10 Mason Jar Uses That Work

10 Mason Jar Uses That Work

Mason Jars became popular in 1858 when John Landis Mason invented an alternative for food preservation that was easier and more effective than the current methods.1 

Before these versatile glass containers became used for everything from food storage to decorative flower vases, they were the hottest new design that simplified your kitchen creations. 

The biggest innovations were the airtight lid that kept air, bacteria, and bugs out of your food, and the clear glass that allowed you to view the contents without having to break the seal.1 

Today, these jars have more uses than we can count. In observation of National Mason Jar Day, we’re giving you a list of 10 ideas to put your mason jars to good use. 

 

Nightlight

A simple string of lights can be bundled and placed inside a mason jar for a DIY nightlight. The result of this easy project is a warm household addition that is reminiscent of catching fireflies in a jar. 

Don’t be fooled by the utility of a nightlight either! They can be great tools for better sleep because they disrupt your circadian rhythm less than a light of regular brightness. 

Candle Holder 

Use these jars without the lid to craft some rustic candle holders. All you need are a few tealight candles to take these jars from ordinary to beautifully functional.  

Use them for a romantic evening in, as evening party decorations, or as accents on your holiday table setting. 

 

Salads

When building a salad in a jar, the results can be colorful and appetizing, but does it work? Our guess is that it can be helpful to have a glass jar, especially if you like to use acidic salad dressings. The glass won’t absorb and pass along the flavors to your next meal and the airtight seal can help keep your veggies fresh. 

When putting together your ingredients, you’ll want to pour the dressing first and add your heaviest ingredients next. Beans, corn, and other non-absorbent ingredients help separate your dressing from lighter ingredients that can wilt. When it’s time to enjoy your creation, shaking the contents out into a bowl helps distribute the dressing across the contents. 

 

Infused Water

Water is necessary for our bodies and for some reason we can be very good at depriving ourselves of it. Fortunately, someone decided it would be a good idea to infuse water with the fresh, crisp flavors of different fruits and herbs.  

Now that we’ve been enlightened, we can enjoy the refreshing relief of a cool drink of water in dozens of flavorful ways. Mason jars are, again, a great way to infuse your water because they are compact and can also serve as your drinking glass.

 

Iced Coffee and Tea 

Iced tea is made even simpler by using a mason jar because it can be prepared overnight. You can steep a tea bag in cold water, refrigerate it the night before, and it’ll be ready for your grab-and-go morning.  

Cold brew coffee concentrate can be diluted with water and then mixed with cream, sugar, and any spices you like to customize your drink. This one may not taste the same if prepared the night before but using a glass mason jar is a fun way to show off your expert coffee making skills. 

 

Oatmeal and Parfaits 

While we’re on the subject of overnight prep, overnight oats are another great option. Not only do they have a lot of great health benefits, you can take their flavor in so many different directions. You can also layer some fruit, yogurt, and granola for another tasty morning meal. 

 

Preserves and Pickled Foods

We can’t talk about mason jars and ignore what they were initially invented for. Take “homemade” to the next level and try making your own pickled fruits and vegetables, and toast-worthy jams.  

If you “quick pickle,” you’re essentially soaking your chosen fruits or veggies in a mixture of vinegar, water, and salt. This method requires you to refrigerate the jars. To properly pickle, the process is more labor intensive and requires a lot of boiling, transferring, and testing. This step-by-step instruction by Epicurious can help you pickle pickles that can be stored up to 1 year without refrigeration. 

 

Dry or Fresh Herbs and Spices 

Dry herbs are great to buy in bulk because they will keep for a long, long time. Store them in small to medium sized mason jars to easily see what you have on hand and for simplified stacking in your pantry or cupboard.  

You can also use the jars as mini planters where you can keep fresh herbs to grow in your kitchen. Be careful not to over water them because, as you know, mason jars don’t have holes for water drainage. You don’t want to risk root rot and you probably don’t want to try creating your own holes in the jar. 

 

Nuts, Seeds, Rice, and Beans 

Preserve the crunch of nuts and seeds and the freshness of rice and beans by storing them in a mason jar. These can also be purchased in bulk, and if you’re trying to minimize your impact on the environment, you may already have reusable grocery bags. Make sure your grocery bags are available for your next shopping trip by storing your previous purchases in mason jars!  

 

Original Gift Giving 

Do you have a recipe everyone loves, and you’d like to gift the tasty treat without giving away your secret recipe? Assemble a festive mason jar complete with all the ingredients for your famous hot cocoa, brownies, cookies, or other baked good.  

This works best when you have dry ingredients because you won’t need to refrigerate your gift. Making these yourself, as opposed to buying the store-bought versions, is also great because you can substitute high calorie ingredients and sugar for other components. You can still gift the flavors of the season but without compromising your own or the health-conscious lifestyle of your recipient. 

For more snack time ideas for your mason jar, check out our dietitian’s suggestions to this reader’s question about energy-boosting snacks. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

Sources 

  1. Goldfarb, Anna. “A Short History of the Mason Jar.” Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, LLC., 1 May 2019, www.thekitchn.com/a-short-history-of-the-mason-jar-234146. 

10 Thanksgiving Ideas to Revive Your Celebrations

10 Thanksgiving Ideas to Revive Your Celebrations

Thanksgiving is an ideal time to reflect on what we are grateful for in our lives. It is also a time to recognize that, for many people, this time of year evokes difficult memories and is a time when being with family is not as joyful as it might be for others.   

Knowing that with every life there is a unique history, we would like to offer 10 ways to observe Thanksgiving that can be enjoyed by anyone.  

Before we dive in, however, we’d like to take a moment to thank you, our gym members, blog readers, and social media followers, for your continued support. We appreciate your trust in our team, your commitment to health and fitness, and the feedback you share to help us give our best! 

Thanksgiving ideas to Revive Your Celebrations

01.

Invite a Friend or Family Member Who Might Be Alone for Thanksgiving

Even if your invitation is declined, everyone likes to feel included. Try broadening your invitation list this year and spread some feelings of warmth and welcome! 

02.

Try Something Other Than Turkey

Every Thanksgiving, approximately 46 million turkeys are eaten! Save some turkeys from the dinnerplate and try alternative meat or plant-based choices. 

You can easily make a main course out of fish, chicken, pot roast, and other meats, or take the vegetarian or vegan route and use hearty ingredients like mushrooms, squash, potatoes, cheese, and cauliflower to craft some delicious courses. 

03.

Try Hosting a Friendsgiving

This seems to become more and more of a common practice with every passing year. Friendsgiving is essentially a Thanksgiving dinner that brings together your friends, their friends, and new people who become friends, over good food and great conversation. 

With larger events, try asking your guests to contribute to the table by hosting a potluck-style event. This also encourage a diverse dinner spread because everyone’s cooking styles, food choices, and palates are unique!  

04.

Spontaneous Exercise Challenge

  1. Agree on the selection of a word like “Turkey,” “Cranberries,” “Thanksgiving,” or “Gravy”
  2. Have each person pick a number between 1 and 5 
  3. Have each person pick a basic exercise like push-ups, jumping jacks, or squats 

Any time someone says the word you chose in step 1, everyone in the room has to do their selected number of their selected exercise. The number and exercise will stay the same throughout the evening, and you’ll have fun trying to find your way around these common Thanksgiving words! 

05.

Plan a Pre-Event Gathering to Help Disperse the Workload

Plan a simple Pre-Thanksgiving gathering with your intended guests before your actual holiday feast. If you are able, walking to the store can help you steer clear of holiday traffic and impossible parking situations. Everyone can carry an item and even help you with some early preparations like decorating or cooking before the main event. 

06.

Serve the Less Fortunate

Whether you’re getting together with others or planning to enjoy some time solo, serving others is a great way to participate in the Thanksgiving celebrations. 

All you need to do is a quick internet search to find places in your area where you can volunteer. Don’t stop at serving food, however. If you can, sit and talk with the individuals and families who arrive to be served. Hear their stories, treat them like human beings, make eye contact and remember their faces. These small gestures can make a world of difference. 

07.

Plan Ahead

Even your hosts want to enjoy the gathering of their friends and family. You can help make sure that no one is left in the kitchen while everyone else enjoys the festivities by offering your help at least once or twice. 

If you are the host, try setting the table the night before. Lay out the plates, cups, napkins, and silverware, and any other items that don’t need to be refrigerated. This can help make your event day run more smoothly and with less last-minute scrambling. 

08.

Agree to Leave Debatable Topics at the Door

Some gatherings are particularly difficult because of discussions that become debates and debates that become arguments.  

Agree with your guests, prior to your event, that debatable topics should be set aside for the duration of your gathering. 

09.

Start a New Tradition

There are tons of simple but memorable things you can do to start a new tradition. It can be something like watching a certain movie, playing a game everyone loves, or creating a handmade addition for your cornucopia and adding a new one each year. This one is especially fun for new families or couples who want to commemorate each year of holidays in a special way.  

If you want to go a little further, try signing up for a Post-Thanksgiving Turkey Trot! You can find events in your area, here. 

10.

Get Creative with Your Leftovers

In the United States, Thanksgiving will be celebrated on Thursday, November 28th. Canada celebrates early in comparison, and observed this holiday on Monday, October 14th. In either case, leftovers are a certainty with any feast.  

Whether you’ve frozen your leftovers from the 14th or are expecting more than you can manage tomorrow evening, you can get creative with your leftovers and enjoy them in inventive ways. Check out these turkey ideas to put a fun and flavorful twist on your post-event meals. 

For some delicious salad dressing recipes from our registered dietitian, read her post on Homemade Salad Dressings 101. Or, listen to our podcast to hear about how to navigate the path between Fitness and Food This Holiday Season. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

Eliminating Violence Against Women

Eliminating Violence Against Women

It Takes All of Us

November 25th is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.  

As a health and fitness blog, our usual focus is on physical health, giving you the resources to feed your body in healthy ways and engage in heart and brain-healthy work outs. To a lesser but equally important extent, we also break into mental, social, and emotional health. 

Today we touch each of these elements of total wellbeing by talking about what happens when women are exposed to violence. Not only is it a matter of physical safety, but a matter of psychological, emotional, and social welfare.  

Observing this day affords us the opportunity to recognize a problem that affects an alarming number of women worldwide, and to express our solidarity with all victims of violence. 

How Real Is The Issue?

  1. According to a National Crime Victimization Survey, approximately 500 women in the U.S. were raped every day in 2008.1 That’s 182,500 women over the course of the year.

     

  2. In 2016, there were 1,809 women in the U.S. who were murdered in single victim/single offender incidents reported to the FBI and 85% of them were, or had been, romantically linked to their killer.

     

  3. According to a Global report, 51% of all detected trafficking victims are women and 20% are young girls.3

     

  4. Worldwide, around 15 million adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 have experienced forced sex in their lifetime.4 Based on data from 30 countries, only 1% of adolescent girls who have experienced forced sex reached out for professional help.4

     

  5. Child marriage still exists. Approximately 650 million girls and women alive today were married before their 18th birthday.5  

Violence Against Women Affects Everyone

Child peeking from the stairs

Consider that women who experience violence may need medical care and/or mental health services. Now consider that they may have children who witnessed or were affected in other ways by this violence who are now also in need of care to address trauma, behavior issues, and other potential concerns. This builds a harmful cycle of violence and trauma that can continue for generations.  

In addition to perpetuating this cycle, violence against women is significant enough to have an impact on systems like healthcare and social services. 

Looking strictly at the economic side of things, the impact on health and social services amounted to over $8.3 billion as a result of domestic violence in 2003.6 

What are Some Signs Your Situation is Not Normal?

Worried woman

To help focus our discussion, we will narrow our attention down to domestic violence. It is not strictly violence within an intimate relationship but can also refer to violence within families.  

Additionally, because it is not just women who are on the receiving end of domestic violence, we would like to offer information than can benefit everyone by looking into the signs and symptoms of a potentially toxic relationship.

According to PsychCentral, these are some of the potential indicators of psychological abuse within a relationship: 

  1. Gaslighting: False information is presented to you with the intention of making you doubt your own memory, perception, or sanity. 
    • Example: Complete denial from the abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred 
  2. Following abusive behaviors with apologies, gifts, and seemingly loving behaviors, only to repeat the abusive behaviors later on. 
  3. Making you believe that everything (even their anger or poor behavior) is your fault 
  4. Constant put-downs and excessive criticism 
  5. Refusing to communicate 
  6. Mean jokes or constantly making fun of you 
  7. Saying “I love you but…”
    • This statement indicates, “I love you now, but if you don’t stop this or that, my love will be taken away.” It is both a criticism and a threat that slowly strips away your self-esteem. 
  8. Saying things like “If you don’t _____, I will_____.” 
  9. Domination and control, especially using money or fear to impose that control 
  10. Withdrawal of affection 
  11. Guilt trips 
  12. Isolating you from friends and family 
  13. Constant calling or texting when you are not with him/her 
  14. Threatening to commit suicide if you leave 

Accessible Resources

If you, or someone you know, needs help, you can browse through resources by state, here. 

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence offers more diverse resources, including information about the National Domestic Violence Hotline the National Dating Abuse Hotline, the National Sexual Assault Hotline, and the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, to name just a few. 

Other Ways to Help

Man supporting crying woman

Don’t blame the victim, even if they flat out say “It was all my fault.” Remember that signs of abuse often include feelings of guilt or responsibility for the situation. Instead, make sure they know it’s not their fault. 

Be a safe space for them. Leave your judgement at the door and simply listen 

Offer to call a helpline with them. 

Create a safety plan. A safety plan can consist of a meeting place, agreeing on a safe word, a specific number of phone calls to alert you that something is wrong, and more.

For more thought provoking posts, look for topics like our article on Mental Health Stigma or, help calm anxiety and ease stress by reading our 5-Minute Guided Relaxation post. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today. 

SOURCES

  1. “Violence Against Women Is A U.S. Problem, Too.” Amnesty International USA, 11 June 2011, www.amnestyusa.org/violence-against-women-is-a-u-s-problem-too/. 
  2. “When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2016 Homicide Data.” Www.vpc.org, Violence Policy Center, 2018, vpc.org/studies/wmmw2018.pdf. 
  3. “Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2016.” Unodc.org, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, 2016, www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/glotip/2016_Global_Report_on_Trafficking_in_Persons.pdf. 
  4. “A Familiar Face: Violence in the Lives of Children and Adolescents.” UNICEF DATA, UNICEF, 17 Jan. 2019, data.unicef.org/resources/a-familiar-face/. 
  5. “Child Marriage: Latest Trends and Future Prospects.” UNICEF DATA, 12 Jan. 2019, https://data.unicef.org/resources/child-marriage-latest-trends-and-future-prospects/ 
  6. “Violence Against Women in the United States: Statistics.” National Organization for Women, 2019, now.org/resource/violence-against-women-in-the-united-states-statistic/#endref14. 

Dry Weather and Eye Health

Dry Weather and Eye Health

There are a lot of reasons for dry eyes at this time of year. Dry outside air, your heater at home or in your car, the dry circulated air in nearly every public building, and windy days kicking irritants into your eyes. Add to that the dry air of airplanes, trains, and other modes of transportation for your holiday travels, and your eyes will be screaming for moisture.  

Our eyes are irreplaceable, so we should care for and protect them as best as we can. The same way you’d use lotion on your skin, conditioner on your hair, and Chapstick on your lips, you should give the same attention to the health of your eyes. 

Here are some ways you can help care for your vision: 

01. Adjust and Limit Screen Use

Have you ever noticed that we tend to blink less when watching T.V, when using a computer, and when using our phones? Blinking helps our eyes distribute their natural moisture. The less we blink, the dryer our eyes will feel.  

The remedy we’ve heard that is our least favorite, is the suggestion to remind yourself to blink more. It feels so unnatural to consciously blink and it’s not likely to be the most effective solution if you can’t remember to do it.  

A more reasonable option would be to instill one or two eye drops into your eyes on television commercial breaks, to wear blue light glasses to filter the emissions from your phone or computer screen, or to place a protective screen on your device that blocks harmful light from getting to your eyes. 

You can also simply take more breaks from screen-time to limit the amount of eye strain and dryness you feel.  

02. If Possible, Limit Antihistamines

While they combat allergy symptoms, they can actually cause additional dryness to your eyes. They work by blocking your body’s response to allergens. Unfortunately, a typical response to allergens is watery eyes, so antihistamines can cause more discomfort if you tend to suffer from eye dryness. 

Other Medications Cause Dry Eyes 

According to an article by WebMD, other medications, that you may not be able to limit, can also cause dry eyes. Some of these include: 

  • Antidepressants 
  • Parkinson’s Medications 
  • Sleeping Pills 
  • Acne Medication 
  • Birth Control Pills and Other Hormones 
  • Blood Pressure Medications 
  • Nasal Decongestants 
  • Common NSAIDs, like Ibuprofen 

03. Do Eye Exercises

How often do we use the full range of motion our eyes are capable of? Probably not as often as we should. You can increase your exposure to bad puns and dad jokes to get some eye rolling in, or you can do some intentional eye exercises.  

Eye exercises can help comfort your eyes when they have been focused on a single object (like a computer) for a long time. Here are just a few simple ones that you can commit to memory for later use: 

Exercise 1: Pick out the farthest object in the room (or out the window) that you can see. Focus on it briefly, then move your eyes to something about half as far away. Focus on that for a few seconds before you shift your focus to something close to you. Do this exercise a few times. 

Exercise 2: Use the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes of eye-straining work should be paused for 20 seconds so you can look at something 20 feet away.  

Exercise 3: Without turning your head, use only yours eyes to look to your far left, then look to your far right. Then look all the way up and then all the way down. Repeat this a few times. Follow this with rolling your eyes 3 times to the left then 3 times to right.  

Some free smartphone apps can send you notifications after a certain amount of phone use, or according to a timer if you want to monitor your computer or television time. This will help remind you that it’s time to rest your eyes and do some exercises. Some will even walk you through various eye muscle movements. 

04. Turn Off Your Heater & Bundle Up

Running the heater creates a toasty and comfortable space in these cooler months, but it can wreak havoc on your hair, skin, hydration, and of course your eyes! Save your body and save on your electric bill by bundling up in blankets or warmer clothes instead of running the heater. 

Another option is to run the heater before going to bed to warm up your space, and then turning it off so it doesn’t run all night. 

If it’s just too cold to do without your heater, or perhaps you’re a “fan” of running the fan year-round, consider investing in a humidifier. You can also wear an eye mask to bed to help keep air flow from making direct contact with your eyes and drying them out during the night. 

05. Keep Eye Drops Handy

Artificial tears or lubricating eye drops are a life saver for people with dry eyes. You can choose between the individually packaged vials that are usually preservative-free and disposable, or you can buy small bottles for extended use. There are also gel-like drops that can provide longer-lasting relief, but because they’re thicker, they may blur your vision temporarily. It may be preferable to reserve these for nighttime before you go to sleep.  

Pro Tip: Try refrigerating your eye drops for an extra refreshing burst of relief.  

06. Eat a Balanced Diet

Nutrients in your food can help give your eyes what they need to create tears and keep your eyes feeling fresh.  

Vitamin A, which is known for being good for your eyes, can be found in carrots, eggs, and dairy.  

Vitamin C is great for the blood vessels in your eyes.1 Increase your intake by eating oranges, kale, lemons, and broccoli.2  

Omega-3’s are fatty acids that aid in your visual development and support your retina health. They also combat dry eyes.1 Find Omega-3’s in fish, avocado, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.3 

Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help protect your eyes by fighting off free radicals. You can find Vitamin E in almonds, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, and peanuts.1 

07. Avoid Rubbing Your Eyes

It can be tempting to rub your eyes when they feel itchy and dry, but the best thing you can do is to avoid doing exactly that. Try to find relief in some of these other ways and keep hydrated to give your body the moisture it needs from the inside out. 

For information on how to care for your eyes and your sinuses this season, read our article on How to Manage Autumn Allergens at Home. To learn more about the nutrients in your produce and whether freezing them strips their nutritional value, listen to our Podcast on Fruits and Veggies. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

Sources: 

  1. Silver, Natalie. “7 Best Foods for Healthy Eyes.” Healthline, 9 Feb. 2017, 7 Best Foods for Healthy Eyes. 
  2. Hill, Caroline. “20 Foods That Are High in Vitamin C.” Healthline, 8 June 2018, www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-c-foods#section1. 
  3. Hjalmarsdottir, Freydis. “12 Foods That Are Very High in Omega-3.” Healthline, 30 Sept. 2019, www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-omega-3-rich-foods#1. 

What is “Toys for Tots” and How Can I Participate?

What is “Toys for Tots” and How Can I Participate?

From time to time, LA Fitness clubs across the country participate in the efforts of non-profit organizations. A campaign you’re most likely to be familiar with at this time of year, is Toys for Tots!  

By now, you may have seen some donation boxes at your local LA Fitness. If you haven’t been entirely sure what those boxes are all about, you’re in the right place to find out. 

What is Toys for Tots? 

Toys for Tots is a charitable foundation organized and run by the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve. Its purpose is to bring joy and hope to America’s economically disadvantaged children through the gift of a new toy.  

During the months of October, November, and December, new and unwrapped toys are collected and distributed to the less fortunate children in our communities.  

Their efforts are largely supported by the work of U.S. Marines, Marine Corps League Members, Veteran Marines, as well as a diverse network of volunteers.  

How it Works 

With the help of qualified social welfare and community agencies, Toys for Tots is able to identify the children in each community who would benefit from the toy donations.  

Local businesses, like LA Fitness, then agree to host a space for toy collection boxes where people can donate toys. For several weeks, the boxes are available and accessible to all who wish to donate. The toys are then received by Toys for Tots, sorted, and distributed just in time for the holidays. 

How You Can Participate 

It’s easy to participate in campaigns like this one simply by donating a toy at the participating LA Fitness club nearest you. If you’re inclined to go a step further, you can do any of the following: 

  1.  Apply online as a volunteer. Simply Find Your Local Campaign, and click on the tab that says: “Get Involved/Volunteer.”
  2. Become a Toy Drop Site. If your local Toys for Tots coordinator is still accepting applications, you can register your business as a Toy Drop Site. All you have to do is Find Your Local Campaign, hover over the tab that says “Get Involved/Volunteer,” and then select “Become a Toy Drop Site.”
  3. Host a Toys for Tots Event. Once you have found Your Local Campaign, another option under the “Get Involved/Volunteer” tab is: “Host a Toys for Tots Event.” Not all localities will have this option, but you can check if it is available in your area by following these steps.
  4. Donate. Toys for Tots has a multitude of ways that you can donate. You can contribute funds, participate in employer matching, and even donate your car! Visit their site to see all the ways you can donate. 

If you do not see a toy donation box at your local LA Fitness, keep in mind that Toys for Tots relies heavily on volunteer assistance and they may not have had the manpower to serve every interested business in the area. If you would like to donate a toy but are unsure where to find a drop site, you can follow these steps* to find the closest participating location: 

2. Select your state and county from the drop-down menus and skip to step 4, or click the red button to enter your address and continue to step 3.

3. A list will appear that will show you the campaigns closest to the address you entered. Click on the first one, as that will be the closest one. 

4.  You will be redirected to the Toys for Tots website for the state and county selected. Find the tab at the top of the page that says: “Ways to Donate,” and choose “Donate a Toy” from that drop-down menu.

5.  Here, you will find a list of all the businesses in that county that have a toy donation box. To make things easier, you can filter the list by zip code. 

If you do drop a toy into one of our boxes, snap a photo for social media to help spread the word and encourage your friends to do the same! We can all be part of a child’s happiness this season, so let’s aim to make a positive impact however and wherever we can. 

Keep an eye on the Living Healthy Blog for more ways to settle into the season of giving. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

*Instructions are accurate as of November 14, 2019. Changes to the Toys for Tots Website after this date may not be reflected here. 

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