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Rice cakes. Cottage cheese. Melba toast. Diet staples bland enough to send you down to Staples to buy some Styrofoam peanuts to add a little flavor to your eating plan. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Sure, if you really want to move the needle on the scale, you’re going to have to cut out a lot of fat, sugar, and sodium, but that doesn’t mean your new regimen of steaming, blanching, and boiling has to condemn you to a life of bland eating. Many condiments can spice up your cuisine without adding any calories, and in some cases, they can even accelerate your weight loss! Here are eight of our favorites.
Until recently, ketchup had been the king of the condiments. Americans have found very few meals that couldn’t be improved by being drenched in tomato-ey goodness. And ketchup has quite a number of healthy properties. Remember when the Reagan administration famously classified it as a vegetable in school lunches? OK, maybe that went too far . . . but it is chock-full of lycopene, one of the most potent antioxidants around. The only problem is that most brands are also chock-full of sodium, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and sugar, which substantially defrays the health benefits of the tomatoes. But more and more ketchup manufacturers are offering low-salt, low-HFCS brands; and if you can get your hands on them, you can drench your favorite meals with nutritional impunity. Or for the culinarily inclined, you can make your own ketchup and add the amount of sugar and salt that is right for you.
This sharp paste made from the crushed seeds of the mustard plant comes in colors ranging from yellow to brown and in sharpness ranging from tangy to eye-watering. Mustard has practically no calories or fat to speak of, and even if it did, a little goes a long way. After all, it is one of the only condiments to be weaponized. It is worth checking the labels as some are high in sodium and others can add sugar or oil for flavor and texture, but generally, mustard can be consumed guilt free—as much as your palate can handle. There are lots of gourmet varieties with ingredients like horseradish, white wine, or jalapeños added for extra zest.
In the last decade or so, salsa has overtaken ketchup as the number-one condiment in America. There are literally thousands of different kinds of salsas, though most contain tomatoes, onions, and peppers as their base. Very low in calories and high in flavor, salsas are a great accent to any dish, but as with all commercially prepared items, attention should be paid to the levels of sodium and high-fructose corn syrup. It’s a pretty easy thing to make yourself. A simple pico de gallo can be made by combining diced tomatoes and onions with minced cilantro and jalapeño and marinating those ingredients in lime juice. Make a big bowl on Sunday and have a healthy snack or sauce all week long!
4. Hot sauce I can go through two or three bottles of hot sauce a week. My refrigerator door rattles with tall skinny bottles of the stuff and I have been known to excuse myself from the dinner table in order to towel off my face. While many have said that the high levels of capsaicin (the “burning” component in chili peppers) I consume have deadened my taste buds to subtle flavors, I would argue that the hot sauce has opened my palate wide. I pity those who don’t have the iron stomach to withstand the delights offered by habanero, chipotle, and cayenne peppers. A little bit of hot sauce gives a ton of flavor with practically no calories, and the capsaicin is even believed to boost your metabolism. As always, keeping an eye on the sodium content is advisable.
5. Soy sauce
Needless to say, this isn’t a very good part of a low-sodium diet, but there are low-sodium versions available (although low-sodium soy sauce has through-the-roof levels of sodium compared to most other foods). Some studies have shown that soy sauce contains even more antioxidants than red wine and, as a result of the fermentation process used to make it, high levels of probiotics. It doesn’t have all the health benefits found in other soy products like edamame or tofu, but as a substitute for salt as a seasoning, you get a lot more nutritional bang for your buck.
Vinegar comes in many different varieties—malt, wine, rice, cider, sherry, balsamic, and on and on. The word itself comes from the French vin aigre, or “sour wine.” But unlike wine, vinegar has no alcohol and, depending on the variety, very few or zero calories. But it does have plenty of zip and tang. I find that a dash to my favorite soup or a sprinkle on my sandwich or salad adds lots of flavor without adding salt, fat, or sugar. In fact, studies have shown that vinegar helps stabilize blood sugar levels, and in one study, a test group of people who drank two tablespoons of vinegar before meals showed more weight loss than the group who didn’t.
Yogurt has the most calories and potentially the most fat of any of the condiments on this list. Full-fat yogurt, in fact, can have milkfat levels as high as ice cream. But low-fat and nonfat varieties serve as great substitutes for mayonnaise or a creamy dressing without adding too many calories to your dish. And with high levels of L. acidophilus and other probiotics, yogurt can also be very beneficial to your digestive system. Try mixing some plain nonfat yogurt with your favorite herbs or a little mustard or curry as a salad dressing or dipping sauce. Or try goat’s-milk yogurt for some flavor variety.
In different parts of the world curry can mean almost any number of combinations of savory spices. Besides the powder derived from the curry plant, curry powders and paste can contain many spices, including turmeric, coriander, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin, and fenugreek. There are commercially prepared curries from all over the world, from India to Thailand to the Caribbean. Keep an eye out for salt and fat content, and you’ll be on your way to giving your sauces, meats, fish, and vegetables a hit of amazing flavor without adding calories.
Most of us think of fast food, office doughnuts, or that tub of ice cream in the freezer when we think of diet traps. But what about those unplanned little grazings that happen when we wander out to happy hour with colleagues after work, hit the nightclubs for somebody’s birthday on the weekend, or gather with friends at the local sports bar to watch the playoff game on Sunday afternoon? Somebody passes around a bucket of wings, a plate of calamari, or a couple of orders of fries and onion rings, and you decide you’re just going to try one of these, one of those, and you surely can’t refuse that one at the happy hour price—it’s like throwing money away! Emboldened by judgment-loosening alcoholic beverages (not to mention highly caloric), a whole diet plan can be shredded in one evening. But none of us wants to stay home with our celery sticks and cabbage soup while our friends and coworkers are out on the town. So let’s take a look at some of the worst offenders offered up at our favorite watering holes and some alternatives we can order instead.
1. Buffalo wings
These little deadlies took off like crazy in the 90s and now they, or some variation, are available at almost every bar in town. Sold by the pound, by the half-dozen, or by the wing, they are delicious, but watch out—these babies can give you a buffalo butt. The basic recipe for the classic Buffalo wing is to deep-fry separated wing sections and then toss them in a combination of butter and hot sauce. Some places have added breading to the mix to better absorb the fat and sauce, and most serve them with celery and carrot sticks with a healthy serving of full-fat ranch or blue cheese dressing. Why have they become so popular? Well, of course, they taste great, but more than that, think about the bar’s strategy. What are they in the business of? Serving drinks. And here’s where the wings become the perfect bar food. They’re spicy—which makes you want to drink more. They’re salty—which makes you want to drink more. They’re fatty—which makes you feel the effects of the alcohol less . . . and makes you want to drink more. It’s a perfect storm of high-calorie temptation to make you ingest more high-calorie drinks.
I initially went to the Hooters Web site to get nutritional info for their wings, and finding none, went to their FAQ, where I was informed they couldn’t possibly give out nutritional information for such a customizable dish. I found this to be the case at most of the popular chains. This reluctance to divulge didn’t bode well for the dainty chicken wing. I finally found a third-party site reporting that a 10-piece chicken wing appetizer order at Ruby Tuesday had 910 calories and 66 grams of fat. Add the blue cheese dressing, and you can knock it up to 1,090 calories and 85 grams of fat. This seemed pretty typical. If you add variations like breading, or syrupy sauces like teriyaki or sweet-and-sour, you can bump up the calories even higher. It’s safe to guess that for every wing you eat out of your table’s wing bucket, you’re getting around 100 calories and 7 grams of fat. Chicken wings are mostly skin, so they’re pretty much the least healthy part of the chicken you can eat. And chicken “fingers” or “nuggets” aren’t much better. Some grind up the skin into the meat, which ends up being the base for the nugget, and even the all-breast-meat versions have tons of fat from the breading.
Instead: Just treat yourself to one or two wings or fingers from the bucket. But then fill up on the accompanying celery and carrot sticks (however, skip the ranch and blue cheese; ask if there’s salsa or marinara sauce). You can ask your waiter and barkeep for extra sticks, too, so your friends don’t think you’re a celery hog.
2. French fries
Fries are definitely high on the bar’s salty-fatty scale. But they’re another perfect bar food. Loved by vegetarians and carnivores alike. Usually the cheapest appetizer on the menu and great finger food for passing around. But a basket of fries, depending on how they’re prepared, can have 500 to 1,000 calories, at least half of which come from fat. Not to mention the sodium content, and even the accompanying ketchup which is usually full of high-fructose corn syrup. And, you can also get creative by adding cheese, chili, bacon, or anything else to the fries. At the Outback Steakhouse, you can order the Aussie Cheese Fries, whose one-pound, 12-ounce serving contains 2,900 calories and 182 grams of fat. Outback—it’s Australian for heart attack! Hopefully, this dish is meant to be shared, but even an individual 10-ounce cheese fries order at Johnnie Rockets clocks in at 760 calories with 43 grams of fat.
Instead: Skip the toppings. Fries, at heart, are just potatoes, which, while a bit carby, aren’t unhealthy. If you have an option between steak fries and shoestring/thin-cut fries, go with the steak fries. The potato-to-grease ratio is much higher, so essentially each steak fry absorbs less fat than the shoestring/thin-cut variety. Also, if you’re at an Irish or British pub, you could use no-calorie vinegar as your condiment of choice instead of HFCS-laden ketchup.
This “snack” plate is a fiesta of fat and calories—a bed of deep-fried tortilla chips, loaded with full-fat melted cheese and sour cream. At least there’s some salsa, which is low in calories; refried beans, which give you a little fiber with your fat; and some heart-healthy guacamole. But don’t let those ingredients justify the indulgence—nachos can often be the most caloric item on the menu. One order of Classic Nachos at Chili’s contains 1,570 calories and 115 grams of fat (58 grams of which are saturated). Even if you share this pile of fatty goodness with a friend, you’ve still inhaled almost your entire day’s recommended allowance of fat, and you haven’t even ordered dinner. Olé!
Instead: Let your fork be your friend. Instead of using the tortilla chips as your cheese delivery system, use a fork and pick at the healthier things on the nacho plate—the salsa, the guacamole, the jalapeños, the olives, the beans, or the lean chicken or steak (if the nachos come with that). I also recommend sitting/standing far away from the nachos. It’ll be less tempting to eat them absentmindedly. If you’ve only ordered chips and salsa, try keeping your salsa-to-chip ratio high. The salsa’s low-calorie and nutritious, the chip is fattening and virtually nutrition free. So load up a chip with healthy salsa. Better to get refills on the salsa than the chips.
4. Deep-fried delicacies
This year, a top seller at state and county fairs is deep-fried Coke. Clearly, as a society, we have arrived at a point where we are able and willing to deep-fry pretty much anything. From classics like onion rings and calamari to new innovations like deep-fried jalapeño rings, anything that can be dipped in batter and dropped into a vat of sizzling oil will be served at your local bar. But keep in mind that while these munchies may have begun their lives as vegetables and seafood, they are not for the health-conscious. A large raw onion has 60 calories and no fat; a typical serving of onion rings has 500 calories and 34 grams of fat. Three ounces of squid contain 78 calories with one gram of fat; an order of calamari fritti at the Macaroni Grill has 1,210 calories with 78 grams of fat (13 of which are saturated). Clearly the lesson is to stay away from the deep fryer.
Instead: The bright side of a deep-fried menu is that a deep fryer is usually a sign of a working kitchen—one that might have a refrigerator. If so, you could order an alternate appetizer like shrimp cocktail—a 10-shrimp serving only runs you 228 calories with 4 grams of fat. Or order a salad with dressing on the side. And if you feel bad that you’re not joining the crowd at the saturated fat trough, see if you can get a buddy to go halfsies with you on a healthy menu item like a salad. Then you can bond with your friend instead of having plaque bond with your artery walls.
If your alcohol-themed gathering is at a Japanese-themed or sushi bar, you may have hit diet heaven. Sake is only 39 calories an ounce, comparable to wine, and sushi—generally a roll of fish, rice, and seaweed—is actually low-calorie, low-fat, and healthy! Score! Be careful though, not all sushi is created equal. Some rolls that contain spicy mayonnaise sauces or tempura batter can rack up the calories big time. For example, a plain tuna roll is about 184 calories with 2 grams of fat. A spicy tuna roll is 290 calories with 11 grams of fat; and a tuna tempura roll is 508 calories with 21 grams of fat. Of course, with true Yankee ingenuity, Americans have figured out ways to incorporate all manner of ingredients into sushi. I swear to you, I’ve seen cheeseburger and pizza sushi on menus. Watch out for the ones that will turn your heart-healthy snack into a gut bomb—like the salmon-cream-cheese roll which has 517 calories with 20 grams of fat. Traditional Japanese appetizers like tempura can also be as fattening as onion rings. Three pieces of vegetable tempura run about 320 calories with 18 grams of fat.
Instead: Stick to sushi made without sauces, tempura, or other caloric ingredients. If you really want to cut calories (and carbs), order sashimi, or sushi without rice. A typical serving of tuna sashimi is less than 40 calories and 3 grams of fat. Also, look for other low-calorie items on the menu like miso soup (76 calories) or edamame (100 calories for half a cup).
6. Peanuts, pretzels, popcorn, and mixes
The diviest bar in town might not have a menu from the kitchen, but they’ll probably have a barrel of some crunchy treat which will be served in small refillable bowls—gratis. Again, this isn’t just an act of incredible generosity by the bartender, it’s motivation for you to get full of salt and fat so you can order more drinks, early and often. Peanuts are a good source of protein, but they have about 164 calories an ounce (about 30 peanuts) and 14 grams of fat. Popcorn is 140 calories an ounce (about 2-1/2 cups) with 8 grams of fat. Pretzels are only 107 calories an ounce (about five pretzels), with almost no fat, but you also get a full 20 percent of your sodium RDA in that ounce. An ounce of Chex mix (about 2/3 cup) is 120 calories with 5 grams of fat. And Asian snack mix (largely seasoned rice crackers) is 142 calories an ounce (about a cup) with 7 grams of fat.
You can pretty well name your poison on this one. They’re all around the same calorie count per ounce. I’ve yet to find the bar where the bartender dished out a healthy alternative from the bottomless snack bucket behind the bar. The main thing to remember is that the bowl is indeed bottomless, and the bartender will keep filling the bowl, so you keep filling your glass. And keep in mind Ben Stiller’s speech from Along Came Polly, where his risk assessor character explains to Jennifer Aniston the number of people in the bar who went to the bathroom, didn’t wash their hands, and then plunged those dirty hands into the communal nut bowl. The nice thing about joints like this is that they’re not going to give you a dirty look if you pull a P90X® Peak Performance Protein Bar out of your purse. Also, if you plan on getting your nutritional sustenance from a bartender in the evening, it might be wise to pop a couple of ActiVit® multivitamins in the morning. Bottoms up!
These days, the topic of what’s in food is probably less important than what you’re likely to hear about food. People can go for years without discussing their diets, but it’s practically impossible to go a day without hearing terms like organic, omega, or carb. Upon hearing one of these terms, you’ve found evidence that advertisers have used their market research tools and, thus, determined that they need to shove these words down your throat, especially since you probably have no idea what they mean. You see, as long as you don’t know what they mean, they can spin them however they like. Spin: it’s not just for politicians anymore. But these terms do have meaning. And once you understand them, they can help you make smarter food choices.
Foods without labels
Some foods don’t require a label, which makes them harder to spin. These are mainly very fresh and haven’t been tampered with so, in general, they are your healthy alternatives. The spin doctors here play both sides of the fence. When it comes to non-labeled foods, the important issue is how these foods were raised. When it became clear that the reason certain companies could offer lower-priced goods was because they used inferior raising methods, those who didn’t use inferior methods began using terms to help distinguish themselves. When this affected the business of the former, they jumped into the fray and the spin games began. But that’s getting ahead of our topic. Let’s begin by defining which foods don’t require labels.
First are foods like apples, oranges, broccoli, and many other things that you can buy in the state that they come from the earth. Known as fruits, vegetables, and herbs, they’re entirely different than that soda you just bought with “real fruit flavor.” These foods have parts that aren’t really foods, either. Called fiber, it’s the indigestible part of a plant. It has no nutrient value, but it’s still an ultra-important part of your diet because it does all kinds of things, including cleaning out our digestive tract and soaking up excess cholesterol. It’s very important that our diets feature plants. They are loaded with nutrients and fiber and have no man-made ingredients (okay, some have pesticides, which we’ll get to in a minute). When we do things like cook or make juice from these items, they lose their nutrients and fiber, and get a label.
Next are grains and legumes. Things like rice and beans—also plants—these foods have more protein and calories than fruits and veggies. They are less easily found in their natural state. Rice, for example, often has its shell stripped, so it’s white. Grains get turned into breads and crackers, often at the expense of their healthiest ingredients. Beans get smashed and have things added to them. As a rule, the closer you can get a legume or grain to its original state, the better it is for you.
Finally, we have meats and dairy products. Nowadays, unless you live on a farm, you probably have to buy these with labels. That’s mainly due to suspect growing and harvesting practices. This topic is mainly one for Politics class, but we’re going to look at the consumer end of it next. Hey! What are you rolling your eyes at? Yes, you, the guy in the white suit taking up two seats. What are you dressed like that for? Going to the Kentucky Derby after class? Well, pal. I believe that this subject concerns you more than anyone, so pay attention.
These animal products are loaded with protein, vitamins, and sometimes carbs and healthy fats. But we need to be careful with them because meats (other than fish) and dairy products have a lot of saturated fat. You can buy all of these products with much of this fat removed. For the most part, this is recommended, which we’ll cover in the “fat-free” portion of the lecture later on.
Organic and other terms for natural foods
Now it’s time to get to some good jargon. You’ve heard all of these terms, probably while you’ve been considering buying any of the aforementioned food items. But just what do they mean?
Organic means living, so organic foods are supposed to be alive or, at least, recently alive. Originally, “organic” meant produce that hadn’t been sprayed with inorganic things, like pesticides. But now you’ll see “organic ingredients” in boxed, jarred, and canned foods, which can be confusing. Organic was once a term used only by the folks who showed up at your weekly farmers’ market. Then, word started to get out about large-scale farmers spraying nasty pesticides on their crops, pesticides that would still be on those crops when we bought them. Most people are pretty sure they don’t want to eat something made to kill animals, so when the little “organic” guys’ businesses started to feel the impact, the big guys just started slapping an “organic” label on anything, until the government had to step in.
Now we have an imperfect system. Organic rules can be fudged to some degree, but it seems to be getting better and not worse. It’s made the large growers a bit more cognizant about what they add to or spray on their crops. Organic has also trickled up. So now packaged foods using “organic ingredients” are labeled as such. But be prudent because the fine print will tell you how much is organic. Lobbyists haggle over how much organic stuff needs to be in a product for the word “organic” to appear on the label, and the amount has changed and will continue to change. So you can see a product with a big “organic” on its label with very little organic inside.
Also, many farmers claim that organic growing remains behind the times. They argue that their products don’t seem to grow as healthily using organic standards because the classification needs reworking. This is no doubt true, as we’ll probably never be able to create a perfect system.
Bottom line: “Organic” on a label is probably better, but you should read the fine print. The more concerned the farmer or rancher, the more information they want to provide. A company that spends a lot of effort to list its practices is probably better than one that won’t go to the trouble. As a general rule, those going out of their way to meet organic standards probably care more. It’s not perfect, but buying “organic” still stacks the odds in your favor.
Cattle were once all grass fed. They lived on prairies and ate grass, ’cause that’s all there was to eat. On the prairie, that grass is nutrient rich because of the soil. Cattle that ate it grew big and strong, and when we ate them, we grew big and strong. Then, some guy figured out that cattle, if they had to, would eat grain. This meant he could build houses and strip malls on the prairie, put the cattle into little fenced areas and feed them grain, and make a lot more money. The downside was that grain didn’t have the same nutrient value (like eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts instead of broccoli), so the cows weren’t so big and strong. To make them look like they once did, he started shooting them with things like steroids, so that the cattle started looking like Jose Conseco, and all was good in the world. Except that when we ate the cattle, they didn’t have the same nutrient value. This meant we ate the same calories with less nutrient value. When this happened, we got fat.
For a while, we were none the wiser. Then, people started getting sick and dying because some genius, low on grain, started feeding cows parts of other cows mixed with the grain to make more money. Cows aren’t carnivorous, like animals with sharp teeth, so this didn’t work well and bad stuff like E. coli started showing up in meat. Anyway, feeding cows other cows is now against the law, but lobbyists were also able to make a deal in which it’s nearly impossible for meat companies to be sued, so who knows what they’re actually up to.
Bottom line: Even though meat lobbyists have been hammering away at the “grass fed” requirements, it still means that the meat is likely to be much better in quality.
Cattle weren’t the only animals out on the prairie. Birds were there, too. In fact, birds were all over the place because they have wings and can, you know, fly. This became problematic when folks decided they wanted to raise them on farms. You listening, Colonel? Figuring that if birds couldn’t fly and, well, they would then need no space at all, “farmers” started loading them all together in tiny little pens. Irritated—naturally—the birds would peck at each other and cause general turmoil, so good ol’ Foster the farmer put them in little cages wherein they couldn’t get at each other—for their entire lives!
Since this isn’t Animal Cruelty class, let’s just talk about how healthy these birds are when they grow up and we eat them. When you get out and exercise, how does that help you? Hmm, since some of you can’t answer this, I’ll tell you. You get healthier. Your body systems work better and you get more muscle. Muscle is meat, like the part of a chicken that we want to eat. If you sit in a small room for a long time, how do you tend to look or feel? Answer: You get fat. You get sick. You die young. Take two chickens. Let one run around and eat stuff it finds growing out of the ground. Put the other in a 2-foot-square box and feed it junk food. Which one do you want to eat?
Bottom line: Only eat free-range fowl, which is harder than ever to find now that new grades of distinction have surfaced. Again, to stay on top of it, you’ll need to stay educated. To reiterate, the more concerned the company, the more likely they will want to educate you.
This term has to do with fish. For those of you who are confused, that is natural. Fish live in water. We live on land. How the heck do we farm them? The obvious answer is to put them in big aquariums, but that would be too expensive. Instead, they raise fish in fenced-off areas and treat them a bit like the birds mentioned above. This tends to cause a lot of damage for the ecosystem in general, but this isn’t Environment class. We don’t offer environment classes because they don’t help your standardized testing. Anyway, the effect on the fish depends a lot on the type of fish. Some, like catfish that naturally live in sluggish conditions, do okay, while others, like salmon, do terribly. In fact, salmon are migratory and swim for most of their lives. Keeping them in a “tank” wreaks havoc on their lifestyle. Farm-raised salmon don’t even have red meat, like they do naturally, and are dyed red for market. Do you really want to eat fish that’s been dyed red?
Bottom line: Avoid farm-raised fish when possible. Always avoid farm-raised salmon.
Some of you are no doubt wondering why this rather boring-sounding label is taking up more shelf space lately. After all, isn’t the gourmand taught to eat from exotic and far-off lands? Who, with ample means, wouldn’t always opt for Maine lobster, Norwegian caviar, and water from New Zealand?
One concerned for the health of the planet might be the obvious answer. You don’t have to be Al Gore to deduce that using 500,000 gallons of gas so that you can sip from a melting glacier near Christchurch might create a ripple effect with negative implications for the planet. Buying locally allows us to play watchdog. It’s easy to check out your local dairy. Just ask around. You don’t even need to research. Good businesses tend to get talked about in the community. And if you suspect that a local business is wielding a bit too much power and influence over your neighbors, that’s probably all the information you need. But your local Chambers of Commerce, Better Business Bureaus, and independent news organizations are keen to help out should your scuttlebutt network not be broad enough.
Bottom line: Local companies should always be considered first.
OK, I’ve been waiting to write this post for quite some time now, because I’m absolutely PUMPED about this.
Those of you who know me know I get pretty excited about certain things, and this is definitely one of them! Over just the past few months Beachbody has been rolled out a new promotion, the new Beachbody Challenge. What is the Beachbody Challenge? Well, it’s a number of things I guess, but what it all comes down to is putting groups of 5 people together doing the same program, using the same supplements, and having them all stay accountable to each other, all while having ME as your coach during the entire 30, 60 or 90 days (depending on your program). When I form each group of 5 people, I will create an exclusive Facebook group, and that will be where all 6 of us stay in contact with each other during the entire 30, 60, or 90 day commitment.
What makes Challenge Groups so effective? I’ve always been a big believer in challenges because it highly motivates people, and I and everyone else taking part of it always tend to commit ourselves even more when we’re a part of one. When you have a small group, communication is much easier, and you’re able to hold each other accountable and push each other even more than being part of a large group. Plus, there is always some serious competition going on, forcing you to push even harder to achieve better results. When you have competition, encouragement, accountability, and support from 5 other people, it literally is a recipe for success! From the challenges I’ve held in the past, it’s unbelievable the type of results that some people got, and they even mentioned to me that there was no way they could have gotten those results without being part of an exclusive group. If you want to achieve your fitness goals, you’re not going to find a better way than with these challenge groups!
How do I join a challenge group? The first thing that you have to do is make me your coach if I’m not already. As you already know (or may not know I guess), it’s free to make me your coach (click here to do so). By making me your coach, you will have constant access to me for questions and support and I will be checking in daily with each challenge group. Next, you have to be using Shakeology and a Beachbody program like P90X, Insanity, TurboFire or one of the other 130+ programs we offer. The reason Shakeology is a requirement is because it serves as your Nutritional Foundation and it’s a product that I’ve been using for about 12 months now, am 100% confident that works, and have recommended to literally everyone I know, including my friends and family. If you want to get the best results possible, you have to be using Shakeology as (weight lose, a meal replacement, typically lunch; weight gain or hard gainers, WITH your breakfast) every day and combine it with a healthy diet and a workout program. I know for a fact that you will get results by doing all of these together, because over the course of 12 months, the ones who have done this have gotten the best results! Beachbody just actually released new Challenge Packs that combine Shakeology, a workout program, a FREE 30 Trial of Club Membership, FREE Shipping at a discount price for purchasing as a bundle. Next, once you purchase a Challenge Pack or reach all the requirements to join a group, email me at HankFit247@LBHank.com, and I will connect you with 4 other people who are going through the same program and have the same goals as you, create an exclusive Facebook group, and then you will get started!
What will I need to do once I’m in a Challenge Group? The first thing that you will need to do is share your goals and past struggles with everyone else in the group, including me. Once in the group, you will need to post daily that you’ve completed your workout, followed the diet, and ask any questions or provide support to the other group members. While going through your journey, you’re going to want to make sure you take progress photos every 15 days and post them in the group as well. This way you can show each other that you’re getting results and staying committed! If you want, you can hold certain challenges within your group as well, such as who loses the most weight during the 90 days.
Are there any prizes? YES! Beachbody awards $500 daily, $1000 weekly, $1000 monthly, $5000 quarterly, and even a grand prize of $100,000 for those with the best results. Complete your program, submit your results and claim your FREE t-shirt. Plus my TEAM and I award $25 eGift Cards, T-Shirts and DVD’s every 30 days based on your SuperGym calendar.
Angel Cruz (P90X) – Invited to participate in the P90X Spanish Infomercial
Barry (Power 90) – April 2012 Beachbody Challenge Winner, $1000 CASH!
I’m confident that you’re not going to find a better way to get results than you would by being part of a Beachbody Challenge Group! Unlimited support, constant encouragement, friendly competition, and some added prizes will motivate you to commit yourself for the entire 30, 60 or 90 days and get into the best shape of your life . I can’t wait to help you guys reach your goals and again, I can’t tell you how PUMPED I am to get these groups rolling! LET’S DO THIS!!!!
This is the question I get asked all the time. I think people assume it’s really difficult and time-consuming. It’s really just a matter of planning all meals and snacks ahead of time. Here are some basic principles of clean eating that you’ll need to keep in mind:
Eat primarily non processed foods. If it comes out of a box, don’t eat it. If it comes from the earth, eat it.
Eat six times a day. This is to keep your metabolism fired up and it keeps you from getting too hungry.
No alcohol or sodas. Drink lots of water and/or herbal unsweetened tea.
Never miss a meal.
Combine lean protein and complex carbs at every meal.
Avoid all saturated and trans fats.
Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
Ideas for breakfast would be:
NEVER, EVER skip breakfast!!!! Think about it. You’ve just been sleeping for 7-8 hrs. (hopefully). Your body needs some fuel after not eating for that length of time. Your mother was right. It IS the most important meal of the day!
Okay, here’s where things get a bit more challenging. Most people are home at breakfast time. Not so for lunch. My suggestion would be to pack a small cooler the night before and just grab it when you leave for work in the morning. (This is where the planning comes in.) Anyway, here are some lunch ideas:
Snacks are NOT optional!!! You will need to eat 3 snacks a day, one after breakfast, one after lunch, and one after dinner. In the beginning you’re going to feel like you’re eating ALL THE TIME but soon you will get used to eating this way. Believe me, it beats walking around hungry all day. Here are some tasty snack ideas. All snacks should be around 200 calories.
Included in many good-for-you lists is one tiny food that packs a huge healthful punch: quinoa, pronounced (KEEN-wah), which is loaded with protein, fiber and magnesium.
Though it is smaller than rice, barley, farro and bulgur, quinoa looks like a grain, thanks to its neutral coloring and hard exterior. However, it is actually a seed that originates from the cousin of the spinach plant. When cooked, these seeds expand rapidly and significantly, become tender but chewy and expel spirals that boast the slightest crunch. When using quinoa, it’s important to rinse it thoroughly before boiling, as it’s often coated with saponins that are bitter and need to be removed.
After cooking in liquid — water or chicken broth are most common — quinoa becomes light, fluffy, nutty and the ideal canvas to showcase intense flavors, rich textures and your favorite veggies, meats and sauces. Give this super seed a try, using Food Network’s five best quinoa recipes and let us know what you think of it.
1. Yellow Quinoa — Ingrid Hoffman’s 25-minute quinoa is best served hot, with sauteed onions, green chiles and adobo seasoning.
2. Grilled Asparagus and Quinoa Salad With Goat Cheese and Black Olive Vinaigrette — Thanks to its multiple robust components and flavors, this hearty salad is an entire meal on a plate.
3. Salmon Kebobs With Quinoa and Grapefruit Salad — A light accompaniment to grilled salmon, this simple quinoa side dish boasts in-season grapefruit, sliced ginger and a balance of sweet and spicy with warm honey and a serrano chile.
4. Lentil Quinoa Salad — Equal parts quinoa and lentils drizzled with a Dijon vinaigrette ensure that this salad is protein-packed and satisfying.
5. Quinoa With Garlic, Pine Nuts and Raisins — After fluffing the quinoa (pictured above), Ellie tosses it with contrasting textures and bold tastes, including chewy raisins, crunchy pine nuts, a squirt of lemon juice and raw garlic.
For a number of years now, I’ve been telling our members that the simplest way to improve their diets is to take fish oil for its omega-3 content. I’m happy to announce that we’ve developed a fish oil supplement that’s up to Beachbody’s strict standards. Let’s take a brief look at what fish oil is and how it will improve your diet and your health, and why you will benefit from Beachbody’s all-new fish oil supplement, Core Omega-3™.
Fish oil is made up of two long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. These are hard to find in the modern American diet and, thus, our bodies tend to lack necessary omega-3 levels, leading to myriad poor health conditions. Though our diets may not satisfy our omega-3 needs, fish oil supplementation can prove helpful and has been linked to multiple benefits, including:
• Heart health and normal cholesterol levels
• Immune system health, improved mood and memory, joint health, blood sugar health, and stress relief
• Increased energy levels and greater cognitive function
• Nutritional support for pregnant women
• Regular cell growth and division
• Skeletal system strength
• Healthy inflammatory response
Why fish oil?
To reiterate, fish contains two omega-3 fatty acids. They are DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are hard to find elsewhere and support healthy cardiovascular and immune health. ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), another omega-3 fatty acid, can be found more readily, but ALA is not easily converted into EPA and DHA. Flaxseed is an example of a good omega-3 source that is all ALA. While flaxseed is healthy, fish oil is a far more efficient way to get your omega-3.
While you could just eat fish for your omega-3 needs, there is a downside—mercury contamination. Doctors now recommend limiting the number of servings of fish you have in a week. A good fish oil supplement puts you at no risk for mercury poisoning. For this reason, care should be taken when choosing a good fish oil supplement.
Health benefits of fish oil
The benefits of the omega-3 oils found in fish oil are still being studied. These benefits seem to begin at conception and increase throughout one’s life—including contributing to a reduction in Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have hinted at advantages like increased intelligence levels, fewer headaches, reduced incidences of and pain from arthritis, heart disease protection, fewer occurrences of depression and bipolar disorder, and even protection from breast cancer and prostate cancer.
In Europe, patients who survive heart attacks are typically given a prescription for purified fish oil, which has significantly improved the survival rate. One study of 11,000 patients showed a 20 percent reduction in deaths and a 40 percent reduction in sudden deaths for those who took fish oil. Studies done in 2003 at Harvard Medical showed that taking fish oil on a daily basis can help protect the heart from damage and disease. Recent human trials have proven that when using fish oil that includes EPA and DHA, you can expect a decrease in the incidence of and the pain associated with inflammatory diseases such as arthritis, colitis, and cystitis.
Further studies suggest that fish oil intake during pregnancy can contribute to healthy pregnancies, and omega-3 supplementation, along with the restriction of omega-6, helps support brain function and mood both during pregnancy and post-partum. Infant formulas are beginning to include DHA as studies suggest improved cognitive function in adults who were breast-fed up to nine months while the mother was supplementing with fish oils. After conception, the new baby’s brain calls on the mother’s store of omega-3 fatty acids to develop a healthy brain. Fish has always been rumored as a “brain food.” What’s interesting is that recent research has shown that nearly 70 percent of a baby’s brain and more than 60 percent of an adult brain are made up of the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, like DHA, that come from fish.
Fat as a supplement
Fat as a supplement is a tough pill for many to swallow (pun intended) because our most basic sense of aesthetics tends to confuse dietary fat with body fat percentage. As we’ve stated many times, these two things are not the same. Your calories come from proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. And these are needed in the proper ratio to maximize your body’s functional capabilities. But all carbs, proteins, and fats are not created equal; and it’s probably more variable in the fat category than the others. The types of fats we tend to consume on a daily basis don’t give us the nutrients we need to fulfill our bodies’ potentials. Therefore, like with any nutrient we’re lacking, supplementing is a good option.
The skinny on fat
We need dietary fat to be healthy. But our diets don’t often provide us with good dietary fat and, thus, our diets lack balance. We should maintain close to a 1:1 ratio between our omega-3 and our omega-6 consumption; however, it’s estimated that the typical American diet is somewhere between 1:20 and 1:50! When you look at the list of benefits above and the things preventing this harmonious ratio (and leading to out-of-balance diets), it’s no wonder we have so many health problems related to improper fat consumption.
How much do I need?
It’s estimated that nearly 20 percent of Americans have such low levels of DHA and EPA that test methods are unable to detect any in their blood. Recommended intakes of DHA and EPA have not been established by the FDA. The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fish per week to support cardiovascular health. The American College of Cardiology recommends that heart patients increase their intake of omega-3 fatty acids to 1 gram a day. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends that adults consume at least 1,000 mg (1 gram) a day of pure omega-3 fish oil and 1,200 mg for pregnant and nursing mothers.
How do I make sure it’s safe?
International fish oil standards are increasingly being regulated, but it’s important, at this stage, to ensure that you chose a brand committed to the highest quality and the strictest purity guidelines. The two most important criteria are that your brand is free of mercury, PCBs, and other contaminants and that the fish are exposed to low oxidation levels during processing. Since there is no regulatory agency doing this on a broad scale, it’s important to spend a little time researching your brand of choice.
As far as our supplements go, quality is our most important criteria, and this is true of Core Omega-3. According to Beachbody Nutritionals Director of Product Development, Aaron Lowe, “It’s safe to say that the oil is protected from oxygen during processing and tested for impurities during the entire process. There is a certain baseline it has to meet before it even undergoes processing, and if it does not meet this spec, it’s not accepted for production.” To further drive this point home, Lowe adds, “Who are you going to trust with your health? Beachbody has built a reputation of providing excellent products and our nutritional supplements are no exception. Our customers can trust our products for their friends and families because we trust our products for our friends and families too.”
After a hard workout, you’ve probably used up all or a lot of your body’s stored carbohydrates. To replenish them quickly, so that your body can recover in time for your next workout, it’s important to enjoy a recovery snack within 30 minutes of your workout. Your ideal recovery snack should contain 1/2 gram of carbohydrates per pound of your body weight, and at least 10 grams of protein.
A few great recovery snacks:
Superfoods are the most potent, nutrient-rich foods on the planet. They are great for improving overall health, boosting immunity, enhancing sexuality, lowering inflammation, alkalizing the body, and more.
1. Cacao (raw chocolate) [In Shakeology]
Cacao is the highest antioxidant food on the planet! It’s very nutrient dense, loaded with magnesium, iron, and anandamide (also known as the “bliss chemical”). It can be used in a powder form for smoothies, or the bean (cacao nib) can be sprinkled atop your favorite ingredients. Raw chocolate improves cardiovascular health, is a natural aphrodisiac, lifts mood, decreases depression and increases overall wellbeing.
2. Goji Berries (Wolfberries)
The Goji berry is the top Chinese medicine and has been used for over 5,000 years. (Why are we not eating Goji berries instead of processed raisins?!) Goji berries contain 18 amino acids, including all eight essential amino acids. They are also very nutrient dense with up to 21 trace minerals and high amounts of antioxidants. They are best purchased moist and certified organic.
3. Maca [In Shakeology]
Maca increases energy, endurance, strength and libido, and also helps with fatigue, infertility, symptoms of menopause, and sexual dysfunction. It is typically taken as a pill or a liquid extract or a powdered root.
4. Camu Camu Berry [In Shakeology]
The camu camu berry provides 50 times more Vitamin-C than an orange. It’s also one of the most nutrient-dense berries and is great for building immunity, rebuilding tissues, purifying the blood, and increasing energy. With Flu Season right around the corner, consuming Camu-Camu should be part of your daily ritual.
5. Medicinal Mushrooms (Reishi, Chaga, Shiitake, etc.)
These are typically tree mushrooms and are some of the best superfoods on the planet! In particular, the reishi mushroom has some amazing benefits: it can boost the immune system, decrease blood pressure, decrease cholesterol, decrease chronic fatigue and help with chronic lung conditions such as asthma. They are great for many people, and even good for babies.