_During the holidays, we hear plenty about what we shouldn't eat and how to avoid the slow creep of weight gain. But that all gets so tiresome after awhile! It's easy to overlook the healthy foods that are abundant during this festive season. You just might be surprised at how many traditional favorites are actually good for you (not counting the extra fat and sugar we often add).
Skinless turkey breast is low in fat and high in protein: 3 ounces provides 20 grams of protein and hardly any fat -- all in only 100 calories! Not only that, but you get 25% of the recommended daily value for both niacin and vitamin B6. These important B vitamins boost your energy levels and help you fight illness.
Turkey is probably the best choice of meats you can serve to your guests during the holidays, in terms of being low-fat and low in calories. So gobble up and enjoy!
Fans of low-carb diets may not like this, but potatoes are actually good for you – in moderation. They have plenty of vitamin C, iron, potassium and fiber, as well as B vitamins. When you boil them, some of the vitamin C does leach into the water. To hold onto more of this immunity-boosting vitamin, use some of the water you boiled the potatoes in when mashing them rather than a higher-fat cream or milk.
Sweet potatoes contain plenty of beta-carotene, a powerful antioxidant not only believed to protect your eyes, but also reduce cancer risk and slow aging. Only four ounces of this colorful tuber gives you half of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C, and plenty of fiber. Just go light on the brown sugar, butter and Grandma’s marshmallow topping when making and enjoying your favorite sweet potato dish.
Cranberries are a traditional favorite at most holiday tables, and they’re good for you, too! They contain ellagic acid, a compound believed to fend off cancer. These festive red berries also help to prevent urinary tract infections. Add oranges to your favorite cranberry relish and you get a nice dose of vitamin C, too!
What holiday table would be complete without pumpkins in some form or another? Pumpkin is a great source of vitamin A (good for your peepers); giving you a whopping 3½ times the recommended daily amount, plus plenty of fiber, too. You can use pureed pumpkin to replace the fat or oils in baked goods for a delicious, moist texture.
"Now Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding..."
An excellent source of dietary fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants, figs make tasty snacks by themselves or combined with cheese. They’re also a good source of bone-building calcium and potassium, a mineral believed to help control blood pressure.
Speaking of figs, this fig dish makes a festive holiday treat:
"Chestnuts Roasting On an Open Fire..."
Don't forget the chestnuts this holiday season! They are the only low-fat nut with 1 gram of fat (the heart-healthy type, mind you) and only 70 calories per dried or roasted ounce. So if you haven't tried roasted chestnuts, what are you waiting for? They’re delicious and good for you!
Don’t Be a Grinch – Savor Your Faves!
The holidays only come around once a year, so there’s no point in being a Grinch about the foods you eat. Enjoy your seasonal favorites with these smart tips:
American Dietetic Association. n.d. Web. 18 Nov. 2011. <www.eatright.org>
_ No other body part gets quite as much attention as the abs. Seems everyone wants that elusive "six pack." But there are plenty of misconceptions floating around about how to get that chiseled midsection. It’s time to set the record straight about the top three myths in abdominal training:
Myth #1: Anyone Can Have Six-Pack Abs.
Sorry to burst the bubble, but genetics have an impact on overall muscle definition – and how close you’ll really get to that coveted six-pack look. According to William Kraemer, PhD, exercise physiologist at the University of Connecticut and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), "Mass in the abdominals is based on the amount of muscle fibers that are there genetically."
Richard Cotton, exercise physiologist and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) points out that six-pack abs are a “pre-cellulite” condition that is usually reserved for teens and 20-somethings. As we age, we tend to accumulate more subcutaneous body fat – making that sculpted look harder to attain.
Women, in particular are at a genetic disadvantage. Because their bodies are equipped to bear and nourish children, they naturally store more fat as a primary energy source than men do.
But don’t despair – men and women in their 30s and 40s (even 50s – just look at Madonna) can still flaunt ultra-taut abs. Since you can’t build your abs past their predetermined size, that chiseled look mostly comes from physical conditioning and having little abdominal fat covering the muscles. Which brings us to Myth #2…
Myth #2: Abdominal Exercises Alone Will Get Rid of Ab Flab.
Unfortunately, there’s no such thing as spot reduction when it comes to getting rid of that unwanted muffin top. While crunches and other exercises will firm and strengthen your abs, they alone won’t remove those love handles.
Your abdominal muscles are made up of three layers. The deepest layer is the transversus abdominis, which supports and stabilizes your body. The next layer is the rectus abdominis, which flexes the spine. The obliques are closest to the surface – you use these to rotate your torso.
Fat tends to accumulate just beneath the surface of the skin. Your muscles are under that fatty tissue. To see those muscles, you’ve got to torch the layer of fat that’s covering them!
To shed that extra fat, combine regular abdominal training with healthy eating habits and cardiovascular conditioning. Whether you choose to run, walk, bike or take a Zumba fitness class, cardio exercise will help you burn calories.
Myth#3: You’ve Gotta Do Hundreds of Crunches to See Results.
Many people mistakenly think they need to do hundreds of crunches and sit ups every day for a toned midsection. Not true. Your abdominals are just like any other muscle group – they respond to resistance. But you don’t have to do hundreds of sit-ups to see results. You can still work those abs effectively with just two or three sets of 10 to 20 repetitions.
Just as you most likely wouldn’t do 50 bicep curls at a time, you don’t need to do 50 crunches, either. Just work smarter by slowing down and isolating the muscles you are working. Include a variety of exercises that focuses on each of the abdominal muscles, two to three times per week.
Even more important than getting that sexy six-pack look is having a strong core – it’ll improve your posture, reduce your risk of injury and even decrease low back pain. And that translates to better balance and coordination in your favorite sports, whether you’re on the golfing green, tennis courts or ski slopes.
Ready for some ab-sculpting exercises? Check out these fitness experts’ favorites:
And remember, consistency is key! Along with abdominal exercises, include regular strength and cardio training in your workouts. Combine these with a healthy, low-fat diet, and you’ll see yourself with that toned midsection you've always wanted!
Downs, Martin F. “Flat Abs for Men: Go-to Exercises”. WebMD. n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2011. <http://men.webmd.com/features/flat-abs-for-men-go-to-exercises>
Samataro, Barbara Russi. “Striving for Six-Pack Abs”. WebMD. n.d. 8 Nov. 2011. <http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/striving-for-six-pack-abs>
Sinclair, John, CSCS. “Seeking the Perfect Six-Pack”. My ePHIT.com. 22 May 2006. Web. 2 Feb. 2009. <https://my.ephit.com/en/clubhouse/library/details.asp?article_id=1234&back=true>
Finally made it to the wildly popular Zumba class at my gym. After weeks of peering into a room full of sweaty but smiling ladies shaking and gyrating to pumping music, I decided it was high time to join the dance party.
Zumba: Here to Stay or Just Another Fleeting Fad?
Zumba has shimmied its way into the top 10 fitness trends for the coming year, according to a survey by the American College of Sports Medicine. This super-charged dance workout is a fast-paced fusion of hip hop, Latin-inspired salsa and flamenco, and even a bit of belly dancing.
First introduced in Colombia in the 90s, today more than 12 million people flock to packed Zumba classes every week, according to an article in USA Today. Its popularity is no surprise. After all, it’s a fun workout that doesn’t feel like work. When you hear the music, you just want to start tapping your toes to the beat. And there's a class for everyone – regardless of fitness level.
Hey… Guys? Wait Up!
So how did it go, you ask? Let’s just put in this way – it was fun, and I won’t be invited to Dancing with the Stars anytime soon!
After a simple, easy-to-follow warm-up to Lady Gaga, the Latin beats started bumping. That’s when the foot work got tricky. It would have been easier to follow if I had posted myself behind the instructor or someone who knew what she was doing. But I chose my favorite, inconspicuous spot across the room by the window. I was constantly craning my neck to see what the instructor was doing.
Each dance was energetic and quick! Often, I found myself a couple of beats behind, clapping my hands and shaking to the left while everyone else was shimmying to the right. No matter, it was plenty of fun and a great way to break out of my comfort zone and try something new.
Is Zumba a Calorie Burner?
Did I sweat? A bit, but I didn’t burn nearly as many calories as someone who really knows the moves. I can see how it could be a good cardio workout with some practice. Experts say a person can burn anywhere from 400-1000 calories during an hour long class.
Final Words of Advice
If you want to break out of your same old, boring workout rut, give Zumba a try! Strategically position yourself behind the instructor or an experienced Zumba pro, channel your inner Shakira and just have fun!
Have you tried Zumba yet? Please share!
Lloyd, Janice. “Zumba brings the dance party into the health club”. USA Today. 26 Oct. 2011. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://yourlife.usatoday.com/fitness-food/exercise/story/2011-10-27/Zumba-brings-the-dance-party-into-the-health-club/50940786/1>
“Survey Predicts Top 20 Fitness Trends for 2012 “. American College of Sports Medicine. n.d. Web. 1 Nov. 2011. <http://www.acsm.org/about-acsm/media-room/news-releases/2011/10/27/survey-predicts-top-20-fitness-trends-for-2012>