Posts for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

The Season of Eating

By Laura Del Guerra, RD, CDE, Take Control Health Coach

We just celebrated Thanksgiving, and for me that signals the start of what I refer to as “The Season of Eating.” From Thanksgiving clear through Easter there is at least one big eating opportunity each month: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, the Super Bowl, Valentines, St. Patrick’s Day, and Easter.

These events are potential landmines that can derail the most dedicated from following through on their healthy lifestyle. Having spent my career in the field of nutrition, I have had years of hearing the aftermath of how pre-planned goals and expectations often fall short of reality.

Many of us have an idea about what we will be doing on these holidays, where we will be, with whom, and the foods most likely to be served. Where people get stuck is when we just roll with the expectation that the day will unwind as it always has, and we are powerless to change anything. Then disappointment hits because our expectation was that we would have somehow handled the day differently.

Here are some tips for managing your expectations during the Season of Eating:

  • When setting a plan for the day (or weekend) think about how you handle the big dinner. Knowing how you typically handle the day and then making a goal based on modifying your typical holiday behavior will help you achieve the goal. Some people are most successful at handling the holiday season by doing just this type of thing.
  • Some of my family’s best holiday celebrations have taken us off the beaten path food-wise, exercise-wise or both. We changed to a fresh turkey years ago (a huge improvement), homemade cranberries, and often times, an after dinner game of lightning. I’m always game to try something new with the knowledge that it’s going to be great: either a great success or a great disaster! But either way, a fun family story may come from it.
  • When reflecting on how you navigated the event, don’t compare this celebration to every other day of the year; compare it to last year’s celebration. What did you do last year in terms of your lifestyle, and in what ways is this year different? Chances are you’ll see plenty of differences. Maybe you re-worked your favorite holiday dish so it contains less calories or fat (but still tastes great), or maybe you had a slice of pie, but it was a smaller slice than usual. Did you sign up for a Turkey Trot or some other fun physical activity? Did you show up for dinner with a different recipe that reflects your commitment to a healthier life?
  • Your health coach is here to serve as your guide as you change your lifestyle. Your meetings this time of year should focus on your usual holiday patterns.

Let us know how it goes. Don’t let one mistake snowball. If you get off the rails, get back on the next day. We’re here to keep you going on your journey!

Planes, Trains, and Healthy Travel Food

By Take Control Staff

Eating healthy when traveling can be difficult for everyone. There are often unknowns and last minute changes, and we end up making poor choices based on limited options or being in a rush. The best way to avoid those pitfalls is to plan ahead. Planning your travel food can keep you from eating junk food, save you money, and will make travel more convenient.

We’ve put together some ideas to bring along, whether you’re in planes, trains, or automobiles.

Bring Along 

  • Water: Bring an empty water bottle on flights– after you pass security you’re free to fill it up at a drinking fountain or vendor in the terminal. Bring a full water bottle for car rides, trains, etc.
  • Fruit – anything that travels well: apples, bananas, grapes, or dried fruit
  • Pre-made sandwiches
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Seeds and nuts – add a little crunch to your snack
  • Pre-popped popcorn – cook it before you leave and have it ready to eat on the plane
  • Yogurt
  • String cheese
  • Any kind of nut butter – peanut butter, almond butter, etc. You can pre pack it in a smaller container or it buy single serving containers.
  • Pita chips and hummus
  • Pre-cut veggies
  • Energy bars – our health coaches like Lara Bar
  • Naturally sweetened sodas, like LaCroix
  • A cooler if you’re driving, to carry your healthy food
  • Towels or hand wipes to clean up

Airports

  • Review your itinerary before you leave, and find out if you have time to eat between flights
  • If you don’t have time to eat between flights, pack some of the bring along items above
  • If you have time to eat in the airport, check the airport web site beforehand and see what restaurant options are there. Check the restaurant menu if it’s posted to plan which healthy items they serve. Look for salads, grilled sandwiches, fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Keep healthy snacks in your carry-on in case your flights change and you don’t have time to eat.

Convenience Stores

  • Check the coolers in the back of the store for yogurt, cottage cheese, hard-boiled eggs, raw carrots and hummus, and vegetable juice.
  • Look for fruit cups, a package of unsalted/ low salt nuts or sunflower seeds, string cheese, jerky, air-popped popcorn, soy crisps, individual box of whole-grain cereal, any fresh fruit or veggies.

Fast Food

Sometimes you get stuck. Look for:

  • Salads, but be careful with the dressing
  • Calorie listings – many fast food places now list calories on the menu – look for items that are 500 calories or less
  • Skip the soda, order water instead
  • If you’re at Subway, get 6” rather than 12” and look for their calorie listings. Use more vegetables and less spreads for toppings
  • Starbucks – they seem to be everywhere, and they have bistro boxes and wraps that are under 500 calories

What are your favorite tricks for healthy eating when you travel? Share in the comments below.

Cauliflower: The Vegetable Hater’s Vegetable

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

Cauliflower Crust Pizza

For those of you who don’t like vegetables, consider giving cauliflower a chance. Cauliflower can take on the flavor of anything you pair it with, and it can be used in ways where you don’t even know it’s there. Cauliflower is a great source of nutrients, including vitamin C, K, thiamine, fiber, folate, and potassium. Besides the nutrition value, cauliflower adds volume to your meal, which helps you feel full longer. And, it is low in calories.

Cauliflower is trending popular right now, particularly with people who are trying to find ways to lower carbohydrates, increase vegetables, or find healthier alternatives to their favorite recipes. But if you haven’t tried cauliflower besides the usual steamed method, you might be in for a big surprise with what this versatile vegetable can do.

Below are some really great alternatives to preparing cauliflower that may be a great addition to your weekly menu.

  • Riced Cauliflower. This is probably one of my favorite ways to use cauliflower. Cut the cauliflower into small florets, and put it through your food processor. Different blades make different shapes. If you don’t have a food processor, you can also put the florets into a durable plastic bag and pound it with a mallet. Cook any way you normally cook rice: steam it, boil it, stir-fry it, etc. It takes less time to cook than real rice. Riced cauliflower has a similar texture to real rice, and honestly doesn’t feel like you are missing out. It works great for taco bowls, stir-fry, or fried rice! You can even add riced cauliflower to your oatmeal for added fiber, volume, and veggies with your meal.
  • Mashed Cauliflower. A great alternative to our typical heavy mashed potatoes. Steam the cauliflower with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and chicken broth. Once cooked, place in the food processor or blender to create a smooth consistency. Add roasted garlic if that’s how you love your mashed potatoes.
  • Roasted Cauliflower Florets or Cauliflower Steak. Roasting cauliflower creates a different flavor, because it caramelizes. It’s a big improvement from plain old steamed cauliflower. Check out All Recipes.com for a great recipe for roasted cauliflower steaks.
  • In a Smoothie or Soup. You may be thinking, a smoothie? Gross. But honestly, you don’t notice half the things you put in a smoothie when it is paired with sweet fruits and other ingredients like peanut butter. Plus, it adds extra fiber and veggies to your diet without a lot of work. Cook cauliflower the usual ways – steam, boil, microwave, and then add it to a food processor or blender to puree it. You can add pureed cauliflower to soup recipes – for example, add it to a potato soup recipe for thicker, heartier soup.

If you still aren’t convinced about eating cauliflower, then try half and half. Half regular rice and half cauliflower rice. Or half regular mashed potatoes and half mashed cauliflower next time. It makes for an easy compromise, while still adding great nutrients to your dish!

Do you have a favorite cauliflower recipe? Share it in the comments below.

How to Healthfully Navigate Back-to-Back Holidays

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN, and Katie Delaney, RD, Take Control Health Coaches

The holiday season is fast approaching, which may lead to overindulging on holiday treats, and challenge your health-related goals. Instead of veering off course, we challenge you to implement some or all of the 10 tips below to navigate the season a little easier, and stay on track.

Tip #1: Don’t deprive yourself with impossible restrictions around holiday foods. Instead be smart and focus on fueling your body with good foods through the holiday season while still allowing some of your favorites. Swearing off foods usually spells disaster, so instead, make a list of the foods you look forward to every season and plan for them.

Tip #2: Come prepared. While we all have traditional dishes we make, try adding in a few healthier side dishes to bring to a party or at your home. That way you can embrace tradition and your health goals in a great way that all your friends and family can enjoy as well.

Tip #3: Beat temptation by eating a protein-rich snack prior to a party. Focus on filling up your plate with fruits and vegetables, and analyze the rest of the options. This goes back to not depriving yourself, but finding balance. If you find one of the foods on your favorites list, go for it! Then enjoy some healthier options to help you stay on track.

Tip #4: Set realistic weight goals. If you set monthly weight loss goals, consider setting a goal of simply maintaining your current weight during the holiday season. That, in itself, is a huge accomplishment for the majority of us. Or, try reducing your weekly or monthly weight loss goal to help you feel on track without setting yourself up for failure. We all want to meet our goals, but we also want to acknowledge the ebb and flow of life, which helps us create healthy and sustainable change.

Tip #5: Find fun and unique ways to stay active through the winter months. For example, use things in your environment like chairs, soup cans, or other household items to create a home gym for cold, snowy days. Focus on 10 minutes a day to keep your habit going.

Tip #6: Celebrate yourself and what you have accomplished each month, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Holiday season often brings stress, fatigue and “winter blues.” Make sure you hydrate, rest, and practice stress management to keep yourself healthy through the cold season.

Tip #7: Don’t skip meals. If you find yourself saving up for a big holiday meal by skipping all other meals for the day, you will likely overeat in the end. Instead, focus on eating balanced meals every 3-4 hours during the day, like a usual day.

Tip #8: Be cautious with liquid calories. From eggnog, hot chocolate, to your favorite rum toddy, holiday beverage treats should be thought of as just that, a treat. Do not deny yourself, however, be mindful, even though it is liquid, it still has calories. If you are going to fill up on a holiday drink, cut back on holiday desserts.

Tip #9: Take the focus off food. Instead of making cookies and other holiday treats, plan to make or create holiday crafts with family and friends. Or how about volunteering at a local organization to help them prepare holiday gifts for those in need? Some families like to create holiday memories with family skiing or sledding, ice skating, or other active events.

Tip #10: Practice healthy holiday cooking and treats. Prepare your favorite holiday dishes with these healthy suggestions:

  • Pumpkin: not only for carving, but a great option to use as a substitute for fat when baking or cooking. Use canned or pie pumpkins, not field pumpkins. Save the pumpkin seeds and roast for a nice snack.
  • Baked apples: instead of the usual chocolate treats, try baking some apple slices.
  • Gravy redux: refrigerate gravy until hard, and skim off the fat. This could save you up to 56 grams of fat per cup!
  • Turkey: remove the skin to save about 11 grams of saturated fat per 3 oz serving.
  • Green bean casserole: use fresh beans or frozen (not canned) and add chunks of potato instead of cream soup, top with almonds instead of fried onion rings.
  • Mashed potatoes: use skim milk, chicken broth, garlic and garlic powder along with parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.
  • Quick Holiday Nog: four bananas, 1 ½ cups skim milk or soymilk, 1 ½ cups plain nonfat yogurt (could use Greek), ¼ teaspoon rum extract, and ground nutmeg. Blend all ingredients except nutmeg. Puree until smooth, top with nutmeg.
  • Desserts: Make crustless pies, substitute two egg whites for each whole egg in baked recipes. Replace heavy cream with evaporated skim milk in cheesecakes and cream pies. Top cakes with fresh fruit, fruit sauce, or sprinkle with powdered sugar.

 

Intuitive Eating

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

Have you heard of intuitive eating? Intuitive eating is essentially what we learn as babies and children: eat when you are hungry, and stop eating when you are full. It’s listening to your body’s internal cues, and knowing what to feed your body.

Intuitive eating is an important part of leading a balanced lifestyle. Being able to eat what your body needs, and not too much or too little, is a huge accomplishment. Learning to do this after dieting is hard, but not impossible.

Anyone can try intuitive eating, as long as you understand that it may take time to learn your body’s signals. It isn’t eat anything, in large quantities until sick. It is allowing yourself to live without food rules, and focused on eating to feel your best. It is trusting your instincts, without rules, restrictions, or guidelines to tell you what you can or can’t eat. For many of us this is a foreign concept, and somewhat scary. We have learned so many food rules over our lives, and we’ve learned to restrict our eating.

If intuitive eating is something you wish to try, here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Practice asking yourself what you are hungry for. By thinking more about your food choices, you start to see what you truly want. Sometimes that may be a salad, and sometimes that may be a cookie. With intuitive eating, both of those things fit and are included in a balanced lifestyle.
  1. Practice recognizing fullness. Set the timer, or work to extend your meal for at least 20 minutes. Focus on eating and enjoying the meal you have in front of you. Turn off distractions like the TV, and put away your phone. By focusing on your meal, you can truly tune into hunger and fullness more easily.
  1. Practice eating a food you don’t normally allow yourself to eat. Work on having a healthier relationship with whatever food that is. For a lot of people it’s a carbohydrate like bread. When we demonize a food, we make it more tempting, and feel guilty if we eat it. By finding ways to incorporate food you enjoy in a healthy way, you will end up eating less. When it is no longer a food you have to give up, you are no longer obsessed with it. It simply exists as part of your life.
  1. Be patient. Just like any skill or habit, we have to repeatedly work at it.

If you think you may be ready to try intuitive eating, mention it to your health coach, or check out the resources available at intuitiveeating.org.  It’s a tool that can help you work toward creating a healthier relationship with food.

Lighten Up Your Comfort Foods This Winter

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

Fall and winter are wonderful seasons, and cooler weather brings out our craving for comfort foods. But comfort foods can be heavy, and combined with our tendency to be less active, the danger arises for winter weight gain.

Instead of giving up your favorite comfort foods, try modifying your traditional recipes to reduce the calories. It’s a great way to still enjoy your favorite foods without risking weight gain. Make some slight alterations to lighten it up and try something new.

Try these six tips to lighten up your current recipes:

  1. Cook broth-based soup instead of cream-based soup. Or substitute broth for part of the cream in certain recipes.
  1. Use pureed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes. This works great on dishes like Shepard’s pie.
  1. Substitute skim or 1% milk in place of whole milk or cream.
  1. Use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. Great for Mexican dishes, like enchiladas, or tacos. It adds more protein and less fat to the dish.
  1. Add extra veggies to soup and other dishes. Pureed cauliflower in potato soup; diced zucchini, carrots, peppers in chili; add green beans to your stew.
  1. Try pureed veggies to thicken soups instead of heavy cream. Pureed cauliflower in place of heavy cream is one way to thicken a soup and keep it lighter, but still feel hearty.

In you’re not interested in changing your recipe, then simply focus on portion size. Pair your classic dishes with a plate of raw veggies, or start your meals with a side salad. By being mindful of portion size, you can achieve your health goals. Serving size for a casserole or combination dish should be around 1 cup to start. If you are still hungry after having one serving plus veggies, then go back for ½ cup or less. By taking your time, you can really assess your hunger and prevent overeating.

Another way to enjoy comfort foods in the winter is to add one new recipe a month, or every other week, to create more options and ideas. There are a ton of great recipes out there that are both lighter, and comforting.

In addition to altering your old recipes, and trying new recipes, make a commitment to move more! We often let colder weather keep us from being active, so make a plan to stay active. This will help combat winter or holiday weight gain.

Need some meal inspiration or lighter recipes? This article from Cooking Light has some great ideas.

Quick and Easy Breakfast Ideas

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

We often hear that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Here’s why:

  • It influences our body in many ways, both mentally and physically
  • Eating breakfast lowers the stress hormone cortisol
  • The satiating effect of breakfast impacts appetite for the rest of the day (it reduces it)
  • Mental function is improved for people who eat breakfast
  • It provides physical energy to move and exercise

Planning ahead for quick breakfasts will make eating breakfast easier. We’ve put together some ideas using a few kitchen staples to create a variety of options.

Oatmeal – a common kitchen staple, and very versatile. It can be made quickly, and different toppings can change the flavor to fit almost any preference.

Overnight Oats: Also known as Mason jar oats, these fun, portable, recipes are designed to be made the night before, and grab on your way out the door. The basic premise is to mix oats, yogurt, and milk with a variety of toppings. The oats can be eaten cold or warm, at home or at your desk. Here is how to make them.

Crockpot Steel Cut Oats: Set it and forget it! Steel cut oats have great fiber content. They take longer to cook than other types of oats, so cooking them overnight while you sleep is easy and quick. Make the recipe the night before, and wake up to a hearty breakfast. We love this recipe by cooksmarts.com

Baked Oatmeal Cups: The muffin of the oatmeal world, oatmeal cups are another great option for grab and go. Make a batch Sunday, and you’re set for the week. You can also bake in large batches and freeze. The Kitchn.com has a great recipe, and you can make variations on your own with the spices, nuts, seeds, or fresh fruit on top!

Traditional Oatmeal: Cooked in the microwave or on the stove, it doesn’t take long to prepare. It’s also great to keep on hand at work, for a backup breakfast or meal if you forget your lunch. Customize with nuts, spices, fresh fruit, or a mashed banana. If you buy flavored or instant varieties, look for brands that have lower sugar and higher fiber, or add some plain quick oats to the flavored packet to reduce the sugar content.

Eggs – A traditional breakfast food, at about .17 cents per serving, eggs are the least expensive source of high-quality protein. Besides being inexpensive, they are quick to prepare, and the variety of ways to prepare eggs can keep you from getting bored with breakfast. Below are some of the options that make them quick and portable.

Omelet in a Mug: Spray a coffee mug with cooking oil. Whip two eggs in a bowl and pour into the mug. Add your favorite toppings: bell pepper, onion, olives, other veggies, and some cheese. Microwave for 60-90 seconds, and you have a hot, easy breakfast. For even quicker preparation, dice your toppings on Sunday store in the fridge. Besides the mug omelets, you can use the toppings for salads or other recipes during the week.

Egg Muffins: Egg muffins are a make-ahead option that you reheat in the morning. Eat at home, or take with you out the door! We like this recipe from incredibleegg.org. Customize it by using other veggies and your preferred cheese.

Hard boiled: Another make-ahead option, hard-boiled eggs are quick and easy to take with you. Have you ever heard of a hard-boiled egg cooker? Many people swear by them. I recommend taking the time to peel them after you boil them, to save time during the week. Pair with a piece of fruit and some nuts for a well-rounded meal. Hard boiled eggs are also great for a quick snack, or on a salad at lunch.

Traditional/Scrambled: If you have a few minutes in the morning to cook and sit down to eat, that is wonderful. Fried, poached, or scrambled, everyone has their favorite style. Kick it up a notch by adding spinach or other veggies for additional nutrients.

Other – If you’re not an oatmeal or egg person, here is a list of some other simple and easy options.

  • Greek yogurt (single serving container)
  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Combine the first three items above for a great well-rounded meal
  • Whole wheat toast with avocado or nut butter
  • Green smoothie

Keep your breakfasts simple – it makes them more manageable, and more likely that you’ll follow through with starting your day on the right foot. Plan ahead (and make-ahead), is one of the best ways to ensure that you’ll have healthy meals ready to go – and that’s the best way to avoid being hungry and stuck in a place with poor options.

Remodeling the Tailgate

By Take Control Staff

Fall is in the air, and for a lot of people, that means football season. With football comes tailgate parties, and the food served at these parties is often the type that doesn’t fit will with your health goals. We’ve put together three suggestions to help stay on track with your goals. These “3 P’s” will show you how to both take part in the fun and still maintain your healthy goals.

Planning

If you’re hosting the party, look at your usual menu beforehand. Can you substitute wild game for beef? Grilled chicken for fried? If chips are a mainstay, try swapping the usual suspects for baked versions or vegetable chips. Take advantage of serving local produce widely available in the fall: apples, cantaloupe, and tons of veggies are available, often times fresh from your own garden. Cut up fruit and vegetables ahead of time so you don’t get rushed and settle for less healthy foods.

Preparing

If you’re attending a party that someone else is hosting, eat a healthy meal before you go. If it’s a potluck, bring a healthy dish that fits your goals. Try the recipes below, or ask your health coach for some great suggestions. You can prepare and bring healthy finger foods to share. Fill up on healthy finger foods to help reduce portions on less healthier items. If you’re hosting, keep in mind that table placement plays a big role in how much we consume. Put fruits and vegetables front and center (and refill often) to increase their consumption. Place higher calorie foods in a more difficult location to naturally curb intake. (Few people want to reach around 5 people to get the Cheetos!) Early fall games can be particularly hot, so be sure to have plenty of liquids on hand, like water, iced tea, or diet soda.

Partying

Don’t “save” all of your calories for the game. Start your day off right with a nutritious, filling breakfast. If you are a guest at a tailgate party, step back from the food and look over everything before filling your plate. This will help you to decide what foods you really want to have. Take only those you will enjoy the most, filling your plate just one time. Try half portions or sharing with a friend or family members. Balance is the key. There are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. All foods can fit into your nutrition plan if you make sensible choices all day long. For tips on how to reduce alcohol consumption, check out our prior post 10 Ways to Reduce Your Alcohol Intake

 

Boneless Buffalo Wings

Spicy Blue Cheese Dip

  • 2/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream                 • 2/3 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar           • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Whisk sour cream, blue cheese, 1 tablespoon vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon cayenne in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Wings & Vegetables

  • 3 Tbsp. nonfat buttermilk, (see Tip)            • 3 Tbsp. hot sauce divided
  • 3 Tbsp. distilled white vinegar, divided       • 2 Lbs. chicken tenders
  • 6 Tbsp. whole-wheat flour                          • 6 Tbsp. cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper                             • 2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
  • 2 cups carrot sticks                                     • 2 cups celery sticks

Whisk buttermilk, 2 tbsp. hot sauce, and 2 tbsp. vinegar in a large bowl until combined. Add chicken; toss to coat. Transfer to refrigerator and marinate for at least 10 minutes or up to 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, whisk flour and cornmeal in a shallow dish. Whisk remaining 1 tbsp. hot sauce and 1 tbsp. vinegar in a small bowl; set aside. Remove chicken from marinade and roll in flour mixture until evenly coated. (Discard remaining marinade and flour mixture.) Sprinkle both sides of chicken with 1/2 tsp. cayenne. Heat 1 tbsp. oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add half chicken, placing each piece in a little oil. Cook until golden brown and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to serving platter. Repeat with remaining 1 tbsp. oil and chicken, reducing the heat if necessary to prevent burning. Transfer to the platter. Drizzle the chicken with the reserved hot sauce mixture. Serve with carrots, celery and Spicy Blue Cheese Dip.

 Nutrition- Serving-2 “wings”, 1/2 cup vegetables & 2 tbsp. dip = 256 Calories; 10 g Fat; 4 g Sat; 4 g Mono; 83 mg Cholesterol; 12 g Carbohydrates; 31 g Protein; 2 g Fiber; 353 mg Sodium; 248 mg Potassium   (1 Carbohydrate Serving Exchanges: 1/2 starch, 1 vegetable, 3 1/2 lean meat)

*Tip-No buttermilk? Make “sour milk”: mix 1 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup milk.

Food and Sleep

By Alicia Kaluza, MS, RD, LN

If you have trouble sleeping, it is worthwhile to examine your nutrition and eating habits. How do sleep quality and nutrition impact each other?

When we are overly tired, we tend to think less clearly. It’s easy to lose mindfulness in our food choices, and we end up eating something quick and less nutritious. These poor choices can add up over time, and lead to weight gain. Lack of sleep also impacts your stress level, which can lead to hormone imbalances, making weight loss more challenging, and weight gain easier. Either way, sleep plays an important role, not only in weight maintenance, but also in your overall health.

What impacts sleep quality? Stress, your nightly routine, and the food you eat before bed can all have an impact on sleep quality. Overeating at night can lead to indigestion, upset stomach, and heart burn, all of which can interrupt a good night’s rest. Caffeine late in the afternoon can also impact your ability to sleep at night. Switching to decaf and limiting caffeine after lunch can help improve your sleep.

What foods help you sleep better? Chamomile tea, honey, nuts like almonds and walnuts, calcium-rich foods like milk or cheese, and foods rich in vitamin B6 such as tuna or Kale may all help you sleep better. They provide important nutrients that help the body produce melatonin, which aids in sleep. By choosing evening snacks wisely, you can potentially improve your quality of sleep.

How can you sleep better?

  1. Schedule – Set a sleep schedule (and stick to it). Choose to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day – even weekends. The more consistent you are, the easier it will be to fall asleep and wake up at the right times. For some this may not be realistic, but if you haven’t tried it, then at least give it a try. You may be surprised with the outcome!
  1. Ritual – Create a bedtime ritual. Do the same things every night before you go to bed. A bedtime ritual will signal to your brain that it’s time to start winding down. Choose something that relaxes you, such as taking a warm bath, sipping a cup of herbal tea, or working on a crossword puzzle. Avoid anything stimulating, such as watching TV, surfing the internet, or spending excessive amounts of time on your phone.
  1. Environment – Make sure your room is sleep-friendly. If your room is too warm, too bright, or too loud, you’ll have difficulty falling and staying asleep. Make changes such as installing shades, wearing earplugs, investing in a white noise machine, getting rid of glowing electronics, or reducing the temperature. Try new things until you find the right environment for you.
  1. Avoid Stimulants – Watch what you eat. Don’t consume caffeinated food or drink in the afternoon or evening. The same can also be said for alcohol, nicotine, or overly large meals. Cut these factors out of your diet completely, or moderate when you have them, so they don’t interfere with bedtime. If dinner does runs late, then go for smaller portions to prevent feeling overly full before bedtime. You can also opt for lighter options, avoiding heavy foods that are deep fried.
  1. Exercise – Exercising more throughout the day can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. But be careful – exercising too close to bed can make it more difficult to drop off. Try not to exercise within three hours of bed to get the best results.
  1. Melatonin – Try eating foods that help produce melatonin and may promote sleep such as a soothing cup of chamomile tea with honey, a handful of walnuts or almonds, a serving of cheese, or a food rich in Vitamin B6 such as kale or tuna, to help put your body get ready for sleep.

What works for you? If you’ve successfully conquered sleep issues, comment below with what worked for you.

Getting Ready for the Hunt

By Shannon Jones and Laura Del Guerra, Take Control Health Coaches

 

Hunting season is right around the corner, and preparing yourself and your equipment for hunting season increases your chance of success. Dietary indiscretions and inactivity can catch up with you quickly out in the field. Like any athlete, hunters usually have their own pre-season rituals, but here are a few tips to consider before heading out this season:

Get in Shape

  • Start getting physically active and increase activity gradually with walking, biking, swimming or hiking. Hiking with a light pack is the best exercise, as it mimics the hunting experience. Walk in public hunting areas, state parks, and state and national forests. Go off-trail, walk up and down steep banks, jump creeks, and push your way through brush.
  • Stretching after workouts can be helpful with improving your recovery and helping to prevent injuries.
  • If you are stuck inside, run or walk briskly up and down stairs, lift weights, and get the best workout that you can. You can use the local gym, or invest in a pair of dumbbells, stretch band or fitness ball. Find an online workout routine that combines both lower and upper body exercises. com has 10 Great Workout Routines for Western Hunting  and Outdoorlife.com has Your 12 Week Plan to Get in Shape for Elk Hunting Season

Fuel Up

  • There is no better way to start the day then with a protein and fiber. Look for healthy simple ways to include these into your breakfast. If you need ideas, webmd.com has a great article called Healthy Breakfast Ideas and Recipes
  • Hydration is especially important, and even when you do not feel thirsty; consume at least eight 8 oz. glasses of water. Consider a Camelback or other hydration device to meet your needs in the field.

Prepare Equipment:

  • Make sure your hunting equipment is in good condition. Get your gun sighted-in, and practice with it. If you are a bow hunter, this should be a year around activity to keep the muscles used strong and limber.
  • Take your binoculars and spotting scopes outside and make sure they are still clear and fog-free. If your eyes have changed over the past year, or you have a different vision prescription, it can drastically change the way things appear through a scope or through sights. Sharpen and oil knives and other metal tools that you will be using when deer hunting.
  • Check to make certain that your hunting clothes and boots still fit. Place your hunting boots into a tub of water to make sure they are still waterproof.
  • If you rely on an ATV, check or change the oil, check tire pressure, brakes, and make other recommended changes and adjustments.
  • Finally, make sure your hunting license is up to date, and all stamps are in proper order. Double check your hunting property for permissions, etc. You should have scouted before season and have these things lined up well ahead of time, but if not get it taken care of as soon as possible.