New Month, New Simple Healthy Eating Tips
On this Motivation Monday, many of us are dealing with Old Man Winter showing off his strength and the aftermath of some crazy weather from the weekend. The good news is he will eventually give up the good fight and spring will arrive. This in-between time offers a chance to take stock of your health and fitness goals for a new season. I thought I’d use this opportunity to offer three simple tips for getting those healthy eating habits in shape for the season – and all the seasons to come.
- Don’t Avoid Your Favorite Foods: All or nothing is never a good option for creating realistic longterm behaviors. Whether your weakness is wine, chocolate, cheese or chips, cutting out our your favorites altogether can lead to a binge where you make up for all or more of the servings of the treats you denied yourself for too long. While I’m not a huge fan of total “cheat days,” going a bit overboard for a special occasion or having that glass of wine after a super stressful day, isn’t going to destroy all your hard work. Remember, one “naughty” meal doesn’t mean throwing in the towel on an entire week of trying to make good choices.
- Maintain A Schedule: Habits are formed based on repeated behavior – good or bad. And studies show you can train the body to want to eat at certain times by making those times more routine. I have to eat something every few hours to stay sharp and avoid the not-so-pleasant side effects of being “hangry.” So whether I’m working from home or on location, I make sure I have a few small meal options ready to grab – whether it’s an Isagenix snack bar; fat-fee Greek yogurt and a handful of almonds or a green apple. If you are someone who’d rather eat three meals a day, try and have them at the same time.
- Add Strength Training to Your Spring Fitness Routine: I know I’m excited about getting outside for power walks and maybe hitting the tennis courts again once the weather warms up. But remember, the body needs some strength training to maintain or build muscle – which can be lost if you’re focusing on losing weight. This doesn’t mean you have to walk into the nearest gym and pick up the heaviest weights. Starting with the basics including squats, lunges, planks and push-ups – can add some solid bodyweight exercises to the mix. For an “express” option of some simple but effective exercises, click here to revisit why I love Tabata training all year long.
Do you have any new healthy hobbies you’re looking forward to trying this spring? Let me know! Sharing ideas is one of the best ways we can all keep each other on track on the never-ending journey to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Spring Cleaning for Your Kitchen Cabinets
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!
Family, Friends & Fitness
Congratulations! This second Motivation Monday of 2015 brings you 12 days into the New Year. That means you’ve done your best to stick with your health and fitness resolutions for a whole dozen 24-hour cycles!
If you’ve had one or two “bad” meals or even days since we kicked off the New Year, don’t sweat it. Nothing great is ever achieved without facing a few obstacles along the way. If you’re struggling to stay on track, here’s an idea – activate the buddy system! How?
- Lean on a fitness friend: Pencil in some quality time with your bestie by planning a couple of morning or evening walks; shooting hoops or signing up for the same group exercise class. Sometimes knowing you have a friend waiting for you at the gym is all you need to show up.
- Cold-Weather Hater? Try sweating through a fitness DVD or online workout with your spouse or significant other right in the comfort of your den.
- Tech Support: Set the DVR to record your favorite show(s) and go ice skating with the kids or take the dog for an extra-long walk.
- Friendly Competition: Instead of hitting the bar for happy hour, find a few co-workers interested in de-stressing with a barre workout or other group activity. Here in New York City, there’s a great place called Chelsea Piers which offers everything from hitting golf balls to organized group events for games ranging from dodgeball to sand volleyball.
- Ask a Pro: Have no idea where to start? Treat yourself to a few sessions with a personal trainer to get you on the right track toward injury-free fitness.
In addition to exercise, talk to your family about embracing healthier food choices together. I’m not expecting your kids to start asking for kale and brussel sprouts, but they probably wouldn’t mind building their own colorful and yummy non-fat Greek yogurt parfaits with berries, almonds and honey drizzle. I know a lot of parents keep cookies, chips and other treats in the house and often end up eating more than the kids. Think about this: if you’re making meals at home, you’re the one ultimately shaping your kids’ idea of what a “normal” diet looks like. Packing healthy snacks for lunch and after school activities while saving sweet or salty treats for special occasions can instill healthy habits at an early age. Here are a few portable kid-approved snack options that taste pretty good to grown-ups, too:
- One serving Wheat Thins with one “Laughing Cow” cheese spread wedge
- Baby carrots and celery sticks with peanut butter
- Apple slices with almond butter
- Greek yogurt with honey
- Low-fat string cheese
Remember, embracing healthy habits and maintaining them is a lifelong journey. Aren’t trips more fun when you have company? While it’s great to find support from the huge #FitFam presence here in the blogosphere and on social media, never take for granted the strength you can gain from the people you love most to help you stick with your plans to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
Holiday Party Crunch Time
As we all know, ’tis the season to be merry, and that means lots of cheer in the form of Christmas cookies, cream sauces and cocktails. As the countdown to Christmas day ticks away, many of us will be cramming multiple holiday parties into the evenings ahead. So I’m using this Motivation Monday as a time to remind everyone how to get through these calorie-rich days ahead without throwing all your heathy habits out the window!
- Plan Ahead: If you have a party to look forward to after work, do NOT starve yourself all day. Instead, eat a sensible breakfast and lunch and have a healthy snack up to one hour before the party starts. This way, you won’t arrive with a rumbling stomach and grab the first thing you see.
- Choose “Smart” Foods First: Many holiday party spreads are full of yummy appetizers. Why not load up on some of the healthier options first, like the crudités (celery sticks, carrots, bell pepper strips, broccoli and cauliflower). Just try not to drown them in dip. Another good idea is to seek out some protein. I love shrimp, and the good news is with 18 grams of protein in a 3 oz serving, there’s no reason not to! Sushi, skewered chicken or beef tenderloin strips are also a better option than loading up on the cheesy breads or creamy dips.
- Deal with the Dessert Dilemma: Cocktails, cupcakes and chocolates are sometimes the center pieces for a holiday bash. I admit, I’m one dessert lover who’s a big fan of this concept, but it can wreak havoc on your efforts to eat healthy. If you’re attending a super sweet bash, you definitely want to eat a sensible small meal before arriving at the party and diving into the tray of sugary treats. When you do dig in, why not split a cupcake, cookie or piece of cake with a friend. If there’s any fresh fruit, eat that first.
- Maintain 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, seltzer or diet soda for your next beverage.
- Get Moving! Despite the hustle and bustle of the season, you can find some time to be active. Remember, 10 minutes of exercise is better than nothing. If you have a party after work, hit the gym or pop in a fitness DVD at home in the morning. If you live in a city with sidewalks, 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 probably a few cupcakes. So with a little planning, we can all make it through the holiday party circuit and still have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!
As we kick off the first full work week of 2013, we’re also at the beginning of week two for anyone with big plans to get their health and fitness routine on the right track this year. I send big kudos to anyone who’s made it this far and hope this “Motivation Monday” post inspires you to keep going!
For anyone who’s feeling a little discouraged or frustrated – hang in there! If you’re saying, “Laura, I’ve gone to the gym every day since January 1st and I haven’t had one cupcake or even one glass of wine, but I don’t see the hint of a six-pack yet,” consider this your reality check. Slow and steady wins the race and when it comes to running down your health and fitness goals, well, it’s a bit more like a lifelong marathon. It’s important to remember it takes six weeks for anything to become a habit. So if you’re not completely moved by a post-workout endorphin rush or haven’t figured out which cardio program is the right one for you yet, don’t sweat it! Stick with it and focus on the positives you have experienced since making some healthy changes. Perhaps it’s a clearer mind after a busy day at work or not feeling as winded after climbing a flight of stairs. Remember, you CAN do this!
Along with the shot of motivation, I also wanted to stress an important component to keeping your healthy eating goals in check. While I’m not a registered dietitian or licensed nutritionist, I’m always happy to share some of my healthy-eating “tricks.” Probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is that a little planning goes a long way.
I spent 40 minutes yesterday chopping fruits and veggies so I have no excuse not to get my daily servings in all week. I have grab-bags and containers filled with cherry tomatoes, red and yellow pepper strips and carrots. I also have tubs of diced strawberries, grapes and a big bag of clementines. (My favorite brand is “Cuties,” they’re sweet, easy to peel and have no seeds.) Having these go-to snacks takes the guess-work out of deciding what to eat with my turkey on whole-wheat sandwich or when I need my late afternoon pick-me-up at the office. Also, on those days I get home after work and the gym, grabbing a container of raw veggies and munching on them while I grill a tilapia filet or chicken breast is a lot better than inhaling a handful of crackers to stave off the rumblings in my stomach.
When you’re ready to re-stock your fridge again, here are some of the items you’ll always find in mine:
- Non-fat plain Greek yogurt (Which can easily be jazzed up with sliced strawberries, sliced banana and even a handful of almonds. It’s a great base for an easy breakfast or protein-packed snack.)
- Low-fat string cheese
- Cherry tomatoes
- Red, yellow and/or orange peppers
- Baby carrots
- Clementines or other citrus
- Fat-free salsa
- Egg whites or egg beaters
- Mustard (my favorite zero-fat, low-calorie condiment)
The last item I’d encourage you to prep ahead of time is a gym bag. Having your workout wear with you at all times kills the possibility of using the “I-don’t-have-my-gym clothes-with-me” excuse.
Remember, the habits and routines you develop now can make an impact long after January is over. Here’s to a great week ahead filled with new enthusiasm to stick to your guns and do all you can to have fun, be fit and feel fabulous!