Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Food Guide Pyramid Won't Be A Pyramid

The Food Guide Pyramid is changing again. This Thursday, the USDA will announce the new icon that is intended to help guide Americans towards making healthy food choices. It's been said that it won't be a pyramid this time.

Let's take a moment to reflect on the most recent icons....

Dodadodaloo, dodadodaloo (with finger waving, a la Wayne's World)...

Remember this one? (Sorry it's a little blurry)

This guide featured the food groups and made it clear which ones were to be the foundation of our diet. Of course, Atkins didn't agree, but that's a whole other matter. My main issue with this guide is that it isn't clear to most people how many servings they should be eating from each group. For instance, the bread & cereal group lists 6-11 servings daily. You might think this means you should eat 6 to 11 servings from this group every day, depending on the day. Sometimes you might eat only 6 and sometimes you might eat 11. But really it meant that some people should be aiming for 6 servings, and others get to have 11. For instance, I'm a small female, so I don't need (and shouldn't eat as many) servings as my taller husband. I think this led people to eat more than they should have, thinking it was not only OK, but that it was recommended to do so. (Nevermind the issue of determining what a serving size is anyway.)

This pyramid spawned several versions to illustrate alternative diets to the one recommended by the USDA.

There was the Okinawa pyramid...

This one, based on the traditional diet of the Okinawans (featured in Karate Kid II), emphasized vegetables, flavanoid foods, omega-3 foods and suggested only eating meat and eggs a few times a week. For more on this pyramid and eating style, check out the book. The Okinawans and their eating habits are pretty interesting.

There is also a vegan pyramid....

And the Mayo Clinic even devised their own pyramid, which highlighted exercise and emphasized fruits and vegetables as the foundation of the diet.

The most current pyramid was intended to be more personalized.

It doesn't have recommended servings on the food categories. Instead, individuals are supposed to go online and put in their specific information to create their own personal pyramid. I think this is a great idea in many regards. It makes it more interactive and current. It makes it more specific and personal. It makes it more fun. However, for it to work, you have to have a computer and internet access.

The overall structure stays the same for everyone. And I think it's a pretty neat one. It shows that even within the food groups there are some foods that should be eaten sparingly, while others can be eaten a little more freely (hence the wider base and skinner top for each food group pie piece.) I also recently heard it said that the exercising person on the side shows that if you eat more food (down at the base of the pyramid), you should exercise more. But if you don't eat as much (top of the pyramid), you don't have to exercise as much to have calorice balance. I don't know of this was the intention, but it does make a good point.

I think each pyramid / guide has it's advantages and disadvantages. I've heard lots of complaints about them from nutrionists and regular people alike.

But consider the task at hand. How would you summarize all of the current research for nutritional recommendations and make it into an accessible, simple icon that would be clear and easy to use and yet also individualized for all Americans? And that's if we don't even consider all of the politics involved.

I certainly don't want that task!

I'm interested to see what they've come up with now. And as soon as I know, I will share it with you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Circuiting & Conditioning

Last night I led my sister and myself through a conditioning workout. I made it up on the spot. After taking conditioning/circuit training classes and doing bootcamp, it was nice to use my personal training skills and create my own routine.

It really doesn't take fancy equipment to get a good workout for most people. Body weight, compound exercises are great. Trust me, after doing a bunch of squats and lunges you will feel your legs burning!

We did our workout in the large classroom at our gym. That way we had space and a few toys to supplement with. But everything we did could be done at home.

What we did:
  • Three exercise pyramid: rotate through three exercises (squat, step ups, push ups). Start by doing 10 reps of each, then 9 reps of each, then 8, and so on until you have completed the 5 reps each stage. These moves can be done anywhere, no equipment needed. Do these continously, without a break. When done, take a quick walk and get water.
  • Three exercise pyramid with dips (we used a step used in step aerobics), mountain climbers (again on the step), and bicep curls using a band. Dips can be done on a chair or the sidewalk curb or any sturdy ledge. Mountain climbers can be done on the ground. For bicep curls you can use handweights, a band or anything heavy.
  • Four exercise pyramid with shoulder press, side shoulder raise (light weights), crunches and bridges. At the end of the cycle, hold the bridge for 30 seconds.
  • Then we used the bands to do a penguin walk. You could do standing side leg raises. We did 10 on each side, alternating.
  • Next we did a lunge/shuffle combo. We did walking lunges halfway across the room, then did a side shuffle the rest of the way. We did side shuffle halfway back, then did walking lunges back to our starting point.
  • Next, we did 20 backwards lunges, alternating legs.
  • Finally, to complete our leg work, we did a wall sit for 1 minute.
  • We got on the mat for the rest of the workout. First, we held a plank for 1 minute (hold full plank on toes for as long as you can, then drop to knees.)
  • Then we did side plank, 30 seconds each side.
  • We turned on to our backs and did reverse crunches. At the end of 20, hold your legs out, without touching the ground for an additional 30 seconds.
  • Finally, we did a serious of supermans (supermen?). We did alternating sides, 5 on each side. Then we did 10 full moves, then 10 more sides, alternating.
  • At last, we stretched!
For me, I love doing different types of exercises in different ways. I like doing some for a certain number of reps and some for time. I think it is important to have standards for yourself and to keep trying to "beat your record." For instance, I always do as many full pushups as I can and then I drop and do the rest of the set on my knees. I've worked up to 10 full pushups with proper form. Or, I like seeing how long I can do a wall sit or hold a full plank. I think my record for wall sit was 3.5 minutes. For plank I've worked up to 1 minute. I've seen people go a lot longer without even looking strained. But it's all about what you can do and pushing yourself to do more, properly and gently and over time.

It was a great workout. I really enjoyed getting to make my own and being able to guide someone through it. It makes it a lot more enjoyable for me to get through (it certainly wasn't an easy one for me!)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

New Recipe/Technique: Oven Fried Goodness

If you are one of my facebook buds, you may have seen the picture of my dinner from last night.

The sis and I grilled corn on the cob, turkey burgers for her and a portabella mushroom for me. This was the first time for us using the grill sans the hubster. Then, we made oven fried zucchini and squash and served it all with a bit of pizza sauce. YUM!

I got the recipe idea from another blog. It is super easy, cheap and really really really tasty.

Let me also add that even as a vegetablarian, there are some veggies I don't like or don't love. I still eat most of them from time to time because they are good for me and because you never know when you might start liking them or when you'll find a preparation you'll like. Well, I have found such a preparation for squash and zucchini. It will probably work for other veggies as well, just play around and see what you like.

To make you will need:
  • Some squashes or zucchinis. We made one of each, so that we each had half a squash and half a zucchini.
  • Bread crumbs. I recommend the kind with italian seasoning. I would not recommend panko. Start with 1/2 cup but you might need more.
  • 1 egg white
  • 2 T of grated hard cheese: asiago, parmesan, etc.
  • S & P
  • Olive oil cooking spray or olive oil in a pump sprayer
  • A bag of some variety
  • Cookie sheets
To make you will:
  1. Set oven to 425
  2. Spray cookie sheets with olive oil
  3. Slice veggies into thin sticks or circles
  4. Put egg white in a bowl
  5. Mix bread crumbs, cheese and S & P in the bag
  6. Coat veggies in egg white individually or a few at a time.
  7. Put them into the bag and shake until coated. You can even say "It's shake and bake and I helped" if you like.
  8. Place the coated veggies on the cookie sheets. Pack em in if you need to.
  9. Spray the veggies with olive oil.
  10. Bake ~15 minutes or until brown.
  11. Serve with marinara or pizza sauce (I prefer the latter.)
  12. Eat immediately. They are delicous while hot but quickly get cold and aren't as good.
So, what other veggies can I try?