Climbing Michi's Ladder: Natto

Monday, February 28, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Denis Faye

If you're asking how an obscure Japanese foodstuff made from fermented soybeans found its way onto Michi's Ladder, I don't have an answer for you. Such is the magical mystery of Michi.

The origin of natto isn't completely clear, but one possible version dates back to Japan's great shogun Minamoto no Yoshiie. Legend has it that his men headed into battle sometime around 1087 A.D., leaving some recently boiled soybeans unattended for several days. When they returned, the beans had fermented, smelling like cheese with the consistency of stringy paste. Undaunted, the warriors tasted the beans and liked them.

The fact that they were willing to eat food in this state of decay might explain why the Minamoto clan no longer rules Japan, but luck was on their side that day. Natto, as it would eventually be named, turned out to be highly nutritious.

The nutrition facts

There are a number of proposed health benefits to natto, such as the claim that the presence of the compound pyrazine and the enzyme nattokinase can reduce blood clotting. If that's a draw for you, these claims are definitely worth more research.

Otherwise, natto is still filled with good old-fashioned nutrition. Half a cup contains 186 calories, 10 grams of fat (2 of which are saturated), 13 grams of carbs, 16 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fiber. For vitamins, you'll find 19 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)* for vitamin C; 26 percent for vitamin K; 10 percent for riboflavin and thiamin; and little bits of vitamin B6, folate, and pantothenic acid. For minerals, there's 29 percent of the RDA for calcium, 42 percent for iron, 25 percent for magnesium, 15 percent for phosphorus, 18 percent for potassium and zinc, 29 percent for copper, and 67 percent for manganese.

How do you eat this stuff?

Most people eat natto straight or on rice with a little soy sauce or mustard. I'll tell you right now, it's an acquired taste. Before you gross out completely, though, consider this: You've been eating fermented milk as cheese and yogurt longer than you can remember and fermented grapes as wine longer than you care to remember, so what makes fermented soy beans any weirder?

1 cup of natto (175 g)
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total
371 19 g 25 g 9 g 31 g

7 Foods That Make You Smarter

Sunday, February 27, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Suzy Buglewicz

If the rapidly approaching school year has you scrambling for tips on how to move your kids to the head of the class, or if you're looking for ways to increase your own productivity, start by examining your diet. Studies have shown that certain foods act like fuel for our brains by increasing concentration and memory function. Some foods have even been shown to slow down the mind's natural aging process. The next time you really need to stay alert or pay attention, try to eat more of these seven foods that have been shown to increase brain function and the ability to focus. Combine this practice with other good habits, like working out to your favorite Beachbody® DVD (mine Chalene Johnson's Turbo Jam®), and you'll soon find yourself at the head of the class—at any age.

Spinach. At only 40 calories a cup, a serving of spinach contains almost half your daily requirement of folic acid, an essential nutrient for cell growth, blood production, and preventing memory loss. And spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods available—just 1 cup contains all your body's daily requirements of vitamins A and K, plus most of the folate and manganese you need each day. These nutrients improve brain function and slow down the effects of premature aging by preventing the negative effects of oxidation on the brain. Spinach is also rich in iron and lutein, which promotes healthy eyesight.

Smart Tip: Try replacing iceberg lettuce with spinach leaves in your next dinner salad, or add fresh spinach to an omelet.

Oatmeal. As a strong source of insoluble fiber, oatmeal provides a stable energy that helps your brain maintain consistent focus and concentration. Eating oatmeal can also slow down the digestion of starch, reducing the frequent spikes in blood sugar that usually occur after a big meal. The iron, magnesium, and zinc in oatmeal encourage cell growth and can increase metabolism and regulate blood sugar. To get the maximum nutritional benefits, avoid the instant flavored packets, which are loaded with sugar, and stick with the plain, slower-cooking kind—it still cooks up in the microwave in just 2 or 3 minutes.

Smart Tip: Turn up the flavor naturally by preparing oatmeal with low-fat milk and topping it with fresh blueberries or banana slices.

Fish. Many studies have shown that eating oily fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids can boost memory, concentration, and mental acuity. Omega-3 acids also appear to strengthen the brain's synapses that are directly related to learning and memorization. And if that's not reason enough to eat more fish, the omega-3 fatty acids also help slow down mental cognitive decline.

Smart Tip: Watch mercury levels when choosing fish, and consider wild salmon, albacore tuna, and mackerel, which all contain omega-3s with minimal environmental contaminants.

Walnuts. Eating just a handful of these nuts every day can prevent the decline of cognitive and motor function, increase brain resiliency, and improve cell functioning. Walnuts are loaded with protein and omega-3 fatty acids that balance the unstable neurotransmitters that can cause depression and other mood swings.

Smart Tip: Sprinkle a handful of chopped walnuts on salads or fill a travel container for a healthy on-the-go snack. You'll feel full longer, reducing the temptation to binge between meals.

Berries. Many types of berries, especially blueberries and strawberries, contain flavonoids, which have been linked to brain cell growth and improved memory. Berries with the darkest, richest colors offer the most nutritional value. Eat the real thing to reap the benefits, and avoid anything that contains "berry flavoring." The antioxidants, vitamin C, and anti-inflammatory properties in berries have been shown to preserve brain function and are a factor in the prevention of dementia.

Smart Tip: Sprinkle berries on salads, cereal, or yogurt, or make yourself a fresh berry fruit smoothie.

Yogurt. Widely known as a top calcium source for bone development and strength, yogurt also contains enough protein and carbohydrates in just one serving to keep both the body and the brain energized throughout the day. Yogurt also contains amino acids that encourage the production of neurotransmitters, and enough vitamin B to encourage—along with the protein—the growth of brain tissue while slowing down the aging process.

Smart Tip: Eat yogurt topped with berries for breakfast or lunch, or if you're having a salad, nix the bottled dressing and make your own by mixing a quarter of a cup of plain nonfat or low-fat yogurt with fresh herbs.

Eggs. These low-calorie, nutrient-dense wonders are rich in protein as well as choline, an important nutrient that helps regulate the brain and nervous system by acting as a messenger between muscles and nerves. If you've been avoiding eggs because you're worried about your cholesterol, take note: Numerous research studies have shown that eating eggs as part of a healthy diet is not a contributing factor to heart disease. The nutrients in eggs also increase memory development and aid in concentration. Another plus? Egg yolks contain lutein, which has been shown to improve eye health.

Smart Tip: Enjoy an egg and spinach omelet for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.

Brainpower Recipes:

Grilled Tuna with Quinoa
  • 4 6-oz. albacore tuna steaks (1 inch thick)
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/3 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • Medium saucepan
  • Shallow bowl or casserole dish
Preheat broiler or grill. Put water on to boil in medium saucepan. While water is boiling, place olive oil in shallow bowl or casserole dish. Coat tuna steaks in oil, season with salt and pepper, then cover dish and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. When water is boiling, add quinoa to pan and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. While quinoa is cooking, grill fish approximately 7 minutes and drizzle with lime juice. Remove quinoa from heat and add orange juice and cilantro; mix well. Serve tuna steaks and quinoa with a fresh spinach salad (see below). Makes 4 servings.

Fresh Spinach Salad
  • 10 oz. raw baby spinach (about 8 cups)
  • 1/4 small onion, minced
  • 1 large carrot, slivered
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut in thin strips
  • 1/3 cup walnut pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp. vinegar (balsamic or rice wine)
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
  • Large bowl
  • Small bowl
Wash and dry spinach. Combine with other vegetables and walnut pieces in large bowl. Mix oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper in small bowl, then drizzle over salad. Toss and serve. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
Without salad: 415 23 g 2 g 19 g 18.5 g 4 g
With salad: 560 28 g 6 g 26 g 35.5 g 5 g

Easy Fruit Smoothie
  • 1/3 cup sliced strawberries
  • 1/3 cup blueberries
  • 1/3 cup sliced bananas
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 6 oz. plain low-fat yogurt
Place all ingredients in blender or food processer and blend for 1 minute. Makes 1 serving.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
264 12 g 4 g 49 g 3 g < 1 g

By Team Beachbody

How did cookies become the Healthiest Meal of the Day? When an enterprising Team Beachbody® chef figured out how to have their Shakeology and eat it, too. Simple to make and delicious to eat—you'll never guess how healthy you're being.
  • 1 cup raw almond butter
  • 1 cup organic oatmeal (quick)
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup organic honey (according to desired sweetness)
  • 1 cup Chocolate Shakeology
  • Medium bowl
Combine in medium bowl and mix well. Roll into balls (about a heaping teaspoon each). Makes 10 cookies.

Optional: Roll in crushed nuts or unsweetened coconut flakes before serving.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
249 10 g 2.5 g 22 g 15 g 1.5 g

By Steve Edwards

If you want a drink, you want a drink, and all the bad press you read isn't likely to quench your thirst. So the nutrition 911 on alcohol will be to skip the boring science and discuss what to do when you're going to drink. Besides, studies keep telling us that a bit of alcohol in your diet enhances your health and lengthens your life span. All you may know now is that the last time you hit the bar, you woke up feeling like someone was using a Rototiller® on your brain, leaving you to wonder, "How can this have been good for me?"

The truth? It isn't. A hangover means you've done damage that needs to be reversed. Unfortunately, one common remedy is a greasy meal, which further damages your system and hinders your weight loss plans. But all cocktails are not created equal. Just like making smart choices with the foods you eat, imbibing with a plan can be the difference between extending your life and maintaining your P90X®, INSANITY®, or TurboFire® results and getting to know your Domino's delivery guy on a first-name basis. Let's get started, class, with this week's nutrition 911: the Best and Worst Cocktails.

The Best:
  1. Red wine. Much has been written about its high antioxidant content, the chemical resveratrol, and how wine drinkers are the healthiest sect of those who imbibe regularly. A handful of large-scale, long-term studies on wine have shown that those who drink heavily outlive teetotalers, and those who drink in moderation outlive everyone. This has led to a huge increase in wine production in the U.S.

    Keep in mind that while you hear a lot about the difference between red and white wines, in virtually every study, both have been shown to improve health. Red wine and its high antioxidant content gain most of the attention, but two recent studies gave white wine a higher rating for both free radical reduction and cardiovascular health. It seems you can't go wrong either way.

    Downside . . . The sulfates in red wine negatively affect many people, often leading to an inability to sleep. And if you can't sleep, you're offsetting all the positive effects. Consider checking the alcohol content listed on the bottle—the recent trend has been toward high-alcohol-content wines. By drinking high-alcohol wines, it might seem like you're getting more bang for the buck. While that may be true, do you really want the bang, or just a nice accoutrement to dinner?
  2. Microbrews. In recent years, on a percentage basis only microbrewed beer production has increased more than wine production in the U.S. The reason for this trend is generally credited to mass-produced American beer, which beer snobs think tastes worse than stagnant water. But another reason is that microbrewed beer is healthier—much healthier, in fact. Most mass-produced beers in the U.S. are cheaply made, relying on ingredients like corn, rice, additives, colorings, and flavorings (oddly enough, the same things that make up most of the junk you can buy at 7-Eleven®). Microbrews adhere to the European codes for beer production, which dictate that it's made from barley, hops, wheat, and water. A good microbrew contains protein (more than double, in fact), more electrolytes (quadruple), and many times more vitamins and assorted phytonutrients (like flavonoids) than cheap beer. In fact, microbrewed beer is better for you than most sports drinks, sometimes even for sports.

    Downside . . . It can be part of the recovery process, but don't try making it do all the work. Beer still contains alcohol, and if you down beer as if it were Gatorade®, you'll wind up with a hangover that'll impede your sports performance.
  3. Guinness stout. In Ireland, the saying goes that Guinness is food. And sure enough, it tastes like it. Thick, rich, and syrupy, one Guinness can feel as satisfying as a case of Bud Light®. It's also low in calories and high in iron, making it one of the best choices if you're going for a mass-produced beer.

    Downside . . . It can be addicting. When one doesn't do the trick anymore, you can quickly pile on calories. And remember that most calories in beer come from alcohol.
  4. Top-shelf alcohol of any kind. Straight, on the rocks, or with water. The means of producing hard alcohol ensure that you're getting what you pay for. Cheap stuff isn't made with a high-quality distillation process, which leaves it with all sorts of impurities and a taste that virtually guarantees it'll wind up being mixed with nonalcoholic and usually highly caloric mixers. Top-shelf stuff, whether it's bourbon, vodka, or even rum, is made to be consumed alone, or with water. Slowly savoring your drink is a great way to make sure that you don't overdo it. Cost is another. It's much better to slowly relish a single glass of Blanton's than to power down a fifth of Old Grand-Dad® and Coke®.

    Downside . . . The cost of providing for your top-shelf-only habit could lead to enough extra stress down at the office to offset the stress-relief you're achieving with your drink.
  5. Vodka and soda. Vodka is the purest of the hard alcohols, and soda is mainly water. Add a couple of limes and you've got a clean, refreshing cocktail with very few calories.

    Downside . . . It's so clean and refreshing, it's hard to be restrained. If you have four of these, you might as well have just had that strawberry margarita you wanted in the first place.
The Worst:
  1. Scorpion. Or just about anything you'll find at the Kon Tiki, Trader Vic's®, or anyplace where a drink is referred to as "grog." If there's anything worse than mixing a lot of sugar-based alcohols together, it's mixing them with a bunch of sugary juices in a bowl that's big enough for six. Drink one of these and be prepared to skip the entire drunken process and head straight to the hangover.
  2. Long Island Iced Tea. Forget the word "tea." There are no antioxidants to be found in this concoction of five different alcohols, sweet and sour mix, and Coke. A few of these and you might as well put in a wake-up call with Domino's.
  3. Red Bull and vodka. If you want to be a supercharged drunk, here ya go. One of the main offenders of the hangover is your inability to sleep well after a night on the town. Nothing enhances the chance of seeing dawn's early light like a couple of these. The only positive is that maybe you'll dance all night and work off the calories. Hopefully you won't have to work the next day.
  4. Jack and Coke. You might as well just mainline your whiskey. Nothing's better than Coke at creating a sugar rush. Adding alcohol to this mix creates the perfect atmosphere for a bar fight. The only saving grace is that being drunk impairs your reflexes. Losing a couple of late-night melees could lead to some restraint.
  5. Piña colada. The only thing more densely caloric than alcohol is fat, and this baby combines the two, along with all the sugar you need to guarantee a hangover. The result is a virtually nutrition-free milkshake that contains half of your daily caloric requirement. The only possible bright side is that the only place you're likely to feel comfortable drinking one of these is on an island where you have ample opportunity to shed the pounds you gained the night before.

Recipe: Reduced-Fat Meatloaf

Thursday, February 24, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Team Beachbody

Who among us (carnivores and omnivores, at least) doesn't love a good meatloaf? And with 24 grams of protein per serving and lots of healthy veggies, this recipe will let you feed your craving for this classic American comfort food without sending your good eating habits off the rails.
  • 1-1/2 lbs. extra-lean ground beef, ground turkey breast, or extra-lean ground turkey
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped green pepper
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened tomato sauce
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix together well with wooden spoons or hands. Place on board or waxed paper and shape into loaf, then place in loaf pan and bake for about 1 hour. Depending on the shape and thickness of the loaf, it may need to cook for slightly longer. Serves 6.

Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
257 24 g 2 g 13 g 12 g 4 g

4 Down and Dirty One-Pot Meals

Wednesday, February 23, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Joe Wilkes

For a lot of us, an elegant sit-down family dinner means serving the chicken without the bucket. Having to work until 5:00 or 6:00 at night and then having to come home and whip up something your children will eat and won't get you reported to Protective Services can be a challenge for anyone. Then after the cooking, the serving, and potentially the force-feeding, you get to spend the rest of the evening doing the dishes and cleaning your kitchen so you can do it all again tomorrow. They never show that part on Martha Stewart. No wonder you have the pizza place on speed-dial. But it's possible to eat both quickly and healthily. Here are a few ideas for getting something nutritious on the table in a hurry, and the best part? Only one pot to clean!

(And for single people, invest in some airtight containers, freeze your leftovers, and be a slave to Lean Cuisine® no more!)
  1. Get to wok. Instead of summoning the deliverymen with the greasy white boxes, try making your own stir-fry feast. You can cut out most of the extra fat, corn syrup, and sodium your takeout place so kindly provides, and if you can enlist some prep help with the chopping, it takes only minutes to cook, and even less time to clean!
    • Heat enough olive, peanut, or sesame oil to keep food from sticking to the wok.
    • When the oil's hot, add sliced meat or tofu with some crushed ginger and/or garlic.
    • When the meat is cooked through, add your favorite chopped veggies, like carrots, celery, cabbage, onions, snow peas, or scallions (you can chop the veggies while the meat's cooking).
    • Add a dash of low-sodium soy sauce or tamari or a little orange juice to make a sauce and serve!
    If you're not watching your carbs and don't want to get another pot dirty, follow the microwaveable rice directions in the "Lazy Chef" article earlier in this newsletter. Same rule applies: Go for brown or wild rice. You can also make extra rice and make Quick Rice Surprise the next day, or stir-fry the extra rice with any leftover meat and vegetables. And if you scramble an egg into the mix, you've got healthy fried rice—increasing your meal output impressively for virtually the same amount of effort.

    Shortcut: Many grocery stores sell mixes of stir-fry vegetables already chopped and combined in their produce or frozen foods sections. They won't be quite as delicious as if they were freshly chopped, but as long as they don't pile on any extra ingredients (frozen mixes especially might add some sauce or salt you don't want), they're just as healthy.
  2. Loafing after work. The humble meatloaf. Most of us remember this classic treat from our childhood. It was usually an alchemic combination of ground beef, bread crumbs, ketchup, and whole eggs. Delicious? Yes. Nutritious? Not so much. Much of the deliciousness came from the beef fat soaking the bread crumbs and combining with the egg yolks to give us a couple of days' worth of saturated fat in one serving. Then there's all the extra salt and corn syrup the ketchup brings to the party. But it doesn't have to be this way—a healthy 'loaf can be made, still be flavorful without the fat, and still maintain enough structural integrity to be repurposed as a sandwich filling the next day.
    • Use extra-lean ground beef, or either ground turkey breast or extra-lean ground turkey. Check the label to be sure it's extra-lean—if it just says "ground turkey," it can have 15 percent or more fat, and what's the point of that?
    • Next, add some vegetables to the mix. You can add chopped or grated carrots, celery, onions, bell peppers, parsnips—whatever you like. Just watch the amounts of juicier veggies like tomatoes, which can turn your loaf into less appetizing soup. The amount of vegetables should be proportional to the meat. (This is also a great way of slipping veggies to the picky eaters in your family.)
    • Instead of adding bread crumbs, try a handful of rolled oats. You'll get more fiber and they won't absorb fat the way that bread crumbs will (not that there's all that much to absorb with this revamped approach to the 'loaf).
    • Add a couple of egg whites, which, along with the oats' gluten, will provide enough "glue" to hold the 'loaf together. Also add any fresh herbs, garlic, or other seasonings you enjoy. Mush it all together and shape into the familiar 'loaf form beloved throughout history.
    • Most meatloaf recipes bake in a 350ish-degree oven for an hour or so and call for the 'loaf to sit for at least 15 minutes to cool, letting the ingredients take time to cohere and giving the flavors time to marry fully.
    Shortcut: Take a look a little later on in this newsletter for a terrific Reduced-Fat Meatloaf recipe that follows the principles we've just laid out for you. It's delish!

    Also, not good at separating eggs? Most grocery stores sell cartons of egg whites on their own. Or you can use egg substitutes, like Egg Beaters®. In addition to being healthier, they're also more convenient. No cracking, scrambling, or getting hands and bowls dirty. It may only save a couple of minutes, but those are minutes better devoted to serious 'loafing!
  3. Stew in your own juices. Stew. Or as I like to call it, my vegetables' last stop before Garbagetown. You're cooking and cleaning out your refrigerator—now that's multitasking! You can call it stew, goulash, gumbo, cassoulet, ratatouille, cioppino, or ragout, but most importantly, you can call it dinner.
    • Put a big pot on the stove. Put a little olive or canola oil in the bottom, and when it heats, brown some raw meat, poultry, fish (best if it's not too flaky or delicate), or tofu. (If you're using leftover or precooked meat, just throw it in with the vegetables, and ignore this and the next step.)
    • Put the cooked protein aside, drain the fat, and then deglaze the pot with a little red or white wine.
    • Next pay a visit to the vegetable morgue, also known as the crisper drawer, and add to the pot whatever looks like it won't make it through the night (some garlic and onions are always good, too—even if they're not at death's door). Root vegetables are traditional favorites here: Carrots, turnips, parsnips, and potatoes are all great ingredients for a hearty stew. Smaller ones can be scrubbed, trimmed, and cooked whole; otherwise cut them in one- or two-inch chunks.
    • Once the veggies have softened and relinquished their juices, add the meat back in, add some low-sodium chicken, vegetable, or beef broth and/or some no-salt tomato sauce, and cook on low heat until it reaches the desired consistency (about 15 to 20 minutes).
    • If you're short on time after work, this could be thrown together in a Crock-Pot® or slow cooker in the morning, and when you return home, dinner's ready!
    Shortcut: Most supermarkets' meat departments sell pre-cut cubes of meat or fish, all wrapped up and ready to go. Also, it's always good to have a couple of favorite staple vegetables in the freezer or a can or two of beans on hand to throw into the pot.
  4. The casserole—a pan and a plan. How would the cream-of-anything soup industry stay in business without casseroles? Not to mention the canned-french-fried-onion companies. Casseroles, in and of themselves, don't have to be bad for you. They start out with meat and vegetables, which are usually pretty healthy. It's the improvisations that usually get our diets in trouble.
    • To begin with, choose lean meats. Sausage-and-whatever casseroles are usually yummy because the other ingredients soak up all the artery-clogging fat from the sausage. Using lean meat or poultry will help keep it healthy from the get-go.
    • Also, keep the vegetable-to-meat ratio fairly high. Imagine what a serving of a casserole would look like spread out on a plate in its component parts. You probably wouldn't consider a pound of meat and a brussels sprout a well-balanced meal. Try to keep the meat to about 4 ounces per serving and fill the rest of the pan with fiber-rich, filling, healthy vegetables (not just potatoes, either).
    • For sauces, try to avoid cheese and anything that begins with "cream of," as well as actual cream itself. Canned soups, a casserole staple, usually rely heavily on sodium for flavor. You can do much better by using a low-sodium broth, which you can whisk together with some nonfat powdered milk and corn starch to make a faux cream sauce.
    • If you like pasta in your casserole, try using a whole-grain variety.
    • And instead of adding french-fried onions, how about thinly sliced almonds to provide a little crunch?
    Shortcut: Most casseroles can be assembled a day ahead of time, so if you're anticipating a late day at the office, you can make the casserole the night before, and just pop it into the oven the next day. That overnight bonding time you give your ingredients will make the casserole that much tastier.

Recipe Tips for the Lazy Chef

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Joe Wilkes

A little later in this newsletter, you'll find an article I wrote about one-pot meals, with some cooking tips for people like me who want to limit their kitchen mess to one pot. After I wrote it, however, this question occurred to me: "Why wash even one pot?" And sure enough, there are many ways you can make yourself three hot meals a day without dirtying even one pot. All you need is a little ingenuity and a stark phobia of the kitchen sink.

Dishes! Foiled again! One of the greatest inventions ever for the lazy chef is something I call "packet cuisine." There's a wide variety of recipes you can make by placing all the ingredients on a piece of foil, folding it up tight to seal it, and placing it in a hot oven until everything's piping hot and infused with the flavorings you've included. One of my fast foil favorites is super-easy and mess-free. Place a piece of your favorite fish (I'm a big salmon fan) in the center of a large sheet of foil and pull up the sides a bit so the liquids won't run out while you're preparing the dish. Add some lemon juice, fresh dill, scallions, salt, pepper, and a splash of olive oil, then seal up the foil. Bake the fish packet in the oven at 350° for 15 to 20 minutes, and you'll have a perfectly steamed piece of fish—with no dishes to wash. I know what you're thinking: "Sounds good. But won't I be up all night washing the knife and cutting board I used to chop the scallions and dill?" Not if you use one of modern man's handiest implements—the scissors! In the interest of hygiene, these should be a dedicated pair of scissors for food, not the ones you cut your hair with, and should at the very least be rinsed off between uses. But make sure to cut the scallions and dill or any other favorite herb over the fish, and voilà, flavor with much less fuss!

You can use the foil packet technique to cook chicken breasts (they'll take longer to cook than fish—make sure all pink is gone from center of meat and juices run clear), and if you don't want them to be mushy, you can unwrap them after they've cooked through and toss them under the broiler (on a sheet of foil of course—no point in having to scrub the broiler pan!) to brown them. Pieces of lean beef and pork can go right under the broiler, again on a piece of foil. (Make sure you preheat the broiler first.) Five minutes on each side should give you a nice medium-rare steak (depending on thickness). Also, you can save cleanup time on any ovenware—broiler pan, baking pan, cookie sheet—by lining it with foil before you cook. (Please remember, though, never to use foil in the microwave.) When you're done cooking, pitch the foil, and your ovenware is clean! (And to be environmentally conscious, rinse off the foil and put it in your recycling bin.)

The nuclear option. Of course, the microwave oven has transformed the lazy cook movement more than any other appliance. You can make a variation of almost any dish with just a few ingredients, a paper plate, and some paper towels or plastic wrap.

Some may question whether using paper products is the most environmentally friendly option, and it's true that using a plastic or ceramic dish saves trees lost through excessive paper plate use. Then again, you're not using water to wash the paper plate or sending dishwashing detergent into the wastewater supply. Keep in mind, however, that although paper plates are recyclable, they can't be recycled once they've been soaked with grease or other cooking juices.

My friend swears by Quick Rice Surprise. Stock up on rice. There are a bunch of microwaveable rice products on the market that work well—though we would recommend using brown rice or wild rice, so you get more fiber. First, prepare the rice according to the package instructions, then search your refrigerator for any condiments or leftovers that would go well with the rice (that's the surprise!). Salsa or hot sauce is a great addition to Quick Rice Surprise. Also consider using nonfat cheese, sour cream, or yogurt; any leftover turkey, chicken, or lunch meat; tuna; soy sauce; or your favorite spices. This is also a great way to use up any leftover fresh vegetables, or you could add some frozen, thawed vegetables to the mix.

Actually, frozen or leftover cooked fresh vegetables also make a great base for a yummy spur-of-the-moment microwave dish. I'm partial to nuking some Brussels sprouts and topping them with a little Parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar for a tasty snack or side dish.

Containers contain the mess. Sure, we were brought up to believe that eating straight from the container or drinking straight from the milk carton was disgusting, but it can also be a very practical way of dining in. For example, I usually buy 16-ounce containers of nonfat cottage cheese. For my first serving, I usually empty half the container into a bowl (which I later have to wash—boooo!); doctor it up with my favorite salsas, hot sauces, or spices; and then eat. The only thing better is the second time I whip up my spicy cottage cheese mixture—in the container! Yes, you heard right. I mix it up and eat it right out of the container and then throw the container in the recycling bin! No fuss, no muss—just a high-protein, low-calorie snack or meal! This technique also works great with yogurt and similar packaged items. Also, if you can bear doing a big load of dishes once a week, you can do what I do and cook up a big pot of healthy something or other and dispense the leftovers into recyclable plastic containers for later dishwashing-free (or -delayed) consumption.

The food is the plate. Why do the dishes when you can eat the dishes? There are plenty of whole wheat breadstuffs that have enough structural integrity to be used as cooking and serving vessels. Try a mini-pizza on a whole wheat pizza shell, a whole wheat tortilla, an English muffin, or a lavash. A little tomato sauce, your favorite veggies, and some nonfat or low-fat mozzarella and you're good to go. Or you could make a run for the border. A friend of mine gave me this easy burrito-making tip. She spreads some nonfat refried beans and nonfat cheese on a whole wheat tortilla and sticks it in her toaster oven until the beans are warm and the cheese is melted. Then she adds a little salsa, nonfat sour cream, black olives, and some scissor-chopped scallions on top, and enjoys a healthy vegetarian meal, with no cleanup!

By Omar Shamout

To some degree, everyone wants to be a rock star. Seriously, who hasn't had at least a passing temptation to throw a television out the hotel window because, you know, Led Zeppelin did it? Especially when you're young, being the wild and crazy party animal among your friends seems like an instant way to gain popularity and adoration. The problem is, not all rock stars have the luck and longevity of Keith Richards, and if you try to emulate his lifestyle, you'll probably end up dead like John Bonham instead. Or Jimi Hendrix. Or Janis Joplin. Or Kurt Cobain. That's not to say we all need to live like the Jonas Brothers and abstain completely, but it's worthwhile to realize that those special nights out are best remembered for the company and camaraderie you shared, rather than forgotten as the result of chemically-induced amnesia.

The Opening Act

So you've nailed down the perfect outfit, got your new 'do, and smell like a million bucks. But don't head out on the town before your body is as finely tuned as Clapton's Fender® Stratocaster®.
  1. Rest! If you get less than 4 hours of sleep per night, or you've been up for 16 hours or more, you're probably already acting drunk, even before you've had a drop of alcohol. This is because not getting enough REM sleep negatively affects your body's motor functions, blood sugar absorption, and immune system. You'll be friendlier, wittier, and more sociable with all your friends when you're rested, and this might come in handy if you're looking for a new type of friend (or two, if you really want to love like a rock star...).
  2. Eat well! Van Halen ate M&Ms® (except the brown ones, according to their notorious concert contract rider), Busta Rhymes eats KFC®, and Meat Loaf, circa 1970s, ate pretty much everything under the sun, except his namesake. If you want to eat right, you probably want to follow another direction. Ideally, you should eat healthy meals that include a balance of carbohydrates (from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains), protein (from lean meats and fish, legumes, nuts, soy, and dairy products), and fats (avoiding saturated and trans fats). A solid meal will help stave off the urge for that 1 AM pilgrimage to the taco truck with your less-well-fed friends.

    And remember, eating right doesn't need to be a solo venture. If you really want to seem hip and in the know, bring your friends to the latest trendy "foodie" haven before hitting the bars and clubs. That way, you'll all spend a few hours focused on cuisine instead of cocktails. Know that thrill you get from discovering a new underground band? Well, most people feel the same way about finding a great new restaurant before the masses, so choose wisely and your friends will bestow upon you admiration comparable to what Justin Timberlake receives in a room full of Hollywood starlets.
The Headliner

This is it. The main event. The moment the crowd has been waiting for all night. It's time to shine, so here's how to ensure the lighters (or iPhones with lighter apps) come out, and you walk off stage a legend:
  1. Dance, dance, dance! We all know that half an hour of cardio per day is an essential component of staying healthy and fit, so combine it with your night out and kill two birds with one stone! Dancing is wonderful exercise, and is sure to work up a sweat. If you're worried your moves are less Michael Jackson and more Elaine from Seinfeld, why not try joining a group hip-hop class, or try out Hip Hop Abs® to learn some funky, fresh moves you can bust out for your friends? (But if you really want to impress them, you should probably never utter the words "funky" or "fresh" in the same sentence.)
  2. Moderation! If moderation isn't a scientific law, it really should be, because there's almost no situation where it doesn't work. Many rock stars may overdo it with the partying every night, but they have expensive publicists to explain away their stints in rehab as "exhaustion." To increase your shelf life as a party animal, stay properly hydrated. Every great rock song has a memorable chorus, so when you head out for a night on the town, keep this little ditty on repeat in your head: "Drink, water, drink, water, drink, water." If it helps, just hum that Chumbawamba "Tubthumping" song and substitute water every other line (i.e., alternate your cocktails with water).You might think that getting drunk early will make you seem cool and fun throughout the night, but in all honesty, you're only becoming that guy or girl.
  3. "I'll have a soda and soda, please." The great thing about spirits like vodka or gin is that they look like water. So the next time your friends are urging you to catch up or it's your turn to buy a round, slow things down by sipping on a soda water—just let everybody think it's liquor. You can even wince when you take a sip if you really want to crank up the illusion that you're hitting the hard stuff. No one will be the wiser, and you'll save a pretty penny too! Little-known fact: The original title of Snoop Dogg's "Gin and Juice" was just "Juice," but the record label urged him to change it for fear it would lower his "gangsta" cred.
  4. Energy doesn't come in a can. If you're looking for "wings," don't go for a Red Bull®, just buy a Paul McCartney album. Avoid the temptation to use energy drinks as fuel, because "energy" is a complete misnomer here. The caffeine and sugar hit'll just leave you jittery and nervous, after which you'll risk pulling a Lindsay Lohan and crashing hard before the end of the night.
The After Party

It's the next day, and you're not sure how to follow up that awesome night you just had. Here are a few suggestions for how to get your groove back:
  1. Rest! Again! Whaddya know, we're right back where we started—your own cozy bed. Hopefully, you spent the night with the Captain to your Tennille. (A dated reference, I know, but who doesn't sing along to "Love Will Keep Us Together"? Admit it.) Anyway, if all went according to plan, you spent the night dancing, romancing, and, well, other things, so now it's time to rest up. Don't worry about your workout today, because trust me, you did enough of that last night. If you're feeling extra sluggish, some light stretching or a leisurely walk should do the trick.
  2. Recovery! Eminem's new album is called Recovery, and we don't think it's a coincidence. He's giving you a hint, so take it! Buy some of Beachbody's own Results and Recovery Formula. Designed for use after workouts, it will get your body back in tour shape in no time.
  3. There you have it, the official guide to living a Beachbody-certified rock 'n' roll lifestyle. If you heed our advice, both your body and your mind will remain solid as a rock for quite a while, and you won't get caught rolling onto the floor.

9 Foods Not to Give Your Kids

Sunday, February 20, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Joe Wilkes

If you've followed the news on childhood obesity lately, you know the state of affairs is pretty grim. Childhood obesity rates have tripled over the past two decades, and most signs point to the next generation being the first whose life expectancy will be shorter than their parents'. Much of the blame for this trend has deservedly been laid at the feet of the producers and marketers of unhealthy food aimed at our youngest consumers, whose parents face an uphill battle: trying to pit fresh, healthy foods devoid of mascots or sidekicks against superheroes and cartoon animals in a struggle to tempt their children's palates and stomachs.

Since most kids have hummingbird metabolisms that adults can only envy, it's often easy to give them a free pass and let them eat whatever they want. But eventually those metabolisms slow down and the pounds settle in. Also, as physical activity decreases and processed food intake increases annually, kids aren't burning calories the way their parents might have when they were their age. And even if the kids aren't getting fat, they are establishing eating habits they'll take into adulthood. As parents, you can help foster a love for healthy eating and exercise that will last your kids a lifetime—hopefully a long one!

Eating can so often be a classic power struggle where kids try to finally locate their mom and dad's last nerve. (I can remember family dinners with my brother and parents that could teach Hezbollah a thing or two about standoffs.) There are a number of strategies you can use to mitigate this type of deadlock. One is to let your kids help with the selection and preparation of the food. If they picked out the veggies at the farmers' market and helped cook them, they might be less inclined to feed them to the family pet. Another is to frame eating vegetables and healthy food as being its own reward. Otherwise, by offering dessert as a reward for finishing vegetables, you create a system where unhealthy food is a treat and healthy food sucks.

With these thoughts in mind, let's take a look at some of the most unhealthy foods being marketed to your kids today, and some healthier alternatives you can offer to replace each of them.

Note: The following recommendations are for school-aged children. Infants and toddlers have different specific nutritional needs, not addressed in this article.
  1. Chicken nuggets/tenders. These popular kids' menu items are little nuggets of compressed fat, sodium, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and in some form, chicken. Depending on the restaurant, chicken might not even be the first ingredient. Oftentimes, the nuggets or tenders are made of ground pieces of chicken meat and skin, pressed into a shape, flavored with HFCS and salt, and batter-fried in hydrogenated oil (the bad, trans-fatty stuff). Then, as if that weren't unhealthy enough, you dunk it in a HFCS- or mayonnaise-based sauce. With all the fat, salt, and sugar, it's easy to understand why they're tasty, but the nutritive value weighed against the huge amount of calories and fat consumed is incredibly lacking. Even healthier-sounding menu items can be deceiving, like McDonald's Premium Breast Strips (5 pieces), which pack 665 calories and 40 grams of fat—and that's before you factor in the dipping sauce. (By comparison, a Big Mac® with sauce has 540 calories and 29 grams of fat.)

    Instead: If you're cooking at home, grill a chicken breast and cut it into dipping-size pieces either with a knife or, for extra fun, cookie cutters. Make a healthy dipping sauce from HFCS-free ketchup, marinara sauce, mustard, or yogurt. Let your kids help make the shapes or mix up the sauce. Try and go without breading, but if you must, try dipping the chicken breast in a beaten egg, and then rolling it in cornflake crumbs before you bake it. It'll be crunchy and delicious, but not as fatty.
  2. Sugary cereal. I can remember as a child, after going to friends' houses for overnights and being treated to breakfast cereals with marshmallows that turned the milk fluorescent pink or blue, feeling horribly deprived when faced with the less colorful and sugary options served up in my home kitchen. But now I can appreciate my mom and her unpopular brans and granolas. True, they didn't have any cartoon characters on the box or any toy surprises, but they also didn't have the cups of sugar, grams of fat, and hundreds of empty calories that these Saturday morning staples are loaded with.

    Instead: Read the labels and try to find cereal that's low in sugar and high in fiber and whole grains. Remember, "wheat" is not the same as "whole wheat." Also, avoid cereals (including some granolas) that have hydrogenated oils, artificial colors, or chemical preservatives. Add raisins, sliced bananas, berries, or other seasonal fruit to the cereal for extra flavor and nutrition. Again, letting your child help design a healthy bowl of cereal from choices you provide will get you a little more buy-in at the breakfast table.
  3. Lunch meat and hot dogs. Kids love hot dogs, bologna, and other processed meats, but these are all full of potentially carcinogenic nitrates and nitrites, sodium, saturated fat, and artificial colors and fillers. A study in Los Angeles found that kids who ate 12 hot dogs a month had nine times the risk of developing leukemia. And more health risks are being discovered all the time. Leaf through any research about kids' nutrition, and you're bound to read about the bane of the cafeteria—Oscar Mayer's Lunchables®. These and similar prepackaged lunches are loaded with processed meats and crackers made with hydrogenated oils. These innocent-looking meals can boast fat counts of up to 38 grams. That's as much fat as a Burger King® Whopper® and more than half the recommended daily allowance of fat for an adult.

    Instead: Get unprocessed meats, like lean turkey breast, chicken, tuna, or roast beef. Use whole wheat bread for sandwiches; or if your kid's dying for Lunchables, fill a small plastic container with whole-grain, low-fat crackers, lean, unprocessed meat, and low-fat cheese. This can be another great time to get out the cookie cutters to make healthy sandwiches more fun. For hot dogs, read labels carefully. Turkey dogs are usually a good bet, but some are pumped up with a fair amount of chemicals and extra fat to disguise their fowl origins. Look for low levels of fat, low sodium, and a list of ingredients you recognize. There are some tasty veggie dogs on the market, although a good deal of trial and error may be involved for the choosy child.
  4. Juice and juice-flavored drinks. Juice—what could be wrong with juice? While 100 percent juice is a good source of vitamin C, it doesn't have the fiber of whole fruit, and provides calories mostly from sugar and carbohydrates. Too much juice can lead to obesity and tooth decay, among other problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests 4 to 6 ounces of juice per day for kids under six, and 8 to 12 ounces for older kids. Juice drinks that aren't 100 percent juice are usually laced with artificial colors and that old standby, high fructose corn syrup, and should be avoided. Your best bet is to make your own juice from fresh, seasonal fruit. You won't have to worry about all the additives, and it's another way you can involve your kids in the cooking process. Let them design their own juice "cocktail."

    Instead: Water is still the best thirst quencher. Explain the importance of good hydration to your kids, and try to set a good example yourself by carrying around a healthy reusable hard plastic or stainless steel water bottle. Get your kids used to carrying a small bottle of water in their backpack or attached to their bike. If they're very water averse, try water with a splash of fruit juice in it. But just a splash. The idea is to get your kids used to not having things be overly sweet, overly salty, or overly fatty. Another great beverage is milk. Growing kids need plenty of milk (or fortified nondairy milks, like soy or almond)—which is filled with nutrients, calcium, and (in the case of dairy and soy) protein—but they don't need too much fat, so choosing low-fat or nonfat options will help ensure that they get their milk without actually beginning to resemble a cow.
  5. French fries. High in calories, high in fat, and high in sodium—and unsurprisingly the most popular "vegetable" among kids. Fries offer virtually none of the nutrients found in broccoli, carrots, spinach, or other veggies not cooked up in a deep fryer, and the fat they're fried in is often trans fat, the unhealthiest kind for the heart. To top it all off, studies are beginning to show cancer-causing properties from acrylamide, a toxic substance that is created when starchy foods like potatoes are heated to extreme temperatures. In some tests, the amount of acrylamide in French fries was 300 to 600 times higher than the amount the EPA allows in a glass of water.

    Instead: Vegetables like baby carrots, celery sticks, and other crudités are great options, but if potatoes must be had, there are some options that don't involve melting a brick of fat. A scooped-out potato skin with low-fat chili and a little cheese can provide lots of fiber and vitamins, with even higher amounts if the chili has beans. You can also try making baked fries, using slices of potato with a light brushing of olive oil. Or the classic baked potato could be a hit, with plain yogurt or cottage cheese instead of sour cream and butter.
  6. Potato chips, Cheetos, Doritos, etc. These are full of fat, oftentimes saturated, and way more sodium than any child or adult should eat. Some chips also have the acrylamide problem discussed in #5, French fries, above. Also, watch out for innocent-seeming baked and low-fat chips that contain olestra or other fake fats and chemicals that could present health issues for kids.

    Instead: Kids gotta snack, and in fact, since their stomachs are smaller, they aren't usually able to go as long between meals as adults. Cut-up vegetables are the best thing if your kids want to get their crunch on, but air-popped popcorn and some baked chips are okay, too. You can control how much salt goes on the popcorn, or involve your child in experimenting with other toppings like red pepper, Parmesan cheese, or dried herbs. Try making your own trail mix with your kids. They might be more excited to eat their own personal blend, and that way you can avoid certain store-bought trail mixes, which sometimes contain ingredients like chocolate chips and marshmallows that aren't exactly on the healthy snack trail.
  7. Fruit leather. Many of these gelatinous snacks like roll-ups or fruit bites contain just a trace amount of fruit, but lots of sugar or HFCS and bright artificial colors. Don't be misled by all the products that include the word "fruit" on their box. Real fruit is in the produce section, not the candy aisle.

    Instead: If your child doesn't show interest in fruit in its natural state, there are some ways you can make it more interesting without losing its nutritional value. For a healthy frozen treat, try filling ice-cube or frozen-pop trays with fruit juice or freezing grapes. Or buy unflavored gelatin and mix it with fruit juice and/or pieces of fruit to make gelatin treats without the added sugar and color (let it solidify in big flat casserole dishes or roasting pans—another good time for the cookie cutters!) Try serving some raisins, dried apricots, apples, peaches, or other dried fruits that might give you that chewy, leathery texture without the sugar.
  8. Doughnuts. These little deep-fried gobs of joy are favorites for kids and adults alike, but they are full of fat and trans-fatty acids, and of course, sugar. Toaster pastries, muffins, and cinnamon buns aren't much better. The worst thing about doughnuts and these other pastries, aside from their nutritional content, is that they're often presented to children as acceptable breakfast choices. These delicious deadlies need to be categorized properly—as desserts, to be eaten very sparingly. And you can't have dessert for breakfast.

    Instead: Honestly, a slice of whole-wheat toast spread with sugar-free fruit spread or peanut butter isn't going to get as many fans as a chocolate-filled Krispy Kreme, but at some point, you have to stand firm. Be the cop who doesn't like doughnuts. Doughnuts—not for breakfast. Period.
  9. Pizza. In moderation, pizza can be a fairly decent choice. If you order the right toppings, you can get in most of your food groups. The problem comes with processed meats like pepperoni and sausage, which add fat and nitrates/nitrites (see #3, Lunch meat and hot dogs, above); and the overabundance of cheese, which will also provide more calories and fat than a child needs.

    Instead: Try making your own pizza with your kids. Use premade whole wheat crusts, or whole wheat tortillas, English muffins, or bread as a base. Then brush on HFCS-free sauce, and set up a workstation with healthy ingredients like diced chicken breast, sliced turkey dogs, and vegetables that each child can use to build his or her own pizza. Then sprinkle on a little cheese, bake, and serve. If your child gets used to eating pizza like this, delivery pizzas may seem unbearably greasy after awhile.
Someday your children will come to realize that caped men in tights and sponges who live under the sea might not have their best interests at heart when it comes to food. Until then, however, why not involve them in the process of selecting and preparing healthier alternatives? Some of these cleverly disguised wholesome foods might become their favorites. Who knows, they may even tempt some of the overgrown children among us!

Recipe: Low-Cal Spinach Dip

Saturday, February 19, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Team Beachbody

The temperature is rising and the season for barbecues and picnics is in full swing. If you're looking for something to bring to the neighborhood potluck, try this healthy twist on a party classic. Delicious with crudités or (for bonus presentation points) served in a hollowed-out round loaf of whole-grain bread.
  • 10 oz. fresh baby spinach, steamed until wilted
  • 1 cup plain, fat-free yogurt, drained
  • 4 oz. fat-free cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup reduced-fat Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • Round loaf of whole-grain bread, hollowed out to make a bowl (optional)
  • Medium bowl
  • Cutting board
  • Sharp knife
Drain and squeeze all excess water from spinach; chop and set aside. In medium bowl, stir yogurt and cream cheese together until smooth. Add spinach, Parmesan cheese, garlic, scallions, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to yogurt/cream cheese mixture and mix well; refrigerate until ready to serve. Makes 2 cups (8 1/4-cup servings).

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
51 5 g 1 g 5 g 1 g 1 g

The ABCs of IBS

Friday, February 18, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Omar Shamout

As many as 20 percent of Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While this painful condition technically just affects the digestive tract, its impact can reach far beyond simple discomfort, actually forcing people to change the way they live. IBS is a condition that's hard to diagnose, and because the frequency and intensity of IBS symptoms can fluctuate, many sufferers aren't even aware they have it. Fortunately, if you do suffer from IBS, changing the way you live can be easier than you think. It might even lead to a healthier and more active lifestyle overall.

What is IBS and how is it diagnosed?

IBS is a disorder of the intestines that's diagnosed more by what it isn't than by what it is. Although IBS shares symptoms with a variety of other conditions, including pain, bloating, cramping, diarrhea and/or constipation, the good news is that IBS doesn't worsen over time, nor does it contribute to more serious diseases of the digestive tract, like cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.

For sufferers of IBS, like so many types of diseases and disorders that result in chronic pain, just getting a proper diagnosis can be a huge hurdle. Many patients have described having had their symptoms dismissed as nothing to worry about. This is due in part to IBS being a condition that's functional, rather than structural, biochemical, or infectious. What this means is that it's difficult for doctors to identify IBS via a test, X-ray, or surgery in the same way they can identify an injury, inflammation, or infection. While this is problematic for diagnoses, it's good news in the sense that IBS is less serious than conditions such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or inflammatory bowel disease, which cause physical damage to the body's organs. The only real way to diagnose IBS properly is by describing the symptoms to your doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms of IBS are:
  1. Abdominal pain or cramping
  2. Bloating
  3. Gas (flatulence)
  4. Diarrhea or constipation—sometimes alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
  5. Mucus in the stool
These symptoms have to present for 12 weeks or more in order for a medical professional to make an accurate diagnosis of IBS. And if they don't, it's up to you to be an advocate for your own health care, and speak up if you feel something is wrong.

Trigger foods

IBS is a very personal problem. No two people have identical trigger foods that cause symptoms to start. While particular foods vary, the most common offenders are high-fat foods and insoluble (or high-residue) fiber. This means meat (especially red meat), dairy products, leafy green vegetables, fruit skins, whole wheat, and anything fried. Caffeine and carbonated drinks are also dangerous. Nicotine and alcohol wreak havoc on the digestive tract, so IBS sufferers should be wary of these, particularly in social situations. Unfortunately, insoluble fiber is a key component of a heart-healthy diet, so the trick is learning how to manage your intake. Luckily, many of the same techniques that aid digestion for IBS sufferers are also highly recommended methods to regulating your metabolism and keeping your blood sugar in check.

Digestion tips
  1. Eat small portions, often, throughout the day. This way, your digestive tract won't be overwhelmed. The emptier your stomach is, the less likely it is to get irritated.
  2. Start meals off with soluble fiber. This includes foods like rice, pasta, oatmeal, quinoa, potatoes, carrots, yams, beets, and barley. Soluble-fiber foods dissolve in water and are naturally easier to digest, because they pass through the system more quickly. This is especially important if you know you'll be eating a trigger food with your meal.
  3. Take your time while eating. Chew your food thoroughly and enjoy your meal. The faster you eat, the more air you swallow, which can cause bloating and could make symptoms worse.
  4. Drink plenty of water. Drinking lots of water is important for a variety of reasons, in addition to aiding digestion.
  5. Try veggie-based products to replace meat and dairy in your diet. If you've discovered that a certain type of meat triggers your IBS more than others, try switching to a vegetarian version of it. If your store doesn't carry a large enough variety of veggie-based products, you can seek out a specialty store to find some great-tasting veggie versions of your favorite foods. There's also a plentiful variety of veggie dairy products available, which should aid your digestion considerably.
  6. Supplements. Calcium is essential for strong bones, but it's also useful in preventing muscle contractions like those caused by IBS. Magnesium is also important because it can help to relax the colon. You can find both in Beachbody Core Cal-Mag supplements. Multivitamins like Beachbody ActiVit® can help maintain digestive regularity.
If you're looking for more information about what and how to eat when you have IBS, there are a variety of manuals and cookbooks available to provide you with tips and instructions at your local library, your neighborhood bookstore, or online.

Stress and IBS

Stress and anxiety play a huge role in the onset of IBS symptoms for a great many people. Dr. Rodger H. Murphree, author of Treating and Beating Anxiety and Depression, writes:
"Research suggests that IBS patients have extra-sensitive pain receptors in the gastrointestinal tract, which may be related to low levels of serotonin. Decreased levels of serotonin may help explain why people with IBS are likely to be anxious or depressed. Studies show that 54 to 94 percent of IBS patients meet the diagnostic criteria for depression, anxiety, or panic disorder."
The type of stress that contributes to IBS can increase with major life changes like starting college or starting a new job, so it's important for IBS sufferers to seek treatment from a counselor or other medical professional who can help identify and treat psychological factors that trigger your symptoms.

Stay active

Apart from the obvious benefit to heart health and general well-being, exercise is a great way to increase serotonin levels, and help prevent IBS attacks from occurring. Try to fit in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. Yoga and meditation classes are also proven ways to relieve stress, which helps alleviate IBS symptoms.

Other options

If you follow these guidelines and still experience symptoms of IBS, you may want to discuss medications with your physician. A variety of medications are prescribed for IBS; your doctor will be able to decide which, if any, is best for you.

There's no denying that IBS can be a real game-changer in anyone's life, but if you follow a few simple tips and guidelines, you can help keep your symptoms in check. Just ask questions, eat healthily, and take care of your physical and mental well-being, and you'll be able to deal with your condition without letting it control your life.

By Kathy Smith, creator of Kathy Smith's Project:YOU! Type 2®

With 9 grams of protein and 10 grams of fiber per serving, this soup is rich, hearty, healthy . . . and vegan! Just the thing to help you make it through the last few remaining weeks of winter (if you can trust that Pennsylvanian rodent's prognosticative powers).
  • 2 cups precooked white beans
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced into medium pieces
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 4 medium stalks celery, cleaned and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 6 to 12 cloves garlic, peeled and trimmed of root ends
  • 1 cup cubed squash
  • 4 cups spinach (or any preferred greens)
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
  • 8 cups (64 oz.) vegetable stock or broth*
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt, pepper, and Italian herbs (to taste)
Heat stock. In a separate large soup pot, heat olive oil. Add carrots, onions, celery, garlic, and potatoes. Sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add greens and sauté for 5 minutes, then add white beans, parsley, and squash and season lightly. Add hot stock, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until vegetables are fork-tender but still retain their shape. Adjust seasonings. Serves 6.

*For thinner consistency, add more water and simmer an additional 10 minutes.

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 to 45 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
281 9 g 8 g 42 g 9 g 1 g

By Joe Wilkes

Anyone who's read the latest studies about high-protein diets knows that we need to get a substantial amount of protein in our diets—about a third of a gram for every pound of body weight. Meat provides one of our best and most readily available sources of protein, but there are a lot of good reasons to think about cutting back or cutting out our consumption of animal products to satisfy our protein needs.

Aside from the obvious animal-rights issues, there are several economic and environmental considerations to consider. The USDA estimates that it takes roughly 16 pounds of grain to make one pound of beef. When you consider that one-third of the world's population is classified by the World Health Organization as starving, it's easy to see where some of that grain could be put to better use. Beef production also impacts the ecosystem, from the clear-cutting of rainforests for grazing to water pollution to methane emissions, which contribute to greenhouse gases. And the cost of meat to your personal health is also significant. Although packed with protein, many meat choices contain high levels of saturated fats, the overconsumption of which can lead to heart disease and cancer.

At any rate, this article isn't intended to be a polemic about the benefits of vegetarian living. Picking up a book like Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation or Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, not to mention any of the vast Internet resources available on the subject, might convince you to replace meat with an alternative protein source a couple of meals a week.

One challenge in going vegetarian is finding enough "high-quality" protein. High-quality protein is defined as protein that contains all eight of the essential amino acids: isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Most meat sources have all of the amino acids in one place. Plant sources usually have some of the acids, but not all in one place. So the key is combining foods to get a full complement of amino acids. Here are some of the top ways to get your proteins sans meat. (Vegans, skip to #3, and keep in mind that #7 uses egg whites as a binder). We'll omit soy for the time being—it has its own set of conundrums and contradictions.
  1. Eggs. Egg protein is commonly referred to as a "perfect protein," because it contains all eight essential amino acids. There's a reason Rocky drank eggs during training; they contribute greatly to muscle recovery. One egg contains 6 grams of protein, with only 80 calories and 5 grams of fat. It also contains more than 200 milligrams of dietary cholesterol, which is high, but dietary cholesterol isn't the same thing as blood cholesterol. In fact, some eggs are now produced with high levels of omega-3s (achieved by adding fatty-acid-rich seeds to the hens' diets), which can actually aid in the lowering of blood cholesterol levels.
  2. Grains. Usually we think of grains as carbs, but when we're talking whole grains, they actually have a fair amount of protein. A cup of barley, for example, contains almost 20 grams of protein. A cup of buckwheat flour contains 15 grams of protein. A cup of couscous (dry) contains 22 grams of protein. A cup of oats for oatmeal provides you with 13 grams of protein. If you always choose whole-grain varieties of your favorite grains, you'll also get most of your recommended daily allowance (RDA) of fiber as well. But carb-watchers should beware: whole grains are the "carbiest" of the protein sources available.
  3. Nuts and seeds. The mighty almond, which also has the most fiber per ounce of any of the common nuts, also has the most protein—6 grams per ounce. Almonds do have 16 grams of fat per ounce, but only one gram is the unhealthy saturated kind. Pumpkin seeds, or pepitas, have 7 grams of protein per ounce (about 140 seeds) with 13 grams of fat (2 grams saturated). Other seeds, like sunflower and flax, are also good sources of protein, with about 5 grams per ounce.
  4. Seitan. Seitan is a meat substitute made from processed wheat gluten. Popular for centuries in Asia, it has gained in popularity in America in the past few decades, but is still largely only available in health food markets. It's not very flavorful, which makes it an ideal ingredient for replacing meat in any dish—it will assume the flavor of the sauce or spices you use. Many Asian dishes use it as mock pork, chicken, or beef. Just three ounces of seitan contain 20 grams of protein, almost twice as much steak, and only 130 calories and 2 grams of fat. Try it in a stir-fry—you might fool your family!
  5. Quorn®. Quorn is the most well-known brand name of a fungus-based protein source that has only been available commercially since 1985. Quorn is processed into different forms and flavors, like hot dogs, burgers, and faux chicken nuggets. Three ounces of Quorn, depending on how it's prepared, can have 10 to 16 grams of protein, with low fat and calorie contents. As with seitan and other meat substitutes, you should keep an eye on the sodium content; salt is usually the go-to ingredient when attempting to disguise a meat substitute's origins. Also, there have been some reports of people having allergic reactions to Quorn, so it may be worth checking with your doctor to see if you're sensitive to it.
  6. Nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast can be used as an additive in a variety of recipes. It's very popular in Europe and Australia, and is gaining popularity in America. It has a slightly cheesy flavor and can be added to shakes, soups, and sauces, or used as a substitute for Parmesan cheese or as a popcorn or garlic-bread topping. It's especially rich in B vitamins. A two-tablespoon serving has 8 grams of protein (and is a complete protein, containing all amino acids), only one gram of unsaturated fat, and 50 calories.
  7. Spirulina. Also known as blue-green algae, this has been a food source for centuries in Africa and South America. It has a lot of vitamins and minerals and is a complete protein. One ounce of dried spirulina contains 16 grams of protein, only 2 grams of fat, and 81 calories. Algae aren't the most appetizing foodstuffs, and much of spirulina is consumed in pill form or mixed into super-green drinks (like Beachbody Shakeology® meal replacement shake). But it can also be used powdered or fresh in dips, salads, and sauces. Take a look at Internet message boards and Web sites, where enthusiasts post lots of recipe ideas.
  8. Amaranth and quinoa. These are often referred to as "pseudograins." Both are actually seeds but are similar to grains in texture and flavor. Both are complete proteins, containing all eight essential amino acids, and have high levels of fiber and minerals. Amaranth can be used as flour, puffed into breakfast cereal, or cooked into soups and stir-frys. One ounce has 4 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, and 105 calories. Quinoa can also be used for breakfast cereal, and, when boiled, makes an excellent substitute for rice or couscous. One cup of cooked quinoa contains 8 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, and 222 calories.
Another way of getting extra nonmeat protein in your diet is with Shakeology, Beachbody's delicious meal replacement shake. Available in Chocolate and Greenberry flavors, Shakeology packs 17 grams of protein per serving and is great either in place of a meal or as a snack. And of course I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Beachbody Whey Protein Powder. With 18 grams of protein in every scoop, and available in chocolate and vanilla flavors, it's a great addition to your health shake, containing the highest concentration of branched-chain amino acids—critical for muscle development—of any protein source. Additionally, if you're thinking of cutting back on fish in your diet, you might want to consider adding a decent omega-3 supplement to your regimen.

By Steve Edwards

"Think globally, act locally" isn't just for bumper stickers anymore. This grassroots politics-type slogan has become an important way of thinking about where your next meal should come from. But the implications here are far more than political. Buying local—as well as organic—foods allows you to protect your family by feeding them in the safest way possible. Here are 10 reasons to add "visit the local farmers' market" to the top of your to-do list each week.

  1. Local foods are safer. Or at least you can find out if they are. Organic food standards are high, but there are still companies out there attempting to cloud the rules. When you buy locally, it's easier to check out what you're buying, and you won't have to hire Magnum, P.I., to do it. The great thing about local media is that they love to cover this stuff. If for any reason a local farm is mixed up in nefarious activities, there's a good chance your paper has a reporter dreaming of a gig at The New York Times who'll be on the job for you. Even if this isn't the case, you can be inquisitive at the farmers' markets—you'll be surprised how quickly you can get up to date on the local scoop. Farmers who adhere to a strict code of ethics love to talk about others who do, and those who don't.
  2. Organic foods are safer. Organic certification standards are the public's assurance that their food and products have been grown and handled according to sustainable procedures, without toxic, synthetic, irradiated, or genetically modified elements, including chemical fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, and other additives. At least that's what the law says. But even though many companies still cheat the system, most of them play by the rules. These rules are in place to help both soil longevity and the health and safety of the consumer. Many Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved pesticides were registered long before extensive research linked these chemicals to cancer and other diseases. Now, the EPA considers 60 percent of all herbicides, 90 percent of all fungicides, and 30 percent of all insecticides, none of which meet organic criteria, to be potentially cancer causing. You can't always be certain you're getting safe food, but eating organic foods stacks the odds in your favor.
  3. Organic food tastes better. Many people would be amazed to taste the difference between garden-grown fruits and vegetables (and wild meat) and the offerings you find down at your local mega-grocery-mart. The main reason for this disparity has to do with something called trophic levels, which is determined by where plants and animals fall on the food chain. When food—even natural food—is manufactured, as when plants are grown in poor soil with some added nutrients, or animals are raised using drugs and a nonnative diet, their physiological chemistry is altered. This doesn't just change their nutrient content—it changes the way they taste.
  4. Organic food is more nutritious—which stands to reason, based on the whole trophic levels thing. When soils are depleted and then fertilized, only certain nutrients are added with fertilizers. This results in the loss of many of the plants' original phytonutrients. While these lost phytonutrients aren't necessarily a major component of any individual plant, they add up in your diet and become a major component of who you are. This lack of phytonutients in the plants in our diets has a lot to do with many modern-day maladies. With regard to meat, it's basically the same story. Animals that are fed a poor diet are, as you might imagine, less healthy to eat, because they're also missing out on essential nutrients thanks to the trophic level paradigm—just like you are.
  5. You won't have to eat genetically modified organisms (GMO). A GMO is a plant, animal, or microorganism whose genetic sequence has been modified to introduce genes from another species. Because the long-term impact of GMOs on our health isn't known yet, they're forbidden by the Soil Association Standards for Organic Food and Farming. Furthermore, in order to qualify as organic, animals can't be fed GMOs, nor can they be fed antibiotics, added hormones, or other drugs. It is not currently required, however, that GMOs be mentioned on food labels, so it's very likely that anything not certified organic contains some GMO ingredients.
  6. Your drinking water will be safer. The EPA estimates that pesticides contaminate groundwater in 38 states, polluting the primary source of drinking water for more than half the country's population. Because organic farmers practice water conservation and don't use toxic chemicals that leach into your groundwater, organic farming leads to less waste intrusion into our aquifers, which helps keep your drinking water healthier.
  7. Your kids will be healthier. The toxicity of pesticide residue is determined not only by the chemicals used, but by our body weight in relation to how much we consume. This means that your children are even more at risk than you are. It's estimated that the average child receives four times more exposure than the average adult to at least eight widely used cancer-causing pesticides in food. To try and minimize this risk, buy organic, but also make sure that your family eats a wide variety of foods.
  8. To help farmers and farm communities. It's estimated that the U.S. has lost more than 650,000 family farms since 1990. The USDA predicts that half of the U.S. farm production comes from only 1 percent of farms. Organic farming may be one of the few survival tactics left for the family farm and rural communities. The majority of organic farms are still small-scale operations, generally on fewer than 100 acres, and using an average of 70 percent less energy. Small farms use far more sustainable and environmentally friendly practices than large-scale farms do. For example, small farms use manure to fertilize soil, naturally recycling it to keep the land productive.

    Industrial farms produce so much manure that it's a human health risk. The overspill of manure has contaminated water wells with E. coli and other pathogens. This brings up another subject: Industrial farms still—though now illegally—feed animals the ground-up remnants of other animals that aren't naturally part of their diet. This has led to pathogens like E. coli getting into our foods in the first place.

    Furthermore, farm workers are much safer on small farms. A National Cancer Institute study found that farmers exposed to herbicides had six times more risk of contracting cancer than nonfarmers did. Due to their direct exposure, field workers on conventional farms are the most vulnerable to illness as a result of pesticide use. Organic farms eliminate that risk by eliminating harmful pesticides and other chemical inputs from their practices.
  9. For more humane treatment of animals. Factory farms treat animals like commodities. They are usually kept in tightly confined pens or cages and often never move more than a few feet for their entire lives. They are also fed the cheapest foods available, no matter how it affects their—and then our—health. Besides the fact that a host of illnesses have entered our world as a direct result of this practice, it's also just not nice. Animals on organic farms are far likelier to be raised without cruelty. They are also fed a diet much closer to what they would eat naturally, and studies tell us—surprise!—that these animals tend to be significantly healthier than their factory-raised counterparts.
  10. To promote a vibrant economy. Organic products only seem more expensive because people base their cost on their sticker price alone. However, retail price represents a mere fraction of their true cost. Market prices for conventionally grown foods don't reflect the costs of federal subsidies to conventional agriculture, the cost of contaminated drinking water, loss of wildlife habitat and soil erosion, or the cost of the disposal and cleanup of hazardous wastes generated by the manufacturing of pesticides. Compared to local farms, there's also transportation—and the pollutants that result from it—to consider. All of this means that essentially, you can pay now or pay later—just remember that you're going to be charged interest, mainly in the form of a socially and ecologically diminished world to live in.

What if you can't find organic food? One of our members, who lives in a rural area, went to her local market and requested healthier options. Now the store owner can't keep them on the shelf. You can, with a little initiative, make a difference. After all, retail stores are in business to serve you. If this doesn't work, hit the Internet. Since "organic" is the current buzzword of the food industry, there will be options. And of course, there's always your local farmers' market.