All posts by Brett Blumenthal

About Brett Blumenthal

Brett Blumenthal is owner of Sheer Balance and bestselling author of 52 Small Changes: One Year to a Happier, Healthier You (January 2012) and Get Real and STOP Dieting! (December 2010). Her next book, A Whole New You: Six Steps to Ignite Change for Your Best Life will be released on December 18, 2012. She regularly speaks at conferences, spas and wellness centers, and consults on topics of health and wellbeing, as well as business strategy. Her writing is regularly featured on popular sites including: Yahoo!, Shine from Yahoo!, Divine Caroline, Intent and Gather. She has also been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Spa Magazine, Stuff Boston, American Fitness, The METRO and Organic Spa Magazine. Brett has appeared on NBC, FOX and CBS, as well as on Martha Stewart’s Whole Living Radio Show – on Sirius Radio, and Magic 106.7, Talk 96.9, and WBZ 1030 in Boston. She is a regular guest on Better Connecticut (WFSB – CBS, Hartford, CT) and MyFox – 25 in Boston. She has 20 years of experience in wellness promotion and almost 10 years experience in management consulting; including branding, change management, and training strategy and development for Fortune 100 companies. Brett has received numerous awards including: Shine from Yahoo! “Woman of the Year;” Divine Caroline’s Love this Site! award; Intent’s Best Healthy Living Site Award; and Healthy Heart from Nature Made. Brett received her MBA from Johnson at Cornell University, where she graduated as a Park Fellow; she also earned her bachelors degree from Cornell University. She is certified by WELCOA (Wellness Council of America) and AFAA (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America).

5 Mindful Dining Lessons from an Italian Bistro

Pizza Salsicce close-up - Tiamo 2 AUD16.90 mediumUpon arriving in Bologna for a conference, I was determined to make every minute count: I checked into my hotel, checked my email, took a quick nap, showered and left for some sightseeing. At this point it was about 3:00pm and lo and behold, it was siesta (an Italian tradition when most businesses shut down for a few hours to ‘rest’).  As a result, I was forced to stop my touristic whirlwind and took my own siesta in one of the few open bistros, choosing to eat dinner early so that I could take advantage of my “Perfect Storm” of jet lag, hunger and nothing to do.

At RosaRose I ate local fare and watched the Fords, or shall I say bicycles and mopeds, go by. As a European, this time off is custom. As an American, however, this is foreign (pardon the pun). But yet, with no cellphone to answer… no laptop on which to type… no internet to distract… you somehow acclimate quite easily. So easily in fact, you quickly find yourself dreaming of this lifestyle as your own.

Although I clearly had other plans for my day, my new agenda was quite appealing and I was in no rush to leave my little Perfect Storm Haven. My storm became a calm: my jet lag seemed to dissipate, my hunger was satisfied and my ‘nothing to do status’ became my very own enjoyable siesta. After a couple of hours, I left recharged and ready for another several hours on the go. Maybe there really was something to this siesta after all!

In Italy, life seems less hectic… more simple. Undeniably, it becomes easy to think of adopting their lifestyle. Turns out, there were several life lessons to be learned during my time in a simple Bolognese Bistro:

  1. Take a Break: We tend to busy ourselves constantly and forget how important it is to take a break, decompress and relax. Being forced to stop and relax because there is NOTHING ELSE to do, gives you an opportunity to really understand how wonderful it is to do nothing.
  2. Eat GOOD Food: This means good in quality and in taste. If the quality is good, there is a good chance it is going to taste good too. The higher the quality of food you eat, the more likely you will eat less. My siesta meal was prosciutto, tomatoes and mozzarella…although a bit higher in fat than I would normally eat, as an appetizer it made me full for the rest of the day!
  3. Drink Just Enough: Often, I feel that many people over indulge in alcohol in the United States. In Europe, drinking is a social aspect of the culture. A glass of red wine with dinner is very normal. That said, you rarely will see binge drinking among locals.
  4. Slow Down: In the United States, especially in coastal cities, I feel that we run at a million miles a minute. Slowing down helps you enjoy more in life. For instance, when eating, don’t scarf…savor every morsel in a slow and purposeful fashion. You’ll feel satisfied on less food.
  5. Love the Ones Your With: During my time at RosaRose, it was apparent that people really enjoyed being together. They were smiling, laughing and chatting up a storm. Even the waitstaff were jovial. Whether it be friends, family or your partner, make time together special and fun.

Have you traveled to Italy or any other place in Europe? Did you have a similar experience? What valuable lessons did you learn from time abroad?

 

Originally published July 2012

How to Get a Good Night Sleep when Traveling

When we travel, whether for business or for pleasure, a hotel stay can make or break our trip.  Traveling in itself can easily throw off our systems, and as a result, getting a good night sleep is crucial to our ability to be productive (as in the case of business travel), to overcome jet lag, to limit stress and ultimately, to stay in balance.

As a frequent traveler, I’m a bit picky about where I crash for the night.  I’ve racked up millions of points on various hotel brands, and as a result, have developed the ‘perfect night sleep‘ checklist:

1. Location, Location, Location: The location of your room is one of the most important aspects to getting a good night sleep.  Why?  Because certain locations will most definitely be noisier than others, easily disturbing you from a deep sleep slumber.

  • Which Floor: When possible, choose the highest floor.  If you can’t get the highest, then try to get on a floor that is a ‘concierge’ or ’suite’ level.  Higher floor levels often have more suites, so the ceiling heights may be taller.  This is good for ‘air-cushioning’ the noise that may come through the ceiling from an above room.  I’ve had my fair share of nights when I was woken up at 2am from loud people getting in from a late night of partying.  Also, avoid the first floor, as it will be the loudest and if you are a female, the least safe.  You always want to be sure that you are at least on the second floor for safety.
  • Where on the Floor: The middle of a guest floor is often the best location, away from the elevators, ice and vending machines, exit stairs and service closets (linens, housekeeping and janitor).  In particular, guest and service elevator machinery is loud and can be heard through the walls of your room.  Further, the ‘Ding’ that lets you know the elevator is arriving on your floor is enough to drive you batty.

2. Renovations: Hotels go through periodic renovations.  When they do, however, they do their renovations in stages.  They usually renovate one floor at a time, which means that the hotel may have newly renovated rooms, as well as old, stinky, worn-out rooms.  Always ask for the most newly renovated, as they will be cleaner, less smelly, and have newer linens, all helping you to feel more comfortable during your stay.

3. No-Smoking Rooms and Hotels: If you are sensitive to smoke, look for hotels that are smoke-free.  Although some hotels have non-smoking floors, there are many smokers who do not abide by these policies, leaving ‘non-smoking’ rooms and floors smokey.  Further, housekeeping staff will do their best to cover up the smell, by over-air-freshening the room, which can often make the smell worse.  Smoke-free hotels, however, see less of this and are often sought after by non-smokers who share your preference.

4. Curtains: Most hotel rooms come with two or three sets of curtains.  ‘Black-out’ curtains, sheers and decorative curtains.  The ‘black-out’ curtains are your sleep time friend.  As their name implies, they black-out your room so that light from outside of the hotel can not infiltrate and disturb your sleep.  Use them.  This will ensure that you won’t be woken up by police car lights, billboards, parking lot lights or an earlier than optimal sunrise time.

5. Do Not Disturb: Unless you get a thrill out of the housekeeper staff finding you in your skivvies, always remember to put out your ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign before you go to bed.  This is especially important when you are on vacation.  More often than not, the housekeeping schedule starts much earlier than your vacation schedule.

6. Alarm Clock & Wake Up Call: Unfortunately, I’ve had both wake up calls and the alarm clock fail.  Both of which can be very unsettling.  Not only does this cause you to over-sleep, but you may very well miss an important meeting or sightseeing tour, all while having an adrenaline hangover that plagues you for the rest of the day.  To ensure your schedule remains on…schedule, call down for a wake up call AND set the alarm.  One of these may fail, but rarely will both.

 

Do you have any tricks of the trade to ensure a good night sleep while traveling?  Have you had any bad experiences when you couldn’t sleep or were woken up, only to not be able to go back to sleep?

Originally Published on Sheerbalance.com – 2009 Copyright

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PHOTO (cc): Flickr / jspad

Originally published in 2010

Craving Salty Food? 3 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Sodium Intake

url-2As a child and teenager, I had a huge sweet tooth and craved sweets often.  As I started exercising, however, my sweet tooth turned savory.  And now, I like to fondly refer to myself as a “salt hound”…craving salty foods most of the time (except after dinner).  For the most part, I’m happy about this: Added sugar has tons of empty calories AND, too much added sugar in your diet is extremely bad for you.  Unfortunately, too much salt consumption is no good either.

Salt, also known as sodium, is essential to our health and well being when consumed in the right amount.  It is instrumental in:

  • Maintaining the right balance of fluids in your body
  • Transmitting nerve impulses
  • Influencing the contraction and relaxation of muscles

Too much sodium, however, can contribute to health problems – namely high blood pressure – which can lead to cardiovascular disease and kidney disease.  As a result, it is best to keep consumption to no more than 1,500 to 2,400 milligrams (mg) a day for healthy adults.  The lower your sodium intake, the more beneficial it is to your blood pressure.

It is important to note that sodium is found in both table salt, and in processed and packaged foods.  Is a matter of fact, much of the salt we consume is found in pre-packaged foods.  So, it is best to watch your intake of both.  In order to lower or minimize consumption, follow these tips:

  1. Read Nutrition Labels: Salt comes in many forms and it is important to understand the different ways it can be listed on ingredient lists.  MSG, baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, and sodium nitrate all represent sodium. Further, choose foods that tend to represent less than 15% of your total daily intake of sodium.
  2. Purchasing Foods: When possible, choose fresh, whole foods.  Whole foods do not contain any added salt or sodium.  If, however,  you do purchase foods that are canned, processed or packaged, always look for low-sodium or low-salt options. Also, try to cut out pre-mixed or prepared foods such as sauces, frozen pizzas, frozen dinners, frozen foods in general…as they all tend to be high in sodium.
    Here are some specifics:

    • Vegetables: When buying veggies, make sure to buy them fresh as much as possible.  If you do buy your vegetables frozen, make sure to check the ingredients for any sodium or salt.
    • Meats: Whenever possible, buy only fresh meat, fish or poultry. Processed and canned meats tend to have a lot of salt or sodium. Also, avoid cured and smoked meats.
    • Cold-Cuts: Cold-cuts are notorious for being high in sodium or salt.  If you purchase cold-cuts always opt for those varieties that are low in sodium.
    • Canned Soups: Buy and consume canned soups, broths or bouillon sparingly.  Try making your own.
    • Nuts: Avoid salted nuts and instead, opt for those that are unsalted.
    • Salad Dressings and Condiments: Many condiments and dressings are high in sodium.  Some of the worst offenders include soy sauce, teriyaki, barbecue and ketchup.As a result, try making your own or using those that are lower in sodium.
  3. Cooking:

Remember, you can retrain your taste buds.  Cutting out salt, little by little will allow you to get used to the flavor of having less salt and as a result, will help your body crave less salt.

Do you know how much salt and sodium you are getting in your diet?  Have you tried cutting back?

Originally published in 2010

How to Look Young for Life

youngEver wonder if your healthy habits will really pay off?  Ever think that a lot of what we hear from the press and media, moreover science, is just a lot of hoopla?  Ever look in the mirror and wonder if you weren’t healthy, if you would look any different?  As we get older, we become hypersensitive to our aging process…questioning our lifestyle, our environment and even our gene pool.  Which of these factors are really aging us, or if we are healthy, keeping us young?  Today, my doubts were extinguished.

Walking home, I met two women in their late 40s who are identical twins.  Although they technically looked alike, one twin looked significantly older…I’d guesstimate about 10 years older.  I came to find out that the older looking twin smoked.  Huh.  Remarkably similar genes…similar environment (they live minutes away from one another)…but very different lifestyles.

These twins were living proof…this was as close as you could get to seeing the impact of lifestyle on the aging process.  Intrigued, I did some research to find out if there were any studies done to document this phenomenon.  Surely enough, there have been.

In a study called Factors Contributing to the Facial Aging of Identical Twins, a team of doctors from the Department of Plastic Surgery at Case Western Reserve University studied the effects of lifestyle and environment on the facial aging process of 186 sets of twins.  Although the study looked at multiple factors in lifestyle and environment, smoking and sun exposure were extremely significant to the aging process.  Specifically, here are the results:

  1. Smoking: For those pairs of twins where one twin smoked and one didn’t, the minimum perceived age difference among the twins were 5 years.  For every ten years of smoking, the twin who smoked looked approximately 2 ½ years older in appearance.  Why is this so? Smoking causes blood vessels to constrict, resulting in decreased blood flow to skin.  Further, it depletes the body of Vitamin C, which is key for keeping skin plump and moist.This in turn causes capillaries to become permanently damaged, increased dryness and skin dehydration due to a diuretic effect, a grayish complexion and lastly, an increase in wrinkles, including crows feet.
  2. Sun Exposure: Increased sun exposure was associated with an older appearance, especially as the twins got older. Those twins with outdoor hobbies such as golf and tennis had a perceived older appearance, while those who used skin protection (sunscreen) led to a younger appearance.  Why is this so? High amounts of sun exposure breaks down skin’s structural tissues (collagen and elastin).  As a result, skin looks mottled, freckles become more permanent, and skin becomes dried out, leathery, wrinkled and saggy.Ok, great.  So now we have living proof of these bad boys and their effects on your skin.  But guess what, there are other lifestyle choices that can affect the aging process.  Here are eight more enemies of your skin:
  3. Alcohol: Alcohol dilates small blood vessels, increasing blood flow near the skin’s surface. This can cause the skin to look wrinkled, red and flushed.  What you can do: Try to limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage per day.
  4. Caffeine: Caffeine can cause water loss from your body and skin, resulting in a lack of plumpness.  What you can do: Make sure you drink plenty of water and limit intake to 300 mg a day.
  5. Extreme Weather: Exposure to cold winds and low temperatures or extreme dry heat can dehydrate your skin, leading to wrinkles and roughness.  What you can do: Use a good moisturizer and a humidifier if you are in an especially dry climate.
  6. Eating Disorders: Depriving your body of important nutrients, vitamins and minerals required for proper cell turnover and growth can cause skin to become dry and thin.  Further, hair and nails can become brittle and thin.  What you can do: Make sure you are eating enough calories so that your metabolism stays high and your body is properly nourished.
  7. Lack of Sleep: Not enough sleep deprives your body of needed rest and doesn’t allow skin to regenerate.  You’ll look and feel tired, develop dark circles and bags under your eyes and your skin will become saggy.  What you can do: Get at least 7 1/2 hours of sleep a night, if not more.
  8. Stress: Stress and worry cause frowning, and over time muscles in the face actually conform to that movement, developing lines and wrinkles.  What you can do: Monitor your stress levels throughout the day and find healthy ways to release the stress you feel through breathing and relaxation techniques.
  9. Refined Sugars and Low-Protein in Your Diet: Refined sugar and carbohydrates can disturb collagen production, resulting in wrinkles and sagging skin.  Further, spikes in your insulin levels can cause excess amounts of secreted oils, resulting in acne and breakouts.  What you can do: Focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables for your carbohydrates and a minimum of 20% of your calories from lean proteins.
  10. Saturated Fats or VERY Low-Fat Diets: Saturated fats (butter, cream and high-fat dairy) can cause skin to age and become more wrinkled.  However, not having enough healthy fats can harm the oil barrier of your skin, which protects from fluid loss and infection. Too little fat can result in Eczema, Dermatitis (inflammation of skin) and Acne. What you can do: Make sure you eat a well balanced diet that incorporates healthy fats, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates.

As we get older, our lifestyle choices become even more important…especially when it comes to the aging process and looking and feeling our best.  Have you witnessed anything like the twin phenomenon?  Have you made a lifestyle change that has helped you to ‘reverse’ or slow the signs of aging?

Originally published in 2010

 

5 Ways to Stick to Your Resolution

New-Years-Resolutions-480x256

Every New Year, it never fails: the gym is PACKED at every hour of every day, for the first three weeks of the year. When January 1st hits, people get a new spark of enthusiasm for being healthy. Gym memberships soar, health oriented websites surge in traffic and personal trainers don’t have enough hours in the day to see the new clients who’ve signed up for sessions.

Unfortunately, the enthusiasm rampant in the beginning of January wanes after a few weeks and before you know it, gyms have membership cancellations, websites see drops in traffic and personal trainers have a more manageable number of clients. This trend is as predictable as the ball dropping in Times Square New Year’s Eve.

Just because this happens to the majority of resolution makers, however, doesn’t mean that you, too, have to be a resolution dropout. Here are a few ways to ensure that you don’t fall off the wagon:

  1. Don’t Bite Off More than You can Chew: It is easy to want to do it all at once, but taking one day at a time is important. Don’t try to over commit yourself too early. Ease into your resolution so that you don’t get overwhelmed or discouraged.
  2. Do What You Love: Pretending to love running when you don’t, is not going to encourage you to exercise. Instead, find activities, classes and exercises that you really enjoy.
  3. Play with Your Food: Similar to exercise, force-feeding yourself rice-cakes when you think they taste like cardboard isn’t going to make you love health food. Instead, make a game of it. Experiment with different types of health foods to find the ones you like.
  4. The Buddy System: Finding a friend or family member to help motivate you will help you to be more committed to your resolution. Not only do you have to motivate yourself, but by buddying up, you will be committing to someone else that you will help them to stay on the wagon as well.
  5. Be True to Yourself: If you choose to buy a membership at a gym or to purchase personal training sessions, be sure the gym and/or personal trainer ‘is a match’ for you. Working out in an environment that you don’t like or with a person you don’t respect is not going to keep you coming back for more.

New Year’s resolutions are a great way to make change in your life.You owe it to yourself to stick with it! And you can! What helps you to stay motivated?

Originally published in 2009

Halloween Candy: To Limit or Not to Limit?

Every year around this time, I hear a lot of conflicting opinions on what parents should do about Halloween candy. Some believe it is one day out of the year and that your kids should be allowed to eat as much candy and treats as they want, while others believe that too much candy can be “too much of a good thing.” While some parents look for healthier options for the holiday.

Personally, I think there are a lot of days out of the year where we think indulging is okay: birthdays, Christmas, Thanksgiving, sick days, etc. And although I do believe that Halloween is for indulging, I sit in the camp that believes it isn’t bad to set some limits. After all, it could avoid tummy aches, sugar spikes and crashes, and even, possible sickness. Sugar consumption actually lowers our immune system function, making us more susceptible to colds and flu!

If you are leaning towards the “limit camp.” Consider some of these option:

Day of Halloween

  • Fill Up First on Good Nutrition: Serve your kids a healthy meal that is well-balanced and nutritious before to stave off gorging themselves during and after trick-or-treating.
  • Talk to Them: Before you go trick-or-treating with your child, talk to them about the treats they like the most.  Ask them about what they think is a good amount to consume that night and make a pact with them about how much they will eat and what you will do with the “left-overs”.
  • Mini Bag it: Use smaller bags for trick-or-treating.  In Mindless Eating: Why we Eat More Than We Think by Brian Wansink, it is argued that people consume more food when it comes in bigger packages.  Limiting the size of your trick-or-treat bag will help your child to accumulate less candy.
  • Indulge: Whether or not you have discussed an appropriate amount of treat eating prior to trick-or-treating, let your children enjoy some candy in moderation post-trick-or-treating.   Either watch how much they consume or keep the treats in a place that you can manage so that you can decide an appropriate stopping point.

The Day After

  • Portion out the Loot: Divide the left-over candy into “single-serving” treats they can indulge in once-a-day or with whatever frequency you deem most appropriate.   You may even want to formalize these portions by using little Halloween party favor bags to hold two or three small treats.  You can staple them to make it clear that the bag is a single serving.
  • Giveaway Leftovers: If the idea of giving your child candy every day is distasteful, consider giving away leftovers to places like your office, libraries or pediatrician offices, or to children at hospitals who won’t get to go trick-or-treating.
  • Out of Sight: If you want to keep the leftover candy around, but don’t want to not make it a daily ritual, put the extras into a cabinet that is out of reach or inconvenient.  The less you or you child sees the treats, the less likely they will think about them.
  • Sales: A lot of stores will sell candy for deep discounts on November 1st.  Resist the urge to stock up.

Are you going to limit your child’s candy intake for Halloween or do you believe in letting them enjoy to their heart’s content?

photo by: CarbonNYC

Why I Support the Soda Ban in NYC

Yesterday (Thursday, September 12th), the New York City Board of Health approved Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal limiting the size of soda and other sugary drinks sold in many venues to 16 ounces. A few months ago, I had a few discussions with people about the proposal when I had heard about it. Many weren’t in favor. Those opposed argue it is unconstitutional. It is taking away the freedom of choice from citizens and putting it in the hands of the government. If you really want more than 16 ounces of a sugary drink, however, then you are completely free to choose to purchase more; you just have to stop and think about it first.

The real issue isn’t about the “right to choose.” The real issue is about the health of our nation and what we are doing about it.  In my free download “Conquer Sugar Addiction,” I teach individuals about the damage that too much sugar can have on one’s health; obesity is just one of the many health issues it can contribute to. Bloomberg has stated his ban is a way to fight obesity in NYC. He claims that health-related problems stemming from obesity costs the city $4 billion a year. Yet, this isn’t just a problem in NYC; this is a problem of our nation.

If you disagree with this new legislation, here are a few things to consider:

  1. Nutrition Reality: The American Heart Association suggests that women get no more than 100 calories a day (6 teaspoons or 24 grams) from added sugar and men no more than 150 calories a day (9 teaspoons or 36 grams). Guess how much sugar a 16 ounce soda has: 176 calories or 11 teaspoons or 44 grams. No matter how you slice it. It’s a lot. And by good nutrition standards, it is too much.
  2. Education: Unfortunately, many individuals regularly super-sizing  their sugary beverages don’t know it is detrimental to their health. Yes, we need more educational programs to teach people that what they eat has a direct consequence to their health, but where are people going to get the education? It has to start somewhere. Although there isn’t a whole education campaign surrounding this legislation, you have to agree that it is raising awareness around sugar consumption and its impact on health. Anyone wanting two sodas instead of one will have to stop and think about their decision first. Isn’t the act of thinking a part of education?
  3. Health Costs: No one can deny that our health care system is screwed up. The solution to the health care problem, however, starts with each of us taking ownership of our health and living with a mind towards prevention. People don’t want to accept the fact that we are in this health care mess because people refuse to take responsibility for their own health. We are an over-consuming nation that uses health care as a means to fix us when we get sick. People have a crutch to live life in an unhealthy manor because they know the health care system will swoop in and take care of them, despite their choices.  This legislation is empowering consumers to take responsibility for their actions. If they want to consume more than 16 ounces of sugary beverages, they can, but they have to pay for it.

This is a complicated issue, no doubt. But change has to start somewhere. What do you think about the newly approved ban on sugary drinks over 16 ounces?

Conquer your sugar addiction with this free download.

 

 

photo by: SeveStJude

6 Reasons to Cherish Your Alone Time

I love to be alone.  This may sound absurd, but for me, being alone is somewhat therapeutic.  On one hand, you could chalk this up to the fact that I am an only child.  Many only children are very comfortable being alone and are happy doing things by themselves.  Or, you might think it is because I am an introvert (Although I have very extroverted moments, I am indeed an introvert at heart).  Whatever the case may be, when I don’t have enough time for myself, I feel drained, antsy and over stimulated.  As a result, alone time becomes very important.

It doesn’t matter what I do when I am alone, as long as I get my ‘me time’ fix.  I might shop.  I might write.  I might take a run.  I might take a bath.  I might even just veg out in front of the TV.  Whatever the activity, it gives me the time I need to get away from others and to let myself recharge.

Being alone isn’t a statement about your relationships.  Although I believe that relationships with others are a very important aspect to life and to our happiness, spending time alone is also extremely beneficial to our mental health and happiness. Here is why:

  1. Self Discovery: Spending time alone gives you the ability to discover things about yourself and to get a real understanding of who you are.  We have grown to appreciate the art of getting to know others, but in reality, it is even more important to get to know ourselves, our preferences, our likes and dislikes without other people’s influences.
  2. Higher Sense of Independence and Increased Self-Esteem: Being alone and getting comfortable with being alone gives you a higher sense of independence.  Relying on yourself to make choices and decisions increases your self confidence, which then permeates other aspects of your life, including the times you are in the presence of others.
  3. No Need to Compromise: Often, we compromise when we are in the presence of others.  We usually work with one another to reach agreement on everything, from what we will have for dinner to what TV show to watch.  Spending time alone allows you to indulge yourself with the things you want to do and the things you love, without any negotiation.
  4. Rejuvenation for Your Soul: Getting away from others allows you to decompress and relax.  It gives you a break from the have tos and allows you to focus on the want tos.  It lets you address your own needs as opposed to everyone elses and gives you the opportunity to rejuvenate and push the ‘restart’ button.
  5. A Fresh Perspective: Time alone gives you the opportunity to clear your mind and to weed through a lot of thoughts.  This allows you to get to the heart of what YOU really think as opposed to being told or influenced by others and their opinions.  It gives you time to reflect on what is important in your life and how you feel about every day situations that need to be addressed.
  6. Higher Appreciation for Those You Love: Giving yourself the ability to be alone allows you to have a greater appreciation for the time you spend with others.  If you never have time for yourself, you’ll wish you did.  It is important to find some balance in this; but once you do, you’ll enjoy your relationships even more.

If you find that spending time alone is challenging, try to start with a small ‘dosage’ each day…even if it is for only 5 minutes.  Each day, try to amp it up by a minute or so until you get to an hour.  After practicing being alone, you will find it comes more naturally in time.

Do you like to spend time alone?  What benefits have you seen from ‘you time’?

Originally published May 2010

photo by: ♥serendipity

Stop the Lunch Swap! 5 Ways to Encourage Kids to Eat Healthy

School LunchGetting your children to eat healthy at home is challenging enough, but to get them to eat healthy in school can seem virtually impossible. You have no idea what is going on in the cafeteria…lunch swaps…trashcans…the team mascot…you name it. If a child doesn’t want to eat what is in their lunchbox, they won’t. They’ll find a way to deep six the uneaten food and will do so as not to leave a trace of evidence.

If getting your kids to learn healthy and nutritious habits is important, it pays to find creative ways to get them to “buy-in” to the idea. Here are some tips:

  1. Set an Example:Let’s face it… kids are smart. If you don’t eat healthy, they won’t see why they should eat healthy. Don’t be hypocritical…set an example by eating healthy at home.
  2. Educate Them: Demanding that your children eat healthy without any explanation as to why isn’t very convincing. Teach your children about healthy nutrition and do so from a young age. Make it a natural part of their lives and one of the important life lessons you would want them to follow. Don’t make the topic big and scary, however, because using fear could actually turn against you if they want to rebel.
  3. Get Them Involved: Get your kids involved in the grocery shopping, meal planning and growing a vegetable garden. The more you involve them, the more likely they will buy-in to your master plan of getting them to eat healthier. Giving a child ownership of the decisions that are made around food will give them a sense of independence and the idea that they made the choice to eat what they eat…not you. If your child needs some direction in understanding what are healthy choices, provide them with options that they can choose from as opposed to letting them name things from scratch.
  4. Incorporate What They Like: If your child doesn’t like Brussels sprouts and won’t eat them with you around, then it doesn’t pay to send them to school with Brussels sprouts in their lunchbox. Instead, capitalize on the healthy foods that they DO like. Sweeter vegetables, such as carrots, celery, cucumber, snap-peas and peppers are far more palatable to young discerning taste buds, as compared to more bitter vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower and  Brussels sprouts. If you aren’t sure about what your child likes, ask them.
  5. Make it Fun:As a very young child, I was beyond a picky eater…I didn’t eat. I remember a friend of the family who would always make “McDonald’s Chicken” and somehow she got me to eat the dinner she prepared. Also, steak was “snake” in my book (although you have to wonder what little girl actually wanted to eat snakes). Nonetheless, these little tricks worked. Granted, I’m not an advocate for getting children to want McDonald’s, but the point here is that children don’t want to eat grown-up food, they want to eat “fun” food.

What tricks do you use to get your child to eat healthy at school?

More from Brett Blumenthal:

  1. Healthy Halloween Treats Your Kids Will Love
  2. Healthy Eating: 8 Ways to Stay Honest
  3. 7 Ways to Keep Your Diet Healthy on the Road
  4. Planning for a Healthy Halloween
  5. 4 Ways to Ensure Optimal Mental Health for Your Fetus

Make this July 4th a Healthy Celebration

The good news about July 4th is that traditional fare of barbecue is easy to make healthy. The challenge, however, are all the extras…the potato salad…the coleslaw…the desserts…etc. Here are some tips to make this July 4th tasty, delicious and healthy too:

  1. Better Dressings: When making your favorite potato salads, coleslaw and pasta salads, opt for vinegar or vinaigrette based dressings in lieu of the traditional Mayo based dressings. If you use extra-virgin olive oil with a high quality vinegar, you will have a tasty salad that is filled with healthy fats.
  2. Healthier Starches: When purchasing any starch based foods for the barbecue, look for those that are richer in nutrients and whole grain. For instance, buy whole grain or whole wheat buns for your barbecued meats. Opt for whole grain pastas for your pasta salads. And, choose red or purple potatoes for your potato salads (be sure to keep the skin on too!).
  3. Leaner Meats: Many of us often associate barbecue with hamburgers and hot dogs.  This year, get leaner with fish, chicken, turkey burgers and turkey dogs, and even vegetarian burgers. If you can’t forgo red meat, opt for Bison Chopped beef or Bison steak. Bison is much leaner than most red meat.
  4. Local Farm Fresh: Depending on how large the party is, shop at your local farmers market to buy fresh, in-season produce. Not only will you be supporting your local economy, but local means fresher and tastier!
  5. Make your own Dips: For the most part, I try to avoid packaged dips.  If there is a dip or sauce to be made, I try to make them myself.  A couple of my favorites include: Black Bean Salsa, Guacamole and Olive Tapenade.  Most dips, if store bought, have a lot of extra preservatives, oils, sugars and yes, up the wazoo to help lengthen shelf life and enhance flavor.  If you make a dip yourself, it will be fresh.  Further, you will know what goes into the recipe and you can choose lower fat ingredients  (such as low-fat sour cream) for even healthier dishes.
  6. Minimize the Common Chip: Instead of resorting to traditional fatty potato and tortilla chips, look for healthier options, such as Food Should Taste Good Multi Grain chips or whole grain crackers.
  7. Forget Pre-Made: This year, try making your own barbecue sauce and rubs. You can use higher quality ingredients, such as agave nectar instead of corn syrup, and get creative with your spices to make something unique and flavorful.
  8. Dessert: This is by far the perfect time to go crazy with the fruit salad. If you want to offer a frozen treat, you can make your own ice-pops.  You could make chocolate banana ice pops by blending bananas with pure cocoa powder and skim milk. Or, you could go the berry route by blending berries, bananas, fat-free Greek yogurt and a little skim milk.  Once you’ve blended your mixtures until smooth, pour them into Popsicle trays and freeze (don’t forget the Popsicle sticks). They are delicious and the kids will love them.

Whatever you do, enjoy the 4th and get your barbecue on! Do you have a favorite healthy July 4th recipe?

Related Articles:

  1. 6 Ideas for Healthy Entertaining
  2. 5 Healthy, Convenient Snacks to Keep You Satisfied
  3. Costco and Healthy Foods
  4. Planning for a Healthy Halloween
 
 Everyday for the next 30 days, Intent Blog will feature recipes contributed by bloggers in the health and wellness sphere for our annual 30 Days of Recipes. Our intent is to encourage you to get back into the kitchen and re-connect with your food in a way that promotes greater health, happiness and well-being! This week, we’re focusing on the connection between eating and the earth. If you have a recipe to contribute, please send it to us (along with a brief story about why you love it)  at editor [at] intent.com.
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