Archive for May, 2010

Beach Blanket Buckle Up – Summer Road Trip

May 31st, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I thought it would be appropriate to write about taking a family road trip. You know the kind, filled with long meandering drives spent having sing songs “She’ll be comin’ around the mountain when she comes….”, then comes the sign searching and the mantra “are we there yet”!! I’m the type of navigator who likes to follow the route on the map with my finger. But, uh oh, when the driver hits a bump I seem to always lose my place. Where are we, in a different city?? I dunno!!

It’s always fun to organize the food and drinks for these road trips. They don’t need to be booby trapped to botch up your plans before you reach your first pit-stop. Here are some ideas for you travelling wilburries:

  • Got the Munchies – Try not to crack open your canteen until real hunger or thirst strikes. Pulling out of the driveway is not an eating cue. Check in to your hunger and satiety to take stock of what the read actually is.
  • Pit Stop Planning – Plan in washroom and run-around breaks to avoid the whole carload going totally squirrelly. Bring a stash of food to eat because if the family begins to stand in line to buy then eat food you could be adding a whole lot of time, calories and cost to your trip.
  • Packing the Notorious Cooler – Make and pre-refrigerate a variety of sandwiches. Bring a stash of yummy veggies – carrots, celery, cherry tomatoes. The seasonal fruit is looking divine too – plums, cherries and apricots.
  • Choosing Better Options at the Fast Food Joint - If you must buy a meal or two on the road you are able to find better options at some of the fast food restaurants. The key here is to decide before you and the bella familia get in line. Better yet have 1 or 2 of you go buy it all and bring it back and eat and enjoy together. Avoid deep fried anything, especially if there’s a batter on it. If you must have a fries fix, share them.
  • Live a Little – Do plan in a treat here and there but be mindful of trading off. Every meal and snack just cannot be a treat or your plan will be whitewashed before you return home.

And whatever you do before your road trip this summer, take Oprah’s No Phone Zone pledge, so you all arrive back home safely.

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Beach Blanket Balancing Act

May 30th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , ,

We must be on the heels of summer. I sent a number of e-mail blasts at work last week and with all of  the “out of office” automated messages, it made me wonder if anyone was actually at work. That holiday season is upon us, isn’t it?!!

I think it’s a myth that it’s easier to stick to your eating and exercise regimen when the better weather is upon us. I find the the opposite is true as there are many instances that challenge our routines that we need to keep our wits about us to either stay or get back on track. If you start to slide and don’t catch yourself you might be an unhappy camper by August.

Make Goals & Monitor

So what’s it going to be? Are you planning on keeping a holding pattern on your weight and regimen to maintain or are you wanting to lose a few lb’s? Whatever your decision you need to be like a stealth planner either way. The key to being successful with any goal you set is the monitoring. Successful losers monitor their weight while they’re losing or maintaining, like a reality check. Knowledge is power, right? If that needle on the scale is going up like the temperature outside you need to regroup.

Enjoy and Endure

This time of year is so joyous with warmer weather, longer daylight, more get togethers. If you do anything, make sure you enjoy it to the max and stay in the moment!! It’s one big balancing act taking the time to enjoy what this season has to offer but also endure details of your goals so you’re satisfied with yourself once the proverbial party is over.

I’m going to be writing on this “Beach Blanket” theme all week, so please do weigh in on your plans, trials and tribulations so we can all learn from each other.

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From Grad Blue to Brand New

May 28th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

My niece and God-daughter graduated from UNC recently and just landed her first full time job. Let the bells ring! It’s times like these that make me pause to ponder the important milestones in life. And these two are certainly ponder-worthy.

It seems like only yesterday I was with her and her brother, then 6 and 3 years old watching Beauty and the Beast in their family room. They were playing and pretending to ballroom dance as two funny coconuts when the theme song played.  Now they’re 22 and almost 19. Where has the time gone?? Tempus fugit.

I see the robins flying around my yard and their babies being taught so many important life skills – mastering flying, finding food, learning about safety, communicating to each other. I can’t help but think about my niece, no longer one of “the kids” but an adult. Ready to leave the nest and have the apron strings cut. It’s heart warming to think about her starting out full of wonder, hope, joy, enthusiasm. Whatever strong foundation has been laid down to this point is now proverbially handed over as a gift for the future. Her future, that she will pave with the tools she leaves “the nest” with.

As parents what foundational gifts are we laying for our kids? Will they have the tools? Those important ones. Not the physical ones, but important life skills. Self reliance is an important gift to help grown kids learn to stand on their own two feet. My niece has two nephews and our new niece that serve as excellent role models as they are working full time, independent and making it in the real world. That certainly helps.

When you really boil it all down everyone wants to live a long, happy, healthy life. It’s difficult to be fully happy when you’re  not healthy. There are so many factors contributing to this as we’ve discussed. After all of the job interviews, personality tests, finger print takings and blood tests, do one more thing – take the RealAge test (see the link on the right). Get a sense of where you’re at and make health a priority when you’re young. Because when you’re not so young, trying to get healthy is sometimes like a dog chasing it’s tail. It’s not as easy.

Start as you mean to finish you newbies:-) You’ll do yourself the biggest favour ever. Upward and onward!!

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Born to Run is in Your Genes

May 27th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I just read an article in one of the weekend New York Times magazines on a study done with identical twins to see if exercising is genetic. The age old question being “Are some of us born with a desire to exercise?” Of course, their conclusion was “yes”. Although it’s a thought provoking research question, I hope those people stuck in neutral don’t use this finding as another official excuse not to get moving. “I really can’t make it to the gym because my DNA tell me so.” Time!!

On March 22 and April 14 I wrote about re-defining the meaning of exercise and the need for starting a “movement movement”, just to get people thinking about moving more, with the April 16 post giving an example of a household activity doubling for exercise. It would be super if we continued to find ways to burn extra calories. In fact we must!!

I spent a good part of the past weekend gardening. You know the spring thrust – preparing the beds, finding the plants and putting them in the ground. My muscles gave me a clear indication that I certainly exercised. In actuality, those screaming muscles might have really been those which haven’t been used much lately. My reality check.

I think it’s absurd to blame whether you have a propensity for exercising or not on your genetics. Many of life’s simple inventions over the past decades have made our daily lives oh so convenient. If you can do what Marty McFly did and go Back to the Future and compared energy use now compared to years ago (excluding exercise) I’m sure you’d see a significant difference.  Ok, off the top of my head, let’s take stock of a few of these calorie saving conveniences:

  • Electric garage door opener – I remember our squeaky door you’d have to get out of the car to open. This used to tip my sisters and me off that our parents were home, reminding us to go do what we were supposed to be doing….
  • Television channel changer – remember getting off your duff and turning the nob??
  • Dishwasher – growing up my Dad would say he had 4 dishwashers – my sisters and me (yes, the four gnomes in the photo)!!
  • Cleaners for your oven, floor, bathtub and cleaning services – remember using elbow grease to make something sparkling clean??
  • Portable telephones – do you remember having to move to the ringing phone attached to the wall, how gauche?
  • Electric carving knife – you see my Dad is using one you move back and forth to remove meat off a turkey, very novel!

There are numerous examples. The bottom line is how many calories these inventions now save. Perhaps 50 calories/day here, 25 calories/day there, another 66 calories/day somewhere else. Suddenly poof, your routine dictates using much fewer calories over time than before. We’re not even talking about exercise here, just a bit of caloric economy. I remember the various times when my job changed from working at a large campus hospital where I’d walk from place to place throughout the day to my current job situated in a small office, leaving me sitting at my computer for most of the day. I really felt the change in my jeans and couldn’t blame the new found snugness “on the cleaners shrinking them”!! I needed to revamp my eating and activity level to just maintain my weight. The bottom line is all of these calorie saving conveniences could end up in pounds gained if we don’t make a concerted effort to lower intake or push up usage.

Now, compare your general energy usage to your parents generation, your grandparents and even further past. Your parents story of walking six miles to and from school, uphill both ways wasn’t a total exaggeration. My Grandma used to prepare meals daily from scratch for a house full of 14 people. That didn’t include all of the other chores on her list. There we no spa days back then, were there Gram?

All these ingenious inventions are certainly convenient, but oh so obesogenic. Now we need these ingenious inventors to create things to help us use more energy, like the Wii Exercise game. I’m starting to have one of my Emperor’s New Clothes moments. The next thing we’ll be doing is booking a get away to the latest ranch to learn how to cook from scratch. Oh ya, they already exist!! Clearly something has snapped. Our bodies were built to put in a diligent’s days work requiring many activities despite what our genetic code reads.

The movie Wall-e might seem like a stretch and fantasy, but somehow I’m not so sure.

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Retraining Your Robot – Domo Arigato!

May 26th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , ,

When I think of age old wisdom that holds true for me to today I think of pearls I came across in the 70′s. Back then I was searching for truth to sort out my dietary dilemmas and read the book Psychological War on Fat by Cordell and Giebler printed in 1977.…hmmmm many moons ago.

There were a number of interesting chapters but one I still refer to today was one about behaviour modification and getting to know your robot. They explained how many everyday activities and behaviours become programmed as an automatic activity thus referring to our robot. Many eating activities get programmed in like nibbling while preparing food, having a high cal specialty coffee as an afternoon treat, munching while watching television, having a snack before bed and the list goes on and on.

Stop for a moment and think about some of your robot activities. If you drove to work this morning (assuming you’ve had your driver’s license for some time now) I’m sure you don’t need to think about every aspect of driving – how to open the door, turn the ignition, pull out of your driveway, going the speed limit (presumably). If you did have to concentrate on every single behaviour of everything you do you’d probably have a headache by mid-morning. When you think of it though, I’m sure you’ll agree your robot does a lot of things automatically.

Just like you can program an activity into your proverbial robot, you can reprogram it to establish positive eating behaviours and habits in place of those that aren’t helping your cause. This is what I love about behaviour modification, pinpoint a few simple tasks to work on each month and aim to master these until they become automatic in your robotic repertoire. Examples could include using a smaller plate at dinner time, having one serving of each food at your meal, slowing down when eating, only eating when sitting down, avoiding distractions when eating. There are numerous good habits that can be subbed in for those nastier ones. You can get more ideas from the book Mindless Eating that I wrote about on April 5.

What are you willing to work on? The possibilities are endless. If you’ve tried something that’s working for you, do let us know so we can learn from you.

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Food Revolution Stellar Smoked Salmon & Brie

May 25th, 2010 No Comments Tags: ,

Who feels like cooking after a long weekend when the temperature is soaring and your energy level is plunging? Not me. I suspect you might be feeling the same. Here is one ultra fast dinner idea that will get you high praise with little effort. And as far as being high on the scale of nutrient richness, this is fit for a king or queen!! It just needs a bit of assembly and voila it’s done.


smoked salmon, garnished with sliced red onion and lemon wedges

brie heated to molten in minced garlic with olive oil

whole wheat baguette, sliced

serve with side salad


This picture speaks a thousand words as this dinner requires a smidge of assembly with maximal appeal. About 10 minutes before you plan on eating heat a pan with a tablespoon of olive oil and soften minced garlic. Lightly cross cut the brie on both sides after removing it from the package and attached paper. Place brie on top of the heated garlic and oil and cover the pan with a lid. You are aiming to get the cheese molten. With a spatula, carefully flip the brie to heat it through thoroughly. Serve when the cheese is piping hot.

This tastes great by spreading a slice of bread with the molten cheese, putting some salmon and onion on top with a squirt of lemon. I have served this when I’ve hosted one of my week night gal dinners, or as an appetizer with more people. Perfect with a cold glass of Riesling or pinot gris accompaniment. Enjoy!!

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Debunk of Dairy Revisited

May 24th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I say down with the dairy product debunk. Milk and products derived from it, is one of Mother Nature’s nearly perfect foods. Including them in my diet gets me out of many dietary dilemmas. Take skim milk for instance, if I’m caught with that hollow leg feeling I pour myself a tall glass. It does dual duty and more. It helps take the edge off a nagging appetite and it hydrates as a fluid. All this and not to mention the myriad of vitamins and minerals, especially the calcium and vitamin D. Yes, it’s naturally nutrient rich (see my post April 19).

Now, low fat yoghurt and cottage cheese are my lunch time staples. Those small individual containers are a perfect portable addition to a lunch bag or on the go as a snack. Eaten with fruit or cereal or both make great combinations.

One of my favourite meal accompaniments is low fat sour cream. Thank the food technology Gods for perfecting this one – AMEN!! I choose 0-2% fat, a vast improvement from that 14% fat sour cream from days gone by. I used it with my Chicken Fajita recipe on (April 29) as an example. A perfect addition with many meals. If you love that creamy mouthfeel without all of the calories and fat, say hello to this hidden gem in your dairy case.

And yes, a variety of cheeses adorn the produce drawer in my refrigerator. Where there is a lower fat option, I choose it. Every better alternative adds up you know. We don’t use cheese a lot, but where suited. Sprinkles of parmesan cheese is terrific to add a boost of flavour on pasta or soups for instance. The taste-punch is all we really need, not a bowlful by any means.

Dairy products are an excellent source of protein. Getting enough protein in all of your meals, even snacks is one trick up my sleeve for weight maintenance success. When you eat a mixed meal containing food with protein, fat and carbohydrates, it’s the protein that helps with your blood sugar’s staying power for a slow steady rise after eating, followed by a slow steady decline hours after. Just loading up on carbs results in your blood sugar making a fast spike upward and plummet downward lickity-split. This backfires by resulting in that super-hungry feeling again. While an upload of heavy fat foods, shouts out that “Mayday, mayday” call, adding way too many calories and leaving you with that sluggish “I need a nap” feeling. Your blood sugar may go up then down slowly. However a regular infusion of the excess fat stuff will take it’s toll on your weight sooner or later.

Some people beef about that gassy feeling when eating dairy. Well if you have been eating too little dairy and suddenly load up this will happen. See, the enzyme lactase breaks down the milk sugar called lactose. This decreases in your system if you cut back on dairy. A sudden increase of lactose will do that to you. So if you’ve decided to get back to eating more dairy products do it gradually. You’ll be glad you did.

Remember you are what you eat. I’d prefer to be a milk maiden than a fat globule any day. If you’ve been avoiding dairy products because of all of the bad wrap it’s been given, revisit this one. Statistics show 1 in 4 women get osteoporosis in their life and quite frankly, I don’t want to be one of those statistics. I like to stay homo erectus my entire life, thank you very much.

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Energy Bar – An On the Run Snack Idea

May 23rd, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , ,

Nancy wrote in to the blog and sent me 4 samples of Kardea nutrition bars. We’re always looking for snack ideas, so I figured why not!!

Kardea Nutrition was founded by an avid cook and foodie, Rob Leighton, when he was diagnosed with high cholesterol. These days, who hasn’t been diagnosed with high cholesterol? With a professional background in the food manufacturing business, he wanted to create healthy foods that are tasty and enjoyable to eat.

His first products are these gourmet wellness bars, which are a reasonable calorie source and more nutritious than most other energy or “nutrition” bars.

Each bar contains 7 grams each of fiber and protein, and 1 gram of heart healthy plant sterols, in only 150 calories.  They come in four flavours (banana nut, lemon ginger, chai spice and cranberry almond) and have great texture, providing both chew and crunch. Other features include being vegan, kosher, natural, and low sodium. Check, check and double check, for that.

When I’m on the run travelling or playing golf I like to stash a portable snack for those times I find myself fading. What I don’t like about some of the bars on the market is that some are so hard I think I’m going to break a tooth just biting into them. I like a crunch, but not one that gives me a headache after 59 chews. The echos are deafening!! For some of the cereal bars I’ve tried, I enjoy them, but when they raddle around my computer bag they end up as a foil container full of crumbs. Not a pretty site eating these before heading into a meeting and wanting to look professional. Unless you have a portable Dirt Devil vacuum in your brief case to brush your black suit off with.

The Kardea bar won’t do either and really tastes good. I tried one while I was on a 2-hour teleconference meeting scheduled between 11am-1pm to tide me over. I thought how on earth can I optimally participate on this call and not fade with hunger. My satiety level after the call was relatively high and I was ready for a more modest lunch after that – a sign of a good protein level. My snack-lovin’ husband snagged the first two and rated them 8 out of 10. Really good for a tough evaluator. I don’t ask him to rate my cooking, because I really don’t care to know! The bottom line – he asked me to buy some the next time I go grocery shopping. Funny I already had them on the grocery list.

Thanks Nancy for sending these along. The Kardea bars will be part of my eating artillery when I’m on the run.

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Long Weekend Lounging & Landmines

May 20th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ahhhh it’s that time of year again when the long weekends are upon us and the living is easy. Life according to those beer commercials is simple, just take that jump off the rock into the lake. Ya right. A lot of planning goes into these weekends and if you want to come out the other side relatively unscathed where your eating is concerned, planning is essential. Here are some words of wisdom to help you maximize your enjoyment and minimize eating issues. Take stock.

Be Realistic – in making your goals for the long weekend. If you honestly think you’ll be nibbling on Wasa crackers, cherries and yoghurt for the next few days give your head a shake. When the Dove bars find their way down to the dock, you might throw all caution to the wind and blow your unrealistic plans out your ear. It’s all about finding balance in partaking is some of the indulgences without totally indulgence.

Be Prepared – just like a Girl Guides without the hideous uniform! If you’re heading away with a group, take some control by bringing food you enjoy, that still fit into your regimen. If you’re too extreme, the saboteurs will be all over you like white on rice. Review the May 10th post and get your head around it.

Find Your Center – by finding some quiet time. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of finding solitude amongst all the noise and flurry of activity even if you find yourself at a quiet lake. I don’t care where you find it – in the woods, in the out-house, in the car, in the lake or in your room. Doing this helps you plan, cool your head, regroup and relax.

Plan Before you Pour - when happy hour begins. For some, every hour is happy hour, it would seem. It’s nice to partake in the festivities, but remember drinks, especially alcohol has calories too. Say hands down to bottoms up occasionally and work in some bubbly….mineral water that is, intermittently.

Take a Jump in the Lake – and do some activities YOU enjoy. Are you the one who does all the planning for everyone?? It’s your long weekend too. I’m sure unless you have little kiddies under foot your group can work out the party hearty without your 2 cents worth day in and day out. How on earth do they survive without you when they’re at school, at work, etc?? Trust me, they just do. Relinquish some of your power and take the reigns to enjoy yourself.

Get Real – with the activities you plan to partake in, whether it’s rock climbing, water skiing, hiking, etc. If you have a sedentary job like me scaling a rock might be a bit ambitious. You might end up with an injury or two which’ll set you 3 steps back on your exercise regimen. Just like landing on a snake on the Snakes and Ladders game of old. Trust me, I speak from experience here. For many of us those glory days are over doing barefoot water skiing, one handed. Keep your head and ego in check so you don’t have to crawl out of bed the next morning.

Tune in to Your Cues – with hunger and satiety occasionally. Ok it’ll probably be the last thing on your mind, but thinking about this once in a while might save you from polishing off the last of the Krispy Creams.

Get in the Drivers Seat – especially if you’re over 21 years old. If you blame others for your over indulgences think again. If it’s your hand going to your mouth with a fork attached, chances are you might be guilty as charged. This is often the case when emotional eating is involved by reverting back to some other place in time mentally. Eating too much won’t spite anyone else, but yourself. Take some extra quiet time to find your center.

You want your long weekend to begin and end with a big Whoooo-Hooo not a big Booo-Hooo with your stomach sticking out a country mile and your rings not fitting because you’re retaining too much water. Planning ahead makes good sense. Even if some or most of it helps you, you’re that further ahead once the party’s over.

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About Ole Dogs Learning New Tricks

May 19th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We all know someone who we think could use a little advice. Take my Dad (aka Pops) for example, he has had high blood pressure for years. He also has balance issues which put a monkey wrench on his walking routine. His appetite; however, has been as good as ever leaving his girth looking like he’s due in 3 months if you catch my drift. At least it was… Well, there’s no preaching “diet” to Pops. Although he’ll listen politely and thank you, he’ll just keep on doing what he’s been doing. I guess we can give him a break given he was the only man in our household growing up with 5 females bossing him around. Well 4, I barely got a word in edgewise :-) He is a living saint, but I digress!!

What is it about that senior generation, they treat every goodie like it’s their last? Cookies, Werthers candies, donuts, cake, French fries….. Not to mention doing the “shake, shake, shake” with that salt shaker. Like I’ve always said “all foods can fit”. My point is to not have them all fit on the same day unless of course you’re a triathlete in training!

This year we have the first family wedding of our young generation – our benchmark nephew Chris to our Jenny-girl. The essence of the circle of life lingers in our family’s consciousness as the excitement builds for the blessed event. As routine dictates, my parents go to Florida’s proverbial Del Boca Vista for a few winter months. One day when they were there enjoying “the early bird special” there was a man at the next table who looked like he was living with the consequence of having had a stroke. Well that experience hit Pops like a ton of bricks.

Since that day Pops started cutting back on the treats, the salt, got back to walking and has made a 180 degree turn ON HIS OWN. He’s losing weight steadily, as if he’s competing with George Castanza on the Jenny Craig television commercials. His tummy has shrunk down where he almost doesn’t look like he’s expecting and his blood pressure is much better – thank the Lord!! He ordered French fries as a treat the other day and said he didn’t really liked the way they tasted. Just as Lee DeWyze sang on Idol “Alleluia”….amen Lee!!

Who says you can’t teach an ole dog new tricks?? Well you still can’t!! They have to learn it on their own. In this case, I’m glad he did. Way to go Pops, keep up the good work!!

I know we preach to each other because we care. If our preaching falls on deaf ears, I say dish yourself up some of your “good advice”, MYOB and do something to better yourself.

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