5 Free Apps for a Healthy Lifestyle

Looking for easy ways to stay healthy and meet your nutrition goals in the New Year? These 5 free apps are a great way to manage weight loss, plan menus, track activity and fitness and navigate dining out.

  1. Lose It!A weight management app that allows users to track food intake, exercise, and water consumed, Lose It makes it easy to input goals, manage progress, and see real results. This app even has a barcode scanner to quickly add foods, graphs to show visual progress day over day, and even import data from other health and fitness apps.

    PROS: Able to save meals and scan barcodes to quickly track foods; connect with friends for accountability

    CONS: May feel a little time consuming to start; limited restaurant database

    SIMILAR: MyFitnessPal

  2. FoodilyFoodily is an online catalog of recipes, indexed by hundreds of search criteria, allowing users to find just the right recipe in an instant. Get new ideas to update the standard chicken or crock pot dinner, find an innovative way to use up leftover vegetables, or just get inspiration for your next meal. Foodily incorporates user ratings, allergy information, and a social aspect to let you connect and share your recipe finds with friends. A forum of community recipes, Foodily provides realistic recipes by other home cooks, making it easy to find and create new meal ideas at home.

    PROS: Ease of use, photographs of recipes, save and share recipes with friends and social media

    CONS: Recipe index and limited depending on user uploads

    SIMILAR: Yummly

  3. StravaLog and track your fitness goals with this easy to use new fitness app. Strava uses a GPS tracker to map routes and log miles and paces for runners, walkers, and bikers. The app helps keep users motivated by connecting you with friends and incorporating monthly challenges to compete against yourself or others.

    PROS: Easy navigation; able to share activities to other social media platforms; connect with friends for motivation.

    CONS: Only tracks miles for running, walking, and cycling; GPS can drain phone battery.

    SIMILAR: MapMyFitness

  4. Healthy OutNot sure how to eat out and still stick to your healthy goals? Have specific diet restrictions or allergies? Healthy Out allows you to enjoy eating out without the stress or hassle of not knowing what options are available at many favorite restaurants.

    PROS: Easy access to filter menu items and restaurant listings based on wide variety of dietary needs; ability to save and share results with friends.

    CONS: limited city and restaurant availability but continuing to grow; must connect via Facebook

    SIMILAR: Food Tripping

Thank you to SD, dietetic intern, 2015 for input on this blog.

Getting Those Zzzzzzs!

When it comes to our busy lives, we always look for ways to do things faster and more efficiently. We often find that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we want to do. We try to give ourselves more time for work or play and unknowingly sacrifice one vital function of our lives. Can you guess which one? If you said SLEEP, you are absolutely right! Unfortunately, we only tend to think about sleep when we haven’t had enough of it. Giving yourself adequate time to sleep will do your body good and can actually have an effect on your nutrition.

The scientific explanation of this striking fact is that sleep is necessary for proper neuroendocrine function and glucose metabolism. Being awake for an extended period of time can trick the body into thinking we need more energy! Our body will compensate for the extra hours of wakefulness causing neuroendocrine, metabolic and behavioral changes leading to the increased consumption of food and increased energy retention. Altered neuroendocrine functions can cause an increased appetite and decreased satiety, making an individual feel hungry all the time. Metabolic changes can include a decreased resting metabolic rate or a decrease in the amount of energy an individual burns at rest. Lastly, behavioral changes, such as skipping the gym because all you want to do is sleep, can occur. Current epidemiologic and laboratory studies have found that altered metabolism can increase your risks of gaining weight and becoming obese, leading to the further development of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

So just how does limited sleep alter our metabolism?

Our glucose tolerance decreases the less we sleep causing our body to have increased glucose levels. This increase of glucose can contribute to hyperglycemia or high blood sugar levels and increase an individual’s risk for cardiovascular disease. At the same time, our insulin sensitivity decreases. This means our fat cells are unable to effectively use insulin, although our pancreas produces plenty of it. Glucose levels will thus remain high, contributing even further to hyperglycemia. To make matters worse, this change is likely to cause Type 2 diabetes.

Our cortisol secretions are increased the less we sleep, and as we know, cortisol is the steroid hormone released by the body in response to stress. Increased levels of cortisol are associated with higher amounts of abdominal fat, which can lead to further health problems such as the development of metabolic syndrome.

Our ghrelin hormone secretions (the hormone that increases appetite) are also increased the less we sleep. Conversely, leptin hormone secretions (the hormone that decreases appetite) are decreased. As these two hormones work together, our appetite is increased and our satiety is decreased leaving us to feel the need to consume more food.

New research has emerged that suggests insufficient sleep related metabolic adaptations may also cause ill effects for those who are trying to lose weight. Although the individual is reaching their target level of physical activity and following a healthy diet, their sleep loss in the past can delay the success of their treatments. They may also tend to retain more fat if they have a history of excessive food consumption.

So before you hit the sack to clock in your hours of sleep, here are some tips to follow to get a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling healthy and refreshed!

  1. If you exercise in the evening, do it at least 3 hours before bedtime. This will allow your body to cool off and relax before bedtime. Cooler body temperatures will hasten sleep onset.
  2. Limit stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine or alcohol right before bed because it can make it harder to fall asleep. Less sleep will ultimately affect you the next day making your body cry out for more caffeine, eventually leading to a cycle of caffeine dependence.
  3. Aim for a regular bedtime and wake time, including the weekends. This will strengthen your circadian rhythm and will help put you to sleep faster.
  4. Begin a calming routine before bed, such as reading a good book or soaking in a hot bubble bath. Relaxation before bed can prepare your body for deep sleep.
  5. Avoid bright lights, such as your phone or computer. This often can signal increased activity of neurons which can delay your sleep onset.
  6. Eat at least 2-3 hours before bedtime to increase your sleeping comfort. Eating and drinking too closely to bedtime can stimulate your body due to the digestive process, leave you feeling full and may cause you to run to the restroom in the middle of the night.
  7. Regular exercise can help you fall into a deeper sleep.

When it comes to sleep, it’s best we don’t take it for granted! Our body is depending on us to get an adequate amount of sleep so it can function properly and keep us energized throughout our day. So, long story short, getting the sleep we require will help us work faster and more efficiently. And sacrificing sleep for more time will only harm our effectiveness. Following these simple steps, will lead us to live stronger, happier and healthier lives.

Thank you to E. C.–WIC Dietetic Intern, for writing this posting.

REFERENCES

Penev, P.D. (2013). Sleep deprivation and human energy metabolism. In Handbook of nutrition, diet and sleep (pp.194-208). Wageningen Academic Publishers.  Accessed June 11, 2013. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.3920/978-90-8686-763-9_13

Leproult, R., & Van Cauter, E. (2009). Role of sleep and sleep loss in hormonal release and metabolism.  Accessed June 12, 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3065172/

The National Sleep Foundation. Healthy Sleep Tips .Accessed June 12, 2013.

Mindful Eating

Choose Mindful Eating–Not Diets

If you, like many others, have set a new years resolution to lose weight, there is a good chance that by now you have already given up. And no wonder! Diets can be depriving and can’t be sustained over a lifetime. They can cause a decrease in your metabolism, a preoccupation with food and a sense of failure. Why don’t you do something different this year? Start a new lifestyle rejecting the diet mentality and instead utilizing Mindful or Intuitive Eating. The basic principle of Mindful Eating is that we are all born with an internal mechanism that lets us know when we are hungry or full. Unfortunately, after years of being told to clean our plate, eat by the clock, and choose this food as advertised, our intuitive eating behaviors become suppressed. It may be challenging to modify your current dieting rules, but a new, healthier lifestyle will probably last much longer. Imagine a new year without guilt and totally tuned into your natural body signals!

So how can you develop a healthier lifestyle without dieting? Here are a few principles to consider.

  • Do you dislike your body shape? You can be healthy at any size. Embrace the body you were intended to have. Focus on having a healthy body from the inside out, instead of being a certain size or weight.
  • Can you recognize your body’s hunger and fullness signals? Pay attention to what your body is telling you. When you feel that you are about 80% full, stop eating. Eat slowly so you can recognize your body cues and analyze if you are truly still physically hungry. Focus on enjoying the aesthetics of every bite of food—the taste, temperature, texture, color and smell.
  • Do you allow yourself to eat when you are hungry? Keeping your body fed in smaller more frequent meals will help you eat in moderation. There is no magic number of meals required per day. Choose moderate portion sizes.  Don’t allow yourself to become excessively hungry, because you will experience a natural drive to overeat.
  • Do you eat to feel better? Using food for emotional comfort is not the answer. Being active can make you feel better and helps burn the energy/calories from foods you have eaten.  Could you start off by just walking 2 minutes a day?
  • Do you think you are a bad person because you consume a certain food or beverage? Get rid of the food police mentality. Give yourself permission to be imperfect and time to adjust to a healthier way of living. No one is a perfect eater. All foods should be able to be worked into your food choices, as long as you are mindful when eating them.

Let’s see if making peace with food and being mindful of your own body signals works for you! The good thing is that if you need assistance or more information, you can contact me–Linda Farr, RD/LD. I can provide you with personalized guidance throughout your progress to a healthier way of living!

References:

Tribole, Evelyn, and Resch, Elyse. Intuitive Eating: a Revolutionary Program that Works. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2003. Print.  http://www.evelyntribole.com

The Center for Mindful Eating: The Principles of Mindful Eating. http://www.tcme.org/principles.htm