Healthier fast food

After that eye-opening article about what a day’s worth of calories looks like (and its conclusion that it’s healthier to eat at home), what’s a person to do if she is on the road (or shuttling kids, or just doesn’t feel like cooking) and finds herself at a fast food restaurant?

WebMD has some general suggestions for navigating a fast food menu as well as an extensive list of meal recommendations at common fast food chains.  I especially like the reminder about avoiding liquid calories like soda that offer few, if any, nutritional benefits while adding up to quite a bit of sugar (and fat, if we’re talking about my beloved milkshakes…).

Fitness Magazine has a list of suggested meals at a bunch of common fast food chains, including McDonalds, Taco Bell, Chipotle, Wendy’s and Panera Bread.

Health.com rated fast food restaurants and came up with their top 10 healthiest fast food chains.  Shockingly, McDonalds is on the list, along with Chipotle (YAY!) and Panera Bread.  Most of the chains they list do not have locations in Newark, but this is worth a read for suggestions for those three and the recommendation to look for alternatives to butter and cream cheese (think: hummus or peanut butter) as a topper for bagels.

Now that you have those links, the truth is that I don’t even attempt to eat healthy when we go to fast food restaurants.  I get the big burrito at Chipotle, I order a milkshake at Steak and Shake, I’ll slather my Arby’s roast beef in Arby’s sauce (what is even in that, anyway??)  The reason I ignore the calories when we go out to eat is because we don’t do it often – maybe twice a month, tops.  When fast food is a treat rather than a routine, hey, why not go crazy?  But if you’re eating it once a week or more then some of these suggestions might be worth a look.

What do you eat when you go out?

Snack ideas

I will be the first to admit that I am a grazer.  If there are snacks in the house I will eat them, and you can bet that I’m not parcelling them out so that they last all week.  I’ve learned to control this tendency by just not buying snacks, but that is maddening when it’s three o’clock on a Saturday, I would give my left arm for something delicious to eat and there is absulutely nothing in the house that sounds appealing.  I’m trying to get in the habit (and mindset) of having some healthy alternatives on hand so that I don’t eat an entire box of Cheez-Its in one sitting.

Here are some of my favorites:

Fresh fruit – the more colorful the fruit, the more vitamins and antioxidents in it

A handful of prezels (which are usually fat free since they’re baked) dipped in hummus

A green smoothie (a handful of spinach,some frozen fruit, half a banana or a spoonful of yogurt, a dash of  flax seed or a spoonful of peanut butter, honey to sweeten if you want and enough water or sugar-free vanilla almond milk to thin it out)

Carrots, celery and radishes with garlic-herb dip (plain yogurt, Italian seasoning and a little garlic salt and pepper, or, for a more intense version, crush a small clove of garlic into the yogurt and season to taste.  Bonus points: garlic has been shown to help treat heart disease, the common cold and cancer, although you may also want to invest in some breath mints)

Frozen edamame microwaved and topped with a pinch of sea salt.  You eat it by popping the beans out of the shell – it’s weirdly addictive.

Pineapple and cottage cheese

Apple chips or sweet potato chips

For more ideas:

39 Favorite Snacks under 100 Calories

10 Portable and Healthy Snacks

17 Power Snacks for Studying (or working at the library…)

What are your favorite healthy snacks?

“I workout”*

I like the idea of working out but I often need a kick in the rear to actually get up and do it.  I have been attending a biweekly pilates class for two years now with a friend (it’s free to community members at Denison University – email me for details if you’re interested).  I like that it gets me out of the house and that people expect to see me there so I feel guilty when I skip, but when class isn’t in session I am highly likely to have great intentions and not actually do anything at all.

So when I came across this idea on Pinterest (the home of all good ideas, obviously), I really liked it.  Buzzfeed ran a post a while back on One-Song Workouts – i.e. workout routines that you can do in the three or four minutes it takes to play one song.  Here’s one example they gave:

I like that it’s quick (you can’t tell me that you don’t have a spare 3 minutes in the day) and it doesn’t require any special equipment.  According to the One Song Workouts tumbler you burn about 100 calories per song, not to mention the toning and strength training benefits.  Here’s the link to the Buzzfeed article.

I can only imagine how awesomely ridiculous my two year old and I are going to look doing this at home, but I double dog dare you to pull up a song on YouTube and get someone to try it with you on your lunch break.  Bonus points if you video it and share.  🙂

*Thanks to LMFAO, “Sexy and I Know It” for the title inspiration.

Benefits of deep breathing

It’s the new year.  For some that means a sigh of relief after the busy holiday season, for others clenched muscles and stress at the thought of taxes coming due or the pressure of New Year’s resolutions to make and another year that has flown by.

Take a deep breath.

No, really.  Take a deep breath.

The benefits of deep breathing are familiar to yoga practitioners, but in case you’re new to the technique, here are some of the benefits of deep breathing (sources below).

1. Slows heart rate and encourages muscle relaxation

2. Lowers blood pressure

3. Aids digestion

4. Massages your organs

5. Increases blood flow (which can even help prevent wrinkles)

6.  Improves the quality of blood by removing carbon dioxide and increasing oxygen levels

7. Improves concentration

8. Releases endorphins, the “feel good chemicals”)

9. Encourages good lymphatic function which helps detoxify your body

10. Elevates mood

Sources: American Medical Student Association, NPRLiving the Nourished Life, One Powerful Word, Care2

If you are looking for some tips on getting started, here are some techniques and tutorials:

Breathing techniques from the American Institute of Stress

Video tutorial on practicing deep breathing

Guided breathing exercise from RELAX

Take a deep breath.  Happy New Year!