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We all have holiday traditions, from Aunt Linda’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.
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. 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?
Struggling for ideas on what to pack in your kids’ school lunches that will give them the energy and brain power to last through a full day of classes and after-school sports? Sarah Guilbert, the Nutritionist from Midtown Athletic Club in Rochester, is back to demystify the healthy lunch packing process with some great recipes to help your children have a productive year in school.
You’re not alone if you’re having trouble coming up with creative, healthy ideas for your kids’ packed lunches and snacks. There are many misleading kid-friendly “health-food” products on the market that are actually anything but, and wading through the front-of-the-package marketing claims is sometimes difficult.
By ditching the processed, prepared foods and making lunches and snacks yourself you can ensure that your child is eating healthfully. It is also a fun way to give your kids a little food education, as you teach them the preparation skills necessary to one day take over the job for you.
The following recipes will help students power through the school day with enough energy to perform well academically as well as on the sports field, track, or swimming pool.
Whole Grain Pita Pockets with Harvest Chicken Salad
This recipe shows the versatality of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt. Tip: substitute regular walnuts for the candied walnuts in this recipe to lower the amount of added sugar.
Whole Wheat Bread, Natural Peanut Butter, and Banana Slices. Pack Milk in a Thermos.
This is a potassium-rich variant on traditional peanut butter and jelly.
Spaghetti Squash with Grilled Chicken and Low-Sodium Marinara Sauce
Spaghetti squash is a healthy and fun substitute for refined pasta. You can easily pack this dish in a thermos or a container like this. Have your kids help prepare the squash so they can see the fascinating inside of this vegetable.
Greek Yogurt, Banana, and Low-Fat Granola Parfait.
Add your child’s favorite side dish to round it out. This meal is packed with potassium and protein.
Healthy Grilled Cheese Paired with a Side Salad in an Edible Bowl
Make a grilled cheese sandwich using whole grain bread with reduced fat cheese, tomato, and spinach.
Fill a pepper with spring mix, carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, and an olive oil-based salad dressing for a fun way to do a side-salad.
This recipe is a good source of fiber and plant protein for the adventurous eater. Make this on a Sunday night, as it requires more preparation time than the other other recipes.
Step away from the Twinkies and Chips Ahoy. A lunch box dessert doesn’t have to be filled with calories and chemicals. Try these instead:
Homemade Pudding Made with Nonfat Milk
Pears with Nutmeg
This is a great way to introduce your kids to delicious, healthy desserts. Fruit sugar is sweeter than table sugar and comes with many other beneficial nutrients that help to fuel your loved one.
Apple Slices with Cinnamon
This idea came from a devoted Midtown member who uses this as a snack on her bike rides.
Vanilla Greek Yogurt Mixed with Peanut Butter
Trail Mix with Nuts, Raisins, and Homemade Popcorn.
Find great recipes here.
Carrots/Celery with Peanut Butter
Ants on a log. Why? This snack has healthy fiber and two heart-healthy ingredients. Plus, they are fun to prepare and eat!
Fruit and Veggie Skewers
Have your child pick out his/her favorite fruits. Try to incorporate at least three different colors. If making a veggie skewer, add a yogurt-based salad dressing or homemade hummus for dipping.
Freshly Cut Vegetables with Homemade Hummus
Find a great recipe for hummus here.
Homemade Energy Bars
Here’s a recipe I developed out of frustration after reading the suspicious ingredients on just about every store-bought energy bar I’ve picked up. Energy bars shouldn’t have 30 ingredients. Here’s my simple and healthy alternative with ingredients you know and recognize.
Nutrition before a workout or an after-school activity involving exercise should be low in fat and fiber and provide a moderate amount of carbohydrates and protein.
String Cheese and an Apple
Banana and 1 Tbsp Natural Peanut Butter
Aim for higher carbohydrates and less fat than a typical trail-mix type bar.
You can find even more healthy lunch and snack ideas by following our Healthy Kids Pinterest board here.
Summer is often a time to relax and rejuvenate, but it can also feel just as hectic as the rest of the year. Between trips to the pool, sports games and camps, celebrations, vacations, school programs, and regular work, our daily schedules are about as unpredictable as they can be.
This unpredictability can present a challenge at meal time. It’s often easier to grab food on the road or rely on processed/packaged foods than it is to prepare healthy food at home. However, we can make healthy meals part of our summer experience without getting in the way of the fun.
Here are three easy ways to get the most nutritional benefit out of your summer meals.
In-season fruits and vegetables are your biggest nutrition allies during the summer months. Fresh produce is not only packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water, but most varieties also taste best at this time of year, which means that you don’t have to dress them up with a lot of extras!
Look for ways to use fruits and vegetables in snacks/appetizers, side dishes, and desserts, and season foods with fresh spices to add flavor without adding calories.
You can also give yourself an extra activity boost by growing and harvesting these foods from your own garden, or walk or bike to your local Farmers’ Market and pick out a variety of fresh produce each week.
Take advantage of nice weather to prepare your food on the grill. Grilling can be one of the quickest ways to prepare meals (you can even grill ahead of time and save food for later in the week), and it’s also a very healthy cooking method when you use proper techniques.
According to eatingwell.com, cooking meats at the high temperatures used when grilling, broiling, and frying creates compounds that are linked to some cancers. That said, there is no evidence that grilling causes cancer, and there are steps you can take to prevent the formation of these chemicals.
Make sure to keep your grill clean, trim excess fats from foods, and use marinades and rubs to act as a protective barrier against the high heat while adding some extra flavor.
Additionally, cook meat and fish to the right temperature while avoiding excessive charring. Food safety guidelines indicate that poultry should be heated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, ground red meat and pork to 160, and red meat steaks or chops and fish to 145.
Traditional summer beverages including lemonade, smoothies, soda, beer, and other sugary alcoholic beverages can add a lot of extra calories and not much nutritional value to your meal (see our post on 5 Steps to a Healthy Margarita to learn how to make your favorite beverages healthier).
First and foremost, the beverage accompanying your meal should help keep you hydrated during warm weather. Your best options limit extra sugar and avoid the diuretic effects of alcohol and excessive caffeine.
Healthy examples of refreshing summer beverages include ice water, sparkling water, or unsweetened iced tea with lemon or lime. Low-fat milk, fruit spritzers (or watered down juices), and homemade, no-sugar added smoothies can also be great options.
Summer meals can be healthy, delicious, and easy and fun to prepare. Not only will you feel the added satisfaction of growing and/or preparing fresh foods, but your body will also thank you for limiting your intake of processed items.
Here’s one more bonus tip – take advantage of opportunities to slow down and create a more relaxed atmosphere during meal times. It might be tough in the midst of a busy schedule of activities, but taking your time will prevent overeating and help you enjoy the full flavor of the season.
What are some of your favorite, healthy summer recipes?
Full disclosure: I had no intention of registering my four-year-old twins for Midtown’s new Tennis Explorers program.
I love them to pieces, but these two are “spirited” on their best days and the definition of chaos and mayhem on their worst. And, like many preschoolers, they are very active, very boisterous, and have very short attention spans.
Twinsanity and tennis? Like oil and water, I thought.
Boy, was I wrong.
We’re nearing the completion of our first 10-week, parent-and-child session, and my twins not only love the game, but have also mastered skills I never thought they would stand still enough to learn.
Tennis Explorers is unique because the emphasis is on fun, movement, and cultural awareness. Midtown created the program with childhood development professionals, so literacy, counting, and social skills are also incorporated with each lesson.
The kids spend the first 5 minutes of each lesson in a “circle time” atmosphere on-court, listening to their tennis coach read them a story about a different country from their Tennis Explorers book. They learn how to say, “Hello” in the language of that country, which was a huge hit with my kids. They’re stilling saying, “Jambo” to people they meet, three weeks after learning about Kenya.
Rest assured that your 3-year-old won’t be whacking around a regulation tennis ball with abandon. Tennis Explorers uses large, easy-to-hit foam balls, and in class, they aren’t even called tennis balls. They are “turtles” for one drill (kids practice hand-eye coordination skills by using the strings of their racquet-the turtle’s “shell”-to stop a rolling ball-the turtle’s body) and a “kangaroo” that needs to find its way into its mother’s “pouch” (a cone) for another.
Outside of the story, the class is kept in constant motion, which is a perfect format for active preschoolers. They work on balance, coordination, both large and small motor skills, and the proper way to hold and swing the most adorable, age-appropriate racquet you’ve ever seen. The racquet was designed especially for Midtown by Wilson and each Tennis Explorer receives one, along with these backpacks.
My kids’ tennis coach flawlessly integrates parent participation with each lesson, as we’re asked to toss the kids balls to hit, or even participate in a balance drill along with our children. Parents aren’t usually able to participate in softball, or soccer, or hockey right alongside their kids, so my husband and I are happy to have the opportunity to join our twins on-court in their first foray into sports.
It took just a single class to hook my kids on the game. By the end of the first lesson, my sometimes surly son was jumping up and down shouting, “I LOVE tennis!” He was even more excited to get his first sticker in his “Passport,” the small green book where kids collect a sticker upon completion of each lesson.
All four of us are looking forward to the next session, which begins next week.
While there are child-only classes on the schedule, where kids work with a pro sans parents as they do in other levels of tennis, I would encourage you to take the class with your kids, or have another caregiver take it with them, at least for the first time around. First, the class was designed this way, but more importantly it offers you a guaranteed 45 minutes of uninterrupted time each week to spend with your preschooler.
And with the fast pace of most of our lives, that kind of time is invaluable.
Has your child taken our inaugural session of Tennis Explorers? Please share what you thought of the program in our Comments section.
If you spent the weeks leading up to the summer season getting “swimsuit-ready” only to realize that mid-way through the summer, you’ve put on a few pounds, you’re not alone. Experts agree that summer weight gain is common among both adults and children.
Check out some easy ways to avoid the pitfalls, so you can stay healthy, fit, and ready to put on those skinny jeans this fall.
1. Plan Meals and Snacks.
Summer’s laid-back feel and variable schedule can derail your motivation and ability to plan and prepare healthy meals and snacks. However, maintaining a healthy menu and eating schedule over the summer is key to controlling your weight.
Schedule time during your day to shop for and prepare healthy foods. This might actually help you feel less stressed, because both your mind and body will appreciate a nutritious energy boost.
2. Watch What You Eat at Summer Parties.
From your son’s graduation celebration, to your cousin’s wedding, to the family backyard BBQ, summer calendars are packed with events that include an unlimited amount of fatty, sugary foods.
To avoid overindulging, focus on catching up with family and friends. Don’t overload your plate, and avoid going back for seconds and thirds. You will have more time for conversation and ready to take on the next activity!
3. Limit Summer Treats.
It’s perfectly healthy to enjoy an ice cream cone once a week, but if that cone is accompanied by a frappuccino here and a margarita there (even one made from our healthy recipe), the extra calories can add up quickly. Less obvious, or seemingly “healthier” options, such as frozen yogurt, lemonade or Gatorade, and light beer, can also lead to weight gain.
With a little willpower and planning, you can decide for yourself when it’s okay to enjoy a refreshing summer treat, and when to say, “I’ll try it next time!”
4. Maintain Your Exercise Routine.
When regular schedules are thrown out of the window, as they often are during the summer, it’s easy to let your daily trip to the gym fall by the wayside. Staying active with regular exercise will ward off extra pounds and preserve your fitness.
Summer is a great time to enjoy a wide variety of fitness activities – from the pool, tennis court, and golf course, to regular classes and exercise equipment at the gym. The bonus? You can do many of these activities with friends and family who need to exercise too!
5. Have a Goal.
Spending the hot summer months inside a cool, air-conditioned house, moving from the couch to the computer with stops at the fridge in between is a quick way to gain weight. Avoid falling into this rut by aiming for specific goals.
Combine physical goals, such as training for a summer 5K or learning a new sport, with activity-based goals, such as volunteering, working a summer job, or taking a class. Keeping goals in mind may just be the motivation you need to stay energized, healthy, and slim this season.
What strategies keep you and your family healthy over the summer?
A recent study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture revealed that although junk food was found to be cheaper per calorie, healthy foods (foods from specific food groups whose nutritional values fell below a maximum amount of saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium) were cheaper by portion size and weight. In other words, it costs less to put healthy food on your plate than junk food when you adhere to serving sizes.
Here’s an example. According to this Mark Bittman column, four “complete” meals from the leading fast food restaurant cost just under $30. But you can easily feed four-to-six people with a roast chicken, vegetables, salad, and milk for under $14. Choose a meal of rice and beans instead, and your total bill goes down about $5 more.
You might think, “that’s all well and good, but it still feels like junk food is cheaper and easier to put on the table. Why is that, and what can I do about it?”. In a country whose obesity-related medical expenses already cost $147 billion per year, that is one of the billion dollar questions.
The answer is complex. But that doesn’t mean we’re powerless.
Here are some steps we can take now to curb the ever-widening effects of our “junk food” culture:
Ignore Manipulative Food Marketing: Fast food companies alone spent $4.2 billion on marketing in 2009, and the Food and Beverage industry as a whole has done a pretty good job convincing consumers that the foods they sell are cheap, convenient, and tasty.
It’s important to recognize that the tactics used are just that – ways of enticing you to buy products. Their bottom line doesn’t care if you enjoyed your burger after you bought it, or if it caused you to gain weight. But, your body cares, and who would you rather listen to?
Banish the Fast-Food Habit: Sixty years ago food was less plentiful and more expensive than it is today. Now, in part because of the overabundance of food, Americans dine out about five times per week. We have to reverse this trend. Our bodies do not need large portions of oil-saturated foods, a staple in many fast food restaurants.
We can also get more comfortable saying “no” to our kids, who sadly, are unfair targets of manipulative marketing. We need to show them that grilled chicken and potatoes can taste just as good as chicken nuggets and fries.
Know Your Options: Healthy food can be cheap and convenient too; it just takes a little more knowledge and forethought than ordering a Value Meal. The cost of organic produce and $5 loaves of hearty whole-grain bread (vs. $2 white loaves) can be discouraging, but buying store brands and in-season produce, and taking advantage of coupons and sales can help keep costs low.
Embrace substitutions. Less expensive, conventionally grown foods can still be healthy, and brown rice is an alternative whole grain that costs under $1 per bag. Take 10 minutes to plan your trip to the store, and you can be in and out in less time than it would take for you to wait in a drive-thru line. Plus, you’ll have a smaller tab!
Get Cooking: Americans are watching more cooking shows, but spending less time in the kitchen. What’s wrong with this picture? There is a misconception that cooking takes lots of time and skill. Stock “staple” items, such as rice and beans, chicken breasts (which freeze well), and spices. Also, invest in a good knife and large cutting board, and use the Internet to find healthy and easy recipes you can prepare in 15-minutes or less.
If you have time to watch your favorite TV show, you have 15 minutes to prepare dinner for your family. Try it for a month and see if your bills and your belt stay a little tighter.
We don’t like to hear that healthy food is cheaper than junk food because it gives us one less excuse to eat junk. While it’s easy to go out and eat 5,000+ calories a day, our bodies simply can’t handle that lifestyle, even with exercise. Our choices impact the quality of our lives, and it’s up to us to embrace a healthier lifestyle that doesn’t include junk food products.
Do you think it’s possible to eat healthy on a budget? What challenges have you faced in providing healthy meals for your family, and how have you overcome them?
As the obesity epidemic grows in scope, so too does the “blame game.” Lack of exercise, over-consumption of food, sedentary work environments, lifestyle choices, biological predispositions, genes…the list of possible culprits for America’s fatness goes on.
Fast food is a common target. Earlier this month, an advocacy group launched a campaign petitioning 26 hospitals across the country to remove a major fast food restaurant from their cafeterias with the aim of sending a “better message” to consumers.
Some of the reasoning behind the group’s initiative comes from a 2006 study published in the journal Pediatrics that concluded that allowing fast food centers to operate in hospitals not only affects guests’ consumption of fast food on the day of their visit, but also unintentionally boosts the perception of the “healthfulness” of fast food in general. Here’s more research that supports the initiative:
So being near to fast food increases the likelihood of obesity, but will removing fast food from hospitals (and other institutions and neighborhoods) help solve the problem?
Blaming fast food restaurants for obesity can place us on a slippery slope. Should we remove buses from our streets to force people to choose the less convenient, but “healthier” walking or biking options? After all, sitting for long periods of time is correlated with obesity, and most adults do not get the recommended level of exercise.
Similarly, while we should limit consumption of fast food, we can’t eliminate it from the American diet as long as there is a demand for convenient, inexpensive, and (arguably) tasty food. We need to improve health through education and develop incentives that encourage healthy lifestyle decisions, proper nutrition, and exercise.
Perhaps a partnership between hospitals and Weight Watchers (or other proven commercial weight loss programs), or the establishment of walking groups or active events within hospital walls, could promote lasting change.
We won’t make any progress in the fight against obesity by playing the blame game at the expense of taking responsibility for our health into our own hands.
What do you think? Will restricting fast food lead to a decrease in obesity? How can we as individuals, families, and institutions promote a healthier America?
All of our pros are Certified Professionals, but each has a diverse background and has taken a different path to Midtown Tennis. Our new “Courtside” blog series will introduce you to our Pros on a personal level.
First up is Sean Henegan, Weston’s Junior Tennis Development Coordinator. Sean has been coaching tennis for about nine years.
Born and raised in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, Sean grew up playing sports. At 16 years old his family relocated to Ohio where he attended high school. He graduated from Wright University with a BS in Psychology.
After having played tennis in high school and college, the sport evolved into a potential career option as his coaches told him how well he played. Shortly after graduating, he moved to Florida where he now resides with his brother. A natural born athlete, Sean enjoys playing rugby, cricket, golf, and basketball. Sean is also a big college football fan.
When he is not at work, he relaxes by playing beach volleyball and body surfing. Sean enjoys traveling and learning from other cultures, and is a true athlete who maintains a disciplined, regular fitness routine to maintain good health. He thinks it is important to stay active and hopes to encourage our younger population to do the same.
Sean’s favorite part of his job as a Junior Tennis Development Coordinator is to watch kids not only improve in their tennis but also to watch them mature into young adults.
Carole: What do you think draws people to the game of tennis?
Sean: There is always something new to learn. It is challenging; it’s always testing your body and your mind, and it’s a great social sport.
Carole: Tennis is a popular sport, but some people are hesitant to give it a try. Why do you think this is?
Sean:I think the main reason is that it is more challenging than it looks. Perhaps the individual has not been successful in hitting the ball or he/she could have had a bad experience with tennis as a child. More specifically, the coach may not have ben energetic or fun. This is certainly not the case at Midtown!
Carole: What would you say to these people to encourage them to try it (or try it again)?
Sean: It’s a great sport that you can play for your lifetime, and it will keep you physically and mentally healthy. Tennis is great to socialize with friends, significant others, and with your children. Here in Florida, you can play tennis in the fresh air, year round.
Carole: What are some tips that players can use to improve their tennis game?
Sean: I would suggest the following:
1.) Ensure your feet are in the correct position.
2.) Move your left arm at least parallel to the baseline when hitting the ball to ensure a good shoulder turn.
3.) Keep the ball deep in play. This will push the opponent back, most likely resulting in a weaker return.
Carole: Do you prefer to play singles or doubles?
Sean: As a competitive athlete, I definitely enjoy singles more because if I play badly or lose a match, I can’t blame anyone else but myself. I like the feeling of being independent when I’m on the court as a single player. I enjoy doubles when playing with friends, or if I am playing strictly for the social experience with friends and family.
As the Junior Developmental Coordinator at Midtown, Sean’s focus is on 10 and Under Tennis. He also works with our teen players who want to improve their skills. Have questions for Sean, or want to find out how your kids can get involved with tennis at Midtown? Give Sean a call at 954.384.2582 or leave your questions/comments here.
I am very thankful for our members who inspire me by living a healthy lifestyle. You make us a community, a family, and much more than just a gym. As the club’s Director of Special Events, I recently wrapped up a fundraising Spin-a-Thon for SIDES (Sydney’s Incredible Defeat of Ewing’s Sarcoma). Members and associates joined together raising over $20,000 in less than four weeks. The money will help a new 501(c)3 organization get off the ground. I am thankful to have a position that allows me to witness these types of actions every day at Midtown.
As we head into Thanksgiving week, I look forward to time with my family and friends. It is our goal to help make your holiday week a little less stressful and to help you stay on track by maintaining your fitness habits. Here is what we have going on this week.
Thanksgiving Day Group Ex Schedule
7-8 am: Cycle with Melissa
8-9am: Fit Dance with Manny
8:30-9:30am: Cycle with Beth
9-10am: Circuit Challenge with Christina
9am-10am: Aquafit with Pocho
9:45-10:45am: Cycle with Wendy
10am-11am: Pilates Yoga Fusion with Sol
It’s okay to be selfish when it comes to your health and give to yourself first so you can give to others even more. Make your personal fitness a priority each day to decrease stress and make for a happier holiday season.
Why not take the long weekend as an opportunity to try something new at the club? Play some tennis or do a bootcamp class with the family. Try a TRX or Crossfit class. Your body and overall health are worth the investment and your brain will thank you for mixing it up!
Finally, we encourage members to bring a toy for our Annual Toy Drive benefiting the Chris Evert Children’s Hospital. Drop it in one of our donation boxes and help bring smiles to many children this holiday season.
Thank you for your generous hearts and for being a member of Midtown Athletic Club.
What are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving?
Offre valide pour les personnes qui viennent au Midtown pour la première fois. 18 ans et plus.