How to Avoid Added Sugar

Sugar has been getting a lot of negative attention in the media over the last few years. That’s because not only is it one of the main causes of our countries obesity epidemic, but it also can cause a lot of preventable diseases such as Type 2 Diabetes, Heart Disease, and cavities just to name a few. Cutting sugar out completely can seem impossible but here are some simple things to look for to avoid consuming more added sugars.

Read the Labels: There are products that you know sugar is already in such as fruit juice, sweetened cereals and candy. The problem is, sugar is hidden in a lot of foods we typically wouldn’t expect. Everything from tomato sauce, to ketchup, to granola bars and even some spices contain sugar. Make sure to read the label fully and look for the amount of sugar per serving size. Ideally, you should aim for sugar to be no more than 48 grams. There are about 56 grams of sugar in a bottle of Gatorade… just to emphasize the importance of reading the labels first before consuming.

Buy Fresh Foods over Canned: It is recommended by the USDA food guidelines to aim for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day and a colorful assortment of them. Although fruit does have sugar in it, these are natural sugars and not artificially added sugars like the ones we find in our foods. Canned foods, especially fruits, are swimming in syrupy sugar water in order to preserve their freshness and shelf life. Always choose fresh over canned and just shop for the amount of fresh produce that you’re actually going to eat that week, since it will go bad faster than the canned versions.

Try Healthy Substitutions: There are a number of baking substitutions you can use to reduce your sugar intake. Applesauce is a great natural sweetener to use in place of large amounts of sugar. You can also use extracts to bring sweetness to baked goods and cinnamon and nutmeg that can cut down on the added sugars in a dish. When you bake at home, you can even cut the sugar called in recipes down and not notice the difference in taste.

Make Your Own Food: The best way to make sure you don’t consume any extra sugars is to cook your own food at home. You get to choose the ingredients, you know exactly how much sugar does/doesn’t go into a recipe, and you can control your portion sizes. This is a great way to take control of your health and really give your family the best possible food and nutrition. If you need some inspiration on less sugar dishes, check out some of the healthy recipes below.

http://www.thelittleepicurean.com/2015/02/avocado-kale-smoothie.html?crlt.pid=camp.fBbHcF49nUqK

http://www.joyfulhealthyeats.com/cilantro-lime-chicken-with-avocado-salsa/

http://fitandhealthywithdebbie.blogspot.com/2012/10/banana-oatmeal-breakfast-muffins.html?m=1#.WNvQuvnytPZ

Does being social help you lose more weight?

One of the questions we often receive here at incentaHEALTH is “What’s the secret to losing weight, and keeping it off?”

Of course the simple answer is HEAL: Healthy Eating and Active Living!  If you can find ways to eat better (my most effective thing is to remember to control my portion sizes) and move  your body more (take the stairs!) you should start to see changes in your energy level and your health.  But if you’re looking for additional ways to stack the odds in your favor, then read on.

After analyzing the performance of thousands of participants in our community program,  Weigh and Win, we recently noticed that people using our team challenges tend to lose more weight.  And those that decide to be the captain of a team have even more success.

People who join the team challenge lose more weight
People who join the team challenge lose more weight

Why is this happening?  One theory is that the very act of promising to your friends that you’re going to try to get in shape increases your commitment to change.  This “social contract” with your family and friends provides a bit more motivation to put down that donut and pick up an apple.  And if you take on the role of team captain and organizer, then you’re given an extra helping of social accountability.  Everyone is watching!

apple-donut

Team challenges aren’t for everyone.  But if you don’t mind a little fun and competition with your weight loss journey, then you might want to give one of our team challenges a try!

Good luck!

Written by: Todd McGuire, CTO incentaHEALTH

Healthy Memorial Day Tips & Tricks

Are you ready for the three-day weekend that marks the beginning of summer?  Whether you’re planning on gardening, playing a game outside or getting your grill on, here’s some healthy advice to making your Memorial Day the best for your healthy and active lifestyle!

Grill Without the Guilt

Add some more fruits and vegetables to the grill to get more antioxidants out of your typical barbeque meal. Try grilling zucchini, onions, bell peppers, pears and pineapples to add some unique and healthy flavors to your plain old burgers.

Choose leaner cuts of meat for grilling. Make sure excess fat is trimmed to reduce the amount of fat dripping onto the grill. Choose meats like skinless chicken breasts, ground turkey instead of ground beef, or even fresh fish

Marinade, marinade, marinade! This gives flavor to leaner cuts of meat without adding more fat. Choose healthier marinating options like the use of less sodium sauces, vinegars, or even fresh citrus juices like lemons, limes and oranges.

Get Active While Soakin’ Up Some Sun

Memorial Day weekend typically marks the opening of pools and water parks to help deal with the long and hot weather days. Take the time to go for a swim or even play around at a water park to increase your vitamin D intake.

Avoid the holiday weekend traffic by going for a bike ride instead. If avoiding the driving traffic is an option, try going for a walk or a bike ride somewhere instead of sitting in the hot car if at all possible. With bike riding becoming more and more popular,  bicycle friendly states are starting to help bikers out a bit when it comes to safety with improved road conditions and more signage for cars to share the road.

dad and kid biking smaller

Make the most out of the weekend by enjoying time together with friends and family. Whether it’s playing backyard games together, walking around at a festival or just enjoying the beautiful spring scenery, enjoy the time spent with each other and don’t make food the main focus of this special weekend.

Written by: Rachel Corcoran, Weigh and Win Health Coach

Meet Your Health Coach – Mallory

Did you know you have unlimited access to a health coach by phone or email? Each health coach has a wide variety of experience in health and wellness. incentaHEALTH has three health coaches available to you Monday-Friday from 8 am – 5 pm MST at personal.trainer@incentahealth.com or at 800-694-0352.

We’d like you to meet Health Coach – Mallory!

Mallory_photo

Years with incentaHEALTH:
Three

Education:
I graduated from Oklahoma State University (Go Pokes!) in 2010 with Bachelors in Health Education and Promotion with a concentration in Exercise Science.

Certifications:
ACE Certified Personal Trainer, AFPA Certified Nutrition & Wellness Consultant

Hobbies:
Cooking, lifting, tennis, snowboarding, hiking, yoga, sleeping, cornhole and live music.

Health Advice:
Above all, focus on sleep for health improvement and reduced stress.  You won’t get the full benefits of the physical and dietary lifestyle changes you are making until you get your baseline seven hours of sleep per night. Sleep is vital to health, wellness, cell growth, memory formation, mental agility, physical performance – you name it and sleep can improve it. Studies show you get the best quality of sleep between the hours of 10PM and 2AM. I challenge you to try to get to bed a little bit earlier and, if possible, try to wake up naturally without setting an alarm clock. You will be flabbergasted how much better you feel and the results you experience!

Improve Your Sleep, Improve Your Health

Want a “quick fix” that actually works: improve your sleep to improve all aspects of your health. Just like your phone charges each night for reliable use the next day, your body needs to charge or it will start to break down- in more ways than one! You can buy a new phone battery if you don’t take care of it, but you cannot buy a new body.  If you can in the future, then I assume it is expensive.

The good news is that once you improve your sleeping habits, many other areas of your life will start to improve. It is the gift that keeps on giving! For example, choosing the right foods, engaging in activity and concentrating at work will become much easier. When we don’t get enough sleep, then we don’t have enough energy. When the body doesn’t have enough energy for the demands of the day, it will start to crave low quality, processed foods because these foods have quick-release energy. Before we know it, sugar and unhealthy fats will become a stable in the diet just to get us through the physical and mental activities of the day.

Brian Sanderoff P.D,director of the Well Being Healing Center and Holistic Pharmacy in Hunt Valley, Maryland, states that “the reason sleep is so important is because it is when we are asleep that we create Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH is thought to be the “anti-aging” hormone; and is responsible for muscle building, tissue regeneration, liver regeneration, the breakdown of fat cells and blood sugar regulation.”

How much sleep we need varies between individuals but generally changes as we age. The National Institutes of Health suggests that adults need 7-8 hours each night. Here are some tips to start improving your sleeping habits today!

6-tips-for-better-sleep

Exercise Injury Prevention

Along with the warmer temperatures comes more outdoor physical activity. Since May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month let’s review what you should practice to ensure proper exercise technique and avoid injury at all costs. Let’s face it, no one wants to be locked up inside with an injury during the summer months!

Proper Warm-up and Cool-down

A proper warm-up prepares your body for exercise by gradually increasing the heart rate and loosening the muscles and joints. A warm-up should include light movement to get your blood flowing. Start out at a low intensity and slowly work up to the intensity of your workout. Some good warm-up activities would be a light jog, bike, jump rope, or plyometric exercises like high knees or leg swings if you are planning on participating in a sport that requires a lot of agility movements like baseball, football, basketball, etc.

A cool-down is important for slowly bringing your heart rate back down to a normal level. Many of the same activities you perform during a warm-up can also be done as a cool-down (i.e. light jog, bike, etc.) You can also incorporate stretching into your cool-down routine. Focus on the muscles you primarily worked during your workout and slowly stretch these muscles and hold for approximately 10-20 seconds.

Walking

Ease Into It

When you begin a new exercise routine, it is very important to start slowly. As you become more comfortable with the movements and your body is more comfortable with the strain being put on it you can then gradually build up the intensity, duration, and frequency.

Listen to Your Body

Only do what feels comfortable to your body and do not push yourself further once you feel uncomfortable. Pain is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong and if what starts out as a small issue is repeatedly stressed, or not given proper rest, it may lead to a more severe injury.

Hydration and Nutrition

It is important to stay hydrated during a workout to avoid becoming light headed or passing out. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water before, during, and after you work out. A good general rule of thumb is to drink a full glass of water about 20 minutes before working out and another full glass of water after your workout. Along with hydrating yourself before and after your workout, you should also be drinking water frequently throughout the duration of your workout.

Aside from staying hydrated you also should be eating before and after activity in order to provide your body with nutrients and to refuel energy stores.  Practice eating a small meal or snack every couple hours throughout the day. After your workout, be sure to consume a quality carbohydrate and protein to replenish your energy body.

Hydration

Proper Equipment

Before you start any type of activity, make sure you have the proper equipment required for the specific activity. Proper clothing and footwear is the most important. Consider light weight or dry-fit type of material when you know you will be exercising to the point of perspiration. Also, make sure the shoes you have are right for the activity you are participating in. If you are a runner, you should replace your shoes every year or every 500 miles (whichever comes first) to maintain proper support and traction.

Vary Your Activity

Make sure you vary your workout. Do not overuse one muscle group because overuse can lead to injuries such as tendonitis or shin splints. Make sure you include rest days in your workout routine to allow your muscles time to rebuild.

Proper Form

Practicing proper form is very important. Something as small as leaning too far forward or having your feet too far apart can end in injury. Make sure you research the proper form for each activity you plan to do and if you are still unsure you can always contact one of your incentaHEALTH Health Coaches who would love to help answer any of your exercise related questions!

 Written by:   Deanne Emig,  Health Coach

Earth Day: Protect the Environment and Your Health

EarthDay

Every year on April 22 we celebrate Earth Day and the importance of protecting our environment. Maybe you started recycling or swapped plastic water bottles for a reusable one in the past few years. This year, celebrate Earth Day by improving your health and the Earth. Here are six things you can do:

Bike or Walk Instead of Driving

With warmer weather here, take the opportunity to enjoy more time outdoors and consider walking or biking instead of driving. Try bike commuting or taking public transportation to work once a week or walking to a nearby restaurant or store instead of always driving. This will cut back on emissions (better for Earth) and help you burn extra calories (better for you).

Plant a Garden

Home grown vegetables taste better. Consider planting a small outdoor garden, and then you’ll have access to delicious and healthy vegetable right in your backyard.

Eat Local Produce

Don’t have a green thumb? Visit a Farmer’s Market or make a point to buy local produce available at the grocery store. Food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles to get your plate. This uses a large amount of natural resources and contributes to pollution. Buying local produce (or growing your own) means your food will travel a shorter distance to get to your plate.

Go Meatless on Mondays

Reducing the amount of meat you consume can help lower your risk for preventable diseases like diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and cancer. The effect on the environment can be huge. It is estimated that nearly one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gases come from the meat industry and as much as 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef! If a four–person family skips meat one day a week for an entire year, it’s like taking your car off the road for almost three months, according to the Environmental Working Group.

Eat Safe Seafood

Seafood is a great low-calorie, high-protein food source. Many types of seafood are also high in heart healthy omega-3. However, you want to make sure the seafood you’re eating is healthy for you and the environment. Make a point to eat seafood that is low in mercury and doesn’t have environmental problems like overfishing. Visit www.fishwatch.gov to help guide your seafood purchases.

Waste Less Food

Nearly one-third of food production for human consumption is wasted or lost. That is 1.3 billion tons of food wasted every year.  Not only are we wasting  food, we’re wasting the energy used to produce, grow and transport that food. Help cut back on food waste by freezing leftovers, making more trips to the grocery store and cooking appropriate portions.

5 Strategies to Overcome Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is using food to fill an emotional need rather than to fulfill a physical hunger.

People often say they have “fallen off the wagon”, meaning they made positive lifestyle changes and then life got in the way and they slipped back into their unhealthy routines. This situation seems to be common, however, there is actually no such thing as “falling off the wagon,” simply because there is no wagon to begin with.

Everyone has their struggles and their bad days. It’s important to know that health is not a destination that you arrive at; it’s a journey and a lifestyle that you consciously work for every day. Try to make small improvements and learn from your mistakes to become the healthiest version of yourself.

Emotional Hunger v. Physical Hunger


Emotional V. Hunger

 

5 STRATEGIES TO OVERCOME
EMOTIONAL EATING

Strategy 1: Set up a Healthy Home Environment

Emotional eating is often automatic and mindless. If you plan ahead and prepare a healthy home environment, you are setting yourself up for success. Next time you are in an emotional state, you will be less likely to reach for the comfort of food.

Three things to help you set up a healthy home environment:
Clean out your fridge or pantry

If you don’t have unhealthy foods in your house, then you’ve created a buffer for emotional eating.

Rearrange your fridge and pantry

Behavioral studies have shown that foods in visible sight or at eye level are more likely to be eaten. Keep your “treats” hidden away in a drawer and the healthy options front and center.

Portion out your food

Did you know eating from a smaller diameter plate will give you different brain reactions? For example, switching from an 8 inch plate to a 4 in plate might be a helpful tip to control overeating. Also, portion out food that comes from a bag, like chips or nuts, and put them in a smaller bowl when eating.

 

Strategy 2: Identify Triggers & Bad Eating Habits

What situations or feelings make you reach for the comfort of food? Are you eating comfort foods at a certain time of day or after certain interactions?

Two tips to help you identify your triggers and bad eating habits:
Think about the why

Next time you feel yourself reaching for food for a reason other than physical hunger, stop and think about the reason WHY you are reaching for that food. Is it because you had a stressful day at work? Is it because you had a fight with a friend?

Common emotional triggers are stress, comfort after a bad day, anxiety and depression.

Keep a food and mood journal

Log what you’re eating and what your emotions were. Tracking these instances and identifying triggers are an important step for changing unhealthy behaviors.  A food journal is meant to be temporary. Once you’ve identified your bad eating habits and improve upon them, feel free to ditch the journal and eat in a natural and healthy way.

 

Strategy 3: Pause When Cravings Hit

When you find yourself craving something, take time to pause and think about it and give yourself the opportunity to make a different decision. When you have a specific craving, ask yourself “Am I hungry? Or am I actually bored or stressed?”

Think back to the emotional triggers you have identified. Then ask yourself another question: Is there a better way to address whatever emotion I am feeling, instead of turning to food.

Two things to help yourself during a moment of craving:
Take a breather

Wait five minutes instead of immediately indulging. If you need to, set a timer. Tell yourself to wait and see if you still want that food after you have time to clear your mind and think rationally.

Think past the craving

How will you feel after you give into your craving? Will you feel better? Will you feel worse? Will it address your problem or the emotion you’re feeling? Most likely, the answer will be no.

 

 

Strategy 4: Find a New Outlet Besides Food

Once you’ve identified what is causing you to eat emotionally, finding a different outlet for that emotion is the next step.

A few things to try:
Find an alternative activity to eating

Find a physical alternative to eating. Try going for a walk, working out, reading a book, playing  a game with your children, or some other fulfilling hobby.

Get outside

Studies have shown that as little as five minutes of nature can improve your mood and boost your self-esteem. Get outside, take a walk and breathe in the fresh air.

Talk about it

Holding in feelings of stress or anxiety is only going to make you feel more stressed or anxious. When you’re distressed, find someone you can talk to about your emotions, whether that is a spouse, a friend, a co-worker or a pet. Talking about it and venting can be a powerful emotional release.

 

Strategy 5: Improve Overall Health & Well Being

If you’re well-rested and healthy, it will be easier to handle day-to-day obstacles that may otherwise have derailed you from your health goals.

Focus on what you’re doing to improve your overall health.

Healthy Foods = Healthy You

Maintain a well-balanced diet of lean proteins, vegetables, quality carbohydrates and healthy fats. Keep your body hydrated with water and not sugary drinks.

Stay active

Make daily exercise a priority. Staying active doesn’t mean spending hours at the gym. You can incorporate activity into your day: take the stairs, go for a walk, play with your kids. Exercise releases endorphin and can be a powerful mood booster and increase your overall energy levels.

Stay well rested

When you’re sleeping, your body is repairing itself. When you’re not well rested, you feel sluggish and tired and are less likely to stick to your health routines.

Daily Decompress

Find your “me” time to relax and decompress. Set aside even just 10-15 minutes a day to relax and do something you enjoy, whether that’s going for a walk, meditating, reading a book or watching a TV show.

Make meaningful connections

Studies have shown people with strong social connections live longer, so maybe laughter is one of the best forms of medicine after all! Make time for friends and family and spend time together in a meaningful way.

 

Tips for Managing Stress

Stress Management

Stress is a part of almost everyone’s life. In fact, 35% of Americans said their stress has increased in the past year and 62% say their job is the main point of stress. Chronic stress can have an impact on your physical and mental health. It can lower your immunity, cause sleeplessness and headaches, and make you feel anxious and angry. The negative effects and feelings associated with stress can pile up, so learning to cope and deal with it is important.

5 Tips for Managing Stress


1. Learn to Say No
A healthy work-life balance is important. Learn to say no to things in your personal and professional life. An overloaded schedule is a sure-fire way to increase stress.

2. Manage Your Time Better
When you’re running behind for an appointment or a deadline is looming your stress levels are going to sky-rocket. Learn to manage your time, plan ahead and stay focused on one thing at a time.

3. Stay Positive
Next time you feel stressed and negativity starts to take hold, pause and take a moment to think about all the good things in your life.

4. Learn to Move On
Things that are out of our control, like the actions of other people, can be a huge cause of stress. While you can’t control everything or everyone, you can control how you react.

5. Find a Healthy Outlet
Find a way to unwind and let go of your stress at the end of the day. For some that’s running or yoga, others it’s taking a hot bath or meditating. Talking about your feelings, laughing at a funny movie, and getting outdoors are all healthy outlet options. Find an outlet that works for you.

Staying Healthy at a Baseball Game

healthy at a baseball game

Happy Opening Day! In addition to the fresh air, cheering, and the excitement of the game – ballpark food and beer are a part of the experience. Just because you’re at a game doesn’t mean you have to toss your healthy habits aside nor does it mean you have to deny yourself a treat. Here are a few ways to make your next game a healthier experience.

  • Avoid the Nachos
    You’re looking at more than 1,200 plus calories! If it’s your favorite item, try sharing the order with a group of friends.
  • Buy Me Some Peanuts and Cracker Jacks
    Buttery popcorn isn’t your best option.  Go for a box of Cracker Jacks, which has only about 120 calories compared to over 1,000 for popcorn.
  • Swap the Burger for Chicken
    Once you add the cheese and toppings, the calorie-count can sky-rocket. Opt for a leaner protein and eat the grilled chicken sandwich instead.
  • A Healthier Dog
    It’s the toppings that are a nutrition killer. I’m looking at you Bacon and Blue Dogs. Select a regular size hot dog and toppings like relish and onions. Ketchup can be high in sugar, so reach for the mustard instead.
  • Load Up On Vegetables
    There are plenty of vegetarian options throughout most baseball stadiums like wraps, sandwiches, salads, and veggie dogs and burgers.  Check out places that have a make your own salad option. Remember to skip the cheese and select a non-creamy dressing.
  • Limit Your Beverage Intake
    Whether it is beer or soda, try to limit yourself to only one or two beverages.
  • Pack a Lunch
    Did you know that most stadiums allow you to bring your own food? Pack a healthy picnic lunch or snack, plus bottles of water.


Add More Activity Into Your Game Day

  • Bike to the Game
    Avoid the parking hassle and burn extra calories by biking to the game. Utilize the bike lanes throughout the area if they are available and be prepared for the weather.
  • Take a Lap
    Don’t just walk to your seats, take a lap around the stadium in between innings.
  • 7thInning Stretch
    Avoid sitting the whole game and take your own 7th inning stretch by standing up, stretching and moving around. Walk up and down the stairs a few times to get some blood flowing to your legs.