Wow! Can you believe it? Labor Day weekend is almost here. Where, oh where did the summer go? It’s so true that time speeds up the older we get.

So, how was your summer? Were you able to stay on your healthy living plan? Or did you, like many of us, find that with all the summer fun–making the healthiest choices were a challenge?

September tends to be crazy busy with all the back to school, community, and social activities. I don’t know about you, but when I’m busy–making healthy choices gets harder. That’s why today, I’m going to share some health tips that can help you set you up for success!

Sport success on sunset background

September Success Strategy: Set One Health Goal

Too often when it comes to health goals, many of us are overachievers. And guess what happens when we set too great of goals? LIFE…interrupts our plans, we get discouraged and tuck our goals away. Ask yourself, what is the one area of my health that I want to see changed? Do you need more sleep? Do you want to eat healthier? Do you need more physical activity? Do you need better stress management skills? Or perhaps, you just need to practice some good self-care? Did you notice that I didn’t say diet as a goal? Statistically speaking, individuals on a diet end up gaining weight. Instead of dieting, choose a healthy eating plan.

fresh organic vegetablesHealthy Eating.

Did you notice that I didn’t say diet as a health goal? Statistically speaking, individuals on a diet end up gaining weight. Instead of dieting, choose a healthy eating plan. A great resource for a healthy eating plan is Choose My Plate. Some ideas for goals when it comes to eating:

  • Commit to eating a healthy breakfast 5 days a week.
  • Commit to eating one green vegetable every day.
  • Commit to drinking no more than 1 can of soda a week.
  • Commit to making a weekly menu.
  • Commit to bringing a sack lunch to work 3 days a week.
  • Commit to drinking 5 glasses of water every day.
  • Commit to measuring your portions.
  • Commit to tracking your food.
  • Commit to reading all food labels.

Happy business people riding bikes through city parkIncreasing Physical Activity.

When it comes to physical activity–it’s very important to start where you are…and give yourself time. Starting out too aggressive typically leads to injuries. Some ideas for goals when it comes to increasing activity.

  • Commit to walking 10 minutes every day of the week.
  • Commit to 5 minutes of daily stretching.
  • Commit to going to the gym 3 days a week.
  • Commit to riding bike 2 days a week.
  • Commit to parking your car at the far end of the parking lot.
  • Commit to doing a “physical” activity like hiking, frisbee golf, golfing, camping on the weekend.
  • Commit to doing an exercise app such as 7-Minute Work Out or Sworkit.
  • Commit to a weekly group class such as a boot camp, yoga, pilates, etc.

wake upIncreasing Sleep.

Sleep plays a vital part in our well-being! Yet, it is one of the things many of us skimp on most. When we get the proper amount of sleep, making other good health choices gets easier. Some ideas for goals when it comes to sleep:

  • Commit to a sleep schedule such as going to bed at 10pm every night, waking at 6am.
  • Commit to keeping the electronics out of your bedroom.
  • Commit to setting a timer to remind you when it’s time to go to bed.
  • Commit to practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, etc 1 hour prior to bedtime.
  • Commit to limiting your caffeine after 2pm.

Grandfather blowing soap bubbles through bubble wand, teenage girl (13-15 years) watchingIncreasing Stress Coping Techniques.

Stress sure seems to be a popular buzz word these days. Some stress is a fact of life, but where often run into troubles is living a life unbalanced. Some ideas for goals when it comes to stress management:

  • Commit to practicing good self-care.
  • Commit to enjoying your favorite hobby once a week.
  • Commit to doing an activity that you enjoy every day. (Example sitting on your deck, reading a book, listening to music, talking to a loved one on the phone, etc.)
  • Commit to saying “yes” to something new you want to try. 
  • Commit to saying “no” to something you would normally say yes to out of guilt or obligation.
  • Commit to doing something that makes you smile every day.
  • Commit to playing.
  • Commit to intentionally having some open time in your schedule every week.

Well, there you have some ideas on health goals for a successful September. What is the ONE goal that you want to focus on? Remember, small steps lead to success. If you wish, leave a comment and we can support each other.

 

 

Here are a few quick, easy and healthy brown bag lunch ideas:
healthy-elvis-329x390THE HEALTHY ELVIS

Fried peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwiches, dubbed “The Elvis” after the famous singer’s penchant for the tasty concoctions, get a healthy remake in this easy recipe. Ditch the bacon and replace the PB with a more nutritious option like natural sunflower seed spread or unsalted almond butter. Just be sure to choose one without hydrogenated oils, added sugars, or salts.

Ingredients:
2 slices whole grain bread
2 tablespoons nut butter
1 banana, sliced
1 tablespoon agave nectar

Directions:
Toast bread, then spread nut butter on both slices. Layer sliced bananas in between the bread and drizzle with agave nectar.

 

tuna-pita-329x390TUNA PITA SANDWICH

Light tuna packed in water, not oil, serves as a satisfying, protein-rich sandwich filling, while a dash of horseradish mustard adds a spicy kick.

Ingredients:
1 whole-wheat pita pocket
1 can of white tuna in water
3 tablespoons fat-free salad dressing
1 tablespoons horseradish mustard
1/4 cup shredded lettuce
1/2 tomato, sliced

Directions:

Cut pita pocket in half and toast. In a small bowl, combine tuna with dressing and mustard until mixed well. Stuff pita pocket with the mixture, and add lettuce and sliced tomato.

tac0-salad-329x390TACO SALAD

This toss-and-go taco salad is simple, but it offers up an explosion of tropical flavor and crunchy texture. Juicy cubes of mango and tomato combine with crisp tortilla chips (tip: choose low-sodium blue corn chips) for a nourishing, tasty lunch.

Ingredients:
1/4 head lettuce, shredded
1/4 mango, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
1/4 tomato, chopped
1/4 avocado, peeled, seeded and sliced
1/4 red onion, sliced
1 cup baked tortilla chips, crumbled
3 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoon olive oil

Directions:
Arrange lettuce on a plate. Top with mango, tomato, avocado and onion. Sprinkle crumbled tortilla chips over the salad. Garnish with lime juice and olive oil.

Recipe and Photo Credit: Shape

It’s back to school time and for many that means packing a lunch. Preparing your child’s (and yours) lunch with fresh and healthy food is a great step towards living a healthy lifestyle.

Here are some items to keep on hand for easy and healthy lunches.

  • Whole-grain bread, crackers, and cereals
  • Fruits such as:
    • apples
    • bananas
    • berries
    • grapes
    • oranges
    • peaches
    • pears
    • pineapple
  • Veggies such as:
    • avocados
    • broccoli
    • carrots
    • salad greens
    • spinach
    • sweet potatoes
    • tomatoes
  • Lean beef and pork, chicken and turkey, canned tuna and salmon
  • Nuts* such as:
    • almonds,
    • peanuts,
    • walnuts, sunflower seeds,
    • peanut or almond butter
  • Low Sodium Canned Soups (Or another good option is if you make homemade soup/chili–freeze them in serving size containers.)
  • Milk, yogurt and cheese sticks
  • Smoothies
  • Canned or dried fruit
    • Raisins
    • Pears (Lite syrup)
    • Peaches (Lite syrup)
    • Mandarin Oranges (Lite syrup)
  • 100% Juice boxes
  • Single Serving Frozen meals with less than 800 milligrams of sodium

Another tip that works great for packing lunches–plan ahead. When making dinner tonight, make a little extra for tomorrow’s lunch.

TIME SAVING TIP: Set yourself up for success! Pack your lunches and snacks in the evening.

PS…Make sure you come back tomorrow for some quick and healthy sack lunch recipes.

BONUS for reading our blog: Here’s a great resource for making sack lunches fun for you and your kids. 50 Tips, Tricks and Ideas For Packing Great School Lunches

*When packing your child’s lunch, be sure to check with their school as many schools are now nut free so this wouldn’t be a good option.

Last week was National Farmers Market Week. To celebrate our local farmer’s markets, here are a few yummy veggie recipes!

e589e938-40ec-4450-b2d1-d516c3319844Dilled Cucumber and Tomato Salad

Ingredients
4 medium tomatoes, each cut into 8 wedges (about 3 cups)
2 medium cucumbers, thinly sliced (about 5 cups)
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup rice vinegar
4 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt

Directions
In large glass serving bowl, mix tomatoes, cucumbers and onion.
In small bowl, mix all remaining ingredients until blended. Pour vinegar mixture over vegetables; toss to mix. Cover; refrigerate 1 hour to blend flavors. Toss again just before serving. Serve with slotted spoon.

Photo and recipe credit: Betty Crocker

zucchini-pasta-shrimp-xlZucchini “Pasta” with Shrimp

Ingredients
4 large zucchini (about 2 1/2 lb.)
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound large shrimp (about 22), peeled and deveined
Salt and pepper
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 1/2 cups fresh peas
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup torn fresh basil

Preparation
Using a vegetable peeler, shave sides of zucchini to create ribbons (discard peel), turning zucchini once you hit seedy core.
In a deep, heavy 12-inch skillet, warm oil over medium-high heat. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and cook, turning often, until just pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.
Add corn and peas to skillet and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add zucchini and wine. (Don’t worry about crowding skillet; zucchini will wilt.) Cook, tossing with tongs, until zucchini is crisp-tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Add butter and continue tossing until all vegetables are tender, about 1 minute. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, until shrimp are warmed through, about 1 minute more. Remove skillet from heat. Stir in lemon juice and basil, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Photo and recipe credit: Health.com

193040b8a0d87b16b82de5327836c24cGarlic Parmesan Yellow Squash Chips

Ingredients
4 yellow squash (small to medium), sliced into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch rounds
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1 cup panko crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
cooking spray (I use Organic Olive Oil by Pam)
Serve with Non-Fat Plain Yogurt

Instructions
Preheat oven to 450.
Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine squash, olive oil, salt and pepper; mix until well combined.
In a separate bowl, combine panko crumbs, Parmesan cheese, oregano, and garlic powder.
Dip slices of squash in cheese mixture and coat on both sides, pressing on the coating to stick.
Place the squash in a single layer on the previously prepared baking sheet.
Lightly spray each slice with cooking spray. This will help with achieving a crunchier texture.
Bake for 10 minutes; rotate pan and continue to bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until chips are golden brown.
Remove from oven and serve with a dollop of Non-Fat Plain Yogurt.

Photo and recipe credit: Diethood

Quote Back to schoolIn the next few weeks, many children will be headed back to school. Making sure our children get enough sleep is one of the best things we can do to ensure their school success. Children who get enough sleep are more attentive, have more energy, and maintain good physical health. Here are some strategies will help you and your child prepare for this upcoming school year.

African girl holding clock in front of lockersStep 1. Decide a time for bedtime. To figure out your child’s bedtime, count back 10 hours* from your family’s standard rising time.  An example, if your family needs to get up by 6:30 a.m., your child’s bedtime would be 8:30 p.m.

If your child has been going to bed later than this during the summer, start adjusting the bedtime by 15 to 30 minutes every 3 to 4 days. If your child has been going to bed at 10 p.m. and sleeping until 8 a.m. here is a sample schedule:

  • Days 1-3: Bedtime 9:45 p.m.   Wake Up 7:45 a.m.
  • Days 4-7: Bedtime 9:30 p.m.   Wake Up 7:30 a.m.
  • Days 8-11: Bedtime 9:15 p.m.     Wake Up 7:15 a.m.
  • Days 12-15: Bedtime 9:00 p.m.   Wake up 7:00 a.m.
  • Days 16-19: Bedtime 8:45 p.m.   Wake up 6:45 a.m.
  • Days 20-on: Bedtime 8:30 p.m.  Wake up 6:30 a.m.

Digital detoxStep 2. Turn off electronics. All electronics (TV, video games, computers and cell phones) should be shut off an hour before bedtime.

  • Technology affects our ability to fall asleep by exciting our brain.
  • Also, certain technology (like computer games, emails, etc.) can make our body tense. As we tense up, it creates stress which can stimulate our bodies into a “fight or flight” response, and as a result, cortisol, a stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland, is released, making it hard to fall (or stay) asleep.

Step 3. Say NO to caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant that can keep us up at night. It is best if children don’t consume any caffeine, but if they do, it should occur before lunchtime.

Step 4. Create a quiet environment. If a child uses a night light, make sure it is a soft, dim light. Light (especially light from electronics) can pass through the retina into a part of the hypothalamus (the area of the brain that controls several sleep activities) and delay the release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.

Father pulling blanket over sonStep 5. Establish a bedtime routine. A consistent nighttime routine provides security and stability for children.

Example: bath, light snack, brush teeth, story time, lights out

TIP #1:  Many children will try to “push” the limits when it comes to bedtime. Using a timer, set for 5 minutes, along with a verbal reminder that in 5 minutes bath time will be starting, often helps with the transition to the bedtime routine.

TIP #2: Keep last “goodnights” brief. Often when our sweet children are tucked in bed, they will test the limits by “calling” out to us. If you can be firm when it comes to bedtime, it will save you many frustrations.

wake upStep 6.  Practice good sleep habits. Children model their parents. Getting enough sleep is as important for your health, as it is your child’s.

 

 

 

Mother helping children (6-10) get ready for schoolEXTRA TIP: When implementing a school sleep schedule, carry it a step further and practice the morning school routine. This will help make the transition from summer to school easier for all.

 

 

 

*This is just an average suggested amount of sleep, every child is different—if you have questions on the recommended amount of sleep your child needs, please check with your child’s health care provider.