How to Indulge Without Overindulging on Thanksgiving.

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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.

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.

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.

The Pressure to Be Perfect

perfectMost of us put a crazy amount of pressure on ourselves to do things perfectly. I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive to do your best in most circumstances but perfect is generally not attainable. Or, at least, our idea of perfect isn’t attainable.

In a perfect world I’d be running every morning, my house would be clean (not even in wildest imagination do I think my house could be spotless), meals would be prepped ahead and I would have dinner ready well before 8 pm.

In truth, my house gets messy, I run or exercise when I have time that particular day, and some days we often eat dinner after 8 pm. What I get right; my meals are usually healthy, greens are washed and ready to go, there are healthy grab and go meal options for when I am crazy busy, and I fit exercise in.

I have run with friends who beat themselves up if they need to walk, run a little slower or end their run early. Listening the their bodies actually helps their next event, they’re not too exhausted to give it their best. Generally they do well at their races and sometimes even beat their envisioned times. The training may not be their idea of perfect but the results are pretty darn good.

I have a client who is frustrated with his meal choices but hates cooking. My job is to figure out if there’s anything he doesn’t mind making at home and how to have him order the best options for the rest of the time.

Is it perfect? Nope, but it’s better than eating junk food or meals that are supposedly healthy but don’t keep him satisfied. He has also confessed to hitting up the drugstore and grabbing candy at night. Seriously? I’d rather you ordered a meal or, at least, grabbed a yogurt and a piece of fruit.

So you don’t always buy organic, meals aren’t always from scratch and dry shampoo has become you’re biggest beauty must-have. The world isn’t going to end.

Are you struggling with healthy choices and making time for fitness? Email me, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to schedule a consultation. Together we can come up with a plan that works for you.

Why I Dislike My Fitness Tracker and Use it Anyway

runners legsI am not a fan of my fitness trackers. Yes, I have two. No, I don’t wear them both at the same time. I’m not quite that obsessive.

They have their good points, especially if you tend to be sedentary during the day. I sit at my computer a lot for work and like the reminder to get up and move more. I also like to see how consistently I am exercising on days when I don’t run.

What drives me nuts is that FitBit seems more accurate with mileage and counts the exercise I log towards my steps. But the Jawbone UP3 wins for one simple reason; I can program it to buzz me when I’ve been sitting for longer than an hour. I can choose the time period as well as the days for this. (It’s turned off on the weekends. I move more than enough without the reminder).

The truth of the matter is most of us sit way too much during the day and an hour’s worth of exercise doesn’t negate that. Blech. There are days I’m better at getting enough movement in than others. For the days I’m not moving the tracker comes in handy.

There is a weird satisfaction on feeling it buzz when I’ve hit my 10,000 steps for the day. And it can be annoying when it doesn’t hit those steps when I’ve been active during the day. Some days I will walk around the house to get those extra steps, other days I don’t.

Would I recommend the activity band? If you sit a lot during the day and this can help get you moving I say yes. If you like data and want to track your food, sleep and exercise then I say go for it.

Rather not wear a tracker? There are other ways to remind yourself to get up and move. A reminder in your phone or computer can help. Wearing a cheap pedometer can help you track your mileage. There are plenty of apps to help you get up and get moving, too.

Do you get enough movement in during the day? Need some help in getting track for a healthier lifestyle? Send me an email, janinemchale@empoweredplate.com, to set up a consultation.

Half and Full Marathon Thoughts and Training Plans

Brooklyn Half 2014I have entered into temporary running madness. 3 half-marathons in 3 months with a full set for November. Not just any full marathon but NYC, which is intimidating, exciting, scary and thrilling all at the same time. Some days I think “what the heck have I signed up for?” and other days I think “I’m going to rock this.”

I ran one of my halfs last month and it was fun. I was glad when I hit the finish line and I think, uh oh – how will I do a full? And while I’m looking forward to my Runapalooza half-marathon in Asbury Park I’m not as excited about the Brooklyn half. I’ve run both and I prefer Asbury. I signed up for Brooklyn because my friends are doing it. Yes, Mom, I will jump off the bridge if my friends do!

I remind myself that I’m not training for a full at the moment and that I can run 18 miles when I am trained for it. I am stronger than when I trained last year for the NJ Marathon. I am still doing my PT exercises and I am going to follow the beginner plan. I am not a beginner runner but I am a beginner marathoner. I’m not naive enough to think there isn’t a difference.

I’m deciding on my training plan, I’m tossed between traditional marathon training, which is what I do for my halfs, and the Hansons method. You run about the same mileage each week but the Hansons method doesn’t have runs longer than 16 miles. The thought is you are running that distance on tired legs so it’s similar to running the last 16 miles of the race. You’re fatigued but less beat up over all. Then again, 6 days of running sounds crazy!

I have friends who have run NYC and they assure me I can do it. I believe, deep down, that I can do it. I can see me crossing the finish line and I am looking forward to it.

Have you run a full marathon? Want to share some tips or advice? I’d love to hear from people who tried the Hansons Method, too!

Why I Don’t Believe in Everything in Moderation

968eIt sounds great, doesn’t it? “Everything in moderation.” Especially when you’re trying to shed a few pounds and watching what you eat. But that damn scale keeps creeping up. You start wondering why and get frustrated because you’re following all things in moderation. So why isn’t this working? Do you need to give up carbs or maybe try a low-fat diet?

Then you start looking back over your food diary and realize that you’re eating moderate portions of snacks three times a day, every day. And there’s a relaxed eating day over the weekend on top of these daily treats. Think about it, a cookie mid morning, a salty or sweet snack in the afternoon and a square of chocolate after dinner may be in moderation but those treats add up. That’s not including the weekend dinner out, cocktails and the pancakes for breakfast.

There are also the foods you can’t seem to have in moderation: A pint of ice cream, rather than a half-cup serving. The bag of chips instead of one ounce. Sometimes you even sensibly portion our treat out, only to go back for another serving. You think, well I’ll just have a little less at dinner or I’ll skip whatever later on. Except you don’t. We are creatures of habit and instant gratification is a powerful draw.

A lot of the runners I work with feel they deserve a treat for running so many miles per week. I love treats too and I know when you’ve burned hundreds of calories on a long run a doughnut, plate of waffles or cookies can be a powerful lure. While I don’t say no, don’t eat them. I do say eat a healthy meal first, replenish what you lost. Then if you want a treat go for it.

Daily treats become more of a habit instead of something we actually want. And we end up needing more of them to satisfy cravings. Instead of giving in to every craving wait a while, have some water or drink a flavored tea. Still want a sweet, eat some berries. If you’re hungry pair a piece of fruit with a protein. Some easy choices are yogurt with those berries, string cheese and an apple or a small banana with nut butter.

There will be days when you really want that cookie, cupcake or serving of chips. Go ahead, sit down and enjoy every bite of your treat. (Don’t keep extra servings in the house if you know you’re going to go back for more). I also suggest planning it for one time during the day. It may be easier to say no to a cookie when you know you’ll be enjoying that ice cream later on.

Do you have trouble moderating you servings? Not sure why your weight is creeping up? Email me, janinemchale@empowereplate.com, and together we can come up with a plan designed specifically for you.