Monday, November 10, 2014

Are You Eating the Right Grains?

Did you know you know there's a simple way to help lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol, and reduce your risk of dying from all sorts of scary-sounding things—and you don't even have to leave the dinner table to do it?

Intrigued? Then consider replacing the refined grains in your diet with whole grains. What are whole grains? They are cereals and seeds that have not been milled or processed to remove their hard exterior. This outer layer, called the bran, contains healthy oils, fiber, and protein. This is stripped away when the grain is refined. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that take the body longer to digest, so their nutrition is released slowly and continuously, leaving you feeling energized and full for much longer, partly because they don't spike your blood sugar. They are an excellent source of dietary fiber, protein, iron, potassium, and manganese.

Misleading food labels have sparked plenty of confusion about what is and isn't made from whole grain. The best way to verify if your packaged baked goods are whole grain is to read the ingredient list on the back or side. If the grains listed are "whole," then you're in good shape. An even better way to know you are eating whole grains is to buy them whole and cook them yourself.

Some of the whole grains you might be familiar with include brown rice, quinoa, and oats, and these are fantastic. But, did you know there are a lot of other whole grains—many of which have been enjoyed around the world for thousands of years—that you can add to your meals for variety? Look for them in the bulk bins or dry goods section of your local market, where many will cost just pennies per serving. Stretch your dollar farther by blending the more exotic varieties with brown rice, buckwheat, and quinoa. Experiment to find your favorite flavor combination!

If you can cook rice or oatmeal, you can easily cook other grains. We've provided measurements and cooking times for you below. Use a heavy pot with a lid (or a rice cooker!) and set the burner of your stove to a medium temperature. All grains should be rinsed well before cooking and inspected for stray twigs or stones that remain from the harvesting process.

Substitute whole grains in place of white rice or pasta, add them to soup and casseroles, toss cooked grains into salads, or serve them for breakfast and enjoy like oatmeal. Cooked grains keep well in the fridge, so we recommend making a large batch and storing the leftovers for quick meals during the week. Store uncooked grains in an airtight container in a cool, dark cabinet for up to 6 months, or in your refrigerator as long as a year.

Here are 7 up-and-coming whole grains to try: 


While not technically a grain (it's a seed), gluten-free amaranth has a nutritional profile similar to grain. Originally from Peru, its cultivation spread through Central and South America and played a crucial role in Aztec rituals and their diet. Amaranth contains more protein than most grains, is considered a complete protein, has three times as much calcium as other grains, is rich in iron and magnesium, and is the only grain that contains vitamin C. It has been shown to lower blood cholesterol in patients with coronary disease and hypertension.

To Cook: Add 1 cup amaranth to 3 cups water, and simmer gently for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cooked amaranth has a consistency similar to Cream of Wheat (it can become sticky if overcooked). For a dish that is more like rice, combine amaranth with other cooked grains. You could also add a few tablespoons while cooking homemade soup to add thickness and protein. 


You may already be familiar with buckwheat—no, not the character from The Little Rascals—the grain. Only, once again, it's not a grain at all or even related to wheat. This heart-shaped seed is a relative of rhubarb, making it gluten-free. Buckwheat has a satisfying, nutty flavor and numerous health benefits. The phytonutrients in buckwheat are powerful antioxidants that protect cells from cancer-causing free radicals. Buckwheat is also a star when it comes to keeping the heart pumping—its fiber has been shown to reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol levels4 and its manganese promotes healthy circulation.

Make it a staple in your pantry, and you'll be glad you did. It cooks quickly for a weeknight dinner, and can be made ahead in bulk and stored in the fridge for easy lunches throughout the week. Buckwheat flour makes delicious pancakes and crepes. Soba noodles made from buckwheat are a great gluten-free alternative to pasta.

To cook: Prepare it like rice on a stovetop or in a rice cooker. Pre-toasting in a dry pan before adding liquid intensifies the nutty flavor and is worth the effort. Bring 1 cup buckwheat and 2 cups water to a boil, reduce heat to low, put a lid on it, and simmer 10 to 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed and the kernels are tender. 


Farro is an ancient relative of wheat that has been eaten for centuries. Want to look like a gladiator (or a goddess)? Then eat farro, the grain that fortified the armies of the Roman Empire. Farro is sometimes called spelt or emmer, but they're not the same. Farro has a firm and chewy texture, and a nutty flavor that is great in grain salad, stuffing, and soup. It is surprisingly filling because it has 11 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber per cup. It is so nutritiously dense, in fact, that you might find a smaller serving than other grains will make you feel full. The fiber supports healthy digestion and satisfies for hours, making it a healthy choice for people trying to lose weight.

To cook: Farro also benefits from toasting. Add 1 cup farro to 2-1/2 cups boiling water. Cover and simmer without stirring for 20 minutes, or until tender. Farro can be cooked in a rice cooker and makes great leftovers because it keeps its firm texture for several days and never gets mushy or sticky. 


Legend has it that a Montana man discovered several kamut seeds in a tomb near the Nile River. Later, an enterprising farmer trademarked the seeds and gave it the ancient Egyptian name for wheat.

One thing is certain, kamut is an ancient grain. It is an heirloom variety of Khorasan wheat from Iran. Research suggests that ancient grains may have more health benefits than modern strains of wheat, and recently, Canadian scientists compared several ancient grains, including kamut, to modern wheat, and found higher levels of lutein (important for eye health) and beta-carotene in the heirloom grains.

Kamut is a smart choice for a healthy diet and, as an added bonus, the branded product is always grown organically. It is high in selenium (which supports the immune system), zinc, and manganese. It also has 20 to 40% more protein per serving than regular wheat. A half-cup serving provides 6 grams of protein and only 140 calories.

To cook: Kamut is a Goliath of grains, and takes a long time to cook. Bring 1 cup kamut and 3 cups water to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the grains are plump and chewy.  This can take 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Soaking the grains overnight will reduce cooking time. 


Though the name sounds similar, don't confuse kañiwa (pronounced "ka-nyi-wa") with its popular cousin, quinoa. Kañiwa, from the Andes Mountains, is being touted as the next superfood. These tiny ruby red seeds are about half the size of quinoa and have a mild, sweet flavor. Because they are made up mostly of outer shell, they stay pleasantly crunchy when cooked.

To cook: Add 1 cup kañiwa and 2 cups water to a small pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, until the seeds look they have sprouted little halos (like quinoa). Fluff with a fork and serve. Try it as a "breading" for meats. 


Some people think millet is for the birds, literally. It is a main ingredient in birdseed mixes, but this gluten-free seed (again, not a grain) is delicious and fluffy when cooked. It is not commonly eaten in the U.S., but it is the sixth most popular grain in the world. Millet may have been the staple grain of Asia before rice, and it's rich in phosphorous, which is important for strong bones, and is also a source of tryptophan, an amino acid that helps reduce stress.

To cook: Toast 1 cup millet in a dry pan then add 3 cups water. Simmer covered for 15 minutes, then set it aside and leave the lid on for 15 minutes more. Fluff with a fork before serving.

For hot cereal or polenta, grind millet in a spice grinder. Bring 5 cups water to a boil, then gradually whisk in 1 cup millet. Cover, lower heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 to 30 minutes until grits are tender. The tiny seeds can even be popped like corn! 


Just like how many of these "grains" aren't really grains, wild rice is not really rice. It's the seed of an aquatic grass that was originally cultivated in shallow waters across North America. It has double the protein and fiber of brown rice and 30 times greater cancer-fighting antioxidant activity than white rice.  Reddish brown to black in color, wild rice commands attention with its toothsome bite and bold nutty flavor. For this reason, and also because it's pricey, it is often blended with other grains.

To cook: Wild rice requires more time to cook than most grains, but it's worthy of the extra patience.  Bring 3 cups water or stock to a boil, stir in 1 cup rice, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 50 minutes, until the kernels burst open, revealing a creamy interior. Uncover, fluff with a fork, and continue cooking over low heat for 5 minutes more if needed. Overcooking causes kernels to curl up and loose their distinct texture.

So the next time you are in the store, head to the grain/dry foods section and pick up some of these healthy grains.  Remember, carbs are not bad!!  These are just a few examples of healthier choices.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Using Meditation to Combat Stress

It's November and there are only about 8 weeks left in 2014.  Life will become (even more) hectic as we approach the holiday season.  Like many a poor sap trying to make the most of this hectic world, my mind tends to churn like a washing machine filled with ferrets. Even in the most tranquil of moments, dozens of thoughts scrape and bite to get to the top of my consciousness - and most of the time, it's the big ugly ones that win the race.  Rodents and household appliances aside, you may know this phenomenon simply as "stress."  You have a million things to do and a billion things to worry about. We all do. It's the curse of the modern age.

Unfortunately, most of us look to pursuits to take the edge off; they may seem to help, but actually compound the problem. There's nothing wrong with the occasional cocktail, or a little mindless television from time to time, but activities like this don't solve anything. They just cover up your issues and make your thought process all the more unruly.

If you're looking for a serious solution, meditation is a far more effective way to cut through the cerebral clutter—and unlike a booze bender or a reality TV marathon, it only takes 5 to 10 minutes a day.

The Benefits of Meditation

People tend to associate meditation with Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism, but Judeo-Christian fans may be surprised to learn that there are references to meditation in the Old Testament. And, in Islam, meditation is an important part of Sufism. Although there are certainly connections to religion, meditation, in the modern sense, can be completely secular. No blue deities, no transcending this earthly form, no incense (unless you dig that, then it's, like, totally cool) - just an opportunity to organize your thoughts and take back your brain from the laundry list of external forces pulling you in a million directions.

The science on the benefits of meditation is super strong, especially when it comes to stress reduction. Research appearing in the Journal of Biomedical Research shows that meditation does this by increasing parasympathetic activity. Your nervous system is divided into two parts—sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic nervous system controls your "fight or flight" reactions. It's the predominant nervous system when you're under the gun. The parasympathetic nervous system controls your "rest and digest" functions. In other words, when things are mellow, the parasympathetic takes charge—and meditation makes that happen more often.

But that's just part of the story. A consistent meditation practice has been scientifically linked to improved cardiovascular health, focus, and information processing.  In fact, if you pick a malady at random, odds are that there's a reasonably credible study showing that meditation either improves symptoms or acts as an effective way to manage symptoms. There's really no reason not to do it.

How to Meditate

Many people mistakenly think the goal of all meditation is to "turn off your brain." This is one technique (sort of), but in truth the definition of meditation shifts depending on whom you ask. In some circles, it's a matter of reading a philosophical/religious text and contemplating the key passages (suggestions: the Bible, the Tao Te Ching, or Winnie the Pooh).  Some people consider sitting on a favorite park bench and breathing deeply for five minutes to be meditative.

However you do it, the key to any good meditation practice is to quiet the noise in your brain—not drown it out or dope it up, but actively calm it down.
All those options aside, if you're looking for something more specific, there are a few meditation techniques that have been shown to be especially effective.

First, it's important to find a quiet place with minimal distractions. Here in Lexington, sometimes that is difficult to do but I'm sure you can find a place somewhere.  My favorite place to meditate is on the edge of a pond somewhere away from traffic and away from the hustle and bustle.  If I can't make it there, my second favorite place is in my living room when the dogs are sleeping quietly in the other room.

Next, sit comfortably, but up straight. You want to be comfy because, once you master it, you'll be there for a while. You want to be upright for a couple reasons. Many experts claim it's necessary because a straight spine allows energy to flow better. Personally, I think sitting up straight is a good way to avoid accidentally falling asleep. If you have back issues, do what you need to do. I elevate my toosh by sitting cross-legged on a yoga bolster. I also support my spine by sitting with my back against a wall.

Finally, start with five minutes a day and increase gradually as it becomes easier. Odds are, your thoughts are going to be all over the map the first few times you do it. That's cool. Even if your practice felt like a complete mess, it benefited you given it took you one step closer to learning how to calm your brain. You'll get there. Just try again tomorrow.

From here, there are a number of practices to experiment with. You might want to try a variation of Transcendental Meditation (TM), developed by Maharashi Mahesh Yogi, who you might remember as that yogi guy who hung out with the Beatles. In this practice, you pick a mantra to focus on—a word that has meaning to you and feels right, such as "love" or "heal" or "beer." (It could happen.) Armed with your mantra, sit quietly and repeat it silently to yourself. When your mind wanders—which it will—simply steer it back to your mantra.

Another technique is mindfulness meditation. Like the TM variation above, start with a focal point—typically your breath. That'll hold your attention for a little while, but soon thoughts or sensations will try to take over. Don't try steering away from these things. Instead, accept them without judgment and let them pass by, like waves on a beach or clouds in the sky. If it helps, you can also assign "tags" to help you observe thoughts passively. For example, let's say you're in the middle of meditating and suddenly you remember how one of your coworkers stole your lunch out of the fridge yesterday. Instead of following that path and letting your anger consume you, assign it a tag that describes how you feel, like "anger." Now, just repeat "anger" in your head, distancing yourself from both the thought and the emotion. It should soon pass.

I've found this technique to be an incredibly powerful tool for managing my emotions. It can also be used for pain management, by isolating and passively accepting pain instead of letting it consume you.

The modern world is a stressful place. Sometimes, there's nothing you can do about the barrage of stressors that make up daily life. You can, however, change how you—and your body—react to them, so take a deep breath and take back your life.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Mud-Run Training - Where to Start

Final entry from our trainer, James "Max" Clark.

It's the season for Mudruns and all different kinds of events. Being able to run the minimum 5k can be the least of your challenges when participating in one of these races. They include jumping, crawling, climbing and even balance obstacles that can make preparing for them more difficult than you might imagine. If you have never done one before here is an example of workout regiment to get you started.

Start out with 4 workout days a week, preferably Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Make sure to warm-up with stretching both before AND AFTER each workout.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Intermittent running and exercises-Start with a set time to run or walk at an incline if you have never been a runner.  Start by doing 3 minutes and working your way up to 5 minutes. In between the running, pick an upper body, lower body and core exercise to do submaximal exhaustion with for a time period of 30 to 60 seconds each.  Examples could be: burpees, pushup, pullups, high jump, plank to a pushup, mountain climbers, lunges, inverted rows, squats, overhead press, Turkish get-ups, etc… Repeat this process for a set number of rounds or until you reach a desired total distance on the runs.


This is going to be your long run day. You can either choose a distance, but personally I prefer time. Again for those who are just beginning running, start at 1 mile and work your way up to the total distance of your race. This is the part that is going to take planning because you can’t increase the distance too quickly without risk of injury or breakdown.  Make sure to give yourself enough time and plan out the increments to give your body time to compensate and recover before the date of your race. I suggest not doing this on a treadmill, but instead go to a park or some outside venue that is not paved, after all most mudruns are cross-country!

Happy Training and have fun!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

10 Moves to Improve Your Basketball Game

Basketball season is almost here...GO CATS!!  Here are some tips so you can improve your own game.

Once you've mastered basketball's fundamentals—how to properly dribble, shoot, pass, and trash talk—you can improve your game by fine-tuning the way you train off the court. They will increase your stability, stamina, and strength while aiming to keep you off your team's injured reserve list.


A solid base is important if you don't want to lose your balance every time some lummox hand-checks you.  Along with making your legs, trunk, and lower back strong, front squats will teach your body proper biomechanical alignment. Tall people tend to naturally squat wrong by bending forward instead of sitting deep—and that's not a strong position. When doing these, only squat down until your knees are at 90 degrees, since that's the range of a defensive stance.

How to Do It
  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Raise the dumbbells upward and rotate your hands so they're in the same position they'd be for a barbell squat (might require a lower body "kip" [dynamic move to hoist the weight] if you're using heavy weight).
  3. Descend into a squat position while keeping your back straight, your chest upright, your elbows parallel to the floor, and your butt over your heels.
  4. Once your knees reach 90 degrees, return to the starting position.
  5. Perform 8–15 reps.


Breaking news: NBA scouts are not attending your pickup games. So exiting the game without spraining or tearing anything should trump all other concerns. Lateral skaters work the quads, hamstrings, and calves, but they also play a key role in strengthening the entire pelvic girdle, especially the gluteus medius. The gluteus medius—a small muscle in the butt—helps with hip stabilization and puts your body into a biomechanical alignment that greatly reduces knee and lower-extremity injuries.

How to Do It
  1. Stand in an athletic position with your feet close together; bend at the waist with your knees and arms slightly bent.
  2. Jump off of your left foot and land on your right foot while keeping your left foot off the ground. The opposite leg from the one you're launching off of will naturally pendulum across your body.
  3. Reverse it (jump off of the right foot and land on the left foot).
  4. Perform 6–10 reps total (3–5 each leg) at 100%.


You're far more susceptible to non-contact lower-body injuries when hip alignment is askew. Enter the heel slide. The form can be tricky, but perfecting the movement enables you to maintain proper hip alignment. If the middle of your butt isn't hurting by the time you're done, you're doing it wrong. The downside: You'll need adequate wall space.  

How to do it
  1. Lie on the floor close enough to a wall so that you can place both legs up on the wall.  Your hips should be as close to the wall as is comfortable for you.
  2. Start with both feet resting on the wall.  Slowly pull one foot down the wall, keeping the heel against the wall during entire movement.
  3. Then slowly slide your foot up to where you started.
  4. Perform 15-20 reps (or 30 seconds) per leg.


In every facet of the game—shooting, defending, sprinting off the court in shame after launching an air ball—you're using core strength. For side plank leg raises, raising both the upper leg and arm to provide more stability and to force the hip into place. He also stresses the importance of pointing the toes down on your elevated foot. Turning the toes downward will strengthen the gluteus medius along with your core, he reveals.  Pushing the belly button forward will help maintain verticality. When the upper leg hangs out from the body, it most likely means you're using the back and gluteus maximus muscles (in other words, cheating) instead of the gluteus medius.
How to Do It
  1. Lie on your side, keep your legs straight, and prop yourself up on your arm or elbow.
  2. Raise both the upper leg and arm (remember to point that upper toe downward).
  3. Hold the position for 30 seconds, then switch sides.


Bulgarian squats build lower-body muscles. They also provide a reason to thank Bulgaria for contributing something to the world. When paired with split squat jumps (we'll get to those next), the two exercises team up to both strengthen the legs and enhance explosiveness. This is a basketball-specific movement that you use in the game. You want your back leg to be about 12 to 18 inches off the ground with your back knee almost touching the ground [like a lunge when you descend]; finding the proper weight and distance to use here will be trial and error.

How to Do It
  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and put them at your sides with your arms straight, or move them into the same position you would when doing a barbell squat.
  2. While you're in a staggered stance (your left or right foot forward), place the top of your back foot on top of a bench (or a chair, couch arm, or stability ball—whatever's available or at your comfort level).
  3. Perform 8–15 per leg.


Strength and conditioning coaches rely on split squat jumps regularly with their basketball clientele. Why? They enhance explosive power off of one leg, and that's something players need to snag rebounds, hit jump shots, and execute 360-backflip dunks . . . or layups. Doing a heavy contraction exercise like the Bulgarian or front squat before a dynamic movement makes the latter move safer.  Your muscles are thoroughly warmed up, so it's much harder to injure yourself. The cool thing is that you also free up something called high-threshold muscle cell motor units that will help you jump higher.

How to Do It
  1. Get into a split stance.
  2. Drop into split squat position so your front upper leg is parallel to the floor and your rear knee is almost touching the ground.
  3. Jump upward and quickly switch the position of your legs so you land in the opposite stance.
  4. Perform a squat and repeat.
  5. Perform 6–10 reps total (3–5 each leg) at 100%.


The first thing you do when you're tired in basketball is start to stand up and lose the position where you are strong and laterally quick. And if you can't sink down into a stance and D up, you might as well wear the other team's jersey. This squat hop to wall squat duo will supply your lower body with strength and stamina. Go for speed, not distance.  Move as fast as you can, tapping the feet as quickly as possible. And when you're done, do a wall squat until failure.
(Something to consider: If you sweat worse than a broken spigot and you're doing wall squats at home, Superman a towel over your back to preserve the paint.)

How to Do It
  1. Get into a defensive stance (legs bent at 90 degrees, back straight, head up), arms out like you're guarding someone.
  2. Perform 16 jumps rapidly (4 forward, 4 sideways, 4 to the other side, and 4 backward) and repeat it 4 times.
  3. Find a wall and get back into your defensive stance with your arms and fingers extended.
  4. Stay in that position as long as possible.


Whether you're shooting, passing, or giving someone a Dikembe Mutombo finger wag after blocking a shot, your fingers play a crucial role. And they take a serious beating during basketball games. Fingertip push-ups will toughen your digits and boost strength in your upper body and core.  Work up to 25 reps, but aim for 15 or as many as you can do to start.  Do some of them from your knees to build up strength if you need to.

How to Do It
  1. Get into a push-up position (wide- or narrow-grip).
  2. Support your body weight with your fingertips instead of your palms.
  3. Keep your head, neck, hips, and torso straight, and your back and shoulders stable as you descend.
  4. Push up and repeat.
  5. Perform up to 25 reps (unless you can do more).


Proprioception is an internal mechanism that allows us to do cool things like control our limbs without having to look at them while they work. (That's how we can drive without the need to stare at our hands and feet.) Trouble is, that can be a detriment with basketball. We remember how to run, jump, and shoot from balling when we were kids, but if we haven't played in a while our bodies may not be conditioned to carry out those in-game movements without suffering an injury.  Line hops help with neuromuscular patterns.  Just jumping on the balls of the feet will help get your body used to [those movements] again, as well as help with speed and quickness.

How to Do It
  1. Tape an "X" onto the floor.
  2. Hop quickly over a line, changing direction after every 5 jumps.
  3. After 30 jumps, rest 30 seconds and complete another set.


Don't neglect strengthening your upper body.  With this movement, you're building strength through a squat position, which you spend a lot of time in on the court.

How to Do It
  1. Grab a pair of dumbbells and let them hang at your sides.
  2. Perform a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  3. Return to the standing position and do a biceps curl.
  4. When the dumbbells reach your shoulders, flip your hands over and press them over your head by thrusting from your hips (called a push-press).
  5. Reverse the move, slowly, to the starting position, and repeat.
  6. Do 8–15 reps, or until failure.
Good luck and we will see you on the court!!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Cardio and Weight Loss Quick Tip

Here's quick tip #2 from our trainer, James "Max" Clark.

A lot of people know that for weight loss you need to have a solid cardio regiment, however using that treadmill over and over can get tedious and let’s face it just plain boring. Here are a couple ideas of how to change up your cardio to keep you moving and see the results you want and maybe add something new you haven’t thought of yet.

HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) cardio - Most people think that this can only be done on a treadmill and sprinting, but it can also be done on Stairmasters or elliptical as well. By alternating between speeds or resistances on the Stairmaster and elliptical you achieve the same effect as on the treadmill.

Add weights to your regiment - By using 5 to 10 pound weights and doing overhead presses or any upper body movement to a brisk walk on a cardio machine for periods of around 60 seconds you can help spike your heart rate and in the process burn more calories.

Give these tips a try and see if your weight loss program gets a little kick-in-the-toosh!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Six Cooking Mistakes That Make You Fat

Eating-in is one of the best ways to get (and stay) slim. Cooking at home allows you to control the calories and fat, and use wholesome ingredients in your meals—not something you can easily do when you go out to a restaurant. But there may be small mistakes you're making when it comes to whipping up a homemade meal or snack that can lead to weight gain, from pouring on the olive oil to baking "low-fat" cookies.

Cooking Mistake #1: You're too generous with the olive oil

No doubt olive oil is a healthy fat—it's rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids. In addition, the aroma of olive oil may even improve satiety, prompting you to eat less at later meals, finds a recent German study. But that doesn't mean you can pour it on with abandon. One tablespoon of olive oil contains 120 calories, and if you're eyeballing how much you add to a pan, it's easy to pour twice that—and therefore, twice the calories. Washington, D.C.–based personal chef and registered dietitian Jessica Swift, MS, suggests using just enough oil to coat the pan's cooking surface, then using a paper towel to wipe off any excess oil before adding other ingredients. In addition, try sautéing veggies in low-sodium chicken or veggie stock or white wine.

Cooking Mistake #2: You forget to spice things up

Rethink how you add flavor to foods. Instead of covering steamed broccoli in butter, sauces, or cheese, reach for your spice rack. One new study from the University of Colorado found that when people added herbs and spices to reduced-fat foods, they rated those foods as tasty as their full-fat versions. Swift likes rubbing fish with dill, paprika, and garlic and topping with a squeeze of lemon. Also try covering chicken breasts with rosemary, garlic, lemon or orange slices, and sage before baking it in the oven.

Cooking Mistake #3: You bake meat in the oven

Baking chicken in the oven can definitely help save calories over pan-frying or sautéing, but here's what you're probably missing: you should elevate the meat and cook it on a rack. This allows the fat to drain away, Swift says. Do the same with veggies. Toss them with oil, salt, and pepper, then roast on a rack placed atop a baking sheet. When done, they won't be swimming in gobs of oil, but you'll still enjoy the same delicious flavor.

Cooking Mistake #4: You're "cleaning up" baked goods

You know the tricks to "healthify" treats like cookies, muffins, and brownies: use puréed fruit instead of refined sugar, and add black bean purée to brownies. Try whole-grain flour in your muffins. And while it's a good idea to make an effort to add as much nutrition as possible to treats, it makes it easier to justify a splurge. In fact, people eat larger portions if food is marked "healthy," shows research in the International Journal of Obesity. So you may snack on four cookies instead of two because your new recipe contains half the fat—but this defeats the entire purpose.

Cooking Mistake #5: You're, well, cooking everything

Because research shows that adults are eating far too few fruits and vegetables, it's a good idea to try to get more into your diet, whether steamed, roasted, or grilled—whatever way you love them the most. But don't forget to eat them raw, too. According to a 2011 study published in the journal PNAS, the process of cooking produce makes more calories available to the body. That means your body burns more calories by simply digesting raw foods, which could translate into weight loss. (Sure, it's a minimal amount, but over time this can add up.) So don't forget to include big salads; crudités, like sliced cukes and red peppers, dipped in salsa or guac; or gazpacho in your meal rotation.

Cooking Mistake #6: You think pasta was made for noodles

If you've already switched from white pasta to whole wheat versions, then give yourself a pat on the back. Pasta made with 100% whole wheat flour digests slower than refined versions, so you stay fuller for longer. But there's life beyond wheat noodles, and it saves mega-calories and dials up the nutrition: veggies masquerading as noodles. Think spaghetti squash, zucchini and squash ribbons, and sliced asparagus. Want proof? One cup of spaghetti squash contains 42 calories compared with one cup of pasta at 200 calories. Top veggie "noodles" with a tomato sauce and turkey meatballs and you've got a lower-carb and lower-calorie (but still satisfying) meal. One tip: when making spaghetti squash, don't salt it before cooking, which adds about 16% of your daily value of bloat-inducing sodium. The sauce you put on top will contain enough salt to flavor the dish.

So, is your cooking making you fat??


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Protein Powder...More Than Just a Drink Mix

Here's a quick tip from our trainer James "Max" Clark on protein powders.

Getting the right amount of protein is important for any diet and exercise plan. Whether it’s to build muscle or recover from a workout, protein powders have become an easy and readily available source for most people who may not have the time to cook something after their workouts or get tired of grilled chicken all the time. Below is a link for a few interesting ways to use that protein powder along with some foods and recipes to get those important amino acids into your diet. I’ve tried some of these and you’d be surprised just how good they can be!

Check it out and try some of these tasty (and beneficial) recipes.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Yummy (Healthy) Recipes For Summer

Summertime is a busy time for a lot of us.  Baseball games, vacations, kid's camps, pool/lake outings...the list is endless in the summer.  The last thing you want to worry about is what to cook for meals for you and your family.  Well, we are about to make your life a little easier with some yummy, healthy recipes you can try this summer.  Enjoy!!

Zucchini and Red Pepper Frittata
(Makes 4 servings)

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 tsp. sea salt
6 large eggs, lightly whisked
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese (2 ounces)

  1. Heat oil in a 10-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, pepper, and onion; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes or until zucchini is tender.
  2. Add basil and salt; increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until the moisture has evaporated, 30 to 60 seconds.
  3. Add eggs and goat cheese to vegetable mixture; stir until combined. Cook over medium heat, without stirring, until the bottom is light golden, 2 to 3 minutes. As it cooks, lift the edges and tilt the pan so uncooked egg will flow to the edges.
  4. Reduce heat to low; cover and continue cooking for 15 to 18 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Nutritional Information: (per serving)
Calories:  230
Fat:  15g
Saturated Fat:  6g
Cholesterol:  290mg
Sodium:  336mg
Carbs:  9g
Fiber:  2g
Sugar:  6g
Protein:  15g

Recipe: Balsamic Pork and Apple Skewers
(Makes 2 servings, 2 skewers each)

Total Time: 27 min.
Prep Time: 15 min.
Cooking Time: 12 min.

2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp. all-natural tomato paste
2 Tbsp. all-fruit plum preserves (or apricot preserves)
10 oz. raw pork loin, cut into 12 cubes
1 medium apple (like Braeburn), peeled, cut into 8 wedges
1 medium red onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 tsp. olive oil
Sea salt and ground black pepper (to taste; optional)

  1. Preheat grill or broiler to medium-high.
  2. Combine vinegar, tomato paste, and preserves in a small bowl; whisk to blend. Set aside.
  3. Place a piece of pork, a wedge of apple, and a wedge of onion onto a skewer. Repeat, and add an additional piece of pork. Each skewer will have three pieces of pork, two pieces of apple, and two pieces of onion. Repeat with three remaining skewers.
  4. Brush skewers with oil; season with salt and pepper if desired.
  5. Grill or broil skewers for 5 to 6 minutes, turning every 2 minutes.
  6. Brush with vinegar mixture; cook for an additional 5 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally, and brushing occasionally with vinegar mixture, until pork is no longer pink in the middle and juices run clear.

Nutritional Information: (per serving)
Calories:  293
Fat:  7g
Saturated Fat:  2g
Cholesterol:  69mg
Sodium:  492mg
Carbs:  29g
Fiber:  5g
Sugar:  20g
Protein:  30mg

Recipe: Baja Black Beans and Rice
(Makes 1 serving)

3/4 cup cooked brown rice (or quinoa if you're feeling fancy)
3/4 cup cooked black beans (you can also use canned rinsed black beans)
1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. crumbled fresh cheese (queso fresco)
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

  1. Combine rice, black beans, diced tomatoes, chili powder, and cumin in medium saucepan; mix well.
  2. Cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes or until heated through.
  3. Serve hot, sprinkled with cheese and cilantro (if desired).

Nutritional Information: (per serving)
Calories:  387
Fat:  4g
Saturated Fat:  1g
Cholesterol:  5mg
Sodium:  338mg
Carbs:  70g
Fiber:  16g
Sugar:  4g
Protein:  18g

Recipe: Homemade Apple Cinnamon Granola
(Makes 16 servings, 1/4 cup each)

1/4 cup raw honey (or 100% pure maple syrup)
1/4 cup virgin coconut oil
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup chopped, dried, unsweetened apples
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup coarsely chopped raw walnuts

  1. Preheat oven to 300° F.
  2. Line baking pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. Heat honey and oil in small saucepan over low heat, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes or until oil has melted. Add extract; set aside.
  4. Combine oats, cinnamon, and salt in a large mixing bowl; mix well.
  5. Combine oat mixture and honey mixture, stirring until oats are evenly coated with honey.
  6. Place on prepared baking pan, spreading in a thin, even layer.
  7. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes, until granola is light golden brown and crunchy.
  8. Cool granola completely (it will get crunchier as it cools).
  9. Add apples, raisins, and walnuts; mix well.
Tips: Other healthy additions include unsweetened shredded coconut, sulfate-free dried apricots, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, dried unsweetened berries, hemp seeds, etc. You can store cold granola in an airtight container for up to a week.

Nutritional Information: (per serving)
Calories:  81
Fat:  5g
Saturated Fat:  3g
Cholesterol:  0mg
Sodium:  38mg
Carbs:  10g
Fiber:  1g
Sugar  7g
Protein: 1g

Enjoy these recipes.  Stay tuned for more yummy ideas from PROMATx Health Club!  You can always go to our website and check out more recipes.  Click here!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Food Cliches...Are You Guilty?

I just read a really good article in the Huffington Post entitled "8 Things Nutrition Experts Wish You Would Stop Saying About Food".  (Click on the link to check it out).  It was very informative and I found myself questioning how I look at food.  I was guilty of a few of those "8 things".   So take a moment and click on the link above and read the article.  I am just going to summarize the article and give my two cents in today's blog.

The author of the article is correct when she said that nutrition "rules" change on a moment's notice.  What you thought was good and healthy, now turns out to be bad and forbidden.  It's the same in the fitness world.  But you have to remember, play it smart when it comes to nutrition (and exercise).  There is no "magic pill" or "magic rule".  Just use your common sense and choose wisely.

One of the 8 things listed in this article that I find myself guilty of is using the term "clean eating".  Now I know what clean eating means to means to cut out the processed/fried/fatty foods and choose more organic, healthy foods.  Clean eating to me may mean something different to someone else.  I try to choose locally-grown foods, non-GMO foods, and fresh-from-my-garden foods, but I cannot get all of my nutrients and ingredients in this manner.  I have to go the grocery store and purchase items from the inner-aisles.  The author of this article quoted a couple of Registered Dietitians and here are a few statements from both of them.  Julie Upton, MS, RD, CSSD, states that "...many athletes refer to 'clean' as eating natural, wholesome, real foods and fewer processed options. I think that makes sense, but I don't know why we need to call it 'clean' instead of healthy eating".  Then Elizabeth M. Ward, RD, states "...but I have a hard time with the clean-eating label because it makes me think that if you're not eating 'clean' then you're eating 'dirty.' Also, clean eating doesn't necessarily equal a balanced diet. As much as I've tried to embrace the clean eating term, I sense some shame in it. For example, people may feel bad that they can't 'eat clean,' because the cost is prohibitive or it's inconvenient".   So true!  Why place a stigma against clean eating?  Let's drop that label and just continue to eat healthy with fewer processed foods!

Another point brought out in this article was about eating "Gluten Free".  I previously wrote a blog on "Who Really Needs to Eat 'Gluten-Free".   Go back and check out that blog.  There have been few, if any, studies proving that people who do not have celiac disease will benefit from eating a gluten-free diet.

The final "thing" I will comment on from this article is about the word "detox".  I am guilty of doing this.  There are times when my nutrition habits are sub-par.  It happens to everyone...I don't care who you are or what your background is.  During those times, I think to myself, "I need to do a detox".  Usually the next words in my train of thought are "clean eating".  See a pattern here?!  Well, truth-be-told, all I am doing is getting back to a healthier way of eating.  Monica Reinagel, MS, LDN, CNS, was quoted in this article as saying "the best way to help your body get the toxins out is to put fewer in."  Duh!  (Did you hear the forehead slap I just did?)  It couldn't be any more simple than that!!

So my final thoughts...Choose your food wisely.  Know where it comes from and how it was grown and processed.  Take action in your community to allow everyone access to fresh fruits, vegetable, and meats grown from local farmers.  Join a CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture) group to take advantage of the yummy stuff your local farmers grow and harvest.  Most importantly, get rid of the labels of "good vs bad" food and "clean eating".  Keep it simple and healthy and your body will reward you tri-fold! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

My Fitness Bucket List

Today's blog is courtesy of our trainer, April Crosby.  Check out what is on her "fitness bucket list"!!

Almost everyone has a bucket list, right?  Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, sail around the world, have dinner with [enter a famous person's name]....etc.  Do you have a "fitness" bucket list?  You should!  We all have dreams and aspirations of completing something fantastic, even if it is only fantastic in our own eyes.  I have a fitness bucket list and I would like to share with you 5 of my current list items.  Now remember, this list is not all inclusive and some of you may find these silly or crazy but remember...this is MY list!!

1.  Perform 10 unassisted pull-ups with proper form.
Those of you who know me or see me working out in the gym, know that this is a nemesis of mine.  I am able to do a couple pull-ups but that's it.  I consider myself to be somewhat strong in my upper body, so my big question (to myself) is, "Why can't I do 10 pull-ups?!?!?".  To me it is very frustrating and it is the number one item on my fitness bucket list.  Some day it will happen!!

2.  Do a handstand (without the help of the wall).
Aside from the fact that handstands make my sinuses and head hurt, I love the feel of my upper body strength holding me up during a wall-assisted handstand.  A friend of mine walks on his hands across the room with very little difficulty.  I have to say, I am so jealous.  This may seem like a weird thing to put on a bucket list but, darn it, I want to be able to do that!  I am tired of taking two or three tries, near a wall, to get my feet up and perform a handstand.  Once I'm up there I'm's just getting to that point that is tough.

3.  Complete a 2nd Tough Mudder event...IN NORMAL WEATHER.
If you live in Kentucky, as do I, and you were around a couple years ago when the Tough Mudder event was held near Elizabethtown, Kentucky, in September, you probably heard at least one or two people talk about that event held on Saturday.  Let me give you a little background in case you aren't familiar with what happened.  It was mid-September and the weather was beautiful...until Saturday, the day of the event.  I think the temperature dropped from the 80s to the 40s overnight.  It was EXTREMELY cold and we had to cover 12+ miles at an ATV park/course.  Let me tell you, jumping in a dumpster of ice water when it's barely 40 degrees is NOT FUN!  I know, I signed up for the race so "suck it up, April", right?  Well I did and I completed the Tough Mudder...body cramping and all!  A lot of participants were carried off on stretchers, not because of the obstacles but because of the extreme temperature.  Needless to say, I WILL do another Tough Mudder but I will choose the climate/state carefully!!

4.  Set a new PR (personal record) in a half-marathon.
I have run 6 half marathons...some good, some not-so-good.  I set a PR on a course here in Kentucky that is beautiful, yet challenging.  Oh, did I mention I never trained for the race AND I signed up for the race the night before when my friend was picking up her race packet??  That was not bragging, OK well maybe a little!  I was so proud of my time that I thought, hmmm, what if I had actually trained for that course??  It will happen because it's on my bucket list.

5.  Improve my back bends in yoga.
I have 3 herniated discs in my low back (check out my previous blog about it HERE) that limits my activity.  Yoga has been a huge help for me but I am still lacking the flexibility in my low back to comfortably perform back bends.  Now, I am not talking about rolling myself into a ball, bending backwards.  Some days, just a little extension in my low back (i.e., back bend) is painful.  So on my bucket list, I want to be able to perform some back bends pain-free.  I will accomplish this one, even if it's only a small back bend, but I am determined to make this happen.

Well, there you have it, 5 of my "Fitness Bucket List" items.  I love checking things off of lists so you can be these will be checked off at some point.  Hopefully at least one of these will be checked off in 2014!  So what's on your bucket list??

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Healthy Recipes for Memorial Day

Here are a few healthy recipes for your Memorial Day weekend plans.  Enjoy!!

Fresh Fruit "Sangria" (courtesy of American Heart Association)
Serves 4; 1 1/3 cups per serving


  • 3 cups unsweetened cranberry apple juice blend, or 2 cups unsweetened cranberry juice and 1 cup unsweetened apple juice, chilled
  • 1 cup sparkling water, chilled
  • 1 small apple, such as Red or Golden Delicious, Gala, or Fuji, diced
  • 1/2 cup raspberries
  • 1/2 cup blueberries
  • 1 small lemon, cut into 8 slices
  • 1 small lime, cut into 8 slices
  • 1 cup crushed ice


  1. In a small pitcher or other container with a pouring spout, stir together the juice and sparkling water.
  2. In a small bowl, gently stir together the apple, raspberries, and blueberries. Spoon into glasses. Place 2 lemon slices and 2 lime slices in each glass. Spoon the ice over the fruit. Pour in the juice mixture.

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving:  128 Calories; 0g Total Fat; 29mg Sodium; 0mg Cholesterol; 32 g Carbohydrates; 2g Fiber; 26g Sugars; 0g Protein
Dietary Exchanges: 2 fruit

Picnic Slaw (courtesy of American Heart Association)

Serves 10; 1/2 cup per serving


  • 8 ounces packaged coleslaw mix
  • 1 cup matchstick-size carrot strips
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 6 medium radishes, thinly sliced and halved
  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


In a large bowl, gently toss together all the ingredients. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 minutes to 1 hour for peak flavor and texture. 

Cook’s Tip:
To prepare ahead of time, you can put the coleslaw mix, carrots, bell pepper, onion, and radishes in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Toss with the remaining ingredients 15 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Facts

Per Serving:  34 Calories; 0g Total Fat; 0mg Cholesterol; 133mg Sodium; 8g Carbohydrates; 1g Fiber; 6g Sugars; 1g Protein 
Dietary Exchanges: 1 1/2 vegetable


Cherry Burgers (courtesy of Eating Well)
-Mixing dried cherries into ground beef reduces fat and increases antioxidants.

Serves 4

  • 1/2 small sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, cut into thin rounds
  • 12 ounces lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup coarse dry whole-wheat breadcrumbs
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 4 whole-wheat English muffins, split
  • 4 lettuce leaves


  1. Place onion in a medium bowl, cover with ice water and let soak while you prepare burgers.
  2. Preheat grill to medium (see Broiler Variation).
  3. Place beef in a large bowl and gently mix in cherries, breadcrumbs, garlic, vinegar, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper until combined. Divide into 4 equal portions and form into 1/2-inch-thick patties. Make a slight impression in the center of each. (This is so the patties cook evenly and don’t puff up.)
  4. Oil the grill rack (see Tip). Grill the patties until browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 160°F, 5 to 6 minutes per side.
  5. Toast English muffins. Drain the onions. Assemble the burgers on the English muffins with onion slices and lettuce. Broiler variation: Coat a broiler pan with cooking spray. Broil patties 3 to 4 inches from the heat source until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 160°F, 4 to 5 minutes per side.


Per serving: 431 calories; 10 g fat (3 g sat, 0 g mono); 65 mg cholesterol; 54 g carbohydrates; 32 g protein; 7 g fiber; 587 mg sodium; 175 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Calcium (19% daily value), Iron & Vitamin A (15% dv).
Carbohydrate Servings: 3
Exchanges: 2 starch, 1 fruit, 3 lean meat


Summer Berry Pudding (courtesy of Eating Well)
Serves 2; 1 cup per serving


  • 4 small slices firm white bread, crusts removed
  • 1 cup sliced fresh strawberries
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup fresh raspberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Place a 1-cup (8-ounce) ramekin or similar-size dish on top of a slice of bread and cut around it to trim the bread to fit the dish. Repeat with the remaining 3 slices of bread.
  2. Combine berries, sugar, water and salt in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the berries break down, 5 to 6 minutes. Reserve 1/3 cup for garnish; cover and refrigerate.
  3. Place 1 tablespoon of the remaining berry mixture in the bottom of each ramekin. Top with a slice of bread. Divide the remaining berry mixture between each, then top with another slice of bread.
  4. Put the puddings on a large plate to catch any overflowing juices. Cover each with plastic wrap, then place a 15-ounce weight, such as a can of beans, on top of each pudding. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 2 days.
  5. To unmold, remove the weight and plastic wrap, run a knife around the inside of the ramekin, and invert onto a dessert plate. Spoon the reserved berry mixture over the puddings.


Per serving: 252 calories; 2 g fat (0 g sat, 0 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 56 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein; 8 g fiber; 299 mg sodium; 277 mg potassium.
Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (120% daily value), rich in antioxidants (anthocyanidins, ellagic acid).
Carbohydrate Servings: 3
Exchanges: 1 starch, 1 1/2 fruit, 1 other carbohydrate