Monday, November 28, 2011

3 reasons to make physical activity a priority during the holidays

Commit to be fit this holiday season.  Photo credit: o5com via Flickr
Congratulations on surviving yet another post-Thanksgiving food coma.  If you are one of those people who finds it hard to get back on track with eating and physical activity after said food coma, then I challenge you to consider moving one thing to the top of your to-do list this holiday season.  That thing is physical activity.  I see physical activity as a gateway health habit.  When people let it slide to the bottom of their list of priorities, other habits tend to slide as well.  However, when people make physical activity a priority, not only do they stay on top of other health behaviors, but they also tend to score some fantastic deals in terms of their health and well-being, too!  Consider these three excellent reasons to commit to regular physical activity during the holidays.

Prevent holiday weight gain.  While holiday weight gain is common for many Americans, it is not necessarily inevitable.  Researchers have found that people who have successfully managed their weight long-term rarely deviate from their regular exercise routine throughout the year, including during the holidays.  Not only does exercise help stoke your body's metabolic furnace to burn more calories, but it also appears to help physically active people curb their food intake.

Manage stress.  Exercise is one of the best prescriptions for stress.  The holidays definitely present the opportunity for more stress from increasingly busy social calendars to additional responsibilities at work and more travel.  While you can't necessarily eliminate every source of stress in your life during the holidays, you certainly can include more ways to better manage it.  When you exercise, the body gets an amazing dose of natural feel-good chemicals, including serotonin and endorphins.  Exercise also allows you the opportunity to take a break from the stress in your life and just let it go. What once mattered before may not be as significant after a good workout.  

Boost energy levels.  With a fuller schedule and more stress, you may find that your energy levels may take a serious beating during the holidays.  While sipping more coffee or Red Bulls may seem like an easy way to to charge up your battery, it's not the ideal way to go to reduce the sluggishness.  I know that exercise may be one of the last things on your mind when it comes to feeling fatigued, but studies have suggested individuals that engage in regular physical activity tend to report higher energy levels and less fatigue than sedentary individuals.  So during those times when you just don't feel like it, do it any way.  Remind yourself of how great you'll feel afterwards.  Most of the time, the only workout you'll ever regret is the one that you don't do.

We're all gifted with 1440 minutes every single day.  Honor your body and honor your health by devoting at least 30 of those minutes to movement.  Believe me, your body WILL thank you for it.  What will you do to ramp up your physical activity during the holidays?     
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Foodie Friday: Roasted and Pureed Cauliflower

Roasted and Pureed Cauliflower

I have a confession. I love mashed potatoes.  They have been a favorite dish of mine ever since I was a little girl, and I'm pretty sure I'll always enjoy them.  It's probably the Midwestern part of me that's responsible for that.  When it comes to the holidays, mashed potatoes are also one of my favorite holiday foods, but last Christmas I decided to take a mashed potato detour.  Yes, this bona fide mashed potato lover skipped prepping the taters.  Instead, I opted for something different but with the same flair.  That option was Roasted and Pureed Cauliflower by the charismatic Food Network star, Guy Fieri.  I'd made this dish several times before, so I knew the fam liked it.  Plus, I wanted to make sure to prepare a balanced meal, which means lots of lovely nutrient-rich veggies!  If you're up for a mashed potato detour this Thanksgiving, then give this dish a shot.  It's simple, delicious, and could prove to be a new favorite for you, too.  Enjoy!

Roasted and Pureed Cauliflower
Adapted from: Guy Fieri, Guy's Big Bite, 2008 -   

{Print this recipe}
2 heads cauliflower, core removed and cut into florets
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cups 2% milk (I've also modified this recipe using coconut milk for my dairy sensitive son. It worked perfectly fine.)
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter (I've also modified this recipe using Earth Balance Natural Spread for a dairy-free version.)
1/2 bunch chives, minced for garnish

1.  Preheat oven to 350F.
2.  Place 1/4 of the florets in a single layer on a baking sheet, drizzle with oil, and season with salt.  Bake until caramelized, about 25 minutes.
3.  While the florets are baking, place the remaining cauliflower, milk, and half teaspoon of salt in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Bring the ingredients to a simmer, cover, and cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 20-25 minutes.
4.  Strain the cauliflower from the milk mixture, saving both the milk and cauliflower.
5.  Transfer the cauliflower to a blender.  Add a half teaspoon of salt and the butter to the blender.  Then add about 1/4 of the remaining milk to the blender.  Puree until smooth.  If the puree is too thick, add more milk for a thinner consistency.  Season to taste. Serve in a large bowl topped with the roasted cauliflower florets and chives.

Serves: 8
Nutritional Information:
Calories:  105   Carbohydrate:  14 g   Protein:  6 g   Fat:  4 g   Cholesterol:  7 mg   Fiber:  6 g   Sodium:  380 mg
Excellent source of: riboflavin, vitamin B6, folate, and vitamin C
Good source of:  thiamin, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and zinc
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Guest Blog: Simple substitutions for healthier holiday food

Today's guest blog post is written by Vanessa Bautista, Dietetic Intern with Oakwood University.  Thanks for sharing with us, Vanessa!

Vanessa with Martha Stewart
A week ago, I was beyond delighted to meet Martha Stewart at Macy’s South Coast Plaza.  Martha Stewart and her deputy food editor of Martha Stewart Living, Sarah Carey, teamed up to create a seafood stew.  After they made their version of the dish crew members passed out a pre-made version.  Not surprisingly, the stew that everyone tried was not the actual stew that Martha made.  During the question and answers segment an audience member pointed out that the version the audience received was somewhat spicier then what the recipe had call for and asked what the difference was.  Martha’s response was that there might have been a little more pepper added to the audience recipe sample. And that’s when it happened.  It dawned on me. “Not all recipes are the same!”  So I decided to gather up all my guts and wits and ask, “Since the recipe taste a little bit different, could I try the stew that you made?”  Martha Stewart’s version turned out to be much better!  Besides getting to tell you about this exciting experience, the fact still remains that not all recipes are created equal.  Sure, we all have our family favorites like Uncle Danny’s surprisingly sweet-sweet potatoes. But this thanksgiving and even Christmas I dare you to get creative like Martha Stewart but in a healthy way.  I have spent way too many holidays watching the ones I love gain weight and try to lose it.  Because of this, I have actually tried many ingredient substitutions not only during the holidays but also throughout the year.  So this holiday season do yourself and your family a favor.  Try some of these amazing substitutes to reduce sugar and fat and increase the nutrient and phytochemical composition in your holiday dishes.  And who knows, you might create a new healthy holiday favorite!  Now that’s a good thing!

Original Ingredient:
Health Benefit:
Milk Chocolate
All or half of recipe for 70% cocoa or higher dark chocolate
More flavonoids (a heart protecting antioxidant) higher cocoa content the better
Iceberg Lettuce
Romaine lettuce in salads
More folate, vitamin A, potassium and vitamin C than iceberg variety
1 Cup All-Purpose flour
½ whole wheat in recipes
Increases fiber content in recipes
Sour cream
Greek yogurt on baked potatoes or dip recipes
More protein and calcium and less saturated fat
1 Full Cup of regular sugar
½ Cup of regular sugar in baked goods recipes
50% reduction in sugar in recipe

2 Tablespoons butter
1-1/2 Tablespoons Extra light tasting olive oil for sautéing
Lower in cholesterol and saturated fat

1 Cup butter
¾ Cups extra light tasting olive oil for baked goods such as cookies
Lower in cholesterol and saturated fat

A good thing!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Foodie Friday: Apple Chips

Apple Chips ©Michelle Loy - Go Wellness
When I think of fall foods, apples definitely come to mind.  They just somehow fit in perfectly with the foods, herbs, and spices traditional to this season.  If you've ever wondered if the old proverb "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." holds any truth, then wonder no more.  It does!  Apples assume a great deal of nutritional and health-yielding power with their high content of phytochemicals and nutrients, such as vitamin C and fiber.  In fact, numerous studies have suggested that people who regularly eat apples tend to have lower risks for chronic diseases, including certain cancers and cardiovascular disease.  When you eat apples, make sure to eat the peel because that's where much of the antioxidant activity is concentrated.

Heirloom apples - ©Michelle Loy - Go Wellness
Inspired by this post at Meandering Eats, I decided to take a shot at making my own apple chips.  These are super easy and definitely one the kids have enjoyed helping me make.  We've recently enjoyed using some gorgeous red and green heirloom apples for this tasty treat.  Using naturally sweet apples is best, and there's no need to add any extra sugar.  I hope you try it and enjoy!

Apple Chips

{Print this recipe}
3 naturally sweet apples, like Gala, Fuji, Golden Delicious or others
Cinnamon for sprinkling

©Michelle Loy - Go Wellness
1.  Preheat oven to 225F.  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. (I definitely do not recommend skipping this step. I've tried it without the parchment paper before, and the apples just stick to the baking sheet.  Talk about frustrating!)
2.  Using a mandolin or knife, slice the apples across the width of the apple.  The thinner the slices, the quicker they'll bake and the more crispy the chips will turn out.
3.  Place the slices into one single layer onto the baking sheets.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.  Bake for about 2 hours.  It may take less time if the apple slices are thin or more time if the slices are thicker.  Flip them over once halfway through the baking process.  Once they're done baking, remove them from the oven and let them cool completely.  Enjoy!

Serves:  3-6
Nutritional Information:
Calories:  74   Carbohydrate:  20 g   Protein:  0.4 g   Fat:  0 g   Cholesterol:  0 mg   Fiber:  4 g   Sugar (natural): 14 g   Sodium:  1.5 mg
Good source of: vitamin C

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