Life Hacks

First off, hi! It’s been a hot second since we’ve posted to the blog—we hope you missed us! Following the busy fall travel season, I’m settling back into the comfy confines of the Wellness office for the winter, so you can look forward to more posts, podcasts, videos and news about our 2019 Wellness program to start cranking out of this site at a steady pace.

In October, one of our challenges was to share a favorite “Life Hack” with us. We defined Life Hack as any tip, trick, shortcut, skill, or process that increases your daily productivity and/or efficiency, or that helps you stay consistent with a healthy behavior or habit.

As usual, our MUS population did not disappoint, and we wanted to pass back the treasure-trove of good ideas you all provided. We’ll start with some big themes and popular responses, and then plan to delve even deeper on one of our next podcasts or subsequent posts.

First, there were two very popular answers, one having to do with exercise habits, and one having to do with nutrition.

  • Exercise Habits: Laying out and/or packing the next day’s fitness outfit and footwear the night before. This eliminates the excuse of not having workout clothes, and is one less thing you have to do in the morning.
  • Diet & Nutrition: Many variations of meal planning, food prep, and batch cooking, all in the name of making weekday meals easy and healthy. I’m betting Cristin might have some commentary on this soon.

Simple healthy habits like walking and drinking water also came up quite a bit. Cristin and I were very proud of these popular responses, as we are a big proponent of these and talk about them often. The following were some more specific life hacks that were shared. Pick a favorite from the list below and try it out for yourself!

  • Take the stairs. Every time.
  • Tell fitness instructors “See you next week” as you leave class. It adds accountability.
  • Never eat straight out of a bag. Pre-portion what you want and put the bag away.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time everyday (IPhone users, there is a function on your phone called Bedtime, which can help with this.)
  • Stretch in the shower.
  • Take a campus stroll when stress gets too high.
  • Make a daily To-Do list at the end of the day for the following day, so you come into the office focused.
  • Start off the day with gratitude.
  • Keep sweets out of the house.
  • Set up automatic bill pay.
  • If I notice I am getting distracted, I get up and stretch, take a short walk, or work on something more physical.
  • Keep a journal.
  • I recently started throwing a load of laundry in the washer as soon as I wake up in the morning. It’s ready to toss in the dryer when I leave for work…and then I’m not spending my precious evening hours dealing with laundry (or forgetting to dry it).

Great ideas! We’ll stop there to let those sink in for now, but we promise to share more soon!

Be well,

Neal

The Good Enough Diet

My baby boy turned one year old last week. Birthdays have always been a natural time of reflection, and my son’s birthday was no exception. My husband and I found ourselves reminiscing a lot about the past year; talking about the enormous challenges of becoming parents for the first time, the incredible joys, the sleepless nights, the embarrassing moments, and the times that made us laugh, cry, and everything in between.

Needless to say, becoming a parent has profoundly changed me. And one of the biggest changes I’ve noticed is my general approach to life, specifically my perfectionism. Perhaps academically, perfectionism is an asset, but in all other ways, I find it’s a difficult, daily struggle. However, now as a parent, there’s simply not enough time, nor do I have enough energy, to devote to trying to be perfect, which of course is an impossible task anyway! Taking care of a little human being has demanded that I prioritize in a way I never have before, and accept as a success when something is simply “good enough”.

In fact, this “good enough” concept has become somewhat of a mantra for me, albeit unintentionally. When feeling inadequate as a mom, I began reminding myself that I just have to be good enough; good enough that my child is taken care of and feels loved. When I am feeling guilty for skipping the gym for the 4th day in a row, I take a walk outside and remind myself that it’s good enough; good enough for health and stress reduction in this phase of my life. When I see piles of laundry and floors that haven’t been swept in a week, I put in one load of laundry, pick up the obvious piles of dog hair, and I remind myself that it’s good enough; good enough that my house isn’t in complete shambles.

This good enough concept easily extends to diet as well, and this is actually something that I’ve been practicing for much longer than just my last year of non-perfectionism. I talk frequently about the 80/20 rule of moderation, which is another way of saying and affirming that perfectionism and diet don’t pair well. 

How many times have you given up on a diet because you ate one off-plan food? “I already screwed up”, you might think, “so it doesn’t matter now!” And maybe you go from having one extra drink at happy hour to a whole weekend of indulgent food and drinks. Or maybe you don’t even want to try eating a healthier diet, because you know you can’t live up to that stringent paleo/no-added-sugar diet your friend or co-worker is touting.

The “good enough” diet is different. Eating good enough means healthy changes that you can sustain for the rest of your life instead of dramatic shifts you stick to for just 14 or 30 or 60 days. Cutting your overall added sugar intake by 25% for good is much more powerful than doing a zero-sugar challenge for two weeks.

A belief in the  “good enough” diet is what led Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN to develop the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade program, and it’s why I’m such a proponent of the program.

Unlike other 30-day nutrition “boot camps,” the 30 Day Nutrition Upgrade doesn’t ask you to eliminate entire food groups or follow a rigid or restrictive protocol. You don’t have to avoid restaurants, cancel social plans, or pack special food to bring with you everywhere. You’ll just keep on living your regular life, only a little bit healthier.

The 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade features the Nutrition GPA™ app, which was recently named by the New York Times as one of 4 best food tracking apps! Each day, you answer 10 yes-or-no questions about your diet and get a grade for the day. Your daily grades are then averaged to reveal your Nutrition Grade Point Average (GPA).

There’s no grade inflation here; we’re not aiming for an A. We’re aiming for a solid B. Because a good-enough diet is healthier than a “perfect” diet followed by a reactionary binge.

As simple and fun as it is, the Nutrition GPA is a powerful tool. As one recent Nutrition Upgrader wrote: “Good news: One D day does not shift my GPA all that much. Bad news: One A day does not shift my GPA all that much. It really is the pattern of your eating on most days!”

The best part is that when we get to the end of the 30 days, you won’t be celebrating that it’s over. On day 31, you’ll be thinking, “Hey, that was easy! And I feel great! Let’s keep going!

The next 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade for MUS is kicking off this Friday, October 12th and there are still spots open! Come join us! We can’t wait for you to throw unattainable perfection to the curb and embrace the “good enough” diet. 

Happy “Good Enough” Eating,

Cristin

You must be a MUS Benefits Plan member to participate in the Nutrition Upgrade for MUS. For our blog readers who are not MUS Benefits Plan members, you can sign up here for the next Nutrition Upgrade for the general public, beginning October 19th.

 

 

Fall Wellness Workshops

Hey everybody!

I’m getting ready for a 3-week state tour during the heart of Wellcheck season. Over the next 3 weeks, MUS Wellness will be sponsoring a dozen workshops covering a whole spectrum of health & wellness related topics. I’m excited about teaching, and in many cases, learning, from all these workshops! And I’m also excited to visit our different MUS campuses and see you guys!

There are still spots available, so register today before they fill up! Check out the schedule below, and click here for a PDF version with registration links.

fall 18 education2fall 18 education1

While you’re at it, go ahead and register for your fall Wellcheck as well! I hope to see you soon!

Be Well!

Neal

30-Day Nutrition Upgrade — It’s Back!!

Last April, we offered a pilot program of the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade to 130 MUS Benefits Plan members. The 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade, developed by nutrition expert Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, CNS, is a simple, yet highly effective way to reshape your eating habits and boost your nutrition. The program requires only about two minutes a day and can be effortlessly incorporated into any daily routine. It’s not a diet or a detox, and there are no forbidden foods.

At the conclusion of the pilot program, we collected feedback from our MUS participants, and here’s what we found:

  • 97% of participants made a positive change to eating habits as a result of the program!
  • The most commonly cited dietary changes that participants made included:
    • More veggies
    • Better snacking
    • More legumes
    • Better planning
    • Less sugar
  • Many participants reported more energy/improved mood, fewer digestive issues, enjoying their food more, and weight loss (even though weight loss is not a focus of the program). 

In addition, here’s what two participants specifically said about the Upgrade:

  • “…I am always wary of diets and so many extreme approaches to nutrition that are out there. I’ve wanted more structure to help improve my nutrition, but have been afraid of falling into the obsessive diet traps. I loved the balanced and non-restrictive nature of the program.”

  • “I felt that the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade was an amazing experience. It’s a wonderful addition to the MUS Wellness Program, and I would recommend the Upgrade to anyone!”

Due to the success of the pilot program, we are thrilled to announce that the 30-Day Nutrition Upgrade for MUS is back! We will offer the program again this fall, beginning Friday, October 12th at a cost of $10/person (savings of $30 off the regular price). Included in the program:

  • Live one-hour online kickoff, plus access to a video recording of the session afterwards
  • Nutrition GPA app for iOS or Android
  • Downloadable handouts and other program materials
  • Two live check-ins midway through the program
  • Frequent communication and support from program leaders, Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, and Cristin Stokes, RDN, LN
  • Private Facebook group for Montana University System participants for ongoing connection and support

To learn more about the program, and read about Cristin’s personal experience, click here.

The program is open to all MUS Benefits Plan members, including spouses and dependents over 18 years old, and registration opens Tuesday, October 2nd. Mark your calendars and watch for an email from your campus Human Resources or Wellness contact on that morning! If you have questions about the program, check out the information here or email me at cristin.stokes@montana.edu

Wellchat Episode XIX: Intuitive Eating

Episode 19: Cristin Stokes chats with Montana Dietetic Intern Steph Tarnacki about Intuitive Eating: an alternative to constant dieting, and a healthy practice for all of us.

 

Here are some additional resources to learn more about the practice of Intuitive Eating:

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

The Incredible Edible Eggplant

MUS Wellness again has the honor of hosting a dietetic intern for two weeks from the Montana Dietetic Internship program. This year’s intern is Steph Tarnacki. Steph earned her Bachelor’s degree in Dietetics from the University of Northern Colorado, and aspires to work as a dietitian in the public school system to improve the National School Lunch Program, provide nutrition education, and establish more Farm to School Programs. We had a reader request for eggplant recipes following our recent post about zucchini, so on day one with us, I asked Steph to write about her favorite ways to prepare eggplant, and she happily obliged. Please welcome Steph Tarnacki as our guest blog writer:

Late August in Montana – the sun shines bright against a foreshadowing chill in the air, the critters bustle and scavenge for food in preparation of the long winter to come, and the gardens burst with deep purple eggplants!   

Eggplants, a member of the nightshade family, are known for their slightly bitter taste, and spongy texture. Their roots trace back to Asia, where you can find over 13 varieties! Rich in the antioxidant nasunin, eggplants help protect against harmful free radicals and, most importantly, protect the fats in brain cell membranes. Talk about some delicious brain food! Nasunin also reduces inflammation, helps our body remove toxic waste, and may help stave off cancer, heart disease and arthritis.1, 2

Eggplants are low in calories, high in fiber and also pack a punch in the vitamin department – rich in B vitamins, magnesium, potassium and Vitamin K.

So, how can you incorporate more eggplants into your life? Here are a few of my favorite recipes!

BAKED EGGPLANT PARMESAN

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 eggplant sliced 1/4″ thick (you’ll need 12 slices)
  • Salt
  • 3 eggs beaten
  • 1 (8 ounce) box Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • 1 (26 ounce) jar marinara sauce
  • 1 (16 ounce) package fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • Cooking spray

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Sprinkle some salt on both sides of each slice of eggplant. Layer the slices in a  colander and place the colander in your sink. Place a heavy dish or pan over the top to press them down. Allow to sweat for 30 to 45 minutes. Rinse well with cold water to remove salt and blot dry with paper towels
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a rimmed baking sheet generously with cooking spray. Dip eggplant slices in egg, then in bread crumbs, pressing crumbs down with fingers if needed to cover evenly. Place in a single layer on oiled baking sheet and lightly spray tops of breaded eggplant with cooking spray.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes then carefully flip each slice and cook an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until nicely browned. Remove from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees.
  4. In a 9×13 inch baking dish spread just enough marinara to cover bottom of dish. Place a layer of eggplant slices in the sauce. Cover each slice with a spoon full of marinara, a slice or two of mozzarella, and then sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Repeat with one more layer. Pour any leftover marinara and around edges of eggplant slices and top with any cheese that is left. Sprinkle basil on top.
  5. Bake, uncovered, in preheated oven for 30 minutes.

Recipe by: Valerie’s Kitchen

BABA GANOUSH

INGREDIENTS

  • Olive oil (for grill and  drizzling)
  • 2 pounds Italian eggplants (4 medium)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • ½ garlic clove, finely grated   
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Sumac, za’atar, crushed red pepper flakes, or Aleppo pepper; grilled flatbreads or pita bread (for serving)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Prepare a grill for medium-high heat; lightly oil grate. Grill eggplant, turning occasionally, until skin is charred and flesh is fork-tender, 25–35 minutes. (Alternatively, you can tuck vegetables into coals left over from grilling something else. Wait until charcoal is completely covered with ash and no black spots remain. Shake grill to knock excess ash off coal, then rake them around and pile them up around vegetables.) Let cool slightly.
  • Halve eggplant, scoop flesh into a colander set over a bowl, and let drain at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour; discard liquid.
  • Pulse eggplant along with lemon juice, tahini, and garlic in a food processor until smooth; season with salt and pepper.
  • Drizzle baba ghanoush with oil and top as desired. Serve with flatbreads or pita bread.

Recipe by NYT Cooking

baba-ganoush-1271630_1280
Baba Ganoush

RATATOUILLE

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 large (1.25 lb) eggplant, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • Salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 medium zucchini (about 1 lb), cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 5 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 large vine-ripened tomatoes (1.75 lb), cut into 1/3-inch cubes, with their juices
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme, plus more for serving
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, about 10-12 minutes. Transfer to another plate and set aside.
  • Add another tablespoon of oil to the pain. Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and transfer to a plate; set aside.
  • Add two more tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 3 minutes more. Do not brown. Add the tomatoes and their juices, tomato paste, thyme, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down into a sauce, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the cooked eggplant to the pan; bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is soft. Add the zucchini and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until just warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Sprinkle with fresh basil and thyme, drizzle with a little olive oil if desired, and serve warm or chilled. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Recipe by: Jenn Segal

And a few other recipe links that look tasty:

Caponata

Penne with Tomatoes, Eggplant, and Mozzarella

Hoisin Glazed Eggplant

Roasted Eggplant, Zucchini, and Chickpea Wraps

Hopefully these recipes can help you add some eggplant to your life! Please share more of your favorite eggplant recipes!

Steph

Sources:

  1. https://draxe.com/eggplant-nutrition/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0300483X0000202X

Wellchat Episode XVIII: The Happy Place

Episode 18: Neal and Cristin share their favorite “Happy Place” submissions in the current MUS Wellness “Share Your Happy Place” challenge, plus the latest MUS Wellness news as we head into the fall semester.

The Montana Moves & Meals Wellchat is available on Itunes podcasts! Subscribe and take us with you for a walk, run, or drive!

 

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,

Neal

free-fitness-week

free fitness MSU

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Oh Zucchini!

It’s mid-August — the days of hot temperatures, smoky skies, the approach of fall semester, and…loads of zucchini. Sadly, the zucchini plants in my garden didn’t fare so well this year, but I’m lucky to have generous in-laws who recently brought over a bag of zucchini and summer squash for my family, and then I was back in the familiar position of trying to figure out what to do with it all!

I remembered that years ago we asked MUS plan members to share a favorite recipe with us. We must have presented this challenge in late summer, because we received a ton of zucchini recipes! So, if you’re like me these days and trying to use up lots of zucchini, here are a few ways, thanks to your coworkers, to enjoy your summer bounty:

Chicken Zucchini Boats  

Recipe by Cindy Boies

Ingredients

  • 1 large zucchini
  • 2 cups cooked chicken
  • 4 roma tomoatoes
  • 1 avocado
  • 1 can green enchilada sauce
  • 1 cup part-skim mozzarella

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, deseed.
  3. Fill a baking dish with about ¾ inch of water. Bake in water bath until tender but not mushy. Approximately 20 minutes at 350 degrees. Pour out water.
  4. Turn zucchini flesh side up in baking pan. Carve out additional trough in zucchini.
  5. Layer the following in the zucchini boat, amounts will depend on the size of the zucchini: Cooked chicken (chopped into small to medium size pieces),tomatoes (deseeded and diced), and avocado (diced)
  6. Drizzle desired amount of green enchilada sauce over zucchini filling.
  7. Sprinkle mozzarella cheese over filling.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees until cheese is brown, approximately 15 – 20 minutes. Enjoy!

Zucchini Parmesan with Tomato Sauce

Recipe submitted by Annette Galioto

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 zucchini, peeled, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil (or 2 tsp dried)
  • 1 ½ cups tomato sauce
  • ¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Saute zucchini until softened, 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Season zucchini with oregano and basil.
  3. Add tomato sauce; cook and stir until heated through, about 5 minutes.
  4. Sprinkle Parmesan cheese over zucchini mixture.

Zucchini Quiche

Recipe submitted by Anita Brown

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 cup bisquick
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 tsp butter
  • 1/2 tsp Parsley flakes
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Directions:

  1. Mix all together in bowl.  Pour in large buttered pie dish & bake at 350 for 30-45 min until it starts to brown.

Zucchini Burgers

Recipe submitted by Jill Seigmund

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb ground turkey or lean beef
  • 1 cup finely shredded zucchini
  • Salt, pepper, Mrs. Dash, or other burger seasoning

Directions:

  1. Mix the ground meat with the shredded zucchini.  
  2. Shape into five hamburger patties and season with salt and pepper or Mrs. Dash.  
  3. Grill and serve as you would a regular hamburger.

Other ideas:

  • Make zucchini noodles, or “zoodles”, with a spiralizer
  • Shred with a cheese grater, and freeze in 1 or 2 cup labeled portions to use in baked goods (this is especially good to do with very large zucchinis)
  • Serve sliced & raw with a veggie dip or hummus
  • Use as pizza or salad toppings
  • Make zucchini “butter”

Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite way to enjoy zucchini!

Happy Eating!

Cristin