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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Healthy Convenience Foods for People Who Hate to Cook

For those who love to cook, there’s never a shortage of great, cheap, healthy recipe ideas.

Personally, I hate to cook.

I get home at night and want my yummy, healthy dinner *now*, not 45 minutes of cooking from now. I hate the “easy” recipes that involve 20 different ingredients. I hate scrubbing out the slow cooker. Even the George Foreman grill, with its runnels of grease, is a nightmare to me.

Sometimes, my wonderful boyfriend cooks for us both. Sometimes (VERY rarely), I suck it up and cook something. The rest of the time, I count on a variety of healthy pre-made foods marketed to the uber-busy or lazy health conscious person. Here are some staples I count on in my kitchen:

1. Jimmy Dean “D’lights” breakfast sandwiches. These are under 300 calories, use egg whites, turkey bacon and whole grain English muffins, and taste really good. They’re ready in 2 minutes in the microwave, and are cooked wrapped in paper towel instead of the plastic wrapper, for those concerned about possible carcinogens.

2. Amy’s frozen meals. These tend to be more expensive than regular frozen meals, but if you find a sale, stock up. They have a great selection of organic, nutritious, delicious entrees. My favorites are the Stuffed Shell Pasta Bowl, the Teriyaki Bowl, and the Mushroom and Olive Pizza (the single serve version has 450 calories, which is great for a satisfying and not diet-busting lunch or dinner). I also have to mention the Toaster Pops, which taste like mini pies and have twice the protein, 50 fewer calories and 6 fewer grams of sugar than unfrosted Pop Tarts!

3. No-Pudge! Fat Free Brownies. Okay, this is a delicious dessert that is fat free and only 120 calories per serving (vs. 190 in Betty Crocker Fudge Brownies from mix, prepared). Plus, you only have to mix in one item – fat-free vanilla yogurt. And this is the best part: for a single serving, all you have to do is stir two tablespoons of the mix and one tablespoon of yogurt into a small bowl and microwave it for a minute. Easy!

4. Kroger Meals Made Simple Fully Cooked Turkey Bacon. You can microwave the strips or serve them cold, by themselves or on simple sandwiches. They provide 40 calories and 3 grams of fat per 2 strips, vs. 104 calories and 9 grams of fat in regular bacon. They taste good, too.

5. Dr. Praeger’s Veggie Burgers. I like veggie burgers that don’t actually try to taste like meat – there’s something creepy about that. These veggie burgers know they’re veggie burgers and taste good as veggie burgers. At 100 calories per patty and a couple minutes in the microwave to prep, they win for me.

6. Birdseye Steamfresh Veggies. They’re veggies you stick in the microwave and they steam right in the bag. There’s some concern over cooking in plastic and the nutritional content of frozen vs. fresh veggies (though several respected sources do state that frozen is fine). For now, I think any veggies are better than none, and these are very convenient in helping the lazy or busy cook include them in their diet.

7. Trader Joes Organic Jasmine Rice and Organic Brown Rice. This rice is really, really good and microwaves in 3 minutes. For anyone who’s cooked rice, especially brown rice, you know how much of a time saver that is. Jasmine rice, by the way, is one of the healthier white rices, with a lower glycemic index than regular white rice.

8. Trader Joes Turkey Meatballs. Trader Joes is full of awesome and nutritious easy frozen stuff. These frozen meatballs are low in fat and calories and high in protein, and they taste great. I toss them on top of the microwaveable rice and toss some veggies and a little teriyaki sauce on top. Good stuff.

Know some other great healthy convenience foods? I’m always on the lookout, so let me know!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What a personal trainer is and isn't.

If you’re looking for help, results, motivation and information in your quest for better health and fitness, a personal trainer is a great resource. Trainers have a wide range of expertise and are generally respected professionals (do be careful of uncertified trainers, but that is another blog post entirely). However, many people expect more of trainers than they are actually able to provide. Eager to give their clients what they want and need, some trainers fall into the trap of trying to sell services they are not qualified to provide. Consumers can save themselves a lot of frustration by knowing what to expect, and what NOT to expect, from a qualified personal trainer. Here is a short list of things personal trainers are and are not.

A personal trainer IS a great sounding board for your health and fitness challenges and trained in problem solving for these issues.

A personal trainer is NOT a psychologist. If you have an eating disorder or deeply seated issues that are keeping you from changing your habits, you may need additional help from one of these professionals. A good trainer will refer you if they believe it is necessary.

A personal trainer IS a good source for general nutrition information. Your trainer might help you use food diaries to address your eating patterns, educate you on nutrition and diet concepts and help you change to healthier nutritional habits.

A personal trainer is NOT a dietician or nutritionist, unless they are separately certified or licensed for these. It is out of the scope of practice for a trainer to prescribe specific meal plans or supplement regimens. Be careful of trainers who push a specific supplement or meal replacement line heavily. Some have done the research and truly believe in the products they offer. Others just want the extra cash.

An experienced personal trainer CAN make suggestions and give you exercises that may help your injury or pain patterns. A good trainer is armed with lots of information and exercises for general things: sore backs and knees; inflexible areas and general range of motion issues.

A personal trainer is NOT a physical therapist, unless separately licensed as such. Specific rehabilitation is not in the scope of practice of a personal trainer, so if you’ve just had surgery or a bad injury, ask your doctor whether you should be going to physical therapy.

A personal trainer is NOT a doctor, either. If you have any serious medical issues or suspect you might, talk to a doctor before hiring a trainer. A good trainer will get your fitness and medical history before you begin and refer you to a doctor if any red flags come up.

Within their scope of practice, trainers are great at getting results and helping people change their lives for the better. That’s why most of us got into the business in the first place – to help people. The best trainers will “stay in their lane”, refer to other qualified professionals when necessary, and focus on what they can do to help their clients get fit, strong and healthy for life.