This week I received the following articles emailed to my inbox from various groups that somehow have my email: "5 Weight Loss Hacks That Can Backfire" "How to Cut Calories From Your Sandwich" "The Problem with Undereating." Ah yes, I thought, summer is upon us.
It's that time of year when people start to worry about getting "beach body" ready. There's a lot of information out there about what you should or shouldn't do to get ready for the summer months, so I thought I'd share my top 5 musts to get your body summer ready.
1. Water. Dehydration can sneak up on you quickly in the heat, especially if you're being physically active. So make sure you have a water bottle with you when you're spending time outdoors, and drink from it often. By the time you feel thirsty you're already dehydrated.
If you like to exercise outside do it during the cooler parts of the day (morning and evening). Try and stay out of the sun as much as possible during the heat of the day, especially on those record breaking days. Heat stroke kills many people every year (over 7400 people died from heat-related illness between 1999 and 2010 in the U.S.) so be aware of when you and your loved ones may be better off inside.
2. Snacks. When you're out at the beach or the park all day it's easy to forget to eat. Sometimes heat can suppress appetite so you don't even realize you're hungry until you're famished. When you skip a meal or go too long without eating you're more likely to over eat once you have food in front of you. That's why I think it's a good idea to always have some kind of snack in your bag. It can be as simple as an apple or small bag of granola. Just something non-perishable that will give your blood sugar a quick boost.
3. Sunscreen. I love being outdoors, especially in the summer. But if you're not careful you can pay a price for all that fun in the sun. Skin cancer rates are on the rise, every year in the U.S. more than 3.3 million people are treated for skin cancer. Invest in a good sunscreen with broad spectrum protection and reapply often! If you need help deciding on a sunscreen, you can get the facts here.
4. Hand Sanitizer. Germs are a year round thing and nobody wants a cold in the summer. Always make sure your hands are clean before touching your face.
5. Meat Thermometer. Summer is the time for grilling out, but before you serve up that delicious feast do a quick temperature check on your meat to make sure it's cooked all the way through. After all, you want to spend the summer out having fun, not stuck at home (or in the hospital) with food poisoning.
Whenever I have broccoli in my produce door my thoughts always go to the cheesy rice and broccoli dish my Mom made when I was a kid. There's just nothing more comforting than cheesy goodness, in my opinion.
One of my favorite tricks for creamy cheesy casseroles is to add low fat Greek yogurt. Not only does it add creaminess while letting me decrease the amount of cheese in the recipe, it also keeps the saturated fat of the dish in check, and bumps up the protein content.
So this week, with a head of broccoli in my fridge and a goal of making a protein packed comfort food, I started cooking with that cheesy rice and broccoli dish as my inspiration.
If you split this casserole among four people you'll get about 265 calories per serving and almost 20 grams of protein. Each serving has about 35 g of carbohydrates (so a little over 2 carb choices).
Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
1 small head of broccoli, chopped
1/2 cup sweet red pepper, chopped
1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped
2 cooked chicken breasts (about 3.5 ounces each), shredded
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
2 cups brown rice, cooked
2/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease casserole dish (I used a 3qt one, 7" x 11" would also work, or 8" x 10" for a thicker casserole).
Mix all the ingredients except the cheese together. Add in about 1/2 of the cheese (1/3 to 1/2 cup) and mix. Spoon mixture into casserole dish. Sprinkle the remainder of the cheese on top. Bake for 5-10 minutes until cheese is melted.
About a week ago I made Kraft mac & cheese for lunch. It was really more of a casserole because I threw in a can of tuna and some green beans and then topped it with bread crumbs just to be fancy. Then yesterday I had birthday cake (with fudge frosting!) for breakfast.
On neither of those days did I restrict myself for the rest of the day or eat differently. I didn't go to the gym to "burn off" either meal. They weren't "cheat" meals or days. They didn't nutritionally ruin my day or week or life.
I tell you this not because I feel the need to confess my "sins" but to show you, through example, that healthy eating is about what you do the majority of the time.
If you usually eat whole grains, get lots of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, stick with lean proteins, get a few servings of dairy each day, and limit your salt and added sugar intake then a Memorial Day BBQ is nothing to stress about. Neither is a donut, or a corn dog, or birthday cake for breakfast.
Living healthy is about more than just eating healthy. It's also about being active every day, reducing your stress, and being happy. How happy and stress free are you when you're worrying about that cupcake you just ate? Not very.
When we focus on living a healthy lifestyle we're focusing on big picture, not every little detail. There's always going to be BBQs and donuts and birthday cake that pop up in your weeks. If you want them, have them! I'll let you in on a little secret, once you tell yourself it's ok to eat those things, and allow yourself to do so, the intense desire for them starts to go away. When it's just food and no longer forbidden treasure it just seems a little less exciting.
May is National Osteoporosis Month. A lot of people think of osteoporosis as a disease that only affects people late in life, but did you know that your bone mass peaks in your 20s?
Bone, like skin, is a living tissue and is constantly breaking down and reforming. Until about the age of 25 your body is builds new bone at a faster rate than it loses old bone. Once you reach 30 the process of building new bone slows down.
Osteoporosis is a thinning of bone and loss of bone density over time. It can lead to frequent fractures, pain, back problems, disability, and even death. Just to be clear, although it is normal to lose some bone density as you age, osteoporosis is not a normal part of aging.
The good news is there's a lot you can do to keep your bones healthy (even after 30).
Everyone has heard that for strong bones you need to consume enough calcium, but what does that mean? For people between 19 and 50 years old, the recommendation is to consume 1000 mg of calcium every day (once you're over 50 the recommendation goes up to 1200 mg/day). One cup of milk or yogurt provides about 300 mg of calcium.
There are a number of foods you can consume to help you meet your daily calcium needs. Dairy is an obvious choice, however cooked greens such as kale, broccoli, and spinach also provide some calcium (40-140 mg/serving). Kidney beans and pinto beans provide 40-45 mg for every 1/2 cup. There are also a variety of calcium fortified foods from soy products to cereal to orange juice.
It's important to spread your consumption of calcium rich products throughout the day because your body can only absorb about 500 mg of calcium at a time. Both Vitamin C and Vitamin D help your body to absorb calcium more effectively so it's a good idea to try and eat foods rich in those nutrients around the same time.
Vitamin D is fortified into a lot of the same foods calcium is fortified into, but check the label to be sure. You can also get Vitamin D from egg yolk, fatty fish, and beef liver.
One thing to be aware of, especially if you're planning on your breakfast cereal being a source of calcium, is that caffeine inhibits your body's ability to absorb calcium. So you want to space your morning coffee at least 30 minutes after your calcium rich food intake.
Another key part of maintaining healthy bones is performing weight bearing exercises 2-3 times every week. If you're new to exercise or strength training, body weight exercises can be a great place to start. Things like push ups, body weight squats, lunges, and step ups are great ways to both build strength in your bones, as well as increase your balance and muscle strength.
As you get stronger and those exercises get easier try adding weights to increase the resistance your body needs to work against. (It's better to start with too light of a weight than too heavy. Injuries are nobody's friend.)
Taryn is a Los Angeles based Registered Dietitian who's passionate about helping you be your healthiest you.