All posts by Hot Pink Ink

Brain Foods that May Help You Concentrate

Your brain handles a lot. It sends instructions to move muscles, makes sure organs are working, remembers information, has creative ideas, and powers every system in your body. We often eat foods that help strengthen our muscles or give us more energy—but brains need nutrition too!

There are a wide variety of foods that can help you concentrate in your day-to-day routine. Many of the nutrients and foods that help your brain, also protect your heart and blood vessels. That means when you eat healthy foods you are giving your brain a boost and will be on your way to full-body health! 

Be on the lookout for foods that include brain-healthy nutrients like: 

  • vitamin B
  • vitamin K
  • vitamin E
  • coenzyme Q10
  • Lutein
  • Folate
  • beta carotene
  • omega-3

Green, Leafy Vegetables

You’ve heard how important vegetables are for your health—because it’s true! When it comes to brain health, green, leafy vegetables can boost cognitive function and slow age-related cognitive decline. Translation: leafy green vegetables can help clear your mind and keep your brain healthy as you age! When planning your meals, include at least one serving of greens per day.

Leafy vegetables that boost brain health include:

  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Collards
  • Broccoli
  • Romaine lettuce

Healthy Fats

Not all fats are bad! Healthy fats are important for both your heart and your brain. When you’re looking at fat content in food, you want to see ‘unsaturated fats’—or monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Healthy fats have many benefits. They give long-term energy to the brain. This helps you concentrate longer while increasing your memory!

Find healthy fats in:

  • Olive, Peanut, and Canola Oils
  • Avocados
  • Almonds
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Seeds
  • Fish


Research suggests that eating berries can have positive effects on the brain and can help prevent memory loss with their ability to reduce brain inflammation. Not to mention they are delicious!

Some of the berries that are the best for brain health include:

  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Strawberries


A protein source linked to a great brain boost is fish—rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are key for brain health. They have the ability to combat damaging beta-amyloid blood levels that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. The omega-3s found in fish play a vital role in enhancing your memory. Try to include fish in your diet at least twice a week.

Choose these fish varieties that are low in mercury:

  • Salmon
  • Cod
  • Canned light tuna
  • Pollack
  • Walleye
  • Perch
  • Bass

Nuts and Chocolate

Nuts—particularly walnuts—and seeds are good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which is linked to less cognitive decline as you age. Dark chocolate also has other powerful antioxidant properties. It contains natural stimulants like caffeine, which can enhance focus. Enjoy up to an ounce of nuts and dark chocolate a day for the benefits you need without excess calories, fat, or sugar.

Some of the best nuts for your brain are:

  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Flax Seeds
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds


There’s no magic bullet to boost IQ or make you smarter—but certain substances, like caffeine, can energize you and help you concentrate. Commonly found in coffee and chocolate caffeine gives you that unmistakable wake-up buzz, though the effects are short-term. As if you needed another excuse to eat chocolate, dark chocolate has powerful antioxidant properties, and it contains natural stimulants like caffeine, which can enhance focus. 

CAUTION: Be careful with caffeine. Too much caffeine can make you jittery and uncomfortable. Energy drinks have become popular but can also have yucky withdrawal effects such as mood swings and headaches. Caffeine intake—especially for children and teens– should be limited because it can lead to higher blood pressure, sleep deprivation, and can make anxiety worse.

Healthier caffeinated food and drinks can include:

  • Coffee
  • Black Tea
  • Green Tea
  • Dark Chocolate


Every organ in the body depends on blood flow, especially the heart and brain. A diet high in fiber can cut the risk of heart disease and lower bad cholesterol. This reduces your risk of plaque buildup and enhances blood flow, offering a simple, tasty way to fire up brain cells. 

Foods that contain high fiber include:

  • Beans
  • Whole Wheat
  • Oats
  • Rye
  • Buckwheat
  • Quinoa
  • Brown Rice
  • Popcorn
  • Chia Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Dates
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Eggplant

Don’t Forget to Start Each Day with Breakfast

Tempted to skip breakfast? Studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Students who eat breakfast tend to perform better than those who don’t. Foods at the top of the brain-fuel list include high-fiber whole grains, dairy, and fruits. 

Be careful not to overeat; research has found that high-calorie breakfasts can hinder concentration. That means take it easy on heavy carbohydrate breakfast foods like pancakes and waffles drenched in syrup. Instead, balance with higher protein options like eggs.

Bottom line: If your diet lacks essential nutrients, it can hurt your ability to concentrate. Eating too much or too little can also interfere with your focus. A heavy meal may make you feel tired, while too few calories can result in distracting hunger pangs. Strive for a well-balanced diet full of a wide variety of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and protein.

Sources:, CDC, CDC

The Best and Worst Beverages for Weight Loss

Many of us watch what we eat but not what we drink while watching our diet. That’s a mistake. Research shows that most of the sugar in the average American’s diet comes from their beverage choices. Choosing the right drinks can tweak your metabolism, curb your appetite, and help cut calories.

Which drinks are the best and which are the worst on the path to weight loss? Keep reading to find out!

Best Beverages for Weight Loss


This comes as no surprise, but the most efficient drink you can choose is water. Tap, bottled, and sparking, all have 0 calories! Need some extra flavor? Add berries, or slices of lemon, or cucumber. Or add a splash of 100% juice to plain sparkling water to create your own flavored bubbly drink!


Black coffee has the least calories! Flavored syrups and whip cream add calories. Switch to fat-free milk or an unsweetened milk alternative, like almond milk.

Unsweetened Tea

Choose a tea variety that fits your taste palette and enjoy hot or iced! You can get a gentle energy boost with black or green teas. For a caffeine-free option, stick to herbal varieties like chamomile or dandelion root.

Vegetable Juice

One cup of tomato juice has 41 calories, compared to 122 calories for orange juice. Choosing juice with pulp provides some fiber, too, which may help control hunger.

Worst Beverages for Weight Loss


Every time you chug a bottle of soda, you get hundreds of empty calories. Switching to diet soda can cut calories, but the research is mixed on whether this switch leads to weight loss. Some studies show a short-term benefit. Others find diet soda drinkers gain weight. If you eat or drink more calories than you burn, switching to diet soda may not do the trick. Bottom line: ditch the soda or enjoy in small amounts.

Energy Drinks

Energy drinks often include high levels of added sugar, large amounts of caffeine, and other stimulants that generally aren’t considered healthy. It’s usually best to steer clear of energy drinks, and opt for getting your energy from quality food sources.

Sports Drinks

Often advertised as healthy drinks for active individuals, sports drinks are usually full of added sugars like high fructose corn syrup and sucrose. One serving of a leading sports drink brand contains 34 grams of sugar, which equals about 132 calories in sugar alone. That’s a lot of sugar in one beverage serving! If you’re looking for an electrolyte alternative, coconut water is a great option, totaling only 9.6 grams of sugar per serving.

Different Name, But It’s Still Sugar

The list below includes sugars that are hiding behind a different name. Look at the ingredient labels before purchasing to make sure you’re not getting more sugar than you’re bargaining for.

  • Cane juice
  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Glucose
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Malt Syrup
  • Sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar cane

Learn how to read nutrition fact labels by the FDA so you can easily recognize added sugars.

If you drink sugary drinks often, you are more likely to face long-term health problems like obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gout, and more. When considering your daily calories and beverage choices, keep added sugars to less than 10% of your total daily calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this is no more than 200 calories.

Sources: CDC, Healthy Food AmericaWebMD

Walk & Bike to School Day: Join the Movement!

Join thousands of schools and communities around the country that participate in Walk & Bike to School annual activities.

  • Bike to School Day is May 3, 2023
  • Walk to School Day is October 4, 2023 

Walk to School Day and Bike to School Day are part of a movement for year-round safe routes to school.

These events encourage community members to consider:

  • Creating safe, friendly routes for biking and walking
  • Building a sense of community or school spirit
  • Inspiring families to walk and bike to school more often

There are lots of ways to get involved year round. You can start simply by encouraging students to walk or bike to school, then spread the word and build into a larger community-wide initiative. You can also plan and register a local event, see schools walking and biking in your community, and find support materials.

Children deserve safe places to walk and bike—starting with the trip to school. That’s why the National Centers for Safe Routes to School also partners with Vision Zero for Youth to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries. Vision Zero provides additional opportunities for advocates to tap into a broader initiative that city leaders have publicly and officially committed to. Encouraging your city officials to join Vision Zero for Youth can bring more visibility and possibly additional funding, improvements, or actions that benefit Safe Routes to School.

Plan and register a local event, see schools walking and biking in your community, find support materials, and learn more about this movement.

Source: Walk & Bike to School; National Centers for Safe Routes to School; Vision Zero for Youth

Choosing Nutrient-Dense Foods

To eat well, it’s best to choose a mix of nutrient-dense foods every day. Nutrient-dense foods are foods that have a lot of nutrients but relatively few calories. Look for foods that contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.

What Foods Should I Eat?

Plan your meals and snacks to include

  • fruits and vegetables
  • grains, especially whole grains
  • low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • seafood, lean poultry and meats, beans, eggs, and unsalted nuts
  • limited amounts of solid fats. Consume less than 10 percent of calories from saturated fats. Keep intake of trans fats as low as possible.
  • limited amounts of cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars.

Benefits of Vegetables, Fruits, and Grains

Vegetables, fruits, and grains offer important vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy. Most of these foods have little fat. They also have no cholesterol. Fruits, vegetables and grains are also a source of fiber, and eating more fiber may help with digestion and constipation and may lower cholesterol and blood sugar.

Vegetables, fruits, grains and beans also give your body phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are natural compounds such as beta-carotene, lutein and lycopene. Like vitamins, minerals, and fiber, phytochemicals may promote good health and reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Research is underway to learn more about these natural compounds.

Eat a Variety of Vegetables Daily

Eat a variety of colors and types of vegetables every day.

  • Broccoli, spinach, turnip and collard greens, and other dark leafy greens are good choices.
  • You might also choose red and orange vegetables, such as tomatoes, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, red peppers, or winter squash.

Vegetables may be purchased raw or cooked, frozen, canned, or dried/dehydrated. They may be eaten whole, cut-up, or mashed.

Enjoy a Variety of Fruits

Eat a variety of fruits every day. To make sure you get the benefit of the natural fiber in fruits, choose whole or cut-up fruits more often than fruit juice. Fruits may be purchased fresh, canned, frozen, or dried and may be eaten whole, cut-up, or pureed.

Get Your Grains

Any food made from wheat, rye, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain is a grain product. Grains fall into two main categories: whole and refined. Foods made from whole grains are a major source of energy and fiber.

When choosing grain foods, try to make at least half your grains whole. In other words, at least half of the cereals, breads, crackers, and pastas you eat should be made from whole grains. Include whole grains in your diet every day.

Why Whole Is Better

Whole grains are better sources of fiber and nutrients than refined grains, such as white flour or white rice. Refined grains have had both the bran and germ removed and don’t have as much fiber or as many nutrients as whole grains. Most refined grains are enriched, with some B vitamins and iron added back in after processing. However, fiber is not replaced.

Whole grain foods, such as whole wheat bread, are made with the entire seed of a plant, including the bran, the germ, and the endosperm. Together, they provide lots of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, carbohydrates, and fiber.

Try whole wheat pasta instead of regular pasta or use brown rice in a casserole in place of white rice. Look for “whole wheat” or “whole oats” rather than just “wheat” or “oats” on the ingredients list of packaged goods to make sure you’re getting whole grains.

Choose Dairy Every Day

Low-fat or fat-free dairy products should be among the foods you choose every day, too. These products provide calcium and vitamin D to help maintain strong bones. They also provide protein and potassium. Low-fat or fat-free milk, cheese, and yogurt are good options.

If you don’t drink milk, be sure to have other products that contain the nutrients that milk provides. Some cereals and juices are fortified with extra calcium and vitamin D. Salmon, sardines and mackerel are good sources of vitamin D.

If Lactose Is a Problem

If you avoid milk because of its lactose (milk sugar) content, you can get needed nutrients from lactose-reduced or low-lactose dairy products. You might also drink small amounts of milk several times a day or take tablets with the enzyme lactase (available in most drugstores and grocery stores) before consuming dairy products. Other sources of calcium include foods such as hard cheese, yogurt, canned fish like salmon or sardines, and calcium-fortified tofu or soy beverages.

Eat Protein Every Day

Protein helps build and maintain muscle and skin, and you should include protein in your diet every day. Seafood, meats and poultry are sources of protein, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. When buying meats and poultry, choose lean cuts or low-fat products. They provide less total fat, less saturated fat, and fewer calories than products with more fat.

For instance, 3 ounces of cooked, regular ground beef (70% lean) has 6.1 grams of saturated fat and 230 calories. Three ounces of cooked, extra-lean ground beef (95% lean) contains 2.9 grams of saturated fat and 164 calories.

Vary Your Protein Choices

Consider varying your sources of protein. Try replacing some meat and poultry with seafood or with bean, tofu, or pea dishes. These foods tend to be low or lower in saturated fats, and beans and peas provide fiber. Pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans, chickpeas, split peas, and lentils are all healthy options. Look for ways to add unsalted nuts and seeds to your meals and snacks too, but keep amounts small since these foods are high in calories.

Some Fats Are Better Than Others

Fats are a source of energy and help maintain healthy organs, skin and hair. Fats also help your body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. It’s okay to include some oils and fats in the foods you eat, but be aware that fat contains more than twice as many calories as protein or carbohydrates. Try to choose foods that are low in fat or fat free.

Choose polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats when possible.

Sources of better fats include vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, canola, olive, safflower, and sunflower oils. Polyunsaturated fat is also in nuts, seeds, and fish. Walnuts, flaxseed and salmon are examples of foods with polyunsaturated fat.

Drink Liquids, Especially Water

Be sure to consume plenty of liquids, especially water. You need to replace the fluids you lose every day. This may help prevent constipation and dehydration. Besides water, other good choices are unsweetened tea, low-fat or fat-free milk, and 100 percent fruit juice. You can also increase your intake of water by eating vegetables and fruits, which have a high moisture content.

Read Food Labels

Read the food labels on packaged foods and canned goods to learn what’s in the products you buy. All food labels contain a list of ingredients and nutrition information. Ingredients are listed in order by weight, which means that the ingredient present in the largest quantity is listed first and the ingredient present in the smallest quantity appears last. Nutrition information is found on the Nutrition Facts label.

Consider the DASH Eating Plan

Another balanced eating plan is the DASH eating plan. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is designed to help prevent or manage high blood pressure, or hypertension. The plan suggests which foods to eat and how much to eat. Your doctor may recommend other eating plans to help manage health conditions that occur as you get older. Read more about DASH online, or contact the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute at 1-301-592-8573 or 1- 240-629-3255 (TTY)

The MyPlate plan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, can help you choose a mix of healthy foods that are right for you.

The Best Way to Get Nutrients

Wholesome foods provide a wealth of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients you need to stay healthy. Eating properly is the best way to get these nutrients. However, if you have concerns that you are not eating as well as you should, you should talk to your doctor about taking a multivitamin and mineral supplement.

Source: NIH Senior Health; Eating Well At You Get Older

Keep Moving this Holiday Season

With the beautiful Summer and Fall weather behind us, we are now into the busy holiday season. Normal daily routines may get shifted, time may be limited, and you may fall out of your regular pattern. During this busy time of year, keeping fit is just as important as any other time of year. In fact, during the holidays, you may consume significantly greater amounts of calories, so balancing out these calories with activity is a great way to avoid any unwanted weight gain.

Tips to avoid the holiday fitness pitfalls:

  • Avoid using the “cold weather” as an excuse to not be active. Wear appropriate clothing and follow the information presented in the SDSU Extension article Physical Activity & Cold Weather to stay safe. Be mindful of dangerous weather conditions or extreme cold temperatures and move your workout inside if needed.
  • If you will be traveling long hours during the holidays, pack resistance bands, small weights, or a jump rope to incorporate activity into your travel plans. If you have layover time in the airport, use this time to walk around the airport.
  • It is very likely that your daily routine is shaken up a little with busy holiday plans. If so, plan ahead for this change. This means you may have to do your normal 30 minute walk in the morning or evening, instead of over lunch, or maybe you will have to break up your 30 minute session into three 10 minute sessions throughout the day.
  • If you do not have a family tradition during this time of year, consider starting a family walk, family relay, or a sledding event for everyone to participate in!
  • If you can’t seem to work out alone, find a family member or friend to be your “fitness buddy” during the holiday season. Working out with a friend or in a group will mean someone is counting on you!
  • Squeeze in activity as much as possible, every bit counts. Walk a little faster while getting groceries for your holiday meals, squeeze in a morning walk before the busy day begins, or do squats or balance on one foot while cooking.

Many of us look forward to this time of year for different reasons, whether it is family, friends, good food, presents, or yearly traditions. It is important to use the holidays for some relaxation, but remember that physical activity can be a great way to do this, especially with your loved ones. Avoid using the holidays as an excuse to not be active, they offer the perfect opportunity to do just the opposite!

See more at SDSU Extension

9 Tips to Make Healthier Holiday Choices

The holidays are often filled with time-honored traditions that include some of our favorite meals and foods. As you celebrate, think of little changes you can make this holiday season to create healthier meals and active days.

  1. Enjoy all the food groups at your celebration
    Prepare whole-grain crackers with hummus as an appetizer; add unsalted nuts and black beans to a green-leaf salad; include fresh fruit at the dessert table; use low-fat milk instead of heavy cream in your casseroles. Share healthier options during your holiday meal.
  2. Make sure your protein is lean
    Turkey; roast beef; fresh ham; beans; and some types of fish, such as cod or flounder, are lean protein choices. Trim fat when cooking meats. Go easy on the sauces and gravies ― they can be high in saturated fat and sodium.
  3. Cheers to good health
    Quench your thirst with low-calorie options. Drink water with lemon or lime slices. Offer seltzer water with a splash of 100% fruit juice.
  4. Bake healthier
    Use recipes with unsweetened applesauce or mashed ripe bananas instead of butter. Try cutting the amount of sugar listed in recipes in half. Use spices to add flavor such as cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg instead of salt.
  5. Tweak the sweet
    For dessert, try baked apples with cinnamon and a sprinkle of sugar instead of apple pie. Invite your guests to make their own parfait with colorful sliced fruit and low-fat yogurt.
  6. Be the life of the party
    Laugh, mingle, dance, and play games. Focus on fun and enjoy the company of others.
  7. Make exercise a part of the fun
    Make being active part of your holiday tradition. Have fun walking and talking with family and friends after a holiday meal. Give gifts that encourage others to practice healthy habits such as workout DVDs, running shoes, and reusable water bottles.
  8. Enjoy leftovers
    Create delicious new meals with your leftovers. Add turkey to soups or salads. Use extra veggies in omelets, sandwiches, or stews. The possibilities are endless!
  9. Give to others
    Spend time providing foods or preparing meals for those who may need a little help. Give food to a local food bank or volunteer to serve meals at a shelter during the holiday season.

Source: Choose My Plate

Pheasant Season Preparation

Fall has arrived. As the days get shorter and cooler, one thing is on the mind of many South Dakotans and visitors from other states: ROOSTER! Hunting provides physical activity, emotional and social benefits and a nutritious, low-fat protein.

Pre-Hunt Preparation
With hunting season right around the corner, it’s important for hunters to start preparing for the hunt. Taking some simple steps to prepare can make your hunting season safer, more enjoyable, and more successful.

  • Clean and maintain your firearms to ensure proper performance.
  • Spend some time at the range to practice your shooting and re-familiarize yourself with your firearms.
  • If you are bringing kids along, make sure they are versed in gun handling and safety practices.
  • Prepare your gear ahead of time to ensure that nothing will be forgotten.
  • Ensure everyone has appropriate licenses and hunter education certificates, available from South Dakota Department of Game, Fish & Parks.

Physical Fitness
One aspect of hunt preparation that is often overlooked is physical fitness and nutrition. For many outdoorsmen and women, fall is their most active time of year. Participating in a workout routine ahead of the season can ensure your body is in shape for the field. Don’t let an overambitious day of hunting take you out of the game for the rest of the week.

According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), adults need at least 2 hours and 30 minutes (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity, aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week. Muscle-strengthening activities are recommended on two or more days a week that work on all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, shoulders and arms.)=

Nutrition Tips
Keeping your energy level high is key for the hunt. Consider packing healthy food options as part of the preparation process. Here are some useful tips:

  • Pack plenty of water. It’s essential to stay hydrated before going hunting, during and after. Try to avoid sugary beverages.
  • Keep raw foods separated from cooked foods by packing them in waterproof bags or containers and keep them in an insulated cooler.
  • Pack nutrient dense snacks that are easy to carry. Examples include: Energy bars, trail mix, nuts, seeds, dried fruits or vegetables, nut-based bars, chews or gels.
  • Take a peanut butter and jelly whole wheat sandwich. Whole grains make you feel satisfied for a longer period of time.
  • Avoid candy bars and cookies. These foods contain a lot of sugar, which provide an initial lift of energy, but after a while as it wears off, leaving individuals feeling tired.
  • Instead of traditional jerky, consider packing venison jerky. It’s a healthier option. It’s leaner, but still high in sodium.

The benefits of hunting can be numerous if you are prepared. Good luck!

Source: SDSU Extension

Avocados Are Awesome!

There are lots of reasons avocados are so popular these days. Our guacamole certainly wouldn’t be the same, but they are also becoming a regular ingredient in salads, on sandwiches, as toast toppers, and have even been making consistent appearances in smoothies and brownies.

Part of the reason an avocado craze is sweeping the nation has to do with the fruit’s buttery rich flavor and versatile texture, and part of it has to do with the incredible nutrition that can be found beneath that green-ish tinged, soft leather-like skin.
For example:

  • One ounce of avocado contains a pile of vitamins and minerals like C, B6, E, K, and folate, to name just a few, as well as a heaping helping of phytonutrients which help your body prevent disease and infection.
  • Avocados are packed with monosaturated fats – the GOOD fat – the kind of fat that is essential for growing kids and pretty darn good for the rest of us too.
  • Cholesterol free… naturally.
  • Avocados are known as a “nutrient booster” because they help the body absorb fat-soluble nutrients from other foods eaten at the same time.

And, if that wasn’t enough, here are a few more reasons avocados steal the show in the kitchen and are such a family favorite:

  • The soft, creamy texture makes them a super nutritious first food for babies.
  • Adding a little avocado is an easy way to add color to your plate and nutrition to your diet.
  • They complement all kinds of cooking styles – from Asian and Mexican, to fancy French and All-American backyard feel-good recipes.
  • So good at so many things: avocados can be used as a main ingredient, a side, a spread, or mixed with everything from cooked whole-grains and salads, to breakfast smoothies and desserts.
  • Avocados pair well with sweet, savory, or spicy flavors.
  • Bake them, fry them, grill them or just enjoy them raw.
  • Never out of season, avocados are available all year round!

Avocados are a perfect after-school or on-the-go snack:

  • Arm those kids with a spoon and touch of their favorite seasoning: salt, soy sauce, hot sauce, balsamic vinegar, or a squeeze of lime or lemon.
  • For a heartier snack stuff your avocado with tuna, seafood, turkey, chicken, or cranberry salad, or even cheese, tropical fruit, pesto or salsa.
  • Throw a few chunks on a pretzel stick with some cheese and fruit.
  • Mash and serve with fresh veggies.

They can also be a late-night-craving buster… slightly mashed on toast and topped with a fresh slice of tomato or blended with a handful of berries, 1/2 a banana, and a touch of honey or a splash of agave.

Clearly, this magical fruit needs to be on your grocery list immediately! In the meantime, here are a couple of places to check for fun kid-friendly recipes and even more reasons to confirm the awesomeness of the avocado: California Avocados, Fruit & Veggies More Matters

Sources: California Avocados, Fruit & Veggies More Matters

Gardening with Kids: You Can Grow It!

Getting kids to eat more fruits and veggies can be challenging, but research shows that when kids help grow fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to eat more produce and try different kinds, too. Not only that, but gardening also provides a host of learning experiences that are good for little growing minds and bodies.

Here are just a few of the benefits of gardening with your kids:

Gardening Encourages Healthy Eating

  • kids are more interested in trying the different fruits and veggies that they’ve had a hand in growing
  • they are more open to tasting different types of food
  • reinforcing healthy eating habits at a young age will help them make better food choices as they grow older

Engages the Senses and Promotes Responsibility and Patience

  • digging in the dirt, sorting through seeds, and handling the plants piques their curiosity about the smells and textures of the earth
  • caring for plants by watering, weeding, and fertilizing helps encourage responsibility
  • in our instant-gratification digital age, gardening teaches children that they must practice patience while their plants to grow

Teaches New Skills

  • kids will learn about cause and effect by seeing what happens if the plant doesn’t get enough water or sunlight
  • helps to refine their motor skills when they use spades, rakes, or other tools, place small seeds in soil, and pour water
  • they are introduced to basic scientific concepts of botany, biology, and chemistry
  • they can practice their math skills by measuring growth or counting the number of petals on a flower or beans on a stalk

Provides Time Outdoors

  • gardening is a great way to get kids out of the house, away from their screens, and engage in an activity the whole family can participate in
  • carrying pots, soil, and watering cans, pushing a wheelbarrow, and digging or raking can provide the physical activity kids need
  • research has shown that these types of activities—known as “heavy work”—can even help kids stay calm and focused

Here are some quick tips to get your kids out into the garden:

Start Small and Keep it Simple

  • a small patch of earth, raised bed, or even a few containers are all the space you need to grow edibles
  • choose a few sure-bets such as carrots, zucchini, radishes, or herbs

Different Tasks for Different Ages

  • have older kids do the more complicated tasks like planning and harvesting and keep the little ones to simple things like planting seeds or pulling weeds

Give Them Their Own Tools and Space

  • tools and gloves that fit their hands will make it easier for them to accomplish their tasks
  • giving them a container or space in the garden that’s all their own will give them a sense of accomplishment when they see their plants growing

And if that wasn’t enough to get your family planning for all the delicious fruits and veggies they can grow, here are some more resources to get your green thumbs glowing:

Sources:;; Mommy University

Where to Walk & Play

With all the great places to be active in South Dakota, you may have a hard time narrowing down the choices. Fortunately, the SD Department of Health, SDSU Extension, and the SD Game, Fish & Parks teamed up to create a couple of handy lists that show some of the different activities offered in South Dakota State Parks.

  • Group activities: disc golf, volleyball, basketball, soccer, and softball
  • Low impact activities: walking, geo-cacheing, swimming, and lawn games
  • Trail activities: walking, running, hiking, biking, and archery
  • Water activities: swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and paddle boarding
  • Winter activities: snow shoeing, cross-country skiing, and hiking

Download the activities postcards or use the SD Game, Fish & Parks’ State Park Filtering Tool to see what activities are available at your nearest park.

Physical activity has immediate health benefits and the best part is—any activity counts! That’s right, even small amounts of moderate to vigorous physical activity can:

  • Reduce anxiety
  • Improve quality of sleep
  • Help maintain bone density
  • Increase strength
  • Improve flexibility

Walking for just a few minutes a day is the perfect way to start exploring all the great places in our beautiful state parks. So, grab the kids, a friend, load up a pet, and take a walk in one of our great state parks—better yet, find an activity and invite the whole gang!

South Dakota healthcare providers can prescribe exercise through the Park Rx program. When participating providers prescribe exercise, their patients fill the prescription by visiting any South Dakota State Park and receive a free day in the park or a discounted annual pass.

Sources:, SD Game, Fish & Parks

Stocking a Heart Healthy Kitchen

Did you know…
  • Heart disease is the 2nd and stroke is the 6th leading cause of death in SD
  • Together cardiovascular disease (CVD) accounts for 27.5% of all deaths in SD
  • Risk factors for CVD include high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol
We know that saturated fats can raise cholesterol levels and too much sodium has a negative effect on blood pressure. One way to keep your heart protected and your blood pressure and cholesterol in check is eating a healthy, balanced diet. 

Heart-healthy foods are essential for a heart-healthy diet, so be prepared with a well-stocked kitchen. This means always having some basic ingredients in your cabinets, pantry, fridge and freezer. It can save time and worry on those busy days when you don’t have a chance to get to the grocery store. Check out this list of staple ingredients for healthy meals from the American Heart Association.

Heart Healthy Pantry Items

  • Dry beans like black beans, chickpeas, pinto and red beans
  • Canned “dinner builder” items like beans, chicken, salmon, tuna and soup
  • Canned vegetables for adding to soup, rice, pasta and sauces (like carrots, corn, green beans, peas, pumpkin and tomatoes)
  • Canned and dried fruits like apple sauce, dates, oranges, peaches, pineapple and raisins (look for items with no added sugars)
  • Whole-grain pasta, brown rice and other easy whole grains like couscous and quinoa
  • Whole grain bread or tortillas (if you don’t use it daily, store in the freezer)
  • Old-fashioned rolled oats, instant oatmeal and whole-grain cereal for a quick breakfast
  • Whole-wheat flour, oat flour and cornmeal for baking
  • Nuts, seeds and nut butters for healthy snacking
  • Healthy cooking oils like canola, corn or olive (buy in limited amounts because they can go rancid over time)
  • Balsamic vinegar and low-sodium soy sauce for salad dressings and sauces
  • Spaghetti or marinara sauce in jars
  • Low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth for making soup
  • Dried herbs and spices, salt-free seasoning blend, pepper

Heart Healthy Fridge and Freezer Items

  • Frozen vegetables without salty sauces make easy sides and add-ins (like broccoli, cauliflower, mixed vegetables, spinach and squash)
  • Frozen fruits without added sugars for cereal, yogurt and smoothies (like berries, mixed fruit, peaches)
  • Low-fat/non-fat dairy products like milk, yogurt and cheese
  • Frozen meats like fish fillets, skinless chicken breasts or lean ground beef
  • Soft margarine with no trans fat (made with non-hydrogenated vegetable oils, usually in a tub)

Make it a habit to compare nutrition labels. Choose products with the lowest amounts of sodium, added sugars, saturated fat and trans fat that you can find in your store.

Source: American Heart Association

Four Easy Ways to Give During the Holidays & All Year Long

We are entering the season of giving which presents the opportunity to ask: What can I give this year?

  • Local School Assistance – Schools across South Dakota are working hard to get healthier. Consider volunteering on a school wellness committee, PTO group, or helping with an event. Fuel Up to Play 60 can help get you started.
  • A donation – This is the time of year when many families make tough decisions between food, medicine, and electricity. Donate to your local food bank, or consider donating much needed milk through the Great American Milk Drive.
  • Time and talents – Local food banks in South Dakota are always looking for volunteers. Consider giving your time this holiday season. Feeding South Dakota has some great ideas!
  • Education – Help others understand how to make healthier holiday recipes. This is a great enrichment activity for senior centers, preschools, church groups, and clubs. Check out some delicious recipes here.

World Breastfeeding Week – Support Breastfeeding Moms!

On August 1-7, South Dakota will join the rest of the nation and countries around the globe in celebrating World Breastfeeding Week. This year’s theme Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life, focuses on breastfeeding as a universal solution to improve the health, well-being and survival of women and children around the world.

83.6% of South Dakota mothers breastfeed—way to go South Dakota moms!
But that percentage significantly drops at 6 and 12 months of age, as does the rate of exclusive breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding means that the infant receives only breast milk. No other liquids or solids are given – not even water – with the exception of oral rehydration solution, or drops/syrups of vitamins, minerals, or medicines. It is recommended to exclusively breastfeed for about 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding as complementary foods are introduced, with continuation of breastfeeding for 1 year or longer as mutually desired by mother and infant.

There are numerous benefits to breastfeeding—for both baby and mom. 
Breastfed babies get more than 200 nutrients and specific ingredients to bolster their health. Breast milk changes as the baby grows, which is one reason the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends babies be breastfed at least a year and as long as moms and babies want after that. Mothers who breastfeed lose pregnancy weight more easily and reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancer, postpartum depression, and type 2 diabetes.

Breastfeeding is also economical, saving as much as $1,000 in formula costs during baby’s first year.

South Dakota’s breastfeeding rates tell us that most mothers want to breastfeed but continue to face barriers and don’t always get the support they need to be successful. We can all do more to stand behind them! One way businesses in your communities can show their support is by learning about and taking the Breastfeeding-Friendly Business Pledge. Over 575 businesses in South Dakota have already taken the pledge!

In acknowledgement of the importance of breastfeeding, Governor Dennis Daugaard has proclaimed August 1-7 World Breastfeeding Week in South Dakota. Check out the proclamation!

Apricot Lesson Plan

Fun Facts About Apricots

  • Both the apricot and the peach are members of the rose family.
  • One apricot tree can produce fruit for as many as 25 years.
  • In the United States, apricots are grown in California, Indiana and Washington.
  • Fresh U.S. apricots are available from mid-May to mid-August.
  • In 1-ounce, apricots contain enough beta carotene to supply 20% of your daily vitamin A requirements.
  • Astronauts ate apricots on the Apollo moon mission.

What’s Included in the Apricot Lesson Plan

  • History
  • Tips & recipes
  • Nutritional information
  • Presenter outline & talking points
  • Sticker template
  • PowerPoint presentation
  • Student handouts

Can’t get enough fruits and veggies? Every month we feature a new fruit or veggie. Get fun facts, recipes, and more!

South Dakotans aren’t getting enough… (especially veggies) and it’s hurting our health. The good news is that more matters and all we need to do is get 5 a day.

Coconut Oil – Healthy or Unhealthy?

Coconut oil is a hot topic right now with daily news headlines claiming everything from weight loss to a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, making people intrigued but also confused. So is it healthy or unhealthy? Here are some facts about coconut oil.

Where Does Coconut Oil Come From?

There are 3 main types of coconut oil:

  • Virgin or Unrefined – extracted from the fruit of fresh mature coconuts without using high temperatures or chemicals.
  • Refined – made from dried coconut meat that’s often chemically bleached and deodorized.
  • Partially Hydrogenated – further processed and transforms some of the unsaturated fats (the good fats) into trans fats (the bad fat).

Nutritional Properties of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil that you find in your run of the mill supermarket or at the local health food store, no matter the type, is high in saturated fat–ranging between 82-92%! In fact, it’s considered a solid fat. One tablespoon of coconut oil adds up to more than 11 grams of saturated fats. The daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association is 13 grams.

Most common culinary oils including canola, corn, safflower, sunflower, soybean, flaxseed, grapeseed, and extra-virgin olive oil contain significantly less saturated fat than coconut oil.

Is Coconut Oil Healthy or Unhealthy?

The truth is that there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support the numerous claims about coconut oil’s potential health benefits, but we do know that it’s high in saturated fat and saturated fat raises LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

But what about the belief that not all saturated fat is bad? In recent years, numerous claims likened coconut oil to medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) also known as medium-chain fatty acids. MCTs are a type of saturated fat that has been linked to potential health benefits such as weight loss, appetite control, increased metabolism, anti-inflammatory effects and so on. But here is the key…this research on MCTs cannot be applied to coconut oil because the triglycerides predominant in coconut oil are different in their structure, absorption, and metabolism.

It’s starting to get a little intense now but stay with me!

Coconut oil is classified as lauric oil because the main fatty acid is lauric acid. Lauric acid can be classified as either a medium-chain or long-chain fatty acid. When your body digests and metabolizes lauric acid it behaves more like a long-chain fatty acid, therefore you are not getting the potentially beneficial effects of MCTs.

A professor at Columbia University also conducted research that showed a type of fat in coconut oil can increase metabolism and boost weight loss. That type of fat was MCTs because the oil she used in her study was a special 100% medium-chain coconut oil. Most coconut oils typically have 13-14% percent of this medium-chain triglyceride. So, people would have to eat large quantities to replicate the results. “No one eats 150 grams (10 tablespoons) of coconut oil in a day,” said the professor. Nor should they.

Lower intake of saturated fat coupled with higher intake of unsatured fats like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is associated with lower rates of Cardiovascular Disease (CVD). But don’t replace saturated fat with refined carbohydrates and sugars as this will not lower your risk of CVD.

Bottom Line? Limit your total saturated fat intake in all forms. Eat whole, unprocessed foods such as fresh, frozen, or canned fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.

Sources:  Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association; Saturated fats: Why all the hubbub over coconuts?; & Coconut oil consumption and cardiovascular risk factors in humans

Good Choices Can Help Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

It’s true! There are things you can do right now to help prevent Type 2 Diabetes and the best part is that making these choices can also lower your risk for other diseases and health-related problems.

Let’s start with the basics:

Always talk to your doctor or health care professional first. There are certain risk factors that can increase your chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes such as:

  • Being overweight
  • Having a relative with Type 2 Diabetes
  • Having gestational diabetes during a pregnancy
  • Being diagnosed with prediabetes

The good news however, is that making a few lifestyle changes can help lower that risk which could delay or even prevent it entirely.

Nothing to lose, everything to gain… worth a shot right?

So, where to start? First things first…

  • If you’re overweight, talk to your doctor and work out a plan to lose weight and keep it off. For many people, this can be quite a challenge so be sure to enlist the support of family and friends. You may need to develop a new routine or try things you haven’t in the past.
  • Set a goal to move more. Just 20 minutes a day can make a BIG difference. For some fun ideas on where to start and how to stay motivated check out this article.
  • Make healthy foods part of your daily routine. Incorporating more fruits and vegetables and other nutrient-rich foods to your menu isn’t as hard as you think. Really. But, if you need some inspiration, read The Delicious & Nutritious Superpowers of Diabetes-Friendly Foods
  • Pay attention to portion sizes. Yes – they do matter. Very often our cravings or hunger can be satisfied with a smaller portion, a tall glass of water, or even a 5-minute walk. You can also use a smaller plate at mealtime. And then, a good rule of thumb is to make sure that 1/2 of your plate is filled with fruits and veggies, 1/4 with protein (beans or lean meat), and 1/4 should be whole grains.
  • Put together a team. Lifestyle changes usually involve people in your life. Tell them about your goals and ask for their support. Having a support system in place will help you stay on track and keep you motivated. You may even be surprised at how much your friends, family, or co-workers want to help you succeed. There are also built-in support systems in more places than you think. Ask around at your gym, local community center, church, schools in your area, your hospital, or community health center. There may be support groups or services just waiting for you to join. There are even diabetes prevention programs in some areas where you can meet people taking similar steps to improve their health.

There are plenty of strategies out there to make these lifestyle changes easier and you can customize all of them based on your specific needs. For example: find a walking partner, a gym buddy, or download an app to help you move more. Or take a cooking class, research your own healthy recipes, or call a friend when you feel yourself being tempted by pudding or potato chips.

And don’t worry if you have to keep changing your routine. Finding the right combination of tools, support, and motivation can take some time. The important thing is that you keep trying and remember that the good choices you make now will not only help you feel better but can also delay or prevent Type 2 Diabetes.

Sources: NIH; American Diabetes Organization

Benefits of Breastfeeding: Parents, Physicians & Business Owners

We know breastmilk is best for baby because the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition – but breastfeeding takes teamwork. Support from dad, family, friends, physicians, and business owners can all play a critical role in making breastfeeding successful.

Knowledge is one of the most powerful tools. No matter what your role – support materials and information are available. Here are a few great places to start:

SD WIC: Parents
For Baby’s Sake

Physicians & Healthcare Providers
SD WIC: Physicians

Business Owners
Breastfeeding Friendly Businesses

Benefits of Breastfeeding for Babies

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding an infant exclusively for the first six months of life with breastfeeding continuing for 1 year and beyond with appropriate supplemental foods. Breastfeeding passes on powerful antibodies to babies, which help protect their immune systems from disease. Breastmilk is the perfect way for nutrients to be delivered to your baby.

Breastfed babies are healthier:

  • Fewer ear infections
  • Less colic, gas, & spitting up—because breastmilk is so easily digested
  • Fewer stomach problems or constipation
  • Less risk of pneumonia & respiratory illnesses
  • Less risk of allergies & asthma
  • Less risk of SIDS
  • Less risk of obesity in childhood
  • Less risk of diabetes
  • Better brain development
  • Exposure to a variety of tastes — which makes it easier to introduce solids later
  • Helps promote proper jaw, tooth, & speech development

Additional Breastfeeding Support

Many South Dakota communities have prioritized breastfeeding to help moms overcome barriers and breastfeed longer. Look for these breastfeeding supporters in your community:

  • The WIC Program – The This Department of Health Program provides counseling and advice on breastfeeding. WIC also supports breastfeeding by supplying women who need to go back to work or school with breast pumps.
  • Hospital Lactation Consultants – These breastfeeding experts can be found in hospital and clinics and are ready to help with questions after delivery.
  • Breastfeeding Peer Counselors – These women have had experience in breastfeeding and want to see you succeed! They will provide advice and personal experience to help you and your baby get the most out of breastfeeding. To find a peer counselor in your area, contact your local WIC office.
  • La Leche League and other support groups – Support groups are filled with moms who either need breastfeeding help or just want to connect with other moms that are breastfeeding. Local WIC offices will have information on breastfeeding support groups in your community.
  • Family and Friends – This group of people is considered one of the most important for breastfeeding success! Find a family member or close friend that has breastfed. More than likely, she will want you to feel the same bonding that she felt with her baby.
  • Dads – South Dakota fathers are champions when it comes to breastfeeding support. They know their family better than anyone and can help make a huge difference in breastfeeding success!
  • Online Resources – Families can also find plenty of breastfeeding support through the internet. Here are a few places to start:
    La Leche League
    Baby GooRoo

Active in the Workplace Series

On average, today’s adults work approximately 8 hours per day. For many, time at work is primarily sedentary—time spent sitting during waking hours in the form of computer use, reading, meetings, and driving or riding in a car. Fitting activity into your work schedule can be challenging, but there are small things you can do throughout the day to increase physical activity.

The Active in the Workplace 5-part video series provides some tips and ideas to replace sedentary time with light physical activity.

Part 1: Cardio

Part 2: Stretching

Part 3: Core

Part 4: Upper Body

Part 5: Lower Body

Check back each month for a new video!

Source: SDSU Extension

Exercise When You Have a Cold

It’s that time of year again—sore throats and the sniffles seem to be abundant and hard to avoid. With a change in your normal health status, you may question how being sick influences your physical activity routine.

Prevention is key and a great way to decrease the risk of getting sick is engaging in regular exercise. Studies have shown exercise helps our immune system fight small infections, like a cold. However, if your immune system is unable to fight the infections, questions about being active remain.

What if you are already sick? Is it safe to exercise?

Exercise can boost your immune system, so it is generally safe to exercise when you have a cold. If you choose to exercise with a cold, it’s important to pay attention to your body. It is best to reduce the intensity and length of your workout to avoid further decline in your health. Some medications, such as decongestants, can increase heart rate. Likewise, your heart rate is increased with exercise. The combination of exercise and decongestants can cause your heart to pump very hard, and you may become short of breath and have problems breathing. If a fever is present with your cold, consult with your doctor before engaging in activity.

If you exercise with a cold and have any of the following symptoms, it’s important to stop and call your doctor:

  • Increased chest congestion
  • Coughing and/or wheezing

Stop and seek emergency medical help if you have:

  • Chest tightness or pressure
  • Trouble breathing or excessive shortness of breath
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Difficulty with balance

If you have a cold and feel miserable, take a day or two off from normal exercise to get needed rest. A great preventative action against influenza, or “the flu,” is getting your flu shot. Getting a flu shot will prevent the flu in about 70-90% of people under the age of 65!

See more at SDSU Extension

Physical Activity Guidelines: Fall into Fitness

Many consider Fall one of the most beautiful times of the year. Changes in the natural outdoor colors, the arrival of cool weather, and the sight of farmers in the field all make this season a gorgeous time of year. Fall offers the opportunity for engagement in a number of outdoor activities, in a cool and scenic atmosphere. For those who are looking to be more active, this beautiful fall weather can serve as a strong motivational factor and assist with the development of a lifelong active lifestyle.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both each week. For instance, an adult can meet this guideline by walking 30 minutes (15 minutes in the morning & 15 minutes in the evening) 5 times a week. In addition to getting some aerobic exercise, adults should strive to incorporate 2 or more days of muscle-strengthening activity each week. Examples of muscle-strengthening activities include weight lifting, push-ups, sit-ups, yoga, or resistance band exercises. Activity only needs to be performed in bouts of 10 minutes or more, increasing ease for very busy individuals to meet the recommendations!

If you feel you are too busy to incorporate activity into your normal routine, try spreading your activity out during the week or making it intrinsic to your normal daily routine. The recommended 150 minutes can be accumulated throughout all 7 days of the week. Identify available time slots by monitoring your normal daily routine for one week and insert 10-15 minute bouts of activity where time is available. For example, try a 10-minute walk in the morning, one over lunch, and a 10-minute bike ride in the evening to enjoy the beautiful fall weather. Choose activities that require minimal time, such as jogging, walking, or going up and down stairs. If that doesn’t work and you can’t get outside, try cleaning your house at a moderate to vigorous intensity for 25 minutes each day (i.e. sweeping, vacuuming, dusting, mopping).

Physical activity does not have to be another thing on your “to-do list”, you can sneak activity into things you are already doing. Walk or bike to work or nearby facilities, play with your kids outside, do some squats and heel raises while checking cattle or cooking, exercise while you watch television, walk the dog or lift small hand weights while you read. Incorporating physical activity into your day can be easy; it might just take a little creativity. South Dakota offers trails and parks across the state, which is a pleasing sight to the eye during fall.

Being physically active is one of the most important steps that Americans of all ages can take to improve their health.

Staying Active in a Rural Community

In South Dakota, we are surrounded by small towns with low populations. Memberships to fitness facilities, gyms, recreation centers, or community physical activity opportunities may be slim, if available at all. With constant messaging about the benefits and importance of being physically active, one may wonder how they can keep active with limited access to facilities. The beauty of this perceived dilemma is that physical activity can be performed anywhere with little to no equipment.

Here are a few ideas to stay active year-round, whether or not you have physical activity facilities or amenities available in your community.

Active transportation is defined as: approaches that encourage individuals to actively travel from one destination to the next, such as walking or biking, decreasing the use for motorized transportation. In many small towns, actively transporting to the grocery store, school, post office, or a neighbor’s house can be done with ease.

Workout at Home
Although not all individuals enjoy working up a sweat in their living room, this is an option that is available to anyone who has an open space in their home. If you don’t have an exercise video or routine to follow, perform some exercises like squats, push-ups, stretching and flexibility training, or abdominal exercises. Videos, YouTube, Social Media Exercise videos, online workout routines and social media platforms are a great way to access a variety of free workout routines to do anywhere. Yoga, kickboxing, strength training, balance practice, stretching, and cardio workouts can all be accessed by doing a simple online search. If you are new to exercise, be sure to start slow and look for beginner focused workouts.

Walk, Walk, Walk!
The most preferred form of physical activity is walking. Walking can be performed anywhere, indoors or outdoors, with no equipment other than a good pair of tennis shoes.

Community Groups
If you have a passion for walking, biking, yoga or another fitness trend, consider forming a community group or community class around that interest. Talk with local facilities (i.e. community center, school, churches) and see if they are willing to share use of an open space for your community group to meet once or twice a week. If you are a walking or biking group, you can meet outside and go for a walk or ride together as a group.

If your community lacks access to physical activity opportunities, advocate for development, policies or access to such amenities.

See more at SDSU Extension

Park It: Health Benefits of Enjoying the Outdoors

Spending time outdoors, specifically at parks, offers many health benefits to both adults and children. The open space, green grass, trees, and other natural features may improve mood, reduce stress, or increase feelings of overall relaxation. One of the most obvious benefits parks and outdoor spaces offers is a place for people to engage in regular exercise. In fact, the more parks there are in a community, the more people exercise. In addition, people who live closer to parks exercise more than individuals that live farther away from parks. Check out some of the additional benefits of spending time outdoors and nature here.

Parks offer a platform to improve community engagement and increase community physical activity access. South Dakota has parks spread across the state, ranging from the Badlands National Park to the Lake Cochrane Recreation State Park. For a complete listing of South Dakota State Parks and to find the ones closest to you visit South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.

South Dakota Department of Health, SDSU Extension and SD Game, Fish and Parks offer an exciting program to increase physical activity in our park system across the state, Park Rx. The program encourages healthcare providers to prescribe exercise—and when they do—patients can take their prescription to any South Dakota State Park and turn it in for a FREE entrance into a State Park for the day. To get your healthcare provider involved, read more about Park Rx here.


Nutrition & Physical Activity State Plan

The Nutrition and Physical Activity State Plan was developed to guide the work of the South Dakota Department of Health and the HealthySD Stakeholders to help South Dakotans be more physically active and eat healthier foods. The plan identifies evidence-based objectives, strategies, and activities to create a sustainable obesity prevention system that focuses on policy, environment, and system changes that support and encourage healthy behavior.

Download the 2023 Nutrition & Physical Activity (NPS) Program Priority Projects 1-pager

State Plan Annual Update Archives:  2015-20202019 | 2018 | 201720162015 | 20142013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009


150-Minute Physical Activity Challenge

In response to the Healthy People 2020 goal to get 55.1% of adults to meet the Physical Activity Guidelines for aerobic activity, the South Dakota Department of Health issued a 150-Minute Physical Activity Challenge.

Physical activity data in SD shows how SD compares to surrounding states and the nation. The infographic (letter-size | tabloid size) reinforces the 150 minutes per week message through multi-sectorial collaboration. This resource is a call to action for SD community leaders and advocates working to increase physical activity—let’s keep SD moving!

DASH = Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a flexible and balanced eating plan that helps create a heart-healthy eating style for life. The DASH eating plan requires no special foods and instead provides daily and weekly nutritional goals.

This plan recommends: Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains Including fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils. Limiting foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy products, and tropical oils such as coconut, palm kernel, and palm oils. Limiting sugar-sweetened beverages and sweets.

Download the PDF or view online.

Fruit and Vegetable Consumption Patterns in South Dakota

There is an existing body of nationally based surveillance data pointing to fruit and vegetable
consumption patterns which identify South Dakota as having one of the lowest percentages of adults consuming vegetables three or more times per day, one of the lowest fruit intake percentages, as well as an ongoing downward trend. A small amount of South Dakota-specific data and assessment verifies these findings to some extent but does not give much insight as to why South Dakota ranks so low.

Formative research was conducted in the Fall of 2011 to assist in the identification of specific resistance points among South Dakotans. Information gleaned from a series of in-depth interviews with grocers and statewide focus groups provided insights related to attitudes, beliefs, and barriers around fruit and vegetable consumption. This foundational information was used as a springboard for the development of strategies to help improve the consumption of fruits and vegetables in South Dakota.

Quantitative research was also conducted in 2012 to provide additional insights. A statewide consumer poll surveyed South Dakota families who had at least one child or grandchild under the age of 18 living in the home. The objective was to concentrate the focus on those raising the newest generations of South Dakotans who also had the ability to make the most significant impact on overall healthy eating habits.

Focus Group & Grocer Interview Summaries Regarding Fruit & Vegetable Consumption 2011 (PDF)

Consumer Poll Highlights & Analysis Regarding Fruit & Vegetables 2012 (PDF)

Fruit and Vegetable Survey of South Dakota Producers and Grocers

This report of local grocers in South Dakota was a part of the “Food Systems Review: Fruit and Vegetables in South Dakota” project. The purpose of this study was to examine key factors that affect the consumption, distribution, and production of fruits and vegetables in South Dakota. The survey was conducted in 2013 and used to collect South Dakota grocers’ information regarding the sale of fresh, frozen, and canned fruit and vegetable items, as grocers provide valuable insight into local food systems and consumers’ food buying practices.

This project was conducted in partnership with SDSU Extension and the South Dakota Department of Health. Funding was made possible by the Centers for Disease Control.

FDA Announces Rules for Menu & Vending Machine Nutrition Labeling

November 25, 2014—Section 4205 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 requires certain restaurants and similar retail food establishments with 20 or more locations to list calorie content information for standard menu items on restaurant menus and menu boards.

Other nutrient information—total calories, calories from fat, total fat, saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, fiber and total protein—would have to be made available in writing upon request.

In addition, menus and menu boards are required to include a statement about the availability of such additional nutrient information along with a succinct statement about suggested daily caloric intake. The Act also requires vending machine operators who own or operate 20 or more vending machines to disclose calorie content for certain items.

More than two thirds of adults and about a third of children in the United States are overweight or obese. Overconsumption of calories is one of the primary risk factors for overweight and obesity. About half of consumers’ annual food dollars are spent on, and a third of total calories come from, foods prepared outside the home, including foods from restaurants and similar retail food establishments. Many people do not know, or underestimate, the calorie and nutrient content of these foods. To help make nutrition information for these foods available to consumers in a direct, accessible, and consistent manner to enable consumers to make informed and healthful dietary choices, section 4205 of the ACA requires that calorie and other nutrition information be provided to consumers in restaurants and similar retail food establishments that are part of a chain with 20 or more locations doing business under the same name and offering for sale substantially the same menu items (chain retail food establishment). Section 4205 of the ACA also provides that a restaurant or similar retail food establishment that is not a chain retail food establishment may elect to be subject to section 4205’s nutrition labeling requirements by registering every other year with FDA.


Worksite Wellness Displays

Healthy South Dakota has developed a series of Worksite Wellness Displays to make it easy to share health and wellness information. The displays are provided in power point format and include a list of supplies needed as well as applicable handout links to the particular topic addressed. Displays will easily fit on a 6’ table or can be posted on a bulletin board.

How to Eat Healthy on a Fixed Income

Eating Healthy When Eating Out

Healthy Meals in a Hurry

Rethink Your Drink

New School Lunch Regulations

Physical Activity

Pack a Healthy Lunch

Just Say NO to Sodium

MyPlate: How to Create Your Great Plate


Working on Wellness (WOW) Newsletters

Monthly worksite wellness newsletter from the South Dakota Department of Health—Office of Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

2022 WOW Newsletters


Coming soon


  • Diabetes Awareness Month
  • WorkWell Grantee Spotlight


  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • Funding Opportunities


  • Suicide Prevention Awareness Month
  • Exercise Your Brain


  • Healthier Worksite
  • Funding: Harvest of the Month & Breastfeeding Friendly Business


  • Upcoming Training
  • Summer Observances



  • Sun Safety
  • Challenge Yourself


  • Move Your Way Through May
  • Bike to Work Week


  • Alcohol Awareness Month
  • Wellness Wednesday


  • National Nutrition Month
  • Colorectal Cancer Awareness



  • Mental Health
  • Meal Planning

2021 WOW Newsletters


  • Managing Holiday Sugar
  • Wellness Challenge


  • Holiday Challenge
  • SDSU Extension Self-Care Series


  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • Fall Veggies


  • National Fruits and Veggie Month
  • Suicide Prevention Awareness Month


  • Check This Out! Pennington County, Midwest Mechanical & Dakotabilities
  • Workwell Tips, Ideas, and Trainings


  • UV Safety Month
  • Healthy at Work


  • Summer Safety
  • 6 Ways to Reduce Stress at Work


  • Physical Activity Matters
  • 5 Minute Movement Breaks


  • Self-Care and Stress in the Workplace
  • Save the Date: Workwell Virtual Partnership Summit


  • National Nutrition Month
  • Dress in Blue for Colorectal Cancer Awareness


  • National Wear Red Day for Cardiovascular Awareness
  • 2021 Workwell Grant Announcement


  • Start Your Morning Out Right
  • New Year Challenge

2020 WOW Newsletters


  • Taste of Holidays Digital Recipe Book
  • COVID and Stress Tips


  • How Gratitude Can Help Your Health
  • Eat Smart, Move More, Weigh Less Holiday Challenge


  • Breast Cancer Awareness
  • Prepare for 2020–2021 Flu Season


  • Fruit & Veggies Month
    • Daily intake recommendations based on gender and age
  • Black Hills & Badlands Tourism Association—Raised Garden Beds


  • National Immunization Awareness Month
  • SDSU Extension Mitchell Regional Center—New Mother’s Room!


  • Skin Cancer Awareness Month
  • Tips for Handling Times of Uncertainty


  • Workplace Spotlight: Lloyd Companies Healthy Food and Beverages
  • National Safety Month
  • Healthy Eating at Home


  • Workplace Spotlight: Rapid City Extension Physical Activity Space
  • COVID-19 Resources to Stay Active and Eat Healthy


  • COVID-19
  • Workplace Spotlight: Black Hills Area Habitat for Humanity


  • National Nutrition Month—Eat Right Bite by Bite
  • Colorectal Cancer Screening Saves Lives—Are You Up-to-Date?


  • American Heart Month—Are You Cardiac Ready?
  • Cardiac Ready Community Program


  • Sustainable New Year’s Resolution—Making Health a Priority
  • Cutting Calories in 2020
  • Undo the Risk of Prediabetes

2019 WOW Newsletters


  • Stress Free Holiday
  • Four Trends Making Budgeting Increasingly Important


  • Great American Smokeout
  • Diabetes Awareness Month
  • Holiday Challenge


  • Motivate Someone to Exercise
  • Is Weight Loss Really the Right Goal?
  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month


  • Fruit & Vegetable Awareness Month
  • Worksite Success Story: Garden to Table


  • 3 Important Reasons for Adults to Get Vaccinated
  • Healthy Lunch Ideas at Work
  • Take the SD Breastfeeding-Friendly Business Pledge


  • Camping
  • Bird Nest Breakfast Camping Recipe



  • Worksite Breastfeeding Support Success Story: Landmann-Jungman Memorial Hospital in Scotland, SD


  • SD Department of Health Workwell Model Policies
  • Be Physically Active in Every Day Life


  • Tips to Manage Stress
  • Alcohol Awareness Month
  • Using a Fitness Ball


  • National Nutrition Month
    • Get access to resources like ‘Fresh, Canned or Frozen Fruits & Veggies’ ‘Top 10 Reasons to Eat More Fruits & Veggies’ and ‘5 Reasons to Eat More Color’
  • Get Screened SD
    • Colorectal Cancer Screening—How businesses can play an important role!


  • American Heart Month
    • Walk it Out, Coffee Lovers, Don’t Hold It, Squash High Cholesterol, Hug It Our For Your Health, Go Ahead Hit Snooze


  • Financial Resolution TIps
    • Save More, Pay Down High-Interest Debt, Spend Less

2018 WOW Newsletters


  • Create a Healthy Holiday Workplace
  • Boys & Girls Club of the Sioux Empire Success Story: Your Health is a Gift


  • Holiday Challenge—Eat Smart, Move More…Maintain, Don’t Gain!
  • National Diabetes Month
  • Healthy Hummus Recipe


  • Apple a Day Challenge
  • National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • Game Day Favorite Recipe


  • Save the Date for the Workwell Partnership Summit
  • Fruits & Veggies—More Matters Month!


  • National Immunization Awareness Month
  • Worksite Success Story—Central Farmers Co-op in Salem


  • Stand for Better Health
  • Summer Fruit Salad Recipe


  • Sun Safety in the Worksite
  • Save the Date for the WorkWell Partnership Summit


  • National Stroke Awareness Month
  • Black Hills Surgical Spotlight


  • Take the Breastfeeding-Friendly Business Pledge Today!
  • April Fruit of the Month: Apricot


  • Colorectal Cancer Screening
  • Save the Date for the Workwell Partnership Summit


  • ABCs of Heart Health
  • Grant Opportunity to Start/Enhance Workplace Wellness Programming


  • Worksite Cancer Screening Model Policy
  • Serving Smaller Portion Sizes

2017 WOW Newsletters


  • Workwell in Your Worksite: Central Farmers Coop
  • Take Control of Your Health This Winter Season


  • Workwell in Your Worksite
  • American Diabetes Month


  • Are You Smart Shopping for Veggies and Fruits?
  • September Veggie of the Month: Tomatoes

Spring Quarter

  • Rapid City Workwell Save the Date
  • Workwell Mini Grant Awards
  • Screening of Colorectal Cancer
  • March is National Nutrition Month
  • Stress Less for Success
  • SDSU Success Story
  • Move Your Way Through May

2016 WOW Newsletters

Winter Quarter

  • Workwell Mini Grants
  • Holiday Work Parties
  • City of Huron Success Story
  • Your Path to Heart Health
  • American Heart Month
  • Baked Sweet Potatoes and Apples

Fall Quarter

  • Steps to Wellness Grant
  • Workwell Summit
  • Voyage Success Story
  • New Look for the Nutrition Label
  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • Don’t Let Your Bottom Line Go Up in Smoke
  • Pumpkin No-Bake Energy Bites

Summer Quarter

  • Steps to Wellness Grant Opportunity
  • Fall Workwell Summit Save the Date
  • Bicycle Safety
  • MyPlat Challenges
  • Tobacco Free Policies
  • In the Spotlight—Horton, Inc.
  • Summer Grilling

Spring Quarter

  • Healthy Vending and Snack Bar Grant
  • Spring Workwell Summit Save the Date
  • Follow Healthy Habits
  • Make the Promise—Colorectal Cancer Screening
  • Ways to Eat More Fruit & Veggies
  • Step it Up! and Bike Month

2015 WOW Newsletters

Winter Quarter

  • Spring Workwell Summit
  • Workwell Mini Grant
  • Balance is a Beautiful Thing
  • Antipasi Holiday Skewers
  • Break Up Your Work Day
  • Maintain Your Motivation All Year Long
  • In the Spotlight: Girl Scouts, Dakota Horizons
  • Heart Healthy at Any Age

Fall Quarter

  • Sioux Falls Workwell Summit Registration
  • Workwell Webinar Schedule
  • Avoid Sitting Disease
  • Fruits & Veggies—More Matters!
  • Fall Harvest Recipe
  • Breast Cancer Awareness Month
  • Cold and Flu Season
  • National Diabetes Month
  • Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Summer Quarter

  • Rapid City Workwell Summit
  • Workwell Partnership Webinars
  • Eat Your Water for Good Hydration
  • Summer Farro Salad
  • UV Exposure and the Workplace
  • National Immunization Awareness
  • Healthy Vending & Snack Bar Policy Project
  • Physical Activity in the Workplace

Spring Quarter

  • Workwell Partnership News
  • Rapid City Summit Save the Date
  • Active Meetings
  • Colorectal Cancer Screening
  • Don’t Wait—Vaccinate!

2014 WOW Newsletters

Winter Quarter

  • Enjoy the Holidays
  • Mini Pumpkin Tart Recipe
  • 10 Minutes of Holiday Fitness Fun
  • Being Active Helps Relieve Holiday Stress
  • Breaking Down Barriers to Fitness

Fall Quarter

  • Fruits & Veggies—More Matters!
  • Fall Recipe
  • Change the Way You Sit
  • Sioux Falls Workwell Summit
  • Breast Cancer Awareness

Summer Quarter

  • Reduce Your Exposure
  • Workwell Partnership Summit
  • Physical Activity in the Heat
  • Staff Fitness Breaks
  • 125 Miles for Health Challenge
  • Recipe for Summer

Spring Quarter

  • Workwell Partnership Webinars
  • Summit Save the Date
  • Colorectal Cancer Screening
  • Healthy Breakfast
  • Squat Circuit Challenge
  • How Much Movement Do You Need?
  • Breakfast Fruit Smoothie

2013 WOW Newsletters

Winter Quarter

  • Holiday Party Tips
  • Healthy Holiday Eats
  • New Year to Fitness
  • Stop Heart Disease
  • Workwell Webinars
  • National Health Observances

Fall Quarter

  • Farmers Market
  • Sedentary Workers
  • Is Family Dinner a Thing of the Past?
  • Breast Cancer Awareness
  • Workwell Summit

Summer Quarter

  • Fruits and Veggies: Get Them in This Summer
  • Beat the Heat
  • Save the Date: Sioux Falls Workwell Summit
  • Symphony Fruit Pizza
  • Challenge Your Workplace

Spring Quarter

  • Does Your Workplace Have a Wellness Program?
  • Wellness Mini Grants
  • Save the Date: 2013 Workwell Summit
  • Colorectal Cancer in South Dakota
  • Alcohol Awareness
  • National Physical Fitness and Sports Month

2012 WOW Newsletters

Winter Quarter

  • Healthy Holiday Season
  • 2012 Workwell Summit
  • Breakfast at Home
  • American Heart Month

Summer Quarter

  • Workplace Tip
  • Wellness Summit
  • Sun Safety Tips
  • GetScreenedSD: Colorectal Cancer Screening
  • Gardening for Health

Spring Quarter

  • Enjoy Activity at Work
  • Running/Walking Safety 101
  • Colorectal Cancer Awareness
  • HPV and Cancer
  • Recipe from Fruits and Veggies—More Matters
  • Save the Date

2011 WOW Newsletters

Winter Quarter

  • Winter Bicycle Commuting Made Easy
  • BeFreeeSD—Did You Know?
  • Top 10 Fitness Trends for 2011
  • Treats That are Good for You
  • The Silent Killer

Summer Quarter

  • Why Colorectal Cancer Screening?
  • BeFreeSD—Did You Know?
  • Take an Active Staycation
  • Gets a New Look
  • Summertime Means Farmers’ Markets are Back

Center for Independence Wellness Program


A WorkWell Mini-Grant was awarded to the Center for Independence in Huron in 2011. The Center for Independence has several employees and serves adults with developmental disabilities. The Center for Independence committee and staff responsible for this grant faced several challenges in their first year. Overall they have made good progress and have seen success in the improvement of the health of their staff supported by the reduction of their sick leave costs. The grant project included the Step Challenge, Zumba classes, and a walking club as well as healthy living information distributed on healthy eating and increasing activity, healthy recipes and food portion size information. The challenges provided the project staff and committee with ideas of how to improve the program in the future. Now that the structure of the program is set and the ground work has been laid, there are plans to maintain and expand the program.

Reason for targeting this type of change

The overall objective of the project was to provide a variety of activities/resources to meet the health and wellness needs of both employees and people supported by the Center for Independence. The ultimate goal was to reduce the number of sick days used by staff annually by 20%.


The staff involved in this project faced two major challenges. The first challenge was program publicity. The agency personnel are not all located in one building but in various buildings throughout Huron. This made it difficult to disseminate information and promote interest and involvement in the various programs. First, information about the programs was provided to staff through agency publications which was not successful in encouraging people to get involved. The next program promotion effort was to have the project director attend 21 area staff meetings to promote activities. This effort took a lot of time from the project director’s normal position responsibilities as well as time out of the normal meeting agenda.

The second challenge was with the Smoking Cessation program. The project director did not realize the challenges of quitting smoking and the support smokers need in the quitting process. Smokers did not participate in the program as it did not meet their needs.


The project director and committee learned that the use of focus groups or surveys would help to determine what people really want and would be willing to participate in. They learned they had better success if they started an activity with a smaller group of really excited participants and then let the participant’s enthusiasm spread the word and encourage people to join into the activities when they were interested and ready. In order to develop a Smoking Cessation program to meet the needs of the participants, the project director visited with a focus group of smokers to determine their needs and wants and plans to use that information in developing the Smoking Cessation program.


A total of 95 people out of the 400 staff and developmentally disabled people served by the Center for Independence participated in the various activities offered. The Center saw a reduction in use of sick leave by 16% which didn’t quite reach their 20% goal, however, this was a reduction of 1,701.10 hours of sick leave paid with an actual cost savings for the Center of Independence of $24,484.94. The Wellness Program was one factor in the decrease of number of sick days used. The other factor was a current decrease in the amount of sick leave that employees accrue for the year. The program organizers feel that keeping healthy living information at the forefront of people’s minds has influenced the overall behavior of all staff, not just participants in the activities offered. Another positive outcome is that the Center for Independence has improved their relationship with the Huron Middle School and has developed new relationships with the Nordby Center for Recreation and the United Methodist Church. The Center for Independence sees these other contacts as positive community connections and good public relations for their agency.

Future directions

Now that the structure of the program is set and the groundwork has been laid, the wellness program will be maintained, expanded and administered through the existing staff development committee. The Center for Independence plans to continue offering classes and information to small groups of staff and the developmentally disabled persons they serve. They hope to encourage participation through word of mouth of the program participants involved. The Center has ideas to create competitions between various areas to help motivate and involve people and create a connection with the agency. The point of the project is to create a culture of wellness. They plan to motivate staff members and developmentally disabled adults to participate for their own goal of having better health. The project director has revamped the Smoking Cessation program to better meet the smoker’s needs. They are starting over with the new Smoking Cessation program. If the program is successful for them, they will share the smoking cessation program information with others who are interested.

For more information about the Center for Independence Wellness Program contact Kristin Kline, PHR,

Falcon Plastics – Preventive Exam Participation

Falcon Plastics is a South Dakota based manufacturer that employees 260 individuals across three South Dakota workplaces and a fourth in Tennessee. In 2011 their team took on an initiative to increase their member preventive exam rates as part of their continuing pursuit to positively influence the health and wellness of their employees and family members as well as control organizational costs.

This strategy included the development of a “Preferred Member Discount.” If a group health plan member completed all the program requirements, they would be eligible for a discount of their premiums of up to 17%. This discount was offered to their members at a time when rates were significantly increasing. The preventive exam participation rate prior to this preferred member discount was 39% for employees and 31% for spouses. The goal was to increase their employee member participation to 50%. They had an astonishing increase participation rate of 72% for employee members and although not the focus of this initiative, spouses also increased their participation to 54%. Reflectively, while members were completing their preventive exams, there wasn’t much emphasis on selecting the right physician.

To improve upon this, in 2012, one of Falcon’s goals is to provide more tools and resources for employees to select a primary care physician (PCP) that is right for them. It is expected that this strategy will help sustain participation rates and improve the effectiveness of the annual preventive exams. This is just one element of their overall approach to health and wellness. Since 2009, collectively their strategies have reduced the number of employee members with two or more risk factors form 80% to 39%.

Community Needs Assessment Materials

The Healthy Communities program conducted a community needs assessment workshop to provide tools and information for communities on:

  • Capacity building
  • Building collaborations
  • Sustainability
  • Evaluation planning
  • The community needs assessment process
  • Implementing a needs assessment

Resources from the training are posted here for community use

Be Mindful of Food & Medication Interactions

When food and drinks interact with medication, the medication may not work sufficiently or the drug can become too powerful as the body has trouble handling it properly.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics mentions these common examples of food and drug interaction:

  • Grapefruit juice interacts with several drugs and may affect the way the body metabolizes medication. Drugs that may interact with grapefruit juice include: some statins, antihistamines, thyroid medications, blood pressure medications, birth control pills, cough suppressants and medications that block stomach acids.
  • Blood-thinning medications can interact with leafy green vegetables, affecting the blood’s clotting ability.
  • Natural black licorice may interact with certain blood pressure medications and blood-thinning medications.
  • Salt substitutes can interact with ACE inhibitors and digoxin.
  • Tyramine (found in foods such as aged meats and cheeses, hot dogs, and chocolate) can interact with some medications used to treat depression or Parkinson’s disease.

Source: Health Day; Health Tip: When Food and Drugs Interact

Physical Activity and Your Toddler

During the toddler developmental years, manipulative, locomotor, and non-locomotor skills begin to emerge. These fundamental skills are the prerequisites for more complex skills of later childhood and adulthood. Recent research suggests that if children do not master these fundamental motor skills during childhood, they may be less physically active as an adult.

Toddlers should have access to stimulating environments that engage the toddler in movement activities and movement experiences. Due to the crucial role physical activity plays in skill development, it is important to follow the 5 recommended physical activity guidelines from the National Association of Sport and Physical Education for toddlers (1-3 years old) discussed below:

Guideline 1: Toddlers should engage in a total of at least 30 minutes of structured physical activity each day.

Guideline 2: Toddlers should engage in at least 60 minutes—and up to several hours—per day of unstructured physical activity and should not be sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time, except when sleeping.

Guideline 3: Toddlers should be given ample opportunities to develop movement skills that will serve as the building blocks for future motor skillfulness and physical activity.

Guideline 4: Toddlers should have access to indoor and outdoor areas that meet or exceed recommended safety standards for performing large-muscle activities.

Guideline 5: Those in charge of toddlers’ well-being are responsible for understanding the importance of physical activity and promoting movement skills by providing opportunities for structured and unstructured physical activity and movement experiences.

To summarize these guidelines in a simpler format, toddlers should be provided with plenty of safe opportunities to engage in physical activity. They should have many opportunities for both structured (parent or caregiver initiated) and unstructured (child-initiated) physical activity. For example, structured physical activity ideas might include: musical instruments, rhythmical tapes, and acting out imaginative poems or stories. Unstructured physical activity examples include: grasping large balls, riding tricycle, digging, building, playing in sandbox, playing on playground equipment, and playing with peers.

Check out Alabama Cooperative Extension System’s publication Getting Young Children Ready to Learn for daily activities and interactions that develop large and fine muscle skills, or We Have the Moves physical activity resource for some great activity ideas.

Find more tips for busy parents at South Dakota State University Extension.

Getting Kids to Help in the Kitchen

Cooking with your kids is a good way to help them build healthy eating habits.

Most kids enjoy helping in the kitchen. While they help you cook, you can talk to them about healthy foods. Children like to eat food they make. This is a good way to get them to try new healthy foods.

Let Them Help

You can show your kids how to help you prepare meals. Here are ways that young kids can help in the kitchen:

2-year-olds can:

  • Wipe tabletops
  • Wash fruits and vegetables
  • Tear lettuce or greens
  • Break cauliflower or broccoli into pieces
  • Carry ingredients from one place to another

3-year-olds can:

  • Knead and shape dough
  • Mix or pour ingredients
  • Shake liquids in a covered container to mix them
  • Apply soft spreads
  • Put things in the trash

4-year-olds can:

  • Peel oranges or hard-boiled eggs
  • Mash bananas or cooked beans with a fork
  • Cut parsley and green onions with kid-safe scissors
  • Set the table

5 to 6-year-olds can:

  • Measure ingredients
  • Use an egg beater

Be sure to have kids wash their hands before and after helping in the kitchen. Be patient with spills and mistakes. Remember that the goal is to help your kids learn about healthy eating.

Let Them be Creative

Set out three or four healthy foods, and let your kids make a new snack or sandwich from them. Use foods your children can eat without choking.

Start with:

  • A new kind of bread (whole grain or rye)
  • Whole grain crackers or graham crackers
  • Mini rice cakes or popcorn cakes
  • Small bagels
  • Small pieces of whole-wheat pita bread

Spreads could include:

  • Fat-free or low-fat cream cheese or cheese spread
  • Fat-free or low-fat peanut butter
  • Bean dip
  • Jelly with no sugar added

Toppings could include:

  • Slices of apple or banana
  • Raisins or other dried fruit
  • Strawberries
  • Slices of cucumber or squash
  • Cherry tomatoes cut in small pieces

As you help your kids make the new snack or sandwich talk about why it is healthy. Point out each food group in the snack or sandwich. Explain that eating a mix of foods is good for you. Ask why the snack or sandwich tastes good. Is it sweet, juicy, chewy, or crunchy?

Source: We Can!; Getting Kids in the Kitchen

Community Recreational Trails in South Dakota

One of the under used treasures in South Dakota are the many, many miles of trails through out the state, both in parks and in local communities. Many cities and towns in South Dakota have started on the ‘path’ to wellness and healthy lifestyle by adding walking, hiking, and biking trails to encourage exercise. Regular physical activity decreases risks for chronic disease, improves overall quality of life, and enhances well-being.

Through a 2010-2011 grant program, the South Dakota Department of Health funded 57 trailhead markers and signs across the state in 18 communities, to promote local trails and encourage increased physical activity. The following South Dakota communities received trailhead markers and signs.

Community/Organization (# of signs and markers)

Aberdeen (4 signs)
Aberdeen Recreational Trails System

Belle Fourche (3)
Belle Fourche River Walk Trail

Box Elder (3)
Nature Trail Arboretum

Chamberlain (3)
Chamberlain Walking Path, Barger Park to Roam Free Park

Huron (4)
Ravine Lake Park
Memorial Park
Riverside Park
Pepsi Soccer Field

Lyman County (1)
Roland L Dolly Memorial Trail

Madison (3)
Madison Recreation Trail
The Gerry Maloney Nature Area

Miller (2)
Hand County Trails/Lake Louise

Mitchell (6)
Bike Path near cemetery/golf course
Burr/Dry Run Creek
15th Bypass
Cabela’s Lake – east entrance
Duff and Norway
Minnesota and Ash

Mobridge (3)
Lewis and Clark Interpretation Trail

Pierre (4)
Griffin City Park
Steamboat City Park
Farm Island entrance
La Framboise Island Nature Area entrance

Rapid City Lions Organization (3)
Rushmore Lions Nature Park

Rapid City Parks & Recreation Association (3)
Hanson-Larson Memorial Trail

Sisseton (2)
Pedestrian Path

Sturgis (2)
Deadman Trail
Centennial Trail

Vermillion (3)
Dawson Trail
Dakota trail
University Trail

Watertown (3)
Red Loop
Blue Loop
Orange Loop

Whitewood (1)
Historic Oak Park

Yankton (4)
Riverside Park
Chamber of Commerce Trail
Marne Creek West Greenway

More Community Recreational Trails

HealthySD is also pleased to provide the links to the other state and community trails listed below. If you would like a community trail listed here use the contact us page to tell us the trail name and appropriate web link.

Hiking/Biking Trails in SD Parks
Kids in Parks
Brookings McCrory Gardens Arboretum
Sioux Falls

Blood Test Might Help Tell When Peanut Allergy is Gone

Findings might one day benefit patients who go through therapy to build up resistance to allergen.

A type of treatment to help build up resistance in people with peanut allergy might leave telltale signs in the people’s immune-system DNA, a new study reveals. The findings suggest that a blood test for these DNA changes could be used to monitor the long-term effectiveness of so-called “immunotherapy” in patients allergic to peanuts, according to the researchers.

There is no cure for peanut allergy, but researchers are examining whether consuming increasing amounts of peanut powder helps desensitize people to the peanut allergen. After participating in this doctor-supervised therapy, patients typically are told to eat some peanuts every day for the rest of their lives. However, it’s not possible to test patients to determine if they can safely stop eating peanuts every day, study senior author Dr. Kari Nadeau, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.

“At first, eating two peanut butter cups a day might seem fun, but it gets a little boring and a lot of people might stop,” said Nadeau, who also is an immunologist at Stanford Hospital and Clinics and the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. “Our new finding can help us try to determine whether, for the long term, someone’s allergy has truly been shut off so people can eat ad lib.”

The study included 20 children and adults with peanut allergy who had spent two years building up their immunity. They were able to eat a 4-gram serving of peanuts each day without suffering a severe allergic reaction.

The participants were told to avoid peanuts for three months, and then the researchers gave them a small amount of peanut powder to determine if their allergy had returned. The allergy came back in 13 patients, while seven remained allergy-free, the study authors said. The researchers then analyzed blood samples taken from these two groups, as well as from people with peanut allergy who had never received oral immunotherapy. The investigators found that the DNA in white blood cells, which help reduce allergy response, was different in each of the three groups of patients.

Nadeau said this test might one day help doctors in deciding whether a person “can safely go off of immunotherapy, or if they need to continue to eat the food every day.” It could also help determine whether a person might benefit from a longer course of immunotherapy, she said, but more study is needed.

The study was published online Jan. 31, 2014 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Source: Health Day News; Blood Test Might Help Tell When Peanut Allergy Is Gone: Study

Can Vitamin C Ward Off a Stroke?

Researchers can’t say for sure, but brain bleeds were more common among those with low levels of the vitamin.
In a small study, French researchers have found that people deficient in vitamin C might be at greater risk for bleeding in the brain, also called hemorrhagic stroke. Hemorrhagic strokes make up only 15 percent of all strokes, but they usually are deadlier than ischemic strokes, which occur when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked.

“This study suggests that a low level of vitamin C is a risk for spontaneous brain hemorrhages,” said the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Stephane Vannier, from Pontchaillou University Hospital in Rennes. This link is probably related to vitamin C’s role in lowering blood pressure and maintaining the health of blood vessels, Vannier said. Despite uncovering an association between vitamin C levels and the risk of hemorrhagic stroke, however, the study did not show a direct cause-and-effect relationship.

Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables, such as oranges, papaya, strawberries, peppers and broccoli.
Vannier said the findings provide the rationale for testing the effectiveness of vitamin C supplements in preventing brain bleeds. He did not, however, recommend taking vitamin C supplements at this point. It is best to get vitamin C through diet, Vannier said. “We actually don’t recommend using vitamin C supplementation when there is no deficiency,” he said.

The study results are scheduled for presentation at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology, which will be held from April 26 to May 3, 2014 in Philadelphia.

Dr. Ken Uchino, a stroke specialist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, said other studies will need to confirm the possible link between vitamin C levels and brain bleeding. Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy, which can cause bleeding gums, Uchino said. “Vitamin C does have a relationship to the integrity of tissue,” he said. “One can speculate that it might have something to do with brain bleeding.”

A vitamin C deficiency, however, might just indicate an overall unhealthy lifestyle, which increases the risk for stroke, Uchino said.

For the study, Vannier’s team looked at 65 people who had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, comparing them with 65 healthy people. Blood samples revealed that 41 percent of total participants had normal vitamin C levels, 45 percent had depleted levels of vitamin C and 14 percent were deficient in vitamin C. On average, those who had a stroke had depleted levels of vitamin C, while vitamin C levels were normal in the healthy individuals, the researchers found.

Depleted levels of vitamin C was linked to longer hospitalizations, but not a higher risk of death, the researchers found. The researchers, however, said they are not sure how much stroke risk can be attributed to a vitamin C deficiency. “Vitamin C levels were significantly lower in people who had brain bleeds, compared with healthy people, but we have not yet calculated an odds risk,” Vannier said.

High blood pressure, drinking alcohol and being overweight are other risk factors for a brain bleed, he said.

This study reiterates that people should be careful about their nutritional habits, said Dr. Louis Morledge, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “One’s diet should be heavy in fruits and vegetables, and they should consider taking a multivitamin,” he said. It is important to note that data and conclusions presented at medical meetings typically are considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Source: Health Day News; Can Vitamin C Ward Off Stroke? by Steven Reinberg

Teens Eat Too Much Salt, Raising Obesity Risk

Researchers found that kids consume at least twice the recommended daily amounts.

American teens are taking in as much dietary salt as adults, far exceeding guidelines on healthy limits for daily consumption, research warns. The investigation tracked the week-long eating habits of more than 760 black and white high school kids. It found that, on average, teens now ingest a whopping 3,280 milligrams (mg) of sodium (salt) every day.

That amounts to more than double the uppermost recommended level of 1,500 mg of sodium per day set forth by the American Heart Association. And the upshot, researchers say, is a higher risk for adolescent obesity, given the further finding of an apparent direct link between high levels of salt intake and an increased risk for packing on the pounds.

“Even after accounting for many other risk factors that could contribute to weight, we still found that higher dietary sodium among adolescents was independently associated with a higher risk for obesity,” said study lead author Dr. Haidong Zhu.

Zhu, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the Institute of Public and Preventive Health at Georgia Regents University, and her colleagues reported their findings online on February 3, 2014, in the journal Pediatrics.

To examine salt intake among American teens, the researchers focused on healthy teens between the ages of 14 and 18, all of whom were attending local public high schools in the Augusta area. The teens were nearly evenly split across race (black and white) and gender. Up to seven times over the course of a single week, each student was repeatedly asked to recount what they ate the previous day, with particular attention paid to the amount of sugar-sweetened sodas drank and calories consumed.

Students also had their height and weight measured to calculate their body mass index (BMI) and had X-rays and MRIs to assess body-fat percentages and fatty-tissue dispersal. Their waist circumference was also measured, and fasting blood samples were taken to look for signs of obesity-related inflammation.

The result: 97 percent of the teens were found to be consuming levels of salt exceeding the AHA’s daily recommendations, with white teens taking in slightly more per day than black teens (about 3,350 mg versus 3,200 mg, on average). What’s more, the team found a direct association between ingesting high levels of salt and the risk for being overweight or obese, having a larger waist, and having higher body fat and fat mass. Concentration levels of leptin, a key hormone involved in the regulation of hunger and metabolism, were also found to rise as salt intake increased.

The finding of a direct — as opposed to indirect — link between salt intake and obesity risk is somewhat of a twist, the researchers suggested. Many previous studies have highlighted an indirect association between salt intake and obesity. Such research reflected the fact that salt typically spurs a desire to drink more sugary soda and eat more calorie-laden food.

The new study, however, found that teens who took in high amounts of salt every day were more likely to be obese regardless of their particular drinking and eating habits. Why this is the case remains unclear, the investigators said. And Zhu stressed that more research is needed.

“We didn’t look at the mechanism behind this,” she said. “Animal research does suggest that salt does directly increase obesity risk. But for now, we cannot prove any causality.” Lona Sandon, a registered dietitian and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern, in Dallas, made a similar point. “With this type of study,” she said, “it is always important to point out that it is a correlation relationship, not showing a cause and effect.”

But Sandon nonetheless said the findings were “interesting” and suggested they be viewed as a kind of wake-up call. “Parents should be concerned about the quality of the diet their children are eating,” she said. “A poor-quality diet during childhood and adolescence leads to poor-quality health in adulthood.”

Her advice? “The best thing parents can do is to start by setting a good example by making healthier low-sodium food choices themselves,” she said. “Then make an effort to provide low-sodium foods, meaning mostly fresh and minimally processed foods available for the whole family at home. Limit the amount of food prepared away from home and get back in the kitchen.”

For more on sodium intake guidelines for healthy children visit the National Library of Medicine

The Buzz on Energy Drinks

Researchers warn the stimulants found in energy drinks can increase blood pressure, heart rate, and have harmful effects on the nervous system.

Energy drinks often contain heavy doses of caffeine and added sugars. Researchers from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that children and teens are now getting less caffeine from soda, but more from caffeine-heavy energy drinks and coffee.

“You might expect that caffeine intake decreased since so much of the caffeine kids drink comes from soda,” said Amy Branum, a statistician at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. “But what we saw is that these decreases in soda were offset by increases in coffee and energy drinks.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics states that caffeine and other stimulant substances contained in energy drinks have no place in the diet of children and adolescents.

Some of the dangers of energy drinks include:

  • Dehydration (not enough water in your body).
  • Heart complications (such as irregular heartbeat and heart failure).
  • Anxiety (feeling nervous and jittery).
  • Insomnia (unable to sleep)

What Can You Do?

  • Teachers and other school staff can educate students about the danger of consuming too much caffeine, including energy drinks.
  • Coaches can educate athletes about the difference between energy drinks and sports drinks and potential dangers of consuming highly caffeinated beverages.
  • School nutrition staff can provide only healthy beverages such as fat-free/low-fat milk, water, and 100% juice if extra items (i.e., a la carte items) are sold in the cafeteria.
  • Parents, school staff, and community members can join the school or district wellness committee that sets the policies for health and wellness and establish or revise nutrition standards to address the sale and marketing of energy drinks in school settings.
  • Everyone can model good behavior by not consuming energy drinks in front of kids.

If they need extra energy, they can always get a boost from exercise. “Children should focus on healthy habits, not supplements that don’t make us healthier,” Varela said.

For more information visit: CDC

Moderate Exercise May Cut Women’s Stroke Risk

Brisk walking, tennis and other types of moderate exercise may lower a woman’s stroke risk by one-fifth, a new study says.

Being more active also offset the increased stroke risk linked with using hormone replacement therapy to treat the symptoms of menopause, the study found. The researchers looked at the number of strokes that occurred among nearly 133,500 women in the California Teachers Study, which ran from 1996 to 2010. Women who said they did moderate physical activity in the three years before enrolling in the study were 20 percent less likely to have a stroke than those who were inactive. The findings were to be presented in February, 2014 at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference in San Diego.

“I was surprised that moderate physical activity was most strongly associated with a reduced risk of stroke,” study author Sophia Wang, a professor in the department of population sciences in the Beckman Research Institute at the City of Hope in Duarte, Calif., said in a stroke association news release. “More strenuous activity, such as running, didn’t further reduce women’s stroke risk. Moderate activity, such as brisk walking, appeared to be ideal in this scenario,” she added.

The researchers also found that postmenopausal women taking hormone therapy were 30 percent more likely to have a stroke than those who never used hormone therapy, but moderate exercise helped reduce this increased risk. And after women stopped taking hormone therapy, their risk began to fall. The findings show that women need to include physical activity into their daily routine, Wang said.

“You don’t have to do an extreme boot camp. The types of activities we’re talking about are accessible to most of the population,” and include power walking and recreational tennis, she noted. While 87 percent of the women in the study were white, the results likely apply to women in other racial/ethnic groups, Wang added.

Research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. And the study only found an association between exercise and reduced stroke risk. It did not prove cause-and-effect.

Source: Health Day News; Moderate Exercise May Cut Women’s Stroke Risk

Parents of Obese Children Underestimate Weight?

Half the parents of overweight or obese children don’t think their kids have a weight problem, a new analysis reveals.

A review of 69 previous studies found that nearly 51 percent of parents with overweight or obese children tended to underestimate their child’s excess weight.

“They thought their children were of normal weight when their children’s BMI indicated that they are either overweight or obese,” said Dr. Rachel Thornton, a clinical pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“In my clinical practice, I am not surprised by that finding,” said Thornton, who was not involved with the study. “Parents tend to think a child who is overweight is actually normal weight.”

Body-mass index (BMI) is a measurement of body fat based on height and weight.

The effect went the other way as well, according to researcher Alyssa Lundahl and colleagues at the University of Nebraska. They conducted the evidence review, which was published online Feb. 3 and in the March print issue of the journal Pediatrics. One in seven parents of normal-weight children in the studies worried that their child might be too skinny, the researchers found.

Parents might have a hard time assessing their child’s weight because childhood obesity has become so commonplace, the researchers said. More than a third of children in the United States are overweight or obese, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Parents are seeing other children like their own, and think it is normal,” Thornton said. “On the other hand, I have had parents come in concerned that their child is underweight because they are thinner than the other kids on the playground.” The parents also might believe their child simply has “baby fat” that they will outgrow, Thornton said. “They believe a toddler that is a little chubby is going to grow out of it, because it’s just baby fat,” she said.

The researchers found that parents were more likely to underestimate the overweight or obese status of kids aged 2 to 5 years, but became more accurate in their ability to assess their child’s weight as the child grew older. The problem is, young kids with excess weight tend to carry those extra pounds into adolescence and adulthood, the study authors said. With that extra weight comes an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and cancer, according to the CDC.

These findings show that pediatricians need to take a more active role in counseling parents about their children’s weight problems, said Marlo Mittler, a registered dietitian in pediatric and adolescent medicine at Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York, in New Hyde Park. “Pediatricians need to be more firm in saying, ‘Your kid is in trouble. Let’s take a look at this BMI chart and pinpoint the problem,’ ” Mittler said. In particular, pediatricians need to start using BMI charts more often to check a child’s weight, Thornton said. “It’s important for us to use those measurements and not simply rely on the way a child looks, because during different stages of development a child is supposed to have a different body shape than a typical adult,” she said.

Pediatricians should not pull their punches when it comes to childhood obesity, Thornton said. They need to be straight with parents about the health problems their children will face if their weight isn’t addressed. “Pediatricians need to inform parents of their children’s weight status when they are overweight,” she said. “Generally, parents are looking to the doctor to give them an assessment of whether their child’s weight is appropriate or not.”

In turn, Mittler said, parents must be ready to act if their pediatrician warns them of a health problem. “We need to not make light of it. We need to be more proactive,” she said. “It’s never too early to start. It’s OK to introduce young children to fish and grilled chicken and salad, not just things that are off the kids’ menu like mac and cheese.”

Source: WebMD; Parents of Obese Children Underestimate Weight? by Dennis Thompson

Added Sugar in Diet Tied to Death Risk From Heart Trouble

Sugar can be ‘hidden’ in savory foods as well as desserts and soda, experts note

Doctors have long thought extra sugar in a person’s diet is harmful to heart health because it promotes chronic conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

But the added sugar Americans consume as part of their daily diet can — on its own, regardless of other health problems — more than double the risk of death from heart disease, a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found.

The average American diet contains enough added sugar to increase the risk of heart-related death by nearly 20 percent, the researchers said.

And the risk of death from heart disease is more than doubled for the 10 percent of Americans who receive a quarter of their daily calories from sugar that’s been added to food, said CDC researcher and study lead author Quanhe Yang.

The findings were published online Feb. 3, 2014 in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

“They’re seeing that people who are moderately heavy consumers of added sugar have a heightened risk of dying of [heart] disease, and the heaviest users have the highest risk of dying of [heart] disease,” said Laura Schmidt, who wrote an accompanying journal commentary. “When you start seeing a dose-response reaction like they found, that is powerful evidence that consuming added sugar puts people at risk of death from cardiovascular disease.”

Food manufacturers add sugar to many different products to improve flavor, appearance or texture. People who eat those varied products might not be aware that they have increased their total sugar intake, because the sugar is hidden inside the food, the researchers said.

About 37 percent of the added sugar in Americans’ diets comes from sugar-sweetened beverages, the authors said. One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 9 teaspoons of sugar (about 140 calories), Yang said — enough to put the person into a higher-risk category if they drink soda daily.

“I could be eating a 2,000-calorie diet, not overeating, not overweight. But if I just drink a can of soda a day, I increase my risk of dying from [heart] disease by one-third,” said Schmidt, a professor of health policy at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. “I think people would assume one can of soda a day would not have that kind of impact over the course of their lives.”

Other major sources of added sugar include cakes, pies, fruit drinks, candy, and ice cream and other dairy desserts, the researchers said.

Added sugar can even be found in foods most people would consider savory, such as salad dressing, bread and ketchup, Schmidt said. Another major offender is yogurt, which often comes with as much sugar as you’d find in candy.

Previous research has focused exclusively on the health effects of sugary beverages, Yang said. For the new study, the research team decided to look at how the total amount of added sugar in the American diet can affect the risk of heart-related death.

Recommendations for added sugar consumption vary, and there is no universally accepted threshold for unhealthy levels.

The Institute of Medicine recommends that added sugar make up less than 25 percent of total calories, the World Health Organization recommends less than 10 percent and the American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to less than 100 calories daily for women and 150 calories daily for men, according to background information included in the study.

The researchers used national health survey data to review consumption of added sugar. They found that added sugar made up an average of 14.9 percent of daily calories in the American diet from 2005 to 2010, down from 15.7 percent from 1988 to 1994 and 16.8 percent from 1999 to 2004.

Nearly three of four adults consumed 10 percent or more of their daily calories from added sugar, while about 10 percent of adults consumed a quarter or more of their calories from added sugar in the latest study years.

The researchers then compared data on sugar consumption with data on death from heart disease.

The risk of heart-related death increases 18 percent with the average American diet that receives about 15 percent of daily calories from added sugar, compared to diets containing little to no added sugar, the study authors found.

The risk is 38 percent higher for people who receive 17 percent to 21 percent of their calories from added sugar, and more than double for people who get more than 21 percent of their daily diet from added sugar, Yang said.

Although the study found that eating more food with added sugar was tied to a higher risk of heart-related death, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

The Corn Refiners Association, which represents the manufacturers of one popular form of added sugar, fructose, said it had no comment on the study.

Commentary author Schmidt said added sugar could be increasing heart attack risk by disrupting a person’s hormone system, throwing their metabolism out of whack.

By comparison, foods that are naturally rich in sugar — such as fruit — also contain lots of fiber and other nutrients, which reduces the impact the sugar has on the body, said Rachel Johnson, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont and chairwoman of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee.

To avoid added sugar, read Nutrition Facts and ingredients labels carefully, Johnson said. Look out for ingredients that end in -ose, such as fructose or sucrose, as well as any type of syrup. “Brown rice syrup sounds really healthy, but it’s actually a sugar,” Johnson said.

For more about a heart-healthy diet, visit the American Heart Association.

Source: Health Day News; Added Sugar in Diet Tied to Death Risk From Heart Trouble by Dennis Thompson

Why Fruits and Vegetables Matter for Men

Compared to people who eat only small amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who eat more – as part of a healthful diet — are more likely to reduce their risk of chronic diseases. Depending on age and level of physical activity, men should eat between 2 to 2 1/2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 to 4 cups of vegetables every day. Eating more fruits and vegetables is a smart and easy way to improve your health.

Fill up, not out
Eating fruits and vegetables instead of high-fat foods may make it easier to control your weight. You may also feel full on fewer calories. That’s because most fruit and vegetables are lower in calories and higher in fiber than other foods.

To get a healthy variety, think color. Eating fruits and vegetables of different colors gives your body a wide range of valuable nutrients, like fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Some examples include green spinach, orange sweet potatoes, black beans, yellow corn, purple plums, red watermelon, or white onions. For more variety, try new fruits and vegetables regularly.

Download the PDF to find out how eating fruits and vegetables can help improve your health.

Heart Healthy Meals for Busy Parents

Time and time again, parents say time is their enemy when it comes to preparing healthy meals.

“When healthy eating is a low priority, the results are the escalating obesity and chronic disease rates we see today,” said Aaron Feest, a registered dietitian at the VA Medical Center in Milwaukee, Wis. “Healthy eating habits break down when we don’t plan ahead.”

Feest and his wife, Shannon, think helping kids develop healthy habits, especially for their son, 12-year-old Owen, goes a long way toward better health.

The main key is time management. Difficult? Sometimes. But not impossible.

“It’s become commonly accepted that we are all too busy all of the time, but somehow we find time for all of the things that fill our schedule,” Feest said. “Healthy eating is worth the effort. Most people find plenty of time and money for cable TV. What’s more important?”

Keep the frozen pizza and other processed foods to a minimum with tips that are good for your heart and your wallet.

Start With a Plan

Not surprisingly, the best time to make a meal plan isn’t when you’re hungry and need to eat right away. Make a list—and check it twice.

“We try to plan at least a few days ahead which meals we are going to make based on the days we have time to cook,” he said. “We always shop with a grocery list based on that menu, we don’t shop hungry and we make enough to have leftovers.”

Invest a couple of hours on the weekend to save anxiety as well as time on extra trips to the grocery store. Make large batches and freeze leftovers in individual portions for healthy, homemade microwaveable convenience meals.

Get Your Kids in the Kitchen

Holly DuBois, who lives in San Antonio, gets her kids in the kitchen every chance she gets.

With a family history of obesity, they make sure their kids eat a healthy, balanced diet. “Cooking for me personally has been a fun, stress-relieving activity that I’ve grown to love,” DuBois said. “I want them to share in it and enjoy it so it’s not a burden.”

Her two little ones hang out on a step stool in the kitchen while she cooks and gives them small jobs. “I’ll give them plastic knives and they’ll cut stuff or get things from the pantry,” she said.

Summertime means organic produce from a community-supported agriculture co-op once a week — everything from cauliflower to eggplant to rhubarb. “The rule is that if it’s in the bag they have to try it.”

Bresha Richardson, a busy Dallas-area mom to a kindergartner, juggles single parenting, work, volunteering for the PTA and her son’s extracurricular activities. But she still tries to make healthy eating a priority.

“I want my son to learn how bad choices can impact his body, not just now but in the future,” she said. “I try extremely hard to communicate with him about every meal he has and why a particular food may not be a good choice.”

Together, the pair makes egg tacos one night a week. “He cracks and whisks the eggs and I slice and sauté the red pepper and warm whole-wheat or white corn tortillas,” she said. “I make it a point not to add seasonings like salt so he can taste the food for what it is.”

She also gets a head start over the weekend by getting healthy stuff ready for the hectic work week. “If I wash and cut our fruits and veggies and pre-package them, they most definitely get eaten.”

I’m on a budget. What can I do?

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. Rice, beans, potatoes, bananas, and eggs can be budget-friendly staples. You can also stretch your grocery budget by planning for a couple meatless meals each week.

“Make cooking a hobby and learn to cook from scratch when it’s reasonable,” Feest said. “For example, oatmeal is fairly cheap and really healthy. You pay a premium to have it portioned into little packets with flavor added when it’s not very difficult to prepare from scratch.” And many times those prepackaged, flavored varieties contain added sugar, but making it from scratch you have more control over the amount of sweetener that gets added.

Buy fresh produce when it’s in season. Eat lots of citrus and apples in the winter and strawberries in the summer. If it’s not in season, buy it frozen. And if you’re interested in going organic, consider using the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” lists by the Environmental Working Group to prioritize your purchases and save money.

My child is Home Alone. How can I Help Her Eat Healthy?

If you plan ahead, it’s pretty easy to help your child make good choices without any difficulty or dangerous prep work. Feest suggests:

  • Peanut butter and jelly with no-sugar added jelly on whole-wheat bread
  • Grilled fish sandwich. Keep spinach and tomatoes (sliced ahead of time) handy to add flavor and nutrients
  • Turkey sandwich. Don’t forget your favorite veggies
  • Whole-grain crackers and hummus
  • Fresh fruit
  • Healthy leftovers — microwave them for a quick, easy meal

And the best way to avoid junk food? Don’t stock it in the house, because it’s too easy to reach for it first. Try more tips for planning ahead and see Feest’s idea for four easy weeknight meals below:

  • Salad night: Make a healthy bowl of greens your entrée. Toss in chicken, unsalted nuts or seeds for a little protein. Use a wide variety of fresh veggies and dark green lettuce. Skip the iceberg, because it’s low on nutrients.
  • Taco night: Pile on the veggies, try low-fat, low sodium cheese and use whole-wheat or corn tortillas. You can even mix together a little Greek yogurt and lemon juice to make a healthy “sour cream.”
  • Homemade grilled pizza: Make a pizza without  cheese, add some cooked diced chicken and load the veggies onto a thin, whole-wheat crust.
  • Easy vegetarian chili over baked potatoes.

“It’s important for parents to be in charge and be consistent. With new foods, Owen has to try a few bites before he decides he doesn’t like it,” Feest said. “With repeated exposure he warms up to foods he may have rejected initially. It definitely helps to start young.”

Source: American Heart Association

How to Make Your Desk Job Healthier

Nearly 1 in 4 people blame aches and pains on their work environment because they remain in the same position for long periods of time. Is there something we can be doing about this? After all, we spend most of our day working and usually sitting and don’t actually have a choice to up and leave when the pain gets too much.

“We’re just not designed to sit for hours on end,” says personal trainer Louise Parker. “Being sedentary for long periods weakens the body and won’t encourage a healthy metabolism, digestion, or posture.  As you sit for long periods over months and years, your posture can really suffer and overall muscle tone weakens.  The lack of movement throughout the day can also result in a sluggish digestion and a general lack of energy,” she adds.

Is sitting down killing you?
“Essentially, the human body is a dynamic system that needs to move, and by spending too many hours at a time sitting down our bodies can develop musculoskeletal imbalances, as well as other health conditions, like heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, although more often we see problems such as headaches, insomnia, lethargy, and back pain,” says former World and Olympic Champion athlete Sally Gunnell OBE. She helps businesses design, implement, and review workplace wellbeing schemes with her Healthy Living program.

Research from the American Cancer Society suggests that men who regularly sit for more than 6 hours a day had a 17% increased risk of death. Now consider that the average man spends 9.3 hours a day sitting down, far outweighing the 7.7 hours he spends asleep, he could be in a lot of trouble.

If you have a desk job then you’re more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event such as a heart attack, die from a heart or circulation problem, or develop diabetes. But what are the options? With longer working hours, longer commutes, and more people using their TVs, smart phones, and tablets as a means to relax, we are sitting down more than ever.

What can we do?
With inactivity now listed as the fourth biggest killer of adults by the World Health Organization, it’s time to change our habits and stop thinking it’s acceptable to come into the office and park yourself at your desk for the day. Although a power walk at lunch will clear your head, and a gym session after work is a step in the right direction, it’s the small micro-movements that you make throughout the day that can really make a difference – like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, “and taking every opportunity to get up and talk to someone rather than send an email,” says Louise, who always meets her clients at her clinic door, rather than take the elevator or have them sent up.

It’s the little things that add up, so, here are some ideas to start building some better habits.

Get up
“For any breaks that you have, head outdoors to eat your lunch or grab a coffee,” says Louise. “If you’re stuck on a trading floor or in a consulting room, make sure that every 30 minutes you stand up and do some stretches. Try not to sit still for longer than 30 minutes at any one time, without taking a break to walk about and mobilize.”

Change your chair
Speak to your office manager about changing your chair for something more supportive that promotes good posture and doesn’t add large amounts of pressure to the back muscles and discs. Simply not being able to slump all day can correct your posture, while ensuring you sit in the correct sitting position.

Measure, monitor, and walk
Research suggests we should be walking 10,000 steps a day – and unless you walk a long way to work you’ll need to get some of these done in the office. Use a pedometer to keep note of how many steps you take throughout your working day and continuously increase this amount.

Walking around the office may seem like a small amount of exercise but you will soon notice a significant increase in the number of steps you’re taking. Take all the opportunities you can to get on your feet: walk a longer route to your desk, or use the toilets on a different floor so you have to use the stairs. Another idea is to place your printer or trash bin walking distance from your desk, so you have to get up and walk to these every time you want to use them.

Staying physically active throughout the day – even getting up to make a coffee – keeps you mentally alert and will help your overall health.

Walk and talk
Rather than having an hour-long meeting, try a different approach. A 15-minute standing meeting will ensure that you get straight to the point, and data shows that standing meetings are not only shorter but also more effective.

If you need to have a private conversation, why not try a walking meeting instead? A walking meeting eases the tension and helps get conversation flowing, plus a change of scenery can often inspire some brighter thinking.

Stretch it out
“Try having a little stretch 3 to 5 times per day,” says Sally. “Duck into an empty meeting room if you want some privacy and focus on opening up the chest and the hips. Whatever your fitness level, small changes can go a long way to improving your health and with that comes increased confidence, productivity, and happiness.”

Create a healthy desk
Never eat lunch at your desk if you can help it. “Doing so can make you less productive while making you feel hungrier later on in the day,” says Robert Pozen, the author of Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours. Try not to keep unhealthy snacks at your desk either, as they’ll be the first thing you reach for at times of stress and “instead make sure that you have some nutritious snacks in your drawer, like unsalted nuts and fruit,” says Greg Mikolap, creator of  Don’t forget to drink as much water as possible throughout the day. This will help with hydration and will periodically encourage you to get up and walk to the bathroom.

Stand up and work
Take a page out of Arshad Chowdhury’s book, a health app designer from New York who was recently in the news for getting up from his chair and standing up and working instead. Chowdhury insists that since doing this, his productivity has increased and his posture has improved; his neck and shoulders no longer hunch forward, his legs have become more muscular and his back pain has entirely disappeared too.

Big companies such as Google and Facebook have done it in an effort to promote circulation and encourage movement throughout the day. But what about the rest of us? “Try to find a place where you can work standing up for periods throughout the day,” says Sally. “A lot of office workers have mobile phones and laptops nowadays so why not take a few calls standing up, or type up a report using the top of a filing cabinet as a standing desk?”

Pay attention to your posture
For busy desk dwellers hunched over computers all day, posture is something that is often neglected but is crucial to overall fitness. “Good posture allows you to breathe more deeply and easily, improves circulation and digestion – your organs have the space to function – and makes us look more confident and composed,” says Nahid de Belgeonne, Good Vibes founder and fitness expert. “Here’s a simple exercise that you can do at your desk to improve your posture,” she says.

  • Sit up straight with both feet touching the floor
  • Taking a breath in, draw pubic bone ever so slightly in towards the ribs to lengthen the lumbar spine.
  • Now close your eyes, and draw your sitting bones together – the bones under the flesh of the bottom that you sit on.
  • Lifting up through the sitting bones, feel your spine draw up to the pubic bone, towards the naval and continue to draw up towards your breastbone expanding upwards and outwards widening your collar bones.
  • Now put your right hand behind your head and send the weight of your head in to your hand. This re-aligns your head to sit on top of your spine. We tend to lead with the chin and want to avoid hanging the head forwards.

To keep good posture throughout your sitting day, you can also invest in an exercise ball. Research, conducted by one producer of fitness and wellness equipment, found that there was a 33% increase in variation of abs movement when gently bouncing on an exercise ball at your desk and an increased energy expenditure. They also found that sitting on an exercise ball encourages bouncing, which keeps the legs moving and in turn stimulates circulation and keeps muscles busy, reducing stress and fatigue.

If an exercise ball simply isn’t an option for your office environment, then make sure your desk space is set up well so when you sit, your feet are on the floor and your computer is at eye level, then “regularly release your back by sitting upright in your chair, and then rotating to the left and right, 10 times,” says Greg. This may “result in more relaxed neck and lower back feeling,” he says. “You should also try and stand up every hour, stretch your arms overhead and take a few deep breaths, which will tilt the pelvis back to neutral and loosen up your lower back and hip flexors.”

You can also try taking a towel into work and rolling it up to use as a personalised back support when you feel yourself starting to slouch. “It can be placed horizontally to support the lumbar (lower back) curve of the spine, vertically along the spine to keep the shoulders back, or as a wedge to sit on to encourage forward tilting hips, which in turn allows a natural lumbar curve in the lower spine,” says Sally.

Source: WebMD; How to make your desk job healthier By Lucy Miller

Yoga: Anywhere for Anyone

Yoga practice involves breath work (pranayama) to connect the mind and body, as well as to connect our thoughts and feelings with movement. Yoga is a great indoor activity with many different styles that work for all ages and levels of physical activity.

Benefits of practicing yoga

Yoga provides a number of physical, mental, and emotional benefits such as:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Improved digestion
  • Stress reduction and relaxation
  • Better posture, strength, flexibility, and balance

Yoga also has been shown to benefit individuals with chronic diseases and disabilities through:

  • Improved body awareness and orientation
  • Development of focus and concentration
  • Encouragement of learning and creativity
  • Increased awareness of our connectedness to others

Choose the type of yoga that’s best for you

Please note: Many in-person yoga classes are canceled until further notice due to measures taken by the state of South Dakota in response to COVID-19. 

One can adhere to safe social distancing by practicing yoga from the comfort of home. Search online to choose from a wide variety of virtual yoga classes and routines. You’ll find different types of yoga, teachers, and styles.

Make sure to select an appropriate class and instructor for your skill level. Types or styles of yoga vary in pace and emphasis. There will be slower-paced practices that include breathing and meditation, to faster types combined with rhythmic breathing.

For example, need to stretch and relax? Try this gentle yoga routine from SDSU Extension.

Want to learn more? Explore more information on the different types of yoga as well as safety, equipment, clothing, and etiquette.

Source: American College of Sports Medicine; Selecting and Effectively Using a Yoga Program

Winter Time: Get Up & Outside!

Wow, it’s winter! Get out and enjoy all the frosty frills winter has to offer! There’s a lot to do beyond the couch for individuals, as well as families.

The following are some great reasons to get out:

  • With family or with friends, activities help to build social skills for youth as well as adults.
  • Outdoor activities can increase or maintain your physical activity ability. Whether it is walking around the block or snowshoeing, you are expending calories. The type of activity and the effort you put into it determine calorie expenditure; the more you do, the more calories expended. The USDA recommends 60 or more minutes of physical activity a day for children ages 6 years and older and 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity for adults per week.
  • You can increase your involvement in community activities in the public and private sector. Lots of communities have outdoor recreation programs geared toward individual age groups, specific events or families in general. The South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department has winter sporting equipment available for loan. A listing of products is available on their website or call 605.362.2777. A brief list of things to do includes snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, ice fishing or hiking at one of the many state parks.
  • When venturing out, keep safety in mind!  If you are going out by yourself, carry a cell phone and be sure to let others know where you are going and your plans for returning.
  • Dress in layers to allow for taking off or adding clothing, to maintain warmth and comfort.
  • Keep equipment in good operating condition to prevent injuries.
  • Take time to warm up and cool down your muscles to prevent strains and sprains.

Following is a brief list of winter activities and estimated calorie expenditure for an individual weighing approximately 175 pounds for 30 minutes:

Activity:Calories expended:
Walking, 3 mph131
Cross Country Skiing, moderate318
Ice Skating278
Snow Shoeing318

Source: SDSU Extension; Get Up & Out!

Target Heart Rate

When talking or learning about exercise, you often hear the word “intensity”. Intensity refers to how hard a person works to do a select activity. The two most often examined intensities in exercise are moderate and vigorous intensity. For many individuals, determining if you are working at a moderate or vigorous intensity may be tricky. The body’s physiological response to exercise is a steady increase in activity with an increased intensity of activity. Thus, a great way to estimate your relative exercise intensity is through your heart rate and prediction of your target heart rate zone (THRZ).

Percentage of maximal heart rate (MHR) is based on simple exercise physiology, which predicts an individual’s MHR from the age based equation: 220 – age. For example, the MHR for a 30 year old individual would be equal to 220-30 = 190. Target Heart Rate, also known as percentage of Maximal Heart Rate Reserve, is an aerobic method, also based on the MHR prediction, used to estimate an individual’s THRZ. THRZ is the intensity range that will produce training effects on the heart if maintained for a sufficient length of time (i.e. 20-30 minutes). Typical THRZ for a moderate activity is 40%-59% of MHR, and for a vigorous activity, 60%-84%. For healthy individuals, the American Heart Association recommends individuals set their THRZ between 50%-85% of their MHR2. Individuals who are new to exercise, previously sedentary, rehabilitating or have medical problems should aim for a lower THRZ and consult with their physician or an exercise professional before starting exercise.

Selecting Your THRZ

  • 80%-90% of MHR – improve performance, high intensity exercise (no medical problems)
  • 70%-85% of MHR – established aerobic exercisers, currently active most days of the week
  • 60%-75% of MHR – intermediate level exercisers
  • 50%- 60% MHR – previously sedentary, medical problems, new to exercise

If you are looking to exercise within your THRZ, below is a sample calculation for an established 30 year old exerciser aiming for a THR Zone of 70% – 85%:

  • MHR = 220 – 30 years old = 190
  • Upper Limit (85%) = MHR x .85 = 190 x .85 = 162 beats/min
  • Lower Limit (70%)= MHR x .70 = 190 x .70 = 133 beats/min
  • Target HR Zone: Lower Limit beats/min to Upper Limit beats/min (133 beats/min to 162 beats/min)

If you are new to exercise, during the first few weeks aim for the lower part of your THRZ. Gradually aim for a higher training percentage of your THRZ. A great way to monitor your heart rate during exercise is with a heart rate monitor. There are many forms and styles available for purchase. The American College of Sports Medicine offers a great resource for Selecting and Effectively Using a Heart Rate Monitor.

Source: SDSU Extension; Target Heart Rate by Nikki Porsch

Choose Smart, Choose Healthy

It’s your life. You’re in control. When you choose to eat right and stay physically active, you choose a healthy lifestyle. Including fruits and vegetables with every meal is a smart place to start, because they’re great for your body.

Most fruits and vegetables are fiber-rich, nutrient-dense foods — meaning they’re packed with valuable nutrients and are low in calories and fat. Compared to people who eat few fruits and vegetables, those who eat more generous amounts — as part of a healthful diet — are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases including stroke, type 2 diabetes, some types of cancer, and perhaps heart disease and high blood pressure.

To get a healthy variety, think color. Eating fruits and vegetables of different colors gives your body a wide range of valuable nutrients, like fiber, folate, potassium, and vitamins A and C. Some examples include:

  • green spinach
  • orange sweet potatoes
  • black beans
  • yellow corn
  • purple plums
  • red watermelon
  • white onions

For more variety, try new fruits and vegetables regularly. So, if you’re the apple-a-day type, throw some berries in the mix. Or a peach. Or a kiwi. You get the idea.

Easy Ways to Eat More Fruits & Vegetables

  • Add fruit to your cereal, low-fat or fat-free yogurt, or oatmeal.
  • Snack on fruit during the day. Grab an apple, banana, or some grapes on your way out the door.
  • Eat a colorful salad at lunch. Try mixed greens with tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, and bell peppers.
  • Make fruits and vegetables about half your plate.
  • Snack on raw veggies with a healthy low-fat or fat-free dip.
  • Enjoy your favorite beans and peas.
  • Add them to salads and low-fat dips.
  • Eat at least two vegetables with dinner.
  • Have fruit for dessert.

Download the PDF and read on to find out how eating fruits and vegetables is a smart thing you can do for your health.

Benefits of Pilates and Moves that Get Results

Pilates is a form of exercise that focuses on body conditioning and strength training. What sets Pilates apart is its focus on toning the muscles with springs, bands, or your own body weight.

Similar to yoga and tai chi or other forms of exercise that focus on intentional movement, pilates has a number of health benefits that are both therapeutic and preventative including:

  • Pain Relief– pilates can help people recover from injury or manage chronic conditions.
  • Core Strength– pilates helps strengthen stomach muscles as well as your side body, mid to lower back, buttocks, and hips.
  • Posture– a strong core makes it easier to have better posture.
  • Flexibility– pilates exercises involve a fair bit of stretching which leads to an expanded range of motion.
  • Balance & Coordination– when your core and center of gravity are strong it’s easier to perform multiple movements at the same time which can reduce injuries.
  • Mental Health & Well-being– although it’s not considered a high-intensity form of exercise, pilates gets your heart pumping and body moving which is known to reduce anxiety and help improve mental health.

View this article to see how Alycea Ungaro, author of 15 Minute Everyday Pilates, shares her routine for beginners. Some moves are shown using Pilates studio equipment, but you can do most moves at home. Check with a doctor first if you’re a man over 45 or a woman over 55, or if you have a medical condition.

What to Feed Your Preschooler

Feeding your preschooler can be challenging at times. Since one in four children between the ages of two and five are at risk of being overweight, healthy eating is extremely important. Children this age need the same variety of foods in their diets as older children and adults. The portion sizes are about half the size of adult portions. It’s usually not a good idea to use restaurant portion sizes as these are typically much larger than the recommended amounts. Too often preschoolers consume excessive amounts of sugar and juice, and not enough whole fruits and vegetables. The following are the suggested daily nutrition guidelines for preschoolers from

  • Grains: About 3 to 4 ounces, preferably half of them whole grains.
  • Vegetables: 1 to 1 ½ cups raw or cooked vegetables. Be sure to offer a variety!
  • Fruits: 1 cup fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits. Try to limit juice to 4 to 6 ounces a day.
  • Dairy: 2 to 2 ½ cups. Whole milk is recommended for children under 2. Older children can have lower-fat options like low-fat milk, yogurt, or cheese.
  • Protein: 2 to 3 ounces Choices are lean meat, poultry, fish, an egg, cooked beans, and peanut butter
  • Oils: About 3 teaspoons of liquid oil or margarine

Preschoolers need about 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day to help them grow and stay healthy. Restrictive diets for children in this age group are inappropriate. They need fat, calories, and carbohydrates in order to support healthy development. One of the biggest challenges parents may face in feeding their preschooler is finding foods their child will eat.

Preschoolers can be very picky eaters. They may be afraid of trying new foods, or simply may not want to try them. As a result, preschoolers may miss out on valuable vitamins and nutrients needed for growth and development. Providing your preschooler with two to three healthy snacks daily can help curb hunger and crankiness. Healthy snacks can also help fill in nutritional gaps. Give children healthy snack options to choose from. It’s important to continue to offer healthy foods, such as new fruits and vegetables, to your preschooler. It may take several times before the new food is accepted. Try serving low-fat milk or water with snacks, instead of sugar-sweetened beverages or soda. It’s also important to remember that children are more likely to develop positive eating habits when parents and caregivers demonstrate and encourage healthy eating.

Source: SDSU Extension; Nutrition for Preschoolers

Classroom-Based Physical Activity Interventions

The Community Preventive Services Task Force (CPSTF) recommends two classroom-based interventions to increase physical activity: physical activity breaks and physically active lessons.

Evidence suggests these interventions increase physical activity and results in improvements in educational outcomes. Both types of interventions can be delivered by trained teachers who have access to web or video resources designed to engage students in exercises or dance routines.

What are classroom-based physical activity breaks?

Teachers lead students in physical activity during breaks between classroom lessons. Sessions lasting between four and ten minutes are scheduled from one to three times each school day.

What are classroom-based physically active lesson interventions?

Teachers integrate bouts of physical activity into lessons taught inside or outside of the classroom. Physically active lessons are scheduled every day or several times per week and typically last from 10 to 30 minutes.

Why is this important?

Regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, improves cognitive function, and reduces risk of depression. In addition, when youth are regularly physically active, they increase their chances for a healthy adulthood and reduce their risk for chronic diseases such as diabetes or hypertension. Schools are uniquely suited to help students achieve the 60 minutes or more of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily

Learn more about evidence-based interventions to help increase physical activity in the classroom.

USDA Makes Permanent Meat and Grain Serving Flexibilities in National School Lunch Program

WASHINGTON, January 2, 2014 – Agriculture Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon today announced that USDA is making permanent the current flexibility that allows schools to serve larger portions of lean protein and whole grains at mealtime.

“Earlier this school year, USDA made a commitment to school nutrition professionals that we would make the meat and grain flexibility permanent and provide needed stability for long-term planning. We have delivered on that promise,” said Concannon.

USDA has worked closely with schools and parents during the transition to healthier breakfasts, lunches and snacks. Based on public feedback, USDA has made a number of updates to school meal standards, including additional flexibility in meeting the daily and weekly ranges for grain and meat/meat alternates, which has been available to schools on a temporary basis since 2012.

USDA is focused on improving childhood nutrition and empowering families to make healthier food choices by providing science-based information and advice, while expanding the availability of healthy food. Data show that vast majority of schools around the country are successfully meeting the new meal standards.

  • Last month, USDA awarded $11 million in grants to help schools purchase needed equipment to make preparing and serving healthier meals easier and more efficient for hardworking school food service professionals.
  • In November 2013, USDA issued an additional $5 million through the Farm to School grant program to increase the amount of healthy, local food in schools. USDA awarded grants to 71 projects spanning 42 states and the District of Columbia.
  • USDA awarded $5.6 million in grants in FY2013 to provide training and technical assistance for child nutrition foodservice professionals and support stronger school nutrition education programs, and plans to award additional grants in FY 2014.
  • USDA’s MyPlate symbol and the resources at provide quick, easy reference tools for teachers, parents, healthcare professionals and communities. Schools across the country are using the MyPlate symbol to enhance their nutrition education efforts.

Collectively, these policies and actions will help combat child hunger and obesity and improve the health and nutrition of the nation’s children. This is a top priority for the Obama Administration and is an important component of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to combat the challenge of childhood obesity.

Source: USDA; USDA makes permanent meat and grain serving flexibilities in National School Lunch Program

The White House and USDA announce School Wellness Standards

First Lady Michelle Obama and U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announce proposed school wellness standards and roll out of breakfast and lunch programs for schools that serve low income communities

Washington, DC (February 2014)—Today, First Lady Michelle Obama joins U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to announce proposed guidelines for local school wellness policies. The bipartisan Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandated that the USDA set guidelines for what needed to be included in local school wellness policies in areas such as setting goals for nutrition education and physical activity, informing parents about content of the policy and implementation, and periodically assessing progress and sharing updates as appropriate. As part of local school wellness policies, the proposed guidelines would ensure that foods and beverages marketed to children in schools are consistent with the recently-released Smart Snacks in School standards. Ensuring that unhealthy food is not marketed to children is one of the First Lady’s top priorities; that is why it is so important for schools to reinforce the importance of healthy choices and eliminate marketing of unhealthy products.

“The idea here is simple—our classrooms should be healthy places where kids aren’t bombarded with ads for junk food,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “Because when parents are working hard to teach their kids healthy habits at home, their work shouldn’t be undone by unhealthy messages at school.

This action comes after the White House Summit on Food Marketing to Children last fall where Mrs. Obama called on the country to ensure children’s health was not undermined by marketing of unhealthy food.

“The food marketing and local wellness standards proposed today support better health for our kids and echo the good work already taking place at home and in schools across the country. The new standards ensure that schools remain a safe place where kids can learn and where the school environment promotes healthy choices. USDA is committed to working closely with students, parents, school stakeholders and the food and beverage industries to implement the new guidelines and make the healthy choice, the easy choice for America’s young people,” Secretary Vilsack said.

To help schools with the implementation of the school wellness policies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a new “School Nutrition Environment and Wellness Resources” website, which includes sample wellness policy language for school districts and a dedicated page of resources for food marketing practices on the school campus.

These new resources will complement a second announcement which highlights the nationwide expansion of a successful program that was piloted in 11 states  with the goal of ensuring children who are in need of nutritious meals are receiving them.  Beginning July 1, 2014, more than 22,000 schools across the country—which serve primarily low-income students—will be eligible to serve healthy free lunches and breakfasts to all students.  This will help as many as 9 million American children eat healthy meals at school, especially breakfast, which can have profound impacts on educational achievement.  Research shows that kids who eat breakfast in the classroom preform over 17% better on math tests and have fewer disciplinary problems.

Learn more at USDA Food and Nutrition Service: Child Nutrition Programs

Source:, The White House and USDA announce School Wellness Standards

South Dakota Obesity Toolkit: A Clinical Toolkit for Healthcare Providers

The South Dakota Obesity Toolkit (2014 Revised Edition) has been provided by the South Dakota Department of Health and other partners to include credible resources and research surrounding overweight and obesity.

The toolkit was designed to help practitioners interact with patients and together develop customized, personalized approaches to managing obesity with patients of all ages. Tools may be used individually or in combination, based on your preferences and specific patient need.

Studies show that 3 to 5 minute conversations about a patient’s condition during routine visits can contribute to behavior change. The South Dakota Obesity Toolkit provides everything health practitioners need to inform and facilitate those conversations.

This free toolkit is only available online.

Download a copy and start the conversation!

Healthy South Dakota Concessions Model Policy

This policy was developed to assist local communities in improving the concession stand (or c-stand) nutrition environment and to promote healthy eating among youth and families. Whether you are a contracted concessionaire, a youth sports program leader or coach, a civic volunteer, an involved parent, parks and recreation staff member, school employee, or other community leader who operates or assists with a local concession stand, you’ll find a variety of tools to help improve the food and beverage offerings at your local concession stand.

South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Fitness Passport Challenge

The GFP Fitness Passport Challenge encourages people of all ages to get outdoors and visit South Dakota State Parks, the state fish hatcheries and The Outdoor Campuses. To get started you can pick up a passport book at any state park or GFP office or visit the GFP website to request a copy.

Visitors to state parks, recreation areas, fish hatcheries and The Outdoor Campuses can have their passport book stamped in an effort to receive incentives.

State parks offer many opportunities for outdoor activities and education. Families can travel the state and visit Game, Fish and Park areas while participating in healthy activities such as hiking, rock climbing, snowshoeing, birding, swimming, cross-country skiing, hunting or fishing.

Areas to visit include all 61 state parks and recreation areas, three fish hatcheries, The Outdoor Campus East, The Outdoor Campus West and the Family Park in Sioux Falls.

Once a visitor has a set number of stamps, he/she can take the book into any park or GFP office to receive incentives. Prizes will be given for visiting 10, 25, 45 and 65 + areas.

Each area has a stamp that can be found in a lock box, so visitors can stamp their books even when staff is not present. The combination to unlock the box is listed on the page that describes the area. Lock boxes are located near the self registration stations at state park entrances and on welcome signs at non-fee areas.

Prize levels are reached when you have 10, 25, 45 and 65 stamps in your passport book. When you’ve reached one of the levels, take the Passport Prize form and your book to a Game, Fish and Parks office or a state park for verification. Ask a staff member to verify the levels you’ve reached and sign your form.

Source: SD Game, Fish and Parks; Fitness Passport Challenge

What to Consider with a High Protein Diet

The Goal is Weight Loss

High-protein diets take their lead from the low-carb craze. The goal is to lose weight by eating more protein-packed foods, which often means consuming fewer carbohydrates. The portion of total calories derived from protein is what defines a high-protein diet. In a typical diet 10%-15% of daily calories come from protein. In a high-protein diet, this number can be as high as 30%-50%.

How do High-Protein Diets Work?

Besides curbing appetites, it’s possible that high-protein diets may also change a person’s metabolism. When carbohydrates are severely restricted, the body begins burning its own fat for fuel — a state called ketosis. Ketosis may shed weight, but it’s also associated with headaches, irritability, nausea, kidney trouble, and heart palpitations.

Starting a High-Protein Diet

High-protein diets come in many forms, and not all are created equal. The most nutritious high-protein plans are low in fat and moderate in carbohydrates, rather than high in fat and low in carbohydrates. The following variety of foods fit the high-protein diet bill.

Say Hello to High-Protein Steak

Few foods beat a nice, juicy steak for protein. And if you’re careful to choose a lean cut, you can get all of the protein with far less fat.

Think White Meat

Chicken and poultry pack plenty of punch in a high-protein diet, and if you enjoy the white meat you’ll be eating a lot less fat than if you choose dark. To slim your meal down even further, remove the skin, which is bursting with saturated fat.

Look for Pork Loin

It may surprise you to learn that pork loin is a white meat. What’s more, the cuts available today are much leaner than they were 20 years ago. If you’re interested in a high-protein diet, you may want to plan on pork.

Lots of Protein, Healthy Fats

Fish is a no-brainer – it’s loaded with protein and almost always low in fat. Even the types that have more fat, such as salmon, are a good choice. That’s because the fat in fish is generally the heart-healthy kind known as omega-3 fatty acid – and many people don’t get enough of this good-for-you fat.

Affordable, Convenient, and Tasty

Eggs are perhaps the most classic and certainly least expensive form of protein. The British Heart Foundation has relaxed its stance on egg consumption saying there’s no longer a need for a healthy person to limit the number they eat. So you may want to get cracking with eggs when you’re on a high-protein diet. If you’re concerned about the fat and cholesterol, egg whites are a good substitute and a heart-healthy source of protein.

Soy: It’s High in Protein, too

Soy products, such as tofu, soy burgers and other soy-based foods, are nutritious plant-based sources of protein. An added bonus: some research suggests consuming 25 grams of soy protein daily may also help maintain healthy cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease.

Beans and Legumes : Full of Fiber and Protein

Beans pack a powerful double whammy—they are loaded with protein and also full of fiber. Studies show that, along with protein, fiber helps you feel full longer and also helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels. As for the protein content, canned baked beans have a sixth of the protein of grilled steak, but with a tenth of the fat.

Low-Fat Milk Products

If you want to give your high-protein diet a tasty boost, don’t overlook dairy products as a protein source. Milk, cheese, and yogurt are not only protein-rich, they also provide calcium for strong bones and a healthy heart. Look for low-fat, light, or reduced fat dairy products as part of a reduced calorie diet plan.

Cereal and Energy Bars

Pressed for time? You can turn to high-protein cereal or energy bars to give your high-protein diet a quick boost. Just make sure the bars you choose don’t have too much sugar or fat.

Go Wholegrain, Go Fiber

Most high-protein diets limit grains to a couple of servings a day, so make sure the grains you do eat are pulling their weight. That means staying clear of white bread and pasta, which have little to offer nutrient-wise, when compared with their wholegrain cousins. Wholegrain breads, cereals, and pastas, on the other hand, are rich in fiber, which might otherwise be in short supply for people on a high-protein diet.

Leave Room for Fruit and Vegetables

No matter the emphasis on protein, make sure you leave room for fruit and vegetables in a high-protein diet. As well as having at least 5-a-day, the NHS says they should make up a third of your daily diet. These nutrient gold mines also contain powerful antioxidants that aren’t found in most other foods, and some research suggests that people who eat plenty of fruits and vegetables may lower their risk of cancer, although more research is needed.

A Diet That’s Easy to Love

High-protein diets may help people lose weight—at least in the short term—because dieters tend to feel full longer when they eat more protein. This alone can cut down on snacking and lead to fairly rapid weight loss. Combine speedy weight loss with the satisfaction of feeling full, and it’s easy to understand why high-protein diets are popular. Unfortunately, many people gain back the weight once the diet ends.

More Protein, More Risks?

The medical community has raised many concerns about high-protein diets. These diets often boost protein intake at the expense of fruit and vegetables, so dieters miss out on healthy nutrients – which could possibly increase their risk of cancer. Other potential health risks when high protein diets are used long term include high cholesterol and heart disease, osteoporosis, and kidney disease.

More Saturated Fat, Less Fiber

Many high-protein diets are high in saturated fat and low in fiber. Research shows this combination can increase cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. These diets generally recommend dieters receive 30% to 50% of their total calories from protein.

Losing Calcium

People on high-protein diets excrete more calcium through their urine than do those not on a high-protein diet. If a person sticks to a high-protein diet long term, the loss of calcium could increase their risk of developing osteoporosis.

Protein May Affect Kidney Function

People with kidney disease should consult a doctor before starting a high-protein diet. Research suggests people with impaired kidneys may lose kidney function more rapidly if they eat excessive amounts of protein – especially animal protein.

High-Protein Diets: Jury is Still Out

There are no long-term studies of high-protein diets, so their ultimate health impact is unknown. But the experts are sure of one thing: The best formula for permanent weight loss is a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating nutritious, low-calorie foods and participating in regular physical activity. Seek medical advice before making major dietary changes.

Source: WebMD

How to Limit Screen Time and Encourage Activity

Experts recommend that kids get no more than 1–2 hours of TV/computer/video games a day. But did you know that most kids today get 4–6 hours of these combined things daily?

You know your child needs to watch less TV or put down their computer or iPod, but you’re dreading the screaming, yelling and crying that may follow telling them to get up and do something. First and foremost, remember YOU are the parent. You run the show and it’s your job to set limits. We know it’s not easy, and each child is different, so what works for one child, may need a slight change for another.

Here are some ideas about how to limit your family’s sedentary time:

  1. Identify free times for activity during the week. Learn how to find time to get the whole family heart healthy.
  2. Make a plan to add physical activity to your daily routine. Be prepared to offer alternative age-appropriate activities to TV or video games after school. Make physical activity a regular part of your family’s schedule. Write it on a weekly calendar for the whole family.
  3. Be active with your kids. Experts say that what kids want more than anything else is time with their parents. To give them that, don’t just send them out to play — go play with them! Develop a set of activities for you and your family that are always available regardless of weather.
  4. Limit TV, computer, and video game time. Don’t position your furniture so the TV is the main focus of the room. Remove televisions from bedrooms. And remember to avoid using TV as a reward or punishment.
  5. Plan TV watching in advance. Go through the TV guide and pick the shows you want to watch. Turn the TV on for those shows and turn it off afterwards. Don’t just watch whatever comes on next.
  6. Practice what you preach. Your kids won’t accept being restricted to two hours of TV watching if you can veg out for four hours. The best way to influence your kids’ behavior is through example.

All of these might sound easy enough; they just take a little thought and a lot of practice. Do what you can as often as you can.

Here are some ideas that your kids can do on their own or the whole family can do together:

  • family game night
  • shooting some hoops
  • walking the dog
  • exploring a nearby park
  • turning on the stereo and dancing around the house
  • find a great place to play near you using Kaboom
  • chores that require some physical activity

Remember, you can do it! Be strong, have a plan and don’t back down. Your child’s health is worth fighting for.

Source: American Heart Association; Limit Screen Time and Get Your Kids (and the Whole Family) Moving

Body Mass Index (BMI) Calculator for Kids and Teens

CDC has an online tool to calculate BMI for kids and teens (age 2 through 19). It displays numeric results, a graphic that shows the weight category, and plots the BMI on a printable growth chart.

Check BMI-for-age annually, or more often if recommended by the child’s healthcare provider. Tracking growth patterns over time can help you make sure your child is achieving or maintaining a healthy weight. A single BMI-for-age calculation is not enough to evaluate long-term weight status because height and weight change with growth. If your child has significant weight loss or gain he or she should be referred to and guided by a health professional.

Please keep in mind that this BMI calculator is not meant to serve as a source of clinical guidance and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Since BMI is based on weight and height, it is only an indicator of body fatness. Individuals with the same BMI may have different amounts of body fat. Persons may consider seeking advice from their health-care providers on healthy weight status and to consider individual circumstances.

Source: CDC; BMI Percentile Calculator for Child and Teen

We Can: Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition

We Can! (Ways to Enhance Children’s Activity & Nutrition) is a national movement designed to give parents, caregivers, and entire communities a way to help children 8- to 13-years-old stay at a healthy weight.

Research shows that parents and caregivers are the primary influence on this age group. The We Can! national education program provides parents and caregivers with tools, fun activities, and more to help them encourage healthy eating, increased physical activity, and reduced time sitting in front of the screen (TV or computer) in their entire family.

We Can! also offers organizations, community groups, and health professionals a centralized resource to promote a healthy weight in youth through community outreach, partnership development, and media activities that can be adapted to meet the needs of diverse populations. Science-based educational programs, support materials, training opportunities, and other resources are available to support programming for youth, parents, and families in the community.

The We Can!® multimedia public service announcement (PSA) campaign, created in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Ad Council, encourages parents and caregivers to help children maintain a healthy weight by highlighting the benefits of physical activity and healthy eating habits in a fun and engaging way for the whole family.

The “I Can, You Can, We Can” PSAs are designed to empower parents and caregivers to find creative ways to challenge and engage their kids to make healthy choices. The television PSAs feature parents stepping out of their own comfort zones, with humorous results. This campaign is available in both English and Spanish. Check them out:

“Dunk” PSA

“Juice” PSA

An additional series of PSAs, entitled “All In Together”, takes a different approach by encouraging families to make family time healthy time and find fun ways to get healthy together.

“All In Together” PSA

Be sure to visit the We Can! program’s online component for family tips on eating right, getting active, reducing screen time, and various other topics.

Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; We Can!

Kids Portion Size Versus Serving Size

Do you know how much your kids are really eating? Sometimes it’s hard to tell if the portions our kids are eating are the right serving size for their nutritional needs.  Portion sizes have increased drastically over the years, contributing to the rising childhood obesity rate.

Understanding Healthy Portions Can be Hard

Here’s why: 

  • Many of us don’t know what a healthy portion is.
  • Restaurants offer extras like breads, chips and other appetizers that add extra calories, sodium and fat but lack any nutritional benefit.
  • Some meals have portions that are enough for two or more people.
  • Many convenience foods and drinks are priced lower but packaged in larger sizes to sell more.

Clearing Up the Confusion

Here are a couple of important definitions from the National Institutes of Health:

  • Portion is how much food you choose to eat at one time, whether in a restaurant, from a package or in your own kitchen. A portion is 100 percent under our control.
  • Serving Size is the amount of food listed on a product’s Nutrition Facts label. So all of the nutritional values you see on the label are for the serving size the manufacturer suggests on the package. Once we understand the difference, it’s easier to determine how much to serve and easier to teach kids the difference between the two.

How Can You Eat and Serve Smaller Portions?

  1. When cooking at home: Offer the proper “serving” to each member of the family, then put the extra food away. Save leftovers for another meal.
  2. When dining out:  Skip the appetizers and split a large salad or main dish with a friend.
  3. When ordering takeout at home: Eat one slice of pizza instead of two, and order a small instead of a medium to split among the family so the pieces are smaller.
  4. Watching movies at home or at the theatre: Don’t eat while watching TV or a movie or when you’re on the computer. It’s harder to control how much you’re eating if you don’t pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth, and when. At the movies, share a box of popcorn, and avoid the free-refill tubs and skip the candy.
  5. At snack time: Never eat straight from the bag or box. Measure out snacks, including fruits and veggies, into appropriate portion sizes before giving them to your kids.

You may be surprised to learn these are serving sizes:

1 slice of bread
½ cup rice or pasta (cooked)
1 small piece of fruit (super-large apples are 2+ servings)
1 wedge of melon
¾ cup fruit juice
=1 cup milk or yogurt
2 oz. cheese (about the size of a domino)
2-3 oz. meat, poultry or fish (this is about the size of a deck of cards)

Source: American Heart Association; Portion Size versus Serving Size

Finding Family Time for Heart Health

Making time for a heart-healthy lifestyle can seem overwhelming. But the good news is that making a few small simple lifestyle changes can lead to heart-healthy habits that require little thought or effort.

You know your family better than anyone, so use that knowledge and get creative in how you can work heart-healthy habits into your family’s life and daily schedule.

Whether you’re a single parent or married, a stay-at-home parent or working, here are ways to make more time for the whole family to be more heart healthy:

  1. Identify free times for activity. Keep track of each family member’s daily activities for one week. You’ll get a snapshot of when you might be able to get the family together for physical activity. It can also help you see which activities you can cut back on.
  2. Pick two 30-minute and two 60-minute time slots for family activity time. Weekdays are usually better for 30-minute activities and weekends are better for 60-minute activities. Try to spread out the time slots. Here are some ideas to get your kids moving that parents can join in.
  3. Make time to plan a weekly menu, go shopping and prep your meals. Keep track of how many times you grab food on the go for one week. Once you find blocks of time when you can do a little planning, it’ll be easy to learn healthy preparation methods, fix healthy snacks and eat fewer fast and processed foods.
  4. Simplify your family’s schedule. In today’s society we’re expected to do it all. But this type of non-stop lifestyle isn’t sustainable or healthy. Try prioritizing your activities and see what you can do without so you’ll have more time for the things that matter. You can also work on stress management methods.
  5. Take baby steps, not giant leaps. If you’re the head of your household, making sure that all the heads and hearts in your home are healthy is a lot to handle. The key is to take baby steps. Getting heart-healthy is a journey; you don’t have to do everything at once. Learn how to get heart-healthy one simple step at a time.
  6. Ask everyone in the family to do their part. Depending on their ages, kids can help prepare healthy meals and help around the house. Treat your family like a team and encourage everyone to work together.
  7. Live by example. We all need to do our best to walk the walk. If we want our kids to eat healthy and exercise, we’ve got to model that behavior. You’re not perfect, but if you’re determined and persistent, there’s not much that can stop you.

Source: American Heart Association; 6 Steps for the Whole Family to be Healthy

Family-Friendly Activity Ideas

Help your children form healthy habits for life and improve their school performance by making activity part of your family life. Most active kids have active parents and families, so it’s important to model the behavior for them. Make sure it’s fun, and really integrated into your life, not forced.

Ideas to try:

  • Plan physical games into the day, whether it’s a relay race or dancing.
  • If you have enough people, organize a team sport at a nearby school athletic field or in the backyard.
  • Map out local errands and do them by foot or bike. The more people who go, the more you can carry.
  • Give every member of the family a pedometer and track your steps. Consider monthly prizes for the top stepper. Their prize can be choosing the next family activity!!
  • Simply play together for 30 minutes, three times a week. Try hopscotch, jumping rope, playing hide-and-seek or even climbing rocks.
  • Take a short hike.
  • Give the yard its spring touchup by raking, piling rocks, digging flower beds, or planting a vegetable garden.
  • Do household chores to your favorite songs.

Core-Strength Exercises with a Fitness Ball

Fitness balls, sometimes called physio balls or Swiss balls—are large, vinyl balls that can be used to aid exercise. They help strengthen the muscles in your abdomen and back, improve core stability, and balance. They can also help reduce stiffness, decrease fatigue, and improve strength in your muscles.

Core-strength Exercises

Core-strength exercises strengthen your core muscles, including your abdominal muscles, back muscles and the muscles around the pelvis. You can do many core-strength exercises with a fitness ball.

Use a fitness ball sized so that your knees are at a right angle when you sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor. Do each core-strength exercise five times. As you get stronger, gradually increase to 10 to 15 repetitions. Breathe freely and deeply and focus on tightening your abs during each core-strength exercise. If you have back problems, osteoporosis or any other health concern, talk to your doctor before doing these core-strength exercises.

To work various core muscles in combination for better core strength, try a bridge with the fitness ball:

  • Lie on your back with your legs resting on top of the ball.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles.
  • Raise your hips and buttocks off the floor into a bridge. Hold for three deep breaths. This works your core muscles and the muscles along your backside — the gluteal muscles and hamstrings — as they contract to keep you in place.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat.
  • For added challenge, raise your right leg off the ball. Repeat with your left leg.

Squat & Reach Exercises

To do a squat and reach exercise with the fitness ball:

  • Hold the ball in front of you and bend your knees. Keep your back straight and your arms parallel to the floor. Don’t let your knees extend beyond your feet.
  • Tighten your abdominal muscles.
  • Rotate your trunk and reach with the ball toward your left. Hold for three deep breaths.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat to the right.
  • Vary the exercise by holding the ball in a downward position or an upward position.

View Mayo Clinic’s slideshow for more exercises to try with your fitness ball.

Important Nutrients to Know: Water

It’s important for your body to have plenty of fluids each day. Water helps you digest food, absorb nutrients from food, and then get rid of unused waste. Water is found in foods—both solids and liquids, as well as in its natural state.

What To Drink As You Get Older
Learn about why it’s important for older adults to drink plenty of liquids, including water, and how to make healthy choices.


“But I don’t feel thirsty”

With age, you might lose some of your sense of thirst. To further complicate matters, some medicines might make it even more important for you to have plenty of fluids.

Take sips from a glass of water, milk, or juice between bites during meals. But don’t wait for mealtime—try to add liquids throughout the day. For example, have a cup of low-fat soup as an afternoon snack.

Drink a full glass of water if you need to take a pill. Have a glass of water before you exercise or go outside to garden or walk, especially on a hot day.

Remember, water is a good way to add fluids to your daily routine without adding calories.

Source: National Institute on Aging; Water

What Are Chia Seeds?

When you hear “chia” your first thought may be of the green fur or hair of Chia Pets, collectible clay figurines. But did you know that chia seeds can also be a healthful addition to your diet?

Chia seeds come from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, a member of the mint family. Salvia hispanicaseed is often sold under its common name “chia” as well as several trademarked names. Its origin is believed to be in Central America where the seed was a staple in the ancient Aztec diet. The seeds of a related plant, Salvia columbariae (golden chia), were used primarily by Native Americans in the southwestern United States.

Chia seeds have recently gained attention as an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid. They are also an excellent source of fiber at 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), and contain protein and minerals including as iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc.

Emerging research suggests that including chia seeds as part of a healthy diet may help improve cardiovascular risk factors such as lowering cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. However, there are not many published studies on the health benefits of consuming chia seeds and much of the available information is based on animal studies or human studies with a small number of research participants.

How to Eat Chia Seeds

Chia seeds can be eaten raw or prepared in a number of dishes. Sprinkle ground or whole chia seeds on cereal, rice, yogurt or vegetables. In Mexico, a dish called chia fresco is made by soaking chia seeds in fruit juice or water. Chia seeds are very absorbent and develop a gelatinous texture when soaked in water making it easy to mix them into cooked cereal or other dishes.

The seeds are not the only important part of the chia plant; the sprouts are also edible. Try adding them to salads, sandwiches and other dishes.

Source:; What Are Chia Seeds?

The Health Benefits of Tea

Across the country, restaurants, cultural venues and retail shops serve premium teas, while supermarkets, convenience stores and vending machines are stocking bottled tea.

According to the Tea Association of the USA, the number of Americans who will drink tea today is about 160 million, about half of the U.S. population. And, 2012 continued with the trend of increased consumer purchases of tea — surpassing the $2.25 billion mark in retail supermarket sales.

Ever since 2737 B.C., when Chinese legend says leaves from an overhanging Camellia sinensis plant fell into Emperor Shen Nung’s cup of boiling water, tea has been recognized by cultures around the world for its capacity to soothe, restore and refresh. Far from being an apocryphal promise, tea has been lauded for an array of potential health benefits — from reducing cancer and heart disease risk, improving dental health and boosting weight loss.

Tea and Heart Health

The strongest evidence is on the side of heart health, attributed to the antioxidants in tea. Flavonoids in both black and green tea prevent oxidation of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, reduce blood clotting and improve widening of blood vessels in the heart. Studies that looked at the relationship of black tea intake and heart health reported decreased incidence of heart attack, lower cholesterol levels and significantly lower blood pressure.

Can Tea Prevent Cancer?

Support for tea’s cancer prevention benefits is less compelling. It has been suggested that antioxidant polyphenol compounds — particularly catechins — in tea may play a role in preventing cancer. However, a 2007 review reported that with the exception of colorectal cancer, studies related to black tea and other cancers were extremely limited or conflicting.

Tea for Teeth

In 2010, Japanese researchers reported at least one cup of green tea per day was associated with significantly decreased odds for tooth loss. Other studies have suggested tea may lower the pH of the tooth surface, suppressing the growth of periodontal bacteria. A more likely reason for tea’s anti-cariogenic effect is its fluoride content. Tea usually is brewed with fluoridated water and the tea plant naturally accumulates fluoride from the soil.

Tea and Weight Loss

Evidence supporting tea as a weight-loss aid is based mainly on studies that used tea extracts (ECGC and other catechins, flavanols, polyphenols and caffeine). These results may not be directly applicable to brewed tea consumed in normal amounts.

Tea and Hydration

The caffeine content of tea varies widely depending on the kind of tea used and the way in which it is brewed. Typical levels for tea are less than half that of coffee, ranging from 20 to 60 milligrams per 8 ounces (compared to 50 to 300 milligrams in coffee). Studies found no negative effects on hydration with intakes of up to 400 milligrams of caffeine per day (the amount in about seven cups of the strongest brewed tea).

Source:; The Health Benefits of Tea by Joanna Pruess and Neva Cochran, MS, RD, LD

Cooking Tips for One

It can be tricky when cooking for one (or even two) to make the most of your ingredients and to minimize dishes — particularly when many recipes focus on making a meal for a family and serve four to six people. But just because you have a smaller household doesn’t mean you should abandon the kitchen for takeout.

“The best part of cooking for one is that there are no worries about what anyone else wants for dinner. You have the flexibility to enjoy beans with salsa and avocado or a quick omelet with veggies for dinner if you want,” says Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD.

The first step to dinner-for-one success is to make cooking healthy meals a priority. Planning ahead and arming yourself with a few tips and tricks will put you on the path to triumph in the kitchen.

According to Moore, the best strategy when cooking for one is to become friends with your freezer. “Instead of scaling down, cook up full recipes: cook once, eat twice. Save time, money and clean up by freezing soups, chili, pasta dishes and extra vegetables,” she says. “Pull these ‘frozen meals’ out when you don’t feel like cooking or just need a quick meal.”

Here are more kitchen tips for one:


  • Cook a batch of whole grains such as brown rice or barley and freeze in individual portions using a muffin pan. Once frozen, the discs can be stored in a zip-top bag.
  • Have a six-pack of whole-grain English muffins or a whole loaf of bread? Tuck those extras into the freezer for another day; wrap them tightly in plastic wrap to prevent freezer burn.
  • Visit the bulk bins at your local health food and grocery stores. You can buy exactly what you need with no waste and it’s often less expensive per pound. In addition to grains, you can score a deal on dried herbs and spices as well as nuts, seeds and dried beans.

Veggies and Fruits

  • “If you’re not able to go food shopping a few days a week (most of us aren’t), embrace frozen produce,” says Moore. “Frozen produce can be just as nutritious as fresh and it’s there when you need it. Just choose options without added sauces and sugar.” Since they’re already chopped up, frozen fruits and veggies are ready to add to smoothies, soups and stir-fries. And because they’re frozen, there is no rush to use them before they spoil.
  • Bulk bags of fruits and veggies are only a better deal if you eat them before they spoil. Only buy what you can reasonably eat before the produce perishes: take extra grapes or cherries out of the bag and pare down that bunch of bananas to what you’ll eat.
  • “Be strategic. Enjoy your most perishable fresh produce like berries and spinach early in the week. Save heartier produce like cabbage, carrots and potatoes for meals later in the week,” suggests Moore.

Protein: Meat, Poultry, Eggs, Beans

  • Eggs can make a meal happen in a flash, anytime! They are an excellent source of protein and contain a bounty of nutrients such as vitamin D and choline. You can hard-boil a few on the weekend to have as an easy breakfast, snack or quick salad addition.
  • Buy a whole package of meat or poultry and wrap individual portions in freezer-safe paper; label each with the date and contents.
  • A potato masher can easily tame a can of pinto beans into delicious refried beans — a pinch of cumin, garlic and chili powder and you’re ready to eat!

Scrumptious Strata

2 whole eggs
¼ cup reduced-fat milk
1 slice whole-wheat bread, torn into small pieces
¼ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
¼ cup diced onions (frozen is easiest)
¼ cup diced bell peppers (frozen is easiest)
1 pinch each of garlic, oregano and crushed red pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Spray an oven-safe glass dish with non-stick cooking spray and preheat oven or toaster oven to 350°F.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, beat eggs and milk. Add veggies, cheese and bread and toss to coat.
  3. Pour into prepared dish and bake for about 25 minutes, or until top is browned and knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cooking Note
This recipe is flexible — feel free to change the vegetables to what you have on hand. It is also easily doubled (or quadrupled) to serve more people.

Nutrition Information – Serves 1
Calories: 389; Calories from fat: 206; Total fat: 23g; Saturated fat: 11g; Trans fat: 0g; Cholesterol: 462mg; Sodium: 507mg; Total carbohydrate: 19g; Dietary fiber: 3g; Sugars: 6g; Protein: 27g

Source:; Cooking Tips for One by Holly Larson, MS, RD

Balance Exercises

Having good balance helps in preventing falls, and injury, and simply makes your daily activities easier to perform. Practicing balance exercises daily does not have to take a long time or be complicated.

When you’re ready to try balance exercises, start with weight shifts:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your weight equally distributed on both legs.
  • Shift your weight to your right side, then lift your left foot off the floor.
  • Hold the position as long as you can maintain good form, up to 30 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side. As your balance improves, increase the number of repetitions.

View Mayo Clinic’s slideshow for more exercises you can use to improve your balance.

Register for FREE physical activity workshop through Better Choices Better Health SD.

What’s the Difference Between Exercise and Physical Activity?

Exercise is a form of physical activity that is planned, structured, and repetitive such as weight training, tai chi, or an aerobics class. Physical activities are activities that get your body moving such as gardening, walking the dog, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Including both in your life will provide you with health benefits that can help you feel better and enjoy life more as you age.

Understanding Vitamins and Minerals


Vitamins help your body grow and work the way it should. There are 13 vitamins—vitamins C, A, D, E, K, and the B vitamins (thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, biotin, B6, B12, and folate).

Vitamins have different jobs–helping you resist infections, keeping your nerves healthy, and helping your body get energy from food or your blood to clot properly. By following the Dietary Guidelines, you will get enough of most of these vitamins from food.

Vitamins and minerals are measured in a variety of ways. The most common are:

  • mg – milligram
  • mcg – microgram
  • IU – international unit

Your doctor might suggest that, like some older adults, you need extra of a few vitamins, as well as the mineral calcium. It is usually better to get the nutrients you need from food, rather than a pill. That’s because nutrient-dense foods contain other things that are good for you like fiber. Look for foods fortified with certain vitamins and minerals, like some B vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D. That means those nutrients are added to the foods to help you meet your needs.

HERE’S A TIP: Most older people don’t need a complete multivitamin supplement. But if you don’t think you are making the best food choices, look for a supplement sold as a complete vitamin and mineral supplement. It should be well balanced and contain 100% of most recommended vitamins and minerals. Read the label to make sure the dose is not too large. Avoid supplements with mega-doses. Too much of some vitamins and minerals can be harmful, and you might be paying for supplements you don’t need.


Minerals also help your body function. Some minerals, like iodine and fluoride, are only needed in very small quantities. Others, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, are needed in larger amounts. As with vitamins, if you eat a varied diet, you will probably get enough of most minerals.

Vitamin and mineral supplements for people over age 50:

  • Vitamin D: If you are age 50–70, you need at least 600 IU, but not more than 4,000 IU. If you are age 70 and older, you need at least 800 IU, but not more than 4,000 IU. You can get vitamin D from fatty fish, fish liver oils, fortified milk and milk products, and fortified cereals.
  • Vitamin B6: Men need 1.7 mg every day. Women need 1.5 mg every day. You can get vitamin B6 from fortified cereals, whole grains, organ meats like liver, and fortified soy-based meat substitutes.
  • Vitamin B12: You need 2.4 mcg every day. Some people over age 50 have trouble absorbing the vitamin B12 found naturally in foods, so make sure you get enough of the supplement form of this vitamin, such as from fortified foods. You can get vitamin B12 from fortified cereals, meat, fish, poultry, and milk.
  • Folate: You need 400 mcg each day. Folic acid is the form used to fortify grain products or added to dietary supplements. You can get folate from dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach, beans and peas, fruit like oranges and orange juice, and folic acid from fortified flour and fortified cereals.


Calcium is a mineral that is important for strong bones and teeth, so there are special recommendations for older people who are at risk for bone loss. You can get calcium from milk and milk products (remember to choose fat-free or low-fat whenever possible), some forms of tofu, dark-green leafy vegetables (like collard greens and kale), soybeans, canned sardines and salmon with bones, and calcium-fortified foods.

There are several types of calcium supplements. Calcium citrate and calcium carbonate tend to be the least expensive.

Calcium for people over 50:

  • Women age 51 and older: 1,200 mg each day
  • Men age 51 to 70: 1,000 mg each day
  • Men age 71 and older: 1,200 mg each day
  • Women and men age 51 and older: Don’t take more than 2,000 mg of calcium in a day.


Sodium is another mineral. In most Americans’ diets, sodium primarily comes from salt (sodium chloride), though it is naturally found in some foods. Sodium is also added to others during processing, often in the form of salt. We all need some sodium, but too much over time can contribute to raising your blood pressure or put you at risk for heart disease, stroke, or kidney disease.

How much sodium is okay? People 51 and older should reduce their sodium to 1,500 mg each day—that includes sodium added during manufacturing or cooking as well as at the table when eating. That is about 2/3 teaspoon of salt.

Preparing your own meals at home without using a lot of processed foods or adding salt will allow you to control how much sodium you get. Look for grocery products marked “low sodium,” “unsalted,” “no salt added,” “sodium free,” or “salt free.”

To limit sodium to 1,500 mg daily, try using less salt when cooking, and don’t add salt before you take the first bite. If you make this change slowly, you will get used to the difference in taste. Eating more vegetables and fruit also helps—they are naturally low in sodium and provide more potassium.

HERE’S A TIP: In the case of sodium, don’t be confused by the Nutrition Facts label. It uses the recommended level for people 50 and younger, 2,400 mg. Just check the actual milligrams of sodium on the label and keep to the amount recommended for people 51 and older—1,500 mg.

Source: National Institute on Aging; Vitamins and Minerals

Yoga in your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond

Cardiologist Dean Ornish, M.D., made headlines with his claim that yoga and meditation when combined with improvements in diet and exercise habits, could reverse heart disease. Since then, research into the health benefits of yoga, especially its effect on adults 50-plus, has exploded. Here are some reasons to practice yoga as you age:

Minimize hypertension

“Yoga has a powerful effect on stress and hypertension and can help people reduce the amount of medication they need,” says Amy Wheeler, yoga professor at California State University at San Bernardino. In a review of 17 studies published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers reported significant reductions in blood pressure for interventions incorporating three basic elements of yoga practice: postures, meditation, and breathing. Researchers speculate that the slow, controlled breathing inherent in yoga practice decreases nervous system activity, which helps manage blood pressure levels.

Strengthen bones

“People in their 50s often develop the beginning stages of osteoporosis and low bone density,” notes Melinda Atkins, a yoga teacher in Miami. Studies consistently show that the weight-bearing activity of yoga helps slow bone thinning, reducing the risks of osteoporosis, particularly among postmenopausal women.

Keep excess pounds at bay

Yoga enhances concentration and determination in all aspects of life. Practicing it every day “improves willpower and shifts your focus toward wellness rather than instant gratification,” says Larry Payne, yoga director at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. In a 2014 study out of India, published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers reported that people with diabetes who did yoga 3-6 days per week for 8 weeks, shed more pounds and inches than those who walked for the same time period.

Reduce anxiety

Yoga induces the relaxation response, an alpha state between awake and asleep that helps modulate the way the body responds to stress. When faced with a potential threat (or ongoing stress), your heart beats faster, your muscles tense and you start to sweat. Yoga stops this process in its tracks, reducing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure and easing respiration. Case in point: A 2015 study published in the Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine reported that women who participated in a 60-minute yoga class twice a week reported greater reductions in anxiety after the 8-week study period compared to those who didn’t participate.

Protect your joints

During your late 50s and early 60s, you may begin to notice that your joints aren’t as fluid as they used to be. Practicing yoga regularly can help lubricate joints, staving off debilitating disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. “It’s important to start caring for your joints, to help maintain your independence and preserve your ability to perform daily activities as you get older — things like brushing your teeth, combing your hair, getting dressed,” says Wheeler. Yin yoga, a type of practice where poses are held for up to 20 minutes, may be especially beneficial for lubricating and nourishing the joints.

Source: AARP; Yoga in Your 50s, 60s and 70s – and Beyond

Important Nutrients to Know: Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fat


Proteins are often called the body’s building blocks. They are used to build and repair tissues. They help you fight infection. Your body uses extra protein for energy. Good sources of protein are seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. Protein is also found in dairy products. Protein from plant sources tends to be lower in fat and cholesterol and provides fiber and other health-promoting nutrients.


Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. There are two types of carbohydrates: simple and complex.

  • Simple carbohydrates are found in fruits, vegetables, and milk products, as well as in sweeteners like sugar, honey, and syrup and foods like candy, soft drinks, and frosting or icing.
  • Complex carbohydrates are found in breads, cereals, pasta, rice, beans and peas, and starchy vegetables such as potatoes, green peas, and corn.

Many carbohydrates also supply fiber. Fiber is a type of complex carbohydrate found in foods that come from plants—fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Eating food with fiber can prevent stomach or intestinal problems, such as constipation. It might also help lower cholesterol and blood sugar.


Fats also give you energy and help you feel satisfied after eating. Oils, shortening, butter, and margarine are types of fats, and mayonnaise, salad dressings, table cream, and sour cream are high in fat. Foods from animal sources and certain foods like seeds, nuts, avocado, and coconut also contain fat. There are different categories of fats—some are healthier than others:

  • Monounsaturated. These include canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, and safflower oil. They are found in avocados, peanut butter, and some nuts and seeds.
  • Polyunsaturated. Some are corn oil, soybean oil, and flaxseed oil. They are also found in fatty fish, walnuts, and some seeds.
  • Saturated. These fats are found in red meat, milk products including butter, and palm and coconut oils. Regular cheese, pizza, and grain-based and dairy desserts are common sources of saturated fat in our meals.
  • Trans fats (trans fatty acids). Processed trans fats are found in stick margarine and vegetable shortening. Trans fats are often used in store-bought baked goods and fried foods at some fast-food restaurants.

You can tell monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats because they are liquid at room temperature. These types of fat seem to lower your chance of heart disease. But that doesn’t mean you can eat more than the Dietary Guidelines suggest.

Trans fats and saturated fats are usually solid at room temperature. Trans fat and saturated fat can put you at greater risk for heart disease and should be limited.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in some foods. Your body needs some cholesterol. But research suggests that eating a lot of foods high in saturated fat is associated with higher levels of cholesterol in your blood, which may increase your risk of heart disease. Try to limit cholesterol to less than 300 mg each day. If your doctor says you need to lower your cholesterol, you might need to limit cholesterol in your food to less than 200 mg each day.

Source: National Institute on Aging; Protein, Carbohydrates & Fats

Overcoming Roadblocks to Healthy Eating

Healthy eating can help you lose or maintain weight, feel better overall, and possibly decrease your chances of getting certain diseases. Making smart food choices is important at any age. But eating healthy can be difficult even if you know which foods you should buy and prepare. Your budget, physical issues, mood changes, and dietary restrictions can be roadblocks to eating food that’s best for you.

There are some common problems that can make it harder for older people to follow through on smart food choices. Here are some ideas for dealing with common questions:

Tired of cooking or eating alone?

Maybe you are tired of planning and cooking dinners every night. Have you considered potluck meals? If everyone brings one part of the meal, cooking is a lot easier, and there might be leftovers to share. Or try cooking with a friend to make a meal you can enjoy together. Food delivery services are yet another option. You could also look into having some meals at a nearby senior center, community center, or religious facility. Not only will you enjoy a free or low-cost meal, but you will also have some company while you eat.

Trying to eat healthy on a budget?

Even when you know which healthy foods to choose, people living on fixed or limited incomes may not be able to buy what’s ideal. Start by deciding how much you can afford to spend on food.

There are a number of resources that can help you plan a food budget. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture supports Iowa State University’s Spend Smart-Eat Smart

program. This website also features more than 100 inexpensive recipes, with nutrition information and cost per serving.

Once you have decided on your budget, look for grocery store advertising in the newspaper or online to see what is on sale. Try to plan some meals around featured items and consider purchasing extra nonperishables such as canned goods when they’re on sale. Use coupons when possible and ask your grocery store staff if they have a senior discount or loyalty rewards program. Consider buying store-brand products, which are often the same as more expensive brand-name ones. Focus on buying healthy and inexpensive produce. Many nutritious fruits and vegetables — such as bananas, apples, oranges, lettuce, green peppers, and carrots — may be reasonably priced.

Problems chewing food?

Do you avoid some foods because they are hard to chew? People who have problems with their teeth or dentures often avoid eating meat, fruits, or vegetables and might miss out on important nutrients. If you are having trouble chewing, see your dentist to check for problems. If you wear dentures, the dentist can check the fit.

If food seems to get stuck in your throat or is hard to swallow, it might be that you don’t have enough saliva in your mouth. Or, there may be other reasons, including problems with the muscles or nerves in your throat, problems with your esophagus, or gastroesophageal reflux disease. Talk to your doctor about what might be causing your swallowing issues.

Physical problems making it hard to eat?

Sometimes illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, or arthritis can make it harder to cook or feed yourself. Your doctor might recommend an occupational therapist. The therapist might make a custom splint for your hand, give you special exercises to strengthen your muscles, or suggest rearranging things in your kitchen. Special utensils and plates might make mealtimes easier or help with food preparation.

Food tastes different?

Are foods not as tasty as you remember? It might not be the cook’s fault! Maybe your sense of taste, smell, or both has changed. Growing older, having dental problems, and medication side effects can cause your senses to change. Taste and smell are important for a healthy appetite and eating. Try adding fresh herbs, spices, or lemon juice to your plate.

Smoking and drinking alcohol can also affect your sense of taste. If you smoke, quitting may not only improve your sense of taste and smell, but also your health in many other ways. If you drink alcohol, consider stopping or cutting back.

Some medicines can change how food tastes, make your mouth dry, or reduce your appetite. In turn, some foods can change how certain medicines work. You might have heard that grapefruit juice is a common culprit when used with any of several drugs. Chocolate, licorice, and alcohol are some others. Whenever your doctor prescribes a new drug for you, be sure to ask about any food-drug interactions.

Feeling sad and don’t want to eat?

Being unhappy can cause a loss of appetite. Feeling down every once in a while is normal but if these feelings last a few weeks or months, talk with your doctor. Help and treatment options are available. Read more about depression and older adults.

Just not hungry?

Changes to your body as you age can cause some people to feel full sooner than they did when they were younger. Lack of appetite can also be a side effect of a medicine you are taking. Talk with your doctor about any side effects you may be experiencing. Your doctor may be able to suggest a different drug.

Try to be more active. In addition to all the other benefits of exercise and physical activity, these may make you hungrier. If you aren’t hungry because food just isn’t appealing, there are ways to make it more interesting. Make sure your foods are seasoned well, but not by adding extra salt. Try using lemon juice, vinegar, or herbs to boost the flavor.

Vary the shape, color, and texture of foods you eat. When you go shopping, look for a new vegetable, fruit, or seafood you haven’t tried before or one you haven’t eaten in a while. Some grocery stores have recipe cards near items, or you can ask the staff for suggestions about preparing the new food or find recipes online. Foods that are overcooked tend to have less flavor. Try cooking or steaming your vegetables for a shorter time and see if that gives them a crunch that will help spark your interest.

Food allergies or dietary restrictions?

Some older adults have allergies to certain foods, such as wheat, nuts, or dairy. Others may have dietary restrictions for religious, ethical, or personal reasons. Whatever your dietary needs are, it is still possible to choose healthy foods.

Avoiding dairy? Talk to your health care provider about how to get enough calcium and vitamin D. Even lactose-intolerant people might be able to have small amounts of milk when taken with food. There are also nondairy food sources of calcium, lactose-free milk and milk products, calcium- and vitamin D-fortified foods, and supplements.

Gluten sensitivity or allergy? Check out these resources that explain the different types of gluten sensitivities and allergies and learn how to make smart food choices for each type.

Vegetarian or vegan? Check out these resources for incorporating plant-based protein into your diet.

Visit the National Institute on Aging for more.

10 Tips to Help You Eat and Drink More Dairy Foods

The Dairy Group includes milk, yogurt, cheese, and fortified soymilk. They provide calcium, vitamin D, potassium, protein, and other nutrients needed for good health throughout life. Choices should be lowfat or fat-free—to cut calories and saturated fat. How much is needed? Older children, teens, and adults need 3 cups* a day, while children 4 to 8 years old need 2ó cups, and children 2 to 3 years old need 2 cups.

Download the PDF for the 10 tips.


TLC: Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes for Healthier Cholesterol

TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) is a set of lifestyle changes that can help you lower your LDL cholesterol. TLC includes:

  • A cholesterol-lowering diet (the TLC diet)
  • Weight management
  • Physical activity

The TLC diet recommends:

  • Limiting the amount of saturated fat, trans-fat, and cholesterol you eat
  • Eating only enough calories to achieve or maintain a healthy weight
  • Increasing the soluble fiber in your diet by eating foods such as oatmeal, kidney beans, and apples
  • Adding cholesterol-lowering foods, such as juices or margarines that contain plant sterols or stanols

Weight management means if you are overweight, losing weight can help lower your LDL cholesterol.

Regular physical activity is recommended for everyone. It can help raise HDL the good cholesterol and it can help lower LDL the bad cholesterol levels.

Learn more about the TLC diet.

Online Health Information: Can You Trust It?

There are thousands of health-related websites on the Internet. Some of the information on these websites is reliable. Some of it is not. Some of the information is current. Some of it is not. Choosing which website to trust is worth thinking about.

How do I find reliable health information online?
As a rule, health websites sponsored by Federal government agencies are good sources of health information. You can reach all Federal websites by visiting Large professional organizations and well-known medical schools may also be good sources of health information.

The main page of a website is called the home page. The home page shows you the features on the website. You should be able to spot the name of the sponsor of the website right away.

Places To Start
There are a few good places to start if you are looking for online health information. An excellent source of reliable information is the National Institutes of Health. You can start here to find information on almost every health topic, including:

In addition, you can visit the National Library of Medicine’s Medline Plus for dependable information on more than 700 health-related topics.

You can also visit National Institute on Aging—a website with health information designed specifically for older people.

What questions should I ask?
As you search online, you are likely to find websites for many health agencies and organizations that are not well-known. By answering the following questions you should be able to find more information about these websites. A lot of these details can be found under the heading, “About Us” or “Contact Us.”

  1. Who sponsors the website? Can you easily identify the sponsor?
    Websites cost money—is the funding source readily apparent? Sometimes the website address itself may help—for identifies a government agency
    .edu identifies an educational institution
    .org identifies professional organizations (e.g., scientific or research societies, advocacy groups)
    .com identifies commercial websites (e.g., businesses, pharmaceutical companies, sometimes hospitals)
  2. Is it obvious how you can reach the sponsor?
    Trustworthy websites will have contact information for you to use. They often have a toll-free telephone number. The website home page should list an e-mail address, phone number, or a mailing address where the sponsor and/or the authors of the information can be reached.
  3. Who wrote the information?
    Authors and contributors should be identified. Their affiliation and any financial interest in the content should also be clear. Be careful about testimonials. Personal stories may be helpful, but medical advice offered in a case history should be considered with a healthy dose of skepticism. There is a big difference between a website developed by a person with a financial interest in a topic versus a website developed using strong scientific evidence. Reliable health information comes from scientific research that has been conducted in government, university, or private laboratories.
  4. Who reviews the information? Does the website have an editorial board?
    Click on the “About Us” page to see if there is an editorial board that checks the information before putting it online. Find out if the editorial board members are experts in the subject you are researching. For example, an advisory board made up of attorneys and accountants is not medically authoritative. Some websites have a section called, “About Our Writers” instead of an editorial policy. Dependable websites will tell you where the health information came from and how it has been reviewed.
  5. When was the information written?
    New research findings can make a difference in making medically smart choices. So, it’s important to find out when the information you are reading was written. Look carefully on the home page to find out when the website was last updated. The date is often found at the bottom of the home page. Remember: older information isn’t useless. Many websites provide older articles so readers can get an historical view of the information.
  6. Is your privacy protected? Does the website clearly state a privacy policy?
    This is important because, sadly, there is fraud on the Internet. Take time to read the website’s policy—if the website says something like, “We share information with companies that can provide you with products,” that’s a sign your information isn’t private. Do not give out your Social Security number. If you are asked for personal information, be sure to find out how the information is being used by contacting the website sponsor by phone, mail, or the “Contact Us” feature on the website. Be careful when buying things on the Internet. Websites without security may not protect your credit card or bank account information. Look for information saying that a website has a “secure server” before purchasing anything online.
  7. Does the website make claims that seem too good to be true? Are quick, miraculous cures promised?
    Be careful of claims that any one remedy will cure a lot of different illnesses. Be skeptical of sensational writing or dramatic cures. Make sure you can find other websites with the same information. Don’t be fooled by a long list of links—any website can link to another, so no endorsement can be implied from a shared link. Take the “too good to be true” test—information that sounds unbelievable probably is unbelievable.

A Final Note
Use your common sense and good judgment when evaluating health information online. There are websites on nearly every conceivable health topic and no rules overseeing the quality of the information. Take a deep breath and think a bit before acting on any health information you find on the web. Don’t count on any one website. If possible, check with several sources to confirm the accuracy of your results. And remember to talk with your doctor.

Source: National Institute on Aging; Online Health Information: Can You Trust It?

Heart Disease and Exercise for a Healthy Heart

A sedentary (inactive) lifestyle is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. Fortunately, it’s a risk factor that you can do something about. Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, has many benefits. It can:

  • Strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system
  • Improve your circulation and help your body use oxygen better
  • Improve your heart failure symptoms
  • Increase energy levels so you can do more activities without becoming tired or short of breath
  • Increase endurance
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve muscle tone and strength
  • Improve balance and joint flexibility
  • Strengthen bones
  • Help reduce body fat and help you reach a healthy weight
  • Help reduce stress, tension, anxiety, and depression
  • Boost self-image and self-esteem
  • Improve sleep
  • Make you feel more relaxed and rested
  • Make you look fit and feel healthy

How Do I Start Exercising?

Always check with your doctor first before starting an exercise program. Your doctor can help you find a program that matches your level of fitness and physical condition. Here are some questions to ask:

  • How much exercise can I do each day?
  • How often can I exercise each week?
  • What type of exercise should I do?
  • What type of activities should I avoid?
  • Should I take my medication(s) at a certain time around my exercise schedule?
  • Do I have to take my pulse while exercising?

What Type of Exercise Is Best?

Exercise can be divided into three basic types:

  • Stretching or the slow lengthening of the muscles; stretching the arms and legs before and after exercising helps prepare the muscles for activity and helps prevent injury and muscle strain. Regular stretching also increases your range of motion and flexibility.
  • Cardiovascular or aerobic is steady physical activity using large muscle groups. This type of exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and improves the body’s ability to use oxygen. Aerobic exercise has the most benefits for your heart. Over time, aerobic exercise can help decrease your heart rate and blood pressure and improve your breathing (since your heart won’t have to work as hard during exercise).
  • Strengthening exercises are repeated muscle contractions (tightening) until the muscle becomes tired. For people with heart failure, many strengthening exercises are not recommended.

What Are Examples of Aerobic Exercises?

Aerobic exercises include: walking, jogging, jumping rope, bicycling (stationary or outdoor), cross-country skiing, skating, rowing, and low-impact aerobics or water aerobics.

How Often Should I Exercise?

In general, to achieve maximum benefits, you should gradually work up to an aerobic session lasting 20 to 30 minutes, at least three to four times a week. Initially, exercising every other day will help you start a regular aerobic exercise schedule. The American Heart Association recommends working up to exercising on most days of the week. While the more exercise you can do the better, any amount of exercise is beneficial to your health.

What Should I Include in an Exercise Program?

Every exercise session should include a warm-up, conditioning phase, and a cool-down.

  • Warm-up. This helps your body adjust slowly from rest to exercise. A warm-up reduces the stress on your heart and muscles, slowly increases your breathing, circulation (heart rate), and body temperature. It also helps improve flexibility and reduce muscle soreness. The best warm-up includes stretching, range of motion activities, and the beginning of the activity at a low intensity level.
  • Conditioning. This follows the warm-up. During the conditioning phase, the benefits of exercise are gained and calories are burned. Be sure to monitor the intensity of the activity (check your heart rate). Don’t overdo it.
  • Cool-down. This is the last phase of your exercise session. It allows your body to gradually recover from the conditioning phase. Your heart rate and blood pressure will return to near resting values. Cool-down does not mean to sit down! In fact, do not sit, stand still, or lie down right after exercise. This may cause you to feel dizzy or lightheaded or have heart palpitations (fluttering in your chest). The best cool-down is to slowly decrease the intensity of your activity. You may also do some of the same stretching activities you did in the warm-up phase.

What Is the Rated Perceived Exertion Scale?

The Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale is used to measure the intensity of your exercise. The RPE scale runs from 0-10. The numbers below relate to phrases used to rate how easy or difficult you find an activity. For example, 0 (nothing at all) would be how you feel when sitting in a chair; 10 (very, very heavy) would be how you feel at the end of an exercise stress test or after a very difficult activity.

Rated Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale

0Nothing at all
0.5Just noticeable
1Very light
4Somewhat heavy
7-9Very heavy
10Very, very heavy

In most cases, you should exercise at a level that feels 3 (moderate) to 4 (somewhat heavy). When using this rating scale, remember to include feelings of shortness of breath, as well as how tired you feel in your legs and overall.

How Can I Avoid Overdoing Exercise?

Here are a few guidelines:

  • Gradually increase your activity level, especially if you have not been exercising regularly.
  • Wait at least one and a half hours after eating a meal before exercising.
  • When drinking liquids during exercise, remember to follow your fluid restriction guidelines.
  • Take time to include a five-minute warm-up, including stretching exercises, before any aerobic activity and include a five- to 10-minute cool-down after the activity. Stretching can be done while standing or sitting.
  • Exercise at a steady pace. Keep a pace that allows you to still talk during the activity.
  • Keep an exercise record.

How Can I Stick With Exercise?

  • Have fun! Choose an activity that you enjoy. You’ll be more likely to stick with an exercise program if you enjoy the activity. Add variety. Develop a group of several different activities to do on alternate days that you can enjoy. Use music to keep you entertained. Here are some questions you can think about before choosing a routine:
  • What physical activities do I enjoy?
  • Do I prefer group or individual activities?
  • What programs best fit my schedule?
  • Do I have physical conditions that limit my choice of exercise?
  • What goals do I have in mind? (For example, losing weight, strengthening muscles, or improving flexibility.)

A few more tips for getting moving:

Schedule exercise into your daily routine. Plan to exercise at the same time every day (such as in the mornings when you have more energy). Add a variety of exercises so that you do not get bored. If you exercise regularly, it will soon become part of your lifestyle.

Find an exercise “buddy.” This will help you stay motivated.

Also, exercise does not have to put a strain on your wallet. Avoid buying expensive equipment or health club memberships unless you are certain you will use them regularly.

Exercise Precautions for People With Heart Disease

  • Call your doctor if changes have been made in your medications before continuing your regular exercise program. New medications can greatly affect your response to activity.
  • If you are too tired and are not sure if it is related to overexertion, ask yourself, “What did I do yesterday?” Try to change your activities by starting out at a lower level today (but do not exercise if you are feeling very overtired). Pace yourself and balance your activities with rest.
  • Avoid heavy lifting, pushing heavy objects, and chores such as raking, shoveling, mowing, and scrubbing. Chores around the house may sometimes be tiring, so ask for help.
  • Ask your doctor if you can participate in these activities: weightlifting, weight machines, jogging, or swimming.
  • Avoid push-ups, sit-ups, and isometric exercises. Isometric exercises involve straining muscles against other muscles or an immovable object.
  • Avoid even short periods of bed rest after exercise since it reduces exercise tolerance. If you become overly fatigued or short of breath with exercise, take a rest period in a comfortable chair.
  • Avoid exercising outdoors when it is too cold, hot, or humid. High humidity may cause you to become fatigued more quickly and extreme temperatures can interfere with your circulation, make breathing difficult and can cause chest pain. Instead, try indoor activities such as mall walking.
  • Avoid extremely hot and cold showers or sauna baths after exercise.
  • Do not go up steep hills during your activity, whenever possible. If you must walk on a hilly area, slow your walking pace when going uphill to avoid working too hard. Watch your heart rate closely and change the activity as needed.
  • Reduce your activity level if your exercise program has been interrupted for a few days (for example, due to illness, vacation, or bad weather). Then, gradually increase to your regular activity level as tolerated.
  • Do not exercise if you are not feeling well or have a fever. Wait a few days after all symptoms disappear before starting your exercise program, unless your doctor gives you other directions.
  • If you are short of breath during any activity or have increased fatigue, slow down your activity level or rest. Keep your feet raised or elevated when resting. If you continue to have shortness of breath, call your doctor. Your doctor may make changes in your medications, diet, or fluid restrictions.
  • If you develop a rapid or irregular heartbeat or have heart palpitations, rest. Check your pulse after you rest for 15 minutes — if your pulse is still above 120-150 beats per minute, call your doctor for further instructions.
  • Do not ignore pain. If you have chest pain or pain anywhere else in your body, do not continue the activity. If you perform an activity while you are in pain, you may cause stress or damage on your joints. Ask your doctor or physical therapist for specific guidelines. Learn to “read” your body and know when you need to stop an activity.

Exercise Warning

Stop exercising and rest if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness or light headedness
  • Unexplained swelling (call your doctor right away)
  • Pressure or pain in your chest, neck, arm, jaw, or shoulder or any other symptoms that cause concern

Call your doctor if these symptoms do not go away.

Source: WebMD; Heart Disease and Exercise for a Healthy Heart

15 Tips to Lower Your Cholesterol

Has your doctor said you have high cholesterol? Then you know you need to change your diet and lifestyle to lower cholesterol and your risk of heart disease. Even if your doctor prescribed a cholesterol drug to bring levels down, you’ll still need to change your diet and become more active for heart health. These simple tips can help you keep cholesterol levels in check.

Cholesterol, Good and Bad

Your body needs a small amount of cholesterol to function properly. But we may get too much saturated fat and cholesterol in our diet, and both raise levels of LDL “bad” cholesterol. LDL cholesterol can cause plaque to build up in arteries, leading to heart disease. HDL “good” cholesterol, on the other hand, helps clear bad cholesterol from your blood. You want to lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol, starting with your diet.

15 Ways to Healthier Cholesterol Levels

Portion Control: Lend a Hand

Many Americans eat supersized meals, with portions that are twice the size recommended for good health. That can contribute to weight gain and high cholesterol. Here’s an easy way to practice portion control for a meal: Use your hand. One serving of meat or fish is about what fits in the palm of your hand. One serving of fresh fruit is about the size of your fist. And a serving of cooked vegetables, rice, or pasta should fit in your cupped hand.

Choose Heart-Healthy Food

Load your plate with fruits and vegetables—five to nine servings a day—to help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol. Antioxidants in these foods may provide the benefit. Or it may be that when we eat more fruits and veggies, we eat less fatty foods. Either way, you’ll also help lower blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight. Foods enriched with plant sterols, such as some margarine spreads, yogurts, and other foods, can also help lower LDL cholesterol.


A heart-healthy diet has fish on the menu twice a week. Why? Fish is low in saturated fat and high in healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help lower levels of triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood. They may also help lower cholesterol, slowing the growth of plaque in arteries. Go for fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, and sardines. Just don’t drop the fillets in the deep fryer—you’ll undo the health benefits.

Whole Grains

A bowl of oatmeal or other whole-grain cereal has benefits that last all day. The fiber and complex carbohydrates in whole grains help you feel fuller for longer, so you’ll be less tempted to overeat at lunch. They also help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and can help you lose weight. Other examples of whole grains include wild rice, popcorn, brown rice, and barley.


Need a snack? A handful of nuts is a tasty treat that helps in lowering cholesterol. Nuts are high in monounsaturated fat, which lowers LDL “bad” cholesterol while leaving HDL “good” cholesterol intact. Several studies show that people who eat about an ounce of nuts a day are less likely to get heart disease. Nuts are high in fat and calories, so eat only a handful. And make sure they’re not covered in sugar or chocolate.

Prioritize Unsaturated Fats

We all need a little fat in our diet—about 25% to 35% of our daily calories. But the type of fat matters. Unsaturated fats—like those found in canola, olive, and safflower oils—help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol levels and may help raise HDL “good” cholesterol. Saturated fats—like those found in butter and palm oil—and trans fats raise LDL cholesterol. Even good fats have calories, so eat in moderation.

More Beans, Fewer Potatoes

ou need carbohydrates for energy, but some do your body more good than others. Beans, and whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat, have more fiber and raise sugar levels less. These help lower cholesterol and keep you feeling full longer. Other carbs, like those found in white bread, white potatoes, white rice, and pastries, boost blood sugar levels more quickly, leading you to feel hungry sooner, and may make you more likely to overeat.

Get Active

Even 30 minutes of physical activity 5 days a week (or 20 minutes three times a week for vigorous exercise, such as jogging) can help lower LDL cholesterol and raise HDL cholesterol. More exercise is even better. Being active also helps you reach and keep a healthy weight, cutting your chance of developing clogged arteries. You don’t have to exercise for 30 minutes straight. You can break it up into 10-minute sessions.

Walk It Off

If you’re not used to exercising or don’t want to go to a gym, take a walk. It’s easy, healthy, and all you need is a good pair of shoes. Aerobic exercise (“cardio”) such as brisk walking lowers risk of stroke and heart disease, helps you lose weight, and keeps bones strong. If you’re just starting out, try a 10-minute walk and gradually build up from there.

Work Out Without Going to the Gym

You can exercise anywhere. Gardening, dancing, or walking your dog counts. Even housework can qualify as exercise, if it gets your heart rate up.

Take Charge of Your Health

If you have high cholesterol, you and your doctor may be using a number of strategies to lower cholesterol levels. You may be working on your diet, losing weight, exercising more, and taking cholesterol drugs. There are other actions you can take, too, to make sure you stay on the right track.

Eating Out Responsibly

If you’re eating healthy food at home to keep cholesterol in check, keep it up when you eat out. Restaurant food can be loaded with saturated fat, calories, and sodium. Even healthy choices may come in supersize portions. Use these tips to stay on track:

  • Choose broiled, baked, steamed, and grilled foods—not fried.
  • Get sauces on the side.
  • Practice portion control by asking for half your meal to be boxed up before it’s brought out.

Check the Label

A close look at nutrition labels is key for a low-cholesterol, heart-healthy diet.

Check serving sizes. The nutrition info may look good, but does the package contain two servings instead of one?
If it says “whole grain,” read the ingredients. Whole wheat or whole grain should be the first one.
Note the saturated fat and cholesterol. Are they within your diet’s limits?

Don’t Stress Out

Chronic stress can raise blood pressure, adding to your risk of atherosclerosis, which happens when plaque from cholesterol builds up in arteries. And research shows that for some people, stress might directly raise cholesterol levels. Lower your stress levels with relaxation exercises, meditation, or biofeedback. Focus on your breathing, and take deep, refreshing breaths. It’s a simple stress buster you can do anywhere.

When Losing Means Winning

Losing weight is one of the best things you can do to help prevent heart disease. Extra pounds make you more likely to get high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. These all affect the lining of your arteries, making them more likely to collect plaque from cholesterol. Losing weight—especially belly fat—helps raise HDL “good” cholesterol and reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol.

Follow Your Doctor’s Advice

Managing your cholesterol is a lifelong process. See your doctor regularly to keep tabs on your health. Follow your doctor’s recommendations on diet, exercise, and medication. Working together, you and your doctor can lower your cholesterol levels and keep your heart going strong.

Source: WebMD; Tips for Lowering Your Cholesterol

The New Low-Cholesterol Diet: Oats and Oat Bran

Is there magic in oats?

Oats have a lot going for them. Not only is it a great way to start the day, but research suggests they can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels without lowering your good HDL cholesterol. The same goes for oat bran, which is in some cereals, bread, cakes, pastries and other products.

How do oats help?

Oats are full of soluble fiber, which research suggests has an impact on LDL levels. Experts aren’t exactly sure how, but they have some ideas. When you digest fiber, it becomes gooey. Researchers think that when it’s in your intestines, it sticks to cholesterol and stops it being absorbed. So instead of cholesterol getting into your system, and your arteries, you simply get rid of it as waste.

What’s the evidence?

There’s plenty of evidence that eating oats helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

In the UK, an extensive review of the benefits of eating oats was carried out by public health nutritionist Dr Carrie Ruxton and published in the British Food Journal in 2008. The British Cardiovascular Society reported the research in which the author analysed 21 studies and found that regular consumption of oats can help to lower LDL cholesterol levels by nearly one-fifth. Dr Ruxton was quoted saying, “What this review shows is that a wide range of oat-containing products such as breakfast cereals, bread, cereal bars and oatcakes have the capacity to lower blood cholesterol”.

Some studies have shown that oats, when combined with certain other foods, can have a big impact on cholesterol levels. In a 2005 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers tested cholesterol-lowering drugs against some foods in a group of 34 adults with high cholesterol. Oat products were among the chosen foods. The results were striking. The diet lowered cholesterol levels about as well as cholesterol medicines.

Getting oats into your diet

It’s fairly simple to build oats into your meal plan. Start with the obvious: enjoy oatmeal in the morning.

“Oats make a filling, healthy breakfast”, says dietitian Ruth Frechman. She suggests that you add bananas or walnuts. If you’re not keen on oatmeal, perhaps try a cold cereal that’s made from oat bran.

But oats aren’t only for breakfast. Ground oats can be added to any food, like soups and casseroles. You can also add it to many baking recipes. For instance, try swapping one-third of the flour in recipes with fine or medium oats.

Remember that not everything with “oatmeal” in the name will be good for you. For instance some oat biscuits might contain very little oats but lots of fat and sugar, so always read the label to see how much soluble fiber the product contains.

How much do you need?

Most adults should get at least 25g of fiber a day. On average most people in eat only about 12g of fiber a day. So you should aim to double or triple your intake by consciously adding soluble fiber to foods.

There are 2g of soluble fiber in 85g (3oz) of oats. It may be a bit much for breakfast, so just add in oats or oat bran to dishes at other times of the day.

Source: WebMD; The new low-cholesterol diet: Oats and oat bran by R. Morgan Griffin

Spring into Action

Spring, when the days get longer and the temperatures rise. In addition to all of the wonderful fruits and vegetables spring provides, warmer weather gives us the chance to get out of the house and enjoy the benefits of physical activity.

With a balanced eating plan, exercise is important both for losing weight and maintaining your overall health. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommend adults engage in a minimum of 2 ½ hours each week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity a week.

With planning, you can easily fit 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic activity into your routine most days of the week.

Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities:

  • Walking (3 mph)
  • Water aerobics
  • Bicycling (less than 10 mph)
  • Tennis (doubles)
  • Ballroom dancing

Examples of vigorous-intensity activities:

  • Race-walking, jogging, running
  • Swimming laps
  • Bicycling (faster than 10 mph)
  • Tennis (singles)
  • Aerobic dancing

To increase your levels of aerobic activity, first decide which activities you enjoy and look at your daily schedule to see where you can fit in these activities. If you’re starting from little or no daily physical activity, begin with five to 10 minutes per day. Increase your duration every week by 10-minute increments until you’re up to 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. For maximum cardiovascular health, try to engage in all your aerobic activity at one time. But if your schedule doesn’t permit it, you can break up the physical activity throughout the day.

As you develop your physical activity plan, remember nutrition is fundamental to your peak physical performance. To put in your best effort, you need carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. If you’re highly active, you may need slightly more of some nutrients. Whatever your level of activity, maximize your performance by consuming a wide variety of foods and adequate calories.

Source:; Spring into Action

Steps to Boost Digestive Health

Fiber for constipation
When it comes to tackling constipation, it doesn’t have to be prune juice. There are plenty of other delicious, natural solutions to help keep you regular. Fill up with fiber-rich foods like cherries, peppers, beans, wholegrains, lentils, and nuts to help the digestive process. Fiber may have other health benefits too, including staving off weight gain, heart disease, blood sugar swings.

Weight loss and heartburn
Fatty foods and rising levels of obesity have been linked to the rise in heartburn cases. Carrying extra weight can worsen digestive issues like heartburn and some research suggests that obese and overweight men and women who suffer from heartburn may get relief by losing some weight. A healthy diet and regular exercise are a critical part of any weight loss program. Check with your doctor to ensure any new weight loss plan is right for you.

Eat less to beat bloating
A simple step to curb the discomfort of bloating, indigestion, and heartburn is to eat a small amount often. You can also eat smaller, more frequent meals more slowly – to avoid overloading your digestive system. Getting into a routine with smaller meals may also gradually reduce your stomach volume – making you feel full when eating less.

Fluids for constipation
Fueling your digestive system with plenty of fluids helps remove waste and curb constipation. Water and juices work well, along with foods that have a high water content, such as salad. Drinking plenty is especially important if you are increasing your fiber intake in order to counteract constipation. Talk to your doctor about how much fluid is right for you but the general recommendation is about 1.2 litres a day or 6-8 glasses.

Exercise for bloating
Staying active is excellent for your digestive health. Taking a brisk 20 – 30 minute walk, 4 times a week, can improve your bowel function and reduce bloating. Exercise, along with sufficient hydration, keeps things moving and helps eliminate waste. Exercise is also an excellent reliever of stress that can be a key trigger of digestive problems.

Friendly bacteria
Probiotics are often referred to as “friendly bacteria”. They are microorganisms that are similar to helpful bacteria found in the body.They occur naturally in fermented foods like some yogurts and may be added to juices, snacks and supplements. Some research suggests that probiotics may help stomach upsets, such as diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). However, more research is needed and it’s unclear what type of probiotics may help and the dose needed.

Stress and your digestive system
Stress is a well known trigger of tummy trouble. Intense emotional states can cause chemical changes that interfere with the normal working of your digestive system. Stress management is important to help avoid aggravating problems like IBS or indigestion. Exercise, relaxation techniques like massage or meditation, and getting plenty of sleep can all help keep stress under control.

Foods for tummy trouble
What you eat is obviously one of the most important factors in your digestive health. Avoid, or severely limit, foods that trigger unpleasant symptoms such as wind, bloating, constipation or diarrhea. Foods like beans, fizzy drinks, and fatty or fried foods, can all result in excess wind. Also go easy with acidic choices like grapefruit juice, coffee, tea or foods loaded with spices, in order to reduce the risk of heartburn and tummy ache.

Heartburn and smoking
If you smoke – you increase your risk of more than 50 serious health conditions – and your digestive system is not immune from the effects. Smoking can weaken the valve at the end of the oesophagus triggering acid reflux and heartburn. Smokers also have a higher risk of a number of gastrointestinal cancers as well as peptic ulcers and Crohn’s disease. See your doctor, pharmacist, or clinic for help to quit now – for the good of your gut.

Drinking and stomach problems
Regularly drinking more than the recommended daily limit for alcohol compromises your health – including the health of your digestive tract. Drinking too much hinders your ability to absorb important nutrients, and can increase stomach acid secretion which can damage the lining of the stomach. Excess alcohol also increases your risk of constipation, diarrhea, heartburn and liver problems, as well as esophageal cancer.

Mindful eating for wind
Rushing your food causes you to swallow air, triggering burping or wind. Taking time to be mindful of what you eat, and slowing the pace at which you eat, will help you reduce gulping air into your digestive system. Slow down and chew each bite thoroughly. Avoid sweets or chewing gum if you find they cause you to swallow air.

Salt and bloating
People tend to have too much salt in their diet – and just a little bit can leave you bloated. It’s recommended that adults eat no more than 6 grams of salt a day. Salty foods include chips, soups, ketchup and even breakfast cereal, so check the labels – especially on processed food. Avoid adding more salt to meals and when cooking. Add flavor with alternatives like pepper and other herbs and spices.

Kitchen hygiene
Tummy trouble like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting can be caused by lack of attention to food hygiene resulting in food-born illnesses. Abide by the basic rules and ensure foods are cooked and stored at the correct temperatures. Separate meat and vegetable chopping boards.

Lactose intolerance
Lactose intolerance – the inability to digest the natural sugar in milk – can cause painful symptoms including nausea, cramps, wind, bloating, or diarrhea. Culprits include milk, cheese, ice cream and other dairy foods. The treatment is to avoid triggers, or reduce intake to a level that alleviates symptoms. There are also a variety of lactose-free foods from soy milks, yogurts, and cheeses to milks made from rice, oats, quinoa, almonds, and more.

When to seek medical advice
Most digestive problems are not serious and can be treated easily but when pain or discomfort disrupt your everyday life, it’s time to get medical help. Symptoms that are a cause for concern include pain, persistent bloating, difficulty breathing or swallowing, fever, inability to keep food down, blood in vomit or stools, or unexplained weight loss. Severe abdominal discomfort may indicate a number of conditions including food poisoning, appendicitis, Crohn’s disease, ulcers, or IBS.

Source: Web MD; Steps to boost digestive health slideshow

Health Benefits and Culinary Uses of Mushrooms

Healthy, versatile mushrooms are an excellent addition to your plate. Mushrooms impart a fifth taste sense called umami, which is savory. Hearty meat-like mushrooms are an economical and nutritious way to enhance any meal.

Mushrooms are low in calories (one cup of raw sliced mushrooms has about 20 calories) and high in vitamins and minerals. A source of potassium, mushrooms can provide selenium and copper, depending on the variety. They have three B-complex vitamins: riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, which help release energy from the fat, protein and carbohydrates in food.

Mushrooms also can be excellent sources of vitamin D if they have been exposed to ultraviolet light right before or after harvesting. Mushrooms provide plenty of opportunity in the kitchen. This is one vegetable you’re better off cooking as it releases more of the nutrients. Try grilling, stir-frying and sautéing to limit fat.

Choose mushrooms with a firm texture, even color and tightly closed caps. They can be refrigerated in a paper bag for up to one week, but they’re best used within a few days. Before preparing them, brush mushrooms off with your finger then rinse and pat dry with a paper towel (do not soak them). Some mushrooms, like shiitakes, should have their stems trimmed before cooking.

There are more than 2,000 varieties of edible mushrooms in all shapes, sizes and textures, but never eat mushrooms in the wild that you don’t know are safe — some are poisonous.

Agaricus (White or Button)
White button are the most common and least expensive mushrooms to appear on grocery store shelves. They have a mild taste and can be used in just about anything from salads to sauces. Button mushroom flavor intensifies when cooked, making them ideal for sautéing and grilling.

One of the most commonly harvested mushrooms in the Pacific Northwest, chanterelles are funnel- or trumpet-shaped mushrooms with a fruity, apricot-like aroma and mild, peppery taste. Most are yellow or orange. Chanterelles pair well with herbs like chives and tarragon, are delicious sautéed or roasted and are a good substitute for pricier morel mushrooms.

Crimini (Italian Brown)
Crimini look similar to the white button, but are a little darker in color and have an earthier, stronger taste. They’re actually a young portabella and are sometimes called “baby bellas.” Criminis are good eaten raw, roasted or sautéed. Pair with garlic, thyme or balsamic vinegar for the best flavor.

Enoki or Enokitak
Enoki mushrooms are often used in Asian cuisine (particularly soups). They are long stemmed, white and have a delicate flavor and a slight crunch. Trim off the root end of the cluster and separate the mushrooms before serving. Enokis add crunch to salads and sandwiches, and mild flavor to soups and stir-fries.

Its honeycomb-like shape and intense, deep woods flavor add to the morel mystique. Varying in color from light yellow to dark brown, fresh morels are available (and hunted) in spring and summer. Accessible year-round, dried morels are full of flavor and much less expensive than the fresh variety. Cook before eating by sautéing, stuffing or simmering morels to create flavorful sauces.

Oyster mushrooms are smooth, trumpet-shaped and have a light flavor. Though the color fades when cooked, oyster mushrooms can be yellow, pink or blue. Oyster mushrooms pair well with fish, seafood, poultry and red meat and are delicious simply sautéed or roasted whole.

Porcini mushrooms are reddish brown in appearance. Porcinis are some of the most sought-after wild mushrooms for their distinct earthy, nutty flavor. Less expensive dried porcini can be reconstituted and used to add robust flavor to sauces, soups, stews and stuffing. Try them in a classic Italian risotto.

A grown-up crimini, portabellas are large, firm and have a meaty taste and texture. With its steak-like texture, grilled portabellas make a satisfying vegan “burger.” Sauté, broil or roast portabellas and enjoy in fajitas, as a pizza topping or chopped into a hearty ragout. To prevent discoloration, remove the black gills before sautéing.

Shiitake mushrooms were originally cultivated in China and Japan. Like portabellas, shiitakes have a meaty texture. Cooking brings out their earthy, smoky flavor. With the tough stem removed, try shiitakes sautéed or add to stir-fries, soups or pasta dishes. For more intense flavor, try dried shiitakes in your recipes.

Source:; Mushrooms: Taste of the Earth

Is it Okay to Exercise if I Have a Cold?

Mild to moderate physical activity is usually OK if you have a garden-variety cold and no fever. Exercise may even help you feel better by opening your nasal passages and temporarily relieving nasal congestion.

As a general guide for exercise and illness, consider this:

  • Exercise is usually OK if your symptoms are all “above the neck.” These signs and symptoms include those you may have with a common cold, such as runny nose, nasal congestion, sneezing or minor sore throat.Consider reducing the intensity and length of your workout. Instead of going for a run, take a walk, for example.
  • Don’t exercise if your signs and symptoms are “below the neck,” such as chest congestion, hacking cough or upset stomach.
  • Don’t exercise if you have a fever, fatigue or widespread muscle aches.

Let your body be your guide. If you have a cold and feel miserable, take a break. Scaling back or taking a few days off from exercise when you’re sick shouldn’t affect your performance. Resume your normal workout routine gradually as you begin to feel better. And check with your doctor if you aren’t sure if it’s OK to exercise.

Remember, if you do choose to exercise when you’re sick, then reduce the intensity and length of your workout. If you attempt to exercise at your normal intensity when you have more than a simple cold, you could risk more serious injury or illness.

Source: Mayo Clinic; Is it OK to exercise if I have a cold? Answers from Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.

Healthy Food Imposters—Don’t Be Fooled

Some foods that we think are healthy can be sneaky little diet wreckers. Nutritionist Leslie Bonci shares a few of these “food frauds” – starting with Caesar salad.

Food Fraud: Caesar Salad
Just a small bowl can serve up 300-400 calories and 30 grams of fat, thanks to loads of dressing.

FOOD FIX: Leave out the croutons; limit dressing to one tablespoon; and enjoy two tablespoons of tangy Parmesan cheese.

Food fraud: Fresh smoothies
That ‘healthy’ berry blend at a smoothie bar or café is likely to have a whopping 80 grams of sugar, 350 calories, no protein and often no fresh fruit. Vitamin-poor fruit “concentrates” are commonly used instead of more expensive fresh fruit. And sorbet, ice cream, and sweeteners can make these no better than a milkshake.

FOOD FIX: Order the ‘small’ cup. Ask for fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, milk, or protein powder to blend in good nutrition.

Food fraud: Energy bars
Many of these are simply enhanced sweets with more calories (up to 500) and a higher price tag. Their compact size also leaves many people unsatisfied. “Three bites and it’s gone”, says Bonci, who advises hungry athletes and dancers.

FOOD FIX: Choose bars that have 200 calories or less, at least five grams of fiber, and some protein, which helps provide energy when the sugar rush fades.

Food fraud? A sugar-free dilemma
Sugar-free foods sound like a no-brainer for weight loss, but a problem arises when we choose artificially sweetened food or drink, then feel that we deserve a large order of fries or a large dessert. Upsizing the chips adds nearly 300 calories to your meal. If your calorie intake exceeds what you burn off, you’ll still gain weight – and you can’t blame the sugar-free foods.

FOOD FIX: Watch your total calorie intake.

Food fraud: Enhanced water
Vitamins are commonly added to bottled water and are advertised on the front label. Some brands also add sugar, taking water from zero calories to as much as 125. “Often the vitamins don’t contribute much”, Bonci says, “but the calories can contribute a lot”.

FOOD FIX: Keeping tap water in the fridge may make it more appealing to the family. As an alternative, try adding a low-calorie squash or cordial to add flavor without calories.

Food fraud: Semi-skimmed milk
Semi-skimmed milk sounds healthier than ‘whole’ or ‘full fat’ milk, but it still has almost half the saturated fat as whole milk. Here’s what’s in a 200ml glass of milk:

  • Whole Milk (3.5%) = 136 cal, 8g fat, 5.2g sat. fat
  • Semi-skimmed (1.7%) = 95 cal, 3.5g fat, 2.3g sat. fat
  • Skimmed = (0.1%) 70 cal, 0.62g fat, 0.2g sat. fat

FOOD FIX: If your family likes whole milk, mix it with semi-skimmed for a while, then skimmed. In time, they’ll come to like the lower fat taste.

Food fraud: Breakfast muffins
Muffins masquerade as a healthy choice for breakfast. Although they may beat doughnuts, they’re still mainly sugary little cakes of refined flour. One shop-bought muffin can hit 500 calories with 11 teaspoons of sugar.

FOOD FIX: Choose muffins no larger than 6cm (2½ inches) in diameter, or look for low-calorie muffins. Smaller portions limit calories and some brands are a surprisingly good source of whole grains and fiber.

Food fraud: Low-fat granola
The low-fat version of this crunchy cereal has only 10% fewer calories and is still full of sugar. Plus, the low-fat label can easily lead you to overeat. One study found that people ate 49% more granola when they thought it was low fat – easily wiping out the measly 10% calorie savings.

FOOD FIX: Look for low-sugar, wholegrain cereal, and sweeten it with fresh fruit.

Food fraud: Low-fat yogurt
Too often this nutritional superstar – rich in protein and calcium – contains shocking amounts of added sugar. Some brands add 30 or more grams of fructose, sucrose, or other sweeteners.

FOOD FIX: A 170g (6 oz) container should have 90-130 calories and no more than 20g of sugar. Avoid the sugary “fruit on the bottom”, or try blending sweetened yogurt with plain, fat-free yogurt.

Food fraud: Multigrain
When you see ‘multigrain’ on bread, pasta, or waffles, turn the package over and check the nutrition label. Even with more than one type of grain, the product could be made largely from refined grains – such as white flour – which have been stripped of fiber and many nutrients.

FOOD FIX: Look for ‘100% wholegrain’ as the first ingredient, or choose the brand with more fiber.

Food fraud: Light olive oil
Anything labeled ‘light’ is enticing when you’re watching your weight, but often the food is not what you expect. Light olive oil, for instance, has the same calorie and fat content as other types – it’s just lighter in color and taste.

FOOD FIX: Some light foods do provide significant calorie savings. Compare the labels in the supermarket.

Food fraud: Omega-3 fortified foods
Some labels on yogurt, milk, eggs, cereal, and other foods boast of added omega-3. However, most don’t contain the kinds of omega-3 best known to help your heart – EPA and DHA. Or they contain only a smidgen – about as much as in one bite of salmon. Instead, the foods contain ALA, which comes from vegetable sources. It’s not clear if omega-3 from ALA is as beneficial as DHA/EPA.

FOOD FIX: Try a serving of salmon. It has 100 times more omega-3 than is in a serving of fortified yogurt.

Food fraud: Microwave popcorn
The word ‘snack’ can be a little misleading on microwave popcorn. Some pack 9 grams of bad fat which includes 6 grams of trans fat into each ‘snack size’ bag.

FOOD FIX: Compare nutrition labels and get a lower-fat popcorn that has no trans fat at all. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese or low-salt spice blends for added flavor without a lot of fat.

 Food fraud: Iceberg lettuce
This popular lettuce is big on crunch but a big ‘zero’ when it comes to vitamins and flavor. Its boring taste leads many people to overdo it on the dressing.

FOOD FIX: Add spinach or arugula to the mix. Crumble two tbsp. (100 calories) of blue cheese or feta on top. Then splash the salad with a little oil and vinegar to spread flavor without a lot of calories.

Food fraud: Salty toppings
Processed artichoke hearts, chickpeas, and olives are just a few of the salt shockers lurking on the salad bar. To avoid an unhealthy amount of salt, limit anything that comes out of a tin. Also, say ‘no’ to cured meats. Choose beans or tuna, but not both.

FOOD FIX: Radishes, bell peppers, cucumbers, broccoli, and other fresh vegetables are low in salt. At home, rinse canned beans to remove a lot of the salt.

Food fraud: Coleslaw
Cabbage can be great for weight loss, but coleslaw can be a diet disaster. A restaurant 130g serving can have 260 calories and 21 grams of fat – a third of most people’s daily limit – thanks to copious mayonnaise.

FOOD FIX: Some places offer a healthier coleslaw, so ask for nutrition information. At home, try low-fat mayonnaise or mix with fat-free yogurt.

Food fraud: Banana chips
Deep-fried bananas are probably not what the doctor was thinking of when she told you to eat more fruit and veg. These don’t look greasy, but just one ounce can have 145 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 8 grams of saturated fat – about the same as a fast food burger.

FOOD FIX: Try a fresh banana: four times more food, 0 grams of fat, all for about 100 calories.

For more healthy food switches: Eat This, Not That

The Debate Over Sugary Drinks

In an attempt to reverse the obesity epidemic, lawmakers and health officials across the nation are considering new laws and taxes.

Legislation in California calls for the nation’s first warning labels on sugary drinks. A soda tax is being debated in Illinois, and New York City’s 2012 efforts to ban large sodas is now before the state’s highest court. Meanwhile, a tax on sugar-sweetened drinks was enacted in Mexico, which has the world’s highest death rates from sugary drinks.

Americans drink about 45 gallons of sugary beverages a year, a veritable bathtub full of products linked to health problems, including obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.

“Sugar-sweetened beverages are the No. 1 source of added sugar in American diets,” said Dr. Goutham Rao, chairman of the American Heart Association’s Obesity Committee, vice chair of the department of family medicine at the University of Chicago and associate director of the Center for Clinical Research Informatics of the NorthShore University Health System. “While obesity is complex and has many causes, discouraging sugar-sweetened beverage consumption is a simple, single behavior that can have a positive impact.”

The American Heart Association supports taxes, based on the scientific evidence about the health issues related to sugary drinks. Adults who down a sugary soda a day increase their likelihood of being overweight by 27 percent. Kids with the same habit more than double their risk to 55 percent. Research shows that a soda or two a day increases the risk of diabetes by 26 percent. Worldwide, sugary drinks are linked to more than 180,000 obesity-related deaths each year.

Despite those figures, efforts to do something about it have struggled. More than 30 states and cities have tried to pass soda taxes without success in recent years.

But in California, Democratic state Sen. Bill Monning, who introduced the bill in the nation’s most populated state, said lawmakers have a responsibility to protect citizens. “As with tobacco and alcohol warnings, this legislation will give Californians essential information they need to make healthier choices,” he said when introducing the bill earlier this month.

The measure would place a warning on drink containers with added sweeteners that have 75 or more calories per 12 ounces. The warning, developed by nutrition experts, reads: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.”

In Illinois, a case of soda could get a $2.88 price hike if the Healthy Eating and Active Living Act passes. The legislation, introduced Feb. 19, would add a penny-per-ounce excise tax on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in sealed containers and be the first of its kind in the country.

The Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity predicts that the tax would reduce obesity in kids by 9.3 percent and adults by 5.2 percent, and save more than $150 million in obesity-related health care costs in a year. Similar taxes on tobacco were found to be effective in reducing smoking.

John Sicher, editor and publisher of the trade publication Beverage Digest, said the obesity problem in America is undeniable, but that sweetened beverages are getting too much of the blame. He also was critical of the measures proposed in California and Illinois, saying they won’t work or are unfair.

“Anybody who denies there is an obesity crisis in America has their heads deeply in the sand and the beverage industry does not deny that,” he said. “What I believe is that some of the proposed solutions are unfair to people with lesser means and are not going be effective.”

Soda taxes are regressive and would disproportionately affect lower-income people, he said. Sicher also said the California effort to add warning labels would really add nothing because the ingredients are already on the labels.

Regardless of whether these measures pass, from a public-health standpoint it’s crucial that everyone understands the harm these beverages can have.

Bridget Williams, a Chicago-area registered nurse and an American Heart Association volunteer, is the mother of two teenage boys who knows it can be tough to keep the treats out of the grocery cart.

“We all know that is difficult in a culture of fast food and sugar-sweetened beverage consumption,” she said. “But we can no longer ignore the devastating effects obesity has on a person’s life from healthcare and quality-of-life perspectives.”

For more information:
Voices for Healthy Kids
Sugar-sweetened beverage tax policy brief

Source: American Heart Association, Soda debate bubbling across the country

What is Exergaming?

Exergaming is defined as technology-driven physical activities, such as video game play, that requires participants to be physically active or exercise in order to play the game. These games require the user to apply full body motion to participate in virtual sports, in group fitness exercise or other interactive physical activities. The concept behind Exergaming takes the passion for gaming and turns what was once considered a sedentary behavior into a potentially more active and healthy activity.

What are the benefits of exergaming?

  • It is fun and enhances enjoyment of exercise..
  • It allows for social interaction as multiple players can participate at one time.
  • It allows participants to make individual choices when playing the self-paced game.
  • It uses the video game motivation to allow participants to play their favorite games while being active.

Learn more about exergaming (PDF)

Source: American College of Sports Medicine; Exergaming

Energy Drinks & Food Bars: Power or Hype?

Energy drinks and nutrition bars often make big promises. Some say they’ll increase energy and alertness, others offer extra nutrition, and some even claim to boost your athletic performance or powers of concentration.

But once you cut through the hype and look past the flashy packaging on energy products, chances are what you’re mostly getting is a stiff dose of sugar and caffeine.

Make Smart Choices

With so much going on in our lives, lots of people feel tired and run down. And many of us find ourselves skipping a meal sometimes. So it’s not surprising that nutrition, protein, and energy drinks and food bars have flooded the market, offering the convenience of energy on the go.

Sometimes, this can be good news — like for the person who doesn’t have time for breakfast. Food bars will never beat a well-balanced meal or snack when it comes to meeting our nutrition needs. But many of them do contain more nutrients than a candy bar or a bag of chips. But just because a product contains vitamins and minerals does not automatically mean it is good for you.

Know the Downsides

Here are some facts to keep in mind when it comes to food bars or energy drinks:

They contain excessive sugar and calories. Did you know that some energy bars and drinks contain hundreds of calories? That may be OK for athletes who burn lots of calories in high-intensity activities, like competitive cycling. But for many teens the extra sugar and calories just contribute to weight gain, not to mention tooth decay.

Energy drinks are often full of caffeine. Caffeine may be legal, but it is a stimulant drug. It can cause side effects like jitteriness, upset stomach, headaches, and sleep problems — all of which drag you down, not power you up! Large amounts of caffeine can have even more serious side effects (including fast or irregular heartbeats, high blood pressure, hallucinations, and seizures), especially for people who have certain medical conditions or who take medications or supplements. Energy drinks are not the same as sports drinks. They should not be used to rehydrate because they contain so much caffeine.

Food bars don’t make good meal replacements. You never really see someone eat an energy bar for dinner and then sit back with a satisfied grin. Nothing beats a real meal for both that well-fed feeling and the nutritional satisfaction your body needs.

Although many nutrition bars have vitamins and minerals added, they can’t give you all the different nutrients your body needs to grow, develop, play sports, and handle all the other stuff on your schedule. The only way to get that is through eating a balanced diet and not skipping meals.

They may contain mysterious ingredients. In addition to caffeine and sugar, some brands of energy drinks and food bars can have ingredients whose safety and effectiveness haven’t been tested — things like guarana (a source of caffeine) and taurine (an amino acid thought to enhance caffeine’s effect). Some contain herbal supplements that are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), such as ginseng.

These kinds of ingredients may cause problems, especially for people who are taking certain medications or have a health condition. So play it safe. Always check the label carefully before you eat or drink any kind of energy supplement.

They’re expensive. Though energy bars and drinks are everywhere these days, they don’t come cheap. At about $3 a pop, you can get a better (and cheaper) energy boost by eating a whole-wheat bagel with cream cheese. And you can get better hydration by drinking 8 ounces of tap water. Other on-the-go foods that provide plenty of nutritional bang for the buck include trail mix, fresh or dried fruits, and whole-grain cereals.

Cutting Through the Hype

There’s some clever marketing behind energy bars and drinks, and you’ve got to be a pretty savvy consumer to see through it. So be critical when reading labels. As with everything, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

These products aren’t the healthy choices the advertising hype makes them out to be. According to experts, kids and teens should not drink energy drinks because of concerns about their safety and their effect on health. The truth is, the best energy boost comes from healthy living. People who eat well, drink water, and get enough physical activity and sleep will have plenty of energy — the natural way.

powers of concentration.

But once you cut through the hype and look past the flashy packaging on energy products, chances are what you’re mostly getting is a stiff dose of sugar and caffeine.

So should you eat or drink these products? The occasional energy drink is probably OK, and a protein bar in the morning is a better choice than not getting any breakfast at all. But people who have about three or four energy drinks and a couple of protein bars every day are overdoing it.

Source: Children’s Minnesota

Rainbow Fruit Salad

Good as a side dish or dessert, this salad made from fresh fruit is naturally low in fat, saturated fat, and sodium and is cholesterol-free.


Fruit Salad

  • 1 large mango, peeled and diced
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 2 bananas, sliced
  • 2 cups fresh strawberries, halved
  • 2 cups seedless grapes
  • 2 nectarines, unpeeled and sliced
  • 1 kiwi, peeled and sliced

Honey Orange Sause

  •  1/3 cup unsweetened orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Dash nutmeg


  1.   Prepare the fruit
  2. Combine all the ingredients for the sauce and mix
  3. Just before serving, pour honey orange sauce over the fruit
  4. Serving size is 1 4-ounce cup, 12 servings per recipe

Source:; Recipes

Super Tracker Tips for the Food Groups

If you are looking for quick tips (suitable for sharing on social media) or reminders you can use to jumpstart a healthy diet… you’ve come to the right place! Check out the shortlist of tips for each food group below and download Super Tracker Tips for more great ideas!


  • Add sweetness to your whole-grain cereals with fruit.
  • Top cereal with sliced bananas, canned peaches, raisins, or frozen fruit!
  • Use up leftover whole-grain bread or crackers as bulk in a meatloaf (or meat-less loaf). Check online for recipes.
  • Need a snack? Try a whole-grain snack chip, such as baked tortilla chips.
  • 1 medium-sized muffin is about 2.5 oz of grain. Do you know how many ounces of grain you need each day?
  • What do whole grains do for you? Whole grains provide many nutrients that are vital for the health and maintenance of our bodies.


  • Grill vegetable kabobs as part of a barbecue meal. Try tomatoes, mushrooms, green peppers, and onions.
  • Did you know there are over 100 varieties of squash? Check online for a new recipe today.
  • Try vegetables like asparagus, zucchini, squash, and artichokes to use in different dishes.
  • Can you name four different ways you like to eat tomatoes? Try something new and healthy like tomato pie recipe.
  • Rather than buying a vegetable pizza from a restaurant or a store, try sprucing up a cheese pizza with your favorite vegetables.
  • Don’t know what to do with leftovers? Puree roasted vegetables with chicken stock to make a hearty and flavorful soup.
  • Need a snack? Have a glass of low-sodium vegetable juice and a few whole-wheat crackers to take away the hunger pangs.
  • Tip for eating out: Share entrées with a friend. Have one person order a meat dish, and the other order a vegetable dish or a large salad.


  • Instead of butter and syrup, top pancakes with unsweetened applesauce and a sprinkle of powdered sugar.
  • For dessert, have a baked apple or a pear, or browse online for another healthy fruit dessert idea.
  • Use fruit in your holiday stuffing–try apples, cranberries, raisins, or prunes. Check online for recipes.
  • For an easy breakfast or snack on the go, try a fruit smoothie with frozen peaches, berries, and low-fat yogurt.
  • Choose fruit! Ask for fruit, like sliced apples, a fruit cup, or 100% fruit juice at a fast food restaurant instead of fried foods.

Protein Foods

  • Top your salad with a hard-cooked egg to add protein and other nutrients.
  • Be food safe! Cook whole cuts of beef, lamb, veal, and pork to 145°F. Let meat rest for at least 3 minutes before carving or eating.
  • Meat contains protein, iron, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin E, and B Vitamins. For less fat, go with lean cuts.
  • For an easy supper–slow cook skinned chicken pieces, veggies, and seasonings in reduced-sodium chicken broth.
  • Roasted pork tenderloin goes well with fruit. Serve with a fruit salad or a fruit salsa.
    Chicken and white bean chili is a tasty way to combine protein foods with a great flavor and bounty of nutrients.
  • For car trips, pack a mixture of unsalted nuts, seeds, and dried fruit for a crunchy, protein-packed snack.


  • Instead of high-fat pasta sauces like alfredo, try part-skim ricotta mixed with pesto for a creamy sauce.
  • To get calcium at lunch, use low-fat cheese on your sandwich.
  • Whole milk and regular cheese are higher in saturated fat. Low-fat or fat-free versions have the calcium without the fat.
  • Calcium is a nutrient of public health concern. You can meet your calcium needs by drinking fat-free milk or eating low-fat yogurt.
  • Use low-fat milk to make bread pudding. Check online for recipes.

SuperTracker Tips for the 5 Food Groups (PDF)

For more information visit:

Chic Penne

Note: Get a grownup’s help with this recipe, which requires using the oven/stove.

Prep time: 55 minutes


  • 1 box whole-wheat penne pasta (14 ounces)
  • 3 cups of raw broccoli florettes
  • ¾ cup of precooked chicken strips (4 ounces)
  • ½ cup reduced-fat cheddar cheese, shredded (2 ounces)
  • ½ cup mozzarella cheese, shredded (2 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons skim milk (1.5 oz)
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium chicken broth
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon ground black pepper


  1.  Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Cook pasta according to directions until crisp-tender. Drain pasta.
  3. Place drained pasta in a 13×9 baking dish.
  4. Place broccoli in a stockpot of boiling water or a steamer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Rinse with cool water.
  6. Add the drained broccoli and the precooked chicken strips to the pasta.
  7. Sprinkle shredded cheeses over pasta mixture.
  8. In a mixing bowl, combine milk, chicken broth, salt, and pepper.
  9. Pour milk mixture evenly over the pasta mixture and mix in with a spoon.
  10. Cover baking dish with foil.
  11. Bake 30 minutes, until mixture is bubbly and cheese is melted.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD

Source: KidsHealth; Chic’ Penne

Happy Healthy Eating

Eating is an important part of our lives. The healthy foods we eat help our body to grow, run, walk, think, move, sleep, and fight off germs. But did you know that some foods can actually hurt our bodies? Here are some tips on how to make sure you are getting enough of the foods your body needs to do its job well:

Eat the rainbow: A fun and tasty way to make sure you are eating enough fruits and vegetables is to eat as many different colors as you can at each meal. For example, some carrots, blueberries, and red bell peppers are all different colors and are all good for your body. Help your parents the next time you go grocery shopping to pick out the most colorful fruits and vegetables. How many can you find?

In the cafeteria: There are many options to choose from in the lunch line at school, some of them are healthier than others. Try to choose fruits and vegetables instead of French fries or chips and ask for grilled meat instead of fried. When it comes to something to drink grab some water or fat-free milk instead of soda or juice. It may be hard to make these changes, especially if your friend’s aren’t, but you will be keeping your body healthy and will feel much better!

Snack Attack: After a long day at school or an afternoon of playing your tummy may be telling you it’s time to eat. But before you reach for that bag of chips, consider choosing one of these healthier options instead:

  • Instead of soda or juice, grab some water or fat-free milk
  • Instead of chips or crackers, grab a piece of fruit or veggie sticks
  • Instead of cookies or cake, grab a sugar free ice pop or unsweetened, fat-free yogurt

By making healthy food choices you will feel better and play better. So start making healthy choices today!

Find more Healthy and Easy Lunch Ideas for Kids

Understanding Calories

“That’s loaded with calories!”

“Are you counting your calories?”

When people talk about the calories in food, what do they mean? A calorie is a unit of measurement — but it doesn’t measure weight or length. A calorie is a unit of energy. When you hear something contains 100 calories, it’s a way of describing how much energy your body could get from eating or drinking it.

Are Calories Bad for You?

Calories aren’t bad for you. Your body needs calories for energy. But eating too many calories — and not burning enough of them off through activity — can lead to weight gain.

Most foods and drinks contain calories. Some foods, such as lettuce, contain few calories (1 cup of shredded lettuce has less than 10 calories). Other foods, like peanuts, contain a lot of calories (½ cup of peanuts has 427 calories).

You can find out how many calories are in a food by looking at the nutrition facts label. The label also will describe the components of the food — how many grams of carbohydrate, protein, and fat it contains.

Here’s how many calories are in 1 gram of each:

  • carbohydrate — 4 calories
  • protein — 4 calories
  • fat — 9 calories

That means if you know how many grams of each one are in a food, you can calculate the total calories. You would multiply the number of grams by the number of calories in a gram of that food component. For example, if a serving of potato chips (about 20 chips) has 10 grams of fat, 90 calories are from fat. That’s 10 grams x 9 calories per gram.

Some people watch their calories if they are trying to lose weight. Most kids don’t need to do this, but all kids can benefit from eating a healthy, balanced diet that includes the right number of calories — not too many, not too few. But how do you know how many calories you need?

How Many Calories Do Kids Need?

Kids come in all sizes and each person’s body burns energy (calories) at different rates, so there isn’t one perfect number of calories that a kid should eat. But there is a recommended range for most school-age kids: 1,600 to 2,200 per day.

When they reach puberty, girls need more calories than before but they tend to need fewer calories than boys. As boys enter puberty, they may need as many as 2,500 to 3,000 calories per day, especially if they are very active. But whether they are girls or boys, kids who are active and move around a lot will need more calories than kids who don’t.

Most kids don’t have to worry about not getting enough calories because the body — and feelings of hunger — help regulate how many calories a person eats. But kids with certain medical problems may need to make sure they eat enough calories. Kids with cystic fibrosis, for instance, have to eat high-calorie foods because their bodies have trouble absorbing the nutrients and energy from food.

Kids who are overweight might have to make sure they don’t eat too many calories. (Only your doctor can say if you are overweight, so check with him or her if you’re concerned. And never go on a diet without talking to your doctor!)

If you eat more calories than your body needs, the leftover calories are converted to fat. Too much fat can lead to health problems. Often, kids who are overweight can start by avoiding high-calorie foods, such as sugary sodas, candy, and fast food, and by eating a healthy, balanced diet. Exercising and playing are really important, too, because activity burns calories.

How the Body Uses Calories

Some people mistakenly believe they have to burn off all the calories they eat or they will gain weight. This isn’t true. Your body needs some calories just to operate — to keep your heart beating and your lungs breathing. As a kid, your body also needs calories from a variety of foods to grow and develop. And you burn off some calories without even thinking about it — by walking your dog or making your bed.

But it is a great idea to play and be active for at least 1 hour and up to several hours a day. That means time spent playing sports, just running around outside, or riding your bike. It all adds up. Being active every day keeps your body strong and can help you maintain a healthy weight.

Watching TV and playing video games won’t burn many calories at all, which is why you should try to limit those activities to 1 to 2 hours per day. A person burns only about 1 calorie per minute while watching TV, about the same as sleeping!

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: September 2013

Source: KidsHealth; Learning About Calories

Fun Fruit Kabobs

Getting kids to eat healthy snacks can be a challenge. Being creative with the presentation can help! Try these kabobs for a quick and easy snack:

Prep time: 15 minutes

What You Need

  • 1 apple
  • 1 banana
  • 1/3 cup red seedless grapes
  • 1/3 cup green seedless grapes
  • 2/3 cup pineapple chunks
  • 1 cup nonfat yogurt
  • 1/4 cup dried coconut, shredded

Equipment and Supplies

  •  Knife (you’ll need help from your adult assistant)
  • 2 wooden skewer sticks
  • 1 large plate

What to Do

  1.  Wash the apple, banana, grapes, and pineapple and cut into small 1-inch chunks.
  2. Spread the shredded coconut onto a large plate.
  3. Slide the cut pieces of fruit onto the skewer in desired pattern until skewer is full.
  4. Hold your kabob at the end and roll it in the yogurt, so the fruit get’s covered.
  5. Then, roll the kabob in the shredded coconut.
  6. Repeat until all skewers are full or until the fruit runs out.

Recipe makes 4 servings. 1 serving size equals 1 kabob.

Nutritional Analysis (per serving):

  •  141 calories
  • 3g fat
  • 28g carbohydrates
  • 1mg cholesterol
  • 2g saturated fat
  • 52mg sodium
  • 103 mg calcium
  • 0.5mg iron
  • 3g fiber
  • Note: nutritional analysis may vary depending on ingredient brands used.

For more fun and easy kid-friendly recipes: USDA Recipes for Healthy Kids

How to Safely Play Baseball with Your Kids

Gear Up

All ball players will need a ball, a bat, and a glove. All baseballs are pretty much the same, but bats can be either wooden or aluminum. These days, only the pros use wooden bats full time. Aluminum bats are lighter and easier to handle and don’t break as often. There are a couple of different types of gloves, depending on your field position.

Batter up! All batters should wear a helmet while at the plate and on base to protect the head. For better base running, try wearing baseball cleats instead of sneakers.

What a catch! Catchers have a special set of protective gear that includes a helmet, a mask, shin guards and a chest protector. All of these pieces are very important to protect you if you play behind the plate.

Play it Safe

Wear your protective gear during all practices and games, especially if you’re a catcher — those fast balls can pack a punch! Don’t forget to warm up and stretch before each practice or game. In the infield? Stay behind the base on any throw. You’ll avoid hurting yourself — and the base runner. In the outfield? Avoid bloopers with your teammates by calling every fly ball loudly, even if you think nobody else is close by. And in the batters’ box, wear a batting helmet and use a batting glove to protect your knuckles from those inside pitches. If you think a pitch is going to hit you, turn away from the ball and take it in the back.

Throwing those fastballs can really take a toll, so if you’re a pitcher, make sure to get plenty of rest between games, and don’t pitch more than 4-10 innings per week.

How to Play

Baseball is known as America’s favorite pastime. This sport uses many different skills from pitching, catching, and batting (which require lots of hand-eye coordination), to base running which means going from a standing start to a full sprint. To get started, you just need a bat and a ball!

How to hit the ball.

First, get hold of that bat by stacking your hands on the handle (right hand on top if you’re a righty, left hand on top if you’re a lefty), making sure the curve of the bat is in the middle of your fingers and that your knuckles are in a straight line. Balance on the balls of your feet, with your weight on your back foot, and bend your knees slightly. Your hands should be shoulder height, elbows in, and keep your head in line with your torso, turned toward your front shoulder. As the pitcher throws, step toward the pitch, and swivel toward the ball with your hips, keeping your arms steady as you move toward the ball. Keep your eye on the ball, and complete your swing by pivoting forward and shifting your weight to your front foot, following through with the bat after you hit the ball.

How to throw the ball.

Did you know that throwing the ball accurately requires a little footwork? First, step toward the target with the glove side foot, making sure the toe of your shoe is pointing directly to where you want the ball to go. Aim the leading shoulder at the target. Aim the bill of your hat (the “duckbill”) at the target and throw.

How to catch the ball.

Keep your eye on the pitch and stay low with your feet apart and knees bent so you can move quickly in any direction. Have your glove ready at or below knee level, pocket side out. When scooping up a ground ball, bend down and use both hands to scoop it to the middle of your body so you have it securely.


How does Barry Bonds hit the ball so far? It’s science! When the bat hits the ball, the bat exchanges momentum with the ball and the ball takes off. The faster the bat is swung, the harder it hits the ball and the harder the bat hits the ball, the faster and further the ball goes. So if you want to hit like Barry, pump up those arm muscles and take some practice swings!

Fun Facts

There are exactly 108 stitches on a baseball.

In 1974, girls started playing on Little League teams.

A major league pitcher can throw a baseball up to 95 miles an hour—which takes less than 1/2 second for the ball to cross the plate.

Source: CDC; Baseball Activity Card

Keeping Kids Active: Dog Ball Game

Kids need at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Most of the time can be moderate-intensity aerobic activity– anything that gets their heart beating faster counts. At least 3 days a week, encourage them to step it up to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. Try this game to help build strong muscles and bones:

Use your head and follow your nose to win.

This game is for 4 or more players and should be played in an open area on a soft surface.

To play, you need two balls and two teams. (Rubber playground balls work best.)

First, mark the end of your course, which should be about 15 feet long.

Split into two even teams.

On the word “go,” the first player of each team has to bark, get on her hands and knees and use her nose or forehead to roll the ball to the end of the course, around the marker and back.

When players get back to their team, they tag the next person in line. Every player must bark before they set off.

The first team to finish wins.

For more fun games: PBS Kids

Tips to Get Your Kids Active

Part of a healthy lifestyle is staying physically active.

Doctors say kids your age should be physically active for at least 60 minutes a day. Here are some tips to keep in mind during physical activity:

  1. Physical activity is fun! Being physically active doesn’t have to be a hard or scary thing. Did you know that riding bikes with your friends, jumping rope, playing hopscotch, and running around the park with your friends are all types of physical activity? Any game where you are up and moving are great ways to stay physically active and make your heart, bones, and muscles strong.
  2. Keep it exciting: Ask your friends what their favorite types of physical activity are and make a list of all of them. Make a deal with your friends to try a new activity off the list each week. Who knows, you may learn a new game!
  3. On the playground: Do you sometimes get scared to play a sport with your friends because you think you don’t know how? That’s okay, no one knows how to play every sport. So, the next time your friends start playing a game that you aren’t sure of, ask one of them for help. They will be happy to show you and glad that you are playing with them!
  4. After school: We all have our favorite TV shows and video games, but did you know that too much of those are bad for your health? The more we watch TV or play video games, the less physically active we are. It is okay to do those things some of the time, but no more than 2 hours a day. Ask your parents to help you keep a chart of how long you watch TV or play video games each day and when you come home from school go for a bike ride or shoot some hoops before starting on your homework. Not only will you feel better, but you will think better too!
  5. Warm up before you start. For example, if you’re going to be running, start by walking. Then walk fast, and then speed up to a jog to increase your heart rate. **Fun Fact: A “warm up” is really your muscles “warming up!” When you aren’t active your muscles are cooler and tighter. Make it easier on your muscles by letting them get gradually loose and warmer instead of making them go straight from cold to hot (this is also important after your workout to keep from going from hot to cold too fast).
  6. Stretching after any workout is very important to help prevent injury or strain. **Fun Tip: Pick 2 to 3 of your favorite songs to play while you are stretching and don’t stop stretching until those songs are over. This will help the minutes go by fast and make sure you are stretching long enough.
  7. Water is your friend – the harder and longer you work out, the more you need to hydrate.  **Fun Fact: Did you know that 70% of your body is made of water? Make sure to replace whatever water you sweat out after each workout- your body needs it!
  8. Mix it up and keep it fun! Don’t get stuck in a workout rut. Try and incorporate a new exercise every few weeks to keep you motivated. **Fun Fact: Did you know that your body can get used to an exercise? After a while your same workout won’t have the same effects. Try a lot of different activities and sports to keep your body guessing and to improve your fitness.
  9. Break it up – you don’t have to have 60 minute workouts. As long as your daily physical activity adds up to at least 60 minutes, you are okay.  **Fun Tip: Start a “Workout Log” to track your exercise every day. 20 minutes intervals throughout the day will add up fast- who knows, you may even clock more than 60!

When we are smart about the way we play, our bodies can become healthier, stronger, and faster. Try to use new tip a week to recharge your playtime.

Source: American Heart Association; Hey Kids! Try these tips to Get Active

How to Play Frisbee


Gear Up

Of course the first thing you’ll need is a Frisbee! The most common kinds are made of plastic and come in all sorts of cool colors. If you are planning to play a serious game, or want to play an organized game of Ultimate, you’ll also need cleats or tennis shoes with good tread. Kneepads aren’t a bad idea and are a great way to avoid scratching up your knees.

Play it Safe

When playing a game of Frisbee, just make sure that you don’t throw too hard and always try and stay on your feet while playing. If you are playing a more intense game of Ultimate also make sure to avoid diving for the Frisbee.

It’s important to warm up and stretch before any game. Listen to your body! Don’t play through any pain. If you are injured, wait until you’ve healed before starting to play again. And if you have glasses or braces, wear protective eye or mouth guards.

Whether you’re just tossing the Frisbee with friends or playing a competitive game of Ultimate, make sure to drink plenty off water before, during and after your game. It’s also a good idea to wear sunscreen to keep from burning and bug repellent to keep the bugs where they belong—off of you!

How to Play

Frisbee is a great way to spend time outside on a beautiful day. Just grab your Frisbee and a few friends and you’ve got yourself a game!

One of the best parts about Frisbee is that you probably know more than you think about how to play! Like how to throw a backhand: Just stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, point yourself sideways, place your index finger on the outside rim with your middle finger extended along the top of the Frisbee and your thumb underneath and flick your wrist toward your throwing partner.

A forehanded Frisbee throw is more complicated, but just remember – practice makes perfect! Place your middle finger straight and flat against the inside rim of the Frisbee so that the outer rim is between your thumb and your index finger. If you are right handed, stand sideways with your left shoulder forward, pull your right arm back to your outer thigh, keeping the Frisbee at an angle, and flick your wrist forward, releasing the Frisbee about halfway across your body.

Now that you’ve perfected throwing the Frisbee, you’ve got to learn to catch it. There are two ways to catch a Frisbee. In one, called the “Pancake,” the palms of your hands face each other and are held close to your body. That way, if you can’t catch the Frisbee with your hands, it hits your body, not the ground. Another catch style is called the “Crocodile.” This catch involves holding your arms out in front of your body and clapping your hands together just like a crocodile’s mouth snapping shut.

Once you’ve mastered catching and throwing your Frisbee, grab some friends and organize a game of Ultimate! This is a team sport played on a 70-yard by 40-yard rectangular field with an end zone that stretches 25 yards deep. Two teams of seven people each are needed to play. A team scores when the Frisbee is thrown into the other team’s end zone. Ultimate players referee their own games, making good sportsmanship the most important thing to remember!


If you want to make your Frisbee soar, make sure you put lots of spin on it when you throw. Spinning helps keep the Frisbee from flipping over, which would put an end to your throw. Frisbee designers help you by making the edges thicker than the rest of the Frisbee and by putting tiny ridges on the top to help keep it balanced.

Fun Facts

In the 19th century, a group of New England college students played the first game of Frisbee when they began throwing around old pie tins from the Frisbee Baking Company for fun. Who would have guessed this is how it all got started?

Frisbee ranks number eight on the list of the top ten toys of the 20th century.

The number of Frisbees sold each year is top-secret information. However, estimates are that we buy more Frisbees each year than footballs, baseballs and basketballs combined.

Source: CDC’s BAM! Body and Mind; Frisbee Activity Card

5 Ways Play Can Change Your Day

It doesn’t matter how you move, as long as you’re physically active. Move until you breathe hard or break a sweat and you will be doing great things for your body and physical health. Here are five changes you may start noticing today:

  1. Sleep tight: Being physically active will help you improve your sleep.
    **Fun Fact: Your body and your brain communicate constantly. By being physically active during the day your body can send the “I am tired” message instead of the “I am still awake” message when you are going to bed.  
  2. Improve your mood: Physical activity can give you a better attitude and give you an extra energy boost during the day.
    **Fun Fact: Drinking a caffeinated beverage (like coffee, energy drinks or soda) does give you an energy boost, but it will wear off after only two hours and will usually leave you more tired than you were before. Exercise releases chemicals in your body that will give you an energy boost that lasts all day. So cut the calories of those energy drinks and get your body moving!  
  3. Fuel your brain: Twenty minutes of physical activity before starting your homework can help you unwind from the day and improve your concentration.
    **Fun Tip: Try and schedule your workouts before you sit down to do your homework or keep a basketball or jump rope by your desk for a quick break to regain focus.  
  4. Bond with buddies: Engaging in physical activity with your friends is a great way to bond with your friends and to even make new ones.
    **Fun Tip: Join a community sports team or organize your friends for an after-school game of pick-up. Not only will your workouts be more fun, but your friends will be counting on you to show up helping to make sure you don’t miss your 60 minutes.
  5. Stretch your talent: Make stretching part of your pre- and post- workout sessions. It can help improve your balance which in turn enhances your coordination and athletic performance.
    **Fun Fact: Most sports injuries can be prevented by maintaining flexibility. Ensure your time in the game and not on the bench by stretching every day.

Source: American Heart Association; 5 Ways that Play can Change your Day

April is National Pecan Month

Pecans are designated as a heart-healthy food choice by the American Heart Association. Unroasted and unsalted pecan halves are the best choice for snacking and for use in recipes.  A one ounce serving of 15-20 pecan halves packs a nutritious punch and contains 196 calories, other benefits of pecans include: 

  • Pecans contain more antioxidants than any other nut variety
  • Pecans can help reduce the risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol levels
  • Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals
  • Pecans are a natural, high-quality source of protein and are naturally sodium free
  • One ounce of pecans provides 10% of the recommended Daily Value for fiber

Learn more: American Heart Association

Figuring Out Fat & Calories

From all you hear, you’d think fat and calories are really bad for you. It’s true that many people are eating more fat and calories than they need. But we all require a certain amount of fat and calories in our diets to fuel our growth and activities — everything from solving a math problem to racing up and down the soccer field. So what’s the truth about fat and calories?

What Are Fat and Calories?

A calorie is a unit of energy that measures how much energy food provides to the body. The body needs calories to work as it should.

Dietary fats are nutrients in food that the body uses to build cell membranes, nerve tissue (like the brain), and hormones. Fat in our diet is a source of calories. When you eat more calories than the body uses, the extra energy is stored as body fat. This is the body’s way of thinking ahead: By saving fat for future use, it plans for times when food might be scarce and can use the stored fat as fuel.

Food Labels: Calories

Food labels list calories by the amount in each serving size. Serving sizes differ from one food to the next, so to figure out how many calories you’re eating, you’ll need to do three things:

  1. Look at the serving size.
  2. See how many calories there are in 1 serving.
  3. Multiply the number of calories by the number of servings you’re going to eat.

For example, a bag of cookies may list 3 cookies as a serving size. So if you eat 6 cookies, you are eating 2 servings, not 1. To figure out how many calories those 2 servings contain, you must double the calories in 1 serving.

Low-fat, reduced-fat, light (or lite), and fat-free are common terms you may see on food packages. The U.S. government has strict rules about the use of these phrases: By law, fat-free foods can contain no more than 0.5 grams of fat per serving. Low-fat foods may contain 3 grams of fat or less per serving.

Foods marked reduced fat and light (lite) are a little trickier, and you may need to do some investigating. Light (lite) and reduced-fat foods may still be high in fat. To be labeled light (lite), the food must have 50% less fat or one-third fewer calories per serving than the regular version. Foods labeled reduced-fat must have 25% less fat per serving than the regular version. But if the regular version of a particular food was high in fat to begin with, the reduced-fat version may still be high in fat and may have more added sugar.

4, 4, and . . . 9?

The calories in food come from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats:

  • A gram of carbohydrate has 4 calories.
  • A gram of protein has 4 calories.
  • A gram of fat has 9 calories — more than twice as much as the other two.

That’s why one food with the same serving size as another may have far more calories. A higher-fat food has many more calories than a food that’s low in fat and higher in protein or carbohydrates.

So, the amount of fat in foods can make quite a difference when it comes to total calories in a food.

Not All Fats Are the Same

All types of fat have the same amount of calories, but some fats are better than others. Unsaturated fats are “healthy fats” because they can help lower cholesterol and are good for heart health. They are liquid at room temperature and mostly come from plants.

  • Monounsaturated fat is found in olive, peanut, and canola oil; most nuts; and avocados.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are found in soybean, corn, and sunflower oils. Fish, walnuts, and flax seeds are high in healthy omega-3 polyunsaturated fats.

Saturated fat and trans fat raise blood cholesterol levels and increase a person’s chance of heart disease. Saturated and trans fats are solid at room temperature — like butter, lard, and fat on meat. Saturated fats and trans fats are listed on food labels.

  • Saturated fat comes mostly from animal products, but some plant oils, like palm oil and coconut oil, have saturated fat.
  • Trans fats are often found in packaged baked goods, like pastries, cookies, and crackers, and fried foods. Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is high in trans fats. Hydrogenation is a process that changes liquid oils into a solid form of fat by adding hydrogen. This helps food containing these fats keep for a long time without losing their flavor or going bad.

Fat and Calories in a Healthy Diet

It’s a bad idea to try to avoid fat completely. Fats are an important source of energy and they can help you feel full. Fat in your diet is needed to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Fats should be eaten in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends that people choose healthy unsaturated fats in place of saturated fats and trans fats.

Like fat, you need a certain amount of calories in your diet to fuel your body. Teens come in all sizes and each person’s body burns energy (calories) at different rates, so there isn’t one perfect number of calories that every teen should eat. You don’t need to count calories to keep a healthy weight. Choose a variety of foods to eat, including vegetables and fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and protein foods. Pay attention to when you feel hungry and stop eating when you feel full.

Your body needs calories to operate — to keep your heart beating, your lungs breathing, and your brain thinking. Your muscles use calories to move. Being active every day keeps your body strong and can help you maintain your weight.

Eating more calories than your body needs can lead to being overweight and other health problems. If you are concerned about your weight, speak to your doctor.

Source:; Figuring Out Fat & Calories

Ride Your Bike Safely

May is National Bike Month!

Whether you are biking to school or work, there are so many ways to celebrate the power of the pedal! Here are a few things to keep in mind:

The Basics

Riding bikes is a great way for you to get active. Riding a bike can help you:

  • Get in shape
  • Lose weight
  • Improve your overall health
  • Lower your risk of health conditions like heart disease
  • Save money on gas
  • Protect the environment
  • Explore your community
  • Riding bikes is also a great way to spend time with your family and get active together.

Follow these safety tips every time you ride.

  • Ride a bike that’s the right size for you.
  • Check the brakes before you ride.
  • Always wear a bike helmet.
  • Wear bright colors and reflective tape.
  • Ride in the same direction as cars.
  • A bike crash could send you to the emergency room. The good news is that many bike injuries can be prevented. If you have kids, teach them these safety tips right from the start.

Take Action!

Make safe biking a habit and have a plan!
National Bike Month

Ride a bike that’s the right size for you.

Riders of any age should be able to put one leg on each side of the top bar (tube) of their bike with both feet flat on the ground. Otherwise, the bike isn’t safe to ride.

Check the brakes.

Make sure the brakes are working before you ride.

If you are choosing a bike for a child, choose one that brakes when the rider pedals backwards. Young children’s hands aren’t big enough or strong enough to use hand brakes.

Always wear a bike helmet!

Get in the “helmet habit”—wear a helmet every time and everywhere you ride a bike. A bike helmet is the best way to prevent injury or death from a bike crash.

Make sure your helmet is certified. Look for a sticker on the inside that says “CPSC.” This means it’s been tested for safety.

Bike helmets only protect you if you wear them the right way. Every time you put your helmet on, make sure that:

  • The helmet is flat on the top of your head
  • The helmet is covering the top of your forehead
  • The strap is buckled snugly under your chin

Kids grow quickly—check regularly to make sure their helmets still fit.

Replace your helmet if you crash.

Even if your helmet doesn’t look cracked or damaged, it might not protect you in another crash.

Make sure people can see you easily.

Drivers can have a hard time seeing bike riders, even during the day. Follow these tips to help drivers see you:

  • Wear neon, fluorescent, or other bright colors.
  • Put something on your clothes or bike that reflects light, like reflective tape.

Try to plan ahead so your bike rides are over before it gets dark. If you are going to ride at night:

  • Make sure your bike has reflectors on the front, back, and wheels.
  • Put battery powered lights on your bike. A red light is for the back, and a white light is for the front – just like with cars.

Follow the “rules of the road.”

  • Look both ways before entering the street.
  • Ride in the same direction as the cars.
  • Stop at all stop signs and intersections.
  • Use hand signals to show others what you plan to do next.
    • For a left turn, look behind you, hold your left arm straight out to the side, and turn carefully.
    • For a right turn, hold your left arm out and up in an “L” shape.
  • To signal that you are stopping, hold your left arm out and down in an upside-down “L” shape.

Left TurnRight Turnstop
Use your left hand to make these signals for left turn, right turn, and stop.

Stay alert.

Paying attention to the things around you can help you stay safe.

  • Look for potholes, rocks, wet leaves, or anything that could make you fall.
  • Be aware of cars that are parking or backing up.
  • Listen for traffic and other activity around you. Don’t wear headphones when you ride.
  • If you are riding in bad weather, go slowly.

Source:; Ride Your Bike Safely

Hiking Best-Practices

Gear Up

First, you’ll need a good pair of shoes and thick socks designed for this type of activity. You can start with some sturdy sneakers with thick bottoms. When you begin to take on more difficult trails, try a pair of hiking boots, and make sure they fit! Also, get a backpack or fanny pack to carry all of your hiking supplies. Dress in layers and bring along a waterproof jacket with a hood in case you get caught in the rain. And don’t forget a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses because the higher you hike, the more dangerous the sun’s rays become.

To keep hiking fun, you always need to be prepared to beat problems that could happen while you’re out, like finding the trail if you get lost or stuck in bad weather. Make sure you bring a map of the area you’ll be hiking in and a sturdy compass. Don’t know how to use a compass? Check this out to learn how. You’ll also need to bring plenty of water and extra food, like sports bars or trail mix, in case you have to stay out late and get hungry. The adults on your hike should bring a box of waterproof matches and an Army-style knife. A flashlight and extra batteries will help you find your way if you end up out after dark. Finally, you’ll need to bring a first aid kit, in case someone gets hurt during your hike.

Play it Safe

Prep. Get in shape before you head out on your hike. Try walking around your neighborhood with your pack loaded with five pounds more gear than you’ll actually carry on your hike. If that goes well, plan a short hike to test your abilities on the trail.

Buddies. Take a friend and an adult along on your hike. That way you can look out for each other and you’ll have people to talk to! Also, be sure to let someone who’s not going know where you’ll be hiking and what time you’ll be back.

H2O. Carry lots of water even if you are only planning a short hike. For warm-weather hikes, bring six to eight quarts of water per day. In the cold weather or higher elevations, you can be safe with half that amount. Whenever you are near water, make sure you wet yourself down. Dampen a bandana and wipe your face, neck, and arms or wrap it around your head while you hike.

Blisters and more. To prevent blisters, try spraying your feet with an anti-perspirant before heading out. Bring extra pairs of socks that you can change into if your feet get wet or sweaty — if they aren’t made of cotton, they’ll keep your feet drier. Once you’re on the trail, stop as soon as you feel a “hot spot” on your feet and apply special type of bandage called “moleskin” to the sore area. Also, try using a hiking stick to keep some pressure off of your legs and knees.

Buzz. Don’t get bugged by bugs. Protect yourself from bites and stings by using a bug repellant that includes DEET. Repellents that contain DEET are the most effective, but make sure you rub them on according to the directions. A good rule of thumb from the experts is that kids should use repellents with less than 10% DEET. Get your parents to help you put it on your face so you don’t get it in your mouth or eyes. And wash your hands after you apply it. Remember that stuff that smells good to you smells good to bugs too, so don’t use scented shampoos or lotions before hiking.

Weather watcher. When it’s hot, pick trails that are shaded and run near streams. If you need to hike uphill in the sun, first soak yourself down to stay cool. You can also try wearing a wet bandana around your head or neck. Also, try to stay out of cotton clothes. Keep yourself out of bad weather by checking forecasts before you hike and watching the skies once you’re out on the trail. During lightening storms, head downhill and away from the direction of the storm, and then squat down and keep your head low.

Keep it yummy. To stay healthy on your hike, you’ll need to know how to keep your food and water safe. Remember the four C’s: contain, clean, cook, and chill.

How to Play

Take a hike! No, really, take the time to go hiking. Hiking with your friends or family is a great chance to get outdoors, breathe some fresh air, and get active. It’s easy to get started. Just look for a trail in a national park near you!

For your first day hike (hiking for a day or less without camping overnight), choose a safe, well-marked trail that doesn’t have too many steep climbs. Otherwise, you’ll get tired too early and won’t make it as far as you want to go. Each time you go hiking, try going a little farther and take a slightly steeper trail. Before you know it you’ll be hiking the Appalachian Trail — a 2,167-mile trail that goes all the way from Maine to Georgia!

Fun Facts

  • In the year 2000, 67 million people went hiking.
  • America’s National Parks have more that 12,000 miles of trails.
  • The Appalachian Trail starts in northern Georgia and continues through South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and ends in Maine at Mt. Katahdin, Baxter Peak, Baxter State Park.

Source: CDC; Hiking Activity Card

5 Steps to Loving Exercise

We all know the benefits of regular physical activity—increased energy, better cardiovascular health, reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke and looking more svelte.

But about 80 percent of Americans don’t make exercise a regular habit, and, according to a 2012 American Heart Association website survey, 14 percent say they don’t like exercise.

So how do you overcome an exercise aversion? Mercedes Carnethon, Ph.D., associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, has some tips to help you incorporate exercise into your life—and maybe even learn to like it.

Exercise That Suits You

Find an exercise that best fits your personality, Dr. Carnethon said. If you are social person, do something that engages you socially—take a group exercise class, join a kickball team or walk with a group of friends. Or, if you prefer having time alone, walking or jogging solo might be a better fit for you. Finding a peer groupis the perfect way to connect with others who share your goals, lifestyles, schedules and hobbies.

Try some of these ideas to help you get moving—at home, at work or at play.

Make it a Habit

It can take a little while for something to become a habit, so give yourself the time to create a regular routine. One way is to try to exercise around the same time each day.
“Exercise can become addictive in a positive way,” said Dr. Carnethon, who is also an American Heart Association volunteer. “Once it becomes a habit, you’ll notice when you aren’t doing something.”

Build Exercise Into Your Lifestyle

Be honest with yourself. If you don’t live close to a gym, it may be harder to become a habit for you. Likewise, if you are not a morning person, don’t plan on somehow getting up at the crack of dawn to make a boot camp class.

“The key is building activity into your lifestyle so it is not disruptive,” Dr. Carnethon said.

There are many ways to fit exercise into your life, and it doesn’t mean you have to make a big financial investment.

You can borrow exercise videos from the library or DVR an exercise program. Do weight or resistance training with items around your home (for example, use canned goods as light weights). Walking is great option, as well. The only investment is a good pair of shoes.

Do Bouts of Exercise

It’s OK to break up your physical activity into smaller segments, Dr. Carnethon said. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes a day of exercise most days, but if that sounds overwhelming, try three 10-minute workout sessions.

You could do a quick calisthenics routine when you wake up, take a brief walk after lunch at work and, if you commute with public transportation, get off a stop earlier and walk the rest of the way.

Keep Going

If you miss a day or a workout, don’t worry about it. Everybody struggles once in a while. Just make sure you get back at it the next day.

“It doesn’t take too long to get back on track,” Dr. Carnethon said. “It’s easy to make something a habit again. You will see same benefits before. Any little bit you can fit in will show benefits.”

Source:; 5 Steps to Loving Exercise … Or At Least Not Hating It

Rowing Exercise

Rowing is an efficient and effective low-impact exercise that utilizes the arms, abdomen, back and legs to provide a total body workout. This activity offers the opportunity for a wide range of training, from fat burning and aerobic conditioning to high-intensity anaerobic. The rowing stroke is a smooth, continuous movement. If you have a history of low back pain, special attention must be given to developing proper rowing technique to prevent injury. If you are interested in rowing as a form of exercise:

  • Use a machine that is in good working order
  • Use the proper rowing technique
  • Avoid twisting or excessively stretching the cord
  • Always warm up before your workout and increase the length and intensity of training gradually over weeks and months
  • Never start rowing with maximal effort in a single stroke

Download and read the ASCM’s flyer for more about rowing and rowing machines.

Source: American College of Sports Medicine; Brochures

Strength Training for Older Adults

If you’re interested in feeling stronger, healthier, and more vital, this program is for you. This strength-training program was developed by experts at Tufts University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Growing Stronger is an exercise program based upon sound scientific research involving strengthening exercises—exercises that have been shown to increase the strength of your muscles, maintain the integrity of your bones, and improve your balance, coordination, and mobility. In addition, strength training can help reduce the signs and symptoms of many chronic diseases, including arthritis.

If you’re not physically active now, Growing Stronger will help you make daily activity a regular part of your life by building the essential strength that makes all movement easier and more enjoyable.

Regular physical activity is not only fun and healthy, but scientific evidence strongly shows that it’s safe for almost everyone. And the health benefits far outweigh the risk of injury and sudden heart attacks, two concerns that prevent many people from adding more physical activity to their lives.

However, some people should check with their doctor before they start becoming more physically active. Experts advise that if you have a chronic disease, such as a heart condition, arthritis, diabetes, or high blood pressure, or symptoms that could be due to a chronic disease, it’s important that you’re under the care of a doctor and talk to him or her about the types and amounts of physical activity that are appropriate for you.

Visit the CDC’s website to learn more about the Growing Stronger program, including the following points:

  • Why strength training? The benefits, research and background.
  • Motivation — motivation tips, setting goals and celebrating success.
  • Preparation — safety, equipment needs, scheduling exercise and more.
  • Intensity — how to judge your effort.
  • Progression— when and when not to increase intensity, how and why it’s important.
  • Staying on Track — includes log sheets with motivational and instructional tips. These log sheets will help you accurately monitor your progress in strength training.
  • Exercises — From warmup to cooldown.

Source: CDC; Growing Stronger—Strength Training for Older Adults

Serve Kids Power Foods

If you want your kids to play hard, power them with the right foods. Ideas for power meals and snacks:

  • Start with a breakfast of whole-grain cereal or whole-grain muffins and fruit. Or begin the day with a yogurt and fruit parfait, with whole grain cereal.
  • Pack a breakfast of a bagel, fruit, string cheese, yogurt, juice box and low-fat milk.
  • Pack a snack bag that includes 1-2 of the following: crackers with cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, sliced  fruits and veggies with peanut butter, Greek yogurt dip, fruit, or trail mix. Use a frozen juice or water bottle to keep perishables cold.
  • Offer plenty of water to keep your child hydrated.

Source: Health Day; Health Tip: Serve Kids Power Foods

Community Health Assessment and Group Evaluation (CHANGE) Tool and Action Guide

Community Health Assessment and Group Evaluation (CHANGE) is a data-collection tool and planning resource for community members who want to make their community a healthier one. This tool walks community team members through the assessment process and helps define and prioritize possible areas of improvement. Having this information as a guide, community team members can create sustainable, community-based improvements that address the root causes of chronic diseases and related risk factors. It can be used annually to assess current policy, systems, and environmental change strategies and offer new priorities for future efforts.

Purpose of the CHANGE Tool

The purpose of the CHANGE Tool is to:

  • Identify community strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Identify and understand the status of community health needs.
  • Define improvement areas to guide the community towards population-based strategies that create a healthier environment (e.g., increased physical activity, improved nutrition, reduced tobacco use and exposure, and chronic disease management).
  • Assist with prioritizing community needs and consider appropriate allocation of available resources.

CHANGE Tool Benefits

  • Allows local stakeholders to work together in a collaborative process to survey their community.
  • Offers suggestions and examples of policy, systems, and environmental change strategies.
  • Provides feedback to communities as they institute local-level change for healthy living.

Learn more and get started with CDC’s Community Health Assessment and Group Evaluation (CHANGE) Tool

Recipes for Healthy Kids: Cookbooks for Child Care Centers and Schools

The recipes in this cookbook feature foods both children and adults should consume more of including: dark green and orange vegetables, dry beans and peas, and whole grains. All of these healthy recipes are low in total fat, saturated fat, sugar, and sodium.

With fun names like Porcupine Sliders, Smokin’ Powerhouse Chili, and Squish Squash Lasagna, these kid-tested, kid-approved recipes are sure to please children and be an instant hit!

Free print copies of the cookbooks are available from the USDA to schools and child care centers that participate in Child Nutrition Programs, or you may download a PDF copy.

Monitoring Exercise Intensity Using Your Heart Rate

Why Do You Need to Monitor Your Heart Rate?

You’re huffing and puffing through another aerobic workout, wondering if you’re really doing yourself any good. Are you working too hard or not hard enough?

You look around. The person next to you has barely broken a sweat while the one in front is drenched from head to toe. Well, sweat may not be the best indicator of exercise intensity. For that, we need to look to our hearts.

Heart rates, to be exact. When you exercise, your heart beats faster to meet the demand for more blood and oxygen by the muscles of the body. The more intense the activity, the faster your heart will beat. Therefore, monitoring your heart rate during exercise can be an excellent way to monitor exercise intensity.

For the majority of aerobic enthusiasts, there is a range of exercise intensities that is described as safe and effective for promoting cardiovascular benefits. To determine what range is best for you, you’ll need to be familiar with a few terms.

  1. Maximal heart rate: This number is related to your age. As we grow older, our hearts start to beat a little more slowly. To estimate your maximal heart rate, simply subtract your age from the number 220.
  2. Target heart-rate zone: This is the number of beats per minute (bpm) at which your heart should be beating during aerobic exercise. For most healthy individuals, this range is 50 to 80 percent of your maximal heart rate. So, if your maximal heart rate is 180 bpm, the low end of the range (50 percent) would be 90 bpm, and the high end of the range (80 percent) would be 144 bpm.

What Does the Recommended Heart-Rate Range Mean?

Now that you’ve determined your target heart-rate zone, you need to know how to put that information to good use. These numbers serve as a guideline – an indicator of how hard you should be exercising.

Those just beginning an aerobic program should probably aim for the low end of the zone and pick up the intensity as they become more comfortable with their workouts. Those who are more fit, or are training for competitive events, may want to aim for the higher end of the zone.

Keep in mind that the target heart-rate zone is recommended for individuals without any health problems. Additionally, individuals taking medication that alter the heart rate should consult their physician for recommended exercise intensity.

Where to Monitor?

There are a number of ”sites” used to monitor the pulse rate. Two convenient sites to use are the radial pulse at the base of the thumb of either hand, or the carotid pulse at the side of the neck.

Accurate pulse-count assessment is crucial when monitoring exercise intensity. By using the first two fingers of one hand and locating the artery, a pulse rate can be easily determined.

Immediately after exercise, isolate your pulse and count the number of beats in a 10-second period. To determine the heart rate in beats per minute, multiply the number of beats per 10 seconds by six. For instance, if a 10-second pulse count were 20, then the heart rate would be 120 bpm.

A Final Word About Heart-Rate Monitoring

Remember, your estimated target heart-rate zone is just that – an estimate. If you feel like you are exercising too hard, you probably are. The best advice is to reduce your intensity and find a heart-rate range that works for you.

Source: Ace Fitness; Monitoring Exercise Intensity Using Heart Rate