5 Tricks to Slash Your Sugar Intake

5 Tricks to Slash Your Sugar Intake

As many of us become more aware of what we should and shouldn’t be doing to improve our health and wellness, we’re continually searching for new ways to improve our diets, eat nutrient-dense foods, and cut out the bad stuff (We’re looking at you, sugar!). We want to maximize our energy so we can sustain our activity levels throughout the day, rather than having the quick surge of energy that sugary snacks or beverages give us, followed by the inevitable crash.

Although there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to nixing sugar from your diet and curbing a sweet tooth, there are some tricks to make the process less painful. Read on to find out how to cut back on this sweet substance once and for all.

1. Stay hydrated.

Sure, sugary drinks will temporarily put a little spring in your step, but a few hours later, you’re likely to feel a bit lethargic. Maintaining adequate hydration levels is essential to help your body function; even mild dehydration can leave you feeling sluggish. Rather than reaching for sugary sodas or fruit drinks, consider herbal teas or no-sugar sparkling waters like LaCroix or Polar. This way, you can drink great tasting beverages and stay hydrated without the extra sugar.

2. Watch out for low and nonfat foods.

In many cases, when a manufacturer reduces fat from a product, they increase the amount of sugar in it, so the products remain tasty—but, they’re not doing you any favors to reduce your overall intake of sugar. One example of this type of product is the low or nonfat, fruit-flavored yogurt, which can be a handy snack when you’re pressed for time. Instead, a better option is to buy plain yogurt and add fresh, antioxidant-rich fruits like strawberries and blueberries to it. You’ll have a filling snack, the benefits of anti-inflammatory superfoods, and you’ll forgo the added sugar.

3. Combine protein, healthy fats, and fiber for a power-infused meal.

Simple carbohydrates and sugars cause a surge in your blood sugar, then it plummets. But foods high in protein, healthy fats, and fiber keep your blood sugar steady, so you won’t experience such highs and lows in your energy levels. Plus, eating meals rich in protein, fats, and fiber will keep you feeling fuller longer, so you’ll be less likely to indulge in those donuts in the breakroom.

4. Bring healthy snacks with you.

When you’re in a hurry, but you’re hungry, vending machines are a quick and accessible way to satisfy an immediate need for food. However, with just a few minutes of preparation each day, you can bring healthier snack alternatives to work that will truly feed your body.

Not sure what to bring? Consider protein-packed hard boiled eggs, healthy fats like nuts and avocados, or vegetables with hummus. With time, you’ll begin to notice your tendency to reach for the sweets lessens, and your sugar cravings start to subside.

5. Take small steps towards change.

Going full throttle into a new diet is tempting. But, if things don’t go smoothly (which they often don’t), you may find yourself slipping back into old patterns. As a substitute for banning sugar from your diet all at once, pick one meal a day and make it a sugar-free meal—like a breakfast omelet loaded with fresh veggies. This nutritious meal will fuel your body and start your day off on the right foot.

If you fall back into old your old routine—no big deal! We all do it from time to time. Just restart your healthy habits the next day, and don’t be too hard on yourself. If sugar has been a mainstay in your diet for a long time, it’s going to take several weeks to months to get used to a diet without it.

4 Ways to Set Work Boundaries

4 Ways to Set Work Boundaries

Do you find that it’s difficult to separate your work life from your home life? Are you more accustomed to saying yes to people rather than no? Have you noticed that you often bring your work home with you in some capacity? If you feel like your work life is becoming indistinguishable from your personal life, maybe it’s time to rethink your boundaries.

Here are four ways to do just that.

1. Establish boundaries at work.

When you’re at work, what things make you feel frustrated, anxious, or overtaxed? Maybe you said you’d come in early, stay late, or take an extra shift when you didn’t want to? Take note of when negative feelings arise and the circumstances that may have caused them.

Next, think about the parameters you need to do your best work. These “parameters” are potential areas to consider for boundaries, and the feelings you experience when you disregard them are likely your body’s way of telling you to set some limits.

Then, examine how you’d feel if you’d made a different choice. Perhaps you’d have more time with your family or participate in the activities you enjoy. The boundaries you create for yourself in the workplace will make your job more enjoyable—give yourself permission to stick to them!

2. Acknowledge your limits.

When your profession involves caring for people, it’s easy to put others before yourself. But your abilities, whether emotional, mental, or physical, have limits. Acknowledge those limits, and don’t shy away from saying no if you’re stressed out, overwhelmed, or uncomfortable with something.

One way to know you’ve reached your maximum capacity is to think of your feelings on a spectrum, according to Dana Gionta and Dan Guerra, authors of From Stressed to Centered. The authors suggest rating your level of discomfort about a situation on a scale of one to ten. A rating of one to three tends to have a minimal effect on you, while ratings of four to six cause a medium impact on your emotions. Furthermore, a circumstance with a score of seven to ten will likely cause a high degree of distress. The authors recommend taking inventory of interactions or situations that produce a medium to high degree of distress and setting a boundary so that you can preserve your well-being.

3. If someone tries to push past your boundaries, discuss it as soon as possible.

Eventually, someone will push past the boundary—the safeguard—you’ve put in place for yourself. When that happens, try to address the interaction or circumstance at that moment, rather than waiting until a later time. If too much time passes, the person may not get the complete picture of your level of discomfort. But if you confront the situation as soon as possible, it can help you avoid unnecessary job drama and feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or resentful down the road.

4. Be mindful of your boundaries at home.

Sometimes, you may not be able to avoid bringing work home with you. But if that’s the case, try to stick to a planned schedule. For example, designate a specific amount of time to address work issues, then, stop when that time frame is up. While it may be tempting to ignore the timer, doing so can leave you feeling exhausted and drained.

As a health care professional, it’s essential that you honor the boundaries you’ve established for your home life as well, so you can feel refreshed and be at your best when you’re helping others.

Creating healthy boundaries doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time and practice. And, if your boundaries get a little off track now and then, you can always refocus your attention and reaffirm your commitment to the limits you set to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

The Nurse’s Guide to the Flu

The Nurse’s Guide to the Flu

As most nurses certainly are aware, this year’s flu season is exceptional. It has surged earlier than in previous years and as of mid-January is widespread across all 50 states. There has been a significant wave of flu cases in doctor’s offices and hospitals across the country, affecting everyone from children to the elderly. Emergency rooms (ERs) are inundated with flu patients, and in many cases patients line the hallways in overcrowded facilities without space or beds available due to additional patient volume. Patients are boarding and holding for inpatient beds in the ERs, which exposes additional patients, visitors, and staff to the flu. 

Below are some friendly flu reminders, tips, and tricks to keeping yourself and your patients healthy and safe this season and beyond.

Hand hygiene is the most effective way to stop the transmission of the flu. Flu spreads via droplets coughed or sneezed by infected persons onto shared surfaces. Washing your hands thoroughly and frequently and using alcohol-based gel sanitizers is an effective way to prevent flu. But one thing we often forget about is our patients’ hands. Especially when I work in triage, I’ve started asking my patients and their visitors to use hand sanitizer before triage and before they enter their patient rooms as well. 

If your hands are feeling the burn after so much vigorous washing and sanitizing, reach out to your infectious disease department to see if it can provide some hospital-approved pump-style lotions for your cracked hands. At home, try using Bag Balm or deep healing lotions and placing mittens on before bed to help salves and creams absorb overnight.

If you have flu symptoms, you should stay home from work. Not all employers have the same regulations regarding sick leave and doctor’s notes, and some are certainly more rigid than others. But the best thing you can do for yourself, your patients, and your colleagues when feeling under the weather is to stay home. This doesn’t just help you get better faster, but also prevents you from endangering your fellow nurses. The flu can spread so rapidly through a department that it can quickly decimate staff numbers and leave no one else to care for other ill patients. 

You should feel empowered to communicate with visitors about the flu. It is imperative that nurses educate family members and patient visitors about their role in flu prevention. If your facility hasn’t already done so, consider limiting visitors to your patient rooms, especially children. It is wise to limit visitors under the age of 12 to protect this vulnerable age group from germs. You should feel empowered to ask ill-appearing visitors not to enter a patient’s room if you are concerned for their health. The safety of patients is the utmost priority.

Tamiflu is not for everyone. Most cases of the flu do not require treatment with antiviral medication such as Tamiflu. Clinical judgment will determine whether a patient fits criteria for treatment with antivirals. In most cases, treatment is most effective if given within 48 hours of symptom onset. If you have cared for influenza patients and are starting to see symptoms in yourself, reach out to your employee or occupational health department as soon as possible. In some cases it may be taken prophylactically.

It’s not too late to vaccinate. Make sure to teach patients that even though the flu vaccine has been less effective this year, it still helps save lives by reducing the severity and duration of the influenza virus. Remind patients that it is not too late to receive their flu shot. Everyone six months and older should get the flu shot, especially children, the elderly, and pregnant women.

Mask yourself, mask your patients. If you suspect someone has the flu, you should immediately begin droplet precautions. Place a mask on the patient in triage or when leaving his or her room, and keep yourself protected with a mask and gloves at all times. Remind patients to cover their coughs to help keep you safe.

Resort to basic teaching. Effective discharge teaching can help prevent repeat doctor’s office or ER visits and can help patients stay healthy. Remind patients that the best place for them to be if they are feeling sick is at home. Most people who get the flu will have a mild illness that does not require hospitalization. Fluids, rest, and over-the-counter antipyretics are effective in treating most cases of illness. People with suspected flu should stay home until at least 24 hours after their fever has gone away. Emergency symptoms that require immediate evaluation in an ER include shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, sudden dizziness or confusion, severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea, or pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen. In children or infants, watch for signs of dehydration, fast breathing, lethargy, and rash. 

Keep yourself as healthy as possible. In addition to washing your hands frequently (while at work and not), you should also try to boost your immune system by eating nutritious foods, including fruits and vegetables; staying hydrated; and getting exercise and sleep. Staying well rested and well hydrated can help keep your immune system in good shape to combat this flu season.

A New Year’s Resolution: Oatmeal for Breakfast

A New Year’s Resolution: Oatmeal for Breakfast

The alarm goes off; you groan. How can it be time to get up already? You check the clock, hit the snooze button, and decide to skip breakfast in your head. You can eat something later—there’s no time.

Now that a new year is upon us, it’s time to renew some healthy habits. Many people resolve each new year to exercise more frequently or to eat healthier. I’ve got an easy suggestion for your nursing new year’s resolution: One of the best habits you can instill in your day is simply to eat breakfast before your shift.

As nurses, we know and can recognize the symptoms of hypoglycemia in our patients. But so frequently, the symptoms of low blood sugar are manifesting in ourselves and we don’t even notice. It is so important to eat breakfast, as it helps energize your morning, stabilize your blood sugar, and set you up for clear thinking and communicating at the beginning of a 12+ hour day.

Eating something in the morning is better than eating nothing, but some choices are better than others. The best breakfast choices are usually high in protein, fiber, heart-healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates. (And no, that mug of coffee doesn’t count as breakfast!)

Especially during winter, I urge you to try a bowl of oatmeal. Quick-cook oats take just two minutes to cook in the microwave, and they are so versatile. Try adding dried mango and shredded coconut, applesauce and cinnamon, or fresh fruit and Greek yogurt. Top with some raisins or nuts for added protein. Oatmeal is filling: it contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, which helps regulate your blood sugar and reduce your cholesterol levels. Even better, oatmeal is cheap! An entire canister of oats is usually less than $4 at the grocery store.

Oatmeal can be quick and easy to make and prepare (I set mine out the night before in a microwave-safe container, so in the morning I just add water and go), and I guarantee it will keep you full longer than that cup of coffee or berry smoothie. Overnight oats are a unique twist and make prep in the morning even faster. If you aren’t into hot cereal in the morning, try an oatmeal bar, the powerful effects of the oats are still available in bar form too, although be wary of excess sugars.

Whatever you grab as you walk out the door, make sure you’re setting yourself up for the best shift you can possibly have. Our job as nurses is hard enough without doing it on an empty stomach.

5 Popular Fitness Trends to Try in 2018

5 Popular Fitness Trends to Try in 2018

In November, the American College of Sports Medicine released the results of a worldwide survey projecting the most popular fitness trends for 2018. Whether you’re looking to get reacquainted with consistent exercise, hoping to spice up your current routine, or searching for workouts that are fast and effective, these forecasted trends offer a little something for everyone. Plus, many of these workouts can be done in the comforts of your home with very little equipment. From a list of 16, here are my top five picks for convenience, affordability, and accessibility.

1. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

If you haven’t tried a HIIT session before, this time-saving, full-body workout might surprise you. Generally, classes last around 30 minutes, but they could be longer or shorter depending on the repertoire of exercises. HIIT incorporates short spurts of high-intensity training followed by a brief time of rest or recovery. You can find HIIT classes in just about every gym and online. When doing the exercises, concentrate on your posture and form. Because HIIT can be very fast-paced and intense, you want to minimize your risk of injuries.

2. Wearable Technology

Whether you wear a Fitbit or keep your phone in your pocket, counting your steps can help you track how much mileage you’re logging each day. As a bonus, you can monitor your heart rate and time spent sleeping, so you can make sure you’re not just working hard, but getting adequate rest as well.

3. Yoga

Every year, there seems to be something new in the world of yoga—from pool yoga, aerial yoga, and yogalates, to more traditional forms like Hatha, Vinyasa, and Kundalini. Yoga’s staying power lies in its variety, and its ability to challenge both the mind and the body. Since it’s available at nearly every gym and online, this fitness favorite won’t be going away anytime soon.

4. Functional Fitness

The study defines functional fitness as, “using strength training to improve balance, coordination, force, power, and endurance to enhance someone’s ability to perform activities of daily living.” In other words, this type of exercise trains your muscles to work more efficiently in your everyday life, which is why it’s a leading form of exercise around the world. Functional fitness may incorporate props like medicine balls, kettlebells, or your own body weight (to name a few). Additionally, you can complete a functional fitness session in your home, gym, or class setting. Who doesn’t like the sound of strengthening your body to make your daily activities a little easier?

5. Outdoor Activities

If the sound of going to a gym or working out at home has you feeling a little confined, you’re in luck! Outdoor, sporting activities make the list of next year’s fitness trends. Whether you’re into hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, or something else entirely, outdoor activities allow you to enjoy and interact with your natural surroundings. Best of all, they can be done alone or as a group—whatever motivates you to engage in an active lifestyle!

What fitness trends or activities are you looking forward to doing in 2018?


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