Sunday, October 30, 2011

November 2-9 Joy In Movement

I remember when my oldest son was a child. He would spend his days climbing trees, learning new skateboard tricks, jumping his bike off a home made ramp, chasing his brother, making up new dives to do off the diving board etc. etc. He loved physical activity so much he would literally cry when I made him come in the house for dinner.

That same son has grown into a man that gets his greatest peace from hours spent on his surfboard in the freezing California water. He recently took the red eye from California and after flying all night and landing early early in the morning wanted to know if he could borrow my car to head over to the beach to catch some waves. He honestly still says he wishes he could just take a "nutrition pill" every morning so he didn't have to slow down his life enough to fit in eating.

How about you? Were you a kid that craved movement? Did you hula hoop, roller skate, play tag, jump rope?

When did exercise become a chore you had to fit into your schedule to earn your daily points?

It was in the middle of belly dancing class at the gym with Gail Saturday that I had this sudden epiphany "This is fun!" Yes I was getting a bit of a work out, yes I looked like an idiot doing it (do not picture sultry and sexy, picture awkward and clumsy) but honestly I was just plain old enjoying myself.

So that is what brought me to this week's challenge. You can accomplish this by doing 10 minutes a day or by one hour long blissful experience or anything in between but to earn the 35 bonus points for the week you need to participate in 60 minutes of something physical that brings back that child-like love of movement. And it must be something out of your regular routine (ie: it cannot be something you have done in the last month). It must be something fun and something that puts a smile on your face. It must be something that makes you remember "I like having a body. I like being physical and doing fun things. This makes me smile, relieves my stress, and makes me want to laugh."

Choose what you will but here's some ideas:
Hula hoop
Jump rope
Ride a bike (with no hands??)
Play tag or dodgeball
Climb a tree
Water ski
Canoe or kayak
Snorkel or Scuba
Play kick ball
Hop skotch
Mountain hike or bike
Go bowling
Go ice or roller skating
Play tennis or racquet ball
Dance (ballroom, Zumba, Kinect, belly dancing or just put on oldies music and dance around the house)

Be cautious and careful (one of our group members broke her elbow just from standing on her son's skateboard for a minute) but really have some full out child like fun!

And if your local has already brought cold weather and low temperatures now might be the time to check out your local gym. Most gyms offer a day or week pass for free to check it out. Maybe you can find a fun dance class to join!

Have a great week!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

You Need All 3

Hopefully you have begun to make daily exercise a regular part of your healthy living. I'm sure if you have accomplished the recommended one hour of exercise 6 days a week you are beginning to feel the many benefits that it brings. Sometimes I think about how previous generations lived: planting crops, carrying fire wood, milking cows, baling hay, making candles and soap etc. etc. It is amazing how much exercise they experienced as part of their normal daily routines. Because of the ease of our lives we need to make a more concerted and organized effort to make sure our body is getting what it needs on a daily basis.

We know that our bodies need
  • a cardio workout to strengthen our heart and burns calories
  • strength training routines to increase muscle, boosts metabolism and changes our shape
  • stretching exercises to reduce our risk of injury and help keep our muscles supple and joints stable

For our bonus challenge for the upcoming week I would like you to scrutinize your daily exercise. Are you walking every day and ignoring strength training? Are you lifting weights but neglecting cardio? Have you continued the challenge to stretch daily or have you let it fall by the wayside in an effort to burn more calories in your limited time allotted for daily exercise?

For every day that you add in 10 minutes of what your work out has been lacking you can claim the daily bonus points of 5 points per day. (If you want the points on Sunday as well take a relaxing 10 minute stretch. That seems like an OK Sabbath activity to me!)

You can have this 10 minutes be part of your one hour of exercise or in addition to your one hour of exercise but please add something that you normally would have neglected that day.

Two Notes:
1. You do not have to have all 3 (cardio. stretching, strength training) every day but for your daily bonus points make sure to add in at least one thing that has been lacking in your work out routine.
2. You do not have to own weights or have a gym membership to do strength training. A google search will help you find many exercises that can be done to increase your core and muscle strength without owning hand weights or expensive machines.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Dark Green Greens

Our Challenge beginning Wednesday is to earn your 5 daily bonus points by eating 3 cups of dark leafy greens! Enjoy!

A nutrition professor once said that it was common for our ancient ancestors to eat up to six pounds of leaves per day. He imagined them walking along from one place to another, just picking and eating leaves as they went. Can you imagine eating a grocery bag full of greens each and every day? Few of us even eat the minimum USDA recommendations of 3 cups of dark green vegetables per week. And yet, these veggies deliver a bonanza of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

Health Benefits

Dark green leafy vegetables are, calorie for calorie, perhaps the most concentrated source of nutrition of any food. They are a rich source of minerals (including iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium) and vitamins, including vitamins K, C, E, and many of the B vitamins. They also provide a variety of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which protect our cells from damage and our eyes from age-related problems, among many other effects. Dark green leaves even contain small amounts of Omega-3 fats.

Types of Greens

I think of greens as divided into three groups, depending on how much cooking they require.

Salad Greens

Obviously, salad greens are usually eaten raw. In general, the darker the color, the more nutritious. Iceberg lettuce, for example, is extremely low in nutrients compared with its more colorful relatives (and we do not count iceberg lettuce for our challenge this week) romaine lettuce has 8 times the vitamin A and 6 times the vitamin C as iceberg lettuce. When you have a choice, a variety of greens is always best, as each has its own constellation of nutrients.

Quick-cooking Greens

These greens can either be eaten raw or lightly cooked. Spinach is the most obvious example of this category. It takes only seconds to cook a spinach leaf. A benefit to cooked greens is that they shrink so much that you can more easily get lots of nutrition from them. Six cups of raw greens become approximately one cup of cooked greens.

Most quick-cooking greens take just a few minutes to cook. Chard (Swiss chard) is a quick-cooking green, and also can be eaten raw, though it isn't usually. Chard is now available in many colors, which are often milder-tasting than the more traditional chard. I recently saw a suggestion to chop up the stems and put them in tuna salad instead of celery. If you haven't tried chard, you really should - you may be surprised! Chard and the more familiar spinach are good places to start with cooked greens, as they are so easy, and not as bitter as some others.

Beet greens are also quick-cooking (and delicious), and are actually related to chard and spinach. Escarole, dandelion greens, and sorrel are also relatively quick-cooking greens.

Cabbage isn't very leafy, but I think of it in this category as well, even though it is related to the heartier greens kale and collards.

Hearty Greens

Many people seem to have a deep-seated fear of kale and collard greens (at least outside the U.S. South), but I encourage you to give them a try, as they have the most nutritional benefits of all. Over time, they may even become favorites.

Kale and collard greens are the most common examples of hearty greens. They do require cooking, although not as much as many people think. Yes, you can cook collards for an hour, but if you cut the greens from the fibrous stems they can be tender in 10-15 minutes. I also like kale cooked about that amount of time.

How to Wash Greens

The easiest way to wash greens is to put them into a lot of water and swish them around

How to Store Greens

Ideally, the greens should be dry or almost dry, and stored in a bag with as much of the air pushed out as you easily can. You might want to put a barely damp paper towel in for just the right amount of moisture. Then, put them in the vegetable drawer of your fridge.

How to Cook Greens

Greens can be braised (cooked fairly slowly in a small amount of liquid, usually a flavorful stock), sautéed (cooked quickly in a small amount of oil), or a combination of the two. They can also be steamed or boiled. Greens can also be thrown into almost any soup or skillet dish, especially the milder-tasting greens such as chard.

Some Recipes

One recipe I have been seeing everywhere (blogs, television etc.) is cooked Kale chips. I tried it yesterday and while it does not taste like potato chips as some folks are claiming it was not bad and could easily be thrown in a small Tupperware for a mobile green treat. Here’s that recipe

Baked Kale Chips

1 bunch Kale

1 T. olive oil

1 tsp. seasoned salt

1. Preheat overn to 350 degrees. Line a non-insulated cookie sheet with foil or parchment

2. With a knife or scissor carefully remove all the leaves from the stems and tear into bite size pieces. Wash thoroughly with a salad spinner. Drizzle (I sprayed it) with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoned salt.

3. Bake until edges are brown but ar not burnt 10-15 minute (mine took 13)

Alli Spencer’s Spinach Smoothie

½ bag spinach (or two giant handfuls)

1-2 T Agave nectar

1 T. Coconut oil (she adds this for health benefits I leave it out)

1 frozen banana

5 large frozen strawberries

1 cup ice

½ cup water

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Stretch It Out

I know you must be so happy to have that crazy pure food challenge over with. I learned a lot reading food labels and hope to continue to eat more wholesome foods but wow that was tough!

Our challenge for this week is to stretch for at least 10 minutes per day. You can include this as part of your daily exercise minutes or do it in addition to your minutes but begin to include daily stretching in your physical routine. For every day that you stretch at least 10 minutes you can claim 5 bonus points. And yes you can stretch on Sunday too- for a total of 35 possible bonus points.

If you have been inactive for any length of time, chances are you have lost a percentage of the range of motion associated with your joints. This range of motion is commonly referred to as flexibility.

How We Lose Flexibility

As we age, flexibility diminishes within the joints through lack of stretching and physical activity. .


Stretching is a physical activity that elongates connective tissues, muscles and other tissues. The benefits associated with stretching include:

Reducing muscle tension and relaxing the body

Improved coordination and freer movement of body and limbs

Increased range of motion in the associated joints

Prepare the body for physical activity

Preventing injuries from tight muscles during physical activity

Creating a mind body connection

Promoting circulation

Reduce the risk of back problems

Reduce muscle soreness after exercise

Ten tips on how to stretch

1. Do everything slowly.

2. Hold the stretch for at least 10 seconds prior to exercise (warm-up) and for at least 30 seconds post exercise (cool-down).

3. Breathe normally and relax while holding the stretch to the point of pain.

4. NEVER, EVER do any bouncy stretching, always hold and relax.

5. Focus on the muscle you are trying to stretch and then try to lengthen it.

6. If a particular muscle group is tight, then stretch it in stages. Stretch as far as you can, then relax it and stretch again. This is most important during cool-down.

7. Move slowly out of the stretch.

8. Remember to stretch both sides of the body.

9. Increasing the range of movement around a joint will help the blood flow to the muscles surrounding the joint and increase circulation that will carry away any lactic acids that may build up in the muscle.

10. Do more stretching in addition to just warming-up and cooling-down. As we get older our muscles shorten naturally, and it is vital for everyone that stretching becomes part of your normal everyday life. Gyms that offer stretch-classes or Yoga, where the aim is to permanently and progressively increase your flexibility are well worth considering if time and money allows.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

No More Than 5 Ingredient Foods

Michael Pollan the food writer for the New York Times and the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food (2 books I love!) believes that most dietary related health problems come from over-consumption of processed foods. One of the guidelines he recommends is to avoid processed foods with more than 5 ingredients. He says “Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients. The specific number you adopt is arbitrary, but the more ingredients in a packaged food, the more highly processed it probably is. Note 1: A long list of ingredients in a recipe you are preparing is not the same thing; that’s fine. Note 2: Some products now boast, about their short ingredient lists. Häagen-Dazs has a new line of ice creamed called ‘five.’ It’s still ice cream. Same goes for the three-ingredient Tostitos corn chips advertised by Frito-Lay–okay, but they’re still corn chips.”

Pollan goes on to explain that this 5-ingredient limit tends to guide us to rule out foods that are highly processed. He also says we should avoid foods that your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food– Go-Gurt, breakfast cereal bars, non-dairy creamer — stay away!!

I realize this weekly goal may cause you to cut out food products that have six or seven or even eight ingredients that bill themselves as “whole” or what we would consider to be “real food.” What about a bag of trail mix that contains seven different kinds of nuts and seeds? We are going to avoid products like that this week mainly because we don’t want to jeopardize our weekly goal, although, truthfully, that bag of trail mix would probably be perfectly fine. The thing is, when you are creating “rules” to develop healthy habits you just have to draw the line somewhere. If this weekly challenge gets you to start reading and scrutinizing the ingredient labels on your food then the mission is accomplished.

For our challenge this week (starting Wednesday) We are going to try eating Micheal Pollan style by not consuming anything with more than 5 ingredients. For every day that you abstain from all products containing more than 5 ingredients you will earn the daily 5 bonus points.

What You can’t eat:

Boxed cereal- It is nearly impossible to find dry cereals at the grocery store that had less than five ingredients. Even Kashi cereals have more than 5

Protein shakes, bars etc- Way more than 5 ingredients. However, Larabars and Trio bars are OK! Check the labels.

Store bought bread- Most don’t pass the 5 ingredient test. You will probably be able to find bread that meets this guideline at Great Harvest Breads or perhaps your healthfood store. Of course you can bake your own bread!

Yogurt- Homemade yogurt and perhaps one of the plain commercial yogurts might pass the test but most commercial yogurts contain too many ingredients due to the sweeteners.

Most of my favorite ice creams- Of course you only eat sweets once a week anyway but Breyer’s Natural Vanilla and Häagen-Dazs 5 may be your only choices. It is nearly impossible to find an ice cream that passes this 5 ingredient test. (It surprised me that Breyer’s vanilla flavors like “vanilla bean,” “extra creamy vanilla,” and “slow churned” had extra additives. I couldn’t believe how complicated vanilla ice cream could be!)

Chips, pretzels, crackers- or basically anything that comes in a box.

Most frozen dinners- Many people love these, but too many ingredients. This week you will be cooking!

Canned whipped cream- You may think Redi Whip or cool whip are “whipped cream” but read the label! Not this week!

Sabra Hummus- Too many preservatives.

What You can eat:

Fruits and veggies- I just bought some bananas, pineapple, apples, dried figs, peppers, sweet potatoes, corn, and avocado.

Breyer’s Natural Vanilla and Häagen-Dazs 5 Ice Cream


Many Applesauces

Triscuit and Whole-Wheat Matzo crackers

Brown rice crackers


Most whole wheat pastas

Some Shredded Wheat Cereals

100% pure maple syrup and honey

Any baked homemade goods- Anything I bake with natural, whole foods is okay to eat.

Meat/Animal products and seafood (beware some deli meats have many additives)

Oats- I will definitely be making a lot of oatmeal this week!


Beans- black beans, chick peas, etc.

Dried fruit, Nuts and Seeds

Organic Cheese- I bought some organic sliced Muenster for sandwiches. The non-organic brands had too many preservatives.