New Semester=New Fitness Opportunities

The summer flew by quickly, as it always does in Montana, and many of us are settling in, anticipating the arrival of students, and trying to get organized and ready to launch into the new fall semester.

For those of us who work in education, have kids returning to school, or both, fall has a New Year’s-like feel, as we get back into set routines, whether they are familiar or fresh.

And much like New Year’s, if you’re feeling like you need a little freshness in your exercise routine, this time of year often offers a great opportunity to try out new things. One of the best ways to branch out and get fit, especially if you need a little coaching, is to try out a new group fitness class or two.

I wanted to highlight some of the opportunities happening next week on a few of our largest MUS campuses.

  • The Hosaeus Fitness Center at MSU Bozeman gets their fall GX schedule underway Monday, August 27th. MSU Faculty/Staff can attend GX classes at no extra charge, as they are a part of your Fitness Center membership.
    • Check out the Hosaeus Fitness Center Fall schedule here.
  • UM Campus Recreation is also is hosting a Free week August 27-31, which includes all group fitness classes, body composition measures, and fitness consultations with a personal trainer. What a great opportunity!
  • The Montana Tech Wellness Champions wrote a Wellness Grant to bring Wellness classes to Tech, and those classes will be restarting on Monday, August 27th.
    • Yoga is offered on Mondays, and Pilates on Wednesdays and Fridays. Both classes are in the HRER Dance Studio from 12-1pm.
  • Great Falls College recently made some improvements to their Wellness Room, so if you’re a GFC-MSU employee, be sure to check that out!

If you belong to a private gym or fitness club, chances are they are running some special classes this time of year as well–so be on the lookout!

Be sure to take advantage of new opportunities for health and wellness as we begin this new semester together!

Be Well,



free fitness MSU


The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat

Well, we did it. We made a podcast. We’ve been talking about it for sometime now and we finally got it done! Let us know if you like it, give us some feedback, and we’ll make more! Have an idea for an episode? We take requests. Episode 1 is introductions and back stories. Even if you think you know us, if you listen you might learn something new.

Episode 1.  Neal Andrews & Cristin Stokes from MUS Wellness introduce themselves and the Montana Moves & Montana Meals programs in Episode 1 of their new podcast, The Wellchat.

Time to order your fresh, local summer veggies!

Although some days it still doesn’t feel like it, it’s officially spring, which means now is the time to consider joining a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. CSA programs offer a weekly share of garden produce, and in some cases, additional products like eggs, meat, flowers, or canned goods, in exchange for a lump sum payment at the beginning of the growing season. This model is beneficial to both farmers and consumers. For farmers, offering CSA shares provides capital for start-of-the-season costs. For consumers, benefits come mostly in terms of nutrition and economic savings. CSA participants have been shown to eat more fruits and vegetables during the season, and therefore more health-promoting nutrients such as fiber, vitamin A, and cancer-fighting antioxidants and phytonutrients. As a CSA participant for the past 2 years, I can definitely attest to eating more veggies during the CSA season!

Even though weekly share costs may appear expensive, comparison of CSA prices with the retail value of equivalent amounts of produce have shown significant savings for the CSA participant. In fact, studies show the retail value of the produce received from a CSA share to be 120-250% the cost of the share price. If it still feels pricey, you can do as the Andrews and Stokes families have done the past couple of seasons, and split a share with another family. You can still get the benefits of fresh veggies each week, albeit less of them, at half the cost.

Finally, CSA participants also have the opportunity to form a connection with the farmer who grows their food, something that cannot be done with store-bought produce. Some CSA farms also offer volunteer opportunities or member events to further promote a sense of community.

Participation in a CSA does involve shared risk. There are no guarantees if a hail storm wipes out half of the garden. However, most farmers want to provide CSA members with good value for their participation and will prioritize the CSA shares if produce is scarce.

Several MUS campuses offer CSA programs in conjunction with a campus farm, and all are recruiting participants now. You can also search Local Harvest for a CSA located near you. Check out the info below and sign up today!

townes harvest

fvcc csa

Happy Eating!



Let’s Party!

It’s about time for MUS Wellness to start our road trippin’ and log some miles in March and April. As usual, we’ll spend time visiting Wellchecks, presenting wellness education, and visiting our favorite people all over this beautiful state! Here’s some important info to keep you ahead of the game:

  • Get a jump on registering for our March workshops and webinar by checking the registration links at the bottom of this website, or in this document:
  • Our 2017 Incentive Program launches April 1st with a host of new challenges and upgrades!
    • The site is open now, with new challenges just updated. We’re focusing on stress & financial challenges during our non-point “off-season”.
  • Spring Wellchecks are underway! Register today.

We hope to see you soon!

Neal & Cristin




Eliminating Food Waste: Save the Planet & Your Pocketbook

Neal and I recently had the pleasure of having Kelsey Tanner with us for a two-week rotation as part of the Montana Dietetic Internship (MDI) program. Kelsey earned her Master’s degree in Food Systems with a focus in food security and access from NYU, and had chosen the Montana Dietetic Internship because of its emphasis on sustainable food systems. Kelsey is passionate about the environment, and about the impact of our food choices & food system on the environment in particular. When I asked Kelsey to write a guest post on a topic of her choosing, she immediately decided to write about reducing personal food waste; an often overlooked, yet significant consideration. Please welcome Kelsey Tanner, dietetic intern and guest blog writer:

When people think about making smart food choices, thoughts typically turn first to long-term personal wellness. But there’s an even bigger picture to consider beyond individual health when it comes to making food choices, and that’s the health of our planet.

According to the Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, nearly one-third of food produced worldwide for human consumption is lost or wasted. In the U.S. specifically, a typical family of four leaves more than 2 million calories, worth a staggering $1500, uneaten each year. Aside from the financial and food security implications of all this wasted food, the vast majority of this discarded food ends up in landfills, where it releases methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas, 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide. In addition, valuable resources such as water and energy were used to produce the food, and when the food is wasted, so are the resources used to grow, produce, and deliver that food.

Luckily, just as there are small habits we can adopt to improve our overall health, there are also simple habits we can integrate into our daily routines that can help us reduce food waste, beginning with the 5 strategies listed below:

  1. Plan your meals. Not only will meal planning help improve your personal nutrition intake, it can significantly reduce food waste at home. Start the planning process by checking your fridge and pantry. Check to see what you already have on hand, and use that first instead of buying more. Make a list of what needs to be used sooner rather than later.  Consider portion sizes too. It’s a good strategy to intentionally plan leftovers to bring for lunch, or use in a reimagined way later in the week, but only make an amount that you can reasonably eat before the food goes bad, or you get tired of the same thing.

Tip: Dedicate a shelf in the fridge specifically for food that may be starting to turn bad soon, then use those items for inspiration when you plan your next set of meals.

  1. Choose ugly produce. Much of the produce dumped before it reaches consumers hands is due to natural imperfections, though it is completely fine to eat. These funny-looking fruits and vegetables have been viewed as a profit loss because they are avoided by customers, and so they are often left on the field or refused by retailers. This loss is estimated to account  for 25% percent of all produce grown, contributing to more than half of all food wasted.  Recently, ugly fruit and vegetables have gained attention in the press and social media, leading to efforts to reduce waste by changing the fate of these blemished produce. These ugly fruits and vegetables have the same nutrient content as beautiful ones, so get your recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day by going ugly. Help reduce the amount of produce that goes to waste by purchasing produce with blemishes from local farmers and retailers.
  1. Don’t dump it, freeze it.  Many fruits and veggies can be frozen, so before they go bad in your fridge, cut them up, freeze them, and use them later to make a delicious smoothie, soup, or other healthy favorite. On several occasions, at the end of a busy week I’ve found myself with an excess of peaches, bananas, berries…you name it. In a panic, I try to figure out how I can eat as much fruit as possible in the time it has left, so it does not have to end in the trash. However, you don’t have to go on a fruit-binge to keep fruit out of the dump! All fruit can be frozen, so when there is too much or it is not going to last, cut it up, throw it in a baggie, and mark the date.  Fruit can last up to a year frozen, if stored properly. Use it in a smoothie and turn what would have been food waste into an additional daily serving of fruit.

Tip: Freeze in smaller one-portion baggies or containers.  This minimizes clumping, makes it easier to use, and prevents unfreezing and refreezing.

  1. Don’t trash it, can it. Preserving foods through fermentation is an easy way to make vegetables last, while gaining added benefits. The fermentation process can increase the nutritional content by increasing the availability of nutrients, such as iron, to the body. Fermented food also acts as a homemade probiotic, supporting gut health. So when you didn’t have time to make that dinner you had shopped for, your garden is overflowing with cucumbers, or maybe the beets and carrots looked so great at the farmer’s market that you overdid it, don’t trash those veggies! Can them so both you and the environment can reap the benefit.

Tip: Fermentation is just one way method used in canning. Canning works for all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and even soups, and is a great way to preserve your food.  Never canned before? Here is a great intro resource.

  1.  Dine smart. It is estimated that about 10% of all food waste comes from restaurant food uneaten by its customers. However, eating out is when we tend to overeat. A study from 2014 in the journal Public Health Nutrition showed that dining out for one meal tends to lead to an additional 200 calories to that day’s intake. So here are a few tips for reducing both food waste and your waistline:
  • Order an appetizer as your main course
  • Some restaurants offer half portions on the menu. If not, there’s no harm in asking if a half portion could be provided.
  • Share an entree with a friend
  • Box up half your entree and take it home for another meal

Tip: For buffet style food at restaurants or campus cafeterias, start small. Take small portions each time and go back if you are still hungry.  This not only reduces the amount of food left on your plate once you’re finished, but helps regulate your appetite, making it easier to stop once you feel full, preventing you from overeating.

If you are interested in learning more about food waste and what you can do about it, check out some of these resources:


Good Nutrition starts in your grocery cart!

It happened unexpectedly last Wednesday. I was walking outside, and all of a sudden, I got that distinct sense that fall is coming. The air was crisp, with the familiar smell of fall, and the afternoon sun was noticeably lower in the sky. As university employees, this is an exciting time of year. Students will be back soon, and we’ll get in the routine of another semester.

Even though most of us are no longer students, the start of the school year is a great time to reestablish healthy habits. One of those habits that I always recommend is setting aside a designated time each week to meal plan, grocery shop, and if time allows, prep some items such as cutting/cleaning vegetables, making sauces, or measuring dried spices. You don’t have to plan out every entree, side, beverage, and dessert, but taking even 10 minutes before you shop to think about your dinners for the week can be incredibly helpful. For more about meal planning, check out my previous blog post That’s the Plan.

Today, however, I wanted to share a few grocery shopping tips from the book, Slim by Design by Brian Wansink, PhD. I read this book about a year ago (see Environment Trumps Willpower) but I was recently skimming through it again and found this quote:

 “Our best and worst eating habits start in the grocery store.”

Maybe it’s because I made the rookie mistake last week to go grocery shopping when I was hungry, but this quote really resonated with me. It sounds so simple; what you have available your kitchen determines the quality of your diet. When we buy junk food, we eat junk food. When we buy healthy foods, we eat healthy foods. Or at least, the probability that we’ll eat healthy foods increases! It’s difficult to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables throughout the day if we don’t even have 5 servings available and accessible to us. So what can we do while we’re at the grocery store to increase those good eating habits? Here are my two favorite strategies from Wansink:

  1. Divide your cart in half. One half is designated for fruits and vegetables only; the other half is for everything else. When researchers added a dividing line, along with a sign explaining the “rule” to shopping carts at a few supermarkets in Virginia and Canada, shoppers spent twice as much money on fruits and veggies. Most of us fill our carts about ¼ full with fruits and veggies, but adding that dividing line made ½ a cart of produce seem more appropriate to shoppers. Categorizing purchases also made people take pause and consider their food choices. Put this suggestion into action by dividing your cart in half using a purse, coat, reusable shopping bags, or whatever other item you might be carrying with you. If it’s a smaller shopping trip, you can use one of the small double decker carts, putting fruits and veggies only in the top basket, and everything else in the bottom basket.
  2. Linger in the produce section. The more time you spend in an aisle, the more money you will spend on the items in that aisle. Wansink’s research team found this to be true for shoppers regardless of the type of items in the aisle. So, sprint through some of those junk food aisles (or avoid them completely), and dawdle in the displays of fruits and veggies.

I’m really into strategies like these; strategies that help us eat better without a huge effort on our part. These type of behavioral strategies can really set us up for success. Give them a try during your next trip to the grocery store—I hope I find you loitering around some vegetables as you fill up half your cart with healthy, delicious food!


The Dirty Dozen & Clean 15

One topic that didn’t make the list for Wednesday’s Hot Topics webinar, but that frequently comes up during our live workshops is organic food. Specifically, if organic food is worth the extra cost.

My full answer to that question is complex and lengthy, and involves my personal opinions. Maybe someday I’ll write that post. (Spoiler alert: Yes, I think organic is worth the extra cost; not necessarily for individual health, but for the future of our planet). In the meantime, I wanted to share with you a resource that many people find helpful when making the decision between organically-grown, and conventionally-grown fruits & vegetables: lists produced by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) known as the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15.

First, let’s quickly define conventional vs organic as it relates to produce:

Conventional: Grown with the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides to promote growth and control disease.

Organic: Grown without the use of fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides. Organic agriculture relies instead on more natural approaches to discourage pests, weeds, and plant diseases, such as compost, insects, mulch, and crop rotation. For produce to be labeled and sold as organic, it must come from a certified organic farm, one that has passed an organic certification test and paid the certification fee.

Back to the lists. Each year, the EWG conducts research and compiles lists related to pesticide residue found on fruits and vegetables. The “Dirty Dozen” is a list of the 12 fruits/vegetables that typically have the highest concentration of the pesticide residue. The number one top offender on that list for 2016? Strawberries. Most of the fruits/veggies on the Dirty Dozen are those with similarly thin skin, like peaches, tomatoes, and grapes. You’ll notice that there are actually 14 fruits/vegetables on the list; 12 numbered, plus 2 extras. Hot peppers and kale/collard greens were recently added as “plus” additions to the Dirty Dozen. They don’t have the most pesticide residue, but they have the worst kind of pesticide residue, a type shown to be particularly harmful to human health.

Alternatively, the “Clean 15” is a list of the 15 fruits/vegetables that typically have the least amount of pesticide residue. These are often, but not always, thicker skinned fruits/veggies that involve peeling the skin or husk before eating; produce such avocados, sweet corn, and pineapples. 

So, if you are on a limited food budget, but you’re interested in buying organic produce, you can use these lists to prioritize your spending. It might be wise to prioritize spending money on organic versions of fruits/veggies that are on the Dirty Dozen. Again, those are the fruits/veggies with the highest level, or most harmful, pesticide residue. Then you can save your money by buying conventionally grown fruits/veggies that fall on the Clean 15. Buying organic versions of produce on the Clean 15 list will still support organic production methods, but you won’t get as much of a difference in pesticide residue versus their conventional counterpart.

Two final notes:

  1. Keep in mind that eating fruits and vegetables, regardless of how they are grown, is better than not eating fruits and vegetables. If you can’t afford organic versions of Dirty Dozen fruits/vegetables, that doesn’t mean you should avoid them completely. Research that looks at overall level of fruit and vegetable consumption in relation to disease risk rarely makes the distinction between convention and organic produce, and yet still shows significant health benefits to eating fruits and vegetables.
  2. Washing your fruits and vegetables can eliminate much, although not all, of the pesticide residue, so don’t be lazy and skip this step! Fancy commercial produce washes have not been shown to be more effective than regular water. Just place your produce in a colander and rinse with cold water, using a vegetable brush if needed.

Happy fruit & vegetable eating!


Montana Moves High Five

Excited about the “High Five” webinar tomorrow! Register here if you haven’t signed up:

This is a reblog from the original post last year.

Montana Moves & Montana Meals

When Cristin and I started writing this blog, we decided that one of the first things we should write about were our individual philosophies on exercise and nutrition, and how they relate to health and wellness. We posted our philosophies in October, 2012. When Cristin wrote her philosophy, she neatly broke out her beliefs about nutrition into what we later called “Cristin’s 6 Nutritional Tenets”. When I read Cristin’s philosphy I thought, “Wow, these are simple, easy to understand guidelines that allow for individual freedoms, and I believe that if everyone followed them Montana would be a healthier state.”  I’ve been jealous ever since.  Recently I went back and revisited my exercise philosophy and tried to formulate my beliefs as Cristin did: in a way that summarizes my philosophy, but also could serve as guidelines for people trying to live healthy, high-quality lives.  I didn’t come up with 6, but…

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Five Thanksgiving Challenges from Montana Meals

Before you get too excited, these challenges do not involve seeing how many piece of pumpkin pie you can eat! Instead, these challenges are simply considerations to keep in mind as you are planning your Thanksgiving meal. I realize that Thanksgiving is only one day out of the year, with gluttony and laziness being part of the fun, but…use these challenges to make your Thanksgiving a happy, and healthy holiday feast!

  1. Make it colorful. Consider the traditional Thanksgiving dinner – turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, pie. That’s a lot of white and brown. Make your meal both beautiful and more nutritious by including a rainbow of color. Emphasize the colorful holiday favorites like deep orange sweet potatoes, dark green collard greens, and bright red cranberries, or add in a new vegetable side to brighten up the meal. No one says you have to stick to only traditional foods! Think roasted beet salad, Brussel sprouts with pecans, or arugula with goat cheese. While your family might protest an entire re-vamp of the Thanksgiving meal, even adding a simple green side salad can balance your meal and incorporate more color.
  2. Lighten up a traditional favorite. Green bean casserole, pecan pie, buttery mashed potatoes—there’s a reason that the average person consumes more than 2,000 calories at Thanksgiving dinner! This year, find a recipe that uses a little less sugar, salt, and saturated fat and it’s likely you won’t even notice the difference. Or, you may find you like the new version better! Here are a few of my favorites:
  1. Incorporate Montana-made foods. Some of the holiday’s most popular foods are made right here in Montana. Support the local economy by using locally produced items such as pumpkin, winter squash, potatoes, carrots, greens, onions, and wheat in your Thanksgiving meal. Even the star of the show—that big, fat, delicious turkey—can be sourced locally.
  2. Make someone else’s Thanksgiving a happy, healthy one as well. Invite someone to dinner who may not have another place to go. Donate money, food, and/or time to the local food bank. Thank the people who have to work on Thanksgiving to keep us safe or to allow us to make that last minute grocery store run.
  3. Stump your dining companions with one of these fun Thanksgiving trivia questions.
  • Q: What percentage of a typical turkey is white meat vs dark meat?
    • A: 70% white meat, 30% dark meat
  • Q: What is the average weight of a turkey purchased for Thanksgiving dinner?
    • A: 16 pounds
  • Q: When was Thanksgiving declared a national holiday? And by which President?
    • A: 1863, Abraham Lincoln
  •  Q: Name the top pumpkin-producing state in the U.S.
    • A: Illinois
  • Q: What percentage of cranberries eaten in the U.S. are eaten on Thanksgiving?
    • A: 20%

MUS Wellness wishes everyone a safe and enjoyable holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!