Think About Your Eyes

“This post was sponsored by Think About Your Eyes as part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central. I received compensation as a thank you for my review.”

 

I have always made my overall health a priority by eating the right foods (for the most part), exercising, and going to my primary care provider on a regular basis.  I think that most people that are focused on healthy living do those things, but there is one area of the body that is frequently neglected but is one of our most vital: our eyes.  When was the last time you went to an eye doctor?  Hopefully your answer is within the last year, however, 24% of people are more likely to exercise 3 times a week than get their annual eye exam.   Yikes!

 

TAYE Gifographic_FINAL

 

I was unfortunately “blessed” with terrible vision and have gone to the eye doctor regularly since childhood.  Both my mom and dad (and sister for that matter) also have terrible vision so really there was no hope for me.  I remember getting headaches regularly and having to squint to see the chalkboard before getting my first pair of glasses.  Once I got them though my entire world changed and I could see again.  I have worn glasses since and switched to contact lenses in 6th grade.  Beyond just the power of sight the eye doctor can often make important health discoveries and I have my own share of stories to back this up and I am going to share them with you in hopes that they encourage you to take your ocular health seriously.

 

When I was pregnant with Bryn I had a pretty big ocular scare.  I woke up one morning and a central point in my vision was completely black.  I immediately went in to my eye doctor because I knew being as nearsighted as I am I am at increased risk for a retinal detachment.  Fortunately my retina was attached BUT I had a retinal bleed.  Had I not taken my eye health seriously this could have been a major problem but instead I was able to get right in to a retinal specialist and have my situation monitored.  Fortunately it ended up being just a slight tear and nothing crazy.  Another time I went to my annual eye exam and my eye doctor incidentally found the beginnings of a corneal ulcer.  She was able to catch it and initiate antibiotic treatment before it became exquisitely painful saving me a lot of grief.

 

So just like working your muscles via exercise or fueling your body properly via good nutrition, you should also make sure that you are tending to your eyes.  I am proud to be teaming up with the Think About Your Eyes campaign to bring you this message.  Think About Your Eyes is a national public awareness campaign that promotes the benefits of eye health, urging people to get annual comprehensive eye exams.  By getting your annual and comprehensive eye exam many eye problems, like my corneal ulcer, can be caught and treated when they are most manageable.  If you do not already have an eye doctor you go to, you can locate one through this locator.  You can also follow the campaign via Facebook or Twitter.

 

Do you regularly get eye exams?  Have you ever had them find something weird?

My Favorite Vitamins

This post was sponsored by Nature Made® as a part of an Influencer Activation for Influence Central.

 

Let’s talk vitamins today shall we?  As you guys know I try really hard to maintain a healthy and balanced diet, however, when life gets busy I sometimes find myself slacking.  This is why I have been supplementing my fairly healthy diet with vitamins for years now.  When I had the opportunity to work with Nature Made again I jumped at the chance!  Why?  Because Nature Made is the nation’s #1 best-selling brand for quality vitamins, minerals and supplements* to help support nutritional gaps.  I thought I would share with you some of my favorites today!

Nature Made Vitamins

 

Prenatal + DHA

Nature Made Prenatal

 

First off NO, I am not pregnant.  But I do take a Prenatal Multivitamin every single day.  It’s often recommended that women of childbearing years take a prenatal vitamin due to the addition of folic acid and iron.  Folic acid is extremely important in the early days of pregnancy in the prevention of neural tube defects.  Often times a woman doesn’t even know she’s pregnant until after a critical period of development.  I personally choose to take a prenatal so that on the off-chance I were to become pregnant I would already be taking the recommend amounts of folic acid.  DHA is a bonus for this reason as it helps to build baby’s brain, nervous system, and eyes.

 

Vitamin C

Nature Made Vitamin C

It’s no secret that Vitamin C helps to fortify the body’s natural immune system.  Given my “job” in healthcare I am exposed to all sorts of nasty things every single day.  Making sure I have enough Vitamin C on board helps me feel like I am protecting myself from illness.  Vitamin C functions in the body to help neutralize damaging free radicals and also plays a critical role in the synthesis of collagen.  Collagen is the substance that helps give you firmer, smoother skin but its production also begins to slow after the age of the 30.

 

Fish Oil

Nature Made Fish Oil

 

I think at this point we have all heard about fish oil but let me tell you a little bit about it.  Fish oil contains EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids that help to support heart health.  While research hasn’t conclusively shown it to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease it has shown to support this theory.  With my dad’s heart attack and subsequent quadruple bypass surgery a few years ago I have come to take heart health very seriously.  What I like about the Nature Made brand is that the fish oil comes from deep ocean fish and not fish that is farm raised.  They use super fancy purification processes to remove the mercury.

 

Other vitamins that I use frequently include:

  • Calcium – I have a pretty significant family history of osteoporosis and am at increased risk of developing it later in life.  Calcium plays an essential role in bone strength and health.  Calcium remains in careful balance in our body with about 99% staying in the bones and 1% circulating in the blood.  If our diet is inadequate then this balance, or homeostasis, is disrupted and our body can pull calcium from our bones to supplement the levels in our blood.
  • Vitamin D – Vitamin D goes hand-in-hand with calcium because Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium in your body.  Therefore Vitamin D also supports bone health.  Since Vitamin D is synthesized by the skin when exposed to UV light many people find themselves Vitamin D deficient in the winter months.

 

You can find Nature Made at most stores but I prefer to get mine from Walmart.  Walmart has an excellent selection at fabulous prices so there’s no need to wait for a sale.  There are also coupons frequently available online for you to save even more money!  Important to note – this is not to supplant your own healthcare provider’s advice.  Always talk to your PCP before starting any new vitamins/supplements and make sure to include them in your list of “medications” when asked!

 

I-C is giving you the chance though to win one of twenty $50 Walmart gift cards.  That would give you a lot of Nature Made vitamins!  The contest is open from February 10-March 4 and you can enter below.  I-C will randomly select the 20 winners from all program entries and will handle fulfillment of the prize!  You can also connect with Nature Made on Facebook and Twitter!

Nature Made Wellness 2


Do you take vitamins?  What is one that you find essential to your daily routine?

 

*Based in part on data reported by Nielsen through its Scantrack Service for the Vitamins Category for 52-week period ending 9/26/2015, for the xAOC, FDM, and FM Markets. Copyright © 2015 Nielsen

Heart Healthy Diet Made Simple!

I am super excited to have my friend Melanie guest posting for me today for American Heart Month!  We met when our husbands were stationed in Missouri and hit it off right away.  We also both have personal connections to heart disease and want to help others live heart health lives!
Hi Food, Fitness & Family readers!
I am Melanie, the RD and mom over at Nutritious Eats.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Madeline a few years ago when we lived in Missouri. She found me on Twitter and we realized we had a lot in common so we immediately scheduled a coffee date. After hitting it off (yes, making adult friends is often like dating, ha) we decided we’d be gym buddies for the short time period before she moved. Madeline inspired me a lot in that time we had together and I love that we are still long-distance friends.
I am so happy to be here today to share some info on a heart healthy diet.
Heart health is one that is near and dear to my heart. My dad had his first heart attack when he was 38! I was just a tiny toddler but I remember a lot of lifestyle changes that my family undertook. My parents implemented family walks every night, healthy home-cooked meals, a careful watch on sodium intake. It was real. There were real life changes that needed to take place in order for my dad to stand a chance at surviving. Well fast forward 30+ years, Dad is still living a healthy lifestyle in Texas, post heart-transplant. And just to keep it real, he has far exceeded the survival percentage of post-transplant patients. There is no doubt in my mind that a big part of that has to do with the dietary changes he made along the way.

So what does a heart-healthy diet look like?

1.  Plant-Based

FruitVegRibbet collage
Are you sick of hearing about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables? Well sorry, that advice isn’t going anywhere! The scientific data all support the same claim and that is that people who eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily have a reduced risk of stroke and heart attack. Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber and no pill or juice will replace them.

2.  Good Fats

Heart.Healthy-1
Research has changed over time regarding our fat intake (no more fat-free diets, yay!) and rather than focus too much on saturated fat, so let’s focus on the heart healthy fats you should be eating. Monounsaturated fats can protect people against heart disease by reducing blood pressure. Foods high in monounsaturated fats include olive oil, olives, avocado and nuts such as peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, pine nuts and pistachios. Chose these over high saturated fat foods like high-fat meats, whole-milk dairy and fried foods.

3.  High Fiber

Heart.Healthy-2
Soluble fiber can help reduce cholesterol by grabbing onto it as it pulls it out of your body, as well as helping to lower blood pressure. Foods high in soluble fiber are oat and rice bran, oatmeal, barely, beans, peas and lentils, vegetables such as brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes and squash, fruits such as berries, apricots, pears, strawberry, peaches, apples, seeds and nuts-yep those nuts again!

4.  Low in Refined Carbohydrates

Low-quality carbs include sugary foods, soft drinks, baked goods, anything made with white flour. These foods cause a spike in insulin which then leads to a rise in triglycerides. Instead aim for high-quality carbs like oatmeal, wild or brown rice, quinoa and other whole grains and don’t overdo your portions of these types of food.

5.  Limited Salt

Sodium in small doses is necessary for body function, however too much will draw excess fluid into the blood which can cause high blood pressure. Limit added salt to food, replace it with no-salt seasoning, spices and herbs. Read food labels and chose brands with less sodium and limit your intake of high sodium condiments like pickles, canned foods, soy sauce, marinades, etc. In 2010 the American Heart Association changed the recommendations to state that Americans consume less than 1,500 mg/day sodium, which is the level with the greatest effect on blood pressure; this recommendation does not apply to athletes, people who work in conditions where they are exposed to excessive heat or any else advised by their healthcare provider.

6.  B Vitamins (Folate, B6, B12)

B vitamins have been shown to lower homocysteine levels, an amino acids and breakdown of protein metabolism, in the body. High homocysteine relates to a higher level of heart disease. Focus on food sources high in B Vitamins like oatmeal, peas, beans, lentils, spinach, mustard and turnip greens, broccoli, beets, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, berriesand fortified whole grain cereals and bread.

Sample Heart-Healthy Menu

Breakfast
Banana-Peanut Butter Oatmeal
One serving (1/2 cup dry) oatmeal cooked in water, non-dairy milk or low-fat milk. Topped with 1 Tablespoon of peanut butter, 1/2 banana and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup and cinnamon.
Snack
1 cup Greek yogurt topped with 1/2 cup berries (fresh or frozen)
Lunch
Spinach Salad with Beets, Goat Cheese and Walnuts (Grilled Chicken optional)
A large bowl of baby spinach topped with dried cranberries, walnuts, tomato halves, sliced beets and goat cheese. Toss with a couple teaspoons of olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice.
Snack
Apple
Dinner
Packed with vegetables, beans, tomatoes, serve this high fiber dish with a simple tossed salad.
Snack
So there you have it! Not too difficult, right? These simple nutrition and lifestyle changes you can make can really turn around your risk factors for heart disease.  Thanks for reading!
What is your favorite way to get in heart healthy foods?

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Hunting the Good Stuff

*There’s still time to enter my Sunglasses Shop giveaway!  Enter HERE.

 

My parents divorced when I was pretty little so I grew up living with just my mom.  She’s a pretty incredible person and I am lucky to call her mine.  That being said, it was eleven years before she married my step-dad which meant for eleven years it was just her and I.  Well, except when my brother-in-law Mark lived with us before my sister’s wedding and when Heather lived with us while Mark was at Notre Dame for his MBA.  I cherish a lot of the family traditions she started with me and plan to carry on many of them to my own family.  One thing we always did was eat dinner together at the dinner table.  Naturally she often had candles and classical music playing (she’s super mom I swear).  We would talk about our day and she would ask what random act of kindness I did for someone else, and what was something awesome that happened to me.  Half the time I would roll my eyes and come up with something but looking back I realize she was teaching more than I ever knew.

 

As you guys know, I recently attended Master Resiliency Training through Army Community Services on Fort Stewart.  I am loving sharing some of the things I learned in the hopes that it touches your life the way it did mine.  One of the things we learned was to hunt the good stuff.  Hunting the good stuff means taking stock at the end of the day about what good things happened that day.  The best way to reflect on the good stuff is to sit down and journal it.  Hunting the good stuff helps reinforce the positive in our lives and cherish the moments that matter.  It’s absolutely key for putting problems and situations in perspective.

 

Little did I know that I have been hunting the good stuff all my life thanks to my mom.  Her daily dose of positivity is probably why optimism and hope are high on my character strengths.  Granted my mom holds a masters degree in counseling so it doesn’t surprise me that she was training me to be a resilient person 😉  I still take a special moment before bed to sit down and count my blessings from the day.

 

So I challenge you to think about hunting the good stuff today.  When your day is over and before you go to bed, sit down and take a moment to reflect.  Our lives get crazy busy and between the hustle and bustle everyday memories and moments can be lost.  Hold on tight to those and use that positive energy to keep you centered and your outlook bright.  Teach your kids to hunt the good stuff now to help them be more resilient later.

 

Here is a some of my good stuff from the weekend:

 

Hunt the Good Stuff

 

Emmie playing in the bounce house at the Bark for Life event.

Emmie coloring and playing with dad.

A picnic in the park with my family.

A great church service … homily was on the prodigal son which is a favorite of mine.

Emmie after our group run on Sunday.

Not a surprise that so much of my good stuff involves the Emster 😉

 

What is some of your good stuff?

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Knowing Your Strengths

Happy Monday friends!  I hope you all had a great weekend :)  We sure did over here!  A lot of it was spent getting our house back together after my busy week last week.

 

On that note, I had an incredible week last week attending the Master Resiliency Training offered by the Army Community Services branch on For Stewart.  In a nutshell, MRT is a program designed by the University of Pennsylvania that teaches (or enhances) you to bounce back and not break when faced with adversity and problems.  I learned a TON of information, techniques, and things about myself in the process.  I consider myself lucky in the sense that I have a platform to bring some of this incredibly helpful information to others (YOU!).  So over the next couple of weeks I intend to write a little bit about some of the MRT concepts and techniques.

 

1-know-self

 

Part of the MRT course is dedicated to learning more about yourself by drawing on your strengths.  We took an online questionnaire that then ranked 24 character strengths.  Your top five scoring strengths were considered “signature strengths” … or the strengths you draw upon most often and come naturally.  My signature strengths are:

  • Zest, Enthusiasm, and Energy: Regardless of what you do, you approach it with excitement and energy.  You never do anything halfway or halfheartedly.  For you, life is an adventure.
  • Hope, Optimism, and Future-Mindedness: You expect the best in the future, and you work hard to achieve it.  You believe that the future is something that you can control.
  • Curiosity and Interest in the World: You are curious about everything.  You are always asking questions, and you find all subjects and topics fascinating.  You like exploration and discovery.
  • Industry, Diligence, and Perseverance: You work hard to finish what you start.  No matter the project you “get it out the door” in timely fashion.  You do not get distracted when you work, and you take satisfaction in completing tasks.
  • Spirituality, Sense of Purpose, and Faith: You have strong and coherent belief about the higher purpose and meaning of the universe.  You know where you fit in the larger scheme.  Your believes shape your actions and are a source of comfort for you.

 

Holy cow.  I can totally see myself in all of those things.  I didn’t necessarily like how low creativity, leadership, and self-control fell on my list though.  However, we learned that the strengths that were lower on our list were still strengths.  We just might have to work harder at them.  Knowing what our strengths are and what puts us out of comfort zone helps us personally and professionally.  I know that I can wear rose colored glasses when looking at the world.  I need a dose of reality every now and then.  Luckily, perspective lies high on Chris’ list so he keeps me grounded 😉

 

Know-Yourself

 

After learning about the different character strengths I feel like I am better prepared to work with others in groups, the work place, or just when dealing with friends and families.  I know what makes me tick and learning more about these helps me see how other people tick too.  The takeaway from this is that we all approach things a little different because we all think different.  It’s embracing the strengths in others, tapping on your own, and working to cultivate the ones that come harder that helps elevate us to a higher level of understanding.

 

If you’re an Army spouse, I highly recommend attending the MRT training through your local ACS!  If you’re interested in taking the quiz yourself you can do so HERE.  You will have to register and log-in but you shouldn’t get any spam.  It’s called the VIA Survey of Character Strengths!

 

What is one “strength” you think you have?  If you take the quiz, what’s your #1 signature strength?

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