Have 5 minutes? Easy tips for finding moments of Zen

(BPT) – From work to working out, kids’ activities to household tasks and so much more, modern life has never been busier. The problem is hectic schedules can lead to unnecessary stress.

If you’re one of the many people who feel frazzled on a regular basis, you’re probably longing for a vacation or a day at the spa. Fortunately, there are plenty of easy ways to cut stress that you can sneak into everyday life. From mealtime to bedtime, if you start embracing small moments to be more mindful, you’ll be surprised how fast you can cut down on overall stress.

Here are five simple examples of how you can find your own moments of Zen today:

1. Take a 5-minute walk.

Whether it’s getting fresh air or just getting yourself moving, a change of place and pace can reduce stress and give you a few moments to relax, especially during hectic times. For example, take a 5-minute break while dinner’s cooking to walk around the block. Weather not right for a walk? Give your body a quick stretch with an at-home yoga session.

2. Find quick-and-easy solutions.

If making dinner for your family seems like a daunting task, choose quick-and-easy options designed to take the hassle out of meal prep, like SeaPak’s Shrimp Scampi or Popcorn Shrimp. The frozen food aisle is a great place to begin your journey toward finding your happy place in the kitchen. Here, you can find a variety of products that taste great and require minimal prep work, so you can dedicate more time to doing the things you love, like spending quality time with your family.

3. Choose quality over quantity.

Make the most of your time each day by being intentional with your activities. Whether it’s playing a new board game with the kids after dinner or watching a TV show with your spouse, small quality moments can help you relax and enjoy yourself and your family when at home.

4. Take time to reflect.

When using great-tasting, low-hassle products like SeaPak to make dinner, you’ll be spending way less time in the kitchen. Take those extra moments to reflect on everything you accomplished during your day or week. This will help give you a sense of pride and is a real confidence-booster.

5. Break from technology.

Take a break from technology, even if it’s only for 5 minutes. Set down your phone, turn off the television and step away from all electronics. Just giving your mind a break from the active world of technology can reduce stress and help you mentally reset, especially during mealtimes, where being present is particularly important.

These are just five simple examples, but moments of Zen can be found anywhere if you take the time to look for them. Remember, the little moments are what make the biggest impact in life, and by embracing mindfulness, you’re setting the stage to be able to focus on what really matters.

Read more

Ideas to help you reap big rewards from your garden

(BPT) – Get active outdoors with a hobby more satisfying than binge-watching another television series. As a pastime, gardening can help you eat delicious, more flavorful food while transforming your patio or yard into a colorful hangout for butterflies and bees.

Many people don’t realize how easy it is to have a fresh supply of crisp veggies, fragrant herbs or fresh-grown flowers. Whether you have a balcony, rooftop or patio, gardening is a hobby that quite literally allows you to harvest big rewards.

One of the most exciting parts of gardening is deciding what to grow. With thousands of plants to choose from — flowers, vegetables and herbs — a small pot of soil can be a canvas for creativity.

To find the most popular flowers and plants this year, we checked in with Ball Horticultural Company, a global leader on all things gardening, to see what the top trends are in 2018.

Strong and colorful

When spring arrives, we all crave color and warmth to celebrate the end of winter. To get that wow factor — and get it fast — try planting flowers that grow and fill in quickly and thrive in extremes. The Megawatt Begonia brings magnetic color even in shaded spaces. It’s also a low-maintenance option if you’re new to gardening. Likewise, the Echinacea Sombrero Sangrita is a perennial flower that returns each year with stunning red blossoms.

For foodies who want to show off

Every chef knows the secret to tasty cooking is great ingredients. For many gardeners, the truly magical combination is finding that edible veggie that looks as good as it tastes. Take 2 Combos combine two sweet pepper plants with a touch of heat and beautiful orange and yellow fruit. There’s also a combo of a slicer and cherry tomato perfect for small spaces and for snacking and cooking. Speaking of peppers, a new, attractive variety is Candy Cane Red Pepper. It has green fruit striping that ripens to red and offers up crisp, sweet flavors, much like a candy cane!

A refuge for bees, butterflies and beyond

There are dozens of reasons people choose to garden: fresh food, interior and exterior decoration, relaxation, stress reduction and more. One emerging trend is that people want to make their garden a destination for pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. A few captivating flowers that attract these beautiful and helpful creatures are:

* Lucky Star Pentas — Provides butterflies summer-long flower clusters in eye-catching colors

* Copper Prince Ornamental Millet — This thriller makes a dramatic statement with foxtail plumes that birds feast upon

* SuperBlue Lavender — A deeply colorful and fragrant bee magnet

Gardening helps you relax and decompress. What’s more, there is a huge amount of satisfaction involved in seeing your vegetables and flowers grow. Follow these trends and watch your plants blossom and beautify your home and yard. After all, we could all use a little more color in our lives.

Read more
Lisa Arroyo-4000

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month: Know When to Stop Before You Start

(BPT) – The bright lights. The energy and laughter that fills the room. Casinos are fun and exciting to the vast majority of people but for some, they can be problematic.

Casinos are a form of entertainment, so how do you ensure what’s meant to be a fun and leisurely activity continues to be a positive experience? Time spent at a casino should be a planned and budgeted entertainment option — like you would approach an evening out for dinner or a sporting event. There are preventative measures that can be taken to help ensure that an experience at a casino remains a fun one.

Leading experts in the field of gambling research maintain that it starts with being an informed consumer who understands the realities of gaming. “Being informed means understanding your thoughts about the next big win, beating the odds, and finding the hot machine or deck of cards,” said Dr. James Whelan of the University of Memphis. “Misunderstanding these thoughts about chance can lead to harmful mistakes and excessive losses of money. Informed consumers know that setting limits on how much you spend and how long you play is the best way to not let these thoughts result in you losing more than you can afford.”

Here’s what everyone should keep in mind before their next casino visit.

Betting on a winning streak

It’s always exciting to hit a jackpot, but winning streaks are highly uncommon and beyond anyone’s control. Each spin of the wheel or roll of the dice is an independent event, which means that the chances of a specific outcome aren’t influenced by previous outcomes. So rolling snake eyes once makes you no more (or less) likely to roll snake eyes again.

The chances of beating the odds

Casino games are designed with a house advantage. Mathematically, the house advantage is a measure of how much the house expects to win, expressed as a percentage of the player’s wager. For example, in a wager with a house advantage of 5 percent, the player will lose, on average over time, $5 for every $100 wagered. Because the odds always favor the house, the longer or faster a person plays a casino game, the more the person should expect to lose even in skill­-based or hybrid games. In the same way, the more a person wagers, the more the person should expect to lose.

Believing in superstitions

It might be fun to imagine that rubbing a rabbit’s foot improves a player’s chances of hitting a jackpot, but the reality is that this “magical thinking” has no impact whatsoever. Cheating aside, there’s nothing a player can do — no ritual or lucky charm — to influence the outcome of any casino game. Superstitions can’t determine whether a player wins or loses because every casino game — whether it’s blackjack, craps or a slot machine — is based on randomness, or on chance.

Lisa Arroyo has worked at Harrah’s Joliet Casino in Illinois for the past 25 years. Like everyone who works at a Caesars Entertainment property, Arroyo thinks about gambling as a fun activity you pay for, like going to the movies or to a theater performance.

Arroyo has heard customers laughing and having fun playing blackjack — and she has also heard customers make troubling statements that have caused her concern. “We definitely don’t want people to come in and spend more than what they have budgeted. We want our guests to simply have fun and gamble responsibly. If someone makes a statement or series of statements that concern us, we will have a discussion with the patron and inform them of responsible gaming options and alternatives if needed.”

Gambling responsibly?

Is responsible gaming an oxymoron? Not at all. Arroyo wants gambling to be a choice made for the right reasons. She is one of the advocates of Caesars Entertainment’s Responsible Gaming program, the first hospitality gambling program of its kind to formally train employees on the importance of Responsible Gaming.

The premise of the program involves Arroyo and her colleagues across Caesars’ global network of properties, called Responsible Gaming (RG) Ambassadors, who are celebrating their 15th year of assisting casino guests who may not be gambling responsibly. If comments or statements are made that are concerning to any employee, that concern is brought to the attention of the RG Ambassador who will sit down with the guest to address the reported concern, offer problem gambling program assistance and help resources, and answer questions. “We just let them know that if they feel like they might have a problem, we’re here to answer questions and help,” said Arroyo.

She informs people who express they might have a gambling problem to ask themselves some of the following questions.

* Do I lose time from work due to gambling?

* Is gambling making my home life unhappy?

* Have I ever felt remorse after gambling?

* Do I ever gamble to get money to help pay debts or to otherwise solve financial difficulties?

* Does gambling cause a decrease in my ambition or efficiency?

* Do I ever gamble longer than I had planned?

Caesars Entertainment wants everyone who plays at its casinos to be there for the right reason — to simply have fun. For the past 25 years, Caesars has been committed to promoting responsible gaming and has provided assistance to guests who may not be gambling responsibly. This year, Caesars’ Responsible Gaming Ambassador Program is celebrating its 15th anniversary with 815 Responsible Gaming Ambassadors that may assist guests with problem gambling help resources.

Read more

5 helpful tips for sticking to your New Year’s resolutions this spring

(BPT) – On average, two-thirds of Americans set New Year’s resolutions to begin the new year with a fresh outlook. Whether it’s changing your diet, saving money or starting a new hobby, it seems almost everyone is trying to accomplish something when January rolls around.

With the new year well underway and spring just around the corner, many people are still working hard on their New Year’s resolutions. While it might have been easy for so many to start working on these resolutions, few are able to stick to them throughout the year. To stay on track, here are five helpful tips to keep in mind.

Set daily goals

Keep your eyes on the prize and focus on what your goals are for each day. By having a clear idea of what you’re working toward and the steps needed to get there, you can track your progress as you strive to achieve your ultimate goal.

Make it fun

A resolution is often a big goal that can take some hard work to reach, so why not make it fun? Attend mixers and other events when looking for a new job, or grab a friend and go exercise together when you are working on your fitness. If you’re looking to make healthier eating decisions, check out the frozen section of your local supermarket, where you’ll find plenty of new options like SeaPak Selections Lemon Pepper Shrimp and Maryland Style Crab Cakes. These tasty seafood products are low calorie and make it easy to pull together a healthy meal in just minutes with little fuss or hassle.

Switch it up

If you’ve been sticking to the same routine since Jan. 1, changing things up is critical to staying motivated. Infuse fresh flavor into mealtime with dishes like SeaPak Selections Sesame Ginger Salmon or enroll in a new fitness class to update your workout regimen. By making changes here and there, it’s less likely you’ll tire of working toward your goals.

Bounce back

No one is perfect, so don’t consider your resolution a loss if you have a bad day once in a while. Use any setbacks as motivation. Then, refocus and determine your next steps to get back on track toward your goals.

Celebrate the victories

Whether you are simply working toward some closer targets or halfway to realizing your main goal, celebrate all the steps in between. Doing so will motivate you to work even harder to accomplish what’s next, and you’ll make each resolution a reality before you know it.

Read more

Coughing is one thing – coughing over and over is another

(BPT) – When Fern started coughing over and over again, she was repeatedly diagnosed with bronchitis and recurring pneumonia. However, both Fern and her husband Philip knew that something wasn’t quite right. Fern and Philip’s persistence led to Fern’s diagnosis of nontuberculous mycobacterial (NTM) lung disease, a progressive and chronic condition caused by bacteria that are common in the environment.

“It took over six years for Fern to be accurately diagnosed with NTM lung disease and every day leading up to the diagnosis was a challenge — from doctors telling us no treatment was needed to the day-to-day reality of respiratory therapies,” said Fern’s husband, Philip. “But the biggest challenge by far was not being able to definitively state what she had and not knowing what plan of action to pursue.”

About NTM Lung Disease

Nontuberculous mycobacterial lung disease is an infection caused by bacteria that are aerosolized, which means they exist in water particles that float in the air and are breathed in. NTM bacteria is common in the environment and can be found places such as tap water, showerheads, steam from hot tubs, mist and soil from parks and gardens. In fact, one study across 25 states showed that NTM bacteria was found in nearly eight out of ten water samples.

Everyone comes into contact with NTM bacteria during their daily lives. However, not everyone is at risk of getting NTM lung disease. Most people do not become infected because their lungs are healthy enough to clear the bacteria. But people who have conditions such as bronchiectasis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and asthma are more likely to develop NTM lung disease, because conditions that cause damage to the lungs make it difficult to clear NTM bacteria.

Since the symptoms of NTM lung disease, such as cough, fatigue and shortness of breath, are similar to those of other lung conditions, many people who have it may not even know it for months or sometimes years. NTM lung disease is sometimes misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all because many people with symptoms think it’s due to a lung condition they already have.

Talk to a Doctor about NTM Lung Disease

Over time, NTM lung disease symptoms can get worse, and in some cases, the disease can cause severe, even permanent damage to the lungs, so early detection and management is crucial. If you think you or a loved one may have NTM lung disease, talk to your doctor about getting tested and visit AboutNTM.com for additional information.

Resources for NTM Patients and Caregivers

Throughout the diagnosis and treatment journey, Fern and Philip met patients from across the country who had similar experiences. Together, Philip and Fern started a non-profit organization, NTM Information & Research (NTMir), to save and improve lives through research, education, early detection and improved treatments for people with NTM lung disease. Over the past ten years the organization has grown to be a significant resource for patients with NTM lung disease and their caregivers as well as clinicians who treat the condition.

“When Fern was first diagnosed, information about NTM lung disease was scarce and we knew the best way to arm ourselves was to find out as much about NTM as possible,” Philip said. “Learning more about the disease, starting conversations with doctors, getting support from those around you and others with the same condition — those are all imperative to patients and caregivers alike.”

NTMinfo.org provides a library of tools and information, as well as an online community, for additional support. Resources can also be found at AboutNTM.com, such as a discussion guide to help prepare for the next doctor appointment, real patient stories and information about NTM lung disease.

Sponsored by Insmed Incorporated.

Read more

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.

Read more

Chef Jose Garces focuses on quality and versatility at this year’s sold-out South Beach Wine and Food Festival

(BPT) – There are few foods that span a variety of diverse culinary styles more than fresh pork. Fresh pork is known by both leading chefs and home cooks as a flavorful, versatile solution for any night of the week.

Smithfield Fresh Pork is proud to partner with the National Pork Board and 20 award-winning chefs at this year’s South Beach Wine and Food Festival (SOBEWFF). These chefs will create high-quality pork dishes for attendees featuring Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork, an all-natural premium line of fresh pork. Each recipe will showcase the superior quality and versatility of the Smithfield Prime collection and inspire consumers to cook with only the best ingredients at home. Event-goers will have the opportunity to experience these recipes at the following NPB-sponsored events: Tacos After Dark on Thursday, February 22; Burger Bash on Friday, February 23; Spanish Dinner on Saturday, February 23; Swine, Wine & Spirits and Coca-Cola Beachside BBQ, both on Sunday, February 25.

Chef Jose Garces, one of Smithfield’s Chef Partners, will host two pork-centric events at SOBEWFF. Garces, a James Beard award winner and Iron Chef, prefers to cook with Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork due its high quality and flavor.

“As a chef, there is nothing more important to me than the quality of the ingredients I choose for my dishes,” said Garces. “That is why I love to work with Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork. They understand that quality leads to flavor and flavorful dishes create the best experiences and memories.”

The most discerning chefs, championship pitmasters and home cooks alike seek quality, flavorful fresh pork, and that is why they trust Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork. Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork is a line of premium, all-natural fresh pork that is certifiably 20 percent more tender than other leading brands of all-natural pork. The Smithfield Prime collection is hand-trimmed and sourced from America’s most trusted farms, using a specialty breed of Duroc hogs and some of the most stringent quality standards in the industry. Thus, Smithfield Prime Fresh Pork products naturally have exceptional color, increased marbling and enhanced flavor, creating an elevated eating experience.

You can catch Chef Garces in action at the Spanish Dinner event taking place Saturday, February 24; and at the Coca-Cola Beachside BBQ on Sunday, February 25. For those who want to take a page out of Chef Garces’ book and try their hand at cooking up one of his signature dishes, below is a recipe he crafted specially for Smithfield.

Grilled pork chops with cognac butter, mustard aioli and mushrooms

For the pork chops:

4 Smithfield(R) Prime Bone-In Pork Chops (1-inch thick)

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary

1/4 cup finely chopped garlic


Mix oil, thyme, rosemary and garlic in large mixing bowl. Add pork chops and coat thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours. Heat grill to medium using hickory wood charcoal. Remove chops from marinade and grill 7 to 9 minutes per side until internal temperature reaches 145 F to 160 F. Remove from heat and immediately brush with cognac butter. Let stand 3 minutes before serving.

For the cognac butter:

1 cup good-quality cognac

1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots

1 cup butter, room temperature

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Combine cognac and shallots in a small saucepan. Simmer until cognac is reduced by two-thirds. Strain and let cool. Mix together with butter and parsley; let stand at room temperature until ready to use.

For the mustard aioli:

3 eggs

1 cup Dijon mustard

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup whole grain mustard

3 cups vegetable oil


Combine eggs, Dijon mustard and lemon juice in food processor or blender. Blend until smooth. Slowly drizzle in vegetable oil, while food processor is running, until emulsified. Remove from processor and fold in whole grain mustard. Season to taste.

For the mushrooms:

2 lbs. mixed fresh wild mushrooms (such as chanterelle, hen of the woods, porcini and morel)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh thyme

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 tablespoon lemon juice


Toss together mushrooms and olive oil. Place in grill basket and grill until tender and cooked through, turning occasionally. Remove from heat and toss with remaining ingredients. Serve immediately.

This recipe yields four servings; total prep time is 25 minutes (plus two hours marinade time), and total cook time is expected at 35 minutes.

Visit SaborSmithfield.com for more of Chef Garces’ recipes and inspiration for your next meal and to learn more about Smithfield’s quality and freshness. And visit sobewff.org for more details on the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. For more information about National Pork Board, visit porkteinspira.com.

Read more

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.

Read more
JrIronChef-4859-client provided

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.”

Read more

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.

Read more
1 2 3 14