Exercise & Fitness

3 Easy Areas to Improve Personal Wellness

A recent proposed health challenge by Kansas City Mayor Sly James left some people wondering how to begin the sometimes long journey back from nutritional deficiency to better health. Nancy Treu of BlueKC gives us some simple starting points.

Over two-dozen of Kansas City’s community leaders followed in the footsteps of Mayor Sly James and Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Jim Heeter to take this year’s Not So Big KC (NSBKC) wellness challenge.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City has partnered with the KC Chamber to promote and provide support for participants. To adopt this wellness challenge for your health, try the following tips from BlueKC’s Nancy Treu.

Treu puts to work her 26 years of experience as a full-time registered and licensed dietitian nutritionist for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas City. She is also an adjunct instructor for Baker University.

3 Areas of Personal Wellness that are Easy to Improve On

1. Hydration

• Drink 16 oz. of water before eating your meal as this causes a slight raise in the body’s calorie burning rate, also known as your metabolism.

• Staying hydrated may help with appetite control as sometimes appetite may be triggered by dehydration.

• A study published in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that people who drank water before a meal ate an average of 75 fewer calories per meal.

• Don’t rely on your thirst as a primary indicator of your need for water.

• Plain water is your best source of hydration, with a few exceptions: For sports events lasting less than 60 continuous minutes, plain water is the best source for hydration. For sports events lasting longer than 60 minutes, a sports drink may be considered.

2. Emotional Hunger vs. Physical Hunger

• Emotional hunger comes on suddenly; physical hunger develops gradually.

• Specific cravings are often associated with emotional hunger. With true hunger, you are open to more options.

• Emotional hunger is triggered by feelings, such as the need for pleasure or to relieve stress or boredom. Physical hunger is triggered by a need to fuel your body. Emotional hunger feeds a feeling rather than a growling stomach.

• Emotional hunger feels like it needs to be satisfied instantly. True hunger can wait a bit.

3. Healthy Carbohydrates vs. Complex and Simple Carbohydrates

• The terms complex or simple carbohydrate only relates to the chemical structure of the carbohydrates chain and not necessarily how healthy or unhealthy the carbohydrate is.

• Simple carbohydrates come from healthy sources, such as fruit or in not so healthy sources such as the added sugar in sweets or soda pop.

• Complex carbohydrates come from healthy sources, such as whole grains, dried beans or vegetables, or from less healthy sources, such as refined grains. Refining a grain, like what is done to make white flour, removes the part of the grain that contains the fiber and certain nutrients. Whole grains have that part of the grain intact.

• When looking for healthy sources of carbohydrates, focus on foods that are as close to how nature made them as possible. Examples of these would be fruits, vegetables, dried beans, legumes and whole grains.


• Try not to multi-task while eating if possible. Focus on the experience.

• Check in with your hunger before eating.

• Pause in the middle of the meal or snack and assess:

- Does the food still taste good?

- Am I still hungry?

• When finished eating, ask yourself where your fullness level is now.

TIP: Utilizing a food journal can be helpful in identifying eating patterns and behaviors.



• Water is essential to the body. It helps cushion joints, strengthen muscles, aid in preventing constipation and can provide a feeling of fullness to help prevent overeating.

• Aim for drinking 64 ounces of water each day.

TIP: Keep a reusable water bottle nearby to help track your water intake and minimize impact on the environment.

Complex Carbs

• Complex carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of fuel and a good source of insoluble and soluble fiber.

• Insoluble fiber, found primarily in whole-wheat products, plays a role preventing some types of cancer, including colon cancer. Soluble fiber, found in oats and beans, can help lower cholesterol and manage blood sugar levels.

TIP: Aim for six servings of whole-grains (whole wheat bread/pasta, brown rice, whole grain crackers) each day.


• Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber.

• Aim for 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day.

TIP: Order a side salad with your meal and/or a side of steamed veggies with your meal.

Lean Proteins

• The satisfying effect of protein can help you feel full longer, making you less likely to overeat.

• Healthy protein choices include fish, beans/legumes, skinless poultry, lean meats, low-fat or fat-free dairy, eggs, nuts and peanut butter. Fatty fish like salmon and tuna are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

TIP: Aim to consume 2 servings of fatty fish per week and 1-2 servings of beans/legumes per week.

Healthy Fats

• Replacing saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol with unsaturated fats can help reduce your total and LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower your risk of stroke and heart disease.

• Monounsaturated fats and omega-3 rich polyunsaturated fats: Canola, olive, soybean and peanut oils; fatty fish; avocado; flaxseed and most nuts, including almonds, walnuts and peanuts.

TIP: Aim to use healthy fats in place of less healthy fats, but remember to use all fats in moderation.

Play Foods

• Play foods, often referred to as “unhealthy” or “bad” foods, can also have a place in a healthy diet. They provide variety and pleasure to the eating experience. If you’re consistently using the hunger scale and appreciating each bite, then you’ll find it will take much less time to satisfy your craving.

TIP: Aim for a balance of 90-percent healthy choices and 10-percent play food to keep eating healthy and fun