Friday, January 23, 2015

Stop Hitting the Snooze Button and Hit the Gym!

I’ve read a bunch of studies lately that say that working out in the morning is better than exercising in the evening. I have lots of friends who beg to differ, but I’ve been a fan of the morning workout for years. Here’s why:
  • You get your exercise in before the day’s distractions can interfere with your plans. Face it, no one is going to schedule a meeting or a birthday party at 6:30 a.m. If you think of your morning exercise as an appointment you must keep, you won’t let anything change your plans.
  • It improves your sleep. (Really — a study proves this too!) People who work out for 4 hours a week in the morning report better sleep than those who exercise the same amount in the evening. And better sleep leads to better overall health and easier weight loss.
  • You’ll have a sense of accomplishment that’ll pump you up for the day.
  • You’ll build up an appetite for breakfast which will fuel your morning and help you make smart lunch choices. 

If you can’t keep your hands away from the snooze button, try these tips:

Gradually go to bed earlier. Figure out how many hours you need to feel like you got a good night’s sleep, then count back from your ideal wake-up time. Go to bed 15 minutes earlier every night until you’ve found the bedtime that works for you.

Forget you even have a snooze button. Force yourself to get up as soon as your alarm goes off. Those 10 minutes of groggy sleep don’t make you feel any more awake, and might actually make you feel sleepier.

Plan your workout. Lay out your exercise clothes and shoes, water bottle, and iPod, and decide what the morning’s workout will be. That way, you’ll be ready to go faster with plenty of time to accomplish your goal.

Ease into it. Starting off slow and steady with gradual increases in speed or time will help you stick to your new morning routine. If you go too hard too fast, you’ll probably end up quitting. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

10 Simple Steps to a Stronger Immune System

Nothing short of sealing yourself up in a bubble can keep you germ-free. But you can make yourself a less likely target for infectious diseases like the flu. How? By building and maintaining a robust immune system. Here’s your 10-step to-do list:

1. Stop smoking! Of all the ways to suppress your immune system, smoking tops the list.

2. Toss the toxins. Limit your exposure to substances like polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), mercury, chemical pesticides, and secondhand smoke. They can compromise your immune system and may contribute to life-threatening autoimmune diseases.

3. Sleep tight. Poor-quality sleep impairs overall immune system function and also reduces the number of specific germ-killing cells in your body.

4. De-stress. Chronic stress causes a measurable downturn in your system’s ability to fight off or recover from diseases of all kinds.

5. Get happy. Even mild sadness can weaken your immune system, and the more negative and pessimistic you are, the more likely you are to get sick. On the other hand, cheerful, optimistic souls have an army of battle-ready infection-fighting T cells in their bodies.

6. Get a move on. A recent four-month study compared people who took almost daily brisk walks with folks who were basically inactive. The result: The non-walkers took twice as many sick days as their strolling counterparts.

7. Pal around. The more human (and critter) connections you have, and the more you get out and about, the better you are at fighting off illnesses.

8. Eat well. The better nourished you are, the stronger your immune system is. In particular, refined sugar and polyunsaturated fats are major immunity busters.

9. Yuck it up. Laughter decreases stress hormones, and raises your supply of immune-boosting growth hormones and endorphins.

10. Limit antibiotics. While they are sometimes necessary, they can suppress your immune system and make you more likely to become sick again.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Conquer the Midday Slump!

Was one of your New Year’s resolutions to lose weight in 2015? You’re not alone. Researchers say weight loss is the top resolution year after year. And on January 2 (because, let’s face it, New Year’s Day is no time to start a new eating routine), you stuck to your guns…until about 3:00 in the afternoon when the midday slump set in. Then you headed for the vending machine for just a little something to wake you up and tide you over until dinnertime.

It’s time to stop the madness and start eating smarter! And it’s easy — when you keep these three resolution-saving tips in mind:

1.Eat breakfast. You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again, but I can’t stress enough how important eating a good breakfast is. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Even a hard-boiled egg with a piece of whole wheat toast will do the trick. You’ll be amazed by how much more energy you’ll have. And you’ll feel satisfied until lunchtime. 

2.Stay hydrated. Drink water throughout the day to fend off fatigue.

3.Snack smarter. Eat a healthy combo of carbs and protein for the best slump-buster in town! Try peanut butter on whole wheat bread, blueberries and walnuts, sliced bell peppers and hummus, or chunks of banana stirred into plain Greek yogurt.

This hearty drink makes a terrific afternoon mini-meal:

In a blender, pulse 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and ½ cup of vanilla frozen yogurt for about 5 seconds. Add 2 teaspoons of flaxseed oil and ¼ teaspoon of almond extract and whip until blended. Finally, add 1/3 cup of skim milk and pulse for an additional 5 seconds.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tension Taming Tips to Finesse Stress

The holidays are upon us, so ‘tis the season to be jolly. And that means that you can’t let yourself fall victim to stress! It’s not always easy, what with the hustle and bustle of shopping, decorating your home, getting ready for company, and concerns about pushing an already tight budget to its limits. Here are a few quick tricks that’ll short-circuit the stress in the wink of a reindeer’s eye:

Breathe. Taking slow, deliberate breaths and focusing on the sensation (called mindful breathing) won’t shrink the long line at the toy store, but it will lower your heart rate and help you gain a sense of control.

Spend quality time with your pet. Your furry friend loves you unconditionally, so playing a quick game of fetch with Fido or cuddling on the couch with Kitty will lift your spirits and serve as a buffer against stress.

Take a walk. A simple walk at a brisk pace enhances the flow of brain chemicals that block the effects of stress. It doesn’t have to be a long walk—even a dash up and down the stairs will do in a pinch.

Munch on chocolate. It’s true—eating chocolate helps release endorphins, those brainy chemicals that control your mood. (And it’s yummy!)

The most important thing is to allow yourself to enjoy the holiday season and all of its wonders. After all, it only comes once a year!

Friday, December 12, 2014

DIY Bay-Rum Aftershave

I’ve made my list and checked it twice, but let’s face it: Some men are just too darn hard to shop for around holiday time. So if you’re looking for a homemade gift idea for the man in your life, you’ve come to the right place. This classic potion is the perfect answer — especially for those guys who have everything!

½ cup of vodka
2 tablespoons of dark rum
2 dried bay leaves
¼ teaspoon of allspice
1 cinnamon stick
Rind from 1 small orange, shredded

Combine all of the ingredients. Pour the mixture into a clean jar with a tight lid, and set it in a cool, dark place for two weeks. Strain out the solids, and pour the liquid into a nice-looking bottle. Add a label for a personal touch, if you’d like.

That’s all there is to it, and trust me — your man will love it!

Friday, December 5, 2014

6 Holiday Party Tricks That Won’t Break the Scale

Want your belly to shake when you laugh like a bowl full of jelly? Sure, if you’re St. Nick — after all, you want to fit the profile. But for mere mortals like you and me (who want to stay slim and trim), party invitations are pouring in, and the season of overindulging has begun. This year I’m going to do my best to keep weight gain at bay with these holiday party tricks:

1. Eat with your non-dominant hand. You’ll take your time and appreciate every delicious bite.

2. Distract your taste buds. The flavor of mint suppresses your appetite and alters the flavor of other foods. So suck on a candy cane (a 6-inch stick is only 55 calories!) or sip peppermint tea to help you steer clear of the cheese ball.

3. Make every bite count. Don’t indulge in things you can have any time of year, like chocolate chip or brownies. Instead, choose decadent delights that you only see at Christmastime, like eggnog (233 calories per cup!) or fruitcake (90 calories per slice), which has gotten a bad rap over the years, but is really quite tasty.

4. Choose the smallest glass for your cocktail. Then switch to water!

5. Fill up on bubbles! No, not bubbly — down a bottle of carbonated water before heading in to the party.

6. Load up on veggies that are high in fiber and water content, like tomatoes, leafy greens, peppers, carrots, and cauliflower.

If you doubt you’ll be able to stick to these tricks, try my “dress for success” tip. Wear flattering, form-fitting clothes to give you the extra incentive to pass on second helpings. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

It’s Turkey Time!

I love roasted turkey so much that I serve it for dinner at least a half-dozen times a year. But to me, the Thanksgiving turkey is the best. Served with stuffing, sweet potatoes, and cranberry sauce, turkey is the star of the show. By now, preparing the holiday’s main dish is second nature to me. From buying the bird to safely storing leftovers, here are my rules of thumb:

Buying. Gather the rest of the items on your list first, then add the turkey to your cart right before heading to the checkout lanes. Check to see that the wrapping is tightly sealed and that it’s labeled with “safe food handling” instructions. Not sure how big of a bird you’ll need? If you’re buying a whole turkey, make sure you have at least 1 pound per person.

Thawing. Thaw a frozen turkey in the fridge for a few days. If you don’t have time for that, thaw it in a bucket of cold water. The trick is to keep its temperature below 40°F. Above that and your bird will be in the danger zone: the temperature range where foodborne bacteria quickly multiply.

Preparing. Bacteria can contaminate your hands, utensils, the sink, and any work surfaces the turkey comes in contact with. Clean them all thoroughly before prepping other food.

Stuffing. The safest bet is to cook stuffing in a casserole dish. But if you prefer to cook it inside the bird, stuff it just before sticking it in the oven.

Cooking. Set your oven no lower than 325°F, and make sure the turkey is completely thawed. Roast it breast side up on a rack in a roasting pan. Use a cooking thermometer on the breast, thigh, wing joint, and stuffing to be sure the safe internal temperature of 165°F has been reached. If your bird has a pop-up “done” sensor, you should still check the temp to be safe.

Serving. Let the turkey stand for 20 minutes before removing the stuffing and carving the meat. This will make both jobs much easier.

Leftovers. Refrigerate uneaten turkey within two hours, and use it within three to four days. Frozen leftovers stay good for up to six months.

Happy Thanksgiving!