Melissa Rudy

A lifelong Cincinnatian, Melissa earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from University of Cincinnati before breaking into the online content field in 2000. As a Digital Journalist for SparkPeople, she enjoys helping others meet their wellness goals by writing about all aspects of healthy living. An avid runner and group fitness addict, Melissa lives in Loveland with her guitarist husband and three feisty daughters.

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65 of the Most Motivating Mantras

Most of us are surrounded by voices. Spouses, doctors, trainers, kids, workout partners—all of them have their own tips, advice and opinions (some helpful, some not so much) about what we should do to lose weight, get fit and lead healthier lives. But when was the last time you listened to your own voice? We all have an inner monologue—and it's more influential than you might think.

Posted 3/17/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 63 comments   26,876 views

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Why Every Kitchen Needs a Cast Iron Skillet

If deliciousness had a sound, it would surely be the sizzling of a hot skillet. Whether you're preparing fajitas or omelets, a stir fry or a frittata, the skillet is just as essential an ingredient as the meat or veggies.

While there's no shortage of skillets to choose from, not all of them are created equal. You can opt for the traditional coated non-stick version, durable stainless steel or, of course, cast iron—otherwise known as the Cadillac of skillets.

Valued for its strong heat retention and durability, cast iron cookware was used as far back as two thousand years ago, when pots and cauldrons were often placed inside the hearth or fireplace. The cast iron skillet was introduced in the late 19th century, around the time when kitchen stoves started to become prevalent in homes. Cast iron took a backseat to coated non-stick cookware in the 1960s and 70s, but its popularity has surged again in recent years as more people discover its many benefits.

Benefits of Cast Iron Skillets

Not only are they sturdy and durable, cast iron skillets could be good for your health. They don't produce the toxic fumes that can come from coated non-stick cookware, and the extra iron intake can provide a boost of energy and immunity. You can add a light coating of vegetable oil to create a natural baked-on seasoning, which also protects the skillet and creates a non-stick surface. Clean-up is easy, too: simply hand-wash with hot water and use a stiff brush or sponge to remove food, then dry right away. Skip the dishwasher, as it can strip the skillet of its beneficial seasoning.

5 Skillets We Love

Ewei's Homeware 12-inch Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet ($23.99): This one gets rave reviews for its durability, quality and pre-seasoned, non-stick surface.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Lodge Cast Iron Square Grill Pan (starting at $15.72): The ribbed bottom allows you to grill indoors all year round. It's perfect for preparing burgers, fish filets and chicken breasts.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Lodge Cast Iron Covered Deep Skillet (starting at $37.22): The extra depth of this skillet eliminates cooking splatter, and the lid is designed to keep foods moist.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Lodge Cast Iron Cornbread Wedge Pan ($17.18): The divided sections are great for cornbread, scones, frittatas and hash brown wedges.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

Cast Iron Pizza Pan ($29.95): Pizza delivery will become a thing of the past with this multi-purpose tool. It's also great for making pancakes and crepes.

Photo courtesy of Amazon

5 Scrumptious Skillet Recipes

Not sure how to get started with your new skillet? With these sizzling recipes, you can easily whip up delicious, nutritious meals without producing a slew of dirty dishes.

Chorizo Breakfast Skillet: This super simple, protein-packed breakfast is dairy- and gluten-free.

Photo courtesy of Avocado Pesto

Cajun Chicken Pasta: This low-carb version is made with zucchini noodles in a spicy cream sauce with fresh bell peppers.

Photo courtesy of Gimme Delicious

One-Skillet Mongolian Beef with Broccoli: Who needs a Chinese restaurant when you can prepare this delicious, savory dish on your stovetop in just 20 minutes?

Photo courtesy of The Seasoned Mom

One-Skillet Skinny Seafood Alfredo: This protein-packed dinner is ready in just five minutes, and proves that comfort food doesn't have to send your calorie count through the roof.

Photo courtesy of The Seasoned Mom

Skillet Veggie Lasagna: This skillet vegetable lasagna is chock-full of delicious veggies. Cook the veggies, noodles, sauce and cheese on the stovetop, then move the skillet to the oven for a quick broil.

Photo courtesy of Gimme Some Oven

Do you have a cast iron skillet? Share your tips and favorite recipes in the comments.

Posted 3/14/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 40 comments   17,107 views

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60 Scrumptious Spring Salads

Nature isn't the only thing going green for spring—there's something about the season of growth and renewal that has us hankering for salad. To grow healthier and stronger for the warmer months, it’s important to include plenty of veggies—and what better way to sneak in extra greens than with a delicious salad?

Posted 3/13/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 34 comments   31,327 views

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10 Exercises You Should Steal from Your Kids

Have you ever noticed that most kids run more than they walk? For little ones, constant physical activity is a way of life, not a task to cross off a to-do list. Whether it's jumping over puddles, using a curb as a balance beam or racing a puppy across the yard, movement just comes naturally to children. Wouldn't it be nice if you could bottle up a little of their boundless energy for yourself—while also burning extra calories and gaining muscle tone?

Posted 3/10/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 15 comments   14,689 views

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12 Sports Bras for All Shapes & Sizes Available on Amazon

Although it doesn't get nearly as much fanfare as those cute yoga capris or that brightly patterned running tank, your sports bra is an essential part of your exercise ensemble. That single garment forms the foundation of your workout, impacting the way you move, feel and perform during a three-mile run, hot yoga class, strength training session or daily walk with your dog. Studies have shown that the type of bra worn has a direct impact on the way women run, and that most of us are wearing the wrong size bra for our body types.

Posted 3/7/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 19 comments   18,140 views

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What to Know Before You Row Your Way to Fit

Is rowing the new spinning? Although indoor rowing has been around for centuries, its popularity has been gaining speed in recent years. Those seeking a low-impact, high-intensity cardio activity—or a cross-training workout for running, swimming or CrossFit—are flocking to gyms and specialty studios to row, row, row their way to a fitter physique.

Posted 2/28/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 10 comments   17,567 views

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7 Ways to Eat More Mindfully

What do you do while you eat?
If you watch television, work on your computer, page through a magazine or pay your bills while enjoying your lunchtime chicken salad or grilled salmon dinner, you're not alone—but you're also not doing your waistline any favors. Studies have shown that people who ate while distracted consumed 69 percent more than those who ate with no distractions.

Posted 2/27/2017  10:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 33 comments   26,209 views

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40 One-Pot Dishes with Less Than 500 Calories

When you're on a weight loss journey, coming up with healthy, calorie-controlled meals can seem like a daunting task—but it doesn't have to be. If you have one pot (or pan) and a few healthy ingredients, you can easily whip up a sensible, satisfying meal that will keep the whole family coming back for seconds, all without dooming your diet. Don't let their simplicity fool you—these one-pot, sub-500 calorie dishes are loaded with rich flavors and palate-pleasing textures.

Posted 2/21/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 10 comments   50,700 views

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Is Jackfruit the Next Big Meat Alternative?

Move over, mango, there's a new exotic fruit in town. Okay, so it's not exactly new—the jackfruit has been around for centuries—but it is seeing a recent surge of popularity. With its prickly exterior and generous dimensions (it carries the distinction of being the largest tree fruit), this relative of the fig might not win a beauty pageant any time soon.However, its sweet, starchy flesh is growing in demand as an unlikely meat alternative. Should you make room in your meal plan for jackfruit, or does the hype outweigh the benefits?

Posted 2/6/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 18 comments   21,495 views

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Ditch the Gym & Invest in These 10 Home Strength Training Essentials

Should you lift weights? Regardless of your age, weight or gender, the answer is always a resounding ”yes!” Pumping iron (whether it's three pounds or 30) helps to boost muscle strength, bone density, balance, metabolism and heart health, among other amazing perks.

Posted 2/1/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 17 comments   30,564 views

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50 Simple and Savory Single-Serving Meals

If there's anything tougher than cooking for a crowd, it's cooking for one. When you have a single mouth to feed, it can be difficult to muster the motivation to shop for ingredients, prepare meals, cook and clean up—especially when most recipes yield multiple servings that will likely languish in the fridge before ultimately getting pitched. For many one-person households, the takeout menu often takes priority over the recipe book…but that convenience comes at a cost to your pocketbook and your waistline.

Posted 1/17/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 11 comments   41,741 views

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How 4 Natural Sugar Substitutes Stack Up Against the Real Deal

These days, sugar can seem like a four-letter word, especially if you're trying to lose weight or adopt a healthier lifestyle. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an excess of added sugars is one of the main culprits behind not only weight gain and obesity, but also an increased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The FDA recommends consuming no more than six to 11 teaspoons of the sweet stuff each day.

Posted 1/13/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 38 comments   35,058 views

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Keep Your Resolutions with These 15 Health & Fitness Essentials

After the countdown is over and the confetti has been swept up, millions of Americans hang up their party hats and switch to self-improvement mode. Whether your resolutions include eating healthier, exercising regularly, stretching more or finally kicking that bad habit once and for all, you can boost your chances of success with some tools made with that purpose in mind.

Posted 1/4/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 7 comments   20,275 views

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Experts Predict 29 Health Trends for 2017

There are certain things that go hand-in-hand with a new year: confetti, champagne, resolutions and, of course, a fresh crop of health and fitness trends. Some of them, like strength training and meal planning, have stood the test of time, while others were better left in the past (body wraps and weight loss pills, we’re talking to you).

As we hang up our party hats and prepare for a fresh start, we asked some health experts to share their predictions for what they expect to be the big fitness and nutrition trends in 2017.

Posted 1/3/2017  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 12 comments   28,220 views

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15 Resolutions Health Experts Wish You Would Make

Nearly half of all Americans make New Year's resolutions, but only eight percent actually keep them. Whether it's to lose weight, get stronger, stop smoking or start saving, a vast majority of winter goals freeze up by February. So where are those 92 percent going wrong?

Many experts agree that the secret to success isn't just about keeping the resolutions, but rather making the right ones in the first place. We asked some professional fitness trainers and nutritionists to share the goals they'd like to see on their clients' lists. Some probably sound familiar, but others may come as a bit of a surprise.

Posted 12/29/2016  12:00:00 AM By: Melissa Rudy : 6 comments   37,097 views

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