It’s a new year, and that means you may have made some resolutions. If you’re like most, you plan to lose weight or eat healthier. I’m urging people to forget about the New Year’s resolution to diet. Let’s face it, the majority of people give up on it by February anyway. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to get healthier, but let’s try a goal that is attainable and is still good for health. For starters, move more.
The average person spends about 9.5 hours a day sitting. Add that to the 7.5 hours we spend sleeping per night, and that’s a whole lot of idle time. Here are some tips to sneak in a little more activity into your day without joining a gym. These five simple exercises can be done anywhere, anytime:
- Walk/jog/run in place. It is as simple as it sounds, stand up from your chair and start jogging, whether it’s in place, around the room, or even out to the mailbox. Do it 30-45 seconds at a time, three to five times a day.
- Push-ups. No, you don’t have to get on the floor in your office. Try them on the wall or on the edge of your desk. Do 10 reps, three times.
- Squats. Stand up from your chair and sit back down 10 times.
- Calf raises. Raise your heels off floor and slowly lower them back to the ground. If needed, use the back of a chair for support. Do three sets of 10.
- Wall sit. Stand with your back against the wall and lower yourself into a seated position. Hold for as long as you can, ideally up to 60 seconds.
There are other ways to burn extra calories throughout your day. Doing things such as parking farther away, taking the stairs, or taking a 15-minute walk are easy ways to increase your heart rate and boost your health.
While I’m not going to talk about dieting, I am going to give you a tip that could help you eat less and feel better. Simply, slow down. By taking your time to eat, you give your body time to recognize when you’re full, which can take up to 20 minutes. In turn, this helps with portion control, which can lead to weight loss or maintenance. Added benefits are better digestion and improved hydration. The best way to trick yourself into slowing down is to take a bite, and then put down your fork while you chew. Shoveling in food isn’t good for your digestion, and it results in overeating.
Speaking of slowing down, here are some tips for slow cooking. Slow cooking in crock pots are a great way to get a jump start on dinner. Here are some tips for slow cooking:
- Size matters. Slow cookers come in a range of sizes, so be sure to use the size cooker recommended in each recipe to ensure that it doesn’t overflow. Most recipes call for a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker.
- Don’t overfill. To avoid a safety hazard and to make sure your meal gets cooked thoroughly, most manufacturers recommend filling your slow cooker no more than two-thirds full.
- Keep the lid on. I know you’re tempted to take off the lid to check out how your meal is cooking, but every time you do this, heat escapes, and it slows down cooking time.
- Plan ahead. If you want to have a meal ready for after work, make sure to cut meat, chop veggies and measure dry ingredients the night before so you can drop in the ingredients in the morning and go.
- Maximize flavor. If you have extra time, brown your meat and veggies in a skillet before adding them to the slow cooker. This will make the flavor richer than what your cooker can achieve alone.
- Avoid the food “danger zone.” Temperatures between 40 degrees and 140 degrees are considered in the “danger zone,” because bacteria thrive in these temperatures. Let frozen foods thaw in the refrigerator before adding them to the slow cooker.
Now that you know some top tricks for making the most of your slow cooker, warm up with these easy and delicious slow cooker meals:
Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup
32 oz. reduced-sodium chicken broth
3 c. water
2 ½ c. cooked chicken, chopped
3 medium carrots, sliced
3 stalks celery, sliced
1 ½ c. fresh mushrooms, sliced
¼ c. onion, chopped
1 ½ tsp. dried thyme, crushed
¾ tsp. garlic-pepper seasoning
3 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, cut up
2 c. dried egg noodles
- In a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, combine broth, water, chicken, carrots, celery, mushrooms, onion, thyme and garlic-pepper seasoning.
- Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6-8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 4 hours.
- If using low-heat setting, turn to high-heat setting. Stir in cream cheese until combined. Stir in uncooked noodles. Cover and cook for 20 to 30 minutes more or just until noodles are tender.
Slow-cooker Mediterranean Chicken & Orzo
1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 c. low-sodium chicken broth
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. Herbs de Provence
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp ground pepper
¾ c. whole-wheat orzo
1/3 c. quartered black or green olives
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
- Cut each chicken breast half into 4 pieces. Combine the chicken, broth, tomatoes, onion, lemon zest, lemon juice, Herbes de Provence, salt and pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker. Cook on high-heat for 2 hours or on low-heat for 4 hours. Stir in orzo and olives; cook for 30 minutes more. Let cool slightly. Sprinkle with parsley.