I’ve only ever been in a LuluLemon once, and I quickly left the store. Can’t remember why exactly, but, I definitely didn’t get the warm and fuzzies. After reading this article on Huffington Post, Lululemon’s Cult Culture: Get Fit or Die Trying, I have a better idea of what intuitively “creeped” me out. Oh yeah, and apparently they don’t carry sizes 10 and up!

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19 calories in an entire cup of rashishes

Over this past winter, I may have gotten a little carried a away with Food Should Taste Good – Sweet Potato Chips. While I wholeheartedly endorse these chips (12 chips = 140 calories, 3 grams of fiber), I’m thinking it is time to rein it in a bit now that bathing suit season is fast approaching.

Enter my formerly “forgotten” vegetable, the humble radish. My latest use for radishes is as a replacement for a chip. They are crisp and peppery, and great as a dip for hummus.

1 cup of radish slices for a measly 19 calories!

The key to getting a radish to impersonate a chip is to slice it thinly. I do use a mandoline on the second setting (3mm) so that the radish is thick enough to not wobble and allows it to support a nice amount of hummus. It’s also a good idea to choose pretty hefty size radishes if you can.

But, here’s the really good news about radishes. 1 cup of sliced radishes has about 19 calories! In terms of vitamins and minerals, this amount would give you a nice bump of potassium (270 mg) and a good amount of vitamin C (17 mg), not to mention some serious hits of B vitamins for the day.

These radishes are guilt-free, cheap, and a healthy replacement for our usual dippers.

What are your favorite healthy dippers?

After yoga class last night I was in the supermarket picking up some random items, and going against all the advice I usually give people, I was shopping while hungry. Probably, my only saving grace was that I was also extremely tired,  so I didn’t spend too much time shopping. I found myself craving dairy for some reason, which prompted my rediscovering a drink I used to enjoy called kefir.

Kefir is a cultured milk drink which contains different cultures than yogurt. The process involves culturing fresh milk with kefir grains, which are tiny, irregularly shaped, yellow-white, hard granules that look like small cauliflower blossoms. The kefir grains are a mass of bacteria, yeasts, polysaccharides, and other products of bacterial metabolism, together with curds of milk protein. The types of bacteria and yeasts used to make kefir may change, depending on geographic location.

One cup provides almost half a days calcium!

One cup provides almost half a days calcium!

The brand I picked up is called Evolve Kefir, strawberry flavor. Evolve says they use the following cultures/probiotics:

  1. Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis
  2. Lactococcus lactis subsp. cremoris
  3. Lactococcus lactis subsp. lactis biovar. diacetylactis
  4. Leuconostoc mesenteroides subsp.cremoris
  5. Lactobacillus acidophilus
  6. Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp bulgaricus
  7. Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp lactis
  8. Lactobacillus rhamnosus
  9. Lactobacillus casei
  10. Bifidobacterium lactis
  11. Streptococcus thermophilus

As we have heard several times, probiotics are believed to be able to restore the microbial balance disrupted by antibiotics and infections. There is also some evidence indicating kefir may be helpful to those people who are lactose intolerant.

While this Evolve kefir drink is definitely NOT a diet drink, it’s definitely a better option than having a soda, and would actually make a good post exercise recovery drink on account of some good statistics:

In a 1 cup serving you get:

180 calories

2 g fat

31 g of carbohydrate

5 g fiber (provided by dextrins)

27 g sugar (10 g of which can be assumed to be the milk sugar, since the plain flavor only has 10 g of sugar)

10 g of protein

40% of the daily recommended for Calcium

10% of the daily recommended for Vitamin A

10% of the daily recommended for Vitamin D

Other than having milk in my coffee or cereal, I’m not a big fan of milk as a beverage (unless its with a slice of chocolate cake :-). The kefir, on the other hand, I would drink with no problem. Again, the only caveat is that you are drinking about 180 calories per serving (but, the plain flavor has just 120 calories). Try it as part of healthy mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack, it’s a lot less effort than putting a bunch of ingredients in a blender and making a smoothie (plus no clean up).

References

Hertzler SR, Clancy SM. Kefir improves lactose digestion and tolerance in adults with lactose maldigestion. J of the American Dietetic Association. Volume 103, Issue 5, Pages 582-587

I definitely get riled up about the ridiculous amounts of sodium found in most processed foods. It’s not that I don’t like the taste of salt, because I most definitely do like it. But, I prefer to be in control of how much sodium I consume, instead of the food companies and restaurants.

Though I don’t have a problem with high blood pressure, I am hypersensitive (or maybe just hyper-aware) to the fluid retention effects of excess sodium, that is to say, I really notice a difference in my body when I have gone over the limit.

I find it extremely hard to find processed foods which contain less than 300 mg per serving, and when I do, often they really don’t taste that great. I think part of the problem is that as a society we have become so accustomed to foods that have a lot of sodium in them, we only notice when it’s not there.

I consider these examples to be either unexpected sources of sodium or unnecessarily high or both:

Watch your servings of this stuff or your pants won't fit the next day.

Watch your servings of this stuff or your pants won't fit the next day.

  • A slice of Pepperidge Farm 100% Natural Whole Wheat Bread has 130mg/per slice
  • A 6 ounce Stonyfield Low fat Vanilla Yogurt has 105 mg/per serving
  • 1 slice of Kraft Deli Deluxe American Slice has 340mg/serving
  • A 1/2 cup serving of Classico Vodka sauce has 490 mg/serving
  • Fiber One’s Cottage Cheese, a 1/2 cup serving has 460 mg sodium.

Recently,  the CDC posted an article stating that most Americans should consume less sodium than the recommended, which is <2300 mg sodium per day (which is about 1  teaspoon of salt). “Most Americans” is referring to people who are either:

  1. Over the age of 40
  2. African American
  3. Have high blood pressure

If you fall into one of these groups, the CDC recommends that you should consume 1,500 mg/day or less. Just to put things into perspective, the average American consumes 3,436 mg sodium daily.

It’s not that we don’t need sodium in our diets, because we do. It has many functions in the body, such as:

  • Maintaining electrochemical charges across cell membranes
  • Helping with absorption of certain ingredients
  • Maintaining (or raising it) our blood pressure (a rule of thumb is that water follows salt, so, this is why too much salt leads to fluid retention)

"Bang for Your Buck", a good amount of questionable fiber and lots of salt

"Bang for Your Buck", a good amount of questionable fiber and lots of salt

Consuming foods with lower amounts of sodium is relatively easy. Most fresh fruits and vegetables are very naturally low in sodium, as are most fresh protein sources.

I highly recommend reading food labels, if you don’t already. It’s actually like a game to me at this point, because the amounts you see sometimes are so astronomical, you have to wonder how bad the food tasted that all of that sodium needed to be added in.

Some processed foods are labeled with the following:

Sodium free = < 5 mg per serving

Very low =  < 35 mg per serving

Low = < 140 mg per serving

Reduced sodium= 25% less than original formula

No added salt =  No additional salt has been added during processing

While I realize that not everyone has issues with high blood pressure, and for some people with high blood pressure, it has nothing to do with salt consumption, I do think from the perspective of maintaining one’s weight on a daily basis, it’s worth monitoring sodium intake.

While fluid retention is not real weight gain, after a salty meal at a restaurant you can easily go up 3-5 pounds in one day. This effect will mostly be seen in your clothing not fitting as well, and perhaps puffy eyelids. But, perhaps, most importantly, it might cause your confidence to falter, especially if you are on a weight loss regimen or diet.

Bottom Line:

When it comes to sodium, fresh foods are best. Making your own foods is ideal because you can control the amount of salt per serving. Read labels to avoid excess intake, and if you do have a salt laden meal, know that in a few days the fluid will come off and be more aware in the future.

References:

http://www.fda.gov/fdac/foodlabel/sodium.html#guide

http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/sodium/

A sunny frittata for a rainy morning.

A sunny frittata for a rainy morning.

Lately I have been making frittatas instead of the traditional french omelettes, mostly because I am pressed for time and/or too lazy to use more than one pan, so, the frittata solves the problem.

I can cook all of my vegetables and then pour the eggs over them, throw it in the oven, and serve it right onto a plate. I’ve had them at some restaurants where they actually serve the frittata right out of the pan, now that makes for very little dish washing!

The frittata I made this morning is very golden in color on account of it’s orange pepper, yellow squash, yellow onion and of course eggs. It’s also super diet friendly (less than 300 calories), but will keep you full on account of a good amount of protein (32g).

You can substitute your favorite vegetables for the ones I used, they pretty much always come out great. It’s a very good way to get a lot of servings of vegetables into one meal, and definitely low calorie as well. If you like a little more carbohydrate you can serve it on top of a whole wheat tortilla. For more protein, add more egg whites, they’ll  make it thicker and fluffier, and at less than 20 calories a pop, you can’t really go wrong:

Ingredients:

Nonstick cooking spray

1/2 yellow onion (diced)

1/2 orange pepper (diced)

1/2 yellow squash (diced)

1 whole egg

4 egg whites

1 oz reduced fat shredded cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Salsa (optional)

Method:

  1. Preheat over to 375 degrees.
  2. While the over is heating up, spray an omelette size pan with nonstick cooking spray and heat that on medium high until hot enough that when you throw a piece of onion on the pan it sizzles.
  3. Start sauteing the onion, moving it around with a wooden spoon or spatula every so often to prevent burning.
  4. Add the yellow pepper to the onion, and keep sauteing
  5. Cook the onion and pepper for about 5 minutes, until they start to carmelize, and shrink to about a 1/2 of their original size.
  6. Add the yellow squash and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. While the vegetables are cooking, beat the egg and egg whites together until frothy.
  8. Once the vegetables are relatively done, pour the egg mixture over all of the vegetables, move the pan around to make sure all edges are covered.
  9. Bring the heat down to low, and allow the sides to set.
  10. Once the sides are set, take the pan and put it in the preheated over for 8 minutes (or until the top of the eggs are set). With 1-2 minutes of baking time left, cover the top of the frittata with the cheese and put back in the oven.
  11. Add salt and pepper to taste, and add salsa on top if you want it a little spicy.

Nutrition Data (in the entire recipe):

286 Calories

9 grams of fat

19 grams of carbohydrates

32 g protein

This dish also has more than a days worth of vitamin C, lots of carotenoids, choline and folate, to name a few.

Cooking tip:

If you are using a nonstick pan, like I have, it may have a plastic handle. Cover the handle in tinfoil before putting it in the oven, that will prvent it from melting during cooking.

The second most strenuous workout on Wii Sports

The second most strenuous workout on Wii Sports, burning 5.3 kcals/min

all the way to a decent workout? An article in USA Today earlier this week says this very well may be the case. Video games have always gotten a bad rap on account of their promoting couch potato behavior, but, with this new type of “exergame” people have actually been getting off of the couch, and not just to get another bowl of chips.

So, can Wii deliver a good workout?

Not a lot of research has been conducted on the games thus far, but, a study was published in the July/August 2008 American Council on Exercise Fitness Matters. This small study had 16 people between the ages of 20-29 play on the various games in the Wii sports package for 10 minutes while their vital signs, such as heart rate, VO2 (oxygen uptake), and their perceived exertion levels were recorded.

The results showed an increase in all three variables, and thus an increase in caloric expenditure. Specifically, the participants burned between 3.1 calories (playing golf) to 7.2 calories (playing boxing) per minute. For all of the sports tested, the video game exercise burned less calories than the actual sport.

Boxing was the only Wii game tested that would be considered intense enough to maintain or improve cardiorespiratory endurance as defined by American College of Sports Medicine and the CDC. If you are wondering what the recommendations are, this link goes into great detail. But, generally speaking we are supposed to get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity per week.

I think that anything that encourages someone to get up and move is great, and if the alternative was going to be sitting around, all the better. But, there should be a healthy balance of real physical activity, taking advantage of the good weather whenever possible. I think its great that video games have progressed in this way, especially since I can remember spending countless hours playing Supar Mario on the original Nintendo NES, and though my thumbs definitely got quite a workout, nothing else on my body moved at all.

The American Council on Exercise is currently conductiong a study to assess the health benefits of using the more recent Wii Fit, as is the University of Mississippi, so stay tuned to find out those results.

Though I don’t own a Wii, I am interested to hear what others think of the exergames as compared to a real workout?

Ingredients NOT found in a Fiber One bar

Ingredients NOT found in an Oats & Chocolate Fiber One bar

Tuesday night on The Biggest Loser, Bob recommended to Mandi and Aubrey that they can increase their fiber intake by eating a Fiber One bar. While I am not usually bothered by these product placements, the subject of fiber is one I am very passionate about (see “Cracker to Satisfy Carb Cravings” and “Brantastic Crackers“), so I felt compelled to look into the high fiber claim.

Since I have never tried the bar and it sounded so impressive, I checked out the nutrition information available on the website.  So, here’s the info:

1 Fiber One “Oats and Chocolate” bar is 40 g

140 calories, 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrate, 9 g fiber, 10 g sugar (a little over 2 teaspoons), 2 g protein

So, it does seem to have  a good bit of fiber. But, where is the fiber coming from? The first ingredient is chicory root extract. Since, ingredients are required to be listed in the order of their predominance in a product, this means that there is more chicory root extract by weight, than anything else in the product. (more…)