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7

12 Healthy Food Trends

Recently IDEA Food and Nutrition Tips, a magazine for fitness industry professionals, published an article I wrote for them about twelve healthy food trends. For this post, I thought I’d share a few notes on the healthy dozen.

grapes for Riesling healthy foodGluten – Gluten-sensitive and gluten-free foods are mainstream now, to the tune of a predicted sales volume of $24 billion by 2020. This market growth is driven by those who identify as “health conscious” rather than those who suffer “from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.”

Paleo – More than just meat and caveman-centric meals, those who follow a Paleo diet can choose items such as nutrition nut bars or freeze-dried beets. And of course, meat. In 2015, Paleo was the most-Googled search food term.

Plant-based – Danone (makers of Dannon yogurt) just purchased WhiteWave for $12.5 billion. Obviously, they believe plant-based foods to be a growing part of our diet, as WhiteWave comes with brands such as Silk, So Delicious, Earthbound Farm, Horizon Organic milk, and Vega. Are you ready to try one of the 3,500 types of seaweed?

German bread in Heidelberg healthy foodHealthy Oils – Start reading up on smoke points, as you’ll be wanting to try avocado, coconut, safflower, almond, macadamia nut, rice bran, sesame seed, sunflower, peanut, hazelnut, grapeseed, and of course, olive oil. Less concerned with cost than a desire for organic, healthy, non-GMO, locally sourced (or traceable) ingredients, plus a wish to replicate recipes seen on cooking shows, people are demanding a variety of oil choices.

12 Healthy Food Trends. How many of them do you follow? #FitFluential #MidlifeBlvd Click To Tweet

Breakfast – We still love our cereal, but now we also love smoothies, breakfast bars, and yogurt. Oh, and overnight oats. Pinterest searches for overnight oat recipes climbed 35% in 2016 over 2015 numbers.

Non-Dairy Milk – Look past all those Facebook posts about almond milk for a moment, and you’ll discover that milks are now made out of a variety of nut, grain and seed. Who’s up for a shot of camel’s milk? In many ways, it’s good to consider plant-based milks over animal-based, yet take care, as not all non-dairy milks are created equally nutritious.

fruit tart, Germany, healthy foodHealthy Snacks – Kale chips may be considered old hat by now, but have you tried caffeinated jerky or roasted chickpeas yet? Snacking accounts for over 50% of our “eating occasions,” so stock up on maple sugar pumpkin seeds and grilled watermelon with honey, mint and cayenne while you can.

Protein – It’s time we sat down and had a talk about the bugs and the bees. Well, just the bugs. The rest of the world is already crunching on spicy roasted grasshoppers and cricket chips, so maybe it’s time we gave them a try. If you want to skip the bugs, go with kalamata olive cottage cheese, washed down with a shot of protein coffee.

Energy Bars – Have you roamed the grocery store aisles lately? Shelves upon shelves of energy bars are lying there, just waiting for you to give them some love.

nougat bread healthy foodSeeds and Nuts – Okay, Boomers, who remembers Euell Gibbons? “Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible.” Peanuts, pistachios, chia, hemp seeds, and watermelon seeds are all hot commodiites nowadays.

Natural Beverages – Is bulletproof coffee yesterday’s news? Maybe, maybe not. But cold brew coffee, yerba mate, guayasa, matcha, maca, chicory- or dandelion-root, fermented, sparkling, vegan, naturally flavored water, and kefir drinks are certainly today’s news. One result of the interest in more natural choices? Soda sales have dropped in the past few years by billions of gallons.

Greek Yogurt/ Probiotics/ Quark – Whether you’re Bulgarian, Greek, Icelandic or none of the above, chances are you’ve noticed that these products have displaced the “standard” yogurts of just 5 years ago.

If you want to know what quark is, or the differences between Icelandic skyr and Bulgarian unstrained yogurt, you’ll have to join IDEA, which will entitle you to a free copy of the full, 4,000-word article. Well, it will entitle you to the entire magazine, plus all their other magazines, many of which I write for. Did you know I had a secret life as a writer? Yeah, it’s not really a secret. Neither is the fact that food is medicine, so pick a trend or two from this list and give it a go.

By Alexandra Williams, MA

Photos are all by me, taken during our AmaWaterways cruise.

6

Healthy Habits: Small Changes Lead to Big Changes

A recurring theme in our business of fitness and active aging is how to get from A to B – where you are now and where you want to be. Whether it’s weight loss, better nutrition, more energy, injury prevention, disease reduction or any of the many other reasons people have, the secret to success lies in using your mind to make small changes that add up and lead to the desired big changes as you create new, healthy habits.

Walk on beach, KymberlyInstead of speaking generally, I’ll give a specific case example. I have a 65-year-old friend, Barbara*. She has diabetes, insomnia, low arm muscle tone (related to a shoulder injury & surgery), is overweight by about 20 pounds, and has forward head thrust. Oh, she also complains of snoring, but wants to avoid wearing a CPAP machine to bed (recommended by her doctors after a sleep study for the insomnia). Her eating habits consist mostly of fast food and restaurant food.

For two months, she has talked about the things she “should” do, yet not much has changed. When she started talking to me, I listened for any recent relevant successes. As it turned out, she had lost about 35 pounds over the past few years. With a background in fitness, food and counseling, you’d think I could just say, “do X, Y, and Z and you’ll be fine.” Well, I COULD say that, but would she listen? Would you?

Keeping in mind she’s my friend, NOT my client, I’m somewhat limited, yet she truly is motivated. So I think like a pro and friend, by staying as non-judgmental as possible (that’s diplomatic talk for me trying to keep my mouth shut regarding unsolicited advice).

When trying to lead a healthier life, small changes are best because... Click To Tweet

Do’s:
Focus on one issue at a time
Put related issues together
Mention possible small changes
Create an environment that leads to success
Go small
Pat, Slap, Pat (totally non-counselorish phrase for Compliment, Correct, Compliment)
Find opportunities to celebrate small successes
Lay out a clear picture of what success looks like – can’t reach a goal if you don’t know what it is

Dont’s:
Try to solve all the issues at once
Nag
Be a saboteur
Expect the person to do what YOU would do

to do listI realized fairly quickly that Barbara’s main focus is the insomnia and snoring, even more than getting off the diabetes medicine. Me, I’d want to be off the daily shots for the diabetes, but that’s ME, not her. She doesn’t like being reminded about pulling her head back, so the forward head thrust is out of the equation for now. She also has shown little inclination to work out, so the arm strength is also set aside. The good news for her is that the cure for the insomnia and snoring is going to help her diabetes and weight too.

These are a few of the changes that she’s made:

She said she wanted to walk her dog, yet that wasn’t happening. Instead of nagging her to walk the dog, I asked what it was she didn’t like about walking the dog. She said it was boring to walk the same neighborhood day after day. Solution: We meet at different places in town and walk the dog. Side benefit: She is discovering places in town that she had never visited, and her dog barks less at night because he’s sleeping better too.

Kila and Liberty on rockShe said she wanted to eat better by eating fewer meals (skipping breakfast, to be specific). Research doesn’t back up this plan, but I know very few people who change their habits when they read research, so instead I went shopping with her and helped her pick out foods she would actually eat. Solution: She found cereals she liked and has taught herself to read labels to watch for the sugar content (for the diabetes). Side benefit: She is no longer driving through fast food places mid-morning to satiate her hunger, so the type and amount of calories she’s eating have changed for the better.

She knows that exercise leads to weight loss, which leads to a decrease in snoring and helps her sleep better, yet she wasn’t doing any exercise. She’s a social person, so I invite her to join me on dog walks and other walking opportunities. For example, she’s so used to driving everywhere, that’s it’s a habit for her to jump into her car for even a short distance. We were headed somewhere that’s about a quarter mile from my house, so I suggested we walk. Solution: She’s starting to look at walking as a way to get from place to place, rather than as forced exercise. By simply “interrupting” her unconscious habit of jumping into the car, she now sees walking as an alternative mode of transport. Side benefit: She has noticed the correlation between the exercise and how she sleeps, and has come to realize that it’s actually cause and effect.

She is a kindhearted person who likes to be a good friend. We were going out to restaurants far more than is my usual style, and I found I was eating more than I normally would. When I expressed concern about this, she wanted to be helpful to me. She isn’t a doggie bag person; her mindset is more toward “clean your plate.” Thinking of “Pat, Slap, Pat,” I said, “I love going out to eat and trying new foods. This lifestyle won’t work for me in the long run, as I’m sitting too long and eating too much” (way better than saying, “You eat out way too often,” which sounds judgy). “Could we swing by the ready-made section of the grocery store and pick up some lunch there instead?” If I had suggested cooking at home, she would not have been successful at reducing her restaurant visits, since she doesn’t cook. Solution: She is looking more to the grocery store as a place for portion control and choice. Side benefit: She now has more time for those dog walks, as she’s spending less time sitting in a restaurant.

nutrition at IDEA WorldI gave her a card for her wallet that lists her goals, but that was a total bust, as she never looks at it. And I discovered that chocolate shakes are non-negotiable for her, so I stopped rolling my eyes. She has a sweet tooth, so I have to work WITH, not AGAINST it. How? I offer fruit in vanilla yogurt to her, which sometimes (not always) satisfies her sugar craving. And isn’t fruit two times out of ten better than candy bars ten out of ten? Maybe she’ll get to five times fruit and five times chocolate bars. But that might be enough to beat the diabetes.

Oh, I got her hooked on Bolthouse Vanilla Chai instead of the caffeinated energy drinks and sodas she was drinking. THAT is a big success.

What is the one small thing you can do? Write it in the comments below so we can steal your ideas.

Alexandra Williams, MA

One very small thing you can do is subscribe to our twice-weekly posts, just by entering your email right over there ——->

Photo credit for “To Do” –  Courtney Dirks

What to Eat Before or After a Workout

For the past 30+ years, our fitness students have asked us to advise them what to eat before and after their workouts. Our answer is very simple, which makes it easy to remember and obey follow –the closer to the ground, the better. In other words, if you can get it from a veggie garden, fruit orchard, or even a chicken coop you’re probably making a better choice than if you got it from a box at the store that lists 43 ingredients, of which you can only pronounce 15.

raspberries for a healthy lifestyleOf course, the full answer is more nuanced, and can get as complex as a physics word problem (guess what topic I avoided in high school). But make “carbohydrates and protein” your mantra. Yes, we mean it — carbs are an important and necessary fuel. For some reason, protein has gotten all the good press, yet it’s really a secondary player.

For those interested in complex answers (and complex carbohydrates), let’s chat about slow and fast release carbs. Fast release carbohydrates are foods that are quickly broken down into sugars. Slow release carbs are foods that are slowly broken down into sugars.

plums - one of our healthy lifestyle tipsMaybe you’re curious about the glycemic response, which refers to the body’s increase in blood glucose (a simple form of sugar. If you see the word “monosaccharide,” that is the type of sugar that is glucose) and insulin after you eat. The Glycemic Index (GI) is a standardized list of food categories. Using white bread as the reference food (GI of 100), foods that have a GI >85 are considered high, foods that are 60-85 are moderate, and foods that are <60 are low. Low Glycemic Index foods are slow release carbs.

Some foods listed as low (<60) on the GI:

hummus                             peaches                        apples

grapefruit                           peanuts                        pears

beans                                  oat bran bread  milk (whole or nonfat or soy)

yogurt                                 dried peas                    egg fettuccini

apricots                              bananas                       wheat kernels

cherries                              plums                           tomato soup

rice                                      bran barley

picture of white foodsFor a truly complete list of over 1,300 food listed on the Glycemic Index, you can click to the International Table of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values: 2002 published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. In case you don’t want to memorize the Glycemic Index list, I’ll give you a super simplified way to choose – if it’s white, you probably don’t want it (except milk). If it’s colorful, you probably do. Brightly colored children’s cereals do NOT qualify. One more way to quickly gauge – starchy = fast release; non-starchy – slow release. But I find the white/ colorful easier.

What is the BEST thing to eat pre- and post-workout? Click To Tweet

These sample pre-workout choices give you a good idea when you’re trying to decide:

orange and cottage cheese
whole-grain toast and peanut butter
nuts and apple
yogurt and granola
hard-boiled egg and wheat bagel
string cheese and pretzels
chicken breast (not a nugget) and rice

organic butterNotice how these foods are much closer to the ground than fruit-flavored or infused foods, and that the ingredients ARE the food, rather than a long list of mystery chemicals and additives. In a “silver lining” story, when my 19-year-old was diagnosed as a baby with a lot of food allergies, I had to learn to read labels and cook from scratch. In order to protect his health I ended up protecting the health of my entire family. We started eating organic, non-GMO food, and learned over time which brands we trusted to keep him safe. We were also lucky enough to have space to grow our own vegetables and fruits, plus we had access to farmers’ markets.

Organic food

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You want to eat the right food before and after exercise, right? And I imagine you want to eat the right food the rest of the day too, yes? Use the info and resources in this post to help you choose your meal or snack. As to when to eat pre- and post-workout, it boils down (that’s an egg joke right there) to this: consume a balanced snack 2–3 hours prior to exercise and consume a carbohydrate- and protein-containing snack or meal following the session to help get the most out of your workout, enhance your glycogen stores and recover successfully from that workout (pant, pant, sweat, glisten). And if you live in the real world, and need to eat five minutes before your workout, that’s still a better plan that skipping a meal or eating C.R.A.P. (Color-enhanced, un-Recognizable, un-Appetizing, Packaged). Feel free to come up with a better acronym.

Have you subscribed yet to our twice-weekly posts? Fitness, food, travel, health, boomer life. Oh, yeah!

Alexandra Williams, MA

6

5 Trends from the Annual Fitness Convention

I recently attended the IDEA World Fitness and Nutrition Convention, which is the annual event for fitness professionals. We come to learn the latest trends in fitness programming, healthy nutrition and business practices, as well as checking out hundreds of booths in the Expo for the latest products and services.

cafe gratitude, IDEA Convention

IDEA Fitness Journal has contracted with me for the past few years to cover the convention, with a specific eye toward food and group fitness. Who would say no to that? Not I. One of the benefits of attending is that I get a first look at the upcoming trends in the industry. I also get to write about those trends. One of my articles is already posted over at IDEA, so I hope you’ll read it: Diversity and Collaboration Mark an Outstanding Event.

5 trends from the IDEA Fitness & Nutrition Convention that may affect U. #FitFluential… Click To Tweet

Five trends I thought might interest you are as follows:

Dance, dance, dance – More styles were present than I recall in the past 35 years of this convention: Stomp (stepping), Bollywood, Dancing with the Stars-inspired ballroom, military and martial arts dance fusion, South African, and even a combo dance and Step workout. People our age are rediscovering the joys of dance and I expect to see clubs and studios offering more depth to their dance programming.

Dance at IDEA World

Somewhere in the center, Louis van Amstel is leading a conga line.

Celebrity-based workouts – Probably due to social media breaking down barriers, it’s now possible to work out and even chat with some of your favorite celebrities. Louis van Amstel of DWTS, Jillian Michaels of Biggest Loser, Cassy Ho of Pop Pilates – all were there sharing info on their latest workout programs and leading classes. Look for more celebrities crossing the barrier from on-screen to in-person.

Link between nutrition and behavior – This year had a summit track inside the wider convention – the first-ever IDEA World Nutrition & Behavior Change Summit. For a full day, experts from places such as Stanford, Harvard, Yale and University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus came to speak about the link between food and behavior change. Though it may seem obvious in hindsight, it’s groundbreaking to see researchers, medical doctors and health coaches/ psychologists come speak to thousands of fitness professionals. I expect to see further strengthening of the ties between these groups.

nutrition at IDEA World

Fruit, cereal and yogurt parfait. Yum.

Link between food and fitness – Again, this may seem obvious, but for many years the healthy food people had their conventions and made no mention at all about the link between eating and exercise. So the fitness world went to the food people and invited them to speak and exhibit at the fitness convention. Not only are the healthy food vendors now coming to where the fitness pros are, the fitness pros themselves are now getting additional certifications in nutrition. Your instructors and trainers have more knowledge than ever about eating healthfully.

Boomers are different from older adults – At past conventions, people over 50 were sort of lumped together at lectures and workshops. Of course, the needs and goals of an active 50-year-old tend to be different than those of a frail 85-year-old. And this year, more sessions than ever delineated between the groups. My sister was one of the presenters on Boomer Fitness. We are the first generation to intentionally embrace (to a degree) exercise as a way to to stay healthy post-college. I believe that more clubs will be offering demographic-based programming, especially for the Boomer market.

Inspire at IDEA World

Boomers love to be inspired to move. In any way available.

Look for an upcoming post from my sis about the trends she spotted at the convention.

Alexandra Williams, MA

1

Benefits of Organic Food: Did You Know…?

Like many of you, I prefer organic food to industrial; made-from-scratch to processed. I will freely admit to being biased. Yet my preference is based on science and experience. Whether you have a strong opinion for or against organic, or just don’t care one way or the other, you may be interested in these tidbits I picked up at a meeting last week at the Natural Products Expo West.

organic milk photo: Milk milk.jpgOrganic milk has nutritional advantages over conventional – In a meta-analysis of 170 published studies, researchers found that organic milk had 56% higher healthy omega-3 fatty acid levels than conventional milk. The study, led by Carlo Leifert of Newcastle University, also found that organic dairy provides other health benefits such as higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (why do I always think of French verbs when I hear the word “conjugated”?), iron, carotenoids, and Vitamin E. The milk in this study is bovine, not plant-based.

Switching from a conventional 2 #organic diet reduced pesticides in children in just 7 days.… Click To Tweet

An organic diet can reduce exposure to some pesticides – According to a study run by UC Berkeley’s Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (along with U of Maryland’s Institute for Applied Environmental Health & Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, 40 Mexican-American children living in agricultural and urban communities in California reduced their exposure to some pesticides by switching to an organic diet. The two highlights of this study are that a number of the children reside in agricultural communities, and that the improvements were seen after only a week. “An organic diet was significantly associated with reduced urinary concentrations of nonspecific dimethyl OP insecticide metabolites and the herbicide 2,4-D in children.”

honeybee flower photo: Honeybee DSC_7638.jpgNeonicotinoids pose a high risk to the bee population – Wonder what a neonicotinoid is? Notice how it seems like the word “nicotine” is in the middle of the word? From the Oxford Dictionary: “Any of a class of synthetic compounds having a chemical structure similar to that of nicotine and related alkaloids, used as systemic insecticides on plants and as topical or systemic insecticides on animals.” All you need to remember is BAD. The bee population has been decimated over the past few years, and a lot of scientific data suggest a link to neonicotinoid pesticides use. Want some GOOD? “The presence of native habitat in close proximity to farms may sfeguard wild bees from the negative effects of pesticide use.”

If you want to focus on a few veggies and fruits that are most affected by pesticide, these are the dirty dozen:

Apples
Celery
Cherry tomatoes
Cucumbers
Grapes
Nectarines
Peaches
Potatoes
Snap peas
Spinach
Strawberries
Sweet bell peppers

And if you are budget-conscious (aren’t we all?), this chart may help you see that the costs of organic vs conventional are quite similar.chart comparing organic and conventional

Alexandra Williams, MA

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9

5 More Healthy Food Trends

In our recent post “5 Healthy Food Trends,”  I listed five of ten nutrition trends that are driven by consumer preferences. As promised in that post, you can now read the other five from my article “10 Nutrition Trends to Watch,” for IDEA Fitness Journal.

I’ve excerpted from that article below, and if you want access to the full piece, please contact IDEA – the health and fitness association – at 800 999-IDEA.

superfood hemp in cerealSuperfoods
What do moringa, hemp, algae, purple corn, red palm oil, reishi mushrooms, turmeric and maca root have in common? They have joined blueberries, cinnamon and ginger root as must-have superfoods.

High in antioxidant and vitamin content, these health-promoting foods have passed $130 billion in sales. At the recent Natural Products Expo it was common to find people at booths tasting moringa protein drinks, turmeric rice, ginger hummus, and purple corn cereal.

Gluten-Free
Twenty percent of Americans say they actively try to eat gluten-free foods in their diets, and sales of gluten-free foods increased by 63% between 2012 and 2014. According to the poll, “Far more U.S. adults say they actively try to include gluten-free foods in their diets than actually suffer from celiac disease.” People with celiac disease or wheat allergies have to eat a gluten-free diet, as they cannot tolerate gliadin and glutenin, the two proteins found in gluten.organic gluten free sprouted popcorn. member of Organic Trade Association

Sugar Substitutes
Sweets will probably never go out of style, but sweeteners sometimes do. The demand for “natural” plant–based sweeteners is currently driving the market, and a few have moved up to the front row lately. Monk fruit, stevia leaf, and erythritol are just three substitutes rocketing up in popularity.

Wine is 1 of 5 healthy food trends. Are the other 4 as intriguing? Click To Tweet

Wine
You might say wine has always been in style, yet recent research about resveratrol has made red wines even more popular. Some preliminary research also shows that resveratrol can prolong life for mice and pigs, although this benefit has not been tested in people. Other research shows that it can help prevent heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes—all diseases of great importance to the market drivers, Boomers. Besides, WINE!!!

Other Beverages
Combinations that would have been considered “weird” a few years ago are now found in refrigerators everywhere. For example, Uncle Matt’s Organic Juice now has orange turmeric juice, while REBBL makes tonics and elixirs such as ashwagandha chai and reishi chocolate coconut milk. Bulletproof and nitro cold-brew coffee are amping people up, bone broth has moved from the soup bowl to the tea cup, drinks based on roots and trees (neem, anyone?) are vying with coconut milk for shelf space, and flavored kombucha is now mainstream. Bolthouse Farms has a new line of cold-pressed juices, and Orgain produces an organic cafe mocha nutritional shake with ingredients that include grass-fed milk proteins, brown rice syrup, sunflower oil, kale, beets and açai.

dandelion mocha teeccinoHaving just spent several days at the Natural Products Expo West, I am energized by the growth in demand for foods, products and services that help, not harm our health (both corporeal and environmental). Look for an upcoming post that focuses specifically on organic products. Some of the statistics will surprise (and alarm) you.

Alexandra Williams, MA

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8

5 Healthy Food Trends

Some say abs are made in the kitchen, others say they’re made in the gym. My abs were actually made by my parents, though I’ve managed to take good care of their creation through healthy food and exercise.

As I just had my article, “10 Nutrition Trends to Watch” published in IDEA Fitness Journal – the magazine for fitness professionals (you can call 800 999-IDEA to order a copy if you aren’t a member) – I thought I’d share five of those trends with you and a few excerpts from the feature.

plumsFoods for Healthy Aging and Brain Power
Confirmed links between food, aging and brain health have exploded over the past few years. In 2012, Americans spent about $30 billion on health supplements, so it’s obvious we want to improve (Lara 2014). Boomers are hitting retirement age and wanting to stay active, engaged and youthful, so it makes sense that this demographic superforce would look to food for help with that.

Local, Sustainable Foods
For many years, our access to food has been based on a global model in which food would travel long distances to arrive on our tables. Interestingly, as the world has become even more global thanks to the Internet, consumers have pushed for a system that returns to agrarian times—eating food that is grown and produced locally.

fruit and yogurt parfaitMilk Products
Weight-conscious consumers have shunned whole milk since the 1980s, so it may surprise some to learn that it’s making a comeback (Shanker 2015). Higher consumption of butter, cream and high-fat milk correlates to lower levels of central obesity (waist-to-hip ratio ?) (Kratz, Baars & Guyenet 2013). The resurgent interest in whole-milk products includes some staples and also some newcomers, such as creamy yogurt, savory yogurt (aka labneh), cheese, whey protein, quark and farmer’s cheese.

We're getting about 1/3 of our daily kcals from snacks. But are they healthy snacks? Click To Tweet

Rise of Online Healthy Food Boutique Memberships
From ready-made meals to single packages of paleo jerky treats, healthy foods are reaching consumers quickly from both national and local companies.
Thrive Market is a fairly new online marketplace that recruited more than 2 million registered users in 2015. It’s the fastest-?growing e-commerce company in the history of Los Angeles, and I myself shop at it. They give one free membership to a family in need for every paid membership, and I have a link for you in case you wish to join – you get 30 days for free.

logo for Thrive MarketHealthy Snacks
According to a recent survey, Americans are getting about one-quarter of their daily calories from snacks, and consumers are paying attention to the items they choose (USDA 2014). Not only are people more particular about their snacks; they’re also willing to try new things, including bottled, potable soups; meat snacks, especially if they bear the “grass-fed, hormone-free” label; and whole and sprouted grains in items ranging from hot cereals to raw protein bars. Cakes, candies, chips and cookies are still quite popular, yet a long-term shift toward healthier snacks has occurred (Conick 2015).

Stay tuned for a future post, when I’ll share the other five trends from the article. Till then, grab your turmeric and kale chips and go for a walk. Me, I’m off to make some popcorn with red palm oil, coconut oil, hemp seeds and salt. It’s really quite delicious.

Alexandra Williams, MA

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9

10 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Every year about this time we are asked for our “best” tips to avoid weight gain over the holiday season. So every year we share what we believe to be some simple and easy tips. As many of you know, simple is one thing; easy another, yet we have found these 10 tips to have a great success rate with our students, readers and even ourselves.

Ten Tips to Avoid Weight Gain

fountain at Rancho la Puerta1. Drink lots of water and green tea before the feast. You will feel full and less inclined to overeat.

2. Eat your usual breakfast and lunch. Don’t skip a meal thinking you will then be free to make up for lost calories when dinner is served. By the time that occurs, you’re likely to be so hungry that you’ll overeat or choose whatever is closest.

3. Sort foods into 3 categories:

  • Food I love and will probably have two helpings of;
  • Food I like and will take just one helping of;
  • Food I don’t need to eat at all.

Planning and paying attention have a definite effect on how much you pile on your plate.

4. Use a salad plate instead of dinner plate. You’ll be inclined to eat less. Most of us are visually triggered, so we stop adding food once our plate looks full, regardless of plate size.

5. Get up from the table when done. Do not sit with food in front of you once you’re done. Also, put food away right after you’ve finished dinner or you could end up eating an entire meal’s worth just from picking at the stuff that’s in front of you. If you feel you’re being impolite, just say, “I’m putting stuff in the fridge now so I don’t feel tempted to overeat. Anyone who’s still hungry is more than welcome to help themselves.” Not only are you letting people know why you’re putting food away quickly, you’re also making yourself accountable by stating your goal to not overeat.
shadow of person on bridge
6. Use your mind to decide what matters. When loading your plate, ask yourself this question: “Am I choosing this because I’m hungry or because it tastes good?” No right or wrong answer exists; it’s simply that the awareness of your choices will help you make a considered decision as you realize that you are in control, not the food.

7. Go for a walk. What better way to spend quality time with your family or friends than by putting on a jacket and getting outside?

walking is great exercise

Follow us to Tenaya (and our upcoming massage)

8. Invite guests to your meal whom you admire and respect. Or who wouldn’t otherwise have a friendly place to go celebrate. When the focus is on the guests rather than the food, we tend to eat less. If you have no-one outside of your usual circle to invite over, cook all your food, then take half of it to your local homeless shelter (if they accept outside meals).

9. Put reminders in places where you’ll actually see them – on the stove, in the fridge, on the storage containers, on your placemat. These reminders need to be positive in nature, not negative or they will only make you feel bad. For example, “You can do this” and “Remember your long term goals” are positive reminders. “Don’t even think about eating this” and “oink oink” are definitely negative. I don’t know anyone who responds well to negativity, do you?

10. Be kind to yourself. Maybe eating a few huge meals is what you want to do, and is no reflection on your usual habits. Maybe you are fine with doing extra cardio and weights as a balance. And maybe, just maybe, you are healthy and your weight is irrelevant. If you start feeling guilty, ask yourself if it’s for your own sake or because you feel you’ll be judged. At the end of the day (and the season), it’s your normal patterns and habits that matter, not a few meals. So be kind.
happy dog
What tips would you add to this list?

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Dried Plums: Your Grandma Was Right About Them

I’ve been working on a magazine article about the top healthy food trends for 2016, so this is a perfect time to team up with California Dried Plums, as people are finding so many creative ways to incorporate them into their snacks and meals.

plums Some super creative recipes are coming out of the nation’s most popular restaurants – from Gitane’s stuffed dried plums with goat cheese and prosciutto with a citrus gastrique to Russian restaurant Mari Vanna’s beet salad with walnuts and dried plums, and back west to San Francisco’s Q in San Francisco, where they take dried plums with red verjus and purée them with red wine vinegar, salt and Dijon mustard in its crudité appetizer.

Tasty Snack

My all time favorite dried plum treat is prune hamentaschen (yup, I’m old enough to go by the original name), but as Thanksgiving is coming, I decided to share this recipe for plumkins from the California Dried Plums Culinary site. It only takes 20 minutes to prep and 10 minutes to cook, so you can bet I’ll be bringing these to our holiday dinner.

California Dried Plum purée:
1 1/3 cups (about 8 ounces) pitted dried plums 6 tablespoons hot water. In food processor, process dried plums and water until puréed.

Plumkins:
1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin purée
2/3 cup California Dried Plum purée
¾ cup + 1 Tbsp sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp orange zest
4 eggs
3 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
½ cup California Dried Plums, chopped
2 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cloves

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together pumpkin purée, dried plum purée, sugar, oil, vanilla, orange zest and eggs in a large bowl. Add in the remaining ingredients and mix well.

Place paper muffin cups muffin tins. Fill 2/3 of the way with batter. Bake 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Recipe created by Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN for the California Dried Plum Board.

Nutrition Facts
Calories 35Total Fat 1.1gCarbohydrate 5.6gProtein 0.5gFiber 0.7g

CA dried plums recipe for plumkins

Health and Bone Benefits

As I’m particular about what goes in my body (it’s the only one I’ve got, and it has to last), I also care about the benefits. Eat my way to health?! Well, sure, something like that.
Research suggests that eating two servings, (about 100grams or 10 to 12 dried plums), may improve bone mineral density (BMD) and slow the rate of bone turnover in post-menopausal women. As a Boomer, that is definitely important to me.

Vitamin K helps improve calcium balance and promotes bone mineralization. A 40gram serving of dried plums (4-5 prunes; about 100 calories) is considered an excellent source of Vitamin K, which provides 30% of the 80mcg Daily Value.

Vitamin K helps calcium balance & bone mineralization. Dried plums are an excellent source… Click To Tweet Dried plums may help manage weight through improved satiety, perhaps by producing lower glucose and/or appetite-regulating hormone concentrations.

Naturally cholesterol free (maybe that’s news to you), they also promote digestive health (which isn’t news to us Boomers, I imagine).

Emerging research suggests that dried plums support healthy bones, and may support heart health, digestive health, immunity and healthy aging. So don’t eat them if you want unhealthy aging. Exactly. Who would sign up for unhealthy aging?

Long a part of California’s agricultural history, dried plums are getting lots of great press lately because of the combination of taste and health benefits. You can learn even more (and get some sweet and savory recipes) by heading to the California Dried Plums site.

I shall now go try my new phrase on my son – “Don’t be a bumpkin. Bring me a plumkin.”

Yes, this is a sponsored post. Yes, I love dried plums. Yes, I jumped at the chance to partner with Vibrant Nation in this campaign for California Dried Plums. I did, however, receive a few bags of dried plums in the mail. No, I’m not sharing. I’m using them for my plumkins. Can you tell I like to say “plumkins?”

Now go over there ———————–> and subscribe to our twice-weekly posts. All great stuff for actively aging Boom-Chicka-Boomers.

Alexandra Williams, MA

photo credits: hamentashen/RealFoodForager via creativecommons.org; plumkins/California Dried Plums; fruit basket/Alexandra Williams

 

“I am participating in a VIN campaign for California Dried Plums. I am receiving a fee for posting; however, the opinions expressed in this post are my own. I am in no way affiliated with California Dried Plums and do not earn a commission or percent of sales.”

18

The “Best” Foods to Eat Before a Workout

Every quarter for the past 21 years my university students ask me the same question – What should I eat before my workout? And every quarter my answer is essentially the same – The closer to the ground, the better.

Of course, the full answer is more nuanced.

Annie's tomato soup & crackersFor those interested in complex answers (and complex carbohydrates), I share information about slow and fast release carbs. Fast release carbohydrates are foods that are quickly broken down into sugars. Slow release carbs are foods that are slowly broken down into sugars.

And some like to know about the glycemic response, which refers to the body’s increase in blood glucose (a simple form of sugar. If you see the word “monosaccharide,” that is the type of sugar that is glucose) and insulin after you eat. The Glycemic Index is a standardized list of food categories. Using white bread as the reference food (GI of 100), foods that have a GI >85 are considered high, foods that are 60-85 are moderate, and foods that are <60 are low. Low Glycemic Index foods are slow release.

Food for Life Cinnamon BreadSome foods listed as low (<60) on the GI:

hummus                             peaches                        apples

grapefruit                           peanuts                        pears

beans                                  oat bran bread            milk (whole or nonfat or soy)

yogurt                                 dried peas                    egg fettuccini

apricots                              bananas                       wheat kernels

cherries                              plums                           tomato soup

rice                                      bran barley

For a truly complete list of over 1,300 food listed on the Glycemic Index, you can click to the International Table of Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load Values: 2002 published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In case you don’t want to memorize the Glycemic Index list, I’ll give you a super simplified way to choose – if it’s white, you probably don’t want it (except milk). If it’s colorful, you probably do. Brightly colored children’s cereals do NOT qualify. One more way to quickly gauge – starchy = fast release; non-starchy – slow release. But I find the white/ colorful easier.

Now let’s talk about carbohydrates and protein. These sample pre-workout choices give you a good idea when you’re trying to decide:

Nest Fresh nonGMO, organic, free range eggswhole-grain toast and peanut butter
orange and cottage cheese
yogurt and granola
nuts and apple
hard-boiled egg and wheat bagel
chicken breast (not a nugget) and rice
string cheese and pretzels

Notice how these foods are much closer to the ground than fruit-flavored or infused foods, and that the ingredients ARE the food, rather than a long list of mystery chemicals and additives.

In a nod to my fabulous self, my students also ask what I eat. They know that I have a lot of energy, good skin color, and am the right size for my health and build.

I got lucky. When my (now 18-year-old) son was diagnosed as a baby with a lot of food allergies, I had to learn to read labels and cook from scratch. So in order to protect his health I ended up protecting the health of my entire family.

We eat organic, non-GMO food from brands we trust. And for a while I had a fruit orchard and vegetable garden. On a side note, my skin and body care and make-up products have to be free of toxic chemicals too. What goes on your skin goes into your body. If you want to experience this for yourself, rub a clove of garlic on your bare big toe. Wait a few minutes, then check your breath. Weird, eh?

Thrive Market Want to make it really easy on yourself so you can avoid shopping at five different stores or growing your own food? Shop at Thrive Market. Think of the baby if Costco and Whole Foods combined to birth only their best features – low annual fee, free shipping (over $49), a focus on organic and natural products, wholesale prices, and great customer service. Plus, they donate one membership to a low-income family for every purchased membership. The founder is a young guy who grew up with a financially struggling single mom, and he wants to pay it forward so that everyone, not just the upper middle class, can access healthy food and products. Now don’t you want to hug him?

I joined their affiliate program because they reflect my values AND are super affordable. I’ll end this post with an invitation to click on this link to Thrive Market and see for yourself.

Thrive Market adYou want to eat the right food before exercise, right? And I imagine you want to eat the right food the rest of the day too, yes? Use the info and resources in this post and you’ll be just dandy. Especially if you buy organic candy.UnReal PB cups

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While you’re at it, I do a lot of videos around Santa Barbara via my AlexandraFunFit Periscope account, so you might like to follow me.

by Alexandra Williams, MA

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