Monday, 27 August 2012

Fitness Fanatic Finds

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog on Health Foodie Finds at Costco. As a follow-up, I wanted to do a post on fitness equipment that one should keep around the house or use at the gym. For my birthday this year, a very special someone bought me a ton of awesome fitness equipment to use in my apartment (He swore it was all for my own personal benefit….). Based on this gift, here are some things I recommend.

1.     Skipping Rope- Remember how much fun it was to skip when you were a kid? Turns out this activity is a great cardio, calorie-busting exercise. If you find regular skipping too easy, invest in a good quality, weighted skipping rope for a higher intensity burn.
2.     Bosu Ball or Stability Board- Either one of these items are great for balance exercises and increasing the difficulty of any exercise. Find squats too easy? Try doing them on a balance board! Bosu balls are also great for abs work, this video gives a good demo
3.     Resistance bands- resistance bands are great because they are small and light weight. I usually pack my skipping rope and resistance bands when I am traveling. They can be used to tone almost any part of your body. Test out the resistance in the store ahead of time as different types and colours will vary in the resistance they give you. If you search the Internet, there are tons of websites that demonstrate good exercises using resistance bands.
4.     A Medicine Ball- I love using medicine balls. They are great for partner workouts (think medicine ball throws back and forth while doing crunches) and are easy to hold. Again, try out different weights at the fitness store and have the staff help you pick an appropriate one.
5.     A good yoga mat- this is NOT an item to skimp on. You want a good quality, anti-microbial thick mat, that will be comfortable and last you a long time. Yoga mats are great for stretching, Pilates, yoga and abs work. Best of all, they roll up when you’re done so they don’t take up very much space.
6.     A Swiss Ball- the exercises you can do with a Swiss Ball are endless! Buy a ball that isn’t too small or too big for your size (again, a staff member should be able to help you with this) and make sure it’s well pumped up at all times. This website demonstrates numerous good exercises


Monday, 20 August 2012

Portion Distortion

My parents decided to go on a little getaway to Chicago for the week. Since I visited that fabulous city last winter, they asked me for my restaurant recommendations (I told them Pizzeria Uno and Quartino's if you're wondering). It also brought up vivid memories of some serious portion distortion south of the border. Sorry to pick on the Americans who read this post, but most of the portion sizes you get at restaurants are aboslutely out of control! I like this image because it shows how portion sizes have changed.

This next image is further proof that we are often served portions that are WAY to big and contain way too many calories to consume at one meal, unless your Michael Phelps or something...

Portion control is EXTREMELY important. It's very easy to finish an entire bag of chips while watching television or eat a huge entree at a restaurant even though you were full half way through. This following image can help you eyeball portion sizes at home
It's a rough estimate but a good guide to keep in mind when cooking and serving your food. Ideally I always aim for the 1/4 starch, 1/4 lean protein and 1/2 vegetables breakdown on my plate.

 This rule applies to lunch and dinner, because even I don't eat vegetables for breakfast, sorry to disappoint you.

Here are some other tips for portion control:
1. Use smaller plates and taller glasses. I know this sounds ridiculous, but it honestly works! You can trick your brain into thinking it's more food.

2. When eating out, remember that portions are bigger than what you will serve yourself at home. Split an entree with a friend or ask for a doggy bag when halfway through your meal. 

3. Pour your food into a bowl instead of eating it straight from a bag. This goes back to the "I accidentally ate the whole bag of chips during Bachelorette Season Finale" comment. It's a lot easier to stop eating when your small bowl is empty than when you have the entire bag sitting in front of you.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Health Foodie Finds!

I know what you’re thinking...since when is Costco a health food store? While Costco is full of some horrendous junk that is a poor excuse for food, there are also some amazing products available. Whenever my mom comes to visit, we do the legendary “Costco run”, and last time we hit the jackpot with some amazing and healthy finds at the Costco here in London. While I don’t have the bill so I can’t remember the exact price of everything, it was definitely cheaper than buying these items as single units in your local grocery or health food store.

Here are some of my top picks

Almond Breeze Original Unsweetened: I bought a six pack of the UNSWEETENED, original at Costco. Almond breeze is a nutritious milk alternative that is great in cereal, tea, coffee, smoothies and more! Since its sold in a tetra pack, the unopened product has a long shelf life. 
Frozen Fruit: I buy big packs of frozen mixed fruit, frozen mango chunks, frozen berries and even frozen cherries. They are great in smoothies, baked into muffins, and way cheaper than buying the fresh stuff come wintertime. 
I buy a large variety pack of unsweetened applesauce. The difference combinations taste great in muffins, banana bread, pancakes, and also taste good slightly frozen. You can substitute the butter or oil in lots of baked goods with applesauce

Larabars are AT LEAST $2 each in your local health food store. I bought a 12 pack of bars at Costco and they are such a yummy and quick treat. I have also had great success making my own homemade larabars using the link I posted in a previous blog, but these pre-wrapped bars are better for travel.
This is the best natural almond butter I have ever tasted, it comes in a huge jar, but still doesn't seem to last very long in my fridge! I believe they also make a peanut butter
Extremely addictive and tasty, Mary's cracker are an awesome gluten free cracker made with simple, wholesome ingredients. These are WAY cheaper to buy at Costco than Loblaws, so I suggest stocking up on packs of these when you shop.
Perrier water is a healthy alternative to soft drinks and diet coke. Served with fresh lime wedges and ice, and you won't even miss your afternoon DC anymore. If you suffer from IBS, open and let the perrier become a little stale, as carbonated drinks can irritate the stomach
Craving spaghetti but can't handle gluten? Tru Roots organic quinoa spaghetti is a great high protein and fibre alternative. You can also buy big bags of Tru Roots organic quinoa at Costco.
Taste of Nature is another high fibre, nutrient rich, gluten free granola bar you can buy in bulk at costco. I prefer larabars (because they have less ingredients), but these bars are good and pack well.

Not "exactly" a health food, but you have to live a little! 4U roasted vegetable pizza is made with all natural ingredients, uses a gluten free crust (a little low in fibre for my liking) and makes all other frozen pizzas a thing of the past. It uses hard cheeses like mozzarella which have virtually no lactose, but I believe they also sell gluten-free dairy free pizzas.

Get Shopping!!! 

Monday, 6 August 2012

But I thought fat made you fat???

All your life, you’ve probably been told that eating too much fat will make you fat. This statement is only partially true. YES, eating too much fat will make you fat, in the same way eating too many carbohydrates or protein will also make you fat.
I feel bad for fat because it gets such a bad rep. Everyone feels the need to cut the fat out of foods, but this doesn’t always make it healthier. A lack of fat in your diet can wreck havoc on your body and leave you feeling hungry all the time. Below are three food items that I think are way healthier in their natural, full fat form.

Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
NEVER EVER buy this item. This is the worst of the worst when it comes to reduced-fat foods. When companies take the fat out of peanut butter (which is full of healthy fats) they replace it with things like corn syrup, excess sugar, and maltodextrin. A better bet is to buy natural peanut butter with no added oils, sugars or salt. Look for 100% dry roasted peanuts and nothing else on the ingredient list to know you made the right choice. I also love natural almond butter for a change and is a paleo friendly option.

Fat Free Salad Dressing
This is another culprit.  Cutting the fat in salad dressings means replacing it with sugar to increase the flavor. The problem is that many of the nutrients in salads need fat for the body to absorb them. A better bet is to make your own vinaigrettes at home using vinegar and olive oil, or look for regular vinaigrettes with 30-60 calories per tablespoon.

Fat free packaged snacks
This applies to a whole lot of different snacks (reduced fat Oreos, fruit snacks, jelly beans, candy, twizzlers etc) People think they are a guilt free treat because they are fat free. Coca Cola doesn’t have any fat in it, but I wouldn’t exactly call if a healthy beverage options? The best thing to do is READ your labels. If a snack sounds too good to be true it probably is; make sure sugar/corn syrup/glucose isn’t one of the first ingredients on the list.