Friday, May 25, 2018

Out of The Mouths of Babes...

Dehydrated "fruit and veggie" sort of roll ups

It's always a struggle for me to get enough fruits and vegetables. I sneak them in where I can (muffins, smoothies, veggie spreads on toast) but I still feel like I could do better. The other day I was in the health food store, sort of just standing in the aisle staring into space. All of a sudden I refocused and realized that I was looking at the baby foods.  Oh, to be a baby again! What a beautiful assortment of packaging! I started looking at and reading the labels of these little pouches of organic fruit and vegetable mixes. It all looked so good. And healthy. Most brands had no added sodium or sugar-just fruits and vegetables. It dawned on me that these would be great snacks. Most are under 100 calories and are loaded with things like potassium, vitamin A and C, and even iron. I pictured sucking one of these down while hiking or as a pick me up in the afternoon before dinner. The thought of doing this was a little embarrassing at first but then I figured, why not?

About a week passed before I tried one of the pouches. I was a little nervous about eating baby food. I needn't have been. Turns out it is a whole trend with its detractors and supporters. I should have remembered from the nutrition class that I took years ago that there are many reasons why people might be on a pureed or liquid diet. Difficulty swallowing, stomach surgery, cancer, you name it, there can be many reasons why solid food won't work for someone. (It should be remembered that these are temporary situations. In most cases, baby food for adults as a way of long term eating likely won't work.) Anyhow, I tried the pouch of peas and sweet potatoes. It was fine but a little bland. I added some no salt seasoning and that perked things right up. Okay then.

Fast forward to my new dehydrator purchase. (More snack related news.) As I was testing out the fruits and veggies, I saw the recipe for fruit roll ups. It sounded to me like the recipe called for pureed fruit. Well, what is baby food if not pureed fruits and vegetables? I added some of my favorite nut and seed mixture for some nutritional heft. The "roll up" turned out fine though I think I spread it too thin and perhaps cooked it too long. (See the above photo.) No matter. I broke the dehydrated sheet of fruit puree into pieces and it tastes just fine. I may be onto something!

I wanted to share some reading that I have done this week. To begin with, I follow the writing of Gena Hamshaw. She writes a lovely and sensitively written food blog called The Full Helping. Gena covers vegan recipes but also writes about nutrition and wellness. Every weekend she has a sort of "wrap up" post where she offers articles that she has come across the previous week that may be of interest to her readers. In the spirit of following a good idea, I wanted to share what I had come across myself this week. So here goes:

1. I recently started fermenting my own vegetables. Although I began this as a way to eat more veggies, there are many health benefits to fermented foods. Yogurt (vegan too), tempeh and any number of types of sauerkraut can all be beneficial.  The Berkeley Wellness newsletter offers a great "starter" article on why fermented foods might be a good addition to your diet.

2. Want a banana? Think again! Apparently I am the last person to learn about Bananapocalypse. This article in Forbes Magazine by Steven Savage explains why it's important to step back from the furor over Big Ag and ask about current practices in raising produce and why some of those seemingly irrational practices might be rational.

3. I found the article link on Gena's blog (mentioned above) about the benefits of soy and why now the FDA might be downgrading soy's rating as a star food. Soy as part of a well rounded diet could certainly have benefits for many people when it comes to reducing heart disease risk by lowering bad cholesterol, LDL. The question still seems to be by just how much.

4. Lastly, I have started to cut back on my caffeine consumption. I think it was making me a little sick in the morning. I have now gone half and half which seems to be helping. This Web MD article explains the connection between caffeine, insulin and blood sugar. There are also many posts on the Internet talking about high blood sugar and caffeine. And while I don't have type 2 diabetes, if something is making me feel unwell, why continue it?

As always, the above comments are my own opinions and are based on my own experiences. I hope anyone reading enjoys the articles. Happy memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Basic Moves/Big Results! (I hope anyway!)

Lake Hogan/Fiddleneck Boat Launch Area

1. Leg step overs

2. Modified push ups

3. Climb the stairs

4. Step up, step down

5. Hop from left to right, right to left

6. Balance walking
Most mornings of the week I can be found at our local lake, taking a walk. Walking has long been my preferred form of exercise. Nothing else I have tried (hiking being an exception), has stuck. Putting one foot in front of the other and moving steadily along for about 45 minutes to an hour generally has a calming effect on my mind. My body feels better for it most of the time too. So, win-win.

I mentioned hiking. It's an activity that I have come to enjoy. It's kind of odd given that it taxes my body in a way that normally I wouldn't agree to. There is just something about hiking though that I find rewarding. It is basically just walking but your body is asked to do a lot more than when you are strolling along on flat and smooth ground. Different motor skills are required. Balance is really important for one thing. Trails are frequently uneven and wearing a pack can throw you off balance. There can be a lot of walking up steep hills and occasionally, walking up and over rocks. Leg strength is critical. Controlling your stride and steps while walking downhill is also important. Being out of control while descending a steep hill is dangerous. Leg lifting is critical in being able to get up and over rocks and logs. I have even had to jump on occasion! And in a general way, hiking seems to require more stamina. Being out for several hours or half a day marching around can make a person tired.  Endurance, both mental and physical, is an asset on the trail.

Though the above moves are pretty simple ones, it's surprising how difficult they are when performed irregularly. It's especially hard as we age to keep up our "motor skills." One of my greatest fears about aging has nothing to do with dying but has everything to do with losing my mobility. It occurred to me the other day then that practicing these moves while on my regular walk might be a good idea. It would be a way to liven up my walks, continue skill building for my hikes, and to keep up my mobility and motor skills. Read on and think a little how you might incorporate some of these moves into your own exercise routine.

1. Leg step overs: I started by standing to one side of the guard rail. Using a controlled, slow and fluid motion, I lifted my right leg and swung it over the rail. I then repeated the same move with my left leg until I was standing successfully on the other side of the rail. Repeat several times until you get the hang of it. 

2. Modified push ups: I used this low railing to do just a few modified push ups. Don't sway your back or bend your arms painfully or sink too low with your chest towards the bar. Let's put it this way. I wasn't sore later on. 

3. Climb the stairs: Simple enough right? Wrong! This exercise requires leg strength, control, stamina and balance. Being able to go up and down stairs in a steady and controlled motion is just like walking up and down hills. It's the perfect exercise to practice ascending and descending "hills." One foot in front of the other, slowly and deliberately, is the key. Build up your speed just a little while maintaining control of your feet placement and leg muscles. 

4. Step up, step down: I found this rock! I picked one that when I set my foot on it, my thigh was parallel with the ground. (Picture your upper and lower leg forming an "L".) It might be best to start with a rock that is lower though. (Picture less of an "L" shape-not a "V " shape but more extended.)  I started by putting my right foot on the rock steadily. I pushed off a bit with my left foot and lifted my body with my right leg. I tried to land my left foot on the rock next to my right foot in one controlled and steady motion. No herky-jerky moves! Repeat for other leg and as many times as you are able.

5. Hop from left to right and right to left: When is the last time you hopped? Yes, me too. Hopping is good if done correctly. I simply started on one side of the curb and "hopped" my right leg over to the other side quickly followed by my left leg. I was then on the right side of that curb. I repeated the moves to get back to the other side. 

6. Balance Walking:  This is much harder than it looks. Follow my feet. I put one in front of the other and walked the length of this curb. Not easy. I did better when my feet were slightly at an angle and not straight ahead. No curb? Try a white striped line in a parking lot somewhere or even some contractor tape on the pavement. 

I realize that these moves may seem specific to the park that I walk in or to the activity that I like to do (hiking). The point of my post though is to get people thinking in an imaginative way about what they can do to keep up their mobility. How can the above moves be incorporated into an exercise routine or fun activity that a person already does? I talked a lot about hiking and how these basic moves crop up while I am out on the trail. But, take a moment to think about what you do every day that might require balance, leg strength or even control and coordination. How about lifting those legs into the bath tub every morning? How about walking down a steep driveway? Going up your stairs? Walking on a gravel pathway or leaning on something? Once you start to consider common everyday activities, it isn't hard to see how some of the above exercises might help.

As always, know your limits while exercising or trying any new routine or activity. Your physical fitness level may be different from mine. I hope some of these moves help though. Leave a comment if you try them or get an idea about how to incorporate them into your routine. And remember, I am not a physical education instructor or professional in any sense of the word! Use discretion and your noggin to remain injury free!


Perfect In My Imperfection!

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