Monday, December 30, 2013

When Laundromat Meets Quality Dairy, Part II

I was sitting at the laundromat. Mindlessly watching all 5 triple-size washers spin while sipping the cup of coffee my husband brought me after I sent him to find an ATM. He found one in the mini-mart/bakery/dairy side of the building. Along with a few other things. I noticed he was brushing sugar crystals from his lips as he handed me coffee and cash. Hmm…donut? No doubt these laundry/quick food markets are lucrative businesses.

I watched my fellow laundry-doers. With one exception, every single person was drawn through the doors and into the "food side." And, each one came back with a cookie, hot dog, candy, or something along that line. I'm betting they weren't even hungry.

Laundromat meets QD. Yep. This has to be the master plan of some evil dude trying to make tons of money and take over the world. Think about it. We spend lots more money than we intend to when boredom sets in waiting for laundry to get done. It's that other/dark side of the store. The side that draws you in offers primarily sugar laden, highly processed food. Food that we want to eat more and more of. Then, we back on extra body fat. And more fat. Then, we reach a point where all we want to do is laundry and go to QD. Yep. It's an evil master plan...

Sunday, December 15, 2013

When Laundromat Meets Quality Dairy, Part I

This hasn't been filled with "oh, so wonderful" stuff occurring. More like, "Oh, no! You've got to be kidding me!" (For a little perspective, my house was invaded 3 weeks ago by worker dudes who ripped out and are now reconstructing my only full bathroom. Good thing the gym has a shower!)

It started with my husband's car. The 2002 VW Passat with 255,000 was great for my hubs, but we had to declare it D.O.A. after last week's tow episode. Then car rentals while car shopping. Yuck. Suffice to say, I detest car shopping. 

Then, when I pushed the button, the electric garage door opener wouldn't do anything but whine. Me, too. I had to disconnect electric part and MANUALLY open and close the garage door. Normally you'd expect a wellness coach to be all for the extra footsteps and reaching up and down to open and close that big door. Somehow, I just couldn't quite muster the enthusiastic motivation when it was 10 degrees out, and didn't feel that great. Not that I was complaining. After all, I burned all those extra calories, right?

They say the third thing's the charm. Hardly. The washing machine quit. The lid was locked in place and no button I pushed would do anything. Great. Suffice to say, the appliance repair dude ordered 2 parts. I wonder if the fix will be cheaper than a new washer?

In the meantime, I hit the laundromat this afternoon. The closest one happens to be part of a Quality Dairy. People around here know QD for donuts, ice cream and cookies. Some of the people I work with call QD their nemesis.

to be continued...

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Reflections

Thanksgiving is one of those holidays that seems to stay relatively constant for our family. Sitting back and reflecting on the constant action of the past few days, I'm thankful for a holiday that I can take time out to say, "Thanks" for...

  1. My sons and daughter who learned to cook and who enjoy making their own amazing dishes and helping in the kitchen! 
  2. My daughter who loves black Friday shopping and spending time with her mom.
  3. Cut throat family games of Trivia Pursuit.
  4. Laughter. 
  5. Hugs and the kids who give them. 
  6. Walking, swimming, and yoga...pain-free.
  7. Twinkling lights and candles.
  8. Family, friends, and a good cup of coffee.
  9. Time to be quiet, rest, and to sleep.
  10. You.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ellen's Favorite Vegetable Chicken Soup

Winter can be a tough time to get veggies in for many people. If you're not a fan of plain cooked vegetables and don't feel like eating salads when it's cold outside, think soup!

Ellen found Jean Carper's recipe for Vegetable Chicken Soup in USA Weekend 13 years ago, and it quickly turned into a go-to favorite! Put it on your list of dishes to try next!

Vegetable Chicken Soup

In a large saucepan, saute until lightly browned. Remove and place in small bowl.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken, cut into 1" chunks
Add to saucepan and cook, stirring until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. 
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 3/4 cup sliced carrots
Return chicken to pot, add and simmer partially covered for 20 -25 minutes.
  • 1 cup cauliflower, in thick slices or chunks
  • 2 cups canned chopped tomatoes with juice
  • 4 cups non-fat, reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
Stir in and cook for 5 minutes.
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, torn in pieces
  • 5 drops hot chili sauce (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
Nutritional info: serves 4. 168 calories per serving/3 units. 19 g. protein, 14 g carbohydrate, 4 g fat, 3 g fiber, 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Exercise for a Crazed Woman

I started to pick at a loose edge. I'd been considering peeling it off. I was tired of looking at it. I knew wallpaper hadn't been a current trend in home decorating for a long time. The big yank that followed kicked off a series of actions I call exercise for a crazed woman.

I didn't stop there. I ripped off the wainscoting that skirted the entire breakfast nook and part of the kitchen. It turned out to be glued down with so much glue it ripped off globs of plaster off with every piece. So, I hauled each wood & plaster panel away and set it out by the garbage at the end of the driveway---should have worn my pedometer. I had to use big tubs of spackle, with an extra wide putty knife to get the wall back into shape. Couldn't believe how hard this stage was: sand, spackle, repeat. And, eventually paint. 

Then, like a virus, I keep going. I noticed the entry way looked pretty doggy scratched and worn. Definitely in need of fresh paint on the walls, trim, and door. After I got all that done, I considered why my small foyer had a chair rail around it. Was that a 1950's thing? Since I was still in destructor mode, I got the hammer and chisel out, and ripped that right off. It was spackle time again! Did I have a problem? Or was this a good type of work out?

Seriously. I've never had this much energy for house work, but I headed to our bedroom where water damaged one wall after a raccoon had wrecked havoc on the gutter, pulling it away so water had a chance to seep down the wall. Not so cute. We had the raccoon, roof, and gutter taken care of a couple of years ago. So, I grabbed the wide scrapper, and put some muscle in it as I broke through the dried bubbled bumps. End result: repainted all walls and trim in a calming new neutral. It makes me happy.

The Energizer Bunny was still going, and I had to do something with the half bath. A candle with a wild wick had actually created sooty stuff on my ceiling and walls that wouldn't wash off. Had to repaint. Since I've loved the light blue and white Nantucket-y look I had in there, I just wanted to use my old paint. Except, I had no idea we had so much blue paint. I found 2 cans. I started with the lighter one and got through 3/4 of the room. It just wasn't lightening up to the right shade. I tried the 2nd can on most of the room. Way too bright. Geesh. I gave up and decided a nice light aqua would work. After my 15th trip to Home Depot in a week, I got the entire bathroom done. My husband gets home, looks at it, and says, what do you think? Yea. Then he tells me it'll be "fine." Right. Obviously, he's not a fan. Oh, well. It's done. Fresh, clean paint. A little while later, I run down to the basement's storage closet for more paper towels, and I notice a can of paint on the floor under the shelf. You guessed it. Blue ocean mist or something like that label downstairs bath in big black letters. And, it was 3/4 full. Some weeks are like that. I guess the fact the I didn't find my pretty blue paint gave me lots more exercise in addition to frustration. Does that count as a little extra to my workout routine?

You know, sometimes you just don't have to hit the gym, you get plenty of exercise doing house or yard work. And, lately, I really mean, house work!!

I'm really looking forward to that massage I scheduled this week for those overworked, achy muscles!

Monday, November 11, 2013

John's Vegetable Lentil Soup

I've been married 36 years. To the same guy. Crazy, huh? Especially in this day and age. And it's been getting harder and harder for me to tell people I'm 39 when my oldest just turn 34. Saying I married young can go just so far!

My husband could make 4 things when we were first married: fried eggs, chili, toast, and big mess in the kitchen. At that point, I'd had 9 years of 4-H food units under my belt and finished my food prep courses at Iowa State, so I took it upon myself to teach him to cook and bake. The right way, a.k.a. my way. He caught on to most things pretty fast. The only challenge was that he seemed to dirty every single dish in the kitchen. He wanted every single ingredient pre-meaured, placed into a little bowl, and set aside at the ready. Great way to go if you have a kitchen staff to clean up behind you! But not so fun at clean up time.

These days he's fantastic cook and does really well making dishes healthier without much guidance. Last night, he made a batch of Vegetable Lentil Soup that for dinner that was absolutely wonderful! And best of all, he cleaned up the kitchen and ran the dishwasher.

John's Vegetable Lentil Soup

Rinse in colander:
  • 2 cups dried lentils 

Put lentils into 5-6 quart soup pot. Add and simmer, covered for 1 1/2 hours:
  • 2 ounces lean ham or chicken sausage, diced
  • 1 cup red wine*
  • 3 cup unsalted cooking stock*
  • 4 cups water*
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • fresh parsley, 3 Tbsp, chopped or 1 Tbsp dried
  • salt, 1 tsp 
  • freshly ground pepper, 1/2 tsp
  • oregano, 1 tsp 
Add and simmer for 30 minutes:
  • 15 oz petite diced tomatoes (2 cups)
  • 2 Tbsp wine vinegar
*Use 8 cups total liquid. Most recipes use all water, which is fine. The broth and wine give a richer flavor which seems to need less salt.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Our Evening Adventure Dining Out

Amy's incredibly healthy dinner!
A restaurant built around healthy food? Can it possibly survive in the land of super-sizing, deep fat fried Twinkies & turkeys and all-you-can-eat buffets? 

Our evening group was excited to check out the The Leaf Salad Bar in East Lansing last week. As we slowly gathered after work (crazy 5:30 evening traffic!!) we watched a guy choose ingredients that made his smoothie an interesting shade of brown.

Betty having FUN!
Pat's excited for salad time!
Before hitting the food, we mindfully assessed our hunger, aiming to control the food intake. Our strategy for the buffet? Tour the entire line, inspect our options and make choices depending on what looked good and what we didn't always get at home. Perfect.

I was amazed by all the incredibly fresh veggies, nuts, shrimp, and lots of other unique things on the buffet. And, not one wilted leaf or one spotty tomato to be seen. So many deep, rich colors...enough to make a rainbow. I sure hope this place makes it across the street from McDonald's...

Monday, November 4, 2013

An Adventure in Dining Out

Pat G's ready to dig in!
We Americans eat out. I know that's a total shock to you. But, on the average, we're eating out 5 times a week. That's why I take our On the Way to Wellness Weight Loss & Support groups on regular field trips for an adventure in dining out.

I think the morning gang was about ready to drop when I announced we were going to I-Hop. With TV ads of pancakes and waffles piled 6" high with whipped cream and topped other fun calorie sources, I-Hop hasn't held a healthy reputation. But, as I was looking for restaurants, I came across their Simple & Fit menu.

The Simple & Fit choices were intermingled with the entire menu and were denoted by a healthy green leaf. The total calories per serving of each item was listed, making easy choices for all of use. 

Marlene studying the menu carefully
Our gang enjoyed veggie omelet's, whole grain blueberry pancakes, oatmeal, eggs, turkey bacon, wheat toast, fresh fruit chunks, and crepes. Sugar-free syrup was offered, but Pat choose a side of powered sugar to sprinkle lightly over her pancakes.The only complaint was that the toast was clearly not whole grain. Oops. Sometimes even if the restaurant server responds to your whole grain inquiry to the positive, they really don't know. There's no question, I-Hop needs to find a good whole grain bread to offer when more healthy savvy customers come to eat!

As you can see, we all had a great time, enjoyed the good coffee, and really
worked on paying attention to hunger levels, and trying to stop eating when we were no longer hungry.

Many thanks to manager Branden at the I-Hop in East Lansing, Michigan! 

Stay tuned: next, I'll be sharing our adventures at The Leaf with the the evening group!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

October's Minestrone Soup

Shorter days, less sunlight, colder weather, fleece jackets, and ear bands. It must be time for soup! Nothing beats a good bowl of soup on a chilling day, even if it's warmed up from the day before. Soup can also be a great way to get your veggies in, especially when cold salads don't seem to sound as good as they did in the summer.

Here's a variation on classic minestrone soup that I made last weekend. I started with a recipe from Cooking Light and tweaked it I was much happier. Enjoy!

October's Minestrone Soup

In a big soup pot, saute 3 minutes:
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
Add and cook until vegetables are tender:
  • 4 cups peeled, cubed butternut squash
  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1/2 bunch kale
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed between palms
  • 1 tsp dried basil, crushed
  • 1/2 -1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/4 salt or to taste
  • 3 cups no-salt added broth (vegetable, chicken, or beef)
  • 24 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
Add and cook until pasta is tender, about 5-6 minutes
  • 1 can cannellini beans, or other white beans
  • 1/2 cup whole grain orzo or broken spaghetti noodles
If desired, serve with freshly grated Parmesan cheese!

Nutrition data: serving size 1 1/2 cup; 160 calories;  8 g protein, 30 g carbohydrate, 7 g fiber, 302 g sodium, 2 g fat, 3 units; 3 vegetables & 1 healthy starch

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Haunting of the Sugary Snacks

Ackk!They're everywhere! Fun size. Mini size. Little bitty chocolate bars. Seemingly harmless little bags of M&M's, candy corn, and sweet tarts. They're decorated in Halloween wrappers just one time a year. Only once. We have to get 'em and eat 'em while we can, right?

Wrong. THEY just want us to think that way. Those manufacturers are responsible for pushing the sugary stuff on us. They switch wrappers with the seasons, make them cute, seasonal, and irresistible. They show us how to decorate with them and use them in crafts. They smother us with advertising and coupons. It's all a ploy. Those Reese's peanut butter cups are the same no matter what shape they come in. Really. Somehow, we need to take a stand against all these sugary seasonal prefab treats, and try something different. And maybe a bit healthier. Is there a way?

Besides, those Halloween treats were on the shelves already in August. Or was it late July? And now, 11 days before trick or treating, the candy on store shelves has significantly diminished, and Christmas is quickly filling in. Where have all these bags of candy gone? Some people have bags stashed and awaiting Halloween. Fine. Unfortunately, lots of other bags have been chowed down from bottomless treat bowls at work, home or binged on behind closed doors. Too many people have eaten too much candy.

We need to get some good ideas together to beat the haunting of these sugary snacks! What strategies have you been using that work well for you?

One suggestion to start this idea session off: be sure to keep your blood sugar level steady. Eat regular, nutritious meals and snacks. Don't skip meals!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Using Less Salt

Americans love salt. We love salty chips, fries, crispy snack foods, restaurant foods, and packaged foods. Some of us even add salt to a food before we taste it. And a whopping 75% of the sodium we consume comes from processed foods, not the salt used in cooking and at the table.

The average American consumes 1.5 teaspoons, 3450 mg of sodium, every day. The US Dietary Guidelines recommend less than 2300 mg for healthy people under 51 years, and no more than 1500 mg for those 51 and older, or with high blood pressure, pre-diabetes, diabetes or chronic kidney disease. This means a big reduction in salt for most of us.

Sodium is an essential element, helping the transmission of nerve impulses, contraction and relaxation of muscle fibers, and maintaining the needed fluid balance in and around cells. The body needs very little sodium, because of its well-developed ability to conserve what it does have. When sodium levels drop, the kidneys and sweat glands work to hold onto water, preventing sodium from being eliminated. When sodium levels are high, the kidneys kick into gear to increase urine volume and excretion, getting rid the excess sodium.

Over time, consistently high sodium levels will increase blood volume, blood pressure, and hardening of blood vessels. This means an increased risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, and stomach cancer. High blood pressure is blamed for at least half of all heart attacks and is the leading cause of all strokes. 

Take action to reduce sodium
  • Minimize use processed foods
  • Cook and eat more meals at home
  • Increase fresh fruits and vegetables (naturally good sources potassium)
  • Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet
  • Read labels:
    • Sodium-free or salt-free: 5 mg or less of sodium per serving
    • Very low sodium: 35 mg of sodium or less
    • Low sodium: 140 mg of sodium or less
    • Reduced or less sodium*: At least 25% less sodium than regular version
    • Light in sodium*: At least 50% the regular versio
    • Unsalted or no salt added: No salt is added during processing
    • Sodium containing ingredients: Monosodium glutamate (MSG), baking soda, baking powder, disodium phosphate, sodium alginate, sodium nitrate or nitrites, also contain sodium.
    • *May still be high in sodium; watch nutrition labels
Learning to cook and love foods prepared with less salt requires some patience, practice, and perseverance, with a willingness to try something new. Here's are a few tricks to help you along the way:
  • Use the freshest ingredients possible. Buy local and shop at your farmer's market as often as you can. Fresher ingredients deliver much deeper, richer flavors.
  • Experiment with herbs and spices. Here's a great publication put out by the University of Michigan's Health Systems that you may want to print out:
  • Check the freshness of your herbs and spices 
    • Look: throw it out if it looks faded, clumpy, or signs of insects.
    • Sniff test: Does it smell like that herb or spice? If not, throw it out. 
    • Taste a tiny bit: if you can taste the distinctive flavor of that herb, it's good. If not, throw it out.
    • Shelf life guidelines: ground spices 1.5 years, whole spices 2 years, leafy herbs 1-3 years, whole seeds 3-4 years
  • Try cooking with wine for a wonderfully rich flavor. Just be sure to use wine good enough to drink, not "cooking wine" which unfortunately has salt added to it. 
  • Either eliminate the salt shaker at the table, or fill it with a recipe for one of the many salt-free blends out there. 
    • I like this one from AllRecipes:
      • 4 tsp sesame seeds
      • 2 tsp celery seed
      • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
      • 2 tsp dried parsley flakes
      • 1 tsp poppy seeds
      • 1 tsp ground black pepper
      • 1 tsp onion powder
      • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
      • 3/4 tsp granulated garlic (I use powder)
      • 3/4 tsp paprika

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Healthier Baked Acorn Squash

I love all the wonderful vegetables that come in with the fall harvest. And, winter squash has got to be my all time favorite. The trouble is, many people only serve it with gobs of butter and brown sugar melted inside the cavity. Someone even told me this week that the secret was to poke holes into the yellow flesh before adding the butter and sugar to make sure it really seeps in. Arggh! Though this may how you learned to cook acorn squash originally, it's certainly not in your body or health's best interest. Here's a great option:

Healthier Baked Acorn Squash

  • Start with a nice squash, heavy for it's size.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 350.

  • Cut the squash in half, and scoop out all the seeds and stringy stuff.

  • Coat a baking pan with cooking spray and place the squash upside down in the pan.
  • Bake for 30 minutes

    • While baking, take 1 small apple. 
    • Core it, leaving peel attached, and roughly chop.

    • Add 1/2-1 teaspoon cinnamon 
    • Add 1 teaspoon brown sugar or honey, optional
    • Add a dash or 2 of nutmeg, optional
    • Stir together

    • When squash has cooked 30 minutes, turn over
    • Divide apple mixture evenly into squash cavities
    • Bake for another 30 minutes
    • Serve and enjoy every bite!

    • I certainly did!

    Nutritional information: 
    122 calories, 0.3 g fat, 4.8 g fiber, 2 g protein, 32 g carbohydrate
    Counts as 2 Units Healthy Starch & 1/2 fruit

    Sunday, September 29, 2013


    Superfood, noun. A food that holds within it a magical quality that will provide health and eternal life. The holy grail. Or not...

    In 1994, Dr. Steven Pratt first used the term superfood for what he called foods that contained specific nutrients shown in studies to lengthen life and provide health benefits. Scientifically, it doesn't mean a thing. It has no official definition. 

    That doesn't stop manufacturers and advertisers from the "super" label. And why would it? It entices people to buy. "Super" increases sales. Unfortunately, some consumers buy into the "super-ness" of one food, missing the fact that one single food can't possibly possess the entire key to good health. By focusing in on one healthy food, you can miss the importance of eating a big variety of nutrient-rich foods. 

    That being said, many health professionals simply think of superfoods as those highest in nutrient density. They have the biggest bang per buck, or lots of vitamins and minerals per calorie. Carrots. Not Oreos

    Superfoods can be part of a healthy balanced diet, along with a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein. Eating chips and drinking soda all day and popping a superfood at night doesn’t do it. They aren't a substitute for or a supplement to an unhealthy diet. 

    SUPERFOODS in a Super Diet = Super Health
    Research supports eating a variety of healthy foods, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, quality protein, and dairy products, and minimizing processed foods. Eating a super diet just may help fight diseases such as cancer, heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. And, it may just put you in a better mood!
    • Produce: eat a variety, in a rainbow of colors to obtain the best mix of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
      • Dark Green Leafy Vegetables:  Spinach, collards, kale
      • Citrus Fruit: Grapefruit, oranges, lemons and limes. Rich sources of soluble fiber, and vitamin C
      • Berries: blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. High in antioxidants, vitamins, water and fiber.
      • Kiwi: rich in vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and a decent source of vitamin A and vitamin E.
      • Broccoli: Vitamins A, C, and K, beta-carotene, and fiber.
      • Sweet potatoes: Beta-carotene, potassium, and fiber.
      • Watermelon: Lycopene, vitamin C.
      • Cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. Contain antioxidant sulphoraphane.
    • Healthy protein
      • Beans: high in soluble and insoluble fiber, magnesium, and potassium, considered starchy vegetables but a ½ cup provides as much protein as an ounce of meat.
      • Soybeans: tofu, edamame. Contain isoflavones and some omega-3 fats.
      • Fatty fish: high in omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines.
    • Dairy products: milk, yogurt, and cheese. Rich calcium and vitamin D milk. Yogurt can offer helpful probiotics.
    • Whole Grains include both germ and bran, which are good sources of fiber, magnesium, chromium, omega 3 fatty acids and folate. Examples include barley, oats, buckwheat, whole wheat, wild rice, and millet.
      • Quinoa (keen-wa) offers a complete protein, fiber, and a good source of iron, zinc, vitamin E, and selenium.
    • Nuts and seeds: high in healthy poly-and mono-unsaturated fat, magnesium, fiber, and offer a high satiety value. Walnuts, flaxseed, and chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Pistachios contain plant sterols.
    • Cocoa: contains flavonoids
    • Spices: Turmeric, ginger, and many fresh herbs and spices may have anti-inflammatory benefit.
    • Green tea contain polyphenolic compounds that may provide anti-inflammatory action.

    You really are what you eat. The foods you eat today do influence how you feel today and do have an impact on your health over the years. In fact, you can find many foods that have a super-ior impact on your health the next time you go to the grocery store.

    Thursday, September 19, 2013

    Fit After 55: Senior Exercise

    Winn, 96-years young
    After traveling 750 miles, this field trip didn't disappoint at all. I absolutely love the Fit After 55 senior exercise class provided by the University of Connecticut's exercise science department. I'm proud to say that my parents have been part of this group for about 20 years. Incredible!

    This group has had their share of difficulties to overcome including the typical hip, knee, elbow replacements, and some tough life changes, but they stay with it. After visiting several times over the years, it's clear that this wellness gang takes pride in their overall fitness. And they should. The quality of life for these folks is clearly above that of many if not most people in their age group. They are active and engaged in life. They know they have to move it in order to stay mobile and sharp. They get it. 

    And, they aren't exactly new to the senior side of life. Heck, my dad's 85th birthday is coming up next week, and he's not even close to the oldest in the group! Winn takes that prize at 96 years old and he's still going strong. 

    As they arrive twice a week, each heads to their preferred exercise machine and gets started. My dad likes to hit the stationary bike for a 15-minute program that includes a few hills to keep his cardiovascular system and his relatively new hip strong. My mom considers the walk to the class aerobic conditioning, so she focuses on the strength training equipment. I love the fact that they choose to park at their church 0.35 miles away and walk to class. Compare that to the 30 and 40 year olds at my gym who circle the parking lot trying to find the closest space!

    Think for a moment about your own future self. What do you want to be able to do in 1, 10, or 25 years down the road? Active and healthy? If so, now's the best time to start working on it! Aim to do what it takes to care for the future self you want to be. Remember, it's never to late to improve your health!

    Sunday, September 15, 2013

    Chia Chat

    Their not exactly the ch-ch-ch-chia seeds that used to grow the plush green hair on our clay-potted Chia pets. But, they're a close cousin. The chia seeds we buy today are from the Salvia hispanica plant, grown primarily in Mexico and Guatemala.  Ancient Aztec's are said to have survived long trips across the desert with only a small amount of these chia seeds and a pouch of water. Miraculous?

    Chia's big on the superfood list these days. And why not? With its good source of plant-based omega-3's (alpha-linolenic acid,) whole grains, protein, antioxidants, high in heart-healthy soluble fiber, and calcium, chia stacks up pretty well on the nutritional front. One ounce (2 tablespoons) of this ancient Mayan grain delivers 140 calories, 4 grams protein, 9 grams fat, and 12 grams carbohydrate, along with a whooping 11 grams of fiber. Chia has the unique ability to soak up nine times its weight in water, creating a gelatinous gel that makes it usable as a binder in gluten-free baking. Some athletes claim eating chia and drinking water create a gel that diminishes dehydration.

    Plenty of claims have been made that chia can reduce heart disease, stroke, and promote weight loss. And, as one may imagine, these statements are plastered all over the many websites selling chia. But, are they true? 

    Early research results from small, short-term studies show that when subjects were given 3 tablespoons of chia daily, blood pressure dropped and C-reactive protein, a marker for inflammation. Sounds like good potential for health benefits. Disappointingly, weight loss benefits of regular chia consumption have failed to pan out. While we wait for more results, eating chia seeds won't hurt, unless you overdo it. Too much fiber, even the easier-to digest soluble fiber that chia seeds have, can cause digestive disturbances. 

    Our On the Way to Wellness groups had a change to do a little chia taste testing. I brought homemade chia seed muffins to sample, along with samples of the seeds themselves. The majority of the group thought the chia muffins were "fine" or "okay." A few rated them as good. (Just so you know, after 9 years of food units in 4-H and many college level food prep courses, I can bake pretty well. And, those are not the reviews I'm looking for in my baked goods!) Two of us, myself included, seemed to sense an "off" or bitter flavor that made chia quite unpleasant. Whether some of us are super-tasters or just have super-sensitive taste buds, not everyone in our groups were fans.

    Chia vs. flaxseeds: Nutritionally, both are comparable as a rich source omega-3 fats and fiber. Since chia seeds are predominately soluble fiber, the whole seeds are easy to digest and don't need to be ground first. On the other hand, flaxseeds are rich in insoluble fiber that makes it difficult to digest which ground before use. Flaxseeds must be more Chia costs almost twice as much, usually about $10-$12 per pound. 

    Try out some chia seeds and see what you think. Whether you choose to eat chia seeds, stick with ground flaxseed, or mix them up at will, both are good, healthy foods that can offer a variety of textures, taste, and nutrition that can do a body good.

    Monday, September 9, 2013

    Deciphering Nutrition Labels

    Trying to decipher what all the words mean on a food label can be enough to drive any person insane. Some words have real nutritional meaning while others have absolutely none. Unhealthy foods are labeled with bright green labels giving an indication of health. Lean may sound like a good deal, until you see the amount of sodium or sugar stuffed into the food. As with so many things these days, it's buyer beware! But, in order to be forewarned, you need some background information.

    Nutrition Facts Labels are required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on most packaged food and beverage panels. The ability to decipher the label is your key to using the nutrition information enabling you to make the    best food choices on your way to wellness. Your goal should be to minimize total fat, saturated fat, trans-fat, sodium, sugar and cholesterol. These ingredients are all linked with an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer.

    Does “Natural” mean it’s healthy? No! The FDA is responsible for the regulation of all claims on food labels, and has determined that the term “natural” can be used for meat products to indicate no added color, artificial flavors, or artificial ingredients, however has no particular meaning in other foods. “Natural” is not intended to be organic, low in sodium or sugar, nor does necessarily indicate any nutritious qualities. Your challenge, as with many front package panels, is to look past the word “Natural” and scour the Nutrition Facts label instead.

    Focus on the ingredients listed on the back. These are listed by weight from highest to lowest concentration. The biggest impact will come from the first 3 ingredients listed on your label. If salt, sugar, or refined flours are numbers 1, 2, and 3, you may want to make another choice! Look instead whole grains listed on top.

    Know the FDA approved terms:
    1. Lean (meat, poultry, seafood): 10 g fat or less, 4 ½ g of saturated fat And less, and less than 95 mg cholesterol per 3 oz serving.
    2. Extra lean: Less than 5 g fat, 2 g of saturated fat, and 95 mg cholesterol.
    3. Light: 1/3 fewer calories or ½ the fat of the regular food item.
    4. Healthy: Low fat, low saturated fat, less that 480mg sodium, less than 95mg cholesterol, and at least 10% of the DV (Daily Value) of vitamins A and C, iron, protein, calcium, and fiber.
    5. Good Source of Fiber: 2.4 – 4.9 g fiber
    6. Reduced or Less Sodium: At least 25% less sodium than the regular food item
    7. Very Low Sodium: 35 mg sodium or less
    8. Sodium free or no sodium: Less than 5 mg sodium and no sodium chloride in ingredients.
    9. Low in Saturated Fat: 1 g of saturated fat or less, with no more than 15% of the calories from saturated fat.
    10. Free: food product contains the least possible amount of a specific nutrient
    11. Very Low and Low: food product has a little more of the specified nutrient than the food labeled “Free”
    12. Reduced or Less: the food has 25% less of a specific nutrient than the regular version of the food.
         As you do your next grocery shopping, allow plenty of time to read the labels. Briefly glance at the front, but focus carefully on the back label. Be sure the foods you choose make sense for you and your family's health. There's a strong correlation between the food you bring home, and what you eat. Remember, even if the Oreo's and chips are on sale and the brown rice and berries aren't, you certainly aren't getting the bargain you're counting on when it comes to your health! There's just too much truth in You Are What You Eat!


    Sunday, September 8, 2013

    Elizabeth's Success Story!

    Pat with Elizabeth (right)
    Elizabeth was frustrated. She was not someone who had a lifetime of struggles with the battle of the bulge. But, as life sometimes has it, when menopause hit, things began to change. Unwanted excess weight started piling on. She worked hard to lose it, and that worked for a while. But, even though she was exercising 3-4 hours a week, she began to put weight back on quickly. Her clothes kept getting tighter and tighter. 

    Then, on a trip to the emergency room, Elizabeth was thrown a curve ball. She not only found out she had a new health challenge she would have to deal with, but she'll never, ever forget being diagnosed as "OBESE."

    Shortly afterward, Elizabeth joined our On the Way to Wellness group, ready for "rehab, and to begin my journey toward a healthier me."

    Today, Elizabeth's 40 pounds lighter, and just glows when she talks about the changes in her health! She says her success was all about the M & M & M's: Motivation, Mindfulness, and Mentoring.

    "Mindfulness was/is the significant part of On My Way to Wellness. Experiencing the mindfulness exercise in class and reading a book on mindfulness, were key to shifting my mind to a state of well-being. Living in a state of mindfulness allows me to be conscious of my life, my environment and the food I eat. Now, I am aware when I am eating mindfully OR when I am not!"

    Mentoring helps you learn how to make those tough habit changes and actually live healthier. And, just like the research says, being part of a supportive group of people who are all focused on improving their health and making changes really does help. And, so does being educated with accurate information about real nutrition and health!

    Motivation "came from Barb as my coach who encouraged me to keep trying even though health issues.  She told me I could succeed in spite of them. And indeed, I did! I lost 40 pounds without being able to exercise much of the time. 
    The knowledge, education and experience that Barb’s brings to class is the key that unlocks the secret to reducing weight. I can relax about my weight, because I know how to be healthy."

    Elizabeth's improved health continues as she successfully keeps those 40 pounds off, one and half years and counting! And her physician's thrilled with her improved lab results! Congratulations, and thanks for sharing your success!

    Monday, September 2, 2013

    Back to School and Healthy Living

    New notebook and pens are ready to go!
    There's something in the air. And it's something more than ragweed. A sense of busyness. Of unease.

    Kids are heading back to school this week if they haven't started already. Parents and teachers are scrambling to get last minute shopping done and schedules organized. The relaxed time of summer snaps shut and the structure of routines begin again. Now, there is structure to adhere to and forms to fill out.

    If you are involved with the start of school, you're already in the throws of this annual transition period. If you're not, it still impacts all of us to some extent. My office product junkie friends have had a field day these last couple of weeks stocking up on all the discounted file folders, notebooks, and writing implements of all colors. 

    I've noticed over the years that many people seem to struggle with eating challenges when seasons change. Maybe its feeling melancholy, knowing those long summer days are shortening up and the nights are getting cooler.  Or maybe it's just that any changes can shake us up a bit. Whatever it it, 
    we can use this seasonal change to our advantage to help us.

    Get Back Into the Swing of Living a Healthy Lifestyle. Here are a few ideas that may help you transition to healthier lifestyle this fall and maybe even losing weight.
    1. Scheduling improves success, a.k.a. using your calendar!
      • Exercise 
        • Walking dates with friends
      • Sign up for a new class
        • Healthy cooking
        • Yoga
        • Walking/running group
      • Wellness support group or coach
      • Grocery shopping
      • Sleep
      • Joy time: time to do something that fills your soul with happiness
    1. Buy a fun, new insulated lunch bag with great new containers to refill daily. You don't have to be a kid or head out to a job every day to make one work for you. Packing a healthy lunch in the morning increases the likelihood that you'll eat a nourishing meal instead of noshing on whatever is at hand. You could even pack a second one for your planned, healthy snacks!
    2. Pre-package single serving containers of snacks. As you prep fresh veggies, put single servings into bags that are ready to grab at the front of your fridge. Individual bags of whole grain crackers or chips, popcorn, nuts, dried fruit, and cereal, all make great grab-n-go snacks. Great to have on hand at school, work, or home.
    3. School supplies can help you succeed
      • Colored pens make writing down your food intake much more fun
      • Stickers can give you an immediate "way-to-go!" celebration
      • New calendar or day planner to schedule time to take care of yourself
      • Little notebook to journal your food, workouts, grocery list, thoughts or goals
    The key is to recognize the opportunity that the back-to-school fall season brings us. Take advantage of it and develop a way to structure your days and develop new routines that will enable you to achieve your health and wellness goals!

    Sunday, August 25, 2013

    Grapeseed Oil

    Denise sent in a great question about grapeseed oil: is it a healthy choice?

    Grapeseed oil is fairly new on our cooking oil radar in the United States. The seeds of wine grapes are pressed and the oils extracted, producing a very mild tasting oil with a clean flavor, lending itself easily to dishes where no competing flavors are wanted. Most of our grapeseed oil is imported from France and Switzerland.

    Grapeseed oil has a medium-high smoking point, making it a good choice for baking, oven cooking, or stir frying at a medium-high heat. However, when heated too high, it begins to smoke, causing it to become inedible. At this point, free radicals begin to form with their cancer-causing potential. 

    Canola, olive, peanut, and grapeseed oils all have similar smoking points, and are rich in heart healthy unsaturated fats, which includes both poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated fats. Poly-unsaturated fats are considered heart health when used to replace saturated or trans-fats. Used in this way, grapeseed oil and other unsaturated fats can increase HDL, decrease LDL, and can reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

    Oil% Mono% Poly% SatNutrition Notes
    Canola62317Contains low levels of omega-3
    Grapeseed177310High in omega-6
    Macadamia nut84313Bold flavor
    Extra virgin olive78814Best-pick oil
    Peanut483418Great for stir frying


    However, grapeseed oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids. Is that a concern?

    Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are both essential; the human body cannot make them and must be obtained from food. These fats are necessary for brain function and for normal growth and development, including healthy hair, bone, metabolism, and reproduction.

    • Omega-3 fatty acids suggest protective against heart disease, stroke, inflammation, arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, autoimmune diseases, and perhaps some types of cancer. 
    • Omega-6 fatty acids. Newer studies suggest may lower LDL, inflammation, and promote heart health. Other studies indicate that higher intakes may narrow blood vessels and increase inflammation. Safflower, corn, cottonseed, and soybean oils are rich sources. Most people in the U.S. consume high levels of these oils.

    The nutritional advice used to be to balance the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids at at least a 2:1 ratio. Eat more omega-3's than omega-6's. More resent research suggest that both omega's have a positive impact on health so the focus on more omega 3's to 6's may be unwarranted. 

    Keep olive oil in its easy to access place with its rich source of monounsaturated fats. When you need a mild flavored oil, you could try grapeseed or simply use canola. It's a great source of mono-unsaturated fats and even has some omega-3 fatty acids sprinkled in. 

    I say, go ahead and experiment with grapeseed oil! Priced similarly to olive oil, you may just find it fun new oil to use occasionally in different dishes. It may just find a spot next to my favorite toasted sesame oil, walnut oil, avocado oil, and white truffle olive oil...