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What’s one of the best ways to boost your heart health? Exercise! But be careful not to over-do it. Pushing too hard can deprive your muscles of needed oxygen, which leads to soreness and fatigue. In order to gain maximum health benefits from working out, the key is to reach–and maintain–your target heart rate.
It’s best to exercise within your target zone for 20 to 60 minutes per session. To find your target heart rate, choose one of two methods:
1. The Talk Test
You’ve found the right intensity if you can carry on a brief conversation while exercising. If you can easily carry on a long conversation, try pushing a little harder. But decrease your intensity if you have trouble getting out a sentence.
2. The Formula
For those who prefer the scientific method, follow this simple formula: 220 minus your age, multiplied by .55 to .85. In other words, your target heart rate is between 55 percent and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Winter marks the season for building snowmen, having snowball fights and Super Bowl parties, where friends and family get together to cheer on their favorite team. Along with the cheering, there is a lot of eating. However, there are many ways to enjoy tasty and healthy snacks as we watch our team move the ball down the field.
Think healthy fats.
Consider an assortment of nuts served alongside dried fruit such as apricots, dried pineapple, raisins, cherries, etc. Throw in some dark chocolate dipped nuts, too.
Display a variety of olives on a platter. Consider Greek Kalamata olives, Green Spanish olives, garlic stuffed olives, red pepper stuffed olives and the sort.
Add color to your snacks by making guacamole, or try something new like a Mexican layer dip, which incorporates layers of black beans (or refried beans), shredded low-fat cheddar cheese, chopped tomatoes with green chilis, Greek plain yogurt or low-fat sour cream, chopped avocado (or guacamole). Serve with whole grain tortilla chips.
A fruit salad is not only nutritious, but also tasty and easy to make. Combine apples, pears, pomegranates, watermelon, cantaloupe, mandarin oranges, pineapple, kiwis, or whatever fruit you prefer for a wonderful and colorful sweet snack.
Make a fruit pizza. Use low-fat vanilla yogurt for the sauce and arrange pieces of fruit on top of it on a low-fat pie crust. Sprinkle with unsweetened coconut flakes and enjoy!
Fruit kabobs can be a great hit as well, with fruit such as pineapple and nectarines caramelizing quite nicely when grilled.
Don’t forget the veggies.
Place a variety of colorful veggies such as orange baby carrots, white cauliflower florets, and green celery sticks on a platter. Serve with hummus, a chickpea dip.
Bruschetta can be a wonderful addition to any party. Slice up some tomato slices and place on top of pieces of grilled French bread that has been rubbed with garlic and topped with some olive oil. Next place a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese. Top with a fresh basil leaf for a wonderful appetizer, Italian style. You can also make a tomato salad with chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic and basil, tossed in light vinaigrette and serve over grilled bread.
Salsa with whole grain tortilla chips is an all-time favorite.
Stuffed mushroom caps.
Kale crisps are unbelievably tasty. Simply remove the washed and dried kale leaves from their stem and tear into bite-size pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place on parchment paper and bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
Serve protein like a pro.
Serve an assortment of meatballs with a variety of sauces. Use lean ground beef, or white breast ground turkey. Combine with cooked rice or Panko bread crumbs and add spices. For Italian meatballs, use oregano and serve with a tomato-base sauce; for Asian style meatballs, use ginger and sesame seeds or green onions and serve with teriyaki or soy sauce. Experiment with different spices to make your own creation.
Sliders are quite popular and can be made very easily. Once again, consider using ground turkey or lean ground beef. Serve on whole wheat flat bread for an interesting change.
Consider mixing avocado with shredded chicken and sautéed onions for a variation on the classic chicken salad. The avocado adds healthy fat to this traditional salad and allows you to cut down on the amount of mayonnaise used. Serve with whole wheat pita bread.
Don’t forget the beverages.
Smoothies can be a great hit at any party. Simply mix yogurt, a little bit of juice and fruit such as mango, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, bananas, etc. for a healthy and refreshing drink. Kids will love this!
Have pitchers of fruit and vegetable infused water. Earlier in the day, wash and cut up lemon in slices and place in a pitcher full of water. Cover and let stand. You can also use cucumber slices. Do the same with orange slices.
Above all, remind your guests to drink responsibly if you plan to offer alcoholic drinks.
With some planning and creative thinking, you can enjoy delicious and healthy offerings at any Super Bowl party.
Store displays and music on the radio station seem to indicate that the holiday season is upon us. Thanksgiving feasts are being planned, December parties organized and in some cases end of the year resolutions considered. New Year’s resolutions are as common as apple pie. More than half of Americans consider exercising more while more than one third cite weight loss as their New Year’s resolution. Others double up the promise by committing to do both in the upcoming year. But despite all the good intentions, most resolutions are soon forgotten come spring.
Studies have shown time and time again that for a resolution to succeed certain parameters have to be in place. Probably the most important is how well our resolutions, goals or promises are articulated. Ideally goals should be S.M.A.R.T.
S = Specific
Vague goals will likely fail. Instead of “I want to lose weight,” consider making “I want to lose 15 pounds by June” or “I want to lose one pound a week” the goal. The more specific the goal, the better the results.
M = Measurable
Can you measure your success? Ask yourself “Is there anyway I can measure how I am doing?” or “How will I know that I have reached my goal?” For example: “I want to drink more water” does not really tell you how much more you want to drink. A better goal might be “I want to drink 8 cups of water each day,” or consider “I want to drink two more cups of water than what I am currently drinking every day.” These goals tell you exactly how much, and it will be easier for you to measure how well you are doing with this goal.
A = Achievable
Ask yourself: “What is important for me to achieve?” or “Is my goal too easy or too hard?” This is where you have to really know yourself and be honest with yourself. If you make the goal too easy you won’t really feel that you have accomplished much. If you make it too hard you might feel disappointed if you don’t reach it.
R = Realistic
Ask yourself: “Am I willing and able to work toward this goal?” and “How hard am I willing and able to work toward this goal?” If you truly believe that you can achieve your goal, you most likely will. You can make hard goals that are realistic but know how challenging your goal should be.
T = Time
Ask yourself: “Have I given myself enough time to reach my goal?” S.M.A.R.T. goals usually include some sort of deadline or timeline. “I will lose weight this year” does not really tell you much about when you will lose the weight. Will you lose all you want the first month or the last month of the year? Again, you have to be honest and be able to articulate how long you are willing to give yourself to reach your goal. Deadlines also give you something to look forward to during your efforts.
When resolving to change a habit, do it slowly. Focus on one habit at a time. Working on too many habits at once will likely be frustrating. Also, don’t forget that you don’t have to set just one big goal for the behavior you want to change. You can start by focusing on short term baby steps that lead to your overall goal. So you may want to focus on ways to cut down on evening snacking for example, which ties in to your overall resolution to lose weight. However, remember to make these short term goals S.M.A.R.T. goals as well for better results.
One strategy to help individuals lose and keep off the weight is to track what and how much they eat. Tracking also helps individuals start and consistently maintain an exercise routine. For example, pedometers track how many steps a person takes in a day, while keeping a food journal allows them to view their daily food intake.
Food journals have come a long way from the pen and paper version. The tediously written food logs that were very time consuming to complete are long gone. Today there is a myriad of weight-management applications at our disposal. These food and nutrition programs are available online, and the apps are available on smartphones or tablets.
Some apps are more user friendly than others, and in order to know which one would work best you may have to try a few before deciding on one. Basically, the apps allow you to enter the foods you eat on a daily basis, giving you access to an enormous database of foods to choose from. Some allow you to track your consumption of water, your physical activity and your weight as well as other measurements such as waist circumference. At the end of the day a daily report on calories and nutrients consumed as well as other variables is available for viewing.
However, like buying a new car in which you have a choice of one with standard features or one with more bells and whistles, some weight management apps have more to offer than others. For example, some apps will provide additional information about specific nutrients like sodium or saturated fats, while others simply report on calories, fats, proteins and carbohydrates.
Many apps provide an opportunity for social support. You can sign in to join a ‘community’ or ‘team’ – groups of people sharing a same goal or having something in common. “Mommies over 40,” for example, brings together mothers over the age of 40 while “Healthy Hearts” is a group of people with heart health issues that support each other, share information and learn from each other. These teams may have a blog where each team member can communicate or share resources with other members of the group, communicate about events, etc. It provides support and a means to reach out to others who may be struggling or experiencing the same things as you.
Research suggests that establishing a support network can be extremely beneficial for successful weight loss. Online supports groups can be very helpful to many.
To learn more about these apps, a review of the 10 most popular free weight management apps is available through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. According to this review, some of the top free weight management apps include Myfitnesspal.com, Caloriecount.com and Sparkpeople.com along with many more that were reviewed.
As you work toward achieving a health goal, it may help to track your efforts. Weight management apps allow you to see how well you are doing regarding nutrition and fitness and provide you the opportunity to make corrective actions quickly if needed.