Tips & Tricks For Enjoying Your Summer Cookouts

Ahhhh, Summer…time for New Englanders to take every opportunity to bask in the sun and enjoy doing all of their favorite activities outside, including eating and drinking. As we all know, this means countless backyard barbeques, tables covered with delectable dishes, and coolers filled with our favorite summer refreshers. What’s not to love?!

Unfortunately, far too often do these summer bashes quickly spiral into a guilt-fest, as we scorn ourselves after third-helpings of the potato salad or realizing our hand hasn’t left the chip bowl for more than 10 seconds in the past hour. Then without realizing it, we’ve spent the entire party tallying how many crackers that girl with the six-pack took rather than listening to our friend recount their recent vacation. Or before we know it, we’ve single-handedly polished off the entire plate of cheese and crackers, and suddenly a nap on the pool floatie sounds much more appealing than the game of corn hole we’ve just committed to. At the end of the day, we leave feeling sluggish, bloated and concerned about attending yet another cookout the following weekend.

Now, I am not here to tell you that the only way to enjoy your next cookout is to say “no, thank you” to the beer and only have the grilled chicken and a side salad. I am here to show you that you can have your burger and eat it, too (and feel good in the process)! Whether you’re hosting or attending the festivities, here are some helpful tips and tricks to help you enjoy the remainder of your summer parties:

If you’re hosting or responsible for bringing food/drinks…

  • Instead of using mayonnaise to make the potato salad, try plain low-fat Greek yogurt for less fat and more protein
  • Use 100% whole wheat buns for your burgers and hot dogs for added fiber and fullness
  • To cut down on saturated fat, use at least 95% lean turkey meat for burgers in place of beef
  • To cut calories (and increase hydration!) place flavored seltzer water and fresh berries next to the wine and leave a sign with instructions for a wine spritzer ( ½ wine, ½ seltzer, a few berries)

If you’re attending…

  • Have a light meal or snack before you go (e.g. veggies and hummus), so you’re not as inclined to snack on less healthy options at the party
  • When it’s time to sit down for your meal, fill half of your plate with veggies and try to keep the starches to 1/4 of your plate
  • If you suspect no one else will bring a veggie dish, offer to bring one yourself!
  • Distract yourself from the snacks by starting a lawn game or jumping in the pool

And one final (IMPORTANT) tip…

Let yourself enjoy it!! Although it may feel like your summer has been two months of backyard binging, the likely reality is that this is not happening as often as it seems. Furthermore, we are all entitled to enjoy that perfect burger and beer combination every once in awhile! Hopefully, keeping in mind these tips will help you make healthier choices overall, while also allowing you to feel better about that hotdog you’ve been craving all summer.

Post written by Stephanie Sudjian, Registered Dietitian at the Cambridge Athletic Club

 

 

We’re Pumped!

We are pumped to announce that our BRAND NEW Les Mills SMARTBARS have arrived!

“Old barbell technology was made for those with time on their hands and feet firmly fixed on the floor. The SMARTBAR™ system has put an end to that. Now transition times are minimized, and workouts are maximized.

The SMARTBAR™ is like nothing the industry has seen before. Combining cutting-edge ergonomic design with strong and durable construction, it is fitness equipment of the highest quality.”

Come experience them for yourself at a BodyPump class on our schedule!

 

HYDRATION

Well folks, we’ve waited all winter and it’s finally here. Summer, that is! June 21st marks our first day of summer, and with the long sunny days and warm nights approaching, now is a good time to review the basics of staying hydrated!

The most obvious way to stay hydrated is to drink water. This likely isn’t a surprise to most of you knowing that more than 60% of our bodies are made up of water. And luckily for us, water is usually pretty easy and cheap to get! Often times people will comment that they’re tired of drinking plain water. Well, my answer to that is, then don’t! There are so many ways to enhance water leaving very few reasons to settle for plain water, especially if you don’t enjoy it. Try any or all of the strategies below to give your water a boost!

Add herbs (basil, mint, and sage)

Add fruits and vegetables (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and cucumber)

Combine both fruit and herbs for a dynamite flavor!

Strawberries + Lemon

Watermelon + Basil

Cucumber + Mint

Citrus (orange, lemon or lime rind) + Blueberries

Sprinkle in some crystal light (there are so many flavors available!)

Crack open a bottle of flavored or unflavored sparkling water

Being summer time, it is also important to recognize times when your body may need more than what water provides. For example, during long bouts of sweaty exercise—say, in general, 60 minutes of running, cycling, high intensity intervals or circuits—your body looses essential salts, or electrolytes. (Have you ever tasted your sweat? …salty, right?) Sodium is one electrolyte lost through sweat. Other electrolytes lost include potassium and chloride.

After long, rigorous workouts, or simply workouts done on a very hot and humid day, it is a good idea to rehydrate with something that will replenish electrolyte losses. Below is a list of drink options that can help you do so. However keep in mind that all sports drinks are not created equal: some will offer more calories than others, and each provides varying amounts of electrolytes. Test out a few of these options to see what works best for you. We don’t all sweat the same anyways!

  • Gatorade G2 Series
  • Powerade Zero
  • Propel Water
  • Coconut Water

Note: Some people may benefit from re-hydrating with regular Powerade and Gatorade products; however this is best determined on an individual basis. Now that you have a bunch of hydrating drinks to try out, let’s finish up with discussing a few realistic strategies to encourage drinking throughout the day. Again, try some of the strategies provided to see if they may work for you!

Carry a refillable water bottle with you throughout the day. If that seems unrealistic, make it even easier by leaving a bottle on your work desk, and in your car (or bring one on the train).

Purchase a water bottle with an infuser built in. This makes it so easy to add (or switch out) fruits, herbs, or vegetables to your drink.

Buy drinks in bulk. If you’re someone who appreciates ultra-convenience, then this may be a good solution for you. Throw two to three bottles in your bag on the way to work, and be sure to recycle the containers once you’re done!

Set timers or reminders to drink. These can be on your phone or on post-its at your desk. I know it sounds funny, but it really works for some people. We are all so busy these days, so this can serve as a constant reminder to take a sip (…and also as an easy check-off on the To-Do list!).

Remember, if you feel thirsty you are already on your way to dehydration. Stay ahead of those cravings by sipping throughout the day, ensuring a hydrated, healthy and happy you all summer long!

The 80/20 Principle

Yes, we know the struggle. Tired of the constant dieting? The “if I can just make it past 3:00 PM I’ll be fine!”. Find yourself frequently cutting out food groups in an attempt to keep off the weight?

We tend to run into these internal battles with ourselves and food when we try to live our lives at 100%. Eating well, 100% of the time. Working out at 100% effort, 100% of the time. Performing at 100% at our jobs, at home and in our communities.

Let me introduce you to the 80/20 principle as it pertains to nutrition. To maintain our wellness goals (and still stay sane in the process, yes that means a glass of wine or your favorite pizza from Za!), we are encouraged to incorporate the 80/20 principle into our lives. So what does it mean?

It means that 80% of the time, we want to eat a nutritionally balanced diet that incorporates all of those food groups we’ve been learning about since elementary school. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats. However, we want some wiggle room (to enjoy that delicious ice cream of course)! That’s where the 20% comes into play. By allowing ourselves to enjoy foods that may not be as nutritionally beneficial for us as others, we are better able to create a healthy lifestyle as opposed to adhering to a “diet”. Notice I used the word, ENJOY. Not “obsess over” not “binge” not “freak out after eating and run right to the gym”. Remembering to develop healthy relationships with what we choose to put in our bodies is crucial to incorporating this principle.

No one is expected to live at 100%. Remember, it’s all about BALANCE.

Post written by Stephanie Sudjian, Registered Dietitian at the Cambridge Athletic Club

Member Spotlight – Larry P.

Larry recently joined the CAC and re-capped his very first yoga class experience in the essay below. It’s funny, it’s satirical and it’s oh so true:

Yoga. Gettin loose in the 60’s (again)! I recently participated in my first ever Yoga class – 75 minutes of physical activity and “poses” seemingly designed, in my case, to provide instant and constant feedback to just how out of shape I’ve become. It’s not that I needed this class to confirm this (of this I’m aware) but each and every step throughout the 75 minutes revealed every muscle group I’ve neglected by a lifetime of not properly stretching.

As the class progressed I marveled at the flexibility of the fellow yogarites (???) that surrounded me. Skiing the black diamonds at Park City is a piece of cake compared to the physicality required of these exercises. At various times I wanted to stand and applaud their abilities, though this would have been a self-serving act…. standing in a yoga class is easy, all the rest….not so easy. Where Gumby-like flexibility is required for most of the exercises, my frame more closely resembles a body assembled by Dr. Frankenstein. Case in point. In all of the film adaptations I’ve seen of the Mary Shelley classic, good ol’ Frankie never assumed the “downward facing dog” or “locust” or “cobra”, or any number of the “bird” poses. No…Frankie always walked stiff-legged and upright…you get the picture. So here I am… Frankenstein in a room full of Gumbys.

Undeterred, I soldiered on, though there were many times I wanted to call a time out, but I found the routine did not allow for such luxuries. I instead resorted to those poses I could do. I found myself repeatedly resorting to the pose where one puts their hands together in prayer, in my case praying the 75 minutes would soon be over.

At one point, the yoga instructor led us through a bending exercise, from an upright position, where the objective was to reach over and have your palms lay flat on the mat without bending your legs! I attempted this, came up about 2 feet short, and compromised on a position where my palms rested comfortably on my knees – a stance that was familiar to me from all those years playing center field. Preparing to chase down a line drive or a fly ball is not the objective here, rather the intent is to bend your torso completely over as if a flexible straw! That ain’t gonna happen anytime soon, in fact likely never, but you gotta start somewhere, so I’ve created a new pose,” the not so nimble center fielder”.

They say that yoga will improve my golf swing. In that I have no doubt as there are endless possibilities for improvement to my golf swing. But I have far less ambitious objectives in mind…like reaching into the back seat while driving to pat the dog without pulling a muscle in my back…or adjusting ski bindings or the buckles of my ski boots without the need for developing a strategy to do so…you can never find a step stool on the ski slopes when you need one! I exaggerate of course, but not by much. Frankenstein wore the equivalent of ski boots.

So, I’ve embarked on a journey to get loose in my 60’s. I can only hope that my muscle memory partially forgets all my transgressions along the way, and perhaps allows for a level of flexibility that will serve me well in the years to come. We’ll see. Namaste. -Larry P.

Valentine’s Day Blog

Who said Valentine’s Day was only meant for celebrating the relationships we have with our significant others? 

This year, celebrate a positive, healthy relationship with the FOOD that comes along with this holiday too! How? Follow these 4 simple tips to enjoy your sweetheart (or sweet-TART) and stay mindful while doing so!

1. Chocolate is NOT taboo on Valentine’s Day, even when you are still trying to fit into your favorite skinny jeans the next day! Don’t deprive yourself of the things you love. Why not throw those extra pieces in your big box of chocolates into the freezer to enjoy throughout the week? Or better yet, share those chocolates with your friend’s at work the next day. Savor the flavor and spread the LOVE! 

2. Eating healthy can be both delicious and nutritious. Whoever said chocolate was “bad” for us must have never tasted DARK chocolate! Move away from labeling foods as “good” or “bad”. Look at food for what it is, and the benefit it provides the body. If you’re going for the sweets this Valentine’s Day, grab some dark chocolate rich in antioxidants that help our bodies maintain a strong immune system in this cold weather!

3. Instead of footing a large bill at an expensive restaurant (which let’s face it ladies, also means spending money on heels and a new dress!), try out a new recipe for two at home. Get in touch with your creative side and experiment with doing something that nourishes YOU and the person you love. Too often we get sidetracked with caring for everyone else, that we neglect to care for ourselves. So what’s stopping you? No one said you had to be the next Martha Stewart to cook up something delicious!

4. Stop counting! Looking forward to giving or receiving that big heart box, but worried about the fat and calories? No need! If you need something to count, skip counting the calories, and instead count the amount of bites you take to enjoy the savory piece of chocolate. Rather than thinking about the next piece you can get your hands on, stay in the moment and enjoy what you are eating. Chew your food enough so that it doesn’t give you indigestion. Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that it is full! Think about that before you go for the next piece of chocolate. 

CAC is offering free guest passes on Valentine’s Day too, if you’re in the mood to workout pre-chocolate  😉

 

Meet with our Dietitian, Stephanie, for more great recipes and other nutrition services!

stephaniephoto

Happy YOU Year!

AVOID junk food. LOSE 20 pounds by summer. DON’T miss a workout. Sound familiar? It’s that time of the year again when the holidays come to an end; the house is in shambles from the revolving door of company, and the days of staying in pajamas all day cease to exist. Maybe our clothes are a bit snugger, our workout routine has fallen to the wayside or maybe we just want to feel better than we do right now. No matter where you are at in this moment, I challenge each of you to read the above quote and listen to how you react to it.  New Years’ resolutions can be overwhelming for many, and much of it can be due to the thought process surrounding the above quote. For my Type-A perfection chasers, maybe you’re right there with me on this one. “Well I was SUPPOSED to “x” but that didn’t happen so I have to start over again tomorrow because today was a total failure.” What if I asked you to look at the above quote as a DAILY quote rather than a quote read only on January 1st of each year? Would your perspective change? Perfection is unattainable, but each day we wake up, we have multiple opportunities to make decisions that promote self-care (even if we miss the first few). The reason resolutions tend to overwhelm us, is because our goals aren’t SMART. Huh? Bear with me…

ACRONYM GOAL SMART GOAL
S-PECIFIC

What exactly do you want to achieve? Why?

Weight loss I want to lose 20 pounds so I can avoid using up sick days 
M-EASURABLE

How will you know you reached your goal? (Use quantifiable value)

My clothes will fit better I will weigh myself every Sunday to determine if I’m losing weight.
A-TTAINABLE

Can you see yourself achieving this goal?

Well, I need to lose the weight so yes… I have a Trader Joe’s five minutes away from my house that I can shop at and a gym membership where I am able to workout four days a week 
R-EALISTIC

Is it a worthwhile goal? 

Is it the right time?

I work two jobs, go to school and have four kids that all have after school activities so meal prep and time for the gym is scarce, but summer is in a month so…. I have time on Sunday’s to prepare healthier meals for the week instead of eating at McDonald and my family is supportive of my need to cook and eat healthier.
T-IMELY

How long will it take to reach your goal?

As soon as possible I will lose the 20 pounds in four months.

 

 

I leave you with one important reminder. “Attitudes are contagious. Make sure, no matter where you go or who you meet in life, yours is worth catching.” The way you treat yourself dictates the first of the 365 blank pages. Take care of yourselves. Be SMART. Happy YOU year.

stephaniephoto

Stephanie Sudjian, RD

Healthy (and HAPPY) for the Holidays!

Healthy (and HAPPY) for the Holidays!

Let’s face it; the holiday season can bring about unwanted stress and overwhelming feelings despite the effort exuded to ward them off.  Who said eating and drinking had to contribute to this stress? Enjoy the holiday cuisine, but don’t let it be your sole focus.  This holiday season, I challenge each of you to truly embrace what the holiday season means to you. Maybe it is visiting with distant relatives, cherishing the memories of a passed loved one or celebrating your good health. Be mindful of ways you can better yourself this season, not compare yourself to Aunt Sally, cousin Jimmy or the girl in the mall. The stress to fit a specific mold can only be controlled by YOU.

Our physical health is driven very much by how we feel emotionally. Balancing stress during the holidays is critical to making healthy choices.  Instead of placing the primary focus on food this holiday season, maybe you and your loved ones start a new holiday tradition like ornament decorating OR keep the cooking traditions and try some recipe modifications.

Try out some healthy alternatives when cooking this holiday season!

*Replace vegetable dips and heavy dressings with some seasoned plain Greek yogurt.  Mix 2 cups of plain Greek yogurt with ½ a packet of good season’s Italian dressing mix for the same great taste with two times the protein!

*Replace half of the butter in your recipe with unsweetened applesauce

*Try using spices like cinnamon, nutmeg or vanilla extract to sweeten up your favorite holiday treats without the added sugar!

*Replace cream cheese with low-fat cottage cheese

*Replace cream with skim milk

*Replace sour cream with Greek yogurt

*Practicing mindful eating habits is also a great strategy to use when it comes to making healthy choices.

*Research suggests the first two to three bites of food are the bites we enjoy the most. Savor the flavor! Before continuing to eat a specific dish, ask yourself if you’re satisfied with what you’ve had or if you truly need to continue eating it.

*Make sure to sit at the table with family and friends while eating rather than in front of a TV or computer screen. This helps us focus on what and how much we are eating.

*Take breaks between bites of food, and between courses of meals. It takes about twenty minutes for our brain to signal to our bodies that we are no longer hungry.

*Hydrate (and no, not just with those delicious holiday cocktails!). OK, but if you must… try out some healthy holiday drink recipes like Apple Cider Sangria, Pomegranate Mojitos or a Winter Sea Breeze!

Fit For The Feast!

Fit For The Feast

What tools do you have in your toolbox this Thanksgiving season to survive ENJOY the holiday’s? No, I don’t mean wrenches and screwdrivers, or power tools to loosen your belt after downing those delicious mashed potatoes and gravy! Let’s “hammer” home some ideas and concepts we can throw into our toolboxes this season to help us truly be thankful for the things that matter most in life, like FOOD (ok, ok, I mean family…)! Remaining fit and healthy through the holidays IS possible without dieting.

Tool #1: DON’T fast for the feast.

Many people tend to cut back on their energy consumption until the “feast” begins.  While this may seem like a good plan in theory, it leads to overeating and uncontrollable hunger later in the day. It also slows your metabolism! Munch on some vegetables and hummus or throw a fruit & yogurt parfait together before heading out the door.

Tool #2: It’s YOUR choice in the end.

Don’t deprive yourself of the special occasion foods you love! The more you tell yourself you’re dieting and “can’t” or “shouldn’t” have something, the more likely you are to overeat it later in the evening. Pick and choose what is most enjoyable to you. If it comes down to your aunt’s excellent sweet potato casserole or your cousin’s famous brownies and you still can’t decide, have both! Yes, I did just say to have both. Are you wondering where the catch is? Well…if you choose to have both, cut back on the portion sizes of both so you can still enjoy without overeating.

Tool #3: Don’t skimp on the workout.

Whether it’s an annual turkey trot or a brisk morning walk, don’t forget to exercise before you head out to celebrate the holidays. Exercising has been shown to help maintain normal hormone levels that control appetite and metabolism even when we eat more than we should, especially around the holiday season.

Tool #4: Be mindful about seconds.

If you are still feeling hungry after finishing Thanksgiving dinner, go for some more turkey or vegetables.  Try to avoid the mashed potatoes and stuffing.  Proteins and vegetables help fill us up quicker and keep us fuller longer! Remember to save room for dessert 😉 Pumpkin pie is on the way!

 

HEALTHY Halloween!

GYM. KALE. SLEEP.

Whose calendar looks like this on November 1st?  Now that fall is upon us, the holiday season has officially begun!  Deep breath. This is a GOOD thing.  Believe it or not, Halloween is the best holiday to begin teaching kids mindful eating behaviors (and let’s be honest, we could all use a hand or two dusting off those spooky cobwebs!).

First and most importantly, remember that Halloween is ONE day.  Similar to any other holiday or special event, the same 24 hours are allotted to this holiday.  Phewf!  Rather than viewing Halloween, or any holiday for that matter, as an inevitable five pounds, sugar rush or automatic trip to the gym the day after, work on embracing the uniqueness of what Halloween has to offer. Halloween is a great holiday to incorporate three central ideas of mindful eating:

# 1: THERE IS ROOM TO INCORPORATE “UNHEALTHY” FOODS INTO YOUR DIET, HEALTHFULLY!

Everything in moderation! The more we deny ourselves the things we love, the more we tend to crave them.  To help with falling into the “all or nothing” approach, portion out your favorite treats you tend to over-indulge on and allow yourself to still enjoy them when you truly want them.  If decreasing the portion size is too difficult, decrease the frequency you eat these “less nutritionally beneficial foods” (like candy). Halloween is a great example of this frequency concept. Candy is something that could be enjoyed on special occasions or holiday’s as opposed to every day.

#2: WHAT BETTER WAY TO EXPERIENCE A TRUE TASTE TESTING? AFTER ALL, IT EXPANDS OUR HORIZONS (AND PALATE).

You must be thinking I am crazy for recommending a taste testing of CANDY. Stay with me…when we taste any foods, we determine which we like and don’t like.  Allow your children, or yourself, to sample a bite of different pieces of Halloween candy.  Decide then which two or three you and they like the best.  The rest of the candy can then be eliminated (or donated!), or split up depending on interest amongst your family and friends. Allowing our children and ourselves to experience and experiment with different foods (yes, even candy) teaches us to truly select foods we enjoy eating as opposed to just eating what is in front of us in the moment.

#3: THERE IS A WAY TO ENJOY EATING WITHOUT FINISHING THE WHOLE BUCKET OF CANDY IN ONE SITING!

Similar to #1, ration out the treats you love! The more you ration them out, the longer they last 😉 It is the attempt to control the immediate problem at hand (sweets) that gets us.  To make all of the candy disappear quicker, we must eat it all and then “get right back into the healthy living lifestyle”. MYTH! This is the all or nothing approach referenced in #1.  By denying ourselves the things we love to eat, we set ourselves up to run into eating a whole bucket of candy in one sitting as opposed to enjoying it sporadically and proportionally.

…ok so how do I do this you ask?

  1. Try to avoid eating candy straight out of the pumpkin…portion out ~100 calories (two “bite-sized” pieces of candy) into small zip-lock bags.
  2. Put the portioned out candy in a cabinet out of eye-sight-or stick some fruits and vegetables in front of the candy bucket starting at you in your refrigerator so when those cravings kick in, you can first ask yourself if you REALLY crave the candy or need some colorful foods instead. Fun fact: eating fruits and vegetables fill us up quickly because of their higher fiber content!
  3. OR Try handing out less tempting treats at your house if these tips don’t seem to resonate. Hand out pretzels or fruit snacks instead! If it’s not the excess amount of sugar available in one place that spooks you out enough, maybe it’s the potential trip to the dentist!