Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I found a nutritional consultant in my area that focuses on overall wellness and integrative nutrition.

It's an exciting concept that teaches students how to build healthy food into daily life. Integrative nutrition teaches all of the dietary theories out there, takes the best from each and helps each person sculpt their own nutritional plan.

Karyn Bender, the counselor in my area, offers help in setting up an eating plan, dealing with cravings and finding ways to work healthy eating into every day cooking.

She also focuses on primary foods -- how exercise and spiritual wellness can affect your overall health.

I have set up a meeting with Karyn next week. She offers a free consultation and I'm interested in finding out more about integrative nutrition. We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Skin Care

Since I've begun eating healthier, I've noticed my skin has improved. After drinking eight glasses of water each day, I've noticed I no longer wake up looking like a raging alcoholic (I'm not), with puffy eyes and sagging skin. This has made me wonder what else good nutrition can do for my skin.

So I'm thinking of including skin care as part of this blog. While I still intend to focus on healthy eating and exercising, I plan to add in changes I notice in my skin tone and texture, as well as the odd article on skin care.

I do believe skin protection is essential to good health, especially if you have very fair skin as I do. And good skin can only improve your physical appearance.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I Completely Forgot....

...about malls. While I continue to avoid my treadmill, which is lurking in the corner of my spare room, and we're buried in snow here in the Northeast with more on the way, I've been making excuses not to wake up a little earlier and exercise.

An article in the Pensacola News Journal reminded me that malls provide a great -- and warm -- opportunity to get some walking in. Even better, the scenery actually changes as you continue to walk, unlike a treadmill. Many malls even open early to allow walkers to come in and walk before the stores open, which is a great opportunity for those with 9 to 5 jobs or a bad shopping addiction. It's also a safe place to walk with no ice patches. I guess I don' have any more excuses.

Also it's worth noting that Livin' La Vida Low-Carb has posted a number of new blogs about weight loss that's worth checking out (yes, I made the list) and it looks like there's some great blogs out there, including some about losing the baby weight, so check it out.

And finally, if you like an English muffin in the morning, check out Thomas' Light English Muffins. There's EIGHT grams of fiber in each muffin and they taste like the low-fiber original. This may also be a great choice for those who are looking to watch their carbs.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

I Love Pizza Hut

Last night Ed and I took the kids to Pizza Hut. I was really impressed to find they had nutrition pamphlets that included healthier menu suggestions.

While I prefer to support the local businesses, most chain restaurants offer nutrition information on their Web site, making it easier to eat healthy. Pizza Hut has a nutrition calculator so you can customize your pizza, then figure out its nutritional content. So if you are heading out to eat, check out the restaurant's Web site. For the most part, you can skim the nutritional content of your choices and plan a healthy meal before you even leave the house.

For those following Weight Watchers, Applebee's has a 10 points or less portion to their menu. Even if you're not counting calories, most of the options under this heading are healthy choices.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Reading Between the Lines

There is an interesting article about MSG --monosodium glutamate -- on The Common Voice. I'm sure you remember, there was a big no-MSG push several years ago and now many Asian restaurants advertise that they don't use MSG in the food.

In brief: MSG is a white, crystal like substance (think sugar or salt) that has no taste, but brings out the flavor in foods. A number of people are allergic to it and experience headaches, chest pains, etc.

Most of us are familiar with MSG. However, this article on The Common Voice -- reprinted from a blog, Livin' La Vida Low Carb -- reports that there is a large debate about whether MSG is safe for consumption and whether it makes food taste so much better that you eat more.

But here's what I didn't realize and find shocking:

Most disturbing about MSG is the fact that the FDA completely allows food manufacturers to put this chemical in foods without ever using the word MSG on the label. That's right! They don't want you to know it's in there, but it is. You may recognize MSG in any number of euphemisms on the product packaging, such as "flavors," "natural flavors," "yeast extract," and more.

Huh? In trying to eat natural healthy food, if I saw "natural flavors" in the ingredients list I sure wouldn't be thinking about MSG, even if it does occur in nature. The FDA recommends healthy-eating guidelines, yet winks as corporations continue to add junk to our foods to make them taste better, last longer and generally rake in more profits? Isn't it time the FDA decides where its loyalties lay?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More New Guidelines

Once again there are more new guidelines from the AHA. Sigh. It seems that if you don't start eating right at the age of five, you should start digging your grave.

Okay, that's a slight exaggeration, but really, sometimes the guidelines do make you feel as if working at getting healthier is a lost cause because you've already done so much damage. And sometimes, you feel like they're your grandparents who are just learning to work their VCR when the rest of the world has moved on to DVDs. Or like my mother, who just got e-mail, but hasn't yet learned to reply. She claims she enjoys reading my e-mails, though.

Anyway, the new guidelines are for women are focusing on being healthy before you get diabetes, heart disease, etc. They also stress a need for fresh fruits and veggies, 60 - 90 minutes of exercise each day and an aspirin to prevent heart attacks. In short, they recommend what the rest of us have been trying to work into our lifestyles for some time.

So that's my angina for today: Why do the big associations (heart, cancer, FDA) feel like a healthy lifestyle isn't valid until they weigh in on it? And why does it take them so long to change their guidelines? With science and knowledge evolving every day, their recommendations almost seem like old news.

However, on the bright side -- Ed made a great low-cal chili last night. We bought a Weight Watchers cookbook. It's in a binder so you can lay it flat on the counter and it's full of low-calorie, low-fat recipes. While I'm not on Weight Watchers (I find counting points makes me think about food more) they do find a lot of sneaky ways to insert lots of flavor into meals in a healthy way. If you can, their recipes are worth a look. Especially if you have an Ed that's willing to help out with the cooking.

Fitness for Real Life

There's a new gym out in Albany, Calif., that seems to be catching on -- The Ice Chamber. According to the article I read, it's fitness for real life. There are boot camp classes in the mornings that people attend five days a week. The routine always changes, and it incorporates cardio, strength training, yoga, pilates, etc. The focus is not just making customers look and feel better, but also to help people live their everyday life better. The workouts are supposed to make you better able to lift groceries, work around the house and generally kick butt.

The Ice Chamber started when the owners and husband and wife team, Steven Khuong and Maya Garcia suffered a miscarriage. Maya then went from a couch potato to a fitness machine. I like the idea that these guys have been where we are and changed their lives and their bodies. It makes you realize it can be done. Their baby is due in April.

The site even has a blog and I have to say, the people look like they're having a blast. Does anyone know of a place like this in Massachusetts?

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Taking Umbrage

The Daily Times in Maryland published an article about the challenges women face to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. While there are numerous things we need to keep track of -- diet, exercise, sunscreen, etc. -- the author mentioned one aspect I hadn't thought of: safe sex.

It occurs to me that while discussing health and fitness, I have discussed mostly eating and exercise habits. There are a lot of other personal habits that we should also be paying attention to. This article points out some oft-neglected points of staying healthy, including safe sex and using sunscreen every day. While Ed and I have talked to his children about safe sex, we don't approach it from a healthy lifestyle point of view. Perhaps we should be making connections with our children between safe sex, using seat belts, having yearly physicals, eating healthy and exercising regularly.

This article certainly showed me how narrow my focus has been when blogging about health and fitness. However, I do take umbrage with one statement in the article:

Women need to be especially conscience of their health issues since for many, they are the one everyone counts on in the family for nutrition and health needs.

Pfui! Everyone needs to participate in the family's health.

Monday, February 19, 2007

The New Diet Drug

I suppose I can't ignore it, since it's been all over the press for the past week or so, but Xenical, a prescription drug for weight loss, will be going over the counter. Orlistat, the OTC version, will offer about half the dose of Xenical and will be coming out this year. The drug blocks enzymes that digest fat, so the fat passes through your body. According to an article in The Monitor in Texas:

The biggest side effect is loose stools, especially if people continue to eat meals high in fat while taking the pills. Eating meals with about 15 to 20 grams of fat per meal can help dieters avoid experiencing that, according to GlaxoSmithKline’s Web site for the drug,

Practically speaking, the drug works on two levels — it keeps the body from absorbing fat, and the threat of a long trip to the bathroom discourages people from eating much fat in the first place.

I'm concerned about the potential for abuse here. The drug could be helpful for people who eat too much fat, and may serve as a training tool for those really seeking the road to a healthy lifestyle by making the dieter uncomfortably aware of poor choices. But it could also be used by those with eating disorders in much the same way as laxitives are. The thing about OTC drugs is that while the drug company points out the dose will be only half of that in a prescription, what's to stop people from taking as much as they want?

I'd also like to know what the long-term affects are: Will people get caught in a situation where they fail to change their lifestyle so they stay on the drug indefinitely to maintain their weight? What are the affects of people who stay on this drug long-term? I don't think this is an inherently bad medicine, I'm just not sure it should be used without a doctor's supervision.

I'd much rather continue to keep plugging away at an overall healthier lifestyle that I can maintain. Even though I wouldn't mind waking up tomorrow 20 pounds lighter, I'd like to keep it off too. There's a great lifestyle program on that seems much better long-term than a pill:

Warm Up -- seven to eight minutes of light aerobic activity intended to increase blood flow and lubricate and warm-up your tendons and joints. You can call this fast housecleaning - vacuuming, sweeping, mopping. :-)

Resistance Training -- Train all major muscle groups. One to two sets of each exercise. Do one set at first, then rest for a minute when you advance to two sets.

Aerobic Exercise -- Pick two favorite activities, they could be walking, jogging, rowing, biking, inline skating, cross-country skiing, whatever fits your lifestyle. Perform 12 to 15 minutes of the first activity and continue with 10 minutes of the second activity. Cool down during the last five minutes. You can do some exercises in your home, then go for a brisk and slow down for the last few minutes.

Stretching -- Wrap up your exercise session by stretching, breathing deeply, relaxing and meditating. When starting an exercise program, it is important to have realistic expectations. Depending on your initial fitness level, you should expect the following changes:

From one to eight weeks -- Feel better and have more energy.
From two to six months -- Lose size and inches while becoming leaner. Clothes begin to fit more loosely. You are gaining muscle and losing fat.
After six months -- Start losing weight quite rapidly. This is a very conservative estimate. It is possible to lose weight the very first week, it just depends on how completely you follow the plan and on your own metabolism.

Instead of counting calories, weighing meals, counting points or whatever other systems various diets use that almost require a bookkeeper, use these easy-to-follow guidelines:

- The key to eating well is variety and advance preparation. Eat three small meals and three small snacks throughout the day. Don't let this overwhelm you; you are discovering a whole new concept of the word "meal". If you've prepared ahead as explained above, this should be no problem. It doesn't need to include extensive cooking and preparation time.

- Limit your fat intake to only what's necessary for adequate flavor - a dab of butter and a smidgeon of sour cream on that baked potato, a quick spray of cooking oil on a frying pan, and so on.

- Drink at least eight 8-oz. glasses of water throughout the day. You can vary this too. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon or a couple tablespoons of bottled fruit juice to a glass of water, just for added interest interest.

- Take a multi-vitamin each day to ensure you are getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Watch those portions

As I was surfing through, I saw an article that warned of "Diet Derailers," those little habits you don't think about that can be unhealthy for you. Most of them were the run-of-the-mill habits we all know about -- not getting enough sleep, eating too fast, getting too hungry, etc. But one of the habits was eating out. Duh, you say? Most of us know that eating out is diet death, you say? Restaurants double your portion size, so the trick is to eat half the meal, right? Wrong. Check out these absolutely horrifying and sad -- I love Cinnabon! -- facts:

According to the Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter, a single restaurant meal often could feed an entire family. A pasta dish at an Italian restaurant might include eight 1-cup servings. A rib dish might have a pound of meat—more than five servings. A side of fries might include 70 of the little devils, which is seven servings. And a nut-filled cinnamon bun in a mall food court could total 1,100 calories—more than half the calorie intake on a typical weight-loss diet.

Catch of the Day

There's some proof on that lean pork may help you lose weight. The article goes on to say that women who had a diet of 30 percent protein, compared with a group who ate 18 percent protein kept more of their lean muscle mass. So I think the lesson here may not be lean pork, but lean protein. I know my meals always last longer if I include some form of protein, and keeping your lean muscle mass is especially important for women. Mild weight lifting is usually recommended to help stave off osteoporosis.

So to that end, Ed made some lean protein last night. We picked up some frozen cod fillets at Whole Foods. Not fish sticks, but just plain cod that had been frozen. That works better for us than fresh fish, since we try to hit the grocery store only once a week. Ed mixed some Dijon mustard, a splash of lemon and a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, dipped the fish in it, lightly sprinkled the fish with breadcrumbs and baked it for about 15 minutes. The result was a great tangy fish that we accompanied with a salad. And it only took about 30 minute to prepare from the freezer to the plate. And yes, I did the dishes.

Other interesting articles today include a weight loss survey that lists lack of incentive, hunger and bad days as the top three reasons people fail to stick to a diet. It also offers some tips to avoid these pitfalls, so it's worth a look.

And finally, Marks & Spencer, a grocery chain in the UK, is beginning to staff its stores with a diet advisor. Shoppers can get on-site advice as they're shopping about which products support healthy eating. We definitely need that in the States!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Produce of the Week

This week I tried a tomatillo. Actually, I tried to try a tomatillo. I roasted it into oblivion, so I never actually got to taste it.

Anyway, the tomatillo is a little green tomato in a husk. You peel the husk, and you're left with the tomatillo. Wash it -- the husk leaves it sticky -- then you can use it to spice up salsas and salads or roast it with other veggies for a side dish. The tomatillo is often the ingredient used in green salsas. It's also used in Mexico to fight fevers.

I'm actually looking forward to picking up another and trying it. Below is a picture of one of Ed's daughters holding the tomatillo before I killed it.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

There's a lot going on in the nutrition world today.

First of all, Luna bars are coming out with a nutrition bar that will include tea and be geared towards a specific area of health -- skin care, longevity, etc. They're called Luna Tea Cakes. I kind of like the idea, not only because I'm a skin care fiend, but also because if you follow advice and drink 8 glasses of water a day, then try to fit in a cup or two of tea, you'll float away. I also have found the Luna bars to taste good, be filling and contain at least a serving of calcium for about 180 calories. If you're interested in reading more you can check out the press release.

The Dallas Morning News has also published an article that recommends using brown rice to get more fiber and whole grains into your diet. That's not new -- doctors and nutritionists have recommended it for quite a while -- but the article offers up a Mediterranean-style rice pilaf that works well as a side dish. And any way you can get fiber in your diet is good. It may make your dinner more filling, prompting you to eat less.

Also, take note of Boston University's student newspaper The Daily Free Press. There's an article on the Sargent Choice food line -- a line of healthy foods available to BU students. While the foods may not be lower in calories, they focus on replacing ingredients in recipes with healthier alternatives. For example, a Sargent Choice chocolate chip cookie is made with whole wheat flour. A Sargent Choice muffin offers a smaller -- read more reasonable -- portion and includes healthier ingredients. I think it's a great way to get students thinking about their health.

And last but not least, if you're planning on staying in on Valentine's Day, as most of us in the Northeast are after getting clobbered by snow, has some low-fat options for a special dinner with your honey. The recipes include salmon and asparagus, shrimp and tomato spaghetti and -- bless them! -- chocolate dipped strawberries. Even if you're not cooking tonight, it's worth a look.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Hell yeah!

There is a great article in the ContraCosta Times about the image of weight loss we're being fed as a society. The author, Joan Morris, particularly blasts diet companies trying to push the idea that weight loss is quick and easy to sell pills and diet products. Weight loss isn't quick or easy and most of us who achieve it still won't end up looking like a supermodel. We'll be healthier, we'll feel better, but we won't suddenly have the body we had when we were 16. Here's what Morris had to say about the Jenny Craig commercials that tracked Kirstie Alley's very public weight loss.

Kirstie, bless her heart, has dropped a lot of weight, but she hasn't turned into a pencil-thin woman. She still have curves. She still has a stomach. She still has work to do. In other words, she looks like a regular person working her way through weight loss.

But in the commercials, they photograph her mostly from the front, which accentuates her new size until you catch a glimpse of her in profile. Then you realize that part of the weight loss is actually an optical illusion, the product of tight clothes with a slimming cut, or a tummy concealed by a large purse or pillow.

And in trying to hide it from us they are sending the message that there's something wrong here. Kirstie has been dieting for months, and she "still" isn't thin. And because she isn't, then they have to hide it, because heaven knows, a slightly overweight person is just not good business.

The ContraCosta Times also offers a Diet Club. If you want to join, you can e-mail

Monday, February 12, 2007

Today is Not a Good Day

I have fallen off the wagon today, and I'm feeling a bit bruised. After a busy weekend, I failed to get up this morning and get in some exercise. Yet, for some reason, I had time to sit down with a pancake breakfast (and bacon) and a good book.

I think I need to work in some relaxation time, so I don't keep cutting my exercise time to relax. There is a cute article about blogging and whether it makes you fat. I don't know if blogging makes you fat, but I can tell you a desk job certainly does. While I was in college I ate whatever I wanted, walked to all my classes, had a physical job and maintained a healthy weight with no problem. I graduated from college, got my first desk job, and packed on the pounds. I managed to take them off only to put them back on when I started grad school.

So if you're working a desk job, I think you have an extra challenge in maintaining your weight. You may find that you have to eat a little less and exercise a little more to get the same results as someone who has a more physical job. Also, be aware of when you're eating out of boredom. Some desk jobs can be deadly dull (like my first one) and the thought of taking a walk to get a snack seems like a fantastic reprieve. Fight the urge. Walk around the office, but don't stop at the vending machine.

That said, I must say I regret wasting my 18-year-old body thinking I was fat. If I had known then how truly lucky I was, I would have joined a nudist colony.

Friday, February 9, 2007


Since my biggest problem is staying motivated, I did a little research today on motivation and fitness. I found to be really helpful.

The information was broken out and it was easy to find what I wanted. It's a great place to check out basic health and fitness information. There are tips on motivation, exercise and eating healthy. There are tips on fat burning, muscle building and losing weight. There is also a fitness calculator and info on different types of exercise from cardio to yoga, from
abs to thighs. Even better, the topics are organized in a column running down the left side of the page, so it is easy to find what you're looking for.

Here are some tips from readers about what keeps them

"I was wondering what keeps you motivated...I know one thing that helps me is to keep a log book of the days I exercise and the things that I did." Sweet-pea

"For me, my goal is to compete. And I want to be at the very best I can be. I wake up at 4:30 in the morning to work out. It can be hard at times because we never know if what we do would pay off." ERICS13

"My motivation.....a pair of size 8 Calvin Klein's hanging in the back of the closet. I not only want to wear those jeans but I want them falling off! :)" STARSUPONTHA

"I've gained 20 pounds on my bench press max in six weeks. On the wall of my gym, there's a list of names for bench press records: 275, 300, 350, 400. I want my name on the 350. I could take the 275 and maybe even the 300 right now, but I want the 350. And when I get it, and I will, I'll aim for the 400. Just getting me on the bench is enough to get me started." PARISI88101

"1. Feeling good- I gained weight my senior year of college and felt incredibly bad about it, as I had been really fit before that...2. Britney Spears videos - I am not thinking I will ever look quite like that, but why not have a goal of some sort?" Songbird

"I can't speak for anyone else, but my motivation comes from family members. First is my better nutrition and regular exercise is a normal occurrence at our house. My second motivation is from my father...My Dad died when I was 9, heart attack at 45. I am closing in on 40 and I decided that I shouldn't allow myself to follow in his footsteps." THEBIGDT

"My motivation to workout is how I feel each day. If I'm tired, depressed or achy, I know exercise will bring immediate relief and will last the rest of the day. I'll sleep better and have more energy to get things done. My entire day is better when I exercise...can't beat that with a stick!" Ab_Exercise

"The hardest thing I find is just getting there, once your there it's fine, so if you just keep your focus on being at the gym instead of focusing on the journey you might find it easier!" MELLICENT

Waste or Waist?

To a reader who asked: I got the red bananas at Hannaford's in Concord, N.H. It's one of the bigger ones with a large produce section.

Many of us belong to the Clean Plate Club -- we couldn't leave the table until our plates were clean. We essentially grew up on overeating. I know I still have a hard time to stop eating when I'm full if my plate is not empty. A nutritionist I knew once told me she thinks of throwing away food as a choice between "waste or waist."

That got me thinking: If we clean our plates, eating food we don't need, isn't that waste too? We're not using the food; we're just carrying it around with us as fat, rather than letting it sit in a landfill or become compost to enrich the earth. In a sense, overeating is waste. And it doesn't help those without food when we gorge ourselves. Those starving people in Ethiopia my mother always told me about aren't one bit better off because I'm stuffed.

That said, sometimes it's hard to stop eating because the food is just so good. I'm still working on that.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Produce of the Week

This week I will be trying out the red banana. It's exactly what it sounds like -- a red banana. It's eaten and stored the same way as a regular banana, but has a light raspberry banana taste. Above, my cat Scraps plays Carmen Miranda with the bananas. I hope you appreciate the picture. She's not speaking to me right now. I spent a half hour chasing her around the apartment with produce. I'm not sure if the glowing eyes are the result of the camera's flash or the devil within.


There's an interesting article coming out of the UK about using karate as a fitness tool. Unfortunately I don't have time to do this, since I seldom get home in time. It's a shame because I think karate is a great way to go, especially if you sometimes feel like a hamster, running on your treadmill to nowhere. With karate, you can pick up a new skill, get in shape and learn to protect yourself. I think it especially works for those people who need to engage their mind while they're working out. (I once fell off the treadmill when I got to an especially interesting part of the book I was reading.)

That said, fitness continues to remain a struggle. I weighed in today. I lost no weight. The good news is I didn't gain any weight. But the fact still remains that fitness is integral to me losing weight and achieving a healthier lifestyle.

So I've decided to try to squeeze in two 15-minute session of exercise a day instead of trying to get all 30 minutes in at once. I'm hoping the short spurts won't seem as daunting. I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007


I’m really disappointed in many of the health and fitness blogs out there. I have been looking for advice, new recipes and fun ways to work in exercise. Instead, I feel like I’ve found a lot of advertisements.

It seems like every health and fitness product has its own blog and uses it as just another form of advertising.

Here in Boston we’ve just wrapped up the Adult Swim debacle, where Lite-Brite-looking marketing devices were placed about the city. Unfortunately, the city of Boston thought they might be bombs. I’m sure you’ve all seen it on the news – and heard all the discussions about guerrilla marketing.

I'm tired of being jumped by advertisements in the blogosphere. I search blogs for what might be promising new information, and it turns out to be more advertisements. Some of the information might be good, but how can you trust it when it comes from people pushing an agenda.

Among some of the blogs I’ve been disappointed by:

Healthy Weight Loss Recipes – The ideas might be good, but look at their profile and they’re on Herbalife.

Healthy Living Hub – The profile includes a list of the writer’s other blogs. I’d like to know a little bit about the blogger before I use the blog’s information.

The Bikini Body Diet – Again, no info on who’s behind the information, but it does include advertisements for diet pills.

About Health Tips – No information on who is behind the blog. The profile lists the writer as “Finance ClubInc.” So I have to assume this company will eventually feed me information on their products.

Fresh Talk – This is a healthy eating blog written by the editor of The Packer, a trade magazine for the produce industry!

One blog did stand out: Obesity In The News. This is a blog written by Shefaly Yogendra in the United Kingdom about the issue of obesity. It’s not a weight loss blog. It’s not a fitness blog. It takes a step back and looks at the wider issue of obesity. As Yogendra writes:
I wanted my blog to be different - one to acknowledge the complex nature of obesity; one that looked beyond food into trends in physical activity, genetics, socio-economics, politics and innovation; one that analysed themes of bias, stigma, discrimination and interest groups variously aligned.

It’s a good blog. Check it out.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Custom Made Nutrition Plan

If you want to get healthy, but find the Food Pyramid set out by the U.S. government a bit daunting (What is a grain? How much is a serving? Six to nine servings? Does that mean I can eat nine donuts a day?) an article in says the U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering personalized food pyramids right online.

What I think is especially cool about this is you can see what you personally need. We're always told that women need more calcium than men, and men need more calories than women. Yet we have a one-size-fits-all food pyramid. I checked out, entered my age, level of activity and sex and -- ta-da!-- my very own food pyramid. The program based the pyramid on the number of calories I should be taking in each day and told me in real terms what I need. For example: The U.S. Food Pyramid says I need two to three servings of meat and beans per day. Huh? My own personal food pyramid said I need to eat five ounces of protein each day. Got it!

Even better, your personalized food pyramid has tips you can click on to find ways to work healthy eating into you lifestyle and MyPyramid Tracker lets you assess how you're doing health wise by evaluating your diet and activity level.

It's a all free so check it out.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Superbowl Sunday -- Get Ready to Eat!

Even if the Patriots aren't in the Superbowl, most of us will likely gather with some friends or family and either tune in or to have a movie night and celebrate the end of football season. Whatever your choice, it's likely that you'll be doing some heavy duty snacking and the nachos, buffalo wings and pizza will be right under your nose.

The key is preparation. First of all, have a fiber-packed meal before you head to your celebration to fill you up. Then bring some low-cal food that you can eat as a contribution to the party. If you're hosting the party, make everything low-cal. I found some great recipes on Fitness Freebies and She Knows. If you don't tell your friend the snacks are healthy, they might just think you're a great cook.

Here are just a few of the recipes:

Shrimp Gazpacho Salsa

One cucumber, peeled seeded and diced.
One large tomato, seeded and diced
1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/4 cup finely diced peeled red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1-1/2 cups tomato juice1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Two limes, juiced
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 pound cooked peeled medium shrimp, chopped

Directions:In a large bowl combine cucumber, tomato, green pepper, onion and cilantro. Whisk together, tomato juice, red wine vinegar, lime juice, sugar, hot pepper sauce and Worcestershire sauce in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper and pourover vegetables. Mix in cooked shrimp and stir gently until well combined. Chill until served.Recipe makes eight servings.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 60, Calories from Fat 0, Total Fat 0g, Saturated Fat 0g, Cholesterol 55mg, Sodium 390mg, Carbohydrates 6g, Dietary Fiber 0g.

Vegetarian Chili

Four medium onions, chopped and peeled
One green bell pepper, chopped
3 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon mustard seed
Two, 15.25-oz cans kidney beans, undrained
One, 14.5-oz. can whole tomatoes, undrained
10 ounces trimmed, sliced mushrooms
Three carrots, peeled and diced
One, 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon baking cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions :Cook onions and bell pepper in oil in a large stockpot over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally until onions are golden and bell pepper is soft. Add mustard seed; cook for 1 minute, stirring. Add remaining ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered while stirring often for about 40 minutes or until most of the liquid has cooked away and chili has thickened. Serve hot with heated corn tortillas.Recipe makes six servings.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories 300, Calories from Fat 70, Total Fat 8g, Saturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 0mg, Sodium 870mg, Carbohydrates 47g, Dietary Fiber 11g. Half-Time

Meatball Hoagies

2 lbs lean ground turkey
1/2 medium onion, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup dried whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
1 large egg
1 large egg white
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon garlic powder

One 15 oz and one 28 oz can no-salt crushed tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1-2 canned chipotle chilies, rinsed and drained
1 teaspoon dried oregano
8 whole wheat rolls, approximately 3 1/2 inch diameter

Directions: Heat olive oil in medium skillet over med to high heat and add chopped onion. Saute, stirring frequently, until light brown and beginning to caramelize. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, parsley, eggs, egg white, pepper, oregano, basil and garlic power. Add cooked onions and mix all ingredients well. With wet hands make 24 meat balls about one quarter cup each, place on a baking sheet and chill until sauce is ready.

In a large cooking pot combine tomatoes, garlic, onion and oregano. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes. Finely chop one or two chipotle chilies (to taste) and add to the sauce. Simmer another 2 minutes. Remove meatballs from fridge and add one at a time to the sauce. Cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat, or until cooked through. Serve on whole wheat rolls. Serves 8

Serving size: One whole wheat roll with three meatballs Per serving: Calories 386, Fat 10.46g, Carbohydrate 36.64g, Protein 33.14g, Cholesterol 102.19mg, Sodium 451mg .

Friday, February 2, 2007


Ed and I did not plan well last night. We both got home at 10 p.m. Neither of us had planned for a healthy dinner. Exhausted and not in the mood to start from scratch, Ed picked up some Chinese food on the way home.

Then an interesting thing happened: Not only did we have dieter's regret, we felt sick. Not food-poisoned sick, junk-food sick. Our bodies has gotten used to fruits and veggies and unprocessed food. They revolted when we downed the pu-pu platter for 2. We both still feel lethargic and kind of greasy on the inside this morning. I'm actually craving some veggies to purify my body.

Maybe this healthy eating is starting to take hold. Now, if I could just get addicted to exercise.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Make fitness a group sport

I was talking to my friend Mikel, who's a teacher in Maryland, last night. She's in the process of trying to organize a workout group at the end of the day.

I think this is a great idea: Teachers stay after school three times a week and exercise. Since everyone has those exercise videos they bought and used for a week before shelving them, the group has plenty of workouts to choose from. Mikel said she was thinking about a cardio video twice a week and a yoga or belly dancing video once a week.

Another friend of mine, who also works in a school, organized a Weight Watchers group to meet each week at the school. Teachers and staff were able to cheer each other on and work towards healthy eating together. She lost 30 pounds.

What intrigues me about both of these is ease and accountability.

It's easy to stay for an hour at the end of the work day. Let's face it, most of us already do. It's a lot harder to drive to the gym after that long day or get up an hour early in the morning. That's especially true here in Boston, where it's freezing and dark -- both early in the morning and not-so-late at night.

Then, you're accountable to the rest of your group -- they'll notice if you're not there. They'll notice if the group is on a diet and you run out for a extra large steak and cheese sub on your lunch break. Sometimes knowing others are watching you work toward your health and fitness goals keeps you in line. It's the premise this blog is founded on.

That said, I've done abysmally on the next step of my weight loss plan: Getting moving. I have taken exactly one walk this week. But I did find a great article about some easy ways to just get moving. It's got some great ideas, like getting a book on tape and listening to it only when you walk. Audio books are easy to get and free at your local library. I plan to try this next week.

The article also included a great idea for couch potatoes:

Exercise while watching television. For those who can't get off the couch because they are glued to the television, there is the Entertrainer. The device acts as a universal television remote with a heart rate monitor that straps around the chest, forcing the person wearing it to keep moving to maintain the volume on the TV. Stop moving altogether and the TV shuts off.

One last thing before I go: The Milford Daily News has a quick and informative weight loss quiz to debunk some of the common myths about dieting.