instructor takeover: jenna’s favorite healthy dessert


I don’t know about you, but I’ve got the biggest sweet tooth!  I’ll take sweet over salty any day.  I strive to eat as healthy and clean as I can to keep myself strong and energized to get through Paula’s killer thigh series, but I also know that I should treat myself in moderation.  I came across a healthy dessert blogger a year or two ago who goes by Chocolate Covered Katie.  I tried out a few of her recipes and I fell in love!  She has so many yummy, modified sweets recipes that won’t cost you a quarter of your daily calories like so many desserts do.

One of my favorites that I find myself making over and over is her oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  These cookies don’t have any butter in them, so they will have a consistency more like a soft granola bar.  Bonus: They also have walnuts and coconut in them, adding in omega-3s & potassium!  Healthier dessert with benefits — who says you can’t have the best of both worlds?!

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 cup of spelt or whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3 tbsp chopped walnuts
  • 3 tbsp shredded coconut
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp vegetable oil (coconut oil can be substituted)
  • 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp pure maple syrup
  • pinch of stevia, or 1 extra tbsp pure maple syrup
  • if using stevia option, add 1tbsp milk of choice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees & grease a muffin pan or cookie tray.  I find the muffin pan works best so the cookies don’t roll around.  Since there is no butter in the recipe, they won’t melt like a normal cookie.

In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.  In a separate bowl, stir together the wet ingredients.  Combine the two bowls to form a dough.  Chill for at least an hour in the fridge.  After the dough has chilled, roll the dough into cookie-sized balls and place in the muffin pan or on the cookie tray.  Place in the oven and bake for 7 minutes.  Once you remove these yummy bites from the oven, let sit in pan for about ten minutes to cool before moving to the cooling rack or plate.  Dig in!  I know you’ll love them as much as I do!

xoxo,  Jenna C.

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers

Finding this delicious and simple chicken recipe excited me for two reasons: first, it’s totally yummy and a perfect new way to serve the boring ol’ chicken breast, and second, I learned a simply fantastic new way to cook a chicken breast that can be applied to most recipes – or not recipes when you just need an easy dinner. This method, combining a quick pan-sear followed with a bake in the oven, results in a beautifully browned, slightly crispy breast that is truly juicy and tender on the inside. The result completely surprised me, and I have since used the same method for everything from roasting chicken to put on lunch salads for the week to quickly get chicken ready for a simple supper.

The peppers add some wonderful vitamins and nutrients to round out your dinner, and the preparation with balsamic deliver a meal with a perfectly Italian flair.

Roast Chicken with Balsamic Bell Peppers


  • 5/8 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1 cup thinly sliced yellow bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced shallots (about 1 large)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 450°.
  2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Combine 1/2 teaspoon salt, fennel seeds, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, garlic powder, and oregano. Brush chicken with 1 1/2 teaspoons oil; sprinkle spice rub over chicken. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to pan. Add chicken; cook 3 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken over; cook 1 minute. Arrange chicken in an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450° for 10 minutes or until done.
  3. Heat remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers, shallots, and rosemary; sauté 3 minutes. Stir in broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Reduce heat; simmer 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Stir in vinegar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve bell pepper mixture over chicken.

Ivy Manning, Cooking Light

Nutritional Information

Amount per serving
  • Calories: 292
  • Fat: 9.3g
  • Saturated fat: 1.5g
  • Monounsaturated fat: 5.5g
  • Polyunsaturated fat: 1.3g
  • Protein: 40.9g
  • Carbohydrate: 8.8g
  • Fiber: 1.7g
  • Cholesterol: 99mg
  • Iron: 2mg
  • Sodium: 599mg
  • Calcium: 40mg

10 Best Foods for Fitness

Why not do everything in your power to fuel your workout in the most healthy fashion – both helping you feel stronger while you exercise and help you recover the most quickly – reducing soreness and making your feel ready for your next session!

Here are some tips from Women’s Health Magazine – the best foods you can (and should) add into your diet to help you workout longer & stronger and recovery faster:

1. Avocados: The cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fat in these green health bombs can help keep your body strong and pain free – not only helping you recover more quickly, but also helping with injury-prevention. University of Buffalo researchers found that competitive women runners who ate less than 20 percent fat were more likely to suffer injuries than those who consumed at least 31 percent. Turns out, diets that are too low in fat can weaken both your muscles and joints – but always focus on healthy fats!

2. Bananas: we recently mentioned on our Facebook page that bananas might be a near-perfect workout recovery snack, and can even fuel your workout better than most energy drinks! Turns out, the potassium in bananas might also be the perfect solution to cure your muscle cramps: While a lack of sodium is the main culprit behind muscle cramps, studies show potassium plays a supporting role: you need it to replace sweat losses and help with fluid absorption. Bananas are also packed with energizing carbohydrates, helping your push yourself harder and longer while working out!

3. Berries: any, and all! Go by the rule of thumb: the deeper the color, the healthier the berry. USDA researchers recently placed fresh berries on their list of the 20 foods richest in antioxidants. Just a handful of blueberries, raspberries, or blackberries is an excellent source of these potent nutrients, which protect muscles from free radical damage that might be caused by exercise.

4. Carrots: Carrots pack complex carbs that provide energy to muscles and potassium to control blood pressure and muscle contractions, says Leslie Bo.

5. Whole Grain Cereal: If you are looking to fuel a strong workout, look for a whole grain cereal that packs a combination of endurance-boosting complex carbs and muscle-building protein. Sixty minutes before a workout, fuel up with a 200-calorie snack: ¾ cup of whole-grain cereal with 4 ounces of fat-free milk. “When you eat something before exercising, you have more energy, so you can work out harder and perhaps longer. And you’ll be less likely to overeat afterward,” says Leslie Bonci, R.D.

6. Chicken thighs: A lack of iron and zinc in your diet will make your energy level plummet. Look to most lean proteins to help get your levels back up, but “dark-meat poultry is significantly lower in fat than red meat yet has all the iron, zinc, and B vitamins that women need in their diets,” says Seattle sports nutritionist Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., author of Power Eating.

7. Hummus: the chickpeas and olive oil that combine to make hummus a fabulous combination of complex carbs, protein and unsaturated fats, all of which energize you for a workout. Aim for a snack of 100 calories of hummus, paired with veggies to fill you up for hours.

8. Eggs: Protein-filled egg whites, yes! But don’t skip the yolk, either. One egg yolk per day supplies 215 milligrams of cholesterol—not enough to push you over the 300-milligram daily cholesterol limit recommended by the American Heart Association. Plus, the yolk is a good source of iron, and it’s loaded with lecithin, critical for brain health, says nutritionist Susan Kleiner, Ph.D. Start your day off with an egg white omelet with one yolk tossed in.

9. Chocolate Milk: not only is milk a top source of calcium, but choose a reduced-fat variety of chocolate milk to create an almost-perfect muscle recovery drink. The chocolate kind is loaded with calcium, vitamins, and minerals just like the plain stuff, but new studies confirm that milk with a touch of cocoa is as powerful as commercial recovery drinks at replenishing and repairing muscles.

10. Salmon: As crazy as this sounds, new studies are suggesting that monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fats might help lessen abdominal fat! Pair that with a muscle-building workout to whittle your middle in no time.


Add spice to your life, for your health!

Spice admittedly makes most thing better, transforming ordinary meals into the absolutely extraordinary. Truly, adding spices can be extraordinary for both your health and waistline, as well!

We recently cited on our Facebook page that “strong food aromas can actually hep you eat 5-10% less of a meal, reports recent research in the journal Flavour. Turns out, people might unconsciously take smaller bites to regulate the amount of flavor they experience. When cooking at home, add flavor and aroma via herbs for an essentially calorie-free (and sodium-free) way to possibly trick yourself into eating less but feeling satisfied!” In addition to helping you consumer fewer calories, various spices actually offer specific health benefits.

We’re discussing a few of the superstars here, both the amazing benefits you could reap and how to use them:


  • potential to lower your risk of diabetes
  • help improve memory
  • lower your levels of blood sugar (back to its potential to be a fighter of prediabetes conditions)
  • may help inhibit Alzheimer’s disease

Use it: if you don’t already have favorite uses when baking, add half a teaspoon to oatmeal, coffee, yogurt – or even chili!


  • major stomach soother and nausea reducer
  •  helps reduce dizziness
  • helps decrease joint pain – even in individuals with rheumatoid arthritis
  • intaking 2 grams per day can help ease exercise-induced muscle pain

Use it: Look to use actual ginger rather than ginger ale – most ginger ale today contains artificial colors along with the added sugar and carbonation. Start almost any stir-fry dish with grated ginger, toss into smoothies or juices, or add to homemade jams and jellies.


  • garlic intake is associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancers, as garlic’s antibacterial properties may prevent (and possibly halt!) the growth of cancer-causing substances, help repair DNA and reduce cell proliferation
  • may help slightly lower cholesterol
  • help help lower blood pressure
  • may slow hardening of the arteries

Use it: add chopped raw garlic to salads in the place of high-cal dressings, or use as a dressing or marinade for almost any protein or vegetable!


  • may help improve mental performance
  • memory-enhancer
  • help reduce risk of both memory problems associated with aging, and risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Use it: sage is delicious on proteins (toss onto chicken before grilling) and as a spice for most grilled or steamed vegetables, like asparagus.


  • compounds found in parsley have been proven to help stop the growth and multiplication of certain types of breast cancer cells
  • helps fight off other pathogens in the body

Use it: Add to salads, soups, roasted veggies or as a garnish on virtually any dish!


  • cancer-fighting: ability to kill cells in cancer of the esophagus

Use it: add turmeric to Greek yogurt to serve as a dip for Thai or Indian dishes – or a simple spiced chicken!

Your mind on exercise: stronger, smarter, happier? Oh, yes!

You’ve heard that staying active is good for the mind, and a la “Legally Blond”, exercise releases endorphins into your body which make you happy – but this is truly the case (even if it shouldn’t be used as a defense in a murder trial…see the movie if you’re not sure what I’m talking about). Turns out barre class or a bike ride does much more than strengthen your body, it can actually strengthen your mind, as well. Tough thing is – you actually need to train yourself to stick with it.

Details: it is absolutely amazing, but research has shown that regular exercise can actually…

  • turbo-charge your brainpower
  • improve mood, memory and focus
  • fight depression
  • combat age-related cognitive decline

What’s more, how you frame exercise in your mind can actually effect how your body reacts to pain during  
workout: so in class when we say “don’t let your mind take over! your body can do it!” and “it’s about building mental strength as well as physical strength – hold on!”, we’re not just spouting motivational hearsay but fact: how you approach exercise and your mental outlook will actually impact whether you dig deeper and finish, or quit. 

The first step: get yourself to go!
It’s really about making exercise a habit: a part of your daily norm and a given – initially, don’t let yourself have the mental debate whether or not to exercise (we know who wins that debate every single time!) because if you are able to stick it out and create a habit, your mind will actually begin to crave the way exercise makes you feel – making it easier to make yourself go to a workout.

This is scientifically proven: regular exercisers have got an easier time making themselves get out of bed for a sweat session rather than hitting the snooze button, or going to a post-work workout rather than straight to the couch. Why? Your brain begins to anticipate the positive perks of exercise: “When you have a positive reinforcement, you’re much more likely to do something,” confirms John Ratey, MD, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Makes sense.

So how do you power through the initial period, training your brain to crave exercise so it becomes an easier habit to maintain? Don’t go it alone, unless you have willpower of steel! We’ve talked before about the benefits of a workout buddy, whether it’s a friend or an instructor who knows you’ll be in class –  schedule a workout with a friend or catch up over a walk rather than over the phone, or let an instructor know you’ll be coming to class again – you won’t want to let your friend or that instructor down. What’s more, scheduling your classes in advance online can also help increase the likelihood that you’ll stick with a workout – planning in advance can make all the difference, and if you “already paid for it”, chances are you’ll want to get what you paid for and go!

Next steps: what is going on in your brain as you begin exercising?
Great, we’re going to work on starting a routine using the above tips to get ourselves going, and we’re intrigued by the fact that exercising can actually make you feel happier…what’s going on with that? Within minutes of getting yourself moving, your brain begins lighting up: first with a rush of feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine (by the way, these also improve memory and learning capabilities) according to Women’s Health Magazine. This movement “sets off your reward circuitry,” says David Glass, PhD, a professor at Kent State University, “that’s what makes exercise rewarding and possibly addictive.”

As your muscles work and start to grow weary, you feel the desire to pull the plug on your workout. However, if you are able to keep yourself going (Women’s Health Magazine cites 20 minutes or more), your natural opioid system kicks into high gear, flooding your brain with painkilling chemicals like endorphins. Your body may release the substances to cope with the stress of exercise, and according to Arne Dietrich PhD, of the American University of Beirut “if you give your body time to release these chemicals, you may feel much better during and after exercise.”

Last steps: the afterglow!
As your heart rate rises when exercising, blood flow is increasing, and over time more capillaries develop in the brain, which in turn promotes new brain-cell formation. Women’s Health explains the result: you increase the production of neurons – literally building your brain over a period of weeks by creating new nerve cells, says Brian Christie PhD, from the University of Victoria in Canada. We’re talking about building up areas of the brain that are vital to learning, memory and higher thinking – and surges of protein in this part of the brain (as occurs with the nerve cells firing when exercising) may contribute who why adults who exercise display sharper memory skills, higher concentration levels, more fluid thinking and reasoning, and greater problem-solving than those who remained sedentary.

Remember that to get these fabulous effects of exercise, you need to just stick it out: while exercising, think positive – even if it’s a bit of a stretch. Telling yourself that your workout is going to make you feel fantastic and reminding yourself of the benefits could actually help your brain adhere to those thoughts over time, and make you less likely to struggle to get yourself to workout!

5 Ways to Fire Up Your Metabolism!

Who would say “no, thanks!” to a little bit of helping picking up the metabolism that nature and genetics have blessed you with? I’m thinking exactly no one! Self Magazine has some quick tips to help you do that. Focusing your energy on a combination of eating the right foods, exercising, sleeping and attempting to de-stress will help your metabolism rev to work better for you!

5 Ways to Fire Up Your Metabolism

1. Pick Protein: we mostly all know that protein is the building block of muscle – and the more muscle we have, the more energy we are burning ’round the clock. We want to make sure we fuel ourselves with what our body needs to help create and maintain our muscle, so when we do exercise we are burning fat stores, rather than muscle.

Interestingly, Self explains that your muscles can use only 30 grams of protein at any time, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Any more than that gets stored as fat, so pay attention to your serving sizes – shooting for no more than 30 grams of protein per meal, and to make sure you are getting enough, aim for a minimum of 46 g of protein per day.

2. Soothe your stress: Yes, please! In addition to making life simply more pleasant, reducing stress actually directly impacts your metabolism! Self tells us that constant anxiety can cause your adrenal gland to pump out too much cortisol. High levels of this stress hormone change how your metabolism stores fat, sending flab to the belly.

3. Exercise: Cardio and Strength training! Exercise raises your body’s internal temperature, creating inflammation and depleting your energy stores, says David C. Nieman, Ph.D., professor at Appalachian State University. “After (exercising), it takes extra energy for your body to bounce back to its normal resting state.”

In fact, just one 45-minute high-intensity workout can help increase your RMR by 37 percent for up to 14 hours post-exercise, a study in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise indicates.

Strength training focuses on maintaining all-important lean muscle. Self tells us: “As you age, you start to lose some muscle mass,” says Geralyn Coopersmith, an exercise physiologist and national director of the Equinox Fitness Training Institute. “Lifting weights helps you maintain and build on what you have, so your metabolism stays high.”

4. Snooze! Studies show that sleepless nights can actually mess with your metabolism…which is kind of like rubbing salt in a wound, right? No fair! Once again, it’s all in the hormones: interestingly (and painfully), not enough sleep increases the levels of the hormone gherkin in your body, which stimulates hunger, and decreasing levels of the hormone leptin, which tells you to stop munching—a study in Endocrine Development shows. Self also tells us that research also notes that sleep debt causes insulin resistance, interfering with how your metabolism processes fat and leading to weight gain.

In general, the sweet spot of sleep to aim for is 7-8 hours/night.

5. Eat your fruits and veggies! We’re talking both fruits and veggies here, both of which are packed with fiber and free-radical-fighting antioxidants. The fiber not only helps fill you up, but also helps maintain your blood sugar levels, ensuring your metabolism continues humming along.

Self recommends aiming for 25 g to 30 g of fiber per day. To get the most benefit for your calories, load up your plate with these 10 foods, which, in addition to having fiber, Norwegian researchers have found are high scorers when it comes to antioxidant capacity:
sunflower seeds
dark chocolate
boiled artichokes
dried apricots
curly kale
red cabbage

To see the full slideshow and more details on, click here!

6 Sneaky tricks to keep you slim

Memorial Day weekend tends to be the unofficial kick-off of summer, at we couldn’t be happier! However, as with most holiday celebrations, the fun comes along with the challenge of healthily balancing your food and beverage intake to maintain your goals. The good news is, you’ve got some help this weekend: Men’s Health magazine sheds some light on 6 sneaky tricks you can take this Memorial Day weekend to keep holiday weight gain at bay!

1. Serve yourself from the kitchen counter: Rather than passing food around the table (and then for seconds and thirds!), set the food at a serving counter. Turns out, merely putting that extra distance between you and the food actually makes you contemplate if you actually want those seconds! MH says “Researchers at Cornell University found that when people served themselves from the kitchen counter or the stove, they ate up to 35 percent less food than they did when the grub was on the kitchen or dining room table.”

2. Get just the right amount of sleep: while this is definitely much easier said than done, getting too little or too much sleep actually seems to have a direct impact on your diet plans. While the real effects here come from your sleeping habits over a long period of time and one weekend will likely not make a big difference, if you do have big plans this weekend, note that people running on too little sleep (<5 hours/night) tend to eat more because they’re tired (whereas people who, over a longer period of time, who sleep >8 hours/night tend to be less active). MH cites these statistics from a study done by Wake Forest University over the course of 5 years: “In the under-40 age group, people who slept 5 hours or less each night gained nearly 2½ times as much abdominal fat as those who logged 6 to 7 hours; also, those who slept 8 hours or longer added nearly twice as much belly fat as the 6- to 7-hour group.”

3. Watch how you watch TV: Many studies have linked excessive TV watching with weight gain – but if you’ve got some shows you just don’t want to miss, try multi-tasking: for example, even washing dishes will burn 70 calories in 30 minutes. Or try cutting your TV watching time just a little: MH tells us that researchers at the University of Vermont found “overweight participants who cut their viewing time in half (from an average of 5 hours to 2.5) burned an extra 119 calories a day. “Nearly anything you do—even reading—uses more energy than watching TV,” says study author Jennifer J. Otten, Ph.D.”

4. Stop the soda: Carbonated soft drinks are one of the biggest sources of calories in the American diet. MH tells us some startling statistics: “versus people who don’t drink sweetened sodas, here’s what your daily intake means:

½ can = 26 percent increased risk of being overweight or obese
½ to 1 can = 30.4 percent increased risk
1 to 2 cans = 32.8 percent increased risk
More than 2 cans = 47.2 percent increased risk”

5. Keep bites small: MH finds: “Dutch researchers recently found that big bites and fast chewing can lead to overeating. In the study, people who chewed large bites of food for 3 seconds consumed 52 percent more food before feeling full than those who chewed small bites for 9 seconds.” Turns out tasting the food for longer helps you feel more satiated and less likely to indulge in more!

6. Make sure you eat enough fat: Researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham found that swapping a few hundred calories that you normally consume of carbs into a little fat can help you feel much more satiated and maintain your blood insulin levels. MH tells us that “People in their study who consumed just 43 percent of their calories from carbohydrates felt fuller after 4 hours and maintained their blood-sugar levels longer than those who ate 55 percent carbs.

Carbs can cause blood-sugar levels to spike and then crash, leading to hunger and overeating, says study author Barbara Gower, Ph.D. Fat, on the other hand, keeps you satiated longer. Some easy swaps: butter instead of jam on toast; bacon instead of potatoes; low-fat milk instead of a sports drink.”


Trying to kick a soda habit?

We’ve all got our caffeine fixes, varying from tea to coffee to soda. While it’s easy to say that tea is definitely the healthiest, coffee offers health benefits too, and soda – well, no really benefits there…it can be a little more difficult to actually follow that mantra, if you’re a soda lover. The purpose of this post isn’t to talk about immense sugar intake that occurs with regular soda or the potential health concerns over consuming diet soda, but rather to come up with some alternatives to try, if you share similar concerns or are even struggling to kick your habit!

Introducing a truly delicious soda alternative: Steaz Sparkling Green Tea!

At zero calories, this satisfying sparkling beverage satiates your sweet tooth (sweetened ‘naturally’ with stevia and erythritol, a natural sugar alcohol) and gives you a slight caffeine bump from the green tea. Not only that, the bubbly beverage also boasts 120mg antioxidants and is fortified with vitamin B12, which helps improve your mood, your energy levels, and mental fog. While fortified vitamins are not exactly as beneficial as actual vitamins or foods that naturally contain them, and these natural sweeteners are not necessarily better than no sweetener at all – it certainly can be argued that if you’re going to indulge in a soda fix, this sparkling beverage is most definitely a healthier alternative!

The sparkling green tea zero calorie beverage currently comes in 4 flavors: black cherry, orange, raspberry and blueberry pomegranate, and all are pretty equally delicious! The company, Steaz, has other beverage products as well, including energy beverages and iced teas – but this zero-calorie option is definitely my favorite fix.

Soon to be available to purchase on their own website, these Steaz teas can also be purchased at all Whole Foods locations!

For more healthy soda alternatives, check our Rodale’s slideshow: the 8 best ‘healthy’ sodas! (Steaz is featured as #1!)

Food-Labeling Tricks to Watch out for!

I can’t be alone in thinking that it can be incredibly difficult to healthily navigate a grocery store these days. I know I’m pretty safe in produce, but as I move into the aisles there are labels claiming all sorts of wonderful benefits: high in fiber! no sugar added! organically grown! no trans fats! – while all of these sound fantastic, it’s not always the full story.

The Huffington Post has done a little digging and come up with the top ten food labeling tricks that companies like to use – and how to call their bluff. 

1. No Trans Fats: Legally, “on labels anything less than 0.5 grams of trans fat — a “bad” fat that’s been linked to heart disease and other conditions — can be legally rounded down to zero.” What!? So that means if you have several servings of something (how often do we stick to just one) or multiple foods that have been rounded down, you could easily be consuming a significant amount of these bad fats. The solution? Check ingredient lists and avoid anything that contains partially hydrogenated oils.

2. Multigrain: great, right? Must be synonymous with whole grain? Wrong. It simply means what is says: more than one kind of grain has been used in this products making – which could be whole or refined. What to do? Check the ingredient list: the first ingredient should start with “whole”. And why do we want the whole grain in the first place? Whole grains have been associated with lowered risk for heart disease, diabetes and better digestion.



3. 100% Natural: Because guidelines aren’t as strict regarding the labeling of items as “natural”, you may not actually be consuming something more wholesome. Huffington Post tells us “The FDA has no strict definition of the term, and many packaged foods claiming to be natural contain added chemicals and other substances. The USDA, which regulates meat and poultry, has a moreprecise definition (no artificial ingredients and minimally processed), but it still allows for some additives. In addition, it’s permissible to slap a “natural” label on meat and poultry from animals raised with antibiotics or hormones.” The answer? Check the ingredient list!

4. Organic: Organic products, which tend to be significantly more expensive than their conventional counterparts, can be just as high in salt, sugar or calories, low in fiber and devoid of nutrients, depending on what the product is. What’s more, they may legally contain non-organic ingredients. There are some places you should try to choose organic (or look for labels stating pesticide-free), and Dr. Oz recommends them here.

5. High in Fiber: To increase the fiber content in some foods, “many packaged foods contain added fiber with names such as inulin, maltodextrin and polydextrose.” While they do add more fiber to the nutritional information, all fibers are not created equally and you do not get the same fiber health benefits that you would from naturally high-in-fiber foods, like fruits and vegetables.

6. No High Fructose Corn Syrup: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. In order to claim there are no high fructose corn syrups in its ingredients but keep it tasting delicious, food makers will simply add some other form of sweetener. The Huffington Post reminds us that “just because a product contains an alternative to HFCS — whether sugar, fruit juice concentrate, brown rice syrup or agave nectar — doesn’t necessarily make it more healthful. All caloric sweeteners, if consumed in excess, can contribute to obesity and related health problems.”

7. Contains Sea Salt: while sea salt can contain traces of magnesium and copper, nutrients not found in table salt, in the general type added to packaged foods, these amounts are too small to pack any real benefit. And by weight, both contain about the same amount of sodium, which is what poses a health risk – so just because something contains sea salt doesn’t give the green light to indulge, the sodium still should be consumed in moderation.

8. Supports a Healthy Immune System: the Huffington Post tells us “by saying that a food “maintains” or “supports” normal functioning (such as a healthy immune system, blood pressure or cholesterol levels) instead of explicitly stating that it can treat or prevent a condition, manufacturers don’t have to provide any proof. As a result, any claims that use this type of sneaky language are best ignored.”

9. Excellent Source of Omega-3’s: Many studies have proven that fish oil is good for the heart, and consuming omega-3 fatty acids is a key term to look for to get these good oils. But it turns out you can also get omega-3’s from plant sources like flaxseed and canola oil (alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)), which is good but the health benefits are not nearly as well-documented as the omega-3s from fish oils. Thus many products containing the ALA form of omega-3’s, from mayonnaise to peanut butter, claim to be a fantastic source of these healthy fats, when you’d really be much better off getting your fish oils from fish, like salmon.

10. Serving Size: Always check the serving size, because companies love to make them quite small, resulting in a nutrition label boasting less calories, fat, sodium and sugar – when in reality you will be consuming multiples of these amounts. The Huffington Post reminds us that “snack-size” packages are especially misleading because they  “seem to be single servings. Often the fine print reveals that they contain two or three servings, making them even less healthful than they appear.”

Thanks to Robert J. Davis, Ph.D. for doing the digging here. To see the full article, click here!

4 Truths about Exercise, Diet + Weight Loss

As a follow-up to Wednesday’s post about weight loss and the barre, we are going to explore 4 truths that WebMD has uncovered (and reviewed with doctors) about some of the facts and fiction regarding diet, exercise and weight loss. And note that I say “weight loss” but really am simply referring to healthy weight maintenance – and a healthy lifestyle – in general, so these truths really are applicable to all of us, whatever our goals might be. As always, it seems to come down to the healthy balance, in the end!

1. Exercise is only part of the weight loss story: as we mentioned Wednesday, maintaining a healthy weight is really about finding that healthy combination of diet and exercise – and that for most individuals, it’s easier to cut the necessary excess calories from a bloated diet to lose weight rather than simply try to exercise them all away. Mayo Clinic research tells us that 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat, so you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound. So if you cut 500 calories from your diet each day, you’d lose about 1 pound a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories).

2. However, exercise is a must for weight maintenance: even though we keep mentioning the importance and the incredible significance that a healthy diet has on weight loss and healthy weight maintenance, it’s not to discount the benefits and effects of exercise. All of the experts at WedMD agree on one thing: “”No matter how you lose extra pounds (diet or exercise), you’re going to need to be active to keep them off.

“I come back to this over and over and over — you can’t find very many people maintaining a healthy weight who aren’t regular exercisers,” says James O. Hill, PhD, professor of pediatrics and medicine and the director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado at Denver.

“What we find is that people that focus on diet aren’t very successful in the long run without also focusing on physical activity,” Hill says. He warns that people can be “wildly successful temporarily” at losing weight through diet alone, but there’s plenty of data that show that those people regain the weight if they aren’t physically active.

“When it comes to weight, you can’t talk about diet alone and you can’t talk about exercise alone … you absolutely have to address both issues at the same time,” says Timothy Church, MD, MPH, PhD, director of preventive medicine research at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.”

3. Use calories burned as motivation rather than eating offsets: turns out, most people under-estimate their calorie intake and over-estimate the calories they burn exercising, which is a losing combination. Rather than viewing the 400 (or so) calories burned at the barre as “extra” calories banked you can splurge on, view your exercise as part of your healthy daily routine. WebMD tells refers to Kong Chen, PhD, director of the metabolic research core at the National Institutes of Health for more thoughts: “Chen suggests using calorie displays on exercise equipment for motivation, but not to offset your eating.

“For example, it doesn’t matter what it says (calories burned), 300 or 400 calories. If you do that every day or increase on that level, then you’ve achieved your purpose. But if you’re feeding yourself against that — no, I wouldn’t recommend that,” Chen says.”

You also have to keep in mind that the incremental additional calories burned is not the total number burned during your workout, because you would have burned some (much smaller) amount being sedentary as well – so the extra burn amount really becomes smaller after subtracting out the, say, 70 calories you may have burned anyways, sitting at your desk or playing with your kids. Small nuances like this are exactly why it’s not a great idea to eat the extra calories burned, because we can’t know we’re being entirely accurate with all of our estimates!

4. One daily workout may not be enough: your best bet for weight loss and healthy weight maintenance goes beyond your daily workout (although the importance of that cannot be stressed enough, either) – it’s more about an overall active lifestyle, and fighting a sedentary routine!

WebMD says “The message isn’t that the 30 minutes on the treadmill isn’t good; it’s that the 30 minutes on the treadmill isn’t going to make up for 23-and-a-half sedentary hours,” Hill says. He encourages people to weave activity throughout the day. “Do something to move and make it fun,” he says.

To see the full original article by Miranda Hitti on WedMD, click here!