Fighting the Zs with Better Habits

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

Plenty of SleepSometimes that morning coffee just doesn’t do it for you. We’ve all had days where we are just dragging, whether we are low on sleep, overworked, or just plain worn out. But if you’re having a hard time shaking sluggishness in general you might need to make some changes.

Some people can’t recall the last time they didn’t feel somewhat tired, which may be a sign that something is a little off. Chronic sleep problems could be a symptom of something other than stress. Constant fatigue is also a potential sign of depression. These are things to look into if you think there may be a serious cause.

But before you go running off to the doctor you might want to try out some simple fixes. Your diet can have a major impact on your energy levels as well as your level of activity. Incorporating exercise and healthy eating could not only boost energy but help you sleep better. Also, some people react differently to caffeine. That soda with dinner may not be much but it could be keeping you up at night.

If you find yourself fighting exhaustion all the time try to figure out why. A few changes to your day could have you feeling healthy, energized and ready when the sun rises.

8 Reasons You’re Always Hungry

[Guest Post]

Hunger is a completely natural feeling and never is this more the case than when you’re trying to drop a few pounds. Feeling hungry immediately after eating however, well, that’s a little less so.

Contrary to popular belief, feeling hungry isn’t always a sign that you need to eat more. There are actually a number of factors at play. And not all of them should, or even can, be solved by a trip to the kitchen.

Here are eight common causes of hunger that most people don’t know about.

You’re Thirsty

Despite the fact that hunger and thirst feel completely different, it’s not uncommon for people to confuse the two. This is because dehydration often leads to fatigue and most people associate fatigue with a lack of food. It’s therefore surprisingly easy to find yourself heading towards the cooker when all you really need is a glass of water. This is one of the reasons that drinking plenty of water is such a vital component of a successful diet.

You’re Not Sleeping Enough

Another common cause of illogical hunger is mild sleep deprivation. Multiple studies have shown that when you sleep less than seven hours per night, you tend to consume more calories. This has been attributed to the fact that a lack of sleep leads to an increase in cortisol levels. And cortisol is a hormone that not only increases stress and blood pressure levels, it leads to an increase in both appetite and sugar cravings. If you want to cut back on food, it’s therefore important not to cut back on sleep.

You’re Only Eating One Thing

A bowl of pasta might seem like a filling meal but the reality is that a meal made exclusively of carbohydrates is never going to protect you from hunger. Carbohydrates are typically digested in less than an hour resulting in hunger returning almost immediately. Protein and fat on the other hand take between four and seven hours to digest. If you want to keep hunger at bay, it’s therefore vital to prepare meals that include multiple food groups.

It’s a Side Effect of Your Medication

Should you find yourself both illogically hunger and on medication, it’s always worth asking your doctor if the two might somehow be related. Medications such as antidepressants, anti histamines, steroids and even birth control pills have all been linked to an increase in appetite in those who take them. If you think that your medication is to blame for your hunger, ask your doctor about alternatives.

You’re Eating Your Meals too Far Apart

When it comes to tackling hunger, it’s not just what you eat but when you eat it that matters. And never is this more important than when you are trying to limit your daily calorie intake. If you want to eat less without going hungry, you need to eat more often . In other words, you should be eating between five and six small meals per day. Fail to do so and hunger is actually perfectly natural.

You’re Eating The Wrong Foods

Another mistake that can easily lead to you feeling hungry after eating is stocking your plate with processed food. Processed food is notorious for having very little nutritional value. And the result is that no matter how much you eat, your body is never really satisfied. While there’s nothing wrong with eating junk food every now and then, if you’re looking to tame your hunger, you need to make more nutritious choices.

You’re Bored

Most people react to boredom the same way; with a desperate desire to do something. And it’s not uncommon for people to confuse a desperate desire to do something with a desperate desire to eat. The easiest way to differentiate between the two is to imagine an absolutely massive plate of your favourite food. If you’re genuinely hungry, this will obviously seem appealing. If you’re not, the portion will seem too large.

You Drank Too Much Soda

Finally, there’s the small matter of soda, it happens to be the last thing that you should be drinking if you’re trying to avoid hunger. Sodas, and other sweetened drinks, are not only incredibly fattening, they contain large amounts of high fructose corn syrup. Fructose limits your body’s ability to produce leptin and leptin happens to be the hormone that makes you feel full. In other words, drink enough soda and you’ll be hungry regardless of what you eat.

 

20 Ideas for Healthy Eating

Getting Real With +Shadra Bruce

Do you ever end up eating more than you should because you simply can’t come up with good ideas for meals? Do you ever throw your hands up and head to the nearest drive-through because you’re uninspired about what to cook? Cooking at home is the first major step toward eating healthier. Even when you think you’re eating healthy food in a restaurant, you’re often being treated to hidden trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and even low-end, B-grade fruits and veggies that wouldn’t pass muster in the store.

You have to realize that restaurants are in the business to make money, so their goal will be to obtain ingredients at the lowest possible price in order to make the most off what they put on your plate, and to make you feel like you’re getting a bargain, the portions they serve are outrageously large, filled with sodium and laden with fat. There are some restaurants, like Cheesecake Factory, who offers meals that provide almost more calories and fat in one meal than you need in TWO days.

I’ve put together a list of meals designed to inspire your willingness to experiment in your own kitchen. I’m not a dietician nor am I a physician, so check with your own if you have dietary restrictions. Mix, match, and change things up…and let me know your favorites from the list as well as what you’d add!

Breakfast ideas:

  • One poached egg, one slice of whole wheat toast, an apple
  • Egg white omelet with spinach and tomato
  • One boiled egg, one slice whole wheat toast with peanut butter
  • Breakfast smoothie: ½ c. frozen blueberries, 1 c. frozen strawberries, ½ cup of vanilla yogurt and ½ c. orange juice, blended
  • Breakfast burrito (scrambled egg, low-fat cheese, salsa) in whole wheat tortilla, fruit of your choice on the side

Snack ideas:

  • A handful (no more than 23) of almonds
  • Yogurt with granola and berries or dried cherries
  • Two ounces of low-fat mozzarella with tomatoes, olives, and spinach
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • 1 ounce of cheese, apple slices, two walnuts

Lunch ideas:

  • Tuna with one tbsp mayo, 1 slice whole wheat bread, an apple
  • Low fat turkey sandwich, carrot sticks, an orange
  • Chicken salad: 3-ounce chicken breast, lettuce, tomato and other veggies to taste with 2 ½ tbsp of low-fat dressing
  • Spinach salad with 2 ounces of salmon and a sprinkling of feta cheese
  • Fruit salad: pineapple, grapes, cantaloupe, and choice of berry. Serve with ½ cup of cottage cheese and five almonds. broiled-pork-chops-woth-apricot-mango-chutney

Dinner ideas:

  • Spaghetti with whole wheat pasta, salad with 1 tbsp olive oil & ½ tsp. red wine vinegar, glass of red wine
  • Salmon steak, ½ cup rice pilaf, 1 cup steamed broccoli
  • Grilled chicken breast, sweet potato, mixed greens.
  • Two tacos: Corn tortillas, five ounces of low-fat ground turkey, seasoned, one ounce cheese, lettuce.
  • Grilled pork chop with apricot-mango chutney, steamed green beans, whole wheat couscous

Image credit: The Literate Chef, whose recipe is divine

Busy Moms: Break Bad Eating Habits

Part two of our three-part series for busy moms. Read part one: 6 Ways to Sneak in a Workout.

“The kids would love fast food, and it’s on the way home. But—that grease will go straight to my thighs!” They’re back again. The Devil’s in one ear, angel in the other. Do you side with unhealthy convenience or make a choice that supports good health? Sadly, the Drive-Thru Devil’s voice will grow louder, unless you take steps to overcome temptation. With these few tweaks to common, destructive thinking, you’ll strengthen your healthy spirit and better food choices will be no contest.

The drive-thru is a life-saver!

Convenience doesn’t have to trump healthy at mealtime. If time is tight, look online for easy-to-make meal options. Many websites offer recipes for nutritious dishes that can be made in 30 minutes or less. Another option is to prepare healthy “fast food” meals and snacks ahead of time, preferably on the weekend when you have more time to cook. If mapping out a week’s worth of meals isn’t realistic, try to make extra servings whenever you do cook and pop them in the freezer. That way, you’ll always have something healthier than fast food on hand.

There’s hardly time to fix the kids’ meals, let alone my own. 

Whether you don’t have the time or just aren’t hungry, skipping meals is never a good idea. Eating every few hours keeps your metabolism running. Plus, a balanced diet helps support a balanced body. When there’s no time for a sit-down meal, snack on a protein bar, piece of fruit or handful of nuts. Look at food as fuel – and coffee doesn’t count!

My leftovers are whatever the kids leave on their plates.

Cheesy macaroni is much more enticing than your spinach salad. But by the time your kids are finished eating, the noodles are dry and the cheese is cold. So, why are you nibbling their scraps? Once you recognize the reason, it can be avoided. If wasting food makes you cringe, try serving your kids smaller portions and only give them more when they ask. Most likely, you’re picking at their plates because you want what you can’t have. Resist the urge by quickly wrapping and refrigerating leftovers after dinner – out of sight, out of mind.

I’ve got to taste what I’m cooking to know it’s good.

Kids can be your toughest critics, but cooking dinner is not an episode of “Iron Chef America.” If you’re constantly taste-testing food while it’ being prepared, you’ll be full before the table is set. Busy your choppers with chewing gum, drink ice-cold water and stick with one or two small tastes.

It’s been a long day – I’ve earned that (insert treat here)!

Do you unwind with a bowl of ice cream after a hard day? Indulging in sugar-laden treats because you’re stressed can backfire when guilt sets in or your sugar high wears off. Try a calorie-free de-stressor, instead. Exercise releases the same feel-good endorphins you get from that piece of pie. Or, hit the spa for a manicure. You’ll not only feel better but look better, to boot!

Bad habits may be hard to break. But, taking better care of yourself translates to taking better care of your family. No matter how busy you are, a healthy mom is a happy mom.

By: +Elizabeth Lotts writer for Vitacost.com. They know that a healthy lifestyle is more than organic vitamins and natural supplements.  That’s why Vitacost.com offers essentials for your home, your baby, your pantry, your beauty routine – even your furry, four-legged friends! Since 1994, Vitacost.com has been taking the cost out of healthy living. Today, you can shop over 35,000 products such as Vitamin E to Almond Milk from your computer, tablet or smartphone with just a click of a button. Some might say Vitacost.com is the silver platter of healthy living – let them serve you. Vitacost.com is not affiliated with this blog and isn’t responsible for content outside of this article.

Conversation Starter: Healthy Eating

When hot lunch for your school-age kids starts costing more than a typical utility bill, it’s time to start thinking of other options. Changing your approach to your children’s lunch menu is about more than money, though. It’s an opportunity to talk to your kids about making healthy food choices.

Schools are responsible for educating our kids, and they’re also supposed to provide a healthy lunch. Unfortunately, there is no way to guarantee how healthy a lunch is when your child either refuses to eat it and it ends up in the trash, or the school serves something questionable. Worse yet, the pressure to provide the right kind of lunch may force schools into taking shortcuts.

Regardless of your children’s school hot lunch offerings, if you are concerned about your child developing healthy habits, want them to be more actively involved in making conscious decisions about what they eat and why, and want to teach them about nutrition, packing lunch together is an ideal time to focus on teaching them nutrition without it sounding like a lecture and without your child feeling sensitive about their own body image. You wouldn’t hesitate to talk to your kids about the dangers of smoking or drinking, but consuming the wrong kinds of foods on a regular basis is just as harmful and can have just as many negative affects.

Your kids don’t have to be unhealthy or overweight for conversations about nutrition to be a good idea, but because childhood obesity is a growing problem, it’s never too early to start talking about healthy habits and eating right. In fact, if you have toddlers at home who have not yet started school but have started developing preferences for certain foods, talk to them, too.  It’s never too early to start teaching your kids how to be in control of their health.

Conversation Starters: Connecting with Your Kids

Cooking and Conversation
Cooking and Conversation

It’s dinner time, you’re exhausted after work, your kids are clamoring for attention and starving.  You want to spend time with your kids, feed them and wind up your night. What do you do? Spending time together in the kitchen kills all kinds of birds, beyond the one you’re roasting for dinner! You get the help you need, you spend time with your family, and they are proud to help.  Whether it is holiday baking or nightly dinner and cleanup, food is the best way to keep the family involved with each other, regardless of the ages of your kids. Mealtimes are important, but dinner doesn’t have to be about mom or dad doing all the work while the kids watch TV.

If you have older kids, you can be helping them prepare for adulthood while enjoying the extra pair of hands in the kitchen.  It’s a good time (while you’re there to supervise) to put older kids to work cutting, chopping and following recipes. With a little guidance, your teen can put together a family meal.

Elementary age kids love to use their newly-acquired reading and math skills to help with recipes.  Let your child read the recipe and help put in the ingredients.  Double the recipe and let your child do the math to determine how much of each ingredient you’ll need.  They’ll be having so much fun they’ll forget they’re learning.

Even young children can be involved and do their part by setting the table.  Show your preschooler how to fold a square paper napkin into a simple diagonal half-fold. Voila! The square is now a triangle! Your toddler gets to practice identifying shapes while adding a special touch to the table setting. Everyone can play a part, whether it’s soup and sandwiches or a five course holiday extravaganza.