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Quick and healthy meals for the time-crunched gal (or guy)

22 Feb
One last half before the big 2-5! ha!!

One last half before the big 2-5! ha!!

Happy Friday!  I’m headed off tomorrow to run the Rock’n’Roll New Orleans Half Marathon in honor of my 25th birthday next week! I’m so excited, I’ve never been to NOLA before, and it’s always so much fun to explore a new city!

So you know the feeling, you get home late from a long day at the office, you’re already fighting the couch & TV’s siren song and your inner battle between the part of you that wants to cave and the other half who’s telling you if you don’t go sweat, those office cookies you had for lunch are going to come back and bite you in the butt…literally.  You can’t even begin to process what to make for dinner; Chinese take out is sounding really good right about now: easy and cheap!  But that same voice in your head that’s telling you to hit the gym is the same one that’s telling you that high-in sodium and gods know what else, dripping in oil is the last thing your body (or brain) needs.  So what’s a mentally-exhausted, time-crunched gal (or guy) to do?  Below are some of my tried and true techniques to still eat healthy without a whole lot of fuss.

Step away from the frozen meals!!!

Step away from the frozen meals!!!

Buy ahead of time

I’ll try to figure out the weekend before what to have the following week. Then I’ll buy all the ingredients I need on Sunday and do as much of the prep work as possible, so come a weekday night I don’t have to think about a)what to make for dinner and b) stopping at a crowded grocery store to pick up the ingredients!

Make ahead of time

Drop that Chinese food!  Make healthy stir fry in bulk!

Drop that Chinese food! Make healthy stir fry in bulk!

Whatever you can make in advance and freeze, creates a simple solution to the “ I don’t have time to make food”.  I love to buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts in bulk. I then put 1 breast into a quart-sized freezer bag, pour enough marinade (I prefer homemade, but even simpler is to use a store-bought marinade or dressing, but watch sodium and sugar levels!) into the bag to cover the breast, seal, label/date and toss into the freezer.  So when I come home from work, I choose a marinated chicken, throw it in the sink to thaw and then hit the gym or whatever.  After I’m done relaxing, I just toss it in a oven-safe dish, bake it and voila! My protein is done!  Now all it needs is a salad or some roasted or steam veggies and I have a healthy meal that was super simple!

Make in bulk

If you don’t mind eating the same thing for several lunches & dinners in a row, then this is perfect for you.  I will double my recipe and then have leftovers for the rest of the week.  My favorite is making a double batch of turkey taco meat, then I can have a taco salad for about 4 lunches and 4 dinners!  I never tire of taco salads! YUM!!

And finally: K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid!)

This looks like a simple and healthy meal to make!

This looks like a simple and healthy meal to make!

It’s so much easier to manage 1, 2 or even 3 ingredients than 15.  Unless you’re a professional chef or have a competent sous chef, a weekday night is NOT the appropriate time to try out a new recipe with some 20-odd ingredients.  Simple ingredients=quicker prep & clean time=MORE GLORIOUS FREE TIME!  I pick a protein and a veggie (or 2) to make a quick and healthy meal.  I keep the prep simple and try to use no more than 2 dishes, but it’s even easier if you cook all your ingredients in the same pan/pot/tray.  A crock pot is great for this, you can turn is on in the morning on your way out the door and then you get home and you’ve only got clean-up duty!

So that’s how I manage to cook simple meals that are nutritious and filling without spending 2+ hours in the kitchen every night!  Save the fancy meals for your Saturday nights!  What are you favorite tips and tricks to save time in the kitchen on a weeknight?

Surviving “T-DAY”

21 Nov

Enjoy time with friends and family

Well tomorrow is Thanksgiving and while many Americans are planning on gorging themselves on turkey and stuffing, I wanted to take a moment to tell you how to best survive “t-day”!  Thanksgiving at its core was never about seeing how many pieces of pie you could stuff down, but rather it was supposed to be about enjoying time with friends and family and joining together to give thanks for the many blessings in your life.  Somehow, it’s become all about food, football, and the Macy’s Parade.  Here are some tips to keep your health on track during this holiday weekend.

Exercise

Get out and move with your family!

Now you don’t have to spend 5 hours in the gym, but make sure you continue to move throughout the day.  Maybe go for a family walk before or after dinner. Many local running clubs around the country have “Turkey Trots”, which typically range in many distances from a 1 mile fun run/walks all the way to half marathons.  Many Turkey Trots raise money/food for local food banks to help feed hungry families.  Get a group of family and friends together to enjoy the crisp autumn air, get some heart pumping exercise, and help the needy!

If a Turkey Trot isn’t your thing, gather the gang and head outside for some touch football or any sport of your choosing.  You’ll bond a lot more over good-natured competition, than watching the competition on the tube.

If watching the parade is a family tradition, then create a new tradition as well this Thanksgiving.  Select an activity as a family and then during every commercial break execute that activity.  Some examples could be: do 10 jumping jacks, run/walk 5 flights of stairs, or, if you’re of the competitive spirit, race around the outside of the house and first one back in gets some sort of prize.

The key here is to get up and move throughout the day!

Food

Now here’s where things get tougher, socially-accepted convention is that Thanksgiving is the day of no judgment, where you can stuff yourself to the point where you enter a massive food coma that lasts until the midnight snack of turkey legs and stuffing.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I will be enjoying the feast as much as the next, but with a twist.

First, fill half your plate with veggies! The first thing I do is reach for the veggies and load up half my plate, the fiber will fill you up faster and since they are the lowest in caloric value at the dinner table (but drop that creamed spinach please!).  Now I love mashed potatoes as much as the next, but when made with whole milk and globs of butter, they take a nutrient-rich food and turn it into a fatty mess.  Try using fat free milk and less butter, or if you’re feeling particularly healthy, halve the amount of potatoes and swap in steamed cauliflower, which will reduce the caloric density while increasing the micronutrients!  Also don’t drown your potatoes in gravy; a little goes a long way!

Mouth-watering turkey and stuffing!

Stuffing is delicious, but incredibly fattening.  Use less breadcrumbs (and switch to whole wheat!) and swap in a higher ratio of chopped veggies (I especially like butternut squash, YUM!).  Reduce the amount of butter you use (typically half will do the trick) and use a smaller ratio of meats to cut down on saturated fats.  I promise that making these small changes to your stuffing will reward you on the scale the next morning and you won’t see a huge difference in flavor.

When you’re selecting your turkey, dark or white is fine, however, you should only have a few bites of dark meat and have the rest of your turkey as the white variety.  Regardless of dark vs. white, you should NEVER eat the skin, it’s not good for you and frankly I don’t think it adds much in terms of flavor.

Cranberry sauce is another staple of the holiday table, but steer clear of the canned variety and try to make it yourself or buy cranberry sauce that actually has cranberries in it! The store-bought variety typically is full of needless sugar and artificial flavors. Here’s a great homemade recipe!

Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum; enjoy a good glass of wine with your meal, but after that stick to tea, coffee, and flat or sparkling water.  You really don’t need to heap on extra empty calories do you?

Finally, pass on the bread; you’re getting enough carbs already.  The only exception I’d make is if they’re your grandmother’s rolls that she makes from scratch only for Thanksgiving, then take just one and really enjoy it.

I almost forgot dessert!  If it’s store bought, I say skip it, but if it’s homemade, I say savor it!  Use the three bite rule on dessert and if you want to try more than one, make those bites really small.  You just want to get the flavor and enjoy it, rather than wolfing it down and concluding with a good plate lickin’!

Make sure to fill half your plate with veggies!

Now all of the above information is irrelevant if you’re going back for third and fourth servings.  First, fill half your plate with a variety of the veggie dishes. Then try little portions of all the other available dishes.  Remember the first three bites taste the best, so focus in on those first three bites of each dish. Chew slowly and savor the wonderful flavors that are bursting in your mouth.  Make sure you’re evaluating it and if you decide that “eh, the stuffing isn’t really that good this year (for whatever reason)”, then don’t feel compelled to finish all the stuffing on your plate, there’s no point in consuming empty calories just because it’s there.  If and when you’re finished your first round (ignoring whatever is left on your plate, because you weren’t feeling it), sit back and wait a while.

Sip water, use the restroom, and most importantly, enjoy the conversation and company.  It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to yell up to your brain “hey I’m full!”  After a while, if you’re still feeling the need to eat some more, go ahead and repeat the food selection process, starting with veggies and only selecting the food that you enjoyed the most (2-3 items).  This time, put smaller quantities on your plate than in your first round.  Repeat this process over again, each time with smaller quantities, until your brain signals you’re full.  Frankly, you should be full after your first or second helping.

Now some people hold to the rule of not eating anything all day, so that they “have room” or are “saving calories” for the main event. I would strongly advise against that method of thinking.  Starving all day slows your metabolism, and your body is more likely to store the “main event” as fat as opposed to energy.  Make sure you eat a small, but protein rich breakfast and a small lunch if you don’t eat Thanksgiving till later in the day.  If you eat around 3, then it may be okay to skip lunch, but go by what your stomach is saying.

Moderation is key here, just like every other day. Enjoy your time with friends and family and don’t just make the day all about the food.  Get your metabolism going with a little exercise and breakfast in the morning and enjoy in moderation and you should be able to avoid the dreaded food coma.  Also, make sure you go back to your usual exercise and eating routine on Black Friday.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

We.Are.Water.

12 Jun

It does more good for you than just replenishing your heart

It accounts for 69% of our entire body. The brain is 80% H20.  The blood? 83%.  Our liver amazingly enough is 90% water. It’s our life force.  Without it, we’ll die within 3 days.  Here are some factoids that you may not know about water and your body, borrowed from The Watershed Blog:

  • 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. (Likely applies to half world pop.)
  • In 37% of Americans, the thirst mechanism is so weak that it is often mistaken for hunger.
  • Even MILD dehydration will slow down one’s metabolism as much as 3%.
  • One glass of water deters hunger pangs for 98% of the dieters observed in a University of Washington study.
  • The biggest trigger of daytime fatigue is lack of water.
  • Preliminary research indicates that 8-10 glasses of water a day could significantly ease back and joint pain for up to 80% of sufferers.
  • A mere 2% drop in body water can trigger fuzzy short-term memory, trouble with basic math, and difficulty focusing on the computer screen or on a printed page.
  • Drinking 5 glasses of water daily decreases the risk of colon cancer by 45%, breast cancer by 79%, and develop bladder cancer by 50%.

Staying well-hydrated helps to flush out toxins, beat back fatigue, creates glowing skin, and most importantly, helps to regulate hunger.

You’ll rarely see me without my CamelBak

You read it right: reduce food cravings.  We often mistake dehydration with being hungry.  So before you reach for those Doritos, drink a full glass of water (at least 8 oz), wait 15 minutes and see if it goes away.

So how much do you actually need? Most recommend you need half your body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 200 lbs, you need to drink approximately 100 oz of water.

Filter for Good

This translates into 12.5 cups or 5 20-oz bottles a day.  Now this does not take into account all the hard exercising you are doing, so make sure you drink a little more than that to account for the water loss through sweat!  This may seem like a lot, but there are simple things you can do to increase your water intake from morning to night.

  • Drink a full glass of water in the morning.  After I weight myself every morning, I drink a full glass of water, you are super dehydrated in the morning and it’s a great time to rehydrate, especially before heading to the gym.
  • Carry a water bottle with you!  I always lug a water bottle with me and refill it at every opportunity.  If it’s sitting at your desk at work, it’s an easy reminder to stop and take a few sips every once in a while.  Plus you’re helping out the environment and your wallet!I take free water any day over Dasani!
  • Drink a glass before every meal.  The fuller your stomach is on water, the less you’re going to eat, plus it’ll help aid the digestion process and keep you from getting dehydrated!
  • Bored with water? Snazz it up a bit. Add a bit of lime or lemon to it! Looking for something a little sweeter?  Right next to my Brita pitcher in my fridge is a pitcher of whatever crystal light I have whipped up for the week. When I need to mix it up, I drink Crystal Light. They’ve got great flavors, and at only 5 calories per 8 fl. oz., it’s totally worth it.  But don’t go overboard!  You can also drink fizzy water, but if you buy store bought, make sure it doesn’t have any added sodium!
  • Carry Crystal Light To-Go packets when you’re out and about. They’re easy to add to your water bottle when you need a snazz on the road!
  • Bring a water glass to bed.  I try to drink enough to not be completely parched in the morning, but not so much that I have to get up in the middle of the night.

    Crystal Light is a great way to snazz up your water

Those are my favorite tips to adding more water to your day.  I hope they help!  What are your favorite tips to stay hydrated?

Keep Sweating!

~Coach Lindsey

Reestablishing the Fitness Routine

8 Jun

Sometimes the couch sings its siren song…

So today I want to focus on exercise ruts or trying to get back into one.

The two months I took off after quitting my first one and starting my current one in DC was a period were I was in the best shape of my life I think (outside my high school years and 2 varsity sports).  I got up every day and was able to work out for 90-120 minutes. I ate great and felt well-relaxed and most importantly strong and healthy.  Then life came back to bite me in the ass and my carefully crafted routine went out the window, along with my athleticism.

Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my new job, but when I started the process of moving, I didn’t have time to work out (or so I told myself).  Then came the transition from CA to DC and the stress of that move threw me into a tailspin.  I left everything I know and love to move to a city that I knew (I went to college here in DC) and still had people who I’m still close with, but still…it has been a tough and at times lonely transition.  So with the stress (cortisol), unhealthy eating (comfort food is NOT good for the waistline), and lack of exercise I felt my clothes suddenly getting a bit tighter.

I started to feel like this! (less the beer)

So I got “fat and lazy”, not good for anyone, but for someone like me I saw myself turning into the very people I’m trying to motivate to get back out there.  I knew I had to get myself back!  But it’s been harder than I anticipated.  It’s hard to get up at 5am to get a workout in, have a full day of work and then go home and make dinner and try to decompress from my day.  But you know what’s even harder? Working out after work when the TV sings its siren song and is so much more inviting than a hard workout.  It’s tough, but I know it will be worth it in the end.

I’ve decided that AM workouts work best for me, they leave me full of energy all day and then I don’t feel guilty when I get home and don’t head to the gym.  But waking up is still killer.  I am my only obstacle, it may be constant fight every morning between my “i want to sleep” side and the “you’ll feel so much better” side. But I know that slowly the “I want to sleep” side will fight less and

Keep at it!

less and it will get easier to get up instead of hitting the snooze.  So as I begin my uphill battle to reestablish my fitness routine, I thought I’d give some tips and pointers that I’m applying to help get my fitness back on track.

Don’t Break the Habit

I know for some it may be too little, too late.  But for those already in a habit, don’t drop it!  That was my number one mistake, I let myself fall out the routine and as a result it’s so much easier to hit snooze instead of getting up to get that am workout in.  How long of a road are you looking at if you’re trying to reestablish a fitness habit? About 66 days.  That’s a lot of mornings to debate with yourself!

Make it Fun

If you hate being in a gym then get outside! Hate solo activities?  Take up a new team sport!  Find ways that make it fun for you!  Don’t force yourself to lift weight if you’d rather gorge your eyes out, there a plenty of other ways to get “weight training” in!

Reward Yourself

And I don’t mean with a pint of Ben and another pint of Jerry’s.  Pick a goal (workout 5 days a week for 4 weeks) and a reward (like getting a massage).  If you set a goal that’s tough but achievable and a reward that you really want (like that new pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing).

A buddy is a great way to pass the time

It’s so much harder to bail on a workout when you know your friend is waiting for you!

X is for Success

Find someway to track your workouts on a calendar.  This will give you quick representation of how diligent you are working out!  It is also is a gentle reminder when you’ve been a little lax.

Measure Fitness

Pick any measurement, it can be weight, inches, how your clothes fit, etc.  Use that to motivate you to continue to workout.  I can’t tell you how sad, yet motivating it was when I stepped back on that scale after nearly a two month hiatus from exercise.  I was so disappointed to see what I’d work so hard for had slipped away from me. I knew how hard I’d worked and just how much effort it was going to take to lose that weight again.  But it was the kick in the pants I needed.  I had no one to blame but myself, and I knew it.

Figure Out Your Issues

What causes you to stop being motivated to exercise? Find that and find a way to fix it and your weakness shouldn’t be an issue anymore.

Baby Steps

Don’t expect to run 10 miles your first day back after a long break.  You need to start small.  Every time you take a break from exercise, you reset your fitness and you have to start at zero…again.  This is why it’s so important to not break a fitness routine. As I sorely learned.

The scale can be your best friend…or worst enemy!

Don’t go for Superficial Reasons

If you go to look hot in a bikini what happens when you reach that goal? Or swimsuit season ends?  You need to work out for reasons beyond the short-term, although those are good too, as long as you have a solid long-term goal too.  How about, I want to feel strong or I feel healthiest when I’m working out consistently.

I hope this helps kiddos.  Feel free to add your own tips and tricks below!

Keep on (or start) Sweating!

Disney Bans Junk Food!

7 Jun

Disney just says no to junk food

I’m so excited about this huge step forward towards combating childhood obesity.  Disney recently announced that starting in 2015 you will no longer see any foods/products advertised on their channels, programs, radio, website, etc that do not meet strict nutritional guidelines.  Not only does this mean no more sugary sodas, candy, and cereals, but also no more Lunchables (too much sodium) and Capri Suns (waaaaaay too much sugar)!

It won’t take effect until 2015 due to existing contracts, but it signals that some industries recognize not only the seriousness of the epidemic, but also the vital role they can play in bringing it to an end. I also hope that other media organizations will take note and do the same (I’m talking to you Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network!).  I applaud Disney for not taking the most profitable way out.  It is important to understand that until healthier options come out of these companies, Disney will be taking a major hit to their bottom line.

Most of us remember growing up with Saturday morning cartoons and being barraged with ads for sugary cereals that were

Mickey whipping up a healthier smoothie

sure to delight the taste buds with the unfortunate side effect of doing nothing for us nutritionally.  I hope that these companies see a dramatic drop in their sales and are forced to rethink their strategies.  I do not think that young, impressionable minds should be shown ads at all (of any variety), but I get how this world works.  I can only hope that companies go back to the drawing board and figure out how to make these types of products healthier.

This announcement comes on the heels of the NYC mayor’s proposal to ban the sale of all soft drinks over 16 oz.  I’m a free-market, minimum regulation kind of gal, and while Mayor Bloomberg might be well intentioned, government control never seems to work out well.  Check out this hilarious Jon Stewart’s Reaction to the Ban!

Think about it…would you just drop those sugar cubes in water and drink it? I didn’t think so…

I mean come’on they consider fries a vegetable in our schools, because at one point it originated from a potato (a starch veggie mind you, not even a green one!).  But the government should do something to incentivize people to make smarter choices. Hey we tax you for cigs and other bad things for you. Why not sodas?  You make a conscious decision to purchase it knowing that the bottled water would be cheaper (not to mention healthier).  Now will the ban be effective? Who knows, but it might cause people to drink only 16-oz of the sugary toxic crap instead of the average 32-oz. Only time will tell.  If you want a more in-depth report, I found this great one at the Daily Beast.

It seems that America has  little appetite for the government passing down mandates like God, but maybe if private industry puts company policies in place to help turn the tide, then that might do just the trick and be even more effective.

But the new policy from Disney definitely holds promise to help our young ones combat this obesity epidemic, and might even help their parents along the way.

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