Thursday, February 4, 2016

McDonald's Kale Salad

Did you hear the news?  McDonald's is offering a kale salad.

Did you hear the other news?  The salad has more calories, fat and sodium than a DOUBLE Big Mac.  LOL!!!!! 

"McDonald's boasts on its site that the 'Keep Calm, Caesar On' chicken salad contains 'real parmesan petals' and 'a nutrient-rich lettuce blend with baby kale.'  But once you plop the accompanying Asiago Caesar dressing on the crispy chicken version, the salad's nutritional profile doesn't look so good. According to McDonald's own numbers, the salad tops up at 730 calories, 53 grams of fat, and 1,400 milligrams of salt."

So what are nutrition experts saying about this menu choice?

"Obesity expert, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff says the chain is trying to appeal to consumers' need to 'feel like they're not making such terrible choices.' He adds, 'Words like kale can help do that.'"

And it's not just the kale salad that's at issue.

"Even McDonald's lightest chicken kale salad is not a nutritional winner ... Combined with the Greek Feta Dressing, the 'I'm Greek-ing ' salad with grilled chicken amounts to: 420 calories, 26 grams of fat, and 1,080 milligrams of sodium. That's almost the same calorie, fat and salt content as a Double Cheeseburger."

Read about the new menu item here.  But my personal favorite quote from the entire article? 

"CBC News had to do some searching online to crunch the numbers for salads. Nutritional information for the kale salads (on McDonald's nutritional information list) excludes the dressing they're served with. We found the dressings in a separate category under 'condiments.'"

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Emptied a Closet

Forgive me if I'm a tad distracted in the coming weeks.  My latest endeavor took me three hours last night alone, but finally ... the closet is empty of my crap and filled with someone else's!

And that's not even half of the clothes I'll need for the first year.  *SIGH*  I signed up for this willingly?  LOL!

Oh, and before I go - a close up of one of my favorite purchases thus far:

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Working Out While Pregnant

For those of you who haven't been following this blog very closely in the last few months - TA DA!  I'm pregnant.

OK, let's be real ... I highly doubt any of you reading my blog at this point are surprised by this news, since you've either seen my previous posts on the topic or have seen my ever growing belly in the last couple of months.  And yes, it's starting to get pretty big.  Considering I'll be 7 months this Friday, that's to be expected, though.

Since I've been pregnant, I've been getting a lot of questions about working out while pregnant and how things are going for me on that front.  Today I thought I'd talk a little about what I'm doing these days, and also how I'm able to do it (from a wardrobing perspective).

But first, lemme post a selfie.

Ok, ok.  This isn't exactly a super current photo - I posted it on Facebook before the turn of the New Year.  But I haven't gotten a much bigger since this photo, so ... accurate enough!

As you can see in the above photo, I'm just about to teach a cycle group fitness class.  Yes, at almost 7 months pregnant, I am still teaching.  And yes, it's going just fine.  Which brings me to the topic of what I'm doing right now to "work out".

My typical workout routine these days is:

Monday - Rest
Tuesday - Teach TBC (participate at about 50-75%)
Wednesday - Lap Swim with Coach Amanda
Thursday - Teach TBC (participate at about 50-75%)
Friday - Rest
Saturday - Every other weekend teach Cycle (participate at about 75%) or walk/be generally active
Sunday - walk/be generally active

Now, before you all go crazy and tell me a pregnant lady should not be doing so much - my doctor is fully aware of my activity levels and supports me in what I'm doing 100%.  In fact, at my last visit to her office, she told me "I far prefer to see someone, for example, stay running as long as possible.  Because even if you dial it down from a 9 minute mile to a 12 minute mile, you're still running.  So when you get back to it post delivery, picking back up is MUCH easier.  After the baby, you'll go out and run 2 miles as a test and say to yourself: 'hey, that wasn't so bad'.  Where as if you totally just stop being active during pregnancy, when you finally do go back, it's going to be WAY harder.  And at that point you NEED to be active to help your body get back to what it used to be.  But you'll just be frustrated because it will be such a struggle after not working out for so long.  So listen to your body, modify when you need too, but stay active as long as you can."

What does this all mean?  Well, basically: I'm taking my doctor's advice above, and listening to what feels ok or not so OK to my body while I work out.  Or in other words, I've just been keep on keepin' on. 

This being said, coming up on 7 months pregnant, I'm realizing that the above schedule is starting to be harder for me to maintain - not so much on the day of, but the problem is the morning after.  Depending on what I did in TBC, especially, I find sometimes I have more low back stiffness the next morning than I would like to admit.  And I'm also getting more tired immediately following class as well.  Both issues are a total bummer, but not totally unmanageable.  I just figure that as I grow from month 7 to month 8, I'll be doing more modifications and less activity as I learn what my changing body can handle (at least in TBC, which seems to be the only class where I'm noticing some minor issues).

Physical capacity aside, the real issue for me, starting around Thanksgiving time, was finding workout clothes that fit my ever expanding belly.  Unfortunately, most women see pregnancy as an opportunity to stop working out (if they were even working out to begin with), so the market for maternity athletic apparel is incredibly slim ... and high priced. 

This meant that at first, I had convinced myself that I could just buy some cheap workout gear at a size or two larger than my standard, non baby weight, and call it good.  Who needs maternity workout gear, right?

Well, uh ... apparently me.


You see, I quickly discovered how uncomfortable it is to have an elastic waist band pressing into my baby bump ... no matter how stretchy my non-maternity workout pants were. Couple that discovery with some pretty good black Friday sales deals on apparel and ... I was sold.  Maternity workout gear, here I come!!

After reviewing my options and comparing sale deals, I ended up buying maternity workout pants from Target, Old Navy and Motherhood Maternity.  I also purchased a few maternity workout tops from Target and Old Navy, and a clearance maternity swim suit from Motherhood Maternity.  (Since my standard workout bras still seem to work for me, and I had a pair of padded bike shorts from when I was "bigger" that fit fine for cycle class, I didn't need to buy anything else.)

Now that I've been using this gear for a couple of months, here are my thoughts:

The Bad

Target BeMaternity by Ingrid & Isabel Active Capri

Black - available here

Seriously, if you work out - like, AT ALL - don't buy these.  I say this because, at first glance, these look like great pants.  And if you wear them just like regular leggings, they pretty much are!  The belly area is roomy, the V shaped vent in the back is nice for a growing belly ... but the rest, no. 

Want to know why?  Try taking a deep lunge or bend over to touch your toes in front of a mirror. 

Yep, totally see through.

For $30 at Target, and knowing the quality I get at JC Penny for similar priced (non maternity) workout gear, I guess I had higher expectations out of these pants than what I got.  Granted, I didn't pay $30, since I got them on the 40% off all clothing savings event over the Black Friday weekend this past November.  But considering these retail at the same price as the other pants I'll speak to below ... well, there are better options out there.

Unfortunately, since I already own these and I need options, they stay in my rotation.  I just make sure to wear nude colored underwear underneath and a longer/tunic type top for extra insurance.

The Good

Old Navy Maternity Compression Capris

Blue - available here , Pink - available here

These pants, out of the three brands I have purchased, are my favorite.  And actually, I kind of ... love them!  Though some might think the style of waist on these isn't ideal (since they're not the soft, stretchy, unprinted kind you usually find on maternity pants), for me they stay in place the best while moving around, and I like the fact that they're the same print all the way up the belly so I don't have to worry about my shirt being long enough to cover any "unprinted" fabric. 

In fact, these pants are so great, I wear them all the time - even not at the gym!

Now, keep in mind that I'm using these for TBC based classes.  This means a lot of plyometric and cardio moves in a confined area, coupled with tons of strength training and bending in all directions.  I am not wearing these for running, and frankly if I WAS wearing them for running, I would find the "compression" claim in the name a little disappointing.  Not disappointing enough to NOT wear them, mind you, but enough for me to say I wouldn't call these compression myself. 

Compared to the $30 price point for the Target option above, knowing that these fit so much better, and the fact that these currently list at Old Navy for $26 (plus they are pretty much always on a 20-40% off sale coupon for an additional discount) - these are a steal!

On a tangent here, I also bought a pair of Motherhood Maternity workout pants that I would rank a medium - not as good as the Old Navy pants above (which were good enough that after buying them in blue, I went back and bought them in pink), but not as terrible as the Target pants I discussed above.  The Motherhood Maternity pants were also not the cheapest option, I believe closer to $40 per pair regular price.  Unfortunately, now the Motherhood Maternity pants are no longer available online, so I'm not going to do any further review.  I would however recommend that you do consider options at that store as well, if you're looking for other styles besides Old Navy to try out.

C9 Champion Women's Maternity Performance Long Tank

Assorted colors - available here

To be fair, I didn't try out many options in the maternity performance top arena.  So far, I am fortunate that some of my old performance race t's are oversized enough that they work for my cycling classes, and I was willed a few maternity workout tops from a friend as well (#winning).  When it came down to it, I actually only purchased three tops in this category - two from Target in the above cut, and one from Old Navy. 

After wearing both tops from Target and Old Navy, I find I prefer the fit and fabric of this Target top the best.  Though at $16-22 per top ... for basic performance material ... it does seem to be a little overpriced.  Welcome to the world of maternity clothing price gouging.  Ugh.  Sorry folks.


And well, I suppose that about does it.  My current maternity workout schedule and the gear that helps me do it.  I know I kind of glossed over some of the details of what I bought, so if you have any other questions, feel free to ask away in the comments below.

*** Note that I didn't review the swimsuit I purchased, since it was a clearance item and hasn't existed on the internet in months now.  If you're looking for a maternity suit yourself, I recommend you check into current offerings at Motherhood Maternity (since they offer the most options in 1 piece, which is what you'll want for lap swimming anyway) or (last I looked there, they had a few options that, although they were twice the price of Motherhood Maternity, were still some of the only good options I found for non-fashion/lap swim suitable suits).

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Recipe: Delicious Soup - Simple Tomato Soup from Scratch

Over the Christmas holiday, finding myself short on groceries and having unexpected company en route for lunch, I was in a bind.  Looking in the pantry, the only thing I had in large enough bulk to make a sizable meal for 4 adults was canned tomatoes.


But - ah ha!  It's lunch.  I don't need a huge meal, right?  So I got the idea to try tomato soup from scratch and serve it with a side of bread and various raw veggies. 

I'm glad I punted, because I was pleased with the result.

The below is a merger of a few different recipes I found online.  Enjoy!


Simple Tomato Soup from Scratch



  • 1 quart jar of tomatoes with juice (roughly 4 cups canned, feel free to use store purchased)
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 small/medium onion, diced
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste (approximate)
  • Butter or oil for sautéing
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1. Sautee diced onions in butter or oil until translucent.  Add tomatoes, chicken stock, and thyme.  Bring to low simmer for 5-10 minutes.

2. Using an immersion blender, blend simmering mixture into a smooth, liquid soup.  Add tomato paste as needed to enhance color of soup (some home canned tomatoes are less red than others, so the tomato paste helps enrich the look of the soup).  Continue simmering for another 5-10 minutes.

3. Taste soup.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Allow to simmer on low until you are ready to serve, or at least 30 minutes in total.

4. Store leftovers in refrigerator. Also freezes well. 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Leg Day Every Day

Since I'm on a health article kick, let's continue the trend.



What Your Legs Can Tell You Right Now About Your Brain In 10 Years

A new study from the journal Gerontology that says meaty, muscular legs are linked to a similarly powerful mind—even later in life.

The study focused on 324 British twins, ages 43 to 73. The twins, all female, took two neuropsychological tests 10 years apart. They also took a test to measure leg explosive power (like when you slam on your car brakes really, really hard) at the beginning of the 10-year period.

The results showed that more leg power at the beginning of the study resulted in less cognitive change 10 years later (the more muscular twin actually performed 18% better on memory and cognitive tests than her less-fit sister). Brain imaging also showed differences between the fit and unfit twins, with the buffer sister having significantly more brain volume than the other.

The connection between physical fitness and brain health isn't new—past studies have associated everything from walking to weight lifting with mind power. But many of those focused on self-reported physical activity, and let's be honest, we've all fibbed about how much cardio we've done before. This study in particular, however, focuses on physical fitness—testing how well bodies perform because of exercise.

Researchers narrowed their focus to the strength of the lower legs because they contain the largest muscles in the body and can be exercised through habitual activities like standing or walking, according to a press release from King's College in London. They narrowed it even further to that of twins, to make sure the leg power measured wasn't purely genetic.

Though researchers don't know why stronger legs result in quicker minds, they believe physical activity's effect on the brain stems from hormones released by working muscles.

And the best news? If your thighs are feeling a little scrawny after reading this, you can start working on them now, to keep your wits about you 10 years from now.
Source article here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Everything in Moderation ... ???

Since I'm kind of on a New Years Resolution kick lately, what with my last few posts being themed around healthy eating and health goal achievements, I thought I'd continue the trend today and discuss the dreaded topic of ...

"Everything in Moderation"


About a month ago, I read an article titled "Everything in Moderation Is a Terrible Rule to Eat By".  At first, I totally took the click bait into the article and read it because I was like - Say what?  No way!  Moderation is key!

But after reading the article, I walked away thinking ... you know, I kind of agree. 

Just look at the opening paragraph of the article:

" “Everything in moderation” is attractive advice, but also a trap. It amounts to saying we shouldn’t have too much of anything, which is true by definition: that’s why we call it “too much.” But the word “moderation” is vague, and its vagueness makes it a friendly, big-tent kind of concept: however much you eat, you can find a way of convincing yourself that you eat in moderation."

Well ... dang.  As much as I like the moderation saying, I guess I can't argue with that statement.  I mean - think about it.  Many people today do not understand things such as portion control, how to make proper meal selections like eating several servings of fruit and vegetables daily, and don't really try to limit themselves on out to eat items like pizza/burgers/fried foods to once a week or less. 

So if people are already overeating in a category, is saying "everything in moderation" really going to help them?

For example:  we just reviewed last week in my Government Dietary Guidelines post that American men as a demographic way over eat animal based proteins on a regular basis, and that sugary drinks compose of 47% of the added sugars Americans consume every day (regardless of gender).  Using this example, let's make up a fictional character named John Doe.

So, John Doe normally eats three times the daily recommended intake of meat each day, and drinks 5 sodas.  To him, what is moderation?  Since that's his daily average, would he consider that moderation? 

Or say, John Doe decides he is in fact eating too much, and chooses to "moderate" himself by cutting back one serving of each item a day, thus reducing himself to two times the daily recommended intake of meat and drinking 4 sodas ... would he consider that moderation?

Thinking through the above, if John Doe is only ever directed to eat "in moderation", at what point does he actually get himself in line with healthy portions?  And will he ever truly practice "moderation" in the way that a dietician or health care professional would approve?

Interestingly, the article specifically addresses this topic, going on to say:

"Nutrition professionals have a specific meaning for the word: moderation means small portions, especially when talking about food that we should eat little to none of. This isn’t the “everything in moderation” that Aristotle wrote about, where we try to avoid extremes of too much and too little. There’s no such thing as too little candy: you can skip it entirely and still be perfectly healthy. Instead, nutritionists use the concept of moderation as a tool for managing cravings. Here’s how two dieticians described it in the Journal of Nutrition Education:
“[T]he message of balance, variety and moderation also can help remove some of the psychological baggage attached to healthful eating in the U.S. It can eliminate “all-or-nothing” perceptions that give rise to guilt, and in many cases, overeating, when people inevitably choose less healthful foods.”
There are some good ideas here: eating a little bit of junk food doesn’t have to derail your diet, and knowing that it’s okay to treat yo’self can make it easier to stick to a healthy eating plan in the first place."

And of course, then they throw in the big "B" word into the article:


Once you give yourself license to eat anything “in moderation,” it easily turns into license to eat anything, and call it moderation. The word has become an excuse, a way to say “screw you, I’m going to eat whatever I want”—all while smugly proclaiming that you live by simple, folksy advice and don’t have to worry about the latest in nutrition science."

And then the article gets even better!

"Not convinced? Think about this: The junk food companies love the concept of “moderation”.

For example, look at the Back to Balance Coalition, made of 18 “leading food groups” that have signed a statement of principles promoting moderation. Their motto: “All foods fit in a balanced diet.”

And those food groups? They include the Sugar Association, the National Confectioners Association, the Corn Refiners Association (makers of corn syrup), the National Potato Council (remember that most potato consumption in America is through chips and fries), the Grocery Manufacturers Association (members include Coca-Cola and Hershey), and the Snack Food Association.

Their statement declares that “All foods can fit within a healthful, overall dietary pattern if consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with physical activity.” In other words, these groups really don’t want you to say that you should stop eating their food, or that you should think of your diet as unhealthful if it includes their foods."

Bahahahaha!  Sugar and fried potatoes as "food groups".  That's a good one.

Especially copupled with this quote:

"The reference to physical activity is also technically true while mostly meaningless: Sure, you can burn off the calories in your pack of Doritos, but that doesn’t erase the fact that you ate it. We also know that you can’t rely on exercise to keep you healthy if you’re eating crap."

Anyway.  This blog post is getting long winded.  What's my point?  Well, why not take one last article snippet?

" “Everything in moderation” is a crappy rule to live by. But it’s great as inspiration for coming up with rules that can help you in the long run.

It’s true that small portions of junk food are better than large portions, and that you don’t have to completely cut a well-loved treat out of your life. So decide—now, not when you’re standing at the sundae bar—what treats are worth eating and how much you can “afford” to eat without sabotaging yourself.

hoose your treats on their merits, deciding for example whether that slice of cake tastes good enough to be worth a minor setback in your weight loss. You can be mindful of your cravings and create triggers to redirect yourself to better choices.

... If you’re not trying to lose weight—or if you’ve decided that you just don’t care what you eat (maybe this is a stressful time in your life and you just need to get through this last year of school with whatever comfort foods it takes), be honest with yourself. And be honest with others too: don’t dismiss dietary advice with “Duh, everything in moderation.” Instead tell the truth: “That’s probably good advice, but I’m not going to follow it.” "

***Thanks to this article for the above references.  Keep in mind that I only quoted a small segment of that piece - to read the article in full, click here.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

New US GOV Published Dietary Guidelines

Wow!  I read an article today backed by the US Government that I could actually agree with.

Color me surprised.

Basically, the article was written about the newly published dietary guidelines.  But some interesting snippets I particularly enjoyed:

- After a backlash from the meat industry and Congress, the administration ignored several suggestions from a February report by an advisory committee of doctors and nutrition experts. That panel suggested calling for an environmentally friendly diet lower in red and processed meats and de-emphasized lean meats in its list of proteins that are part of a healthy diet. But as in the previous years, the government still says lean meats are part of a healthy eating pattern.

- While lean meats are promoted, the government does suggest certain populations, such as teen boys and adult men, should reduce their meat intake and eat more vegetables. Data included in the report shows that males ages 14 to 70 consume more than recommended amounts of meat, eggs and poultry, while women are more in line with advised amounts.

- Guidelines always have been subject to intense lobbying by food industries, but this year's version set off unprecedented political debate, fueled by Republicans' claims the Obama administration has gone too far in telling people what to eat.  Congress got involved, encouraging the administration to drop the recommendations based on environmental impact and at one point proposing to set new standards for the science the guidelines can use. That language did not become law, however. A year-end spending bill simply said the guidelines must be "based on significant scientific agreement" and "limited in scope to nutritional and dietary information."

Before I can move on from these snippets, I just have to say: it never ceases to amaze me what corporations will do.  Though I shouldn't' be shocked that lobbyists pressed for an inclusion of more red and processed meats into these guidelines, I'm glad the ones in charge stuck to their guns.  The simple reality is, Americans do eat too much meat overall, and we certainly don't need as much red and processed meat as we get.  So I'm thrilled to see the verbiage dropped any reference to meat beyond "lean meats are part of a healthy eating pattern".


Beyond the more amazing facts above, these basics left me feeling ... "aaaahhhh". 

- Released every five years, the guidelines are intended to help Americans prevent disease and obesity... the main message hasn't changed much over the years: Eat your fruits and vegetables. Whole grains and seafood, too. And keep sugar, fats and salt in moderation.

- One new recommendation is that added sugar should be 10 percent of daily calories. That's about 200 calories a day, or about the amount in one 16-ounce sugary drink. The recommendation is part of a larger push to help consumers isolate added sugars from naturally occurring ones like those in fruit and milk. Added sugars generally add empty calories to the diet. Sugar-sweetened beverages make up a large portion of those empty calories. According to the guidelines, sugary drinks comprise 47 percent of the added sugars that Americans eat every day.

- "Small changes can add up to big differences," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.


Finally, some realistic guidelines for how to shape your daily diet.  This, I approve!

***(Want some additional help in shaping your daily eating patterns?  Check out this "Healthy Eating Plate", published by the Harvard Medical School.)***