fitness

6 Classic Favorites with a Healthy Twist!

Happy Mother’s Day!

This week we honor Moms of today and generations past! Many popular recipes from generations before were often comfort food type meals and laden with heavy creams, cheeses, and sauces. We’ll be looking at recipe makeovers for some of the most common recipes “Mom always used to make!”. What was a recipe YOUR mom always made that you would like to see a makeover for? Comment below and maybe we’ll come up with something for you!

#1 - Meatloaf

An undeniable classic! What dish better captures the essence of American households of generations past than the meatloaf? Turkey, fresh herbs and marinara sauce meld together perfectly for this delicious Ellipse Fitness recipe.

Italian Meatloaf by Ellipse Fitness

#2 - Mac 'n' Cheese

A classic comfort food that many of us grew up with and may still eat! That cheesy sauce and mass of white noodles can quickly fill a good portion of a day’s worth of calories, carbs, and fat! Instead, try this healthy alternative loaded with spaghetti squash, cheese, and spinach…but don’t worry! It still has some cheese, milk, and the base feel of Mac and Cheese.
(PS Have you ever tried Nutritional Yeast? Get that flavor of cheese with FAR less calories! Try it out and leave your comments on the blog!)

Baked Spaghetti Squash and Cheese

#3 - Spaghetti and Meatballs

Now, THAT’s Amore! One of the challenging parts of this meal is often the lack of vegetables – not to mention many serve it with butter laden garlic bread. Carbs on top of heavy carbs! Lighten up with chickpea or lentil-based noodles, toss in a few handfuls of spinach (it cooks down such that you hardly know it’s there), mushrooms, and other finely chopped vegetables, and loads of FRESH herbs to add some micronutrients to your dish, as well as great flavor!

Consider skipping that garlic bread or replace with a Wasa Light Rye Cracker. Check out the blog post from last week for zucchini noodles and meatballs for a fresh take and a major health boost!

#4 - Tuna Casserole

According to Wikipedia “Casseroles became a popular household dish in the 1950s mainly because the ingredients were cheap and easy to find at the store. Tuna casserole is a common dish in some parts of the United States, prepared using only nonperishable (AKA never expires!) pantry ingredients: egg noodles, chopped onion, shredded cheddar cheese, frozen green peas, canned and drained tuna, condensed cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup, sliced mushrooms and crushed potato chips.

Try giving that ol’ casserole an updated healthier flare with this SIMPLE and FAST Ellipse tuna white bean salad: tuna, white beans, sweet peppers, and onion served over lettuce. Have more time? Jazz it up with a little olive oil and fresh herbs!

Tuna White Bean Salad by Ellipse Fitness

#5 - Twice Baked Potatoes

Twice baked potatoes typically contain loads of butter, cheese, and sour cream which can quickly crush any attempt at balancing your meals. Instead, try an updated version by pureeing cottage cheese and egg yolk in a food processor. Add scooped out potato flesh, scallions, dill, salt and pepper; pulse until just blended. Mound filling into potato skins and place in a baking dish. Bake at 400 until heated through, 20 to 30 minutes. You will not be disappointed!

Twice Baked Potatos by Ellipse Fitness

#6 - Shepherd's Pie

Historically created to use up leftover meats (doesn’t that sound delicious?? haha), Shepherd’s Pie has a lot of varieties but can often be loaded with butter (like an entire stick!) and less healthy meat options. Try lightening it up and adding some additional nutrients to your next pie with this version containing zucchini, red potatoes, and ground turkey!

Shepherd’s Pie by Ellipse Fitness

Osteoporosis and Osteopenia: What You Need to Know

Bone density is a measure of how strong and durable your bones are. Osteopenia is diagnosed when density levels drop, but aren’t quite low enough for an osteoporosis diagnosis. Bones naturally weaken with age as bone cells become reabsorbed into the body quicker than they are reproduced causing them to become weaker and more likely to break during normal everyday activity.

Why Are Women More Susceptible?

About HALF of Americans over the age of 50 get osteopenia! However, women tend to develop osteopenia/porosis much more often than men due to lower peak bone densities and the hormonal effects of menopause. Peak bone density occurs around the age of 30-35 and then begins to decline thereafter. So, young folks out there: try to do whatever you can to attain the highest possible bone density by age 30 to help prevent the natural decline as you age!

Am I at Risk?

Risk factors include, but are not limited to:
• diet low in calcium/vitamin D
• smoking
• inactivity
• regularly drinking colas
• family history
• heavy drinking
• removal of ovaries before menopause.
• chemotherapy
• steroid usage
• metabolic disorders
• GENETICS! Approximately 50-85% of bone mass density is genetic, so take heed if your mother or father suffered from osteoporosis.

Lifestyle changes can stop and/or reduce the progression of osteopenia/osteoporosis. Although some cases may require medication, there are many ways to stop or reduce the progression of bone density loss!

What Can You Do?

Exercise!

But unfortunately not just any exercise counts. Weight-bearing activity is critical, so things like swimming, cycling, etc while they have their own benefits with regards to osteoporosis resistance training is number 1.

Strength training helps prevent osteopenia/osteoporosis by adding stress to the bone causing it to grow stronger and denser – it is basically that simple. Ask your bones to handle higher load and they will respond by building themselves stronger!

Weight bearing is key, but jumping has higher force than jogging so jumping triggers more bone growth for instance, so plyometric movements are particularly effective for improving bone density!
*It’s important to note that for someone currently diagnosed with osteopenia or osteoporosis you should consult your physician before engaging in high intensity exercise given the risks*

Get a Little Sunshine!

About 50% of people worldwide are low in vitamin D due to a combination of living in places with very little sun in the winter along with concerns around skin cancer many have avoided any sun exposure without sunscreen. Merely 10 or 15 minutes a day is enough for significant vitamin D levels!

Sources

Might We Suggest a Side Order of…Perception?

NEWSFLASH: Sensations of hunger and satiety may be linked to how we PERCEIVE a meal, far more than simply being based on how many calories we actually consume! In a couple different studies, British researchers served a 3-egg omelet for breakfast – but told the volunteers the first meal had 2 eggs and the other group was told the meal had 4 eggs (Idea Fitness Journal Feb 2018). When people thought they had eaten LESS they reported feeling hungry sooner and then ate more throughout the day than the group that thought they had eaten more. Now intuitively this sounds a little obvious, but just think of the implications! The PERCEIVED amount that you eat, may be even more important than the ACTUAL amount that you eat! Try adding larger volumes of less calorie dense foods (*cough cough* vegetables) to trick your brain into thinking you are consuming more overall.

How Can We Use This Info?

• Try serving your meals and/or snacks on smaller plates or in smaller bowls to give the visual appearance of a larger volume of food. Sounds kinda stupid right? After a little while you will get used to the size and feel satisfied that you piled your food high and still hit your goals!

• Do you eat straight out of the bag or box? This is a huge no-no for conscious consumption! Make sure to parcel out a serving in a separate container or palm of your hand and step away from the bag! Eating straight out of full size packages will give you little to no feedback of how much food you are consuming!

• Start your meals or snacks with a fist sized serving of vegetables and then add some protein from there.

Step up your snacks! How would a “snack” be perceived if it was a full side salad or serving of soup? What would that do to your perception of your next meal? Would you eat as much thinking you had just had a small “meal” snack a couple hours ago? If you struggle with eating too much, consider eating 3-5 small(er) meals, instead of thinking of them as snacks, and see what happens!

• The next time you are eating, stop for a moment and be present! Realize WHAT you are eating: the quantity, the taste, the look, the feel or texture, pay attention to your hunger cues, and be MINDFUL of your eating. Each day try to increase the amount of mindfulness you bring to your meal times, and even increase the amount of time spent on your meals and see if that helps to bring balance to the quantity of food being consumed.
(Hint: IT WILL! And you will feel much more satisfied afterwards)

Recipes to Help Get You Started!

A Light and Powerful Combo
– Dice up a whole cucumber and tomato
– Toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper
– 3 ounces of diced chicken or turkey (optional)
The perception of this light meal/snack will really surprise you at only around 250 calories and 26g of protein!
*Cucumbers are only 8 calories!

Simple Chicken Salad
– Diced chicken or turkey
– Finely chopped cauliflower, sweet peppers and really any veggies!
– Plain Greek yogurt
– Dry ranch seasoning to taste.

Mix it up and serve by itself or wrapped in a lettuce leaf!

6 Strategies for Staying on Track Over Vacation

For many this time of year is a time to escape! A time to get away, explore, celebrate or otherwise enjoy themselves! And rightfully so! You should give yourself a break every now and again, and you should celebrate your health and fitness victories – but we want to give you the tools to preserve your hard work and help you get back on track upon returning!

1. Prep Meals Before You Leave

So much planning and preparing goes towards leaving town or the trip itself, but what about when you return? You will no doubt come back to a pile of work, laundry, shifted appointments, and/or approaching deadlines – set yourself up for success by freezing meals you can easily reheat when you get back! Soups generally work great for this!

2. Reasonable Expectations

Set small, achievable workout expectations during your vacation. Don’t expect to workout at the same intensity we do here every day while you are away, but plan ahead! Will you have access to a workout facility? You can easily do a total body workout with calisthenics and/or resistance tubes. Remember: even 20% of your normal workout load will make returning significantly less difficult and will help preserve the habit!

3. Pack Food

This is one of the most valuable skills to develop for those day or weekend trips! Find ready-to-eat foods that are healthy and appetizing to bring with you so you don’t end up at a fast food joint! Salads travel really well if you keep the dressing on the side, nuts and seeds are great go-to’s, and dried fruit or meat can be life-savers – but remember to check the labels for added sugars!

4. Imbibe Intelligently

Drink smart! Trade beer for wine or simple cocktails. Even tonic water is very high in sugar – it’s practically just coca-cola! Go for Seltzer/Club Soda instead and squeeze some citrus in there. Avoid pre-mixed as those are almost guaranteed to be sky-high in added sugar! Now the last tip here, and this is the big one: One glass of water before each drink will greatly cut down your overall intake as well as the impending hangover 😉

5. Don’t Punish Yourself

You are on vacation! Enjoy your favorite dinner or dessert – just moderate your indulgences! Plan for a healthy, trim breakfast and lunch if you’ll be dining decadently in the evening. Just don’t feel guilty about it.

6. Ease Back Into Your Routine

Upon returning? Go about 80% instead of 100% in sessions on your first week back, and FOAM ROLL/STRETCH! Your body will thank you and you will probably be ready to ramp it back up to normal intensity the following week if you take this approach.

Ready…Aim…Higher!

Goals! You just gotta have ’em!

It’s well into the new year and whether you had a resolution or not, you may have goals that have not come to fruition. It might just be how you went about forming your goal in the first place! Let’s talk about how to set solid and attainable goals.

Here’s a great example that I know many of us could work on: “I want to drink ½ my bodyweight in ounces of water every day for the next 30 days.” There is a how much, how often, and it is realistic!

Set a Deadline!

Just like an open-ended work project, you will likely keep pushing it off knowing you can do it tomorrow…or never. Consider having both short term and longer-term goals ranging from this week to 6 weeks to 6 months to a year. Your long term goals can have shorter sub-goals within them that will help you reach them – get creative! Just be sure to set a deadline.

Write it Down!

Why is your goal important to you? WRITE it down. If it doesn’t make you tear up a bit, it may not be important enough for you to follow through with! In the example above, drinking water, maybe you’ve been excessively fatigued, and you regularly walk around dehydrated. Your fatigue causes you to say no to playing with your kids, getting your “me” time running with your friend, or missing other life events that are important to you.

Writing goals and the “why” for them makes everything more real, and when goals are more real they are more attainable!

Be Prepared to Sacrifice!

Not everything of course! But if it required no changes to achieve your goal well, you’d have already achieved it now wouldn’t you?

You may want to ask yourself, “Is this something I’m willing to give up what I want NOW for what I want MOST?” If it’s not, you may not be ready for your goal. In our example of water, you may be craving that coffee, soda, or other habitual food/snack that is taking you away from your goal. There will be challenges along the way, but choosing rewarding goals will ultimately overcome and outweigh any strife involved in reaching them. Just make sure your goals are healthy and realistic!

Confide in Someone!

Share your goal with a confidant; a friend, your trainer, a family member, or someone you feel safe with but accountable to. Be sure to communicate to the person you share it with that you want them to hold you accountable! And that you want them to call you out if you are not taking proper steps toward your goal or perhaps taking steps away from it. One more thing that’s very important – don’t get mad at them for taking you seriously!

List Action Steps!

List at least 3 action steps you are going to take in order to achieve your goal. In the case of drinking more water:
1) I am going to buy a 40 ounce water bottle and make sure to consume 2 (assuming ~160 lbs person) servings a day.
2) I am going to keep the bottle with me wherever I go so I don’t have a reason not to sip regularly.
3) I will start by drinking 12 ounces of water first thing in the morning when I wake up.

Of course you can list more than 3 steps, you can even list steps you can take daily to move in the right direction, but the purpose of the exercise is not to get discouraged by those lofty goals you’ve set. Bring them down to Earth by listing concrete steps you can take to make them happen!

Step Up Your Snack Game!

Healthy Eating can be quite a challenge. Nearly anyone who has tried to make positive changes to their diet can admit this. As you start to build new habits however, you might find that meals are more manageable, but what do you do when hunger strikes in between meals? For many of us, our workplace has a room similar to this one that begs to answer the question…

The word “Snack” is most often associated with something less healthy, or natural, than a small meal, but keep thinking about how you can form your days around small meals, whether that is 3 or 5 times a day. No matter what though, sometimes you need that fast snack. Here are some great options for you:

Be prepared!

Keep It Simple

Roll a piece of cheese or a pickle in some lunch meat to get a quick protein boost. Look for natural meats without added nitrates and a short ingredient list.

Chia Pudding

Whether for a breakfast or for a snack, chia pudding can fit the bill! Simply combine chia seeds with coconut milk, vanilla, cinnamon, and maple syrup.
Get creative by adding protein powder, fresh fruit, cocoa powder…you name it!
Check out the recipe here!

Ellipse Breakfast Muffins

Need a quick breakfast that can be eaten as is or jazzed up? Check out our Classic Ellipse Breakfast Muffins with just oatmeal, egg beaters, applesauce, and baking soda.
Add-On’s: nut butter, yogurt, etc
Add-In’s: fresh or dried fruit
Add-With’s: cottage cheese and fruit!

Need Something Salty?

Try roasted chickpeas! Toss drained chickpeas with olive oil and salt/garlic salt and bake 30-40 minutes at 450 degrees until browned and crispy. Want a little kick? Add a dash of cayenne pepper!

Apples A New Way

Apple Snack

Have a sweet tooth that NEEDS to be tamed NOW? Try slicing an apple all the way across to get full flat circles slices. Spread nut butter on the slice and add toppings like chopped nuts, unsweetened coconut, or even a few dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs.

Make a "Small Meal"

“Crack Slaw” has a great combination of protein, vegetables, and seasonings! The recipe calls for Dole Coleslaw mix but consider using broccoli slaw for an extra vitamin boost! Find it here!

Sweet Craving?

Get your sweet fix by mixing peanut butter (or powdered peanut butter) with plain greek yogurt and maybe even a dash of sugar-free pudding mix to make a great fruit dip!

Valentine’s Workout for Two!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

We’ve got a holiday workout to share, just because we like you!
Here’s what you’ll need:
• Friend
• Pair of dumbbells
• Heart!

Great things come in twos!

Not a member and want more workouts, just like this?
Get started at Ellipse today for just $49!
Or experience everything we can do for you in 21-Days for $99.
Email support@ellipsefitness.com now for more information!


Celebrating Lent? Considering making a sacrifice for the next 40 days? Instead of depriving yourself, indulge your muscles and mind with movement. 21 Days of great workouts like this with professional coaching for just $99. Think Spring!

Multivitamins have NO effect on Heart Disease, Cancer or overall Mortality??

According to the medical journal “Annals of Internal Medicine”, there is no evidence that multivitamins have any effect on cognitive decline, heart disease, cancer, or overall mortality. Wait what??

However, adequate intake of vitamins/minerals from food and/or supplements IS necessary to prevent deficiency, promote optimal health, improve nutrient partitioning and promote fat loss and muscle gain.

Ditch The Multivitamin or Not??

Ideally, just supplement the specific nutrients you are deficient in. Avoid supratherapeutic doses of vitamins – doses greatly in excess of recommendations. And know what you are working with: low-fat diets for instance can inhibit adequate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K. Perhaps your diet just needs a little tweaking; all of your vitamin and mineral requirements CAN and arguable SHOULD BE met from actual food intake by eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables.

If you struggle with medical ailments, check with your healthcare provider to see if specific vitamins or nutrients may need to be supplemented.

Taste The Rainbow!

…can we say that?

Vitamins are “any of a group of organic compounds that are essential for normal growth and nutrition and are required in small quantities in the diet because they cannot be synthesized by the body.”

We have overwhelming access to a variety of fruits and vegetables all year round, and there truly is no reason outside of a medical complication or deficiency that one should require a daily multivitamin.

If you use a vitamin/mineral supplement, look for one providing nutrients derived from whole foods. Be sure this includes natural forms of vitamin E rather than the synthetic versions. Vitamin A should come from precursors like carotenoids and not preformed retinoids for instance. Labdoor.com is an independent company that creates a quality score for label accuracy, product purity, nutritional value, ingredient safety, and projected efficacy!

**Check with your healthcare provider as special populations often need special consideration with supplemental vitamins. Those on blood thinners need to take precaution before adding in supplemental vitamin K. Those on a plant based diet might benefit from supplementing with iodine, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Those suffering from malabsorption syndromes will need to adjust their micronutrient intake accordingly. Always check with your healthcare provider before supplementing your diet.**

Vitamin D: The not-really-a-vitamin Vitamin

“Vitamin D” is actually the one vitamin your body is capable of synthesizing on it’s own! All you need is sunlight. Because of this you may meet your requirements for this vitamin with no effort at all in the Summer, but come Winter you may be totally deficient! (Especially for those of us in the North experiencing extended periods of below freezing temperatures and reduced daylight hours).

Getting adequate vitamin D can improve mood AND provide long-term protection against cognitive decline and bone deterioration. Many studies show that deficiency in vitamin D is also associated with increased susceptibility to infection and immune dysfunction!

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3166406/

What to Eat, When to Eat, and What it Means for Your Workouts

Thankfully, it seems the era of fad-diets, fat-free, no-carb or other diets that entirely slash a whole category of macronutrients is coming to a close! But with that said, it is still difficult to find reliable information on proper nutrition! Let’s take a look at how eating factors into the effectiveness of your workouts, and maybe we can make sense of some of this.

“What should I eat before/after my workout?”

For most of us who exercise for health and not training for a high-level competition, our meals will contain some combination of high quality protein, high quality carbohydrates, healthy fats, and some fruit and vegetables 1-2 hours before and/or after your workout to get the maximal benefit. Whether it is “and” vs “or” will partly depend on the intensity/duration of your activity, daily caloric intake and what is on the menu for the rest of your day

Break it down for me: What’s important – and Why?

Protein can help maintain muscle size, reduce muscle damage, provide your bloodstream with amino acids when it needs them most, and helps you adapt to your exercise over the long term! But most people are at least somewhat aware of the importance of protein for strength training – what about carbohydrates?

Pre-Exercise carbs fuel your workout and help with recovery/muscle retention with even shorter, intense workouts. Post-exercise carbs however should come from whole foods like fruits and vegetables because these are better tolerated by the system than insulin-spiking refined carbohydrates and are just as good at restoring muscle glycogen over 24 hours.

Alright…but tell me more about “When”.

If you ate a normal-sized, balanced meal a couple of hours before training (or a smaller shake closer to training), then you have 1-2 hrs after training to eat your post-workout meal and still maximize the benefits of workout nutrition.

But if you are like many who work out early in the morning or directly after leaving work, and you ate only a small meal within the last 3-4 hours before your workout, or you are in a fasted state, then you should consume a meal within one hour after your workout to prevent a slowed recovery. A whole food meal pre/post workout provides many things including important phytonutrients that build muscle, supply energy, decrease inflammation, and boost recovery.

Ya know, it just isn’t the same for me!

You might be right! In the end, the total amount of protein and carbohydrate consumed over the course of the day is far more important to lean mass gain, fat loss, and performance improvements than any specific nutrient timing strategy. If you are a high-quality eater (you are only looking to tweak minor things) check out this infographic that further breaks down your meals by body type!

When in doubt, keep it simple and fill each nutrient slot:
Protein – Scrambled Eggs with veggies
Fat – 1 “thumb” of cheese
Carb – 1 slice of Ezekial toast or fruit

Now we’ve got some recipes to help make finding a well-balanced, complete meal a little easier for you!

Asian Scrambled Eggs:

Shake up your eggs with a few new elements like some incredibly healthy ginger root and nutritious snow peas!
Check the recipe here!

Classic Protein Pancakes:

Rolled oats, eggs, cottage cheese, fruit – these pancakes have everything you need to call them a complete meal!

Find this recipe and more on our previous blog post here!

PB & Chocolate Banana Shake:

1 scoop choc protein powder, 1 fistful of spinach, 1 banana, 1 “thumb” of peanut butter, and 8 oz choc unsweetened almond milk. Blend and enjoy!

Need even more ideas? How about Banana Cream Pie Oatmeal?? Peaches and Cream Omelet?? You can find those and MORE in Precision Nutrition’s Gourmet Recipes List!

Five Stretches You Shouldn’t Live Without!

…and sometimes – it is that simple!

Flexibility and “warming up” are two of the most highly underrated fitness principles around. Sure, many people warm up before an intense workout, but what about the rest of your day? As soon as you wake up – what has your body been doing for the last several hours? Lying still.

As soon as you step foot out of bed you begin placing demands on your body to lift, bend, and hustle around to keep up with your day. Start your day with a bit of injury prevention and increased blood flow, and you might be amazed at how it makes you feel.

Start from the ground up!

Plantar Fasciitis and other foot issues can make stepping out of bed painful or challenging due to the foot being in a pointed position through much of the night. Try flexing the foot up towards you and holding for 20 seconds 3-5x/foot. This can be done by sitting on floor and using a towel to pull the upper foot toward you. Or sit on your heels with shins and feet flexed under you. Sit back on your heels for the same amount of time. If you have a step nearby, you can also let your heels hang off of it like you would a calf stretch. All these movements bring your toes closer to your shin in a flexed position, stretching the foot fascia, and helping you get ready for the day!

The World’s Greatest Stretch??

We didn’t name it, but with a name like that it has some serious expectations to live up to, and it does a decent job! This awakens all the major muscle of the body. Hold each position for a few seconds and perform 3 movement patterns per side. This stretch is great to utilize throughout the day since it also stretches out the main muscles affected by sitting for long periods of time!

Watch the video to see what the buzz is about!

Wake up your spine!

The Cat/Cow Stretch can help relieve tension in your spine, morning or night, by opening it up and decompressing vertebrae. Set up in a quadruped position (all-fours: wrists under shoulders, knees under hips) and inhale while gently moving the chest/belly toward the floor so the spine is in extension. Exhale as you press into your hands, tuck the tailbone under, pull the chin toward the chest and round the back upward allowing the shoulder blades to move apart. Perform 10 reps or as many as you have time for.

You’ve got a litte tension in the those shoulders…

Wake up the spine and shoulders in the morning by simply standing and standing tall & reaching the arms overhead as if trying to reach the ceiling. Then work into a reverse shoulder stretch – clasping the arms behind you and lifting hands gently toward the ceiling near your edge and hold for 20 seconds.

Get off my back already!

Several statistical analyses have put the number of Americans suffering from chronic back pain above 10%. Our spine is the root of basically all movement, so we are driving home the importance of maintaining mobility and joint health in your back!

The Cobra stretch awakens the body with full extension of the spine, neck, shoulders, and chest. Lay on the floor, belly down. Place your hands under your shoulders, press into the floor, and lift the chest. Keep the abdominal muscles turned on, and draw the inner thighs towards each other to avoid hinging at the low back.

Watch the video for a demonstration!