Motivating Lazy

I didn’t feel like running this morning.

After four months of not having my period, my friend finally came to visit and came back with a vengeance. I was tired, my muscles were sore, my lower back hurt and I had a headache. I really felt like sinking back under the covers with a hot mug of coffee and a piece of chocolate-walnut biscotti.

As tempting as that was, I knew I would feel much better after a run. So how did I motivate myself to get my ass out of bed and onto the pavement?

First, I told myself that I would get out of bed and put my running shorts on the count of 10. I slowly counted to ten and hoisted myself out of bed.

The lazy side of my brain had quite a debate with my active side. Lazy said, “I’m just getting dressed. I’m going to get back into bed after I put the running shorts on.”

Active responded, “Fine. At least get dressed.”

After I put on the shorts Active said, “Go ahead and get your Garmin, iPod and hat since you are already up. Lace up those running shoes and see how you feel.”

I figured since I had all of my gear together, I may as well head out for a run.

Lazy said, “We aren’t going out for a long, hard run today, Okay? We may only run for ten minutes. We are just doing a small run.”

“Fine,” said Active to pacify Lazy.

I started slow and my leg muscles were indeed sore. My glutes hurt and I couldn’t even remember working them out the day before. My legs felt like bricks and it was already hot.

“It’s okay to do an easier run today,” Active reassured Lazy.

“Good, because I am going to turn back around after I reach the end of the block.”

After about ten minutes my legs finally loosened up and began to feel better. My pace quickened and my headache cleared. I ran past the end of the block and kept going for my full run of six miles.

“See, I knew you could do it! You always feel better after a run,” Active told Lazy, but Lazy was already gone.

How do you motivate yourself when you don’t feel like working out? Any tips you can share? Check out Go Running Mom for great running tips, motivators and more!

Thyme of my life (Dirty Bit)

Time.

A classic song from my favorite 80s movie, Dirty Dancing (No one puts baby in a corner.) 

An AWESOME new song by the Black Eyed Peas from their new album, “The Beginning,” just released yesterday. 

Hit number from last night’s episode of Glee (if you missed it, go to itunes to check it out.) 

And on the dinner table on Thanksgiving, in the thyme and sage stuffing. 

Time is everywhere lately, yet I still don’t seem to ever have enough of it. 

Give yourself some more time in your life by adding thyme to your diet. Thyme has a long history in healing a wide variety of ailments. According to the natural health and diet site, thyme is a powerful antioxidant and can improve the life and longevity of human cells, and therefore prolong the life of the body. 

Thyme can aid digestion and even help relieve chest and respiratory problems, such as coughs and bronchitis. The essential oil from thyme is also used for aromatherapy and can help relieve exhaustion, depression and upper respiratory tract infections. 

Thyme is also a powerful antiseptic and is used in everything from toothpaste to deodorant to even surgical dressings. 

This herb works really well in any kind of slow cooked-dish. According to the Old Home Remedies website, you can also make your own homemade cough syrup with thyme. Try out this old home remedy below and let me know if it works for you. 

Homemade Thyme Cough Syrup

Pour 2 cups boiling water over 2 tablespoons of dried thyme. Cool to room temperature. Strain and add 1 cup of honey. Shake to mix well. Keep refrigerated. Take 1 tablespoon several times a day for sore throats, colds, and coughing.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly About Raisins

I ran a half-marathon last weekend in preparation for my full Disney Marathon in January. As my reward, I baked a homemade loaf of raisin bread. The bread was delicious, but it was a little too good. I fell into the trap that I was warned about, but swore I would never do: I justified my eating three-quarters the entire loaf because I ran 13.1 miles.

Fact: I burned 1,548 calories while running the half marathon (according to my Garmin.)

Fact: I ate approximately 1,800 calories in ¾ of a loaf of cinnamon raisin bread.

I completely negated my run by eating that cinnamon raisin bread. There are a couple of lessons here:

  1. Know your trigger foods and don’t have them in the house
  2. We often overestimate the calories we burn through exercise and underestimate the calories in the foods we eat.
  3. Don’t justify eating whatever you want because you exercised.
  4. Don’t bake a fresh loaf of cinnamon raisin bread when you are hungry.

First of all, while raisins did make the top 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth list, the news about raisins isn’t all good. I’m going to break down the good, the bad and the ugly on raisins.

The Good

Raisins are high in phenols, which have high antioxidant activity and can prevent damage to the cells in the body from free radicals. Raisins are also high in boron, .which can promote bone and joint health. Also, I hope you read my recent article about Five Ways to Combat Alzheimer’s and I’m excited to read about yet another discovery in Alzheimer’s prevention: myricetin, found in raisins, has been found to inhibit beta-amyloid fibril formation, which is a key problem in Alzheimers disease. So now you have six ways you can prevent Alzheimer’s through lifestyle changes – add raisins to your diet!

The Bad

When I was researching the health benefits of raisins, I came across an article that touted one of the “benefits” was gaining weight because “raisins, like all dried fruit, are very good for gaining weight, as they are full of fructose and glucose and give a lot of energy.” OK, that is wonderful if you are one of the very few naturally thin people on this earth, but personally, I don’t need a food that will “help me gain weight.” I have enough “weight gain” tricks up my sleeve, it is the weight loss that I need help with.

 

However, my dietician did recommend that I bring raisins with me on my long runs instead of the GU or energy gels. Maybe I’ll do that on Saturday when I run 23 miles.

The Ugly

Raisins are concentrated grapes, so they have the highest pesticide residue of any fruit – not good. For that reason, try to buy organic raisins, even if they cost a little bit more.

 

I made the cinnamon raisin bread from a recipe in the The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. If you love bread, you must have this book. This is absolutely the best loaf of bread I’ve ever had in my life and I’m not an experienced bread baker.

I’m not going to lie, it is VERY time consuming, but it is worth it. Do you like raisins? Did you know that they had the highest pesticide rating of any fruit? I’d love to hear from you!

Cinnamon Raisin Bread

Sponge

  • 2 ¼ cup plus 2 ½ tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¾ cup water, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon honey
  • ¾ teaspoon instant yeast

Flour mixture

  • 2 cups plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup dry milk
  • ¾ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 8 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 ¼ teaspoon salt

 

Spiral Filling

  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten

1. Make the sponge by whisking flour, water, honey and instant yeast in a large bowl for 2 minutes. Set it aside and cover it with plastic wrap.

2. Make the flour mixture by mixing the flour (reserve ¼ cup if mixing by hand), dry milk and instant yeast in a separate bowl. Gently place the flour mixture on top of the sponge, cover with plastic wrap and allow it to ferment 1 to 4 hours. The yeast mixture will bubble up through the flour mixture, don’t worry, that is supposed to happen.

3. Add the salt and cut up butter to the mixture. I mixed this all up in my KitchenAid mixture and blended until it all came together, about 10 minutes.

4. Cover it with plastic wrap and let rest for 20 minutes.

5.  Knead the dough for another 5 minutes until it’s very smooth. Add some additional flour if the dough is sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to relax for 10 minutes.

6. Add the raisins and mix on low speed or about 2 minutes to incorporate them.

7. Place the dough in a lightly greased 4-quart bowl and turn the dough over once to completely coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1 ½ hours to 2 hours.

8. In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and the cinnamon. Whisk the egg in a separate bowl.

9. Scrape the dough out on a floured surface and divide it in two equal pieces. Cover one piece of dough with plastic wrap and work with the other. Roll out on piece of dough to a rectangle 7 ½ inches wide by 14 inches long and about ¼ inch thick. Gently dimple the dough all over with your fingers to deflate air bubbles. Brush the dough with the beaten egg, leaving a 3/4 –inch margin on the edges. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon sugar evenly on the dough. Start rolling the dough together, squeezing it gently along the length of the roll. Close the ends up and pinch the seams together. Place the roll in an oiled 8 ½-by 4 ½-inch loaf pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and repeat for the second loaf. Allow to rise for 1 to 2 hours.

10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees 45 min before baking. Place a baking sheet in the oven while it is pre-heating so you can place the loaf pan directly on the heated pan after 45 minutes.
11. Set the loaf pans on the baking sheet and shut the door immediately. Bake for about 50 minutes or until the bread is golden brown.

12. Once the breads are done, remove them from the oven and unmold them. Set on a wire rack and let cool completely.

 

Are Fries Healthy?

I was thrilled when Hungry Girl released her first cookbook with tons of butternut squash recipes. My favorite is the butternut squash fries. Yum! My kids don’t like butternut squash, but they LOVE butternut squash fries. Don’t get me wrong, they aren’t fooled into thinking they are “French fries,” but any recipe that gets my kids eating a new vegetable is a winner in my eyes. Butternut squash fries are simple to make. Just peel and cut the butternut squash into strips, coat with non-stick cooking spray, sprinkle with sea salt and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Squash is on the list as one of the 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth. One of my favorite vegetables is butternut squash. It brings back memories of my Mom’s Thanksgiving dinner, as she would make it every year, alongside the turkey, mashed potatoes and stuffing. I carry on the same tradition, but my family doesn’t share my enthusiasm for the bright orange vegetable. At press time, I’m the only one that enjoys the veggie (more for me!) but that doesn’t stop me from trying!

I am a runner, training for my first marathon at Disney World in January 2011, so I try to eat a diet high in potassium to keep running cramps at bay. So, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that acorn squash is a potassium powerhouse. Did you know that one cup of acorn squash has almost twice the amount of potassium as a banana, topping the charts with 896 milligrams? Compare this to 451 grams of potassium in one banana or 348 grams in one cup of milk and you will see why these stats are so impressive. Potassium isn’t only for runners though, it is a crucial mineral for preventing heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, arthritis and cancer.

Acorn squash is also a fiber heavy-weight, proving a whopping nine grams in every cup, with only 115 calories. I’ve blogged previously about my enthusiasm for fiber as a weight loss tool, but I’ll say it again, I think that increased fiber intake is one of the most important factors in keeping hunger at bay and keeping weight off. Not only does a high-fiber diet contribute to weight loss, but it also can lower the risk of developing many diseases, including: heart disease, cancer, diabetes and kidney stones.

Speaking of weight loss, squash is an excellent food choice for dieters because it has high water content. Dr.  Barbara Rolls at Pennsylvania State University conducted research that showed foods that are “high-volume,” meaning that they have a lot of bulk for little calories, are integral for a successful weight loss program. I blogged about the benefits of the Volumetrics diet in a previous post and I am a huge proponent of high-volume foods for weight loss. I love to eat, so I’m a huge fan of any food that allows me to eat a lot for little calories (popcorn, squash, watermelon and soup.)

Butternut squash is a vitamin A superstar, proving an astonishing 22,868 IUs per cup! Vitamin A is crucial in eye health, especially helping with night vision. I read an interesting study recently about the health benefits of Vitamin A and beta-carotene (in which is butternut squash is also high.) This study published in the International Journal of Food Science & Technology, Volume 45, Issue 10, pages 2201-2007, October 2010, evaluated the bioaccessibility of vitamin A and beta-carotene in cooking of yellow-orange vegetables. This study actually found that stir-frying in the presence of a small quantity of oil, brought an enormous increase in the bioaccessibility of beta-carotene and vitamin A. This is most likely due to the fact that fats, such as oil, help the body better absorb vitamins and minerals. This presents an interesting new concept that fats are not evil. The next time you prepare winter squash or sweet potatoes, think about cooking them with a little olive oil to increase your body’s absorption of the vitamins and minerals.

I want to hear what you think – how do you feel about this new study that finds cooking oil increases the bioaccessibility of vitamin A in yellow-orange vegetables? Will this new research change the way you prepare your foods?

Try out this recipe to reap the health benefits of squash and reap the benefits found from this new study.

Butternut Squash Stir-fry

Ingredients

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cup asparagus
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds

Instructions

Combine lemon juice and honey, set aside. Heat coconut oil on high in a skillet or wok. Sautee garlic for a few minutes and then add squash. Add asparagus and stir-fry for three minutes. Remove from heat and toss with honey mixture. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds.

Top Five Things You Can Do Today to Combat Alzheimer’s

Last week my grandfather, Rev. Joe Brown, lost his battle with Alzheimer’s. I also have another very close family member who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Having several family members with this disease has definitely ignited a spark in me to understand more about Alzheimer’s.

Over five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and it affects over 10 million women as the primary caregivers, advocates and caregivers, according to studies conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s is currently the 7th leading cause of death and mortality rates will continue to rise as the baby boomer generation ages.  Alzheimer’s is particularly challenging because it is a progressive disease, in which the symptoms gradually worsen over time and there is currently no cure. Research has come to light in recently that show treatments that can temporarily slow the worsening of symptoms and improve the quality of life for both those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

Unfortunately there is not a clear-cut prevention strategy for Alzheimer’s, but recent studies do show certain foods, diet and lifestyle that can be therapeutic for treating Alzheimer’s and contribute to prevention. Here are the top five things you can do to help prevent and even treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s:

1.       Eat a Mediterranean diet

A recent study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (Volume 20, Number 3 / 2010) found that people who regularly consumed a Mediterranean diet were 38 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. A Mediterranean diet is rich in nuts, healthy fats (from salad dressings, avocados), tomatoes, fish, cruciferous vegetables, dark and leafy vegetables and fruits. A Mediterranean diet is also known for being low in red meat, organ meat, butter and high-fat dairy.

2.       Quit smoking

A recent study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that smoking is directly linked to dramatic increase in dementia in later years. The study found that those who reported smoking two packs of cigarettes a day had a 100% greater risk of dementia diagnosis than non-smokers.

3.  Eat celery and green pepper

Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign looked at the effects of luteolin on the brains of mice, according to the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Luteolin, which is found in celery and green pepper, was found to reduce brain inflammation caused by Alzheimer’s and can ease symptoms of memory loss.

4.       Drink coffee

The European Journal of Neurology found that those with an increased caffeine intake had a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease than those who with little or no intake of caffeine. Another study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that caffeine significantly decreased abnormal levels of protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease and 50 percent reduction in levels of beta amyloid, a substance forming sticky clumps of plaques in the brain of those with Alzheimer’s. This means that not only have these studies found that caffeine can be a critical in preventing Alzheimer’s, but it can actually be a therapeutic treatment for those already diagnosed with the disease. This is a huge development! This is also a great excuse to continue your daily latte habit.

5.       Exercise

Several studies have shown the benefits of exercise in persons with Alzheimer’s. The Journal of the American Medical Associate published a study that found that exercise training for patients with Alzheimer disease not only improved physical conditioning and extended their independent mobility, but it also helped improve depression. Independent mobility is important as we age, especially for those with Alzheimer’s, because one symptom of Alzheimer’s that is often not discussed is the lack of balance, falls and tripping. This leads to injury and the need for constant supervision in Alzheimer’s patients. By incorporating 60 minutes of exercise on most days of the week, and “active” days of rest, one can greatly improve their mobility as they age.

While there is not a “cure” for Alzheimer’s today, that does not stop researcher’s from working hard to find new ways to prevent, treat and cure the disease. I am passionate about contributing to finding a solution to this rapidly growing diagnosis. I am walking in the Memory Walk in Charlotte, NC on Saturday, November 13 to help raise money to fight against this devastating disease. Visit Memory Walk 2010 to find a Memory Walk in your area. You can also find out more information about Alzheimer’s disease and prevention at Alzheimer’s Association.

Do you know anyone affected by Alzheimer’s? Have you read about any therapeutic measures those with Alzheimer’s can do to lessen the worsening of symptoms?

Day 64: Just Peachy

Peaches are my favorite food in the world! I feel so lucky to live in South Carolina where peaches are fresh, local and delicious all summer long! I live minutes away from the most beautiful, bountiful peach orchard around, Springs Farm. I drive past The Peach Stand everyday and I buy a basket of peaches every week during the summer. There is a HUGE difference between the hard, sour peaches available at the grocery store and the fresh, juicy, sweet peaches from The Peach Stand. They have the best peaches in the world, but don’t worry if you don’t live near the area, because they sell their peaches online and ship them around the country.

I stopped by The Peach Stand again this morning and picked up a fresh batch. I have an entire cookbook with only peach recipes, so I have no shortage of ideas of what to do with my peaches. The only problem I have is choosing which one of the delicious recipes to make!

Even though I have hundreds of peach recipes, my favorite way to enjoy a peach is just as God provided; fresh off of the tree. My kids and I went to Bush-n-Vine this Summer to pick our own peaches. This is an annual tradition that we have because I love to show the kids where food really comes from. This gives them an appreciation for healthy foods and shows them how food goes from the garden to our plates. We pick the peaches off the trees and then go home and make a fresh cobbler, peach bread and peach ice cream. Yum!

I’m glad that I’m passing on my love for peaches to my kids because peaches are full of nutrients including, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, carotene and potassium. Peaches are low in calories, but full of fiber, which is great for the waistline! Peaches also have beta-cryptoxanthin, a carotenoid with anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties. And according to Diet Health Club peaches can actually destroy extra fat layers, making them an excellent weight loss tool. 

There are so many choices of peach recipes that I struggled with which one to share with you. So, I thought I’d share the two recipes that I make with my kids each year after we pick a fresh bussel of peaches. These two recipes are my favorite because I’ve adapted them to have less sugar, calories and fat, making them a guilt-free treat. 

Light Peach Ice Cream

Ingredients

  • 3  cups  sliced peeled peaches (about 1 1/2 pounds)
  • cup  half-and-half
  • 1/2  cup  sugar
  • 1/2  cup  skim milk
  • 1 Tsp teaspoon  vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp almond extract

Instructions

  • Place chunks of peaches in a food processor and blend until finely chopped, but still some chunks remain.
  • Combine peaches and remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Pour peach mixture into the freezer can of an ice-cream freezer. Follow the instructions for your particular ice cream maker on how to make the ice cream; usually involves putting ice and rock salt in the container. 

Stacy’s Light Peach Crisp

Ingredients 

  • 5  cups  sliced peeled peaches
  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ¼ cup brown sugar Splenda
  • Dash of salt
  • ¼ cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ cup sugar-free applesauce

Instructions

  • Combine oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and applesauce in a bowl.
  • Place peaches in a baking dish. Sprinkle the oat mixture over the peaches.
  • Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Day 61: This stuff is bananas!

B A N A N A S. I ain’t no hollaback girl, but I am a banana crazy girl. I could live off of bananas and peanut butter. I always felt guilty about my love for bananas because I had heard that bananas were a detriment to a weight loss diet and too high in sugar and carbs. So imagine my surprise when I read that not only bananas are one of the top 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth, but also that bananas are a weight loss tool, according to the book ‘The Carb Lovers Diet.”

Yes, I know, I gave into the hype and bought the latest diet book. I tried to resist the urge to add another diet book to my growing collection (Abs Diet, The Decadent Diet, South Beach and Volumetrics, just to name a few), but when I browsed through the recipes and drooled over the amazing pictures in this book, I couldn’t resist.

The Carb Lovers Diet  promotes what is called “resistant starch” which is basically a carbohydrate that resists digestion. Nearly 200 studies, conducted at universities and research centers across the globe, found that “resistant starch” acts as an appetite suppressant, metabolism booster and blood sugar stabilizer. So where can you find resistant starch? You can find it in a variety of healthy carbohydrate foods that you are probably already eating, like oatmeal, potatoes, brown rice, beans and the crème de la crème – bananas. Green bananas have the highest resistant starch level of any other food, topping the scale with 12.5 grams for one banana. As the banana ripesn it loses some of its’ resistant starch, but even a ripe banana comes in second with 4.7 grams. I am actually one of the few people who actually prefers a green banana to a ripe one, so I was excited to hear this.

Not only are bananas high in resistant starch, but they also are packed with fiber and potassium. Have you noticed that they almost always have bananas on the snack table after a racing event? This is because the potassium in bananas help with electrolyte balance, cell integrity, fluid and maintaining a steady heartbeat! A drop in potassium levels can make one weak, tired and prone to muscle cramps. This makes bananas a great after-run snack!

Another great health benefit of bananas is that they are high in fructoogliosaccharides. What in the world is that? Have you heard all the hype about probiotics and “gut health”? Well, instead of going out and buying the “designer foods” that claim they have probiotics, just pick up a banana because fructoogliosaccharides promote the good bacteria in your gut. Bananas have the highest level of fructoogliosaccharides than any other fruit and have been known throughout the ages to be a remedy for digestive issues.

So what about the sugar issue? That is just a bunch of hype. Bananas have a glycemic load of 12, which puts it in the medium range. There are a lot worse culprits of sugar than the innocent banana. So, eat up guilt free!

How do you enjoy bananas? Do you like green bananas or only ripe ones?

One of my favorite ways to enjoy a banana is topped on my bowl of museli topped with almond milk. It makes my tummy rumble just thinking about it! Another one of my favorite ways to eat a banana (other than plain and coated in chocolate) is this oatmeal recipe I made up last week. It is delicious and filling! Try it and let me know what you think! 

Stacy’s Crazy Oatmeal

Ingredients

  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup water
  • ½  banana
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbsp almonds
  • 1 Tbsp raisins
  • 1 Tbsp Silk Almond Milk (if needed)
  • ½ tsp Brown Sugar Splenda 

Instructions

Mix the 1st five ingredients (through pumpkin pie spice) in a microwave proof bowl. Mash the banana a little, but leave a few chunks. Microwave according to the oatmeal package instructions. Add a little bit of silk almond milk if the mixture is too thick. Sprinkle the raisins, almonds and brown sugar Splenda on top and mix until combined. Enjoy!