5 Ways To A Healthy Meal

Do you want a healthy meal? It’s almost dinner time and you thought about this momentarily or  you have been asked at least twice, “What are we having for dinner?” You open up the refrigerator, see nothing, look in the pantry, and still nothing. You then go back to the freezer and lift up that frozen pack of something that has freezer burn. One last time you head back to the pantry and realize there isn’t anything appetizing, so you just stare as if a genie is going to appear. Fast food it is!!! Does this sound familiar? If so, consider these 5 ways to help ensure you plan a healthy meal.

5 Ways to a Healthy Meal


Make a List Before Shopping

How many times have you gone shopping without a list only to return home without the one ingredient you intended to buy? Have you gone shopping having good intentions of buying a few items, but saw a brand sponsor handing out free samples of something that was too tempting to pass?  Before you know it, you are at the counter with two boxes of this “new” item.  If you have a list you are less likely to make impulsive buys and maybe even save a little on your grocery bill.

Go Online

Visit sites to get ideas for healthy meal recipes such as cooking light, sparkpeople and Pinterest. The great thing about these sites is that there is something for everyone. There are categories based on meal, food group and culture.
Join social media groups to exchange recipes and get ideas from friends. Social media is one way to get great resources for relatively cheap and most often free.  Facebook groups are perfect for  connecting  with like minded people . They allow you to focus on topics appealing to your needs and palate. Consider joining groups for healthy eaters, vegetarians,  diabetics or gluten free.

Grocery Shop

Spend more time in the produce section of the grocery store and make it a priority to purchase most of your grocery list from the produce section. As a rule of thumb, in most traditional grocery stores, the perimeter is where you will find the healthiest fare. The interior aisles are often filled with the more appealing items. One caveat though, they are also packed with the most calories, fat, salt, and sugar. So you may have a good time snacking and believe you just hit the grocery store lottery as your cart gets closer and closer to aisle 5 but really you haven’t. Remember, stay focused, shift that cart into high gear and refer back to your grocery list.

Cooking Class

Taking a cooking class is a fun way to explore your creative side. It’s amazing how something you

cooked steamed broccoli for healthy meal
steamed broccoli

once viewed as nasty and bland comes to life once you add a little zest with your own flavors and spices. It took a long time for me to learn there really were more spices in the universe than salt and pepper. I now understand food can be just as flavorful without salt as it is with it added. Also, my heart is thankful. Per the American Heart Association cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death. Don’t be afraid to explore spices.

Consult a Professional

Consult with a nutritionist if you are still struggling with meal planning. Nutritionists can assist in planning a diet that is just for you. They can address any specific health needs or concerns you may have regarding meals. In addition, you may get guidance and assistance with understanding  new products such as supplements. Reading food labels sounds easy enough on the surface, but can also be overwhelming. Nutritionists and other professionals such as a Health Coach are able to provide support and show you ways to make this a part of your lifestyle.

You don’t have to be a world renowned chef to make some great dishes for yourself or family. Now you will probably mess up the ingredients and even get the thumbs down on a few things, but that’s okay, don’t be deterred. Remember, greatness doesn’t happen overnight. Hell, you may even question if some of this stuff even qualifies as food, but stick with it. Most importantly, have a plan. After all, a plan kept me from buying white rice instead of brown. My plan keeps me from admiring the holiday themed cupcakes that are placed strategically near the produce section. It also keeps me focused on the yogurt instead of the ice cream when I’m near the frozen food section. You get my drift? PLAN! PLAN! PLAN!

6 Self-Care Tips

Are you taking care of You?

solo walk for self-care
Solo walk

What self-care tips are you following this summer? What is self-care you might ask? It’s when you actively engage in an activity you have decided will enhance your emotional, physically and/or mentally. The term self-care is often so loosely thrown around you may have to stop and ask just what it is. The good news is that it’s entirely up to you. The moment it becomes about someone else, it’s no longer self-care. At that point, it’s just caring for others and defeats the purpose. Therefore, it is imperative for these self-care tips to become a part of your lifestyle. Also, the best part is self-care cost as little or as much as you decide. Really, there is no reason not to do it.


Self-Care Tips

Try Something New

Trying a new activity is a fun self-care tip to follow. So much falls into this category. Over the years these things have varied depending on what was going on in my life. I remember taking tennis lessons,swimming , skating lessons and don’t even ask why I didn’t learn to skate as a child. How could I forget my foray into softball and flag football?

Vacation Or Stay-cation

Take a vacation or even a stay-cation. I believe vacation is self-explanatory but I will use this opportunity to mention my recent trip to Orlando for a Star Wars Half Marathon. It was so nice to get away for a few days. Anytime you can exercise and have fun, it’s a win-win situation. Of course, there is always the road trip to the beach. Stay-cations are an opportunity to explore your own city as a tourist but without the hassles of packing and traveling. Visit your local museums, a baseball game, have dinner at a swanky restaurant, go on a tour, visit the parks and gardens. I’m amazed at how much I learn and how inexpensive it is to explore locally.

Explore New Foods
picture of a salad with nuts during self-care
Mixed Greens Salad

Trying new recipes is the perfect self-care tip for foodies. Many people are pulling out the grills this time of year. Grilling is a great way to add flavor without the added calories that tend to go with fried foods. Many vegetables and fruit can be added to the grill. If you aren’t a fan of grilling consider giving old recipes a do-over with new flavors from some bold spices other than salt.

Grow Socially

Get social by reconnecting with family or old friends. Invite a few of them over for a summer cookout. This is an opportunity to try new foods by setting a theme with a healthy flare. If each guest brings a dish to share it takes away some of the event planning stress. The ideas are endless and could include such themes as a luau or Mardi gras. Food doesn’t have to be the focal point. This is also the perfect opportunity to take a group walk, bike ride or fitness class together.

Just Have Me Time

Hang with yourself on a solo date. Sometimes it’s fun just to hang out with yourself. Deciding to treat yourself to a spa day, lunch, movies, or good ole workout. Some of my best times have been spent shopping alone or going on a solo bike ride.

Practice Mindfulness Activities

Practicing mindfulness is a great way to get in tune with yourself, reduce stress and its free. It is the process of practicing awareness and acceptance of the present moment. Mindfulness has been proven to not only help lower stress but also assist with pain management, weight management as well as alleviate many of the symptoms of mental illness. There are many types of mindfulness activities that you could practice alone or with others including, deep breathing, meditation, mindful eating, adult coloring, and yoga.

Your Health

Self-care isn’t just about what we do in the gym or the food on our plates. It really should take a holistic approach. There is a direct correlation between practicing self-care, lowered stress levels and improved mental health. Per the American Psychological Association, exercise reduces stress. Lower stress levels have a positive impact on mental health, especially for those living with anxiety and depression. These 6 self-care tips shouldn’t be a rare treat but instead it should be a part of your regular routine. The next time you begin to feel overwhelmed with the thought of trying to manage too many things at once, just stop and breathe. Remember, it is okay to say NO. This may sound a bit cliché but I try to live by the mantra, “you can’t pour from an empty vessel.”


5 Summer Fitness Tips

Time sure does fly. Seems like yesterday I was thinking summer 2017 will be my fittest ever.  I’m going to run more miles and lift more than ever. Well, here we are and it hasn’t yet happened. I’m not fretting though, because my rational mind says “this is not a race, it’s about being healthy.” However, my vain mind says, “I want to wear a two piece and turn heads.”  Okay, I digress. If you are having those same thoughts, no worries, there are a few ways to satisfy both concerns and achieve summer fitness.

Fitness Tips

  1. Goals – Set just a couple small realistic goals like committing to doing cardio 2-3 times per week for 30 minutes or going to the gym 2 mornings before work or 2 evenings after work. Don’t worry about getting in those jeans from homecoming 5 years ago. Don’t start reminiscing too much just yet.Gym Fitness
  2. Commitment – Seriously think about activities you will actually commit to doing. If you have a history of taking classes and leaving before the end this may not be the time to try something new. Start with walking, running, biking or a cardio machine at the gym. Oh yeah, move fast enough to get your heart rate going. If you are 10 minutes into your workout without one bead of sweat, stop and hit the reset button.
  3. Move – Now is a great time to add strength training since you are all set with a schedule and cardio activity. I assure you that you will not bulk up like that lady on the front of a muscle-building magazine who looks like she could possibly lift a tiny house. Keep in mind you are focusing on working towards a healthier lifestyle not changing careers to be a professional body builder. Fellas, strength training requires a little more than going to the gym and isolating your workouts to chest and biceps. Nice pecs and biceps are great, but total wellness is the main objective.
  4. Diet –  Let’s talk about that taboo four letter word–DIET. It is critical to take your diet seriously in order to improve your total wellness. I’ve heard many times that health is 80% diet and 20% exercise. Since I know you don’t want to reinvent the wheel, trust me when I tell you that it is true.  Through trial and error over the years and a few pounds later I am a believer. So you get the point. Exercise is important, but it doesn’t substitute for a good diet.
  5. Patience – This is by far the most important fitness tip. BE PATIENT. This did not happen overnight and it will not reverse overnight. Just because you worked out, ate clean, went to bed, woke up and still can’t fit in those jeans, it doesn’t mean positive things aren’t happening. Stay the course! Fitness is not a fad. There is more to it than a colon cleanse, wearing a sweat suit or taking diet supplements.

Off To a Great Start

Although summer is here it’s not too late to start. The reality is this race was never about anyone else but you. The moment you realize you are only competing with yourself is when you make the greatest strides.

Let’s revisit tip number 1. Set small realistic goals. Instead of cutting out all sugars, fried foods or junk food, think about what you seem to indulge in more. Is it soda, wine, pizza or cake.? Cut back from several times per week to maybe once per week. If you find yourself eating out several times per week for lunch, consider taking lunch except on Fridays. Make more meals at home. Change the way you cook from frying to baking. Most importantly watch your portion size. If you aren’t sure what one serving looks like visit ChooseMyPlate. It is an excellent source of information to get started. Don’t be so hard on yourself, there is always more to learn.

It’s okay if there are some missteps along the way. Some days seem damn near impossible to put one foot in front of the other, let alone workout and eat clean. Don’t stay stuck on the days you skipped a workout or ate too much cake. Simply learn and move on from it. Remember that fitness is about more than wearing a two piece or showing off pecks. Staying focused will keep you on the road to being fit for summer and beyond.







Learning to Swim Over 40

Wow! Who said this was going to be a good idea? This is more about overcoming a fear swim 3than it is about learning to swim. Forty years is a long time to carry a fear. What was I thinking when I agreed to get in a pool at this age? Looking back, and I do mean a long way back on my learning to swim journey, I had visions of swimming laps effortlessly after maybe a few sessions. I didn’t anticipate it taking long to learn all the basic stuff like breathing properly, the proper way to kick, and blah blah blah. Then the first days of swim lessons arrived and I realized that I had no clue. Just because you get in the water with all the right gear on doesn’t make you a swimmer. You may look cute, but a swimmer you are not. I knew I wasn’t ready to go to the deep end of the pool, but what I didn’t know was that I would spend the next several months hanging out in the very shallow end of the pool–and by shallow I mean 3ft and less. What I mean when I say 3ft or less is that I spent a considerable amount of time hanging out near the wall and rope area since you can never be too cautious. I never knew there was so much to learn about breathing, floating on your back and kicking.

I finally got off the wall and explored other areas of the pool once I finally realized I could simply stand up whenever I felt unsure of something.  Keep in mind that the pool is only 4ft deep and since I am a few inches over 5ft the water would only be chest level. Yeah, I would constantly remind myself of this fact to convince myself I would not drown. Now that’s easier said than done. Although I remained skeptical, I often gave myself secret pep talks before getting in the pool. After spending another lifetime working on kicking and getting comfortable floating, it was time to put everything together. I began working on swimming freestyle just like it appeared everyone else was doing when they showed up to the pool to lap swim. OK, not so fast, it sounded good but there is just something about connecting all the dots that didn’t click quite as fast as I wanted. So after seeing someone swimming the breast stroke it only made sense that I would try it out too. Alas, something I could do and not feel like I was too old to even be in the pool. After what felt like another forever, I was finally comfortable enough to venture into the lap pool.

Yay! I am finally in the lap pool, but man oh man, it was DEEP.  I mean really DEEP! Time for another pep talk. After trying it out, using a flotation belt, swim instructor assistance and lifeguards nearby I might be convinced I’m not going to die. After another forever of perfecting my breaststroke and getting acclimated to being in deep water, I am swimming. I mean really swimming in the deep end without a flotation device, unassisted and not holding the wall. swim 1

Learning to swim over 40 has been the most challenging and rewarding thing I’ve done in many years. I now realize that the swimming part is easy and actually has been from day one. The trusting and believing is the challenge. Persistence is key. Each day little by little I learned to trust myself more and fear less. As my trust level rose the fear factor went down. This experience has been a constant battle of the mind and a mental exercise. Not only has learning to swim increased my confidence in the pool but outside of the pool as well. I know that if I have the courage to do something I’ve feared for over 40 years there are simply no limits to what I can do outside of the pool.  The only limits are those I place on myself.

If you don’t know how to swim and are considering embarking on this journey, it is never too late. Remember to get out of your own way. Consider that learning to swim is not just a matter of exercise it is also a safety issue.  For more information on the importance of learning to swim check out this article in Essence magazine.



A few things I didn’t know or took for granted before running

runningThere are many things I didn’t know before I became a runner… Not to mention the things I am still learning and the things I knew but simply took for granted. I’m thinking back to a time before running on a regular basis and competing in races. I use to see other people up first thing in the morning or late into the evening running and my first thought would be, “they are crazy”. Once I started running I changed my mind about the crazy part. Then my new thought became, once I build up my endurance, I will be able to just get out there anytime and run for miles and miles like the wind. Needless to say, both of my thought processes involved faulty thinking. Now, after doing this running thing for a little while I have some new insights. I have a bit of wisdom I would like to share with anyone considering taking up running as part of their fitness regimen. There are 5 things that have been paramount in contributing to my success in keeping running as part of my exercise routine.

  1. Eating the right breakfast is critical to ensuring a great run. We already know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it gives your body the boost you need to start the day and get moving. It is important to have the right breakfast because exercise requires you to use so much fuel and just like a car if you don’t fuel up you aren’t going very far. Although there are many choices we can bagelmake for breakfast all things are not proper to consume before a run. It took me a while, but I learned a few things about what works and what doesn’t. One of my favorite breakfast meals is oatmeal with fresh fruit. However, I quickly learned that high fiber foods are great for my diet but do not work before a run. It’s difficult to make it through a run if you breakfast is literally running through you. There’s nothing like a bacon and egg sandwich with a side of hash-browns but after a breakfast like that, I’m too lethargic and bloated to do much of anything. So the right breakfast for me usually consists of two items, one serving of carbs (toast or bagel) a protein (bacon or sausage) and water.
  2. Foot care is crucial if you plan to have longevity. I know that having the right shoe is important and thought that was my only concern. Let me tell you just how wrong I was for thinking shoes are everything. In addition to offering variety, there is a reason sneaker stores have shoes organized by type of activity; walking, running, cross train, etc. Always make sure to get help when purchasing sneakers. Buy shoes based on your primary activity. If your feet are not comfortable you will not make it very far. Now let me tell you about something I took for granted but learned along the way. Blisters can occur on your feet while running and they are painful. Although there is no way to completely prevent them from occurring, there are a footcouple of things you can do. Always wear running socks, which means you do not want to wear the traditional 100% cotton socks. Run from cotton. Instead, choose socks made from synthetic materials that  reduce friction and moisture which are two of the culprits responsible for blisters.
  3. Stretching is very simple to do but often skipped. I use to think that anything that simple wasn’t important otherwise everyone would be doing it. Well, I was wrong about that too. Stretching allows your muscles to wake up and gets your blood flowing.  I equate not stretching to getting in a cold car after it has been sitting all night and immediately turning the heat on high then wondering why it isn’t getting warm. The engine hasn’t had proper time to warm up and do its job. The same thing happens to your body when you don’t stretch. Skipping stretching may add stress to joints and muscles causing injury. I have attempted to run without stretching and each time I experienced problems with my legs or joints. When I stretch before running I have fewer problems. Stretching before and after running are equally important. Stretching allows the body time to cool down and return your heart rate to resting.
  4. Sleeping an 8 hour day is something I thought was overrated. I am a night owl by nature and have never been interested in napping. As a preschooler, I would often run from my great-grandmother because if you ever sat in her lap she would surely rock you to sleep. In kindergarten, I only took a nap one time. As it turns out my mother stopped by to pick me up early but since I was asleep she decided to let me stay at school. I vowed right then, I would never miss an opportunity to do something fun because I was sleeping. Forty years later, I still don’t like naps! Even though I knew getting up for early morning runs would work best for my schedule I didn’t think about how it would impact my evening habits. Initially, I tried to keep my routine of going to bed about 11:30 or after and wake up at 6am for Saturday morning runs. I would barely make it on time and felt groggy during and after my runs and for much of the day. This was crazy, so I broke down and started getting at least 7 hours of sleep, anything less than that I am having a bad run.
  5. Running with friends is never a need, but having a buddy along can be a good thing. There are times when the only companion needed are DMX and Tupac on your playlist or the sounds of the birds chirping as you go running along. Then there are those times that having someone along just makes getting through that group class you were too embarrassed to try alone a little more bearable. It will also make that 5-mile morning run that you were thinking about skipping out on not so 2016051595072547daunting after all. Sometimes there is no substitute for having a friend to commiserate with after a tough workout. Nothing is better than having  a friend to share in the joy of what it took to make it across the finish line in a race that seemed impossible.

There it is, a snapshot of just a few of the things that I took for granted. I know this is just the beginning of what are many more lessons on the joys of running. Stay tuned as I share more new-found wisdom. What have you learned on your journey to better health?