Happy Earth Day! 5 ways to “green” your exercise routine

earth day

Most people equate Earth Day with reduction, whether it’s waste, electricity or water, but you can also celebrate the holiday by doing something positive – both for the planet and your health.

One idea? Escape the confines of your gym with an outdoor workout. Not only do jungle gyms and park benches double as fun ways for sneaking in strength training, but a recent study from the journal of Environmental Science and Technology also found that there are actual benefits to your mental and physical well-being by exercising outside.

Now that’s the gift that keeps on giving long after the holiday.

Below are four more ways to show your appreciation for Mother Nature while breaking a sweat today:

  • Use equipment that doesn’t require electricity. Try a manual treadmill, such as the TrimWalk, which requires no power (unless you count sheer willpower, of course). Simply set the pace and go, and when you’re finished, it folds and stores conveniently under a bed. If you’re up for a bigger challenge, try a bike generator, which allows athletes to translate their exertion into energy, in the form of a 12-Volt battery.
  • Practice eco-running. The mission? Simply lace up your running shoes, grab a garbage bag and jog around town, filling it with trash. Sure, in the grand scheme of things it’s a small step, but it’s more about raising awareness for personal responsibility and creating momentum for a more positive impact on the planet. Visit EcologyRunner for more information on this movement, a brainchild of Samuel Huber, who created it to merge his two passions.
  • Participate in a local Earth Day event. Get involved, and help rally your community to make a difference! Visit EarthDay.org to view a list of events happening around the world, including celebrations, beach clean-ups, conservation talks, conferences, festivals and more.
  • Get some eco-friendly fitness gear. Enhance your workout with equipment that works well and does some good. For example:
      • Amplify your ability to give back with LSTN Troubadors headphones. Not only are they made of reclaimed beech wood, ebony wood or cherry wood casing, but for every purchase, the company will also help restore hearing to a person in need through the Starkey Hearing Foundation.
      • Close the gap between your active lifestyle and others’ needs with the MiiR Growler water bottle. For each bottle purchased, one person in need is supplied with water for a year.
      • Finally, hydrate responsibly with Treeson spring water. For every bottle sold, a tree is planted — and each bottle comes with a mailing label so it can be returned via USPS to be put through a special process that turns it into clean energy used to make more bottles.

How are you honoring Earth Day this year? 

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Avoid the Bunny-induced binge: 8 ideas for a healthier Easter

Source: Lynda Giddens, Flickr

Source: Lynda Giddens, Flickr

Spring has sprung, but it’s not just the longer days and slowly-warming temperatures that signal the change in seasons – it’s the aisles of Easter candy that have hopped into area stores.

While children have been waiting with bated breath for the Bunny to bring baskets filled with goodies, it’s a holiday that can fill adults with dread when they are in the midst of trying to lose (or maintain) weight.

But don’t despair – there’s still hope for taking part in all the fun without abandoning your current diet plan. Below are a few easy tips for those who are on the hunt for a healthier Easter this year:

1. Focus on non-food traditions

For those who practice the holiday, it’s about more than candy-filled Easter baskets, so create lasting memories with some new family customs that highlight the true meaning of the season.

2. Plan for holiday splurges

Deprivation is never good because you’ll inevitably set yourself up for failure later; rather, make smart choices earlier in the day if you know that you’ll be eating heavier at afternoon parties.

3. Practice portion control

It’s not only about what you eat, but how much; give bags of pre-portioned candy or shop the bulk food section of your local store to purchase only what you need for baskets.

4. Hands off the goods

Resist the temptation to crack open that bag of jelly beans before breakfast; stores stock candy early expressly for this purpose, counting on the fact that you’ll polish it off and be back for round tw0.

5. Don’t go into meals unprepared

Never sit down with an empty stomach because you are almost always guaranteed to overeat; instead, drink plenty of water and snack sensibly between meals to prevent spikes and dips in blood sugar levels (at just 76 calories, a hard-boiled egg is a great option).

6. Add some activity to your day

Easter egg hunts, parades or even strolling to church or around your neighborhood to look at decorations are also other healthy options for getting fresh air and helping to burn some calorie.

7. Rethink the Easter basket

Non-traditional gifts such as bubbles, books, Dollar Store items, crayons, gift cards, sidewalk chalk, clothing and more are unexpected and can be even more exciting for recipients.

8. Consider healthy meal substitutions

Tweak traditional recipes to lower their calorie, fat and sugar content; try substituting applesauce for oil, skim milk for cream, egg whites for eggs, and simply reduce the amount of sugar in baked goods without sacrificing sweetness.

Do you have any favorite healthy Easter tips to share?

Recipes for a healthier St. Patrick’s Day

Source: TheTartTart.com

Source: TheTartTart.com

The last thing we usually equate St. Patrick’s Day with is healthy eating, but since it falls during National Nutrition Month, I wanted to share some easy tweaks to improve upon traditional recipes.

So pass on the greasy pub fare next week, and honor the holiday with a meal of Irish-inspired foods that are a wee bit better for you.

Food Network’s Corned Beef and Cabbage Soup

Corned beef and cabbage was traditionally eaten in Ireland as an Easter lunch after the long meatless days of Lent because the preserved meat lasted through the winter. Now, we enjoy it annually on March 17, but here’s a soup recipe that’s simple enough to serve guilt-free year-round.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, quartered
  • 3 stalks celery, quartered
  • 3 medium carrots, quartered
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Heaping ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 pound plum tomatoes, halved
  • 3 cups low-sodium beef broth
  • 4 cups chopped green cabbage
  • ½ pound Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
  • ¾ cup quick-cooking barley
  • ¼ pound corned beef, cut into thin strips
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Pulse the onion, celery and carrots in a food processor until they are pea-sized pieces
  2. Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion, celery and carrots and the allspice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 5 minutes
  3. Add the tomatoes to the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer the tomatoes to the pot and add the beef broth, cabbage, potatoes, barley and 4 cups water; cover and bring to a boil
  4. Uncover, reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the potatoes and barley are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the corned beef and season with salt and pepper

Per serving: Calories 352; Fat 11 g (Saturated 6 g); Cholesterol 38 mg; Sodium 349 mg; Carbohydrate 50 g; Fiber 9 g; Protein 16 g

Eating Well’s Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

Perfect for soaking up the day’s cocktails, Irish soda bread usually packs a hefty carb punch with little nutritional value. But this is a whole-wheat version adds fiber to help keep you sustained between meals.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups whole-wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 ¼ cups light buttermilk

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine flours, baking soda, and salt. Whisk together
  3. Make a well in the middle. Pour in about 2/3 cup of the buttermilk. With one hand, stir it into the dough in a circular motion. Add another 2/3 cup of the buttermilk. Stir again, until flour is incorporated. Repeat until buttermilk is gone, and dough is soft and sticky, but not too wet
  4. Turn dough out on to floured surface. Lightly knead dough a few times, until it’s a rounded loaf-like shape. Pat it down into a round, 2″-thick disc
  5. Transfer to a greased and floured baking sheet. With a serrated knife, cut a deep X across the bread. Prick each area a few times with the knife
  6. Bake 20 minutes on 450°F. Drop the heat to 400°F and bake an additional 30 to 35 minutes. Bread should appear finished and sound hollow when you knock on it
  7. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack

Mock McDonald’s Shamrock Shake

Some sobering news: A 16-ounce serving of the seasonal Shamrock Shake contains 660 calories, 19 grams of fat and an incredible 93 grams of sugar. Make your own version at home for a fraction of the fat — and to tone down the sugar, try swapping in some frozen Greek yogurt for the regular frozen yogurt.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups vanilla frozen yogurt
  • 1 ¼ cups skim milk
  • ¼ teaspoon mint extract
  • 8 drops green food coloring

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth
  2. Divide into two cups, and serve each with a straw

Make a heart-healthy dinner for two this Valentine’s Day

Source: Micko Photo

Source: Micko Photo

They say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, so this Valentine’s Day, tempt him with a meal that will not only win over his ticker, but also keep it in tip-top shape for the long haul.

Pair this simple three-course themed menu with a selection of resveratrol-rich red wine, which is a natural antioxidant known to protect against heart disease, and you’ve got a red-hot dinner for two that’s cause for celebration!

Appetizer: Easy Caprese Salad

Heart-healthy hint: The olive oil in this appetizer helps to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, while the tomatoes are packed with lycopene, another heart-friendly antioxidant.

Source: The Pioneer Woman

Source: The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients:

  • 2 vine-ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 1 package fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
  • 10 to 20 leaves fresh basil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Balsamic vinegar, for drizzling
  • Coarse salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. On a large plate, layer alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella, adding a basil leaf between each.
  2. Drizzle with equal parts extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

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Entrée: Simple Grilled Salmon

Heart-healthy hint: Salmon provides an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which protect the heart by reducing both inflammation and the risk of blood clots.

Source: Simple Recipes

Source: Simple Recipes

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound salmon fillets
  • garlic powder to taste
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar

Directions:

  1. Season salmon fillets with garlic powder and salt. Grate fresh ginger.
  2. In a small bowl, stir together soy sauce, ginger and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved.
  3. Place fish in a large resealable plastic bag with the soy sauce mixture, seal, and turn to coat. Refrigerate for at least two hours.
  4. Preheat grill for medium heat, and lightly oil grill grate and place salmon on the preheated grill, discarding the marinade.
  5. Cook salmon for about six to eight minutes per side, or until the fish flakes easily with a fork.

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Side: Berry Delicious Spinach Salad

Heart-healthy hint: Leafy greens offer a one-two punch of vitamin E, iron and folate, which helps keep homocycteine levels down, while the berries provide lots of good antioxidants.

Source: Betty Crocker

Source: Betty Crocker

Ingredients:

  • 2 packed cups torn fresh spinach
  • 1/2 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1/2 cup fresh, or frozen, blueberries
  • 1/2 small sweet onion, sliced
  • 1/8 cup slivered almonds, toasted
  • 1oz gorgonzola cheese

Salad Dressing:

  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Pinch pepper

Directions:

  1. In a large salad bowl, toss together spinach, strawberries, blueberries, onion and almonds.
  2. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine dressing ingredients. Shake well; pour over salad and toss to coat.
  3. Sprinkle with cheese, and serve immediately.

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Dessert: Heart-Shaped Chocolate Valentine Cake

(Adapted from Jean Carper, USA Weekend magazine)

Heart-healthy hint: As the grand finale, this cake features a hidden ingredient: Chickpeas. Odd, yes, but delicious nonetheless, and using legumes instead of flour adds fiber and protein and reduces unhealthy spikes in blood sugar.

Source: CS Monitor

Source: CS Monitor

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 cups (or 19oz can) cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 4 eggs or 1 cup egg substitute
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon powdered sugar

Raspberry Sauce:

  • 1/2 cup seedless raspberry jam
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 pint fresh raspberries

Directions:

  1. In a small bowl, melt chocolate in microwave (two minutes on medium power).
  2. In a blender or food processor, combine beans and eggs. Add sugar, baking powder and chocolate; process until smooth.
  3. Pour batter into non-stick nine-inch heart-shaped cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
  4. Microwave jam in a small bowl until melted (about 45 seconds), and then stir in juice and berries to make the sauce.
  5. When cake is cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut cake into 10 wedges and drizzle with sauce before serving.

Don’t throw in the towel: 5 tips for sticking to New Year’s resolutions

Source: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Source: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

We all know that making New Year’s resolutions is easy. Keeping them for the next 360-odd days? That’s the tricky part.

But you’re not alone in the annual struggle – by now, almost one-third of Americans will have already cheated on their resolutions, according to a study conducted last year by research and consulting firm YouGov.

The silver living, though, is that there are a few simple strategies to make those resolutions stickier – and help preserve your sanity in the process:

1. Keep your eyes on the prize. We’ve all heard the expression, “Out of sight, out of mind.” Well, the same applies to resolutions; whether it’s a gym class calendar taped to the fridge to remind you to hit up the weekly spin class or a mantra stuck to the bathroom mirror to cue positive self-talk for the day, put it out there – front and center.

2. Eat it like an elephant. How, you ask? One bite at a time! A large, long-term goal is great, but by breaking it into smaller pieces you get to enjoy the satisfaction of achieving each of the smaller goals. And a series of incremental accomplishments will keep you on track and make you feel good, whether or not you actually go on to accomplish your ultimate goal.

3. Aim for a 30-day stretch. It takes about a month to form or change a habit, if you’re focused and consistent with it. This is just a ballpark number and can vary from person to person and habit to habit, but starting with a 30-day challenge is often just the jump-start needed to form your desired routine.

4. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” Heed these wise words from French philosopher Voltaire, and instead of pushing yourself to an unattainable “perfect,” accept that “good” really is enough. Forget the all-or-nothing mentality; aim for 80 percent, and avoid that inevitable cycle of self-loathing when you need a day off from the gym or indulge in dessert at dinner.

5. Think like Pavlov. We all know that following through on a resolution can take some perseverance, but a little positive conditioning can go a long way. Buy some new workout gear for the gym, plan a mini trip to keep stress levels low, or even splurge on a fancy piece of kitchen equipment to encourage more dining in. Whatever it is, celebrate your successes – and ensure future ones – by treating yourself to something that’s fun and in support of your resolution.

What helps you stick to your New Year’s resolutions? 

Resolution rehab: Strategies for a healthier 2014

Source: Dreamstime

Source: Dreamstime

You’ve said it before, and you’ll say it again, “THIS will be the year I finally get in shape/lose some weight/run that race/go to the gym/eat better/etc.” But right about now, many of us find ourselves in the same predicament: creating excuses for the past and making more vague promises for the future.

But it’s not to late to get back on track and break the resolution-relapse cycle in 2014. Challenge yourself to make this year different; keep these guidelines in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to conquering those goals for the New Year:

– Change your mindset. “Resolution” has become a four letter word. Few people keep them, and most forget about them come February. So instead of feeling destined for failure, think about resolutions in terms of slow, sustainable lifestyle changes rather than cold-turkey cutoffs.

– Make it measurable. Saying that you want to “lose weight” in 2014 won’t cut it; you’ve got to define the goal and give yourself deadlines to keep things on track. For example: “I will lose one pound every two weeks for the next six months,” or “I will do three cardio sessions and two strength training sessions per week.”

– Be realistic. If you know something hasn’t worked on the past, it’s time to try a new approach instead of hitting your head against the wall over and over again each year. Positioning yourself for success means starting with do-able changes and building from there, versus choosing a grandiose goal that you know is long shot.

– Don’t expect perfection. It’s important to avoid an all-or-nothing mentality because slip-ups are inevitable. So instead of allowing a setback to completely derail you from your goal, accept it as a learning experience and move on. In the wise words of my grandfather, “Tomorrow is another day.” So don’t let today’s mistakes impede tomorrow’s successes.

– Pace yourself. Remember that the tortoise’s wisdom always rings true: Slow and steady wins the race. Rather than going full bore for a week only to end up exhausted and worn out (or worse – injured), think of your goals in terms of its longevity.

– Hold yourself accountable. Even the most committed people have peaks and valleys in enthusiasm, so use a log to track your progress and ensure you’re continually making strides towards your bigger objective. See yourself slipping? Readjust, step up your effort and get back on track before you veer too far off course.

– Don’t go it alone. Whether you thrive on the support or competitive spirit of the buddy system, there’s no doubt that having a partner in crime packs a punch towards tackling those goals. So find a like-minded friend and keep each other honest – while still managing to make the experience a fun one.

– Celebrate successes. You’re working hard, so be sure to reap the rewards along the way in order to stay inspired. Lost some weight? Buy a new shirt to show off for date night. Adopted healthy eating habits? Allow yourself one “cheat treat” a week to give yourself something to look forward to. Made it to every gym appointment this week? Schedule a massage to soothe those tired muscles. After all, you’ve earned it!

How will you make sure your resolutions stick this year?

Jump-start 2014 with this ‘New Year, New Outlook’ workout

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Happy New Year! Your motivation is probably at an all-time high — so now is the time to take advantage of the new-found burst of energy.

No gym? No equipment? No excuses. This simple body-weight workout can be done in the comfort your living room (however space-challenged you may be), and the only thing you’ll need is a timer (my favorite is Gymboss) to count down the intervals…and maybe a towel to mop up all the sweat.

The workout itself consists of four circuits of four exercises. Each circuit’s exercises efficiently cover one (or more!) of the following elements: Cardio, Upper Body, Lower Body and Core. If you’re unfamiliar with a move, just Google the name for a list of descriptions and/or demo videos.

It’s an easy way to trick yourself into a quick — yet intense — total body workout and to get that jump-start on 2014’s fitness goals.

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