Category Archives: Nutrition
While Thanksgiving is the latest it can possibly be in the calendar year, I still feel like it snuck up on me! The fact that Hanukkah starts on the same day (for the first time in something like 18,000 years!), we’re REALLY kicking off the 2013 holiday season with a bang. So, if you’re packing up or planning for your festivities, there’s no time like this Motivation Monday to get your mind focused on how to get through the holiday(s) without completely throwing your healthy habits out the window.
If you’re gearing up for a week filled – or maybe stuffed! – with food and drink (and a little football), here are some tips to help you avoid overdoing it.
- Don’t skimp on the workouts this week: Even if you can’t get out of the house on Thanksgiving Day, you can pop in an exercise DVD or bang out a Tabata or two wherever you have space to do push-ups or burpees. If you only have a short amount of time to escape the house, take a brisk power walk or abbreviated run. If your gym is open, get to a morning group exercise class or at least bang out some cardio and core work.
- Don’t skip breakfast before the Turkey Day feast: Be mindful of your meals early in the week. On Thursday, eat something sensible in the morning to fire up your metabolism and to avoid being ravenous when you arrive for the holiday feast. If you’re not scheduled to fight for the turkey leg until late afternoon or early evening, make sure to have a second small meal so you don’t go overboard later. One of my favorite sensible fillers is a non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a serving of almonds mixed in. The protein-rich snack keeps me satisfied for hours!
- Use a smaller plate (like a salad dish) for your Thanksgiving feast: If there’s salad or veggies, load up on those first, then take some turkey. Use the remaining space for the potatoes, stuffing and other starches. (There won’t be as much room left as you’d have on a regular dinner plate.)
- Savor the flavor: Eat slowly! If you do clean your plate, wait about 10 minutes before loading up on round two. This will help you decide if you’re really hungry. If you aren’t, you’ll feel good knowing you had one helping – before moving on to dessert, of course!
- Watch the alcohol intake: Turkey Day is a good time to follow the every-other-drink-is-alcohol plan. Enjoy a glass of wine, beer or cocktail then have a glass of water of diet soda before moving on to the next libation.
- Give away leftovers: Hosting the holiday feast? Don’t be shy about giving what’s left of the turkey and trimmings to your guests.
If you have any “secrets” that help you enjoy the holiday without waking up feeling guilty on Black Friday, I’d love to hear about them! The season ahead is definitely challenging when it comes to watching our waistlines, but the good news there are some tricks that can help you continue your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Since I’ve already offered some tips on how to adjust your fitness routine with the change of seasons, I thought I’d shift gears slightly on this Motivation Monday to tell you about a new staple in my fall diet: farro.
I’m sure many of my fellow Italians are thinking “are you kidding, Laura? Italians have been cooking with farro for nearly 2,000 years!” Well, I might be a little late discovering this wonderful whole grain alternative to rice and pasta, but you know what they say, better late than never!
Farro (FAH-row) is a whole grain, but has a richer, almost nutty flavor compared to the somewhat bland brown rice. While it isn’t a complete source of protein, like quinoa, a cup of farro has about eight grams of cholesterol-lowering fiber. It also contains minerals like magnesium, which is known to relieve tension and finally, it contains “smart carbs” that break down slowly and keep your energy levels stable.
For me, farro has become my go-to for adding a little “bulk” to dinner when that piece of grilled chicken or fish and a side of veggies just isn’t enough. This is especially true on my double-dose workout days of fasted cardio in the morning followed by a Physique57 or other group exercise class in the evening. A serving of farro satisfies my craving for “comfort food,” and the fiber content helps keep me feeling full for awhile.
Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m definitely not a cook. So the other thing I love about farro is how easy it is to prepare. (At least using the 10-minute version I buy at Trader Joe’s.) All I have to do is boil water, throw in a bag of farro, let it cook for 10 minutes, strain it, add some seasoning and maybe a few sprays of “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter” and that’s that. I put the leftovers in my fridge and nuke them throughout the week. (I usually get about 3-4 servings from out of one bag.) You can also add cold farro to salads for lunch and I’ve heard some people even like it hot for breakfast with some fruit as an alternative to oatmeal.
If you have any healthy farro recipes you’d like to share, I’d love to hear about them! It’s always fun finding a new zero-guilt item to add to the pantry or fridge so you can give your body the fuel it needs and stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I hope everyone’s enjoying this first Workout Wednesday in October! With the mercury rising into the 80s today here in New York City today, I wish I was at the beach but I’ll gladly take the sunshine!
I returned from my morning cardio session to find a link ready to share to my guest appearance on another website today. Robin Plotkin is a registered dietitian, nutrition expert and creator of RobinsBite.com. She lives in Dallas, TX and after meeting in Cyberspace through the land of Twitter, she asked me to share my food buying and eating habits to be featured in her “Inside the Fridge” series. Click here to read my guest post.
I close with a big thank you to Robin for the opportunity to appear on her website and a wish for all of you to use the new month as a time to add some new healthy habits to your lifestyle so you can continue on your journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I won’t lie. I’m beyond ecstatic that this summer is unofficially over and done with!
While I always do my best to stay upbeat no matter what’s going on, to be blunt, this summer was a big test for my psyche. (New readers, click here to see what I’m talking about.) Still, I passed the test and now that September is here, it means a new month and new beginnings. If you dealt with your own challenges these past few months, now’s the time to wipe the slate clean and start over.
Parents are dealing with the responsibilities of getting the kids back on track at school. That means new teachers, new schedules and perhaps new after-school activities. If you’re like me and you don’t have kids, there’s still an uptick in the overall pace of life with the end of summer Fridays and the beginning of new projects and deadlines. Whatever new items are on your agenda, it’s the perfect time to get your health and fitness goals in serious shape. As you focus on getting a daily routine established for you and maybe the whole family, don’t forget to fit some fitness into your September routine. Sound impossible? Think again!
Here are some tips to make things a little less overwhelming:
- Put it in writing: If you drive your kids to school or drop your spouse at the train station, figure out if there’s time immediately following a drop-off or right before a pick-up for a workout. This could mean hitting the gym for a group exercise class, driving a few more blocks to the park for a run or meeting a fitness friend for brisk walk or game of tennis. Typing it into your smart phone calendar or putting it in your planner will also give you a visual boost to make it happen at the allotted hour.
- Ten minutes of something is better than zero minutes of nothing: With our time-crunched lives, there are more and more workouts geared toward maximum results in less time. Click here for a link to a previous post where I offer a 10-minute circuit I like to call the “one-minute-wonder.” If you only have 15 minutes, add a few stretches before and after and you’ll feel like you worked. If you have up to 30 minutes, you can repeat the circuit two or three times and really get your sweat on! (Another plus: you can do this circuit anywhere.)
- “Fall” into healthy eating habits: If you pack lunch for the kiddies, why not add a few minutes to the prep time and make some healthy snacks or meals for yourself. I spend about 30 minutes every Sunday slicing and dicing veggies including peppers, celery sticks and carrots and then pack them in reusable containers or individual plastic bags. Now, they’re ready to grab as a side to a turkey sandwich or healthy snack. Some of my other favorite snack ideas include almonds, apples and non-fat plan Greek yogurt.
- Wardrobe Prep: If you plan to exercise first thing in the morning, put your workout wear in the bathroom the night before. It’s usually the first room we visit when we wake up, so if your clothes are staring you in the face, it may be harder to skip the workout. If you’re exercising after work, pack your gym bag the night before and leave it by the door to grab on your way out.
Finally, it’s important to remember Rome wasn’t built in a day. Getting fitness on your schedule and healthy foods into your fridge are two big steps toward a healthier and happier you. If you indulged in more ice cream or margaritas than you planned over the summer, don’t sweat it. It’s a new month, a new season is coming and there will be plenty of chances to get your butt in gear so you can have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Last week, I got a tweet from my high school pal Kathy asking about ideas for home workouts. She reminded me that with the kids out of school for the summer, it’s not always easy to escape to the gym to break a sweat. So on this Motivation Monday, I offer some quick tips to keep you active all summer, even on the days when getting out of the house isn’t an option.
The secret to making a home workout work for you is using as many muscles as possible while quickly moving from one exercise to the next. This will keep your heart rate up and help you burn calories. All the exercises I present in this “one-minute-wonder” circuit use your body-weight. The idea is to perform as many reps as possible of each exercise – with proper form! – in 60 seconds and then move directly on to the next one with no rest in between. The only “equipment” needed is a jump rope.
- Jump rope: if you don’t have a jump rope or not enough head room to use one indoors (and don’t have any outdoor space to work with), try jumping jacks or running in place
- Forward lunges: alternating legs
- Push-ups (modified version is to be on your knees instead of your toes)
- Bridges (Click here for a refresher on some core moves)
- Mountain climbers
- Side planks
- Tricep dips: We do these in my Physique57 classes all the time seated on the floor – you just need to lift your booty off the floor and brace yourself and use your triceps to dip up and down without touching back down. If you have stairs at home, steps are always a sturdy base for dips.
- Jumping jacks (or jump rope again)
Once you’ve made it through the 10-minute circuit, take up to a two-minute break and then start again. Or if you happen to have any cardio equipment at home, bang out the 10-minute circuit and then hit the treadmill, bike or elliptical for up to another 20-30 minutes. Aim for banging out this total-body routine three days a week on non-consecutive days. As you get stronger, work toward repeating the circuit two to three times. As you progress, you can also add more intensity to some of the exercises. For example, you can turn squats into squat-to-jumps where you literally jump off the ground with your arms extended straight over your head when you come up from the squat position. Push-ups can also be replaced with burpees. Of course, if you have any favorite summer stay-cation home moves, I’d love to hear about them!
Whether you’re working out at home, in the park or at the gym, be sure not to skimp on the stretching and allow your body time to warm up and cool down. Add plenty of water and sweet summer fruits and veggies to the mix, and you’ve got the perfect plan in place for a whole summer filled with endless opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
As you can probably tell from my last few posts, I’m very excited about the arrival of my favorite season. Since this Motivation Monday falls just five days before the start of the summer, I thought I’d offer a quick hit list of some of my seasonal fitness survival tools:
2) Moisture-wicking clothing: Sometimes the gear I wear makes all the difference between sweating it out and throwing in the towel.
3) Portable / non-perishable snacks: My new favorite are KIND protein bars, but some old stand-bys include bananas, apples and almonds. If you’re packing a cooler for the beach, watermelon, pineapple and frozen grapes are a few of my picks for refreshing sweet treats.
4) Jump rope: My favorite portable workout tool of all time! Winds up and fits in any backpack and can be used anywhere from the park to the beach.
5) New kicks: You may recall I get a new pair of cross trainers twice a year. Since I tend to ask Santa to leave one pair under the tree for me on Christmas Day, this is the time of year I look for the next pair that I can start wearing down.
6) Sunscreen: I’m the first to admit I did a ton of damage to myself as a sun worshipper in my teens and 20s. After developing Rosacea in my 30s, I’m a lot better of protecting my skin from harm. The sensitive skin on my face does well with a lightweight fluid called Athelios from LaRoche-Posay. I also like the sheer touch formulas by Hawaiian Tropic and I’ve heard great things about the Banana Boat sports sunscreen line.
7) Good tunes: I simply cannot get into my workout without some heart-pounding beats. Here are the five songs currently giving me the biggest boost for cardio, Tabatas and weight training (some are old, some are new):
- “Truly Madly Deeply (Thomas Gold Radio Edit)” – Cascada
- “Crank It Up” – David Guetta & Akon
- “Can’t Hold Us (featuring Ray Dalton)” – Mackelmore & Ryan Lewis
- “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” – Fall Out Boy
- “Stay Hungry” – Twisted Sister
Now bring on the start of summer 2013 and plenty of sun-filled days so we can all have fun, be fit and feel fabulous right through Labor Day!
I’m not sure how it happened, but here we are three days in to the month of June!
This Motivation Monday post comes courtesy of an Internet search where I looked into what “celebrations” take place this month. Turns out there are several things going on that tie in with the healthy-living theme here at LauraLovesFitness. Did you know June is:
- National Safety Month. In fact, this week is National CPR & AED Awareness Week. While I recently renewed my certifications with the National Academy of Sports Medicine and the Aerobics & Fitness Association of America, it turns out my CPR and AED certification with the American Red Cross expires at the end of the month. So it’s time for me to take a refresher course and get up to speed! I encourage everyone to consider taking a CPR / AED class. Even if you don’t work in the health or fitness industry, you never know when someone you care about could need your help in an emergency.
- National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month. This is my favorite time of year to snack on juicy peaches and nectarines; plump blueberries; sweet strawberries and refreshing watermelon. Check out this great recipe for watermelon salad. (Thanks, Snack Girl!) Looking for a portable snack that can also help you beat the heat? Give frozen grapes a try!
- Great Outdoors Month. No time like the present to go explore that park or hiking trail in a town near you. With sunlight lasting longer, why not add some minutes to your evening walk or spend a little more time on the bike trail. Get the whole family involved with a fun game of Frisbee or old-fashioned tag in the backyard. The sky’s the limit when you take your activity routine outside! (Need some ideas? Click here for a second look at my park-bench workout video)
- National Tennis Month. I was a varsity tennis player in high school, but am sorry to say I stopped playing when I got to college. I’ve always wanted to get back in the game as tennis is an amazing sport to build cardiovascular endurance, balance, strength and coordination. If you’ve ever thought of giving the sport a try, make this the month you go for it!
As June also brings us to the halfway point for 2013 (yikes!), this is also the perfect time to assess where you’re at in reaching your health and fitness goals for the year. Maybe it’s time to take things up a notch or simply add some new workouts and healthy foods into your daily routine. Remember, mixing things up is a surefire ways to stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
I can’t believe this Motivation Monday brings us to the two-week countdown to Memorial Day. For many, this is crunch time before the start of bathing suit season. If the holiday is giving you extra motivation to pump up your fitness routine, remember, it’s also the perfect time to take a hard look at the one thing that can make all the difference when it comes to maximizing your workouts: your diet.
There’s a reason why you almost always hear the words diet and exercise in the same sentence when people talk about healthy living. You really can’t have one without the other. I can tell you from personal experience that reaching your fitness goals isn’t just about what you do at the gym or at that bootcamp class in the park. It has everything to do with what you buy at the grocery store, cook at home and order when you go out to eat.
From my college years to my early working days, I often found myself going to the gym to negate whatever bad things I did at the Friday night frat party or Saturday afternoon tailgate. (Those were the days: brat and beer splurges without worrying about calories. Sigh.) As I’ve gotten older and allegedly wiser, I’ve learned a lot as my body and metabolism have changed. The bottom line is you can’t work hard at the gym, then eat a bunch of junk and expect your body to get where you want it to go.
My latest exercise kick at Physique57® has really helped me re-focus my attention on healthy eating. Does that mean I deny myself the things I love like dessert or red wine? Absolutely not. So, what does it mean?
- Buying even more fruits and veggies to snack on or make part of my meals.
- Having two types of veggies with dinner instead of one.
- Drinking even more water and things like iced green tea, which along from giving me a little afternoon pick-me-up also offer the benefits of antioxidants. Want an easy way to sneak some more H20 into your daily routine? Have a glass of water first thing in the morning. You’ll get a few ounces in your system before rushing out the door for work or getting the kids to school.
I’m truly in awe of those who commit themselves to “eating clean” practically 24/7. Many of these people never drink alcohol or eat anything processed or that comes in the color white (e.g. rice, pasta), and they fuel up mainly on tuna, broccoli, chicken and sweet potatoes. I know I can’t be that restrictive with my own diet for the simple reason that I truly enjoy rich foods and cocktails. However, I still do the best I can to keep it healthy while enjoying life in New York City. The nice thing is the harder I work at the gym, the better I want to be about my diet. The same works in reverse, too. When I eat well, I have more energy and can take my workouts to the next level. I guess you can call it the one double-edge sword that can actually help you have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
It’s hard to believe at this time last week, I was just starting my five-day escape to Texas. The trip was everything I hoped it would be: good times with good friends from different parts of my life. The fact that I got to enjoy some much-needed 70-degree sunshine for a few days was an extra bonus!
Here are a few of my favorite things from my trip to Texas (in no particular order):
- The three-cheese Texas toast grilled cheese at 24 Diner.
- Blueberry pancakes at Kerby Lane Cafe.
- Celebrating National Margarita Day at the Hula Hut and Chuy’s.
- A simply fabulous dinner at the Driskill Grill.
- Tabata training in the Westin’s fitness center to counter some of the calories ingested in the highlights above.
- Countless laughs with my Northwestern gal pals Tracy, Molly, Evva, Lisa, Jessica and Irene! (Laughing doesn’t burn nearly as many calories as my typical workouts, but it certainly felt good!)
- The “Five Meat Treat” at Red Hot & Blue BBQ.
- “Bleeding Heart” margaritas and Baja fish tacos at Ochos.
- Sipping pre-Oscar Prosecco with my lifelong friend Jeanne Marie while her husband (and bona fide “Grill Master”) Paul fired up a delicious steak dinner.
- Getting to know their four-month-old baby Charlotte!
- Watching the end of the Oscars while sipping red wine and sitting in their hot tub.
- Rolling out of bed and burning some calories from the above-mentioned highlights in their home gym.
By now, you’ve probably noticed a common theme in my vacation-related posts: Laura loves to eat and drink! This is why I always pack the workout wear and get in a couple of calorie-busting sessions wherever I go.
However, along with the moisture-wicking gear, I also work hard at letting my vacation mindset take over when I arrive at my destination. That means realizing the opportunities for these special get-togethers don’t come around as often as we’d like and since we enjoy catching up over fun food and cocktails, it’s definitely not the time to obsess over counting calories!
After a little bit of decadence, I actually look forward to getting back on track with my normal healthy eating habits and kicking it up a notch at the gym. On that note, I encourage everyone to enjoy whatever memorable moments present themselves in the weekend ahead. Life’s simply too short not to embrace all that you love in this world. If that includes chocolate and red wine, dig in, sip and enjoy and remember, even indulgences have a place in our ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!