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Health and Wellness: Tips for Healthier Employees

Most employers know that the real costs from employee benefits come from unhealthy choices by employees. Premiums are just one indicator of the “health” of the group, but there are other soft costs that add up to large expenditures of capital. Low productivity and staffing issues can also be major cost drivers for the employer. Here are a few tips that you can share with your staff, or better yet, build into a custom Employee Wellness Program:

Get the Nutrition Facts

As you and your family strive to eat healthier, you should be aware of what is in the food you consume. The best way to know what is in the food products you buy is to read the nutrition facts on food labels.

The following information on labels will help you understand how much is in a portion and how this compares to recommended intake:

  • Serving size – The serving size lists the recommended amount to be eaten by a single person. The rest of the nutrition facts are based on this amount.
  • Calories and calories from fat – Especially important if you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, these numbers tell you how many calories are in each serving and where they’re coming from.
  • Percent daily values – Based on the recommended consumption of 2,000 calories a day, this value indicates how the food product compares to recommended amounts.

When reading ingredients on a product label, keep in mind that ingredients are listed in descending order: ingredients with the greatest amount will be listed first, followed by ingredients used in lesser amounts.

FDA Bans Artificial Trans Fats by 2018

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that artificial trans fats are no longer Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) and is requiring that they be phased out of the food supply by 2018.

While trans-fat does occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, many processed foods, such as crackers, coffee creamer and margarine, contain artificial trans fats. Artificial trans fats are created in partially hydrogenated oils (PHO)’s, which are oils that have been infused with hydrogen. This process keeps the oils solid at room temperature, and is used to maintain flavor and increase the shelf life of processed foods. Intake of trans fat has been shown to cause various health problems, including high cholesterol and coronary heart disease.

Strengthen Your Core with Plank Exercises

Core muscles are one of the most active muscle groups in the body. Whether you are typing, putting on your shoes, vacuuming or playing basketball, you are engaging your core muscles in some capacity. Because you use core muscles for so many activities, it is important to keep them strong and flexible. There are several specific benefits to maintaining a healthy core:

  • Strong back muscles. Many people suffer from debilitating low-back pain. A strong core can relieve the lower back from extra strain and pressure.
  • Improved balance and stability. A strong core stabilizes your whole body, increasing your range of motion and decreasing your risk of falling.
  • Good posture. Often overlooked, posture is an important factor in overall health. By standing tall, your core muscles can minimize wear on the spine and allow you to breathe more deeply.

Core fitness should be factored into any exercise plan. The plank pose is a popular and effective exercise that is great no matter what your fitness goals are.

To try the plank, get into a pushup position. Bend your elbows so your forearms are resting on the floor directly underneath your shoulders. Focus on creating a straight line with your body from head to toe, and try to hold the pose for as long as you can (if this is too challenging at first, you can try bending your knees). Many people struggle to hold a plank pose for 30 seconds on their first attempt, but, with regular practice, you should be able to hold the position for longer intervals. A good goal if you’re just getting started is to work up to a two-minute plank.

Once you are able to hold this position for two minutes, you can move on to more advanced versions of the plank pose, such as lifting an arm or leg, or resting your forearms on an exercise ball.

Contact us today for more information on how to drive down costs by increasing your employee’s connection to wellness.

CIBC of Illinois Employee Wellness Newsletter: June 2015

The Effect of E-cigarettes on Health

E-cigarettes have become increasingly popular in recent years. While many adult smokers switch to e-cigarettes in an attempt to quit tobacco, teenagers are the largest and fastest growing population for e-cigarette use. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products reported that e-cigarette use among teens tripled in 2014.

While e-cigarettes are commonly believed to be a safer alternative to regular cigarettes, very little is known about their effect on the body. Research has found that e-cigarette vapors produce particles containing harmful chemicals. These chemicals can harm lung tissue and worsen acute respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis. Consider limiting your use of e-cigarettes until further research has been conducted.

Shop the Farmers Market

Nothing is more frustrating than fruit or veggies going bad before you are able to eat them. Produce purchased in supermarkets is usually harvested long before it is found on grocery store shelves; in fact, it is estimated that produce travels an average of 1,500 miles from its source before reaching our homes. Because of this, many fruits and vegetables aren’t at peak freshness and need to be eaten within a few days of purchase. Your local farmers market can help bridge the gap from farm to table.

There are several benefits to buying locally sourced food: you support local farmers, you can buy in-season produce and your perishable food items will last much longer because they come fresh from the farm. During the summer months, farmers markets offer a rainbow of delicious and healthy options to choose from; sweet corn, bell peppers and eggplant are all in season during the summer months and can most likely be found in plentiful supply at your local farmers market.

There is often such a variety at farmers markets that you can always find something you’ve never tried before. Aren’t sure how to prepare your newly discovered fruits and veggies? Just ask! Many vendors are passionate about the food they produce and are often more than happy to offer preparation tips and tasty recipes for you to try.

Farmers markets aren’t just for produce. You can also find locally sourced eggs, meat, jams and baked goods at farmers markets. Flowers, crafts and jewelry are popular items as well. In addition, farmers markets are a great way to connect with your community; you can get to know your local farmers, catch up with friends and spend time with your family.

Now that summer is here, check out your local farmers market. Buying local is a great way for you to eat healthier and save money.

Outdoor Summer Activities

There are plenty of reasons to get outside and enjoy the sunshine this summer. Spending time outdoors can increase energy, improve your mood and burn calories. Just remember to wear sunscreen and stay hydrated!

Below are some fun outdoor activities to get you moving:

  • Swimming: This full-body workout burns about 476 calories per hour.
  • Hiking: Burn around 442 calories per hour while spending quality time outdoors.
  • Biking: This low-impact activity burns about 476 calories per hour and strengthens your legs.
  • Volleyball: You can burn around 544 calories per hour playing this beach sport.

Ratatouille

This classic dish incorporates seasonal summer vegetables like eggplant and red bell peppers.

  • 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium eggplant, peeled and diced
  • 2 zucchini, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • ½ tsp. dried oregano
  • 3½ cups tomatoes, diced
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • ¼ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

Put a large pot on the stove over medium-low heat, and when it is hot, add the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Add the eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, basil and oregano and cook covered until the eggplant is very soft—about 40 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook uncovered for 20 minutes. Serve right away, garnished with lemon quarters and basil, or cover and refrigerate up to three days.

Yield: 8 servings. Each serving provides 77 calories, 2 g of fat, 0 g of saturated fat, 18 mg of sodium, 3 g of protein and 5 g of fiber.

Source: USDA

For a custom Employee Wellness program, contact us today!

Live Well, Work Well: A Monthly Employee Wellness Newsletter From CIBC of Illinois

March Live Well, Work Well_Page_1March Live Well, Work Well_Page_2

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