Temptations to avoid in crunch time

November 17, 2009

With the semester winding down rather rapidly, late nights of studying and writing are inevitable. And just as the clock turns into the wee hours of the morning, many of us are in need of a caffeine and/or sugar boost to get us through those last ten pages of reading or 200 more words in a paper.

The holiday season is already a dangerous time of year for people who are trying to stay healthy or who are in the midst of a diet and the late nights and awkward time gaps to grab food or an energy boost can leave some of us with a little extra weight to work off during the new year. 

So how can you avoid this? Along with daily excercise I have found my top 5 places to avoid during the so called “crunch time” of school that can add a lot of problems when you try on your Christmas sweaters or dresses you haven’t worn since last year. 

Disclaimer:  These are by no means a scientific list of the most unhealthy food/drink spots around Austin. Just the top five that came to my mind. 

Here we go.

1.  Tiff’s Treat’s Brownies

They are delicious, big, chocolaty and a rush of sugar that is hard to turn down the second you catch a whiff from one, but do the best you can. They are extremely rich and like most sweets, it is very hard to just have one bite. If you must wander in to their store, try to only order one or two cookies max. Anything is better than that giant brownie. 

2. Mrs. Johnson’s Donuts

I know Grant and the Night Owl bloggers did a great post about this Austin treasure but I’m giving them another shout out. Don’t get me wrong, I love their donuts. They are probably the greatest donuts I’ve ever eaten and that is the problem. Especially if you are like me and live within walking distance of their glorious stand. Its the perfect recipe for a late night craving and diet destroyer.

3. Five Guys Burgers 

With crazy schedules and time restrictions, grabbing a burger on the way to study is usually a go to food to provide energy while also ending the growling in your stomach. I’m a big fan of their burgers but they are costly on the healthy end. A regular cheeseburger and fries from their is 840 calories so do your best to make a sandwich.

4. Starbucks

I am such a hypocrite as I write this with a grande white chocolate mocha beside me. Starbucjs is great and a stable around the world but their drinks can add up on the calories side. A grande frapuccino is 240 calories. If you need some caffeine, go for tea or even regular black coffee for an improvement. 


5. Chipotle

Everyone’s favorite and convenient burrito shop. And while it is a filling meal, a chicken burrito is 1065 calories. That is more than half the recommended 2,000 calorie diet. 

Like anything, all five of these are fine in moderation, but if you find yourself indulging a little too much during this stressful period just look for a healthier alternative.


More food stuff

November 16, 2009

Because we haven’t talked enough about food, I went and consulted with a nutritionist last week to give us more to talk about.

When it comes to fitness and food, it boils down to a few key things, I was told by Dr. James Nabb, who was gracious enough to answer some emails.

Once you get past the very basics (be aware of calories, fats, no trans fats), he gave me a few simple tips to pass on:

Eat about 5 times a day. Make sure you eat breakfast, it really is the most omportant meal of the day.

“You need protein to jumpstart your metabolism,” he said. “Fruit, milk and oatmeal is perfect.” Eggs are good too, but don’t go overboard on the omelets (yum).


Protein, yum, is the key to getting your metabolism going.

From there, it’s important to keep eating regularly to maintain your metabolism. A nut and fruit bar should get you to lunch, where you do your best to avoid the temptaion and ease of a drive through.

Once you turn down  McDonald’s for that sandwhich and water instead of Big Mac and extra large Coke, you should eat a little something to get you to dinner. Avoid eating too late, keep it light.

The important thing is to keep a consistent rate. Starving yourself for a few hours than gorging isn’t going to get you very far. It’s also important you don’t eat too little. Studies have shown that your body will go into starvation mode if it doesn’t get enough calories, during which it will horde whatever it can get to keep you going.

To get more info on nutrition, check out nutrition.gov for a bunch of news and resources to eating better.

Veggie Feast

November 13, 2009

Thanksgiving didn’t always used to mean turkey. Way back when the pilgrims were still getting acquainted with Plymouth Rock and the natives, Thanksgiving was about the harvest. That means celebrating the crops that allowed them scratch out a living in the New Worlds. Sadly, those worthy crops have fallen by the wayside in our Thanksgiving priorities, somewhere below turkey, football (Hook’em), pumpkins, turducken (click,  it’s worth it), and mom’s delicious stuffing. Yum.

But as good as that sounds, there should always be room for the harvest at any real feast. So in sticking to our roots (and not our ribs), we’re laying out a half-decent, turkey, duck and chicken-free feast.

If that plea isn’t enough to get you past the turkey, all out pity is my last resort. Feast your eyes on this little video, courtesy of media darling, the one and only Sarah Palin.

All jokes aside, animal abuse is a serious issue. The New York Times’ “Well” blog, which more than once has been my inspiration, coveres the issue with regard to avoiding turkey.

Which leaves us with the alternatives. The above mentioned Well lays out some food options full of veggie delight and free of guilt. There are plenty of other options around too. If a simple grilled cheese isn’t your thing, The Veggie Table lays out a full course meal just for you. Who can say no to some pumpkin soup, buttermilk biscuits and spanakopita (you’re going to have to click to find out, don’t look at me). Don’t feel too bad about the pumkin (and/or pecan) by at the end, there’s plenty of time to count carbs and swim it off with Garrett next month.

Ultimately, Thanksgiving is about family, not food. So eat what your heart desires, watch some games and have a good time. But if you don’t feel like chugging down some turkey, know there’s an alternative out there. Bon appetite.

Calorie counting

November 6, 2009

So after a post-Halloween splurge that left me with about a marathon run’s worth of emptied calorie packets (better know as hershey’s and crunch bars) scattered throughout the the house, we’re calling a second consecutive audible on this week’s post.

We’re well past healthy eating this week, (trick or treat, indeed) so let’s tackle the other side: finding out just how much crap your moment(s) of weakness let in.

If you need some inspiration for counting calories on the back of food packs, read this story that can tell you just how much impact a little knowledge can have. More often than not, we don’t know what we’re putting in our bodies or how to quantify the wealth of information on the back of food packages. Keeping track of how much we’re actually eating, never mind how much we think we are, is a pretty simple and often times surprising way to lose weight.

Using the bodybugg, a nifty little armband with a not-so-nifty $200 price-tag, you can keep track of all the calories you are burning to complement the ones you are consuming (which you should also be tracking). The science behind it seems solid, and it’s earned some pretty good reviews.

The math says 3,500 calories amount to a pound of weight, so a deficit of 500 a day will amount to losing one pound a week (math and diets don’t apply to weekends.)

But this isn’t a mandate to treat calories like the enemy. There is such a thing as too little, which ironically can keep weight on by convincing your body to store fat whenever possible.

So, keep track of all those Twix, Snikers, candy corns and jolly ranchers as you splurge. Just make sure to do the math, and the running, when it’s all said and done.


October 30, 2009

After yesterday’s brief introduction, we’re moving on to some more practical fitness/food stuff today. In honor of Garrett and his love for good, healthy food, we’re going to be showing off some of his tasty, easy and most importantly healthy food choices.

How does some chicken breast stuffed with spinach and Gorgonzola sound? Good enough for an Olympian or Popeye, it’s easier than it sounds and, when made with the right ingredients (like low-sodium salt) it might just be the healthiest thing you eat all week.

Not ready for a full-on cooking adventure?  Take the easy way out with one of Garrett’s easier recipes that’s got plenty of protein and calcium, with some carbs for that workout later in the day (right?). Yes, it’s cottage cheese, but it’s good (I promise) and good for you.

And if you’re craving for that touch of sweet, there are ways around it without ruining a day of healthy eating in one moment of weakness: our old friend, fruit. If munching on an apple or a bannana isn’t your thing (and it really should be), add a little flair.

Never tried grilled pineaple or peaches with cinnamon or brown sugar? Now is the time.

Now that you’re well fed, it’s time to hit the pool for some laps. Whether you’re ready to challenge Garrett in the 100 freestyle or just worying about floating, swimming is one of the absolute best things you can do for your body. The key is to know what you’re doing (if you don’t, ask), and know what you can handle.

Here is a great guide to workouts of all sorts and all levels. Just enter your experience level and go from there.

That wraps up our GWG experience. Keep an eye out for Garrett around campus or if you find yourself watching the Food Channel a few years from now. You can get all of his recipies and much more at his site.

Off to swim a few laps at the Rec Center.

Meeting Garrett Weber-Gale

October 29, 2009

It’s not too often you get to meet and talk to an Olympic gold medalist, especially one involved in a race as memorable as that 400 freestyle relay last summer. Add in that he is a food and fitness freak, and that we just happen to  blog about that, it seems too good to pass up. So here is a brief story of meeting GWG and his advice for the fitness/food enthusiasts.

First off, a big thank you to Melanie Hauser for setting up the interview, as me, Austin and few other Sports J students had Garrett to ourselves for more than an hour.  And of course, thanks to Garrett for being so gracious with his time. If everyone was so honest and open during interviews, our jobs would be a lot easier and a lot more rewarding.

For those who don’t quite know who I’m talking about, Weber-Gale was one of the four swimmers (including Michael Phelps) who took the gold in one of the greatest races ever swam, the 400 freestyle relay at the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

Garrett’s two passions in life are pretty simple: swimming and eating, two things that when done correctly can turn anyone into an Olympic gold medalist. Not really. But you can improve your life with a few good changes to your lifestyle.

For GWG, that started with his diet. Early in his college days, he found out he had high blood pressure. A quest for healthy, delicious, low sodium food later, he’s now a budding chef who has studied under some cooking masters and makes food almost a big a part of his daily life as swimming.

Which brings us to the basic formula: eat healthy and exercise. And whenever possible, seek council from those who know.

“Seek the advice from the experts,” Weber-Gale said. Going to a nutritionist helped him realize how much protein he needed to keep or build muscle mass. “People don’t realize how protein they need. Eating healthy is all about little choices.”

As for the exercise, good luck trying to keep up. After an extended break following a disappointing World Championships outing in Roma, Garrett is back in the pool around 30 hours a week, with some time in the weight room for good measure.

We’ll have more tomorrow on Mr. Weber-Gale, including some healthy eating recipes, and maybe some water workouts, so stay tuned. Until then, get your GWG fix at his blog.