Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"Naturally More" Peanut Butter *Review*

I couldn't resist, I just had to review another peanut butter.  And before you go clicking away to some other online place, let me tell you this:  This peanut butter might just be the healthiest peanut butter out there on the market today, combining everything necessary to build muscle and stay lean and fit?  Would that grab your interest?  What if I told you that this miraculous peanut butter also had some of the best taste and texture I've ever experienced in any sort of nut butter EVER?  Well if you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about, let me at last relieve your curiosity.

The peanut butter of which I speak is called "Naturally More," and it proudly boasts the slogan "The way Peanut Butter Should Be."  After trying this stuff the very first time, I tend to agree.  This stuff IS the way peanut butter should be.  It's a formula of perfection, at least in my opinion.

What makes this stuff so great?  Well, they started with a natural peanut butter base (good start, healthy monounsaturated fats and nutrient dense), and added everything that PB tended to lack in terms of health factors.  Peanut butter in general isn't a very good protein source, as it's not very protein dense AND most of the protein in peanuts is incomplete (unusable by the body for muscle repair) in its natural form.  Naturally More peanut butter fixed this, and added egg whites to the butter itself.  This bumps up the protein to 10g per serving, a good 30-40% MORE protein than just plain peanut butter!  And you can bet that the protein in Naturally More is a lot more bioavailable to the body, having a more complete nature.

But Naturally More didn't stop there.  They also noticed that while peanut butter itself had a remarkable amount of monounsaturated healthy fats, great for heart health and cholesterol, it was lacking what your body really needs, which are essential fatty acids (EFA's) like omega-3 and omega-6.  They easily solved this dilemma by adding both flax seed and flax oil, two substances extremely rich in EFA's.  But they didn't stop there.  Peanut oil itself has a good amount of omega-6 in it already, and most people consume PLENTY of omega-6 already, therefore Naturally More didn't only add flax oil, they removed most of the peanut oil in favor of a more beneficial omega-3 to omega-6 EFA ratio.  This ratio is very crucial to maintaining health (and a trim figure), and it's another reason why this peanut butter RULES!

Oh, and because it's a natural peanut butter, it has no hydrogenated oils that would produce trans fat.  NO TRANS FAT!!!

Naturally More still wasn't quite done though, and realized that the final category that good ol' natural peanut butter was lacking in, was the fiber department.  Traditionally peanut butter usually has about 1 gram or less of fiber per serving.  Naturally More decided that this wasn't enough, and added wheat germ to their product to increase the fiber count to 2 grams per serving.  Now I know that doesn't sound like a huge jump, but one more gram of fiber can definitely make a difference.  The wheat germ also adds a little more protein, making the overall protein profile more varied.  Nice!

Finally, Naturally More added a little bit of honey in there to replace a good amount of added sugar with natural sugars.  As such, Naturally More only has 3 grams of sugar per serving, a very low overall simple carb count.  There is a slight bit of processed sugar added, which is my only beef with this amazing peanut butter.  At only a few grams though, I don't expect it to ruin anyone's diet.

Here are the nutritional facts for Naturally More Peanut Butter:

Now, for the taste.  I personally think this peanut butter is some of the best I've ever tasted, EVER.  It's rich, creamy, soft, powerful, aromatic, and completely satiating.  I take a tablespoon for breakfast after my whey loaded oatmeal, and always have to just sit back for a minute and just enjoy the amazing flavors coursing through my mouth.  It tastes like a cheat meal, but it's very far from that.  It's hard to believe something so good can be so healthy.

But does it taste like peanut butter?  Well, actually, not exclusively.  Don't get me wrong, the peanut taste is there (in force!) but it's strongly complimented by other flavors, especially that of the flax seed oil, with a slight crunch from the flax seed itself.  I can also taste the wheat germ to a slight degree.  Now I personally LOVE these tastes, and in my opinion they only make the stuff more enjoyable.  But I won't be surprised if this is one of those "love it or hate it" foods.  Some people would die to have another spoonful, others would rather die before forcing it in their mouths.  But that's absolutely NO reason not to try it.  I bet if you try, you'll love it.  I hope you believe me when I say that this stuff is like heaven in a jar, that for once is actually good for you.

What would I rate this peanut butter?

Taste: 9.5/10 

Nutritional profile 9.999/10 (if only there wasn't that tiny bit of added sugar)

Cost value 8/10 (this stuff is pretty cheap, but there are cheaper varieties)

All in all I would definitely, definitely, DEFINITELY recommend trying some Naturally More.  It's got all the right ingredients, an incredible fresh taste, and huge potential to keep you healthy and strong for a long time.  Give it a try!

Seriously, flax-oil, egg whites, and peanut butter?  That seems too good to be true.  GOOD LUCK!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Food Worship #10: Avocado

For my tenth article praising the miracle that is healthy food, I'd like to bring to mind one of my favorite fruits of all time: Avocado.  This green, creamy, delicious food is truly loaded with health benefits.  It's nutrient dense, heart healthy, and goes great with all sorts of recipes (Guacamole, anyone?)  Let's explore further what makes these little alligator skin fruits so darn good for you (and so darn tasty!)

First, a little background about the avocado.  The name "avocado" actually refers to the tree that this fruit is grown on, though the fruit itself has adopted the name.  It's also called the "alligator pear," for obvious reasons. Technically, the avocado is actually a berry because it only contains one large seed (I honestly thought it was a vegetable for the longest time, so don't feel bad if this comes as a surprise to you.)  Want to know something reeealllyyy weird though?  The name avocado comes from the ancient Nahuatl word ahu├ícatl which actually means......get ready......testicle.  Yeah, try looking at an avocado the same way again, I bet it'll be hard (thanks Wikipedia!)  These things are grown all over the world in warm climates and are therefore readily available in the USA, which is great because these things can do your body more good than you'd realize.  Let's talk about some of the health benefits of avocado, and why you should try some diced ones on your next salad.

Healthy Fats:  Avocados, like most nuts, are loaded with some of the healthiest fats you can find.  Each fruit contains about 30 grams of monounsaturated fat.  Now I know you're saying "thirty grams...THAT'S A LOT OF FAT!"  Well, honestly it is.  But you know what?  It's all heart healthy fat that will lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.  In fact, avocados and heart health kind of go hand in hand.  Remember that fat doesn't make you fat, excess calories make you fat.  Plus, all that healthy unsaturated fat makes avocados extremely delectable, and anyone who's had a few bites will tell you that the fruit basically melts into your mouth, turning into a buttery texture that's absolutely heavenly (the avocado is also called the "butter pear" for this reason).  It also makes these things easy to mash up and make into guacamole, a dip that when prepared in a calorie conscious manner is quite good for you, not to mention ridiculously tasty.  Don't fear the fat, many people eat multiple avocados a day and still remain lean and fit.

Added Heart Health: Avocados also contain another equally potent heart healthy nutrient: folate.  Diets high in folate are conducive to healthy hearts and reduced rates of heart disease.  Avocados actually contain between 20-25% of your daily recommended folate, so eat up and keep that heart beating strongly and consistently!  The risk of stroke is also reduced by consuming avacados on a regular basis.

Vitamins/Minerals:  The alligator pear is also quite dense with other vitamins and minerals, specifically vitamin E, which amazingly is ALSO conducive to a healthy heart, as well as normal neurological activity. Vitamin E also acts as a powerful anti-oxidant, protecting your cells from free radical oxidation (a very damaging process that can cause disease as people age.)  Avocados also contain about 20% of your daily recommended vitamin B6 and vitamin C, as well as many other helpful nutrients like copper and manganese.

Cartenoids:  Avocados have an unusually HIGH amount of cartenoids, and this combined with their high fat content make them an excellent anti-inflammatory food.  Foods like this will allow your body to heal faster by preventing the swelling of tissues around damaged areas, so that blood may refresh at a faster rate and bring nutrients and oxygen to the source of distress.  This will speed up the healing process, sometimes drastically.

Better nutrient absorbtion:  Now this one is quite cool, if I don't say so myself.  Avocados have actually been shown to increase our ability to absorb certain nutrients from other fruits and vegetables!  That's right, when avocados are consumed along with other vegetables, we'll get more out of the entire meal, ON TOP of the already nutrient dense avocado.  Cool!  Here's a little clip from an article I read on the subject that discusses an interesting test regarding this subject:

"Researchers at Iowa State University and Ohio State University conducted a study to find out more about this unique benefit. Six males and five females ate 300 grams of tomato salsa. About half of the group was given salsa that contained 150 grams of avocado (about five tablespoons), and the others ate salsa without avocado. After a period, the test was repeated but the subjects were given the opposite type of salsa they were given in the first phase.

In the second part of the study, the subjects ate a salad of carrots, spinach and lettuce. Half the group enjoyed their salad with 150 grams of avocado, and the other half without. The process was then repeated after some time and they ate the opposite type of salad.

Blood was drawn from each subject several times after each meal to determine changes in nutrient levels for up to nine and a half hours after the meals. The results were:

* Subjects who ate avocado with salsa absorbed nearly 4.5 times more lycopene than those who didn't eat avocado.

* Subjects who ate avocado with salad absorbed 8.3 times more alpha-carotene and 13.6 times more beta-carotene than those who didn't eat avocado.

* More than four times as much lutein was absorbed by subjects who ate avocado with salad compared to those who ate only salad."

Pretty neat huh?  Another reason to put this rough skinned little guy in your diet a bit more often.  And if any of you are interested, I'll add the nutritional facts for an avocado right here for your viewing pleasure:

2 stars2 stars (?)Nutrition Facts
Calories 322(1344 kJ)
% Daily Value 1
Total Fat29.5g45%
Sat. Fat4.3g21%
Sodium14mg< 1%
Total Carbs.17.1g6%
Dietary Fiber13.5g54%

Yeah, I know what you're thinking, that's quite a few calories for just one fruit.  But you're going to have to believe me that every single one of those calories is extremely good for you.  Sometimes calories don't matter quite as much as the health factor of the food (I hate when people skip out on a healthy addition to a meal just because it's a few extra calories).

Still a little wary?  How about this.  Cut the thing in half, add half to your salad today, the other half to your salad tomorrow.  Or better yet, make some guacamole with the other half!  See? problem solved.

I personally LOVE avocados, and I really hope you can learn to love them as well.  They're such a unique fruit, both in appearance and in nutritional profile.  They have so much to offer, and definitely deserve a reserved spot in your diet.  I can almost guarantee you'll love the taste (and the texture....smooooth), and finding the big pit in the middle of it is kind of a novelty in itself.  So what are you waiting for?  Go out to your local store and grab one!

Love the avocado, enjoy the incredible flavor, and as always, GOOD LUCK!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

So What Is Trans Fat?

It's a legitimate question.  Trans fat seems to be the elusive killer in food, rarely seen on nutrition labels because of all major food companies' desperate attempts to get it out of mainstream consumption.  But the question (besides "what") is why?  What is this stuff and why is it so dangerous/undesirable to eat?  Could it really cause that much damage to the human body?  It's just a little fat, after all.  

Well, it's not quite that simple unfortunately.  I could get into some pretty heavy chemistry, but I don't think many of you would be too interested in all of that.  I'll go as far as to say that trans fat is basically an unsaturated fat with a little thing called a "trans-isomer" tacked on the end.  This makes the fat molecule "stiffer," more robust, and more likely to clog arteries.  Think of it like this:  Healthy, unsaturated fat flows freely through your body and is actually healthy for your heart.  Trans fat piles up in your bloodstream and makes your heart work double time to keep pumping at an acceptable flow rate.  Not good, not by a long shot.

But the really devious nature of trans fats goes beyond its chemical structure, and toward the fact that it actually affects both of your cholesterol types.  It raises LDL cholesterol (the bad stuff) and decreases HDL cholesterol (the good stuff.)  That's a pretty bad double whammy, even worse than just plain saturated fat (that stuff just raises your total cholesterol levels, still not good, but not quite as bad.)  Large consumption of trans fat has actually been shown to drastically increase risk for heart disease (going as far as doubling it in women).  Trust me, you want to steer clear of this stuff.

But what is trans fat actually in?  Well, not nearly as many foods anymore, thank goodness.  Trans fat actually doesn't really occur too often in nature, beyond a slight amount in things like beef and dairy.  It's much more commonly found in processed food, specifically foods that contain hydrogenated oils (natural vegetable oils with hydrogen added to "stiffen" them).  You'll find trans fat in things like margarine, sweetened peanut butter (not the natural stuff though...that stuff is heavenly AND healthy), and all sorts of quick little snacks and fast food.  The shortening dubbed "Crisco" was probably the most famous for its trans fat content, and only recently has the company introduced a variant with no trans fat.  Here's a list of Grocery store foods you can find out there today with the highest trans fat content (and therefore should probably be dubbed the blacklist of food):

1. Celeste Pizza (5 g of trans fat per serving)

2. Marie Callender's American Pies (5 g of trans fat per serving)

3. Pop Secret Popcorn (5 g of trans fat per serving)

4. Utz Hulless Puff'n Corn (Cheese flavor has 5 g per serving, original has 3.5 g)

5. Jolly Time Popcorn (4 g of trans fat per serving)

6.Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits (3.5 g trans fat per serving)

7. Shore Lunch Creamy Potato Soup Mix (3.5 g trans fat per serving)

8. Aunt Jemima Biscuit Sandwiches (3 g trans fat per serving)

9. Betty Crocker Helper Complete Meals (3 g trans fat per serving)

10. Gardetto's Roasted Garlic Rye Chips (3 g trans fat per serving)

Here's the original list: http://www.takepart.com/photos/supermarket-shame-10-secret-trans-fat-offenders

And HERE are the top 88 fast foods highest in trans fat:

In fact you should look quite closely at any sort of packaged foods like pie crusts, cookies, candy, frozen dinners, butters, oils, and other similar products to make absolutely sure they have NO trans fat.  Many companies that previously had products high in trans fat have released zero trans fat varieties of their food (one that comes to mind is Country Crock Margarine), so spend a little extra time reading the labels and making absolutely sure that what you're getting doesn't have any.

Just remember, the more processed and "fake" the food looks, the more likely it will contain things you don't want in your body.  Spend some time reading the labels, the ingredients, and know what you're feeding that ever-improving body of yours.

Be careful, avoid those trans fats, and GOOD LUCK!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Up The Intensity!

Hey, want to lose weight fast?  How about pack on some serious muscle in as little time as possible?  Maybe increase your metabolism and push your body into building, burning, fitness mode?  Well my friends, it's about time you increased your workout intensity.

Sure sure, everyone tells you to "push it," or work harder, egging you on in the gym, while you might be perfectly content to walk on the treadmill at an average pace so you can still actually hear the TV hanging on the wall, and watch the soap opera comfortably.  To you, the gym might be just an annoying routine, where you'd like to be as comfortable as possible doing uncomfortable things (like walking, jogging, biking, or lifting heavy things.)  That's all fine and dandy, and it's up to you, but not only will your progress toward any sort of goal be slowed to a crawl, but you're more likely to get into the rut that so many fall into --The rut of ZERO MOTIVATION,and of course.....low intensity.

Listen, your body responds to intensity.  You'll feel your heart rate shoot skyward, beads of sweat pop out everywhere, and your muscles burn.  It's uncomfortable, no doubt.  But by doing intense things, in any sort of workout you do, you're forcing your body to adapt, to work, and to push itself to the next level.  You'll burn a fantastic number of calories.  Think about it, the harder your heart is beating, the more your calorie furnace is heating up.  If you just saunter along on the treadmill all day, or lift weights far below the level of any sort of real effort, your heart won't get going, your body won't strain, and you won't increase your metabolic rate a bit.  No effort = no results, it's as simple as that.  These days, I see far too many people who are too comfortable in the gym.  Listen, you can love the place, but love it for the results it gives you, not because it's comfortable.  Be comfortable with pushing yourself.  Here are a few ways to get on the seriously intense workout track:

HIGH INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING:  Are you a cardio lover?  Do you enjoy the treadmill, the spinning machine, or the elliptical?  Well then, HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, is definitely for you.  This is truly the next level of cardio.  It'll take a shorter amount of time, and shoot your heart rate sky high (safely of course).  The concept is pretty simple.  Let's use the treadmill as an example.  When starting out, warm up for about a minute with a medium walk to slow jog.  Then, for the next minute or so, get up to a relatively comfortable pace, one you could keep for at least half an hour (a steady jog, I'd suggest between 5.5-7.0 mph for the average person).  Hit this for another minute.  Once that second hand turns over for the third minute though, the fun begins.  Quickly increase to an 80-95% sprint for a good 15-30 seconds, making sure to push yourself to near maximum speed.  Keep breathing deep and steady, and feel the burn in those legs.  PUSH HARD.  Then, when time's up, go back to your steady jog pace and cool down for about a minute.  Then...you guessed it, repeat.  For a beginner, I'd suggest four complete cycles (four jogs, four sprints), then every week or so get one more interval in there.  Work up to a total of around 20-25 minutes of HIIT, and I guarantee you'll see some real results.  Religious HIITers drop weight quickly and keep it off due to their vastly increased metabolism which is due to the irregular taxing of your heart and muscles.  You'll build leg muscle too, especially if you play around with the incline.  There's all sorts of HIIT workouts out there, google a few and try them out.

Oh, and HIIT works with any sort of cardio.  Try some hardcore spinning intervals, or elliptical, or jump rope, or take it outside and use a hill, a bike, or just plain RUN.  You can even walk and do it (have you ever tried to keep pace on a maximum speed walk?  Definitely not easy).  It's simple, and it produces guaranteed results.  It's not easy, but it gives an amazing sense of accomplishment.  And sometimes it's fun to see just how fast you can run.

Here's a great intro to HIIT, along with a few provided workouts: http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/wotw40.htm

HEAVY SQUATS:  My personal favorite.  To be honest, I'm not the cardio type.  But guess what, to keep lean, cardio ISN'T A NECESSITY.  Sure it's great to get at least something aerobic in there every now and then, but you can have plenty of intensity in your workouts just from lifting heavy things.  Squats are one of the best high intensity movements out there, especially heavy ones.  I believe one of my biggest idols, Nick Horton (coach of PDX weightlifting) put it best in a recent email to me by saying: A hard set of squats is really similar to a sprint, actually, as far as your body is concerned. Boy is he right.  Squat a heavy set of five, and not only will your heart rate increase, but you'll feel taxed pretty darn close to your limit.  Keep the reps close together, push as hard as you can, and you'll use so many muscles in such an intense, powerful manner that your body can't help but go into "beast mode," and fire up that calorie burning furnace.  You'll also build a ridiculous amount of muscle too, quite quickly.  I squat 7  days a week (I do NOT suggest this to a beginner, start off with 1 or 2 at most, with wide spacing between days), and it hasn't even been a year and I've already put 100 lbs on my max squat.  I feel stronger than ever, and despite being about 10 lbs heavier I'm also leaner than I was when I started.  Amazing right?  The magic of squats is fantastic.  

Bottom Line:  Squats make you powerful and increase your metabolism enormously.  Do them.  But make sure your form is good.  Get flexible and lift heavy.

PLYOMETRICS:  Plyos are insane.  They kill you with just one set, then on each successive set continue to kick you when you're down.  But they feel GREAT.  They build muscle, they build explosive strength, and they shoot your metabolism through the roof.  They will force your body to go through calories like water through  a sieve.  And like any good high intensity exercise, after you're done you'll still be in high gear, burning through every new meal you consume, packing on muscle and dropping fat.  It's called the "afterburn effect," and it's basically an increased metabolic rate that lasts for a certain amount of time after your workout.  The more intensely you worked out, in general, the longer and larger the afterburn effect is.  Hard, explosive movements force your body to work at maximum level with each rep, and therefore your afterburn effect will be quite large.  So get jumping, leaping, and lunging.

Want a good plyometric workout?  Start here, but please look all over the internet, because there are thousands of different workouts that will ALL kick your butt and produce serious results.  People who practice plyometrics on a regular basis are stronger, fitter, faster, more powerful, and in general on a level above those who don't.  Step up.  Try a few.  Start small, then really go for it!

Now clearly you can't just jump into a highly intense workout and expect to be all right.  Don't start squatting twice what you are now, or sprinting for 12 solid intervals right off the bat.  Chances are you'll burn out, or worse, hurt yourself.  Increase the intensity in levels, or steps, starting small and working up to the truly daunting.  Like I've said in my previous goal setting articles (read my most recent one here: http://foodguru802.blogspot.com/2012/01/short-term-key.html ), give yourself a lofty goal that you really have to reach toward, and set smaller short term goals that will allow you to reach it.  Want a 50" box jump?  Start with 24" box jumps for reps this week, then maybe 26-28" next week.  You'll be leaping like a frog in no time, and the body fat will start to melt right off you with every successive day.

Also, one more thing to close down this article and send you on your way to success:  Be intense inwardly, not outwardly.  What do I mean?  Well, focus all your energy toward that next sprint, that next jump, or that ungodly heavy squat.  Don't waste it screaming your head off in the gym to get psyched up, or making a ridiculous commotion.  Sure, everybody's got their psyche-up routine.  I've got my own, and I'm sure it looks quite strange, but it doesn't necessarily draw attention.  Keep it refined, shall we?  Power toward the movement, not outward into thin air.  Efficiency is the name of the game.

Push hard, then harder, then do it again.  All it takes is all you've got.  GOOD LUCK!

Friday, January 27, 2012

"Dark Chocolate Dreams" Peanut Butter *Review*

I for one love my peanut butter.  I don't eat much of it, usually around tablespoon before bedtime for all the healthy fats, which slow my digestion and prevent catabolism overnight.  I swear, that's why I do it, not because it tastes ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS (which it does.)  In the last year I've switched entirely to natural peanut butter, and I must say that the transition hasn't been hard at all.  Sure, natural peanut butter may not have the sweetness of the normal stuff, but after a few days of eating it you definitely DON'T miss the sugar.  And I'm serious about that. I had a little bit of normal skippy the other day and it almost made me stick my tongue out it was so artificial tasting.  Once you go natural, you never go back.

Today I'm here to pay my respects to a peanut butter a step above the rest.  Its name?

"Dark Chocolate Dreams" by Peanut Butter & Co.

Oh god, is this stuff amazing.  It is the ultimate combination of two fantastic tastes:  Dark chocolate, and natural peanut butter.  Once this stuff hits your tongue you'll literally be taken back in awe, and I'm really not joking.  And to top it all off, this stuff is natural!  AWESOME!!!

Dark Chocolate Dreams is a no-stir natural peanut butter, which while some may argue makes it a "false" natural peanut butter, I'd like to voice my rebuttal by saying the package lies about it being completely no-stir, for the oil WILL separate if you let it sit for a while.  Yes, there are a few more ingredients than just peanuts (like cocoa for starters...mmmmm...), so I will concede and say this peanut butter is "semi-natural."  But you know what this peanut butter doesn't have??


That is truly amazing.  That means that this stuff really has zero trans fat (peanut butter is famous for trans fat, which is the ultimate killer when it comes to unhealthy things), and also has no high fructose corn syrup (which your body almost ALWAYS stores as fat because of its chemical composition.)  So is this peanut butter healthy?  Hey, it fits into my diet no problem, and that's saying something.  And believe me, it's a LOT better than plain ol' Jif.

Here is the nutritional information for Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter:

Peanut Butter and Co. definitely has my future business.  They also have a few other fantastic flavors I'd like to try, like Crunch Time, White Chocolate Wonderful, Mighty Maple, The Heat is On, and Cinnamon Raisin Swirl.  Want a change from your boring ol' peanut butter?  Head to the store and pick up some of PB&Co.'s product right now, I would definitely recommend Dark Chocolate Dreams.  Overall rating?  9.5/10 (cause nothing's perfect, but this is darn close.)

See?  Dieting can be fun! Tasty too...=]


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Weighing In

Weighing yourself seems like a simple task, yet so many people seem to get it wrong.  They weigh in too often, or not often enough, or find some other little way to stress over something that shouldn't be more than a bookmark for where they're currently at.  Hopefully this quick little article will help you to realize that the scale is an extremely helpful dieting tool, but ONLY when used correctly and with the correct mindset.

Weigh yourself in the morning- First thing when you wake up, make sure to jump on that scale before putting anything in your belly.  This will make sure that the weight you're seeing is as close to possible to your actual body weight. Surprisingly, if you were to weigh yourself before bed, then as soon as you wake up, you'd see about a 2-3 lb difference (I've seen as much as 5 lbs) due to water evaporation.  Water is heavy, and can really add a few pounds to that figure you see on the scale face.

Weigh in at the same time each day- This one seems like a no-brainer, but I've had people ask me how they gained 3 lbs in one day, and after getting over my initial bafflement and finally asking when they weighed themselves each day I learned that once was before breakfast and the other time was after dinner.  Of course you're going to weigh more!  FOOD WEIGHS SOMETHING!  Make it only in the morning, and save yourself some worry.

Weigh in naked- OK, this one's truly up to you, but if your scale is in the bathroom it shouldn't be too big a deal.  This will provide consistency to your figure that might be taken away by clothes that are different weight. Before you hop in the shower, just hop on the scale real quick.  Easy enough right?

Weigh in after your business is done- Hopefully I don't have to go into too much detail here.  Wake up, empty yourself, then jump on the scale.  Hey, that stuff weighs something, right?  Do you want it counted in your figure?

Don't weigh in Every Day- This will drive you nuts. If you weigh yourself every day, you're not going to see any real trend due to the natural fluctuations in your body.  This could include things like how much water you're retaining that particular day, or how much food's in your belly (although if you followed my advice prior then that shouldn't be an issue).  Things don't stay the same, especially in your body, and trends take a while to show.  I would suggest once or twice a week, and if you're really looking to track what you hope will be fast progress, then every other day is as often as I'd go for.

Weigh in only once a day- Again, this one doesn't seem too hard to remember, but some people just can't keep away from the scale.  Once a day only please, or else you WILL become neurotic about the scale and freak out about any little weight fluctuation.  Like I said, your body composition changes on an hourly basis.  Weigh in when you wake up, figure out how your diet is working, and go about your business.  Don't burn that number into your head.

Weigh yourself on a hard, even surface- Don't set the scale on the carpet, it's as simple as that.  This will skew the results up to and sometimes greater than 4%.  To give you an idea, that'd be like seeing the scale say 173 lbs when actually you weigh 180 lbs.  Not a surprise you want to figure out later, right?

Weigh in on the same scale- Different scales, while all pretty accurate these days, do have their own characteristics.  If you're hopping from scale to scale, you might see differences that aren't really there, and start to stress.  Keep the benchmark consistent and try to use the same scale every day.

DON'T STRESS!!! I can't say this enough.  The scale, while a great tool to view your progress, can also be a really stressful thing.  Some people avoid it, some people weigh in 4 times a day in obsession.  Listen, while your weight is important, it's not the most critical thing in your life.  There are many factors a scale doesn't take into account, one of them being muscle mass (you can gain muscle, lose a pant size, and GAIN weight all at once), the other is overall health.  If you eat healthy, not only will you tend to weigh less, but you'll be much healthier than a "skinnyfat" person who only weighs 138 but eats burgers, Doritos, and cookies for every meal.  Concern yourself more with health than with weight.  The scale is your friend, don't stress out about it.

Keep recording, keep smiling, and as always, GOOD LUCK!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

All About Salsa!

Ah yes, salsa.  God's gift to health nuts looking for something strong, flavorful and nutrient packed without all the calories.  In my opinion, it's hard to beat a good, natural salsa.  It'll go with all sorts of things, way more than you'd initially believe.  It isn't just an accompaniment to those tortilla chips, in fact those chips actually give salsa a bad rap.  I'm here to tell you today that on its own, salsa is not only delicious, but a very healthy snack that you'll want to get into your diet as soon as possible, especially if you want to spice things up from all those clean, bland, "boring" foods.  Let's check it out!

First, what is salsa?  Well the definition I found on thefreedictionary.com says:

A spicy sauce of chopped, usually uncooked vegetables or fruit, especially tomatoes, onions, and chili peppers, used as a condiment.

This leaves a LOT of room for interpretation.  I've had salsas that were sweet, with pineapple and mango.  I've also had some that are hot as heck, with habanero and green chili peppers.  I've had bean salsa, with black beans and corn and chickpeas (YUMMY).  And then there's the good old mild stuff on the middle shelf of the grocery store, an option that's still completely delicious despite being a little less adventurous.  You'd be amazed at all the different ingredients that can go into one salsa, and surprised at how natural a lot of those ingredients can be.  Here's the nutritional information for the average store bought salsa (For two tablespoons):

Nutrition Facts
Calories 9(37 kJ)
% Daily Value 1
Total Fat< 0.1g< 1%
Sat. Fat< 0.1g< 1%
Total Carbs.2.1g< 1%
Dietary Fiber0.5g2%
You can expect most salsas to have around 10-15 calories per two tablespoons.  This is very very low, especially in comparison to other sauces like ketchup, steak sauce, and especially mayonnaise (over 100 calories for two tablespoons!!!).

When it comes to salsa, the more natural it is, the better.  What do I mean?  Well a lot of the big name companies start to make their product a little overly processed, and you start to get ingredients that you wouldn't really want or need in salsa.  You also get a lot more sodium per serving, as well as a lot more sugar (they sweeten it up unnecessarily in order to sell more jars, obviously.)  To give you a comparison, let's take the sodium count in the salsa mentioned above (which is an average of all store brand nutritional facts), and a natural salsa I have in my fridge right now.

Theirs?  200mg of sodium per serving

Mine?  150mg of sodium per serving

50mg is a plenty big difference.  What salsa is it exactly that I have I'm currently munching on?  It's called "Wholly Salsa," and it's an all natural variant that tastes absolutely delicious.

There's even lower sodium counts out there too.  Here's another natural salsa's nutritional information:

80mg of sodium!?  That's pretty darn low, especially for salsa.  I'm going to have to check this stuff out (though it does look like they added a little sugar).

So why is salsa so healthy and low calorie?  Well the credit goes mainly to its main ingredient: VEGETABLES.  That's right, the low calorie, complex carb, nutrient packed meal item we often like to "accidentally overlook."  You get a ton of vitamins and minerals from salsa that you wouldn't get from other sauces.  In my honest opinion, salsa is quite the find for any dieter, because it can quickly make bland, tasteless foods quite delectable and desirable.  Want some examples of how I personally use salsa?  SURE!

On Sandwiches- That's right, nothing spices up tuna or turkey like a little bit of salsa.  It gives the sandwich an amazing natural kick and barely changes the nutritional info at all.  It has completely replaced mayonnaise in my diet, and definitely does the job well.

On Salads- Want a replacement for that fatty, calorie loaded ranch?  Try salsa!  Believe me you won't miss the saturated fat, or the taste, because you'll be too busy enjoying all the powerful flavors of your salad coated in a beautiful medley of spice and savory goodness.  Did that sell you?  I hope so.  Try it today, it's an amazing low calorie salad topper.

As a Veggie Dip- I love to dip raw vegetables in salsa.  They go together perfectly, and compliment each other in a way that's quite delicious.  I guarantee you won't look at plain old cucumber slices the same ever again after you've had them with a spicy bean salsa.  My personal favorite though is a bowl of cooked baby carrots with a little dish of dipping salsa.  I've been known to have that snack at least three times a day.  TRY IT!

In Omelettes- Now this one is truly awesome.  Throw some salsa into your next omelette, along with some mushrooms, onions, and whatever else you may desire, and be prepared for one amazingly delicious breakfast.  Eggs go great with salsa in general, so don't worry about ruining either flavor.  Plus, when salsa gets warm, it's extra delicious, as more of the aromas and flavors are released.

Plain- Yes you read right, I've been known to eat this stuff plain!  just a few spoonfuls at a time of course (though usually the entire package has less than 200 calories), to avoid too much of a sodium intake.  But don't be afraid to have a spoonful when you feel like it.  It will barely make a dent in your daily calories and is a great way to get a few more vegetables in your diet.  Plus it can really curb the appetite with all those nice flavors!

So get to your grocery store and pick up a jar of salsa today!  It's versatile, delicious, and above everything else, EXTREMELY HEALTHY!  Low calorie, high nutrient, what more could you ask for?  Pick what ever kind you like best, and start trying it out.  Believe me, your taste buds and your figure will both thank you.

Some like it hot, some like it chunky, some like it sweet. It's up to you.  GOOD LUCK!