Monday, December 12, 2011

Beware of These Holiday Diet Traps!

stock photo : Buffet table at a dinner party

It’s coming to that time of the year when food is usually more plentiful and persons are much more likely to indulge in their favourite treats. Its also the time of year when, no matter where you turn, whether it’s in the office, at family dinners, parties or even just at home, you’re confronted with a multiple of choices, most of which aren’t very diet-friendly. Harmless as they seem, research conducted at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) shows that Americans gain a pound during the holiday season and this weight accumulates over the years. This suggests that weight gain during this time is a contributing factor of obesity later in life. 
While these temptations are hard to resist, they are certainly not insurmountable.  What you need to keep in mind is that portion control is crucial, especially at this time of the year. Portion control will enable you to have your cake and eat it too! Just be mindful of the amount. I have included a few tips that I use keep the pounds at bay without spoiling the fun.
  1. Never go to a party or dinner hungry. You will be less likely to resist temptations. Instead, have a healthy snack before the event. If you’re absolutely unable to grab something ahead of time, try to fill up on water as soon as you arrive. Planning is key.  
  2. Limit your alcohol intake. While moderate amount alcohol adds to the merriment of festivities, remember it also adds calories.  As an alternative, try sipping on carbonated water. If you can’t do without your liquor, limit yourself to one or two drinks. Remember, too, that the more intoxicated you are, the less you have control over what you eat.
  3.  Beware of the Buffet Table. In fact, turn your back to it so you’re less likely to be ogling the food. When it’s time to eat, avoid stacking your food and stick to one serving. While you’re at it: choose the smallest plates available and aim for the simple foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein. Avoid dips and sauces as much as possible.
  4. Pass up on everyday snacks such as chips, peanuts and candy. Spend your calories on special treats that you’re really craving. Why not bring a healthy alternative while you’re at it. That way, you’ll feel less like you’re missing out on treats.
  5. Socialize! Parties aren’t just about the food. They’re also about hanging out with friends and meeting new ones. So stop piling on the plate and start schmoozing.
  6.  It’s ok to say “No.” Just because the hostess is your friend doesn’t mean to have to eat everything that is offered. It’s ok to politely refuse. They’ll understand.
  7. Get Moving. Dancing is a great way to keep your mind off food and burn calories at the same time. Not just that, but it’s so fun!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Healthy Night Out!

I went out Friday night with some girlfriends from college to grab a bite to eat. We decided on going to a pizzeria called Raffaelle's. I had browsed the menu before going cuz it takes me forever to decide on what to eat. I saw an interesting pizza that had avocado as an ingredient and thought I'd give it a try. I'm a huge fan of avocado (or just pear as we call it here in Ja). Unlike most people, though, its not the taste that makes me such a huge fan but the host of benefits that this amazing fruit provides. Whether you eat it, slab it on your face or hair, it works wonders. So there was absolutely no way I was going to pass up on this avocado pizza. Thankfully I wasn't disappointed, presentation was lovely and the taste didn't disappoint. The service was also good. I'll definitely be returning. 

Mmmmm! Yummies! (Yeah, I need to adjust the date on my camera, lol)

Trying to be a good girl with a salad. It was served with a tasty terriyaki sauce with a kick of ginger.

Fun Facts on Avocado:
  • Avocados have been shown to improve the absorption of lycopene and beta-carotene (remember these are fat-soluble nutrients).
  • You'd think high concentrations of carotenoids are only found inbrihgt orange or red foods such as carrots and tomatoes. But despite its dark green colour, avocado has an array of carotenoids. 
  • The greatest concentration of carotenoids in avocado lies in the dark green flesh, just under the skin.
  • Though avocado is high in fat, its the good kind. It contains phytosterols and polyhydroxylated fatty alcohols that help to keep inflammation in control. 
  • It also contains oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid, that helps to lower our risk of heart disease. 
  • Avocado helps to regulate blood glucose levels (only 19% of calories come from carbohydrate) and is a low glycemic food. It also provides dietary fibre which helps to regulate blood sugar levels. Due to its high fat content, moderation is key.
  • Avocadomasks are great for age spots, scars, sun damage and other signs of aging, dry skin and eczema.
Avocado Mask:

1/4c avocado puree
1/4c sour cream

Apply mask to clean face and neck. 
Allow to sit for 15 minutes. 
Remove with warm water. 

Snack of the Week

I've been trying really hard to combat the munchies at work but it doesn't help when there's a supermarket right across the road, along with a patty and pastry outlet (I'm a self-proclaimed pastry/anything dessert-ey junkie). Sometimes, when I manage to resist the urge to buy sweet biscuits or chips, I have a packet of peanuts and raisins. But as much as I love peanuts, it can get tiring, especially now that my wisdom tooth is coming out (takes twice as long to finish a packet). So I've been search health magazine to find healthy snacks that I can prepare at home or buy at a grocery store. Now, everytime I think of a healthy snack, the first thing comes to mind is peanut butter and celery. I don't know why but I guess its because of the  peculiarity of the combo. I used to read about the healthy option while growing up but had never been introduced to celery. The day I was, I wished I had never met celery. Do't get me wrong, I appreciate the very, very, very faint taste of celery in soups and meats, But celery itself? The thought even makes my mouth go dry. So as an alternative, I came up with a much milder cruciferous vegetable: cucumber!!! Now, I just love it that Mr. Cucumber hardly has any taste and just blends in with everything :-). And I just love peanut butter...

Fun facts about cucumbers:
  • They're  a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, manganese and flavonoids which are antioxidants that help to prevent damage caused by free-radicals.
  • Fresh cucumber extracts have been shown to reduce unwanted inflammation in animal studies (that's why its used to reduce eye puffiness). 

If you have any ideas for healthy snack options, please feel free to leave a comment! 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Is Breakfast Important?

After another energizing workout this morning, I packed my breakfast and lunch and headed off to work. I usually have breakfast there, about an hour and a half after waking. Now while on the way to work, I was deep in conversation with a "special" friend ;). He was at home and getting ready to head to the gym. After asking if he had eaten yet, his response was "No". Now for the life of me, I don't know how some people go two or three hours without eating in the mornings. I am literally ravenous having waiting to get to the office, especially since I started working out. But, back to the story, he tells me he just doesn't have an appetite and if he eats something, he'll get nauseous during his workouts. I recommended that he could try something as small as a fruit that is light enough to not affect his workouts but still supplied him with some amount to energy (I think when I use the word breakfast people think I mean a plate full of food). He says he only needs water. And get this: he usually gets up at 6:00 a.m., heads to his hour-long class, then back home and then out again to the gym. His workouts are usually an hour long. So he goes at least three and a half hours without having any food in the mornings. He wanted proof. Now, since I don't walk around with nutrition texts just for the fun of it, I couldn't show him that more than anything, the brain needs its supply of glucose (and he wouldn't take my word for it). Now, this is for you, "friend";)...

PRIMARY Reason we need breakfast:

  • Your body is running on empty: Say, we refrain from late night eating and allow the recommended 2-3 hours to pass before heading to bed. By then our bodies would have used up some of the energy with the excess being stored in our liver as glycogen. During sleep, our bodies uses up most, if not all, the glycogen has been used up. When all glycogen stores are used up, your body usually turns to fat to supply its energy needs. You'd think that's awesome right? Not exactly. See, the brain can only use glucose as fuel and unlike muscles, the brain doesn't store glucose. So what happens when the brain is deprived of its glucose? Irritability, nervousness, anxiety, headaches, weakness, seizure and coma, just to name a few. In other words, the brain is screaming: FEED ME!!!!
So for those of you, like my "special" friend, who get nauseous eating so early or before a workout, have at least 25g of carbohydrate, like a small banana, that's only 100 calories. The benefits? Better workouts. Since you're not running on empty, the intensity and quality of your sessions will result in increased fitness. Afterward, you can have a more substantial meal. See? Now that wasn't so hard :D?

I'll let you know how it works for my "special" friend!!! Until next time!

Pre-Workout Fuel:

Potassium found in bananas helps in maintaining proper nerve and muscle function.

Trail mix is a great source of phosphorous and zinc which supports muscle growth, boosts energy and speeds up muscle healing. Just beware of the portions!

Magnesium found in yogurt gives you an energy boost by activating enzymes that metabolize protein and carbohydrates. 

Though its not good to have fats before workouts, the monounsaturated fatty acids found in almonds and other nuts provide essential energy-boosting omega -3's and omega-6's. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Kick I Needed!

So I've recently decided that I am going to embark on a fitness and wellness lifestyle change. It wasn't because I wanted to lose much weight or anything but because I realized that I was lacking energy and had become dissatisfied with food (either I'm always craving something usually unhealthy and when I do get, I'm still not satisfied). I reasoned it must be because I'm not really eating food that nourished my body, but just junk, or empty calories. No wonder my body kept craving something. So I knew I had to do better (as if the fact that I studied nutrition in college wasn't reason enough).

Having arrived to that conclusion, of course I know taking better care of myself included not just my oral fixation but also my activity level. I know exercise does a bod wonders but, much like eating fruits and veggies and getting check up from the physician, I overlook it until things get bad and its time for damage control. Yah! So exercise for me has always been sporadic than routine. The longest I've stuck to a routine is three weeks. I always come up with excuses that I'm too tired after work, I don't get enough sleep at night to sacrifice half hour in the mornings...and the list goes on. But last night, thanks to my lovely and fit roommate, I got the kick I needed. I was getting ready for bed when she noticed as she said, "Yuh gettin broad deh tho, Dee!" This she meant as a compliment since a little junk in the trunk is always good. She confirmed what I was feeling. Sure she tried to allay my fears of weight gain but regardless of whether I had gained weight or not, I knew I needed to get serious about my eating habits and fitness. No more excuses!

So this morning, with much effort, I dragged myself out of bed this morning and did thirty minutes of cardio while I cooked. At first, the routine kinda dragged but about 15 minutes into it I started to remember why morning workouts are so good. I felt more invigorated and pleased with myself that I actually made the effort. I really enjoyed the fact that there was minimal distraction, just peace and quiet (outside of my panting and grunts). Needless to say, I will be striving to make this routine. Wish me all the best!

P.S. Another plus: I'm in a great mood!!:D Con: Forgot morning workouts equals damp hair :-/