Archives for August 2011

Brown Bag Lunches Can Be Low Maintenance and Nutritious.

Let's Get Real About Lunch!

Let’s Get Real About Brown Bag Lunches.  They Are Not All That Glamorous!

Brown bag lunches are the best bet if you want to have control over what you eat and save money.  Most of the time, figuring out what you’re going to put in the bag isn’t the problem.  It’s shopping, preparing and pulling it all together that’s a challenge.

I’ve looked at a lot of recipes for healthy lunches.  They offer great ideas and the pictures look like something I would love to have for lunch.  The truth is, most of them aren’t realistic.

What’s On Hand For The Last Minute Toss-In At Your House?

If you’re like me you end up throwing everything in the bag at the last minute so ultimately, what’s important is what’s available for the toss-in.

If you are able to make a gourmet-style lunch the night before go for it, but most people don’t have the time or energy at the end of the day to go to that effort.

Here’s a list of grocery items to have on hand that may not give you a lunch that looks like it came off of the set of the Food Network, but will supply plenty of nutrition and keep you satisfied throughout the day.

  • Boneless chicken breasts or thighs, seasoned, baked or broiled.  I buy a bag of frozen breasts or thighs each week, cook them and have them ready to toss on salad greens or pasta.
  • Tuna – my favorite is from Aldi – I buy the chunk white tuna in zesty lemon pepper.  Only 60 calories per package.  Again, this can be put on top of salad greens or pasta.
  • Whole grain pasta or brown rice cooked and tossed with olive oil, garlic, pepper and a dash of salt.   Cook a batch and have it ready to re-heat with the chicken or tuna.
  • This might be my favorite item from Aldi

    Salad greens – Again, I’m an Aldi fan.  Every week I buy the Artisan lettuce mix. Some weeks it is on sale for $.99.  It is unbelievably fresh and nutritious.  You can toss it with other veggies and put with the tuna or chicken with low-fat dressing for a complete meal.

  • Whole-wheat pita bread or tortillas.  I always have a package in the fridge.  You have so many options with both of these whole grain products.  My latest infatuation is the whole -wheat pita with peanut butter.  I’ll have this for lunch with a salad and a piece of fruit.  Or, you can put the salad and chicken in the whole-wheat wrap for a real treat. Which brings me to my next item.

    Second Favorite Aldi Bargain

  • Fruits and veggies – all varieties.  Trust me on this one.  If you toss an apple and a banana in your lunch bag instead of chips and a fruit bar, you’ll eat the (real) fruit and be way ahead of the game nutritionally.  Remember, the trick here is that you will eat what you take, not what you left at home in the cupboard.
  • Boiled eggs.  This item came up on the Healthy Breakfast In A Hurry blog and I think it is worth mentioning again.  They can be tossed with the salad, mixed with the tuna, or eaten on the side of pita and peanut butter.  You can’t go wrong with a boiled egg.  You get the protein you need to head off the afternoon munchies.
  • Almonds – a few whole, natural almonds make a great ‘side dish’ to any lunch.

This eating ‘style’ may not be for everyone so I started thinking about why I do it this way.  It’s very similar to the way I dress.  I always buy basic clothes that I can mix and match then dress the outfits up with scarves, jewelry, and shoes.  This comes from years of having three children to get dressed, fed and to school and myself to work. I’ve never had a lot of time for frills, but we all always got where we needed to be pressed and dressed and on time.

If you make a list of these ingredients you’ll have whole foods that you can mix and match for lunch options that provide nutrition without a lot of calories.  It’s what I call low-maintenance, high-nutrition lunching.

The goal is to stay away from ‘fast’ foods that might be easy to grab but don’t provide your body with the vitamins and minerals you need to be as healthy as you can be. Whole foods will eliminate afternoon cravings and help you stay in control of your snacking.

Part three of the 3 Part Series . . . . . Snacking can be good for you too!  Stay tuned.

iPhone Provides Extrinsic Motivation For Physical Activity. Intrinsic Motivation Still Comes From Within.

Does Money, Gift Cards and Discounts Provide Inspiration For You To Exercise?

For many people extrinsic rewards help them stay motivated to exercise.  Extrinsic rewards are those that come from the outside.

You may give extrinsic rewards to your kids when they get good grades in school, or your boss might give them to employees for not missing any days of work.

These rewards usually come in the form of cash, gift cards or other prizes.

The iPhone now has a program to provide extrinsic rewards for users that track their workouts. Through a partnership with Kiip, Apple will provide iPhone users a chance to win prizes, discounts or the ultimate reward, a $250 gift card.  This is the first I’ve heard of Kiip because I’m not a gamer but it’s a pretty neat concept to begin applying real rewards to help people stay motivated to workout.

Add Facebook Friends For Bonus Points

The exercise app is called Nexercise and gives points for any physical activity lasting 15 minutes and applies bonus points for inviting Facebook friends to join in. Many people are already using their iPod, iPhone or Smartphone to track their workouts so no big leap required here to get people on board.

It’s really is a perfect world that combines exercise, social networking and an iPhone. For people struggling to include exercise in their day-to-day life a perk like this can get them moving.

If Nexercise can help move people along the continuum of change from Point A (extrinsic motivation) adhering to a healthy behavior pattern in order to win a gift card to the Point B (intrinsic motivation) “I do it because it makes me feel good”, this could turn out to be more than just another fitness app.

You can download the app at iTunes and get started on earning points if you have an iPhone.  If you don’t have an iPhone, then you don’t have an iPhone.

Mix Up Steady State Cardio Workouts With Intervals To Add Variety and Intensity To Your Exercise Program

Getting bored with your steady-state cardio workouts?

If you’re still doing only steady state cardio workouts, it’s probably time to add some higher intensity intervals to your program.  That doesn’t mean you should put the steady-state stuff on the shelf.  But, let’s say you’re doing four cardio workouts a week and all of them are at the same pace and intensity.  Not only will you get bored, you’ll also miss out on some training benefits.

To incorporate interval training, take whatever activity you’re doing  and push the intensity up to the next level for a brief period of time.  Starting with one minute intervals is a good place to begin.  Work the intervals up to two minute bursts and see where you can go from there.  This is perfect for walking, jogging, swimming, jump roping, or cardio work being done on equipment in the gym.

This Isn’t An Argument For Interval Workouts Only

There are a ton of articles on the internet and a raging battle continues over which type of exercise is The Best.  Steady state fans have proof that their way is the best way; interval junkies have facts to back up their claims too.

There are not enough hours in the day to prove that one is absolutely 100% superior over the other.  I’m guessing a combination of both workouts is best.  Here’s why adding intervals into the schedule a couple times a week is a good idea:

  • Any time we mix up our exercise routine it throws our muscles and cardio system into a tailspin and we’re forced to work harder to adapt.  I’m guessing we all agree this is good and will help us avoid the dreaded plateau that comes from doing the same routine over and over.
  • Steady state workouts can get pretty boring.  When you add intervals, not only does the body have something new to work on, but so does the brain.  All of a sudden you’ll find you’re in competition with yourself to see how fast you can get from one stop light to the next.  You’ll get an energy pick-me-up and will start looking forward to your workouts again.
  • You’ll end up working harder.  If you have a standard 30 minute workout that you do four times a week and all of sudden you add speed bursts, you’re overall output is ultimately more.  We don’t need to do a hundred studies to prove that.  Over time, your fitness level with increase because of the overload.
  • You’ll push more endorphins into the system.  Is this true?  According to David Lemberg “endorphins are ramped to the max” during interval training.  Sign me up for that!  The primary reason I love to exercise is for the endorphine rush so if there’s a way to get more I’ll take them.

Try putting some intervals into your routine twice a week and see what you think.  You might turn into an interval junkie too.

Salad Recipes To Try This Labor Day (Christmas) Weekend

Part of the Christmas in September Tradition is A Parade on Monday.

Each September people in the United States celebrate Labor Day but in our little town it’s known as ‘Christmas’.

I live in a little town in Illinois that at one time was known for coal mining and having the highest number of taverns per capita as any city in the U.S. (our claim to fame).  Each year we celebrate the end of summer and all of our hard working laborers with a Christmas party. People come from all over to join in the festivities.

The celebration starts on Friday
and doesn’t end until the wee hours of the night on Monday. I have family and friends coming in to stay and have started putting my menu and shopping list together.

I happened to come across three salad recipes (my family loves salads) at the Eating Well web site and wanted to share them with you:

I plan to make each one and will publish a review as soon as I recover from Christmas.  Stay tuned.

Take The No Fast Food For 20 Days Challenge: You’ll Have To Give Up Kraft Mac and Cheese


Is The No Fast Food Challenge For You? 

I love the story about the Leake family that decided they would give up junk food for 100 days and it turns out they may have given it up all forever.

Lisa Leake and her family, like many, relied heavily on fast food, whether it be the kind you get at a restaurant drive-through or the easy-to-prepare meals that come from the grocery store.  Both contain high amounts of sodium, sugar, processed grains and preservatives, which, over time, can encourage promotion of a variety of chronic diseases.

After seeing food activist Michelle Pollan’s interview on Oprah, Lisa decided her family would commit to no fast food for 100 days.

Lisa became efficient at reading food labels and decided that they wouldn’t buy any food that contained more than five ingredients, plus they eliminated fried foods, refined grains and sweeteners.

Check the label for words you can’t pronounce.

Learn To Read Labels

It’s easy to think that the foods to avoid are the ones handed through a window to us in a paper sack, but we can get into plenty of trouble in the supermarket too.

To eliminate foods loaded with preservatives, additives, sodium, sugar, and some unmentionables I can’t even pronounce, we have to get in the habit of reading food labels. Some quick foods, like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, would be off of the menu.  Here’s the list of ingredients in a box of Kraft mac and cheese:

  • whey (milk protein)
  • milk protein concentrate
  • milk, milkfat
  • cheese culture
  • salt
  • sodium tripolyphosphate
  • sodium phosphate
  • calcium phosphate.
  • Yellow 5 and Yellow 6
  • citric acid
  • lactic acid
  • enzymes

What is all of that stuff?

Retrain Your Palate

The Leake family learned that even though they made some sacrifices, the end result was worth it.  Over the hundred days they retrained their palates to enjoy fresh, whole foods and they found they no longer had a taste for the ‘junk’.

Are you up to the no junk food challenge? 

If 100 days sounds impossible, why not set a goal to be junk free for 20 days and then reset the goal for 30 more.  It may be the only way to get our cravings for Pasta Roni Fettuccine Alfredo and Marie Callender’s Creamy Parmesan Chicken Pot Pie under control.

Changing Unhealthy Behavior Isn’t Impossible. We May Just Need To Try A Different Approach: “Three Keys To Change” by Alan Deutschman

I was listening to one of the audio links for my wellness coaching class today and the lesson was on change talk. Every so often when listening I’ll have a ‘aha’ moment.  Today’s moment came when the instructor was talking about change and said, “People aren’t resistant to change.  People are resistant to being changed.”

The concepts that I’ve learned from the coaching course are vastly different than those that I learned over the years of being a fitness instructor,
trainer and program director (and I could easily add and mom and wife to that list).

Changing Unhealthy Behavior Isn’t Impossible. 

The wellness coaching experience allows the coach to approach people on a completely different level.  We take off our “I’ll show you what you need to do” hat and lead people through an experience of self-discovery that rarely, if ever, calls upon the coach to tell them how it should be done or talk about how we – the expert – would do it.

Do you have people in your life that you’d like to change? 

I’ll bet we all have had at least one person that we have viewed as our ‘project’.  We recognize they have some really great attributes, but . . . . . if only.  We might want to change them a little or they might require a complete do-over.

How successful were you in getting them to change?

If your change talk includes the three F’s:

  • Fear – “Those cigarettes are going to kill you.”
  • Facts – “To lower your cholesterol you’ll need to give up the cheeseburgers and eat more vegetables and whole grains.”
  • Force – “If you don’t lose some weight, I’m leaving!”

You may not be having the success you’re hoping for.

Through the wellness coaching process I’ve learned that there is a lot more to change than fear, facts and force. Plus now I know that while I might be able to help someone change they have to do the actual work.  And, as hard as it is to admit, some of the strategies that I’ve used to promote change may have increased their resistance to it.

If you have someone that you feel needs to change, whether it is to lose 20 pounds or stop smoking, learning a new approach may help bring about the shift you’d like to see.

Learn Why Fear, Facts and Force Don’t Work

There is an amazing article called “The Three Keys to Change” by Alan Deutschman who wrote the book, “Change or Die.”  For anyone that wants to understand more about their own struggle to change or you have a loved-one that is resisting all of your great advice, it’s a must read.

For Every Hour of T.V. We Watch We Take 22 Minutes Off Our Life: Even If We Exercise 15 Minutes a Day?

Another study has been released that has determined that watching one hour of T.V. can shorten your life by 22 minutes.  Not 21 minutes and not 23 minutes.  Twenty-Two minutes!

The study also says that watching one hour of television is equivalent to smoking two cigarettes.

I think that these helpful studies are no longer of any value to me or anyone else.  And where do these researchers come from?

Earlier in the week I blogged about the study that says that people that are sedentary can add three years to their life by exercising 15 minutes.  I tried to compare that to the study
that says that people that do serious workouts everyday (exercise couch potatoes) are no better off than people that don’t exercise at all if they sit the rest of the day. All of the sitting overrides the benefits of the exercise except for the sedentary people that do the 15 minutes.

I thought I was catching on to how this all works until I read the new T.V. study today.

Bear with me while I summarize:

  • If you are completely sedentary and start exercising 15 minutes a day you can add three years to your life.
  • If you work out for an hour and a half a day but have a job where you sit you might as well not even bother with exercise.
  • For every hour of T.V. that you watch your life expectancy drops by 22 minutes. In fact it’s just as bad for you as smoking.

Here’s my questions:

  • Do the sedentary people that exercise 15 minutes a day and add the three years have to take off 22 minutes for every hour of T.V. they watch?  As I recall, the study that gave the three years for the15 minutes didn’t mention anything about T.V.
  • Do ‘exercise couch potatoes’ that watch an hour of T.V. have to deduct the 22 minutes?  Do they get to add the three years for doing the 15 minutes?  I can’t even do the math on that one.
  • What about people that watch an hour of T.V., smoke two cigarettes/day exercise 15 minutes/day, and stand at their jobs. How much longer do they live?  The T.V. and cigarettes are bad but the standing is better than sitting.

The studies are bordering on ridiculous. How about we work on maintaining a healthy weight, eat a low-fat diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, stay physically active – whether through our jobs or workouts at the gym, and don’t overdo the alcohol and cigarettes. Do those of us that practice this lifestyle get anything anymore?

Save Your Teeth and Your Waistline: Skip The McDonalds Sweet Tea.

Would You Like A Little Tea With Your Sugar?

We’ve talked About Mindless Eating.  What About Mindless Sipping?

For anyone out there that is trying to control their weight I beg of you to stay away from McDonald’s Sweet Tea.  I had no idea how many people actually drink this stuff on a daily basis but it will put the kibosh on your weight loss goals faster than you can say, “May I take your order, please?”


Did you know that one 32 oz glass of sweet tea from McDonalds has a little over 8, yes that’s right, EIGHT teaspoons of sugar and 230 calories.  Yikes!

Let’s do the math on the calories.  If we want to lose one pound a week we need to reduce our calories by 3500.  Another option is to burn 3500 more calories a week.  The third is to do a combination; consuming less and burning more.

If we go through the McDonalds drive-through five days a week and order the 32 oz sweet tea (and I know people that do) we consume 1,150 calories a week just from the tea; in other words one half of the calories that we need to eliminate from our diet we’ve drank in a beverage that did not supply our body with anything it can use.  The nutritional value of the sweet tea is zero.

I have a school teacher friend that told me that some of her co-workers bring a large sweet tea to work every day to sip on.  This is bad for the waistline, and it may be even worse for the teeth!  Having the teeth constantly exposed to the sugar and acid in sweet teas, soda pop, and energy drinks is a dentist’s nightmare.

The only beverage we can safely sip on all day is water.  H2O is the best beverage for our tush and the teeth.  There are other sugary summery drinks you should avoid too.  Click here to see what they are.

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Free Food Is Not On My Diet. Thanks Anyway, Kiplinger!

It’s a scary world out there for someone trying maintain a healthy weight.

Today as I was surfing Yahoo I came across an article about “Fabulous Freebies” from Kiplinger. One of the freebies it suggests readers take advantage of is free food. (You know this can’t be good.)

The article listed fast food restaurants that have an annual freebie day:  IHOP pancakes, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, and Pretzelmaker pretzels.  It goes down-hill from there:
Cinnabon, Haagen-Dazs, Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Cold Stone Creamery.

Chick-Fil-A gives away a free meal in July.  I’m guessing there’s not much happening nutritionally there except for the fruit cup and iceberg lettuce side salad. And the writer suggests you call around to find out where the free birthday specials are. 

Anyway, Kiplinger, thanks for the financial ‘tips’. I for one plan to turn down the freebies. My waistline can’t afford for me to be financially fit.

Healthy Breakfast In A Hurry: Part One of a Three Part Series on Eating Healthy During The Work Day

Set up your day for success by starting with a healthy breakfast

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