Superfood Saturday: Peaches

Superfood Saturday: Peaches

August is National Peach Month, making it a great time to indulge in this sweet, juicy, nutritious and low-calorie fruit. Peaches are rich in vitamins A and C and also deliver niacin, folate, iron, potassium and manganese, among other vitamins and minerals. One fresh peach is approximately 60 calories and has two grams of fiber.

You might be surprised to learn that the peach tree is actually part of the rose family (as are plums and apricots). It”;s believed that the peach tree originated in China and spread westward. The first peach orchard in the United States was actually in Florida, though Georgia seems to get the most credit for their peach crops and is widely known as the “;Peach State”; due to the quantity they produce. While peaches are available year-round in the United States, they generally taste best and are more affordable during the summer months. Click here to learn how to know when fruits are in season >

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The United States has more than 300 varieties of peaches. Peaches are either yellow- or white-fleshed, though the vast majority in the U.S. are yellow. Peaches grown in Asia are typically white-fleshed.

When shopping for peaches, choose those that are firm to somewhat soft and free of bruises. The best indicator that a peach is ripe is the fruit”;s undertone, also known as its “;ground color.”; This should be dark yellow or golden. The red top color comes from sun exposure and isn”;t a ripeness indicator. A ripe peach also gives off that classic sweet peach smell.

There are many ways to eat a peach. Aside from eating them whole, peaches are also a great add-in for smoothies, salads or yogurt. They are also a great fruit to bake into recipes like waffles, pancakes or muffins.

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Here are three recipes where you can be creative with peaches and still enjoy all of their health benefits:
1. Grilled Peaches

If you”;ve never had a grilled peach, you”;re missing out! Grilling fruit, in general, caramelizes their sugar making the flavor even sweeter. Peach halves can be grilled for a delicious side or dessert. Click here to see the recipe! >

2. Peachy Green Ginger Smoothie

peaches recipe: peachy green ginger smoothie

A delicious blend of peach, banana and spinach make this a nutritious smoothie that”;s also packed with flavor. Combined with almond milk and fresh grated ginger, this peach-based smoothie is ultra-creamy. Click here to see the recipe! >

3. Blackberry Peach Upside Down Muffin-Cakes

peaches recipe: blackberry peach upside down cake

Is it a breakfast or a dessert? This light-and-airy muffin recipe combining blackberries and peaches is reminiscent of a cake but without all the butter or excess sugar. It makes a delicious morning sweet treat or can definitely be served as a healthy dessert. Click here to see the recipe! >

Safe Storage:

When it comes to storing peaches, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends keeping whole peaches in the refrigerator for up to five days after they ripen. Cooked peaches should be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator to keep fresh.

If peaches are too hard and still need to ripen, the USDA recommends placing them loosely in a closed paper bag at room temperature. Check daily until they are soft and sweet–;and ready to eat. For tips on how to keep all of your produce fresh, click here. >

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11 Sneaky Sources of Added Sugar

11 Sneaky Sources of Added Sugar

We”;re sorry to say it but taste aside, there”;s nothing sweet about added sugar. In fact, sugars of this kind are something of a silent killer. There are many sneaky sources of added sugar in your average grocery store. Consider this: According to a 2014 study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine, consuming 17 to 21 percent of daily calories from added sugars increased heart disease-related death risk by 38 percent.

That doesn”;t mean you can”;t eat added sugars at all: The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 100 calories per day of added sugar for women–;roughly 24 grams, and 150 per day for men–;about 36 grams. Luckily, it”;s about to get easier to determine how many added sugars you”;re consuming. That”;s because the “;Nutrition Facts”; label on packaged foods will soon be updated to include the added sugar content.

Until those changes are made, it”;s important to be informed of food sources that contain added sugar. Since this sneaky ingredient finds its way into more than just desserts, we”;ve pulled together a list of 11 sneaky sources of added sugar you may want to avoid (or at least compare options).

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1. Barbecue Sauce

Until the Nutrition Facts label is updated, the back of the bottle will just list “;sugars,”; but even that will shock you when it comes to barbecue sauce: According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture”;s nutrient database, just two tablespoons of one leading brand”;s sauce has nearly 12 grams of hidden sugar.

The key to finding sources of added sugar is to look at the ingredients list: Words like high fructose corn syrup, honey, cane sugar, brown sugar, dextrose, maltose, sucrose, syrup, molasses, evaporated cane juice, glucose, fruit juice concentrates, or agave nectar are code for added sugar. And on barbecue sauces, the first ingredient–;and thus, the ingredient with more weight in the product than any other–;is often high fructose corn syrup.

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2. Spaghetti Sauce

One half-cup of one of the leading jarred pasta sauces contains 10 grams of sugar, according to the USDA. And, in another popular brand, the fourth ingredient listed is simply “;sugar”;–;there”;s more of the sweet stuff than there is onions!

The biggest brands now offer a “;no sugar added”; variety–;grab a jar of that and add some flavor with extra black pepper, a sprinkle of dried oregano or some sliced basil leaves on top.

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3. Tonic Water

You may not notice because of the gin and the lime, but tonic water is more like tonic soda pop: One 11-ounce bottle can dish out nearly 30 grams of sugar, according to the USDA”;s nutrient database. Many popular brands list high fructose corn syrup early on in the Ingredients list, which explains the surge of sugar. Opt instead for plain water with a squeeze of lemon and lime or, if it”;s bubbles you”;re after, check out a sparkling or seltzer water.

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4. Flavored Applesauce

It”;s fruit, right? Only kind of: Those blue- or orange-tinted cups of apple sauce that have magically been turned into blueberry- or mango-flavored treats aren”;t actually made by magic–;they”;re made by adding sugar. They want you to think it”;s a natural source of sugar. One popular brand does list mango and peach purees among the ingredients, but only after high fructose corn syrup and plain old sugar. No wonder a serving has 22 grams of sugars.

The “;natural”; healthy applesauce varieties get their 11 or so grams of sugar from apples–;grab a cup of that and stash some cinnamon in your desk drawer. Sprinkle it on top to give the cup of fruit some extra zing without the extra sugar.

5. Dried Fruit

Many dried fruits are covered in sugar or honey both as a preservative and to make them even sweeter–;so you keep grabbing them until the bag is gone. Banana chips are a great example: 225 grams of raw banana (equal to about 2 medium bananas) has 27.5 grams of natural sugar. But a 100-gram serving of banana chips has 35 grams of sugar …; and those extra grams came from somewhere besides a banana tree.

But the most egregious adding of sugar to fruit might be in dried cranberries. Cranberries are not sweet, but these bags of cran-raisins are sweet enough to pop as a snack–;probably because a quarter-cup serving has a whopping 29 grams of sugar. They”;re injected with sugar to make those tart berries turn sweet. Have regular–;unsweetened–;raisins instead.

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6. Almond, Cashew and Other Non-Dairy Milks

These milks seem healthy, and most do have fewer calories than traditional cow”;s milk. But they don”;t get so sweet and vanilla-flavored just from the almonds: According to the USDA, a one-cup serving of one of the leading brand”;s vanilla-flavored almond milk has 15 grams of sugar thanks to the second ingredient listed–;cane sugar.

The fix is easy: You can still have the vanilla flavor from the “;unsweetened vanilla”; varieties–;you”;ll save all 15 grams of sugar, plus enjoy the milk for nearly 60 fewer calories per cup.

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7. Flavored Yogurts

Many of the major yogurt brands are advertising that they now have less sugar–;but there”;s still plenty inside the sweet, candy colored fruit flavored varieties. One major brand”;s blueberry flavor has 18 grams in the tiny little cup, and lists “;sugar”; before “;blueberries”; on its ingredients list!

Mix in your own fruit: Bring a quarter-cup of blueberries and mix it in with nonfat, plain yogurt. A five-ounce serving of nonfat Greek yogurt has more protein than those sugary cups, and just four grams of natural sugar from the milk inside.

8. Granola

Granola might be the unhealthiest “;health food”; ever created. A holdover from the days of the Food Pyramid–;when the government recommended a whopping 12 servings of grains per day–;just a half-cup of even the “;low fat”; varieties can have 14 grams of sugar, according to the USDA. That”;s because to make all those clusters of rice, whole wheat and oats stick together, you need sticky stuff–;usually molasses, but also corn syrup, sugar and honey.

Do yourself a solid and skip the sugary stuff and opt for nuts and seeds instead.

9. Sports Drinks

The label of the leading sports drink reads like this: Water, sugar, dextrose. Since dextrose is a code word for added sugar–;it”;s a form of glucose–;the second and third ingredients on the list are plain old sugar. That”;s why if you drink the whole bottle, you”;ll down 30 grams of sugar, according to the USDA database.

Sure, you burn some calories when you exercise, but a 20-ounce bottle of sports drink has nearly 160 calories–;a little less than you burn on a two-mile run. Wouldn”;t you rather refuel later with actual food? Sip some water while you work, and save your calories–;and sugar–;for solid food later.

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10. Instant Oatmeal

If you”;ve ever tasted an instant oatmeal packet before adding water, you know it”;s more sugar than oatmeal. But the total amount may still shock you: The USDA database indicates that one leading brand”;s apple cinnamon flavor as contains 12 grams of sugar, and lists “;sugar”; before “;dehydrated apples”; on the label.

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11. Baked Beans

A half-cup serving of a leading baked beans brand”;s “;original”; flavor has more than 10 grams of sugar, says the USDA. And it”;s not likely that you”;re eating just half a cup! After beans and water, the label on one popular product lists brown sugar and sugar–;so the added sugar is hardly a secret.

Eliminate sneaky sources of added sugar from your diet! These seven simple tips can help. >

Ready to get started on the path to a healthier you? Check out our meal plans today! >

*Nutritional information taken from the USDA nutrient database and individual product sites as of 5/27/2016.

The post 11 Sneaky Sources of Added Sugar appeared first on The Leaf.

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7 Sneaky Ingredients to Avoid for Weight Loss

7 Sneaky Ingredients to Avoid for Weight Loss

Sometimes, it can feel like you”;re doing everything right on your weight loss plan–;you’re eating your four servings of non-starchy vegetables each day, calming junk food cravings the right way and practicing your weekly meal prep and planning. However, you still aren”;t seeing the scale budge! You”;re eating foods you think are healthy but you”;re not getting the diet results you want. It’s possible that some of those “;healthy”; foods could be not so healthy after all–;either because you”;re preparing larger portions of them than you think you are, or there”;s a secret, sneaky, calorie-heavy component hiding inside. Either way, the result is the same: Your weight loss is sabotaged!

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Don”;t let sneaky foods fool you any longer! Watch out for these seven ingredients that could be adding unwanted calories to your day:
1. Nuts and Nut Butters

Sneaky ingredients to avoid during weight loss

Adding more nuts to your diet can help your heart and reduce belly fat, according to research, conducted by Penn State University. They”;re part of the “;Mediterranean Diet,”; and scientists have found that the healthy fats in this diet can help you slim down and live longer. (Click here to learn more about the potential health benefits of nuts! >) Despite having healthy qualities, both nuts and nut butters can sneak up on you if you eyeball your portion sizes instead of measuring. By guessing, you run the risk of overestimating the portions you are having and adding sneaky calories to your snack or meal.

The solution: First, count out your nut servings: For example, you can eat 25 pistachios in a single PowerFuel serving. For nut butters, you can”;t exactly count but you can use your thumb: A one tablespoon serving of nut butters–;the amount equal to one PowerFuel–;is about as big as your thumb or a poker chip. Keep the portions in check to keep these creamy, chunky, smooth or crunchy friends from becoming sneaky diet-detonating ingredients! Click here to learn how many nuts are in a PowerFuel serving. >

2. Avocado

avocado

Here”;s another “;healthy”; food that we love that can add up quick: One cup of avocado has polyunsaturated fats that your body needs, but it also packs in 384 calories–;almost 20 percent of what many Americans need in their daily diets, says the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). If you smear that much on a slice of toast, you”;re getting nutrients you need but it”;s also a “;healthy”; snack that”;s turned into a meal. Too much of a good thing is possible, especially when it comes to avocado! Even if the source is a healthy whole food, every calorie you eat is one your body has to burn or store.

The solution: Use your kitchen”;s ultimate tool for weight loss: A measuring spoon! One tablespoon of mashed avocado is equal to one Extra–;Nutrisystem members are limited to three Extras per day. Don”;t let extra Extras sneak up on you and sabotage your progress! Click here to learn more about harnessing the power and perks of avocados without losing control of portion sizes!

3. Coffee “;Pumps”;

Sneaky ingredients to avoid during weight loss

According to Reuters.com, Americans have been drinking less soda over the last decade. However, we”;re still consuming almost half of our daily added sugars from beverages, says Health.gov. Some dietitians blame our sweet morning pick-me-ups: One pump of flavored syrup from a popular chain coffee shop can add about five grams of sugar and 20 calories to your day. That might not seem like much, but do this everyday for a whole year and you”;ve added 7,300 sneaky calories to your annual intake.

The solution: If your pumps are a must-have, track them! Using the NuMi app can make sure this sneaky ingredient doesn”;t sneak up on you. If you”;d rather save those 7,300 calories for the year, try using powdered stevia, a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder for a chocolatey kick or some cinnamon for a warming flavor. Be sure to check out these helpful diet tips from our experts at The Leaf and keep your calories on track when you visit your local coffee shop!

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4. Salad Toppers and Dressings

salad

It doesn”;t get more healthy-sounding than a salad. It also doesn”;t get much fancier than crowning that heaping bowl of veggies with some tasty toppers: Slivered almonds, dried cranberries, crunchy chia seeds and glops of creamy dressing.

What harm can some dried fruit and almonds do? We”;ve already seen how quickly nuts add up. However, those dried cranberries aren”;t just cranberries–;they”;re pumped up with added sugar! A quarter-cup of dried cranberries from a popular brand contains almost 30 grams of sugar, adding about 130 calories to your salad. Chia seeds also add up quickly: According to the USDA, an eighth of a cup will add 90 calories to your veggies. Creamy salad dressings can present a problem, too: Forget to measure your favorite ranch dressing and an extra two tablespoons will top your salad with 120 extra calories, says the USDA.

The solution: As with almost all the ingredients on this list, measuring and serving size control makes a major impact–;just sprinkle a spoonful of those crunchy seeds instead of pouring from the bag. But there”;s more you can do: Try swapping store-bought dressing for one of these simple, homemade versions that you”;ll love. Use fresh berries instead of dried: According to the USDA, a half-cup of fresh blueberries has just 35 calories, compared to 260 for the dried kind.

5. “;Nectar”; and “;Syrup”;

Sneaky ingredients to avoid during weight loss

Added sugars are literally killing us: According to research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, study subjects who consumed 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar experienced a 38% increase in risk of death from heart disease. This was in comparison to participants who consumed about eight percent of calories from added sugar. And with added sugar in more than 75 percent of packaged foods, it”;s not hard to top that killer number, says the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

In 2021, nutrition labels will be required by law to list “;Added Sugars”; on their own line. But until then, these ingredients and their extra calories can sneak into our diets… because they aren”;t just called “;sugar”; on the label. They”;re all those words ending in “;ose”;–;glucose, dextrose, sucrose–;but also sneakier, healthier-sounding ingredients like “;nectars”; and “;syrups.”; An ingredient like “;agave nectar”; might sound natural and healthy, but make no mistake: It”;s just sugar trying to sneak its way into your waistline.

The solution: Flip your food over. Words like “;natural”; and “;healthy”; on the front of a label are unregulated terms–;they”;re meaningless marketing! Check the ingredients list for nectars and syrups. They could be adding sneaky calories to your foods that you don”;t need. Choose unsweetened products and add your own sweetness with a little stevia or monk fruit.

Take a peek at these four ingredients you should never eat again! >

6. Mayonnaise

Sneaky ingredients to avoid during weight loss

This sandwich recipe staple is easy enough to measure and still enjoy on your healthy diet. But when adding mayonnaise to chicken, potato, egg or tuna salads, things can easily get out of hand. If you”;re like most people, you forget about measuring and keep adding mayo until you”;ve achieved the consistency you like. Going overboard by just two tablespoons can add 180 extra sneaky calories to that bowl. But if you don”;t add enough, the salad won”;t be creamy enough!

The solution: Supplement with Greek yogurt. One teaspoon of mayo is equal to one Extra on Nutrisystem. Use up your three Extras in your favorite chicken or tuna salad recipe, then fill in the rest with high-protein, nonfat Greek yogurt. It won”;t change the flavor but will add filling protein that your body needs. Plus, it”;s a PowerFuel, not an Extra–;so you can stay on track with your daily meal prep and weight loss goals while enjoying a sandwich or salad that”;s as creamy as you want.

7. Shredded Cheese

Sneaky ingredients to avoid during weight loss

Since you”;re just sprinkling some on the top of a taco or a bowl of salad, measuring out your shredded cheese is probably the last thing on your mind–;it”;s finally time to chow down! But an over-serve on the cheesy goodness is all-too-easy, and can turn your portion-controlled taco into a sneaky weight loss saboteur. An extra eighth-cup of shredded cheese from a popular brand–;basically an extra heavy sprinkle–;can add over 50 calories to your dish if you’re not careful. Repeat that heavy hand a few times and the sneaky calories can really add up.

The solution: First, start with reduced fat versions of your favorite shredded cheese –; they”;re also lower in calories. Then, think of other low calorie ways to give your tacos and meals what you”;re getting from the cheese: Maybe you can accomplish some of the creaminess with a dollop of light sour cream, instead. At just 20 calories per tablespoon, according to the USDA, it”;s a calorie-saving miracle addition to your next burrito bowl.

Take your pick at an unlimited list of healthy recipes with nutritious and wellness-promoting ingredients! Visit our recipe portal on The Leaf here! >

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The post 7 Sneaky Ingredients to Avoid for Weight Loss appeared first on The Leaf.

Read more: leaf.nutrisystem.com

Healthier Comfort Food: 10 Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipes

Healthier Comfort Food: 10 Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipes

This scientific fact is probably not going to surprise you at all: Comfort food is comforting.

In study after study, both animals and humans who eat in response to stress tend to feel less stress, says Evidence for Action. They explain that this comfort eating actually suppresses the chemical stress response–;the production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which is responsible for many of the physical feelings we experience when we”;re stressed out. There is other evidence that certain foods may reduce anxiety and help trigger the production of feel-good brain chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, says Harvard Health Publishing.

What also won”;t surprise you is that comfort foods tend to be high in fat, refined carbohydrates, salt and sugar, according to Psychoneuroendocrinology. In excess amounts, these can lead to weight gain, particularly around your middle. Almost no one reaches for a sprig of broccoli to calm their nerves!

Mac and cheese ticks all the boxes. Plus, in a survey of over 1,000 people, mac and cheese made the top five list of favorite comfort foods for both men and women, says Treadmill Reviews. Women even rated it above chocolate!

The good news: There are at least 10 ways to make mac and cheese that are healthy, diet-friendly, delicious and comforting. The great news: It”;s easy to make healthier comfort food that won”;t leave you stressing over weight gain and meal prep.

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Here 10 mac and cheese recipes for a healthy comfort food meal:
1. Buffalo Blue Cauliflower Mac and Cheese >

comfort food

Technically, there”;s no “;mac”; in this dish. However, it’s so cheesy and delicious, you won”;t be able to tell. Instead, cauliflower florets swim in a creamy, cheesy, spicy sauce made of fat-free half-and-half, shredded cheddar, blue cheese crumbles, low-fat creamy cheese and spicy buffalo sauce. One serving of this low carb mac and cheese recipe is only 169 calories and counts as one PowerFuel, one Vegetable and two Extras.

2. Zoodle Mac and Cheese with Roasted Veggies >

comfort food

No mac to be found here either! We replace the pasta with low carb by spiralized zucchini. If you don”;t have your own spiralizer, many stores now sell packaged spiralized veggies in the produce or frozen food sections! The roasted veggies include broccoli, bell pepper, red onion and sweet potato. It”;s all tossed together with a sauce made from a wheat flour and light butter roux, nonfat milk, vegetable broth and reduced fat shredded Mexican cheese. This dish is only 156 calories per serving and counts as one PowerFuel, one Vegetable and one Extra.

3. Bacon Jalapeno Cauliflower Mac And Cheese >

comfort food

Cauliflower may be the star of this show but turkey bacon and jalapeno definitely play best supporting roles! We serve it up in a creamy mix of low-fat cheddar and cream cheese You”;ll never miss the macaroni in this flavorful and easy-to-make casserole. It”;s only 178 calories per serving and counts as one PowerFuel, one Extra and half of a Vegetable serving.

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4. Beefy Mac and Cheese >

comfort food

We do half of the work for you in this easy, cheesy recipe! Order a package of Nutrisystem Frozen Mac and Cheese and heat according to the package’s directions. Then brown up three ounces of lean ground beef, mix and enjoy! It”;s that simple. One serving is 326 calories and counts as one Nutrisystem entrée and one PowerFuel.

5. Buffalo Mac and Cheese >

comfort food

There is no easier recipe than this one! It starts with Nutrisystem White Cheddar Mac and Cheese to which you add two ounces of prepared rotisserie chicken and one teaspoon of buffalo hot sauce. That”;s it! Count this spicy mac as one Nutrisystem Lunch and one PowerFuel.

6. Cauliflower Mac and Cheese >

cauliflower mac and cheese

You can create a creamy, dreamy bowl of cauliflower with just six simple ingredients. Even better, you probably already have them all in your kitchen! This comfort food recipe starts again with cauliflower, everyone”;s favorite macaroni substitute. We bake it in a sauce made from almond milk and low-fat cheddar cheese, seasoned with garlic powder and pepper. One serving is 114 calories and counts as one PowerFuel, one Vegetable and one Extra.

7. Broccoli, Bacon Mac and Cheese Cups >

mac and cheese muffins

These little mac and cheese muffins are perfect to carry to work for lunch! They start with a package of Nutrisystem White Cheddar Mac and Cheese and feature turkey bacon and broccoli (or your favorite non-starchy vegetable). Simply pour your mac mixture in muffin cups, top them with panko breadcrumbs and bake in the oven for 15 minutes. What could be easier? Plus, they”;re only 278 calories per serving and count as one PowerFuel, one SmartCarb and one Extra.

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8. Creamy Veggie Mac and Cheese >

comfort food

The very versatile Nutrisystem White Cheddar Mac and Cheese is easily tweaked to become a delicious, veggie-centric meal. This recipe calls for spinach and cherry tomatoes. However, you can add whatever non-starchy veggie strikes your fancy. Count this dish as one Nutrisystem Lunch and one Vegetable. One serving is only 236 calories.

9. Green Mac and Cheese >

comfort food

You don”;t have to wait for St. Patrick”;s Day to enjoy this green dish! It combines broccoli and zucchini with whole grain elbow macaroni in a creamy sauce made from almond milk, reduced fat white cheddar cheese and spinach. One serving is only 290 calories and counts as one SmartCarb, one PowerFuel, one Vegetable and one Extra.

10. Crabby Mac and Cheese >

crab mac and cheese

Crab plus mac and cheese? On a diet? You heard us right! Plus, this healthy recipe is easy to prepare and absolutely delicious. Start with a package of Nutrisystem Mac and Cheese as the healthy shortcut. We then add two ounces of crab meat and top with Parmesan cheese before baking. Decadent? Yes,. However, you deserve it. One serving is only 288 calories and counts as one Nutrisystem Dinner, one PowerFuel and one Extra.

Looking for more comfort food made healthy (and easy)? Learn more about the Nutrisystem meal delivery service! >

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The post Healthier Comfort Food: 10 Homemade Mac and Cheese Recipes appeared first on The Leaf.

Read more: leaf.nutrisystem.com

Hike Your Way to Weight Loss: 10 Reasons to Go for a Hike Today

Hike Your Way to Weight Loss: 10 Reasons to Go for a Hike Today

Walking is one of the easiest ways to achieve your 30 minutes of daily activity. Hiking might as well be called “;next level”; walking–;it”;s more enjoyable, more engaging and a bit more challenging (but still not too hard). That”;s probably why hiking is one of the most popular outdoor activities, with more than 47 million Americans reporting that they hiked at least once in 2018, says Statista.com. If you haven’t added hiking to your weight loss exercise routine, we”;re here to tell you why you should start today.

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Get outside and take a hike! Here are 10 reasons to start hiking today:
1. Hiking is easy.

easy workout

You don”;t need to learn special skills, be super fit or have any prior experience. Hiking is simply walking on an outdoor trail. Even the challenges, such as going up and down hills or navigating uneven terrain, are manageable for beginners. If you can walk, you can most likely hike.

2. It burns more calories than walking.

burn calories

At a brisk walking pace of 17 minutes per mile, a 155-pound person burns about 149 calories in 30 minutes, says Harvard Health Publishing. Add a few hills on a hike and the calories burned jumps to 223 calories in 30 minutes–;that”;s about 50 percent more calories burned in the same amount of time.

3. It lifts your mood.

hiking

According to Stanford News, walking in natural areas rather than in man-made environments reduces “activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.” The 2015 study was published in the peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Other research has found that spending time in nature may help to reduce stress, says Harvard Health Publishing.

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4. Hiking strengthens your heart.

stress

Stress is said to be contributor to heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure), so reducing stress might also lower your risk of suffering from these cardiac conditions, says Harvard Health Publishing. Hiking also gives your heart–;a powerful muscle–;a steady workout, helping it to grow strong and pump more efficiently even when you”;re at rest. “Like brisk walking, hiking is a good way to improve your cardiovascular fitness, particularly if your route includes some hills, which will force your heart to work harder,” explains Harvard Health Publishing.

5. Hiking flattens your belly.

flat belly

Going up and down inclines and traversing uneven terrain engages your core muscles–;the big muscles between your rib cage and knees, says Harvard Health Publishing. These include your abdominals, glutes (backside) and thighs. Hiking helps strengthen and tone those muscles as you shed excess pounds, so you become visibly leaner and firmer. Don’t forget to bring some flat belly snacks along on your hike! Check out these four easy ideas. >

6. It improves your balance.

hiking

Our sense of balance is essential to many everyday activities, such as climbing stairs, getting in and out of the shower or reaching up to high shelves. According to Time Magazine, the uneven terrain experienced while hiking can help to build up muscles that you don’t normally use. “Pumping up those oft-neglected muscles may improve your balance and stability, which helps protect you from falls,” they explain. For most people, the sense of balance deteriorates with age. Hiking keeps it working effectively.

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7. It expands your mind.

hiking

Most of us spend our time looking at lit screens and the same views day in and day out. When we get out in nature, we get better at focusing our attention, solving problems and developing creative ideas, according to the scientific journal, PLoS One. So, get outside, take a hike and get inspired!

8. Hiking is inexpensive.

easy workout

Unlike nearly every other fitness activity, hiking costs you almost nothing. All you need is a sturdy pair of shoes with a good tread. Yes, you can buy hiking shoes that will make your hikes easier and more comfortable. However, feel free to start out wearing ordinary sneakers before committing to purchasing footwear designed for this purpose.

9. Hiking happens anywhere.

hiking

Every state in the U.S. has national parks, historic trails and protected wilderness areas that you can visit. The National Park Service website allows you to search by state to find those closest to you. Many state and county parks also feature marked trails with signs that tell you how long and how challenging the trails are. With a little observation and investigation, you can often find unofficial trails to hike and undeveloped areas around your home. (Just be sure you”;re not trespassing on private property.) For more trail ideas, check out the American Trails Website.

10. Hiking is for everyone.

hiking

Wherever you are on your weight loss journey, you can enjoy the pleasures of hiking. You don”;t need to train, set goals or measure results. You can just take a walk in nature and feel good while you”;re doing it and for hours after you”;re back.

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New to hiking? Check out these four helpful tips for beginners:
1. Start slow.

hiking

For your first few hikes, choose routes that are shorter than you would normally walk–;hiking is more challenging than walking and you don”;t want to overdo it and find yourself sore or too exhausted when you are finished.

2. Bring water.

drink water

This will ensure you don”;t dehydrate along the way. Adequate water helps you stay alert and energized and keeps your metabolism working. Looking for the perfect water bottle to take on your hiking adventures? Click here for our water bottle shopping tips! >

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3. Go with a buddy.

hiking

Almost everything is more fun when you do it together. Hiking with a partner also ensures that in the unlikely event something goes wrong–;whether you get lost or twist an ankle–;help is right by your side. If you do choose to go on your own for a little solitude, be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

4. Keep your eyes and ears open.

hiking

We”;re accustomed to listening to our inner dialogues all day long. Take time while you”;re hiking to tune in to the sights and sounds around you. There are so many delights in nature, from birds chirping and flowers blooming to the rustle of tree leaves in a gentle breeze. Focusing on them can chase away your everyday cares and worries for a little while and make your life feel a little bit better, no matter what else is happening in the world.

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The post Hike Your Way to Weight Loss: 10 Reasons to Go for a Hike Today appeared first on The Leaf.

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