“Nutrition Newbie” is a series focused on basic nutrition information and tips.

Special Blog Post By: Alex Navarro, Community Nutrition Educator

May is the kickoff to National Physical Fitness and Sports Month. So for those who may have put their January resolution goals in the back burner, now is the time to get active again! This is a great month to begin healthy habits such as eating healthier and moving more. We all have heard of the great benefits that physical activity can add to our life, and on the flipside, we have also heard all of the excuses (mine included) of not having the time for it. Here are some healthy tips to get you started, and some post-workout snacks to refuel your body. Remember to start slow, focus on one goal at a time, and always, always try to involve the whole family.

The countless benefits…

We all know that physical fitness is essential for optimal health, and also helps maintain a healthy weight. Being physically active can also lower the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, improve muscular fitness and bone health. For older adults, it can lower the risk of falls and improve cognitive function. And for young children, research shows that when children are physically active, they achieve higher grades and have better test scores, and school attendance and behavior is improved.

When the gym is not an option…

Try to make your daily environment your personal gym. But how? No need to spend money on expensive equipment or all of your time at a crowded gym. Here are a few tweaks you can start today. Trust me, the small steps all add up.

Park farther– How many times do we drive around a parking lot just to find the closest parking spot? Try parking farther away to get more steps in your day. The steps really do add up at the end of the week.

Take the stairs – Makes perfect sense. Why sit and wait for a crowded elevator when you can take the stairs and work on your cardiovascular health and leg strength.

Go outside – Whether it’s a nearby community park, a hiking trail, or just around your neighborhood, the outdoors will not only clear your mind, but the physical activity options can be endless; go on a bike ride, take a brisk walk, or throw a ball around with your kids.

Take a lunch walk – Do you have a sedentary office job? Grab some coworkers and take a walk to help break up the day. Even a 5-10 minute walk a few times during the day will improve concentration and keep you better focused to tackle your workload.

Use what’s at home – Water bottles, dining room chairs, your children’s toys… If you look around your house, you will be sure to find objects to safely use for resistance weight training or to get a good stretch in.

How much physical activity is recommended…?

It is recommended that children get 60 minutes of physical activity a day, at least five days a week. For adults, the recommended amount is a minimum of 30 minutes a day for at least five days. Keep in mind that the 30 minutes can be divided during the day. For example, 10 minute walk during lunch, 5 minutes of playing tag with your kids, and 15 minutes of cardio in your living room.

Confused about what to eat after your workout…?

Your body had been working hard, so you need to replenish your fuel with a right balance of protein and carbohydrates. Don’t forget to hydrate with water! Though protein bars may sound like a convenient snack when you’re on the go, they may not be the best choice. Even though their wrappers should make it easy to think that they’re healthy, that may be far from the truth. In reality, they could have even MORE calories, more saturated fats, and more (hidden) sugar than a candy bar.

Just take a look yourself. Below is an ingredient list for one popular brand post-workout bar.

Cost: $3.09.
Protein Blend (Whey Protein Hydrolysate, Whey Protein Isolate, Milk Protein Isolate), Coating (Maltitol Powder, Palm Kernel Oil, Whey Protein Concentrate, Cocoa Powder (Processed With Alkali), Calcium Carbonate, Soy Lecithin, Natural Flavor, Sucralose), Hydrolyzed Collagen, Vegetable Glycerin, Soy Crisps (Soy Protein Isolate, Tapioca Starch, Salt), Milk Chocolate Drops (Sugar, Whole Milk Powder, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Milk Fat, Soy Lecithin, Natural Vanilla Flavor), Maltitol Syrup, Water, Maltodextrin, Canola Oil, Cocoa Powder, Natural Flavors, Calcium Carbonate, Vitamin And Mineral Blend (Ascorbic Acid, Tricalcium Phosphate, D-Alpha Tocopherol Acetate, Niacinamide, Tricalcium Phosphate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Gluconate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid, Biotin, Potassium Iodide, Cyanocobalamin), Sucralose, Xanthan Gum, Peanut Flour, Soy Lecithin, Almond Meal.
This product contains sugar alcohols, which may cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Excessive consumption may have a laxative effect.

Or… for a fraction of the price, you can make some healthier alternatives right in your own kitchen. Here are some of my favorites to make. And kids love them too! Click on the links below for the full recipes.

No Bake Energy Bites: peanut butter, rolled oats, coconut flakes, honey or agave, chia or flax seeds, cacao nibs or chocolate chips (optional).

Quinoa Berry Smoothie: cooked quinoa, yogurt, berries, banana, and honey.

Avocado and Egg Toast: Whole wheat bread, avocado, egg, olive oil, lemon juice, chia seeds.

So this month, make sure to enjoy some sunshine and get moving! Let’s start today, one step at a time!

We’d love to hear what your favorite go-to snack is after your workout.

***Read our past Nutrition Newbie posts.