Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Have a Healthy 4th of July!

Hey peeps! :) How's it going? Another month has come and gone and we're now in July! Can you believe it?!? I know I've said it before, but I've gotta' say it again, this year is flying by! We're officially 7 months into the year and it feels like we were just celebrating the new year (which I guess isn't so new anymore, lol) just yesterday. In America we celebrate Independence Day in just a couple of days so I thought I'd write a quick post with some quick & easy tips on how to have a healthy 4th of July. So without further adieu, let's get to it!

10 Summer Holiday Survival Tips 

1. Use small plates. Research shows that people who choose smaller plates and utensils eat less without even noticing it.The difference can be as substantial as 50% FEWER CALORIES CONSUMED! But with the same level of fullness and satisfaction achieved. So try borrowing a plate from the kids table or the dessert tray.

2. Eat slowly and mindfully. This is a big one for me, I'm a fast eater (I think I get from my dad, lol, he's a fast eater, too), but the reason why it would be beneficial for anyone to eat a little slower is that the fact remains that people who eat more slowly eat fewer calories over the course of a meal. BBQs are perfect opportunities to pace yourself as you mix and mingle with friends & family. The more you chat, the less you eat!

3. Put a little color in it. The new MyPlate food guidelines recommend that the American plate be at least half filled with fruits and vegetables. This is fun and easy to do with a summertime barbeque when some of the best fruits and vegetables are in season. Light up your grill with a vegetable skewer to include a colorful array of veggies like peppers (red, green, orange, and yellow), zucchini, eggplant, cherry tomatoes, and onions. Meanwhile grill some corn on the cob and offer up some fresh cut watermelon and your guests are pretty close to their goal fruit and vegetable consumption for the day.

4. Serve up something lean. Lean meat and meat-free entrée options can taste just as good as the full-fat version without a ton of calories and artery-clogging saturated fats. Opt for 90%+ lean meat for your burgers and substitute chicken sausage for Italian sausage. Offer veggie burgers as an option as well (non-meat eaters like myself appreciate it, believe me!).

5. Grill healthier. While grilled foods are among the healthiest types of foods to eat, the hydrocarbons (PAHs) that form when fat from meat drips on a hot coal and heterocyclic amines (HCAs) that form when meat undergo high-temperature cooking. The good news is that grilled fruits and veggies don’t seem to form these compounds. And, if you cook lean meats, you’ve got a lot less fat dripping on the coal and decreased formation of these harmful compounds. You can further reduce exposure to PAHs and HCAs by marinating meats in lemon juice, vinegar, and spices prior to grilling.

6. Eat healthiest foods first. If you're eating slowly and off small plates, you may as well fill up on the healthiest stuff first. Salads are a great place to start because watery vegetables slow digestion and have very few calories. Try to choose something with oil and protein as well, because these will help you feel full sooner.

7. Skip the chips, crackers and bread. Refined carbohydrates are the worst things you can eat because they offer little satisfaction, loads of calories and dangerous insulin spikes. BBQs are filled with wonderful food, so do yourself a favor and save your calories for the really good stuff. You don’t have to eat your burger without a bun, but pass on the pointless chips and other snacks that lure you when you’re not thinking.

8. Keep dessert small. The difference between a large slice of cake and a smaller slice of cake can literally be hundreds of calories. You don’t have to pass on dessert completely, but keep your portion sizes in check for this course.

9. Think before you drink. While some of us choose will choose not to drink, the reality is that a lot of people will, and there's nothing wrong with that. There'ss a place for alcohol in a healthy lifestyle, but making smart choices can be the difference between losing or gaining weight (not to mention your self-control). One sugary margarita can have 600-800 calories! That means 3 margaritas is more food than you should be consuming in an entire day! Is that really worth it? Stick with wine or beer, drink plenty of water and remember to pace yourself.

10. Last but not least, GET MOVING!!! Include games and physical activities like basketball, volleyball, swimming, ... etc., depending on the space and equipment available, to keep guests having fun, as well as to keep them occupied with something active rather than continuously grazing. Plus, they can burn some serious calories in the process.

Remember, holidays are for celebrating and are meant to be enjoyed, but you don’t have to sacrifice your health or body every time you attend a gathering. Small tricks can save you hundreds and potentially thousands of wasted calories that you will never notice or miss. Why sacrifice a good time when you can just upgrade your healthstyle? These 10 survival tips can save you hundreds of calories you won’t even miss, and keep your health and fitness goals on track!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Six Ways To A Six Pack

Hey healthy ones! :) It's June and the Summer season starts in just a few short weeks! So you know what that means: sun, fun, warm weather... time to break out the shorts, skirts, dresses and swimwear! Sounds great... right? Well, while I think most of us love the warm weather and getting out of those big, bulky Winter clothes, the idea of wearing a bikini/swimsuit or taking off your shirt, isn't every woman or man's idea of fun. In fact, even the thought of it can make a lot of people cringe. Why? Because whether we like to admit it or not, we all want to see those 6 pack abs when we look in the mirror. The big question is, how do we get it? Well, keep reading because I think I've got the answer! While I can't guarantee your results, I do know that the following 6 tips WILL tone & sculpt your middle! So without further adieu, I give you...

Six Ways To A Six Pack

1. Start By Changing Your Diet
First and foremost, let me say, YOU CANNOT OUT EXERCISE A BAD DIET! So before any exercise is discussed, you've gotta' first deal with your diet. I don't care what exercise you do or how much you do it, if you're eating junk, you'll NEVER get the results! So, question: What is a "good diet?" Surprisingly a good diet will have you eating well and eating often. That means 6 small healthy meals a day, a balanced diet of protein and complex carbs plus a small amount of “healthy” fat – about 15% of your diet. When you do this your body relaxes and doesn’t feel the need to hold on to every calorie in case it might need it later. By eating these small amounts of healthy food your body is continuously supplied with the energy it needs throughout the day, boosting your metabolism. As a bonus, your stomach starts shrinking to the size it should be – about the size of your balled up fist.

Think “nature food”. If it looks like something you could find growing outside, you can eat it. If not, pass it up. For example, a whole apple = good. Applesauce = not so good. Apple/cinnamon Danish = run away! The more you eat of food that looks like you would find in nature, the more nutrition you will be getting.
Eat the highest amount of carbs earlier in the day; that way your body will be processing and burning it as energy throughout the day, not storing it as fat.
When you eat fat make sure it comes from oily fish like tuna and salmon, and healthy oils that are found naturally in vegetables, fruits, or nuts.
If you're a meat eater, cut down on the red meat. Eat lean cuts such as chicken breasts and turkey and use virgin olive oil to cook it in.

Diet is only 50% of the equation, and I’m sorry, if you really want to work out and get in shape you’re going to have to get off the couch and EXERCISE. While you cannot spot train (did you hear me? SPOT TRAINING DOES NOT EXIST!), your best results come from a mixture of cardio and resistance training, but working specific parts of your body will tone and tighten the muscles in that particular area. So if you want to tone & tighten the abs, guess what? You've got to do specific exercises to work those muscles! And the first exercise you can start with is...

2. Crunches
Lie on the floor using a mat. Put your arms out in front of your chest or you can touch your temples with your hands, however you can balance your movements best. Don’t do crunches with your fingers locked behind your head and pulling on your neck.
Bend your knees and raise your upper torso towards your knees but not with your back muscles, use your abdominal muscles – this is the most important part. Lift upwards until your shoulder blades leave the ground. There’s no need to raise your entire back off the floor, you could end up straining it.
Exhale as you lift from the floor. When you’ve got as far as you can, hold for a second then exhale any air that’s left in your lungs and lower back down slowly, inhaling as you go. Don’t let your head touch the floor, just your shoulders. Repeat.

3. Sit Ups
Lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the ground, wedged under something heavy like a couch. With your hands crossed over your chest sit all the way up with your back straight then return to the first position. If this becomes too easy –i.e. It doesn’t give you any soreness the next day- try it while holding a weight against your chest.

4.  Leg Lifts
Lie on the floor with your legs straight out and hands at your sides. Lift your legs straight up without bending them, then lower your legs and repeat without letting your legs touch the floor. This helps to strengthen the muscles in the lower abdomen. Take it easy at first with these or you could strain your back.

5. Static Holds/Planks
Put your body into the push-up position but with your elbows on the floor, with the rest of your raised off the ground. This is the static hold position, or plank. It trains all your core muscles to hold the body in place correctly. Hold for 45 seconds if you are a beginner.
To perform the side static hold, roll onto one side of your body and lift into the same position as before, but this time only one arm will be on the ground with the other arm pointed straight up the air with your non-weight bearing leg resting on your other leg. Hold for as long as you can.

6. Torso Twists
Holding a weight close to your chest twist your torso from side to side. (Like your were trying to look over your shoulder without moving your neck) This exercise is for the obliques, which while not directly involved in creating a six-pack, is important to include so that your body doesn’t get imbalanced and prone to injury.

To sum it all up in a nutshell:
  • Eat Right - about six small meals a day with lots of “nature food”
  • Exercise - mix of cardio and resistance training to maximize fat loss
  • Build Abs - do specific abdominal exercises to bulk up your abs

Monday, May 13, 2013

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

Hey guys! Fit Girl here, back again with another post for you! The subject: High Intensity Interval Training, also known as - "HIIT". Ever heard of it? I'm sure all my hard-core fitness heads have, but if you're new to fitness or somehow missed memo, keep reading and let me fill you in! What if I told you that there was a way to burn more calories, lose more fat, and improve your cardiovascular fitness level while spending less time doing cardio? You’d probably think I was lying right? Well, believe it or not, it's actually a possibility! High Intensity Interval Training is one of the quickest ways to take your fitness and fat loss to a whole new level!

Now before getting into the details, notice that I didn’t say HIIT would be easier, just that it would take less of your time. In fact, the HIIT approach to cardio exercise is very physically demanding and isn’t for everyone. If you have any cardiovascular problems or other health concerns that limit your ability to exercise at very intense levels, or if you are relatively new to aerobic exercise or not already in good shape, HIIT is not for you—at least for now. If you have any doubts or concerns about whether it might be safe for you, check in with your medical professional before trying HIIT.

What It Is and How It Works

HIIT is a specialized form of interval training that involves short intervals of maximum intensity
exercise separated by longer intervals of low to moderate intensity exercise. Because it involves briefly pushing yourself beyond the upper end of your aerobic exercise zone, it offers you several advantages that traditional steady-state exercise (where you keep your heart rate within your aerobic zone) can’t provide:
  • HIIT trains and conditions both your anaerobic and aerobic energy systems. You train your anaerobic system with brief, all-out efforts, like when you have to push to make it up a hill or sprint the last few hundred yards of a distance race.
  • HIIT increases the amount of calories you burn during your exercise session and afterward because it increases the length of time it takes your body to recover from each exercise session.
  • HIIT causes metabolic adaptations that enable you to use more fat as fuel under a variety of conditions. This will improve your athletic endurance as well as your fat-burning potential.
  • HIIT appears to limit muscle loss that can occur with weight loss, in comparison to traditional steady-state cardio exercise of longer duration.
  • To get the benefits HIIT, you need to push yourself past the upper end of your aerobic zone and allow your body to replenish your anaerobic energy system during the recovery intervals.

General HIIT Guidelines
  • HIIT is designed for people whose primary concerns are boosting overall cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and fat loss, without losing the muscle mass they already have.
  • Before starting any HIIT program, you should be able to exercise for at least 20-30 minutes at 70-85% of your estimated maximum heart rate, without exhausting yourself or having problems.
  • Because HIIT is physically demanding, it’s important to gradually build up your training program so that you don’t overdo it. (The sample training schedule below will safely introduce you to HIIT over a period of eight weeks.)
  • Always warm up and cool down for at least five minutes before and after each HIIT session.
  • Work as hard as you can during the high intensity intervals, until you feel the burning sensation in your muscles indicating that you have entered your anaerobic zone. Elite athletes can usually sustain maximum intensity exercise for three to five minutes before they have to slow down and recover, so don’t expect to work longer than that.
  • Full recovery takes about four minutes for everyone, but you can shorten the recovery intervals if your high intensity intervals are also shorter and don’t completely exhaust your anaerobic energy system.
  • If you experience any chest pain or breathing difficulties during your HIIT workout, cool down immediately. (Don't just stop or else blood can pool in your extremities and lightheadedness or faintness can occur.)
  • If your heart rate does not drop back down to about 70% of your max during recovery intervals, you may need to shorten your work intervals and/or lengthen your recovery intervals.
  • HIIT (including the sample program below) is not for beginner exercisers or people with cardiovascular problems or risk factors. If you have cardiovascular problems or risk factors should NOT attempt HIIT unless your doctor has specifically cleared you for this kind of exercise.

The key element of HIIT that makes it different from other forms of interval training is that the high intensity intervals involve maximum effort, not simply a higher heart rate. There are many different approaches to HIIT, each involving different numbers of high and low intensity intervals, different levels of intensity during the low intensity intervals, different lengths of time for each interval, and different numbers of training sessions per week. For example, a good starter workout is running as fast as you can for 1 minute and then walking for 2 minutes. Repeat that 3-minute interval five times for a 15-minute, fat-blasting workout! It sounds too simple to be effective, but science doesn't stretch the truth.

You don’t need to swap all of your aerobic exercise for HIIT to gain the benefits. A good balance, for example, might be two sessions of HIIT per week, along with 1-2 sessions of steady-state aerobic exercise. As usual, moderation is the key to long-term success, so challenge yourself—but don’t drive yourself into the ground. And most importantly, get ready to see major changes in your body and your fitness level!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Numbers On The Scale...

Okay, so I know some of you must be going, "What is up with this girl?!? It's been over a month!" I know, I know, it's been awhile... but I'M BACK! :) April was kinda' hectic for me, with work, appointments, meetings, not to mention multiple birthdays (including my own - I turned 31 this year, whoo-hoo!)... it's been kinda' crazy, but I'm still here. I post more often on the Succeed At Fitness Facebook page - I'm on there everyday, so if you're on Facebook and haven't liked the page yet, you should check it out!

But anyway, let's get to the subject of this post, which is about an old frenemy of mine and I'm sure yours, too (not sure what frenemy I'm talking about or even what a "frenemy" is, check out an old post I did a couple of years ago titled "My Frenemy"). The big S.C.A.L.E, that's right, the scale. I've tried to like her, I really have. She'll get me all hyped up and ready to be on her team and then she'll disappoint me all over again. But I've finally come to the conclusion that the problem really isn't the scale, it's ME! Or maybe I should say my old mindset about the scale? Let me explain...

Heavy But Fit
That's right I said it. Contrary to popular belief, the scale isn't the problem. But maybe "problem" is actually the wrong word and that's the problem. You see, we tend to let that number on the scale define us. We have in our head a certain number that we want to see, and after eating healthy (and/or "dieting"), working out, and still not seeing the number we want - in fact the numbers may have even went UP rather than down - we get frustrated, sad, depressed and ready to throw our old frenemy out the window. But hold on! It's actually not the her fault! All the scale does is weigh us on how HEAVY we are - that number tells us nothing about how much of that weight is muscle, bone, fat, water... etc. I'll take myself as an example. To this day, my smallest weight ever has been 124lbs. Sounds great, right? Right. However, I now weigh 134 but am smaller, toner and more fit than I ever was at 124. I've gained muscle but have lost inches, and now, at 134, I can slide out of my size 4 jeans without unbuttoning my pants! I'm heavier but more fit. I've gained MUSCLE - NOT FAT. So who cares what the scale says?

All of these women weigh 150lbs - different heights and different sizes but the weight is
the same. Check out the last pic! 5FT.5, A SIZE 2 and 150LBS! If that doesn't prove that
the scale isn't the best determinant of fitness I don't know what does!

Question: Is The Scale Even Necessary?
Good question! And a tricky one, too! My answer would be yes and no. Let me explain. If you are obese or overweight, yes, I do think you need to pay some attention to the scale. Now do I think you should try and fit into a certain BMI range? No. Most people know by now that the whole BMI concept is bogus for exactly some of the reasons I mentioned above. But I do think that if you're 5ft.3 and weigh 229 lbs that that weight is way too much for your size and you do need to lose weight! And that's using my own height and old weight as an example. At that height and weight, I had way too much fat around my heart and other internal organs, making that weight very unhealthy for me. So yes, in the beginning of your journey, the scale should, in my opinion, be used.

But once you get to level where you are fit - meaning not overweight, lower percentage of body fat (i.e - more muscle than fat on your body)... etc., the scale ceases to be of any importance in my opinion. If you are going to continue down the this road of eating healthy and exercising regularly, as long as all of your clothes continue to fit, you're good! I know that sounds incredibly simple but it really is that simple and it took me a long time to get that through my thick head! If you can continue to wear the same size clothes with no bulges or lumps, and you're going shopping and can still easily buy the same size, you're still on the right track and there's no need to worry or pull out the scale. I know from personal experience getting on the scale can just be a frustrating annoyance with daily weight fluctuations, water weight, added weight from muscle soreness... etc. And if you're like me, and you have gotten to the point where you WANT to build muscle, getting on the scale is totally pointless, especially if you're getting on it with the expectations of losing weight because if you're gaining muscle, the scale is going to go UP - NOT DOWN.

So, in conclusion, my opinion is, take those numbers on the scale with a grain of salt. Do I feel like the scale is your enemy? No. But I do think her truth is a little warped. Eat healthy, exercise, make good choices and you WILL see results  - no matter what that scale says.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Do Sore Muscles Retain Water?

Hey fitness friends! How's everything going? Eating and living healthy? Exercising regularly? Me? I'm doing great! I'm not sure how many of you knew this, but for the last 6 months I'd been studying for my personal trainer certification. I finally took the exam on March 2nd, and guess what? I PASSED! :) I am now officially a certified fitness professional! :) It wasn't easy trying to fit in studying with a full time job and all the other things going on in my life (I don't know how you moms & dads with kids do it!) but I got it done and I'm happy about it! Not sure what the future holds for me as far as that's concerned but I've finally got some fitness credentials and now know a lot more than I knew before about health & fitness so it was all worth it. When you've got a passion, you owe it to yourself to pursue it! I've found that if it's in God's plans, all you've got to do it go after it and He'll take care of the rest. :) By the way, if you'd like to learn more about what it takes to become a certified personal trainer, check out the Succeed At Fitness.com article I recently wrote, "How To Become A Certified Personal Trainer".

I have another announcement as well. Succeed At Fitness has become the official fitness contributor for Naturally Hair Magazine! My first article, "Exercise Your Right To A Fabulous Body" can be seen in NHH's premiere March 2013 issue. I'm excited to join forces with such an uplifting, positive resource such as Naturally Happy Hair, helping to inform naturals on the importance of taking care of their bodies as well as their hair. If you'd like to learn more about Naturally Happy Hair, check out the article on NHH at Succeed At Fitness.com.

With all of that being said, as you can guess, I've been a very busy chica, but a happy one. As I stated before, not sure what the future holds, all I know is that I'm hopeful and excited about it! And continuously thankful for the opportunities God is blessing me with as I continue along this journey. :)

So back to business with a new blog post/1st blog post for the month of March. The subject? Sore muscles. The question? Do sore muscles retain water? In other words, can you gain pounds from having sore muscles? This has been a concern of mine for awhile now since I am one of those people who is constantly sore. Every time I do something new, you can bet your life that I'm going to be sore from it! And contrary to popular belief, muscle soreness has very little to do with how well you worked your muscles or how "good of a workout you got". It's an individual thing and varies from person to person. Don't get me wrong, chances are if you work a group of muscles you've never worked before or haven't worked in awhile, that there will be some soreness, but some people hardly ever get sore and some people, like me, are continuously sore. Luck of the draw and heredity are the determining factors. But I bet some of you didn't know that muscle soreness actually can affect your weight. To answer the question posed above, yes, muscles do retain water. Let me explain...
Check out the following scenario: 
A woman/man starts some exercise regimen with the hope of losing weight. The initial days are full of intense workouts, driven by a motivation to lose weight. The poor person endures all the soreness in muscles and body ache, hoping to see at least a pound or two less on the scale. Surprisingly, the pounds are still very much there, rather added by a couple more! This situation is bound to frustrate anyone and discouraged, they could decide to give up their workout routine. 
Sound familiar? The good news is that, the pounds gained come from water retention in muscles and nothing else. You can happily go back to working out and experience real weight loss a week or two after that!

How do Sore Muscles Retain Water?
When you work your muscles, microscopic tears appear in muscle fibers. When you rest these muscles after a workout, muscle recovery begins. The repaired muscles are thicker and tougher than the torn muscle fibers. As a result, you see an increase in muscle mass, as well as a visible bulge on the muscles that you work out. Eventually, the muscles become toned and stronger, due to recurrent tear and repair process. However, when you start with a workout regimen, you may experience soreness in the muscles that have been worked upon during the first few days. This soreness results from inflammation of torn muscle fibers. Another byproduct of this condition is water retention.

The microscopic tears in muscle fibers render them the property of sponges. The muscle fibers absorb water in the body, just like a sponge does. As a result, you see a weight gain on the scale. The muscles hold water only for a few days. Once, your workout routine sets in and your body gets used to it, water retention disappears automatically. The water retained in the body is directly proportional to glycogen content in the body. For every 1 gm glycogen, there is 4 gm of water retention in the body. Thus, if you have more glycogen content in the muscles, you will have more weight gain from water.

Water retention in sore muscles is mostly caused due to an intense workout such as weightlifting, running,... etc. Sometimes, you may experience sore muscles for no reason at all. Even a household activity such as cleaning or washing may trigger soreness in muscles. The soreness that you experience after workout stays for about 24-48 hours. It is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), as it surfaces after 12 hours of workout and not immediately. After a week of regular workout, your muscles will stop holding water and you will not experience any soreness. However, both water retention and soreness are likely to resurface, if you take a prolonged break from your workout.

Sore Muscle Relief
Usually, there is no need for any kind of sore muscle relief, except in cases of extreme pain and discomfort. The soreness and water retention subside on their own after 24 to 48 hours. If you exert the muscles again the next day, you are likely to have soreness for another day or two. However, within a week, the soreness should completely subside and you shouldn't experience any muscle pain. However, if the soreness interferes with your ability to work out, you can certainly take some measures to minimize the pain. Cold compresses, hot showers, steam, etc. work wonders for sore muscles. Massages can also help relax the sore muscles and reduce soreness. If the pain is still unbearable, you may try taking an aspirin or ibuprofen.
So to sum it all up, water retention due to sore muscles is an absolutely normal phenomenon. Do not get discouraged upon seeing the initial weight gain and prevent yourself from working out in the direction of your weight loss goal.

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Top 7 Diets Explained

Hey healthy people! How's it going? :) Since I'm sure I won't be writing another post before then, I just want to wish everyone an early Happy Valentine's Day! Can you believe we're almost halfway into the month February already?!? Time sure moves fast! I'm not mad about it, though, Winter is not my favorite season! Not sure how the weather is in your part of the world but here in Mid-West, USA, it's COLD! And I mean windy, snowy, icy kinda' cold! I can't wait until Spring! The way this year is moving, my favorite season will be here before you know it! :)

"Diet" - a : food and drink regularly provided or consumed;
: habitual nourishment (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
So, let's get to the matter at hand, meaning the subject of the post: "The Top 7 Diets Explained". Now as you know, I'm not a big fan of using the word "diet", but in this case, it applies. Although the four letter word has   come to have a negative condensation in our society, and understandably so with the hundreds of quick-fix, fad diets that exist, the word diet is actually defined  as " a : food and drink regularly provided or consumed; b : habitual nourishment" (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). All the word simply means is the daily nutrition we feed our bodies - it actually has nothing to do with weight loss! Now there are some diets out there that are good for weight loss but no matter what your diet, the only true way to achieve weight loss is to burn more calories than you consume - point, blank, period.

There are many types of diets out there, some good, some bad, some in between. I personally subscribe to a Vegetarian Diet, I became a Vegetarian a little over a year ago and love it! I find that it works well for my body and lifestyle. But my way isn't the only way, and as I've stated before here on this blog as well as to anyone who asks, I chose this diet because I felt that it was a healthier way of eating, not for any religious or moral reasons - so no worries, I still have much love for my carnivores out there! :)  In this blog post, I want to dig into the current top 7 diets out. If you're in search for a healthier diet, this may just be the information you've been looking for. Or maybe you're just curious. Either way, you're welcome to keep reading! Some of the diets mentioned I personally would classify as fads, meaning they are only popular at the moment and I personally can't see them sticking around, while there are a couple I find could do more harm than good in the long run and don't  agree with it. But I'll leave my opinions to myself and let you decide...

 Gluten-Free? Paleo? Vegan?
The Top 7 Diets Explained

The Green Smoothie Diet
Being on this diet means consuming concentrated blends of fruits and veggies throughout the day and the benefit is that you can get all five of your daily-recommended servings of fruits and vegetables in just one of these smoothies. People like this trend because chewing your way through all that spinach and peppers is too much work, and liquefying veggies is a surefire way to get it all in. Typically almond or coconut milk is added for sweetness, so the smoothies are not bitter.

What The Experts Say
The phytonutrients in fruits and vegetables can help you lower your risk of diseases. This diet claims to boost energy but there is no hard evidence of that, so experts recommend adding nuts, flax seed or other seeds for protein and necessary fats. It is not recommended to use these smoothies as a meal replacement, but rather as a way to get your 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. So fit them in by cutting out other calories where you can, but do not try to subsist on these smoothies as you can experience energy loss and nutrient deficiency. Learn more here.

The Gluten-Free Diet
About 18 million Americans have sensitivity to gluten, a component found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. Those with sensitivity to it can experience digestive issues and weight gain. The best way to see if you’re gluten intolerant is to eliminate gluten from your life entirely for a few weeks and see if bloating, constipation or other digestive issues go down.

What The Experts Say
No one, other than those diagnosed with celiac disease—a severe reaction to gluten that harms the immune system—need to completely eliminate gluten from their diet. But there’s no harm in the diet, and it’s a great option for those trying to lose weight since gluten foods are usually high in calories, and their substitutes—like quinoa and potatoes—are not. Learn more here.

Adding Probiotics
Probiotics are healthy bacteria living in cultured foods like yogurt and kefir, as well as fermented products (think anything pickled like kimchi or sauerkraut). When ingested, they remain in your intestinal tract and work to fortify your immune system. They are usually consumed in capsule or liquid form.

What The Experts Say
If you are healthy overall, probiotics are not essential, but they are a smart supplement to your diet in cold and flu season, and for anyone with digestive issues or high risk of yeast infections. There’s no found harm in consuming daily probiotics. Learn more here.

Genetic Diet Testing
This trend comes to us from a field called nutrigenomics, which essentially researches how the foods we eat can alter disease-causing genes. Genetic diet testing can determine whether you have certain genes that could be increasing your risk for weight gain.
Many companies test your saliva for certain genes and then recommend a diet for your genetic “type.” The test is as simple as spitting into a tube and sending it in for results and recommendations. However it’s pricey at around $400. If you’re up for it, coaches are available to you to help you through your new way of eating.

What The Experts Say

The connection between one’s diet and one’s genes is very complex and this type of testing is not advanced enough to accurately determine if cutting out or adding some type of food based on your “ genetic type” will actually affect your weight. Doctors advise that, if you’re interested in the test and have the money, it could be fun to see your results. But no matter what your “type” is, the key to losing weight is simply eating less of whatever you eat. Learn more here.

The Paleo Diet
There’s a belief amongst nutrition experts that conditions like type 2 diabetes and obesity arose because our bodies were not built to process the typical modern day diet, filled with sugar, refined carbs and processed foods. Their solution: eating like cavemen. Or, essentially, like the first humans ever did, eating only that which can be hunted or gathered. Naturally, the diet is heavy in fish, meats, veggies, fruits, and nuts. Dairy and most grains are eliminated, since there was no way for our ancestors to have harvested and obtained these.
What The Experts Say
Essentially the “Paleo” diet is a glorified name for what is otherwise a well-respected and highly recommended type of diet by almost any nutritionist. Cutting out refined carbs and sugars is always a sound plan, and will result in rapid weight loss. But having ice cream or bread every so often isn’t poisonous to you. Learn more here.

The Vegan Diet
Vegans run on the principle that nothing that is or comes from an animal is to be consumed. There are multiple reasons for this, including environmental: vegan items require significantly less water and energy to grow; ethical: vegans believe animals should exist without human interference; and of course health: cutting out animal fats and proteins has been shown to reduce one’s risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and various other health problems.

What The Experts Say
Getting the recommended daily intake of calcium and vitamin D is difficult when you eliminate calcium. But vegans can get their fill of those nutrients by eating plenty of dark green leafy vegetables like broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts. There is no evidence that proves density loss is any more prevalent in vegans than in non-vegans. However, a major concern for vegans is a Vitamin B12 deficiency, which can carry serious risks such as early dementia, nerve dysfunction, memory loss and difficulty with balance. Experts highly encourage vegans to drink beverages fortified with B12 such as soy and rice beverages. Learn more here.

The Fruitarian Diet
The Fruitarian diet is like the Vegan diet, on steroids. Fruitarians consume only fruits and plant related bi-products. Grains are out of the picture. However nuts, seeds, capsicums and some vegetables can be eaten.

What The Experts Say

The diet is said to “detoxify the body of its acidic chemical imbalance” by dislodging stored wastes within the body. The diet can also help eliminate certain allergies, improve energy, eyesight and concentration, and strengthen hair and nails. However, Vitamin B12 simply cannot be found in these foods so those with gastrointestinal diseases or anemia are warned against this diet. Those that do try the diet are advised to take a daily Vitamin B12 supplement. Learn more here.

So that's it! I'm sure you've heard the names of some, if not all, of these diets before and maybe have wondered, "what's the deal?" Well, now ya' know! :)  

Until next time my fitness friends... 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Recipe Favs! A List of My Favorite Recipes

Hello healthy ones! How's it going? Feeling great and living the healthy life I hope! :) As part of my continued effort to live a healthy life, I've been making an effort to eliminate processed foods ( i.e - any food that comes out of a box) out of my diet. While I'm not totally process food free yet, I've made a great strides! As a result, I've been one cooking little woman over here! Lol! It's funny to me because I was never the type who liked to cook, I avoided it while living at home because ironically I have a mother who has always loved to cook, and when I got out on my own, I made my cooking as easy as possible - 30 minutes or under, nothing fancy. But lately I've been cooking, baking, and trying new recipe after new recipe! I've discovered that I actually LOVE cooking! It's relaxing yet educational and the rewards are delicious!

As some of you may know, I'm a vegetarian, it's been around 14 months for me at this point and I love it! I honestly don't think I'll ever return back to eating meat. I mention this because I think me becoming a vegetarian is what got me into cooking. It gets kind of boring eating salad and soups all the time, and nutritionally, it's just not balanced. As an ovo-lacto vegetarian, eggs and dairy aren't cut out of my diet, so I could possibly eat a lot of things that aren't good for me, but the whole reason I became a vegetarian is to eat healthier, so eating a lot of junk and/or processed vegetarian food wasn't an option - this is when I started searching for recipes and seeing how I could add some life to my vegetarian diet. Well, 14 months later and I think I've officially got the hang of it! I'm loving all the different meals I've discovered! So I thought I would share. While all of the recipes I'm about to share with you are meat free that doesn't take away from their taste! These recipes are delicious! So I urge you, whether vegetarian or not, to give them a try!

January 2013 Recipe Favs

  1. Vegetarian Black Bean Burger
    Recipe from About.com

    Vegetarian Black Bean Burger w/ Cornmeal

    When I first became a vegetarian, I ate a lot of name brand vegetarian burgers like (i.e - BOCA, Morningstar Farms, ... etc.). In my attempt to eliminate process foods I came across a couple of vegetarian bean burger recipes and this has to be my favorite! I was never a black bean fan, but these burgers are delicious and super simple to make! They've definitely become a staple in my kitchen! I find that by making my own veggie burgers, I'm not only keeping it healthier, but it saves me a lot of money as well! Can't beat that! Check this recipe out!



    Place beans in food processor; process until fairly smooth. Add flour, cornmeal, salsa, cumin, garlic powder and salt. Process until well combined. Spoon mixture into 6 balls on a large plate and refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours before cooking. Heat barbecue grill or ridged grill pan over medium heat. Coat grill or pan lightly with oil. Form each ball into a 4-inch patty about 1/2-inch thick. Place the patties on the grill or in pan and cook until browned and heated through, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Serve your black bean cornmeal patties on hamburger buns with your favorite toppings.

    Makes 6 servings

    FIT GIRL TIP: I make large batches of the burgers at one time to freeze and take out when ready. Saves time! All you have to do is thaw out the burger before cooking and you're set!

  1. Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
    Recipe from
    Banana Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
    I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THESE LITTLE COOKIES! My boss brought these to work one day and I fell in love! It's through this recipe that I actually discovered Catherine McCord and Weelicious.com - if you're looking for some great, healthy recipes (vegetarian or not), I definitely recommend checking her site out! Just pop 1 or 2 of these cookies in your mouth for a great dessert or snack! Another Fit Girl staple! And one great thing about them is they stay in the refrigerator, so you don't have to worry about them getting too stiff or stale like you would with other cookies that sit out on the counter!



    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mash bananas in a bowl, and mix in the remaining ingredients. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes. Using a mini ice cream scoop or tablespoon, place the batter onto a Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 25 Minutes. Cool and serve.

    To Freeze: Allow cookies to cool after baking then place in a Ziploc bag, label and freeze for up to 3 months.

    Makes 30 servings (depending on how big you make the cookies you may not get this many)

  2. Banana Ice Cream
    Recipe from
    Clean and Delcious.com
    Banana "Ice Cream"

    Speaking of bananas... I just discovered this recipe and if you love bananas as much as I do you've definitely gotta' try this one! It's super yummy! 



    Pop bananas into a blender or food processor and blend until the bananas have a smooth and creamy consistency (just like ice-cream). Depending on how powerful your blender or processor is, your bananas may clunk around a bit at the beginning but  just give them a minute. Once they start to break down they turn into this lovely, creamy treat.

    If you want, you can skip the milk addition all together, but I like to add a little in.  Start with about a quarter cup and then blend.  If you want it a little thinner add a little more milk, if not - skip it!
    Top with whatever you’ve got on hand or nothing at all and enjoy!

    Makes 2 servings

    FIT GIRL TIP: Add a little protein powder to your banana/milk mixture when blending, that way you can counteract the carbs from the bananas with protein and keep your glucose levels down (which when high can turn into fat). Depending on how much powder you add it, this shouldn't really change the taste that much, but if you use a vanilla protein powder (like I do) it may actually give it an even sweeter, yummier taste! Sweet!!!

  3. Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes"
    An original recipe
    Cauliflower "Mashed Potatoes"

    If you Google "cauliflower mashed potatoes" you will find a ton of recipes out there, so I'm not the first and won't be the last to come up with a variation of this dish, but this is my own original recipe that I created using tips I found from various other recipes. Now if you're not a cauliflower fan, this probably won't be for you because while it's not completely potato free, there's more cauliflower than potato and you definitely get that strong taste of cauliflower, but it tastes great in my opinion as well as others I've had try it. It's a super healthy, tasty side to go with any meal!



    Cut up russet potato in chunks. Steam or boil, along with cauliflower florets until soft. Drain and put into baking casserole dish/pan. Mash well and stir in the sour cream, cream cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. 

    Makes 8 servings, 1/2 cup each

  4. Butter Bean Burger
    Recipe from AllRecipes.com

    Butter Bean Burger
    Another awesome bean burger for ya'! I love butter beans so when I found this recipe I knew that I had to try it! It's a small burger that packs a mean punch! If you like spicy, you'll like this! 



    In a medium bowl, mash butter beans. Mix in onion, jalapeno pepper, crushed crackers, egg, cheese, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Divide into 4 equal parts, and shape into patties.

    Fry patties in a large skillet over medium-high heat, until golden, about 5 minutes on each side. 

    Makes 4 servings

    *I don't eat regular eggs so this is what I use but feel free to just use 1 egg if you don't like Egg Beaters/egg substitutes.

  5. Vegetarian Vegetable Soup
    Recipe from Mandula's Kitchen.com
    Indian Vegetarian Vegetable Soup
    Saving the best for last! I just made this vegetable soup and I LOVED IT! It's Indian Vegetarian Vegetable Soup and it's delicious! If you're interested in eating meat free you should definitely check out Mandula's Kitchen.com. The site is full of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free recipes that carry out the authenticity of Indian vegetarian cooking. This recipe tastes great and was super simple to make! Check it out!



    Heat the oil in a pot over medium high heat Once oil is hot, add the cumin, potatoes, carrots, bay leaf, cloves, ans salt, stirring occasionally, for about 2-3 minutes Add corn, cabbage, celery, tomato, and 3 cups of water, after it comes to boil turn down the heat to low medium Cover and let it cook for 25-30 mins until veggies are tender Add the pepper and lemon juice, taste and season with additional salt and pepper to taste. 

    Makes 4 servings