What a healthy day of eating looks like

I’ve had many people ask me what I eat. What do I eat for dinner? What’s a good breakfast? What do you snack on? I do plan out what I’m going to eat the day before and make sure that I have my snacks lined up (very important) and make sure I’m sticking to my appropriate calorie intake per day. We know that input = output. What you put into your body is what you will get out of it. You can’t take in more calories than you expend, otherwise you will gain weight. I follow a really easy way to figure out if I’m taking in too much. Chef Candice Kumai says it best – take your ideal weight, add a 0 to the end of that number and that is the net caloric intake you should have per day. Visit her site for good for you recipes – http://www.candicekumai.com/ Now this does mean that you have to count calories but after a few days it gets easier to calculate.

Here is an example from my own nutrition plan. This is what I had to eat one day this week:

Breakfast
2 coffees with cream & sugar = 102 Calories
oatmeal with 4 strawberries and 1 tbs flaxseed = 170 Calories

Morning snack greek yogurt = 100 Calories

Lunch lean cuisine 250 Calories

Afternoon snack banana = 72 Calories

Dinner
broiled chicken breast with garlic & olive oil = 175 Calories
red skinned baked potato with salt & pepper = 130 Calories
broccoli = 80.00

Evening snack handful of dried apricots = 75 calories

Total Calories = 1154 Calories

Try counting calories for a week. You can use a tool to assit you. The one I like is http://www.calorieking.com/foods/

Good Luck! Let me know how you do!

Stay healthy!

Cold, flu, and allergies – oh my! It’s that time of year and you can see it around you already. People are sniffling, coughing, sneezing all over. Being healthy and exercising is supposed to make you less likely to contract all these ills, right? Well, not necessarily.

Exercising regularly definitely makes us healthier individuals overall and therefore gives us more protection against diseases and other common sicknesses. Then why do many of us in training always get sick this time of year? I found the answer surprising but it made perfect sense.

Runner’s World published and article last year (about 2 weeks late in my circumstance) that hit the nail on the head. It stated that long distance runners – and other endurance athletes – were more susceptible to getting the cold or the flu after a long run. The reason was because the longer runs depleted the body of nutrients and made it more vulnerable to germs in the few days immediately following the run. The body was tired and less capable of fighting off infection and therefore these runners got sick.

My plan? With 8 weeks to go until my marathon and my ever-increasing distance training I’ve been more diligent about what I touch around me and washing my hands more. I’m taking my multivitamin and also started Echinacea which is said to support immune health. I’m also going to bed earlier, especially the few days after a long run.

Hopefully these preventive measures I’m taking now will prevent a repeat of the 3 week chest cold that I had trouble shaking from last year. Happy & Healthy Training!

Counting calories when you’re training…or when you’re not!

Counting calories is something almost all of us have done at one point in our lives. Some of us ball park the number of calories we take in and have “cheat days”. Some of us count and document everything that goes in our mouths. Well, almost. Regardless of how far you take your calorie counting, don’t forget to deduct for what you’re burning during exercising!

All of us have a standard calorie intake to maintain our body weight and fuel our activities. The 2000 calorie diet is an average – not necessarily what your own body needs. When we eat more than what we burn, we’ll gain weight. Input=output. Period.

There is a cute little chef that I like – Candice Kumai (http://www.candicekumai.com/). She describes the best way to determine your calorie intake is to figure out what your ideal body weight should be, add a 0 on the end of that number, and that’s how many net calories you should be taking in daily. Very simple formula…and good for you easy recipes too!

But don’t forget about the calories you burn while running, walking, biking, swimming, or whatever you’re doing. Runner’s World has a quick and easy formula:
-running: multiply .75 times your weight and that’s how many calories you burned for each mile
-walking: multiply .53 times you weight for each mile

So, if someone where to have an ideal weight of 125 pounds, the daily caloric intake would be 1,250. If they were to maintain that body weight and ran 2 miles they burned an extra 188 calories.

I know it requires a little bit of effort on our part – counting the calories, reading the labels on food we eat, and a little bit of math – but after a week of so we get the idea and can guesstimate these things on our way to a healthier body.

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration!

Are you still exercising outside or has the hot July weather chased you indoors to the gym? Or has summer vacation taken over your fitness goals altogether? Regardless of your current physical output level at the moment we need to stay hydrated.

Drinking water is of course the easiest way to make sure our hydration levels remain adequate…but it’s not the only way. caffeine and sugar tend to offset our efforts and a lot of sports replacement drinks have unnecessary levels in them.

One way we can help our bodies maintain proper fluid levels is to eat certain foods in addition to our water intake.

– We know watermelon is good for this. It is named “WATERmelon” because it’s over 90% water. It also has good-for-you sugar that helps stabilize your blood sugar
Cucumbers also have a high water content and are a nice cool summer snack
Celery is another vegetable containing a lot of water – not the most flavorful in my opinion but with a schmear of low-fat peanut butter or other nut butter it packs a satisfying protein & hydration snack
Bananas & Kiwis don’t have a high water content but they contain the potassium that’s necessary to help your muscles keep in the water they need to keep you hydrated

Breakfast – it really is the most important meal

I know we’ve all heard this before and there are many reasons why this is so true. Breakfast sets the stage for the rest of the day and gives your body the nutrients to get going after a night of not taking in any calories. So why to so many people skip it? That’s a good question that I’ve heard several variations of basically two reasons: not enough time and I don’t like to eat breakfast.

If time is your issue and reason for not eating breakfast than you have some options. I pack my breakfast every day just as I pack my lunch and snacks. This way I don’t have to spend time eating it before I leave for work but I have it ready for the whole 5 minutes that I get to eat it. What do I pack? Something different every day to keep it interesting: oatmeal, cereal, english muffin, or the occasional whole wheat bagel with low-fat cream cheese. It’s easy to pack it yourself too because you can control your portion size. Invest in decent Tupperware containers that you can easily pack. Sometimes I’ll make 2-3 servings of oatmeal ahead of time and put different fruit in it each day. Notice I named all carbs for my breakfast? Carbs give you more stable energy that can get you through a few busy morning hours. Also try to avoid the sugar – package oatmeal and many cereals have a higher content than you think. Read the labels.

If you simple don’t like breakfast then try something lighter, such as a shake or piece of fruit. Shakes you can even make at home ahead of time and have single servings in the freezer. You can mix in yogurt, soy or almond milk, or regular milk. The fruit – regardless of the format – gives you a boost in fiber. Another option is a V8 type drink – had plenty of fruits & veggies but watch out for too much sugar here as well.

So, eat your breakfast. It’s good for you and helps set you straight for the rest of the day!

Pasta does not make you fat!

I repeat – Pasta does not make you fat!

What puts on the pounds is how much we eat and what we put on our pasta. The full plate of fettuccine alfredo..although yummy…is not the most healthy way to make pasta. The USDA recommends we eat 6-11 servings of whole grains per day. This includes pasta and it’s good for you. It fills you up, gives your body time-released energy, and is usually enriched with folic acid which is known to support a healthy heart and prevent birth defects. Runners eat it before races because of the steady energy it provides.

There is also the whole wheat variety which is widely available now. This kind has more fiber in it than regular pasta but not everyone likes the stronger ‘wheaty’ taste and it’s double or triple the price. Sometimes, I’ll mix it in with regular pasta to get the best of both worlds!

And back to the serving sizes…one serving size is roughly 1/2 cup of cooked pasta. That’s it. I don’t know about you but I’m still hungry after that 🙂 BUT, remember we get 6-11 servings of whole grains spread throughout the day and we don’t need to eat them all in one sitting. So, if you have 1 cup of cooked pasta (equaling 2 whole grain servings) you get 4-8 servings left…plenty of room for cereal in the morning! Still hungry thinking about only 1 cup of pasta? Add 2 servings a veggies &/or a serving of protein (chicken, shrimp), drizzle a little bit of antioxidant rich Extra Virgin Olive Oil and you have a pretty satisfying and healthy meal that’s not heavy on the carbs or calories.

Try it this week and let me know how creative you can make your healthy pasta dishes!

Blackberries for Health

I was at the farmer’s market this morning picking up my weekly stash of fresh fruits & veggies and the very first thing I put in my basket were blackberries. And then I had to move them because they would have been squished by the cantaloupe :-). Blackberries are one of summers best fruits because they are not only convenient, but they do triple duty for your health!

They are sometimes a little pricer that strawberries or blueberries but they are well worth the splurge. The better known benefits are they the are high in Vitamins A & C but did you know they are stocked with fiber, folic acid, and potassium too? They battle free radicals which helps against cancer AND wrinkles! The fiber in them helps keep you fuller for longer. And there’s yet another benefit – the same compound that reduces these free radicals is linked to reducing the effect if histamine. How timely that these little berries are ripening around the same time that allergy season hits. Hmm…nature’s way of telling us something?

So, by eating these little powerful jewels you can get all these benefits with fewer calories. Eat them fresh and within 2-3 days of purchase for maximum freshness & nutrition. You can also get them frozen or freeze them yourself. I love to save a few of them in the freezer to add to yogurt to make a smoothie – perfect for a spring/summer afternoon snack. Yum! You can also put them in your cereal, pancakes or salad.

Do you have any good ways to make blackberries part of your diet?

References: Jerry Baker’s Kitchen Counter Cures

It’s OK to splurge…sometimes

I’ve just ended my recovery week from the Philadelphia Broad Street run and I consider myself officially in Triathlon training mode now. I’ll gradually increase the bike & swim workouts over the next few weeks to bring them up to par with my running. As much as I love running I really enjoy training for a Triathlon because it adds variety to my workout routines. More on that later…

So, given that I’m over the 10 miler and in between training modes at this moment, I gave myself permission to splurge on dinner tonight – Chick-Fil-A – dinner of champions. Yum!

I know it sounds silly but I have a point to prove. When you allow yourself the temporary splurges you’re signaling to your brain & your body that it’s OK to have a treat once in a while. It’s not forbidden and in the words of the more modern Cookie Monster “It’s a sometimes food”. If you take the time to enjoy your ‘treat’ and savor it, it’s all the more satisfying and may minimize the need to have it more frequently. Many times the problem we have with our treats is quantity. We want it too often or maybe we have too much of it. Some of us repent by over doing at the gym and others will skip the workout all together because they don’t feel good after the binge.

The mind-set that I strive for is that the treat is my reward for a job well done. It’s not the other way around so that I feel I have to pay my penance at the gym for what I’ve put in my body. A change in paradigm my be all you need to keep the junk food habit in check. I am happy that I don’t refuse myself what I’m craving and eat what I want to, in moderation of course, but I save it for when I feel I’ve earned it most.

What do you treat yourself with?

“Supplement” to Anti-depressants

I felt the need to write a little bit more on this subject because I received a lot of feedback on it. So the basic concept is that we should understand that there are other options to relieving depression and anxiety besides taking an anti-depressant. The last time we talked about exercise in any form whatsoever. Another option that will play very nicely with exercise is a healthy diet.
A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids has been known to reduce the feelings of depression and anxiety. Eating fish is probably one of the best ways to get our omega-3’s. Salmon, bluefish, shrimp, scallops, even anchovies & sardines are all good sources. I’ve also heard that organic red meat has a decent amount of omega-3’s too. Who wouldn’t want a little surf & turf?

There are also two supplements worth mentioning – Fish Oil and St. John’s Wort. You don’t need to take them together although there’s nothing to say that you can’t. The fish oil can be used as a supplement to your omega-3 intake…or if you’re not particularly fond of fish. St. John’s Wort is said to promote a healthy mood. Just make sure you read the instructions on the label and always check with your doctor or pharmacy if you’re taking other medications.

So, a little cardio workout + fish for din din = healthy & happy 🙂

Flaxseeds – Heart healthy meets brain booster

This powerful little seed is a versatile addition to your diet. Flaxseeds contain a compound that our bodies can turn into Omega-3 fatty acids (the ‘good fat’). It’s fat that we need for a healthy heart and optimal brain function! They contain fiber so they support regular digestive function. There have also been studies that support consuming flaxseeds reduce our cholesterol. What more do you need to give these guys a try?

They are tiny little seeds that resemble sesame seeds, but they’re a little darker brown. They have a very mild nutty flavor and they’re fairly simple use in every day meals. You can get the actual seeds or the milled variety. The seeds last a little longer though.

I put about a teaspoon in my oatmeal or cereal every morning. I’ve also added them to stir-fries, soup, and even ground meat! You can buy flaxseed bread as well – I know Trader Joe’s carries it and it’s a nice change from whole wheat.