The average adult laughs 17 times a day while a child laughs 300 times a day.1 There is a reason why we have always heard that laughter is the best medicine. Both humor and laughter can be effective self-care tools to help us cope with stress, especially in the workplace.
Humor = Healthy
Finding humor and laughter in stressful situations can give us a sense of perspective on our problems. And it’s good for our health.
“Studies from around the world have shown that an atmosphere of humor results in better patient cure, less anesthesia time, less operating time, and shorter hospital stays.”1
– Carol Whipple, MS. Former Extension Specialist for Social Work at University of Kentucky
Here are just a few health benefits related to laughing.
Improves your mood – can lessen depression, anxiety and help you relax.
Improves your immune system – positive thoughts from laughter release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more-serious illnesses. Laughter boosts the number of antibody-producing cells, which leads to a stronger immune system.2
Activates multiple organs – stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles.
Laughter causes the release of beta-endorphins in the hypothalamus, which leads to the release of nitric oxide, which dilates the vessels. And there’s more. Nitric oxide is a chemical that also protects the heart by reducing inflammation and preventing the formation of cholesterol plaque.2
Laughing is much more than an emotional response to something funny, it also evokes a physical response. Laughing exercises several muscles in the body, including your abdomen, back, shoulders, and facial muscles. Also, laughter is a great workout for your respiratory system! Much like physical activity, such as running, which increases the endorphins that are released by your brain, laughter has the same effect on your body.
So in addition to healthy eating and exercise, add some time for laughter throughout your day to improve your health.
Did you know that childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past 30 years? In 2012, more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese.
What is “Overweight”?
Overweight is defined as having excess body weight for a particular height from fat, muscle, bone, water, or a combination of these factors. Obesity is defined as having excess body fat.
To help your child maintain a healthy weight, help them balance the calories they consume from foods and beverages with calories used up through physical activity and normal growth.
Remember that the goal for overweight and obese children and teens is to reduce the rate of weight gain while allowing normal growth and development. Children and teens should NOT be placed on a weight reduction diet without the consultation of a health care provider.
What Can You Do?
There is no secret to healthy eating. To help your children and family develop healthy eating habits:
Provide plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole-grain products.
Include low-fat or non-fat milk or dairy products.
Choose lean meats, poultry, fish, lentils, and beans for protein.
Serve reasonably-sized portions.
Encourage your family to drink lots of water.
Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
Limit consumption of sugar and saturated fat.
Remove calorie-rich temptations of high-fat and high-sugar or salty snacks and replace them with easy-to-prepare, low-fat, and low-sugar treats that are under 100 calories:
A medium-size apple
A medium-size banana
1 cup blueberries
1 cup grapes
1 cup carrots, broccoli, or bell peppers with 2 tbsp. hummus
Enjoy these 10 tips for making great tasting snacks:
Create a yogurt sundae. Top plain, low-fat or fat-free yogurt with fresh, frozen, or canned fruit, like bananas, strawberries, or peaches. Sprinkle whole-grain cereal on top for crunch.
Make pita pockets. Stuff a small whole-wheat pita with sliced bell peppers, salsa, and a slice of low-fat cheese. Melt in the microwave for 15-20 seconds.
Jazz up your favorite cereal. Make a trail mix. Stir 1/4 cup of unsalted nuts, 1/4 cup of dried raisins or cranberries, and 1/4 cup of whole-grain cereal together.
Make a fruit sandwich. Cut an apple into thin slices. Spread peanut butter or almond butter between two slices to create apple sandwiches.
Dip your veggies. Create veggie treats by dipping slices of cucumbers, peppers, and carrots into a low-fat salad dressing or hummus.
Pack fresh fruit like bananas and oranges for after their school activities.
Try a piece of cheesy toast. Toast a slice of whole-wheat bread and top a slice of your favorite low-fat cheese.
Freeze your fruit. For a frozen treat on hot days, try freezing grapes or bananas. Don’t forget to peel bananas and pull grapes from the stem before freezing.
Power up with roll-ups. Roll a slice of low-salt deli-turkey around an apple wedge or around a slice of low-fat cheese.
Build a fruit salad. Mix your favorite sliced fruits such as pineapple, grapes, and melon.
Learn the facts and tips about weight loss, nutrition, and physical activity to help you make healthy changes in your daily habits.
Speak to your health care provider who can help you answer questions about weight loss. A registered dietitian may also give you advice on a healthy eating plan and safe ways to lose weight and keep it off.1
Myth: Fad diets will help me lose weight and keep it off.
Fact: Fad diets are not the best way to lose weight and keep it off. These diets often promise quick weight loss if you strictly reduce what you eat or avoid some types of foods. These diets may help you lose weight at first, but they are hard to follow. Most people quickly get tired of them and regain any lost weight.
Fad diets may be unhealthy. They may not provide all of the nutrients your body needs. Also, losing more than 3 pounds a week after the first few weeks may increase your chances of developing gallstones (solid matter in the gallbladder that can cause pain). Being on a diet of fewer than 800 calories a day for a long time may lead to serious heart problems.
TIP: Research suggests that safe weight loss involves combining a reduced-calorie diet with physical activity to lose 1/2 to 2 pounds a week (after the first few weeks of weight loss). Make healthy food choices. Eat small portions. Build exercise into your daily life. Combined, these habits may be a healthy way to lose weight and keep it off. These habits may also lower your chances of developing heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes.
Myth: Grain products such as bread, pasta, and rice are fattening. I should avoid them when trying to lose weight.
Fact: A grain product is any food made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain. Grains are divided into two subgroups, whole grains and refined grains. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel—the bran, germ, and endosperm. Examples include brown rice and whole-wheat bread, cereal, and pasta. Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. This is done to give grains a finer texture and improve their shelf life, but it also removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins.
People who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet may lower their chances of developing some chronic diseases. Government dietary guidelines advise making half your grains whole grains. For example, choose 100 percent whole-wheat bread instead of white bread, and brown rice instead of white rice.
TIP: To lose weight, reduce the number of calories you take in and increase the amount of physical activity you do each day. Create and follow a healthy eating plan that replaces less healthy options with a mix of fruits, veggies, whole grains, protein foods, and low-fat dairy:
Eat a mix of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
Limit added sugars, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and saturated fat.
Myth: Some people can eat whatever they want and still lose weight.
Fact: To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat and drink. Some people may seem to get away with eating any kind of food they want and still lose weight. But those people, like everyone, must use more energy than they take in through food and drink to lose weight.
A number of factors such as your age, genes, medicines, and lifestyle habits may affect your weight. If you would like to lose weight, speak with your health care provider about factors that may affect your weight. Together, you may be able to create a plan to help you reach your weight and health goals.
TIP: When trying to lose weight, you can still eat your favorite foods as part of a healthy eating plan. But you must watch the total number of calories that you eat. Reduce your portion sizes. Find ways to limit the calories in your favorite foods. For example, you can bake foods rather than frying them. Use low-fat milk in place of cream. Make half of your plate fruits and veggies.
Physical Activity Myths
Myth: Lifting weights is not a good way to lose weight because it will make me “bulk up.”
Fact: Lifting weights or doing activities like push-ups and crunches on a regular basis can help you build strong muscles, which can help you burn more calories. To strengthen muscles, you can lift weights, use large rubber bands (resistance bands), do push-ups or sit-ups, or do household or yard tasks that make you lift or dig.
TIP: Government guidelines for physical activity recommend that adults should do activities at least two times a week to strengthen muscles. The guidelines also suggest that adults should get 150 to 300 minutes of moderately intense or vigorous aerobic activity each week—like brisk walking or biking. Aerobic activity makes you sweat and breathe faster.
Myth: Physical activity only counts if I can do it for long periods of time.
Fact: You do not need to be active for long periods to achieve your 150 to 300 minutes of activity each week. Experts advise doing aerobic activity for periods of 10 minutes or longer at a time.
TIP: Plan to do at least 10 minutes of physical activity three times a day on 5 or more days a week. This will help you meet the 150-minute goal. While at work, take a brief walking break. Use the stairs. Get off the bus one stop early. Go dancing with friends. Whether for a short or long period, bursts of activity may add up to the total amount of physical activity you need each week.
For more helpful information, tips, and tools on healthy eating and physical activity, visit ChooseMyPlate.gov.
You’ve probably heard it all your life — eating fruits and vegetables is important for good health, however, most of us still aren’t getting enough.
Balance is Key
People who eat a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables can help lower their risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Eating healthy can also prevent obesity and high blood pressure.2
Fruits, vegetables, and legumes (dry beans and peas) may reduce the risk of several chronic diseases. Compared to people who eat few fruits, vegetables, and legumes, people who eat higher amounts as part of a healthy diet are likely to have reduced risk of chronic diseases, including stroke and perhaps other cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancers in certain parts of the body (mouth, throat, lung, esophagus, stomach, and colon-rectum).3
Did You Know?
Did you know that adults in the U.S. only consume fruit about 1.1 times per day and vegetables about 1.6 times per day?1 Eating fruits and vegetables has many health benefits. Fewer than 1 in 4 adults eat the recommended amount of fruits and fewer than 1 in 7 adults eat the recommended amount of vegetables every day.2
The fiber in fruits, vegetables, and legumes is important. Diets rich in fiber-containing foods may reduce the risk of heart disease. Many fruits, vegetables and legumes are also rich in vitamins A, C and K, folate, potassium and magnesium.
Additionally, many fruits, vegetables and legumes are low in calories and high in volume and nutrients so eating more fruits and vegetables can help you feel full without eating too many calories. As a result, this may help you lose a few pounds along the way.
How Much Should You Eat?
By making fruits and vegetables the focal point of every meal, you will be able to meet your recommended amount each day. Easiest way to do this is by filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal.4
The number of cups of fruits and vegetables your family needs depends on caloric needs, which are determined by age, gender and activity level. Visit fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org for more details.
Become a Label Reader!
One caution about buying packaged (canned, dried, or frozen) fruits and vegetables is they may contain added sugars, saturated fats, or sodium—ingredients you may need to limit. There are three places to look on a package that give you clues about what is in the food: the ingredient list, the Nutrition Facts label, and the front label of the package.
Added sugars can appear on the ingredient list as brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, maple syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, and syrup.
If fruits and vegetables are canned, dried, or frozen, use the Nutrition Facts label to check the calories, the nutrient content, added salt (sodium), and sugar. Use the percent Daily Value (% DV) to determine how much dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium, are in the food you select; 5% DV or less is low and 20% DV or more is high. If you want to meet recommended intakes for certain nutrients such as dietary fiber, vitamins A and C, and potassium, look for food high in those nutrients. For nutrients that you need to limit your intake of, such as sodium and saturated fat, select food that is low in those nutrients.
In addition, the label on the front of the package may contain claims about the product put there by the manufacturer. Use the claims on fruit and vegetable packages to identify foods with little salt (sodium) or added sugars. Examples include “low sodium,” “no added salt,” “no added sugar,” and “unsweetened.”3
Tips for Eating More Fruits & Veggies
Add more fruits and vegetables to a favorite recipe (for example, add vegetables to your favorite pasta, grated carrots or zucchini to meat loaf, or fruit to a homemade dessert).
Add vegetables to your sandwich at lunch.
Add canned, dried or fresh fruit to your salad (for example, canned mandarin oranges, dried cranberries or fresh apples).
Add vegetables to your soup, rice, or pasta at dinner.
Cut up vegetables for easy access in your refrigerator.
Try a new method for cooking vegetables (for example, grilling, roasting or sautéing).
Bring fruit to have on hand, and eat a piece when you get hungry.
Keep a snack bag of dried fruit (like raisins or cranberries) in your purse or desk.
Bring your lunch to work, and include at least two servings of fruits or vegetables.
Ask your server if you can choose vegetables for a side dish with your order.
It’s easier to establish healthy behaviors during childhood than having to change unhealthy behaviors during adulthood.
Chronic conditions are becoming increasingly common among children and adolescents in the U.S. Did you know that about 1 in 4 adolescents suffers from a chronic condition such as diabetes and asthma?1
Obesity On the Rise
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The percentage of U.S. children aged 6 to 11 years who were obese increased from 7% in 1976-1980 to nearly 18% in 2011-2014. The percentage of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years who were obese increased from 5% to 21% during the same period.”1
Developed by the CDC, The Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model brings together public health, education, and school health to improve health and learning. Children with chronic conditions may miss more school days which reduces their time for learning and may result in lower academic achievement. It’s important to manage these conditions effectively with the right nutrition and ample physical activity. Healthy behaviors are practices ingrained early in childhood and it’s essential that children and adolescents have a healthy school and healthy environment in order to succeed.
Schools and parents can help increase the quantity and quality of physical education and physical activity during and after school hours. Benefits of physical activity have been proven to help build muscles and healthy bones, and improve strength and endurance. Physical activity can aid in managing weight, reducing stress and increasing self-esteem – which may positively impact children’s academic performance.
Diet and Nutrition
Creating healthy eating habits early in childhood life helps set the path to a healthier adulthood. Healthy eating along with physical activity help support proper growth and development and can prevent health problems such as obesity, diabetes, etc. Teaching and including children in healthy meal preparation and cooking is a great way to reinforce healthy eating habits as well.
Focus on Prevention
Did you know?
Did you know that 51% of all causes of death in the U.S. are attributable to lifestyle behaviors many of which are preventable through healthy habits?2
Did you know that 85% of all type 2 diabetes and its side effects are preventable?2
While some life events are out of our control and cannot be prevented, it’s clear that we can prevent many of the health problems by engaging in healthy lifestyle behaviors. Schools, parents, and health care practitioners can help educate children and adolescents to make smart food choices, exercise to build strong bodies and monitor their health and any chronic conditions they may have.
Manage Chronic Conditions
To reduce school absenteeism schools, parents, and health care practitioners can help by using proven practices to better manage chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, food allergies, etc. For more information about managing chronic conditions, visit www.cdc.gov, then click on Diseases & Conditions.