Friday, October 30, 2015

Save some dough - healthy choices when you're on the run

It's that time of year again.....
"Money is tight."  "The holidays are just around the corner." "I only like blueberries and they are so expensive this time of year!"

"I refuse to spend a lot of money on fruits and veggies so I just eat out every day - it's cheaper."....wait, what was that now? 

I had this conversation with a friend last week.  Or I should say I heard these words come out of a friends mouth and stared open mouthed in their general direction. I may also have mentioned the $8 grilled cheese sandwich they had for lunch.  The grilled cheese didn't offend me - I am a grilled cheese fanatic!  The thought that $8 for a grilled cheese was acceptable while $1.50 for a bunch of bananas was expensive is where I got lost. 

In my friend's defense, she also has a long commute and extra-curricular's that often have her searching for quick dinners to make in the evenings. 

I've posted about the cost of eating healthy in the past, but this time I did an out and out comparison - my friend's day to mine.  Sure, I have lunch out once in a while, we have steak for dinner some nights (more expensive than the $2.53 bag salad I buy at Sam's), etc. etc.

My friend and I both agreed, though, that the comparison below represents a typical workday eating pattern. 

Post-comparison, I added a 3rd category - what choices to make if you still are convinced that eating out is the only option.  So be sure to scroll to the end if you need some ideas for healthy eating on the go.

Me: All food bought at the local grocery store
Coffee ($.18)
1 slice of whole grain toast ($.40)
1 TBSP all-natural peanut butter ($.11)
1 6oz plain Greek yogurt ($1.00)
5 large strawberries ($.16)
8oz organic 2% milk ($.57)

2/3 cup tri-colored cheese tortellini ($1.00)
1/2 cup organic meat sauce (homemade) ($1.24)

Afternoon snack:
10 large grapes ($.66)
1/2 cup blueberries ($.80)
5 large strawberries ($.16)

Salmon Kale Caesar Salad with Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar ($1.93)
5 oz red wine ($2.25)

Total cost:  $10.46
Nutrition breakdown:  1,537 calories, 51g fat, 171g carbs, 82g protein, 1,735mg sodium

My friend: Breakfast, lunch & snacks on-the-go; dinner items bought at same grocer
Sausage Burrito ($1.00)
Coffee ($1.00)

Morning Snack: 
Lo-Fat Strawberry Yogurt ($1.00)

Grilled Cheese with Tomato Soup ($7.99)

Afternoon snack:
Think Thin Nutrition Bar from cafe ($2.59)

Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers  ($3.59)

Total cost:  $17.17
Nutrition breakdown:  1707 calories, 77g fat, 175g carbs, 78g protein 4,523g Sodium <-- say what?!

Seems to me that I had a lot more food for a lot less money.  Not to mention the fact that I also had less than 40% of the sodium that my friend did - and a glass of wine. 

If you enjoy eating out , there is a way to be frugal AND healthy.  

By bringing snacks from home and making some different menu choices, my friend could have made the same stops during the day and saved money, reduced her sodium intake and met the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

McDonald's Oatmeal with Brown Sugar, Diced Apples & Dried Fruit ($1.99)
Coffee ($1.00)

Morning Snack:
Strawberry Whipped Greek Yogurt ($1.00*)

Small Salmon Salad & Cup of Tomato Bisque Soup ($4.95)

Afternoon Snack (from home):
Apple ($.50*)
String Cheese ($.35*)

1 cup of long grain brown rice - the 90sec variety ($.66)
1 cup of frozen steam in bag broccoli ($.72)
1 Morning Star black bean burger patty ($.92)

Total cost:  $11.00
Nutrition breakdown: 1,597 calories, 47g fat, 218g carbs, 89g protein, 1,923mg sodium
Items marked with an asterisk (*) were brought from home instead of purchased in the cafe

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Walk this Way

Daylight savings time is coming to an end soon, and with it goes our extended hours of daylight. Safety when walking is more than just having a buddy or carry pepper spray. There are several things that you can do to ensure you are safe while walking, any time of the day.

Wear a headlamp or carry a small hand light to signal oncoming traffic that you are in front of them. This also applies for shared bike/walking trails that do not permit cars.

Four-legged friends need color, too. This might be a flashing red light on their collar, a bright jacket or reflective saddle.

Protect your back side. The reflective tabs on your shoes are not enough to keep you visible, particularly from a distance. Wear a reflective vest or belt, or you can put reflective tape on your back and your calves.

Channel the ‘80s. Invest in bright colored (neon) tops and/or hats so that you do not blend in during daylight walks.

Be a defensive walker. A sidewalk is not always a safe zone. Remember to stay alert to your surroundings and walk facing traffic at all times. Not every driver is aware of the “pedestrian right-of-way”. Stay alert at intersections and when crossing the road.

Leave the jewels at home. All you need is a watch or your preferred fitness tracking mechanism.

Be one with nature. As tempting as it is, leave the music at home—especially when walking on the street. You can miss footsteps coming up behind you, a dog on the run or other obstacles that might come into your path.  Plus, some of the world's best leaders say that long walks are where they find their best ideas.

Always carry ID. A RoadID® bracelet is an easy, convenient way to make sure you are easily identified in the case of an emergency.

Wear sunscreen. While some sun exposure if good for Vitamin D levels, the Vitamin D Council suggests that as little as 15 minutes can be enough. Stay on the safe side and lather on a layer if you are going to be out in the elements for longer than that. No matter what time of year.

Vary your route. Elevation and scenery changes are promote cardiovascular health and can keep boredom at bay. Changing your route can also deter any would-be muggers who might be looking for a regular routine, which can also cause the walker to let their guard down—making them an easy target.

Let someone know where you are going. If you aren't going with a friend, let one know where you will be and your expected timeframe for exercise. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Pa-tay-toe, Pa-tah-toe

I have spent years hearing about the devil of the white potato.  They offer no nutrition, they spike your blood sugar, they can hinder digestion.....Throw them out! Don't keep them in the house! They are bad, bad, bad! 

Well, sure they are bad for you. When they are deep fried or slathered in sour cream, bacon bits and cheese.  But tit-for-tat they are not any worse for you than a sweet potato.

1/2 cup of mashed sweet potato has 15g carbohydrates.  1/2 cup of mashed white potato 15g carbohydrates.  Sweet potatoes and white potatoes effect blood sugar the exact same way.  Fiber in a white potato is in the skin, in a sweet potato it is in the meat.   Again - watch your toppings....sweet potatoes can effect blood sugar more significantly than white potatoes due to the popular brown sugar topping that often accompanies them. 

Last week at work we had a Diabetes Education Class, led by not just any diabetes educator, but a diabetic diabetes educator.  While I am not diabetic and have no family history of diabetes, I am always looking for opportunities to learn and spread the healthy word.  Plus my department at work actually coordinates these types of classes, so I generally attend at least one session of anything we are offering to employees.

Some other things I learned...
Sugar alcohol is just another fancy name for an engineered sugar (think high fructose corn syrup).   And it's also the main ingredient in Ex-Lax®.  I grabbed a ThinkThin bar in a moment of weakness yesterday morning.  It has 12g of sugar alcohol.  There is only 9g in a ex-lax chewable.  No wonder I spent all afternoon clutching my stomach.

Snacking before 8:00 p.m. is good for general health.  We aren't talking weight loss here, we are talking balance.  So, while I do not prescribe to a "no eating after 6:00 p.m." philosophy (especially if you are staying up until 11:00 - 12:00 each night), I can get on board with your final, healthy snack being at 8:00 p.m. or earlier.  According to research, this gives your hormone and cortisol levels time to balance before going to bed for the evening and still offers enough to keep your blood sugar balanced while you sleep.  Your best bet is to go for nut butters and cheese here, avoiding refined or processed sugars.

Your hand can measure cups as well as ounces.  General guidelines are as follows:
1 cup = a fist
3 oz. = a palm
1 oz. = a thumb

Bonus measurements:
1 serving of fruit = tennis ball
1 baked potato = computer mouse
1 1/2 oz. cheese = 6 stacked dice
3 oz. cooked meat, chicken, fish = deck of cards

Friday, October 16, 2015

What a pain in the neck!

I've had a lot of questions lately about neck pain.  How do I relieve it?  How do I prevent it? 

Did you know that cervical degeneration occurs in nearly everyone as they age? Some people will develop cervical arthritis. These symptoms include chronic pain, muscle weakness, numbness, stiffness, headaches and even loss of balance. 

When it comes to the neck, researchers have determined that a combina-tion of stretching and strengthening is best for pain management. 

One study followed participants with chronic neck pain over a one year period. Those who followed a stretching and strengthening program showed 10 times the improvement in range of motion and had a higher rate of pain relief than those in the stretching only group. 

Below are 4 exercises for you to try: 
Neck drop and raise
  • Sit straight in a chair and look straight ahead.
  • Slowly drop your head forward until your chin touches your chest (or as far as you can comfortably can) and hold for 5-10 seconds.
  • Return to starting position. 
  • Slowly lean your head slightly back and hold for 5-10 seconds.
  • Repeat 5 times in each direction.
Head tilt
  • Sit straight in a chair and look straight ahead.
  • Slowly tilt your head towards your right shoulder, keeping your left shoulder down. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
  • Return to starting position.
  • Slowly tilt head to the left side, keeping right shoulder down. Hold 5-10 seconds.
  • Repeat 5 times in each direction.
Neck rotations
  • Sit straight in a chair and look straight ahead.
  • Slowly turn your head to the right, keeping your chin straight. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
  • Return to starting position.
  • Slowly turn your head to the left, keeping your chin straight. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
  • Repeat 5 times in each direction.
Neck retraction
  • Sit straight in a chair and look straight ahead, keeping chin straight.
  • Pull you chin straight in, without dipping it in. Hold for 5-10 seconds.
  • Return to original position.
  • Repeat 5 times.
Tension in the shoulders can lead to neck pain, so be sure to do a few shoulder rolls each day to relieve the muscles in your shoulders.
Shoulder rolls
  • Sit straight in a chair and look straight ahead, keeping chin straight.
  • Roll your shoulders up, forward and down. Repeat 5 times.
  • Reverse direction of roll, and repeat 5 times.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Common Exercise Q&A

I often share things with you that I find helpful in my day-to-day life or things that I think might be confusing when it comes to health and fitness. What I haven't done in awhile is share answers to some of the most common questions I recieve. This week I do just that.

What causes hand swelling during exercise? 

According to a 2011 subjective study, almost 1 in 4 individuals (24.3%) report hand swelling after a walking activity.

Exercise-induced hand swelling is often discussed, but a specific cause has not yet been identified. 2 popular, and plausible, explanations for this common, yet unexplained, phenomenon are below.

Increased blood flow
When you walk or participate in any form of activity your body’s natural reaction is to increase the blood flow to your heart, lungs and muscles. It is a normal, physiological response that increasing blood flow to these areas restricts blood flow to the extremities. When blood flow is restricted to a particular area, the blood vessels expand, causing swelling. You may notice that once you return to a resting state the swelling will dissipate as blood vessels and blood flow return to normal. 

The above mentioned study also found that subjects participating in a regular walking program prior to the study reported less instances of hand swelling, suggesting that once your body acclimates to it’s new routine blood flow will become more efficient and swelling may occur less often.

Excess Fluid Collection due to improper body mechanics.Another
2009 study linked hand swelling to improper arm motion forcing excess fluid into the hands by ‘centrifugal force’ or gravity. When you are working hard and your arms are consistently under your heart it can be harder for fluid to escape your hands. 

Unfortunately, there are no proven ways to reduce exercise-induced hand swelling. Some suggestions to manage it are:
  • Practice proper mechanics: swing your arms in a natural motion that brings them above your heart and remember—no fist clenching.
  • Remove rings or tight bracelets or watches prior to your walk.
  • Do occasional arm circles during your walk.
Why is footwear so important?  Stop telling me to get new shoes!

Proper footwear is one of the most important investments you can make. Not only for exercise, but for daily life, especially when we are dealing with arthritis and joint pain. 

Several studies have shown the benefit of proper footwear and/or orthotics on gait, impact and range of motion in lower-body extremities (including the hip). In addition, there is a lower instance of lower-body injury in those wear a properly fitted shoe.  

To find the best shoe for you, visit a running store near you and ask them to observe you walking or jogging. This is normally a free service and they will fit you for a shoe that supports your stride type. This will maximize comfort and can minimize risk of injury.   

When trying on a walking shoe you should never say “oh, I will break it in.” If it’s snug, it’s too small.


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