Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Definition Nutrition

I can get so confused perusing the aisles in a grocery. When one box of crackers says “low fat” and the one next to it boasts “reduced fat”, how am I supposed to make a decision?!

Luckily, once I learned a few key terms and their definitions, grocery shopping healthfully became a heck of a lot easier – and quicker.

Calorie Free – less than 5 calories per serving

Low Calorie – 40 calories or less per serving

Sugar Free – less than 0.5 gram of sugar per serving

Fat Free – less than 0.5 gram of fat per serving

Low Cholesterol – 20 mg or less and 2 grams or less of saturated fat per serving

Low Sodium – 140 mg or less of sodium per serving

High Fiber – 5 or more grams of fiber per serving

Reduced – at least 25% less of the specified nutrient or of calories than the normal product

High in – contains 20% or more of the Daily Value of a specified nutrient per serving

Good Source of – provides at least 10-19% of the Daily Value of a particular nutrient per serving

These key terms from the FDA set the standards for health claims important to health conscious consumers. Although I buy most of my groceries in their whole and unprocessed forms, it’s always a great feeling to be able to interpret the labels and know how to make the healthiest choices.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Lesson in Warming-Up

It was one of those days - sitting for hours at my desk without a break to even take the dog out. Poor thing. So when I finished my work that evening, I took that pent up energy of mine to the stairway of my apartment building.  20 minutes, 8 flights, GO!

About halfway through my stir crazy induced sweat session, my left calf muscle began to tighten up, and at once I knew I should have done a warm-up.  “Oh well, too late now!” And I kept climbing. Up 8 flights, down 8 flights, up 8 flights… whew.   

Afterwards, as my dinner baked in the oven, I rolled out my yoga mat to unwind and release the tension in my calves. Stretches, done. Dinner, done. Damage, done!

The next morning I woke up with a fireball in my left calf, impairing me from going for a run and exacerbating my irritation from too much sedentary desk work. Luckily, my dog forgave me from keeping her inside and graciously let me borrow her tennis ball for a myofascial release. After watching this video from YouTube and whimpering screaming in pain, I have sworn to never begin another workout without first doing a good ole warm-up session.

Here’s how I’ll warm up:
·       Take a brisk walk and slowly ramp it up into a jog, lasting 5 minutes
·       Stretch out the hamstrings, quads, and calves using gentle forward bends, a standing quad stretch, and downward facing dog
·       Roll the ankles in circles going both directions
·       Forward and side lunge stretches for hip flexors

If I had included a warm-up before climbing the stairs, I probably wouldn’t have been sidelined for the following few days and could’ve been able to work out more! But until I can get back to doing cardio, I think I’ll practice yoga and use a moist heating pad to release the tightened calf. I should probably take the dog out too…

Have you ever regretted skipping a warm-up? 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

A Cuppa Coffee for the Eyes

My puffy morning eyes have met their match with 100% Pure Organic Coffee Bean Caffeine Eye Cream.

Lack of sleep on too many an occasion and seasonal allergies plague me routinely with dark circles and puffy morning eyes. *not a pretty sight, though I can’t really open my tired eyes enough to see firsthand in the morning* Blindly stumbling into the bathroom, the first thing I reach for is my trusty tube of eye cream.

Organic ingredients from plant sources with a promise of no animal testing is what’s dabbed onto the puffiness, and instantly I can feel my eyes come awake.   

A one ounce tube will set you back $19, but I can tell you that this cream dutifully carries me through 7-8 months of tired mornings before it’s time to restock my bathroom.

Ingredients:

Organic Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Organic Rosa Centifolia Flower Water (Rose Hydrosol), Organic Rosa Canina (Rosehip Oil) Seed Extract, Organic Coffea Arabica (Green Coffee) Seed Extract, Vitamin E (Tocopherol), Vitamin C (Sodium Ascorbate), Extracts of: Coffea Arabica (Coffee Cherry) Seed, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary) Leaf, Origanum Vulgare (Oregano) Leaf, Thymus Vulgaris (Thyme) Flower/Leaf, Hydrastis Canadensis (Goldenseal), Vanilla Planifolia (Vanilla Absolute) Fruit, Euphorbia Cerifera Cera (Candelilla Wax) 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Fitness Philosophy

Confession time: Besides the revered “rest day”, I used to strive to workout (strength training + cardio) every. single. day.

Now, I approach fitness a different way.

The ultimate goal is to live actively.  This means being active in some way every day.  For instance, today I may walk the dog for a mile or so, and tomorrow I may pop in a workout DVD and sweat it out in the living room.  Yesterday I filled a few spare minutes of my day with a 20 minute yoga routine.  Next week I may take a spin class and kick things up a notch with some distance runs outdoors.  Stopping by the gym for dumbbell practice and using the StairMaster StepMill is one of my favorite ways of staying active.  For me, it’s about maintaining a lifestyle where physical activity is frequent and varied.   

A lifestyle like this keeps working out from becoming boring, and it creates muscle confusion (avoiding plateaus are a plus!).  Set some goals like running in a local 5k, and work to make it happen.  Add in a strength training session here and there and you’re on your way to living an active lifestyle! Having an active lifestyle does take some planning in advance, but if you are serious about your commitment to fitness, it will turn out to be a real investment in your time and health!

P.S. Think of every workout as an adventure ;)    

Monday, August 26, 2013

Going Paleo

   Lately it seems that all the cool kids are going paleo. 

With today’s rapid advances of modern civilization, taking a step back to reevaluate our eating patterns sounds like a great idea to me.  So when someone says they are “going paleo” what they are doing is rejecting any and all foods that have come about through the advent of agriculture. 

This means no bread, beans, dairy, oil, alcohol, tea, or coffee *gasp* because these foods must be processed from their original sources before being consumed.  The paleo diet is essentially modeled after the food ways of our ancient ancestors of the Stone Age.  These guys ate various meats, eggs, seafood, non-starchy vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds – things they could kill with a spear and pick off a bush to eat raw.  They lived a hunter-gatherer type lifestyle in a time where farms had not yet been established!  So they really had no way of making bread or toting a cow with them as they roamed around in search of their next meal. 

Now I’m thinking, “Why would anyone want to go paleo?!” Well, followers of this diet have some pretty persuasive health claims associated to having their plates piled with meat and veggies.  There are many articles online about these claims, but it’s always good to think about what the cons to a diet might be.  

·       A diet heavy with meat comes with quite a bit of cholesterol and saturated fat – neither of which is healthy for a diet to have in abundance. 

·       A diet without grains runs the risk of being low in fiber content and lacking in nutrients. 

The big plus I see in going paleo is increasing your consumption of veggies! Low in calories and full of vitamins and minerals, veggies are considered nutrient dense foods and are a great source of nourishment for the body. 

So, will I be going paleo? No, but I will continue to do my research and will go paleo only if I find compelling science-based evidence supporting paleo diet health claims.  Here and there a paleo meal wouldn’t hurt me, and I’ve even found some paleo recipes out there that sound mouthwatering. 


My advice? Do some research yourself. Talk to a dietitian. Do what feels right for your body. And always load your plate with veggies ;)   

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Road Trip Essentials


Snacking is unashamedly a favorite activity of mine and seemingly appropriate for passing the time on road trips.  Before having loaded both myself and my bags into the car, I make sure to have my snacking essentials in order.

Here’s what I pack in an ice chest:

Veggie Sticks- washed, cut, and ready to eat raw, veggie sticks are nutrient dense and full of fiber and water. A crisp and colorful assortment of bell peppers, carrots, and celery looks like edible crayons stashed away in my bag and reminds me of the antioxidant benefits they have to offer. 

Guacamole- my “mmm can’t get enough of this!” favorite for dipping with veggie sticks. I like to buy the 100 calorie snack packs from Wholly Guacamole because the convenient little pouches portion the guacamole for me while keeping it fresh.  Another snack with a hefty fiber content, guac also contains monounsaturated fatty acids, a very beneficial and healthy fat needed by the body. It’s a pretty good idea to consume a healthy fat with veggies because some vitamins in veggies are absorbed best when fat is present and are therefore known as fat-soluble vitamins. Word of caution: don’t dip and drive! 

Coconut Water- chocolate coconut water, that is.  I prefer drinking ZICO coconut water in the chocolate flavor when the sweet tooth begins to roar.  Benefits of this chocolately treat include potassium, an important mineral, and several electrolytes. A satisfying way to stay hydrated, nourish the body, and calm the sweet tooth. Score.

Trail Mix- what would a road trip be without the old classic mix of nuts? Although there are many varieties to select from in stores, I prefer to toss together my own mix to avoid unwanted amounts of added sugar and salt. Mixes of mine include any of the following: dried cranberries, raw pumpkin seeds, roasted unsalted almonds, raw cashews, plain walnut halves, dried unsweetened coconut flakes, and roasted unsalted peanuts.  Healthy fats? Check. Minerals? Check. Protein? Check. Satiating? Absolutely!  

Frozen Blueberries- a popsicle-like treat but without the food dyes, artificial sweeteners, and insulin spike. Frozen blueberries are simply washed and dried berries that have been popped in the freezer. The fiber content of the fruit slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream so that insulin levels do not leave you with a sugar high and a moment later crave for more sugar.  The rich color of blueberries comes from the antioxidant properties they have to offer, and the fiber and water content will help to fill you up. 

Water- boring? Maybe, but important? Definitely! Staying hydrated is necessary to stay awake and sharp while traveling on the road.  I pack a 1 liter water bottle with me so I have plenty to hold me over until reaching a convenience store or arriving at my destination.  Sometimes I’ll even add a squeeze of lemon juice to my water if I’m in the mood for something with flavor. 


Having my own snacks packed for a road trip saves me from resorting to fast food when hunger (or boredom) strikes.  These are snacks I feel good about gobbling down, and I know the nutrients are what my body needs.  What are some of your favorite snacks on road trips?