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Hi Fits of Health Followers!

Happy Friday!  I launched my website last week and hope that you like the new look.  I have all sorts of plans on services and posts I’d like to add to the site.  In the process, I changed my web hosting to another service.  Somehow, the email addresses of my subscribers were lost.   If you would still like to receive emails regarding my daily posts, please re-subscribe on the main page here.

Have a fabulously healthy weekend!

Cheers,

Nancy

5 Healthy Thanksgiving Recipes That Will Make You Very Popular This Thanksgiving

Ah, Thanksgiving…a holiday filled with family and friends…and a lot of really unhealthy food.  What more could you want in one day?  Lots of “fun” conversations with a side of guilt.  Sounds lovely!  If eating healthy is important to you, then this day tends to be a day of both fun and trepidation as you try to eat as healthy as possible.  Fried turkey?  Um, okay.  Heavy gravy?  Well, why not.  Sweet potato casserole with extra marshmallows, hold the sweet potato?  Sure!  A slab of grandma’s pumpkin pie?  Um….No, no, and no!!!!  Even if you’re not hosting dinner, you can always bring something along that you can eat and not feel guilty…or sick afterwards.  Here are 5 delicious healthy Thanksgiving recipes that will make you love Thanksgiving and extremely popular with your family.  All of these recipes are gluten-free, dairy-free (though the roasted artichoke dip can be made with Parmesan), and rather low in fat and calories, making them a guilt-free tasty addition to the Thanksgiving staples.

 

Roasted Artichoke Dip – This is not the cheese laden, greasy dip that is served so often at parties.  Serve this healthy alternative with crudites and/or gluten-free crackers and you’ll have a healthy appetizer to get the night started on the right foot.Healthy Thanksgiving Appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of fresh lemon juice
  • 2/3 cup of cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14 oz.) package frozen artichokes, thawed
  • 2 teaspoons of dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons of dried basil
  • Tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese or cheese alternative
Directions:
  1. Place a rack in the middle of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large, heavy, ovenproof skillet, combine 6 tablespoons of lemon juice, 2 tablespoons of oil, the garlic, salt, and pepper.  Add the artichokes and toss to coat.  Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat.
  3. Remove from the heat and place the skillet, uncovered, in the oven.
  4. Bake until the artichoke are tender and lightly browned (about 30-45 minutes).
  5. Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Place the roasted artichokes in a food processor and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, the remaining oil, and the thyme, basil and Parmesan/cheese alternative.  Process until thoroughly blended.  Taste and add additional salt and pepper, if desired.
  7. Serve immediately.

Decadent Paleo-Friendly Butternut Squash – This is a great substitute for Sweet Potato Casserole

Sweet Potato Casserole
Butternut Squash Casserole (Photo credit: FreckledPast)

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds of butternut squash
  • 3 Tablespoons of water
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon of coconut oil
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons of coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of powdered ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon of ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice
  • a pinch of ground cloves
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup of pecan halves, chopped

Directions: (this may seem like a lot of steps, but it’s actually really easy)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  3. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and remove the seeds.
  4. Place the squash cut-side down on the baking sheet and sprinkle 3 Tablespoons of water onto the paper around the squash.
  5. Peel the skin off the garlic and wrap it in a piece of aluminum foil.
  6. Put the baking sheet of squash and the foil packet of garlic in the oven.
  7. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the squash is tender.  Set both aside until they’re cool enough to handle (about 15-20 minutes).
  8. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.
  9. When the squash is cool, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh into the bowl of a food processor.
  10. Separate the garlic cloves and squeeze the roasted pulp into the bowl with the squash.
  11. Process the mixture to a smooth puree.  Then, add the coconut oil, coconut milk, salt and spices.  Taste and adjust seasonings.
  12. Beat the egg in a small bowl.  Scrape the puree mixture into a large mixing bowl and stir in the beaten egg with a wooden spoon until combined.
  13. Grease the inside of a 3-cup casserole dish with coconut oil and then add the squash puree.  Top with chopped pecans and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the edges are a little bubbly and the top is golden brown.

 

Paleo Pan-Roased Brussel Sprouts

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 pound of Brussel sprouts (washed, tough outer leaves removed, cut in half)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tablespoons raw pistachios
  • 2 Tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Add brussel sprouts and lightly brown, stirring occasionally to prevent burning (about 15 minutes). Season with salt and pepper.  Add garlic and pistachios the last 2 minutes of cooking.
  3. Garnish with pomegranate seeds.
Sage Polenta –  Seriously amazing!!!!
Ingredients:
  • 2 Tablespoons of cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of finely diced white onion
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced sage
  • 1 1/2 cups of vegetable stock
  • 3 cups of unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast
  • 3 Tablespoons of Earth Balance or other vegan butter
  • 1 1/4 cups of fine polenta meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Directions:
  1. In a heavy bottom shallow cast iron pot on medium heat, add the olive oil and onions and saute until caramelized.  Add minced sage and stir well.
  2. Add vegetable stock, almond milk, nutritional yeast, and vegan butter.  Turn to low heat and bring to a simmer.
  3. Slowly, while constantly whisking, add the dry polenta, pouring in an even stream. Continue to whisk to keep the consistency smooth, while cooking.
  4. Once the polenta has reached a fair thickness (porridge consistency) continue to keep on low heat and cook until the corn meal has softened (about 10-12 minutes).  Stir frequently and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Remove from heat and serve.
Garlicky Chanterelle Mushrooms
the Thai Chanterelle mushrooms we picked from ...
Garlicky Chanterelle Mushrooms
Ingredients:
  • 1 Tablespoon of Earth Balance, or other vegan butter
  • 1 1/2 cups of chanterelle mushrooms, loosely packed
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons of minced chives
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Directions:
  1. In a large saute pan over medium heat, melt the butter (be careful not to burn it).
  2. Add the mushrooms and garlic and saute until the mushrooms have released their liquid and the pan is almost dry (about 4 minutes).
  3. Gently stir in the chives, season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove from the heat.
All of these healthy Thanksgiving recipes are easy to make and will leave you feeling full, but not guilty.
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Should You Exercise if You’re Sick?

Image

You’ve been on a roll and have been working out consistently like a champ.  You take good care of yourself and eat well.  However, despite all of your efforts, the weather is getting colder (even here in Southern California) ushering in the cold and flu season, making it even easier for many of us to get sick.  Uh oh.  Bad news!  You’ve come down with the cold or flu.  So, for those of you who are dedicated to staying fit, what should you do?  Should you skip the treadmill or ditch the Pilates class in favor of some more sleep?  Will it be tough to get back on track if you skip a day or two?

Well, the right answer depends on what’s ailing you.  If you’ve got a cold, hitting the gym is okay as long as you feel up to it.  But, if you’ve got a fever, take it easy and get some rest.  It’s dangerous to exercise when you have a fever because you raise your body temperature internally during exercise and also lose water which can cause excessive dehydration.  And, if you already have a fever, you can get even sicker.  It’s not worth the risk.

If you just have the sniffles, go for it.  Most people who are fit and work out regularly tend to feel worse if they don’t work out, so exercising when you have a cold can increase your energy level and make you feel a bit better.  Just be sure not to overdo it.  A gentle work out can rev up your circulation and counteract that sluggish, rundown feeling.  Do what you can do and don’t push yourself beyond what feels right.  If you have a bad case of the flu and can’t get bear the thought of getting out of bed, then stay there and let your body rest.  If you have any bronchial tightness, it’s best to sit this one out.  Know your limits and don’t try to push yourself beyond those limits.  When you’re sick, take the intensity down a notch.   If you normally run, then a light jog or a brisk walk would be a good idea.  Also, regenerative or restorative exercises such as yoga and Pilates are a great idea for those days when you just don’t feel so great.  Yoga and Pilates promote blood flow to your muscles and loosen up your body, which can relieve built-up tension or stress that can come from being sick.  A brisk walk is another good idea since it gets your heart rate up and blood pumping.  Plus, if you can do it outside, the fresh air is always helpful.

Neck Check

A good way to determine your level of activity during an illness is a neck check.  If your symptoms are above the neck (sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, watery eyes), it’s fine to exercise.  But, if your symptoms are below the neck (coughing, body aches, fever, fatigue), then it’s best to wait until your symptoms subside.  A cold can last on average about seven days.  A typical flu can make you feel pretty crummy from 10 days to two weeks, without any additional complications.  While the flu that develops complications such as bronchitis or sinusitis can last around two weeks.

Cold and Flu Prevention

There’s no better way to put it; being sick sucks!  Especially if you’re a healthy person who works out regularly.  The best way to avoid getting sidelined by illness is to not get sick in the first place.  Exercise has been shown to boost your body’s natural defense against illness and infection.  Thirty minutes of exercise three to four times per week has been shown to boost immunity by raising T cell levels, which are the body’s first defense against infection.

Additional ways to avoid getting sick:

  1. Wash your hands with soap often. 
  2. Get a flu shot – one little shot could save you and your family a lot of misery
  3. Drink adequate water.
  4. Sleep, sleep, and more sleep
  5. Eat vitamin C-packed fruits and vegetables such as oranges, kiwis, pineapple, and colorful peppers which are packed with vitamin C, which helps your body produce infection-fighting antibodies.
  6. Take extra vitamin C, zinc, and echinacea supplements to boost your immune system
  7. Eat nutrient-packed whole foods and focus on good digestion as it can increase your immune system’s defenses against infection.
  8. Cut out alcohol.  Alcohol consumption dehydrates you and suppresses the immune system making you more susceptible to illness.
  9. Relax and avoid stress.
Gym Etiquette
 
If you’re up for it and going to go exercise when you are sick, make sure you don’t risk the health of others at the gym.  Use a towel on every machine and make sure that you wipe everything down when you’re done.  If you’re blowing your nose or coughing, make sure you use the hand sanitizer that many gyms offer before and after each machine.

Backup Plan

During the cold season, it’s a great idea to have a backup plan for days where it’s really cold or rainy/snowing outside, you’re feeling under the weather, or you’re just feeling less motivated but still want to be active.  I have a small arsenal of exercise DVDs in my house from the many different workouts I’ve tried over the past decade.  Some of them are great for days when I know I need to be active but don’t feel like killing myself.  Having a yoga, Pilates, or a resistance training/weight lifting DVD (I like the arms and back one from P90X) on hand is great so you don’t have to worry about shlepping to the gym when you’re feeling less motivated or sick.  You can get active and not have to leave the comfort of your own home.

 

 

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Ways to Improve Your Digestion, Get Healthy and Lose Weight

I covered reasons why digestion is so important to good health yesterday and wanted to give you ways to heal yourself and get your digestive system back on track.  Even if you are already pretty healthy and regular, these tips are great to add to your routine.  Digestion is at the core of good health and is connected to almost all of our other bodily functions.  A healthy digestive system can help you absorb the nutrients you take in through food more effectively, which in turn helps your body function more efficiently, allowing it to focus on anti-aging and fat-burning, which contributes to easier and more effective weight management and an overall better you.  A sluggish digestive system can make you sick, overweight, stinky, lethargic, and older-looking and less attractive.  A compromised digestive system leads to acne and other skin disorders as your digestive system is too backed up with sludge that toxins seep into your bloodstream and cause trouble in the rest of your body.  In the colon, undigested proteins putrefy, undigested carbohydrates ferment, and undigested fats turn rancid.  This causes toxicity. These toxins can seep through the intestinal wall and get into the blood stream, which can lead to even more health problems.  A body with a compromised digestive system is too busy trying to break down meat, dairy, preservatives, and other chemicals to focus on more regenerative activities like burning fat effectively, fighting wrinkles, building thick hair and strong nails.  Also, if your digestive system is clogged by the waste products of food that your body can’t metabolize and utilize efficiently, it starts to overproduce mucus, yeast and fungus which further impedes nutrient absorption, which causes people to not feel nourished after a meal.  When your body isn’t absorbing adequate nutrients, it tells you to keep eating even though you just ate, which then begins or perpetuates the deflating and guilt-inducing cycle of overeating and weight gain.

So, how can you get yourself back on track or improve your current digestion?  Here are some rather easy ways:

1) Chew your food…thoroughly. This is one of the easiest and least expensive ways to improve digestion, though it’s something that many of us forget to do.  We all have busy lives and many of us are lucky if we can sit down to a meal.  We wolf down food quickly to get to our next activity, meeting, or deadline.  But, if we take the time to relax and focus on chewing our food thoroughly, we make it easier for our digestive systems to do their job.  There are certain experts who say chew your food 50 times before swallowing, but that might be unrealistic.  So, here’s a tip.  Chew your food until it’s a soft paste before you swallow.  Swallowing chunks of meat and other food forces our digestive systems to work harder to break down those large chunks.  Also, food that doesn’t get digested easily in our stomachs ends up rotting in our digestive tract causing gas, bloating, and discomfort.  This also prevents the nutrients in the food from being absorbed into the bloodstream.  By chewing your food to a paste, you allow your stomach and small intestine to work efficiently.

2) Don’t drink water or other beverages with your meal. Yes, we all know we should drink a lot of water.  But, drinking water or other beverages while you eat dilutes your digestive enzymes which are integral to your digestive system breaking down food, thus slowing it down.  It’s understandable that eating makes us thirsty.  If you need to drink anything, sip, don’t gulp, room temperature water (cold water stalls digestion).

3) Cut out processed or microwaved/microwavable foods, canned foods, refined sugars, dairy products, white-flour based foods and animal products.

4) Eat more raw food and less cooked food.  Raw foods such as vegetables, fruits, and sprouted seeds are extremely rich in enzymes which are critical to the digestive process.  Cooking food over 116 degrees Fahrenheit kills all enzymes.  Thus, eating cooked or fried food increases the amount of energy your body needs to digest the food and also increases the time needed in the digestive tract to try to absorb the nutrients.  Raw foods generally will pass through the digestive tract in approximately half the time it takes for cooked food.  Incorporating more organic raw fruits and vegetables into your lifestyle will not only provide your body with more nutrients, it will also help aid in better digestion.  Aim to have at least 50% of your food be raw food.  The easiest thing to do is eat a salad (hold the cheese and creamy dressing) before you eat your meal.

5) Take digestive enzyme supplements. As we age, our bodies produce less of the enzymes they need to properly break down food.  So, on top of having a slower metabolism, you have less digestive enzymes to aid in digestion making it easier to gain weight as you age.  Digestive enzymes break down food into small particles, small enough to pass through the cell membranes lining the digestive tract and into the bloodstream.  The most important digestive enzymes are protease (which breaks down protein), amylase (which breaks down starch/carbohydrates) and lipase (which breaks down fat).  Most health-food stores sell digestive enzymes.  Just make sure that they are vegan and plant-based rather than ones that contain enzymes from bovine animals.  Choose a supplement that contains a blend of protease, amylase, and lipase.

6) Take good probiotic supplement.  Your digestive tract is a popular place.  It is home to as many as 100 trillion microbes.  Many of them are beneficial “good” bacteria that process hard-to-digest foods, produce nutrients, and guard against disease.  Studies have shown that this good bacteria may protect you not just from food-born pathogens but also from cold-causing germs. Your gut is also filled with “bad” bacteria which release toxins into your body and are associated with a range of health problems like autoimmune disorders, depression, allergies, and a host of other illnesses.  Bad bacteria feed on sugars and fats found in processed foods, while good bacteria prefer nutrients called prebiotics, which are primarily found in high-fiber foods like onions, garlic, bananas, artichokes, and many greens.   Taking probiotic supplements, which are essentially strains of the good bacteria, helps to fight the bad bacteria which restores your internal balance.  You can get probiotics in foods like yogurt, however, if you have digestive issues, you’re better off buying a supplement with billions of live active cultures (much more than you would find in yogurt) since the yogurt is an animal product and is tough for your body to digest.  The harsh environment of the stomach kills a good portion of the live cells before they can reach the intestine and benefit our health.  So, when shopping for a probiotic supplement, be sure to look for one that has a specialized delivery system which is designed to support safe transport of live cells into the intestine.  Look for a high culture count of a variety of beneficial strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifodobacterium bifidum.  Take your probiotic first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.

7) Start your day with a glass of warm/hot water with juice from half of a lemon.  This gives your digestive system a jump start by flushing out unwanted materials.  It encourages the liver to produce bile which is an acid that is integral to digestion.  The lemon juice is also extremely alkaline and helps balance your body’s pH, counteracting acidity.

8) Be aware of your food pairing.  Our bodies can properly digest only one concentrated (carbohydrates, proteins, and fat), non-water containing food at a time.  The stomach secretes different types of juices when we eat different kinds of foods.  By eating protein and starches together, you slow down your digestive system because protein requires an acidic environment to be broken down, whereas starches require a more alkaline environment.  The juices secreted by the digestive system tend to counteract and neutralize each other, thereby creating an inefficient digestive process.  How many times have you eaten a meal and felt tired after eating?  It’s because your body is having to work much harder to digest the food.  Bad food combinations can cause gassiness, bloating, and/or heartburn as well as a general slowdown of the digestive system.

So, here are some good rules to follow (I plan on going into more depth on this in another post):

  • Proteins and Starches don’t mix.
  • Vegetables are alkaline, non-concentrated foods and very simple for our bodies to digest and considered neutral.
  • Proteins mix well with vegetables.
  • Starches mix well with vegetables.
  • Mixing starches is okay.
  • Mixing different types of animal protein is not okay.  Surf and turf, eggs with ham or bacon, and having a fish appetizer with a chicken main dish are all bad combinations and can lead to digestive slowdown.
  • Fat and protein is not a good combination and should be eaten moderately.
  • Fat is okay to eat with carbohydrates.
  • Fruit should be eaten only on an empty stomach
  • Fruit mixes well with raw greens (except melons)

By, adopting these strategies, you will notice changes in your digestion pretty quickly.  Over time, you will see a marked difference in your appearance and overall energy level, as well as your immune system.

Why Digestion is So Important to Good Health and Weight Loss

diagram of a human digestive system

diagram of a human digestive system (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Warning: This post contains graphic content about the stuff that goes on in your body.  If you can’t handle the words poop and fart, please don’t read any further.   🙂

When we think of good health, we don’t often think of our digestive system first.  Good health usually brings to mind glowing skin, 6-pack abs, and an overall toned body.  However, our digestive system is at the true core of good and bad health.  Our digestive system breaks down the food that we eat, converting it to energy and nutrients for our body, and excreting the metabolic waste from our system.  Most people don’t really have a strong sense of what goes on between the time they put something in their mouth to the time they see it come out the other end.  So, here is a brief synopsis.  The human digestive system is about 30 feet long.  In a healthy person, the digestive process can take between 24 to 72 hours.  When we eat, digestion starts in the mouth when we chew our food and the food comes in contact with our saliva which contains the enzyme, amylase, which starts the digestion of starch in our food and the enzyme, lipase, which breaks down fat.  The food then travels down the esophagus into the stomach where gastric juice, which contain hydrochloric acid and pepsin, in the stomach start to break down and digest protein. While the protein digestion is occurring, peristalsis which are essentially waves of muscular contractions that move along the stomach wall mechanically mixes the slimy mess, allowing the food to further mix with the digestive enzymes.  After about an hour to two hours, the thick liquid (called chyme) is moved into the duodenum, which is part of the small intestine where it mixes with more digestive enzymes from the pancreas, liver, and intestines and then passes through the small intestine.  The small intestines are about 22.5 feet in length.  When the chyme is fully digested, it is absorbed into the blood.  95% of the absorption of nutrients happens in the small intestine.  Blood containing the absorbed nutrients is carried away from the small intestine and transported to the liver for filtering, removal of toxins, and nutrient processing.  The remainder of the food then enters into the large intestine where digestion is retained to allow fermentation which further breaks down some of the substances that remain after processing in the small intestine.   The large intestine is about 5 feet in length and is less vigorous in its absorptive activity.    The large intestine absorbs water from the chyme and stores feces until it can be eliminated through uranus (sorry, couldn’t help myself- just wanted to make sure you were still paying attention during my anatomy lesson).  Food products that cannot go through the villi of the intestine, such as dietary fiber, are mixed with other waste products and become hard and concentrated feces.  The feces is stored in the rectum for a certain period and then eliminated.

Okay, so now that I’ve bored you with my explanation of digestion, why is it so important to our health?  Well, the full process of digestion takes up about 50 to 80 percent of our total energy, which is more energy than any other specific internal bodily function.  If you feed your body foods that are more difficult to digest, such as pesticide, fungicide, herbicide, antibiotic-laden dairy products or meat, you are essentially slowing down the entire process.  Highly processed foods, preservatives, toxic additives, pollution, medication and a host of other things begin to build up as waste and sludge in our intestines.  As the sludge builds up, it slows down the digestion process so that nutrients have a tougher time being absorbed into the bloodstream and the digestion process takes up even more crucial energy than needed.  As I mentioned above, our intestines are almost 40 feet in length.  So, that can be a lot of impacted waste over the years that is just rotting and putrefying in our systems causing us to feel sick and have compromised immune systems.  The more waste, the more compromised our immune systems can be allowing our bodies to be more susceptible to illness and disease.  The more efficient and clean our digestive systems are, the more energy our bodies have to clean out toxic material and perform other functions.  When we don’t digest our food properly, that toxic sludge can amass at a much faster pace.

You’d be surprised to know how much impacted waste is in our bodies at any given time.  It’s pretty disgusting to see some of the pictures that are online of waste that has been extricated from bodies in different ways.  Feel free to have a look.  It will make you want to eat some raw vegetables or high fiber foods immediately.  Now, just to preface, I love meat and this is not a post on being vegan or vegetarian.  I am an omnivore and am not recommending anyone give up meat.  However, many studies have shown that meat is much harder to digest than plant food and continues to putrefy in the digestive system, taking about 4 to 4.5 hours to be absorbed in the intestines versus 2 to 2.5 hours for grains and vegetables.   The digestion of meat produces toxins which can accumulate in the liver, kidneys, and large intestines, destroying beneficial bacterial cultures, and degeneration of the villi in the small intestines where food is absorbed into the blood.   Furthermore, the saturated fatty acids from meat and other animal products accumulate in and around vital organs and blood vessels which can lead to cysts, tumors, and hardening of the arteries.   Casein, which is the protein in milk, cheese, and dairy products cannot be assimilated easily by the digestive system either and begins to accumulate in an undigested state in the upper intestine, putrefying, producing toxins and excess mucus, and leading to weakening of the gastric, intestinal, and pancreatic systems.  Cutting out or decreasing the amount of meat and dairy products can be hugely beneficial in starting to clean up the problem.

Colon cancer and digestive issues are on the rise due to our standard American diet that is so laden with meat, dairy, and heavily processed foods.  The processing of foods usually strips foods of many of their essential nutrients, but also strips them of crucial digestive enzymes such as lipase, amylase, and protease that naturally help the body break down fat, carbohydrates and protein.  As we age, our bodies begin to produce less and less digestive enzymes.  Combine the lower amount of digestive enzymes and eating food that has been stripped of enzymes and you have a lot of people who have compromised digestive systems which leads to constipation, bloating, cramping, gas, diarrhea, nausea, acne, iron deficiency, parasites, candida, eczema, psoriasis, and worse, colon cancer.  So, how do we know if our digestive systems are not running at 100%?  If you have any of the symptoms above, that is a sign.  Also, bad breath, heartburn, acid reflux, hard stool, light color stool, excessive weight, inability to lose weight, fatigue, chronic headaches can also be signs of poor digestive health.  Another way to tell?  How often do you have a bowel movement?  If you have one to three per day, then your digestive health is likely pretty good.  Less than once a day and combined with the symptoms listed above and you may want to think about doing something different in your daily diet.  Many people often just reach for a pill to help them cure their symptoms, as seems to be the typical American way.  We live in a society where there are a plethora of antacids and laxatives to treat whatever ailment you might have.  However, to fully clean up your system, you have to clean up your eating.   More on this in my post tomorrow.

Do you want a test of your own digestion?  If you’ve had a baby or a pet, you’ve likely noticed that they have a bowel movement shortly after each meal.  That’s called healthy “transit time” which is the time it takes for food to be consumed, digested, and then eliminated.  Transit time depends on what you eat.  But, on average, normal human transit time should be less than 24 hours, but due to poor diets with low fiber content and years of eating poorly, many people have transit times of 2-3 days or more.  If you want to conduct your own experiment at home, eat a large portion of corn on the cob or beets.  Then pay attention to your bowel movements for the next 24-48 hours.  If it takes you longer than 24 hours to see this evidence, you may want to make some changes in your diet.

Do you have some of the symptoms above?  Are you frustrated with not being able to lose weight?  Do you want to make it easier to lose that excess weight and feel better?  Do you want to know more about how to clean up your digestive system?  Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post.  I’ll give you a number of ways to clean up your digestive system…and none of them require laxatives or other medication.

How Healthy Are You? How Do You Measure Health? How Can You Use Food as Medicine?

English: A close up of a fresh raw food dish

English: A close up of a fresh raw food dish (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Monday Everyone!  I hope you had a fabulous weekend!  I read an interesting book this weekend called The Beauty Detox Solution by Kimberly Snyder which talks about how we can eat our way to better health and beauty.  The main premise of the book is how by eating more raw plant food (fruits and vegetables), we can heal ourselves and achieve greater health and beauty.  A large part of her book is spent on discussing digestion and how eating certain foods in a certain order or in combination with other foods can be bad for digestion, which in turn can be bad for our health (I’ll go into more depth later this week).  The book talks a lot about acidity and alkalinity in the body and how eating certain foods like dairy and meat can contribute to more acidity in the body, which can cause cancer and other diseases.  She also talks about how eating a more plant-based, raw diet can increase alkalinity in the body, allowing your body to get the nutrients it needs and have more time to regenerate and build healthy hair, skin, and nails.  She talks about steering clear of dairy because of all the negative effects milk, cheese, and other dairy products have on the body.  She talks a lot about digestive enzymes and how our standard American diet has killed off our ability to use the amazing natural enzymes in foods because we cook most of our food or it has been processed for us.  I agree with so much of what she said in the book, though there are certain things that might be more difficult to apply.  But, the book really got me thinking about my own diet.

I eat pretty well…okay, extremely well compared to the average American diet.  I eat almost entirely organic foods; I juice every day; I barely eat refined or processed foods; I eat gluten-free and go with gluten-free whole grains whenever I can; I steer clear of dairy; and I drink a ton of water.  However, I tend to eat a lot of cooked foods and a lot of meat and fish…and I LOVE my wine.  I’ve always been told that we need a lot of protein, especially if you lift weights, so I’ve always eaten quite a bit of protein, specifically animal protein.  Kimberly goes into depth about how the digestion of animal protein causes the body to be extremely acidic and is one of the major contributing causes to many of the inflammatory diseases our society is stricken with these days.  Well, I agree with her on much of this, but I also feel that I need some meat in my diet…both because of how active I am, but also because I like the taste.  I don’t think being a raw foodist or vegan is entirely for me, but I certainly believe I can make more changes/additions to my lifestyle to be healthier.  One of the things that I took from this book is that my diet is rather devoid of raw food, aside from what goes into my juices.  So, in taking a closer look, I’m missing quite a bit of fiber.  Her book recommends eating a salad for lunch and dinner, either as the meal or before the meal.  She talks about food pairing which I had never thought much of in the past.  The major premise is how different food groups such as vegetables and proteins require different digestive enzymes to break them down during digestion.  Eating certain things together can slow down digestion causing a traffic jam in your digestive system which can lead to putrified food sitting and rotting in your colon for days/months/years.  She goes into depth about how eating protein along with starch is a bad combination, how combining different proteins like beef and shrimp is a bad combination, and how mixing fat with proteins is not a good combination.  She says that fruits should be eaten on an empty stomach and never after a meal.  There’s a ton of very interesting information in the book that I will try to break down more in my posts this week.  Also interesting is that I am studying the raw food diet in my classes at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition this week, so I am learning more as I go.

Her book really got me thinking about health and how we measure good health versus bad health.  I’ve mentioned in previous posts that good health is not merely the absence of disease.  If you asked most people in the country if they are healthy, many of them would say yes since everyone’s definition of healthy may be a bit different.  Many of us are indeed healthy.  However, many people have just gotten used to living with allergies, constipation and other digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome, depression, poor sleep, low energy, driving us to drink coffee or energy drinks or take over-the-counter or prescription drugs to get through the day.  What does being sick really mean to people?  Colds, flus, cancer, diabetes?  When people go to the doctor and get checked out, many of them have “normal” blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and no temperature.  But, is this good health?  Is this really how we should be measuring health?  Does having normal levels mean that you are free from disease or just free for now?

I was pre-med through college and had the desire to become a doctor, but became rather jaded by the medical and healthcare system during my volunteer work.  In getting to know a number of doctors, I learned of their own frustrations with the big messed up system.  My biggest frustration with our medical system is that doctors are taught to treat issues and not prevent them.  This is not their fault, but a fault of the system.  Most medical schools only require a few hours of study on nutrition to graduate, leaving most doctors unable to really recommend anything regarding nutrition to their patients.  They often only see patients if they are sick or have certain symptoms they are worried about, so they write a prescription and send them on their way.  They take our blood pressure, temperature, and sometimes our blood.  But, when was the last time you went to the doctor and had a discussion about what you eat and what you should be eating?  How often do doctors look at our skin closely to assess its vibrance, or pinch our skin to see how hydrated we are, or look at our hair to see how limp or full it is, or our nails to see if there are ridges or deposits in them?  I would hazard to say that it’s rare.  Unfortunately, we now live in a society where most people are “sick” to some extent, whether they acknowledge it or not.  Many people have something ailing them whether it be something minor like constipation or something more major like heart disease.  When we look at the obesity statistics, more than 60 percent of our country is overweight.  That in itself is not the definition of health as many of those individuals are likely at risk for developing many diseases or already have certain diseases that they have to take medication to treat.  In addition, there are many who are not overweight, who eat poorly, and have not yet exhibited any negative symptoms or/and have just gotten used to living with certain issues.  How many of these symptoms/issues could be cleared up by what they eat?

I am amazed by and thankful for what I’ve learned about food over the years.  I love that I am still continuing to learn by reading and researching and experimenting.  The arena of nutrition is fascinating to me because we have so many “experts” who claim totally different things about food, diet, and nutrition.  Many of them develop a cult-like following of people who either have or have not read their books and follow their diets to either success or failure over time.  Either way, over the years, we have been conditioned to think of food as calories, carbs, fat, and protein rather than their healing properties.   This is because most of the foods that are so common in our diets have been cooked or processed and stripped of any nutrients or enzymes that our bodies need or can use.  We so often fall into the trap of eating what is convenient rather than eating what is good for us.  Many people think of food as just a way to take away their hunger rather than feeding their bodies the nutrients they need.  What I find truly amazing is that the right food can heal us from whatever is ailing us or prevent us from ever having any ailments.  The many different types of cells in our bodies regenerate at a different pace daily, weekly, monthly and yearly.  The cells you were born with are not necessarily the same cells you have today.  What we put in our bodies can drastically change how we feel; for the better or worse.  Smokers can reverse the damage they’ve done by quitting and eating a mostly plant-based diet.  People with high blood pressure and cholesterol can improve their diagnosis purely by eating differently.  The great thing about healthy eating is that whatever you have done wrong in the past, you can change and improve in a matter of time.  When we think of food as medicine to help regenerate our cells we realize that we don’t have to live with disease and that we can eat our way to better health.  I’ve read numerous blogs and articles about people healing themselves of cancer by eating/drinking a mostly plant-based diet.  It’s really astounding to me.  In contrast, I look at our society and most people don’t eat this way and want a pill to help take away their symptoms.

So, after my ranting and raving, I challenge you to think about your health and how it relates to the food you eat.  Do you wake up every day filled with energy and vitality or do you wake up with bags or circles under your eyes?  Do you need that cup or 3-5+ cups of coffee to get you through the day or are the nutrients that you get from your food giving you energy?  Do you feel happy and content about your life regularly or do you feel down and depressed?  Does your hair and skin glow or is it dull, limp, and fine?  How often do you poop or fart?  (yes, it doesn’t matter how old I am, I still smile when I say or write both of these words)?  All of these are markers for good health or bad health and can be changed rather quickly.  What you eat and don’t eat can drastically effect the way you look and feel and can be the difference between you getting sick from colds and flus to getting more serious diseases over time.  What changes can you make to your diet to improve your health and vitality?  Stay tuned this week for some great ways you can add certain foods to your diet that will have you feeling and looking better almost immediately.  Also, stay tuned this week as  I will be launching my new website which will have an all new look and feel.

2 Healthy Fall Vegetable Recipes – Roasted Butternut Squash Bites and Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Victoria, Battersea, London

Victoria, Battersea, London (Photo credit: Ewan-M)

Happy Friday Everyone!  A quick aside…to all of the Hurricane Sandy victims out there, our hearts go out to you and your loved ones.  You have been in my thoughts and prayers.  What a tragedy this has been.  To everyone else, there is a telethon on NBC tonight where you can call and make a donation which will go to the Red Cross relief efforts.  Also, you can make donations to relief efforts by going to the Red Cross website.  Every little bit counts.  🙂

It’s Friday and most people will have a bit of time to relax this weekend.  So, I always like to include some recipes so that anyone who feels inclined to cook healthy for themselves has a little cooking inspiration.  Both of these recipes require minimal prep time.

Here are 2 really great fall vegetable recipes that are extremely easy to make.

Roasted Butternut Squash Bites 

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tablespoons of coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 Tablespoon of cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 6 cups of peeled, cubed butternut squash (if you’ve never cut butternut squash, there are some good directions of how to cut butternut squash on YouTube.  It’s a bit of a pain, so I would recommend buying it pre-cut, if you can.  Trader Joes sells pre-cut butternut squash which makes this recipe a cinch)

Directions:

1) Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

2) Melt the coconut oil or ghee in a small bowl.  Add the cinnamon and sea salt and whisk together.

3) Pour the seasoned oil over the cubed squash and toss until all the pieces are coated with the oil mixture.

4) Spread the squash into a large glass baking dish and bake for 45 minutes to an hour.

5)  If you want to add just a bit of sweetness to this recipe, drizzle a tiny bit of agave nectar on the squash before you serve.  Enjoy!!!

Garlic Mashed Sweet Potatoes

Mashed potato and sweet potato

Mashed sweet potato (Photo credit: fritish)

 

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 yellow sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon of butter or ghee
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 Tablespoons of green onions or scallions, diced
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock

Directions:

1) Fill a large soup pot half to three-quarters of the way full with water and bring to a boil.

2) Peel and chop the sweet potatoes and add them to the boiling water.  Boil for 10-12 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are tender when poked with a fork.

3) Drain the water from the sweet potatoes and place them in a large serving bowl.

4) In a small saucepan, saute the garlic and onions in the butter/ghee over medium heat for 2-3 minutes.

5) Pour the butter mixture over the sweet potatoes in the bowl.

6) Using a potato masher or hand mixer, beat the sweet potatoes and butter until smooth.

7) Add the chicken stock to the mixture slowly until you’ve reached the desired consistency.

8) Serve and enjoy!!!

Ways to Beat the Holiday Eating Season – How Not to Gain Weight During the Holidays

English: Fall foliage in Southern California

English: Fall foliage in Southern California (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Day After Halloween Everyone!  No doubt, you did it.  Despite every effort to not eat loads of candy, you likely had a few in the office, during or after trick-or-treating, and/or this morning.  If not, good for you.  If you’re reading this with Halloween candy in your hand, put the candy down!!!!  Drop it!  Many of you are likely nursing your candy (or alcohol-related) hangovers and feeling a bit down on yourselves for your little infractions of late.  Stop it!  Hopefully you enjoyed yourself, but guilt will not undo the damage.  Having a plan to clean up your eating will.

As we enter the holiday season, we enter the eating season.  This is where the leaves are changing, the weather is getting colder and colder, people pile on the layers, and they want to eat more and work out less.  Add the holidays into the mix, and you have a full-blown excuse to pile on the pounds.  (Fortunately or unfortunately for me, I live in Southern California, where it never gets that cold and we get some warm weather in the middle of winter.  So, I don’t really have an excuse to put on any weight.  But for some reason, the colder weather always does something to me. :))  But, nevertheless, the holiday season usually means that we have excuses to eat more because of all the holiday parties and celebrations and we have to plan ahead to make sure that we don’t usher the new year in with extra pounds on our bodies.

So, what can we do now?  Come up with an eating and fitness plan that you can follow now so you can look great in your holiday dresses and suits, enjoy the food at these parties, and not worry about putting on extra weight.  So, what do you do?

1) The first thing is not to use the word “diet”.  Strike it from your vocabulary because it’s a surefire way to sabotage yourself.  Dieting during the holidays is especially challenging because of the extra treats that come along with each holiday from cookies to cakes to pies and all of the other fun stuff.  Add in the different celebrations and events that require planning and shopping and you have a whole lot of extra stress to deal with. This usually leads to people “cheating” more and feeling guilty about their cheats that they tend to lose the enjoyment and still end up gaining weight.  So, ditch that word.  It won’t do you any good.  Just focus on eating clean and healthy as much as you can.

2) My biggest tip is to choose some delicious and healthy recipes that you’re going to enjoy eating for the next few months and cook/prepare your own food as much as you can.  Treat yourself to a new cookbook or two to make cooking more fun and exciting (I’m loving Paleo Slow Cooking by Chrissy Gower, Well Fed: Paleo Recipes for People Who Love to Eat by Melissa Joulwan, and Everyday Paleo Family Cookbook by Sarah Fragoso) and schedule in some time to prepare your food.  I cook 2-3 times a week and I only dine out at restaurants 1-2 times each week.  (And when I eat out, I truly savor it and don’t hold back.  Wine?  Yes please!  Dessert?  Absolutely!!!)  How do I do this?  I make big batches of each recipe so that I can eat for days off of what I’ve made.  If you find recipes you love, you’ll eat yourself thin without missing a thing.  Then, you don’t feel guilty eating out because you’ve done so many good things throughout the week.

3) Eat what’s in season. The fall and winter seasons offer so many seasonal vegetables to incorporate into your meal plan.  Butternut squash, spaghetti squash, pumpkin, sweet potato, artichokes, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, and cabbage.  There are so many easy and quick ways to prepare these that you’ll enjoy eating your veggies AND your weight loss.  I’ll be posting a ton of great recipes in the next few days.

4) Eat those veggies first.  If you fill up on veggies before everything else, the fiber in those veggies will prevent you from eating a lot of other things.  You’ll end up eating less and still being full.

5) Try to lessen the amount of dairy you eat.  If must have cheese, then do it, but eat sparingly.  The same goes for everything else.  But, if you can cut out cheese, ice cream, and milk from your daily lifestyle, you’ll save yourself a lot of calories and inflammation.  Save your splurges for where it really counts.

6) Cut down on your sugar intake where you can.  The one thing about sugar is that it is addicting.  The more you have, the more you want.  Throw away that Halloween candy, if you can, or donate it.  If you cut down on your sugar intake right now, you’ll be able to enjoy a little of it at each of the events you have coming up.

7) Eat regularly.  If you eat every 3-4 hours and have protein at each meal, you’re much less likely to want to snack on the bad stuff.  If you’re going to a party, eat something an hour or two before you get there.  Heading to a party with a growling tummy is a surefire way of making some bad decisions.  You’re more likely to overeat and eat things that you’ll regret.  By eating a snack like an apple with almond butter prior to a party, you’ll be able to enjoy the party and not scarf down the first things you see.  Also, don’t “save up” your calories during the day by not eating.  You’ll end up screwing up your metabolism by doing this, first of all, and second, this will backfire because you’ll end up eating more in the end.

8) Chew your food thoroughly.  I tend to eat more meat during the fall and winter.  The cold makes me want to eat stews, soups, and warmer foods, which often involve meat.  So, it’s even more important to be mindful of your eating and chew each bite thoroughly.  This will help you eat less and improve your digestion.  Also, being mindful of chewing your food is important at parties since we often shove appetizers and the rest of our meals in our mouths and barely chew them so we can continue talking.

9) Move it!!!  During the fall and winter seasons, it’s darker and colder out causing many people to not want to work out as much.  This is the time where it gets easy to “fall” out of your routine.  So, to get yourself on track before it’s too late, come up with a fitness plan.  Whether it’s finding classes you enjoy at your gym, buying a new exercise DVD to get you motivated, or going for a jog in the brisk air, just coming up with an excuse-proof plan is crucial to staying healthy through the next few months.  Find a way to sweat and move each day so that you can help yourself stay on track.  Do you have any exercise DVDs you love?  If so, please comment and make suggestions.  I’m always looking for fun new things to try.

10) Try to get as much sleep as you can.  The holidays can be fun, but they can also be stressful.  You can’t store or bank sleep, but the more you get on a regular basis, the better you’ll be able to cope with the stress and the less you’ll want to eat badly.

Happy Fall Everyone!

Cardio vs. Weight training – Which one is better for weight loss?

A public demonstration of aerobic exercises

A public demonstration of aerobic exercises (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Are you trying to lose weight?  Wanna get in shape to fit into those skinny jeans or holiday dresses?  Are you going on vacation and wanting to look amazing in your bikini or swim trunks/board shorts?  Well, we all know that we need to clean up our eating and get active.  But, in the battle of cardio versus weight / strength / resistance training, which one should you be doing to maximize your weight loss?  Well, actually, both!  Sorry, trick question. :)

Whenever I walk into a gym, I always notice that there are more women on the treadmills and elliptical machines and more men in the weight area.  Why is it that you will always find more women in an aerobics class than men?  (I couldn’t help myself with the picture to the right.  It makes me giggle.)  A large part of this still stems from women thinking that they’ll burn more calories doing cardio than weights.  Or, they are worried they’ll bulk up if they lift weights (Ladies – you simply cannot bulk up unless you take steroids.  So, pick up some weights, gosh darn it!).  Men tend to primarily lift heavy weights and spend less time on cardio.  So, is cardio better for women and weights better for men?   No, but it does seem somewhat intuitive that if you want to lose fat, you do cardio and if you want to build muscle, you lift weights.  Cardio burns off calories and weight training makes you gain weight.  Right?  Well, yes and no!  I’m here to debunk some of the more common myths so you can spend your time more wisely at the gym.

Wanna lose weight?

Any type of physical activity will burn calories.  But, to lose weight, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you consume in order to lose 1 lb. of fat.  Cardio tends to burn more calories (depending on the intensity) so by doing a minimum of 30 minutes of cardio 3-5 days per week will help you get a decent start.  But, how many people run and run and run and never seem to burn off that unwanted flab or weight?  Cardio is just simply not the fastest way or only way to lose weight.  How many people run on a treadmill to see the number of calories they’ve torched?  Tons!  It’s rewarding to see that you’ve burned 500+ calories in a run.  Believe me!  I love seeing those numbers.  However, running, cycling, and other forms of aerobic exercise simply will not help you build lean muscle mass or sculpt muscles so that you are burning calories more efficiently throughout the day.  When you are done with your cardio, you may burn some calories immediately after your workout, but there is no longer lasting effect.  Strength training, on the other hand, builds lean muscle mass which simply burns more calories at rest.  Strength training, which is not as easily quantifiable from a calorie perspective as cardiovascular exercise, is a critical component to any long-term fat loss program.  The more muscle you have, the more fuel (calories) you are constantly burning.

Wanna burn fat?

If you’re just counting the calories you burn during exercise, cardiovascular exercise has a slight advantage calorie for calorie.  You burn about 10-12 calories a minute running or cycling while you burn 8-10 calories per minute lifting weights.  However, you get a nice extra metabolic spike for an hour after lifting weights because your body is working hard to help your muscles recover.  So, you actually burn an additional 25% of the calories you just scorched during your strength training session.    So, if you burned 300 calories during a workout, you actually burn about 375 calories all in.  Also, for every 3 pounds of muscle you build, you’ll burn an extra 120 calories per day by just sitting around because muscle takes more energy to sustain.  Over the course of a year, that’s about 10 pounds of fat you could be burning without even changing your diet.  Plus, if you want to look better naked and in your clothes, weight training will help you sculpt and define your muscles so you don’t look like a flabby skinny person.

I don’t want to bulk up!

weight training

weight training (Photo credit: midwestnerd)

weight training (Photo credit: midwestnerd)

Shut it down!!!  Women still are under the impression that if they lift weights, they will bulk up.  So, once and for all, here is some clarification.  Bulk isn’t muscle.  Bulk is muscle covered by fat.  So, if you have a decent amount of fat and you’re just starting to weight train, they you will likely increase in size temporarily as you gain muscle but haven’t yet burned off fat.  But, as you continue to build muscle and burn fat, you will get leaner and leaner.

Worried that you will look like one of those ridiculously tanned and “beefy” fitness models?  Don’t!  Unless you dedicate a large percentage of your life to weight training, eat the right type of nutrition and take certain supplements, you will never look like them.  I promise!  Lifting weights or doing resistance training 3 times a week will result in leaner muscle mass and a more defined and sculpted physique.

Beyond weight loss though, cardio and weight training have many other health benefits.  Here are some additional benefits:

Cardiovascular exercise:

  • Cardiovascular fitness: Regular aerobic exercise causes your lungs to process more oxygen with less effort, your heart to pump more blood with fewer beats, and the blood supply direct to your muscles to increase.  As a result, you increase your body’s overall endurance and efficiency.
  • Improved mental health: Regular aerobic exercise releases endorphins, which reduce stress, depression, and anxiety.
  • Improved immune system: People who exercise regularly tend to be less susceptible to minor viral illnesses such as cold and flu because aerobic exercise helps activate your immune system to help it fight off infection.
  • Disease reduction: Aerobic exercise contributes to weight loss which can decrease your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
  • Increased life span: Aerobic exercise has been linked to increased life spans.
  • Improved muscle health: Cardio exercise stimulates the growth of tiny blood vessels in your muscles which help your body deliver oxygen more efficiently to your muscles.  They also remove irritating metabolic waste products from them such as lactic acid.

Weight or Strength Training:

  • Higher self-confidence: Resistance training (or weight training) can play a huge role in increased self-confidence and body satisfaction as it increases strength, tones muscles, and increases muscular endurance.  Strength training also releases endorphins which make you feel great.  It has also be shown to be a great antidepressant, to help you sleep better, and to improve your overall quality of life.
  • Build more Lean body mass – Strength training makes you stronger and can get you into better overall shape.
  • Develop better body mechanics – Strength training helps you improve your balance and coordination.  Strength training can reduce your risk of falling as much as 40 percent, which is a crucial benefit when you get older.
  • Decreases the risk of osteoporosis – After puberty, both men and woman begin to lose about 1 percent of their bone and muscle strength every year.  One of the best ways to stop, prevent, and even reverse bone and muscle loss is to add strength training to your workouts.
  • Disease prevention – Strength training can help improve glucose control for those with Type 2 diabetes.  It can also be as effective as medication in decreasing arthritis pain.
  • Prevents injuries resulting from weak muscles

So, what should you be doing to lose weight?  Both.  There are many different ways to incorporate both cardio and weight training into your weekly workout schedule.  You can alternate between cardio and weights on different days, do both separately in one day or session (though you really only need to lift weights 3 times a week to see results), or lift weights and inject bursts or intervals of cardio such as jumping rope or sprinting in between sets.  There is a huge trend now with many fitness classes where they incorporate both cardio and some form of resistance training into each 50-minute or 1-hour class.  CrossFit, cardio-infused pilates (Lagree Fitness), Barry’s Boot Camp, SoulCycle, the Tracy Anderson Method are just a few of the types of classes that are becoming popular because they allow you to get both cardio and resistance training out of one workout.  The overall effect is massive calorie burn, muscle sculpting and definition, and overall weight/fat loss.  Bottom line, if you’re still just getting through a 30-minute elliptical machine workout and not touching weights or just pumping iron and not getting in cardio, you’re missing out on the combined benefits of each type of exercise.

10 Tips for a Healthier Halloween – How to Enjoy Halloween and Stay Healthy

Candy corn and candy pumpkins—one of my f...

Candy corn and candy pumpkins—one of my favorite parts of Halloween. They’re cute and yummy. I hope that others enjoy these shots as much as I do. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the best 2 months of the year, in my opinion.  Happy early Halloween everyone!  Halloween used to be one of my favorite holidays as a kid.  Figuring out what costume I was going to wear, where my friends and I were going to go trick-or-treating to yield the best and most amounts of candy, and how much candy we were going to scarf down in one sitting were some of my favorite memories of my childhood.  I am 6 years older than my sister and 8 years older than my brother and I remember putting myself in charge of checking out their candy after trick-or-treating.  We would trade candies based on preferences and somehow, I figured out how to divvy up the candy so that I would end up with the lion’s share and they would have much less.  Ah, I love the holidays!  🙂

As an adult though, the holidays can be a bit tricky when it comes to staying healthy and not allowing yourself to get derailed by the candy, treats, and fabulous holiday food.  I worked in an office setting for 13 years and remember having to play tricks on myself to avoid eating too much of the office Halloween candy.  Now that I’m a mom, I have to think about not eating the candy that I just purchased for tomorrow’s trick-or-treaters and the candy that my daughter will be bringing home.  So, I thought it would be good to put some tips together to help you get through the next few days (let’s just be honest, Halloween candy does not have to stay around for more than a few days…no, I’m not advising that you eat it all).  Halloween can be even more dangerous because most of the candy comes in those cute, bite-size, benign-looking miniatures.  One here, one there, and before you know it, you’ve scarfed down hundreds of calories worth of high fructose corn syrup. 🙂  So here are some tips and tricks to not allow Halloween to make you go “Boo Hoo”:

1) Give out apples or dental floss to trick-or-treaters.  Yeah right!!!  Unless you want your house to be egged, toilet papered (sp?), or pegged as “that house”, do NOT give out fruit or dental care products.  You don’t have to completely give up on the spirit of Halloween.  Just buy candy that you don’t like as much…you’re much less likely to eat it.

2) Buy candy that is lower in calories.  Here are a few good ones:

  • Tootsie Rolls (the little ones are only 26 calories)
  • 3 Musketeer Minis (24 calories, less than 1g fat)
  • Fun-size Lemonheads (10 Lemonheads contain 50 calories, 0g fat)
  • York Peppermint Patty (1 Full-size bar or 3 miniature patties contain 140 calories, 3  fat)
  • Tootsie Caramel Apple Pop (60 calories, 0.5 g fat)
  • Dum Dums (20 calories, 0g fat)
  • Hershey’s Kisses (3 kisses contain 67 calories, 4 g fat)
  • Tootsie Rolls (1 original roll contains 26 calories, 0.5 g fat)
  • Peanut M&Ms (1 Fun Size pouch contains 90 calories, 5 g fat)
  • Skittles (1 Fun Size pouch contains 60 calories)
  • Charms Blow Pops (60 calories, 0g fat)

Worst  candies:

  • Butterfinger Minis (45 calories, 2g fat, 4.5g sugar) – have a few of these and you’ve just downed a whole bar.  Oops!
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Minis (44 calories, 2.6g fat) – Ditto
  • Snickers Minis (43 calories, 2 g fat) Yum… I mean, yikes!
  • Baby Ruth Fun Size Bar (83 calories, 4 g fat, 10 g sugar)
  • Mounds Fun Size Bar (92 calories, 5g fat, 8.8g sugar)
  • Twix Fun Size Bars (80 calories, 4g fat, 8g sugar)
  • Starburst Fruit Chews (8 pieces contain 160 calories, 3.5 grams fat, 23 g sugar) – Each piece contains 20 calories and it’s tough for most to just have one
  • Twizzlers (4 pieces/ropes contain 150 calories, 1g fat, 21 g sugar)

3) If you are going to go for the candy bowl, opt for the hard candy.  It takes you longer to eat and you will likely not have as much.  3 Jolly Ranchers contain 70 calories, 0g fat, and 11 g sugar.  They are a lower calorie treat that will do less harm than many of the chocolates.

4) Buy healthier versions of candy.  Whole Foods has some great organic candy made by Yummy Earth.  They have lollipops, hard candies, jelly beans, sour worms, and gummy bears that are certified organic, gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, contain no high fructose corn syrup or artificial colors or flavors, and are made with real fruit extras.  These are a great alternative if you want to avoid eating the bad stuff but want something sweet.  I keep these in my pantry for treats for my daughter and plan on replacing most of her candy with many of these. 🙂

5) If you’re going to indulge a bit, go to the gym twice or put in a really intense workout with some extra cardio.  Burn some extra calories to make up for the candy you will likely ingest.

6) Don’t “bank” your calories.  Make sure you start your day off right with a good breakfast with plenty of protein.  If you eat protein at every meal and go for the whole grains, you’re a lot less likely to overeat when the treats are in front of you.

7) Eat dinner before you go trick-or-treating.  You’ll eat less of the candy while you’re walking or when you get back.

8) Keep your candy out of sight.  Wait to open those bags of candy until the trick-or-treaters arrive.  It’s much harder to resist if it’s in front of you.

9) Drink lots of water. If you are well hydrated, you’re much less likely to want to grab a treat.

10) Donate your extra candy to a shelter or dentist’s cash-back program, send to military troops, or bring the rest to your workplace.  There’s no need to keep it around you.

Happy Halloween Everyone!!!