Friday, November 21, 2008

Thanksgiving Health Tips

By Courtney Westlake

Turkey and stuffing and pie, oh my!

"Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because the holiday is about food," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC. "I like to stuff myself silly!"

This year, however, Jillson has resolved to have a healthier Thanksgiving, and she has several tips on how to enjoy yourself and all of the delicious food on the holiday while still sticking to a healthy lifestyle.

Eating in moderation, cooking light and exercising will take you a long way in having a healthy and comfortable Thanksgiving, she said.

"In the morning, go for a quick walk to burn some calories, and don't forget to eat breakfast," she advised.

And if you're hosting the family Thanksgiving meal or helping to cook, choose the "lighter" options of ingredients.

"Make sure to use fat-free or light sour cream, plain yogurt and fat-free chicken broth for your recipes," Jillson said. "If you are making a pie, try to go crustless this year and just put the pie in the pie dish without crust. It saves 150 calories per slice without the crust."

Try to use smaller plates this year to help you eat smaller portion sizes.

"For portion sizes, you want to visualize a deck of cards, 2 computer mice, then some salad and two slivers of pie," Jillson said. "If you have a smaller plate, it looks like more on your plate, and you will eat less without realizing it."

Don't attempt to save all your calories for the one big Thanksgiving meal, Jillson advised. Eating a hardy breakfast will jump-start your metabolism and help you to be more comfortable the entire day.

"Most people have a tendency to be so busy throughout the morning and forget to eat breakfast or think they'll save up calories for that one meal," she said. "But halfway through, you'll be full and continue eating, and then be stuffed. So you'll be more comfortable if you're not starving when you sit down to dinner."

"You can always go back for seconds," she added. "Take a little bit of each dish, and then when you eat it all and are still hungry, you can get more."

Your stomach is about the size of your two fists together, Jillson said, so if the food on your plate won't fit in your two fists, put it back.

And finally, you don't have to simply eat and lay on the couch all day; family activities are fun and help you burn off some of the calories from those cheesy potatoes or pumpkin pie.

"Go for a walk after your Thanksgiving meal or organize an active family game," Jillson suggested. "Food digests better, you're more comfortable, and you can burn some calories from that extra slice of pie you had."


Monday, November 17, 2008

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force of circulating blood on the walls of the blood vessels and is one of the principal vital signs of our body. Blood pressure readings are extremely important in regards to the health of our heart and overall body.

For each heartbeat, blood pressure varies between systolic and diastolic pressure.

"Systolic pressure is the force when blood exits the heart and pumps into rest of body. It is the top number during your blood pressure readings," Jillson said. "Diastolic is when the heart relaxes between the beats and is the bottom number."

A normal blood pressure reading is 120/180, Jillson said. Anything between 120-139 is considered pre-hypertension, and a systolic numer that is higher than 139 is in the hypertension zone. Persistent hypertension is a risk factor for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure and other health problems.

"I would recommend that if you get anything in the pre-hypertension and definitely hypertension, talk to your doctor about ways to reduce your high blood pressure," Jillson said.

There are several ways you can be proactive in reducing your blood pressure and keeping it at a normal level, Jillson said.

"Diet and exercise are the two main ways - watch what you eat and try to be active throughout each week," she said. "You should also reduce your intake of caffeine and decrease stress. Those are factors for high blood pressure."

Blood pressure screenings are offered every Wednesday from 1-2 p.m. in the PAC, Jillson said.

"You should get your blood pressure checked as often as possible. I suggest getting it read every three months if heart disease or high blood pressure runs in your family," Jillson said. "It's very smart to be heart-healthy and to know your numbers."


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Trick or Treat

By Courtney Westlake

Halloween has come and gone, but most likely all of the candy from the holiday is still laying around the house, tempting you every day.

"You probably don't think it fits into your healthy lifestyle, but there are some choices that are better than others," said Amanda Jillson, assistant director of fitness and instructional programs at the TRAC.

For example, fun-sized Almond Joys are packed with 100 calories and five grams of fat, three of which are saturated fat, so try to stay away from those, Jillson said. Candy corn, Tootsie Rolls, Caramel Chews and Starburst - candy that you might think is on the healthier side - also aren't necessarily best choices.

"If you do want to treat yourself with leftover Halloween candy, try some Cherry Twizzler Nibs. You can eat 22 pieces of them, for about 100 calories and no fat," Jillson said. "The fun-sized Three Musketeers and Skittles are OK too, as well as Caramel Apple Pops, which actually last a while, so it helps to satisfy your sweet tooth too."

One of the best things you can do is focus on moderation, Jillson said.

"Try not to overindulge yourself on the leftovers from Halloween, but it is OK to have treat," she said. "Try having one a day or making a healthier option when given the choice. Remember: dark chocolate over milk chocolate, skittles over candy corn. Just keep in mind that moderation is key."