Category Archives: Nutrition

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 !

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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!

Hooray for Spring!

Make it a Knock-Out Spring!
Photo by Leslie Hassler

How perfect is it that we get to kick off a brand new season on a Motivation Monday? 

Even though we officially welcome the spring of 2017 today, I’ve spoken with plenty of people who are unmotivated to move as we shake off the effects of Old Man Winter’s end-of-season punches. Trust me, I get it. It’s a lot easier to sit on the couch than bundle up in layers of cold weather gear, pull on the boots and trudge through the melting snow puddles to get to the gym. The good news is now that spring has arrived, better weather is on the horizon. Sometimes just knowing those brighter and warmer days are coming can be the boost your body needs. 

As we wait things out a little while longer, I encourage you to do this: change just one thing in your routine. Not sure what I mean? Here are five simple ideas: 

  1. Try a new workout: Adding two to three kickboxing sessions to my weekly mix has made a huge impact on my fitness focus. Since I started taking ILoveKickboxing classes in February, no two workouts have been the same. I love the new adrenaline rush and the stress release I experience from punching and kicking the heavy bag. The classes have also made me stronger for my Physique57 classes and other workouts. So what workout have you always wanted to try? Go ahead and give it a shot! The benefits could be nothing but pure sweat and pure fun! 
  2. 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.
  3. 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 am getting so excited to participate in my fourth Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. In less than 100 days, I’ll lace up for the first time in Boston. If you’d like to make a donation, click here. (A HUGE thank you to all who’ve donated so far!) 
  4. Grab some new fitness wear: Sometimes a bright pair of yoga pants or tank is all you need to perk up your routine.
  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. Happy spring, people! It’s time to get psyched for a new season of chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

A Shot of Presidential-Sized Motivation

e American Background. Independence Backdrop.

Guess what? Remember those health and fitness resolutions you made at the start of the year? Well, you’ve reached a major milestone as this Motivation Monday brings us seven weeks into 2017! As I mentioned in previous posts, it takes about six weeks for new behaviors to take root as official habits. So, if packing your gym bag has become as routine as brushing your teeth before going to bed and you find yourself craving your daily dose of celery sticks – kudos to you!

To keep the momentum going, I encourage you to pat yourself on the back for all your hard work. I also offer this important reminder: success is never just about a number on the scale. Think about how many of these non-scale wins you’ve scored:

  • Do you have more energy throughout the day?
  • Are you sleeping better at night?
  • Do you find yourself craving healthy snacks and meals?
  • Do you feel more confident stepping out in that favorite pair of jeans?

Whatever you’ve accomplished, now’s the perfect time to set some new goals. Think about something that will keep you pushing through your weight training circuits; getting to that group exercise class on time and chopping veggies or prepping other healthy food for the work week. Maybe there’s a spring break trip, wedding, reunion or other special occasion in the not-so-distant future that you’d like to show up for feeling your best.  Of course, your motivation could stem from the desire to gear up for a new season of new activities. This could be the spring you start training for your first 5K or Avon39 Walk to End Breast Cancer. Maybe you’d like to be able to play a sport with your son or daughter or simply have more energy for outdoor activities like hiking or cycling when the weather gets nicer.

In honor of President’s Day, I thought it would be fitting to wrap things up with some words of wisdom from some of our country’s notable leaders. As in years past, this is a non-partisan group of quotes. I simply chose words that inspired me. As we all set our sights on the health goals ahead, isn’t it great to think some motivational words from the past can inspire us on our current quest to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous?

“We should not look back unless it is to derive useful lessons from past errors, and for the purpose of profiting by dearly bought experience.”George Washington 

“In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.” –Abraham Lincoln 

“We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage.” -Teddy Roosevelt

 

 

“Kicking” off 43 With a Bang – and a Punch!

img_3806On this Motivation Monday, I find myself another year older. Hopefully that means I’m also another year wiser, but it’s probably still too early to tell.

I think it’s safe to say birthdays present the perfect opportunity for reflection. While I reminisced about the many experiences that will forever define my forty-second year on Earth, it was no surprise the most defining moments were those that involved family and friends. Many of those moments were happy ones. Others were the complete opposite. The reality is I begin living my forty-third year missing a few very special people. However, while they’ve been taken from this world physically, the memories of their love and friendship will remain a source for smiles and strength for all the years to come.

I was truly blessed to celebrate another birthday with both my parents. Their love and guidance have made me the woman I am today. I’m equally blessed to say I’ve never felt healthier or stronger – both physically and mentally – than I do right now. That strength was tested many times in the past year as I found myself along with several of my closest friends dealing with some very “grown-up” challenges: Family members suffering from attacks on their physical and mental well-being; sweet children growing up to become troublesome teens; job security growing less secure and relationships breaking up.

In a world filled with so much uncertainty, one thing I can control year after year is how I take care of my body. Exercising and eating healthy continue to help keep my immune system strong even when events and emotions seem overwhelming. Of course, the other “thing” that continues to work for me is embracing the everything-in-moderation mentality. That’s why I refused to feel zero guilt about my birthday snack featuring a chocolate – peanut butter cupcake and a glass of champagne. It felt equally good hitting the healthy reset button the day after my birthday by blending an Isagenix protein shake and hitting the gym.

With ILoveKickboxing Instructor, EJ

With ILoveKickboxing Instructor, EJ

Speaking of the gym, another thing I learn year after year is you’re definitely never too old to try something new. Some of my longtime readers may remember several years ago I enjoyed sparring with my personal trainer Roberto once or twice a week. A hand injury took me out of that game for awhile, but thanks to the recommendation of my gal pal Elisa, I decided to get back into the punching world and signed up for ILoveKickboxing.com.

After one sweat-filled 50-minute class last week, I was riding a crazy endorphin-filled high. I also laughed to myself thinking about how I could have crushed some serious stress if only I had I had started punching and kicking a heavy bag sooner! The class is a cardio, strength and endurance experience featuring boxing gloves, heavy bags and non-stop drills of core exercises ranging from mountain climbers to push-ups as well as solo and partner-friendly rounds of jabs, hooks, upper cuts and kicks. I am excited to add this new workout to my exercise regimen for the year ahead (which still includes Physique57 classes and Tabata training) and see how it helps take my physical and mental strength to another level.

So, I guess this is a roundabout way of saying taking control of your health is something anyone can do at any age or fitness level. Don’t be afraid to strike out and try something new. There’s no doubt the road ahead can trip us up at any time with bumps, twists and turns. Instead of looking back, use the lessons of the past to catapult you into the future and all the opportunities calling you to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

Keep On Keepin’ On…..

iStock_000018191976XSmallIt happened again. I blinked and here we are on the last Motivation Monday of January! Four weeks into 2017, I offer big kudos to everyone sticking with those plans to make this your healthiest year yet.

If you feel like your motivation is starting to wane, here’s a boost to keep you going. In only a couple of weeks, some of the new things you started will feel like part of your daily routine. If you’re discouraged about the number on the scale, forget the numbers and think about how many of these non-scale-related wins you’ve experienced so far this year:

  • Do you have more energy?
  • Do your clothes fit better?
  • Do you see a new glow in your skin?

Remember, healthy living isn’t a sprint. It’s a lifelong marathon and there will be days when even the most disciplined among us stray off course. It’s part of being human. To help you stay on track, I offer three tips to keep in mind for the days, weeks and months ahead:

  1. Start your day with the right fuel. I believe in the power of a healthy breakfast, but I’m also highly aware of how little time many of us have to even think about scrambling some eggs or waiting around for Ezekiel bread to toast. That’s why I love starting my days with a chocolate Isagenix shake. It takes the guess-work out of determining what will give me the nutrients I need, and I can either make it in the blender or use my portable shaker. Not a shake person? Grab a hard-boiled egg or non-fat plain Greek yogurt. Bonus Tip: adding fresh fruit to your yogurt is a lower-sugar option to the flavored varieties. All of these protein-packed options will keep you full longer than starchy, sugary items like frozen waffles or pancakes.
  2. Never leave home without healthy snacks. There’s nothing worse than going grocery shopping with a rumbling stomach or being greeted at the shopping mall with the scent of cinnamon tempting your nostrils from the food court. What will you find in my bag? Either a bag of almonds or KIND bar. I love these snacks because they’re yummy and because they contain no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols and provide a balanced combination of healthy fats, protein and complex carbs.
  3. Out of sight, out of mind. Sure, I’m all about moderation. But I also have a hard time not going overboard when certain temptations are lurking in my kitchen cabinets. That’s why I don’t keep things like cookies or candy in the house. I freely admit I’m incapable of eating just one cookie or one piece of chocolate. (I envy those who can!) If you’re like me, then seriously, just don’t buy it. For the parents out there, it’s never too early to get your kids started on healthy snacking. Push the apple slices and peanut butter snacks on a normal basis and save the treats for special occasions.

Here’s to wrapping up the first month of 2017 on a positive note and to welcoming February and all the new chances to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!

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