Posts Tagged ‘healthy eating’

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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We’re planning a brunch wedding shower for my sister next month, and I needed some good food ideas (not that it’s a difficult task, brunch is my favorite meal!). Sara sent along this delicious recipe from Whole Foods that I knew I’d have to try. I did a test run recently on a rare Sunday when my husband was off work, and we both loved it.

Quinoa egg bake fresh from the oven

The dish was quick, simple, had few ingredients, and reheated well. I actually thought it was better the second day, and it was nice to have a fast and hot breakfast before work. Quinoa is a great plant source of protein, and eggs and garlic are superfoods as well.

...and on my plate!

We rounded out the brunch meal with Al Fresco apple chicken sausage (which I’d never have but highly recommend) and wheat toast with homemade apricot preserves (thanks, Eva!). Yummy way to start a Sunday, that’s for sure. I’m looking forward to serving this up at the wedding shower!

– albledsoe

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Even though the commercials promoting high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) have been out since late 2008, I just saw one this weekend and got all fired up about it. The campaign is an attempt by corn refiners to refute the bad reputation earned by HFCS.

Here’s the commercial I saw this weekend:

The commercial claims HFCS is made from corn, doesn’t have artificial ingredients, and is fine in moderation, “like sugar.”

Here’s the thing: made from corn doesn’t necessarily equal natural or healthy. The processing performed on HFCS renders it unrecognizable from its original form and I try not to eat much that doesn’t resemble actual food, even if it “doesn’t have artificial ingredients.”

It also may be fine in moderation (though I’ve rid my pantry of it), but it’s nearly impossible to avoid with its prevalance in food in America. HFCS is in a huge percentage of processed and packaged foods. It is not calorie free, it offers no health benefits, and can be harmful in the mass amounts we consume.

The commercial with all its ‘facts’ also forgets to mention the destruction to the environment caused by the farming and manufacturing of the corn needed to meet the massive demand for this stuff.

I do agree that people who blame the entire obesity epidemic in the US on high fructose corn syrup are a little extreme. But a commercial like this is not the answer (but is it worse than the Taco Bell diet?).

It’s just another cheap, convenient substitute for quality that is literally killing us. Check it out for yourself, and as the commercial says, “get the facts,” to make the best decision for you and your family.

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Nuts for this snack

Adam texted me from work yesterday morning:

“OMG I can’t quit eating these pistachios!”

I completely know the feeling. Since Sara and I were roommates in the tiny apartment above Mr. Ed’s our senior year at Murray State, pistachios have been a favorite snack. They’d somehow fallen off the radar until I saw them on sale at the grocery a month or two ago. Now I’m dragging my husband down with my nutty snack habits!


Pistachios are a heart-healthy, filling snack

Actually, though, pistachios are a great choice for a snack. They contain heart-healthy fats, antioxidents, loads of vitamins and minerals, plus a ton of fiber, so they keep you feeling fuller longer. Sometimes the shells are dyed, but don’t eat those. Stick with the lovely natural beige shells and yummy green nut.

Aside from all the health mumbo-jumbo, pistachios are just pretty darn fun to eat. They are generally bagged in the shells, but they’re easy to shell and just enough of a distraction. Bad thing is, you can get in the zone and eat an entire bag in one sitting…try to pre-portion them to keep some self-control!

Pistachios are generally harvested in September, and more than 98 percent of the U.S. supply comes from California, so if you’re a locavore, they’re probably not on your list (unless you’re lucky enough to live on the West Coast). But in the Bledsoe household, they’re a healthy treat we just can’t get enough of.

– 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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A F2BT reader recently commented about her success of getting her son to eat plain broccoli – no butter, no cheese, just the green goodness. I was thrilled to hear about this success with her youngster. This really made me think about how important it is for parents to instill healthy eating habits in their children early in their lives. With childhood obesity on the rise, something is going to have to give. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, childhood obesity has tripled since 1980. This accounts for over 9 million kids. As parents, you are a part of the change that has to happen to ensure your kiddos turn into fit and active adults.

I credit my Mom for keeping my diet on track as a youngster. She had a strict “you have to try it” policy at our house that I know shaped my healthy eating choices today. Vegetables were always on my plate and I had a glass of milk with every meal. Growing up we rarely had candy or soda in the house and I probably had McDonald’s once a year. Those items were definitely considered treats and were handed out on special occasions. At dinner there was never a question of having a separate “kids” meal. I ate what the grown-ups ate. If I threw a fit, my plate was taken away. My mom stood strong with the principle of kids will eat if they are hungry.

I’m not a mom yet, but I am an aunt to several kiddos and I’ve spent a lot of time around little ones during meal times. It is possible to teach your kids habits of healthy eating. It’s not easy, but it can be done. You may have picky eaters in your brood, but are they picky because they only like to eat junk? Did your kids know what soda was before they could call it by name?

They are going to see what you eat and what you do, and this is going to shape their view of a “normal” meal. So, if you get take-out 3 nights a week, or you slurp down giant cups of soda everyday, your kids are going to think that is okay. Your habits will become the habits of your children and shape their lifestyle.

I urge you to hold the line on this. Introduce your kids to a balanced diet early. There have been a few cookbooks out that offer tips on how to “hide” veggies in other foods by pureeing them. Yes, it’s great that you are getting your kids to eat servings of vegetables, and I’m all for finding ways to make classic recipes healthier.  But, isn’t it almost just as important to teach them about these nutritious items you are tricking them into eating? There are a number of ways to educate your kids and make healthy eating fun for your whole family.

•   Let them help cook and make your menu for the week
•    Play games – Check out Mypyramid.gov and take advantage of the interactive programs
•    Plant a garden as a family – give them a plant that is theirs to nurture and watch grow

You shape these little lives in so many ways, and the diet you instill today will be the foundation they need to make good choices as teenagers and adults. What works for your family? What are the healthy habits you have given your children?

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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 Mexican food challenge is complete! I’m happy to report that I have enjoyed 13 healthy Mexican inspired meals and tried out a total of 4 new recipes over the last 7 days. I came up short only one meal which was due to a work trip I took on Thursday. I wanted to pack a lunch in my purse, but my travel arrangements left me without any option to B.Y.O.F (Bring Your Own Fajita). Here’s a very quick recap of my menu from this week.

Fiesta Chicken Soup

Fiesta Chicken Soup

Lunch – Leftover fiesta chicken soup from this weekend. Mmm, mmm good. This was my go-to choice for lunch on more than one occasion.

Dinner – I tried out a new entrée. Since I wound up with so much extra food from making tamale pie on Monday, I adjusted this shrimp enchilada recipe by half. And, I know I said no refried beans, but when I saw this recipe I decided to use vegetarian beans and give it a go. I also cut way back on the cheese that this recipe called for. This turned out to be quite a delightful meal. Even though I cut it in half, this recipe still made a lot of food.

For lunch I finished off my soup and had a salad topped with grilled chicken, black beans, avocados and cilantro. My dinner was made up of leftover tamale pie. I think this meal tasted even better as a leftover!

This lunch was the only meal that I didn’t get to stick to the plan. Boo. I was in TX for work, and our host arranged for a BBQ lunch. At least the meal was a local dish, but I was disappointed to have to have to stray from the challenge so close to the end!

Shrimp Enchilada

Shrimp Enchilada Bake

Dinner – I was exhausted from my trip, so instead of charging forward with a new recipe, I enjoyed one more night of leftovers. I couldn’t let the good stuff go to waste! Shrimp enchiladas – part two!

The beauty of the Mexican food challenge was that I was able to focus on eating lots of fresh goodies – peppers, tomatoes, avocados – which all top my list of favorite things to eat. I had to pass on a lot of the toppings that come along with “traditional” Mexican foods like cheese sauce, sour cream, etc. But as long as you have fresh salsa, guacamole and cilantro on hand, who needs it?

What is your favorite healthy meal you think you could eat everyday?


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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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You’ve read about my burrito addition, and now I’m going to put my love for Mexican food to the test. I’ve said many times that I feel like I could eat Mexican food all the time. So, beginning today, I will be noshing only on healthy versions of Mexican entrees for lunch and dinner. This means no refried beans, heaping tubs of sour cream, cheese dip, fried ice cream, etc. I’ll report back on Monday with my results from the weekend, and share my plan for the upcoming week. If you have any healthy Mexican recipes you want me to test out during this challenge, please leave a comment and I’ll happily give it a try!

Also, I found a great article on Active.com about staying on track with your fitness plans during the holidays. Since turkey-day is less than two weeks away, it’s a good time to think about how you might need to adjust your schedule to make sure you include time to exercise this holiday season. If you are hosting company, will you need to switch your workout from the evening to the morning? If you are headed out-of-town, this would be a great time to incorporate some of Amanda’s travel tips like airplane exercises, planning a run in your host city, or testing out the in room fitness option offered at the hotel where you will be staying. If you take a few minutes to think about it now, you’ll have a plan in place on how to get out of the house for at least 30 minutes a day when the holiday madness begins!

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