Archive for October, 2011

The recipe below is a classic French beef stew,  otherwise known as Beef Bourguignon. The meat is seared in olive oil first, then slowly braised with garlic and onions in a wine-based broth.  After a few hours in the oven, the meat becomes meltingly tender and enveloped in a rich, deeply flavored sauce.
It does take some time to make (about an hour of active cooking), but I promise you it is well worth the effort. Aside from being delicious, it’s a one pot meal that feeds a whole family.

The most important thing is to start with the right cut of meat. You want to buy chuck roast that is well-marbled—that means it should have a good amount of white veins of fat running through it. Stay away from meat generically packaged as “stew meat”. I can guarantee you it will not get tender; no matter how long you cook it.


  • 3 pounds boneless beef chuck (well-marbled), cut into 1½-inch pieces
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 7 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1½ tablespoons tomato paste
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups dry red wine, such as Burgundy or Pinot Noir
  • 2 cups beef broth (I like the Pacific organic brand)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1½ teaspoonssugar
  • 4 large carrots, peeled and cut into one-inch chunks on a diagonal
  • 1 pound small baby yukons potatoes, cut in half
  • Fresh chopped parsley (optional for garnish)


1. Preheat oven to 325°F with rack in middle.

2. Pat beef dry and season salt and pepper. In a large heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Brown meat in 3 batches, turning with tongs, about 5-8 minutes per batch, adding one tablespoon more oil for each batch. (To sear meat properly, do not crowd the pan and let meat develop brown crust before turning with tongs.) Transfer meat to a large plate and set aside.

3. Add onions, garlic and balsamic vinegar; cook, stirring with a wooden spoon to scrape brown bits from bottom of pan, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook a few minutes more.

4. Add beef with juices back to pan and sprinkle with flour; stir with wooden spoon until flour is dissolved, 1-2 minutes. Add wine, beef broth, water, bay leaf, thyme, and sugar; stir with wooden spoon to loosen any brown bits from bottom of pan and bring to a boil. Cover pot with lid, transfer to preheated oven and braise for 2 hours.

5. Remove pot from oven and add carrots and potatoes. Cover and place back in oven for 50-60 minutes more, or until vegetables are cooked and meat is very tender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary (freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar go a long way).  Garnish with fresh parsley if desired.

This is soul-satisfying comfort food for a cold night. Enjoy!


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Let’s take a look at two of the most popular nut butters – peanut and almond butters. They are both a great source of protein with healthy fat, but does one have a better benefit over the other doesn’t?

When buying either peanut butter or almond butter, you want to be sure you are getting the most natural form of it you can. The ingredient list on either should only include the nut (peanut or almond) and maybe some salt. There should not be any added oils or other fillers. When you compare the nutrition facts for peanut and almond butter you won’t see any big differences. In a 2 tablespoon serving, you get 190-200 calories, 16-17 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat (which means 14-15 grams of HEALTHY unsaturated fat), 7-8 grams of protein and 2 grams of naturally occurring sugar.

The difference in these nut butters comes in the micronutrients! Almond butter provides 40% your daily need for Vitamin E, 25% your magnesium and 8% of both your calcium and iron needs. Vitamin E is thought to be beneficial in preventing heart disease and unwanted platelet clotting. It’s an antioxidant which might prevent the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines in the stomach (formed from eating nitrites). It’s also thought to aid in healthy immune function. Other potential benefits include preventing degenerative eye disease and cognitive decline. Magnesium is equally as important to your body. It’s involved in hundreds of reactions that occur inside of you. Specifically it’s known to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, support a healthy immune system, and keep bones strong. It also helps regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. For “micro” nutrients they are pretty powerful!

Conclusion: Go for the almond butter! Its micronutrients are all about helping your body function better and prevent disease. Peanut butter is still a great choice, but almond gives you a little more bang for your buck.

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Halloween is a once a year chance to dress up in costume and stock up on sweets. But for parents who encourage healthy choices and minimal junk food, this day can be a struggle with your little monsters. Kids in America consume an average 60-100 grams of sugar a day, and our nation’s childhood diabetes and obesity rates are scarier than any ghoulish costume.

Just 15% of parents said that they offered trick-or-treaters healthy non-candy alternatives, ranging from bags of pretzels to small toys like yo-yos and temporary tattoos. About 37% said that they offered toys and candy. Nearly half of all parents just gave out candy.

On the one hand, you want to let kids indulge and enjoy the holiday. On the other, you don’t want to undermine all the work you do the rest of the year maintaining a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, not to mention the harm candy can do to kids’ dental health. And you don’t want to confuse kids with mixed messages.

Try keeping the candy indulgence down to one night, on Halloween. Then take the rest of the candy and find a way to diminish the supply. You can let your kids pick a handful of their favorite treats to keep, and to keep it somewhere so they can have one piece a day until it’s gone.

Halloween often signals the start of Halloween season, but Halloween is only one day. Keep the indulgence down to only one day, not the week or month of October (as many stores would have you believe it should be). This way if you indulge, you still do so minimally. It also helps to look for products that are sweetened naturally, with fruit juice or another organic sweetener.

Another helpful tip is to make sure to take a walk on Halloween! Instead of driving from place to place, make sure you do your trick-or-treating or Halloween visits by foot or on bike. A healthy activity can help to counteract the candy indulgence and to teach good habits every day. If you host a Halloween party yourself, look up some extra healthy snacks to cook up to balance out the less healthy choices.

Parents can also set up the leftover candy as a payment system. Kids can trade in their candy for a small toy or some extra allowance. This way the treats are gone, and replaced with something more useful or healthy.

Lastly, hand out alternatives to Halloween candies, such as stickers, temporary tattoos, plastic Halloween jewelry, dried fruit, crayons or mini bags of pretzels.

I hope your Halloween is a fun-filled, healthy and happy good time!

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You may have heard and realized that it’s more difficult for women to lose fat than men. Immediately most people think it must be estrogen or some hormonal issues. But perhaps the biggest factor is NOT hormones, but the simple fact that women are usually smaller and lighter than men.

When you have a smaller body, you have lower calorie needs. When you have lower calorie needs, your relative deficit (20%, 30% etc) gives you a smaller absolute deficit and therefore you lose fat more slowly than someone who is larger and can create a large deficit more easily.

For example, a male’s total caloric needs is 3300 calories a day (5′ 8″ and moderately to very active), then a 20% deficit is 660 calories, which brings the total to 2640 calories a day. On paper, that will give about 1.3 lbs of wt loss per week. If he bumped his calorie burn up or decreased his intake by another 340 a day, that’s enough to gives him a 2 lbs per week wt loss.

For smaller women, the math equation is very different.

If your total daily energy expenditure is only 1970 calories, even at a VERY high exercise level, then a 20% deficit for you is only 394 calories which would put you at 1576 calories a day for (on paper) only 8/10th of a lb of fat loss/wk.

If you pursued your plan to take a more aggressive calorie deficit of 30%, that puts you at a 591 calorie deficit which would now drop you down to only 1382 calories/day.

That’s starting to get fairly low in calories. However, you would still have a fairly small calorie deficit.

What this all means is that women who are petite or have a small body size are going to lose fat more slowly than larger women and much more slowly than men, so you cannot compare yourself to them.

It’s great to be inspired by our success stories, but if you’re looking for someone to model yourself after, choose one of our success stories of someone your body size and wt, rather than the folks who started 100 lbs overweight and were therefore easily dropping 3 lbs a week.

One pound a week of fat loss is much more in line with a realistic goal for someone of a smaller body size. Overweight people can lose it faster. The best thing you can do is to be extremely consistent with your nutrition over time.

Suggestion #1: Weigh and measure all your food any time you feel you are stuck at a plateau, just to be sure. When your calorie expenditure is on the low side, you don’t have much margin for error.

Suggestion #2:  Take your body comp measurements with a grain of salt, especially if you are using a good scale and remember that body comp testing is seldom perfect. Pay attention to your circumference measurements, how your clothes fit and how you look in the mirror and in photos as well.

Suggestion #3: You may want to take 2 or 3 of your long cardio sessions on the treadmill and switch them to intense intervals or ANY other type of activity that has potential to burn more than 362 calories for an hour’s investment of time, or perhaps that equivalent calorie burn in less time. No need to add more days of cardio or more time – get the most out of the time you are already spending.

Suggestion #4: If you do intervals, don’t make the workout too brief (ignore the advertisements for those “4 minute miracle” workouts, etc.), or you may burn fewer calories than you were before! In fact, you might even try the method where you do HIIT for 15-20 min, then continue for another 30-40 at slow to medium intensity. Increasing total calories burned should be your focus.

Understand the calorie math I explained above and be patient, watching for slow and steady progress, and paying special attention to the trend over time on your progress chart.

Keep after it – the persistence will pay, I promise!

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Your body breaks down carbohydrates to glucose for energy for the body’s cells. The minimum daily amount needed to spare other nutrients from being used for energy, such as fats and proteins, is 130 grams. The Franklin Institute for Science Learning stated that your brain cells require twice as much energy as the other cells in your body.

According to the National Institutes of Health, not consuming enough carbohydrates can cause a caloric deficiency or result in an excessive intake of fats, throwing your diet off balance. Furthermore, carbohydrates, particularly foods rich in complex carbohydrates, are an important source of essential micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Examples of complex carbohydrate foods are starchy vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains and cereals.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid or MyPyramid guidelines, grains are an important food source of several B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate, as well as minerals such as iron, magnesium and selenium.

Here are some great protein and low carb meal options to keep in mind:Complex carbohydrate foods, such as vegetable are rich in dietary fiber. Health benefits of fiber-rich diets include a reduced risk of developing coronary heart disease, improved cholesterol levels and a healthier weight. Individuals who choose diets rich in fruits and vegetables, as part of a healthful diet, are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers, particularly cancer of the oral cavity, throat, lung, esophagus, stomach and colon.

  • Turkey Zucchini Burger (recipe) + spaghetti squash + chopped Roma tomato
  • Egg white veggie omelet + whole egg + cottage cheese + almonds or ½ grapefruit and whole grains,
  • Monster Meatloaf (recipe) + green beans, broccoli or salad
  • Turkey Chili (recipe – replace beans w/ chopped zucchini & mushrooms) + salad
  • Turkey Meatloaf Muffins (recipe) + plain rice cake w/ natural PB
  • Fish in Foil (recipe) + veggies + almonds
  • Grilled Chicken (marinated in Dijon & Balsamic) + Romaine lettuce (wraps) + avocado
  • Cinnamon Apple Cottage Cheese (recipe) – post workout only

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Surviving the Holidays

By Jessy Hamawi CPT, BSc.

Did you know that in order to gain five pounds from now to the end of January, all you have to do is eat an average of 220 calories per day more than you actually need? The holidays typically encourage us to indulge in high-fat, high-calorie foods that are low in nutrients, and this is also the time we’re most likely to make excuses for skipping exercise. One of the most significant diet dangers revolves around sugar consumption. Binging on sugar increases the cravings for it while the body slows down. Along with sunlight deprivation in the winter, sugar binges cause a drop in serotonin, a chemical in the brain that regulates sleep and appetite. A lack of serotonin is often associated with depression. In order to help boost your serotonin level naturally, eat small but frequent meals that include complex, starchy veggies. You can also help control blood sugar levels by eating small quantities of protein three times a day. For example, eat two egg whites in the morning, some turkey at lunch and a small portion of grilled fish at night. Don’t forget exercise, you should keep up your regular exercise during the holidays and accept no excuses. When endorphins are high, you’ll cope better with stress, and regular exercise boosts endorphins.

Here are some other holiday survival tips to keep in mind:

  • Exercise an hour a day during the holidays. Exercise to burn calories, relieve stress, and elevate your endorphins and mood such as a brisk walk, run, or bike-ride.
  • Don’t skip meals. Hunger and low blood sugar lead to overeating.
  • Don’t pass up favorite foods or deprive yourself completely. Moderate consumption is the key.
  • Don’t tempt yourself by keeping trigger foods or comfort foods around the house; this just increases the likelihood that you will overeat.
  • Plan meals by keeping in mind the demands you’ll have on your schedule that day.
  • Don’t go to a party starving. Before you leave home, eat something light or drink a protein shake.
  • Alcoholic beverages pack on the calories, if you’re drinking alcohol, stick to light beer or a champagne spritzer.
  • To satisfy your sweet tooth, set limits. For example, you might allow yourself two desserts per week at 250 calories each.
  • Just because it is the holidays doesn’t mean you should give yourself the license to eat everything that passes by. Factor in the little extras into your daily intake.
  • Help out by saving fat and calories when it’s feasting time. Make or buy wild-rice stuffing, baked sweet potatoes, whole-grain rolls and angel-food cake with fruit.
  • If you tend to overeat during family gatherings, plan and visualize what and how much you will eat before you go.
  • If you want to really keep yourself honest (the same size) during the holiday season, wear your most form-fitting blue jeans. Another trick is to tie a string or ribbon around your waist (under your shirt).
  • If you are at the mercy of the dinner host, eat modest amounts of the foods offered and fill up on foods with more fiber and fewer calories. Make a small plate and skip the seconds.

Sources: Exercise and Depression . http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression

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Dieting may get the scale to start moving, but exercise revs your metabolism. Learn why and find out how much exercise is needed.

If one person just cuts calories and someone else just increases the amount of time spent on exercise, who will lose weight first?

The answer–The person who cuts calories will lose weight more quickly, provided they cut out enough calories to get results. But that’s not to say that exercise isn’t an important part of your weight-loss efforts. Although exercise may take longer to show results on the scale people who exercise burn more calories even when they’re at rest and tend to be able to maintain the weight loss. Here’s why cutting calories may give you more immediate results, but exercise is vital for long-term success.

Weight Loss: A Short-Term Fix

Experts recommend that you aim to lose one to two pounds a week to reach your weight- loss goal. Because 3,500 calories equals a pound, you need to create a 500-calorie deficit each day — either by eating fewer calories, burning off the calories with exercise, or a combination of both — to lose one pound by the end of one week. People tend to choose dieting over exercise, and that may be because they see quicker weight-loss results.

  • Burning 500 calories a day through exercise can be a challenge for some people. Someone who weighs 170 pounds would have to walk for more than an hour — 67 minutes — at four miles per hour to burn 507 calories.
  • It may be relatively easy to cut 500 calories out of your diet. That’s equal to a large order of French fries at a fast-food restaurant or a chocolate-glazed doughnut and a small mocha latte. If you tend to have these types of indulgences every day, simply eliminating them from your diet should enable you lose about a pound a week.

However, dieting alone doesn’t usually help people lose weight and keep it off. When you eat less, your metabolism slows, which means you burn fewer calories throughout the day. Once you begin eating more, it’s easy to put the pounds right back on.

The solution: Keep your metabolism revved up with exercise while you cut calories.

Weight Loss: Long-Term Results

The reason why it is important to exercise while you’re cutting calories is because you could lose muscle if you don’t, which you build by doing both cardiovascular activities, like walking, and strength training, like lifting weights — burns more calories than fat, so it’s important to build muscle as you lose weight.

Perhaps that’s why people who lose weight are better able to keep it off when exercise is part of the weight-loss plan. Among those on the National Weight Control Registry who lost weight and maintained their weight loss for at least one year, the majority — 89 percent — did it through both dieting and exercise. Only 10 percent were able to do it through diet alone, and only 1 percent did it with exercise alone.

Weight Loss: How Much Exercise Is Enough?

It is recommended to cut about 250 calories a day from your diet, while burning 250 calories a day through exercise. For the average person, that means walking two and a half to three miles, depending on how much you weigh and how fast you’re moving. Research shows that getting 30 minutes a day, even if you break it into three exercise sessions that last 10 minutes each, helps you lose weight and gain all of the health benefits of weight loss.

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