Whole Foods Launching Cheaper, Streamlined Stores

Image courtesy of Whole Foods.

Image courtesy of Whole Foods.

Whole Foods announced last week that it is launching a “new, uniquely-branded store concept unlike anything that currently exists in the marketplace,” according to CEO Walter Robb in a press release. The stores will still offer the high-quality food the chain is known for but at lower prices.

“Offering our industry leading standards at value prices, this new format will feature a modern, streamlined design, innovative technology and a curated selection,” stated Robb. “It will deliver a convenient, transparent, and values-oriented experience geared toward millennial shoppers, while appealing to anyone looking for high-quality fresh food at great prices.”

The company intends to the new stores to be complementary with the existing Whole Foods stores, and they’re expected to launch next year. Although the brand is touting the stores as new, the concept sounds like Trader Joes, which offers a similar, smaller selection to Whole Foods but at cheaper prices.

Women’s Health Week: One Inspiring Organization and 5 Tips To Make Your Well-Being A Priority

Image courtesy of Heather Dowd.

Image courtesy of Heather Dowd.

Happy Women’s Health Week! I think everyone would say that health is a priority, but sometimes it can slip on your to-do list, especially you have 10 million other things going on. Women’s Health Week, which is celebrated May 10 – 16, is the perfect opportunity to make your well-being a priority again.

One key way to keep physically and mentally fit is to exercise, but women are half as likely to have exercised throughout their lives compared to men, according to a March survey. The results are a little depressing, so this Fitness Friday, we are profiling the organization This Girl Can, which wants to empower women of all ages, shapes, and sizes to get and stay active.

This Girl Can is based out of the U.K. wants women to realize that fear of judgement is not a reason avoid exercise. The organization’s social media channels provides encouragement for women across the globe who breaking a sweat.

The website itself features stories of women and their exercise of choice. And if you need to find your new favorite type of workout, This Girl Can has an A to Z guide that has details about different sports, how much they cost, what equipment they need, and why it’s good for you.

Want to make whole-body fitness a priority? Here are 5 tips.

  1. Meditate daily. It can only be 5 or 10 minutes, but it’s worth it. Meditating gives you the time, focus, and energy to get everything done on in your day. If you have to, get an app to remind you and stick to it. Learn more about meditation here.
  2. Find a workout you enjoy. I don’t care if you’ve been told crossfit/cycling/hot yoga/etc is the new, hottest, best workout. If you don’t like it, try something else. There are plenty of different types of exercise and don’t give up until you find one that works for you. After all, if you enjoy it, you’re more likely to stick with it. (Bonus points if you have a workout buddy.)
  3. See your doctor annually. It’s so easy to prioritize everyone’s health above your own, but taking the time to take care of yourself pays off in the long run. If absolutely have no time, consider using an e-service like Maven.
  4. Audit your eating. You don’t have to count every single calorie that goes down your throat, but you should take an audit every once in a while to make sure you’re on track. Use an app or look at the USDA’s recommended food plate, and see how close you’re coming to the guidelines. If you’re way off, think about ways to incorporate healthier foods into your day or consider a delivery service.
  5. Have fun! It’s 100% necessary to relax, indulge, laugh, and play. Have a cheat day, skip some chores, go on an adventure. If you try to live completely health-conscious 24/7, chances are it’ll end up stressing you out. Everyone needs a break sometimes; give yourself permission to let loose and have some fun every now and then.

What’s your favorite way to get and stay fit? Have another tip? Let us know in the comments.

Hate Needles? Two Devices Make Shots Tolerable

Over the past month, there have been two different devices targeting people who hate needles. If that sounds like you, listen up, because one could be on the market next year.

A Device That Vacuums Your Blood 

Tasso is creating a device that vacuums a small blood sample when held against the skin for two minutes. The idea is to make sampling less painful and more convenient.

Tasso uses a small vacuum to draw blood.

This prototype device is being developed into a fool-proof, almost painless way to draw blood samples by Tasso, formed by students of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Image courtesy of David Tenenbaum/UW-Madison.

The technology relies on the forces that govern the flow of tiny fluid streams and the blood collects in a sample that can be mailed off or brought to a lab.

“At these scales, surface tension dominates over gravity, and that keeps the blood in the channel no matter how you hold the device,” stated Ben Casavant, vice president and co-founder of Tasso, in a press release.

The company seems to be onto something with promise because the DARPA has just given Tasso an additional $3 million to fund work with companies that make blood preservatives. It also has funding from the National Institutes of Health to develop a method to diagnose HIV.

Tasso’s target audience are people who need tests regularly but not frequently as well as those who fear getting their blood drawn by more traditional methods.

“We see our specialty as people who need to test semi-frequently, or infrequently, to monitor cancer or chronic infectious diseases, for example,” Casavant said. “Instead of buying a machine or expensive equipment, we ship you this device, you put it on your arm for two minutes and send it back to the lab.”

If all goes well, Casavant says, the company will send its application to the FDA at the end of 2015, and the device will reach the market during 2016.

The 3-D Printed Gadget That Numbs An Injection Site

Three freshmen engineers at Rice University have created a 3-D printed device that numbs skin before an injection.  The team has a functioning prototype that can cool a small area in about one minute, which is significantly shorter than current numbing methods, such as creams.

In a YouTube video, the creators explain their device is targeted to those who are more sensitive to pain, like kids and the elderly, and for sites where injections hurt more, like the face or groin. .

According to a Rice article, the freshmen specifically designed the device not to be reusable because injections are such a common procedure. Luckily, they created the device with relatively common and inexpensive materials, and each one costs about $2 to make.

The team is applying for a patent, and they are open to continuing the project and perhaps starting a company.

Sickweater’s Watch App Helps You Not Get Sick

The iPhone and Android app Sickweather isn’t new. Since 2011, it has been tracking data to find out what bugs are spreading in real-time and then alerting users in the U.S. who are entering a “sick zone.” Now, the company is taking its “Waze for sickness” functionality one step further by adding a feature that determines your sickness risk.

The feature is aptly called SickScore, and it uses information from the sick zones around you to let you know what your chances of getting sick are. Based on Sickweather’s data, it places you at low, medium, or high risk, and it also provides a numerical value.

If you are traveling through sick zones or have an elevated risk, the watch app can help you stay healthy by making sure you wash your hands for the recommended 20-seconds and buzzing to let you know when time’s up. The Apple Watch app also has features from the smartphone application, including push notifications when you’re entering a sick zone.

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5 Reasons To Meditate Daily [Infographic]

Meditation has countless health benefits, including the following five.

Reasons to Meditate

Ready to start meditating? There are plenty of apps and services to help you get into a routine, including the highly-reviewed Calm and Headpsace. Read more of the editor’s take on meditation (and other) apps here.

Learn more about the science behinds the facts: reduces stress, keeps your brain sharp, alleviates chronic pain, improves focus, helps you sleep better.

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SmartPlate Counts Calories For You

The new SmartPlate and microwaveable lid. | Image courtesy of Fitly.

The new SmartPlate and microwaveable lid. | Image courtesy of Fitly.

SmartPlate by Fitly is a Kickstarter project that automatically weighs and tracks the food you consume.

The concept is simple – just place what you want to eat on the plate, then cameras and sensors gather the food’s data and pushes it to a smartphone app. That way, you know exactly how many calories, carbs, sugars, fats, etc. you consume throughout the day. The plate also alerts you if you’re eating too quickly.

The SmartPlate app. | Image courtesy of Fitly.

The SmartPlate app. | Image courtesy of Fitly.

The plate pairs with a smart phone device, which stores and tracks all your data. Through the device, you can set goals, like to lose or maintain weight, train for a marathon, or follow a specific type of diet.

The website and Kickstarter campaign page don’t delve into whether the plate has ben independently tested, and SmartPlate is unfortunately not microwaveable. However, each plate does come with a microwaveable lid, to hopefully alleviate that drawback.

The SmartPlate is currently in the middle of its Kickstarter campaign to raise production funds for the product. So far, Fitly has raised about a quarter of it’s goal, and there’s over a month left on the campaign.

The plates are currently going for $99 on the campaign page, and they will retail at $199. Fitly expects the SmartPlate to be available in 2016.

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Standing Desks May Be Coming To A Classroom Near You

Standing desks are becoming more popular at offices, and now they're coming to schools.

Standing desks are becoming more popular at offices, and now they’re coming to schools.

The traditional classroom is getting a redesign at one California elementary school. Beginning next school year, all of the classrooms will have standing desks.

Standing desks have been shown to increase focus and burn more calories, making them a popular substitution for a traditional desk at forward-thinking workplaces. That got two health-focused, entrepreneurial parents wondering why their kids didn’t have standing desks at school, so they spearheaded an effort to put standing desks in some classrooms.

They succeeded, and four classes at Vallecito Elementary in San Rafael, CA, got standing for this school year. The desks have a “fidget bar” underneath that kids can rest their foot on and swing, and kids can grab a stool if they’re tired. The students also don’t stand all day and sit for certain activities like lunch or specific lessons.

Teachers, kids, and parents seem to be enjoying the change-of-pace, and most students stand the whole day. Teachers say that kids are able to focus better, and parents report that kids are sleeping better, according to a Daily News article.

In fact, the test-run has been so successful that the school is putting standing desks into all of the elementary school’s classrooms next year. And those two parents who started the effort? They’re now running an organization called Stand Up Kids with the goal of putting standing desks in every school

What do you think – would you want your kids to have standing desks? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Pulse Play Is The Wearable For Racket Sports

Pulse Play lets you focus on the game, not the score. All images and screenshots are courtesy of Pulse Play and their Indiegogo campaign.

Pulse Play lets you focus on the game, not the score. All images and screenshots are courtesy of Pulse Play and their Indiegogo campaign.

Pulse Play was created by three-time tennis champion Andy Ram who wanted to give amateur players the ability to focus on the game and not the score, just like the pros. It also has the distinction of being featured in the first ever Crunch Theory Wearable Wednesday video. Check it out below!

Pulse Play is wearable meets app meets social network, allowing those who play racket sports to meet up and compete with others in the area. It also keeps score, which it pushes to mobile devices, so that you can always reference the points when needed.

One band goes for $75 on the company’s Indiegogo campaign, with orders expected to ship out later this year.

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Three Apps For Better Financial Health

Apps like Digit can help you save, even when you don't know where to start. | Image courtesy of Digit.

Apps like Digit can help you save, even when you don’t know where to start. | Image courtesy of Digit.

We live in the 21st century, but most apps that deal with money are living like it’s 1999. If you want to find high-tech ways to save better and more efficiently, you need to check these out. After all, the majority of Americans stress about money, and stress is bad for your health.

#1 Digit
In case you didn’t know, Americans are bad at saving. Really bad. In fact, 60% of Americans between 18- and 40-years-old saved absolutely nothing in 2013, according to the Federal Reserve. And adults under 35 actually lost 2% of their savings that year.

Digit wants to change that by automatically withdrawing savings from your account. The service goes like this:

  • Sign up for Digit
  • Digit analyzes your spending habits
  • Every two to three days Digit automatically withdrawals $5 to $50, depending on what you can afford to save
  • When you need the money, you text Digit, and it’s back to your account within the day

With 128-bit bank-level security, you don’t have to worry about hackers any more than with a normal bank, and any money you put in is also FDIC insured up to $250,000. Digit is also so confident in its savings algorithm that if you need the money ASAP, and Digit took out too much, you don’t have to pay any over-draft (taking out too much money) fees.

The service is mainly done through text messaging, which can be considered a pro or con depending on the person. In addition, the money Digit saves doesn’t earn any interest (Hint: that’s how Digit makes its money.)

Summary: If you’re not saving any money now or are not disciplined enough to put cash away, then Digit is for you. But you’re already regularly saving and want to make decent (in today’s world) bang for your buck, you should consider putting your savings into a high-earning savings account through an online bank, like Ally.

#2 LearnVest
LearnVest is online budgeting, goal-setting software that accurately monitors your savings, spending, and loans, so you can see your actual net worth in real time.

The website connects to your bank accounts and acts like a one-stop portal for your finances. Through LearnVest, you can create a budget and set financial goals.

Like other budgeting software, LearnVest uses a “folder” method, where you can place expenses into appropriate categories like groceries, entertainment, or transportation. The website does try automatically place expenses where they should go, but sometimes you need to enter the folder yourself .LearnVest also breaks down your budget into fixed and flexible income so that you can easily see how much you have in each category.

What separates it from others in the category is the ability to set and track goals. Then, as you add money toward the goal, you can visually see your progress. The only downside is you can only set one goal per savings account, so you may have to get creative and combine multiple goals into one.

SUMMARY: LearnVest is great for people with multiple online accounts who want an easy way to see there expenses, savings, and debts in one place. While it is a good budgeting app, it’s not a great one, but you can set goals through the app and visual track them.

#3 YouNeedABudget
YouNeedABudget is an oldie but a goodie, and it’s constantly making best budgeting apps because if you have the time, it will teach you discipline.

One of the best and worst features of YouNeedABudget is that you have to manually enter every transaction. I’m sure by now the software could easily link to your bank accounts (it doesn’t) and get that information, but the real power of it is that you know exactly how much you’re spending each month. The catch is that you have to have the discipline to use it regularly.

If you can get in the habit of inputting your expenses, YouNeedABudget is one of the best monthly budgeting programs out there, helping you to break down spending by category and microcategory. It also automatically does the math and carryovers for you, so you just need to do line-by-line expenses.

Summary: YouNeedABudget is good for people who are discplined time-wise, but aren’t so budget-savvy. It’s also good for visual learners who need to see exactly how things break down, and for people who don’t want their account information directly linked to a program. It’s not so good for people who just want an overview of their finances or don’t have the patience to enter things item-by-item.

Did I miss your go-to finance app? Share your favorites (or least favorites) in the comments below!

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Pepsi Ditches Aspartame – Why That’s Good And Bad

Image courtesy of PepsiCo.

Image courtesy of PepsiCo.

Diet Pepsi will be made without aspartame starting in August because of changing consumer demand. While it’s great that consumers are concerned about what they are drinking, replacing aspartame with another sugar substitute may not be the best option.

Aspartame, an artificial sweetener, has been highly tested and is regarded as safe for most people by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but public concern over the sugar substitute has led PepsiCo to make a change. Instead, Diet Pepsi will soon be made with the lesser-tested sweeteners sucralose (essentially Splenda) and acesulfame potassium.

While both sucralose and acesulfame potassium have been approved for use in food and beverages in the U.S. , they haven’t been studied to the amount that aspartame has. The change, while getting rid of aspartame, may not make Diet Pepsi any better or worse for health.

What does not change though, is that diet sodas like Pepsi are not a healthier version of sugar-sweetened soda, and by simply switching the sweetener, it will not help anyone lose weight. In the recently redone World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, the organization calls for sugar to be only 10% of a day’s energy intake, about 25 grams. A can of normal pepsi has 41 grams of sugar, and although diet pepsi may technically have 0 grams with (or without) aspartame, again that does not mean it’s good for you.

As with anything else, if you’re going to drink a soda, the best thing to do is to drink in moderation.

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