National Nutrition Month®

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Image © Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics | 2015 National Nutrition Month®


More than likely, your schedule is hectic; it’s a series of peaks and valleys with little room for meal planning and physical activities. This month is National Nutrition Month®, a campaign sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, which educates and reinforces the public on the importance of developing healthy eating and exercise habits.

Truth is, making informed food choices is not easy. It’s very important to develop a healthy lifestyle – one that focuses on a balance between food and physical activity – in order to manage your weight, reduce risk of chronic disease and support overall health.

So, let’s chat and chew about tips and tricks for the home and workplace to help you achieve healthier habits.

HEALTHY HABITS FOR A HAPPY HOME

At least half of the money Americans spend on food is for meals outside the home. Not only can preparing meals at home lead to financial savings, with all the resources available today, it’s even easier to develop – and maintain – healthier eating habits. 

“With busy, on-the-go lifestyles, many Americans have lost touch with their kitchens and thrown in the towel on eating healthy, which is key to prevention of heart disease and stroke.” – Dr. Rachel Johnson, Ph. D., MPH, R.D., Chairperson of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee and Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont (1)

 Below are some tips to help you and your family live a healthier lifestyle:

  • Eat meals together. By enjoying meals together, the likelihood that children will eat the wrong foods or snack more decreases. The American Psychological Association reports that in “families who shared at least three meals a week, children were 24 percent more likely to be eating healthy foods than those in families who ate few or no meals together.”
  • Make it a family affair. Get kids involved in preparing meals; being conscious of the ingredients used can help nurture healthy eating habits.
  • Play some tunes. The American Heart Association suggests listening to a favorite CD and allotting a certain number of songs to complete each chore. For example, you might dedicate two songs to vacuuming the family room and three to washing the dishes. Not only will you and your kids pick up the pace to finish on time, you will also strengthen your heart all while having fun!
  • Leave treats to the pets. Rather than use food to show affection or reward your child for good behavior, try fun activities instead. Not only will this encourage bonding and exercise, it will help prevent your kids from using food as a coping mechanism for stress or other emotions later in life.

HEALTHY HABITS WHILE YOU WORK

On average, people SIT for roughly 9.3 hours a day! When you add that to the time you spend commuting, watching TV, or at the computer, it’s no surprise research has attributed sitting for long periods of time to a variety of health issues. As with the home, establishing good habits at the workplace are essential to your health.

Here are some tips to help you work smarter, not harder, towards a healthier lifestyle:

  • Upgrade your office chair. When you are sitting close to 8 hours a day at work, knock out your daily workout by replacing your office chair with an exercise ball. Not only is it a great way to strengthen your abdominal area, it reduces wear-and-tear on your spine.
  • Brown-paper bag it. An estimated 60 percent of individuals eat out for lunch at least once a week. Going out for lunch several times a week not only adds up in dollars, it greatly increases your daily calorie count.  By packing your own lunch, you can easily track your daily calorie, sugar and nutrient intake.  Try spicing up your lunch this month. Check out this list of Pack-and-Go Healthy Lunch Recipes for Work from Eating Well Magazine.
  • Double-up on your coffee break. No, I’m not suggesting you grab two cups of joe during your midday break. Instead, when you opt for your daily pick-me-up, use the time to stretch your legs. If you can, try taking a 10-15 minute walk around the office parking lot or walk up-and-down the stairwell a few times. Not only will you burn a few calories, it may help clear your mind, reduce stress, refocus, and feel a boost in energy.
  • Stay hydrated. Thirst and dehydration can hurt your ability to concentrate, as well as lower your energy and performance levels. Keep a water bottle at your desk to avoid drinking soda and other sugary drinks throughout the day. There’s an added bonus too – every time you refill, it gets you up and moving.
  • Time yourself. Similar to how music can keep you on track with chores, a timer at work can help build in short breaks during work hours. Try doing something active—like 20 jumping jacks or a set of quick stretches.

For the remainder of March, challenge yourself to implement at least one new healthy habit at home and work. Or, if you have other ideas, feel free to share in the comment section! If you’re hungry for a change, now’s the time to get moving! 

10 New Year’s Eve Ideas for the Family

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New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays—it’s an excuse to get dressed up, enjoy the city lights, and hang out with my closest friends. However, for families with younger kids, the all-night celebration might be harder to swing. Don’t let that stop you from enjoying yourself; ring in the New Year with this countdown of fun activities for the whole family!

  1. Party Supplies: Rather than purchase party supplies, gather the kids for a fun crafting project. Once the clock strikes twelve, you’ll be ready to celebrate with homemade hats, noisemakers, and confetti!
  1. Mock Countdown: If your kids are too young to stay up till twelve, enjoy the celebration a little early by turning the clocks ahead a few hours. Or, celebrate when it becomes midnight in a different country! With worldwide TV coverage (of major cities), you can choose when your family will celebrate!
  1. Balloon Drop: Seeing the ball drop live in Times Square is a once in a lifetime experience. Create the same exciting New York atmosphere in the comfort of your own home by taping a balloon-filled net to the ceiling and release them once the countdown reaches midnight!
  1. New Year’s Toast: While it won’t involve champagne, kids can certainly be a part of the evening’s toast. Make some yummy hot chocolate, or get a bottle of sparkling cider, and let the youngsters drink from a fancy cup—maybe even decorate them ahead of time!
  1. New Year’s Eve Games: Keep the whole family entertained with New Year’s themed party games! From guessing resolutions to singing karaoke, there’s plenty to do. Check out this list of 30 Awesome New Year’s Eve Games for Kids.
  1. Photo Booth Fun: Photo booths can be expensive to rent, so create your very own this New Year’s Eve. Check out this list of fun photo booth party ideas for ways to snap some final memories in 2014! Here are some FREE photo props to help get you started!
  1. Dinner and a Show: Ring in the New Year with your family’s favorite meal and movie. Have old family movies? Share them with your kids and show them how you celebrated holidays growing up!
  1. Resolution Tree: Putting away all the decorations can be a sad chore—it officially marks the end of the holiday season. Put a new spin on the activity by replacing ornaments with resolutions written on small note cards. Have the family decide on 1 or 2 goals that everyone will work on—in addition to personal ones—like eating healthier, exercising weekly, or simply spending more time together.
  1. Capturing Memories: Fill an old shoebox with photos, tickets, and other mementoes from special events or trips in 2014. Pick the top ten most memorable times the family had together, and stash it away to revisit at a later date!
  1. Make Countdown Bags: Start the evening’s festivities using countdown bags! Check out this version, or make one up of your very own.

Whether your New Year’s Eve plans include a night on the town or a night on the couch, there’s nothing stopping you from enjoying yourself. Kids love to celebrate just as much as adults so don’t stop the party just because you may not want to leave your house. Enjoy a family-filled evening of fun—it’s the perfect beginning to another year.

Kwanzaa: History and Traditions

For the last post in our series about holiday histories and traditions—take a peek at our previous posts on Hanukkah and Christmas—we bring you Kwanzaa. Fairly new to the lineup of December holidays, it wasn’t until 1966 that Dr. Maulana Karenga, an African Studies professor, activist, and author established Kwanzaa. Dr. Karenga created Kwanzaa to bring African-Americans back together as a community, and “give [them] an opportunity to celebrate themselves and history.” (more)

Every year, Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26th to January 1st.

So, let’s chat and chew about Kwanzaa’s history, main principles, and symbols.

THE HISTORY

The name Kwanzaa comes from the phrase matunda ya kwanza, or “first fruits” in Swahili. (more) Most Kwanzaa celebrations include songs and dances, African drums, stories and poetry, and a large traditional meal. Similar to the lighting of the Jewish menorah, during Kwanzaa, one of the seven candles is placed in the Kinara (candleholder) every day, and then that day’s principle is discussed.

The candles range is color—there is one black, three green, and three red candles. The first candle lit is the black one, which is followed by alternating green and red candles depending on the day’s principle.

THE MAIN PRINCIPLES

Kwanzaa focuses on seven core principles, which are referred to in Swahili as the Nguzo Saba. Listed in order of observance, The History Channel explains the principles and their meanings as:

  • UnityUmoja – To strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  • Self-determinationKujichagulia – To define, name, create for, and speak for ourselves.
  • Collective work and responsibility Ujima– To build and maintain our community together and make our brother’s and sister’s problems our problems and to solve them together.
  • Cooperative EconomicsUjamma – To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  • PurposeNia – To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  • Creativity Kuumba – To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  • FaithImani – To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

THE MAIN SYMBOLS

In addition to a main principle, each day of Kwanzaa is also represented by a symbol. See below for a look at each symbol. Click here for a more in-depth explanation of each symbol’s meaning. 

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Although Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa are different, each holiday has the power to bring friends, family, and tradition together under one roof. As this year’s Chrismahanukwanzaka season officially wraps up, on behalf of everyone at Compass Rose Benefits Group, we wish you a very Happy and Healthy New Year!

Christmas: History and Traditions

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Christmas commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, who Christians believe is the Son of God.  It wasn’t, however, until third century A.D.—when Roman church officials decided on December 25th—that Christ’s birth was first celebrated.  While Christmas stems from a religious meaning, since the 19th century, the holiday has developed into something more—tree decorating, sending holiday cards and gifts, putting up lights, and visiting Santa at the local mall.  It has become the biggest commercial holiday of the year, and is typically celebrated by a large majority of Americans, Christian or not.1      

Regardless of how you choose to celebrate Christmas, it’s generally recognized as a season for giving, sharing, and rejoicing, and has become a cherished holiday. 

So, lets chat and chew about popular Christmas traditions!

CHRISTMAS TREE

Prior to Christianity, plants and trees that remained green year-round held special meaning in the winter.  People hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows because it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.1

The Germans are credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition, as we know it today.  Christmas trees have been sold commercially in the United States since around 1850, and are now sold in all 50 states. 

In 1933, the first lighting ceremony was held in Rockefeller Center.2   The tradition dates back to 1931, when a small tree was displayed in the middle of the Center’s construction site.  Nowadays, an estimated 750,000 people visit Rockefeller Center each year to view the 30,000 lights, which cover the famous 75-100 foot tree. 

One of my fondest memories growing up—and still to this day—is going into New York City to see the iconic, multi-colored lit tree.

SANTA CLAUS

The tale of Santa Claus, whose name is derived from the Dutch “Sinterklaas”, is traced back hundreds of years to a monk named St. Nicholas.1   It was said that he gave all his inherited wealth and instead traveled the countryside helping the poor and sick.  By the Renaissance, St. Nicholas—known as the protector of children and sailors—was the most popular saint in Europe. 

St. Nicholas started making his way into American pop culture after a New York newspaper reported that Dutch families gathered to honor his death. By 1820, stores began advertising Christmas shopping, and by 1840, drawings of Santa Claus were included in all the newspapers and magazines.  In 1890, James Edgar of Brockton, MA gave America the first-ever department store Santa Claus3!  One-year later, Santa appeared in many major department stores, and by the turn of the century became a staple during the holiday shopping season. 

EXCHANGING GIFTS

In the Christian religion, giving gifts at Christmas is traced back to the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, which the Three Wise Men, or the Magi, delivered to baby Jesus.  Stephen Nissenbaum, author of “The Battle for Christmas,” also wrote that bands of young, rowdy men, would travel from home to home, demanding handouts from the gentry.4   In the 1800s, Christmas was domesticated, shifting the focus of gift-giving from the lower classes to children. 

Today, American families have their own system for how and when they open gifts, making each of their Christmases that much more special.

CANDY CANES

In the 1660’s, in Cologne, Germany, the once straight white sticks of sugar were bent at the end to remind children of the Shepard’s crook.  It also helped keep kids quiet in church!

MISTLETOE

Frigg, goddess of love, did everything she could to make the world a safe place for her son, Baldur. Everything on Earth promised to bring her son no harm, except for the one play Frigg overlooked – Mistletoe. As evil spirit named Loki crafted and killed Baldur with an arrow made from the mistletoe’s wood. Frigg’s tears turned into the plant’s white berries and revived her son. From that moment, to pay thanks, Frigg promised to kiss anyone who passed under mistletoe.5

So, whether you stick to your own traditions or incorporate more modern-day ones, simply put, holidays are a time to spend with friends and family. If you are looking to revamp your holiday plans, see this list of 50 Christmas Traditions. Check out our Pinterest page for fun Christmas decorating ideas, recipes, and more!

References:

  1. http://www.history.com/topics/christmas
  2. http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-12-05/what-would-the-christmas-tree-at-rockefeller-center-be-worth
  3. http://www.newyorkjourney.com/rockefeller_center.htm
  4. http://www.csmonitor.com/World/2013/1221/Christmas-How-did-gift-giving-and-caroling-get-started
  5. http://www.history.com/news/ask-history/why-do-we-kiss-under-the-mistletoe