Looking at What Goes into Sparkling Water

There is a pretty good chance you’re reading this while swigging some sparkling water from a colorful can and feeling pretty good about yourself.  You’ve kicked your soda habit in favor or something refreshing and bubbly without all the extra sugar.  Hurray!  Great job.  You’re saving yourself hundreds of extra calories a day, which keeps you hydrated and your pants from getting too tight.

Continue reading “Looking at What Goes into Sparkling Water”

Starting the New Year Right

With 2021 looking in some ways as bleak as 2020, it’s hard to think of this new year as a ‘fresh start.’  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m feeling more overwhelmed than usual right now, and that spin bike I ordered back in December?   It came early…but it’s still in the box. 

On the bright side, I’ve seen trends in nutrition moving in a more positive direction.  While processed foods still abound, it seems people in general are starting to ‘eat real food’ and view their health more holistically.  Here are some themes that are becoming more commonplace that you can adopt if you haven’t already.

  1. Take a plant-based approach.  ‘Meatless Monday’ is old news, but there are many ways to include more plants in your diet.  Breakfast cereals made with sunflower protein (try Seven Sundays brand), edamame mixes that can be zapped in the microwave for quick lunches and lentil chili for dinner are all easy ways to eat more plants.  Nuts and beans provide protein and fiber that help keep you feeling full longer than simple carbs.
  2. Support local and/or small businesses.  ‘Shopping Small’ isn’t new, but perhaps we forget about the hundreds of food-based businesses right in our backyards, and there’s no time like the present to support them.  We’re all struggling right now, and small businesses especially.   Shopping locally means keeping more money in your local economy and helping your neighbors (near or far) stay afloat.  Right here in the village we have options for fresh ground coffee (Kornerstone), fresh bread (Elm Street) and even a full grocery store (the Co-op).  Just 10 minutes outside the village, you can get local soap (Alpine Made), maple syrup (Weber’s) and more.  
  3. Cook more.  We all started cooking a whole lot more last year, and while restaurants are re-opening (yay!), I hope some of the home cooking is here to stay.  Cooking at home is lower in calories and fat and brings the whole family together.   It’s a great way to get the kids involved in meal planning, grocery shopping and food preparation.  During these cold winter months, big pots of soup and roasting meat and winter squash are great ideas.  Last year I wrote about making ‘power bowls,’ which are easy combinations of cooked meat or plant protein, paired with a grain (like rice) and cooked and fresh veggies topped with a store-bought or homemade dressing.  I’ve started making them once a week and it’s the easiest meal on the menu.  And don’t forget about the rotisserie chickens at the grocery store!  They make an easy main dish on busy nights, and can be combined with steam-in-the-bag veggies for a complete meal.
  4. Focus on both physical and mental health.  Food isn’t just about losing or maintaining your weight; it’s a part of our existence that’s meant to be enjoyed and benefit both our bodies and minds.  Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon and nuts and seeds) and B vitamins (meat, eggs, legumes, leafy greens) are good for our brains as well as the rest of our bodies.  With the shorter daylight and colder temps, everything we can do to boost our moods—such as eating foods with omega-3s and B vitamins—is a smart idea.

After writing about all these ways I can improve my health this year, I’m feeling ready to set up that bike!

Be Kind to Yourself and Keep Moving

Anyone else feel like they’re living on rotisserie chickens and frozen vegetables this time of year?  OK, it’s not quite that bad at my house right now, but I’m surprised at how busy this Christmas season is despite COVID.  The show must go on, right?

What ISN’T going to go on this year is my usual ‘New Year new you-themed’ column. 

While we’re all more than ready to ring in 2021, there won’t be an influx of new gym goers and lines to use the cardio equipment.  If you were one of the lucky ones to buy your at-home gym equipment before the pandemic started, you might still be motivated to workout…or you may not.   Aren’t we all just trying to get through the week without adding additional expectations?

That being said, it’s never healthy—mentally or physically—to stay in a downward cycle of poor eating habits and a sedentary lifestyle.  I think something the pandemic has taught so many people is the value of a simple walk outside.  With the dog, or without.  With the kids, or without.

What I do want to offer as we close out this year is a gentle reminder to be mindful when we eat, especially with all those seasonal treats at hand.  (We may not be eating out, but we can still bake to our hearts’ content!)  I do want to encourage you to continue getting outside and moving—if only for a walk—despite the colder temps.

In order to help you visualize eating ‘mindfully’ around all those frosted cookies, I thought I’d equate them to some common exercises (I hope) we’re all doing, in some way, shape, or form.  All these estimates are based on a 165-180 lb. adult.

Speaking of cookies…  Cookies tend to help promote portion control because of their size, but type does make a difference.  You could eat four plain gingerbread cookies for the same amount of calories in just one frosted sugar cookie.  (And who eats just one cut-out cookie, really?) You’d need to walk for at least 30 minutes to burn 160 calories, the amount just one Santa-shaped cookie.  Meringue cookies are the lightest of the bunch, at only 5-15 calories apiece. 

Let’s talk cakes and pies.  Does anyone even eat fruitcake?  If you do, one slice could be 300 calories, and a generous slice of pecan pie is a whopping 500 calories.  While I’m all for enjoying what the season has to offer—including dessert—those are some large numbers.   Unless you’re a speedy distance runner (burning approx. 850 calories per hour), change those slices to slivers.   Or, choose a fruit-based dessert with less crust, such as pumpkin pie or apple cobbler for a bit of fiber and vitamin A or C.

Chocolate, anyone?  Two of my favorite seasonal treats are peppermint bark and fudge, both of which are rich, rich, RICH. A tiny, one-inch square of fudge is 130 calories and 20 grams of sugar, and peppermint bark is about the same.   I’d never tell anyone to skip them entirely, but perhaps consider having only one piece and then switch to dark chocolate truffles, which are only about 60 calories and 5 grams of sugar.  Dark chocolate also has more antioxidants and less fat than milk chocolate, so make this your first choice.  I don’t care how much you like to cycle; 30 minutes of spin class to burn off only TWO squares of peppermint bark seems excessive, yes?

I’m right there with you, I promise.  I haven’t been mindful lately about how many sweets I’ve been eating, and I haven’t been exercising as much as I’d like.  While I’m excited about my new spin bike on order, I’m also a little anxious about how to add “more exercise” to my already-busy schedule.  (Anyone with a toddler has a busy schedule, let me tell you.)  Thankfully, the bike is eight weeks out, so I have time.

So, there you have it folks.  My last column of the year is more ‘rah-rah go team!’ and less nuts-and-bolts nutrition.  But this isn’t a season of tough love for anyone, and I don’t think January will be, either.  Be kind to yourself, enjoy those treats and move your body every day.