The SparkPeople Blog

SparkPeople Guest Blogger

The Best Foods to Eat at Every Time of Day

It's not just what you eat, but when you eat that matters. "Our food dictates everything from our mood and energy levels to sleep patterns and cravings," says Marci Anderson, a registered dietitian in Cambridge, MA. So whether you want to feel alert in the morning, blissed-out at lunch or sleepy at night, smart food choices can get you there. You don't have to eat everything that follows in one day; just pick what suits your needs. Keep clicking to find out how to maximize your meals throughout the day.

Posted 2/3/2014  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 2 comments   6,107 views

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How to Read Food Labels

Picture this: You're standing in a grocery store aisle packed 7 feet high with cereal. As you try to compare the hyped-up claims, nutritional info and, oh yeah, prices of several brands, your kid rushes over, begging for some new sugary cereal he saw on TV. The checkout line is getting longer, your patience is getting shorter and you still have no idea what to toss into the cart. Fortunately, there's a solution: Become a nutrition sleuth and learn to ID the important facts on labels—fast.
Fifty-four percent of shoppers in the U.S. read food labels when purchasing a product for the first time. But whether they fully understand many of the terms used is another story entirely. "It's a huge problem because people are frequently blinded by a flashy label or vague claims—and they often don't look at packages closely," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It: How to Decode Food Labels and Make the Healthiest Choice Every Time. "If you put in the effort just once, you can develop a list of foods that are good for you, and then all you have to do is buy them in the future." 

Posted 1/21/2014  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 3 comments   7,543 views

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4 Healthy Habits That Prevent Cancer

Staying well for your family is a top priority. And a few simple lifestyle changes can go a long way in preventing cancer. From what to eat to which vitamins you need more of, these simple tips can keep you disease-free.

Check your vitamin D levels

Some preliminary research suggests that having optimal levels of this vitamin—a hormone your body generates when exposed to the sun—may lower breast cancer risk. Your doctor can give you a quick blood test to figure out if your levels are low and whether you need to take a supplement. (Vitamin D is hard to get through your diet because there are few foods that contain high amounts of it.) 

Posted 1/20/2014  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 3 comments   5,177 views

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A No-Nonsense Walking Workout in 30 Minutes

You've probably been hearing the term 'HIIT' (which stands for high intensity interval training) a lot lately--especially when it comes to describing effective, efficient cardio exercise. And while HIIT offers many benefits, including an increased calorie burn both during and after your workout along with better endurance and improved cardiovascular fitness, it can be very intense, especially if you are new or returning to exercise. Plus, many HIIT routines include challenging moves (like burpees, squat thrusts or mountain climbers) that can be really difficult to execute properly so quickly, especially if you are working with an injury or physical limitations. 

Posted 1/16/2014  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 24 comments   42,067 views

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6 Sleep Habits Every Family Should Follow

Studies have shown that sleep helps you lose weight, improves your energy and even decreases your risk of heart disease. Follow these six steps for better shut eye this year.
Step 1: Prep for bed

Nightly routines aren't just for infants. They're essential for all ages. "Start a ritual about 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime to prepare the body for sleep," says Robert Oexman, D.C., director of the Sleep to Live Institute in Joplin, Missouri. It could include a hot bath (which decreases your core body temperature) or a cup of herbal tea. 

Posted 1/14/2014  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 3 comments   5,280 views

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7 Sneaky Ways to Trick Your Body into Staying Healthy

Avoid getting sick with these easy, unconventional tactics.

Mental Medicine
Surprise! Studies show the right thoughts and feelings may keep you healthier than a cabinet full of pills. So close that medicine cabinet and get ready to tap into your potent mental powers. Here, seven simple ways to psych out sickness. 
Have a chuckle to head off heart woes. 

Posted 1/13/2014  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 3 comments   7,224 views

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5 Ways to Save More Money in 2014

Start 2014 on the right financial footing by learning smart ways to save money. Your bank account will thank you all year long. 

1. Pay down debt. Between gift buying, multiple trips to the grocery store and extra entertaining, most of us overspend during this time of year. "Often people are afraid to even look at their credit card statements after Christmas," says California-based Ginita Wall, cofounder of, a financia-leducation website for women. Help those balances reach zero by monitoring your expenditures and finding a few areas—say, entertainment, groceries and clothing—that you can temporarily trim by 10 percent. Then take that extra cash and begin paying off the card with the lowest balance first. Also, consider exchanging unwanted gift cards on websites such as or 

Posted 1/7/2014  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 4 comments   9,495 views

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9 Surprising Ways Your Refrigerator Can Help You Lose Weight

Scale stuck? Shifting the food around in your fridge can actually retrain your brain to lose weight: It may help you crave healthy food, instead of diet-sabotaging fare, explains Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Slim by Design: Mindless Eating Solutions For Everyday Life. But that's not the only way your refrigerator can keep you slim. Here, fresh solutions to make slimming down almost effortless.

Top Shelf: Store Healthy Drinks Here

"You're three times more likely to take the first item you see out of the fridge than you are anything else," explains Dr. Wansink. His suggestion: Stock your top tier with low-cal beverages, like skim milk, fruit and veggie juices (no sugar added) and a water pitcher. You can also stash water bottles here to grab for easy on-the-go hydration. "Staying well-hydrated naturally curbs appetite," explains Susan Albers, PsyD, clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and author of the book, Eat Q: Unlock the Weight-Loss Power of Emotional Intelligence. "Also, opting for low-cal drinks shaves calories from your diet," she adds. Use these slimming sips to cut out just one can of soda (diet included!) a day, and you could speed up your slimdown, say researchers at The University of Texas. 

Posted 1/6/2014  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 7 comments   7,859 views

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The #1 Way to Feel, Eat and Sleep Better

You don't have to think big to be healthier in 2014. In fact, you might want to think small. Researchers found that when people made one easy lifestyle change, they were more effective at pursuing their objectives than when attempting multiple adjustments. One little change, one giant reward? Count us in. Now, repeat after us for a brand-new you.
Resolution #1: "This year I’ll beat stress by practicing my breathing."

There's never a week that won't bring on some kind of stress-inducing scenario. But when anxiety starts to set in, just remember to take a deep breath. Then go ahead and take a few more.
"Breathing is one of the most important connections between your mind and your body," says Keri Tuit, Psy.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Yale University. When the pressure starts mounting—your teen won’t practice the piano or she gets a poor grade on an English test—you go into fight-or-flight mode, and your brain releases a cascade of tension- triggering hormones that cause the heart to race. But you can reverse that process by lengthening your inhales and exhales, which has a twofold outcome: Measured, deep breathing automatically slows down your heartbeat and relaxes your entire body, she explains.And as you concentrate on your breathing, you become less focused on your worries, making recovery from stress easier. 

Posted 12/31/2013  12:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 0 comments   3,397 views

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Natural Anxiety Remedies

Feeling anxious? From piling bills to your hectic schedule, a lot can make you uneasy. Start breathing a bit easier because these simple strategies can quiet your racing mind. Ahh, that's better.

The psychologist says…Know when to get help

If anxiety starts interfering with your life (you're avoiding social situations or having panic attacks, for example), then consider treatment. Anxiety responds well to non-pill methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, where a therapist teaches you to examine your thoughts and reframe them. So if talking to strangers stresses you out, your therapist may suggest approaching someone you don't know at a party and starting a conversation as practice. Often, it will go better than expected, which means you can say to yourself: "Despite my anxiety, most times when I talk to a new person it feels OK." Medication may be necessary if worries continue, but addressing the root cause rather than suppressing symptoms will serve you better in the long run. 

Posted 12/30/2013  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 2 comments   4,512 views

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Have a Ball with This Calorie-Torching Workout!

Looking to have a little more fun with your cardio workouts? Then hop off the treadmill and get ready to mix things up with this routine that uses a small ball to amp up the moves and help you burn more calories in less time.
No ball handy? Try using a small pillow, holding both ends of a light dumbbell (I would recommend a weight under 5 pounds) or simply clasp your hands together to follow along with this full length, 30-minute workout video. Check it out on YouTube, or watch via the embedded video below! 

Posted 12/30/2013  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 12 comments   18,787 views

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10 Books to Read in 2014

Whether you're looking for one good novel or want to cozy up to a stack, Family Circle rounded up some of the New Year's most promising releases.

1). In the Blood (Touchstone) by Lisa Unger

A disturbing past keeps college student Lana hiding in the shadows of her life. But when her best friend goes missing, she finds herself caught in her own web of deception. A riveting chess match of twists will keep you guessing—and keep you up at night. 

Posted 12/24/2013  6:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 7 comments   27,787 views

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7 Holiday Foods That Actually Help You Lose Weight

It's the same struggle every year. You walk into a holiday party and you're greeted by the hostess, who encourages you to dig into the huge spread of tasty hors d'oeuvres. But how can you enjoy the evening without going overboard? It is possible! By focusing on popular party snacks that have health-boosting benefits, you can savor the season and drop pounds.

Full-fat cheese is packed with protein, so a small amount will satisfy you quickly, which means eating some of the real deal (versus lowfat or fat-free) may actually help you lose weight. Choose hard, full-flavor cheeses like Parmesan or aged Gouda, because their sharp taste helps you conquer cravings fast. These cheeses are slightly higher in calories than soft ones like Brie, but they have more protein. Stick with 1 oz—or four to five small cubes—per day. 

Posted 12/23/2013  6:00:00 PM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 2 comments   4,329 views

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How Sandy Lost the Baby Weight for Good

Weight Lost: 70 pounds
Hometown: Roland, Iowa
Occupation: Group fitness instructor and stay-at-home mom
What was life like before your weight loss?
I got pregnant with my son in 2006. Prior to that pregnancy, I was always at a normal body weight and didn't have to work much to maintain that weight. During my pregnancy, I gained more than 60 pounds. After delivering my son, I realized that those 60-plus pounds were not really necessary during my pregnancy! I lost about 35 pounds within the first few months, but when I went back to work, I started to gain all the weight back, plus some more. I was working 60 to 70 hours a week and felt miserable because I was struggling to make time for myself to make me feel better. The more miserable I felt, the more I struggled with my weight. I'd never been overweight in my life and to struggle with it now felt awful. I wanted to be happy with my new life and my new family, but I hated how I looked and how I felt.  Although I was still trying to be active, I found that most of the time I really just wanted to sit around and feel sorry for myself.
What was your ‘light bulb moment’ that made you get serious about losing the weight?
I wanted to lose the weight from the beginning, so there was never really one factor that pushed me to do it. I was unhappy with how I looked, and I was tired of wearing baggy clothes to try to hide my size. My wedding rings were tight, and I absolutely hated all the pictures I saw of me with my baby.  I didn't want to be close physically to my husband because I was repulsed by my weight. And I was just sad. All these things together really pushed me to want to get serious about the weight loss. However, when we had our fourth miscarriage a few months after my son's first birthday, I decided that I was going to lose the weight for good. I was going to have a healthy lifestyle so that I would be around to enjoy my son's life, see him grow up and hopefully have some more kids!
Tell us a bit about your weight-loss journey:

Posted 12/22/2013  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 16 comments   7,666 views

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How Jen Lost 110 Pounds and Transformed Her Life

Weight Lost: 110 pounds
Hometown: Lacey, WA
What was life like before your weight loss?
I got married, got a life, got stressed, got bored and got lazy. Our marriage was centered on good food and TV and not being incredibly active after our sedentary workday. I didn't feel good about myself. I hated shopping for clothes, and I couldn't believe I'd gotten so big.  I didn't think I could get the scale to do what I wanted it to do, so I felt very hopeless and complacent about my weight.   
What was your ‘light bulb moment’ that made you get serious about losing the weight?
When I decided to leave my husband I was getting sick -- very sick. I took my two of my cats and a few of my belongings and went to my parents’ home about 30 miles away. I took off my ring, handed it to my dad and went to lie down -- for what ended up being five weeks. I was admitted to the hospital with plans for exploratory surgery to discover why I'd lost 38 pounds in five weeks and could no longer even get my body to hold water. I then spent 21 days in the hospital and walked out those doors vowing that I would forever respect my body as I never had before. I was alive, and thankful to be so, and the fact that I had to wear a colostomy for the next six months seemed a small price to pay. That 38-pound loss in the hospital was a spark for me to keep going.

Tell us a bit about your weight-loss journey:

Posted 12/15/2013  12:00:00 AM By: SparkPeople Guest Blogger : 31 comments   12,534 views

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