Thursday, July 10, 2014

Exercise for a busy mom on a budget? Here’s what I do

Weight loss = eating right + exercise. Duh! We cover the healthy diet part on this blog all the time (see here and here, for example). Now I’d like to turn to the gettin’-your-body-movin’ part of the math.

Sometimes making exercise happen is easier said than done, especially if you have a little hellion angel around the house. A common excuse for not exercising is, “I don’t have time!” Common responses to this excuse include “You have to make time, get up earlier, make it more of a priority, etc.” I say, tell that to a busy mom! Sometimes advice for how to carve out time for exercise can come across as annoyingly preachy and out-of-touch; I bet that nine times out of ten it comes from non-moms, anyway. I’m not going to go there in this forum.
Another excuse is, “I don’t have anywhere to exercise, and I can’t afford a fancy gym.” Again, any preachy response to this = not cool. How about I just tell you what I do for exercise instead?


Love it! I try to get in some yoga whenever and wherever I can. I’m very lucky that my neighborhood community center offers free yoga classes. Also, there’s a local yoga studio that offers discounted classes – only $5 a class. Maybe you have something like that in your area? I go to the yoga studio at night sometimes when my husband can watch my daughter – it makes for nice mommy-alone time.

Also, our TV cable package offers kid-friendly yoga lessons on-demand. My daughter and I love to do those together. (She likes them so much that she has since taken her own kid-friendly yoga classes!)


Another duh! Walking is free, and you can do it almost anywhere. I work from home, so I’m lucky that it’s pretty easy to squeeze in 20-minute walks here and there. I even have some hand weights I bought at the dollar store that I carry during my walks. Also, we live right near a huge city park, so we walk over there all the time to go to the community farmers’ market, the playground, festivals or any of the other numerous activities held there.

Pool time

Speaking of our nearby city park – it has a public pool that is pretty inexpensive. This year I decided to buy a city recreational facility year pass for just around $100, which gets me into the pool whenever I want. I’m working with my daughter on her swimming, so that provides yet another opportunity for mommy-daughter activity time.

Alternative to a regular gym


That same city pass gets me into the workout room at the local community center; the room has stationary bikes, treadmills, weights, etc. It’s SO much cheaper than paying a monthly fee at a gym. I try to go during the day around lunch time. Not sure, but I bet this kind of inexpensive option might be available in other areas. For example, when I lived in Arlington, VA, years ago, I joined the community center there for really, really cheap. (I’ve also joined the Y in the past – not as cheap as the community center option, but may be less expensive as some of those fancier chain gyms.)

Kids will wear you out!

Playing with my active daughter is fun, and I count it as exercise! In addition to the TV yoga lessons and swimming, here are some of the things we do together:

·         Running up and down stairs in our house – we count each other’s laps!
·         Playing soccer or Frisbee in the background
·         Playing on the playground

Speaking of playgrounds, check out this playground workout.
Anyway, that’s what I do.

Photos courtesy of cryptic_star and Mr.TinDC and used under Creative Commons

Friday, June 20, 2014

Summertime and the grilling is tasty

At mi casa we grill all year long, even in the dead of winter, and even if there’s snow on the ground (though that doesn’t happen often here in Atlanta). But there’s no question that summer is prime grilling season. Not just because grilling is a great way to cook without the oven/stove warming up your air-conditioned house, but also because summer food is simply the best fresh food there is. Nothing beats grilled ribs or burgers with a side of fresh corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, peaches, cherries or any of the other amazing summer-prime produce. My mouth is watering just thinking about it right now – get me some corn on the cob, stat!

I got to thinking – would it be possible to put together a complete outdoor summer grilling menu made entirely of recipes that use low-calorie sweeteners? I quickly found out the answer to that question is a resounding yes. In fact, I was a little surprised at just how easily I came across all these recipes that would make up a fabulous summertime dinner. You could easily put together a menu or two with these recipes below, or make them all for one enormous party!

Take a look:

Starters, salads, sides:

Main event:

Sauces, marinades for your favorite grilled proteins and veggies:

Drinks – with and without alcohol:

Sweet endings:
I really could have kept going with these – there is a crazy number of amazing summery recipes that use low-calorie sweeteners out there!

This list has really put me in a summery mood. How about if we end on a musical note?

Monday, June 09, 2014

Trying to slim down? Research shows low-calorie sweeteners are worth a try!

Weight loss? Yes! Weight gain? No! What do I mean by that? Let me explain …

A recent study has emerged that includes evidence low calorie sweeteners can help with weight loss. The study is titled “Low-calorie sweeteners and body weight and composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohorts.” It was presented at the recent Experimental Biology 2014 Conference in San Diego, and it has been accepted for publication in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN).

The study’s abstract said, and I quote, “Overall, available evidence … indicates that LCS [low calorie sweeteners] may help reduce body weight, fat mass, and waist circumference ….”

As you know, I write for the Calorie Control Council, and I spoke recently with Council President Haley Stevens, PhD, about this study. This is how she weighed in (pun intended) on this research: “This simply analyzes years of research and numerous studies demonstrating that low calorie sweeteners can be associated with weight loss, especially if a well-balanced diet and plenty of exercise are also part of the picture. Also, the research helps discredit claims that consuming low calorie sweeteners leads to weight gain.”

Again -- weight loss? Yes! Weight gain? No!

So there you have it – again. Trying to lose weight? Go ahead and give low calorie sweeteners, and the foods and beverages sweetened with them (which include diet soda, of course), a try!

Photo courtesy of Lyn Tally and is used under Creative Commons

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Retreat from the Meat

My husband is a bit of a caveman. He has a lot of facial hair, he gets dirty a lot and he has a propensity to grunt (usually when I’m nagging him to do something). But his biggest Neanderthal tendency is his deep love for meat. He’d rather eat meat than anything else; his ideal meal is more than one kind of meat on the plate. (Unlike the caveman, though, he does prefer his meat cooked – medium rare, at least.)

To illustrate this point even further, here’s an honest-to-goodness true story: One time on our way into a local farmer’s market, I actually said to him, “You go get the meat, and I’ll get the nuts and berries.” Reverting to our ancestral hunter and gatherer roles, I suppose. Some things never change.
I actually love meat, too, so I will probably never be a vegetarian. But I do make an effort to eat mostly small amounts of meat (here’s a handy guideline on healthy amounts of meat) sourced from trusted local purveyors whenever I can. And I don’t mind eating meat-free meals every once in a while. In fact, sometimes I really enjoy meatless meals. I’m more of a carb girl, anyway.

My famous chickpea stew
So when my husband goes out of town for work, I usually take a break from the animal flesh. Things like veggie burgers (been meaning to try making homemade ones), mushrooms, nuts, beans, cheese, quinoa and pasta all satisfy me as much as meat in a meal. One of my favorite veggie dishes involves a quick chickpea stew cooked with tomatoes, onion, garlic, usually herbs and whatever other veggies I have hanging around. It’s served over couscous and topped with parmesan. Wash it all down with a cold Diet Coke, and yum! Here is another veggie recipe I found -- haven’t tried it yet, but it looks really good (except that I might add some brown rice). I haven't tried this meat-free one, either, but it looks fantastic for a light dinner.

And guess what? I’ve even convinced my devoted carnivore husband to eat a meatless meal every once in a while. Macaroni and cheese plus peas, pasta with pesto and mushrooms served over polenta are meals I’ve made for him – and he actually likes them! But of course, the next night he always goes back to pork chops, or flank steak, or ribs, or lamb, or chicken legs …

Friday, May 02, 2014

What’s in Season: Fruit and Fargo

It’s berry time! ‘Tis the season for strawberries, and we’re getting close to blueberry, blackberry and raspberry time. We’re a berry household -- we usually have some kind of berry in the fridge this time of year, and right now strawberries are the most common. Sometimes they are perfectly sweet and ready to eat, and sometimes they need just a little sprinkling of Equal to give that fresh taste a boost.

Another thing that’s in season right now in our house is good TV. We are diehard devotees of a lot of the hour-long cable dramas -- "Mad Men" (best TV show ever, IMHO!), "The Walking Dead" and "American Horror Story," to name a few. And just a few weeks ago we started watching the miniseries "Fargo," which is loosely based on the film from about 20 years ago.

So far it is berry, berry good. I’m particularly impressed by the performances of Billy Bob Thornton and Martin Freeman. (If you don’t know who Martin Freeman is, check out the original U.K. version of “The Office,” or the more recent Hobbit movies – he’s Bilbo Baggins.) And I’m intrigued by how they’re handling the character Molly Solverson, the female protagonist cop. As you may remember, in the original movie Frances McDormand played the pregnant lead cop – one of the greatest roles ever for a woman in a movie, as far as I’m concerned. As a mom, and therefore a former pregnant person, I loved the depiction of a pregnant woman being so tough.

Why am I bringing these things up? Because recently I snacked on some Equal-enhanced strawberry yummies while watching that small screen homage to crimes and misdemeanors in the frozen tundra. Quite the juxtaposition – the very essence of springtime mixed with dark, cold and dreary. Come to think of it, a lot of the TV shows I watch are dark, cold and dreary. I should probably stock up on berries, and keep the Equal on hand, to get me through those frozen "Fargo" nights.