Bored of your Cardio Routine? Give the Stairmaster a Try!

Take a look around the cardio section of any fitness center and you’ll likely see rows upon rows of treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes, most of them occupied. You then turn around and head back over to the stretching section, anxiously waiting for your turn. “30 minute limit?!?” you sarcastically mutter to yourself as you wait. However, over in the back corner, there stands one, or maybe two, large contraptions that never seem to have anyone using them. That large contraption is the Stairmaster, arguably the most underappreciated and underutilized piece of cardio equipment that many of us never even knew existed. Here’s a few reasons why you should give it a try!

  1. Joint-Friendly: Stair climbing offers a low impact form of cardio that is easy on the joints and does not force our bodies into positions that reinforce faulty movement patterns. Anyone with hip, knee, or lower back discomfort may find this mode of exercise to be beneficial. Just remember to stand up straight and not slump over the handrails!
  2. Total Leg Development: There may be no better piece of cardio equipment that requires the constant use of ALL the muscles of the lower body. Not just limited to the glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and calves, stair climbing allows for proper weight shifting from hip to hip which utilizes the abductors and adductors, key muscle groups that contribute to pelvic and knee stabilization.
  3. Functionality: In this day and age of “functional training”, where we train ourselves in a way so that our gains will carry over to performance during activities of daily living, stair climbing is a must. Being able to climb stairs is a task that most of us have to do everyday without giving it much thought. However, as we age, maintaining this ability becomes more difficult, thus making the decisions on what type of exercise to perform even more important. If you believe in the “use it or lose it” approach, and I certainly hope that you do, the only way to get better at climbing stairs or maintain your ability to climb stairs is to….climb stairs!
  4. Effectiveness: I won’t lie to you; the Stairmaster is tough. Even climbing at relatively slow speeds will be sure to increase your heart rate and have you pouring sweat quicker than other forms of cardio you may be used to doing. And for those of you that are into high intensity interval training (and if you’re not, you should be!), it makes a great training tool for that as well.

So what are you waiting for? Don’t be stuck in the same boring cardio routine any longer. Give the ol’ treadmill, elliptical, or stationary bike a break, and start climbing!

Image result for stairmaster

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40 Things you can Do Today to End Mindless Eating

by Staci O’Connor MS, RD, CDN

Take a walk / Drink a glass of water / Chew gum / Call a friend / Make a “To Do” list / Floss and brush your teeth / Read a great book / Flip through a magazine / Give yourself a manicure / Write up a healthy meal plan for yourself and your family / Play a card game / Play a game on the internet / Take 5 slow, deep breaths / Cuddle with your child and read them a book / Start a new hobby / Knit / Shuffle cards / Dance / Make a healthy meal for your family / Walk your dog / Do a few push-ups / Clean out a junk draw / Take a hot soothing bath / Look at pictures / Fold laundry / Start a new project that you have been wanting to get to / Plan a date night for your significant other / Meditate / Help your child with their homework / Take a bike ride / Do some yard work / Clean out your closet / Do some stretches / Update your calendar / Set goals for yourself / Make a list that you can post of your “Top Reasons to Get More Active” / Practice an instrument / Pet your cat / Balance your checkbook / Get a massage

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Are you hungry or stressed?

by Staci O’Connor MS, RD, CDN

Have you ever noticed that when you get stressed out about work or with family life that you find yourself reaching for high-calorie, sweet, and fatty foods?  While some people may lose their appetite or may even get sick to their stomach, others might be conditioned to soothe themselves with food.  There are steps that you can take to regain control of your eating habits since stress eating is a learned response.

So you may ask be asking yourself…how can I break this habit?

Since stress eating is an emotional response that becomes automatic over time, to break the habit you are going to have to learn a new habit.  The next time that you feel stressed, try to feel the sensation, stop, sit down, try to engage in deep breathing, feel it, and see what happens.  It is important to stop and think, ask yourself are you actually hungry or just craving food in response to stress.  What will usually happen is the feeling will dissipate and you won’t feel hungry any more.  By repeating this pattern over time it will become a new habit.

Other food alternatives may include either regular exercise, which may help prevent stress, or exercising when you feel stressed to help manage the stress.  Instead of running into the kitchen or to the nearest vending machine, get up from your desk and go for a walk, or give yourself a break.  Take the time to stop what you are doing and step away from the situation for a while and distract yourself with a more pleasant topic.  Make a list of what is actually stressing you out and make a plan for the next time to control the situation.  Even consider keeping a journal and record your feelings.  This will help you make connections between what you are feeling and the choices that you make.  Consider trying meditation and visualize a peaceful place or listen to some classical music to calm yourself down. Finally, even consider trying something fun, play a game, watch a movie, call and hang out with a friend, or even dance!

It may take some time, but you can retrain yourself to eat only when you are hungry and not stressed.  Learning to tell the difference between hunger and stress is the first step and then finding other outlets to satisfy your emotional hunger is the next step.  Keep with it and you can regain control of your eating habits!



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Getting over the hump of starting a new exercise program; 10 Tips to Stay Committed

We all know that taking that first step to committing to a new exercise program is one of the hardest steps to take.  The next big obstacle we face is how do we successfully stick to that program.  Here are 10 pointers to help you stick to that new program and set you up for success:

  • Do it for yourself, be ready to make the commitment to the new program.
  • Treat exercise time as an appointment, even if you are working out by yourself.
  • Pick a realistic program that you can stick to.
  • Set small goals within your biggest goal.
  • Reward yourself with non-food and non-monetary things.
  • Tie your reasoning or goals to your health.
  • Know that results you can see are not always immediate. Focus on the positive things you may not be able to see, but rather how you feel when you exercise.  Do you have more energy?  Are you more alert?
  • Know that working out is about intensity and frequency, not necessarily time.
  • Find a workout buddy or share your goals with someone who will help hold you accountable.
  • Switch it up every 6-8 weeks

No matter how you approach your new workout plan, trust the process.  There will be hard days and easier days, just always remember to take it one step at a time.

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Beach Workout

The summer season is really here and time on the beach looks better than time in the gym.  But did you know you can move your workout to the beach to get both in!  See the beach workout below:

Warmup with a light jog on the beach or high knees for 5 minutes.  Then perform each exercise for 20-30 seconds, 2-3 times.  Be sure to stay hydrated outdoors.

Squat Jumps

Walking Lunges


Plank Walks (on forearms)

Crab Walks

Side Ski Hops

Cool down with a dip in the water or walk down the beach!

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Healthy Grilling Recipes

After a busy day, fire up the grill and try one of the below quick recipes for your family.  Try to stop by a local farmer’s market on your way home to add colorful in-season and delicious produce that will add terrific taste, texture, and powerful nutrients to your day!

 Grilled Sirloin Salad

Yield:  4 servings (serving size: 3 ounces steak and 3 cups salad)


  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound lean boneless sirloin steak, trimmed
  • 8 cups spring-blend salad greens
  • 1 1/2 cups red bell pepper strips
  • 1 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1(8 3/4-ounce) can whole-kernel corn, drained and rinsed


  1. Combine first 7 ingredients; rub over both sides of steak.
  2. Heat a nonstick grill pan over medium-high heat. Add steak; cook 5 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Cut the steak across grain into thin slices.
  3. While steak cooks, combine salad greens and remaining ingredients in a large bowl; toss well to coat. Top with steak.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 278; Total fat: 8.7 g; Sat fat: 2.7 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 320 mg; Total carbohydrate: 22g; Fiber: 6.1 g; Protein: 30.4 g


Spinach Salad with Grilled Shrimp



  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper


  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon grated peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Cooking spray


  • 8 cups baby spinach (about 8 ounces)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced shiitake mushroom caps (about 4 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup thinly vertically sliced red onion


  1. Prepare grill.
  2. To prepare dressing, combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl; stir well with a whisk. Set aside.
  3. To prepare shrimp, combine 2 teaspoons olive oil and next 6 ingredients (through shrimp) in a large bowl; toss well. Thread about 5 shrimp onto each of 6 (8-inch) skewers. Place skewers on a grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 3 minutes or until done.
  4. To prepare salad, add spinach, mushrooms, and onion to vinegar mixture; toss gently to coat. Serve with shrimp skewers.

Nutritional Information: Calories: 181; Total fat: 5.9 g; Sat fat: 0.9 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 478 mg; Total carbohydrate: 6.9 g; Fiber: 1.3 g; Protein: 24.8 g

Grilled Halibut and Fresh Mango Salsa


  • 2 cups plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups diced peeled ripe mango
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4(6-ounce) halibut fillets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Prepare grill.
  2. Combine first 7 ingredients. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and garlic.
  3. Rub halibut with oil; sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Place fish on grill rack; grill 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Serve with mango

Nutritional Information: Calories: 295; Total fat: 7.8 g; Sat fat: 1.1g; Cholesterol: 54 mg; Sodium: 687mg; Total carbohydrate: 19.5 g; Fiber: 2.8 g; Protein: 37g

Vegetable Mixed Grill

Serves 6 as a side dish


3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 Japanese eggplants, halved lengthwise
2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise
2 red bell peppers, stemmed and seeded
2 portobello mushroom caps, stems and gills removed
1 pound asparagus, trimmed

4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons fresh chives, thinly sliced


  1. Build a medium-hot fire on the grill. While the grill heats up, whisk the lemon juice, garlic, thyme, mustard, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil until combined. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the vinaigrette for serving.
  2. Add the vegetables to the remaining vinaigrette and toss to evenly coat. Grill the vegetables over direct heat, flipping and moving as necessary, until uniformly browned and tender, 10 to 12 minutes.
  3. Transfer the vegetables to a serving platter and sprinkle with the goat cheese and chives. Drizzle with the reserved 2 T of vinaigrette and serve.

Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 260; Total fat: 20 g; Sat fat: 6 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 320 mg; Total carbohydrate: 13 g; Fiber: 5 g; Sugars: 7 g; Protein: 8 g



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A Simple Guide to Grilling!

by  Staci O’Connor MS, RD, CDN

Grilling season is in full swing!  Grilling is a quick cooking method over a relatively hot fire and is best used for small cuts of meat such as:  steak, chicken breast, burgers, fruits and vegetables, and even pizza.  Grilling vegetables is easy but they do need some form of fat to achieve sufficient browning, so instead of bathing them in oil try a simple vinaigrette such as a lemon vinaigrette to provide not only additional flavor but to help the seasoning adhere to the vegetables.  Barbecuing, on the other hand, involves slow roasting of larger cuts of meat such as:  shoulders, legs, and ribs and is done over indirect heat using hardwood or charcoal and smoke.

Make sure that you have proper grilling tools such as: a good grill brush, sturdy tongs, and a stiff spatula.  In order to prevent food from sticking, make sure to preheat the grill grate until hot, clean thoroughly with the grill brush, and then oil the grate.  Grilling, more than barbecuing requires constant monitoring.  The goal is to have even cooking and nice caramelization.

Be aware that as grilling picks up so does the risk for food poisoning.  Make sure to wash your hands before, during, and after handling food(s) outside.  Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate.  Cook to proper temperatures.  Refrigerate promptly to 40° F or below.  Be sure to scrub the grill, outdoor utensils, coolers, and other containers with hot soapy water before cooking.  Stick to paper towels or wipes to clean up spills and dishtowels for clean dishes and clean hands.  Keep raw meats and ready-to-eat foods separate.  Use separate plates and utensils to handle raw foods and another set for cooked foods in order to prevent cross-contamination.  Wash all utensils in warm soapy water in between use.  When marinating meats, do not use the same brush to baste raw and cooked meats.  Always use a separate or just-washed brush to marinate raw and cooked meats and boil any leftover marinade before using it to season cooked meats.  One of the most important summer tools is a food thermometer so that you can make sure that food has been cooked to the proper temperature.  Steaks should be cooked to at least 145° F, hamburgers 160° F and chicken 165° F.

Foods that are meant to stay cold should be cold so make sure to stock plenty of ice / ice packs to keep foods at temperatures below 40° F.  Use a refrigerator thermometer in your cooler to make sure that foods are stored at proper temperatures.  Transport food in the air-conditioned back seat of your car instead of the hot trunk and once outside try to keep food in the shade and out of direct sunlight.  Remember the two or one-hour rule.  As temperatures go up, the amount of time that perishable foods can remain out of refrigeration goes down.  While foods typically follow the two-hour rule, in hot weather (90° F or above) this time is cut in half to one hour.  Try to remember to keep foods on ice and consider setting a kitchen timer or the alarm on your cell phone to remind you when food should be refrigerated.


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