Two a Healthy Life

One couple on a mission to become healthy


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10 Healthy Work Habits

I have been thinking about writing this article for a little while and then on Tuesday Alex sent me an e-mail with a blog about the same thing.  While this blog has some good advice, there were several ideas that we came up with so this is an addendum to similar articles that have tackled the subject.

Seeing as we working people spend, at a minimum, 40 hours at work a week it is only reasonable that we should look at our habits there to see potential health problems.  I work as an accountant and besides being the most exciting job ever, it also means I am like most Americans in being sedentary for the majority of the day.  Here are ten tips for healthier habits in the workplace.

1.      Start a water co-op

About a year ago I was sick of brining my own water to work to only run out half way through the day.  I consulted my manager if it was alright that I ask my coworkers if everyone was interested in getting a water cooler and sharing the cost.  After a couple of months of asking we got one, which is quite cheap to start and then everyone who drinks water chips in when the bill is due (plan one of the 5 gallon jugs per person per month).  The other great aspect of this is that you might guilt trip your employer into paying for the water, which is what happened in my case.  The other great thing about having a water cooler is the access to hot water, which you case use to make instant oatmeal, tea, coffee, but not instant ramen.

2.      Start drinking more water:

Along with the water cooler, drinking more water at work helps in multiple areas.  The first is proper hydration, which is always a good thing.  The other aspect to think about is that this is a healthy reason to get up and walk and stretch while you’re at work.  Getting up and walking over to the water cooler gets your muscles moving and helps to elongate your spine so it doesn’t become depressed.  It also means you have to get up and go to the bathroom more, which you can look at as another reason to get up from you desk and get moving a little to break up the hours of sitting.  You can mix up your water consumption too and have tea (try herbal or green to cut down on caffeine), coffee, emergen-C etc.

3.      Set a stretch pop-up:

If you use Outlook at work (I am sure you can do this with gmail as well) you can set a pop-up to go off every hour with the simple message to stretch.  I did this about three months ago and it is great for reminding me to at least stand up and stretch my back out a little, or I use this as a reminder to go fill up my cup with water.  If you go to the calendar section of Outlook you can set a reminder to pop-up every day starting when you get to work, and then just dismiss it for an hour every time it pops up.

4.      Walk to get coffee or at lunch:

I try to save money like everyone else, and I did this for a time by bringing my own coffee to work (which is a great way to save money), but now I try not to drink coffee until my morning break and then walk up the hill to starbucks or pete’s coffee to grab a cup with a co-worker.  This gets me roughly 15 min of walking time away from my desk and I get to enjoy the caffeine buzz when I get back.  Just make sure get coffee and not some sugary concoction masquerading as coffee, a venti drip coffee has 5 calories while a venti white chocolate mocha has 510 calories and 15 grams of fat.  Similarly, if you can, use your lunch break, other then eating lunch (that you brought from home) to go for a walk around the building.  You will be surprised how more alert you feel if you go for a twenty minute walk during lunch, that and the food will help you power through the rest of your day.

5.      Walk / ride / park further away:

I recently started riding my bike to work and it has been the most rewarding experience.  I don’t have to deal with rush hour commute, and feel more alert and awake when I get to the office in the morning.  However, I understand that most people do not live close enough to work to make communing by any means besides a car practical, which is why you should start to park further away from work.  Instead of taking the spot right next to the front door, park at the edge of the lot and walk all the way to the office, it’s not much exercise, but over the course of a year it can add up to hundreds of thousands of extra steps.

6.      Use the stairs:

This is a basic one that gets mentioned a lot, but I thought I would repeat the advice.  I try to use stairs in any building I go to, but I realize that many people either work on the first floor of a building or work on the 50th floor.  If you work on the first floor, I am sure that you need to go to another department sometime in the day and use this as a way to play a little hooky and get some exercise.  If you work on a floor that you cannot walk to without walking in dripping with sweat, make it a goal to walk up the first three –five floors and then take the elevator the rest of the way.  If you are someone who gets to winded walking up the stairs, try making it a point to at least walk down the stairs at the end of the day.  On a side note, I walk up the stairs in the morning, get coffee, take my lunch break, and walk down the stairs at night, all in all I go up and down 12 flights of stairs in a normal day but I am only on the third floor.

7.      Get healthy with your co-workers:

There are at least 8 hours a day your away from your spouse or anyone else that knows you’re on a diet, which leaves plenty of time to cheat if you want.  A great way to get around this is by telling your co-workers you’re trying to loose weight, as this will make you think twice about grabbing that cookie that’s in the break room when your co-workers can see you.  Also you can try to get your coworkers to become health with you, I am currently in a bet with one coworker to see who can do 100 push-ups first and planning to run a 6.6 mile race with another.  We all help each other to stay focused at work, and they kid me around when they think I want to eat something bad (such as friday’s doughnuts).

8.      Identify unhealthy habits:

Really need that chocolate fix at three?  Always have a soda after/with lunch?  Find the times during the day you are most likely to snack or consume empty calories and try to change the habit.  Take a diet soda to work instead of regular.  Have a piece of fruit in the afternoon, or bring bit-sized chocolates with you that a portioned into reasonable servings.  Don’t bring a bag of chocolate to work and think you are only going to have one, just leave the bag at home and bring one piece with you to satisfy your craving.

9.      Bring your lunch and snacks from home:

This is a tried and true fact, and is mentioned in most other lists of healthy work habits.  If you bring a lunch and snack food from home you are going to be eating significantly healthier food (without mystery contents) than most food places near your work will be offering.  You don’t have to do it all at once, aim to bring lunch two days a week to start with and then increase it from there.  If you are just not a brown bagger, that’s fine, but try to find healthier options (I know not everyone is a fan, but Subway is a healthy choice if you don’t add cheese and mayonnaise).  Try to stay away from any type of fast food for example a plain hamburger, small fries, and small Classic Coke is 20g fat and 630 calories, and when was the last time you ordered just a regular hamburger?  If you order this meal once a week for a year, you would be consuming 32,760 calories or the equivalent of 9.36 pounds…stick to the brown bag.

10.  Start a company sports team:

There are softball leagues in every city, try to get coworkers to start a company team.  I played softball on a company team, and it kept me accountable to show up and participate because I would be hounded at work the next day if I didn’t show up.  Just make sure you’re not joining a beer league or you will just drink back the calories you’ve burned. You can also try to get different departments to complete against each other to foster corporate competitiveness and hey it never hurts to play softball with the boss to try and schmooze in the off hours.

You don’t have to do all of these, if you could implement only three, you will already be on the road to a healthier life.  Just remember you’re going to spend roughly ten years of your life (in total hours) working, healthy habits at work can make a significant difference.

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10 Healthy Date Ideas

Since Nathaniel and I have started this health adventure we’ve been making a conscious effort to have healthier more active dates. In the past our saturday night might have consisted of going to a bar and drinking really good beer – and maybe having chicken wings or a burger for dinner.

Nathaniel doesn’t like romantic restaurants and I am a recovering tom-boy so there you go.

I decided to come up with a list of healthy date ideas. They don’t all necessarily burn a lot of calories but they are better than going to the movies or just sitting at home.

1. Hiking

You don’t need to drive to a rural area to go hiking. You can easily go “urban hiking” and plan a route through the city you live in. The other week we started off at the Farmer’s Market on the eastern edge of San Francisco and walked all the way across the city to a restaurant we wanted to try near the ocean. We took our sweet time but after four hours of walking there’s nothing you could order at a normal restaurant that would erase all of that exercise.

 2. Bowling

We’ve only gone bowling a few times but it’s something we both enjoy doing. Stay away from the snack bar though! All those fried and buttered things are a trap!

3. Rock Climbing

I told Nathaniel the other day that once I reach my halfway weight goal I want to try taking up rock climbing. I’ve done it in the past and I have plenty of guy friends that take dates rock climbing. They always have a lot of fun.

4. Going to the gym

The benefit of running together at the gym is that you both can run at your own pace and still be next to each other. I don’t know a single couple where both people are equally matched in the speed and distance they like to run.

5. Cooking Classes

As a couple we often cook together and it’s a lot of fun. I think transforming yourself into a healthy couple has more to do with changing your relationship with food rather than your relationship to each other. In larger cities you can easily find cooking classes and making yourself more comfortable in a kitchen will help you be less likely to head to Taco Bell for a quick bite when you are short on time.

*** Budget friendly version: both people can find a new healthy recipe online, buy the ingredients and make the food together for a Saturday night activity / dinner.

6. Watch a movie at home

You know that drinking game where you take a sip of something or take a shot every time the people in the movie say a particular word? Play that game with sit-ups.

You can decided how many sit-ups to do per word but it will get you doing something other than sitting (sitting in a stationary position can burn as little as 25 calories per hour).

Suggestions: Using the word “family” while watching the Godfather, “Voldermort / He who must not be named” while watching Harry Potter, or “the force” while watching Star Wars.  I dare you to do 10 every time someone dies in The Gladiator.

7. Dancing / Concerts

I hate dancing. I will not go dancing. But – for all you crazy club kids intense dancing can burn as many calories per hour as a serious run. Going to a rock concert and jumping around/moshing burns a similar number of calories.

8. Volunteer to Walk Dogs at the Pound

This will both get you exercise and Karma points. Plus – for those of us apartment dwelling dog lovers it will give you your puppy breath fix for the week.

9. DO something at the bar

If you are going to go drinking try and go to a bar where you have the option of shooting pool, throwing darts or doing something other than sitting. Also – know how many calories come with your “usual” try switching to a less caloric drink.

Think about this: A vodka martini with olives has 250 calories while a gin martini with olives only has 175. Taking shots? The standard 1.5 ounce serving of 80-proof alcohol has 96 calories even before you add any mixers.

10.Go to a farmer’s market / fruit picking at an orchard

Both of these activities fulfill the necessity of buying food for the week and will get you more exercise than shopping at Safeway, Lucky’s, Bi-Lo (shout-out to the south) or whatever your local grocery store is.

Also by going to a farmer’s market you are buying fresher produce picked at its peak and reducing the amount of fossil fuel it took that meal to get to your table.

I like to buy things I’ve never eaten before so that I am forced to figure out what to do with it once I’ve gotten it home. Cue – butternut squash and kale entering my diet within the past 6 months. My parents never fed me these growing up so I had to discover them on my own.


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Red Lentils vs. Top Ramen

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I don’t do it every week but a delicious super quick meal I occasionally make for myself is boiled red lentils.

I didn’t know red lentils existed until a few months ago when a curried lentil dish I found online listed them as an ingredient- they are healthier than “regular” lentils and cook a lot faster.

Yesterday I threw a cup of red lentils into a regular saucepan with water and random seasonings – then boiled them until they were tender and had absorbed most of the water.

The end result was a nicely flavored thick stew of protein with a great flavor that I ate for lunch yesterday and today.

Ready in around 30 minutes each serving is only about 140 calories and has 16g of protein.

Also – red lentils only have half as many carbs as rice.

What I used:

1 cup red lentils

water

2 tsp. Chicken Bouillon (high in sodium so be careful)

1/8 tsp. white pepper

¼ tsp. garlic powder

½ tsp. curry powder

Speaking of quick meals – Something to think about:

You know those plastic bags of instant noodles by Maruchan and Top Ramen?

Each of those bags is considered “2 servings” and has 380 calories, 14g fat, 52g carbs and only 10g of protein.

1 cup of lentils makes a REAL 2 servings but altogether it is 280 calories, 0g fat, 76 carbs and 32g of protein.

A ½ cup of the red lentils makes me feel full but when was the last time someone made one of those plastic bags of soup and only ate half of it? Never?


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The Great Yogurt Debate

I love yogurt.  Some of you may have noticed this in peaking at my food log, I have a cup of yogurt everyday for breakfast, for more then just one reason:

  1. No preparation
  2. Easy serving size
  3. Tons of protein

In trying to eat healthier it is sometimes hard to balance wanting nutritious food and having time to make meals.  Most fruits are great because they are already packaged into single servings by nature.  This brings me back to yogurt as a great breakfast food because it is usually packaged in a single serving.  And yet, these packages can vary greatly in what you are actually getting.

Most Americans (myself included) are used to the runny yogurt that you had as a kid that came in flavors like banana and strawberry.  With the trend in healthier eating, many varieties of yogurt have hit the shelves of grocery stores, offering everything from low fat and diet to Greek and whipped, the choices are astounding. But most of these styles of yogurt do not really compare when we check under the hood and judge them against each other.

I went to a local supermarket (not a chain, but an actual local supermarket) and this is just a sample of the yogurts I found there.  The table above is sorted by protein content in ascending order and what this table can breakdown is the amount of sugar that most brands try to pack into yogurt; with a regular Yoplait topping the list at 27g (that is just 11g less then a can of regular coca-cola).

Side note on sugar content: parents may want to reconsider the yogurt that is marketed to children.  Yoplait has two brands that target children, one being Trix and the other Yoplait for kids.  The Trix is sold in 113g servings and the Yoplait for kids is sold in 85g servings. While it is great that they are selling sizes that are portioned for kids, when you scale both of these servings up to the normal adult serving (here assumed to be 170g) the Yoplait for kids has 18g of sugar, and the Trix tops out at 21.1g, which puts both of these yogurts in the upper echelon of sugar content.  (A side note, the Yoplait for kids is marketed as having 25% less sugar then the leading kid’s yogurt, which is Trix yogurt, sold by Yoplait).

What the chart indicates is that in most common American yogurts the amount of protein is 5-6g, while the carbohydrates average in at 22.5g with the average sugar content as a proportion of carbohydrates being 82%.  What does this really mean from the point of view of a consumer?

To answer this we must first have an understanding of the difference between carbohydrates and protein from the perspective of diet and how your body processes these key nutrients.  I am not a nutritionist or biologist, so take my comments with a grain of salt, but from how I understand it carbohydrates are for instant energy your body needs to function.  This is why runners in long distance races will eat bread or drink juice to get a quick shot of energy to fuel their running.  Protein, on the other hand, is not for a quick pick me up, but more sustained energy and will only be used by the body for energy when there are a lack of carbohydrates to burn (for a more comprehensive view of carbohydrates vs. protein). What this really means for you as the eater is that protein will make you feel more full then a carbohydrate will simple by how your body uses these nutrients.  The following chart will help breakdown the differences between carbohydrates, protein, and sugar in each brand in a more visual way.

Click to enlarge

With this in mind, we look back to the yogurt conundrum.  Any of the yogurts that are shaded in blue have little protein content and contain significantly more carbohydrates.  While this means it can give you a boost in the morning with some quick energy, you are going to be left feeling hungry soon after consumption.  I would highly suggest against these types of yogurt as the only benefit is some quick energy and an almost empty belly.

The yogurts shaded in orange are our good yogurts (notice they are all Greek style), but do have varying levels of carbohydrates and calories.  Personally speaking, I would go with the Trader Joe’s Greek yogurt (calories vary per flavor) as it packs in 12g of protein for only 14g of carbs and only 120 calories.  And while it is listed in the good yogurts, I would steer clear of the Yoplait Greek as even in their healthier yogurts they still need 25g of carbs and 150 calories to make their yogurt.  I am also not happy that both of Stonyfeild’s offerings have to use all of their carbohydrates for sugar and would choose a different yogurt if given the option.

The yogurts in green are what we will term the elite yogurts.  These yogurts pack an outstanding 14g of protein into each serving while keeping the carbohydrates at a reasonable to very low amount.  In looking at my food log you could easily notice that I will promote Siggi’s as the elite of the elites (no, I am not a paid endorser of this product).  Siggi’s is the best for multiple reasons, not only does it contain the most protein (their plain version packs in 15g of protein), but they do it with only 11g of carbohydrates and 100 calories.  Sweetened with agave syrup this yogurt will fill you up and you may even find it lasts you the whole morning before your hunger pangs return.  Still, the other two yogurts in this category will offer enough protein to get a full belly and does it while keeping carbohydrate and calorie levels low.

The question still exists: does it really matter that there are a couple more grams of sugar and little more calories in my yogurt?  To some it may not matter, if you are controlling portion size and living an active lifestyle then you can enjoy yogurt of any variety as long as it tastes good to you, though switching to a higher protein one may help to give you a fuller feeling in the morning.  For the rest of us, specifically those trying to loose weight, it could make a big difference.  Breaking it down:

The above chart is based on eating a serving of yogurt 5 days a week for a whole year

I had never fully considered the difference that a high protein yogurt could make for a breakfast food.  But having been eating it now for five months, the difference is clear.  I am more full throughout the morning and less tempted to snack when I do eat it and it is the easiest breakfast because all I have to do is remove the lid and enjoy a nice cup of yogurt.As you can see, just the choice of Siggi’s over regular Yoplait will cut 18,200 calories out of your diet per year, plus 10.32 POUNDS of sugar, which to give you a visual is two and a half sacks that you buy for baking.  What this math may also help with is measuring some of the other choices that you make in any given day and how those add up in an entire year of eating.

Note: I only used flavored yogurts in my analysis because I cannot stomach plain yogurt.  My hat is off to people who enjoy the taste of plain yogurt, but for me I need something to help mask that taste.  So if you can, try eating plain yogurt and it will help eliminate tons of wasted carbohydrates.  But if you like me and find the plain stuff a little unpalatable, then reach for a little sweetened cup of high protein yogurt.

Article: Nathaniel Chaney

Photos: Alex Washburn