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    Create Healthy Holiday Traditions

    Kathleen Hermann talks about ways for families to engage in fun fitness activities during the holiday season.

    We all have holiday traditions, from Aunt Sue’s green bean casserole to fireside carols to the annual donning of the matching sweaters.

    However, a lot of our traditions around the holidays focus on heavy, fat-laden foods. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Traditions are important, and the holidays are a good time to indulge as long as we do not indulge to excess.

    Still, it is a good time to assess whether your family has any healthy holiday traditions, namely involving physical activity. If not, then why not consider starting one?

    Growing up, we watched my father every Thanksgiving morning amble through a Turkey Trot 5k. A former college basketball star measuring 6’8″ in height, he was by no means a runner and it was often humorous to watch him lurching down the final stretch. Nevertheless, he loved how running that race (which was, in fact, the only race he ever ran each year) made him feel on Thanksgiving Day.

    As soon as we were old enough, us kids joined him, engaging in a friendly competiton with eachother for place and time. There was something special about knowing no matter the weather — and we had our share of unseasonably warm days as well as days with a foot of snow — we knew where we would be Thanksgiving morning. After an endorphin high of running a race like a Turkey Trot in a huge crowd of like-minded runners, the rest of the day was gravy (pun intended).

    There are, in fact, many different ideas for holiday traditions involving fitness, with  new opportunities forming each year. It’s not important what you do as long as you do your best to mix the holiday, family and friends (or even pets) with fitness. Here are some ideas for healthy traditions you may not yet have tried:

    1. Run a Holiday Race

    Did you know that the first “Turkey Trot” was started in Buffalo during Thanksgiving of 1896? Back then it had only six runners, but today that same Buffalo race regularly has over 10,000 participants. Now there are Turkey Trots and Jingle Runs all over the country, of differing lengths and terrains. The feeling of having accomplished something will make the food taste that much better.

    runners

    2. Backyard Touch Football
    This is a fun, special tradition that many families have already incorporated into their holidays for generations. Instead of sitting on the couch in a food-induced coma, head out for your own friendly-family or neighborhood competition.

    football

    Children especially will cherish watching adults take part in a fun family game with them.

    3. Take a Holiday Walk
    There’s no sweeter image to me on holidays than when I see entire generations of a family out walking down the road in a big pack. The sight of an elderly grandmother pushing a stroller, uncles and aunts engaging in jesting banter, and mixed-age children running ahead just seems to be one of the best ways to unite as a family. Even if it is only you and your dog celebrating this year, take a special walk -perhaps on a nature trail- and enjoy the time to reflect on the holiday and giving thanks.

    4. Engage in a Seasonal Activity
    The holidays are a great time to let your inner child run free. Whether there are young ones with you or not, there’s no reason you can’t go tobogganing, ice skating, or build a large snowman. If you live in a warmer climate, look for indoor ice rinks that offer open skating for the public. All of these activities will  have you sweating off enough calories for that pumpkin pie you ate.

    Holiday traditions don’t have to be focused only on sugar cookies and stuffing. Embrace a tradition involving physical activity and your holiday will combat stress, lift your mood, and make the time richer and brighter. More importantly, you may not end the holiday season five pounds heavier and feeling like a sloth. It is never too late to start a new tradition!

    Does your family have a healthy holiday tradition or story?

    A Match Made at Midtown
    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    When Derek Hendrickson met Sarah White at a friend’s Memorial Day barbeque in 2010, they quickly learned that among other common interests, they shared a passion for working out at Midtown.

    Soon after the barbeque, the pair began noticing eachother in group fitness classes, on the weight room floor, and at Midtown events. Derek and Sarah began dating in March of 2011.

    They often had dates at Midtown.

    Derek says, Sarah and I each picked classes that the other was already taking. Sarah joined Tony’s Saturday morning spinning class with me and I would follow her upstairs to take Christine’s Zumba class.”

    It was during these workout dates at the club that Derek and Sarah got to know eachother, and they fell in love. They were engaged on December 31, 2012 and married on August 16, 2014.

    “We knew that a great part of our story happened at the club and when it came time to pick a venue for our wedding pictures, we both selected Midtown as our first choice!” says Derek.

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Choosing their photographer was an easy decision as well. Ben Ferro, Membership Director and a longtime friend of the pair, is a seasoned professional photographer and owner of Ben Ferro Photography. Ben (who was also the photographer for Sarah’s brother’s 2007 wedding) jumped at the chance to take Derek and Sarah’s unique wedding photos in the club.

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    The couple provided Ben with some general ideas on where in the club they wanted their wedding photos taken, and Ben expertly set up the shots both inside and outside of Midtown. Derek and Sarah’s bridal party included three Midtown members.

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    “Spending time at Midtown helped us get to know each other better and grow closer. Midtown was such an integral part of our story that it seemed only natural to have it be a special part of our wedding day,” says Derek.

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Now that the pair is married, Derek and Sarah continue to work out at Midtown five days a week, both together and apart. Both love MXT and Group Power. Sarah enjoys No Limits, while Derek’s recently begun taking Tabata classes.

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    “We’re always on the go and see Midtown as a place that helps us stay fit and balanced through the exercise classes, equipment, and healthy food options,” says Derek.

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Photo Credit: benjaminferro.com

    Congratulations, Derek and Sarah. We wish you a lifetime of good health and happiness.

    Climb Every Mountain: Mary Archibald’s Story

    Mary Archibald1Our members are behind all that we do.

    Their desire to improve their health and wellness, to increase their fitness levels so they can live life to the fullest, and to work hard doing so are what inspire us.

    Mary Archibald’s story is no exception.

    At 55 years old, Mary just summitted her 10th 14,000-foot peak in Colorado all by herself.

    In her email to Midtown Athletic Club at Windy Hill General Manager Karen Foley, Mary writes, “Midtown is a very big part of my life.”

    She credits the club with keeping her in excellent shape and with preparing her to battle snow, wind, and clouds for almost 7 hours to climb to the top of Mt. Bross.

    Mary Archibald3

    “I wouldn’t be able to do that if I didn’t have Midtown and the awesome variety of ways to work out (tennnis, spin classes, treadmills, yoga) to keep my interest,” says Mary. She loves that exercising with others serves as a motivation to complete tough workouts.

    Mary also enjoys the social aspect of the club and the many great people she’s met. She’s also a big fan of the wine-tastings.

    We are too, Mary. We are too.

    A big congratulations to Mary on her remarkable achievement as she demonstrates the benefits of a fit and active lifestyle.

    We’re so proud of her.

    6 Tips for Safe Summer Running

    Bloggers and seasoned runners Millie Minton and Kathleen Bush have teamed up to offer tips on how to run outdoors safely during the hot summer months.

    Ahhhh, summer. The extended daylight hours beckon runners onto the open roads, but soaring heat and humidity can take their toll on your running mojo.

    Here are 6 tips to beat the heat while running this summer.

    1. Run Prepared

    Summer running might mean you’ll require fewer articles of clothing, but don’t skimp on gearing up. Apply non-drip sunscreen to protect your skin before you head out. Grab a pair of sport sunglasses with nose grips to help with sun glare and to give you  a better view of oncoming motorists.

    When going on long trail runs on runs in less populated areas, always make sure to tell someone your route and when to expect you back, or run with a cell phone. Stash some cash in case you become overheated and need to stop for a drink or to use for cab fare home.

    2. Run Early or Run Late

    Experienced runners like to say that the best time to run is when your shadow is longer than you are. In other words, avoid running between 10am and 4pm when the sun’s intensity is at its greatest. If you suffer from respiratory problems, remember that air quality is usually better in the morning than it is later in the day. Plus, early morning runs mean fewer cars and less traffic noise.

    If you must run when the sun is up, pick a shady course. Think tree-lined streets over winding country roads. And if you’re running at night, remember your reflective vest.

    3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

    If you’re running in the heat for more than a couple miles, you will need  hydration mid-run. Invest in a hydration pack (found at any running shop), or drive your route in advance and strategically hide partially frozen water bottles along the way (don’t forget to drive back to collect them when you’re done!).

    You could also plan a one or two mile route around a focal point, such as your home or Midtown. Run  laps of this same route, stopping for a drink each time you pass. Having extra water to pour on your head and neck is a huge psychological bonus, so don’t be afraid to run through a sprinkler when passing!

    One of the worst things you can do to your body is dehydrate it. When you overheat, your recovery time will be much longer as your body will need time to heal.

    4. Dress for Success

    Your old cotton tshirt isn’t the best choice for running in the heat. Technical fibers will move moisture away from your skin, producing a cooling effect. Many of the newer fabrics also have the bonus of built-in UV protection. Don’t underestimate the importance of moisture-wicking socks, either. Keeping your feet cool and dry will prevent blisters.

    5. Remember Your Electrolytes

    On long runs in the heat, you need to remember your important friends: sodium and potassium. These and other electrolytes keep your digestive, nervous, cardiac, and muscular systems functioning properly. The more you sweat, the more electrolytes you’ll lose. If you’re running long, consider refueling with sports drinks such as Gatorade or Accelerade during the run, and post-run as well. Recent research, however, suggests that sports drinks, which are often high in sugar, might not be the best post-workout drink, so you might opt for milk, coconut water, or a piece of fruit to replenish electrolytes.

    6. Know the Warning Signs

    Don’t try to be a superhero. There is a clear line between proving mental toughness and putting your health in jeopardy, and unfortunately many runners allow themselves to cross it. You are not weak for rescheduling a run on a hot day or for stopping early; rather, you are smart.

    Don’t expect your pace to be the same as you manage on brisk, mild days. Watch for symptoms of heat disease: intense heat build up, headache, nausea, clammy skim, muscle cramps, and feeling faint. If any of these symptoms strike, stop immediately and head for a drink in the shade.

    Enjoy the summer weather and the myriad psychological and physical benefits of running outdoors. Stay safe, smart, and cool and you’ll reap the benefits of running all year long.

    From Runner to Tennis Player in 3 Weeks

    “What do you do for fun?”

    If you had asked me that question at any point during the past 10 years, I would have said running without giving it a second thought. Running is a convenient, healthy, goal-oriented activity. It’s also pretty popular these days. Like many of my Facebook friends, I enjoyed posting about my next race and took pride in tackling greater distances and finishing in faster times. My collection of race t-shirts was on pace to outgrow my closet.

    This spring, however, I started thinking that maybe I had been pounding the pavement for long enough. It’s not that I wanted to give up running completely. I just wondered what else might be out there for people like me – a fitness enthusiast looking for a new challenge.

    That’s when I decided to take “Tennis in No Time,” Midtown Athletic Club’s three-week beginner tennis program. All you have to do is show up, and your coach will give you a racquet and teach you to play tennis in six lessons. It turns out it really was that simple, but more importantly, it was a lot of fun.

    It didn’t take long to figure out that Tennis in No Time isn’t just a standard tennis class. With a small class size (just 5 players in my case), we each received a good amount of individual instruction from our coach, Jim, and we left each day feeling more confident in our skills and knowledge of the game.

    From grips, shots and footwork, to singles and doubles rules and scoring and strategy, we quickly learned what we needed to do to win points on the court.

    We used foam balls on a half court the first week, and eventually progressed to higher compression balls on a regulation-size court throughout the program.  This is another way Tennis in No Time (TNT) helped us build on-court skills because this innovative approach allowed us to slow down the game  without slowing the pace of the class. As someone looking for a new way to stay fit, I was psyched that standing around and waiting in line were not part of the lesson plan.

    Each class concluded with a wrap-up session in the Paddle Tennis Hut, where another coach would review the concepts we practiced that day. We also heard some great tips on how to practice. My favorite piece of advice came from coach Mike, who taught us how to use the ball machines in the club’s complimentary practice lanes. He reminded us to “always have an intention for your practice,” and to “always practice at your highest level of success,” which were principles that were applied consistently throughout the program.

    All that said, the real highlights of Tennis in No Time were the parties, where we were introduced to the social side of the sport. The first party was a Cardio Tennis theme, which included high-energy cardio & tennis drills accompanied by heart-pumping music from a DJ. With endorphins flying around the courts as fast as the tennis balls we were hitting, everyone was wearing a smile.

    The second party was a doubles mixer, featuring warm-up drills followed by fast-paced tennis with coach instruction (and raffle prizes!). Both parties concluded with food and drinks, and more time to hang out with our new tennis friends.

    So the question is, can a runner really become a tennis player in three weeks? In Tennis in No Time, the answer is yes, in less than three weeks. We were having fun playing tennis on the first day and every day throughout the program. And with the added benefit of tennis being a great workout (I’m even starting to develop my own set of “Michelle Obama arms”), the result is that I’m developing quite a crush on the sport…a crush that might just become a lifelong love affair.

    Want to know more about TNT? Head here for another Tennis in No Time testimonial.

    Ready to sign up? Click here for more information about TNT.

    Have you tried tennis? What do you like about it?

    From Runner to Tennis Player in Three Weeks

    “What do you do for fun?”

    If you had asked me that question at any point during the past 10 years, I would have said running without giving it a second thought. Running is a convenient, healthy, goal-oriented activity. It’s also pretty popular these days. Like many of my Facebook friends, I enjoyed posting about my next race and took pride in tackling greater distances and finishing in faster times. My collection of race t-shirts was on pace to outgrow my closet.

    This spring, however, I started thinking that maybe I had been pounding the pavement for long enough. It’s not that I wanted to give up running completely. I just wondered what else might be out there for people like me – a fitness enthusiast looking for a new challenge.

    That’s when I decided to take “Tennis in No Time,” Midtown Athletic Club’s three-week beginner tennis program. All you have to do is show up, and your coach will give you a racquet and teach you to play tennis in six lessons. It turns out it really was that simple, but more importantly, it was a lot of fun.

    It didn’t take long to figure out that Tennis in No Time isn’t just a standard tennis class. With a small class size (just 5 players in my case), we each received a good amount of individual instruction from our coach, Jim, and we left each day feeling more confident in our skills and knowledge of the game.

    From grips, shots and footwork, to singles and doubles rules and scoring and strategy, we quickly learned what we needed to do to win points on the court.

    We used foam balls on a half court the first week, and eventually progressed to higher compression balls on a regulation-size court throughout the program.  This is another way Tennis in No Time (TNT) helped us build on-court skills because this innovative approach allowed us to slow down the game  without slowing the pace of the class. As someone looking for a new way to stay fit, I was psyched that standing around and waiting in line were not part of the lesson plan.

    Each class concluded with a wrap-up session in the Paddle Tennis Hut, where another coach would review the concepts we practiced that day. We also heard some great tips on how to practice. My favorite piece of advice came from coach Mike, who taught us how to use the ball machines in the club’s complimentary practice lanes. He reminded us to “always have an intention for your practice,” and to “always practice at your highest level of success,” which were principles that were applied consistently throughout the program.

    All that said, the real highlights of Tennis in No Time were the parties, where we were introduced to the social side of the sport. The first party was a Cardio Tennis theme, which included high-energy cardio & tennis drills accompanied by heart-pumping music from a DJ. With endorphins flying around the courts as fast as the tennis balls we were hitting, everyone was wearing a smile.

    The second party was a doubles mixer, featuring warm-up drills followed by fast-paced tennis with coach instruction (and raffle prizes!). Both parties concluded with food and drinks, and more time to hang out with our new tennis friends.

    So the question is, can a runner really become a tennis player in three weeks? In Tennis in No Time, the answer is yes, in less than three weeks. We were having fun playing tennis on the first day and every day throughout the program. And with the added benefit of tennis being a great workout (I’m even starting to develop my own set of “Michelle Obama arms”), the result is that I’m developing quite a crush on the sport…a crush that might just become a lifelong love affair.

    Want to know more about TNT? Head here for another Tennis in No Time testimonial.

    Ready to sign up? Click here for more information about TNT.

    Have you tried tennis? What do you like about it?

    Eat For Your Heart

    Nutritionist Sarah Guilbert takes over the blog to talk about dietary changes you can make right now to improve not only your heart health, but also your overall quality of life as well.

    Today is Go Red for Women day to promote women’s heart health. I have the pleasure of working in the Cardiac Care Unit at the University of Rochester Medical Center, where I speak with patients about heart-healthy diet strategies after they have had a heart attack or other cardiac event.

    Here are the dietary strategies I share with them. Please use them to make healthy food choices to protect your heart on Go Red for Women Day and every day.

    Foods That Promote Heart Health

    Fruits and Vegetables: Produce has dietary fiber, which is important for lowering cholesterol levels. Those whose diets are rich in fruits and vegetables often have lower blood pressure. Try adding a cup of berries to your regular breakfast, or enjoy some raw veggies with hummus as a mid-afternoon snack.

    Nuts: Studies have shown that nut consumption correlates with decreased risk of cardiovascular disease. Eat walnuts, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids (more on these next), pistachios, or almonds to keep your heart strong and healthy.

    Salmon and Tuna: These two fish have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are a type of essential fatty acid that have a number of health benefits, including reducing your risk of death from coronary artery disease, reducing inflammation, and potentially lowering your risk for chronic disease. Fish intake also correlates with lower risk for cardiovascular disease in general.

    Diet Components to Limit for Heart Health

    Total Fat: Keep your daily total fat intake within a moderate range, or within 25-35% of your daily calories.  For a 1,500- calorie diet, this is approximately 40-to-60 grams of fat per day. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this is approximately 55-to-75 grams of fat per day.

    Bad Fats: Keep saturated fat to <7% of your daily calories. Limiting fried foods, fatty cuts of meat, and added butter will help you reach this goal. Trans fats, also called partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, should be limited to <1% of your calories, and ideally, you should consume foods with trans fats at all. Try to avoid margarine, commercial baked goods (like pies and cakes), and fried foods in order to limit your trans fats consumption.

    Dietary Cholesterol: Limit the amount of cholesterol you eat because high levels of cholesterol consumption correlates with higher levels of LDL cholesterol in plasma. Stick to less than 200-to-300 milligrams per day. Limit consumption of egg yolks to four per week, avoid fatty meat products, and limit shellfish consumption to better manage your cholesterol intake.

    Sodium: Too much dietary sodium can raise blood pressure and cause the heart to work harder. Limit your intake to <2,000 milligrams per day. 1,500 milligrams per day or less is ideal.  Also, avoid these high sodium foods: canned items (especially soups and sauces), prepared foods/restaurant food, frozen dinners, snack items (chips, crackers, popcorn), condiments and sauces, deli meat (especially ham), and cheese.

    Heart disease takes the lives of 1 in 3 women each year. According to the American Heart Association, studies show that healthy choices have resulted in 330 fewer women dying from heart disease per day. Make these changes to your diet, exercise regularly, and you’ll place yourself on the right track to a long and healthy life.

    For even more ways you can protect your heart, check out these tips.

    References
    Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Nutrition therapy to reduce sodium and cholesterol (n.d.).  Retrieved January 25, 2013, from http://nutritioncaremanual.org/vault/editor/Docs/NutritionTherapytoReduceCholesterolSodium2.pdf
    Elrich, S. University of Maryland Medical Center.  Omega 3 fatty acids.  (2011, May 10).  Retrieved January 27, 2013,  from http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/omega-3-000316.htm
    Lichtenstein A, Appel L, Brands, M, Carnethon M, Daniels S, Franch HA, et al. Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee. Circulation.  (2006, June).  Retrieved January 27, 2013, from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/114/1/82.full.pdf.

    What do you do to keep your heart healthy and strong?

    5 Workout Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Resolution

    One of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is to improve health.

    Unfortunately, most New Year’s Resolutions are also doomed to fail.

    In the interest of saving you time in route to your destination (the body of your dreams, we hope!), let’s examine some of the most common exercise mistakes to determine whether you have what it takes to succeed.

    Mistake #1: Doing Too Much, Too Soon

    If it has been a while since you’ve exercised, or you have been exercising inconsistently, your body isn’t going to respond well to a strenuous program right off the bat. Choose a schedule that you can stick to (e.g. one hour per day, three times per week), and begin at an intensity level that feels challenging, but not debilitating.  Make sure to incorporate adequate time for a warm-up and cool-down.

    Mistake #2: Forgetting Proper Technique

    When it comes to resistance training, technique is the difference between getting results and getting injured, or not seeing any improvement at all.  It starts with proper posture, which means keeping the core engaged (imagine how you would brace yourself if someone was about to punch you in the stomach), and standing tall with a neutral spine, shoulder blades pulled back, and head lifted.

    Also, make sure you know the purpose of the exercise you are about to perform.  What muscles are working?  What is the proper range of motion for the exercise?  Is this the most effective way to target the muscles I want to work?

    If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it’s time to talk to a trainer or instructor, or do some research on your own.  Time spent now on learning how to do the exercise correctly means less time to your goal.

    Mistake #3: Choosing Quantity Over Quality

    If doing an hour of cardio means walking on a treadmill while you catch up on the latest episode of Downton Abbey and you barely break a sweat, then that hour didn’t do a whole lot to help you improve your fitness (the same concept applies to doing a lot of repetitions with almost negligible weight). Working out should feel challenging, and the good news is, challenging yourself appropriately will lead you to the results you want in less time.

    Mistake #4: Always Doing the Same Thing

    Don’t worry; you don’t have to give up cycling if that is your favorite workout. Just make sure that you are changing your exercise intensity from time to time (alternating hard days and easy days, or increasing resistance over time), and maintaining a balanced program.  That means incorporating cardiovascular, strength, and flexibility training.

    Now for the Number One resolution-killer

    Mistake #5: Ignoring the Truth

    Make sure you are answering the following questions honestly:

    • Do I have the time and motivation to reach the goal I have set for myself?
    • Am I choosing the right exercises for my current fitness level that will help me get where I want to go?
    • If your goal is weight loss – am I overestimating calories out and underestimating calories in? (For assistance, check out our post on Heart Rate Monitors.)
    • Do I have a method of measuring my progress that isn’t just stepping on a scale (e.g. monitoring heart rate at a given pace, distance covered per unit time, reps completed before reaching fatigue, documenting how you feel)?

    If the answer to these questions is “No,” or “I’m not sure,” you may be setting yourself up for failure. Give yourself your best chance at fitness this year – avoid these detrimental mistakes, create and stick to a plan, and go for it!

    What are your fitness goals this year?  What steps are you taking to achieve them?

    SuperFoods: They’re Here to Save the Day

    Midtown Athletic Club in Willowbrook, IL Registered Dietitian, Certified Personal Trainer, and Certified Personal Coach Nicole Polus takes over the blog today to discuss how to incorporate superfoods into your active lifestyle, so you can maintain a healthy weight during the calorie-laden holiday season of eating.

    You’ve heard the phrase “superfood” in health and fitness magazines, on afternoon talk shows, and all over the Internet , but what truly makes a food “super”?  Superfoods contain powerful amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that help people fight disease and live healthier lives.

    There are many foods that can positively impact overall health and wellness, so I recommend that you eat a variety of healthy foods every day to get the best nutrition for your body. But adding in one (or more) of these superfoods each day can deliver the boost you need to stay healthy during the cold winter months.

    Sweet Potato

    Everyone’s favorite tuber around the holiday season is jam-packed with fiber, helping you maintain good cholesterol while keeping you fuller longer, which is beneficial for weight loss or maintenance. Sweet potatoes are also an excellent source of potassium and vitamins A, B6, and C. Studies have shown that incorporating sweet potato into the diet is not only good for heart health, but also helps with glucose control and insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes.

    For Thanksgiving this year, add to your plate an extra serving of sweet potato casserole (as long as it isn’t loaded with butter, marshmallows, and brown sugar, of course). Looking to bring your own healthier version of sweet potato deliciousness to the Turkey Day feast? Try this recipe or you could always think outside the box and try a new recipe like this sweet potato hash.

    Chia Seeds

    You used to watch these seeds grow out of of a pottery planter in the shape of your favorite animal. Now, try eating them instead! Like other noteworthy seeds and nuts, chia seeds are high in fiber (about 10 grams per 1 ounce serving) and also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help improve heart health (about 5 grams per 1 ounce serving, which is double the amount found in the same serving of walnuts). Additionally, these seeds are good sources of copper, iron, manganese, phosphorus, and zinc.

    Chia seeds are flavorless, so you can add them to any snack or meal.  Sprinkle some into your morning oatmeal, swirl some into your afternoon yogurt snack or homemade smoothie, or sprinkle them on top of your dinner salad. If you enjoy baking, you can incorporate these seeds into most breads, muffins, and even cookies, so start experimenting. You can find chia seeds in most grocery stores.

    Kale

    This dark green, bitter-tasting vegetable is a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, especially when cooked. It is also a good source of calcium, fiber, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and iron. It’s a true superfood. Studies show the many health benefits, which include raising HDL (good) cholesterol, lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, and decreasing the risk of both breast and prostate cancer.

    Try this delicious Barley Kale Salad, which is one of my favorites. I have brought this dish to two family parties, and have come home with an empty bowl both times. Tip: do not add too much of the vinegar dressing all at once to prevent over-dressing the dish. If you prefer your kale cooked, try this easy side dish recipe made with simple ingredients found in the pantry and fridge.

    Eggplant and Kale Sauté

    Ingredients:

    1 medium eggplant, chopped into cubes

    3 cups of kale, rinsed, chopped, and stems trimmed off

    1 cup of fresh mushrooms (or 8-ounce can)

    8 ounce can of no-salt-added tomato sauce

    Spices for extra flavor (I used a little garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper, a sprinkle of oregano, and some sesame seeds, but use what you like.)

    Spray a medium to large sauté pan or skillet with cooking spray.  In the pan, cook the cubed eggplant, covered on medium heat for about 5 minutes.  Next, add the chopped kale and mushrooms into the pan. Cover and cook the vegetables about 5 minutes more or until the kale begins to wilt and the eggplant begins to brown. Lastly, slowly add the can of tomato sauce and stir to coat all the vegetables. Cover and cook on low for a few more minutes. Season with spices for extra flavoring.

    Quinoa

    This mighty whole grain, known for its protein-packed body (6 grams per 1/3 cup serving), is an excellent source of folic acid, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus. Compared to wheat, barley, or corn, it is higher in calcium, copper, zinc, potassium, and iron. Quinoa is also a great source of dietary fiber, which promotes satiety or fullness.

    Technically, quinoa is actually a seed, but it is usually considered a whole grain because it is prepared like other whole grains, including rice and barley. Nutritionally, it is also a complete protein (contains all 9 essential amino acids), which is very rare for plant-based foods. Research has shown that eating this grain decreases the risk for gum disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and inflammation.

    When cooked alone, quinoa has great flavor. It takes about 15 minutes on the stovetop, and each individual grain should turn clear with a ring around it when finished. After cooking, you can season it with spices, olive oil, or a splash of lime juice. It is also great served alongside vegetables, as shown during of my latest dinners, which was delicious.

    If you want to experiment with a quinoa recipe, try this recipe, which is a quinoa spin on mac-n’-cheese. Tip: It is best to buy pre-rinsed/pre-washed quinoa, which is sold in most grocery stores. That way you can use the quinoa straight from the box or tub when cooking with it. Got a sweet tooth? Try this recipe for sweet potato quinoa, which combines two of our superfoods.

    So, if you have wanted to pump up the nutrition in your cooking, or simple add some healthful recipes to your usual holiday meal plan, now is the time. Head to your favorite grocery store and add these superfoods to your cart.

    Happy eating.

    References:

    Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Retrieved October 21, 2013, from www.eatright.org.

    Grotto, David, RD, LDN.  The Best Things You Can Eat. Boston: First Da Capo Press, 2013

    6 Ways to Stay Holiday Healthy

    Midtown Athletic Club in Willowbrook, IL Personal Trainer Nicole Duval takes over the blog today to discuss how to navigate the muddy (and calorie-laden) waters of the holiday season and still maintain a healthy weight and an active lifestyle.

    Ahh, the holidays. Such a joyous time: themed parties, family get-togethers, surprise presents.

    But all of these “fun” times can wreck havoc on waistlines. So how do you stay within your happy weight range and still have fun through the new year?  Here are a few tips to help you stay an active and smart party-goer!

    Purchase Halloween Candy on October 30th

    This holiday is fast approaching and the biggest temptation is not the candy your kids get when they trick-or-treat, but the candy you buy to give out!

    The stores advertise their HUGE sales weeks in advance, so not only are you tempted to buy candy at these stores, but you’ll buy it, eat it all, and have to buy more. So wait until the last minute and it won’t be sitting in your cupboard calling your name when you sit down to watch that DVR’d episode of Parenthood.  I promise, it will still be on sale.

    If you must have a few pieces, steal them from your kid’s loot.  Just don’t tell them I told you to do that.

    Buy Opposite Your Taste Buds

    Another idea is to buy candy you don’t really enjoy. Nerds and Smarties just don’t do it for me so I’m not going to eat half a bag before the doorbell starts ringing. If you buy candy you’re not crazy about, you’re less likely to pig out when you’re giving the candy away.

    Use this tip throughout the season. If you stock-up on hostess gifts such as boxes of candy or tins full of nuts just in case you have a last-minute event to attend, buy treats that you won’t eat by the handful. If you’re not a popcorn person, buy three-flavor tins of popcorn for hosts, or if you prefer red wine, buy a few whites to have in your stockpile. You’ll be less likely to open one of these “gifts” if you don’t like them.

    Plan Your “Cheat” Meals

    So now Thanksgiving is drawing near followed by Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year’s. Your calendar is filling up with parties to attend and you can already feel your pants getting tighter.

    How do you enjoy your friends and family without having to buy new clothes next year?  Your first step is to check your calendar every Sunday for the upcoming week and see what function(s) you’re attending.  Plan your “cheat” meal to be that event. That way you’ll have something to look forward to when you’re eating ”good and clean” all week.

    Scan and Plan

    When you arrive at the event, scan the party for the entire spread before you start noshing.  Pick one or two treats that you’ll indulge in (such as mini beef wellingtons or chocolate chip cheesecake) and fill the rest of your plate with vegetable-based appetizers, shrimp cocktail, and anything without puff pastry.

    Drink Smartly

    Pick a lower-calorie beverage such as wine (100 calories per 4 oz. serving), or a light beer; preferably one that has the amount of calories in the name, such as Budweiser Select 55 or MGD 64, so you can easily track your alcohol calories.

    It’s also best to stop after one alcoholic beverage, not only for the calorie count or to be a safe driver, but because the more tipsy you get, the more your inhibitions go down and the more mindlessly you’ll end up eating. You don’t want to ruin your entire week’s worth of workouts on a whole bottle of wine and in turn eat the entire bowl of chips!

    Get Grooving

    Lastly, if there is dancing at any of these events, then bust a move!  Getting some cardio in will help you burn off your extra treat pounds so when 2014 comes, you can slip back into your skinny jeans just like it’s 2013.  Or maybe 2001 if you REALLY break it down!

    So what are your holiday healthy tips?  Do share!

    FOLLOWMIDTOWNAtlanta
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