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  • Busting the Top 4 Cardio Machine Myths

    By Jennipher Walters, for SparkPeople

    Spending a good 60 minutes on the treadmill is a surefire way to make you feel accomplished. After completing the machine's fat-burning workout, you feel great and quite proud of yourself as you stare at the number flashing on the screen: 752 calories burned. "Wow," you think. "That's enough to splurge on a little dessert later."

    The old saying goes that what you don't know can't hurt you, but that's wrong when it comes to cardio machines. What you don't know about that treadmill, elliptical, stair stepper or stationary bike may not cause you physical pain, but it may significantly hamper your fitness and weight-loss goals. It's time we set the cardio-machine record straight! Read on as we bust four common cardio machine myths-and help you avoid their lure.

    Myth #1: The Fat-Burning Program Helps You Burn More Fat and Lose Weight
    I see this happen time and time again at the gym. People hop on their piece of cardio equipment, run through the

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  • Eat Healthy in a Hurry

    By Tanya Jolliffe, for SparkPeople

    Whether you're overworked or just plain overstressed, time is valuable to all of us. When making a lifestyle change, it can easily seem overwhelming to include new habits like exercise and healthy eating into your jam-packed days. Between everything else you've got going on, how are you also supposed to find time to prepare healthy meals and read all those labels in the grocery store? These tips will help you spend even less time in the grocery store, emerge with healthy ingredients, and cook diet-friendly meals in minutes, whether you're serving one, two or ten.

    Time-Saving Grocery Shopping
    Keeping a grocery list may seem like a waste of time in the moment, but it will actually save you time while shopping. While any old list is better than none, here are some tips that will turn your list into time well spent.

    1. Keep a running list. One of the best places to keep your grocery list is in the kitchen-on the fridge, on a bulletin or wipe board, or

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  • 3 Ways to Boost Your Will Power

    By Dean Anderson, for SparkPeople

    Will power. It's one of those ideas we all talk about pretty often-and not usually when things are going well. You don't hear too many people talking about how they really gave their will power a good workout today, or how it's responding so well to their efforts to strengthen it.

    Nope-will power is that mysterious, ill-defined factor that always seems to be missing whenever we need it most: "I just don't seem to have any will power at all when it comes to______" (you fill in the blank). And then everyone nods their heads sympathetically, and jumps in with their own latest will power horror story.

    But if you asked 10 different people to define what "will power" actually is, you'd probably get quite a few different ideas.

    In practical terms, most of us would probably agree that what we mean by "will power" is the capacity to stick to our own good intentions, goals, and responsibilities even when we're faced with temptations to do something else

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  • The Secret to Perfect (Faux) Frying

    By Chef Meg Galvin, Healthy Cooking Expert at

    You might not find discussions of pan frying or deep fat frying in most cookbooks geared to healthy cooking for obvious reasons. I guess that means that if we want to live a healthy lifestyle we will no longer enjoy the golden breading color on pieces of cooked Dover sole or the crunch we hear when we bite into a chicken leg coated in a crispy breading. Guess again! If you've said goodbye to those crispy cooked foods--say hello again! Faux frying creates a lighter version of the pan- or deep-fried foods that we all crave. It's simple, quick, and easy. Best of all, your home (and your hair) won't smell of a deep fat fryer for days after the meal.

    First you need to understand the basic breading procedure that produces the golden brown crispy crust on fried or faux fried foods. You can fry almost anything, from chicken to pickles, zucchini to shrimp. The first step is to make sure your vegetable or protein is completely

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  • Need More Protein and Fiber? Try This Lucky Legume!

    By Melinda Hershey, for SparkPeople

    Although you're probably putting a plan in place to reach your healthy goals in 2013, a little extra luck couldn't hurt, right? In some countries, it is customary to eat legumes for good luck in the new year. Many southerners in the US traditionally make Hoppin' John--a dish made of rice, onions, pork and black-eyed peas. Due to their coin-like shape, lentils are also eaten in many cultures to symbolize a prosperous new year. If you were to pick the more nutrient-rich legume to kick off a lucky 2013, would black-eyed peas or lentils be the better choice?

    The Winner: Lentils!
    Per a ½-cup cooked serving, lentils contain 115 calories, 8 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of protein. Although black-eyed peas have fewer calories per serving (100 calories), they also contain less filling fiber (5.5 grams) and protein (6.5 grams).

    Love legumes? Check out the table below for a nutritional comparison of some of the most common varieties. (All nutrition values are

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  • 4 Signs You Won't Reach Your Fitness Goals

    By Jen Mueller, for SparkPeople

    With the New Year just around the corner, exercise is on a lot of people's minds. So many of us are bound and determined to reach new fitness goals, hit the gym with vigor, and change our bodies once and for all.

    Does this sound a lot like last year? What happens between January and December that causes so many people to fail, only to set the same fitness resolutions year after year?

    No one wants to fail. When you start a fitness program, the hope is that all of your hard work (and sweat) will carry you to the finish line. A lot of people can start a fitness program, but very few can stick with it for the long-term. Why?

    In my experience as a trainer and health coach, the excuses we use to miss a workout aren't the real reasons people fail. You don't have to be a fortune teller to predict who will be going strong next December and who will be starting over again. Most often, I can tell whether someone will succeed or fail based on four simple signs.

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  • Optimism and the Power of Positive Thinking

    By Leanne Beattie, for SparkPeople

    "How do you do it?" my friend asked me one day over coffee. "You've had some awful stuff happen to you over the years, but you're still so cheerful. What gives?"

    My friend was right, my life had been rough at times. I'd gotten divorced and I'd been laid off a couple of times within a five-year period. I should have been angry and bitter, but I wasn't. I was still looking forward to each new day and the possibilities ahead of me. While this was normal for me, my friend's comment made me realize that not everybody felt the way I did. Why was I so optimistic, anyway?

    The Definition of Optimism
    Optimism comes from the Latin word optimus, meaning "best," which describes how an optimistic person is always looking for the best in any situation and expecting good things to happen. Optimism is the tendency to believe, expect or hope that things will turn out well. Even if something bad happens, like the loss of a job, an optimist sees the silver lining. For

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  • How to Beat the Flu

    By Becky Hand, Registered Dietitian for SparkPeople

    When a virus enters your body, one of three things can happen:

    The virus can die, OR

    Your immune system can activate and kill the virus, OR

    The virus can survive, multiply, and produce a cold or the flu.

    How do you keep this from happening?

    • The power of produce: Plant foods contain natural disease fighting compounds called phytochemicals and antioxidants. These substances can enhance your immune system. Therefore, eat vegetables and fruits at least 5 times a day, preferably 7-9 times.

    • Exercise: Regular, moderate exercise will stimulate the fighting T cells into doing their job - attacking foreign invaders like germs and viruses.

    • Healthy Lifestyle: To improve your immune system and resistance to disease commit to these guidelines: do not smoke, sleep 7-8 hours each night, eat a nutritious diet that includes breakfast, and avoid (or take steps to reduce) mental stress.

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  • Perfect Layering for Winter Workouts

    By Jen Mueller, for SparkPeople

    Believe it or not, outdoor exercise can be enjoyable year round-yes, even in the winter months!

    When there is a chill in the air, it's easy to assume you'd be better off to pop in a workout DVD or take your daily walk indoors at the local mall. But as long as you dress properly, there's no reason you can't venture outside for a workout that is both comfortable and enjoyable.

    The tricky part is wearing enough that you're not shivering from the cold, but not so much that you're sweating because of all of the heavy layers. Here's a guide to knowing what-and how much- to wear so that you can be prepared all season long.

    Layering for winter workouts typically consists of three basic layers:

    1. The Base Layer
      Start with your base layer, which includes undergarments, socks, and the first layer of clothes (tops and bottoms) closest to the skin. This layer should be made of "wicking" material, meaning it pulls moisture away from the skin. Remember:
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  • 5 Cocktails with 150 Calories or Less

    By Nicole Nichols, Managing Editor and Fitness Expert at SparkPeople

    If you're planning to ring in the New Year with a drink, watch out: Many popular cocktails contain more calories than a cheeseburger! To celebrate without adding to your weight, try one of these low-calorie cocktails.

    Cosmopolitan Lite: 75 calories, 0 g fat
    The ladies on "Sex and the City" popularized this typically-220-calorie cocktail. Lighten it up by squeezing a wedge each of lime and orange into 1 oz of cranberry flavored vodka. Top with club soda and serve on the rocks.

    World's Easiest Cocktail: 75 calories, 0 g fat
    And the easiest way to slim down your cocktail order? Ask for a flavored vodka or rum with club soda and a twist of lime on the rocks.

    Morning Mimosa: 75 calories, 0 g fat
    This classic of 1 oz. orange juice and 3 oz. champagne is the perfect drink for a New Year's brunch.

    Mini Margarita: 80 calories, 0 g fat
    Margaritas often come in glasses so big and are made from presweetened bases so sweet

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