Live Better In 2008

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This month Eat Right Montana (ERM), a statewide coalition promoting healthy eating and active lifestyles, is celebrating its 10th anniversary. Since 1999, ERM has been providing Montanans of all ages with practical nutrition and fitness advice.

"Eat Right Montana has been an important partner since the beginning of Shape up Montana and Big Sky Fit Kids," said Suzie Eades Wood, Operations Director with Big Sky State Games in Billings. "We are delighted to share ERM's positive nutrition tips with our adult and youth participants again in 2008. The ERM nutrition information is just what busy, stressed-out Montana families need to make their 2008 New Year's resolutions become a reality."

Each year, ERM chooses a theme for its 12 monthly packets. The 2008 theme is just what the doctor ordered for today's 24-hour, 7-day-a-week lifestyles - It's All About Balance: Eat Smart, Play Hard, Rest Well. Along with ongoing healthy eating and active lifestyle tips, ERM is adding a new monthly feature for 2008 - an easy, delicious, and healthy recipe.

As a certified personal trainer, Wood is a firm believer in the importance of balance. "Both of our team wellness programs are based on a foundation of good nutrition and physical activity. You can't get the benefits of one without the other. Shape Up Montana is a three month, interactive program to help adults develop healthy eating habits and activity patterns. Big Sky Fit Kids is the youth component that encourages groups of kids (at school or after-school) to increase their activity levels. This year, we are adding breakfast to our competition, because we know that a balanced breakfast really makes a difference in a child's day."

Ways to Live and Feel Better in 2008

* Eat smart. Build your healthy eating style on a foundation of balanced meals. Any smart meal starts with healthy servings of colorful fruits and vegetables, adds the goodness of whole grains, and includes the power of protein. Smart eating deserves better beverages - so drink milk with your meals and water with snacks.

* Play hard. The key to getting active and staying active at any age is enjoyment. When you play hard and have fun, you are more likely to make physical activity an everyday habit. Both children and adults need plenty of active 'playtime,' at least 30 to 60 minutes a day of biking, walking, dancing, swimming, skiing, snowshoeing, and general running around.

* Rest well. Surveys indicate that Americans generally do not get enough sleep, which may contribute to a number of existing problems. Getting enough sleep (7 to 8 hours for adults, more for children) helps with a healthy weight and better grades in school. For overall health and for academic success, a good night's sleep is important for all Montanans.

"Getting in shape and feeling better is actually simpler than you may think," notes Wood. "Shape Up Montana and Big Sky Fit Kids are ready and waiting to provide the support and information you need for a happy, healthy new year!'

Four Tasty Ways to Enjoy Balanced Meals and Snacks

They used to be called 'square meals' and your grandparents probably ate them three times a day. With today's busy lifestyles, many people graze throughout the day - consuming large amounts of highly processed, high-fat, high-sugar foods and beverages. Getting balance back into your meals and snacks will have immediate and long-term benefits. When you consume the right balance of calories and nutrients for your body, you'll feel better and have more energy immediately. You'll also give your body what it needs for a long and healthy life. The goal of making smarter choices is to enjoy more nutrient-rich foods and beverages.

* Start with fruits and vegetables. Produce is the place to begin planning a balanced meal for two reasons. First, fruits and veggies provide a nearly perfect nutrient-rich package. They are low in fat and calories, cholesterol-free, and packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant nutrients. Secondly, many American adults and most children do not eat the recommended amounts of produce. At lunch or dinner, divide your plate in half with an imaginary line - and fill half with tasty veggies and fruits.

* Add in the goodness of whole grains. Minimally-processed whole grains, like whole wheat bread, multi-grain cereal, oatmeal, brown rice, and whole grain pastas, are also rich in nutrients and flavor. Like all plant foods, they are good sources of fiber and antioxidants. Enriched grain products are fortified with several of the vitamins and minerals removed with the bran during processing. On the other side of your plate's imaginary line, divide that half into quarters - and fill one quarter of the plate with grains.

* Include the power of protein foods. Perhaps you've been wondering what goes into that empty quarter of your plate? The power of protein, of course! And, there are plenty of delicious ways to get the protein your muscles crave, including lean beef, pork, lamb, fish, seafood, chicken, turkey, legumes (dried beans and peas), and reduced-fat dairy foods (cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt, and milk). You'll get plenty of protein from 2-3 ounces of lean meat or the equivalent (like 1/2 cup beans) per meal.

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* Choose your beverages wisely. It's time to re-think your drink - and move away from sugary beverages with lots of calories and no nutrient value. Here's a simple rule of thumb for getting the fluid you need - and some important nutrients at the same time: Drink milk with meals and drink water with snacks. That would be three 8-ounce glasses of reduced-fat milk and 2-3 glasses of water - just enough for most folks to stay well-hydrated and meet their calcium needs throughout the day.

No one food group provides all the nutrients that your body needs for good health - so a variety of delicious foods from all groups is the best way to meet your daily nutrition needs. If you'd like more information on how to enjoy a nutrient-rich eating style, go to www.nutrientrichfoods.org for recipe and menu planning ideas, tips on navigating the grocery store, and ways to get the most out of MyPyramid.

Four Fun Ways to Enjoy a Balanced Fitness Routine

Just like balanced eating involves different food groups, a balanced fitness routine includes several interrelated components. Optimal fitness develops when you include some activities from all four components in your fitness routine. There is no need to do all activities every day of the week. In fact, rest is a very important part of a balanced fitness routine. The goal for both children and adults is to include each fitness component at least a couple of times per week. The key to success, for all age groups, is to put fun into every fitness activity. When you do physical activities that you enjoy, you are more likely to continue doing them.

* Get your heart pumping with aerobic activities. When many people think 'exercise', they think of an aerobic activity, like running or biking. While both are excellent aerobic activities and some people really enjoy them, they are just two of the many ways to get your heart pumping. An aerobic activity is any activity makes you breathe faster and more deeply, like brisk walking, playing basketball, dancing, or skipping down the sidewalk. Aim for a total of 30 to 60 minutes per day, at least 5 days out of the week.

* Build up your muscles with strength activities. Strength training isn't just for muscle men with gigantic barbells anymore. Age-appropriate strength training is vital from our first steps through old age. Research shows that even people in their 90's can improve muscular fitness. There are many different ways to improve strength - at the gym or fitness center (free weights or machines) and at home (resistance bands or water bottles). Aim for some strengthening activities 2 to 3 times per week, with a rest day in between.

* Keep yourself flexible with stretching activities. While aerobic and strength activities allow muscles to contract and flex, stretching activities provide the balance that muscles need to remain strong and flexible. Ideally, some stretching can be done every time you do some other activity, like a few arm stretches after lifting weights or some leg stretches after walking or running. Yoga and tai chi classes (or videos for home use) are excellent ways to enjoy the benefits of a full-body stretch.

* Maintain your core stability with balance activities. Being able to maintain your body's balance is important at all ages; it becomes even more critical as we get older. Losing one's balance is one of most frequent causes of injuries. Core muscles - in your back, abdomen, and pelvis - provide core stability for everyday balance. Like all muscles, your core muscles need strength, stretching, and practice to work properly. Yoga, Pilates, and stability ball activities are all excellent ways to practice balance and build a strong core.

In all physical activities, safety should be your number one consideration. An accident or injury can sideline you quickly - and put the best laid fitness plans on hold. If you have any concerns about your ability to participate in an activity, always check with your health care provider first. If you are a novice at any activity, get some instruction from a certified trainer or coach before you get going. Need some free tips to get started on a 2008 plan? Visit the Mayo Clinic Web site for doctor-approved advice at www.mayoclinic.com

Easy Chicken Barley Soup

Along with ongoing healthy eating and active lifestyle tips, ERM is adding a new monthly feature for 2008 - an easy, delicious, and healthy recipe. Our January recipe-of-the-month is Easy Chicken Barley Soup - thanks to noted Montana barley researcher Rosemary Newman, PhD, RD. All the It's All About Balance recipes will meet the following criteria:

* Require 8 ingredients (or less) that are easy to find and affordable
* Involve minimal preparation time and use common kitchen equipment
* Include a complete nutritional analysis and lots of delicious flavors

Ingredients:

* 4 cups chicken broth
* 1 cup diced cooked chicken
* 1/2 cup pearled barley
* 1 tablespoon dry minced onion
* 1 cup mixed vegetables (frozen or canned)
* 1 fresh tomato diced or 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes 1/2 teaspoon thyme, tarragon, or your favorite herb

Instructions:

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