Halloween and the Sweet Tooth Craze

It’s no surprise that America is sugar obsessed. Most everyone is aware that too much sugar is not good for the body, yet we consume some of the highest amounts in the entire world.  According to the USDA, the average American eats about 170 pounds of the sweet stuff each year.

Sugar is much like an addictive drug, exciting the pleasure centers of our brain and enticing our taste buds to crave more. Consuming mass amounts of sugar overtime can cause serious health problems such as chronic disease, obesity, migraines, diabetes, behavioral problems and even allergies.

How can you reduce your sugar intake? 

Eat sweets in moderation. Read your food labels and beware of sneaky sugar in bread, condiments, salad dressing, soups and pasta sauce.  Replace one sugary drink per day with a water, and cook more meals at home.

For kids, especially during Halloween, monitor their intake and set allowances of how much candy they can have per day. The increase in sugar can affect their sleep patterns and ability to pay attention in school.

Eight Tips to Avoid the Negative Effects of a Desk Job

Many people find themselves sitting at a desk for a majority of the workday. If you are one of those people, you probably realize that this sedentary lifestyle is not the best for your health. Sitting at a desk all day is bad for your heart, your posture, your circulation, and can lead to weight gain.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help prevent it. These eight tips will not only help keep the weight off, but they can mitigate some of the other detrimental effects of sitting at your desk all day as well. Most of them revolve around the simple act of moving – any chance you get.

Tip #1: Jump start your metabolism in the morning before work. To burn more calories throughout the day, try drinking cold water and eating a good breakfast with protein, or get in some early morning exercise. Even a quick 10-15 minute exercise when you get out of bed (push-ups, crunches, burpees, etc.) will be beneficial and give you added energy for the rest of the day.

Tip #2: Watch what you eat and stay hydrated. Keep a bottle of water at your desk and pack yourself a healthy lunch. Throw away that bag of chips or box of cookies and swap it out for fruits, veggies, healthy protein, nuts, and yogurt. See our blog on “Eating Healthy During the Work Week” for more great ideas. {LINK TO BLOG WHEN PUBLISHED}

Tip #3: Do exercises and easy stretches at your desk. Every couple of hours, or when you have a free moment, incorporate exercise or stretching into your day. It will get the muscles moving, heart pumping, and blood flowing.

Tip #4: Use your lunch hour to get some exercise. If you can’t get to a gym, go for a walk. The activity will give both your mind and your body a break. Don’t forget to forego the elevator and take the stairs!

Tip #5: Swap your chair out for an exercise ball. This simple change will improve your posture by forcing you to use more of your core muscles to sit up straight. You might also be tempted to squeeze in some crunches, planks, or other exercises when you have a free minute or two.

Tip #6: Evolve to a standing desk. You probably don’t want to stand for a full day, but alternating standing and sitting will break up the monotony of sitting. More importantly, you burn more calories when you stand.

Tip #7: Schedule walking meetings. Talk about killing two birds with one stone! You’ll be getting work done while getting some exercise all at once.

Tip #9: Get a Fitness tracker. It’s amazing how numbers can drive you to set goals and exceed them. This is part of the philosophy behind fitness trackers. It keeps track of all the things you do during the day (activity, exercise, food, weight, sleep) and gives you feedback so you can see the numbers, whether it’s pounds lost, steps walked, or hours slept.

Having a sedentary job doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to gain weight. Just remember to eat right and keep moving!

Time Management Tips for Back to School

Even though summer feels like it just started, the school buses will be revving up before we know it. In order to prepare for back-to-school time and transition schedules for you and your family, it’s important to implement good time management practices that will lessen anxiety and stress.

Get a jump start on things before school starts. Look for weekly deals at your favorite stores for school supplies and buy extra so you have it for the middle of the year when your student starts to run out. This not only saves time, but money, too. Also, start implementing the school year schedule early. Slowly adjust sleep and wake up times to get closer what they will be during the school year, assign “homework” that can be completed in the afternoon, and schedule time for activities such as what the student would experience at recess or after-school activities.

When the school year arrives, set you and your family up for success by carrying out the routine you’ve established. Also, packing backpack and lunches as well as setting out clothes the night before will help for an easy morning. Additionally, buy snacks in bulk to save money and portion them out beforehand so you can grab and go. This is a helpful tip for back-up breakfasts as well if you are running late in the morning.

Doing a little bit at a time to prepare for the transition back to school can go a long way to keeping your family on track and your sanity intact!

What to Do (and NOT do) to Help You Sleep Like a Baby

Some of us sleep like babies, but unfortunately, many of us don’t. Approximately 20 to 40 percent of Americans suffer from insomnia, a sleep disorder resulting in wakefulness or restlessness and an overall inability to sleep. Some people can fall asleep fine, but suffer from an inability to stay asleep, which is referred to as sleep-maintenance insomnia.

Dealing with insomnia of any kind is frustrating and the reality is that there is no cure besides medication. What you can do is improve your “sleep hygiene” to get your body and mind in shape for a good night’s sleep. Here are some tips to make that happen.

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on the weekends. The routine will reinforce the natural sleep-wake cycle of your body.
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise during the day (but not in the few hours before bedtime). The physical activity will help tire your body out so you can sleep better.
  • Develop a bedtime routine that involves winding down as you get in bed. For example, take a warm shower, brush your teeth, do some easy stretching or practice yoga before turning off the light.
  • Make sure your sleep environment is comfortable. This involves being in a cool, dark, and quiet room with a comfortable mattress.
  • When you find yourself tossing and turning in the middle of the night, try to meditate. Practice progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing to force yourself into a more relaxed state. If that doesn’t work, try listening to soft music or reading for 20-30 minutes before you try to go back to sleep.
  • Avoid eating large meals before bed.
  • Avoid stimulants (caffeine, nicotine) in the afternoon.
  • Avoid alcohol in the few hours before you go to bed. Alcohol may initially seem as though it makes you sleepy, but it may cause you to wake up later as your body metabolizes the alcohol.
  • Avoid using technology right before you go to bed (i.e., watching television, working on your computer or other electronic devices).
  • Avoid naps or limit them to no more than 30 min.

The Center for Disease Control recommends that adults get at least seven hours of quality sleep each night. To wake up well rested and refreshed, set yourself up for success by using our tips above to improve the quality of your sleep.

Ten Small Ways to Save Money

Imagine finding a $20 bill in your pocket. Regardless of how it got there, it feels like free money.

Although not as easy as simply finding money in your pocket, the following tips can help you save money in small ways over time. By being mindful about where your money is going and what you really want to spend it on, you’ll be surprised how easy – and painless – it is to save.

  • Pack your lunch. Packing a lunch instead of eating out could save you upwards of $1,800.00 per year. On top of that, packing your lunch can also be a much healthier option.
  • Make your own coffee. Spending just $2 on a cup of coffee each work day adds up to $500 per year, therefore even if it costs you one dollar to make your own coffee, you’ll still save around $250 per year.
  • Give yourself an allowance. This can be difficult, but if you give yourself a limit of what you want to spend in a certain amount of time, it will be a guide when making the tough spending decisions.
  • Buy your groceries in bulk. This isn’t always possible, but can save you money in two ways. First, the unit cost of buying a larger size of something (cereal, peanut butter, toilet paper, etc.) is typically cheaper. Second, if you stock up on essentials, you’ll likely make fewer trips to the store and therefore have fewer chances to be tempted to purchase non-essentials while you are there.
  • Buy generic items. The generic or store brand versions of items are significantly cheaper. Sometimes buying a brand name product is necessary, but when you can, buy the generic store brand and save.
  • Don’t carry excess cash or credit cards. Impulse spending is less of a temptation when you need to go to the bank or ATM to get money.
  • Pay off your credit card Don’t carry a balance. If, for instance, you carry a balance of $5,000.00 on a charge card at 19 percent interest, you’re giving away $1000.00 per year in interest.
  • Take advantage of “end of the season” sales. Holiday decorations are always on sale after the holidays. The price of candy is reduced the morning after Halloween. Cars of a previous model go on sale in September when the new models roll in.
  • Make your own greeting cards. Greeting cards can be expensive, and as beautiful and thoughtful as they are, they are likely to end up in a trash can after they’ve been read. Instead, make your own personalized card for less than $1.
  • Save your change. Put your loose change into a jar at the end of each day. These coins will add up little by little over the course of a year or more.