Are you Getting Enough Fruits and Veggies?

A lot of people may think they get enough fruit and veggies over the day, but they may fall short of the recommendations.  To start off, what are the recommendations? In general, the more produce the better, but check these charts for your age and sex to get specific recommendations.

Daily Fruit Needs
Image from http://choosemyplate.gov/
Daily Vegetable Needs
Image from http://choosemyplate.gov/

These recommendations are pretty clear by putting them into “cups” rather than a number of servings.  However, there are 2 exceptions.  When it comes to dried fruit 1/2 a cup counts as a full cup.  The volume is smaller just because they are dehydrated, but they retain their nutrition.  The second difference is with leafy green vegetables.  This includes lettuce, spinach, kale and other salad mixes.  Because they are so light, 2 measured cups equals a cup serving.  Use the below images that I got from PopSugar to help you visualize your actual needs.  It may not be as daunting as  you think,

Fruit ServingFruit Servings 3 Fruit Serving 2

I couldn’t find similar images of vegetables but just grab some measuring cups and measure it out.

If these charts and images make you realize that your intake is on the low side, you are in good company.  The CDC conducted a study and found that on average, only 32.5% of Americans meet their needs for fruit and only 26.3% meet their vegetable needs.  These numbers have actually gotten worse since 2000.  Statistically, the highest intake is found in women, adults over 65, and in those with a college degree.  Surprisingly, fruit intake is very similar across income brackets (vegetable intake is highest in those with salaries above $50,000).  This shows that social factors and education may be more important than income.

But you may ask, why is it important?  Well for your personal health, it is probably the best thing you can do.  Most fruits and vegetables are naturally low in salt, fat, and calorie making it easier to lose weight or stay where you are.  It has also been shown that a diet high in produce can reduce your risk for heart disease, certain cancers, stroke, lower your blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and kidney stones.  They are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, water, and phytonutrients.  All of these are critically important for your body to function properly and at its highest level.

Keep your eyes peeled for a follow up post on how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your daily life.

Do you struggle with your produce intake?

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How to Stay Hydrated Without Really Trying

Keeping hydrated is something that people talk about a lot during the summer.  Its hot, we sweat and a tall glass of water is incredibly appealing.  But it is just as important in the winter and is frequently overlooked as an important area of well being.  According to a study by the University of New Hampshire, we are prone do dehydration in the winter about the same as in hot weather.  A lot of water is lost simply through breathing and perspiration.  We may think that these losses are low, but we sweat under our layers and when the air is very dry, water evaporates quickly.

Being in cold weather also affects our ability to regulate fluid balance in an attempt to conserve heat.  This means that when we are dehydrated, our body does not release a hormone that triggers thirst in addition to not conserving water in the kidneys, increasing water loss.  Since our body is not automatically correcting, we need to be more conscious about our fluid intake.  Incorporate these strategies the help prevent dehydration which can result in dry mouth, sleepiness, headaches, dry skin, constipation and dizziness.

Keep Water Available

If you don’t have any water, you aren’t going to drink it.  Keep a bottle in your car, on your desk, or by your bed.  This way when you do get thirsty it is nice and easy.  It also serves as a physical reminder that you should have something.  Even casually sipping over the day can result in an improved intake.

Drink with Meals

Always have a glass when you eat.  This may also be a helpful strategy if you are trying to cut calories.  It slows down your eating, helps you feel full sooner and eases digestion.  You need enough fluid in your body to have comfortable bowel movements as too little can lead to constipation. Having a glass with meals also gives you 3 structured opportunities each day to help out your hydration.

Use a straw

They help you drink much faster, leading to a larger volume.  It is common advice to avoid straws when drinking alcohol because of this.  Due to the mindless-ness of the act, it wont feel like a chore and  you can empty a water bottle pretty quickly.  It also makes drinking in the car easier and less prone to spillage.

2015-01-12 14.45.23

Drink Alternative Beverages

In general water is best.  It is certainly better than soda or juice for hydration, but it is not the only option.  Many people are so bored with water the thought of drinking 8 glasses a day is such an imposition.  Unsweetened hot or iced tea is a wonderful alternative as it has frequently been linked to its own health benefits.  They also come in a wide range of flavors.  Pay attention to caffeine intake and drink throughout the day.  You can also infuse water produce or herbs.  Cucumbers, mint, berries and watermelon all make great, refreshing water that are almost calorie free.  Just put your desired flavoring agents in a jug of water overnight and enjoy the next day.

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Don’t forget about Exercise

Anytime you work out, remember you are losing water.  Even light yoga or weight lifting should have you pre and re-hydrating.  Have a glass before you work out and keep a bottle on you during.  Exercise may trigger your thirst so embrace it.  In addition to being healthful, it can also prevent dangerous situations.  Dehydration can cause dizziness, being light headed, and having reduced coordination.  All of these can lead to serious injury if you are active – think dropping  your weight, falling on a treadmill or blowing out a joint due to poor form.

Track It

You never really know how much you drink throughout the day if you don’t pay attention to it.  Physically tracking it, at least initially, can clue you in to whether or not you are meeting your needs.  There are a ton of different methods you can try.  If you track your food intake in a written food journal or online, just add in all of your beverages as well.  If you carry a water bottle with you and refill it during the day, keep a sticky note by you and make a tally mark every time you finish a bottle.  Or you can per-portion all of your water for the day and when its done, you know that you have reached your goal.waterbottle

What do you do to keep hydrated?

Fitness In the Office

So its the new year and you want to jump start your fitness routine.  Maybe you want to join a gym or a studio, or start training for a race or event.  All of those are excellent goals! Sometimes though, our resolutions fizzle and we realize we don’t have actually have the time, money or motivation to dedicate to those kinds of large scale interventions.  If you need alternatives to these big commitments, I have you covered.

Don’t worry that you aren’t doing something big enough.  With the new year everyone wants to go all out.  Just remember, if you can do the small thing all year but can only go gangbusters for a month, slow and steady may win this race.  Here are a bunch of small tricks that can add up to help you get moving in 2015

Look at your commute.

See if you have any places you can make adjustments.  Check out how I built 60 minutes of activity into my daily routine.

Train CollageBe inefficient. 

What? Someone of German decent advocating being wasteful?  The way most of our life is structured is to do the fastest thing.  Drive. Send an email.  Have a video conference instead of a meeting.  We are all about doing the least amount to get the most time/benefit.  This leads us to sit. All. Day. Long.  Analyze your work environment and see where you can make some adjustments.  Try walking over to a colleges office to discuss an issue rather than sending an email.  Offer to walk across the street to get the morning coffee. Round everyone up for a meeting by physically going to each office.This actually makes you more personable as well so 2 birds, one stone.

Plan fitness breaks.

This is actually good for productivity and morale.  Make a schedule, something like every hour get up from your chair and stretch or take a lap for as long as you can.  Obviously office culture dictates whether you can take off for 15 minutes or if more than 3 will get you in trouble.  Even if you take 1 minute every hour is better than nothing and it may be enough to loosen you up.  And think about it; do your coworkers get to leave for a smoke break? If so, think about taking advantage of that time do something positive for your health.  And don’t forget, you can always dance! Play a song or two on your computer or iPod and boogie.  Its fun and you may get an office mate to join in with you.

Dancing 2
Me and some old co-workers during lunch, inspired by the Olympics.
Dancing
And who says you need a partner?

Embrace lunch time.

There is so much that you can do at lunch.  If you have the space, bring a yoga mat or some small weights and stash them in your office.   Then commit 10 or 15 minutes to a light work out.  Basic Pilates, yoga or weight training are all possible at the office.  You can try and listen to a yoga podcast to guide or you go free-form.  You can also try some of these moves:

  • Calf raises – While standing, rise up onto  your tippy toes. Hold for a second or 2 and then come back down to flat feet.
  • Bicep Curls – Use weights or a full water bottle
  • Triceps Extensions
  • Squats – Safety tip: never let your knees go in front of your toes.  Focus on sitting back, not necessarily sitting down.
  • Push ups – Feel free to start on your knees for an easier modification
  • Sit ups
  • Lunges
  • Planks – Hold it as long as you can and gradually work your way up to 30 seconds or a minute
  • Leg extensions – While sitting in your chair, slowly  bring one or both legs up so they are parallel to the floor, then bring down with control

A good flow is to do an exercise 10-15 times in a row, rest and then repeat the series 2 more times.

If you don’t have the space to really spread out, consider doing a couple flights of stairs while you wait for your lunch to microwave or coffee to brew.  You can also walk to a local restaurant to pick up lunch rather than driving.

Own It

Have confidence and just go for it.  You may feel silly at first. Don’t let it limit you.  If you want to make fitness a priority, your attitude can take you a long way.  Sticking out at the office may not be your favorite thing to do, but if you think about it, you would be sticking out for a very positive reason.  It may also encourage your co-workers to follow suit.  I walk to work, take stretching and fitness breaks and talk about my fitness tracker all day long.  Now 2 of my coworkers (30% of the office) have followed suit.  One keeps sneakers in her office to walk during lunch and another just purchased her first FitBit.  If you own your health you wont be silly and you may become a trendsetter.

own it
You can do it!

Use these suggestions as a guide and analyze your work environment to see how you can make healthy changes.

How do you work fitness into your work day?

Back in time for the New Year

I’m baaaaaacck!  So it has in fact been a very long time since my last post.  This past year has been incredibly busy so blogging took a back seat.  Well as the new year approaches and everyone starts thinking about ways to improve themselves, I decided to get back to blogging.  I really missed the outlet of writing and I find doing posts keeps me sharp and current on different nutrition and fitness trends/research.  So look forward to more frequent posts in 2015!

To tide you over, here is a little bit about my life in the past year:

I bought a house!

2014-06-06 06.08.25 2014-06-06 06.08.12 2014-06-06 06.07.42 2014-06-06 06.07.04   2014-05-06 08.38.54And I got married! All wedding photos were taken by Robyn Blasi Photography.  We are currently her featured wedding so go to her website to check out more photos.

we-53 we-62 we-131we-398 we-193 we-199  we-400 we-442 we-456  we-464 we-484(1)  we-488  we-661 we-680 we-709 we-720 we-787 we-837 we-861Enjoy the pictures and stay tuned for more health and fitness posts from The Baier Necessities!!!

The Perks of Walking

I mentioned in my Possible New Years Resolution post that walking might be a good thing to add into your life.  While at UConn, I had to walk to classes, to friends apartments and to activities on campus. It was no big deal and just a part of life. After graduation, if you don’t live in a city, walking takes the backburner to driving.

The tundra was UConn for most of the year.  And we still walked it.Walking UConn

When I first moved to Maryland, I was unsure about going for a run because I didn’t know the area.  So, I decided to explore while walking, without the intent of exercise.  I have to say, it was really nice.  It became a leisure activity.  Rather than bustling to class, or setting out for a jog, walking is very relaxing and just makes you feel good both mentally and physically.  Here are my top reasons to start walking.

1. Fresh Air

Today, everyone is plugged in.  The internet is great, it brings you The Baier Necessities.Smile  But it also makes it much easier to stay inside for a whole day, or even an entire weekend.  By staying cooped up, you may be missing out on the perks of fresh air.  According to the EPA, indoor air can be twice as polluted as fresh, air outside.  If you think about it, the air in your house is being recirculated , the oxygen is being consumed and pollutants like dust and pollen are concentrated.  Outside, air is constantly moving around, and pollutants are dispersed.  By breathing deep outside, you get increased oxygen which can help your lungs, give you a more restful nights sleep and improve your mood.  This article goes into more detail on the benefits of fresh air and proper breathing.

2. Stress Reduction

Have you ever been working on a project at home that just stresses you out?  This could be homework, something you brought home from the office, or just trying to plan a large family gathering.  Sometimes you just need a break.  I find that I cant truly relax if I stay in the same place.  It just reminds me of what I still need to work on and increases my anxiety, rather than reduce it.  By physically leaving that space, you can distance yourself from the stress.  Taking a walk can allow you to casually be distracted by other things or give you time to contemplate a problem more slowly.  I usually find that if I take a walk to clear my head, I come back much more relaxed and ready to refocus on the task at hand.

3. Being Social

Jaunts around the block don’t have to be a solitary adventure.  You can use it as an excuse to catch up with friends or family members, free from distractions at home.  If you have a dog, take him along.  You may even get to know some neighbors.  During one of my walks, I met a young dad who told me about the state park near us.  At this point, I had been living here for 2 months and I had no idea it was there.  You never know what tip bits you might pick up!

My family on vacation in Boston, getting our walk on.Walking Social

4. Physical HealthIMG_0778

The general recommendation is to get 10,000 steps in a day.  This can be from activities of daily living such as getting ready, going to your car or grocery shopping.  It can also include scheduled physically activity such as running or going for a walk.  The original recommendation came from the Japanese as a way to sell pedometers, but research is supporting the medical and health effects of taking on the 10,000 step challenge.

An article in the American Journal of Health Promotion outlines a study done with 56 overweight and obese individuals who had previously led sedentary lives.  They took on the 10,000 step challenge and showed improvements in weight, BMI, body fat, waist circumference, hip circumference and cholesterol.

To the right is a screen shot of my pedometer app on my iPod Touch.  It’s a great way to track you activity for free.  You can also purchase baseline pedometers for less than $10.

5. Whimsy

To quote Dr. Sheldon Cooper, “What’s life without whimsy?”.  You never know what you might find.  It may be some beautiful scenery, an impeccably decorated house, a new town project, or just some fun decorations along the way.  Its just fun to be surprised by what is out there.

Some things that I have seen while out and about. The bear mailbox was a neighbors’ prank turned mailbox.  The carving is from my hometown, where they  are turning the stump of a fallen tree into an art installation. Walking Whimsy 

Walking is a great activity for you mind as well as your body.  If you slowly incorporate more steps into your day by taking some walks, you can reap all of these benefits.  When going for walks, make sure to wear appropriate shoes to avoid injury.  Happy walking!

Do you like to take walks and do you have any suggestions?

Possible New Years Resolutions

It’s that time of the year again when people evaluate their lives and identify room for improvement.  I generally don’t make resolutions, but I know plenty of others do.  Here are some changes that I have made inWalking my life over the past couple of years that I think have definitely improved my overall wellbeing.

1.  Start Walking

Walking is great.  Its an excuse to get out of your house,  get some fresh air and just clear your mind.  Its also a great way to catch up with friends.

 

2. Drink More Water

Most people don’t drink enough.  And what they are drinking may be sugar/calorie     heavy beverages.  Make it simple and just carry a water bottle with you wherever you go.  You will realize how thirsty you get during the day and be thankful for some reprieve.lego-water-bottle

water bottlewater bottle 2no tv

3.  Don’t eat while watching TV

This is something that I recently started and its working pretty well.  While watching TV, you tend to snack mindlessly.  Try and designate a spot, like sitting at the kitchen table to help remove the temptation of grabbing another cookie.

 

If you chose to do a new years resolution, my advice is to do it in a moderate way.  If you never work out, vowing to go to the gym 5 times a week is unrealistic and sets you up for disappointment.  Use the resolution season to gradually build up to realistic goals.  Good luck to everyone and a happy new year!