Healthy Eating

Celebrate Summer!

…while maintaining a healthy eating routine.

During the summer it is common for our eating habits to shift. With many celebrations, bar-b-q’s and other social gatherings taking place this time of year, we might not be eating as healthfully, or we might be consuming more food and alcohol than usual. While we should enjoy this fun and short-lived season, it’s important that our “once in a while” indulgences don’t become permanent habits. If you tend to overindulge or “fall off” track easily in the summertime, don’t despair. The summer can be the perfect time to clean up eating habits and boost your nutritional intake.

Summer is the perfect time to add fresh, nutrient-dense produce to your meals.

One major benefit of realigning eating habits during the summer is the array of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs that are available this season. This allows us to add variety and extra nutrients to each meal. When the temperature rises, we naturally desire foods with higher water content, so we can stay hydrated in the heat. We also gravitate towards eating lighter because our bodies no longer need the extra carbohydrates that we primitively crave more of during the winter months.

So, here are some tips to maintain a healthy eating routine to off-set the not-so-healthy eating that we may partake in this summer.

  • Identify Your Favorites

It’s always easier to implement foods we like rather than forcing ourselves to eat things we are not crazy about. When my clients want to increase their fruit and vegetable intake, I have them list the fruits and vegetables they enjoy the most. We then use their list as a guide for grocery shopping and selecting recipes

  • Find Recipes in Advance

Many of us look for recipes right before preparing a meal. This is fine, unless we discover we do not have the necessary ingredients on hand or the recipes are too complicated to prepare in a short time. I always recommend finding five to ten recipes based on your list of favorite produce that appeal to you (or to your family if you are cooking for them too). After choosing recipes, you can check to make sure you have the ingredients needed prior to prep. This method is also helpful for preparing lunch for work or school.

  • Add Favorites to Your Grocery List

Once you have made your list of favorite fruits and vegetables, and have found the recipes you would like to use, you can add these items and ingredients to your weekly shopping list. This ensures that you have fresh produce on hand that you enjoy eating, along with the condiments needed to cook. The key here is when you always have these “go-to” items on hand, you are more likely to include them in your diet on a regular basis.

  • Prepare for the Week Ahead

Assuming your work week starts on Monday, have your new grocery list written and ready for shopping over the weekend or right before. Buying your weekly groceries before the work week guarantees that you will have everything you need to prep ahead of time. This way, the washing, chopping, and storing of your fruits and vegetables is done by Sunday and ready to go for weekday meals. Having a bowl of fresh cut fruit in the fridge is also helpful for breakfast or snacking.  With most of the prep work done, you won’t be pressed on time and resorting to unhealthier meals or snack grabs.

  • Try it Out

Finally, give yourself a week or two to try out this system. Take notice of what works and what doesn’t, or what you like and don’t like. After getting into a routine, you can adjust the timing of your shopping or prep work, or choose different recipes for the following week. Eventually, you will be in a rhythm of integrating more vegetables and fruit on a daily basis. Soon, the healthy weekday meals will counter the less healthy food choices you might have to make at social gatherings. Most importantly, you can enjoy the summer while still maintaining a healthy eating routine!

Spring Clean Your Wellness Routine!

As we welcome spring, join me in cleaning up old habits and reinvigorating routines with this three part series to help you renew your fitness, nutrition and wellness routines this season.

Part I Refreshing Fitness Routines

Are your workouts challenging enough? 

Longer days filled with sunshine often motivate us to start exercising or to renew a fitness routine that no longer feels challenging. 

This is a great time to ask yourself if your fitness routine is working for you. Like most habits, we often fall into the same routine when it doesn’t take much thought or energy. For example, getting on the treadmill for 30 minutes and walking at the same pace you have been for the last two years, or doing Pilates three days a week every week, will lead to a “plateau” in training. This occurs when our bodies adapt to the exercise load and we are no longer challenged.  If you have been doing the same exercises at the same level of pace for a long period of time, it’s time to increase the intensity or to add new exercises (or both) to complement what you are already doing.

It is common for our cardio routines (i.e., walking, running, cycling) to become less challenging over time, and at some point, we feel as if we are not exerting much energy.  The best way to know if you are working hard enough is to determine what your target heart rate is, along with observing how winded you are when your workout is complete. The easiest way to adjust for any workout that might feel too “comfortable” is to increase the intensity.  In terms of cardio, this means either to run faster or further, to pedal harder, etc. However, if you’re not keen on working at a higher level the whole time you’re exercising, you can consider decreasing the time of one activity and adding a different exercise (also cardio driven) for the remaining time. One way to do this is to move from one machine to another (i.e., from the treadmill to the elliptical machine or Peloton). Another way is to do body weight exercises, such as squats, lunges or pushups, in between.  This is an efficient way to keep your heartrate up and add resistance training at the same time. Choose the method that works for you to make sure you keep yourself challenged and get the full benefit of your workout.

Are Your Workouts Well-Balanced?

Well-balanced workouts are the key to optimal fitness.  A well-rounded regimen includes a mix of cardio, strength, core balance and stretching every week. Time constraints are the most common reason people usually include only one or two exercise components in their daily or weekly routine.

When time is limited, I use the pie method to get a well-rounded workout: just envision dividing the time you have to exercise inside the pie. Then, think about how much time you can reasonably spend on each exercise component that day, or week. For example, if you have 45 minutes to exercise on a given day, you may choose to devote 25 minutes to cardio, 10 minutes to resistance, and the last 10 minutes to stretching. Alternatively, the “opposite day” method breaks up the type of workout by the day. In this case, if you exercise 5 days a week, you can devote 3 days to cardio and 2 days to resistance training. Or, if you attend yoga class 2 or 3 times a week, you can add a cardio day on one of the days in between.

However you choose to break it down, a balanced fitness routine will increase muscle mass, improve endurance, and help you to avoid injury.[1]

Is Your Exercise Routine Aligned With Your Goals?

Besides aiming for a well-rounded and challenging workout, we should ask ourselves, “Why are we exercising in the first place?”  We all know exercise provides many benefits to our health, but it should also be tailored to our specific goals. Do you want to build muscle, or lose weight? Are you training for a long distance run?  Maybe you don’t have any specific goal in mind, but simply enjoy how you feel when you work out!

That said, if you are devoting time to exercising regularly, it makes sense to align your workouts with your overall fitness goals. For instance, if your physician prescribes exercise to lower your blood pressure, and you choose to spend your exercise time only lifting weights:  over time, you will build muscle mass, but weight training alone may not impact your blood pressure. Your time would be better spent doing aerobic exercise, i.e., walking, jogging, or swimming – or any continuous movement that keeps your heart rate elevated. On the other hand, if your goal is to build stronger bones, lifting weights and/or resistance training will serve you better than walking or cycling.

Physical goals are not always the reason we decide to exercise; many of us work out as a way to relieve stress. Running or high intensity interval training is a great way to decompress; however, some prefer a gentle activity like yoga or stretching to lower stress levels.

Whatever your exercise preferences are, make sure your routine is working for you. Spring is a great time to reassess routines and decide if the time you spend working out is most beneficial for you. Adjusting the frequency, duration, intensity, or type of exercise can make a major difference to your long term fitness goals. If you are not sure how to reassess your routine, or if you can use help with the fine tuning, consider working with a fitness trainer. A skilled trainer can access your fitness level and goals against your current routine and design a program tailored to your individual needs – the ideal way to spring clean your routine!

[1] Marni J. Armstrong, Sheri R. Goldberg and Ronald J. Sigal, Moving Beyond Cardio: The Value of Resistance Training, Balance Training, and Other Forms of Exercise in the Management of Diabetes,” National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Library of Medicine, January 28, 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4334083/