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Healthy Ways to Celebrate the Holidays

Try replacing high-calorie cocktails with apple cider flavored with cinnamon sticks.

Step back from the high-calorie foods and stop stressing about missed workouts. Grab the family, and have fun with these healthy ways to celebrate the holidays.

Recipe Redo Competition

Everyone is looking for ways to lighten up favorite holiday foods without sacrificing traditional flavor. Create a competition within your family to see who can creatively adapt the most delicious dish. Assign everyone a recipe and give them the challenge of making it healthier. This might be by reducing the calories or saturated fat, increasing vitamins and minerals, or using fewer processed ingredients. Select a healthy reward for the person who creates the best dish.

Get Your Friends Moving

This time of year offers many opportunities to connect with friends. Instead of meeting for lunch or for happy hour, find ways to make your quality time beneficial to your physical health and emotional health. Sign up for a walk or run to support your favorite charity. Volunteer to pick up donations in your neighborhood or to make and deliver healthy holiday meals on bike or foot. The time together will allow you to catch up, incorporate activity, and feel good about helping others.

Create a Holiday-themed Workout

Get your workout in as a family and get into the holiday spirit. You don’t need much space to create a circuit workout, and if the weather is tolerable, bundle up and take it outside. Think of all the ways you can incorporate the holidays into the session. Play upbeat holiday music. Use a string of garland as a jump rope or as a marker on the ground for a side-to-side hop. Let a heavier, non-breakable wrapped gift serve as a weight to hold during lunges or squats. Make it fun and let each family member create a station. Do each exercise for 60 to 90 seconds, and then switch until you have completed a 20 to 30 minute workout.

Host a Party to Help Others

Invite friends over for your traditional holiday party, but change the focus of the afternoon. Grab the boots and coats and help shovel snow for neighbors who are unable to do so, or volunteer to help put up holiday decorations. There are many people who can use assistance this time of year, and the activity will help you burn calories.

Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that at least 1 in 3 people will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. By gaining a better understanding of type 2 diabetes, you can take the necessary steps to reduce your risk.

Blood Glucose and Type 2 Diabetes

Blood glucose, or blood sugar, is the amount of sugar in your blood. It serves as a primary source of energy for the body. When you have type 2 diabetes, blood glucose increases above normal levels, a condition called hyperglycemia (high blood glucose).

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that helps blood glucose get from your blood into your cells. With type 2 diabetes your body doesn't use insulin well, often called insulin resistance. The pancreas increases insulin production to help lower the rising blood glucose, but eventually it cannot make enough. As a result, blood glucose levels increase to dangerous levels. When left untreated, this can cause many health issues including blindness, kidney failure, foot complications, heart disease, and stroke.

Difference Between Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are not the same. With type 1 diabetes, there is a lack of insulin available because the immune system attacks the pancreas and the cells that produce insulin are destroyed. While type 1 diabetes can develop in adulthood, it is much more commonly diagnosed in youth. There is currently no way to prevent type 1 diabetes. Research shows type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed. While both diseases can be related to family history and genetics, type 1 diabetes results from an autoimmune disorder, while type 2 diabetes is often linked to unhealthy behaviors like a sedentary lifestyle.

How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes

Being overweight and a lack of physical activity are believed to be major contributors to the insulin resistance that leads to type 2 diabetes. Research shows that losing weight and getting active can cut your risk in half. A moderate weight loss of 10 to 15 pounds, or just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight, is enough to reduce your risk. Regular exercise improves your cells’ sensitivity to insulin, helping glucose move from the bloodstream to cells throughout your body. As a result, this helps promote healthier blood glucose levels and reduces your risk for diabetes. Just 150 minutes of exercise per week has shown to reduce risk. Choose a combination of moderate intensity activities, such as walking and strength training.

Quick Ways to Reduce Stress

Quick Ways to Reduce Stress

A moderate amount of stress is motivating, but it can quickly increase and have a negative impact on health. While you can't always cut out stress completely, controlling stress and incorporating activities that reduce it are key to maintaining good health.

Find a Pet

From petting a dog to watching fish swim in an aquarium, animals have been shown to have a calming effect on humans. It doesn't have to be your pet, visit a neighbor or spend some time with the office cat. Research shows that as little as five minutes of interaction can lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Pets have also been found to improve heart health by reducing risk factors for heart disease, such as lowering blood pressure. Time with pets has also been found to decrease depression and lower anxiety.

Meditate for Five Minutes

Meditation doesn't take a big time commitment. Simple, deep breathing and clearing your mind for a few minutes can calm you. Regular meditation has been shown to lower heart rate, promote normal blood pressure, and reduce levels of stress hormones. It also helps to clear your mind, which can lead to creativity. Set a timer, sit quietly in a place with no distractions, breath deeply, and relax.

Think About Your Happy Place

A short meditation practice, called visualization, can distract you from a stressful situation and has been found to promote muscle relaxation. Thinking about a peaceful scene in nature or at the beach, or even picturing yourself accomplishing a goal, are all forms of visualization. Simply meditate on your personal happy place. If you don’t know where to start, guided visualization can help. Listen to a CD or find an app for your Smartphone. It only takes a few minutes and guided visualization has been found to decrease blood pressure and reduce levels of stress hormones.

Laugh

Laughing is unlike other methods for reducing stress because it causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. As a result, an increase in breathing rate sends more oxygen to the muscles. It’s a response similar to what happens when you exercise. Once the laughing ends and your breathing and heart rate return to normal, you feel relaxed, refreshed, and energized.

Healthy Cooking Mistakes

Cooking more of your own food is one way to control what you eat. When you know how much salt, fat, and other ingredients are added, you can better track your intake to meet your fitness goals. While healthy cooking isn’t as complicated as it may seem, it is easy to fall into a few traps. These cooking mistakes may affect your view of healthy foods and prevent you from maximizing the nutritional value of your meals.

You salt before you taste.

Many recipes save adding the salt for the final step, after the food is fully cooked. Do you toss in all the salt before giving it a taste? Everyone’s preferences for salt are different and as you decrease your sodium intake, it’s likely that your taste buds will be happier with much less. Try adding half the salt suggested by the recipe, and then taste the food. You may find that extra salt isn’t necessary.

Your oven over-bakes.

Sometimes the reason you don’t like a food is simply because it hasn’t been prepared correctly. Fish can easily over bake and become tough, roasted vegetables can cook unevenly, and cakes using fruit purees in place of fat or alternative flours can dry out. By getting to know your oven, you can work around these obstacles to make healthy foods that taste delicious. Calibrate your oven temperature and identify hot spots that tend to overcook food. You can learn to lower temperatures when necessary and rotate pans to always get the best results.

You don’t experiment with reducing cooking oil.

The first time you make a recipe, stick to the book and follow the instructions. If it becomes a favorite, try experimenting. Many stovetop recipes that use sautéed vegetables call for two tablespoons or more of olive oil. While sometimes this is necessary, other recipes cook just fine with less, saving you 120 calories for each tablespoon you can reduce. First cut the amount by just a quarter, then try half. You may find that you don’t need all the oil suggested by the recipe.

You don’t weigh and measure.

Unlike baking, cooking doesn’t always require an exact balance of ingredients, but a little too much freedom in your technique could mean extra calories. Adding oils and sauces to pans without measuring, not portioning out an appropriate serving of pasta, and tossing in extra toppings like nuts and seeds can cause your final dish to contain more calories than listed by your recipe. Use your measuring tools to ensure you don’t turn an otherwise healthy dish into a high-calorie meal.

Easy Ways to Have a More Active Lifestyle

Finding ways to incorporate more activity into your day is important for living a healthy lifestyle. Even the calories burned through the smallest activities add up to help you lose weight. Activity also refreshes you mentally to keep you sharp and alert as you plow through your to-do list. Create a more active lifestyle with some of these ideas.

Walking meetings

Take a break from the conference room and meet while on the move. A walking meeting burns calories and the change in environment may spark some renewed creativity. Mobile devices make it easy to verbally document any notes. Those involved can return to the desk refreshed and ready to take on a new project.

Active commuting

You don’t have to walk or bike to work every single day to take advantage of active commuting. Try it twice a week or just one way and arrange a ride home with a coworker. If walking or biking is out of the question, get creative with how you can make the commute more active. Can you park further away, complete errands and get to nearby meetings on foot, or take the stairs to your floor?

Stretch breaks

Research shows that sitting for long periods may be bad for your long term health, even if you workout. Get out of your chair for a stretch break at regular intervals throughout the day. Hold each stretch for 20 seconds while breathing deeply. Stretch all major muscle groups paying special attention to the areas most affected by long periods of sitting -- the shoulders, lower back and hamstrings.

Incorporate more movement into sedentary activities

Some sedentary activities present opportunities to move more. As you watch your favorite television shows, try circuit workouts. Do strength exercises when the show is on and switch to cardio activities like jumping jacks or walking stairs during commercials.

Join a team and invite your friends

The time enjoyed with your friends doesn’t have to be sedentary. Form a team and join the local softball, volleyball, or bowling league. If you aren’t into competitive sports, get the group together for a hike or hit the water for a leisurely paddle in canoes or kayaks. These activities keep you active while you spend time catching up and creating great memories.

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