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.

Read More of 's Blogs:

13 Healthy & Delicious Ways to Marinate Chicken

The cheeseburger is far from dead (for meat eaters, that is), but chicken has been the clear winner over beef for decades now. Although plant-based diets continue to grow in popularity, poultry still reigns as the primary source of protein in the United States,and for good reason: Chicken is packed with vitamins and minerals, is low in calories, its nutrients have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer and heart disease, and it has far lower levels of cholesterol and saturated fat compared to red meat.
And it doesn't hurt that it tastes great—especially when it's prepped with a little TLC before cooking. You don't have to be an accomplished chef to get on the marinade train—with some simple tips and a recipe, anyone can turn a boring breast into an exciting, flavorful piece of chicken.

Posted 12/5/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 63 comments   38,672 views

Read More ›

How to Remain Grateful to Your Body While Working to Improve It

"There's no way I can run a 5K."
"At this rate, I'll never reach my goal weight."
"I can't do a pushup (or a pull-up, or a sit-up…)"
"I would look terrible in that dress."
When you're on a journey to transform or improve your body, it's natural to identify those areas that you'd like to change. But while it's good to set specific goals, hosting a constant inner monologue of self-criticism won't help you reach them any faster.
It's easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what your body CAN'T do: It can’t shed pounds fast enough, it can't move quickly or nimbly enough, it can't look like it's "supposed" to in certain clothes, it can't lift the same amount of weight as the slimmer, fitter person next to you at the gym. But when you remain laser-focused on those perceived flaws and weaknesses, you'll ultimately lose sight of your body's many strengths and capabilities.

Posted 11/30/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 123 comments   25,146 views

Read More ›

17 Budget-Friendly Dinner Recipes for $3 or Less per Serving

For three dollars, you can get a cheeseburger and a large order of French fries at McDonald's. It will also buy a Gordita Supreme from Taco Bell, or an order of chicken nuggets and onion rings from Burger King.
Easy on the wallet, sure—but you'll pay a steep premium in terms of calories, fat and lack of nutrition.
What if we told you that for the same amount of money, you could prepare a healthier and far more satisfying meal at home? While it might cost a bit more to assemble all of the ingredients, when you break it down to the per-serving price, the creators of these budget-friendly recipes say they won't cost any more than a drive-thru value meal.

Posted 11/29/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 65 comments   32,513 views

Read More ›

26 Simple & Satisfying Slow Cooker Soups for Chilly Nights

Soup is one of those delightfully versatile foods that can be enjoyed year round—but if we had to pick a favorite season to spoon it up, winter would be the winner. There's nothing like a steaming hot bowl of bisque, broth, chowder or stew to chase away the chill and keep you satisfied until your next meal. Plus, soups are a great way to sneak some extra veggies and lean proteins into your daily diet, particularly during a time of year when there seems to be a not-so-healthy temptation lurking around every corner. If you're filled up on nutritious soup, you'll be less likely to succumb to all of the cookies, cakes and cocoa that will inevitably cross your path.  
Soup is great on the stovetop, but when paired with the slow cooker, you get the ultimate in crave-worthy convenience. Just add your ingredients, turn it on and go about your day—and when you arrive back at home, you'll have a hearty, satisfying meal to warm up your night. And if you have an Instant Pot, you can curl up with a bowl of your favorite soup in a matter of minutes.

Posted 11/21/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 108 comments   175,382 views

Read More ›

How to Stop Feeling Guilty for Losing Weight

We talk a lot about all the good things that come with weight loss. There's the lower risk of heart disease, improved cholesterol, increased mobility, renewed confidence, reduced chance of diabetes—the list goes on (and on and on). But parting with pounds can also come with some not-so-positive side effects, many of which go unspoken, disguised or overlooked.
Like weight loss guilt.

Posted 11/19/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 101 comments   38,036 views

Read More ›

How a Single Working Mother Finally Lost the Weight—This Time for Good

Like many SparkPeople members, 43-year-old Chris (ASHLEEMICAHSMOM) can't remember a time when she hasn't struggled with her weight. As an elementary school student in Flint, Michigan, she used to sneak the "goodies" out of other kids' lunchboxes.
"While I was never really bullied about my weight, I have always felt fat, and I always compared myself to all the pretty, skinny girls," she recalls. Then, when Chris lost her father at 18, she sought comfort in even more food. It wasn't long before her childhood chubbiness had become full-fledged obesity.

Posted 11/15/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 78 comments   30,522 views

Read More ›

11 of the Best YouTube Fitness Channels

The gym is far from dead, a good group fitness class can be highly motivating and a run or walk around the block can be a great way to burn calories while enjoying the fresh air. But if you're pressed for time, house-bound by nasty weather or just having one of those days when you'd rather not venture out into close proximity to other humans, you can still get a great workout in the comfort and privacy of home.

Posted 11/8/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 182 comments   132,623 views

Read More ›

The Advice That Changed SparkPeople Members' Lives

Everyone has their own turning point. For some, that "a-ha moment" might come from seeing an unflattering photo of themselves. For others, it might be having to ask for a seatbelt extender on an airplane, or not being able to keep up during a family hike. Maybe it comes in the form of something much more serious, like worrisome test results from the doctor or a life-threatening medical emergency.
While these instances can change a life around for the good, not everyone experiences them. Sometimes, a turning point can be as simple as a a single piece of advice given in a time of need.

Posted 11/1/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 88 comments   29,403 views

Read More ›

100 Pounds Lost in 8 Months: How Janie Did It

When you're facing the prospect of a three-digit weight loss, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. Standing at the very beginning of a long and unpredictable road, the idea of completely overhauling your lifestyle and shedding the equivalent of a whole person can seem daunting—but it's not impossible.

Posted 10/26/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 59 comments   40,799 views

Read More ›

8 Squat Variations for Strong, Sculpted Legs & Glutes

If you only have time for one strength exercise, many fitness experts agree that it should be the squat. This low-impact move works the quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves, but its benefits go far beyond muscle work. Making squats part of your daily routine also helps to strengthen the joints, boosts cardio endurance and builds a strong core. And best of all, you don't need a gym, any equipment or a big chunk of time to get your squatter's rights: Almost anyone can do them—anytime, anywhere.

Posted 10/25/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 81 comments   44,679 views

Read More ›

Are Your Kids Making You Fat?

You start off the day with the best of eating and exercise intentions. You've prepped healthy meals and snacks, signed up for an afternoon spin class and plan to get in some extra steps during the little one's soccer practice.
But the kids have other ideas. The picky toddler boycotts the chicken and broccoli you prepared, fighting the meal until you finally cave and serve mac and cheese (but not before a few bites make it into your mouth). Then the baby spikes a mid-day fever, landing you at the pediatrician's office right when you're supposed to be climbing on the spin bike. And later, your favorite pint-sized kicker insists that you stay to watch every last minute of soccer practice, so that your planned walk goes by the wayside.
Are your kids making you fat?
Of course not—well, not directly. Each of us is in full control of what and how much we put in our bodies, and whether and how often we move said bodies. No one can make those decisions for us, and displaced blame—especially directed at the chicken nugget-loving, broccoli-snubbing offspring—won't get you any closer to your goals.
But hey, let's face it: Life is busy, and when you have kids depending on you for meals, rides and attention, it can be all too easy for those best of intentions to get shoved to the back burner. There are two main challenges parents often face when it comes to weight loss: eating unhealthy foods for the sake of the kids' tastes and giving up on exercise due to logistics or time constraints.
Whether you have toddlers, teenagers or any age in between, it is possible to meet their needs (and maybe even some of their wants) without sacrificing what's best for you.
Serve smaller portions of what they don’t like.
Summer Yule, MS, RDN, estimates that approximately one third of children are picky eaters, and that the pickiness will generally resolve by age five or six. "These children benefit from continual exposure to healthful foods, but tend to leave a lot of food on their plates while their palate expands," she explains. "This can mean that either a lot of food is being wasted—or the parent ends up eating the extra food."
If you're one of the many parents tasked with feeding picky eaters, Yule recommends serving them only a small bite of less preferred foods, rather than a whole serving. In this way the child can more easily experience success for “finishing their vegetables” (or another less preferred food), while getting exposure to a wider dietary variety and slowly becoming desensitized to the strong taste of these foods. And this also means there will be less uneaten food for you to finish later, if you're prone to impulsive plate-picking.
Track every BLT—or avoid them altogether.
No matter how healthy your meals are, it's easy to fall into the trap of finishing the kids' leftovers, which can add up to excess calories.
Liza Baker with Simply: Health Coaching stresses the importance of tracking everything you consume, even if it wasn't from your proper plate. "Be sure to include every BLT—every bite, lick and taste—including what you're finishing from the kids' plates," she says.
Even better, dietitian Chelsey Amer advises her clients to refrain from picking at all, as those extra BLTs may lead away from regularly scheduled meals and snacks in favor of all-day grazing, which isn’t good for the blood sugar or metabolism. "Also, you often don’t remember these BLTs, so you’re less satisfied from these eating experiences," Amer warns. "This can lead to eating beyond your needs."
Save kids' leftovers for later.
When they have three bites and are suddenly "full," you don't want to just throw away all that food you spent time and money preparing, nor do you want to give into eating a substantial amount of extra calories. There is a third option: If there is salvageable food left, pack it up for the kids to finish later (when they no doubt become again hungry moments later).
"If you immediately refrigerate room-temperature leftovers after dinner rather than letting them sit around for a long time, they will likely be safe," Baker notes. More care should be taken with proteins, especially animal proteins, she says, but in general, most starches and vegetables should be fine to save.
Prepare the same foods for everyone.
It's easy to fall into the trap of cooking two meals: one for the adults and one for the kids. This might keep the peace for today, but it establishes an unhealthy precedent and also makes you more vulnerable to sampling the unhealthy fare on their plates.
"Somewhere along the line, we decided that kids don't eat adult food," Baker points out. "The notion is affirmed by most kids' menus out there—a long list of pizza, nuggets, mac and cheese, burgers, fries. This becomes a vicious cycle, as kids start to think that they should be eating these foods daily, and parents succumb to their demands because it's just easier not to fight one more battle every day."

Baker suggests talking to your kids and explaining that these types of foods are not healthy. Yes, they taste good, and it's fine to have them on occasion as treats—but meals at home can be equally delicious and also much better for them.
Give the snack cupboard an overhaul.
When children are in the house, it's easy to wind up with a pantry and fridge that’s stocked with snacks you might not choose for yourself (Cheez-Its, Twinkies, Kool-Aid…the list goes on). In addition to being unhealthy for the kids, another danger is that you could end up snacking on them yourself.
"The reality is, if a snack is not healthy enough for you, it is not healthy enough for your children," notes weight loss therapist Dr. Candice Seti. "Instead of treating them to these unhealthy snacks, give them options you can feel good about and that will provide them with lots of nutrients."
Some healthier snacking choices include yogurt, cheese, veggies and hummus, dried fruit, nuts, natural peanut butter and whole-grain crackers.
Involve the kids in exercise.
Don't let lack of childcare stand in the way of your workouts. Yule points out that there are many ways to get physical activity with kids in tow, so you'll be modeling healthy behavior while burning calories. Some ideas include running around with water guns or water balloons, going on a bike ride together, playing tag, playing hide-and-seek, dancing to silly music, doing yoga, roller skating at a local park or simply going out for a walk. If the kids are old enough, you could even invite them to do an exercise video with you.
"Put your small child in a stroller and go for your walk or run, let your older children scooter or bike next to you or go for a run with your teen," Baker suggests. "It's vital that they see you moving your body and move their own!"
Make cooking a fun family activity.
When the kiddos are involved in the food prep process, they'll become more engaged with the meal and will be much more likely to eat it, notes Baker. She suggests setting up a bar with bowls, tacos, burritos, nachos, baked potatoes, chili, salads or anything that allows kids to assemble their own foods using a variety of healthy toppings.
"If they 'make' it themselves, they're much more likely to eat it," Baker says.
She also recommends preparing simple, mix-and-match meals, with the idea that if you make a protein, a starch and a vegetable, there should always be two or three components that everyone will eat. "If they don't like the meat, let them eat rice and veggies; if they don't like the veggies, let them eat meat and potatoes, and so on," she suggests. "Try to vary the menu so that over the course of a week (not necessarily a day), everyone has some protein, carbs and veggies that they like."
Simplify and seek help.
If your children's activities are monopolizing your free time and making it impossible to fit in exercise, meditation or any sort of "you time" that promotes your health and relaxation, Baker says it's time to reevaluate. Look at ways to simplify your schedule—perhaps you can limit each child to one after-school sport or activity. You can also look for opportunities to carpool with other parents or coordinate childcare swaps to lighten your load.

Posted 10/23/2018  10:00:00 AM By:   : 67 comments   43,722 views

Read More ›

9 Ways to Keep Fall Allergies from Making You Miserable

Just as you've gotten your summer routine down, finally learning to embrace those sweaty, warm-weather workouts and balmy evening walks—bam! Fall has blustered onto the scene, complete with its Insta-worthy foliage, cool nights and comfortable days, pumpkin-flavored everything…
…and sneezing, runny noses and itchy, watery eyes.

Posted 10/19/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 56 comments   34,977 views

Read More ›

24 Heavenly Hummus Recipes for Your Next Gathering

When it comes to dips, sauces and spreads, you'd be hard-pressed to find one as hardworking as hummus.

With its roots in the Middle East, this popular condiment is made from a blend of chickpeas (garbanzo beans), tahini (sesame seeds), lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Yummy, yes—but it's way more than just a palate pleaser: Hummus is packed with protein, fiber and other vitamins and minerals, serving as a great nutrient-booster for vegetarian and vegan diets. Plus, its ingredients have been shown to fight inflammation, promote good digestive health, reduce heart disease risk and keep blood sugar within healthy levels.

As if that's not reason enough to leave the French onion and queso dips in the dust, hummus' high fiber and protein content helps to curb appetite and speed up metabolism, meaning it could give weight-loss efforts a serious boost.

And when it comes to versatility, this spread steals the show. Hummus wears many hats, each more delicious than the last. Whether you're hosting a Mexican fiesta, get giddy over garlic or need a splash of color for a holiday tabletop, there's a hummus for that. Whatever you're dipping—veggie chips, raw veggies, whole-wheat crackers, pita bread or just your spoon—go beyond the basics with one of these inventive variations.

Posted 10/17/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 84 comments   31,176 views

Read More ›

50 Workout Songs to Add to Your Playlist

We've all been there: You're only halfway through your workout, and you feel the fatigue setting in. Your lungs are working overtime, your muscles are begging for a break and you're starting to bargain with yourself: "I'll just call it quits now and eat a little less at dinner," you think. And then, just as you're about to stop the treadmill, put the weights back in the rack or cut your run short, it happens.
That song comes on.

Posted 10/10/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 82 comments   28,365 views

Read More ›

35 Self-Care Ideas You Can Start Practicing Today

Self-care is a hot buzzword these days, but what does it really mean? Beyond the obvious tenets of eating healthier, exercising regularly and relaxing more, what could or should you be doing to pamper and protect your mind and body?
Dr. Heather Hammerstedt, a board-certified physician and CEO of lifestyle coaching company Wholist, says that self-care is far from selfish, and is in fact an essential health tool. It resets your cortisol levels, which helps with prevention of weight gain, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and a multitude of other issues—not to mention what it does for balancing your neurotransmitters for mood and emotional reset.
"You can't fill anyone else's cup if yours is empty, something that busy moms, dads and professionals often forget," Hammerstedt says. "Planning is key. You will always make better decisions ahead of time than you will in the moment. This means that you have to find a way to schedule and plan for you.”
So, you know this self-care thing is legit—but how are you supposed to carve out time in your busy days when every minute seems to be monopolized by other people's needs? Good news: It's easier than you might think to sneak in some much-deserved selfishness.

Posted 10/2/2018  12:00:00 AM By:   : 97 comments   54,600 views

Read More ›

‹ Back   Read More Entries ›