Ready or not…

Ready or not…September’s here. That means, for many of us, it’s back to school/back to work/back to chaos, right? As an early morning trainer and an Occupational Therapist in the public school system, I’m very familiar with early morning chaos, and how the best of intentions to pack a healthy breakfast and lunch can somehow disintegrate in the midst of hitting the snooze button a few too many times, making the coffee (a must!), and trying to make myself look presentable. But I also know that making the right choices for breakfast and packing a healthy lunch goes a LONG way toward staying healthy and fit, and not having to buy new work clothes! So, I’m sharing with you a few of my “go-to’s” for eating well and still getting out the door on time:

  1. Brown rice cakes topped with peanut or almond butter and a side of fruit.
  2. Plain Greek yogurt with walnuts and berries.
  3. Whole wheat toast topped with avocado or peanut butter and a sliced banana.
  4. Oatmeal (a sit down option, but quick to prep), with walnuts, cinnamon and fresh or frozen fruit.
  5. I also recently found this recipe on Pinterest, and love it! Perfect for those of us who love muffins (but don’t want all that sugar), easy to grab and go, and the kids will love them too: http://www.alagraham.com/2013/02/individual-baked-oatmeal-cups.html?m=1
  6. And lastly, I bring to you my new favorite from a good friend who also happens to be an excellent cook and appreciates the early morning struggle. Overnight oats are a great way to get in whole grains and fresh fruit, and this recipe will keep you full all morning…and it’s beyond yummy!

Basic Overnight Recipe

1/3 cup rolled oats

1/3 cup Milk of your choice (I use So Delicious Coconut milk)

1/3 cup plain yogurt *

(I use So Delicious Coconut Milk Yogurt or

Greek would be great too-adds protein)

1/2 tbsp chia seeds

Pinch cinnamon

Vanilla extract (optional)

I also add Sun Warrior Vanilla Protein powder (keeps me full and adds protein)

* the yogurt can be eliminated but you will need more milk then

Directions:

 

Mix all ingredients in a container and leave in fridge “overnight”

It is literally that easy!!!

Can be left in fridge for up to 3 days

Variations:

 

To add more flavor and yumminess to your breakfast many variations can be added to the basic recipe, here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Berry-Simply top the basic recipe with your favorite berries or any fruit of choice
  2. Pina Colada- A spoon shredded coconut and chopped fresh pineapple (or canned)
  3. Carrot Cake– Shredded fresh carrots, chopped walnuts, and maple syrup (could also add raisins)
  4. Peanut Butter Cup-Add chocolate protein powder instead & spoon of peanut or almond butter
  5. Almond Joy – Add a spoon of shredded Coconut to #4
  6. Pumpkin Pie– substitute 1/3 cup organic canned pumpkin for yogurt and add nutmeg, cinnamon, chopped almonds or walnuts
  7. Kheer –( indian rice pudding)- cardamom, nutmeg, chopped almonds and raisins (optional) –one of my faves!!!

So many options just let your imagination run wild!!

So there’s a few ideas to get your started as the school/work year begins. Remember, “abs are made in the kitchen”, and fast food breakfasts are the fastest way to a sluggish morning and bigger waistline.

Wishing you all a wonderful return to school/work, and happy and healthy Labor Day and a beautiful fall.

Event Training

I was recently convinced by two very good friends to do a 40 mile charity ride around NYC – the 5Boro Bike Tour. I’ve been wanting to start biking for years, and charity events are a passion of mine. Plus, I’m always looking to visit one of my very best friends in NY…so, this seemed like a great idea all around. When I committed to the ride in January, May 3rd seemed so far away, and I thought I had plenty of time to train. Then came the infamous 2015 Boston Winter.

Now, I’m sort of an anxious person, so by March, I started thinking I should get moving (keep in mind, I didn’t yet own a bike). While I was waiting for my bike to come in after I ordered it, and waiting even longer for the 7 foot snow mounds to melt in my neighborhood, I spent time riding a stationary bike indoors, picked up my running a bit, and concentrated on a well rounded leg and core strengthening routine. All important for building muscular endurance needed for a long ride…especially one with hills. Once the snow did melt, my friend and I started doing longer weekend rides around Boston, and I found time most weeks to do one shorter ride around my neighborhood that included hills.

The weekend of the ride came, and though a bit nervous, I felt ready (enough). We couldn’t have asked for a better day, and the ride was amazing! It turned out to be an incredible way to see the city, and I’m so grateful to my friends for convincing me to sign up for the event. The ride, and our weekend rides leading up to the event, gave us lots of opportunities to catch up on our lives outside of our usual happy hour or dinner dates. It got me training my body in a whole new way, and I do feel stronger because of it. In fact, now I can almost keep up with my husband on bike rides, and I’m enjoying Spring in a whole new way this year. So, I’m encouraging you to go out there and sign up for a charity run/walk/ride/triathelon. Enlisting the help of a trainer prior to an event is never a bad idea, but here are a few tips for your next endurance event:

  • Get a good pair of shoes. You’re going to be racking up a lot of miles, so get fitted properly or even consider getting your gait assessed.
  • Increase the distance you run or bike by no more than 10% each week.
  • Include workouts focused on increasing speed also to alternate on the days you increase distance.
  • Cross train…with other forms of cardio and definitely with strength training.
  • Don’t forget your flexibility. Stretch more than you’re used to, or try that new yoga studio you’ve heard about.
  • For short events, there’s probably no need to change your diet too much. “Carb loading” is certainly not necessary, but do seek out a Nutritionist who specializes in sports nutrition for any particularly long or challenging event.
  • Eat enough and drink enough water for the days leading up to your event.

I hope you all find time to challenge yourself this Spring and Summer with a new event or workout routine. Once you start training for an event, you’ll find motivation and enjoyment in exercise again, and you’ll really appreciate how amazing it is to see your goal through. Signing up is the first step…what are you waiting for??

Throwback Thursday!

Happy “Throwback Thursday” readers! Instead of embarrassing pictures from my youth (wayyy too many to choose from), I’m celebrating this week with a special workout, because I was just remembering how working out used to be fun. Owing in part to the fact that we didn’t call it working out as kids, and also because being outside makes everything better. I’m encouraging all my readers to have fun with your workouts today. Get outside, soak up the sun, and work up a sweat without boredom. Here are a few “workouts” from your past worth revisiting:

  1. Jump rope for 5 minutes
  2. Hula hoop for 10
  3. Jump on a trampoline for 15
  4. Create an obstacle course in the backyard with the kids. Make sure it involves climbing under something, jumping over objects and at least one sprint. Run through three obstacle courses as fast as you can, aiming to beat your time each round.
  5. Hopscotch. It’s pretty awesome, still.
  6. Dust off your bike, grab your partner or a friend, and head out for a bike ride right after work.
  7. Or, try this “Throwback Thursday Circuit” when you bring the kids to the nearby park:

Jump rope or jumping jacks – 100 jumps

Monkey bars – Swing across 2x

Suspended pull ups (holding swing)- 12x

Walking planks – 20x

Crab walk – 20x

Hanging knee tucks, from monkey bars or a sturdy tree branch – 15x

Rope/ladder climb – 3x

Swings! 5 minutes…or much longer. Have fun!

Repeat 2-3x…and don’t forget to stretch at the end 🙂

I’m so sure you’ll enjoy the many benefits of exercising outside once you get started. Feel free to share some of your “throwback Thursday” exercises…

Happy Trails

 photo (3)

My husband and I recently returned from a fun, week long road trip about 16 hours from home, our first long car trip since my days as a college student. It was a blast riding along the rolling green hills of West Virginia, hiking along the Red River Gorge in Kentucky and experiencing the live music scene in Nashville. But, along the route, I had a lot of time to think about the nutrition struggles we face when traveling, particularly to less populated areas, where our ideal organic/locally grown/vegan/gluten free foods may be hard to come by. So, I’m feeling a bit inspired to write down a few ideas of healthy, minimally processed snacks to take along on your next road trip, weekend adventure or just a really long Saturday at the kids’ baseball games:

  • make your own trail mix, or really inspect the labels of store bought ones. I’m a fan of any combination of nuts, seeds and dried (unsweetened fruit), with a few coconut flakes thrown in for some flavor.
  • Or, if you don’t have time to assemble the trail mix, pre-measured servings of walnuts, almonds or peanuts to carry in your travel bag work just as well.
  • whole fruits, any kind.
  • chop up veggies that travel well (carrots, peppers, cucumbers). If you have an insulated bag, pre-measured servings of hummus are a nice addition. Leave the ranch dressing in your fridge…or better yet, in the grocery store 🙂
  • Individual servings of nut butters with brown rice cakes
  • Dried edamame

These are just a few ideas. If you’ll have access to refrigeration, travel snacks are even easier to plan. Either way, never leave home without a plan, and a whole lotta healthy snacks!

photo (2)          photo (4)

*Taking a break during our hike to enjoy the beautiful scenery atop this bridge. And to eat some of our wholesome, trail friendly snacks, of course.

The family that cooks together…

This month, as part of National Nutrition Month, I’m encouraging all of my readers, clients and friends to make clean eating a priority for your family. I swear, it doesn’t have to take that long, nutritious food can taste good, and your kids will eat it…

Recently, we had our nephews stay with us for a few days. Between long day trips to Legoland, I managed to plan some healthy meals and snacks, and had the boys help out. As it turns out, when kids have a chance to help choose and prepare foods, they are much more likely to try new things. Especially if they’re made to feel super important in the process:

IMG_0722Here, my nephew is helping me to make some homemade soup. Even while I was busy chopping veggies, I could trust his ability to pull off the cilantro leaves and he got to learn about what the heck cilantro is. You know, instead of the usual “I don’t like that green stuff” the second he sees it on his plate.

We also had some fun making funny faces out of our snacks. What an awesome way to get your kids to like rice cakes, right? And add some healthy protein and fruit into the mix.

                                                                                                                                          IMG_0741

At the end of the weekend, my youngest nephew was too tired to join me on my early morning shopping trip (which made for a much easier errand, let’s be honest). So, if taking your kids to the grocery store is too stressful or just not possible with your schedule, have them pick out one healthy food to try each week before you go, and find some way to incorporate that food into a weekly meal. Or, if you’re feeling brave, take them to the store and spend lots of time in the produce section. Have them pick out one new fruit or vegetable to try that week (and stay out of the cookie and cereal aisles!).

                                                       IMG_0737

For more ideas about healthy kid’s meals, here’s a great resource I’ve recently stumbled upon:

http://www.superhealthykids.com/recipe-category/snacks/page//2

Make National Nutrition Month the kickoff to permanent, healthy family habits…and remember, have some fun along the way!

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day the Healthier Way

Who doesn’t love a green beer every once and a while or a frozen, sugary treat? But, if you’re trying to lose weight and stick to a whole food diet, this may be the year to skip that tradition. Start off your day with a healthy smoothie instead, like the one featured here on www.thesylishone.com.

Kale has more benefits than we can count at only 33 calories per serving, including some protein and fiber, lots of folate and omega 3s, vitamins and phytonutrients. Kale has been linked to many positive outcomes: a healthy detox, longer life, fighting cancer, brain health, decreased depression, diabetes prevention and improved bone health. So this St. Patrick’s Day, forego the beer and sip on this…

*Note: Always check with your doctor before changing your diet if you have any chronic condition. Even good things should be consumed in moderation *

30 Day Cleanse

                                       Hormone friendly smoothie recipe best hgh supplements

 

I’m not sure what it is right now, but everyone around me seems to be asking my opinion of cleanses. Many of my clients want to try a juice cleanse or 21 day cleanse, and I tell them to check with their doctor and do their research. I don’t believe in extremes, and I don’t like when my clients do either. (There are many reasons for this, which I won’t get into here…but, don’t start any cleanse without checking with a medical professional. Seriously).

On a personal note, however, I do believe in occasionally really cleaning up my diet, and do so once or twice a year. Before the holidays, I did a 30 day “cleanse”. Not a juice cleanse, not eliminating entire food groups, and not subsisting on just celery for 30 days.

So, what did my 30 days entail? I gave up caffeine and alcohol. Then I gave up refined and added sugars. 30 days of this. As always, it was a little tough in the beginning. Once the excitement of doing something new wore off and I had to conquer the mornings without coffee…I was less than thrilled. Saturday nights out with friends were a bit tough at first as I struggled to find healthy choices to eat and drink. And resisting the temptation of sweets at work and parties, or just after a really stressful day was a bit of a struggle. But all of those frustrations faded as I learned to substitute healthy habits to replace my old ones. I drank herbal tea and liked the flavor much more than coffee. I drank sparkling water and enjoyed conversation with friends rather than wasting time trying to order a drink at the bar. I learned to grab some unsweetened dried or frozen fruit when a craving hit, though I noticed that I became much less aware of the snack cabinet as the month moved on. I also became a better cook…experimenting with new vegetables when I couldn’t rely on pasta or bread to be part of a meal.

And what did I learn from the 30 days, you might wonder? Well, I do still enjoy morning coffee (though a much smaller cup than I used to), and I never consider adding sugar to it. I learned to delay the first drink at a party or restaurant, so I’m rarely tempted to have a second. I won’t lie that I still dipped into the holiday treats at times, though much less regularly than I used to. I realized the benefits of extra energy, healthier looking skin and a better mood was due to reducing the amount of processed “food” I had in my life, and I know that keeping my diet clean will help me feel like a happier, healthier person.

It’s easy to get caught in the busyness of life and fall into habits of preparing quick foods and relying on caffeine to get us through the day. But, as I am reminded every time I reduce the processed foods in my life, it’s not that much harder to eat whole foods and find natural ways to boost your energy. A mid-day, 10 minute walk works as well as a second cup of coffee in waking you up. Making a big salad and some brown rice on Sunday night can get you through 2-3 nights of dinners without relying on pasta side dishes or take out. Before starting any change, of course, it’s imperative to plan, stock your kitchen and establish a plan B for different situations you may find yourself in. But, you can do it…and you’ll be glad you did. So I challenge you all…what can you give up for 30 days?

 

 A little motivation to get you started…love this quote:                                                                                                       Amen

Easy Kitchen Restock

 

 

Last week we talked about cleaning out your pantry, and now it’s time to figure out how to restock it with foods that are going to nourish you, keep you on the right track in reaching your health and fitness goals, and keep you feeling full. Here are some general guidelines for healthy grocery shopping (note: these are general guidelines for balanced eating, not recommendations for improving any medical condition, etc. Definitely see a physician and/or registered dietitian for that).

  • Schedule regular shopping trips, so that you can never use the excuse “I didn’t have anything else in the house.” Yes, I know it’s a pain. But so is gaining weight from take out :/
  • Always go to the store after you’ve eaten and at a time of day when you tend to have the most energy.
  • Plan a week’s worth of meals in advance, as well as snacks, and then make a grocery list. I didn’t always do this, but my husband and I have committed to being more organized with meal planning this year. And, let me tell you…it’s well worth the 15 minutes you spend planning meals and organizing your list. Anything that shortens the time I have to spend in the grocery store is well worth it in my mind.
  • Speaking of lists, don’t leave home without one. Lately, I’ve been using my phone to keep a standard grocery list, and I modify it every week, as needed. If your list is on your phone, you’re much less likely to forget it. Even if you’re just running to the store for 3 things…bring your list and stick to it!
  • You’ve heard this before…shop the perimeter. And the reason you’ve heard this so many times is because it’s excellent advice. The perimeter houses fresh produce, fish, poultry and dairy. Of course, some stores still try to trick you into picking up chips or soda on the way over to the lettuce…stay strong! The exception to this rule: unsweetened frozen fruits and veggies and dried beans and lentils tend to be in the center aisles.
  • See the grocery cart here? Picture this for a minute: As you’re walking the store, place all of the whole foods you buy in the bottom of the cart and processed foods on top. This helps us to be aware of how many processed foods we may tend to buy, and it also naturally limits the amount you can pick up. Cereals, breads, pastas…those go in the top. Fruits, veggies, oats, lentils, meat…plenty of room in the bottom for those. When in doubt, use the ingredient list as a guide…I like to think of anything with more than 7 ingredients as pretty darn processed.

The more you get into the habit of meal planning and shopping regularly, the more it actually becomes enjoyable. Having a well stocked kitchen is absolutely crucial in allowing you to meet goals for weight loss, increased fitness, improved energy, and so much more. Happy shopping!!

 

Pantry Raid

Processed Foods 2011

If you’ve kicked your workouts into high gear this New Year, but still aren’t seeing the changes you want, it’s time to talk about the elephant in the room. Specifically in your kitchen. Just like it’s good to go through the closet, the garage or the basement every year, it’s equally important to clean out your pantry. And if you’re trying to improve your health and fitness, it’s key to your success. I know it’s tough to throw away what we paid for or to eliminate some favorite comfort foods. But again…if you want to see changes, you’ve got to make the change. So let’s do this together…I’ll meet you in the kitchen:

  1. Make sure your counters are clean, because we’re cleaning out the cabinets. I mean, really cleaning them Take everything out of your cabinets and place them on your countertops.
  2. Now, that may have taken some time. Step back and reflect for a minute. Take a look at what you had in your cabinets and try to remember why you bought some of those things. Cookies for the kids that you end up snacking on? Pasta or rice side dishes that make for easy and quick weeknight meals? Leftover candy from the holidays?
  3. Take out the garbage can and immediately get rid of the obvious. Candy, opened boxes of cookies and sugary cereal. No one needs this stuff. Kids will forget the stuff was in the cabinets…at the very least they’ll get used to new cereal with enough time. Setting them on a track of sugar addiction early one benefits no one, so don’t feel guilty about getting the stuff out of the house.
  4. Now let’s look at the “food.” Pasta and rice side dishes, though extremely convenient, often have a terrifyingly long list of ingredients. Most of which don’t even resemble a whole food. Pack these up in a grocery bag or box, and plan on dropping them off at your local food bank. We’ll talk later about quick weeknight side dishes.
  5. Canned vegetables and sauces that are low in sodium can stay…for now. But think about buying fresh veggies and dried beans, and about making your own sauces and salad dressings. A future endeavor…let’s not get too crazy here.
  6. “Healthy” snacks like popcorn, protein bars, pretzels and crackers? Again, take a look at the ingredient list and nutrition facts. You’re probably looking at 10+ ingredients and a lot of sodium, little fiber and little protein. Decide if these snacks are worth holding on to for the kids. But (and this is a big but), if you’re going to be tempted to snack on them AT ALL, through them away or donate.
  7. Now tie up that garbage bag and get it out of the house. Bring the foods to donate out to the car for your next trip by the food pantry. Feels better already, right?
  8. As your putting the “saved” foods back into your cabinets, think about organizing them. Least healthy (i.e. any of those pretzels or crackers) towards the back, with healthier items in easy reach (i.e. nuts and seeds, unflavored oatmeal, natural peanut or other nut butters). Also, keep olive oil and herbs/spices where you can see them…these can be a great way to flavor veggies and side dishes without the 10+, very unnatural and unpronounceable ingredients. And if they’re at eye level every time you open the cabinet, you’ll remember to use them. (Just a note…this doesn’t include salt. That can go in the back J ).

 

Congratulations! You just took the first, very important step towards improving your nutrition and eating a healthier, less processed diet. Not something a lot of people can do easily, so be proud of what you’ve just done! Stay tuned on the blog for ideas of how to re-stock those cabinets with delicious and healthy foods.

 

 

 

 

Movie Madness

If you’re like me, you were watching the Golden Globes the other night and simultaneously making mental notes of all of the movies you need to see. And what better time than now, when the days’ high temps reach 20 degrees and there’s just not that much to do. Going to the movies in the winter is a favorite hobby for many (for me and my husband, it’s probably the only time of year we go). But on a recent trip to our local theater, I couldn’t help but notice how very much junk can be consumed by movie goers in one 2 hour period. It’s a bit scary how the theaters up sell their customers to buy the largest amount of food/beverage they can get, and it’s even scarier that we can consume these snacks in their entirety before the end of a movie. I do love that some movie theaters are posting calorie counts on their menu items (though I’m not sure it’s influencing customers’ choices too much). Here’s some facts that I can’t seem to get out of my head:

  • A large movie theater popcorn contains between 16 to 20 cups of popcorn, ~1,000-1,200 calories (or more!), 100 grams of fat, 57 grams of saturated fat and 1,500 mg of sodium (a whole day’s worth). To put this into perspective, it’s equivalent to eating at least 6 fast food burgers. Yeah…
  • Many movie theaters have gone back to using coconut oil to make their popcorn. Yes, many would argue that coconut oil has healthy fats that are good for your heart. But 20 cups of popcorn made in coconut oil is another story entirely…
  • A large soda, which is equal to 5-7 cups of soda after you take away the ice, has about 500 calories and up to 33 teaspoons of sugar. 
  • Remember those nachos, with the cheese? I’ve never been a fan, and now I’m very grateful for that. 1 tray has 610 calories, 22 grams of fat and roughly 1,400 mg. of sodium.

Ok, I won’t scare you with the candy facts. You get the idea, and you can read. (Just make sure you read the total number of servings in one container…food packaging can be tricky, for sure). What I will do, though, is give you some ideas to make your next trip to the movies less devastating to your New Year’s resolutions, and your health:

  • This won’t surprise you. I’m going to tell you to work out before you go (obviously). I like to plan my workouts for any day I know I’m going out…to dinner, to the movies, to a party. It doesn’t make it ok to splurge like crazy, but it balances things out a bit and makes you feel much more confident when you’re out.
  • Eat a healthy dinner before going near the theater. Cooking at home is ideal (for the wallet too), but ordering a healthy dish at a restaurant to fill you up is way better than planning on popcorn or pizza at the theater.
  • I’ve also always been a fan of packing a healthy snack in my purse before leaving home. Some ideas are single serving portions of almonds or walnuts, dried fruit, Pirate’s booty or homemade trail mix. Some like 100 calorie packs or natural protein bars. For a little crunch, mini rice cakes or whole wheat crackers work, as does salted edamame.
  • If it just feels unnatural not to get a snack at the theater (I get it, it’s part of the experience), some theaters offer “smart snack” packages, or try a kids size of unbuttered popcorn. Or share a small popcorn.
  • Think about the empty calories in soda, and decide if it’s worth the  extra few miles or 50 burpees you’ll have to add to your workout tomorrow. Instead, opt for a bottled water or unsweetened tea. Or bring your favorite flavored seltzer.

Your goal in the New Year may or may not be to look “red carpet ready,” but I can also almost guarantee that your goal is to not eat the equivalent to 6 or more hamburgers in one sitting. With adequate planning, the right facts and a little willpower, your next trip to the movies doesn’t have to sabotage all the progress you’ve made these last few weeks.