Simple Tricks for Avoiding Sugar this Holiday Season

By Janet Luhrs,

Did you know that sugar is the new fat? Yup. It is. And with the holidays right around the corner, I’m going to show you a plan that will help you avoid being tempted. 

First, understand why sugar is the new fat. Check out these 10 reasons why sugar is bad for your body and brain. I highly suggest that you print this list and post it where you’ll see it often. Read it every day as motivation to stay strong. 

But let’s go a few steps further. Once you understand why sugar is not good for you, plan ahead for how you’re going to get through the holidays without falling into sugar temptation. You not only want to “get through” the holidays but you want to enjoy them. You’ll have a hard time enjoying the holidays if you’re wracked by guilt because you ate loads of sugar treats.

Did you know that sugar consumed during the holidays actually stays in our cell proteins for four months? Yes, four months! That’s a long time. Remember that little piece of information when you’re tempted to cave and eat just one little cookie here or one little piece of pie there. So here’s my advice – stay ahead of temptation and plan ahead. Instead of simply sailing into the holiday season and being surrounded by tempting sweets everywhere you turn, create a plan ahead of time that will help you avoid these pitfalls. After all, you don’t want to blow all of the hard work you’ve been doing getting in shape and making healthy food choices the rest of the year. So don’t let sugar temptations take you down!

Here’s your plan:

  • Drink plenty of water: Keeping yourself hydrated will help you battle cravings. Carry your water bottle with you and add a little fresh lime or lemon for a refreshing boost of flavor.
  • Eat ahead: If you are going to a party and there is sure to be an overload of treats, have a balanced meal before you go. Your insulin levels will be balanced when you arrive and hunger cravings will not so easily tempt you. 
  • Be rested and manage your stress: When you are stressed and tired, you are more likely to give into temptation and use sweets for comfort food.  Once you do that, as you know, the “comfort” is short lived and you pay the price. To help with stress and sleep, check out meditation classes in your area. Any kind of meditation is good for you – just find a class that fits your schedule and then do the work. A really great intro class is a series called Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, or MBSR. Check out their website and then look for classes in your area:  Another way to meditate is Transcendental Meditation or TM. There are likely classes in your area:
  • Consume good quality proteins and fats: They contain anti-inflammatory properties and help to counterbalance extra sugar intake.
  • Don’t deprive yourself completely: Feeling deprived often leads to binges or even just a bad mood. So plan ahead and know when and how you will reward yourself with just a bit of your favorite treat. But here’s the big key – make sure you set yourself up to win and not fail. How? Find teeny treats and freeze the rest. For example, don’t buy a whole pie and think you can just have one piece – it’s way too tempting to have just one more piece and one more and pretty soon the whole pie is gone.Instead, enjoy chocolate-dipped strawberries or bananas, hot chocolate made with skim or soy milk, or flavored greek yogurt. For more ideas, click here.
  • Team up: Get a friend who is also trying to cut back on sugar and have a plan to text message each other daily with encouraging words. The buddy system really does work and you can find fun ways to reward one another for your successes.


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Simple Nutritional Planning for a Healthy Diet

By Janet Luhrs,

Living a fit and healthy life is something that takes proactivity and planning.  However, sometimes… well…ok, quite OFTEN our busy schedules make  planning for our meals a bit of a challenge.

So let me swoop in and make it easy for you, by showing you how to pare meal planning down to the basics. Pay close attention here because if you make this easy, you’ll be way more likely to make healthy choices and keep it up.

Here’s a big factor that torpedoes a healthy diet: looking at food options as a long list of do’s and don’ts.  Too often this restrictive approach leads to negativity around food and erratic success. Unless you have allergic or other health reasons to restrict certain foods, adopt an approach of balance and wisdom. Here are some easy tips:

Eat Fat! Yep, you read that right. Make sure you choose good fats that are heart healthy such as polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats. These fats are found in olives, almonds avocados, pumpkin seeds and oils such as olive, peanut, and canola. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in trout, salmon, flaxseed and walnuts.

Protein: the most basic building block of the human body and essential to our immune systems, hormones, tissue repair, and building muscle is protein. Animal proteins are fish and poultry. Red meats are good protein sources, as well, but take care to limit those due to higher levels of fat to protein ratios that can also raise cholesterol. Again, no need to put steaks on the forbidden list, just stay in moderation. Consult the USDA recommendations for how much protein for your age, sex, and activity level.

Carbs, carbs, and more carbs!  Yes, they are ok!  Again, consumed in moderation and make sure you choose good vs bad carbs. Your body needs carbs to burn for energy. Chose those that are nutrient rich such as whole grains and complex carbs such as brown rice, quinoa, legumes, vegetables and fruits. Stay away from processed “empty” carbs such as desserts, white bread, and rice, and fruit juices. (Eat a piece of fruit instead of juice.)

The other factors to consider are adequate vitamin and mineral intake, keeping sugars to a minimum, and consuming enough water.  Regarding vitamins, make every effort to consume most of your vitamins through the unprocessed, healthy foods you consume. Supplements should be considered…supplemental, not the prime source. Make sure you are consuming the 13 essentials for optimal health.

All sugars, natural (such as honey and fruit sugars) are metabolized the same in your body. Fruit sugars and honey are a better choice for your tea or other drinks due to the added nutritional benefit. But too much is still too much.

Too much sugar intake weakens your immune system and provides the best environment for bacteria to grow which promotes inflammation and weight gain.

Keep these simple facts in mind as you make informed choices about your nutritional plan and you are well on you way to a full and vital healthy lifestyle.

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Hydrating Foods to Support Fitness and Weight Loss

Hydration is extremely important for a healthy diet and for safety during your workouts. When you are healthily hydrated, your body is able to carry important nutrients throughout your body, flush toxins from vital organs, and maintain an appropriately moist environment for your throat, nose and ears.

Drinking enough water can be difficult – the Institute of Medicine lists the adequate fluid intake at 13 cups per day for men, and nine cups per day for women. For some people, that’s a lot! However, getting enough hydrating fluids doesn’t have to be difficult. There are several hydrating foods with plenty of water to boost your daily intake and support your health. As an added benefit, eating foods that are water-rich helps reduce hunger and encourage weight loss, since they fill you up with fewer calories.

  • Cucumbers: It’s probably not a surprise that cucumbers have the highest water content of any solid food – they’re more than 96 percent water!
  • Celery: Great for snacking, and only six calories per stalk; celery has more than 95% water content. It’s also high in fiber, folate, and Vitamins A, C, and K for some power-packing nutrition.
  • Tomatoes: A single serving of tomatoes is just 27 calories and packed with good-for-you nutrients! They are also highly hydrating, made 94 percent of water.
  • Green Peppers: All bell peppers are very hydrating, but green peppers are the most so, at nearly 94 percent water content (red and yellow peppers are closer to 92 percent). They are also rich in antioxidants.
  • Spinach: Get ready to stuff your salads with this great green. Spinach has only seven calories in each serving, and is 92 percent water.
  • Cauliflower: The top nutritional benefits of cauliflower lie in its help lowering cholesterol, fighting cancer, and supplying important vitamins and phytonutrients. Additionally, they are slightly more than 92 percent water.
  • Strawberries: Almost everybody loves this sumptuous berry… and it’s 92 percent water, so it’s a great serving of hydration. A serving of strawberries is only 50 calories and has the added benefit of giving you more than your daily serving of Vitamin C.
  • Watermelon: (Of course) At 91.5 percent water content, this fruit is delicious and hydrating. It is also one of the richest natural sources of lycopene, which is a cancer-fighting antioxidant.
  • Broccoli: With only 20 calories per cup and lots of nutrients (fiber, potassium, Vitamin A and C, to name a few), broccoli is also one of the most hydrating foods – it’s 91 percent water!
  • Grapefruit: Lower your cholesterol and enjoy the weight loss benefits of grapefruit, which fuels fat burning and stabilizes blood sugar.

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Ten Minute Healthy Crockpot Recipes

By Norelle Done,

There’s a reason why the term “comfort food” was invented – sometimes we need it! For me, that desire starts happening in the fall, when the weather gets colder, the days shorter, and I come home from work in the dark. So I decided to give myself the ultimate comfort food experience – I hauled out my old, trusty crockpot. You remember those things from 50s nostalgia? My crockpot is still one of my all-time favorite kitchen appliances.

Think about it – I work all day, and my husband works all day. Lots of times, the last thing we want to do when we get home is cook. And on those dark, fall days? We love nothing more than the idea of walking into the house being greeted by the smell of a hot dinner bubbling on the stove.

Enter our crockpot. When I’m in a crockpot mood, I’ll spend some time on the weekend pulling together a few simple crockpot recipes, and I’ll also do my grocery shopping, so I have all of my ingredients ready for the week ahead. 

Crockpots are so wonderful, because all you have to do is throw the ingredients into a pot in the morning before you leave for work, and by the time you return at night, the house smells like heaven, and dinner is ready. I am a huge fan of crockpots – especially during fall and winter. Plus, fall gives you a chance to take advantage of some of the great seasonal bounty. Here are a few easy and healthy crockpot recipes to get you inspired:

  • Ten minutes is all it takes to prepare this Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup recipe. The chicken and black beans add important protein. If you can get them, I suggest using fresh tomatoes in place of canned, and substitute gluten free tortillas as needed. However, it’s also a good idea to keep canned tomatoes on hand so you can still enjoy recipes like this when you don’t have fresh tomatoes, and when you don’t feel like going out to the store. 
  • Talk about taking advantage of the fall harvest! Lots of important beta-carotene and more vitamin A than we can count in this Slow Cooker Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup. The antioxidant properties make sweet potatoes a most important veggie to target, and lentils provide dietary fiber and plenty of folate and iron.
  • Protein packed Granny’s Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili will keep you warm on cold fall nights and is perfect for tailgate parties, too! Spend just 15 minutes in prep time in the morning. This one serves well with corn bread or over whole grain rice for more nutrition.
  • This Jerk Turkey Slow Cooker Soup has a nice south of the border kick to it and is also packed with protein.The fire roasted tomatoes and chilies will keep you warm at night!
  • It doesn’t get any easier than tossing the whole chicken into the crock pot with  veggies over the top and you are good to go! Your hardest work with the Slow Cooker Chicken Soup will be the 8 minutes it takes to slice the carrots, celery, and onion. For this recipe, you can cut and prep the veggies and store them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. Talk about ridiculously easy!

Now you’ll have plenty of time in the evening for your workouts or just relaxing, as you try out some of these recipes. And please share your favorite crockpot recipes with us, too!

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Super Simple and Sneaky Ways to Slide Protein into Your Diet

By Janet Luhrs,

When you’re working out regularly, doing your strength training and cardio – it’s really important that you build lean muscle mass. And that requires additional protein in your diet.

Not too many of us want to consume more meat, so take a look at this fabulous list of plant-based protein sources. And remember, it’s best to eat your protein within 30 minutes to an hour after a workout. That’s how you’ll re-build muscles faster.

Here you go!

  • Chia Seeds: These little guys pack an incredible 11 grams of protein in every 2 tablespoon serving.  Add some yummy crunch to soups, salads, baked goods and casseroles. I add a few tablespoons to my oats in the morning – just pour some raw oats in a bowl, add a few tablespoons of chia seeds, and pour boiling water over this just to cover. Let it sit for maybe 5-10 minutes until the oats and chia seeds have softened. Top with fruit and almond milk.
  • Cottage Cheese: This is a great low calorie/high protein snack option – especially mid-afternoon. Dip in some crunchy sweet peppers and carrots to add their fiber and vitamins to help you fight off the temptation for empty snack calories. 
  • Spinach: Yep, you heard that right, this power packed veggie is one of the best green sources of protein with over 4 grams per one cup of cooked spinach! Who knew?
  • Nuts: Add almonds, cashews, pumpkin and sunflower seeds to any salad recipe or stir fry. I keep a baggie of mixed nuts in my purse and it’s very effective for my afternoon ‘crunch crave” while adding important protein at the same time.
  • Quinoa: This fabulous rice and pasta alternative is making a hit and for good reason. I sometimes eat it in the morning as a breakfast cereal, alternating it with oats (add fresh or frozen fruit, nuts, raisins and almond milk). You can also substitute it for pasta, or add cooked quinoa to muffin or pancake batter for an added protein punch, since it’s one of the highest sources of protein and other healthy minerals.
  • Protein powder shakes: Add whey protein to any fruit or veggie shake after your workout and you are facilitating some important muscle recovery.
  • Eggs: Go for the perfect protein and keep a bowl of hard boiled eggs on hand in the fridge as a sneaky way to not only add protein but fight off snacking urges. Make a batch of flourless egg muffins to take you through breakfasts all week long. There are endless recipe variations to keep your taste buds happy and start your day out right.

You can see that adding protein to your diet is easier than you thought. With just a bit of advance planning, you will have improved your daily protein intake considerably.  We would love to hear some of your tricks of the trade!

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It’s Not Rocket Science! 5 Ways to Revamp Your Diet for Better Nutrition

By Janet Luhrs,

I’m guessing you’ve tried many times to get on a clean, healthy eating plan. But sometimes the complexities and detailed food prep, not to mention the endless list of forbidden foods is overwhelming, isn’t it? Add to that the need to consider high protein, low carbs, good carbs/bad carbs, vegan, Paleo, GMO, and… well, don’t you sometimes just want to curl up in a ball and eat popcorn? Hold on – start with my simplified list of what’s good for you:

  • Eat Clean: Simply put, no to very little processed foods. Begin phasing those out in favor of foods in their most natural, fresh condition with few or no ingredients added
  • All carbs are not evil: Learn what “Skinny carbs” or “resistant starches” are and add them to your diet to help you get the important fiber needed for digestive health and also increase fat burning.
  • Water, water, everywhere: So DRINK it! Keeping your body well hydrated is the key to good internal health for many reasons. Icing on the cake is that drinking plenty of water is key to weight loss and a good metabolism.
  • Something is fishy: Get your omega-3 fatty acids, but get it safely. Seafood lower on the food chain is lower in toxic mercury, so focus on these: shrimps, wild and Alaska salmon, scallops, domestic tilapia, oysters, and domestic squid. Avoid farmed fish of all kinds.
  • Get nutty: Nuts and seeds are a great source of power-packed vitamins, calcium, vitamin E, minerals, protein, and fiber. Make sure to stay away from oil roasted and salted. Top on the list are almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, pine nuts, cashews, flax seeds, chia seeds, hemp, and sunflower seeds. Avoid peanuts as they tend to be high in the carcinogenic mold, aflatoxin and also are notoriously high in pesticides.

It doesn’t need to be that complicated to make a few changes and get you on the path to a cleaner, leaner you.  Adopt these 5 basic guidelines to start with. And DO think of these as guidelines, not rules or restrictions. Let us know how your changes are going and tricks you have found to give you success.

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5 Simple Snacks to Take You through your Workout

You’re doing it! You’re putting in some serious workout time, staying balanced in strength training and cardio as well as focusing on your healthy diet.  But are you like me, when sometimes during the last 20 minutes of my workout, I run out of gas or I’m so stark raving crazy-hungry at the end that I could eat anything and everything? Here are some pre-and post work out ideas for simple snacks that not only give you the energy needed for an optimum workout, but will also support your weight loss, nutritional balance and optimum health:

  • Oatmeal: Start your day with this power-packed slow release gold mine and you will burn more fat since slow release carbohydrates don’t spike your blood sugar. Top this with fresh or dried fruit and chopped almonds for more power-packed energy.
  • Eggs: Not only high in protein, but eggs leave you feeling fuller longer and support muscle gain. Take a hard-boiled egg in your gym duffel and it’s ready at the end of your workout.
  • Almonds: A 2-ounce serving of almonds requires chewing and leaves you feeling satisfied. Chewing more causes a greater fat release from the almonds, triggering the hormones that curb hunger and give you much needed energy for your workout.
  • Apples: With only 95 calories, this instant carb, energy producing gem is packed with fiber and phytonutrients to regulate your blood sugar as well as having a positive impact on digestive bacteria. Add some almond butter for dipping and you have some great protein and healthy fats.
  • Energy bar: this old standby is a great option to carry in your bag. Just be sure to opt for one that is higher in protein and uses the most natural of ingredients as well as a low to no processed sugar count.

So the next time you’re ready workout, be sure to have some options ready for both before and after your workout. This will ensure that you don’t negate your hard work with a desperate grab for not so heathy snacks. 

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A Simple Approach to Good Nutrition

by Janet Luhrs,

Have you noticed that every year, more and more new studies come out about the latest, greatest way to lose weight and eat well?

Does your head spin with so much conflicting information? Mine sure does. So let’s simplify things.

  • Carbs. Bad word, right? Whoa! Not so fast. We still need carbs – just not from processed food. Did you know that fruits and veggies are carbs? Who knew? Yup – they are the good carbs. So keep pre-sliced veggies in a bowl or bag in your fridge, ready to go whenever you want them. 
  • Protein. Our bodies need this, too. Protein preserves muscle mass and its essential for maintaining an active metabolism. Your body burns more calories to process protein than it does carbs or fat.
  • Good quality protein sources help manage our blood sugar levels and keep cravings at bay. Think eggs, grilled chicken and fish, as a start.
  • Fat. Yes! Certain fats are good for you! Avocados, nut butters, coconut oil, and olives are healthy fats that your body and your brain need to burn clean fuel. Stay away from processed foods with saturated or trans fats (hydrogenated oils).
  • Eat real food. Avoid processed foods, which is pretty much anything in a box or can. Eat food as close to the way it came out of the ground as possible. And stay away from packaged food that has ingredient lists that are long and full of words you can’t pronounce. Strive for more of your daily intake to involve raw food or food in its most natural form.
  • Water, water, water!  Most of us are hard pressed to get enough. It’s best to drink a third of your body weight in water every day, so figure out what yours is and then buy a water jug that makes the math easy. For instance, if you decide you should aim for 64 oz a day, then buy a 32 oz water jug and fill it twice.

I know that when my life gets too complicated, I tend to throw in the towel, so to speak and figure “oh what’s the point?” But when I keep things simple and basic, I experience greater success. Please share with us some tips that you draw upon to keep your nutrition simple and stress free.

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Tips to Simplify your Workout Nutrition

By Janet Luhrs,

What’s the best kind of food to eat to fuel your workouts and get into great shape? It’s confusing, isn’t it? One week it’s low carb, high protein, then it’s more omega 3’s, or high greens or loads of other “latest studies” and options. What to do?When it comes to pre and post workout snacks and nutrition, it helps to have a quick reference list to choose from so that you’re giving your body what it needs to compliment all the hard work you’re putting in.

Before we get to that simple reference list, here’s what you need to know: 

  • Carbs are not your enemy… starchy carbs are. Carbs are your body’s fuel and you need to fuel up before working out so that you can go the distance and train for results. Carbs are needed for immediate fuel sources and also to restore glycogen levels. Eating more carbs than needed leads to fat storage.
  • Consume as many of your daily carbs as is comfortable prior to working out, no need to spread them out during the day.
  • Proteins are needed to help preserve lean muscles.
  • Protein sources vary in effectiveness, but whey based proteins have better results for building lean muscle.
  • Protein is essential for repairing and rebuilding tissue. Strength training breaks down tissue, so consuming your proteins immediately after a workout are key to building lean muscle.
  • If you really pushed your workout and are drained, some fast acting carbs may be in order to boost blood sugars and glycogen levels.

Fast acting carbs for both before and after workouts:

  • Cereal with low-fat milk
  • Fruit smoothies with bananas, pears, grapes, watermelon, and blueberries
  • Raisins
  • Yogurt parfait with any of the above fruit
  • Steel-cut oats topped with dried fruit and almonds

Protein options:

  • Eggs, boiled or otherwise
  • Protein shakes or protein bars
  • PB and toast with half a banana sliced on top
  • Veggie omelet or egg scramble
  • Cottage cheese and fruit
  • Tuna salad and whole grain crackers or whole grain wrap, topped with grated cheese
  •  Pita and hummus

Remember, post workout your body needs critical liquids, so satisfy your thirst with a fruit smoothie and protein powder added and you get more bang for your nutritional buck. Learn to shop with the above list in mind and if you have these options on hand, you are more likely to make a good choice.

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Stay Outside and Play Longer with These 5 Simple Dinner Recipes

By Janet Luhrs,

Who can resist these fabulous summer evenings cycling or playing on the lake, only to have to come home and spend time cooking and getting dinner ready?

We know you don’t want to scrap your commitment to healthy dinner ideas that support your fitness goals, so here are five ideas that take very little prep time and you can even do most of them ahead of time.

  • No stir Risotto with Scallops provides great protein and added power greens. You likely already have most of these ingredients on hand and bonus is you can serve this hot or chilled as a grain salad.
  • These Fish tacos with Summer Salsa will quickly become one of your favorite go-to meals all year ‘round! Great protein and Omega 3’s, zucchini from the garden, and all important avocados and you are right on track to a healthy dinner in only 30 minutes.
  • The Mediterranean Quinoa Salad is packed with power foods and serves chilled for those hot summer evenings. Make it the night before and the quinoa really absorbs the flavors, as well as keeps you out of the kitchen when you come home to a cool, ready-to-eat meal.
  • Try this Avocado-Buttermilk Soup with Crab prepared in your blender and stay cool all summer long! The lemon juice and fresh grated orange rind give it a refreshing citrus addition.
  • This Turkey Salad With Tomato and Avocado will put your garden tomatoes to good use and guarantee no cooking time as you use sliced deli turkey or other sliced meats. The arugula and avocado provide important greens for the week.

Since most of these are either no-cook or can be prepped ahead of time and chilled, you can easily spend that extra time enjoying summer and you still get to eat healthy and light.

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