Summer Vacation Helps the Body; Make Yours Healthy

Summer is vacation time. As a nutritionist and registered dietitian, I advocate for all the facets of healthy lifestyles, and near the top of the list is substantial time off from the daily grind. Don’t underestimate the importance of a vacation; your body actually needs the break, no matter what your circumstances are.

Daily life hurls all sorts of small stresses at us. The hormones released during short-term stressful situations actually help us to make quick decisions and avoid trouble. But too many of those hormones can actually deteriorate the cardiovascular system.

If you’re already at risk for heart disease, or have some risk factors working against you, the last thing you want to do is stay on the stress train. Most doctors will tell you your body needs a vacation. And by this, they don’t mean hanging out at the mall near the house, with your cell phone. A complete change of scenery and routine is what’s required to help the body rejuvenate and heal.

If you’ve got a Type A person in your world, put this article in front of that person and recommend a true getaway: no office politics, no irritating neighbors, no repairs that need to be made.

Next, don’t set up yourself for added stress when you get home. One week of weight gain can take months to lose, and every time you button tight pants, you’ll feel a twinge of disappointment in yourself.
Make a commitment to having a healthy vacation. Get in the mindset that you’re leaving for health reasons, and you want to feel as good as possible upon your return.

This is not to say you can’t indulge a little bit – an occasional “cheat” day is a good idea even at home. But promising yourself true rest, some form of pleasurable exercise and relatively healthy food can really start an exciting (and beneficial) new phase of your life.

Here are some tips which will help you avoid vacation weight gain. If you’ll have access to a kitchen, take your George Foreman grill and electric skillet and go to the grocery store. You’ll save a fortune, which you can spend on activities and attractions.

In many hotels, you can request a mini fridge and microwave, even if they’re not normally in the room. During a recent Orlando conference, the Ritz-Carlton charged me next to nothing for both. So I had all the health foods and drinks with me that I wanted, and spent far less eating out.

Odds are high you’ll patronize restaurants on vacation. Commit three rules to memory and they will make a big difference in your waistline over the coming years.
1. Never, never, never get regular salad dressing. Request a low-fat dressing.
2. Always, always, always ask for the salad dressing on the side.
3. No no no fried foods; order baked, boiled, broiled or blackened. Fast food is a trap – avoid it if possible, but if not, steer clear of fried foods, cheese and fatty condiments.

If you’re staying in a hotel with free continental breakfast, stay away from the pastries, doughnuts and hash browns. Instead, choose whole-grain breads and cereals, low-fat yogurt, fruits, and eggs (a good source of protein). Keep in mind you can still make oatmeal with the in-room coffee maker.

Also plan your vacation to include physical activity. If you’ll be in an urban area, check online for Ys, family parks or a family rec center. We try to plan activities within our vacation that are fun physical components, such as bike riding. Take a hike, play basketball, do a quick workout, and try something new. Even things you’re bad at (badminton, anyone?) create fun family memories while setting a healthy pattern.

Simple Changes at Home Encourage Nutrition

Posted May 27th, 2010 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in nutrition

Q: What are some simple changes to make at home, which encourage better nutrition and health?
(in terms of shopping, habits, or schedules)

First and foremost: remember that kids mimic adults!
Your children will do what you do, eat what you eat!

With that in mind, here are some simple changes to make, which give the whole family a healthful advantage:

Don’t buy sodas
Don’t buy sugary breakfast cereals
Eat breakfast every day
Keep fruits and veggies on hand
Don’t let kids eat standing up: be mindful of each meal
Plant a garden at home with your kids
Grow or keep herbs in pots in the kitchen
Take walks after dinner or early in the day – a great time to talk (and listen)
Declare one day a week as treat day, when candy or dessert is allowed……..?

Fit in fitness Friday – give the gift of fitness this holiday season!

Posted December 4th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Exercise Tips, Fit In Fitness Friday

Looking for the perfect holiday present for the family?  Give the gift of fitness!  Local gyms are offering membership specials for the holidays. Another idea is to buy sports equipment to encourage your family to be active. So while you are walking the malls this weekend in search of the perfect gift, consider your family’s fitness goals.

Here are just a few suggestions:

-A pedometer to track your steps
-Tennis racket and balls
-Footballs, baseballs, soccer equipment
-Yoga mat
-A bicycle and helmet
-A treadmill or home equipment
-Exercise videos
-Headset/music for the gym, jogging or walking
-Workout clothes
-Gym bags
-Water bottles

Fit in fun on Friday – burn off those extra holiday calories with a ‘turkey trot’

Posted November 20th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Exercise Tips, Fit In Fitness Friday

With the holidays upon us, indulging in festive foods including turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie often motivate people to rev up their fitness goals. As you make your holiday plans, schedule time for exercise. Community “turkey trots” offer families a great way to exercise over the Thanksgiving weekend. The traditional “turkey trots” usually include a one or three mile family fun walk, as well as several options to participate in more competitive jogging events. Check your local newspaper listings or online for more information on events in your community.

Fit in fun Friday: Making exercise a daily habit for families

Posted November 13th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Exercise Tips, Fit In Fitness Friday

Take time this weekend to evaluate your family’s fitness goals. Creating a routine that works for the entire family is the best way to stick to your exercise goals and improve your health.

Here are a few suggestions to make exercise a part of your family’s routine:

  • Plan to exercise at a certain time every day, so it becomes part of your schedule.
  • Write up and sign a contract, where you agree to exercise.
  • Mark your family calendar with a daily appointment for exercise.
  • Keep a diary of all of your exercises. Log everything you do, and your progress.
  • If you need support, have your doctor write out an exercise prescription, including how much exercise you should do and how often.
  • Try joining a health club or gym. Paying a membership fee may prompt you to get your money’s worth and go more frequently. Many gyms offer family memberships. If you have children, find a gym that provides daycare for young ones or offers fitness programs for older children.

By getting the entire family involved, you can support one another and make fitness more fun!

Fit in fitness Friday: Take a yoga class

Posted October 16th, 2009 by Elaine Hastings, RD - Nutrition Expert and filed in Fit In Fitness Friday

Take the family to a yoga class. Many local gyms and community centers offer weekend yoga classes designed to help increase muscular strength and reduce tension and stress. Yoga has a low potential for injury, is non-competitive, has spiritual and psychological benefits and a 5,000 year track record. The 84 basic yoga positions, or asanas, range from simple bending and twisting to pretzel-like contortions reserved for the most advanced practitioners.

Yoga instructors suggest that yoga be studied with an experienced teacher rather than learned from a manual. Also note that yoga teachers in general are unlicensed and unregulated. Find an experienced teacher affiliated with a reputable yoga organization.

If you can’t get to a class, there are plenty of good yoga videos at your local library. Use books to supplement your training.