Yogatta Try it!

I can’t lie, I used to be a huge Yoga skeptic. I said over and over that yoga just wasn’t for me. Then, about a year ago a friend of mine (who is a huge “yogi”) convinced me to go to a class with her. Needless to say, by the end of shavasana I was sold. Now I love yoga, and I look forward to any and every class I can make it to.

The best part about yoga is its versatility. There’s no right or wrong in terms of how hard you push yourself, how complex of poses you try, if you want to go to a class or do it by yourself, the atmosphere you practice in, or how long you want to practice. I love yoga because I am a person who is constantly thinking; I never seem to be able to turn my brain off. When I work out in a gym, I need music, a good book, or a TV show to keep me from over-thinking my head off, or to keep me from walking out of the gym just from going over all the things I need to get done. When I practice yoga, I totally tune out and only think about balance, breathing, and feeling comfortable moving from stance to stance. 

Since yoga is such a growing trend these days, it’s pretty easy to find a class if you want to try it out. My go to sources if I’m visiting a new place or want to try a new class are my local Lululemon store and google. Lululemon studios are awesome because everyone who works there is required to be an expert on the yoga studios in the area. You can ask for the best place to go if you like a more relaxed, long yoga class, or a quick class that will make you sweat. Plus, most stores have a Saturday morning class that is totally free! My friend, Katie, and I go almost every Saturday. It’s a lot of fun and they feature a new teacher every month. Your other go-to is google. Just google something like, “Yoga classes in downtown Seattle” or something like that. A lot of times you’ll be able to find a class that works for your schedule, and if you look at the studios facebook you can usually find a coupon or “mention this ad” deal! It’s great. 

I think everyone should try Yoga at least once. If it’s not for you, that’s totally fine. However, it’s hard to find a solid work out that also leaves you feeling relaxed and refreshed afterward! 

Tweeters I ♥

Just like everything else in this technologically transcended world of our’s, the world of health and fitness has taken to social media outlets of all kinds. Twitter is one of the best sources to find a variety of tips and advice for all facets of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Whether you’re looking for work out tips, a healthy snack, or a link to an interesting article, you’ll find all of it and more in the social media sphere. The best part? It takes less than a minute to read a few tweets and instantly have a few new pieces of health info under your belt. I love the speed and ease of twitter, and I also appreciate that tweets can only be so long so I know I won’t have to read a novel to get the main idea. Today I want to highlight three of my favorite “healthy-tweeters” as I like to call them.

Women’s Health Magazine
Women’s Health Mag’s twitter page is one of the best there is when it comes to variety. On any given day I can visit the page and read tweets about almost anything related to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. For example, today, there are tweets about: upper and lower back muscle work outs, low-calorie muffin recipes, outdoor fall work-outs, diabetes in young, thin women, pseudo Greek yogurts, the importance of getting enough sleep, and a ten week plan for training for a half-marathon. Even if the tweets don’t apply to you, they’re always informative.

Die Healthy
This twitter page is my go-to when I need to hit the refresh button at the gym. The same old routine in the weight room or on the treadmill gets unbelievably boring. Don’t worry, Die Healthy has us covered. Every day, multiple times a day Die Healthy tweets simple leg work outs, ab sets, or interval times for the stationary bike. Whatever I read looks short on the twitter feed and consequently it feels quick and simple. Sometimes I’ll do three or four and before I know it I’ve been working out for thirty minutes. Variety keeps my work out fun!

FITNESS
T
he best part of FITNESS’s tweets are the recipes. Speed is my main focus when it comes to making meals  during the week, and FITNESS is great in that department. For example, today FITNESS tweeted: “Hard-boiled egg whites with sautéed vegetables in a whole wheat wrap. Makes a great breakfast lunch or dinner option!” It literally takes less than thirty seconds to read a recipe for a delicious, healthy, and portable meal. What could be better?

If you’re a twitter person, I highly suggest following any of the aforementioned tweeters. If these don’t appeal to you however, google your own! There are thousands of twitter pages out there dedicated to helping fellow tweeters maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Blogs I ♥

Since I’m on the social media trend (no pun intended), I want to talk about a few blogs that I think are absolute must-reads. 

FitSugar
I
f an award for the most “trendy” fitness blog site existed, FitSugar would surely get it. Sorry boys, this one is pretty much aimed at just the female fitness focused out there, but that isn’t to say anyone can’t pull helpful info from this site. “Fitness, Health & Well-Being” for a “happy healthy you” is the goal of FitSugar. Every day you can find a well written and great variety of stories about new work outs, diet tips,  weight-loss, celebrity fitness, fitness videos, work out apparel, and much more. Every story leaves room for discussion, so you can see questions and comments that other readers have about a recently posted ab set or grilled chicken recipe. Further, FitSugar also suggests people to add on facebook or follow on twitter for more healthy lifestyle inspiration. 

Local Harvest
I live by this website. It’s actually technically not a blog; its’ the homepage for the Local Harvest company. The tag line for this site is “real farmers, real food, real community.” The goal of Local Harvest is to connect individuals who desire to eat organically (and presumably healthy) with localorganic food. Not only is getting real, healthy good made easy, but the site also promotes eating locally which is extraordinarily beneficial for the economy. Here’s a quote from the site: “Use our website to find farmers’ markets, family farms, and other sources of sustainably grown food in your area, where you can buy produce, grass-fed meats, and many other goodies.” If there’s something you can find locally, the site also has an online catalog that you can order from. My favorite feature is the map/search tool. You just enter your location and the type of product you’re looking for, and the site highlights farms, grocery stores or co-ops, restaurants, farmer’s markets, wholesale stores, or meat vendors who carry the item you want. On top of that, the website is packed with great info, forums, photos…the list is endless. Definitely check it out if you’re striving to eat locally and organically. 

Lauren Conrad’s “Grow”
Lauren’s blog is unique because when reading her posts it doesn’t feel like she’s addressing her millions of readers; it feels like she is writing to a single friend. Lauren has personally created or tried nearly every one of the recipes, work outs, products, and tips/advice she writes about. She knows that the people trying her work outs aren’t professional athletes, and she knows the people making her recipes aren’t gourmet chefs (or even close). Simplicity and accessibility are the main ideas when it comes to this blog. 

Nifty Noodles

Once again, sorry about the blog abandonment. However I’m back and full of new research and information! I’m excited to sort it all out in upcoming posts. Let’s get started…

Perhaps one of the most common and highly enjoyed carbohydrate in the average eater’s diet, aside from bread, is pasta. With the enormous variety in shapes, colors, consistencies, and cooking possibilities, it’s a food that can be enjoyed in hundreds of different ways. Unfortunately, many pasta dishes include more than just the grains used to make the pasta itself. More often than not, creamy sauces, thick cheesy toppings, a cube of melting butter, or some other not-so-healthy additive its eaten along with the pasta. Further, the average person (and restaurants too) often serves him or herself much more than the normal suggested serving. Further, even by itself pasta packs a punch in terms of calories and, depending on the type of pasta, fat.

While this may sound like pasta should only be an occasionally enjoyed food, that’s not necessarily the case. First, let’s think about preparation. When cooking the pasta, opt for pasta al dente. This means leaving the pasta slightly undercooked so that it’s still a little bit firm. I know that sounds odd, but taking the noodles out of the boiling water a little earlier actually leaves them with a lower glycemic index. So when you eat the pasta your blood sugar won’t rise as high, and the sugars from the pasta release into your blood stream much slower. In time, you’ll feel fuller longer and less likely to eat more later on. An equally easy step can be made in choosing what to put on top of your pasta. Think simple. The fewer ingredients in the sauce or topping, the better it probably is for you. Personally, I love salt and a little bit of olive oil. That’s a pretty good option in keeping it low fat and healthy overall. Marinara, pesto, and Italian herb sauces are generally all good choices as well. Make sure they’re not made with a cream base or laden with cheese. 

Now that you know how to prepare pasta in a healthy way, lets look at some interesting alternatives to standard pasta. Once I started looking into pasta substitutions, I was amazed at all of the options!  One of my favorites is the Shirataki noodle. This thin and very soft noodle is nearly transparent and looks a lot like a rice noodle. However, instead of being made from a rice base, it is actually made from tofu. It’s available at most Asian food stores and sometimes at larger grocery stores in the same place they stock their tofu and wonton wrappers. These noodles you’ll definitely want to rinse a few times before cooking, as they are stored in a bag full of liquid. The surprising part about Shirataki noodles? They’re virtually without calories. Seems impossible right? Nope, it’s true! Similarly, spinach noodles are very low in calories (something like 20-40 calories per half cup) and also come precooked in a bag with liquid. Again, rinse these noodles and then prepare as you like them.

 However you prepare your noodles or noodle substitute, make sure to pair them with a big serving of veggies on the side. Enjoy!

Fast Food Nation…How To Deal

There’s no denying that sometimes during our fast-paced days where we schedule down to the last second of our time, fast food is the only way to grab a bite to eat between commitments. Unfortunately, this lifestyle makes it very hard to maintain a healthy diet. We are all well aware of the U.S.A.’s tendencies when it comes to what is served through a drive-thru window; the nutrition, or lack thereof, in most fast-food restaurants its absolutely abismal. With atrocious amounts of calorie, sodium, carb, and cholesterol in most standard fast-food meals, its no wonder why the obesity rate in the U.S.A. is so high.

Regardless, we all have to eat, and there are days when swinging through McDonalds is so much easier than heading home and preparing an entire meal. A few weeks ago, I decided that there had to be ways to eat healthily (or at least somewhat healthy) at these types of restaurants. I came up with some surprisingly impressive results. It turns out, with the right directions when you place your order, there are some pretty good choices you can make at a variety of fast-food stops. 

Let’s start with the beginning of your day. The first thing most people go for? CAFFEINE. Your best bet as far as nutrition goes is a basic cup of coffee or tea. These two drinks provide your caffeine kick without the gobs of calories and fat that many drinks like lates, macchiatos, mochas, etc. include. However, sometimes those drinks just really hit the spot. If a morning late is your favorite way to wake up, then try ordering a 12 ounce size with skim milk. This leaves out all of the fat and cuts the calories down significantly. However even a 16 ounce skinny caramel macchiato boasts 190 calories and 35 carbs. This is a pretty significant for just a morning drink. However this is nothing compared to a skinny white chocolate mocha the of the same size, which includes 350 calories and 9 grams of fat! Crazy. If you like the creme of espresso, opt for an americano. This is really just hot water and espresso. It tastes just like a cup of coffee but the espresso creates a frothy, creamy taste. I always order an americano with a shot of vanilla and a splenda, because I am lactose intolerant and can’t do dairy. However this drink tastes just like a late! 

Next comes breakfast. In my opinion there is one fast-food place lightyears ahead of all the others when it comes to a quick morning meal. It might surprise you, but this restaurant is Subway! They offer egg and cheese muffin sandwiches (with or without black forest ham) that hit under the 200 calorie mark and provide a good serving of protein, fiber, calcium, and complex carbs. An even better option is one of their egg white flat bread or egg white muffin sandwiches. Both include all of the benefits of the other sandwich, but the lack of yolks means less fat and less cholesterol. Starbucks also has a spinach and feta breakfast wrap that provides 19 grams of protein, but of the 290 calories in the entire wrap 90 of them are from fat. Not the best, but still a viable option. Their 100% whole grain oatmeal on the other hand is a great option! It is low in both calories and fat, and it includes lots of fiber and protein. With any of these breakfast options, the fiber and protein will keep you full for a long time. If McDonalds is really your only option, get the fruit and yogurt parfait. You’ll skip the high calories and fat in all of the other breakfast options, but you’ll still get some protein and fiber. 

When it comes to lunch and dinner, I don’t want to make your choices seem limited. Instead, there are a few rules you can keep in mind when it comes to ordering that will instantly make your choices healthier. If there is a choice for a burger or sandwich to be grilled, always say yes. Breaded, fried, broiled, crispy, battered, or most of the other choices just mean a heap of grease and fat will be slathered on. A grilled chicken sandwich (sans cheese) from Burger King does have 360 calories, but you also get 36 grams of protein plus the vitamins in the tomatos. Even the 6 grams of fat still makes this a pretty good option for a fast-food sandwich. Subway has an entire list of sandwiches under six grams of fat, almost all of which include a lean protein. I happen to be a vegetarian, which nutritionally sits about the same as the grilled chicken burger. 

If you can, always choose a restaurant such as Chipotle or Q’Doba over a burger joint. Most of the meals on these two menus include much less fat and the extra healthy benefits of beans, veggies, and spicy food that can be found in some of my past blog posts. 

What it comes down to is how you order. Don’t be afraid to be choosy when it comes to how your meal is prepared or what you want left out of it. After all, you’re paying for it! 

The Brits had it right…

First of all, sorry about the blogging hiatus. Unfortunately, when dead week and finals week roll into the life of a college student our time suddenly belongs to two hour exams and long stints living in the library. The last month has been a big transition month, but the good news is that summer is officially in full swing!

That being said, I’ve been wanting to do a post about tea for a long time. When at the grocery store it can be pretty overwhelming to choose one type of tea from the dozens of boxes of different flavored tea. Herbals, whites, greens, fruit extracts, caffeinated, decaffeinated…the options are endless. The good news is this drink has been enjoyed and greatly valued as far back as 2000 A.D., so it’s pretty hard to go wrong no matter what type you like to drink. In general, all types of tea provide the drinker with polyphenols. These are a special type of antioxidant that can prevent cells from DNA damage–a cause of cancer. In addition to various types of antioxidants, teas also provide the drinker with a metabolism boost, protection against cancer, bolsters for the immune system, and overall hydration. 

To be a little more specific, I’m going to go a litter further in depth with black tea and green tea. They’re by far my favorites, and I’m not alone. Go to any restaurant or coffee shop and you’ll surely see one, if not both, on any given menu. 

Black tea has the highest caffeine content than any other type of tea, and, personally, I love having a big cup of it in the morning with just a little bit of sugar stirred in. Aside from waking you up, black tea provides a bunch of health benefits as well. Nutritional studies have established a correlation between drinking black tea regularly and a reduced risk of stroke. Within just two hours of drinking a cup of black tea, the functioning of blood vessels visibly improves. Further, the antioxidants in black tea can help to protect against ailments such as hearing loss and Parkinson’s disease. 

Similarly, green tea provides some health benefits different to that of black tea. Green tea is unique in that the tea leaves are withered and steamed, where are black and oolong tea leaves are fermented. This provides for green tea’s “catechins” to become highly concentrated. These are a type of polyphenol, and they work to destroy free radicals in the body which damage cell tissues. What’s even more interesting is the ability that green tea has to help fight obesity. A Dutch study found that dieting individuals who drank either caffeinated or decaffeinated lost more body fat than those who didn’t. 

What it ultimately comes down to is choosing you drinks wisely. Sodas, many prepackaged juices, and even some teas that are pumped with fake flavors and sugar are bad for your body. Maybe tea isn’t your “cup of tea” so to speak, but selecting an organic, calorie and sugar free drink over one of the above can work wonders for your body.

When life gives you lemons…

…make lemon water!

I’ve always loved an ice cold glass of water with fresh lemon squeezed into it. For some reason, it tastes more refreshing than a standard glass of water, and the taste is enhanced a little bit too. By some happy coincidence, lemon water is extremely easy to make and an equally favorable drink for your body. Beyond the usual perks that water provides to us, the lemon juice provides an extra benefits package. 

Lemon juice’s atomic structure is a lot like that of stomach bile and saliva. These two digestive juices aid your body in breaking down the foods we eat. Lemon juice does the exact same thing, which means that when we consume lemon juice there is an extra force at work digesting the contents of our digestive system. I, personally, think this sounds kind of scary, but in reality it helps clear out the digestive system much more efficiently. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that drinking too much lemon water will give you the runs, because in fact in helps to keep your bowel movements regular. 

Other parts of the body love lemon water as well. Lemon juice helps your liver produce more enzymes, so it can break down waste material more efficiently and effectively. When you have a sore throat, gargling with lemon water can help to kill the bacteria causing your throat to ache. Remember all that talk about vitamins and antioxidants in my last post? Lemons are cull of vitamin-C! Further, lemons are rich in potassium. This nutrient can help prevent high blood pressure and help you feel mentally more relaxed.

So the next time your thirsty, think about enjoying a lemony-libation over an alternative drink–your body will thank you!