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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Vitamins and Vicky

Welcome back to A - Z Blogging Challenge!

We're at V, and we're talking about vitamins, OK?

My sweet grandfather who passed away ten years ago kept reminding me to take my vitamins. They're important, he said, especially for people who have so much on their plate like you do, here, have some ascorbic acid powder!

Even though I thought he was exaggerating, I always accepted his gifts and slurped or swallowed them. Couldn't hurt, right? Like everybody else I certainly didn't get my five a day.

Other than that I occasionally drank a multi-vitamin juice and never cared too much about A, B or C - in vitamins, that is.

Here's a chart I found on General Knowledge and Inspiration

Vitamins A, D, E and K are fat soluble; B and C water soluble - what does that mean? 

Water soluble vitamins dissolve in water and are excreted through the kidneys should you have excess amounts in your body.

Fat soluble vitamins are absorbed in the lymph, transported in the blood and stored in the liver and fatty tissue. It is difficult for your body to get rid of excess fat soluble vitamins, so toxic levels may accumulate. (Not sure how much it takes to be at risk.)

Read more about vitamin absorption here. A takeaway worth knowing is to chase your multivitamin juice with some raw almonds to make sure all those precious vitamins can actually do their job.

It's also important to know that not every vitamin comes from food alone. 

If you're a Mom and had your baby in fall or winter, your paediatrician may have given you vitamin D drops for your newborn. Vitamin D is usually synthesised in the skin with the help of natural ultraviolet wavelength of sunlight. Now around here, we usually don't get tons of sunshine in November, do we?

Today's veggies don't contain the same amount of nutrients than decades ago. Soils of commercial farmers are being depleted by pesticides and fertilizers. 

I imagine you may compare it to Easter eggs dying. Your first batch turns out vibrant and intense. The more times you soak your eggs in the dye, the more faded they come out. The ones on the left are the ones that were dyed after the ones on the right. The difference is faint but noticeable. Now imagine how my hundredth batch would have turned out!

So if this is the case for our vegetables, I feel good about adding some Juice Plus to my diet. 

To cut the long story short: take your vitamins and enjoy life!

Before you leave I'd like you to meet Vicky, my wonderful fitness instructor I kept mentioning during this month. She looks after me well, inspires me and pushes me, and I know I wouldn't be where I am today if it wasn't for her!

What's with that sneaker she's holding, you ask? 

She had it customized and labeled on Nike ID! How cool is that?

So how about you? Do you think your vitamin intake is OK? Are you taking something on top of your usual diet? How would you configure your own sneaker?

Check out what my fellow alphabet bloggers came up with today and check back tomorrow for W which may or may not be for Wine! 

PS: I am behind on visiting, commenting and answering comments. Just got some upsetting news. A 21 year old man from our village died in a tragic accident in the mountains. He was one of Colin's leaders from the boys scouts-like group he recently joined. A bright, caring and nature loving guy. Please keep that boy's family in your prayers. No parents should have to bury their child. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Understanding Units

Welcome back to A - Z  Blogging Challenge. Today it's all about U!

As you can see, when I first brainstormed about this letter, u-turn, universe and uplifting came to my mind. During the course of writing ahead / everyday life, however, I kept struggling with my food tracking. Living in Europe and using apps that are mainly configured for the U.S. has its challenges when it comes to measurements. 

How much is a serving? An ounce, a cup?

It's not that this is completely new to me, I mean I have to convert the ingredients for pretty much every recipe I find online. 

I usually just google 

"How much is 0.5 cup ground almonds in grams?"
"Convert 6 ounces of chocolate into grams" 

Or I go directly to websites like Traditional Oven or Convert Units.

What if I have no clue, though?

Example: I wanted to log this steak. I didn't know how many grams it weighted, and I didn't know if it was about 6 or 8 oz because I just had no idea. Got my dilemna?

And even if some restaurants mention in their menu that a particular piece of meat weighs so and so many grams, is that before or after cooking? And if it is the raw weight, how much will it lose during preparation? Is it just water that evaporates, or does meat lose fat during the cooking process, which would actually be great?

The American Heart Association came up with some wonderfully illustrative examples:

One of these days you may see me at a restaurant tossing the contents of my purse onto the dining table: hockey puck, computer mouse, some dice, the works...!

You'll know exactly why!!!

By the way, I might be doing a separate post about this particular panorama / steak restaurant, but here's a preview for you. We were lucky to catch a day with abnormally great visibility:

Oh, and yes, I busted my calories budget that night, even though I only had side veggies and no dessert! Totally worth it, though.

Are you affected by confusing measurements? What tools are you using?

What may the other bloggers have prepared for U? Find out here and be sure to come back tomorrow, we'll talk about Vitamins, also I want you to meet Vicky, my lovely fitness instructor!

Monday, April 24, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Time, Trends & Traps

Welcome back to A - Z! Today is the last "easy letter day" before a tough series begins...

We have covered quite some exercise, so today we won't be training but talking. Fitting, right?

We're talking about tomatoes. Is it tomato or tomaaaahto? 

What movie is that song being played in? Hint: I did a Top Ten Thursday about it.

But we're not really talking about movies or tomatoes, even though I like them both.

We're talking about trends, traps & time.

I feel this whole fitness world is a giant bubble, it has become so trendy and fancy to go to the gym, to wear flashy gear and to have gadgets to track progress. Of course there is nothing wrong about that, I'm just observing and wondering.

Are people just bored and don't know what to do with themselves? Do they all want to get and keep in shape? Do they hope to get more attention / become more successful once they're skinny? Is working out a way to release stress? Is it a way to belong somewhere?

Even the mafiosi in "Analyze This" worry about their weight. 

What kind of sandwich ain't too fattening?

Back in January I braced myself that it would take some time until it'd see results. To be honest I fully expected to go like this for a year.

So I just did my thing and tried not to think about it too much. Veggies, Zumba, Shower, Check.

I accounted the first couple of pounds to lost water retention,  and kept doing my thing. Veggies, Zumba, Shower, Check.

Here I am today, that close to minus 20 pounds lost in a bit more than 3 months, and I am pretty amazed and proud. 

I did, however, invest a big chunk of my time (not to mention money, blood, sweat and tears) into my quest. Time to go to the gym, time to wash and pack my active gear, time to prep food not only for myself but for the carbs consuming part of the family. 

During that time I wasn't able to go to the mall, sit at Starbucks, have coffee and cinnamon rolls and write. 

Instead I'm squeezing in some small bits of time to write about my journey, and my message is if you're willing to invest that time, if you're determined and consistent, you can expect results in less time than you thought.

When I started out, I didn't have a plan, other than quitting chocolate and wine for a month (hahaha!), and I pretty much just did what my fitness instructor told me to (quitting white carbs and working out), which was brilliant advice. 

In the meantime I googled and learned a ton, here's an article that would have been helpful for me if I had embarked on that journey alone.

If you plan on eating healthy food and working out, take it one day at a time. Track your calories spent and burnt, look the other way when the candy aisle calls your name at the supermarket, get some carrots instead and go for a walk. 

You know: Veggies, Zumba, Shower, Check.

If you slip one day, move on and do better the next day. And if plan A doesn't work...

Nobody knows better about the alphabet
than us A - Z Bloggers, right?

Speaking of slipping. Here are some traps that I want you to warn about:

  1. Unbalanced diet: too much (hidden) sugars, too little veggies
  2. Being clueless or Forgetting about calories and sugar in beverages: fruit juices and wine (sorry)
  3. Underestimating portions (who knew how little a teaspoon of olive oil is? Still it's 40 calories! That's 120 per tablespoon, booo! How much oil do you use for browning your meat? For dressing your salad?)
  4. Eating items labeled as "diet food" (low-fat is loaded with sugar; low-sugar is loaded with fat, both of which we don't want, especially if they don't leave us satisfied and we end up eating more!)
  5. Using your workout as an excuse to overindulge in treats
  6. Depriving yourself from any treats and ending up stuffing your face on a bad day
  7. Not planning ahead and getting lost in everyday life: slacking on both, food and exercise
  8. Always doing the same exercise means losing its effect
  9. Having unrealistic expectations
  10. Being a slave of your scale, getting discouraged and giving up

During the course of this month I have addressed pretty much all of them, and I think 

You can do it!

I realised I haven't used any photos. Here is one that represents "trendy". Saw this denim  jacket and was in love. Until I saw the price tag, that is.

So tell me, did you find out about the movie? Have you ever turned your lifestyle around? How much time did it take for you to see results, and did you stick to your new routine? What is your personal worst pitfall?

Let me know down below and drop back in tomorrow for the letter U. No clue yet what I'm gonna do about U, but I will come up with something, I promise.

In the meantime why don't you check out some of the other posts?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Superfoods vs Sugar

Welcome back to A - Z, we're already at S!

S is for sleep (get plenty), stress (try to reduce), smoking (it's a no-no), sweets (I'm not saying anything. I know that you know...), and much more!

I'd like to start with superfoods.

It is a controversial term because it implies that the particular food is not only nutrient-rich but is even supposed to prevent or combat certain medical conditions.

Photo Source

Sceptics critizise that there is no real proof that those foods are really that superior and powerful, and they claim the term "superfood" is misleading consumers. In Europe it's even forbidden to use it for marketing purposes.

Now I think that's a bit hypocritical. 

Just look at many, many processed food items out there that imply how good they are for you, and while they're not - because they contain lots of sugar and fat - companies are allowed to market them on and on.

Think granola bars, cereal, hazelnut spread, fruit punch, milkshakes, heck, even Coca-Cola makes you think it's actually a sports beverage!

So whether you just want to do something good for your body or you are sick and hope "even if it won't help, at least it won't do any harm", go for the strawberries rather than the french fries. Makes sense, no?

And don't get me started on misleading advertising in general. Winkle cream? Slimming drinks and deodorants that attract pretty girls? Do they have to prove that their products actually work wonders?

The only thing that bugs me - not specifically about "superfoods" but fruit and veggies in general - is that we can't really know if they're as healthy as we think. As long as you don't grow them yourself you don't know all that much about the sowing, fertilizing, harvesting, transporting and storing practices that were being applied. 

Here's an example:

Did you know that the apples you buy at your supermarket may be anything but fresh? It is common (and legal) practice to keep them in cold storage warehouses for a year or longer. 

They are picked slightly unripe and treated with a chemical synthetic plant growth regulator called methylcyclopropene
Obviously it is supposed to be harmless. However the nutrients that the apples originally contained are fading over time. 

You keep hearing about antioxidants that help prevent free radical cell damage which usually occurs in cancer. 

So what if blueberries - that are considered some of the most fabulous antioxidant sources - spend a long time in cold storage and have almost no antioxidants left? There goes your superfood. Booo!

So what can you do?

  • Buy from your trusted local farmer
  • Consume what is in season - which is increasingly tough to know because these days everything is available to us pretty much all year round. Here's a link.
  • Consider taking Juice Plus, I talked about it here
I wanted to talk about organic produce, but to be honest I'm not sure what to believe. 

The labels and the leaflets do sound awfully nice and sustainable, and I do purchase a lot of organic products like milk and meat from (formerly) happy cows, eggs from cheerful, outdoorsy hens, veggies and fruit - as long as they look nice. 

I know, it's irrational!

Once upon a time, when Colin just started to eat solids, I shopped at a die-hard organic store. I wanted him to get the best mashed carrots and potatoes. The ones I bought were super dirty and looked ugly. I spent an hour washing and peeling them. Too much trouble for this exhausted Mama! The next time she went back to the organic veggies aisle at the 

In the tree huggers' defence: obviously the dirt is a natural preservative!

On to the sugars

Photo Credit

Are you aware of your daily sugar intake? 

There are the obvious, refined sugars like granulated or powdered ones, fructose (contained in honey, fruit (especially figs, cherries, grapes and mangoes), berries and veggies, as healthy as they are otherwise), lactose (in your dairy products) and then there are the hidden ones!

They are everywhere, even in products you wouldn't expect them: Chinese takeout, pasta sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, granola bars, even most plain greek yogurts! 

The label doesn't necessarily mention "sugar", it may say:

Source: Women's Health Magazine

How much is the recommended daily sugar intake anyway? (6 teaspoons? That feels like nothing! If you're into baking you know that every cake recipe calls for 1 or 1.5 cups of sugar.) 

Source: American Heart Association

Added sugars = any sugars or sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation.

How about those low sugar, less sugar or sugar-free products? They must be safe, right? Not necessarily. Here's what I found out:
  • No added sugar = no sugar or sugar-containing ingredient such as juice or dry fruit is added during processing
  • Sugar-free = there is less than 0.5g of sugar per serving
  • Low Sugar = not defined or allowed as a claim on food labels
  • Less sugar = at least 25% less sugars per serving compared to a standard serving size of the traditional variety
Enough said. We need to try and limit our sugar intake, at least cut the added sugar!

I have come to realise that just like any other addiction, you have to go through sugar withdrawal symptoms. The first few days I was irritable and grumpy. 

Now? During hockey playoff season we used to eat a chocolate candy every time our team scored. This season they made it to the finals (that's a lot of goals!), and I had zero sweets. In fact I brushed my teeth right after dinner, and it didn't even bother me that hubby & son were munching on their chocolate Easter eggs. I was secretly applauding myself for saving those calories!!

Here's an article taking you through the necessary steps in order to limit / quit your sugar consumption. 

Before I'm done I also wanted to say a word or two about salads.

What's there to talk about? Salads are good, full stop!?

They are. There's just a pitfall: the dressing, the croutons and the cheese. While they're yummy, they're definitely thwarting your calorie budget plans. Especially if you're like me and love your Chipotle Southwest!!


Yogurt Dressing it is!!!

That was a lot to take in. Thank you for hanging in there - you deserve a snack! If you're looking for inspiration, here's an article with lots of suggestions on snacks with 100 calories. As for me I think I'll go back to A is for Avocado Brownie!

Now I'm curious: Are you a sugar addict? What's your favourite salad, and do you believe in superfoods? Let me know in comments down below and please come back tomorrow for T is for Time.

Until then there are tons of cool letter S posts for you to check out!

Friday, April 21, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Relax and Rehab my Recipes!

Welcome back to A - Z Blogging Challenge. 

Letter R today is all about relaxing and recharging because we've earned a break from all the hard work we've been doing!

So let's grab a raspberry smoothie and sit back!

Recovering and refueling after working out is just as important as exercising. 

Whatever you do or don't do: remember to breathe!!

Before you work out:
  • Eat some high-quality protein and complex carbs like a greek yogurt with berries and oats or almonds.
  • Wait an hour or so before you hit the gym, don't work out on a full stomach.
  • There are some studies that claim caffeine intake 30 minutes before exercising helps to burn fat.

After you work out:
  • Stretch and relieve those sore muscles from lactic acid.
  • Re-hydrate! Replace lost fluids as you probably have been sweating a great deal! It goes without saying that your beverage should be plain water, not soda or beer.
  • Enjoy your shower - if you can, alternate between hot and cold water to constrict and dilate bloods vessels which helps your system to get rid of waste products.
  • If you have time, go for a swim and / or a massage.
  • Have a snack that is high in protein and potassium (I like some wild salmon and edamame, but if you're into bananas, eggs and (lean) meat, go for it!)
  • Don't go into hibernation, keep moving lightly, walk your dog / to the store, take the stairs, play soccer with the kids, it's called active recovery.

In general:

  • Avoid alcohol because it forces your body to deal with getting rid of toxins instead of helping your muscles heal and grow.
  • Reduce stress in your life to help your body (and mind) to bounce back faster. 
  • Sleep and give your body time to restore itself.

On a completely different note, I'd like to give a shout-out to Recipe Rehab! 

It's a cool cooking show that "rehabs" people's favourite, yet unhealthy meals. My son and my favourite episodes are the following (spoiler alert, they are using some surprising ingredients like pumpkin, beetroot and cauliflower):

Alright. What do you think? Were any of the tips helpful for you? Would you make a rehabbed chocolate cake version?

Here's the link to the other Letter R Posts, and I am looking forward to seeing you back here tomorrow for S is for Superfoods vs Sugar!

Thursday, April 20, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Quads & Quizzes

Welcome back to A - Z Blogging Challenge. The big day has arrived. It's Q Day.

I know, right? Q is hard. 

Do you like Quark? I don't particularly. 

So I've been going easy on you in terms of working out; today it is time to do some leg work.

There are three major muscles in the anterior thigh: the pectinous, sartorial and quadriceps femoris aka Quads = musculus quadriceps femoris = four-headed muscle of the femur.

Typical exercises to train your Quads include Squats and Leg Presses:


Leg Press

If you don't want to do the exercises you may print out the illustrations and color them ;-)))

Here's a video including the top ten (of course, right?) leg exercises. Unfortunately there is a great view, but no instructions and no music:

If you want some guidance and sound, here are ten minutes of leg and butt workouts:

Whoa, are your legs sore yet?

Let's train a completely different muscle to cool down: your brain! 

Here's a Quiz for you. If you've been following me this shouldn't be hard:

  1. What health benefits does a cup of coffee a day have?
  2. In what aspect does spinach change after being cooked?
  3. What is a low-carb alternative to regular pizza dough?
  4. Name a food that contains monounsaturated fats.
  5. What unexpected ingredient do I use to make brownies?
  6. Name a factor that is considered relevant for a successful weight loss journey.
  7. What do you need to be careful about when eating salads? (In terms of calories)
  8. What are the two main ingredients I did not use to make "healthy" Nutella?
  9. Name a fruit that contains a surprising amount of sugar.
  10. Magical Oil - what kind of oil was I talking about?

What have you done for your Quads today? How many answers do you think you've scored? 

Now go over here to find out what other bloggers came up with for the letter Q.

Come back tomorrow for R is for Relaxing, how does that sound?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A - Z Blogging Challenge - Plan & Prep

Welcome back to A - Z, today's letter is P, and we're talking about the planning aspect of getting into shape.
One thing that is key for me is to have a plan and be prepared. Now I'm not talking about a super strict schedule, I just need to have everything in place. Let me give you an example.

Like I mentioned many times I like to have a mise-en-place for Colin's and my clothes that we are going to wear for school or work. I choose them the night before, so there is no "where are my lucky socks, and could you get my sweater from the dryer?" early in the morning. 

I noticed that things go much smoother for me, if the same is true for my gym clothes, my gym bag plus the clothes I am going to wear after a well deserved shower. Extra points if they are sweatpants and fluffy socks!

I also put my workouts that I'm supposed to do at home in my calendar. So on Saturday and / or Sunday at 10 am there will be an alarm, and an appointment with a YouTube link will pop up. Vicky, my fitness instructor told me to find a new one as I shouldn't repeat Kathy Smith's Fat burning workout (1988) too many times. I almost died in a recent HIIT session. Who knew jumping jacks could be so strenuous!

Now on to the food. 
I need to think ahead and grocery shop for fresh produce regularly. We have an average (=small) European fridge, so I keep running out of this and that. Not only do I have to stock up on lettuce, I need to think about what to make for the guys who want "something yummy, not pet food."

Then the snacks! Since junk or convenience food is out of question for me, I also need to have healthy snacks ready. Cherry tomatoes, miniature cucumbers, miniature mozzarella balls, carrot sticks, apple slices, grapes, you name it.

That's a lot of prep work, and if I don't do it, as soon as hunger strikes, the temptation to give in to sugar-loaded granola bars or crackers is enormous.

If everything is ready, all I have to do is grab and snack! 

Now we only have so many snack boxes, and sometimes they get forgotten at school, or they're in the dishwasher, so I put the goodies in ziploc bags.

From then on let's just hope that my Mommy Brain is doing its job.

How many times have I left the house only to notice an hour later that I left everything in the fridge, and I have nothing to eat!

Happened just the other day when we went to the mall. I had promised Colin some screen time at Starbucks. I reloaded my loyalty card, and the barista told me to pick a pastry for free. 

A slice of cheesecake was calling my name: "Tamara, what's the matter with you?"

Why they're still selling Valentine's Day Cake in April is beyond me!

I asked for a donut for Colin and purchased a tiny (50g) package of trail mix for me.

Photo Source
The nutrition facts label was hidden very well, but I did find out that this tiny little portion that I wouldn't even call "snack size" has 233 calories!

It was tough to let down the cheesecake and the cinnamon rolls, I hope they forgive me.

Also I did better the next time I was on the road.

Purse, check
Notebook Case, check
Bell Peppers, check

What do you do in terms of planning and preparing when it comes to your food and fitness routine? Let me know down below, and please check back in tomorrow for the letter Q!

For more reading pleasure head over to this link-up.