Blog Posts by SparkPeople.com

  • Beat the Flu! Here's How

    By Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian for SparkPeople

    Cold and flu season is upon us! Sometimes, even the most diligent hand-washers end up getting sick. Here are some tips to help you get over any nasty bug you might catch this fall and winter.

    "Feed a cold, starve a fever?" Many people say they can never remember whether to starve the cold or the fever. The answer: neither! The best advice is simply to listen to your appetite because being neither hungry nor stuffed will get rid of a cold, flu, or fever any faster. "Starving" an illness is particularly a bad idea. Intentionally restricting calories only makes it harder to recover from an illness.

    Drink plenty of fluids.

    Drink significant amounts of water - at least 8-12 cups throughout the day. Additional water is needed not only to help fight infection, but also to combat dehydration brought on by fever. If you have flu-symptoms, vomiting and diarrhea also increase your need for water above the normal

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  • 5 Exercises You Should Never Do

    By Dean Anderson, for SparkPeople

    Most people believe that all exercises are good, safe and effective. After all, it's all exercise, and that has to count for something, doesn't it?

    The truth is that some of the machines in gyms aren't safe at all (especially for people who have common muscle, joint, and health problems). Certain exercises require a bit more know-how than the average person possesses. And other exercises are downright wastes of your time.

    But before we examine some of the most controversial exercises, I want to make it clear that every exercise on this list isn't always unsafe or ineffective for everyone. What you should do-or avoid-depends on your goals, fitness level, health history, workout schedule, and other personal issues. An article like this can't replace your own efforts to identify your goals and needs. That requires you to do some research on your own, talk to your medical professional about any pain or physical limitations you have, and learn how to

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  • Skip This Side Dish to Save 20 Grams of Fat

    By Melinda Hershey, for SparkPeople

    If you've spent any time looking at restaurant menus online, you probably know that ordering the wrong side dish with your meal can put you way over your calorie limit for the day. Like most family chain restaurants, Applebee's offers a side of either soup or salad with any entrée. Both of these dishes may seem like low-calorie choices at first glance. But be careful-those seemingly innocent sides can pack in hundreds of hidden calories. If you were to choose the lower-calorie side option from the Applebee's menu, which would you select: A small Caesar Salad (with dressing), or a bowl of Tuscan Bean with Chicken and Sausage Soup?

    The Winner: Tuscan Bean with Chicken and Sausage Soup!
    A small Caesar Salad packs in 310 calories and a whopping 27 grams of fat--that's almost a whole meal in itself! The Tuscan Bean with Chicken and Sausage Soup might sound heartier, but the nutrition stats are much easier to swallow at 180 calories and 7 grams of fat

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  • New Ways to Enjoy Nut Butters

    By Bryn Mooth, for SparkPeople

    Peanut butter may be a household staple, but spreads made from other nuts and seeds can add nutrients and variety to your diet.

    Peanut butter has that ideal balance between sweet and salty, making it the perfect companion for everything from whole grain toast to celery sticks. And it's an inexpensive source of protein and good-for-you monounsaturated fats. Generations of kids have gotten through the school day fueled by peanut-butter sandwiches and a carton of milk-you were probably one of them!

    But did you know that there's more to nut butters than just plain peanut butter? How about spreads made from almonds, cashews, and even seeds like sunflower? As an alternative to the old standby, consider these other products most easily found in gourmet, natural and/or organic grocery stores.

    Almond butter
    Like peanuts, almonds are a source of monounsaturated fats.

    Cashew, pistachio or hazelnut butter
    Like the nuts themselves, these butters
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  • Creative Oatmeal Combinations

    By Bryn Mooth, for SparkPeople

    A bowl of oatmeal, warm and hearty though it is, isn't all that exciting by itself. But added fruit, nuts and other toppings make it delicious! Make your morning easy by having the add-ins ready to go the night before. Try one of the combinations below to add pizzazz-and nutrients-to a single serving of oatmeal.

    One serving of cooked oatmeal (about 1 cup cooked) contains 150 calories, 3 grams of fat, 27 grams of carbs, around 6 grams of protein, and 4 grams of fiber.

    • 2 Tbsp dried cranberries, 1 Tbsp toasted pistachios, 1 tsp sugar (115 calories)
    • 2 Tbsp raisins, 1 Tbsp chopped pecans, 1 tsp sugar (125 calories)
    • 2 Tbsp dried cherries, 1 Tbsp chopped almonds, 1 tsp sugar (115 calories)
    • 1/4 cup blueberries, 1 Tbsp chopped walnuts, dash of cinnamon (70 calories)
    • 1/2 cup diced apple, 2 Tbsp dried cranberries (90 calories)
    • 1/2 cup diced pears and 2 Tbsp dried cherries (100 calories)
    • 1 Tbsp Nutella (chocolate-hazelnut spread), 1/2
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  • 5 Healthier Kid-Friendly Meals

    By Sarah Haan and Stepfanie Romine, for BabyFit

    Think about what is offered on a typical children's menu at a sit-down restaurant: burgers, fries, spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, and chicken nuggets. When did these menu standards become "kid food," and why are we still conforming to the norm when we know it's unhealthy to constantly eat these dishes? Manufactured, artificial, added-sugar and packaged are just a few words that describe most of the foods our culture associates with children.

    As a parent, it's your job to ensure your children receive adequate nutrition and develop healthy eating habits. This, however, can be tough when battling constant advertising, the media and common requests from the majority of our kids. Exposing your children to healthful meals is one of the most important things you can do to help them develop a healthy lifestyle. As adults, they'll be more likely to consume a variety of foods if new foods are routinely introduced at a young age. Research has

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  • Mind-Body-Spirit Exercises Fit for Pregnancy

    By Jen Mueller, for BabyFit

    Are you prepared to stay fit during your pregnancy? You'll want to keep strength, flexibility, and endurance during these months. Doing so means you'll be able to handle the extra weight and you'll be in better shape for the physical stress of labor.

    Many fitness offerings for pregnant women are geared toward those who want to continue a modified form of their pre-pregnancy activities, including sports and vigorous cardio routines. But for those of you who are looking for a gentler way to improve strength and fitness while developing a calm, relaxed state of mind, you too have many options. Consider these exercise forms that are geared toward a mind and body focus routine: yoga, pilates, water exercise, and tai chi. Here's a quick guide to the benefits of these uplifting exercise genres.

    Yoga - It helps you breathe and relax. Yoga focuses on poses and stretches for both physical and emotional rewards. It can relieve fluid retention and

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  • No More Exercise Excuses!

    By Leanne Beattie, for SparkPeople

    Of course there are legitimate reasons to not exercise. But unless you've just given birth or had surgery, most of these reasons aren't reasons at all-they're excuses. If you've been allowing these excuses to keep you from the gym, it's time to refocus.

    Exercise Excuse # 1: I'm too tired.
    It takes energy to produce energy, so while you may be tired now, even a short 10-minute walk will get your blood pumping and will boost your energy levels for up to two hours after. And regular exercise helps improve the quality of your sleep, meaning more energy throughout the day. Some research suggests working out can help regulate your sleep cycles, so you'll fall asleep easier, sleep more soundly and wake up more rested. A morning workout-not a cup of coffee-could be just the ticket you need to feel more awake and energized all day long!

    Exercise Excuse # 2: I don't have time.
    Eliminate 30 minutes of television viewing each night and exercise for half an

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  • What Can You Do with Chia Seeds?

    By Stepfanie Romine, co-author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight"


    A couple of years ago, I discovered a food that's become as much of a staple in my kitchen as flax (which I still use almost daily and love!). This seed is a bit harder to find and perhaps slightly more expensive, but it's a great product that I love to use.

    What is it? It's chia seed. (Also called salba.)

    **crickets**

    You know, like Ch-ch-chia? (Rings a bell now, doesn't it?) As in Chia Pets? Those terra cotta sculptures that grow "hair" use the same seeds that grace my morning smoothies and afternoon "puddings."
    What is Chia? Chia seeds are tiny (about a millimeter in diameter) and come in black and white varieties. The seeds have a mottled appearance, with areas of gray, brown, black, and white. When wet, they more than triple in size, with a clear bubble surrounding the seed, due to the soluble fiber.

    The plant is a member of the mint family and hails from Mexico and Guatemala, Read More »from What Can You Do with Chia Seeds?
  • Which Orange Veggie Will Save You 100 Calories?

    By Melinda Hershey, for SparkPeople

    With the start of fall last month, it seems like everyone has sweet and starchy orange produce on the brain. Butternut squash and sweet potatoes have officially taken the place of summer's zucchini bounty. Not only are these orange fall foods delicious and comforting, but they are also nutritional powerhouses that are high in fiber and vitamins A and C. But is there much of a difference when it comes to calorie content? In a food showdown between sweet potato and butternut squash, which one will give you more nutritional bang for your calorie buck in your fall dishes?

    The Winner: Butternut Squash!

    One cup of baked sweet potato with skin is 180 calories. The butternut squashes the competition at 82 calories per cup! It also contains less sugar and fewer carbohydrates than the sweet potato, and is a good source of vitamin B6, potassium, and folate. However, the sweet potato has some amazing nutritional benefits as well. A cup of sweet potato

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