Archive for nutrition

Time for a New Week’s Resolution!

Since an entire year is just too long for me to stay focused on a goal, I am hereby making a New Week’s resolution. Small steps, over time, lead to great results. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. And so on.

This first one seems like a very small step. My diet has not been good at all since the holidays. Our New Year’s dinner was fabulously healthy, and I totally enjoyed the tasty leftovers. Once they were gone, though, I did not keep eating the same kind of wholesome meals. So, Weekly Resolution #1 aims to get me back on track.

Goals work best when they are SMART goals, which means:  Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. My goal is to eat at least two servings of vegetables and one serving of fruit every day for a week starting today.  Is it specific? Yep. I will know each day if I have hit the target. It’s also measurable, and attainable, and realistic, and there is a time component. Now all that is left for me to do is, well, eat the veggies and the fruit every day for a week.

Feel free to join in. It’s only seven days, after all. The days will pass either way. No, French fries are not a vegetable – and don’t think you’ll just get the onion rings instead. If you are on the fence, let me nudge you off your fence:  It Is Only Seven Days. You can do anything for 7 days! Bon appétit!

veggies

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Getting Fit in 2014, Part 1

So, let’s say you have decided to get yourself fit in 2014. You are drawing a line in the sand. At midnight, as December 31st rolls into January 1st, you are giving up the sweets, the beer, the fried food. You are going to finally start to exercise. This is your year, and you are worth it.

How will you achieve this thing called fitness? Will you count calories, or count carbs, maybe go Paleo? Will you start doing pushups and crunches, squats and lunges, and jumping jacks? Have you considered this:

“There is no diet that will do what eating healthy does.
Skip the diet. Just eat healthy”

My local produce market just posted that on their Facebook page. Skip the diet. Just start making simple changes to a more healthy way of eating. Replace French fries with a salad. Change out the bacon cheeseburger in favor of grilled chicken and broccoli. As you eat better food, you’ll find you eat less because your body is finally getting what it needs.

January 1st is not quite here yet. You have a couple of days to get ready. Browse through your local produce market. What looks good to you? Sweet potatoes, baked and sprinkled with a little cinnamon, are delicious. Bell peppers and onions are good grilled or sauteed with chicken for simple fajitas, served with salsa on corn tortillas. Oranges, apples, and bananas are popular, easy to take along in the car or to the office, and a better choice than donuts or Danish.

Making healthier choices is an evolution. You don’t have to jump straight to kale and hummus. Make the small changes and gradually try new foods as you go along. It may take a little longer to reach your goal than Plan B – drinking Slim-Fast three times a day – but making the healthier choices will keep you lean for life. The Slim-Fast plan will have you dumping your New Year’s resolution long before we even get to February. Choose healthy!

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Keeping Those New Year’s Resolutions

The days between Christmas and January 1st have always been meditative for me. It is time to buy a new calendar for the wall, and new pages for my planner. I’m running out of time to hit any goals that I may have had for 2013. The new year will arrive very soon, so I am giving thought to what I want to achieve in 2014.

All of the traditional New Year’s resolutions seem to be about health. Typically, we vow to (a) quit smoking; (b) lose weight; (c) eat more vegetables and less fast food; (d) spend more time with friends and family; or (e) get out of debt. Yes, the last two are about health too – in this case, mental health and peace of mind. A new year, a new calendar, means a clean slate. You can start fresh, and re-make yourself into the person you have always wanted to be.

The bad news about resolutions is that you are starting the new year with all the bad habits you had the year before, and probably for a bunch of years before that as well. The notion of a “clean slate” is an optimistic over-simplification.

Ah, but there is good news about resolutions. Who made those bad habits into habits to begin with? Correct, it was you. And since you created the habit of eating too much fast food, you also have the power to un-make that habit. This is excellent news!

I’m not saying that it is easy to break the old patterns that are not giving you the life or the health you want.  I am saying that it can be done and that you are the only one who can do it. Start on January 1st or start now, but start by imagining how much better your life can be. Write down all the great things that will happen when you spend more time with your family. Make it real, imagine yourself already reaping the rewards of the changes you want to make. Write it down, in all the detail you can think of. The more clear you can get about WHY you want to quit smoking, lose weight, or whatever it is for you, the better your chances are of making a lasting change.

Keep that piece of paper, the one listing how great it will be to reach your goal, in your wallet so you will see it often. Or tape it to the bathroom mirror so you start and end your day looking at it. Use it as a bookmarker, type it into your screen saver, just get it in front of your eyeballs a few times a day.

Most people don’t make it through January without giving up on their resolution. You don’t have to be one of those people. I am rooting for you. You can do it!

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This Maple-Glazed Salmon recipe could make you love fish!

I like most kinds of seafood, and especially salmon. This recipe is super easy and quick to make. With a scoop of brown rice or quinoa and some nice steamed veggies, it makes a great gluten-free meal that everyone can enjoy – even those who do not usually care for fish!

Here’s what you need: 

1/4 cup maple syrup, preferably the real stuff
2 tablespoons soy sauce – I used San-J’s gluten-free
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt – I skipped this, since the soy sauce is fairly salty already
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound salmon

and here’s what you do:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
In a small bowl, mix the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, garlic salt, and pepper.
Place salmon in a shallow glass baking dish, and coat with the maple syrup mixture. Cover the dish, and marinate salmon in the refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once.

Place the baking dish in the preheated oven, and bake salmon uncovered 20 minutes, or until easily flaked with a fork (thicker pieces of salmon take a little longer).

maple salmon

Source:  http://allrecipes.com/recipe/maple-salmon/

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‘Tis the Season For Soup

Most of the US has been cold for the last week or so, with the exception of Florida. My friend Jan pointed that out in a Facebook post. If you happen to be reading this from the back deck of your house in Florida and you’re enjoying a sunny day, you are still welcome here – we love you anyway – but this particular post is intended for those of us who are freezing our assets off lately.

When it’s cold outside, the last thing in the world I feel like eating is a salad. Salads are good, salads can be really healthy, but this is the time of year for something hot. Soup warms a body from the belly out. A former co-worker of mine used to make soup in the microwave of our breakroom with leftovers she’d brought from home. It always smelled delicious, and I never quite figured out how she did it. A little hot water, soy sauce, leftover chunks of meat, rice, vegetables, and a big dose of magic, I think.

Around our house, the big guy makes the soup.  I asked him for the recipe so I could share it with you.  He said, just put it all in the pot. It really is about that simple! You can easily customize it to your taste, and to use what you already have in the house.

Here’s the basic recipe.  The vegetables can be cut up to whatever size you like in your soup, they don’t need to be in teeny little pieces unless that is your family’s preference:

1 leek, chopped – or you can use a medium mild onion, or a couple of shallots
about 3 ribs of celery, chopped
a handful of baby carrots, chopped – or one full-size carrot
2 or 3 potatoes, chopped – we use the little red potatoes
1 can (15-ounce size) beans, drained and rinsed – white beans, Great Northerns, black beans, whatever you like
1 cup or more of diced ham or Canadian bacon – this is optional

Put all the goodies into a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add chicken broth and water, roughly half and half, to cover the vegetables, plus a little. Salt and pepper to your taste. Bring it to a boil, then turn down the heat and let it simmer until the potatoes are tender.

I love that this soup can be customized so every bowl you serve is different. Chunk up some leftover chicken or turkey and add it to one bowlful of soup for a little extra protein. We also like to add slices of leftover sausage, like Aidells chicken sausages. Sprinkle on some shredded cheese – we’ve used Cheddar, jack, and Parmesan and they are all good.

So, that’s it – put it all in the pot and within an hour you have a hot, filling, nourishing, and belly-warming soup. Bon appétit!

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Do You Keep Track?

One of the very best ways to fail at getting fit, losing weight, or improving your health is to not keep track. You can tell everyone you know that you work out for an hour each day, six days a week – but do you, really? Let’s see, you always take a rest day on Sunday. But, you missed your workout on Thursday last week because you felt lousy. Yesterday you missed another one to attend a co-worker’s birthday bash. Neither of those misses was planned, they just worked out that way because that’s how a busy life goes.

On the nutrition side of things, you’re pretty sure you take in about 1,800 calories a day. Do you, really? Calories are much harder to keep track of than workouts, because they happen so many times each day – and how many calories are in one apple, anyway? Clearly some apples are bigger than others, so there is always a bit of guesswork. Calories also happen in different places throughout the day. Breakfast at home, a little Starbucks stop on the way to the office, a doughnut during a meeting, lunch wherever you find yourself at lunchtime, and so on. Even if you try to add it all up at the end of the day, it is really easy to forget some things. Consider the last time you stopped at Costco. How many calories could be in those samples?

What can you do? It would be a pain to write down every single thing you eat or drink every single day and then go look all that stuff up and try to figure it out. You are right, it can be a pain. What about writing everything down one day a week, just as a reality check? Put a sticky note on the kitchen counter and one on your desk at work, and jot down everything you eat or drink that has calories. Or, track everything on your smartphone, either in a note or using an app like MyFitnessPal. Give the phone a chance to really be smart once a week. At the end of the day, tally it up. On days you think you’re around 1,800, are you really? Adjust accordingly, and keep track again one day next week. Repeat as necessary.

For tracking workouts, I’ll share how we do it at my house: we use a paper calendar on the refrigerator and a sheet of little stick-on stars. Did a workout? Give yourself a star! It’s simple, it’s flexible, and it’s right in our faces. I hit 5 workouts last week, so I have 5 little silver stars for the week. There are bonuses to keeping it on the fridge, of course. Maybe on days I do not work out I should open the refrigerator a little less often. We also keep each other on track, since it is clear and obvious who worked out and who did not.

One of the basics of managing anything is measuring it. After all, you manage your weight by measuring it on the scale once in awhile, right? You manage your blood pressure by having it measured. You can manage your fitness goals by tracking at least these two important components, diet and exercise, regularly.

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Chocolate, With Benefits!

If I were an academic and looking for a fascinating research project, I think the benefits of eating chocolate would be on my short list. This is life-enhancing stuff, after all. Forget researching about whether social media makes people happy, or why chimps fling poo (seriously, those were real studies in 2011, according to Sean Williams in an article for The Motley Fool, see link below). Let’s find out more about why chocolate is good for us, so we can relax and enjoy it without guilt.

Here’s some of the skinny on chocolate: One recent study in Spain found that teenagers who ate chocolate regularly tended to have less body fat than teens who did not. They were also more active and had more energy, which I found interesting. That study recommends an ounce and a half a day or less – after all, chocolate also has fat in it.

The Huffington Post lists ten benefits of eating chocolate, including reducing the risk of stroke in women, making our hearts healthier by lowering blood pressure and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, and helps keep the blood moving smoothly (“…anti-clotting, blood-thinning properties … similar … to aspirin”).  It has fiber in it, it helps stop coughing, and it puts us in a better mood. Who wouldn’t want that?

It’s no secret that I really like chocolate, especially dark chocolate, and without a lot of other stuff in it. A Snickers bar or Ding Dong is not exactly chocolate; they are full of other stuff. Make mine just chocolate, please. We don’t want to dilute the health benefits, after all!

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This links to the Motley Fool article

This links to the article about the study done in Spain

This links to the Huffington Post article

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