Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On! – Turbo Cardio Day 3

PainWhen the world says, “Give up,”
Hope whispers, “Try it one more time.” ~ Author Unknown

The past two days of workouts have been quite challenging. Damn change-ups; I’m used to 4-8 repetitions at a time, not every other move. I’d like to set up an old laptop with a webcam to record my workouts. This way I can see my form (insert joke…now!). While I take the exercise and nutritional part of this program seriously, I won’t fool myself into believing I’ll look anything like Chalene Johnson after 90 days of Turbo Fire. I’m a strawberry blonde, after all, with a few more years under my belt!

Don’t worry, you’ll see my video soon. I took a photo prior to starting this intensive cardio plan but will not be posting it until after I complete the full 90 day workout. At that time, I’ll post the “before” and “after” photos. It seems that’s what most people do. Side by side, I can examine the results of my efforts, provided I’m still standing by then.

As far as meals go, I haven’t really changed them in the past few days except for dinner. The other day I made a large turkey for dinner, froze most of it for future meals (soups, warm salads, low-fat casseroles) and that’s what I made last night. I served the turkey over rice with a little gravy for my family with some stuffing and vegetables while I ate it plain with just vegetables.  Tonight it was flank steak. 

Fitness Pal (2)

The “Fitness Pal” gives you an idea of the type of entries I’ve been making daily.

What a huge change from the previous Sculpt and Tone video I used for weeks. They don’t even compare. I have to have a new mindset and new moves for this type of workout. Thankfully, I’m practicing now before I begin my official 90-day program on Monday. BABY STEPS….’cause I can’t keep up…yet.

In the meantime, here are some healthy snacks ideas to help satisfy and energize during the day. Choose to stick with snacks that are about 100 to 200 calories with 15 to 30 grams of carbohydrates. Try these healthy options.

Salty Snacks
Kale Chips1. Cheesy kale chips Tear kale leaves into large pieces and arrange on a baking sheet. Spritz with olive oil and bake in a 350°F oven until crisp. While still
warm, sprinkle with a little grated Parmesan cheese.

2. Tamari-seasoned rice crackers A salt lover’s best choice for scooping up low-fat tuna salad or another healthy dip; punch them up with a squeeze of chili sauce. (Read the label to make sure you stick to one serving of crackers.)

3. Mediterranean artichoke hearts Drain canned artichoke hearts and sprinkle
with lemon zest, capers, chopped fresh basil, and olive oil.

Pumpkin Seeds4. Five-spice pumpkin seeds
 Toss salted pumpkin seeds with sesame oil and Chinese five-spice powder; bake at 350°F until crisp.

5. Buffalo popcorn
 Toss air-popped popcorn with olive oil, chili powder, and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

6. Spicy wheat pretzels
 Whole wheat pretzels (which boast 4 grams of fiber
compared with 1 gram in the regular kind) become irresistible when slathered
with spicy mustard (only 5 calories per teaspoon). Add a couple of low-fat
cheese cubes to make this snack extra filling.

Crunchy Snacks
Chickpea Poppers7. Chickpea poppers Drain and rinse canned chickpeas, then dry them with a paper towel. Spritz with extra-virgin olive oil, season with dried oregano and garlic alt, and roast at 400°F until crisp.

8. Veggie chips with tangy yogurt Dunk root veggie chips (such as Terra chips) nto plain low-fat yogurt seasoned with hot sauce and orange zest.

9. Cheesy dip Dunk sugar snap peas into 1/4 cup fat-free ricotta cheese.

10. Easy salsa Chop up tomatoes, cucumber, bell peppers, beans, and onions in a
mini food processor, then scoop on melba toast.

11. Tangy pear boats Fill endive spears with chopped pears and season with a
dash of balsamic vinegar. Add 12 almonds for extra crunch and some heart-healthy
unsaturated fat.

12. Veggie yogurt dip Combine finely chopped broccoli, multicolored bell
peppers, and scallions with fat-free Greek yogurt and onion flakes. Use it as a
dip for baby carrots.

Sweet Snacks
Cottage Cheese Fruit13. Fruity cottage cheese Fold chopped ripe nectarines into low-fat cottage heese, and spoon onto a couple of gingersnaps. (Read the label to make sure you tick to a single serving of gingersnaps.)

14. Chocolaty pears Minimalist, yet amazingly delicious: Sprinkle cocoa nibs on canned pears.

15. Sweet yogurt dip Stir a little diet maple syrup or agave nectar into fat-free Greek yogurt, and dunk slices of apples or pears.

Fruit Kebabs16. Fruit kebabs. Spear the sweetest fruits—strawberries, mango, grapes, and pineapple – with bamboo skewers.

17. “Banana cream pie” Spread graham crackers with vanilla fat-free Greek  yogurt, then top with a handful of banana slices and a sprinkle of ground flaxseed. (Read the label to make sure you stick to one serving of graham crackers.)

18. Grapefruit brûlée Transform a simple grapefruit into something decadent: Halve it; drizzle each half with a little dark honey (use concentrated sweets sparingly), and broil until bubbly.

Creamy Snacks
Mashed sweet potatoes19. Easy mashed sweet potato Microwave a small sweet potato, split it open, and mash a little OJ and cinnamon into it. Eat it right out of the jacket.

20. White bean dip Mash canned white beans with olive oil and chopped fresh rosemary. Pile onto radicchio or lettuce leaves.

21. Creamy pita Spread baba ghanoush, crushed avocado, or hummus on a whole wheat pita or whole wheat English muffin.

Scrambled Eggs22. Soft-scrambled egg It’s the most sublimely simple protein-packed treat.

23. Spicy potatoes Baby red potatoes become blissfully soft when you microwave them for 3 to 5 minutes (leave the skin on for its nutrients). Sprinkle with pepper and dried seasonings. Add a pat of Greek yogurt for a healthy sour cream replacement.

24. Italian antipasto Raid the supermarket antipasto bar for some lusciously creamy slow-roasted red peppers. Pat the oil off with a paper towel, and eat with a mini bocconcini or two. Delizioso!

(Thank you Readers Digest and Thinkstock for the wonderful snack tips and photos!)

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Beat the Holiday Bulge!

Holiday weight It seems to happen every holiday season.

You attend parties and office gatherings to share a few festive moments with family, friends, colleagues and lots and lots of food. But when the holiday season is finally over, the bathroom scale reveals that you’ve gained some weight again, much to your chagrin.

Research studies show most adults gain some weight over the holidays. But don’t despair because this year can be different.holiday fat (2)

“I recommend to my patients that they just try to keep their current weight, as opposed to focusing on losing weight,” says Julia Renee Zumpano, RD, LD, registered dietitian, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation. “Even though it’s hard to resist temptations all around you, there are simple steps you can take that can keep the extra holiday pounds off.”

How can you try to maintain your weight and heart-health during such a tempting time? Thanks to the Cleveland Clinic, these guidelines will help you survive the holiday hoop-la – this season and in the future ones to come.  

1. Get moving

One of the most effective ways to maintain or lose body weight is to engage in regular, sustained aerobic activity (*).To burn off those extra calories, kick up your exercise. If you exercise for 30 minutes a day, increase it to 45 minutes. If you exercise three times a week, move it up to five times a week.

Exercise is a great way to burn those extra calories you may be taking in this time of year (remember those iced reindeer cookies you had with lunch?). Here are some ideas to get you moving:

  • If you have a stationery bicycle or treadmill at home, dust it off and put it in front of the television or radio for some background entertainment while you’re exercising. Why not watch your favorite television show and exercise at the same time?
  • Go to the library and get a book on tape or CD, listen to it and read (so-to-speak) as you exercise.
  • Haven’t used your gym-pass in awhile? Hire a personal trainer to teach you effective calorie-burning techniques, or join that kick boxing class you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Go for a morning or evening walk alone or with a friend.
  • Put a little kick in your cleaning technique. Fire up some music and dance while you clean. Who ever knew cleaning could be so fun?
  • Have bad knees or other joints? Don’t worry – water aerobics or swimming is your answer! The water prevents your weight bearing down on the joints and is an effective way to burn calories.

(*) If you haven’t exercised in at least 6-months, check with your doctor first before starting.

2. Aim for seven-a-day healthy holiday food (2)

Making sure you eat seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day is a great way to help fill-up your stomach but not your calorie level. When compared to other snack foods like chips, crackers and cookies, gram for gram, fruits and vegetables contain fewer calories and tons more nutrients. What’s more – the fiber in fruits and vegetables fill you up faster than traditional snack foods. Pack your refrigerator with bags of cut-up vegetables and whole or cut-up fruits. Grab a bag while on the go or at work. Make a pact with yourself that you’ll eat your five-a-day before you snack on any cookies or other holiday treats. You’re sure to take in fewer calories overall.

3. Control the risk for temptation

Controlling even the slightest chance of coming in contact with ‘tempting’ foods is one way to effectively reduce your intake. While you won’t be able to control all situations, focus on the many ones you can. For example, do you keep candy or cookies at your desk or workspace? Do you frequent the dining room table or pantry where you store all your holiday goodies? Make a mental note of tempting places and try to control them. For example, make a pact with co-workers that goodies will be kept solely in the break room, not at the front desk or in various offices. Mentally plan out how you will avoid tempting situations. If you can’t avoid them entirely, see number 4.

4. Limit to one-a-day

While you can’t control every situation, you can control how much food goes into your mouth. If you are constantly bombarded with holiday parties and displays of desserts or candies you can still effectively help prevent overeating and weight gain. One way is the one-a-day method. Allow yourself one small serving of a cookie or piece of candy each day during the holiday season. Remember that you may have to compensate for it later in the day by reducing your total caloric intake or by burning a few extra calories while exercising. If you aren’t confronted with holiday foods that day, just skip your one-a-day – but don’t compensate and double-up on your serving the next day.

5. Always plan ahead – Never go to a party hungry

Before you go to a holiday party, eat a healthy snack such as a serving of your favorite fruit, fat-free yogurt or a low-fat, whole grain granola bar. When you arrive at the party, you won’t be craving hors d’oeuvres.

“If you’re going to a potluck dinner, bring a healthy dish to share such as a salad, veggie or fruit tray, or a low-fat pudding, Jell-O or fruit dessert,” says Zumpano. “That way, you’ll know you have at least one healthy item on the table spread.”

6. Be in charge of your party choices:

  • Small plate, please
    Be wise when choosing appetizers – a small portion of some appetizers may help you from overeating at dinner.
    “Pick up a small plate, and stick with vegetables, but limit or avoid the creamy dips,” advises Zumpano. “Restrict your intake of butter crackers, chips, cheese and meats. If you must have a deep-fried appetizer, eat only one small serving. Never go back for seconds. For dinner, fill half of your plate with salad and vegetables, one quarter with meat, and the final quarter with starch,” Zumpano says.
  • Avoid the sauce
    Avoid sauces made from cream, half-and-half or meat drippings. For salads, use oil and vinegar, vinaigrette or low-fat dressings. Broth -based or vegetable sauces are fine.
  • What about desserts?
    The best low-calorie choices are fruit, Jell-O, pudding, an unfrosted mini muffin, shortbread cookies, ginger snaps or angel food cake. If you must have a dessert with frosting, butter cream, cream cheese, or chocolate chips, limit yourself to one small cookie or one thin slice of cake.
  • Watch the drinks
    “Besides restricting your alcohol to one or two servings, you also need to restrict the type of alcohol,” says Zumpano. “For example, instead of high-fat eggnog, have a light beer or wine. After that, stick with calorie-free drinks such as water, unsweetened ice tea, hot tea or coffee.”

7. Say No Politely

Many times you feel forced to eat foods because people keep putting it in front of you. Learn to say no politely, such as “No thank you, I’ve had enough. Everything was delicious”, or “I couldn’t eat another bite. Everything tasted wonderful”. You’ll find saying no isn’t so hard to do after all.

8. Focus on socializing

Don’t stand around the food table when you are at a party – focus your energies on making conversation with others instead of focusing on foods. Conversation is calorie-free.

*9. Take a healthy snack with you while shopping

If you spend a lot of time shopping, away from home, you’re sure to encounter hunger pangs during the day.  Bring a water bottle and healthy snacks with you while you shop such as walnuts, almonds, dried sugar-free fruit, veggie sticks, etc.  With something to nibble on while shopping, you might find it easier to avoid fast-food temptations at the food courts or elsewhere.

*my own personal recommendation!  Helps me pass by my two mall  favorites…Starbucks and Cinnabon!

holiday bulge (2)Remember, the holidays are meant to celebrate good times with family and friends. Enjoy the holidays and plan effective strategies to help you achieve your weight loss goals. Achieving what you sought out for will give you one more good reason for holiday cheer! Happy Holidays!

Courtesy: Cleveland Clinic 2009

Gluten Free – Not Really For Me

I concluded my three week experiment with a gluten-free food plan this past weekend.  Although my intentions were admirable and motivation commendable, this program did not meet my expectations.  The purpose of selecting a gluten-free diet was twofold: to eliminate some irregularities in my digestive system and to lose weight.  While I was able to lose a few pounds within the three weeks, there was no significant change to my sporadic abdominal discomfort.  The discomfort wasn’t painful, only occasionally bothersome.

 The plan was not an entire disappointment however.  Some of the enjoyable parts of this trial were investigating cooking with different foods, learning to eat only at certain times utilizing healthy snacks in-between meals and realizing what my physical thresholds are.  Alternately I discovered that gluten-free products are expensive and not always tasty (sweet).  If indeed I was tested and diagnosed with celiac disease, I would search out health food stores or online sites to purchase gluten-free products at a lower cost than what the average supermarket charges.  I would also learn how to bake gluten-free desserts to satisfy my sweet tooth, which I did not do during this project.  Fortunately, that won’t be necessary at this stage and I applaud those who are afflicted with this ailment and may have to go through a lot of trouble planning meals they can enjoy. 

 With the knowledge I learned about a gluten-free lifestyle, I have a better understanding of how certain foods interact with the body, what to avoid and what I can indulge a little in.  Some of the new foods I tried and enjoyed were quinoa, avocados and soba noodles. 

It was suggested by two family members to try either the Forks over Knives or Paleo diets.  The Forks Over Knives diet is a whole-food plant-based plan with restrictions of animal-based and processed foods.  Yikes, no meat?  I’m not sure about that one.  I’ve always been a “meat and potatoes” type of gal and not sure I can switch to becoming somewhat of a vegetarian.

According to thepaleodiet.com website, on the Paleo diet, you are permitted “fresh meats (preferably grass-produced or free-ranging beef, pork, lamb, poultry, and game meat, if you can get it), fish, seafood, fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and healthful oils (olive, coconut, avocado, macadamia, walnut and flaxseed). Dairy products, cereal grains, legumes, refined sugars and processed foods were not part of our ancestral menu.”  Hooray, I can eat meat on this plan…oh, but no sugars? 

Well, since I’m into researching food plans, I’m off to the library for some books on both and checking out a few of the top-rated websites that boast these two diets.  I also plan to investigate opposing views to these plans.  I’m not sure which plan, if either, I’ll choose for my next experiment but no doubt it will be fun to move on to something new.  In the meantime, I’ll try and stick with avoiding fattening foods and sweets which will be challenging; Halloween is next week and I don’t give out apples!

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” ~ W. C. Fields

What Not to Eat After a Workout

Here I am on Day 5 of my Gluten-Free meal plan.  Aside from going through bread-withdrawal, I imagine I’m doing okay overall.  Weigh-in is on Monday morning and even with the exercise, I don’t feel much has changed.  However, I’m hopeful that if I keep it up, something is bound to make a difference, one way or another.

I came across an interesting article today about what NOT to eat after a workout.  That thought never really crossed my mind.  After reading what Dina Aronson, RD had to say on Ivillage.com about this topic, I thought I’d summarize her findings.  Too bad my workouts aren’t strenuous enough to break a sweat; at least not for the time being.  Maybe I’m not pushing myself enough.  I’ll add a few extra reps or minutes with the jump rope tomorrow.  For now, here are a few pointers:

Foods to Avoid after a Workout

High-Sugar Energy Bars.  They may cause a spike in blood sugar.  Try low-fat yogurt with fruit instead.

Raw vegetables.  They aren’t substantial enough to help your muscles recover, keep your metabolism active or maintain energy levels.  If you want to snack on them, eat with hummus or yogurt dip.

Cheese is usually processed and high in saturated fat.  An alternative would be cheese-flavored soy chips.

Soda and fruit drinks.  Need I say more; may as well drink battery acid.  Sugar spikes blood levels and artificial sweeteners trick the body into craving more sugar.  Try iced herbal tea or water with fresh lemon or lime for a refreshing drink.

Salty snacks disrupt the body’s water/salt balance.  Low-sodium baked chips would be a better substitute.

Bread.  Here we go.  I didn’t even want to mention it.  I’m such a bread addict, it kills me not to be able to have it.  Bread has starch that quickly turns to sugar.  Choose a nutrient packed whole grain tortilla or bread slice with a little nut butter and a few banana slices instead.  Gluten-free choices are also available from health food stores.

Pizza.  Again, similar to bread dough, pizza has too much saturated fat and salt, not to mention white flour with little nutrition.  Try half a whole grain English muffin or pita with some sautéed veggies and a sprinkle of low-sodium cheese.  I’ll pass on gluten-free brands because they’re packed with additives and sugar as well as being expensive.

Candy or Chocolate.  We all know candy elevates blood sugar levels after a workout.  If you crave chocolate, have a piece of dark chocolate or a glass of skim chocolate milk (regular or almond).

Cereal.  Again, some contain too much sugar.  Substitute 1/4 cup low-sugar granola with fruit and nuts; no-sugar-added trail mix with 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk; or a 1/2 serving of unsweetened plain cereal, like shredded wheat or Grape Nuts.  I’ll skip all together for now.

Doughnuts and Pastries.  I know, but these were also on the list of foods to avoid, like we wouldn’t know that!  They’re high in saturated fat and sugar.  Try whole-wheat toast and peanut butter instead.

Pancakes.  Old fashioned ones sure taste great but between the white flour and typical toppings of syrup, butter and powdered sugar, fuggetaboutit!  Go for whole- grain, oatmeal or buckwheat pancakes toppings like bananas, blueberries, and strawberries, or toast a whole-grain frozen waffle served with nut butter and a few banana slices.  Again, there are gluten-free varieties but one needs to be careful for an overload of additives.

Fried eggs.  Anything fried contains too much saturated fat.  Try boiled eggs (I keep several hard boiled on hand in my fridge regularly) or an egg-white omelet with a few chopped veggies (sans butter) instead.

French fries.  Sounds counterproductive to exercise and then have French fries.  But they are a weakness of mine.  Thinking “grease” will make you change your mind.  Half a baked white or sweet potato with a tiny scoop of black beans and salsa would be a better choice.

Smoothies.   I love smoothies, especially after working out.  However, you’ll need to replace juice with skim or low-fat milk, regular or almond, some frozen berries or ½ banana with a small handful of walnuts, cashews, almonds or unsalted pistachios.  Blend well.

Bacon & Other Processed Meats.  These can be linked with the other foods high in salt and saturated fat. Try a fresh turkey or chicken wrap either in lettuce leaves or in a whole grain pita with tomatoes and a little seasoning.  Stay away from cold cuts or processed meat though.

After putting all the effort into maximizing a workout session, the last thing you would want to do is replace all the calories you just burned with unhealthy food.  Although it didn’t sound like I had many options, most of the above foods are readily available in my refrigerator and pantry.  I spent almost $20 more on my grocery bill last week from purchasing specific gluten-free products which seem to be extremely overpriced. 

Sixteen days remain.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed.  Now, if I could only have just one OREO cookie!