Thursday, October 3, 2013

9 tips to eat out and eat right

The weekend has arrived and I'm sure we've all got dinner plans with our friends or family. And while many people get pumped for some delicious dining, I always get a little nervous, because I know I will be tempted by so many tasty dishes.

That's why I've compiled tips over the years to help me stick to my healthy eating while still enjoying the restaurant atmosphere. I hope these suggestions help you "eat out and eat right," just like they do for me. :)

1) Don't eat out when starved. If you're really hungry when you get to a restaurant, you're more likely to overeat. So I like to grab a bag of carrots or eat an apple before I meet my friends for dinner so that I'm better able to keep my cool when making healthy choices.

2) Don't fill up on bread. Though the warm, fluffy bread they leave on the table pre-meal smells scrumptious, you must use those self-control muscles and try to skip this appetizer. But if it's just too good to avoid, go ahead and indulge, but don't use butter or oil, which is where the calories can really add up. And be sure to try and stick to one slice only.

3) Don't stuff yourself. In America, we have this ever-present idea that we need to eat everything on our plate. Not true! I actually always try to only finish half of my meal, considering the portions they give you when you eat out are generally abnormally large when considering healthy portion sizes. So while you're at the restaurant, be sure to be hyper-aware of your fullness level... Eat slowly, savor every bite and when you feel full, flag your server down for a take out box.

4) Salad before soup.
 Soup from most restaurants are generally high in salt and also in calories, so I always go for the salad instead. You can't go wrong with fresh lettuce and veggies. But if you really have a hankering for soup, always avoid cream-based varieties and stick to broth-based.

5) Ditch the dressing. I hate the unpredictability of the calorie count in most restaurant dressings. So instead, I ask for a side of lemons and balsamic vinegar (no oil) and I use that as my dressing. And for a little added flavor, you can ask for the light Italian and very lightly (less than a teaspoon) sprinkle it on top for a bit more flavor.

6) Water, water, water! That's all I can say here... avoid pop and drink water. Plus, the more water you drink, you will feel fuller more quickly. But if you would like something with a bit more flavor and zest, order a soda water (zero calories and zero artificial sweeteners) and put extra lime. It's very cool and refreshing.

7) Pace yourself. Take your time when you're eating. This also helps the fullness factor. If you eat too quickly, your body will take longer to tell you when you're actually full and this often results in over-eating.

8) Ask for a takeout box when you sit down. If you know that you're in a hurry and you don't have much time, then don't even tempt yourself... ask for a takeout box from the server when you order your food. When the plate arrives at the table, pack half of it away right off the bat. Then you won't be tempted.

9) Keep the alcohol in check. Though we all like to get a little tipsy sometimes, don't overdue it. When you drink, your appetite becomes stimulated, which will cause you to actually eat more. Plus, alcohol actually dehydrates your body and causes it to clamp on to the fat in your body. And don't even get me started on the calories... Here are a few drinks that are my two "go to's."
  • I like to order a vodka and water (I know it sounds strange, but if you get a better brand of vodka, it's really good) with extra lime. It's very refreshing and low in calories. 
  • Simply order a glass of wine and savor it throughout your meal. 

I have so many more tricks and tips that I could share with you that really get into the specifics of how to healthily eat out for breakfast, lunch and dinner... but I think we'll start with the basics for now.

The most important thing that I hope you take away from this is that it's important to always remember that the key to eating out is making smart choices and moderation. As long as you're always trying to be creative with your meal and are always searching for ways to stick to a healthy, balanced diet, you will find a way to make it happen, even when you eat out. You have to want it to make it reality.

And moderation is key, of course, because overindulgence can cause us to overeat and possibly cause us to feel guilty for our choices. We don't want that!

So I hope these tips were helpful to you as you embark on your dinner plans this weekend. And hey... if you do have an extra glass of wine or a bit of cheesecake after dinner, don't sweat it! Just remember, you're going to sweat extra at the gym in the morning to make up for it. :)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Milk War: Almond vs. Soy vs. Cow

Ever since I changed my milk-drinking and dairy-consuming habits, I noticed a very drastic change in my body. Even while taking in the same amount of calories, my hips got slimmer and I felt like I had more energy.

For my entire life, I've been in love with 1% or 2% standard cow's milk. Just like many of you, I was always told, "Drink your milk! You need strong bones!"

But after much experimentation and research, I've come to the conclusion that a milk-heavy diet just ain't gonna cut it anymore. What first turned me on to this belief was the New York Times Bestseller Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin. They are a no-bullshit health duo and these ladies aren't trying to save your feelings... they're trying to save your body!

As they say, "If you can't take one more day of self-loathing, you're ready to hear the truth: you cannot keep shoveling the same crap into your mouth every day and expect to lose weight."

Is milk making you fat?

Here's what the authors of Skinny Bitch have to say about dairy consumption:

"When a woman gives birth, her body produces milk and she nurses her child. Breast milk can grow an 8-pound newborn into a 24-pound toddler. Sounds pretty fattening, huh? It is. By design, it is intended to allow for the biggest growth spurt of a person’s entire life. Breast milk alone can accommodate for a 300 percent weight gain in a 12 month period. When her child is anywhere from 12 to 24 months old, a mother stops breast feeding. Her milk dries up. The child will never drink breast milk ever again.

Cows, like all mammals, are much the same. Their bodies produce milk only when they give birth. Contrary to popular belief, they do not need to be milked – ever. Their udders, like women’s breasts, exist even when there is no milk in them. There is one major difference, however. Cows’ milk, by design, grows a 90-pound calf into a 2,000-pound cow over the course of 2 years. It allows calves to double their birth weight in forty-seven days and leaves their four stomachs feeling full. Sounds even more fattening than human milk, right? It is. It should be. Cows are bigger than humans. And the inner workings of their bodies are completely different than ours, which they should be. They are cows. We are humans. Duh."

That whole, "Got Milk" campaign? Well, the dairy industry isn't going to bluntly tell you milk is bad for you, because that's kind of bad for business...

And I still do recall a few very useful facts from my college bio class regarding the lactase enzyme... of course babies are chock-full of it, because this particular enzyme is used to break down lactose in milk. But as we age, we develop less and less of the stuff, which is called being "lactose intolerant." Well, once upon a time, we were all lactose intolerant... and actually, many of you may be consuming milk and may be lactose intolerant at the same time, we just don't know it. Ever feel overly lethargic, bloated, slightly queasy? Yep... all signs of your intolerance to milk!

If you don't believe me, trying staving off of dairy products for a few weeks and I bet you'll feel incredible.

Milk actually depletes Calcium

There's also a study done by Vivian Goldschmidt, MA, explaining that milk might not be as calcium-rich as we originally thought:

"...many scientific studies have shown an assortment of detrimental health effects directly linked to milk consumption. And the most surprising link is that not only do we barely absorb the calcium in cow’s milk (especially if pasteurized), but to make matters worse, it actually increases calcium loss from the bones. What an irony this is! 
Here’s how it happens. Like all animal protein, milk acidifies the body pH which in turn triggers a biological correction. You see, calcium is an excellent acid neutralizer and the biggest storage of calcium in the body is – you guessed it… in the bones. So the very same calcium that our bones need to stay strong is utilized to neutralize the acidifying effect of milk. Once calcium is pulled out of the bones, it leaves the body via the urine, so that the surprising net result after this is an actual calcium deficit.
Knowing this, you’ll understand why statistics show that countries with the lowest consumption of dairy products also have the lowest fracture incidence in their population."

And according to, the pasteurization process of milk actually destroys much of its nutritional benefit, because it destroys digestive enzymes like lactase, galactase and phosphatase, which causes milk to be especially hard for our bodies to break down.

So which is a better substitute... soy or almond milk?

Here is a very brief comparison to help you decide:

Soy Milk
  • 100 calories to every cup & 4 grams of fat
  • 7 to 8 grams of protein
  • High levels of Vitamin B

Almond Milk: 
  • 60 calories to every cup & 2.5 grams of fat
  • 4 grams of protein
  • 6% of our daily serving of phosphorus
  • High levels of Vitamin E

Based on this bit of info, it's obvious that soy milk is a better source of protein, but almond milk is better for dieters because of its low content of fat. 

Flickr: theimpulsivebuy

My Winner: Almond Milk

While it's great to receive so much protein through soy milk, the harmful effects that it can have on your health aren't worth it to me. Plus, research surrounding almonds has shown no serious health threats.

The health concerns of soy include: 
  • "... potential ability to disrupt hormone production in men and women. Since almonds have shown no sort of potential risk, many people feel much more comfortable consuming products derived from the snack nut." -
  • "Soy milk contains phytoestrogen, a hormone similar to estrogen. Phytoestrogens may have an effect on hormone-related cancers, particularly breast cancer and prostate cancer." -
  • According to the American Thyroid Association, soy milk may negatively intervene with your ability to absorb thyroid medication. 

So although it's nice to pack so much protein into one cup of soy milk, I think I'd rather look elsewhere for protein and avoid all of these risks. Plus, I'll be cutting 40% of the calories that I would have consumed had I chosen soy milk. 

So almond milk all the way, baby! 

One small problem: cost

This is the one issue that I ran into when I decided to switch from milk to almond milk. 

But I do have a solution. Aldi carries Friendly Farms vanilla-flavored almond milk, only $2.39 for a half-gallon. 

That's incredible compared to, for instance, Almond Breeze at about $3.49 for only a 1/4 gallon.

Happy milking!

I hope that my research on these milk matters has inspired you to try giving up your regular consumption of milk and experiment with one of these alternatives. My biggest point against standard milk is that human beings simply aren't naturally built to consume it. And in terms of soy, it's simply too high-risk because of the health problems it can potentially cause. 

So use almond milk with your cereal or substitute it into your mashed potato recipe. I know, I know... it's not the same. And sometimes change can be difficult... but change can also be inspiring. It can lead to a stronger you and isn't that what we all strive to be? Stronger and healthier? Well, by "moo-ving" the milk out of your refrigerator, you'll be "moo-ving" towards a better you! Good luck!

~Life in the fit lane~

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

How to say stave off the sweets

We've all been there... we proclaim the news of our new diet and then BAM! We find ourselves face-to-face with an uber-delicious, chocolatey miracle of a cupcake sitting right in front of us at our friend's barbecue on Saturday. It practically screams, "Eat me!"

Sure, you did good for most of the day, munching on veggies, fresh fruit and even eating a veggie burger on a wheat bun instead of a greasy beef burger, but it's the moment of truth... to cupcake, or not to cupcake?

Wait! Take a moment to think for one second before you sink your teeth into that sprinkled cup of sweetness. I think, after you've done some reflection, you might want to skip out and have a bit more fruit for dessert instead.

Here are some tips that get me through cravings

  • Something fitness trainer Kay Yasin said is, "That cake will be there tomorrow. You don't have to eat it every time it's in front of you." So ask yourself, "Is this the very last piece of cake in the world that I will ever see?" If the answer is "yes," then you better grab that cake!!! But if it's "no," munch on a strawberry instead and relish in your ability to rationalize. 
  • Plain and simple, just don't have it around. I find that if I buy Oreos or if I buy ice cream, then it becomes that much harder to turn it down in my weakest moments. So now I just don't buy any of it and, when I want to treat myself and I know that I've worked hard in the gym and that I've eaten right that week, I actively go out and find myself something sweet (I love fro-yo with fresh fruit! Yum!)
  • Weigh your options... let's say fruit just doesn't cut it for dessert, but the cake is definitely the highest-calorie option. What else is there? Did someone bring a healthier dessert option to the barbecue? Don't be so quick to grab... let your curiosity guide you to a more wholesome treat. 
  • As they say, moderation is key. Let's say you ran 4 miles that morning and did a bit of strength training. And for breakfast, you had egg whites with a blend of veggies mixed in. Maybe you do deserve that cake! But be careful about letting yourself over-indulge, because you want to feel satisfied, not guilty. So proudly take a small-sized serving, slowly enjoy every bite and you'll have nothing to worry about.

There are many tricks to staying strong when sweets are around, but whatever you do, just don't guilt yourself.  If you eat a cupcake at your friend's party, then just remember that tomorrow, you're going to have an extra helping of greens and add 10 more minutes to your cardio. Because stressing about it may only lead you to eat more... so go ahead and own the food you eat and always be conscious of what you're putting into your body.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fit with Fronzie's 500 Workout

I met Fitness Trainer Fronzie Roemer when we volunteered together at One Step at a Time Camp this past June. So while I was chasing after kids, she chased after me to work out together every morning.

It was just my luck that we were randomly assigned as roommates, being the fitness fanatics that we are. And while I got to know her, I also became a huge fan of her viewpoints on health and working out and made sure to subscribe to her blog, Fit with Fronzie.

I urge you all to check it out every now and then, because her "fit tips," as she calls them, are so helpful and I love her videos.

Here's one of my favorites... It's called her "500 Workout" and consists of 10 exercises with which you'll do 50 reps each.

And what's the best part? No equipment needed! My favorite!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Back on My Feet - running as empowerment

As the Publisher of StreetWise magazine, I wanted to share a very compelling story with all of you that we featured in our publication. This story will speak especially those of you who love to jog and run.

Learn about Back on My Feet, the Chicago non-profit that uses running to empower at-risk men and women.


It’s 5:45 a.m. on a Monday morning, and the members of the Back on My Feet running group are already halfway through their warm up. Just outside the Lawson House YMCA at 30 W. Chicago Ave., the group huddles for a motivational pep talk before hitting the streets to run the usual four- to five-mile route.

Some runners have completed numerous marathons, while others are training for the first time. Some change out of their tennis shoes to work as lawyers, doctors or teachers. Others have faced the hardships and struggles of incarceration or homelessness. In the huddle, they are all members of one team.

Back On My Feet, a national non-profit organization with local chapters in nine cities across the country, has been promoting the power of running as a method for achieving self-improvement and self-sufficiency since its founding in 2007. The Chicago Chapter launched in September 2010, and has partnerships with four stable housing programs in the city, including the Lawson House YMCA, St. Leonard’s House, North Side Housing in Uptown, and the Lake View YMCA. 

“One of the things that we think is really unique about Back On My Feet is that we bring the community together through our memberships,” Executive Director Terry Rivera said.  “Everyone is a member. We have our residential members that live in the facilities, then we have our non-residential members, which are our community members that come and run with us.”

[From left to right] Back on My Feet members Akbar, Steve, Joe and Charles at Back on My Feet track meet.

For both the residential and non-residential members, the therapeutic and transformational powers of running have provided more than just physical fitness. Back On My Feet offers an opportunity for a diverse group of people to join together, build confidence and social skills, and form a community of trust. The residential members also gain employment and educational resources through their commitment to the program.

“There is 90 percent attendance required in order to move into our program called ‘Next Steps’ where we help with education, vocational training and also offer financial aid,” said Meredith Weber, director of communications. “This can be utilized for anything that can move your life forward.”

The program also has partnerships with Accenture, which offers resume building and mock interview practice; with Harris Bank for financial literacy training; and numerous national partnerships with employers, including Marriott International. Each member earns a total of $1,250 in financial aid that is developed over time and gained through active attendance in these educational programs. The scholarship money goes towards paying for classes, getting licenses for employment and anything that may aid in reaching independence.

Back on My Feet team huddles together, all hands in, and cheers to their accomplishment.

Though these enticing perks provide undeniable tangible gains for residents, members express a different, and unexpected benefit from joining Back On My Feet, in the form of a new and profound passion.

Andy, a residential member from the Lawson House team, recalls how drugs and alcohol addictions were once a debilitating obstacle in his life. Through his involvement with Back On My Feet, running has become a catalyst for moving on and finding new motivations.

“Running has reduced my stress, given me the ability to relax and think about

 my future,” Andy said. “I felt like my whole world was caving in on me. 

Even though I had stopped drinking and doing drugs, I still had no direction. So with running, I learned to focus, to have directions, and to plan.”

Andy completed his first marathon last year, to celebrate two years of sobriety, and hasn’t missed a running date with his team since last July. He also attends computer classes at Howard Area Resource Center and is learning how to run computer operating systems.

“I had to replace my addiction with something. When I got off drugs, I was just open for a new addiction to come in. It could have been gambling, it could have been sex, it could have been anything, but I refused that and I started running. This is my addiction now.”

Back on My Feet team member, Wahid

Andy’s teammate, Wahid, also completed his first marathon last year, serving as a founding member of the Chicago chapter of Back On My Feet and maintaining 100 percent attendance since joining. For Wahid, an integral part of the program comes from the relationships he’s formed with the non-residential members.

“In the beginning, you want the shoes and the sports paraphernalia, and maybe you want to lose some weight, but the last thing you think is that you’re going to get a family – that comes later on,” Wahid said.

After facing homelessness and economic misfortune, Wahid struggled to regain confidence and positivity in his life. The bonds he’s made through the program have inspired him not only to take charge of his own life, but also to give back to others. Wahid works as a volunteer at the YMCA and hopes to gain employment as a mortgage broker to assist low-income individuals.

“As you form a relationship you might have one person who runs with you 

all the time, and you might open up. Talk about what you want to do, and 

what some of your goals are and try to get some advice,” Wahid said. 

“A little intimacy can be created. Running helps you to open up.”

At the St. Leonard House, an interim housing service for formerly incarcerated men, this trust and intimacy create an essential opportunity to socialize and build a network of connections that may help them to reenter the community.

“A long time ago I used to be a very angry person. I used to stay to myself a lot. I did not trust anybody,” said Mingo, a resident of St. Leonard’s and founding member of Back On My Feet. “The [running] group has helped me a lot with this. This group is like a family for me.”

Back on My Feet Member Akbar [right] receiving a hug from volunteer Alex. Hugs are an integral part of the
Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning runs. 

Mingo, another member who completed last year’s marathon, has nearly logged an impressive 1,000 miles since joining the team. Once shy and closed off, Mingo credits his interactions and time with the volunteers for his now outgoing and energetic personality.

“The first thing I like to do when I get up [for a run] is see all my volunteers,” Mingo said. “They learn a little bit about my lifestyle and experience, and then in the same way I learn about their lifestyle. You would be surprised how many people are out there to help.”

Kelly Christl, a non-residential member of the St. Leonard’s team, is one of these people. Christl works as a public defender, and has formed a close bond with Mingo and the others through their marathon training and weekly runs. A seasoned marathon runner, Christl is also a Back On My Feet fundraiser, and accumulated $1,440 for the organization last year alone.

“It really is my favorite part of my week. Mingo and I started the marathon 

together, and I feel so connected to him after sharing that experience,” 

Christl said. “I also just think on a day-to-day basis running with these guys 

is an opportunity for us to just chat about what is going on in their lives, 

and I really feel like I have gotten to know some people that I would never 

have gotten to know on such a personal level.”

Clearly, the non-residential members of Back On My Feet gain benefits equally profound and impacting as those of the residential members. For Christl, even the smallest aspects of her life have been transformed from her time and experiences with the members of St. Leonard’s.

“It’s about people changing their perspectives. I think a lot of the volunteers have changed their perspectives about ex-offenders, and I think that for a lot of the guys this has really broadened their horizons as well.”
Back on My Feet Member Jerry stretching before the meet.

Christl recalls a particular instance that solidified this feeling of mutual respect, stemming from the runners’ close bonds. One member of the St. Leonard’s team had a tattoo on his arms reading “White Power.” After joining the Back On My Feet program and running with the other residents, many of whom are African American, he got the tattoos covered up to read “Salvation” and “Redemption.”
“I think just the idea of being part of a team makes them feel like they are part of something. A lot of them don’t have family, and I remember Mingo used to say that we are his family,” Christl said. “And it just so happens that a lot of the volunteers are also transplants and I think we all feel the same way about them. We are all family, and we are all a team, and we are all in this together.”

The Back On My Feet family is one that continues to grow. The Chicago chapter has plans to extend to more shelters over the next year, and has established a new and larger office space to accommodate all the teams. The Back On My Feet fundraising spots for this year’s Bank of America Marathon in October have also already filled up, and the teams continue to look for more races in which to take part.
For the current members, running is only the beginning of their journey, though. The community formed through Back On My Feet has given a second chance to those who never thought they had the option, reigniting an energy and passion for life. And, after finishing a marathon, Andy, Wahid and Mingo can look to the future without breaking a sweat.

“To me, Back on My Feet is a positive, motivating, life-changing force that 

helps people support and do for themselves. They bring you in with the gear 

and the shoes, but it’s up to you to get a hold of the idea of what its really 

about,” Andy said.  “And the idea is to better yourself – to better yourself to the

extent that you can help somebody else. Now that’s a good thing, right?”


Written by Ann Wanserski
StreetWise Editorial Intern