19 Smart and Healthy Snacks

Making smart choices when it comes to snacking is a common problem area for most of us. Whether we’re satisfying our own hunger pangs or feeding kids, unhealthy snacks have become far too plentiful and convenient. Clients often ask for suggestions so I thought I’d share some here.

Interested in more input on snacking, easy plant-based meals, eating light when eating out, or a well stocked pantry? Try a Kitchen Consultation which is customized for your lifestyle and your family. Available in person in the Phoenix area or via Skype elsewhere.

19 SMART SNACKS

Frozen fruit – my favorites are pitted cherries, mango, pineapples and berry mixtures. Buy organic when possible (especially the berries). Frozen fruit is a great substitute for dessert, too.

Homemade protein bars or healthy muffins – Make a batch and you’ll have on-the-go snacks for days. You can always freeze what doesn’t get eaten the first week.

pineapple-73765_640Hard-boiled eggs – with salt and cracked pepper, of course. Not plant-based but a great choice for those who eat eggs.

Hummus and vegetables – When time is an issue, buy baby carrots, pre-sliced celery, peppers, and jicama. Go ahead and keep these on hand at all times.

Dried fruit – apricots, cherries, apples, blueberries. A little goes a long way, so it’s smart to combine them with some plain yogurt or maybe a small serving of low/no sugar cereal like Shredded Wheat.

Healthy trail mix – The bulk section is a good source (or homemade). Avoid mixes loaded with salt, yogurt covered anything, or chocolate. When you find a good one, dole out two handfuls into small bags so it’s easier to keep portions under control.

Nuts! Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin and sunflower seeds – roasted or raw, salted or not (take your own health into account). Fat and calories are high, so remember to keep portions reasonable.

Fruit – There is simply no better snack than a fresh, crisp apple. Bananas also rock, and they are cheap. Pears, oranges, grapes, papaya, cherries, berries, kiwi…

Whole wheat tortilla wrapped around just about anything – hummus, sliced tomato and/or avocado, a little peanut butter, leftover chili, last night’s veggies…

Plain yogurt with a few tablespoons of natural jam and/or low sugar cereal. (soy, coconut or almond yogurts are good options for plant-based eaters)blueberries-531209_640

Leftover salad — Not everyone is a fan, but personally, I am sure to make extra every night so that I can enjoy some mid-morning. Almost every day…

Granola bars – Remember not all are created equal.  Here are some good choices.

Popcorn – Whether you buy it packaged or make it yourself, go easy on the oil and skip the butter.

Melba toast  – whole grain types with hummus and sliced pickles or cucumber

Rice Cake (no sugar variety) with nut butter – very satisfying. Soy crisps are another great option.

Cherry tomatoes – Alone or with a small dollop of pesto sauce.

Oatmeal – I’m no proponent of the fast microwavable brands, but when I make stovetop oatmeal, I make more than I need and heat up the extra with just a little rice milk. Add dried fruit and a little balsamic vinegar for a taste bud explosion.

Edamame – It’s now so easy to find this versatile bean in convenient packaging.

Dark chocolate – with a few nuts – heaven!

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5 Tips for Creating Successful New Year’s Resolutions

fireworksIt’s that time of year. Plenty of us make resolutions or set goals for the upcoming year, but among the makers, few of us follow through (about 12.5 %).

The good news is that compared to those that don’t make a resolution, you are TEN TIMES more likely to make a positive change in your life.

By all means, give it a go.

These tips are adapted from my upcoming online workshop, Happier & Healthier, Balancing Sleep, Food, Mood & Exercise for Optimal Living. Information on how to join is at the bottom of the post.

  • Make a REASONABLE resolution – If you’re starting from coach potato status, please don’t proclaim, “I want to lose 100 pounds” or “I will exercise every day.”
  • Be SPECIFIC when making a goal. Instead of “I will make more friends” try “I will join three groups this year with the aim of meeting new people with like interests. I aim to have at least three to four new friends by the end of the year.”
  • Is your resolution CHALLENGING? It’s okay to recommit to something you’re already making progress with, but you might want to add another goal that addresses a new area that needs improvement.
  • It helps to have a MEASURABLE goal. Throw a number in there, such as “I want to lose 10 pounds over the next 4 months by limiting my sugar intake to eating 1 sweet thing 2 days a week, with no sweets on the other 5 days.”
  • Keep the approach POSITIVE. Create an approach goal instead of an avoidance goal. For instance, “I will replace my daily candy intake with fruit,” rather than “I will stop eating candy.”

Compare your current goal against these suggestions. Can it be tightened up for a better chance at success? If you need help, share your resolution in the comment box, or email me for feedback. I’d love to help you.

Learn more about:

  • Setting smart goals and sharing them with a small group who will support your progress,
  • The role of stress hormones (those of us under chronic stress produce way too much cortisol), and how to maintain balance through sleep, food, mood and exercise,
  • The role of mindfulness and gratitude in creating a more positive and productive life,
  • What’s really behind willpower and how to improve yours,
  • Using your strengths to achieve more rather than attempting to fix your weaknesses.

Here what past participants have to say and sign up here.

Smarts and Stamina Online ProgramThe workshop’s content is based on Amazon’s Healthy Living Bestselling Book, Smarts & Stamina, The Busy Person’s Guide to Optimal Health and Performance. The book, like the workshop, is chock full of research-based tools of positive psychology to help us increase health, happiness, and overall success.

Throughout the six-week workshop, I’ll be offering support, feedback and accountability. Space is limited to 20 participants and begins February 4, 2015.

Please join us! I’m glad to answer any questions (barclay@elemental-wellness.com).

Wellness Tips for Leaders

The following is adapted from the section on wellness for leaders that I contributed to the newly published What Exceptional Leaders Know, High Impact Skills, Strategies and Ideas for Leaders, by Tracy Spears and Wally Schmader. Whether you’re a CEO, sales team manager, parent, coach or teacher, you’ll discover useful information on wellness and more. Here’s just a sampling: 

Wellness, as a term, gets tossed around a lot these days. But what does it really mean? According to the National Wellness Institute, “Wellness is an active process through which people become aware of, and make choices toward, a more successful existence.” I like this definition because it reminds us that we are each responsible for our own success as a person. No one can do it for us. We have to want to take that close look at ourselves, and then accept the self-knowledge that results.

Next we commit to making changes and envision how these look moving forward. It’s an “active” and ongoing process, with no formula that works for everyone. Each of us is unique in our challenges, yet wellness is available to all of us who actively participate in the journey.

What Exceptional Leaders KnowThe authors of What Exceptional Leaders Know have done a great job of outlining a 30-day reboot that fits our definition of optimal wellness. They lead us through an Energy Audit and a Neglect Review. Together these tools boost our awareness of what’s working and what’s not.

Next, readers use information from the Audit and Review to create change in the Managed Goals Workshop. When reviewing your own behaviors, be sure a few of your health concerns make it into the exercise. Without our health, we have nothing. You know this all too well if you’ve had a health scare or suffer from a chronic condition. Lucky you if this seems like just another platitude, but someday it’s meaning will be crystal clear. Don’t wait for that day. Don’t fall prey to the mindset of, “yeah but, that won’t happen to me.” Just like everything else relating to personal success and wellness, good health involves awareness (no denial here) and consistent good choices.

My Top Suggestions

In addition to your list of goals that result from your Personal Reboot, I offer three suggestions that every exceptional leader will benefit from. In my practice as a health coach, without exception my clients need reinforcement in at least one of these areas. Even though my suggestions are undeniably basic — the first two you’ve surely heard hundreds of times — they bear repeating because they allow for the strongest, healthiest and most robust platform from which all or your energy, ideas, and talents as a leader flow.

Sleep

Adequate sleep is elusive to many of us, especially leaders. Two reasons seem to be at the root. The first is that we are taught that go-getters don’t have time for sleep. Sleep is for lazy, unproductive folk with little motivation. We hear about movers and shakers who only require about 4 hours a night (think Martha Stewart, Bill Clinton, Barak Obama and Donald Trump). Remember, these folks are anomalies. They represent only 1-3% of the population. If you’re not regularly logging 7-9 hours (1/3 of us sleep fewer than 6 hours each night), you are accumulating a sleep debt that has far-reaching negative effects on the body and mind.

The second reason we don’t get enough shuteye is that many of us fall into a cycle of bad habits that undermine our ability to get a sound night’s sleep. Poor sleep quality is often blamed on age or chalked up to stress, but there are ways to improve our sleep.

– Why Sleep is Vital

The first step in improving your sleep is to understand why it’s so important to our health and our overall success. Our bodies contain a delicate mix of biochemicals, which regulate how we feel and behave. These brain chemicals become depleted throughout the day, particularly by stress. Sleep is when our bodies restore this important balance.

  • Mentally, sleep deprivation makes us more forgetful, less able to process new information and leaves us vulnerable to depression and anxiety. More sleep keeps cortisol (the stress hormone) in check while boosting our natural mood enhancer, serotonin.
  • Insufficient sleep lowers cortisol and leptin, making us more likely to crave and overindulge in fatty, crispy, salty, and sweet comfort foods.
  • Physically, sleep debt hijacks our immune system, raising the risk of hypertension and heart disease, diabetes, some cancers, and stroke.

– Tips for Getting a Great Night’s Sleep

Now that you’re convinced of the fundamental importance of a good night sleep, there are a few things you can do to help you get it.

  • Charge electronic devices outside of the bedroom, or completely silence them. Beeps, hums, and chirps are disruptive.
  • Cover as many of the light sources in your bedroom as possible – that red light on the TV (a piece of black tape), the glow from your alarm clock (turn it around), the street light streaming in past your shades (invest in better window treatments).
  • Kennel your pets at night, or have them sleep outside of your bedroom. I know I sound hard-hearted, but as comforting and sweet as they are, they wake us up a lot. We need lengthy periods of deep sleep that aren’t possible if we are repeatedly awoken by our bedmates.
  • Have a bedtime routine that doesn’t involve electronics. At least a half hour before bed, dim the lights, step away from the computer, turn off the TV, and do something quiet and relaxing. Make this a habit so that your body comes to know the signals that sleep is imminent.

– If you wake at night and have trouble getting back to sleep

  • Take a look at your exercise level during the day. Is your mind worn out but your body under exercised?
  • Are you anxious about a problem or upcoming event? Keep a pen and paper next to your bed, and take 5-10 minutes to jot down ideas, to dos, even worries. The simple act of putting them on paper will help you rest more easily.
  • Is heartburn an issue? Try eating an earlier dinner, elevate your head and shoulders while you sleep, and avoid foods that trigger indigestion. If that doesn’t help, see your doctor.
  • If you drink alcohol, resist the urge to have a nightcap. Wine or whiskey may help you nod off faster, but as the alcohol is metabolized, it becomes harder to stay asleep and sleep well.
  • Are your mattress, sheets, pillows and PJs comfortable? How’s the temperature in the bedroom?

Most people don’t realize they’re sleep deprived. They don’t tie their irritability, lack of self-discipline or difficulty concentrating to sleep debt. Try some of the suggestions above and take notice of other changes that result.

More Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

That fruits and vegetables are healthy is nothing new. But I have a strategy for anyone trying to improve his or her eating habits. Don’t spend energy counting calories. Forget about denying yourself right and left. Banish the word “diet” from your vocabulary. Simply eat more fruits and vegetables.

By eating more fiber-rich, vitamin-packed fresh produce, you will be crowding out some of the less healthy choices in your day. Keep in mind you can enjoy an enormous vegetable-laden salad and not come close to the fat and calorie count in a burger and fries. And since we’re not denying ourselves, go ahead and have a few fries, but chances are you won’t want nearly as many.

Go for variety. Try new things. If you’re taste buds are somewhat challenged at the thought of veggies, set a goal of trying at least one new fruit or vegetable each day for a week. Another helpful “rule” is to limit any after-dinner snacking to fruit only. You’ll be surprised at the awareness this raises around the difference between true hunger and a craving for something sweet.

Fruits and vegetables are also nature’s best source for vitamins and minerals. Increasing your intake will provide your body with more of the nutrients necessary for robust health. When you consider everything you put in your mouth as opportunity to nourish your body, you’ll eat more mindfully and be less likely to use food for comfort.

Less Sitting

My third suggestion isn’t quite as obvious as sleeping more and eating better. But being sedentary for long periods of time is somewhat of an epidemic, especially among those working in mid- to upper-level jobs. We tend to sit in long meetings, travel by air and car frequently, plant ourselves in front of the computer for hours on end. On average, Americans are seated for 9 hours each day! In 2013, the American Heart Association stated that too much sitting is as dangerous to our health as smoking.

Even regular exercise won’t offset the negative impact of sitting for long periods of time. What does help is incremental movements throughout the day, something Mayo Clinic physician, J.A. Levine, has termed NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). NEAT encompasses any energy expended throughout the day — from sleeping to fidgeting to climbing stairs — that is not done for exercise. Levine and others have found these activities add up, and have a significant impact on our metabolic rate.

Be more mindful about the length of time you spend sitting still. When doing computer work, set a reminder on your phone to stand and stretch every 15 minutes. Take the stairs, all the time! Consider scheduling a walking meeting as opposed to discussing business over lunch. When on a conference call, put on your headset and pace around the room. You can even add in some deep knee bends and no one on the call will be the wiser.

Wearing a pedometer or using a smart phone app to track your movements is hands down the best way to track your movement. Leaders know you manage what you measure, so why not measure your daily activities in order to increase them.

Standing desks or treadmill desks are becoming more common in the workplace. Some companies invest in one or two, allowing employees to rotate through the workstation throughout the day. Certainly, investing in the health of your employees is a remarkable way to gain their trust and respect.

Your Reach as a Leader Includes Creating a Wellness Culture

As much as you endeavor to improve your health and habits for yourself and your personal success, remember that as a leader you set the tone for many others. In the lingo of positive psychology you are an “influencer.” By practicing and embodying good self-care habits, you inspire those around you. As a leader, you’re in a position to model good habits, reward healthy choices, and spark constructive change. In essence creating a culture of wellness for you and those you manage is a powerfully productive leadership skill.

A wellness culture will not take hold if leaders don’t invest personally in the health-promoting ideas and the tools. If it’s not good enough for the boss, then the team probably won’t spend the time. Employees sense a wellness program that is primarily concerned with improving the bottom line through fewer absences and less expensive health insurance costs. But when a company fully supports the wellbeing of its employees, a zeitgeist forms and builds upon itself to strengthen the company, its employees and its leaders.

– from What Exceptional Leaders Know by Tracy Spears and Wally Schmader —available on Amazon

The Low Down on Salsa

Salsa is an important staple in our house. Finding the right one makes everything taste just that much better. I checked how my favorite app, Fooducate, rates various brands. Here’s what I found.

Green Mountain Grino SalsoaGreen Mountain Gringo Salsa (mild, medium or hot) is a big winner. It’s a non-GMO product, is always tasty with good texture, and scores an A for nutritional content. It can be a little hard to find. Sometimes it’s in the natural section instead of with the larger selection of salsas.

Another winner is Trader Joes’ Fresh Salsa. Like all of their store brand products, it contains no GMO ingredients. It’s a top, fresh, refrigerated option.

Looking at a few of the brands that seems to dominate supermarket shelves, I found that all Pace’s salsas rate a C+. Tostitos brand gets a C and is at the bottom of the  category. The downfall of both brands is that they contain zero Vitamin C. Since tomatoes are a natural source of Vitamin C, how does this happen? Well Fooducate offers a few possibilities on what might be plaguing their tomatoes:

– Grown in nutrient-poor soil
– Picked while green, then ripened using ethylene gas
– Use of pesticides, fungicides and herbicides

Yet Tostitos Chunky salsa contains 6 mgs of Vitamin C which bumps the grade to a B+. Whatever the difference may be, when buying Tostitos brand, make sure it’s chunky.

I want to share what I found out about my former go-to brand, Kirkland Signature Organic Salsa (Costco brand). I must have stopped at the word “organic” and assumed it was a great choice. But like Pace and Tostitos, it’s devoid of Vitamin C and so scores a C+.

I found a few organic salsa that  get an A. Some aren’t available in my area, but I’m going to check out a few that are.

natures place organic salsaFull Circle Organic Salsa

505 Southwestern Organic Salsa

Field Day Organic Salsa

Nature’s Place Organic Salsa (Hannaford)

Buying salsa at farmer’s markets is another great option. Making your own can be fun too. Please leave a comment below if you have some other favorite, healthy brands. You can also read what I shared about Peanut Butters in an earlier blog.

The Many Benefits of Resistance Training

We all lose muscle as we age, and we’re not talking the decline of middle age. Muscle mass begins to wane as early as 20. The fast-twitch goes first, followed by the slow-twitch, which makes sense since most of us are better at endurance than speed as we get older.

In an effort to lose weight, many of us think cardio is best, and give less of our attention to resistance or weight training. But it’s important to stay strong, and reap added benefits to our waistline and health.

Here are some reasons why:We Can Do It!

  • As we age, when we gain weight, we gain it as fat. When we lose weight, half of what older adults lose is muscle.
  • Research has shown that strength training is more effective than cardio at melting away intra-abdominal fat (aka belly fat that surrounds our organs). Besides being aesthetically undesirable, belly fat is linked to heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
  • When we stop exercising we lose muscle rapidly. The good news is that we can gain most of it back in as little as 3 months.
  • Strength training boosts metabolism. Since muscle is metabolically active tissue, the more muscle you have, the more calories you can consume without gaining weight. (For every 10 lbs. of lean muscle, you’ll burn an additional 25-50 calories a day.) The shift in metabolism some see as they age is partly due to gradual muscle loss.
  • Joint pain and connective tissue problems (aching knees, shoulders, ankles, hips) are pretty common complaints. When we build muscle we also strengthen our connective tissues, keeping our bodies balanced, strong and less susceptible to aches and pains.
  • Resistance training combats bone loss because weight-bearing exercise increases bone mineral density. In fact, exercise is better than osteoporosis drugs for offsetting bone loss. This is true for athletes as well as sedentary folks. Since falls are a growing concern as we age, staying strong protects our bones if we topple.

Now for the HOW:

In order to maintain your current level of strength, you only need to do resistance training one day a week. To build strength, give your muscles a workout 3x a week. Do 3 sets with 8 reps each set, lifting enough weight to bring your muscles to exhaustion. Better to not be able to finish your sets than to breeze through them because you’re not challenging your body.

You may be thinking this all sounds too complicated. You don’t know how to use those  machines. Maybe the weight room intimidates you, or you don’t belong to a gym. Sorry to say those excuses won’t fly, because you can fit ten minutes of strength training into your day almost anywhere with little or no equipment.

plankIf you’re just beginning or if you’re short on time, start with plank. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this move. It’s the single most effective exercise to strengthen abs, shoulders, arms, legs and glutes,

Support your body on your toes and forearms, keeping your shoulders directly above your elbows, and arms shoulder-width apart. Your head, neck, back and legs should form a flat, straight line. Keep your core and legs engaged and hold the position for 30 seconds, breathing normally.

Repeat every day, increasing the time little by little. By challenging your body, you’ll be impressed how quickly your plank time increases. Muscles worked are primarily the abdominals and the erector spinae (running the full length of your back), Shoulders, chest, and the thighs also benefit.

Remember, small changes stick. Don’t revamp your routine all at once. Instead add or increase strength training bit by bit. Stay strong and live long!

 

SOURCES

American College of  Sports Medicine, Resistance Training and Injury Prevention.

American Fitness, “Getting Older, Day by Day,” by Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD. March, April 2014.

Women’s Health Magazine. The Best Strength Training for Women: You may be missing out on the best body shaper exercises out there. by Lauren Aaronson. March 9, 2009.