Be mindful and enjoy the moment.
Now that the busy holiday season is over, it’s a time to reflect on the past but prepare and refocus for the new year ahead. As we focus on the new year, it is always refreshing to have a clean slate. As the year begins to unfold, there are tips to help you manage your day-to-day stress levels. It begins with mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn (1991)
Mindfulness is best thought of as a way of being rather than an activity Almost any activity can be carried out with mindful awareness.
Three Key Features of Mindful Awareness:
- Purpose – intentionally and purposefully directing your attention rather than letting it wander.
- Presence – being fully engaged with and attentive to the present moment. Thoughts about the past and future that arise are recognized simply as thoughts occurring in the present.
- Acceptance – being non-judgmental toward whatever arises in the moment. This means that sensations, thoughts, and emotions are not judged as good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant; they are simply noticed as “happening” and observed until they eventually pass (Naik, Harris and Forthun 2016).
Mindfulness is a mind-body practice that has been found to benefit both psychological and physical health. The primary psychological change that occurs during mindfulness practice is an increased awareness of thoughts, feelings, and sensations in the present moment. Over time, mindfulness practice can help you to become aware of the space between noticing experiences and reacting to them by letting you slow down and observe the processes of your mind (Black 2010).
The ultimate goal of mindfulness practice is for you to take advantage of this space so you can make more intentional decisions – to wake up from living life on autopilot, based on unproductive habits of mind
(Black 2010; Walach et al. 2007).
According to the American Psychological Association, some empirically supported benefits of mindfulness include the following (Davis & Hayes 2011):
- Increased awareness of one’s mind
- Significantly reduced stress, anxiety, and negative emotions
- Increased control over ruminative thinking (a major cause and symptom of depression and anxiety)
- Increased mental flexibility and focus
- More working memory
- Decreased distracting thoughts
- Decreased emotional reactivity
- Increased capacity for intentional, responsive behaviors
- Increased empathy, compassion and conscientiousness of other’s emotions
- Enhanced immune system functioning
- Increased brain density and neural integration in areas responsible for positive emotions, self-regulation, and long-term planning
- Lowered blood pressure
- Lowered levels of blood cortisol (a major stress hormone)
- Greater resistance to stress-related illnesses such as heart disease
- Increased self-insight and self-acceptance
- Increased acceptance of others
- Increased compassion and empathy
- Increased sense of morality, intuition, and courage to change
- Increased control over automatic behaviors
- Increased self-discipline
The question is, how many of us would like to benefit from mindfulness if it provides these positive benefits? All of us should strive to lower our stress level and enjoy our daily lives with a more positive attitude and more attentiveness. So, how can we incorporate this into our lives? The majority of this practice is about familiarizing yourself with what it feels like to be mindful, and getting better at “remembering” to maintain mindful awareness.
Experiment with creating your own mindfulness practices throughout your day. Being mindful of the sensation on the soles of your feet as you walk to your car or the taste and texture of your morning coffee can transform routine moments into deeply satisfying practices. However, having a ritualized and structured practice can be beneficial. To find out more about practicing mindfulness and how to incorporate a more structured practice in your life visit read Mindfulness: An Introduction.
Sources: Mindfulness: An Introduction. 2013, 2016. Retrieved from the UF/IFAS Extension Electronic Data Information System: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1381. Publication #FCS2335
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. An added bonus, these small changes may help you to avoid those extra holiday pounds we all fear each year. Happy Cooking!
In the Kitchen:
• For gravies or sauces — if you are making pan gravy, first skim the fat off pan drippings. For cream or white sauces, use fat-free (skim) milk and soft tub or liquid margarine.
• For dressings or stuffing — add low-sodium broth or pan drippings with the fat skimmed off instead of lard or butter. Use herbs and spices and a whole grain bread for added flavor.
• For biscuits — use vegetable oil instead of lard or butter and fat-free (skim) milk or 1 percent buttermilk instead of regular milk.
• For greens — use skin-free smoked turkey, liquid smoke, fat-free bacon bits, or low-fat bacon instead of fatty meats.
• For sweet potato pie — mash sweet potato with orange juice concentrate, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, and only one egg. Leave out the butter.
• For cakes, cookies, quick breads, and pancakes — use egg whites or egg substitute instead of whole eggs. Two egg whites can be substituted in many recipes for one whole egg.
• Use 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.
• 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.
For meats and poultry (chicken and turkey):
• Trim away all of the visible fat from meats and poultry before cooking.
• Take off poultry skin before eating.
• Broil, grill, roast, poach, or boil meat, poultry, or fish instead of frying.
• Drain off any fat that appears during cooking.
• Chill meat and poultry broth until fat becomes solid. Skim off fat before using the broth.
• Skip or limit the breading on meat, poultry, or fish. Breading adds fat and calories. It will also cause the food to soak up more fat during frying.
• Choose and prepare foods without high fat sauces or gravies.
• Start with a lean choice.
• The leanest beef cuts include round steaks and roasts (round eye, top round, bottom round, round tip), top loin, top sirloin, and chuck shoulder and arm roasts.
• The leanest pork choices include pork loin, tenderloin, center loin, and ham.
• Boneless skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets are the leanest poultry choice.
Use the food label to help you choose
• Choose extra lean ground beef. The label should say at least “90% lean.” You may be able to find ground beef that is 93% or 95% lean.
• Processed meats such as hams, sausages, frankfurters, and luncheon or deli meats have added sodium. Check the ingredient and Nutrition Facts label to help limit sodium intake.
• Fresh chicken, turkey, and pork that have been enhanced with a salt-containing solution also have added sodium. Check the product label for statements such as “self-basting” or “contains up to __% of __.”
• Lower fat versions of many processed meats are available. Look on the Nutrition Facts label to choose products with less fat and saturated fat.
• Use a nonstick pan with vegetable cooking oil spray or a small amount of liquid vegetable oil instead of lard, butter, shortening, or other fats that are solid at room temperature.
Enjoy the Food, Fun, Friends and Family!
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.
Be the Life of the Party
• Laugh, mingle, dance, and play games. Focus on fun and enjoy the company of others.
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. Giving back is a great mood booster.
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.
Enjoy the 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!
Be sure your family and friends enjoy the food and fun, but focus on the time together. Remember this season is all about the memories, not just the food. You will feel better and enjoy your holiday time with less worry if you focus on staying healthy this season.
Source: USDA United States Department of Agriculture – www.MyPlate.gov
Packing the kids’ lunches for school means you know which nutritious foods they are eating. Here are some budget-friendly, creative ideas to keep kids happy and healthy at lunchtime.
Make a “Smarter” Sandwich:
While some kids prefer the same thing every day, others may be okay with a slight switch to their sandwich.
- Use different breads like 100% whole wheat tortilla wraps (choose wraps low in saturated and made with no hydrogenated oils) or 100% whole wheat pita pockets.
- Besides lettuce, try shredded carrots or avocado slices with a turkey sandwich.
- Buy blocks of low fat, low-sodium cheeses. You save money when you slice it yourself. Or use a cookie cutter to cut into fun shapes.
- Instead of lunch meat, try a leftover grilled chicken sandwich with lettuce and tomato.
Love Those Leftovers:
Try using the leftovers from the family dinner for the next day’s lunch. Invest in a thermos to keep foods hot or cold until lunchtime.
- Low-sodium tomato, vegetable or bean soups
- Chili made with lean or extra lean ground turkey
- Whole wheat spaghetti with low sodium tomato sauce
- Low-sodium baked beans, bean casserole or beans & rice
Let Them Dunk:
Sometimes it is okay to let your kids play with their food, especially when they are getting extra nutrition.
- Apple and pear slices to dip into low-fat plain yogurt mixed with peanut butter.
- Carrot, celery and sweet pepper strips to dip into hummus, fresh salsa or homemade bean dip.
- Whole grain crackers (choose crackers low in sodium and saturated fat and made without hydrogenated oils) to dunk into low-sodium vegetable or tomato soup.
- Unsalted sunflower seeds, crushed whole wheat cereal and sliced banana to mix into low fat vanilla yogurt (no added sugars) to eat with a spoon like a sundae.
Get Them Involved:
While letting kids in the kitchen might mean a bigger mess, if they help pack their own lunch, they are more likely to eat it! On nights you have a bit more time, like a Sunday night, have them choose which piece of fruit or what type of whole grain bread they want and let them assemble their lunch. Make this a weekly routine – it’s another great way to spend family time together.
For more heart healthy lunch tips visit: www.heart.org
Stay hydrated to beat the heat!
Summer is in full swing and our part of the country is very hot. When the temperature rises, proper hydration is extra important. You need to provide your body with the fluid that it needs to stay healthy. Water regulates many different body processes, including body temperature, digestion, and heart rate. It also cushions and protects our internal organs and joints. When we do not get enough of it, our bodies can suffer. We lose water from our bodies every time we breathe, sweat, or urinate. In fact, it’s estimated that you can lose up to 4 cups of water during an hour of exercise in the heat. This water loss can lead to dehydration.
Signs of dehydration include:
- Little or no urine, or dark urine
- Dizziness, or lightheaded feeling
- Dry mouth
- Sleepiness or fatigue
- Extreme thirst
- Rapid breathing
- Rapid pulse
Ultimately, dehydration can lead to extreme thirst, confusion, heat stroke, loss of consciousness, and death. So, how can you manage staying hydrated in the heat of summer? One of the key answers is not to wait until you are thirsty. Drink water regularly! Food can also provide some of the water you need every day- especially food like watermelon, soup, milk, lettuce, and strawberries. Sugar-sweetened sports drinks or beverages with added minerals, vitamins, or electrolytes are NOT necessary unless you are a competitive athlete or in heavy training for an athletic event.
Tips for staying hydrated:
- Keep a bottle of water with you during the day. Purchasing bottled water is expensive and creates plastic bottle waste. Carry a reusable water bottle and fill it from the tap instead.
- If you do not like the taste of plain water, try adding a slice of lemon, lime, or another type of fruit to your drink.
- Be sure to drink water before, during, and after a workout.
- When you are feeling hungry, drink water. Thirst is often confused with hunger. True hunger will not be satisfied by drinking water.
- If you have trouble remembering to drink water, drink on a schedule. For example, drink water when you wake up; at breakfast, lunch, and dinner; and when you go to bed. Or drink a small glass of water at the beginning of each hour.
- Drink water when you go to a restaurant. It will keep you hydrated, and it is free!
Be safe this summer and stay hydrated, so you will enjoy your outdoor time. Also, remind you family and friends to drink water too. You will all feel better and have more fun!