4 Heart-Healthy Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas

Have a happy, healthy  Valentine's Day

Have a happy, healthy Valentine’s Day

Have you bought your sweetheart a Valentine’s Day gift yet? If your loved one is trying to live a healthy life, use these creative ideas and give him or her a gift that supports the commitment.

  1. Cooking classes for two. Cooking isn’t a chore when you do it with the one you love. Check out the offerings at your local kitchen shop or community college to find cooking classes that will help you cook heart-healthy meals together.
  2. Ballroom dancing classes.  Burn a few calories and spice things up with the love of your life. Sign up for dance classes and burn up to 300 calories per hour.
  3. Support coupons.  On a budget?  If your loved one is trying to eat a healthier diet, lose weight or stick to an exercise program, provide support by giving him/her coupons to do household chores, activities with the kids or other tasks. That way your loved one will have more time to invest in her healthy goals.
  4. Cook a heart-healthy meal.  Make a romantic meal that is both indulgent and healthy.  Use recipes from the American Heart Association to develop a sample menu for your sweetie like this one:

Super Bowl Snacks: 3 Lower Calorie Recipes

Eat healthier snacks during the game

Eat healthier snacks during the game

What’s your favorite Super Bowl snack?  If you are a typical viewer, you’ll enjoy buffalo wings, nachos, chips, dip and guacamole during the big game.  But those snacks are loaded with fat and calories.  How about making a few lower calorie Super Bowl snacks?

Use one of these recipes to have a healthier viewing experience.

  • Cheesy Artichoke Spread. This recipe from North Memorial registered dietitian Karen Palmer only has 177 calories and 4.5 grams of fat per serving.  Dip sliced veggies instead of crackers to keep the calorie count low.
  • Marinated Grilled Vegetables. Skip the chip bowls and high calorie spreads!  Instead grill a batch of these colorful veggies and present them on a platter.
  • White Bean Dip. This recipe from Health.com has far fewer calories than most sour cream based dip, but it’s just as tasty!

And if you are trying to keep your calorie count in control during the Super Bowl, remember to tally up the calories that you consume in liquid form.  The calories in beer, wine and cocktails can send your daily total through the roof.

You’ll also find plenty of resources about foods to eat and foods to avoid, exercise advice and healthy eating strategies at North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss.  Check it out or join the weight loss community on Facebook and Twitter.

Recipes for a Healthier Thanksgiving

Have a healthy Thanksgiving with lower calorie recipes.

Have a healthy Thanksgiving with lower calorie recipes.

Have you made your grocery shopping list for the Thanksgiving meal?  Before you plan the big holiday meal take a few minutes to see if you adjust the menu to provide some healthier fare. It’s a great way to avoid weight gain during during these busy and indulgent holiday months.

Lower Calorie Thanksgiving Recipes

Some traditional Thanksgiving foods are loaded with salt, fat and calories. There are better ways to enjoy delicious food and stay healthy.  Consider swapping some of these high calorie foods for lower calorie alternatives. The healthy recipes come from Karen Palmer, a registered dietitian at North Memorial Medical Center.

  • Cheesy Artichoke Dip. Families and friends often snack and nibble throughout the day even before the big meal.  Those snack calories can really add up.  Traditional artichoke dip, for example, can contain up to 312 calories per serving! Karen Palmer provides a much healthier Cheesy Artichoke Spread with only 177 calories per serving.
  • Green Bean Casserole.  Many people get their serving of veggies by scooping a heap of this creamy vegetable dish onto their Thanksgiving plate.  But this “healthy” dish contains 161 calories per serving – and most of us eat more than a serving. Why not serve a beautiful platter of Marinated Grilled Vegetables instead?
  • Mashed Potatoes.  There are a few healthy ways to make mashed potatoes, but the traditional recipe made with cream and butter can total 237 calories or more.  A healthier alternative is Karen Palmer’s Fiesta Rice Salad.  The colorful salad “provides an array of vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber and antioxidants to reduce one’s risk for stroke and cardiovascular diseases,” according to Palmer.  And it’s a perfect side dish for turkey!

Don’t be afraid to make some healthy changes to your regular Thanksgiving menu.  You may be able to inspire good eating habits for the rest of the year and create a new holiday traditions.

Want to know how to avoid other foods that aren’t good for you?  Check this list of Foods to Increase and Foods to Decrease.  And if you are looking for more weight loss advice, motivational advice and exercise help, checkout North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss, find us on Facebook and on Twitter.


Stay Fit and Healthy as You Age – Tips from Dara Torres

Dara Torres and Malia Frey at The Shed in Uptown

Dara Torres and Malia Frey at The Shed in Uptown

Swimmer Dara Torres has set records with her performances in the pool, but she is also setting a new standard for aging well.  Torres was the first U.S. swimmer to compete in five Olympics and at the age of 41 became the oldest swimmer to compete in the Olympics. In 2012, at the age of 45 she missed a spot on the US Olympic swimming team by a fraction of a second.  So how does the 46 year-old mom follow up this amazing career as an athlete? By aging well and creating a healthy life balance.

I sat down to talk to Torres at a spinning class that she taught at The Shed Fitness Studio in Uptown.  She was in town to promote Koss Fit Series headphones that she helped create.  The colorful FitClips and FitBuds are designed by women for women and are 33% smaller to fit comfortably in a woman’s ear.

New Attitude, New Workouts, New Diet

Torres still works out almost every day, but she is clear that her attitude about exercise has changed.  ““I used to train as my job and now I’m just training for life, so I’ve set a different standard for myself.”  For Dara, this means that she exercises to “get a good sweat” but she doesn’t obsess about her performance .  She likes to do cardio workouts, like spinning, and prefers aerobic workouts to lifting weights at the gym.

Torres’ eating habits have changed as well.  Since she doesn’t spend hours exercising, she isn’t as hungry anymore.  So, naturally, she eats less.  But I asked her if she counts calories or does anything special to maintain her world-famous swimmer’s body.  She said no.  “My body is always changing,” she says and explains that she is comfortable with the natural changes that happen with age.

Staying Motivated to Exercise

So now that there is no medal at stake, how does this Olympian stay motivated to exercise?  She says that listening to music is important. “I’ve listened to music during my workouts ever since I was in my teens and now it’s a necessary part of my routine.”

Torres is also inspired by her daughter and two “inherited” teens.  She says that being a mom changes your perspective.  At her last Olympic Games, for example, she says she didn’t feel as much pressure as some of the younger competitors.  “For them, this was going to be the most important thing that they’ve ever done.  But I had a two year-old to go home to.”

It’s clear that the healthy balance that Dara Torres has created for herself is paying off.  She is relaxed and confident but still looks exceptionally lean and fit.  It’s a good lesson for anyone who wants to age well; find what matters and let go of the rest to gain perspective and live a healthy life.

Have you checked out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website?  It’s a great source of easy tips for healthy eating, exercise and diet support.  You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter

Healthy State Fair Activity and Eating Guide

Enjoy the Minnesota State Fair's healthy offerings

Enjoy the Minnesota State Fair’s healthy offerings

Have you made plans to go to the Minnesota State Fair? The great Minnesota get-together runs from August 22 – September 2, 2013, so you’ve still got plenty of time to enjoy the festivities.  But before you go, check out this list of resources.  You’ll find fun ideas to help you eat well and stay active during your day at the fair.

Eat Healthy at the Minnesota State Fair

Get Active and Fit at the Minnesota State Fair

Remember that you can also visit the Minnesota State Fair Food Finder to find healthy foods to try and the Minnesota State Fair Fun Finder to find healthy activities.

Have you checked out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website?  It’s a great source of easy tips for healthy eating, exercise and diet support.  You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter

How to Do a Mini Workout at the Minnesota State Fair

Got a few calories to burn off? (The Minnesota State Fair runs from Aug. 22-Labor Day, Sept. 2)

Got a few calories to burn off?
(The Minnesota State Fair runs from Aug. 22-Labor Day, Sept. 2)

Want to burn a few extra calories as you graze through the food delights at the Minnesota State Fair?  If you saw Tuesday’s list of calorie costs for popular state fair foods, you know that it would take a significant amount of time and effort to burn off all of the calories that you might consume. But you can put a dent in the damage with a few simple exercises.  Give this total body mini workout a try.

Total Body State Fair Mini Workout.

Start your day by walking or biking to the State Fairgrounds.  It’s healthy and economical.  You can lock your bike for free at one of the free bike corrals.  Then do these exercises to strengthen the muscles in your upper body, lower body and core.

  • Park bench push-up.  Strengthen your upper body and tighten your core muscles with an incline push up performed on the back of a park bench.  Stand behind the bench and place your hands on the bench about shoulder height apart.  Your feet will be behind your upper body and you’ll lean towards the bench to begin. Bend your elbows to lower your torso closer to the bench, then straighten your arms to return to the starting position.  Do ten repetitions.
  • Waiting-around wall squat.  If you find yourself waiting for the kids to get off a ride or for your husband to come back from the food line, find an empty space on a sturdy wall to do this squat variation. Stand with your back to the wall and lean against it. Now walk your feet out slightly and lower you’re hips so that they are in line with your knees.  Hold the position for 15-60 seconds to strengthen the muscles in your lower body.  It’s harder than it looks!
  • Stand-in-line stability exercises. One of the best ways to strengthen the muscles in your torso is to do balance exercises.  When your body has to stabilize to stay upright, you have to tighten the core muscles to balance.  Try this standing core exercise when you’re waiting in line for your snack or ride. Balance on one leg and lift the other foot slightly off the ground in front of you.  Circle the foot around to the back and return to the starting position.  Do 10 circles then switch to the other leg.  Keep your torso tight but don’t hold your breath as you complete each repetition.

If you didn’t bike to the fair, you can still improve your health by parking further away and walking back to your car at the end of the day. A small study conducted recently in Japan suggests that going for a walk after consuming a high-fat meal may help to lower your post-meal triglyceride levels.  The study was limited in scope, so you shouldn’t use it to justify eating more cheese curds, but a brisk walk to the car along with a few five-minute exercise breaks during the day will help you to balance the energy scales and keep your body healthy.

Have you checked out the North Memorial Healthy Weight Loss website?  It’s a great source of easy tips for healthy eating, exercise and diet support.  You can also connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.