EveryMove Blog Archives for October/2011

Healthy Halloween?

By Kellee Bryan

Today is Halloween, the first in a series of deliciously gluttonous holidays. But amid the festive pillow cases bulging with a corn syrupy assortment of candy corns, jellied eye balls, and fun-sized chocolate bars, a bona fide health food shines brightly. Or glows, more likely, illuminated by the eerie flicker of a candle.

I'm speaking, of course, of the pumpkin.

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar

The spooky squash is loaded with beta-carotene (which converts to Vitamin A in the body), aiding eye health and working as an immune system booster. In addition, it's high in vitamins B6, C and E, thiamine, niacin, folate, fiber, iron, magnesium, and potassium, and low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium - all at only 30 calories per cup. And that's just the flesh. The seeds are another powerhouse, packed with protein, magnesium and zinc.

There are a number of ways to prepare pumpkin. It can be added to soups (my fave!) and pastas or baked into breads, muffins, and - of course - pie. And it's not nearly as unwieldy to work with as you might think. The large, thick-skinned field pumpkins used for carving jack-o-lanterns are too tough and stringy to be used for cooking. Instead, select a variety like the sugar pumpkin (also called "pie pumpkins, for obvious reasons). They're small and sweet, and much easier to work with. And be sure to save the seeds for roasting! Or opt for canned pumpkin puree if time or availability is an issue.

For mouth-watering recipe suggestions, check the Epicurious.com's "What to Cook Now" article featuring pumpkin, or search for pumpkin on Foodgawker.

Happy cooking!

Posted on October 31, 2011 03:00 PM

Preparing for Your First Yoga Class

By Kellee Bryan

Yoga-ing when You are Flat Broke  - How to get Free, Trade or Discounted Yoga Classes
Photo by Synergy by Jasmine

Over the years, I’ve had a number of nervous friends ask me how to prepare for a first yoga class. Far and away, the two most frequently asked questions are: “What shoes do I wear?” and “Do I have to chant?” (The answers, by the way, are none and probably not.) But I send them off with a few more tips than that in order to make their first yoga experience a little less frightening and a little more fun.

What to wear 
You want your attire to be close-fitting and comfortable. Fitted clothing allows the instructor to observe your form and offer corrections when necessary, plus it stays put during all the bending, stretching, and twisting you’ll be doing. Depending on the temperature, you might want to wear layers that you can easily remove as you warm up. I usually opt for a long-sleeve t-shirt over a tank top and capri-length athletic pants. Although yoga is generally practiced barefoot, you might want to bring a pair of socks to keep your toes toasty during warm-up and cool-down.

What to bring
Bring a water bottle and yoga mat, if you have one. If you're not ready to invest in any gear yet, find out if the studio has mats you can borrow or rent. Don't worry about straps, bolsters, blocks, or other equipment - they are often available at the studio and, although they can be useful, aren't crucial for practice.

What to expect
This is a hard question to answer, since classes can vary greatly depending on the instructor and the style of yoga. But generally speaking, the class will begin slowly with some gentle stretches or a guided meditation, move through a series of traditional yoga poses, and eventually end in savasana, or “corpse pose,” in which practitioners lay on their backs with eyes closed and, ideally, experience complete relaxation. To signify the end of class, the instructor will press his/her hands together as if in prayer, bow his/her head, and say “Namaste,” to which the students will respond in kind. This is a gesture of gratitude and respect meaning “I bow to you” or “the light in me sees the light in you” or “be well,” or any number of similar sentiments, depending on who you ask.

Proper class etiquette varies from studio to studio and from teacher to teacher, but there are a few constants:
  • Remove your shoes before entering the studio. There are usually cubbies or some other designated shoe repository provided. 
  • Bring your water bottle in with you, and sip from it as needed throughout class. (Usually. Watch what others are doing or ask – it’s not common, but sometimes water isn’t allowed inside the studio.) 
  • Turn off your cell phone. Instructors go to great lengths to provide a calming ambiance, and your Katy Perry ring tone will throw it completely off. 
  • Arrive early and introduce yourself to the instructor. Let him/her know that it’s your first class and that you might need extra guidance for proper pose alignment. Communicate any injuries you have so that he/she can suggest pose modifications for you. 
  • Use the restroom before class to avoid interruptions later. If you must excuse yourself mid-class, do so as quietly as possible. 
  • Skip the perfume. The co-mingling of 20 people’s perfumes can be overwhelming, especially for those sensitive to fragrance. 
  • Respect savasana. If you must leave class early for some reason, do so before the class relaxes into corpse pose. Otherwise, you’ve essentially transitioned from a corpse to the walking dead, and nothing is more distracting for the remaining corpses than a yoga zombie.

Please chime in with anything I've left out in the comments! Namaste.

Posted on October 26, 2011 03:00 PM

EveryMove Weekly Challenge: Take the First Step

By Kellee Bryan

One Step at a Time
Photo by Lachlan Hardy
We all have one: a list of all the things we want to be doing or should be doing. I want to take yoga classes regularly. I should be doing more cardio. I want to eliminate processed foods from my family’s diet. I should stop eating the Halloween candy before there’s none left for the trick-or-treaters.

Of course, we all have a couple of other lists too. The list of chores; the list of parenting duties; the self-defeating list of excuses. All lists that keep us from getting to our wants and “should-be”s.

This week we challenge you to pick just one of those health-improving items from the list titled “Maybe Tomorrow…” and take the first step towards making it happen today. Maybe you want to start running, or kick your soda habit, or join a gym. Maybe you’ve been wanting to improve what you’re already doing: increase the frequency or duration of your workouts, push past a performance plateau, run a half marathon.

Decide what you want to tackle and outline the steps required to do so, and then take that first step. (And the second and third and fourth steps too, if you’re so inclined!)

If you'd like to join EveryMove's Weekly Challenge, let us know in the comments, or on our Facebook page, or via Twitter (@-reply to EveryMove or use hashtag #EMWC so we see it). Report back on your experiences using any of the same, or write a post on your own blog. We want to know how you did!

New to the EveryMove Weekly Challenge?
The concept is simple: each Tuesday we issue a challenge, and over the course of the week you'll do your best to achieve it. Then, report back on your experience. We'll all learn from each other along the way and prove that every small shift – every move, if you will – towards a healthier lifestyle makes a difference.

Posted on October 25, 2011 03:00 PM

Real Food Recipes

By Kellee Bryan

It’s the final day of our “Eat Real Food” challenge, and I wanted to share some of the whole foods recipes that worked well for me over the week.

Chicken Soup 
One of the tips I included in my “Adopting a Whole Foods Diet without Breaking the Bank” post was to use everything, and roasting a whole chicken provides the perfect opportunity to do just that. Last week, I was in a time crunch and so picked up a pre-roasted whole chicken from a natural market’s deli counter instead of roasting my own. That night, we devoured the chicken breast. The following night, the thighs provided chicken burritos. And on the third night we finished the bird off using my go-to recipe for simple chicken soup. In addition to the carrots, celery, and onion the recipe calls for, I usually add some barley and whatever forgotten vegetables are rolling around in my fridge’s crisper. To save dinner prep time, I'll sometimes boil the carcass to make the stock and refridgerate (see first two paragraphs on the recipe) the night before I plan to make the soup.

"Refried" Beans 
Our second day with the chicken took the form of burritos – one of my oldest son’s favorite meals. He’d eat burritos everyday if he could, so my pantry used to always be stocked with cans of black beans. I often thought I should just make my own, but they seemed so time-intensive with the overnight soaking (that I never remembered to do). So I stuck with cans until discovering this slow-cooker refried bean recipe that eliminates the need to pre-soak the beans. In fact, instead of soaking them overnight, you can actually cook them overnight. Genius! The recipe calls for pinto beans, but I always use black. Sometimes I smash them for a more refried consistency, but we often just leave them whole. When mashed, they freeze well too! Double genius! (Note: this recipe comes from the 100 Days of Real Food blog, which is an excellent resource for people moving away from processed foods.)

Steel Cut Oats with Berries
Photo by norwichnuts
Chai Oatmeal Bombs 
I love oatmeal and often opt for a packet of the instant stuff in the morning. But the real thing is so much better tasting (and better for you), which is why I was delighted to find this recipe from Eileen Valazza, a fellow Seattle mama. Eileen embraces what she calls “investment cooking” – cooking multiple servings of something at once as a means to avoid too much time in the kitchen – which is a concept I can completely get behind. I also appreciate that Eileen wrote the recipe using “instructions for busy people who can’t stand at the stove stirring for 30 minutes,” which include the step: “come back when you remember.” That’s MY kind of cooking! Plus, chai in your oatmeal? So yummy!

Do you have a favorite whole food recipe? Share in the comments!

Posted on October 24, 2011 03:30 PM

Adopting a Whole Foods Diet Without Breaking the Bank

By Kellee Bryan

Earlier this week, we challenged you to eat more real foodWhole food. But what does that really mean, anyway?

Photo by Rick

Simply put, a whole food is one that’s in its original form, unaltered prior to arriving in your kitchen. In contrast to that – and what we're challenging you to eat less of – are processed foods. Most of us recognize a box of macaroni and cheese as a processed food, but might forget about things like white rice and butter (both processed, by this definition), or be altogether unaware of the processing that “fresh,” not-from-concentrate orange juice undergoes before landing on the grocer’s refrigerated shelves.

To be clear, processing foods – altering them from their original state – is not inherently a bad thing. Turning tomatoes to marinara sauce is “processing” whether it’s done in your grandmother’s kitchen or in a Jersey production plant – and the former is probably a very good thing. Where to draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable processing is a topic of debate among whole food proponents. But, generally speaking, consensus can be found around the two primary things to avoid: first, the stripping of nutrients (like when brown rice is processed into white rice); second, the addition of chemicals, preservatives, trans fats, and high fructose corn syrup. A good rule of thumb offered by Michael Pollan in his book, “In Defense of Food,” is to eat food that your great-grandmother would recognize as food – though even that can be tricky, since she’d probably recognize yogurt… but not the sugar-filled yogurt product popular today. Still, it’s a workable guideline. Butter? Sure. Pop Tarts? Not so much.

There are two common misconceptions about adopting a diet of primarily whole foods:
  1. It’s too time consuming. 
  2. It’s too expensive. 
Both of these statements can be true – and often are – but they don’t have to be. In fact, depending on your current shopping habits, you may even find that switching to mostly whole foods helps you save money at the grocery store. And while grilling a burger in the backyard will never be as quick as grabbing one from a drive-thru window, there are a number of ways to save time in the kitchen. Remembering a few simple tips will help your budget, your schedule, and your health.

Create a meal plan.
Knowing what you’re going to make for dinner in advance eliminates the time suck of staring blankly into the fridge every evening in the hopes of coming up with something appetizing on the fly. It also gives you a very specific shopping list, which keeps you from spending too much money on items you don’t actually need. And, if you know on Monday that you’ll need the currently frozen chicken breasts for dinner on Wednesday, you just might remember to take them out of the freezer on Tuesday.

Go simple.
For some reason, people often equate whole foods with elaborate meals. Sure, you can go the route of multi-ingredient, multi-step dishes that require lots of slicing, dicing, and sautéing. Or you can bake some fish, steam some asparagus, boil water for some cous cous, and be sitting down to eat in less than 30 minutes. Voila!

Stock your freezer.
Make a big ol’ batch of something and freeze individual portions for later. Pasta sauces, soups, chicken and vegetable stock, cooked beans, meatballs, and a number of leftovers freeze well.

If you’re strapped for time during the week, consider what ingredients you might be able to prep during a less hectic weekend. My former mother-in-law used to shred an entire block of cheese and keep it in the freezer for use throughout the week by her burrito-loving brood. My mom tells me the same can be done with chopped onions. “Hard” vegetables like carrots and broccoli can be cut and stored in the fridge for a couple of days before use – just be sure you’re actually going to use them soon, since cutting them will lead to quicker spoilage.

Don’t confuse organic with unprocessed.
I’ve noticed that many use “organic” and “whole” foods as synonymous terms. They’re not. Organic refers to the way foods are produced: no pesticides or bioengineering for fruits and vegetables; no growth hormones or antibiotics for meat and poultry. Supermarket produce is whole, organically grown or not. Conversely, a box of crackers is processed whether made from organically grown ingredients or not. That said, I would encourage you to buy organic whenever possible, but it’s certainly not required in order to eat whole foods. The Environmental Work Group compiles an annual “Dirty Dozen” list, which ranks produce items based on their levels of pesticide residues. Use it as a reference if you’d like to buy organic, but can’t afford to buy all organic.

Investigate your options.
Many people immediately think of Whole Foods when they think of whole foods. Of course that's by design, but it's certainly not your only option – though it's true that your selection may be better at venues that cater to whole foods proponents. Look into grocery co-ops (PCC in Seattle is my fave), farmer’s markets and CSAs (I'm a fan of Full Circle Farm in the Seattle area). Check Local Harvest for a list of which of these are available near you. If none of these options are available where you live, don’t despair. I’ve yet to walk into a "regular" supermarket that didn’t have fresh produce, unprocessed meats, brown rice, or dried beans – all whole foods.

Buy in season.
Whole foods aren’t protected by preservatives, so a watermelon in December in Seattle is a mighty feat that comes with a mighty price tag. Buy produce that’s in season for less expensive and better tasting fruits and veggies.

Avoid spoilage.
Your preservative-free food is going to spoil faster, but a little bit of planning can go a long way. Arrange your meal plan so that dishes made with less hardy foods (like leafy greens, for example) are prepared earlier in the week. Slice and freeze fresh breads and thaw one or two pieces at a time as needed. If it’s convenient, plan to make a grocery stop mid-week so you’re not storing foods as long. And learn how to properly store produce to make it last longer.

Buy in bulk.
Many grocery stores carry a variety of foods in bulk so you save money buy purchasing only what you actually need. Again, you’ll find bulk sections are generally more expansive in stores that cater to whole foods, which will often carry an impressive selection of bulk grains, pastas, beans, nuts, dried fruits, spices, teas, honey, coffee, peanut butter, and more.

Use everything.
Save your vegetable trimmings through the week and make soup stock (which freezes well) over the weekend. Buy a whole chicken instead of more expensive (per pound) chicken breasts, and use the left-overs for sandwiches, chicken burritos, or soup. Trim and cook broccoli stalks along with the flowerettes. Save the guts from your freshly carved Jack-o-lantern and roast the seeds. You get the idea.

Invest in the right tools.
This is completely optional, of course, and can be built slowly over time as you determine which tools will best speed up and/or simplify the meals you prepare most often. That could mean something “big” like a food processor, slow cooker, rice cooker, pressure cooker, juicer, or mixer, or something “small” like a garlic peeler, zester, or olive pitter.

Lighten up.
If you’re like me, when you commit to something, you really commit to it and then get frustrated when you don’t perform perfectly. But sometimes, life gets crazy and you end up eating a frozen pizza. Maybe you even enjoy eating the frozen pizza. If (when!) that happens, just roll with it. It’s not the end of the world.

That's what I've got, but it's certainly not an exhaustive list. Share your own tips in the comments. And if you haven't yet joined our "Eat Real Food" challenge, please do so (details are here).

Posted on October 21, 2011 04:17 PM

EveryMove Weekly Challenge: Eat Real Food!

By Kellee Bryan

The proliferation of processed “health food” in supermarkets has always seemed a bit paradoxical to me. My idea of health food is, simply, food. Real food. The entire produce section, for example, or the meats and fish from behind the butcher’s counter.

Healthy groceries
Photo by greggavedon.com

But anything coming from a box, can, or sealed in plastic probably isn’t the greatest option, no matter how many times “healthy” appears on the package. Read the ingredients of most any packaged food and you’ll find a list made mostly of high fructose corn syrup and sugars, preservatives, and food colorings. Delish!

But I’m guessing you already know that. And I get it. We’re all busy, time is short, and those processed convenience foods are… well… convenient.

Still, I think we can do better, which brings me to this week’s EveryMove Weekly Challenge (#EMWC): eat more real food. This week we invite you to try any one (or more!) of the following challenges:
  1.  Replace at least one processed food item with a whole food alternative each day this week.
  2. Prepare at least one meal this week using zero processed foods. 
  3. When you do buy processed foods this week, select those with the shortest and most easily pronounceable ingredients list. For example, instead of that peanut butter made from peanuts, sugar, molasses, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils (rapeseed and soybean), mono and diglycerides, and salt (like Jif), select one made from peanuts, period (like Kettle Brand). 
  4. If you’re feeling ultra inspired, try cutting out all processed foods for the entire week.
If you'd like to join EveryMove's Weekly Challenge, let us know in the comments, or on our Facebook page, or via Twitter (@-reply to EveryMove or use hashtag #EMWC so we see it). Report back on your experiences using any of the same, or write a post on your own blog. We want to know how you did.

Bon appetit! 

New to the EveryMove Weekly Challenge?
The concept is simple: each Tuesday we issue a challenge, and over the course of the week you'll do your best to achieve it. Then, report back on your experience. We'll all learn from each other along the way and prove that every small shift – every move, if you will – towards a healthier lifestyle makes a difference.

Posted on October 18, 2011 04:02 PM

EveryMove Weekly Challenge: Take a Walk!

By Kellee Bryan

To show that every small shift - every move, if you will - towards a more active lifestyle improves your health, we would like to invite you to join us in a series of weekly challenges. The concept is simple: each Tuesday we will issue a challenge, and over the course of the week you'll do your best to achieve it. Then, report back on your experience. We'll all get a little healthier and hopefully learn from each other along the way.

Pat, May 25, 2011 - Walk the dog
Photo by pat00139
This week's challenge: Select at least one trip that you would normally make with a car, and walk it instead. It's commonly reported that walking 10,000 steps/day (about five miles for most people) improves health in a number of ways, from managing weight and increasing cardiovascular health to alleviating stress and improving mood. And there are even more surprising benefits according to this Rodale article.

But we're not aiming for five miles (though, by all means, do so if you're able!). Make this as simple or as challenging as you'd like, and feel free to "edit" the challenge to fit your circumstances. I'm lucky enough to live in a very walkable neighborhood, so opting to walk to the grocery store, library, or doctor's office isn't such a tremendous undertaking. But maybe you live in a more secluded area. Maybe your challenge is to replace a car trip with a bike ride. Or, if you're a bus rider, you might challenge yourself to disembark two or three stops early and walk the rest of the way to your destination. Maybe you already walk most places, and you'd like to give yourself an extra challenge to pick up the pace and jog or run instead. Or maybe you want to try to trade several car trips for walks, instead of just one. The goal is to replace a sedentary transportation experience with an active one, in whatever form makes the most sense for you.

So, who's in? If you'd like to join EveryMove's Weekly Challenge, let us know in the comments, or on our Facebook page, or via Twitter (@-reply to EveryMove or use hashtag #EMWC so we see it). Report back on your experiences using any of the same, or write a post on your own blog. We want to know how you did!

Ready? And... GO!

Posted on October 11, 2011 08:28 PM

Finding Your Fitness Buddy

By Kellee Bryan

When it comes to getting fit, statistics tell us that people who exercise with a friend tend to workout more regularly and improve their fitness levels more quickly than those who go it alone. Fitness partners hold one another accountable (it's a lot easier to drag yourself out of bed for a run in the morning if you know someone will be expecting you at the track), and fitness partners can support and motivate one another to achieve increasingly higher performance. Plus, it's just more fun working out with a friend.

While real life friends are often the first choice, here are some other options if you're having a hard time getting your BFF to sign on:
  • Family. Try instituting "family fitness night" 2 or 3 times each week. Find an activity everyone can enjoy together – a brisk walk around the neighborhood or maybe a backyard soccer game – and turn it into part of your regular routine. Bonus: you'll be teaching your kids life-long healthy habits! 
  • Fido. Studies suggest that dog-walkers walk faster, more often, and enjoy a healthier lifestyle because of their pets. You probably shouldn't run out and buy a pup just to be your fitness buddy. But if you're already a dog-owner, resist the urge to let Fido out the back door to do his business, and grab his leash and your walking shoes instead. (And some plastic bags. You don't want to be that neighbor.) 
  • Find a running club. Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) lets you search for runners' groups in your local area. And if there isn't a club already listed for your city, RRCA invites you to start one yourself. 
  • MeetUp. MeetUp.com is a huge network of local groups. Anyone anywhere can start a group for anything, then post activities for group members to attend. Check your local area and you're likely to find meetup groups for running, hiking, yoga, team sports, and more. Don't see a group that's precisely what you're looking for? Start your own! 
  • Cyber buddies. Thanks to the vast world of the Internet, "virtual" fitness buddies are just a few taps at the keyboard away. A Facebook friend living three states away can be your buddy, or a hashtag group of Twitter pals you've never even met before. A number of fitness apps and websites have social components that allow you to interact with other members as well. 
If each New Year has taught us anything, it's that there are A LOT of people out there resolving to be in better shape. The best way to get one of them to be your fitness buddy is simple: just ask. If Matt Harding can find this many total strangers willing to be filmed dancing around like joyful fools, there's no reason to believe you can't find someone to join you for a weekly run.

Confession: This video is only very loosely relevant to the current conversation. But I love it, and watch it on repeat whenever I begin to doubt that the world is a friendly place. For someone who is generally nervous about the "just ask" part (that'd be me), it serves as a reminder that people generally want to help and, really, are up for some pretty amazing things... if you only just ask.

What about you? Do you have a fitness buddy to help keep you motivated? How did you find each other?

Posted on October 5, 2011 03:53 PM

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