Category Archives: Nutrition

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!

Getting Rid of Some Extra Weight

Before the shape-up session….

On this first day of May, I’m happy to share some exciting news. I lost five pounds over the weekend.

Well, technically the process started on Friday and continued with a couple of hours of work on Saturday and Sunday. In the end, the tally may have been closer to six pounds. This transformative process was made possible thanks the power of a paper shredder and my resolve to cut out the clutter in my life.

This first Motivation Monday post of the new month is a reminder of how good it feels to get rid of those unwanted pounds that sit on your desktop and peek through the drawers and doors of cabinets around the house. They come in the form of expired coupons, statements, receipts and even those sentimental holiday cards. Even though managing everything from banking to health care is becoming an increasingly paperless experience, it’s amazing how the pounds can still sneak up on you. As the owner of a cozy New York City coop, I know all too well how good we can get at hiding them. Since my home also doubles as my workspace (when I’m not on location), if things are in order, I find I’m much more productive. When things get messy, so does my schedule. 

…and after. Ready for a productive week!

While it’s crucial to carve out some to exercise and stock up on healthy groceries, it’s equally important to find some precious moments to eliminate the clutter that can weigh down the mind. Along with the papers, that includes the pile of clothes you’ve been meaning to go through to sort out donations. It can even include the vanity in your bathroom filled with expired medications or lotion bottles with just a drop left. 

Now that spring has sprung, I encourage everyone to pencil in some time for a good mental health session courtesy of some old-fashioned spring cleaning. Side effects may include the proud feeling of accomplishment in lightening up your living space. Another bonus: when you get rid of the old, you also make room for a few new feel-good items including a couple of bright-colored duds for your workout wardrobe or even a new light-weight, smell-like-spring body wash or lotion. 

The bottom line is sometimes adding a couple of serious get-rid-of-the-clutter sessions to your healthy living routine can be a great May activity to help you stay on track with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous! 

Sugar, Sugar Everywhere!

Beware what’s in your favorite coffee drink!

Here we are in the midst of another season filled with sweet temptations. As spring slowly starts to make its appearance here in New York City, it seems like everyone is rushing grab all the sunshine they can find. This may involve adding bright-colored workout wear and sundresses to the wardrobe or shaking off the boots and slipping into cute wedges and sandals. There also appears to be a surge in sales of all those refreshing drinks that make you feel like you’re sipping on sunshine.  The problem is those sips are often loaded with more sugar than anyone needs in one day, let alone one serving.

On this Motivation Monday, I offer an important reminder that sugar doesn’t just live inside candy wrappers, cupcake shops and wine bottles. There’s also a ton of it lurking in coffee houses and smoothie bars in the form of frozen drinks that come in more flavors than nature ever intended. The short-lived run of the “Unicorn Frappucino”at Starbucks was the latest example of what’s behind every sip of so many frosty temptations. One grande whipped-cream sweet-and-sour concoction packed 410 calories; 16 grams of fat; 62 grams of carbs and 59 grams of sugar. I found it interesting the color-changing drink contained zero caffeine. (Then again, with all that sugar, who needed another jolt of energy?) Luckily by the time you’re reading this post, these drinks only continue to live on people’s Instagram feeds.

Please know, I’m not picking on Starbucks. One of my favorite treats at this time of year is a nonfat green tea Frappucino, and I’ve been known to enjoy a skinny mocha Frappucino once in awhile, too. The key is not to use a frosty coffee drink as a meal substitute. The nutritional value is next to null, and you’re almost always faced with the dreaded aftermath: the sugar crash.

Of course, some crashes are worse than others. With Easter eight days behind us, I think I’ve finally recovered from a full-blown sugar hangover. I cut out a lot of sweet treats during Lent but then went totally overboard on Easter Sunday. It started with several bowls of Cocoa Puffs before Church and by the end of the day, in addition to some great wine and pasta, I’d also devoured some homemade cake, countless chocolate eggs and a sleeve of chocolate chip cookies. So I basically made up for 40 days worth of  sugar intake – and then some. By the next day, my body was in serious sugar shock. I had a queasy stomach, a headache I just couldn’t shake and overall, I felt like a sluggish mess. 

When you get in the habit of eating whole, healthy foods, it’s amazing how the body reacts when you go off the deep end. Hating how your body feels from the damage is a great trigger for getting back on track with a diet of fruits, veggies, protein and whole grains while keeping the alcohol and dessert intake at moderate levels.

As my repeat readers know, I’d never advocate denying yourself the things you enjoy. Whether it’s a bacon burger with a side of cheese fries; pepperoni pizza and beer or even a couple of those large, frosty coffee drinks, we all deserve to splurge once in awhile. They key is to make sure those treats stay in their own “special occasion” category. The key is to keep it all in check, and know one good workout and one day of healthy eating is all you need to get right back on track with your goals to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Hippity Hop To It…

I guess you can blame this late Motivation Monday post on the Easter bunny. More specifically, I blame it on recovering from a sugar hangover after going a little overboard on the Easter treats.

Whatever holiday you and your family have celebrated during the past week, I hope it’s been filled with family, friends, laughter and of course, good eats! Speaking of food, in case you need a shot of inspiration to get moving today, here’s a recap of how some of the popular holiday favorites register on the calorie scale:

Peeps: 4 Marshmallow Bunnies = 130 cals, 0 g fat, 29 g sugar

Cadbury Creme Eggs (my favorite!): 1 = 150 cals, 6 g fat, 97 g sugar

Cadbury Chocolate Eggs: 12 = 190 cals, 8 g fat, 27 g sugar

Cadbury Solid Milk Chocolate Easter Bunny: 1 – 890 cals, 48.6 g fat, 20 g sugar

Reese’s Peanut Butter Egg (my second favorite!): 1 = 180 cals, 10 g fat, 16 g sugar

Reese’s Reester Bunny: 1 = 760 cals, 40 g fat, 72 g sugar

Brach’s Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Egg: 1 = 43 cals, 1.3 g fat, 6 g sugar

Jelly Belly Assorted Jellybeans: 35 = 140 cals, 0 g fat, 32 g sugar

Of course, for many of us (including yours truly), these treats come after a carb-loaded meal filled with traditional favorites ranging from pasta dishes to honey baked ham and potatoes. There may also be some wine or other libations involved.

Anyone who’s been following this blog for awhile will tell you the last thing I want you to feel reading this day-after-Easter post is guilty. The fact is holidays almost always include more food and drink than usual. Don’t sweat it. Instead, make some smart choices today and remember, celebrating special occasions with friends and family will always be one of the most joyous ways to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Spring Cleaning for Your Kitchen Cabinets

One favorite you’ll always find in my fridge!

We made it to the first Motivation Monday of April!

Ironically after last week’s post about when it’s time to skip the workout, I got hit with a virus and the whole week turned into a blur of sniffles and crazy work deadlines. That means today’s post will be extra short and sweet featuring one easy tip on how you can get your healthy eating plans in shape for the season. Many of us are getting into spring cleaning mode. So as you prepare to clean out the closets and drawers, don’t forget to give the pantry and kitchen cabinets a once over, too!

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.

While you purge those food-filled spaces, it’s also a good time to take stock of what’s in your fridge and what you can add for a little variety. This is the time of year when lots of colorful fruits and veggies are at their peak and can add some flair to 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 phytochemical. (Those are the plant chemicals known for helping to fight and prevent disease.) Here are a few ideas to freshen up your diet:

Rainbow chard: Getting bored with spinach? Try substituting your soups or stir-fries with this colorful veggie  packed with nutrients like vitamins C and K, potassium, and iron.

Arugula: This is my favorite leafy green. (Sorry, kale!) It’s a little bitter with hints of pepper and mustard flavors. One half cup of fresh arugula has 2 calories, vitamins A, C, K, and folate. Arugula also contains the antioxidant lutein, which is known to benefit the heart, eyes and skin.

Strawberries: One serving – that’s eight strawberries – has more vitamin C than an orange! They also contain powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidants called anthocyanins. If you’re craving something sweet and don’t want the side order of guilt,  strawberries make a great dessert, too.

Mangos:  Another sweet treat, one cup of sliced mango has 107 calories and three grams of fiber. They’re also packed with antioxidant vitamins A and C and also contain vitamins E, B6, K, and potassium. Mangos contain plant chemicals called flavonoids, which may help control high blood pressure and help reduce the risk of heart disease.

What healthy foods do you look forward to enjoying at this time of year? Whatever is on your menu, now’s the time to look forward to a new month filled with healthy foods and all our plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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