Stay Healthy During the Holidays

With the holidays right around the corner, I thought I’d put together a list of things you can do to stay healthy while still enjoying the holiday season. So, without further ado, here are the top 6 recommendations I would make:

  1. Stick to your normal eating habits. Don’t try skipping meals or eating less as this may lead to over-consuming snack foods and holiday treats.
  2. Build meals around protein and veggies while minimizing starchy or sugary carbs such as fruits, grains, legumes, and potatoes. Always opt for more vegetables and protein to feel full.
  3. Avoid liquid calories such as juices, milk, and mixed drinks. Get your calories from whole foods!
  4. Once you are full from your meal, then indulge in whatever holiday treat you like most. My favorite is chocolate peanut butter balls! It’s a lot easier to enjoy one or two treats, rather than a dozen, after filling up on healthy food during mealtime.
  5. Exercise whenever possible! This will mitigate stress that occurs during the holidays and protect your body from the damage of the indulgences. Exercise can be as simple as sprinting up a flight of stairs, going for a walk after meals, or performing a few sets of body weight pushups and squats.
  6. For those that plan to consume alcoholic beverages: drink on an empty stomach. When alcohol is ingested, all other calories are sent to fat storage so the body can break down the alcohol as fast as possible. Pick drinks lower in sugar such as dry wines, champagnes, and hard liquors. Forgo the prepackaged sugary mixers and try flavoring with a lime or lemon. My approach is to have a NorCal Margarita (2 shots tequila, juice from an entire lime, ice, and club soda) a few hours before dinner. Finally, make the following meal high in protein and healthy fat. This will help blood sugar levels, protein synthesis, and hormones return to normal.

I personally choose to consume a whey protein shake and digestive enzymes before any meal that is high in processed carbs and low in nutrients, such as pasta or pizza.

Finally, don’t stress about indulging! The holidays should be about family, relaxation, and a change in routine. Sure, under-consuming protein and vitamins while over-consuming sugar and anti-nutrients isn’t going to improve health – but allowing stress levels to increase will only exacerbate fat storage and skew hormone levels.

Make the best choices you can as often as possible, but plan to enjoy yourself and have some indulgences. Then jump right back into clean eating and living on in January.

Hope these tips help everyone enjoy their holidays while staying healthy. See you all next year!

christmas-treats

The Most Simple Lunch Recipe

I’d love to share my recipe for lunch on the weekdays.

My typical weekday consists of one-on-one work with clients from 7 to 11AM. At this point, I do my own workout for an hour or so and then eat. After a quick lunch, I have more clients until about 1PM, at which time I do administrative work at my gym. This lasts until 5:30PM, after which I finish the workday with a couple more clients.

I keep myself scheduled back-to-back for most of the day, meaning I don’t have time to spend 30 – 60 minutes preparing lunch. At the same time, I refuse to resort to snack bars, sugar drinks, or other meal-replacements.

Instead, my approach is to bake a few chicken breasts on the weekend and package them in microwave-safe containers. At the same time, I put a few avocados on the counter so they can ripen throughout the week.

By the time lunch rolls around, all I have to do is mash up the avocado with a little salsa or hot sauce, microwave the chicken for a couple minutes, and I have a perfectly balanced and satisfying lunch!

Below are instructions for the initial food preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. While waiting, trim the chicken breast of fat if it is not locally and naturally raised. If it is from a local, humane source, the fat will be healthy and therefore, won’t need to be trimmed.
  2. Place chicken in oven when at temperature. No need to use any seasonings as these will go in the guacamole the day of the meal.
  3. Check chicken after 30 minutes. It will be done when the internal temperature reaches about 170°F.
  4. Remove and let cool. Separate into meal-sized portions and store in fridge.
  5. Pack chicken, seasonings, and avocado in the morning before leaving home. I usually use local salsa or hot sauce, but garlic, salt, honey, lemon, or herbs and spices may be used as well.
  6. When hungry, microwave chicken for 2 minutes. Mash avocado, with seasonings, while waiting.
  7. Voila – you have homemade guacamole and a healthy protein source in only a couple minutes!

I usually recommend that active individuals weighing over 150 pounds shoot for about 8 ounces of chicken and a full avocado. Smaller individuals may dial back to half an avocado and 4 to 6 ounces of chicken.

Even if you use the larger portion size (8 ounces of chicken and a full avocado) the entire meal will only come to about 600 calories while providing 50 grams of protein, 30 grams of healthy fats, and 14 grams of fiber.

The nutritional profile of this meal will fulfill the following daily requirements:

10% Vitamin A

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA90% Vitamin B6

16% Vitamin B12

33% Vitamin C

21% Vitamin E

53% Vitamin K

80% Selenium

20% Iron & Copper

30% Magnesium & Zinc

45% Potassium

Clearly this meal provides a significant amount of vitamins and minerals, but it is also very affordable. Avocados are usually $1 each (or less if you live where they grow), and chicken breast costs between $2 and $4 a pound. The maximum this meal will cost is $3!

The nutritional density of this meal, the affordable price of the ingredients, and the quick and easy preparation proves that there’s no longer an excuse to resort to meal replacement bars – frequently loaded with sugar, processed soy, and refined grains.

So, this weekend, pick up some avocados, put some chicken in the oven, and you’ll have the perfect lunch for the following week!

Orange Juice vs. Coca-Cola

How’s everyone’s week so far? I’m taking a recovery this week so, without the high intensity workouts or morning coffee, my energy levels aren’t as high as normal. However, my energy is much steadier all day and my anxiety is less severe without the stimulants from coffee and espresso.

This week, I wanted to exemplify how marketing by food companies have blinded the general public. Before I jump in, a little back-story explaining my motivation for this post:

I was having Christmas brunch with my family and, when asked why I was eating grapefruit but passing on the orange juice, I replied: “Orange juice is the same as soda, chemically speaking.”

Now, this statement sounds completely absurd based upon what we’ve been told our entire lives. How could the natural juice, squeezed fresh from an orange, be anywhere near as problematic for the body as a man-made liquid consisting of chemicals and corn syrup?

Now, of course, I was speaking casually and merely thinking of the actual breakdown of the sugars within the two beverages. But, due to how emotionally charged personal nutrition choices are, and how long we have been brainwashed to “start our day with a tall glass of orange juice”, my statement was met with hostile denial.

For all my followers trying to improve their health, I wanted to present the solid facts about how the body metabolizes these two liquids.

First, let’s look at a simple comparison of the nutritional content of the two drinks side-by-side.

Orange Juice

Coca-Cola

Calories

117

98

Total Carbs

27

25

     Sugar

24

25

     Fiber

0.8

0

     Other Carbs

2

0

Protein

1.7

0

Fat

0.4

0

Vitamins

     Vitamin A

9%

0%

     Vitamin C

125%

0%

     Folate

15%

0%

Minerals

     Magnesium

6%

0%

     Potassium

13%

0%

At first glance, we can see that orange juice has more calories per serving. I personally think other things are more important than number of calories but, usually doctors and dieticians prefer “low calorie” options…hence their aversion to fat which has twice as many calories per gram as carbs, yet offers better fuel for the human body.

We also see that orange juice has more sugar per serving. Maybe not according to how the labels are presented…they specify the grams of sugars and fiber but leave the remaining carbohydrate content unaccounted for. If you’ve read my post on carbs, you’ll remember that ALL carbs (besides fiber), have the same effect on the body. So, in essence, orange juice has 26 grams of sugar while Coke has 25 grams.

What about the trace amounts of fiber and all the vitamins and minerals in orange juice?

Well, first off, these facts are for juice with a medium amount of pulp. I personally loved the “lots of pulp” orange juice when I was young but, from what I’ve seen in the marketplace, the “no pulp” is more popular, negating the fiber content.

This brings me to my next issue with orange juice – the process of pasteurization.

Orange juice is heated to about 200 degrees Fahrenheit to kill all the living enzymes, thereby extending its shelf life. This heating separates the pulp (fiber) from the juice. The fiber in fruit mitigates blood sugar spikes and is one of the key elements that make such a high-sugar food healthy.

This pasteurization process also destroys most of the nutrients in juice which is why producers add synthetic vitamins to their products. Take a look at the ingredients in orange juice…I can almost guarantee “ascorbic acid” will be on the list.  This is to add vitamin C back into the drink after it was destroyed during heating.

For the sake of full disclosure, I left out about a dozen more vitamins and minerals that orange juice provides because it fulfilled less than 5% of the recommended daily values. And also, very few sources will be upfront when listing the nutrients that remain after pasteurization.

Maybe I’ll have a full post on pasteurization later because I feel myself getting off on a tangent. The takeaway point is that pasteurization takes a living thing (fruit and its juice) and damages everything in it…including beneficial bacteria, antioxidants, and nutrients.

So, to be fair, I should have stated that “Drinking orange juice is like drinking soda and taking a multi-vitamin and fiber pill at the same time.” Hahaha.

I certainly prefer a client drink orange juice rather than soda. But, at the end of the day, the profits are going to the same companies (for example, Coca-Cola owns Minute Maid) and the sugars are equally as damaging to the body.

To avoid sounding like a complete fanatic, I’d like to mention that I eat an orange, and plenty of other whole fruit, almost every day. This is a much healthier and more satisfying option. An orange is a natural, living thing from the earth that we were meant to consume.

If you really need your juice, try making your own either by squeezing or blending the whole fruit with a little water or ice. This will provide you with plenty of vitamin C and fiber, along with plenty of other nutrients and antioxidants.

I hope I didn’t scare anyone away from fruit with this post – just keep in mind that any packaged product will never be as healthy as the food it is made from.

So, enjoy a Navel or Valencia orange, especially before or after a workout, but skip the liquid sugars!