Change Your Choices

Change Your Life…Tips for a healthier you

Another Winning Recipe!

I have been testing new recipes all week and am quite surprised at how well they turned out.  I’m mostly surprised because almost all have been meatless, low calorie, high fiber, low sodium, and very few processed ingredients. AND–they taste awesome!  I have been a lifelong vegetable avoider and have finally decided to embrace the produce department.

I found the basic recipe on allrecipes.com and added my own twist.  Yes, I am taking recipes, adding a twist- and it works!

Stuffed Green Peppers- Greek Style

  •                     1/2 cup uncooked brown rice*
  •                      1 cup vegetable broth
  •                     2 green (or whatever color you want) bell peppers, halved and seeded (cut vertically, not just taking the top off)
  •                     1 tablespoon olive oil
  •                     1 small onion, minced
  •                      1 tbl. minced garlic
  •                     1 teaspoon dried basil
  •                     1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  •                     1 teaspoon salt
  •                     1 pinch ground black pepper
  •                     1 tomato, diced
  •                      1/2 cup sliced black olives
  •                     1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
 Directions:
-Preheat oven to 400.  Spray cookie sheet with non-stick spray or wipe with a bit of olive oil
-Prepare brown rice per recipe below.  Brown Rice can be difficult but it is worth it.  If you don’t have time, white rice will work, prepare according to directions on the box.
1.    Place the peppers cut-side down on the prepared baking sheet. Roast 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until tender and skin starts to brown.
2.    While the peppers are roasting, heat oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the onions, basil, Italian seasoning, garlic, salt, and pepper in oil for 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the tomato and black olives,  cook for 5 minutes. Spoon in the cooked rice, and stir until heated through. Remove from heat, mix in the feta cheese, and spoon the mixture into the pepper halves.
 3. Return to the oven for 5 minutes. Top with a bit more of the feta cheese and serve immediately.

*How to make Brown Rice

  • Put brown rice and vegetable broth (or water) together in a pot with a lid.
  • Set the heat to maximum, and bring the rice/water to a boil uncovered.  Then put the lid on the pot, and reduce the heat to low/simmer.  If your lid has a steam valve, keep it closed.  Let the rice simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, and let the rice sit in the covered pot for another 10 minutes.  It’s OK if you let the rice sit longer than 10 minutes (20 or 30 minutes is fine too), but don’t let it go any less.  I prefer my rice to be slightly chewy, not mushy, so I usually remove the lid after 10 minutes

Calories if you eat a whole pepper approximately 385.  I only ate one half and saved the other for lunch the next day.  I served it with a crusty parmesan tomato bread from the bakery topped with a bit of olive oil.  This added about 160 calories.  Total- 352!  Woo-hoo, that means I can have small cup of ice cream before bed!

Not mine, but similar

 

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Ouch! My anterior tibialis hurts.

It sounds pretty scary when the medical term is used but what I’m suffering from is shin splints.  A shin splint is pain in the lower front part of the leg along the shin bone.  This is a fairly common type of muscle trauma and it seems to hit at any given time.  Even a small change in your routine can cause this pain.

I walk, cycle, and lift weights several times a week, usually indoors over the past few months.  The weather is finally getting nice so I went outside to walk which is the cause of this pain.  Any change of surface affects your stride, foot strike, and movement which stresses different muscles and bones.  Instead of easing into this change of pavement, I walked for an hour on Sunday.  And not just a walk, it was with my daughter and her dog, a big Doberman who made  us keep up a fast pace the whole time.  I think dogs are one of the best pieces of exercise equipment a person can have!  Too bad I only have cats, they are only good for stretching.  (and they aren’t much help with that, either)

Another reason for this shin pain?  Lack of warm-up and cool down stretching.  We were so anxious to get out and go that we skipped the basics.  Lots of people will be heading outside to walk, run, garden, etc. without taking the proper precautions and will be really sore for a few days after.  While you can’t entirely avoid sore muscles (especially if you have been dormant all winter) taking a few minutes before and after will prevent some of the pain.

What should you do when you get shin splints? Rest it the best treatment but I hate to rest and waste the few nice days we get each year.   I also need to keep burning calories to make up for how much I eat! If rest is not an option, try some low or no-impact activities like cycling or swimming until your shins feel better.  Ice packs are good and some light stretching will help.

I’m sure my shin splints are from taking such a long walk, but I think it’s time to get some new shoes as well.

Have you looked at your workout shoes lately?  They could also cause more harm than good when they start to wear out. As a general rule, most running and walking shoes last up to 500 miles. How and where  you use your shoes could alter that number. For example, pavement wears down shoes faster than a track, a trail or gravel. Also keep in mind that shoes with an EVA midsole tend to wear down faster than shoes with a polyurethane midsole. I tend to replace mine every 6 months but there are better ways to determine if you need new shoes.

Do the Press Test:

To determine if the midsoles of your shoes are compressed and are no longer providing cushioning, do the press test. Using your thumb, push on the outsole upward into the midsole. With new shoes, it should be easy to see the midsole compress into lines or wrinkles. As the shoe wears down, the midsole compresses less with the same amount of pressure. When the midsole shows heavy compression lines and the press test reveals a  minimal amount of compression, there is little or no cushioning left.

Look at Your Shoes:

Don’t worry about how dirty they are. That’s a good thing. It means you’ve been using them. What you should be concerned with is general wear and tear. Take a look at your shoes. Are the heels stretched out? Are places on the outsoles worn down? Can you see how the shoes have molded to your foot? These are all signs of excessive wear.

How Do They Feel?

Your body will know when there is little or no cushioning left in your shoes. If you  notice any aches or pains in your feet, legs, knees, hips or back after you’ve worn your  shoes, it’s a good sign that you need a new pair. Other signs include friction or blisters in unexpected places, which means your shoes have stretched and your feet are moving around too much.

It’s time to get up and move around, Ouch- those shins are going to hurt.  As a trainer once told me- pain is the bad stuff leaving your body.

Get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather!

My walking partner needed to rest as well!

 

 

 

 

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Awesome recipe for Meatless Monday

I was asked to share Meatless Monday recipes before Monday so you would have time to shop and prepare so we had Meatless Sunday at our house.   I also wanted to eat something lower calorie and healthy to make up for the Culver’s Sundae I was craving and knew I would have later in the day!

I have been getting recipes from a couple different sources e-mailed to me each day which has led to quite a bit of experimenting and new stuff.  Again, I am fortunate that my husband is not at all fussy and will eat anything that is served.  I am the fussier eater as I’m not much into seafood or vegetables but I have been eating lots of both lately and discovering that I might actually like more things that I previously thought! Whew- that was a long run-on sentence, I hope it makes sense.  Anyway, here is the recipe from EatingWell.com via WebMD. I added my own comments in italics. Also- this recipe is not as complicated as it seems and didn’t take an hour, closer to 30 minutes.  Start the onions, get the mushrooms going, then do the spinach/beans when the mushrooms are almost done instead of doing everything separately.

Portobello Mushrooms with Spinach, White Beans & Caramelized Onions

WebMD Recipe from EatingWell.com

Picture of Portobello Paillards with Spinach
 This is their version with the correct beans.  Mine was similar.

Portobello mushrooms are so meaty that even carnivores will be satisfied with this lusty vegetarian dish. Instead of pounding the caps, we weigh them down in the skillet to flatten them while they cook.

Servings: 4

Yield: 4 servings

Total Time: 1 hour (It did not take and hour.  Probably 30 mins.)

Prep Time: 1 hour (again- 30 mins total, not sure why it would take an hour)

Recipe Ingredients:

  1. 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  2. 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  3. 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
  4. 1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  5. 1/3 cup 1% milk (I used almond milk, I’m sure water would work, too)
  6. 1/2 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
  7. 4 Portobello mushroom caps, 3-4 inches in diameter ( I only had 3 and it was plenty for 2 people)
  8. 3 cloves garlic, minced ( I used the already cut stuff in a jar to save time)
  9. 1 pound spinach, tough stems removed
  10. 1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed (uh-oh, no canellini so I used garbanzos- good substitute but will try canellini next time)
  11. 3/4 cup vegetable broth
  12. 1/2 cup grated Manchego, Gruyere or Parmesan cheese ( I used shredded parm)

 

Recipe Steps:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Reduce heat to very low, season with 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until caramelized, about 15 minutes Transfer to a bowl and keep warm. (I just left them in the pan, this recipe dirties enough dishes as it is!)
  2. Meanwhile, place milk in a small bowl and place breadcrumbs on a large plate. Dip each mushroom cap in milk, then dredge in the breadcrumbs.
  3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, gill-side down. Place a heavy, heatproof plate or pie pan on top of the mushrooms and cook until golden brown, pressing down on the plate periodically to flatten them, about 6 minutes. (I used a smaller frying pan to press down). Add 1 tablespoon oil to the pan and turn the mushrooms over. Replace the plate and cook, pressing the plate once or twice, until the mushrooms are golden brown and cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes more. Remove from heat; cover to keep warm.
  4.  (Do this while the mushrooms are cooking!) Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 20 to 30 seconds. Add spinach and cook, stirring, until just wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in beans, broth and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper and 1/8 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, 1 to 2 minutes.
  5. Cut each mushroom into thin slices and serve over the spinach. Top with the reserved onions and cheese.

I used a slotted spoon to dish up the beans/spinach mixture, then added sliced mushrooms topped with onions then cheese.  This looked very impressive and tasted fantastic!  We both had a hearty serving and there was enough left for my husband to have seconds. I was going to serve some crusty bread but the beans are quite filling so you really don’t need anything else with this dish.

 

Recipe Nutrition:

Per serving: 358 calories; 17 g fat (3 g saturated fat, 11 g mono unsaturated fat); 5 mg cholesterol; 44 g carbohydrates; 15 g protein; 11 g fiber; 755 mg sodium; 1382 mg potassium

Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin A (220% daily value), Vitamin C (70% dv), Folate (66% dv), Potassium (39% dv), Iron (30% dv), Calcium (25% dv).

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Why Use a Foam Roller?

Yesterday I talked about the torture device that is otherwise known as a foam roller.  Why on earth would a person use something that causes so much physical discomfort?  Now that I know the details and have been using it for a few weeks, I can honestly say it is worth it.

Are you currently suffering from knee pain? Do you feel tension in your knees or hips when you walk up or down stairs? Does your lower back feel tight, or even hurt, when you have done a lot of cardio or leg-work? Do you have joint pain when squatting down to pick up objects on the ground? If you answered yes to any of these questions- or even if you didn’t,  you should think about lengthening and loosening your leg muscles and their fibers using a foam roller.

A warning- if you have never used a foam roller it might be incredibly painful.  This is especially important if you are very heavy or not able to hold up a portion of your body weight.  You might want to work with a trainer if you are a beginner.  Remember, the more painful it is, the more you need it.  And it really does get better.  Not enjoyable, but better!

Most people (including me) use the roller after a workout, but research shows that it is also beneficial before a workout to ensure joints remain pain free during that lengthy squat series or  long run.

I found this great workout at realjock.com:

General Instructions As you foam roll along muscles and tissue, you will run into knots or areas where the muscle fibers have tightened up and actually started to bond together. You will know when you find them because each one will feel like a painful speed bump as you roll over it. At these points, try to sit directly on top of the tight area (still on the foam roller) and count to 20 slowly. Often, you will actually be able to feel the fibers gradually release and spread open. While on the foam roller, try your best to maintain deep, relaxing breaths while keeping the area/muscle being rolled completely relaxed (don’t flex it!).

FOAM ROLLER LEG STRETCHES
Iliotibial Band (IT Band)
Lie on your side on the floor and place the foam roller perpendicular to your body under your lower hip. Let your upper leg either lie in front of your lower leg with your upper foot on the floor, or, to really put some weight on the lower leg and dig deep, stack your upper leg directly on top of your lower leg. Propped up and walking on your elbows, slowly start to roll the foam roller down your IT band towards your knee, remember to stop and hold for a 20 count on each knot. Roll all the way until you reach the side of your knee. Repeat on opposite leg.
Hip Flexors (Iliopsoas)
Lie face down, again with the foam roller perpendicular to your body, but with just the very end portion of the foam roller under your right hip flexors (where your right pants pocket is). Propped up on elbows and toes, you want your left leg to be hanging free off the end of the foam roller. Now, slowly roll across your right pocket-area from your belt line down to the bottom of the pocket. Do one side, then switch to your left hip flexor and repeat.
Quadriceps (Center, Outer/Lateral, Inner/Medial)
Treat this the same as your hip flexors and only do one leg at a time while the other leg hangs free off the end of the foam roller. As with the hip flexors, start face down on the roller, with one leg on the roller at the hip and the other leg free. Since your quads are such a large area of muscle, roll straight down the center of your leg. Next, roll down both the outside and inside 45-degree angle of the quad for both legs. Start at the hip and slowly roll towards the knee with each leg and angle, stopping for 20 counts on all adhesions/knots.
Shins (Anterior Tibialis)
This one is great for runners and people who experience shin splints. Place the foam roller perpendicular to your body and kneel over the roller so that both shins are on top of the roller. Sit your butt to your heels, with your knees off the floor and your hands in front of the foam roller on the floor for balance. The muscle you are trying to roll is found directly to the outside of your shin bone (tibia) on each leg. Shift your weight to the outside of your right leg and roll that muscle from knee to ankle, then shift weight to the left leg and repeat.
Inner Thigh (Adductors)
This one can be a tough area to hit, but if your adductors (inner thighs) are tight, you will definitely be able to help them open up. Propped up in a plank position on your elbows and toes, lay the foam roller at a 45-degree angle to your body. Open your right knee out (externally rotating your leg at your hip), and lay your right inner thigh on the foam roller just above the knee. Then slowly roll the foam roller from your knee up your inner thigh, as high as you can comfortably go, keeping as much weight on the roller as possible. Swap and repeat on opposite leg.
Calves (Center, Outer/Lateral, Inner/Medial)
Sit tall on the floor with the foam roller perpendicular to your legs and lying underneath the top portion of your calves. Start with the left leg by crossing the right leg across the left, resting the right leg directly on top of the left leg’s shin in order to put more weight on the leg being rolled. Slowly roll down towards your ankle. Try to roll the center portion and the inner and outer portion of each calf on each leg (like we did with the quadriceps). If you can also lift your butt off the ground using your hands to put more weight/force on the calves, you will get a better stretch. However, people’s arms often get too tired to support their bodies for a long time with this method. You can also try pointing and flexing your ankle when you find tough knots in order to help the fibers open and expand. Repeat this movement on each calf.
Hamstrings
Hamstrings can be extremely dense and tight, and therefore a foam roller usually isn’t hard enough to help open these muscles. To solve this problem, you should work with a denser and smaller object, such as a baseball or lacrosse ball. Start in a seated position on the edge of a firm surface (this must be a solid surface like a wooden bench instead of a padded workout bench) so that your legs can hang freely off the edge without touching the ground. Then lift one thigh and place the hard ball directly under the tightest section of your hamstring. (If you are unsure which area of your hamstring is the tightest, stand up and with straight legs bend over and touch your toes. You should be able to feel which area of the hamstring tightens up the quickest and limits your ability to touch the ground. Place your fingers on this area and then place the ball directly underneath that area once you return to your seat.) Once you have the ball under the tight area, lean forward so that you have some pressure on the ball and slowly straighten your knee on the leg being stretched so that the fibers are forced to move and expand around the ball. Then slowly allow your knee to bend back to the rest position. Lengthen your knee for five reps at each of five tight points on the back of each hamstring. You can also use your hand to place additional pressure on the leg being stretched while you bend and straighten your knee. Place as much pressure on it as you can handle. To find additional tight spots, stand up and try to touch your toes again with straight legs, placing your fingers on the limiting area of your hamstrings.
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Foam Roller- a great torture device

I was introduced to the foam roller about a year ago when I bought one at the Cellcom Green Bay Marathon.  No, I’m not a participant, I hand out bratwurst at the end!  But, I heard so much about foam rollers and how awesome they are that I bought one.  My husband had been using one with his physical therapist and said it was quite painful but, seriously, how painful can it be to roll on a piece of foam?

How painful?  The first time I tried this my options were: scream in pain, bite a hole in my lip, or quit.  Yes, I quit.  Why on earth would anyone willingly do this to themselves?

According to About.com:

The superficial fascia is a soft connective tissue located just below the skin. It wraps and connects the muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels of the body. Together, muscle and fascia make up what is called the myofascia system. For various reasons including disuse, not enough stretching, or injuries, the fascia and the underlying muscle tissue can become stuck together. This is called an adhesion and it results in restricted muscle movement. It also causes pain, soreness and reduced flexibility and range of motion.

What does this mean?  Basically, these tissues are like cooked spaghetti noodles that are wrapped around your muscles, bones, etc.  Like spaghetti noodles left in a pan, these tissues will stick together if not “stirred.” The foam roller helps separate the spaghetti.

Ok- now that I know that I need to have flexible connective tissue I decided to give it another shot.  I made the mistake of trying it at the Y where it is socially unacceptable to scream in pain so I was forced to suck it up and grimace.  Holy crap, that hurts.  But the pain means this is something that I really need to do so I tried it again.  I would love to say that the second rollout was better, but it wasn’t.  It is also unacceptable to swear at the Y so my cursing was all internal.

I was rolling my IT band from knee to hip, perhaps rolling on my quads would be better so I switched from my side to lying on top of the roller and went from knee to hip down the front.  Aaaaaaaggggghhhhhhh- all these cycling sessions have caused lots of knots in my muscles that were being untied with this f***ing roller.  Ok- that sucks.  Let’s try hamstrings.  I sat on the roller and rolled from butt to knees.  I have to admit that I cheated and used my arms to hold up some body weight but this was still fairly unpleasant.

This torture episode was a few weeks ago and I have been religiously using the roller every few days since.  Yes, it has gotten much better and I can tell that it is working.  It would be very easy to give up but sometimes you just have to dig deep and do it in order to improve.

I still don’t like the foam roller, but I can tolerate it and have accepted it as a part of my routine.  Someday my body will thank me for putting it through this torture!  I’ll share some tips and techniques tomorrow so we can all experience the fun of foam rolling!

Yes, I know it looks harmless.

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The Best Chili Ever?

My husband is a fan of all sorts of chili so I was surprised when he said this one was the Best Chili EVER.  I didn’t even take a picture of it as it seemed pretty basic and I wasn’t thinking about using it as a blog post.  However, after further review- this WAS really good and very healthy so I really must share it.  I made this on Meatless Monday and it is going to be in regular rotation on meatless days.

I usually mess with recipes but I followed this one exactly.  We both agreed that the corn really added something.  I know that sounds weird but try it for yourself.  I also like the idea of sauteeing in broth rather than oil and will do this more often.

Credit for this recipe goes to The World’s Healthiest Foods at whfoods.org.

Picture from WH foods but mine looked very similar

Black Bean Chili

Prep and Cook Time: 30 minutes
Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, dicedinto 1/4-inch pieces
  • 1 TBS + 1-1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups or 2 15 oz cans black beans, drained
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
  • 2 TBS ground cumin
  • 2 TBS red chili powder
  • 2 TBS dried oregano
  • 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 TBS broth in a medium size soup pot. Healthy Sautéonion and bell pepper in broth over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until translucent. Add garlic, cumin, and red chili powder and continue to sauté for another minute.
  2. Add 1-1/2 cups broth and the rest of ingredients, except for the cilantro and corn. Simmer for another 20 minutes uncovered. Add corn and cook for another 2 minutes. Add chopped cilantro and season with salt and pepper to taste.Serves 4
Black Bean Chili 1.00 serving 497.09 grams 417.39 calories
Nutrient Amount DV (%) Nutrient Density World’s Healthiest Foods Rating
molybdenum 162.33 mcg 216.4 9.3 excellent
fiber 25.91 g 103.6 4.5 excellent
vitamin C 54.06 mg 90.1 3.9 excellent
folate 349.50 mcg 87.4 3.8 excellent
tryptophan 0.24 g 75.0 3.2 excellent
manganese 1.29 mg 64.5 2.8 very good
vitamin A 3113.01 IU 62.3 2.7 very good
iron 8.96 mg 49.8 2.1 good
protein 24.35 g 48.7 2.1 good
magnesium 174.51 mg 43.6 1.9 good
vitamin B1 0.62 mg 41.3 1.8 good
phosphorus 367.08 mg 36.7 1.6 good
potassium 1130.53 mg 32.3 1.4 good
vitamin B6 0.60 mg 30.0 1.3 good
copper 0.54 mg 27.0 1.2 good
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