heart

September 30-Day Challenge: Take Care of Your Heart

heart

I love the heart. For one, we all need our hearts to live and we need our hearts to love.

If you know me, you know I’m all about self-care and self-love. Most of my clients, family, and friends are so good at taking care of others, yet many of them struggle with taking care of themselves – yours truly included (hello, mom of two fabulous and energy-draining girls under two years old.)

We obviously need a healthy heart to live a long, happy life and enjoy the ride. Six years ago my mom suffered a near fatal heart attack. She’s had two more minor ones since then and quadruple bypass surgery. While she has heart disease, she has been able to quit smoking and she enjoys water walking.

As you can imagine, healthy hearts are personal to me. When it came time to come up with a new monthly challenge for September and I realized it was National Cholesterol Education Month, I decided to honor hearts everywhere – my mom’s, mine, and yours!

The focus of this month’s 30-Day Challenge is THREE SIMPLE WAYS you can take care of your heart (yes, only three!) and help keep your cholesterol in a healthy range. And maybe even more importantly keep your heart healthy for years, and years, and YEARS of love.

So What IS Cholesterol?

Our bodies actually need cholesterol in order to make vitamin D and hormones like estrogen and testosterone. We get some from out diet, but most of it is made in our liver. HDL (“good” cholesterol), is the kind that helps to protect our heart and carries cholesterol to our liver for our bodies to get rid of it. This is the one where a higher number is a good thing.  LDL (“bad cholesterol”) is the kind that carries cholesterol from the liver to other parts of the body. The problem is that when your LDL cholesterol gets too high it can end up accumulating in your arteries which can lead to serious issues like heart attacks and strokes. The goal is to have a low LDL and a high HDL to help keep your heart healthy.

What Are Some Ways I Can Take Care of My Heart?

The good news is that there are things each of us can do every day to help bring our cholesterol into a healthy range. 3 things you can do EVERY DAY are:

  1. Eat well — this means eating a balanced and varied diet full of color and wholesome, nourishing foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy and lean proteins. Emphasizing heart healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, canola oil and nuts and seeds is important too. Cooking at home lets you control the ingredients of your meals, so set a goal to get in the kitchen more — even have your kids help out! Check out this list of 10 foods to break your low cholesterol diet rut to help keep your meals exciting and prevent boredom. The American Heart Association has a great collection of heart healthy recipes if you need some ideas to get you started.
  2. Exercise regularly — exercise has been shown to help improve your cardiovascular function, and it can help lower your cholesterol. Choose whatever kind of movement feels fun and makes your body feel good (yoga, hula hooping, walking your dog, playing outside with your kids, a dance class, etc.) and aim for 30 minutes per day (about 2.5 hours per week).
  3. Not smoke — smoking is the number one cause of heart disease and heart attack. Your body gets healthier even within 24 hours of quitting, so why not choose today to quit? For resources and support for how to quit, you can visit http://smokefree.gov.

I want to hear how YOU take care of your heart!

  • Share your heart healthy recipes, favorite workouts, and other inspiration with me on Facebook , Twitter or Pinterest. I’ll also be posting motivations, tips, and responding to your questions EVERY SINGLE DAY.
  • If you have a blog, write about your experience and share those links.
  • I’m using the hashtag #heartsmart

Sleep Your Way to Better Health

I once heard a great Irish proverb that has stuck with me throughout my life, ‘A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.’ These days Americans are getting less and less sleep every year. Currently only 40 percent of the U.S. gets the recommended eight hours, on average receiving only 6.8 hours per night. While a short-lived bout of insomnia is generally nothing to worry about, long term sleep loss can really throw a dagger in your overall well-being and health. This month I would like to challenge you all to get a good nights rest. If you think you’re in need of some shut eye, join this month’s #30daysleepchallenge to learn how a good night’s sleep will help you be more productive during waking hours.

How Losing ZZZs Can Harm Your Health

Research has shown that most Americans would be happier, healthier and safer if they were to sleep an extra 60 to 90 minutes per night.

So why aren’t we snoozing? Stress is the number one cause of sleep difficulties. 48% of people report lying awake due to stress. We have too much to do and not enough time, but instead of respecting the boundary of sleep, we nudge precious minutes to hours off our sleep each night.

Stress is directly linked to poor health. According to the American Stress Institute 77% of Americans experience physical symptoms of stress regularly and 73% experience psychological symptoms. These include fatigue, headaches, upset stomach, hemorrhoids, digestive issues, insomnia, irritable bowel syndrome, muscle tension, memory loss, fertility issues, teeth grinding, increased risks for heart attack, stroke, and diabetes, changes in appetite, changes in sex drive, dizziness, irritability, and anger.

Whew. That’s a lot of crap!

Both quantity and quality of sleep are important. If sleep is cut short, the body doesn’t have time to complete all of the phases needed for muscle repair, memory consolidation, and release of hormones that regulate our appetite. With not enough good quality sleep, we wake up unprepared to concentrate, make decisions, or engage fully in work, family, and social activities.

Could Your Lack of Sleep be Affecting Your Weight? sleep clock

If you think you can survive on 6 hours of sleep, think again. Our body needs between 7-9 hours of sleep each night, however most people put more importance on physical well being, including food and exercise than mental well being which includes being rested. There is a strong link between sleep, appetite, and weight. According to a recent study published in PLoS Medicine people who receive less than 7 hours of sleep each night have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI).

Lack of sleep elevates ghrelin, the “hunger hormone”  –so  if you’ve felt “tired and hungry” with strong craving for carbs, sugar, fat or  “comfort foods” that is your body looking for energy, when actually it needs to be energized through better sleep. Instead of reaching for a quick sugar fix, close your eyes and reenergize.

Stop Counting Sheep – Join the #30daysleepchallenge!

Be sure to join this month’s #30daysleepchallenge. All you have to do is “follow” me on Facebook , Twitter or Pinterest. I’ll be posting motivations, and many more tips and tricks to help you get more zzz’s. I’d love to hear from you too! Be sure to share you thoughts and I’ll be responding to your questions EVERY SINGLE DAY. Use the primary hashtag #30daysleepchallenge and #mefirst as the secondary hashtag.

Fuel Your Active Lifestyle with Food and Recipe Ideas

May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and National Bike Month! The weather is getting warmer so it’s time to get out and be more active.  You can walk, run, cycle, hike, swim – aim for about 60 minutes of movement a day. Right now most Americans only get 17 minutes a day – YIKES! We can all move more. You can’t mess it up. Do anything you enjoy and be consistent with it.

This past weekend I appeared on WBAL TV 11 in Baltimore to share some friendly meal and snack ideas that will help fuel your active lifestyle! You can watch the full clip below, or read on to see some of the highlights:

Begin with a Balanced Breakfast 

Breakfast has long been considered the most important meal of the day and for good reason! Fueling your body first thing in the morning helps to warm up your metabolism so it’s ready to work throughout the dayFor breakfast, fuel up on whole grains, fruit, and protein. Milk is a source of high-quality protein – 8 grams in an 8 ounce glass. Protein not only helps build muscle, it helps keep you feeling full. Milk also offers three of the top nutrients most likely to be missing in the American diet – calcium, vitamin D, and potassium.

Pudding FINAL

Breakfast Pudding

Besides including milk in morning cereal, you can try this breakfast pudding recipe made with milk, eggs, almond butter, vanilla and layered with your favorite fruit and whole grain cereal.

Did you know that milk is one of the top three items most requested by food banks, yet there is a nationwide shortage of milk at food banks according to Feeding America. The Baltimore community is in need of milk donations and it’s easy to do. Just go online to Milklife.com/give to show your support. Now through May 25, donations will be matched gallon-for-gallon by the nation’s milk companies and dairy farmers.

Recover with Red 

Red-Recharger-Smoothie-2007-Also-Cherry-Smoothie-700x455

Red Recharger Smoothie

People wonder what they should eat before and after a workout. For an ideal recovery you need to fuel your body with something that provides carbohydrates and protein, so I often find myself recommending smoothies. Both flavorful and easy to make, this Red Recharger Smoothie combines whole tart cherries, Greek yogurt and tart cherry juice to give you a boost of powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins. Research published in the Journal

Mango Cherry Avocado Salad

Mango Cherry Avocado Salad

 

Nutrients shows that these natural compounds help reduce oxidative stress and muscle inflammation, which can help the body recover more rapidly from exercise.

This Mango Cherry and Avocado Salad combines creamy avocado with the sweetness of mango and tangy tart cherries for a balanced flavor pack full of nutrients. Top this salad with your favorite lean protein, such as a piece of grilled salmon to create  a perfect meal for the warmer weather.

You can also get tart cherries in dried form which make a great addition to any trail mix, cereal or as yogurt toppers.

Snack Smart 

When you’re on the move it’s always a good idea to keep a healthy snack close by. I love pistachios for snacks to fuel between meals because they are a convenient and healthy option for on-the-go with 160 calories, 6 grams of protein, and 3 grams of fiber per ounce – about 49 nuts.

WP flavors packshotWhen you choose Wonderful Pistachios you have options too, available in 4 flavors– no salt, lightly salted, roasted & salted, salt & pepper, and sweet chili. To make on-the-go even easier you can also purchase 100 calorie tubes or 80 calorie snack packs at local retailers or online.

Make Snack Time Fun!

In-shell pistachios are great for food art because your kids can help shell the nuts,turning the kernels into anything from water in the ocean to part of a smile or even ants on a log. This fun “Shark Plate” snack recipe below is composed of color, shape, texture, and nutrition. It just takes a little creativity to elevate a healthy snack of pistachios, cheese, red bell pepper, and toast into a delicious shark snack that you and your child can enjoy together. See recipe below.

“Shark Plate”

sharkplate

Shark Plate Food Art

Ingredients

  • In-shell Wonderful Pistachios
  • Whole Grain Toast
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Red Bell Pepper

Instructions

  1. Remove the shells from 49 in-shell pistachios to create the sea.  Your kids can help – cracking open the shells to create the sea is a fun and interactive way to involve them in the snack making process.
  2. Cut one slice of cheddar cheese about a half inch in width to create the body of the shark.
  3. Cut another slice of cheese the same width as the body of the shark to form the three fins.
  4. Toast one piece of whole grain toast, and cut your toast into a boat shape.
  5. Take half of a red bell pepper and cut into strips to form one triangle and one trapezoid for the sails of your toast boat.
  6. Cut smaller pieces of red bell pepper to create a small triangle or circular shape for the shark’s eye, and additional small triangles for its teeth.
  7. After the pistachios are shelled and the ingredients are cut, place your shark and boat on your plate and surround the shark and bottom of the boat with the shelled pistachios to create the ocean.

Cover Your Bases with Multivitamins 

Active people always ask me about healthy eating and the need for supplements. My advice is to look for a “healthy sweet spot”.  You want to eat healthy first and a good multivitamin can help fill in the gaps to help meet vitamin and mineral needs. Especially because active people need more vitamins and minerals.

I love Vitafusion Multivites – for adults and L’il Critters Gummy Vites - for the kiddos because they combine the power of vitaminsVF_MVPlus_HSN and a great-tasting gummy, making them a delicious alternative to hard-to-swallow tablets or capsules. Now there’s a PLUS line available, where you
LC_BoneSupport (1)can get more well-being support. The Vitafusion Hair, Skin, and Nails with biotin and lutein for adults and the L’il Critters Plus Bone Support for kids – with calcium and vitamin D. One serving of Lil’ Critters Plus Bone Support contains 200 milligrams of calcium which is as much as a 5 ounce glass of milk and 220 IU of vitamin D, which helps support calcium absorption and bone health.

It’s a small daily healthy habit that’s enjoyable and delicious so your family will be more likely to stick to it. Most importantly remember our health and enjoyment collide through the small, daily activities and habits that shape us into our best selves.

What Do You Fuel Up On?

I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or send a tweet to @ScritchfieldRD to share your favorite tips for flavorful, healthy meals and snacks to keep you fueled.

 

Disclaimer: I was compensated by Milk, Vitafusion, Wonderful Pistachio and the Cherry Marketing Institute to do the tv segment, but was not compensated to write this blog.

Exercise for the Health of It

Spring is in the air which means its time to come out of hibernation and start movin’! During April I will be promoting the Exercise Attitude Adjustment Challenge! This challenge encourages you to focus on exercising for the health of it, rather than trying to be the next olympic gold medalist! Remember-progress, not perfection-every little bit of effort counts!

We all know that the recommendation is to do 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week for optimal health. In reality, Americans only exercise for an average of 17 minutes per day. So what is slowing us down?

I believe that the key problem is exercise attitudes. Maybe you don’t have time in your busy schedule to set aside an hour for exercise. Or is it that you just can’t get yourself motivated to run on the treadmill? Many of us have unrealistic expectations about the changes we want to see to our bodies. The first step towards being physically active is an exercise attitude adjustment. Get rid of that negative thinking and turn your stroll into a skip!

Staying active is all about making it work for you and your lifestyle. Keep these three tips in mind as you race to meet your exercise goals.

1. Choose activities you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to go on a 10-mile run if that’s not your thing! It may be hard to believe, but some of the activities you probably already enjoy doing actually count as exercise. For instance, daily activities such as vacuuming, gardening, raking leaves, walking the dog, or even just picking up kids toys force us to get up and move. Personalize your exercise by discovering what makes you happy, whether that is dancing, yoga, biking, playing a sport or going for a walk with a friend. One exercise routine does not fill all!

2. Tailor your exercise to fit with your schedule. Making time for physical activity does not have to be stressful. Simple changes can make a world of difference:

  •       Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  •       Park at the far end of the parking lot or get off a stop early on the subway.
  •       Break up your exercise with a quick 15-minute morning yoga session, a 30-minute lunchtime brisk walk, and a 15-minute evening workout video- the combination is just as good as exercising for an hour straight!
  •       Multitask. Walk on the treadmill while returning phone calls in the evening or catch up on reading while on the stationary bike.
  •       On the weekends plan activities with family or friends that gets everyone moving. Organize a family bike ride, embark on a morning hike, sign up for a yoga class with a friend, or go for a swim.

3. Discover what motivates you. Whether you find a workout buddy, sign up for a group exercise class, or invest in a device to track your activity, everyone needs some sort of encouragement. Allot time for exercise on your daily calendar and make it a routine!

Your Turn to Share

Now that I’ve shared the secrets to achieving an exercise attitude adjustment I want to hear your ideas. How do you get motivated? What activities do you do to get moving? Tweet, Post, Instagram or Pin your favorite exercise tips, quotes, or activities to help others get on board!

  • Use the primary hashtag #SelfCareChallenge in your messages
  • Be sure to “follow” me on Facebook , Twitter or Pinterest. I’ll be posting motivations, tips, and responding to your questions EVERY SINGLE DAY.
  • If you have a blog, write about your experience and share those links.

Spring into Health

Now that spring is in the air it’s time to turn over a new leaf and shake off those winter blues! Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with CNN’s Karin Caifa to share my ideas on how to make some healthier switches as spring approaches – switches that won’t be too drastic, dramatic or too easy to abandon! Watch the clip below or read on to learn about my tips.

The key to succeeding when making a change is to start small and start simple. The most important thing is being consistent. The more you are consistent these new behaviors they will eventually become habits (good ones). Here are a few tips to help freshen up your eating this spring.

  • Add any fresh produce to your menu. You can’t mess it up. Spring is a great time of year for fresh apricots, cherries, kiwi, grapefruit, swiss chard, green beans and all types of lettuces.
  • Add herbs and spices to help make healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains more flavorful without adding salt, sugar, or fat.
  • As the weather gets warmer, eat more cold foods like salads with fresh fruits, lean meats or tofu, and beans. Make your own dressing with herbs and spices, olive oil, and vinegar.
  • It’s not too early to fire up your grill for a flavor boost without added salt and fat. Grill vegetables and lean meats like fish, chicken, or beef seasoned with herbs and spices. Check out these delicious grilling recipes: Asian Turkey Burgers or Grilled Tofu with Ratatouille Vegetables 

Don’t forget about Spring Cleaning!

  • The first thing you should do to eat healthier is “spring clean your kitchen” to make cooking easier.
  • Make room in your refrigerator for new fresh fruits and vegetables and other healthy foods you can make ahead of time.
  • Refresh your pantry by stocking up on herbs and spices that will allow you to flavor your foods without adding extra salt, sugar, and fat.
  • Add some nutritious canned foods like beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, olives, and canned tuna and salmon to help you get healthy meals on the table quickly.
  • Simplify cooking. You don’t need to prepare a 3 course meal every night! Try this easy and healthy Lemon-Parmesan Broccoli as a delicious side dish.

What should we spring clean out of our diets?

  •  Reduce your intake of “empty calorie” foods and beverages, such as desserts, sugary drinks, and alcoholic beverages.
  •  Swap fresh fruits like citrus and berries, which are in season for desserts. I love freezing sliced bananas or a handful of grapes for a sorbet or ice cream substitute.
  • Drink water or sparkling water infused with mint, fresh cucumber, or lemon instead of caloric beverages.
  • Cut back on sodium by preparing your meal at home and checking food labels for hidden sources of salt.
  • Sauces, seasonings, and marinades can be high in sodium. Try making your own with herbs, spices, citrus, vinegar, and healthy oils.
  • Avoid higher calorie fried foods and rich foods, which tend to be difficult to digest and make you feel sluggish. Instead, grill your vegetables and lean proteins, which will add flavor.

What are some of your favorite spring time foods and activities?

Leave a comment below and share your spring time tips with us! Happy Spring!