Archive for February, 2011

pictures of unhealthy foods such as curly fries                 Are you aware of what you last ate or how much?  Think about the last time you were watching T.V. and sat mindlessly eating.  Sometimes we do this and can’t believe we ate “the whole thing”.  We may not even remember if we even enjoyed the taste of the food.  Often we feel guilty or ill after eating so much.  The term to define this type of behavior is mindless or distracted eating.  Not only can this be dangerous to your health but it is likely to become a habit.  Unless we try to correct this behavior this may become the norm.    

                We make many food decisions every day.  Research shows we make as many as 200 overlooked food decisions each day.  An overlooked decision is one made without being aware we are making them. The decision about what to eat, how much to eat, or whether to even eat is based on habits or what we do most days.  Other things that impact the decisions are seeing or smelling foods and what is available.  The decisions are often influenced by external environmental cues.  Often we operate on auto pilot, not even aware of our moment to moment choices or actions.

                Suggested action steps to improve these eating habits or distracted eating include:

v  Try to minimize distractions when you eat.  Don’t have the T.V., computer, cell or smart phone on, or be reading the newspaper when eating.

v  Eat at the table and be sitting down.

v  Don’t eat while working at your desk or while driving.

v  Sit next to the slowest eater at the table and pace yourself by using them as a benchmark.  Slow down and enjoy every bite of your food.  Make your meal last at least 20 minutes.

v  Use smaller bowls or plates.  People eat up to 60% more when using larger tableware.

v  See what you eat.  Don’t eat out of a bag or package, put it on a plate or bowl.

v  Keep the tempting treats at the back or the cupboard or refrigerator and wrap them in foil.

Making deliberate decisions rather than acting without thinking it through is crucial.  Mindless eating is something most people do at some point, but thinking your choices through and being more mindful can make a huge difference in your health and overall diet.

 Source:  eXtension, Mindful Versus Mindless Eating, January, 5, 2011.

 Author:  Liz Smith, F.C.S. Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension.


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vending machineMany of us get the urge to grab a snack from the vending machine.  You know that when you do, most of your choices will be the high calorie, high fat or sugar selections you may crave. 

The next time the urge hits for a snack from the vending machine, take a minute to select a healthier option.   Are there healthy options?  Yes, you can find them & here are some ideas.

  • If fresh fruits or vegetables are available, select those from your vending machine. 
  • If you want a salty snack, choose pretzels or baked chips over regular chips.
  • If microwave popcorn is available, choose the no butter or light variety.  Look at the number of servings on your bag and watch your serving size if you are counting calories.
  • Tomato or vegetable juice and pretzels make a low calorie snack choice. 
  • Whole grain cereal bars or low sugar granola bars are tasty.
  • Non-fat yogurt is available in many flavors and can help you get one of your Calcium servings.
  • Unsweetened applesauce or fruit cups packed in their own juice works for a sweet craving.

Some worksites and vending machines have healthy options labeled for you.  This makes it easier to make a better selection. 

What else can you do?  Save money and pack a snack from home.  

A simple thing that you can do to help with the “snack attack” is to bring a healthy snack from home.  Perhaps you can bring in a piece of fresh fruit or some raw vegetables.  Non-fat or low fat yogurt is portable and great for a snack.  Maybe you keep a bag of pretzels at work to share with co-workers.  Remember to keep them in the break room or lunch area so that you aren’t tempted to snack on them all day.

WANT TO WIN A PRIZE?  If you share a healthy snack or tip for our readers and are the 5th person to post a comment; you’ll win a reusable grocery tote. 

Fresh FruitThe next time you get the urge for a snack, don’t run to the vending machine; pause and think about choosing a healthier option. 

If you go for the unhealthy version (and we all have times that we do) – get back on track with your next meal.  Let it go and move on.  Don’t use that as an excuse to overindulge.  Refocus on your healthy eating behaviors.  Think about moving more to burn those extra calories.  Take a walk around the block or park your car further from your destination.  Get motivated, make healthy choices, drink your water and move more! 

Happy Snacking!

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Sure, we all want toned abs, a firm stomach and muscular legs. But what about our brain? Does it benefit from exercise like the rest of our body? Should we keep in shape physically as a way to keep strong mentally as well?

The answer is an emphatic “YES”! Researchers at Harvard Medical School found that even ten minutes of activity can change our brain in several ways, including our mood, memory, and ability to learn. If you’re the type of person that needs the extra incentive to grab the tee-shirt, water bottle and hit the gym, here’s a short list of the improvements that exercise can have on your brain health:

  • Improves Mood 

Research has show that exercising three times a week and burning 350 calories each time can be as effective for reducing depression about as effectively as antidepressant medication.  The science behind the effect is exercise has been found to stimulate growth of neurons in parts of the brain that have been damaged during depression.  Animal studies have shown that brain molecules which  improve neuron connections are boosted by exercise as well.

  • Helps Develop Learning

Chemicals in the brain that help make new brain cells and create connections are called “growth factors”.  Physical activity helps increase the level of these chemicals in the brain to enhance learning.  The more complicated the physical activity, the higher the brain-boost.  When you’re taking a dance class and learning new moves, your brain cells are challenged which causes them to grow, just like our muscles.  Complex activities increase our learning capacity by enhancing our attention and concentration skills.

  • Relieves Effects of Stress

You may be familiar with the stress-relieving chemicals in the brain, such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.  However, exercise has been shown to work in our cells to reverse stress of the aging process.  In a study conducted at the University of California – San Francisco, women who identified themselves as being under extreme stress showed fewer signs of aging in their body cells after exercising an average of forty-five minutes a day over a three-day period compared to women who were stressed but were not physically active.  Blood flow in areas of the brain during exercise helps  trigger chemcials that can relieve stressful thoughts.

  • Build Body Image

A little bit of fitness goes a long way towards helping your body get in shape and building self-esteem.  You don’t have to run a marathon to feel good about yourself and your physical achievements!


Source:  U.S. News & World Report, August, 2010.

Author:  Jennifer Even, Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Hamilton County.

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The recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend that everyone, young or old, reduce sodium consumption.  Although we need some sodium in our diet, almost everyone is consuming too much.  Research has shown that the higher our sodium consumption the higher our blood pressure.  Research also indicates that if we reduce our sodium intake the blood pressure level also decreases.   By keeping your blood pressure in the normal range you reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.

To reduce your sodium intake you will need to use the Nutrition Facts label on foods and check the sodium content.   Try to buy foods with sodium at 5% or less.   If buying canned foods look for labels with “reduced sodium,” “low sodium” or “no salt added.”  Check different brands as sodium levels can vary greatly.  Rinsing your canned foods will also help remove some sodium.  Most frozen entrées and cured meats also are high in sodium.  However, just eating foods with moderate levels of sodium many times a day can quickly cause your sodium levels to be higher than you thought.   Be cautious about yeast breads, chicken and chicken mixed dishes, pizza, and pasta and pasta dishes.

Don’t add salt (sodium) when cooking or eating.  Try adding spices and herbs instead.  Take the salt shaker off the table.  Try preparing more foods at home from fresh ingredients.  When eating out ask the restaurant not to add salt to your food.

Eating more potassium rich foods can also help lower blood pressure, and reduce your risk of developing kidney stones and decreased bone loss.   Vegetables, fruits, beans, milk and milk products are good sources of potassium.

Reference:  http://www.dietaryguidleines.gov

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Gifts from the Heart

Holiday spending can put a strain on the wallet.  It may be Valentine’s Day, a birthday or any other special day.  If you are living on a fixed income, you cannot possibly give your children, spouse or special friend everything they want.  But you can make it a special day by giving more of yourself, and your time.  Think of thoughtful gifts that do not have to cost a lot in money but are truly given from the heart.

As an alternative to purchasing  a gift, consider giving a gift of items that you already have and give gifts from your heart.  Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Consider giving a special piece of jewelry or glassware that a daughter or granddaughter admires.
  • A start from a plant that a friend would like to have.  Buy a pretty pot and give this new plant to your friend. 
  • Do you make jams and jellies or other canned items that friends and relatives would like?  Make decorative jar toppers and give canned items as gifts. 
  • Old photos that relatives would like to have.  Make copies and put into an album as a birthday gift.  

Don’t think your have to break the bank a gift from the heart can be the most treasured gift to receive. 

Author:  Linnette Mizer Goard, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension.


University of Minnesota Extension Service. (2004)  Plan ahead for holiday spending.  Retrieved August 11, 2005 from the World Wide Web:  http://www.extension.umn.edu/extensionnews/2004/holiday.html

 Colorado State University Cooperative Extension.  (2004)  Save on holiday spending.  Retrieved August 11, 2005 from the World Wide Web:  http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/columnym/ym286.html

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