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5 Easy Tips for Getting a Bikini Body without Crash Dieting

Spring is in the air, and many of us are worried about wearing lighter clothing, and especially about all-revealing swimwear. There’s still time though – two or three months before it gets really hot. Take advantage of this time and make gradual changes that will not just help you look better, but also become healthier.

1. Do not go on a crash diet. It’s tempting to eat 1,000 calories per day for 2 weeks, but please resist the temptation. You will lose weight on such a diet, but most of it will be water weight and muscle loss. You will lose very little fat if you starve yourself, and the weight will likely go back up as soon as you stop. You won’t just be hungry and cranky – you will actually mess up your metabolism, causing it to screech to a halt, so the next time you try to lose weight, it will be nearly impossible.

2. Don’t go on ANY diet. Crash diets are especially harmful, but any diet is not a good idea. “A diet” is a temporary thing; it’s all about short-time deprivation in return for immediate gratification. But when it comes to weight loss, immediate gratification is usually followed by a rapid weight gain when the diet is over. Instead of “dieting,” work to change your eating habits for life. This will result in slow, gradual weight loss, but that weight loss would be fat, not muscle, and you’ll be far more likely to keep the weight off for good.

3. Eliminate one bad habit every 2 weeks. Just eliminating sugary soda could result in an effortless weight loss of 15 – 60 pounds per year! The same goes for that daily cup of grande latte. Even with reduced fat milk and no added sugar you’re looking at 200 extra calories per day – these do add up.

4. Add one good habit every two weeks. You could start with choosing the stairs over the elevator or escalator. Even if your office is on the 10th floor, you could still take the elevator up to the 7th floor, then climb the rest. Another good idea would be to always park away from the entrance – at the mall, at the office, when running errands. These extra steps you take WILL add up!

5. Eat fewer carbohydrates, and more protein and healthy fats. Carbs are fattening. They cause your insulin, the fat-storage hormone, to spike. They also cause cravings and make you feel hungrier. Protein and fat, on the other hand, are satiating and will not have the same effect on your insulin production and on your blood sugar as carbs. Start gradually, replacing one high-carb meal a day with a protein-rich meal. For example, instead of having a bagel with cream cheese with your tall latte, have a cup of plain Greek yogurt mixed with a handful of berries and a handful of nuts (those will add healthy fats), with some black coffee. You’ll feel satiated for longer, and won’t suffer the typical midmorning slump.

It may seem easier to get that bikini body by crash dieting, but crash diets always backfire. As a long-term strategy, it’s much better to work on gradually changing your habits. Over the course of the next 2-3 months, the scale WILL reward your efforts ; the weight lost will be fat, not water or muscle, and you’ll be far more likely to keep it off.

5 Easy Ways to De-Stress

April is Stress Awareness Month, and that’s a very good thing indeed, because being aware of the constant stress modern life brings and doing something about it is one of the best things we can do to become healthier.

Never Ending Stress is Bad for Us

Modern life is filled with low-grade, unrelenting stress (deadlines to meet, bad traffic, difficult boss or coworkers, juggling work and family), while humans have evolved to cope with brief periods of intense stress (escaping a wild animal). This constant modern stress is very hard on us, and is the cause behind many modern ailments, including high blood pressure, insomnia, migraines and more.

How to Manage Stress

It’s extremely important that we learn to manage stress. It can literally save our lives. Here are five ways to de-stress:

1. Eliminate stressors. This is probably the best way to manage stress. Take a long, hard look at your life and assess what are the things that cause you stress. Then figure out which of those you can eliminate. Good examples are toxic friends, and volunteering for too many activities at your kids’ schools.

A daily commute and a stressful job are harder to eliminate, but if possible, see if you can telecommute once a week, and if your job is causing you a great deal of stress, it might be a good idea to at least interview and see if you can find something better.

2. Breathe Deeply. Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands in response to stress. When your body is under chronic stress, your cortisol levels are constantly high, which makes you susceptible to disease. A short session of slowly, deeply inhaling and exhaling has been shown to lower cortisol levels AND blood pressure.

3. Exercise. Exercise boosts endorphins, helps you forget your troubles (even if just for a short while) and relieves stress. Combine exercise with music, also a proven relaxer, for an even greater impact. One of us here at VOSKOS loves her daily walks – 30 blissful minutes of walking in the sun, listening to music and NOT thinking about work!

4. Go outside. Speaking of the sun, sunlight is a great stress reliever. We’ve been taught to avoid the sun at all costs, but 20 minutes of sun exposure per day are actually very good for us. Sun exposure decreases melatonin, the sleep hormone, and increases serotonin, which promotes feelings of happiness. Think about how good it is to feel the warmth of the sun on your skin – just thinking about it is relaxing!

5. Take a Nap. If you can incorporate a short, 20-minute nap into your early afternoon, go for it. Just like deep breathing, napping reduces cortisol levels. It can provide a very welcome reboot to a stressful day. Just make sure you keep your nap short, so it doesn’t interfere with a good night’s sleep.

There are many more ways to relax, including meditation, massage, and adopting a pet. Find what works for you, and incorporate it into your day.

10 Time-Saving Tips for Healthy Eating

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be time-consuming! If you keep reaching for unhealthy options (fast food, the vending machine, frozen dinners, take out) because you’re just too busy to cook every night, here are a few tips to help you eat better even if you don’t have 2 hours a day to spend on preparing food:

1. Cook in batches. A great way to enjoy home-cooked meals every day is to cook on the weekend, and pre-portion the food into several daily meals. We like to cook a big pot of chili, for example – add lots of veggies and beans and you can easily enjoy it for at least two nights. (When serving, don’t forget a dollop of creamy VOSKOS – it’s just as good as sour cream!)

2. Eat breakfast for dinner. Breakfast for dinner can be a quick, healthy option. For example, 2 eggs with whole-grain toast, and a cup of VOSKOS Greek yogurt with fruit and a handful of nuts make a delicious, filling, healthy dinner.

3. Prepare your snacks in advance. To avoid reaching for unhealthy snacks, it’s a good idea to always have healthy snacks on hand. It only takes 10 minutes to cut some fresh veggies or fruit, pre-portion cheese and pretzels into individual bags, or boil some eggs.

4. Use a slow cooker. Slow cookers are ideal for long workdays! Prep the food the night before. In the morning, just throw everything in the slow cooker and set on low. When you get home at night, the most amazing smell will fill the house, and your dinner will be ready!

5. Transform leftovers. Last night’s dinner can make a tasty lunch today when you turn it into a sandwich, a wrap, or a salad. We try to always double recipes, intentionally creating leftovers for lunches.

6. Make quick stir-fries. When you use leftover chicken and frozen veggies or pre-shredded coleslaw, a stir-fried meal can be ready in 10 minutes, especially if you cook a big pot of brown rice on the weekend and pre-portion it.

7. Eat more shrimp. Shrimp cook in 5 minutes (plus 5 minutes to defrost them if they’re frozen)! Simply saute some vegetables in olive oil until crisp; add the shrimp and spices and stir-fry over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, or until shrimp are opaque. Serve over the aforementioned pre-cooked brown rice.

8. Buy healthy “fast food.” Rotisserie chicken is a great example. It’s delicious, affordable, and a huge time-saver. Serve it with steamed veggies for dinner, then turn the leftovers into a chicken salad for lunch the next day.

9. If you do end up using a frozen dinner, add lots of veggies. Veggies steam in 5 minutes in the microwave. Add 2-3 cups of steamed veggies to a frozen dinner to make it not just healthier, but also more filling.

10. Make cleanup a breeze. Cook fish and chicken in foil packets or in parchment paper. You’ll have less mess, and juicier food.

No more excuses! Even if you’re seriously pressed for time, with just a little advance planning, you can save time AND eat healthfully.

5 Daily Habits that Can Add Years to Your Life

Want to live longer? We all do probably, but it’s not just about living longer – it’s mostly about living longer with a high quality of life. Here are five habits to incorporate into your daily life, that could end up helping you not just live longer, but live better. These are not major changes – in fact we deliberately focused here on small, manageable changes – but over the long run, they can translate into calories saves, energy burned, and a longer, healthier life.

1. Replace one junky snack with a healthy one. Sure, we could just say “eat better” or “eat healthy,” but that’s too vague and can get overwhelming. Instead, we suggest making a small change in your daily routine and replacing one not-so-healthy snack (such as a candy bar) with a wholesome, healthy snack such as VOSKOS Greek Yogurt, hard boiled eggs, a cheese stick, a piece of fruit, or fresh-cut veggies.

2. Use the stairs. Ultimately, your goal is to be as active as possible. Our bodies are meant to move throughout the day – our ancestors did not sit at their desk typing on their keyboard all day long, and our bodies are no different than theirs. The more movement you get the better, but let’s start with a small change – use the stairs whenever you get the choice between an elevator or an escalator and stairs. Even if your office is on the 15th floor, take the elevator up to the 11th floor, then take the stairs!

3. Get 10-20 minutes of sunlight per day. We’ve grown so accustomed to hiding from the sun, that we might be overdoing it. Sunlight is needed to produce vitamin D, which protects us from certain cancers. It also supports our immune system and our mood. To get those 10 minutes of unprotected sunlight exposure, you could take a walk during lunch, which would also help you get more exercise! If you absolutely can’t get more sun exposure during the day, talk to your doctor about a vitamin D supplement.

4. Relax. In the context of our stressful modern life, the word “relax” sounds like a dream. But knowing how to relax is extremely important. Stress can wreak havoc on almost every system in your body, so knowing how to relax can literally prolong your life. You don’t need to spend hours in a relaxed state to get the benefit of relaxation – a couple daily sessions of deep breathing, or even a quick afternoon catnap, can do the trick.

5. Connect with family and friends. By “connect,” we mean in person. The Internet and social media are great, but human psyche is still the same as it was 1,000 and even 10,000 years ago, which means we still crave face-to-face contact and gentle touch. A family dinner can achieve this, as well as hugging a lot and taking the time to talk with your partner. If you live alone, make regular plans to meet with friends, and consider adopting a pet – pets, especially dogs, truly are a person’s best friends.

These small changes to your daily habits can add years to your life. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the things you know you should change to become healthier! Start small, and hey, if even the above list seems like too much, make just one change – it can still make a very real difference.

Did You Know? Chocolate is Good for You!

This is one piece of advice that we’re happy to give: chocolate is good for you! Not all chocolate, and moderation is key, but dark, 70 percent cacao or higher chocolate (as well as unsweetened cocoa), has been shown in study after study to be healthy.

Chocolate is Good for Your Heart

Since February is heart health month, it’s worth noting that daily chocolate consumption may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in some high-risk patients, according to a 2012 study in the journal BMJ.

Cocoa also has outstanding vascular health and cancer fighting properties, due to the phytochemicals used in the chocolate production process, according to resent findings. These chemicals may improve blood circulatory function such as blood vessel health, slow blood clotting and improve insulin resistance.

The secret behind chocolate’s powerful health benefits is cacao, which is packed with flavonoids and theobromine. But cacao on its own is bitter and chalky, so milk and sugar are typically added to maked it more palatable. When recommending chocolate, we’re not talking about processed, junky candy bars, or even milk chocolate. We’re talking about the pure stuff – as pure as possible (some 90% bars are excellent), and no chocolate binges please! An ounce a day is perfect.

Why Chocolate on Valentine’s Day?

Our love for chocolate goes back much further than Valentine’s Day treats. The Aztec’s referred to chocolate as “the food of the gods”. As a Valentine’s Day tie-in, the Aztec ruler, Montezuma, believed chocolate was an aphrodisiac. Christopher Columbus enjoyed this ancient American When chocolate first made it to Europe, it was a luxury product only enjoyed by the wealthy aristocrats. Later on, production efficiencies made it more affordable for the rest of the population by companies like Cadbury in England and Hershey in the U.S. The heart-shaped box of chocolates was an idea Richard Cadbury introduced in 1861. Now it’s a delicious Valentine’s Day favorite!

Chocolaty Recipes

If you’re looking for a recipe to make for Valentine’s Day, look no further – we have a wonderful chocolate cake recipe for you: a rich, moist chocolate cake with a hint of raspberry, made with unsweetened cocoa and raspberry Greek yogurt. Decadent AND healthy – just the way we like it. Happy Valentine’s Day!

5 Superfoods for a Heart-Healthy Diet

February is Heart Health Month and a great time to refocus on one of the most important things we can do for ourselves – keeping our hearts as healthy as possible. Fortunately, when it comes to heart health, diet plays a major role, which is indeed good news, because it means that we actually have control over our heart’s health.

What is a Heart-Healthy Diet?

Generally, a heart-healthy diet is a diet that helps you lose weight, and lower your “bad” cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. Regardless of specific foods, try to always choose whole, natural foods and avoid processed foods as much as you can. Processed foods often contain trans fats, which are extremely damaging to the heart; they also often contain cheap, potentially rancid vegetable oils, too much sugar, too much salt, and preservatives. None of that is good news for your heart, and being so palatable, these foods are also more likely to cause you to overeat. Our advice? Don’t keep them in the house, and you won’t be tempted.

Heart-Healthy Foods

Here are five superfoods that are especially potent when it comes to protecting your heart:

1. Wild-caught cold water fish. Whether it’s salmon, herring or sardines, cold-water fish contain omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids decrease risk of abnormal heartbeats, decrease triglyceride levels, slow growth rate of plaque, and lower blood pressure.

Remember that due to mercury content found in fish, they should be eaten in moderation.

2. Dairy. For years, we’ve been told that saturated fats are unhealthy. But newer research shows that dairy fat can reduce the risk of heart attack. Dairy foods, such as Greek yogurt (LINK to Voskos homepage) contain a number of potentially beneficial substances, such as calcium, vitamin D, and potassium, noted the researchers. They have also been shown to increase people’s levels of “good” HDL cholesterol.

3. Nuts, especially almonds and walnuts. These contain plant-based omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamin E, magnesium and folate. A handful is all it takes – nuts are very calorie-dense, but a small amount will keep you satiated for a long time, thanks to their healthy fat content.

4. Red wine. We’ve all heard about the French Paradox, and it seems to be at least partly explained by the French high consumption of red wine.  Red wine contains flavonoids, which can improve “good” HDL cholesterol. Obviously, you don’t want to overdo it with wine – a 5oz glass with dinner each night is just right.

5. Berries, especially blueberries. Berries are loaded with potent antioxidants, folate, calcium, magnesium, potassium and fiber. How wonderful it is that these tasty little treats are also so very heart healthy!

The list above highlights just a few of the heart-healthy foods that we should all incorporate into our diets. There are many more (fresh vegetables, for example!), but the above list, and staying away from junk foods, is a good place to start.

 

 

5 Easy and Filling Snack Ideas that Won’t Break The Diet

We’ve all been there – the midmorning slump that sends us straight to the vending machine, or that annoying afternoon exhaustion that can only be relieved, it seems, with a Grande Latte and a Snickers Bar.

Snacking is fine – in fact, many nutritionists say that five or six small meals a day are better for most of us than the traditional three square meals. Eating smaller meals more often should help you avoid the food coma typical to large meals, is easier on the digestive system, and helps provide you with steady levels of energy throughout the day. That is, as long as your snacks are sensible!

High Protein/High Fiber Snacks are the Best!
The best snacks are around 200 calories – not so small that they won’t satisfy, and not so large that they’ll cause you to break your diet; and they combine a protein and a healthy fat, to help you stay fuller for longer. The worst snacks, obviously, are sugary, empty-calorie-type snacks. Those will provide energy in the short term, but they tend to be high in calories and will send your blood sugar into a nasty roller coaster.

So ditch that Snickers Bar (it’s a yummy occasional treat but not a great everyday snack) and let’s look at a few ideas for snacks that are healthy, filling, and won’t break your diet.

1. An ounce of cubed sharp cheddar and a medium apple. This filling snack provides you with about 180 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein and 10 grams of fat (6g saturated). Bonus: you’ll also get 20% of your daily calcium needs.

2. A cup of plain nonfat VOSKOS® Greek yogurt, mixed with a tablespoon of softened creamy peanut butter. This 190-calorie snack contains 22 grams of protein and 20% of your daily calcium requirement.

3. A hardboiled egg, 10 large baby carrots and 1/4 cup dip made with VOSKOS nonfat plain Greek yogurt. This healthy snack contains 160 filling calories and provides you with 12 grams of protein and 450% of your vitamin A requirements.

4. Apple slices are extra yummy when dipped into vanilla or honey flavored VOSKOS® and sprinkled with cinnamon. This 211-calorie snack contains 16 grams of protein and 20% of your daily calcium needs.

5. Ants on a log aren’t just for kids! Spread a tablespoon of almond butter on 1/2 cup of celery strips, and dot the almond butter with 2 tablespoons of raisins. This 150-calorie snack will keep you satiated, thanks to the combination of healthy fat from the almond butter and fiber from the celery.

The best way to make sure your snacks are healthy and nutritious is to plan ahead. Don’t wait until the next snack attack! Fill your fridge with pre-portioned healthy snacks and stay full without breaking your diet or succumbing to the vending machine.

Kick-Start Your Diet With Protein In The Morning

You know that “healthy” breakfast that leaves you RAVENOUS by 10:30am? Yes, we’re talking about that yummy cereal. Even the whole-grain one converts into sugar almost immediately in your body, as do the granola bar and the breakfast cookies.

These high-carb breakfasts are delicious, but they do not fill you up. Like anything high in carbohydrates, they cause fluctuations in blood sugar that can leave you exhausted and hungry mid-morning, hours before lunch.

Choose a Healthy Breakfast Over a Sugary Breakfast
Too many of us deal with these blood sugar lows by reaching for yet more sugar – grabbing a candy bar from the vending machine (worst case scenario), or even having a piece of fruit – a much better option, but fruit are still high in sugar, which means more of that sugar roller coaster going on in your body.

If you’re tired of the sugar roller coaster and the endless cravings, and would like to try something new, we have one word for you: protein. A breakfast high in protein will not just keep you fuller for longer and help you avoid dips in blood sugar levels – it can also help kick start your weight loss, because while a high-carb meal raises your insulin levels, and insulin is a fat storage hormone, a high-protein meal won’t have the same insulin-raising effect.

High-Protein Breakfast Ideas
So what can you have for breakfast that’s high in protein and yummy? A cup of thick, creamy Greek yogurt is ideal – even better if you add a handful of nuts, because the combination of the protein in the yogurt and the healthy fat found in nuts is extra satiating.

Eggs are another great option for a protein-rich breakfast. These baked egg and bacon muffins can be prepared in advance and quickly reheated in the microwave, providing you with 16 grams of yummy protein per muffin.

If you find it difficult to give up classic breakfast foods, try high-protein versions of them. For example, two of these Greek yogurt banana pancakes will provide you with 10 grams of protein and just 200 calories.

Replacing the typical high-carb breakfast with a more substantial and filling protein-rich breakfast will leave you satiated, curb cravings, and will likely eliminate the need for a midmorning snack. If you do feel that you need something to tide you over until lunchtime, have more protein – a cup of yogurt, a hardboiled egg or an ounce of cheddar. It’s fine to add a piece of fruit too, but be sure to mitigate the effects of the fructose by adding protein to each of your meals and snacks.