Do you all remember those chia pets, the popular grass growing pieces of pottery (you know – “Ch-ch-ch-chia!”)? Now, chia is back in the spotlight – not for its growing properties – but for its nutritional benefits! Chia seeds are now being produced for edible consumption and can be used in a variety of ways. They provide a great source of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. You can find them at health food stores, online at websites like Vitacost, and at many mainstream grocery stores (typically in the natural section).
Wondering why on earth you should incorporate chia? Consider these nutrition facts. 1 tbsp of chia seeds contains…
- 60 calories
- 4 grams of fat – a valuable source of omega-3 essential fatty acids that support cardiovascular and cognitive health! (Perfect for those of you who may not like/eat fish, another good source of omega 3s)
- 4 grams of dietary fiber to support digestive health
- 10% of your daily magnesium needs, important for heart/muscular health, and also may play a role in preventing migraines
- 6% of your daily calcium needs to support bone health
If you’ve never eaten them before, the texture may be a little surprising. The initial dry texture provides a bit of a crunch. However, chia seeds develop a gel-like layer around the seed when left in a liquidy foods or in beverages. You may or may not enjoy the texture this way – experiment with them to find out! You can use chia seeds in many ways – a few examples include:
- Top fruit and yogurt or oatmeal with chia seeds.
- Sprinkle them on top of a salad.
- Add milled (ground) chia seeds to baked goods like quick breads and muffins, or your favorite pancake and waffle batter mix.
- Mix chia seeds into your favorite smoothie recipe.
- Mix ground chia with herbs and seasonings. Dip chicken or fish in a little non-fat plain yogurt, and then coat in the chia mixture. Bake in the oven.
But my very favorite
way to use chia seeds is to make chia seed strawberry jam
! This is so super easy, and much healthier than a lot of the store bought jams filled with tons of additional ingredients and lots of added sugar. Seriously, it only takes 10 minutes and you can make a batch whenever you need some. Scroll below the photos for the recipe!
Chia Seed Strawberry Jam Recipe
1 pound of strawberries
2.5 tbsp. of chia seeds
1 tbsp. sugar, honey, or other sweetener (You can adjust this with a little more or less based on your taste preferences. Honestly, I think if your berries are super sweet you probably don’t even need to add this)
1) Pureed strawberries roughly in a food processor. You can choose how much to puree – if you like it a bit more like chunky preserves versus a bit smoother like jam.
2) Heat strawberries in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 2.5 tbsp chia seeds and 1 tbsp sugar, and simmer for 5 minutes.
3) Place it in a jar/bowl and chill in the fridge. It should form a jam like consistency upon cooling – about an hour or so.
And that’s it! It should last several days in the fridge. Enjoy!
Share with us: Do you use chia seeds? What's your favorite way to eat them?
In a recent post about how to select a sports nutrition product
, we discussed that there were 6 key factors to consider. I highlighted the first two factors – macronutrient composition and type of carbohydrate – in that first post. Today, we’ll take a look at the other 4 factors that are just as important to consider!
Factor # 3: Gastrointestinal comfort
One of the biggest concerns among endurance athletes is gastrointestinal comfort while fueling during exercise. You can combat gastrointestinal upset through experimenting with different types of products, and by practicing your fueling plan regularly before race day.
Experiment with different types of products to see what sits best in your stomach. Everyone’s body is individualized, so there’s no blanket recommendation here. But a few tips…
- Certain people feel more comfortable using liquid sports drinks, as it’s easier to match up fluid, fuel, and electrolytes all in one product. This is practical for shorter endurance events, like those lasting for 2 hours. For long events, though, many athletes prefer using other sources of fuel so as not to have so much sloshing (particularly for running events). In addition, it can be difficult in longer events to focus only on sports drinks, as you may not be able to meet your hourly carbohydrate needs without a potential risk of overdrinking.
- Don’t create an overly concentrated sports drink (you know, like when you throw 2 scoops of drink powder into your water bottle rather than 1). The concentration of a sports drink impacts how quickly it can be absorbed in the stomach. Making it too concentrated can slow absorption, increase the risk of the “sloshing” feeling, and increase the risk of stomach upset. Follow the directions on the bottle - the manufacturers have taken the concentration into account when they recommend the mixing instructions.
- Be careful combining a solid product (like a gel or shot blocks) with a carb-based sports drink at the same time – it could create a too concentrated situation (as described above). This is relatively individualized, but there are a few ways to get around this issue if you've struggled with GI upset because of it. If you prefer eating a lot of solid products or gels during your workout, you could combine these with an electrolyte-only drink (in other words, you get your carbs from the product and not the drink). Or, have your solid product with some water and then switch back to your carb-and-electrolyte-containing sports drink afterward.
- I personally recommend avoiding products that contain sugar alcohols, as these can cause gastrointestinal upset in some people. Check your product or food labels for ingredients like xylitol, mannitol, or maltitol (all sugar alcohols have that –ol ending in their name). If you find yourself experiencing GI upset after using a product with these, those sugar alcohols may be the cause.
Lastly, remember this: Just like you have to train your muscles to run or ride or swim, you have to train your gut. This is why it’s important to start experimenting with your fuel choices early on during training. If you never fueled with any product during training, but decide to use them on race day – odds are you might experience some stomach upset. Instead, try your fueling options during training and choose one that you’ve found settles well in your stomach over time. Factor #4: Practicality
Keep in mind the practicality of whatever fuel you choose. If you’re going to be doing a 3.5 hour endurance event, it’s probably unlikely that you’ll be able to carry enough drink with you to support your energy needs (unless of course you are using what’s available on the course and you’ve practiced with that during training – which is smart!). Along the same lines, gels are light and easy to carry but during a 6 hour event you may get tired of the super sweet flavor and the texture, so you may want to alternate with another choice. Think about how much of each product you would need to support the goal rate of 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour, and see if it’s practical to carry and consume that much during your anticipated training/event time. Factor #5: Electrolyte content
You’ll also of course need to consider the electrolyte content of the products you’ll be using. The most important electrolyte to be concerned about in endurance exercise is sodium. Losing too much sodium during an event may put you at greater risk for issues like heat cramping (anecdotal, but may play a role) or early fatigue. It may also increase the risk of hyponatremia, a dangerously low drop in blood sodium levels that has serious consequences (fluid overload is the primary factor causing hyponatremia, but sodium may contribute to this as well).
The ACSM recommends consuming 500 to 700 mg of sodium per liter of fluid you drink during any exercise that lasts more than an hour. Most commercial sports drinks will replenish around this rate. Certain sports drink products (Ironman Perform, for example) have a higher amount of sodium. This could be valuable if you are a heavy salt sweater or if it’s an unusually warm day outside.
Be sure to carefully check other sports nutrition products or real food products you are going to use to see how much sodium is in it. Some are quite low. If you use one of these products during a 2-3+ hour event, and you combine this with only water, you may risk falling short in replenishing your sodium needs. There are electrolyte tablets or powders that can be added to plain water to supplement your use of solid products with additional sodium if the product itself falls short, or you can add a sprinkling of salt to your product/drink. Factor #6: Personal Preference
Of course, to use any product, you’ll want to enjoy the taste and texture. Don’t force yourself to down something that isn’t appealing simply because you heard it was a good product. As an example, I absolutely cannot stand gels – that texture just makes me want to gag! But shot blocks, raisins, and sports drinks work fine for me. There are enough products and foods out there that can be successfully used without having to eat one you don’t like. Pulling it all together
Evaluate each of these 4 factors, plus the other 2 we discussed in the previous post
- and then practice, practice, practice! Use your fuel choice during long runs or rides in training, and then ask yourself:
- Did you feel energized during your workout?
- Did you hit the wall or bonk at all?
- Did this cause any gastrointestinal upset?
- Did it taste good?
- Could you see yourself using it during your event?
- Could you carry enough on the course to support your needs?
You may want to sign up for our free training and fueling log
which you can use to record your experiences with your training/fueling to see what works best for you. Share with us: What is your favorite product or food to use during endurance exercise?
Are you a victim of the “shame spiral?” Picture the scenario below and see if it sounds familiar:
You have been working hard at eating right, and you excitedly go to weigh in after 1 week. However, when you step on the scale – nothing.
There’s no loss; you’re exactly the same as the week before.
You throw your hands into the air in frustration and tell yourself “Well, obviously this isn’t working. Screw it – I’m going to eat what I want to eat then!”
The next thing you know, you’re indulging in some unhealthy treat that’s only moving you further away from your goals. And then you feel even guiltier, and you start convincing yourself that you’re never going to succeed at this weight loss thing. “I’m never going to get to where I want to be!” you tell yourself.
And so what happens? You continue making unhealthy choices, because it’s “obvious” you’re going to fail anyway.
This is the “shame spiral”, as some of us like to call it. It’s a dirty, vicious cycle, and one that I find is hard for many people to break. It’s a huge limiting factor in trying to achieve weight loss or any other health goal. You essentially let your limiting beliefs stop you from making continued progress towards your goals. 1 step forward, 2 steps back.
If you struggle with shame spiraling, here are 3 steps to breaking this habit:
1) Remind yourself that weight loss takes TIME. How long did it take you to put on the weight? 1 year? 10 years? 30 years? You can’t change a lifetime of bad habits in a week. It takes time to lose weight. A lot of times, even when taking steps in the right direction, you may not realize some areas that are contributing to the scale being stuck. Perhaps you’re snacking a lot, eating out too often, or not exercising. Rather than throwing your arms in the air and tossing what work you did do out the window, take an objective look at your habits and ask how you could improve the following week to reach your goals.
Along with this, remind yourself that you will eventually reach your goals. Don't let that little voice in your head tell you you can't - because if you believe that little voice, you'll let that become you're reality.
2) Focus on the successes outside the scale. Even when you’re taking steps in the right direction, there’ll be occasional times when the scale might not reflect that. Don’t beat yourself up. Focus on what you are doing right. Have you always gone out to eat at least 3 days a week, but this past week you only went out once? Awesome – success! Never been to the gym more than 2 times a week, but last week you made it 4 times? Congrats! Pat yourself on the back for those successes. Remember, the scale is just one indicator of our health. Remind yourself of all these other steps that you are making to improve your overall wellness, and let this motivation carry you forward.
3) Be aware for signs of the shame spiral, and halt it. If you notice it starting, stop and ask yourself how you could channel that frustration into a more positive behavior that will move you closer toward your goals. Instead of turning to dessert for comfort, get some aggression out in a boxing class. Rather than go out to eat, find a new healthy recipe to make at home that will get you excited about healthy cooking again. If you find yourself skipping workouts because “they’re just not working” – maybe you need to sign up for a fun new class or a session with a personal trainer to break up that rut. Use the acronym “ACT”:
Ask yourself if you are shame spiraling
Choose to stop the negative behavior
Take action to make a positive change!
Share with us: Do any of you struggle with this? Have you found this article helpful to stop the shame spiral?
Have you ever walked into a running or multisport store and looked at the abundance of products on the shelf? Gels, shot blocks, drinks, fizz tabs, bars…it can be overwhelming! If you’re wondering what products are best, you’re not alone – it’s a common question among many endurance athletes.
There are 6 factors to consider when selecting your fuel choice for running or cycling. I’m going to highlight 2 of those factors in this article, and follow up with you all soon in another post highlighting the other 4 factors.
Factor #1: Macronutrient breakdown
Macronutrient breakdown refers to the amount of carbohydrate, protein, and fat in the product. Quick, pop quiz – which of these is essential for us to take in during exercise?
The answer is carbohydrate! During exercise lasting over an hour or so, you’ll need to take in carbohydrates to supply your muscles with energy. For exercise lasting 1-3 hours, the recommended range is 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. For exercise lasting longer than 3 hours, some athletes may need up to 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour to support the prolonged activity.
When you look at a product, check to be sure that it is a good source of carbohydrate. Look at the label and check the number of grams of carbohydrate listed in the nutrition facts. Be sure that you could picture yourself taking in an amount of that product that reaches our goal rates listed above.
Many “sports bars” targeted towards strength training athletes contain high levels of protein and low levels of carbohydrate – we want to avoid these. In fact, too much fat or protein in a product can be detrimental for endurance athletes during exercise for several reasons:
a) It slows digestion, meaning that energy might not get to your muscles very quickly.
b) It can cause gastrointestinal upset.
c) You might not get enough carbohydrate to supply your muscles if you’re eating a product with excessive fat/protein. Factor #2: Type of carbohydrate
Your body can only absorb so much of any one type of sugar at a time. It’s important that your fuel choices contain multiple types of carbohydrate in order to maximize absorption of those sugars, as well as reduce the chances of gastrointestinal upset. Most engineered sports products are formulated with multiple types of sugars. You might notice the labels say it has a “2:1 glucose: fructose ratio” or “multiple transportable carbohydrates.”
You can also check the ingredient list to look for multiple types of sugars/carbohydrate. Look for words like glucose, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, maltodextrin, honey, etc. Here are a few notes that may help you navigate your way through some confusing terms:
- Dextrose and pure corn syrup are both 100% glucose (so both are the same type of sugar).
- Sucrose is another word for “table sugar” – comprised of 50% glucose and 50% fructose (so it has 2 different types of sugar in 1 ingredient).
- Honey is 30% glucose, 40% fructose, and 20% water.
- High fructose corn syrup is typically 45% glucose and 55% fructose (data on HFCS is controversial in terms of health - it's your personal choice whether or not to use during exercise).
- Agave nectars contain between 70-90% fructose and 10-30% glucose (yes, agave contains more fructose than HFCS! Keep in mind using almost all fructose can contribute to GI upset, so I’d recommend avoiding products with agave)
- Maltodextrin is a polysaccharide comprised of several repeating glucose molecules (1 type of sugar). Because maltodextrin comes in a chain of sugar molecules, it does have a lower osmolality compared to other products which can help reduce GI upset in some people. It’s also often used in products because it’s less sweet so you avoid that ‘sickly sweet’ flavor present in some products. Ideally, it should be combined with another type of sugar in order to promote maximal absorption and energy production. Some companies do combine it with another source; others don’t.
Contrary to popular belief, maltodextrin is actually broken down very quickly and easily absorbed – similar to the rate of pure glucose. It is not a “slowly released carbohydrate.” And this is fine, because we actually don’t want a slow release during exercise – we want quickly absorbed carbs that supply our body with energy immediately. Because the insulin response is blunted during endurance exercise, we are not worried about large insulin spikes causing a sharp drop in blood sugar levels. Instead, we should be focused on getting quick, easily digestible carbohydrates regularly throughout exercise to provide a continuous supply of energy to the muscles.
Lastly, an important note related to ingredients - real food products are highly underutilized in sports nutrition! Regular foods like bananas, raisins, dried cranberries, candies (sweedish fish or jelly beans), or fig newtons are all carbohydrate rich choices that naturally contain different types of sugars. Multiple research studies prove that raisins and bananas work equally well compared to sports nutrition products in terms of performance. In addition, regular foods are often cheaper and more readily available. Stay tuned as I highlight the other 4 factors in an upcoming article!
Technology has a dual role in healthcare. On the one side, it can be detrimental – the constant connection can contribute to stress, and excessive television and computer screen time contributes to overweight and obesity. On the other hand, though, technology enables us to more actively take control of our health through the information available on the web and the various applications that are now on the market. Take a look at a few of these nutrition, fitness, and health apps which can empower you to make good choices!
Fooducate – This is a free app available for iPhone and Android that allows you to scan food product bar codes and see a nutrition score. The scores are based on an A to D scale, and come from a scientific algorithm that takes into account nutrients, ingredients, product category, processing and fortification. If you’re confused about food claims on a product and wondering whether it’s healthy or not, fooducate is great because you can scan the barcode at the store. It’s instant feedback before you make the purchase. That being said, no scientific algorithm is perfect so the “score” may not accurately reflect the nutritional value of all foods – but from my personal experience, it does a pretty decent job. Strava
– Track your fitness activities with this app available for iPhone and Android. Strava is able to track your running and cycling activities – just turn on the app before you go out for your run or ride, and it’ll record your progress. You’ll see your distance and pace, which then can be uploaded to Strava’s website where you can store all your acitivites. Strava’s website is a type of social networking platform for fitness, so you can create groups, follow your friends, and compete in “segments” against others. Segments are marked distances on certain roads that are uploaded into Strava by users. Whenever you complete a segment (whether you know you did or not), you’ll see your results compared to others who have done that segment. I-Triage
– This app is also available for both iPhone and Android, and gives you the ability to check any health symptoms on the go. Taking a lunchtime walk and you start to experience knee pain? Click on the prompts in I-triage to learn the most common causes. You can also find doctors closest to your current location or any location you choose. GymPact
– If you need more motivation to workout, consider using GymPact. You make a pact to work out so many days per week, and identify how much money you’re willing to lose if you don’t keep your pact. If you don’t workout, you lose the dough. But if you meet your goal, you’ll make money – funded by those people who didn’t keep their pact! GymPact uses GPS to verify your time in the gym. Since last year, they’ve also added integration with RunKeeper for outdoor runs and an accelerometer feature so that you can use it with at-home workouts. Unfortunately, the GPS signals and RunKeeper integration aren’t always seamless, leading to workouts that potentially don’t get counted (meaning you risk losing money). Definitely worth a try though! Available for iPhone and Android. The Carrot
– This app for iPhone or website based program allows you to track multiple health goals all in one place. Maybe you’re working on quitting smoking, exercising more, and eating more veggies – you can track all these goals in one place and see your progress on the Carrot. My Fitness Pal
– This online food database goes mobile with apps for iPhone and Android. People who have successfully lost weight and keep it off report that food logging was a primary strategy used. The app isn’t perfect – some food entries are user generated and may not have the correct nutritional data, and the app tends to give you too low of a calorie estimate. However, it is great for accountability and an estimate of your daily intake. My advice? Ignore the calorie recommendations on the app, and instead use it for a few days to track your baseline intake. Once you have an idea of about how many calories you normally eat, you can stick with that number to maintain your weight or reduce by about 500 calories per day to lose 1 pound per week. You can also use the log to easily see areas where you may be struggling – perhaps you notice you need more veggies each day, or you need to switch from refined grains to whole grains – and then you can work to improve on these!Share with us - What's your favorite health app?
Leucine is a branched chain amino acid and is one of our essential amino acids (meaning our body can’t make it, so we have to eat it in food). During endurance exercise, the oxidation of leucine increases which has propelled researchers to investigate the impact of leucine consumption before, during, and after exercise. So does it help endurance athletes? Let’s find out…
There's not quite as much research out there on leucine and endurance performance as I'd have hoped, but I did find a few studies that I want to highlight.
Recovery & Subsequent Performance
In one study, researchers compared two recovery meals consumed after 2.5 hours of cycling intervals. One of the recovery meals provided a higher amount of leucine/protein compared to the other meal (but both contained sufficient carbohydrate and were equal in calories). After a day and a half of rest, the cyclists repeated a sprint performance test. The researchers found that those who had the recovery meal with higher amounts of leucine/protein experienced a 2.5% increase in sprint power and a 13% decrease in perceived tiredness during the sprints (Thomson et al, 2011). However, another study found that leucine intake post-exercise did not improve subsequent sprint performance or power –although it did reduce muscle tissue damage (Nelson et al, 2012).
Another study found that among trained canoeists, 6 weeks of leucine supplementation led to increased upper body power and work, increased total rowing time to exhaustion, and a decreased rate of perceived exertion (Crowe et al, 2006).
Other researchers have examined the impact on leucine intake during exercise. For example, Pasiakos et al (2011) compared the effects of two essential amino acid drinks – one with a higher leucine concentration – on fit adults during cycling exercise. They found that muscle synthesis protein synthesis was greater after using the leucine enhanced drink. However, there are several issues with this study –the primary one being that no control group was used. In addition, we know that proper recovery methods after exercise enhance muscle protein synthesis – so the research is unclear about whether it is of any use during exercise.
Based on the research, it appears that leucine may be helpful with recovery and muscle protein synthesis after an endurance exercise session when used as part of the recovery meal/snack. It is possible that it may also help with subsequent performance when used in recovery. There doesn't appear to be enough research suggesting a performance benefit when used during exercise, though.
Also - there is no reason to spend money on pricey supplements, as selecting the correct food choices can provide all the leucine (and other amino acids) you need! For example, in the canoeist study, the athletes were supplemented with 45 milligrams leucine per kilogram of body weight. For a 68 kilogram (150 pound) athlete, that’s about 3060 milligrams – or 3 grams. And remember, this was the total per day, not just in their recovery meals.
If you take a look at our chart below, you’ll see it’s easy to get that much each day by making choices consistent with recommendations for an athlete’s diet!
You can easily incorporate foods with a higher leucine content into your recovery meals following standard recovery guidelines.
After long endurance exercise sessions, you should be replenishing your body with mostly carbohydrates to replace muscle glycogen synthesis as well as a moderate amount of protein. The “ideal ratio” is about 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrates to protein, although don’t worry about getting too tied down in this – just realize that the carbohydrate should be making up a larger portion of your recovery snack/meal than the protein.
The protein in the recovery food helps increase muscle glycogen synthesis if you are not getting enough carbohydrate, and also helps with muscle recovery and protein synthesis. 15 to 25 grams of protein after a long exercise session is appropriate and you can choose protein foods with higher amounts of leucine from the list above to maximize recovery.
If you find using protein powders helpful and convenient in your recovery meals, a whey protein powder will provide a good amount of leucine. However, keep in mind that there may be quality control issues with many protein powders and that these powders are often more expensive compared to regular foods.References:
- Crowe MJ, Weatherson JN, Bowden BF. (2006). Effects of dietary leucine supplementation on exercise performance. Eur J Appl Physiol; 97(6):664-72. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16265600
- Nelson AR, Phillips SM, Stellingwerff T, Rezzi S, Bruce SJ, Breton I, Thorimbert A, Guy PA, Clarke J, Broadbent S, Rowlands DS. (2012). A protein-leucine supplement increases branched-chain amino acid and nitrogen turnover but not performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc; 44(1):57-68. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21685813
- Pasiakos SM, McClung HL, McClung JP, Margolis LM, Andersen NE, Cloutier GJ, Pikosky MA, Rood JC, Fielding RA, Young AJ. (2011). Leucine-enriched essential amino acid supplementation during moderate steady state exercise enhances postexercise muscle protein synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr; 94(3):809-18. Retrieved from: http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/94/3/809.long
- Thomson JS, Ali A, Rowlands DS. (2011). Leucine-protein supplemented recovery feeding enhances subsequent cycling performance in well-trained men. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab; 36(2):242-53. doi: 10.1139/h10-104. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21609286
Last year, I had all these great ambitions of doing a square foot garden but never followed through – so this year, I was determined to go ahead and actually make one. The idea of a square foot garden really appealed to me, because:
1) You fill the square foot garden with nutrient rich soils, so you don’t have to worry about the quality of the dirt in your own backyard.
2) You start with a very small space, making it easily manageable – and you can still get a great yield.
3) I love the concept of having fresh vegetables growing in the backyard that I can eat throughout the summer.
I spent the morning today scanning some sites for other’s instructions and tips. The instructions from the Capital Area Food Bank of Texas were super helpful – especially since they provided a checklist of things to buy, which made our trip to Home Depot pretty simple. The instructions and infographic over at Frugal Dad were super useful too.
The basic set-up is easy and only cost us about $60. You’ll need:-- 4 pieces of wood – We used two 2x8x8, and cut in half so we would have our goal size of a 4’x4’ square garden.-- Hammer & nails – You’ll use this to create the square. You’ll also use a nail to mark off each 1 foot section.-- Cardboard or weed cloth – You’ll place this on the bottom to prevent weeds from poking up into your garden.-- String, yarn, twine, or anything you can use to section off each square foot – We just tied some yarn to each nail and strung it across so that we can see each square foot section.-- Nutrient rich soil mixture – You have two choices here, based on what we found online and what the staff at Home Depot recommended: a) Mixture of 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 compost, and 1/3 vermiculite b) Mixture of ½ Miracle Grow garden soil and ½ top soil. This is what we chose based on the availability at home depot – we ended up needing 3 bags of Miracle Grow (2 cu feet each) and 6 smaller bags of regular top soil.-- SeedsHow to build the square foot garden:
From there, it was pretty simple. Just nail the 4 pieces of wood together into a square and lay in the area that you want the garden to be. Place some cardboard down underneath so that the weeds won’t poke through later. Mix up your nutrient-rich soil, and then place in your garden.
You’ll then want to create a grid. We just put a nail at each 1 foot mark, and tied yarn across from one to another. That way you have defined sections and know where you’re planting what.
After that you’ll just plant your seeds (pay attention to spacing instructions, which will help you figure out how many of each plant to place in each square foot), water regularly, and keep your fingers crossed for some fresh veggies this summer! I grabbed a variety of seeds for my 16 squares - lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, beets, carrots and more - and am hoping for the best. I totally do not have a green thumb, so let's hope that in a few months you'll see another blog post from me with actual veggies to eat!
Do you ever rationalize decisions that you’re making even when you know it’s the wrong decision? I’m guilty of this sometimes. The last instance was when I was trying to stick to a strict budget, and came across a pair of shoes on clearance that I wanted. My rationalization? “I know I said I wouldn’t buy any more shoes, but I don’t have a flat in the color gold so I’m just going to buy this pair so I have more options at home.”
Now, even though they were on clearance for $5.24, I certainly didn’t “need” them – but I convinced myself I did.
This issue is not limited to me and my shoe-purchasing behaviors. Among many people trying to change their health behaviors but not succeeding, I often see a big stumbling block: they often make rationalizations or excuses for behaviors that are moving them away from their goal! They cheat themselves when it comes to their nutrition or fitness choices.
Do you ever cheat yourself? You might decide to make a not-so-healthy choice rather than what you know deep down will help you achieve your goals – and then try to justify it to yourself! Or you convince yourself that some form of immediate gratification is better than the long-term success of reaching your wellness goal.
Here are some common examples and some solutions that you can put into place! Behavior:
Grabbing fast food for dinner rather than making a homemade meal Rationalization/Excuse:
“It takes too much time to cook a healthy meal, and I don’t get fast food that often anyway…” Solution: Don't cheat yourself and your body. There are plenty of healthy meals that you can put together in under 15-30 minutes at home. Here are a few ideas:
- Stir fry – Cook chicken, lean beef, or tofu in a skillet or wok with a small amount of olive oil. Remove from pan and add lots of vegetables (mushrooms, snap peas, asparagus, bell peppers, zucchini/summer squash, onion, broccoli, eggplant…). When vegetables are tender, add protein (chicken/beef/tofu) back in. Add some low sodium soy sauce or teriyaki sauce. You can serve as-is or over instant brown rice.
- Eat breakfast for dinner! – Try scrambled eggs in a whole wheat wrap topped with some salsa.
- Rice & beans – Cook instant brown rice. While rice is cooking, combine a can of black beans and a can of diced tomatoes with green chiles. Add cooked brown rice and mix together. Portion into bowls and topped with some sliced avocado. Start to finish time? 15 minutes.
- Salad – If you keep fresh salad greens in the fridge, you’ll always have a base for a meal. Combine the greens with other veggies of your choice. Add a source of protein – you could grill a chicken breast if you have the time (or pre-cook some on the weekends), or top with some canned beans, tuna, or frozen cooked shrimp that you’ve defrosted in running cool water. You can also add fresh or dried fruit and/or a healthy fat (like nuts or chia seeds) and you’ve got your dinner!
Coasting through your cardio session. Rationalization/Excuse:
“I can’t push myself harder than this…I won’t be able to do it…” Solution:
This is an especially big struggle for new exercises, but can often affect regular gym-goers as well. Don’t let your mind tell you that your body can’t do something (unless of course you have an injury or true physical limitation that affects your body’s abilities). Your body is actually pretty incredible. Do you ever notice how most people can push themselves harder when working one-on-one with a personal trainer? It’s because we know what your body is capable of, even when you don’t.
This is a big hurdle to get over, but start by challenging yourself to some intervals or a faster speed in your next session. Do you always walk on the treadmill at 3.3 mph, every other day? In your next session, try to keep a 3.5 mph pace. Do you try jogging but give up after a minute? Challenge yourself to 1 minute jogging, 4 minutes walking – and see if you can maintain those intervals for your session.
You need to challenge your body in order for it to adapt and get better. Give it a try! Behavior:
Reaching in the candy jar, going to get a “treat”, or ordering that dessert (even when you’re already full)… Rationalization/Excuse:
“It’s only a few extra bites – and I deserve it!” Solution:
A few extra bites add up quickly over the course of a day, week, month...etc. Just 100 extra calories a day (about 2 regular oreos or a few bites of pizza) translates to over 10 pounds of weight gain in a year!
Not to mention, we often rationalize unhealthy choices by coming up with some way that we deserve it. Now, occasionally perhaps this is truly applicable – maybe you just ran a half marathon or it’s your birthday, and you want to have a piece of cake to celebrate. By all means, dig in and enjoy one slice.
But most of the time, this rationalization comes from other areas of our life.
- “I studied hard, so I deserve it.”
- “I’m dealing with a lot…I deserve a treat for myself.”
- “I had a stressful day, so I deserve it.”
Food is fuel for our bodies – and while unhealthy treats are certainly fun to eat and taste delicious, they don’t fuel our bodies and maintain our health in the best way. We shouldn’t associate hard work, stress, sadness or other emotions with deserving some type of food.
If you find yourself rationalizing these extra bites, take a step back. Ask yourself if you’re truly hungry and if this is a healthy choice to fuel your body. If it is, then go ahead and eat. If it’s not a good choice but you are hungry, perhaps you need to be sure that you have healthy snack options on hand at all times to avoid the temptations of other treats.
And if you’re not hungry, ask yourself why you’re getting ready to eat something. If there’s some type of emotional connection there and you’re using the “I deserve it” rationalization, try to figure out other non-food ways that you can use for this purpose. Ladies, maybe you want a mani/pedi once a month. Guys, maybe you want to enjoy a Sunday playing golf or football with friends. Or it could be something as simple as an hour to relax with a book or a magazine! Think about strategies that would work for you, and use them.Share with us: Do you struggle with any of these common rationalizations?
Nothing tastes better (and makes the house smell better!) than a delicious batch of homemade cookies, muffins, or brownies. But these homemade treats can wreak havoc on a healthy meal plan. Often made from refined flour, lots of butter, and tons of sugar, baked goods can pack in a lot of calories with not much nutritional value. It doesn't have to be this way, though! While baked goods shouldn’t make up large portions of our meal plan, they can certainly fit in occasionally to a healthy lifestyle. Try the baking substitutions below for a trimmer treat that's friendlier to your health and waistline...
Bake from scratch. When you bake from scratch, you have more control over the ingredients and end up with tastier goods that have few preservatives. A batch of homemade cookies typically contains about 8 basic ingredients. Take a look at cookies from the grocery store and you might see a much longer list. Try replacing half of the fat in a recipe (typically butter or oil) with mashed banana, prune puree, or applesauce.
The creamy consistency and moisture of the fruit helps to maintain a great texture and prevent products from drying out while cutting the fat in half. Or use beans or pumpkin!
This tip usually surprises people. These make great substitutions for the oil and eggs in brownie mixes and recipes. You can substitute a 15.5 ounce can of beans, pureed in the blender or food processor, for the typical 1/3 cup oil and egg. Or you can do the same with a can of pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix). The beans contain much less fat and calories, and add fiber and antioxidants to the recipe! If you go with the pumpkin, you’re also cutting calories and fat and adding a hefty dose of vision boosting Vitamin A. Use whole wheat flour rather than white flour.
Whole wheat flour contains more minerals and fiber compared to its refined counterpart. Fiber can help you feel full quicker, so you may be more content indulging in a smaller serving. Whole wheat pastry flour is lighter and works better for dishes like cakes, while regular whole wheat flour can be a great choice for hearty breads. Consider adding oats.
They add fiber and texture, and can be incorporated easily into most cookie recipes. You can also use oats to make a modified pie crust! There are several recipes out there for pie crust made from oats – try this recipe
which uses both oats and flour. Use greek yogurt or low fat sour cream in place of regular sour cream or oils
to cut down on fat in dips, toppings, and baked goods. For example, in my strawberry orange yogurt bread recipe
I use greek yogurt to create a moist and delicious quick bread without any oil or butter. The greek yogurt also boosts the protein in your dish! Replace cream or whole milk with fat free half and half, low fat milk, almond milk, or buttermilk.
The best replacement will depend on the recipe. A half cup of heavy cream contains about 400 calories, while the same amount of 1% milk contains just 65 calories! Add fruit to baked goods for added vitamins and minerals
. Consider hearty breakfast breads made with banana, chopped apples, and cranberries, or cookies with dried cherries and dried blueberries.
I stumbled across NatureBox on facebook and decided to reach out to them about reviewing the product. There’s something about the idea of having healthy snacks delivered right to my door that evokes happiness from my inner lazy side.
But aside from that, why would I reach out to them? Well, snacking accounts for about 25% of the average person’s daily calorie intake. Unfortunately, many of those snacks are often not-so-healthy choices and often consist of empty calories. In fact, research from the USDA
suggests that about 1/3 of empty calories (added solid fats and added sugars) that people eat each day come from snack foods.
On their website, NatureBox describes how they offer snacks that are less processed than many traditional items in the marketplace. Their snacks contain no high fructose corn syrup, no trans fat or partially hydrogenated oils, and no artificial sweeteners/colors/flavors.
NatureBox sent me a package with 5 different snack items – each reviewed below…
Lone Star Snack Mix
This was a blend of cashews, peanuts, almonds, and multiseed chips, all tossed in a mesquite seasoning. It was really delicious. Each bag had 4 servings at 160 calories each. Just like any other nut blend, you definitely want to measure out your portion rather than eating straight out of the bag – it’d be easy to overindulge. Overall, I really liked this one.
Orange Crush Granola
This granola was made with oats, barley, sesame seeds, agave nectar, non-GMO canola oil, and orange oil. I liked the taste of it, and it made a great topping on my yogurt mixed with fruit.
However, keep in mind that agave nectar – while often considered to be a more “natural” sweetener – actually has the largest fructose content of any of the sweeteners currently used in food production! In fact, the high fructose corn syrup most commonly used on the market contains about 55% fructose, while agave nectar contains around 90% fructose. Now of course, any sweetener is fine when used in moderation – but it does mean it’s important to keep portion control in mind for these products as well (even though they are produced with less processed ingredients).
Cranberry Almond Bites
These were my favorite in terms of taste. It was kind of like a more crispy, non-sugary rice krispie treat mixed with nuts and dried fruit (if that makes any sense, haha). We brought them along with us while snowshoeing up in Maine and enjoyed having them as a snack.
Wild Berry Bunch
This was a mixture of dried fruit – dried cranberries, golden raisins, dried cherries, and dried blueberries. Tasty and easy to carry in my purse as a to-go snack. With any dried fruit option, it’s a more concentrated source of energy since the water has been removed. But in a portion controlled amount, dried fruit is a great snack choice. Plus, all you endurance athletes out there might enjoy this as a source of carbohydrates to eat during your long runs or rides. Research has shown that using dried fruit as your carbohydrate source results in equal performance compared to sport blocks and gels!
These were basically like a more natural, less processed version of Fritos. They were made with corn, flax, soybean oil, and salt. They tasted good, and actually had 3 grams of fiber per serving, which is nice for a chip option.
Overall...I think NatureBox could be a nice supplement to your grocery/farmer’s market shopping trip. While it’d benefit a lot of people to focus their snacking on more fresh fruits and veggies, a lot of times we might enjoy something that’s a bit more portable or long lasting. For example, I like to keep snacks in my purse or car so that if I end up stuck in traffic or at a long meeting, I have something to hold me over until my next meal. This is one area where I really see the NatureBox snacks having a positive role in people’s diets.
Hope you enjoyed the review! If you’re interested in trying out NatureBox, I came across the code REFER25 for $5 off your first box.
Disclosure: NatureBox provided me with one free box containing 5 snacks to try. As always, all opinions are my own.