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4 Kitchen Gadgets that Support Healthy Eating

By: Karin Junge, Sales Associate

When it comes to eating healthy, preparation is key. A good kitchen gadget can help you prepare healthy foods easier and faster, preserve healthy foods so they last longer or make healthy foods taste better. Here are my top 4 kitchen gadgets with ratings (E=easy, F=fast, P=preserve, T=taste):

4) Avocado Saver (P): This cool gadget allows you to save half of an avocado with the pit so it doesn’t turn brown and mushy!

3) Mango Cutter (E & F): Similar to an apple corer, the mango cutter cuts right around the pit so you don’t waste any of the meat of the mango.

2) Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Keeper (P): This container has holes like a colander and a removable top and bottom. You can add moister in the tray below or drain away moisture so that fruits and veggies don’t get soggy. It also has a venting system so you know which fruits and veggies need air or not. I have several in various sizes. I like to use them for lettuce, watermelon, berries, tomatoes and pineapple.

1) Blender (E, F & T): Not to promote a particular brand, but the Vitamix is pretty amazing. In seconds I can make smooth vegetable and fruit beverages, soups, sorbet and dips. It has helped me eat healthier and I use it almost every day. I love a good morning smoothie; my favorite includes: avocado, spinach, water, clementine, frozen pineapple and mango, and chia seeds. For dessert I like to make orange/mango sorbet. It’s so delicious (my son asks for it every night)!

Quitting Smoking: Reap the Benefits in Just 20 Minutes!

By: Carolyn Peterson, Worksite Services Manager

I grew up in the era when tobacco education was all about scaring people into quitting smoking or better yet, never starting. There were the jars of tar-like substance that represented what was ‘sticking’ in your lungs, the horrible pictures of a smokers’ lung and the endless statistics of people who die from tobacco related diseases. For some people this may have made a difference, but for others, it was ignored.

It seemed there should be a better way to encourage the smoker to stop or at least consider the benefits of not smoking. As a grantee from ClearWay Minnesota to bring tobacco cessation classes to the worksite, I had the opportunity to work closely with an amazing network of tobacco cessation counselors across the state. For the first time I saw this positive approach. I had not seen this information before and wanted all smokers to see it – look at what happens in just a month of not smoking!


Within 20 minutes after smoking last cigarette:

  • Blood pressure drops to normal
  • Pulse rate drops to normal rate
  • Body temperature of hands and feet increases to normal

After 8 hours:

  • Carbon monoxide level in blood drops to normal
  • Oxygen level in blood increases to normal

After 24 hours:

  • Chance of heart attack decreases

After 48 hours:

  • Nerve endings in the mouth and nose start to re-grow
  • Ability to taste and smell improves

After 72 hours:

  • Bronchial tubes relax, making breathing easier
  • Lung capacity increases
  • After two weeks to three months:
  • Circulation improves
  • Walking becomes easier
  • Lung function increases up to 30%

After one to nine months:

  • Coughing, sinus congestion, fatigue, and shortness of breath decrease
  • Cilia re-grow in lungs, increasing ability to handle mucus, cleaning the lungs, and reducing infection
  • Body’s overall energy level increases

This February, a.k.a. Heart Health Month, think of the benefit to your heart in just after 24 hours of being smoke-free. Let’s share this with anyone ready to reap the benefits.

This information was adapted from materials provided by the National Cancer Institute.

Small Choices Make an Impact on Health

By: Mary Kruse, President

I often have to remind myself that my daily decisions have a real impact on my health.

I lost my dad to heart disease when I was 25. He had his first heart attack when he was 38…really??? He was in his prime! It was not surprising as my Grandpa died of a heart attack when my dad was 12. Wow, talk about family history!

Although my lifestyle has been very different than my Dad's, there will always be the thread that attaches me to the risk of heart disease. Heart month is a great reminder that my everyday choices do make a difference.

  • I have a stand-up desk that I’m using as I write
  • I have the smell of orange on my fingers from my morning snack
  • The lunch I packed is based on veggies and fruit
  • I will walk with my colleagues after lunch for a 15 minute spin around the parking lot
  • I will work out for 30 minutes when I get home…the elliptical is the most rigorous, but I have come to realize that 30 minutes of Dance, Dance Revolution with my daughter or walking the dogs thru the woods does far more to ground me in fun and relaxation that I cherish.

I am far from perfect—I love to munch on chocolate, like to snuggle with my couch, have to motivate myself to move, and enjoy a delectable restaurant meal.

My strong family history of heart disease is nothing I can change, but I know that the little decisions I make every day allow me to be happy and most importantly healthy.

Don’t wait until a disease engulfs you. Enjoy each day by focusing on the little things that make a difference.

Resting Metabolic Assessment

By: Crystal Miller, Fitness Center Operations Manager

Wouldn’t it be great if you knew exactly how many calories you need in order to lose fat? The key is to know your resting metabolic rate. By measuring the amount of oxygen you consume and the amount of carbon dioxide you exhale, we are able to measure the number of calories you need to lose, maintain, or gain weight!

A common assumption about losing weight is “the less I eat, the more weight I will lose”. If your caloric balance goes below your resting metabolic rate, your body senses danger and could shut down; resulting in illness, injury, etc. It would be like trying to drive a car without any gas. Your body works the same way!

Your resting metabolism is the amount of energy necessary to do all the things your body does at rest, like breathing and thinking as you read this blog. Your total metabolic rate is the number of calories your body needs on an average day. This is determined by multiplying your resting metabolic rate by an activity factor determined by your daily activities; basically the activity in your day from the time you wake up until you go to bed (very light, light, moderate and heavy). 

A 10 to 15 minute resting metabolic assessment requires you to fast for at least 12 hours and not engage in any exercise for 24 hours prior. It is conducted in a relaxed and quiet environment while wearing a mask and heart rate monitor.

Once you know your resting metabolic rate, it is easier to assess a weight loss, weight management or weight gain plan that will fit your goals! Knowing your caloric needs is just one more tool you can add to your wellness toolbox.

Leadership and Fitness

Paul Batz shares his thoughts on how he blends fitness into his life.

Photo Caption: This picture is affectionately labeled “fat Paul.” Fortunately that was years ago. My circle of friends, and a couple thousand people who read my blog, know about my not-so-private fitness journey. I’ve found the public pressure (humiliation?) to be motivating.

Good leaders make a habit of facing their fitness challenges head-on and find inspiration in the everyday people who surround them.
Last week my golfing buddies gathered in a comrade’s basement for the annual “Planning Meeting.” The host was Steve Blexrud, a financial services entrepreneur who lives in a southern suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul. As “Blexie” led us to the basement party suite, he stopped to show off his workout room. “This used to be a home office,” he said with pride… “But we moved the office to the living room, so we could make this cool gym. I love it and I use it 6 times a week!”

In our coaching work and research, ‘fitness’ is always the lowest of the Seven Fs in satisfaction when we survey a full audience – and it’s ALSO the lowest priority. Those facts make for an easy joke when I’m speaking…but the mutual suffering doesn’t help the undeniable resistance people feel about getting in shape. Including me.

That’s why guys like Blexie really motivate me to find the joy in my Fitness journey. He’s turning 50 this month and his attitude is contagious. “I gotta take care of the Temple,” he said. “Fitness for me is one of the most important Fs!” he added. “And with this new gym, I’m now a Fitness Video guy…I just love the jumping around, stretching and stuff. It makes me feel young. I love it!”
Hmmm…as an entrepreneur who is largely self-insured, fitness is taking on new meaning. “Super-preferred” status with the insurance companies drops the premiums significantly on life and disability policies. And, with co-pays and deductibles as high as the Empire State building, it sure pays to be in better shape.

So my quest is to find a way to actually enjoy Fitness…I teach the concept of “blending” …so, when the weather cooperates, I can take a conference call while walking around in the parking lot of my office building. Thirty minutes (about 2 miles) of blending my personal and professional life…and it feels great.
Good leaders make a habit of facing their fitness challenges head-on and find inspiration in the everyday people who surround them.

Reflection: How would your leadership be better if your fitness improved?

Thank you for sharing your journey Paul! Find out more about Paul, Good Leadership and the 7 F’s on his websites: and

Why Screen at Work?

By: Julie Broberg, Program Coordinator/Health Coach

As companies continue to see worksite wellness as an important component of their overall business strategy, biometric health screenings are on the rise. During a biometric screening, measurements such as blood pressure, BMI, cholesterol and glucose are taken. Biometric screenings combined with a review of personal results with a health educator or coach can enhance an individual’s knowledge of their health status.

Over the years I have witnessed the impact and the teachable moments that biometric screenings can provide to employees. I have talked to many individuals who learned something new about their health by going through a biometric screening at work. The results prompted them to take positive steps to make changes.

Screenings also provide invaluable data and insights that allow employers to implement intervention and incentive strategies to improve employee wellness, health and productivity.

Here are just a few comments I collected from screening participants over the last year:

“I was surprised by how much this screening helped me want to take steps toward improving my health.”

“I really appreciated that this process was so informative and that I was given suggestions to improve my health. I am looking forward to implementing these suggestions.”

“Last year during the health screening my high blood sugar was discovered. I am now taking steps to keep my glucose numbers in control.”

As a health coach, my goal is to continue to help individuals make the connection between their health behaviors and health outcomes. A simple health screening event is a great place to start this conversation.

Friends Nourish the Body and Soul

Blog contributed by: Blue Zones

Cornell University polled 100 people in 2011 and found the average American had only two friends with whom they would confide important, personal matters. During times of high stress, friendships have a tendency to fade into the background, while work and family take center stage, battering themselves into the foreground of our lives. Research shows this is a mistake and in fact, counterproductive to maintaining your physical, mental and emotional well-being! Here are some consequences of social isolation and a few tips on how to build and keep the right tribe to improve your health, happiness and even life expectancy!

3 Consequences of Social Isolation:

1) Effects on the Body and Mind
Research shows stress hormones spike while feelings of self-worth plummet in response to negative situations. Friends, however, have a protective effect on both of these body and mind responses. Simply being with a best friend during a stressful event, such as an argument, bullying or deliberate peer rejection, reduces the levels of stress hormones that would normally flood the body and stabilize feelings of self-worth, thus acting as a social buffer.

2) Diminishes Longevity
The mortality risk for people who find themselves socially isolated is equal to that caused by obesity and physical inactivity. Having close relationships, in fact, increases your life span at a rate equal to that of quitting smoking! Dr. James House at the University of Michigan found the chance of dying over a period of 10 years increases by 10 % for people who live alone or have only a few friends compared to people with more friends and family.

3) Physically Disabling
Dr. John Cacioppo from the University of Chicago and Dr. Steve Cole from UCLA, prominent social psychologists, are experts at determining effects of loneliness on health. They show people who are socially isolated have less protection against contracting and fighting off infections. They also have higher rates of cancer, heart disease, heart attacks and strokes than people with more social connections. This is partly due to an increased level of inflammation in the body, which causes lonely people to have higher blood pressure (up to 30 points!) and heart rate.

3 Tips for Building a Social Safety Net

1) Engage in a Weekly Activity
Join a club or engage in an activity that captures your interest. There are many organizations that meet weekly. Sports enthusiasts can join a recreational sports club. Social dance groups (i.e. salsa, swing, ballroom, etc.) benefit physical and mental health, in addition to providing a platform for meeting new people. According to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, dancing is also the only physical activity shown to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, plummeting the chance of developing either disease by a striking 76%! This effect was greater than that of other mentally stimulating activities such as reading, doing crossword puzzles and playing instruments.

2) Volunteer!
According to a Duke study, volunteering just 2 hours every week produces significant health benefits, including increased happiness and longevity, an added bonus! Pick a program that ties to your interests. Making friends with similar interests increases the chance of positive interactions, improves the emotional stability of the relationship and increases the likelihood of joint extracurricular activities!

3) Get Out With Your Dog
An increasing number of coffee shops and businesses are allowing people to bring their dogs on-site. Animals are great conversation starters and can help break the ice when meeting new people. If you have a social dog, visit the dog park or take your dog for a walk in a public place to encourage people to approach you. Alternatively, you can enroll in an obedience or agility class to meet other pet owners in a more structured environment (and improve your relationship with your dog)!
Fostering close friendships is crucial to increasing longevity and maintaining your health. By creating a social “safety net,” you can protect yourself from depression, anxiety and physical ailments to promote a long, healthy life!

Visit the Blue Zones website for additional Live Longer, Better tips!

Body Fat, BMI and Waist Circumference

by Greta Belanus, Senior Fitness Specialist

There are 2 kinds of body fat: essential and storage. Essential fat is found in your organs, bone marrow, and nerve coverings and is vital for your body to function. Men have 2-4% essential body fat and women have 10-12% essential body fat. Storage fat is the extra stuff. We get it from consuming more calories than we spend. It is used for temperature regulation, hormone production and energy and vitamin storage. For women, a healthy body fat percentage is between 14% and 31%. For men, a healthy body fat percentage is between 6% and 24%. Athletes, fitness gurus, and weekend warriors may find body fat percentage to be useful for goal setting and sport performance; however it is rarely used during medical exams as a biometric tool.

The distribution of body fat is perhaps more important than body fat percentage. Fat concentrated around the midsection places you at greater risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. Waist circumference is a good predictor of these disease risks. To obtain your waist circumference, place a measuring tape around the smallest part of your waist (usually above the navel). For women, a waist circumference greater than 35 inches is considered at risk and for men, waist circumference greater than 40 inches is considered at risk. 

Body mass index (BMI) is a ratio of weight to height (weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared). It is a great measure of health risk for obese individuals (BMI > 30 kg/m2) but because it does not include the amount of muscle mass or information on fat distribution it doesn’t give useful information to athletic or lean individuals. For individuals of average weight, waist circumference is a better measure of health risk because of the insight it gives on fat distribution.

Body fat percentage is a useful measure for athletes while BMI is useful for obese individuals, particularly in a medical setting. Waist circumference is useful for everyone. To find your BMI, use the BMI calculator at:  

Happy New Year!

By Ed Boyle, CEO

Happy New Year! It is the time of resolutions for the New Year and reflection on the year past. How did you do on last year’s promises? Like many, January and February were good; however, as the year progressed and the winter turned to spring, resolutions seemed to fade away…it happens every year!

I think an issue with resolutions is that the objective is just too big– they are just too grand to conquer and then very easy to abandon for another year. Resolutions require behavior change and behavior change should be tackled in small manageable parts. Don’t say, I am going to run a marathon this year – which is an enormous task – because the minimum recommended training schedule is 18 – 20 weeks – why not start out with I am going to get 1 hour of exercise 3 – 4 days per week and then go do it! Afterwards, set your sights on a 5K race – sign up and train for it; then a 10K race and so on. Try to think in terms of 5 – 7 weeks at a time with each new period having another new resolution.

My point being, make small incremental changes over time. Accomplish one, celebrate it and set your sights on a new level.

Remember, there are no quick fixes! As Stephen Covey wrote, you cannot talk your way out of something you behaved your way into – in another words, you cannot quickly change an unhealthy behavior that you’ve developed over many, many years.

Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Set yourself on a course for success by taking small measurable steps to change. Success breeds success.

My resolutions:

  • Gluten free for 3 months
  • Alcohol consumption to 1 – 2 drinks per week
  • No less than 12 visits to the gym per month; mixed cardio, cross training and strength training
  • Drop 5 pounds
  • Evaluate in April and recalibrate

What are yours?

Your Family’s Greatest Gift is You!

By Mary Kruse, President

My Mom loved to entertain and Christmas was a time for the extended family and friends to reunite. Christmas Eve was about catching up, good food, party libations and laughing a lot. Christmas Eve was one of my fondest memories.

It was Christmas Eve and I was 12. I was abruptly woken to my Dad having a heart attack. Rather than tearing into presents Christmas morning we spent it at the hospital with my Dad.

Although I was young, I learned quickly that Christmas wasn’t about presents; it was about having the ones we love in good health and by our side. That emotional Christmas was 40 years ago; it still feels like yesterday. The greatest gift you can give your family is taking care of “you” and making your health a priority.