It gets easier over time!
- Practice acceptance. Be aware of critical or judgmental thoughts about food, your eating habits and your body. Concentrate on the moment. Accept your body as it is.
- Make a conscious decision to eat. Before you eat, ask yourself, “How hungry am I right now? Am I eating out of hunger, habit, boredom or emotion?”
- Reserve time for your meal. Don’t eat on the run. If you’re eating with others, involve them in preparing the food to make that time social.
- Avoid distractions while eating. Eat at a table. Turn off the TV and put away your phone, work, books and magazines until you are done.
- Appreciate your food. Start your meal by taking a moment to express your gratitude for the food in front of you.
- Breathe. Before and during your meal, consciously take a few deep breaths.
- Use all your senses to fully experience your food and drinks. Observe the smells, textures, sounds, colors and tastes. Ask yourself how much you’re enjoying the food and how appealing it is.
- Choose modest portions to avoid overeating.
Eat small bites, and chew slowly. Appreciate that your food fills you up and makes you healthy.
Of course, there will be times that you have to rush through a meal to get to an activity or an appointment. But if you can practice mindful eating on a regular basis, it can help you reach your weight-loss goals.
Have you noticed that when food temptations strike, it often has more to do with your mood than when you last ate? You may crave food to relax, relieve stress or boredom, soothe anger, or cope with loneliness, sadness or anxiety. Indulging in cravings during these emotional times may lead you to eat too many high-calorie, sweet, fatty foods.
Everyone has a food craving at times — and yes, chocolate is at the top of most people’s list. The first step to managing your cravings is being able to identify when you’re truly hungry. Learn how to recognize the difference between a craving and hunger.
- Are usually for comfort foods, such as chocolate, sweets and fatty foods
- Are often caused by negative feelings
- Lead to eating that makes you feel good at first, but then guilty
- Increase during a woman’s pregnancy and menstrual cycle
- May be stronger when you’re dieting, especially if you’re giving up your favorite foods
- Can occur even after you’ve recently eaten
- Pass with time
- Usually occurs when you haven’t eaten for a few hours or more
- Results in a rumbling stomach, headache or feeling of weakness
- Doesn’t pass with time
- Isn’t just for one specific food
- Can be satisfied by a healthy snack or meal
If you have a craving, distract yourself. Try calling a friend, listening to music, taking a walk or bike ride, reading, or writing. If a negative feeling is causing your craving, use positive self-talk, exercise or a fun activity to improve your mood.