Friday, February 27, 2009

Personalized Diet Plans are Healthy

I read an interesting article compliments of CNN. They tested various diet plans to determine which diet works best. Their findings? IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER! Why is this enlightening? Because this is what I'm trying to preach... To lose weight, and more importantly, to keep it off, there is a single diet you should stick to - your own personalized diet plan.

What I mean by this is simple - don't trust the fads out there that say their new plan is the best way to lose weight. Bar none, the best way is to eat healthy and exercise. Plain and Simple. Black and White. If you find healthy foods that you love, you will be able to start a trend that is not only worth continuing, but you will want to continue because you're not torturing yourself with a temporary solution that won't last.

Tailor your diet to the foods you want to eat day in and day out. But remember (and this was the important part about the study mentioned above), don't over consume. People tend to over analyze weight loss when in reality it's simple. Burn more calories than you eat. That's it, that's the magic formula. Whether you like steaks and chicken and want to go towards the high protein, low carb diet or are unwilling to give up pasta and bread, find what diet works best for you. Do you think you can created a personalized diet plan that abides by this fundamental idea?

Don't intellectualize weight loss, remember the golden rule - watch your caloric consumption. Just don't think that means your diet can consist of candy. Really try to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole wheat and raw foods. I'm not saying you need to eat just a raw foods diet, but I mentioned it before - a good general rule of thumb is the less ingredients the better. Why? Because that means less processing, less chemicals, less bad stuff, more good and natural stuff.

Nature provides the best and most pure solutions for all sorts of problems, including a nutritional diet. But I'm not limiting the benefits of nature to food. Some of the most elegant engineering ideas stemmed from nature observations. Heck, think about some of our medical advancements and tools. I think in 20-30 years we will have a much better understanding of the human brain, and will have machines that interface with your brain to do amazing stuff. Put simply, this world and all its living things are a work of pure art. So consume that art - preferably in a delicious vegetative form.

Didn't mean to get too much off topic there, so here's the moral of the story. Find your own personalized diet plan that fits your needs - and your wants. There are a ton of choices in your local grocery store, so exhaust your options to find your optimal weight loss plan. Remember, stick to healthy diet plans and you will lose weight. The principle is simple enough, and I know it can be hard to follow through - but if you are truly dedicated, you will succeed!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Antioxidant Foods List

Healthy eating is the key to feeling great, and antioxidant foods should be part of every nutritious diet. Many people have heard of antioxidants, but rarely can they explain what they are or what types of fruits and vegetables contain high volumes of them. However they really aren't that mysterious - at the most basic level antioxidants are vitamins and minerals. They can be found in foods high in vitamin A, C and E as well as beta carotene rich foods such as carrots.

Antioxidants play a crucial role in your overall nutrition and have been known to help in reducing high blood pressure, preventing cancer, fighting off heart disease and strengthening your immune system. This is important because many of the aforementioned ailments, and other degenerative diseases are known to be expedited by the oxidation of healthy cells. I always recommend that you get your vitamins through food and drink instead of supplements, but if it is difficult for you to eat properly its always a good idea to help your body out with an antioxidant supplement.

Foods that are antioxidant rich aid in the prevention of oxidation reactions (clever name, huh?). Let's start with the concept of oxidation reactions. These occur frequently, and when such reactions take place the molecule that undergoes the reaction will lose an electron in its valence shell. If you can think back to HS chemistry you may remember that the valence shell is the outer electron shell of the atom - for the most part, the atom will want 8 electrons in this shell to be 'happy' or stable.

So back to the reactions... The loss of the electron due to the oxidation process will produce what are known as free radicals - molecules that have unpaired electrons in their outer shell, which makes them unstable and highly reactive. These are the 'bad guys' that can cause a chain reaction that leads to the damaging of healthy cells. Antioxidants essentially take the place of would-be healthy cells and help to end these chain reactions.

Measuring the amount of antioxidant power in your foods is not as simple as one might think, but the standard metric is oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC).

Now that we've got through a simple chemistry lesson, let's take a look at this healthy antioxidant foods list along with quick tips that you can use to incorporate these foods into your diet:


The antioxidant rich agent in this food is lycopene. I chose to put this first on the list of healthy antioxidants because unlike the majority of other antioxidant food, the cooking process actually enhances the health effects. Usually raw foods and unprocessed foods are the healthier option, but this is quite the convenient exception since pasta is a staple meal in American (and obviously Italian) diets. So feel good about using either raw or processed tomato products, such as sauces, pastes and ketchup.

acai berries Acai Berries

I'll discuss all other berries next, but I felt the need to put acai berries second on this antioxidant list due to their relatively unknown status in the U.S. If you're an observant shopper, you probably have seen acai juice products hitting the market, but they are generally a little more expensive and no where near as common as most other exotic fruit juices. The actual acai berry does not ship well unless they are freeze dried soon after harvesting. These berries grow wild in the palm trees of the Amazon rain forest, so this is no easy task.

While I can't say I've tasted the acai berry, I've had several juices and they are quite delicious. I've read somewhere that the taste is described as a mixture between blueberries and chocolate, and I have to say this is fairly accurate. I don't think it's a strong chocolate taste, but it is much more rich than you're normal berry juice.

If you are a smart shopper, you can find worthwhile products online - just be aware that there are lots of acai scams, just do some research and read fine print before you make any purchases. But if you can get your hands on this fruit, I highly recommend it because they are one of the best in terms of antioxidants.

Mixed BerriesBerries

I don't know if any one fruit generality can compete with berries for antioxidant power. Along with acai berries, we have blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries... it's all good! And if you're looking for an easy way to get a cup or two of fruit into your body quickly, grab an immersion blender and whip up a fruit smoothie with some orange juice (another healthy choice with antioxidant power).

Chinese Apple - Pomegranate Pomegranates

Also known as the chinese apple, this super fruit has provided beneficial nutrients and antioxidants for thousands of years. Initial studies have shown that drinking pomegranate juice can help to reduce blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular and heart disease. More research is needed to prove these arguments, however everyone can agree that adding this to your diet will give you an energy boost. Pomegranate juice, such as POM wonderful, is a little bit expensive but the juice is very sour and concentrated so you can use it sparingly or mix with other fruit beverages for a cool and refreshing drink.

Kale and Leafy Greens Dark Green Vegetables

Broccoli, Spinach, Kale, Sprouts... All solid options. These are probably the hardest to incorporate into your kid's diet (or maybe even your own!). One thing I like to do is add these into a one-dish meal instead of as a side dish. For example, put spinach or small slices of broccoli into your pasta dishes. I personally love broccoli by itself, but I find this is a great way to get spinach into my diet.

Another easy way to sneak these super foods into your body is in the form of a smoothie! You can mask the flavor with a sweeter fruit, such as a granny smith apple, but you still retain the vitamins and nutrients of the green.

Red beans Beans

How about a nice bowl of chili? You'd really get a punch of antioxidant power with both kidney beans and tomato sauce in a single dish. Black beans, red beans and pinto beans are also good varieties. Not only do these give you antioxidant benefits, but they are also high in fiber and protein which will help to fill you up with good calories.

red wine Red Wine

This is probably the most well known antioxidant drink, and it is definitely good for you in moderation. This is also a nice pairing with tomato based dishes. The red grapes that make up the red wine are the source of nutrition for this drink.

Green Tea Green Tea

In terms of antioxidant power versus caloric content, this has to rank #1. That's because there's basically no calories (unless of course you add sugar and cream).

Dark Chocolate Dark Chocolate

Here is your option for indulgence, but again, in moderation. I love dark chocolate compared to milk chocolate, so I was pretty happy to hear there are some health benefits to eating this delectable treat.

Hopefully this list of antioxidant foods will give you a jump start to including antioxidant rich foods in your diet. While this list is not entirely comprehensive, there are several easy to obtain and delicious foods that you should pick up your next visit to the grocery store. Like I mentioned before, start off simple by adding a few ingredients to your daily intake, and in the long run you will have transformed to a mostly healthy diet that will aid in losing weight and a greater sense of well-being.

Here's to healthy eating and fighting the good fight against free radicals.


Sunday, February 8, 2009

Online Workout Videos: Cardio Workout

In a world where nearly everything can be found on the internet, why not use this virtual space to help your weight loss goals?

Instead of immediately joining a gym or buying a bunch of DVDs, just go on YouTube and search for cardio workout, online workout videos, or dance workout videos (depending on what you're looking for). You'll find a plethora of free exercise workout videos that you can follow in the comfort of your own home.

Like most people, I need some form of entertainment or distraction that makes the time go by quickly while working out. That's why I love the internet - I can sit in front of my HDTV with my favorite TV show or movie on while I'm burning some extra calories next to my laptop. Or I'll put on an iTunes playlist that gets me energized and helps to motivate me for a workout.

For a beginner's workout, start off by doing some cardio a few times a week, for 15-30 minutes per session. Then slowly work your way up to longer sessions.

I'll be completely honest, cardio workouts are probably my least favorite part of a solid workout regime, but I encourage people to find something that gets their blood pumping that they enjoy. For instance, I tend to not like running because I think it's somewhat boring - but I love playing basketball. I'd rather work up a sweat playing basketball for 2 hours than go on a 1-mile run.

Maybe you enjoy to dance, and would rather burn calories by putting on your favorite house music and dance around your house for an hour. The actual type of workout you choose is no where near as important as finding something that gets your blood pumping and puts your body in motion.

Many people say they don't have time to fit in a workout - I say find the time to do the little things that will add up, if you truly can't set aside an entire hour for working out. If you go to the grocery store, park near the back and walk the extra 100 yards instead of searching for 10 minutes for the closest spot. Grab a gallon of milk and do a few bicep curls before putting it into your cart. If you have kids, take them for a walk and go to the park with them. If you're at the mall, take a lap around the place instead of going to one store.

But again, if you prefer to get your workout in at home, peruse the computer for some simple online workout videos - whether they be cardio, yoga, dancing, abs, etc. There is a plethora of information out there that is easily accessible, it's up to you to go and find it!

Here's an example of a dance workout video - check it out below... It's a little complicated for my liking (and I'm a guy so I wouldn't be caught dancing to Paula Abdul unless I was completely drunk!) but if it floats your boat, might as well give it a try.

So everyone - keep on working on yourself, stick to a healthy diet for weight loss and don't forget to check out an exercise workout video online!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Immersion Hand Blender

I have to say, one of the best purchases I have made to date is my immersion hand blender. In my situation, I just don't have the money or space for a crapload of kitchen gadgets and tools, so I like to get some bang for my buck when shopping. And in my opinion, you can't beat the power and convenience of one of these guys for the price, as compared to the normal kitchen-top variety.

The theme of this blog is a healthy diet for weight loss, and an immersion blender makes it easy to create fresh and healthy meals or snacks in a flash.

One of my favorite uses of this hand blender is to make drinks. Throw in a mix of your favorite fruits, along with a little non-fat milk and you have a healthy and delicious concoction that will no doubt aid in your weight loss plans. My personal favorite is strawberry and banana, what a classic.

If you prefer savory snacks, use the blender to whip up some popular dips. In my opinion, there is not much that is better than some baked tortillas with fresh guacamole and salsa. This is a great option for gameday if you want to impress some friends with a snack spread that wasn't 100% bagged and canned.

And here's a simple weight loss tip - Don't use cheese or store-bought nachos! The cheese is self explanatory - the avocado will provide good fat, so there is no need for more (remember, it's these little tidbits that really add up, you just need to abide by them). But what about the nachos? I know it's easy to pick up tortilla chips, but why not just buy tortillas and cut, season and bake them yourself? You are using a more natural ingredient which is always a healthy alternative.

Another tremendous dip to make with an immersion hand blender is hummus. This simple and classic appetizer is comprised mainly of chickpeas, usually with some tahini paste (from the sesame seed). This is another great recipe to make at home instead of buying at the store - there are minimal ingredients, there is no cooking time, so you might as well go for the wholesome components and DIY!

How about making your own soup out of a few ingredients on a cold winter day instead of cracking open a can of liquid salt? The stick blender is perfect for this as well. One of my favorite recipes is for pea soup. If you have an onion, frozen peas, chicken stock and a little oil/butter, you can make a wicked pea soup in less than 30 min. Might as well break out the big pot to freeze it so you always have a homemade, healthful starter on hand at all times.

I may sound like I'm trying to promote this item, and I kind of am! Bottom line is this - if you have a few simple tools to make the process of making a healthy meal easier, that's one step in the right direction. I will repeat this theme over and over - it doesn't take an epic change, just a little exploration to find flavorful healthy foods, a little desire and smarts.

One of my biggest pet peeves are people who solely shop based on price. Now I realize in such a bad economic time I shouldn't frown upon people for this, but much like other decisions, there are trade-offs that should be made beforehand. You should think about the health factor as well! So many people neglect this and choose to save $0.20 on a product instead of buying the whole grain variety.

I highly recommend everyone spends a few extra minutes perusing the nutritional facts and ingredient lists of the foods they buy next time they are at the grocery store. Being inquisitive leads to research which leads to educated and smart decisions. But it doesn't even have to be that complicated - general rule of thumb is the less ingredients, the better.

So 'til next time, continue to be smart about what you eat. Make a promise to yourself to start the process of developing a healthy lifestyle. Remember to maintain a healthy diet that you LOVE! The weight loss will only follow if you are committed, and the easiest way to commit is to enjoy and believe in what you're doing. I promise you, while it's difficult to not give in to some temptations, there are TONS of healthy foods that I'm sure you will find delectable. Continue to explore.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How to Lose Weight, the Healthy Way

Nowadays, everyone is looking for a way to lose weight quickly. I'm not saying it can't happen - but I think we all know this is not the best way to keep the weight off, and it's not the healthiest weight loss method by any means.

The key to weight loss over time is a healthy diet, or more accurately a healthy lifestyle. Diet usually implies a 'temporary fix'. This is not what we want, though. We want changes that will become habitual, and therefore greatly increase your chance of achieving your weight loss goals.

The problem - most people don't like the idea of change, or think they need to reinvent themselves for this change to occur. In reality, the easiest way to alter your lifestyle is through small but consistent healthy lifestyle changes.

Don't become overwhelmed - this can be simple! Here's a few examples:
  • Love baked goods? Try using Splenda instead of sugar for a healthy alternative.
  • Don't want to throw away your Mom's meatloaf recipe? Sprinkle in rolled oats to boost the nutritional value.
  • Chocolate ice cream calling your name? Try a recipe that uses whole milk instead of all heavy cream.
Get the idea?

Here is one of the best weight loss tips for beginners when it comes to changing your daily lifestyle...

Seriously sit back a week or two and analyze every single meal you have and ask yourself one question with each bite - What substitutions can I make to ensure this meal is healthier next time I have it? When you sit back, read nutrition data and gain a better understanding of the components of your meal, you can then create a healthy weight loss plan.

The great part about this method is you still eat all your favorite meals and the foods you love! You're not going from burgers and fried chicken to tofu and a celery stick, it's more like turkey burgers and baked chicken. If you make a conscious effort while shopping and preparing your meals, you will transform your daily regime into a healthy diet weight loss plan without even realizing the major change you have made.

The beauty of being healthy is not just in the ego factor (although we all know that can be nice, too!), but it's realizing how wonderful nature really is. I am by no means a vegetarian, but I think it's amazing that there are a plethora of high quality dietary options that grow from the ground, and you really can't go wrong with any type of earthly vegetation.

But back to this project - I plan to outline specific healthy weight loss tips and healthy weight loss programs that you can employ to better your body shape today. With each post, I will provide you with easy substitutions or tangible advice that you can use as fuel to light your fire for a healthy lifestyle. And of course, I will explain why such changes are healthy, easy and delicious.