This last week of the year most are beginning to think about the New Year’s resolutions. It is common to hear about health related goals, such as lose weight, not eat sugar or carbs, exercise more etc. etc.
Healthy goals are wonderful all year long and if the beginning of a new year is motivation to get started so be it. Although there is more to healthy goals than just the number on the scale. Weight is only one of the risk factors in many chronic diseases. Think about the overall lifestyle. What makes the lifestyle healthy? There are physical, mental and spiritual parts of a healthy lifestyle.
Let’s start with the physical. Physical movement is a critical part of your healthy lifestyle. Make plans to move more than you do now. It can be increasing your daily steps, exercising more or training for an athletic event such as a 5K, 10K or half-marathon. Make meal planning and cooking at home a priority. The physical aspect also includes your weight. Without focusing solely on it, by increasing your physical activity and eating at home more often will eventually lead to weight control.
The mental aspect involves mindfulness. Pay attention to the activities you choose. Does it give you joy? If you love biking choose a spin class. If you love to spend time with friends, go for a walk with a friend. Enjoy every aspect of meal planning, including shopping for food, preparing the food and eating it together. Bring mindfulness to the table to increase the satisfaction. Leave the electronic gadgets off the table.
Last but not least, the spiritual aspect. What makes you happy? Why do you want to pay attention to your health? A lot of times the answers to these questions will help you focus on the purposeful life. Spending time with your loved ones, being there to enjoy your children or grandchildren or being able to serve your community; anything that speaks to your inner core completes the healthy lifestyle!
So think beyond the number on the scale and think “healthy lifestyle”!
You have been working hard at your goals all year long. Especially in the last couple of months of the year there seem to be extra demands on us to please everyone. Host a meal or a party, attend several events, be nice, social, buy the right gifts, do good for the community etc. etc. It is not only physically exhaustingg but also mentally challenging.
For personal health and wellbeing, rest and relaxation is equally important as eating properly and exercising routinely. Take time to pay attention to yourself over the next week as this year comes to a close. There are many ways and flavors of rest and relaxation (R&R). Not every form of R&R is suitable or enjoyable to all. Some like to go for a run or to a spa, some just need to catch up on sleep or lay around on a beach.
Here are some my favorite ways to relax:
- Read a book with a cup of tea in my hands.
- Work on a puzzle with the children and family members.
- Look at family photo albums and cherish the memories.
- Plan and cook a meal together with the family.
- Go for a leisurely walk in a park.
- Watch a good movie and share some tears or laughs.
- Work on a hobby (I love to knit and crochet).
- Skype with my family who live far away.
What have you been putting off because you have been too busy? Make time for it. You will be rejuvenated from engaging in something that pleases YOU. Relax! It’s good for you.
I used think of hacking as a bad thing, just in the sense of violating the integrity of something. As I have become more and more tech savvy, at least by using some of the tools to better my life, I have learned to use the term “hacking” in a different way. I realized I had been “hacking” for a long time anyway, by altering the recipes to suit my taste buds or needs of portability or feeding a crowd.
So here are some recipe hacks you can implement to make them a bit healthier. Let me assure you, every little bit helps. It also makes you enjoy it more, knowing that you have taken the time to personalize it.
- Use 2 egg whites in place of 1 egg. Eggs are important part of many baked goods and using the correct proportion is critical. Using 2 egg whites instead of 1 egg maintains the same volume but reduces the fat content of your recipe by 10 grams. Making an omelet, use one whole egg and 2 egg whites and all all your favorite fixings. The color of the omelet won’t be drastically different either.
- Replace half the oil with unsweetened applesauce or non-fat greek yogurt. Similar to the eggs, fats in a baking recipe are integral to the texture of the final product. I routinely, use half oil and half applesauce in my brownie recipe. My kids actually thought brownies always had applesauce in them and used to call them “applesauce brownies”. My muffin recipe has half the oil replaced with non-fat greek yogurt, you would never know it from the moist texture.
- Replace all or half the flour with whole grain flour. I don’t remember the last time I bought all purpose flour. I only keep whole wheat flour in the pantry and use it in all my baking. I also like to add oat flour. Simply grind the quick oats and you will have fresh oat flour. Adding whole grain flours greatly increases the fiber content of your recipe.
- Add some extra fiber and key nutrients. While using whole grain flours is simple, sometimes you may want to use other ingredients to add fiber or other nutrients. Consider adding flax meal (or simply grind some flax seeds), wheat germ or oat bran to your recipe. Just a tablespoon will add a punch of fiber, B vitamins and even omega -3 fatty acids in case of flax meal.
- Enhance the flavors and anti-oxidants by adding turmeric, ginger and garlic. The benefits of turmeric have been well established. Add a teaspoon to your soup, chili or stew next time. It will hide well among other strong flavors. Fresh ginger, another anti-inflammatory spice, is great added to stir-fried vegetables, soups and even your daily smoothie. I love to add garlic cloves while roasting vegetables. Roasted garlic even tastes sweeter.
Enjoy cooking with and for the family. Spending time together enjoying the deliciousness is gratifying.
Can you believe it is December already? The weather is sure beginning to feel like it. Everywhere you go you are reminded of the upcoming holiday(s) and ways to indulge.
So how do you maintain control and stick to your plan?
Here are four simple tips:
- Eat at home before you shop. Eating at home saves the most calories and not to mention dollars too. Eat a meal or at least a snack before stepping out to run errands or do gift shopping. All types of stores stock empty calorie food items near the check out lanes. When you are out and about on an empty stomach it is easier to lose control.
- Carry a snack with you. To avoid the “check out lane” temptations always keep a handy snack with you. A granola bar, protein bar or just some nuts and a couple of dried apricots will hold you over until you can get home to your healthy and delicious meal.
- Continue to journal your food intake and activities. Even if your routine changes a bit over the holiday season, don’t forget to log your intake and activities. Keeping track of what you eat daily is the only proven strategy to keep you accountable to your plan. It is also rewarding to see yourself committed to your goal.
- Enjoy the Holiday spirit by sharing. Do you like to cook and bake? This time of the year some of the most nostalgic memories are of wonderful smells of baked goods. You can enjoy the baking and really get into the holiday spirit by sharing the baked goods. Bake gifts for neighbors, coworkers or even the homeless person you may encounter on your daily commute. You will be blessed with good wishes and feeling of gratitude.Look for some easy recipe alterations next week to help you tweak your recipes become healthier!