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Snacks part 2: Best low calorie snacks... Now that we have taken a look at the best low calorie dairy snacks, it’s time to move on to part 2: Best low calorie crunchy snacks. Let’s review the basic criteria for a ‘healthy’ snack? Keep the following in mind when choosing your snacks: Offer between 100 and 200 calories Are fat-controlled (unless it’s heart-healthy unsaturated fat), providing 0 g trans fats and 3 g saturated fat or less per serving Are relatively low in sodium; strive to limit the sodium...
Mango Nutrition: Calories in Mango... About the Mango Fruit The mango is a large fruit that grows on trees in sub-tropical and tropical climates. Originating in Southeast Asia, where it has been cultivated for 4,000 years. Mango trees are actually evergreens that will grow up to 60 feet tall but fruit an average of 5 years after planting. Mango trees yield the best crops during hot, dry periods. The U.S. imports most of its mangos from Mexico, Haiti, the Caribbean and South America but grows...
Fiber versus Fiber? There are two primary types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers are the fibers that bind dietary cholesterol and carry it out of the body as well as help to stabilize blood sugar by slowing the release of sugar into your bloodstream. Soluble fiber-rich foods include oatmeal, oat bran, flaxseeds, beans, strawberries, psyllium seed and fruit pectin (citrus fruits, apples). Insoluble fibers provide roughage that speeds the elimination of feces, decreasing the time that the body is...

Pear: A Lucious Fall Fruit

In case you missed the chill in the air, the abundance of seasonal autumn produce – crisp apples, colorful squash, and pears should tell you that winter is just around the corner. Why pears? Why now? They are a truly versatile, luscious, flavorful and healthful fall fruit. Most North American pears are grown in Oregon and Washington. Though you can find some variety from August through May as some type is harvested year-round, true ‘pear season‘ begins in September/October. That is when they are most abundantly available, less expensive and flavorful. In case there is any doubt – just look at the range of skin colors among pear varieties. They match the gorgeous hues of the fall leaves: gold, russet, mauve, pale green, ginger, crimson and more.

Pear Varieties

Not a fan? Perhaps it’s because you’ve always eaten canned pears or rock hard, out-of-season green Anjou pears which are available almost year-round in supermarkets. It’s time to broaden your horizons and enjoy new varieties…as there are many. The first pear varieties to explode on the scene in September are Bosc (russet-colored and firm even when ripe), Bartlett (green and red, ultra juicy) and Comice (green with brown flecks, firm flesh). By October you can find Anjou (red and green), Concorde (pale green), Forelle (green skin spotted with red flecks) and Seckel (shiny skin, often mostly a muted green color with a patch of reddish-orange) appear…and that’s hardly a comprehensive list!

Some varieties might be harder to find in your region than others but make it your goal to try at least one new variety this season. You’ll find in-season pears to offer a firm but juicy texture and flavors that range from very sweet to tart. Use this as a guideline, but keep in mind most pears, as with many fruits and vegetables, can be eaten raw or cooked (except Bartlett).

Eating versus Cooking

Best for eating raw: Bartlett (soft, lose their shape when cooked), Comice (also juicy, very sweet, may not cook well), French butter, Anjou and Asian (‘crisp’ flesh, like an apple, good for dicing and adding to salads or using in tarts or crisps)

Best for cooking: Bosc, seckel (tiniest variety, very firm, slightly acidic) and forelle (sweet-tart, snacking or cooking)

Pear Nutrition and Health Benefits

The pear is a relatively low-calorie fruit. One medium-sized fruit, or about 175 grams, offers about 95 calories. Calories per fruit vary according to variety and size. They are fat, cholesterol and sodium-free but high in dietary fiber, providing roughly 6 grams per medium-sized fruit. Pears (and apples) contain an appreciable amount of soluble fiber, which may help to lower cholesterol levels and stabilize blood sugar levels (slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream).

Selecting and Storing

Choose firm, blemish-free, stem-on pears with unbroken skin. They ripen quickly and bruise very easily so handle with care. Store them at room temperature until they reach desired ripeness. Though you can store them in the refrigerator for a couple of days to ‘hold’ them at a certain ripeness, pears are best, and juiciest, when eaten at room temperature. They are ripe when the flesh ‘gives’ gently when pressed at the neck of the fruit.

Coping with post-Halloween candy madness

Halloween is only one day out of 365…so what’s wrong with a few pieces of candy? Absolutely nothing…and this is coming from an unofficial ‘food cop.’ Halloween is fun – for children and adults. A few sweet treats won’t do much harm. The problem isn’t just about ‘one day.’ It’s about the days after….when all of the leftover candy you have in your home is staring you in the face – from the stash you doled out to neighbors to the bucketful your little ghost brought home. If you are like most American adults, you buy what you love…just in case there are a few pieces of candy leftover. I mean, you wouldn’t want to be stuck with candy you don’t like! These strategies work great for kids but also can be modified for ‘adult children…’

The best strategy when it comes to dealing with your child’s Halloween ‘earnings’ is to have him/her pick out their absolute favorites. Of course, you should have a (limited) quantity in mind ahead of time. These treats can be doled out carefully, prudently and sparingly after meals over the next few weeks. Just limit the quantity. If you have generous neighbors that gave out large candy bars, unwrap them, cut them into small pieces and freeze them. They’ll last and defrost in a lunchbox. In general try to avoid hard nougat, toffee and taffy candies that grind into teeth and are ‘sticky’ as they are prime cavity-causers. Best bet: dark chocolate pieces which offer some antioxidant benefits and less butter-fat than milk chocolate.

Just because your child doesn’t like all of the candy he/she was given doesn’t mean they’ll part with it easily! Offer something better. This might even work with the beloved candies. Use pieces as ‘currency.’ Set a price (pieces of candy) to purchase or trade in for a new game, toy or even an outing (such as a bowling party with friends). If your child wants a treat for a treat…have him trade in a few pieces for a better choice that you buy, such as a Nabisco 100-calorie packs® (portion-controlled). Oreo Thin Wafer Crisps™, Honey Maid Cinnamon Thin Crisps™ and Chips Ahoy! Thin Crisps™ are reasonable options. Make sure to serve a snack pack with something healthy, like a glass of milk or a piece of string cheese.

To keep things in perspective, all of these treats (in quantity listed) provide approximately 100 calories:

  • 15 jelly beans/22 jelly bellies®
  • 1-oz licorice
  • 25 plain M&Ms®
  • 1 Kudos® 100-calorie bar
  • 2 Tootsie pops®
  • 5 Werther’s Original® candies
  • 13 gummy bears®
  • 10 York Peppermint Patty® bites
  • 16 pieces of candy corn
  • 4 bite-sized 3-Muskateer® candies

When planning your ‘treat’ (or your child’s treat) keep calories in mind, and in control.

What is Tempo Training?

Have you heard of it? Tempo training, once popular in the weight lifting circuit, took a back seat for a while and now is back in serious strength-training and coaching circles. Tempo training is not a new concept. It’s basically controlling and varying the speed and rhythm of each repetition of a set of strength training exercises.

Tempo Training: Basic Components

There are two essential ‘main phases’ to strength training exercises and, of course, to tempo training, the eccentric and concentric phases. The eccentric phase involves lowering a weight whereas the concentric phase involves lifting the weight (contracting the target muscle). If you use momentum to ‘hoist’ up your weight and then rapidly drop it, you are minimizing benefits, wasting time and risking injury. Two other components of tempo training are isometric ‘holds’ or short pauses that should be included when the weight is down/stretched and when the weight is ‘up’ or the muscle is contracted.

With tempo training, you are purposefully using different speeds or ‘counts’ for each main phase depending upon your fitness goals how you wish to effectively target your muscles. Generally speaking, it’s best to work with a certified personal trainer to develop a basic routine, customized for you while perfecting your form. Mix and match cadences (tempos) to create multiple lifting variations.

Imagine biceps curls. You start with straight arms. Consider curling up on a count of two, pausing for one second, lowering on a count of four and pausing for another second. As you lower the weight, you are engaging both target and ‘helper’ muscles, maximizing results. That’s tempo training! Always avoid using momentum or ‘swinging’ to help you hoist up the weights. If you can’t lift in a controlled manner, try using lighter weights.

Tempo Training and Muscle Fiber Engagement

There are two categories of muscle fibers: type I and type II. The speed or tempo you adopt when performing strength training exercises determines which type of muscle fibers are most engaged. Type I or slow-twitch fibers are working during low-intensity, sustained activities whereas type II or fast-twitch fibers are engaged during short, high-intensity bursts of activity.

Lift a weight in a slow and controlled manner during the concentric phase and you’ll target mainly type I muscle fibers. Fast, powerful concentric phases, like a quick push (pushing weight away from your body) stimulates (and grows) type II muscle fibers.

In general, super-fast concentric phases aren’t appropriate for most strength-training exercises. Increasing the speed increases the likelihood that you’ll use proper form, taking the work emphasis off of the target muscle and potentially placing undue stress on tendons and ligaments. Think of going from slow and to faster…but always very controlled.

Tempo Training: Next Steps

You’ll want to switch up your cadence, or tempo, depending upon your training goals, desired results; even the exercises you choose. In an upcoming post, I’ll delve further into the three main ‘cadences’ in tempo training: slow, normal and fast and list specific exercises appropriate for each category.