Saturday, February 26, 2011

Pre-run Glug, Post-run Punch!

It was a perfect morning to run...brisk, but sunny.  Mr. PT and I got up and planned to get about 5 miles in around town.  Of course, we had to put something in our stomachs to have the energy to get through, so we whipped up one of our favorite breakfasts...smoothies!

Mr. PT has perfected the banana-berry smoothie, but of course, you can add whatever you like!  Here is our tried and true favorite:

For 2 smoothies, you will need:
-1 banana
-3/4 cup milk (dairy, soy, or almond)
-1/2 cup yogurt
-1 1/2 cup frozen berries (blackberries, blueberries, raspberries...your choice!)
-5 baby carrots
-honey and cinnamon (optional)

Put the banana and milk in the blender and blend until smooth.  Add the yogurt, blend.  Add the berries, blend.  Add the carrots and optional flavorings, blend.

The trick is to add one ingredient at time to avoid the clogging in the blender.  Also, this recipe makes a thicker, creamier smoothie (we eat them with a spoon or straw).  If you prefer a wetter smoothie, add more milk or even water.

Now, if you are an exerciser, you have to figure out what works best in your stomach.  Some people can drink an entire smoothie and hit the pavement right away.  Others have to eat less and wait longer.  For me, I can drink a smoothie, wait about 45 minutes, and be good to go.  But everyone is different.

When we got back from our run, we wanted something warm with a little extra protein.  It wasn't quite lunch time yet, but we needed something in our stomachs.

This hardly needs a recipe!  All I did was toast some cinnamon raisin English muffins, spread them with peanut butter, and sliced a banana to eat on top.  So simple, yet, perfect for recovering from a run.  

As I was running today, I thought to myself how much I love exercising.  To me, I don't exercise to punish my body.  Quite the contrary!  Exercising is my way of thanking my body for getting me through my work days, keeping me healthy, and sleeping through the nights.  If you are having trouble getting in the mood to exercise, this is a different, more positive way to approach the gift of health you are giving to yourself.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

2 dinners, 1 post!

It has been a long week for both Mr. PT and I.  For me, nothing melts the stress away more than coming home and cooking up a nice meal (that and watching completely mindless television...I figure cooking is more productive!).  And I know Mr. PT loves coming home to a warm meal.  We enjoyed 2 nice dinners this week, and they are definitely worth trying!

Hot Chicken on Salad with Sweet Potato Fries

 You will need:
-1 large chicken breast
-1 egg
-1 cup flour
-mix of favorite spices (I used pepper, oregano, basil, parsley, and garlic powder)
-fresh lettuce and your choice of salad toppings (I add carrots, and sauteed mushrooms and onions)
-2 medium-large sweet potatoes
-olive oil

Cut the chicken up into "nugget" size pieces.  Crack the egg in a small bowl and whisk.  Mix flour and spices.  Dip the chicken pieces into the egg, then coat them with the flour/spice mixture.  Cook the chicken pieces in a skillet with olive oil until crispy and done.  Sautee mushrooms and onions if you want them for the salad.

Wash sweet potatoes.  Cut them in half, then slices, then cut the slices into "fries."  I usually keep them about 1/2 an inch thick.  Put the fries in a bowl, drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Lay them on a cookie sheet covered in aluminum foil and bake them at 400 for about 30 minutes.  Mix them around about 20 minutes in.

Fix your salad with chicken, other desired toppings and favorite dressing (we stick with olive oil and balsamic vinegar) and serve with fries! 

This is a great meal because you get the leafy greens, a little protein with the chicken, and a whole lotta nutrients in the yams (fiber, Vitamin B6, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese.)  Just go light with the oils and salts.  A little goes a long way.

Soft Tacos with Fresh Guacamole

You will need:
-1 lb lean ground beef
-1/4 red onion chopped
- 1/4 green/red pepper chopped
-spices (onion powder, garlic, pepper, oregano, cumin, cayenne pepper...other Mexican spices you might like)
-soft tacos (flour, whole wheat, or corn)
-taco toppings (lettuce, cheese, tomatoes, salsa)

Cook the ground beef until no longer pink.  Drain.  Return meat to skillet and add onions, peppers, cilantro and Mexican spices.  Cook on low until veggies are soft. 

See guacamole recipe in Valentine's Day post.

I usually warm my tortillas before assembling them.  Top them with guac, fresh tomatoes, cheese, salsa, lettuce, whatever you like!


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WANTED: highly processed foods!

After reading my most recent entry about items to buy at the grocery store, Mr. PT and I had 2 interesting discussions.  The first revolving around sale items at Kroger (yellow tag  = sale, therefore, buy it, right?), and the second focusing on the world of processed foods.  Our conversation included the concepts of partially hydrogenated oils, trans fats, and high fructose corn syrup.  This led to a scouring of our kitchen for items containing any or all of these three digestive conundrums.  To my horror, I found several items we eat on a weekly, if not daily, basis!  I immediately felt guilty for supporting these products and putting their harmful additives into my body.

But wait, is the jury out on this stuff?  Just WHAT is so bad about these things?  High fructose corn syrup just sounds like sugar to me.  And trans fats...that's one of the good fats, right?

Luckily, Mr. PT does his research because I want answers.  I strive to make healthy dishes and buy healthy products, and yet I could still be getting duped by the FDA.

Here's the scoop.  High fructose corn syrup is an artificially altered sweetener that has slightly more fructose than regular table sugar (not a huge amount, but some).  It's cheaper, sweeter, and more stable in foods compared to regular sugar.  Why do people complain?  Well, as the usage of high fructose corn syrup goes up, so does obesity!  Does correlation equal causation?  No one knows, exactly.  But if you see high fructose corn syrup on a label, it means the food has been plumped, not only with more sugar, but highly processed sugar.

Trans fats are the same as partially hydrogenated oils, and they are in a similar situation.  They are artificially altered unsaturated fats that are cheap, increase shelf life, and improve the texture of food.  Why are they bad? These fats have actually been found to increase the risk for coronary heart disease, for the molecules inside them have a new shape that is harder for the body to break down, resulting in clogged arteries.  Here's the real kicker, partially hydrogenated oils HAVE NO NUTRITIONAL BENEFIT.  The National Academy of Scientists recommend 0% of trans fats in your diets.  In other words, don't eat them!

Hold the phone! If these nasty molecules are so bad, how do food manufacturers get away with putting them in so many foods?  I unfortunately do not have the answer to that question (I'm guessing it has to do with politics and money), but knowledge is power, so from this day forward, I am reading labels!

WANTED: Partially hydrogenated oils!

 WANTED: high fructose corn syrup!

On a more positive note, there were some winners.

 Relatively unprocessed grains

 Dairy without weird fats or sugars

Other relatively natural foods

I think it goes without saying that fresh produce is usually a safe option as well.

I know this was a long post, but I felt it was necessary.  In order to better my eating habits, I have to learn along the way.  This can become overwhelming sometimes, and I don't want to turn into an obsessive compulsive shopper.  But I will think twice now about grocery shopping, and I will do my best to substitute my more processed foods with some better options. 

Reduce, don't eliminate...that is the key.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fruit Rollup...fruit or vegetable?

Trying to incorporate a healthy diet into your lifestyle is sometimes easier said than done, especially when you are not sure how to tackle the biggest obstacle...the land of milk, honey, and so much more...the grocery store!!!  A trip to your local grocery can be like landing on an island of temptation and guilty pleasures, especially if you go hungry! Our human brains are hard-wired for craving fats and sugars, and this can result in some pretty poor choices.

But you can overcome!  The nutrition advice that Mr. PT offers his clients focuses on the idea of simplicity.  The more your food has been messed with, the less healthy it is going to be.  In order to get more nutrients and less fat, you MUST spend time with your food.  Making meals has to become a part of your life.

This is all well and good, but what does it look like?  And where do you start?  You start, of course, at the grocery.  The choices you make throughout the week are going to be based on the foods you fill your pantry and refrigerator with.  So sit down, clip some coupons, plan your meals, and make a list.  Go to the grocery prepared to buy the foods you want and need, and nothing more!

Another rule of thumb: try to stick to the perimeter of the store.  Hit the grains, meats, dairy, and produce sections.  I usually make a few pit stops to pick up canned goods, cereal, and peanut butter, but other than that, I try to stick with items on the outer layer of the store.  That way I avoid most of the processed foods loaded with extra salt, sugar, and trans fats.

Luckily Mr. PT and I were pretty low on supplies, so a big trip to Kroger was much needed.  Here is what I came home with:

I tried to group items by food group, so you can see that I included...

-cereal, low fat granola bars, whole grain wheat bread, whole wheat tortillas, whole wheat English muffins with raisins

-apples, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, frozen berries, fresh blueberries, and low sugar jelly

-low fat organic milk, vanilla almond milk, all natural vanilla and fruit yogurt, and low fat cheese

-chickpeas, all natural peanut butter

-fresh red lettuce, green pepper, bulk carrots, frozen corn, and frozen edamame 

Was I perfect? Of course not! I bought packaged pizza crusts for our homemade pizzas and Land of Lakes olive oil spread (butter).  Are these the most nutritious and non-processed items I could buy?  Not really, but this is not about being perfect.  This is about making good choices 80-90% of the time and not denying yourself.  We are human, after all.

Keep in mind I already had in stock eggs, chicken, lean beef, and some other crucial items that were not bought today.

Hopefully that gives you a good idea of what a personal trainer would advise you to shop for and eat.  Just keep it simple, don't get too processed, and plan on spending time making your meals.  And what could a meal look like after a shopping trip like this?  Well, I ate a pretty fruit and grainy breakfast, so I wanted to get some veggies and proteins in for lunch.

A fresh salad with carrots, raisins and walnuts, tossed with apple-cider vinegar and olive oil, accompanied with hummus and cottage cheese seasoned with black and red pepper.  A short list of ingredients with a whole lot of YUM.

Happy shopping!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day in any way

Whether you think it's a Hallmark day, a reminder to say I love you, or just another reason to drink wine and eat chocolate, Valentine's Day is here.

I heard on the radio that the average couple spends $180 on Valentine's Day.  To me, that is a lot of money.  Especially since you are supposed to love your honey EVERY day, not just on Valentine's Day.  However, I do feel that it is a special day to do something a little extra.

Mr. PT and I had plans to meet at a restaurant for drinks and appetizers after work, but work went late for me and to be honest, I did not feel like fighting the crowds and looking glamorous.  My day started out chasing a cockroach around my classroom and ended with an empty ink cartridge in my printer, so I was less than eager to re-do my hair and outfit for the night.

Mr. PT understood, luckily, and we decided to stay in.  He had a late lunch, so we had a light dinner.  I made one of my favorites, fresh guacamole.  We accompanied that with our favorite bread and cheeses (goat and manchego) from our visit to the Cincinnati Findley Market on Saturday, sliced apples, and homemade tortilla chips.  A light dinner with a nice glass of red vino made the evening relaxing yet elegant.  As elegant as you can be in scrubs and a sweatshirt!

I usually make guacamole with sour cream and salsa, but I mixed it up a little tonight.  If you are anti-sour cream or any other dairy products, you might like this version:

-fresh cilantro, chopped
-red onion, chopped
-fresh tomato, chopped
-few squirts of lime juice
-sea salt, pepper, and other spices to taste (I usually do a salsa spice of some kind, Pensky's makes a good one)

I usually just use store bought corn chips, but we were out tonight.  So I made my own and they were delicious!  Just take a flour or whole wheat tortilla and lay it on a skillet warmed with olive oil.  Let it sizzle there for a while and flip it.  Lightly salt the oiled side and flip it a few more times until it reaches your desired crispiness.

Low and behold, Mr. PT has a few extra minutes this afternoon and surprised me with the best dessert known to women:

So cheesy, yet, so delicious.

Just goes to show you don't have to spend $180 dollars to have a memorable Valentine's Day.  AND that you don't have to put in a ton of work for a special night with your special someone.  Why not do Valentine's Day more often?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

super bowl fever

I know this may be a sore subject for some (and a victorious reminder for others), but I had to post on the Superbowl Extravaganza that was this past Sunday night.  Mr. PT and I had some friends and family over to watch the Steelers and Packers dual, and it was a great time.  I love playing host to good friends and family, sharing food, laughs, and favorite spirits.  However, we also had to watch Mr. PT squirm as his beloved team marched off the field in defeat.  Oh well, there is always next year.

When providing food for company, especially to munch during the Superbowl, there is some pressure to present all greasy, salty, rich, fatty foods.  However, I have to eat this stuff too, so I try to make a compromise.  I believe the spread we had Sunday night was a nice mix.

We made a homemade pizza with fresh ingredients, pigs in a blanket (a classic favorite), whole grain tortilla chips with salsa, fresh guacamole, and a sour cream based dip, broccoli salad, fresh fruit, and ribs from my brother in law's grill.  More guests came later with MORE fresh guacamole (I liked his recipe better!), potato salad, and spinach-artichoke dip.  We had plenty of food for everyone without over-indulging. In fact, Mr. PT and I were blessed with leftovers for Monday!

So there you go, an example of how to serve party food with some healthy and homemade dishes.  I promise your guests will not complain.

If you happen to be a guest at a party that is stocked with delicious, but not necessarily nutritious items, here are some "psychology of eating" tips you can use to prevent guilt from overindulgence:

1) Take one plate, fill it with all the food you want to eat, and stop after that is gone

2) Eat a light snack before you go, don't arrive famished

3) Drink spirits or pop out of tall, skinny will perceive it as holding more liquid and end up drinking less!

4) Be aware that we humans eat MORE when we are with people we know and feel comfortable with

5) Finally, if there is more variety of foods, we eat more!  Be aware of this, and take smaller portions if you want to try everything

Remember, we eat to live, we don't live to eat! 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Snack Time!

One of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight is to listen to your body.  If you are not hungry, do not eat.  If you are hungry, eat!  Seems easy enough, right?

This equation can get complicated if you let yourself get exceptionally famished, to the point where you literally could eat a horse (but you never would, of course).  Then you will possibly attack your refrigerator, and in your hunger stupor, make poor choices and eat way too much.  I've done it.

What is the solution? Snacks! Squeezing healthy snacks in throughout the day will prevent you from overeating at mealtime and keep you satisfied all day long.  Now comes the tricky part...choosing healthy snacks.

The best way to prevent an unhealthy snack time is to not buy unhealthy items at the store.  When I have an intense salt craving and would love some potato chips, I choose whole wheat pretzels to nibble instead.  Why?  Because I don't have potato chips in the house!  It's as easy as that.  Now, I will be the first to admit that it is important not to deny yourself 100% of the time.  So yes, I do occasionally buy a bag of Sun Chips...and oh are they good.

Here is a healthy snack option Mr. PT and I often turn to.  It is so simple, so healthy, and so fulfilling.  All it requires is 2 ingredients that I ALWAYS make sure to have in stock: apples and peanut butter.  Mr. PT and I have fancied up this simple pair by making our own peanut butter from organic peanuts.  It sounds complicated, but it's quite simple and SO worth the extra time.  So, use store bought peanut butter if you want, but here is our concoction if you want to try it:

Take 1 16oz jar of organic peanuts and put it in a 7 cup (or larger) food processor.*
Blend until very creamy.

*sometimes you have to add a little canola oil to make it smooth...depends on the peanuts!

Cut up your favorite type of apple into thin slices...this allows for more dipping action!
 Ta da!  A healthy snack that's good at any hour.

*Mr. PT and I broke two 4 cup food processors before upgrading to the 7 cup (sorry Hannah).  For intense chopping and pureeing, you need a bigger motor.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mares eat oats...

It is a well known fact that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  However, for me, it is my absolute favorite meal of the day!  I have a unique stomach that starts grumbling as soon as my alarm goes off in the wee hours of the morning.  I never hit snooze because I'm too hungry!  Some people like to eat breakfast on the go, or munch as they sit at their desk.  Not me.  I like to stay snuggled in my robe and enjoy the first meal of the day in the comfort of my own home.

Thank goodness Mr. PT and I have the same constitution.  Some mornings I make us a hearty bowl of yogurt with nuts and fruit, other mornings I do eggs, and some mornings we stick with dry cereal.  But on mornings like today when it is absolutely frigid outside and the thought of that cold car makes you ill, oatmeal is the answer.

There are a number of different ways to do oatmeal.  I do prefer the stove-top versions because of their heartiness, however, for the sake of time, a microwave or kettle of boiling water works.  Mr. PT enjoys the flavored Quaker packets of oatmeal, but those are too sweet for me.  I developed a compromise that works: a packet of low sugar Quaker oatmeal mixed with plain rolled oats.  However, this morning, we were packetless, so I had to get creative.  The end result was delicious!  

Here's what you a bowl mix:

3/4 cup of rolled oats
1/3 cup of grape nuts
any amount of raisins you want
any amount and type of sweetener, I usually do about a tablespoon of honey
water (enough that it pools to the side if you tilt the bowl)

Put that mixture in the microwave on high for 1:23 (easy numbers to remember at 6:00 in the morning)

Remove from the microwave and add dairy milk, almond milk, soy milk, whatever your preference.  Heat in the microwave for 20 more seconds.

Mmmm...this is so yummy and filling in the morning.  Being half asleep when I make this, I usually make too much and can't finish it all.  However, it really gets the day started, and the nutritional benefits are huge!  You get iron, fiber, B vitamin, riboflavin, protein...without cholesterol or sodium.  And I really don't get hungry again until about 10:30.

Hopefully you enjoy this winter favorite as much as we do.