Happiness and Gratitude

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Today, I'd like to introduce Celeste Cooper-Peel, the RFC's Wellness Supervisor.  CelesteCeleste has been in the health and wellness field for twenty years. After receiving her Masters in Health Education from East Carolina University, she ventured into the mind/body world receiving training in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Yoga. Shortly after, she received the 2003 Wellness in the Workplace Award for a large health system in the state of Virginia. In 2004, Celeste joined SAS and continues to be passionate in her position as Wellness Supervisor. She loves working with her team members, teaching yoga and meditation, presenting seminars and nurturing healthy lifestyle changes to the SAS community. Celeste is a wife of a fun-loving husband, mother of a high school daughter, yogini and professional front porch meditator. She is a nationally Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES), an Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher (E-RYT) with the National Yoga Alliance, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) Instructor and Certified Wellness and Health Coach (CWHC).

And now, a word on Happiness & Gratitude from Celeste:

Trees for GratitudeScience has consistently found that gratitude can increase levels of happiness and well-being, but we don’t need research to prove that cultivating gratitude is beneficial. Being grateful just feels good. The beauty with gratitude is that there are so many ways to express it. The first expression for me is that I’m grateful for my family, my job, my health and so on.

Once we experience appreciation for those close to us, we can begin to expand our gratitude to those items we may take for granted. This can include modern conveniences that make our lives easier or maybe it’s “self-care” time. When I take a yoga class, I always end my practice thinking of someone or something I’m grateful for. This is precious time that’s all mine. I also take this attitude into the classes I teach, always ending class asking students to do the same. It only takes a minute, but this form of appreciation has benefits that take root and grow into our days.

The next branch on the giving tree is to find thanks in items that aren’t so pleasant, such as hitting every red light as you drive somewhere. It’s difficult to nurture this side. Believe me, I know. It seems as if you get stopped when you’re in a hurry. I always wonder what the world is trying to tell me when this happens. Maybe it’s time to learn patience. Now, I take this time to drink in some deep breaths. Perfect time to do it and I won’t get to my destination any quicker by being angry. There’s always a silver lining. Try to discover it the next time you’re sitting at a light.

Now, let’s grow the practice to the top of the tree. I’ll give you an example. It seems as if yoga and gratitude go hand in hand, right? Well, I love yoga, but recently found myself in a weekend yoga class where the instructor moved into my most nemesis of poses. I took a deep breath and wondered what I could learn from this. Not just physically getting into the pose, but looking deeper. I guess my theory is I can learn something from each experience. I was thankful that I’m healthy enough to be in class and attempt the pose, although not so graceful. I discovered that this attitude helped deepen my practice and I left with a smile on my face.Natl Yoga Month Gratitude

Cultivating gratitude for the little things, the larger items and the most difficult has the potential to change your perspective in a very positive way. With September recognized as National Yoga Month, the SAS yoga staff wanted to express their gratitude. We all have contributed to a collection of 108 things we are grateful for. I smiled as each card of gratitude was attached to the suspended strings, allowing them to reflect in the mirrors of the studio. It is our hope that participants will catch a glimpse as they move into their pose and feel grateful for those they have in their life. It’s all about spreading the message and nurturing happiness.

Take a couple of minutes a day to let your branches grow towards the glow of gratitude. It can be something as simple as keeping a gratitude journal, thinking of one thing or more you are grateful for each day. This is a great way to close the day.

It’s also fun to get your family involved. Maybe during Thanksgiving you and yours can celebrate gratitude. My family started the tradition of each family member writing down something they appreciate and each person reads their item and then places them in a bowl on the table. As we eat, we are mindful that our gratitude lies before us. It’s a great way to start a meal and tell your loved ones what you appreciate.

Think of a way you can cultivate gratitude every day and share your ideas with others!

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Gaining the Most from Your Garlic

IMG_3436We’ve all heard the tales about garlic protecting against evil and warding off vampires, but garlic is much more than an accessory to be worn around your neck at Halloween! Garlic provides numerous health benefits and is one of the most popular seasoning ingredients around. It goes well in almost any savory recipe and in my opinion, you can never have too much garlic!

This pungent bulb is a member of the allium family along with onions, shallots, chives and leeks. It is arranged in a head called a bulb that is made up of smaller, separate cloves.

Garlic has a long history of medicinal use, dating back over 5,000 years. Records indicate that Hippocrates prescribed garlic for a wide range of medical conditions. The original Olympic athletes also used it as a performance enhancer!

Studies have found that garlic:

  • Has antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral properties
  • May help manage high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Can reduce the risk of heart disease
  • Helps reduce inflammation.


Whether or not you get all the powerful health benefits of garlic depends on how you prepare and cook it. The best known compounds of garlic are allin and allicin:

  • Allin gives garlic its characteristic taste
  • Allicin is the main active ingredient in garlic and gives garlic its infamous aroma

IMG_3441Allicin is created when the protein allin and alliinase come into contact. These compounds are isolated from one another until you slice, press, or chew garlic. Heating garlic immediately after slicing destroys the heat sensitive enzyme, alliinase, which is responsible for triggering the reaction. Therefore, NO allicin is created.

Heating garlic immediately in a frying pan for 2 minutes or in a microwave for 60 seconds reduces garlic to little more than a flavoring ingredient. Bye, bye powerful health benefits!

So how can you reap all the benefits of garlic? Simply make a few changes in the way you prepare it: chop, mince, slice or press garlic then keep garlic away from heat for 10 minutes. It’s as easy as PRESS and REST!!

By doing this, you maximize the amount of allicin that is created and the health benefits that are associated with garlic.

For more information on garlic, check out the video below.


Choose Fresh

In the culinary world, there is simply no comparison between the flavor of fresh and pre-minced garlic. While the squeeze bottles of pre-minced garlic may seem very appealing, peeling and mincing your own fresh garlic at home really isn’t as bad as many people think.

Check out this trick for peeling an entire head of garlic in less than 20 seconds. And it won’t leave your hands smelling like garlic the rest of the day!

Now that you have the garlic peeled, invest in a good garlic press and press away. The press will give you the same perfectly minced garlic you would get from the jars at the store (but with a ton more flavor!).

Roasted Garlic




2 heads garlic
1 Tbsp olive oil
Aluminum foil


  1. Pre-heat oven to 425° F.
  2. Slice the top off each head of garlic to expose the individual cloves.
  3. Place heads of garlic on a piece of aluminum foil.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil to coat.
  5. Wrap foil tightly around garlic.
  6. Place in oven and roast for approximately 45 minutes, or until cloves are lightly browned.
  7. Remove from oven and let cool.
  8. Gently squeeze garlic to remove individual cloves. You can also use a small fork to pull the cloves out if you prefer.
  9. Eat as is or make into a paste by mashing cloves with a fork.


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“It isn’t what you have, or who you are, or where you are, or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.”  ~Dale Carnegie

It seems like these days, as Americans rush around from task to task, with a “to do” list a mile long and never enough hours in the day, we’ve started looking for ways to find happiness much like one looking for the Fountain of Youth.  What makes us happy?  How can two people with very similar lives, rate their overall happiness completely different?  Research of happiness shows that positive reflection and gratitude, optimism, mindfulness, exercise, and even forcing a smile can increase your overall happiness, even for a moment.

But how?

Physically smiling.  Using the muscles to smile causes a chemical reaction in your brain that can boost your mood.  Similarly, frowning, can ignite sadness.  This is a great one to try, and if not anything else, you may find yourself laughing at your expressions in front of a mirror.  Smiling causes dopamine and serotonin (our brain’s happy chemicals) to be released.  So, take a couple minutes to smile, even if it’s fake, to improve your mood.  Read more about smiling on the ConnecticutPost.com .

Exercise.  Sounds bizarre, especially if it’s not your forte, but exercise causes endorphins (yay more happy chemicals!) to be secreted.  Endorphins are the body’s natural pain relievers which, when secreted, reduce pain within the body and bring about feelings of well-being.  Commonly called the “runner’s high,” this beautiful occurrence can happen for any exerciser.  In addition, exercise helps boost self-esteem and confidence, maintain healthy weight, increase strength and endurance, reduce stress, you feel overall better, reduce your risk for disease, and increase your immunity.  Increasing your happiness is just one more reason to tie up those laces and sweat!

Mindfulness.  Mindfulness is feeling more and more like a buzz word these days, but what does it really mean?  Being mindful is the state of actively observing what is going around you as well as internally.  How does mindfulness help with happiness?  A couple of ways.  Mindfulness increases gratitude (see more on gratitude below).  It also allows us to see deeper into our thoughts and feelings improving our emotional intelligence.  Being more in tune with your emotions helps you to sort out your feelings, love and laugh longer and recover faster from the not so great moments.  How might all that help with happiness?  By helping you keep thinngs in perspective. Which brings us back to gratitude and as some might say “counting our blessings.”  I could go on and on about mindfulness, but for now, if you’d like to learn more, check out #7 on Action for Happiness.org , start practicing yoga and/or meditation, or check out Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction and/or Relax and Renew at the RFC.

Optimism.  Yay for happy thoughts!  Similar to smiling, you can actively think happy thoughts, and by doing so you can “force” endorphins to be released in your body.

Think happy thoughts --> Release endorphins -->Feel happier --> Think happy thoughts --> Release endorphins -->Feel happier (...And the cycle continues on and on, until something happens to break it, but the great news is that you can start it again at any time!)

For those that are not naturally optimists, optimism can be learned, created, and made into a habit. To do so, start small, but spend a few minutes each day......

.....Reflecting on positive experiences in your life and/or gratitude.  According to Amit Amen from Happier Human there are more than 26 studies about how gratitude can positively change your life including improving overall health, increasing overall wellbeing, and increasing happiness.  Check out Amen’s breakdown of some of the studies in The Science of Gratitude: More Benefits Than Expected; 26 Studies and Counting.  Christine Carter of Raising Happiness suggests to spend time each day reflecting and sharing with your family the best part of your day/week/etc. to help generate optimism and positivity.  So, I thought I’d share 3 of my positive thoughts today:

  • My husband’s love, acceptance, and support of me.  He’s really awesome and I’m so blessed to have this amazing man in my life.  Even when I unleash the crazy, he’s right there, full of love and ready to reel me back in.
  • My 3 year old dancing in the kitchen, randomly, as we cook together.  I frequently ask him if he has to go to the bathroom when this starts.  (In case you don’t have toddlers/preschoolers, wiggling around is one of the signs that they need to pee.)  His reply is an earnest “no Mommy, I’m just dancin’”.  I LOVE IT.  Of course, you know the food tastes better when you shake your hips while you cook.  Try it!
  • My 10 month old has the best smile.  He has 8 teeth; 4 on top, 4 on bottom. He has a huge gap between his two front teeth, but when he laughs and smiles, it’s AMAZING!  So bright, so innocent, so truly joyful that it could break the “silence” of even the roughest day.

Baby Selfie, Chris Pack, Sept. 2014

What makes you happy?  Take a moment to think about it.  Share it below, if you’d like. We could all use another smile today!  Key Pharrell Williams – Happy…..

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Lunchbox 101 - Fresh Ideas for the School Lunchbox


It’s back to school time which brings a flurry of emotions – sadness that the precious days of summer are over, joy that order and routine may be restored to your household and relief that you don’t have to figure out where your kids will be next week and beyond.

And, then there's the dreaded school lunch box. Such a yawner of a task!! How can you possibly face another year of packing school lunches when your lunchbox creativity expired a few years ago???

Well, relax, because here are some tips that will put the happy back into your lunchbox creations. To help you re-master the skill of lunch making, take this quick course in Lunchbox 101. In these pages, you’ll find simple strategies for streamlining the lunch making process while bringing excitement and nourishment to your child’s day. Hey, and how about getting the kids involved in this crusade!

Quick Tip: Print these pages and attach them to the inside of a kitchen cabinet between the pantry and the fridge for quick reference.

5 Basic Tips for Lunch Box Packing

1. Include these food categories in each lunch:

  • Protein
  • Vegetable
  • Fruit
  • Grain
  • Healthy dipper (opt.)
  • Healthy sweet treat (opt.)

Check out these tables for a variety of choices in each food category and get your children’s input into which options they would like each week.


2. Have a schedule of lunches for each day of the week.
Create enough ideas for 2 weeks of lunches and rotate these 2 weeks the entire school year. That’s more variety than most humans eat!

Struggling with creative ideas for lunch menus? Be sure to check out the lunch box menu web links and iPhone apps at the end of this blog!

Here are a few fun lunch themes:

All foods are round


Vanilla Greek yogurt with fresh or frozen blueberries
Individual Cheese Balls
Peanut Butter Pinwheels (recipe)
Grape tomatoes, carrot pennies and cucumber slices with ranch dressing for dip


All foods are square


Turkey chili in a thermos (recipe) – served in square bowl
Cornbread square
Cheese cubes
Pineapple, kiwi and watermelon cubes


All foods are stars


Star shaped bread, ham and cheese
Star fruit and/or apples cut on the horizon to expose the star in the middle


All foods are on sticks or shaped like a stick


Fruit kabob with grapes, strawberries, pineapple (on coffee stir sticks instead of wood)
Carrot and cucumber sticks
String cheese
Grilled chicken breast sticks
Bread stick


Includes all colors of the rainbow


Red – Spaghetti with meat sauce in a thermos (recipe)
Orange – Carrot sticks
Yellow – Pineapple spears
Green – Salad greens with ranch dressing
Blue/Purple – Blueberries and/or purple grapes


3. Freeze your child’s water bottle overnight and use it to keep cold foods cold in the lunchbox. It will be thawed by lunch so it then becomes the lunch beverage.

Or, buy thin ice packs and slide them inside the top of your child’s lunchbox or lunchbox tote. See link below.

4. On Sundays, pre-package any foods that can be proportioned in individual servings and keep in containers. Line the kids up on Sunday and pre-assemble lunches with any non-perishables. Store them, then grab and drop in the perishable items the day they are needed. This can cut lunch prep time in half during the week.

5. Also on Sundays, grill chicken, turkey and/or shrimp in large quantities to include in lunch boxes for the week. This gives your kids a break from processed luncheon meats.


Need More School Lunch Menus?
Check out these websites and apps for a goldmine of school lunch menus.

Blogs and websites
“What the Girls are Having” - Bento Box Blogger Mom and photographer, Dina Berlo, has prepared and posted 500+ healthy school lunch box menus for her 2 daughters.

Laptop Lunches® Bento Menu Library – 365 lunch ideas with seasonal healthy lunches for your kids.

Lunch Ideas by Laptop Lunches® - FREE
Easy to make lunch menus, enlargeable photos, step by step menu instructions and shopping lists.

52 School Lunches by Trellisys.net - $1.99
Delicious, nutritious, quick and fun menus. Includes photographs, ingredient lists and recipes.


Tools of the Trade
Here are some new tools that can inject the fun factor into your child’s lunch while also protecting the planet:

Eco-Friendly Bento Lunchboxes
Planet Box® Stainless Steel Lunch Boxes with carry bag – part bento box, part TV tray. Quality stainless steel, No BPA, No plastics.

LunchBots® Stainless Steel Food Containers – Three and four section bento containers - No BPA or plastics.

Eco Lunch Box – Stainless steel lunchboxes with carrying cases – plastic free, waste-free, BPA-free, PVC-free, petroleum-free and vinyl-free.

Laptop Lunches™ by Bento Ware™ - BPA-free, phthalates-free, lead-free, PVC-free.

Yumbox® Leakproof Bento Box – Large one for older kids and adults – 6 compartment one for little kids

Silicone baking cups for placing into bento box lunch boxes
Silicone Baking Cups - Round
Silicon Baking Cups – Square
Silicon Baking Cups – Rectangle

Vegetable cutters – for making fun shaped vegetables, luncheon meats and cheeses
Stainless Steel Vegetable Cutters

Ice Packs
Slim Lunch Ice Packs

Water Bottles
Kid Zinger – lets your child make their own orange or lemonade directly into their water bottles. You get to control the amount of sugar (if any) that goes in.

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Finding time for health and fitness

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If you’re anything like me, you are busy. Busy at work, busy at home, busy on the so-called weekend.  It never stops.  Even as a fitness professionals, my husband and I are right there with you in the constant struggle to find time to exercise and eat healthfully.  Here are a few things that work for us:

  1. Organize your pantry and refrigerator with the healthy options front and center.  For me, complete deprivation of treats simply does not work.  While there are some foods I do not keep in the house, we always have some variety of chocolate and for my husband, chips or pretzels.  The chocolate is stashed in my baking cabinet, only to be found when I'm looking for it.  Chips and pretzels are on the second shelf, below eye level, in our pantry.  When we’re ready for a snack, the first visible items are fruit in a basket on the kitchen counter, yogurt in the fridge, and when you open the pantry, you see rice, quinoa, and other items that must first be cooked.  Moving “treats” out of site, makes making a healthy choice easier.
  2. Plan out your workouts for the week and put them on your calendar.  While I am lucky enough to have a built in workouts as part of my work week, I don’t always carve out the time I need to workout on my own, especially if I go in with the thought/plan that “I’ll do it sometime today.”  Those frequently end up being the days I miss or get in less than what I was hoping.  What does work: on Mondays (and sometimes even the Friday before), I open my outlook and schedule my workouts.  For me, the earlier in the day the better.  On Friday night, my husband and I work out a plan for Saturday’s workout so we both get it in.Workout Plan
  3. Pack your snacks and plan when to eat them.  This keeps me energized throughout the day and ready to tackle that lunch time spin class or after work run.  It also helps me make it to dinner without the post-work munchies.
  4. Take some time to dig deep – Why do you want to eat better, exercise, and/or improve your health?  I’m talking about those reasons that truly motivate you like playing with your grandkids or making it through the evening as you run around after your toddler while carrying your baby.  Exercise, nutritious foods, and sleep give us the energy and keep us healthy to do the things we enjoy and spend time with the ones we love.  I exercise because it makes me happy, keeps me healthy, balances out the insanity being a full time working mom, and gives me energy and strength to take care of my family.
  5. Find a form of exercise that you enjoy (or at least tolerate).  I love running and cycling outside.  I love practicing yoga.  I love classes with good loud music.  I tolerate swimming because I enjoy participating in triathlons.  If you ask me Cycling in Chattanoogato join you for any of these, I’m in (if it’s on my calendar - see #2 ), but if you ask me to hit the elliptical 3x a week for 30 minutes, it’s not going to happen.  [Please note: I’m not in any way saying the elliptical is a bad thing. It’s a great cardio workout and some people enjoy it, it’s just not the cardio that gets me moving.]  If you’re new to exercise or getting bored with your routine, take a month to try it all: classes, nautilus equipment, get in the pool, or go for hike.  Note what you like and add it to your routine.  If you don't enjoy exercise (which you don't know, unless you try, right?), find something you can tolerate and refer back to #2 and #4 to get it done.

There will always be something that needs to be done – projects at work, laundry, bills, etc. By putting health on the top of your To Do List, you’ll feel good and be able to conquer those tasks and better yet, enjoy your life!  What do you do to make sure you get in your workout and/or eat healthfully?

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So, What Do I Do With All These Tomatoes?


Ahhh, summer!! It’s such a beautiful time of year. All the fresh produce comes out of the fields at a rapid pace giving us an abundance of deliciousness and beautiful colors to thrill our bodies and souls.

Tomatoes are plentiful in the summer and at my most recent trip to the Farmer’s Market, I was totally inspired by the varieties and colors of cherry tomatoes. Every color of the rainbow was represented in these sweet, beautiful orbs.

I bought some of each color and got to work figuring out what to do with them other than pop them straight into my mouth (which is ok, too). I found a yummy Roasted Tomato recipe and adapted it for cherry tomatoes. Find the original version here if you have lots of large tomatoes that you want to roast.

Are Tomatoes Good for You?

From a nutrition perspective, tomatoes are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A and potassium plus they contain a powerful phytonutrient called Lycopene. Lycopene has been linked to the prevention of prostate, lung and stomach cancers and also shown to be good for bone health. Cooking tomatoes breaks down the cell walls of the tomatoes making the lycopene more available for absorption by your body. So eating tomatoes raw or cooked offers you great nutritional benefits.


Roasted Cherry Tomatoes
Adapted from Oven Roasted Tomatoes by David Lebovitz
Makes 6 servings


· 2 tablespoons olive oil
· 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
· 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
· 1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
· ¼ - ½ tsp maple syrup (optional – not pictured)
· ¼ tsp. salt
· ¼ tsp. black pepper
· 2.5 pounds cherry tomatoes, variety of colors
cut into halves



1. Preheat the oven to 325º F.



2. Place tomato halves in a mixing bowl and add all remaining ingredients stirring gently to coat the tomatoes.






3. Spray an oven casserole dish with vegetable cooking spray. Arrange tomato halves in a single layer leaving some space in between each tomato half.





4. Bake for one hour or until the tomatoes are softened and start to wrinkle. Depending on the tomatoes, cooking times may vary so check it occasionally to determine your desired level of doneness. (Large tomatoes may take up to 2 hours.)



Another Reason to Roast Tomatoes

If you grow tomatoes, you know tomato plants produce lots of tomatoes all at once. It can be difficult to eat them up before they become overripe or spoil. So roasting provides a way to store them for later use. You can keep these roasted tomatoes in the fridge for up to 4 days or freeze them for six months.


Here are a few serving suggestions for these yummies:

- Serve them as a side dish.
- Add them to a salad.
- Load them on top of a burger (with or without bun) or sandwich.
- Serve them on top of melty cheese toast.
- Pile them on top of ½ of an avocado for a unique low carb
- Add them to your favorite homemade or store bought pasta sauce.


Nutr. Info Per Serving: Cal: 74, Pro: 2 gm, Carbs: 7 gm, Fiber: 2 gm, Tot. Fat: 5 gm, Sat. Fat: 0.5 gm, Trans Fat: 0 gm, Chol: 0 mg, Sod: 123 mg

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Summer Sweatin': Part II - Cool Off

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What’s not so great about summer? The post workout shower sweat.  You know what I’m talking about.  You had a great workout: 3 minute warm up, 40 minutes of sweaty intervals, followed by a 2 minute “cool down” tomato facewhich involved you walking from the gym into the locker room.  You jump in the shower, jump out, attempt to dry off, get dressed and get back to the office.  And then it happens – You arrive promptly at 12:58 for your 1:00 meeting and the first question is a very concerned “Are you ok?”  You think, odd way to start, but then realize (with a little help of a reflection from the window), that your face is the color of a tomato, there’s a bit a sweat dripping down your hair line, and you’d love to sit in a freezer right now.  “Yes, just had a great workout” you respond, “How are you?”

How do you cool off, tone down the post workout “glow,” and stay fresh after a workout so you are ready to safety step back into the office without co-worker concern? I almost always take a shower and wash my hair in the morning so my sweat will be “fresh” sweat.  Post workout, I use Trader Joe’s Peppermint, Tea Tree and Eucalyptus Body Wash in a cool shower, followed by a cup of ice water and fan when I get back to my desk.  The peppermint oil in the body wash has a cooling/tingly effect.  Here’s a few more tricks of the trade from the RFC Staff:

First, spend a few extra minutes cooling down.  Many participants skip the cool down (yes, I’m guilty too) trying to get as much high-intensity calorie burning out of their few and precious fitness minutes.  As the name suggests, a cool down, will help the body return to resting levels.  Then, take a cool shower; not hot.  Many of us forget this simple but effective strategy. Avoid lotion as it will make it harder for the sweat to evaporate off your body. Instead, use a light alcohol-based product.  Alcohol has a naturally drying effect.  While we typically look for ways to not dry-out the skin, post-workout it has its place and the alcohol will help your skin to evaporate sweat more quickly.  And, when all else fails, just go with it.  Red face and wet hair = natural blush and the slicked-back look!  ~Pam

For the Ladies:  a little matte face powder goes a long way to tone down a red, sweaty face. A tall glass of ice water on the walk back to the office.  I focus on deep, relaxing breaths – even as I rush to get ready. ~ Dany

I turn the shower on cold the last minute I’m in, refill my water bottle, and if I have the time, I take a couple minutes to stretch in the office. ~Cheryl

Take a quick shower to rinse off your sweat, and then jump in the pool for a nice cool down and stretch! ~Jenn     (The shower part before getting in the pool is key as your sweat toys with the pH in the pool. In addition, if you have sensitive skin and/or want to keep your hair soft, taking a shower prior to entering a chlorinated pool will fill up your skin pores and hair will fresh water minimizing the chlorine effect on your skin and hair.)

I take a shower with rosemary mint shampoo and body wash. Rosemary and mint have a cooling effect on the body.  ~Amy

Make the beginning/middle of your workout the hardest and the last part not so much—for example, do your cardio first and then lift weights. Add in a few minutes at the end of a workout to stretch while drinking ice cold water.  Take a cooler shower to help minimize the sweat and then finish getting ready (hair, makeup, lotion, etc.) in your towel before getting dressed since non-workout wear doesn’t “breathe” like our workout clothes. ~Brittany

I create an aromatherapy spray that consists of lavender and peppermint to provide a refreshing mist that I spray above me and it showers down on me.  In addition, if I wash my hands in extra cold water and finish my shower with cold water, especially on my feet, it helps.  ~Celeste

So next time you have a 1:00 meeting following your 12:00 workout, don’t debate! Throw on your workout clothes and get moving or opt for a cooler pool workout.  Keeping in mind every fitness minute counts, grab your ice water and substitute a few minutes of cardio for longer cool down and stretch.  Follow that workout with a cool, minty shower and a little matte powder and you’ll be back in the office, refreshed and ready to take on the rest of your day!

Do you have something that helps you cool down? Share your tips here.

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Spices for Health: Cinnamon

How you flavor your foods can have huge impact on your health. Many of the spices we use to enhance our foods have powerful medicinal benefits.

Cinnamon is one of those spices that has amazing benefits and a lot of research behind it.


Check out these other blogs on turmeric and ginger.

Cinnamon is one of the oldest spices known to man; it’s medicinal use dates back to 2,700 B.C. Cinnamon is the bark of the cinnamon tree, which when dried, rolls into that familiar tubular form. We can find cinnamon in either its whole form as cinnamon sticks or as ground powder.

While there are approximately one hundred varieties of cinnamon, Ceylon and Cassia cinnamon are the leading varieties consumed. Cassia is the most common here in the US.

The many benefits of cinnamon include:

  • Anticlotting actions
  • Antioxidant actions
  • Anti-microbial and anti-fungal activity
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • May help relieve headaches and migraines
  • Lower triglycerides and cholesterol
  • Lower blood glucose levels
  • Boost cognitive function and memory (just by smelling it!)

Many of us are interested in its affects regarding blood glucose regulation. There is a lot of new research on this subject. Some studies are showing that as little as ½ tsp per day of cinnamon can reduce blood glucose levels in those with Type 2 Diabetes. Studies are showing that it may help reduce blood glucose levels by slowing the rate at which the stomach empties after meals, which reduces the rise in blood glucose after eating. It may also increase the cells sensitivity to insulin, increasing the cells ability to use glucose from our blood.

With cinnamon, more isn’t always better. The cassia cinnamon can be toxic at large amounts. It contains a compound called coumarin. Coumarin is responsible for some of cinnamons health benefits like its anti-clotting and anti-fungal properties, but in excess it can do damage to the liver and kidneys. So make sure to enjoy cinnamon in moderation on your food, not in supplement form to be on the safe side.

Cinnamon can be used in sweet or savory dishes. For a special morning treat try sprinkling some in your coffee or on your oatmeal or yogurt. For a savory taste try it with a mixture of smoked paprika and chipotle powder on chicken or beef for something a little different.

Just like any other spice, cinnamon should be kept in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark, dry place. Ground cinnamon will keep for about six months, while cinnamon sticks will stay fresh for about a year.

Caribbean Pork with Avocado Pineapple Salsa
Recipe adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 5 servings


Here is one savory way to enjoy cinnamon! The sweetness of the pineapple along with the creamy avocado are perfect with the spicy pork tenderloin! Plus this is a quick and simple dish!

· 1 tablespoon light-brown sugar
· 1 teaspoon sea salt
· 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
· 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
· 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
· 2 pork tenderloins (about 12 ounces each)
· 1 tablespoon olive oil

· 1 cup diced pineapple
· 2 thinly sliced scallions or 1 Tbsp chopped chives
· 1 diced avocado
· Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

In a small bowl, combine light-brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, cumin, allspice, and ground pepper.

Rub spice mixture all over tenderloin.


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Heat olive oil in an oven safe skillet over medium high heat. Sear pork tenderloin for about 5 minutes on each side, then place into pre heated oven. Bake until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. This will take about 10 minutes.

Let rest 5 to 10 minutes before slicing thinly. Make the salsa while the tenderloin is resting.

Salsa: Chop pineapple into small pieces, and add to a small bowl along with scallions and avocado. Season with salt and pepper; toss gently to combine.


Slice the pork tenderloin and serve topped with some of the salsa.


Per serving: 270 calories, 12g fat, 2g saturated fat, 90mg cholesterol, 540 mg sodium, 12g carbohydrates, 4 g fiber, 30g protein

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Summer Sweatin': Part I

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Beach Feet

I love summer. I love the sunny days, the sound of the happy birds in the morning, growing tomatoes in my back yard, and playing outside with my family.  Beach or mountains – I’m 100% beach.  Sunshine or snow?  100% sunshine, palm trees, sand, and the beautiful sound of waves crashing as the salty breeze cools my face.  Summer just makes me happy.  In good ol’ NC, summer also means toasty temperatures and lots of humidity. If you’re headed outdoors to play, be sure to consider the following summer safety tips:

    1. Listen to your body and know the symptoms of heat stroke:
      • Fainting
      • Throbbing headache
      • Dizziness and light-headedness
      • Little or no sweating despite the heat
      • Red, hot, and dry skin
      • Muscle weakness or cramps
      • Nausea and vomiting
      • Rapid heartbeat, which may be either strong or weak
      • Rapid, shallow breathing
      • Confusion, disorientation, or staggering
      • Seizures
      • Unconsciousness

      If you suspect heat stress or stroke, seek cooler temperatures immediately and find someone to help you. If you witness someone with symptoms of    heat stroke, call 911 immediately and move the person to an air conditioned space or shady area and remove any unnecessary clothes.  Fan the person, apply a cool, damp cloth to their head, neck, arm pits, or back.  Heat stroke is a life threatening condition.

    2. Wear sunscreen.  The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher should be applied every 90 minutes to 2 hours you are in the sun and more frequently when you’re in the water or sweating.  Keep in mind, sunscreen may be sweat/water resistant, not sweat proof/water proof.  (Sunscreen companies are no longer even allowed to label their products as such.)  The thicker the better.  Sprays are also great, but tend to come off more quickly.  Hats are also excellent sources of shade for the face/neck.
    3. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.  Choose a pair of lenses that block 99-100% UVA/UVB rays.  If you’re driving with your sunglasses, gray, green, or brown tinted lenses to reduce color distortion and make it easier to see traffic light changes than pink or yellow tints.  Polarized lenses help reduce glare and are great if you spend a lot of time on/near the water or driving, however, they do make reading screens more challenging.
    4. Respect the water.  We have tons of gadgets and floatation devises for kids these days, but be sure not to get too comfortable with that puddle jumper at the pool or lifeguards watching your children.  Keep in mind your children are one of a whole pool of people to watch.  Wear a life preserver while boating.  While you don’t anticipate your baby jumping overboard for a swim, you never know what might happen.  My 15 month old and I flew out of a boat a couple years ago due to a bizarre freak incident.  Long story super short: the steering cable snapped and our boat did an unexpected 360 as we were headed home from an outing.  I was bruised and really sore, but my little guy popped right up to the surface of the water with the most beautiful, unscathed cry I ever hope to hear.  His life preserver saved his life.
    5. Exercise inside when it’s above 90 degrees.  Love to exercise outside?  Get it in early or later in the evening when temperature is not at its peak for the day and/or stay in the shade.  If you’re workout time is mid-day, workout in the air conditioner or pool to stay cool.
    6. Drink plenty of fluids.  Make sure you are hydrated when you start your workout by drinking plenty of non-caffeinated beverages 1-2 hours prior and continue to sip fluid during and after exercise.  If you’re really sweating, you may need to include electrolytes in your fluids during and after your workout.
    7. Wear technical clothing made for exercising the heat.  Cotton tends to hold sweat which can make you feel hot. Cotton also increases the chances of chafing.  (I’m not going to go into chafing a ton today, but Body Glide, Baking Soda, or Baby Powder can be life savers if this tends to be one of your summer-time troubles.)

Safety first to helps keep those fun summer memories fun! Check back on August 6th , for Summer Sweatin’ Part II for tips on cooling down after your workout.

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Are Your Medications Depleting You?


Did you know that almost 70 percent of Americans take at least one prescription medication? More than half take at least two, according to a new study by researchers at the Mayo Clinic. And according to the CDC, the average American is on six different medications by the age of 65. Many of these medications are not only lifesaving, but they can help improve symptoms, ease pain and have many other positive benefits. However, they are not without side effects that may have a profound effect on our health, and more specifically, our nutrition status.

Many of us may gloss over the list of side effects from over the counter or prescription medications and may not realize that the side effects may cause depletion or even a deficiency of necessary nutrients. Poor diet alone can lead to nutrient deficiencies, add to that multiple medications and the results can be devastating. It might surface as a weakened immune system, anemia, fatigue, depression, osteoporosis, skin issues, even GI issues like gas and bloating.

Below is a list of commonly used medications grouped by use, the nutrients that are depleted and where you can find those nutrients in food.

I have made some generalities below for simplicity; each specific medication can have a different impact.
Know your medications!


Medications are a necessary component of many of our lives. However there are sometimes drawbacks. Here are some tips to follow to help ensure optimal health:

  1. Always read the package insert that comes with your medications (prescription or over the counter) to understand any side effects.
  2. Always follow your provider’s instructions on when to take medications.
  3. Eat a nutrient dense diet.
  4. Ask your Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist or Provider before starting supplements. All supplements are not created equal. You want to make sure you are taking a good quality supplement with the appropriate form and dose of certain nutrients.

If you have questions about your specific medications and the impact they may be having on your nutritional status ask your provider or a Registered Dietitian.

Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard and Turkey Sausage

Adapted from: Deliciously Organic
Serves 5


This is one nutrient packed dish! The lentils, turkey and Swiss chard are great sources of folate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, zinc, iron, B5, B6, B12 and many other nutrients. This is one of those dishes that is even better the next day, plus it’s really easy!



- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 cup dry lentils
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes (I used Muir Glen Fire Roasted)
- 3 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 1 pound turkey sausage, cut into 1/4-inch thick coins (I used a turkey kielbasa)
- 1-2 bunches of Swiss chard
- Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Stir in onion, carrots and celery. Let cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until onion is translucent.
  3. Add sausage and cook 10 more minutes until slightly browned.
  4. Increase heat to medium and stir in tomato paste and sea salt.
  5. Add lentils, tomatoes and stock.
  6. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, cook about 10 minutes or until all veggies are tender.
  7. Stir in chard and cook 2-3 minutes more.
  8. Season with ground black pepper and adjust sea salt to taste. Serve.


Nutrition Information per Serving: 370 calories, 13 g Fat, 3g Saturated Fat, 65mg Cholesterol, 1180mg Sodium, 34g Carbohydrates, 8g Fiber, 30g Protein

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  • About this blog

    The Employee and Family Services group at SAS includes the Health Care Center, Recreation and Fitness Center and Work/Life. Check this blog to find interesting recipes and nutrition facts, information on staying healthy and how to keep your work life and family life balanced.
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    SAS Health Care Center has three registered dietitians to assist employees and covered dependents with their nutritional needs. For more information on our nutrition services, please call the Health Care Center at 919-531-8809.

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