Monthly Archives: December, 2015

Put Your Knowledge to the Test with this Holiday Wellness Quiz

The WellMASS blog will be taking a break for the holidays during the next two weeks, but before we sign off for the year, let’s have some fun.  Below are ten holiday-themed trivia questions that will put your wellness smarts to the test (answers are at the bottom of this post).  Thanks for supporting WellMASS this past year – see you in 2016!

  1. It would take one hour of which activity to burn off the calories contained in three gingerbread men?
    a.  Shoveling snow
    b.  Downhill skiing
    c.  Chopping wood
    d.  Any of the above 
  1. Which holiday beverage is lowest in calories?
    a.  Hot chocolate
    b.  Hot buttered rum
    c.  Champagne
    d.  Eggnog
  1. How many pounds does the average American gain over the holidays?
    a.  Less than one
    b.  2-3
    c.  5-7
    d.  More than ten
  1. Which holiday side dish typically has the lowest glycemic index?
    a.  Mashed potatoes
    b.  Sweet potato casserole
    c.  Roasted carrots
    d.  Green bean casserole
  1. Which latke (potato pancake) topping has the fewest calories?
    a.  Sour cream
    b.  Plain Greek yogurt
    c.  Unsweetened applesauce
    d.  Smoked salmon
  2. Which of these strategies has been proven to help you eat fewer calories during a holiday meal?
    a.  Filling half your plate with veggies
    b.  Using a bread plate instead of a dinner plate
    c.  Drinking water with your meal
    d.  Skipping breakfast the morning of the big meal
  3. Which of these can be used as a substitute for butter in most cookie recipes?
    a.  Applesauce
    b.  Canola oil
    c.  Mashed avocado
    d.  Greek yogurt
    e.  All of the above
  1. Which fruit is not in season in December?
    a.  Clementines
    b.  Grapefruit
    c.  Cranberries
    d.  Pears
    e.  Persimmons
  1. Which vegetable is not in season in December?
    a.  Butternut squash
    b.  Kale
    c.  Brussels sprouts
    d.  Turnips
    e.  Leeks
  1. Which holiday color scheme is most likely to stimulate appetite?
    a.  Blue
    b.  White
    c.  Green
    d.  Red
    e.  Gold


Answers:  1.d; 2.c; 3.a; 4.c; 5.c; 6.d; 7.e; 8.c; 9.a; 10.d


Simple Strategies to Manage Acid Reflux

Last week, I shared strategies to help you recover from a bout of overeating.  Eating too much often comes with a host of unwanted side effects, including bloating, gas, nausea, an upset stomach, and heartburn.  Heartburn, or acid reflux, is also a common everyday problem in people who haven’t overeaten.  People who suffer from chronic acid reflux sometimes feel like they have no control over their condition – they eat well and exercise, yet they still frequently experience a burning sensation in their chest, a sour taste in their mouth, and other unpleasant symptoms.  Managing acid reflux involves more than just eating “healthy” foods and engaging in frequent exercise, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to do.  If you suffer from acid reflux, here are some easy strategies you can employ to help manage your condition:

  • Allow at least three hours between your last meal and bedtime. Lying down makes acid reflux worse.  Make sure you eat dinner at least three hours before you go to bed to give your food time to digest, which will decrease the chance that it will “reflux” its way back up to your esophagus.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes when you eat. You want to make sure you’re not constricting any part of your digestive tract and slowing down the process of digestion.
  • Avoid common acid reflux triggers. Triggers vary from person to person, but foods and beverages that commonly cause reflux include chocolate, peppermint, tomatoes, onions, citrus fruits and juices, caffeine-containing drinks, and alcohol.  Restrict or eliminate these foods from your diet, and take care to steer clear of high-fat and high-acidity foods, as these can also trigger reflux.
  • If you smoke, quit. The nicotine found in cigarettes can weaken the muscle that controls the opening between your esophagus and stomach, allowing food to more easily reflux back up into your esophagus.
  • Time your exercise right. We all know that exercise has a host of benefits.  However, for people with reflux, exercising, if not timed right, can make symptoms worse.  Try to allow at least two hours between meals and exercising in order to avoid jostling the contents of your stomach and opening the gate (pun intended) for those contents to make their way back up to your esophagus.

You may be wondering where medication fits into this equation.  In many cases, acid reflux can be successfully managed without the use of medication.  Many reflux medications don’t actually improve the condition – they just mask its symptoms and lessen discomfort, so talk to your doctor if you have questions or concerns about taking medication to manage reflux.  And in the meantime, try incorporating the above tips into your daily routine to help manage your reflux the natural way.

Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi, German for “cabbage turnip,” is a vegetable that’s worth adding to your repertoire.  For starters, it pulls double-duty in the kitchen, as both its root and leaves are edible.  You can consume kohlrabi root either raw or cooked and sauté the leaves as you would kale and other green leafy vegetables.  Kohlrabi is also a nutritional powerhouse; it’s an excellent source of fiber and Vitamin C and a good source of potassium and Vitamin B6.  Although you may currently be unfamiliar with it, kohlrabi is in season and available at most major grocery stores, so why not be the first of your friends to give it a try?

Kohlrabi Home Fries

1 ½ to 2 pounds kohlrabi
1 tablespoon rice flour, chickpea flour, or semolina (more as needed)
2 to 4 tablespoons canola oil or grapeseed oil, as needed
Chili powder, ground cumin, curry powder, or paprika, to taste


  1. Peel the kohlrabi and cut into thick sticks, about ⅓- to ½-inch wide and about 2 inches long.
  2. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy skillet (cast iron is good).
  3. Meanwhile, place the flour in a large bowl and quickly toss the kohlrabi sticks in the flour so that they are lightly coated.
  4. When the oil is rippling, carefully add the kohlrabi to the pan in batches so that the pan isn’t crowded. Cook on one side until browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. Then, using tongs, turn the pieces over to brown on the other side for another 2 to 3 minutes. The procedure should take only about 5 minutes if there is enough oil in the pan.
  5. Drain on paper towels, then sprinkle right away with the seasoning of your choice. Serve hot.

Recipe from The New York Times

You Ate Too Much – Now What?

The holidays are a time of overindulgence.  In the past, I’ve shared tips to help you eat right during this celebration-filled time of year, but let’s face it – sometimes you end up giving in to temptation and overdoing it at the office party or cookie swap.  Until the day comes when you’re able to hop in a time machine and go back to undo the damage of eating one (or ten) too many cookies, here’s what you can do to make yourself feel better (both physically and mentally) after overeating:

  • Hydrate.  In an ideal situation, you’d be drinking lots of water before surrounding yourself with holiday treats, and all that water would instill a sense of satiety that would prevent you from overeating.  However, once the damage has already been done, water still has benefits, and you should drink it copiously.  Water flushes out sodium and speeds up the process of digestion, both of which will help you feel less bloated after a large meal or treat binge.
  • Stay upright. Although you may be tempted to immediately transition into nap mode after overindulging, giving into this urge may do more harm than good.  Remaining seated (or better yet, getting up and moving – more on that next) after eating will help prevent indigestion and acid reflux, both of which often crop up after eating too much.
  • Get moving. Performing light exercise, such as walking, after a large meal (or any meal, for that matter), has several benefits, including the release of feel-good endorphins that may help counteract the bad feelings you experience after overeating.  Exercise also burns calories, and new research shows that it may help stabilize blood sugar for hours after you eat.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. Overeating happens to the best of us, but it shouldn’t be an excuse to feel bad enough about your choices that you turn to eating more unhealthy food in order to feel better.  Once you realize that tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity to start fresh and get back into your typical healthy habits, you’ll be able to use your adventures in overeating as a teachable moment.
  • Fill up on the good (for you) stuff. On those days when you’re not overdoing it at holiday gatherings, aim to eat as many good-for-you foods as possible, both to emphasize healthy eating habits and provide your body with the nutrition it needs to help you feel your best.  In the long run, eating a balance of whole grains, lean protein, heart-healthy fat, and lots of fruits and vegetables will help you feel more satisfied than a plate of cookies ever can.

These tips neither serve as an excuse to overeat, nor as an admonition to not enjoy the food that goes along with holiday celebrations.  It’s okay to be naughty every once in awhile – but you can still feel nice afterward if you come armed with the strategies above.

Healthy Ingredient of the Week – Persimmons

Chances are, you’ve never cooked with, or maybe even heard of, persimmons.  These fruits, which look like tomatoes but are consumed in a similar manner to apples, are currently in season and worth giving a try, for both their sweet taste and nutritional value.  Persimmons come in two main varieties:  Hachiya persimmons contain high amounts of tannins (compounds also found in coffee and tea) and are best consumed cooked, while the more commonly-found fuyu persimmons are best eaten raw.  Both varieties are high in fiber, Vitamins A and C, and manganese, making them a healthy – and unique – addition to your seasonal menu.

Warm Farro Salad with Roasted Squash, Persimmons & Pecans

1 ½ cups uncooked farro
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed, and diced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon apple cider or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot
¼ cup olive oil
⅓ cup pecan halves, lightly toasted
1 Fuyu persimmon, diced small
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
3 ounces crumbled feta
⅓ cup pomegranate seeds (optional)
Pepper, to taste

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
  2. In a medium saucepan combine farro with 3 cups of cold water. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender.
  3. Toss the squash cubes in a little olive oil, then transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet, in a single layer. Roast the squash in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes until brown, caramelized, and tender, stopping once halfway through to slide a spatula under the squash and flip it gently and rotate the baking sheet so the squash cooks evenly.
  4. While the farro and squash are cooking, in a small bowl, whisk together the vinegars and shallots. In a steady, slow stream, whisk in the olive oil until blended. Season to taste with pepper.
  5. Drain the cooked farro, then place the farro in a serving bowl along with cooked squash, pecans, persimmon, parsley, and pomegranate seeds (if using). Pour the dressing over and toss. Add the feta and season with pepper to taste. Toss again gently. Serve over a bed of arugula if desired.

Recipe adapted from The Kitchn 

Turn Your Holiday Shopping Trip into a Workout

When it comes to shopping for holiday presents, people generally fall into one of two camps:  they love it and take any opportunity they can to hit the stores; or they hate it and try to put it off until the last minute, if not avoid it all together.  Coincidentally, the same can be said for people’s feelings on exercise.  Whichever camp you most identify with for either activity, try thinking outside of the box this holiday season to combine shopping and exercise for a win-win situation that will benefit your family and friends and your body.  Here are some tips to help you increase your heart rate and calorie burn while you’re out decking the malls this holiday season:

  • Step it up. Challenge yourself to meet a daily goal of 10,000 steps by wearing a pedometer, comfortable clothes, and sneakers while you’re out and about. You’ll have an easier time racking up the steps if you’re comfortable and have a tool to instantly track your progress.
  • Go the distance. To add extra steps to your trip, park your car as far away from the store or mall entrance as you can.  Once inside, take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator, and talk a lap around before deciding what you’d like to purchase.
  • Fit in a strength training workout. Think of your shopping bags as weights – the more filled with presents they are, the better workout you’re going to get.  As you’re carrying them around the mall or back to your car, slightly lift your shopping bags then lower them for an instant workout for your biceps and triceps.
  • Work your lower body. See an item you like on a higher shelf? Do some calf raises by stretching to reach or look at it.  For items at floor level, squat down to pick up or view them.

Neither holiday shopping nor working out need to feel like chores if you approach them with a positive attitude and the belief that you’ll be making others happy and improving your health in the process.