Monthly Archives: August 2013

Lunch Inspiration

IMG_1020Diced mushrooms, lentils, avocado, and mixed greens with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Get creative with your meals. Adding a variety of fruits and vegetables to your diet, finding flavor combinations you like, and even making your food look pretty will making eating healthy more enjoyable and easier to sustain over the long term.

 

Plant Power

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“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” -Michael Pollan, food writer and professor at U.C. Berkeley

As rates of obesity and diet-related disease continue to escalate across the West, health institutions, as well as individuals, are beginning to realize, frankly, that the Western diet is killing us. This realization has spurred the popularization of a plant-based diet, which eschews consumption of processed foods and animal products in favor of whole, plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

The payoffs of adhering to a whole-foods, plant-based diet include:

  • Decreased environmental effects such as methane emissions (a greenhouse gas), consumption of natural resources such as water, pollution of rivers and streams, animal cruelty, and the use of antibiotics and growth hormones.
  • Decreased environmental effects, as well as transportation costs, by eating local and supporting the farmer’s market.
  • Prevention, and even reversal, of diet-related diseases including heart disease (currently the #1 killer in the United States), cancer, and diabetes.

Eating a plant-based diet does not necessarily mean the same thing as being a vegetarian or vegan, although most people who follow a plant-based diet consequently eat little-to-no animal products. Someone may call themselves vegetarian or vegan because they do not eat meat or eggs, but they may consume other foods with negative health effects such as oreos, white bread, chips, etc. This is why the emphasis specifically on unprocessed, plant-based, whole foods is important.

Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds supplies the body with an array of crucial vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants (which boast anti-aging and anti-cancer properties), fiber, and lean protein. These natural properties of plant foods help control weight, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, improve sensitivity to insulin, decrease inflammation, improve energy level, mood, and cognitive function, and slow aging– the benefits are innumerable.

Tips to get started:

  • Transition to a plant-based diet gradually, by first making 1 day a week completely vegetarian. This is the idea behind the “Meatless Monday” campaign that has recently been gaining popularity. Slowly increase from 1 day to 2, 3, and 4 days a week.
  • Each time you go grocery shopping explore new fruits, vegetables, types of whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds to replace meals that previously involved animal products. If you are not sure how to prepare certain types of foods, research them to learn healthy recipes. Knowing how to cook is the most vital tool towards staying committed to a healthy diet.
  • If a plant based diet at first tastes bland, season your food healthfully with herbs and spices, lemon/lime juice, balsamic vinegar, etc.
  • Protein is often over-glorified in the American diet and over-consuming it actually has negative effects on the body. Eating a variety of whole foods provides more than an adequate supply of this macronutrient.

5 changes to make today to get lighter, leaner, and healthier

The biggest obstacles people face when trying to make positive changes in their lives are first, being honest with themselves and admitting that there is a change that needs to be made and second, taking action towards reaching a better place. If you are like many Americans, being honest with yourself would reveal that there are probably some things that you could be doing differently, in terms of overall lifestyle, if you want to live a long and healthy life.

This can be a difficult reality to come to terms with, especially when you feel lost about how to go about improving your health habits. Despite what you may think, there are several baby steps and gradual changes you can make that over time will dramatically change how you look and feel for the better. You are in control and I want you to see how much power you actually hold in your hand!

Here are 5 easy changes that you can make TODAY towards a lighter, leaner, and healthier you:

Sip on water throughout the day, you should be drinking more than 1 or 2 of these! Aim for 3-4, more if you are very active

Sip on water throughout the day, you should be drinking more than 1 or 2 of these! Aim for 3-4, more if you are very active (and you should be!)

(1) DO THE BASICS– These are the things you probably know you should be doing, but aren’t- and they are very important. There are no shortcuts and it is a simply a fact that not making these behaviors a priority will at some point, affect the quality of your life. Take responsibility for your health and JUST DO IT- no excuses.

  • Always keep a water bottle with you and drink out of it all day.
  • Get 30-60 minutes of moderate to intense exercise EVERY DAY. Walk, run, bike, swim, elliptical, play a sport. Lifting weights 2x a week is also very important, for both women and men, especially as you age and your body composition begins to change. Don’t use exercise as an excuse to gorge yourself later- it’s easy to overdo it and end up taking in way more calories than you burned. Focus on healthy choices.

(2) **EAT FRUITS AND VEGETABLES **– There should never IMG_0967be a day that you go without eating both a fruit and a vegetable. This is the most important lifestyle change you can make. Often times when people want to lose weight they focus on all the foods they “can’t” eat, or should be eating less of. Instead, focus on all the delicious foods you CAN eat, like fruits and vegetables. Aim to make half of your plate fruits and veggies at every meal! A great website for recipes, meal planning, what’s in season, and general nutrition information is http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/

(3) DETOX YOUR PANTRY– Don’t buy processed, sugary, or fatty foods! Get serious about this. Making this change immediately decreases the temptation to make poor choices. Stock your refrigerator with fresh, frozen, canned, and dried fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and beans.

(4) ELIMINATE LIQUID CALORIES– Fruit juice (even 100% juice), soda, lattes and coffees with special syrups or lots of creamer won’t fill you up- just out. Water should be your main beverage. Eating whole fruits and vegetables provides fiber and even some protein, not present in juice, that will keep you satisfied for longer. Drink tea and coffee plain or with a small amount of skim milk or cinnamon for flavor. Consider swapping out calorie and fat-laden salad dressings for balsamic vinaigrette, fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, or simply some diced strawberries or fresh blueberries for extra flavor.

IMG_0965(5) CUT OUT SUGAR and cheese– Consider how many sources of sugar there may be in your diet right now. Limit yourself to one treat a week and keep the portions small. Instead of flavored yogurts, try plain varieties and add your own fresh fruit or nuts for flavor. Cutting out cheese completely is not necessary, but it really offers little-to-no nutritional value in exchange for its high saturated fat and calorie content. If you take it out of your omelet, off your sandwich and off pasta a couple times a week, and go light with cheese on homemade pizzas, your body will thank you.

Commit to your health and surround yourself with others who also value living a healthy lifestyle to increase your success. Believe you can and start today. :  )

Buy a Better Bar

If you have the time, it’s always better to eat real food than something out of a package, but IMG_0937unfortunately everyone is busy and we do not always have that luxury. When you are in a pinch, here are my favorite, virtually-unprocessed energy bars.

** Lara bars– There are several flavors and varieties. My favorites are the original Lara bars (mostly dates/nuts) and the Uber Lara bars (sweet& salty fruit and nut combinations). All are very pure, made from a range of dried fruits and nuts. I hope you like dates because that is one of their staple ingredients! There is also ALT, which is more of a protein bar but still made from fruits and nuts. Visit the Lara bar website here.

** KIND bars– Kind bars are similar to Lara bars, but I would describe them as being more nut -based, whereas the Lara bars are more fruit-based. Here is the website for you to check out yourself.

How to choose a healthy packaged snack:   Read the label!

  • Look for products with as few ingredients as possible
  • Avoid high fructose corn syrup and added sugars, which may appear on the ingredient list as: agave nectar, cane sugar/crystals, evaporated cane juice, glucose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, molasses, malt syrup, sucrose, or honey. Many bars may include these ingredients, which is okay in moderation, but consumers are just not aware when reading the label- now you know what you’re getting when you check the ingredient list!
  • Aim for at least 3 grams of protein and fiber to help keep you fuller for longer. An exception would be if you are about to workout, in which case you would want to limit protein and fiber because they can be more difficult to digest. Instead, choose energy bars that are more carbohydrate-dense for quick energy. An example of a source of quick energy from carbohydrate would be dried fruit.
  • Keep sugar under 18 g- closer to 18g pre-workout, but lower if you are simply grabbing a bar as a snack to get you through the afternoon. Added sugar provides excess calories, without any nutritional benefits, and has been linked to obesity and heart disease. Limit intake, and favor real fruit, both fresh and dried, for something sweet.
  • 100-200 calories
  • No saturated or trans fats
  • Ingredients are listed by weight, so ingredients listed first are present in the highest amount

FUEL: Poached Halibut with Kiwi Salsa

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I was absentmindedly flipping through some OLD magazines my mom found lying around the house last weekend when I came across this exceptional & runner-approved dish. Not only does it take a mere 20 minutes to prepare, it is high-on nutrition and offers a unique meal to try for those of us who tire of eating the same foods day-in and day-out. So, thank you Running Times from March 2011!

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Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 can vegetable broth
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 6 oz filet of pacific halibut
  • 2 kiwi
  • 1 jalapeno
  • juice from 1 lime
  • cilantro

Directions: Combine vegetable broth, lemon juice, thyme, and pepper in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Next, turn off the heat and place the halibut filet skin-side down in the saucepan. Keep covered and let stand for 10 minutes. Once it is cooked, the skin should easily fall away from the fish. For the salsa, dice the kiwi, jalapeno, and cilantro. Mix in a small bowl and squeeze lime juice over mixture. Plate halibut on a bed of spinach and top with salsa. Quick and easy- and you just learned how to poach something! :   )

Nutritional notes: Halibut has a negligible amount of saturated fat, while packing in omega-3s, protein, potassium, selenium, and vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 aids in immune and nervous system function, as well as protein metabolism! This fish is a great choice for those who are wary of seafood because of it’s mild flavor and meaty texture.