Good carbs, bad carbs, right carbs, wrong carbs; what’s a girl to eat?

A couple of weeks ago, I described my current relationship with carbohydrates as a ‘roller coaster’; an endless cycle of carb cravings, indulgence and blood sugar highs and lows.

Your comments to the video confirmed my belief that I am not alone in my tendency to be drawn to sweets; particularly when tired, stressed, pre-menstrual and super busy. (Isn’t that what June is usually like for mom’s of school age kids???)

In an attempt to understand why my usual strategies for maintaining control over my diet weren’t working, I decided to do some research. For me, intellectualizing a problem is the first step to solving it (I was the nerdy kid who played ‘school’ during summer vacation). I created a reading list and got to work.

I decided to start with the 2nd book on the list; I’ve read it before and the arguments presented made sense to me then (given the things I already know about nutrition and physiology and my own body’s response to certain foods).

The book is based on the premise that hormones determine whether your body burns or stores fat. Too much of one hormone?  Fat storage is turned on and you gain weight. Keep those hormones in check? Fat burning ramps up and the weight comes off. The trick is understanding how food affects your hormones and manipulating your diet to get the desired results.

According to my answers to the book’s questionnaire, I am a classic ‘mixed burner’.

My body uses both sugar (derived from the protein in my muscles) and fat as sources of fuel, and can shift easily between the two according to the lifestyle I choose to adopt. Too many carbohydrates? Elevated stress? Inactivity? Menopause? Each will push a mixed burner into the fat-storing, muscle-burning state. Low-calorie diets that may have worked when they were younger will lose effectiveness as they age.

All of this rings true for me.

According to the authors, my diet should consist primarily of

  • vegetables and fruit (except for the very sweet ones; banana, pineapple, watermelon, mango and grapes)
  • lean protein and
  • nuts (up to 1 cup per day)
I should minimize my consumption of dairy (using it as a condiment only), avoid alcohol (except at my once-a-week cheat meal) and eat starch (including starchy veggies and fruits) according to ‘bites’. Just 5-10 bites of starchy carbohydrates at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
fitknitchick food
The other dietary recommendations are all things I currently do; eating 3 meals and 2-4 snacks daily, snacking on protein and veggies, increasing water intake and reducing caffeine.
The second part of the book talks about  exercise; in particular, the type of exercise you should be doing to ‘spark’ your metabolism and shift into fat burning and muscle building. No surprise here; weight training is key, compound movements are advocated over isolation exercises, short, high-intensity workouts are superior to long slow distance. These elements form the foundation of the way I currently exercise, so I expect the nutrition information to be more important for my own personal fat loss goals.
Perhaps the three most important take-home points about the metabolic approach for me are;
  • count bites of starchy carbohydrates rather than measure out portions or count calories
  • pay attention to how your body responds to the level of starchy carbohydrates you’re eating (if you’re eating 5 bites per meal, are you hungry before or after eating? do you experience cravings between meals? how are your energy levels?). Adjust your ‘bite number’ up or down accordingly, with the goal of eliminating cravings and improving energy
  • combine high intensity rest-based interval training with daily walking to improve my hormonal profile

Now that birthday season is over in my house (3 birthdays in 10 days means lots of extra dessert nights, more wine than usual and a box or two of dark chocolate caramels…), my plan is to give the Metabolic Effect Diet a test drive for the next 8 weeks or so.

I’ll be monitoring my energy levels and paying close attention to cravings and feelings of hunger until I figure out exactly how many bites of starchy carbs are best for me.

I’m also starting a new workout plan The New Rules of Lifting For Life: An All-New Muscle-Building, Fat-Blasting Plan for Men and Women Who Want to Ace Their Midlife Exams based on core strength, whole body compound exercises and high intensity intervals which should further enhance fat burning and mood stabilization. The first two phases of the program will overlap with my new nutrition plan, at which point, I’ll recap my progress and thoughts about both.

I still plan on reading and reviewing Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health and The Carb Sensitivity Program: Discover Which Carbs Will Curb Your Cravings, Control Your Appetite and Banish Belly Fat because both sound intriguing and the best researchers compare and contrast their findings!

P.S. June is gearing up to be a big month for challenges! I’m also participating in Sweet Tooth Sweet Life’s 30 Day Yoga Challenge and Running Loving Living’s Virtual 5K.

Have you read any of the books on my summer reading list?

Are you a ‘self-help’ book reader like me? What’s your favourite healthy lifestyle self-help title?

Monday Motivation: diet, exercise and heart health

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. February is Heart month. Both of these events are important to me. Nine Valentine’s Days ago, my infant daughter was recovering in hospital from the first of two open heart surgeries.

Today, I want to talk about improving your heart health as a motivator to eat well and exercise regularly.

In Canada, heart disease and stroke are the number one cause of death in women. In 2008, nearly 30% of women’s deaths were attributable to one or the other!

Although we often think of ‘heart disease’ as referring to arteriosclerosis (thickening of the blood vessels in the heart), it’s a much more general term, encompassing a range of conditions including acute coronary syndrome, angina, arrhythmia, congenital heart disease, coronary artery disease, heart attack, heart failure, endocarditis and a variety of valve disorders.

Estimates suggest that over 90% of adult Canadians have at least one of the risk factors for developing some form of heart disease during their lifetime. How many describe you?

  • overweight
  • diabetic
  • high blood pressure
  • high cholesterol
  • inactivity
  • smoking
  • stress
  • excessive alcohol consumption

The good news is, all of the above risk factors are life-style in nature. That means we can all lower our risk of heart disease by making some relatively simple changes in our day to day living.

  • start moving; incorporate moderate intensity exercise into your day, most days of the week
  • quit smoking (ask your doctor for assistance)
  • reduce alcohol intake
  • take up a relaxing hobby (like knitting!)
  • sleep more
  • eat more foods that are high in fiber (fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes and whole grains) and low in salt and saturated fat (clean eating is the perfect diet to help reduce cholesterol and blood pressure and eliminate type II diabetes)

Still not convinced that improving your heart health is a smart thing to do?

Consider the cost to your pocketbook of medications used to control diabetes and reduce cholesterol and high blood pressure (three of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke).

Here’s the receipt for my daughter’s most recent prescription refill.

That’s a three month supply of one of the two medications she takes to control her high blood pressure (a consequence of the time that elapsed between her first and second heart surgeries). The other costs even more. Not everyone is as fortunate as we are to have a good drug plan.

Heart disease is one of the few forms of death that you can cheat.

What will you do today to reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke?

Salad days are over for another year; what to do?

Only 5 more days until it’s officially winter, but according to my kitchen garden, fall’s been over for a long time. The boxes and raised beds full of lettuces and other leafy greens have been cleaned out and covered up until next year.

From May to October, I bypass the grocery store’s salad fixings, preferring those from my own garden instead. Spinach, kale, swiss chard, peppers, radicchio, arugula, romaine and collard greens, to name a few. There’s nothing better than grabbing a fresh handful of greens when making a lunchtime salad or scramble.

Come November, I’m forced to purchase the less-than-appealing offerings of my local produce stand or give up salads entirely until spring. While some of it is edible, much more is wilted, tasteless and over-ripe, having sat too long in it’s cellophane bag before finally reaching my plate.

Without salads as an option, how’s a girl to get in her daily 6-10 servings of veggies?

My solution is to switch from raw veggies to roasted. Slow roasted and in large enough quantities to serve as lunch for several days in a row. Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of the vegetables and may even fool your sweet tooth into thinking it’s already had dessert!

Peppers and asparagus with chicken and olive oil pesto

What type of vegetables do I roast? Whatever type you prefer! I’ve tried potatoes (red/white/sweet), asparagus, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, tomatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, beans, pea pods, onions, ginger and garlic (of course!). Often times my ‘recipe’ is dictated by what needs to be eaten up soonest!

Sweet potato, mushroom, onion, ginger in coconut oil

All you need is

  • a large roasting pan (I use a glass, pyrex dish)
  • an oil or fat (canola, olive, sesame, coconut)
  • seasonings (sea salt, pepper, cinnamon, cloves, oregano, basil)
  • veggies

Wash, peel (if necessary) and cut veggies into bite size chunks (the smaller they are, the faster they’ll cook).

Toss prepared vegetables with chosen oil and seasonings.

Pour into pan and roast at 350 degrees F for about 45 min.

Serve hot or cold!

What’s your favorite vegetable?

Ever tried roasting it? Please share your recipe!

On mindful eating; what a hospital stay can teach you

Today’s the last day to have your name entered in my first year blogiversary giveaway. Go, read, comment and hope to win!

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Last week I spent six days largely confined to a hospital room. No, not mine, I’m fine thank you. My 9-year old daughter’s. She had pneumonia (better now, thanks again) and was stuck in bed on oxygen and IV antibiotics.

To say that my usually full schedule was thrown for a loop is an understatement. Not only did I miss a week’s worth of workouts (in retrospect, I’m referring to it as a ‘planned rest week’), but I also desperately missed my refrigerator and kitchen cupboards.

I’ve been in hospitals enough this past year to be completely familiar with the cafeteria’s offerings. Heavy on the starchy carbs, fats and processed sugars with very few ‘clean’ meals available. The irony of a place of healing serving such unhealthy food never ceases to amaze me. (Immediately after childbirth, new moms are continually hounded by the nursing staff as to whether they’ve had a bowel movement; certainly a lot harder when the only fruit you’re served comes wrapped in jello and veggies are canned and overcooked. But I digress.)

Source

So I did what I usually do when I’m out of the house for the day. I pack my cooler in the morning. Lots of fresh veggies, cut and washed. Two servings of low sugar fruit. Cooked chicken breasts and hard-boiled eggs. Some unsalted nuts and a bit of brown rice or sweet potato to fill me up. And water, of course. Plenty of water. (And my sister brought me a ME-approved protein bar which I absolutely loved; thanks sis!)

I ate my planned meals and snacks when I was hungry, as opposed to when the clock said I should. I drank lots of water (why are hospitals always so dry?) and minimal coffee (if it’s not Italian espresso, it’s not worth sipping :)). Most nights I went to bed a wee bit hungry (can’t remember when the last time that happened was).

At the end of the week, I came home and hopped on the scales. Down 3 pounds in 6 days.

Pretty sure that it’s neither water weight (light colored pee, you know) nor muscle (no measurable change in strength according to Sunday and Monday’s workouts). Plus, my belly is flat(ter).

What happened? I know exactly what I did differently.

Without continuous access to my refrigerator and pantry, I ate only the foods I packed for myself in the morning. In the morning. When I have complete control of my faculties and am determined that ‘today’ is going to be the cleanest day yet.

There was no opportunity to grab another handful of nuts or a (home made) protein bar or a piece of bread. Those little extras are never consumed mindfully; sometimes I catch myself eating without even realizing that I’ve opened the refrigerator or cupboard door. Without ever having felt hungry in the first place. Without thinking about how those additional calories would impact my fitness and nutrition goals.

This week, back at home in my kitchen, I’m taking extra care. I’ve returned to planning my nutrition a day in advance. Packing up single servings of leftovers to eat for lunch the following day. Thinking hard about whether or not I’m hungry when I venture into the kitchen for a snack.

Thankful to a hospital stay for the reminder to eat mindfully again.

Have you ever found yourself eating something and been unable to remember the act of preparing it or removing it from the fridge or the cupboard?

What time of day do you find it most difficult to be mindful of your nutrition? 

Do you have any strategies that you use to reduce mindless eating? I’d love to hear them!

The thing about willpower

For the last two weeks I’ve been participating in the ‘No sugar challenge’. Attempting to increase my awareness of the ingredients in the products I buy and rid my diet of unnecessary, added sugars.

All in all, it went pretty well. I have more energy, my mood is more even, the ‘afternoon slump’ has disappeared and I’ve signed up for another round just to make sure the changes I’ve made get a chance to become habits.

What’s been most surprising about the challenge are the responses I get from others when I tell them about it.

“But I can’t drink my coffee without sugar”

“I need a cookie or a ____ (insert your vice here) mid-afternoon to get through my day”

“I wish I had your willpower

Balderdash.

The words ‘can’t’ and ‘need’ imply that some terrible fate will befall you if you don’t indulge. Yes, your coffee might taste different without the sugar, but give yourself a week to re-train your taste buds and you won’t miss it (trust me, I just gave up a 20 year addiction to chocolate syrup in my morning coffee and the world didn’t come to an end). No, you don’t need that mid-afternoon treat, try a piece of fruit instead; in a few days it will seem sweet enough and as an added bonus, they’ll be no pre-dinner sugar crash!

As for ‘willpower’, it’s not some magical virtue that you either have or don’t have. We are all tempted by something, be it food, alcohol or expensive yarn. It’s simple impulse control. Making a thoughtful decision about what you will or won’t do, knowing that your decision has consequences and may hinder or help you to reach your goals.

We expect children to control their impulses to hit their friends. As adults, we practice impulse control on a daily basis. We refrain from telling our boss what we really think of him. Although we may be tempted, we don’t ram our car into the vehicle that just cut us off. We don’t tell our best friend that her new boyfriend is a cad. Yet when it comes to food, we blame our inability to curb those impulses on ‘willpower’.

The thing about ‘willpower’ is, it’s just a word we use to rationalize poor decisions.

This week, practice making mindful decisions about nutrition. Think about the consequences of your actions before you indulge. Make a habit of controlling your impulses. Join me in the two week no sugar challenge.

Before you know it, your friends will be commenting on your ‘willpower’!

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?)!

The day after; let’s talk turkey

Yesterday morning started much the same as any other day. My hubby brought my coffee to me in bed, as he has done nearly every single day of our marriage, thirteen and a half years ago (a habit he gleaned from his father, who brought his mother coffee in bed nearly every single day of their fifty-year marriage; a good omen, I think!). I took a sip and reached for my iPad to check my mail.

“Checking mail….. Checking mail….. Checking mail…..”

This went on for five or six minutes and just when I was about to get out of bed to restart the wireless router (we often have wireless problems in our house..), my Inbox icon flashed, showing over 100 messages. Well above my usual volume and suspiciously high given the Easter Monday holiday.

Closer inspection revealed that almost all of the messages were from WordPress. More specifically, notifications of comments and subscriptions and ‘likes’ on my recent blog post (All I need to know about exercise I learned from knitting).

Waiting for the caffeine to hit my brain, I started scrolling through your comments, trying to understand why so many readers had happened upon my blog, today of all days. Finally, I came to a comment congratulating me on being ‘Freshly Pressed’. Huh?

Now I’ve only been blogging for six months or so and while I read a lot of fitness and nutrition blogs, I had never searched WordPress for new ones to add to my blog roll. I quickly navigated to the WordPress main page and saw, to my surprise, a snapshot from my blog listed under the heading ‘Freshly Pressed’. Oh wow. I get it now! (For those of you who don’t, ‘Freshly Pressed’ is a WordPress feature that regularly highlights recent blog posts of general interest).

The remainder of my day was spent on the couch, alternating between knitting (I started something new!) and moderating and replying to your comments on my post. (I also confess to continuously updating the ‘Site statistics’ to see how many times the post had been viewed now; I couldn’t seem to stop myself).

Let me start by thanking you all for your congratulations, your insights, your enthusiasm and your humor! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your responses to my work and was amazed to find that my commentary resonated with so many. (Several of you wanted to know about the knitting patterns I featured and whether or not I gave up entirely on the blue-grey shawl. Check out my responses at the very bottom of this post!). Along the way, I clicked on your blog links. I read post after post after post and am humbled by the incredible talent out there in the blogging world.

Given the magnitude of the response to Sunday’s post, I found myself worrying about what I should write about next. Certainly not anything too fluffy (or ‘half squeezed’, as it were). Definitely not vacation pics. Or Easter egg hunt photos of the kids. What if my new readers don’t find my next post so interesting? The fear of a ‘sophomore slump’ was stressing me out.

As I was tucking my oldest child into bed, I voiced these concerns to him. He paused for a moment and then said (with the brilliant insight and wisdom only the young and innocent seem to possess),

Write what you always write, Mom. Just be yourself“. So I will and I am.

We had turkey for Easter dinner. A big turkey. And since there are only five of us, that means leftovers. Lots of them. Here’s what I’m doing with them, Clean Eating style, of course (if you don’t celebrate Easter or don’t eat turkey, you may be excused; see you again soon!).

Turkey and cranberry quesadillas (makes 1 serving);

  • 3 oz sliced turkey breast (skinless)
  • 1 Tbsp dried cranberries (preferably unsweetened)
  • diced onion (have as much as you like)
  • 1/2 cup sliced yellow peppers
  • 1 cup spinach leaves
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 8-inch whole grain tortilla
  • 1 tsp crumbled feta cheese
  1.  Warm olive oil in a small frying pan over medium heat.
  2. Add onions and saute until translucent (5-7 min)
  3. Add cranberries and peppers, stirring constantly until vegetables start to carmelize
  4. Add spinach leaves, stirring until wilted.
  5. Place tortilla on a lightly greased cookie sheet. Place turkey and carmelized vegetable mixture on one half of tortilla. Cover with feta. Fold the other half of the tortilla over, covering filling.
  6. Bake in a 350 F oven for 5-7 min, or until brown and cheese is melted.
(Calorie count will be in the 350-450 range, depending on whether you used unsweetened cranberries and whether your cheese was low fat).

Turkey, leek and rice soup (makes 4 servings);
Turkey soup is a tradition in our house. It looks a little different each time we make it (I usually improvise with whatever ingredients are in my fridge). This one is my very favorite.
  • turkey carcass, minus the skin and meat
  • as much turkey meat as you like
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 large leeks, white stalks only
  • 2 cups pre-cooked brown rice
  • 1/4 cup thinly slice sundried tomatoes
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Place turkey carcass in a large stock pot. Cover with water and bring to a boil.
  2. Add fresh herbs (or not; I like thyme and parsley), simmer for an hour.
  3. Strain stock into a clean pot, removing bones and whatever’s left of the bird.
  4. In a clean stock pot, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  5. Add diced leeks and sundried tomatoes. Saute until leeks are soft.
  6. Add 6-8 cups of prepared stock and turkey.
  7. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
  8. Add rice, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat for an additional 5 minutes.
This soup is wonderful with a crusty, whole grain bread. 
Bon apetit!
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1. The sock pattern is Monkey by Cookie A. It was knit in Soho sock yarn by Saffron Dyeworks.
2. I did finish the blue-grey shawl; I just didn’t work on it in the evening. The pattern is Little Leaves by Susanna IC. It was knit in Enya by Saffron Dyeworks.
3. The stranded colorwork sweater pattern is Camp Hoodie by Susan B. Anderson. I finished it yesterday and will post modeled pics tomorrow on Ravelry!

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?

But what do you eat?

Despite the wealth of information out there about eating for health, weight loss and muscle gain, I believe that most people are still confused when it comes to nutrition. That they think there is some magic formula for eating correctly and reaching their health and fitness goals.

The evidence? Almost daily, in the gym, in the grocery store, after teaching a group fitness or indoor cycling class, someone approaches me and asks “but what do you eat?”. I’m assuming that they want my opinion because I teach fitness classes and look strong and lean (feel free to correct me if you think I’m wrong).

I don’t follow any specific diet. Not Atkins or Weight Watchers or The Zone. I don’t count calories or points. I have a cookie when I feel like it (but only one). I have a weakness for chocolate. What, then, do I eat?

For the last three years, I have been following the tenets of Clean Eating;

  • eating 5 or 6 small meals per day
  • drinking lots and lots of water
  • consuming whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats at each meal
  • limiting my alcohol consumption (no more than 2 glasses per week)
  • avoiding processed and packaged foods (no crackers or store-bought cookies)
  • attempting (ahem) to eliminate white sugar (this one is really hard for me)

I didn’t always eat this way. My husband is Italian and we used to eat lots of pasta, often with creamy sauces and fresh-from-the-bakery bread. I would happily eat a Starbucks muffin for lunch, thinking that because it was a ‘bran’ muffin, it was good for me. Cheese and crackers were a common evening snack (with a glass of vino, of course!).

After the birth of my third child, I started lifting weights. My body responded quickly to this new (to me) form of exercise (although I went from a size 12 to a size 6-8, I lost virtually no weight on the scales!) and I began to get serious about the nutritional side of fitness.

So, what do I eat?

I always eat breakfast (the best way to lose weight and maintain muscle). Usually it’s the remains of my children’s home-made, whole-grain waffles (I add quinoa flakes and whey powder for extra protein, flax seed, wheat germ and wheat bran for fiber and healthy fat), dressed with a bit of non-fat yogurt and some fruit. I don’t drink juice; water is much better for you!

Mid-morning snack is usually fruit and nuts (and only a few; although they are a great source of healthy fat, nuts are extremely high in calories), although if I’ve had a tough workout, this is when I’ll have my fruit and whey powder shake.

Lunch is always veggies and lean protein; cottage cheese or turkey or left-over chicken mixed with a cup or two of whatever raw veggies are in the fridge (my favorites are red and yellow peppers, cucumbers and spinach). No dressing, but a handful of unsalted sunflower or pumpkin seeds for crunch and healthy fat.

Mid-afternoon snack might be an apple or banana and peanut butter (no salt, no sugar added), or a brown rice cake with almond butter.

Dinner is always lots of greens (I’m loving kale, right now) and lean protein (about 4 oz). If I’m needing a bit more energy (days I teach and train, or when I have to teach in the evening), I’ll add a whole grain (couscous, quinoa, brown rice) or starchy vegetable (sweet potato, squash) to the meal. During the week, I usually make a fruit salad for dessert.

Some evenings I find that I need a snack (whole grain cereal and 1% milk or fruit and yogurt), some evenings I don’t.

My daily splurges? A teaspoon of chocolate syrup in my coffee, a ‘clean’ cookie or muffin that I’ve baked myself.

My weekly splurges? A glass of wine on Friday and maybe Saturday night. A small piece of some decadent dessert on Friday and Sunday evenings (those are ‘dessert nights’ in my house, without which my children would not be so patient with the rest of the healthy foods I present them with during the week).

There’s really nothing magical about eating healthily; eliminating white sugar and white flour is tricky at the start, but with practice and some good recipes, you’ll be eating clean (and losing fat!) before you know it.