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Though a love for red wine could potentially improve one’s heart health, the latest global studies have shown that no amount of alcohol is safe for consumption. While there are some benefits to certain types, they do not outweigh the risks, and the report is actually urging government officials to change alcohol consumption guidelines. Whether you’re hoping to improve your health, energy levels, or just improve your quality of life, it is probably a good idea to limit your alcohol consumption. On way to do that? Mocktail recipes! Below are a few RD-approved tips on how to do that without sacrificing taste or fun, plus a few different recipes to try.

Mocktail Hour: 3 Recipes to Try

By using the same flavors as your favorite cocktail (without the alcohol), you can enjoy the change of pace from water all day, and even get some health benefits from the ingredients themselves!

Mocktail #1:

  • Mix ginger kombucha + juice of 1/2 orange or grapefruit + ice.
  • Stir, garnish with fruit slices.
  • *Kombucha is fermented tea, which means it’s packed with probiotics. These live ‘good bacteria’ can improve gut health and immunity.

Mocktail #2:

  • Blend 4 cups chopped cucumbers + 1/2 cup fresh lime juice + 1/3 cup packed mint leaves + 4 cups water + pinch of salt.
  • Strain through a mesh strainer, and serve over ice.
  • Add honey or pure maple syrup to taste.
  • *Cucumbers are super hydrating, helping your skin stay soft all winter.

Mocktail #3:

  • Stir 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk + 1/4 teaspoon turmeric + 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon + 1/8 teaspoon dried ginger + a pinch of black pepper.
  • Heat for 1-2 minutes until warm.
  • *Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory agent. It needs black pepper to be absorbed by our body, which is why the black pepper is added to this ‘golden milk’ recipe.

Related: matcha is having a moment. Try this superfood mix in in your next beverage creation! Read all about the benefits (and a few recipes) here.

Other Tips:

  • Invite your friends to a different activity. Weekend activities don’t have to revolve around alcohol (I know, this can be surprising to some). Invite your friends to a group exercise class at FFC, try out a sushi-making class, check out a new museum, or go bowling. You’ll still enjoy quality time together, and the next day you’ll actually be able to be productive!
  • Focus on the benefits of not drinking. With so many things in life, we tend to focus on what we’re missing out on. Instead, change your mindset to think about how much better you feel when you don’t drink. Some people experience higher energy the next day, less depression, healthier relationships, and better performance in their workouts.

Post written by FFC Oak Park registered dietitian and nutrition coordinator Amy Silver.

 

If you want to try baking bread, this easy vegan bread recipe is a great place to start! This Irish brown bread doesn’t require any yeast so you don’t have to wait around to bake it. Traditionally using white flour, this healthy, vegan version uses whole grain oat flour for a slightly nutty flavor. Include this in your weekly meal prep so that you’re ready for the week ahead. Use slices of this as a base for avocado toast. Fill with hummus, sliced cucumbers, and tomatoes for a healthy lunch. Or tear off a piece to sop up the broth from a hearty (or light!) soup (like this healthy mushroom soup) at dinner!

Level: easy
Servings: 12
Ready In: 70 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons plain, unsweetened almond milk (11 oz) *
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar (1 oz)
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax meal (6.5g)
  • 3 tablespoons warm water (1.5 oz
  • 3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (360g)
  • 1 cup oat flour (120g)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375F. Line an 9×5-inch loaf pan with parchment.

Make the vegan buttermilk: combine the almond milk with the vinegar in a small bowl. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, to let the almond milk curdle slightly.

Make the vegan flax “egg”: combine the ground flax meal and warm water in a small dish. Set aside for 5-10 minutes, until gooey and “egg-like”.

To make the bread: In a large bowl, whisk together the whole wheat flour, oat flour, baking soda, and salt. Add the flax “egg” to the bowl with the vegan buttermilk and whisk to combine. Add this wet mixture into the bowl with the flour. Use a wooden spoon to stir together, just until you have a rough dough.Transfer this dough to a lightly-floured wood surface. Knead for a bit, just until the dough comes together to a smooth, cohesive mixture. Transfer to the parchment-lined loaf pan and use your hands to form into a loaf.

Bake for about 50 minutes, until the bread has risen about ½ inch. You’ll know it’s ready if you take it out of the pan and knock on the bottom – it should sound hollow. Let cool at least 10 minutes before slicing.

Related: cookies before (or after) a workout? YES: check out these peanut butter cookies with quinoa!

Chef Tips:

  • Bread storage tip: the best way to store bread is tightly wrapped in foil, then sealed in a plastic bag, in the freezer. You want to eliminate as much air and moisture as possible, as these cause both mold and stale bread.
  • Oat flour and gluten: Oat flour is naturally gluten-free and has a nutty flavor with light texture. It can be used as a replacement for white flour for a gluten free, vegan bread recipe like this one, or in much of your other vegan baking. Just be sure to substitute by weight, not by volume. A small, digital scale can help with this.
  • Sift the dry ingredients: It’s always important to sift together the dry ingredients for a lighter, fluffier batter. This is even more important, though, when working with whole wheat flour. If you don’t have a sifter, use a whisk to combine the dry ingredients and add some air into the flour mix.

Yield: one (9×5-inch) loaf

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

 

 

Nutrition Facts

  • Serving size: 1/12 of a recipe (about 1 slice).

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 137.33
  • Calories From Fat (11%) 14.45

% Daily Value

  • Total Fat 1.65g 3%
  • Saturated Fat 0.28g 1%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 319.06mg 13%
  • Potassium 172.01mg 5%
  • Total Carbohydrates 28.12g 9%
  • Fiber 4.95g 20%
  • Sugar 0.32g
  • Protein 4.1g 8%
  • Calcium 0.65mg <1%
  • Iron 34.94mg 194%
  • Vitamin A IU
  • Vitamin C 0mg 0%

 

Vegetables have SO many amazing benefits. They can help boost our moods, help us fight off illness, and of course, feel better and deliver all the necessary nutrients our bodies need to function. Check out these 10 easy ways to increase your vegetable intake, plus a delicious veggie recipe for even the pickiest of eaters!

10 Ways to Increase Veggie Intake

  1. Add veggies such as broccoli, spinach, green peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini etc. to your pizza or omelet.
  2. Substitute pizza crust for a Portobella mushroom!
  3. Grill or roast colorful vegetable kabobs packed with tomatoes, green and red peppers, mushrooms and onions.
  4. Add lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes etc. to your sandwich.
  5. Top a baked potato with beans and salsa (or pico de gallo) or top it with broccoli and a sprinkle of cheese.
  6. Microwave a cup of low-sodium vegetable soup as a snack or with a salad or sandwich for a meal. You can also make your own easy vegetable soup by taking a frozen bag of vegetables and cooking it in low-sodium broth or bone broth (for added protein)!
  7. Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables (with no added salt, butter, or cream) to steam or stir-fry for a quick side dish.
  8. Make your main dish a salad of dark, leafy greens and other colorful vegetables. Add chickpeas or edamame for added plant protein.
  9. Use cauliflower rice instead of actual rice.
  10. Use spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles instead of pasta noodles.

Delicious Veggie Recipe: Ratatouille

A great veggie recipe for Ratatouille (adapted from this site) to get those veggies in – it’s also gluten free, paleo and vegan!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil about 3-4 large leaves, sliced, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence spice mix
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 medium sweet or red onion, sliced
  • 1-2 large zucchini (about 1 1/2 cups slices, sliced)
  • 1 large Japanese eggplant (about 3 cups slices, sliced)
  • 3 large fresh tomatoes (Roma are best; about 3 cups slices, sliced)

Related: check out another veggie-forward recipe: Egyptian spiced easy lettuce wraps!

Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease a 6″x9″ baking dish and set aside. (see notes for baking in an 8″x8″ square pan)
  • In a medium mixing bowl, combine the crushed tomatoes, oil and vinegar. Stir in the garlic, basil, herbs de Provence, salt, pepper, and chili powder.
  • Pour the tomato mixture into the prepared baking dish and smooth it into an even layer on the bottom of the pan.
  • Stack the veggie slices in alternating patters (e.g.: onion, zucchini, eggplant, tomato; repeat) and place them on their side in the pan, leaning against the edge of the pan. Repeat until you’ve formed a couple of rows of veggies, filled the pan, and used up all of the veggie slices.
  • Optionally, spray or brush the exposed tops of the veggies with oil to encourage browning in the oven. This is more for appearance, so feel free to skip this step if you want.
  • Bake for about an hour, until the tomato sauce at the bottom is bubbling and the veggies are tender.
  • Garnish with additional chopped fresh basil before serving (optional). Serve hot or cold.

For other nutrition tips, veggie recipes and tricks please reach out to our Park Ridge registered dietitian, Alicia Huggler, MS, RDN, LDN at ahuggler@ffc.com to schedule an appointment!

Nowadays, just about every coffee shop, smoothie bar and bakery features their own creative offerings using the trending superfood matcha. This green tea powder is not new to the scene, however. In fact, its use in Japanese tea ceremonies dates back hundreds of years and has been worshipped for centuries for its long list of benefits. Check out this guide on how to prepare matcha, amazing health benefits and even matcha powder recipes you can try yourself.

What is Matcha?

Matcha is a concentrated, powdered form of green tea that can be stirred into hot or cold beverages, infused into baked goods, blended into smoothies and more.

What are the Benefits of Matcha?

Matcha is known to promote energy and accelerate exercise recovery, making it an ideal pre-workout boost. Matcha promotes a feeling of ‘calm alertness’ thanks to high levels of L-theanine, which is an amino acid.

By drinking matcha you can increase your levels of L-theanine and promote alpha waves, which lead to a state of relaxed alertness. L-theanine has been shown to benefit patients diagnosed with anxiety by increasing levels of dopamine and GABA in the brain. (source)

Some other benefits of Matcha include reducing abdominal fat, improving immune system function and even boasting disease-fighting abilities like preventing cancer! Matcha is the optimal food source of catechins, or polyphenol compounds that halt oxidative cellular damage. These powerful antioxidants are also found in cocoa and apples.

According to a Harvard review of recent studies, green tea may lower LDL cholesterol and high triglycerides, and thereby reduce the risk of death from heart disease and stroke. (source)

Baking with Matcha - how to prepare matcha, recipes and benefits

Where to Buy Matcha?

You can find matcha lots of places, at health food stores, online and even the grocery store. You can find matcha green tea lattes all over the city, but but be aware that most contain excessive amounts of sugar.

Related: speaking of superfoods, do you have any of these 5 beneficial spices in your pantry? Read it to find out!

How to Prepare Matcha

Opt for unsweetened varieties and stir in honey, stevia or coconut sugar instead. Stock your pantry with matcha powders for DIY recipes at home. Look for a ceremonial-grade Japanese variety to ensure the best quality.

Matcha in tea bags is ok for steeping, but only provides 10-20% of the tea’s benefits. To really take advantage of the tea’s rich antioxidants, chlorophyll, amino acids and vitamins, you’ll want to get your hands on the powdered form. This way you’ll be consuming the tea leaf in its entirety.

Matcha Powder Recipes: Try This Iced Vanilla Matcha Latte At Home

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp matcha powder
  • 1 cup unsweetened coconut or almond milk
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 packet stevia in the raw
  • Ice to preference

Directions: Mix matcha in tall glass with milk until combined. Stir in vanilla and stevia. Pour over ice and enjoy!

Post written by FFC registered dietitian Kristen Marias.

About Kristen

Kristen studied dance at The University of Colorado until life and a trajectory towards a career in the arts took an unexpected turn. A handful of years, a cross-country relocation and two daughters later, she took on one of her greatest and most rewarding challenges. Following a lifelong passion for wellness, she returned to school in pursuit of a degree in Dietetics and Nutrition. After graduating with honors, she launched her dietetics career in the clinical cardiac space. There, she provided Medical Nutrition Therapy to acute cardiac patients in Intensive Care. Practicing alongside a leading cardiologist in Palm Beach, Florida, she also provided nutrition education and counseling services to newly diagnosed cardiac patients.

In the summer of 2017 her love for fitness and holistic wellness steered her career in a fresh, new direction. She traveled to Italy to obtain a Yoga Teaching Certification as a complement to her nutrition practice. Today, back in her hometown of Chicago, she has found her perfect fit at the intersection of fitness, nutrition and general wellness. She believes food and exercise should be more than just daily tasks; they should be pleasurable, dynamic and memorable experiences. This philosophy is presented in her approach to nutrition. With a lifestyle-first, real food focus, she aims to help her clients make uncomplicated, sustainable changes. Her motto is simple: “Live to eat…with purpose.”

Kristen is a fitness enthusiast, passionate foodie and home cook. She loves travel – especially to the islands of the world. She spends most of her free time adventuring around Chicago with her husband and two daughters. You can follow along with her on Instagram here or check out her website for more info.

 

A dream of mine? To be told I should eat more food – by data, no less. That dream came true during my recent resting metabolic rate test at Fitness Formula Clubs in Chicago. What’s a resting metabolic rate test, you ask? In the simplest terms, a resting metabolic rate test is a test to determine how much energy (read: calories) your body burns while at rest, in order to perform basic functions of living, by measuring your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels – and therefore, your daily caloric requirements for weight maintenance, gain or loss based on your unique metabolism. Sure, you could work with a RMR calculator (there are a couple online) to find out how many calories you should be eating – but since those aren’t based on your unique metabolism, they can be off. To get an accurate reading, it’s better to meet with a licensed registered dietitian and have an RMR test administered.

Cardio Coach metabolic testing machine for RMR test

How the RMR Test Works

As opposed to an RMR calculator, the resting metabolic rate test requires the use of a machine with a tube you breathe into that will use oxygen consumption measurement to determine your caloric requirements for weight loss, gain or maintenance. Since you need to be completely at rest, you will asked to recline in a chair while you have the test done, as well as wear a nose clamp (sounds weird and scary, but basically it’s just a padded thing you put on your nose to keep your nostrils closed so that all your breathing happens in the tube).

RMR Calculator vs RMR Test: Why You Should Do an RMR Test

As I mentioned before, RMR calculators are great and all – but they’re based on a formula. An actual RMR test analyzes your breath and gives you MUCH more accurate data. For example, I use an app called MyFitnessPal (when I remember) to keep tabs on my diet and to try and reign in my occasional snacking festivals – especially in the winter! According to that app, I was supposed to eat something like 1200 calories a day. Between meals and snacks there was barely room for anything else. I was constantly going over, feeling guilty all the time. I also incorrectly accounted for my exercise – I typically try to work out at LEAST 4 times a week. They’re also fairly intense workouts. Couple that with a meager 1200 calories and you get one very tired, irritable and hangry individual.

Related: how to use MyFitnessPal to help you with your weight goals.

When FFC West Loop registered dietitian Emily Marshall and I looked at an online calculator before my test, it was also pretty low – around 1325 calories a day. Post test, we found out that my actual RMR is up around 1555 calories a day – at a slightly elevated level beyond “normal”. Add in my exercise, and I should be eating something like 1900 calories – even in order to lose a pound a week!! So with no exercise, I should have been eating an additional 230 calories a day than what was predicted by the RMR calculator (which operates using an equation known as the “Mifflin St. Jeor” equation).

In the simplest terms, a resting metabolic rate test is a test to determine how much energy (read: calories) your body burns while at rest, in order to perform basic functions of living, by measuring your oxygen and carbon dioxide levels – and therefore, your daily caloric requirements for weight maintenance, gain or loss based on your unique metabolism.

Emily explained that with the equation estimation, it would have taken a fair amount of time and trial and error to figure out how much to eat for my body and goals – but with the RMR test, I have a much better starting point right off the bat. Not to mention, with the results, I can feel the effects that much faster – eating more and fueling my body properly means more energy, better ability to focus and a faster exercise recovery time. I have been feeling pretty sluggish lately and I am definitely noticing a slight change since being more mindful of eating proper snacks etc. Of course, this is my personal result based on my body – it will be different for everyone. However, there is something to be said for having a roadmap to get to one’s goals more quickly and accurately. Our bodies are like machines and are a lot more formulaic than we realize. The right combination and amount of fats, proteins and carbs can really make that much difference in how well and efficiently it functions!

RMR calculator vs RMR test - why you should get a resting metabolic rate test done

Important note: I agreed to do this test in the lobby to help bring awareness to the awesome power of data and wellness, but this is not the norm. You will definitely have privacy! Unless, you know, you want to hang out and wave at people while you’re taking your test. You do you.

How to Prepare for the RMR Test

If you happened to see my post about my Vo2 Max experience a couple of months ago (which basically measures how efficiently you exercise), you’ll know that gearing up for a test like this requires some prep on the front-end. As in, the fasting kind. My recommendation is to try to schedule the test as early as possible so you don’t have to worry about depriving yourself of food or caffeine for very long! (I did mine bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 7 AM). In order to get the most accurate results possible, you will need to make sure you

  • Don’t eat or drink anything prior to your test (check with the registered dietitian for specific timeframe).
  • Don’t drink caffeine before your test.
  • Refrain from exercise 24 hours before your test – if your workouts are high-intensity, you may need to hold off for 48 hours. Again, check with the RD!
  • Wear regular clothes (I wore my regular office clothes).
  • Bring something to occupy yourself for about 25-30 minutes that you can do with one hand in case you need to hold the tube for more comfort.

Things I’d Want My Former Self to Know Before Taking an RMR Test

The test was quick and painless – albeit a little awkward, but overall very simple. Emily did a great job of explaining the process to me, what each of the pieces of equipment was for, how the machine worked, etc. Here are a couple of tips & tricks for anyone considering taking an RMR test.

  • #1 most important thing – bring chap stick! If your lips get dry easily, I recommend some kind of chap stick or lip balm. If you get drooly, they will have tissues for you. The RD will explain!
  • Yes, they do use all-new disposable nose clamps, mouth pieces and breathing tubes – no germs here.
  • Don’t do the test with a cold – because you’re only breathing through your mouth, it can do wonky things to your head pressure – I would maybe stay away from the test if you’re experiencing a head cold.
  • Breathing with the tube will be weird – kind of like a snorkel.
  • Hold the tube with your hand if you find yourself wanting to bite down on the mouth piece so that your jaw doesn’t get tired! That’s why I recommend a phone or Kindle etc. that you can hold with one hand.

How to Sign Up for an RMR Test

Yes, this might sound a little more complicated than a simple online RMR calculator, but I promise the data and knowledge you will come away with will be well worth it. Now, I can use my results to figure out meal plans, and have a much better understanding of how much I should be eating for specific goals. Plus, if I ever wanted to start a race training program, kick up my weight loss a notch, etc., I would have an accurate roadmap to do it. To sign up for a test at FFC, you can visit this link or email metabolictesting@ffc.com! Questions about the specifics? You can email registered dietitian Emily Marshall at emarshall@ffc.com or visit your club’s RD.

Post written by FFC marketing manager Megan Zink.

 

When I first joined FFC as a new Chicagoan in 2004, my kids were two and four. I remember watching people do Pilates through the studio window and thinking, they look so graceful and… healthy. Not to mention lean and strong. I said to myself, I’ll never be those things. No way can I do all that stuff on those machines. No way will I ever lose this baby weight I’ve been carrying for five years now. Fast forward to 2016, when my kids convinced me to join again. I convinced my best friends Alan and Emily to join, and Emily happened to be a devotee of Pilates and tuned into all the Pilates benefits. So I sucked it up and agreed to try it, psyching myself up to have a positive attitude and a beginner’s mind.

Do what with my what?

I went home and cried roughly the first four times I took Pilates mat class with Carl Corry. It was humiliating and hard and upsetting. He was patient but firm, as were Cameron and Charles, who also teach there. There was so much I couldn’t do.

I kept coming back, though, because I committed to my friends that I’d try it for 6 months, twice a week, at least, to take advantage of all those Pilates benefits. And I worked on my attitude by thinking about what I’d say to my kids if they came home feeling like I did. I’d say this: “You can’t expect to be good at things right away. But if you like what this is, keep going. Get better. There’s nowhere to go but up.”

It is SO HARD to take your own advice.

But I kept going.

But… there was other stuff in the way.

There were two more things holding me back: a bunch of extra weight and some health problems that left me unable to use most of my abdominal muscles. I went to PT to address the problem which was a huge first step. (I also cried the first time I felt those muscles fire.)

And the weight was literally in my way in class. I’ve been struggling with it since I had children almost twenty years ago, and I lived with severe endometriosis my whole adult life, until five years ago. I also had some disordered eating and body image issues holding me back.

So while I sorted through my ego issues about Pilates and went to PT, I also did things like buy a full length mirror and a scale for the first time. I started to tease apart how I felt about my body from what I ate every day. Not because anyone told me to — it just seemed like they were different things.

About the weight.

After almost a year of working on something as simple as walking by a mirror without grimacing or feeling guilty about what I had for lunch, I decided to talk to FFC’s registered dietitian, Amy Silver. I have a friend who was working with a nutritionist and her success made me think, maybe this is be worth trying. After all, my insurance covers it. What did I have to lose?

My friend Alan joined me. We both knew it was good to have a buddy; that whole accountability thing. We could help each other.

At our first appointment I cried (are you seeing a pattern?). As she passed me the box of Kleenex I’m certain is always ready for this moment I said, “I’m just so tired of having this relationship with food.”

So. Much. Chewing.

At first, food felt like a part time job. I had to think about it all the time. I had to learn how to plan a whole new way of eating, I had to figure out how to get the right food to my office. I had to learn how to cook vegetables — all kinds, so I wouldn’t get bored.

And the chewing. I have to eat SO MANY vegetables. I didn’t have the chance to be hungry because of all the vegetables I was constantly shoving in my face.

Related: check out this member story about how a trip to Turkey changed FFC South Loop member Oscar’s perspective and how chewing more slowly changed his life.

Within days I noticed that my blood sugar was always… fine. I was never hungry. I never felt woozy or shaky or so hungry I could eat everything in sight. My digestive system was… happy. And then… the pounds started coming off.

But… not 100% happy.

Contrary to current wisdom around feeling confident and able to “see” yourself as healthy, I didn’t believe I could lose this weight at first. I also didn’t believe all of life’s problems would be solved if I succeeded.

Mostly I just thought, I’ll try this. Maybe I’ll feel better. Maybe it will work. Maybe not. “Don’t get too excited. These pounds have been part of you for 20 years,” I said to myself.

After seven months of mostly good behavior and making the changes more and more permanent, I currently weigh only 7 pounds more than I did 20 years ago – right before I got pregnant when I was 26. (My highest recorded weight was 193 and as I type this, I’m at 163 lbs. I’m 5’2″.)

Now and then, I feel sad for former me because I waited so long, but we do what we can when we’re able. I’ve spent a long time not believing in myself and it’s like an old record with deep grooves.

And I feel conflicted about all the success I’m having because I can’t seem to believe it. But Amy keeps showing me my sheet, and it keeps showing that the weight is coming off. I can’t argue with the data, as much as something in me wants to take success away from myself.

So now I have more attitude adjustment to make. Better late than never. And I know I can conquer my own attitude because I still go to Pilates, sometimes four times a week.

Now and then, I feel sad for former me because I waited so long, but we do what we can when we’re able. I’ve spent a long time not believing in myself and it’s like an old record with deep grooves.

Putting it all together.

FFC Oak Park Pilates benefitsI’ve been taking advantage of Pilates benefits for over a year now. It’s the only exercise thing I’ve ever done that gets both harder and more fun as I get better at it – roughly every six months. It gives me more energy and focus than even yoga, swimming and running used to. My Friday 7 AM group reformer class with Carl is one of the best hours of my whole week, and I have a pretty great life. I might even get licensed to teach, if only to learn something totally different and understand how my body works.

And the weight? Well, I’m working on my attitude even as I have to replace clothes almost constantly. 30 pounds is what a huge bag of dog food weighs, after all. And when I look in the mirror now, I see someone who looks the way I believe I am “supposed to,” which sounds odd, but it’s the most accurate thing I can think of. I mean, it also feels good to appreciate my own body, don’t get me wrong. REALLY good.

I also have noticed that in life overall, since I started working on myself consistently, I’ve started to take a longer view of virtually all things. My dad tells me it’s old age. I prefer maturity.

In the end, it’s only sort of about the weight. It’s more about feeling like myself, and feeling like my body can do anything I want – including whatever Carl, Cameron and Charles can come up with in Pilates mat class. Bring it on. I’ll be able to do it really well in a decade or so.

Post written by FFC Oak Park member Shelby Bower.

Feel pain in a tooth? Your first thought might be, “I need to go to the dentist”. Need help with your taxes or finances? You’d probably go see an accountant or financial planner. Car need a tune-up? Take it to the mechanic! All of these are no-brainers when you’re in need of some help. Yet, when you’re in need of some nutritional guidance, seeing a registered dietitian (RD) may not be your first thought. Many people typically go to their friends, family members or a google search to determine what steps they need to take to get their eating on track. Read on to learn the difference between a registered dietitian vs nutritionist and how a registered dietitian can benefit you!

Registered Dietitian vs. Nutritionist

What is the difference between a registered dietitian vs nutritionist? While the term nutritionist may seem more natural, there is unfortunately no regulation around the term. This means anyone can call themselves a nutritionist. In other words, seeing a nutritionist means you could be working with someone who actually does not have any knowledge in counseling someone about their diet or food intake. On the other hand, registered dietitian is a highly regulated term. To be a RD it is required to have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a health related field, as well as complete specific coursework approved by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

RDs also have to complete an accredited, supervised practice program at a health care facility, community agency or foodservice corporation and pass a national exam. Lastly, RDs have continuing professional educational requirements to maintain registration on an ongoing basis. Some RDs may call themselves a nutritionist, but do so by choice because the public is more accustomed to it. When choosing to see someone for nutritional guidance, it’s okay to be choosy! You can ask them about their educational background, their approach to nutrition counseling, and what their specialties are. This can help you feel more comfortable with putting your trust in him or her.

Looking for Answers in Other Places

Earlier I mentioned going to friends, family members or Google for answers. Unfortunately, these methods may lead to a confusing and misinformed outcome. For instance, your friend’s diet may not work with your body or lifestyle. You might try it out, but not see the same results as they do. This can leave you feeling discouraged. In addition, you might try a google search for information about dietary changes to help with diabetes, digestive issues or clearer skin. What may happen is you’ll end up with conflicting information from different sources which can also leave you feeling discouraged or frustrated. Stop wasting your time with this and start finding the answers to your many nutrition and health related questions! Registered dietitians are the food and nutrition experts and here’s why.

Related: no time for an appointment? Here’s the next best thing – check out this list of the top 10 registered dietitian-approved books and documentaries.

What Can an RD Do for You?

There is a lot that a registered dietitian can do for you! Seeing a dietitian on a one-on-one basis or in a group setting can help you develop the knowledge about how to fuel your body the best. What’s great about working with a dietitian on a one-on-one basis is you’ll get personalized advice for your specific needs, challenges and goals. Together, the client and the RD can create an individualized approach to help you navigate nutrition, eating and your overall wellness. RDs can help you with managing various health conditions such as:

  • diabetes
  • high cholesterol
  • blood pressure
  • kidney disease
  • cancer
  • gout and other conditions

RDs can also help if you are experiencing digestive issues such as irritable bowel syndrome (bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and gas), Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, lactose intolerance and other food sensitivities.

Food Allergies

RDs also help people manage food allergies. If you’re interested in changing your weight or relationship to food, a registered dietitian is a great resource because RDs are trained in a patient-centered approach. The RD will work with you to help you reach YOUR goals in a way that you can feel good about.

Sticking to a Plan

Maybe you feel that you already know what or how to eat, but just aren’t following through with your plan. RDs can help with that too. Sometimes it’s not the education or knowledge that influences changes in behavior; rather, a change in our attitude, beliefs and values is needed. With a RD you’ll start to learn how you can make sustainable, realistic changes that can have a big impact on your long term health and wellbeing.

Diet Experimentation & Training Programs

Interested in trying out a vegetarian or vegan diet? Want to know more about how to fuel your exercise routine or sporting event like a marathon or triathlon? Just want to find out more about what to look out for when grocery shopping? RDs can helps with that too! Seeing a registered dietitian for a group event is a great way to learn more about a specific topic and be with like-minded people who have similar questions as you.

Meet with a FFC registered dietitian today and discover what you’ve been missing!

Post written by FFC West Loop registered dietitian Emily Marshall.

About Emily

Emily Marshall is a registered dietitian at FFC West Loop. She loves building relationships and working one-on-one to help people with nutrition, how it fits into their lives and overall health. Want to set up a complimentary consultation with Emily? Email her at emarshall@ffc.com!

 

We’ve often heard that snacking between meals can wreck a weight loss plan. However, FFC registered dietitian Alicia Huggler has helped guide members to re-think snacking. If you’re on an exercise program, it’s important to stay fueled. Rather than banning all snacks, swap out the processed, packaged stuff for healthy snacks that taste good too. Look for foods that use whole ingredients, avoiding refined sugars, syrups, and oils. The more “whole” foods you have, the more fiber and complex carbs you’ll get…fueling future workouts. These peanut butter cookies with quinoa flakes are great for a healthy snack. The dates and banana will help you satisfy your sweet tooth without worrying about crashing an hour later. Plus, the quinoa flakes pack an extra protein punch and have loads of fiber. Make a batch on the weekend, enjoy as a quick pre-workout snack in the morning or snack on a few after work before you head to the gym!

Peanut Butter Cookies with Quinoa Flakes (Gluten-Free, Vegan and Kid-Friendly)

Level: medium

Servings: 13

Ready in: 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dates, (200g, 7 oz)
  • 1 medium ripe banana (110g)
  • ¼ cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup almond meal (sub brown rice)
  • 1 cup quinoa flakes
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Related: colorful AND delicious Egyptian spiced avocado corn radicchio lettuce cups will get you out of a food rut – try the recipe now!

Directions

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment on a non-stick silicon baking mat.

To make the cookie dough: in a food processor, combine the dates, banana, peanut butter, and vanilla. Add 1/4 cup of water. Puree until creamy, scraping down the sides as needed.

Add the almond meal, quinoa flakes, salt, and baking powder. Puree until combined.

To portion and bake the cookies: portion about 2 teaspoons of dough onto the cookie sheet, leaving about 1 inch in between cookies. Once you’ve portioned all of the cookies, wet your fingers with a little water. Gently push down the cookies to flatten. Shape into pretty, round disks, if needed.

Bake the cookies 15-18 minutes, turning the sheet halfway through cooking. The cookies will be golden brown on the bottom when ready.

Remove and let cool 10 minutes before serving or storing.

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week. Freeze in an air-tight plastic bag (or wrap in foil) for longer.

*Chef’s tips:

  • Use roasted peanut butter that has no added ingredients. Check the ingredients list to make sure there’s no added oil, sugar, or syrup.
  • If you don’t have a food processor, you can also puree the wet ingredients in a blender. When they’re smooth and creamy, transfer the wet mixture to a bowl, then stir in your dry ingredients.
  • For extra texture, add chopped peanuts, currants, or mini vegan chocolate chips.

Yield: about 26 cookies.

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

Post written by FFC group fitness instructor Katie Simmons.

More about Katie: Katie is a group fitness instructor at FFC and is also a personal chef based in Chicago. She specializes in creating delicious, healthy recipes for those with special dietary concerns like gluten-free, oil-free, plant-based, and low-residue. You can see more at www.plants-rule.com. You can also see more recipes at www.facebook.com/plants-rule and follow her on Instagram at @chefkatiesimmons.

 

 

 

Nutrition Facts

Serving size: 1/13 of a recipe (2 cookies)

Amount Per Serving

  • Calories 125.05
  • Calories From Fat (28%) 35.21

% Daily Value

  • Total Fat 4.13g 6%
  • Saturated Fat 0.6g 3%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 128.25mg 5%
  • Potassium 166.69mg 5%
  • Total Carbohydrates 20.77g 7%
  • Fiber 2.23g 9%
  • Sugar 12.86g
  • Protein 3.11g 6%
  • Calcium 1.31mg <1%
  • Iron 30.89mg 172%
  • Vitamin A 7.35IU <1%
  • Vitamin C 0.46mg <1%

 

 

Oatmeal muffins were first introduced in American cookbooks in the mid-1800s. They are similar in size and shape to a cupcake, but can be healthier for you if you include the right ingredients! Check out a list of the different types of oats, their benefits, plus a recipe for easy blueberry oatmeal muffins below!

What are the different types of oats available?

There are 5 main types of oats. They include:

  • Instant oats: oats that have been steamed and flaked.
  • Rolled oats (also called regular or old-fashioned oats): oats that have been steamed and rolled into flakes that are thicker (and thus take longer to cook) than instant oats.
  • Steel-cut oats (also called Irish oats): you get the whole oat kernel, cut up. These take about 20 minutes to cook.
  • Scottish oats: these are like steel-cut oats, but instead of being cut, they are ground.
  • Oat groats: this is the whole oat kernel — no cuts, flakes, or grinding. They take longer to cook than other oats. Give them 50-60 minutes to cook, after you bring the water to a boil.

What are the benefits of oats?

Benefits of oats range from lowering cholesterol to protecting us against free radicals.

  • Oats contain beta-glucan fiber. This particular fiber can aid in lowering cholesterol and can strengthen your immune system.
  • Oats also have polyphenol compounds that have antioxidant properties that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals — molecules produced when your body breaks down food or is exposed to tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.

What are some healthier oatmeal toppings?

Healthier additives to incorporate into your oatmeal muffin (or just oatmeal!) recipes include:

  • Nuts such as walnuts or nut butter such as almond butter or peanut butter
  • Blueberries, bananas, unsweetened applesauce or other fruit
  • Dark chocolate chips
  • Cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice etc.
  •  

Bonus: instead of white flour (which has little to no nutritional value) put rolled oats in a blender to make your own oat flour!

Baked Blueberry Oatmeal Muffins

  • Prep time: 5 minutes
  • Cook time: 17 minutes
  • Total Time: about 22 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup mashed banana
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, uncooked
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray large muffin tin with non-stick spray.
  • Mash banana until smooth.
  • Add banana, oats, beaten egg, baking powder and vanilla to a bowl.
  • Stir until just combined.
  • Stir in blueberries.
  • Using a large spring-release scoop, fill muffin tins with batter. (I usually fill to the top; these muffins don’t rise very much.)
  • Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes, then decrease oven temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking for 12 more minutes.
  • Allow muffins to cool slightly in the muffin tin for a few minutes. Removing them while hot will likely cause the muffins to break apart, as they are very moist.

Original recipe written by Paula Jones – you can find it here: www.callmepmc.com.

For more information on how to incorporate healthy foods into your daily lifestyle please reach out to FFC Park Ridge’s registered dietitian, Alicia Huggler, at ahuggler@ffc.com

Post written by FFC Park Ridge registered dietitian Alicia Huggler.

 

According to the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), “Each year, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated food.” It’s important to know that foodborne illness is the most common during the months of November and December. Many of these outbreaks have been linked to foods commonly served during the holidays, such as turkey and roast beef. Fortunately, there are precautions you can take, like considering food safety temperatures and other basics, to keep you and your loved ones well this holiday season!

Preparing Food

First, it’s important to know the basics of food safety. Following these steps every time you prepare food will help prevent foodborne illness.

1. CLEAN: Take the time to wash your hands, clean your kitchen cooking surfaces and utensils, and wash your produce before you use it. Do you know how long you are supposed to wash your hands for in order to effectively clean them? It’s about 20 seconds or the length of time to sing happy birthday to yourself. It’s important that all kitchen surfaces and utensils are clean prior to cooking, as well as right after cooking so as to prevent the spread of bacteria and reduce your chances of bringing pests, such as mice or ants, into your house.

Produce must be cleaned before eating or cooking because it may also be harboring bacteria or other pathogens from the grocery store or from the ground it was growing in. I like to wash my produce in a nice clean sink filled with water with a splash of white vinegar added to it. I let the dirt fall to the bottom of the sink as the produce soaks in the water, then I take it out and rinse it well and allow it to air dry.

2. SEPARATE: Prevent cross-contamination by keeping raw meat away from fresh produce on surfaces and in the fridge. This is an important one. Raw meat is especially prone to containing bacteria and other pathogens and must be kept separate from ready to eat foods. The best way to thaw meat is in a shallow dish with a lid in the refrigerator overnight and up to 2 days. This is to ensure that that the meat or fish stays at a safe temperature throughout the entire thawing process.

It also ensures that no drippings or juices from the thawed meat accidentally touch other foods in the fridge. Always use separate cutting boards and utensils when handling raw meat and produce. Clean the area that was used to cut or handle raw meat with a disinfecting cleaning solution before placing other foods or produce in that area.

Cooking Food

3. COOK: Use a cooking thermometer to consider food safety temperatures in order to tell when all the bacteria has been killed during cooking. This is the only way to determine if your food has reached a safe temperature. According to the Food Safety Inspection Service, hot food must be kept hot at a temperature above 140 F. Leftovers must be reheated to 165 F. It is recommended to cook all raw beef, pork, lamb and veal steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145 °F before removing the meat from the heat source.

For safety and quality, allow the meat to rest for at least three minutes before carving or consuming. Cook all raw ground beef, pork, lamb, and veal to an internal temperature of 160 °F as measured with a food thermometer. Poultry should register 165 °F to be considered safe to eat.

Related: with little to no calories, spices pack a surprisingly interesting and powerful punch. Check out these 6 to always have on hand!

4. CHILL: Never let perishable food sit out at room temperature for more than two hours. I often see this at parties and gatherings. Dips, catered food, appetizers, and main courses are typically left to sit out for hours for guests to nibble on, but the longer a food sits out at room temperature, the more opportunity it has to harbor pathogens that cause foodborne illness. Make note of how long the food has been sitting out for and store it into Tupperware containers in the fridge or freezer before two hours. Otherwise, you’ll have to throw it away.

Remember, your freezer is your best friend when it comes to storing food you’ve prepared and saving it for another day. This can save you time in the long run, but a good tip is to put a label on the container of food you put in your freezer and keep tabs of what you have stored away. Freezing food will keep bacteria at bay, but the quality of the food may not be as good after a year of being in the freezer. For best quality use frozen foods within 6 months. Check to make sure your freezer and fridge are at the correct temperatures. The refrigerator should be at 40 °F or below and the freezer at 0 °F or below.

Following the food safety basics are the main ways to prevent foodborne illness all year round and can make the difference in saving you a trip to the hospital or emergency room. Many people may have been in contact with food that has been contaminated with harmful pathogens, but fortunately their immune systems have been strong enough to fight it off. Those who are more prone to developing foodborne illness are children younger than 5 years, adults aged 65 and older, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems due to medical conditions such as diabetes, liver or kidney disease, alcoholism, and HIV/AIDS; or to receiving chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Post written by FFC Registered Dietitian Emily Marshall.