Happy Holidays from the RFC

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The RFC is closed during winter break, but don’t miss out on a chance to burn a few of those extra holiday calories with the RFC’s 12 Days of Fitness Workout by Pam Cole!  Please check with your health care provider prior to starting a new exercise routine.

Photos by Edie Henninger.

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Sweet Season for Giving


Candy

We want to extend a huge thank you to everyone who donated their leftover (and excess) Halloween candy this year, you outdid yourselves!! We tipped the scales at more than 265 pounds of candy- 45 more pounds than we collected last year!

So what happened to ALL that candy? Well, we are happy to report that we were able to donate the candy to NCPacks4Patriots. The candy, along with other items such as holiday decorations, games, food, toiletries, and more will be distributed to our deserving service men and women, both local and deployed.

SAS is a Hero

CandyBoxesKeith Stallings from NCPacks4Patriots happily picked up 12 boxes of candy…yes, 12!...to deliver to NC Packs4Patriots. Keith later told us:

“Your generous donation saved the day! NCPacks4Patriots has received very little candy from Halloween donations this year, and the 265 lbs you donated were a welcome sight and a big hit.

We stuffed 510 stockings for military personnel stationed overseas. These particular stockings will be distributed to the crews of the USS George Washington and USS Carl Vinson, two aircraft carriers. 510 stockings for over 10,000 sailors might not sound like much, but it’s a big deal when it’s combined with the donations from other organizations. Plus, the sailors who get the stockings will share them with their teams! Trust me- you touched a lot of lives with your donation.

Thanks again for helping NCPacks4Patriots bring a smile to so many of our military personnel who will be away from home during the holidays.”

CandyDropOff

And there’s more good news! Less than half of the candy was used to create the stockings, so your donation is going to touch many, many more lives.

Once again, the SAS family has displayed a kindness that is very appropriate for the holiday season. Thank you for putting your candy to a good cause; Treats for Trade was yet again a huge success!!

Sugar Cookie Foot Scrub
Makes ½ pint
Recipe from: soletshangout.com

sugarscrub

Having a hard time figuring out what to get the people in your life that have everything? How about a DIY Foot Scrub that smells just like sugar cookies?!

This unique and thoughtful gift can be whipped up in minutes with just a few pantry staples. Pair it with some warm, fuzzy socks and you’ve got the perfect gift set! The holidays can be a stressful time, so be sure to save a little for yourself- your feet will thank you later!

Ingredients

sugarscrub_ingred

2/3 cup granulated white sugar
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp vanilla extract

1 half pint glass jar
Ribbon or baker’s twine
Label

Directions

1. In a medium sized bowl, whisk sugars until completely combined.

sugarscrub_step1

2. Add olive oil and vanilla extract and mash together with a fork until all of the oil is combined into the sugars.

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3. Pack mixture into glass jar.

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4. Tie a decorative bow around the mouth of the jar with festive ribbon or baker’s twine. Create your own label or use this printable version. Adhere label to front of jar and/or lid.

SugarScrubLabel

5. Give as a gift or enjoy yourself! Stored in a cool, dry place, this scrub should last several months.

Notes: I placed a piece of clear packing tape on top of the label to adhere it to the jar. This will help make it more “water resistant” and help the label stay on the jar better.

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Holiday Nachos

What Kind of Holidays Do You Want?

Do you like your holiday filled with lots of parties or do you prefer a quiet walk in the woods with a friend? Do you love bumping elbows with thousands of shoppers at the mall or relaxing at home with family?

These are good questions because what’s good for one may not be good for another.

KindofHolidayYouWant_122014This little exercise has been around a long time. It’s one of my favorite thought provokers this time of year as I've learned over the decades that holiday hopes and expectations can be very different from one person to the next. Take time this season to determine how you would like to spend your time and share this activity with family members so that everyone understands each other’s expectations. This can create balance in your household and hopefully tone down some holiday tension.

Click image above for a printable version.

 

Holiday Nachos
Makes 8 servings
Adapted from: Addictive & Healthy Paleo Nachos by Rebecca Bohl

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Since holiday menus are often heavy on the carbs, lighten your load this season with these colorful, lower carb nachos that will set off a sprinkler system in your mouth.

These nachos are perfect for holiday parties, family gatherings and, of course, Super Bowl XLIX! You can make the chips and meat topping ahead of time and reheat when needed. (See Chef’s Notes on how to "Refresh" the sweet potato chips.) The homemade sweet potato chips add a noticeable freshness so I highly recommend taking the effort to make them but if you’re in a real time crunch you can use high quality packaged sweet potato chips.

Personalize the spiciness by changing up the canned tomatoes and type of chili pepper you choose. I like mine mild so I used fire roasted canned tomatoes, a Poblano pepper and a little less cumin. YUM!!!

Ingredients for the sweet potato chips:

nacho_ingredients

3 medium sweet potatoes
3 Tbsp melted coconut oil or olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Instructions for the sweet potatoes:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. Peel the sweet potatoes and slice thinly, using either a mandolin or sharp knife (use the thinness slicer blade on your mandolin).

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3. In a large bowl, toss sweet potato slices with coconut oil or olive oil.

4. Place the chips in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Sprinkle with salt.

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5. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then flip the chips over and bake for another 10 minutes.

6. For the last ten minutes, watch the chips closely and pull off any chips that start to brown, until all of the chips are cooked.

Chef’s Notes About the Chips:

1. It can be tricky to get these chips crisp without burning them. If you find your chips burning, you can lower the oven temperature to 350 and cook them a little longer.

2. Refreshing Day-Old Chips

These chips can become limp after a few hours or overnight, so if you have leftovers, place them in a freezer-strength zip top bag and “refresh” them, if needed, the next time you eat them.

To refresh, place the chips on a baking sheet and put them into a preheated 325 degree F oven for about 5 – 8 minutes. This takes the moisture out and crisps them up beautifully. Watch them closely so they won’t burn. They will become a little darker than before but they are still delicious!

Ingredients for the meat:

meat_ingred

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 green chili, diced
1 lb. 90/10 lean ground beef (preferably grass fed)
1- 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp tomato paste
12 oz. canned diced tomatoes (spicy or mild) - drained
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Instructions for the meat:

7. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and chili pepper to the pan and sauté for 3-4 minutes until softened.

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8. Add the ground beef and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring regularly.

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9. Add the garlic, diced canned tomatoes, tomato paste, and remaining spices and stir well to combine.

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10. Bring the mixture to a simmer and then turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring regularly.

Ingredients for the garnish:

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3 Roma tomatoes, diced and seeded
2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
1-2 Tbsp lime juice
1-2 fresh avocados, chopped
2 Tbsp green onions, chopped

Instructions for the garnish:

11. Stir the chopped tomatoes, lime juice, and cilantro into the beef mixture.

garnish_step1

12. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat.

13. To assemble the nachos, form a large circle with the sweet potato chips on a platter. Add the beef mixture into the middle of the circle, and then top with fresh avocado and green onions.

nachos

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Tis the season to D.R.E.A.M.

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 Cheryl
 
Happy December!  Meet Cheryl Wheelock, Program Coordinator at the Recreation and Fitness Center and this week's contributor to Inspirations. Cheryl has worked in fitness for 17 years and joined the SAS RFC team two years ago.  In addition to teaching group exercise, she is a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine and  is a Registered Yoga Teacher.  When she's not teaching fitness and wellness at SAS, she's is out and about with her husband, two daughters and black lab or miles away pedaling her road bike.
 

Did you know???

  • The largest gingerbread man in the world is Gingerbread House ALP 2013a dieter’s nightmare, weighing in at a whopping 466 pounds, six ounces.  The Gingerbread House, in Rochester, Minnesota, baked the giant cookie on February 21, 2006.
  • An average of 5,800 people end up in the ER after suffering injuries from holiday decorating.
  • Dreaming of a green Christmas? Household waste increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. In the United States, trash from wrapping paper and shopping bags totals 4 million tons.

YIKES!

As 2014 quickly comes to a close, and the holiday season is upon us, it is both a magical and busy time of year. Spending time with family and friends near and far, watching the sparkle in our children’s eyes, indulging in delicious food and drink, getting cozy in the warmth of a fireplace, and the possibility of snow… It’s easy to see how we can get swept away in the magic. Yet, for some of us, the holiday season can also bring moments of stress and anxiety.  How will we possibly find time around work schedules and daily routines to tackle the necessary prep and planning, gift giving, cooking, cleaning, and decorating?  The list goes on and on. We can easily become overwhelmed and the magic quickly dissolves. Knowing these feelings are inevitable, I sit and ask myself, how I can avoid the the stress and truly experience the joy of the holiday season?

DREAM

Delegate: I have learned that it is perfectly acceptable to ask for help from family and friends. You and I don’t have to do everything and they want to help.  Some of our greatest and most joyful memories are created in the process of sharing responsibilities with others.  Take a moment now to fill in the blank for yourself:  “Remember that time when….?”

Realistic: Yes, there is a plan in place, but recognizing that things will most likely not turn out exactly as you planned.  Accepting that things will happen and being OK with that, is freeing.

Expectations: Opening the mind to accept change and new traditions. In many cases we’re mixing 2 or more families with traditions of their own.  Rather than thinking negatively and/or stressing about how to combine all these traditions, it’s a way of refreshing what has always been.

Acknowledge: Know when to step away. Take a break.  Breathe.  Put your feet up and rest. Taking some personal time to unwind walking, reading, listening to music, or maybe even treating yourself to a massage can help you reset, relax, and enjoy the….

......Moments:  Enjoy and hold on to each and every one….because this is where the magic lives.

holiday wish

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The A to Zzz's of Sleep

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With Turkey Day coming up in a couple days, one thing I know I'm looking forward to is help from my parents, so my husband and I can catch up on some much needed sleep....oh the joys of being parents of little guys!  This week, I'm pleased to introduce Brittany Skillman, Senior Recreation and Fitness Program Coordinator and mother of two sweet little ones and sleepless nights as well.  A chronic lack of sleep is not just for parents of young children!  According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), "it is estimated that 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting health and longevity." 

 And now, The A to Zzz's of Sleep from Brittany:

Brittany Skillman

I’m literally yawning as I write this. And no, not because it’s boring, but because I, like many others, am sleep deprived. As a mom of two young kids, one of whom hates to sleep, I feel I am in a constant state of fatigue.  Yet here I am writing about sleep. Consequently, I’m also dreaming about and longing for it! While I know my situation is temporary, for many, sleep is an on-going battle. Whether you’re a night-owl by nature, lover of the snooze button or wild dreamer, we all have two things in common when it comes to sleep – we all do it and likely don’t get enough of it.

Besides knowing we need to sleep, we don’t necessarily realize all of the benefits sleep provides.  Our mental and physical health are linked to quality sleep (more on the quality part in a bit).  Regarding our physical health, ongoing deficient sleep has been linked with an increased risk for heart disease, kidney disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and stroke. Our immune system also relies on sleep to stay healthy. From a mental and emotional standpoint, our brains don’t work properly if we are sleep deprived. That much should be obvious. Think about how you feel after a night of poor sleep—sluggish, moody, irritable, to name a few of the nicer things. We can struggle to concentrate, cope, problem solve, communicate well, and even learn. Essentially every body system and function is impacted by our shut-eye time.  Have I convinced you yet that you need to sleep more?! Great! Now, we need to understand that when it comes to sleep, quality and quantity matter.

On average, Americans get less than 7 hours of sleep each night; however, most of us actually need between 7.5 and 9 hours for optimal functioning and performance. But just because you rocked out 10 hours Saturday night while your kids slept at Grandma’s, doesn’t mean you’re all caught up either. We repay our “sleep debt” over time, not all at once. And throwing in an occasional sleep binge might throw us off even more, as it interferes with our circadian, or body’s, rhythm. One thing we know for sure is that not all sleep is created equal. Sleep happens in stages throughout the night and we cycle through each stage several times. When we are awakened will determine how rested (or not) we feel the next day.  Ensuring we get into all stages of sleep (light sleep, deep/restorative and REM/dream sleep) is key. So let’s talk about ways to help you (and me) get better, and more, sleep.

  1. Make it a priorityscreen-shot-169x300

Sleep is often one of the first things we forego in our never-ending attempt to do it all. We stay up late to finish working and wake up early to cross more off our to-do lists. Think about what we might accomplish, and how amazing we’d feel, if we had gotten that extra hour of sleep and been refreshed and energized to tackle our day. Give yourself a bedtime. We do it for our kids for this same reason—so they’re not a ‘cranky pants’ the next day. Do yourself that same favor.

 

  1. Limit caffeine

I know, I know; it sounds counter-intuitive. But that 4pm triple latte stays with you and can make falling asleep that much harder. Needing caffeine and needing sleep make for a vicious cycle.  After a few days without your constant flow of caffeine, you’ll adjust. While you’re at it, drink more water so you’re better hydrated and give yourself some natural energy!

coffee

  1. Exercise

For those without serious sleep issues (such as insomnia and sleep apnea), exercise and sleep go hand-in-hand. You exercise to fatigue your body and mind and then sleep more soundly at night. And for those who exercise a lot or withExercise greater intensity, sleep becomes that much more crucial for your body to recover so that you can kill that next workout. However, for those who struggle with underlying sleep disorders, exercising doesn't always help sleep in the short-term. It often takes making it a habit for a few months in order to reap the sleep benefits. Why? Research is still working on that one...  What we do know though, is that habitual exercise is good for our minds, bodies and our ability to sleep better (eventually).  So come see us at the RFC for a class, swim or workout session. We’re good at tiring people out!

 

  1. Chill out

Our typical go, go, go mentality can make it hard to turn off our brains at night. Taking time to unwind at the end of each day can do wonders for helping you fall asleep and stay asleep. Try reading a book instead of watching TV, meditating for a few minutes instead of playing on your iPad or even doing a few gentle stretches (see Amanda’s Relax with Yoga this holiday season post). Reducing sensory input cues our brains to slow down, which makes it easier to relax.

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I hope you’re able to implement these tricks and will “sleep like a baby” tonight. (Side note: I much prefer the phrase “sleep like a husband” because mine is the soundest of them all. My baby, not so much!) So until next time, good night.

_______________

Personal Training Coordinator, Brittany Skillman has worked in the RFC at SAS for 8 years.  She holds degrees in both Exercise and Sport Science and Psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and holds multiple professional certifications. A Raleigh native, Brittany spends her free time with her family, including husband and fellow SAS employee, Shawn, daughter Tatum and son Penn. 

 

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Cream of Something...Or Other

condensedcreamof

When I think of Cream of Something Soups, I immediately envision iconic 1950s ads of creamy casseroles made by happy, smiling home cooks in aprons and pearls. My second thought then quickly turns to: what are those cream of...something or other...soups really made of?!

The answer:
WATER, MUSHROOMS, VEGETABLE OIL (CORN, COTTONSEED, CANOLA, AND/OR SOYBEAN), MODIFIED FOOD STARCH, WHEAT FLOUR, SALT, MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE, SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE, DEHYDRATED CREAM (CREAM [MILK], SOY LECITHIN), YEAST EXTRACT, FLAVORING, DEHYDRATED GARLIC.

This is the why I have avoided any recipe that includes "cream of" in the ingredient list for years. However, I have now discovered that you can easily make your own Cream of Something Soup at home with just 7 ingredients- all of which you can recognize and pronounce!

To make Cream of Mushroom Soup, follow this simple recipe:

HomemadeCreamOfMushroom

The beauty of making homemade cream of something soups is you can control the ingredients. Once you get a hang of the base recipe, you can make Cream of Just About Anything Soup by swapping out ½ cup of whatever main ingredient you need: cooked chicken, mushrooms, celery, asparagus, etc.

Can’t consume gluten? No worries, simply substitute cornstarch for flour. Use this table as a guide for modifying the original soup base to meet your dietary needs.

Soup Base Substitutions
 
 

No "Cream Of" Green Bean Casserole
Makes 6 Servings

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Try this fresh twist on the classic green bean casserole at your next family gathering using your own cream of mushroom soup and homemade french “fried” onion topping.

Ingredients

greenbean_ingred
3 cans (14.5oz each) green beans, no added salt, drained*
1 batch of homemade "cream of" mushroom soup (see recipe above)

French "Fried" Topping:
1 ½ onions, thinly sliced into rings
¼ cup flour
2 Tbsp panko bread crumbs
Salt, to taste

Directions

  1. For the topping, preheat oven to 475°F. Combine onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl. Toss to combine.
  2. Cover a sheet pan with foil and coat with nonstick cooking spray. Evenly spread onions on the pan in a single layer. Place pan in oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Toss onions 2-3 times during cooking. Remove from oven when done and set aside.
  3. Turn oven down to 350°F. Combine "cream of" mushroom soup, green beans, and half of the cooked onions.
  4. Pour into a casserole or glass baking dish.
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes or until bubbly. Top with remaining half of onions the last 5 minutes.

casserole

*If you choose to use fresh green beans, first blanch them for 5 minutes in boiling water.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories: 160, Total Fat: 8gm, Saturated Fat: 5gm, Cholesterol: 20mg, Sodium: 300mg, Carbs: 18gm, Fiber: 4gm, Protein: 5gm

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Feed Your Skin

When we think of acne, we typically think of teenagers and raging hormones. However, there has been an upsurge of adult acne over the last 50 years. Why, you ask? Well, one probable cause is changes to our food supply and dietary habits.

Nutritional voids and dietary excess can have a significant impact on the degree of acne a person experiences. Research has proven time and time again that there are strong causal connections between certain kinds of food and acne. Inflammation, oxidative stress, hormonal imbalance and spikes in blood sugar fan the flames of acne. Some foods promote these processes while others suppress and regulate them.

The Clear Skin Diet

The Clear Skin Diet by Drs. Logan and Treloar summarizes current research on acne and ways to protect the skin through diet and lifestyle. The 4 main principles of the Clear Skin Diet are sleep, relaxation response, exercise and diet.

Clear Skin Diet Action Plan_compressed

*Click the image above to view larger.

Acne-Friendly Foods

Michael Pollan pretty much hit the nail on the head with his advice to: "Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants." If you can follow this mantra, you’ll be well on your way to consuming an acne-friendly diet. To help lessen the severity of acne, incorporate the following foods into your diet:

  • Produce: aim for a minimum of 5 servings of deeply colored fruits and vegetables daily. Studies show acne patients are less frequent consumers of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables. More color equals more antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals- all of which help fight inflammation and, in turn, acne!
  • Protein: choose fish (especially oily wild caught and small fish), lean meat and poultry (preferably grass-fed or free range; consider limiting red meat to once a week), eggs (from free range, cage-free chickens which produce eggs with higher omega-3 content), and soy in moderation (choose non-GMO products).
  • Carbohydrates: opt for whole grains like quinoa, bulgar, barley or brown rice. Breads and pastas should be limited and enjoyed in their whole grain form.
  • Fats/Oil: reach for extra virgin olive oil, canola oil or omega-3 rich oils like flaxseed or walnut.
  • Herbs and Spices: try adding ginger, turmeric and cinnamon to your recipes.
  • Nuts: experiment with different types and be cautious of potential allergies, exacerbation of acne and indigestibility. This is very individualized. Some nuts may actually cause breakouts while others have no effect. Also consider the way nuts are prepared. For example, peanuts in their natural shell may be okay while prepackaged versions fried in vegetables oils may be a problem.
  • Beverages: green tea (the real thing, not the sugar laden, ready-to-drink bottled varieties), tomato juice, 100% vegetable juices and water.

Check out this Clear Skin Diet Foods List for suggested foods to include, limit and exclude as well as a shopping list. Experiment with a wide variety of foods! You may find that certain foods on the okay list are absolute acne aggravators for you and need to be moved to the Foods to Exclude category.

Clear Skin Prescription

saladLess processed foods

More colorful antioxidants

Greater intake of omega-3 fatty acids

Increased consumption of fiber

More lower glycemic foods that won’t spike blood sugars

 

Okra and Brown Rice with Salmon
Recipe Adapted from: The Clear Skin Diet by Drs. Logan and Treloar
Makes 4 Servings

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Ingredients
salmon_okra_ingred
3 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp tomato paste
20 pieces fresh okra, caps removed, sliced into 1-inch rounds
½ tsp salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup brown rice, dry
¼ cup chopped fresh basil
1 large tomato, diced
4 salmon fillets, cooked (4oz each)*

Directions

1. In a saucepan, heat water, oil and tomato paste over medium heat.

2. Add okra, salt, and pepper and sauté 5-7 minutes or until okra begins to caramelize.

3. Cook rice according to package directions.

4. Flake cooked salmon with a fork into small pieces.

5. Once rice is done, stir in okra mixture, basil and diced tomato and mix well.

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6. Stir in flaked salmon.

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*Choose wild caught Pacific salmon when possible as opposed to farmed salmon. Wild caught salmon is higher in omega-3 fatty acids. For a time-saver, you can use canned wild caught salmon instead of fillets.

Nutrition Information per Serving: Calories: 420, Total Fat: 13gm, Saturated Fat: 2gm, Cholesterol: 70mg, Sodium: 460mg, Carbs: 42gm, Fiber: 5gm, Protein: 34gm

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Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

PamMeet Pam Cole, Senior Manager of the Recreation and Fitness Center and this week's contributor to the Inspirations blog.  Pam has been at SAS Institute for over 20 years and has worked in fitness for over 25 years.  An avid Tarheel fan, Pam graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a double major in Communications and Radio Television Motion Pictures.  She began teaching group exercise classes while in Chapel Hill and still loves it.  In addition to teaching group exercise, she is a certified personal trainer with the National Sports Performance Association as a Pre and Post-Rehab Exercise Specialist.  In her spare time, she likes to garden, do rehab projects on her home and cook.

....and now a word from Pam on Thanksgiving and Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving Did You KnowThanksgiving is just around the corner.  This time of year causes me once again to ponder how we arrived at our modern traditions of rushing to get the house cleaned, giant balloons at the Macy’s Day parade, hours of cooking to prepare the turkey, stuffing and all the fixings, followed by football and  perhaps a few well-deserved hours of lying on the couch or recliner.   And did I mention the shopping?!  Don’t get me wrong – I look forward to it every year.

We generally think of the thanksgiving holiday having its roots back in the time of the Pilgrims and a celebration for a good harvest.   While that is widely accepted in the US, the holiday goes back further than that. In English tradition, Puritans wanted to get away from church holidays and replaced them with Days of Fasting or Days of Thanksgiving.   Days of Fasting would represent a disaster such as a plague or flood, whereas a Day of Thanksgiving might be celebrated following a victory.  In Canada, the tradition might be traced back to an explorer, Martin Forbisher, who celebrated a successful journey from England.

There are many other Thanksgiving celebrations held throughout the world, with a wide variety of origins as well.  All seem to go back to a celebration or observation of giving thanks for some event.

Research has proven that giving thanks or gratitude can increase our happiness and well-being.  (See more in the inspirations blog on Happiness and Gratitude.)  One of the quickest ways to improve our emotional energy is to simply list the things we are grateful for.  Go ahead and try it now.  Take one minute to write or name those things or people you are thankful for.  Was it easy?  Could you have listed more?  Do you feel any differently?

Here are just a few of the things I am thankful for this holidays season and throughout the year.

*  Family and loved ones.  I know it’s cliché, but Bath Creek Stables Turkeys by Carol PrestonI am more grateful for these people in my life than words can express.

*  A great place to work, awesome co-workers and the wonderful participants at the RFC!

*  All our modern conveniences, technology, medicine and the  like.

So what are you thankful for? And how do you spend your Thanksgiving?

 

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The Perfect Diet

We seem to hear about new diets almost on a weekly basis. Many of these diets will come and go, but here are some that have been around for a very long time. There are also heated debates around what diet is the best: Vegetarian, Vegan, Paleo, Low Carb, High Carb, Low Fat, etc. Most of the research around diets is confusing and conflicting. One study might show that it’s beneficial and the next study will show that it’s not. There are many issues around researching diets in humans. They are very difficult to do logistically, and can take years if not decades to get good data from. But that’s a whole other story.

So, how can we figure out what the "perfect diet" is? Obviously there are ethical and religious reasons someone might choose a specific diet; this is not what I’m talking about here. I’m referring to diets, or eating patterns, people choose because they think it is healthy.

Earlier this year, I was at the annual conference for the Institute for Functional Medicine in San Francisco and one of my favorite parts of this whole conference was the food panel on the first day. They had 3 of the leading nutrition experts present on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, Paleo diet and a primarily vegetarian diet.

They talked about all the research that backs up their claims around how beneficial their "diets" are. Pick any topic and I can almost guarantee that you can find studies that both "prove" it’s beneficial and that it’s not. Confusing isn’t it?

First of all, one thing to keep in mind is there is no ONE Mediterranean diet or paleo diet or vegetarian diet. There are many variations of these diets, and when someone says they are vegetarian or paleo you can’t assume you know what they are eating. I’ve known plenty of vegetarians that lived on cheese quesadillas and French fries, or those that think they are eating Paleo by going to Wendy’s or McDonalds and just not eating the bun.

One thing this expert panel all agreed on is that we should eliminate processed foods from our diet. More specifically we should take out trans fats, refined sugar, and refined flour. They also agreed that we all need to be eating much more vegetables than most of us do.

MealCollage3

Why is it that the research is so conflicting? Because THERE IS NO ONE PERFECT DIET. We are all different. Our bodies respond to nutrients differently. This fairly recent revelation is what the field of Nutrigenomics is all about. Nutrigenomics is the study of how food affects our genes and how our individual genetic differences can affect the way we respond to nutrients. You will hear more about this in the future.

So what should you eat? Start out with real food. Ditch the processed junk and stick to real whole foods. Increase your intake of non-starchy vegetables. These are loaded with all sorts of amazing nutrients! Try new ones; try them cooked in different ways. Get a good variety on a regular basis. Then from there it might take some trial and error to find out how much meat works for you, if dairy makes you feel good or crummy, how do whole grains make you feel, etc. We all have our own "Perfect Diets" and that might even change overtime as well. Paying attention to how food makes our body feel can lead you in the right direction when choosing what to eat. Of course, we are here to help as well.

One of my favorite quotes that sums it all up:
"Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants."
Michael Pollan, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

 

Sheet Pan Roast Chicken Dinner
Recipe adapted from Cook’s Country
Serves 6

This is one of my favorite dinners!  It's simple, easy and really tasty!  You can use different vegetables and herbs, too.

roastchickendinner

Ingredients

roastchicken_ingred
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 lb Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
½ cup onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
4 tsp minced fresh thyme
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
¾ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 Tbsp butter, melted
3 ½ lbs bone-in chicken pieces
(thighs or leg quarters work well)

Directions

1. Arrange oven rack to upper middle position. Preheat oven to 475°F.

2. Toss vegetables with thyme, oil, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Spread vegetables in an even layer in a large sheet pan.

roastchicken_step1

3. Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place chicken on top of vegetables in sheet pan, arranged skin side up. Stir rosemary and melted butter together and brush evenly over chicken pieces. Roast approximately 35 minutes or until chicken is approximately 165°F. Rotate pan once halfway through cooking.

4. Remove from oven, loosely cover with aluminum foil and let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

roastchickendinner2

Nutrition Information per Serving: 300 calories, 13g fat, 4.5g saturated fat, 160mg cholesterol,480 mg sodium, 18g carbohydrates, 5g fiber, 34g protein

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Relax with Yoga this holiday season

Like many strong relationships, Yoga and I did not hit it off right away. I was in college enjoying strenuous exercise.  I’d run, take step, and get in some abs all in one day.  I was cardio crazy.  There was nothing better than heading out on the trails for a challenging run after sitting in class for several hours.  I loved to work out.  I loved to run.  I still do.  But, for some reason or another, my mind was calling for something else.  I was studying -  A LOT.  Something I never had to do before.  It was stressful.  I was really busy and always on the go.  My brain was begging for a break.  My migraines were progressively getting more frequent and more debilitating.  So, I walked into a yoga studio one afternoon.  “I’ll try yoga.”  I thought.  Can’t be that hard.  I can workout for hours.  I love fitness.  I hated yoga.  It. was. so. slooooowwww.  And it was hard to go that slow.  I wanted to like it.  I really did.  I tried again.  And again.  And again.  Somewhere along the 4th or 5th time I walked into that yoga studio, I finally found a class that moved.  I got sweaty as we flowed and then magic happened when we ended this hard workout with a long Savasana complete with lavender oil.  It was beautiful.  Perfect.  So relaxing.  I walked out of the studio that knowing that I found IT.  On my yoga mat, I have to stop. To listen.  To respect and love my body.  To relax.  Fast forward, many practices and hours of teacher training and I still find my mat one of the most relaxing places on earth – even when it’s hard.

It’s only October, but if you’re anything like me, you’re already making plans for the holidays. In a couple weeks, we’ll be packing up our two little guys and dog for a couple of long car rides.  There will be lots of food, little time to exercise, and a lot to orchestrate. To put it simply, it will be busy.  If you’re finding yourself needing to de-stress, there’s nothing that will boost a tired mind and body like a restorative yoga practice.  So grab a couple blankets, tune into Pandora’s Yoga Radio, and RESTORE you mind and body with Yoga!

Restorative yoga uses the support of props and gravity to passively stretch the body, calm the mind, relieve tension and stress, relieve muscle aches, and improve sleep. Even practicing one pose can help calm your mind and body.  I also enjoy adding some gentle movement between each posture.

To begin your practice, gather your props and find a quiet space.  Gentle music is not required buy can help set the mood.  If you are concerned you will fall asleep, set an alarm for the time you must awaken so you don’t have to worry about missing your next appointment.  Set up your props and move into the pose.  Begin with 5-10 deep breaths, noticing your breath as you inhale and exhale.  As you feel ready, surrender to your natural breath and the support of your props.  If you find your mind continues to wander, come back to your breath stating to yourself “inhale” as you inhale and “exhale” as you exhale.  When you are ready to move out of the pose, do so slowly and allow your body time to awaken.

Here are some of my favorite restorative poses to get you started:

Supported Forward Fold  Salamba Paschimottanasana

Forward folds help bring your attention inward and cultivate a sense of calm.  This version is a gentle hamstring, calf, and low back stretch.

Supported Forward Fold

 

Supported Child’s Pose Salamba Balasana

In a supported version of this relaxing pose, allow yourself to melt into your props. Salamba Balasana stretches the back of your body and neck. Be sure to repeat this pose with your head facing both directions. If this is uncomfortable to your neck, cross your arms and rest your forehead on your forearms or hands. To relieve achy knees, place a blanket in behind your knees in between your upper and lower legs.

Supported Child's Pose

 

Crocodile Makarasana

This one makes me smile.  Yes, it's just laying on your belly with your arms folded and forehead resting on your arms, but this gentle back bend helps release your low back and stretches your chest, neck, and possibly your hip flexors, making it a great pose to reverse the effects of sitting at your desk or in the car or plane for hours.  Be sure to open your legs wide enough that you don't feel like you have to hold your legs up with your toes.  Breathe deeply in the beginning of this pose to find some length in your body and help you release your muscles.

CrocodileA

 

Legs Up the Wall Varparita Karani

After shopping, cooking, and wrapping presents or really, after any busy day, Varparita Karani is a great way to unwind.  This inversion can help bring calm and perspective into your day as it stretches your hamstrings and low back and provides relief to tired, sore legs and feet.  The blanket (or sandbag, pillow, or block) on top of your feet is not necessary, but a little weight on your feet can add some nice grounding and gentle support to an achy back.  This pose is recommended by many yogis as the go-to for ailments:  headache, back ache, leg/foot aches, digestive issues, insomnia, menstrual pain, menopause, high and low blood pressure...and the list goes on.

Legs Up the Wall U

 

Supported Fish Salamba Matsyasana  

This powerful heart opener, like Crocodile, is a great way to reverse the effects of sitting by stretching the front of the body, chest, and shoulders while releasing your low back.  It's said that heart openers help regulate emotions, so what better way to sort things out than to relax!  It's important, as with all restorative poses, to be properly and comfortably set up and supported in this pose, so add as many blankets as you need under your hips or head and neck to create a relaxing lumbar and/or neck support(s).  You may also enjoy a rolled blanket or pillow under your knees to make this even more lovely.  (See Supported Corpse Pose below for blanket/pillow placement.)

Supported Savasana

 

Supported Corpse Pose Salamba Savasana

A variation of the traditional final relaxation pose of any yoga practice, this pose is all about relaxing and letting go. Your arms and hands should be where ever is most comfortable for you. If you need more grounding, lay a blanket, pillow, bolster, or sand bag on your belly. Breathe. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Let go of all thoughts and allow yourself to just "be." This or a combo of Supported Fish and Savasana are my go to when I need to press "reset" on my body or my mind (or both!) 5-10-30 minutes and I'm ready to tackle chasing my sons after a full day of work, long workout on the weekend, or cooking Thanksgiving Dinner.

Supported Savasana Version 2

"Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is the only moment." — Thich Nhat Hanh

May you have a wonderful holiday season this year full of love and the smiles from the people that make your heart shine!

Namaste

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