Just like you, our staff is gearing up to celebrate the holidays with family and friends! While we’re planning to indulge (Exhibit A: the discussions about cookies and feasting below; Exhibit B: the dessert spread at our staff holiday party!), we also have some fit customs that have been passed down through the generations.
Here are a few of our favorite fun ways to mark the holidays with our loved ones.
- “My sister and I make a large variety of cookies, then give them as gifts and share with each other! A lot of time is put into creating the different varieties, but now we have help! We’re continuing our productions with the assistance of my two helpers—my niece and nephew.” — Elaine Roake, photo director
- “Everyone in my family is a huge fan of games, so some new contraption finds its way under the tree each year. On Christmas, after opening gifts and eating breakfast, we spend the morning testing out our new game, whether it’s Rock Band, Wii Fit or something else equally fun!” — Samantha Shelton, editorial assistant
- “On Christmas, my brother and I usually run three miles around a lake near my parent’s house. That way we don’t feel too guilty filling up later at our Aunt Christine’s epic Christmas Day feast.” — Lisa Haney, health editor
“My mom and I make these special thumbprint cookies. Now that I’m not at home anymore, she always sends me a batch and I send her some of mine too. I even made them for a holiday party I hosted this past weekend!” — Jenna Autuori-Dedic, fitness editor
- “One of my favorite holiday traditions with my good girlfriends is our Holiday White Elephant Thong Party. Instead of bringing gifts, we buy elaborate, ridiculous, hilarious undergarments to put under the Christmas tree. (They’re all brand-new of course…and are usually from Victoria’s Secret!) The night is always an absolute riot and I don’t think gift-giving can be more entertaining!” — Christie Griffin, digital director
- “If there’s snow on the ground, my family and I would always take the opportunity to build our snow ‘twin’ with all of the trimmings—charcoal eyes, carrot noses and paper towel roll arms. They even get our hats when we’re sweating from all the rolling, packing and lifting. Biggest snowman wins!” — Karla Walsh, editorial assistant
- “On New Year’s Eve, I do the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run in Central Park. The gun goes off at midnight along with the fireworks. It’s four miles and this is my third year doing it. It’s fun to start the new year off with a run and it makes me feel like I’m able to stick to running and staying fit all year long.” — Argy Koutsothanasis, fashion director
Now tell us: What is your favorite holiday tradition?
So far this November, we’ve filled you in about three of our Face of FITNESS finalists. Now it’s time to learn about the fourth—multitasking mom Lauren! She straps her daughters into a jogging stroller, runs to the gym for strength training, and runs back home. But she also enjoys the occasional indulgence: Once a month, her whole crew walks the one mile to their local Dairy Queen for Blizzards!
Lauren Lopez, Greensboro, North Carolina
Motherhood hasn’t slowed 29-year-old Lauren down; it’s made her more active. Since her husband, a weapons chief in the Navy, is often deployed, she needs to stay fit to keep up with her two daughters, ages 3 and 1.
Marriage must “My husband and I met when I was in the Navy Reserve and he was on staff. We bonded over physical training on weekends, and we still love to work out together. We have several races lined up, including a half-marathon.”
My healthy indulgence “I eat peanut butter at least once a day—whether it’s on toast or straight off the spoon. It’s great fuel for my workouts.”
Action plan “Every Sunday I prep for a healthy week by planning dinners, cooking chicken, turkey and brown rice; making hardboiled eggs for breakfast; and scheduling workouts.”
Good news for Olive Garden and Red Lobster fans. The two restaurants are the latest chains to reduce calories and sodium on its menus, including kid’s menus.
According to this MSNBC article, parent company Darden Restaurants, Inc. will start to slash calories across all its restaurants, which also include Longhorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze chains. In addition, the company said that each restaurant will offer at least one kids’ meal option under 600 calories.
This news follows a bundle of restaurants already offering lower calorie options. While high calorie indulgences will still be available on the menus, this will hopefully give restaurant goers healthier choices for themselves and their children.
Now tell us: Have you tried one of the low-calorie menus yet at your favorite chain? What did you think?
More from FITNESS:
This week’s fit links from around the web:
- Consider Modern Family your Rx! Why giggling can help you hurt less. — TIME Healthland
- “Vegetarian” doesn’t always mean healthy. Test your meat-free I.Q. to make smart choices at the supermarket. — Fit Sugar
- Get reminded of how utterly awesome you are. — Pigtail Pals
- Who would have thought that you can support your schools through a CSA? Find out about the healthiest school fundraisers around. — Diets in Review
- Olive Garden, Red Lobster and more are cutting calories from their menus and the First Lady approves. — L.A. Times
- Take these baby steps to help your family make small changes that bring big wellness results. — FitBottomed Girls
As host of TLC’s Freaky Eaters, a personal trainer, author and certified nutrition specialist (not to mention mom to two teenage boys!), JJ Virgin has become a star at fitting in a healthy lifestyle to a hectic schedule. With her sons—and the rest of the nation’s kids—heading back to school, Virgin stopped by to share her top tips to help your youngsters build a better plate:
- Aim for a B. “If your family diet is too perfect, there will be a revolution in your home. Don’t strive for an ‘A’ diet when a ‘B’ is more reasonable and more fun. On most days, we have grilled chicken, salad and fruit for dinner, but it’s OK to have pizza or mac and cheese once a week.”
- Try, try again. “Vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower have really strong tastes raw and many kids don’t like them. But if you expose them again and again, and try preparing them in different ways—like roasted with sea salt—kids will eventually find veggies they enjoy.”
- Mix it up. “Breakfast doesn’t have to just be conventional ‘breakfast’ foods like cereal, toast or yogurt. My sons and I love chicken sausages, protein shakes or even leftovers from last night’s dinner.”
- Stock smart. “One good thing about younger teens and kids? They don’t have cars or money, so the parents can control all of the food that comes into the home. I put easy foods I know they will like near their eyeline since I know they’re almost always hungry! They’ll grab what they see.”
- Team up. “Your kids might not like to clean dishes or grocery shop, but since it’s fun, they’ll probably be willing to at least try their hands as chefs! It really helps to involve them in meals so they feel invested.”
- Know when to tell (and keep quiet). “One of my sons is really into eating well—he recently even started a green smoothie habit!—so I tell him about all the nutritious qualities of our meals. But the other prefers a more traditional American menu. He doesn’t have to know (and won’t be able to tell if) a food is healthy or organic, or that we made the meatballs with ground turkey breast instead of beef.”
- Keep treats special. “Go out for indulgent foods, like ice cream, instead of keeping it in your house—then get a small. That way no one will constantly be tempted.”
Now tell us: How do you help your kids try new, nutritious foods?
Written by Alexa Cortese, web intern
Summer is winding down, but that doesn’t mean the hot days are over quite yet. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that almost 6,000 people per year go to the emergency room for heat-related illnesses that occur during sports or recreational activity. With young jocks heading back to practice (heat-related issues are among the leading causes or illnesses and deaths for young athletes) and weekend warriors possibly stepping up their routines before Labor Day, this is no time to ease up on your heat-smart habits.
A recent study from Roehampton University in London found that athletes were able to exercise longer and harder in the heat with a cool towel wrapped around their neck. When their bodies finally felt exhausted, their core body temperature was much higher than it was by the time they were tired without the neck cooling trick. While some outdoor exercisers may appreciate and take heed of this tip, do so with caution, as the body is pretty good at detecting when its core temperature is getting dangerously high, and this trick may confuse your body into pushing its core temperature into unsafe territory.
Here are some quick warm weather pointers from the CDC to also keep in mind:
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to start sipping and keep water on-hand during your workout. Our experts recommend drinking 16 ounces a few hours before exercise, another 16 ounces the hour before and throughout your sweat session. Cool water is OK, while freezing cold may not be the wisest choice, as it can cause stomach cramps.
- Take a break in the shade. The minute the whistle blows for a water break or you are ready to stretch after your run, find a respite from the sun. Stepping into a space with AC or taking a cool shower is an even more effective way to chill out.
- Choose your workout strategically. Taking your workout to the pool can help you stay safe while burning calories outdoors. Looking for some fun (and fat-blasting) swimming workouts for any fitness level? FITNESS has you covered.
Now tell us: Do you like to exercise when the mercury is high or do you prefer a workout in a temperature-regulated environment?
Sarah Matheny would often tote a can of soup and a carton of yogurt for lunch during her busy day as an attorney. “I wasn’t eating terribly, but I did rely on a lot of processed foods,” Sarah admits. When she decided to become a stay-at-home mom after having her first daughter, Sarah opted to revamp her diet as well—turning vegetarian and focusing on preparing whole foods-based meals. “I am a role model for my daughters and they pick up my behavior. I wanted to clean up my act,” she says.
Her meatless quest turned into a blog, Peas and Thank You, and the popularity of her recipes and stories on the blog offered her the opportunity to write a book. Peas and Thank You: Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love was released yesterday, sharing “healthier twists on foods we all enjoy.”
Since Sarah is a pro at creating produce-filled recipes her (adorable!) daughters devour, we asked for three tips for getting kids to eat their veggies:
- Don’t play hide and seek. “I want my kids to know that they’re eating vegetables so they realize at a young age that they’re delicious! Rather than disguising them, I incorporate them into meals they love the taste of, like enchiladas, pizza or pasta.”
- Make it visible. “We always have fresh produce in our crisper drawers, and tell our daughters that they can always grab something from there for a snack.”
- Let them help. “Bring your kids along to the grocery store and let them pick out a new vegetable that everyone in the family has to try that week. Then have the kids join you in the kitchen for meal preparation! They’ll have a sense of control.”
Click below for Sarah’s recipes for a simple morning smoothie and a mouthwatering dessert reminiscent of a brown bag lunch staple!
Back in 1984, gymnast Mary Lou Retton tumbled into the spotlight, as the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in gymnastics. She retired from the sport two years later, and has been keeping busy since raising her four daughters, working as a motivational speaker and an avid charity supporter. Which brings us to our recent discussion—about Mary Lou’s partnership with Procter & Gamble for the upcoming Special Olympics World Games.
You probably made mom breakfast in bed yesterday or treated her to a bouquet of flowers, but Mary Lou has another way to honor your mom in case you’re looking for a free way to give mom another present while giving back!
How did you first get involved with the Special Olympics?
I began working with the Special Olympics in 1982 because I believe in their mission to provide people with intellectual disabilities opportunities to try new things, challenge themselves and build self-esteem. As a former Olympic athlete, that message really resonates with me. And as a mother, I know the sacrifices all moms makes so their children can have every opportunity they deserve.
How can our readers join you in supporting this great cause?
Everyone can get involved by visiting P&G’s “Thank You Mom” Facebook page, which includes profiles and videos of Special Olympic Team USA athletes and their moms. There’s also a feature where people can create a video tribute to their own mom, kids or family. The best part is that for every video made, commented on “liked,” or shared, P&G will donate $1 to support Special Olympics Team USA’s journey to the World Games in Athens. This will help fulfill the wish of every Special Olympics mom—to see their son or daughter get the chance to reach their full potential.
How do you stay fit as a busy mom of four?
If I don’t workout in the morning, it won’t get done at all. Once the girls get home from school I become a taxi, driving them around all evening long to their sports and activities. In terms of my diet, lean protein, veggies and fruits are mainstays, then I give myself one splurge day each week to eat whatever I want!
What are your goals for the future? Could we ever expect to see you on any reality TV shows?
Being a full-time mom while my daughters are in the house is my top priority. But I would love to do Dancing with the Stars one day!
The Special Olympics World Summer Games will take place in Athens, Greece from June 25-July 4, 2011. You can contribute a video on the “Thank You Mom” Facebook page from now until the opening ceremonies.
More from FITNESS: What It Takes to Be an Olympic Athlete
Just days ago, the FX show Justified was nominated for a little thing called a Peabody Award. And the network announced recently that the hit show, a modern day Wild West tale, was also picked up for it’s third season.
I was lucky enough to speak with one of the show’s stars, Joelle Carter (Ava Crowder on the show), whom you may also know from her work in High Fidelity and American Pie 2, or from her appearances on CSI: Miami, Monk and Cold Case. Read on to learn more about Joelle’s take on overcoming physical hardships, charity work and her family’s healthy habits.
Tell us about your character on Justified, Ava.
“She was in an abusive relationship and actually killed her husband at the dinner table. Now she’s finding a new love interest and discovering what she wants and needs. She’s a very complex character that seems sweet, but will pick up a shotgun to protect herself [Joelle does her own stunts!]. There are so many layers to Ava that have yet to be discovered.”
Are you active off set?
“Yes! I actually was very into sports as a kid and loved soccer, but then was diagnosed with scoliosis. I had to wear a back brace for six years, and that experience definitely left me shy. But when I came out of it, it felt like I was leaving a turtle shell!
While I was dealing with the condition, my doctor suggested swimming to keep me limber and stretch my muscles. I really enjoyed it. Then I joined cross country in high school. I stuck with both activities after I received scholarships to swim and run in college. My knees aren’t great today, but I enjoy running every now and then along the reservoir near my house. I wish I could swim more often than I do today, but I do look forward to teaching my 8 1/2-month-old daughter to swim!”