Health-a-bet: C is for Coffee

Coffee drinkers have heard both sides of the health controversy from “it will stunt your growth” to brain boosting benefits. The truth is, more research has to be done on this topic, but lately, signs point to brew.

Coffee drinkers can breathe a sigh of relief knowing they can feel good about their morning cup of joe. New studies suggest a decreased risk of Parkinson’s, liver cancer, and type II diabetes associated with a daily dose of caffeine. That being said, even a good thing can be dangerous in moderation. In order to prevent sleeplessness, anxiety, and gastrointestinal issues, it’s advised to keep consumption limited to a maximum of four cups per day.

Coffee brewed at home with a paper filter is best, but there is something to be said for the local coffee shop as well.  As with all things delicious, it can come with a calorie-laden price. Here are my best tips for keeping the guilt low with all the joy of your beloved beverage.

  1. True Americano- It’s just espresso and water. It’s got some kick, but it’ll get the job done, without any extra fru-fru.
  2. Lean-o Cappuccino- not completely innocent, but still a wiser choice than a latte, which is made up of mostly steamed milk.
  3. Café au lait all the way- (pronounced “oh-lay”) This steamy option is simply coffee with steamed milk, and comes at only around 50 calories, as opposed to a latte, which can pack about 300.
  4. Go Topless- Skip the whipped cream and caramel sauce on your drink and avoid needing an extra 30 minutes on the bike to make up for it.
  5. Ice is Nice- Iced coffee is a great choice, because you can add a splash of skim milk and a teaspoon of sugar for a refreshing dose of caffeine, and avoid the 400-700 frozen calorie bombs.
  6. Stick to the basics- When requesting a pump of syrup, stick to the basic flavors like caramel, raspberry, chocolate, and hazelnut, because you can usually ask for the sugar free option in these flavors.

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Health-a-bet: B

B is for… Balance!

Balance is one aspect of fitness that gets completely overlooked.

We have all seen the guy who skipped leg day, and we all know the person with the six-pack but know back muscles to speak of. Not only does this not an impressive look, but it puts us at an increased risk of injury too.

It’s all about that relationship of muscle length and muscle strength. Hence the importance of flexibility exercises. Ligaments, which attach muscle to muscle, and tendons, which attach muscle to bone, must be flexible enough to withstand both loading and torque on the joints.

Simple dynamic stretching before a workout, or some beginners AM/PM yoga can be a super benefit to the workouts we are already doing. Here are a couple YouTube clips that provide examples:

Dynamic warmup: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJydnAMvhck

Yoga for beginners: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNT0Hmu6OYs

There is no “exact ratio” for strength training, but here are a few good rules of thumb:

  • For every two abdominal exercises, so one low back exercise.
  • When you work the shoulders, work the upper back too.
  • Remember to use proper form- if it’s a hamstring exercise but you’re quads are doing all the work, something is wrong.
  • If you work biceps, work triceps too.
  • Keep an equal ratio of quad to hamstring exercises on leg day (which you’ll never ever skip, right?!).
  • A little junk in the trunk is OK, but don’t neglect the booty!
  • Calf raises are not for wimps, they’re for people who want strong calves.
  • The amount of time you spend lifting should ALWAYS exceed the time you spend checking yourself out in the mirror.

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Health-a-bet: A

A is for… Active!
How to turn a popular fall activity into exercise.

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Autumn in Iowa brings more than just crisp fall leaves, but crisp fall apples. Local orchards provide the perfect place to pick up healthy and delicious snacks, while getting exercise. You can even bring the kids!

To make apple picking a workout, skip the hayrack ride and walk to each destination. Wear comfortable shoes and bring a couple of sturdy tote bags. Your bags will get heavier as you fill them, therefore giving you an arm workout of increasing resistance. Reaching for the apples at the top is a fantastic flexibility exercise, and all the tiptoe work is ideal for toning your calves.

If you have small children, pulling them in a wagon provides some extra work on your walk. Lifting them onto your shoulders to pick the apples that are higher up is a resistance workout for you, and it gives your little ones a chance to help out too!

Nutritional Spotlight:A Healthy Alternative to Traditional Caramel Apples


What is fall without caramel apples? Less fattening! Traditional caramel dip contains calorie heavy cream, saturated fat laden butter, refined sugar, and no nutritional benefit whatsoever. Luckily, you can still indulge without paying such a price. This alternative caramel dip has no saturated fat, natural sugar, and contains fiber and protein.

Ingredients:

2/3 cup almond milk, rice milk, or another non-dairy milk.caramelapple
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter (or another nut butter)
1/2 cup honey (may also use pure maple syrup or raw sugar)
Pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1. Blend milk and peanut butter until very smooth (you may want to use a blender)
2. Stir honey into mixture
3. Heat mixture slowly on stove-top, stirring often
4. Reduce heat when mixture comes to a gentle boil
5. Stir constantly for nine or ten minutes
6. When the caramel is finished it will be thicker and stretchy, but still fairly thin
7. Remove from heat and stir in salt and vanilla extract
8. Allow to cool for an hour or more so the caramel can thicken
9. Drizzle caramel on whole apples, or dip slices in the dip and enjoy!

Tips:

Use a heavy bottomed pan to avoid scorching
Have patience, the slower you go the less it will scorch
Spray measuring cup with cooking spray before measuring peanut butter, it will slip right out!
Longer cooking time yields thicker caramel dip
Sprinkling caramel coated apples with your favorite type of nut increases the protein and fiber content!