Our first instinct may be to curl up for a good nap when we hear “Celebrate Sleep Week.” But, we hope you’ll take a moment to consider how you can improve your zzz’s. The National Sleep Foundation has marked April 23 through April 29 as “Sleep Awareness Week.” The theme is “Sleep Better, Feel Better,” because when we’re well rested, everything reaps the benefits. A good night’s sleep can improve mood, productivity, wellbeing, and overall quality of life. Did you know that 35% of Americans rate their sleep as only fair or poor? It’s obvious there is room for improvement!
So, what are some ways we can get a better night’s rest? We have a few unique ideas to try to help you better celebrate sleep week!
Think of the gentle sound of a ceiling fan or a rainstorm during the night. That’s white noise. It works by reducing the difference between background sounds and sudden noises. Constant ambient sound can help you fall asleep and stay asleep. To try white noise, you can simply use a fan or air purifier or invest in a sound machine (sometimes called sound conditioners) or download a white noise app on your phone.
When you were a child, it’s likely your sleep routine would be to brush your teeth, put on your pajamas, listen to a bed time story, and get tucked into bed. As adults, we tend to abandon a pre-sleep routine in favor of getting one more thing done before hopping into bed. However, a sleep routine such as having a calming cup of tea, reading a book, listening to relaxing music, or taking a bath or shower, can help you unwind and prepare for sleep. It’s also best to avoid stimulating activities such as aerobic exercise, work, watching TV, or playing video games at least 30 to 60 minutes prior to bed.
Did you know that our body temperature is not consistent throughout the day? It actually rises and falls slightly and this cycle is tied to sleep. Our body temperature decreases as we prepare for sleep and will increase as the morning progresses. A room that is too warm can reduce the ability for our body to cool and reach an optimal temperature before bed. Approximately 65 degrees is the ideal temperature, but it’s a good idea to experiment with temperatures around 65 degrees to see what works best for you. Also, consider purchasing cotton pajamas or sheets to stay cool and how many layers you may wear to bed or have on your bed.
You may have noticed this kitchen gadget has taken over food blogs everywhere. But what exactly is an Instant Pot® and do you really need one? The short answer… yes. An Instant Pot® combines a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, steamer, yogurt maker, and stockpot warmer. So not only does it save you time, but also money. This appliance is conveniently small and, according to the company, reduces cooking time by up to 70%. To continue the celebration of National Nutrition Month and the theme of eating the rainbow, here is a recipe that contains at least one item in each group!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Yield: ~5 servings
- 3 frozen boneless chicken thighs
- 6 large zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
- 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4- inch pieces
- 1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/4- inch pieces
- 1 orange bell pepper, cut into 1/4- inch pieces
- 1 red onion, diced
- 7 mushrooms, sliced
- 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp. of olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. of tomato paste
- 5 plum tomatoes, diced
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Fresh basil leaves, for garnish
- Place frozen chicken thighs on the bottom of your Instant Pot®.
- Add ingredients and mix, then cover and seal the lid.
- Cook on manual setting for 25 minutes. When finished, let pressure release naturally, which will take about 10 minutes. Enjoy!
Note: if you don’t have an Instant Pot® you can use a slow cooker and cook on low for 6 hours.
Recipe adapted from: http://deliciouslyfit.guru/chicken-ratatouille-instant-pot/
Have you ever wondered why fruits and vegetables are all different shades of beautiful and vibrant colors? Well if you have, the answer is: phytonutrients, which are active compounds found in all you favorite plant-based foods. Why does that matter? Each phytonutrient has different health benefits, such as disease prevention. So to celebrate National Nutrition Month, we want to challenge you to not only increase your fruit and vegetable intake, but explore the produce section for at least one new item. Get out of your fruit and veggie comfort zone! Variety is key! Here is the breakdown of each color:
Red: The compounds that give these delicious foods their color are flavonoids and carotenoids, both of which are antioxidants that help to destroy free radicals in the body. One of the most talked about antioxidant in this group is lycopene, which is found in tomatoes and has been shown to protect against heart disease. This group has also been found to be most helpful with memory function, decreased cancer risk, and urinary tract health.
- What to eat: beets, red cabbage, red peppers, tomatoes, apples, cherries, cranberries, grapes, raspberries, and watermelon
Orange/Yellow: This bright group is found to be high in carotenoids like beta-carotene. Your body converts beta-carotene to vitamin A, which is needed for healthy skin, immune function, and good eye health. This is why your eye doctor told you to eat all your carrots!
- What to eat: sweet potato, corn, bell peppers, butternut squash, carrots, pumpkins, oranges, pineapple, and cantaloupe
Green: This group is packed with leafy and cruciferous vegetables that contain zeaxanthin, lutein, sulforaphane and glucosinolate. Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce those words – all you need to know is they help keep your vision, heart, blood vessels, bones, and teeth healthy! The darker the green, the richer the nutrient content.
- What to eat: spinach, kale, zucchini, asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, avocados, peas, celery, grapes, honeydew, and kiwi.
White: The color (or should we say lack of color) from this group comes from the antioxidant anthoxanthins, which has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and arthritis. Garlic is found in this group, which has allicin and this compound has antifungal and antibacterial properties, but make sure to take your breath mints!
- What to eat: cauliflower, garlic, onion, potatoes, turnips, jicama, and bananas.
Blue/purple: The antioxidant found in this group is anthocyanins, which has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, and cancer. Resveratrol has received a lot of press for its anti-aging benefits; it can be found in wine and grapes!
- What to eat: eggplant, purple cabbage, blackberries, blueberries, plums, figs, and grapes.
Now it’s time to hit the grocery store and stock up of all the fruits and vegetables you can! As a general rule of thumb, the more vibrant the color, the more antioxidants are packed inside.
Celebrate National Nutrition Month by picking up one of these books. Even in the age of unlimited cooking blogs, beautiful, delicious cookbooks are still a favorite.
1. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
Michael Pollan’s books are classics in health and nutrition literature. “In Defense of Food” helps us refocus on food instead of nutrients, and return back to basic eating principles to simplify dinner time
2. Run Fast. Eat Slow. By Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky
While focused on athletes (specifically runners), this cookbook will give you ideas on how to make indulgent, nourishing foods that will please any palate.
3. Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
Not a nutrition book specifically, but definitely a huge favorite! Gretchen Rubin covers the four tendencies and ways to help us make healthy behavior change stick. If you end up liking this book, we recommend picking up her other book “The Happiness Project.”
4. Skinnytaste Fast and Slow by Gina Homolka
Gina Homolka is the woman behind the brand Skinnytaste and her newest cookbook was an instant hit. Need a recipe that you can cook in 30 minutes or more ideas with how to use your slow cooker? This book has you covered!
By Lee Crosby
Ready for a fresh new twist on your lunch or snack routine? Then you’ll love this delicious white bean and basil hummus with a hint of lemon. As tasty as it is healthy, you can make it in 15 minutes flat! Better yet, it’s amazingly versatile. Here are just a few ways to enjoy it:
- Spread over thick slices of tomato
- Rolled into a Mediterranean wrap with sun-dried tomatoes and baby spinach
- As a dip for whole-grain crackers or pita chips
- Slathered on a hearty slice of bread, topped with sprouts and avocado as an open-face sandwich
- 3½ cups (2 15-oz cans) cooked cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 4 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (you’ll need 2 lemons, with some juice left over)
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Water, as needed
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- ½ cup chopped basil leaves (packed)
- 1 Tbsp. chopped chives
- ½ tsp. lemon zest
- ½ tsp. salt
- Combine beans, lemon juice, and garlic in a food processor until smooth, at least 3 minutes.
- Add olive oil to food processor and blend again until velvety smooth, another 2-3 minutes. (See note.)
- If needed, add water 1 tablespoon at a time, blending between each tablespoon, until desired thickness is reached.
- Add basil, chives, lemon zest, and salt. Pulse food processor until ingredients are mixed, but herbs are still visible.
Note: Add olive oil after blending the beans for fluffy, restaurant-style hummus!
Photo and recipe from www.Veggie-Quest.com
By: Melissa McDonough RD, CSSD
In most parts of the country, it’s winter. Hibernation mode is in full force and most of the time we’d rather stay at home than layer up and head outside. Unless you’re lucky enough to have access to abundant land (and snow) for snow-shoeing or find yourself loving the slopes, exercise during the winter can prove difficult at times.
Whether you want to save money by not paying for a gym membership or you’d just rather work out in the privacy of your home, technology is allowing us to bring the trainer home for less money per month than one training session! Check out our favorite websites, apps, and pieces of equipment (for all budgets!)
Nike Training Club: For men and women alike. Select your fitness level, what you’d like to work on, and how much time you have. The app is free and new workouts are added frequently. Also try: Nike+ Run Club for guidance on running a 5K all the way up to a marathon.
Aaptiv: This app features on-demand fitness classes through audio cues. Whether you want to get on your home treadmill and be guided through a workout or you’d prefer to have a body weight training workout, this app is for you. Costs up to $9.99 per month.
Jillian Michaels App: You will receive a 5 minute (that’s right, just 5 minutes) daily workout, interactive customized workouts, and even workout programs that will guide you for up to 90 days! The paid version even has meal plans. Costs $3.99 per month.
YogaGlo: Yoga studios can be expensive – wonderful – but expensive. Bring the yoga studio home with YogaGlo. $18 per month with a free trial period.
FitFusion: Featuring your favorite trainers, this on-demand fitness class site has classes that range from yoga to boot camp. Available for $9.99 per month with a 2 week free trial.
Daily Burn: On-demand fitness classes featuring trainers like Bob Harper. Stream on your tablet, computer, or TV. They offer a 30 day free trial and monthly memberships are currently $14.95 per month.
Peloton: If you love indoor cycling but the class times never work for you, Peloton might be a great fit. When you purchase the stationary bike, you also have access the on-demand and live cycling classes. Already have a bike at home? Then try the app for classes!
TRX: You won’t need a bunch of weights lying around with a TRX suspension system. Also, download their app for guided workouts.
By Rachel Rosenthal, MS, RD
Do you spend a majority of your day staring at a computer or another electronic device (think cellphones and tablets)? Do your eyes ever feel tired, sore, dry, watery, or itchy? Then you may be suffering from asthenopia or more commonly known as eye strain. But not to worry, we have some easy fixes that will help you keep your eyes fresh and focused all day long!
- Take breaks (often). The easiest thing you can do for your eyes is take a break. Many eye doctors suggest following the 20-20-20 rule, which is every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, and look at something 20 feet away. Taking a break from your computer and focusing on blinking will help keep your eyes lubricated. Tip: set reminder alerts on your computer or phone to take breaks throughout the day! During a few of your breaks you can also try massaging the area around your eyes to help relieve some tension and relax the muscles.
- Lighting is everything. The lighting in your office area can be a major contributing factor to your eye strain. While this may be out of your control, if possible, minimize exterior light from outside by closing drapes or blinds to reduce brightness. Or try to move your computer monitor so the windows are on the side of you instead of in front or behind your screen. Lastly, if you can turn off overhead lights and use floor lamps for light this can help with the overall brightness of the room.
- Customize your computer settings. If you cannot control the lighting in your office, you should be able to personalize your computer settings. For brightness, you want it to match your surroundings. Not too bright or too dark. A good rule of thumb is to look at a white screen on your computer and if it looks like a light source it’s too bright, but if it’s dull in comparison it may not be bright enough, so adjust accordingly. If you find yourself constantly squinting, you may want to increase the text size to a comfortable level. The last aspect to adjust is the amount of blue light your computer is emitting. Of all the colors, blue light is the most problematic due to its short wavelength. How do you reduce blue light? Glad you asked! By reducing the color temperature of your display, you can greatly reduce this problematic feature.
While trying the tips above have been shown to help the symptoms of eye strain, it is still important to get a comprehensive eye exam once year. Undergoing your annual eye exam is the best way to prevent and correct any vision problems that may be contributing to your eye strain. Be sure to explain to your eye doctor how often you spend looking at electronic devices, since this may change their approach!
A new year is a fresh start, a blank slate. It’s the perfect opportunity to set new goals and achieve new heights. You probably have a lot of responsibilities right now and need help getting organized. We like the idea of creating a weekly rhythm or flow, so you can keep track of your tasks while also making progress toward your goals. Here’s how it’s done:
- Write Down Your Happenings
This is the time to write down everything that’s important to you: your work hours, morning routine, gym, meal time, relaxation, grocery shopping, family time, and anything else that matters to you. Try to approximate how many hours per week you would spend doing these activities.
- Establish Fixed Points
Your fixed points are going to help you set boundaries for your day. Think wake and sleep time, meal times, or occurrences you know happen at about the same time each day. You will write these down in a permanent ink that’s very clear. If getting 8 hours of sleep each night is a priority to you, you’ll have to establish your wake and sleep times as fixed and make adjustments to your other tasks to make it work.
- Ebb and Flow
Use your new fixed points and weekly happenings to create your daily ebb and flow. It’s often helpful to put a really intense activity such as exercise close to a more relaxing task like eating or reading so you’re not constantly overexerting yourself, which can lead to burnout.
- Adjust Your Rhythm
Your rhythm isn’t always going to go as planned and that’s okay! Making adjustments when necessary will be valuable for you as you try to stay on track with tasks despite the circumstances that are out of your control. Understand that the rhythm for the week won’t be perfect, but that doesn’t mean it’s ruined!
Establishing a weekly rhythm will allow you to stay organized and prioritized for the busy year ahead! Implementing these four tips will help you create a weekly flow that is customized to your schedule and should reduce stress levels while increasing productivity!
On-The-Go Recipe: Fruit & Nut Bar
The start of the New Year comes with new responsibilities and goals. Your schedule is busy, but you still want to stay on track. When pressed for time, it’s easy to buy the most convenient food item. Unfortunately, convenience items may not always be as nutritious. To save you both time and money, we’ve created a quick and healthy breakfast or snack recipe that you can make in advance and take with you on those busy mornings! No more last-minute, overpriced muffins (or should we call them cupcakes?) from the gas station. Meet your new BFF, the on-the-go Fruit & Nut Bar.
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 Tbsp. chia seeds
- 1/8 tsp. baking soda
- 1/8 tsp. baking powder
- 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup dried dates
- 1 cup dried cherries
- 1 cup dried mangos
- 1 1/2 cups dry roasted nuts (such as pecans and almonds), chopped
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking pan with parchment paper or coat with nonstick spray.
- Combine flour, baking soda, and baking powder together in a large bowl. Add brown sugar, dried fruit, and nuts, and mix thoroughly.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg with vanilla until frothy and thick, about 2 minutes. Stir egg into flour mixture until evenly mixed. Spread mixture into prepared pan, using a spatula to smooth out the top.
- Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Enjoy!
Adapted from: http://greatist.com/eat/recipes/fruit-and-nut-bars