Easy Ways to Have a More Active Lifestyle

Finding ways to incorporate more activity into your day is important for living a healthy lifestyle. Even the calories burned through the smallest activities add up to help you lose weight. Activity also refreshes you mentally to keep you sharp and alert as you plow through your to-do list. Create a more active lifestyle with some of these ideas.

Walking meetings

Take a break from the conference room and meet while on the move. A walking meeting burns calories and the change in environment may spark some renewed creativity. Mobile devices make it easy to verbally document any notes. Those involved can return to the desk refreshed and ready to take on a new project.

Active commuting

You don’t have to walk or bike to work every single day to take advantage of active commuting. Try it twice a week or just one way and arrange a ride home with a coworker. If walking or biking is out of the question, get creative with how you can make the commute more active. Can you park further away, complete errands and get to nearby meetings on foot, or take the stairs to your floor?

Stretch breaks

Research shows that sitting for long periods may be bad for your long term health, even if you workout. Get out of your chair for a stretch break at regular intervals throughout the day. Hold each stretch for 20 seconds while breathing deeply. Stretch all major muscle groups paying special attention to the areas most affected by long periods of sitting -- the shoulders, lower back and hamstrings.

Incorporate more movement into sedentary activities

Some sedentary activities present opportunities to move more. As you watch your favorite television shows, try circuit workouts. Do strength exercises when the show is on and switch to cardio activities like jumping jacks or walking stairs during commercials.

Join a team and invite your friends

The time enjoyed with your friends doesn’t have to be sedentary. Form a team and join the local softball, volleyball, or bowling league. If you aren’t into competitive sports, get the group together for a hike or hit the water for a leisurely paddle in canoes or kayaks. These activities keep you active while you spend time catching up and creating great memories.

Easy Pumpkin Pudding

Easy Pumpkin Pudding Recipe

Pudding makes an easy treat to satisfy a sweet tooth, but skip the instant mixes. By making it at home, you can reduce the added preservatives and artificial flavors. This version is perfect for fall with vitamin-A-rich pumpkin and spices. It uses skim milk and no eggs to reduce saturated fat and total calories.

Yield: 6

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

3 cups skim milk

¾ cup raw sugar

1/3 cup pumpkin puree

3 tbsp cornstarch

¼ tsp salt

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Optional toppings: chopped pecans, chopped walnuts, whipped cream

Directions

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar and milk for about 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin and whisk until smooth. Sprinkle in the cornstarch and salt, and whisk until there are no lumps.

Pour the liquid into a medium saucepan and turn the heat to medium-high. Continue to whisk until the pudding begins to bubble and thicken. Once it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon (about 15 minutes), remove from the heat and stir in the pumpkin pie spice and vanilla.

Pour the pudding into serving dishes. Place a small square of plastic wrap over the surface of the pudding to prevent a skin from forming. The pudding can be eaten warm or refrigerate until chilled, about 3 hours. It will thicken as it cools.

Nutrition information for 1 serving (½ cup): Calories 161; Total Fat 0.4 g; Saturated Fat 0.2 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 2 mg; Sodium 170 mg; Carbohydrate 35.6 g; Fiber 0.6 g; Sugar 24.5 g; Protein 5.1 g

3 Healthy Ways to Preserve Produce

Ways to Preserve Produce

The fear of fruits and vegetables going to waste makes it challenging to keep the kitchen full of produce. Don’t be afraid to stock up during the next sale. There are many ways to preserve produce that will keep you eating nutritious fruits and vegetables year round.

Dry and Dehydrate

Drying and dehydrating removes the moisture from produce to prevent the food from spoiling. It provides a healthy way to turn fruits and vegetables into shelf-stable treats without added sugar and sodium. Electric food dehydrators dry foods quickly with circulating air at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Fruits and vegetables can also be dried in the oven on it’s lowest temperature setting.

  • It may take some trial and error to successfully dry produce in the oven. Keep the oven door open, rotate pans occasionally, and watch the food closely to prevent scorching.

  • Fruits like apples, apricots, berries, and pears, and vegetables such as carrots, beets, greens, pumpkins, and tomatoes are all good options for drying and dehydrating.

  • Fruits and vegetables can be blended into purees and dried on sheet pans to make leathers that can can be sliced and rolled for an easy snack.

  • Small whole fruits or fruits cut into thin slices dry more evenly. Toss the fruit in lemon juice to help prevent color changes during drying.

  • Vegetables dry well when cut into thin slices or small strips. Blanching (cooking vegetables in boiling water for two to five minutes and then submerging them in an ice bath until cool) before dehydrating will help soften vegetables to promote faster drying.

  • Foods must be completely dry to prevent spoilage during storage. Properly dried fruits and vegetables can be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for 6 months to 1 year.

Freeze

Freezing is a healthy and convenient way to preserve your produce, but there are some things to keep in mind to ensure you end up with a healthy and appealing product when it is defrosted.

  • Fruits and vegetables contain enzymes that change the flavor, color and nutrients of produce. These enzymes can remain active even while the food is frozen. Blanching before freezing preserves quality by stalling the action of these enzymes while also killing any bacteria on the surface.

  • Remove all of the air from freezer bags to prevent oxidation and the development of off flavors.

  • Freeze produce soon after purchase. The more quickly a food freezes, the better the quality once it defrosts. Don’t overload your freezer with room temperature foods as this can increase the time it takes to freeze the food.

  • Frozen foods should be stored at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Most frozen fruits and vegetables can be stored for 8 to 12 months.

  • While most fruits and vegetables freeze well, the National Center for Home Food Preservation advises against freezing cabbage, celery, cucumbers, lettuces, parsley, and radishes. Their high water content leaves them mushy and unappetizing when defrosted.

Ferment

Fermented foods contain beneficial bacteria and enzymes that aid digestion. Cabbages and cucumbers are the most commonly fermented vegetables. According to Tufts University, fermenting cabbage to create sauerkraut and kimchi increases the cancer-fighting glucosinolates. The downside of fermentation is that the process requires large amounts of salt. Be sure to limit your overall sodium intake on the days you enjoy fermented foods.

  • Store-bought fermented foods often undergo high-heat cooking and pasteurization, which kills the beneficial bacteria. By making your own fermented vegetables, you can preserve these healthy components.

  • The National Center for Home Food Preservation cautions to use tested and approved recipes when fermenting foods. Do not attempt to alter ingredients such as salt or vinegar. The correct balance of ingredients in necessary to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.

Build Strength by Lifting Heavier Weights

Build Strength by Lifting Heavier Weights

If you aren't reaching your strength training goals, it’s time to put down the light dumbbells and pick up a heavier set. When you begin exercising, light weights may produce results, but within a year you will transition from a novice to a more advanced exerciser. Lifting heavier weights pays off by changing your body composition and improving your health and fitness.

Defining heavy weights

According to the American Council on Exercise, heavy weight lifting requires using a weight that can be lifted three to 10 times with correct form. More specifically, lifting heavy weights is based on your one repetition max (1RM). This is the maximum amount of weight you can safely lift for one repetition of an exercise.

Beginners and heavy weights

Research shows that if you are new to exercise, you can improve strength with weights as low as 45-50% of your one repetition max. Studies suggest that beginners should start with weights that range from 50-60% of your one repetition max to ensure that you learn proper form before moving on to exercises with heavier weights.

Progress and plateaus

The American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) position on resistance training is that more weight may be necessary to progress and continue to see results. Greater strength gains have been found when using a load that allows for 3-5 repetitions when compared to lighter weights that allow for higher repetitions. The ACSM recommends that once you can lift 1-2 repetitions beyond your goal during 2 consecutive workouts, it is time to increase the weight by 2-10%. Doing so will help to prevent strength training plateaus.

Tips for incorporating heavier weights

The method for determining a one repetition max differs depending on the exercise and the muscle group. While it is a simple test, seek the assistance of a qualified fitness trainer to help you establish this baseline. Then seek his or her assistance in developing an effective program. Studies show that when self-selecting the intensity for resistance training it is often too low, often only 38-58% of the one repetition max.

To improve muscular strength, the ACSM recommends that beginner to intermediate exercisers select weights that are 60-70% of your one repetition max. Start with 1-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions. Advanced exercisers should aim for loads 80-100% of the one repetition max with 2-6 sets of 1-8 repetitions. The heavier you lift, the longer your rest period should be. Beginner and intermediate programs with lighter loads should include a 1-2 minute rest between exercises using the same muscle groups, while programs with heavier loads should increase the rest period to 2-3 minutes.

Vegetable Pad Thai

Vegetable Pad Thai Recipe

Pad Thai is a quick and easy dish that you can make in 30 minutes or less. Compared to traditional recipes, this version doubles the nutritious vegetables and uses fewer noodles to reduce calories without sacrificing flavor.

Yield: 4 servings

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

4 oz. Pad Thai brown rice noodles

5 cups hot water

1 tbsp olive oil (or cooking oil of your choice)

3 green onions, sliced, greens and white portions separated

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp minced fresh ginger

2 medium carrots, peeled and shredded

2 ½ cups sliced bok choy

1 ½ cups thinly sliced green cabbage

Juice of ½ a lime

2 tsp fish sauce

1 tsp unseasoned rice vinegar

1 large egg

¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

¼ cup chopped dry roasted, unsalted peanuts

Directions

Place the Pad Thai noodles in a medium bowl and pour in the hot water. Stir to submerge all of the noodles in the water. Let sit for 8 to 10 minutes, until the noodles are tender, and drain.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high. Add the white portion of the onions and the garlic. Cook for 1 minute. Add the ginger and the carrots and cook for 2 more minutes.

Stir in the bok choy and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cabbage, lime juice, fish sauce, and rice vinegar. Stir well to mix all ingredients and cook for 1 more minute.

Use your cooking spoon or spatula to push all of the vegetables to one side of the skillet. Crack the egg onto the surface of the pan on the empty side. Let the egg cook until it sets, about 1 minute. Gently flip and scramble the egg, chopping it into pieces as it cooks. Stir the egg into the other ingredients.

Mix in the Pad Thai noodles and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes, until heated. Remove the the skillet heat and stir in the cilantro and the reserved green portion of the onions. Sprinkle the Pad Thai with the peanuts before serving.

Nutrition information for 1 serving (¼ of the recipe): Calories 238; Total Fat 9.4 g; Saturated Fat 1.6 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 45 mg; Sodium 265 mg; Carbohydrate 32.8 g; Fiber 5.4 g; Sugar 5.9 g; Protein 7.4 g

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