Benefits of Watermelon

(photo source)

I did something today that I haven’t done in weeks, maybe months. Instead of eating a sugary, calorie-filled dessert, I opted for a bowl of watermelon. Why the change? After being outside all day yesterday in the heat followed by this morning’s hot run, I’m pretty sure I’m dehydrated. Not only have I been drinking water like crazy, but I’ve also been craving cold, watery things like fruits and vegetables, per my temporary watermelon addiction.

Although you don’t want to eat huge amounts of watermelon at one sitting (or you may wind up in the bathroom all day), regular portions of watermelon can provide many health and nutrition benefits, including:

  1. Hydration Station – Watermelon is approx 92% water so it is great for hydration. No wonder they served it at the Chicago Triathlon yesterday!
  2. Protects Our Organs – Watermelon is full of antioxidants which help neutralize the free radicals in our body that can damage our tissues and organs.
  3. Cancer Fighter – Watermelon also contains these two powerful antioxidants that have been noted to help prevent cancer.
  4. Low-Calorie Snack – Watermelon tastes super sweet but it is very low in calories – less than 50 calories per cup!

Although many people know watermelon as a summer fruit, it actually peaks here in the Midwest in August and September. And further South, watermelon can grow all year round, making it easy, albeit expensive, to enjoy this juicy fruit well into the Fall and Winter months.

Have a hankering for watermelon? Try one of these cool and crisp watermelon recipes from The Food Network.


Me and Chester Cheetah

I’m officially at the Healthy Living Summit! I arrived in downtown Chicago around 8:30am yesterday and made the huge mistake of walking to the hotel in sweltering heat while rolling my 50 pound bag. I was a complete sweaty mess by the time I arrived.

Because the room wasn’t ready, I had to change out of my sweaty shirt in the lobby bathroom! I then headed off to the Frito Lay tour in Beloit, WI.

After a 2.5 hour bus ride, we finally arrived in Beloit. We listened to a short and very interesting presentation about the history and practices of the plant followed by a can and healthy lunch of wraps, salads, and fruit. This left me wondering, what about the chips? How can we be served lunch at Frito Lay and not have chips? Well, no sooner did I wonder than the chips were pulled out from under a surprise curtain! Plus, a variety of dips arrived just moments later.

Then, it was on to the tour. In small groups, we learned all about the process of turning potatoes into chips and corn into corn chips. What amazed me most about Frito Lay Was how much attention they put on health and quality. Seriously, many of there chip products only have 3 ingredients- corn or potatoes, salt, and oil – that’s it! So simple (which, by the way, is their goal, to make their products with the simplest ingredients) and yet solo good.

My favorite part of the tour was sampling the hot doritos fresh off the line! Of course, hugging Chester Cheetah wasn’t bad either. Plus, check out the swag bags!

Stay tuned for more conference deets!

Do we really need that morning cup of coffee?

cafe au lait

Caffeine is one of the most addictive substances in the world. I know that I’m addicted to it – and many of my fellow food and health/fitness bloggers are as well. We’ve all been there – late night, early morning, and the quest for coffee or any caffeinated beverage. And, just like our parents’ generation, we need our caffeine to wake up, to stay alert, or just to give us that boost of energy throughout the day.

Well, wouldn’t you know that this idea that caffeine makes us more alert or more awake is all in our heads! Yes, that’s right. New research shows that caffeine addicts actually develop a tolerance to caffeine, and therefore, don’t really experience its true stimulating effects. The caffeine merely brings an addict back to the baseline levels of alertness, which was originally decreased due to caffeine withdrawal. Now that’s scary!! No wonder we need more and more caffeine each day to feel its effects!

Here’s a thought, next time you need your coffee, try making it a decaf and see how you feel.

3 Reasons to Break Your Starbucks Habit

More than once on this blog I have mentioned my affection for tea. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a Starbucks addict, but am trying to quit by replacing my coffee with tea. So today, as I sat at my desk, dreaming of Starbucks but drinking my Tazo Awake tea, I reminded myself of all of the benefits of breaking my Starbucks habit.

3 Reasons to Break Your Starbucks Habit

1) Save money – On average, I visit Starbucks 3-4 times a week and spend about $4 each time. Do the math, that’s up to $16 a week or more than $800 a year. If I buy my Tazo from the store at about $3 a box, which could last 2-3 weeks – oh my, just think of all the money I could spend on new yoga clothes!

2) Calorie control – Unless I get a skinny latte, the calories in my go-to Frap equal about 250 calories a pop. Again, do the math, if a pound is equal to 3,500 calories, I may very likely be gaining 1 pound every couple of weeks, unless I cut down my calories in some other way. So essentially, I’m paying Starbucks $800 a year to put on 26 pounds.

3) Health benefits – Yes, I know coffee does have many health benefits, but the unbelievable amount of sugar that is included in my signature drink is definitely not healthy. Even if I get the “lite” Frap, it’s loaded with artificial sweetener, which is a whole other issue. Furthermore, by switching to tea, I may even gain more health benefits. Tea has been used for its medicinal properties for centuries. Tea has been known to contribute to:

  • Heart health
  • Cancer prevention
  • Skin protection
  • Alzheimer’s Disease prevention
  • Dental health

Spend less, cut calories, and improve my health – how many more reasons do I need??? Apparently, all of these reasons are not enough because I’ve attempted to break my Starbucks habit in the past and, obviously, it hasn’t worked.

For me, the big test is business travel. While traveling for business, I will often get 1-2 Starbucks a day as treat AND because I don’t have to pay for it! So, I’m leaving for Washington, DC, on Sunday where Starbucks are plentiful. Any suggestions on how to avoid the green mermaid?

If you’ve recently quit Starbucks (and lived to tell about it) what tricks/strategies did you use to help you through your ordeal?

Interview With Author of French Women Don't Get Fat

For those of you who follow me on Twitter @RunWithCake, you know that today was a very big day for me – I interviewed one of my biggest health inspirations. No, it’s not Jillian Michaels or Bob Greene. My interview was with Mireille Guiliano, the famous author of French Women Don’t Get Fat!

(Photo courtesy of Flickr)

I have been a fan of Mireille’s books since her first, French Women Don’t Get Fat, was published in 2004. Her books, including her latest – The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook – focus on certain aspects of the French lifestyle that have been known to keep the women in that country healthy, thin, and happy. These include how the French eat (slow, savoring every bite), what they eat (fresh, seasonal foods), and the healthy relationship they have with food (they see it as the ultimate pleasure in life, not the enemy).

I don’t want to give away all of the details of my interview – those will be saved for my article on Bistro Chic. But I will say that Mireille is quite charming, even over the phone! Speaking with her was just as fun, if not more fun, than reading her books. I spoke with her for about 20 minutes (would have spoken with her longer but I could tell she was tired from 2 full days of back to back interviews). But even in this short time, it was quite apparent that she lives this French lifestyle every day, even though she spends half of her time in New York. I also feel that she really cares about her readers – a quality that may not be as common as we think it is in the publishing world.

Although I asked Mireille many questions, my final question ended up being – 10 Things You May Not Know About Mireille Guiliano. This was a series of words/phrases which I read to her, then asked her to choose the ones that best describes her. Take a look….

Of the words/phrases, which best describe you…

  1. Coffee or tea?
  2. Morning person or night owl?
  3. Red or white wine?
  4. Sparkling or still water?
  5. Print or electronic books?
  6. Beach vacation or skiing?
  7. Chocolate dessert or fruit dessert?
  8. Regular or Greek yogurt?
  9. Mac or PC?
  10. Skirts or trousers?

So, what were her answers? I’m not telling….yet! Visit Bistro Chic on Monday, May 3 to find out!

Practice Self-Indulgence with Self-Control

At 5′ 1”, I really have to watch what I eat. If I have a so called “bad week” of overeating or eating mostly foods that are high in fat and calories, then it really shows on the scale. But, this doesn’t mean that I do not indulge in the foods that I like. I eat plenty of things that are “not good for me” – ice cream, cupcakes, frozen drinks, french fries, etc. Of course I don’t eat like this every day, but when I do, I try to exercise what I call the self-indulgence-self-method.

Remember Spiderman? With great power comes great responsibility. Well, I believe that if you want to engage in great self-indulgence you must also exercise great self-control. Point blank – I plan ahead to eat self-indulgent foods and then I eat them in moderation. So the next time you’re wanting to indulge, consider the following principles of self-indulgence-self-control method…

4 Principles of the Self-Indulgence-Self-Control Method

Daily Compensation – If I know I’m going to overindulge at some point in the day or week, ie. drinks with friends or a dessert reception at work, then I compensate throughout the day and/or week by eating fewer calories and/or going for an extra run. Eating fewer calories or burning extra calories helps to compensate for those extra calories I’m taking in.

Rule of 1/3’s – When I do order something completely indulgence, like lemon cream cake or fried chicken, I try to eat 1/3-1/2 of what I really want to eat (the eyes are bigger than your stomach syndrome). If I’m at a restaurant, I will box up the rest and take it home. Or if I’m already at home, I’ll save the rest for my lunch or a treat the next day. This way, I can get a taste of the great food I want (self-indulgence) only I’m eating less of it (self-control) and fewer calories to boot.

Try a lighter option – Although I don’t do this often, I occasionally try to eat a lower calorie version of the food I really want, such as low-calorie ice cream, chips, or a muffin. However, a word of caution, many low-fat and low-calorie products are full of artificial ingredients. They also may not be as filling or tasty as the full-fat or full-calorie version, which could leave us hungry and unsatisfied. Also, because we are in the mindset that the food is low-fat or low-calorie, we may think we can eat more of the food, ie. a whole bag of low-fat chips. This mindset may actually cause us to consume more calories than what we would have eating with the normal version.

Challenge Yourself – When I think I want something indulgent, I try to challenge myself to:

  1. Wait 30 minutes before eating it – sometimes after I wait, I end up not eating it after all, which means I probably never wanted it in the first place.
  2. Drink 4 8oz glasses of water beforehand – because sometimes when we think we’re hungry, we’re really thirsty.
  3. Eat something healthy right before I eat my indulgence food. By eating a banana or a few almonds before eating my indulgence food, I’m less likely to overindulge.

So, these are the principles that I follow to eat what I want and still lose weight. What’s your go-to tip for eating your indulgent food but still staying on track with your weight loss/maintenance?