Walking the Dogs, Part of a Healthy Lifestyle

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Where we used to live I never needed to walk the dogs. We had a back yard. Now we live in a condo and there is no backyard. So no matter the weather we need to take the dogs out regularly during the day. Usually it is just for quick jaunts along the walking path beside our condo so they can relieve themselves.

We have two English Springer Spaniels--Winnie and Lillie. They love to be outside and can manage to romp and play and sniff and ferret out any moving creature no matter where they are nor for how brief a period of time. They are high energy, joyful dogs. They need walking.

A little over a year ago when I decided to leave my commuter job and work from home, I started to take midday walks with the dogs. A real walk for at least 30 minutes. I found it was great for me and great for the dogs. I got to clear my head, enjoy a midday break and problem solve while enjoying the beauty around me. The dogs got to burn off some energy and enjoy being outside more than a couple of minutes.

Now when it gets to be around two o'clock in the afternoon, Winnie and Lillie are all too eager to remind me it is time for our walk! They are great alarm clocks. They thrive on routine. So do I.

I have found there are so many benefits to walking the dogs:
   It gets me moving and up from sitting at my desk hour after hour
   It helps me clear my head so I can get some fresh thinking about what I am working on
   It is a way for me to fit in some exercise in the middle of the day...every bit helps!
   It keeps my dogs happy and calmer which makes me happier and calmer!
   It is part of an overall exercise routine
   It reinforces a positive Lifestyle
   And, of course, it is fun!

Diversity in Meals with Rice and Beans

Monday, January 30, 2012
As I have mentioned before, my son has challenged us to eat at least two vegetarian meals for dinner each week. An old standby for a vegetarian meal is beans and rice. I ate a lot of beans and rice when I was in the Peace Corps so I have it stuck in my head that there is only one way to prepare this kind of dish. I have discovered there are actually all variety of dishes that include beans and rice. There is not just one flavor or visual presentation either. It has been fun to discover a variety of dishes. Some of our favorites are:

Red Beans and Rice   p372   400 Calorie Fix   by Liz Vaccariello
Red Beans and Rice

Italian Rice and Beans   p128   The 1200-Calorie-a-Day Menu Cookbook
Italian Rice and Beans

Hoppin' John   p82   CookingLight Slow Cooker
Blackeyed Peas with Rice

There are also many chilis, stews and soups that combine beans and rice. The discovery of more favorites continues!

Great Healthy Living Quote #15

Friday, January 27, 2012
"The secret to a long and healthy life is to be stress-free. Be grateful for everything you have, stay away from people who are negative, stay smiling and keep running."

by Mr Fauja Singh, Oldest Marathoner in the World

Upside Down Dinner

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Part of being mindful of what you eat means not indulging in traditional breakfasts. The problem with this for me is that I love breakfast foods. A hot breakfast also qualifies as "comfort food" for me. So, every once-in-a-while, I fix what we call in my family an "Upside Down Dinner". Ideally it has to have sausage or bacon, pancakes and eggs.

Saturday night was one of those nights. I had been at a board retreat all day which was a couple hours drive to get there and get back. I was booped and in no mood for fixing our planned dinner. It was time for an Upside Down Dinner.

I fixed turkey link sausage (I keep it in my freezer), sunny-side up eggs, Bisquick Heart Healthy pancakes and added real maple syrup. I figured out the appropriate quantities so I ended up with a meal for 470 calories.

3 Bisquick Heart Healthy pancakes-    190 calories
3 Turkey link sausage-                            110 calories
1 Egg, sunny-side up-                               70 calories
2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup                   100 calories 
                              Total Calories             470

Enjoying a Summer Meal in Winter

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Every once in a while, I have the urge for a light and breezy meal in the midst of winter. It just hits me and I have to go with it. The most recent break out meal was a baked barbecue chicken with corn-on-the-cob and sliced watermelon. Almost made me feel hot and sweaty! It tasted great. I found the recipe in 400 Calorie Fix by Liz Vaccariello on page 287. I found similar recipes on EatingWell.com. The entire meal was 445 calories.

Everybody liked the meal. It satisfied the pangs for summer.

Eating Healthy and Saving Money, Too!

Monday, January 23, 2012


Eating Healthy on a Budget

I have been making weekly menus and weekly grocery lists for years. As a working mom with three active kids, it was the only way I could figure out how to get food on the table each night. I also wanted to work within a budget.

Eating healthy can sometimes get a bad rap from people who are budget conscious. There is a common misbelief that fresh foods cost more. If everything you eat is out of a can, adding fresh foods may add more cost...but the reality is this day and age is that more and more of us eat out. Eating on the go and in restaurants is expensive and much harder on our budgets than buying fresh foods at the grocery store.

The truth is it is possible for us to live within a budget and eat healthy. It does probably require that we eat more meals at home. And it definitely requires that we take time each week to get organized, pre-planning our menus, grocery lists and the weekly trip to the grocery store.

Pre-planning allows us to:

    Design our menus for the meals we are going to prepare during the week. This saves a lot of time in the long run because we don't have to spend time each day deciding what we are going to fix, what we might already have at home as well as what we will need to buy at the store, along with then going to the store again to buy what you do need. Not planning costs us time but it also cost real dollars in wasteful buying and gas money.

   By taking the time to make a weekly menu, you can also think through the types of food you should be eating throughout the week. We try to eat fish at least two times a week and vegetarian two times a week for dinner. Pre-planning allows me to stagger the types of meat throughout the week which makes the meals more interesting and appealing to me and my family.

   It allows us to take advantage of weekly sales on meat, vegetables and staples. By sitting down with the Sunday paper and reviewing the weekly sales at your local grocery store and the coupons available, you can plan meals to take advantage of them, allowing you to save money.

   It gives us the opportunity to buy in bulk. If I end up with two meals with chicken breasts being used, for instance, I can buy the value pack which saves me money. When I get home I repackage to the amounts I need per menu and put it in the freezer for later in the week.

   Pre-planning and using recipes allows us to think through what vegetable we can buy frozen instead of fresh. Believe it or not, there are many vegetables that are equally if not more nutritious frozen because they hold their nutrients better. Check out this EatingWell.com article if you want more information on this idea. Frozen vegetables work well in stews, soups, casseroles, frittatas...actually, just about anything! Using some frozen vegetables, especially in the winter months, can really help in saving some money. This is true for fruits as well.

   Thinking through what you will buy at the grocery store can help with impulse buying. If it is not on the list you shouldn't buy it. The statistics on impulse buying are frightening. We waste so much money buying things we don't need. Making a list ahead of time will help avoid this bottomless pit which will keep money in your pocket and less unwanted calories in your stomach.

   By getting your meals organized for the week you end of with one trip instead of six or seven to the grocery store. With gas prices as high as they are, this can definitely positively impact your wallet.

Making use of all these pre-planning tips can add up to a significant amount in savings. I found some other websites that might be helpful to you in your efforts to be more economical in your grocery shopping. Here they are:

Money Saving Grocery Ideas

Eating Healthy On A Budget

Hope this helps!

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Making a "Right-sized" meal with Sushi

Friday, January 20, 2012

I try to change up my menus each week. It makes planning interesting for me and hopefully makes the eating experience for my family tasty and satisfying. This week I am concentrating on sauces...like soy sauce.

Since I plan balanced meals which fit within a calorie range it means I learn a lot when designing menus. An eye-opener for me this week was how many calories there are on average in a piece of sushi. It was humbling.  The veggie sushi has a little less but still has about 40 calories per piece. The meat sushi has a fairly big range but if you stick to the simple Tuna or Salmon sushi, for instance, it runs about 50 calories per piece. As recommended by Liz Vaccariello in 400 Calorie Fix I gave each person 4 veggie (without avocado) sushi and 4 fish (salmon & tuna) sushi. I added 1 cup of edamame and 1/2 cup blueberries.

Having never eaten less than 15 pieces of sushi at a sitting, I was wondering how satisfied I would feel by just eating 8 pieces. Amazing how I continue to discover how my own habits and expectations influence the quantity of what I eat...without me ever challenging them. So this was a test.

I am happy to report that 8 pieces of sushi, along with the other parts of the meal, was indeed plenty. I felt full and satisfied. I think having the others eating the same amounts also helped. I wasn't being denied something others were having. There were more edamame and blueberries for others to eat but the sushi was the same. Total calories for the meal was 517 which included 2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce. An indulgence in salt but worth it on occasion.

I am very happy to have discovered that sushi can remain part of my "regular" and "right-sized" meal planning. Made my daughter happy too!

White-fleshed produce gets a positive plug

Thursday, January 19, 2012
I just read an interesting article about white-fleshed produce. A recent study shows that they defend against stroke...by a lot!

It is a Dutch study that found that eating fruits and vegetables like cucumbers, cauliflower and bananas appears to reduce the risk of stroke by 50 percent...provided you get at least 6 ounces or one large apple's worth each day. The "results were surprising," says study author Linda Oude Griep, who found that only foods with white flesh had any effect on stroke risk, even though her fellow nutritionists tend to recommend foods with rich coloring, such as sweet potatoes, beets, and kale.

From The Week, December 30, 2011 - January 6, 2012

English Muffins--Homemade & Healthy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ringing in the New Year always inspires me to do new things. Last weekend I was thinking about what to have for a Sunday breakfast. Eggs Benedict came to mind...something I have not had for a while. From there I pondered the English Muffin. It occurred to me to wonder how they are actually made. Do you use a mold? Why do they look browned and toasted on both sides? While still lying in bed, I asked my husband if he knew anything about English Muffins. He said he really didn't but how about looking it up in the ultimate encyclopedia, "The Joy of Cooking"? We did. Turns out you can use a mold, but you don't need to...and you grill the bread on the stove top, not bake them in the oven. Who knew!?

I wanted to find a healthy version of a English Muffin which I found on the internet- Whole Wheat English Muffin with flaxseed, rolled oats, caraway and wheat germ. They turned out really well. I only had a biscuit sized cutter so they were a little smaller. We figured out the calories. Making 15 muffins, each is 118 calories. Not bad!


Not My Mama's Meals- Bobby Deen comes clean!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012
Finally! I am so glad to see that Paula Deen's son, Bobby, is now acknowledging how unhealthy his mom's food is for everyday eating. She is one that continues to super-feed  our super-sized culture. I saw this video on The Today Show. It actually looked pretty good! Here is the link:Healthier Paula Deen Classics.

Only thing missing are the calories for each dish. My rule is to never cook a recipe that does not have the calories listed. Hope he ends up listing calories for his recipes.

Bobby Deen now has his own show- Not My Mama's Meals- I think all of us are in the same boat. In order to be healthy and live a healthier lifestyle we have to change the way we eat and how we were taught to eat my our moms who reflected a sensibility about food from another, less healthy, era. 

Yoga is So Good for Our Health

Monday, January 16, 2012


Yoga So Good for Our Health

There are so many good resources out there. I love roaming the internet for good tips and new information. Sometimes, though, it is nice to be reminded of some long standing resources that continue to provide updates and good guidance. This excerpt came from a recent newsletter for the American Heart Association. I signed up for it and its free! In fact, they have many to choose from.

I want to get back to doing Yoga again. It is going back on my calendar today! Here is why:

"Traditional yoga is done by slowly stretching the body into a variety of poses while focusing on breathing and meditation. “Yoga is designed to bring about increased physical, mental and emotional well-being,” said M. Mala Cunningham, Ph.D., counseling psychologist and founder of Cardiac Yoga. “Hand in hand with leading a heart-healthy lifestyle, it really is possible for a yoga-based model to help prevent or reverse heart disease. It may not completely reverse it, but you will definitely see benefits.”

 AHA Recommendation for Physical Activity
For overall health benefits to the heart, lungs and circulation, perform any moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity using the following guidelines:
  • Get the equivalent of at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic physical activity (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week.
  • You can incorporate your weekly physical activity with 30 minutes a day on at least five days a week.
  • Physical activity should be performed in episodes of at least 10 minutes, and preferably, it should be spread throughout the week.
  • Include flexibility and stretching exercises.
  • Include muscle strengthening activity at least two days each week.

Yoga can be used to improve heart health as a preventive measure or after facing a cardiac event, said Cunningham, who has taught yoga for 40 years and is also president of Positive Health Solutions.

Why  yoga?Thinking prevention? As part of an overall healthy lifestyle, Cunningham said yoga can help lower blood pressure, increase lung capacity, improve respiratory function and heart rate, and boost circulation and muscle tone. It can also improve your overall well-being while offering strength-building benefits.

Yoga also has proven benefits for those who have faced cardiac arrest, heart attack or other heart event, according to Cunningham. “The acute emotional stress of such an event certainly has a significant and adverse effect on the heart,” she said. “That’s where yoga can be a tremendous benefit to manage the stress.” For example, Cunningham said that half of bypass surgery patients go through depression, facing emotions ranging from anxiety to grieving. “All these things come into play when you’ve got a potentially chronic disease to manage for the rest of your life.”

Many Resources for Learning Yoga

The calming benefits of yoga may help with that — and you may see benefits right away. After your first yoga class, your blood pressure will likely be lower, you’ll be relaxed and you’ll feel better, Cunningham said.

 Long-term, sustained yoga may play a role in improving overall health, according to Cunningham.

 “The more energy you put into it, the more you’re going to get out of it,” she said. “After 12 weeks, you may see a dramatic increase in exercise functionality, and blood pressure and cholesterol levels may decrease.”

Yoga Improves Your Flexibility

If you have heart disease, diabetes or are obese, check with your doctor before starting a yoga program. “I highly recommend going to a qualified and trained cardiac medical yoga instructor,” Cunningham said.  To find an instructor in your area, check with your local cardiac rehab center or visit cardiacyoga.com."

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7 Easy Ways to Eat Less This Year

Friday, January 13, 2012
A friend forwarded on this information. I think these are great reminders and fun tips to pass along. Some I have not heard of before. In the New Year I always like to try new things so I plan on trying out some of the suggestions. How hard is it to eat with your opposite hand, for instance? I especially like this list because it references the studies done that validate most of the recommendations. Here they are:

1. Grin yourself thin
To maintain a healthy weight, do something to make yourself smile. Scientists in Brazil say serotonin, the "happy hormone," reduces appetite, and higher levels of it make you more likely to burn fat.

2. Crack some nuts
In an Eastern Illinois University study, people who were given shelled (that is, naked) pistachios ate 211 calories' worth while those who had the in-shell variety (you crack 'em open) consumed only 125 calories in the same sitting.

3. Put a fork in it
Your non-dominant hand, that is. You'll be more mindful of what you're eating and probably end up consuming less. (Using chopsticks works, too, especially if you're not a pro.) Just have plenty of napkins on hand.

4. Use a cheat plate
Consider using a smaller plate like a 9 inch plate or salad plate to make the food you eat look bigger as well as limit the amount you can put on your plate. Going even further, there are portion/diet plates available that demarcate on the plate the foods that should go on it and in what amounts.

5. Add protein to your bison herd
Grill up a 3-ounce buffalo steak every now and then. It has only 148 calories and 4 grams of fat. Plus, the 26 grams of lean protein in that bison steak can keep you satisfied enough to decline dessert.

6. Be an early bird
Late risers not only eat more calories (almost 200 more at dinner and another 375 after 8 p.m.) but also eat more unhealthily than those who wake up around 8 a.m., according to a Northwestern University study.

7. Eat with a woman
Men consume 37 percent less when they eat with a wife or girlfriend than when they dine out with their buddies, according to researchers at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Sweat, Sweat, Sweat!

Thursday, January 12, 2012
I went to my second spinning class today. I made it to the end of the hour! And I really kept up with the class...meaning I didn't leave, stop peddling or make up my own routines! I am sure others were peddling with more resistance than I did but I did do what I was told, when I was told it...sort of pleasant not to have to think!

I was glad to have the kleenex. I also remembered the water bottle. However, I forgot the heart monitor watch! I see now that I need to have that tote set up just for spinning with all the necessary paraphernalia I need for each class so I don't forget anything.

This class time was at lunch time so my blood sugar level was really low by the end. I came home and drank a lot of water and ate a lot of protein. It did not take long to even things out.

I have decided to name this year "The Year of Sweat"! I nearly didn't have any body fluids left by the end of class! Who knew I could sweat like that!?! I hope this is an indication that I will be losing more weight and building up more endurance this winter....that is the goal!

My First Spinning Experience!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012
I did it! Yesterday was my first time to spin. I got all geared up with my bike shorts and strapless heart monitor watch. The bike shoes are so far a bust since the ones I ordered were too small (story of my life! :) Never fear, I wore my apple green, slim Brooks running shoes. I forgot the water bottle...big mistake...I will need to remember it for next time.

I set my bike up, adjusting the handles and seat for me. Got into the groove of some fun "Studio 54" style music and started spinning....and spinning....and spinning. Pacing myself was my real concern. I made it 45 minutes out of the hour time frame. Not bad for an overweight first timer. I was able to spin on a light gear and heavy gear. I also stood up and spun (is that how you say it in past tense?) which really challenged my quads. I clearly did not extend myself to the max because I only got my heart rate up to 148.  Good to know I can keep going and getting better and have room to max out, right? I did sweat a lot; dripping like the best of the bunch. My new monitor watch seemed to work fine as did my tennis shoes and bike shoes. The "Y" exercise towel was critical. I wished I had had Kleenex so I think I'll make sure to tuck some in my shorts for the next class. I think I am set to get into the groove.

The only part of me that is really sore today are my quads. I am looking forward to trying it out  again tomorrow. I am still amazed I really did it!

The Trick to Weight Loss

Tuesday, January 10, 2012
The reality is, there is no "trick" or "quick fix" to weight loss. All the fades we follow, all the deprivations we force on ourselves are really a pattern of avoidance. An avoidance of the truth about weight loss and weight maintenance. There are no quick fixes. There are no miracle cures. It is just plain hard work and adhering to mindfulness.

I am glad that more and more experts are coming out and proclaiming this fact and truth. For so long I think they have been perpetrators in the myth of "quick" weight loss and new "miracle" diets. I don't totally blame them though, many experts just wanted to soften the blow of reality or wanted to nudge us towards better health. This is one area where entitlement has no power or relevance. No one can give us a lean body or good health. Only we can give it to ourselves. Bummer? Not really. Sometimes facing the truth is the most empowering moment in our lives. Easy? Don't think so. I do think it can get easier...even habit forming. I no longer wish for a "quick fix" or "magic bullet".

What I do know is that I need to fit in exercise everyday. I need to weigh everyday. I need to measure my food and track my snacks. When I do, I don't gain weight. When I don't, my weight starts creeping up again. It did during the holidays. Now I have to REALLY pay attention! I have lost 50 lbs in the past year. I want to keep this off and lose another 15 this year. 

If you want to read a good, challenging article about how we should face the truth about our eating habits, I recommend visiting the blog of Michael R Eades, MD. It didn't depress me, it got me energized!

I am going to Spin for the first time today...wish me luck!

New Study Showing Amount of Exercise Needed Per Beverage Drunk

Monday, January 9, 2012
A friend recently sent me this study done by John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The researchers put up signs in neighborhood convenience stores next to specific beverages to show people how much exercise it would take to burn off the calories for those high calorie drinks. They focused on drinks becasue they are the largest single source of calories. They did see a reduction in sales of sugary beverages and an increase in the sale of bottled water during their study. Here is the link- Calorie Signs For Sugary Beverages. It is humbling to think that a 150-pound person would need to jog for 40 minutes to burn off a 20oz sugary beverage!

What do you think? Do you think a sign next to a food or beverage illustrating what it would take to exercise off that food if you ate it would alter your buying and consumption habits? 


Great Healthy Living Quote #14--to help with our New Year's Resolutions!

Friday, January 6, 2012
"By pairing something we love with something that we dislike but that is good for us, we might be able to harness desire with outcome-- and thus overcome some of the problems with self-control we face everyday."

From Predictably Irrational, page 166, by Dan Ariely

Easy Ways To Increase Your Metabolism

Wednesday, January 4, 2012
 I am finding as I get older my metabolism is getting slower and slower. It is hard for me to burn the calories I need to keep the weight off, not to mention wanting to still eat the foods I love. Especially during the winter time I find I am even more sluggish. Here are some tips I found on the Reader's Digest website, which includes a video, I thought made sense, looked doable, and could be helpful to us all.

1. Put 5 rubber-bands around your wrist every morning to keep track of your water intake. That is how many 16 oz bottles of water you should be drinking each day in order to help burn more calories. Research shows that if you increase your water intake by 1.5 liters a day over a year you will end up burning 17,400 more calories. Since a lot of the calories burned when you drink water is because your body needs to warm the water up, make sure your water is nice and cold when you drink it.

2. Sip a couple of cups of coffee throughout the day. Studies find that the caffeine in the coffee increases the rate at which your body burns calories.

3. Turn up the heat with hot peppers. Very spicy foods can temporarily fire up your metabolism.

4. Eat 5 small meals a day instead of 3 large meals. By eating every few hours you keep your metabolism revved up and ensures your body doesn't slow down to hold on to calories between meals.

5. Don't starve yourself. Eating less can often back fire by causing your metabolism to slow down and burn less calories.

Great Healthy Living Quote #13

Monday, January 2, 2012
"I suspect that over the next few decades, real improvements in life expectancy and quality of life are less likely to be driven by medical technology than by improved decision making."

From Predictably Irrational, page 166, by Dan Ariely