7 Healthy Foods Your Kids Will Love

There’s more to life than eating your vegetables.

Kids can be picky eaters, but here’s a short list of nutrition-packed, healthy foods that most will enjoy.

It’s always funny to me when people ask me how my kids ate when they were little. I’m sure many of them think that since I do what I do, my kids must have been perfect eaters––or that I had some special tricks up my sleeve that made them beg for broccoli and other healthy foods. Truth be told, my kids were no different from most other kids. They had their likes and dislikes. And they’d go on food jags where they’d want to eat the same thing every single day.

Naturally, it did concern me that their nutritional needs weren’t always being met. But there were several really healthy foods that they were almost always willing to eat. I just downplayed the “healthy” part, because once you tell kids something is “good for you,” that’s one of the surest paths to rejection.

So, here’s a list of my top-rated foods for kids––they’re good, and good for them.
Tuna fish – Many kids turn their noses up at fish, but they’ll eat tuna salad. Like all fish, tuna is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and is rich in protein. Try mixing your canned tuna with mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise for a healthier tuna salad, and serve with some whole grain crackers––kids love to make their own little cracker sandwiches.

Smoothies –

A lot of kids fall short when it comes to meeting their calcium needs, and many don’t eat enough fruit, so smoothies can help fill both gaps. They’re quick and easy to make, and they’re great when things get rushed in the morning. Kids love to make their own. If you’ve got low-fat milk, protein powder and some frozen fruit at hand, your kids can take it from there.

Carrots –

Kids and vegetables often don’t mix, but sweet, crunchy, raw carrots are an exception. Carrots are rich in beta carotene to help support healthy-looking skin and eyesight, and they’re also a good source of fiber. They’re fun to eat plain or dipped in fat-free ranch, salsa or guacamole.

Oatmeal –

It takes just a few minutes to cook up some rolled oats, which are naturally rich in fiber and B-vitamins. Try making it with nonfat milk or soy milk rather than water to boost calcium and protein. Then sweeten lightly, and stir in some diced fruit like bananas or apples.

Strawberries –

Kids love strawberries because they taste so good. They’re also packed with vitamin C, potassium and fiber. When fresh berries are unavailable, use the frozen whole berries in smoothies or mixed with yogurt.

Nuts –

Instead of chips, offer kids nuts to satisfy their craving for something crunchy and salty. Tree nuts like almonds, walnuts or pistachios provide beneficial fats, protein and minerals like zinc and magnesium.

Beans –

Beans do double nutrition duty for kids. They’re not only a good source of iron, but they’re a great fiber source, too. Most kids will eat canned beans seasoned with a touch of ketchup, barbecue sauce or salsa. You can also try bean soup, or whirl some beans in the blender with a little salt, lemon and olive oil for a tasty hummus dip for raw veggies.

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8 Tips to Conceal Fine Lines and Wrinkles

September 4, 2018

Look for products that are hydrating and sheer.

Aging can take a toll on your skin, but there are some things you can do to keep it looking its best.

It’s inevitable that your skin will change as you age. Aging compromises collagen and elastin and as a result, your youthful appearance is affected. However, there are some things you can do to conceal fine lines and wrinkles.

How to Hide Fine Lines and Wrinkles

1. Skin Care

Prevention is the key when it comes to your skin. But for many of us, that ship may have sailed. So, it’s time to correct some of the signs of skin damage the best we can. And that starts with a good skin care regimen.

It’s even more important than makeup when it comes to camouflaging your wrinkles and other imperfections. If your skin is at its best, you’ll notice that you need less makeup. Cleansing, moisturizing, eye creams and wearing SPF are all steps to take in order to ensure the best-looking skin. In addition, exfoliate your skin to keep it looking smooth and polished, and look for antioxidant-enriched skin care products that include vitamins A and C to help get your skin in shape.

2. Hydrate

As you age, your hormones can cause our skin to become dry, causing fine lines and wrinkles to stand out. By keeping your skin moisturized, day and night, you can improve your skin’s appearance. The added hydration helps to plump your skin. So, drink up to keep hydrated on the inside and keep your skin moisturized on the outside. And don’t limit hydration to just your face. Remember, your hands and neck can be a dead giveaway of your real age.

3. Go Easy On the Anti-Aging Products

Hopping on every latest trend in the world of anti-aging skin care won’t serve you well. Instead, focus on a line of products with consistent ingredients. That way your skin care products will work with each other for the best results. If you’re mixing and matching too many different products and ingredients, your skin may become irritated and make your wrinkles more visible.

4. Purchase a Primer

I’ll admit it, I was late to the game when it came to using makeup primer. But I can now say that it makes a huge difference when used as a base before applying makeup. Follow your normal skin care regimen and then add a primer to your skin just after your moisturizer. Silicone-based primers fill in skin imperfections, such as fine lines and uneven texture. Then, when it’s time to start applying your makeup, you’ll notice that your foundation goes on much smoother and easier as a result. The simple cushion that primer creates in your fine lines and wrinkles can help prevent your makeup from settling into the lines and drawing more attention to them.

5. Lighten Up on the Foundation

Covering up your wrinkles to camouflage them doesn’t work and may even make them look worse. Instead of using a heavy foundation on your skin, look for products that are hydrating and sheer. A tinted moisturizer, while providing lighter coverage, won’t settle into your lines and give you that cracked appearance.

6. Put the Powder Away

It’s true that a light dusting of loose powder can set your makeup fabulously. But Powder can act like a magnifying glass to your lines if you aren’t careful. Look for opportunities to swap them for creams that will give you a more natural look. If using powder is a must for you, then use it sparingly. Powder your nose and your chin and leave it at that.

7. Shift the Focus

I’m a firm believer in using in a bit of “smoke and mirror” tactics when it comes to camouflaging my fine lines and wrinkles. It’s all about distracting the eye and shifting the focus onto something else besides the imperfections. Get people to notice something other than your wrinkles, such as your eyes. Try applying a lighter, neutral shade to your eye lids and look for those softer neutral shades for your crease to make your true eye color pop. Anything too shimmery can draw attention to fine lines.

8. Avoid the Smudge

Does it seem like you’re always trying to keep the color on your lips and off of your skin? Bleeding lipstick is the worst attention grabber for fine lines around the mouth. Choose a good lip pencil to line your lips. Look for pencils that are creamy in texture and have a color-stay or color-lasting quality. Make sure your liner matches yours lip color for the most natural and elegant look. Once you’ve lined your lips, apply a bit of lip color. Use your finger or a lip brush so you can gently pat the color onto your lips and control the application. This should keep the color and the attention on your lips and off your lines.

I spend a lot of time looking for new ways to help camouflage my skin imperfections. I do believe that little fine lines and wrinkles, aka expression lines, do give us character and lend to our beauty. But…a little goes a long way. If we can take a few simple steps to help preserve our youthful appearance, then why not?

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Simple Summer Grilling Tips

Fish kabobs are easy to grill.

If you haven’t already, now’s a great time to fire up the grill and make some delicious meals. Grilling is easy, quick, there’s not much to clean up and it’s a fun way to spend time with family and friends. If your grilling experience hasn’t taken you beyond chicken or burgers, maybe this is the time to try something new.

There’s no question that meat and poultry taste great after the barbecue treatment. The trick is to keep the grill temperature moderate. When the heat’s too high, you run the risk of charring the outside of the meat, but undercooking the inside. To solve the problem, you might be tempted to leave meats over high heat for a long time to make sure they’re cooked all the way through, but that can make them tough and dry.

There are a couple of things you can do to cook foods more evenly. When you arrange the charcoal in your grill, keep it off to one side. That way, you’ll have a hot side of the grill that you can use to start the cooking by searing the meat and sealing in the flavor. Then, move the meat to the cooler side of the grill, cover and continue cooking until done.

Another technique that works well with chicken pieces is to partially precook them in the microwave. Remove the skin, then rub the pieces with a bit of olive oil and your favorite seasoning. While your coals are heating up, microwave 4 to 6 pieces at a time on the highest setting for about 10-15 minutes. You don’t want to cook the chicken completely, but just get it heated through so it cooks along the edges. Then, transfer the chicken to your heated grill to finish cooking, and turn the pieces frequently. You’ll reduce your cooking time by about half and your chicken will end up tender and juicy.

Fish is tricky to grill since it tends to flake apart. What works best is to make kabobs with pieces of firm fish like swordfish or tuna, or whole peeled shrimp. You can also grill whole fish or fish filets on a piece of foil or in special fish grilling baskets. Fish cooks quickly, so there’s no need to pre-cook in the microwave.

While the grill is hot, why not take advantage of the heat to cook your side dishes, too? You can grill almost any veggie, but thick slices of eggplant, summer squash and onions are especially good. So are pepper wedges and asparagus spears. Thickly sliced potatoes are great grilled as a side dish on their own, or in a grilled potato salad. Brush veggies and potatoes with a little olive oil, salt and pepper, or use a bit of vinaigrette salad dressing, place them on the cooler side of the grill where there’s less heat and flip them over frequently until they’re tender.

You can even grill up some dessert. Pineapple, apples, peaches, nectarines and bananas all take well to a little time over the flame and they’re easy to prepare. To prepare, core the pineapple and cut into rings, or cut apples, peaches or nectarines in half, remove cores or pits and leave the skins on. Grill the rings or fruit (cut side down) until the sugars start to caramelize and the fruit is tender. Grilled fruit is delicious on its own, but you can dress it up with a drizzle of citrus juice or a dash of cinnamon.

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The Best Cardio to Torch Calories

Running is great for burning calories.

If you want to burn a lot of calories, you need the right workout. Try these six workouts to achieve the results you desire.

The number of calories you’ll burn during a workout can fluctuate greatly and is dependent on a variety of factors including your current weight, workout intensity, overall difficulty level, as well as your current fitness level. So, when looking at calories burned for each activity, the actual calories burned can vary greatly for each individual. (The numbers shown below are based on a 200lb individual).

1: Running: 755- 1074 per hour

Running is great for burning calories and requires no equipment so you can easily incorporate it into your fitness routine. Running at a pace of 8mph can burn 1,074 calories, and at slower pace of 5mph can burn 755 calories. You can increase your calorie burn by adding in hills (this is more muscle-building, especially for the butt and hamstrings.) Picking up the pace or extending your run past the one hour will increase the burn. Another way to make running more intense is to do bouts of sprinting with a little rest in between each 10-15 second burst. Training in this interval style can be a lot more fun.

2: Jumping rope: 1074 per hour

Jumping rope is a high impact activity that challenges your body in the same way running does. It’s cardiovascular in nature, but unlike running using a rope requires a little bit of coordination. If you’re lacking in that department you can do the jumping action without the rope, but for one hour that may seem a little crazy. The speed and intensity of the jumping will heavily impact the number of calories you burn, so going fast is the key to maximizing the burn. Also, finding a pace that you can sustain for one hour is tough, so jumping rope in an interval style may be the best approach.

3: Vigorous swimming- moderate paced swimming 892- 528 per hour

Swimming is an amazing, low-impact exercise that can burn a lot of calories. The higher calorie burning strokes are front crawl and butterfly. In order to achieve the higher calorie range with this exercise, you need to be proficient in the water and able to swim vigorously for the entire hour. The breast stroke is more gentle and less demanding on the body so if this is your stroke of choice, consider alternating in a front crawl or swim for a longer duration to maximize your burn.

4. Stair running: 819 per hour

Running stairs is an athletic favorite of mine. Running up and down the stairs is great for muscle building and improving your cardiovascular fitness level. Your speed, number of steps and the height of the steps will all factor in to determining your overall calorie burn. Keeping a faster pace up the stairs and walking down is the safest approach. You can vary your upward speed to increase the intensity level, or if you have the coordination, taking two steps at a time will make your muscles work harder and therefore increase your calorie burn. The more steps you climb overall, the harder your body is working.

5. High impact aerobics 664 per hour

High impact refers to activities where both feet leave the ground, such as jumping jacks, plyometric style hopping movements and some forms of dancing. This form of exercise is often fun and allows for a lot of variety. However, the impact on the joints is not for everyone. This type of exercise can be made more intense by adding in weighted equipment, keeping the intensity level high and doing exercise that specifically works the large muscle groups, such as the glutes, chest and back. This type of training done in a HIIT style, where you do timed work to rest intervals, can increase the overall calorie burn dramatically. However, when you’re working at a high intensity, a shorter, overall workout duration is important. A typical HIIT session will last only 20-30 minutes.

6. Backpacking 637 per hour

Carrying a backpack on a hike is a great form of outdoor exercise, and because you are carrying extra weight, it can help you to build muscular strength. The varied terrain is also great for improving coordination and working the small, stabilizing muscles in the legs and ankles. To burn more calories while backpacking, consider increasing the weight you are carrying, or choose a steeper terrain.

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6 Tips to Maintain Healthy Hair

August 28, 2018

Leave the trimming to the professionals.

Here are some habits you can learn to get the healthiest hair possible.

One thing that people with great looking hair have in common is that they practice healthy hair habits. Having healthy hair takes commitment and it can take time to get it looking its best. But it’s definitely worth the time and effort. Here are some healthy hair habits you can put into practice today:

Avoid Anything Harsh

People with healthy hair tend to be very conscious of what they’re putting on their locks. They rarely use products containing harsh ingredients and look for shampoos, conditioners and styling aids that contain natural ingredients and are clinically tested. Moisturizing and softening ingredients like Aloe vera, olive and macadamia nut oils, and a strengthening ingredient like hydrolyzed wheat protein enzymes are great choices.

Top Tip: Look for sulfate-free products. Sulfates tend to be harsh on both the skin and hair and can actually damage your hair. They can leave it frizzy and dehydrated and compromise your hair color. When you choose sulfate-free, you’re taking a much gentler approach to your hair care regimen.

Shampooing Daily May Not Be Necessary

If you have really thick and curly hair, you don’t need to shampoo as often as someone who has fine hair. You can wait a few days between shampooing. And those with fine hair, or those who are more prone to oily hair conditions, may need to wash every day, or every other day, to get rid of that greasy look. So, determine your hair type and shampoo as needed. Over-shampooing your hair can result in more bad hair days than good. When you do shampoo, it’s important to rinse your hair thoroughly. Any residue left behind can lead to an unwelcome hair do.

Top Tip: To benefit your hair between shampooing days, try using a dry shampoo. Spritz at your roots and comb through. This will help to absorb excess oil and instantly refresh your hair between washings.

Don’t Over-Color

If you color your hair, it’s important to not overdo it, as you may damage it. Be sure to wait at least four to six weeks between coloring sessions if you can. Of course, hair always looks amazing when its freshly colored, but overdoing it can have a counter effect. Your hair colorist will have your best interests at heart, and will be sure to take the gentlest approach with your hair coloring.

Top Tip: Talk to your colorist about styles or techniques that may require less frequent touch-ups. One of my favorite products is colored spray root touch-up. Match your shade and spritz away. It can help extend the time between colorings.

Turn Down the Heat

Between the blow dryer, curling, flat irons and hot curlers, it’s hard to avoid damaging your hair with heat. If you can’t put down the heating devices altogether, then be sure to turn the temperature down. Use your dryer on low heat only. And lower the temperature on your other devices as well. It may take a bit longer to get the job done, but it’s worth it.

Top Tip: Try using a heat-resistant styling spray to help coat your hair strands and protect them from thermal damage. Many will leave your hair with a healthy-looking shine, too.

Trim It Up

Both men and women need to trim their hair regularly. Just by snipping off the frayed ends, you can instantly freshen up your hairstyle. There’s nothing worse than those pesky split ends to kill your look. When your hair grows longer, the cuticle (outer layer) tends to weaken and can break. This leaves the middle layers of your hair strand vulnerable and unprotected. When the hair splits at these weak points, they can travel up. A quick trim will help maintain the shape of your hair and give it a bit more movement.

Top Tip: Leave the trimming to the professionals. There’s an art to it if you want the best results.

Stay Healthy on the Inside

Healthy hair starts on the inside. A balanced diet with adequate protein and plenty of water is essential to looking your best. Make sure your diet includes a sufficient quantity of vitamins C, D and E that deliver antioxidant benefits, as well as biotin.

Top Tip: Take a multivitamin every day.

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4 Popular Food Myths Debunked by Our Expert

Plan for smarter snacking.

Here’s the truth on four popular myths about dieting. When you hear diet myths often enough, you may start to assume they’re true. Some diet myths, like the belief that “as long as you exercise, you can eat as much as you want,” almost make sense. Others, like “cookie crumbs don’t count,” simply fall into the territory of wishful thinking.

Many diet myths come and go, but some have stood the test of time. Why do we hang on to these food myths, even if we know they might not be true? Often it’s because the ideas behind the food myths just seem to make sense—and so we want to believe them.

With so much information and misinformation available at our fingertips, it’s not too difficult to find a source that supports what we hope to be true about our diet. Think of any popular strategy for weight loss that you’ve heard, and then do an Internet search. You’ll probably find just as many sites that support that strategy as those that debunk it.

Here are four of the most common dieting myths, and why they simply aren’t true:

1) Weighing yourself daily can be discouraging when you’re trying to lose weight.

Truth: Your body weight fluctuates from day to day. Sometimes it can be by as much as a couple of pounds. If you weigh yourself every morning, you’ve probably experienced this, especially after you’ve had a heavy dinner the night before. Yet many people believe that if you don’t see a consistent daily drop in your body weight, you’ll get discouraged and abandon your efforts. Instead, several studies have shown that those who keep daily tabs on their weight are more likely to lose weight and keep it off.

2) Carbohydrates are fattening.

Truth: Carbs tend to have a bad reputation among dieters, but that’s largely due to the fact that carbs are so misunderstood. To most people, carbs means starchy foods like white bread or white rice or potatoes, or maybe sugars and sweets. Those are carbs, to be sure. But there are also carbs to be found in healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. So, to lump all those foods together and claim them as fattening just isn’t right.

What matters is this: the healthy carb sources are simply more filling than the highly processed, not-so-healthy-for-you carbohydrates. These are the sugary drinks, sweets and refined flour breads, cereals, crackers and so forth. So, it can be pretty easy to take in quite a few calories from these refined carbs, hence their fattening reputation. And there are times when it’s tempting to choose these less healthy options––many people turn to sweets and carbs for comfort when they’re tired or stressed. But the stress relief will only be momentary––while the extra pounds may stay with you a lot longer.

On the other hand, high-fiber vegetables, whole grains, beans and fruits are more filling than refined carbs, so stick with them.

3) Eating close to bedtime will make you gain weight.

Truth: Many people believe that eating calories late in the day are somehow more fattening than when they’re eaten earlier in the day. The thinking is that you should eat more calories during the hours you’re active so you can burn them off, and that if you take in calories right before you go to sleep they’ll just get stored away since you won’t be using them. But if you take in more calories than you need at any time of the day, you’ll store them away.

One reason this weight related myth persists is because many people lose weight when they assign an early cutoff time to their eating. It isn’t because they stopped eating sooner than they used to, it’s just that they stopped eating—period. But that might not work for you, especially if you’re a night owl. If you’re up late studying, you may need some fuel during the evening to keep going. The trick is to save up some calories during the day so you can spend them on some healthy snacks in the evening. Which brings us to Food Myth #4…

4) Snacking is a bad habit that contributes to weight gain.

Truth: Snacking is often seen as a bad habit for a couple reasons. Some people think it will add excess calories on top of the calories you need for the day. And many people think snacks only serve to dump lots of fat, salt, sugar and calories into your system. It’s true that not everyone snacks wisely. Plenty of people do snack on high calorie, nutrient-poor foods that contribute plenty of extra calories. But when it’s done wisely, snacking can be a healthy habit that can keep your weight in check, and can help keep your energy levels up throughout the day. Plan for smarter snacking and rather than waiting until you’re hit with a snack attack, keep healthy snacks––like whole fruits, yogurt, some nuts or a protein bar––in your bag to avoid getting tempted by the junk.

 

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8 Tips To Keep the Pounds Off at College

Workout with a friend.

When you’re busy balancing college life, your body often pays the price. Here are some simple fitness tips to keep your weight in check.

This time of the year, when you’re heading off to college for the first time or returning after the summer break, it can be challenging if you’re trying to maintain or lose weight. The “freshman 15” weight gain becomes a reality for many new college students, and a return to a standard college diet of fast food becomes a reality for those coming back. The only way to avoid weight gain is to find ways to stay active, reduce stress and stay on track with a healthy eating plan. Here are some tips to help you squeeze in daily activity and avoid gaining weight.

Start walking:

Walking can help you burn calories, improve muscle tone and reduce stress. Using a simple pedometer that clips to your waistband is a great way to monitor your daily walking activity. A healthy goal to try and reach is 10,000 steps per day.

Build up your pace:

As you add regular walks to your day, slowly increase your duration until 30 minutes feels comfortable. Then increase your intensity level by walking faster. Start including varied terrain, such as hills, and then progress to a jogging or running pace.

Climb stairs:

Climbing stairs is great for improving your cardiovascular fitness level. Plus, it works all of the muscles in the back of the legs and butt. If you can’t find a good set of stairs to climb, do step-ups instead. Aim to do the equivalent of 50 stairs per day.

Lunch-time catch-up:

It’s much easier to complete a training program when you have a partner who is doing it with you. Try to convince a friend or family member to exercise with you during your lunch break or any free time you may have between classes. It’s a great way to catch up while doing your body some good.

Find a fitness deal:

Many colleges have recreational sports leagues and offer discounted gym memberships or fitness classes. Also, look online for a program that allows you to try out lots of local fitness classes at a discounted price.

Learn a few moves:

Perform body weight resistance exercises, such as simple squats, lunges and push-ups in your dorm or wherever you live. When you’re ready, you can progress to using weights. If you know how to do the basics, any time you have just a few minutes to spare you can maximize your time by getting stronger with simple exercises. There are lots of exercise routines that you can do for free online when you have a little more time to spend.

Snack well:

Don’t fall into the bad habit of grabbing unhealthy snacks on the go. Instead, be prepared and carry healthy treats in your bag. Try to find snacks that are high in protein, as they will help you to stay fuller for longer. Avoid empty calories and opt for nutrient-dense foods that are essential when you’re stressed and busy.

Stay hydrated:

When your body is well hydrated, you may hold on to less water weight. I also find that when I’m drinking fluids throughout the day, I’m less likely to snack. Quite often we mistake thirst with hunger. Aim to drink a minimum of 8-10 glasses per day and even more if it’s hot or you’re exercising.

If you stick to a healthy routine and squeeze in my tips, you’ll sail through the busy school season with your body composition intact.

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Simple Tips To Keep Your Skin and Body Healthy During Summer Months

August 21, 2018

Make sure to have a plan before leaving home.

Summer is here! That means plenty of outdoor events and activities. But be careful, and don’t let the summer fun become a summer nightmare.

Make sure to get the family involved in the planning before leaving home, this way everyone will be aware of wearing the proper clothes, protecting the skin from the sun and staying hydrated.

It is essential to wear the proper attire during summer days to avoid sunburns and rashes. Try to find clothing made from jersey or cotton. These are breathable materials that help to keep the body cool during hot days. Make sure to avoid clothing made of polyester or nylon because, even though they may look nice, they are not breathable materials. Look for light colored fabrics when choosing outdoor attire like pastels, as they will absorb less heat than a darker color. There are numerous great options in the marketplace that provide UVA/UVB protection to enjoy the outdoor summer fun without the worry.

To avoid sunburns during a summer day, make sure to apply a broad spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen on every family member 30 minutes before sun exposure, this will allow the product’s ingredients to fully bind with the skin. Wear a hat and shades between 10 am and 3 pm, when the sun is at its strongest, and don’t forget about the hidden areas on the body like the back of the head, ears, hands and feet. If planning strenuous or water activities, use a product that is water resistant, and make sure to reapply every two hours. Strenuous activities during summer months can lead to substantial water and electrolyte loss. To prevent dehydration from happening, it is essential to keep the body hydrated. Don’t leave home without the cooler full of hydrating drinks and foods. Plain water is good, but adding a little low-sugar hydrating powder or fresh fruit to cold water will infuse flavor, and it might encourage the family to drink more often. Don’t forget that eating fruit is also an excellent way to stay hydrated. It is crucial to stay away from sugary drinks like sodas, as they can act as a dehydrating agent and increase thirst.

Once the family gets home, make sure to remove any sweaty or wet attire as quickly as possible. This will help prevent body rashes and skin irritation. Make sure to use a body wash free of harsh sulfates, parabens, added colors and dyes, as these types of ingredients can irritate the skin. Look for products with soothing ingredients like aloe vera and shea butter, which will soothe the skin and make it feel amazing after a long, fun, active day. Summer months are always a fun time to spend with family and friends, and these simple tips will keep the body healthy and safe all summer long.

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Protein Shakes: Healthy, On-The-Go Nutrition

Customize your shake with fruits
and veggies.

Protein shakes can do more than just provide balanced nutrition. Getting into the shake habit just might improve your eating habits, too.

There are plenty of reasons why protein shakes are popular. They can provide you with balanced nutrition that can replace a meal, they’re quick to make, and you can get creative and customize them with all kinds of add-ins. Those are all great reasons, but there are other ways that protein shakes can improve your diet and eating habits.

Including protein shakes in your diet can also address many common obstacles to eating well, as well as help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Protein Shakes Can Help You…

Count your calories accurately.

Keeping track of your daily calorie intake is an important key to weight management. But it’s not easy to do; most people underestimate their calorie intake by 20% or so. Part of what makes calorie counting difficult is that it requires you to accurately weigh and measure everything you eat. Plus, you need to account for all the little details, like how the food is prepared or what condiments you eat with it. The beauty of protein shakes is that they’re usually made up of just a few ingredients that. are easy to measure. That allows you to get an accurate calorie count of the finished shake.

Include more fruits and vegetables in your diet.

Customizing your protein shake by adding fruits and vegetables allows for almost endless variety—and you can easily add a serving or two to your shake. To make this quick and convenient, keep a variety of frozen fruits on hand in your freezer. And try adding veggies such as fresh or frozen spinach, carrots, kale or winter squash to your shake.

Establish regular mealtimes.

Many people have erratic eating patterns because they just don’t make time to plan and prepare what they’re going to eat. As a result, they may end up skipping meals or snacking more. There are few things that are easier to prepare than a protein shake. When you’ve got your protein powder, your liquid “mixer” and maybe some fruits or vegetables to add, you’ve got balanced nutrition in a glass in minutes—and no excuse for skipping meals.

Control portion size at meals.

A protein shake is naturally portion-controlled, which can help you in a couple of ways. First, when you use your protein shake as a meal, your portion is defined for you. Having a protein shake at one meal might also help you control your portion size at your next meal, too. Also, if your shake is nutritionally balanced and provides protein and carbohydrates to keep you satisfied from one meal to the next, you won’t be famished when you do sit down to eat. And that can make it much easier for you to control how much food you put on your plate.

Meet nutritional needs.

No matter how careful you are with your food choices, it isn’t always easy to make sure you get all the nutrients your body needs every day. A protein shake made with milk or soy milk and the addition of a fruit or vegetable can help you meet your needs for several nutrients, including protein, calcium, vitamin D and fiber. And many protein shake mixes have vitamins and minerals added, which boosts nutrition even more.

Eat better, even on the run.

When you’re on the run and hunger strikes, you might be tempted to dart into your local fast food place for quick satisfaction. But it can be challenging to find a healthy, balanced meal when you’re on the go. If you let yourself get too hungry, you’ll probably just grab the first thing you can—which may not be the healthiest thing. The fact that protein shakes are portable is a huge plus. Once your shake is blended, it’s ready to go—whether you’re on your way to work or school, running errands, or heading back to your desk at lunch. Protein shakes can be quick, healthy, convenient and delicious. What more could you ask for?

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7 Ways to Create Healthy Habits for Fitness

Create an exercise space at home.

Leading a healthy lifestyle starts with creating healthy habits for yourself. Here are some tips on how you can do exactly that.

The best way to create a healthy habit is to look first at how your brain processes information to create any habit. Then use that knowledge to your advantage. For example, many fast food companies use your senses to get you attracted to their products. Advertising stimulates your senses in ways to make what’s offered appear to be more attractive. And it works. Using your senses of vision, taste, smell and hearing can help you create a positive association with a certain food or behavior. So, why not use this knowledge to create a positive feeling about exercise and healthy eating?

How to Create Healthy Fitness Habits

Get Outside

Exercising in beautiful outdoor surroundings is a great way to enjoy being more active. Many people find that what was supposed to be a quick 20-minute walk becomes much longer when they’re enjoying their environment. What is visually appealing differs for each individual. Some enjoy the mountains and fields, while others feel alive in the busy city streets. It’s important to know what setting you prefer and create a routine around it.

Be Creative Inside

If exercising outside is not possible for you, work out close to a window so you can look outside. If watching people exercising in the gym motivates you to work harder, choose the cardio machine that faces the gym floor. During your next workout, think about how what you see impacts your energy level.

Set Up an Exercise Space

If you plan on exercising at home, you can create an exercise space by simply placing a mat on the floor. Get into the habit of using the same space in your home for exercise each day. When you have a designated space, it allows you to focus and concentrate on your routine. Clearing an area around your mat will allow you to move freely; a less cluttered space can help you to feel less stressed overall.

Prepare Beautiful Food

Take time and care to create beautiful, colorful, visually appealing meals and snacks. If, for instance, your favorite color is red, adding peppers, strawberries or red apples to your snacks will make you drawn to them. We always feel much happier to eat food that looks good, which is why we’re often drawn toward beautifully decorated cakes. Quite often the healthy options don’t necessarily look all that stimulating. But with a little creativity and time you can prepare good looking, healthy meals.

Play Music to Enhance Your Mood

The music you listen to during your workout can impact how you feel and how hard you work. Be sure to pick your favorite upbeat tunes for those difficult workouts where you know you need some extra motivation. When you wish to exercise at a steady pace, playing music that’s inspiring and sets the pace can help you stay on track. When stretching and doing yoga, playing music that’s slow can help to reduce stress.

Whip Up a Flavorful Exercise Drink

Get yourself into the good habit of staying hydrated while you exercise. Prepare a nice bottle filled with something you enjoy to help you look forward to your exercise routine. Be sure to choose your beverage wisely, as you don’t want to overdo the sugars and calories. An electrolyte drink that’s water-infused with your favorite fruits or a low-sugar sports drink are some good choices.

Use Scents to Influence Your Mood

When you think of exercise, I’m pretty sure the smell that comes to mind is sweaty socks and a musty gym bag. That’s probably not the great motivation you’re looking for. Gather some scents that help you boost your mood and energy level. Choosing a particular scent that you associate with exercise is a great way to establish a healthy habit. The smell of lavender, for instance, is very calming and soothing. A perfect way to get into a calm state of mind is to use a lavender scent before doing yoga.

If you need to perk up, a good energizing scent to use is peppermint. Peppermint oil is inexpensive and great to smell when you’re feeling tired. Lemon has an uplifting and refreshing scent, so it’s perfect for your pre-workout routine.

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