Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gluten-Free Date

If you have a food allergy, preference, or are simply a picky eater, eating out can be a challenge.  Whether you're lactose intolerant, vegan, have celiac disease, keep Kosher, or follow a paleo diet, there are tons of ways eaters like and need to alter their orders at restaurants.  You may need a special type of flour, no flour at all, no vegetable oils, no chicken stock, and on and on... Some places happily cater to such customers, while others are less kind. 

Amber at Exsoycise has some great tips for avoiding soy and other food allergies while eating out.  Me? I'm just going to share a success story and some savory and sweet photos of how some places are popping up that cater directly to those with specific allergies or aversions.

(This is also kind of a sorry excuse for a What I Ate Wednesday, because today is Wednesday, but if Wednesday were last spring...)

Back in the spring, my friend Ezra and I had ourselves a gluten-free date in New York City.  I happened to bump into him to learn that he was in town for a short period of time, so we arranged to meet up for lunch at a place I've wanted to try for a while now, to catch up and enjoy some good eats.

We met at "S'MAC", aka Sarita's Mac and Cheese. It is what it sounds like: a restaurant devoted to macaroni & cheese.  "Wait, Meredith, I thought you said gluten-free?"  Surprise! S'MAC has gluten-free pastas on hand and caters to the needs of those with gluten allergies and sensitivities. They even have gluten-free breadcrumbs to top off those dishes!  Very impressive. 

It was very, very tough to choose, but the two bowls we selected did not disappoint:

Garden Lite
Don't let the "Lite" fool you - this baby is as satisfying as any of the other MACs!
Lite Cheddar, Parmesan, roasted cauliflower and portobello mushrooms, roasted garlic, broccoli, and scallions.

Mac-n-Cheese for the "upper crust".
Creamy Brie, roasted figs, roasted shiitake mushrooms & fresh rosemary.  
It's addictive!

Figs! Figs!

Ah, so delicious.  Cheesy, veggie goodness!  The regular bowls we ordered were just the right size for a solid meal.  I was left satisfied but not stuffed, as is too often the result of such a savory dish.

Ezra knew that Tu-Lu's Gluten-Free Bakery was just nearby, so we went over there for some sweet desserts.

What a menu!

SO. MANY. GLUTEN-FREE OPTIONS!  And several dairy-free, too.

We each selected three mini cupcakes to taste.  

I got Red Velvet cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing, 
Vanilla cake with Vanilla Buttercream Icing, 
and Chocolate cake with Chocolate Ganache Icing.

I liked.

I'm fortunate to live in a city where there are restaurants that cater to any nutritional need.  The lesson? Always do your research! Check the website, scour the menu, and don't be afraid to ask.  Who'd have thought that a macaroni-based restaurant would have everything available in a gluten-free variety?  You never know, so dare you to inquire! This story was a simple one, but you never know. I've been to some very trendy restaurants that surprisingly have a gluten-free menu. Other places are willing to swap an oil or cheese or nut or or or... 

(Note: Those with Celiac disease and other serious sensitivities should also inquire to the cooking materials used, such that all bowls, utensils, etc., are thoroughly washed and not contaminated. Ezra was fine, so S'MAC seemed to be safe.)

Do you dare to ask for special food preparation?

What is your experience with popular restaurants catering to the needs of food allergies? 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

try Foam Rolling

At the Healthy Living Summit, I got to know Angela, blogger at Happy Fit Mama.  Today, she's teaching us about foam rollers:


Hi everyone! A big THANK YOU to Meredith for allowing me to guest post on her wonderful blog today. 

Today I want to talk to you about foam rolling. Do you own one? If not, you should! Here's a brief back story on how I came upon this wonderful tool. I have been a runner for years but in the past 2 years I have become more involved with the half marathon distance. A physical therapist friend of mine suggested I try foam rolling when I complained of tight hamstrings and quads after a run. So I did. During my first session with the roller, I wondered why my friend would suggest I do something that hurt so much? Was she out to get me? She actually did the best thing for me. Although it hurt like crazy during the actual rolling, afterwards my muscles were more relaxed and less sore. I am more faithful than ever to my foam roller now that I am battling Patello Femoral (aka Runner's Knee). It's made a HUGE difference in my recovery.

Foam Rollers on Amazon

Why should you use a foam roller?
  • Eliminates and prevents muscle knots
  • Increases flexibility
  • Decreases muscle tension
  • Help prevent injury
  • Improve running or sport performance
  • Cheaper than seeing a massage therapist a few days a week!

Essentially, foam rolling is similar to stretching but hits the muscle deeper. If you use a foam roller or plan to start, don't forget about stretching. Think of foam rolling as another injury prevention tool in your exercise tool belt. The more tools you have the better off you will be in staying active for life!

When foam rolling, remember to:
  • Roll back and forth across the area that you are massaging for about 60 seconds. If you have a tight spot, stop and hold pressure on that area.
  • For injury prevention, try to roll 2-3 times a week or after every run. Daily is preferred!
  • Avoid bony areas. That may cause bruising.
  • Follow a session of foam rolling with stretching.

Watch to learn how:

Angela is a Certified Clinical Exercise Specialist from the ACSM who specializes in Cardiac Rehabilitation. She loves running, yoga and all things fitness. Her favorite training tool (besides a foam roller) is running with her twin toddlers in a double stroller. It's Mama's secret weapon for blowing the competition out of the water!

Twitter: @happyfitmama


Thank you, Angela!  Excellent tips and demonstration.

I have only used a foam roller once, and certainly found it painful, just like Angela said of her first experience.  However, sometimes a little pain post-workout is worth it for muscle recovery and preventing soreness.  So go ahead and try it - get your own, or find them at your local gym.

Tell us: Do you use a foam roller?  Dare you to try! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Make your own Sauerkraut

Over the summer, I listed the health benefits of sauerkraut dared you to start eating it.

My next dare after adding sauerkraut in my diet was making my own.  Whoah.  Trust me, I didn't think of this all by myself.  A friend of the family (Hi, Mike!) grew cabbage in his garden and suggested we ferment it into sauerkraut.  Of course, I was game.  Didn't really know what I was getting myself into, but that's okay.  It was awesome and definitely a learning experience.

We browsed several different recipes online to get an idea of the process and printed out Diane Sanfillipo's Easy Recipe for Raw Sauerkraut.  You can also find good instructions at Nourished Kitchen.

Mike had grown cabbage in his garden, so we took the green and red leaves and chopped it up really small.

By massaging and pressing the salted cabbage, the waters would naturally come right out.

Mixed it up in a way-too-big mason jar, with carrots and garlic that we shredded, as well.

It took a lot of work pressing the cabbage and carrots down, but we eventually squeezed enough out and got the water level to rise above the cabbage itself.

Following Diane's advice, we topped it off with a cabbage leaf, to seal off the submerged cabbage from the air.

We put a water-filled ziploc bag on top of the cabbage leaf to weigh down the leaf, pressing the cabbage down to keep it below the water's surface.

Quite the concoction!

Then we waited. 2 weeks... taste testing.  The red cabbage turned the water bright pink!

After about 3 weeks it still tasted crunchier than it should have been, but this could be because we didn't shred the cabbage thin enough.

Mmm, kraut!  (It came out more crunchy than it should.  When I met Diane Sanfilippo and showed her the photo (I did, after all, follow her instructions), she said it doesn't look like we cut it thinly enough.  Will do better next time; this was a learning process!)

Then began the smelly process of moving the sauerkraut into smaller containers.

If you use a small, regular-size mason jar from the start, you can skip this step.  We used an absurdly large jar.

Filled two containers and put them in the fridge.  Once they're kept in the refrigerator, they stop fermenting. Eat whenever!

Step 2: Make it yourself! Use whatever flavors and seasonings you like.

Have you ever fermented your own vegetables?  Dare you to!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

WIAW: Fall into good habits

Ah, September--the start to a new year, new weather, new schedules, and new... healthy habits!

(One of which is sharing posts with other fitbloggers, like Scott over at Your Inner Skinny, where I guest blogged yesterday about my experience with Paleo.  Read it here!)

With my own schedule changing this fall, it's imperative that I begin planning my meals and preparing food in advance.  So, that is just what I set out to do before my first and my second week of work.  I got busy thinking of recipes and preparing some food ahead.  Finding a new recipe to try made food prep time something exciting, rather than arduous work. I'm sure it'll get old, but new recipes will keep it interesting for a while.

Many of these new recipes came straight from Practical Paleo...

Last week's Sunday Monday (Labor Day), I prepared Savory Baked Chicken Legs and put it in the oven to roast.  Came out beautifully, although I still have trouble eating meat that looks like.. the meat it came as. #recoveringvegetarian.

While that was cooking, I broke out the food processor to make Sweet Potato Pancakes, which were out of this world, as so many "sweet potato" things are :)

The timing couldn't be more perfect.  I finished preparing, cooking, and packaging the pancakes just a few minutes before the chicken was ready.  Success!

This week, I drew on three other Practical Paleo recipes that I had yet to try:

Swirly Crustless Quiche:

Roasted Rosemary Figs

And, at last, Spaghetti Squash Bolognese

Holy COW this one was gooooooooood.   I looked forward to every leftover dish I could squeeze out of it!!! Aka, packed lunch, below.

That night, I also cooked up two pieces of wild salmon and stir-fried very green broccoli.

This whole plan and prepare thing ain't so bad!  Once I got cooking, it was a nice way to spend my Sunday afternoon.  Then, during the busy week, I never have to think about what's for dinner or worry about having to go pick something up.  It's all there, in the fridge, ready to go!

So... What'd I eat today? 

I fell into good habits with my meals all cooked and ready to go.

(Not So) Swirly Crustless Quiche
Cut a piece of this each morning for instant, healthy breakfast!

Leftover Spaghetti Squash Bolognese
Paired with afore-photographed broccoli
and an apple

Salmon-guacamole lettuce wraps 
with nori and Brazil nuts.
Still eating my greens!

And that's What I Ate!  What did you eat?

Do you plan and prepare your meals in advance?  
What strategies and recipes help you out?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Get a Fresh Fall Start with Gaiam TV's Fitness Videos

I dare you to get a fresh start this fall with Gaiam TV.  
I know I will!

Gaiam TV

What is Gaiam TV?
Gaiam TV is the first streaming fitness video subscription service designed to reach those interested in health, wellness, yoga, fitness and personal development.  With over 2,000 titles, Gaiam TV is like Netflix for health, wellness, yoga, and fitness lovers, delivering hundreds of hours of online yoga, Pilates and cardio workouts.  Gaiam TV viewers can practice with top instructors like Rodney Yee, Seane Corn, Jillian Michaels, Mari Winsor and Kathryn Budig.
Wow, sounds great, right?  Last week I dared you to work out without a gym, and here is just the tool you need to get your fitness on at home.

Is it as good as it sounds?

I first turned to Gaiam TV on an early morning before a very important day.  I wanted to do some invigorating yoga, but knew my mind wouldn't be in it for more than 15 minutes. The site allowed me to to filter my search for an "AM/PM Style" with a time of "0-14 min." Perfect! This narrowed Gaiam TV's 403 yoga titles down to three, from which I was able to choose the "AM Energizer" and press play...

"AM Energizer" from Yoga Now with Mariel Hemingway and Rodney Yee.  Mariel led this 10-minute yoga sequence, designed to start the day with "greater clarity, energy, and well-being," which was exactly what I needed.  I really liked the video; the sequence was different from any I've done before, and I plan on doing it again.  I'm also glad to know that Gaiam TV can introduce me to new and different types of workouts--even within categories I already know well.

When I wanted something to make me SWEAT and BURN, to get my heart pumping as I pumped iron, I was pleased to find an old favorite in the lineup: Jillian Michaels.  Her Ripped in 30 definitely worked my muscles to the max!

When I wanted to relax and stretch with yoga, I found Rodney Yee's Daily Yoga videos' "Day 2: Energize" with instructor Colleen Saidman. It was an enjoyable 20 minutes of basic yoga vinyasas--stretching, twisting, reaching, energizing.

When I wanted to just move aroundf after a fairly sedentary day, the cardio dance options were plentiful, and kickboxing was another great option.  The kickboxing video I selected was excellent for beginners, because it started off slowly, teaching the motions of punches, but later picked up the intensity.

I quickly learned that, no matter what I was looking for, Gaiam TV had it for me. 


The website is user-friendly and allows users to customize their programming.
- Customize your workouts for weight loss, total body sculpting, or increased energy.
- Narrow down the options (because there are so many videos to choose from!) based on level, style, instructor, and amount of time you have to work out.
- Easily search for videos, make your own playlists, and preview selections.
- Rate and review Gaiam TV titles, so other users can benefit from your experience!
- The streaming videos are of high quality; I may as well have inserted a DVD to play.  No waiting to load, no buffering, no skips or freezes... the video just played. Imagine that!

Having one online resource for all your workout videos gives Gaiam TV users convenient, 24/7, instant-access to an entire library of award-winning videos.  No need to carry around DVDs or bookmark dozens of youtube videos; simply log on and stream your favorite videos wherever you are, from your computer, iPad, or smartphone.

Gaiam TV is so confident you'll love their videos and services that it's offering you a FREE 10-day trial!  Simply click here to take advantage of this offer, and be among the first 25 registrants in order to receive a free yoga mat with your subscription!  Once you try and experience Gaiam TV, you can continue your registration for only $9.95 per month, which gives you unlimited access to streaming video content.  Further, you're not locked in; you may cancel your subscription at any time, with no strings attached.

Get Started Now!

All in all, my experience with Gaiam TV has been wonderful.  I thank Gaiam for inviting me to sample their services.  This website is the best tool I've found yet for bringing yoga, fitness, and variety into my at-home workouts.  Might you, too, enjoy the convenience of a Gaiam TV membership?  Do the one-week trial and see how you like it -- I dare you!

This is a sponsored post for Gaiam TV. I was compensated to review the service, but the opinions expressed are all my own.