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October 2011

Fitting Dessert Into Diet, with Top Chef Megan Ketover

Written on October 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm , by

Megan Ketover Top Chef Just Desserts

Photo Courtesy of SparkPeople

Top Chef: Just Desserts contestant Megan Ketover, who helped with The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight, revealed to SparkPeople how she stays so petite while whipping up pastries and other yummy goodies…


Q: You’re surrounded by pastries and treats all day, every day. How do you resist eating them all? 

MK: I am very lucky because I take so many little bites throughout the day to make sure flavors are balanced, that I am very satisfied by sweets when the day is done. There are certain things that are so amazing when they come out of the oven, I do have to have some willpower to resist eating them all.  I just make sure if I am going to eat something decadent, it is going to be really good, and not waste my calories on junk.

Q: Do you have any tips for those who might be intimidated by baking? 

MK: With savory cooking, you can improvise and adjust amounts in a recipe, but baking is an exact science; so I always recommend that bakers get a scale to measure ingredients. Scales can also help to see what a real portion size is.

Q: For “The SparkPeople Cookbook,” you created recipes that were packed with flavor but low in fat? What are some ways that you make your favorite desserts healthier? 

MK: I have always liked the rich flavor of whole wheat flour, so switching out regular flour to whole wheat is an easy way to add fiber and nutrients. Flax seed is also an amazing ingredient to add that packs a nutrient punch without a huge quality difference. I have always enjoyed nutritional baking, but it is important to know what role the baking ingredients play in a recipe in order to substitute it well. It is always important to me that “healthier” desserts still taste amazing. There is just no point if it does not taste good!

Q: People tend to think of desserts as very high in calories–a food that they should rarely eat. How do you incorporate desserts into everyday life? 

MK: Sweets make people happy, they are satisfying at the end of a meal, so I encourage small portion sizes into a healthy diet. Fruits are great because they also pack vitamins, and dairy based desserts are a delicious way to add calcium and protein to a diet plan. Moderation is key; what works for me is to have a small portion of something really delicious and satisfying.

Continued: More Q&A’s with Top Chef Megan Ketover!

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Carve Your Body—Not Just Your Pumpkin—This Halloween

Written on October 27, 2011 at 2:40 pm , by

Try the lurking lunge—it works your core, upper and lower body all at once! (Photo courtesy of NYSC)

Halloween is traditionally celebrated with more sweet treats than sweat sessions. The biggest workout many of us get on October 31 is from walking the kids from door to door in their cute costumes to trick-or-treat! But why not squeeze in a little strength training before you steal a few M&Ms or pieces of candy corn from the stash? (Hey, even Joy Bauer says it’s OK to splurge on five fun-sized items!)

New York Sports Clubs (NYSC) is offering a “Carve Your Body Pumpkin Workout” class to help Halloween revelers find a healthy way to enjoy the day. Members and non-members are welcome to attend a free holiday-themed class at the NYSC location on 41st Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan tomorrow or Monday at 2 p.m.

But if you’re not in the area, simply grab one of your uncarved pumpkins (or feel free to substitute a medicine ball for the pumpkin to do any of these moves year-round) and try this circuit at home.

  • Lurking Lunges: Stand in a split stance with right leg in front, left leg in back. Holding a pumpkin, extend arms in front of you. Bend knees and lower into a lunge, keeping front knee behind the toe. At the bottom of the move, rotate core 90 degrees to the right and then 90 degrees to the left. Do 20 reps.
  • Tombstone Twist: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and pumpkin in hands. Extend arms so pumpkin is at chest height. Rotate arms from and upper body from side to side, pivoting your opposite foot for more range of motion. Do 20 reps.
  • Creepy Crunches: Lie on your back with hands holding a pumpkin over your chest, with knees bent and feet flat on the floor about two feet apart. Lift legs vertically, toes pointing toward the ceiling. Lift your shoulder blades off the ground and extend pumpkin vertically toward toes. Do 20 reps.
  • Repeat circuit of lunges, twists and crunches twice more.

 Now tell us: Do you plan to exercise on Halloween?

Food Day Aims to Inspire Americans to “Eat Real”

Written on October 27, 2011 at 11:34 am , by

The Eat In table was set with harvest colors.

On Monday, some of America’s greatest chefs, nutrition researchers and food minds gathered in New York City’s Times Square for an “Eat In” to mark the first-ever Food Day. The Center for the Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) created the nationwide grassroots movement to show that it’s possible to eat a healthful, sustainable diet while enjoying delicious food.

We spied notables including Morgan Spurlock (of Supersize Me) and Mario Batali (who jetted over to Times Square after taping an episode of The Chew) enjoying a meal full of fall flavors, which was whipped up by chef and dietitian Ellie Krieger.

Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., the executive director of the CSPI, says that Food Day was created to energize the growing food movement and will now become an annual event. “The basic message is that we need to clean up our diets. You don’t need an organization or a Ph.D. Take action by adding more fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet today. If you don’t care about your own health, no one is going to,” Jacobson told us.

Participants in Food Day have six overarching goals:

  1. Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
  2. Support sustainable farms and limit subsidies to big agribusiness
  3. Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
  4. Protect the environment and animals by reforming factory farms
  5. Promote health by curbing junk food marketing to kids
  6. Support fair working conditions for food and farm workers

About 2,000 events took place across the country earlier this week at schools, grocery stores, restaurants and more. If you’re interested in continuing the celebration in your own home, you can find 28 delicious, whole food-based recipes by 10 top chefs (Mario Batali! Emeril Lagasse! Mark Bittman!) in this free Food Day downloadable cookbook.

Or click below for one of the tasty recipes featured in the cookbook that will win over even the most diehard fried food fans.

Read more

Triathlon Training Tips From Top Ironman Competitor Mirinda Carfrae

Written on October 27, 2011 at 8:56 am , by

A few days after being a top finisher at the Ironman in Kona, Mirinda “Rinny” Carfrae sat down with us to talk strategy, relationships and the toughest competition on the course.

Rinny and I the day after the race! Does she even look like she just competed in an Ironman?

Congratulations on an awesome race this year! How does it feel to be among the top three fittest women  in the world? [In my opinion! But that's the top three Ironman female finishers!]

Not quite as good as last year when I won. Haha! It feels great to be back up on the podium in the best triathlon race in the world (in my opinion).

It was a close race this year at Kona between you and first place finisher, Chrissie Wellington. You both clearly have a lot of respect for each other as from what I saw at the finish line. Besides the competition, why do you like racing with her?

I think it was a great women’s race this year. There were some women out there riding ridiculous times and I think Chrissie and I were just lucky they slowed down a little when it came to the run. I love going out there and racing the best women in the world and Chrissie certainly is the best right now. When you have women pushing the boundaries like Chrissie has done you open up a whole world of possibility. All of a sudden, what once seemed impossible is now what everyone is pushing to achieve. I don’t think we would be racing as fast as we are now if we all weren’t chasing this crazy Brit.

Do you have your eyes on the prize again for Kona 2012?

And I will absolutely be chasing the big prize again in Kona 2012.

How did you get involved with the sport of triathlon?

I was doing some strength and conditioning for the upcoming basketball season and ended up training with the local triathlon group. It didn’t take them long to convince me to give triathlon a go. I was pretty much hooked right from my first race, after being involved with team sports my whole life I just really loved the individual aspect of the sport.

Why are you excited about this sport?

As I said earlier, I love the individual aspect of this sport. If you want to improve then it’s up to you to do the work to make those improvements. You do need to have a good support crew, but at the end of the day it’s you that has to go out there and get the job done. I also love that it’s three sports in one, you can never really contain the sport—there is always something that you need to work on and I think that keeps you motivated and excited for the next challenge.

If you hadn’t gone pro, what reasons do you have for competing? More and more everyday women are getting involved with this sport, so why do you think that is? Read more

The Ultimate Swim, Bike, Run: Kona Ironman World Championship 2011

Written on October 26, 2011 at 3:36 pm , by

The official Ironman logo.

If you’ve ever done a triathlon, then you can appreciate something as powerful as an Ironman—the ultimate competition of some of the world’s fittest people. What I consider fit may be different than what others consider fit, but there’s no denying that this 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26. 2-mile run (yes, a marathon) is a beast of a competition and one of the most physically and mentally demanding challenges you will experience. Training for a race like this takes much experience, determination and commitment, not to mention willpower, to get through those many miles and long hours of constantly pushing yourself.

Having competed in a couple Olympic-distance triathlons (that’s a mile swim, 25-mile bike and 6.2-mile run), I can tell you that training is intense: Long hours spent before work, after work and on weekends getting in the practice in the pool, on your bike and on the road. Sometimes, doing all three in one day. But if you’ve ever done one of these competitions, or have thought about it, then you also know how seriously fun they can be. Combining three sports in one breaks up the monotony of a regular marathon or a long bike ride. Plus, if you’re semi-”Type A” or uber competitive like me, then you might enjoy the challenge, and accomplishment, of completing each leg of the race and checking it off your list as you rush to the next challenge—swim, bike, run. To be able to train for an Ironman takes an understanding of how this sport works, including learning the proper nutrition and how to stay fueled throughout the entire race.

When I got the most amazing opportunity to watch the World Championship in Kona, Hawaii on October 8th, I literally jumped for joy! Instantly upon arriving in Kona, I developed a much bigger appreciation for what these athletes accomplished just by being there.

And, they're off! Official swim start.

Much to my surprise, it wasn’t just the elite athletes, who blew my away—it was the oldest competitor, an 81-year-old man from Oregon, and the 60-something-year-old breast cancer survivor, and Scott Rigsby, the man with two prosthetic legs who crossed that finish line before the 17-hour time limit that brought tears to my eyes. To be fit and healthy is something that anybody can practice and aim for, no matter the obstacles pitted against you—and these athletes are proof of that. Just like the three amazing people mentioned above, everybody racing has a story worth telling.

Read more

Yoga Your Way: Deluxe or DIY!

Written on October 26, 2011 at 9:34 am , by

Find more balance in your life during a yoga retreat. (Photo by Karen Pearson)

Countless scientific studies have proven the health benefits of vacations. But it’s not like you need another reason to start booking your next respite! Looking for a relaxing retreat this fall? We stumbled across a yoga event that may be just the ticket.

Kristin McGee, who has shared her yoga know-how with Tina Fey, Bethenny Frankel and Steve Martin—not to mention FITNESS readers!—is hosting “the ultimate yoga weekend” beginning November 10. The three or four-day retreat offers yogis the opportunity to train closely with McGee herself and receive a customized yoga routine based on your specific goals. Participants will be treated like stars with two yoga classes per day and a massage at the Tides Zihuatanejo, a resort in Playa la Ropa, Mexico.

Ready to drop everything and find your zen? Click here for more details.

If you’re short on vacation days or keen on saving cash, here are a few resources to create your own yoga retreat in the comfort of your own home:

Now tell us: What would be included during your dream fit vacation?

Which Celebs Would DWTS Pro Anna Trebunskaya Like to Compete Against?

Written on October 25, 2011 at 3:55 pm , by

Anna's husband, Jonathan Roberts, is also a pro dancer. (Photo by Sonny Tong)

Soon after Dancing With the Stars pro Anna Trebunskaya and her partner fashion expert Carson Kressley were the fifth pair eliminated from the reality show last week, the Russian-born redhead stopped by our offices to fill us in about her competition, dancing tips and dream cast. One of our favorite pieces of advice from Trebunskaya during our fun chat? “Sometimes you just have to stop, smell the roses and dance the tango!”

Read on for five pieces of can’t-miss scoop from this spunky star!

  1. Forecasting the frontrunners. She predicts that J.R. Martinez will walk away with the Mirror Ball trophy this season, with Ricki Lake and Rob Kardashian not far behind.
  2. Women who should work it. Trebunskaya believes Lindsey Lohan would be making a wise career choice by participating in a future season of DWTS, although “she would need to be with a patient partner,” Trebunskaya says. “And Britney Spears would kill it on the show! She’s great.”
  3. Why Carson rocks. “He’s not the most coordinated, but he just has so much charisma,” Trebunskaya says of her partner during season 13 of the reality show. “Carson was a perfect partner in a way—a hard worker and very creative. He was inspiring to me.”
  4. How to get in step. If you’re just learning to dance, “get a friend or a co-worker and go to a beginner group class. People often have too great of expectations early on, thinking they should be able to dance well right away. You can’t be thrown in like a child in the ocean just learning to swim—take small steps, like a child in the baby pool,” Trebunskaya recommends. “Dancing is a skill and it takes repetition to learn, but it’s really not a big deal. It should always be fun.”
  5. Would you rather… As future male contestants on the show, would you rather see:
  • President Obama or Bill Clinton? “Bill Clinton. He’s musical and plays the sax. Plus he’s quite charming.”
  • Justin Timberlake or Chris Brown? “Chris Brown. I’ve seen him perform as a musical guest on our show, and he’s got the moves! It would be a good thing for his image, too.”
  • Jim Carrey or Adam Sandler? “Jim Carrey. He’s tall, has a good frame and is probably a good dancer.”

Now tell us: Who do you think will best the competition this season? And who would you like to see perform on DWTS in the future?

Stalled Weight Loss? Sore Muscles? Joy Bauer Has Three Fast Fixes

Written on October 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm , by

The healthy fats in salmon help soothe achy muscles. (Photo by Peter Ardito)

In her latest book, Today Show contributor Joy Bauer, R.D., explains that if you make the right diet choices, you can boost your mood, improve your memory and even see healthier skin, hair and teeth (not to mention drop a few pounds)! Bauer gives you her eating prescription in Food Cures, a book that follows her motto “life is hard . . . food should be easy.”

Food Cures highlights 17 different conditions or common health complaints and offers solutions or suggestions based on cutting-edge science to eat your way to your goals. We asked Bauer to share three tips to try today for two areas our readers often ask for help with: easing exercise-induced muscle soreness and busting through a weight-loss plateau.

If you experience post-workout aches and pains…

  1. Eat salmon twice a week. “The omega-3s are potent anti-inflammatories. I like canned if I’m in a hurry or hoisin-glazed,” Bauer says.
  2. Eat one red bell pepper a day. Surprise! Red bell peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as oranges. The vitamin can ease body aches.
  3. Add a few slices of fresh ginger to hot water. “Ginger has the same compounds in it as many anti-inflammatory medications,” Bauer says.

If your weight loss efforts have slowed…

  1. Spice up your meals. Add hot sauce, jalapenos or other spicy components to your dishes, as they “suppress appetite and rev metabolism,” according to Bauer.
  2. Drink two glasses of water before meals. It will help you feel less hungry by the time you begin to eat.
  3. Start dinner with vegetables. Whether it’s salad, a vegetable-packed soup or a handful of carrots or cucumber slices, these bites will fill you up without many calories.

Looking for a bit more guidance? Try this simple sample meal plan from Food Cures, which Bauer recommends for those trying to lose a few pounds. Bonus: It contains a few of the foods she also recommends for achy muscles.

Click below for the 1,500-calorie multitasking menu.

Read more

What Lil Mama Wants You to Know About Breast Cancer

Written on October 25, 2011 at 10:13 am , by

Lil Mama goes pink for Breast Cancer Awareness. (Photo by Tyren Redd)

The 22-year-old rapper and America’s Best Dance Crew judge may project a tough image, but Lil Mama shows her more vulnerable side with her work to support breast cancer research and awareness. Here’s what the musician wants you to know about her recent projects, including how she uses her music to help others.

What new music have you been working on?

I recently released “NY, NY, LA, LA” with Snoop Dogg and “Hustler Girl” which is a song that celebrates hardworking women everywhere.

Tell us more about your work with the Tigerlily Foundation to support breast cancer research.

After my mom passed away [in 2007], I wanted to use my voice to raise awareness. I’m working with World Music for the Cure which will support the Tigerlily Foundation. I’m working on new music for the CD, and the proceeds from it will go towards breast cancer research.

You lost your mom to breast cancer at a young age. How did this affect you in terms of how you think about your health and lifestyle?

It definitely made me eat differently. When my mother was diagnosed, she changed her diet and ate more vegetables, replaced red meats with chicken and fish and had to be more strict with herself. I realized I have to do that, too. I try to eat well and exercise to be healthy.

Read more

4 Ways Pilates Makes Everything Better

Written on October 25, 2011 at 7:00 am , by

Perfect your posture with Pilates, your back will thank you! (Photo courtesy of Karen Pearson)

Pilates has a rep as a girly exercise form that attracts ladies who lunch. Private sessions can be pricey, but mat classes will work your entire body. Originally called Contrology, the practice was actually developed to rehab injured soldiers after WW I — talk about functional fitness! After teaching the method for years (and rehabbing a chronic back injury with it), FitSugar editor Susi May concluded that Pilates makes everything better, from life’s basics like sitting to things more extreme like CrossFit. Here, four Pilates fundamentals that everyone can benefit from learning.

The most basic human function, breathing supports life and a fit life, too. A proper inhale fuels your muscles with oxygen, and a powerful exhale helps you engage your deep abs to protect your spine and support your torso. The conscious and studied breathing in Pilates might feel tedious at first, but learning how to breathe into your lower lungs, rather than just your chest, helps makes you a more efficient cardio machine. The Pilates method of inhaling wide through the ribs and exhaling by contracting the deep abs to push the diaphragm into the lungs also means you can keep your upper body and neck relaxed as you take in air.

In May’s experience, bad posture makes everything hurt, from your knees to your neck. Proper alignment of the spine is an essential element of the Pilates practice whether you’re lying on your back, sitting, or standing in an exercise. The emphasis on working with a neutral spine, maintaining the natural curves of your back, helps strengthen the supportive muscles around the spine and reinforces the sensation of how the pelvis, spine, and skull stack on top of each other. Drilling good posture in mat classes and private sessions allows you to take your understanding of a lengthened and supported spine into all aspects of your life from sitting behind a steering wheel or lunging into Warrior 3.

While Pilates seems like it’s all about the abs, it’s really core-centric — training the abs and the back to work in conjunction to protect and align the spine. In Pilates, the concept of the core extends to other important though often neglected muscle groups like the inner thighs and pelvic floor (learn how to find and work your pelvic floor here). Think of a Pilates session, be it a mat class or a private one, like a movement laboratory for learning how to stabilize the torso against a wide variety of forces, namely your limbs. Engaging the core to support the torso and spine is central to almost every Pilates exercise, and repeating this action ingrains the concept into your body. When out on a run or the gym floor, you can start to access this connection.

Read on for more reasons why you should do Pilates.

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