Looking for a fun Halloween side that is healthier than all that candy? These home-baked sweet potato fries are all that — and quick and easy too!

2 large sweet potatoes
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
3 tablespoons olive oil
OPTIONAL Instead of the spice, sugar and salt, try a pinch of Old El Paso taco seasoning

Directions
1. Scrub the sweet potatoes clean. Slice sweet potatoes into 1/4 rounds. Use mini cookie cutters to cut jack-o-lantern faces, stars, and pumpkins into the center of each sweet potato slice. Or, use a small knife and carve a mini jack-o-lantern face into the sweet potato slices.

2. Place sweet potatoes on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice, sugar, and salt. Bake in an oven preheated to 400 degrees and cook until tender, about 18-22 minutes.

Recipeand photo credit:

This week our Fall Fitness Challenge focuses on you. Our challenge question for the week is “What is your go-to “me time” activity. (If you haven’t answered yet, there’s still time for a chance to win this week’s prize…either leave a comment to this post or on our Facebook page.)
Who’s responsible for taking care of YOU? YOU ARE.
Caring for our bodies is our individual responsibility. No one can do this for us—no doctor, no spouse, no parent, no friend. Many of us tend to put our own health needs last while we spend time taking care of everything and everyone else. Put yourself at the top of your to do list with one of the tips in our Self-Care Action Plan.

Self-Care Action Plan
1.    Laugh out loud. Chuckling and giggling benefit our mental and physical health. Watch a funny movie or a comedy on television—those reruns of Everyone Loves Raymond may actually be good for your heart.
2.    Get outside. Research is showing that spending time out of doors benefits the brain and helps us to feel more alive.
3.    Meditate. Just a few minutes of quieting our mind can help relieve stress.
4.    Turn on the tunes. Research shows that listening to music makes positive emotions even more intense, and upbeat music in particular can do great things for your mood. On the flip side, listening to calm, soothing music sends signals to your brain that can help your body relax.
5.    Eat more fruits and veggies. Adding more fruits and veggies to our plate is a great way to practice self-care.
6.    Indulge in your favorite hobby. Even spending 15 minutes indulging in your favorite hobby is good for your health.
7.    Get enough Zzz’s. So many things can sabotage our sleep, whether it’s a late night at the office, sick children or just catching up on our favorite TV shows. The problem is, skimping on shut-eye can hurt job productivity, make us choose to eat larger portions, and may lead to diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Prioritize snooze time for a healthier, happier you — even if it’s just a quick cat nap during your lunch break.
8.    Get moving. Not only does it burn calories, but physical activity is a mood-booster that can help reduce anxiety and stress.
9.    Indulge in a massage. A message has multiple health benefits: relaxing both the mind and muscles, improves sleep quality, and reduces stress.
10.    Unplug. These days, it feels like everyone’s glued to a phone, laptop, or both at the same time. Deliberately taking a break from social media, e-mail, blogging and so on can help us recharge and gives our brain the downtime it needs to work at an optimal level.

Self-care isn’t easy. But when we take care of ourselves, we are better at taking care of other life responsibilities.
Remember if you want to be entered into this week’s challenge contest, leave a comment to answer this question:  What is your go-to “me time” activity.

This week our Fall Fitness Challenge focuses on hydration. Our challenge question for the week is “How much water do you usually drink per day?” (If you haven’t answered yet, there’s still time for a chance to win this week’s prize…either leave a comment to this post or on our Facebook page.)

Some nutritionists state that 80% of the country is walking around dehydrated. We drink too much coffee, tea, and sodas containing caffeine, which prompts the body to lose water.   Water is necessary for your body to digest and absorb vitamins and nutrients. It also detoxifies the liver and kidneys, and carries away waste from the body.  When it comes to digestion, it’s just not happening without water. Fiber alone cannot aid proper digestive function by itself. In fact, without water as its partner, good fiber goes bad, causing constipation and extreme discomfort.  If you’re dehydrated, your blood is thicker and your body has to work to cause it to circulate. As a result, the brain becomes less active, it’s hard to concentrate and your body feels fatigued.

Benefits of Water:

  • Improve Your Energy
  •  Increase Your Mental and Physical Performance
  •  Remove Toxins & Waste Products from your body
  •  Keep Skin Healthy and Glowing
  •  Help You Lose Weight
  •  Reduce Headaches and Dizziness
  •  Allow for proper Digestion

Water Guidelines and Physical Activity

 Plain Water: For walks of an hour or less, plain water is the best drink.

Drink before You Exercise: Prepare for your walk by drinking a tall glass of water (17 ounces) 2 hours before your walk. This will allow time for any extra to pass through you body before you hit the trail.

Caffeine: Avoid caffeinated beverages before you exercise, it will cause you to lose fluid and make you thirstier.

Plan for More Water: Have water with you when you are exercising.  You should try to consume one cup of water every 20 minutes.

High Altitude: You lose even more fluids at high altitudes, in heat and low humidity and need to drink more water than usual. Again, let thirst be your guide and drink as soon as thirsty.

Flavor Your Water: Make your water taste good so you will want to drink more. Add a squirt of lemon and keep it cool.

Drinking After You Exercise: After you exercise, end with another tall drink of water. For extensive exercise you may want to consume a sports drink.

Remember if you want to be entered into this week’s challenge contest, leave a comment to answer this question: “How much water do you usually drink per day?”

 

benefits of exercise

Reposted from March 27, 2013

This week our Fall Fitness Challenge focuses on physical activity. Our challenge question for the week is “What exercise or physical activity do you find fun?” (If you haven’t answered yet, there’s still time for a chance to win this week’s prize…either leave a comment to this post or on our Facebook page.)

Do you ever struggle with having enough time for exercise? For many of us, between work, family and other obligations, it is a struggle to “fit” in fitness. Today I am sharing a few tips that have helped me “fit” in physical activity:

Rest. Bet you didn’t expect to see this on the list? Not getting enough sleep is one of my biggest health challenges and if I don’t get enough sleep—I won’t have the energy to exercise. Most people set their alarm clock for a “wake up” call; I set my alarm as a reminder to go to bed.

Make every movement count. When time didn’t permit a trip to the gym, I add extra activity throughout my day. Some examples: I marched in place while waiting for the microwave to heat up my lunch. I do toe raises while standing at the printer. I set my phone timer to remind to “stop and stretch.”  I replace my “lunch dates” with “walking dates.” I “speed” clean my house.

Just 5 Minutes. When I am in the “I don’t care” mood and don’t want to exercise–I give myself permission to stop after 5 minutes. Typically, the 5 minutes will lead to 20 minutes…often leading to 30 minutes…Sometimes; just getting started is the challenge.

Planning. Every Sunday evening, I review my upcoming schedule and I plan my “work out” times according to that week’s activities. If I know that I have a meeting after work or in the evening and exercising isn’t a reality that particular day—I use this day as my “free day.” My personal goal is to exercise five days a week, so I have two free days a week.  One trick that has been a great tool is to write my planned exercise times in PEN in my calendar.

Squeezing in physical activity can be a challenge some days, but I have found with awareness and planning, I am able to “fit” in fitness. Plus, increased activity makes me feel great and increases my energy!

Remember if you want to be entered into this week’s challenge contest, leave a comment to answer this question: ““What exercise or physical activity do you find fun?”

This week our Fall Fitness Challenge focuses on sleep. Our challenge question for the week is “On average, how many hours of sleep do you get per night?” (If you haven’t answered yet, there’s still time for a chance to win this week’s prize…either leave a comment to this post or on our Facebook page.)

While many of us consider sleep to be a “passive” activity, sufficient sleep is increasingly being recognized as an essential aspect to good health and chronic disease prevention.

Most of us are aware we have an internal clock that regulates our sleep and wake cycle. Did you know that this cycle is regulated by Melatonin? Melatonin, a hormone produced in our pineal gland, is controlled by light exposure. Typically, our brain should secrete more in the evening, when it’s dark, to make us sleepy, and less during the day when it’s light and we want to stay awake and alert. However, for many of us, our life styles disrupt our body’s natural production of melatonin and with it our sleep wake cycle.

For example, people who spend their days mainly indoors, away from sunlight, often find themselves sleepy and lethargic. Then bright lights at night, especially from hours spent in front of the TV or computer screen can suppress your body’s production of melatonin and make it harder to sleep.

The good news:  there are ways for us to naturally regulate your sleep-wake cycle, boost your body’s production of melatonin, and keep your brain on a healthy schedule.

Increase light exposure during the day

  • Remove our sunglasses in the morning and let light onto our face.
  • Spend more time outside during daylight. Try to take our work breaks outside in sunlight, exercise outside, or walk our dog during the day instead of at night.
  • Let as much light into our home/workspace as possible. Keep curtains and blinds open during the day, and try to move our desk closer to the window.
  • If necessary, use a light therapy box. A light therapy box can simulate sunshine and can be especially useful during short winter days when there’s limited daylight.

Boost melatonin production at night

  • Turn off our television and computer. Many of us use the television to fall asleep or relax at the end of the day, and when it comes to our sleep cycle, this is a mistake. Not only does the light suppress melatonin production, but television can actually stimulate the mind, rather than relaxing it. Instead, try listening to music or audio books, or practicing relaxation exercises. If your favorite TV show is on late at night, record it.
  • Don’t read from a backlit device at night (such as an iPad). If you use a portable electronic device to read, use an eReader that is not backlit, i.e. one that requires an additional light source such as a bedside lamp.
  • Change your bright light bulbs. Avoid bright lights before bed, use low-wattage bulbs instead.
  • When it’s time to sleep, make sure the room is dark. The darker it is, the better you’ll sleep. Cover electrical displays, use heavy curtains or shades to block light from windows, or try a sleep mask to cover your eyes.
  • Use a flashlight to go to the bathroom at night. If you wake up during the night to use the bathroom, keep the light to a minimum so it will be easier to go back to sleep.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking causes sleep troubles in numerous ways. Nicotine is a stimulant, which disrupts sleep, plus smokers experience nicotine withdrawal as the night progresses, making it hard to sleep.

Discuss with your health care provider any personal concerns you have regarding your sleep-wake cycle.

Remember if you want to be entered into this week’s challenge contest, leave a comment to answer this question: “On average, how many hours of sleep do you get per night?”