Monthly Archives: June 2019

Ideas to Make Your BBQ Dishes Healthier!

With the start of summer, people are prepping their grills in anticipation of neighborhood get-togethers and fantastic food. Sometimes those classic backyard party foods spell disaster for your diet. While potato salad and fried chicken are tempting, there are so many tantalizing alternatives.

Kerry Neville, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, suggests switching out the more traditional but unhealthy options for healthier ones, adjusting recipes to make those classics lower calorie or more nutritious, or simply limiting portions of your favorites if you simply must have a taste.

Whether you are attending a potluck or hosting a backyard bash of your own, you can create healthy dishes that are sure to be a big hit. Neville says, “Try using broccoli slaw instead of coleslaw, toss in some shredded carrots, and toss with a light, low-fat poppy seed or yogurt dressing for a great salad that will be still be crunchy and delicious and lower in calories than the typical coleslaw.”

Summer brings a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables that can be incorporated into your menu plan. If there will be grilling at your outing, provide some fresh zucchini and squash, mushrooms, onions, and peppers to toss on the grill.

The author of the Sonoma Diet, Connie Guttersen, RD, says, “Vegetable salads (excluding lettuces) prepared ahead of time will taste even better the next day after their flavors have had time together.” As a dipping option, she also recommends that you try one of the many whole-grain crisps options available such as oat crisps and whole-grain rice chips instead of high-fat chips.”

Hummus, fat-free bean dip, and salsa are great options that are not deal-breakers for your diet. Consider bringing a simple platter of cut veggies or fruit with a healthy low-fat dip, and celery stuffed with peanut butter or low-fat cheese.

Bring on the Burgers

If burgers are an essential component of your party, consider using lean meat patties or even turkey burgers. The fat content will be much lower. Veggie burgers are also quite tasty and give vegetarians more options at a cookout. Likewise, chicken or turkey hot dogs are also available as are meatballs if you are so inclined.

Most burgers are about 6 ounces, with a payload of 460 calories and 11 grams of saturated fat. And when you count the cheese, bun, and condiments, the typical picnic burger can top upwards of 780 calories! By simply cutting out a couple of ounces to make smaller patties, and using 90% lean meat, you can cut out 231 calories and 6 grams of saturated fat. A turkey burger, even at the larger 6-ounce portion, has a calorie content that is much lower at 289 with only 2.7 grams of saturated fat.

With veggie burgers, it is difficult to provide an accurate calorie content because there are so many different ways and ingredients used to make the patties. However, most veggie burgers without the bun will range from 70-250 calories—still much lower than either lean beef or turkey.

An alternative to burgers and hot dogs is grilled chicken breasts or fish fillets. These are healthy options that taste great and have such versatility when used with marinades and seasonings. One 6-ounce boneless and skinless chicken breast, grilled, will total around 276 calories. Grill a 6-ounce portion of fish and save even more calories with about a 185-calorie total.

What About Wraps?

Another favorite is sandwich wraps. Many people choose a tortilla instead of two slices of bread, thinking they are making a healthier choice. This is actually not true in most cases. Wraps are more condensed than bread and contain a higher fat and calorie content. Two slices of bread contain on average between 70-150 calories, depending on bread type. A tortilla is typically 170-200 calories. So, skip the wraps and just use whole-grain bread instead. You could set out a sandwich construction station where people build their own sandwiches using healthy sandwich stuffers and toppings.

Beverages

Picnics and potlucks usually have lots of soft drinks, sweet tea, and other high-sugar beverage options. Steer clear of those calorie busters, and opt for sparkling, flavored zero-calorie water, unsweetened iced tea, fresh ice water, or other low calorie beverages. Ice water with fresh lemon juice and a little no-calorie sweetener makes a lovely lemonade. If you are providing alcohol, choose spritzers and low-calorie options in lieu of calorie-heavy beer and mixed drinks.

Desserts

Many of us make it through a backyard party congratulating ourselves for our healthy food choices, right up until we see the dessert table. Then it all goes to naught. By choosing guilt-free desserts, you can still satisfy your sweet tooth without regretting it later. How about dishes of berries or peaches with light whipped topping or juicy slices of watermelon? One cup of peaches contains 61 calories. A cup of watermelon has only 47. One cup of strawberries has 49 calories.

If baked goods are a must, go with light angel food cake topped with berries or light whipped topping. One slice of angel food cake (1/12th of 10” diameter) has only 129 calories. By contrast, chocolate cake has 352 calories per slice (1/12th of 9” diameter), and one slice of pecan pie (1/8th of a 9”diameter) packs a punch with 503 calories.

A simple fruit platter with cantaloupe and different types of melons offers a cooling dessert for those wanting to make healthy choices. For a tropical twist, include mango, papaya, pineapple, kiwi, and coconut on your dessert platter.

Think a fruit platter isn’t exciting enough? What better way to cool off on a hot day than with popsicles? Just freeze blended fruit with Greek yogurt and honey in popsicle molds to produce a delicious low-calorie dessert that will cool everyone off and definitely won’t be ordinary!

Bringing healthy food to a potluck or providing those options at your own party is always appreciated, and it is something you can feel good about. You are helping yourself and others as well in your journey to better health.

Alternative Low-Impact Exercise Options

Maybe you are bored with the same old exercise routine and want to try something different. Perhaps you are limited in your exercise choices for health reasons. Whatever the cause, here are some ideas for alternative exercise that might be perfect for a change of pace.

Yoga

Originating in ancient India, yoga has become a popular form of exercise in the modern world. Yoga is widely appealing because just about anyone can do it. This low-impact exercise is suitable for all ages and fitness levels. You may have images of people contorted into strange positions when you think of yoga. The basics in yoga are that you move your body into very specific postures, while focusing on breathing and energy. There is a strong focus on meditation, and many people around the world use yoga as a form of meditation.

The positions, or asanas, vary in complexity and can help develop flexibility, balance, strength, endurance, improve posture, increase core muscle strength, and release tension. Many proponents also claim it can ease pain, improve sleep, enhance mood, prevent cartilage and joint breakdown, lower blood pressure and blood sugar, increase immunity, and help regulate adrenal gland function.

There are many different styles of yoga for every lifestyle. Some classes may be done in a darkened candle-lit room as is sometimes done in Vinyasa yoga. Some rooms where yoga is practiced may be brightly lit with music pumping in the background, as in Power yoga. Other yoga classes may be conducted in a heated room with raised humidity, such as hot yoga and Bikram yoga. Contact your local fitness center to inquire about which types of yoga classes are offered, and they can help you determine which style would best suit your lifestyle and goals. Whatever style you choose to practice, wear non-restrictive clothing to sessions, and bring a towel and some water.

Pilates

Pilates was developed by Joseph Pilates in the 1920s to help injured athletes return to physical activity safely. At first glance, Pilates may seem similar to yoga because it is also low-impact, and there is a strong focus on different body positions. There is no spiritual aspect to Pilates, and the attention is solely on strengthening muscles, improving flexibility and postural alignment. Most Pilates movements target the core, although a full Pilates workout will work all areas of the body.

The benefits you may see from doing Pilates are improved posture and balance, flexibility and muscle strength, stronger core muscles, relaxation, and lower anxiety, among other things.

Typical Pilates workouts are 45-90 minutes long and may be done on thick mats (thicker than traditional yoga mats) or on machines called “reformers.” Reformers have a large frame with sliding platforms and a stationary footboard. There are straps or cords with springs and pulleys to provide resistance.

When you go to your first class, you may hear some terms that are unfamiliar such as “powerhouse,” which refers to the center of the body where all the power originates to perform movements. Another term, “peel through your spine,” describes slow movement within the spine from vertebra to vertebra. As with yoga, it is a good idea to wear non-restrictive clothing that will facilitate stretching and bring a towel and water.

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese form of martial arts that has evolved into a non-competitive, slow series of focused and graceful movements that flow from one to the next. This type of exercise involves a lot of stretching while focusing on breathing deeply. As with yoga, there is a meditative aspect to Tai Chi. It is different from yoga in that your body is in constant but gentle motion. There are different styles of Tai Chi; some are more focused on health improvement and maintenance, while others focus more on the martial arts aspect of Tai Chi.

Because it is low-impact, Tai Chi puts minimal stress on muscles and joints—making it a safe form of exercise for any age or fitness level. Many people who are unable to exercise in traditional ways due to injury or physical limitations find that Tai Chi is an excellent alternative that allows them to stay fit and improve balance, flexibility, energy, agility, and stamina. Tai Chi is also practiced as a way to improve muscle strength and definition, to improve mood and decrease stress, anxiety, and depression.

Five Reasons You Need a Workout Buddy.

If you have started a new exercise regimen and are trying to make healthy changes in your lifestyle, kudos to you! Did you know that in addition to a set of earbuds, fit-bit or pedometer, favorite playlist, perhaps new shoes and workout clothes, you are missing something important? That would be your workout buddy. Even if you are a loner who prefers to exercise by yourself, you should really give serious consideration to finding another person to share your workout.

Here are some reasons why:

  1. The obvious reason most people find a workout buddy is motivation. On those days when you aren’t quite feeling it, and you don’t want to go to the gym or face whatever fitness challenges await you,  a workout buddy can hold you accountable and keep you from slacking off. It’s important that you choose someone who will push you and not let your laziness convince him/her to also skip the workout. Make sure your workout buddy has a schedule that is compatible with your own, or it’s doomed from the start.
  2. Your workout will be safer with a partner. If you are working out in the gym, your buddy can help you avoid injury. He/she can spot you when bench-pressing, and keep an eye on your form. Even the most experienced can lose focus and fall into improper form when attention is on completing repetitions. Having someone with you is an important way to avoid that and prevent potential injuries. Even if you are exercising outside the gym, doing it with a workout buddy is always safer in case you run into trouble.
  3. The competition will keep you running at full force, giving it your all. Many of us have a competitive streak, and working out with a partner helps to keep you at the top of your game because we don’t want to be the “weakest” link. There is actually a term for this; it’s called the Köhler Effect, and there have been studies  about it. They proved that when people work out with a partner who is in better shape than they are, they tend to perform better. So, choosing a buddy who is fitter than you will also motivate you to work out harder and longer than you might on your own.
  4. Most of us are creatures of habit. We tend to fall into the same routine, and after a while, it can get boring. Your workout buddy can introduce you to new exercises and new paths if you are into running, cycling,  walking, and other things that keep your workout fresh and interesting. Sharing what you know with each other can introduce variety into your exercise and make it more fun.
  5. Last, but not least, working out with a buddy is like a free therapy session. More than likely, you will eventually begin to share stories about things that happen at work or home,  and it’s a chance to get things off your chest and hear another person’s perspective on the situations you are dealing with. Even if you don’t feel comfortable sharing personal information, just having someone to chat with and share a few laughs while you exercise keeps you socially engaged, boosts your immune system, and decreases stress hormones.

So, start thinking about who would make a good workout buddy, and go ask him or her to meet up for your next workout!