Weight Loss Starts at Breakfast

There’s no doubt that breakfast is the clear winner when it comes to ranking the importance of meals.  Breakfast literally means “breaking the fast” of the night, as it’s the first meal you will eat after a night’s sleep. Breakfast also sets the stage for the rest of the day and is a key factor in helping you stay on track with your health and fitness goals. Just to mention a few reasons, the right morning meal can help with weight loss by revving the metabolism, can jump-start the brain, and stabilize blood sugar to control cravings. Research shows that regular breakfast eaters tend to be leaner and more successful at losing weight—and keeping it off—when they eat breakfast. So whether you’re too busy or just not hungry in the morning, here are 5 top breakfast ideas that are nutrient rich and quick to prepare to help ensure your day kicks off right:

images-131.  Green Protein Smoothie

If you’re not a breakfast person, ease yourself into it by sipping on a smoothie throughout the morning to start your day with vitamins and nutrients. Adding a protein powder (for example whey, hemp, or spirulina) will keep you satiated longer and ward off cravings. The greens can be in the form of a green superfood powder (my favorite is Amazing Grass), or a handful of fresh spinach or kale. The greens are detoxifying and help stabilize blood sugar.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 2 cups baby spinach or baby kale or green powder
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 2 tablespoons almond butter
  • 2 teaspoons organic vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup (1 scoop) protein powder
  • 1 cup ice (optional)

Directions:  Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

2.  Greek Yogurt Parfaitimages-14

Greek yogurt is all the rage right now and right fully so. Creamy and decadent, it’s an indulgence without the guilt. Packed with 30% protein and 20% bone-building calcium, making it an ideal food for breakfast or snack. Layer Greek yogurt with a high fiber cereal or granola and berries for a satisfying morning meal.

 3.  Eggs and Avocado

Eggs are a great weight loss food. The secret lies in their ability to keep you full much longer than fat or carbohydrates. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, high quality proteins, good fats. Eggs also contain small amounts of almost every vitamin and mineral required by the human body. While the whites are mostly protein, the nutrients are all found in the yolks. A whole egg is a perfect superfood. For breakfast try two eggs any style with avocado on sprouted grain toast.

4.  Oatmeal

Oatmeal can help you lose weight in two ways: first, it is high in fiber, which means it will keep you fuller longer. Second, since oatmeal is a complex or slow-release carbohydrate it will keep your blood sugar stable. According to recent research, a breakfast of oatmeal eaten 3 hours before exercise can help you burn more fat due to lower blood sugar levels.

images-155.  Breakfast Burrito

Try a breakfast burrito full of heart-friendly monounsaturated fats. Fill an Ezekiel wrap with sliced avocado, scrambled eggs, brown rice, beans, and a splash of salsa. Use your imagination and get creative with the ingredients! This balanced meal will keep you satisfied and help you consume less calories for the entire day.

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The Wonders of Lemon Water for Fat Loss

Lemons can help aid weight loss
When life gives you lemons – make lemon water!

It appears, lemons are not just for lemonade!  Lemons have a barrage of uses and benefits from beauty regimes, cleaning products, cooking, to fighting infections.  Lemons are also a very powerful agent in fat loss.  It’s the citric acid in lemons (containing the highest amount of any other fruit) that make them such a powerhouse among fruits. One of the reasons we hold on to extra body fat is related to a poor functioning digestive system.

Poor digestion is a very common problem with most people and is often caused by an inconsistent diet, meaning, a diet lacking in certain nutrients.  Those that follow different types of diet trends can aggravate digestive problems by restricting certain essential nutrients that the body needs to burn fat.  Without the proper nutrients, digestion slows down which, in turn, slows down your metabolism and makes fat loss impossible.  When the body is not receiving proper nutrients, it triggers a craving for these nutrients making you feel hungry when in actuality, you are not.

How can lemons help this? It’s amazing what this little fruit can actually do!  Most people eat foods that create an acidic environment in the body, which leads to all sorts of digestive and health problems.  Ironically, lemons (even though they are high in citric acid) have an alkalizing or neutralizing effect in the body.  The benefits stem from this alkalizing effect.

Why You Need Lemons

  • Lemons help purify the liver by removing toxins. When there’s a build up of toxins in your body, it can result in feeling sluggish, bloated, and depressed.  Toxins in the body also hold on to fat, so in order to lose the fat, you need to flush out the toxins.  The added benefit of clearing toxic waste is a clear and glowing complexion!  Add a wedge of lemon to your glass of water.
  • A great weight loss aid! The peel of the lemon contains pectin which is a great source of fiber.  Pectin helps slow down sugar absorption in the stomach which helps keep hunger cravings at bay, for up to 4 hours!  A great way to get pectin in your diet:  grate some lemon zest on your salad or in your pasta sauce.
  • Can relieve digestive problems. According to The Lemon Juice Diet, drinking warm water with lemon juice first thing in the morning will stimulate the digestive system and have revitalizing effect on the liver.  It can relieve digestive problems such as nausea, heartburn, constipation and parasites.
  • Helps heighten immunity. Lemons contain Vitamin C which helps to prevent and treat different types of infections, allergies, and symptoms of asthma.

Love your Lemons

10 Tips to Help Kids Eat Healthy

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Creating a Healthy Home can be easier than you think.

Creating a nutritionally healthy home is one of the most important steps you can take to ensure the health of your child. To start, make smart food choices, and help your child develop a positive relationship with healthy food. Your children will learn their food smarts from your example.

Here are the top 10 tips for getting children to eat healthy food:

1Do not restrict food. Restricting food increases the risk your child may develop eating disorders such as anorexia or bulimia later in life. It can also have a negative effect on growth and development.   Also by restricting food you will actually increase the risk of overeating later in the day which will cause weight gain.

2Keep healthy food at hand. Children will eat what’s readily available. Keep fruit in a bowl on the counter, not buried in the crisper section of your fridge. Remember, your child can only choose foods that you stock in the house, by limiting junk food you will, by default, teach your child how to choose healthier foods.

3Don’t label foods as “good” or “bad.” Instead, tie foods to the things your child cares about, such as sports, academics and hobbies. Let your child know that lean protein such as turkey and calcium in dairy products give strength to their sports and academic performance, the antioxidants in fruits and vegetables add luster to skin and hair and the carbs in whole grains will give them energy to play.

4Praise healthy choices. Give your children a proud smile and tell them how smart they are when they choose healthy foods. Kids thrive on positive reinforcement!

5.  Don’t nag about unhealthy choices. If your child chooses unhealthy foods infrequently, ignore it. However, if your child always wants fatty, fried food, redirect the choice. You might try roasting potato sticks in the oven (tossed in just a bit of oil) instead of buying french fries. Or, if your child wants candy, you might make fresh strawberries dipped in a little chocolate sauce. Too busy? Then keep naturally sweet dried fruit at home for quick snacks.  With consistent effort taste buds change and soon your child will be craving healthy foods.

6.  Never use food as a reward. This could create weight problems in later life. Instead, reward your children with something physical and fun — perhaps a trip to the park or a quick game of catch.

7.  Sit down to family dinners at night.  If this isn’t a tradition in your home, it should be. Research shows that children who eat dinners at the table with their parents have better nutrition and are less likely to get in serious trouble as teenagers. Start with one night a week, and then work up to three or four, to gradually build the habit.

8.  Prepare plates in the kitchen. There you can put healthy portions of each item on everyone’s dinner plate. Your children will learn to recognize correct portion sizes.  Too often people go for seconds and even thirds just because the food is right there.  You might notice that you need less food to feel full!

9. Give the kids some control.  Ask your children to take three bites of all the foods on their plate and give it a grade, such as A, B, C, D, or F.  When healthy foods – especially certain vegetables — get high marks, serve them more often. Offer the items your children don’t like less frequently. This lets your children participate in decision making. After all, dining is a family affair!

10.  Consult your pediatrician.  Always talk with your child’s doctor before putting your child on a diet, trying to help your child gain weight, or making any significant changes in the type of foods your child eats. Never diagnose your child as too heavy, or too thin, by yourself.  If weight change is recommended seek the help of a professional Dietitian.

Outsmart Holiday Weight Gain

T’is the season for weight gain!  Along with all the delicious food around at this time of the year, comes the added pressure to over eat.  The holidays also place extra demands on our time, and more often than not, eating out of convenience ends up being the choice for many.  So let’s face it, nobody expects to lose weight during the holidays, it’s impossible and will only add extra stress.  But we can be proactive by doing some damage control before the damage actually happens, this entails planning and awareness.  According to the experts, the key to avoid any holiday weight gain is portion control.  It’s ok to indulge in the foods you enjoy as long as you are aware of how much you are eating and are staying within your daily calorie allowance.  This way you can enjoy the festive treats without the associated guilt.

Be your own Scrooge when it comes to calories.  Try these practical tips on outsmarting your cravings and avoid over indulging this holiday season:

  1. Workout Before the Event Try to sneak in a workout before the event.  Burning off some extra calories will help create ‘room’ for the calories you may end up consuming at the buffet table.  But more importantly, after a workout session, you may not want to sabotage your efforts by overeating.  A  heightened awareness in your physical well-being comes from endorphins (‘feel good’ hormones) that are released during exercise.  These hormones leave you feeling energized, optimistic, and confident.  You are in a far better position to make sensible food choices when you feel good about yourself.
  2. Eat Before Arriving Never arrive on an empty stomach, it’s simply a recipe for disaster.  Instead, have a healthy snack beforehand, or if that’s not possible, a glass of water will also do the trick.  The idea is to curb your appetite.
  3. Do a Walk-By Before grabbing a plate take a moment to simply walk by the buffet table and check out the offerings.  This is a form of planning, it allows you to scan the situation and narrow down your choices before deciding.  Instead of trying a little of everything (which can add up to a whole lot of calories!), you will, more likely, only choose the foods that interest you the most.
  4. Step Away From the Food People naturally seem to congregate around food because food is festive.  But the party shouldn’t just be about the food.  Make it a point not to focus on the food and explore your surroundings.  You’ll find that when food is not the focal point, you’ll naturally find other distractions.  Enjoy the company of friends.  Conversation and laughter are a great distraction from mindless eating.
  5. Bring Your Own Healthy Snack Offer to bring something.  Not only is it gracious, but it’s a way for  you to have a healthy backup plan just in case you don’t see anything else worth trying.
  6. Wear Something Body Hugging This one is for the gals.  Wear a body hugging outfit and you’ll automatically be more conscious of how much you are eating.  This works every time!
  7. Use a Smaller Plate Instead of the regular dinner size plate, opt for the smaller appetizer size plate.  Do not pile up your food, keep your selections to a single layer.

Burn More Calories While Doing Nothing

This is what we all want, right?  Let’s be honest, the idea of receiving maximum benefits for minimum efforts sounds pretty sweet.  Almost too sweet.  Well, it is possible – but (ah yes, there’s always a ‘but’!), we need to kick-start the whole process first.

Our metabolism is like an engine that runs all day long, it never really stops, it constantly burns energy (calories).  When we are active, our body is expending more energy, thereby burning more calories than when we are inactive.  However, even when we’re sitting around on the couch, we’re burning calories.  This is called our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the energy we burn at rest.  Therefore, whether we lose weight or gain weight depends greatly on how efficiently our metabolism is functioning.  A slow running metabolism is inefficient at burning calories and can lead to weight gain, whereas, a fast running metabolism efficiently burns calories at a higher rate throughout the day, even when you are doing nothing!  The key is not only to burn enough calories during activity, but to keep the metabolism revved up during rest, that is, to increase our BMR.  This is what leads to successful long-term weight loss.

BMR Facts

BMR is based on a number of factors like our gender, age, weight, height, the amount of fat or muscle we carry around, plus a host of other genetic factors that vary from person to person.  BMR calculators can provide a general idea of your BMR.  Here are some key numbers to keep in mind:

  • Number of calories burned at rest = 12 cal per lb per day
  • Number of calories burned by muscle = 30 – 50 cal per lb per day
  • Number of calories burned by fat = 3 cal per lb per day

The numbers obviously speak for themselves.  Muscle tissue is metabolically active and burns 10-15 times more calories than fat.  This is an important fact to keep in mind when considering how to go about revving our metabolism.

Our lifestyle, our habits, our nutritional choices directly affect our metabolic rate.  There are a number of things we can do to ensure that our metabolism is functioning optimally all day long.

#1 Muscle is Metabolism

We already know that regular exercise is important for weight loss.  However, all exercises are not created equal and will not deliver the same results.  Remember, muscle burns way more calories than fat, therefore, the focus of exercise should be to build more muscle.  A regular strength and resistance training program will not only help build lean muscle but will burn more calories.  Muscle increases your BMR which means the calorie burn from weight training continues long after your workout is done.

#2 Muscle is Made in the Kitchen

What we eat, when we eat, how often we eat have a great effect on our metabolism.  In order to support the hard work we put in at the gym, we need to feed our body clean, natural foods.  Nutrition accounts for approximately 80% (if not more) of the fat loss battle.  We should try to eliminate as many refined and processed foods as we can from our regular diet.  This type of change does not have to take place overnight.  In fact, I don’t recommend that anyone make drastic changes as it would be an unrealistic approach.  Small, incremental changes made regularly are more likely to stick and become habits rather than drastic changes.  The focus of a healthy diet should be on nutrient-dense foods rather than calorie-dense foods.

How much and how often we eat is very important in keeping the metabolism stoked.  Eating less is a common misconception regarding weight loss, in fact, to lose weight we need to eat more often.  On average, we should try to eat 6 small meals throughout the day to keep our blood sugar levels stable and our metabolism humming.

#3 Chill Out

Stress plays havoc on our metabolism and our health in general.  The mind-body connection has been given much attention as of late.  For our optimal well-being it is essential for us to practice stress management on a regular basis.  Stress throws our body out of balance and in order to restore homeostasis our body responds by releasing stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine (aka adrenaline).  Both cortisol and adrenaline are released by the adrenal glands at the same time, but we feel the effects of this a few hours later.

Cortisol is a powerful appetite stimulant which researchers suggests may interfere with our brain’s normal hunger signals.  Cortisol causes us to crave foods that our body can quickly convert to energy to deal with the threatening situation – stress.  We, therefore, end up craving simple sugars and carbs in the form of refined foods and sweets.  Cortisol not only promotes weight gain, but it affects where you put on the extra pounds.  Elevated cortisol levels generally cause weight gain in the abdominal area.  Increased abdominal fat is dangerous as it increases our risk of developing  cardiovascular disease.  Managing stress is crucial to our well-being especially in our fast-paced lifestyles.  Combating the effects of cortisol is simple, and it doesn’t necessarily involve yoga or tai chi, just 30 minutes of moderate level physical activity of any kind daily can significantly reduce stress.

Training with a Friend

Our friends are always the ones we spend time with on weekends, in the evenings and even at the office, so why not bring that relationship into the gym and both benefit?  Training with a friend always brings out a higher level of accountability as well as an added edge of competitiveness!  This can serve as the perfect source of motivation to begin the fitness journey and have a lot of fun while you’re at it!

Who’s Your BFF?

Who’s your Best-Fitness-Friend?  What about your best friend who’s been telling you he/she needs to get to the gym?  A co-worker?  A family member?  Couples can have great success training together as well.  Bear in mind, just because you’re friends doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll make great training partners.  When choosing a training partner, it’s important to find a person who has similar fitness goals as yourself and is at a similar fitness level.  This will allow the training sessions to flow better, making them more efficient, and you’ll get more from your one hour.

Sync Your Schedules and Goals

Making a plan of attack on times to meet, as well as coordinate your specific fitness goals is in my opinion, just as important as the work out itself. The work out schedule needs to be convenient for both parties so that there are no excuses.  Sit down together and plan out a schedule; put it in your calendar just like any other appointment, and then stick to it.  Make a pact to help each other stick to it.

Take some time to individually identify some SMART goals and then review them together to ensure they are in sync. And here’s the best part about training with a friend:  use the buddy system to hold one another accountable and push each other to reach those goals.  This is a proven recipe for success!

Dare To Suck!

What I mean by “dare to suck” is this:  you will always be what you’ve always been if you always do what you’ve always done.  Step out of your comfort zone and use each other to get fired up and complete your mission. Don’t be afraid to challenge each other and dare to suck while doing it!  The important thing is that you’re daring to go beyond your limitations, and this is when the magic happens.  In terms of fitness, this is how you get results!

Study after study show that support is the key to success in anything we do!  Getting healthy is no different.  Here are some of the many benefits of training with a friend…

  • Extra motivation and accountability
  • Fosters friendly competition – to make each other work harder!!!
  • Fun and enjoyment
  • Saves money OR allows them to train more regularly
  • Encouragement and support
  • Improves relationships
  • Increases chances of success and gets results!

Weekly fitTip: Keep Veggies Cut-up and Ready to go

Keep a selection of cut-up veggies in a see-through container in the refrigerator.  This requires a little prep work, but it takes the guess-work out of snacking.  As soon as you open the fridge door, the first thing you’ll see are the “easy to grab” veggies.

You can do the same thing for when you’re on the go.  Keep a small container or Ziploc bag of cut-up veggies in your purse, briefcase, or desk for a healthy snack anytime.  Veggies are full or vitamins, nutrients, and fiber and contain minimal calories, so there’s no harm in over-indulging, it’s all good!

By replacing a few of your usual snacks with veggies, you can shave off hundreds of calories a day!  Combine this with a consistent workout routine, and you’re on your way to seeing some real results!  Give it a try, you’ll be amazed at how easy eating healthier can be with just a little preparation.