Something to Chew On

A Guide to Eating Right and Living Well


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Revisiting your New Year’s Goals

Previously, this year, I blogged about strategies to take your New Year’s resolutions and turn them into lifelong habits. Some of those strategies discussed included making SMART goals (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant and Time Bound), grabbing a buddy to help you along the way, not giving up too soon on your goals and sharing your journey/achievements with others. Since I am a woman of keeping my word, I am revisiting and providing updates on my goals that I established for the year 2014.

Goal #1: Consume less diet soda.

This is incredibly embarrassing to admit, but I have had at least one diet soda every day for as long as I can remember (at least 10 years, eeek!). When I was in college, I could easily consume 4-5 diet sodas/day. Since then, I have cut back to one per day; but still was unhappy with my caffeine addiction and the fact that I was consuming chemicals and sugar substitutes as a beverage. It took a lot of courage and a lot of tries, but I finally did it! I went a whole day without having any caffeine or diet soda. I did have an 8-hour headache that tempted me all day long to go to the vending machine but my persistence and will-power overcame the temptation. The second day’s headache was much more bearable and after a few days, I was completely fine. Believe me, it has been hard but I feel so much cleaner and healthier knowing that I do not need to depend on caffeine every day and more importantly that I am no longer filling my body with chemicals from the diet soda. Giving up diet soda has been a goal I have made for several years. The fact that I knew I was going to be blogging about my journey additionally motivated me to stay on track!

Goal #2: Read more and watch less TV.

I started out really well with this goal, but like most people, after a month, I reverted back to my old nighttime TV-watching habits. I found myself saying “Oh I’ll read more this summer”, but then I realized I was only pushing back my goals with the thought “someday I’ll change.” It’s important to remember that someday is not a day during the week and to start making changes, you simply need to start them today.

Goal #3: Complete a muscle-up, body weight power clean and squat 185 lbs before the end of the year.

These are all part of my fitness goals at crossfit. In order to reach strength-related goals, it’s important to have proper programming and motivating coaches. This is one of the reasons why I love my crossfit box so much. For the month of January, I was very disciplined with eating clean, good sleeping habits and stretching both at the gym and at home. While I haven’t reached my goals with my power clean and squats, I am beyond ecstatic that I did get my first muscle-up at the end of January! Performing a muscle-up was something I really never thought I would achieve because it requires so much skill and upper body strength. Knowing now that anything is possible with hard work and dedication will help me continue to set high goals for myself.

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Spring is a perfect time to reflect on your own habits and see how well they are fitting into a healthy lifestyle. Maybe you started out on the right foot but then fell off track a bit. With Springfield Clinic’s Illinois Product’s Farmers Market starting back up and warmer weather, this is the perfect opportunity to revisit some of your old goals and make some new ones!

 


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Dinner’s Ready

Dinner time is often the one chance for everyone to sit down together, share a meal and discuss life’s events that day. However, in today’s busy world, this Norman Rockwell scene often is replaced with everyone jammed into the car and going through a drive-thru window. Did you know that families who sit together at home for three or more meals per week are more likely to consume:Norman-Rockwell-Freedom-from-Want-1943

  • More fruits and vegetables
  • Less fried food and soda
  • Less saturated fat and trans fat
  • More fiber, calcium, iron and vitamins B6, B12, C and E

When you think about these facts, it makes perfect sense that a home-cooked meal is going to be more nutritious than one purchased from the fast-food, drive-thru window. Most fast-food purchases include fried foods (chicken nuggets or chicken tenders, fries, fish fillets, onion rings) and a sugary-sweetened beverage, resulting in meals that are loaded with saturated and trans fats, sodium and added sugars. When meals are prepared at home, they are more likely to include a fruit and/or vegetable, a lean protein that has been grilled or baked, a whole grain product and either water or low-fat milk to drink.

Two nutrients that most American kids do not consume enough of are dietary fiber and potassium. Additionally, we are not getting enough plant-based foods. Eating more plant-based foods can help easily increase both dietary fiber and potassium intake. Foods that are excellent sources of potassium include: acorn and butternut squash, avocados, baked beans, bananas, broccoli, cantaloupe, mushrooms, nectarines, kiwi, spinach, sweet potatoes, white potatoes, oranges, tomatoes. Dietary fiber can be found in whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta, nuts and seeds, beans (all varieties), berries, apples, pears, oranges, oats and peas to name a few. Adding these foods to familiar recipes or serving them by themselves is a wonderful way of improving nutritional intake at the dinner table.

Eating together as a family not only sounds like a great idea, research is showing that there are both social and health benefits that can be experienced by all family members.1 Additionally, children and adolescents who share family meals three or more times per week are2:

  • More likely to be in a normal weight range
  • Have healthier eating patterns

Additional benefits of family meal times include:

  • Better academic performance
  • Better connectedness and communication at home
  • Better language and communication skills
  • Opportunities to model healthy eating habits
  • More family time

As our families grow and take on more extracurricular activities, it can be more difficult to have everyone sit down at the same time for dinner. Making time in everyone’s schedules for a family meal has benefits that go beyond nutritional health. In a report published by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, 2011, they found that teens who consumed dinners with their families 5-7 times per week compared to those who sat down with the family less than 3 times per week were3:

  • 4x less likely to use tobacco
  • 2x less likely to use alcohol
  • 2.5x less likely to use marijuana

To limit distractions, make mealtimes a no-phone zone and turn off the television. Remember to make family meal time fun! Discussing bad grades or negative events should not occur at the dinner table. Positive family talks can be stemmed from questions like:

  • What was the best thing that happened today?
  • What was the funniest thing you saw or heard today?
  • Did you learn anything new today?
  • If you could eat the same vegetable every single day, what would it be?
  • What has been your favorite memory so far this year?

1.Family Dinner and Diet Quality Among Children and Adolescents. Arch Fam Med. 2000;9:235-240.

2.Is Frequency of Shared Family Meals Relate to the Nutritional Health of Children and Adolescents? Pediatrics, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. May 2011.

3.The Importance of Family Dinners VII. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. September 2011.


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How to Get Your Beach Body

iStock_000014575855MediumYou’ve been waiting all year for it and it’s finally here. Flip flops, sunglasses, SPF, backyard BBQs, boating, baseball, country music, fairs, festivals…it’s summertime. Summer can mean several different things. It means longer days providing more opportunities to be active in the evening hours. It means fresh fruits and vegetables make their way into our homes for a much cheaper price. It also means wearing fewer layers of clothing. If those stubborn winter pounds are overextending their welcome, here are a few quick tips to rev up your diet for the tank top and cut-off shorts season.

  1. Cut back on processed foods. That includes chips, crackers, pretzels, cookies, granola bars and everything else from that aisle in the grocery store. Items that are stored in boxes or bags require a lot of sodium to help preserve the shelf life of that food item. High sodium intakes can contribute to abdominal bloating.
  2. Protein. Consuming lean protein sources, especially at breakfast helps keep us feeling fuller longer between meals. Don’t forget about protein sources at snacks too!
  3. Non-starchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables are Mother Nature’s free weight loss medicine. Try to include a serving or two with every meal. Add spinach, mushroom, onions and tomatoes to an egg omelet for breakfast, a dark green side salad at lunch and roasted zucchini, peppers and mushrooms with dinner.
  4. Limit soda. Whether it’s regular or diet soda, both of these carbonated beverages can lead to excess bloating around the waistline.
  5. Remember, it’s okay to snack. Snacking is a chance to refuel your body and keep your metabolism burning bright. Try to keep snack options to 200 calories or less. Try a handful of almonds or one tablespoon of peanut butter with a small apple.
  6. Mind your alcoholic beverages. Many summertime beverages come with a hefty caloric price. Five ounces of margarita contains 370 sugary alcoholic calories and most restaurants will serve you double this amount. Alcohol also weakens our decision-making skills which may lead to unwanted consumption of late-night pizza.
  7. “Eat less, exercise more” is not always the best mantra to follow. Consuming too few of calories also adversely affects one’s metabolism which can make weight loss even harder. Try improving the type of calories you are consuming by choosing lean proteins, fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts/seeds and small portions of heart-healthy whole grains.
  8. Change up your exercise routine. We often hit weight-loss plateaus after doing the same workouts week after week, month after month. Try adding some tabata training one to two times per week to provide variety and a new challenge for your body. Tabata is essentially the grandfather of high intensity interval training. The method is simple, yet highly effective. Do as many repetitions as possible for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds and then repeat seven more times. A complete tabata sequence is four minutes, or eight rounds long. A great application to download is the Tabata Pro app. It syncs with your music and gives you bells and whistles on when to start the exercise and when to rest. Below are some great workouts to try whether you’re at the gym or in the comfort of your own home. Try to limit rest between exercises to just 60 seconds.

Level 1

Level 2

Level 3

Exercise

Squats (no weight)

Goblet Squats

Squat Jumps

Push-ups on knees

Push-ups on toes

Push-up+ knee tucks

Stationary Lunge
(switch legs after each set)

Alternating Lunges

Lunge Split Jumps

Plank on forearms and knees

Plank on forearms and toes

Plank push-ups

Remember to always consult with your physician before starting a new exercise program.


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Choose Your Snack Wisely

Snacktime isn’t just for kids. Snacking can be a part of a healthy diet for adults, too! Just like mealtimes, good, nutritious snacks take thought, preparation and planning. Poor planning can result in unhealthy, convenient snack choices, such as candy, chips, pastries, crackers and soda.

One snacking mentality that I try to help people break is that “snacks” = “desserts.” Unfortunately, for a lot of people, this snacking-dessert association developed during childhood.  This is why it is so important to teach your kids at an early age to make healthy snack choices.

A healthy snack for most people typically ranges from 100-300 calories, depending on time between meals and how physically active you are. Some people believe that skipping snacks helps you save calories during the day, but healthy snacks may actually help you from overeating at your next meal. Snacks are also a great opportunity to consume nutrients that we need every day.

The perfect snack is hard to come by but here are some options I enjoy!

The perfect snack is hard to come by but here are some options I enjoy!

Try these healthy snack options from EatWell

Try these healthy snack options from EatWell

Remember, the best time to have a snack is when you are physically hungry for one! There are many influences that can make having a snack “sound like a good idea” but the real reason to snack is to satisfy an internal cue of hunger. Good snackers are able to distinguish the difference between physical and emotional hunger cues.

Emotional cues can be triggered by stress, boredom, even your co-workers. Planning ahead by cutting vegetables, buying fresh fruit or throwing some nuts in a Ziploc can help you satisfy those physical hunger cues in a more nutritious way.

Be careful not to overeat when snacking. This often occurs when we are distracted while snacking (on the computer, watching TV, talking/socializing). Distractions can lead to “mindless eating” habits that occur when we lose touch with our internal cues of hunger/satiety because our focus is on something else. A simple way to help prevent overeating is to pre-portion your snack instead of eating directly from the box, bag, container, etc. That way you know exactly how big your serving size is (instead of guessing how many handfuls of pretzels you’ve taken).

Tired of snacking on the same boring apple every day? Here are two handouts that can help spice up your snack options.

Snacking Tips for Adults

Kid Friendly Fruits and Veggies

Eat right, live well, and remember: When hunger attacks, make sure you grab a healthy snack!

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