Archives for August 2011

A peach of a breakfast!

On Sunday, I made a recipe I’ve been wanting to try for awhile. Fit Fabulous Forever’s Fit and Lean Breakfast cereal.

I gave up buying commercially prepared cereals back in the spring as part of my no-sugar challenge, but every now and then still have a hankering for some.

The recipe calls for raw oats, some cinnamon, lots of nuts and unsweetened applesauce to hold it all together. The addition of Stevia or honey is optional and I chose to leave the sweeteners out. After baking in the oven, it looked like this

Doesn’t it look delish? And it is was!

This morning I combined it with 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, a tablespoon of cashew butter (a nice change from my usual almond butter) and the most beautiful peach I’ve seen all summer. Next to raspberries, peaches are my very favorite fruit.

It tasted even better than it looks! What’s more, the skin peeled off easily, in long, wide strips, without taking any of the peach flesh with it (do you eat the fuzzy skin? or do you have to peel it off, like me?).

I was in such a hurry to eat, I almost forgot to snap a picture.

While I don’t know the calorie count for the cereal, I’m estimating that 1/4 cup serving would be somewhere in the 150-200 calorie range, given the high caloric density of the nuts. Together with yogurt, peach and nut butter, my breakfast was probably close to 400 calories. It kept me feeling full well past my morning snack time, with no cravings for something sweet between meals.

What a peachy way to start the day!

What’s your favorite summer fruit?

Have you ever made your own granola?

Weighing in on Whey

Not a day goes by without somebody asking me what I think about whey.

“What is it?”, “Should I be adding it to my diet?”, “What type should I buy?”, “When’s the best time to take it?”, “Do you have any good recipes that use it?”, and my favourite (a question usually posed by a woman :)), “I don’t want big muscles, so I don’t need to eat whey, right?”.

Whey is a protein derived from cow’s milk. Your body needs protein for a variety of tasks, including muscle growth and repair. Whey is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all 21 of the essential amino acids your body requires and is absorbed quickly (in about an hour), making it a great post-workout recovery snack.

Should you add it to your diet? If you’re like many North Americans, the bulk of your daily calories come from carbohydrates and fats. Unless you consciously plan to eat protein with each meal and snack, you’re probably not getting enough. Recommended daily intakes range from 0.35 to 0.65 g of lean protein per pound of body weight. That means a 140 lb woman should be consuming 50 to 95 g of protein every day! Most whey powders provide 20-30 g of lean protein, and by themselves only weigh in at around 100 calories. So adding a protein shake or a scoop to some of the meals you’re already enjoying is a great way to get a little extra protein in your diet.

Whey powder comes in a huge variety of flavours, including unflavoured, chocolate and cookies and cream. Yum! My favourite, mainly due to it’s versatility, is vanilla. It’s tasty enough to eat on it’s own yet doesn’t overwhelm any other flavours you might add to it and can easily be incorporated into lots of recipes other than shakes.

Vanilla whey, iced green tea and frozen raspberries; yum, yum!

There are too many brands on the market for me to review (my personal favourite is Sisu), but the highest quality powders will be made from whey isolate proteins. Whey isolates have the added advantage of being well tolerated by even the lactose intolerant. Read the list of ingredients closely though; you want to avoid powders that contain sugar, in particular high fructose corn syrup.

Whey protein can be consumed any time of the day, but is most frequently used as a post-workout recovery snack, quickly delivering the protein needed to repair and build muscle fibres after a tough weight training session. Mix it with fruit to rebuild your muscles’ glycogen stores, making for a better strength workout or run tomorrow!

Still need convincing?

  • Lower carbohydrate, higher protein diets favourably affect body mass and composition (reduced ratio of fat to lean muscle);
  • Studies have shown that adding whey protein to an otherwise healthy diet can increase fat loss by up to 6%;
  • Lean protein, when consumed with complex carbohydrates, reduces your body’s insulin response to elevated blood sugar levels, resulting in less fat storage and keeping you in a stable fat burning mode.

There are tons of great whey protein shake recipes out there. For ideas, check out Clean Eating Magazine and Oxygen. My favourite shakes usually combine cold water (or cold green tea or unsweetened almond milk), whey powder, flax seed (you need to eat fat to melt fat) and a small serving of frozen fruit. Mix in a blender (or your Magic Bullet) and enjoy! Avoid the temptation to add extras like yogurt, nut butters and honey; although they taste great, your under-200 calorie snack will blossom into a 400 calorie meal!

I add whey to my baking; pancakes, waffles, muffins and clean eating cookies. Home made protein bars (I posted a recipe here) are much healthier than the store bought varieties plus you can experiment with ingredients to build your own signature snack!

As wonderful as whey is, I don’t recommend using it more than once or twice a day. Continue to nourish your body primarily with whole foods, ensuring that your fibre intake is adequate and that you’re consuming a variety of vitamins and minerals each and every day.

Finally, in answer to the question about whey protein and ‘bulking up’?

Sadly, merely consuming whey protein will not give you beautiful, bulging muscles. For that, you have to lift heavy and lift often!

Do you have a favourite whey protein recipe? Tell me about it; I’m always looking for new ideas!



And it’s Friday again! That means it’s time for the Friday Fitness Blog Hop. Click on the photo below to get hopping!

Life As I See It [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

Why Wallis Simpson was wrong

“You can never be too rich or too thin”
~Wallis Simpson

(Wallis Simpson was the American divorcee for whom King Edward VIII abdicated the British throne to marry in 1936; aren’t I well read?!!)

We all know about the dangers of obesity. Being overweight leads to a plethora of health problems and is the leading cause of preventable death in North America (smoking and high blood pressure are number 1 and number 2, respectively). Ergo, losing weight and reducing body fat is a good thing, right?


For most people, the answer is a resounding YES! Exercising and eating well will eliminate the extra weight (although it won’t be as easy as the previous sentence makes it sound…) and reduce your body fat to a healthy level. For men, the goal is to be somewhere in the 14-24% range and for women, 21-31%.

For many people, however, weight and fat loss is taken to extremes. I see this with increasing frequency at the gym, on the local running trails and in the spinning studio.

Now I’m not talking about anorexic teenagers and young women (that’s another post entirely). More often than not, the super-thin people I’m referring to are women in their 40’s and 50’s. Many of these women have body fat percentages well below the 14-20% we typically see on well-trained, professional athletes.

Given how frequently we see images of gorgeous, thin, young women (on television, at the movies, on magazine covers at the grocery store checkout counter…), it’s not surprising that we, as a society, equate low body fat with beauty and youth.

But can you be too thin? YES!

Low body weight (and body fat) has it’s own health hazards. In women, particularly those pre- and post-menopausal, these include;

  • reduced immune function (resulting in more frequent and severe viral infections)
  • increased risk of osteoporosis
  • anemia (leading to chronic fatigue, difficulty in breathing and elevated heart rate)
  • hormonal disruption, including disruption of the sex hormone estrogen
  • increased risk of heart attack
  • early onset arthritis
  • depression and thoughts of suicide
  • chronic lung diseases, including asthma, bronchitis and pneumonia

If these health hazards aren’t enough to discourage excessive fat loss, vanity (ironically!) should be.


Women who lose too much body fat often look older, not younger, than their biological age Exactly the opposite effect they’re looking for! This is because fat is what ‘plumps’ up skin that has lost it’s elasticity, in particular, on the face, neck and upper chest. 

Wallis Simpson was wrong, at least on one account, you can be too thin (you’ll have to convince me about the other!).

Do you know what your body fat percentage is?

Are your fat loss goals realistic and healthy?

Is your fitness program balanced?


A balanced exercise program typically includes four types of training; (1) cardiovascular, (2) strength, (3) core and (4) flexibility. Cardio for heart health, strength for muscle size and bone density, core for functionality, and flexibility for injury prevention and ease of movement.

Most people however, spend upwards of 75% of their exercise time on a single, preferred component!

Body builders lift weights almost exclusively. Yoga enthusiasts focus primarily on flexibility. Runners are the kings and queens of cardio. Those seeking a six-pack do endless crunches. I do it too; despite knowing how important stretching is, I usually rush it at the end of my strength workouts.

While there’s nothing wrong with favoring one type of training over another, athletes (meaning anyone who moves their body regularly, including you and I!) whose programs are balanced tend to perform better, for longer and with fewer side-lining injuries than those who stick to training only a single fitness component.

By all means, continue with your preferred type of training (studies show you’re much more likely to do it if you enjoy it!), but be honest with yourself and think about the training components that you’re neglecting. Aim for a more even balance of the four, perhaps reducing the frequency of your staple workout to just 60% of your training time and filling in the remainder with a combination of the other three.

My fitness goals for the fall include improving my flexibility and increasing my core strength. I’ll be adding a weekly yoga class to my schedule and committing one of my weight room sessions to functional core training.

Look for a longer, leaner, ‘bendier’ me by Christmas!

It’s Fitness Friday Blog Hop day again. Click on the image below and check out some really cool fitness blogs!

Life As I See It [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

What’s your favorite type of training? Are you a die-hard runner or a gym rat?

What can you do to balance out your fitness routine?

Patience: A minor form of despair disguised as a virtue*

Okay, I admit it, I’m lousy at waiting. Patience has never been a virtue of mine. I’m a ‘hurry up and get on with it’ type of girl. Particularly when the wait is for something that might not be good news.

This week, I have been forced to wait. And it’s a big, potentially life-altering kind of wait. The kind that makes it hard to sleep and hard to get up. The kind that makes your stomach jittery, even when you haven’t had too much coffee. The kind that makes you eat too much or too little (wishing the latter was how I respond to stress; sadly, I fall into the ‘eat more chocolate’ category). The kind that takes your brain in a direction you really don’t want to go.

If I see you at the gym, or the bank, or the park or the grocery store and I seem less than my usual sunny self, please don’t take it personally. It’s not you, it’s me (I have said those words in the past and not meant them 😉 , but this time, it’s for real!).

I need some distraction. Exercise and knitting help. Kind words from friends help. But what I really, really, really need is to hear some fantastic news.

Has something wonderful and uplifting happened to you or someone you know?

Have you seen something that has lifted your spirits? Please share!

*Quotation by Ambrose Bierce

What inspires you?

Recently, I was invited to join Pinterest; an on-line site for creating photo boards and essays simply by ‘pinning’ pictures directly from the internet onto one of your ‘boards’.

Like Facebook, you can follow other users’ boards and they can follow yours. If you see an image you like, you’re free to go ahead and ‘re-pin’ it. When you pin or re-pin an image, it’s original URL moves with it, making it unnecessary to remember to give photo credits to the photographer or website you’ve grabbed the photo from. Easy, peasy.

I’ve been using Pinterest to design a vision or inspiration board. My board is a collection of images pertaining to my current health and fitness goals; strength, flexibility, healthy eating, better hydration and family time (yes, improving the quality of family time counts as a health goal in my books; less conflict means lower blood pressure and stress-induced belly fat!).

Vision or inspiration boards are a great way to remind yourself daily of what’s important to you. Kind of like pinning a photo of a fitness model on the fridge door (does that really work when there’s leftover chocolate cake inside?). I use mine as the wallpaper on my computer monitor. Every time I check my e-mail I’m reminded of what I’m working towards.

Want to join the fun? E-mail me (tgrand AT telus DOT net) and ask for an invitation. (Pinterest is still in the beta-testing stage and new users must be invited to join). You can follow my boards and I’ll be happy to follow yours!

Do you have a vision or inspiration board?

If you’re already using Pinterest, who’s boards are you following? 

A mediocre workout is better than none at all

Don’t you just love the sense of accomplishment and strength a good workout can bring on? That tired, but elated feeling of having done something challenging and done it well? That muscle pump that makes you feel like an Olympian?

Me too and I want it back.

Lately, due to some unforeseen health challenges at home, my training has been less than stellar. I’m still making it to the gym regularly, but stress and uncertainty have drained my normal enthusiasm for exercise. Lifting weights is not giving me the endorphin reward that is usually does and I’m definitely not reaching any new ‘personal bests’. I believe ‘mediocre’ is the most accurate description of my current performance.

Sometimes, exercise is not a reward, in and of itself. Sometimes it doesn’t make you feel better. Sometimes it will be a slog. Sometimes you will be tempted to throw in the towel. (I’m doing a great selling job today, aren’t I?) These are exactly the times when you need it the most.

I know that, without exercise, my sleep would be suffering (although I am not sleeping well, it could be much worse). I would not be paying as close attention to my nutrition as I am (for me, exercise and good nutrition go hand in hand; “can’t have one without the other”). I would not be able to “put on a happy face” (what’s up with the song lyrics today?) and focus on the needs of my clients and class participants and most importantly, be the consistent and strong mom that my children need right now.

So once again, I’m putting on my Lululemon, lacing up my runners, checking the charge on my iPod and heading to the gym. Some cardio and core training to keep my head in the game until my inner Olympian returns.

Oh yeah, knitting helps too.

When life throws you a curve, do you throw in the towel or head to the gym?




Follow the link below to the Friday Fitness Blog Hop and check out what some of my fitness blogger friends are up to!

Life As I See It [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

Fruits-of-our-labors scones

My family loves to pick berries. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, salmonberries, blackberries and huckleberries. We’re not particular.

While we usually purchase raspberries and blueberries from a farm in the valley (last year I froze 40 pounds of each for making smoothies, shakes and muffins throughout the winter; we just finished the last bag of 2010 blackberries last week…), salmonberries, huckleberries and blackberries can be picked almost anywhere (in our neighborhood) and best of all, they’re free!

In the summertime, we frequently entice the children to go for a walk by mentioning the type of berries they’re likely to find at our destination. Here, in the Pacific Northwest, berry season starts in early June with salmonberries (not my favorite; they’re a bit prickly, but the boys love them), continues through July with huckleberries (very tiny, but well worth the picking effort) and ends in late August with blackberries (the sweetest ones grow at the very end of the branch).

This past weekend, we visited one of our favorite local parks in search of huckleberries. The children happily walked and picked and ate and filled their berry containers, not noticing the time or the distance covered and never once asking ‘how much longer?’. We hiked for a couple of hours, stopping for a snack on a lovely, moss covered rock, overlooking a large pond replete with diving ducks and a beaver dam (hubby and I are both biologists so this is heaven to us!).

While the boys (sadly, dear daughter doesn’t eat berries…) could have happily eaten all of the ‘fruits of their labors’, I managed to tuck three small containers of huckleberries and the ever-so-rare vine blackberries we had stumbled upon into my backpack. I had plans for them.

This morning I whipped up a batch of whole-wheat berry scones. Low fat, low sugar and oh, so delicious warm from the oven. You’ll notice that one of them managed to jump off the tray before it even cooled!

Don’t have huckleberries where you live? You could easily substitute raspberries or blueberries into the recipe; just be gentle when kneading as the larger fruits will be easier to smoosh, adding a bit more liquid to the batter. Remember, berries are a wonderful addition to a healthy diet; full of fiber, vitamin C and antioxidants!

What’s your favorite summer berry?

Do you freeze or can summer produce for use in the winter?


Fitknitchick’s ‘Fruits-of-our-labors’ Whole Wheat Scones

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt (I used 0% fat Greek)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp real vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, cold and cubed
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 cup huckleberries (or small berry of your choice)
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Whisk yogurt, egg and vanilla together in a small bowl.

3. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

4. Using pastry blender (or two knives), cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse peas.

5. Add liquid ingredients and stir with wooden spoon until batter comes together.

6. Toss in sugar and berries and gently mix to combine.

7. With lightly floured hands, pat dough into a ball and knead on floured surface 10-12 times. Add a bit more flour if dough seems too sticky.

8. With hands, pat dough into a circle, about 1 inch thick.

9. Cut into 8 wedges. Place wedges on parchment lined cookie sheet.

10. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden.

11. Cool (or not!) and eat.

Nutritional info (per serving): Calories, 203; Total Fat, 6.8 g; Sat. Fat, 3.7 g; Carbs, 27.1 g; Fibre, 4.6 g; Sugar, 0.4 g; Protein, 7 g.

Compare that with a Starbucks Raspberry Scone: Calories, 500; Total Fat, 26 g; Sat. Fat, 15 g; Carbs, 59 g; Fibre, 2 g; Sugar, 18 g; Protein, 8 g.

Mid-summer goal re-think


Well, summer holidays are officially half over. Some of you will be saddened by that comment. Others will be jumping for joy. Kind of depends whether your kids are easily entertained and self-motivated or whether they bore quickly, as mine do.

Although I do love summer (now that the good weather has finally arrived), I long for the schedules and routines that the start of the school year brings. I find it oh so difficult to stick to healthy meal plans and exercise regimes when life is full of holidays, spontaneous outings and entertaining.

Given that there are only five weeks left until my children are back at school, I’ve been thinking about how I’ll get through them with figure and fitness intact.

Teaching classes is not enough for me; like any activity that you do regularly, progression and variety are what lead to physical change. Although I try and mix it up, I just can’t lift as heavy in class as I do in the weight room, and for me, that’s what makes the difference.

While many of you thrive on home workouts (you did see my at-home-with-the-kids workout video, right?), I find it extremely difficult to ‘bring my work home’. I prefer to drive to the gym, get it done there and use my backyard and playroom for relaxation.

Knowing what doesn’t work for you personally is half the battle. The other half is making the time to do what you must. And this summer, I haven’t always done that.

While I usually caution my clients (particularly those with school-age children) not to expect great progress towards their goals during the summer, I do suggest a minimum level of commitment to nutrition and exercise so as not to lose any ground. Just maintain the status quo.

With that in mind, here’s what I’m planning to do in the weeks leading up to September;

1) Be more mindful of my water intake; when I’m not in the gym, I tend to forget to drink. One big glass before and with each meal gets me towards my daily goal. Having a pot of ice cold green tea to sip from helps too. (I’m loving Tetley’s Blueberry Green these days.)

2) Get to the gym for two weight room sessions per week. Get up and go before hubby needs to start his work day.

3) Sub as many spin classes as I can! Spinning is the best form of cardio for me and the time flies much more quickly when I’m the teacher (as opposed to a participant in another teacher’s class; wonder why that is?).

4) Enjoy a few more days of relaxation and knitting in the garden. Rest is just as important as strength training for muscle growth. Plus, the sunny weather won’t be here forever (and probably only for another week or two in the Pacific Northwest…).

5) Create an inspiration board to help me keep moving towards my health and fitness goals. I’ve started one on Pinterest; you can find me there as ‘fitknitchick’.

Don’t forget, it’s Fitness Blog Hop Friday again; click on the button below and hop along to some other great fitness blogs!

Life As I See It [Fitness, Health and Happiness]

Are you still on track with your summer health and fitness goals?

How frequently do you review and update your goals?