The Best Food Swap You Can Make

Lettuce wraps vs. tortillas

With time and convenience being such a big factor in people’s eating decisions and habits, having easy options is always a plus. Throwing  some turkey, chicken, or leftover meat in a wrap for the next day’s lunch is always a great meal idea and lunchtime staple. With an extra 300 calories and 50 carbs, generic tortillas and wraps can turn today’s lunch into a carb-loaded hazard. Below is the breakdown of some popular tortillas that are common among lunchtime meals.

Nutritional Breakdown

Chipotle Flour Tortilla 13″ inch

  • Calories-290
  • Fat-9 g
  • Carbs-44 g
  • Sodium- 670 g
  • Protein- 7 g

Mission Flour Taco Tortilla 8″ inch

  • Calories- 146
  • Fat- 3 g
  • Carbs- 25 g
  • Sodium- 249 mg
  • Protein- 4 g

Taco bell heat pressed tortilla 13″

  • Calories- 317
  • Fat- 8 g
  • Carbs- 52 g
  • Sodium- 887 mg
  • Protein- 9 g

Butterhead Lettuce (1 large leaf)

  • Calories- 2
  • Fat- 0 g
  • Carbs- 0 g
  • Sodium- 0 g
  • Protein- 0

Romaine Lettuce (1 large outer leaf)

  • Calories- 5
  • Fat- 0
  • Carbs- 1 g
  • Sodium- 1 g
  • Protein- 0 g
A Great Recipe “Asian Lettuce Wrap”

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
2 teaspoons low sodium soy sauce
1 teaspoon cornstarch
½ teaspoon black pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced

cooking sauce:
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon oyster sauce
2 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon sesame oil

6 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, peeled and minced
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, cleaned, stemmed and diced
½ cup bamboo shoots, drained and diced
½ cup water chestnuts, drained and diced
2 green onions, thinly sliced

1 head butter lettuce or iceberg lettuce, washed and leaves separated

garnish:
1 green onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds

Directions

1. Place the first five ingredients into a small bowl and whisk together. Pour mixture over the chicken and stir together. Set aside and allow chicken to marinate for 10 minutes.
2. Place all ingredients for cooking sauce into a small bowl and whisk together. Set aside.
3. Place 2 tablespoons oil into a large skillet over high heat. Sauté chicken for 6 to 8 minutes or until half-cooked. Remove from skillet and set aside.
4. Pour remaining oil into the same skillet and place over high heat. Sauté the ginger, garlic and shiitake mushrooms for about 5 minutes. Add the bamboo shoots and water chestnuts and sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Add chicken back into the skillet; cook and stir for 2 minutes. Pour the cooking sauce over the mixture and stir together. Lower the heat to medium and allow the mixture to thicken, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in the green onions. Adjust seasonings.
6. Remove from heat and allow chicken mixture to cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Top with a sprinkle of green onions and sesame seed and serve warm with crisp lettuce cups.

Conclusion

A lettuce wrap is a great alternative for a tortilla when making a meal. Some athletes, or those looking to gain weight and a more calorie dense meal, might make the argument that the tortilla gives them extra protein and calories to meet there needs. Instead of filling up on processed and empty carbs received from a tortilla, adding more meat, beans, or vegetables to make up for the calories you will be loosing from the tortilla is ideal.

Suggestion

Any time you can substitute a processed bun or wrap for something that is natural and has nutritional benefits is always encouraged. My suggestion is to not only substitute the lettuce for tortilla wraps, tacos, and burritos, but also for buns and bread. This will force you to add more of the “in between ingredients” which will provide more of a nutritional benefit to everyone.

From South Bend,

Kevin
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Obesity; A Growing Epidemic

Obesity; A Growing Epidemic

Thanks to Tony Shin for forwarding me this graphic. I think it is very pertinent to today’s society. Theses statistics are both shocking and scary and should motivate everyone to not only take care of their own health, but also look after close friends and family to help combat the growing obesity epidemic in America.

For more on this graphic visit http://MedicalCodingCareerGuide.com.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From South Bend,

Kevin

Sculpt Your Core The Correct Way

Sculpt Your Core The Correct Way 

Just to reiterate. There is no such thing as “spot reduction”. The key to revealing your six-pack and lose fat from your midsection is to reduce overall body fat by following a strict regimen of full body exercises, adequate cardio, and a healthy diet. With that being said, spending 5-10 minutes on core specific exercises can help strengthen your entire core, which is the foundation to functional strength. Here is a great body-weight routine to start your workout that I have been using over the past few weeks to strengthen the core and also to get the blood flowing to all muscle groups in preparation for a workout.

1. Forearm Plank To Pushup Plank

Step 1: Get down into a plank position, preferably on an exercise mat or matted floor. Extend your body to its full length, so that your toes are touching the floor at one end and you are resting on your forearms at the other. Your back should be  straight and your butt down, in line with the rest of your body.

Step 2: Moving one arm at a time, left yourself up into a standard push-up position. Keep your back straight and your abdominal muscles tight.

Step 3: Once you reach the push-up position, move one arm at a time back into the starting plank position. Repeat the exercise for  eight to 12 repetitions (per arm), alternating which arm you move first between positions.

2. Side Plank Variation

Step 1: Get into side plank position on your right forearm with your hips up and a straight line between your head and ankles.

Step 2: With your left hand behind your head and that elbow pointed up, slowly twist at the waist until your torso makes a 90-degree turn and your left elbow touches the floor.

Step 3: Try to make sure the rotation comes from the upper torso and the thoracic spine. Complete for 10-15 reps. Repeat for each opposite side.

3. Spider Man Pushups

Step 1: Assume the standard pushup position, with core and glutes tight.

Step 2: As you lower your body toward the floor, lift your right foot off the floor, swing your right leg out sideways, and try to touch your knee to your elbow.

Step 3: Reverse the movement, then push your body back to the starting position.

Step 4: Repeat, but on your next repetition, touch your left knee to your left elbow. Continue to alternate back and forth for 10 reps/leg

4. Advanced Bird Dog

Step 1: Position yourself on your hands and knees on a comfortable surface.

Step 2: Lift left leg and right arm off the mat and extend outwards, away from each other in a “superman-like” position. (Or is it captain america?)

Step 3: Bring leg and arm back into neutral position but instead of grounding them bring your elbow in to touch your knee to create a crunch.

Step 4: Repeat motion for 10-20 reps for each side.

5. V-ups

Step 1: Lie face up on the floor with your legs and arms straight.

Step 2: Hold your arms straight above the top of your head. In one movement, simultaneously lift your torso and legs as if you’re trying to touch your toes.

Step 3: Lower your body back to the starting position. Repeat for 12-15 controlled reps.

6. Leg Raise Iso holds

Step 1: Lie on a bench on your back with your butt at the edge of the bench and legs extended out.  Hands  can be placed under your low back for support, or holding onto the bench.

Step 2: Raise legs 6-12 inches above parallel( at about a 30 degree angl)  and engage your hip flexors and lower abs.

Step 3: Hold for 30-60 seconds. (To make it more challenging place a 10 lb weight in between your feet as pictured above.)

7. Bicycle Iso Holds

Step 1: Lie supine on the floor with your hips and knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet off the floor. Place your fingers lightly behind your head for support or behind your ears. Do not pull on your head. Allow your elbows to flare out from your ears.

Step 2: Exhale and lift your right shoulder toward your left knee as your extend your right leg away from you and hold for a 3 second count with the core engaged.

Step 3: In a fluid motion repeat, alternating sides in a bicycle motion. Complete 10 reps/side for a 60 second exercise.

Thanks to everyone who has been reading and leaving comments. Please let me know if you have any questions.

From South Bend,

kdeeth21@gmail.com

An Oatmeal Recipe You Will Love

An Oatmeal Recipe You Will Love

Studies have shown that regularly skipping breakfast increases your risk of obesity by 450%!

This week’s blog can be found at http://www.builtlean.com/. This is another great health-orientated website and one that I will be writing for once a month. My article is the headline article on the homepage.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have questions or comments.

Kevin

The Difference In Cardio Machines

The Difference In Cardio Machines

Here is a great nutrition tip before I talk about cardio machines

Immediately after waking up, drink 16 oz of cold water to get your metabolism fired up. Studies show that drinking cold water can increase metabolism as much as 25% for 2 hours after finishing.

According to a study by the The University of California at San Francisco’s Human Performance Center, cardio machines overestimate calorie-burn by shocking amounts. (http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Weekend/exercise-calorie-counters-work/story?id=9966500#.T1p_TvF8C80 the link to the study)

Treadmill: Overestimated calories burnt by 13%

Stationary Bike: Overestimated calories burnt by 7%

Stair Climber: Overestimated calories burnt by 12%.

Elliptical: Overestimated calories burnt by 42%

First off, there is no right or wrong answer here. Hopping on a cardio machine and doing the simplest of workouts is beneficial, and if nothing else, is useful for burning off calories from the ice cream you had the night before. With that being said, there are definitely some programs and machines that are more beneficial than others. As a general “wake up call” statement, documented studies suggest that treadmills and other cardio machines actually overestimate calories burned by up to 42%. Using cardio machines entails moving the large muscles in your body. These muscles require large amounts of oxygen which is circulated into your blood with the end goal of raising your heart rate. Taking this into account, the machine that requires the largest muscles to move the most should create the largest benefits, right? Lets take a closer look below at what I find to be the most effective machines. (4 most common machines)

1. Treadmill 

Benefits

  • Versatility– From a brisk walk to an uphill sprint, treadmills offer a wide range of tools in terms of speed, incline, and training programs.
  • Emulates Natural Movements– As technology continues to develop, fitness moguls are developing new machines that can be awkward or confusing. The treadmill is a familiar, and mostly natural movement for the human body that doesn’t allow you to rely on momentum to power the machine.
  • Seniority– Treadmills have been around since the 1800’s and are a staple at every gym and most homes.Naturally, they have been researched, developed, and perfected more than any other piece of cardio equipment.
  • Consistent Surface– As opposed to running outside, where you can encounter rocks, cracks, and other uneven surfaces, treadmills allow you to run on a consistent surface, year-round.
  • Full Body– Walking and running are rooted from the strides your legs are forced to make. In order to stride forward you have to engage your core and utilize momentum from your upper body.

Downfalls

  • Tough On Joints– In general, running can put stress on your spine, hips, knee, and ankle joints.
  • Safety Issue– Doing incline sprints can be dangerous if you are really “pushing the limits.”
  • Unnatural Handles Often times, people like to know their heart rate and find their target heart rate zone. Trying to hold on to the treadmill handles while you are running can be challenging and awkward.
  • Posture Problems Some studies show that the size of the belt can cause people to change the way they walk or run, leading to muscle imbalances and posture problems.
  • Difficulty– Running(especially on an incline) is hard. People are lazy. People will use the machine they find to be “easiest” and use that specific machine as a way to burn calories.
Consensus 
Overall, I think treadmills are the most effective cardio machine mainly because of the versatility in programs and the amount of muscles groups that are affected by a forward stride. I am a huge proponent of hill intervals (both walking and running) and I think using a treadmill to complete a high intensity training program can work wonders for your fitness goals.

2. Stair-Climber.

Benefits

  • Non Impact Conditioning Unlike the stress of running on a treadmill, stair masters can provide similar cardiovascular benefits without putting your joints in a vulnerable position.
  • Muscle Memory Almost everyone is guilty of taking the elevator or escalator in today’s technology-driven world. Naturally, the muscles in our legs become accustomed to a walking or running stride. Using a stair stepper will activate different muscles groups that may have been ignored in the past.
  • The Legs Feed The Wolf- The stair stepper is a great way to build leg muscles and increase lower body endurance. It also allows you to work on your balance and work on rehabilitative exercises.
Downfalls
  • Lower Body Specific- Climbing stairs definitely burns the quads and glutes, but your upper body is used sparingly in a stair stepper.
  • “Convenient” Handle Placement– The geniuses that created the stair stepper made handles that are easily accessible and almost invite you to hold on to them which can cause decreased energy output by your actual legs.
  • One Dimensional– You can’t change the incline on most stair steppers like you can with the treadmills which limits the overall versatility.
Consensus
Muscle memory is no joke. Using a stair stepper should be added to your weekly exercise regimen to activate different muscles in your legs that have become dormant due to technology-not your own personal laziness of taking the elevator everyday. (Yes I am guilty too)
3. The Elliptical 
Benefits
  • Non Impact Conditioning– Much like the stair stepper, the elliptical allows your body to emulate a running motion without causing the strenuous impact of actually running.
  • Cross-Training Aspect– Most ellipticals are now equipt with moveable handles which allow you to exercise your upper body and lower body simultaneously.
  • Reverse- Most ellipticals allow you to stride in reverse which can activate different muscle groups and put more emphasis on your quads.

Downfalls

  • Laziness– Ellipticals were a product of human complaint. “too hard”, “too much stress on my legs”. If running actually does cause pain on your joints, try an inclined/brisk walk on a treadmill. Check your heart rate and see how it compares to the elliptical.
  • Gravity- Elliptical pedals are suspended off the ground and lack the “weight-bearing effect” that is utilized when running.  Weight-bearing exercises strengthen bones and muscles, and is particularly important for older people in preventing osteoporosis.
  • Momentum- Operating an elliptical, especially on lower levels, can allow you to use the machines’ momentum to compensate for actual work output

The Consensus

If performed efficiently, the elliptical can be used as a valuable cardiovascular machine with interval training and tough, cross-training programs. Unfortunately, this is generally not the case. The elliptical’s reputation as the “lazy mans treadmill” is exactly that. Not to mention that ellipticals outrageously overestimate calorie expenditure.

4. The Stationary Bike

Benefits

  • Lower Body Endurance Bikes are great tools to build lower body strength, endurance, and stamina.
  • Limited Stress On Joints- Like the elliptical, the bike does not impose your entire body weight on your joints but stills allow you to reap enormous benefits.
  • Great For Rehabilitation- Bikes are great tools for people with pulled muscles or recovering from a lower-body injury.
  • Difficulty Factor- Cranking the resistance up on a bike can force you into a standing position and as a result cause enormous caloric expenditure.
Downfalls
  • Human Nature The average human spends 9.3 hours a day sitting. Why would you want to sit during exercise?
  • One Dimensional- The bike focuses primarily on lower body performance.

Conclusion

DON’T RELY ON CALORIE ESTIMATES BY CARDIO MACHINES. Joe Smith, exercise physiologist at UCSF’s Human Performance Center said the overestimation is not surprising.”I think the estimations are just that. You can’t necessarily believe everything you read on those machines.” However, cardio machines can be a great resource if you use them efficiently. Going on a 20 minute elliptical stroll will burn SOME calories, but will not give you the same benefits as an interval program on a treadmill. I give everyone credit for going to the gym and getting on a machine but why wouldn’t you use your time efficiently?

My Suggestion

Mix it up. Try different programs on different machines to constantly keep the body guessing. Rowing machines have started to make a return (thanks crossfit) and can be used as a great asset as well. Chances are, the machine you dislike the most is probably the one that is the hardest and causing the greatest amount of work output by your body. Lastly, spend one day a week doing some form of intervals. (See my Dec. 16 post for more on interval training)

Thanks for reading. Let me know if you have questions or comments.

From South Bend,

 Kevin

The Myth Of Discipline

The Myth Of Discipline

I tried taking a little different approach this week because this article was too good to pass up. I received this from a good friend.(Thanks Ben) Written by world renown strength and condition guru Charles Poliquin, this article hits on the essential points of discipline, priorities, and self-esteem. Give this a quick read for some inspiration in choosing your next meal or getting after your next workout.

“There is no such thing as discipline. There is only love. Love is the most powerful creative force in the universe. You are the result of what you love most. You either love finely etched muscular abs more than donuts or you love donuts more than wash board abs you could do your laundry on. It is as simple as that. Don’t beat yourself up that you have no discipline or further drown yourself in a sea of refined carbs. Admit that you like crappy food more than you love strength. Or ask yourself this, what do you really love? Self-esteem is the reflection of self-judgment. One of the best ways to raise self-esteem is to make truly loving choices that lead to increased strength of body and mind. For example, if you truly love yourself in the gym, you choose the full squat with chains over the leg extension machine. At the restaurant, if you truly love yourself, you pass on the heavenly smelling basket of bread and creamy butter, and ask for some more limes for the water. Limes alkalize your body which in turn helps your bones, muscles and your ability to deal with stress.

When you are faced with difficult choices, ask yourself, in context of course, what would a loving expert recommend? For example, when working chest, would a loving strength coach recommend the pec deck, or full range dumbbell presses. When choosing desserts, would the loving nutritionist recommend a bowl of berries or the triple-decker brownie submerged under melting vanilla ice cream.

How to free yourself from the outdated concept of discipline:

  1. Accept that all your choices are reflections of what you truly love.
  2. Love is the greatest creative force of the Universe. Use it wisely.
  3. Choose to love yourself more than external things.
  4. Treating yourself well accelerates the growth of your self-esteem.
  5. When people comment on your results and say things like “Wow you have a lot discipline” answer “No, I just make loving choices for myself”. Reinforcing your own positive behavior will help you grow in strength.
  6. What you appreciate appreciates. Whenever you make a truly loving choice, say to yourself ‘Thank you for taking care of me in a loving way”. The more you talk to yourself like a loving parent, the faster you will grow. By documenting and rewarding your successes, they will grow in magnitude and frequency. Whenever I meet a goal, I reward myself with positive things like a vacation or a new piece of equipment. When I get something better, I make the choice of giving away the old piece to someone who will appreciate it. Living a clutter free life allows for more growth.
  7. The more you believe in yourself, the more objectively you will be able to take the advice of authority figures.
There is an old Hindu saying: “The World is as we are”. Are you tired of seeing the condition of the world around you? Start by changing yourself- be the change you want to see in the world.”
Hope everyone has a great week. Let me know if you have any questions or comments.
From South Bend,
Kevin

Get Your Pasta Fix The Healthy Way

Get Your Pasta Fix The Healthy Way

The Problem

For those who have participated in a moderate level of competition or athletics you’re probably familiar with the term “carbo loading” with pasta. Complex carbs, like pasta, break down slowly in your digestive system and can help you sustain energy through a game, match, or workout. The problem is that 99% of the population doesn’t burn enough calories to require a high intake of complex carbohydrates from pastas and other carbohydrate-dense foods. However, people still love to eat pasta because it tastes great and easy to make.

The Solution

My recipe for a “pasta substitute” not only tastes better, but is lower in carbohydrates and made up of more vitamins and minerals. This pasta recipe can also curb hunger, increase energy levels, and deliver superior vitamins, minerals, and nutrition levels to your body.

The Ingredients (Makes 4 large servings or 6 medium servings)

  • 2 whole spaghetti squashes
  • 1 lb of shrimp
  • 4 cups of spinach
  • 4 cups of mushrooms
  • 2 whole tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 ounces of white wine
  • 1 tbsp. of soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. of balsamic
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil

The Nutritional Breakdown (per large serving)

  • Calories-400
  • Saturated Fat-1 gram
  • Protein-47 grams
  • Carbohydrates-27 grams
  • Sodium-800 mg
  • Sugar-11 grams
  • Fiber-10 grams

For those looking to take in more calories, top the pasta with avocado and brussels sprouts.

Nutritional Breakdown (with 1 serving of brussels sprouts and avocado)

  • Calories-520
  • Saturated Fat-1 gram
  • Protein-55 grams
  • Carbohydrates-37 grams
  • Sodium-900 mg
  • Sugar-11 grams
  • Fiber-17 grams

How This Recipe Compares To Competitors 

Olive Garden’s Fettuccine Alfredo

  • Calories-1220
  • Saturated Fat-47
  • Sodium-1350
  • Carbohydrates-99
  • Fiber-5
  • Protein-36
Olive Garden’s Chicken Parmesan
  • Calories-1090
  • Saturated Fat-18
  • Sodium-3380
  • Carbohydrates-79
  • Fiber-27
  • Protein-83
Olive Garden’s Seafood Alfredo
  • Calories-1020
  • Saturated Fat-31
  • Sodium-2430
  • Carbohydrates-88
  • Fiber-9
  • Protein-50
The Comparison 
Honestly, I shouldn’t even need to give a detailed explanation of the difference in nutrition as the results above are pretty staggering.  I will point out that besides having about 1/3 the amount of sodium and significantly lower carbs, calories, and saturated fats, the vitamins and minerals you get from the spaghetti squash itself is far superior to what you will obtain from traditional pasta noodles served at most restaurants. Spaghetti squash is loaded with vitamin C, B-6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid and vitamin K… to name a few.
Cooking Instructions
Spaghetti Squash
1.Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half length wise and clean out seeds and excess leftovers.
2. Lightly drizzle the inside edges of the spaghetti squash in oil to soften the insides. Cook for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
3. Place the sliced mushrooms in the oven half way through squash cook time and cook for 15 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and fork the squash into spaghetti strands until the squash shell is bare.
Shrimp and Toppings (while squash cooks)
1.  Remove tails from shrimp.
2. Lightly coat a pan with canola oil and turn on a high temperature. Add the chopped garlic clove.
3. Add shrimp and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.
4. Add white wine to the edges of the pan.
5. Cook shrimp for 10 minutes or until most of the liquid is disolved.
6. Add spinach and tomatoes.Cover and simmer on low.
7. Add cooked mushrooms, spaghetti squash, and seared shrimp, spinach, and tomato to a large bowl.
8. Top with avocado and add brussel sprouts. (optional)
This is a great alternative to generic pasta with meat. Also, this is just a foundation. If you are looking to add more protein or calories, mixing in other great stuff like chicken and black beans is highly encouraged. I hope you enjoy this recipe and I appreciate all the great feedback and questions I have been receiving. Thanks.
From Naples,
Kevin