Quick and Healthy Comfort Food

The other night I found myself hungry and wanting to go out and buy dinner. I also wanted to eat something healthy and knew that anything I bought would not be as good as something I made. I took a look in my fridge and decided on something that could be made in 15 minutes. The following recipe is for two servings.
Egg meal

Ingredients:
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
2-3 carrots
2 medium-sized zucchini
1 cup crimini mushrooms
2 eggs
1-2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper, and any other seasoning you like

I took out my package of tri-colored quinoa and put one cup of water and 1/2 cup of quinoa in a saucepan. Once it started boiling I covered the pan and set a timer for 10 minutes and lowered the heat to a simmer.
quinoa

While the quinoa cooked I put a pan to heat at medium, peeled the carrots and then cut all the veggies in large pieces. I then tossed all the veggies in a bowl with some EVOO, salt and pepper, and threw them all in the pan. I let the veggies cook for the same time as the quinoa, stirring occasionally until they were just fork tender – I like my veggies with a bit of crunch .
veggies

Once the timer went off, I checked the quinoa to make sure all the water had cooked off and then turned the heat off. I split the cooked quinoa into two bowls, added the veggies, and then put the pan back on the medium heat to cook two eggs over-medium.

Once the eggs finished cooking to my liking, I slid the cooked egg over the quinoa and veggies, added a bit of salt and pepper and VOILA! Enjoy 🙂

Lunchtime Kale

I recently tried out Evolution, a healthy, quick, food option around the corner from my house and was pleasantly surprised by the salad I chose. I decided to recreate the meal at home and it was equally delicious, so I wanted to share the recipe. I found everything I needed at Trader Joe’s – including pre-cooked lentils, the dukkha spice mix, and jar of roasted red peppers.

Photo by IM

Photo by IM

Ingredients:
2-3 cups of Kale
1/2 cup Cooked Lentils
1/4 cup Shredded Carrots
1/4 cup Chopped Roasted Red Bell Pepper
1/2 cup Cooked Zucchini or  Persian Cucumber
1/8 cup Pepitas
Feta Cheese
Lemon Tahini Dressing
(I made my own with a little over a tbsp of toasted sesame oil, a tbsp of dukkha spice mix, and juice from half a lemon)
Enjoy! 🙂

Tabata Time

Tabata

Tabata training is perfect for those who never seem to have enough time in the day but still want to make space for fitness in their lives. It’s also a great tool for losing weight without losing muscle.

It works because unlike regular exercise that makes your body go into a steady state (adjusting to the workload by conserving energy – aka calories), Tabata training keeps your body working hard to adjust to the bouts of intensity, thereby increasing the caloric expenditure.

What is Tabata training?
Tabata training, based on the research of Izumi Tabata; a former researcher at Japan’s National institute of Fitness and Sports. He observed two groups of athletes to determine the results of moderate intensity versus high intensity. He found that high intensity training had the benefit of training both the aerobic and anaerobic systems. While there are many variations on this type of training, a true Tabata is four minutes of a single exercise with 20 seconds ultra intensity followed by a ten second recovery period. This is not something you would do every day, but once – a few times a week as it takes a lot of energy.

How do I get started?
One Tabata round is four minutes of a single exercise with 20 seconds at your max intensity followed by a 10 second recovery period.  Exercises using compound muscle groups are best (squats, lunge to press, etc) but any exercise including walking, running, or cycling are also effective.

Pick an exercise then warm up for at least three minutes.  Set your timer for 8 rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off. Do the selected exercise to failure for 20 seconds then rest for ten seconds. Repeat this process until the four minutes are up. Your goal is to put just as much intensity into the last set as you did in the first set. *Keep a towel and a bottle of water nearby. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be sweating pretty quickly!

Example Exercises:
Box squats
Full squats
Dynamic squats
Lunges
Lunge, knee tuck
*any of the above with or without weights depending on your fitness level
Burpees
Walkover push ups
Sprints
Plank suicides

Safety First:
You should only do an exercise that you are comfortable with and that you can complete in correct form for the full four minutes. Because this training is based on intensity, you don’t have to get fancy, you just need to be clear with your movements.  Remember, you are trying to go as intensely as you can for 20 seconds eight times. If you find that you are losing form or pooping out midway, you may consider changing the exercise.

If you’re new to fitness you can walk as quickly as you can and then walk very slowly for each round or squat on a bench or box.

Timers:
Apps for your phone:
Tabata Pro – Tabata Timer 
HIIT Interval Training Timer
Tabata Timer

Online Tabata Clock – Workout Timer – Interval Timer

If you like to exercise outside but don’t want to use your phone as a timer, this little gadget works really well and clips easily to your clothes:
Gymboss Interval Timer

If you have questions about this type of training, leave your question in the comments section 🙂

Holiday Travel Workout

With so much traveling going on this holiday season, there’s not time to worry about packing equipment or finding a local gym. Here’s a four-exercise, full-body routine you can do anywhere. Time yourself (not including the warm up or cool down) and try to beat your time on subsequent runs. *click on each gallery to see larger images.
WARM UP – 3-5 minutes(yoga vinyasa, dancing, or gentle stretching)
15 reps/side              HALF to FULL STATIONARY LUNGE
Step forward about the length of one leg, come down halfway, lift up and then come down into a full lunge so that both legs come to a 90 degree angle. Lift all the way up to the starting position and repeat 15 times. Come back to standing, switch legs and repeat on the other side. *make sure to keep your abs engaged, body upright and knee aligning with your 2nd toe.

10 reps/side              SINGLE LEG TRICEPS DIPS
Start down in a crab position – fingers pointed towards your body, and lift one leg. Engage the abs to keep the leg lifted. Bend the arms and come back to a fully extend position to activate the triceps. Dip 10 times, lower your leg, switch sides and repeat 10 more times. *If you are having trouble with your balance, come down to two feet.

20 reps                      DYNAMIC SQUAT
 Start standing then jump feet apart and touch hands down to the floor as you come into a squat. Keep the chest lifted and don’t go further than thighs parallel to the floor. Squeeze the butt and abs as you jump to a standing position. Repeat 20 times.
10 reps                      PUSH UP TO SIDE PLANK
Start in a plank position with your wrists under your shoulders, and feet hip distance apart. Perform one push up and then come up through plank and rotate into a side plank with your right arm up. Feet should stay hip distant apart. Hold for four seconds, come through plank to perform another push up and then rotate to the left and hold for four seconds. Each side counts as one repetition and you’ll want to go up to 10.

*If you have trouble performing a push up in good form, come down to your knees for the push ups and then come back up to full plank before rotating.
Go through all exercises back to back without a break. At the end of the fourth exercise, rest for 90 seconds. Repeat once or twice depending on your fitness level.
COOL DOWN – 3-5 minutes (yoga vinyasas, or gentle stretching)
Warm up – 3-5 minutes (yoga vinyasa, dancing, or gentle stretching)
15 reps/side             Half to full stationary lunge R/L
10 reps/side             Single-leg triceps dips R/L
20 reps                      Dynamic Squat
10 reps                      Push-up to Side Plank (4 second hold in side plank)
Cool Down – 3-5 minutes (yoga vinyasas, or gentle stretching)

Healthy Habit Apps

If you are going to have your smart phone with you at all times, you might as well make it work for you. Getting yourself to follow some healthy habits becomes easier with a few applications.
*All apps listed below work for iPhone and Android unless otherwise noted.

Reduce headaches, stress, and fatigue as you improve your mood by making sure you stay hydrated. Try one of these water trackers:

Waterbalance – Plug in your weight, gender, and workout schedule and then start adding your liquid intake. A silhouette slowly fills as you meet your goals. But beware, if you have certain drinks, your intake may go down. This app is great for recognizing which beverages hydrate and which dehydrate your body.  A notification will sound on your phone about once an hour to remind you to drink water. The only drawback is that measurements are in millilitres instead of ounces so you must have a general understanding of how many millilitres are in various cups sizes.

Water Your Body – Put in your basic statistics and the app will figure out how much water you should have a day. This app uses easy icons to add your water intake, but doesn’t adjust for  different drinks. It tracks your intake over time in a handy graph and plays a running water notification sound every hour to remind you to get to your goal.

Finding it hard to stay motivated? Give these apps a try to get you to stay on track:

GymPact (iPhone, Android beta) – Need some monetary incentive to get your butt in gear? This app is perfect for you. Pick how many times you will commit to working out in a week and then make it happen . Once you are at the gym, studio, etc. “check in.” Once your GPS is verified, your workout is counted towards your total. Miss a workout and get fined. Hit your target, and you get to split the pool of money of all those who played hooky. If you also walk or run outdoors, attach it to RunKeeper for an integrated experience.

RunKeeper – Track your workouts and get coaching tips in your ear as you go. Measure your caloric burn, time, and length of run and get notified when you hit a new personal best. Share your progress or use the information to create new goals for yourself.

Let’s face facts, men and women are not created equal. Since women have other concerns regarding their bodies, here are a few apps created with women in mind:

Period Calendar/Tracker – Great for those in all stages of life from tracking your period, ovulation, or menopause. Not only can you see where you are in various stages of your cycle, but you can also add in a plethora of symptoms and moods. This app is for Android only, but for those with iPhones, try iMensies for a similar experience.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting App – Track your fertility or pregnancy and get helpful tips at the same time. Or try one of their other apps to track your baby’s development so you don’t forget a thing.

Checking In – How to Pay Attention to Your Body

Photo by IVM

In college I became ill from a combination of stress and external toxins. The imbalance in my body was so great that I became allergic to nearly every food, became nearly bone-thin, and broke out in head to toe eczema. After taking a temporary leave from school I was able to get my health back on track; but if I had paid more attention to my body early on, I could have avoided the pain and multitude of treatments I had to go through over the course of three years to become normal again.

Sometimes we can look or feel “healthy,” but our body is giving us subtle signals to let us know that something is out of balance. If kept unchecked, your body’s subtle signals will get louder and louder until you take notice. Unfortunately, that means that something that could have been taken care of easily with a change in diet or routine suddenly becomes something that needs medical attention or more widespread lifestyle changes.

Taking a page from some holistic medicine practices, here’s a few ways you can check in with your body and determine if you need to take action:

Be mindful of blemishes
Your skin is a visual manifestation of your internal health, so if you’re getting acne in the same place(s) over and over, it could be time to do some investigating. Check out the Acne Face Map to get the real story on why that pimple keeps showing up on your forehead.

Stick out your tongue
If you have ever been to an Ayurvedic or Chinese doctor you have probably been asked stick out your tongue as part of your diagnosis. This is because your tongue is a virtual map of your internal health with each part of the tongue corresponding to a different organ in the body. To see an Ayurvedic take on the many “faces” of the tongue, check out this illustrated chart at theayurvedictongue.com. Or check out the traditional Chinese medicine tongue chart from preventdisease.com. If your tongue is showing signs of imbalance consider checking out a local Ayurvedic or Chinese medicine practitioner to get back on track.

Look at your hands
Your nails, like your skin, are a reflection of what is happening inside your body. From warning of psoriasis to thyroid and anemia conditions, your nails can tell you a lot. Take some time in between manicures to check out your nails and make sure they aren’t trying to send you a signal. This handy slide show from WebMD will help you decipher those bumps and cracks. Of course, not every spot means something; but if you are exhibiting other symptoms, book an appointment with a dermatologist to get the full story.

Your body is constantly communicating with you letting it know when it’s hungry, hurting, tired, or just plain out of sorts. If you tune in to your body’s needs you can use these bits of information to keep yourself balanced and healthy.

Happy Knees

Photo by IVM

Many people have had their fitness routine derailed by an onset of knee pain. Once the knee starts hurting they become apprehensive of continuing their program, but not all knee pain means that you need to be sidelined. If you can rule out recent contact injuries (including that run-in with the coffee table last week), ask yourself the following questions to determine the source of your pain. Once identified, you can take steps to make your knees happy and ready for anything.

1. Have I had a previous knee injury?
If the answer is yes, talk to your doctor to get some general perimeters on a fitness program as there are exercises you should stay away from to prevent re-injury. A personal trainer can also work with you to figure out which exercises are best given your circumstances. Chances are, your body has started moving differently to compensate for your injury and will need to go through some corrective exercises to get balanced as you build strength around your knee.

2. Where does my knee go when I move?
Remember that song “Your thigh bones connected to your hip bone…”? Well, just as your bones are connected, so are your muscles. Your body parts don’t work in isolation; sometimes knee pain is the result of  improper movement in the hips and ankles. Over time, moving with bad form causes pain in the knee-joint. Knees shouldn’t collapse in or move out past your ankles when you’re standing or squatting. If they are, you will need to work on strengthening your inner/outer thighs as well as your butt to allow for proper movement.

When you lunge or do any movement in a squat, avoid shifting your body weight forward.  This puts a lot of pressure on your knee-joint and will make your knees very unhappy. When squatting, keep those heels down so your body doesn’t tip forward and when performing a lunge, make sure your weight is evenly distributed between the front and back leg. In both the squat and the lunge, you should feel the “burn” in your thighs and butt, not your knees. *If you have a hard time keeping your ankles down in a squat, you’ll want to stretch your calves to increase flexibility.

 3. How often do I stretch?
If the answer is “rarely” or “never” your aching knee could be the result of tight muscles that attach at the knee and give the impression that the pain is located in your knee. Grab a foam roller and roll out your TFL and gluteus medius, then check out your abductors and adductors. If you’re shaking your head wondering what anything in that last sentence meant, just click here for some instructional videos.

 4. How old are my shoes?
While there is a lot of debate about how many miles/months should pass before you change your shoes, if you are starting to get shin splints or knee pain “all of a sudden” it could be time to get a new pair.

While you work out the causes of your knee pain, stick to low impact activities like swimming, water aerobics, or walking. Make sure that when walking down stairs or a hill that you are actively using your leg muscles to decelerate and aren’t just plunking your feet down. You should think about making as little sound as possible with every step.

Simple Tofu

Ingredients

1 tsp Canola oil
Firm tofu (cubed)
Broccoli
Zucchini (sliced)
Soba noodles
2 tbsp Sesame Soy Ginger marinade
Optional: Sesame Seeds
Sliced Almonds

Step 1: Heat up a medium-sized pan and add a teaspoon of canola oil. Place the cubed pieces of tofu in the pan and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Keep flipping the cubes to cook each side.

Step 2: While the tofu is cooking, put a pot of water to boil. Once the water starts boiling, add the soba noodles and cook for the amount of time specified on the package (this will be anywhere from 3-7 minutes depending on the noodle). Once done cooking, drain and run cool water over the noodles. Place to the side. *Make sure to check the package for portion sizes.

Step 3: Add sliced zucchini and broccoli to the tofu and sprinkle a pinch of salt on top. Let cook for one minute.

Step 4: Add a tablespoon of water to the pan and cover for about 3-5 minutes. Lower the heat a bit to get a good steam. The veggies are ready when the broccoli is fork tender.

Step 5: Once the veggies are steamed, uncover the pan, and add soba noodles and the sesame soy ginger marinade. Toss in the pan and transfer to a plate or bowl. Garnish with sesame seeds or toasted almonds.

Enjoy!

Plank Time

If you have ever been to a gym chances are that you have seen, or performed, the plank exercise. In its basic form you hold your body up in a push-up position anywhere from 30 seconds to over an hour (though I wouldn’t suggest holding for that long). While it’s an exercise promoted for core strength and stabilization, it’s actually an exercise that, when executed properly, can also work the muscles in your arms, shoulders, back and legs. With that being said, let’s talk about proper form.

1.  The easiest way to make sure you are in the correct position is to start by lying flat on the ground with your feet slightly apart. Position your hands right next to your chest so that your palms are directly under your shoulders. Make sure your fingers are spread wide. *If you have tight or weak wrists, you can perform a variation by putting your elbows on the ground right under your shoulders to prop you up.

2.  Curl your toes under and push your upper body up leaving your knees and feet on the floor. Swivel your arms (not hands) so your elbows are pointing back towards your body then lock your arms out so they are nice and straight. In this position you should be making one straight line from your head to your knees.

3.  Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down. This will prevent you from scrunching your shoulders  up to your ears. Tuck your tailbone slightly under and squeeze your abs, butt, and legs extending to a straight position. You are now in a perfect plank.

4.  Once in position, gaze slightly forward (not down or at your feet). This will keep your neck happy. You should be able to draw a straight line from the top of your head to your heels.  (No sagging back or butt sticking up). Make sure that your arms are locked, shoulders are away from your ears and your tail bone is tucked. Tucking the tailbone will save your low back and put more of a demand on the lower abdominal muscles.

Take a moment to feel your body in this position. This is where you want to be each time you get into a plank. If you’re new to this exercise, start slow with a 30 second plank each morning or night and work your way up to one or two minutes.  If you have little ones in the house, get them involved by timing you and cheering you on. Once you are able to comfortably hold a plank for a minute, you will be able to do all sorts of fun variations.

Revamp Your Run

Photo by Noah Kavic

For all the runners out there who have ever found themselves in a slump, here are a few things you can do to get yourself back on track and put a little play in your routine:

Keep your eyes focused on the top.
When running uphill (or stairs) look to where you want end up instead of where you are, and that hill or mountain of stairs will become easier.

Look around you.
The fastest way to get fatigued while running is to think of everything your body is doing to keep you going. Instead of focusing all of your attention on your breath or stride, take a look at your surroundings. Whether it’s the architecture, the view, or the people you are passing, let yourself get lost in your surroundings.

Play a game.
If you notice you are getting tired, pick a marker and tell yourself that you need to run to it before you can slow down or walk. Make it something that isn’t too far away (like a lamp-post, tree, or street sign a block or two away). As you are about to approach the marker, pick a new marker and keep going until you need to stop.

Add variety to your playlist.
Alternate songs with a slower bpm (beats per minute) with songs that have a higher bpm. For example Florence and the Machine Dog Days are Over (10 minute mile) at 150 bpms with Outkast’s Hey Ya (9 minute mile) at 160 bpm. This way, you can naturally take your body through intervals – quickening your pace on the faster songs and allowing for some recovery on the slower songs. Check out http://jog.fm to create your own playlist.

Take an exploratory run.
Most runners like to map their run or go the same route over and over because they can track their progress more easily. Take a day off from tracking and go on an unchartered run. Don’t think, just go. Start off in one direction and as you get to a corner or a fork in the road, pick which direction you want to go. *If you have a questionable sense of direction bring a smart phone along in case you get lost.

Give these a try to make your runs even more enjoyable!