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It’s the holidays and for most Americans, that means eating – lots of eating – followed by weight gain and a New Year’s resolution to lose weight.

But why not take a healthier approach to what we eat during this holiday season and beyond?

According to a recent website survey, about 18 percent of people say it’s hard for them to eat healthy because they don’t want to stop eating their favorite foods. The good news is you don’t have to. You can still enjoy your favorite occasional indulgences, but in moderation. It’s all about being mindful of what you eat.

Mindless Eating

Mindless eating is consuming food just because it’s there. It’s eating while distracted – watching TV, working at a computer or texting on our smartphones. It’s eating for emotional comfort instead of for hunger. Simply put, it’s not paying attention to what we eat which can lead to being overweight and even obesity.

“Mindless eating has always been an issue,” said Riska Platt, M.S., a registered dietitian and certified nutritionist for the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. “The key to mindful eating is awareness. Just by paying more attention to what you eat, you’re more likely to make beneficial changes.”

Awareness

When you pay attention to what you’re eating, you can make small changes that make a big difference. Here are some tips toward a more mindful approach:

  • Control portions. Especially during the holidays, know that you’ll have more opportunities to eat festive snacks and desserts. You don’t have to deprive yourself, just eat smaller portions and less often.
  • Eat when you’re hungry. Just because the clock says noon doesn’t mean you have to eat. If you’re not hungry, wait until you are – just don’t wait until you’re famished because you might overeat. Also, don’t eat just because the food is available. Learn more about why you might be eating when not hungry.  
  • Plan. Prepare healthy snacks throughout the day. If you tend to get hungry between meals, bring along a 200-calorie, whole grain, high-fiber snack, fiber keeps you feeling full longer.
  • Slow down. Enjoy each bite and put your fork down while chewing, then take a drink between each bite. This gives your body enough time to trigger your brain that you are satisfied (not necessarily full).
  • Pay attention. Do not eat in front of the TV or computer, or while standing in the kitchen or talking on the phone. When you do these things, you’re more likely to lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
  • Use technology. As we continue to become increasingly distracted by modern technology, our focus on health can fall to the back burner. But it doesn’t have to be that way. “We can actually use our smartphones and other electronic devices to help us,” said Platt, a volunteer with the American Heart Association. “There are now apps that manage food records, count calories, help you track what you eat and even provide guidance on healthy food choices at the grocery store and restaurants.”
  • Keep a food diary. Write down everything you eat, look at it, then identify why you ate it – was it hunger, stress, boredom? Then look for areas you can make adjustments and incorporate healthy changes. “Keeping a food diary is really key to awareness,” Platt said. “Most people are surprised at all they’ve consumed when they review what they’ve eaten.”

Eating healthier is easier than you think!

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Your heart works hard for you nonstop for your whole life. So show it some TLC.  Making small changes in your habits can make a real difference to your ticker. Below are 10 helpful tips to better your heart health, but best thing is, you don't have to work on all 10 steps at once. Even if you improve just one or two of these areas, you can make yourself less likely to get heart disease. Of course, the more tips on this list you follow, the better.

1.       Aim for lucky number seven.

In one study, young and middle-age adults who slept 7 hours a night had less calcium in their arteries (an early sign of heart disease) than those who slept 5 hours or less or those who slept 9 hours or more.

2.   Keep the pressure off.

If your blood pressure gets too high, the extra force can damage artery walls and create scar tissue.  Cut back on salt, limit alcohol to no more than one to two drinks a day, favor healthy eating habits (think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein) manage your stress, and work out. These changes are often enough to bring your blood pressure back down into the normal range. If not, your doctor might recommend you also take medication.

3.  Slash saturated fats.

To help your heart’s arteries, cut down on saturated fats, which are mainly found in meat and full-fat dairy products. Choose leaner cuts and reduced-fat options. 

4.  Find out if you have diabetes.

Millions of people do and don’t know it. That’s risky because over time, high blood sugar damages arteries and puts you at risk for heart disease.  One simple swap is to trade processed carbs (like white rice) for fiber-rich whole grains (like brown rice). Every positive change you make in what you eat and how active you are will help. Over time, you’ll be able to do more.

5. Move more.

To keep it simple, you can aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of moderate exercise. That includes any activity that gets you moving around and breaking a slight sweat.  “If you're doing nothing, do something. And if you're doing something, do more," Lloyd-Jones says.  Also, pay attention to how much time you spend seated, whether it's at work, in your car, or on your couch at home. You want to cut that time down.

6.   Clean up.

Your heart works best when it runs on clean fuel. That means lots of whole, plant-based foods (like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) and fewer refined or processed foods (like white bread, pasta, crackers, and cookies).  One of the fastest ways to clean up your diet is to cut out sugary beverages like soda and fruit juice, which lacks the fiber that’s in actual fruit.

7. Think beyond the scale.

Ask your doctor if your weight is OK. If you have some pounds to lose, it’s not just about calories and exercise but think if there are events or stressors that trigger bad eating habits.

8.   Ditch the cigarettes, real and electronic.

No new news, smoking and secondhand smoke are bad for your heart.

9.   Do more of what you love.

Make it a point, too, to spend time with people you’re close to. Talk, laugh, confide, and enjoy each other. It’s good for your emotional health and your heart.

10.   Celebrate every step.

Making changes like these takes time and effort. Think progress, not perfection. And reward yourself for every positive step you take. Ask your friends and family to support you and join in, too. Your heart’s future will be better for it!

Additional heart healthy over the counter items are on sale the entire month of February.  See the reverse side for heart healthy savings.  For additional information, contact the pharmacy or your physician.

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Healthy Weight Loss

Do You Believe This Common Myth?

Myth: I should avoid grain products such as bread, pasta and rice when trying to lose weight.

Fact: Unless you have a particular allergy or digestive issue, grains can be considered a healthy part of any diet, including a weight-loss diet.  A grain product is any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley or anther cereal grain.  Some are healthier than others, however. 

Grains are divided into two subgroups: whole grains and refined grains.  Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel - the bran, germ and endosperm.  Examples include brown rice and whole-wheat bread, and certain cereals and pasta.  Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ.  This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also remove dietary fiber, iron and many B vitamins. 

People who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet may lower their chances of developing some chronic diseases.  To lose weight, reduce the  number of calories you take in and increase the amount of physical activity you do each day.  Follow an eating plan that replaces less-healthy options with a mix of fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean protein foods and low-fat dairy foods. 

- Source: National Institutes of Health

 

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