Good Fats vs. Bad Fats | How to Know the Difference

Fat is certainly a buzz word in today’s conversations about nutrition. Does eating fat make us fat? Do we need to eat fat to burn fat? Is saturated fat actually good for us? As a registered dietitian, I’d like to explain the strongest evidence we have so far about fats.

You Need Fat to Function
A certain amount of fat is essential for your brain and heart to function. Most national health organizations recommend that 20-35 percent of our calories come from fat. So it is important to get some fat each day—preferably a little with each meal. We often eat fat with each meal anyway because high-fat foods taste good and are a common in the American diet, but we don’t always choose the heart-healthy fats. By including healthy sources of fat with your meals and snacks more often, you can set yourself up for excellent heart, brain and total body health.  


Healthy Fats
Almost all of the healthy fats in our diet come from plants. Healthy omega-3 fats are found in certain fish, especially salmon and sardines (serving size 3 oz). A serving of fat is smaller than a serving of carbohydrate because fat is more calorie-dense. Examples of healthy fat sources to include in a meal or eat as a snack include:

  • One palm-full of nuts or seeds
  • 1 Tbsp of nut butter
  • Half an avocado
  • A handful of olives
  • 2 tsp of olive oil
  • 3 oz. of salmon

BaconNot-So-Healthy Fats
Though you may have heard otherwise in popular news or science articles, the overwhelming consensus is that liberal consumption of saturated fat may harm us. Common sources of saturated fat are high-fat meats and dairy products such as bacon, sausage, ground beef, brisket, skin-on poultry, lard, butter, cheese and cream, as well as coconut and palm fruit oils. Even more, the World Health Organization recently released information on processed meats, many of which contain these “bad fats,” and their association with certain cancers.

But, saturated fat isn’t the only fat we need to watch for. Trans fat has been shown to be even worse than saturated. Trans fat is a product of food industry science found in several processed foods and has a very strong negative effect on cholesterol levels. The simplest way to avoid trans fat is to eat less processed foods. Common sources of trans fat include:

  • Packaged doughs, mixes, baked goods and snacks
  • Margarine, frosting and non-dairy creamers
  • Frozen dinners
  • Asian crunchy noodles
  • Fried foods
  • Any foods with “partially hydrogenated oil” as an ingredient

This list is long and can be overwhelming. When shopping, keep your eye out for brands that advertise “0 grams of trans fat” to avoid this cholesterol culprit.


Benefits of Eating {Healthy} Fats
Hearing the grim news on bad fats can cause you to want to avoid all fats just to be safe. But, that’s not the best way to go. Healthy fats can have great benefits like these when made part of a complete diet:

1. Control your weight and blood sugar
Consuming fat with a meal slows the digestion of your food, meaning your body gets a long-lasting fuel so you’ll stay satisfied for longer. If you are living with diabetes, eating meals containing healthy fat can help with blood sugar control.

2. Decrease risk of cardiovascular disease
Healthy fats can improve your cholesterol and triglyceride levels when they replace less-healthy fats and processed carbohydrates. This in turn decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke.

3. Fight inflammation
Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. By eating sources of omega-3, especially salmon, sardines and other cold-water fish, you’ll be helping to protect your entire body from damage. Walnuts, hemp, chia and flax seeds are also good sources of omega-3.

4. Healthy fats are nutrient-rich
Plant-based sources of fat are rich in Vitamin E and offer a bevy of other vitamins, minerals and other healthful compounds to keep your body functioning optimally. Fat is also necessary for the absorption of certain vitamins: A, D, E and K.

The best way to enjoy high-fat foods is by including them throughout the day in moderation. Low-fat diets are not necessary and may even be detrimental to your health and your energy level. So, remember, fat is your friend, as long as it’s the healthy kind.

Crist, JohnJohn Crist is a Registered Dietitian at Altru Health System. He is especially interested in discussing strategies to create a healthy and positive relationship with food. In his free time, John enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and finding new ways to be active.

Little Heart Health Tips with Big Results, from Altru’s Heart and Vascular Providers

HeartYour heart is always on our mind. As your health partner, our goal is to help you lead a heart-healthy, enjoyable life.

We talked to several heart and vascular providers at Altru to see what heart-healthy habits they personally incorporate into their own lives. Learn how these providers manage stress, work fitness into their everyday, eat the rainbow and more.

“Stress management is very important. One habit that I do regularly to help with heart health is to stay physically active. For me, just getting on a treadmill or elliptical has always been hard to maintain. I have to find something that I enjoy. One thing I love is playing basketball.”
Seth Dorman, NP-C

“Every day in the morning, take 15 or 20 minutes to free your mind. If you make that a habit, it helps keep you focused the rest of the day. The mind wants to keep going, especially if you’re worried about something. Meditation is an effective strategy for preserving your energy. It makes you more effective at work, helps lower your blood pressure and helps reduce the risk of a heart event, because stress is a known risk factor for a cardiac event.“
Dr. Rabeea Aboufakher

Beautiful woman doing breath exercises with an autumn background

“I try to exercise on a regular basis. When I am more consistent with it, I know I feel a lot better overall. Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym and pumping iron. Walking is great exercise—30 minutes per day, four or five times a week. It has an effect on maintaining better blood flow throughout your body. If you’re walking, change up the scenery to keep your workout interesting.”
Dr. Scott D. Charette

“I try and do my best to get my 150 minutes a week of aerobic exercise. I like to jump on the treadmill at least three times per week. Exercise is critical for vascular health. It’s been proven as effective, if not more effective, than medications. I think of exercise like a prescription, with many positive side effects.”
Dr. Keith Swanson

Runner tying sport shoes

“To keep my heart healthy, I like to cook as much as I can on my own, and not eat fast food or buy processed food at the stores. I try to plan my menus for the week and go shopping once. I also try to make one meal a week meatless. Often, I’ll use lentils or quinoa for protein.”
Jenna Kelsch, NP-C

“Eating healthy is important for your heart. Some ways that I try to include fruits and vegetables in my diet is I try to have a spinach smoothie in the morning. I also try to pack my own lunch and that way I have control over what I’m eating. We also grow lots of vegetables as a family activity, which gives us a fresh supply of produce without having to go to the grocery store.”
Erika Kosmatka, PA

Fruit and Veggies

Beyond managing stress, being physically active and eating healthfully, keep these other tips in mind for a healthy heart.

  • Get quality sleep. Small differences, like changing your bedtime routine or turning off screens at night, can make a big difference. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. If you are having trouble sleeping, contact Altru’s Sleep Center.
  • If you smoke, quit. Smoking cessation is particularly important in controlling and preventing heart disease. For more information about quitting, visit with Altru’s tobacco cessation specialists.
  • Know your numbers. Blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol and weight can all play a factor in heart health. Schedule regular appointments with your doctor to keep tabs on these key numbers.
  • Screen your vascular health. Early vascular screening can help prevent life-threatening conditions or long-term disabilities. Learn more about Vascular Screenings at Altru. 

The bad news: heart disease is the number one cause of death in America, killing more people each year than AIDS and all forms of cancer combined. The good news: 80 percent of heart disease is preventable. And, prevention is easier than you might think. These simple lifestyle changes can have life-saving impact.

A Pain in the Head | The Location of Your Headache Can Help Treat It

HeadacheAny headache is a bad headache, but a slight adjustment may fix it. With Over 150 different kinds of headaches known, these annoyances have numerous ways to interrupt your day and make it difficult or nearly impossible to concentrate.

“Tension headaches are the most common we see, as people sit for longer periods and carry stress in their upper shoulders and neck,” says Jordan McIntyre, DC, chiropractor with Altru Health System. “We also see headaches from the jaw, because people will clench their teeth from stress or sitting, and those muscles connect to the top of the head and make you feel like your head is throbbing.”

Sit Up Straight
Posture, too, is important, Dr. McIntyre notes. It’s far easier to get stiff and tight in the upper neck if core muscles are inactivated and the head and spine are unsupported.

“With tension and cervicogenic headaches, we typically look to see if anything needs to be adjusted. A lot of times, an adjustment or muscle release will get rid of the headache,” says Christopher Howson, DC, chiropractor with Altru. “Decreasing irritants in the spinal and musculoskeletal system helps a surprising amount when treating headaches.”

A Different Beast
“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s a migraine,’ when they have a particularly bad headache, but migraines aren’t your typical headache,” Dr. Howson says. “Migraines will have a throbbing or pulsing quality, and tend to interfere with everything you do. They get worse with exercise or exertion, and many people will be nauseated or have trouble with light and sound.”

Some people who experience migraines will know beforehand due to a neurological sensation called an aura. A kind of warning, auras can be anything from seeing flashing lights to briefly losing the ability to speak correctly to smelling something that isn’t there, such as campfire smoke.

headache graphic

Where’s Your Pain?
The location of your headache pain gives a better idea of how to treat it.

  • Base of skull—Cervicogenic headaches feel a lot like tension headaches but are often caused by muscle spasms in the area and can be treated with an adjustment of vertebrae.
  • Side of the head—Often, when pain is localized to the side of the head, a chiropractor will work on jaw muscles, even from inside the mouth.
  • Neck—For headaches caused by stiff muscles in the neck, chiropractors use dry needling to release tension at specific trigger points.

Altru’s chiropractors can treat your pain from head to toe. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Howson or Dr. McIntyre by calling 701.732.7620.

What to Eat Before & After a Workout to Optimize Performance

Believe it or not, peri-training nutrition (before, during and after a workout) is just as important as the actual workout itself, especially when seeking changes to body composition and increased energy levels. Fueling your body with high-quality foods will allow you to optimize your training sessions. Think of your body as a high-performance machine, similar to a Ferrari, you wouldn’t fill it up with regular gas would you? Of course not, you’d fill up with premium fuel! To optimize performance your body requires the same level of quality fuel, which comes from premium, nutrient-rich foods. Read on to find out why your body needs premium fuel sources, when to fuel and how much fuel your body requires to perform at its best.

5 Nutrition Tips to Power Performance 

  1. Drink at least half your body weight of pure water in ounces per day. So, 150 lbs of body weight = 75 oz of water.
  2. Avoid high-fat, processed, fried or fast-food before and after exercise.
  3. Prepare or purchase your favorite pre- and post-workout snacks at the beginning of each week so that you always have something on hand for training days.
  4. Avoid sugar alcohols and chicory root fiber, found in products such as Pure Protein Bars, Fiber One Bars and even some Greek yogurt as these may lead to bloating, abdominal pain and gas.
  5. If high fiber foods give you unpleasant symptoms (gas, bloating) while training, stick to refined grains or lower fiber foods before exercise (i.e. white instead of whole wheat breads).


Pre-Exercise: FUEL UP

Why: Fueling with the right foods before a workout allows you to train longer and at a higher intensity. Pre-workout nutrition leads to improved performance, faster recovery and better results.

When: 30-60 minutes before training

How Much: 15-30 g carbohydrates and 5-15 g protein 

60 minutes prior to a workout:

  • Half of a peanut butter & jelly sandwich
  • 1 cup of cooked oatmeal or dry cereal + low fat milk
  • Half of a turkey sandwich

45-60 minutes prior:

  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt + 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 cup of 2% cottage cheese + ½ cup of pineapple chunks

30-45 minutes prior:

  • A handful of trail mix
  • 1-3 dates +1 Tbsp of natural peanut butter
  • 1-2 energy balls
  • A medium banana + 1 Tbsp of natural peanut butter 

TIP: It can be tough to stomach whole foods closer to a training session (15-30 minutes before). In this case, you may want to choose a liquid option such as a pre-workout shooter containing ½ scoop whey protein + 8 oz 100% fruit juice or sports drink.

pre workout snacks EXOS



Why: When you train or compete, your body is essentially breaking itself down. Your energy stores are running low, you are dehydrating yourself and you are breaking down muscle tissue. Because of this, post-workout nutrition is a critical time to shift your body from breakdown mode (catabolism) to re-building mode (anabolism), so that you wake up the next day feeling stronger and more energized than the previous day. 

When: To optimize recovery, you should consume a post-workout snack or meal immediately after finishing your training session. Try to consume a combination of carbohydrates and protein within 30 minutes of finishing. 

How Much: Aim for a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein. This will be based on your body weight, as well as the duration and intensity of your workout. For most people, 15-45 grams of protein and 30-90 grams of carbs will provide the fuel and building blocks to maximize recovery potential.

  • For short, low to medium intensity workouts a 2:1 ratio
  • For longer, harder sessions a 3:1 ratio (you’ll need the extra carbs to refuel your body when training is more intense)


  • 16 oz. low fat chocolate milk (20 g protein, 60 g carbs)
  • 2 slices 100% whole wheat bread + 2 Tbsp natural peanut butter (18 g protein, 44 g carbs)
  • 1 cup mixed berries +1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt + 1 Tbsp honey (23 g protein, 42 g carbs)
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk + 1 medium banana + 1 scoop whey protein ( 17g protein, 28 g carbs)
  • 1 cup 100% fruit juice + 1 scoop 100% whey protein (24 g protein, 56 g carbs)
  • 1 wheat English muffin + 2 eggs (19 g protein, 30 g carbs)
  • 1 cup low-fat cottage cheese + 1 cup pineapple chunks (28 g protein, 46 g carbs)

TIP: If you are following a reduced or moderate carbohydrate diet, you will still want to include a carbohydrate source post-workout, especially after an intense training session. Research shows that post-workout carbohydrate helps prevent muscle breakdown and actually helps promote muscle protein synthesis. Adding in carbohydrates can be as simple as adding a cup of frozen berries or banana to your protein shake.

post workout snacks EXOS

They say – “you are what you eat.” Remember, you cannot out-exercise a bad diet! I hope these tips help you choose foods that not only make you feel good, but that take your performance to the next level.

Danielle Rancourt700x700_Rancourt is a performance dietitian with Sports Advantage powered by EXOS. She enjoys cooking, baking, working out and spending time outdoors to keep busy.

Maximize Your Nutrition This Winter – Shop Frozen

When writing your grocery list, don’t overlook the freezer section. There are many tasty options that are both nutritious and affordable for every season.

1. Frozen vegetables
Tired of pale tomatoes and limp broccoli? At this time of year, it can be tough to find high-quality produce in the fresh section. Although many winter vegetables are still a cost-effective and nutritious option, the frozen aisle is my preferred stop for wintertime produce. Frozen vegetables can be microwaved, steamed or stir-fried as a colorful addition to your proteins and starches. Some of my favorite options include:

  • Frozen peas with olive oil and an herbal seasoning (herbs de Provence, Italian blend or similar).
  • Frozen corn sprinkled with garlic powder, black pepper and a dash of salt.
  • Frozen steamed broccoli with this quick dressing.
  • Mixed vegetables microwaved per package instructions and spritzed with oil and a salt-free steak seasoning like Mrs. Dash.

Frozen vegetables

If you’re cooking for just yourself, only pour what you need into your steamer or microwave-safe bowl. Storing the unused and still frozen portion is as easy as sealing the bag with a clip or transferring the contents to a sealable plastic bag to prevent freezer burn.

Warning: some bags of frozen veggies have added sauces or seasonings. Check the nutrition label to make sure the added fat and sodium isn’t excessive. Often it’s just as easy to add your own low-sodium seasonings to your taste and to complement the other parts of your meal.

2. Frozen fruits
Just like vegetables, you’ll get more nutrition for less money when buying frozen fruit in the off-season. For a quick and filling breakfast, try this tasty smoothie recipe that’s high in protein and antioxidants. You can also enjoy frozen fruit in one of my favorite ways:

  • Microwave along with instant oatmeal.
  • Mix into plain yogurt and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  • Warm in the microwave and sprinkle with sweetener or chocolate chips for dessert.

frozen raspberries

3. Frozen (healthy) entrees
These aren’t your mother’s TV dinners. Healthy frozen entrees can be found in almost every grocery store from several different companies. Whether you prefer more traditional tastes (try brands like Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine) or you like to branch out (look for Evol, Amy’s, Luvo and Sweet Earth), there’s a tasty meal waiting for you that takes just minutes to prepare. Look for meals that give you the balance you need with this checklist:

  • Check the calorie content—Meals should provide no more than one-third of your daily calorie goal.
  • Prioritize protein—Meals with 15 grams of protein or more will do the best at keeping you satisfied. Along with strength training, adequate protein will help preserve your muscle, providing all kinds of benefits.
  • Check sodium—It’s an unavoidable part of processed foods, but even among the “healthy” brands there is a surprising amount of variability in sodium content. Aim for no more than 650 mg in your meal.
  • Fill up with fiber—You pay more for meals with vegetables, but it’s worth it! To be sure you’ll leave the table comfortably full, look for at least 3 grams. Some options, like the ones with beans, have as many as 11 grams. You’ll definitely be satisfied, and you’ll be lowering your cholesterol, too.

With all the tasty options available in the freezer aisles, you’ll get through the winter with a healthy immune system, a maintained or shrinking waistline, and maybe even some new stand-by recipes to keep you and your family full and nourished.

Crist, JohnJohn Crist is a Registered Dietitian at Altru Health System. He is especially interested in discussing strategies to create a healthy and positive relationship with food. In his free time, John enjoys experimenting in the kitchen and finding new ways to be active.

6 Frightening Facts about Childhood Obesity, Plus Hopeful Hints for Parents

Childhood obesity is a serious, growing epidemic, cutting across all categories of race, ethnicity, family income and locale. Obesity rates have tripled in the past 30 years, making childhood obesity one of the most serious health challenges of the 21st century. Additionally, we spend $150 billion every year to treat obesity-related conditions, with childhood healthcare costs rapidly increasing that number.

More often than not, obesity is the result of a flawed lifestyle. Although genetics can be a factor, it is more common for children to be obese or overweight because of environmental and behavioral factors. These frightening facts display how dangerous and costly childhood obesity is in society. Luckily, parents can change the trend. See our hopeful hints to learn how.

1. Only two percent of kids in the U.S. eat healthy.

Based on diet recommendations established by the United States Department of Agriculture, only two percent of children have a healthy diet. In fact, in a survey of high school seniors, only three out of every 10 report eating vegetables “nearly” every day. Of the vegetables consumed, one-fourth is in the form of French fries or potato chips.

Hopeful Hint: Sneak veggies into your kid’s meals. You may not be able to convince them to choose an apple rather than chips at school, but you can mix spinach into their smoothie or chopped-up peppers and onions into meatloaf and burgers.

2. Obesity in children is mainly caused by a lack of exercise.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that children exercise at least at the intensity of a fast walk for 60 minutes every day. Unfortunately, one out of every four children does not participate in any free-time physical activity.

Hopeful Hint: Look around the community; what do you see? I see awesome opportunities for family fun and fitness. You don’t need to get your kids to “work out.” Instead, suggest family nights that are active rather than sedentary. Bike to get frozen yogurt or take the dog to the dog park. If it’s cold outside, skate, sled or ski. The opportunities are endless!

3. Screen time correlates with childhood obesity.

A typical child spends approximately four to five hours a day watching TV, using the computer or playing video games. Studies have found that the more TV children watch, the more likely they are to gain excess weight. There’s also evidence that early TV habits may have long-lasting effects. Two studies that followed children from birth found that TV viewing in childhood predicts obesity risk well into adulthood and even into mid-life.

Hopeful Hint: Limit “screen time” to no more than two hours a day. Encourage fun, out-of-the-box ideas like these that won’t feel like exercise (for you or your kids):

  • Balloon Ball – Blow up some balloons and play “keep it off the ground” or catch.
  • Obstacle Course – Create a furniture course in your home or make a course outside with chalk.
  • Follow the Leader – Add energetic movements like jumping or stomping and squatting.
  • Dance Party – Turn on the music and shake your groove thang!
  • Scavenger Hunt – Hide clues around your home for your kids to find.
  • Hallway Bowling – Set up water bottles and use any ball you have.

4. Unnecessary snacking leads to weight gain.

Thirty years ago, kids ate one snack a day. Now, they are trending toward three snacks, resulting in an additional 200+ calories a day. Children in states with laws that restrict the sale of unhealthy snack foods and beverages in school gained less weight over a three-year period than those living in states with no such policies.

Hopeful Hint: Your home is where your child most likely eats the majority of his or her meals and snacks, so it is vital that your kitchen is stocked with healthy choices and treats. Follow these hints:

  • Don’t ban sweets entirely.While many kids’ sugar consumption exceeds healthy limits, having a no sweets rule is an invitation for cravings and overindulging when given the chance. Instead, limit the amount of cookies, candies, etc. your child eats, and introduce fruit-based snacks.
  • Limit juice and soda. Soft drinks are loaded with sugar—empty calories that don’t do anything healthy for your child. Many juices aren’t any better. Instead, offer your child sparkling water with a twist of lime, fresh mint or a splash of fruit juice.
  • Keep snacks small. Don’t turn snacks into a meal. Limit them to 100-150 calories.

5. The risk for health issues are higher in children with obesity.

  • Heart disease: Seventy percent of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Researchers predict that, if current adolescent obesity rates continue, there will be more than 100,000 additional cases of coronary heart disease attributable to obesity by the year 2035.
  • Asthma: Being overweight or obese is associated with a 52 percent increased risk of a new diagnosis of asthma among children.
  • Diabetes: Forty-five percent of children with type 2 diabetes were diagnosed due to being obese or overweight.

Hopeful Hint: You can make a huge impact on your children’s health by being involved with the details of their lives. Defy busy schedules and make face-time with your kids a priority. Treat it like a meeting and schedule the time on your calendar to ensure you stick to it. Spending quality time with your kids can also provide the self-esteem boost they need to make a positive change.

6. Healthcare costs skyrocket.

Did you know healthcare expenses directly related to childhood obesity are $14 billion every year? If obesity rates continue on their current pace, by 2030, medical costs associated with treating preventable obesity-related diseases are estimated to increase by $48 to $66 billion per year in the United States.

Hopeful Hint: There are no easy options when it comes to tackling childhood weight problems and obesity. Weight-loss surgery and medications are rarely recommended for children and adolescents. If you have changed your family’s eating and physical activity habits and your child has not reached a healthy weight, or if your doctor determines that your child’s health or emotional well-being is at risk because of his or her weight, you may want to consider a weight-control program.

Altru’s Healthy N Fit Kids and Families program can offer the education and hands-on support needed to make long-lasting change. With registered dietitians and health & wellness specialists on our team, the approach is comprehensive and fun for both kids and their families.


Emily SpicerEmily Spicer is a health and wellness specialist at Altru Health System. With a positive approach to overall wellness, she inspires people to take control of their lives through a focused commitment toward better health and to make that choice a habitual and natural one. In her free time, Emily enjoys a good workout, playing tennis and spending time with her family and friends.

Getting Back to the Game of Life: Jay’s Sports Advantage Story

Jay Ladue has been active most of his life. Growing up, he participated in multiple sports. Eventually, he chose to focus on hockey, playing in college at St. John’s University. As an adult, his hobbies and interests are all active in nature – from playing men’s league hockey and downhill skiing, to following his kids in their activities and enjoying the outdoors at the lake. Those who have spent time at Center Court Fitness Club or Choice Health & Fitness over the years likely know Jay; he’s been an active member for 25 years.

So, a year and a half ago when Jay’s nagging hip pain became unbearable, keeping him from the activities he enjoys, he knew his best option was a replacement. Following the replacement and medical rehabilitation, Jay took it upon himself to get back in shape. He started back at the gym with his familiar cardio routines – the elliptical, stair steppers and the occasional spin class.

He was feeling better, but about six months in, he hit a plateau. He felt comfortable with his routine at the gym, but knew there was no chance this was going to get him back to the things he really loved to do: playing hockey and skiing.

Jay standing at gymMaking a game-plan
That’s when Jay discovered Sports Advantage powered by EXOS. Through friends, Jay was referred to Anthony Morando, performance manager at Sports Advantage. Before starting any physical training, Anthony took Jay through a thorough physical assessment, including a functional movement screen. Through this, weaknesses and strengths were identified, and Anthony developed a game plan for Jay – focusing on building strength in his lower body, specifically the side with Jay’s new hip.

“Jay needed to create resilience around his hip joints. It was evident that not only did he need functional training for his lower body, but some guidance initially to prove to him that he can still train hard and not get hurt,” shared Anthony Morando, performance manager.  “Our goal is to train people to achieve their maximum results, but we always do so in a safe manner. We upgrade lives because we care about our clients.”

“After my assessment, I had a one-on-one session with Anthony, and I was hooked,” shared Jay. “I signed up for a year and have been diligently training with Sports Advantage powered by EXOS ever since.”

Jay’s Keys to Success
Jay attributes his success at Sports Advantage to a few key factors, including:

  • The game-plan – After your initial assessment, a game-plan for their training is made. At each session, no matter which trainer you work with, you receive guidance based off of your unique needs, building strength in the areas needed most.
  • The team – Each trainer is experienced and knowledgeable. All of the performance specialists have advanced degrees in performance-related fields, along with high-end certifications. Training also comes with nutrition education from a registered dietitian with a focus on sports nutrition.
  • The comradery – the small group-training setting of a rally class offers individual attention from trainers, as well as a team atmosphere. Each client is still following their game-plan and trainers focus on different areas with each person, but the group also cheers one another on throughout each session.
  • The passion – The staff at Sports Advantage have a true passion for what they do, and it shows every day. They are excited and focused for each session, and that helps make the workouts something to look forward to.

Jay hiking“I still add traditional cardio into my workout routine, but I find that the workouts I do at Sports Advantage are the most efficient,” Jay shared. “Not only am I building strength, but I am also getting great cardiovascular fitness, just in different ways.”

Jay is confident he’ll be back on the ice and slopes soon. “Maybe not at the level of intensity that I once could, but I know that with this program as part of my long-term fitness regimen, I’ll be able to stay involved with the sports I enjoy most for a long time.”

7 Strategies to Enjoy the Holidays and Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Christmas tree cupcakeWhen the holidays come around, it’s so common to see an attitude of restriction and self-punishment for indulging, followed by more self-hate. My solution is to encourage everyone to try their best to adapt a positive attitude and find balance over the holiday season.

So, how do we go about finding balance?

  1. Accept the inevitable. Unless you are planning on staying home, you are likely going to be bombarded by treats, sweets, chocolates, snacks, chips, nut mixes and all things yummy. It’s going to happen; there’s really no way of escaping it. So, set up a game plan on how to deal with these temptations.
  1. Have a safe zone. While it may seem like you have 1,000 holiday parties to attend, you still have your home-base, safety-zone, a place where you can plan what you eat, and stay in control of what you get to eat and enjoy! So, try your best to make your home your healthy haven. (If you are hosting a party, wait until the day of to buy treats, and send them off with guests as they leave!) Don’t tempt yourself even more while just sitting at home by having the holiday cookies on the counter or the candy dish on the coffee table.
  1. Keep your routine. Don’t “save room” to binge at a party or gathering. This not only throws off your balance but is totally counterproductive. You are basically signaling to your body to store every little calorie from that binge you have at the party, rather than burning it off. You’re likely to eat even more than you would if you just ate normally throughout the day before the party. Eat your breakfast, snacks and lunch, and by the time you get to your party, you won’t indulge like you would if you went there ravenous.
  1. Stay hydrated (with H20!). Alcohol intake goes up around the holidays. Christmas cheer, right? If you aren’t a drinker, I bet you indulge in eggnog, punch and other high-calorie non-alcoholic picks, too. It’s a whole lot of empty calories and an invitation for some major water retention. So, balance it out with lots of water. For every alcoholic (or specialty) drink you consume, drink two big glasses of water. You’ll stay nice and hydrated, ward off water retention and consume fewer empty calories.
  1. Snowman works out with weightsKeep moving. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean it’s time to take a break from exercise. You are likely going to be consuming some extra calories with the special meals and treats around, so it’s even more important to keep on a good exercise routine. When you exercise, don’t think of it as punishment because you indulged, but rather think of it as treating your body with love.
  1. Indulge. Yes, that’s right… indulge! Christmas and New Year’s only come around once a year, and you are allowed to have a treat. But stay accountable! If you want some dessert or chocolate, have a small amount and savor it. If you want mashed potatoes smothered in gravy… do it. Just have a small portion. If you go into it with a “NO, NO, NO, I can’t” attitude, unless you’re rock-solid-crazy-willpower-superwoman-or-man, you’ll cave. And then you’ll just end up feeling bad.
  1. Don’t fret a couple of pounds. It’s common to gain a few over the holidays. If you don’t go totally overboard, you’ve likely put on a few pounds of water weight, and it will be off within a week or two. Don’t think you’ve put on a few pounds of pure fat over just a few days. The body doesn’t really work like that; it’s water retention. So stay on track with your exercise, get back to your regular healthy eating routine and your body will shake off those few excess pounds in no time.

Discover Your Best Self
Health and wellness coaching is an inspiring and effective way to empower you to reach your health and wellness goals. Coaching will help you focus on taking action to move toward your ideal wellness through assessment, conversation, personal discovery and goal setting. Coaching is ideal if you have a strong willingness to improve your health and well-being and you are ready to work toward behavior change.
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Emily SpicerEmily Spicer is a health and wellness specialist at Altru Health System. With a positive approach to overall wellness, she inspires people to take control of their lives through a focused commitment toward better health and to make that choice a habitual and natural one. In her free time, Emily enjoys a good workout, playing tennis and spending time with her family and friends.

How to Actually Keep Your New Year’s Resolution: Get Fit Challenge

Sports Advantage powered by EXOSWith the holidays and the New Year approaching, it is natural to start thinking about goals and resolutions for 2016. For many people thoughts turn to physical health. Goals like losing weight and getting in shape are popular resolutions each new year. While these are admirable goals, are we setting ourselves up for failure before we even begin our quest? Ask yourself these questions to ensure you are getting the most out of your training program this coming year.

Where are you going?
Getting in shape is a great goal for the New Year, but what does “in shape” mean to you? How do you know when you are there? Setting performance-based goals is the best way to track your progress and to determine if you are heading in the right direction. Select two or three performance based goals to work on. I like to pick one strength goal and one conditioning goal to work on at a time. An example of a strength goal would be to do 25 pushups, while a conditioning goal would be running an eight-minute mile. These goals are performance-based and specific.

If performance-based goals don’t feel like a good fit for you, select consistency-based goals. Long-term consistency is one of the biggest determinants when it comes to successful training. A goal of moving for 30 minutes, four times a week is an example of a consistency goal. The training you do is up to you, but work towards the goal of training four times per week. This helps get you in the habit of training, which can often be the toughest part in reaching your goals.

With your goals in mind, you know where you are headed and when you arrive. If we do not have a specific destination, any road will get us there. Focus your training this winter by determining where you want to go.

What is holding you accountable?
Long-term consistency, as mentioned above, is one of the biggest determinants when it comes to successful training. When you’ve had a long day and do not feel like training, who holds you accountable? Having someone to hold you accountable is a great way to help keep your training on track. Training with a friend or family member is a great way to stay consistent. It is much harder to skip a session when someone else is counting on you. Find someone or something to hold you accountable. Whether this means joining a class, signing up for a race, or recruiting a partner, it is much harder to skip a session if you have someone or something holding you accountable.

Do you know your strengths and weaknesses?
As humans we are creatures of habit. We like to do the things we are good at. This can be beneficial in some areas, but when it comes to training it can be detrimental. We like to use the same pieces of equipment and do the same routine time and time again. If we are looking to change our bodies, why would we continue to do what we have always done?

Having an outside eye look at your program can help tremendously. We are often unable to objectively look at what we are doing. The best way to overcome this is to have a professional evaluate and asses you and your training program. The weaknesses that we usually avoid are typically the training tools that help yield the greatest results.

Get Fit Challenge

Start the New Year off right
To help you start 2016 strong, we’ve created a Get Fit Challenge. The team at Sports Advantage powered by EXOS will be sharing videos throughout the month of January on the Altru Advanced Orthopedics’ Facebook page. Our four performance experts, Jocelyne, Monique, Anthony and I, will guide you through workouts that we do with our clients at Sports Advantage every day. We’ll also share nutrition advice from Danielle, our performance dietitian, and injury prevention tips from the medical experts at Altru Advanced Orthopedics. Follow along all month for a chance to win a free week of adult (Rally) training at our facility.

Remember, it’s best to get outside of your comfort zone and test your weaknesses, so if some of the workouts aren’t what you are used to – give them a shot. Stick with the program and we will help you achieve your goals in the new year.

PaulPaul Ewbank is a performance specialist with Sports Advantage powered by EXOS. He enjoys spending time outside, whether hiking, fly fishing or cross country skiing. 

Patient Spotlight: Nancy’s Weight Loss Journey

We asked Nancy, a participant of Altru’s Weight Management Program, about her experience, tips for success and more. Bonus: she shared a fantastic tostada recipe!

Q: What has been the hardest part of your journey and how did you overcome that challenge?
A: I was hungry all of the time for the first two weeks. When I mentioned it to John (Crist), he reassured me that my appetite would settle down, and it did. I hung in there because I saw this program as my last chance.

I also didn’t like some of the frozen entrees on the approved list, and went off the list sometimes, staying within the calorie guidelines. No one on my Altru Weight Management team hassled me about it.

Q:  How do you find balance in your daily life?
A: I love to sit and either read, do hand work or watch TV. All of my pastimes were sedentary. I’ve not liked moving my body much.

But, now I know I have to exercise for the rest of my life if I want to be fit and healthy. I have the attitude – “business before pleasure” to make sure I get my exercise. I schedule it as part of my day and don’t let myself slough off. Shawn (Reich) taught me that exercise doesn’t have to be grim. Mowing the lawn or blowing snow also counts.

I learned about balanced eating from John and have developed some recipes that incorporate more vegetables and fruits and less meat, salt, fat and sugar. He also taught me how to plan ahead for meals, navigate the grocery store and get through holiday meals.

Q: Can you share your favorite recipe for others managing their weight to enjoy?
A: I found a recipe from a Mayo Clinic newsletter for soft tacos that I adapted. It has lots of vegetables and is very filling. Leave off the cheese and it’s vegan.

Veggie and Bean Tostadas

Q: How are you inspired by the other participants in the group?
A: It was so encouraging to hear the thoughts and struggles of the others. It was nice knowing I was not alone in facing a particular problem. Sometimes, it was hearing a good tip or suggestion from someone who had faced the same thing I was facing.

Q: What message do you have for those who are struggling with their health and body image?
A: Don’t let guilt or blame control you. If you simply follow the program each day, time passes, and the weight comes off. If you give in to temptation, forgive yourself, and get back on your plan. Focus on the daily process and short-term goals, and not the final goal.

Q: What are you most proud of achieving since beginning your weight loss journey?
A: My physician said I have beaten diabetes. He took me off one medication and may take me off another one when I see him next time.

Also, I can wear cute clothes that are four sizes smaller. It’s so much fun to get compliments from my friends, and have people I haven’t seen in awhile not recognize me. I’m also stronger and have more endurance.


Nancy | Before

Nancy | After

Nancy | After

Q:  What did you think about Altru’s Weight Management Program?
A: One of the things that impressed me most about my team through Altru’s Weight Management Program is that they never said anything critical or negative. No matter what I did, they found a way to turn it around into a positive encouragement. This happened so often that I asked if they had all gone to a positive thinking seminar!

I believe that the combination of support and accountability was the key to my success. I had given up dieting, thinking nothing was ever going to work for me. But when I lost three pounds the first week, I was so delighted and happy it inspired me to keep going and not give up. I can’t thank my team from Altru’s Weight Management Program enough.

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?
A: I don’t feel like this is a diet. I’ve just finally learned how to eat healthy. I plan to live this way for the rest of my life. 

Ready to make a change? Contact us at or 701.780.6729, or make an appointment via MyHealth.