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  • 8 Ways to Bust the Winter Blahs

    By Denise Tausig, for SparkPeople

    For many people, cold weather and a lack of sunshine can bring on a mild depression known as the ''winter blues.'' People that experience the ''winter blues'' will generally lack motivation and energy. Others may even develop a clinical depression in the form of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

    According to the Mayo Clinic, SAD is ''a type of depression that occurs at the same time every year. If you're like most people with seasonal affective disorder, your symptoms start in the fall and may continue into the winter months, sapping your energy and making you feel moody.'' Those that experience SAD may produce too much melatonin, which is a hormone that helps to regulate sleep and body temperature. Producing too much melatonin disrupts the body's internal clock and may then cause depression, as seen with SAD sufferers.

    Some of the signs of SAD may include the following:

    • Loss of energy
    • Social withdrawal
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Depressed
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  • Make Your New Year's Momentum Last!

    By Megan Coatley, for SparkPeople

    On January 1st, many of us are geared up to get healthy and fit. But, by mid-February, our diets are faltering and our fitness routines start getting stale. Falling out of a resolution can be a fast downward spiral. If you're someone who thrives on novelty, how can you make sure that your New Year's goals last longer than those tempting leftover holiday cookies? There are a few sneaky forces at work when unhealthy behavior spirals out of control, but you can stop that spiral and maximize your momentum using strategies from the field of behavior science.

    Behavioral Momentum
    Imagine yourself navigating the calorie minefield at a big holiday party: You start out innocently munching veggies and dip, migrate to more hefty hors d'oeuvres (they're tiny!), and slowly make your way to the buffet table. Before you know it, by the end of the night you've sidled up to a giant slice of pie, inhibitions thrown out the window. In behavior science, we have a name

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  • Which Holiday Breakfast Will Save You from Overeating?

    By Melinda Hershey, for SparkPeople

    For many of us, Christmas morning is a time to indulge in a big, leisurely breakfast that we normally wouldn't partake in on most other days of the year. But if you're not careful, a festive a.m. meal could cause you to blow through a day's worth of calories and fat before Christmas dinner! If you were to choose a special and indulgent holiday breakfast to keep you satisfied without stuffing you silly, which would you pick: One medium-size iced cinnamon roll, or a plate of two fried eggs and two strips of bacon?

    You can have a hot plate of eggs and bacon for 277 calories, 21.2 grams of fat and 0 grams of sugar. (You can also use turkey bacon or veggie bacon substitute, if you'd like.) Just be sure to use a light mist of cooking spray for pan-frying, rather than spoonfuls of oil. A typical medium-size iced cinnamon roll has 310 calories, 9 grams of fat (plus 2.5 grams of trans fat), and 23 grams of sugar. Also keep in mind that, depending on the

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  • 5 Noteworthy Nutrition Goals for the New Year

    By Sarah Haan, for SparkPeople

    It's hard to ignore the refreshing feeling a new year brings. It's a chance to re-evaluate your life and think about where you might like to make changes. Statistics show that most resolutions don't work, so we're going dive into noteworthy goals for the new year. If you're already a pro at setting goals, then these five ideas will help you kick-start your health goals in 2013. Choose to focus on one, some or all five throughout the year.

    Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
    Research shows that increasing the number of fruits and veggiesyou eat, especially above the touted 5-a-day, decreases your risk of health ailments like high blood pressure, cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. This year, resolve to up your intake of produce to bring your disease risk down. More fruits and veggies mean more fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, plus more flavor and color added to your meals. Remember, when you're adding more fruits and veggies to your diet,

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  • One Surefire Way to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

    By Nicole Nichols, Managing Editor and Fitness Expert at SparkPeople

    It's the time of year we both love and dread. For people who celebrate, the holidays are a time of joy, fun, volunteering and parties; but they're also associated with overindulgence, sweets and weight gain. Is it possible to stave off weight gain during the holidays without feeling deprived?

    I sure think so. Many people manage to survive the holidays without switching belt notches. Some even make it to January and go down a pants size. How do they do it?

    In my opinion, treating a holiday like any other day is the best way to avoid winter weight gain. But this article from offers six additional tips to keep the pounds off this winter. One that really stood out to me was tip #6, step on the scale.

    "If you're typically weighed down each spring with unwanted pounds, make it a habit to step on the scale once a week (or even every day) throughout the winter months," advises author Suzanne Girard Eberle.

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  • 7 Quick and Healthy Party Appetizer Ideas

    By Chef Meg Galvin, Healthy Cooking Expert at

    This time of year, there's always an occasion where you need to bring a dish to share. But between work, home, and school obligations, not to mention your workouts and healthy meal prep, however will you find time to come up with something delicious and creative to take to the neighborhood gathering?

    I've compiled a list of appetizers that will take no more than five minutes of hands-on work!

    Appetizer vs. Hors D'Oeuvres
    These days, appetizers and hors d'oeuvres are often used interchangeably (though we tend to use the word appetizer more commonly, probably because it's easier to spell), there is a difference. Appetizers are the first course of a meal, while hors d'oeuvres are bite-size portions of food displayed on a buffet or passed on a tray by the host or, at my house, a teenager trying to make up for tossing baseballs near the Christmas tree. So really there's no big difference and who in the heck

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  • How to Fuel Your Holiday Shopping Trip

    By Melinda Hershey, for SparkPeople

    Chances are that you might find yourself at a mall this week to complete your holiday shopping. The food court can be convenient when you're ravenous during a day-long mall marathon, but it can also be a minefield of extra calories, fat and sodium. Most malls have a Chinese food option, like Panda Express, which can be a decent choice if you choose correctly. If you had to pick between Broccoli Beef and Orange Chicken from Panda Express, which would you eat to fuel your shopping excursion on fewer calories and fat?

    The Winner: Broccoli Beef!
    One 5.4-ounce serving of Panda Express Broccoli Beef clocks in around 120 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 660 mg of sodium. The Orange Chicken may sound innocent enough, but the glaze that it's topped with packs in the calories and sugar. One 5.7-ounce serving of the sweet stuff will set you back 420 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 620 mg of sodium-plus, 18 grams of sugar (that's 4.5 teaspoons of sugar!). Also

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  • 4 Motivational Tips to Help You Set New Year's Goals

    By Tanya Jolliffe, for SparkPeople

    A new year bringsnew opportunities to set new goals and try new things. Trying new things brings new opportunities to face difficulty that might cause you to fail. Failing brings new opportunities to decide if you will continue and try again or if you will simply quit.

    It seems a little strange talking about yearly goal setting and failing doesn't it? Well, this year I think it may be helpful to start with the end of the year in mind. Ask yourself this question. How do you want to finish this statement this time next year?
    "In January I set three goals and throughout the year I ________________________."

    1. Was committed to them and worked hard to make healthy choices a part of my day-to-day life. Although there were difficulties and times when I did not do as well as I thought I might, I stuck to my commitment toward my goals and I reached them.

    2. Quit on all of them because when things got tough I gave up and went back to the old habits I
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  • Healthy, Homemade Gifts: Gourmet Oatmeal Mixes

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

    In the middle of winter, when the mercury's dropping and the snow is piling up outside, is there anything more comforting than a bowl of oatmeal? Plain old oatmeal becomes a tedious breakfast rather quickly, but the fancy flavored versions are pricey and full of artificial flavors.

    Thankfully, making your own gourmet oatmeal is easy. Flavored oatmeal makes a great gift for the busy professional, a time-strapped mom or anyone who says there's no time for a healthy breakfast.

    Stepfanie's Oatmeal Mix

    6 cups old-fashioned or steel-cut oats
    3/4 c ground flax seeds
    3 T cinnamon
    1 1/2 cups walnuts, chopped
    1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
    Mix all ingredients together. Makes 12 servings (about 3/4 cup each)
    Store in the refrigerator as flax seeds and walnuts can spoil quickly.

    Nutrition info
    Number of Servings: 12
    Calories: 329
    Total Fat: 15.3 g* (This is mostly heart-healthy Read More »from Healthy, Homemade Gifts: Gourmet Oatmeal Mixes
  • Which Super Seed Packs the Most Nutrition?

    By Melinda Hershey, for SparkPeople

    If you've ever been to a health food store, you've probably seen the dozens of bulk bins filled with tiny seeds. Though they may look like bird food, don't turn your nose up at these little kernels of nutrition! Two of the most talked-about seeds are chia seeds and flax seeds. Both have been prominently featured in the media in recent years for their health benefits. If you had to choose, which seed will give you the most nutrition per ounce?

    The Winner: It's a Tie!

    Per ounce, chia seeds have more fiber and calcium than flax seeds--plus, they are lower in calories and fat (137 calories and 9 grams of fat per ounce of chia seeds vs. 150 calories and 12 grams of fat per ounce of flax seeds). Chia seeds also don't have to be ground up in order for you to absorb their nutrients, unlike flax seeds. On the flip side, flax seeds contain more vitamin B1 and omega-3 fatty acids than chia seeds, and some studies have shown that they are high in

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