Diet Reviews: The Sardine Diet

Fish, with its huge doses of omega-3 fatty acids, has received a recent push as a healthy protein choice. It’s no surprise, then, that many diets have been released that are specifically designed to help you up your fish intake. The Sardine Diet, as its name suggests, is just such a program.

First detailed in a 2006 book of the same name, the Sardine Diet was created by certified dietitian and nutritionist Keri Glassman. The diet isn’t restricted only to sardines. Many people will be glad to hear that the diet doesn’t require them to eat sardines for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. Rather, it encourages low calorie, high fiber, high protein and high omega 3 meals. We’ll consider what the diet entails, its potential benefits, as well as any cons associated with the Sardine Diet.

sardineWhat the Diet Includes

Following this diet begins with purchasing the book, which includes numerous recipes and meal plans. The foods discussed in the book all use fish as the primary protein source and are designed to boost your intake in both omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Since the recipes are provided and portions are pre-calculated, you never have to worry about counting your calories. This kind of detailed planning takes all the guesswork out of dieting for you and ensures that you’re eating properly.

The Sardine Diet consists of three meals and two snacks daily. The types of food you can expect to be eating on the sardine diet include “Albacore Tuna Wraps” and “Sardine Tostadas with Avocado Salsa.” One of the most outstanding features of the Sardine Diet is that sardines, tuna and the other fish that are featured are relatively inexpensive and easy to get. These fish are also low in mercury.

What it Does

The push for sardines and other fatty fish is based firmly on the well-documented benefits of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids. Although fat is a much maligned nutrient, there are both healthy and unhealthy fats. The fats that are emphasized in the Sardine Diet are extremely healthy, according to the American Heart Association. Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids have been shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, increase HDL (good) cholesterol, lower the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, and slow the formation of harmful plaque on the walls of your arteries. Other potential benefits associated with these fats include reduced risk of breast cancer, improved mental health, improved joint health and decreased risk of inflammatory diseases like asthma and arthritis.

The Sardine Diet is also rich in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D, which all work in conjunction to improve bone and joint health. High calcium intake is also associated with a lower risk of obesity.

Potential Faults and Considerations

No diet plan is ever perfect for everyone and, despite all of its touted benefits, there are things to consider before diving into the Sardine Diet. The first, and most obvious, factor to think about is how you feel about sardines and fish in general. Many people do not enjoy the taste and texture of the little fatty fish. The diet does allow for substitutions with other oily fish, like salmon, but sardines are the preferred option.

Another aspect to consider is the fact that, although it discusses it, the Sardine Diet offers no guidance regarding an exercise program. Diet is only one part of a healthy lifestyle, so when embarking on any diet you should never neglect your exercise plan.

Have you tried the Sardine Diet? Please share your experience with us in the comments.

Sources

http://sardinediet.com/diet.htm

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyDietGoals/Fish-and-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids_UCM_303248_Article.jsp

http://www.dietsinreview.com/diets/the-sardine-diet/

Outdoor Exercise as the Seasons Change

Alpine downhill skiing on sunny dayRunners and cyclists always have the option to take the easy way out when winter months make regular routes cold and wet. That’s one of the ways health clubs stay in business. But if you still appreciate the flexibility and experience of exercising outdoors, changing weather doesn’t have to be an obstacle. Just keep in mind these dos and don’ts to maximize effectiveness and minimize injuries.

1. Do schedule your workouts earlier in the day if possible. Shorter days and the holiday craziness at the beginning of the season can get you in the habit of skipping sessions. That’s a hard habit to break after the new year.

2. Don’t skimp on your wardrobe. Instead, buy the exercise wear you need to maintain a safe temperature throughout your workout. This usually means wearing layers in winter, so you can strip some off as you warm up.

3. Do contact a training partner if you don’t already have one. Low temperatures and rainy days can be a real motivation drainer. Having a buddy will help you get out there when your warm, comfy couch is calling too loudly. This is especially important if you’re one of the 1.5 million Americans who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder. This technique also helps you stay safe from crime, and gives you a partner to assist you if you fall and become injured.

4. Don’t jump unprepared into winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. One reason these sports have high rates of injury is that people attempt them without proper physical training. A broken ankle from a bad day on the slopes will derail your winter exercise plan completely. If you want to take up a winter sport, spring for a training program to build the skills and conditioning you’ll need to do it safety. Most local clubs and facilities will offer one.

5. Do buy a headlamp and reflective vest. With fewer hours of daylight, you’ll find yourself on the road before dawn, at dusk and perhaps at night more often. Even if you set out before the streetlights go on, wear your safety gear in case your route takes longer than you anticipate.

6. Don’t forget to stay hydrated. Thirst isn’t as oppressive in colder weather, and your layered clothes make it harder to realize how much you’re sweating — but that doesn’t mean you’re not losing water at a potentially dangerous rate.

7. Do stay alert for slippery terrain. Ice and snow can make for treacherous conditions, and often collect on the roadsides and trails outdoor exercisers use. The last thing you want is a ski-slope injury you sustained in your own neighborhood. If you live in an area that regularly gets snow and ice, you can buy shoe traction devices that act like snow chains for your feet.

8. Don’t forget to protect your hands and face. The Mayo Clinic warns that these body parts are particularly susceptible to frostbite, especially when you factor in the wind chill you generate while moving at a cardio pace. Wear gloves and a balaklava as the temperature begins to demand them.

9. Do be alert for signs of hypothermia. This may seem counter-intuitive as your body warms up with exercise, but it’s more common than you might expect. Protect yourself by scheduling breaks in areas with heat, and by keeping your sessions short enough to get in before the cold starts really taking effect. If you’re going long, consider running laps on a shorter course so you can get inside easily, or at least packing a fresh, dry shirt.

The Many Benefits of the Humble Dandelion

dandelion

Of all the weeds that can overtake our yards and ruin our gardens, the dandelion reigns supreme. However, despite its invasive nature, nutritionists and herbalists have long understood the value of the misunderstood dandelion.

In fact, both American and Chinese traditional medicines have used all parts of the dandelion to treat a variety of ailments for hundreds of years. Modern bodybuilders still make use of dandelion root tea and the plant can have wide nutritional benefits for anyone.

So instead of just disposing of all those annoying little yellow flowers when they cover your lawn next spring, consider cleaning them up and putting them to use.

Nutrition

According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, dandelions are a rich source of vitamins A, B complex, C and D. The plant also offers several minerals including iron, potassium and zinc. This is all in addition to the complex collection of plant chemicals that help the dandelion ward of bacterial and fungal infections.

Dandelions also contain a small amount of protein, carbohydrates and fiber, and are fat-free. The high fiber content means that dandelions will make you feel full quickly and, since dandelions have only about 25 calories per cup, the chances of you gaining weight from eating them are very slim, so to speak.

Other Uses and Benefits

The high levels of iron in the leaves and roots of the dandelion have contributed to its use as a liver tonic in many cultures. Although there is primary research to support that dandelions can help to improve both liver and gallbladder health, the studies were poorly designed and could not be replicated by other researchers.

Dandelion root is an effective and time-tested diuretic, however. Bodybuilders commonly use a tea made of dandelion root to quickly lose water weight and attain a more chiseled

look before a competition. The root tea is also thought to soothe an upset stomach and improve digestion, but these uses are generally based on anecdotal evidence. The dandelion root tea is conveniently available at many health food stores if you aren’t up to harvesting and preparing your own.

Animal studies have also shown that dandelions may help maintain healthy blood sugar, lower LDL (bad) cholesterol, and raise HDL (good) cholesterol. These results haven’t been reproduced, though, and human studies are needed to understand the full potential of this application.

How to Enjoy Them

All these factors considered, dandelions are pretty appealing from a nutritional standpoint. The flavor, though, can be a little off-putting. The greens are bitter and the roots are woody. The flowers do have a slightly sweet flavor but separating enough of them can be a difficult process.

Properly prepared, however, dandelions can be a tasty addition to any meal. The leaves can be tossed into a salad, steamed or even sauteed.

Recipes that call for bitter greens like arugula can easily be modified to include dandelion. The roots should be sauteed until soft and can be added to dishes for a nutty flavor.

If you decide to go foraging, pick a clean area, free from pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. Use a short but sharp knife to cut the plant free, leaving the top of the root intact to hold the leaves together. If you plan on using the roots, simply dig the plants up. Stick to leaves that are small and young, since larger leaves will be more bitter. Make sure to wash the plants thoroughly in warm water.

Have you used dandelion in your diet before? Please tell us about it in the comments.

Sources

http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2441/2

http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/dandelion-000236.htm

Time-Crunched Treadmill Workouts

Ask Coach Jenny

 Q: I struggle this time of year to get in my workouts and I’m limited to the treadmill. Do you have any suggested workouts for the time-crunched runner?  ~Jessica

A: Hi, Jessica. You’re not alone. In fact, this time of year is when activity falls by the wayside in lieu of parties, shopping and busy schedules. The good news is you’re right on target in terms of how to stay on track this holiday season. It is better to get in short, frequent workouts than cancel because you can’t get in your normal 45 minutes. The key is to maintain momentum and make the most of the time you have.

Before we discuss the workouts, here are a few key rules to know before you go.

Always invest the allotted time to warm up by walking. You’ll start with a brisk walk, transition to a power walk, then run to fully prepare your body for the high-intensity workout ahead. This will make for a more pleasurable and optimal workout experience.

  • Post workout, cool down and let your heart rate and circulation return to their resting rate. In most cases, two to three minutes of easy-effort walking will do the trick.
  • Listen to your body. Avoid the trap of running by pace, and go by how your body is feeling instead. Some days this will be faster, and some days slower – but when you run by your body on a given day, you’ll gain the most for your effort.
  • If you’re new to high-intensity workouts, start with one of these workouts per week and see how your body responds. You can fill in the gaps with short, easy- effort runs in the meantime. This will help you maintain your momentum, recover optimally and progress to running more frequent high-intensity workouts per week.
  • Note to newbie exercisers: If you are new to the active life, make sure to develop a solid base of regular walking or running at least three times per week for 30-60 minutes each before weaving these workouts into your schedule. You’ll progress faster with a lower risk of injury and burnout.

Here are three, 30-minute workouts that are fun, functional and will keep you fit through the crazy-busy holiday season.


The Music Mix Mash-Up

Move to the rhythm of your own beat.

  • Create a music mix by alternating a slow-to-moderately paced song, like “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars, with a fast-paced song, like “Beautiful Day” by U2.
  • Warm up by walking for 3 minutes at a brisk effort level.
  • For 25 minutes, alternate slow and fast songs, matching your effort level to each.
  • Run at an easy pace to slow music. After the warm up, run for the duration of the first song (slow-to-moderate) at a comfortable effort level where you can talk while you’re moving.
  • Run hard to fast music. Pick up the pace to a comfortably hard level where you can hear your breathing and you’re just outside your comfort zone for the entire duration of the fast-paced song.
  • Continue to alternate easy and hard efforts with the alternating songs on your custom playlist.
  • Cool down by walking 2 minutes at an easy effort.
  • Soon you’ll find that the time flies by quickly when you’re jamming to your favorite tunes!

The Mountain Climber

Moving up and down hills strengthens your legs and your stamina.

Changing the incline on the treadmill is just like strength training for your legs. The added resistance is a great way to increase the intensity, burn a ton of calories and utilize a variety of muscles. (Cut and paste this workout and tape it to the treadmill).

Warm up

  • Walk at a brisk pace for 3 minutes at 0% incline.
  • Start running at 0% incline for 5 minutes at an easy effort level (conversational pace).

Set 1

  • Keeping the speed the same, increase the incline to 1% and run for 1 minute.
  • Decrease incline to 0% for 2 minutes to catch your breath.

Set 2

  • Increase the incline to 2% and run for 1 minute.
  • Decrease to 1% for 1 minute.
  • Decrease to 0% for 2 minutes to catch your breath.

Set 3

  • Increase the incline to 3% for 1 minute.
  • Decrease to 2% for 1 minute.
  • Decrease the incline to 1% for 1 minute.
  • Recover with 2 minutes at 0%.

Set 4

  • Increase the incline to 4% for 1 minute.
  • Decrease progressively, 3% for 1 minute, 2% for 1 minute and finally 1% for 1 minute.
  • Recover with 2 minutes at 0%.

Cool Down

  • Finish running at 0% incline for 2 minutes at an easy effort level (conversational pace).
  • Finish your cool down walking 2 minutes at an easy effort.

The Pyramid

Time flies when you move at the speed of light. Alternating the speed of your workout with fast and slow intervals boosts cardiovascular fitness and running form.

Warm up

Walk 3 minutes at a brisk effort level.

Workout

Run 8 minutes at an easy effort level (conversational). Then alternate the following:

  • 30 seconds at a comfortably hard intensity, 1 minute at an easy effort to catch your breath
  • 30 seconds at a comfortably hard intensity, 1 minute at an easy effort to catch your breath
  • 60 seconds at a comfortably hard intensity, 2 minutes at an easy effort to catch your breath
  • 90 seconds at a comfortably hard intensity, 3 minutes at an easy effort to catch your breath
  • 60 seconds at a comfortably hard intensity, 2 minutes at an easy effort to catch your breath
  • 30 seconds at a comfortably hard intensity, 1 minute at an easy effort to catch your breath
  • 30 seconds at a comfortably hard intensity, 1 minute at an easy effort to catch your breath

Cool down

Finish with 2 minutes of easy-paced walking or running and cool down.

Do you have a question for Coach Jenny? Submit your question here.

5 Ways to Fit in Fitness During the Holidays

The holiday season means plenty of shopping, cooking, eating, drinking and … exercise.

Exercise?

If you’re like most people, maybe not so much. Hectic schedules — coupled with colder temperatures and fewer daylight hours — prompt many people to throw their fitness routine to the curb until after the New Year.

But you don’t have to let yourself go during the holidays. Taking care of yourself, with exercise, a healthy diet and plenty of sleep, is key for good health. Regular exercise can also increase your energy levels and ease holiday stress. Not to mention being active can help keep the eggnog and stuffing from lingering on your hips. The average person gains about one pound during the holiday season, but exercise can help you ward off this weight gain.Ice Skates

Here are five tips to help you keep your exercise regime in the middle of the holiday crunch:

1. Set realistic goals. If you usually run five days per week, shoot for three or four days each week during this busy time of year. If you normally spend an hour on the elliptical, just aim for 20 to 30 minutes. Likewise, save big goals — like losing 10 lbs or training for a marathon — until a time when you have fewer obligations. Strive to maintain your weight and fitness level during the holidays and rev it up again come January.

2. Plan ahead. Map out the day and set aside time for fitness. We tend to find time for our biggest priorities, so carve out some time in your day to be active. Take a walk on your lunch break, do a workout DVD instead of lounging in front of the TV or wake up 15 minutes earlier and start your day with a short yoga sequence.

3. Multitask. Skip the gym and get in a workout while crossing off items on your holiday to-do list. Power-walk while you shop, do lunges, push-ups and sit-ups while you wait for your pumpkin pie to bake and dance while you tidy the house. Remember that some exercise is always better than none.

4. Be flexible. Planned on going to the gym but mall traffic tied you up? Sometimes even the best of intentions get thwarted. Try to find time for a shortened exercise session later in the day. But don’t sweat it if you end up skipping a workout or two. Experts say we can usually afford to cut back on exercise for a few weeks without sacrificing fitness.

5. Create new traditions. The holidays are a joyful time to catch up and celebrate with loved ones. The laughter and reminiscing doesn’t have to take place around the dinner table, though. Now is the perfect time to create new, active traditions with your family. Gather the troops and play an annual Thanksgiving game of tough football, ask your friends to join you for a local “jingle jog” 5k race and take the kids ice skating on New Year’s Eve.

How do you motivate yourself to stay active over the holidays? I always remind myself that I’ll never regret doing a workout, but I’ll almost always regret skipping it.

Sources:

http://www.acefitness.org/healthandfitnesstips/healthandfitnesstips_display.aspx?itemid=192

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-gravity-weight/201011/the-holiday-creep-seasonal-weight-gain

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/your-holiday-fitness-program

http://www.runnersworld.com/article/1,7124,s6-238-267–13351-0,00.html

The Skinny on Holiday Dieting

weight scaleStaying on your diet during the holidays can be a real challenge, so much so that many people simply opt to call all of December a giant “cheat day.” This can lead to discouragement and destructive crash dieting come January.

Instead, try any (or all) of these 20 basic tips to keep yourself on the straight and narrow in the face of holiday temptations and feasts.

1. Hold activity-centric, not food-centric, holiday gatherings. Bonus points for making it something active in its own right, like a long family walk, ice-skating, or caroling.

2. Switch to a diet that includes weekly “cheat days,” and schedule those cheat days to coincide with the most tempting feasts and parties.

3. Make diet-friendly menu decisions whenever you host a party, such as a platter of fruits and veggies instead of a bunch of holiday cookies.

4. Load up with low-cal snacks, like fruits, veggies and some lean protein, before going to holiday parties, so you’re less tempted to munch.

5. Drink only water throughout the month, eliminating those “invisible calories” that come in punches, soft drinks and hot toddies.

6. Allow yourself just three bites (or just one) of any can’t-resist holiday treat. This gives you the pleasure of the taste without adding too many calories.

7. Wait five to 10 minutes before getting a second helping, or even a first helping of a sweet treat. This will help you determine whether you’re hungry, or just craving.

8. Eat slowly and mindfully. Chew each bite thoroughly, and take time to talk with guests between each bite.

9. Don’t eat anything while packing up leftovers. If necessary, make that somebody else’s job.

10. Commit to eating nothing while standing in front of the refrigerator from Black Friday to New Year’s.

11. Volunteer to be the designated driver. Alcohol is high in calories, and even being a little drunk will reduce your inhibitions.

12. Plan your routes at work to avoid the “snack table” that seems to magically appear as Christmas approaches.

13. Remember you’re only human. If you have a rough night that could undermine your weight loss, forgive yourself and do better for the rest of the month. Don’t just give up and call off your diet for the duration.

14. Favor lean proteins and vegetables when dishing up your plate. These are the best choices for filling up faster and avoiding snack cravings later.

15. Use a point-counting system like Weight Watchers, the Atkins diet or simple calorie counting . You don’t have to whip out a slide rule and graph, but these programs can help you keep better track of what you eat throughout each day. Even keeping a basic food journal logging each meal will help you stay accountable for your dietary choices.

16. Take steps to reduce holiday stress, since stress-eating can throw you off track.

17. Fix low-calorie dishes, like a salad, whenever you’re in control of the menu or when bringing a contribution to a holiday potluck. Add dried fruit, nuts and goat cheese for indulgent flavors without the guilt and drizzle with a homemade balsamic vinaigrette.

18. Arrive a bit late to parties to reduce the amount of time you’re tempted by sweets and snacks. Plus, other guests may unknowingly help your cause by eating all the bacon-wrapped treats you can’t seem to give up before you get there.

19. Eat frequent small meals at home, so you’re not tempted to overdo it at the calorie-rich, treat-heavy holiday feasts.

20. Get a friend or relative who’ll be with you often on board with your goals, somebody who can help you stay accountable to yourself.

Readers, what are some other ideas you have for staying the course on your holiday diet? Tell us your ideas, successes and tales of woe in the comments. 

Beware of High Calorie Holiday Drinks

Nothing says “it’s the holidays” quite like a creamy cup of eggnog or a mug of spiced apple cider. But drinking too many of these festive beverages can leave you looking like Santa.Christmas Hot Chocolate

Calories in Holiday Beverages

Before you reach for that glass of cheer, take note: fancy beverages are often loaded with calories, fat and sugar. In fact, many holiday cocktails and coffeehouse drinks pack more calories than desserts. To burn off the calories in one hot buttered rum, for instance, a 150-lb. woman would have to walk briskly for approximately 90 minutes. Check out the average calorie counts on popular holiday drinks — and approximately how much exercise a 150-lb. woman would need to do to burn it off:

Alcoholic:

*Eggnog (one cup): 391 calories = 35 minutes of kickboxing

*Hot buttered rum (16oz): 418 calories = a 4-mile run

*White Russian (16oz): 355 calories = 30 minutes of jumping rope

*Chocolate liqueur (3oz on the rocks): 310 calories = 40 minutes on the elliptical trainer

*Mudslide (8oz): 590 calories = taking a 45-minute spin class

* Champagne (5oz): 122 calories = 30 minutes of water aerobics

* Champagne punch (one cup): 146 calories = 30 minutes of raking leaves

* Peppermint Mojito (6oz): 180 calories =  30 minutes of Pilates

* Martini (3oz): 196 calories = 25 minutes using a rowing machine

*Spiced cider with rum (one cup): 150 calories = 45 minutes of housework

*White wine (5oz): 121 calories = 35 minutes of strength training

* Red wine (5oz): 125 calories = 30 minutes of playing with your kids</li></ul>

Non-alcoholic:

* Eggnog (one cup): 343 calories = 45 minutes of hiking

*Hot cocoa (12oz): 320 calories = 50 minutes of moderate aerobics

* Peppermint mocha (16oz): 470 calories = one hour of intense yoga

* Pumpkin spice latte (16oz): 410 calories = 40 minutes of step aerobics

*Holiday punch (one cup): 234 calories = 30 minutes of ice skating

*Spiced apple cider (one cup): 117 calories = 25 minutes of dancing

*Sparkling grape juice (one cup): 152 calories = a 20-minute swim</li></ul>

Tips to Lighten Up

Try these tricks to save calories on your favorite holiday beverages:

1. Cut serving sizes: Pour spiced cider into champagne flutes instead of a regular glass and the portion will be a few ounces smaller. You’ll cut calories but still feel like you’re drinking a full serving. Serve up hot beverages like eggnog or hot chocolate in shot glasses and garnish them with whipped cream, sprinkles, cocoa powder or cinnamon. This fancy display will be pleasing for both the eyes and waistline.

2. Substitute a lighter milk. Coffee beverages, cocoas, eggnog and White Russians are made using milk or cream. Sub skim or one percent milk for whole milk and use half-and-half in place of whipping cream and you’ll save calories and fat.

3. Get creative. Forget about the high-calorie cocktails this year and make holiday wine coolers instead. Start out with 5 oz. of white wine, add a splash of cranberry juice and garnish with a mini candy cane. This merry concoction contains less than one-third of the calories in a hot buttered rum.

4. Hydrate with water. Nothing quenches your thirst as well as good old H2O. When you feel thirsty, drink a cup of water before ordering a festive beverage. Sip on water between alcoholic drinks, too. If water is too plain for you, add a slice of lime, lemon or cucumber for a burst of flavor. Or try sparkling water.

5. Plan ahead. If want to cap off the night with a cup of eggnog, plan for it earlier in the day. Skip dessert or have a smaller dinner so you can indulge later on.

6. Nix the alcohol. Ordering your favorite drinks virgin can save you up to 100 calories per beverage. Try this recipe for a merry pomegranate champagne punch “mocktail”: combine a half a cup of fruit juice with half a cup of pomegranate juice, add frozen raspberries and garnish with a lemon peel.

7. Skip the extras. Many holiday cocoas, coffee drinks and alcoholic beverages are topped with whipped cream, chocolate sauce, sprinkles or a candy cane. While these garnishes look nice, the extra calories aren’t doing any favors for your waistline. Skip these extras, and when ordering coffee beverages, ask the barista for fewer pumps of the pumpkin, gingerbread or peppermint syrup. Chances are your drink will still be just as flavorful without it.

8.  Don’t pass up your favorites. There’s no reason to be a Scrooge and completely deprive yourself of your favorite beverages. Just be sure to indulge in high-calorie drinks only in moderation and keep up with other healthy habits, like having good nutrition and getting regular exercise, throughout the holiday season.

What’s your must-have holiday beverage and how do you make it healthier? I cannot resist white hot chocolate, but I always hold the whipped cream to keep calories in check.

Sources:

http://www.self.com/calculatorsprograms/calculators

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/holiday-drinks/NU00644

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/diet-busters-ten-high-calorie-holiday-drinks

http://www.self.com/health/blogs/healthyself/2011/12/8-low-cal-holiday-cocktails.html

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/22071944/ns/today-today_holiday_guide/t/cheers-tricks-cut-holiday-cocktail-calories/

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/healthy_holiday_mocktail_recipes

6 Holiday Stress-Busters

As much fun as the holiday season can be, it’s also notorious for stress. You have parties to plan, family politics to navigate, children to please and an increasingly challenging schedule to somehow work your way through. A fortunate few thrive in this environment, letting the extra pressure energize them. For the rest of us, that stress can mean consequences ranging from having less fun to getting ill.

To make the most of this holiday season, consider trying one of these proven stress-busters.

1. Breathing Vacation

Give yourself five minutes of alone time to simply sit and breathe. This can act as a “reset button” for your emotions and stress. Sit down and breathe in through your nose, out through your mouth, thinking only of the rhythm and timing of your breaths, for 10 to 20 cycles.

2. 10-Minute Sweat

Mild to moderate exercise not only helps reduce stress, it also gives you energy for the rest of the day. Get up early if you have to and take just 10 minutes for running, cycling or calisthenics. You’ll get your best results from something you can do without gear in your home. If even this small break gets too time-consuming, find some “micro-workouts” by parking at the far end of the lot, or walking a few blocks to the neighborhood holiday party.

3. Practice Saying “No”

Saying “no” to something during the holiday season is really just saying “yes” to something more important. It’s easy to get overbooked, then double-booked, then triple-booked during the holidays. Do yourself a favor and say “no” to everything that’s not A-list important. If this means promising to visit with friends in January, that’s okay. It clears a piece of their holiday calendar, too.

4. Carry Healthy Snacks

People stress-eat. So do you. If you rely on what’s in the environment around you, you’ll be noshing on cookies, candies and mall court fast food. That means gaining weight, losing energy and even compromising your immune system. Instead, go forth into the world armed with a zipper bag of veggie sticks, a piece of fruit and a low-sugar protein bar.

5. Learn to Delegate

You don’t have to do it all yourself. Say it with me now: “I don’t have to do it all myself.” Although most people understand this concept in theory, it’s surprising how few apply it during the holiday madness. Remember — half the stress you’ll be experiencing will come from the number of people you’ll be around all season. Use some of them. They’ll be happy to help.

6. Smile

Here’s the thing about smiling. When you’re happy and relaxed, you smile, but the opposite is also true. When you smile, that physical motion triggers hormone release in your brain that helps you become happy and relaxed. We’re not talking about the “plastic happy face” smile, here, but a genuine toothy grin. If you’re worried or stressed out, think of something that brings a smile to your face.

Any other holiday stress help you’ve heard of or used? Tell us about it — or just vent over last night’s party — in the comments below. 

Sources

“Getting Things Done,” David Allen

http://www.abubakarjamil.com/breathing-meditation-technique/

http://www.beliefnet.com/Health/Emotional-Health/Stress/Holiday-Stress-Busters.aspx?b=1&p=11

The Glycemic Index: What You Should Know

Your body is full of delicate balancing acts. Different chemicals are constantly competing to counteract each other and keep things running smoothly, in a process clinically known as homeostasis. This ability to self-regulate allows our bodies to maintain a healthy temperature, blood pressure and water levels. Another important example of homeostasis that has been receiving a lot of attention lately is blood sugar, or blood glucose.

Many diet programs utilize the glycemic index, a measure of how food affects your blood sugar levels, to achieve certain health benefits. How is blood sugar naturally controlled? How does food affect our blood sugar? What benefits can you expect from monitoring the glycemic index of your diet?

How Blood Sugar Works

Sugar, in the form of glucose, is used throughout your body as fuel at the cellular level. Generally, a healthy level of glucose in your blood is between 90 and 110 mg/dl, which ensures your cells have all the fuel they need to get their job done without being damaged. These levels are maintained by two hormones, insulin and glucagon, both released by the pancreas.

Insulin is the weapon of choice when blood sugar levels are too high. Once it’s in the bloodstream, insulin makes the cells absorb more sugar and tells the liver to store some for later use. This pulls the sugar from the blood and stops any potential damage.

Glucagon is released when blood sugar levels are too low and basically undoes the effects of insulin. This hormone signals to the liver that it’s time to release stored glucose into the blood, raising sugar levels.

When you eat, the carbohydrates in your food are broken down into sugar, which causes a spike in your blood sugar levels. In response, your body begins the cycle of insulin and glucagon to try to regain balance. The varying effects of food on your blood sugar is called the glycemic index (GI). Foods with a high GI are absorbed rapidly, making your blood sugar shoot up quickly and then plummet when insulin is released. Low GI foods digest slower and do not have such a drastic effect on your blood sugar.

Can It Help You Lose Weight?

Various diets attempt to control your blood sugar levels by means of this glycemic index, focusing on foods with a low GI that will have little effect on your blood sugar.

Although this type of diet is beneficial for people with blood sugar issues, diabetes or other related conditions, it is frequently used for weight loss. By nature, this diet will limit your intake of high-carb foods since these typically have a high GI. Compared to other low or no carb diets, though, a glycemic index diet is generally easier to follow because you don’t have to count carbs. This accessibility and sustainability make a glycemic index diet attractive. But does it work?

Lab results are mixed. Some studies have shown no more weight loss from following a GI diet than from following any other program, while others demonstrate a much higher potential for weight loss. Part of the problem could be the wide variation in GI diets leading to an inconsistency in testing. Usually, however, the GI diets that do cause weight lose encourage high fiber and protein intake which contributes to lower portions.

If you do plan on following a GI diet, Dr. David Katz, writing for U.S. News, stresses the importance of using the GI only for its intended purpose: measuring the effects of carbohydrates on blood sugar. Katz points out that these diets pay no attention to other vital nutrients like protein, fats and fiber and paint an unbalanced view of nutrition.

For weight loss, the GI can be incredibly useful to help you decide which carbohydrates to eat, but should be used in conjunction with a balanced diet.

Performance Enhancing Potential

Because carbohydrates are the main fuel used during endurance training, it seems logical that a high GI drink during exercise would be useful. However, a 2009 study published in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport found no difference in performance from high or low GI drinks. The researchers did note, though, that a low GI meal before exercise lessened the effects of cortisol, which causes your body to store fat.

Have you followed a glycemic index diet? Please share your experience with us in the comments.

Sources

http://www.pc.maricopa.edu/Biology/pfinkenstadt/BIO201/201LessonBuilder/UnitOne/Homeostasis/index.html

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/glycemic-index-diet/MY00770

http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2012/10/18/use-and-abuse-of-the-glycemic-index

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18789762