Sunday, October 31, 2010

Easy, Healthy Dinners

What's for dinner?

Now that you know what should be in every meal ("Plan Those Meals!" blog post 10/30/10), it's time to come up with some meal plans. Keep in mind, we're trying to balance meals with a MacroMix, and use a variety of colors, textures and temperatures.

Here's a few healthy meal ideas to try:
Chicken faijta's
      chicken breast, diced
      green pepper, red bell pepper and onions
      corn or whole grain tortilla
      --sauteed in a little olive oil
      shredded low-fat cheddar cheese, salsa, greek yogurt
Mixed fruit (froze, thawed or canned in juice)

      ground round, sirloin, or extra lean hamburger, ground lean turkey, or turkey sausage
      marinara sauce (without added sugar)
      whole wheat spaghetti noodles
Tossed salad with olive oil vinagrette

Load Your Own Baked Potato 
      baked russet potatoes
      leftovers, heated up (chili, veggies, stew, etc.)
      low-fat shredded cheese
      cooked veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, or frozen broccoli in low fat cheese sauce)
      black beans (or any type)
      canned tuna or salmon
      Greek yogurt
Apple slices served with peanut butter

     baked salmon, drizzled lightly with olive oil and lemon juice
     brown rice pilaf
     kale, steamed and tossed with garlic, a dab of olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Melon balls

     whole grain soft tortilla
     fat-free refried beans
     shredded low-fat cheese
     diced onion
     salsa or taco sauce
     guacamole (made with avocado with lime juice)
Fresh green tossed salad

Chicken chili
      chicken breasts (2 or 3)
      salsa, 24 oz.
      Great Northern beans, 48 oz.
Baked tortilla chips
Raw veggies and black olives served with dip (try Greek yogurt and powdered ranch dressing mix)
Meatloaf, made with extra lean ground beef or lean ground poultry
      Baked acorn squash
      Baked potatoes with a dollop of Greek yogurt
      Green beans, tossed with slivered almonds
Chocolate pudding, fat-free

Pork tenderloin or loin chops, drizzled with 1 tsp olive oil per chop per person & sprinkled with thyme or rosemary
      Baked sweet potatoes
      Steamed veggie mix
Applesauce sprinkled with cinnamon

These are to get you started. Now...
What meal ideas do you have?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Plan Those Meals!

Lunch was predicable when I was in elementary school. As we slowly walked in line, we were served on metal sectional trays by lunch ladies in hair nets. Each item was plopped unceremoniously on the sectional tray, each item in its own place. Visualize this lunch: mashed potatoes covered with turkey gravy including a few bits of turkey pieces that swirled with the liquid. Canned corn. Room temperature applesauce. The standard bread and butter sandwich that was white bread on one side, brown on the other and a big slab of cold margarine in the middle, cut at an angle. Whole milk in a carton that was a bit warm from being taken out of of the fridge too soon. White cake with white frosting finished the meal. Appetizing? Not much. What's wrong with this picture? It was all the same color, texture and temperature. This is a perfect example of what not to do when planning a meal!

Whether you're putting together a meal for a whole family or just for you, a few basics will help you produce an appealing, healthy meal.

Planning a Satisfying, Healthy Meal:
  • Variety of colors.  Look for deep, rich colors in fruits and veggies.  This will help you get in great vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, in addition to being more visually pleasing. 
  • Whole grains or starchy vegetables.  Choose at least one per meal.  Look for breads, tortillas, crackers and cereals labeled 100% whole grain, or that have "whole____" as the first ingredient on the label. Corn, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta are great choices.  Whole grain couscous, quinoa, and bulgar are some of the more unusual but quite tasty grains to investigate.
  • A little healthy fat.  A few nuts, olives, avocado, or oils such as olive, canola or safflower.
  • Balance.  Imagine dividing the plate into sections. This will help deliver a good nutritional balance in carbs, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals:
    • 1/2 should be filled with fruits and veggies
    • 1/4 whole grains or starchy vegetables (potatoes, yams, beans)
    • 1/4 protein (lean meat, chicken, fish, dried beans, lentils, nuts, soy, seeds)
  • Variety of textures. Crisp, crunchy, smooth, creamy, chewy.  All the same can mean boring and less enjoyment. My school lunch was primarily all the same texture: mush.
  • Variety of temperatures. A more satisfying meal usually includes more than one temperature. 
Plan your meals. Some like to select a menu for every meal for a week. Then, all they have to do is make what's on the menu.  I like a more flexible meal planning style:

  1. Choose 7 main meals at the start of the week, making sure to choose a few menus that require very little prep time. 
  2. Hit the grocery store. Make sure to have all the ingredients necessary to make each meal. 
  3. Pick and choose the menu that works for each day as it comes.  If I'm home early, I select a menu that requires a bit more prep time.  If the day is very busy or something comes up, I'll pick out a meal that is quick and easy.  All ingredients are on hand, so stopping at the fast food drive-thru just isn't necessary.

This week, give good meal planning a try. Tomorrow, we'll take a look at some good sample menus.
As the quote goes:  if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
To your health!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Check Your Sneaks

I know better, I really do. A good friend talked me into joining a walk-to-run program set up for women over 50 (yes, that's me alright!) Goal for all of us:  to walk or run a 5 K in December.  I'm already a dedicated walker.  Walks with Toby, our yellow lab, are a twice a day routine for me, and I love to take faster walks whenever I can.

We started our walk-to-run effort with over 300 other women. That in itself was so amazing to see as we all wore our red "Team Playmakers" fitness shirts. Every person found a group to fit in.  One had women who were just coming off the sofa and were just starting to walk.  Another was filled with gals who were already runners. Those in our group could already walk 3 miles.  The first 2 weeks plan for us was to walk 4 1/2 minutes and jog 1/2 minute, repeating until we covered a 3 mile route.  Very manageable, since my cardiovascular system is pretty strong already.

The trouble started on week 3.  Our task was to walk for 4 minutes and then jog for 1 minute.  I was having no trouble keeping up with pace and my friend and I were having a great time engaged in fun conversation. But then, ouch.  The inside of my knees started to hurt. By the end of those 3 miles, I knew there would be ice and ibuprofen in my future.

I knew exactly what I had done:  I had not replaced my running shoes since February.  I can always tell when I need new shoes when I feel a little twinge in my hips.  When I get new shoes,  everything is great again. For me, this means I need new sneakers every 6 months or so.  They may look fine, and I may really not want to spend the money,  but it's critical to do it anyway. This is a very important part of health and wellness.

That night, I stopped at our local running shoe store on the way home.  The was a great guy working  there who took the time to listen to me, ask questions and examine the running shoes I came in with.  No uneven wear, but they could be easily twisted in either direction.  The stability of that shoe was pretty much shot.  I was probably turning inward on them as I walked, which aggravated my knees.  He helped me pick out the shoes that would be good for my feet and the type of exercise I did. Then I went right home to lay on the sofa with my knees elevated on a pillow and a couple of frozen ice packs on top to calm the swelling.  Ahhh...

I knew better. I know better. Wearing the right sneakers and replacing them as they wear down is an absolute must.  It's far less expensive than paying for visits to the doctor or surgery to correct a problem that may develop.  It's an investment in health and wellness and our knees will thank us for it.

If you have a good fitness shoe store near you, stop in and talk to them.  An expert who will listen to you, want to know the type of exercise you do, who will take the time to evaluate your feet and recommend shoes for you is priceless. Then, don't leave home without them!

As for me, my knees are healing up and feeling much better as I wear these new shoes.

To your health!

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Act of Mindful Eating

In our land of multi-tasking, mile long to-do lists and deadlines that must be met, Mindful Eating is an art that few of us have mastered.  Ours is a grab and go society. Eating breakfast as you drive to work, lunch while still working at the computer, and dinner gulped down as you're flying out the door to take the kids to their next activity, or maybe while you're watching T.V. No big deal, right?  At least we're getting things accomplished in our day.  Wrong.

Mindless eating, while the norm in our country, often leads to overeating, indigestion, and obesity.  We're not able to relax with our food, chew it, savor and really taste it.  Eating like this often interferes with your body's ability to recognize it's own level of satiety---you don't remember whether you've eaten or not, let alone hear the "I'm full" or "I've had enough" messages your body may be trying to send.

The act of mindful eating is a deliberate process in which you are fully present with your food.  The eyes have time to examine the soup, noticing colors, shapes and sizes.  The nose has a change to smell the food's aroma.  The mouth evaluates the texture, temperature and flavor.  And the brain processes all of this information, allowing you to determine if you truly like this food or not.

Eating mindfully helps slow down food intake, which helps with weight loss and management.
Jan Chozen Bays' book, "Mindful Eating, A Guide to Rediscovering a Healthy and Joyful Relationship with Food," (bookmarked in the My Favorites list to the right,)  is a wonderful resource, which includes a CD that guides you through mindful eating exercises. Learning to eat one raisin mindfully was a truly eye-opening event.

This week, try to focus on
Guidelines for Eating Mindfully:

  • Use a place mat and set the table.  Make your place to eat truly inviting.
  • Sit down at a table to eat.
  • Hunger level.  On a scale of 0 - 5, with 5 being very, very hungry, and 0 really full, how hungry are you right now?
  • Eyes: examine your food.  What colors do you see, what shapes?  Is it pleasing, does it make you hungry just looking at it?
  • Nose: what aromas do you detect? Is your appetite stimulated as you smell it?
  • Mouth.  Put it in your mouth. What texture do you feel?  Is it smooth and creamy or bumpy and lumpy?  What temperature do you note?
  • Bite.  What flavors do you detect?  Is it pleasurable?  Does the flavor make you want to eat more?
  • Swallow. Analyze.  Is the food really good, or not so good? Do you want more?
  • Physical Hunger level.  On a sale of 0 - 5, how hungry are you now?
  • Choose to eat more or stop eating.
The more you practice the art of mindful eating, the easier the process becomes. So many people have told me that the simple act of mindful eating has helped them really get a handle on their overeating challenges.  Try it this week, and let me know what you think.

Slow down, you're eating too fast....
You've got to make this process last!

Motivation is what gets you started,
Habit is what keeps you going.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Halloween---It's Everywhere!

The sights and sounds of Halloween abound right now, and it can be a pretty scary time for many of us.  Halloween is the kick off in a series of food fests or holidays that don't ease up until after Super Bowl Sunday. Just follow the colors of M&M's and candy wrappers! Black and orange treats are out there right now,which will be followed by Thanksgiving's brown, orange and yellow, and then a quick turn around into the festive green and red.  I think those candies may have the innate ability to jump into grocery carts all by themselves.  

Not a problem, right?  These festive candies are so tiny: bite size, fun size.  Even the name sounds so innocent --just a few can't possible hurt...  

The average fun size chocolate bar has 80 - 100 calories.  If you ate just one of these every day over and above what what your body needs, you will end up gaining 10 pounds in one year.  TEN POUNDS from one little bitty "fun" size bar.  Where's the fun in gaining extra body fat, hmmm?  Many of us would have to walk almost a mile to burn that off.  Are you willing to walk a mile for every little treat? The trick is not necessarily to avoid these treats, but to be very aware of the price tag on each of them.  When you choose to have one, it needs to be eaten mindfully. 

I used to buy Halloween candy several times before Halloween.  The trick was on me: they just seemed to disappear before we needed to pass them out at trick-or-treat time.  I've heard so many of you share the same experience.  One of our MM groupies shared that he buys several bags every year, but only has 5 or 6 trick-or-treaters.  Trick or treat.  The trick is in the treats!

Fun Size Treats: 
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cup           110 calories          6 g. of fat
  • Almond Joy                                  100                       5
  • M&M's                                           90                      4.5
  • Snickers                                          80                      4 
  • Skittles                                            80                      1
  • Kit Kat                                           75                       4
  • Milky Way                                     75                       3
  • Hershey Bar                                   70                       4
  • Tootsie Roll Pop, 1                        60                       0
  • Nerds                                             50                       1
  • Peppermint Patty                            50                       1
  • Twizzlers                                       45                       0
  • Jelly Belly jelly beans                    35                       0
So, what's a Halloween lover to do? Here's a list of suggestions that have been shared over the years.

Survival Guide to Halloween Treats:     
  • Keep your blood sugar level steady by making sure you eat  regular healthy meals and snacks. If you let yourself get too hungry, it's very difficult to make controlled decisions around that candy bowl.    
  • Out of sight, out of mind.  Those pumpkin shaped candy dishes may look festive and fun, but just seeing those treats will often stimulate your appetite and send you into the see-food-eat-food mode.
  • Buy non-candy treats to hand out.  When my son's were very small, their very favorite treat was from a gentleman who always gave them a packet of hot cocoa mix. They couldn't wait to make that when we got home, and sip on it while we sorted through their stash of candy.  Other ideas include mini bags of popcorn, trail mix, play-doh, stickers, pencils, mini-flash lights.
  • Buy candy you don't like. I always smile when I say this, as I think of all the people who have told me over the years that they've never met a candy they didn't like! Or, choose a candy you don't like as well and won't feel as if you may lose control around.
  • Don't buy any candy until Halloween.  This way, you reduce temptation (you won't hear voices calling to you from the unopened packages) and you have to buy whatever is left. Win-win.
  • Put healthy snacks into the Halloween bowl at work, or at least have your own stash available.  Apples, fat-free hot cocoa mix,  Kashi granola bars, low-fat cheese packages, mini packages of nuts, 100% fruit strips (Archer Farms has one in their organic line from Target that is wonderful--love the pomegranate,) little boxes of dried raisins or individually packaged dried plums (a.k.a. prunes.) This helps you be pro-active instead of reactive.
  • Minimize temptation while passing out candy: Have a healthy meal first, then sip a cup of hot green tea or fat free cocoa, chew gum, or wear gloves (it's really hard to open a mini candy bar wearing gloves!)  
  • Last Trick-or-Treater gets what's left of your treats. Or put the left-overs in your car right away, and take them to a homeless shelter the next day. 
When you do decide to have a treat, do so mindfully.  Sit down, open the treat.  Enjoy the aroma and notice what it looks like. Eat it slowly, tasting, enjoying every bite. Savor your choice.  

Fire Up!  You Can Do It!!   

What are some of your Halloween Survival Tips?

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Great Recipes From You!

    Elaine walked in to our Mind-full Motivator morning group carrying a beautiful silver platter, lined with 2 white paper doilies.  A beautiful display of baked pears sat on top, decorated with a tiny flower and leaf. So pleasing to the eye...  It was a perfect way to kick off our class discussion on Mindful Eating.

    I definitely want to share her recipe, and a couple others from our MM Groupies.  Trying new recipes can keep you excited about enjoying new, healthy foods.  Nothing defeats a new eating plan faster than eating the same things over and over until you're totally bored. Experiment with new recipes and keep healthy eating fun!

    Elaine's Easy & Delicious Baked Pears
    Pears, as many as you'd like
          Wash and cut in half
          Scoop out the seeds with a spoon or melon baller, leaving a nice, small round hole.
    Olive oil
          Very lightly sprinkle on top (1/4 tsp or less per half)
          Place a few in the center of each pear half
          Sprinkle on top
    Bake at 350
          Until soft.

    Lynn's Awesome Apple-Acorn Squash
    Acorn Squash
           Wash and cut in half
           Scoop out seeds
           Place upside down in a "sprayed" 9x13" pan
           Add 2 Tbsp. water
           Cook 30 minutes at 375
           Remove from oven
                                             Flip squash over
    Apple, 1 of your favorite
          Wash, core, and slice
           Fill squash with apples
    Pumpkin Pie Spice
           Sprinkle on top of squash and apples
    Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until apples are soft

    Very Vanilla Granola
    Preheat oven to 300
    "Spray" jelly roll pan or large baking sheet

    Combine in large bowl:
          4 cups Old Fashioned Oats (Not Quick)
          1/2 c. sliced almonds
          1/2 c. pumpkin seeds
          1/4 c. loosely packed brown sugar
          1/4 tsp. salt
          1/2 tsp. cinnamon
          1/2 tsp. ground ginger
          1/2 tsp. nutmeg

    Put in a saucepan:
          1/4 c. canola oil
          1/4 c. honey
          1 T. sugar
    Bring to simmer over medium heat.
    Remove from heat and add:
          4 tsp. vanilla
    Pour over dry mixture. Stir well, tossing to coat well. Use your hands to help with this.

    Spread onto cooking sheet.
    Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don't overcook!! It will crisp up while it cools.

    When cool, stir to break up into pieces and chunks.  If you stir too early, no chunk will form.

    1/4 cup is 100 wonderful, healthy calories.  Try some stirred in yogurt!
    Makes 32 servings.

    To Your Health!

    Friday, October 8, 2010

    Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

    Vitamin D has been making headline news lately.  Newer research is showing that vitamin D does much more than help make our bones strong.  Health professionals are now taking note and many of us have had our blood levels of vitamin D tested for the first time.  Some experts estimate that as many as half of all Americans are  lacking in the sunshine vitamin.

    The sunshine vitamin gets its nickname from its unique ability to be created right under your skin in the presence of UVB sun rays.  At least 10 - 15 minutes of adequate sun at least 3 times each week is sufficient to make plenty of vitamin D.  The darker your skin is, the less ability you have to absorb the needed rays.  Sun screen of SPF 30 and higher will reduce 99% of the potential vitamin D formation. Another problem is that people living at higher latitudes will have insufficient UVB rays available to them in the winter months. Drawing a line from San Francisco to Philadelphia, those that live north will need added vitamin D from November to February, even if they were to try to sun bathing for hours (brrr!!)

    Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means that we need to be consuming a small amount of fat sometime during the day in order to absorb and utilize the vitamin.  People who are on fat-free diets will have difficulty absorbing any of the fat soluble vitamins-- A, D, E and K.  Fat free diets are definitely not a good choice for good health (unless there is a medical reason, and you are carefully monitored by a physician.) Consuming excessively high amounts of any fat soluble vitamin can be toxic, and D is no exception.

    Major Roles of Vitamin D:
    • Plays a critical role in the absorption of calcium.  That's why you take calcium supplements with vitamin D.
    • Helps maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.
    • Helps with immune system function.
    • Aids in reduction of inflammation.
    Low levels of Vitamin D
    • Rickets, a childhood disease in which bones don't form properly and remain soft and pliable.  
    • Osteomalacia, an adult disease where bones degrade and become soft and pliable.
    • Muscle and bone pain and weakness.
    Research is suggesting that vitamin D may help with*:
    • Multiple sclerosis and Type 1 Diabetes, both auto immune diseases.
    • Regulating blood glucose,  increasing insulin sensitivity, and preventing type 2 diabetes
    • SAD (seasonal affectiveness disorder,) depression
    • Postmenopausal weight gain
    • Cancer prevention
    • Psoriasis
    How Much "D" Do You Need? Current recommendations are from 200 - 600 IU;  the need goes up with age.  The recommended levels are now under review by the Institute of Medicine's Food and Nutrition Board, and will likely soon be increased. Dark skinned, elderly(ability to absorb vitamin D decreases with age), nursing babies, obese, and people who get insufficient sunlight, often need supplements to achieve adequate blood levels of vitamin D. Many experts are now recommending an intake of 1000 IU each day. Check with your doctor to be sure. 

    Foods high in vitamin D :
    • Fatty fish, 3 oz (Salmon, trout, sardine, tuna)    50 - 800 IU 
    • Egg yolks                                                               25 
    • Beef liver, 3 oz                                                       46                                                        
    • Fortified Milk, 8 oz                                              100
    • Cod Liver Oil
    • Other fortified foods (some yogurts, cereals, etc.)
    *though more research is needed

    Vitamin D is so important to good health!  Be proactive with your health and ask your doctor about your levels. Get in the sun for a few minutes of pure rays when you can, but make sure you are getting plenty of D in other ways when you're not.

    Fire Up!  You Can Do It!!