By Omar Shamout

"Dear God, if you'll only get me through this day, I promise to NEVER drink again." Many of you out there have uttered this phrase at some point in your lives. Depending on when you're reading this, maybe you said it this morning. Unfortunately, giving up everyone's favorite social lubricant for good might not be realistic for you, and once the pain, nausea, and vomiting go away, you're more likely to remember the good times you had out with your friends than the time you spent praying to the porcelain altar. Contrary to popular belief, fitness enthusiasts are, in fact, only mortal, and even some of us have succumbed to a hangover, or thirty, at some point. We feel your pain, and are here to provide a little insight into the science behind the booze and its effect on the body, as well as to uncover the truths and myths behind some so-called remedies.

What is a hangover exactly? Believe it or not, no one really knows. The science is still unclear, but a prominent theory held by many scientists is that the main trigger for hangovers are chemicals called congeners. A Brown University study noted that congeners can "interfere with cell function and leave some lasting physical marks." The same study identified that darker drinks have more concentrated levels of congeners, and can therefore lead to more severe hangovers, so it's probably best to avoid spirits such as brandy, red wine, and rum. Alcohol also blocks the release of an antidiuretic hormone in our bodies, which causes us to urinate more and lose water—hence the dehydration. It also prevents kidneys from absorbing water effectively.

We know for a fact that symptoms such as headaches, dry mouth, nausea, sleep abnormalities, and dizziness are signs that you are doing actual physical damage to your brain, stomach, liver, and kidneys through the consumption of alcohol, but the actual culprit for the hangover has not been identified to a satisfactory degree of medical certainty. As we get older, our liver also produces lower amounts of an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, which is used by the body to break down alcohol into a harmless chemical as it enters the bloodstream. This is what leaves many feeling like their hangovers worsen with age.

What can I do to prevent a hangover? There is a lot of confusion out there about what so-called miracle hangover cures actually do. While genetics do play a part in some people's resistance to hangovers, the truth is, the only 100 percent effective way to avoid a hangover is to abstain from drinking in the first place. You can't prevent alcohol from being absorbed by your body in much the same way that there is no cure for the common cold, so all you can hope to do is lessen the symptoms. Compare alcohol to a cold virus invading your bloodstream. You can take medicine to ease the cough and congestion it causes, but not to kill the virus directly. Only time can do that.

Another cause of hangovers is low blood sugar; eating a large meal before drinking will raise your levels, and cause the alcohol you're about to consume to be absorbed at a slower rate. Many people believe that eating a large meal while already drunk will prevent a hangover the next morning, but at this point, the alcohol is already in your system, and the damage has been done.

As we've discussed, dehydration is a side effect of alcohol consumption, so interspersing your drinks with glasses of water will slow down the rate at which this occurs. It might also be prudent to drink a glass of orange juice before bed to raise your blood sugar, and give your immune system an extra boost of vitamin C to battle the onslaught of toxins it's just received. If you're prone to headaches, popping an ibuprofen before you crash could be beneficial. Unfortunately, if you damage your body with enough toxins, you're going to get a hangover, no matter how many measures you take to lessen the blow.

Oops! I already have a hangover. What do I do? Alcohol is a drug, and as with any other narcotic, your body goes through withdrawal symptoms when that drug leaves your system. This phenomenon is what leads many people to the conclusion that a Bloody Mary is the only thing that will set you straight the morning after a big night out. While giving your body more of the drug that damaged it in the first place will provide a temporary "fix," you wouldn't tell a heroin addict that the best solution to his withdrawal is to take another hit, now would you? Obviously, this is a drastic comparison, but the logic holds up. So let's look at four steps you should take to get your body back to feeling its best:
  • Hydrate – Dehydration is the reason behind pretty much all of the worst hangover symptoms. Although alcohol makes us sleepy, it is often short and unrestful sleep, because your body wakes you up as a way of telling you to give it water and/or release it. A lack of proper REM sleep means you don't produce enough serotonin, leaving you cranky and irritable. Drink as much water as you can.
  • Rest – After you drink said water, go back to bed. As with any form of sickness, your body needs rest more than anything to restore your energy levels. If you must get up, avoid strenuous activity in the morning, and give your body the chance to recover.
  • Eat – Many people believe that a big plate of fried food is the best way to get rid of a hangover. The truth is, your body never needs unhealthy things, and you would be far better off eating a balanced meal of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats without the grease, because that might just irritate your stomach even further.
  • Combine 1 and 3, the Beachbody way – As always, we've got you covered. If eating is the last thing on your mind, you can hydrate your body and restore vital nutrients at the same time with Results and Recovery Formula. Designed for use after workouts, it works just as well during a hangover to replenish your body with electrolytes and nutrients to get you back to your best. It tastes great, too!
Moderation is the key to enjoying your night out, and the day after. A little bit of foresight and self-control will go a long way toward helping you enjoy alcohol in a safe and healthy way.

By Denis Faye

Summer is upon us. Presumably, you've got your "beachified" body all in shape, and you're ready to hit the sand, relax on your towel, and do a little summer reading. Sure, you'll be poring through the latest Janet Evanovich novel, but between potboilers, why not take the opportunity to educate yourself on nutrition a little bit? There's a huge, healthy world out there beyond Michi's Ladder. Here are three new reads that mix recipes and education to help you explore the food you eat every day.

The 10 Things You Need to Eat by Dave Lieberman and Anahad O'Connor (William Morrow, $19.99)

Spoiler alert! The ten foods are tomatoes, avocados, beets, spinach, quinoa, lentils, cabbage, "super fish," nuts, and berries.

If you're thinking I just saved you 20 bucks, you're wrong. Any dope knows those foods are good for you, but do you know why? What I like about this book is the way the authors take each food and completely explore it. You'll learn about the cultural significance of each item as well as the what, how, and why of its nutritional value. For example, we all know the value of spinach, or "the captain of leafy greens," as the Spanish call it. But did you know that a 2007 study by the National Cancer Institute on half a million people showed that spinach may prevent cancer? Or are you aware that spinach has two to three times the antioxidant value of most veggies? Take that, cauliflower!

After fully briefing you on each food, the book lists several delicious recipes interspersed with practical preparation and storage hints. And while the recipes are largely healthy, they don't skimp on taste. True, the Baked Kale and Mushroom Ragout with Parmesan Bread Crumbs includes sugar, bacon, Parmesan cheese, and a baguette among the ingredients. At first glance, that may seem a little decadent, but you're getting a whole heap o' kale for a relatively small amount of indulgence, so it's not such a bad thing.

So if you're looking for a few tasty recipes and a lot of food knowledge, this book is a great investment.

I Can't Believe It's Not Fattening! by Devin Alexander (Broadway Books, $19.99)

Less informative but equally appetizing is The Biggest Loser® chef Devin Alexander's latest book. While everything here sounds delicious, I'm not as crazy about this cookbook. It's less about being healthy and more about being quick and not fattening. But admittedly, a book like this fills an important role in many people's lives. Some of us may be Food Nazis, but most of America isn't, so they need tools to help them to get to where they want to be. To me, the Kick-Butt Kahlua Sundae may be an aberration with its fat-free ice cream, chocolate syrup, and "whipped topping," but at 155 calories, 4 grams of protein, 33 grams of carbs, and no fat, it's a huge step up from the mini-tub of Chunky Monkey® some people might normally polish off for dessert.

And, to her credit, Alexander does specify which recipes are "all-natural." The book also includes a chart explaining how to substitute organic or natural foods for some of her more decadent ingredient choices, but it's fairly useless. (Don't want to use chocolate chips? Substitute organic chocolate chips!)

So if you're scrambling to lose weight and figure out how to eat, this might be a good book for you, but if you're a seasoned P90Xer steeped in extreme fitness, I say pass it by.

Drink This, Not That! by David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding (Rodale, $19.99)

I have a Love This, Hate This relationship with the Eat This, Not That! series. On one hand, they offer unparalleled intel about the increasing convoluted array of "foods" Americans find at their local restaurant and grocery store chains. On the other hand, although you'll find solid nutritional advice in the fine print, the bulk of the guidance falls along the lines of, "Cutting off your whole hand is a bad idea. Why don't you try cutting off your thumb instead?" Drink This, Not That! is no exception.

For example, the 11th worst drink in America is Starbucks® Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha with Whipped Cream, checking in at 660 calories, 22 grams of fat, and 95 grams of sugar. The book compares the beverage to 8-1/2 scoops of coffee ice cream, and if you read the tiny print at the top of the page, you'll see, "If you want a caffeine buzz, stick to the regular joe, an Americano or a cappuccino."

But you're probably not going to read that 8-point type. Instead, your eyes will be drawn to the bright yellow circle in the bottom right-hand corner suggesting you swap it out for a 260-calorie Cinnamon Dolce Latte with Sugar Free Syrup. (Several pages later, and in a much less sexy font, the book does discuss the evils of artificial sweeteners, but that doesn't stop it from recommending them repeatedly.)

That said, this book lists absolutely everything you've ever wanted to know about every drink ever, including coffee, beer, wine, and spirits. It also offers several great drink recipes, including The Caffeinated Banana, which sounds great to me except for the pointless tablespoon of agave syrup, which also rears its prickly head in the Margarita recipe. News flash, boys: There's no need to add any kind of syrup to a real Margarita. It's tequila, lime juice, and triple sec or Cointreau®, end of story. I don't care if you're the editor of Men's Health, Zinczenko. I'm going to have Hemingway come back from the grave and give you a good slapping.

So I do think the book is worth investing in, but I'd disregard most of the Drink This! advice. Much like I Can't Believe It's Not Fattening!, this book may serve as a bridge to healthy eating, but I don't think it quite crosses the chasm. Liquid calories are a huge reason for America's weight problem, so stick to water, coffee, and tea—iced or hot—and you'll be fine.

Test Your Tomato IQ!

Saturday, June 25, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Elizabeth Brion

It's summertime! For people like me, there's no need to look for an upside—it's all good news. But even if you hate the heat and sunshine makes you snappish, surely you're at least a little optimistic about the season's glorious tomato crop. Friends have waxed rhapsodic about the joy of heading out into the garden with a salt shaker and just chowing down; I'm a city mouse myself and never had that opportunity, but my lower-Manhattan roommates and I did once hold a BYOTAS party (Bring Your Own Tomatoes and Salt, obviously). I can't imagine why that trend never caught on. Let's find out how much you know about tomatoes.
  1. False: The largest tomato ever grown weighed nearly 5 pounds. The Guinness Book record-holder, grown by Gordon Graham of Oklahoma in 1986, actually weighed in at 7 pounds, 12 ounces.
  2. True: The tomato is a vegetable. You thought you had this one, right? In a twist on the twist to this story, the biologically-a-fruit tomato was ruled to be a vegetable by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Nix v. Hedden, 1893. I'm not 100 percent sure about this, but I believe that as a U.S. citizen I am required to abide by that ruling in all public correspondence.
  3. False: The tomato loses much of its nutritional value when cooked. While this is true for many foods, the tomato's nutritional value actually increases significantly—specifically, the level of the crucial antioxidant lycopene. Lycopene is fat soluble, so cooking the tomatoes with some oil will increase the nutrient's bioavailability. Don't you love when the healthiest option is also a fun option?
  4. False: The scientific name of the tomato translates to "apple of love." Close—that's its Italian name, pomodoro. Its scientific name, lycopersicum, translates to "wolf peach." Which is such a cool name I'm not sure why we don't just call it that. Want to start?
  5. True: Tomatoes were once considered poisonous. Like the rest of the nightshade family, tomatoes had a bad reputation—some other nightshades came by that rep honestly, but the tomato just has a teensy bit of poison and clearly wants to serve humankind honorably. In 1820, a gentleman named Robert Gibbon Johnson decided he'd had enough of our nonsense and stood on the courthouse steps of Salem, NJ, eating tomato after tomato without dying until the townspeople had to admit it was safe. And he did this without even the faintest possibility of YouTube® stardom. That's dedication.

By Omar Shamout

I recall an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm a few years back where Larry David was arguing with someone (as he's wont to do) over the proper time to eat dinner. He was adamant that dinner is traditionally eaten between the hours of 5 PM and 8 PM. Not before. Not after. Since the majority of Americans don't have the luxury of living off Seinfeld residuals, we have to go to work, and sometimes that means we can't eat at normal hours, or in any sort of regular intervals. A constantly rotating work schedule or very long shifts present a challenge to eating right, but can certainly be overcome with proper planning and a positive outlook.

Your body is a creature of habit. It gets used to routines, and the chemical processes that go on inside of it are on a set schedule. Consequently, if you do something to throw those off, like drastically altering your eating habits, it tends to react poorly. The best way to fix this is to outsmart your body, and get it on a schedule that works for the both of you.

Here are some tips on how to do that:
  1. If you don't get enough sleep, you're busted no matter what. Therefore, the first order of business is to adjust your sleep schedule. Cutting out crucial hours of sleep will affect the results you see from not only your diet, but your workout as well. Not getting enough sleep is detrimental to your health and metabolism, even if you eat during "optimal" periods. Want more proof? Check out this recent newsletter article that offers a rather stark warning. (See "The Sleep Solution: 4 Ways to Get the Rest You Need to Boost Results!" in the Related Articles section below.) The point here is that if working late causes you to lose sleep, you will be doing damage to your body no matter how well you eat, and all the subsequent tips mentioned below will be for naught.
  2. Late-night eating. We've always heard that eating right before bed is bad because the body doesn't get a chance to burn those calories off, and instead converts the food into fat. At the same time, depriving your body of nutrients isn't healthy either, so what's the answer?

    In a recent study at Northwestern University, scientists discovered that a group of mice who were only allowed to eat a high-fat diet during an non-optimal eating period (nighttime) gained over twice as much weight as mice only allowed to eat during an optimal eating period (daytime). In other words, mice that ate before bed got fat. While researchers are as yet unable to pinpoint a single reason for this discrepancy, "the interplay between body temperature, metabolic hormones such as leptin, and the sleep-wake cycle" were determined to be the biggest contributing factors.

    So if you can avoid eating before bed, do. But if you're hard pressed, keep it small and try to space it as far away from sleep as possible.
  3. Eat moderately throughout the day. This is the best solution to avoid getting those deep hunger pangs at night when you get home, and to set your body's metabolism on an effective rhythm. This is especially true for people whose jobs force them to be immobile, and prevent them from getting enough natural exercise throughout the day to allow them to burn off a few of the calories from a heavy lunch. If you're working a double shift and find yourself awake for 20 plus hours, try taking a portion block from one of your meals and using it as a snack later on instead. If you're on your feet most of the time and have an active job, adding an extra 200 to 300 balanced calories to your diet shouldn't be a problem. Either way, try to eat every 3 hours, and avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before bed.
  4. Skipping meals is not the answer. You may be tempted to fast and skip meals altogether, reducing your daily caloric intake in the hopes that consuming fewer calories will lead to weight loss. The problem with this logic is that drastically reducing your caloric intake can also cause your body's metabolism to slow down and stop converting food into energy. In order to lose weight, your body needs fuel. Weight loss occurs when you burn more calories than you consume, not simply by eating less. It may be counterintuitive, but eating less without exercising is very unhealthy, and will leave you feeling tired and listless, due to a dip in blood sugar. If you want to be super-fit and lean, you have to eat and exercise to turn your body into a fat-burning machine rather than a fat-storing machine.

    "Cyprindon" from the Beachbody® Message Boards elaborates on the potentially harmful side effects of allowing your body to become acclimated to fewer daily calories over the long term and enter what is referred to as starvation mode:

    "You are putting less calories toward body heat production and toward activity than you would at a higher calorie level. You may or may not notice that you feel colder than you did at a higher calorie intake. You may or may not notice that you simply move slower and you move less all day long through your activities. You may even be sleeping more than before. You may also be putting less calories toward egg production, immune system function, tissue repair, and other things."
  5. Plan ahead. Don't let your work schedule be an excuse for living an unhealthy lifestyle. If you know you'll be working at dinnertime, find a time to eat healthy snacks and small meals while on the job. It may be difficult at first, and you might need to try out a few schedules, but being smart and proactive will usually supply an answer. Still don't think it's possible? Take it from Beachbody Message Boards contributor "PrimaBallerina." She writes:

    "I don't get home from work until 10 or 10:30 at night. I didn't think I had the option of eating at work. I teach dance, and I have classes back to back to back. I don't even have time to go to the bathroom. I had to make time to eat. I teach ballet 95% of the time, and I teach a certain method where they do the same thing to the same music, so I take the opportunity to eat a dinner that I pack while they're doing the stuff they know well. I'm still watching and working, but I'm taking care of myself too! I agree with everybody else, pack a dinner!"

    Shakeology® is an excellent way to give your body the nutrition it needs in a quick and easy way, and is very conducive to an on-the-go lifestyle. Other quick, portable, and healthy snacks include fresh fruit, chopped-up veggies, or raw nuts.
The bottom line is that you are the only person who can take control of your health. If you're not really committed to taking the necessary steps to losing weight and getting fit, then there are any number of excuses you could make to explain why it's just not possible for you. Don't be lured by the temptation of the drive-thru, and avoid putting yourself in situations where the temptation to eat poorly is the easiest option. As soon as you start making excuses for yourself, you've lost. In truth, successful people are always the ones who persisted despite any obstacles or challenges that stood before them. Life will always get in the way, so make being healthy a necessity, not a choice. If you can schedule a time to work out every day, then you can certainly coordinate an appropriate eating schedule as well.

By Steve Edwards

One of the most effective dieting techniques we've found is zigzagging. Not to be confused with yo-yo dieting, zigzag is a technique that should be used anytime you want to increase or decrease your daily caloric intake, and can be used to find out what your caloric intake should be. Instead of moving straight to a new daily caloric number, you move in smaller increments on a staggered schedule. You hear the phrase "listen to your body" all the time. Can Zigzag Dieting Work for You? actually teaches your body how to have a conversation with you.

Here's an example of how it works:

Say you're eating 1,500 calories a day and have been for a period of time during which you've lost weight. Now your weight loss has stagnated. This is a common scenario because the new, fitter you has a different body composition than the former you. You have more muscle and a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR). In order to continue your weight loss, you need to eat more, because 1,500 calories isn't enough—even though it once was—and now your body is reacting by slowing its metabolism and releasing cortisol in a protective response (often called starvation mode because this is how your body would respond to being starved).

It's possible this could be a lot more calories, depending on one's size. A large person who should be eating, say, 2,500 calories to maintain his or her optimal weight could lose weight by massively undereating when he or she is deconditioned. As this person's body composition changes, he or she will need more calories to continue to lose weight. So let's say this individual figures to need 2,500 calories a day.

Weight times 10, plus 10 percent to 30 percent for daily activity depending on how active you are, plus the estimated caloric burn of your exercise, or just click here to calculate your caloric needs at

You don't want to jump straight to 2,500 calories. First, it would create a shock to your system, and second, it may be wrong, as those calculators only give ballpark figures. The most effective thing to do is to zigzag your caloric intake. In this instance, I would recommend eating 2,000 calories per day for 3 to 4 days a week and 1,500 calories on the other days. Then, you note how your body responds, which I would expect to be positively on the higher caloric days and by feeling famished on the low-cal days.

You want to be energized but not hungry, so after a week or two of this, I would bump up to around 2,200 calories a day for 4 or 5 days, and 1,500 calories a day for 2 days for maybe one week. If you're still starving on the low days, try bumping them up to 2,000 calories a day and see how you respond. Use this tactic until you regulate, which means that you're energized but not hungry, and also not full. You can tell when you're eating too many calories because you'll begin to feel full, you won't digest your food between meals, and you'll feel more lethargic at the beginning of workouts.

Zigzag dieting works whether you need to reduce or increase your caloric intake, and whether you need a subtle change or a dramatic change. There is no numbers formula except to increase/decrease in small increments between 200 and 500 calories a day, and to zigzag your caloric intake 2 to 4 times per week. Then, you just listen and let your body tell you how much you should eat.

By Sandy Carter (and her daughter)

Ready for a frosty treat that's as healthy as it is delicious? Try this recipe for frozen Shakeology pops. They're simple to mix up and freeze, and best of all, there's no guilt—just icy-cold choco-peanutty refreshment!
  • 1 serving Chocolate Shakeology
  • 3/4 cup nonfat milk
  • 1-1/2 Tbsp. peanut butter (all-natural is best)
  • 1 cup ice (more or less to taste)
Place ingredients in blender and blend until thoroughly mixed and creamy. Pour into 4-oz. pop molds and freeze until solid. Makes 4 pops.

Nutritional Information (per serving):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
91 8 g 1 g 8 g 3 g <1 g

Make Mine Melon!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Denis Faye

There's nothing bad about melons. They're yummy, they're super good for you, and they're one of the most social foods around. No self-respecting summer picnic would be complete without a big ol' watermelon. In fact, Americans purchase 3 billion pounds of the big green yum-balls annually. Everything else on the checkered tablecloth might be a nutritional nightmare, but nestled between the ambrosia and the macaroni salad you'll always find those big slices of sweet pink vitamin C-packed goodness, secretly supplying hungry partygoers with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids.

In truth, I probably don't need to explain why you should be eating everyone's favorite summer fruit, 'cause you're gonna eat it either way, but we're all food nerds here, right? So let's take moment and learn a little more about melons.

Melonology 101

You can buy melons in the grocery store year-round, but they're in season in America in the summer, so save your consumption for that season, and make sure you buy local. There are a couple of reasons to do this. First, once a piece of fruit is picked, it starts to lose nutrients, so not only do melons shipped from Central America tend to be mealier in texture, they're also less nutritious. Second, imported melons are more expensive.

You can store a melon at room temperature for a few days. Refrigerating it will help the nutrients last longer, but you lose flavor, particularly with cantaloupes. Once you've cut it open, all bets are off. Seal that melon and store it in the fridge. It should last about a week.

And even though you're probably not going to eat the rind, give your melon a good washing before cutting it up, so you can avoid any dirt, residues, or pesticides (if it's not organic) that might get into the flesh when you cut it.

While the watermelon is arguably the rock star of the melon world, having recently been rated the second healthiest fruit around by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (behind guava), it's just one of dozens of melon varieties. Let's discuss a few.


Actually, the watermelon is the only melon that's not a member of the Cucumis genus. It's a member of the genus Citrullus, which totally matters, right? Anyway, why did the CSPI go nuts for watermelons? They're loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, A, B6, and B1, as well as potassium and magnesium. More importantly, they're loaded with carotenoids, pigments existing in plants that give them their vibrant colors. Carotenoids also have beneficial effects on those who eat them, including protecting cell walls from free radicals, improving your immune system, and helping to maintain reproductive health.

One of the most prominent carotenoids in watermelon is cardiovascular-system-enhancing lycopene, which is usually associated with tomatoes, even though watermelon contains a much higher concentration by volume.

Haters sometimes criticize the watermelon for its lack of fiber. While this is true, it's fairly irrelevant. This fruit is incredibly water- and nutrient-dense, meaning you get a lot of vitamins and minerals for very few calories. One cup, which works out to about a pound of fruit, is only 49 calories.

Furthermore, I defy you to show me anyone who's ever gotten fat from eating watermelon.

Picking a good watermelon is easy. As is the case with all melons, once it's been plucked from the vine, it stops ripening, so don't buy it hoping it'll improve. According to The World's Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan, there are two tricks to identifying a ripe watermelon. First, the "ground spot," where it rested in the dirt, should be yellow. If it's green or white, it's probably not ready. Seedless watermelons sometimes don't have ground spots, so this doesn't apply to them. Second, give it a thump. If it responds with a dull thud, that's good. It if sounds hollow, put it back.

On a final note, if you're concerned about the genetic modification factor when it comes to seedless watermelon varieties, don't be. They're hybrids, meaning they're a cross between two types of melon. No genes are manipulated in the making of this summer treat.


My grandmother used to say, "Cantaloupe—'cause we're already married!"

Bwahahahahaha! [Wipes tear from eye.]

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, let's talk about the fruit the CSPI ranked as the eighth healthiest fruit. The cantaloupe, as we know it, is actually a muskmelon. Real cantaloupes are grown in France and rarely make it to the states. Whatever you want to call them, they're packed with vitamins C, A, B3, B6, and B9, as well as potassium. Unlike watermelons, they have a little fiber, a little over 1 gram for a 56-calorie, 1-cup serving.

They're also a good source of carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene, which you'll also find in carrots. Are you seeing the pattern here? Remember how I said carotenoids are pigments? Cantaloupes and carrots are both orange. Watermelons and tomatoes, with their lycopene, are both red.

Cool, huh?

Cantaloupes stop ripening when picked, but unlike watermelons, the tap test should sound hollow. They should have a subtle, fruity smell. If a cantaloupe smells too strong, it's probably overripe. Also, the side opposite the stem should be slightly soft. Other than that, there should be no bruises or odd spots.

The only real downside to cantaloupe—and it's a weird one—is that people with latex allergies sometimes react poorly to them, so look out for that. Who knew?


Although they're still yummy, honeydew melons fare poorly from a nutritional standpoint when compared to their pink and orange brethren. That 1 cup of cubes has 61 calories and 1 gram of fiber, but the vitamin C is only about half that of cantaloupe, and there are also much lower amounts of other micronutrients, although there's still a pretty good amount of potassium.

The carotenoid that gives honeydew its green hue is zeaxanthin, which promotes eye health. You'll find even more impressive amounts of zeaxanthin in almost all leafy greens.

You determine whether a honeydew's ripe the same way you find a good cantaloupe. Hollow tap, fruity smell, and no soft spots.


Although it's less well known, I thought I'd mention the casaba, because of the special role it plays in the melon world. While nowhere near as nutritionally dense as the melons we've discussed previously, the casaba still features a nice little hit of vitamins C and B6, plus some potassium. Casabas also tend to have slightly more protein and fiber and less sugar than other melons, which gives them less of a glycemic load. In other words, they might be considered a "low-carb" fruit.

Though not as flavorful as some other melons, casabas have a long shelf life, which is convenient. The ripeness smell test doesn't really apply here, as they have no aroma, so look for color instead. The outer skin on a ripe casaba will be bright yellow.

Which melon is right for you?

The answer? Any of them. However, if after reading all this, you're stuck as to which melon to pick for your next BBQ, I have an idea: Buy one of each! Chop them up, mix them up, and you have a colorful, nutrient-rich fruit salad that'll kick that picnic into overdrive. With any luck, Cousin Millie and Grandma Bertie will finally get the message that you don't need mayo and refined sugar to make food delicious.

By G.D. Rossen

As the summer vacation season approaches and millions of people start planning trips, among the most popular ways the recreation-starved choose to spend their hard-earned vacation time and harder-earned cash is on cruise ships or at all-inclusive tropical resorts. The cruise industry alone saw more than 10 million passengers depart from U.S. ports last year, while tropical über-resorts with names like Sandals®, Breezes, and Couples beckon with enticing promises of warm sands and days of leisure. (We won't touch on what Hedonism Resorts® beckons with.) What these vacation destinations all have in common is cocoon-like protection in a safe, microcosmic version of the locale you're visiting, committed to relaxation and fun. But they share something else too. As all-inclusive vacations, they offer near-continuous access to all the food you can eat, which makes them appeal to instincts honed by our famine-fearing ancestors—instincts that tell us that if there's food available, it's time to chow down. Cruise ships in particular have gained notoriety as being fat factories on the seas. Like the average American waistline, every year, the ships grow larger and larger, adding more and more dining rooms and buffets, each enticing travelers to gorge as they lounge in the tropical sunshine.

And while in this era of shrinking paychecks and cost-conscious consuming the idea of all-inclusive vacations sounds like a smart vacation shopper's dream come true, this all-you-can-consume kind of vacation carries with it risks for the health-minded vacationer. So if your goal is to keep from overindulging while at an all-inclusive resort or on a cruise, and you can't depend solely on your willpower to keep you on the straight and narrow, here are eight ways you can enjoy your vacation to the fullest without derailing your healthy eating and exercise plan.
  1. The opposite of mountain climbing (or beware the buffet). Mountain climbers have been known to explain their passionate need to tackle a given peak by saying "because it's there"; vacationers at an all-inclusive often defend their face-first dives into mountainous buffets with the same motto. Just because something is there doesn't mean you have to have it. That said, we're all human, and something that seems "free" or "paid for" is enticing and alluring . . . especially when it's bathed in cream, salt, sugar, cheese, etc. So when mealtime rolls around and a buffet sprawls before you like pirate booty waiting to be plundered, make sure you start with the salad. That's right, a simple green salad, and while you're at it, try light dressing or no dressing at all. Salad fills up space in your stomach while it provides you with vitamins and roughage, the latter of which is noticeably lacking in many buffet-style foods. Just remember, the more salad you eat (at, say, 50 calories for a cup and a half of salad without dressing, or 100 calories for a cup and a half with low-fat balsamic vinaigrette), the less room you'll have for starchy, fatty, salty Fettuccine Alfredo (which can weigh in at 700 calories per serving and up—often way up). The result is that in addition to keeping your arteries clearer, you're gonna feel a lot better in your swimsuit when you're lounging on the Lido deck.
  2. Be the captain of your table. While cruise ships and all-inclusive resorts have embraced the "more is better" philosophy, offering sometimes a dozen restaurant options to their captive diners, the tourism industry has also been among the most responsive to working "heart-healthy" and lower-calorie options into their menus. You just have to use them. Vegetarian choices are usually available at every meal, as are sugar-free desserts and low-salt options. On cruises in particular, many ship kitchens pride themselves on accommodating guests' special dietary requests. And since both cruise ships and beachside resorts boast waterfront settings and nautical themes, fish dishes are virtually always available on the menu, which can make for healthier dining choices, especially when grilled.
  3. Beware the pink parasols. Okay, let's not go overboard. If you drink alcohol, your vacation most likely won't be the time you choose to cut it out of your diet. But the amount of calories in some alcoholic drinks can be truly astounding. Daiquiris, margaritas, mai tais—resort favorites all—generally carry high-calorie loads, and basically any drink sweetened with syrups or sugar is getting into Candyland as far as calorie count goes. Also, alcohol has that special ability to lower your resistance, impeding your better judgment. The bottom line is that drinking can make you consume a surplus of empty calories, both directly (the alcohol itself) and indirectly (the poolside French fries or grande platter of nachos you order when the alcohol obliterates your resolve). So before you find yourself paddling over toward the swim-up bar (because hey, how cool is that, having a swim-up bar?), have a strategy in place. Maybe your strategy will involve using low-cal mixers (i.e., rum and Diet Coke®) or alternating between an alcoholic drink and a nonalcoholic low-cal or no-cal drink (i.e., sparkling water on ice with some lemon or lime). Or if a cold beer is more to your liking, enjoy a light beer instead.
  4. Then again, it is vacation! So eat . . . then hit the gym. Sure there's temptation on vacation. That's why it's a vacation. And you don't want to be so mindful of your menu that you don't have fun. (After all, would you go to Switzerland and not try the chocolate, or visit New Orleans and not have beignets?) So if you embrace the dining options to their fullest, or feel you're deserving of your vacation drinks (especially since someone else is driving [the ship]), you should also embrace the many, many exercise options that are available. Fully outfitted gyms are de rigueur in all major resorts and ships, and the hour you spend on an elliptical machine could see you burn off 600 calories. The hardest part is incorporating the workout regimen you embrace at home to this new environment where hedonism is encouraged and rewarded. (Few gyms are emptier than those on cruise ships.) So here are a few exercise options.
  5. Exercise easy . . . Opportunities for easy, "I've got a hangover and can't get too out of breath"-type exercise are plentiful at resorts and on cruise ships. Sure, they may not be challenging enough to be featured on the cover of an outdoorsy-lifestyle magazine, but remember that embracing the many slower-paced vacation-style exercise options around you is better than not moving at all. For instance, you might want to take a morning walk before camping out on the nearest chaise lounge for the day. Walking on an even surface at 3 miles per hour will consume around 220 calories an hour, and even a modest (or stumbling) 2-mile-per-hour walk burns around 170 calories. So the paths around the resort, or even off-property if that's both safe and viable, provide for strolls that let you enjoy the warmth, soak in the atmosphere, and not atrophy on a poolside lounge chair. Likewise, most cruise ships boast tracks around the upper decks where passengers can walk or jog to their heart's delight (jogging can burn 360 calories and up an hour). Even the much-maligned game of shuffleboard can burn 150 or 200 calories an hour. Yes, it's a ridiculous pastime. Yes, it is associated with Miami Beach in the 1970s. But the idea is to move, rather than only bake in the sun while downing nachos and beers.
  6. Or exercise hard core . . . Rock-climbing walls are now present on many ships and at some resorts, and provide an extremely calorie-intensive workout due to the intense physical demands of clinging to a faux-rock face with feet and fingers (burning as much as 100 calories in a brief 10-minute climb). Never rappelled down a climbing wall before? No problem. Whether you have or not, if your resort has a rock wall, they have staff on hand to teach you how to use it, generally offering courses geared for climbers of different experience levels. Climbing walls involve intense use of muscles and balance, and you'll certainly feel it the next day. Likewise, many cruise ships, when they pull into port, offer challenging onshore athletic activities, like kayaking, which can burn 340 or more calories per hour.
  7. Sleep with the fishes—or just exercise with them. Nowhere are water sports more readily available than at beachside resorts and on cruise ships. Snorkeling burns around 350 calories an hour, and provides a calm and calming view of the world you may not normally get. Surfing is another activity that's perfect to try on your resort-bound vacation (some megaships also offer surf pools or surf parks to let passengers surf while still on board), and surfing can burn 200 calories an hour. Of course, swimming is one of the most effective exercises around, and swimming around ocean or pool for an hour could easily burn 400 calories or more.
  8. Dancing (does the limbo count)? Yes, cruise ships and resorts are romantic places where music fills the warm night air, so embrace the music and dance! Dancing is one of the best forms of cardio exercise, so whether you prefer to slow dance in the moonlight (a gentle waltz burns 120 calories or more an hour) or party down to some disco (while burning more than 270 calories an hour), rest assured that what you're doing is good for you. Dancing also has the distinction of being one of the more enjoyable forms of exercise—just one of the reasons that Hip Hop Abs® and Turbo Jam® have helped so many people improve their health and conditioning. The point with all these exercise options is to move, and whenever possible, to embrace the concept of Muscle Confusion, which forms the basis of the P90X® fitness regimen. Keeping your body moving in a variety of ways, continually forcing it to adapt, results in effective muscle toning and fat-burning.

By Valerie Watson

For somebody who works at a company that focuses on fitness, I am alarmingly unfit. So I know how tough it can be when you're feeling like an out-of-shape pink monkey stuck in the middle of a . . . flock? Herd? Pack? What's a bunch of brown monkeys called, anyway? No matter; I work in an office where everybody else uses their lunch hour to Bring It!® by doing a P90X® workout while I surf the Web or work on writing the next great American screenplay—both noble pursuits, but they're not making my tummy any flatter.

So I decided to look into which Beachbody® workout program would be best for someone who's just dipping her toe back into the pool of fitness after an exteeeeeeeended dry spell. And how do y'all get to participate? Why, by deciding which of the following statements are true and which are false.
  1. True AND False: Slim in 6® is a super-easy way to get started. Slim in 6 is an excellent way to reimmerse yourself in regular physical exercise after you've been away from it for a while, but the compound adjective "super-easy" should be sending up some red flags for the thinking person. Make no mistake: even though Slim in 6 is listed in the Getting Started section of, YOU ARE GOING TO FEEL IT. Always remember that returning to physical activity after a long layoff is going to require some work, and it's best to consult with your doctor to make sure you're up to the rigors of what's going to be asked of you. Then once you get the all-clear, go ahead and take the plunge—you'll be glad you did!
  2. True: P90X should be reserved for those who've already built up some strength and stamina. While some daring souls have plunged straight into P90X—and had some amazing results doing it—folks who've been sedentary for a considerable amount of time (like yours truly) might want to start a little lower on the Beachbody workout food chain. Tony's Power 90® is a good way to prepare for P90X. So are Slim in 6, Turbo Jam®, and Shaun T's Rockin' Body®.
  3. False: Yoga Booty Ballet® Pure & Simple Yoga is so easy, it feels almost like cheating. Don't let the soothing music or yoga's reputation as the prime road to relaxation fool you—yoga works all your major muscle groups and helps strengthen your core. So while it's a great way to get started, stretching your muscles and increasing your lung capacity, remember that it has three different levels of difficulty so you can keep challenging yourself as you learn and grow stronger.
  4. False: Beachbody programs created by women, like Debbie Siebers and Chalene Johnson, are much easier than ones created by men, like Tony Horton and Shaun T. While most people rightfully think of programs like Tony's P90X Plus and Shaun T's INSANITY® as being among the toughest we offer, you'd be foolish to sell the female contingent short. Chalene's Turbo Jam® Fat Burning Elite and Debbie's Slim Series® Express will both kick your butt six ways from Sunday.

By Stephanie S. Saunders

Falling in love. Perhaps the most extraordinary feeling a person can experience without psychotropic drugs. It's an all-consuming state of being that takes us to our highest highs and lowest lows. But in the whirlwind of meeting the person of your dreams, sometimes you focus on your heart and lose sight of your waistline. Yes, the dreaded dating dozen is the sister of the freshman fifteen, but hopefully with higher-quality food involved. Are you someone who tends to put on a few as soon as you start seeing someone new? Why does this happen, and how can we avoid it? What about those of us who save the weight gain for the demise of the relationship, also known as Ben and Jerry Therapy? Let's take a look at dating on a diet.

It is fairly traditional to go out to dinner and a movie when you first start spending time with someone. You don't want to look like the "weirdo who only eats salad" so you let loose a little bit. Perhaps you have a drink or five to continue on the loosening process. If this was for only one night, besides the imminent hangover, it'd be just fine. But when you really like someone, and you're happy, you might shed your eating inhibitions for quite some time. He or she might like you for who you are, and not care about a few extra pounds, which is not really a bad thing. But as we all know, if the cycle continues, you can lose sight of your fitness goals and end up feeling like you just finished your first year in college, only this time with a few added wrinkles.

Let's look at some ways to keep the love alive, without damage to your thighs.
  1. Talk about it. Communication is one of the pillars of any great relationship. This doesn't mean you need to go into a diatribe about your bad habits with food on the very first date. Again, being the crazy person who spends 20 minutes discussing carbohydrate vs. fat grams upon first meeting might leave your future phone calls unanswered. But if this is Mr. or Ms. Right, talk to them about your diet and fitness goals. Explain why you are working out like crazy and that the trip through the Jack in the Box® drive-through might not be your best date option. If they can't be supportive of your healthy choices, this is probably not who you want to spend forever with.
  2. Plan activity dates. Why does a date have to be dinner and drinks? The answer is, it doesn't. With a bit of creativity, you can take the focus off food, and do something that might help the two of you get to know each other while you're not inebriated. Plan dates that have activities as the focus, and simply eat before you leave the house. Try hiking, bowling, mini-golf, dog walking, visiting museums, playing a board game, getting a massage, playing on a playground, making pottery, throwing a Frisbee®, or sitting together and thinking of more fun, creative ideas. You will learn a lot about the person you are with, like if they get really upset when you cream them at mini-golf. And, more importantly, you will stick to your eating plan.
  3. Cook meals at home. Again, this is not a suggestion for a first date, because having someone in your home that you do not know is never wise. But if you begin to spend a lot of time together, cooking together can be a fun, sexy activity that can save you a lot of money and calories. Grilling up some chicken or fish and steaming some veggies and brown rice is incredibly simple, and it tastes fantastic. Throw in some candlelight and soft music, and it's as if you were in a 5-star restaurant, only you don't need to be concerned about public displays of affection. And if you can talk your significant other into doing the dishes, it is a perfect date.
  4. Picnics. For those of us who prefer getting out of the house, a picnic is always a fun alternative, unless you live in Alaska and it's January. In that case, we suggest you enjoy the picnic on the rug, inside a building. With a picnic, you have control over what goes into the basket, and into your mouth. Pack a bunch of different cut-up fruits, vegetables, low-fat cheese, and whole wheat crackers. Bring either low-fat dressing or hummus to dip the veggies in. A lovely tablecloth, some music—you have a date to remember.
  5. Choose wisely. So your date has been dying to try the latest hot spot for dinner. Don't rain on the parade, but be very smart when attending. Remember that steamed, broiled, or grilled items are usually healthier than fried, sautéed, or baked-in-cheese-sauce ones. Look for lean cuts of meat, dressings on the side, and avoid the bread basket. If you want to be very prepared, see if the restaurant has a Web site, which will usually have a menu, and decide what will be healthiest in advance. There are a ton of Web sites with calorie counters that can help you make your choices. If the restaurant doesn't have a Web site, call and ask them to fax a copy of the menu. Sometimes preparedness is the best defense.
  6. Avoid the snack bar. Movie theaters, sporting events, and concerts all have one horrible thing in common. No, it's not bad parking. It's concession stands. Whoever originally chose the menu for snack bars must be eight years old, as elsewhere, most adults hardly ever eat nachos, hot dogs, fat-infused popcorn, greasy little pizzas, and pretzels larger than their heads. The best possible choice in situations where you will be faced with a concession stand is to eat first. There's usually nothing of great nutritional value at these places, and even a seemingly innocent small popcorn with butter can pack 630 calories and 50 grams of fat! Grab a cup of water and run for your seat!
  7. Buy date clothes. We all want to look attractive for our special someone. Oftentimes, a new, flattering, and slightly sexy outfit can transform you into an irresistible creature that makes your date desire you all the more. I'm not suggesting you wear a Speedo® with a sports coat, but more formfitting clothing has the ability to keep you aware of your waistline. I was once told that if I wanted to eat ice cream, I should do it while wearing a bikini. I stopped after three bites.
  8. Work out first/on the date. It has been repeatedly proven that we tend to eat less and store less fat when we have a rigorous workout before a meal. Before a date, exercise can give us the added endorphins to feel fantastic and make us look our very best in the moment. Also, consider exercising with your new partner. Watching them try to conquer an INSANITY® plyometrics workout will give you a good gauge of their persistence and a good indication of what they look like with no makeup and messed-up hair.
  9. Make alcohol less of a focus. Limiting the amount of alcohol we consume on a date can be challenging. Having cocktails is fun, and it lowers our inhibitions, so getting to know someone becomes much easier. On the other side of the coin, alcohol packs on a lot of excess calories, and might make us get to know someone too quickly. One margarita or cosmopolitan can add 400 calories to an evening. Try to plan dates that are not "bar focused" (see #2), but if you end up somewhere celebrating, lean toward wine, light beer, champagne, and anything not mixed with a ton of sugar.
  10. If he/she is all wrong. Relationships can be incredibly complicated, and sometimes they just fall apart. If this unfortunate experience occurs for you, try not to let your sorrows drown in a vat of ice cream. Comfort food can be, well, comforting, but can also do residual damage that will make you feel even worse in the long run. It is pretty awful to work your tail off for months to reach a certain level of fitness, and have it all slip away because some jerk could not see what an incredible catch you are. Take all of that excess frustration and go on a run or a hike, lift weights, or do a P90X® workout.
Emotional eating is usually considered a negative reaction to a stressful or sad experience, which dating can sometimes be. But often, we eat in celebration of life, and the amazing person we have finally met. In all of the new emotions we encounter, in both the beginning and sometimes ending of a relationship, make sure you never lose sight of yourself—you, who has worked your tail off to get where you are. Keep up all of the good work, and remember that finding and keeping that perfect person is so much easier to do when you feel good about yourself.

By Joe Wilkes

It's almost summertime, which brings the incongruous collision of picnic season and swimsuit season. The weather's perfect for hiking, camping, barbecuing, and days at the beach—lots of opportunities for outdoor exercise, but just as many opportunities to pig out at pool parties, luaus, outdoor festivals, and county fairs. Here are some foods to try avoiding during the dog days of summer and some ideas for substitutions for picnic favorites.

  1. Fried chicken. It's not the K or the C in KFC® that's the problem. It's the F for fried. And if you have any hope of staying slim this summer, it's time to tell the Colonel you're kicking the bucket. One extra-crispy breast will run you 460 calories and 28 grams of fat, 8 of them saturated. That's almost three times the calories of a grilled, skinless breast and almost ten times as much fat. So clearly, you're better off cooking the chicken yourself. But if you're grabbing something on the run, you might want to visit the rotisserie case at your local supermarket. Try picking a chicken that's not slathered in sugary barbecue sauce. And if you throw away the skin, you'll save yourself from eating most of the fat and calories.
  2. Sandwiches. A picnic without sandwiches is like a picnic without ants. It just wouldn't be the same. But of course, the sandwich is only as good as the sum of its ingredients. If you're using white bread, you're just eating empty carbohydrates. Make sure you buy whole-grain bread, and that it has the word "whole" in the ingredient list. Wheat bread is essentially the same as white bread, only with a little molasses added for brown coloring. It's nutritionally the same, if not worse. Whole wheat bread, on the other hand, contains the fiber and the vitamins you're looking for. For lunch meat, try avoiding processed meats like bologna and salami. They're packed with extra fat and sodium. And when buying unprocessed meats like turkey or roast beef, make sure they really are unprocessed. The makers of some brands of turkey grind up the skin and dark meat and then press it into lunch meat form, so you're really getting as much fat and sodium as you'd get from bologna. Watch out for flavored turkey as well. Most of the time the secret ingredient is salt. If you want to be really healthy, buy a whole turkey breast from your poultry section and roast it yourself, so you can control how much salt is added.
  3. Brats and burgers. It's always great to fire up the grill and start cooking up a mess of meat. And the good news is that grilling is one of the healthiest ways to cook food. It adds tons of flavor and doesn't add fat. Of course, the best thing to grill would be skinless chicken, fish, or vegetables. But if you're craving a juicy burger or brat and a portobello burger just won't do, there are still some decisions you can make to keep it on the lean side. For burgers, consider a leaner option than beef, such as ground turkey or buffalo. But as always, check the label. Some grinds of turkey have as much fat as a fatty grind of beef. Ground turkey breast is usually much leaner than ground turkey. If you're going to make beef burgers, try to find a grind that is under 5 percent fat. Ground sirloin is usually pretty close. If you can't find a grind that's low enough in fat, ask your butcher to grind a lean piece of chuck roast or top sirloin for you. In addition to being leaner, this will also reduce your chances of picking up foodborne illnesses like E. coli, since only one cow is involved in producing a steak, as opposed to potentially hundreds in ground beef. In fact, if you're someone who likes to eat your burger rare, having the butcher grind a piece of meat for you is a must do. Bratwurst is another delicious summer fave, but watch the fat and sodium content in those as well. The chicken, turkey, and even veggie versions of sausage sound like they'd be lighter, but they're often just as fatty as the pork versions.
  4. Potato or macaroni salad. Mayonnaise is the culprit in these dishes. At 50 calories a tablespoon with 5 grams of fat, these side dishes can turn deadly for your diet in a hurry. But you can mitigate the damage somewhat. Instead of mayonnaise, consider using nonfat yogurt, food-processed nonfat cottage cheese, or nonfat ricotta cheese instead. You'll get fewer calories, less fat, and lessen the risk of salmonella poisoning by going eggless. One way to make potato salad healthier is to leave the skins on the potatoes, as they have the fiber and most of the vitamins in the spud. For macaroni salad, use a whole-grain pasta to get extra fiber. Better yet, make a pasta salad with heart-healthy olive oil, vinegar, and lots of veggies.
  5. Baked beans. Beans, beans, the musical fruit . . . well, you know the rest. Full of fiber and low in fat, beans are a great side dish that will keep you full. What you want to watch out for is the sugar that is added to most baked beans—sometimes as much as 3 teaspoons in a cup. Try plain pinto beans, or my favorite, beans canned with jalapeños. Replace high-calorie sweet with low-calorie fire, and you won't even miss the sugar. Three-bean salad is another flavorful way to consume your legumes without a lot of added fat or sugar.
  6. Trail mix. Summer's a great time for checking out nature, and it's always great to bring along a healthy snack. But check the trail mix ingredients. Some, especially those containing granola, can be loaded with super-unhealthy hydrogenated oils and fat. There are trail mixes on the market that have more fat than a large order of fries, so it's definitely a buyer-beware situation. Also check out how much sugar is in the trail mix or granola bars you're taking backpacking. Some bars aren't much healthier than a Snickers®. If ingredients in your trail mix include chocolate chips and marshmallows, you may not have made the healthiest choice. Try making your own trail mix with healthy unsweetened oats, nuts, and dried fruit. Or take along a couple of P90X® Peak Performance Protein Bars.
  7. Ice cream. I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. And we'll really be screaming when we try to stuff ourselves into our swimsuits after eating everyone's favorite fatty, frosty indulgence. It's hard to resist a cool ice cream cone on a hot summer day, and the tinkling of the ice cream truck bell can still send me bolting into the street. But that scoop of vanilla can have up to 400 calories and 25 grams of fat, 15 of them saturated. If you're culinarily gifted, you might consider making your own sorbet. If not, check out some of the ones available on the market. Sorbets are usually low fat or nonfat, although they can still have tons of sugar. Try to find some that are mostly fruit. Speaking of fruit, for a healthy frozen treat, how about sticking some fruit in the freezer? Most fruits, especially berries, grapes, and bananas, freeze quite well. They'll last longer and popping a few frozen grapes in your mouth can cool you off on a hot day; and you'll still get all the vitamins, fiber, and health benefits that a Creamsicle just can't provide.

Recipe: Blueberry Buckle

Thursday, June 16, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Team Beachbody

Here's a delicious, guilt-free dessert that combines the healthy goodness of steel-cut oats with sweet, antioxidant–rich blueberries. Enjoy!
  • 2/3 cup steel-cut oats
  • 1/2 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1 Tbsp. slivered almonds
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Optional: Honey, stevia, or raw sugar (to taste)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a small glass baking dish. Mix well. Bake for 20 minutes. (Or you can microwave on high for 1-1/2 minutes.) Allow to cool slightly before serving. Makes 2 servings.

Preparation Time: 40 minutes (including mixing, baking, and cooling)

Nutritional Information (per serving without optional sweetener):
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
153 5 g 26 g 5 g 5 g <1 g

By Denis Faye

For the first couple decades of my life, I looked at exercise as a "need-to-do" activity, as opposed to a "want-to-do" activity. Then, one fateful night around my 25th birthday, a disheveled Australian showed up at my door with an ancient surfboard and announced that at dawn, like it or not, I was going to learn to surf.

The next morning, exercise became my muse. My life changed forever.

In high school, my sports life was typical. Football, track, swim team. I have the unfortunate combination of being fiercely competitive and deeply lacking in physical aptitude, so these activities were overwhelmingly frustrating. I tried hard and rarely succeeded, a constant disappointment to the crowds, the coaches, and myself. On graduation day, I vowed never again to know the feeling of a missed tackle as my entire school looked on. I walked away from organized sports.

In college, I continued to jog a little because I knew I "needed" to. Also, it's hard to screw up when you're jogging. Yet I loathed it. It hurt my knees and it bored me. Eventually that petered out and 4 years later, I entered the workforce at a stout, dumpy 220 pounds. Sure, I hit the gym occasionally, typically around New Year's, with the belief that this was going to be the year I turned things around, but it never happened. A few weeks of early-morning elliptical trainer workouts were all I needed to become bored out of my mind and return to the chubby security of my snooze button.

Meanwhile, my career prospered. As I said, I'm competitive and therefore somewhat ambitious. White-collar opportunities and white-collar money presented themselves, not that I'd expected them. As a film studies major, I'd spent my college years surrounded by creative people, and I assumed I'd follow in their bohemian footsteps. But by age 25, I was deskbound 5 days a week, making more money than any of my friends thanks to my lucrative job in advertising. And one more thing: I was miserable. My career had become just like exercise. A "need-to-do" 50-plus hours of weekly drudgework.

To keep my spirit from breaking completely, I took on some pro-bono clients, including the Surfrider Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to cleaning up the oceans. I had yet to surf at that point, but I've always loved the ocean, so it was a good fit. I took to the volunteer work like, well, a fish to water. Weekdays were for my "real" job. Nights and weekends were spent helping an itinerant band of wave-riders save the planet.

Then a problem cropped up. I couldn't surf. That meant that I wasn't part of "the tribe," and that wouldn't float. It was then that I decided I needed to learn how. George, a grizzled Aussie longboarder who had taken a particular liking to me, retrieved a dilapidated old plank from the depths of his storage shed and brought it over, at about 11:00 PM, as I recall. The next morning, at 5:00 AM, George and a minivan full of surf bums showed up at my door. At 6:00 AM, I had my first saltwater baptism.

Surfing didn't come naturally to me, but my companions were unrelenting, and so was I. Yet all that time, there was no pressure. We all had fun whether I shredded it up or not. One of the beauties of surfing was that for the first time in my life, I had found a fun, exciting physical activity I could learn at my own pace, with only one person to compete against: myself. No one hassled me to "win" out in the water. We were just there for a good time and a little exercise. Eventually, I got the hang of it.

Soon, I started participating in other sports with my band of weekend warriors. Rock climbing, mountain biking, sailing, camping. I was becoming an outdoor sports junkie and it felt great. Exercise inspired better eating and soon I was a svelte 170 pounds—the thinnest I'd been since junior high.

On our many surf trips down the coast, work would eventually factor into conversation. For all my action-figure ways, I was still primarily a desk jockey. None of my sports buddies made the money I did, but they were all happy in their professional lives. Some were small-business owners. Others were teachers. Some worked construction. Ambition meant something to a few of them, but intuition meant more to all of them. When it came to careers (or anticareers), they did what they wanted to do.

Surfing had taught me who I really was. I had become fit and comfortable in my own skin. I knew I needed to be comfortable in my job too. I resigned my corporate position and began the career I'd always wanted to do: journalism. In time, that career folded into what I do today: writing about and helping people with fitness and nutrition.

Today, I don't make the money I made scaling the corporate ladder, but I'm happy. Exercise helped me find that path. I'm not criticizing white-collar work; I'm just admitting that it wasn't right for me. Furthermore, I'm also not telling you that you need to take up an extreme sport to find your bliss, but if exercise is something you do because you "need" to—or if you don't do it at all-find an activity that excites you, be it volleyball, yoga, aerobics, or weightlifting. Embrace it. Let it motivate and inspire you. It'll take you to good places, and if you're lucky, it might turn your life around.

I could write about it all day, but I just got a call from George. If you'll excuse me, the surf's up.

See you in the lineup.

Seasonal Summer Produce

Tuesday, June 14, 2011 | 0 comments »

By Cecilia H. Lee

Ah, summer! The word conjures up images of warm, lazy days sunning on the beach, running through sprinklers, and reclining in a hammock in the shade catching up on a good book. The start of summer is also good news for those of us who want to be able to squeeze into our bathing suits by eating all the fresh fruits and vegetables that are available during the season.

No matter where you live, these hot days are good for some delicious foods—which also happen to be good for you. Here's a list of some of the things you'll find in the produce aisle of your grocery store, or in your local farmers' market.
  • Apples. Different varieties come in season starting in mid-to late summer and right on through autumn. Be sure to eat them skin and all to get the best health benefits.
  • Apricots. Originally from China, apricots are not only delicious, but they're also a great source of vitamins A and C, as well as potassium. Look for fruits that are plump, firm, and uniform in color.
  • Avocados. Though their seasons vary, summer is a good time to find ripe avocados in your local stores. High in monounsaturated fats, they also contain vitamins A, C, D, E, and K, plus a couple of those B vitamins.
  • Basil. Summer is the best season to enjoy this aromatic herb—a great ingredient to liven up pastas, sandwiches, or salads.
  • Blueberries. Rich in antioxidants and phytonutrients, a handful of these babies are great when you toss them into a low-fat smoothie or on top of some yogurt for a nutritious snack.
  • Carrots. Not only are carrots good road-trip snacks, they also have pro-vitamin A carotenes that can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Chard. Like spinach, chard is low in calories and contains phytonutrients including syringic acid, which inhibits carbs from breaking down into simple sugars, thus warding off issues like diabetes by keeping blood sugar steady.
  • Cherries. Cherries are high in vitamin C and potassium, and if you go pick them yourself, you'll get the additional benefit of some good old-fashioned exercise.
  • Corn. A summer BBQ staple, its folate and B vitamins can contribute to improved cardiovascular health.
  • Cucumbers. Cucumbers are great for your skin, muscles, and connective tissue, plus they're chock-full of water, fiber, and vitamin C.
  • Eggplant. The beautiful purple skin found on these late-summer vegetables is good food for your brain.
  • Fennel. This Mediterranean bulb is rich in vitamin C and phytonutrients, especially anethole, which a 2000 University of Texas study showed to have some anti-cancer effects.
  • Figs. Fresh figs available during the hot months are a great source of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure.
  • Garlic. Volumes have been written on the benefits of this stinky bulb, which include how good it is for heart health and how its antiviral properties may be able to help keep us from getting sick.
  • Grapes. Great for snacking, they're low in calories and contain the heart disease-fighting phytonutrient resveratrol, normally associated with red wine.
  • Green beans. Steam these crisp vegetables for a healthy side dish that's filled with carotenoids, which are great for your heart and more.
  • Lemongrass. Used in Thai and Southeast Asian cooking, this citrusy herb is high in folic acid and has been shown to have antioxidant and disease-preventing properties.
  • Lettuce. Not all greens are equal, so go for the mixed greens, romaine, or red leaf lettuce for the best benefits in your salads.
  • Mangos. Though higher in calories, one cup of diced mango can provide 75 percent of your daily vitamin C recommendation.
  • Melons. Cantaloupes and honeydews should be heavy for their size and give off a sweet, melony smell. And watermelons aren't just refreshing, they help hydrate you and give you antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
  • Nectarines. Look for firm fruits with smooth skin, and enjoy them for their delicious flavor and vitamin C.
  • Okra. Delicious grilled or in gumbo, this summer vegetable has an abundance of dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, and K, and folates.
  • Onions. Onions are high in polyphenols and flavonoids, which means good news for your cardiovascular system.
  • Oregano. Found in cuisines from the Mediterranean to Mexico, this herb is great for its antibacterial and antioxidant qualities.
  • Peas. These delicious and easy-to-eat legumes help support blood sugar regulation.
  • Peppers. Originally native to Central and South America, these spicy and sweet beauties contain lots of natural antioxidants.
  • Plums. Related to other stone fruits like peaches, nectarines, and apricots, these antioxidant-rich fruits are also great for helping with iron and vitamin C absorption.
  • Rhubarb. Rhubarb is good for more than just pie—it's a high source of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.
  • Spinach. As Popeye can attest, spinach is one of the most nutritious vegetables in the world, rich in lots of vitamins, and especially in iron and calcium.
  • Strawberries. Most strawberries are grown in California and Florida, where the peak growing season is April through June. Most other places will see local berries in July, just in time for an Independence Day celebration. Grab a bowlful and get ready for off-the-chart levels of vitamin C and fiber.
  • Summer squash and zucchini. Usually in season between May and July, these relatives of the melon are great for your heart.
  • Tarragon. This culinary herb has been used in medicine throughout history for such things as stimulating appetite and alleviating insomnia. It's also great for calcium, manganese, iron, and a bunch of vitamins.
  • Tomatillos. Little green cousins of gooseberries, these summer vegetables are high in niacin, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin C.
  • Tomatoes. Vine-ripened varieties of tomatoes are in season from July through September. They're high in lycopene, a great antioxidant.
Cecilia H. Lee is a food and travel writer, an artist, and a chef. A James Beard Award nominee, she has authored several books. Her latest, Quick & Easy Mexican Cooking, includes delicious, nutritious Mexican recipes you can make in just 30 minutes or less. When she's not climbing a mountain somewhere, Cecilia writes, eats, and gardens in Los Angeles.

Test Your Cleanse IQ!

Monday, June 13, 2011 | 0 comments »

By D. V. Donatelli

A week ago, I was walking past the Shakeology® fountain here at Beachbody® Headquarters, and I started thinking—after reading so many articles about the benefits of fasts and cleanses—that maybe I should give a cleanse a try. I just happened to be entering the recovery week of my second round of P90X®, and that was the clincher—I would skip a few days' workouts and do a cleanse instead. I would do something unthinkable in my family: not eat for a while. Yes, it would be tough, but I was determined to set upon the path to inner cleanliness. Below are some true/false statements about my experience.
  1. False: My hunger only got worse and worse throughout. I couldn't believe it, either, until I thought about it. While normally we associate hunger with crankiness and discomfort, I found that after approximately 36 hours, I had returned to a "normal" feeling in my stomach. No longer were virulent hunger pangs viciously flapping the sheets of my digestive system; instead, it was almost like a cranky child who slowly realized his tantrum wasn't going to work this time. And it makes sense: when we were cavepeople, we probably went very long stretches without eating, and our bodies needed to be able to enter a noncranky-yet-still-hungry mode. I was happy to find that, despite the trappings of modernity and the rampant fatness of my genetics, that mechanism still exists within me. I think my roommate, who had started to cartoonishly look like a box of pizza to me, was happy about it, too.
  2. False: Despite being hungry, my body felt fine the whole time. I could definitely tell that I was at a calorie deficit. It wasn't bad; it was just noticeable. For instance, my movements were slower and more (lazily) calculated. Additionally, sometimes when I would stand up from my desk, I would get a mild lightheadedness—a lightheadedness that was actually rather enjoyable. I have an alcohol allergy, so I haven't had a drink in years, and the lightheaded feeling kind of reminded me of being mildly tipsy, which was actually kind of fun until I started hitting on a coat rack.
  3. False: I didn't eat anything. In my 60 hours of cleansing, the only calories I put into my body came from Greenberry Shakeology, some strawberries, and two bananas. I also guzzled water like I was at the world's lamest frat party. Let me tell you, when you are at a caveperson-like calorie deficit, three strawberries blended with water, ice, and Greenberry Shakeology will send you to your knees, praising the name of chemistry or the Creator in appreciation of the sweet glories of merciful, transcendent satiety.
  4. True: I loved it and would do it again. Again, after the first 36 hours, I felt like I could continue with the cleanse indefinitely. After I ate and had my energy levels return to normal, I felt better than I've felt in years. And the benefits must be aesthetic, too, because just yesterday my coworker Jeff told me he overheard a female coworker tell her friend that she thought I was cute. Unfortunately, Jeff didn't get a chance to actually see who said it. So, basically, Jeff gave me a treasure map without an X on it. Oh well—to mix my metaphor, I'm just happy to be nominated.

By Denise Michelle Nix

Part of being fit and healthy is being kind to your body—listening to it when it tells you it’s hurt and caring for it. Sure, if you twist your ankle doing Slim in 6® or pull a muscle pushing yourself to your limits during an INSANITY® workout, you'll go see a doctor. But sometimes, your body talks to you in a much quieter voice, yearning for care and attention that you didn't even know it needed or could benefit from. This is when a massage becomes a valuable recovery tool. Whether you're seeking to relieve an injury, focus your mind, or work on flexibility, there is a type of massage suited for you.

Not only do massages feel great, studies show that massages can help bring stress relief, manage anxiety and depression, reduce pain and stiffness, control blood pressure and boost the immunity. Massage therapy goes a long way toward preventing pain and injury, too. According to a 2003 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, subjects who received 20 minutes of massage therapy 2 hours after exercising had significantly less soreness 48 hours later than subjects who did not.

The different kinds of massages, and their benefits, are not always so obvious just from what's on a therapist's shingle or the menu at the most luxurious day spa in town. We’ve asked Los Angeles-based acupuncturists and massage therapists Tanja Degen and Hillary Wollman to break down the eight most popular kinds of massages and to demystify what can sometimes be described only as a mystical experience!
  1. Swedish: In Western massage practice, the experts agree that the Swedish massage is the basis for all others. It's meant as a relaxation massage, says Degen, an instructor at the California Healing Arts College. "It's your most common type, and it can be firm, moderate, or light pressure," she adds. Long, gliding strokes on the skin, usually with the aid of massage oil, promote circulation and bring stress relief not only to tired muscles, but to the busy mind.
  2. Deep Tissue/Sports: A deep tissue (or sports) massage builds on the techniques of the Swedish massage but takes it further. "It's more of a focused, individualized discipline targeting different areas for deeper relief," Degen explains. While Swedish is relaxing, it does not have any therapeutic effect on the muscles like a deep tissue or sports massage does, she added. The slow stroke technique, usually with a bit less oil, is designed to increase range of motion and loosen up tight muscles.
  3. Chair: You've probably seen this form of on-the-go massage therapy at the mall or street fairs. Clients sit, fully clothed, facing the back of a special chair as hands, fists, and elbows work their backs, necks, shoulders, and heads. "It's therapeutic and convenient for someone who doesn't have a lot of time, but still wants the benefits for what [a] massage can provide," says Wollman, owner and operator of Bliss Acupuncture. While a therapist performing a chair massage is more limited in terms of range of motion and depth, the convenience of it makes it popular. Wollman often performs chair massages in the business setting for companies that want to give their employees a nice way to de-stress.
  4. Shiatsu/Acupressure: Shiatsu massage, commonly referred to as Acupressure, is the basis for traditional Eastern medicine that dates back to ancient times. "It actually works with the body's meridians and energy flow," says Degen, explaining that meridians are the channels through which energy flows in the body. Where there's a block in a meridian, a therapist applies deep pressure, promoting circulation, relaxation, and lymphatic and hormonal health benefits.
  5. Reiki: Also a part of Eastern practice, Reiki also concentrates on the body's energy, but can be done either deeply or more subtly, says Wollman. In Reiki, the therapist places hands on the different energetic systems of the body, including the crown of the head, brow, heart center, and abdomen area. It's gentle touching that allows an exchange of energy between the practitioner and the patient. Reiki may not always involve massaging. Wollman incorporates it into the end of her practice. "It helps close the session, almost like saying goodbye to the body without just leaving. It seals in the benefits of what just happened," she added.
  6. Stone: Incorporating warm, smooth stones into the practice is a great way to loosen up sore or tight muscles and heal injuries, Wollman says. "It is so delicious. It's very sensual, and the heat of the stones is very penetrating." The therapist either places the stones on key points of the body, allowing their weight and heat to penetrate, or uses them to go deeper with strokes and penetration. It increases circulation and has calming and sedating effects. "For someone who is fitness oriented and on the go, it is great," Wollman adds.
  7. Reflexology: In Reflexology, the hands and feet are the focus based on the idea that all the body's systems are juxtaposed there. "You can activate different points on the foot that then help the body's ability to function better," Wollman says. For example, people who have problems with their digestion or intestines can often find relief through Reflexology. Another benefit is that it is a convenient therapy with no oils or lotions needed, and the patient can stay clothed if he or she chooses.
  8. Thai: Thai massage is the ultimate combination of Swedish, or deep tissue massage, with some yoga-like qualities added in. In a Thai massage, the therapist uses practically his or her entire body to massage and stretch the patient. "It's a very active approach to getting things healed in the body," says Wollman, "It's active, but relaxing." Thai massage, for athletes especially, helps with flexibility and range of motion. "You have to kind of know that you're gonna be almost thrown all over the place and have the practitioner on top of you," she adds.
Wollman and Degen agree that everyone can find the massage therapy that works best for them. The key, Degen explains, is to communicate with the therapist before the session begins, discussing problem areas and the level of firmness desired. Both note that some people may be hesitant because massage therapy can be such a personal experience, especially when your clothes are off. Most therapists, they said, will accommodate their practice to fit a client's comfort level.

The health benefits of this type of holistic medicine are bountiful, and it's an easy way to care for your body. "There are no [bad] side effects," Degen says. "And it feels great." Wollman adds that, especially for fitness buffs, the strengthening and focus that a massage brings can have far-reaching effects. "It can calm the mind in a way that can enhance better focus," she says. "It's something passive, but it helps support your game."