Nutrition, Education, and Motivation that remind us why Plants-Rule.  Supporting a plant-based, whole-foods diet with scientific evidence.  A chef's passion for ingredients with the realistic practicality of a home cook.  These articles offer insight into the benefits of a vegan diet with the humor to support a balanced healthy lifestyle. 

Gift Ideas to Support a Healthy New Year

Why You Don’t Need to Spend a Lot of Money to Give a Powerful Gift


Listening to a recent podcast of the Jillian Michaels show , she addressed the touchy subject of helping a family member or loved one start moving towards a healthy lifestyle.  She took a call from a gentleman who had undergone his own transformation.  He had changed his diet, started working out, lost a lot of weight, and was now inspiring others to do the same.  Yet, he was sad seeing family members suffering from the same obesity, lack of activity, and health conditions (diabetes and heart disease) that he had overcome.  He was calling the celebrity personal trainer for ideas on how to encourage his family to adapt some healthier habits.  He asked, "How can I encourage a healthy lifestyle without spending a lot of money or creating resentment?"  Michaels, who gained fame as one of the trainers on the NBC reality show The Biggest Loser, discussed this common topic, both among her clients and within her own family.  Her advice:  Be a role model.  Invite them to join you.

Chicago Marathon Training Group

Chicago Marathon Training Group

The science supports her advice.  Medical professionals and community health advocates are continuously looking for methods to fight the rising obesity rates in this country with minimal cost.  They have found that establishing community-based education and support systems greatly improves the outcomes of healthy program initiatives.  ShapeUp RI  is an online resource for Rhode Island residents, founded in 2005 as a way to encourage a more-active, healthy lifestyle.   A 2010 article in the American Journal of Public Health found that this low-cost initiative had a great impact on the community, especially when paired with tutorials and participant feedback.  Over 40% of the participants were able to lose 5% or more of their body weight in the 12 weeks.

More studies continue to support this finding.  In 2008-2009, researchers applied the community-based approach to address diabetes and hypertension in China and found it to be a beneficial, low-cost tool in adhering to changes in diet and activity levels.  A 2012 study found that community-based intervention helped Iranians adopt the country’s new healthy diet recommendations.   A 2010 study of new moms in Australia found that having community support played a key factor in preventing weight gain. 

So what does this mean? 

It means you can encourage a healthy lifestyle by using affordable, community-based programs rather than spending lots of money on fancy fitness gadgets.   Here are some suggestions for Gift Ideas to Support a Healthy New Year:

1)      FREE:     21-Day Vegan Kickstart

Based on the work of Dr. Neal Barnard and supported by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, this 3-week program offers tips, recipes, and online support to anyone curious about trying a plant-based diet.

2)      FREE:     Endomondo Challenges

Endomondo is actually a workout app that you can download to your phone or mobile device.  It can help you track and record workouts, using your device’s GPS to log how far/fast you’ve run, giving you summaries each month, and give you an estimate of calories burned based on your individual profile.  They have online community challenges each month that are free for users, and you can even challenge your Facebook friends to your own workout competitions.

3)      FREE:    Fit Bit Challenges

For friends who already have a Fit-Bit, the Fit-Bit Challenges are FREE.  They offer workouts, motivation, tips, and daily encouragement to help you stay connected with other FitBit users.  They even have celebrity challenges where you can join the team of a celebrity to help win money for charity.  Fit Bits cost $80-$250 for the device, but these free resources can help you stay inspired.

4)      FREE:     Let’s Move America

I’d recommend this resource for families with younger kids, who are just trying ways to get more active without the competition of school sports.  The Let’s Move America campaign has recommendations for both adults and children so the whole family can be involved.  You can set goals for physical activity and healthy eating then track your progress to reach those goals.

5)      $9.99:    Downloadable Cookbook

Team up with your family, friends, or coworkers to put together some of your favorite healthy recipes.  Using a software program like Blurb, you can import photos, choose a cover, and create a downloadable copy of your cookbook that you can then share and view on your mobile devices.  Besides just encouraging healthy eating, this is a great way to preserve family recipes and to celebrate traditions like annual “Friendsgiving”.

Resources and References:

The Jillian Michaels Show podcast:

ShapeUp RI:

Effectiveness of a Community-Based Individualized Lifestyle Intervention Among Older Adults With Diabetes and Hypertension, Tianjin, China, 2008–2009:

Improving Weight Loss Outcomes of Community Interventions by Incorporating Behavioral Strategies, Am J Public Health. 2010 December; 100(12): 2513–2519:

Effectiveness of Community-based Intervention to Promote Iran's Food-based Dietary Guidelines, Int J Prev Med. 2012 Apr; 3(4): 249–261:

A low intensity, community based lifestyle programme to prevent weight gain in women with young children: cluster randomised controlled trial, BMJ. 2010 Jul 13;341:c3215. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c3215:

21-Day Vegan Kickstart:

Endomondo Sports Tracker Features:

Fit Bit Celebrity Challenges:

Let's Move America challenges:

Blurb Self-Published books: