Tag Archives: balance

Deciding on a Balanced Diet

Eating a Balanced Diet

Focusing on a balanced diet is one of the best ways to make healthy eating a part of your life.

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The USDA sets Dietary Guidelines for Americans regularly to help guide balanced diet choices. While these guidelines can seem complicated, there are key takeaways from them you should know.

The Importance of Healthy Eating

Healthy eating helps prevent and slow the onset of diseases, like obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.

Include in a Balanced Diet

A healthy and balanced diet, which for most people is around 2,000 calories a day, includes a variety of:

  • Vegetables, including a variety of dark green, red, and orange veggies, legumes, which include beans and peas, and starchy veggies, like corn and potatoes.
  • Fruits, especially whole fruits, like apples and oranges, which are the perfect serving  size.
  • Grains, at least half of which are whole grain.
  • Fat-free or low-fat dairy (like milk, yogurt, and cheese) or appropriate substitutes.
  • A variety of foods high in protein, like lean meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, beans,  soy-based products (like tofu), nuts and seeds.
  • Oils (like canola, olive, peanut, and soybean) or naturally occurring oils in nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados.

Limit in a Balanced Diet

  • Added sugars should make up less than 10% of your daily calories, which can be hidden in processed and prepared foods, like soda, cereal, cookies, and more.
  • Limit saturated and trans fats, which should make up less than 10% of your daily calories. Foods high in these include butter, whole milk, and palm oil. Replace with unsaturated fats, like canola and olive oil whenever you can.
  • Limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg per day. Processed foods, like pizza, and canned soup and sauces can be high in this salt.

A Balanced Diet with MyPlate

MyPlate replaced the food pyramid as the guide to making sense of servings. It helps you look at your plate and strike a balance with each meal.

This chart can help you divide your own plates appropriately: MyPlate

Fruits and veggies should make up about half of your plate, with just over a quarter filled with whole grains, and protein should be under a quarter. (A few ounces of meat, a piece about the size of the palm of your hand, is a good serving size for most people.) Also work in a small serving of dairy through milk, cheese, or yogurt to round out your meal.

Making Smart Choices

Combine these guidelines with smart choices, and you’ll be well on your way to eating a balanced diet. And making these smart choices doesn’t have to be difficult. There are lots of tips and tricks that can help you make a balanced diet a part of your daily life.

Tracking Your Food

Then, you can target the number of servings you should be getting of the different food groups.

These can help you figure out calorie counts and limit sodium and sugar.

This can help you understand how balanced your diet and food servings are and set and reach food goals.

Making and Meeting Food Goals

  • Start small.

Making small changes in your eating habits can have long-term effects:

  • Switch to high fiber, low-sugar cereals.
  • Give up soda with flavored sparkling waters.
  • When you’re hungry, try drinking a glass of water before you eat something.
  • Plan for all of the places you go in life:
    • Instead of eating out for lunch at work, start planning and meal-prepping ahead of time, and avoid the vending machines.
    • If you know your kids aren’t making great food choices at school, get them involved in packing lunches they’ll love ahead of time.
    • When you know you’ll spend the day at the mall, carry snacks and a water bottle, eat a healthy breakfast or snack before you head out, and skip the food court. If you just can’t avoid a meal or a snack while you’re out, find the healthiest option. Load up a sandwich with veggies, get frozen yogurt without all kinds of extra sweet toppings instead of ice cream, and choose hot tea or unsweetened iced tea instead of a frappachino.
    • Check menus for calorie counts when you’re eating out. Ask for salad dressings and sauces on the side, avoid fried foods, and keep in mind that alcoholic drinks can be full of calories.
    • Many communities have community gardens. Join in and help out to get moving and to grow things your whole family can enjoy in meals.

Results and Rewards

  • Don’t beat yourself up when you have missteps.

Everyone struggles with giving up the foods full of sugar and salt that they love, so it’s important to stay positive and get back on track.

  • Plan your cheat day.

Many people have found that planning a weekly cheat day can help them stay on course knowing they can treat themselves later. And once you get used to a balanced diet, you’ll find that you’ll cheat in smaller and smaller ways, even on the day you’re allowed to.

  • Find healthy ways to treat yourself.

For example, do you love watermelon or raspberries? Splurge on the healthy treats you love. Enjoy a piece of dark chocolate each day or a glass of red wine each week. Another option, reward meeting your goals with a treat that isn’t food-related, like a new outfit, book, or manicure.

Up Next:

Now that you know the value of a balanced diet, learn to prepare before you go grocery shopping and shop smart to meet your goals.

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Reaching New Heights through Change

Long View: One Small Change for Better Health

Some friends and I made a New Year’s resolution to climb a mountain in Colorado and circled a date in July on the calendar. To prepare, one friend decided to change one thing – just one.

As a hospital nurse practitioner, she decided to take only the stairs throughout the day. She climbed to the 5th floor for daily rounds, down to her office, back up to the 3rd floor for clinics. You get the idea. When July rolled around, her legs were toned and her lungs were strengthened to the point that she climbed that mountain and lived to tell about it. One simple change was all it took – pretty impressive.

Many people set ambitious nutrition and fitness goals for the New Year. If you’re anything like me, those ambitious goals are scrapped by Super Bowl Sunday. What if we all committed to making just one change for the coming year? What if we circled a date on the calendar (January 2 doesn’t count) and stuck to it? Would the cumulative effect make us healthier?

Some small changes you could make to your eating and fitness habits:

  • Start by switching out your afternoon vending machine snack with a piece of fruit and some nuts one day a week.
  • Is lunch a fast food adventure? Switch those large fries with a small order of fries, and get water instead of soda. Better yet, trade your fast food meal with a lunch you packed yourself once a week.
  • Walking more is one thing we all can add to our daily lives, and it can be easier than you think. Try taking one full lap around your local big-box store before you start shopping. Chances are you’ll add an extra quarter of a mile to your daily mileage.
  • Tai Chi is a wonderful exercise to add. Chris Cady-Jones coordinates Tai Chi for Balance in our Omaha market. She says, “Tai Chi is a low impact exercise gaining popularity due to its positive effects on social and mental well-being, improved balance, and physical functioning. It also reduces your risk for falls.”

We won’t all climb a real mountain in 2016. But by making just one small change in our everyday lives, we might climb our own personal mountain toward a healthier and more active New Year.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of two terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Organzing Against Stress

Chasing Health: Finding Out You’re Far from Perfect

Having gone through grad school while working in a Division I college athletics department, I thought I was a pro at dealing with stress.

Oh, you need game recaps, live scoring, social media coverage, and postgame interviews for four sporting events tonight? Cool, I’m on it. I’ll pencil in my critical analysis paper for my 20-page reading assignment for about 4 o’clock tomorrow morning, right after I finish my 5-page response to my other 20-page reading assignment.

That was once pretty much my life. And with a little Mountain Dew here and there (and more than a few post-midnight candy binges), I made it work and even enjoyed it from time to time. I mean, I was doing my dream job. It just happened to be at an extremely busy and stressful point in my life.

To understand how I deal with stress, you have to know a little bit about how I deal with anything. I’m not exactly laid back, and I’ve probably never done anything casually or halfway in my entire life. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. You know, go big or go home.

Growing up, I never wanted to be any teacher’s second-favorite. I was the annoying teacher’s pet, cares-way-too-much-about-everything type. Any error on any assignment bothered me way longer than it should have, and a minus sign at the end of a letter grade on a report card caused physical pain.

I participated in nearly every high school extracurricular activity, from cheerleading and dance to the ecology team and Student Council. (I stayed away from competitive sports, though. Per my all-or-nothing attitude, if I wasn’t good at something, “go big or go home” meant go home.)

I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I think too much, worry too much, and let other people’s opinions get to me. Looking back now and knowing how I still am, I realize I don’t actually deal well with stress at all. And that busy grad-school schedule I stuck to wasn’t actually impressive. It was just busy and lacked the portion of life that’s meant for sleeping.

Although perfectionism sometimes leads to positive results, like good report cards, accuracy at work, and being everyone’s favorite group project member, it’s not as pleasant as it sounds. Nobody is perfect, so no matter what, perfectionists fall short of their own impossible expectations. Believe me. It happens to me nearly every day.

I can turn something that’s supposed to be fun and innocent, like baking sugar cookies, creating a Halloween costume, or choosing a new series to watch on Netflix, into a needlessly dramatic situation.

I’m a great example of how NOT to handle stress. Here are a few tips I’ve learned (but don’t always use) along the way.

  • Don’t stay up all night for work. I was a champ at pulling all-nighters during my college years, but now, not so much. And even if you can do it, it’s not exactly good for you.
  • Don’t load up on caffeine (especially if caffeinated drinks are normally not your thing). A few nights of extreme restlessness and extra anxiety were enough for me to stop my caffeine-bingeing in its tracks.
  • Don’t skip lunch to later eat your weight in candy corn. This is always a bad idea. Don’t skip lunch for any reason (unless you’re too sick to eat or something), and never eat your weight in anything.
  • Don’t cut back on exercise. Working out is not only good for your physical health but also your mental health, especially when dealing with stress.
  • Don’t focus on the possibility of failure, which in addition to strokes and snakes, is one of my biggest fears. Thinking too much about failure only slows down your success.
  • Don’t do it all alone. Some perfectionists, including me, are pretty good at keeping up their calm appearances on the outside. Don’t try to handle all your stress alone, and don’t be afraid to ask for help. (If you’re a perfectionist, asking for help is one of the hardest things to do.)

Perfectionism isn’t healthy. On top of the bad eating, sleeping, and exercise habits, it can come with loads of anxiety, and it’s probably not good for my blood pressure or migraine-prone head, either. My late nights fueled by soda are never my most productive nights anyway (although they led to some dramatic reflection papers in college).

Here are some ways I deal with stress that actually work for me.

  • Taking outdoor walks (I recommend literally stopping to smell the roses and glancing at the beautiful fall trees. I did both this week. That’s about as close as I get to living in the moment.)
  • Going to PiYo classes (a Pilates-yoga combo)
  • Dancing in the kitchen, living room, bathroom, parking lots, anywhere really (except during important meetings and such)
  • Cleaning my apartment (It helps me feel an instant sense of accomplishment.)
  • Visiting the holiday aisles of my favorite craft stores (If thinking about the holidays stresses you out even more, I wouldn’t recommend this one. Just go to your version of a happy place.)
  • Listening to my favorite jams (For me, this consists of a lot of ‘90s boyband stuff, Broadway hits, and Taylor Swift. Don’t judge.)

I’m not saying you shouldn’t try your hardest or take pride in your work. I’m just encouraging you to try to put everything into perspective, realize you can ask for help, and know that sometimes, things won’t be perfect.

Take this blog post for instance. In some not-so-surprising twist, I’ve toyed around with it off and on for nearly a week. I’m sure I could pull it apart more, but I think there is sometimes a point when good enough is good enough. (Thank goodness I’m usually on deadline.) And in the case of this perfectionist’s blog post, I think I’m there.

Try living in the moment (responsibly) rather than stressing out about everything. I’ve never really done it, but I’ve heard good things.

A Balanced Life During Go4Life Month

Go4Life Month

September is Go4Life Month! There are 4 different kinds of exercises for you to focus on for it.

Check out these exercises for endurance.

Gardening for Exercise

 

Plan for your future by setting up a free account with Go4Life to set goals, make plans, and track your progress.

Planing to Go4Life

 

Check out these exercises for strength.

Wrist Curl

 

Need a little inspiration? Check out how people, like Diane P. who started playing hockey at 65, go for life.

Hockey Success Story

 

Check out these exercises for balance.

Tai Chi for Balance

 

Looking for tips, motivation, guides or even a good exercise DVD? Check out this free stuff and more h.

Check out these exercises for flexibility.

Thigh Standing Exercise

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Fighting for Fitness with Exercise

My Healthy Journey: Time to Sweat

I’ve changed my diet, organized my life, and made healthier choices, so the last and biggest thing on the list is exercise.

I don’t like to exercise, as I think a lot of us don’t. I’m competitive, so I liked playing sports as a kid, but as an adult, exercising by myself is boring and hard work. If I had a gym membership and could read on a treadmill, it might be different. But as it is, it’s hard to make myself do it.

But if I can (for the most part) give up candy, completely abandon soda, and stop drinking coffee for a month, I can handle anything!

I started by doing a muscle-strengthening yoga routine every day, which was a great way to start for me. It wasn’t too intense, it was calming, and it really helped me regain some flexibility and balance I’d lost over the years.

Now, I’ve been doing P90X. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it, but it used to have infomercials on TV, which automatically makes me suspicious. But I actually know a number of people who have done it, and my goal is less to get a killer six-pack and more to get in better shape, so I don’t really need it to live up to all its TV promises.

I borrowed the DVDs from a friend, so I didn’t spend all of the money they’re talking about. I’m also not following all of their meal plans or the exact exercise plan. Each day you’re supposed to do a different workout for a different part of your body, and they’re each about an hour and a half long with warmups and cool downs.

I usually can’t make it through the whole thing yet; they’re really difficult! I also do them more like every other day because I’m so sore the day after. They make you pour sweat, and they make you want to lie on the ground in your own sweat puddle to catch your breath.

But I can already see some improvements! And that’s really satisfying. Am I out running yet? No (it’s been so rainy!). But I am getting cardio and strengthening done, in my own bedroom no less.

Plus, I’ve found some new interests by doing them. For instance, there’s a kickboxing workout that I love, so maybe in the future, I might try kickboxing classes!

Do I think I’ll stick with this level of workout forever? Definitely no! Eventually, I’d like to mix things like this up with other activities, like yoga, runs, and more simple workouts. Once it’s a habit, it will really be more about doing something every day.

It’s all about finding the things that will keep you interested, engaged, and MOVING.

There are so many reasons (and studies on) why you should  exercise. Mayo Clinic breaks it down perfectly: Exercise controls weight, fights health conditions and diseases, improves your mood, boosts your energy, and helps you sleep.

And Rally, our wellness tool, knows how important it is, too. It has tons of great missions to get you moving, like exercise 30 minutes every day, work up a sweat 3x a week, swim 30 minutes, and work your core, as well as weightlifting and walking missions.

So to help you get on a great fitness track that will entertain you and doesn’t require an expensive package, I’ve rounded up some activities for you to try for some of these missions.

Exercise 30 Minutes Every Day

43 Workouts That Allow You to Watch An Ungodly Amount of Television
100 No-Equipment Workouts

Work Up a Sweat 3x a Week

PopSugar Workout Music
Top 100 Running Songs

Run 30 Minutes

7 Easy Ways to Become a Runner
Beginner’s Running Guide
3 Methods to Run Faster

Swim 30 Minutes

The Ultimate Pool Workout
6 Tips to Improve Your Swimming Right Now
Make A Splash Infographic

Swimming's Benefits Infographic
Image via MyMedicalForum

Work Your Core

10-Minute Core-Blasting Pilates Workout

Quick Workout for a Powerful Core
Image via Buzzfeed’s 9 Quick Total Body Workouts

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The Scope of Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis Education Month

March is also Multiple Sclerosis Education Month, so as we wrapped the month up, we gave you info about the disease.

MS is a disease of the central nervous system, which interferes with communication between the brain and the body, and anyone can get it.

MS affects approximately 2.3 million people worldwide, but the disease isn’t consistently tracked and reported in the U.S.

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MS causes pain, extreme fatigue, and hurts vision, balance, walking. memory, concentration, and mood, and can cause problems as serious as paralysis.

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There are medications shown to slow MS, but no cure. There isn’t even a one course of diagnosis, like a lab test.

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This is a pivotal time in MS that shows how far research has come. Learn more about the disease’s history.

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Make a donation, find an event, and advocate for change and make a difference in the fight against MS.

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Are you currently fighting MS? Get support and help by finding a National Multiple Sclerosis Society Chapter near you.

You'll never be without support

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