Whole Grains Month is Coming!

Saturday is September 1st which means whole grains month! What, this isn’t on your calendar? Hopefully you already follow the recommendation to make half your grains whole (especially if you read my previous post about whole grains); however if you don’t, this is the perfect opportunity to start incorporating more whole grains into your diet.

Since I already eat quite a few whole grains, I’ve decided to try a little different challenge for myself this month. I’m going to seek out some different grains that I haven’t yet tried, and also try to use some of my old favorites in some new ways. I already started this four weeks ago when I started having quinoa for breakfast. I am still going strong with my breakfast quinoa, but I just might come up with a different grain I like as much, if not better!

Stay tuned for more whole grains all month long. If you are interested in finding some ideas to celebrate whole grains month, head on over to the Whole Grains Council website.

The Best Diet!

Now that I have your attention, how many of you thought I was going to let you in on the ‘secret’? I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you, but there is no one perfect diet out there for everyone. There have been countless studies done on various ‘diets’ trying to prove which one will help you to lose the most weight. Some results show that high protein works, or high fiber, or low fat, but really the bottom line for all of these has been that when calories are reduced, the subjects lost weight; but what really matters is, can they keep it off?

If you want to know what it takes to keep off the weight you lose, check out the National Weight Control Registry. This is an ongoing investigation of people who have lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for at least one year. Among the findings, the researchers have discovered that most participants continue on a low calorie, low fat diet and perform high levels of activity.  Additionally:

    • 78% of participants eat breakfast every day.
    • 75% of participants weigh themselves at least once a week.
    • 62% of participants watch less than 10 hours of TV per week.
    • 90% of participants exercise, on average, about 1 hour per day.

You all know my philosophy by now: load up your plate with vegetables and fruits, add some lean protein (from meat, chicken or fish, nuts, beans and low-fat dairy), if you are going to have a grain make it a whole grain and wash it all down with plenty of water, this is a winning combination. I know it all sounds very general, but that is because whatever combinations of foods you eat, need to be chosen by you! There are a myriad of vegetables, fruits and protein sources out there, find the ones that you like best and then don’t overdo it.

Have you ever tried a diet in the past that ‘worked’ only until you went back to your old eating habits? Did you get bored with the mandated menus or maybe you didn’t really like them to begin with? Just say no to the hype! The best diet is one that you like and that you can follow for a lifetime!

What I’m Eating – Dates!

Most of you know by now that I’m a huge advocate of using whole foods whenever possible and that extends into what I use to fuel my extended workouts. I have previously written about the need for fuel when you are exercising strenuously in an endurance situation. What, and how much you need to consume will depend upon the length, and type of activity, as well as how well fueled you were prior to your activity; each individual and their circumstances are unique!

There have been some recent studies on whole foods that got me excited. One study showed that raisins worked as well as sports jellybeans for endurance runners. There had previously been studies showing that raisins and other dried fruit worked well for cyclists, but there was some question about GI upset with runners due to the presence of fiber in the raisins. Raisins were shown to not only work as well as the beans, but there was no difference in GI upset when using the raisins over the beans. There have also been studies with cyclists showing that bananas not only work as well as the typical sports drink, but they come packaged with nutrients and compounds that will benefit the athlete beyond just carbohydrate replenishment.

While I have been known to do a lot of things, I have not yet started running with bananas; what I have been doing is running with dates! I have occasionally used dried fruit in the past (including prunes) with no GI upset. But over the winter I was using some jelly candies and had also tried some other packaged sports chews; the problem with these things for me was that I suffered from sugar fatigue! I just can’t stomach that much sweetness for very long, yuck! One of the big things that has been keeping me from relying on dried fruit was the combination of electrolytes they contain. Of course dates are a fantastic source of electrolytes except for one – sodium! Since I’m such a heavy and salty sweater, this is a bit of a problem for me. I came up with what I think is a great solution; dates with salt.

What I do is to cut open the date to remove the pit, and then sprinkle a little salt inside. Not only does this take care of my sodium problem, but it also gives me a sweet/salty taste with every bite. Think about a salted carmel and you get the idea. I package them up into a little bag and away I go. Each date has about 25 calories (a little over 6 g Carbohydrates) and it’s easy to dole out just the right amount for 9 miles versus 13 miles. Of course I’m also following a hydration plan and I chase each of these salty dates with some water. So far this plan has really been working for me. I look forward to putting dates into practice during my next half in September!

Some Favorite Apps and Online Motivation

There have been a spate of apps and websites devoted to helping people keep up their motivation and improve their fitness recently. I love this trend and would like to share some of my favorites with you. As a good food lover, I’ve also been looking for an app that relates to healthy eating that I can get behind but have yet to find one I like! The majority of apps and websites for food are devoted to counting calories, which isn’t the best measure of a healthy diet! 2,000 calories of cake, donuts and ice cream have nothing on 2,000 calories of vegetables, fruits, legumes, fish, almonds, etc. I’ll get back to that in a minute, but first my list of favorites.

MapMyRun: I started using this online awhile ago as a way to find different running and biking routes in my area. I now use it to help create my own routes so that I can plot out the distance I want to travel on any particular day. It’s nice to be able to see elevation, distance, and even a satellite image of the area as you are mapping so you know just what you are getting yourself into! I use the free version of the site, but there are more functions available to those who choose pay to become a “Pro” including the ability to print out your maps and have access to training plans. There is also a smartphone app which, to be quite honest, I can’t get it to work the way I want it to. When I first downloaded it I was able to track my movements and for some reason with the newest version I can’t figure out how to do this (perhaps because I don’t pay?) Instead I use the next app when I’m out running, walking and biking to track my milage.

RunKeeper: I love this app and the website that goes with it! Once again you need to register, and there are both a free version and the “Elite” version you can pay to join. I use the app to track my outdoor workouts, and can use the well organized website to look back at my previous workouts. You can view fitness reports showing your milage for different activities as well as totals by day, week, month or the past year, as well as being able to separate out just one type of activity. Another option which I love is that you can have a “Street Team” of friends. The “Street Team” can view each others activities and cheer each other on by leaving comments as you each reach new goals of distance or time. There is even a feature to take pictures while using the app on your smartphone, those pictures will then be incorporated into the record of your outing.

Earndit: Last but not least is the motivational website, Earndit. Earndit takes the information from other tracking tools (like RunKeeper, MapMyRun, Fitbit, Nikeplus, FourSquare, Garmin, and a few more) and gives you points for each activity. You get 10 points for each mile on foot, 3 for each mile biked and others for going to the gym, rollerblading, and more. So what do you get for your points? Various companies sponsor “challenges” for which you get entered into a drawing for a gift certificate by reaching point goals for the week. You can also redeem your points for discounts from these sponsors OR donate points towards things like a goat from Heifer International. With Earndit you can also “follow” other people that you know, and create your own personal challenges with them alongside the challenges that are sponsored. Racking up your target points each day or week can become a fun way of motivating yourself to park on the far side of the lot at the mall and walk a few more steps each day! I really love the idea of this and love that each point counts!

While I really like these three, I still feel that there is space out there for a healthy eating app. The app I envision would award points for consuming more vegetables and fruits, as well as points for every time you were able to pass up an open bag of chips. The problem of course is that there is no one perfect healthy diet. We are all unique people with differing appetites and needs. There is also a segment of the population whose disordered eating pattern and eating disorders make this kind of tracking a path towards unhealthy obsessing. Apps and websites like MyFitnessPal and SparkPeople tend to focus solely on calories and in my experience, give a very low target number for people who are really active. For example, the Spark People website says that I should only consume 1500 calories per day; I typically eat a LOT more than that and on a day that I have a long run, about twice that amount!

So until something better comes along (or I come up with something and convince my husband to write the app), just stick with the basics; Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits, keep sometimes foods at bay, and stay active!