Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Plan a Local Holiday Outing

The holiday season is an easy time to put your feet up and relax at home, but there are so many ways you can enjoy your time without a) lying around all day, or b) spending a fortune.

Two weeks ago, Eric and I planned such an outing based on this NYC tour put together by The Huffington Post.  It started at Macy's/Herald Square and worked its way up to the Upper East Side, stopping at impressive holiday shop windows, city holiday displays, and tasty treats along the way.

An outing like this is not only free, but also keeps you on your feet for a few hours as you walk around without even noticing the many steps you're taking!

Another bonus is that you can spend some time outdoors!  Getting outside has plenty of benefits, but unfortunately happens too rarely during winter.

To warm up along the way, we stopped at Maison Kayser, as per HuffPo's recommendation to get a croissant and hot chocolate there.  Eric had the croissant and I enjoyed the hot cocoa.

Some shop windows were too crowded for us, as was Rockefeller Center (of course).  These parts, we either rushed through or skipped altogether.

Our favorite windows were those at Saks Fifth Avenue, which portrayed classic fairytales with a New York City twist.

"Once upon a time in New York...
Rumplestiltskin was the most feared spin class instructor in all the land."

"Once upon a time in New York...
Red Riding Hood gasped,
'Oh my, what a bit suite you have...'"

"Once upon a time in New York...
Cinderella fell madly in love
with a pair of designer shoes." 

Overall, it was a really fun afternoon. We enjoyed rating the window displays (some far better than others!) and seeing the city all lit up for the holidays.

Some quick Google searching will undoubtedly churn up something interesting local to your area.  Save it, take notes, do whatever you need to store the information for later.

Then, when the weather's nice, bundle up and head outdoors!

You'll be glad you did :)

Wishing you a bright 2015! 

Friday, December 26, 2014

Friday Features

It's the return of Friday Features!  Lately, I've been seeing more and more articles promoting some research findings that I've been living by for a while. Vindication! Love having a quick link to send to my friends, family, and YOU that unearths and explains some important science that impacts your life.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science
recaps a research study's findings about the negative impact
of e-readers' light on participants sleep quantity and quality,
as well as their alertness and functioning the following day!!

Yet another publication has caught up to the times:
"Nutritional experts say it's time to stop fearing fat."
The article as a whole is tentative, as the title indicates
by placing responsibility on the "nutritional experts."
It goes back and forth, asking expert after expert about their take
on a recent research study.  Some advice holds back,
saying saturated fat is still bad (I'm over it), yet other parts say it like it is:
"Compared with carbohydrates, saturated fats appear to have a neutral effect
on cardiac health and diabetes, he said. 
Compared with trans fats, sugar, and refined carbohyhdrates, saturated fats almost surely are healthier. "  
My takeaway?  The word "healthy" is relative, and
there are more dangerous demons to deal with; fat should be forgiven. 

Suffering from dry hands in this cold weather, 
 Liz & Amanda suggest some worry-free, natural 

Lastly, Laura Shoenfeld, MPH, RD dares you to
Take a Play-cation, with six reasons to back her up!  

That's all for now! 

Enjoy, and have a great weekend :)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Put the Camera Down

Pictures.  I've always been a picture person.  Come to think of it, it's a wonder I didn't invent Instagram, myself!  I was the friend who used to always bring along a disposable camera (remember those?), and then a digital camera (my Canon is my favorite), and now still often insists on bringing a real camera even though our phones take fantastic photos.

I'm the one who shouts "Smile!!" to capture a fun moment.  I snap candids, too.  I photograph, share, scrapbook, and reminisce.   I believe photos are an important tool to hold on to and re-live happy memories.

So why am I daring you to put the camera down?  

Truthfully, I could just as easily tell you to TAKE PICTURES, and maybe someday I will. But for now, this is a dare I have personally been working on this past year.

Last summer, one of my best friends got married.  It was the most beautiful ceremony, followed by the most fun reception.  As a bridesmaid, I was occupied throughout the day and, of course, during the ceremony, so simply couldn't be snapping too many pictures.  Then, during the reception, my instinct jumped in and told me "Go get your camera!  Look how great this is!  Capture it, capture it!"  I ignored it for a while, because I only wanted to be on the dance floor.

Then, when I stepped out for water, I grabbed my camera from my purse before returning to the dance floor. Sure, I'll snap a few fun pics.

Pictures, I got, but I was quickly weary of holding the camera.  I'd had so much fun before picking it up, and now it was a burden. It was small, but I wanted my hands free to wave, shake, and hold others'.  Holding the camera and taking photos would have been nice for the future, but I could tell it would rob me of fully immersing myself in the experience happening here and now.

So I put the camera down.

It sounds small, but any camera-holics like myself will understand how difficult this simple action can be.  I often feel personally responsible for documenting my friends' and family's experiences, so I told myself, "There are professional photographers here. They will do a better job than I ever could. Leave your camera behind and have a ball!"

It was liberating!

Since then, I've made a conscious effort to leave my camera in my bag for the majority of the events I attend.  Celebrating a birthday with friends?  Take a few snaps of the candle-blow, and that'll do.  Attending a concert?  Taking a few great shots is fun, but do I really need one hundred photos of the same stage?  I'm learning to home in on a select few moments that really matter to best capture the memories of the night.  

Now, I'm daring myself and you to put the camera down.  

It's taken a while, but I've become better at knowing when enough is enough.  For example, when I go to a concert, I used to snap photos all night long.  Now, I take one or two in the beginning, and that's it!  I only take out my camera again if there's a particularly cool set design or something.  The photos all end up looking similar anyway, and the same is true of many social events!  Just take what you need and find satisfaction in that.  When, later on--in a week, a month, or six years--you find the photos to review, it'll be enough to recall the experience.

[ Note: This dare does not apply to travel, babies, or puppies.  Never enough photos of babies or puppies. ] 

Do you have fun plans for Christmas, for New Year's Eve?  Great!  Bring a camera, by all means, but don't let it be glued to your hand.  It's great to have your phone to check messages or snap a shot or two for Instagram, but then put it away.  Remain present and enjoy the presence of others.

No need to record every second of the day; just get a few shots to help you savor the memories later, but be sure you create real memories to savor.

Now go out, celebrate and have happy holidays! 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Let It Go

Hello, friends! How is your holiday season going??

Last month, I dared you to move on Thanksgiving, and I'm pleased to report I heeded my own advice.  First, I helped my mother in the kitchen with the chopping of manyyyyyy colorful veggies.  Later on, I was able to spend a decent amount of my holiday playing with my cousin's adorable two-year-old!  His energy was contagious and I found myself out of breath more than once just following him around.  I moved around, ate my vegetables, and enjoyed time with my family, so overall it was a happy and healthy holiday.

My Thanksgiving Day

The morning after Thanksgiving, I even went to my old favorite Spinning and yoga classes! It's always fun to visit and work out with my first and favorite instructors.

I've successfully continued easing back into exercise, but what about easing back into BLOGGING?  Hellooooo, please forgive me for my neglect!  Sure, I've checked in with a few fun dares (have you tried sunchokes yet??) and some cool events and products I've had the pleasure of trying out, but I've been too busy working my day job to post as frequently as I used to, and I miss it!! I really do.

So I'm going to start up again, with dares and with tidbits, with info and with --- anything!  I'm simply daring myself to blog more regularly once again, easing back in just like my fitness.

First, let's announce the winners from last month's cookbook giveaway!! Congratulations to Carolyn B. and Debra C.!  You'll each receive a copy of The Paleo Approach cookbook, signed by the author, Dr. Sarah Ballantyne.  Enjoy!!

Next, I want to indulge in a little bloggy #ThrowBackThursday to a few DARES that are relevant once again:

  • It's been a while since I shared with you my obsession with podcasts, but podcast-talk has recently slammed hard into the mainstream thanks to the new hit Serial.  It's different from my previous podcasts in that it's a continuous (true!) story told over time, week after week.  My friend LT got me hooked, and you will be too. if you're looking for a compelling listen, I dare you to check it out--just be sure to start from the beginning!

  • Winter's here, so it's the perfect time to curl up with a warm cup of bone broth.  If you want to know what's up with bone broth--what its nutritional and health benefits are, as well as how you can make it at home--check out this post on bone broth.
Dare You To...

Finally, let's talk about having healthy holidays:

My dare here for the next two-three weeks of holiday parties and meal gatherings is simple: don't stress.  Many people who are health-minded (as you likely are if you're here reading this) will drive themselves nuts by trying to stay "on track" during the holidays.  Eat this, don't eat that... setting unrealistic expectations and then kicking themselves afterwards.

If you're worried about overindulging or eating the "wrong" foods, please remember to forgive yourself and move on.  Stress causes chemical changes in the body that are just as, if not more, unhealthy as some of the foods you might feel badly about eating, so I dare you to let go of this stress!

This time of year should be a joyful time, and while food can be part of the fun and cheer, try focusing on surrounding yourselves with people you love and have a good time. If that means you eat one too many cookies or agree to eat a dish you'd usually steer clear of, then simply know that your decision was just that--a choice. You made a choice, and it's done; let's carry on and enjoy the rest of the party!

Cheers :)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ease back into exercise

Health update: I'm finally well again! 

After over a month of pain, my cough has finally disappeared. My recovery makes me really glad I made the hard but healthy choice not to run the 10k in October--definitely the smart decision.  While I was sick, I intentionally stepped back exercise because my lungs couldn't handle it and I really wanted to get better.  There's little glory in coughing myself through a workout, no need to put additional stress on an already stressed body.

BUT, feeling well and ready to work out... how do I get back in?  

For me, it started with walking.  As I explained in my post about not running my 10k, even walking around the city was leaving me short of breath.  So, that's step one: Early in November, I began going on the treadmill on a slight incline, walking at 3.0 mph for 20 - 30 minutes.  Later, I increased to 3.5-4 mph and also added in yoga stretching to warm up my muscles again.

In the second week, I tried the elliptical to get my heart rate up a bit more.  I also did some at-home workouts using DVDs (mostly bodyweight and dumbell exercises).  Finally, I went back on the treadmill and tried to kick it up to a 6mph run.  It lasted a few minutes before my knee woke up and whined to me.  (If only I had a Zero Runner...)

Interestingly, this made me think of Spinning and how much I used to enjoy it.  I had a great teacher until I moved, and I've been unable to find a class I love since.  Trying to get my heart pumping again, though, without shocking my joints, cycling seemed like a great solution.  Dusting off my spin shoes, I tried a few classes near me and immediately found a few teachers I enjoyed enough--if didn't love--and a few I did not.  After so long away from the bike, though, I must say I was happy to be back. After sitting around for so long, I loved the feeling of my heart soaring and then coming down again.  During the cold winter when I'm less inclined to head out for a run, I definitely see myself continuing to spin once a week or so.

This past week, I've done some Pilates and a strength class.  The class involved a lot of switching between exercises--bodyweight and dumbell--with three very short cardio intervals.  I was able to keep up and felt great after.  My legs were quite sore, but the good kind!  My back has felt amazing since I got a massage on my sister's birthday two weeks ago, so I don't want to do anything to upset it (like BODYPUMP, perhaps).  I'll probably continue doing bodyweight exercises (avoiding the barbell for now), yoga, and a bit of cycling; we'll see how it goes!

I'm still figuring out what my new routine will be, but easing back into fitness has finally gotten me to a place where I'm ready to decide and get moving! 

After illness or time off, how do you get back into fitness?  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

MOVE this Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving, my American friends!

Thanksgiving is traditionally a day of food, family, and .... sitting around.  We sit watching the parade, we sit and catch up with relatives, we sit to watch football, we sit and eat dinner, we sit and digest, you get the picture. There's nothing wrong with taking time to relax and enjoy good company, but all this lying around can leave us feeling lethargic for days to come.

This Thanksgiving, I dare you to get up and MOVE!  

Maybe for you, that means getting in one awesome morning workout before the day begins--awesome!

Perhaps your family enjoys fulfilling a different Thanksgiving tradition of playing some backyard football.  Sounds great!

BUT there are many other ways to get moving throughout the day, too.  Here are a few ideas to try:
  • Get involved in the kitchen.  Often, holiday gatherings involve lots of home-cooked food. Whether you're the host and head chef or simply an invited guest, offer your assistance in the kitchen.  Cooking involves not only being on your feet and moving about the kitchen, but also keeps you active in simple tasks like chopping and dicing, or sometimes even more intensive movements like mashing potatoes or mixing dough.  Whatever it is, it's an improvement over lounging around!  Just be sure you don't overdo it on the taste tests :
Someone's got to peel and slice!

  • Not a sous chef? Be the server. As appetizers, meals, and desserts are served, be the one serving!  Between early crudite/dips to the final dessert, you'll be moving back and forth from the kitchen throughout the entirety afternoon/evening. 
  • Play with the kids.  Children are naturally active. They have so much energy, and they're not afraid to use it!  Whether they start up games on their own or need a bit of encouraging, you can get in a good amount of activity by playing with children.  Maybe it's a game of freeze-tag in the yard, maybe it's getting on your knees to follow around a crawling baby... maybe you play duck-duck-goose, clap through a few rounds of patty cake or slide, play with a Wii or Kinect, put on a magic show, or choreograph a dance routine...  Whatever it is, you'll probably find yourself moving around quite a bit!
  • Sign on for clean-up duty. So many dishes, so much to clean!  Again, this keeps you on your feet, keeps your hands moving, and sometimes involves a bit of elbow grease. 
  • Take movement breaks.  Set a timer on your phone/watch/timer and every hour or two, make a point of getting in just one or two minutes of physical activity.  It could be a brisk walk, some jumping jacks or burpees, a minute of squats, or a minute of pushups.  Do something to get your heart pumping and keep your muscles lookin' alive! 
  • Initiate a walk outside.  Whether before or after the main meal, invite others to join you on a walk!  It's nice to get some fresh air and stretch your legs, and others will likely be thankful for the idea and eager to join you. 
  • Plan active games. Backyard sports are one thing, but there are plenty of games to be played inside, too!  Choose a few games to offer up to the crowd: Charades and HeadsUp  are just two that come to mind, and I'm sure there are dozens more I'm not thinking of. What are your favorite active indoor games? 

How do YOU keep active during holiday festivities?

Remember, as always, to be grateful for your body and all it does for you. Continue to treat it well with nutritious food and smart activity.

Have a lovely holiday weekend! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Run on Air: Get #FueledbyZero

Runners love to run. Runners are passionate about running, and they are addicted to running. Even shorter-distance runners like me get antsy after too long off the road. And we've all got goals: we want to run better, run faster, and/or run longer.

BUT, runners also want to avoid injury.

Yes, running causes injuries. The daily pounding is tough on the joints! It's undeniable: Running causes injury. 80% of runners report being injured in the last 12 months, and 55% had to take a time-out (4+ days!) from training due to injury. Even a small-time runner like myself has experienced occasional pain in my knees and ankles while running; it's not fun and definitely has made me stop running from time to time.

Does this mean everyone should stop forever? Not necessarily -- it just means that runners need to train smarter! We can continue to build endurance, gain active recovery, and log miles, as long as we can manage impact on our bodies... and Octane Fitness is enabling runners to do just that!

Last Thursday, I was invited by Octane Fitness to Gym Source in NYC to learn all about their technological breakthrough that will rock the world of runners everywhere. The folks at Octane Fitness define themselves as innovators dedicated to a fueled world. They perfected the elliptical trainer, designed to build a better workout. And now, because they know runners so well, they've created a new tool to help runners train better, longer, and without injury:

The Zero Runner!

The new development is that the machine itself has a knee joint and a hip joint. The Zero Runner mirrors your own legs; it lets you determine the movement path. Your legs are the motor and your legs set the stride. You are, essentially, running on air.

As an indoor running trainer, how is it different from a treadmill or elliptical?

  • No motor: This machine has no motor. It doesn't even get plugged in to an outlet. The console is battery-powered but the rest is just YOU. Unlike a treadmill that forces you along and does some of the work for you, the Zero Runner only moves if you move it.
  • Quiet: In fact, the absence of motor makes it astonishingly quiet. It's practically noise-free, so it can go in any room in the house (and anwhere, because there's no cord!). You can be racing along and still hear your TV or music on regular volume.
  • No fixed stride: Unlike an elliptical machine that has limited range of motion, the Zero Runner replicates your natural running motion. Doesn't matter if your legs are short or long, the machine's stride is the same for everyone. The Zero Runner has no fixed path. It lets you do anything -- it follows where you move your legs. You can expand your stride, you can lunge, you can move any which way! The machine is made so it fits anyone's stride, without having to adjust the machine itself.
  • No impact! Your legs are free to move, and your joints are free of impact. The Zero-Impact Running (TM) is a major innovation in the world of running and fitness. You use all the same muscles as you would on an outdoor run, but without the damaging impact from hitting the ground. This reduces your risk of common overuse injury and helps you feel great during and after runs!
  • Monitor your stride: There's an app--yes, this syncs with your iPad--that allows you to monitor your stride as you run. You can watch it live or review it after to identify differences between your first miles and your last miles. You'll become very aware of your stride and your form, in a way that will translate to the road outside.

Who is the Zero Runner for? Everyone:

  • Running enthusiasts and elites can use the Zero Runner to prepare for races. Log your training miles without accounting for the impact on your joints. You do more damage to your joints in the last few miles of a long run, so you can take it inside to complete your training miles.
  • Aging or injured runners can continue exercising without risking further injury.
  • Smaller-distance runners like myself (5k - 10k) can also continue training indoors in cold or wet weather.
  • Aspiring runners can get involved, too, building up their endurance before heading outside!

No matter who you are or what your goal is, the Zero Runner can help you meet your goals and keep your running career running longer! You can train, you can prevent injury, you can do active recovery, and you can even cross train using special bands that connect to the machine for strengthening exercises, upper body posture, and other such exercises that runners know they should do but often don't.

Two hard-core runners were in attendance to tell us why they're fans of the Zero Runner:

Larry Schmidt has 83 marathons, 17 Ultra marathons, and 6 Ironman Triathlons under his belt, so I'd take his advice. He insists that this machine will make you better on the road. Instead of replacing your outdoor workouts, it supplements them.

"No one ever told us how much injury would come from our running," he said. Looking back, he wonders if he could have put off his hip osteoarthritis if he had had a machine like the Zero Runner. He's glad that runners now have a sport-specific machine to help manage impact and prevent injury. In fact, he feels so strongly about the Zero Runner that almost as soon as he tried one, he asked to work for the company. He now has two in his home where he and his wife run or walk side-by-side, enjoying a conversation or TV show together.

Olympian Carrie Tollefson has been a champion from high school (state champ) through college (5-time NCAA champ), and beyond (national champ 2004 Team USA athlete). Suffice to say, she knows a thing or two about running, and is also the first to admit that she knows about injury.

She describes herself as injury-prone, and felt that she broke down too much too soon. She, too, imagines this machine preventing it and keeping her in her sport longer.

During injury and off-days, she recalls how she loathed cross-training; she simply wanted to be running. However, she now says: "This machine, to me, I feel like a runner on."

They convinced me that the Zero Runner is worthwhile for anyone, so I was excited to hop on and give it a try!

It definitely has a bit of a learning curve, because we're so used to the fixed stride provided by an elliptical machine. Once you realize that you just need to press down with your full weight and move your legs as naturally as possible... it started to become a bit more natural.

As I tried to adjust my steps, I was amazed at how free the machine felt. It really is like running on air! It was also fun to see my stride mapped out on the iPad in front of me. It reflected every move I made to wider strides and shorter strides. Really neat, and very helpful for anyone trying to improve or maintain their stride.

When I stepped off, I felt that I had been walking on the moon! As a beginner, it was a bit of a trip, but all in attendance who had used it before seemed to be perfectly at home on this new contraption.

A few interesting details from the Q&A portion of the event:

  • How big is it? It's about the same width as a treadmill, but much shorter: 38 x 64 inches.
  • How heavy is it? It's 200lbs - but it's got wheels on one side so you can lift, tilt, and roll it to move its position as needed.
  • How long does assembly take? It's typically assembled by the agency from which you purchased it, but someone new to assembling it would only take about 30 minutes. Once you've done it a few times, maybe 15. (Someone in the audience--was it you, Cat?--joked about it sounding easier than Ikea!)
  • Cat asked about if it had safety locks--some feature to ensure that no one -- such as a child -- would accidentally stumble onto it and hurt themselves. The answer was no, not at this time, but it certainly planted the seed for adding that helpful feature in the future.
  • Does it get you to the same level of exertion as running on the road? You can use the iPad app to work on your stride, and you can also sync a heart rate monitor to track your exertion and adjust accordingly.

  • Can you get runner's high on the Zero Runner? Both Larry and Carrie promptly replied an enthusiastic YES!

So there you have it! If you are a runner looking to improve your running, seeking to prevent or recover from injury, or just want get your run on indoors during the cold winter months, you may want to look into the Zero Runner!

It'll cost you a pretty penny at over $3,000, but you can add it to your wish list and hope you've got some generous relatives this holiday season :)

See more photos and video at instagram.com/dareyouto

Have any other questions about the Zero Runner? FitFluential is hosting a Twitter Chat about the Zero Runner on December 2nd at 9pm EST.

Follow all social media shout outs to the Zero Runner by searching #FueledByZero.

You can also connect with Octane Fitness directly on...

Thank you, Octane Fitness, for inviting me to try out this breakthrough equipment! I'm so excited that runners will have better option for training off the road.

This post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Octane Fitness.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

say "WHOAH!"

First: WHOA--only a few days left to enter the healthy recipe book giveaway!  Get delicious recipes to help restore your health.

You may recall that my running stalled the last couple months due to illness (boooo).  I'm finally easing my way back in; I spent much of November walking on the treadmill (cold weather!), doing yoga and Pilates, and even taking a Spinning class or two more recently.
WHOA cold weather!
It's felt good to get moving again, but I didn't want to dive in head-first.  I did go to one BODYPUMP class, but my back hurt for a week after.  So... not heading back there until maybe later in December. For now, I've been enjoying simple movement, bodyweight work, and cycling--easier on the joints.

Speaking of easy on the joints, let's talk CUSHIONING... 

There's a new sneaker on the market, and it is nice.  Unfortunately, I didn't get to try it out myself (still in recovery, anyhow), but Eric did, courtesy of the kind folks at Saucony.

He was elated when his Saucony Triumph ISO sneakers arrived, and when he opened the box, it literally spoke to him: "WHOAH"!  He unfolded the panels of the high-tech box to find the shoes.  Watch how it happened below:

When he reached the sneakers, he literally said "Whoah" aloud, followed shortly by, "They're bright!"

His WHOAface was more subtle than mine:

They're lightweight, too--only 10.3 oz!! Whoah!!

PWRGRID+ Premium Cushioning Foam has 20% more cushioning than standard midsoles!

Watch to learn more about the technology:

But don't take it from me or the promo video -- let's hear what Eric had to report:

"Shoes were great" --> After taking them out several times, Eric confirms that they're really comfortable!  I hadn't primed him with any of the above info--about the cushioning, etc., but he was able to tell right away that it was a key feature of the Triumphs.

Here's what he had to say, as dictated to me:

Overall, they're good. I'll go through the negatives and positives, negatives first: 
Negatives: They're too bright, and the box was extremely annoying.  [Meredith's insert: Um... those were my two favorite parts.]  The shoes were very bright, and the laces kind of feel like they're going to fall apart.  They're stretchy, but if you stretch them too far, they feel like they might break. 

Positives: They're comfortable.  They have really good support on the heel; I feel like it's cushiony and bouncy.  The shoe is really wide and well-padded, so it's comfortable. 
I wore them to walk, run, and go to the gym [to lift weights], and they were comfortable for all three.  They're very forgiving--the padding.   
Also, I ran on the treadmill with them. Sometimes, my knees hurt when I run on a treadmill, but my knees were fine in these sneakers.   
I'm happy with them. 

Me: "Okay, they're brighter than you like, but will you keep wearing them?"
Eric: Yeah. 
So that does it!  Bright or not, he's a fan of the cushioning. As long as they support his feet, he'll keep wearing them. 

He just kept repeating how cushioned and comfortable the Triumphs are.  He's happy, I'm happy!  And now you can be happy, too!!! Learn more here, OR enter theeee.....

Want to get a pair for yourself?  Dare you to enter to win a free pair of the Saucony Triumph ISO on the FitFluential blog!!  

Get comfortable, stay warm, and good luck :D 

This post is sponsored by FitFluential LLC on behalf of Saucony. Shoes were provided for review, but no monetary compensation was received, nor does sponsorship affect the reviews reflected above. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

Live Positive

Hey friends!  Popping in for a quick post, because there's a cool contest going on at tommiecopper.com I want to share with you.  They're looking to give a generous holiday gift to someone who demonstrates how to #LivePositive.

Here's how it works:

You nominate someone who is deserving of a BIG ACT OF KINDNESS, everyone votes online, and then Tommie Copper gives the winner $10,000 !!!  How awesome is that?

They're spreading the message
with the hashtag #LivePositive!

You can enter by clicking here to submit a photo or video telling your nominee's #livepositive story (and enjoy %15 off your next order, while you're at it!).  There's just three more days for nominations to be accepted, so get moving if you know someone you'd like to nominate!

Starting next week, everyone can go on and vote for the the winner (November 24 - December 7), so get ready to log in and vote for a deserving nominee who truly showed that they #livepositive.

Watch the video below to learn more, or head right on over to the contest website to enter now! Dare you to!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Try a new food: Sunchokes

Psst! Don't forget to check out last week's giveaway to win an amazing nutrition/health/recipe book, signed by the author!

It's been a while since a new food post, but I recently tried a food that was brand new to me: Sunchokes.

Have you heard of this vegetable?  I had never, but then I discovered that it's simply another name for the Jerusalem artichoke.  I'd never actually seen or eaten one of those, either, but had always assumed it looked more like, well, an artichoke (click to learn all about that "new food" dare here).

Intrigued, I gathered the details on this native North American tuber:

Jerusalem artichokes, or sunchokes, come from a plant that looks a lot like their relative, the sunflower.  What I found, though, looked nothing like a sunflower.  It's the tuber beneath it that looks like a knobby, rough, light brown rock. It looked sort of like ginger, but I honestly questioned whether it was even edible.

Peeled, cut, and cooked, it wasn't so bad!  Its flavor resembles that of good old artichokes, hence the nickname.  In fact, many sources described its flavor as a cross between sunflower seeds and artichoke hearts.

What's inside:

  • Contains vitamins: A, B-complex, iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. 
  • Source of inulin (could be good for diabetics, could be bad for people who don't easily digest it --> may cause gas and bloating, beware!)
  • Reportedly relieves asthma symptoms
  • Reportedly treats constipation

How to choose: Buy sunchokes in season during fall and winter.  You want to choose ones that are firm to touch and free of wrinkles or green or blotchy soft spots.  Before peeling, you can store in the refrigerator for up to a week or two.

Even though it's a root vegetable, it doesn't come with all the starchy carbs found in most tasty root veggies, so if you're watching your carb intake for any reason, that could make these a good option for you.

How to eat: After cleaning or peeling, enjoy sunchokes any which way you like!

  • You can enjoy them raw for a crunchy, sunflowerlike addition to your meal.  Simply slice or chop to add to salads or slaws, sort of like you might do with jicama. 
  • You can puree them to make a soup!
  • Or, you can cook them using your favorite method: roast, boil, saute, steam, fry (online recipes even exist for sunchoke chips)... the sky's the limit! Sunchokes are versatile, like potatoes, so they can be cooked in a variety of methods.

I roasted mine in the oven (seasoned with oil, rosemary, salt, and pepper).   Because I'm still figuring out my new oven's temperatures, they got a little toasty...

Still, they paired nicely with some juicy chicken for a fancy-looking meal!

My first bite:

Pretty good!  They didn't have all that much flavor (most of the flavor seemed absorbed from the oil and rosemary), but I ate them up anyhow.  Not bad!

I wouldn't say it's my new favorite root vegetable, but it's an option I'm happy to have learned about and would gladly meet again in the future.

Have you eaten sunchokes? 
If so, what's your favorite way cook them?

Sources: WiseGeek, Bon Appetit, Local Harvest, Eat the Seasons, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia