Corporate Fitness and Active Aging

Thinking of Going Vegetarian? Plant-Based Nutrition Basics

ThinkstockPhotos-520129642.jpgHave you been considering plant based nutrition, vegetarian diet? Approximately 3.2% of the American population currently follows this diet, with 0.5% of those following a vegan diet, which includes no animal products at all. This is very small when compared to India, where an estimated 42% of the population does not eat meat.

Why Eliminate Meat?

So why would you consider going vegetarian? There are many reasons, but the most popular are for health reasons, to help preserve the Earth’s natural resources, and for animal rights. However, when some individuals decide to eliminate meat and other animal products from their diets, they might not be getting in all of the essential nutrients that are important.

Proper Nutrition for Meatless Eating

Here are some nutrients to make sure you are getting in to guarantee that your diet is balanced.

  • Protein: Essential for growth and maintenance. Food sources include beans, nuts, nut butters, peas, and soy products (tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers). Milk products and eggs are options for lacto-ovo vegetarians.
  • Iron: A primary carrier of oxygen in the blood. Food sources include iron-fortified cereals, spinach, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lentils, turnip greens, molasses, whole-wheat breads, peas, and some dried fruit (apricots, prunes, and raisins).
  • Calcium: Important for building bones and teeth, and maintaining bone strength. Food sources include fortified breakfast cereals, soy (tofu, soy-based beverages), calcium-fortified orange juice, and some dark green, leafy vegetables (collard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, and mustard greens).
  • Zinc: Necessary for many biochemical reactions and helps the immune system function properly. Food sources include a variety of beans (white beans, kidney beans, and chickpeas), zinc-fortified breakfast cereals, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds; and milk products for lacto vegetarians.
  • Vitamin B12: Necessary for cell division and growth, and strengthens the immune system. Food sources include milk products, eggs, B-12–fortified foods (breakfast cereals, soy-based burgers, veggie burgers, and nutritional yeast).

Vegans who do not have fortified foods and ovo-vegetarians who do not have fortified milk substitutes should consume the following daily:

  • 3–5 teaspoons vegetable oil (for calories and essential fatty acids)
  • 1 Tablespoon blackstrap molasses (for iron and calcium)
  • 1 Tablespoon brewer’s nutritional yeast for B vitamins, especially riboflavin and B12

Tips for Plant-Based Meals

Some final advice for those considering this diet is to build meals around protein sources that are naturally low in fat, such as beans, lentils, and quinoa. Don’t overload meals with high-fat cheese to replace the meat. Many foods that typically contain meat or poultry can be made vegetarian. This can increase vegetable intake and cut saturated fat and cholesterol intake. A variety of products look (and may taste) like their non-vegetarian counterparts, but are usually lower in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.

Most restaurants can accommodate modifications to menu items by substituting meatless sauces, omitting meat from stir-fry dishes, and adding vegetables or pasta in place of meat. These substitutions are more likely to be available at restaurants that make food to order.

If you would like to schedule a personal nutrition consultation to help you decide whether switching to a meat-free diet is the right decision for you, contact me at amitchell@nifs.org.

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Topics: nutrition protein vegetarian vegan plant-based

Why should you shop at your farmer's market?

ThinkstockPhotos-526124862.jpgOne of my favorite things to do during summer in Indiana is to visit the various farmers’ markets around town. As a dietitian I am a sucker for the fresh fruits and veggies, but I also love the homemade desserts, candles, pasta, kettle corn, fresh flowers, and other wonderful items you can find.

Why Should You Shop at Your Farmer's Market?

Here are my top 5 reasons why visiting your town's farmer’s market is a must.

  1. Support the local community. Since the produce is grown and purchased locally, the money remains in the community and stimulates the economy. Also, when you shop at the farmers’ market you are cutting out the middle man, and the product is generally less expensive than if you purchased it in the grocery store.
  2. Eat foods that are in season. Farmers’ market produce is picked ripe and sold soon after picking. Supermarket produce, on the other hand, can take up to two weeks to travel from the farm to the store, even when it is in season. The produce tastes richer and more flavorful and the nutrients are better retained. This handout for Indiana allows you to see which produce is in season so you can plan ahead for meals and shopping on your next outing. If you don’t live in Indiana, check with your local government websites to see if they have a similar calendar.
  3. It’s good for you. The average American eats 4.4 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. The current recommendations are 9 servings per day. Picking up multiple servings of fruits and veggies and incorporating them into recipes, meals, and snacks is a great way to get closer to the 9-serving-per-day-goal. This will guarantee you are meeting your recommended vitamin and mineral nutrition requirements, increasing your daily fiber intake, and acquiring cancer-fighting antioxidants. Locally grown produce is also lower in pesticides and chemicals.
  4. You can talk to the farmers who grew the food you are about to eat. You can meet the farmers who grew your food, ask when it was picked, how it was grown, and ways to prepare it. When else do you get the opportunity to learn so much about what you are putting in your mouth?
  5. There is certain to be one that fits your location and schedule. I love being able to go to the local farmers’ market close to work on my lunch break mid-week to grab items to get me through the rest of the week. Saturday mornings it’s off to the farmers’ market closer to my house to purchase goodies for the weekend and first part of the next week. To find out farmers’ markets close to you, check out the Farmers Market Directory on the USDA website.

An Inexpensive Path to Healthy Eating

Whether you are picking up items for tonight’s dinner or for the whole week, the farmers’ market is an inexpensive, healthy alternative to the grocery store that enables you to participate in eating local. Try to get there early to get the best variety and options. Not all vendors accept credit cards, so be sure to have cash on hand. Finally, bring along your own reusable grocery bag to put all of your goodies in so it is easier to carry home your fresh, delicious finds.

Not sure where to start on your path to a healthier diet?  Check out this quick read for how you could benefit from meeting with a nutrition coach!  Click below.

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Topics: nutrition healthy eating eating local summer vegetables

How to Revitalize your Fitness this Summer

Do you feel like every summer is the same: take the kids to summer camp, go to work, pick the kids up, go home, make dinner, and then start all over again the next day? What about you? What do you do for yourself and your health, wellness and fitness? Here are few tips for how to revitalize your fitness this summer.

  • ThinkstockPhotos-507114390.jpgPick up a new sport or try a new fitness class. Get social! Sign up for a group fitness class that you wouldn’t normally try and bring a friend. Ask your local fitness center what summer programs they have planned. Prefer a team aspect to your fitness? Check out a local sports league in your area and get involved.
  • Buy a new pair of shoes. If it’s been over 6 months since you bought new running shoes, now is the perfect time to invest in a new pair. Even regular walking can cause wear and tear on shoes and also your feet and legs. Visit your local running store and get fitted for the right pair of shoes for you. Then get outside and get moving!
  • Update your workout gear. What goes well with a new pair of shoes? New workout gear! We all love to show off new clothes, right? What better place than on your local running path or in your local gym? Also think about purchasing other equipment such as a good hat or visor to protect your face from the sun.
  • Change up your diet. Not only do you need to switch up your activity, you also need to modify your diet. The summer brings fresh fruit and veggies and a lot of color and nutrition available to add to your diet. Try new things, spice it up, and see what’s out there that you never knew you were missing! You might even try a healthy summer picnic.

As you think of new ways to revitalize your summer, make sure things like water, sunscreen, relaxation, and activity are all constants for safe summer workouts. Increased sunlight and heat provide more opportunity to develop sunburn and dehydration. Take the necessary precautions to avoid any mishaps that will prevent you from enjoying the outdoors.

FREE DOWNLOAD: 7 Ways to Add Exercise to the Workplace >

Topics: nutrition shoes hydration equipment summer wellness and fitness

Start Your Day Off Right with a High-Nutrition Breakfast

ThinkstockPhotos-dv2014027.jpgIf it’s the most important meal of the day, why do about 31 million people or 10% of the population still skip breakfast? Here are the top three reasons people give for skipping breakfast and how you can overcome those excuses to make eating a high nutrition breakfast be a part of your daily routine.

  • I’m just not hungry in the morning. You should wake up in the morning and be hungry. Your body has gone at least 8 hours without food, so it should be ready for some fuel. If not, take a look at your before-bedtime habits and check to see whether you are constantly having snacks like chips and ice cream late into the evening. If so, this can affect your hunger levels in the morning. Don’t go to bed hungry, but instead choose a reasonable snack around 100–150 calories like Greek yogurt or an apple with 1 Tbsp of peanut butter.
  • I don’t have time for breakfast. If you would rather hit the snooze button a few more times than prepare breakfast for yourself, you might find yourself without enough time to eat in the morning. The key is to aim for three food groups at a meal, so even if you grab a turkey sandwich and a banana as you run out the door, you are still starting your day right. The key is to combine some protein and whole grains to help give you energy and keep you full. Breakfast is also a great time to get in a dairy or fruit serving too! If time is an issue, use this recipe for Breakfast Egg Muffins to prepare breakfast for the whole week. Add an egg to an English muffin and grab a glass of milk or piece of fruit to go with it and you are set!
  • I want to save my calories for later in the day. Some people think if they skip breakfast it will help with their weight-loss efforts or it gives them more calories to consume at lunch and dinner. Unfortunately, this is not the case. A recent study compared two groups: one ate more for breakfast and the other ate more at dinner, with both consuming the same amount of calories. The breakfast group lost more weight and inches than the dinner group. Typically people who skip breakfast overcompensate the rest of the day by eating more calories than if they had started their day with a balanced meal.

Whatever your reason for skipping breakfast is, try to break that habit and start eating something every day for better nutrition all day. Start small with a glass of 100% juice or a piece of fruit and then work up to a balanced meal between 400 and 500 calories and at including least three food groups.

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Topics: nutrition weight loss breakfast snacks

Nutrition Tips for Brain Health

ThinkstockPhotos-635683954-1.jpgWe already know that the foods you eat can affect your weight, heart, blood pressure, and certain cancers, but we also know that food and nutrition can affect your brain health. Whether it’s just improving your memory or helping to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, the foods you choose can help to make your brain healthier. Check out these six nutrition tips for brain health:

  • Mediterranean diet: Long known to be the best diet for heart health, researchers now know that this diet is also best for your brain, too. Compared to those on a low-fat diet, the individuals who ate more olive oil and nuts had better memory and thinking skills. Researchers believe the benefit comes from the high amount of antioxidants consumed in the diet, along with foods that help prevent inflammation.
  • Less red meat: You have heard that too much red meat (and other foods high in saturated fat like butter) isn’t good for your heart, but are those foods bad for your brain, too? Just as the fat in your diet can cause your arteries to clog, they can cause an increase in plaque formation in the brain, too. This buildup has been found to be a cause of Alzheimer’s disease. Try to decrease your consumption of red meat to 1–2 times per week.
  • Fish: If you have been watching the news at all in the last 10 years, you know how much great press omega-3 fatty acids have gotten. This is mainly due to the heart-protective effects of fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna and other sources like walnuts and flax. However, omega-3 fatty acids have also been found to be excellent for brains. From babies still in the womb all the way until death, omega-3 fatty acids are vital. They build brain cell membranes, reduce brain inflammation, promote new brain cell formation, and have been found to improve memory and mood.
  • Produce power: Antioxidants aren’t just for cancer fighting. They are also useful for brain health and can be found in any of the bright-colored fruits and veggies. Swap broccoli and dark leafy greens for typical dinner-meal sides. Reach for berries and other bright-colored fruits all day long to get the benefit of a memory boost.
  • Spices: New research is constantly being done about spices and their benefit. These have had some positive results when it comes to the brain: turmeric, saffron, garlic, cinnamon, and thyme. All of them are probably sitting in your spice cabinet now, so start adding them to your meals and reap the brain benefits.
  • Coffee and tea: One item that can be controversial is coffee due to the effect of caffeine. However, caffeine is actually good for your brain health. It can help increase alertness and attention; however, long-term studies are still inconclusive. So in the meantime, stick to the recommendation of 400 mg or less of caffeine per day, which is the equivalent of 3 cups of drip coffee. Tea can give you caffeine along with the beneficial antioxidants, so consider switching your afternoon cup of joe to a cup of tea. (See this blog for the amount of caffeine in common foods.)

Most of these suggestions are also important for heart health, weight management, and an overall balanced diet. So if you haven’t been choosing these items on a regular basis, improving brain health is another positive reason to start!

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Topics: nutrition Omega 3 antioxidants brain health memory Alzheimer's Disease caffeine

What Is the Key for Weight Loss: Diet, Exercise, or Both?

ThinkstockPhotos-470754782.jpgLots of research has been done over the years to figuret out the best recipe for success when it comes to weight loss. Diet alone? Exercise alone? Or a combination of both? It should come as no surprise that the key for weight loss and keep it off is to combine a low-fat, lower-calorie diet with an exercise routine.

Results of a Weight-Loss Study

In a study funded by the National Cancer Institute in 2011, 439 overweight to obese postmenopausal women were assigned to four different groups: exercise only (45 minutes of moderate-vigorous activity five days per week), diet only (1,200–2,000 calories per day, depending on starting weight, and less than 30% of calories from fat), exercise and diet, and no intervention.

The yearlong study found that the exercise-only group lost 2.4% of their starting body weight, with the diet-only group losing 8.5% of their weight. However, the group that incorporated both a lower-fat and caloric diet and exercise lost 10.9% of their starting weight, which was an average loss of 19.8 pounds. One other thing that was significant in this study was that the women who lost the most amount of weight and body fat kept a daily food journal, writing down everything they ate and drank.

Tips for Losing Weight

As I said, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a combination of more balanced eating and movement will lead to the most amount of weight loss. So here are some tips to help make this become a lifestyle for success.

  • Keep a food log. As the study showed, the most successful individuals logged what they ate. Grab a pen and jot it down, or use an app or an online program for tracking. Whichever way works for you, start today!
  • Focus on low fat. Aim for 30% or less of your intake from fat. Fat helps to make food taste more flavorful and helps to keep you fuller longer. However, aim for those good-for-you sources of fat such as nuts, avocado, olive oil, and salmon.
  • Move more. The individuals in the study did 45 minutes of exercise, 5 times per week, but any movement is better than nothing. Start walking, cycling, strength training, stretching, and just moving more each day.

More Help from NIFS

If you want to lose weight and are considering starting to decrease your calories or start exercising, hopefully this will help you to decide to do both! If you need more assistance getting started, please contact me at amitchell@nifs.org to set up a personal nutrition coaching session to help meet your goals.

Benefits of meeting with a nutrition coach >

Topics: exercise nutrition weight loss NIFS calories nutrition coaching diet

Battling Wintertime Blues with Nutrition

Are you struggling with the winter blues? Is it cold and dark and dreary in your part of the country? When was the last time you felt and saw the sun? You could be lacking vitamin D, and this can lead to depression and a lower immunity to fight colds.

So, if you aren’t able to get your much-needed 15 minutes of sunlight each day to supply your body’s vitamin D needs, start battling wintertime blues with nutrition with these food ThinkstockPhotos-stk26325fls-1.jpgoptions:

  • Fatty fish: This includes salmon, mackerel, canned tuna, and sardines. Three ounces of salmon provides 450 IU of vitamin D—almost all of the daily recommendation of 600 IU. Canned tuna and sardines are an inexpensive way to get in seafood, giving you heart healthy omega 3s and 150 IU of vitamin D per serving. Another bonus is the long shelf life if you haven’t been to the grocery store to get fresh protein choices.
  • Milk: Almost all cows’ milk in the U.S. is fortified with vitamin D. A lot of other dairy products are, too, but not ice cream or cheese. Typically an 8-ounce glass of milk has 100 IUs of vitamin D, and most yogurt has around 80 IU for a 6-ounce container. If you are choosing soymilk or almond milk, most are fortified, but check the labels to be sure.
  • Fortified orange juice: If you aren’t a fan of milk or have lactose intolerance, 100% orange juice is an option. Typically an 8-ounce glass has the same amount of vitamin D as a glass of milk (100 IU). Just make sure you are buying the fortified kind.
  • Egg yolks: Eggs are a great way to get in vitamin D. However, you have to eat the whole egg and not just the whites to get the benefit. One egg yolk has 40 IUs.
  • Fortified cereal: Another way to double up on vitamin D is to choose a fortified cereal to have with your milk or glass of OJ at breakfast. 1 cup of Multi Grain Cheerios provides 90 IUs of vitamin D. Add milk to that and you are close to 200 IUs! Just be sure to choose cereals that are labeled as fortified with vitamin D.
  • Supplements: If you still have trouble getting all of your vitamin D needs met through food and the sun, an alternative is to take a supplement. The upper-limit dose for individuals over age 9 is 4,000 IU per day. Consuming more than this can lead to higher blood calcium levels and increased risk of kidney stones. Always talk to your physician before starting a supplement.

Recent studies have found that nearly 3 out of 4 individuals have either a Vitamin D deficiency or borderline deficiency. Most of this because we spend more time indoors compared to our parents and grandparents. Longer work hours, longer commutes in a vehicle, and more screen time indoors definitely play a part. Get outside, incorporate more of the foods above, and chat with your doctor about supplementing. All of this can mean a healthier immune system, stronger bones, and lower risk of some cancers.

Want to lose weight, gain muscle, manage diabetes, improve sport performance, reduce cholesterol, or just figure out how to grocery shop and prepare healthier meals?

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Topics: nutrition supplements depression winter blues vitamins winter

How to change bad habits

making a list

Bad habits often compromise a healthy lifestyle. No matter what your bad habit is, you can tackle it by identifying your weaknesses changing your mind’s focus.  Take a moment and use these tips on how to change bad habits.

Identifying Bad Habits

First, identify your bad habits and what keeps you from changing them:

  • Make a list of your good and bad habits. Recognize those habits you would like to change.
  • Organize a plan when cravings for bad habits return. Know how you will handle these cravings. If possible, try to avoid them.
  • Recognize the barriers that will keep you from changing your bad habits. Avoid situations and people that will cause you to resort to performing your bad habits.

Break the Cycle and Change Your Behavior

Depending on what your bad habit is, a number of tricks can help you break the cycle. For example:

  • Avoid using food or other substances (smoking, drinking, etc.) to comfort yourself. Instead, use other, less damaging techniques such as listening to soothing music or chewing gum.
  • Avoid sugary drinks. Keep bottles of water at home and at work. If you don’t like drinking plain water, try flavored, but make sure you select a low- or no-sugar option.
  • If you just can’t stop slouching, set a timer on your watch for every few minutes. Use the alarm as a reminder to check your posture and sit or stand up straight. Keep lengthening the time intervals as you get better at keeping your posture a priority.

What bad habit do you plan to kick?  

Interested in helping your employees make healthy habits?  Download our whitepaper to learn how to incorporate exercise into your wellness program for employees. 

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Topics: corporate wellness nutrition employee wellness behavior modification

Get Rid of Winter Blues with Attitude, Fitness, and More

ThinkstockPhotos-78053977.jpgAfter the excitement of holiday parties and festivities slows down, we sometimes find ourselves in a funk. Life can seem a bit slow, minimal sunlight and weather keeps us cooped up inside, and we feel a bit sluggish. Get rid of winter blues with these tips to warm the soul.

Warm Your Mind

  • Think positively. When you’re feeling drained, it’s important to keep a glass-half-full mindset. Positive thinking starts with taking control and responsibility for your mind and attitude. A bad mood can be flipped simply by taking a slow, deep breath. In that moment you can change your entire day.
  • Be nice to yourself. Everyone makes mistakes, so let yourself move forward.
  • Smile. A simple smile can do wonders for your mind. How negative can you be if you are smiling?
  • Meditate. Meditation is a great way to keep the mind healthy and thinking happy thoughts. It can be as long or short as desired. Meditation forces the mind to focus on the moment, allowing us to leave the world for a while and de-stress. Breathe in, breathe out, repeat.

Warm Your Body

  • Move. Moving more throughout the day keeps blood circulating to all parts of the body. This includes blood flow to the brain, increasing alertness and productivity. (Here are some tips for finding motivation for winter fitness.)
  • Break a sweat. Working out can provide feelings of accomplishment and happiness. Exercise causes serotonin secretion, the catalyst for a great mood. 
  • Practice mindful eating and nutrition. It’s easy to get carried away indulging in favorite comfort foods. The downfall is that they are typically high in carbs and fats. Although you think you want these foods, it’s not what your body needs. Stick to the basic guidelines: half of your plate fruits and veggies, one quarter protein, and a quarter grains.

Warm Your Heart

  • Pay it forward. Do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return. We’ve all heard about buying coffee for the person who’s in line behind you. If you’ve experienced this, you understand how great the heart-warming gesture feels and why you might do the same for a stranger the next time. However, paying it forward does not have to be monetary. Simple notions such as opening the door or smiling as you say, “Hello” to someone can go a long way and often creates a ripple effect. One day, I came across an envelope lying on a bench, addressed as “to whoever comes across this.” I opened it to find a card with an incredibly nice and uplifting note written inside. It ended with a request to leave the card in a new place in order to brighten someone else’s day.
  • Don’t be alone… all the time. Surround yourself with positive people. Spend time with those who make you laugh, who make you feel good about yourself, with people who motivate and encourage you.
  • Play or exercise with puppies. Animals and pets can have a therapeutic effect on us humans. Find a furry friend to give your attention and love to; I prefer puppies. Don’t have any around? Visit a local animal shelter, or better yet, volunteer your time and double up on the fuzzy feelings!

Warm Your Spirit

  • Be grateful. Showing gratitude shifts focus away from you and brings mindfulness to a greater purpose in life, helping strengthen the Spiritual Dimension of Wellness. Take a minute to let someone know that you are thankful for them or for something that they did. Writing down what you are grateful for can affect your spiritual side in a similar way.

How do you stay warm when the winter blues roll in, comment below.

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Topics: nutrition winter fitness motivation fitness meditation mindful eating winter blues

Weight Loss: Take It Off, Keep It Off!

I love what I do—seeing people succeed with their weight-loss goals is one of the most rewarding feelings as a dietitian. However, it can also be very challenging when I see clients revert back to old habits and struggle to keep the weight off that they worked so hard to remove.

ThinkstockPhotos-527497433.jpgBest Weight-Loss Techniques

After checking out some research of highly successful dieters, I have found the best things that can be done to keep the weight off for good!

  • Keep a food journal. Individuals who keep food logs tend to eat 40% less because they are writing it down. Also, a recent study found women who kept a food journal lost 6 pounds more than those who didn’t. Some excellent online food tracker sites include MyPlate and ChooseMyPlate. Highly rated free apps for your smartphone include My Fitness Pal and Lose It.
  • Practice portion control. As a society, we are terrible at eyeballing portions. The secret to success is consistently measuring food items to make sure you are eating the same amount you are journaling. The simplest way to do this is to use measuring utensils to dish out your meals and associate common items with certain portions. For example, a serving of meat should be the size of a deck of cards, a baked potato should be the size of a computer mouse, a half cup of pasta is the size of a tennis ball, and a teaspoon of oil is the size of one die (from a pair of dice).
  • Don’t skip meals. Lots of people think if they skip a meal they will be decreasing the total calories they are taking in for the day. In reality, the opposite usually happens. When someone skips a meal, they typically end up overeating at a different time of day to compensate for missing out on the food that their body needed. Also, whenever you skip a meal it makes your metabolism work at a slower rate; and therefore, makes it harder to lose weight. Eating balanced meals and snacks throughout the day is the best way to stay on track.

Set Up a Personalized Nutrition Appointment

The more you follow these rules, the higher your chance of success in keeping off the weight. For more information or to set up an individualized nutrition coaching appointment, contact me at amitchell@nifs.org or click below for more information.

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Topics: nutrition weight loss NIFS portion control nutrition coaching food journals