Wednesday, August 31, 2011

what i ate wednesday: issue 2

What I Ate*. 1) Breakfast: Fiber One Frosted Shredded Wheat cereal + blueberries + almond milk; 2) dinner: honey-soy chicken with scallions + green pea rice + roasted vegetables; and 3) dessert: Greek yogurt + almonds + chocolate sprinkles + agave nectar.

*These are the highlights of what I ate Monday, August 29.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

the cereal experiment: Fiber One Frosted Shredded Wheat

At my last trip to the grocery store, I noticed that my choices for cereals meeting my stringent criteria for the cereal experiment are quickly dwindling. But, when I saw that this mainstream favorite, Fiber One Frosted Shredded Wheat, was a potential contender I was more than happy to make it my next test case.

Results. You heard me right, frosted shredded wheat. Despite their frosting, when I saw that they met my % calories from sugar criteria I didn't hesitate to pull them off the shelf. These sugary squares were a welcome respite from the bland cereals I have been eating lately. Although I really enjoyed the sweetness, I was shocked when the sugary coating felt a bit fake and drastic - my taste buds must have grown more accustomed to less sugar than I thought. But, my sweet tooth was satisfied!

The shredded wheat get high marks for flavor, but low marks for texture as they get soggy very quickly. So much so that I felt under pressure to rush to eat them before they literally disintegrated into my milk.

In terms of nutrition, Fiber One Frosted Shredded Wheat holds its own. For 200 calories and 1 gram of fat this cereal provides a respectable 9 grams of fiber. You also get a slightly less respectable 5 grams of protein and 24% of calories from sugar. This is by far the most sugar yet. It is also the most expensive at 29.7 cents per ounce.

When compared to the other cereals, despite its sugary excitement, Fiber One Frosted Shredded Wheat just can't compete with the nutritional goodness of Kashi and Cascadian Farm. The shredded wheat do, however, beat out Quaker Squares and take fourth place in the current standings.  

These frosted bites may not win the battle, but their sweet coating have certainly won them a special place in my heart.

Monday, August 29, 2011

weekend review: go green

Figure 1. Friday night's dinner (made with mom and dad): chicken tostadas with avocado dressing and Mexican rice.

Green avocado dressing: creamy, tangy, delicious.

Figure 2. In preparation: chicken with lemon and olives.

Figure 3. Saturday night's dinner: chicken with lemon and olives, green pea rice, and steamed broccoli.

For green pea rice (from Cooking Light): Heat 2 tsp olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp minced garlic; saute 1 minute. Add 1 (14 oz) can fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth; bring to a boil. Stir in 1 cup long-grain white rice. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup thawed frozen green peas.

Green olives makes this my very favorite chicken recipe to cook. So good, my eyes close for most bites. Green pea rice is the perfect compliment.
 Figure 4. Summer veggie pizza (with garlic oil, onion, red bell pepper, corn, asparagus, basil, and mozzarella).

Figure 5. Sunday night's dinner: summer veggie pizza and kale and spinach salad.

Green asparagus and fresh green basil give this pizza a bright, healthy flavor. And a salad with dark greens is always the perfect side.

Friday, August 26, 2011

the sock experiment: Balega Enduro

My first experience with the sock experiment left me with hot and scratchy feet, but my second attempt at this 'are running socks worth it?' evaluation, Belega Enduro, made my feet just as happy as feet can be.

Results. Of all of their socks, Balega calls the Enduro 'the perfect running sock'. Granted this is only my second test pair, but I do not disagree. These socks are made of 78% Drynamix Polyester, 20% Nylon, and 2% Elastane.The Enduro feature both a 'Drynamix Moisture Manager' and lightweight mesh ventilation panels, to keep your feet cool and dry. They are seamlessly closed to eliminate abrasion and blistering and feature an extra deep heel pocket to eliminate sliding. In terms of cushioning, the Enduro features special impact resistance with an extended toe cushion for extra protection without creating bulk. They sound good, and they feel even better.

A lot of the technology and special features that these sock companies describe sounds like a bunch of mumble jumble to me. Really? A Moisture Manager? Mesh ventilation panels? But, the Enduro may have made me a believer. I noticed a difference while wearing these socks. They were lightweight, breathable, and comfortable. They kept my feet happy, cool, and dry.

Only because I wanted to leave a little wiggle room, did Enduro score an overall comfort score of 4.5. My feet stayed cool and dry and I noticed a little improvement in cushion. I had no blistering or rubbing and I noticed a good amount of moisture control thanks to that fancy shcmancy moisture control system. All for $9.95 per pair. Not too bad.

Balega Enduro running socks put PhD Ultra Light Mini socks to shame. If I were a pair of PhD socks I would be crying in the corner. You should be ashamed PhD Ultra Light Mini.

Overall, Balega Enduro are great socks. But, at $10 a pop I may be just as happy with my cotton dependables. And, that's what I plan to test next. A control comparison with a classic pair of cheap cotton athletic socks. Hold on to your seats folks, things are about to get crazy.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

my less serious day: banh mi bliss

If someone made me a giant banh mi the size of my bed, I would gladly sleep inside, cozied up in crispy baguette, a mattress of fatty pork and fresh cilantro.


Skirt: LOFT outlet; tank: J Crew outlet; cardigan: Gap outlet; belt: Banana outlet; necklace: gift from my beau, M; wedges: Frye via 6pm.


This morning's workout was a 35-minute stationary bike ride (ramp interval) and 15-mintue walk with L. And, you know me and my love for short walks, so I fit in two more 10-minute walks, one post-lunch and one post-afternoon workout. After work I hit the gym for a 15-minute run around the track (working pace), a 15-minute stationary bike ride (hills), and a 60-minute Body Pump class.  


The morning started with a bowl of Fiber One Frosted Shredded Wheat cereal with blueberries and almond milk. Since I was going out to lunch I had a large pre-lunch Golden Delicious apple to tame my hunger (photographed below with my afternoon snack).

A friend of mine and I faithfully get banh mi's at a local Vietnamese restuarant at least once a month. Today was that day. First, we shared an order of Goi Cuon (Vietnamese spring rolls with bean sprouts, steamed rice vermicelli, lettuce, pork, and shrimp wrapped in rice paper, and served with peanut sauce).

I always order an original banh mi (pork cold cuts and Asian bacon on French bread with cucumber, carrots, fresh cilantro, jalapeno, pate, and house sauce). Without fail, this lunch causes delighted outbursts of profanity. Yes, it is that good.

For a snack in the afternoon, I had carrot and green pepper strips.

Dinner was an over-sized baked salmon, kale, and spinach salad with carrots, red onions, pickled beets, tomatoes, blueberries, and goat cheese dressed with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper, and oregano. Dessert was Greek yogurt with a crumbled up Fiber One chocolate peanut butter brownie and a drizzle of honey.

what i ate wednesday: issue 1

What I Ate*. 1) Breakfast: Cascadian Farm Hearty Morning cereal + blueberries + almond milk; 2) snack: almonds + apple; and 3) dinner: over-sized kale and spinach salad (with a Morningstar chicken patty + carrot + peanuts + raisins + green pepper + tomato + onion).

*These are the highlights of what I ate Tuesday, August 23.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

commentary: overnight oats for beginners

Oats are healthy, we all know this. Instant oats tend to be a bit slimy, and, if you think I'm standing over a stove top making old fashioned rolled oats for breakfast you have lost your mind. I am not Betty Draper. The answer may be the healthy living blog sensation, overnight oats.

Me? I was an overnight oats virgin. But, I was so curious after reading post after post and variation after variation, that I had to put the overnight oats concept to the test. It is a simple, healthy, fulfilling, and easily manipulable breakfast concoction. For your reading pleasure, here are all the juicy details from my first time.

I based mine off of the recipe by Kath Eats Real Food. The base for overnight oats can always be the same and for my first try I used 1/3 cup old fashioned oats + 1/3 cup Greek yogurt + 1/3 cup original almond milk.

Combine these three in a bowl (I must admit, I was feeling pretty skeptical at this point and I imagine you, reading and looking at this, may be feeling that same way. Stick with me guys).

You can add both pre-soak and post-soak mixers to your base. Let your hair down and get crazy! Any mixer you want to absorb moisture or penetrate flavor into your oats should go in at night and any mixer you want to maintain the texture of (e.g., crunchy granola) should be added in the morning. 

The night before I added a few good shakes of cinnamon + sprinkling of golden raisins (left). In the morning, I added 1/8 cup of Cascadian Farm granola + a drizzle of honey + fresh blueberries + 1 tbsp of peanut butter (right).

Other mixer Ideas:
  • jams/jelly's
  • fresh and dried fruit
  • granola
  • brown sugar/stevia
  • chia seeds (thickens the mixture)
  • vanilla extract
  • nuts
  • shredded coconut
  • cereal
  • chocolate chips (butterscotch chips)
  • lemon zest
  • nut butter
  • honey, maple syrup
  • cinnamon 

Once you have mixed your base and pre-soak mixers together (left), cover the bowl and set in refrigerator overnight. The oats will absorb the moisture from the yogurt and milk. Next, wait in great anticipation for the magical transformation. In the morning your oats will be creamy, thickened and ready for eating (right).

Top and eat. Yuuuuuummmmmm.

My thoughts on overnight oats?

I thought overnight oats would burden me the night before, but they did not. I mixed mine up (and photographed the process, for that matter) while my dinner was in the oven. It was quick and simple. I'm not sure overnight oats will replace cold cereal as my 'regular' breakfast, but they are a great way to change things up.

I thought overnight oats would be soggy and weird, but they were creamy and delicious. The resulting mixture was a brilliant fusion of textures: creamy, gooey, crunchy, hearty, delicious, and satisfying. I did think the oats could have been a little thicker (see chia seeds note above), but the combination of mixers, especially the cinnamon, peanut butter (of course), and honey was delicious.

I thought overnight oats wouldn't be satisfying, but they really, really were. The morning of the oats' consumption was my long-run day - so I was especially excited to have breakfast waiting for me in the fridge when I returned in a famished state. The oats were texturally enticing and promoted slow, conscious eating (the very best kind). To top it all off I was shockingly satisfied the entire day. Satisfied, but not full and gross. Granted my overnight oats mix was ~150 more calories than I typically eat for breakfast - but, I needed them. And, the ingredients were healthy and high in fiber and protein, for a truly 'stick to your ribs' breakfast. Perfect after a long workout.

If you are an overnight oats virgin, give them a try and let me know here how it goes. If you are an overnight oats veteran, I would love to know your favorite combination of mixers.

For me...I have a feeling overnight oats and I are going to be dear, dear friends.

Monday, August 22, 2011

weekend review: a little love on top

Figure 1. Saturday night's dinner: maple-mustard chicken thighs, 'baked' (microwaved) sweet potato, and roasted vegetables (zucchini, squash, eggplant, red onion, and broccoli).

On top: a brilliant maple-mustard marinade that will change your life.

Figure 2. Sunday morning's breakfast: buttermilk blueberry pancakes with Madison's peanut butter spread.

On top: sweet, tangy, peanut butter goodness that makes the perfect pancake topping. 

 Figure 3. In preparation: shrimp fettuccine Alfredo.

 Figure 4. Sunday night's dinner: shrimp fettuccine Alfredo, sauteed broccoli with garlic and red pepper flakes.

On top: this Alfredo sauce has less fat and all the flavor of the the real thing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

commentary: the 10-minute walk

If you are like me, most of your day is spent in sedentary bliss in front of a computer screen. Despite the fact that I usually do formal exercise both pre- and post-work, I can't ignore that sitting on my rump for 8-hour stretches is not good for me. And it isn't good for you, either. Humans were designed to move.

Recent research has shown that there are more adverse health effects among those with a sedentary lifestyle (i.e., a 9 to 5 desk job), even in people who regularly engage in formal exercise (Neighmond 2011 via NPR; Blaire 2010), especially women (Montemurri 2011). Don't get me wrong, I appreciate laziness as much as the next person, but the body just doesn't respond well to large periods of inactivity. It shuts down; it hibernates (your metabolism even slows); it forgets it can move.

I recently discovered the power of the 10-minute walk. I'm not going to say that adding these walks to my daily routine is the entire reason that I feel fit or that, through them, I have discovered the meaning of life; but engaging in these brief moments of activity on a regular basis has been beneficial to my life in many ways. In fact, studies have shown that breaking up your sedentariness (Bravo TV couch marathon sound familiar?) with short bouts of movement, like a 10-minute walk, does wonders for your health (Bebbington 2011 via WebMD; Wen 2011; Healy 2008). Reminding your body that it can move is healthy, exhilarating, and powerful.

You may be surprised that my first 'fitness commentary' is about something so simple, but I am a firm believer in making small, positive changes towards healthy living. It doesn't matter how old you are, what shape you are in, what type of job you have, or what your daily schedule is like: you can fit in a 10-minute walk. You can.

And if you aren't bursting with motivation yet, here are my top reasons why you should give it a whirl and tips on how to do it.

  • Health. Although, in my opinion, these short walks should not entirely replace formal exercise, walking for even small amounts can lower LDL, raise HDL, lower blood pressure, reduce diabetes risk, help manage weight, and reduce your chances of dying (Bebbington 2011 via WebMD; Wen 2011; Healy 2008). And, not dying is a very good thing.
  • Calories. Depending on your weight and how fast you walk, a 10-minute walk can burn 25-50 calories. If you do one walk every day for a week, you will burn 175-350 calories. That's a Chick-fil-A Icedream cone - and if that isn't worth 10 minutes, I don't know what is.
  • Energy. According to the American Heart Association, after six months, women who took brisk 10-minute walks every day reported 18% more energy than those who did not.
  • Cool Down Emotionally. Walk it off, yo.
  • Gauge Satiety. I love a post-meal walk. Sometimes I wabble through these without much effort, but most of the time it is just what I need to digest and to determine whether I ate too much or too little - away from the food itself.
  • Get Outside. Did someone say 'sunshine time'?
  • Organize Your Thoughts. I spend the first half of my post-lunch walk thinking about something fun (e.g., my blog, boys, what I'm having for dinner) and the second half thinking about work. This helps me organize my thoughts and re-focus on the next task.
  • Schedule It. Set a daily walking time and stick to it. I always take a walk immediately after lunch and as soon as I get home, no questions asked.
  • Involve Others. Dogs work well too.
  • Make It Unavoidable. I keep a pair of comfortable shoes under my desk at work so I can easily change for walks without any excuses. In the evening, I do my walk before I do anything else, because once I sit down, I am down.
  • Make Goals. During the week, I aim for two short walks per day. On the weekends, I aim for one.
  • Force It. Park far away and by the time you walk there and back, you can cross a walk off your list. And always (well...usually) take the stairs.
  • Make a Route. Time 5 minutes out and turn around. Do this at work and at home. Now you don't have to think about it. It doesn't have to be exactly 10 minutes (more is better), find a loop around your neighborhood that suits you and make that your go-to walk. 
  • It Is No Big Deal. Don't treat these extra walks like the are anything special. Anyone can walk 10 minutes anywhere or anytime. You aren't 'working out', you are just walking. It is no big deal, so just do it.
Now that I have drowned you all in inspiration - get walking!

(Image 1, 2, 3)

the cereal experiment: Cascadian Farm Hearty Morning

You know you are starting your day out right when your cereal is called Hearty Morning Fiber (Cascadian Farm), the fourth subject in the cereal experiment.

Results. This cereal is fiber-tastic (yes, I said it). It has just the right amount of sweetness and flavor, with no need to add anything to it to make it palatable (ahem, Kashi GoLean Original). The flakes stay crunchy throughout the entire eating experience and I love both the hearty taste and texture of those scary-looking fiber twigs. Yum yum! And, just when I thought it couldn't get any better I bit into a little something special and thought, 'holy &#$! there are granola clusters too!' My friends, after my first taste, I thought I had discovered the champion of healthy cereal.

But, a champion it may not be. Although the texture is really fantastic and this cereal does not disappoint with its crunchiness, there is, alas, some downfalls. I'm afraid all that tasty goodness comes at a price, and Hearty Morning is quite calorie dense. You get only 3/4 cup for 190 calories. Not even a whole cup? What is that about?

And, despite my usual aptitude for self control, I cannot make myself only pour a 3/4 cup of this stuff. The proof is in that overflowing 3/4 measuring cup. I'm afraid I'm out of control.

*Ranking system.

Despite its small serving size Hearty Morning does well in terms of nutrition. As you may have guessed, this cereal has quite a bit of fiber (9 grams), which almost ties GoLean Original. In addition, for your 190 calories and 2.5 fat grams you get 5 grams of protein (my minimum criteria) and 19% of calories from sugar for a relatively low 22 cents per ounce.

When you compare Hearty Morning to the other cereals so far, it soars to number 2. The high-scoring taste and texture variables balance out the serving size issue and the lower protein and higher sugar content. But, GoLean Original remains the front runner.

I doubt anyone has gotten fat from over-eating on fiber-filled cereal. But, the question remains: can I be satisfied with eating a smaller portion (with much less protein) of Hearty Morning when I can practically bathe myself in the nutritional master, GoLean Original?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

my less serious day: a diet coke kind of day

Some people do crack, I do Diet Coke.


Pencil skirt and top: LOFT; belt: TJ Maxx; necklace: mom; shoes: Tsubo via


My morning started with a delightfully 'cool' 30-minute run at working pace with the L-ster. As usual, I did two 10-15 minutes walks during the day (one after lunch and one with L when I returned home in the evening). My afternoon workout was a 60-minute cycling class (it was the first class of the semester, so it was a cycling 'sampler').


Breakfast was a bowl of Cascadian Farms Hearty Morning Fiber cereal (look for a review tomorrow) with blueberries and almond milk.

Lunch was a Smart Ones frozen entree. This afternoon was rough, and at 2:00 I couldn't face the remaining hours without a little jolt. I do what I try to only do about once a month at the very most - I bought a super-massive (20 oz) Diet Coke* from the vending machine. I drank about half, sharpied my name on the bottle to prevent fridge stealage, and pummeled through the remainder of the afternoon. In addition, my afternoon food snack was my go-to choice, a Pink Lady apple and a handful of almonds and golden raisins.

Dinner was a fantastically massive baked chicken (olive oil and balsamic vinegar) spinach salad with tomatoes, red onion, red bell pepper, carrots, pickled beets (from my friend's mom, so good!), and goat cheese crumbles with Kraft Light Done Right House Italian dressing. All accompanied by a slice of toasted Arnold Hearty Fiber bread with a schmear of Benecol. Dessert was a Fiber One chocolate peanut butter brownie.

*I mention my diet coke intake today because it is highly unusual and I try to avoid it. You may notice that I never post any other beverages on the 'my less serious day' posts. I do consume beverages, but do not post them if it falls into my normal consumption routine - because it is highly uninteresting and because it is negligible calorie-wise (although so is Diet Coke). I always drink black coffee in the morning, a lot of water throughout the day, and Crystal Light Pink Lemonade in the evening. Anything else will be posted!

the cereal experiment: ranking system

I assume that if you are actually taking the time to read this you are in it for the nerdy facts, not witty humor. So, I'll tell it to you straight - here is how my ranking system for the cereal experiment works. I'm open to modifications and suggestions so feel free to comment. Hooray statistics!


Each variable (e.g., grams of protein, price per ounce) was standardized to that variable's mean by calculating Z-scores (i.e., a common metric with a mean of 0 and a standard deviation of 1). In this way, the Z-scores are relative to the cereal in the experiment, not to an absolute standard. To do this, an average and standard deviation was then calculated for each variable. The Z-score was calculated as follows:

Z = (variable value) - (average of variable values for all cereals) /
(standard deviation of variable values for all cereals)

I assumed a higher Z-score indicated 'worse' cereal characteristics. Those variables that didn't follow this trend (i.e., where higher values indicated 'better' characteristics) (e.g., taste, texture, fiber, protein) were reverse coded by multiplying their Z-score by negative one (-1). 


Each Z-score was then multiplied by its appropriate weight as determined, albeit subjectively, below (adding up to 100%).

Taste: 20%
Texture: 15%
Calories per cup: 10%
Fat: 5%
Fiber: 15%
Protein: 15%
% calories from sugar: 10%
Price: 10%

Composite Score and Ranking.

All of the weighted Z-scores were then summed to create a weighted composite score for each cereal. The composite scores were sorted by value, with the lowest composite score indicating the best cereal. Based on this sorted list, each cereal was assigned a rank.

You can see the current table with these ranks on my experiment page.

Monday, August 15, 2011

weekend review: asparagus from heaven

 Figure 2. In preparation: last minute sausage and pepper ziti.

Figure 3. Sunday night's dinner: last minute sausage and pepper ziti and steamed broccoli.

Last Minute Sausage and Pepper Ziti

I pulled this together at the last minute (hence the title). I have never written a recipe, but at the request of my readers I have done my best to provide a little recipe here. It turned out pretty awesome, but I didn't do a lot of measuring so you should adapt this as your preferences and pantry permit.  

1 1/2 cups dry ziti pasta (also reserve 1/2 cup pasta water)
1/2 red onion
2 links chicken sausage (I love hot! You could probably use only 1 link, but I love sausage)
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 red pepper
1/2 jar tomato basil tomato sauce
Red pepper flakes
Parmesan cheese

Prepare ziti and reserve ~1/2 cup pasta water.

On medium-high heat, saute onion, red pepper, and sausage (un-case and break up in pan with a spatula) in olive oil for 5-7 minutes or until sausage is brown.

Add tomato sauce, red pepper flakes, oregano, and basil (amounts to your liking). When your pasta is done add about 1/2 cup of pasta water to the sausage mixture. Turn heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes or until sauce is heated through and thickened.

Add pasta to sauce, add a handful of Parmesan, and toss pasta to coat with sauce.

This should be plenty for two people and maybe some leftovers. Enjoy!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

my less serious day: short skirts and guacamole

This morning I woke up and saw guacamole in my fridge. And all was right in the world.


(Slightly too short-for-work) skirt and top: LOFT outlet; necklace: LOFT; shoes: Tsubo via mom


This morning I went on a 30-minute run at working pace with L, followed by a 30-minute stationary bike ride (Pike's Peak). I fit in two 10-15 minutes walks, one after lunch and one with L when I got home. After work, I did a 60-minute stationary bike ride (ramp interval). Don't be too impressed - I did the entire hour while reading a book, which I normally wouldn't consider a sufficiently intense workout. But, today my energy was so low it was a light ride or no ride at all.


For breakfast, I had a bowl of Kashi GoLean Original cereal (check out my recent review) with blueberries and 2% milk. I usually drink almond milk, but had some 2% leftover in the fridge and wanted to drink it before it went bad. No need to waste good consumables.

Lunch was a Smart Ones frozen entree. For afternoon snack (which was eaten in two phases) I had almonds, carrot sticks, and guacamole.

Dinner was a spinach, onion, and cheese quesadilla and steamed broccoli. I sauteed onions in a small amount of olive oil, then took the pan off the heat and added spinach and salsa. I added this mixture along with 1/4 cup of cheese on a corn tortilla. I grilled the tortilla in a pan on medium heat until the cheese melted (~2 minutes per side). I made too much spinach so I added the extra on top along with a bit of guacamole (surprise!) on two. This cooking experiment worked okay, but adding salsa to the spinach mixture left them soggy and I would have preferred crispy! Next time I'll leave it as a topping.

Dessert was Greek yogurt, almonds, GoLean Original, chocolate chips, and a drizzle of honey. All in my favorite yellow bowl.