The gift of an extra hour: what will you do with it?

I love setting my clock back an hour every fall. Not only do we get to see a little more daylight during the dreariest part of the year, we receive the gift of time. An extra hour in our over-busy weeks to do with what we choose.

Some of us will choose to sleep, because that’s what we’re short on.

Or knit, because we haven’t picked up our needles since Thursday.

Some will use the hour to go for an early morning run or catch up on that workout they missed earlier this week or squeeze in some time on their yoga mat.

Perhaps you’ll spend that extra time with friends and family. Cooking a healthy, nourishing meal, enjoying a walk in the fallen leaves, curling up next to the fire with a steaming mug of herbal tea. Reading a book with your children.

Treat daylight savings as a gift of time. The gift of an hour to nurture yourself and honour your needs.

The gift of an extra hour. What will you do with yours?

Can I really go 14 days without sugar?

Last week I mentioned a great clean eating blog I found on the web; The Gracious Pantry (wonderful, clean recipes and fabulous food photography). On Saturday, I followed a link from this website to another inspirational site; Fit Fabulous Forever (more wonderful, clean eating recipes and lots of tips about exercise and weight loss).

Not sufficient with being incredible mentors on their own, the authors (Tiffany and Gale, respectively) of these two sites have teamed up to create ‘The 14-day No Sugar Challenge‘. The goal of the challenge is exactly as it sounds; eliminate all forms of processed sugar (including, but not limited to white sugar, brown sugar, glucose-fructose, honey, maple syrup and agave nectar) from your diet for fourteen days.

Always up for a challenge :) , I decided to join in!

Now I knew where my weaknesses would be; Hershey’s chocolate syrup in my morning coffee, a handful of chocolate chips mid-afternoon, dessert on Fridays and Sundays. But it’s only two weeks. I don’t anticipate that I will go completely sugar-free once this challenge is over; I really look forward to and enjoy dessert nights with my family. For me this challenge is more about finding those extras that I can live without.

I started by taking a look in my pantry. Since I don’t tend to buy candy or packaged baked goods (I bake my own, often cleaning up old favourites by subbing in whole wheat flour, bran and flax seed for white flour, applesauce or pumpkin puree for the fat, and brown sugar for white) and make a habit of reading product labels before I buy, I figured that my cupboards wouldn’t reveal too many forbidden items.

Was I ever wrong.

All of my favourite “healthy” products (you know, those ‘low in fat’, ‘high fibre’, ‘good source of protein’ ones?) contained added sugars.

Kashi Go Lean Crunch; evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup and honey; 15 g of sugar per serving
Kashi Seven Whole Grains and Almonds Chewy bars; evaporated cane juice syrup, honey and cane juice molasses; 5 g of sugar per serving
President’s Choice Blue Menu Omega-3 almond vanilla granola; brown sugar, sugar and honey; 10 g of sugar per serving
Aunt Jemima Buttermilk Pancake and Waffle mix; sugar, dextrose, glucose solids; 3 g of sugar per serving
Nature’s Path Organic Instant Oatmeal; granulated organic cane juice; 11 g of sugar per serving

Now I realize that these sugar counts are relatively low (as compared with say, 3 Oreo cookie or a small bag of red Twizzlers; 14 and 28 g, respectively), and in all likelihood, when this no-sugar challenge is over, I will go back to including them in my diet (perhaps less frequently…). But for me, this exercise is more about increasing my awareness of the presence of added, and unnecessary sugar, in my diet. Given the link between sugar consumption and weight gain, this is surely a good thing!

I’ve slipped up a couple of times; hubby made chocolate chip cookies (the un-clean kind) and even though he tucked them away, out of sight, I could still smell them and had to have a taste (but I stopped at just one!); the remainder of my daughter’s after school granola bar; a beer during the hockey game (Go Canucks Go!). But I’ve given up my morning mocha for a non-fat latte and don’t miss the chocolate in my coffee at all.

You can follow my daily progress and updates on Facebook (go ahead, ‘friend’ me, Tamara Grand, I won’t bite!) and what the rest of the challenge participants are up to on the Fit Fabulous Forever forum.

What have you got to lose (other than your sweet tooth?)!

A few of my favorite (green) things

Well, spring has finally arrived on the west coast. Tank tops and flip flops, here I come! Everywhere I look I see green. Wanna know what my favourite green things are?

Creamy, ripe avocado. One of the best heart-healthy fats out there and a great addition to your favourite salad or sandwich. I use it as a replacement for mayonnaise in tuna, salmon or chicken salad. Yum, yum!

My kitchen garden. Full of an incredible assortment of beautiful plants, including my favourites, Solomon’s Seal and Hostas. Now that spring’s finally here (I did mention that, didn’t I?), I can finally spend time in my garden, sipping tea (green tea!) and perhaps, knitting a bit…

A spinach salad. Pair your iron-rich spinach with tomatoes, peppers or some other source of vitamin C to really up your absorption of this much needed mineral. I dress mine with a combination of home-made pesto, sun dried tomatoes, garlic and extra virgin olive oil.

My gym buddies; Lululemon gym bag, Pearl Izumi spin shoes and Nathan water bottle. There isn’t a day that I leave home without this winsome trio. And no, I didn’t purchase them to match, it just happened that way!

A recently finished shawl. Knit in Saffron Dyeworks Enya. The colour is ‘Frog Blancmange’, perfect for the leaf-inspired stitch pattern. Doesn’t it just scream spring?

This knit is a gift for my son’s grade 1 teacher, who retires at the end of the school year. She has done so much to nurture him through kindergarten and grade 1, as well as being his older sister’s kindergarten teacher too. I thought it would be appropriate to knit her something to place around her shoulders as a way of thanking her for all the hugs she has bestowed on my children over the years.

Happy retirement Cathy and happy spring (yes, it’s finally spring!) to you all!

The knee bone’s connected to the…

Well, my knee is still a bit wonky. I taught Step classes Sunday and Monday morning. Both were pretty high energy but didn’t seem to bother it. I laid off the lunges and limited my range of motion during squats. So far so good.

Monday’s lunch time spin class, however was another story.

Low tension was fine. Sprinting was fine. Standing climbs were okay… until I hit about 75% of maximum tension. Ouch. Not a sharp, piercing ouch, just a dull, back off kind of ouch. So I did. More ice and ibuprofen last night helped.

This morning I was determined to get back to my training. Phase 2, Workout A of NROL for Abs. Lunges, 2-point bent over rows, dead lifts and chest presses. Lunges felt okay (although I admit to being extremely cautious with the positioning of my knee). Surprisingly, it was the bent over rows that got me!

No, not my knee, my lower back. Specifically, the same lower back pain that sidelined me about 20 months ago. Why the back now?

That’s how the human body works. It’s one long kinetic chain. Everything is connected. When something isn’t working, another body part will happily help out, sometimes to it’s detriment.

In my case, being protective of a sore knee resulted in me lifting with my back rather than with my legs. Bending over to pick up 30 pound dumbbells incorrectly led directly to strain on my lower back.

I’m thinking that the remainder of this week will be about rest and recovery, which means, of course, that my nutrition must be bang on; and with Easter just around the corner.

A tough week to have to hold back on training. I’m down 3 pounds in a week due to dialing in my nutrition and meeting my exercise goals and I don’t want to lose steam.

How’s your week shaping up?

Fall-off-the-wagon-Friday

Pro-D Day.

Three little words that many moms of school-age children dread. I know, some of you really relish the extra time to spend doing something meaningful with your children. It’s not that I don’t, but rather, feel that I make a better mom when I have balance between being with them (i.e., cooking and cleaning and entertaining and refereeing and social directing etc.) and being on my own.

So instead of trotting off to the gym this morning for my 7th of 12 Phase 1 NROL workouts, I stayed home in my PJ’ and made peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies with my 8-year old daughter. She’s at the age where she no longer gets disgusted by the raw eggs. Ingredients stay on the counter, not the floor. She can use the beaters without spraying cookie dough on the kitchen ceiling. She remembers not to stick her fingers in the batter, lick them and stick them back in. She even offers to clean up! All in all, she’s the perfect age for mother-daughter baking dates.

Our cookie recipe? An old family favorite, that I’ve ‘cleaned up’ so that I can rationalize eating a few myself. White flour replaced by a combination of whole wheat flour, bran flakes and flax seed. Natural, no-sugar, no-salt peanut butter to replace the Skippy. Dark chocolate chips instead of milk chocolate. A really fabulous treat; nutty, not too sweet and fewer calories than the original recipe (although still probably somewhere around 125 calories per cookie).

All in all, not a bad cheat snack, unless you eat three four FIVE of them. My brain is buzzing from the sugar. I’m wearing black to camouflage the tummy bulge. All my carbs for the day gone in 10 minutes. And the worst thing of all is that I’ve blown my Friday-night-glass-of-wine-with-my-hubby splurge.

At least I’m heading out to teach a Bosu class tonight. Maybe I’ll sneak in 20 minutes on the ARC trainer while I’m there…

Let them eat kale: kale recipes to try at home

I’m always encouraging my clients to eat their vegetables. But beyond adding a salad to dinner, most are uncertain as to how to go about filling half their plate with veggies. Not only are they unfamiliar with many of the vegetables they see at the grocery store, they have no idea how to prepare them.

kale recipesOne of my current favorites is kale. In addition to its tremendous versatility, kale is tasty and full of health benefits. According to Wikipedia (bold emphasis is mine);

Kale or borecole is a form of cabbage (Brassica oleracea Acephala Group), green or purple, in which the central leaves do not form a head. It is considered to be closer to wild cabbage than most domesticated forms. The species Brassica oleracea contains a wide array of vegetables including broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, and brussels sprouts. The cultivar group Acephala also includes spring greens and collard greens, which are extremely similar genetically.

Kale is considered to be a highly nutritious vegetable with powerful antioxidant properties; kale is considered to be anti-inflammatory.

Kale is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin, and reasonably rich in calcium.

Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical believed to have potent anti-cancer properties. Boiling decreases the level of the cancer compounds; however, steaming, microwaving, or stir frying do not result in significant loss Along with other brassica vegetables, kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Kale is also a good source of carotenoids.

Not bad for a bunch of greens, eh?

So now that we know that kale is good for us (and we should eat it several times a week), how about some kale recipes highlighting its versatility?

Kale pesto (courtesy of ChooseHealthyFood.com)

  • 3 tightly packed cups fresh kale rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil or flaxseed oil
  • 1/2 cup toasted or raw sunflower seeds
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • 1/4 fresh oregano or basil
  • sea salt to taste

Place all ingredients in food processor. Pulse until combined. If necessary, add a bit of water to thin the mixture out.

Serve as a dip, a spread, a salad dressing or toss with whole grain pasta.

Sauteed kale (recipe by me!)kale recipes

  • 1 cup tightly packed fresh kale per person
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic
  • 1-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 chopped onion (red or white, your choice)
  • 1 cup assorted veggies, sliced or julienned (I like zucchini and red peppers with kale)
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts (optional)

Heat oil in large saute pan over medium heat. Add onions and zucchini. Cook until onions are translucent and zucchini tender crisp; about 5 min. Add crushed garlic and red peppers, stirring frequently for 3 to 5 min. Add balsamic vinegar, cranberries and kale, continuing to stir for another 5-7 min. Toss with pine nuts (if adding). Serve hot as an accompaniment to fish or poultry.

kale recipesKale chips (a Clean Eating recipe)

  • 3 cups tightly packed, washed and dried kale
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or melted coconut oil or avocado oil
  • 1 Tbsp sea salt

In a large bowl, toss kale with oil and salt to lightly coat. Spread mixture on a cookie sheet with leaves in a single layer. Bake, in an oven pre-heated to 375 F, for 10-15 minutes, or until crispy and edges of leaves are slightly brown. Enjoy hot, as a side dish or cooled, as a snack. You can also substitute parmesan or asiago cheese for the salt; be careful when cooking not to let the chips burn.

Bet you can’t eat just one!

What are your favourite kale recipes?