Tuesday, January 31, 2017

5 Ways to Eat Healthier

It can be a real challenge for you to eat healthy and nutritious meals when you’re busy. There is of course the time issue – just not enough time in the day for shopping, preparation, and cooking. This means that you’re often eating ready-made meals, which are high in fat, salt and sugar content. Then there is the fact that very often, you’ll eat out more often, especially at fast food restaurants. This of course means eating foods high in fat and calories and lacking in the nutrients the body needs.

In these situations, it’s still possible for you to eat healthier. Eating healthy will actually make a person more productive at his work. So, healthy eating habits should be considered to part of a person's work schedule.

What are 5 ways that busy people can eat healthier?

Always have breakfast. 

This is often the most skipped meal in the day, but it’s the most important meal. Skipping breakfast can lead to weight problems and diabetes.

What constitutes a great, healthy breakfast? Foods rich in fiber. Fiber rich foods make the feeling for being full last much longer, therefore reducing the tendency to snack. Some foods to eat include whole grain oatmeal, whole grain cereal, fruits, and vegetables.

Protein from eggs is also a great way to nourish the body in the morning.

Foods with high sugar content and low fiber (donuts and pastries) should be avoided.

Plan ahead. 

As a busy person, you’ll be used to planning in advance to get things done. You would never think about going into an important meeting without planning. Eating healthy requires the same planning. When should this be done? Of course, everyone's schedule is different, but it should be possible to use some time in the week to plan for meals.

Weekends could be good days to use some time to prepare and plan meals. Remember to also plan your snacks, and make sure that you have healthy options. For this, plastic containers are a must.

If possible, try to shop for groceries online and have them delivered to your home or workplace. This saves a lot of time shopping. Of course, any shopping has to take into consideration healthy foods. Choose whole grains, fresh produce, and lean fresh meats.

Even the busiest people can take advantage of the many markets that sell prepared baked chicken, to save cooking time and have a source of healthy protein on hand.

Keep hydrated. 

A healthy body requires fluid. Make sure that you have plenty of water with you. Drink water frequently during the day. Don't overdo the coffee intake. Avoid sugary drinks like soda and remember that fruit juices are often high in sugars and low in fiber.

Eat healthily at restaurants. 

When at restaurants choose the healthy options. Many menus now have the calorie total for each meal and this can be a good guide. If there are no calorie guides then stick to this rule of thumb: meats should be grilled, potatoes boiled or mashed and vegetables steamed. Soups are good for entrees and for deserts choose fruits.

Be careful with alcohol. 

Many use alcohol to wind down after work and it is tempting to join with work colleagues after work. While an occasional glass of wine won't do any harm (and some studies even show that there are health benefits), you need to remember that alcohol is just empty calories. The over consumption of alcohol can also have a negative impact on health in general.

Even though you have a very hectic schedule, it doesn't mean that your health must suffer. The 5 tips for a healthier lifestyle here are very easy to implement. It just takes a bit of forethought and planning. Taking care of your health will result in a more productive day's work and a longer life!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Paka Baking Mix Review

I received these two boxes of Paka Baking Mix from Silver Fern Brand for free in exchange for my honest review.  I only expected to be sent the lemon bars mix so I was pleasantly surprised to see the blueberry muffins as well!

Silver Fern Brand currently has a baker's dozen of Paka Baking Mixes that are good for healthier breakfasts or desserts.  All the mixes are lower in sugar (therefore carbs) and calories as well as higher in protein and fiber content.  All but the pancakes are gluten free. Silver Fern Brand created their own proprietary sweetener called Kakato that includes an added boost of dietary fibers and probiotics. Other key ingredients are whey protein isolate, oat bran, whole algal flour, acacia gum, and flaxseed meal.  Pricing of these is about the same as what you see in the store for other gluten free baking mixes.

FREE Shipping on orders of $35 or more

Sunday I made both mixes so I could bring them with us to DC this weekend.  I want to have some healthy snacks for the road and evenings.

I started with the Lemon Bars.  I've eaten lemon bars before but never made them (as far as I can remember).  The crust was pretty easy to whip up and I didn't even have to mix it up as long as the instructions said.  I popped the crust into the oven and worked on the filling.  (To me the filling is something on the inside so I found it odd that's what it was called.  Searching recipes online I see some others calling this a topping instead.  Neither name seems fitting but I don't know what other name would work better.)

Once the bars were baking I started on the Blueberry Muffins.  My silicone muffin pan must be a little small because the box says that this mix makes 12 muffins.  I emptied the rest into one of the pans I normally use for banana bread so it wouldn't go to waste.  Austin laughed at me because I'd forgotten to keep the same bowl to use for both mixes, resulting in needing a second pair of hands (his) to scrape the glass bowl.

I don't know what it is about me and baking desserts (other than Austin's birthday cakes) but I seem to burn the bottoms every time.  Whether I've used a spray or a liner it still happens.  I embrace the suck (I can't remember where I heard this phrase but it seems fitting) with my baking skills and still enjoy what I prepare.  Austin wouldn't try any.  I think Benny was only eating them because they were there.  It must be an opposites attract type situation because he prefers the lemon bars and I prefer the blueberry muffins (and I'm not much of a blueberry fan).

It's been a while since I had lemon bars before so I don't have anything to compare but they didn't have an overpowering lemony taste.  Silver Fern Brand's Lemon Bars do have a cheesecake like flavor.  I cheated a bit and used lemon juice from a bottle instead of a fresh one so I'm not sure if that changed anything.  I mixed the lemon bar crust and filling by hand with a spatula and whisk.  The Blueberry Muffins didn't turn out light as shown on the box because I used the blender, therefore squishing some blueberries in the process.

What flavor(s) of the Paka Baking Mixes would you try first?

If your baking skills are worse than than mine or just want other dessert options, Silver Fern Brand also has chocolates and popcorn available that are boosted with fiber and probiotics.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Yoga vs. Pilates

While both yoga and Pilates take an integrated mind-body approach to fitness and well-being, their origins, approach to these objectives and methods differ greatly.

The emergence of mind-body classes like PiYo and Yogilates can make it difficult for people to distinguish between the two. Although the two can be pursued as complementary activities or integrated into one style, like PiYo, they are not the same.

It can be beneficial to practice each independent of the other and which one you practice depends on what you want to achieve.

The Origins


Yoga is a spiritual practice with a physical aspect. It evolved in India 3,000 to 5, 000 years ago. Yogis, people who practice yoga, use breath work (pranayama), physical poses (asanas), meditation (dhyana) and personal practices to pursue the full integration of mind, body and spirit or samadhi. Samadhi refers to attaining the state of enlightenment, bliss, or union with the divine.


Pilates emerged in the late 1900s, introduced to the world by its namesake, Joseph Pilates. Pilates developed his method as part of his efforts to heal himself. He suffered from physical weaknesses, rheumatic fever, asthma, and rickets, during his childhood. In his efforts to cure himself, he studied Eastern and Western forms of exercise, Greek and Roman exercise practices like wrestling, gymnastics and calisthenics as well as yoga.

How Yoga & Pilates Differ

In general, Western yoga practitioners are most familiar with the physical postures of yoga. Asanas, are only one component of an extensive system of philosophy, spiritual practices, and science. The poses are intended to build strength in the body and encourage mental focus. The asanas develop and strengthen every part of the body, joints, muscles, organs, glands, bones, and metabolism.

During yoga, the breathing is deep and continuous linked to each movement and asana throughout the practice. Yoga’s extensive and currently exponential growth in popularity in Europe, the United States, and Canada supports the development of a broad range of yoga asana styles, including the more popular styles:
  • Ashtanga
  • Vinyasa
  • Anusara
  • Hot Yoga
  • Yoga Therapy
  • Restorative
  • Chair Yoga
  •  Bikram

How Pilates Differs


Pilates differs from yoga in several ways. Both yoga and Pilates focus on integrating the mind and body, but Pilates does not include any spiritual pursuits. It does generally increase practitioners’ sense of well-being, but this is not its primary purpose.

Pilates also takes a less organic approach to movement. All Pilates exercises extend from the body’s core, also called the powerhouse. The powerhouse spans the center of the body from the pelvic floor to the top of the shoulders.

Pilates practitioners focus on stabilizing the powerhouse and allowing other limbs to move freely to guide the body through the Pilates regimen of movements. Pilates also incorporates the use of exercise machines to offer support and take muscles through their full range of motion with optimal levels of extension and contraction.

During Pilates, the breath is coordinated with the execution of each exercise. The primary focus of each move in Pilates is perfect execution, versus repetition of any particular move.

The Mindfulness Element of Yoga

Overall, yoga offers more than 60 different health benefits for mind, body, and soul. It reaches into every aspect on one’s life and goes way beyond fitness and physical achievement. For example, the mindfulness approach taught in yoga that is not a part of Pilates helps one to improve many elements of life, including weight loss, where you're getting in touch with the true needs of the body, such as hunger helps to reduce incidence of emotional eating or eating for any other reason but hunger.

The mindfulness aspect of yoga can be viewed as “life skills” training. In addition, this training can help deter many emotional and mental health problems, and the associated physical manifestations that result from them. Mindfulness during yoga brings calm and peace to your mind, body, and life. Through the process, you become more in touch with how you really feel, and that includes symptoms of stress. Such a heightened state of awareness allows you to better manage the triggers and affects that stress can have, thereby allowing you to avoid its serious health complications.

Many scientific studies have demonstrated the practice of mindfulness to have impressive and wide reaching benefits, including:
  • Greater sense of well-being
  • Stress and anxiety reduction
  •  Better mood
  • Reducing risks for depression
  • Better immunity
  • Better social relationships
  • Improved cognition, memory and focus
  • Improved awareness of oneself
  • Improved ability to make decisions
  • Improved sleep
  • Reduction in chronic pain
  • Lower blood pressure and reduction in risk for heart disease
  • More enjoyment of life in general
  • Overall improvement in quality of life

So Why Choose?

While yoga and Pilates provide similar benefits, a strong and toned body, endurance and a sense of well-being, their end goals differ. Pilates focuses on strengthening and rehabilitating the body for optimal physical health; the mind or will is employed to achieve this goal. Yoga's physical postures and breath exercises strengthen the body and discipline the mind in preparation for meditation and spiritual evolution.

In short, Pilates is outwardly focused and yoga is inwardly focused.

Making the choice between doing Pilates and practicing yoga comes down to one of intentions. If the intention is simply to form a strong and balanced body, Pilates will serve. If the intention is to achieve a strong and balanced physical body while gaining mental and spiritual benefits, pursue yoga. If both outcomes seem like something you would like to experience, try them both and see which one you find most accessible and beneficial. It just may turn out that you are not willing to let either one go.

Do you prefer yoga or Pilates?  What's your favorite style of yoga?

Thursday, January 5, 2017

6 Ways Women 50+ Can Benefit from Pilates

Pilates is a type of anaerobic exercise that is designed to increase the strength and flexibility of your core muscles.  The beauty of Pilates is that it can be done by just about anyone at any fitness level (see me & Pilates on Facebook).  It involves very little in the way of exercise equipment and can be done anywhere.

Pilates isn’t just for the young, athletic person.  Because it doesn’t put undue strain on the heart, it can safely be done by older adults, including those over the age of 50.  It can improve the health of woman over 50 and doesn’t take a heavy toll on the body.

There are many reasons why Pilates can be a good exercise for women over the age of 50 years of age.  Some of these benefits include the following:
  1. Pilates involves an invigorating mind-body workout. Pilates places a heavy emphasis on using proper breathing techniques, aligning your spine correctly, and keeping your pelvic aligned.  It involves concentrating on flowing, smooth movements that help you become more in tune to your mind and body.  When you do Pilates, you learn to control your movements by practicing quality exercises that focus on the core.  There is a focus on breathing to the tune of your movements so that you can use your power to efficiently move your body.  By being a mind-body workout, Pilates teaches you how to breathe better, which can be great for women who are under a great deal of stress.
  2. Pilates helps you develop strong core muscles. Much of the focus in Pilates is the strengthening of the core of your body.  The core of your body is the central part of your body—both the abdominal muscles and the back muscles.  Pilates helps you strengthen these muscles so that you can move with ease as you go about your day with complete control over these essential core muscles.  Pilates can help you find integration between your pelvis, trunk, and shoulder muscles so that they function as a strong unit.
  3. Pilates helps increase flexibility and allows your muscles to lengthen.  Many anaerobic workouts, such as weight lifting or using weight machines will only lead to muscles that are bulky and short.  These muscles tend to be more likely to be injured and aren’t the kind of muscles you want to have.  Instead of bulky “body-building muscles”, Pilates helps you elongate your muscles, strengthening them at the same time.  Your muscles will become more elastic and you will have increased flexibility of your joints. When you achieve these kinds of muscles, you are less likely to become injured.
  4. Pilates can help you prevent muscle injuries and can improve your performance in other sports. Most other anaerobic workouts work the same muscles over and over again, such as the biceps muscles or quadriceps muscles.  Sometimes these muscles are exercised to the exclusion of other muscles.  You can easily over-strengthen certain muscles, while other muscles are under-strengthened.  In Pilates, all the core muscles are strengthened at the same time so that you have a decreased chance of becoming injured while working out or by doing your ordinary activities of daily living.
  5. Pilates conditions the entire body. In doing Pilates, you strengthen not only your core muscles but also strengthen the muscles of your extremities.  Pilates doesn’t emphasize one set of muscles to the exclusion of other muscles.  When you do Pilates, you can function better in daily living and will be better at sports with a decreased chance of becoming injured while doing other types of sports.
  6. Pilates helps you move with better efficiency.  When you do Pilates, you train many different muscles at the same time.  Pilates involves doing smooth and continuous motions so that you can train your body to move with more safety, decreasing your risk of falls and the fractures that can come with falling.
As you can see, Pilates is an activity with many benefits for women over 50. If you are interested in doing Pilates as a form of anaerobic exercise, take a Pilates class or purchase a DVD (such as those in my Amazon store below) that will teach you how to safely do the exercises.  You can practice Pilates every day with a low risk of suffering from any kind of overuse injury to your muscles.