Tips for Reducing Sodium Intake

Sodium is a hot topic in nutrition these days. Most of us know that this little mineral is a huge part of the American diet in the form of salt and that it’s found in excess in many foods. Some of us may even be dealing with the side effects of too much sodium and may be confused about how to reduce the amount of it that we eat.

On one hand, humans need sodium to survive. Our nerves and muscles use it to transmit signals, and it helps our bodies to maintain a fluid balance so that we do not get over or under hydrated. Sodium is used in many important functions in the body, and without it, we would die.

On the other hand, consuming too much sodium can have serious effects on health. We’ve heard the statistics about hypertension, i.e. high blood pressure, which occurs when the force of blood going through blood vessels is too high. Hypertension is commonly contributed to by excess sodium consumption and can lead to even larger health issues, including stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, vision loss, and sexual dysfunction.

So, how much sodium should we be eating every day? The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people eat no more than 2,300 milligrams—or one teaspoon—of sodium per day. As you might imagine, most people eat much more than this. Salt tastes good. It adds flavor to foods, and it’s used in a lot of packaged and canned foods as a preservative. Additionally, most restaurant menus include high-sodium options.

Reducing the amount of salt eaten can seem difficult at first, but with a few small and easy changes, you can reduce your risk of health complications related to excess sodium intake. For some handy tips on how to manage or reduce your sodium intake while on the road, read below.

  • Put down the saltshaker when eating at restaurants. Most restaurant items already contain excessive amounts of sodium, and adding more isn’t doing your health any favors. If you’re concerned about the loss of flavor, you can bring your own sodium-free seasonings to restaurants. Products like Mrs. Dash are widely available at grocery stores nationwide. You can also get in the habit of using the saltshaker less and less, so as to wean yourself off of such salty flavor. For example, if you’re used to three shakes of salt your green beans, start trying only two shakes.
  • Ask for sauce on the side. A lot of sauces, dressings, and condiments are high in sodium. When eating out, ask to receive sauces and dressings on the side. This way, you can control how much you’re using, and it’s easier to monitor your intake.
  • Watch out for nuts. Nuts are a delicious, healthy, and easily accessible snack option. When choosing nuts, unsalted or lightly salted varieties are advised. Salted, dry roasted, or flavored nuts often contain high amounts of sodium. The same goes for sunflower seeds.
  • Choose fruits, vegetables, salads, or plain baked potatoes as side items. In addition to having much less sodium than fried items or those that come with a sauce, fruits and vegetables provide additional nutrients which may help offset the effects of excess sodium intake.
  • Choose low or reduced sodium varieties of canned and packaged foods.  There are low sodium versions of most things these days, you just have to do a little label reading.

Sodium can be a confusing topic, and it’s lurking around in many foods, often in extra high amounts. The good news is that with a little knowledge and effort, sodium intake can be managed, which may have an immensely positive impact on long-term health.


This post was written in large part by Taylor Beard, dietetic intern at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. Taylor will be eligible to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in May of 2018.

Staying Hydrated: Why It’s Important and How To Do It

“Do I REALLY have to drink eight cups of water every day?”

Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body. Hydration refers to water absorption, and ensuring adequate water intake is a very basic function of health. Adequate hydration promotes the body working optimally. When the body is hydrated, the heart can more easily pump blood, and muscles can move more freely. Fluids in the body also help move important nutrients to the right places, flush bacteria out of the bladder, and promote regular bowel movements.

Dehydration is defined as a harmful reduction in the amount of water in the body, and it can have negative effects ranging in severity from mild discomfort to medical emergency. It can cause exhaustion, swollen feet, and headaches, and it can make certain diseases and conditions, like diabetes and kidney stones, worse. It can lead to heat stroke in warm weather and severe illness at high altitudes. Avoiding dehydration is of utmost importance!

Fluid needs depend on a variety of factors. Size, sweat, and health conditions can all influence the amount of water a person needs. Most healthy people of average size and activity level need to drink at least 30 to 50 ounces of water per day to stay hydrated. That translates to about 1-1 ½ liters. The best way to measure hydration is look at urine. Generally, urine should be pale yellow to clear in color. Dark yellow or brown urine indicates dehydration and the immediate need to drink water.

While it’s true that hydration can be achieved with a variety of fluids, water is absolutely the best choice. This is because the body needs water for just about everything it does. There’s a reason that bodies are made up of about 65% water. Additionally, water does not contain any caffeine, sugar, or calories, all of which may hinder reaching health goals. Stay tuned for future posts addressing how to decrease intake of sugar-sweetened beverages like soda and energy drinks.

Check out these tips for staying hydrated on the road:

  • Buy a reusable water bottle. Reusable water bottles are widely available and inexpensive. They can be filled almost anywhere and significantly reduce the cost and waste associated with buying plastic water bottles.
  • Eat your water. Fruits and vegetables are a great source of water, and eating them contributes to maintaining adequate hydration. Some great water-filled options include celery, oranges, applesauce, cantaloupe, and pineapples, most of which are now widely available in grocery stores and gas stations.
  • Limit caffeine intake. Caffeine can have a diuretic effect. This means that it may signal the body to release fluids via urine, even if it needs those fluids. This can be an unintended recipe for dehydration, and we know we don’t want that!
  • Track your water intake. This can be done manually by writing it down on a piece of paper, or by using a free app like Waterlogged, which tracks intake and sends reminders and alerts to promote drinking appropriate amounts of water.

Staying hydrated is vitally important not only to help the body function properly, but to help you feel more energized and alert. For more information on the benefits of hydration, click here.

 

This post was written in large part by Taylor Beard, dietetic intern at Missouri State University in Springfield, Missouri. Taylor will be eligible to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in May of 2018.

New Year’s Resolutions: How to Keep Them All Year Long

What are New Year’s Resolutions? Why do we make them? And why do they fail?

A New Year’s Resolution is a tradition in which a person makes a promise to do an act of improvement on New Year’s Day. Resolutions are made for a variety of reasons, but most people view the New Year as a good time to wipe the slate clean and have a fresh start at tackling personal goals. Some of the most popular resolutions in recent years have been: Lose weight; Spend less/Save more; Exercise more; Get organized; Quit smoking; Help others.

Although well intended, success rates for Resolutions are not great:

  • 45% of Americans usually make them
  • 39% of people in their 20’s achieve them
  • 14% of people in their 50’s achieve them
  • 8% of people overall achieve them

Additionally, these Resolutions are often short-lived:

  • 75% are maintained for 1 week
  • 71% are maintained for 2 weeks
  • 64% are maintained for 1 month
  • 46% are maintained for 6 months

Most Resolutions fail and/or don’t last due to any combination of the following: lack of appropriate reasoning for making the resolution, lack of support, lack of accountability, lack of a plan, and lack of self-confidence. There is good news, though, for those who do make the attempt: People who make explicit resolutions are ten times more likely to attain goals than those who don’t.

How, then, can resolutions be made for success and made to last? One of the keys to making a quality resolution is to set a SMART goal. A SMART goal is one that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

  • SPECIFIC
    • Target a specific area for improvement
  • MEASURABLE
    • Establish/quantify criteria to indicate progress
  • ATTAINABLE
    • Results must be achievable given available resources
  • REALISTIC
    • Goal must be reachable given the terms of it
  • TIMELY
    • Identify when results will be achieved

 

Here are a few examples of some possible goals and how they may be transformed into SMART goals:

  • GOAL: I will eat healthier.
  • SMART GOAL: I will eat two servings of vegetables at supper, 4 nights per week.

 

  • GOAL: I will start exercising.
  • SMART GOAL: On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I will walk for 10 minutes each time I am on break.

 

  • GOAL: I will spend less money.
  • SMART GOAL: Starting next week, I will limit eating out at restaurants to only three times per week.

Other tips for success include: being a realistic optimist, knowing yourself and your surroundings, adjusting expectations and plans as necessary, having a plan B (and C), letting go of negativity, practicing self-compassion, and giving yourself credit when credit is due. This year, set your intentions with thoughtfulness and confidence. The bottom line is that setting goals and making resolutions is a great way to focus on self-improvement all year long and no matter the desired outcome.

Cheers to 2018 and to an improved you!

For more information on successful goal setting, visit:

20 Exceptional Tips for Setting and Achieving SMART Goals

8 Easy Steps To Help You Achieve Your Health Goals

How to Make (and Keep) a New Year’s Resolution

Christenson Transportation: Committed to Health and Wellness

In 2014, results of the National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury were reported. The survey was conducted by the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, and the results were published by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine. The survey revealed, unsurprisingly, that there is a need to improve the health status of our nation’s truck drivers. Below is a summary of the findings.

In comparison to the national working population, long-haul truck drivers are:

  • Over twice as likely to experience obesity (69% vs. 31%)
  • Over twice as likely to experience morbid obesity (17% vs. 7%)
  • Over twice as likely to be a current cigarette smoker (51% vs. 19%)
  • Twice as likely to self-report having diabetes (14% vs. 7%)
  • Less than half as likely to be covered by health insurance or a health care plan (38% vs. 17%)
  • Less likely to perceive their health status as excellent, very good, or good (84% vs. 94%)

Additionally, 61% of truck drivers reported having two or more of the following health risk factors: high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, no physical activity, and six or fewer hours sleep per 24-hour period.

There is a need to improve the health status of our nation’s truck drivers, and this need is urgent. Trucking is an essential part of our society, and the average lifespan of a truck driver is estimated to be around only 61 years. We rely on several million truck drivers each day, and we must actively increase support for their health and wellness.

Christenson Transportation is committed to this mission and is excited to be offering resources and services to promote positive change. This blog will serve as a source of relevant information and useful tips for drivers and anyone interested in improved health and wellness. We hope that you’ll find it valuable, and we welcome your feedback and questions. Please check back frequently for new posts and information, and feel free to contact us at wellness@christensontrans.com.