Monday, February 23, 2015

Stand Like The Lovely Lady You Are

I have a girlfriend that is training to become a yoga instructor. So another friend Gail and I have been letting her practice on us. Can you imagine? Semi-private yoga instruction twice a week. What a treat for us!

One thing I noticed in meeting with Carla is that she has such lovely posture. Honestly she holds herself like a ballerina. I asked her last week “Do you use good posture all of the time?” And with a puzzled look on her face she said “I guess so?!”

As you are reading this, how is your posture right now? Are you sitting upright? Are you slouching your back? Have you totally sunk into your chair?

When I was a child I can remember hearing that princesses had beautiful posture. I spent more than one afternoon walking around trying to balance a book on my head so that I too could walk like a princess.

You may be thinking what does good posture have to do with healthy living.

Why Have A Good Posture?
There are 5 key benefits from maintaining a good posture.
1              Facilitates breathing: A good posture naturally enables you to breathe properly. This is why yoga, pilates and meditation exercises pay so much attention to getting your posture and positioning correct.
2            Increases concentration and thinking ability: When you are breathing properly, you increase your thinking ability too. Our brain requires 20% of oxygen to do its job properly. More air, more oxygen. More oxygen, more brain food. More brain food leads to better thoughts and ideas.
3            Improve your image: People with good posture look smarter, younger and more attractive. Have you ever seen someone with a bad posture and felt the person seemed unkempt, even though the person has not said or done anything yet? On the flip side, someone with a good posture naturally exudes an aura of assertiveness and appeal.
4            Feel even better about yourself: When you have a good posture, it helps to make you feel more self-confident, without even doing anything else different. Try sitting in a bad posture for 30 seconds. Now, switch to a good posture for 30 seconds as well. Is there any difference in how you felt?
5    Avoid health complications: Bad posture can result in several complications over time, such as increased risks of slipped disc, back aches, back pain, pressure inside your chest, poor blood circulation etc.
How To Improve Your Posture
Here are some tips which can improve your posture and keep it that way.
1 Identify your key motivation for having a good posture: Why do you want to improve your posture? Is it to improve your breathing? To boost others’ perception of you? To feel more confident about yourself? To avoid health problems? Be clear on your underlying desire so you can remind yourself of it whenever you feel lazy about your posture.
2            Pretend your body is held by a string: This is an analogy shared by my yoga teaching friend and I find it very helpful. It might sound weird, but it’s pretty effective. Pretend that your spine and head are held up by a string suspended from the ceiling. Make sure that your shoulders are relaxed and not hunched up. It can be tempting to tense other parts of your body when trying to keep correct posture. But imagining you are hanging from a string tends to help you focus on keeping your back properly aligned and loosening your other muscles.
3            Set a reminder to check in on your posture: Many of us may have the intention to keep a good posture, but we usually forget about it after 5 minutes! A reminder in the form of a post-it note, item in your calendar, alarm, etc. can definitely help. The frequency is up to you, from once a day to as frequent as every 15 minutes. With sufficient reminders, you will start kicking into a good posture naturally soon.
4            Eliminate bad habits that cultivate bad postures: This includes watching TV/reading while slumped down, working under dim light (which results in slouching), walking in a slouchy way with your stomach muscles slack.
5Get a good quality chair: A good chair will be one that has a sufficiently firm and dense cushion with back support.
6            Ground both your feet when standing or sitting. This means having both feet planted flat on the floor and not resting your weight on a particular foot, which is a very common habit. While sitting, try not to cross your legs. This helps to keep the upper part of our body straight.
7     Avoid carrying heavy items: Just the act of carrying heavy items can be bad for our shoulders and back. I made a life change when I started working toward a daily goal of walking 10,000 steps a day and that is to “try to work inefficient.” Instead of straining my back by carrying in several sacks of groceries at once I try to practice good posture and make an extra trip or two. The extra steps are a fitness bonus!
8            Engage in exercises which strengthen your back: These include pilates, yoga, exercise balls and simple stretching. Strengthening your core includes your back muscles so add core exercises to your daily regime.
9            Get a professional assessment: If you have an extremely bad posture and a history of back injuries or backaches, it will be good to visit a chiropractor or physical therapist for a professional assessment. He/she can advise you on how to better take care of your back.

You guessed it ladies to earn the 5 bonus points per day for a total of 35 for the week you must make a plan to work on your posture in some way every day! Good luck!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Yes The Eating Fruits & Veggies You Don't Normally Eat Challenge Is Back Again

Repeat of past favorite challenge- Mix it up! 

This challenge has been the favorite in many of the rounds of competition we have done so here goes again! 

Get out of rut: Try new fruits and vegetables
I was inspired the other day by a friend’s story of how she had grown up hating eggplant and was disappointed to have a friend serve it at a meal they shared. Not wanting to appear rude she felt she must choke down at least a little of it, when to her surprise it was delicious! Who would have thought that what had been a slimy ordeal from childhood was actually yummy when prepared with garlic and cooked on the grill?
I had a surprising experience just this evening as I prepared an evening snack for some teenagers that came to our home for a church meeting. I had heard some complaints just a week before when these same teens were served store bought cake and cookies at an event. So wanting to give them some healthier fare I served warm artisan whole wheat bread with honey butter (bought at Costco I just re-heated), sliced oranges and assorted veggies served in a cup with hummus. I couldn’t believe my ears when one of the girls asked what a slice of raw red bell pepper was and another exclaimed she had never before seen a snow pea pod.
Thinking that you too may be in a rut of always eating romaine in your salads, and always eating apples or oranges for your fruit I thought I’d challenge your variety for our bonus challenge this week.
In a recent study Georgia State University nutrition students challenged fellow students to a “nutrition fear factor” test to encourage them to try new foods.
Alexandra Friel, one of the organizers, said, “Everyone has seen the ‘Fear Factor’ television show, and we all tend to think we are a little braver than we really are. We wanted to put Georgia State students to the test.”
So, she headed to DeKalb Farmers Market with fellow student Rebecca Sterns to select food for the taste test. They choose some that might be familiar, such as kiwi, fresh coconut and raw mushrooms, and some that many students had never seen, let alone tasted. Jackfruit, star fruit, pomegranate and durian were on the menu, as well as baba ghanouj — an eggplant dish.
The results? “Everyone seemed to enjoy the experience of tasting different foods that were interesting and healthy to eat,” said student Lauren Sieber. “The most interesting was the durian. It is by far the worst-smelling fruit in the world, but once you get past the smell, it tastes pretty good.”
Listed below are five foods that you may not have tried and they are just a small sampling of the wonderful variety we can choose from in our diet
• Plantains: A staple of Latin American cuisine, they look like large bananas, but are really a starch vegetable rich in potassium and vitamin C. Try the ripe ones (they will look almost black) for your test. Slice it, sauté with a little butter or margarine and a pinch of brown sugar and salt for side dish or dessert.
• Broccoli rabe: This vegetable, popular in Italy, is also called rapini and has slender stalks with broccoli-like flower buds. It can be bitter, so blanch it, toss with balsamic vinaigrette and serve it as a side dish. It is also good in salads or soups.
• Fresh or Dried figs: If you like Fig Newtons, try a dried fig instead: moist, chewy and flavorful, a perfect snack. There are many varieties. The Southern California Mission fig is one of the most popular. (Note this is one of my favorite snacks when I am craving sweets. Honestly the plain dried fig is as yummy as a fig newton. I buy them at Costco)
• Carambola: It’s used in Southeast Asia and is also called star fruit because when sliced each piece looks like a star. Choose a sweet variety, like Arkin. Look for one that is shiny and firm to the touch. Kids will like how it looks, and moms will like the extra fiber and vitamins A and C that it delivers.
• Eggplant: If you like hummus, try something new, like baba ghanouj served with pita wedges or flatbread. This Middle Eastern dish is used as a spread or a dip. My neighbor made it for me recently and it was so delicious I literally licked the plate. 
YOUR CHALLENGE FOR THIS WEEK IS, EACH DAY EAT A FRUIT OR VEGETABLE THAT YOU DO NOT NORMALLY EAT (to figure out if you “normally eat it” all foods that you have eaten within the last month cannot be used for this challenge. So each day you should be trying a new fruit or vegetable that you have not eaten in the last month nor during this week of the challenge) For every day that you try a new fruit or vegetable this week you earn the 5 bonus points.
Here’s a recipe that might be fun to try and please feel free to share any recipes on the blog that you have found for our more unusual fruits and veggies!
Baba Ghanouj 
Makes 2 cups or 8 (1/4-cup) servings
Hands on: 30 minutes 
Total time: 90 minutes
2 pounds eggplant,
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice,
1 small garlic clove minced,
 2 tablespoons tahini paste (sesame seed paste),
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided 
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, 
2 teaspoons chopped parsley
Grill the eggplant over a hot fire or under the broiler until the skin darkens and wrinkles on all sides, about 15 to 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes. The eggplant should be uniformly soft when pressed with tongs. Transfer to a baking sheet and cool for 5 minutes.
Set a small colander over a bowl or in the sink. Trim the top and bottom off each eggplant. Slit the eggplants lengthwise. Use a spoon to scoop the hot pulp from the skins and place the pulp in the colander. You should have about 2 cups of packed pulp. Discard the skins. Let the pulp drain for 3 minutes.
Transfer pulp to a food processor bowl and add lemon juice, garlic, tahini, 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Process until the mixture has a coarse, choppy texture, about 8 one-second pulses. Transfer to a serving dish, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until lightly chilled, about 45 to 60 minutes.
To serve, use a spoon to make a trough in the center of the dip and spoon in a teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with parsley.
— From “Perfect Vegetables From the Editors of Cook’s Illustrated” (America’s Test Kitchen, $29.95)
Per serving: 50 calories (percent of calories from fat, 72), 1 gram protein, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 grams fiber, 4 grams fat (less than 1 gram saturated), no cholesterol, 2 milligrams sodium.
Nutritional bonus points: Don’t let the 72 percent of calories from fat scare you. This is a low-fat, low-calorie dip, and the small amount of fat comes from heart-healthy fats in the olive oil and tahini.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Grains and Seeds

I think we’ve all done a good job of including lots of fruits and vegetables in our diet, but our healthy-eating plan may be missing a super-nutritious element—grains and seeds. “Each type of grain offers a unique benefit, so it is highly recommended to choose a variety of whole grains to optimize the nutrition in your meals," explains Erin Armitage, a registered dietician.

There are many types of whole grains that are proven to be super nutritious—and lots of ways to add them to your diet. 


Known for strengthening nails, making hair shiny and giving skin its healthy glow, flaxseeds are growing in popularity, especially as a breakfast staple. These plant seeds are an excellent sources of polyunsaturated fats (the good type of fat) as it lowers bad cholesterol and is a good source of soluble fiber, which helps to regulate your bowels.

How to use it: Flaxseeds are best absorbed by the body when they are ground and it is best to grind them fresh as needed. I own an inexpensive tiny coffee grinder I use to grind my flax seed. Try adding 1-2 teaspoons into your breakfast oatmeal, cereal, yogurt or smoothie.

Where to find it: local bulk foods store


This superfood is an ancient, plant-based grain with high amounts of iron and fiber. Quinoa is also packed with protein (eight grams per cooked cup/250 mL), and B vitamins.

How to use it: Try substituting rice with quinoa. Cooked quinoa can be made into salads by adding fresh herbs, vegetables, nuts, oil and vinegar. You could also try making quinoa for a breakfast cereal and top it with fresh berries and a drizzle of honey.

Where to find it: The best price is at Costco.

Black Rice

What is Black Rice exactly?
‘Black Rice’ is actually more purplish in color than black; although when uncooked it is very dark in appearance. This type of rice is usually sold ‘un-milled’, with the husk intact. Up until modern times, Black Rice was not easy to come by; it had been highly treasured and protected in Asia for many centuries. High in nutritional value, black rice is rich in iron and high in fiber.
Health Benefits
prevention of cancer
prevention of diabetes
prevention of heart disease
prevention of Alzheimer's disease.
Prevention of Heart Attacks

According to a study presented at the 240th National Meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS), "one spoonful of black rice bran contains more anthocyanin antioxidants than a spoonful of blueberries and better yet, black rice offers more fiber and vitamin E antioxidants, but less sugar."

Where to find it: I buy it at Costco

Steel Cut Oats

Steel cut oats are also called Scotch or Irish oats. They consist of the whole oat grain cut into thirds. Regularly eating steel cut oats gives you the same health benefits as rolled oats and is a less processed food, says Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N. A diet that includes oats may decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and obesity.

While the Steel Cut Oats package advises 40 minutes of cook time (who has that much time to cook breakfast?) Monica Reingel shares a much easier method. Heat 3 cups of water to boiling and add 1 cup of steel cut oats. Take off the heat and cover the pan with the lid and leave until morning. The next day heat the oats with an added cup of water or milk. Easy peasy.

Where Available: Cereal aisle of grocery and health food stores

Chia Seed

Remember the Chia Pet? These gift items, clay figurines that sprouted grass-like "fur," were once all the rage. Yes they are edible!
What Is Chia?
Chia is an edible seed that comes from the desert plant Salvia hispanica, grown in Mexico dating back to Mayan and Aztec cultures. "Chia" means strength, and folklore has it that these cultures used the tiny black and white seeds as an energy booster. That makes sense, as chia seeds are a concentrated food containing healthy omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and calcium
Chia seeds are an unprocessed, whole-grain food that can be absorbed by the body as seeds (unlike flaxseeds). One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) contains 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams fat, 12 grams carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber, plus vitamins and minerals.

The mild, nutty flavor of chia seeds makes them easy to add to foods and beverages. They are most often sprinkled on cereal, sauces, vegetables, rice dishes, or yogurt or mixed into drinks and baked goods. They can also be mixed with water and made into a gel. 

My favorite new Chia recipe is the easiest ever.
Chia Jelly
1 Cup crushed or diced fruit
1 T. water
1 T. Chia seed
1-3 T. Pure Maple Syrup (or stevia, truvia etc.)
Blend together and let sit for an hour. Keeps in fridge for 2 weeks

So our challenge for the week is to try a grain or seed that has not previously been part of your regular diet. Shake it up and try something new! With grains look for the whole grain symbol  to make sure that you are getting a true serving of whole grain! 

For every day you have at least one serving of whole grain or seeds you earn 5 points for a total of 35 possible points.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Choose New Ways to Relax and Rejuvenate!

            A few months ago I experienced a family situation and I felt immediate and extreme stress and anxiety. I am lucky enough that my exercise pal lives right around the corner so I sent her a text asking “Can we go for a walk NOW?” She is awesome for her willingness to drop everything to head out for a long walk or a yoga class. And yes I felt sooooo much better afterward. Plus I realized that night, that it was the first time in my memory I had consciously turned to exercise to alleviate stress. I admit it! I have a long history of turning to less effective methods of stress relief-- like being grouchy with my husband or eating handfuls of chocolate chips.  But this time I actually experienced a more thorough relief of stress along with the benefit of a good brisk walk. It was a win win situation.
       You guessed it! Your challenge for this week is to initiate some new and healthful ways of dealing with everyday (or even occasional and extreme) personal stress.
       For every day you consciously utilize a new and healthy method to reduce stress you earn your 5 bonus points for a total possible 35 points for the week. You don't have to use a different method each day if you find a new one that works for you-- but I encourage you to try a variety of stress relievers. 

The key to practicing quick stress relief is learning what kind of sensory input helps your particular nervous system find calm and focus quickly. Everyone responds to sensory input a little differently, so an awareness of your preferences is essential for reducing stress.


If you’re a visual person, try to manage and relieve stress by surrounding yourself with soothing and uplifting images. You can also try closing your eyes and imagining the soothing images. Here are a few visually-based activities that may work as quick stress relievers:
  Look at a cherished photo or a favorite memento.
  Bring the outside indoors; buy a plant or some flowers to enliven your space.
  Enjoy the beauty of nature–a garden, the beach, a park, or your own backyard.
  Surround yourself with colors that lift your spirits.
  Close your eyes and picture a situation or place that feels peaceful and rejuvenating.

Are you sensitive to sounds and noises? Are you a music lover? If so, stress-relieving exercises that focus on your auditory sense may work particularly well. Experiment with the following sounds, noting how quickly your stress levels drop as you listen:
  Sing or hum a favorite tune. Listen to uplifting music.
  Tune in to the soundtrack of nature—crashing waves, the wind rustling the trees, birds singing.
  Buy a small fountain, so you can enjoy the soothing sound of running water in your home or office.
  Hang wind chimes near an open window.
Smell & Scents

If you tend to zone out or freeze when stressed, surround yourself with smells that are energizing and invigorating. If you tend to become overly agitated under stress, look for scents that are comforting and calming.
  Light a scented candle or burn some incense.
  Lie down in sheets scented with lavender.
  Smell the roses—or another type of flower.
  Enjoy the clean, fresh air in the great outdoors.
  Spritz on your favorite perfume or cologne.

Experiment with your sense of touch, playing with different tactile sensations. Focus on things you can feel that are relaxing and renewing. Use the following suggestions as a jumping-off point:
  Wrap yourself in a warm blanket.
  Pet a dog or cat.
  Hold a comforting object (a stuffed animal, a favorite memento).
  Soak in a hot bath.
  Give yourself a hand or neck massage (or indulge in a professional massage)
  Wear clothing that feels soft against your skin.

Slowly savoring a favorite treat can be very relaxing, but mindless eating will only add to your stress and your waistline. The key is to indulge your sense of taste mindfully and in moderation. Eat slowly, focusing on the feel of the food in your mouth and the taste on your tongue:
  Chew a piece of sugarless gum.
  Indulge in a small piece of dark chocolate.
  Sip a steaming cup of cocoa or tea or a refreshing cold drink.
  Eat a perfectly ripe piece of fruit.
  Enjoy a healthy, crunchy snack (celery, carrots, or trail mix).

If you tend to shut down when you’re under stress, stress-relieving activities that get you moving may be particularly helpful. Anything that engages the muscles or gets you up and active can work. Here are a few suggestions:
  Run in place or jump up and down.
  Dance like nobody's watching
  Stretch or roll your head in circles.
  Go for a short walk.
  Squeeze a rubbery stress ball.

Good luck ladies and may you find many new ways to relieve stress and honor this wonderful body that we have been blessed with!