Monday, March 31, 2014

Top 10 Reasons to #BuyLocal

Spring is here and the farmer’s markets are in full swing!

Nothing is better on a hot summer day – or any day – than a group of fresh veggies and fruit. Especially when they are picked fresh that morning and (mostly) free of preservatives and hormones. And because you are getting them fresh from a local farmer, they last longer too! No middle man or trips in the back of a truck (at least not very far).

Some farms offer a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share membership that will give you first dibs on the freshest in-season crops.  Our share is from North Pulaski Farms…for a reasonable up-front charge we get 12 weeks of fresh, locally-grown fruits and veggies. FANTASTIC!

And each week there is something new - unlike my boring list that always contained the same-old, same-old. I mean, there really are only so many ways you can cook a brussel sprout.

I also realize that you can’t always buy everything you need locally. The habit to get into is to “Think Local” first, then go shopping! And not just for your produce and fresh meats, but for hair products, outdoor gear and household services.

The Top 10 Reasons to Buy Local
This article shared from

The top 10 reasons as researched by Sustainable Connections, one of North America’s leading non-profit organizations dedicated to developing sustainable local economies.

1. Healthy Economy: Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community.

2. More Community Support: Non-profit organizations typically receive more support from smaller business owners than they do from large businesses.

3. Unique Communities: Where we shop, where we eat and have fun — all of it makes our community home. One-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of this distinctive character. Local tourism based businesses also benefit because when people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.

4. Reduced Environmental Impact: Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.

5. Job Creation: Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and in our community and provide the most jobs to residents.

6. Better Service: Local businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to develop relationships with customers.

7. Community Investment: Local businesses are owned by people who live in the community. These business owners are less likely to leave and are considerably more invested in the community’s future.

8. Putting Your Tax Dollars to Good Use: Local businesses in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services as compared to nationally owned stores entering the community.

9. Buy What You Want. Not What Someone Wants You to Buy: A marketplace of tens of thousands of small local businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term. A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

10. Encourage Local Prosperity: A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

Friday, March 28, 2014

I made it! (Written Monday, March 24)

It's Day 22!  I made it through my 21 day challenge with nary a slip.  If you need a recap or aren't sure what I'm talking about, refer to my earlier post here:  My 21-day challenge

So here's how it went...

Days 1-5 were the hardest!  I was tempted with cake, pizza and wine at dinner...but I made it through!  They really laid a great foundation...until day 6 when I had a Reuben and a Michelob Ultra at Oaklawn.  Dinner followed at an Italian Restaurant (I know,  a girl who can't eat white pasta goes to an Italian joint..sounds like the intro to a bad joke...) but I found a crab cake stuffed portobello and strawberry salad with balsamic and vinegar that fit the bill.  So, not a perfect day, but no reason to give up.  Just step up and start the next day anew.

The rest of the days flew by in a blur...I did have a slip up here and there...for example my sugary bubble gum incident, but overall it was quite easy to find alternatives when I THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT I WAS EATING.  When we consciously think about every item that goes into our body, it's easy to see the alternatives that lie all around.  Everywhere we went I found something I could eat (from the Italian restaurant to the Czech/German bistro, to the work cafeteria) while on my challenge.  And the most amazing part - I didn't leave any establishment full, lethargic, which I would have "stopped sooner" -- none of that!

Let's face it, I've had a pretty healthy diet for awhile, but I also used to have a different mentality when it came to certain restaurants...but now I know.  There are no matter where you go these days, there is always a healthy option waiting.  You just have to THINK ABOUT your choices.

Remember:  Small, daily improvements [choices] are the key to staggering long term results.  Start Small.  Finish Strong.  

On a bonus note, I just found out today that March is National Nutrition Month - so my 21-day challenge was planned for the perfect month!  Now - what should my next 21 day challenge be?  Nutrition related or perhaps professional development a meaningful book in a related field or on self-improvement for 30 minutes each day?  Sit with soft classical or zen music for 10 minutes every day to relax?  Give me your input - I want to know!

Monday, March 17, 2014

My Treadmill Interval Run

Ice and snow forced me inside for a treadmill run, which I hate.  I realize hate is a strong word, but I really do detest them.  So, as usual on my way to the gym I started thinking "How can I maximize my workout and minimize my time?"  Intervals!

Remember my post about choices?  Small changes in diet and exercise can lead to big changes on the scale.  So can small changes in your workout.

A 150-pound woman running at a 10:00min/mile pace on the treadmill for 30 minutes (no warm up/cool down time) will run 3 miles and burn 300 calories.

With my interval run this morning I got in my warm-up, ran 2.88 miles and burned 344 calories - that's more almost a 15% increase in calories burned!

So what's an extra 44 calories you ask?  Well, it's not just that 44.  When you burn those extra calories doing interval training you are building up for the afterburn effect, where your body continues to burn calories hours after your workout (experts aren't exactly sure why yet).   This makes HIIT workouts perfect for those looking to shed extra pounds.

Steady-state cardio (running at the same speed over the time of your run) is also effective - and good for - heart health and should be used along side HIIT training to keep your heart healthy while you drop pounds.

Other bonuses are a break from boredom and monotony and a boost if you've hit a weight-loss plateau.

Ideally the experts say it's a balance of both that keep your body at it's best. And as a distance runner, cycling fanatic, and sometime treadmill go-to I have to say I agree.

My run below, while slower than average on pace, left me spent after my 8.0, but then let me have a minute of recovery before I climbed back up the ladder again.

My Treadmill Interval (at 1.0 incline)
00:00 - 10:00 @ 5.0 mph (warm up)
10:00 - 12:00 @ 6.0 mph
12:00 - 14:00 @ 7.0 mph
14:00 - 15:00 @ 8.0 mph
15:00 - 17:00 @ 6.0 mph
17:00 - 18:00 @ 5.0 mph (water, please)
18:00 - 20:00 @ 6.0 mph
20:00 - 22:00 @ 7.0 mph
22:00 - 23:00 @ 8.0 mph
23:00 - 25:00 @ 6.0 mph
25:00 - 26:00 @ 5.0 mph
26:00 - 28:00 @ 6.0 mph
28:00 - 29.00 @ 7.5 mph
29:00 - 30:00 @ 5.0 mph

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

My Day 10 Check in

So, I am off to bed soon and am just checking in with a Day 10 update.  It's been easier than I thought it would be!  Don't get me wrong, I've had my moments.  But as I sit here with a glass of wine by my side, I am thinking back over the last 10 days and thinking about how much better I feel.   Hey - wine wasn't on that "no" list!

No doubt starting with the USANA RESET helped tremendously; making it through those first 5 days were the hardest.  I expect the next 11 will not be as smooth as I'd like but I do think the hardest part is behind me. 

I've picked up a few extra classes to teach this week - which means I taught 3 on Tuesday and 4 today,  with a workday sandwiched in between the classes.  You would think this would lead to exhaustion, but I actually feel like I have more energy that usual!  And on the heels of a time change no less.

Less sugar by way of process starchy carbs has helped limit the spikes in blood sugar and kept my mid-afternoon blahs at bay.   Such an inspiration to continue to "Just Say No"

I've also had some help this week with avoidance.... no graduations, no parties, no lunch and learns or business lunches to attend.  Just me and my kitchen to throw together lunches and dinners. 

Tonight was a modified version of Elizabeth Finch's Effortless Quinoa Kitchen Sink Dinner (I made up the name, she inspired the dish!)

  • Cooked quinoa
  • Roasted Orange Bell Peppers and Chunked Onions (Toss in olive oil and bake on 400 for 20 min)
  • Steamed Spinach & Arugala blend
  • 1 can of organic beans (Kidney, Black and Pinto Tri-bean mix) drained and rinsed
  • Mix in a small amount of organic pasta sauce and top with just a pinch of sea salt

Yum - perfect for Meatless Monday!  


I went to Oaklawn on Saturday to see the horses.  I had a Reuben on Rye (no cheese or sauce) and only ate about half of it but still, not need to beat myself up...back on the saddle I go.  This isn't a "Ah, I blew it, there's no turning back"  This is about doing the best you can and forging ahead.  

I grabbed and chewed a piece of gum today.  You know the really sugary, Dubble Bubble kind that is full of sugar and has a flavor that lasts only 3-4 minutes.  I had a moment where I wasn't consciously aware of what I was doing and I just grabbed a piece and popped it in my mouth!  Who knows what we are eating when we aren't paying attention - retrain your brain!  Now is the time to do it!  

In case you haven't read my earlier posts, my 21 day challenge runs March 3 - March 23 and I just say NO to:

*biscuits, cookies & cakes
*donuts muffins & pastries
*white bread, pasta and potatoes
*ice cream and frozen yogurt
*fast food (yes, even no Chipotle!)

*coffee and black tea

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Are you sabotaging your salad?

I have a book – “Skinny Chicks Don’t Eat Salads” – that I bought for the title and love for the small serving recipes.  It’s was a source of comic relief for me and it taught me a lot about making choices and portion control. 
Despite what the title of the book implies, of course skinny chicks eat salads! They just make the better choices when it comes to filling that salad bowl. 

Let me help you visualize this:  When I worked at Texas Roadhouse – on and off for 10 long years – this was a common customer interaction:

Me:  If you are ready to order, might I recommend the 12 oz. Ribeye with a loaded sweet potato and a side salad?.
Guest:  Well, I am trying to eat a little lighter these days, so I think I’ll go with a salad.
Me:  Excellent choice; our Grilled Chicken Caesar is a good choice, and with the dressing on the side it’s a very light dish. 
Guest:  No, no…I’ll go ahead with the Grilled Chicken Salad, Ranch dressing please…..
Me:  I’ll get that right out for you!  (Smiling)
What I’m really thinking?!  C'mon; seriously?!?! 

Now, you might not know what is on a Grilled Chicken Salad at the Texas Roadhouse, so let me share that with you: [From their menu] Crisp cold greens, strips of marinated chicken, jack cheese, egg, tomato, bacon, red onion and croutons.  Served with your choice of made from scratch dressing. (790 calories)

Yes, you read that right….790!  Enough calories for 2 meals…and that is not counting the dressing…when you order a large salad that 3 oz. ramekin of ranch that comes with it boasts 400…most people use 2 of those to coat their salads.  That brings your “light meal” in at a whopping 1590 calories.

But salads can be the right choice, one that will allow you to get in a variety of vegetables, healthy fats and protein. Just follow these 5 guidelines to really make your salad healthy.

#1: Remember: all salad bar items are not created equal.
Many people start with the right foundation – spinach, kale, spring mix (no iceberg for you!) and continue down the line, adding carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, peppers…and then those calorie-packed toppings appear and we start to pile on that shredded cheese, pasta, croutons or even those crunchy sesame noodles.  These add-on’s don’t always have to be a “no” but you need to be mindful that they carry a higher number of calories and a lower number of nutrients. 
#2: Experiment with color!
At the end of the line you should be thinking “I need to take a picture this salad is so pretty!”  A variety of color means a variety of nutrition.

"Darker color veggies like broccoli, spinach, peppers, and carrots have the most nutritional value," explains Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, about phytonutrients. "But each color—red cranberries, white onions, orange carrots, green peppers—has different antioxidant properties and different ways to protect against things like cancer or heart disease."
#3: Don’t over justify the “good” fats.
We know that fats are essential and that you should not avoid them.  But REMEMBER THIS: an ounce of fat contains more than twice as many calories as an ounce of protein (9 calories v. 4).   Salmon, eggs, olive oil, avocados, and nuts contain disease-fighting nutrients and help keep cholesterol down, both leaving your heart very happy and very healthy.  Generally, you don't need more than two thumbs' worth of fat on a salad, so maybe a wedge of avocado and a small spoonful of sunflower seeds.  
#4: Stop with the dressing!
If you can’t resist the creamy dressings or the store bought high sugar varieties, please use in moderation.  My suggestion is to keep a small ramekin on the side of your plate, dip the fork then stab the salad.  We have all made fun of the TV commercials that show women doing this but it will drastically cut down on your dressing intake (read: calorie intake)

At home experiment with different Olive Oil & Vinegar combinations. Mix them up, experiment with different seasonings and have some fun!  You’ll cut out all the sugar, salt and bad fats in those processed dressings. My favorite: 1 TB EVOO, 2 TB Balsamic Vinegar, 1 tsp garlic powder, 1 tsp fresh ground pepper shaken. Usually enough for 2 salads or one large tossed.

#5: Don't worry about seeming 'picky'.
Don't want to annoy your survey by being complicated? Believe me, asking to leave a few things off your salad will be nothing near the worst they've experienced. 

If your friends or family give you a hard time shrug it off; they aren't the ones eating it. If you don't engage the moment will pass and you'll be much happier with yourself for making the healthier choice.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Update: My 21 day challenge (Day 5)

Today is Day 5 and the last day of my USANA RESET, which should make the next 16 days a breeze!  Or at least a walk in the park.

After all the carbs I fed in preparation for the half marathon last weekend my body  needed a break -- and I feel great!

All this week I've had a USANA Nutrimeal shake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner & a USANA protein snack bar for mid-morning and mid-afternoon pick me ups.  Just one serving of fruit and unlimited raw and lightly steamed vegetables daily have really helped me balance my palate, boost my energy and make my tummy happy one!

No coffee in the mornings - just good old apple cider vinegar in a mug of piping hot water every morning....I had eliminated coffee from my morning routine when I did the RESET in November.   So I also didn't have to worry about headaches or withdraw.

No alcohol, no Naked Juice, no milk, no Kefir - no anything but 75 ounces of water a day.  I feel fantastic! (Have I mentioned that yet?)

Let me offer a little full disclosure:  it was HARD!  It tested me - there were 2 occasions this week when I know without a doubt I would have given into temptation.  Wednesday I would have had pizza for lunch (because it was free as part of a lunch and learn) and Thursday it would have been a slice of cake (at a graduation party).  So there are 2 times I would have thought "It's ok, I rarely do this"....hmmm.....

My diet is void of the foods below by design, but when I go out or am at a celebration do they creep in more often than I'd like?  Am I living a 90/10 rule or am I more like a 75/25 do-gooder?  My goal is to be at 100% without beating myself up when I stumble along the way.  Over the next 16 days I will continue to challenge myself to resist:

  • biscuits, cookies & cakes
  • donuts muffins & pastries
  • candy
  • chocolate
  • white bread, white pasta and white potatoes
  • ice cream and frozen yogurt
  • fast food 
  • chips
  • soda
Will anyone join me over the next 16 days?  I had help getting through the first 5 and would love some encouragement and support getting through the next 16.

I am confident I can make it and am excited to keep marking those days off the calendar....

Thursday, March 6, 2014

My Love Affair with Peanut Butter

I ran across a statistic on peanut butter the other day on appears that Americans consume enough peanut butter each year to coat the floor of the Grand, pretty sure they did their research in my kitchen this year. 

But why do we eat so much peanut butter?  It IS IS filling….it IS heart-healthy, but I’m willing to be it’s just because it’s that darn yummy! 

If you buy Natural — or better yet—make your own.  You get healthy fats, a filling snack, fiber, potassium, and 7g of protein per serving).  If Natural Peanut Butter isn’t on your shopping list...put it there!  The best pb to buy lists one ingredient:  peanuts. 

Making your own peanut butter is simple.  All you need is a food processor and some peanuts.  Start by tossing the peanuts (unsalted) into the food processor and over the next 5 minutes watch it transform into a smooth, creamy treat.  If you'd like to add some honey feel free, but do so slowly through the process.  Also, make sure you store it in the refrigerator for 4-6 weeks in an airtight canister (I suggest a Mason jar).  Don't forget to stir it before each use.

At around 190 calories per 2 Tbsp serving, you do have to watch your intake but treat yourself to a serving daily & you’ll lower your risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes while indulging in a healthy lifestyle choice.


Some of my favorite ways to use Peanut Butter…

As filler in my “meal replacement shakes”…if you are like me 220 calories a meal does not make…why not throw in 2 Tbsp of peanut butter for some added calories, healthy fats, protein and staying power?
As a topping on apples.  Or bananas.  Or pancakes.  Or toast.  Or…well, you get the picture.  Sometimes I don't even need something to put it on; just give me a big ol’ spoonful and I’ll be happy!
And, of course, in all kinds of favorite being this one below. 

  • 1 cup pitted medjool dates (about 20 dates)
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened raisins
  • 1 serving vanilla protein powder
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened, organic peanut butter
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseeds
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened cacao powder
  • 2 tbsp dark chocolate chips (about 16 chips)
  • 1 tbsp water

In a food processor, process the dates by themselves until they form a paste, about 20 or 30 seconds. Add the raisins, protein powder, peanut butter, flaxseeds, and cacao and pulse to process until combined. Add the water if need to moisten and pulse a few more times. Remove the blade, and add the dark chocolate chips or chunks, using a spatula to combine (I like to leave the chocolate chips chunky for texture, but feel free to process them if you’d like).Roll the mixture into 12 uniform-size bites (about 1 1/2 inch in diameter each). 
Nutrition Information:
Serving Size:  1 bite
Calories:  172
Calories from fat:  36
Fat grams: 4g
Total Carbohydrates:  36g
Fiber:  4g
Sugar:  30g
Protein:  3g

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