FAQs…

If you haven’t noticed we live in the age of information. It’s EVERYWHERE and EVERYONE has an opinion on what’s what with health and fitness. I think there’s a lot of noise out there and a lot of misinformation (or just plain BS) about healthy. It’s hard to wade through all of the information to find helpful tips on what’s right for YOU! Here are a few questions I get asked on a regular basis, so I thought I’d share that info with all of you as well!

Q: What’s the best kind of exercise to do for weight loss? 

A: In my professional opinion, interval training (specifically high intensity interval training if you’re capable of that level of activity) is the best form of exercise to participate in when attempting to lose weight. Why? It’s proven to increase fat metabolism at a resting rate and also improves cardiovascular endurance at a faster rate than sustained cardio exercise. It can also be done quickly (with only a minimum of 20 minutes) and with very little need of equipment.

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Q: What should I eat? 

A: I think this is the most loaded question I get asked. The answer can be both simple and complex.

First, you have to consider what you currently eat (type, amount, times). Do you eat a lot of processed foods, drink soda (pop) and/or juices, eat only one meal a day? Those are key areas to hone in on first. Try to cut out the CRAP (chemicals, refined grains, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives). Cut out sodas and juices. And, focus on eating evenly throughout the day. If you’re already doing those things…

Consider your health goal…do you want to eat healthier to feel healthier, do you want to lose weight, do you want to gain muscle mass, do you want to lose body fat? The answer to this question can determine what types of foods to focus on (after cutting the CRAP).

Get real about your current capabilities… can you cook, do you have to cook for other and are they willing to change their diet, would you consider joining a meal delivery service, are you incredibly crunched for time, etc. If you can barely use a knife, maybe it’s time to sign-up for the fresh delivery service or perhaps a cooking class!

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Finally, and I’d say most importantly you need to stop making excuses. If you want to eat healthier then do it. It’s as simple as googling a recipe, trying it, and continuing to do that day after day until you feel comfortable with your new eating/cooking habits.

Q: I’m always tired…what’s wrong with me? 

A: This is also one of those loaded questions, but I’d say 9 times out of 10 people who suffer from chronic fatigue are suffering from poor digestive health…namely inflammation. When your digestive system has to struggle to extract the nutrients it needs from the food you’re eating, it’s using a lot of energy that should be going to your brain and muscles to allow you to live life to its fullest. So, if you’re getting enough sleep and still feel like the walking dead all day. It’s time to take a look at your diet!

Q:  Where do you get your supplements and health foods/products and essential oils? 

A: I primarily get my protein, vitamins, and health foods/products such as shredded coconut, flaxseed, buckwheat flour, apple cider vinegar, Dr. Woods black soap, stevia, spices, teas, and a whole host of other items from Swanson Vitamins. I get my essential oils from DoTerra.

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What are some other health and fitness questions you have about making healthy changes?

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Sweater Weather…almost

Now that I’m a SoFlo resident, Winter just isn’t the same. It’s not about fires and flannel and snow. But, it’s finally cooling down here! To the point where I’ve been wearing multiple layers and (joy of all joys) scarves to work.

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I’ve also been getting into those winter flavors and warmer beverages. Last night I picked up my favorite tea…Constant Comment, and I made some Cranberry Chia Seed Jam.

Cranberries have so many great health benefits! You can read a great article on them HERE. The jam is also sugar and preservative free and filled with fiber.

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Cranberry Chia Jam

Ingredients

  • 2 cups whole cranberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Stevia to taste
  • 1/2 cup chia seeds

Directions

Place all ingredients except chia seeds into a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Once cranberries start to “pop” open, reduce heat and simmer until the mixture thickens slightly.

Transfer to a glass storage container. Mix in chia seeds. Allow to cool completely, and then refrigerate overnight.

The chia seeds will soak up the excess liquid making a delicious jam!

I eat it on my microwave flaxseed muffin 🙂 oftentimes on my way to work!

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Jalea-style (Peruvian) Spaghetti Squash Shrimp

The other night someone let me try a version of Jalea Mixta, a Peruvian seafood dish that is basically fried seafood with an amazingly flavorful sauce on top. So, I decided to try it out at home and make my own healthier version using fresh seafood and making it into a “pasta”dish.

IT.WAS.EPIC.

Hands down one of the best things I’ve made in a long while.

Jalea Spag Sq Shrimp

And I promise no camera filter or editing was even used on that picture! 😀

Ingredients

  • 1 bag of frozen extra large/jumbo shrimp
  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • Juice of 2-3 limes (depending on how juicy they are
  • 1 cup (or one large handful) of small tomatoes (I love sunsweets from Costco)
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • cayenne pepper (to desired heat level)
  • crushed pepper flakes (to desired heat level)
  • salt to taste
  • 2 jalapenos or fresno chile peppers (Jalas if you like it a little spicier and if you want to go completely traditional just use a red bell pepper)
  • 1 small red onion sliced thinly (traditionally sprinkled over top, but I omitted because…honestly… I didn’t have one!)

Step 1: Roast the Squash Cut the stem end of the squash off, turn it on the cut end so that you have a steady base. Cut the squash lengthwise and then scoop out the seed portion. Place cut-side down in a baking dish with about 1 inch of water in the pan. Cook at 350* for approximately 30-45 minutes or just until you can easily pierce through the densest portion of the squash. Remove from oven and flip over onto skin side to allow to cool a bit. Once it’s cooled a bit, hold with a towel and use a fork to scrape out the squash into a bowl.

Step 2: Cook the Shrimp Boil a pot of fresh water and follow cooking instructions on your shrimp.

Step 3: Make the Sauce While the water is boiling for your shrimp… Seed the jalapenos and cut into 1 inch pieces or rounds. Add the cilantro, tomatoes, garlic, salt, cayenne, and chili flakes to a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. With food processor on low setting, drizzle olive oil through top until desired consistency is reached (should have the consistency of a salsa). Taste, adding more salt, cayenne or chili pepper flakes as desired. Pour into bowl and add the jalapenos.

Step 4: Put it all together! Build your plate with squash, a few spoonfuls of sauce, some shrimp, and a sprinkle of the onions (if using).

Step 5: Sobremesa Share with a friend over good conversation and maybe a glass of sangria. 🙂

What’s your favorite Latin American inspired dish? 

P.S. If you try this recipe…please report back on how you liked it or what innovations you used!

7 Simple (and Healthy) Salad “Dressings”

I’m a weirdo… I LOVE vegetables! And that includes salads…

Salad

MMMMMmmmmmm!

But, when you put a ton of dressing on the salad you miss out on the deliciousness of the veggies AND you’re usually adding extra calories, preservatives and fat to your otherwise healthy meal. I’d rather not sacrifice the amount of calories I can eat in a day for salad dressing, so I turn to my go-to salad “dressing” options. Here they are (in no particular order).

1.) Salsa

With less than 10 calories per tablespoon, salsa is great on southwestern style or tacos salads. I choose picante style usually since it’s more like a sauce and I can drizzle it over my greens.

2.) Tajin

This one can be a little bit harder to find, but it’s a chile, lime, salt spice mix that is so tasty on salads. I usually use it on  grilled chicken salads that include lots of cucumber and carrots.

3.) Citrus

A squeeze of orange, lemon, lime, or even grapefruit on your salad right before you chow down is delicious! If you want something a little less sour… squeeze the citrus into a small bowl and whisk in some melted honey or liquid/powdered stevia until it’s at the sweetness level you desire.

4.) Hot sauce

Okay, this one may seem a bit odd, but it goes hand in hand with my love of all things Mexican and hot. Sprinkle some salsa picante (not Frank’s Red Hot or Tabasco) on your greens and see how you like it. I LOVE this on a salad topped with an over-easy egg or two!

5.) Over-easy Eggs

Since I mentioned them above… over-easy or over-medium eggs are a great way to have some sauciness on your salad. Just cook the egg, allow to cool for a second or two so you don’t wilt your salad and then place directly on top of your greens. When you’re ready to chow down, cut open the egg and let the yolk be your dressing!

6.) Reduced or Aged Balsamic Vinegar

So, this one is a bit more complex if you want to make it yourself, but balsamic vinegar on its own makes a great salad dress. I find that the regular, un-aged or non-reduced stuff is too thin for me. So, I take my balsamic and reduce it in a small pot over med-low heat until it simmers and thickens up a little bit. You can also buy aged balsamic that is a bit thicker and tends to have a more robust flavor.

7. Aminos!

Aminos are an amazing soy sauce substitute, so they’re also great sprayed on Asian-inspired salads like a Mandarin orange, grilled chicken salad or a bok choy, mushroom, bean sprout salad. Just a few sprays or a light drizzle is all you need!

What are your favorite salad toppers? 

Stand & Stay Healthy: My DIY Standing Desk

Yesterday NPR released THIS ARTICLE about how sitting at desks (aka sedentary lives) are “killing us,” and how moving can stop the death march.

While I think it’s a little overly dramatic, research has proven that the average American lifestyle includes about 15 hours work of sedentary time (including sleeping). On the bright side, research has also found that taking small breaks from sitting (no matter how long the break) is associated with lower waist circumference (how round you are), triglycerides (how much fat is in your blood stream) and and blood glucose (how much sugar is in your blood stream) levels.

However, as the NPR article points out…no one is really shouting from the mountain tops how long breaks should be or what the best practices are for getting in more active time.

The not-so-popular truth is we as individuals need to start taking responsibility for our health and realizing that it took a long time to build our bad habits… so it may take awhile and some serious effort to break them.

Weight loss and health doesn’t come from 1 hour at the gym after a 1 hour commute (where we sit), a desk job (where we sit), and another 1 hour commute home (while we, yes, sit). It takes some creativity! Some ingenuity! And, gasp… some forethought!

So, not that it’s any sort of a best practice, but here is how I keep active.

1.) I built myself a standing desk. I literally googled DIY Standing Desk… It cost $22 🙂

Standing Desk

It’s not an fancy-schmancy automatic one, so it takes a little effort to set it up. But, I usually set it up after lunch and stand for the rest of my afternoon.

2.) I park my car about 10 minutes away from the door to my office… on purpose.

3.) I drink a lot of water. It’s a win-win situation… I’m properly hydrated AND the bathroom is about a 2 minute walk out of my office.

4.) I schedule my exercise, I make it social, and I do things that I enjoy! My calendar lis filled with appointments for after work run clubs, biking meet ups, and occasional lunch breaks where I leave the office to go swim some laps. I enjoy meeting up with people to play volleyball, go hiking, or go explore a new part of town. I decided a long time ago that if I didn’t choose activities that I enjoyed doing, I’d never do them. 

5.) I hang out with other active people. Now, I realize you can’t just easily change your friend group and you definitely can’t change your family. But, research also suggests that the old phrase, birds of a feather flock together, is very true. Want to be more active? Find people who want that for themselves too!

6.) I stand whenever possible. Out with friends at a bar?… No stool for me thanks. Riding the subway or bus? You can have this seat Ms. Parks. Bout to board a plane? I’m the last person on and I circle the terminal during layovers.

7.) I protect my sleep! How does that help being active you ask? Well, if you’re not getting adequate or restful sleep, you’re not going to want to be active the next day! I spray my sheets with relaxing lavender linen spray and/or I diffuse some relaxing scents in my bedroom before bed.

I LOVE SLEEP! 

Linen Spray

What do you do to stay active?

NIRSA FitExpo Here I Come!

It’s been a long long time since I’ve written anything. Although I did write a few guest posts on the UPMC Health Matters Blog!

Check ’em Out!

Simple Red Smoothie Recipe

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3 Quick & Healthy Breakfast Ideas

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Now that my internship at UPMC and grad school is winding down, I thought it was high time that I get back into the swing of things. What better way than to share something exciting!

This coming weekend I’ll be attending the NIRSA (National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association) Region 1 Fitness Expo in New Jersey, and I’ll be presenting! 😮

I submitted a proposal to teach a class on HIIT (high intensity interval training) cycling, and it was accepted. So, yours truly will be leading some fellow health and fitness professionals in the Northeast Region through an intense HIIT class on Sunday! Whoop whoop!

So, I wanted to share the info I created for it. Enjoy and if you replicate it or share it give credit where credit’s due por favor 🙂

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