By Madeline Del Guerra, Take Control Staff

After a long Montana winter, I eagerly look forward to the glorious summers. But I’m a natural redhead with porcelain skin, so I am extremely susceptible to damaging sunburns. I love hiking with our two Labrador retrievers and enjoying quality time at our cabin on Canyon Ferry Lake. But since being in the sun is pretty dangerous for me, I’ve had to really do my research on sunscreen, and find products that really work.

Whether you’re fair-skinned like me, or have an easier time tanning, when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays for a period of time, it can harm you. Besides sunburn, ultraviolet rays can cause aging, wrinkles, can contribute to skin cancer, and can cause cataracts. To prevent sun burns and damage, it’s important to use sunscreen.

Sunscreen can be purchased almost anywhere, and it’s tempting to grab the products on promotion or near grocery check-out lanes. But out of necessity, I’ve had to do a lot of research about sunscreens. I’ve had to make sure that they not only perform the way they state on the bottle; but also protect my skin. After lots of trial and error (including a few burns), I’ve found three great sunscreens that are both affordable and very effective. All three can be found at local stores such as Walmart or Walgreens.

Blue Lizard:
Blue Lizard sunscreen is a broad-spectrum SPF, mineral-based sunscreen that protects against the sun’s two most damaging rays, UVA and UVB. Additionally, it is water-resistant, so it is a great choice if you’re spending a day on Montana’s rivers and lakes. My favorite feature is that its packaged in a smart bottle that changes color when it is exposed to ultraviolet light to remind you to reapply when its time. Cost: $10 – $15

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist:
Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Body Mist Sunscreen is a broad-spectrum SPF that contains Helioplex Technology, which essentially shields the skin from the UVB burning rays and the UVA rays that more rapidly age the skin. This sunscreen lasts for up to two hours before having to reapply and it is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. I like this sunscreen because it is a non-greasy spray formula that doesn’t contain the sticky residue that most spray sunscreens have. Cost: $8 – $13

Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion:
Neutrogena Clear Face Sunscreen Lotion is a broad-spectrum SPF that is a great choice for the delicate skin of the face and neck. I like this sunscreen is because it oil-free and non-comedogenic which means that it will not clog your pores. This sunscreen is especially great for people with sensitive skin because it prevents breakouts, and is sweat proof. Cost: $9 – $12

With vacation and summer outdoor activities, you’ll feel confident using these products. Especially if you have children or grandchildren visiting, you’ll want to make sure you have sunscreen on hand.

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By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Costco and Sam’s Club are great options for buying food in bulk, especially if you live in a rural area and make fewer trips to the store. Both stores offer a lot of healthy options that can be convenient and easy to integrate into a healthier lifestyle. This includes fresh fruit, veggies, frozen fruit and veggies, and fresh meat. Besides all of those great whole food options, they have many packaged and convenient items that can also fit your goals.

When buying in bulk, look for pre-portioned servings, or plan ahead to take the time to self-portion bulk items. Portion size is often the biggest struggle for many people. If you buy in bulk, it’s important to spend 10 minutes when you get home and portion out foods for the week or the month. This will save you time later on, and will help keep your eating on track. Products that you should portion out include snacks like popcorn, crackers, and nuts.

Items that you can buy pre-portioned include hummus and guacamole. Use as a dip with vegetables, or add to a wrap for great flavor. Since they are pre-portioned, they are quick and convenient. Another healthy pre-portioned product is chicken salad made with Greek yogurt, the brands are listed below. Prepare the chicken salad on a bed of lettuce with vegetables, add to a whole wheat pita, or eat with whole wheat crackers and a side of raw veggies for a quick and easy lunch.

When buying in bulk, and particularly with pre-packaged products, be sure to check labels for sodium content. Especially if you have high blood pressure. Watch the sodium in cured or packaged meats. How do you know if it has too much sodium? A good rule of thumb is to look for something with less than 500 mg of sodium per serving. And think about how you’re combining your ingredients — if you add another packaged component to your meal, then the overall sodium may really increase. Consider adding fresh vegetables in place of another packaged item. For example, Aidell’s chicken sausage is great with a side of steamed vegetables, or on top of a salad. Jerky can be a great on-the-go snack, but ingredients matter. The brands I’ve listed below use less preservatives and better ingredients overall. Yes, they still contain sodium, so balance it by including lots of fresh foods, and stay hydrated with adequate water.

When shopping in any grocery store, it is always important to compare products. Some labels look “healthier” than a similar product, but may in fact have more sugar or sodium. Take a minute to compare similar product nutrition facts, and review the ingredients. For example, when I was at Sam’s Club, I compared two brands of squeeze fruit and veggie packs: Gogo brand and Purify brand. Purify brand had a lot more claims on the label, making you think it was the healthier option, but in fact it had a lot more sugar. So the better option is sometimes the one you don’t expect. Other foods that you would want to compare include granola bars, snack bars, cereal, and any snack food. Below I’ve listed several good products to help guide you through the endless options.

Here is a list of products that can be found at each store to help make eating healthier an easier process:

Sam’s Club

Freezer Section
Member’s Mark Alaskan Salmon Burgers
Mahi Burgers
Gardenburger Malibu Vegan Burger
Morningstar Black Bean Burger

Dry Goods
Planters Single Serve Heart Healthy Nut Mix
Member’s Mark Freeze Dried Sliced Fruit
True North Almond Pecan Cashew Clusters
Natural Oberto Beef Jerky
Epic Chicken Bites
Good Health Veggie Pretzels
Pistachios
Harvest Snaps – Baked Snap Peas
Creative Snack Company Coconut Bites
Skinny Pop Popcorn
Popchips – Ridges Asiago and Black Pepper
Crunchmaster Multi-Grain 5 Seed Cracker
Annie’s Popcorn
Nature’s Bakery Honey and Oat Soft Baked Bar
Nature’s Bakery Fig Bar
Gogo Squeeze Fruit and Veggie On The Go Packs
Quaker Old Fashioned Oats
Member’s Mark Almond Butter
Dave’s Killer Bread

Refrigerated
Sargento Balanced Breaks
Sabra Hummus – Singles or Bulk
Yucatan Single Serve Guacamole
Chef Earl’s Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad
Babybel Cheese
Dietz and Watson Natural Turkey Breast

Costco

Freezer Section
Outshine Fruit Bars
Trident Alaskan Salmon Burgers
Trident Pollock Burgers
Morningstar Veggie Burgers
Hillshire Farm Naturals Deli Turkey
Kirkland Plain Greek Yogurt

Dry Goods
Bare Apple Chips
Kirkland Unsweetened Almond Milk
Stretch Island Fruit Strips
Golden Island Natural Jerky
Crunchy Rice Rollers
Vega Protein Powder
Kind Bars
Caveman Nutrition Bars
Kashi Chewy Granola Bars – Chocolate Almond Sea Salt
Premier Protein
Nature’s Path Chia Seeds
Premium Gold Milled Flaxseed
Hemp Hearts
Seeds of Change Quinoa and Brown Rice
Nature’s Path Flax Plus Pumpkin Granola
Kirkland Ancient Grains Granola with Almonds
Mary’s Gone Crackers
RW Garcia Sweet Potato Crackers
Love Crunch Dark Chocolate and Red Berries Granola
Tasty Bite Brown Rice and Lentils
Tasty Bite Madras Lentils
Kodiak Cakes Power Cakes Mix
Kirkland Almond Butter
PB Fit
Adams Natural Peanut Butter

Refrigerated
Rotisserie Chicken Pieces
Good Foods Cranberry Almond Chicken Salad
Good Foods Single Portion Guacamole
Kirkland Hummus Cups
True Story Organic Sweet Italian Chicken Sausage
Amylu Kale and Mozzarella Chicken Burgers
Aidell’s Chicken Meatballs
Aidell’s Chicken and Apple Sausages
Teton Waters Grass-fed Beef Polish Sausages
Columbus Meats Smoked Ham and Turkey Breast
Love Beats Cooked Beets
Organic Hope Hummus

 

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By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

This year, it seems as though I keep hearing the term “self-care” everywhere. “What are you doing for self-care?” I continue to be asked. What is self-care, why do I keep hearing about it, and why is it all that important anyway? Well, until recently, I hadn’t really dug into what the term really meant. On the surface I knew it meant daily practices that gave me an opportunity to treat myself well each day. But the term is really about a deep connection, and genuine respect, for yourself; and the tangible art of expressing kindness to yourself.

Self-love is not just a concept in our head but unfortunately, we’ve been taught for a long time that if we’re not constantly working hard or taking care of others, we’re being selfish. What we’re not taught, is that taking care of yourself is actually the only way we can truly care for, or give to others. If you don’t work on yourself, if you don’t take time to express love for yourself, you don’t feed your soul, and you can’t authentically show up and be loving to anyone else.

Self-acceptance, self-esteem, and self-compassion can get us through painful times in our lives, help us to bounce back from failure, teach us to love others better, and help us reach our goals. For many of us, however, self-love isn’t a given. We’re not all taught the deeply valuable art of holding ourselves with kindness, and truly treating ourselves well.

Changing our thoughts or our emotions by simply deciding to do so can be challenging, but there are ways to accomplish this through the art of choosing physical actions that support different thoughts. When self-destructive thoughts start shouting in your head, you can decide to do something — to take an action of kindness toward yourself, and behave as if you love yourself unconditionally. Doing so sends messages to the subconscious mind that you actually do love yourself, and deserve the kindness you’re experiencing.

“You have been criticizing yourself for years, and it hasn’t worked. Try approving of yourself and see what happens.” – Louise L. Hay

As we slowly learn how to love ourselves better, we start to expect others to treat us with kindness as well. We start to realize that of course we love ourselves. Of course we deserve love.

So how do we live in self-love? Just like anything else: we practice.

If you’re like me and weren’t taught the art of loving yourself, the list below may seem trivial at first, but commit to putting at least 1, if not more of them into practice, every single day. You’ll see a noticeable change in your overall outlook on life. Pick one from the list and start today.

  1. Buy yourself fresh flowers.
  2. Clean your house or apartment.
  3. Organize your work space and files.
  4. Eat while focusing only on your food.
  5. Make a list of fun activities to do and post on your fridge.
  6. Make a list of all the things you like about yourself.
  7. Each night before bed write down the happiest moment of your day.
  8. Start the day with two minutes of meditation.
  9. Wear clothes you love.
  10. Put your fork down between bites.
  11. Get eight hours of sleep.
  12. Read a good book.
  13. Buy something you’ve always wanted.
  14. Be of service — volunteer, help a friend, etc.
  15. Compliment someone today.
  16. Get your sweat on. Go for a hike or long walk.
  17. Smile.
  18. When you grocery shop say, “I am choosing this for my body because I love her/him.”
  19. Stand up straight and tall.
  20. Try something new: dance classes, cooking lessons, yoga.
  21. Invite your friends over for a girls’ or guys’ night.
  22. Call your mom and tell her you love her (or your dad, sister, etc.).
  23. Play with your pet without distraction.
  24. When someone offers you a compliment, simply say, “Thank you.”
  25. Clean your fridge and fill it with fresh foods.
  26. Hire a personal trainer, life coach or counselor.

What other ways do you practice self-care? Feel free to share in the comments below!

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By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Packing a lunch is a great way to stay on track with your health goals. Sometimes it’s hard to get ideas for what to pack. Some office environments have limited kitchen resources, or you have limited time to cook.

Try no-cook lunches, or what I like to call “Adult Lunchables.” These are also referred to as Bento Box lunches. You’ve likely seen pre-made kid’s Lunchables at the supermarket – boxes of crackers, cheese, meat, etc. This is a healthy twist on that idea. The varieties are endless — you can pack anything you like, from the classic crackers, meat, and cheese, to more complex combinations with wraps or salads.

Adult Lunchables are both easy to put together, and easy to eat. Preparation is fairly simple — keep some go-to options on hand. I’ve put together some ideas in categories. If you pick an item from each category, it will help you create a balanced meal. The goal is to make it simple, but add variety without overwhelming ourselves.

For example, I put together a lunch with the following: 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1 cup berries, 1-2 tablespoons peanut butter, and 1 cup of raw veggies. That combination includes protein from the yogurt, carbohydrates from the berries and veggies, and fat from the peanut butter. You can certainly add or subtract items and amounts to make sure you eat enough calories for your body.

Categories

Protein:

  • Greek yogurt – ½ to 1 cup
  • Cottage cheese – ½ to 1 cup
  • Hard boiled eggs – 1 to 2 eggs
  • Canned Tuna or Chicken: one tin or pouch
  • Deli slices: 3 ounces, look for nitrate and nitrite-free options
  • Leftover grilled chicken or other protein: 3-4 ounces
  • Edamame: 1 cup
  • Chickpeas: ½ cup

Carbohydrates:

  • Whole grain crackers: for example Triscuits (6-8 crackers) or a single serving based on the box of crackers you choose
  • Whole wheat tortilla: 8 inch in diameter, or look for high fiber options
  • Whole wheat pita
  • Serving of fruit: apple, banana, grapes (1 cup or 32 grapes), berries (1 cup of any variety), kiwi, orange, 2 cuties or mandarin oranges
  • Unlimited vegetables: carrots, celery, sliced cucumber, sliced bell peppers, salad greens

Fats:

  • Individually portioned nut butters: peanut butter, almond butter, or keep a tablespoon with your designated jar and stick to 1 to 2 tablespoons
  • Servings of nuts: pistachios (40 nuts), almonds (23 almonds), cashews (16-18 nuts)
  • Avocado: ¼ to ½ of fruit
  • String cheese, or 1 ounce of cheese
  • Guacamole: 2 tablespoons
  • Olives: 10-12 small to medium sized olives of any variety.
  • Olive oil: 1 tablespoon
  • Salad dressing: 1-2 tablespoons
  • Hummus: 1-2 tablespoons

Below is a sample week with some combinations I put together to create a balanced lunch. This may also give you some ideas to build your own “Lunchable:”

Monday
6-8 Triscuits
3 ounces of deli slices
1 string cheese or sliced cheese
1 cup berries
Carrot sticks
1-2 tablespoon hummus

Tuesday
1 cup cottage cheese
½ cup blueberries
1 tablespoon almond butter
Cucumber slices
2 tbsp. hummus

Wednesday
Whole wheat tortilla
Lettuce or other salad green
Sliced cucumber, bell peppers, onion
½ of a ripe avocado
1 tbsp. hummus
Small apple or orange

Thursday
Whole grain crackers
Chicken salad-made with 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, mustard to taste, salt and pepper
¼ of an avocado
Celery and carrot sticks
Serving of grapes

Friday
Whole Wheat Pita
Tuna salad-made with 2 tbsp. Greek yogurt, mustard to taste, salt and pepper
Sliced cucumbers
Apple
1 tablespoon peanut or almond butter

Monday
Two hardboiled eggs
Grapes (1 cup or 32 grapes)
String cheese
1 cup Veggies sticks
2 tablespoons hummus

If you want something complex, especially with the summer weather, then prep ahead a veggie-rich pasta salad with healthy fats like avocado. You can also prep fresh fruits salads at the beginning of the week to accompany your lunch and save time.

For additional ideas and inspiration check out 25 Healthy and Photo-Worthy Bento Box Lunch Ideas from greatist.com.

What great lunches did you put together? Let us know in the comments below.

 

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By Richel Stropky, Take Control Health Coach

Summer officially begins June 20th! You may not be inclined to head to the gym this month, but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We’ve put together a summer workout chart. Pick your category, then pick your activity — whether you’re completing chores, or spending time with friends and family, there is something for everyone.

CHORES
Wash your car

Mow the lawn

Play a game of chase or tug-of-war with the dog

Paint or stain the fence

Wash the dog

Wash the house windows

Sweep the sidewalks, patio or deck

Clean out the garage & gutters

Volunteer to walk dogs from humane society each week

Ride your bike to the local farmers market

PLAY
Hike to a place to pick berries or just for a picnic

Fly a kite

Toss a Frisbee

Climb a tree

Play at a water park

Rock Climb

Power skip

Road race

Ride a roller coaster

Visit the State Fair

Ride a horse

Build a sand castle or walk on a beach

Play Sand volleyball

 WATER
Kayak

Water Ski

Paddle board

Tread water or on your back

Rope Swing

Fly fish

Play fetch with the dog

Run through the sprinklers with the kids

Have a water balloon fight

 FAMILY
Relay race

Sack races

Play a game with the kids: tag, flag football or Red Rover

Join a kickball league

Have a family fitness scavenger hunt

Jump rope

Power skip contest

Raise money for a local charity with a car wash

Play badminton or croquet

RELAX
Watch the sunset

Play relaxing music as you cook dinner

Enjoy an outdoor concert

Eat a meal outside

Read a book in a lawn chair

Buy a hammock

 

What did we miss? Add your suggestions in the comments!

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By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

Jill is the perfect example of how addressing stress can make you physically healthier. She really focused on creating a lifestyle that would allow her to decompress to help her manage her stress levels, and manage to lose weight as she hoped, but also saw an added benefit of lower blood pressure. She’s really a great example of how simply living healthier produces the side effects of risk reduction benefits without focusing on them directly. It’s simply just a side effect of living healthy and treating herself right. Just the right amount of self-care in each day created those benefits.

What made you decide to join Take Control’s Lifestyle Management program? It wasn’t a conscious effort on my part, but rather a phone call from the Take Control program itself. My health screening results put me on the spectrum as a candidate for the program. When I received the phone call to join the program my reaction became, “Why not? What do I have to lose?” I was curious to see what a health professional could do to help me turn my poor health screening results around to a positive direction.

What were your reasons/motivation for wanting to make changes regarding your health? Simple and numerous. I did not feel comfortable in my clothes (I was already stretching for the “fat clothes” hidden in the back of my closet), I was embarrassed to see myself in photographs, I felt bloated/heavy, I dreaded wearing shorts or tank-tops in hot weather, I was always tired, and I was ALWAYS hungry.

What are the biggest challenges and accomplishments in your health since you started? What do you feel was your biggest obstacle? The biggest obstacle was my own mind. Fighting the internal struggle to tell myself to make better eating choices, and to tell myself to stop eating when I knew I had enough. There has always been an inner voice telling me it was okay to have a little bit more, have a little something else that was salty or sweet, I’m not quite full yet, etc. What a challenge to have your biggest enemy living inside you, there’s no getting away from yourself. The accomplishment was using rationale. I had great advice from Take Control health coach Linda Hogg. Once I had my healthy plate in front of me, Linda suggested that I put my fork down between each bite, add a sip of water and then wait 20 minutes after I was done with my meal to decide if I was still hungry. About 95% of the time my fullness would kick in and I wouldn’t even be thinking about my meal ~ I was ready to do something else.

What did you do to stay motivated? The best way to stay motivated is remembering how good it feels when you make the right choices. Find the activities that clear your mind, that make you smile, that make you glad you got off the couch. Eat the foods that sustain you, give you energy and nutrition. Consistency is key. Get into a routine that works for you and stick to it. If you are enjoying the routine and it melds with your lifestyle it will become a natural habit and less of a “chore”.

What have you gained through this process? I have gained the knowledge of what is healthy and nutritious for my body to function, what I enjoy doing to clear my mind and help me sleep better at night, and how to deal with the inner self that doesn’t want to break the bad habits. Most importantly I learned why I thought I wanted more food. What was the void I was trying to fill? I knew I’d had enough to eat, so why do I want more? Thanks to health coach Kelly Sedgwick for helping me realize that our dinner time was actually a social time with my family. We had family dinners at the table each and every night with my daughter. After my daughter graduated and left for college, our dinners are a lot less social. The void was actually just missing my daughter and the one part of the day when we had each other’s attention. I learned that I could get up from the dinner table and give her a quick phone call to check in and see how she’s doing.

What differences do you see in yourself and the impact it has had on your health and life? The difference I see in myself is a better understanding of what works for ME. I can’t follow someone else’s plan and expect to see the same results. Once I started understanding what cleared my mind, what made me smile, what made me feel better, what gave me more energy the health had no choice but to follow. After working with Take Control for a year and putting everything “behind the scenes” in place, I started losing weight. Everything fell into place once I learned why I was stress eating, why I wasn’t sleeping, why I felt so heavy, why I wanted more food. So instead of just focusing on the scale – which was the only thing I had been doing before – I went to the root of why I was making poor choices. Not only do I feel better on the inside, the shedding of the weight is a reflection of me feeling better.

What advice or encouragement would you give others in our program? As stated above, the most helpful thing I learned was finding out what works for me and my lifestyle. I hate the gym and did not want a personal trainer, but I discovered that I absolutely love walking my dogs in our fields. I look forward to it each day. It clears my mind, I enjoy watching the wildlife that lives in our fields, I inhale the fresh (and sometimes crisp) air, and I loved watching my dogs explore and play. Additionally, understanding the reasons why you’re making poor choices can really help you identify the root of the problem and get you back on your way in a positive direction.

Jill is great inspiration to those who might struggle and feel like they should be doing more to really see big changes. Living healthy isn’t just about numbers and you’ve really learned the value of that – mental health is the ultimate reward of living healthy.

Results:

  • Weight loss of 34 pounds
  • Inches lost: 18
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased cholesterol
  • Gained nutrition knowledge and awareness of food triggers
  • Identified the activities that she enjoys that help clear her mind and reduce stress
  • Better sleep
  • Addressed background issues that blocked healthy choices
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By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

Many people don’t love vegetables. Of course we’d love it if everyone wanted to eat vegetables, but it’s hard to change your lifestyle for the long term if you’re doing things you don’t like. As health coaches and dietitians, we often encounter clients who are afraid that we are going to tell them they have to eat vegetables. We try to help people make small changes that are sustainable, and that don’t feel like punishment. There is no reason to force yourself to eat food you hate for a short while – because in the long term, you’ll just give up on the journey.

In order to help you find long-term solutions that you can stick with, we’ve put together some ideas to sneak vegetables into your meals, in ways that may work for you.

  • Smoothies. Add spinach, kale, zucchini, cucumber, beets, or any other vegetable to your smoothie. Pair with fruit, and you’ll have a hard time noticing the vegetables. A good combination is banana, berries, and spinach. For more smoothie recipes, check out our previous post “How to Build a Better Smoothie”.
  • Oatmeal. Add shredded zucchini or carrots to oatmeal. Zucchini works well because it is very mild in flavor and hard to notice. It also adds a lot of volume to food for little calories. Try shredded zucchini or carrots, walnuts, and cinnamon. Cauliflower crumbles is another option for volume and extra fiber.
  • Sauces. Add pureed vegetables to sauces, and you’ll never know they’re in there. For example, here is a great recipe on Food Network where butternut squash is added to macaroni and cheese.  You can add pureed squash, beets, or peppers to spaghetti sauce. Pureed cauliflower in a light Alfredo sauce works well. Add shredded vegetables for even more substance. Since these sauces already have strong flavor, you don’t notice the vegetables but still get the benefit.
  • Roasting. Sometimes something as simple as cooking vegetables a new way changes how you feel about them. Roasting vegetables is a fantastic way to start. Roasted vegetables taste quite a bit different from raw or steamed. This article from thekitchn.com has great information about how to roast vegetables, including a chart of roasting times.
  • Mashed or “Riced”. One of the new crazes in cooking is mashing and ricing vegetables. Cauliflower is a favorite for ricing. Cut a head of cauliflower into small pieces and run it through your food processor. Then just heat it on the stop in a wok or frying pan. When you add sauces and seasonings, it closely mimics white rice. You can also add riced cauliflower to mashed potatoes – it creates more volume, and reduces the overall calories. Mashed sweet potatoes are delicious, and as mentioned above, mashed butternut squash can be added to macaroni and cheese, or other dishes.
  • Soup. Adding vegetables to soups is a great way to increase your vegetable intake. You can keep frozen vegetables in the freezer and add to canned or homemade soups when you heat them. Using vegetables in soups can completely change the taste of the vegetables. As they cook, they take on the flavor of the seasonings in the soup. Butternut squash soup with Indian spices is a great example. Mushroom soup, tomato soup, cauliflower soup – there is a soup for almost every vegetable. Vegetable soup combines many. Find some recipes that sound great and make a batch for lunches during the work week.
  • Seasonings and Spices. Experiment with different seasonings and spices to give your vegetables a new twist. Try citrus, such as lemon, orange or lime zest. Here is a great chart from spicesinc.com for suggestions for each vegetable. Spices, herbs, and seasonings can make a huge difference in how vegetables taste.
  • Give it Another Chance. Be open to trying vegetables that you haven’t had since you were a kid. Taste buds change over time, in fact we lose taste buds, so our taste preferences also change. Things that once tasted bitter or bad may now taste great. When you give vegetables a second chance, you can discover more options, or you can confirm that you still in fact do not enjoy that vegetable.
  • Be Adventurous. Challenge yourself to try new vegetables. When you’re in the grocery store, buy something you haven’t had before. Look up a recipe or preparation method, and give it a try. You might be surprised by the options and foods you may not have known you liked.

In the end, stick with vegetables you enjoy, make them your staples. But keep these ideas in mind as a way to expand your vegetable intake. Your good health is not defined by how much kale you eat! Make good choices, but make sure they are choices that work for the long term to help you reach your health and wellness goals.

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By Kelly Sedgwick, Take Control Health Coach

With the change in seasons, more people are getting outside to walk. We thought this would be a great time to remind you about best practices and safety tips for walking outside.

  • Buddy up It’s always safer to walk in groups. Walking with others is more enjoyable, and gives you a commitment, which helps you follow through with your activity goals.
  • Walk on the sidewalk – Walk on the sidewalk when possible, and walk FACING traffic so you can watch on-coming cars and cyclists.
  • Be conscious of drivers – With the many ways that drivers can be distracted, don’t assume that they know when pedestrians have the right of way. Be especially cautious around driveways, alleys, and other places where drivers are likely watching for other cars, not walkers.
  • Dress to be seen – Wear bright colored clothes, and use gear with reflective material. You’ll be prepared if it starts to get dark, and the bright colors and reflective gear helps drivers see you. Reflective tape can be attached to clothing, shoes, or leashes to make you more obvious.
  • Identify yourself – Carry your name, address, and a friend’s or relative’s phone number on the inside sole of your shoe, tied to a shoe lace, or inside your shirt, in case of an emergency where you’re unable to speak for yourself. Consider wearing a medical alert bracelet or necklace if you have diabetes, an allergy to bee stings, or other conditions that could result in an emergency.
  • Don’t wear jewelry – Don’t wear jewelry or expensive items that might draw someone’s attention.
  • Use your hearing Wearing headphones can prevent you from hearing on-coming traffic, or someone coming up behind you. Consider listening with only one ear phone, so you have the other ear available to hear your surroundings.
  • Check the weather – Take steps to prepare for walking outside during the winter and summer months. Bring plenty of water with you in the heat, bring a rain jacket if there’s a chance of rain, and be aware of weather predictions in the area you’re walking.
  • Stay in touch – Carry a cell phone, or enough change to make an emergency phone call. Notify your spouse or a friend of where you’ll be, and when you anticipate returning, especially if you’re walking in an area uncommon for you.
  • Carry bear spray – If you walk in the woods or rural areas where bears or other wildlife lives, carry bear spray. They make small, hand-held sizes that don’t weigh much.

Enjoy the fresh air and all the beauty our state has to offer – your mind and body will thank you for getting out!

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By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, Take Control Health Coach

It seems obvious, right? Put everything in a blender and turn it on? Yes, to an extent, but the order you place your ingredients in the blender, and the amount of each ingredient you use can make a big difference in texture and overall success.

One common mistake is to place all the frozen ingredients at the bottom, in direct contact with the blender blades. This often makes it much harder for your blender to work efficiently and effectively.

The ingredients you use can also impact the quality, taste, and nutrition of your smoothie. Below are some tips to build a better smoothie – one that is healthier, and has the right texture.

Step 1: Liquids

Always place your liquids closest to the blade. If you’re using a traditional blender, they will go in first. If you use a magic bullet, they will go in last. (Jump to Step 6 and work this list backwards.)

Liquid options: Water, coconut water, milk, almond milk, soy milk, or another milk alternative. You can use juice, but use it in small amounts or simply let the sweetness come from actual fruit. One fruit juice I do like to use is fresh squeezed lemon, it can add a tart and bright flavor to a smoothie.

Step 2: Powder and Spices (Optional)

If you like powders such as protein powder or greens powder, now is the time to add these. They are optional, but if you have a protein powder you like, it often adds extra sweetness, and you can skip honey or other additional sweeteners. Spices can be a fun way to add different flavors. Try cinnamon or turmeric.

Step 3: Yogurt, Nut Butter, or Sweeteners

Plain or Greek yogurt is a great way to add protein and creaminess to a smoothie. You can also try cottage cheese, which is also high in protein. Nut butters, like almond, cashew or peanut, will add a little protein and healthy fat. They also add great flavor, especially if you like combinations such as peanut butter and banana.

Step 4: Fresh Fruit, Vegetables, and Greens

Step four is your chance to get creative with fruits and vegetables. Use some of the leftover fresh fruit and vegetables in your fridge. If you are new to smoothies, start simple. Try spinach and bananas — an easy go-to for smoothies.

Step 5: Frozen Fruit or Vegetables
Frozen fruit helps thicken your smoothie, and really gives it the right texture. If you don’t have frozen fruit on hand, use extra ice cubes to create a smoothie consistency. Frozen fruit is also a great way to create more flavor options, especially when fruits like berries aren’t in season. Frozen fruit is easy to make when you have bananas or other fruit that is ripe but you don’t have time to use it. Cut up bananas or other fruit into slices, place in a freezer bag, and freeze. Because they are pre-sliced, you can use a few pieces when needed, or when you don’t have a fresh banana handy.

Step 6: Additional Ice

If you’re using all fresh fruits and vegetables, add additional ice to create a good smoothie texture. Ultimately, you want the ice and frozen components furthest away from the blade. This allows the blender to be primed from the liquid and creates a smoother consistency without interfering with the blade.

Once you have the order and the steps in place, making the perfect smoothie is easy, and a great addition to your weekly routine. The key to keeping it healthy is to be mindful of your ingredients. With the wrong ingredients, smoothies, like salads, can easily go from healthy to a calorie bomb. So be precise in how you add ingredients, and how much you use by carefully measuring items such as nut butter and other high-calorie ingredients.

Need recipe ideas? The following recipes might help inspire your next smoothie. You can add veggies to any of these recipes to increase your vegetable intake and boost the nutrients. You can also omit honey or added sweetener. If you choose to add sweeteners, be mindful of the amount.

Chocolate Banana Smoothie
1 cup unsweetened almond, soy, cashew, or coconut milk
1–3 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter
Honey or maple syrup, to taste
1 frozen or fresh banana
Ice cubes if using a fresh banana, start with 6-8 and adjust as needed

Strawberry Banana Smoothie
1 cup unsweetened almond, soy, cashew, or coconut milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
Honey or maple syrup, to taste
1 frozen or fresh banana
1/2 cup frozen strawberries

Creamy Orange Smoothie
1 cup unsweetened almond, soy, cashew, or coconut milk
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Honey or maple syrup, to taste
1 orange, peeled or 2 clementine’s, peeled
1 frozen or fresh banana
Ice cubes if using a fresh banana, start with 6-8 and adjust as needed

Green Smoothie

1 cup unsweetened almond, soy, cashew, or coconut milk
Honey or maple syrup, to taste
1 cup greens (baby spinach or kale without the stem)
1 frozen or fresh banana
Ice cubes if using a fresh banana, start with 6-8 and adjust as needed

 

Do you have a smoothie recipe you love? Share it in the comments below!

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8 Strategies for Quitting

By Kat Van Fossen, Take Control Health Coach

Quitting tobacco use is one of the most difficult lifestyle changes a person can attempt. It’s a complicated process, involving physical, mental, and emotional ties. Each person is unique in how and why they use tobacco products, and the Take Control program is unique because we work with each person individually to address his or her ties to tobacco use. Over the course of time, we’ve identified eight strategies that have worked well for our clients. No one strategy works perfect for every person. One or more of the following strategies may resonate with you. Those are the ones to try.

  1. Manage Stress

One reason people smoke is that the nicotine helps them relax. Once you quit, you’ll need another way to cope with stress. Some relaxation techniques include deep breathing, massage, meditation, Tai chi, Yoga, biofeedback, music and art therapy, aromatherapy, and hydrotherapy. Read more about relaxation techniques at Mayoclinic.org.

  1. Build Support – Tell Others

Tell your friends, family, and co-workers that you’re trying to quit. A support team is important for staying on track. Their encouragement could make the difference. You may also want to join a support group or talk to a counselor. Behavioral therapy is a type of counseling that helps you identify and stick to quit-smoking strategies. Combine behavioral therapy with nicotine replacement products and/or medication to boost your odds of success.

  1. Try and Try Again

Perseverance. As they say in Montana, get right back on the horse.

  1. Avoid Alcohol and Other Triggers

Certain activities may boost your urge to smoke. Alcohol is one of the most common triggers, so if you drink try to drink less when you first quit. If coffee is a trigger, switch to tea for a few weeks. And if you usually smoke after meals, find something else to do instead, like brushing your teeth or chewing gum.

  1. Get Moving

Physical activity can help reduce nicotine cravings and ease some withdrawal symptoms. Substitute a smoke break for a walk.

  1. Take It Hour by Hour

Don’t get overwhelmed, think about just making it through small pieces of time. Soon, all those small pieces add up to days and weeks.

  1. Think About The Savings

An average pack of cigarettes in Montana is $5.99, with 2% tax = $6.12. If you smoke a pack a day that would add up to $43.00 per week, $186.00 per month, or $2,228.00 per year. What else would you like to buy with that money?

  1. Use A Phone App

One of our members had great success using a phone app called “Smoke Free” to quit. The phone app sends you encouraging notifications, and tells you how much money you are saving. It uses humor and science, and practically makes quitting fun. More about the Smoke Free app.

Benefits

What happens when you quit smoking? Would you be surprised to learn that your body begins to heal within 20 minutes, and continues to see benefits for the next 20 years? For more details about how the body heals over time, read our source: The Mind Unleashed.

Mindset

People can feel very shameful of their habit. But keep in mind, the body can heal, and the mind will follow. Operating out of shame and guilt is not a healthy place. Examples of shame/guilt mindset:  “I feel like I’m weak and smoking has a great hold on me;” or “I think people don’t like me because I smoke.” It’s the smoking they don’t like, not the person. In order to quit, it’s important to figure out why the payoff of smoking is greater than the desire and fortitude to quit.

Let us know in the comments below if you have a strategy that we haven’t listed.

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