Time to Exercise

You don’t need an expert to tell you that secret to feeling great is a strong 1-2 punch of eating right and exercise. We’ve got you covered when it comes to food, but when we are looking for a little inspiration in the workout department, we turn to our good friend and partner Dani Tsukerman, Founder of Very Personal Training.

If you have been thinking about training or nutrition consultation recently, here is your motivation to start now: tABLE health and Very Personal training have teamed up to offer a special 50% off deal on Yelp. Once you’ve snagged your deal, you can book sessions with Very Personal Training AND with tABLE health right on VPT’s site! There are a limited number available, so get yours before they are gone.

In celebration of this amazing deal, this edition of our blog is about prioritizing fitness and is guest authored by Dani. Check it out:

Time to Exercise
I know what it is to be busy.  With the New Year only a month in, you’re probably still going strong on your New Year’s resolution to get fit or lose weight. The initial rush of finally succeeding at a goal you’ve been wanting to achieve for so long keeps you at the gym day after day, chugging away like a donkey plodding through the desert drooling over a dangling carrot. It’s so close yet so far and all you have to do is work out. You’ve made resolutions before, but this time it’s different. You just know it is. You can do it. You can set your mind to it. You can work out 5 times a week for an hour at a time. All you have to do is keep it up and you’ll finally be able to say that you stuck with your New Year’s resolution and succeeded!

Until you realize you can’t (um, won’t). That upbeat attitude won’t last. And here’s why…

The number one excuse I hear from people about why they don’t exercise regularly is, “I don’t have time and can’t fit it in”.

That’s a load of garbage. You’ve got to lose your excuses. The only reason you’re not seeing the results you want is because you don’t take responsibility for your actions. I know it’s harsh and it may be hard to swallow that the only thing holding you back is you, but you have time, you just don’t have your priorities straight. I get it, you probably work 10 hour days minimum, which leaves little time to get chores done, and leaves you exhausted and feeling entitled to that manicure, happy hour, shopping, a movie, lazing on the couch, and dinner out with friends.

That’s the problem.

Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely think you are entitled to those things and have earned it with all your hard work, but if you want to succeed you have to delay that immediate gratification of rewarding yourself until after you work out. And, I absolutely think that a healthy dose of loafing around is necessary and allowed, but you have to earn it.

Yes, we are all busier than busy and barely have a moment to ourselves, but still, if you want what you want then you have to do what needs to be done to get it. And that doesn’t mean just working out. You need to learn some time management.Here’s what I do and recommend you do too:

Take a look at your schedule for the upcoming week and pencil in the days and times you’re going to work out ahead of time. You have to think about working out like brushing your teeth and taking a shower. You wouldn’t skip those, so don’t skip a workout unless you’re sick or injured. And that excuse of not having any time? Throw that out the window. You don’t have to work out in a gym to consider it successful. There are so many fitness DVD’s on the market that you can get through Netflix, HULU, and cable OnDemand channels (channel 1023 in Brooklyn) that you don’t even have to put on clothes to do it (although I highly recommend at least a sports bra!). When my baby was 3 weeks old and I was given the go ahead to resume working out I did it in spurts between her cries (working out 10 minutes here and there 3 times a day is just as effective for your bottom [line] as it is doing it for 30 minutes total), in my living room, in my pajamas if I didn’t even have time to change. I let the vaccuming go undone, I let laundry pile up, and decided what I could let go of for a bit and just let it go. I couldn’t let actual work and some other important “must be done” things go, so I decided that my house doesn’t have to look immaculate all the time, that I don’t have to cook dinner every night, and that I can wake up an hour earlier if it’s the only way I can fit a workout in that day. The only reason this works though is because I’ve decided that working out is a part of life for me and MUST be done. It keeps me sane, makes me a better mother, improves my clients’ sessions, and makes me feel good. When I feel good everything else is good.

So, lose your excuses and keep to your word this year.To make it even easier and save you time, here are links to the essentials:
Resistance Bands
20 Pound Dumbbell Set
32 Pound Dumbbell Set
Chris Freytag’s work out DVD (I love this one!) >
Cardio Kickboxing DVD(For all levels. You can do just one 15 minute workout or select multiple workouts for a longer session.)
YogaWorks For Everybody: Slim Down DVD

Old Vegetables, New Ways!

Its resolution time again.  For so many of us, January is fraught with avoidance- avoiding sugar, chips, laziness, certain people, certain trains of thought, too much TV…the list could go on and on.  While avoiding things that are bad for us can be good for us, I think that sometimes we focus too much on what NOT to do instead of what we CAN do.
 If you add things to your life rather than take them away you may end up feeling happier and more positive.  Eventually, it becomes easier to naturally avoid the things we know are bad for us because we have replaced them with so many good things.  With that in mind, why not add some exciting ways to eat what’s best for you- versatile and healthful veggies. Here are 5 suggestions for new ways to use the same old vegetables in the New Year.
Cauliflower
Steam 1 head of cauliflower.  Meanwhile, saute 4 minced garlic cloves and 1 sprig minced rosemary in 1 tablespoon olive oil.  When the cauliflower is done, mash well and mix in oil, 1 tablespoon butter and 1/2 cup 1% milk.  Season with salt and pepper.
Zucchini
Thinly slice a large zucchini.  Top with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and 2 tablespoons fresh chopped herbs of your choice.
Peppers
Spray 3 bell peppers with cooking spray and roast in a 450 degree oven, turning occasionally until charred on all sides.  Place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile, mix together 1 tablespoon capers, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese and 1 teaspoon dried oregano.  Remove the skins from the peppers, slice and toss with the caper mixture.  Eat as a side dish or on top of a slice of toasted whole grain Italian bread
Broccoli
Cut a head of broccoli into florets and toss with 1 tablespoon canola oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Roast in a 425 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until broccoli is browned and caramelized.  Toss with 1 tablespoon green curry paste and serve.
Carrots
Peel and shred 1 lb. carrots, preferably in a food processor.  Toss with 1/4 cup feta cheese, 1/2 cup plain fat free Greek yogurt, 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 2 tablespoons freshly chopped oregano, 1/2 cup chopped kalamata olives, 1 tablespoon honey and salt and pepper to taste.

Delightful Holiday Dips

The arrival of the winter holidays usually also means the arrival of lots and lots of guests. And since those guests are going to want to eat, we are giving you the gift of some tasty and innovative ideas for delicious dips that will keep your nearest-and-dearest healthy and happy. Not only is our Smoked Salmon Walnut Dip mouthwateringly tasty, it is an Omega-3 powerhouse. And serve up our Thai Peanut Dip with some chopped up veggies for a protein rich treat.

Thai Peanut Veggie Dip
Serves 1

3 tablespoons fat free Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 teaspoon red curry paste (or more if you want it more flavorful!)
¼ teaspoon fish sauce
¼ teaspoon lime juice
¼ teaspoon soy sauce
Mix all the ingredients together and dip your favorite veggies in! (Green beans, jicama, carrots and red pepper work really well)

Smoked Salmon Walnut Spread
Serves 5-6

1 cup low fat ricotta cheese
¼ cup reduced fat goat cheese
4 ounces smoked wild salmon
1 ¼ cup freshly roasted walnuts
1 clove garlic
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon honey
Fresh ground pepper to taste
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until well combined.

 

Pantry Basics

My friends and family often laugh when they look at my pantry.  “There’s nothing to eat!” they inevitably exclaim.  Other than pretzels, cereal and some nuts, they’re right- I don’t generally keep a lot of ready-to-eat food around.  Even my fridge and freezer are packed with raw ingredients rather than bags and packages of snacks and meals.  This isn’t just because I love to cook.  Having a pantry stocked with raw ingredients and not pre-made foods can not only save money, but can also help you eat healthier by cutting out on preservatives and calories.  There are certain staples that most of us know to have by now:  brown rice, whole wheat pasta, olive oil, vinegars, natural peanut butter, and milk to name a few, but I’d like to give you a list of 7 key things every healthy pantry should have (even though there are many, many more).  All of these items are versatile and pack a huge amount of flavor and nutrition for a relatively small amount of calories.  I’ve included a quick recipe idea after each one and encourage you to stock up and get cooking!

1.  Canned beans are perfect for spreads, thickening soups, quick bean salads, topping to a green salad, or…

A delicious side dishSaute onions, garlic and white beans for 15 minutes and top with fresh chopped basil.  Just make sure to rinse your beans thoroughly to get rid of the excess sodium.

2.  Canned tomatoes can be used in soups, quick pasta sauces, a base for a sauce for meat or chicken, or…

Salsa…Puree 1 can diced tomatoes with diced red onion, fresh garlic, lime juice, hot pepper and cilantro.

3.  Dried fruits are a great addition to savory chicken and meat dishes, rice, fresh green salads, trail mixes, or featured in…

An easy yogurt topping…Cook 1 cup chopped dried fruit in 1 tablespoon white wine, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, and 1 tablespoon of honey.

4.  Low fat/fat free yogurt can be used as a substitute for sour cream, heavy cream or buttermilk for dips, dressings, marinades for chicken and meat, or can be used as…

A sandwich spread…Mix 1/2 cup yogurt with 2 tablespoons mixed herbs, 1 clove chopped garlic, salt and pepper

5.  Frozen spinach is a healthy addition to soups, sauteed vegetables, spreads, dips, and sandwiches or…

With some delicious pasta…Defrost and squeeze out spinach and saute with 1 bunch chopped scallions, 1 pint cherry tomatoes, and 3 cloves of sliced garlic.  When done add 1/4 cup cooking water from pasta, toss with pasta and add a light sprinkling of fresh parmesan cheese.

6.  Low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock is ideal for sauce, soup, rice, beans or…

Cooking down hearty spring greens…Saute 1 bunch greens with 1 tsp olive oil and 1 sliced sweet onion just until the greens begin to wilt, add the stock until it just covers the greens and cook partially covered until the greens are very soft and very delicious.

7. Vinegars add lots of flavor to food without any calories and are great in sauces, dressings and marinades.  Or try…

Balsamic caramelized onions…Thinly slice 2 sweet onions and saute with 1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt and 1 tablespoon of butter over medium-low heat.  Stir occasionally and when nicely browned turn the temperature to high.  Add 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar and let bubble until most of the moisture cooks off.  Use to top your favorite chicken or meat!

Healthy flavor combinations

You know that you’re doing a great job leading a healthier lifestyle, but its starting to get boring and bland, and the fried chicken is looking ever-more appealing.  Finding new ways to cook the same chicken, beef, veggies and grains can be exhausting and annoying, there is a simple an easy way to literally spice things up- think ethnic!

Below I’ve listed some classic flavor combinations for many major ethnic foods.  You can double, triple or halve these basic recipes (keep in mind that 3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon and 4 tablespoons = 1/4 cup) and use them on anything from baked chicken to sauteed vegetables, to roasted potatoes to rice pilaf.  If you don’t have some of these spices, they can easily be found at your grocery store.  I should also note that if you have cumin or paprika (or anything else, for that matter) that you haven’t used since the last Presidential election its time to get a new jar.   Just remember to add kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and a bit of oil and enjoy!

Moroccan: 1 teaspoon cumin + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, coriander and turmeric

Indian: 1 tablespoon curry and cumin + 1 teaspoon turmeric, coriander, cardamom and ginger

Thai: 1/4 cup peanut butter + 2 tablespoons light coconut milk + 1 tablespoon soy sauce, fresh ginger, cilantro and chopped scallion + 1 teaspoon fish sauce

Italian: 1/4 cup fresh basil, 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped sun dried tomatoes and grated parmesan + 2 cloves garlic

Mexican: 2 teaspoons chili powder, cumin and lime juice + 1 teaspoon dried oregano + 2 cloves minced garlic

Middle Eastern: 1 teaspoon cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric and dried mint

Greek: 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, lemon juice + 1 teaspoon paprika + 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg + 2 cloves minced garlic

Cajun/Creole: 1 tablespoon smoked paprika + 1 teaspoon garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme and dried oregano

For more inspiration check out this amazing site for flavor inspiration: tastytogether.com

Bits and scraps meals

Going grocery shopping can be exhausting.  Between making a list, carving out the time, doing the actual shopping, waiting in line and then finally unloading and putting away the food we are often times too tired to cook or prepare anything when we are done!  Enter a scraps and bits meal to make life easier.

While a leftovers meal combines all of your cooked food from the past few days, a scraps and bits meal encourages you to use the leftover raw or plain foods you have with a few pantry and fridge staples to create an interesting and otherwise impossible meal (and avoid a third trip to the grocery store in five days).  For example, I recently had an excess of leftover cooked kabocha squash.  I also happened to have some milk and mozarella cheese that was on its way out, so I combined it with onions, some dried herbs and lasagna noodles I had on hand and made a delicious and low fat squash lasagna.  If you follow just a few simple steps and guidelines I promise that weekly scraps and bits meals are within your reach.

Make three lists of what you have .  Make nne list for raw ingredients (zucchini halves, plastic bags of diced onion, frozen wild salmon, spare ounces of goat cheese), one for basic cooked ingredients (steamed brown rice, grilled chicken pieces) and one list for pantry items (diced tomatoes, canned beans, vinegar, etc).  If you need help with the pantry part, we’re posting on that in a few weeks!

Think about the food groups.  Consider which of the items you have on hand are proteins, which are starches, and which are veggies.  Choose one or two from each that are basic enough to go well with lots of flavorings.

Salad and soup are always good.  When you’re stymied by what to make, consider a quick salad or soup- most things go well in either one or the other and they are healthy and delicious!

Don’t be afraid.  Bits and scraps meals require you to generally go without a recipe and create a meal on the fly.  I promise that you can do it and it won’t be nearly as bad as you fear it could be.  Just taste your food as you go and that you can always make a dish saltier, spicier or more flavorful…making it less seasoned definitely presents more of a challenge.

Remember Cooking basics.  You don’t need any fancy techniques to make a bits and scraps meal, you just need to be able to saute, steam, roast, grill and pan sear in order to create culinary magic.  Check this out for a refresher on some of those methods.

Season it up.  Use different spice and flavor profiles to turn your ingredients that would otherwise go to waste into an ad-hoc, impromptu culinary masterpiece.  Check out our next post for a comprehensive flavor pairing list!

For some inspiration, check out my ingredients and latest bits and scrap meal below!

Raw ingredients…

…make a delicious, steamy soup (hence the blurry appearance)

 

Organic…and healthy?

Just when you think you’re doing something virtuous and working towards living a healthier lifestyle, a new article comes out and makes you second guess yourself, AGAIN!  This time, we seem to be hearing a lot of bad press about organic food.  The New York Times recently published a review of an article from Stanford University stating that organic foods just aren’t that healthy.  What has followed has been utter confusion on what is and is not healthy and how to best understand how foods are labeled.  So, are you ready for some answers?

The organic label has never meant that the food which bears its label is more likely to help you lose weight or is more likely to contain good-for you nutrients.  Organic foods are simply grown without the use of chemical pesticides, which makes them better for the environment and for encouraging agricultural diversity.  The potential heath risks of pesticides in foods have not been adequately studied, which means that scientists can’t fully rule out any long-term risks of pesticides, hormones or genetic modification.  So, although organic foods may not be more nutrient-rich, there are certainly many other compelling reasons to buy organic.

On the other hand, organic foods often travel many miles and pass through many hands before they arrive in your local grocery store’s produce department.  The more time between when a food is plucked from the ground and when it reaches your hungry tummy, the more nutrient loss occurs.  For this reason, local food has been shown to be more nutritious than organic foods in many cases.  Additionally, frozen fruits and vegetables are often much higher in nutrients since they are freshly picked and then preserved by the quick freezing process.

In the end, whether or not you eat organic is not going to make or break your healthy lifestyle.  Its much better to eat all conventional produce and to fill your meals and snacks with fresh produce, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy than to fill your shopping cart with organic frozen dinners, cereals, chips, bars and snacks.  Kids tend to store the residues from pesticides more readily than adults, so that may be a good reason to feed your children primarily organic foods.  If you feel like money is just too tight to buy organic but want to do something, try a mix of local foods and avoid the Dirty Dozen (also check out the clean 15).

School lunch suggestions

I won’t waste your time with my witty banter, I’ll just get straight to the goods that you really want- school lunch ideas for your picky, hungry kids!  Here’s ideas for the 5 days of the week, plus a bonus cause I like you.

1.  Turkey and cheese with spinach rolled up in a whole wheat wrap and cut in rounds (like sushi!)

2.  Make your own lunchables- pack whole wheat crackers, pieces of ham or turkey, all-natural cheese, and veggie sticks

3.  Rice balls!  Make brown rice and season with whatever spices your child likes.  Take pieces of leftover grilled chicken, meat or fish and form the rice in a ball around the meat.  Serve with a dipping sauce like soy sauce with sesame oil

4.  Make a black bean dip with black beans, onions, tomato, lime juice and spices and serve with all natural corn chips and veggies for dipping

5.  Sesame noodles with chicken and grilled veggies- kids surprisingly LOVE this. Toss 1 lb cooked whole wheat spaghetti with 1/4 cup tahini, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons brown sugar and 1 tablespoon canola oil.

6.  BBQ chicken salad on whole wheat roll.  Just shred some precooked chicken and combine with plenty of chopped veggies, a bit of mayo and your child’s favorite bbq sauce.

 

 

Organized and healthy school lunches

The quandary of what to pack your child for school lunch rivals the, “What should I make for dinner?” challenge.  Kids tend to be picky about their lunch, they want to follow lunchroom trends, and they will often mysteriously bring home their lunchbag untouched, giving only a shoulder shrug when asked why they didn’t eat their meal.  This is the first in a 2-part series that will help you figure out organizing and executing delicious school lunches that promise to be eaten.  Before we get to lunch ideas, lets first discuss how you can make easy and delicious lunches that your child will actually eat!

Make a plan with your child

Don’t unilaterally decide what your 3rd grader wants for lunch, and don’t ask at 7pm as they are getting ready for bed after a long day.  Instead, make a “lunch planning session” where you can talk about ideas and options.  Make the meeting fun for them- have snacks, pick out pictures from food magazines, or “play” business meeting with them.

Have your child participate in making lunch

How much your child is able to participate will obviously depend on their age, but if you can involve them in the process they will be sure to be more interested.  Have them cut veggies with a plastic knife, spread peanut butter on a bread, portion crackers and cheese into ziplocs, or count out almonds and cranberries.

Pre-prepare all of the lunch components at the beginning of the week

On a Sunday afternoon spend 30-45 minutes chopping veggies, slicing cheese, portioning pasta, making tuna salad, etc.  Put all of the components for your child’s lunch in set areas in the fridge so that everything is ready to go when your 1st grader is running to catch the school bus.  You can even encourage you child to assemble their own lunch with the pre-packaged goodies from the fridge and pantry.

Widen the horizons of what you consider to be “appropriate” for lunch

Its okay to give your child leftovers from last nights dinner for lunch, especially if they loved it.  It also okay to give breakfasty food, an assortment of different healthy snacks from all of the food groups, or a few different dips and dippers.  The more you keep things interesting and laid back, the more they will eat and the less stressed you will be!

Next week check out 15 creative and fun school lunch ideas, but in the meantime, look at all the great stuff that The Container Store has for school lunches!

Easy tips for stocking a healthy freezer

You may have noticed that your grocery store has cleared out the “Seasonal Aisle” of barbecue condiments and grilling tools to make room for lunch boxes and thermoses.  Yes, the summer is ending, which can only mean for parents and students alike that the school year is beginning.  This means more activities, more running around, and less time to cook and eat delicious and healthy food.  While you could wait until mid-September to realize that you just don’t have time to make anything for weeknight dinners other than frozen meals, you could also get organized and take action now.  If you spend just a few days doing some serious cooking now, you could have your weeknight meals set for the next month or even more.  Read of for some seriously helpful tips on what to do and how to do it.

1.  Make 1 dish meals that only need one accompaniment, such as a salad or brown rice.  Think tomato sauce with ground turkey and roasted veggies- all you need to do is defrost and add some pasta!

2.  If they’re not in sauces, grains, potatoes, pasta and vegetables don’t freeze well.  So don’t try it, or make them in a sauce!

3.  Never freeze twice.  Foods can only be frozen once in their raw state and once in their cooked state.

4.  For casseroles that get baked in the oven (like baked ziti or enchiladas), save the baking step ’till after you defrost- the food will taste fresher AND you will be able to freeze any leftovers (see tip 3).

5.  To save room in your freezer, freeze anything you can in large ziploc freezer bags.  Label the bags with the date and dish and stack them flat.

6.  Make a plan!  Figure out which recipes you want to make, what your shopping list is, which things take the longest, (do those first!) and which cooking vessels and tools you will need.

7.  Check out this incredibly helpful FDA website on food safety in the freezer and fridge.