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16 Health and Nutrition Tips for 2016

Follow these tips for a happier and healthier you in 2016!

A bowl of green salad with tomatoes

A bowl of green salad with tomatoes

  1. Set S.M.A.R.T. goals
    No matter what you decide for your resolution this year, make sure to set goals that will help you succeed. The acronym S.M.A.R.T. stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. Goals should have each of these attributes in order to help you be successful. Sometimes when our goals aren’t “SMART”, we set ourselves up for failure and guilt.
  2. Break out of Dieting Jail
    Diets are meant to be temporary and are rarely effective for sustainable behavior change. Instead, focus on adding healthy behaviors to your lifestyle such as eating more fruits and vegetables or exercising frequently. This will help you make a lasting change and avoid “yo-yo dieting” which can damage metabolism.
  3. Focus on Mindfulness
    Being mindful during meals is a lost art in our society. We often eat quickly on the run or while watching TV, which takes not only the awareness, but some of the enjoyment out of meal times. As best you can, try to schedule at least 20-30 minutes for meals. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize your stomach is full, so eating too quickly can lead to over-indulgence. Slow down, taste your food, and enjoy the meal experience.
  4. Eat Breakfast
    The old saying is true – breakfast is the most important meal of the day. When it comes to improving metabolism and energy, eating a balanced breakfast can give you that much needed jump-start to tackle the day or the New Year.
  5. Make Half Your Plate Fruits and Vegetables
    Fruits and veggies are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber plus antioxidants to support your immune system. The different colors mean different nutrients, so be sure to get a variety of colors each day. Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried are all great options. Remember to check the label for added sodium or sugar if buying canned or frozen items.
  6. Be Active Regularly
    We don’t have to be told that exercise is good for us. It decreases the risk of disease and helps manage stress and weight. The recommendation for adults is 150 minutes of exercise each week. This may seem daunting at first, but research shows that activity in just 10 minute increments is beneficial to health. Begin by valuing exercise and making it an important part of your day just like your other appointments. Then start small with 5-10 minutes of exercise three times each day. You will feel the difference!
  7. Incorporate Healthy Snacks
    Snacks can act as a much needed bridge between meals to fuel your metabolism, keep your energy level up, and prevent you from overeating later. Try to include at least two food groups in your snacks such as yogurt with fruit, whole-grain crackers with low-fat cheese, or a small portion of nuts with an apple.
  8. Get to Know Food Labels
    Food packages make a wide variety of claims from “reduced-fat” to “low-calorie” or even simply “healthy”. The Food and Drug Administration has strict guidelines on some of these terms, but not all of them. If you are trying to make a purchase decision based on nutrition, the best place to check would be the nutrition facts label which is more tightly regulated and consistent.
  9. Get Enough Sleep
    Research continues to show us that sleep is extremely important to good health. Scientists aren’t sure why, but too little sleep actually increases the risk of weight gain and developing Type 2 Diabetes. One theory is that poor sleep disrupts hormone levels that regulate appetite which increases the likelihood of overeating. The importance of adequate sleep applies to children as well and may be just as crucial as nutrition and exercise to proper development.
  10. Eat Whole Grains
    Whole grain foods have all three parts of the grain seed which increases their fiber and nutrient content. Being brown doesn’t mean your bread is whole grain and being white doesn’t mean your bread is made only with refined white flour. Check the label. Whole grains should have at least 3 grams of fiber in one serving. Also, the very first ingredient should be “100% whole grain”.
  11. Get Cooking
    Preparing meals at home is often cheaper and healthier. Get the whole family involved in meal planning and food prep. Kids are more likely to eat a dish if they helped create it.
  12. Commit to Family Meals
    Studies show that families who take the time to eat together at the dinner table are not only happier, but healthier as well. Kids who eat regular meals at home do better in school and have improved mental health and positive family relationships. For an added benefit, individuals who eat more meals at home eat less overall and are less likely to be overweight.
  13. Drink More Water
    Water helps our bodies regulate temperature and get rid of wastes. Feeling thirsty can sometimes feel like a false sense of hunger, so staying hydrated can help us avoid eating when we aren’t hungry. Caffeinated drinks like soda, coffee, or tea actually dehydrate the body, so it is best to limit these beverages and stick to water most often.
  14. Focus on Balance
    Try not to put too much stock in fad diets that promote one food or food group over another. All food groups are important because they have specific roles in the body. Some foods are higher in energy or calories and lower in nutrients. These foods are “sometimes foods”. They can still be a part of a balanced diet, but should be eaten in moderation. Foods higher in nutrients are often lower in calories, so the portion sizes of these foods can be larger and they can be eaten more often.
  15. Give up the Guilt
    Guilt is only a good thing when it motivates you to positive change, not if it gives you the chance to wallow or put yourself down. It is the same with food. Good nutrition is determined over time and is based on lifestyle not on one meal or one day of eating something out of the norm.
  16. Be Body-Positive
    With obesity persisting as a major health concern, it is common for conversations about weight to occur at home and often at the dinner table. Focusing only on weight can be emotionally harmful, especially for children and teens who are still developing physically. Instead, it is more helpful to talk positively about the nutrients that food can provide for the body. A positive body image and relationship with food are also important parts of establishing a healthy lifestyle.

-Elizabeth Hall, Registered Dietician

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Christmas Pretzel Treats

Here in the South, we tend to show our love and appreciation in the form of food. And at Christmastime, it is the perfect opportunity to say “thank you!” to the many people that are so appreciated throughout the year. Teachers, babysitters, hair dressers, lawn maintenance folks, pet groomers…you name it! Last year, I started putting together little goodie bags for the kids to take to their teachers—and found this GREAT recipe…and you guessed it—it’s super easy!

Christmas Pretzels
Pretzel squares
Hershey kisses

Preheat the oven to about 200 degrees. Place the pretzel squares on a plain, ungreased, un-parchment-papered cookie sheet. Unwrap the Hershey Kisses (obviously) and place one on each pretzel square. Put them in the oven for about 3 minutes and remove. Immediately place an M&M in the middle of the somewhat-melted Hershey Kisses and slightly press down until the M&M looks like it’s surrounded by a melty chocolate inner tube. Allow to completely cool on the cookie sheet.

Just put them in a cute holiday bag, tie a red and green ribbon around it, and there you have it! My kids love helping to unwrap all the Kisses and place the M&Ms on them after they’ve come out of the oven. You can even mix things up by using peppermint Kisses—it’s the perfect way to say “Merry Christmas!”




Holiday Cheese Dip

Y’all. This is hands down my favorite time of year! I absolutely love the holidays—from Thanksgiving to Christmas, it almost a guarantee that you will find me in the kitchen. Baking, getting ready for holiday meals, planning parties…EEEEK! I just love it. And guess what—I’ve got one of the best party appetizer recipes to share with you…just in time for your own holiday party! Like everything else on this blog, it’s so easy—just a few ingredients…and it cooks in the microwave in less than 10 minutes! Perfect for your own holiday party or someone else’s—you’re going to want to keep this recipe on hand for years to come.

To Die For Cheese Dip
Ritz crackers
2 c. shredded Swiss cheese
8 oz. (1 block) cream cheese
Bacon bits
1 c. mayonnaise

Soften the cream cheese in the microwave and mix it together with the shredded cheese and the mayo. Spread into a microwaveable pie-like plate and crumble the bacon bits and about 12 Ritz crackers on top. Microwave as is (not covered) for 5-7 minutes and serve with more Ritz crackers.

And that’s it! Enjoy!