Be Green and Save Green This Holiday Season celebrates Less is More this holiday season with a few easy tips that cover all the bases from food to gift wrapping that will stretch your dollar without sacrificing your holiday fun.

See the full blog here.

Questions for your doctor

Before you start any diet or exercise program, be sure to consult your physician. Because among other things, there are medications and other conditions that may impact your weight or ability to exercise.

Here are some suggested questions to ask your Doctor or Dietitian before starting a weight loss and exercise program.

  • Am I overweight?
  • What should my target weight and BMI (Body Mass Index) be?
  • Is my weight affecting my health?
  • Do you recommend that I see a specialist to rule out any medical conditions that could be responsible for my excess weight?
  • Is it safe for me to exercise?
  • Are there any types of physical activity that I should avoid?
  • Are there any types of foods should I avoid?
  • What type of foods should I try to incorporate into my diet?
  • Do you recommend that I meet with a Registered Dietitian to improve my diet?
  • Am I taking any medications or do I have any health conditions that would prevent me from taking dietary supplements to support my weight loss program?
  • Is there any reason I should limit my caffeine intake or should I try to stay below a certain amount of caffeine per day?

For those with current medical conditions or who are any taking medications, ask your doctor:

  • Is it safe for me to lose weight?
  • Will weight loss improve my current medical conditions?
  • Does the medical condition interfere with weight loss?
  • Will any medications I am currently taking prevent weight loss?
  • Are any of my current medications contributing to weight gain?
  • Will weight loss alter my medication dosage?
  • What kind and how much exercise is recommended?
  • Is it ok for me to take dietary supplements to support weight loss?


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Healthy Bodies Equal Smarter Brains

Did you know that by encouraging your child’s physical fitness you are also encouraging their mental fitness? Research has shown that the amount of physical activity a child gets has a direct impact on how well he or she does in school. And according to past US Secretary of Education, Roderick Paige, “Healthy bodies and healthy minds go hand-in-hand. Parents can play a vital role in their child’s academic achievement by keeping them stimulated during the summer to exercise their bodies and challenge their minds.”

A California Department of Education study of students’ test scores and fitness levels found a definite link between physical fitness and academic accomplishment. The researchers found that students who are physically fit are more likely to perform well in their classes. And according to the study, it’s not just about being the star football or volleyball player; students who achieved the minimum fitness requirements showed the greatest improvement in terms of academic achievement. Physical fitness levels seemed to be even more significant for girls – for girls, the higher the fitness level, the higher the academic achievement.

How It Works

Believe it or not, exercise actually stimulates the brain’s nerve cells and causes them to multiply. It also strengthens them, increasing their ability to resist damage and disease. In other words, when you’re exercising, you’re not just getting your body in shape, you’re getting your brain in shape!

Exercise increases the circulation of oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. With an increase in oxygenated blood flow, your brain and other organs operate more efficiently and you feel better and think more clearly. Now doesn’t that make you want to jump up and get the whole family moving?

Exercise is Essential for Growing Minds

There’s a reason all that running around your kids do in school is called “Physical Education.” For one thing, children need a physical outlet for all that energy they have stored up inside. If they spend all their time sitting in front of the teacher in school and then go home to sit in front of the TV, their bodies will soon get used to that kind of immobility and they won’t find physical activities appealing.

Physical activity does more for young children than prevent unhealthy childhood weight gain (although that is certainly an important benefit). The truth is, movement is the most simple and essential key to a child’s growth and development. Young children develop many skills simply through learning to move in their environment. Being physically active helps children develop emotionally and socially and, as we’ve established earlier, it actually helps their brains grow. So when you take your child to the park to play on the jungle gym, you should be proud of yourself- you’re not only contributing to your child’s health, you’re also helping his or her brain develop!

Get Your Brain in Shape at Any Age

Exercise benefits everybody- from your 6-month-old baby to your 80-year-old great aunt Ida. Remember how exercise helps your brain stay strong and healthy? It’s really never too late to start an exercise program. Researchers have found that people aged 65 and older have better memory retention. Not to mention the fact that they feel better and have more energy. Think of this as a great excuse to plan something that allows the whole family to be physically active together!

Stress and Wellness

All of us experience stress at some time in our lives. And while stress can be a natural reaction to many of life’s challenges, prolonged periods of stress can impact your health and in some cases have serious consequences.

Physical Impact
Studies have shown that the longer people suffer from work or interpersonal stress, the greater the chances of catching a cold or falling prey to other ailments. Research results also tell us that men who are highly stressed are more likely to have heart attacks or strokes.

Emotional Impact
And of course there is the toll on your personal relationships. Conflict can easily ensue as stress mounts. The risk of alienation becomes significant and can further exacerbate your stress.

Everyday, Ongoing Stress
A 1998 study by Carnegie Mellon psychologist Sheldon Cohen discovered that it’s not the big incidents like a death in the family or the loss of a job that cause the most stress. It’s the small, constant, everyday conflicts that increase the possibility of stress-related illness by 3 to 5 times.

Small Steps
You can reduce your stress level by taking a few small steps that will add up over time.

Get More Rest
Thousands of car accidents each year are caused by lack of sleep. On the other hand, a Rhode Island study demonstrated that students who got 35 more minutes of sleep than their peers, earned better grades. Adults need 8 to 10 hours of sleep per night despite the fact that most of us only get about 6.7 hours.

One of the best ways to add sleep time is to go to bed earlier at night by about 10 to 15 minutes. Increase the time gradually by starting 5 minutes earlier at first and then adding another 5 minutes a week later and so on.

Do One Thing at a Time
Multi-tasking can be overrated. The more we try to squeeze in, the more frustrated we can become with unfinished business, the more mistakes we make and the less we really listen to each other. We’re so bound up in getting everything done that we lose sight of what’s important and rush down the path to burn out.

The best way to reduce stress and restore balance is to prioritize. Review what’s most important to you and put your physical and emotional energy into those activities. The rest will fall into place and in some cases, even fall off your list.

If quality time with your children ranks as a high priority, let your task list languish. The world will not crumble if you don’t make the bed today or get the vacuuming done. On the other hand you may have a great sense of satisfaction after an afternoon with your kids.

Are you stressed by a crowded work agenda? You might discover that reworking the schedule with your supervisor not only reduces your stress levels, but also improves the quality of your work.

Daily physical activity is the elixir of life. It reduces stress and helps us to sleep better. Exercise increases our energy and stamina while improving our self-esteem and outlook on life.

The National Institutes of Health recommend at least 30 minutes of activity each day. Note the key word “activity”. Just three 10-minute sessions of moderate activity a day will give you the same benefits as a 30-minute workout.

That means that taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking at the farthest point from your destination or dancing around the house all count towards stress reducing activity.
Whether you take the dog for a run, roller skate or mow the lawn, make sure you fit a total of 30 minutes exercise into each day. You’ll feel so much better.

Take Care of You
De-stress by reading a book, taking a walk, practicing deep breathing or by enjoying a warm bubble bath. Setting aside a little time each day for yourself can ease feelings of frustration, fatigue and stress. You’ll feel re-energized in as little as 15 minutes. But remember, there’s no need to rush it.

Like this article? Why not join a Challenge to start reducing stress now!

Your Kids Don’t Like Sports? No Problem!

Not every child yearns to join the neighborhood Little League or soccer team. And even though you may see your dreams of sitting in the bleachers, cheering your child on while they hit a home run or score a goal drifting away, it’s not a good idea to push your kids into playing sports if it’s just not their thing. But don’t give up hope! There are lots of other ways to get your kids up and moving and you can play an important role in making that happen.

A study in the American Journal of Public Health found that kids are 400 – 500% more likely to engage in active play if they have an appealing place to play in and are supervised by adults. You see? They do still need you after all! Consider this a wonderful opportunity to spend some quality time with your family while getting the exercise that’s essential to your whole family’s health and well-being.

Keep Them Guessing

Adults 18 and over should do some form of physical activity for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. Children should be engaging in even more physical activity- at least 60 minutes a day, five days a week. This is where you come in. And the key to getting your kids to exercise is to keep them guessing, which means keep changing things around on them and don’t do the same thing too many times in a row. (This is different, of course, for younger children. Toddlers are perfectly happy dancing to the Hokey Pokey over and over and over…)

You might want to start by asking your kids what they do like to do. We’ve already established that they don’t like sports, but there’s got to be something they like to do. Find out what they enjoy and go with it. In the summer, you can enroll them in swimming classes at your local public pool or health club. Many college campuses also offer children’s swim classes, sometimes year-round. Studying a martial art, like tae kwon do, is a great way for kids to work on assertiveness and safety, while getting fit. Maybe your child has a gift for clowning around. Ask your child if they’d like to go to clown school. Many gymnasiums that offer gymnastics and trapeze classes also offer clown classes, which usually involve juggling, tumbling and acrobatics.

There are even lots of options for exercise at home. Throwing a Frisbee around, if you’ve got a back yard, is a great way to get some exercise. Break out the aerobics videos or find some other fitness videos that the boys may find more appealing. And when in doubt, try putting on some music, turning up the volume, and dancing until you drop. Don’t be afraid to be silly and don’t forget to have fun!

A Little Inspiration Goes a Long Way

Just because your kids don’t like playing sports, it doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t like watching sporting events. Try taking them to a game, match or competition. It might just inspire them to try it themselves.

Pick out a few books or magazines dedicated to sports you think your child might really like and read them together. Maybe there’s an outdoor activity magazine that might appeal to them. A surprise gift subscription might prove very rewarding if it inspires your child to get up and go check out the world beyond their room and TV.

Top 10 Tips to Keep Them Moving

  • Take a walk together with a special destination in mind. Walk to the park for a picnic, walk across town to the movies, or maybe take a hike out to a lake or pool for a swim.
  • Don’t forget to pack healthy, yummy snacks and water for your outing. Some fresh or dried fruit, a couple bottles of water, maybe a few cheese sticks- you’re good to go!
  • If you’re lucky enough to live in an area with bike paths or smaller roads, try going on a bicycle-powered adventure. Lots of bike stores rent bikes as well, so if you’re bikeless, don’t give up! Try one for a day and see how you like it.
  • Stairs are your friend. Hold a stair-climbing competition with your kids and see who can climb the fastest and who can climb the longest.
  • Create your own at-home triathlon. Come up with three physical activities to do around the house and award prizes to those who accomplish them all in record time. Then see who can break those records.
  • Visit an arcade but avoid the video games, instead, challenge your kids to a marathon of air hockey, skeeball and pool. See who winds up with the best combined score.
  • Spend some time on the miniature golf course.
  • In the summer, try swimming in a pool. If your kids don’t like doing laps try some fun pool games. If they don’t enjoy being in the water give gardening a try.
  • In the winter, try sledding, ice-skating and of course, a vigorous snowball fight.
  • When in doubt, add a few friends to the mix.

Holiday Eating Guide

by Kristina Kulin

Holiday buffet feasts don’t have to sabotage diet success. After all the hard work you put in eating right, exercising and managing your weight, the last thing you want is to begin the coming year back where you started. Enter the Metabolife Holiday Eating Guide: below, you’ll find delicious and healthy ways to cut back on the usual culprits in holiday meals- fat, carbs and sugar- with ingredients and recipes that can support your choices for a healthy lifestyle.

Traditional favorite: Turkey with stuffing
The culprit: Fat, carbs

Easy fixes: When roasted or prepared in other low-fat, low-calorie methods, turkey is a great source of lean protein. It’s the add-ons—starchy stuffing, fatty gravy, sugary cranberry sauce—that you need to watch out for. Stay away from these sides as much as possible and be smart about portion control to help keep you on track.

Also, consider this: traditional bread stuffing made with white flour bread is laden with simple carbs. Think about making your stuffing with whole wheat bread this year; it will add fiber and protein to the dish. Even better, substitute whole grains for bread for an original and more flavorful dish. The nutty flavor of kasha (toasted buckwheat) lends itself well to stuffing and the extra fiber will fill you up faster—with a smaller serving—than a bread stuffing.

Simple Fix: Use whole wheat bread instead of white bread in your traditional stuffing

What you’ll gain: Some commercial brands of white bread contain 0 grams of fiber per slice, while some whole wheat breads can contain up to 5 grams per slice. Whole wheat bread also contains more protein, so it’s a better choice all around.
What you’ll lose: White bread and whole wheat bread contain the same amount of calories, but by the slice, white bread contains 12.7 grams of carbohydrates versus only 11.9 grams in whole wheat bread.
Get Creative: Check out some exciting recipes to take the place of your usual stuffing recipe: Apple and Onion Cornbread Stuffing, Sausage, Chestnut and Dried Plum Stuffing, Wild Rice Pilaf with Pumpkin Seeds, Mixed Rice Pilaf with Walnuts

Traditional favorite: Mashed potatoes
The culprits: Carbs, saturated fat, cholesterol

Easy fixes: When you combine the traditional ingredients for mashed potatoes (potatoes, cream, butter, etc.) you’ve got a recipe for empty calories, high fat and high carb content. This year, try substituting butter with olive oil, and cream with lo-fat milk or soymilk. You’ll cut out calories, saturated fat and cholesterol. If you want to add some exciting flavors, think about mixing in roasted garlic and fresh, chopped herbs

Simple Fix: Substitute olive oil for butter in your mashed potato recipe

What you’ll gain: One tablespoon of olive oil contains higher levels of Vitamin E and iron than butter.
What you’ll lose: One tablespoon of olive oil contains just 1.9 grams of saturated fat, while the same amount of butter has 7.3 grams!
Get Creative: Check out these recipes for alternatives to standard mashed potatoes: Mushroom-Topped Mashed Potatoes , Golden Mashed Root Vegetables, Mashed Potatoes with Glazed Shallots, Mashed Potatoes with Garden Herbs

Traditional favorite: Pumpkin Pie
The culprits:Fat, carbs, sugar

Easy fixes: With desserts, you’re in control when you make it yourself. When you buy store-bought pumpkin pie, or use canned pumpkin pie mix, you have no say in the amount of fat and sugar that goes in.

Making your own filling doesn’t have to mean hours of preparation—simply choosing canned pumpkin instead of canned pumpkin mix can cut down on the sugar and calories in your pie and will allow you to experiment with your own choices of seasonings and sweeteners. Consider using natural sweeteners like maple syrup or some of the many alternative sweeteners on the market. If you’re tired of the usual cinnamon and nutmeg combo, incorporate lemon and orange zest to make a delicious combination of seasonings in your pie.

Using whole wheat flour will give your crust a delightful nutty flavor and golden crust. Experiment with different shortenings and fats for your crust—olive oil makes a tasty crust and is very low in saturated fat.

Simple Fix: Make your own pumpkin pie filling and go easy on the sugar

What you’ll gain: Canned pumpkin contains higher levels of minerals like iron, magnesium and potassium, than canned pumpkin pie mix.
What you’ll lose: One cup of canned pumpkin puree contains 83 calories and 19.8 grams of carbohydrates. In one cup of a typical canned pumpkin pie mix you’ll find 281 calories and a whopping 71.2 grams of carbohydrates!
Get Creative: Check out these recipes for other holiday dessert ideas:Pumpkin Cheesecake with Oat-Walnut Crust,Butternut Pie in an Almond Crust,Baked Green Apples,Winter Fruit with Chocolate-Ginger Cannoli Cream

Surviving the holidays without sacrificing weight loss momentum is about making smart choices and understanding the importance of portion control. Also, don’t be afraid to get creative with old recipes!

Still need some inspiration? Explore our free, online recipe database for more ideas. If you’re not cooking, but are a guest at someone else’s home, keep your metabolism high with some of these strategies:

-have a small, nutritious meal before you leave for a holiday party
-drink at least 12 ounces of pure fresh water before each meal—your stomach won’t know the difference between fullness created from water or food!
-scan the buffet table first before making food choices
-choose high protein foods first, things like fish and meat. Eat that plate first, then return for carbohydrate foods such as potatoes and stuffing.
-skip or limit the alcohol—you’ll avoid consuming empty calories (around 150 per glass)
-skip the bread

For more helpful tips like this, check out our Holiday Eating Secrets press release

*all nutritional data based on figures from the USDA

Winter Fruit with Chocolate-Ginger Cannoli Cream

This deliciously creamy ricotta mixture full of chocolate and ginger, makes a wonderful sauce for crisp, juicy winter fruit. You could also serve the sauce in a bowl and treat it like a dipping sauce. Or try it over pancakes!

Baked Green Apples

Serve these either warm, at room temperature, or chilled. If you like, serve with a dollop of plain fat-free yogurt.

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Oat-Walnut Crust

This luscious reduced-fat cheesecake, with a crust full of nutritional goodies, is really a very creamy pumpkin pie that easily could become a favorite on Thanksgiving or any special family dinner.
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