The Lighter Side of Thanksgiving

Welcome back, Jessica – Thanks for blogging for us again!

In true Walker Tracker style, we’re happy to advocate for a balanced approach to enjoyment and wellness during the holiday.  That means spending quality time with your family, friends and community, staying active, and having a ton of fun along the way. Check out the post below for tips and tricks from Jessica Lin to lighten your holiday.

Cheers!

Thanksgiving kicks off the Holiday season with a bang and sometimes it can be the start to a downhill slide on the health scale as we flow into Holiday + New Year celebrations. It’s super important during this time of the year to find a balance between everything. When we get over stimulated or stressed we oftentimes find our otherwise healthy habits beginning to slip. With family, friends, co-workers, parties, vacations, travel and the pressure of the end of the year upon us, I hope to share with you a few things to stay in tiptop physical and mental state to remain on a positive path as we move into 2018. We all know there’s nothing worse than starting your New Year feeling like crap, weighing an extra 10 lbs, and embarrassed from our over drinking at the company holiday party.

The most important thing to remember during this time, heck all of the time, is to stay balanced and know that you don’t have to do it all. This time of year it’s about enjoying your time with your loved ones and allowing yourself time to reset before we head into a New Year. Here are a few ways to stay healthy and sane over the next two months!

Take time out for SELF-CARE. In the midst of all the planning, prepping, and partying it’s easy to get caught up and have your feet swept off the ground. Stay rooted by scheduling time for you. What makes you feel shiney and new again?

1. Warm bath/ soaking tub action (If you’re in Portland, OR, I highly suggest treating yourself to a day of soaking and relaxing at Knot Springs)
2. Curl up and catch up with someone you love over tea/ fire
3. Light candles or a fire and leave the screens for an hour to connect with your friend and family, share stories and some laugher
4. Dive into a new book and take time each night before bed to read

With so much eating going with dinner parties, large family gatherings, holiday meals, etc. it’s easy to feel bloated, heavy, and uncomfortable; to not feel your most fit and healthy self. We can derail our healthy eating habits quickly over the next two months but it’s super easy to stay on top of it with a few simple changes. If you’re bringing any dishes, or you’re the captain of the ship and cooking the whole meal, here are a few easy swaps to help keep your holiday dishes on the ‘lighter’ side without losing any flavor integrity.  

  • Skip excess butter or use a butter substitute such as ‘I Can’t Believe it’s NOT butter’ or vegan butter (my preference) – taste is just as great and is ½ the calories
  • Dress your turkey
    • Turkey
      • Use pomegranates, oranges, clove, vegan butter, dash of EVOO and spices to give your turkey the perfect golden brown and highest level of juiciness (stick the cloves in the skin of the bird, melt butter with EVOO and mix with oranges/ poms to coat the bird, then sprinkle with herbs and spices, slice the oranges and ¼ the poms and put them into the roasting pans with everything)
    • Stuffing
      • Use gluten free bread for the stuffing and rice flour to make gravy over gluten heavy flour and breads


  • Make your mash with light sour cream or vegan sour cream over heavy cream
    • Sour cream is my favorite since it enhances the flavor and gives your taters a kick
    • Keep skins on the potatoes to get the most nutrients from your food!
  • Use a dash of Jacobson salt at the very end to reduce sodium intake and make food taste AMAZING!
  • Use fresh herbs to increase flavor in your dishes so less salt is necessary over all

The most important part of staying on track over the next two months is remembering to use some portion control, drink water as well as wine with your meal, and pace yourself as you enjoy all of the amazing food. If you allow yourself time to ENJOY each bite, it may end up saving you a second serving and a few hundred calories. No matter how you end up eating, remember to move and you’ll find a way to balance everything and bounce back after the New Year a little quicker than those who don’t!

Take a post Meal take a walk with your family. Resist the urge to sit and wallow in your overindulgence. I highly suggest taking a break between your meal and pie to walk away from the table, put on your coat and get outside. It doesn’t have to be a long walk but get everyone in the family to join, it’s a nice moment to connect with each other, enjoy the change of seasons, and to digest. By taking this time to walk between courses you will allow your food to settle so you can feel your fullness and not push yourself to over-indulgence. I learned this from my Grandmother and we always take a little walk around the block after we eat to connect and enjoy each other with full tummies and happy hearts.

Play a game post pie – my suggestion is to put on some music and play a game that requires a little bit of movement and tons of laughter. Did you know that laughter burns 3 calories a minute?! Some of my favorite food-coma fighting games are:

  • Charades
    • Create your own categories and clues and break into teams
      • Male v female
      • Generations
      • Cousins V. Aunts & Uncles
  • Cards Against Humanity – great for a good laugh – older crowd only
  • For children give them an opportunity to put on a post-meal performance
    • Gives them something to do before the meal to connect with each other
    • Post meal excitement and “dress rehearsal” while the ‘adults’ go for their post-meal walkabout
    • Memories to last a lifetime

The holidays are a time to come together and that should always remain at the forefront of this time of the year, but there is no reason why you can’t stay focused on your health goals as well. Don’t let the Holidays plow you over or derail you. Tap into yourself and allow yourself balance and control over these next few weeks. If you indulge in food make sure to move, if you drink to excess make sure to hydrate and sweat to help the body to detox. There are so many ways to find balance and all of them are fairly simple, you just have to allow yourself a little time and space to see where and how you can make them work for you.

Holiday Food Hacks

Cooking TogetherAs the holiday season gets fired up, so does baking, gifting and the sharing of delicious food. I’ve always been a fan of finding healthy swaps for baking and cooking, and have completely wowed my biggest food critics (aka my vegan sister and other carnivorous family members). There’s nothing quite like taking a classic recipe and making it even better and healthier by making a few quick easy ingredient swaps.

I think the biggest challenge when it comes to holidays are avoiding all of the sweets that seem to pop up everywhere. I’m a firm believer in moderation and therefore do not steer myself away from the array of holiday goodies that cross my path. However, when I go to make a baked good that will be shared, I turn to vegan treats. Most people are blown away by the simplicity of ingredients (and also effort) most of these recipes have. Below is a list of my favorite recipes for you to try out next time you try your hand at baking. There are also tons of fun vegan recipes on Pinterest.

• Quick and easy, One Bowl Chocolate Zucchini Bread 
• Check out these simple, Vegan Coconut Macaroons
• Pumpkin fans, here’s a recipe for Pumpkin Cookies

I will admit, I’ve had my fair share of vegan baking fails. Part of the fun of vegan baking is adapting ingredients depending on the type of recipe you are following. The biggest subs are for eggs, butter, oil and milk or cream. My favorite swap is unsweetened applesauce for oil (1:1 ratio). This works especially well in cakes and brownies. Eggs can be replaced by whipping up a flax egg, or chia seeds (learn how here).

Making your shopping listHere a few more ideas you can try out for a healthy alternative to everyday ingredients.

  • Sour Cream → Greek Yogurt
  • Pasta → Zucchini Noodles  
  • Milk Chocolate →  Dark Chocolate
  • Heavy Cream →  Coconut Milk
  • White Flour → Nut Flours (almond, chestnut…)
  • Cheese →  Nutritional Yeast
  • Milk → Almond, Hemp or Coconut Milks
  • White rice → Quinoa
  • Mayo →  Avocado
  • Sugar → Agave, Pure Maple Syrup, Vanilla Extract

Keep it Fresh

A few years ago, I had my workout routine down. I made it to the gym on a regular basis and felt great afterwards. But after a while, going to the same exercise classes and working out on the same exercise equipment started to feel stale. Has this ever happened to you? It’s not surprising. While we are creatures of habit, change and challenge can help to keep us motivated in our healthy routines.

Here are some tips on how bash boredom and get excited about exercise, or at least make it more enjoyable.

 

Change It Up

If you regularly list to music during your physical activity, even a new playlist can help prevent boredom. It’s even better to shuffle the songs, so you never know what’s coming up next.

What muscle groups are you neglecting? Switching up your physical activity to target different muscle groups will not only bash boredom, but it also will decrease your risk for injury or help you stay active while recovering from hard workouts or injuries.

Try variations of your favorite physical activity, like aerial yoga, pool cycling, indoor obstacle course, or Bollywood dance.

Personal training sessions can provide personal evaluation and motivation, and introduce you to new fitness techniques and equipment.

 

Enjoy the Challenge

Set a goal for yourself. Setting challenging, yet attainable, goals for yourself will help keep you motivated. It is important to continually evaluate your goals so you keep being challenged. Once a challenge gets too easy, it will seem more like a chore. Continue to test your limits. Sign up for a race or similar fitness event. Maybe join a training team or group to help reach your goal.

Don’t forget to reward yourself. Avoid workout burnout by making your workout more game-like, with points and rewards. Log your workouts on the Walker Tracker app and receive points for logging and meeting goals. (Ex. Each time you reach a new points level, treat yourself to a massage.)

 

It’s important for your physical activity to be enjoyable to keep you moving. Maybe boredom is why trying to work out regularly never stuck before. Why not give it another try? Even if you are still enjoying your current fitness routine, it is a good idea to include variety often to keep things interesting and fun. What can you do this week to “spice up” your fitness routine?

Perks of Caffeine

Cup of Coffee

As I sit here in my favorite coffee shop, sipping a cup of hot holiday brew, I got inspired to write a quick article about my favorite beverage, coffee. There’s nothing quite like sitting on a quiet porch in the waking hours of the morning, sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee. I love starting out my morning with this ritual, and studies show that just about 83% of all adult Americans do too. If you find yourself in that percentage, you may be wondering how a daily dose of caffeine affects your mind and body.

Here is a quick list of the benefits you may be getting from that cup of morning brew.

1. It can help you burn fat. Pretty much every over the counter “fat burner” supplement and pre-workout supplement contains caffeine and for a good reason. Due to its stimulant status, caffeine jumpstarts your metabolism and creates quicker oxidation of fatty acids (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition).

2. It helps protect your liver. Studies found that a few cups of coffee daily can help reduce the risk of liver cancer by 40% (Science Direct).

3. Coffee contains loads of antioxidants and nutrients. Now we aren’t talking about white chocolate mochas here, strictly black coffee. Surprisingly, coffee has more antioxidants than any fruit or veggie in the American diet (Healthline).

4. Coffee improves memory. Much like its fat burning properties, caffeine helps improve mental acuity (National Center for Biotechnology Information).

5. It makes us happy. This is my favorite reason. Like most psychoactive brains stimulants, it boosts our mood. I couldn’t forget to mention that it’s delicious as well!

Be Social For Your Health

When I visit my family back in California, my sister and I always try to go out for at least one walk together. Sometimes our lives can get so hectic we need time to catch up and share what we are each excited, worried, or just thinking about. We escape from our busy lives and return to the times when we lived together and could go for walks several times a week. We would treat our walks like appointments. “What time are we going to go for a walk?” I would ask her. After I moved away, we kept walking together, but talking through our phones. My gift to her before I left was a pair of headphones for this purpose.

When it comes to creating healthy lifestyles, we do not have to do it alone. Our relationships can give us confidence and motivation to create an active lifestyle. The best way to gain support for your new fitness goals is to let others know your goals and also to encourage others to be more active with you. Friends help keep you accountable to yourself. Trying a new gym class, like yoga or Pilates, can be intimidating, but it can be easier if you go with a friend. A hike or walk is a fun and easy hangout. Why not ask a coworker to go for a walk to a coffee shop a couple of blocks away, instead of the one in your building? Do you know someone who goes swimming regularly? Ask if you can join them. You can also invite friends over for a low-key workout/dance party. There are so many opportunities to get moving with others.

Having a walking or exercise buddy will not only help you reach your fitness goals, but it will also strengthen your relationships. Relationships are built on shared experience. When you work out or go for a hike with your spouse or friends, you are strengthening your physical health and emotional connections. Emotional connection allows us to build trust and grow in our relationships. Our social relationships can be a great help in building an active culture of wellness where we all can thrive. The key is to take the initiative and seek out social interactions that promote physical activity.

Your challenge for the week: Ask someone to join you on a walk or any other type of physical activity. Who have you not talked with in a while? Who would you like to get to know better? Who do you want to enlist as your next fitness ally?

 

My favorite superfoods

We hear a lot of talk these days focused on superfoods. But how should we incorporate these unique items into our daily routine? What even is a superfood? Lucky for you guys, I’m a bit of a superfood hoarder, as well as adventurer.

A superfood is technically defined as a food that is consumed for a health or wellness benefit. Not only are superfoods packed with unique vitamins and nutrients, they usually taste pretty good too.

One of my favorite things to date is Jackfruit. Surprisingly, this exotic fruit has been popping up on a lot of menus here in Portland lately. So here you are, I’ve compiled a list and a few tips on how to use my favorite superfoods.

1. Chia Seeds. You’ve all probably heard of this food by now, but I like to continuously remind people that they are around due to the omega-3 load these little seeds pack! They are also rich in fiber, protein and minerals. I like to add mine to water with fresh lemon, blend into smoothies and top oatmeal. You can get creative and create a tapioca like pudding with the seeds as well! Here’s a recipe to check out.

2. Cacao Powder. This has become a staple in my morning smoothies. Cacao beans contains 40 times the amount of antioxidants than blueberries, and has the highest level of iron of all plant sources. Mix into oatmeal, blend into smoothies, or indulge in a dark cacao bar.

3. Avocados! Who doesn’t love a good avo? I could personally top everything with a little avocado, and have been found to mix it into my smoothies and even use one to create a facemask. All the good fats in avocado make this a top contender for my favorite superfood.

4. Lentils, the forgotten bean. I’m all about the lentils. My favorite way to prepare them is to create a korean bbq flavor, mixed with brown rice and veggies (found here). Lentils provide a good amount of iron, and are high in protein.

5. Nutritional Yeast. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you already know that nutritional yeast is a must have in your kitchen. It provides us with the vitamin B 12 that is most commonly found in animal proteins. It also can be used as a vegan substitute for several types of cheeses. My favorite snack is air popped white corn sprinkled generously with nutritional yeast!

6. Pitaya. Did one of those colorful smoothie bowls catch your eye this summer? Chances are it was a pitaya bowl! This fruit is a beautiful fuchsia color, and has a flavor similar to guava. Pitaya is loaded with vitamin B, magnesium and fiber. Pitaya may also be referred to as dragon fruit.

7. Bee Pollen granules. This past spring I finally got to be relieved of some allergies by taking local bee pollen daily. I sprinkled it on smoothies. It is 40% raw protein, making it extremely nutrient dense.

8. Turmeric. This is the anti inflammatory root you’ve been dreaming of… maybe. Turmerics main component, curcumin is one of the most powerful anti inflammatory in the world. Try out my favorite recipe for Golden Milk next time you need a warm, winter drink.

9. Jackfruit. Another awesome substitute for meat! Jackfruit is a watermelon sized fruit that contains small, “meat” like textured pods. I’ve prepared jackfruit slow cooked and seasoned with Mexican spices for tacos and burritos. It contains vitamin B, niacin, potassium and magnesium.

 

And there you go! Get out there and be a superfood adventurer.

Introducing Emily of the Walker Tracker Team

Hello! My name is Emily and I am the newest member of the Walker Tracker team. I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, where I developed a love for cycling. I have been living in Portland for a year now and I feel quite at home in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. I was attracted to the environmentalist and bike cultures, and, not surprisingly, I discovered an excellent wellness culture, as well.  

I am joining Walker Tracker as a program manager with a health research background. I look forward to using my research and communications skills to help promote a culture of wellness. I am always seeking opportunities to learn, especially when it comes to new developments in the health and wellness field, and I enjoy sharing what I learn with others.

When I am away from my desk, I hope to be either on a walk (really!), riding my bike, or out catching up with friends and colleagues. If I feel like staying inside, I could be working on a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle or getting lost in a book. A couple of my favorite places around town are Powell’s Bookstore and Laurelhurst Park. I also enjoy visiting local farmer’s markets and volunteering at various local organizations.

My current favorite health tip is: Re-learn how to play. This can be a challenge if you are like me and value productivity, but having fun is essential for the wellbeing of people of all ages. You will be more productive and joyful, when you take time to play. We all have our own ideas of what play can be. For some of us, it’s a 10-mile hike, for others a family game night. Whatever brings you joy, do that. Let’s find time to have more fun!

Be well,

Emily

Quinoa for Lunch!

Quick, Easy and Healthy Quinoa Recipes

Cooking with Quinoa

By doing a quick search on the web, you can find millions of awesome ways to prepare your food for the busy week ahead, all the while saving money and staying healthy. I love being able to sleep in for an extra 20 minutes each morning knowing that lunch is already made and ready to go for the day. One of my all time favorite, nutrient packed lunch staples is quinoa. It is extremely versatile, you can cook it up in a huge batch, and it packs good amounts of fiber as well as protein. Try prepping a few of these recipes on Sunday to kick start your week!

Quinoa SalmonSalmon, Quinoa and Cucumber Bowls
For this meal, I typically make three days’ worth at a time. Its very simple, and only requires two cups cooked quinoa, 3 pieces of pan seared salmon, a cup sliced and halved cucumbers with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and splash of rice vinegar. I equally distribute the reviewed ingredients into 3 to go containers, and store in the fridge until I’m ready to run for the day.

Mexican QuinoaMexican Quinoa Salad
This meal is great along side slow cookers chicken, made by adding 2 chicken breasts and a 12oz jar of salsa into a slow cooker for 8 hours. Cooking chicken this way basically guarantees restaurant quality shreds without the added sodium. Combine your chicken (or any choice of protein) with three cups of cooked quinoa, a can of black beans (drained and rinsed), half a cup of corn, sautéed mushrooms, peppers, onions, or any veggies of your choice. Mix in 2-3 tablespoons of taco seasoning, and top with avocado when ready to eat

Quinoa SaladFeta and Quinoa Greek Style Salad
The combination of cucumber and feta always reminds me of summer with its fresh and appealing flavors. For this meal, combine three cups quinoa, a can of garbanzo beans (drained and rinsed), one cucumber sliced and halved, one tomato diced, half cup of feta cheese, and a quick dressing consisting of olive oil, vinegar, Italian seasoning and pepper to taste.

I hope you found inspiration within this post to switch up your daily lunch routine. As always, these are simply suggestions, and I hope that you can add your own flair to them as well! Lets us know what other ways you stay healthy during lunch hour!

Keep Hydrated

Drink More WaterRemembering to drink enough water throughout the day can be difficult when life gets busy. However 60%, of our body is made up of water, and we need to remain fully hydrated throughout the day to keep all bodily functions working properly. Daily water consumption should be around 2 liters, or 8, 8oz glasses, but there are many factors that may alter consumption recommendations such as gender, weight, activity level and climate. Here are a few ways to keep your body properly hydrated. 

Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning. Keep a glass by your bed, or leave a water bottle on your nightstand to serve as a reminder first thing to start your day.

Try creating infused water or ice. Use any combination of lemon, cucumber, strawberries, blueberries, chia seeds, orange, fresh rosemary, mint or basil to craft a lightly flavored water. Infused water is a great substitution for drinks that have higher sugar content such as soda or juice. Simply add to your water bottle, or make a batch in a pitcher to enjoy all day. Here are some combinations to try: Lemon and strawberry, basil and strawberry, mint and lime, cucumber and lemon. You can also create flavored ice cubes with these ingredients as well. Just add desired ingredients to ice tray with water before freezing.

Carry a reusable water bottle with you at all times. By simply having water with you, you will drink more.  

Use a water tracking app. There are many apps to help you keep track of how much water you have consumed each day. Having a bit of accountability can help you stay motivated and remind you to drink enough water. Try using the water tracking feature on the Walker Tracker app, My Water Balance, iHydrate, Water Reminder or Plant Nanny.

Include snacks in your day to boost water consumption without noticing. Most fruits and veggies serve as a supplemental way to consume more water. Celery, cucumber, cantaloupe, tomato, grapes, zucchini, strawberries and watermelon are all great options.

Walking to Your Next Big Idea

Walking to Your Next Big IDeaIt’s no secret that walking can help to boost your creativity in a big way! Charles Dickens, Aristotle, John Muir, and Beethoven are among just a few of the many famous minds who attribute regular walking to their genius.

A study done at Stanford University found that walking, regardless of where, can boost creativity by up to 60%. The study also found that creativity levels remained elevated even after the walk had ended. The same results applied whether participants were getting their steps inside or outside—so rain or shine there are no excuses!

 Does this mean walking meetings are a good thing?

They can be! Steve Jobs (Apple), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and Jack Dorsey (Twitter) have all been known to hold meetings on foot. Walking meetings can be a great way to brainstorm creative ideas, as well as solve problems. Fredrick Nietzsche famously said, “all great thoughts are conceived by walking.” In addition to a boost in creativity, the increase in energy one gets from taking a brisk walk helps those who spend the majorly of their workday at a desk maintain higher levels of productivity (not to mention the health benefits).Barbara Oakley,

Barbara Oakley, engineering professor at Oakland University, said, “walking allows us to subconsciously process and think in a different way.” So next time you have writer’s block, are stuck on a project, or need inspiration for that next big idea, get up and take a walk!

You can find the Stanford study here.