Eight Fitness Tips to Get in Shape for Summer

Does the thought of slipping into shorts or a swimsuit leave you panicked? No sweat. With these easy fitness tips, there’s still time to get in summer-ready shape without going on a crash diet.

Taking small steps will put you in the right direction, says Heidi Powell, personal trainer, life coach and co-transformation specialist (with husband Chris Powell) on Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. Here are her eight best fitness tips to get you ready for the season:

1. Make a Small Change -- And Stick To It

“Make one goal to yourself at a time,” says Powell. “Maybe it's removing soda from your lunch or moving for five minutes a day. Just make it attainable and commit to it.”

Once you master that first goal, you can add another to it, and so on. “When you do what you say you're going to do, the scale will follow,” says Powell.

2. Be Realistic

As much as we’d all love to drop 10 pounds in a week -- especially as summer approaches -- it's not very doable without going to extreme measures.

“Instead, strive to lose one percent of your body weight a week,” says Powell. “That's a healthy goal.” 

3. Watch Your Calories

Nutrition is more than half the battle in weight loss. And while you don’t have to obsess over every bite, you do need to be aware of how many calories you’re taking in. The average woman should aim for 1,500 calories a day.


4. Eat Real Food

Forget the packaged diet dinners and low-fat snacks. “You can’t out-train bad food,” says Powell.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are higher in nutrients than processed meals -- plus, they’re rich in fiber, which will keep you feeling fuller longer. Lean meats like turkey are high in protein and will help you burn more fat while building muscle mass. And yes, you can put some steak on the grill -- just eat it in moderation. “The calorie count is higher in red meat, so opt for three-ounce portions instead of the four ounces you would eat of chicken or fish,” Powell says.


5. Don’t Skip Carbs

“Chris and I both have wristbands that say I <3 carbs!” says Powell. “Carbs fuel the body for weight loss.” Just remember that not all carbohydrates are created equal: White bread, rice and sweets are nutritionally poor, but sweet potatoes, brown rice, steel-cut oats and whole-grain bread are both delicious and healthy.


6. Work Out at Home

You don’t have to commit to a gym to get your exercise. Powell, a busy mom of three, says she’s lucky if she goes to the gym once a month. Instead, she focuses on fat-blasting moves she can do from the comfort of her home…which is where her next two tips come in!

7. Learn to Love the Burpee

“I have a love-hate relationship with burpees,” admits Powell. They’re tough, but “they hit nearly every muscle in the body and get your heart rate up.”

To perform this whole-body exercise, start by squatting with your hands on the floor in front of you. Kick your legs back into a push-up position, jump back into the squat, and then jump to a standing position. You can modify the move by doing the push-up on your knees or going directly from the push-up to a standing position. 

8. Try Interval Training

For the optimal metabolism-boosting workout, sprint on a track or treadmill as fast as you can for 30 seconds, rest for 90 seconds, and then sprint again. Ten sets of sprints will give you a heart-thumping 20-minute workout -- plus your body will continue to burn calories at a higher rate for the rest of the day. “You put your body in an oxygen debt, so the body has to overcompensate and work harder to oxygenate the body,” says Powell.

By making easy changes and following these fitness tips, you’ll be confident and beach-ready before 

Mediterranean Diet Recipes Your Family Will Love

You’ve probably heard the recent news about a study focusing on the Mediterranean diet, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It basically confirmed what doctors had suspected for years: Eating the foods popular in Mediterranean countries such as Greece and Italy can help people at high risk of heart disease avoid strokes, heart attacks and even death.

The Mediterranean diet -- often referred to as the “heart-healthy diet" -- is known to reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering levels of LDL cholesterol, or the “bad” cholesterol that’s more likely to build up deposits in your arteries, says Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN, founder and president of Nutritious Life and author of The New You and Improved Diet, notes that . Studies show that a Mediterranean-type diet is advantageous across the board for cardiovascular risk factors, including total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure and blood sugar levels

More than that, “it incorporates the basics of healthy eating, with a focus on small portions of high-quality foods that are fresh, seasonal and local,” says Glassman. The Mediterranean plan is much more than just a diet, she adds; it’s an overall approach to healthy living that emphasizes getting plenty of exercise and enjoying meals with family and friends.

Even if your heart is healthy, you and your family can still benefit from eating the foods typical of Mediterranean cuisine. Among them: olive oil; nuts; oily fish like salmon and mackerel (all rich in omega-3 fatty acids); garlic (which can lower blood pressure); herbs and spices such as cinnamon and rosemary; and legumes like peas and beans (rich in protein and fiber).

These recipes from Glassman will help introduce your family to the benefits of Mediterranean eating. Each makes one serving, so increase the ingredients accordingly for delicious meals that will be popular with everyone.

MEDITERRANEAN SHRIMP PITA

This recipe is a fun meal to make together. Line up the ingredients as you would with tacos, and let everyone fill up their own pita!

Ingredients

•  3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

•  2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

•  1 teaspoon chopped garlic

•  3 jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 3 ounces)

•  1/2 cup baby arugula

•  1 tablespoon chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves (about 2)

•  1/4 teaspoon dried basil

•  1/4 teaspoon dried parsley

•  2 tablespoons hummus

•  1 mini whole wheat pita 

Directions

1. Combine the lemon juice, oil, and garlic in a small bowl. Transfer the mixture to a zipper-lock bag and add the shrimp, tossing to coat. Refrigerate 15 minutes.

2. Coat a nonstick grill pan with olive oil cooking spray. Preheat over medium-high heat. Toss the arugula and tomatoes in a small bowl.

3. Remove the shrimp from the marinade. Sprinkle the basil and parsley on both sides and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

4. Cook 2 minutes per side, or until opaque throughout, flipping halfway through. Let cool 1 to 2 minutes and cut into 1/2″ pieces.

5. Spread the hummus inside the pita. Fill with the arugula-tomato mixture, then add the shrimp.

WHITE BEAN & VEGETABLE SOUP

Ingredients

•  8 ounces low-sodium vegetable broth

•  ½ cup water

•  2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

•  2 tablespoons each chopped carrot, broccoli, and onion

•  ¼ cup mushrooms, sliced

•  ⅓ cup frozen green peas

•  1 tablespoon garlic, chopped

•  ½ teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

•  Salt and pepper, to taste

•  ½ cup canned white beans, rinsed and drained

•  1 tablespoon walnuts, finely chopped

Directions

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add carrot, broccoli, onion, mushrooms, peas, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables release some of their juices, about 3 to 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high and continue to cook, stirring often, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

2. Add broth, water and white beans; bring to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables and beans are tender.

3. Remove from heat, add walnuts and serve.

SNACKS & SIDES

  • Mediterranean Mix: 8 chopped olives, 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts, 4 cherry tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon capers, ¼ cup celery chopped and spread on endive

  • Mediterranean Tomato: 1 large tomato slice with 1 ounce goat cheese, drizzled with fig vinegar

  • Mediterranean Dip: 2 tablespoons hummus with 1 cup red and yellow pepper

6 Instant Ways to Stress Less and Smile More

You can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, but you can learn to deal with it in a healthy way. And since stress is associated with all sorts of negative health effects like high blood pressure and a weakened immune system, taking a few minutes a day to fight stress keeps you not only happy and smiling, but healthy too.  

“Daily hassles and annoyances can get to anyone, but small changes make a big difference,” explains Judy Saltzberg, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and teaches at the University of Pennsylvania’s Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program. Here’s how to keep smiling:

1. Take it outside.
“The first intervention I advise is physical activity,” says Saltzberg. Even if you don’t have time for a full workout, you can still boost your happiness. A study from the University of Essex found that just five minutes of walking, biking or even gardening outdoors can lift your mood and improve self-esteem.

Health bonus: Aside from melting away stress, you’ll melt calories too!

2. Find time for tea.
Sipping a few cups of tea may make you more resilient to stress, according to research from the University College of London. Study participants who drank four cups of black tea a day had less of the stress hormone cortisol in their body after completing a challenging task than did those who didn’t drink tea.

Health bonus: Tea’s antioxidants may ward off some cancers, improve heart health and decrease risk of stroke.

3. Pop a piece of gum.
Under pressure? Chewing gum could help, say experts at Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia. Researchers found that people who chewed while multitasking reported feeling less anxious and less stressed than their gum-free peers. They also felt more alert and performed twice as well on stressful tasks.

Health bonus: Chewing sugarless gum after meals will not only reduce stress, but it can also help fight bacteria that cause cavities.

4. Indulge in dark chocolate.
Dessert probably puts a smile on your face already, but now there’s proof of chocolate’s joy-boosting benefits. German researchers found that people who ate 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate a day for two weeks had significantly lower levels of anxiety- and stress-related hormones in their system.

Health bonus: Dark chocolate may also contribute to lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke or heart attack by 39 percent, suggests a study in the European Heart Journal.

5. Stop and smell the flowers.
Sniff your way to serenity and fight off sickness by keeping a bouquet of roses on your desk, wearing citrus-scented lotion or getting a whiff of cinnamon. Stress can wreak havoc on your immune system, but Japanese scientists found that when people inhaled a scent compound common in flowers, herbs and spices, their systems kept functioning normally in spite of the stress.

Health bonus: Smelling lavender before bed can help you sleep better, according to a study in Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery.

6. Flip your perspective.
Focusing on the positive in a stressful situation can help keep you smiling, says Saltzberg. Instead of stewing on a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam, for example, think of it as an opportunity to call an old friend. “Tuning into your thinking and challenging doomsday thoughts can put a situation in perspective,” says Saltzberg. And that defuses the tension.

Health bonus: A glass-half-full approach has been linked to faster recovery from injury and illness, according to research in the Journal of Personality.

After a few weeks of practicing these techniques, you’ll not only feel happier, but you can rest easy knowing you’re healthier too -- which is one less thing for you to stress about!

How to Snack the Healthy Way

Here’s the good news: Snacking isn’t inherently unhealthy, and you don’t have to quit snacking altogether. In fact, if you snack on the right foods low in fat and follow a few simple guidelines, munching between meals not only helps you stay on your diet, but it may help you maintain or even lose weight too. 

The problem, of course, is that for many people, a snack means, well, “snack foods” -- chips, cookies, cakes, candy and other processed, high-calorie, high in fat goodies. Snacking also becomes a weighty problem if you mindlessly eat all day long, says Debi Silber, a registered dietician with a master’s degree in nutrition, author of The Lifestyle Fitness Program: A Six-Part Plan So Every Mom Can Look, Feel and Live Her Best.

Check out these tricks to stop snacking on all the wrong stuff and start making smarter, healthier choices.

1. Sit down with a plate.
It’s common to graze when you prepare meals or even walk through the kitchen. From now on, promise yourself that you’ll put every morsel on a plate and sit down before eating it. By making this simple commitment, “you’ll become more aware of snacking and end up eating less,” says Silber.

2. Make snacking unsavory.
When a craving strikes, temporarily trick your taste buds by brushing and flossing your teeth. Nothing tastes good when your mouth is fresh and minty. Likewise, scented body lotion may turn you off of the idea of eating for the time being.

3. Never skip meals.

According to a survey by the International Deli-Dairy-Bakery Association, more Americans have a snack than eat breakfast or lunch. But skipping meals is a mistake: It makes you ravenous, especially for high-fat, high-sugar snacks. “Never let yourself get too hungry,” warns Silber. “It leads to overeating every time.”

4. Choose substantial and low fat snacks.

Having a snack can stop you from getting too hungry and overindulging at mealtimes. But it only works if your snack is satisfying enough that you aren’t craving another in an hour, says Silber. The secret: Pairing foods that contain fiber-rich carbs with high-protein picks. The duo keeps blood sugar levels steady and you feeling full. Try a pear with low-fat cheese, an apple with peanut butter, yogurt with low-fat granola or whole-wheat pita bread with hummus. Whatever you eat, aim to get about 100 to 250 calories.

5. Buy healthy, portable foods.
Processed, fattening snacks are often conveniently packaged, making them an easy go-to when you get hungry. But if you stock your fridge (or purse) with similarly convenient good-for-you snacks, you’re more likely to munch healthy. Think about grab-and-go fruits, veggies and other fare while you’re shopping. Instead of buying pineapple that needs to be peeled, cored and cut, for example, stock up on bananas. Or, in lieu of carrots you must clean, peel, cut and bag, pay a little extra for baby carrots. Other options: almonds, grapes, apples, high-fiber granola bars, and individually wrapped low-fat string cheese.

6. Get more sleep.
Sweets and refined carbs give you a quick boost of energy, which means craving these types of foods could be your body’s way of saying it needs more energy. Try hitting the sack a little earlier or finding a way to push back the alarm clock instead of chasing a temporary fix. By getting more z’s, you’ll help quell cravings and feel better, says Silber.

7. Ask yourself what you really need.
When a snack attack strikes, your inner voice is communicating a need, but it might not be the need to eat, says Silber. Sometimes you just need a break. If you can, stop working, and check Facebook or take a walk. If you need to de-stress, take a shower or call a friend. You may find that what you’re really craving is comfort, not comfort food. 

Teaching Kids to Stop the Spread of Germs

If it seems as if your kids are always picking up germs and getting sick, it’s not your imagination. With developing immune systems, packed classrooms and a tendency to taste and touch with abandon, kids are much more likely than adults to catch and spread germs, says Dr. William Sears, a pediatrician and associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, Irvine.

But you can teach kids habits to help them avoid and contain germs so they -- and the rest of your family -- stay healthy. And the earlier you start, the better, says Betsy Brown Braun, a parenting expert and author of Just Tell Me What to Say. Try these tricks for teaching little ones to stay germ-free. With practice, the habits will become as ingrained as saying please and thank you.

1. Lead by example.

The most important habit to teach kids: Wash hands often. Wash them before eating, after returning home, after using the bathroom or blowing their nose. And if they accidentally cough or sneeze into their hands (instead of into their sleeve), teach them to wash hands right away.

As you might expect, the best way to drive home the message is by demonstrating these good habits yourself. Wash your hands at these times too -- every time.

“The magic is modeling the behavior,” says Dr. John Mayer, a clinical psychologist and author of Family Fit. Children learn more by watching than any other way.

Accompany your behavior with a verbal cue: “We wash our hands every time after using the bathroom” or “We wash our hands every time before we eat.” Kids will start remembering even when you’re not around.

2. Sing a song.

Getting kids to wash their hands for a full 20 seconds is just as important as having them wash in the first place. “Kids usually stick their hands under water for a split second, which doesn’t kill any germs,” says Mayer. But give them a fun way to measure time, and they’ll stick it out longer.

Singing the happy birthday song twice or saying the ABCs takes about 20 seconds. Practice with your child when washing hands together. Over time, your child will start singing and scrubbing to the end of the song on her own.

3. Play a game.

When kids cough or sneeze into the air, on their hands -- or worse, on their friends -- germs spread easily. To teach them to aim into their sleeve, create a game out of it.

“Tell them they have a ‘germ catcher’ in the crook of their arm, and when they aim there, they catch and trap the germs,” suggests Braun. It may take a little time but remind them about the game every time, and the habit will eventually stick.

4. Add a cool factor.

Since one of the ways germs are transmitted is through hand-to-hand contact, talk to your child about not giving high fives on the sports field. Instead, help him come up with a unique greeting he thinks is cool.

Mayer, for example, gives his patients a fist bump. When you pick up your child from practice, use his greeting to encourage its use. (Unless, of course, he’s at the age when everything mom does is just not cool.)

5. Use a visual aid.

It’s smart for your child to keep a distance from kids who are constantly coughing or wiping a runny nose, says Sears. Likewise, if your kid sees a pal sneeze or cough on a toy or a ball, he should choose a different object to play with.

Since kids tend to be visual learners, use a water-filled spray bottle to simulate how far coughs and sneezes can reach while explaining how germs are spread. “Tell them that everyone has water in their body that contains germs,” says Braun. “Be clear that it’s normal -- you don’t want to create a germophobe -- but explain that it’s best if everyone keeps their germs to themselves.”

6. Make food shareable.

You teach kids to share, but the lesson backfires when it comes to passing germs via swapped bites. Do your part by cutting apples into slices and sandwiches into quarters when making lunches. Even throw in an extra spoon for pudding. Then, tell your child that if he wants to share with a buddy, each boy gets his own portion.

7. Praise good behavior.

When you catch your kid practicing a healthy habit, tell her how proud you are. “Kids want to please you, so heap on the praise and they’ll keep doing it,” says Braun.

Also, try offering an incentive. Give her a sticker every time she sneezes into her sleeve or washes her hands unprompted. “Once she gets a certain number of stickers, do something special, like visiting the aquarium,” suggests Braun.

By consistently practicing good habits at home, your kids will take them everywhere, including into adulthood. “It’s the seat belt effect,” says Braun. Once your child does these habits enough, they become as automatic as buckling in. And that means you spend less time playing nurse!