Is it okay to hate Quinoa….and chia??

Is quinoa better than brown rice?
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Is quinoa better than brown rice?

Is quinoa better than brown rice?

Is it me or is every other popular blog post recipe about something made out of chia or quinoa? Luckily, I like both… well, quinoa more than chia since I’m allergic to the latter. Still, what if you have never tried either OR if you have and don’t like them? is it even necessary to force yourself to try these so-called super foods? Well, let’s figure out why they’re super, shall we? Foods with that label typically have a higher concentration of antioxidants than on other foods in their category (fruit, vegetable, grain).

Take quinoa for example; can’t you just stick to brown rice and get the same benefits? Well, first: congrats on making the switch from useless, diabetes instigating white rice to it’s browner sister.  Off the top of my head I know that brown rice is high in fiber but this handy infographic from the Prevention.com blog spells out why quinoa wins the competition.  Hint: quinoa has more protein , fiber, and folate per cup than the same amount of brown rice.

Verdict: give quinoa a try. You might not like its nutty flavor as a newbie but you can start by mixing it with your brown rice or buying it that way. You can also cook it in low sodium chicken stock to add more flavor if you like.

The chia seed is not only high in antioxidants but this little Mayan powerhouse is also high in protein, fiber and omega 3 fatty acids. Wait, didn’t we JUST fall in love with flax seeds for the same reasons? well, chia has higher amounts of the aforementioned nutrients than flax does AND you can eat the seeds whole ( flaxseeds need to be ground up in order to be absorbed). People that like chia usually sprinkle it on other healthy foods or mix it into liquids to make chia pudding as the seeds turn gelatinous when wet.

Basically, the ideas is that chia seeds can make a healthy meal even healthier by boosting its nutrient content but here is the catch I  found: There IS so much as too much of a good thing when it comes to the fat soluble vitamins  (chia has 15 IUs of Vitamin A), allergy potential ( I got a bad rash) and tummy troubles ( chia with a side of bloating, anyone?).  In short, try it sparingly first before throwing yourself wholeheartedly into it. Actually, this is a good rule of thumb for most “fad” foods!

Final Verdict: as our world gets smaller (AND bigger) new foods that make eating more interesting and beneficial will come and go. Your goal is to enjoy your meals while getting the most out of them nutritionally. Foods like quinoa and chia can boost your nutrient level quicker than their more traditional counterparts so explore your options.

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Class Wars: the fight for exclusivity in modern gym culture.

How the gym industry is fighting for exclusivity.
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How the gym industry is fighting for exclusivity.

How the gym industry is fighting for exclusivity.

A lay-person  waltzing into a gym class,  has no idea of the back room  wars being waged to earn their attendance. Think the world of fitness is only about making people feel better?  think again! There is a bucket of money being made from each euphoric sweat session and some of the industry’s biggest players are getting ferocious in making sure their golden buckets stay full. But is it worth if the end result is that fitness becomes less inclusive for both staff and member? Let’s see what is at stake. History Joseph Pilates (1883- 1967) : Joe Pilates was first in line to popularize a specific method of fitness in NYC during the early 1900s through the 1960s.  After Pilates and his wife opened their studio, the Contrology method became beloved by dancers and therefore exclusive in its limited access. Once wealthy NYC socialites learned about its benefits, the exclusivity factor rose and they flocked to Pilates for help. The current recognition of the Pilates name is based not just on the effectiveness of his core-centric method but also on his efforts to  preserve his method via instructor training many years ago. Jack Lalanne (1914-2011)A fitness story cannot be told without first mentioning the “GodFather of Fitness” . Back in his heyday, Jack was one of the first proponents of good nutrition and exercise as well as one of the 1st gym owners in the mid 1930s. Although his target market was female, he was also well-respected by men in the body building sphere and so his gyms were egalitarian. It would seem that Jack was more interested in educating and helping the masses to turn their lives around through healthy lifestyle choices as he did. Lotte Berk (1913-2003)Lotte Berk was a contemporary of Lalanne’s and like Joe Pilates, developed her own dance based, core focused method of exercise that shared her name. Berk licensed her method and a Lotte Berk studio opened in NY’s Upper East Side in 1970. The studio closed its doors in 2005 after competition increased namely by CoreFusion, Berk based method and studio opened after an epic “falling out” between Berk and former Lotte Berk students, Fred DeVito and Elizabeth Halfpapp. Fast forward to present day, 11 years in the future since CoreFusion & Exhale Spas began their sprawl, and we now have over 400 different types of boutique gyms in the NY area alone.

Present

Specific methodologies abound among cycling, interval training, dance based classes, and body/sports conditioning just to name a few! To some, this is the simple nature of fitness: an ever evolving beast built upon the imperfections of all who came before it. To others, especially those with the most dollars invested, this rise in competition is a call to batten down the hatches and protect what is theirs. This begs the question: what is “theirs” really? Doesn’t fitness belong to everyone and is it possible to harness its inherently volatile nature of change? That question becomes even more interesting when you consider that all modern fitness styles are derivative of the ones that preceded them or other modes of movement (dance). The human body does have a finite ability for movement and improvement, after all. So if you can’t control the public’s rampant need for change in fitness, their obvious need for a sense of  community or make them bionic through their workouts then what can you change? Well, you can (try to) control  access and your “people”  meaning your public and your staff…maybe. At the time of this post, SoulCycle, Equinox Gyms (SoulCycle’s owner), FlyWheel, and Barry’s Boot Camp have been the leaders in exclusivity marketing. Each cater to the same class of clients:  mostly white, well-heeled, well-connected, energetic and affluent – in short, the type that can afford and have come to expect access.  Since each offers complementary approaches to similar modalities,  it would seem that there would be room for all in the current market. Not all would agree, as the fight to retain the client and mystique of “specialness”  has heated up with this recent exchange proves. It has also become normal practice to expect reciprocal devotion from the instructors that these members are devoted to via non compete clauses.

So, is the answer to keep creating extremely specific workouts that target the fit and affluent few or to become more accessible to everyone else? Well, it depends on the end marketing goal. Community marketing by definition allows expansion and inclusion for all who see themselves reflected in said community. Built on a sense of belonging, it encourages loyalty from all included even through changes. Cults, however, are hyper-focused communities built on the premise that no one is special outside of that community and so emphasize exclusion of the “unspecial”. The danger in cult marketing is not that it happens, this is business after all and it does yield dollars. No, the real danger in cult marketing is its limitations for growth because, well,  if you continue to tell others they aren’t worthy and that you have all of the answers they will resent you.

Lastly, although client retention is the gold standard in the fitness club business so is client conversion, staff satisfaction and the rarely mentioned: word of mouth referral marketing. As such and in a predominantly service based industry like exercise delivery, public perception trumps current client perception. Why? because fitness is both aspirational and inspirational. The potential client becomes the real client based on their current socio-economic identity AND who they want to become; they want a tribe they are proud of and  can refer their loved ones to. In short: they want to belong and feel good about it. Change is inevitable especially now that pristine environments, skilled and beautiful staff, and the buzz of specialness are par for the course in fitness. Since the rate of change is becoming faster and more unpredictable it might be smarter for gyms to go back to the root of the thing, the effectiveness and feeling that fitness inspires. Aren’t those the 2 things that every member and  potential member chases?

Making people feel capable can be far more valuable in the long term than fleeting exclusivity. Love it or hate it, one brand that has done this well is CrossFit whose credo seems to be “yeah, but can you do it?”. CrossFit itself is a perfect example of an amalgamation of training with an open door policy AND cult marketing genius. There is a groundswell coming and I think it will be back to the basics of the overall fitness consumer very soon. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel” ` Maya Angelou

References

  1. NYObserver.com  “Lotte Berk in last stretch; http://observer.com/2005/04/lotte-berk-in-last-stretch/; 2005
  2. WellandGoodNyc.com ” SoulCycle bans fitness instructors from its classes”; http://www.wellandgoodnyc.com/2014/05/02/soulcycle-bans-fitness-instructors-from-its-cycling-classes/; 2014

How does Yolanda Sangweni stay healthy? (Interview)

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ImageLast week’s launch of New York African Restaurant Week yielded more than great food, sounds and smiles. It also allowed me to sit down and chat with Yolanda Sangweni, Senior Entertainment Editor for the Essence Magazine and Owner/Editor in Chief of  the online magazine AfriPOP!. Yolanda is every bit of fiercely fabulous in person as she is in the photo but one of the first things I noticed was how kindly calm she was while being patient with her time. After all, she was MCing the launch of  NYARW  and was  undoubtedly being pulled in many directions. When she mentioned being on day 2 of a 3 day juice cleanse I was even more impressed by her serenity as I’m not one to do well with food deprivation. Since we were surrounded by deliciously savory African food, I wondered how she was faring with so much temptation around her. Her cheerful  answer of “fine” led me to investigate further (clearly she was as super as her outfit suggested!)

SG:  So how long have you been a fan of juicing?

YS: The last 2 years, I started with a 3 day cleanse and have been doing them since then.

SG: I have tried juice cleanses but can only last 2-3 days?

YS: Yah, 3 days is my ideal too.

SG: So what do you do to stay healthy?

YS: I walk a LOT with the MapMyWalk app but want be more active.  As far as diet goes, I try to stick to a mostly raw diet, about 70% raw along with occasional juicing &  I make a drink made of ginger beer with anise and boiled lemon.

SG: Just make sure you drink a lot of water with all that raw food to prevent stomach upset! Have you had any struggle with nutrition?

YS: Well, I am just so busy that I find that the busier I get the worse I eat and I will just eat whatever is available!

SG: You’re not alone! Thats one of the number one complaint I hear from busy working women!

So there  you have it: Yolanda is just like all of us which clearly makes her even cooler, no?

The apple cider vinegar craze: is it for you?

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An apple a day keeps the Dr. away!

An apple a day keeps the Dr. away!

Let’s just admit it: we are a nation of wellness gluttons who will binge on any new trend that we think will make us “perfect” in a jiffy. Knowing thyself is important so let’s just get that out of the way, shall we? Take Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV to those in the know), for example: it has been touted as the holy nectar of all things healthy for a hot minute now: wash your floors, wash your face, wash your HAIR with it!  DRINK IT! It solves world peace!! (okay, I added that last one). Is this is all meaningless blog content, marketing ploy or does the stuff work? Personally, I like to know the why’s before I jump on bandwagons so let’s break  it down.

First things first: as with most natural remedies, the claims made about what ACV abilities don’t match the amount of viable research  available. In short, a lot of these health claims don’t have the support of science BUT our grandparents and their parents can’t all be wrong and science sometimes has to catch up; After all, research IS expensive.

Acetic Acid: the magical ingredient

All vinegars contain acetic acid (when ethanol is fermented by acetic acid baceria, acetic acid is born; Wikipedia it!) . You will hear the term “Mother of Vinegar” used and that just refers to the bacterial culture used to spawn the vinegar.   ACV has a high amount of acetic acid (usually 5%) which makes it too strong to use on your skin or to ingest if undiluted. However, the theory is that adding diluted acetic acid to your gut will lower blood pressure and improve the absorption of certain minerals while slowing the digestion of carbohydrates and thus preventing spikes in blood sugar. There is also the premise  that adding an acid that is weaker than gut acid to your system increases the alkalinity of your blood.  Three things are important to note here:

  1. The blood pressure lowering effects was found to be true in rats but hasn’t been tried in humans yet.
  2. The hydrochloric acid (HCL) you already have in your gut is powerful and usually does a fine job of helping you absorb the minerals from your food by breaking down the proteins they are attached to. Does ACV overpower the enzymes that cause you to quickly break down carbs in the gut? the jury is still out. BUT:  you DO start to make less HCL with age (and with stress);  people with chronic or stress related digestive issues might have impaired gut function overall. Some alternative practitioners contend that low HCL can lead to  anemia and an overgrowth of yeast in the gut which can then lead to skin and dental issues (eczema, dermatitis, gum disease, thrush etc) 
  3. A balanced, healthy diet low in simple carbohydrates won’t cause spikes in blood sugar OR lower blood pH like a junk food diet that relies on refined carbs (think white flour, quick oats, white rice) will; common sense says to NOT eat a meal that will spike your blood sugar rapidly. BUT: people with prediabetes (insulin resistance), diabetes or a family history of diabetes have abnormal insulin levels so their blood sugar levels need additional help. A diet high in simple carbohydrates can ALSO lead to candida aka. yeast overgrowth. WARNINGBe careful with ALL natural remedies if you’re already taking medications since there might be interactions. Chat with your Dr. about what you intend to do and the meds you’re on.

Apples, Apples a wonderful fruit

As the name implies,  ACV is made from fresh apple juice that includes all parts of the apple i.e the seeds, stems etc; this concoction is called the apple must. Why should you know this? well, since conventionally grown apples  have high pesticide levels, it’s worth it to buy organic, unfiltered (the cloudy kind) ACV since all parts of the apple are used to make it. So guess what’s in apples and vegetation that grows from the earth? phyto-chemicals, that’s what! Your body loves phyto-chemicals because they act as natural antioxidants that protect your cells from rapid deterioration.

So there you have it! Sure, apple cider vinegar as a nontoxic house cleaner is a no brainer because of its acidic action and minimal ingredients. Heck, it’s even been shown to serve as an excellent pet friendly pest repellent ( spray it on your pesky neighbor to make sure). Should you ingest it daily some have suggested? maybe if you fall into any of the categories mentioned that have trouble with low HCL, insulin and/or skin issues. The good news is: ACV IS nontoxic so if you want to try it and see what happens then it likely won’t harm you (again, be careful if you’re on meds). Just don’t rely on it indefinitely (take breaks here and there if you decide to pursue it as a remedy). Balance in life is key!

 

 

References

  1.  ” Antihypertensive Effects of Acetic Acid and Vinegar…”, Kondo et al (Pubmed.gov); 2001
  2. “What the Research Really Says about Apple Cider Vinegar” Dr. Mercola (Mercola.com); 2009
  3. “Apple Cider Vinegar”, Cathy Wong ND (About.com/Altmedicine)
  4. “Phytochemicals”, American Cancer Society (cancer.org);
  5. A Review of Mineral Absorption…”, Dr. James Gerber MD (IntegrativePractitioner.com)

How to stay fit when injured

What to do when your body is hurt.
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What to do when your body is hurt.

What to do when your body is hurt.

Sedentary living is one of the biggest culprits for unwanted weight gain and declining fitness levels, aside from overeating and related lifestyle issues. What causes you unexpected sedentary behavior? well, injuries and  surgeries are a couple of things that can do it. Even formerly fit people complain that the weeks spent recovering from injury or surgery is often catastrophic to their waistlines. Here are some strategies to minimize the damage.

 Planned Surgery or sudden Injury

It is best to begin improving your fitness level before the date of your planned surgery. If your limbs are functional and you’re mobile, focus on building/keeping your lean muscle with more resistance training. That way, you can use the first week to two weeks of your healing period as planned rest without too much muscle loss. If your injury is sudden, then focus on the functioning muscles and joints surrounding your injury. For example, if your ankle or knee has been injured you can do seated leg lifts using just your boot or cast as weight. Aim for a couple sets of 10 repetitions and work up from there.

Low impact activities like swimming and Pilates  are good choices for folks with injured joints and biking indoors or outdoors is a good cardio option for injured knees. Biking strengthens the small muscles surrounding the knees without much of the shock associated with running. Use both the recumbent and upright bike and aim for a moderate mount of knee flexion and resistance.

Mental Health Check: Being in chronic pain is debilitating regardless of the reason and feeling like your body is malfunctioning only makes it worse. Sure, depression might seep in and that is natural, don’t despair. Try refocusing on what your body CAN do now.

Focus on your food choices

Since you will be less mobile while you heal, it is smart to take control of you eating habits at this time. Aim to eat mostly wholesome foods found in nature instead of snack foods and be aware of portion sizes. As your body tries to comfort itself it might want to turn to food. Understandable but dangerous. Depending on your injury, boost your fitness with short walks or bike rides, yoga, Pilates and swimming – activities which have been proven to boost both fitness AND mood.

14 Ideas for your #Change1Thing Checklist

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Sometimes the smallest tweaks yield the biggest results which is what the Change1Thing Campaign is all about. Instead of doing  major overhaul on your body and life, it is probably more manageable to take small steps towards your goal. As innocent as that sounds, it can be overwhelming so enter moi with this handy list for you to try out.

  1. Add sprints to your running routine
  2. Take your run outside
  3. Change the weights in your lifting routine
  4. Try a new class
  5. Try a sport you’ve never tried before
  6. Walk more than you drive & take the stairs more than the elevator.
  7. Train for a race (5K run/walk or obstacle race, anyone?)
  8. Eat one salad per day for either lunch or dinner
  9. Drink at least 24 oz of water each day
  10. Have a bigger breakfast and a smaller dinner
  11. Bring your own lunch
  12. Cook most meals yourself
  13. Quit your soda and chips habit!
  14. Get more sleep during the week

Do these 3 things to look tighter by May

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Stay lean with StaceytheFabulous

Stay lean with StaceytheFabulous

They say Winter is ending. Not sure if I believe ’em but for positivity’s sake  let’s just say it is. That means your extremities will be making their big reveal in the next few weeks (yes, warm states, we know you’ve been sunbathing for ages)! For many of us,  Winter means heavier, more satisfying foods and hiding out at home more. In short, Winter can mean bigger backsides from less physical activity unless you take up Winter sports and train for something. Yada, yada, yada: what do we do about it and quickly? First, stop whining, we got ourselves here and 2nd:

Reduce/limit starchy foods. The grainy goodness that you pile your comfort foods on be they whole or refined (refined =  mass processed goods. No bueno) are giving you a belly. I know, I know, whole grains and beans ARE good for you but that big pot/or many sandwiches you feed on all day likely means you’re getting more than your share of starches. Replace some daily starchy meals with non-starchy vegetables and lean protein. You will not only look leaner but feel healthier with a balanced blood sugar level too. The American Diabetes Association has a handy list which I have excerpted at the end of this post.

Lift (heavier) weights.  Ladies, just how long do you intend to use those 5 lb dumb-bells?? Hello, your body has already adapted and is bored (also see below). Bored = no changes. As you age, lean muscle becomes your goldmine for looking fit and sleek. Build yours by adding 1-2 (then eventually 2-3)days of lifting moderately heavy weights ( moderately heavy means the 2nd of 3 sets of exercises is a challenge). Been using 5s? try 7s and 8s? been using 7s and 8s? try 10s and 12s and so on. The compliments you get will tell you how much your metabolism appreciates the boost.

Change up your routine. Kudos for exercising in the first place, by the way, it’s not easy for everyone. Still, your tried and true routine probably needs some tweaking if you have been doing it for awhile. First, change up your workout schedule then add more and less intense workouts throughout. If you’re over 30, you might have realized 2 days per week doesn’t really do as much as it used to and I’ve long since realized that this body needs a minimum of 4 to make and maintain changes. Personally, I find that a good barre class in between all the cycling and lifting I do really helps to lean me out AND as mentioned above, playing with my weight and intensity load does the trick. Find what you like it: forms of dance, zumba, swimming etc and add it to your regular routine.

Combine all 3 of these elements together now and you have a winning formula for looking Fabulously Healthy by Memorial Day, if not earlier. Get cracking and see you at the beach 🙂 

The following is a list of common non-starchy vegetables (ref. http://www.diabetes.org)

Amaranth or Chinese spinach

Artichoke

Artichoke hearts

Asparagus

Baby corn

Bamboo shoots

Beans (green, wax, Italian)

Bean sprouts

Beets

Brussels sprouts

Broccoli

Cabbage (green, bok choy, Chinese)

Carrots

Cauliflower

Celery

Chayote

Coleslaw (packaged, no dressing)

Cucumber

Daikon

Eggplant

Greens (collard, kale, mustard, turnip)

Hearts of palm

Jicama

Kohlrabi

Leeks

Mushrooms

Okra

Onions

Pea pods

Peppers

Radishes

Rutabaga

Salad greens (chicory, endive, escarole, lettuce, romaine, spinach, arugula, radicchio, watercress)

Sprouts

Squash (cushaw, summer, crookneck, spaghetti, zucchini)

Sugar snap peas

Swiss chard

Tomato

Turnips

Water chestnuts

Yard-long beans –

 

3 Types of Fats that will get you glowing by Spring

Fat is good for you!
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Fat is good for you!

Fat is good for you!

Ever heard the saying: eat more fat to lose more fat? Yes, hopefully you have heard by now that a diet too low in fat can lead to overeating because you don’t feel full without fat. A diet too low in fat can also mean that your skin and hair don’t have that healthy glow you wish it had. I’m vain and like to eat far too much to not have plenty of healthy fats in my diet. Key word : healthy!

The Science

Fats help you absorb vitamins A, D, E and K; that’s why salad dressing was invented ( make your own or stick to oil and vinegar).  Antioxidant rich healthy fats are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated ones which provide omega 3s that support the body, brain, skin cell structure AND fight inflammation. Unsaturated fats are good in general because they lower cholesterol levels due to their structure: MUFAS have at least one double carbon bond  and PUFAS have more than one double carbon bond. Plus, ever notice how  when you cook certain meaty dishes there is a “skin” of fat on top? Yeah,  that is saturated fat and imagine globs of that in your arteries or clogging up your pores. Unsaturated fats don’t harden at room temperature and have less calories. * Some saturated fat is good for healthy cells but we’re talking minimal amounts. Not to mention, saturated fat is basically found in meat and animal by-products. At this point, we can’t dispute the science that a diet with too much meat and not enough vegetable is no bueno for long term health.

What to eat

MUFAs are found in avocados, nuts and seeds, olives and vegetable derived oils.

PUFAs are found in fish, seafood and vegetable derived oils.

Healthy sources of saturated fats are peanuts, coconut, palm oils and low fat dairy. 

If you read my blog then you know I advocate choosing real foods over fake  every time. That includes real fats over low fat versions of food too. My reasoning is that I stay satiated longer when I have the real thing than I do when I don’t which keeps me from over eating.  so no, I don’t believe in low fat as proven by my pantry filled with coconut and olive oil  and my snack of almonds, flaxseeds and walnuts. My advice? Use your vegetable oil sometimes but use the oils above liberally WITHIN A HEALTHY DIET and your skin and health will thank  you.

Check out the handy chart below from the University of Michigan’s website.

Selected Sources of MUFA with Serving Sizes
(Listed highest to lowest MUFA content)

Oils
(serving size:

1 tsp)

Nuts
(serving size)

Seeds
(serving size)

Butters (serving size)

Other 
(serving size)

Olive oil
Canola oil
Peanut oil
Sesame oil
Walnut oil
Soybean oil
Flaxseed oil
Grape seed oil
Mustard oil

Macadamias
(2-3)
Hazelnuts (5)
Pecans
(5 halves)
Almonds (7)
Cashews (6)
Pistachios (17)
Brazil nuts (2)
Peanuts (9)
Pine nuts (50)
Walnuts
(4 halves)

Sesame seeds
(1 Tbsp)
Pumpkin seeds
(47 seeds)
Ground flaxseed
(1 Tbsp)
Sunflower seeds
(3 Tbsp)

Almond butter
(½ Tbsp)
Cashew butter
(½ Tbsp)
Peanut butter
(½ Tbsp)
Tahini/sesame paste (2 tsp)
Sunflower seed butter
(2 tsp)

Avocado
(2 Tbsp or 1 oz)
Black olives (8)
Green olives (10)

Selected Plant Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids 
(listed highest to lowest omega-3 content)

Oils
(serving size : 1 teaspoon)

Nuts and seeds
(serving size)

Flaxseed oil*

Flaxseeds (1 Tbsp)

Walnut oil

Walnuts (4 halves)

Canola oil

Pecans (5 halves)

Soybean oil

Pine nuts (50)

*Should be consumed raw and not used in cooking

5 Tricks to afford healthy living

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Stay healthy by working out and eating well.

Stay healthy by working out and eating well.

There seems to be a general consensus that a healthy  lifestyle is expensive. Sure, it can be since fresh produce seems to cost more than packaged foods and gym memberships can also be pricey. But what if I told you that it is less expensive than you think if you choose more selectively? Here are some tricks I use to afford being healthy and yes, I know that the opinion of  childless person might not be applicable to everyone and every situation but some might be.

  1. Reform your expense perspective: Gas is expensive (well, by U.S. standards), cable is expensive, your Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts habit is expensive, dining out adds up in more ways than one,  as does going out for drinks regularly or that 2 wine bottles per week to calm your nerves tendency. For me, at least half of those things can be done without or reduced to increase cash flow for other things. For example: I make my own coffee drink so that I can afford organic chicken and I don’t have cable so I can afford life ( cable is expensive!!)
  2. Be more active in your daily life so that the gym is just a bonus: Take more stairs, park farther away, bike, walk your kids to school, make after dinner walks and interactive video games a family time staple. Don’t just rely on getting to the gym to get moving. The local YMCA or recreation centers also have great rates if you want an indoor workout and there are often adult sporting leagues nearby. At the very least, find a couple of DVDs to get an at home workout.
  3. Avoid recipes provided by manufacturers: You’ve seen recipes on the side of containers like Pillsbury crescent rolls and even Velveeta cheese right? Understand that they simply want you to buy and use their products and could care less if they’re good for you. Avoid those products all together and opt for your grandma’s version ( minus the huge amounts of lard etc). Want dinner rolls? then try this recipe or this one;  they’re probably healthier store version AND you can substitute the types of flours you like. I’m not advocating you overindulging in sweets and baked goods (easiest way to pile on the pounds, folks) but I’d rather have you making your own cookies the old fashioned way than from pre-made dough.
  4. Plan ahead for weekly meals and make large batches to eat and freeze: Casseroles, stews and soups, slow cookers and one pot meals are your friends. Think about the flavors you want to taste and build up your “go-to” recipe list. Structure your plate to include protein (beans, fish or meats) , complex carbs (grains and vegetables), and heathy fats (avocados, olive, coconut, grape-seed oils). *Skip cured deli meats like hams etc and buy a rotisserie chicken for quick meals on the go. Personally, I really like knowing where my food comes from so I make 98% of my own meals knowing that I will have leftovers for days.
  5. For most fresh veggies, buy enough for the week and choose frozen for the rest. How many times have you had to toss veggies that went bad before you got to use them? Buy just enough for the meals you plan to make that week and FYI: to get the best vitamin benefit,  try not to chop them up until right before cooking. Canned veggies is the low man on the totem pole of vegetables because they (a)  use tons of salt to preserve them and (b) all of the nutrients can fade over time. If you do hav eto buy them then stick to canned beans.
  6. Learn to fuel yourself proactively instead of eating reactively: Eating for fuel and not just because you’re hungry can make  a huge difference on your energy levels, waistline and pocket book. When you’ve waited too long to eat, then the meal you eventually choose is one that is calorie heavy because your body is ravenous. Piling in so many calories at one time can cause weight gain because your body only processes so many at once and stores the rest for later. Don’t wait for that moment when you just can’t pass up that expensive take out and instead, have a decent sized breakfast and lunch with a couple snacks throughout the day. Fruit is a perfect snack because it comes pre-packaged so I toss some into my carry-all along with a boiled egg or 2 if I know it will be a long day. Oh and for those of who argue that takeout is cheap where you live: consider the one plate you buy probably costs 1/3 to make and has 2x the calories than if you made it yourself.

Want to age well and live longer? Practice these 3 exercises

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Long story short, there are only 3 real reasons why you exercise ( yes, you can add to the list): 

  1. To live longer and minimize health risks
  2. To look better to yourself
  3. To feel better in your skin

Your progress towards all three will be fairly evident but how do you know if you’re really minimizing health risks with all that jumping, sweating and stretching? Instead of launching an avalanche of advice I thought it would be more helpful if we thought about  exercise as a preventative tool. We all agree that exercise can lower blood pressure, help your heart and keep your brain lively, right?  Well, here are 3 specific fitness markers that you can work on that prove your ticker and brain will stand the test of time. 

The One Mile Walking Test

Purpose: To determine heart health over the long term.

Do it because the average pace for a  30-39 year old woman to walk a mile is in the 14:37-15:36 minute range and that a 40-49 year old woman should be able to do the same in the 15:07-16:06  range. 30-39 year old men should be able to walk a mile in 13:31-14:12  minutes while 40-49 year old men should complete theirs in the 14:01-14:42 range. Don’t worry: SparkPeople has a whole chart of all age ranges and acceptable paces. 

Practice:  Set your watch to see how long it takes you to walk a mile and then improve from there. Take weekly walks with friends and family and set a game of friendly competition. 

The 1 Minute Pushup Test

Purpose: To test your upper body endurance and muscle strength.

Do it because being strong enough to push your own body weight can come in handy in daily living. The ACSM chart below shows the numbers you should aim for. 

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Practice: This could be another fun activity to do with your loved ones. Who can do more pushups? set a goal and work towards completing more push ups every 2 weeks. 

 

Flexibility

Purpose: To preserve the range of motion around your joints and help make daily movements easier. 

Do it because nothing makes you feel older than creaky, old bones and ligaments. You don’t have to be a Yogi (unless you want to) but you can prevent many injuries and lessen those feelings of physical age with flexibility training. The authors at HumanKinectics have written a great post highlighting the factors of flexibility to focus on. 

Practice: Light stretching in the morning and stretching after exercise. Caution, stretching should not hurt so be careful and start slowly.