The Only Thing Scary About Halloween are the Calories!

Halloween is only a few days away. Do you have a game plan? Have you thought about how you’re going to handle having an abundance of candy around? You can’t go into this unprepared or it will only lead to complete sabotage!  Planning is a powerful tool and can help keep you on track.  The American Council on Exercise has some great suggestions in their article “How can I avoid Halloween weight gain without missing out on the fun“.

When we do indulge our sweet tooth, it helps to know how many calories we’re actually consuming.   Women’s Health Magazine has put together a list of 100-calorie candies in their newsletter, “The Healthiest Halloween Candy“.

With all this great advise, there’s no reason to stress about calories, everything is under control!  You can now focus on having fun, Happy Halloween!

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Wake Up Call! Snacking can Sabotage Your Weight Loss

Yes, snacking can absolutely kill all the hard work you do at the gym.  Unless of course, you are snacking wisely.  Eating smart or eating healthy is not always easy.  We often have the best intentions to stay true to our goals, but for whatever reason, there are times when cravings override sensibility.  But why does this happen?  Why do we crave unhealthy foods?  Why do we consciously make poor food choices and then feel guilty about it?  How can we stop this cycle of sabotage?

The answer to the first three questions is lack of planning.  Without proper planning we will often make poor food choices out of convenience, when a healthier alternative is not easily available or when lack of time is a factor.  A little planning can go a long way and can keep you on track with your weight loss goals.  Plan out an entire week of meals and snacks over the weekend, and prepare a shopping list so you have everything on hand.  At first this may seem time consuming, but the more you do it, the easier it gets.  This step will keep you from sabotaging all your hard work at the gym.  Having supportive meals and snacks on hand takes the guess work out of eating healthy.

Remember, guilty snacks are high in calories but offer no real nutrition, these are known as empty calories.  These snacks may taste great but will not keep you full for long, you’ll be fighting a snack attack a short while later.  Healthy snacks, on the other hand, are much lower in calories and are full of nutrition.  They taste great while keeping your blood sugar levels stable, which means you’ll be satisfied longer without having cravings.    Once you compare the nutritional information on the packages of each, you will no doubt make the smart choice.

Here are top 7 guilty food cravings and their healthier smart alternatives.  Make every calorie count, choose the smart snack and stop the viscous cycle of sabotage!

If you’re craving this – instead eat this:

Instead of cookies, go for all natural granola bars.

 

 

 

To satisfy a sweet tooth,  choose dates or dried fruit (no sugar added)

 

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Pass on the donuts and pastries,  choose fresh fruit.

 

 

 

Instead of potato chips, Soy Chips are the way to go.  One serving of these is only 90 calories with 6 gms of protein, and 0 saturated fat or cholesterol!

 

 

 

Water or Crystal Light is always a better option than pop.  The zero calorie pops are full of artificial sweeteners and chemicals.   Sparkling water with a wedge of lemon or lime is just as refreshing and hydrating.

 

In recent research, it’s been proven that coffee contains antioxidants and other agents that help reduce the risk of various diseases.  Does that mean coffee is good for you?  Not necessarily, it also contains caffeine which is know to raise blood pressure and elevate levels of epinephrine (also called adrenaline).  Green tea is high in antioxidants, especially a particular one called EGCG (epigallocatechil gallate), which inhibits cancer cell growth.  The healing and preventative benefits of green tea cleanses the body of disease causing toxins.  People generally feel energized and refreshed.

 

Frappuccino or Fruit Frapps pack a lot of calories, especially if topped with whipped cream.  Choose a real fruit smoothie or
fruit bottom yogurt which are packed with nutrition.

 

 

Weekly fitTip: Know what’s in your food

Whether you are uninformed or misinformed, not knowing the contents of the foods you eat will sabotage your weight loss efforts.  Packaging of food products can be deceiving and don’t really convey the healthfulness of the product.  Manufacturers use packaging as a marketing tool for the sole purpose of sales.  They want you to believe in the healthfulness of their product so that you will purchase it, mission accomplished!  Regardless of whether the package states (example: 0 Trans Fats, Low fat, Reduced Sodium, Reduced Fat), it is your responsibility to yourself to find out exactly what the specific ingredients are.

Read food labels
Food labels turn knowledge into action.

Solution:  Read nutritional labels on the package

Food labels contain a wealth of information and at first glance, can look intimidating. You don’t need to be a nutritionist to make sense of it, you just need to be able to pick out the pertinent information.

Food Labels 101

First off, start with the list of ingredients.  If the list of ingredients looks more like a short story, then there’s a good chance the product is highly processed and contains high quantities of chemicals and preservatives.   You may want to choose a healthier alternative, one with a shorter ingredient list.  The ingredients are listed in order of quantity, the first ingredient being the highest.   It’s important to scan the list to see what the first few ingredients are because that’s what the bulk of the product is made of.  Common sense plays a big role here, if you don’t know what a particular ingredient is or you can’t pronounce it, then it is probably a chemical or additive.

Next look at the calories, grams of fat (specifically saturated fat), cholesterol, sodium, sugars;  these are the enemies, so, try and eat less of these.  Foods containing high amounts of these can be harmful to your overall health and can contribute to conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes.  Simply choose foods with a low % Daily Value of these nutrients.

Lastly, make sure the values for protein, dietary fiber, and vitamins are high.  These are beneficial to your health and well- being.  Protein is important for repairing and building muscle, however, protein from animal sources (lean meat, fish, poultry) also contains fat and cholesterol so eat smaller amounts of these.  Other sources high in protein are low-fat or skim milk, yogurt and cheese.  Vegetable proteins like beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains are considered super foods because they are also high in dietary fiber and other minerals.

However, if all this is still too confusing or overwhelming, there is the NuVal™ Nutritional Scoring System that can take the guess-work out of making healthy food choices.

So there you go, food labels in a nut shell!  This basic information should be empowering and should help you make healthy food choices that will support your fitness efforts.

Periodize Your Weight Loss for Maximum Results

Starting a new exercise program can be an exciting prospect.  It’s a step towards taking  responsibility for your health and well-being.  You’re all revved up with the expectations of this new dream body that you’re going to achieve.  However, after a few weeks into this program, do you find that your initial enthusiasm fizzles a bit?  Do you find the predictability of doing the same routine and the same 10-12 reps for weeks or months on end boring?

Well not only are you bored, but, by this point your body is experiencing adaptation to the exercises and is no longer feeling challenged.  In other words, you’ve reached a plateau and you’re no longer receiving any benefits from your current exercise regime, continuing with this program would be like spinning your wheels, a waste of effort.  This is a very common draw back of a traditional non-periodized program.

Most pre-designed generic programs you find online or in magazines lack any variability, they are simply cookie-cutter programs, a one-size-fits-all solution.  The only way to have success using a generic program is to customize it and periodize it to fit your particular goals.  This is where the help of a certified fitness professional familiar with periodized program design comes in handy.

Periodization 101

To understand how periodized programs differ from other programs, you will need to have some basic knowledge of the structure and how it works.  Periodization refers to the breaking up of a long-term plan into smaller cycles or periods of time in order to manipulate volume and intensity.

The entire long-term plan is called the macrocycle (usually 6-12 months), which is then broken down into a series of smaller mesocycles (1-4 months).  The mesocycles are further sub-divided into microcycles (1-4 weeks).  It is at the microcycle level that all the exercise programming occurs and program variables (reps, sets, intensity, volume) are altered.  Each cycle has its own particular goals (conditioning, strength, hypertrophy, rest ) and the program variables are manipulated to accomplish those goals.

How is Periodization Different?

For the purpose of this article, we’ll look at 3 characteristics that set apart the periodized program from its traditional counterparts:  (1) regular program changes, (2) a systematic variation of program factors, (3) and the use of active rest periods where training workload is reduced.  All three characteristics are a form of variation, which are uncommon in non-periodized programs.  By changing up your routine in cycles, you’re facilitating continual adaptation and preventing plateaus, which leads to optimal health and fitness results in far less time.

Why is Periodization Better?

Periodization is not a new technique by any means.  It was developed in Eastern Europe in the 1950’s to train their Olympic athletes who, as a result, out performed their competition.  Since periodization is not a new technique, there is ample research to prove its effectiveness.  Today, periodization is used all over the world, however, it still seems to be a technique reserved for elite athletes and bodybuilders.  Much of the information available on periodization seems to be in reference to athletic competition and bodybuilding.

The question then remains, if this techique is good enough for elite athletes, then why is not used for everyone?  Why should a program with the potential to deliver such superior results be kept exclusive?

One reason could be that, although periodization programs are not particularly complicated to design, they are technical and time consuming and, perhaps, that’s one of the reasons why they are used for athletes.

The general population, however, could greatly benefit from the principles of periodization, when applied in a more simplified form.  This is exactly what seems to be the trend lately.  Certain principles of periodization (such as variation in training, active rest periods, continual adaptation) are finding their way into general fitness programs to offer people a chance to optimize their fitness results.  The periodization program design has proven to elicit superior results in body mass increases, body fat reduction, and strength gains as compared to traditional non-periodized programs.  Variation in an exercise program is the key to successful weight loss. The periodization method adds variation in a cyclical manner, making these programs interesting more enjoyable, whereby, the individual is more likely to follow through to a successful outcome.

Top 10 ‘Skinny’ Foods for Healthy Weight Loss

Losing weight is about eating clean and eating smart, it is about being aware and accountable for everything we put in our bodies.  Those who are looking for a quick fix will be disappointed.  There is no “secret” to losing weight, nor is there a magic diet…sorry!  It all boils down to what we put in our mouths.  The age old saying, “you are what you eat”, is exactly right, 75% (if not more) of the weight loss battle is related to food.  By initiating small changes to your regular diet, eliminating certain foods and incorporating healthy alternatives, you will notice the weight dropping off in a short time.  The other 25% of the equation is exercise.  In order to achieve optimum results, a healthy diet and regular exercise go hand-in-hand.

Here are Top 10 Super Foods that will keep your metabolism revved so you will burn more fat.  Try to incorporate as many of these as you can into your diet immediately:

Oatmeal - the breakfast of Champions!1.    Oatmeal – is a great way to start the day.  Oats, in any variety (quick, rolled, old-fashioned, steel cut, but not instant), are high in fiber providing your body with a steady source of fuel while keeping your blood sugar level stable.  It keeps you full longer so you won’t crave that mid-morning sugar fix.

2.    Egg Whites – When compared to the whole egg, the whites are     definitely the healthier choice.  One egg white contain 17 calories, 0.1g fat, 0g saturated fats, 0mg cholesterol, and 5g protein.  The egg yolk, on the other hand, contains a whopping 55 calories, 4.5g fat, 1.6g saturated fats, 210mg cholesterol, and 2.7g protein.  The numbers speak for themselves.

3.    Grapefruit – They are delicious, juicy, fragrant and a powerful weight loss agent.  The grapefruit diet has been around for years and has avid supporters, but now, there is actual research that proves grapefruits promote healthy weight loss.  Red grapefruits, in particular, have an insulin reducing property which aids in weight loss and improved health.

4.     Nuts – Nuts are calorie rich and high in fat, so how are they a ‘skinny’ food?  Nuts are mostly unsaturated fat, which is good fat; they lower LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and have shown to aid in healthy weight loss when consumed in moderation.  The high fat content can prevent cravings, which lead to unhealthy food choices.  Nuts are packed with powerful nutrients and make a great on-the-go snack, but portion control is the key.

5.    Fresh Produce – Fresh fruits and vegetables make up the largest portion of your diet.  Most vegetables, particularly the green leafy variety, are naturally low in carbs, high in antioxidants, and very low in calories.  It is recommended to include produce in all varieties and colors into your diet.  Increasing your daily consumption of produce will decrease your overall caloric intake, leading to healthy weight loss.

6.    Yogurt – Research has found that eating low-fat yogurt daily significantly increases fat burning potential.  This particular study found those who ate low-fat yogurt daily lost on average 22% more weight, 61% more body fat, and 81% more belly fat!  Beware of the sweet fruity yogurts, they are usually higher in calories and sugar, and avoid those sweetened with artificial sweeteners.  Low-fat Greek yogurt is an excellent choice and can be sweetened with honey or agave.

7.    Brown Rice – Brown rice is a nutrient rich whole grain.  Among the many other health benefits of brown rice, the high fiber content is what makes it such an excellent food for weight loss.  High fiber provides bulk that keeps you full a lot longer, preventing sugar cravings that lead to poor food choices.

8.    100% Whole Grains – For the same reasons as brown rice, whole grain pastas, breads, cereals are the recommended choice for healthy weight loss.  Sprouted grain breads are my recent discovery; they are a complete protein that is digested by the body more efficiently.  The low gluten content of sprouted grain breads makes them an excellent food for a flat belly.

9.    Beans and Lentils – Beans and lentils (also called legumes) are a power food.  They are high in protein, high in soluble fiber, and have a low glycemic index which makes them the perfect food for weight loss.

10. Green Tea – Certain compounds in green tea have shown to aid in weight loss.  High concentrations of catechin polyphenols along with other chemicals in green tea increase the body’s fat oxidization and thermogenesis.  In other words, green tea helps rev up your metabolism and increase your fat burning potential.  Green tea has many more health benefits and is recommended as part of a healthy diet.

SOURCES: Zemel, M. International Journal of Obesity, April 2005; vol 29: pp 391-397. News release, General Mills.