healthy tips

Transforming Traditional Pizza

Let’s not deny it, we all love PIZZA! The cheesier, saucier, meatier the better. However, as expected, pizza is generally high in fat, carbohydrates, and sodium. Not to mention, most sauces are full of sugar.

The good news is there are healthy alternatives to the traditional unhealthy pizza. These alternatives are easily substituted, and the pizza still tastes good. If you are a pizza lover, but you don’t love the guilt that comes with indulging in that triangular decadence, try these tricks for a healthier pizza.

Frozen: Check the nutrition label for sodium, fat, and calories. Pick a pizza with lower numbers.
Restaurant or delivery: Order a thin-crust pizza with light cheese to cut down on calories. Limit meat to one topping to keep sodium in check – no more “meat lovers”. Try a vegetable only pizza. You’ll be surprised at how good the vegetables taste.
Homemade: Make personal pizzas at home on pita bread or whole-wheat English muffins. Top with vegetables, low-sodium sauce, and low-fat cheese.

Or, may I suggest this recipe for a healthy alternative:

1. Lay out several whole-wheat crackers.
2. Place a piece of baby spinach and a slice of tomato on half of the crackers.
3. On the rest of the crackers, place a few small pieces of cooked chunks of skinless chicken or low- sodium ham.
4. Sprinkle all of the crackers with your favorite shredded cheese.
5. Put the “pizzas” in the microwave and heat until the cheese is melted, around 30 seconds.
6. Serve and enjoy!

Eating healthy isn’t about giving up your favorite foods; it’s about finding healthy substitutes that are not only good - but good for you.

Eating Clean on a Budget

I know it sounds impossible, but I can assure you it’s not! I agree that it is unfair that we have to pay more for healthy food than for junk, but that is something that we just have to grit our teeth and bear. Just the other day I found a 10 pack of little bear-shaped cookies for $1 but had to spend about $5 on a bag of little oranges for my kids. This is when we have to decide where our priorities are and how badly we really want to make a change in the way we eat.

My husband and I don’t go out to eat that much; we choose to spend extra money for healthy groceries and therefore sacrifice a weekly dinner out. One meal for two people at a restaurant can easily cost $50. Think of how much that can buy at the store - definitely more than one meal. Even eating fast food can cost more than a homemade meal. We have three children and just to take them to a fast food restaurant is at least $20. For $20 at the store, I can buy five pounds worth of chicken, a marinade, a two liter bottle of sparkling water, a bag of vegetables for steaming, four sweet potatoes, and probably get back some change.

Let’s say you have a $100 budget and need to buy groceries for a week for you and your significant other. Here is a sample meal plan and grocery list that will keep you under budget:

Meal 1- 2 scrambled eggs, ½ cup oatmeal
Meal 2- 1 can tuna, 2 rice cakes, 1 tbsp. natural peanut butter
Meal 3- 4-6 oz. chicken breast, ½ cup cooked brown rice, 1 cup steamed veggies
Meal 4- 1st Step Pro-Wellness shake and 1 banana
Meal 5- 4-6 oz. marinated chicken breast, 1 small sweet potato, 1 cup veggies
Meal 6- 10 almonds, 2 boiled eggs

*7 lb. of chicken (1.99/lb.) = $14 *14 bananas= $2.50
*2 Large bags frozen veggies ($7.50 each )= $15 *2 Bottles Marinade= $5
*Oatmeal = $3 *14 sweet potatoes= $7
*14 cans tuna ($.68 each) = $9.52 *bag of almonds= $8
*2 pkg. rice cakes = $4 *5 dozen eggs = $9
*Peanut butter = $3 *Bag of brown rice = $3
*1st Step Pro Wellness Protein Powder = $17

That makes a grand total of $100.02! Not too shabby.

There is a good rule of thumb when purchasing food: fresh is better than frozen, and frozen is better than canned. Depending on what your budget is, we all understand that you just have to make the best decisions possible. Just remember, eating clean is essential to losing weight, but most importantly, being healthy.

How to Get Your Kids Involved in Being Active

A lot of times when we set out on our own fitness journey, people get left behind.  We concentrate so much on making sure that we are active that we forget that everyone, especially our kids, needs to be active.  About a year into my new fit life it suddenly hit me, my kids need to be active too. As a child I was always in the house reading or watching TV. I was never encouraged to get active. When I think about it, I was never an active adult because I was never an active child. Our children develop habits early, so it is important that getting active at an early age is emphasized.

Coming from someone who has been down that road, kids aren't always ready to “go exercise”. As a parent, it has been my duty to find ways to get my kids active that they will enjoy. Here is my list of fun activities that you can do with your kids to get them moving around and off the couch:

1. Take a walk
2. Go for a hike
3. Go bowling
4. Go on a family bike ride
5. Go on a nature scavenger hunt
6. Go to the pool
7. Go play mini golf
8. Go to an indoor trampoline or bounce house
9. Sign up for a family sports league
10. Play laser tag
11. Do a running plan together such as couch to 5K (my kids loved this)
12. Get a fitness video game
13. Go to the park
14. Do a downtown scavenger hunt, exploring your city
15. Walk to the grocery store
16. Go mall walking
17. Take a family karate class
18. Do a race together (many 5k's have kid fun runs)
19. Go to the zoo
20. Go to an amusement park
21. Go to a rock climbing facility that is kid friendly
22. Require mandatory active commercial breaks where you and your kids do exercises (jumping jacks, jog in place) during a commercial break while enjoying a show together
23. Create a backyard obstacle course for the family
24. Play tag
25. Have a water balloon or snowball fight

While this is just a short list to get you started, I am sure with enough creativity you and your family can come up with many more. The important thing is to get up and get the whole family moving and active. You won't regret it.

The Facts about Fasted Cardio

 Many fitness professionals and fitness aficionados depend on fasted cardio to help them reach their goals, and take their fitness abilities to the next level. But for many people, who are just looking to get more fit, fasted cardio seems like such a foreign concept, or at least that is  how it seemed to me. When my trainer first suggested that I do fasted cardio, I was very hesitant because I wasn't sure that I would be able to do it.

For those of you who don't know, fasted cardio is when you wake up, and first thing in the morning before eating you do cardio. For me that seemed kind of dangerous. I have always eaten breakfast immediately after waking. I questioned if I would have the energy to exercise without eating? I gave it a try, and thankfully I didn't even notice that I had not eaten. Also, surprisingly I have become a fan of fasted cardio. I really look forward to it in the mornings, and best of all it has helped me burst through the plateau that I had been stuck on for what seemed like forever.

So the big question is, why does fasted cardio work? In simple terms, fasted cardio works because when you are exercising first thing in the morning the energy that is used during your cardio will come from the breaking down of fat that you already have. Since you have not eaten, this is your body's only available energy source. When you eat before your cardio, your body's first energy source will be the food that you have consumed. For this reason, fasted cardio is often used to lose those last few pounds that you just can't get rid of.

While expert opinions are still indecisive about whether or not fasted cardio is worth it or not, I really believe it is something that you have to try for yourself. Every body is different and each person's body will react differently. So I challenge you to give it a try and you may just be surprised what fasted cardio can do for you.

What's in a Calorie?

They’re so small, but they add up so quickly. I would go over the technical definition of calories, the chemistry of a calorie, and calories versus kilocalories (which is what we actually use to quantify our food) but for the sake of brevity, I’ll just say that a calorie is measured as the amount of food energy per unit of mass. Calories equal energy.

Grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrates have caloric values. Fat has nine calories per gram, while protein and carbohydrates have four each. This means that something with five grams of fat, 20 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of protein would have 165 total calories (45+80+40).

If you want to lose weight, your calories consumed must be less than the calories burned. Three thousand five hundred calories equal a pound. So if you want to lose a pound a week then you need to cut an average of five hundred calories a day from what you consume, or burn an extra 500 in the gym (or some combination of the two like consuming 250 less and burn 250 more at the gym).

To figure out how many calories that you need to consume, you must first determine how many calories a day you burn. To get a rough estimate of how many calories you burn a day, you need to figure out how many you burn in the gym (several heart rate monitors can do that) and what your BMR is.

Basal metabolic rate, also known as BMR, is the minimum number of calories that your body burns to function. Basically it is the number of calories burned in a 24 hour period if you stayed in bed the entire time. Many websites can help you get a rough estimate. Obviously you don’t always know how many calories you burn outside of the gym doing regular every day activities so that’ll be a little extra.

You can see now that you can use calories to your advantage. They no longer have to be a hindrance, but a tool that you can use and manipulate in order to reach your goals.


Meet Pro-Wellness Ambassador: Jessica

My name is Jessica Pages, and I am an ISSA Certified Personal Trainer, R.I.P.P.E.D Instructor, 1st Step Pro Wellness Ambassador, Sweat Pink Ambassador and aspiring NPC bikini competitor.

I was born and raised in North Carolina, and am married with three children ages 22, 17, and, 4.

I have not always been into fitness. I have always been overweight by about 10-15 pounds, but that never bothered me.

In 2009 I became pregnant for the third time. During my first two pregnancies my weight gain was minimal, so I thought I really didn't have to worry about gaining weight the third time.

How to stay on track when you are the only one on track

We have all been there. For some of us it is our daily reality. If we are planning on living a healthy life, there comes a time when we finally have to succumb to the fact that not everyone else has the same healthy ambitions that we do. That is when the struggle begins. It is so easy to stay on track when your family or friends are following a similar program as you. The true test is whether or not you can stay on track when everyone else is off track. This does not have to be a test that you fail. Here are my top tips to help you stay on track with a healthy diet, when you are surrounded by people and food who aren't that healthy.