8 Last-Minute Healthy Gifts For The Holidays

If you’re scrambling to find the perfect gift for that special someone, it’s not too late to give the gift of health.

Here are some healthy options:

  1. A journal for recording your thoughts, activities or goals
  2. A subscription to a health-related magazine. Cooking Light is my favorite
  3. A recipe organizer to keep track of your favorite recipes
  4. A membership to a gym or gift certificate for a yoga class
  5. A gift basket of healthy foods (olive oil, almonds, flax seed, dried fruit, flavored vinegar, sun-dried tomatoes, whole wheat pasta, etc.)
  6. Hand weights or an exercise ball
  7. A cool apron with a cookbook
  8. Cooking items such as a culinary knife, nonstick skillet, or a set of cutting boards

Step Up Your Shopping

You can even turn your last-minute purchasing expedition into an exercise in health and fitness for yourself.

One tip? Walk extra steps whenever possible:

  1. When heading out to the mall, look for the farthest parking spot in the parking lot.
  2. Start your shopping with a brisk walk through the mall or up and down the aisles of the store.
  3. When you arrive home, make a few trips to unload the car instead of trying to bring in all your packages in one trip.

After your big shopping expedition, relax with a cup of herbal tea or low-fat chocolate milk for a low-calorie beverage.  You can enjoy a couple of holiday treats, too.  Just remember that portion control is the key to eating healthy.

If you’ve struggled to be healthy given all your holiday demands, read 50 Small Changes for a Healthier Life for inspiration in the New Year.

 

How to Build a Backyard Ice Rink

Given that current weather forecasts for our part of the Northeast are including numbers below the magical 32 degrees Fahrenheit, my mental homeowner ‘to do’ list includes clearing the leaves, starting the snowblower, and so on…standard stuff you may say.

But even now, I catch myself dreaming of the next item…re-assembling the backyard ice arena, aka “Kane Rink.”

You may then quip “Are you nuts? Sounds like a lot of work!” And I’ll agree, but smile, fueled by a fond, selective memory.

Setting up the ice rink: Lots of trial and error

For nearly 10 winters, my sons and I (and occasionally my wonderful wife/hockey mom) would spend the better part of each Thanksgiving morning:

  • Re-assembling the pressure-treated frame boards (aka our first deck frame) for the border of the rink,
  • Screwing in the assorted galvanized straps and connections to secure the frame,
  • Unrolling and leveling the huge marine grade tarp over the ground and frame walls,
  • Starting the two-day water filling process, with 4” – 6” depth the goal for ease of freezing and maintenance.

Though the instructions SOUND simple, there was a lot of trial and error, and talking to other “crazy” “North Coast” (Webster borders Lake Ontario) parents like us. Some other, much more sane parents, might even ask “isn’t the nearby Webster Ice Arena a half mile from your house?” “Yep, but you can’t turn those lights on at 10 p.m. and play till you’re tired, or any other time you want…and water is cheap!”

Second-hand hockey equipment is key

Only one of my boys actively played hockey. Yet both were good skaters and outdoor adventurers who had fun with friends at our house all the time.

We had spare skates and sticks of all sizes. Plus two goals and a shooting net behind one to enable retrieval of pucks without too many losses to the neighbor’s deck for springtime discovery.

Since hockey families pass along items to newbies as their kids age out, we were lucky too. One parent gave us about 50 extra pucks. Another lent me his “NiceIce Resurfacer.” It’s a water pipe and cloth that evenly spreads the water. This tool saved hours of frustration and would have been worth buying for one season alone!

Building and maintaining the 25’x55’ rink was a shared task and one with new lessons each year. Here are some of those lessons, just in case you decide to start your own “backyard rink” traditions this year.

Want to build an ice rink? Start online

  • Google “how to build a backyard hockey rink” and watch some of the videos. There are many, many theories, but you’ll get the idea and answers to questions you hadn’t even thought of.
  • Consider an online vendor such as NiceRink.com for supplies, brackets and such. There are so many other options, you can start simple when the kids are young and improve year to year.

Ice rink tarp tips

  • Try a marine grade or waterproof tarp instead of stapling sheet plastic. You can reuse the tarp for many years.
  • Try placing corrugated plastic drain pipe over the board edges to hold the tarp and protect it from skaters, pucks and shovels too.

Clean that rink

  • Leaves from nearby trees have to be cleared promptly, or they will freeze into the surface and melt at a different speed than nearby ice due to color and sunlight. They create pits/holes in the surface of the ice.
  • Once the ice formed for the winter, clearing ANY snowfall was crucial within hours. If not, snow would melt then refreeze and/or worse create slush on the ice surface and the upper snow would create a blanket effect. I was in the habit of clearing the driveway and the rink all before sunrise. Again, a “North Coast thing” perhaps?

Finding the best spot for your rink

  • If your yard isn’t 100% level, that’s OK, the boards can be deeper in some spots. You can also bring in loads of dirt to improve your yard. Sixteen loads helped us!
  • Having a nearby source of BOTH hot and cold water is crucial to success. Sometimes hot water melted and easily leveled the top surface after skating or snow fell. A walk-out basement with available laundry tub served our needs. It also gave easy access to get back in the house when too cold to skate.
  • Lighting – if you can point some spotlights from your house to the ice surface, you’ll have extended hours of fun!

End of season fun

  • Buy a ~$30 battery-powered floating water pump for the end of season draining challenge – you’ll thank me.
  • If you only take one end of the boards down in the spring, you can still mow your lawn AND save hours of work! Plus you can keep the goal up for summertime practice on a mat that might also save your garage door from round, black dents.

When you get to the point where the kids go to college (unless you’ve developed your own backyard game and parents’ league), give away your gathered items. You’ll be amazed how much spare time you’ll get back in the winter! But it will be sadly quiet on those sunny, 15 degree days in January when you SHOULD be providing cookies and cocoa to a hungry crew. Savor those memories, they are worth the effort.

We know there’s a lot of fellow upstate NYers who are skilled at building the backyard ice rink! Please share your tips and advice. We’d love to hear them.

11 Easy Snacks to Help You Sleep Better

Almost everyone loves to grab a snack before they go to sleep. But what you choose to eat could determine whether or not you fall asleep right away.

Before you begin nighttime noshing, ask yourself:

  • What’s your motivation?
  • Are you bored? Stuffing emotions? Munching while watching TV?
  • Or, are you really hungry, and if so, how hungry?

If you’re eating just to eat – or to cure boredom or make you feel better – you might want to think twice before indulging.

But if you’re really running on empty, opt for snacks that won’t add extra pounds or result in a restless night.

Large portions and high fat foods (like French fries) interfere with falling asleep. Spicy foods slow down digestion. Alcohol may make you feel drowsy and have a relaxing effect at first, then cause you to wake up because it interferes with deep sleep and interrupts the sleep cycle. The stimulant powers of caffeine, found in coffee, tea or chocolate, take several hours to wear off. Even decaf has some caffeine. High-sugar foods and overeating can also interfere with your ability to sleep.

Not all bedtime snacks are bad for you. Some can help you take in more nutrients that you still need for the day. Going to bed hungry can actually keep you awake.

If you’re considering a bed time snack, try incorporating foods that help boost your levels of serotonin, the calming and “feel good” hormone. You could consider:

  1. Nuts, including walnuts, almonds, cashews and pistachios
  2. Seeds, such as flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  3. Lean protein, such as chicken, fish and low-fat cheese

Choose a small snack with protein and carbohydrates – these types of foods either contain or help create an amino acid called tryptophan that can cause sleepiness.

Try these protein and carbohydrate combinations:

  1. Whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk
  2. Peanut butter on whole-grain toast
  3. Low-fat cheese with whole-grain crackers
  4. One ounce of turkey or chicken on a slice of whole grain bread

Other snack options could include:

  1. Bananas and other foods high in potassium, which helps you to stay asleep

Foods high in calcium also contain certain sleep-causing hormones, such as tryptophan and melatonin. So don’t feel bad if you grab a snack that consists of:

  1. A container of low-fat yogurt
  2. A cup of low-fat milk
  3. A slice of low-fat cheese, such as mozzarella.

Good snacking and good night!

For more advice on what to eat at night, go to:
sleep.org
health.clevelandclinic.org
sleepassociation.org
sleepfoundation.org

Flavorful Escarole and Pastina Soup

This delicious Escarole and Pastina soup includes many Italian flavors that remind me of my childhood. What little Ragazzo or Ragazzi didn’t grow up feasting on ingredients such as escarole, tiny pastina, and cannellini beans?

Alisa Fanara, my co-worker (and fellow Italian), shared this recipe. This soup is perfect for a wintery day. Add chicken or sausage to make the soup heartier.

Print Recipe
Escarole and Pastina Soup
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
people
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat oil in a large pot. Add onion, carrot and garlic, salt and pepper. Cook on medium-low heat until the onion is tender, about 8 minutes.
  2. Turn the heat to medium-high. Add the escarole and cook, stirring for a few minutes until the escarole is wilted. Add the broth, beans, and tomatoes. Simmer over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the escarole is tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the spinach and stir for a minute or two minutes until the spinach is wilted.
  4. Cook the pastina separately. Scoop pastina into the bowls. Ladle the soup on top of the pastina. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve the soup hot!
Recipe Notes

The recipe was adapted from the Los Angeles Times.

I Stand – A Lot. But why does it make others uneasy?

I have an odd habit that’s good for my health, but seems to make others uneasy.

I have a tendency to stand, even when asked to sit.

You might not think this is odd. Especially since sitting too much could put us at risk for serious health issues, including heart disease and diabetes.  This is true for people who even exercise regularly.

But my tendency to stand seems to create a lot of confusion.

Stand Whenever You Can

Whenever I walk into my hairdresser’s, for example, she always says, “Take a seat.”

But I don’t. I stay standing.

I stand when I read the paper, wait at the doctor’s office or nail salon, fill out papers or read something on my phone.

The other day a friend and I were waiting for another friend to go for a walk. While we were waiting, my friend asked if we should sit. I said, “No! We’re about to go for a walk! We’re not sitting!”

My new approach to standing

But I may need to take a slightly different approach to my standing habit.

My hairdresser, for example, said my standing while waiting makes her nervous. I’m making it seem as if I’m impatient, that I need to be helped right away.

That makes complete sense. It’s probably why I get all these odd looks whenever I’m asked to sit, and I don’t!

From now on, when I’m asked to sit, I may say, “Thank you, but I’m just better off standing.”

Maybe that’ll lessen everyone’s uneasiness? But we do need a culture shift. If people stood more, fewer people would ask why I’m standing!

Other ways to stand more

If you need more tips on how to stop sitting so much, read “Is being healthy as simple as standing up?”

I’d also love to learn more about any ideas you may have on ways to stop sitting so much! Please add your thoughts to the comments section below.

Five Pumpkin Breakfast Recipes for Fall

(Just about) everybody loves fall. But do you ever get tired of the leaves, the brisk morning air or the pumpkin everything? NEITHER DO I! I don’t just love pumpkin because of the weather. It’s also delicious and really good for you. Pumpkin is rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene, which help promote the health of your eyes and skin. The fiber in pumpkin also works to keep your digestive system happy. That’s why I enjoy these pumpkin breakfast recipes all year long (shhh…don’t tell fall).

Print Recipe
Warm Autumn Oatmeal
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 1 minute
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Combine oats, pumpkin, milk, and apple into a bowl.
  2. Microwave for one minute.
  3. Add peanut butter and pecans, stirring to combine.
  4. Top with cinnamon.
Print Recipe
Pumpkin Protein Smoothie
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Blend all ingredients together in a blender.
Print Recipe
Pumpkin Granola Bars
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Servings
bars
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Line an 8 by 8 pan with partchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together oats, walnuts, spices and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together pumpkin, honey/maple syrup, applesauce and vanilla until smooth.
  5. Pour over oats and stir to combine. Mix in chocolate chips.
  6. Evenly press the mixture into the pan.
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until edges are golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven and let cool on a rack for 5 minutes before cutting into bars.
Print Recipe
Pumpkin Parfait
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a small bowl, layer yogurt with pumpkin puree and granola.
  2. Sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice.
Print Recipe
Pumpkin Pancakes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
pancakes
Ingredients
Prep Time 20 minutes
Servings
pancakes
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and spices and set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, pumpkin, egg, vegetable oil, and vanilla.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the flour mixture and whisk gently until combined. Let the batter set for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, preheat a pan to medium heat. Drizzle vegetable oil on the warmed pan.
  5. Ladle 1/3 cup of the batter onto the pan for each pancake.
  6. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the bubbles around the edges are open and set. Flip and cook on the other side for an additional 2 minutes.

Looking for a cozy dinner for an autumn evening? Check out our recipe for Tasty Crock-Pot Beef Stroganoff.

10 Pumpkin Patches To Visit in Upstate New York

Fall has arrived and you’re ready to hit the pumpkin patches. But which ones should you visit?

To help, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite pumpkin patches in these regions of upstate New York: Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse, and Utica. Grab your kids, camera and in some cases your pet. Head over to the pumpkin patch to enjoy some fall family fun.

There are a lot more great pumpkin patches in upstate New York. If we missed your favorite one, add it to the comments section below!

For more, read Pumpkin Picking at Chase Farms in Fairport, NY.

Rochester

1. Stokoe Farms

    • Admission: General admission is $15 on weekends (also Columbus Day weekend) and $10 during the week. Discounts for seniors and members of the military (with ID). Kids under age 2 are free.
    • Activities: They have over thirty-five activities for their visitors, including picking pumpkins fresh from the field, enjoying a wagon ride, trying out their pumpkin launchers and apple cannons, and exploring the corn maze.
    • Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 15 – Oct. 28.
    • Location: 656 South Rd, Scottsville, NY 14546

2. Wickham Farms

    • Admission:  They offer “fun passes,” which are not required but are a great option for people who are looking to enjoy multiple attractions for a flat rate. Otherwise, the separate activities have fees.
    • Activities: They have 20 activities, including a pumpkin hayride, pumpkin patch, corn maze, jumping pillow, and miniature golf.
    • Food: Fresh doughnuts and homemade cookies at the farm bakery, apple cider (hot or cold), Finger Lakes Coffee Roasters coffee, and farmer food trucks.
    • Hours: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day. Orchard is 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekends.
    • Location: 1821 Fairport Nine Mile Point Rd, Penfield, NY 14526

3. Pick’N’Patch

    • Admission: It’s free to enter, but many of the activities require tickets.
    • Activities: Some of their fun activities include the barnyard bouncer, corn maze, apple blaster, and hay rides.
    • Hours: Fall season is Sept. 15 – Oct. 31. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
    • Location: 2205 Rts. 5 & 20, Stanley, NY 14561

Buffalo

1. The Great Pumpkin Farm

    • Admission: Admission is $8 per person at the gate for all seven festival weekends (Children ages 2 and under are free). Weekdays are free.
    • Activities: Pumpkin picking, boo barn, jumping pillow, playground, and more!
    • Hours: 10 a.m. to dusk every day, Sept. 15 through Oct. 31.
    • Location: 11199 Main Street, Clarence, NY 14031

2. Wheatfield Pumpkin Farm

    • Admission: There is no admission fee, but the activities do have fees and they are cash only.
    • Activities: Haunted hayrides in October, family farm hayrides daily and a corn maze.
    • Hours: Sept. 23 – Oct. 30, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (extended hours on haunted hayride nights)
    • Location: 6920 Nash Rd, Wheatfield, NY 14120

3. Kelkenberg Farm of Clarence

    • Admission: General admission is $13 per person, children and adults.  No charge for children under age 2.  Admission includes the pumpkin picked in the field. They don’t allow pets.
    • Activities: Pumpkin picking, hay rides, pony rides for kids, farm tour, straw maze, and more.
    • Hours: Open starting Sept. 15. Open every weekend in October and Columbus Day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. without reservations.
    • Location: 9270 Wolcott Road, Clarence Center, NY 14032

Syracuse

1. Tim’s Pumpkin Patch

    • Admission: Free admission, additional charges for certain activities.
    • Activities: Corn maze, animal barn, tractor wagon rides, the hay fort, the fossil dig, and pumpkin picking. Dogs welcome.
    • Hours: The season is Sept. 15 to Oct. 31. Open every day of the week 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the fall season.
    • Location: 2901 Rose Hill Rd, Marietta, NY 13110

2. Katie’s Pumpkin Patch

    • Admission: Free admission. Free corn maze with any purchase, and $1 hay rides.
    • Activities: Pumpkin picking, hay rides ($1 per person) and a corn maze (free with any purchase).
    • Hours: Season starts Sept. 21. Weekdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (when it starts getting dark before 7 p.m., they will close at 6 p.m.). Sundays 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Saturday.
    • Location: 8484 Dunham Rd, Baldwinsville, NY 13027

Utica

1. Pumpkin Junction

    • Admission: Free general admission and their corn maze is free.
    • Activities: They have pumpkin picking, a Halloween store, and the free Cornfusion Corn Maze.
    • Hours: Open Sept. 10 to Oct. 31 daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Location: 2188 Graffenburg Road, Sauquoit, NY, 13456

2. Cullen Pumpkin Farm

    • Admission: No admission fee, but wagon rides are $3 (kids under age 5 are free).
    • Activities: Pick your own pumpkins, wagon rides, the Pumpkin Express, corn maze, and fun places to take pictures!
    • Hours: Open daily 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. starting Sept. 8 through Oct. 31.
    • Location: 587 Cullen Road, Richfield Springs, NY 13439

Did we miss your favorite pumpkin patch? Add it to the comments section below!

Can’t get enough pumpkin? Check out  5 Pumpkin Breakfast Recipes for Fall

How to Stop Work from Killing Your Gym Motivation

It’s 8 p.m. on a gloomy Monday and you just had a long day at work. You finally finished cleaning up after dinner and are exhausted. Your feet hurt, you’re mentally drained, and all you want to do is sit on the couch and scroll through your Facebook feed or catch up with your latest TV show. You realize you wanted to get to the gym, but today just isn’t the day. You think to yourself that you’ll definitely go tomorrow because you’re going to bed “early” tonight.

This is the dangerous habit we let ourselves fall into. I like to call this the, “I’ll do it tomorrow” excuse.

Let me start this off by saying that I am an avid gym-goer. I enjoy going to the gym, sweating, and working hard. When I tell people this, their usual response is, “Well aren’t you lucky, I can’t even get myself off the couch,” or some sarcastic comment not too far off.

My friends then proceed to ask me how I do it (stay motivated). “Don’t you get sick of going to the gym?” My response to that is – well of course.

Getting motivated and staying motivated aren’t easy. The way I see it is a mind game.

I think naturally we all want a quick and easy fix to getting motivated and are all in search of the golden secret, but when it comes down to it, it’s about your own willpower and mental strength. If you are having a hard time getting motivated try these tips to step up your mental game:

1. Set a goal for yourself.

It’s important to know what you are working towards. Working out becomes a lot more motivating when you have a destination in mind and can visualize it. Start simple, set a goal to get in 10,000 steps a day and get to the gym at least once a week.

2. Find a Role Model.

Find influencers that speak to you and make you feel inspired. It’s great to see how others are getting motivated and pushing themselves. My personal favorites are Jill Christine, and Linn Lowes.

Side note: Just because your fitness role model may be on page ten of their fitness journey doesn’t mean they didn’t start from their own page one. Transformation photos can be fun to look at, but don’t get bogged down when you don’t see your own instant results after only a week. Keep pushing. We all have to start somewhere.

3. Change into Gym Clothes When You Get Home from the Office.

It’s one less step later in the evening. Maybe you still need to cook dinner or so some other chores around the house, but at least you’re ready to go. This takes away any possible ongoing battle you could have with yourself later in the night about getting ready or staying home.

4. Pep-Talk Yourself.

Don’t be afraid to give it a try. You can really amp yourself up with this one. Remind yourself that you are strong enough to do this and you will feel great afterward. Positive thoughts are key- don’t get in the way of yourself. Even try a power pose to boost your mental game and attitude.

5. Eat healthy Throughout the day.

Oftentimes junk food can make you feel bloated and sleepy. Your body will likely thank you for eating healthy and fueling it with the proper nutrients and a wholesome diet. Check out some of our recipes so you can change it up for yourself.

6. Listen to Music.

Roll down your windows on the way home from work and jam out to music that gets you energized. Create a gym playlist that has your favorite hits. Listening to upbeat music can really change your mood. Need inspiration? Try our Fearless Playlists.

7. Find a Gym Buddy.

Let’s face it, some days it can be hard to hold yourself accountable. One simple way to fix that is finding someone to work out with. Set goals together and make sure each is holding up on their end. Maybe even make it into a tiny competition.

8. Take a Power Nap.

Twenty to 30 minutes is the perfect amount of time to nap and wake up feeling productive again.

9. Get outside and Enjoy the sun.

The gym isn’t the only place you can get out and get active. There are plenty of outdoor activities to get your blood pumping and body moving. Grab a friend and get some fresh air. It’s good to find other sources of activity; the gym can become mundane and uninteresting. Keep it new and exciting for yourself!

Need more help? Check out these articles:

5 Tips for Cutting Soda from Your Diet

You drink over 38 gallons of soda each year.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), that’s how much the average American drinks each year, which is equivalent to eight 12-ounce cans of soda each week. This statistic shocked me, too.

But it also opened my eyes to my own soda-drinking habit. I typically drink at least two Mountain Dews per day and sometimes it’s more than that. After reading this statistic, I did a little more research.

The reality of soda

The CSPI reports that a typical 12-ounce can of soda contains nearly 9 teaspoons of added sugars and a typical 20-ounce bottle contains 15.5 teaspoons of added sugar. While this may not seem like a lot of sugar, it is. To put it into perspective for you, the American Heart Association recommends a maximum daily intake of 6 teaspoons20 of added sugars for women and 9 teaspoons for men. This means that an average 12-ounce can of soda puts you at or above the recommended maximum daily intake of added sugars.

I don’t know about you, but that kind of blew my mind.

I have been drinking Mountain Dew regularly since I was in middle school. It’s probably contributed to cavities, stomach aches, and weight gain. I have tried time and time again to stop drinking it, but soda has a way of holding your affections. Mountain Dew is no exception.

I decided to track down the best ways to get rid of this habit. After doing a lot of research, I have come up with five tips and tricks for cutting soda out of your diet.

1. Start slow

You don’t have to quit cold turkey. Start by drinking less each day. If you usually drink two sodas a day, start by drinking only one.  The next week, try one soda every other day. And so on.

2. Set yourself up for success

If you don’t want to drink a lot of soda, then don’t buy a lot of soda. It doesn’t help if you keep putting it in your refrigerator. Take away the temptation and only buy the amount you are planning to drink. Another tip was if you only like to drink cold soda, then only put one in the fridge for the next day.

3. Find alternatives

It helps to fill the space that you’d be drinking soda by drinking something else. Drink water. If water is too boring for you, try flavoring it with fruit. Swap in coffee or tea if you’d like some caffeine. Flavored seltzer water may also be a good option if you like something with fizz. For many people, beverages can account for almost 20 percent of total calorie intake,  so it’s important that you find healthier alternatives. Plus, if you don’t find something else to drink, it will be that much harder to resist the call of the vending machine in the break room.

4. Exercise

If you drink soda for the caffeine, then try working out or simply getting some exercise to gain more energy along with some other great benefits. It’s much healthier for your body and has zero added sugars! Here are some great tips to help you replace your soda habit with an exercise habit.

5. Track your calories

If you’re a numbers person, it might be a good idea to sit down and track how many calories you’re drinking every day. Calories can be found right on the Nutrition Facts label. If you pay attention to the amount of calories you’re drinking, then you’ll see how quickly they add up. You could also track how much exercise you need to work off all the calories you’re drinking. The numbers may just motivate you to work harder on quitting. The MyFitnessPal app can be a useful tool to help with tracking calories.

After trying out all of these tips, the most helpful to me was finding alternatives. While I’d normally drink a soda with dinner, I’ve started drinking a glass of milk. When I’m thirsty at work, I drink water. Have any of these tips been helpful for you?

Still thirsty? Check out Is Diet Soda Healthier than Regular Soda?

4 Tested Ways to Break a Caffeine Addiction

Americans consume 400 million cups a day of a very addicting drink. Coffee! Latte, macchiato, black, iced, hot, cappuccino; there are so many ways to indulge in the morning beverage. It’s almost impossible not to find one you love. However, too much of this enjoyable and invigorating drink can lead to some serious health problems, such as insomnia and high blood pressure.

Don’t worry coffee enthusiasts; the delicious beverage does have its health benefits. However, if you find yourself feeling super dependent on it, it may be time to find other ways to get some pep in your step.

I recently decided to test four ways to get an energy boost without that second (or third) cup of Joe. I recruited some reluctant co-workers to put them to the test.

Lemons, lemons, the magical fruit.

One possible substitution for coffee aficionados is drinking warm lemon water in the morning. After getting over the week-long coffee withdrawal she had to undergo due to pregnancy, Erika Gruszewski said this coffee replacement actually made her feel better throughout the day than coffee did. Erika said “I feel better drinking the water than coffee. Sometimes in the morning, I’m tired when I wake up, but by the time I get to work, I feel fine. I also don’t get a crash like I used to have on coffee… and I never get jittery”. So, maybe it’s time that lemons become your daily grind.

Jam to some upbeat beats.

Music and dancing might not solve all problems, but it may set a good mood for the day. When trying this method, Joy Auch found the music that made her most energized on her morning commute was the songs with a very quick beat cranked up loud. Joy said, “It distracted me on my morning commute from the fact that I was missing my morning java”. However, Joy said this challenge still won’t keep her from her beloved brew, since she loves coffee and drinks it in moderation. But if you are looking to consume less coffee, Joy said this method may be worth a try!

Send a chill down your spine… literally.

If you’re looking for a sudden burst of energy, why not add cold water to your morning shower?  When I tried this method to skip my morning coffee, it definitely made a difference. While I did get tired later in the afternoon, the cold shower helped me get through the morning without coffee. This was definitely a simple way to integrate a caffeine-free energy boost into my routine.

Get your blood pumping!

Not all of us can find the energy to do a full workout in the morning, but could simple stretching or yoga sessions kick start your morning?  As a busy mother of two, Julie Goonan is a coffee fanatic. In fact, before I came up with this challenge, she drank coffee from 5:30 a.m. until she got to work at 8 a.m. But, replacing her caffeine fix with a meditation and stretching session delayed her need for caffeine until she got to work. When asked about the challenge Julie said, “As a mom of two this is not easy. But I totally get it. And I am hoping the longer yoga sessions pay off in the long run!”

There you have it, four ways to put the pep in your step that don’t include caffeine. If you consider yourself a coffee addict, consider substituting the third cup with one of these tricks.