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The concept of healthy eating has steadily gained popularity over the last several years, and restaurants capitalize on this trend in their marketing. More and more restaurants, including fast food, now feature "healthier" menu options, particularly highlighting entrees deemed as lower-calorie. Despite this trend, Americans still struggle with obesity, and researchers think they are starting to understand why. The secret may be more simple than you think: HIDDEN CALORIES!
When we're presented with main courses labeled lower-calorie, low-fat, or "fresh", we tend to feel more comfortable balancing them with larger portions of higher-calorie side dishes, beverages, and desserts. What we don't often realize is that despite the minimal decrease in caloric value of these "healthier" entrees, our total calorie consumption tends to actually be HIGHER overall when we believe we're making a healthier main choice. One thing we can do differently is to begin to think critically about the menu board. Consider the facts about fast food, and how they may conflict with what the menu is trying to tell you. Does it make sense? Calorie estimations usually don't factor in condiments, dressings, beverages, side items, desserts or add-ons.
Helpful tips to beat the menu when eating out: Cut your entree in half, and save the other half for later (two meals for the price of one!) Choose lighter alternatives to creamy dressings and mayo. Make a habit of drinking water with your meals to cut back on "liquid calories", and request a side of fresh fruit as your dessert.
Notice how being physically active makes you feel. Check in with yourself the day of and the day after you are physically active – do you feel different? How did you sleep? How is your energy level? How are your joints and muscles moving? Is your ability to focus different? Physical activity improves sleep, increases energy levels, lubricates joints and stretches muscles, and enhances mental focus. Think about it….
How does flexibility training help to prevent injury? When muscles are tight, they restrict how far a joint can move. If the joint is somehow forced to move beyond this point of restriction, it can result in damage to the associated muscles and tendons. So by increasing our joint range of motion, we increase how far that joint can move before injury occurs.
Safety Tips before you start:
- Be sure your muscles are warm before stretching. Either stretch after your normal exercise routine, or perform at least 3 to 5 minutes of aerobic activity before beginning.
- Remember to breathe normally while holding stretches.
- Move slowly into each stretch and hold steady, careful not to bounce or jerk.
- Stretch only until you feel a mild pull. You should never feel sharp pain. If you feel muscle or joint pain, reduce the stretch until it is no longer painful.
Sample stretches (hold for 10 to 30 seconds each, on each side where applicable):
1. Seated torso twist- sitting tall, lift ribcage and rotate to one side (back, abs, obliques)
2. Reclined pigeon- lying face up, cross one ankle over the other knee. Keeping back and shoulders flat on the floor, gently raise foot off the floor until you feel slight tension. (lower back, hips, glutes, hamstrings)
3. Modified cobra- lying face down, place hands below shoulders and press into the floor. Keeping shoulders down and relaxed, lift head and torso. (abs, hips)
4. Seated chest stretch- sitting tall, reach both hands behind your hips as far as is comfortable, and gently press your chest forward and up, drawing your shoulder blades together. (chest)