The Total Self: How to Diet

In the spirit of “The Total Self” motif, I present a new view on dieting: How to pick one that will work best for you? We are in an era of unprecedented information about fitness, dieting and everything in between. We are also in the midst of the greatest obesity epidemic across all age groups in America ( by 2020, 76% of ALL Americans will be either obese or overweight). Almost everyday, the average person sees umpteen commercials about fitness (usually about weight loss). These body-image centric commercials sure put a lot of doubt in people’s heads about fitness and what it really means to be healthy. Almost all the emphasis centers around losing enough weight to look like a model. In this article, I will present at least 10 ways to pick the best diet for you… or to create one. Yes, you do not have to follow self-proclaimed fitness gurus, trainers, etc. As always, see a physician before starting any weight-loss regimen. Listen to your body. Now, the list.
1) If it’s not fun, don’t do it. Almost all health/wellness professionals agree that if you are not having fun and seeing results on your fitness regimen, you probably will not stick with it. Simply because some PAID model/athlete is endorsing a product on television (or some other form of media) does not mean that the much-ballyhooed product will even work. Of course, not every diet/weight loss plan is structurlly, scientifically sound (or makes sense). You also have to have a sense of satisfaction as a motivator to do the thing.

2) Evaluate the plan. Does it work? Is it faddish? Do you like what you see in it? Are you able to fit your lifestyle in the workout/diet plan? Conversely, can you fit said workout/diet plan into your lifestyle? Please consider all of these things before trying the “latest and greatest” diet or workout you may hear about, see or read somewhere.

3) Do not rely SOLELY on supplements: Supplements are great, but relying solely on them is not a good idea. As with anything else in life, moderation is key. You can even overdose on water (hyperhydration). Moderation is key. Use your head. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.
4) Include exercise. Yes, all the carb-counting, label-reading goodness you do will never amount to much without exercise. Be sure it’s something you can handle and make it fun.
5) Eat your favorite meals and snacks (in moderation please). Yes, I said it. SACRILEGE, some will say. All jokes aside, you have to make the diet regimen tenable. This is definitely a way. Just don’t over-indulge in it. This defeats the purpose of dieting in the first place. Splurging on a “guilty pleasure” is just fine. Moderation is key.
6) Make a maintainence plan. Now that you’ve lost the weight, or are about to embark on your life-changing fitness plan… make sure you have a maintainence plan. A maintainence plan is sure to keep the pounds/inches off. Now that you have achieved ‘the look”, a maintainence plan will keep you looking sharp. The hardest part is indeed maintaining the achieved goal.
7) Be a tortoise, not a hare. You must keep a slow, steady pace when losing weight (or sculpting your body). Anything else is unhealthy. Don’t risk your life over a few extra vanity pounds. Don’t fool yourself.
8) Allow snacks between meals. Yes, more about food. Snacking is important. Snacking done healthily will curb cravings, thus keeping you in line with your fitness goals. Snacking done healthily will make the difference in you meeting your fitness goals or not. It also will be better for you health-wise.

9) Include all the food groups. Your body is a temple, the original machine (LaMettrie, 1748), the covering of your vital organs. Treat it right. Eating food from all the food groups is a sure way to ensure your way to the “promised land” of fitness is a sure-footed one. Treat your body right. Eating from all the food groups will help your body function as it should.
10) Leave room for improvement. Every diet has flaws in it. Who says it has to stay that way? Educate yourself, get to know your body. Tweak your diet based on your needs at the particular time. A constant of life is change and growth. So should your fitness journey.

In closing, I trust that these tips will help. These tips are essential to help you get what YOU need, not what the fitness pros want you to have. You have only one life… why not diet, exercise in the best way… YOURS.

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15 Ways for Success with Your Fitness Regimen

It’s now June… how many of you have kept with your New Year’s pledge to lose weight, perhaps turn your life around? If you’ve fallen off track, that’s no big deal (over 85% of Americans break their New Year’s pledges in under 45 days). In case any of you all need a refresher, or a plan to get over the hump (or just to stay the course), here is my list of 15 ways to have success with any fitness regimen. This is by no means a comprehensive list… but hopefully it will work for you. Now, the list.
There is no shortcut to ideal health (whatever that is for you), no magic pill that lets you hit your five-a-day target and no single exercise that gives you a shredded physique in minutes. It takes time, hard work and an educated approach to get in shape and stay in shape. Following these tips will make your fitness quest (and life) a whole lot easier.

1. Prepping for Success
The better path to a sound diet is found by using your weekends wisely. Use the extra time you have on your weekends to make large batches of healthy meals that you can portion up to cover at least a couple of midweek lunches and dinners, avoiding the certain death of your fitness goals via fast food.

2. Mix Up Your Exercise

Variety is – cliché alert! – the spice of life, and many sports and activities support each other in ways you won’t realise until you try it. For example, strength training for your legs and core will make you a better runner, while those addicted to dumbbells will find Pilates works muscles they’d never even considered.

3. Calibrate Your Fitness Technology
If you invest in a fitness tracker, don’t just sit back and assume that following the preset targets will lead you to glory. Adjust the steps, active minutes and calorie targets regularly to build on your progress, or make them more realistic if you never get close and have started to ignore them. If you don’t engage with your fitness tech, you’ll quickly discard it.

4. Add In Extra Activity
This one of the oldest tricks in the book: take the stairs not the escalator, or get off the bus a stop early and walk. Any activity is better than none, and will only encourage you to do more. And if you really want to up the ante, try sprinting up the stairs (safely) each time you take them – clinical studies found that short bursts of high-intensity stair-climbing can make a significant difference to your cardiorespiratory fitness.

5. Keep Tabs On Your Visceral Fat

You can be skinny on the outside (at least your arms and legs), but fat on the inside. Visceral fat is the type that builds up around your organs and often results in a pot belly. It’s linked with heart disease, several types of cancer and type 2 diabetes. Check your waist-to-height ratio (WtHR) to see if you’re at risk. Grab a piece of string and use it to measure your height, then halve it. If it doesn’t fit around your waist, get exercising – visceral fat is the first type to go when you start a health regimen.

6. Value Your Rest Days
When you start on a fitness kick, it’s tempting to exercise every day while motivation is high. This is a bad move, and one that may see your motivation flame out within weeks, because you’re always exhausted and won’t see the massive improvements you expect for your efforts. Why? You’re not giving your muscles the time and rest they need to recover and grow.

7. Up The Intensity If You’re Short On Time
Health and wellness experts still promote the 150 minutes of moderate activity a week minimum, but now offer an alternative option of 75 minutes of vigorous activity a week. That’s running or singles tennis, for example, rather than cycling or walking, which count as moderate. You can also mix the two, so 60 minutes of vigorous cardio plus 30 of moderate will do the trick also. Bear in mind the guidelines also demand strength exercises on two or more days a week alongside your aerobic activity.

8. Treat Your Body Right
Nothing derails a health kick as quickly as injury, as many serious injuries will start out as small ones- you may think it’s OK to push through. Scaling back the intensity for a few days is better than having to shut it down for a few months. If you have an urgent desire to hit the gym, target a different part of the body from the one that’s bothering you.

9. The Drive for Five
Eating at least five portions of fruit and veg a day should be at the cornerstone of your healthy diet plan. What’s not wise is getting in a rut and eating the same five every day, because different types of fruit and veg contain different vitamins and minerals. A good way to vary your five-a-day is to eat different colors, as the hue is a decent indication of the nutrients they contain.

10. Don’t Undervalue Your Sleep
There is tendency for people who sleep very little to brag about it, as if it’s an indication of their commitment to life. However, getting the full seven to eight hours is vital to a healthy lifestyle, as it provides the energy for your exercise and even influences dietary choices – a 2016 study found that in the day following a night of limited sleep, people ate an extra 385 calories on average. You don’t snooze, you lose.

11. Increase Your Cadence On Your Runs
If you are consistently picking up injuries when running, one change it’s definitely worth trying is to up your rate of strides per minute (your cadence). If you overstrike, thus taking fewer steps, you put extra pressure on your knee and hip joints. Try and take more steps, which means your feet will land more beneath your body, reducing the impact on your joints.

12. Give It Your All or Turn It Loose
The first time you try an exercise it’s very hard, but at least quite novel. The second time the novelty is gone, and it’s still hard, leading to the temptation to quit. Try it at least once more, as the third time is often the charm – when a sport or workout starts to become as enjoyable as it is tough.

13. Count Reps Backwards
This is a mental trick that might make resistance workouts a little easier. Counting down the reps means by the time it’s really hurting you’re at the 3,2,1 stage, which feels closer to the end than 8,9,10 or whatever target you’re going for. It won’t work for everyone, but it’s worth a try.

14. Make Full Use Of Your Street Furniture
Exercising outdoors is a great way to ensure you get your hit of vitamin D (if it’s sunny) as well as a good workout, and it doesn’t have to be all cardio. As well as the exercise machines that litter many parks, you can nearly always finds a bar or ledge for pull-ups, or a bench or wall to do dips on. Rarer treats can even include chains to use as ersatz TRX ropes.

15. Record Stats and Progress

Nothing builds motivation as efficiently as seeing signs of improvement, so make sure you keep some kind of record of your activity. It can be as simple as noting your record five-rep max or fastest 5K time, using either one of the many excellent fitness apps available or old-fashioned pen and paper.
In closing, these tips and tricks will help in your fitness goals. Knowledge is power. Knowledge is a fundamental building block in fitness and in life. Knowledge (alongside hard work and dedication) is the most essential of the basics. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN!!

Cardio-Friendly Foods

Here at the Halcyon Fitness Group, we are always thinking of new ways to equip you, the reader. Recipes are another way. This article is all about cardio-friendly foods. Or simply put, food that won’t weigh you down after killing it for 10-15 miles

Everyone needs carbohydrates, the body’s preferred energy source. If you get regular cardiovascular exercise or train for an endurance sport, you need more daily carbs to fuel your workouts and replenish your energy stores. Remember: all carbs are not created equal. Grains, fruit, vegetables (nutrient-rich choices) as well as candy and sweets (empty calories) are all sources of carbohydrate. Some foods, like dairy and legumes, combine carbohydrate and protein, which helps restore muscles. The best carbs to choose are ones that contribute plenty of other nutrients such as protein, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants.

Whole grain oats are delicious and easy to digest before or after a workout. As an added bonus, the soluble fiber in oatmeal may help lower cholesterol. Opt for plain oats instead of the sugary flavored varieties and create your own delicious concoction by adding nutritious (and tasty) ingredients. Sprinkle in your favorite nuts and dried fruit to add natural sweetness as well as fiber and iron. Save time by cooking the oats ahead and warming them up in the microwave.

Yogurt and fruit make a winning carbohydrate combination. Yogurt adds protein and some calcium to this drink while fruit contributes natural sweetness and vitamin C for tired, sore muscles. Drink this shake before a cardio session to fuel your workout, or within the ideal recovery window―between 30 and 60 minutes after exercise―when your body is best able to repair itself and replenish the energy you’ve spent.

Carbohydrate plus protein is a winning combination that helps repair muscles and refuel your tank. Remember that pasta doesn’t have to come from wheat. Rice noodles are a gluten-free alternative with a tender texture and mild flavor that works well with all types of sauces. Pork is higher in B vitamins than other meats, providing a metabolism boost and extra energy-producing power. Toss in your favorite fresh vegetables for texture, color, extra vitamins, and fiber. Pork Strips with Peanut Sauce and Rice Noodles

Muffins can be a nutritional boon or a bust, depending on what’s in them. Those gigantic bakeshop muffins can contain over 500 calories and 20 grams fat. Smarter choice: Home-baked muffins bursting with antioxidant-rich dried fruits and fiber from whole wheat flour and wheat germ. Wheat germ is also high in the mineral zinc, which contributes to healthy skin and a strong immune system. Add a boost of antioxidants by adding the freshest berries of the season.

Mixed-grain salads deliver a satisfying combination of flavors and textures as well as folate and vitamin E for a strong and healthy heart―very important for those cardio workouts! Adding beans to grains creates the key combination of protein and carbs that helps muscles repair and refuel themselves. Enjoy this salad for lunch, or pair it with lean protein like chicken or fish for a powerhouse dinner.

Sweet potatoes are a true super-food. In addition to being a great source of energy producing carbohydrate, they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of sweet potato contains 20 percent of your daily potassium needs, plus energy-boosting vitamin B6 and more than 700 percent of your daily vitamin A needs (mostly in the form of the antioxidant beta-carotene). This salad also combines iron-rich spinach with vitamin C from oranges, which helps increase iron absorption.

In closing, this list is not conclusive. Hopefully, you will use this as a baseline- tweak this list and make your own. Everyone is different. Make this your own..

Top 5 Bicep Exercises for Size and Strength

It’s now May, and the sun is out. Pretty soon, most of us will be out at the beach trying to show off our bodies. For those of you who are “gym rats” and are concerned about breaking plateaus in your training routines…. never fear. I have my Top 5 list of the Best Exercises to increase bicep size. NOTE: This list is a primer for those who are getting into lifting and a refresher for the veterans of the gym who need a new routine to spice things up at the local gymnasium. As always, listen to your body, use your best judgment. See your doctor for injuries and advice. This article, this column and this site is not a substitute for sound health advice by a doctor (primarily your primary care provider). Use at your own risk. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN!!!
Now, the list:

1) Barbell Curl. This exercise often separates the men from the boys. Using proper form (more on that in a minute), this exercise will stretch the tape.
Standing straight and erect, have the barbell at the starting position, which is usually mid thigh level. Then, slowly, but surely, curl the barbell up to shoulder height. Use a weight you can safely handle to prevent injury. A good set should be between 6-8 repetitions with about a 30-45 second rest period in between. You should feel a slight, but good burn. As for form: Stand up straight. Use your arms to control the weight. Do not use your back under any circumstances. The reason is the risk of injury. Also, if you cheat that exercise, you are sabotaging your bicep development. Use your arms, not your back, legs, hips or anything else (some stand against a wall or pillar in the gym to prevent cheating).

2) Incline Dumbbell Curl. For this exercise, you need to be on an incline bench or an adjustible seat. Your form is still straight up, though seated, heels on the floor, chest slightly poked out and shoulders back. Using the same form to control the weight from the barbell curl exercise, perform the exercise. Again, use a challenging yet comfortable weight. Have at least three sets of 6-8 repetitions with a 30-45 second rest break in between sets. A truism that is said in the military holds true for these exercises: “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast”. Control the weight, don’t let it control you. Feel the burn. There is a mental link that you can use: visualization. Visualize your biceps getting bigger and stronger with each set and every rep. Be strict with your form and you will see results.

3) Standing Biceps Cable Curl. This variation of the barbell curl yields great returns. If done correctly, as some have found, is the linchpin for a great biceps routine that can be a great part of your weight training regimen. Your form is still standing up straight, head centered, eyes forward, chest slightly poked out and shoulders back. Some use a variation that puts the dominant foot (if you’re right-handed, you will use your right leg/foot as the front leg and your left leg as your support/rear leg) exactly center of the cable and its attachment for a more intense block of bicep curls. The movement? Same as always. Control the weight, don’t let it control you. The ideal rep speed is a one-count on the up, one second to hold the weight at the top of the repetition, and a one-count to lower the weight for a total of three seconds. This is the basic rule of thumb for repetition speed. Continue to be cognizant of your form, to protct your back and your body from injury.

4) Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row. The Reverse-Grip Bent-Over Row is all about SIZE, POWER AND BRUTE STRENGTH. If this doesn’t put size on your biceps, nothing will. Your starting position is, bent over. Bent over, back straight, head facing up to the ceiling. You need to get full extension of the exercise to reap the rewards of it. Keep your back straight, control the weight. The top of the repetition will be least nipple level on the chest. No sudden starts and stops. Those herky-jerky movements gets people injured. Remember, slow is smooth, smooth is fast. Do not try to set powerlifting records on the first day you try them. Good form beats heavy poundages every time. Good form also beats using your insurance deductable up on needless injuries.

5) Concentration Curl. The final exercise on the list is absolutely fantastic for bicep development. Concentration curls are simply that, the movement is concentrated to a small range of movement. The procedure: You are seated, the “off-hand”, or arm you’re not using, will be the arm you place on your thigh. The arm you are using will be between your legs. Your legs are spaced exactly shoulder width apart, back straight. Your head will be facing down towards the exercise. You will want to watch/visualize the movement. Use the aforementioned speed in regards to the repetitions. Use the aforementioned rest periods for this exercise. More importantly, stretch before and after this exercise as the concentration curl is a direct attack on the bicep (moreso than the others). Remember slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

In closing, these exercises will give you that look of greatness. They will also teach you discipline and hard work. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN!!!!!

8 Anti-Aging Foods

8 ANTI-AGING FOODS

Although the modern world has countless products designed to counteract the effects of aging from the outside, these don’t do anything for degenerative or age-related issues that may be occurring within.

If you can create better health and take better care of yourself, it stands to reason that not only will your internal organs be in better shape, but your skin will be also.

You may feel “invincible” when you are young, but acting as though you are will take its toll. Start caring for yourself properly – get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise and minimize toxins.
Here is my list of 8 foods that have been recognized by researchers for their health-prolonging and even rejuvenating effects:

1. Pomegranate

Pomegranate has been associated with immense cardiovascular benefits in actual human studies, which found that it reversed arterial plaque that is thought to be a prime cause of serious or even fatal heart conditions.

2. Berries
Berries of all types are antioxidant rich (especially organic ones) – which means that they combat free radicals, inflammation and inflammation-related diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis and even Alzheimer’s. [1]

3. Omega-3 Rich Fish

Omega-3’s, which are found in wild-caught salmon (in much higher quantities than in farmed salmon), tuna and also some plant sources such as walnuts and flax seeds, have been associated with brain health – especially with beneficial effects on mood and attitude. [1] They are also considered anti-inflammatory.

4. Red Wine or Red Grape Juice

Yes, it’s true. Red wine contains resveratrol – a powerful antioxidant that has actually been associated with reduced cell death in the brain and heart – meaning that this could actually lengthen your life. It’s advised not to drink more than one glass of red wine per day for health reasons – also you could skip the wine and simply drink red grape juice if you prefer something non-alcoholic.

5. Tea
Black, green, white and oolong teas have been been associated with various health benefits. Note that loose leaf tea is considered preferable to tea bags, owing to chemical residues in the paper of the tea bags which can end up in the tea.

6. Chocolate

Who said that staying healthy had to be boring? Did you know that the world’s oldest person, Jeanne Louise Calment, ate a bar of chocolate every day during her later years? It’s true. Calment was a French supercentenarian who has the longest confirmed human lifespan on record, living to the age of 122 years, 164 days.

This amazing lady, who lived on her own until shortly before her 110th birthday, ascribed her longevity and relatively youthful appearance for her age to a diet rich in olive oil (which she also rubbed onto her skin), as well as a diet of port wine. She ate nearly one kilogram (2.2 lb) of chocolate every week. Calment reportedly remained mentally intact until her very end – though (astonishingly, and we don’t want to encourage you) – she smoked cigarettes from the age of 21 to 117! Chocolate’s health giving properties are due to its principal ingredient – cacao – which is noted for numerous health benefits.

7. Olive Oil

As mentioned above. Though be sure that you are getting olive oil that is pure and not adulterated.

8. Lycopene-rich Foods (Tomatoes, red carrots, watermelon)

Lycopene has been associated with reduced cancer risk and (in tomatoes) is a component of the Mediterranean Diet which is noted for producing some of the worlds longer-lived, healthier people.

Other beneficial foods worth adding to your list – avocados, nuts and swiss chard.

In closing… food should be fun. So should be eating helthy. Just another spin of the basics. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN.

References:

[1] http://www.webmd.com/diet/best-anti-aging-foods

FAILSAFE DIET: A Look Inside

The following is an op-ed piece on the Failsafe Diet. This link is http://fedup.com.au/images/stories/foodbrochure1.pdf to a brochure (downloadable and printable) from the Fed Up website.

What is the FailSafe Diet?

Due to the massive use of additives and preservatives in today’s food, people are looking for alternative food sources. These additives have flooded the market in our everyday grocery items and sadly the majority of people have no idea what they are actually consuming or if or how it is affecting them. Almost everyday you are hearing about some recall on food, or some outbreak of some type of foodborne illness, largely due to additives in the food providing a very suitable environment for disease to spring up and spread. For some people, having good intentions about the food they eat and the food they buy for their families is not enough. These people want the best. I recently read about a Australian mother who refused to continue to feed her kids things that made her sick.

The Failsafe Diet is all about avoiding artificial colors, flavor enhancers, preservatives, synthetic antioxidants, and cutting down to low salicylates, glutamates and amines. Sounds daunting when you hear it like that, but speaking from experience it isn’t, you just need to take a deep breath and take it one step at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed.  It’s worth the change to experience a positive more peaceful household that you never imagined possible!  All these things can affect behavior, tantrums, learning difficulties, sleep patterns, bed wetting, rashes, anxiety, asthma and so many other conditions that affect children and adults alike.

RESOURCES

Look up Failsafe Diet support groups on Facebook (anything and everything can be found on Facebook). There is the RPAH Elimination Diet Handbook,  plus author Sue Dengate with her offerings Fed Up and the Failsafe Cookbook.

Again, here’s the link from earlier: http://fedup.com.au/images/stories/foodbrochure1.pdf

 

In closing, if you want something akin to the Paleo Diet, give the Failsafe Diet a try. Not only will you get clean eating, you will get rid of additives, pesticides, colors and steroids.

 

 

BATES’ TOP TEN STRENGTH/SIZE EXERCISES

NOTE: This is MY list, not a definitive list made elsewhere. This is basically what got me big. The basics… THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN.

 

Yes, this is still “The Basics Always Win”, but I am taking a different path on this one. I am going over my top ten favorite strength training exercises. These are foundational, but brutal. They got me big… and will get you big as well.
As always, use caution when strength training. Always consult your primary healthcare provider before starting any fitness regimen. Now, the list.

1) Bench Press. Called “The Grandaddy of Em All”, this exercise is king for a reason. Raw, animalistic strength is evident. It is noted that the bench press does tax the Central Nervous System a bit. Risk of injury is high, so technique and a bit of reason will come in handy.

2) Barbell Squat. Yet another brutal, yet simplistic exercise. This is another exercise that emphasizes technique, skill and a bit of courage lol. High risk of injury here as well. D
3) Bentover Row. This very simple exercise is all about blasting the upper back. Power, pure power.

4) Barbell Lunge. Used by athletes for ages to develop size in the quads, hamstrings as well as overall growth, this exercise is also dangerous for the knees (especially if you go too heavy).

5) Lying Dumbbell Flyes. This exercise is all about power, concentration and technique/form. Injury to shoulders, arms and chest is high. All-around exercise for great strength and looks.

6) Lawnmowers (Dumbbell Row). This exercise shores up the back, shoulders while scuplting the upper body as a whole. Great strength, thickness and width is a certainty.

7) Standing Dumbbell Press. All-around strength. Great for shoulders, back, neck even the chest gets a bit of work. Form, form, form. You need to use a weight that is comfortable, but challenging.

8) Dumbbell Curl. Timeless exercise. All about form, strength and patience. Yes, the politicians can’t ban the guns, but you need good form and a weight that is comfortable yet challenging.

9) Skullcrushers (Pullover Press). Animalistic power, size and savage strength is the name of the game here. Form, form, form!!!
10) Behind-neck press. Awesome for size, strength and bragging rights.

In closing, these are only ten of the many exercises that I consider great. Hopefully some of you gym rats out there can use what I have been using to get results, because that’s what it’s all about: 1) Good form 2) Passion 3) Results. These are the basics. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN!!

GLUTEN-FREE OPTIONS

Are there whole-grain options that are gluten-free?

Whole grains are important for everyone. They’re naturally high in fiber, low in fat and filling to eat. And, when eaten regularly, whole grains help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and certain cancers.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that at least half of your daily servings of grains be whole grain. This means three servings a day for most people. Seems simple? It’s not. Fewer than 5 percent of Americans meet this recommendation.

The most common whole-grain foods (breads, baked goods, cereals, pasta and crackers) contain gluten. This makes getting enough whole grains even tougher for those with celiac disease because they must avoid wheat, rye and barley because of their gluten content.

So, here are five gluten-free whole grains, how to cook them and how to add them to your diet. Remember to aim for three servings of whole grains a day.

Amaranth: About the size of a poppy seed, this pseudo-grain has a light peppery taste. Use 3 to 6 parts water to 1 part amaranth. Boil water, add grain and gently boil for 15 to 20 minutes. As it cooks, amaranth softens from the inside, releases a lot of starch and thickens the cooking liquid. Rinse cooked amaranth and let it drain before using. Use amaranth to thicken soups and stews. Add milk, fruit and a bit of honey for a healthy breakfast. You can even “pop” dried amaranth and make it into a granola-type bar.

Millet: About the size of a small mustard seed, this grain has a mild flavor. Use 2 to 3 parts water to 1 part millet. Boil water, add grain and gently boil for 35 to 40 minutes. You may also “toast” millet in a hot pan before boiling to get a nuttier flavor. Top with cinnamon and peaches for breakfast. Or make a salad with halved grape tomatoes, radishes and chopped basil. Millet is also a great alternative to rice in casseroles, ground-meat dishes and stuffing.

Teff: This smallest of grains is nutty and earthy in flavor. Use 3 parts water to 1 part teff. Boil water, add grain and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Its texture is like cream of wheat. Add cooked teff to soups or use teff as the main ingredient for polenta instead of cornmeal. Teff flour can be used to make pancakes.

Buckwheat: Despite its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat. This-pseudo grain is pyramid shaped and known as kasha or buckwheat groats. To bring out its earthy flavor, cook 1 cup buckwheat with one egg in a large skillet over medium heat. Stir to keep from clumping until the mixture is dry and separated. Add 2 cups water or broth and cook uncovered over low heat for about 15 minutes. Mix cooked buckwheat with lentils, herbs and a bit of goat cheese. Or stuff peppers or acorn squash with cooked buckwheat. Buckwheat flour can be used to make pancakes.

Quinoa: This pseudo-grain must be rinsed well before cooking to remove bitter-tasting saponins. You can also buy it pre-rinsed. The flavor is squash-like. Quinoa cooks in just 15 minutes. Use 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa. Mix with chopped fruit and drizzle with honey for breakfast. Or use quinoa instead of bulgur to make tabbouleh. Quinoa is also a good substitute for rice in rice pudding.

Whether you are going gluten-free or not, these whole grains are good for you. Share your favorite ways of preparing these grains.

SNACKING: Friend or Foe

Snacking. What can be said about such a sabouteur of diets worldwide? Lots of diets have gone by the wayside (maybe even yours) this year due to snacking and temptation… Here is a respite… well-planned, healthy snacks can complement your weight-loss plan. Here are creative and healthy ways to satisfy your hunger.

Your stomach is growling, but lunch is hours away. You could grab a snack, but you think it’s best to grit your teeth and wait for lunch. Not so, if weight loss is your goal.

In fact, well-planned weight-loss diets allow for healthy snacks to help manage hunger and reduce bingeing at mealtime. The key is to eat healthy snacks that satisfy your hunger and keep the calorie count low.

Healthy snacking

The best snacks are those that fill you up quickly, make you feel full until mealtime and add relatively few calories to your daily total. Fruits and vegetables meet these ideal snack requirements for several reasons:

Few calories. Most fruits and vegetables are low in calories. Even when you eat a portion that satisfies your hunger, the calorie count is low.
Lots of water. Most fruits and vegetables contain a lot of water, which helps fill you up.

Lots of fiber. Fiber is the part of plants that you can’t absorb and that passes through your digestive system slowly. Fiber fills you up and helps you feel full longer.
Lots of nutrients. Fruits and vegetables provide healthy vitamins, minerals and other beneficial plant chemicals (phytochemicals).
Little fat. Most high-fat foods are high in calories, but usually low in water content and fiber. In order to feel full with high-fat foods, you need to consume lots of calories. Most fruits and vegetables have very little fat.
100-calorie goal

A good goal for a between-meal snack is something with fewer than 100 calories. Generous portions of fruits or vegetables can easily help fill you up while staying below that calorie count. All of the following servings have fewer than 100 calories:

Medium apple: 95 calories
Small banana: 90 calories
Two kiwis: 84 calories
20 medium baby carrots: 70 calories
20 grapes: 68 calories
Medium orange: 65 calories
20 cherry tomatoes: 61 calories
Medium peach: 58 calories
Medium red pepper: 37 calories
20 pea pods: 28 calories
For comparison, one reduced-fat cheese stick has about 60 calories 100-calorie but it also has 4.5 grams of fat. While the protein and fat may help curb your appetite, a single cheese stick may not be as satisfying as, say, 20 baby carrots, which add up to nearly 10 times the weight of the cheese stick, have 70 calories and less than 1 gram of fat.
Fresh is best, but . . .

While fresh fruits and vegetables are the best choices for between-meal snacks, frozen fruits and vegetables are a good alternative. And canned fruit packed in its own juices or water — not in syrup — is a reasonable choice even though the processing does somewhat lower the nutrient value.

Other snack options

Other snacks that are healthy and low in calories include the following:

Popcorn. Two cups of air-popped popcorn has 62 calories and is a good source of nutrients, such as magnesium and potassium.
Whole-grain crispbreads. Toasted whole-grain bread crackers, such as rye Melba toast, are good sources of fiber and complex carbohydrates. Five pieces of Melba toast have about 97 calories.
Hummus. Hummus is made primarily from chickpeas, a small amount of ground sesame seeds and olive oil. It’s a good source of protein. Although it contains fats, they are mostly healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Two tablespoons of hummus — a good dip for a low-calorie vegetable snack — has 50 calories and 2.8 grams of fat.
Nuts. While nuts may have a bad reputation, research studies have shown that they don’t generally contribute to increased calorie intake or weight gain when eaten in moderation, in part because you feel satisfied after eating them. Nuts also have been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and overall mortality. Thirteen almonds provide a 100-calorie snack with 7.8 grams of healthy fats.
Making snack time work for you
Healthy snacking requires planning. Here are some tips to snack sensibly:

Keep your house stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. Buy a variety so that you don’t get bored with your selection.
Keep a supply of frozen or canned fruits at home and work for backup.
Don’t keep conventional snacks, such as candy or chips, in the house.
Have a small amount of mixed nuts when hungry, which will go a long way toward decreasing hunger sensations.
Experiment with herbs or spices to make fruits and vegetables more interesting.
Prepare snacks in the evening for the next day. For example, before bedtime slice up a red pepper, wash an apple or count out a snack-size serving of grapes. Put the snack in a container so that it’s ready to go in the morning.
Planning ahead by having healthy choices on hand can help make your weight-loss or weight-maintenance plan a success.
In closing, “bodies are made in the kitchen”. You must make that commitment to being great…. dieting, exercise, whatever it is you are looking to do. Never forget the basics. THE BASICS ALWAYS WIN!!!

News & Notes

I am pleased to announce the start of a series of ebooks that will target my “Actualization Familiarity Mastery” motif. As you know, I always start with the basics. Motivation, bodyweight exercises. Later we will get into specifics like athletic fitness.  Any questions, complaints, observations can be sent via email at halcyoninfo6@gmail.com. Twitter: @halcyonfg16 

Thanks for reading.