Thursday, June 30, 2011

Pancake Paradise! Without the Guilt!

I am a huge fan of pancakes, especially a certain restaurant chain that serves Harvest Grain 'n Nut pancakes. If you live anywhere near Prescott, Arizona you are undoubtedly familiar with Wagonwheel Pancakes from Zeke's; the most incredibly buttery pancakes that are so large they hang over the sides of the platter...yes, platter!

In my opinion, pancakes are not to be eaten dry. I want each bite dripping in syrup, or smothered in fruit and juice. Yes, I am aware of the massive amount of calories involved in my pancake fest. For that reason, my pancake meals are few and far between...a real treat.

So when I ran across a recipe for Oatmeal Pancakes I had to look twice. They must be healthy, they're made with oatmeal. And maybe that same ingredient will give it some of that grain 'n nut taste that I like.

These pancakes are delicious! And while I love them dripping with syrup, they are fabulous topped with a fresh fruit sauce and low cal whipped topping. The best part...they really are healthy and will not send your daily calorie count into the stratosphere.

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup quick cooking oats
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 egg

Place flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, buttermilk, vanilla, oil and egg in a blender and puree until smooth.
Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Servings: 4
Calories: 207
Fat: 9.3g
Carbs: 24.6g
Protein: 6g

If you don't keep buttermilk on hand just add a Tbsp of apple cider vinegar to regular milk and let it stand for 5-10 minutes.

For nuttier pancakes: After you pour batter onto pan, sprinkle 1/2 Tbsp chopped walnuts on it. (as opposed to mixing into the batter)


These sauces are so easy to make and are great on pancakes, waffles and ice cream.

Fresh Fruit Sauce: This sauce works best with any kind of fresh berries (strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries) or peaches, fresh, peeled and cut into pieces. Put berries into blender or food processor and puree until smooth. If too thick, add a little cold water. (Should be thin enough to scoop with a spoon and spread over pancake.) If it isn't naturally sweet enough, add Stevia* and blend. Start with a tsp and add until you reach desired sweetness.

Frozen Fruit Sauce: Put frozen berries in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Stir as berries thaw and heat. Add Stevia* until desired sweetness. This method will yield more juice. I like to leave the berries whole and let the juice soak into my pancake. To make it a little thicker, smash some of the berries as they heat and thaw. This is wonderful warm over pancakes or ice cream.

If you are not familiar with Stevia, check out their website
It is a natural alternative to sugar and is available in powder or liquid form. I caution you to start with a just a little and add as you need until you become familiar with using Stevia. It is much more potent than sugar. Most people I know use 1 drop of liquid Stevia (literally) in a cup of coffee or tea. You can find it in your local grocery store on the sugar/sweetener isle. You will find dozen of flavors (vanilla, root beer float, orange, etc) available in liquid form at sprouts, whole foods, etc.

What is your guilty indulgence? Have you found a healthy way to enjoy it? Are you interested in finding a healthy version so you can enjoy it more frequently?

Friday, June 24, 2011

6 Ways To Work Exercise Into Your Busy Life

In my last post I presented 15 reasons why you should add regular exercise into your life. Are you motivated? Don't know where to start? Too busy you say? We all are, I say!! 

We all manage to accomplish whatever we give highest priority to each day. Is there a TV show you watch every Tuesday at 7 or every Thursday at 8? You manage to organize your schedule so that you can watch it, don't you? So the question is, is exercise something you REALLY want to do? If it is, then you will find time to fit it in your schedule.

If you really want it to be, but aren't quite there yet, I have some tips for you. The idea is to slip exercise in where it doesn't disrupt your schedule. Soon you will feel the benefits of exercise and want to purposefully add more to your life.

 1) Set up a treadmill, elliptical or exercise bike in front of your TV. (If you have a street bike or mountain bike you can purchase a trainer from your local bike shop for the rear wheel so you can ride inside). Allow yourself the guilty pleasure of watching as much TV as you want as long as you are exercising on a machine. Don't allow yourself to sit in a chair and do nothing, even if it's your favorite show. You're doing double duty with this time and you need not feel guilty for taking time to watch TV. The benefit, you will hardly notice that you are exercising because your mind is distracted.

2) If you are home with the kids during the day or like to watch TV as a family in the evening, make it a 'commercial game'. No one is allowed to sit still during commercials; you must be exercising as long as commercials are playing. If doing it with the family, rotate which person chooses the exercise that you do. Exercise must begin immediately when the commercial starts. Most commercial breaks are 2-3 minutes maximum. With an hour show you will get about 20 minutes of exercise. Examples of exercises to do are: marching in place, jumping jacks, leg lifts, crunches, shoulder presses (use a can of food to add a little weight), bicep curls (use can of food), push-ups, squats, lunges.

Your kids will love the game of commercial exercising. When presented as something we WANT to do and we can't do it until it's a commercial. When the commercial ends we 'have to' stop. They will look forward to the next commercial break to be active with you.

3) Choose your Game Ideally exercise is something you enjoy doing. So get the family or friends out to play softball, football, soccer, kickball, go on a bike ride or hike. Ask around your friends to find out what they like to do. Start or join a volleyball group with your girlfriends.

4) Walk the dog - BRISKLY. Study after study has shown walking to be one of the best overall forms of exercise. The key is to walk briskly, not stopping every few seconds for the dog to sniff around. So, once your dog has taken care of business, get moving. 20-30 minutes of brisk walking will benefit you both. If you don't have a dog, well then, you don't have to wait...get going. 

5) Break it up into two-15 min sessions or three-10 minute sessions. It's better to get a couple short exercise sessions in than none at all. Wake up 20 minutes earlier and go for a 15 minute walk. After dinner go for another 15 minute walk. Almost everyone I talk to agrees that they can find 15 minutes to walk. Or wake up 15 minutes early to walk for 10 minutes, walk another 10 minutes during your lunch hour (even if you only have a 30 min lunch) and 10 minutes after dinner. 

6) Get a pedometer. The goal is 10,000 steps every day. When you look at how many steps you are currently taking you may find yourself looking for ways to sneak some extra steps in. Take the long way around the store, park at the other end of the mall, volunteer to get the mail at work, take a kids outside (or to the park or the mall) for a walk, run circles around the inside of your house till the pedometer turns 10,000. It feels good to accomplish a goal. 10,000 steps every day will have you moving towards better health immediately.

And remember, just 20 minutes of exercise can erase the negative effects of stress.

How do you squeeze exercise into your busy life? What tip can you share with others who may be struggling?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why Do They Keep Saying I Need To Exercise?

Seems like every time we turn around we're being told we need to exercise more. Do you ever think, "Why? What's in it for me?"
Here is a list of 15 reasons to exercise regularly. It is definitely not all inclusive. Is there anything on the list that surprises you-maybe #5, #12 or #15?

1) Exercise reverses detrimental effects of stress.
**Just 20 minutes of exercise can erase the negative effects of stress. Physical activity helps to release stress and helps you handle stress better.  Stress will manifest itself one way or the other. Either you use it as energy to exercise or the stress finds a place to settle internally and will eventually cause dis-ease.

2) Exercise helps burn more calories by keeping your metabolism up.
**When we exercise, our bodies require more energy and our metabolism speeds up to supply that energy. Cardio exercise speeds up your metabolism for several hours after your workout. Exercise also teaches the body how to produce more energy, making it more efficient at burning fat.

3) Exercise helps you fall asleep and get better quality sleep.
**A daily dose of exercise can deepen your sleep and shorten the time it takes to drift off. If you find that exercising late in the day makes you unable to sleep it's because exercise causes an increase in your body's energy. Try exercising earlier in the day.

4) Exercise helps you think better and faster and improves learning ability.
**The same blood that is pumping sluggishly through your body is moving through your brain as well. Cardio activities provide the biggest brain boost. Complicated activities also improve our capacity to learn by enhancing our attention and concentration skills, according to german researchers who found that high school students scored better on high-attention tasks after doing 10 minutes of a complicated fitness routine compared to 10 minutes of regular activity. Those who hadn't exercised at all scored the worst.

5) Exercise slows the aging process and helps you live longer and better.
**According to a study from the University of California at San Fransisco, stressed-out women who exercised vigorously for an average of 45 minutes over a three-day period had cells that showed fewer signs of aging compared to women who were stressed and not active. Studies have shown that regular exercise can actually add years to your life, whether you start exercising at 15 or 50.

6) Exercise makes you feel better/lifts depression.
**Studies show burning off 350 calories three times a week through sustained, sweat-inducing activity can reduce symptoms of depression about as effectively as anti-depressants.Studies show that exercise increases feelings of energy and lessens feelings of fatigue. Being fit includes keeping your muscles, bones, and joints as active and healthy as possible.

7) Exercise can prevent or decrease the effects of heart disease and stroke.
** Daily physical activity can help prevent heart disease and stroke by strengthening your heart muscle, lowering your blood pressure, raising your high-density lipoprotein levels (good cholesterol) and lowering low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol), improving blood flow, and increasing your heart's working capacity.

8) Exercise can prevent or cure noninsulin-dependent diabetes.
**By reducing body fat, physical activity can help to prevent and control this type of diabetes.

9) Exercise can prevent or cure obesity.
**Physical activity helps to reduce body fat by building or preserving muscles mass and improving the body's ability to use calories. Exercise alone is not enough to control weight, however when combined with proper nutrition, it can help control weight and prevent obesity. When you exercise regularly, your body burns more calories even when you're resting. Being active may also lower your percentage of body fat and increase muscle strength and tone.

10) Exercise can prevent or greatly reduce back pain.
**By increasing muscle strength and endurance and improving flexibility and posture and helping improve balance and coordination, regular exercise helps to prevent back pain or hasten it's departure.

11) Exercise can prevent or help osteoporosis.
** Regular weight-bearing exercise promotes bone formation and may prevent many forms of bone loss associated with aging.

12) Exercise reduces the risk for memory loss.
**Research has found an association between increased exercise and lower rate of functional decline in older adults. Aerobic exercise improves reaction time, perception and math skills. Exercise for 60 minutes a week  improves the physical and emotional well-being of patients who already have Alzheimer's disease.

13) Exercise reduces the risk of certain cancers.
**A direct association exists between higher levels of physical activity and lower cancer death rates; there's also a strong relationship between increased physical activity and reduced colon cancer and lower rates of prostate cancer. Physical activity after a cancer diagnosis can aid recovery and improve outcomes.

14) Exercise lowers your risk of catching a cold.
**Women ages 50 to 75 who did 45 minutes of cardio, 5 days a week, had a third as many colds as those who did once-weekly stretching sessions, a University of Washington study found.

15) Exercise improves your vision.
**An active lifestyle can cut your risk of age-related macular degeneration by up to 70%, according to a British Journal of Ophthalmology study of 4,000 adults. This incurable disease makes reading, driving and seeing fine details difficult, and its the most common cause of blindness after age 60.

And here's a bonus...

16) Exercise improves your vocabulary.
**Exercisers who ran just two 3-minute sprints, with a 2-minute break in between, learned new words 20% faster than those who rested. (University of Muenster in Germany study)

I suspect you already knew many of the benefits listed here. Were any of them surprising to you? Which benefits are most motivating to you? Is #5 enough to make you exercise more frequently?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Jump Start Your Metabolism

Do you have a friend who seems to be able to eat what she wants when she wants? She chows down on her fettuccini alfredo while you nibble at your grilled chicken breast and broccoli. While your friend may possess a fast metabolism (a calorie counter's dream!) she's the exception. In fact, most of us have to work hard at keeping our energy-producing systems running efficiently. Whether your metabolism has always been sluggish or is slowing down with age, you can give it a boost by eating the right foods-create an abundance of fuel for energy and prevent weight gain. Here's how.

Getting plenty of protein can fuel your metabolism, causing you to burn an extra 150 to 200 calories a day, says Jeff Hampl, PhD, RD, professor of nutrition at Arizona State University. "Protein is made up mainly of amino acids, which our bodies don't store and are harder to break down (than fat and carbs), so you burn more calories getting rid of them," he explains. But you needn't adopt a protein-only diet. According to the National Academy of Sciences, optimum metabolic function occurs when the body gets 10 percent to 35 percent of total daily calories from lean protein, including chicken, legumes, and soy foods. "Keep in mind, we get protein from some surprising sources, too; even green beans and carrots provide some," Hampl says.

Low-fat dairy products are another good protein pick. Research shows that people who drink milk or eat yogurt or cheese 3-4 times a day lose 70% more body weight than those who consume less dairy. Calcium, along with other substances in dairy, tells your body to burn excess fat faster, according to study author Michael Zemel, PhD, director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. "Calcium supplements alone won't work," he says. It's the bioactive compounds in milk, yogurt, and cheese that work with calcium to produce the fat-burning effects." Vegetarian calcium sources include broccoli and dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and chard.

Carbohydrates get a bad rap from many weight watchers, but they're important for a healthy metabolism. The key is to choose natural, complex carbohydrates, including whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which take longer for your body to digest and absorb than refined carbs. This prevents rapid changes in blood sugar and keeps hunger at bay. In contrast, refined starches - think white breads, rice, and pastas - are more likely to create an insulin surge that promotes fat storage and may drive down your metabolic rate, says Susan Roberts, PhD, professor of nutrition at Tufts University.

And try spicing up your food. Research studies have shown that good-carb chili peppers can temporarily boost your resting metabolic rate. Here's why: Capsaicin, the fiery component found in chili peppers, temporarily stimulates your body to release more stress hormones (such as adrenaline), speeding metabolism.

For an efficient metabolism, the amount of fat you eat is less important than the type. Avoid trans fats, contained in fried foods, margarine, and commercially baked goods made with partially hydrogenated oils, which slow metabolism and cause your body to store fat cells instead of burning them. Seek out good fats, especially omega-3s found in cold-water fish (including salmon, mackerel and sardines), flaxseed oil, walnuts, and hempseed. Omega-3 fatty acids improve insulin action and glucose metabolism in fat and muscle cells, thereby burning more calories.

Foods rich in omega-3 oils also can reduce resistance to leptin, a protein hormone that slows fat-tissue-producing enzymes. Several studies suggest leptin levels directly influence metabolism, including one that found leptin-deficient mice tended toward obesity, while those with high leptin levels had faster metabolism and burned fat more quickly.

A well-balanced diet is the key to an internal engine that burns calories efficiently. To create a healthy metabolism, choose whole grains, vegetables, and fruits; select lean meat and low-fat dairy for protein. Always opt for healthy fats.

If all that sounds simple, it can be. The key to success is making the right ingredients taste good.
My June 13th post includes recipes for three very flavorful salsas that taste great on chicken, salads, baked potatoes, burgers or any white fish.

What is your favorite recipe that has great flavor and includes the healthy foods above?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hot or Sweet - what is your preference?

It depends, you say? I agree!

One of my favorite things to make (and eat!) is fresh salsa. I love to experiment with new variations. There's a flavor and heat intensity (or sweetness) to go with everything. And in my opinion, salsa goes with just about everything!

My garden is overflowing with juicy red tomatoes, hot jalapenos and crunchy anaheim chili's, as well as a plethera of fragrant herbs.Yesterday, as I walked into the kitchen with a large bowl of fresh pickins the creative bug hit. So here are two new salsa recipes and one of my all-time favorites. 

I will also give you some substitution tricks so that if you have at least one or two of the ingredients you can almost always make a salsa with things you have on hand in the kitchen.

If you love mango's but hate peeling and cutting them, check out this post for step by step instructions on How To Peel A Mango In Less Than 90 Seconds! It is super simple, once you see how to do it.

Mango Salsa  (my all-time favorite sweet salsa)

2 Ripe Mangoes, peeled pitted and chopped
1 Large Cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced (if use english cuc don't have to seed)
3 Scallions (green onions), trimmed and sliced thinly (including green stems)
1 Jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/3 C Cilantro Leaves, minced
Juice of 1/2 Lime
Salt, to taste (pinch or two)

Combine all ingredients in bowl Season to taste with salt.
I can eat this salsa by itself as salad, or in lettuce wraps...sooooo good!
Add two pounds medium shrimp (cleaned and cooked) for a great brunch salad. 

Substitution tricks: 1/4 purple onion for scallions, jicama for cucumber, lemon juice for lime juice and 1 Tbsp (heaping) dried cilantro for fresh cilantro 

Sweet with Heat Mango Salsa

1 Ripe Mango, peeled and seeded and chopped
4 Medium Plum Tomatoes (or 2 large regular tomatoes), peeled and finely chopped
1/2 Red Bell Pepper, minced
3 Scallions (green onions), trimmed and sliced thinly (including green stems)
1 Jalapeno, seeded and minced (leave seeds in if you like it hotter)
Juice of 1 Lime
1/2 cup fresh Cilantro
1 Tbsp Honey or Agave
Salt and Pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in bowl. 

Substitution tricks: 2 cups fresh peaches (peeled, seeded and chopped) for mango,1/4 purple onion for scallions, lemon juice for lime juice, 2 Tbsp dried cilantro for fresh cilantro, yellow or orange pepper for red pepper.

BIG note on Mango Salsas: If the mango isn't ripe your salsa may have a sour after taste. 

Fast & Fresh Tomato Salsa

2 Large Ripe Tomatoes, finely chopped
1/4 Large Purple Onion, finely chopped
1 Jalapeno, finely diced (no seeds for medium heat, leave seeds for hot)
Juice of 1 Lime
1/3 C Fresh Cilantro, chopped
Pinch or two of Salt and Pepper (to taste)

If you like a drier salsa, remove seeds from tomato before chopping (I personally leave the seeds in)
Add  an anaheim green chili for crunch and flavor without heat
Add a second jalapeno for 'super hot' salsa 

Substitutions: lemon juice for lime juice,  3-4 scallions (green onions) for purple onion, 1 (heaping) Tbsp dried cilantro for fresh. If salsa is too hot when finishes, add more chopped tomato.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do, let me know.
Do you have a favorite salsa recipe? If so, share it in comments, I'd love to try it!!

For more Excellent Recipes Click Here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Simple does not mean easy! Obsessions and awareness cannot coexist! #BL11

If I could sum up how to lose weight and maintain a healthy weight without being "on a diet" in three sentences, it would be this:
1) Eat when you are hungry
2) Eat what your body wants
3) Stop eating when you are satisfied

If that sounds simplistic to you, it is. It  is very SIMPLE, but it is not EASY! Big difference.

1) Eat when you are hungry: We are so conditioned to eat because "it's mealtime" or because the food is there. I challenge you to pause before you eat next time. Pay attention to your body for a minute to understand if you are actually hungry. Or are you eating because it's dinner time, or someone put the food in front of you, or because you are lonely, depressed or angry.

If you are hungry, eat! If you perceive any of the other reasons, put the food can eat it when you are hungry.

2) Eat what your body wants: If you've determined that you ARE hungry, and eating for the right reason, eat what your body wants, not what looks good to your eyes. There are times when I think 'that donut really looks good', but my body really is asking for protein, or carbs or veggies. I would be much more satisfied with a turkey and veggie sandwich on whole grain bread.

Choose what your body wants, not what your eyes want.

3) Stop when you are satisfied: Notice I didn't say 'stop when you are FULL'. There's a big difference in being satisfied and being full. When you say you want to lose weight but you consistently eat past being satisfied, you are lying to yourself. Satisfaction with food is not difficult to feel, but it does take attention. It does take being willing to slow down because it can happen mid-bite!

And if you then worry that not finishing the food on your plate is a slap in the face of all the hungry people everywhere, you are not living in reality. The truth is that you either throw the food OUT or you throw it IN, but either way it goes to waste! World hunger will not be solved or even helped by you finishing the creamy coleslaw and mashed potatoes on your plate.

If you pay attention to when you are hungry, what your body wants, what you are eating and when you've had enough, you end the obsession. Because OBSESSION AND AWARENESS CANNOT COEXIST!  When you pay attention to yourself you notice the difference between being tired and being hungry, Between being satisfied and being full. Between wanting to scream and wanting to eat.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

So which is it...Quantity or Quality?

Would you argue that the quantity of food you eat is most important? Or would you support the side that says quality overrides quantity?

If you asked me, I would say "it depends!"

If your goal is to lose weight or maintain your weight, then it's QUANTITY that's important.
If your goal is good health, then it's QUALITY that's important.

Right? Well, yes and no.

To lose weight, you definitely need to control the amount of calories (quantity) you take in. If you are at a comfortable weight and want to be healthy then you want to look at which foods will give you nutritionally what your body needs (quality).

But is there overlap between quality and quantity?     

It's true, you can eat three Oreo cookies and get 160 calories. Or, for the same 160 calories you can eat 23 Strawberries or 3 1/2 cups of Watermelon Balls. Which is going to fill you up more? Which is going to be more satisfying?

Most of the time the greater amount of fruit will take care of the sweet tooth and will fill you up due to the sheer quantity you are eating. It will also provide the nutrients that you need for strength and endurance in a stressful world.

For those few times when only the sweet will do, it's important to acknowledge how many calories it has and consciously choose how much you will eat. You can't ignore the calorie count and then complain that you can't lose weight! And you can't eat junk and nutritiously empty calories and expect to feel good!

So, which is it...Quantity or Quality?