Category Archives: Nutrition

Even Fitness Fanatics Need a Healthy Re-Boot Sometimes

A handful of people have asked me about the recent, healthy glow to my skin. So I thought I’d use this Motivation Monday post to share my secret: I just spent nine days eliminating one of the biggest toxins in so many American diets – sugar.

I made a serious commitment to eat clean and cut out some of the crap I’d let sneak back into my life a little more than I should have. That meant eliminating alcohol and dairy. (Check your food labels – many dairy products contain hidden sugars.)  After my go-to chocolate-flavored Isagenix shake for breakfast, it was nothing but clean food choices for the rest of the day: raw veggies galore, leafy lettuces, green apples, whole grains, Ezekiel bread, lean proteins (chicken and shrimp were my go-tos), hard-boiled eggs and lots and lots of water and caffeine-free herbal tea. (Yes, I even skipped my daily iced coffee fix with non-fat creamer.) I snacked smarter, too. I kept the raw almond consumption to a smart portion of 8 to 10 at a time while adding a green apple or hard- boiled egg for extra satiety.

The result? Each morning, I found myself feeling better rested than I can remember without what I call a sugar-induced fog. I also found the reflection in the mirror looking back at me with less of the puffiness than  what can appear after a night of having that extra glass of wine or super sugary treat for dessert.

As we kick off a new week, I offer this idea: – is there something you can cut out of your diet today, tomorrow and maybe the next day that’s become more of a “comfort crutch” than a nutritional necessity? Whether it’s eliminating the soda, the bread, the sweets or the booze, sometimes just a few days of being extra good can help you find new zest for the healthy habits you’ve been trying to maintain.

Will I be drinking my iced coffees and sipping Proscecco and Sangria as we continue moving into the warmer spring days? Absolutely! But scaling back once in a while to save up for a special occasion can make those indulgences even more enjoyable. There’s no time like the present to take stock of the one or two things in your fridge or pantry that could be holding you back from your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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Spring-ify Your Hydration

Easy Ways to Wow Your Water!

After a weekend escape from the concrete jungle to help my parents with some spring cleaning, I’m enjoying an extra spring in my step on this Motivation Monday courtesy of some much-needed vitamin D. It’s amazing how uncovering the patio furniture and sweeping up the leaves and other remnants of a long, hard winter can do wonders for the mind and spirit. (The bonus: tackling the first stages of a spring spruce up after a killer ILoveKickboxing class helped me burn a few extra calories so I could enjoy some of Mom’s cooking without a side of guilt!) The weekend  also marked the first time since last fall that I was able to sit outside to write a blog post. All that fresh air did wonders for my soul!

While I stayed busy helping Mom and Dad, I lost some of my usual writing time. So I hope you’ll forgive this short and sweet shot of inspiration to kick off the new work week. As we all continue shifting our routines for spring, it’s the perfect time to freshen up some of our healthy habits. That includes how we stay hydrated.

As far as I’m concerned, water remains king when it comes to healthy beverages. However, after awhile the same ol’ H20 can be more than just a little bland. Instead of reaching for calorie-loaded sports drinks, why not try these three, easy ideas to add a little “wow” to your water:

  1. Expand Your Citrus Horizons: Who says lemons should have all the fun? Add a squeeze of lime, grapefruit or even a clementine for some extra zest in your water.
  2. Chill Out: Mix in some frozen apple chunks, grapes, blueberries or strawberries for instant yum.
  3. Go green: Add slices of cucumber and a few sprigs of mint for a more savory flavor option.

Once you find your favorite flavor infusion, make a pitcher to keep in the fridge so you can have a refreshing drink at home or fill up your reusable water bottle to bring to the office and wherever your workouts take you. Remember, adding a little zest to even the healthiest of habits can help you stick with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Spring Cleaning for the Soul!

FINALLY Feels Like Spring! (And Yankees Baseball Season)

After enjoying some beautiful weather over the weekend, this marks the first Motivation Monday where I feel like spring has actually sprung! So I thought it was the perfect opportunity to offer a reminder about making time for one seasonal activity that can do wonders for your mind and spirit. (Depending on the intensity level, you may even break a sweat.)

I’m talking about spring cleaning! I recently spent several hours not only attacking some serious dust bunnies around my apartment, I also started eliminating some of the piles of paper in the “hidden” areas of my apartment. Despite being part of the digital age in my cozy 585-square foot co-op, somehow the receipts, old invoices and other paperwork manage to get an extended lease on life throughout the winter. After a few hours of cleaning and giving the paper shredder a good workout, I felt so much lighter. There really is something cathartic about getting rid of the  “stuff” that simply has no place in your life anymore.

Here are a few tips to get started:

  • Clean Out Those Closets and Drawers: I know it may hurt, but maybe this is the spring you finally get rid of that college T-shirt with the permanent sweat stains. I’m not suggesting you toss your school pride in the trash, but maybe this is the year you add a piece of alumni gear to your wardrobe.   While you’re at it, why not treat yourself to a few bright-colored, moisture-wicking items to those freshly de-cluttered drawers?
  • Don’t Forget the Pantry!  If you still have leftover holiday candy taking up space on the shelves, now’s a good time to bring those treats to the office where they’re guaranteed to be gobbled up quickly. (Better than you being tempted to eat an entire box of empty calories, right?) Of course, anything existing beyond an expiration date should just be tossed.
  • Freshen Up the Fridge: This is also a good time to add some healthy variety to your diet. Lots of colorful fruits and veggies are hitting their peak which is good news for your daily menu. As you head to the grocery store or local farmer’s market, remember to fill your basket with a variety of color ranging from red to green to make sure you’re taking in a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. (Those are the plant chemicals known for helping to fight and prevent disease.) Need a few ideas? Try rainbow chard, arugula and strawberries.

In addition to moving your workouts outdoors and trying some new fitness classes, cleaning out the clutter in your life is a surefire way to make this a spring filled with endless opportunities to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Hippity-Hoppity Motivation Monday!

If you need some motivation to get moving on this particular Motivation Monday, let me direct your attention to the empty Easter basket in your house.

If you were lucky enough to get your own personal visit from the Easter bunny or perhaps you simply swiped some of your kids’ loot, you joined thousands of others in a sugar-filled holiday celebration. After Halloween, Easter is the second-largest candy-giving holiday. So if you enjoyed savoring some sweetness, now’s the time to work it off!

Still need a shot of motivation to kick the candy coma and get your butt to the gym? Here are some calorie counts of some of the most popular treats:

  • Cadbury eggs – my all-time favorite! One egg = 170 calories; 6 grams of fat
  • Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs (probably my second favorite) One egg = 180 calories; 11 grams of fat
  • Solid chocolate bunny (small, 1.75 ounces) = 298 calories; 18 grams of fat
  • Brach’s Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Egg: 1=43 cals, 1.2 g fat,6 g sugar
  • Jelly Beans: 20 candies = 160 calories, 0 grams of fat (But oh, the sugar!)
  • Jordan Almonds: 13 almonds = 140 calories, 5 grams of fat
  • Peeps: 5 Peeps = 160 calories, 0 grams of fat (Again, the sugar!)

For those celebrating Passover, here’s how a few menu items break down:

  • Dark chocolate covered matzah: 3 pieces – 200 calories; 11 grams of fat
  • Coconut macaroons: 2 cookies = 142 calories; 7 grams of fat
  • Chocolate coconut macaroons: 1 cookie – 190 calories; 11 grams of fat

Remember, whatever and whenever you celebrate, enjoy the quality time with family and friends and don’t sweat the extra calories. There’s always post-holiday time to get back on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

The Countdown to Spring Continues…

Can’t Wait to Take the Action Outside!
Photo by: Leslie Hassler

The calendar says this is the last Motivation Monday of the winter of 2017. Here in New York and much of the Northeast, however, we’re bracing for yet another potentially messy storm to arrive on the first day of spring. If you’re like me and sick and tired of bundling up in the cold weather gear as March marches on, then I propose we shift our focus to the warmer days that will eventually arrive.

Thinking about ways to spice up your health and fitness routine for the new season ahead is a great way to shake off what’s left of the winter blues. However, instead of creating an overwhelming healthy to-do list, why not try this: change just one thing in your routine this week. Sometimes making a small adjustment to your daily grind is all you need to jump-start a chain reaction of fun, positive changes. Not sure where to start? Here are five simple ideas: 

  1. Try a new workout: Have you been curious about those sign up sheets for outdoor bootcamp classes in a park near you?  Been curious about trying some Tabata training outdoors? Maybe they’ve added a new group exercise class or two at your gym. Now’s the perfect time to mix things up! Find a fitness buddy to join in the fun and get an extra shot of positive energy from spending a sweat session with a supportive pal. 
  2. Grab some new fitness gear: Sometimes a bright pair of yoga pants or tank is all you need to perk up your routine. And if you still haven’t tried my go-to fitness essential – BFIT Rapid Electrolyte Spray – now’s the time to order a bottle or two. The zero-calorie, zero-sugar, great tasting sprays will help me stay hydrated and fueled during all my indoor and outdoor spring workouts. 
  3. Make a new playlist: Don’t be shy about asking your instructors about the music he or she plays to keep you going. Now with Spotify, Apple Music and other music sharing options, it’s easier than ever to find the right beats for your body.
  4. Move for a cause: Sign up for a walk or run that supports something that moves you and /or consider supporting family and friends in their own efforts. I’m sad this is the first spring in four years I won’t be training for another Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer, but I am eager to learn about Avon’s new direction as it continues its efforts through the Breast Cancer Crusade. 
  5. Add a new fruit or veggie to your diet: Toss blueberries or strawberries into that morning smoothie or bowl of oatmeal; add half an avocado to your egg white omelet or pair an apple with almonds, a non-fat plain Greek yogurt or your grab-and-go snack of choice.

Remember, sometimes adding one new thing to the mix is all you need to stay on track with turning your healthy goals into a reality. Here’s to the coming spring and a whole new season of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Back in Fighting Form

Ready to Re-Focus & Get Back in Action!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

Somehow today’s Motivation Monday post marks the last one for the first month in 2018. To be honest, I’m more than happy to say good-bye to January.

My repeat readers have gotten used to my candid confessions in many of these weekly installments. Today, I feel it’s time to come clean about a truth that affects even the most fanatical of fitness freaks. Sometimes we’re just not that into the whole working out and  healthy eating “thing.” That’s the state I’ve found myself in for a good part of this month.

I can’t blame just one thing for catapulting me into this particular funk. Making the five-hour-flight transition from 82-degree sunshine in Grenada to the eight-degree tundra in New York City probably had something to do with it. The frigid weather aside, it was also time to face reality and get my career goals sorted out for the year ahead. (In addition to the “Sunday Scaries,” I find I suffer from a more serious case of the “Year-Ahead Scaries” with every birthday I face.)  On a more pressing note, it was time to replace the high-calorie drinks and snacks I’d indulged in while on vacation with my normal healthy menu items. However as the cold days persisted, it was just easier to order comfort food for delivery rather than make the trek to the grocery store (though I realize we’re talking about a three- or four-block walk) to re-stock the fridge and pantry with better options.

Then there were the nonstop reminders about turning our 2018 resolutions into reality. Whether those resolutions involved exercising more often or cleaning out the closets and getting more organized, the pressure to make it all happen simply comes at you from every angle – the TV set, the pages of a favorite magazine that’s supposed to provide a brief escape from reality and of course, the stream of each and every social media feed. All the Instagram photos of six- or even eight-pack abs and “amazing diet tricks” had me scrolling through my feed a little less. For some reason, those posts made me feel “guilty” about my less-than-healthy behavior in the new year to date. Instead of inspiring me to get moving, I had simply lost my motivation to work out. When I did exercise, I definitely wasn’t putting 100 percent into the workouts.

Then about 10 days ago, one morning turned into a couple of mornings of slowly getting back into my usual groove. I stretched more and modified my moves at ILoveKickboxing and Physique57.  I started feeling better and was able to get in my normal, sweat-infused doses of exercise. I started eating smaller, cleaner meals throughout the day and didn’t pour the second glass of wine with dinner. I finally re-stocked the kitchen with my healthy go-tos: hard-boiled eggs, grilled chicken, veggies, berries,  brown rice and almonds. After a few days of rediscovering my healthy stride, I started to feel better. My energy level has improved, I am sleeping better and I feel more positive about the new month ahead and beyond.

I share these not-so-optimal moments from the start of 2018 in the hopes that it helps anyone who’s feeling discouraged by not “crushing” those goals for 2018 right out of the box. It’s okay. We all have bad days or even bad weeks. But every day  offers a new opportunity to start over. Be kind to yourself and don’t downplay the good things you have done for yourself so far this year. Are you drinking more water instead of sodas or other sugary drinks? Have you added five minutes or five push-ups to your exercise routine? Did you add a few healthy items to the family menu? Are you shutting your devices down a little earlier before bedtime? If you’ve done any, all of the above or made other healthy choices this month, kudos to you!

So here’s to using these last few days of January to stock up on whatever you need – from food to fitness gear – to make February and beyond a time to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

 

Healthy Holiday Survival Tips

With Thanksgiving behind us, this marks the first Motivation Monday of the 2017 holiday season. Along with the hustle and bustle of cyber shopping, decorating and meal planning, it’s also the time of year many of us find our calendars filled with family get-togethers, office parties and drinks with friends.

For me, this season has turned extra festive now that I am newly engaged! (Can’t you just feel my smile jumping out at you from these typed words?) That means I’ve received even more of those “we-must-get-together-and-raise-a-glass-before-Christmas” invitations. With many bubbly-filled evenings in my immediate future, I realize now more than ever, I’d better follow my own tips when it comes to trying not to throw all those healthy habits out the window between now and New Year’s Day.

If you’ve been stopping by here for awhile you know chocolate, wine and Prosecco are a few of my favorite things. Like other indulgences, I always do my best to enjoy these treats in moderation. However, if you find yourself face-to-face with a sea of hors d’oeuvres, candy-cane-themed cocktails and sugary sweets, fear not! Here are some simple ways to get you through the season with your healthy lifestyle goals in check:

  • Plan Ahead:  If you know you’re going to share some holiday cheer in the evening, do not starve yourself all day. Eat a sensible breakfast and lunch and don’t forget to have a healthy snack packed with some protein up to one hour before the party starts. This will help you avoid arriving super hungry and grabbing the first (cheese-smothered, bread-heavy) thing you see. My sample menu for this type of day: Breakfast: Isagenix shake Lunch: 2 hard-boiled egg whites with grape tomatoes and pepper strips & one slice of toasted Ezekiel bread. Snack: 1/2 cup of blueberries or small green apple with handful of almonds. (Also, don’t forget to stay hydrated with water.)
  • Cocktail Control: The every-other-drink rule works just as well at a holiday party as it does for happy hour. To space out the alcohol consumption, start with a glass of wine or a cocktail, and when your glass is empty, switch to a glass of water or seltzer for your next beverage.
  •  Choose “Smart” Foods First:  More and more holiday parties are a cocktail and appetizer bonanza. Load up on some of the healthier options first, including the crudités – celery sticks, carrots, bell pepper strips, broccoli and cauliflower. Tip: Try not to drown veggies in high-calorie dip. Instead, use mustard for a tangy, low-calorie alternative  Another idea: Attack the protein! I love shrimp, and with 18 grams of protein in a 3 oz serving, there’s no reason not to! (Unless you are allergic to shellfish, of course.) Sushi, skewered chicken or beef tenderloin strips are also better options than cheesy breads or creamy dips.
  • The Dessert Dilemma: What could be better than arriving at a party to find nothing but cocktails and cupcakes or wine and chocolate? If you know you’re attending one of these sweet celebrations, be sure to eat a small, sensible meal before arriving and tearing into the treats. When you do dig in, split a cupcake, cookie or piece of cake with a friend. If there’s any fresh fruit, eat that first.
  • Get Moving! I know, you’re busy. Trust me –  you can find the time to exercise. Pushing through two four-minute Tabatas or dare I say a whole 20 minutes of cardio or half of your favorite workout DVD is better than nothing. If you have a party after work, hit the gym or take a walk in the morning. If you live in a city like I do, don’t let the cold stop you in your tracks. Throw on an extra layer, pack the party shoes to go and burn some extra calories by walking to work and/or to the festivities.Remember, this is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. For me, that includes enjoying some holiday cheer…along with some chocolate and cupcakes!

Remember sometimes all you need is a little planning to make it through the holiday season and stay on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

It’s Almost Turkey Time!

On this Motivation Monday, I ask you to forgive this post’s lack of originality as I offer my annual dose of Thanksgiving-infused inspiration.

Right up there with the Fourth of July (which takes place in my favorite season), Thanksgiving remains my all-time favorite holiday because it’s a day that makes us stop and give thanks for everything good in our lives. And what better way to take that pause than spending some quality time with family, friends…and plenty of yummy food and drinks?

It’s probably no surprise to learn between all the snacking and sitting down for a traditional turkey-with-all-the-trimmings meal, the Calorie Control Council reports the average American will consume more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day. So, I thought I’d help everyone start the week of strong with a few holiday feasting survival tips:

  • Move it! Don’t skimp on the activity this week. Remember, ten minutes of exercise are always better than zero. The bonus is you’ll have the mental boost knowing you made an effort prior to the Turkey Day feast. On Thursday, even if you’re hosting the holiday fun and can’t leave the house, you can pop in an exercise DVD or bang out a Tabata first thing in the morning. Or sneak out for some fresh air and a brisk power walk or abbreviated run. Your gym is open? Great! Try a morning group exercise class or attack some cardio and core work. A few solid planks can make you feel strong before filling your belly with delicious eats.
  • Eat breakfast! Be sure to eat something sensible on Thanksgiving morning to kick-start your metabolism. If you’re not feasting until late afternoon, make sure to follow breakfast with a small lunch or sensible snack so you don’t go overboard later. Two ideas: non-fat plain Greek yogurt with a serving of almonds mixed in or a piece of toasted Ezekiel bread topped with a sliced hard-boiled egg and salsa. These protein-rich snacks will keep you feeling full longer than a sugar-infused snack. For me, blending a chocolate Isagenix shake for breakfast is always a surefire way to know I started the day off on the right foot – even if it all goes downhill later!
  • Mind Your Portions! Use a salad or other small dish for your meal. Start with salad or veggies and then add the turkey. Use the remaining space for the potatoes, stuffing and other starches. There simply 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 10 minutes before going back for 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!
  • Keep Tabs on the Libations! This is the perfect day to follow the every-other-drink-is-alcohol plan. Enjoy a glass of wine, beer or cocktail then have a glass of still or sparking water before moving on to the next cocktail.
  • Make Doggie Bags! Hosting the holiday feast? Don’t be shy about giving some of the uneaten turkey and trimmings to your guests.

I wrap things up by offering heartfelt wishes to all my readers for a very Happy Thanksgiving! With each year that passes, I grow even more thankful for so many blessings including my family, my friends, my health and for the support I receive from my “fitfam,” which includes all my loyal readers. One final note: If you end up breaking the calorie bank this Thanksgiving, don’t sweat it. Laughter, good food and even some good wine can be the perfect ingredients for a happy holiday as we continue our ongoing journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

The Signature Fall Favorite That’s Good For You, Too!

‘Tis the season for pumpkins!

Now’s the time when menus everywhere are filled with everything from pumpkin spice lattes to pumpkin ravioli. If you need proof of just how popular pumpkins are, you need only to scroll through the social media feeds filled with photos of happy pumpkin pickers and sippers of pumpkin beer. I’m counting down the days till I enjoy a big slice of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, but it turns out there are several good reasons to enjoy pumpkin more than once a year!

On this first Motivation Monday of October, I thought I’d offer just a few of the health perks found in fall’s signature squash:

  • Post-Workout Power!  It’s no secret bananas are a natural source of energy, but it may surprise you to learn just pumpkins pack more of the refueling nutrient potassium. One cup of cooked pumpkin has 564 milligrams of potassium compared to a banana’s 422 milligrams. A little extra potassium helps restore the body’s balance of electrolytes after a heavy workout and keeps muscles firing away.
  • Good for Your Baby Blues…and Browns, Greens and Hazels, too!:  One cup of mashed pumpkin contains more than 200 percent of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin A. Also, pumpkin is chock full of carotenoids, a fancy name for the compounds that create its orange color. One of those compounds is beta carotene, which has been linked to eye protection.
  • Keep Your Appetite in Check! Pumpkin is often forgotten as a great source of fiber. In fact, a one-cup serving packs three grams or protein with only 49 calories. Countless studies show a fiber-rich diet can help you stay full longer so you eat more sensibly throughout the day.

So, while it’s always a good idea to enjoy the pumpkin pie in moderation, there’s no reason not to indulge in some of the other healthy options provided by this seasonal favorite to stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous !

See You in September!

Soak Up What’s Left of Summer!

Well, it’s here. This Motivation Monday marks the last day of my favorite month of the year and the beginning of LauraLovesFitness’s annual August hiatus.

Before I take some time off from blogging to focus on other writing projects, new work assignments and of course, getting to the beach as much as possible, I wanted to leave everyone with three simple reminders on how to enjoy what’s left of the season while making some healthy choices.

  1. Don’t forget the sunscreen! Wherever and whenever you find yourself outside, make sure you protect your skin. Click here for a recap of the sunscreen that keeps me from burning without irritating my sensitive skin.
  2. Think Before You Drink! First of all, make sure you always have a designated driver selected to get home from a BBQ or pool party safely. As far as how to sip and enjoy libations with less guilt, one idea is to swap out sugar-loaded juices with seltzer. For example, you can mix shot of vodka with seltzer and then add a splash of cranberry or orange juice (or better yet, add orange or lemon slices) for a little sweet kick. Click here for some of my other lo-cal cocktail tricks.
  3. Keep moving! Take advantage of the extra daylight while we have it and maximize your outdoor activity routine. If you want to keep it social, grab a friend or two for a hike or walk on the beach or try getting the gang together for some beach volleyball.

Whatever you have on your calendar for the month ahead, I hope the days are filled with sun, fun, good food and good times. At the end of the day, it’s the memories we make with family and friends now that will keep us smiling in September…and on our never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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