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Every January I really hate going to the gym.  I spend the majority of the time searching for an open parking space and once inside I’m fighting other members for a cardio machine, a free weight or even a spot to stretch.  While it’s incredibly frustrating, I know in a month the overflow will have dwindled down and things will return to normal.

New Year’s resolutions–they are what create a surge in gym memberships and an increase in healthy food purchases the first of the year.  Unfortunately, it’s not long before those resolutions are forgotten, gym memberships go unused and healthy eating becomes a distant memory.  Why is it so hard for many people to keep their resolutions?  Many times it’s because they set goals that are unrealistic.

If you are someone who hasn’t exercised in years, how likely is it that you’re going to immediately start hitting the gym every night?  Yes, there are people who stick with that extreme of a change, but they are certainly not the norm.  A more attainable goal and a resolution you can keep would be to tell yourself you’re going to start walking for at least 30 minutes, at least 3 days a week.  Or, maybe you can sign up for a fitness class twice a week.  It won’t be such a huge time commitment and you won’t burn out after a few weeks.  After a couple of months, if you find yourself enjoying the extra activity (and feeling better from it!) you can add more days to your schedule or add another activity.

Likewise, if your idea of a well balanced dinner is hitting the fast food drive-thru, an entire diet transformation overnight will most likely be a hard resolution to swallow (pun intended!).  You’ll be more likely to succeed if you start substituting individual items with healthier options.  For example, instead of chips with your sandwich at lunch, try a piece of whole fruit, celery and carrots with low fat dip or a small salad with low fat dressing.  You can slowly begin to replace more and more of your diet with healthy alternatives over the following weeks.

Change doesn’t happen overnight.  Think baby steps to being successful in keeping your resolutions.  I’m including a link to our Meal Planning and Shopping section of the Fruits & Veggies More Matters web site.  It will give you some great ideas on how to begin making those changes.  Who knows–maybe you’ll find yourself setting much higher goals next New Year’s!

 

December is known for the holidays, festive occasions and …the flu.  Typically we start to see signs of colds and the more serious flu virus popping up this time of year.  It’s probably due to the fact that as the weather turns colder we are indoors and in close proximity to each other.  Plus, crowded shopping venues and packed holiday parties are ideal for spreading germs.  Since surrounding yourself in a plastic bubble or wearing a hazmat suit from December through March is out of the question, your best line of defense is a healthy immune system.

A healthy body fights off those incoming viruses much better than one lacking in nutrients.  Vitamins A and C, along with zinc play a key role in boosting your immune system.  In fact, some over-the-counter cold medicines contain these vitamins to provide extra help in fighting off germs.  In order to maintain a healthy immune system it is especially important to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.  Think rainbow, as the different colors provide your body with different kinds of vitamins and minerals.

Remember that having a healthy immune system not only helps to prevent a cold or the flu, but also helps to speed up recovery time should you come down with something.  Keep yourself hydrated with water and 100% fruit juice when feeling under the weather for added vitamins (orange juice is a great source of Vitamin C!) and make sure you allow your body enough rest to recover.

A recent Insider’s Viewpoint by Jewel-Osco Dietitian Kim Kirchherr provides additional tips on fighting off the cold and flu virus like washing your hands frequently and getting an annual flu vaccine.  Plus, there are some great soup recipes designed to make you feel better while providing you with all the nutrients you need on your road to recovery.

Stay healthy!

 

December is a whirlwind of a month.  Between shopping, decorating, attending holiday parties and baking, it’s a wonder we have enough time to sleep.  It’s no surprise the holidays can be stressful for a lot of people.  I know I have found myself worrying about the superficial aspects of the season and ignoring what’s most important–spending time with family and friends.

I know many of you are chuckling to yourselves right now as you read this and thinking, "if only I could!"  I know there are traditions you have to follow through with each year (big holiday dinner, wrapping and exchanging gifts, making the house look festive), I’m just suggesting you don’t overdo it and miss out on the real joy of the season.  For example, if decorating your house for the holidays is a cumbersome, time consuming task, how about toning it down a bit this year?  Or, better yet, make it a family activity and involve everyone in the decorating.  It will take you less than half the time and you’ll be spending extra time with one another.

For your holiday dinner, instead of preparing everything yourself, try asking everyone to bring a little something.  Have one guest bring a side dish and another bring dessert.  It will trim your kitchen time if you get some help from those attending and most people enjoy bringing a dish.

If you can manage to reduce some of those hectic activities this year, make sure you spend that extra time relaxing and enjoying the season with your family.  I love to watch the various versions of A Christmas Carol and who doesn’t like It’s A Wonderful Life??  We’ve even got some healthy holiday entertaining ideas, including some terrific recipes like our holiday beverage, Pear Nog, which you can enjoy while spending time together.  It’s got all the flavors of the holidays, but none of the guilt.

No matter how you choose to spend your holiday season, just make sure you slow down and actually ENJOY IT with those you love.  Before you know it you’ll be taking those decorations down for another year.

 

Today I continue with the subject of parenting and using my friend Maureen, who I consider to be a great mom, as an example.  Last week I touched on a few familiar topics parents deal with like getting your kids to take on responsibilities and addressing disrespectful behavior.  This week’s entry is dedicated to the one area that seems to be a problem for many parents–getting your kids to eat healthy.

A key piece of advice is to start early.  Don’t wait for your kids to get older when they will be influenced by media messages and their peers.  Trust me–it will be much harder to change bad habits than to form good ones from the start.

In Maureen’s situation, there is a strict rule in her household–you have to at least TRY something before rejecting it.  Ninety percent of the time her girls end up liking the new food once they give it a chance.  She will also reintroduce a food the girls don’t like after a few weeks.  Keep in mind that our taste buds change as we age (I used to loathe split pea soup and now I love it!).  Maureen has set the expectation that what mom cooks for dinner is what you’re eating.  The girls also know that if they don’t eat their dinner there will be no dessert.  Remember that everyone has a few foods they don’t like.  It’s not about forcing a child to eat things they hate, but to get them to eat a variety of healthy foods and try new things.

Maureen has also found that it helps to have the girls involved in preparing dinner.  She gives them small tasks, which makes them more willing to eat what is prepared.  Plus, she says it’s a great mom-daughter bonding time.  (The photos are of the girls making and then enjoying pumpkin soup!)

 

Our web site has a terrific section on getting kids involved in healthy eating.  Kid friendly recipes, ideas to get them motivated about fruits and veggies and other resources are available.

The bottom line when dealing with your kids is to assert yourself as boss (AKA alpha dog!).  They’re going to push the envelope, but you know what’s best for them and while it’s a lot of hard work the end result will definitely be worth it!

 
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