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Posts Tagged ‘diet’

The wellness program at my new job is AWESOME! Yay for employers that take a proactive position in their employees’ health. This month’s challenge: track (and reduce) our sodium intake.

salt shaker

Image: Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’ve gone OCD about lots of things in my diet and fitness life, from heart rate to ounces of water, carbs and fat, time of day I’m eating, and, of course, calories. But I’d never tracked sodium. This was going to be hard, because even though I rarely add salt to food, I crave salty snacks. Give me fries or chips or popcorn over ice cream any day!

Turns out, this challenge is even more enlightening than I thought. After only 10 days, my blood pressure had dropped from a normal 120/80 to 94/62! I realize lots of factors can affect blood pressure, so I probably can’t attribute it all to less sodium, but it was enough to motivate me to keep at it. I also felt like I was less…well, puffy. And it is amazing the sodium that hides out in foods, even those that you don’t think of as salty.

People do need SOME sodium for normal bodily functions, but most Western diets include many times the recommended amount. According to Mayoclinic.com, healthy adults should not exceed 2,300 mg of sodium a day. Our challenge is to keep it around 1,500 mg, which is very tough to do! I consider it a good day if I’m under 2,000.

If you’ve never paid much attention to your sodium intake before, try it out for a week. Or even a day! I think you’ll be surprised.

– albledsoe

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I’m on the third day of my cleanse diet. All I have to do is drink maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and water for all three meals. Um, I just bought some bikinis online, size 2. So…I’m gonna look amazing.

– Kelly Kapoor, The Office (season 5)

No matter how desperate you are to keep that New Year’s resolution to lose weight, don’t do this! I have a plan that’s just as simple but won’t leave you looking all strung out: get plenty of sleep, drink a lot water, eat whole foods with a lot of fiber, and sweat for about an hour most days of the week. Love you just the way you are, Kelly Kapoor!

– albledsoe


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Wheat germ, that is. It may not sound all that appetizing, but this grain component is quite tasty and easy to incorporate into your diet. I began using it on the recommendation of my personal trainer because of it’s fiber content. But it’s also a great source of folic acid, magnesium, vitamin E, and many other nutrients.

Turns out the stuff can also help your body deal with stress, according to the YOU docs (Roizen and Oz) at http://www.realage.com. They recommend topping your oatmeal with wheat germ. I do that, but also put it on sandwiches and wraps, mix it in pasta dishes or veggies, stir it into yogurt or cottage cheese, and pretty much anywhere else I can fit in in. I was sprinkling it on cold cereal for awhile, but felt like it was getting wasted because I don’t drink all the milk and there was nothing to make it stick. As the RealAge article suggested, I’ve also baked with it, and it doesn’t change the taste of the food as far as I’ve noticed. I mixed it into the cornbread I took to a family dinner, and no one could tell.

Is there anything you add to your food to sneak in some extra nutritional value?

– albledsoe

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My mom and I were recently discussing how overwhelming it can be to try to be healthy, because there is so much information out there, much of it conflicting. Do you drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, or half your body weight in ounces, or something else entirely? Is soy a great veg source of protein, or does it screw with your hormones? The influx of information can be mind-boggling and often paralyzing. Even if you have the best intentions, it can sometimes feel impossible to know if you’re actually doing and eating the right things.

Here at F2BT, we attempt to wade through the unreliable information, bring you the most up-to-date advice, and deliver our real-life results, good or bad. Here are just a few places I regularly turn for health-related info and ideas. There are hundreds of others out there, and we’d love to hear your suggestions as well.

Runner’s World and Women’s Health magazines. I’m a magazine addict anyway, and these two (both by Rodale) are high-quality, info-packed reads every single issue. Both have great websites as well. I especially love the Newbie Chronicles by Mark Parent in RW for it’s honest, hilarious take on being a beginning runner. Warning: Runner’s World may inspire you to do crazy things, like run a marathon.

MapMyRun.com. This site allows you to plug in any starting point and map a running route which you can save, share, etc. You can set up a profile to track your runs, search for other runs in an area and more. Sister sites include mapmyride.com and mapmyhike.com.

Dr. Andrew Weil. I’ve referenced Dr. Weil several times before, but this Harvard-educated physician has proven to be one of the most reliable sources I’ve found for all things health. He believes emotions and spirit play a bigger role in our well-being than most people acknowledge, and he believes some things are best treated by conventional medicine, and other things are better treated in a more natural manner. I always check out what he’s written on an issue before I take any action.

Self magazine. I had to include another mag, since Self has topped my pile for years. The print issue covers everything for cancer survivors to fashion and celebrities to the best new gear, and I love the editor, a triathlete and mom with a great blog of her own. We at F2BT also check out the Eat Like Me blog at self.com, where a registered dietician photographs and posts every single meal she eats. Great stuff!

iTunes. This isn’t very original, but I check out iTunes for inspiration for workouts, both music and podcasts. I love the sports mixes that include “coached” workouts. I own Lance Armstrong’s and Kara Goucher’s. It’s also inspiring to see the top Power Songs (“Eye of the Tiger” anyone?). And I’ve gotten some great podcasts with workouts, yoga and meditation, etc. Check out Mayo Clinic and Dr. Weil there for medical advice, and listen to interviews with top athletes to keep you motivated.

Ken Combs Running Store. This of course will vary depending on where you are, but your local running store is a great resource. For the most part, the people working there love to run, bike, or whatever, and they want to help the endurance community grow (read: free advice). All running stores I know of also get involved in putting on races, are very active in giving back to the community, and generally have ties to running groups (or coordinate their own). I love Ken Combs in Louisville as well as Swag’s and the Trail Store.

– albledsoe

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Soup’s On

b3357b93-e296-4265-97a4-99fac6a6b18aAs soon as the air gets crisp, I’m ready to trade the grill for the oven. I get super domestic when it gets cold outside and love to make a meal that will last through the week for lunches and at least a couple of dinners. I dread the cold weather that steals my days spent at the park, but enjoy logging some extra time in the kitchen. My go-to recipes in the winter are usually soups. They are warm, filling and make the whole house smell great as they cook. My all time favorite soup is homemade potato.

I don’t load mine with the bacon and sour cream you find in a lot of recipes, but it can easily be turned into a total comfort food. If I make my mom’s classic potato soup recipe, each bowl I have will inevitably be topped with shredded cheese.

So, in an attempt to satiate my potato soup craving last fall and stick to my diet I came up with a new recipe. It’s not milk based, it is loaded with veggies and it is nice and hearty. It can stand alone as an entree or you can pair a cup of this with a salad and stay full for hours. The soup is thickened by blending the potatoes instead of adding flour or cornstarch, and I add whole wheat orzo instead of high sodium meat like ham or bacon.  The best part – you can whip this up in 25 – 30 minutes. That means a work night can even turn into a soup night!

The ingredient list:

-5 cups of chicken broth
-4 cups of diced peeled potatoes
-1 large onion chopped
-3 celery stalks chopped
-2 carrots chopped
-1 red pepper diced
-1 yellow pepper diced
-1 cup of Marsala wine
-1/4 cup of whole wheat orzo pasta
-1/8 tsp. dried rosemary
-1/8 tsp. dried marjoram
-1/8 tsp. dried thyme
-1/8 tsp. dried sage

Combine the broth, onions, celery, carrots, potatoes, peppers, wine and herbs in a large soup pot. Cover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender (about 12 minutes).  Use a slotted spoon to remove the vegetables and place in a blender. Blend vegetables and two cups of broth until partially pureed. Add orzo to the remaining broth, and boil for about 5 minutes. Once orzo is cooked, return puree to soup pot and mix with orzo and broth.

The blended potatoes and whole wheat pasta will fill you up without weighing you down.

Give this soup a try the next time you need some comfort food. What is your favorite type of soup to make when it’s cold outside?

-Sara

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I’m reading “Master Your Metabolism” by Jillian Michaels, and it inspired me to do a fall cleaning of my pantry. I decided to focus on just a couple of items at a time as I read through the book, and I started with hydrogenated fats and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). I thought this would be easy because I consider myself a really healthy, natural eater, and everyone knows these things are terrible for you. But when you throw in a husband and god-daughter and the occasional cheat meal, I guess the crappy food accumulated without my even realizing it.

I had one issue with Jillian’s plan: She demands you throw the food away instead of donating it to a food bank, because “this stuff is poison, horrible for your own or anyone else’s body. Yes, you may have paid money for it, but cut your losses and also prevent anyone else from poisoning their body. THROW IT AWAY.” When you put it that way, Jill, how can I say no? So I tossed the junk and cut my losses.

First evil ingredient I tossed: hydrogenated fats. You’ve probably heard about restaurants in certain cities banning trans fats, and lots of food brands put on their labels “Trans Fat Free.” But the catch is, a food can still have a small amount of hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils and make that claim. NO amount of these fats is good for you, as they lead to heart disease and metabolic syndrome as well as high triglycerides and LDL cholesterol. Problem is hydrogenated or trans fats find their way into almost every kind of processed food imaginable, like chips and crackers and bread. Most surprising to me was microwave popcorn…I always thought that was a healthy snack (and the air-popped version is a great whole grain, high-fiber option). So I tossed anything in my pantry or fridge with any type of shortening or hydrogenated oil, and my arteries instantly felt better.

Next up: high-fructose corn syrup. I thought I avoided this for the last few years, but I found this stuff on the labels in all kinds of food at my house. From the off-brand raisin bran cereal in the cabinet to the marshmallows left over from camping and even the half jar of pasta sauce in the fridge, I was shocked at the amount of refined-sugar laden crap I was throwing out. It was a great feeling to get rid of it, but I was ashamed to find so much in the first place. So what’s so bad about HFCS? This inexpensive sweetener is added to so many foods, and aside from all the calories it contains, HFCS has been shown to increase your triglycerides and lead to overeating (because your body doesn’t recognize it as food and fails to signal your brain that you’re full).

Once I finished this purge, it was time to refill the kitchen. This time around, I read every single label instead of assuming I knew what was healthy and what wasn’t. It actually made my grocery trip much easier, because if a food contained one of these “antinutrients,” as Jillian calls them, I just put it back on the shelf. Piece of cake! Well, you know what I mean…

– albledsoe

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On The Road Again

Road trips – the potential enemy of any diet conscious eater. All that time in the car makes it too easy to give in to fast food stops, salty snacks, bars of chocolate and caffeine loaded beverages.

I recently spent seven hours on the road with ten coworkers. All of us, along with 11 pieces of luggage, were stuffed into a 15 passenger van. If I can survive my road trip without a diet disaster, you can too!

Heading into my trip, I knew I was going to have to pack food in addition to regular luggage. My challenge was that I couldn’t really take any food that required refrigeration and I needed to take up as little space as possible – I had a one bag limit!

Since I was traveling with ten other people, I wanted to make sure I was able to snack in between meals to avoid overeating when we did stop for food. That way I wouldn’t give in if I ended up at a restaurant with only poor food choices available.

My Road Trip Snacks

My Road Trip Snacks

Here’s what I packed:
– 2 Packages of Almonds
– 2 Bananas
– 1 Orange
– 1 Fiber/Granola Bar
– 2 Servings of Almond Trail Mix
– 1 Refillable Water Bottle

I packed all of the food in a reuseable plastic storage container. This way my fruit didn’t get bruised up along the way and I was able to access it quickly when I was ready for a snack. It worked out perfectly. I had one banana left after the trip and it was still bruise-free.

This worked really well for my road  trip, but the truth is you could do this on any other day that you are going to be on the run. A day filled with errands, or spending time watching your kids’ ball games can be just as tempting. Grocery shopping on an empty stomach, mega-calorie lattes and concession stands can all be diet busters. With a little pre-planning you can avoid a diet meltdown.

It takes 5 minutes to pack some snacks in your purse or throw some veggies in a small lunchbox on ice. What kind of snacks will you pack on your next road trip?

– Sara

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