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Morning time is busy time

6 smart snacking ideas for busy moms

(BPT) – Whether you have a new baby, toddler, big kid or teen, life is busy when you have kids. From play dates to playoffs, busy moms need to stay fueled to feel their best. However, being so busy can mean forgetting about healthy snacking. Fortunately with a few tips and tricks, eating right on the go doesn’t have to be difficult.

The first step is to be prepared before hunger strikes. Stock up on plastic or stainless steel containers that are easy to tote in purses or backpacks. Then, make a shopping list so your fridge and cupboards are full of wholesome snacks. By removing temptation of junk food, you make it easy to snack well.

Here are six easy (and tasty!) snack ideas for busy moms. No matter where your day takes you, you’ll be ready with nutrient-rich snacks easy for eating on the go.

1. Cheese

To feel full fast, reach for snacking cheese. Wisconsin-made Great Midwest Cheese has Mild Cheddar, Colby Jack and Pepper Jack Cheeses available in snack-sized cubes, perfect for on-the-go fuel. Every cheese is hand-crafted in small batches, using only the purest, certified hormone-free milk for a smooth, natural, consistent flavor sure to satisfy.

2. Edamame

You probably munch on edamame when visiting your favorite sushi restaurant, but these pods are perfect for travel, too. Packed with protein but low on carbs, they are a great healthy alternative to chips when you have a hankering for something salty. You can buy frozen varieties to pack and they’ll thaw in your container of choice so you’re ready when hunger pangs strike.

3. Fruit

Packed with vitamins and minerals, fresh produce is always a smart choice. Bananas may be an easy choice, but they can bruise quickly in a bag. Instead, consider portable options less likely to bruise such as apples or easy-to-peel tangerines. Try pairing fruit with individually-wrapped snack portions of Great Midwest Gouda or Mild Cheddar Cheese and you’ll feel full for hours.

4. Nuts and seeds

Raw, unsalted nuts are high in protein and healthy fats. Stock up on mixed varieties or just your favorites, such as almonds, walnuts or cashews. Seeds are another easy go-to for snacks. Sunflower seeds are full of vitamin E and come in a variety of flavors (just keep an eye on salt levels in the ingredient lists and consider opting for low-sodium varieties).

5. Jerky

For your carnivorous cravings with a protein punch, consider packing jerky for snacking. Beef and turkey jerky aren’t just for weight lifters. These shelf-stable snacks last for a long time and are easy to pack in a purse and grab on the go. If you want to control the ingredients and experiment with flavors, consider making your own at home!

6. Cereal

Moms everywhere pack up containers of cereal for their babies and toddlers for a quick and easy snack. But what about for yourself? Your favorite cereal can serve as a snack throughout the day when you pack a container and bring it in your tote. Opt for high-fiber, low-sugar varieties to keep you fueled and full without the sugar crash later.

Bonus idea: Water

Water may not count as a snack, but it’s important to keep a bottle always by your side. Many people confuse hunger with thirst, so if you stay hydrated, you might find you have fewer snack cravings. If water is too bland for you, try adding a healthy flavor boost with a few slices of fruit or cucumber.

Regular healthy snacking helps give you the energy you need to keep up with your kids and helps level your moods. Nobody wants a hangry (hungry + angry) mom whose patience is thin because her stomach is grumbling! Plan ahead and focus on smart snacking to be the best mother you can be.

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5 tips to keep allergy sufferers from dreading spring

(BPT) – From flowers poking through the ground to ditching heavy winter parkas, it’s easy to look forward to spring. Unless, of course, you have allergies. Then, the path to warmer weather and additional daylight could be marked with watery eyes, sneezing and a runny nose. Makes it hard to be excited, right?

It doesn’t have to.

While spring carries its own concerns for allergy sufferers everywhere, there is relief. Now is the perfect time to set plans in place to help ease your allergy symptoms before they begin.

“People think they’re doing everything they can to battle spring allergies,” says allergist Bradley Chipps, MD, president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI). “But many still find themselves under siege from pollen and other allergens that appear once the weather starts to warm up. What they don’t realize is that by following a few simple rules they can make life a lot more pleasant, and their allergies more bearable.”

As you start your spring allergy planning, keep these five tips from ACAAI in mind. Use them and your spring will be filled with flowers and breezes, not coughing and sneezes.

1. It may not only be allergies. In some cases the symptoms you are experiencing may not be caused by allergies alone but by another complication such as asthma. Research shows two-thirds of people with asthma also suffer from allergies, making symptoms worse during the spring season. If your symptoms include a persistent cough or feeling winded quickly, asthma could be the cause of your trouble. If this sounds familiar, consult your allergist. Your allergist can help identify the source of your asthma and help treat your allergies to manage your symptoms.

2. Take a deep dive for spring cleaning. Spring cleaning is a must for many people, but if you suffer from allergies, it’s even more important. Clearing dust and cobwebs can ease your sneezing, but for better results, roll up your sleeves and give your home a deep scrub. A thorough cleaning can eliminate allergens such as dust mites and mold, and clear the air.

3. Start your relief early on. Don’t wait for your eyes to begin watering before taking your allergy medicine. Start your medications at least two weeks before the season begins, and they will already be in your system when you really need it.

4. Clean your air effectively. When looking for support to clean the air in your home, don’t choose an ionic air filter. These filters require more airflow to operate properly than most homes are able to provide. Instead choose a HEPA room air cleaner rated with a Clean Air Delivery Rate. If you have central air, change your filters every three months and use filters with a MERV rating of 11 or 12 to keep your air as clean as possible.

5. Resist the urge to breathe in fresh air. After months cooped up indoors, you want a fresh breeze, but before you open your windows, beware. Opening windows allows pollen and other debris into your home where they can settle in your carpet or upholstery. As hard as it can be, you’re better off keeping your windows closed during peak allergy season. Use your air conditioning to regulate your home’s temperature instead.

For people with allergies, spring’s annual arrival feels like a mixed blessing. By using the tips above, you can ensure that you have everything you need to make spring great. And you’ll do so with less of the coughing and sneezing that can go with it.

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Swap these 4 food fads with nutritious kitchen staples

(BPT) – With new so-called “healthy” food trends popping up all the time, it’s hard to keep track of what’s actually good for your health and what’s just a fad. Luckily, new research continually shows consumers which fads to ditch and which kitchen staples stand the test of time and should be kept in our diets. For example, did you know that coconut oil, a recent consumer favorite in health and beauty circles, has been found in a new study to actually increase cholesterol?

If you are looking for simple changes that have a big impact on nutritional health, consider clearing some unhealthy eating habits from your diet. Here are a few health fads that aren’t as nutritious as you may have heard, and helpful swaps that can benefit your health.

Cooking with coconut oil

Over the last few years, coconut oil has gained prominence on grocery store shelves, in the news and on social media. Long considered a multipurpose beauty oil, coconut oil began to make its way into recipes, and consumers hoped its health benefits extended to the kitchen. However, a recent study has found that coconut oil increases cholesterol. Adding corn oil to one’s diet, on the other hand, was found by the study to result in better cholesterol levels compared with coconut oil. Similarly, a previous study published in The Journal of Clinical Lipidology found that corn oil can help lower cholesterol two times more than extra virgin olive oil. With a high smoke point, versatile usage and a neutral flavor, corn oil makes a great staple for any pantry.

Juice diets and cleanses

While it’s important to include fruits and vegetables in your diet, “cleansing” your body with a diet limited to cold-pressed juices won’t provide enough essential vitamins and minerals for a healthy diet. According to research by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, there is no real evidence that juice cleanses work. The human body is great at keeping the good stuff in and filtering out the bad, and a varied diet is important for maintaining energy throughout the day. Plus, according to Vive Nutrition, juice diets tend to make people feel hungrier and lead to overeating. If cold-pressed juices are something you enjoy, go ahead and include them in addition to your meals.

Skipping dessert

Everything in moderation! Indulging every once in a while is an important part of a balanced diet. Harsh dietary restrictions, especially on the foods you love, may lead to short-term results, but aren’t sustainable in the long run, according to research by the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Rather than cutting sugar completely, avoid binges by allowing yourself a treat every once in a while on a cheat day to maintain balance in your diet.

Snacking on granola bars

Packed with whole grains, granola bars seem like the perfect healthy snack, but many contain an unhealthy amount of added sugar, which creates a caloric and less-than-nutritious food choice. In fact, according to a survey in the New York Times, less than 30 percent of nutritionists would call granola a healthy food. Replacing granola bars with healthier options like whole nuts will greatly benefit your health. This snack choice is less sugary, more filling and full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

With contradicting information about health coming out daily, it’s important to research the facts to learn which tips are fads and which are truly good for you. By making these diet swaps that benefit your body, you can start the year as your healthiest self ever.

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Technology can help people manage Type 2 diabetes in real time

(BPT) – There is no disputing that digital health technology and connected devices can produce massive amounts of data. But that data, on its own, is not always particularly useful.

The real value comes from translating that data into personalized and actionable information and putting it into the hands of people, in real time, whose health might depend on those facts and figures.

UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage members with Type 2 diabetes may be eligible to utilize new wearable technology to help monitor their glucose levels 24/7 via the convenience of a cell phone. They can also connect directly with a health coach to seek individual support, share information and make behavior changes to improve their health.

Announced in mid-January with DexCom, Inc., the leader in continuous glucose monitoring, at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, this innovative pairing — high-tech, real-time wearable monitors with direct access to diabetes coaches — will be available to eligible plan participants across multiple regions throughout this year.

Here’s how the blend of high-tech and high-touch care supports people managing Type 2 diabetes:

1. Dexcom’s Mobile Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (CGM) technology consists of a sensor — usually worn on the abdomen — that continuously reads glucose levels just beneath the skin.

2. A transmitter sends the data to a smartphone, which processes and displays updated data every five minutes and can reveal relationships between eating, exercise and blood sugar that are difficult to observe with only test strips and a glucose meter.

3. Diabetes coaches help participants interpret the transmitted data and give guidance on how to change behavior pertaining to nutrition and exercise to help keep glucose levels in a safe range.

4. Participants also receive an activity tracker to help them understand and act upon data gathered by the wearable device.

5. Glucose data summaries can be shared with participants and their primary care providers to help foster better care coordination, which ideally may result in increased glucose control, reductions in medications and an empowered approach to managing diabetes.

“With more than 27 million people nationwide living with Type 2 diabetes, there is urgent need to address this epidemic in new ways,” said Brian Thompson, CEO of UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement. “Continuous glucose monitoring can be a game changer for people enrolled in our Medicare Advantage plans, as the data can be translated into personalized information that can be acted upon in real time.”

To learn more about UnitedHealthcare Medicare Advantage plans, visit

Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies, a Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract. Enrollment in the plan depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.

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Forward-thinking programs get kids to eat better

(BPT) – They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But for millions of low-income children across the country, the low-cost or free lunch they get at school is the most nutritious, most filling meal they will eat.

In 2016, over 30 million kids across the U.S. received low-cost or free lunches at their school. With such a wide-ranging impact, school meal programs play a huge role in the well-being of our nation’s young people.

According to Wilder Research, nearly one in six children in the state of Minnesota live in food-insecure households. Many of these kids rely on school lunch to get the nutrients they need. To make sure these needs are met, one school district in the state has been blending nutrition with trends in popular culture to create a dynamic program that is getting kids excited about healthy food while also creating better eating habits.

Jr. Iron Chef

Question: In an urban school district, how can the idea behind a popular television show be used to raise awareness of healthy meal options?

In essence, this is what happened when Miguel Lopez, a seventh-grader at Anwatin Middle School, along with seven other teams and 16 other students, competed alongside eight professional chefs in one of Minneapolis Public Schools’ “Jr. Iron Chef” competitions.

Modeled after the popular television show, where teams compete to create the most appetizing dish, this three-year-old program was designed in cooperation with Cargill to teach students about good nutrition and meal preparation. Students from across the district were invited to compete — just as popular celebrity chefs on TV do — in live cooking competitions.

“This night was not so much about the competition, but about what these students have learned about how to prepare good meals on their own,” said Minneapolis Public Schools’ Director of Culinary and Wellness Services, Bertrand Weber. “We wanted to apply the Iron Chef concept to help improve our students’ health and well-being. Yes, it was a cool night, but the hope is that they will go home and do this for themselves and their families versus choosing less healthy meal options.”

While the Jr. Iron Chef competition was getting students all over the district revved up, Cargill and Minneapolis Public Schools were weaving another popular culinary trend into the district’s nutrition and wellness programs: food trucks.

Nutrition on wheels

Parked outside the venue where Jr. Iron Chef was held was a shiny, new food truck purchased with a recent $75,000 grant from Cargill to Minneapolis Public Schools. This is the school district’s second food truck. The first one hit the road in 2013 and became so popular that it quickly exceeded capacity.

The trucks are staffed by the school district’s nutrition and culinary staff, to bring nutritious meals to students, especially when school is not in session.

The trucks also appear at district-run wellness seminars and cooking demonstrations.

“The value of these food trucks has been recognized by Minneapolis Public Schools and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),” said Cargill Vice President of Corporate Responsibility Michelle Grogg. “It’s been a successful strategy that community and state partners have found to improve their capacity to reach food-insecure children when school is in and out of session.”

In the summer of 2017, Minneapolis Public Schools served approximately 400,000 free meals and snacks to Minneapolis youth. This coming summer, Minneapolis Public Schools’ two food trucks will operate at a total of eight summer feeding sites in conjunction with community youth and physical activity programming.

A new example

As school lunch plays such an important role for millions of urban, low-income students, the importance of steering these kids toward eating more nutritious, wholesome meals cannot be overstated. Though it can be hard to get kids excited about fruits and vegetables, the creative and forward-thinking programs put on by the Minneapolis Public Schools point in a fun, and promising, direction.

“It’s great to see two popular trends in food being applied to the nutritional needs of our students,” says Grogg. “We hope it doesn’t stop here and we hope other communities around Minnesota and the U.S. learn from our successes.”

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7 ways to stay committed to your fitness goals

(BPT) – In January, when many people make New Year’s resolutions to get fit, they’re full of energy and excitement to start and see results.

But by the end of February, that intensity and interest start to slip. Gold’s Gym has identified this as the Fitness Cliff, or the time that gym check-ins begin to gradually decline.

To help fight against the urge to slow down or quit, Gold’s Gym has declared Feb. 22 to be Commitment Day. On that date, Gold’s Gyms across the country will offer free workouts and classes along with resources to help people stay on track. But you can take action right now to make it easier to recommit to your fitness resolutions.

1. Create a plan

Everyone’s fitness journey is different, and with a personalized plan of attack, you’re more likely to get the results you want. Work with an expert to develop a routine that’s best for your current fitness level, body type, age and health history.

“Simply planning to make your resolution part of your schedule makes a significant difference,” says Dempsey Marks, a Gold’s Gym fitness expert. “Our lives can get very busy, so writing a weekly workout plan on Sunday that includes days, times and workouts will help keep you focused, organized and accountable.”

To help you get started, anyone who recommits to their goals on Feb. 22 at Gold’s Gym will receive a free 30-day fitness plan from a certified personal trainer.

2. Eat well

Just because you kill it on the treadmill or in the weight room doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want with no consequences. Food is fuel — learn what to put into your body that will help it perform its best.

Remember, eating three to four hours before your workout will deliver energy to your muscles and help you avoid low blood sugar levels. And eating after a workout will replenish the fluids and carbohydrates your body just burned off.

3. Find an accountability partner

Having at least one workout buddy is good motivation to keep you showing up, push you to work hard and encourage you to keep striving toward your goals. Plus, it’s great to have someone to celebrate with when you reach those fitness milestones.

Commitment Day is the perfect time for you and a pal to get started — bring a friend in to Gold’s Gym for free workouts and classes on Feb. 22.

4. Be adaptable

We get it: Life happens. If you can’t make it to the gym because your car broke down or you’re traveling, it can be tempting to take a break from your fitness routine.

With a digital personal training app like GOLD’S AMP™, you’ll always have an option for workouts at home or on the road. You can choose a coach-guided workout — including outdoor walking and running workouts, stretching and bodyweight exercises — to take anywhere and pair it with the perfect exercise playlist.

5. Just breathe

A fit lifestyle doesn’t happen overnight; don’t get frustrated if things are slow to start or if you hit a plateau. Let yourself rest, think positively and be patient. Getting stronger takes time and effort, and you’re putting in the work that will lead to results later.

6. Avoid the comfort zone

If it’s getting too easy, it’s time to reassess your routine. Don’t be afraid to try a different piece of equipment, lift that heavier weight or join a new group exercise class.

“It’s easy to get stuck in your comfort zone because it’s comfortable!” Marks says. “But with fitness, it’s especially important to avoid the comfort zone to challenge your body in new and unique ways. Plan a new workout every other week by switching up the equipment and machines or go for that personal record. It’ll help to avoid boredom and lead to greater physical gains.”

7. Set an example

Your efforts don’t go unnoticed. Whether or not you realize it, you’re inspiring someone else with his or her own fitness. Use that to give yourself a boost when you need it.

Take Gold’s Gym Challenge winner Ellie Carter, whose two young sons were moved by her efforts to get back in shape.

“Every time we’d go to Gold’s, the boys would say, ‘We’re going to the gym, and Mommy is going to get strong,’” she says. “[Kids] do what we model, so I definitely want to keep encouraging fitness.”

Read Ellie’s success story and find more inspirational stories like it.

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Navigating Medicare: 5 allies who can help

(BPT) – Enrolling in Medicare for the first time or starting coverage under a new plan? It might bring you back to that first day starting a new job. You knew some of the basics, but you also knew there was a lot more to learn. More than likely, you got help from colleagues who have been around for a while and helped show you the ropes.

Don’t worry. With Medicare, you have the same kind of knowledgeable support. You’ve got a team on your side that can help make navigating the health care system easier. Goodbye hassles, hello helpers.

Here are five allies in your corner:

1. Your Primary Care Physician. This physician is the “go-to” doctor who provides guidance on your health care needs, taking the time to really get to know you, your medical history and your health goals. Think of your Primary Care Physician as the “quarterback” of your medical team — someone who can take charge of knowing the ins and outs of your health status and help drive decisions to get you on the right track and keep you there.

2. A caregiver. Perhaps the “unsung hero” of your health care team, caregivers are the ones you know you can count on — the ones you know are there to offer support and care for you, whenever you need it. Whether a family member, neighbor, friend or professional assistant, these are the people in your life who help you along the way. Their assistance can span everything from bringing you to appointments or getting prescriptions filled to making meals or offering emotional support.

3. Your pharmacist. This team member keeps an eye on the medications you take — prescription and over-the-counter — to make sure they work safely together. Your pharmacist is a great person to talk with about how medications are making you feel and answer any questions you have on topics including what side effects to expect, what to do if you miss a dose, or how to store your meds.

4. An insurance agent. Original Medicare. Medicare Supplement. Part D. Medicare Advantage. There are many options and decisions to make when it comes to your Medicare coverage, and a licensed insurance agent can help you find the right plan, or plans, for you. Once you’ve selected a plan, you can also always call your agent to ask questions if your health or coverage needs change or if your plan changes from year to year.

5. Your insurance company. Within your insurance company, there are more people than you likely realize who are working hard on your behalf to ensure you get the medical care and support you need. Insurers can offer tools, resources and support that can help you live a healthier life.

For more information to help you navigate Medicare, visit

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Improve your heart health in 2018 with these tips

(BPT) – When it comes to maintaining and/or improving your heart health, it’s the little things you do day after day that can have a big impact on your immediate and long-term health.

A healthy diet and plenty of exercise are naturally the first things you think of when looking at ways to support your body’s most important muscle, but to really make your heart health initiatives as effective as possible, you need long-term solutions, not quick fixes.

The American Heart Association (AHA) has long been at the forefront of heart healthy initiatives, and this year’s Life is Why We Give (TM) campaign is drawing support from people and companies — like Pilot Flying J — all across the nation. In order to help you live a healthier life in 2018, follow these seven heart-healthy tips today.

1. Be careful of what you snack on between meals. High-fat and high-sugar snacks are popular, but ultimately unhealthy. Opt for fresh instead of processed and choose fresh fruits and vegetables for your snacks between meals.

2. Don’t just drink the drink. Your beverage choices could add unnecessary fats and sugar to your diet, so choose low-sugar and no-sugar alternatives as well as low-fat milk or cream for your coffee. This way you’ll avoid drinking empty calories.

3. Avoid ordering before-the-meal extras. Cocktails, appetizers, even bread and butter are all sources of extra fat, sodium and calories. Cut them out and your calorie intake will drop — and so will your bill.

4. On the side, please. Ask for butter, cream cheese, salad dressings, sauces and gravies to be served on the side when you dine out. This allows you to better control the quantity you consume.

5. Explore your options. When ordering fish or chicken, avoid fried whenever possible. Choose boiled, baked or grilled options instead for a healthier alternative.

6. Think small. Cutting back on portion sizes is a great place to start eating healthier, so don’t be afraid to ask for a smaller serving when you dine out. If smaller portions aren’t available, ask for a to-go box when you order and place the rest of your entrée in the box to eat later.

7. Make a healthy substitution. Often a healthier choice is available for nearly any dish. For example, if you order an item that naturally comes with French fries or onion rings, ask whether you can get a side of fruit or vegetables instead. It may cost you more, but the switch is certainly worth it.

To find even more helpful tips to enjoy a healthier diet, or to receive a free blood pressure check during the month of February, stop by one of the Urgent Care Travel (UCT) medical clinics available at select Pilot and Flying J Travel Centers. You can also support the AHA through in-store initiatives at your local Pilot and Flying J Travel Center.

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The secret to sticking to your resolutions just may lie in your Medicare benefits

(BPT) – Despite our best intentions, 80 percent of us have given up on our New Year’s resolutions by mid-February. Determined to make this year different? If you’re enrolled in Medicare, you might be surprised to learn that your benefits could give you an edge in your quest to stay motivated and on track to attaining your goals for the year ahead.

Read on to learn how maximizing your Medicare benefits could help you achieve some of the most common New Year’s resolutions.

Resolution No. 1: Lose weight and get fit.

Exercise is a key part of the equation if you want to finally get out of those elastic-waist pants and back into your jeans. Only problem is, most of us can come up with a whole host of excuses for not making exercise part of our daily routine, with the expense of a gym membership one that’s frequently cited by people living on a fixed income.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage or Medicare supplement plan, you might not be able to use that excuse anymore. Many plans include a gym membership as part of their plan benefits, giving their members access to fitness centers in their area at either no extra cost or a discounted rate.

“Regular exercise can help you lose some weight after over-indulging during the holiday season, but it’s important all year round to help improve your well-being and maintain your independence,” said Efrem Castillo, M.D., chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement. “Taking advantage of your plan’s fitness benefits could have you well on your way to a trimmer and more energized you by spring.”

Resolution No. 2: Make 2018 your healthiest year yet.

Medicare is designed to make it as affordable as possible to get the preventive care you need. And that can make a huge difference to your health and well-being by catching health issues early, when they’re usually easier to treat.

Original Medicare (Parts A and B) covers an annual wellness visit as well as some preventive screenings, such as mammograms and colonoscopies. Your annual wellness visit is a good opportunity to sit down with your doctor and develop a plan to help you achieve your best health in the year ahead. In addition to services covered under Original Medicare, many Medicare Advantage plans provide additional benefits, such as a full annual physical as well as dental, hearing and vision coverage.

Resolution No. 3: Save more money/Get out of debt.

All those gifts you bought over the holidays may have left your credit card statements extra-lengthy. And life can get expensive any time of year, particularly as our health care costs creep up as we get older. Fortunately most people can save money on health care in a variety of ways.

If you’re enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan, keep the following tips in mind:

* Take advantage of cost savings on prescription drugs. Many plans offer home delivery pharmacy benefits that can be a great way to save money — not to mention trips to the pharmacy. And if your doctor prescribes a high-cost medication, ask if a cheaper alternative is available that could work just as well, such as a generic or a drug on a lower tier of your plan’s formulary (the list of covered drugs).

* Choose doctors and hospitals that have a relationship with your plan. Staying in-network when you need care is one of the best things you can do to manage your health care costs.

* Look for extra plan discounts on everyday health care items and services such as vitamins, hearing aids and alternative medicine services like acupuncture.

Resolution No. 4: Less stress. More happiness.

More and more Medicare Advantage plans are taking a keen interest in helping their members manage their emotional well-being given the direct correlation between our mental health and our physical health. Check to see if your plan offers any resources to help members manage their stress.

Resolution No. 5: Kick the habit.

If you smoke, you know you should quit. Make 2018 your year! Medicare covers up to eight face-to-face visits per year with a doctor or other health care practitioner who can provide counseling to help you make cigarette and other tobacco use part of your past. That personalized, one-on-one attention can make a big difference. So if you’ve tried to quit on your own in the past but struggled, consider taking advantage of these free counseling sessions.

The secret to sticking to your New Year’s resolutions may just lie in your Medicare benefits. So rather than rely on sheer willpower alone, put those benefits to use to help you stay on track toward your goals. When you close out 2018 as a thinner, happier and healthier version of yourself, you’ll probably wonder why you waited so long to make Medicare your secret weapon in conquering your resolutions once and for all.

Plans are insured through UnitedHealthcare Insurance Company or one of its affiliated companies. For Medicare Advantage and Prescription Drug Plans: A Medicare Advantage organization with a Medicare contract and a Medicare-approved Part D sponsor. Enrollment in these plans depends on the plan’s contract renewal with Medicare.

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New research calls pistachios superfood for people with desk jobs

(BPT) – Recent research is giving the 86 percent of Americans who sit all day at their jobs new reasons to reach for a handful of nuts while at work, and in particular, pistachios. Adding to an increasing volume of research around the health benefits of pistachios, one study and a national survey in the U.S. suggest a snack of pistachios might boost brain power and concentration levels at work.

Pistachios helped office workers stay focused until lunchtime

In a national survey, 1,000 American office workers who skipped breakfast consumed a snack of 42 grams (1 and 1/2 serving size) of pistachios between 9 and 11 a.m. Ninety-two percent of the participants said they are “distracted from their tasks at work due to hunger before lunch.” Eighty percent said they usually get hungry in the mornings before lunch and think about food often or every day.

The midmorning snack of pistachios proved to be just what they needed to power through the morning. Ninety-two percent of the participants reported the pistachio snack helped improve their concentration at work as stated in the study, “somewhat or greatly.”

That’s not surprising, according to Dr. Mike Roussell, nutrition expert and adviser. “Skipping breakfast is never a good idea, but even with a good breakfast and lunch, hunger pangs and stress-driven hunger can be distracting, leading to unhealthy snacking habits.”

Roussell says pistachios are an ideal midmorning or midafternoon snack because of their unique nutrient package that not only promotes feelings of fullness and satiation, but also, newer studies show, can promote an optimal mental state and more focus at work.

Increasingly, people with desk jobs are looking for a healthier snack alternative to the usual donuts and vending machine fare. Ninety percent of the survey’s participants said they believe the snack of pistachios is healthier than their usual snack. The study involved office workers in the Northeast, South, Midwest and Western U.S. who snack at their desk two or more times a week at midmorning.

Pistachios may have a role in improved brain function

Loma Linda University (LLU) researchers found that eating nuts on a regular basis enhances brainwave frequencies associated with cognition, learning, memory, recall and other key brain functions. While the research studied multiple nuts, pistachios produced the greatest gamma wave response, which is critical for enhancing cognitive processing, information retention, learning and perception.

In the study, electroencephalograms (EEG) were taken to measure the strength of brainwave signals. EEG wave band activity was then recorded from nine regions of the scalp associated with cerebral cortical function.

“This study provides significant beneficial findings by demonstrating that nuts are as good for your brain as they are for the rest of your body,” said the study’s principal investigator, Lee Berk, DrPH, MPH, associate dean for research at the LLU School of Allied Health Professions, in an interview featured in the November 2017 issue of LLU’s publication, Today. An abstract of the study was presented at Experimental Biology 2017 in San Diego, California, and published in the FASEB Journal.

The workplace-snacking survey and health-benefit studies add to a growing base of pistachio research, solidifying that pistachios have all the ideal qualities for a go-to workplace snack.

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