health, Nutrition, wellness

Sodi-yum?

From tortilla chips to popcorn to pretzels, salty snacks are a crowd favorite. And I don’t blame you! Even if you’re a mainly sweets person, a salty snack can just hit the spot. Honestly, If you tell me that you don’t love a salty snack here and there, you’re lying. All that salt that we love so much, it can’t be healthy, right? Well, just like everything else in the health world, there’s good and bad to salt.

The Bad

Excessive sodium in your diet can have numerous health consequences.

• Too much sodium can lead to elevated blood pressure, causing your heart to work harder than it needs to, and putting strain on your arteries as well. This added strain puts you at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke.

• Too much salt can also help lead to dehydration, as it throws off the balance of water and salt in your body (and your blood.)

The Good

You actually need sodium in your body, and in your diet.

• Sodium is important to your nervous system, helping to conduct impulses.

• Sodium is also one of the elements in your body that is in charge of muscle contraction, so too little sodium can affect how your muscles work (and set you up for cramps!)

• Sodium is an important electrolyte and helps to maintain the fluid balance in your body.

Sodium has its place in your body as an electrolyte, and is important to healthy function. However, as a society, we way, way, way overdo the sodium consumption. The bare minimum sodium we need to function is 500mg, which is actually routinely stored in healthy kidneys so you don’t run low. The upper limit of sodium that is recommended to consume in a day is 2300 mg, which is only about a teaspoon of salt, with people with high blood pressure recommended to consume about 1500mg of sodium per day.

Weirdly enough, salt is not our problem when it comes to sodium. Sodium is just an aspect of salt (chemical name sodium chloride), but sodium is in much more than just salt. According to the FDA, the majority of our sodium overconsumption comes from processed and prepackaged foods. This is because sodium is an excellent preservative, extending the shelf life of common foods, as well as a great flavor enhancer (hello, we all love salt). The biggest sodium offenders include foods such as bread, pizza, processed cheeses, processed meats, and then our beloved snacks.

To ensure you aren’t overdoing the sodium, while still being able to enjoy some salt here and there, there are a few steps we can take.

Eat potassium. Potassium helps to counteract the blood pressure raising effects of sodium, so eating foods such as beans, bananas, and tomatoes can help offset the sodium effect.

Prepare your own foods when you can. That way, you are in charge of the sodium amounts going into your foods, rather than something prepackaged with a long shelf life.

Buy fresh foods when you can. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables can reduce your sodium intake, as these foods are no sodium added, unlike canned or sauced fruits and veggies.

Enjoy low sodium foods. There are plenty of snacks that have lower sodium contents, including no salt chips or no salt pretzels. As well, there are lower sodium versions of sodium rich foods, such as low sodium soups and beans.

Drink your water. To help with fluid balance after a salty indulgence, drink extra water. This helps to retain that balance of fluid and salt in your body, helping to counteract the dehydrating effects of sodium.

So no, sodium is not the best thing you can ingest. However, your body does need sodium tor in properly. As long as you do it with caution and moderation, and your doctor doesn’t tell you otherwise, you can still enjoy a salty snack here and there.

Nutrition, Opinion, Progress, wellness

Keep Calm and Drink Ya Water

As Derek Zoolander says, “Water is the essence of wetness. Wetness is the essence of beauty.”

Drinking enough water is probably the easiest, and single most important, thing you can do to improve your health. Why? Well just to begin:

1. Your body is up to 65% water.

2. Your blood is around 90% water.

3. Your brain is around 75% water.

4. Your lungs are around 85% water.

When you see just how much of your body consists of water, it’s much easier to understand why proper hydration is that important. That water keeps everything running smoothly in your body, from dissolving vitamins in your blood for easier absorption to lubrication joints to aiding in muscle recovery. If that’s not enough to convince you to up your water intake, there’s more.

Proper hydration can also be crucial to weight loss and management.

First, keeping yourself properly hydrated means that your body is running at it’s best, allowing you to have the best performance in workouts that you can. It also means that your brain is functioning well, keeping irrational thoughts at bay (hello, “i had one cookie so this means I’ve failed and I’m going to eat the whole package and be a failure forever.” That’s much harder to think when you aren’t dehydrated.) Even dehydration of just 2% leads to decrease in physical and mental performance, leading to you feeling lethargic and a bit irrational.

Second, the cue for thirst is most often mistaken for hunger. This means that when you are actually thirsty, you may be reaching for snacks that you don’t actually need. Staying hydrated means you most likely get that thirst signal in the first place, so if you get a hunger pang, you’re most likely in need of some calories.

Third, water keeps you full! You can’t abuse this one, but when you have a belly full of water, it’s hard to overeat. I tell clients to start each meal with a big glass of water. Not only does this help them reach their hydration goals, but it helps to prevent overeating.

Last, water has zero calories. Replacing a soda or juice with a water of the same size can save a ton of sugar and between 100-200 calories. Add all of those calories up throughout the day, and water can be the difference between you hitting your goal or not.

Now that the reasons for drinking water are laid out, the question is now “How Much?” There is actually no universal standard for how much water to consume. It used to be 8 8oz glasses, which is still better than nothing, but water intake is also based on your size, how active you are, how much you sweat, etc. The best rule of thumb there is right now is to drink .5-1 ounce of water for each pound of bodyweight. This means that the intake for a 150lb person would be between 75 and 150oz.

The best tips i can give you for water consumption, especially if you haven’t been drinking nearly enough is just to start.

• Drink an extra glass of water daily

• Buy a refillable (BPA Free!) water bottle to refill all day long

• Drink a glass of water before each meal

• Drink a glass right after you wake up

• Replace one sugary drink with a glass of water

• Use crystal light or MIO drops to flavor water if you need to

Nutrition, Opinion, Other

The Breakfast Club

Breakfast is my absolute favorite meal of the day. You want cake? Here’s a breakfast food for that. Want something more savory? Here ya go. Fries? We call them homefries here. Leftovers? Don’t worry about heating them up, they are, somehow, better cold in the morning.

It’s been called the most important meal of the day, and even a miracle for weight loss, yet it’s the meal most usually skipped. Don’t get fooled by weight loss mags, breakfast is no miracle. It’s not going to “jumpstart” your metabolism, but it is very useful if you want to indulge in it. Breakfast is a great way to energize yourself in the morning, giving your body the nutrients and calories it needs to get you through your daily activities. It doesn’t necessarily “jumpstart” your metabolism, but it does allow your body to continue running efficiently, since it has the necessary calories. As well, breakfast can prevent overeating at later meals. Think about the last time you went nuts on some food. How hungry were you? Probably pretty ravenous. Think about how long you went in between meals that day. It was probably a pretty long time. The main culprit behind overeating, especially at night, is eating too little during the day. Your body is smart, it knows how many calories it needs. If you think that skipping breakfast is a way to cut calories, you may be more than making up for it at night.

Even with all these benefits, breakfast is still skipped like it’s cardio. There is no need to have breakfast, it can be very helpful as i said above, but it isn’t necessary. Intermittent Fasting is a nutrition style where you fast for longer periods and eat all of your calories in a shorter window of time (around 8 hours). This works for some people, and that’s great. I’m not a huge fan of it, but if it works, go for it. The number one reason why people skip breakfast is because of a lack of time. I get it, your mornings are crazy busy (and you want to sleep as long as possible and cooking really gets in the way of that.) Some people just can’t eat in the mornings, their bodies just don’t enjoy it, and that’s fine. But you still need some food in the morning (just maybe not when you first wake up).

Enter: Breakfast Prep, the easiest meal prep you will ever find. I have three go-to recipes for breakfasts on the go that are easy to make, healthy, and delicious. Don’t believe me? Read the recipes below. Easy. Peasy.

Overnight Oats

1/2 cup oats

1/4 cup vanilla Greek yogurt

1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey for sweetness

Whatever toppings you’d like! (I like cocoa powder and peanut butter)

Optional: 1 tbsp chia seeds to thicken extra

1: Mix together all ingredients in a container

2: Refrigerate overnight.

At Home McMuffins

1 English Muffin

1 egg

1 slice Canadian bacon (or ham, sausage, bacon, whatever you’d like)

1 slice cheese

1: Cook egg. (If making multiple sandwiches at once, crack eggs into greased muffin tins and and bake for 15-18 minutes at 350. The easiest.)

2: Place cooked egg on bottom half of English muffin.

3: Layer ham and cheese (or whatever toppings you chose) on top of egg

4: Wait for eggs to cool completely, then wrap sandwiches and refrigerate or freeze.

5: Microwave to heat when ready.

Protein Pancakes

1 scoop protein powder

1 egg

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

Up to 1/4 cup of water for consistency

1: Mix together all dry ingredients

2: Add egg and water

3: Mix

4: Heat skillet over medium heat

5: Divide batter into three equal pancakes in skillet

6: Cook until bubbles form on the surface and flip

7: Cook until done through and top with syrup (I use sugar free)

Exercise, Nutrition, Opinion, Progress

Health Between the Holidays

We did it! We survived Thanksgiving, and we’re now officially in the holiday season. I already made a post about surviving the holidays (read it here), but here’s a new take on the topic. Before we go any further: one day of overindulgence will not ruin your progress. Your body is smart, and knows how to handle extra calories on a single day (and even a few days of overindulgence won’t ruin your hard work. Just don’t let all of your healthy habits go out the window.) I don’t know about you, but I enjoyed my vacation the past few days, and I do mean enjoyed (pretty sure I had pie for breakfast the past three days), but am I giving up for the rest of the year? Absolutely not.

The four-five weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas is incredibly tricky, especially when it comes to health and fitness. It’s in these five weeks that most people get the “all or nothing” mentality, feel like they failed, and throw in the towel on their fitness goals. They think “in just a few weeks, the holidays will be over, it’ll be a new year, and I’ll start then.” Now, really think about just how much time that is.

*It takes three weeks to form a new habit, so, in five weeks, you could be well into integrating your second healthy habit. I’ve talked about how a healthy lifestyle is nothing more than a combination of healthy habits implemented into your daily routine, making a healthy lifestyle. Take the next few weeks to get your water intake up and go for a walk a few days a week to make a huge difference in your health and fitness journey success, especially getting a jumpstart on January.

*Sustainable weight loss is between .5-2lbs per week, depending on your current status and goals. But, in five weeks, you could be 2.5-10lbs closer to your ultimate weight loss goal. I know you have that magic number in your mind, that magic weight (we all have it, no shame). Imagine starting in January, with your goals not so out of reach. And, even if you don’t have a goal weight in mind, implementing healthier habits over the unhealthiest of the holidays helps to offset those indulgences as the season goes on.

Five weeks doesn’t initially seem like a significant amount of time, until you list out what you can really accomplish in that timespan. Now, it becomes just another time period in which we can get closer to our goals.

Putting off your health goals until the “time is right” really sets the tone of those goals as well. Unfortunately, the tone those goals now have is that they aren’t a priority, and can be taken over by anything more pressing. This is why you make the resolution to lose the same ten pounds year after year, that goal isn’t a real priority to you. If it was, you would have hit that goal, and not let other priorities push it out of the way. It’s time to stop the resolution cycle! No more dieting for January, let’s get healthy for life! Believe me, I’m not saying to start a restrictive, regimented plan today. Starting a crazy, restrictive diet, especially during the season of holiday parties, will do nothing but set you up for failure. What I’m saying is now is the time to wake up and prioritize your health. Now is the time to write out your goals (and make sure to make them SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely). Now is the time to pick a few steps, that you are confident that you can implement into your lifestyle, to help reach your goals.

I overindulged in the past week. I feel it today, I feel off. I don’t feel guilt for not following my routine on vacation, and I don’t feel like a failure in my goals. Today, I am back on my usual routine. Today, I am prioritizing eating lighter, with more vegetables at each meal, increasing my water intake to my usual levels, and going back to my usual exercise program. I’m not “making up” for anything, or going overboard in anticipation of Christmas, I’m just going back to my habits. I’m taking care of myself today, for life, not for January. Who’s with me?

Nutrition, Progress

Making Healthy Choices Easier

The above photo speaks the truth, “you can’t outtrain a bad diet.” How frustrating is it to spend time and effort on your workouts in the gym, only to see no progress? Your nutrition needs just as much effort, if not more, than your exercise program to see success. Weight loss (and gain) is a simple equation of energy balance. If you take in less energy than you expend (eat less than you need to maintain your weight), you will lose weight. Conversely, if you take in more energy than you expend (eat more than you need to maintain or lose weight), you will gain weight. This means that what you eat is the true determinant of the results of your program. The problem is, that proper nutrition is really tough. Nutrition is definitely the harder aspect to figure out, especially to figure out AND make it work for you and your life. This post is to show you that, though nutrition requires thought, it doesn’t have to require much time. No matter what your time constraints are, we can find a solution to make proper nutrition easier for you.

The Basics

To improve your nutrition without much time or effort, let’s add. Water and vegetables are the two components of proper nutrition that many people tend to be lacking. Water is easiest. Some of my favorite easy tips to increase your water intake are to first get yourself a reusable water bottle. There are plenty of options out there, just be sure to get a BPA free plastic bottle, or a stainless steel or glass bottle. These bottles are easy to take with you, and can be refilled all day, with no adverse health effects to you (don’t reuse regular old plastic bottles of water, it’s not good for you!). Another easy tip to increase your water intake is to drink a glass of water before each meal. This helps with your hydration levels (obviously), but also helps to almost pre-fill your stomach, which will drastically reduce your risk of overeating. Don’t like plain water? Most people don’t. You have two options here: either suck it up and suck down that plain water or use some flavor. Infusing your water with fruit is the healthiest option, but Crystal Light packets, along with flavor drops, such as Mio, can help to jazz up plain old water. Moving on to veggies, modern technology makes that almost as easy as possible. There are plenty of options for plain veggies (and even some with some light flavoring) that involve nothing more than popping a bag into the microwave. Bird’s Eye Steamers are awesome microwaveable options, and the flavored varieties taste good (and are relatively healthy for you too!). Eating a cup of veggies before the rest of your meal can also ensure that you get your vitamins and minerals in, while also helping to reduce the risk of overeating for very few calories.

Set it and Forget it

Instant Pots have become all the rage in the past few years, and they can be incredibly useful in your journey to a healthier lifestyle. The instant pot makes pressure cooking easy and quick, and can help with meal prepping by making large quantities of (healthier) food, with very little effort. My mother uses hers to make her own Greek yogurt, and I’m a huge fan of using mine to make large quantities of rice and other starches. This helps to increase the ease of healthy nutrition by allowing me to put that rice or potatoes into the pot, setting it, and then prepping another aspect of the meal while it cooks.

Slow cookers are another handy dandy tool in your healthy eating arsenal. For most slow cookers, you get the meal ready in the morning, set the crockpot, and then you have dinner 6-8 hours later. You can’t really beat the ease of that. One of my favorite recipes for a slow cooker is Salsa Chicken. All you need for this recipe is a package of chicken breast and a jar of salsa, and maybe some corn and beans if you’d like. Combine the chicken and salsa in the slow cooker, set it for 8 hours on low, and boom: easy shredded chicken breast you can add to rice and veggies for a taco bowl, burritos, or to eat on it’s own with some veggies (hey, no judgement here!). There are plenty of healthy slow cooker recipes on the web, a quick google search will get thousands of recipes, right in front of you.

Bulk it up

This is the tip that requires the most effort, but it still makes your life much, much easier. There are plenty of recipes that you can make in bulk, and then freeze to keep the freshness. Pick whatever day is easiest for you (for many, it’s Sunday, but depending on your schedule, just pick a day that you have a few hours free), pick a few recipes, and spend a few hours getting stocked up on some food. Breakfasts tend to be the most freezer friendly, but there are a few dinners that freeze well too.

Breakfast:

Egg Sandwiches: Easy egg McMuffins at home? Yes please. Take a muffin tin and spray it with some cooking spray, and crack an egg in each spot. Bake the eggs for around 8-10 minutes at 350 degrees to cook all the way through. After they are baked, cool them completely, and assemble your sandwiches. Take an English muffin, place a slice of cheese, a slice of Canadian bacon (or whatever toppings you’d like) and an egg, and then wrap tightly with plastic wrap or tin foil and place in the freezer. Whenever you’re ready to eat, unwrap, place the Sammie on a plate, and microwave for around 60 seconds to heat.

Protein Pancakes: A simple recipe of 1 scoop of protein powder, 2 tbsp flour, 1 egg, 1 tsp baking powder, and a splash of water mixed to make into a batter (makes around 3 pancakes). Make multiple servings and cool completely, then place in a ziplock bag, squeezing all excess air out, and throw them in the freezer. Place in a single layer on a plate and microwave for 30-60 seconds to heat up whenever you’re ready to eat!

Lunch/Dinner:

Soups are the easiest to freeze, the just require airtight containers to store in the freezer. As well, lasagna and pasta can be frozen for a few weeks, as long as they are in an airtight container. For any frozen meal, make sure you keep it frozen. Don’t thaw and refreeze, as this can affect the quality of the food.

Though healthy eating requires more thought, and sometimes more effort, than workouts, it doesn’t have to take more time. As long as we are working smarter, not harder, we can make healthy meals quick and easy to make, and accessible to all, no matter your available time. Make room for some healthy food!