Sunday, February 26, 2017

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

When I have queried past healthy eating challenge participants about which weekly challenge was their favorite this one is mentioned most often. In fact my favorite sister-in-law said she didn't even realize she liked so many vegetables until she tried them on this challenge. She has progressed really far in the years since she made that comment and now she is a full fledged green smoothie drinker with her own healthy eating blog! 

If you have ever read any of the blogs or books that tout various super foods you are aware of the power pack of nutrients contained in fruits and vegetables. Yet so many of us eat the same foods day in and day out. And in making these same food choices we also partake of the same nutrients. It's time to step outside our habits and take part in a wider variety of delicious fruits and vegetables. 
I have written before about a surprising experience I had when I prepared an evening snack for some teenagers that came to our home for a church meeting. I had heard some complaints the 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 (boo hoo they used to sell this at Target- I had 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.
Yet in my own family I have a nephew that when we reunited after a year apart shared that the last salad he had eaten was when he saw me 12 months prior. ARRGGHHH! 
I know that on this challenge you have been eating fresh fruits and vegetables daily. But are you in a rut of always eating romaine in your salads, and always eating apples or oranges for your fruit? 
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 (which btw was my favorite place to shop when I lived in Atlanta) 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 or dates: 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: dates are one of my favorite snacks when I am craving sweets. I buy them at Costco. I also use these to sweeten my green smoothies)
• 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 good friend and neighbor Maryann first made it for me 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.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Stronger and stronger to the core

I like to alternate our challenges between healthy eating (or "drinking" as in our water challenge) and healthy exercise or other habits. So you guessed it- this is an exercise week. I'm afraid you are often at the mercy of things I most need to work on in my efforts to care for my body so I am going to repeat a challenge we have done before-- THE DREADED PLANK CHALLENGE. 
My work out partner Gail will attest to my weak, pitiful, (and most often only from my knees) face grimacing planks. I really need to work on it daily. 
Shape Magazine suggests "Core exercises like the plank help train muscles to stabilize the spine and pelvis so you can avoid back pain and improve posture." I know that's true. Often our sore back, our sore neck and our sore shoulders are all occurring because we have weak core and especially weak abdominal muscles. 
Building strong abs and core muscles are vital to your health and well being. Often when people fall and injure themselves the reason they fall all the way to the ground is they are unable to "catch themselves" due to weak core muscles. 
Since planks are one of the most effective ways to get a good core work out I would recommend you start a daily plan challenge like this one and continue it beyond this week of competition and maybe even beyond the end of our challenge. 

As with any exercise if you give a good and consistent effort you will improve continually.

My older daughter has been a Pilates instructor and she recently had a couple in their 50's that could hold a plank for 7 minutes. You too can do incredible things if you make consistent, concerted effort. 

If you find doing a full plank too difficult you might want to begin with one of these modifications

The knee elbow plank (Sandee's favorite!)
or The Wall Plank

If you can only do the above wall plank eventually you will get strong enough to do a kitchen counter plank and eventually to do a floor plank from your knees as pictured above and finally a full body plank. Along with a regular planks the following are extremely helpful in getting your abs into shape.

And remember push up and go down with total control (no letting gravity flop you to the ground)

Here is another variation to work toward or incorporate. 

Why it works: This abs exercise is more challenging than a traditional plank because you're supporting your entire body weight on two points of contact instead of four. As a result, you must work your core harder to stay stabilized.
How to do it:
A. Lie on your left side with your elbow directly beneath your shoulder and legs stacked. Place your right hand on your left shoulder or on your right hip.
B. Brace your abs and lift your hips off the floor until you're balancing on your forearm and feet so that your body forms a diagonal line. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. If you can’t hold that long, stay up as long as you can and then repeat until you’ve held for 30 seconds total. Switch sides and repeat.
For every day that you do some type of plank exercise (modify as necessary) this week you earn 5 daily bonus challenge points. For a total of 30 bonus points (no planking on Sunday's! ) Happy abbing ladies and I hope you all continue to carry on with this simple but powerful exercise. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Beautiful, sparkling, clean, water

So sorry I’m pokey getting this week’s challenge posted. We are going back to basics this week by focusing on drinking water. I realize that drinking 48 ounces of water is part of our regular required daily points. But I worry some of you are “guessing” you probably drank enough and perhaps not looking strictly at this requirement.

There are plenty of reasons to drink water. (Most of the info for this challenge comes from Web MD) In fact, drinking water (either plain or in the form of other fluids or foods) is essential to your health.

"Think of water as a nutrient your body needs that is present in liquids, plain water, and foods. All of these are essential daily to replace the large amounts of water lost each day," says Joan Koelemay, RD, dietitian for the Beverage Institute, an industry group.

Nephrologist Steven Guest, MD, agrees: "Fluid losses occur continuously, from skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool, and these losses must be replaced daily for good health," he says.

When your water intake does not equal your output, you can become dehydrated. Fluid losses are accentuated in warmer and or dryer  climates, during strenuous exercise, in high altitudes, and in older adults, whose sense of thirst may not be as sharp.

Here are six reasons to make sure you're drinking enough water or other fluids every day:
1. Drinking Water Helps Maintain the Balance of Body Fluids. Your body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. "Through the posterior pituitary gland, your brain communicates with your kidneys and tells it how much water to excrete as urine or hold onto for reserves," says Guest, who is also an adjunct professor of medicine at Stanford University.
When you're low on fluids, the brain triggers the body's thirst mechanism. You should listen to those cues and get yourself a drink of water, juice, milk, coffee -- anything but alcohol.

3. Water Helps Energize Muscles. Cells that don't maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. "When muscle cells don't have adequate fluids, they don't work as well and performance can suffer," says Guest. Drinking enough fluids is important when exercising. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend that people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise. During exercise, they recommend that people start drinking fluids early, and drink them at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating.

4. Water Helps Keep Skin Looking Good. Your skin contains plenty of water, and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss. But don't expect over-hydration to erase wrinkles or fine lines, says Atlanta dermatologist Kenneth Ellner, MD.
"Dehydration makes your skin look more dry and wrinkled, which can be improved with proper hydration," he says. "But once you are adequately hydrated, the kidneys take over and excrete excess fluids." You can also help "lock" moisture into your skin by using moisturizer, which creates a physical barrier to keep moisture in.

5. Water Helps Your Kidneys. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of cells. The main toxin in the body is blood urea nitrogen, a water-soluble waste that is able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in the urine, explains Guest. "Your kidneys do an amazing job of cleansing and ridding your body of toxins as long as your intake of fluids is adequate," he says. When you're getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor. When your body is not getting enough fluids, urine concentration, color, and odor increases because the kidneys trap extra fluid for bodily functions.
If you chronically drink too little, you may be at higher risk for kidney stones, especially in warm climates.

6. Water Helps Maintain Normal Bowel Function. Adequate hydration keeps things flowing along your gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation. When you don't get enough fluid, the colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration -- and the result is constipation. Adequate fluid and fiber is the perfect combination, because the fluid pumps up the fiber and acts like a broom to keep your bowel functioning properly.”

5 Tips to Help You Drink More
If you think you need to be drinking more, here are some tips to increase your fluid intake and reap the benefits of water:
1.  Have a beverage with every snack and meal.
2.  Choose beverages you enjoy; you're likely to drink more liquids if you like the way they taste.
3.  Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high water content will add to your hydration. About 20% of our fluid intake comes from foods.
4.  Keep a bottle of water with you in your car, at your desk, or in your bag.

So what is your challenge? Our regular water requirement on the healthy living challenge is 48 ounces per day. Many experts recommend ½ ounce for every pound of body weight. You choose a challenging amount of water to drink each day this week and plan a way to MEASURE YOUR WATER to make sure you meet your goal.

I recommend the Swig Savvy bottles on Amazon. They will stay ice cold for hours and hours. In some areas Costco sells similar metal bottles that are amazing! Get in the habit of carrying water with you and flood your body with it’s goodness.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

I am exercising and no one can tell

    I have been pregnant 5 times and most of my babies were 9 pounds plus. Consequently I have what is termed a "prolapsed uterus". No big deal as my Physician assured me that if I suddenly feel everything break loose and it feels like my uterus is going to fall out "Don't worry it's not really an emergency!" What?

    Consequently Kegal exercises as well as some specialized treatments at a different physicians office have become my new hobby and yes they have also become your next challenge.  I realize you aren't all old ladies that are peeing your pants when you sneeze or jump rope. But this is a good healthy habit for all of us to continue throughout our lives. 

    So your challenge for the next week is to complete 4 Kegal exercises (holding each for at least 4 seconds) twice a day. For every day you do that (and I think you can even do these on the Sabbath) you will earn the daily bonus points . 

    Important Tips for pelvic floor muscle exercises
    1. Each contraction should involve a concentrated effort to get maximum tightening.
    1. Try to contract only the pelvic muscles. (If you feel your abdomen, thighs or buttocks tightening then relax and aim just for the pelvic muscles by using a less intense muscle contraction. If it seems impossible not to tighten the abdomen, thigh, or buttock muscles, then concentrate on full relaxation and try gentle flicks of the pelvic muscles, for example, flick, flick, flick, relax--working the muscles to higher layers with each flick.)
    1. Be sure to breathe while holding the muscles contracted.
    1. Practice fully relaxing the muscle for at least 4 seconds between each contraction.
    1. Experiment with contracting the muscles in many different positions (standing upright, lying, sitting, on hands and knees, feet together, feet apart).
    What are the most common mistakes made during pelvic muscle exercises?
    When should I use the pelvic floor muscles?
    How can I work this new health habit into my everyday life?
    1. Think about your typical day. Pick a time (about 5 minutes twice a day) that you should have time to do kegal training, maybe when you first wake up or maybe during a TV program you almost always watch or even in line at the grocery store.
    1. Decide on a way to remind yourself to do pelvic floor muscle training. You might put a note on a mirror you always use in the morning or a sticker on your TV or a special magnet on your refrigerator.
    1. Reward yourself for exercising each time you do it. You could draw a small flower on your calendar to mark each day you exercise and get yourself a real flower or bouquet when you have drawn 10 or 30 flowers. Any small reward that you know will keep you working on this habit is fine.
    1. Monitor your progress. You might want to keep a daily diary of whether or not you have had a leaking accident. Over the weeks you should begin to see a decrease in the frequency and amount of unwanted urine loss. Another way to check your progress is to see whether or not you can slow or stop your urine stream when you are going to the bathroom. We recommend that you try this no more than once a week. As your pelvic muscles get stronger you will find that you are able to stop the stream more quickly.
    How to do Kegal exercises:
    The Basic Kegel: Slowly contract your muscles, drawing inward and upward. Hold for a count of three; then slowly relax for three seconds. Repeat as many times as you can, working up to 25 or 30 three-second squeezes.

    Flutter Kegels: Squeeze and relax the PC muscle rapidly, in a pulsing motion. In the beginning aim for consistency of pulses, rather than speed; that will come with time and practice. Work up to 25 or 30 pulses.

    The Kegel push-out: After releasing the contraction, gently push down and out with your PC muscles (no bearing down!). Create Kegel sequences that combine long and short repetitions with push-outs - for example, 10 short squeezes, 10 long squeezes, and five push-outs (any sequence will do).

    Elevator Kegels: Picture your vagina as an elevator shaft, with the elevator car at the opening of your vagina. Slowly tighten your muscles as you imagine raising the elevator, pausing at the top, and then lowering it again. Repeat 10 times.

    Finally, to really work the PC muscles, do Kegels in various positions - while sitting, standing, lying down, or kneeling - two or three times a day. If you do them regularly, you’ll feel the difference in eight to 12 weeks.

    Finally, to really work the PC muscles, do Kegels in various positions - while sitting, standing, lying down, or kneeling - two or three times a day. If you do them regularly, you’ll feel the difference in eight to 12 weeks.

    Some more information: Kegal exercises are daily training program for the muscles that support the uterus, bladder and other pelvic organs. It is also called pelvic floor muscle exercise or pelvic muscle rehabilitation. This exercise will help your pelvic muscles prevent accidental urine leakage.

    Regular Kegal exercises make the muscles that support your pelvic organs stronger and helps you use the muscles more effectively. Women who have a problem with urine leakage have been able to eliminate or greatly improve this problem just by doing pelvic floor muscle exercises each day. Pregnant and postpartum women who do pelvic floor muscle exercises have significantly less urine leakage.

    When you are doing pelvic floor muscle exercises in a way that will build muscle strength you will feel all the muscles drawing inward and upward. A good way to learn the exercise is to pretend that you are trying to avoid passing intestinal gas. Think about the way you tighten (or contract) the muscles to keep the gas from escaping. Bring that same tightening motion forward to the muscles around your vagina. Then move the contraction up your vagina toward the small of you back. Another good way to understand kegal exercises is to attempt to stop the flow of urine mid stream.

    The most serious mistake women make when doing kegal exercise is to strain down instead of drawing the muscles up and in. Try doing this on purpose once so you can feel what NOT to do: take a breath, hold it, and push down with your abdomen. You can feel a pushing out around your vagina. It is very important to avoid this straining down.

    To keep from straining down when you do a kegal contraction: exhale gently and keep your mouth open each time you tighten your muscles. Remember to breathe. Rest a hand lightly on your abdomen. If you feel your stomach pushing out against your hand, you are straining down. If you cannot avoid straining down, do not continue with the exercise until you check with your nurse to learn how to do it properly.

    Squeezing the pelvic floor muscles can help you right away to avoid leakage. Practice coordinating contraction of these muscles with an event in which you may be prone to leak urine (i.e., coughing, sneezing, nose-blowing, lifting a heavy object, etc.) You should also contract the muscles when you need to delay going to the toilet.
Ok ladies have a great week exercising without anyone else being able to tell! 

Going the Extra Mile

This weeks challenge is going to be about going the extra mile. You can probably relate to my story. My work out buddy chuckles at me sometimes as I express frustration that I can’t find a good parking space at the gym. It really is silly isn’t it? I am purposefully setting aside an hour to challenge my body through exercise but I am complaining about having to take a few extra steps to get there. 

Also my son recently posed a question that similarly struck me. "When people know they are about to get on an airplane and be forced to sit for several hours why do they choose to sit in the boarding area?" He always spends that time walking briskly around the boarding area just to get in a few extra steps.

So for this week-- instead of looking for ways to make it easier on yourself you are going to purposefully seek opportunities to burn a few more calories. 

It’s time to park as far away from any entrance to work, the grocery store, shopping mall entrances, and anywhere else you visit throughout your week – every day (without compromising safety, of course).

Here’s some other examples of how to embrace this weeks challenge:
         Park as far away as you can from the entry of:
                  Your workplace
                  Your grocery store
                  Your mall
                  Your children’s school (this might mean getting up earlier!)
                  A restaurant (you’re making healthy choices,right??)
                  any anywhere else you park your car at
         Take the STAIRS instead of the ELEVATOR or ESCALATOR!
         Plan events around walking, like:
                  Meeting someone for a walk in the park
                  Strolling through a mall
                  Ordering lunch for the office and taking a group walk
         Get off the bus an exit before your usual stop
         Use the restroom, break room, coffee machine, etc. that is farthest from you
         After grocery shopping, return the shopping cart back inside the       store rather than leaving it in the parking lot
         Take a 10-minute walk before eating lunch and dinner
         Form a workplace walking group for before, during (break) or   after work
         Schedule a daily family walking session 
         Participate in a charity walk
         Visit local parks and enjoy the trails – mark them off a list as you complete them
         Don’t drive through – park and get out when visiting the bank or drug store (and fast food if you have found a healthy option to order)
         Strive to be inefficient. Take 4 trips in and out of the house to carry groceries instead of grabbing huge armfuls to save a few steps 

For this challenge, I highly recommend using a pedometer. An active person should be logging at lest 10,000 steps a day. Amazon has a highly rated one for $1.69. Personally I am a huge fan of fit bits and other wearable devices.  They are an awesome tool to alert me to a day that I have allowed to slip into inactivity.

By increasing your cardio exercise daily, you are not only going to burn fat and lose weight, but you’ll better condition your heart, joints, bones, lungs and leg muscles, enjoy better moods, have more energy, slow aging, and you’ll become much more motivated throughout the week. 

To wrap it up, here are some fun facts about simple walking:
         There are approximately 2100 steps in 1 mile
         There are approximately 200 steps in 1 block
         There are approximately 1200 steps in 10 minutes of walking

So your challenge for the week is to step it up and go the extra mile. Make a constant effort each day to add some steps into your routine. For every day you do this you can earn the 5 bonus points. Yes I think you can even park far away from church without breaking the Sabbath so 35 points possible this week.