Screaming for Ice Cream? Here’s an alternative:

As good as that big bowl of ice cream tastes, it is best enjoyed in moderation. But if you can’t resist the sweet tooth, here’s a healthier alternative for you: Frozen bananas!

Take about 3 very ripe bananas. “Very ripe” is key here; the more ripe the banana the sweeter it will taste. Slice the bananas into 1/4″ slices and freeze them until they are solid.

Once the bananas are frozen, you are ready to go. Take the bananas from the freezer and dump them into a blender. Add 1/2 cup of almond milk (adjust based on how thick you want your banana ice cream; less milk will be a little thicker). Blend until well mixed and there are no more banana chunks left. Scoop out of blender and enjoy!

This is a gluten free, lactose free alternative to ice cream, and tastes fantastic. If the bananas aren’t enough for you, try topping it with some dark chocolate chips or strawberries. Enjoy!

Spring is here; let’s get back to nutrition basics.

With the craze of the New Year resolutions over, are you starting to see the results you wanted? If the answer is no, maybe it’s time to get back to basics.

With so many diet trends and eating routines out there, it is hard to know which will work the best for you. No matter what program or diet you choose, there are a few basic rules that are common among them. These are recommendations that can be followed as part of a lifestyle change, not just a New Year fad.

First rule: Limit starchy carbs. Most every diet trend will tell you breads and pastas are the enemy of any successful weight loss routine. They can still be enjoyed on occasion, just try and limit them to only on occasion.

Second rule: Eat Breakfast: Every nutritionist you talk to will tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Countless studies have been done showing the benefits of starting your day with some food, from lower body weight, improved weight loss, and better energy throughout the day.

Third Rule: Vegetables; eat them: Veggies are your friends, and they should be eaten with nearly every meal. They are great sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber all while being low calorie. They help you feel fuller for longer and avoid the vending machine temptations.

Fourth Rule: It’s okay to cheat! Many people go crazy when it comes to their diets. Don’t let that birthday cake ruin everything. Acknowledge it and get back on track the next day. You can do it.

Stick to these basics and you’ll be back on track in no time!

Should I wait to check my weight?

For many people, they have a dream weight they would like to get to; prewedding weight, pre-baby weight, high school weight, or even their current weight. Whatever that number may be, pretty much everyone has one. And for many fitness programs these days, how much you weigh and how much weight lost has become the “gold standard” for progress. As important as a number on a scale can be, it is certainly not the only measure for success. And with so many factors influencing your scale weight, it can often be misleading.

Pretty much everything you do and put into your body will affect your body weight on a day to day basis. How much water you drink, how much you slept, how many times you go to the bathroom all play a role in day to day weight change. Even something as simple as having more salt in your diet one day compared to another can change the scale. Salty and carbohydrate filled foods can cause the body to hold a little extra water, causing the scale to go up. For all of these reasons, it is best to weigh yourself on a week to week basis instead of a day to day basis. For more accurate results, weigh first thing in the morning before you have had a chance to eat and drink. The comparison of week to week weigh-ins will be a far better measure of progress compared to day to day weigh-ins.

Another thing to keep in mind; for people just starting a workout routine, the scale will tend to increase not decrease at the end of their first or even second week. This happens because your body starts to hold onto extra water to help your muscles heal. The muscles become inflamed and swollen due to the breakdown of tissue during exercise, which leads to weight gain. Have no fear, this will go away after a few weeks.

Don’t forget about all of the other, sometimes even better, measures of success. Numbers such as inches, body fat percentage, weight increases on your strength exercises, even number of push-ups you can do are all valuable pieces of information and great measures of progress and success.  These numbers are less susceptible to fluctuations and can be a more consistent measure of success of body weight.

Fitness the Family can Enjoy

With the hectic schedule for kids in today’s world, physical activity and exercise is slowly disappearing. Physical Education classes in schools are cutting cut, video games and computers are becoming more and more popular, and the increasing school work load is causing kids to sit more and move less. And with more and more research surfacing about the benefits of physical activity and brain function, this trend to the couch is troubling. Luckily, there are a few easy steps you can take to get kids moving.

  1. Enroll in a class or activity: This can be anything from soccer and basketball teams, to dance, karate, or gymnastics. Anything to get kids moving. By enrolling in activities like these, it forces your kids to be active at least once or twice a week. Sometimes a schedule can be your best friend.
  2. Limit the screen time and schedule outdoor time: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children under 2 years old have no screen time, and children 2 and older limit screen time to 2 hours a day of quality programming. With the advancement of parental controls on nearly all devices, controlling your child’s screen time has become easier than ever. In addition, try to schedule one hour a day to be active as a family. Going to the park, playing catch, or taking bike rides are all great family activities.
  3. Reward active behavior, but not with food: Positive reinforcement for children can help to build a lifelong passion for fitness. However, be cautious when rewarding activity with sweets and junk food. Instead, try rewarding with an extra 30 minutes of play time, an extra trip to the basketball courts, or even an extra 20 minutes of screen time.
  4. Set a good example: Your kids want to be like you, walk like you, and talk like you. Why not get them to exercise like you too? As the role model for your kids, show them that fitness and exercise can be fun and enjoyable, rather than painful and miserable. And who knows, you may even find yourself enjoying exercise a little more when the family is involved.

Remember,   the cognitive benefits of exercise are not just limited to kids and young adults. Adults and seniors can benefit just as much! Whatever your motivation or method is, just remember to keep moving and have fun doing it as a family.

 

Wearable Fitness Trackers: Wave of the Future or Fad about to Fizzle Out?

One of the hottest trends in the fitness industry today is the introduction of wearable fitness trackers. Sure the information is cool, but is it really necessary? Companies like FitBit, Garmin, and Apple are flooding the market with different models, features, functions and looks. And with the wealth of information they can provide, personalized fitness and health care are right around the corner.

Depending on the brand, fitness trackers can record steps, calories, distance traveled, sleep, heart rate, and total activity level. Some more expensive trackers even have a GPS connection to more accurately track distance, steps, and pace. These numbers may not seem like a lot, but they can be very motivating and beneficial to much of the population. Here are other benefits of fitness trackers, giving them the boost they need to be around for the long haul.

  1. Accountability: One thing trackers can offer is a sense of accountability. Most fitness trackers will give you a daily step goal or calorie goal to meet. And with blue tooth capability in most, you can get real time updates on your phone or other device. This gives you the knowledge and accountability you need to ensure you move enough every day. You can even track day to day progress, ensuring you move more today than you did yesterday. It can be a great psychological boost to see your numbers on paper and push yourself to go further and further.
  2. Motivation: Sometimes the best motivation is a reality check right in your face. With real time tracking, fitness trackers can do just that. They give you a very real picture of your movement, or lack there of, during the day. Set a goal using the fitness trackers features and aim to meet or exceed it every day. As those goals get easier and easier, set a more challenging goal for yourself. Data can be very motivating, and there is nothing like seeing your activity level written down in front of you.
  3. Sleep Tracking: As is often the case with diet and exercise routines, people tend to think they are moving more and eating less than they actually are. Same goes for sleep patterns. People think they sleep a lot better and a lot longer than they actually do. Some fitness trackers will give you a picture of what your sleep actually looks like. Using motion sensors in the device, it can sense when you have fallen asleep and when you wake up and begin moving again. It can even give you a breakdown of how restful your sleep was. Consistent and restful sleep is one of the more important aspects of a well balanced exercise routine. So don’t forget the Z’s.
  4. Group Motivation: Some fitness tracker companies even have online groups and forums you can join to share success stories, what’s working for you, and what’s not. If seeing others’ success motivates you to go further and push harder, don’t wait to join these groups. There’s no better feeling than getting compliments from others on your progress!
  5. Personalized approach: Ever see those calorie counters on the treadmill and wonder how accurate they are for you? Chances are they aren’t because they don’t take into consideration heart rate, weight, height, and age. Fitness trackers do just that. They take your body and your fitness levels and turn it into a personalized program just for you. It’s like having a personal trainer on your wrist! In the coming years you may even see doctors and insurance companies using these to track patient’s progress, activity levels, heart rate, and calorie consumption. The years of a more personalized health care approach are coming.

With the growing choices of wearable fitness trackers, take time to do your research and find one with the right range of features and price to fit your needs. These truly are the wave of the future, and with so many potential benefits, it is hard to see this fad fizzling out anytime soon.

Static vs Dynamic: What’s the best way to stretch?

Perhaps one of the most hotly contested ideas in the fitness industry is the idea of static stretching versus dynamic stretching and which is better. Some fitness professionals swear by static stretching and won’t do anything else. Others wouldn’t perform a static stretch if they got paid to do it. So which is better, static or dynamic? The answer is probably some combination of both.

When discussing static stretching, it refers to the act of lengthening a muscle and holding it for an extended amount of time. Think sit and reach from gym class, but holding the reach for 30-40 seconds. Static stretching is incredibly effective at lengthening muscle fibers and improving flexibility. However, it can have a negative effect on performance if done prior to an exercise. Think of it like this: there are many stretch sensors in your muscle. Upon initial stretch, these sensors send a signal to contract and limit the stretch to prevent injury. To get an effective static stretch, your body must overcome that reaction, and essentially “shut off” the muscle. In essence you are putting your muscles to sleep in order to get an effective stretch. So static stretching good at improving flexibility, maybe not so good at improving performance.

In contrast, when looking at dynamic stretching, it is the act of moving your body to create a stretch. Ever watched a sprinter warm up and they are swinging their legs back and forth? That’s dynamic stretching. Or even simple arm circles count as dynamic stretching. This type of stretching is very effective at “warming up” a muscle group and preparing it to perform. However it is not quite as effective at lengthening muscle fibers as a static stretch. If done incorrectly, it can also result in injury due to using momentum to push past your body’s ability level.

So which is better? The simplest answer is both! Prior to exercise, perform some basic dynamic stretches to prepare your body to work and wake your muscles up. After your workout session, perform some static stretching to help cool down and lengthen your muscle fibers.

For a full body dynamic warmup, check this one out from Men’s Fitness.

http://www.mensfitness.com/training/cardio/best-dynamic-warmup-any-workout

For post workout, here’s a great static stretching routine from Active.com

http://www.active.com/fitness/articles/12-post-workout-static-stretches

Healthy Holiday Alternatives to keep your waistline in check

With more holidays fast approaching, the stress on our waistlines is greater than ever. But with a few simple food swaps, the holidays can be a time to indulge without adding extra calories.

  1. Veggie Dips:
    • To avoid loading up on calories before a meal, many people will stick close to the veggie tray thinking they are doing something right. However, that full fat sour cream dip can pack 60 calories or more per ounce. Healthy alternative? Substitute full fat sour cream for non fat or non-fat Greek yogurt. No one will be able to tell the difference, and you can cut calories down from 60 per ounce to 15-25 per ounce.
  2.  Holiday Potatoes:
    • Everyone loves candied yams this time of year. They are the perfect side dish to any great holiday meal. However, they are loaded with sugar. A healthy swap would be to skip the yams and go for baked sweet potatoes. They can be topped with some fat free butter and cinnamon to give you that “candied” taste. Sweet potatoes are also loaded with antioxidants and fiber.
  3. Swap white for wheat:
    • If you are in the healthy eating mindset, the dinner rolls may be easy to skip all together. However, if you must have bread with your meal, try and go for whole wheat over white. It has more fiber and less sugar than it’s white alternative, and will save a few calories as well.
  4. Skip the eggnog:
    • Winter and eggnog go together like peanut butter and jelly, but with upwards of 250 calories per glass, it is not a drink that will help the scale any. Go for hot apple cider instead and save 100 calories and all the fat. If you must have eggnog, make your own with low fat milk and egg substitute instead of whole milk and eggs.
  5. Portion Control
    • If nothing in this list sounds appealing, and you just have to have the candied yams and eggnog, practice portion control. Limit your self to one serving of the less healthy options, and alternate every other drink with water or calorie free seltzer. This will help to keep that calories down and ensure you can still have a guilt free holiday.

As hard as the holidays are to stay on track with a diet and exercise program, there are small changes you can make to help keep your program on track. These suggestions were taken from Everyday Health magazine. For more healthy holiday alternatives, visit http://www.everydayhealth.com/diet-and-nutrition-pictures/healthy-holiday-food-swaps.aspx#11. Happy Holidays!