Expert Guidance

How to Fight This One Powerful Craving

Designer Creative - Tuesday, February 21, 2017

You have most likely heard that consuming too much salt is bad for you, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many Americans are just not taking the advice. In fact, nine out of 10 adults still consume too much salt.


Why is eating too much salt bad?

Ingesting too much salt can lead to many health and performance issues with your mind and body. Salt causes blood pressure to rise, and high blood pressure can lead to type 2 diabetes, kidney failure, heart disease and stroke. An overabundance of salt intake can also increase your likelihood of developing stomach cancer, osteoporosis and obesity.


Many believe the best way to combat salt intake is to simply limit the amount of salt you put on food, but limiting yourself at the dinner table is only part of the change you need to make to have a successful diet with lower sodium. Many popular food items have too much salt before you ever have the chance to add your own personal flair.


Do you enjoy any of these foods?

Lunch meat

Soy sauce


Cured meats

Salted nuts

Frozen entrees

Fast food or takeout

Canned soups



Potato chips

Processed foods


Many of the listed favorites have a lot of sodium per serving, and many adults and children do not stick with serving size recommendations. Often, we think something is healthy just because it has few calories. For example, a pickle might have fewer than 10 calories; however, that same pickle most likely has well over 500 milligrams of sodium. That’s one-third of what the American Heart Association recommends of sodium per day.



The American Heart Association recommends adults consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium on a daily average, but the ideal limit is closer to 1,500 milligrams a day. These numbers vary based on a variety of personal factors. If you’re not sure how this applies to you, contact your local health department for a free consultation with a registered dietitian.


Unfortunately, many favorite foods in America have too much sodium. This does not mean we must cut them out completely, but it does mean as a collective, we need to practice more moderation for processed foods.


Instead of seasoning with salt, try

● Garlic powder

● Pepper

● Lemon zest

● Onion powder

● Red pepper flakes


Instead of chips for snacks, try

● Unsalted nuts

● Apples and peanut butter

● Low-fat yogurt

● Fresh fruit

● Baby carrots


Instead of TV dinners or frozen entrees, try

● Preparing fresh or frozen vegetables without added sauce

● Slow cooking chicken, so it’s ready when you need it

● Cooking in bulk one day a week and freezing your own meals for later

● Steaming lean meats with whole grain brown rice and vegetables


For one to two weeks, keep a journal of your daily salt intake to get a clear picture of just how much salt you’re consuming. Change does not happen immediately, and once you begin cutting down on salt, your cravings for it may skyrocket. Instead of trying an all-or-nothing approach, start cutting out and replacing salt one step at a time.



Chronic Disease Self-Management Class Preview: Action Plans

Designer Creative - Wednesday, February 15, 2017

To successfully manage your chronic disease, you must start with wanting to change, to feel better and to be better. The road to managing your chronic disease will never be easy, but there are tools and techniques you can use to aid in your journey to good health.


Part of the curriculum within the M Power Chronic Disease Self-Management Workshop is learning how to set up and implement successful action plans.


A program coordinator will help you choose something about your habits you want to improve. The key is that you agree with the final choice and want to follow through with whatever this action plan entails. If you set a goal just because someone suggested you do it, you may not have the motivation you need to succeed.


On the same page, whatever you want to do must be possible. Deciding to do something impossible will set you up for failure and could hurt your self-esteem for pursuing further goals. Before you commit to your action plan, evaluate its difficulty and your mindset. Are you ready for something really challenging, or should you start smaller?


Your action plan should answer very specific questions: what is it, how much, how often and when? How will you know you’ve succeeded?


Example: I will be a more active person by walking 15 minutes at least three to four days a week this month.


Once you have an action plan, write it down and post it around your living area. Ask those who support you to check in on you. Make daily notes of your moods and energy levels. Did you skip your walk last week because you were too tired? Did you find you didn’t have time to go on your walk? Why is that?


Making daily notes about your action plan, positive or negative, will help you discover what you are doing successfully and where you might improve. You may also discover hiccups you didn’t anticipate. By taking notes, you can brainstorm methods to deal with those hiccups.



The M Power Workshop will also help you develop the confidence you need to embark on your action plan on your own. You will learn the best way to reward yourself and how often. If you want the best path to success, sign up during the next open enrollment period in your region.

You deserve to be happy and healthy. Let us show you the quickest way there. 


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Try This Easy Diet Hack for Healthy Results

Designer Creative - Thursday, February 09, 2017

Figuring out the right portions for meals is never an easy task. Unfortunately, if you do not have a food scale, any estimations you make regarding calories and nutrients are probably way off.



Introducing the Plate Method

While still not as accurate as weighing meats and measuring your portions according to the recommendations of food manufacturers, the Plate Method is perfect for developing meals when you’re short on time, out of ideas or missing the proper measuring tools. The Plate Method does not require any math either.


Using a plate that is nine inches across (or six inches if you’re trying to lose weight), you can craft many meals to fit your tastes and dietary requirements, whether you are diabetic, have high blood pressure or cholesterol or are just looking to adjust your eating habits.


Once you have a properly sized plate, imagine a line dividing it down the middle. You will use half for non-starchy vegetables, like broccoli. On the other side of the plate, you will split it in half again, making it into fourths. In one of these quarters you will have your lean protein, like chicken, and in the other fourth, you will have whole grain foods or starchy vegetables.


Non-starchy vegetable examples for half of your plate:

● Green beans

● Spinach

● Carrots

● Lettuce

● Asparagus

● Cauliflower

● Cucumber

● Mushrooms

● Peppers

● Tomatoes


Have a fourth of your plate dedicated to these vegetables and whole grains:

● Corn

● Peas

● Potatoes

● Pumpkin

● Zucchini

● Brown rice

● Whole grain or whole wheat pasta

● Whole grain or whole wheat tortillas

● Whole grain or whole wheat bread


Tip: Just because the packaging says “multigrain” or “five grain” does not mean the product you’re looking at fit your diet. Stick with products that use the word “whole” to describe grains.


Lean proteins:

● Skinless turkey

● Skinless chicken

● Baked or grilled fish (not fried)

● Eggs

● Low-fat cheeses

● Most soy or tofu meat alternatives


After you have filled your plate, you can have a small cup on the side with fruits, low-fat dairy, healthy fats like avocado or low-fat condiments like dressing for dipping and spreading.


The Plate Method does require that you be mindful of food preparation and seasoning. Opt to bake, grill or steam food over frying, and use calorie-free seasonings over breading or excess salt.


Do you need extra help creating your diet? Check with your local health department to find out if you have access to free dietitian services. Did you know you can prevent type 2 diabetes with a diet designed around this method? Learn if you are at risk here.


You can learn more techniques like the Plate Method in a Chronic Disease Self-Management Workshop. Find the next enrollment period for your area here.


5 Behaviors That Will Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

Designer Creative - Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Falling into bad habits is easy, but learning how to change those habits takes dedication, patience and a little elbow grease. If you want to lower your risk for heart disease, start small. Instead of diving in all at once, use small goals to work up to an ultimate habit makeover. Over time, you can implement healthy behaviors like those below and start feeling like a better you.


Adjust your diet

Substitute calorie-free herbs and spices in place of salt. Use the Plate Method for measuring portions, and serve meat paired whole grains like brown rice and green vegetables. Fruits come in a variety of flavors and pair well with peanut butter, honey and nuts for a dessert alternative.


When grocery shopping, do your best to avoid inner food aisles. Replace morning granola bars with scrambled eggs. Start food in the slow cooker in the morning so you have a healthy meal waiting for you when you get home from work. Drinking more water in place of caffeine can also help improve overall health and lower blood pressure.


Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke

Just being around cigarette smoke can increase a nonsmoker’s risk for developing heart disease by about 30 percent. Because smoking damages the lining of your arteries, fatty material will build up. Once arteries become narrow from the fatty material, the risk of a heart attack or stroke increases exponentially. Find a free program to help you quit smoking here.

Cut down on drinking alcohol

Alcohol both raises blood pressure and works negatively with many medications. Reducing the amount you drink can also help lower your daily caloric intake and aid in weight loss efforts.


Walk 30 Minutes at least five days a week

Keep your arteries flexible by keeping your body mobile. The American Heart Association recommends frequent exercise to improve heart health, but exercise doesn’t have to be hard. Low-impact sports or walking are beneficial for anyone living a predominantly sedentary lifestyle.


Enroll in M Power self-management programs.

M Power is a collaboration of health departments across Southeast Missouri offering free workshops to individuals currently diagnosed with chronic disease, individuals at risk for developing chronic disease and those who care for others at risk for or currently living with a chronic disease. Research shows these supportive programs help individuals develop skills they need for tackling difficult habits and improving overall well-being.


Did you know that most Americans do not know they have heart disease until they have a heart attack or other chest pains? Find out if you’re at risk for diabetes, obesity complications or heart disease so you can make changes for the better today.

Understanding the Difference Between Acute and Chronic Conditions

Designer Creative - Monday, January 30, 2017

What is an acute condition?


 If you’ve ever broken your leg, sprained your ankle or had a bout of the flu, you’ve encountered an acute condition.


Acute conditions are characterized by their sudden onset and relatively quick recovery time. These types of illnesses or injuries do not persist once a person has healed within a few weeks to a couple months.


Those suffering from acute conditions can almost always look at time as a positive indicator, knowing they will get better if they follow the proper healing regimens prescribed by a healthcare provider.


What is a chronic condition?

Chronic conditions are not instantaneous episodes like broken bones. Over time, symptoms may appear, worsen and last for months to years, spanning across the life of those affected.


This includes conditions like diabetes, heart disease, blood pressure, stroke, arthritis and more. Many mental conditions, such as chronic anxiety and bipolar disorder, can also fall under this umbrella.


A chronic condition can cause acute conditions, such as how chronic anxiety can lead to panic attacks.


Those diagnosed with chronic conditions know that time is not always on their side in terms of feeling well. While today may be a good day, tomorrow’s symptoms may be difficult to endure. Planning vacations or events can also pose problems as symptoms are almost never predictable. In short, while an acute condition will go away, a chronic condition doesn’t heal on its own and a complete cure is rare.


Most importantly, those with chronic conditions benefit highly from supportive networks with people who understand their struggles. Many without chronic diseases often try to offer those with chronic diseases advice for getting well. No matter how well-meaning this advice, it is often wrong and can be a source of frustration for those who have lived with chronic conditions most of their lives.


M Power offers free workshops along, with support, to those with chronic diseases in Missouri’s Bootheel. The workshops are based around Stanford University’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program and can work alone or in conjunction with other programs or treatments. Attendees develop skills for disease and symptom communication, techniques for dealing with pain and assistance with developing healthy habits for combating symptoms.


If you are living with a chronic disease, help is here. Find a class near you, and discover a happier, healthier life with chronic conditions.


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This project is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $1,754,999 with 0 percentage financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit

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