Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Friday 5

Hi, friends!

We made it to Friday! Hooray!! I felt like this week really dragged, but now the weekend is so close, I can taste it! 🙂 Speaking of which, we have a fun weekend planned – starting with swim lessons at Goldfish followed by a Quinn and Mumma CAVA date for lunch. We’re both obsessed! 🙂

So, on Saturday, Mal has a school activity, so Quinn and I are going to visit the “old gym” (aka CrossFit). Quinn has actually brought up the old gym a few times in recent weeks, saying that he wants to visit. I guess he misses his CrossFit friends like we miss ours. I’m definitely looking forward to working out and seeing friends on Saturday. It’s been WAY too long!

After CrossFit, we need to take Murphy for a check up at the vet. He has an ulcer on one of his eyes that’s just not healing. We’re trying a stronger eye drop and antibiotics, so, hopefully, he receives a clean bill of health. On Saturday night, we have plans with friends. On Sunday, Papi and Lori are coming to babysit Quinn, so Mal and I can go out to brunch together. Quinn is very much looking forward to it. He lovvvvvees his Papi! 🙂

Anyway, I’ve rambled on much longer than intended, so let’s get right to The Friday 5 where I recap from top 5 favorites from the week. I hope you enjoy them, and I hope you have a wonderful Friday and weekend!

Brooks Launch 6 Shamrock Sneakers – How amazing are these sneakers?! And, of course, they’d be perfect for any St. Patty’s Day road race! If you buy now, you get a special edition box! Fun, right?

This Unmillennial Life Podcast – I’m loving this podcast lately. It’s intended for “women who’ve fallen into a generational gap” (aka not Millennials). I’m not quite 40 yet, but I’ll be there soon enough, and I’m pretty sure I’m technically a Gen X-er. Anyway, I love all of the topics discussed. Recent episodes include: Screentime Behavior & Addition, Adrenal Fatigue, Keto, Intermittent Fasting, Mindfulness & Meditation, and much more. I really loved the episode about macro counting from a dietitian’s perspective!

Pretty much ALL of the bathing suits from Athleta – For real!! I’m in the market for a new bathing(s), and I know where I’ll be shopping in the coming weeks. I seriously love just about all of thee bathing suits online, and they’re reasonably priced. I’ve also heard Athleta’s bathing suits fit realllly well. I need to get my shop on sooner than later – beach season is “almost” here! This Maldives High Neck Bikini Top is everything!

What to Eat When: A Strategic Plan to Improve Your Health and Life Through Food – I finally got my hands on this book, and I’m so glad that I did. It makes a strong argument for my favorite meal of the day: BREAKFAST! The author actually recommends eating 3/4 of your calories before dinner. It’s funny because, in the early days of CNC, I naturally used to eat this way. But I received so much flack for my small dinners from readers, I started eating bigger ones. In recent times, I’ve gravitated back to “eat like a king” at breakfast and “eat like a pauper” at dinner, so I’m glad this book provided some biological evidence for its benefit. If you’re wondering how this fits into the popular intermittent fasting of today, the author actually supports it, but still encourages eating the majority of your calories before dinner time. Your eating window basically ends up being earlier in the day, and you’re eating when the sun is outside. I actually have a lot to say about this book, so maybe I’ll write a blog post about it soon! In the meantime, it’s a great read! 🙂

Beautycounter Counterman Collection – Are the men in your life using safe products? Yes? No? Maybe? Here’s why you should care: According to a survey conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), men use, on average, 6 products daily, containing a total of about 85 unique ingredients. Of the 85 unique ingredients, many of them are known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) since they interfere with hormonal balance, including fertility. These EDCs can also play a part in obesity and coronary heart disease. Long story short, it’s time to clean up the products in the lives of the men you love so much, and Beautycounter’s Counterman is a line of safer skincare designed specifically for men.

Mal uses a number of products from the line and absolutely loves them. I’m pretty sure he’s hooked! Here are his favorites:

The Counterman Collection, especially the Shave Regimen and Beard Regimen, make an awesome gift for the special guy in you life. Does your husband, dad, brother, son, uncle or grandfather have a birthday or special occasion coming up? Give the gift of Counterman! And, FYI, this line isn’t just for men. The Smoothing Shave Cream, Charcoal Body Bar, and Energizing Charcoal Body Wash are great for women too. They smell incredible!

Questions of the Day

What products do the men in your life use?

Are you running a St. Patrick’s Day race this year? 

Do you prefer eating a small or big breakfast?

P.S. Here’s a bonus favorite from the week: 9 Steps to Creating an Epic Routine!

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Glute and Hamstring Workout

Jessica Gouthro from Paleohacks is joining us today to offer tips for strengthening glutes and hamstrings without traditional gym equipment. Enjoy, everyone.

Strong glutes and hamstrings are more than just nice-looking legs and a booty.

The glutes and hamstrings are the strongest muscles in our skeletal muscular system. When we strengthen these muscles, we can prevent strain and injury while also enjoying a greater ability to squat deeper, lunge pain-free, push heavy objects, run faster and jump higher.

To best train those glutes and hamstrings, you’ll want to emphasize both leg curling (knee bending) and hip extension (or straightening) actions for balanced training. One of the best exercises that do this is the glute ham raise, or GHR.

Very few exercises can isolate the hamstrings and glutes without top-loading excess weight on the spine or testing your grip strength with a loaded barbell. Although you may think this exercise looks easy in comparison to a Barbell Romanian Deadlift or Hip Thrust, it is just as challenging (if not even more so) when performed correctly.

What Is a Glute Ham Raise?

A glute ham raise is an eccentric, or muscle lengthening, exercise that involves a fixed location of the feet, ankles, and hips and a hinge only at the knee joint. By securing the foot position and starting with a bent knee, we enable the hamstring to lengthen eccentrically against gravity using only our own body weight.

Rising back up to the starting position is done by a combination of hamstring contraction and assistance from the upper body pushing against the floor.

Typically, this exercise utilizes specialized equipment called a GHR machine (pictured) that can hold your feet and ankles in place and cushions your knees with a curved, shaped knee pad.

Since you may not have access to one of these in your home or gym, we have a great alternative you can do with a partner. All you need is a friend and a rolled-up towel to cushion your knees!

Partner Assisted Glute Ham Raise | 6 reps

Kneel down on a rolled-up towel. Tuck your toes under and straighten your hips. Lift your hands up in front of your shoulders and tighten your core.

Have your partner press down firmly on your ankles to secure your position. Keeping your hips and glutes tight, inhale as you slowly lean forward, hinging only at the knees.

Once you can no longer control the descent, use your hands to catch yourself and lower the rest of the way down. Push into the floor with your hands, and on an exhale, contract your glutes and hamstrings to rise back up to the starting position.

Complete six reps while your partner holds your ankles steady.

Note: This is an advanced exercise. If you find this exercise too challenging and cannot complete six good reps, you can try this next partner-assisted resistance band hamstring curl exercise as an alternative.

Partner-Assisted Kneeling Band Hamstring Curl | 8 reps per leg

Kneel down on a rolled-up towel, tuck your toes under, and get into an all-fours position. Extend one leg straight out behind you.

Have your partner loop a resistance band around your heel, just above your shoe. As your partner holds her end of the resistance band tight, bend your knee to curl your heel towards your butt.

Exhale and hold momentarily at 90 degrees, then slowly straighten to return to the starting position. Continue to bend and straighten your knee while maintaining that lifted leg position. Complete eight reps, then switch sides.

Note: You will feel this in your glutes on both sides as well as in your hamstring.

In case you don’t have a partner available, here are the five best glute and hamstring exercises you can do anywhere, by yourself. You’ll need a yoga mat, a towel, and an exercise band.

To get the most out of your efforts, I recommend performing all of these exercises at least two to three times per week.

Fire Hydrant | 10 per side

Kneel down in an all-fours position with your feet flexed (toes pointing to the floor). Lift one knee up and out to the side to hip height. Exhale at the top as you flex your glute muscles, then lower back down with control. Maintain a steady torso and upper body as you focus on contracting your glutes.


Complete 10 reps on one side, then switch to the other leg.

Note: Work slowly to ensure quality muscle contractions. Pause each time you hit the top and strongly contract your glutes. You’ll feel this on both sides, even though you’re working one side at a time.

Towel Slide Hamstring Curl | 8 reps

Sit at the bottom edge of your mat with the full length of your legs on a smooth surface floor, like hardwood or tile.
Lie down flat on your back and press your palms into the floor by your hips.

Place your heels on a towel and keep your feet flexed. (If you are working on carpet, use a piece of paper or two paper or plastic plates instead of a towel.)

Engage your glutes and lift your hips off the ground. On an exhale, bend your knees to slide the towel towards your butt. Stop when your knees reach a 90-degree bend. Inhale, and reverse by sliding back out to a straight body.

Complete eight reps, keeping your hips elevated the entire time.

Single Leg Toe Touch | 6 reps per side

Stand tall with your core tight and shoulders rolled back and down. Balance on one foot as you float the other just off the ground.

Inhale to hinge at the hips to tilt forward until your torso and top leg are parallel to the ground. Keep a slight bend in your standing leg and reach your fingertips towards your toes. Exhale to lift back up to standing, contracting your muscles.

Complete six reps per side.

Note: Keep your gaze on the ground to help with balance. If balance is still a challenge, you may hold onto a wall or chair with one hand while you do these reps.

Single Leg Balance Hamstring Curl | 6 reps per side

Balance on one leg with your torso and lifted leg parallel to the ground. Keep a small bend in your standing leg, and grab onto your quad for stability. On an exhale, curl your top leg towards your butt, while maintaining your hip and torso position.


Inhale to straighten your leg, reaching it out long behind you.

Continue six reps on one side, then complete six reps on the other side.

Single Leg Resistance Band Ham Curl | 6 reps per side

Slide one end of your loop resistance band underneath your left heel, pressing down with your heel to secure its position.

Lift your right leg. Loop your right heel through the other end of the band, positioning it on the back of your shoe. Place both hands on your left knee and hinge at your hips with your spine straight.

Exhale to bend your right knee to 90 degrees, then inhale as you lower back down with control, maintaining a small amount of tension on the band so it does not come loose. Your range of motion should be about eight to 10 inches.

Complete six reps, then switch sides.

Note: Hold onto a wall or a chair for balance if you need to.

How To Incorporate This Weekly Workout

Here’s a sample workout you can incorporate into your weekly routine.

Warm up with three minutes of light walking or jogging. Follow with three rounds of the circuit of seven exercises, resting for 10-30 seconds between exercises depending on your fitness level.

Note: Beginners can do just one round and work up to three rounds after a few weeks.

  • Partner-Assisted Glute Ham Raise [OR] Partner Assisted Kneeling Band | 6 reps
  • Hamstring Curl | 8 reps per leg
  • Fire Hydrant | 10 per side
  • Towel Slide Hamstring Curl | 8 reps
  • Single Leg Toe Touch | 6 reps per side
  • Single Leg Balance Hamstring Curl | 6 reps per side
  • Single Leg Resistance Band Ham Curl | 6 reps per side

Thanks again to Jessica Gouthro for these tips and to Brad Gouthro for demonstrating them. Be sure to check out Jessica’s other workout lineups on MDA:“Arm Workout Without Weights,” “13 Ways To Move More At Work” and “10 Moves To Help Ease Joint Pain.”

Questions or comments about exercises or glute and hamstring strength? Share them below, and thanks for stopping by.

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Food in America compared to the U.K. (Why is it so different?)

Want to know what really opened up my eyes to how food companies exploit us? I spent years investigating the differences between European and American food products, and what I found disgusted me.

A college buddy of mine decided to go live in London for a few years. While she was there, I often had her go to Tesco and other European grocery stores to take pictures of the ingredient lists for me and send me boxes of products. I’d compare them with the same brand of American products side-by-side and saw completely different ingredient lists.

Companies like Kraft-Heinz, Kellogg’s, PepsiCo, and Quaker sell safer, better products oversees while making inferior versions to sell to Americans. The evidence of this runs the gamut from fast food places to boxed cake mix to cereal to candy and even oatmeal— you can’t escape it. This is what set me down the path of advocating for change in the food system and I’ve never looked back. 

Here are 6 American products that are completely different overseas…


1. McDonald’s French Fries

Let’s start with McDonald’s French Fries. They make their iconic french fries in the U.K. with a few simple ingredients: potatoes, oil, dextrose, salt—but in the U.S they’re made with “natural beef flavor” and sodium acid pyrophosphate, and are fried in oil laced with the anti-foaming agent dimethylpolysiloxane – the main ingredient in silly putty (1).  They’ve somehow figured out how to cook their fries without all these extra ingredients overseas, so why not here?


2. Quaker Instant Oatmeal Packets

Did you know Quaker Oats Strawberries & Cream has ZERO strawberries? In the U.S. Quaker mimics the look and taste of real strawberries by using “Flavored and Colored Fruit Pieces” comprised of dehydrated apples, artificial strawberry flavor, citric acid, and the artificial dye Red 40. It’s a total scam!

Meanwhile in the U.K. Quaker doesn’t even attempt to sell that garbage and doesn’t make any products like this. The closest counterpart they have is a product called “Oat So Simple” that has REAL strawberries in it—light years ahead of the popular U.S. version made with artificial dyes and artificial flavors.


3. Mountain Dew

Pick up a bottle of Mountain Dew in the U.K. and you’ll find that it gets its bright yellow color simply from beta carotene (a natural color derived from carrots and other plants). Meanwhile, PepsiCo sells a very different version of Mountain Dew in America. Here in the States, instead of using natural colors to give it a tantalizing look, Mountain Dew is artificially colored with a petroleum-based dye called Yellow #5. Although artificial dyes are common in America, that doesn’t make them okay to eat. They’ve been linked to several health issues and may be contaminated with carcinogens (2). They certainly are not as safe as beta carotene. And it gets worse…

The U.S. version of Mountain Dew contains brominated vegetable oil (BVO) – which is an ingredient BANNED in Europe (3). Way back in 2014, PepsiCo announced they would remove BVO from all of their American drinks following a successful petition by activist Sarah Kavanagh (4). But they still have not removed BVO from Mountain Dew, nearly 5 years later. Meanwhile, they continue to sell BVO-free Mountain Dew in other countries.


4. Heinz Ketchup

You know what you’ll find in almost every restaurant in America? Heinz Tomato Ketchup. Heinz ketchup is GMO-free in the U.K. (5) but full of GMOs and High Fructose Corn Syrup in the U.S., along with lab-produced “natural flavoring” that helps create an addiction to their product (6). Think of this next time you’re dipping your fries in and can’t stop! While Heinz makes a “Simply Heinz” version of ketchup in the U.S. (still with natural flavors but a cleaner ingredient list), why don’t they just make this their regular ketchup? There is no need for the heavily processed version that you’ll find in most restaurants and homes in America.


5. Doritos

Both versions of Doritos are horrible, but American Doritos are covered in artificial dyes made from petroleum (Red #40, Blue #1, and Yellow #5). These dyes have been found to be contaminated with carcinogens, such as benzidine (2) In the U.K., these dyes require a warning label that says “May Have an Adverse Effect on Activity and Attention in Children” (7). No one wants to put that on their product! That’s why they don’t use artificial dyes in Doritos overseas and instead color Doritos more simply with paprika extract and annatto. The Doritos in the U.K. are also non-GMO, while the American versions are made with GMO corn contaminated with glyphosate weed killer (8).


6. Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Cereal

At first glance the ingredients in Frosted Flakes in the U.S. and U.K. look nearly identical. The main difference is the addition of the preservative BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) in the U.S. version. Controversial research links BHT to cancer (9) and it’s believed to be an endocrine disruptor that interferes with your hormones (10) BHT isn’t permitted in cereals in Europe, so Kellogg’s reformulated their cereals to sell them legally overseas. Following our 2015 petition to get BHT out of American cereal (11) Kellogg’s removed BHT from several brands (like Rice Krispies), but still use it 4 years later in Frosted Flakes despite selling it BHT-free in the U.K. 

Why don’t these companies just sell the same, safer, products everywhere?

I’ll tell you why. Europe takes a “precautionary principle” approach towards food additives that are potentially risky. They ban or add warning labels to these additives for their citizens. The U.S. takes the opposite approach. It does not remove additives from our food supply until they have been proven dangerous – which can take a very long time and a lot of red tape. This means Americans are literally the lab rats.

The U.S. government allows food companies to largely police itself, deciding which ingredients, chemicals, and additives are “safe” to use in their products (12). This clearly isn’t a wise approach – is it?

If a company can get away with using cheaper ingredients, they will. Given a choice, they’ll always opt for the cheaper flavor enhancer, and the cheaper color additive, and the cheaper preservative, and the cheaper GMO ingredient, even if these cheaper alternatives have a negative impact on our health.

The truth is that nobody is watching out for us. When they tell you they know their processed foods are safe, they are telling you a lie.

I dedicated an entire chapter in my latest book, Feeding You Lies, to this subject because there is so much more you need to know! The food industry doesn’t care about your health, so you really need to. It is now available in bookstores everywhere. 

ORDER NOW

Feeding You Lies

Available in stores everywhere

If most Americans knew food companies are selling similar products overseas with healthier ingredients, they’d be outraged. I know I am.

Please share this post with all of your friends. Everyone should know how food companies are scamming Americans with inferior products. This will also inspire these companies to do better and sell safer products in the U.S. Don’t believe me? Look what happened to Kraft Mac & Cheese

Xo,

Vani

Feeding You Lies - Book

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Five Ways To Stay Energized In Winter

We have had some truly warm and beautiful days this month. 70-degree weather in February is truly a gift. It made me think about how easy it is to maintain energy and positivity with warm weather and how difficult it can be during the winter. 

My dietetic intern, Emily, and I were both complaining about these harsh winter days of rain, gray clouds, and cold and how they zap our energy. Of course this led to a discussion on a few things we both do to stay warm and happy in the winter and they are: 

1. Hydrate With Everything But Ice Water

In the summer our bodies crave fluids due to the heat and the need to cool down. During the winter, we may not feel as thirsty, but our bodies need just as much fluid as they do in the summer (sometimes I feel even thirstier in the winter!) Mild dehydration can lead to impaired brain function, affect mood, and make you feel sluggish. Dehydration can also, oddly, make you feel hungry, and this might be why some of us put on some winter weight. Making sure we are getting enough fluids during the winter will also allow our bodies to properly function and ward off bacteria during cold and flu season.

Tip: Aside from keeping a water bottle nearby (I like my water room temp in the winter!), remember that coffee and tea are both sources that count towards hydration. Yes, they have a diuretic effect, but the amount of water outweighs the amount expelled.

2. Eat More Oatmeal

(Yes this is one of my tips 😉 ) There is something to be said about a bowl of oatmeal during the winter. It’s a stick-to-your-ribs comfort food that also happens to be good for you. Oatmeal is also a great source of fiber and is 100% whole grain. Whole grains have a low glycemic index which gives you a slow and steady release of energy throughout the day. Fiber also helps to control blood sugar level. It slows the absorption of sugar, which maintains your blood sugar levels and keeps them from sky rocketing or dipping below normal which can lead to extreme fatigue.

Tip: If you don’t have time for stove-top oats, try them hands-off in an Instant Pot, as baked oatmeal you can reheat or as overnight oats that you microwave to take the chill out. 

3. Seek Out Vitamin D

During the winter we may not be stepping outside as much to get the “sunlight hormone” also known as vitamin D. Increasing our intake by eating foods rich in vitamin D will help keep maintain our serotonin and energy levels. Fatty fish, cheese, and egg yolks are all notable sources that contain vitamin D.

Tip: Grab a can of sardines! Sardines are a great rich source of vitamin D, calcium, and omega 3s. 

Foodblog (11 of 13)

4. Move For 30 Minutes A Day

We all know that moving and exercising equates to more energy. This can be challenging during the winter months as leaving the house when the temperatures dip below 30 is the last thing that anyone wants to do. I have found that if I bundle up in a down coat with gloves and a scarf I’m rarely cold once I get moving. Get outside if the weather permits for a walk or run. The brisk air coupled with movement will promote circulation, increase serotonin levels, and boost energy.

Tip: If you can’t make it outdoors or simply going to the gym sounds excruciating, try one of the home workouts from Aaptiv or Popsugar on You Tube. They have great routines that can be completed from the warmth and comfort of your home.

5. Boost Your Immune System

Our gut is home to a diverse group of bacteria, which plays a significant role in supporting our immune and digestive systems. An unhappy gut can directly affect the brain, leading to fatigue and stress, which negatively impacts energy levels. Probiotics, the good bacteria, promote a friendly environment in our digestive tracts. Probiotics help to increase other forms of good bacteria, they decrease inflammation, and they keep other harmful organisms from reaching the gut, like all those kindergarten germs. 

Tip: Getting all of your probiotics from kombucha, yogurt, kefir, and etc. is ideal, but the thought of eating these every day may not be the most appealing or cost effective. Try using a probiotic supplement as a simple way to keep your gut health happy. I take a grown-up one, and Mazen loves his gummies. 

And when all else fails, remember: spring is just around the corner!

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