The Best Health & Motivation Resources You Aren't Using

Getting motivated is tough, and staying motivated is health’s million dollar question. You might be able to muster up the will to get to the gym a few times a week for a few weeks and then… nothing. Working out starts to feel like a slog. You fall back into your old TV habit and the next thing you know, you’re back on the couch instead of taking that after-dinner walk or meeting a friend for tennis. Inspiration can be especially sparse if you’re balancing a crazy work schedule, kids, aging parents, and everyday chores. But the good news is, there are now more motivational tools out there than ever to help you get (and stay) inspired to live a healthier life. One of the following helpful resources is bound to help you stick with your goals for the long haul! 

Posted 9/15/2014  12:00:00 AM By:   : 8,401 views

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Are Low- and No-Calorie Sweeteners Really Safe?

Have you ever wondered why just about everyone likes sweets? Stop wondering.  The fact is we are born with an innate desire for sweet taste. And we begin to enjoy sweet taste as soon as we taste mother’s milk or infant formula. Some believe that desire was nature’s way of leading us to foods that had calories for survival.

As rates of obesity continue to rise in many countries, we know that too often we eat more sweet foods than we need for survival!  The problem occurs when we overindulge in our desire for sweets and consume more calories than we burn off. But there is a way that we can have our cake and eat it, too--by choosing foods and beverages sweetened with low- and no-calorie sweeteners. That’s one reason why these ingredients were initially developed--to allow us to enjoy sweet things with fewer calories. Another reason is to provide sweetness without sugar that increases blood glucose, so that diabetics could enjoy these foods. However, as an expert in food ingredient safety, I am often asked:  are sugar substitutes such as aspartame or sucralose safe? 

Posted 9/5/2014  12:00:00 AM By:   : 8,517 views

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5 Reasons Why It's Okay to Drink Diet Beverages

If you’re feeling confused by all of the headlines about diet beverages, you’re not alone. There’s a growing amount of misinformation about diet beverages. Here are some of the facts that we tell our patients who ask about drinking these popular drinks:   
1. They help satisfy your sweet tooth.
Diet beverages can help fulfill our innate desire for sweet – but without adding calories. In fact, University of North Carolina researchers8found that drinking diet beverages didn’t increase appetite or desire for sweets. Diet soda drinkers in their study actually ate less dessert.
2. Diet soda doesn’t raise blood sugar levels.
That’s a big deal for the 29 million Americans who have diabetes, not to mention the 86 million more with pre-diabetes. No wonder that the American Diabetes Association9recommends that people with this disease consume foods and beverages sweetened with low- and no-calorie sweeteners. 

Posted 8/28/2014  12:00:00 AM By:   : 8,701 views

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Do Diet Sodas Really Help with Weight Loss?

One of the questions that I am often asked by my patients at the Anschutz Center for Health and Wellness is this: ''Can I drink diet soda and still lose weight?'' The follow-up question is usually: ''Is it true that diet beverages can make me feel hungrier?''
That’s when I know that they are seeing some of the same confusing headlines about diet beverages that I often see in the local and national news media, and even more frequently on the web.
What I love about my job is that I get to try to find answers to some of these puzzling nutrition questions. To that end, my colleagues and I just completed a study that asked the question: what effect do diet beverages have on weight loss? We were surprised by the answers, which makes me think that you may be, too. 

Posted 8/18/2014  12:00:00 AM By:   : 8,934 views

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13 Smart Snacks to Keep at Your Desk

Hunger doesn't always stick to a schedule, especially during the workday. Your lunch break might be scheduled for noon, but your appetite doesn't always get that memo! Hunger can interfere with your ability to focus on important tasks, and it can make you cranky (or worse, hangry!), which can certainly affect your relationships with your co-workers. That means you gotta get that hunger in check even when you can't leave your desk. So keep healthy snacks on hand to stay on track with your diet and on task at the office!  

Here are 13 nutritious and filling (yet low-calorie) foods that travel well. Some can be stored in your desk, while others need to be stored in the fridge or an insulated lunch bag with an ice pack until you're ready to eat.

Posted 4/10/2014  6:00:00 AM By:   : 7 comments   19,613 views

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Satisfy Any Craving for Less than 100 Calories

When you're trying to manage your weight or eat better, cravings can be your Achilles' heel. They come at the most inopportune times and cripple your will power; you gotta have [insert your biggest temptation] right now, no matter what. It's all you can think about!

Most of us don't crave healthy or low-calorie foods, unfortunately. It's always ice cream, chips, or chocolate--never cucumbers, rice cakes or broccoli. To make matters worse, those cravings usually hit late at night when we don't have many (or any) calories left in our budget for the day.

The good news is that whether you have a sweet or savory, creamy or crunchy craving, you can satisfy it for 100 calories or less without feeling deprived. Here's how:

First, think long and hard about what you're craving. If it's chocolate, chances are a piece of fruit isn't going to satisfy you. You need to eat what you actually crave to feel satisfied.

Posted 3/14/2014  6:00:00 AM By:   : 44,709 views

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10 Smart Swaps That Save Calories

When it comes to healthy eating, you don't have to sacrifice flavor. You can easily slash fat, calories and even carbs, if you're watching those, from all your favorite dishes without turning them into "diet" recipes. Here are 10 examples of how swapping in one or two simple ingredients can create a delicious dish that's far healthier than the original. With these Smart Swaps, you'll never know we made any changes to affect healthfulness!

Posted 3/1/2014  12:00:00 AM By:   : 8 comments   26,983 views

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11 Ways to Crush Nighttime Cravings

It's 8 p.m. You should be getting ready for bed or at least winding down your day, but all you can think about is how much you want to sink your teeth into that chocolate-covered peanut-nougat candy bar in the kitchen drawer. Or how good a bag of crunchy potato chips would be right now. Or how it would feel to swirl your spoon through a big bowl of butter pecan ice cream and lick up every last drop.

You know you shouldn't…and yet, the craving is all-consuming! Your mind engages in a tug of war so strong you feel like your will power might just be yanked out from under you.

Posted 2/6/2014  6:00:00 AM By:   : 17,503 views

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4 Questionable Sources of Probiotics

It’s no secret that probiotics provide digestive health benefits. But some sources can be misleading in their probiotic reliability. When it comes to your digestive health, you can’t spare reliability.

Here's where the good bacteria can be found.

Posted 12/31/2013  6:00:00 AM By:   : 6,102 views

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DVD Review: A Workout for the Everyday Woman

Is it just us, or are workouts getting more and more intense lately? It seems like you can’t turn on the TV or open a magazine without hearing about the latest ''extreme'' workout fad that promises to get you six-pack abs and boundless energy. Although those type of workouts might appeal to some people, they’re definitely not for everyone. What ever happened to sane, safe exercise programs for the average person just trying to stay healthy and fit?

Enter Lisa Whelchel’s Everyday Workout for the Everyday Woman. Lisa Whelchel is a busy mom of three, an author, motivational speaker, and former TV star from The Facts of Life. As an average woman who struggles to fit exercise into her busy days, Lisa’s DVD is a breath of fresh air for any woman trying to start a reasonable and sustainable fitness routine—or for any woman who just wants to mix things up a bit! You can learn more about what to expect from the DVD in the YouTube video below:

Posted 12/4/2013  12:00:00 AM By:   : 8 comments   7,359 views

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Review: A Workout DVD for Every Body Type!

Is your fitness routine feeling a little "blah"? Are you looking for a customized full-body workout that incorporates both cardio and strength training in 20 minutes tops? Look no further than Escape Your Shape: 21-Day Body Makeover. This easy-to-follow DVD comes jam-packed with three different fun and encouraging workouts to try for every body type.

Posted 11/20/2013  12:00:00 AM By:   : 8 comments   8,685 views

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DVD Review: Fit Mommy-to-Be Prenatal Yoga

Pregnancy can bring on all kinds of aches and pains in a woman's body. Exercising throughout pregnancy can help with some of these aches and pains, but sometimes it is hard to find a safe and effective pregnancy workout. Hilaria Baldwin, certified yoga instructor and wife of actor Alec Baldwin, has come out with one of the best prenatal yoga workouts that I have seen, so there is no need to keep looking! With this DVD, Hilaria guides you through a challenging series of yoga poses that provide a great yoga workout while also helping your body and mind feel better. Talk about a win-win situation!

Posted 10/15/2013  7:00:00 AM By:   : 1 comments   7,436 views

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Finding the Best Health & Fitness Apps Just Got Easier

At SparkPeople, we're always on the lookout for useful tools that make it easier to lead a healthy lifestyle. According to the Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings, there are more than 40,000 health and wellness apps on the market. These days it seems like there's an app for absolutely everything you need to lead a healthy life, from finding healthy recipes to fitness tracking to getting a quick medical reference. But with so many options and possibilities, it can feel a bit overwhelming to know where to start. What apps are most relevant to your goals and what new apps are worth trying? And once you start on your path to a healthier you with these apps, juggling the various tools can get cumbersome. Until now… 

Posted 8/1/2013  12:00:00 PM By:   : 12 comments   12,621 views

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3 'Pure Protein' Products Worth Trying

Protein is an important part of any healthy diet and has been shown to help you feel full longer. But some of the best sources of protein like eggs, chicken and milk aren't easy to carry with you on the go. And having a healthy, protein-packed snack on hand for emergencies will prevent you from making bad food decisions out of hunger. I know that I've made some less-than-stellar snack choices when I've found myself at the gym a little longer than I planned and I start to feel shaky because it's been too long since my last meal.
Now, I always make sure I have a protein bar, nuts or beef jerky with me at all times. I just toss something in my purse every morning before I head out for the day and I never have to worry about getting caught without a great snack. So I was super excited when Pure Protein offered to send us some samples of their bars and powders to try. I've tasted many different types of protein products over the years and I admit that I'm a little picky. But I approached each of the Pure Protein products with an open mind and I'll share my thoughts about each one below.
Pure Protein Soft Baked Protein BarDouble Chocolate Vanilla Crunch
This bar has a satisfying crunch when you bite into it and a balanced chocolate and vanilla flavor like cookies and cream. The texture is less chewy than a typical protein bar. This would be a great choice for a first-time protein bar user or someone who thinks they don't like protein bars. I'm planning to add this bar into my regular rotation! With its balanced ratio of protein to carbs, this is a great bar to eat either pre- or post-workout. If you eat it pre-workout, give yourself about an hour to digest the bar before you begin. (Find them on and other fine retailers.)

Nutrition Facts: 190 calories, 17 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat, 14 grams of carbohydrate (5 grams of sugar, 4 grams of sugar alcohol)
Pure Protein Protein BarChocolate Peanut Butter
If you're expecting a chocolate peanut butter cup, you'll be out of luck. But the flavor is a light blend of chocolate and peanut butter that most people who are fans of protein bars will really enjoy. The texture is chewy and smooth, which forces you to slow down when noshing this snack (that's a good thing in my book). With it's extra protein content, this bar would be great after a strength-training workout to aid in muscle repair. (Find them on and at Target, Walmart.)

Nutrition Facts: 200 calories, 20 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat, 16 grams of carbohydrate (2 grams of sugar, 6 grams of sugar alcohol)
Pure Protein Whey Protein PowderVanilla Cream
The best thing about whey protein powder is how versatile it is. There are tons of great protein powder recipes that use vanilla protein powder to add a nutritional boost to things like pudding, yogurt and oatmeal. You can also mix it with water, milk, almond milk, coconut milk or soy milk to make a tasty protein drink. Add fruit to make a perfect pre-workout snack. Since I usually do a combination of strength training and cardio in my workouts, I prefer to fuel with a protein shake before each workout because it's easy to digest and doesn't upset my stomach, no matter how hard I exercise. (Find them on and at Target, Walmart.)

The ultimate test for protein powder is to mix it with only ice and water. If it's drinkable in that form, then it will work well in just about any recipe. Blended with 8 ounces of water and two ice ice cubes, the Pure Protein Vanilla Cream was totally drinkable, if a little plain. The texture is smooth, not at all chalky.

Blended with two ice cubes and 8 ounces of unsweetened coconut milk, the Pure Protein Vanilla Cream starts to shine. It's much thicker, more like a milkshake but not overly sweet. For a more dessert-like option that really takes it into milkshake territory, blend the powder with two ice cubes and 8 ounces of vanilla almond milk.

For my final test, I tried the powder in my regular pre-workout fruit protein shake. The Pure Protein Vanilla Cream paired nicely with the tart berries. The vanilla flavor gave the whole thing the taste of a fresh berry cupcake.

Nutrition Facts: 150 calories, 25 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrate (2 grams of sugar)
Megan's Pre-Workout Berry Protein Shake Recipe

8 ounces of unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup of frozen mixed berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
1 scoop of vanilla protein powder

Mix in a blender with one or two ice cubes. You'll need a straw for this super-thick shake!
Do you have a favorite protein shake recipe? Share it with us.

Posted 6/25/2013  10:00:00 AM By:   : 46 comments   21,385 views

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Get LIVE Canyon Ranch Online Coaching for FREE!

Editor’s note: SparkPeople has partnered with Canyon Ranch to provide this survey. The contests are entirely sponsored by Canyon Ranch.
Fill out the survey below for a chance to participate in a free eight-week online healthy weight coaching program from the experts at Canyon Ranch—and win a trip for two to Canyon Ranch Tucson. Of those who complete the survey in its entirety, Canyon Ranch will select 20 people to receive eight weeks of access to the online program. If selected, you will be asked to participate in satisfaction surveys and follow up interviews after the program is completed. In addition, one person who completes the survey in its entirety will be randomly selected to receive a trip for two to Canyon Ranch Tucson. 


For over three decades, Canyon Ranch has been helping its guests get inspired to learn how to live healthier lives and reach their weight loss goals. Now, the premier health and wellness vacation destination is able to bring this support, motivation and expertise to the SparkPeople community through Canyon Ranch Online: Healthy Weight—a new online live coaching program. And you could get the chance to try it out for two months free of charge!
Here’s what you’ll get during the eight-week trial:
  • Weekly, live online fitness, nutrition and motivational coaching from your Canyon Ranch team
  • Personalized fitness and nutrition plans created just for you
  • Access to exclusive Canyon Ranch wellness lectures and videos
All you have to do is complete the short survey to take advantage of this amazing opportunity (worth more than $2,000)! Click here to take the survey.
And just for filling out the survey in its entirety, you’ll be eligible to win a getaway for two people for two nights at the famous destination resort in Tucson, AZ. (Read more about the trip below.)


Posted 6/10/2013  6:00:00 PM By:   : 9 comments   5,568 views

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