Monthly Archives: December 2010

A Healthy New Years Snack

For all those who may be having guests over for New Years or are just planning on relaxing at home, here is a yummy spin on dip for your chips that’s EASY and delicious (might I add healthy)!  I must credit a lady I work with for sharing this recipe with me.

Ingredients:

1 jar of salsa (on the chunky side)

1 box Smart Ones Santa Fe Rice and Bean frozen dinner

Directions

Santa Fe Rice and Beans

Santa Fe Rice and Beans

1. Follow the instructions on the Rice and Bean package.  Should just be a matter of microwaving the meal. Once the rice and beans are all cooked, pour into a bowl and mix in about a half a jar of salsa (if you have a med-small jar).  Make sure your salsa is more on the chunky side – I think it’s better for dipping that way.

My Favorite Salsa

My Favorite Salsa

2. After you’ve mixed in your salsa, pop it in the microwave for a minute just to get it nice and warm.  Serve with some baked tortilla chips and you’ve got the best dip ever!

I hope you enjoy!  It’s really very simple and can be modified in many ways.  I plan on making this tonight to tide us all over until midnight.

This is much better than a lot of dips out there in terms of calories and is pretty filling.

Happy New Year all!

Bouncing Back from the Holidays

Ahh… I haven’t posted anything new in so long!  I apologize for my hiatus.  Between finals week and trying to prepare for Christmas, I sort of let things fall through the cracks!  This includes my exercising, which unfortunately hasn’t been my top priority.  I managed to watch what I ate throughout the holidays, but I didn’t practice what I preach and of course found reasons why I could put off my workouts.

SO! That being said, I’m making a come back of sorts and making up for lost time.  I am starting a new job which will also open up my schedule and keep me from feeling like I have no time for myself.  This will be wonderful in the sense that I’ll be able to do my 1-1 1/2 hour workouts without feeling rushed or guilty for not doing other things that need to be done.  Problem solved!

 

Make It Through the Holidays Without Gaining a Pound

Healthy Holidays

 

Healthy Holidays!

How do people make it to January without weighing 10 pounds more than they did before the festivities began? Here are a few tips that I plan on putting into practice myself and you may want to as well!

Eat! Yes, eat breakfast, have healthy snacks readily available and always, always, always… Eat before going to a holiday party. Don’t feast, but have a light meal so you don’t show up starving and ready to polish off that cheese dip.

Don’t worry about saving room for dessert because half the time it’s not a diet friendly dessert anyways! Instead, fill your plate with a lot of healthy lean meat and veggies. For example, this would be turkey breast without skin and salad. Eat the healthy stuff first, then have a tiny sample of one or two other things you can’t live without.

When it comes time for dessert… If you must have it – split it with someone! Or better yet, bake your own healthy dessert and bring it to share! Then you are being healthy and a good guest! (See recipe for Baby Tiramisu at end of article)

Another tip? Don’t fill up on alcohol! Its a calorie black hole and may also have a lot of sugar. Plus you end up snacking in the process. Better to have one glass of wine or one light beer. Avoid margaritas and pina coladas unless you plan on skipping that piece of pecan pie!

And of course… Keep moving! No slacking on exercise! Try to get in something everyday! Shoot for 20-30 minutes. If you can’t go long – go hard!

Baby Tiramisu

Baby Tiramisu
Thanks to EatingWell for this recipe!

6 servings | Active Time: 15 minutes | Total Time: 45

Ingredients

1/2 cup nonfat ricotta cheese, (4 ounces)

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

12 ladyfingers, (about 1 3/4 ounces)

4 tablespoons brewed espresso, or strong coffee, divided

2 tablespoons bittersweet chocolate chips, melted (see Tip)

Preparation

Combine ricotta, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a medium bowl.

Place 6 ladyfingers in a 9-by-5-inch (or similar size) loaf pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons espresso (or coffee). Spread the ricotta mixture over the ladyfingers. Place another layer of ladyfingers over the ricotta and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons espresso (or coffee). Drizzle with melted chocolate. Refrigerate until the chocolate is set, about 30 minutes.

Tips & Notes

Tip: To melt chocolate: Microwave on Medium for 1 minute. Stir, then continue microwaving on Medium in 20-second intervals until melted, stirring after each interval. Or place in the top of a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water. Stir until melted.

Nutrition
Per serving:

107 calories; 2 g fat (1 g sat, 0 g mono); 3 mg cholesterol; 18 g carbohydrates; 3 g protein; 0 g fiber; 125 mg sodium; 29 mg potassium.

1 Carbohydrate Serving

 

Healthier Christmas Cookies and other holiday faves

Thanks to Eatingwell.com for these tips on making healthier cookies this christmas! enjoy!

These tips are straight from their website because I came across them and thought they were too good not to share.  Check out their website to read more!

Also, be sure to check out EatingWell’s 2010 Christmas Cookie Award Winning Recipes – I have them posted on the above tab :)

Tip 1: Make them more heart healthy.

Swap out some of the butter, margarine or shortening for heart-healthy oils, such as canola oil or olive oil or pureed fruit or even vegetables.

To replace fats with oil: For every tablespoon of butter you replace with heart-healthy oil, you eliminate at least 5 grams of saturated fat from your batch of cookies.

Tip 2: Replace unhealthy fats.

Consider replacing some of the butter with nontraditional cookie ingredients, such as nonfat plain yogurt, nonfat buttermilk or even fruit juice.

When you reduce overall fat in a cookie recipe, the resulting cookies can be dry; adding a “moist” ingredient helps keep the cookies satisfying. Try 1 to 4 tablespoons of a liquid ingredient in place of up to 4 tablespoons butter.

Tip 3: Add fiber to your cookies.

Try replacing some (or all) of the all-purpose flour with whole-wheat flour, whole-wheat pastry flour and/or oats. If you are used to the taste and texture of whole-wheat, some cookies are just as satisfying when made with 100% whole-wheat flour. Using whole-wheat flour in place of all-purpose flour gives your cookies about four times the amount of fiber in every batch.

Tip 4: Keep sodium in check.

Some baked goods can be surprisingly high in sodium. Aim for no more than 1/2 teaspoon salt per batch of cookies. If you’re on a salt-restricted diet, try reducing the salt in a batch of cookies to 1/4 teaspoon.

Tip 5: Eliminate trans fat & other artificial ingredients.

One of the benefits of homemade baked goods is their simple list of ingredients. By making your own cookies, you can use whole ingredients and avoid most or all processed ingredients that are found in many packaged cookies.

Steer clear of ingredients that contain partially hydrogenated oil (or trans fats), such as margarine and most vegetable shortenings.

 

**These tips are great and a lot of them I already use.  I never add as much salt as they say to on the recipe, it just isn’t necessary.  And adding fiber is another great way to be healthy and can even help with weight loss.  Although I wouldn’t recommend getting all of your fiber from your selection of cookies!

Gift Ideas for Everybody

If you’re like me, you probably haven’t finished your Christmas shopping.  I have so many people to buy for (like my dad) who just don’t want anything and if you buy them something it will remain unopened and unused till the end of time.

I did find some things that seem fool proof and I’m hoping they’ll help you as well.

Kids Gifts

Hallmark Recordable Story Books

These make wonderful keepsakes.  Record your voice or the voice of a loved one reading the story.  You can lock the recording so it can’t be recorded over and the batteries are replaceable so you won’t lose the memory.  They run about $29.95 but there are some coupons floating around as well!

Razor Rip Rider 360 Drifting Ride On

Razor Rip Rider

I saw something like this on Ellen and I thought it was absolutely the coolest toy ever.  She even got on and rode it!  I think it holds up to 160 lbs and is for children 5 and up.  The reviews on Amazon.com are very good and one lady mentioned that her kid got it for Christmas and hasn’t stopped playing with it. It runs about $85.

There is another brand called Ezy Roller Ultimate Riding Machine and it too has great reviews, but is a little pricier at $104.  I think either one would be a ton of fun for kids of any age!

Spouse or Boyfriend/Girlfriend


A gift to a spa for the two of you is amazing.  We had a spa day with our whole bridal party this past fall and let me tell you, BEST time ever.  The guys were skeptical (they are very manly men), but they immediately admitted to enjoying it immensely.  We want to make it a tradition to go there at least once a year now.  So I highly recommend a day of relaxation to get away from stressers of daily life.

Also, tickets to a game or concert that they’d enjoy.  I bought my husband two tickets to the Packers/Bears game on January 2nd.  I know he’s going to LOVE it and I’ll have a good time too!  Ticketmaster.com sells a lot of the tickets for these events as does Stubhub.com  but you might even check with the actual venue as sometimes they sell directly.

For the guys, stay away from buying wallets as they usually like to buy these and break them in.  His may look worn out, but I assure you he loves it that way.

For Spouse/Boyfriend or Girlfriend (who enjoys reading or any kind)

Kindle Video

Definitely the Kindle.  Amazon has two different kinds, one is $139 without wi-fi and the other is $189.  They come in two colors, but you can buy skins or cases for them.  The screen is the closest thing to electronic paper that I’ve seen. There are a bunch of free books as well.  Most of them are classics like Pride and Prejudice or Sherlock Holmes, but still good if you enjoy reading them (which I do!).

If you are looking for an actual book to give someone, try getting them the first edition of their favorite author.  For example, if they LOVE Gone with the Wind, try finding the first edition of it.  This can get VERY expensive though depending on whether the book is extremely rare.  Their are websites like Alibris and AbeBooks where owners will sell first editions so it makes shopping for them easier.  Another tip, be aware of what the first edition should look like.  For example, if the seller claims it’s a first edition but it was published 20 years after the book was actually written, it’s not the edition you’re looking for.  There are many sites out there that will help you and it is a very personal gift.

For Teens/College Students

I-Pod Touch (4th Generation)


Yes, everybody already has an I-pod by now, but this is the newest model they’ve come out with.  It does everything and even allows for FaceTime.  FaceTime is a camera that is similar to a webcam, meaning that you can actually see the person you are talking to and they can see you.  Kind of a neat feature!  The I-Pod also feature video editing and the ability to be your own DJ.  Plus a ton more, perfect for any college student or high schooler.   Even your techy husband/wife would appreciate it!

Mom and Dad


Let’s get real, parents are hard to buy for.  At least mine are.  My mom has MS and isn’t very mobile, which limits what I can get her because her ability to use it isn’t there.  Last year, I made her a photo album of all our old pictures growing up.  She loved it so much she cried.  It took a little time, but turned out great and was a very personal gift.

Create Something Amazing With Your Pictures

If you are short on time, Shutterfly.com can make the albums for you.  They look awesome and aren’t that expensive.  I believe they start around $15-20 dollars and look GREAT!  You can even make a calendar out of your family photos.  Right now they’re offering free shipping and buy one get one!

As far as Dad’s go, it all depends on what he is into.  Does he like technology?  Maybe a new camera or a handheld camcorder (to record the grandkids or vacations).  If he’s a handyman, tools are always needed.  Even when you think your dad has EVERY tool in the world, there is always one tool he could use.  Maybe he wants clothes.  This year my dad asked for a new set of screwdrivers, some dumbbells (he wants to workout in the morning), leather slippers and some heavy cotton button ups.  Yeah, not that exciting but hey, that’s what he wants so that is what he will get.

If your dad is more business-y, try new cologne or a gift certificate to a nice restaurant in the area (enough to maybe take his wife or girlfriend if he has one).

Breaking Out and Working Out

Wash Your Face!

I recently have been finding a few blemishes here and there and for some reason they just keep coming back as soon as I think they’re gone for good!  I’ve tried different face washes and acne treatments to try to get them to disappear, but they’re still sticking around.  My skin has always been relatively clear, so this is unusual for me.  But after some research on the internet, I think I’ve found some answers!  Maybe you are having similar problems?

Wash Your Face Immediately After A Workout – This is where I think I went wrong.  I workout in the morning so afterwards I’ll eat breakfast and eventually hop in the shower.  I thought that was good enough, but apparently not.  As soon as you’re done working out wash your face with whatever cleanser works with your skin type.  Usually you sweat around your hairline and it’s important to keep it clean.  Remember that sweat is not just pure water leaving your body; there are other trace amounts of minerals and what not that may irritate your skin.  So just remember to wash them off and hopefully your skin will thank you!

Shampoo May Be The Culprit

Change Your Shampoo – Yet another thing I’m going to try and see if this is causing my breakout problem.  From what I’ve read online, certain chemicals in shampoos can cause your skin to break out.  I’ve been using Herbal Essences, but I think I’m going to switch to Burt’s Bees because I’ve heard it is more gentle on your skin.  There have been a lot of complaints that Tresseme is another shampoo culprit.  I’m guessing that it also depends on your own skin and you might find these shampoos don’t effect your skin, but maybe another brand does.  If you’re breaking out try to switch shampoos for a month or two and see what happens!

Also, make sure you are eating healthy and drinking plenty of water.  I am convinced that eating certain foods like sweets or really fatty foods will cause your skin to break out.  Plus, water will keep your skin hydrated which is always a plus.

And if you are one of those people who don’t wash their face before bed… start doing it!  Especially if you wear make up, but even if you don’t it’s important to get excess oils and dirt from the day off your skin.

NO MORE CABIN FEVER!!!!!

It seems the older I get, the more I hate winter.  I love snow, but I hate driving in it and it gets dark so freakin early that you miss those happy sunshine-y days.  This winter, I’ve got a game plan and I’m not going to end up stuck inside, bored and munching on a plate of Christmas cookies.
What’s my secret?  I’m going to embrace the cold.  There are so many activities to keep you busy even with snow on the ground, there’s just no excuse to be a winter bum.  The nice thing is that most of these activities end up being a workout in and of themselves, which is great especially if you can’t stomach running on a treadmill all winter long.

 

 

Snowshoeing Workout

Snowshoeing is probably going to be the number one thing I get into this season.  I live around many parks and nature preserves that allow for great hiking, but obviously deep snow can provide numerous challenges.  Snowshoes are the perfect winter hiking accessory.  They allow for more stability while walking in snow and ice, but also they are huge calorie burners!!!  We’re talking 480 calories an hour just going at a walking pace.  Not only that, but they are easy, easy, easy to use!  If you can walk, you can snowshoe.  It is also low impact, so if you have knee problems or other health issues this is a great option!  There is little equipment required.  Snowshoes, boots of any kind and warm clothes!  Just remember to wear layers that you can peel off or put back on as needed.  For those runners who want to trail run in the winter, snowshoes allow for running in the snow as well.  It’s a great activity to get you out in nature and mixes up your typical workout day.

 

 

 

Snowboarding

Snowboarding and skiing are two other winter activities that, although more expensive, are a ton of fun!  The amount of calories you burn depends on how hard you push yourself.  Still, you are strengthening your legs and ab muscles while going down the hill, especially if you are carving down the mounting.  There is equipment involved, boots, skis or board and winter clothing.  Plus you’ll need a lift ticket, which at a lot of places is expensive.  BUT there are ways to keep the expense at a minimum.  Don’t go out and buy this stuff before you’ve at least tried it to see if you like it.  Most ski hills offer rentals for the boots and board/skis so there isn’t a need to purchase these things right away.  Also, find out if your ski hill has discount days.  If you are really ambitious, get a part time job at the ski hill.  My mom did that for my brother and I as kids so that we could get family passes, for free!

 

 

Ice Skate Date

 

 

Ice skating is another fun winter activity.  This is much more economical than snowboarding and skiing because most ice skating rinks offer rentals and are less expensive in terms of fees to get in.  On average, a 150 pound person can burn almost 400 calories ice skating at about 9 mph.  Plus, it’s great for date nights or family activities!  What better way to mix up the winter boredom than to go ice skating?  You get a workout it, you have fun and it doesn’t take long to get the hang of it.  Even if you fall down, you just laugh it off and keep going.  If your town doesn’t have an actual indoor rink, many cities will flood the parks in the winter so that people can ice skate on it.

 

So these are just a few ways to avoid the boredom and monotony that the winter season so often brings.  I’m actually looking forward to winter now that I know I have other options than just sitting inside with the boob tube.

What’s Your Beef? A Look Into the Grass Fed Debate.

Grass Fed Beef AdRecently, I did a research paper on the feed lot cattle industry. What spurred my interest was an important movie called Food, Inc. which, for those of you who haven’t seen it, will make anyone question where their food comes from. They dive into more than just the treatment of the animals and find out the overall effects of this type of agriculture (if one can call it that).  I can assure you that this is not an exaggerated issue. I personally have traveled through parts of the state of Wyoming and Nebraska in which the smell from these feedlots is so overwhelmingly intense it makes me nauseous just thinking about it. All I kept thinking while driving past the feedlots was, “That place is so disgusting and we actually eat what they grow, that can’t be good for us”.  And it isn’t.

It all boils down to what the cows are fed.  These days, cows are fed corn, hormones and remains of other cattle.  Why? Because they get fat, fast.  According to Michael Pollan, author of the Omnivore’s Dillema, cows 50 years ago took four or five years before they were big enough to slaughter.  Today, we see them growing at enormous rates.  A steer will go from 80 pounds to 1,100 pounds in 14 months. Plus, corn is a cheap feed as is the remains of their fellow species.  In other words, the cattle industry makes a much higher profit at a faster rate.

What you end up with is a cow who is suffering from anything from bloat to acidosis.  Their stomachs are becoming more acidic due to the starchy corn feed.  What happens then is the bacteria in their stomach becomes acid resistant.  So when we eventually eat this cow’s meat, the bacteria that would normally be killed off by our own stomach acids isn’t killed at all.  Hence the E-Coli outbreaks we’ve all heard about.  This spreads very easily when you consider the living conditions of these animals.  Typically, they are overcrowded facilities in which the animals are standing ankle deep in feces.  Yeah…not pretty.

Feeding cows the remains of other cows also yields a problem.  This is helps to spread that lovely little disease known as Mad Cow Disease or Encephalopathy.  The USDA knows of these practices, but has yet to put a strict ban on them.

Feedlot

There is a solution to these issues.  Grass feeding cattle.  It is practical and natural and will reduce the sicknesses in animals by up to 80%.  Cows would no longer be eating corn which causes the acid resistance.  Therefore, E-Coli would be significantly reduced and the need to pump antibiotics in these animals would be eliminated.  Plus, they wouldn’t eat the remains of other cows so the spread of Mad Cow Disease would also be eradicated.  Seems like a fantastic solution to me!

However, the USDA has deemed it unfeasible.  Why? Grass is a renewable resource.  It’s easy to grow.  You can reduce any harm on the environment with cattle rotation (which simulates the way Bison would have roamed years ago). The meat is higher in Omega-3 fats and is more lean than corn fed beef.  Seems feasible to me.

If you want to find grass fed beef in your area, I highly recommend it.  Make sure you read the labels carefully.  You can contact local farmers directly or visit your local farmers market or natural food store.  It may be more expensive, but it tastes good and you’re not filling your body with unhealthy fats, antibiotics and potentially dangerous viruses.
I am posting my full paper online, for more sources check out Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollen and Food Matters by Mark Bittman.

Packing On the Liquid Pounds

Packing on the Liquid Pounds

Packing on the Liquid Pounds

Frappacinos, lattes, milkshakes, soda, energy drinks and the list goes on and on and on.  All of these liquid caloric black holes that suck us in with their deliciousness. We drink them without even thinking about it. Even when we are trying to be healthy, we focus too much on what we are chewing and not enough on what we are drinking.  When we are on the go, we reach for smoothies to tide us over instead of actual food.  Sure, they are easy to prepare and portable.  Still, none of these are healthy choices or choices that you should substitute for a meal.

Why aren’t these beverages a good choice for someone who is trying to watch their caloric intake? First off, these drinks aren’t full of nutrients.  Most are full of sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  According to CNN, a seemingly healthy smoothy can pack 300 calories into your body.  That’s quite a bit, especially if it accompanies a regular full calories lunch.  And even on its own, most smoothies you get are not full of nutrients that you need to keep you feeling full.  So yes, maybe you’ll drink that smoothie and on its own it seems ok.  But by 2:30 in the afternoon you’re hungry again and reaching for more and more food.

The fact of the matter is drinking your calories isn’t even a satisfying way to get your nutrition.  According to scientists, there isn’t the same psychological cue associated with drinking as there is with eating.  Which is why you are still hungry after drinking that full-fat latte.

Here is some information from CNN.com

A Meal in Itself

Just Say No

75 percent of U.S. adults are projected to be overweight or obese by 2015, according to researchers. Americans consume anywhere from 150 to 300 more calories than they did three decades ago and half of those calories come from liquid. A new study out of John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health finds that reducing liquid calories, especially from sugar-sweetened drinks such as punches, fruit juices and sodas, helps people lose weight and keep it off.

So instead of having a soda, drink water.  Water has no calories and keeps you hydrated without added sugar.  If you are hungry, have a nutritional snack like a piece of string cheese or a handful of almonds.  Have a healthy lunch instead of a smoothie.  If you are going to make smoothies anyways, make them at home with little to no sugar. Use real or frozen fruit and plain non-fat yogurt. Add healthy nutrients like protein powder and flax seed meal.  These will keep you full and will add healthy calories instead of empty calories into your diet.  Still, it’s always better to have a meal than drink your calories for the day in one beverage.

Healthy Smoothie Recipe

Try One of These Instead

Banana-Strawberry Fruit Smoothie Recipe
  • 1 banana, frozen
  • 6 strawberries, frozen
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. skim milk powder
  • 1 heaping tbsp. high- quality protein powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp. flax oil (optional)

In a blender, process all the ingredients until thoroughly mixed and serve.

Shoes that Tone Your Butt? The Truth Revealed.

Reebok EasyTone

Bummer.

After watching the commercials and seeing all the hype, I must admit that I was significantly influenced to go out and by myself a pair of the Reebok EasyTone shoes.  Toning shoes are all over the media these days.  Who doesn’t want to be able to put on a pair of shoes and eventually get hot buns and thighs? Count me in!  But after doing my own research and looking at studies that have recently been conducted by reputable universities, I think I’m going to pass on the miracle shoes.  Here is why.

 

The shoe companies claim that these shoes cause minor instability, similar to that of instability balls at the gym on a much smaller scale.  This instability results in more muscles working and thus more toning in the legs, butt and thighs.  If you read reviews online, such as Amazon.com, people who have worn these shoes find that their muscles are sore afterwards.  So the shoes must be working, right?

 

Well not entirely.  According to WebMD, the soreness is most likely attributed to the muscles working in different ways, but not enough to warrant claims of overall toning.  The muscles quickly will adapt to the odd instability before your buns become steel.

 

A study was done at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse with four different pairs of shoes (3 toning brands and 1 regular tennis shoe).  12 active women between the ages of 19-24 wore the shoes for 12 five minute intervals on the treadmill. Researchers then monitored how hard they worked.  A second test group of women between the ages of 21-27 performed similar tests while wearing the shoes.  Researchers then looked at muscle usage while wearing the shoes. The results? There was no significant change in calories burned or muscle usage when comparing the four shoes.

 

So, this sucks because I was really looking forward to buying a pair of these shoes.  People say they do feel better for people who put a lot of pressure on their heels when standing and walking.  Maybe there are people who would just like the shoe for the comfort factor.  Still, don’t be expecting to walk in these shoes for a few days and end up with the kind of legs and buns seen in the commercials.  For those results, looks like it’s exercise and diet that win again!

 

To read more about the study, go to http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/truth-about-toning-shoes.