Chocolate: Part of a Healthy Diet

You may have heard about the research on chocolate and that it can be healthy.  However, much of the chocolate Americans consume is mostly sugar, fats and fillers with very little actual cocoa components.  Which means, that chocolate you are eating is probably not a positive contribution to your diet.

If you enjoy chocolate, there is good news!  You can now find good chocolate that is actually made from the cocoa beans.  Bean to Bar shops can now be found in almost every state, and some states have multiple Bean to Bar factory/shops.  Over the past few years, we have enjoyed seeking out these shops as we travel and sampling each shops’ single origin chocolates.

Nutrition Facts: Chocolate made with 70-85% of cocoa beans, will typically only have 3 ingredients, cocoa (bean/nibs) sugar and cocoa butter and will be high in the following nutrients based on 100 g serving.

Fiber: 11 g (44%)

Protein: 7.9 g (16%)

Iron: 12 mg (67%)

Magnesium: 230 mg  (58%)

Phosphorus: 311 mg (31%)

Potassium: 722 mg (21%)
 Zinc: 3.3 mg (22%)
Copper: 1.8 mg (89%)
Manganese: 2.0 mg (98%)
Choklat from Calgary Canada

With its diverse nutrition profile, including phytochemicals, the consumption of natural chocolate can have positive health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol, preventing cognitive decline (3), reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems (2, 4) and in athletes it may also boost oxygen availability (1).  Eating chocolate can also improve satiety and result in less of a desire for sweet foods (5).

Most commercial chocolates have gone through a Dutch/alkali process to reduce the bitter flavor cocoa beans can have, which greatly reduces the phytochemical content.  Bean to bar chocolates do not use this processing – rather they develop just the right technique of roasting, winnowing and conching that allows the unique flavor of the cocoa bean to be tasted.

Tasting Bean to Bar chocolates is a fun experience!  Cocoa beans are grown all around the world and each bean, based on where it grows, soil conditions, what grows around it,  and the length of fermentation, will have its own unique flavors.  Each flavor profile is complex.  When you first place the chocolate in your mouth, you can immediately taste certain flavors, but as the chocolate melts in your mouth, those flavors will develop and change and you will finish on a different note than when you started.

Bean to Bar chocolate also makes an amazing hot chocolate.  Most Bean to Bar shops will sell hot chocolate in their stores or you can make your own at home with one of the chocolate bars.

While you will pay much higher for a Bean to Bar chocolate than a commercial chocolate bar, the trade off is a rich complex tasting experience, a chocolate that actually provides great nutrition value and as a result you will eat much less at a time.  Our bars can last us a couple weeks to a few months as we usually only enjoy a square or two a day.

I have found a relatively inexpensive option in local grocery stores.  The brand is Theo and they have a great taste and a simple ingredient list.

If you enjoy chocolate, look for a bean to bar chocolate and find the flavor profile that appeals to you.  A square of chocolate or cup of hot chocolate can be a healthy part of your balanced diet!


  1. Gonzalez-Garrido JA, Garcia-Sanchez JR, Garrido-Llanos S, Olivares-Corichi IM. (2017). An association of cocoa consumption with improved physical fitness and decreased muscle damage and oxidative stress in athletes. J Sports Med Phys Fitness. Apr 57(4):441-447.

2. James I Dower, Johanna M Geleijnse, Lieke Gijsbers, Peter L Zock, Daan Kromhout, Peter CH Hollman; Effects of the pure flavonoids epicatechin and quercetin on vascular function and cardiometabolic health: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 101, Issue 5, 1 May 2015, Pages 914–921.

3. Nehlig A. (2013). The neuroprotective effects of cocoa flavanol and its influence on cognitive performance. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 75(3), 716-27.

4. Taubert D, Roesen R, Lehmann C, Jung N, Schömig E. Effects of Low Habitual Cocoa Intake on Blood Pressure and Bioactive Nitric Oxide: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA. 2007;298(1):49–60. doi:10.1001/jama.298.1.49

5. Sørensen, L. B., & Astrup, A. (2011). Eating dark and milk chocolate: a randomized crossover study of effects on appetite and energy intake. Nutrition & diabetes, 1(12), e21. doi:10.1038/nutd.2011.17


Bean to Bar Locations we have tried and love!


Solstice Chocolate Tasting

Solstice Chocolate: My favorite chocolate!  I enjoy all the single origin bars but Ecuador and Vietnam are my favorites.  It is also one of the few brands that does a Dark Milk.  The dark milk is made from Ghana beans and is my favorite for making hot chocolate and pot de creme.  There is now a second Dark Milk made with Boliva beans and is also very good!  I hope she continues to make dark milks.  (The Coconut and Brown Butter white chocolates are amazing and coconut is great to pair with the India bar).  You can pick up bars at Tony Caputos or buy online:

Ritual Park City, UT

Ritual Chocolate: They have a shop downtown in Park City where you can buy their bars, watch them make chocolate and enjoy a hot chocolate.  You can also find their chocolate and hot chocolate in local Whole Foods stores.  Ecuador is my favorite!

Aggie Chocolate – Utah State University Chocolate Factory: We finally were able to experience their chocolate.  They have 2 different single origin bars which were a more acidic in flavor than I like, but good quality chocolate.  We really enjoyed the triple chocolate brownie and we have been told the fresh baked chocolate chip cookies are amazing.

Fort Collins, Colorado

Nuance Truffle
Nuance Truffle

Nuance Chocolate: Great shop in old town Fort Collins.  They offer flight tastings, truffles, hot chocolate, drinking chocolate and a great variety of single origin bars. We love the French hot chocolate and always enjoy a selection of the fresh truffles.  Our current favorites include Toffee, Hazelnut and the Raspberry Habanero.



Portland, Oregon

Creo Chocolate:  An amazing family owned shop with great single origin bars, some fun speciality bars, hot chocolate, drinking chocolate and unique truffles and chocolates!  The Washu bar has such a unique flavor profile and is amazing!  The Raspberry dark, Spicy Dark and Nibs and Sea Salt were also our favorites!

San Fransisco/ Kansas City

Christopher Elbow Chocolate: We stumbled on this shop on a visit to San Fransisco – and we have been to their shop in Kansas City.  We went in for their hot chocolates.  It was so hard to decide which one to try – they have so many amazing choices.  We also had to try their beautiful gourmet chocolates.  They also have single origin bars.  But our favorites are their peanut butter bars and hazelnut bars – these are amazing in both milk and dark!


IMG_9553Choklat: We visited their factory in Calgary.  We loved their Hazelnut Hot chocolate with blue whip cream, the fresh made to order “huge” truffle balls and their single origin bars!  Too bad they do not ship to the US.

London, England

Melt Nottinghill London

Melt: We found this little shop in Nottinghill of London.  Their bars are not a true bean to bar – but we did enjoy trying their gourmet chocolates/truffles and a cup of their hot chocolate.  



Oxford, England

Linden Chocolates from Oxford

Linden Chocolates: Started by students from Oxford, we found these chocolates in a small shop called Wicked Chocolates in the Covered Oxford Market.  They had a number of different options, with samples of each.  My favorites were the Dark Milk, and surprisingly, the Coconut, Cinnamon and Carmel White Chocolates.  




Chocolates of Glenshiel: We stumbled on this small business Chocolatier as we were driving through the Highlands of Scotland near the island of Skye.  Finlay Macdonald makes his chocolates in a little shop on his parent’s land.  He was very friendly, let us sample the chocolates so we knew which ones we wanted to purchase.  His focus is to use local Scottish ingredients to develop a gourmet chocolate.  They are very well done.


Highland Chocolatier Iain Burnett: One of our most enjoyable chocolate experiences was img_6164.jpegstopping at Iain Burnett’s shop in Scotland.  We each enjoyed a different flight experience.  The depth of flavor of each of the truffles we tried was amazing!  So many favorites.  If you are in the neighborhood – it is definitely worth a visit to the shop!  But you can also order online.  Our boys enjoyed sharing a hot chocolate, brownie and chocolate torte.


We look forward to finding more Bean to Bar locations and tasting experiences!




Get out and Ride!

Saturday July 8, 2017:

This year’s Cache Gran Fondo had a record registration of 1200 people.  You have two options, 50 or 100 miles.

GB1_4821-2 20170708 0639 Cache Gran Fondo

We registered for the 50 mile course.  It was a new route this year for both the 50 and 100.  They modified the routes due road damage from the flooding this year.  Here is the 50 mile course2017 gran fondo route

We started off with some overnight kefir, coach’s oats and strawberries.

img_9802.jpgWhich was a good thing since we arrived only 15 minutes before our 7 AM start time and didn’t have time to grab the provided breakfast.  Enough time to put on our race bibs, sunscreen and find a spot at the back of the pack.

GB1_5648 20170708 0700 Cache Gran FondoI was not very excited about the 7 AM start time as temps were supposed to be close to 100.  However, we were fortunate to have a cool breeze throughout most of the ride.  It really only felt warm on the last 30 minutes of the ride.

The new route was a nice change as it felt like a whole new ride.  However, I seemed like this year’s route had a lot more incline over the previous course when it seemed like the only incline was the Trenton Hill.  This year’s route had us approaching Trenton Hill from the opposite direction, so we actually enjoyed riding down it versus climbing it.

With the new route, there was just one fuel station that you pass twice.  As usually, it was well stocked with a variety of carbs.  By the time we came back to the fuel station for our second time on our way back into Logan, I was ready to fuel and grabbed a bagel quarter and a few donut holes and washed it down with my water.

GB1_5971 20170708 0744 Cache Gran Fondo

Heather timed our ride on the Strava app which said we finished in 3 hours and 25 minutes.  She started it 10 minutes before our race start.  We stopped at the fuel station both times.  So we figure actually ride time was probably about 3 hours and 5-10 minutes.  I was kind of surprised since it was a new route and if felt a little more challenging.

GB1_6530 20170708 0852 Cache Gran Fondo

It felt good to cross the finish line at just about 10:30 AM.  Upon crossing the finish line, you are given a cloth towelette, the large Cache Gran Fondo medal and a free meal ticket.

GB1_7707 20170708 1039 Cache Gran Fondo

Although I still had water, it was no longer cold.  We were grateful for the complementary Jolly Llama Sorbet Pop!  Ice cold and refreshing – just what we needed!19732206_1751889774839588_3418730483857922580_n

We both enjoyed a pork burrito from Cafe Sabor for our complementary post-race meal.  After refueling, we walked back to check out the prize board and found that Heather had won a prize from the random drawing – a memory foam pillow and a water bottle!

It was a great day for a great ride!  Thank you to Cache Gran Fondo, all the volunteers and sponsors, Gary Bird Photography and to Cache Valley Law Enforcement who helped us stay safe on the roads!  See you next year!

GB1_7730 20170708 1042 Cache Gran Fondo

Highlight video. 

Love Your Guts!


The health of your intestines effects, not only how you digest and absorb foods and nutrients, but also contributes to the health of your body and how your brain functions.

We still do not fully understand all the different links between our gut and the rest of our body, but we have enough research that links our gut health to the health of our body and risk for diseases.

Our goal should be to reduce inflammation and increase good bacteria in the large intestine.

How do you do this?  There are multiple factors that contribute to gut health.

  1. Stress.  Some individuals have intestines that are more sensitive to stress than others.  I am one of those individuals.  The combination of certain foods and a stressful situation can result in irritable bowels.  Why does this happen?  Stress slows down the digestion of food and as a result may cause abdominal pain and discomfort.    Practicing stress management, taking time for you (doing non-food related activities) and using different types of psychotherapy such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Relaxation Therapy, or Hypnosis can all be beneficial.
  2. Be physical active!  Activity is important and helpful for the movement of the intestines.  The key is to be active regularly and throughout the day.  If you have a sedentary job, try to stand every 20-30 minutes and move around.  Optimally, walk around for 2-5 minutes.  It is better to move and be active throughout the day than to have a 30 minute workout in the morning and then sitting all day long.  Walking is one of the simplest and easiest forms of exercise as it can be done any time and does not require any special equipment except a good pair of shoes.IMG_2936
  3. Eat Fiber!  It is reported that Americans consume less than half of the recommended amount of fiber per day.  Fiber is found in all our plant foods including vegetables, fruits, beans, lentils, nuts, legumes, and whole grains*.*(check with your doctor before eliminating wheat/barley/rye as often it is not an issue with gluten but may be FODMAPS or other factors; some people may be gluten sensitive/gluten intolerant – but these do not cause damage to the intestines. Individuals with celiac disease must eliminate gluten completely – the body cannot handle it and as a result the body attacks the small intestine wall and destroys the villi which how nutrients are absorbed.)* Research on non-gluten diets for weight loss in those who do not need to eliminate gluten has been shown to not be effective.
  4. Eat whole foods.  Make the majority of your diet whole foods, foods that have little to no processing.   Limit and reduce packaged/processed foods and drinks. Prepare foods at home vs. eating out.mix of foods
  5. Include Resistant Starch in your diet.  If you are eating a variety of whole foods, than you are likely already getting resistant starch in your diet.  Resistant starch is found in grains, seeds, legumes, cashews, raw oats, green (unripe) bananas, raw potato starch, cooked & cooled (retrogradation) potatoes, pastas and rice.   Resistant starches are not digested in the small intestine, passing into the large intestine similar to soluble fermentable fibers. It feeds the good bacteria which then produces short chain fatty acids, specifically butyrate which fuels the cells that line the large intestine to maintain a strong intestine wall.
  6. Probiotics and Prebiotics.  -Probiotics are good bacteria in foods or added to foods (yogurts, kefir, milk, cheeses).  They work to inhibit the growth of bad bacteria, antigens, toxins and carcinogens.-Prebiotics are non-digestible foods that promote the growth of good bacteria in the large intestine found naturally in raw garlic, raw leeks, raw dandelion greens, raw onions, cooked onions, raw asparagus, raw wheat bran, baked wheat flour, raw banana.

Foods to limit and avoid

The following are foods that are known to destroy good gut bacteria and increase bad gut bacteria.  A greater prevalence of bad bacteria has been linked to a number of diseases (heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc).

  1. Non-nutritive sweeteners (NNS).  Limited research (mostly done on saccharin), but so far it does not look good. Research shows that it alters the gut bacteria in just 5-7 days. They have observed that gut bacteria is negatively different in those individuals who consume NNS.
  2. Added sugars.  Foods with added sugars, sweetened beverages, (including any NNS beverages), processed packaged foods.
  3. Fried Foods
  4. Long term antibiotic use – destroys the good bacteria – which can lead to weight gain as a result of higher rates of digestion.

To improve the health of your intestines, use a combination of all six factors discussed above.

We have been fermenting our own kefir.  It requires daily processing, but can be done very quickly.

Kefir fermenting

One of our favorite ways to use the kefir is to make overnight oats.  I use Coach’s Oats, fresh strawberries and kefir.  To me the strawberries are the perfect fruit to help mask the tartness of the kefir.

Preparing overnight kefir oats with Coach’s Oats, Strawberries and kefir

Our kids love to have kefir in smoothies.  You can put anything you want in the smoothie.  Our favorite combinations have been banana berries or tropical using mangos, banana and pineapple.  Throw in some ice and it makes a nice frothy, thick smoothie!



References and Resources

  1. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)

Be Strong. Almost There. You Did it!

These were the words of encouragement on the Trenton Hill this year for the Cache Gran Fondo.


Gran Fondo 2016Gran Fondo 16 mpa

I was excited for this year’s ride.  I found my own bike and had been doing some road rides so I felt a little more prepared.  This was one of my goals from last year in order to reduce the position fatigue.  I think it helped a lot as I did not experience as much forearm fatigue as I had the year before.

I did not get the best rest the night before and wake up was a little challenging.  But once I was on my way in the cool morning air, I felt much better.  However, I could tell that this did have an effect on my ability to ride a little harder.

Even though I had started off with my bowl of cinnamon oatmeal, I took advantage of the plain yogurt and frozen fruit they had available at the starting line fuel station.

GB1_5906 20160709 05 Cache Gran Fondo

They announced there were over 400 riders that had signed up for the century and over 400 riders signed up for the 50 which is the route I was completing. The 50 mile group was started at 6:50 AM and this year I started with the pack.

GB1_6192 20160709 06 Cache Gran Fondo
Lining up at the start line at Logan Regional Hospital.  I am along the curb in the back right.

Cache Valley is so beautiful at 7 AM.  Once again, I forgot the Go-pro to capture just how beautiful it is to ride at this time of the day.  That is my goal for next year.

I underestimated how long it would take me to get to the first fuel station in Trenton and had not planned to stop.  However, I did make the stop along with many other riders and stood in line for the port-a-pottys.  Chris met me there with some fresh raspberries from the garden, so I was able to refuel a bit while in line.

Trenton Support/Fuel Station

The Hill was next.  Luckily, Rock Springs has a lot of hills, so while it seemed a bit easier this year, it is a deceptively long hill.  The words of encouragement spray-painted on the road brought a smile to my face and provided an extra push.  As I passed those who choose to walk up the hill, they also provided words of motivation and encouragement to keep going.  There was a band again on the hill and their music could be heard a little better this year.  While I’m sure they were a great band, the choice of music was not very motivating for climbing the hill.

After the hill, the rest of the ride was spent enjoying the beautiful view of Cache Valley.  I was surprised by the number of riders I passed who had to replace tubes.  I had new tubes put in both tires just within a week of the ride and a quick tune up on my chain done by Al’s and was fortunate to not have any problems.

I did make one more stop in Mendon to grab some carbs then back on the bike to finish the race in exactly 4 hours.  I had hoped to shave off an hour from last year’s time, but only shaved off about 30 minutes.

Hydration and Nutrition: Like last year,  I used my camelback with 12 oz of coconut water mixed in.  I froze it over night and it provided cold water throughout the ride. I started with my usual oatmeal breakfast.  They did not provide the chews in the registration bag. So this year, I did take advantage of the fuel stations at the start of the race, and the last one in Mendon to provide some additional carbs for the ride.  I was also excited for the free meal at the end and enjoyed the burrito from Cafe Sabor, one of the sponsors.


Thank you to the many volunteers who helped with the planning, preparations, and everyone on race day who manned all the support and fuel stations and helped the riders along the way.  And a BIG thank you to the law enforcement that helped keep all the riders safe at the major intersections!  Thanks Cache Gran Fondo for a great ride and look forward to seeing you again next year!


SAVOR the Flavor of EATING right!

March is National Nutrition Month. The theme from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for this year is “Savor the Flavor of EATING right.” I added emphasis to savor and eating, why? As consumers we are constantly bombarded with advertisements, food labels, commercials, magazines, etc to choose convenience products and/or supplements claiming to give our body the nutrients it need, give us energy, help us lose weight, the list could go on. However, none of those products will truly provide your body with what it needs, especially for the long term. In addition, some of those products may be harmful to the body especially if used for long periods of time.
Recently in the nutrition class I am teaching, we discussed the external factors that influence why and how we eat. Then we followed it up with learning about how to be mindful with eating so you can enjoy your food and eat less. Instead of consuming convenience foods or supplements that make you “feel” better so you can eat whatever you want, try eating foods that naturally contain the nutrients your body needs and will use.
Eating should be an enjoyable experience.   Slow down and take the time to taste and enjoy your food – savor your food. Strive for 90% of what you consume to be healthy choices full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins.  There is still room for “fun” foods whatever that may be for you.  Our fun food is chocolate and we have chocolate every day.  The key is moderation, but also to slow down and savor your fun food.  When you actually mindfully enjoy your fun food you may notice you really don’t need very much.  I challenge you to not only eat healthier this month (and moving forward) but to eat healthier and enjoy your food more by slowing down.

Fitness Friday: Alphabet Workout!

IMG_6728What are you doing this weekend to be active?  Here is a fun way to get your workout in  – I call it the Alphabet workout.  I can’t take credit for the idea as I saw it posted somewhere during the holidays, but then forgot about it.  I was reminded of it last week when a friend posted her version she used for her class last week and I took it and tweaked it for my class and used it as our “warmup” which ended up being about half our class.  I had them use their entire name, middle name included, for their warmup.  This doesn’t have to be your name – you could come up with any words you wanted – be creative.  You can assign the letters any exercise you want.  I do recommend that whatever exercises you select make sure you are balanced.  For example, include exercises for legs that will target quads, glutes and hamstrings like squats and lunges.  Exercises for the core like bridging, planks, back extensions.  Upper body exercises including upper back like bent over rows to oppose a chest exercise like a pushup.  This will ensure you get a workout for the full body.  If you wanted this to all be cardio, be sure you include movements in different planes, for example jumping jacks and caricoa with your jogs and mt. climbers.

Here is the workout I put together which seemed to be popular because many of my students took the sheets I had posted around the room.  Maintain good form, breathe and have a great workout!

A 50 Jumping Jacks

B 20 ab curls on ball or floor

C 50 squats 

D 15 pushups

E 1 min wall sit

F 10 burpees

G 20 mt climbers 

H 20 ham curls with stability ball

I 30 bridges on floor or stability ball

J 1 minute plank 

K 10 curtsy lunge

L 2 min wall sit

M 20 Dolphin Kicks with stability ball

N 25 Inchworms or inverted flyers

O 40 Torso Twists 

P 20 roll outs with stability ball

Q 30 ab curls

R 15 pushups

S 30 inchworms

T 20 curtsy squats

U 30 mt climbers

V 2 minute plank

W 20 bridges

X 30 jumping jacks

Y 10 Dolphin Kicks

Z 20 pushups

Making the Holidays Healthier

The Holidays can be a challenging time to maintain health.  There are   many parties and lots of food choices, especially treats and higher calorie options. Here are some ideas for how you can navigate through the holidays by making some healthier choices and still enjoy some of the treats.
Collab_SweetsWinter_part5 (4)

Make treats a little healthier: We enjoying making treats, however, we look for ways to improve the nutrition quality of those treats. For example, many cookie recipes call for more sugar than needed, so simply reducing the sugar can be beneficial (we prefer to reduce the sugar versus using a sugar substitute). Instead of white flour – try using whole grain flour, ground oats or a combination of whole grain and white flour. In brownies or any chocolate recipe – we always use whole grain or multi-grain flours as you don’t notice the difference due to the rich flavor of the cocoa or dark chocolate. But this whole grain substitution can also work in regular cookies.  I have adapted a s’more cookie recipe by using ground grapenuts and multi-grain flour vs. the ground graham crackers and white flour the original recipe calls for and no one notices the difference.

bowl of veggiesBring healthy treats: Skip the cookies and sugar sweetened treats and bring vegetable and/or fruit trays or salads to your holiday parties and then fill your plate with the fruit and vegetables and you are less likely to reach for the cookies, cakes and sweetened treats.

Eat a healthy balanced meal first:  If you know you are going to an event that is not likely to have many healthy choices, eat a nice balanced meal before hand so you are less likely to eat at the event.  If you know you would like to enjoy some of the treats at the event, eat something nutrient dense but low calorie before going to the event so you are satisfied. For example a spinach salad (or any dark greens) with a mix of vegetables, maybe some fruit and then some type of fat/protein (olive oil, some cheese, nuts, egg or pieces of meat like chicken or salmon).

Prioritize:  Multiple events and added stresses may cause you to adjust your typical workout schedule.  Be sure to evaluate your time and schedule and ensure you are still getting in your regular workouts, even if it means shortening your workouts.  By staying consistent with your exercise, you will be less likely to be tempted by all those holiday treats.

Moderation:  If there is that special cookie, treat or bread that your co-worker, neighbor or family member makes that you look forward to all year, then plan in that treat.  A couple of treats over the holidays will not result in any major change or set back in your pathway to health.  In fact, studies show that individuals who do plan in treats in moderation have greater health and satisfaction.

Enjoy the holidays in moderation so you stay on your path of good health.  That way when January 1 rolls around, you can continue to focus on your progress forward versus how to make up for your choices over the holidays.


Great article with additional strategies from ACE: How to throw a Fit and Healthy Holiday Party



Grocery Store Tour


Last week I took my Nutrition class on a field trip for a Grocery store tour.  We have been learning how to read food labels and comparing products for price and nutrition value.  My students have realized the greatest piece of information on the Food label is not the Nutrition facts, but the list of ingredients.  It is in the ingredients list that you can determine how healthy the product is for you.  The key is to be able to read and know what each ingredient is in the list.  Typically the less ingredients the better.  For example, peanut butter should only be two ingredients, peanuts and salt.  If there are additional ingredients in your peanut butter like additional oils and sugars, there are healthier choices you could make.

Overall – walking the exterior of the grocery store is where you will find the healthier choices.  However, as we found on our tour, you will still find processed products along the exterior.   For example, as you walk into a grocery store, you will be bombarded with a mix of deals or specials they are highlighting that week.  In our store, we had to walk past the deli and through the bakery section to get to the produce section.

In produce, we discussed that the less expensive produce will be what is currently in season.  In our grocery store, they also have a clearance rack section where you can find great bundles of produce already bagged for just $1 per bag.  From produce, we move on to the meat section.  Our store also has a discount section for meat on certain days you may be able to find great deals.

As we moved along past the meat, we came to the refrigerated section that was full of deli meats and other similar processed meats.  We reviewed the labels and discussed how these meats are highly processed and high in sodium.  A student asked a great question, “then what can you do to make quick sandwiches?”  We discussed baking/broiling your own chicken, cooking your beef/chicken in a crock pot or if you want to make it simple, purchase one of the rotisserie chickens.

Last is the cheese, egg, yogurt and dairy/milk sections.   The students selected their favorite yogurts and compared food labels.  Fruited yogurts can be high in sugar.  Better choice would be to purchase plain or vanilla yogurt and add your own fruit, grain, nuts.  Earlier in the week, a student had presented on the difference between cow’s milk, almond milk and soy milk.  Cow’s milk naturally contains 11 different important nutrients.  Most of these same nutrients are fortified in the soy and nut milks.  In addition, simply looking at the list of ingredients, with cow’s milk there are 2 ingredients: milk and Vitamin D.  With the soy and nut milks, you will find multiple ingredients, including sugar, thickeners and fortification of vitamins/minerals that are not naturally found in those foods to make it comparable to cow’s milk.

We did go through some of the center aisles – frozen vegetables and fruits, dried and canned foods and dried pasta.  If produce is expensive and/or out of season, the first choice would be frozen.  Fresh-frozen can actually be more nutrious than most of the fresh produce as they freeze the produce right after harvesting so the retention of nutrients will be higher in the fresh-frozen.  If you are looking to save even more money, you can go canned, but you will be sacrificing some nutrition value.  If you choose canned, be sure to find those that are packed in water or their own juices.  Avoid those with added sugars or packed in syrup.  With canned beans, you can reduce some of the sodium by rinsing the beans prior to use.  If you are worried about the sodium level, purchase dried beans and cook them yourself.

Cereals – look for those that are low in sugar, use whole grains which should result in fiber per serving being at least 3 g.  A less processed choice would be oats.  Be careful with the single serve packets like Quaker, which have a lot of added sodium and sugars and additional things to maintain freshness.  I like to use a product called Coach’s Oats which is a mix of cut oats that I can microwave in 2 minutes and then add my own toppings of fruit, cinnamon and milk.

This article talks about how grocery stores are layed out and where they put items they want to sell based on how we typically shop.


Picture courtesy of photo library.

Fitness Friday: A fun twist

I love the workout ideas ACE puts together.  The workout plan they published this week, Halloween Workout, has some great ideas to add some variety to your workout routine.  However, as I looked at the fun moves, I realized, I love them all, but I know my students and some of these moves may be a little intimidating or perhaps a little more than some individuals may be ready for.  So how can you modify these exercises for you?

Spider crawls – love the spider crawls, however, if you are not comfortable getting down on the floor on hands and feet, you can stay upright and complete a monster walk.  A Monster walk is a continuous low squat walking forward and then backward. You can increase the challenge by placing a resistance band around your ankles.


Deadbug – this is one of my favorite moves to do with a stability ball.  In the ACE article they have you hold the position like a plank.  A modification, for their movement could be to bend your knees and work up to legs extended.  I like to place a stability ball between my hands and feet and then extend opposing arm and leg groups, then bring them back to the ball and switch to the other group.

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Single Arm deadlift to overhead press – this is a great compound exercise that will work the hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae muscles with stabilization from the core in addition to bicep and shoulder work.  It’s important to maintain core stabilization for this exercise, especially during the deadlift portion.

Jack-knife and pushups on the Stability ball – I love using the stability ball for pushups because you can easily adjust how much challenge you want by walking out further so the ball is closer to your feet.  In addition, the core is required to stabilize more due to the instability of the ball.  Jack-knifes are fun, but also challenging.  While you work up to a full jack-knife, try a jack rabbit, which is drawing the knees to the chest with shins on the ball instead of the feet.

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Axe- chops – This is a great rotational exercise that uses the upper body, core and legs.  The key is to pivot on your feet to keep your knees safe.  If you are unsure about completing this exercise, begin by doing a standing torso twist.  Focus on moving from the core and you will find that you fatigue much faster in the core.


Skull Crushers – Great exercise for the triceps.  The key is to keep your arm in position and only bend at the elbow.  If you prefer not to lay down, you can complete the exercise using a resistance band or rope handle on a cable machine and complete a standing tricep extension – which requires greater core stabilization.

Suicides – I prefer to call them ladders so it is not so negative and implies progression versus exhaustion, but either way you look at it, they can be a great way to get in some cardio.  If you are like me, you may not have a large space in your house to complete these safely and with the weather turning cold, you may not want to go outside.  So my modification is to do ladders up the stairs.  Begin by taking the stairs one stair at a time, next round 2 stairs at a time, next round double leg hops,  last 2 rounds one leg hops.


While you get comfortable with the exercise, take it slow and complete low reps.  As you increase in your ability to do the exercises, add a few more reps or another set.   The most important thing with exercise is to complete it properly to get the greatest benefit.  Quality over quantity.

When completing any exercise on your own – pay attention to feedback from your body.  If it doesn’t feel right or you feel any pain, stop the exercise immediately.  Seek out a qualified fitness professional to watch your form and insure you are doing it safely and correctly.


Fitness Friday: Hit the Deck!


A few years ago, one of my exercise science students introduced the class to a workout using a Deck of Cards. I loved the idea and created my own set of exercises for a full body workout.  It is always a class favorite and a fun easy way to change up based on what you have available.
How it works: Assign a different exercise to each suit in a deck of cards. I like to have 3 different sets of exercises. Then let the cards determine the number of reps you complete. Here is a sample workout that mainly uses body weight and dumbbells.  Soup cans or other similar weighted objects can be used in place of dumbbells.

Group 1

heart Pushup Row with dumbbells (can add a single arm row for each arm between each pushup rep) Knees
club Sumo Squat 180 turns on floor
Diamon Glute Bridge

spade Ab curls

Group 2

heart Overhead Press
club Leap Frog squat
Diamon Plank knee to elbow

spade Arm Leg Extension

Group 3

heart Inchworm
club Bicep Curl
Diamon Triceps Extension or Kickbacks

spade Lunges

When the Joker pops up, I usually throw in a few laps around the room and then switch to the next set of exercises.  Be sure to breathe through each exercise and use good form and proper core engagement throughout the workout.  Now go and enjoy the luck of the draw!

*Exercises are linked to the ACE Exercise Library which will show you a picture and description of how to complete the exercise safely and effectively.