How to Indulge Without Overindulging on Thanksgiving.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

I have been repeatedly asked if I skip Thanksgiving or only eat the healthier foods on the table. My go-to answer is that it’s a holiday and take the day to enjoy yourself. Enjoy a little of everything you like and stop when you’re full. Skipping foods you love and only get to have once a year leads to resentment. Life is too short.

That said it is possible to indulge without being overindulgent. If you have a weakness for your mom’s sausage stuffing.  take a helping of it. It doesn’t need to be a huge portion in order to feel satisfied. Are there healthy options on the table that you enjoy? Add them to your plate as well but don’t make yourself to eat something you hate because it’s good for you. I despise green beans in all forms and never add them to my plate.

Make smart choices. Appetizers can add up to a lot of calories quickly. Take a small plate with your favorites and savor it. The same goes for dessert, take sample sizes of a few pies or one slice of the cheesecake you love. If you’re not a fan of dessert don’t feel forced to have it because it’s Aunt Carol’s famous pecan pie recipe. If you do feel pressured, simply say you’re too full, maybe later.

Keep your drinking in moderation and have glass of water for each alcoholic beverage. Many cocktails are very high in calories and sugar so try to stick with wine, beer, or use club soda with a splash of fruit juice as a mixer.

I also recommend getting some exercise, especially if you will be sitting most of the day. Not because you need to burn a bunch of calories in order to “earn your food” but because you’ll feel more energized and happy from the workout. Run or walk in your local turkey trot, go for a bike ride, play football in the backyard, or do whatever activity you enjoy best.

Finally, when it comes to leftovers take the turkey and some veggies but pass on the heavier sides. The holiday is Thursday, not the entire weekend. 🙂

Happy Thanksgiving!

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12 Foods That May Seem Healthy but Aren’t

Last week I was at a breakfast meeting and the person sitting across from questioned if my omelet was indeed healthy. I am asked to defend or explain my food choices fairly often and this was an easy one. Eggs are healthy, doctors no longer think that they raise your cholesterol and it’s safe to eat an egg per day.

I had a new client tell me when he wants to eat light he’ll order tuna salad or a grilled cheese. I had to explain that the mayonnaise in traditional tuna salad made the sandwich pretty high in calories and fat. I’m not sure why he thought grilled cheese was healthy but fried cheesy things may be tasty but they aren’t healthy.

Flavored instant oatmeal

The fruit names sound good and oatmeal is healthy. Unfortunately flavored instant oatmeal packets have less fiber than rolled or steel cut oats. They also have much more added sugar and artificial ingredients. Stick with whole oats and add your own fruit and toppings.

Flavored yogurt

Similar to instant oatmeal flavored yogurts have either a lot of added sugar or a lot of artificial sweeteners. Plain, regular or Greek, has much less sugar, a good amount of protein, and probiotics.

Granola

Granola can have a lot of oil and sugar added to it. Choose a granola that is low in sugar and calories to ensure that your snack stays healthy.

Wheat or whole grain bread

Whole grains are good for you but unless the bread says 100% whole grain or whole wheat you aren’t getting only whole grains. Many commercial breads are mainly regular white flour with some whole grain flour added. Read your labels here.

Wraps

Wraps sound like a light choice compared to a regular sandwich but most wraps are high in calories, sodium, and fat and low in fiber. If you want a sandwich stick with 100% whole grain bread.

Yogurt muffins

Many of these claim to be low-fat and while some are most are high in sugar. They are also way larger than a homemade muffin and pack a lot of calories as well. Since there isn’t much nutritional value you’ll end up hungry in a few hours.

Fruit juice

Many juices aren’t whole juices and they are high in sugar but low in nutrients. If you need to drink juice stick with one that is 100% real fruit juice and stick with a 6oz serving. The best choice is just to eat a piece of fruit, since it also includes fiber.

Smoothies

Smoothies can be a very healthy choice but pre-made smoothies are often very large servings, have added unhealthy ingredients, and are high in sugar. Your best bet is to make your own smoothie at home.

Granola bars

Many granola bars are comparable with candy bars. They are often made with high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats) without much nutritional value. Choose bars with limited ingredients that are low in sugar and are made with 100% whole grains.

Gluten-free snacks and breads

Gluten-free doesn’t automatically mean healthy. Many of these foods are made with less nutrient dense flours and oils. If you need to avoid gluten for health reasons choose foods that are naturally gluten-free such as lean proteins, whole fruits, vegetables and grains such as buckwheat and quinoa.

Fat-free snacks

Fat-free is another term that seems to have a healthy halo. Fa-free snacks and foods have extra sugar, salt, and additives to make them taste better. They can also be surprisingly high in calories while lower in vitamins and minerals. Naturally fat-free foods such as whole fruits and vegetables are the wise choice.

Frozen diet meals

While many of these meals practice portion control, they don’t pack a nutritional punch. They have too many preservatives and sodium and too few vegetables. A better quick meal is precooked frozen brown rice, frozen veggies of your choice, and beans or shrimp which cook up fast.

Need more ideas on what to cook and what to skip? Follow The Empowered Plate on Facebook where I share healthy meals, health, and fitness tips.

Staying active and eating healthy while on vacation

Bike riding on vacation

Bike riding at the beach

I get asked why I workout on vacation and do I also watch my eating while I’m away. I workout mainly because I feel best when I do. It’s also a great way to get a little time to myself and to explore my vacation spot. I often vacation with family and that hour or two by myself gives me energy and peace.

I carry fitness bands with me so I can strength train and on rainy days I’ll do a fitness video from YouTube or Fitness Blender. There is something to be said for running and biking in a new place. It makes the time fly by and I meet some interesting people. If you have run with me you know I stop to pet ALL the dogs who want to be pet. On vacation I stop for photos of things that interest me along the way. It keeps the workout fun and I have a digital memory of the sites.

Food is slightly more complicated. I bring snacks with me for the car (or plane) ride. I keep healthy snacks on hand for a quick breakfast before a workout or to tide me over to the next meal. I stock up on fruits and vegetables, keep oatmeal, whole grain breads, chia seeds, and sunflower butter on hand for breakfast and healthy options around for lunch.

I rented a house on our last trip so I generally ate breakfast and lunch there. Dinners were split between going out and grilling at the house. I enjoy a salad with both lunch and dinner to help keep me full and get my veggies in. Sometimes lunch is a large salad with some protein.

I do have dessert because I enjoy it. I get the smallest cup of ice cream, sometimes that’s the kiddie cup, or I get some local treats to share with the rest of the family. Dark chocolate also makes a good treat and a square or two is all I need to satisfy me.

When I am in a hotel room I still keep healthy snacks and breakfast on hand. If breakfast is included I usually choose the same options I would have at home: eggs, cereal, yogurt, fruit, etc. If there are waffles I will splurge one day and eat one; lunch that day is a healthier choice.

One thing I generally skip are mixed drinks, I would rather get my calories elsewhere. I do have a glass of wine or a beer but most days I leave it at one. Obviously there are exceptions and I don’t sweat about them.

I keep my choices healthy about 80% of the time on vacation. It’s an easy way to stay in balance without feeling deprived.

What are your tips for staying healthy and still enjoying yourself while on vacation?

Do you need help creating a balanced and healthy eating plan? Email me at janinemchale@empoweredplate.com and together we can come up with a plan that works specifically for you.

How to Get Motivated

I get asked how I stay motivated to work out so often, especially if I am not training for an event or taking a class at the gym. Honestly, it’s a habit now and one I miss when I don’t do it. It wasn’t always and there are days when I have to talk myself into making spin class or go out for a run.

Some days I give myself a pass and I just do something else. If I really don’t feel like running I’ll choose a dance class or break up my run with strength training. I get running intervals in but I’m not running for 3 or 4 miles straight. I’ll also make a deal with myself that I will work out for 15 minutes. If I truly still don’t want to workout I will stop. I’ve stopped about four times in 20 years, usually because I just didn’t feel well enough to keep going.

Yes, I’ve been working out pretty consistently for over 20 years. How the heck is that even possible? I didn’t start with hard exercises and I didn’t workout for long periods of time when I first started exercising again. I periodically add try new fitness trends to keep things interesting. Some I liked and some I didn’t.

Trying new to you workouts keep things fresh and can spark motivation. I had no idea that I would love belly dancing, bosu, or Pilates. I didn’t like Pilates very much when I first tried it, nor did I like spin – not one little bit. Now I do them regularly. Sometimes you have to try a few classes to see if you like it or not. An unskilled instructor could put you off something you might otherwise like.

On the other hand, if you truly dislike a workout there is no point in trying to stick with it. Fitness shouldn’t be something you dread, find something you like doing and that makes you feel good afterward.

I motivate myself for long runs by finding someone to run with. It makes it easier to get out the door knowing someone is waiting for me. Group fitness classes can also provide that accountability; my spin and Pilates instructors will ask me where I was if I miss class as do some friends I’ve made in the class. Knowing someone is waiting can be a great motivator.

Finally, get your clothes and gear ready the night before and exercise first thing in the morning. There’s less time to think about reasons as to why you can’t or won’t when you just get moving right away. Starting your day on a positive note is a great way to build a habit.

To recap:

  • Make a deal with yourself to workout for 15 minutes
  • Choose a different workout then what you planned on
  • Try new workouts
  • Give a workout a few tries before deciding if you like it or not
  • Do something you enjoy
  • Find a workout buddy or group
  • Do it first thing in the morning

Do you need help in creating healthy habits? Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to see how I can help you create the healthier lifestyle you desire.

 

Pilates Reformer Sessions and What I Learned From It

photo by: Balanced Body Video

I finished up my Pilates reformer private sessions and I enjoyed them, much to my surprise. I had never been a huge fan of Pilates, I’ve taken mat classes here and there over the years. They never excited me enough to go regularly but injuries and insistence, uh I mean encouragement, from my cousin had me give it another shot.

Theses sessions had me working hard and they were an eye opener. It’s always humbling to start a new exercise and realize that even though you’re in good shape there are things you need to improve. I was aware that I had imbalances but this definitely highlighted where my strengths and weaknesses lie.

I would not say my core is my strongest part of my body but it has gotten stronger with a variety of core targeted exercises and mat Pilates classes. The reformer sessions really took things up a level and I can see why people get hooked. I was also able to try the Pilates chair and have signed up for small group classes so I can keep working on my imbalances and strengthen my core.

I noticed that it helps in my running, I can feel my glutes engaging more as I run. Before I run I add in a set of marching bridges to my warm up to fire up my glutes. Having a stronger core also helps with my running form and makes breathing easier. Gotta love that.

In general it helps more with my posture, both in daily life and while working out. I sit at a computer for large chunks of time where I slouch and hunch over. This causes tight hip flexors and lower back pain. It’s been a while since I haven’t had back or hip pain, I’m working on changing that.

As with most classes I do recommend taking one with a live teacher before you do dvd or on-demand class. They can help you adjust your posture and do the moves safely and correctly. For instance, I tend to hike up my hip in Warrior III, which can exacerbate the imbalances and add to injury. Now that I know this I am much more aware when I practice on my own.

What new exercise have you tried lately? Did you like or dislike it?

Are you fan of Pilates?

Want other exercise ideas, healthy recipes, and tips? Follow me on Facebook at: The Empowered Plate.

When Water Isn’t Enough After Working Out

I have been taking a particularly tough spin class twice a week. Once a week I take a Pilates mat class directly after. I have about 5 minutes to change my top, grab water, and get to the next class. Because I sweat a lot I add an electrolyte drink tablet to my water. It’s been noticed and I have been asked about it by a few women in both of my classes.

We often hear that you don’t need a sport drink when working out for an hour or less. While I do believe that in general there are cases where water alone is not enough. If you are working out hard for an hour and see salt streaks on your skin you probably need to replenish your electrolytes.

There are various options including coconut water or enhanced flavored waters. I use the electrolyte tablets for the sake of convenience, I keep a tube in my gym bag so I can just pop one into my water bottle as needed. I also like that there isn’t added sugar with these. I do prefer a sport drink when running distance but don’t find that I need it for a spin class.

Replenishing what you lose during class without taking in more calories than you spent is key. I see people sipping a sugary sport drink when doing moderate weight lifting and it’s just not necessary. In that case, water will work just fine. If you aren’t a fan of the taste add in a squeeze of lemon, lime, or orange to give it a bit of flavor.

Occasionally I will eat half an energy bar in between classes or the whole thing if I didn’t have time for breakfast. I choose one that’s a mix of nuts and fruit. Fruit gives you the quick sugar energy burst and nuts provide a longer term energy with a mix of healthy fats and protein. I stick to bars with ingredients I can identify and are lower in sugar. ( for reference: 4g of sugar is a teaspoon).

Your body works optimally when you fuel it properly. While different eating plans work for different people, clean nutritious choices are a win no matter what dietary plan you follow.

Do you need help figuring out what foods work best for your body and lifestyle? Email me at janinemchale@empoweredplate.com to see how I can help you find that happy spot.

Fit Not Thin and What Are We Telling Our Kids?

The other day in the gym one girl told another she used to hate her thighs. Now I hear this self loathing talk fairly often but this young woman was maybe a freshman in college, but more likely in high school. Both women wore shorts and sleeveless shirts so it was easy to see they were both athletic and fit looking. The positive note was that she used to hate her thighs because they were muscular.

Recently a woman asked me if my thighs got bigger from running and spin class. She wouldn’t attend spin since someone told her it would make her thighs bigger. Another well-meaning relative told me not to do a workout by a popular fitness instructor because she had big thighs and I was sure to get them as well.

My thighs did not get big from doing the workout video nor did they get big from spin class or running. They did tone up quite a bit and I have more muscle definition. I don’t consider that a bad thing, it’s nice to see the results of hard work.

That  young woman and I both have the same thought: our bodies can do amazing things. These legs have run over a dozen half-marathons, hours of running practice, 5Ks, 10Ks, and cycled hundreds of miles. I can squat, lunge, and dead lift weights.It makes every day life, such as picking up a child, dog, or groceries, a heck of a lot easier. It’s also empowering.

Which is the gist of what I told my niece when she was 8 and said to me, “look how big my legs get when I sit down.” At 8 years old! After showing her that everyone’s legs did that we talked about what she liked to do and how being strong helped her accomplish that.

Which leads me to wonder what messages we’re sending to those around us, including children and teens. Would you rather they viewed themselves as strong, fit, healthy, and capable or as slaves to the scale and worried about looking too big? Do you express verbally or non-verbally unhappiness with your weight or your body? Kids notice this and mimic that behavior.

It helps to talk positively about what you like about yourself. Praise your kids for what they accomplish and the effort they put in, rather than focusing on how they look.

What makes you feel fit and healthy? What do you like about yourself?

Need help with eating in a way that supports you and your lifestyle? One where you can feel fit and healthy? Email me at janinemchale@gmail.com to see how I can help you.

Spinning, Pilates, and What Do You Want to Talk About?

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I wasn’t running due to injury and felt that my voice wasn’t fresh when it came to my other posts. I wanted to be authentic in what I wrote and not just regurgitate what everyone else is already speaking about. To that end I think what I do best is write about what people actually ask me or comment to me. If you have a question or want me to talk about a particular topic, please email me at janinemchale@empoweredplate.com.

I’ve been taking a few different classes at the YMCA and doing my strength training there. I’m using the assisted pull-up machine and while I am a while off from doing unassisted pull-ups I definitely feel stronger and notice more muscle definition. I am also trying to get those lazy glutes activated and my hip stronger.

It feels like a never-ending battle to keep the glutes and hips strong and stable. I do the exercises but I feel like there’s some key that I’m missing. In my o quest I’m trying Pilates Reformer sessions for 5 weeks. I know that it will help my core, which will alleviate some back pain, make spinning, running, and day-to-day life easier. Will it make my hip stronger? One can hope!

I’ve been taking regular spin classes as well as mat Pilates. Neither of these were favorites of mine previously. In fact, I down right despised spin. Having an injury and wanting to maintain fitness will have you doing things outside of your comfort zone. I ruptured the fascia in my foot and spinning has been a good way to keep my endurance strong.

I happened to take the one of the hardest classes offered. It was not on purpose but I liked the instructor’s style so I stuck with it. Turns out that was the best thing for me. I’ve taken a few other classes but I still prefer the strength and endurance combination that this particular instructor uses. When I started running again I didn’t feel like I was starting from scratch.

I’ve incorporated yoga and mat Pilates to strengthen my core as well as reduce back and hip pain. While it’s helping I need more, hence the reformer classes. I’m a bit nervous about them and tomorrow is my first class.

How are you stretching yourself physically?

Do you stick with the tried and true or do you branch out into other exercises?

Had an injury? Do you cross train, when allowed by your doctor?

Quinoa, Apple, and Onion Stuffed Squash (gluten free)

photo: A Couple Cooks

photo: A Couple Cooks

I love this stuffed acorn squash as a main course for a weeknight meal. In less than 30 minutes, including any chopping time, you have a delicious, filling, and healthy dinner. Top it with nuts or crumbled Gorgonzola for a non-vegan dish. I like to serve this with a side of greens sauteed in olive oil and garlic.

This recipe is both gluten-free and vegan, however it makes a great side dish to serve along with chicken or pork.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
  • 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 small apple, diced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup (or more to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts or pistachios or crumbled Gorgonzola cheese (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Brush squash with 1/2 tablespoon oil. Roast cut side down on a baking sheet until tender and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring quinoa and 2 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Shut heat off, leave cover on and let steam for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
  3. While quinoa cooks saute garlic in 1 TBS olive oil over medium-low heat. Then add in diced onion and apple, saute until softened. Keep warm.
  4. When quinoa is cooked add onion and apple mixture. Stir in parsley, maple syrup, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Divide mixture equally between two squash halves. Top with pistachios or walnuts if desired.

Eating Healthy on a Budget – 15 Money Saving Tips

GroceryBagI often hear that it’s almost impossible to eat healthy on a budget. It does seem tough at first, especially if you’re used to buying prepackaged convenience foods. It is possible to eat healthy, however, without breaking the bank. I’ve developed some strategies for saving money without sacrificing my healthy habits.

  1. Shop the sales. Read your local supermarket’s sale circular and purchase the healthy options that you enjoy while they’re on sale. Plan your meals for the week around the sale items you purchased.
  2. Use coupons. Most grocery stores have a loyalty card and send extra coupons for the items you frequently purchase. Check out the coupons for the week and use what you can. You’d be amazed how much you can save.
  3. Know the unit price. There are two prices listed on the shelf, the actual price and the unit price. The unit price is the actual cost per serving and that’s how you determine which brand is more economical.
  4. Buy the store brand. The store brand generally tastes the same but is cheaper since they aren’t spending money on advertising.
  5. Buy in bulk. I will double up on chicken and other meats when they’re on sale and stick them in the freezer. When seasonal vegetables and fruits are on sale I buy extra and freeze them to use later on. If your store has bulk bins for grains, nuts, etc., shop there as well. No packaging makes it a cheaper buy.
  6. Buy what’s in season. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are cheaper than those that are out of season. In the fall apples will be much cheaper than strawberries. Asparagus is cheaper in the spring and fall than in the winter and summer months.
  7. Stretch your meat. Adding beans to your meat dish, making a stir fry or stew lets you stretch the amount of meat you purchased. Vegetables and beans are less expensive and add nutrients to your meal.
  8. Skip the convenience foods. Sure, pre-chopped veggies save you time but you pay dearly for the time save. Spend a few minutes chopping the vegetables yourself. Make your own soups and freeze them in individual containers, rather than buying cans of soup.
  9. Repurpose your leftovers. A roast chicken can be eaten one night, used for tacos another night, and used for soup a third night. Do you have leftover brown rice? Make a stir fry with it another night. Using your leftovers in different ways lets you finish them up without becoming bored.
  10. Cook in bulk. Making soup or chili? Make enough to freeze leftovers. Making chicken breast? Cook extra and freeze unused portions. You’ll have foods for nights when you don’t feel like cooking and save money on ordering out. They can also be used for grab and go lunches.
  11. Buy less expensive cuts of meat. Less expensive cuts can be tougher but cooking them in the crock pot or slow roasting them makes them tender and juicy.
  12. Buy whole grains. Whole grains are another great way to stretch a meal. They are generally inexpensive, full of vitamins and minerals plus the fiber keeps you full longer.
  13. Go meatless. Pick a day or two to skip the meat altogether. Lentils, black beans, and chick peas are all delicious and healthy alternatives to a meat based dish.
  14. Shop a discount store. Do you have a discount grocery store, such as Aldi’s? The no frills approach can help you save big. You many not find everything you want but you’ll save money on many staples.
  15. Meal prep. Having the healthy foods in the house doesn’t do you any good if you don’t use them. Take a few hours one day to prep your meals for the week ahead. It will save you time and money during the week.

What are your tips for saving money on a budget?

Do you want to start adopting a healthier lifestyle? Do you need help with eating better? Email me at janinemchale@gmail.com to see how I can help you reach your goals.