Athlete of the Month: Cosmo DeGennaro

From the time he started over three years ago, Cosmo has taught us all a new level of learning how to overcome challenges. He has matured and become quite the athlete through consistency and strong determination. Coach Gino said it best, “It’s inspiring to watch Cosmo work so hard and try new things – even when these new things seem overwhelming at first. His accomplishments make us very proud – it’s why we do what we do.”

Cosmo has been so consistent and improving dramatically, especially over the last year, which is why we decided to feature him this month.

“Working out at Salus has helped me in so many ways. It has built me up as a person. Back when I first started, I never thought I would have accomplished so much.” ~Cosmo DeGennaro

Meet Cosmo, January Athlete of the Month

1. When and why did you start at Salus?

I started at Salus in the fall of 7th grade (2017). My OT teacher Ms. Ali recommended it to me and my parents because I had grown out of the gym at Abilities in Action, but still needed to work on my strength and body awareness because of sensory processing disorder, which made some coordination and movement difficult for me.

2. How has your performance changed since you started at Salus?

One thing that stands out is jumping rope, seems like a simple thing but as a kid I had such a hard time with it, it took years and lots of practice. Also, I have just become so much stronger, able to do pull ups, go across the monkey bars. I have built my upper body strength.

3. Are there exercises you can do now that you couldn’t do before?

Like I said, jumping rope, now I can even do a double unders and a ring muscle up.

Coach has taught me a lot of barbell movements like the snatch, the hang clean, etc..

4. How has your body physically changed since you started?

I have a lot more muscles and definition especially in my arms and legs.

5. How has Salus changed you in other ways?

By getting stronger, I have a lot more confidence in sports than I did back when I was younger. For example, I NEVER wanted to play volleyball because I wasn’t good at it, but now I have a pretty decent serve and love to play. I even joined the track team and throw shot put.

I have more discipline when it comes to working out and try to never miss a class.

6. How do you describe Salus to your friends?

It’s fun, a really nice workout. You gain muscle, confidence. The people are all so nice and Coach Gino is always happy to help. I have had a few friends try it over the years.

7. What keeps you motivated to continue? What’s your “why”?

I know that I will continue to get stronger and more confident in myself as a person and an athlete.

Salus has been such a big deal for change in my life.

8. Favorite lift?

My favorite lift is the snatch. It really gets my legs and arms working.

9. What advice would you give to a newbie just joining Salus?

Start off with less weight and listen to the coaches, eventually you will become stronger both physically and mentally.

10. What is your next goal to accomplish?

I really want to get the bar muscle up and complete ten reps.

11. If you could design your own WOD, what would it look like?

Hmmmm…I would definitely start with 20 pull ups.

Then 9 hang snatches.

21 front squats.

And then finish it off with a 400 meter run.

12. Favorite thing to do for fun?

My favorite thing to do is hang out with my friends, go to the movies (once we can do that again), play xbox, go hiking, go swimming and go to the beach.

Might try surfing again this summer.

13. Favorite healthy dish….and favorite “splurge” meal?

I love a good fruit smoothie!

My favorite splurge is a bacon cheeseburger from Vagabond in Atlantic City.

14. If you could be an animal, what would you be and why?

If I could be an animal I would be a wolf, they are my favorite animals. Super cool, apex predator. I like how they always travel in packs and there is an alpha.

15. Favorite motivational quote?

“It’s probably going to be a long journey, but hey, it’s worth it.” ~from the song The Search by NF

16. Interesting fact not many people know about you.

I grew up dealing with dyslexia and I still do have it. But, I have overcome a lot of obstacles and learned how to speak up about it.

How Much Should I Eat? How to Start Listening To Your Body

Two of the most common questions we get at Salus Nutrition is: “How much should I eat?” and “Should I count macros?” Similar to the question: “How much should I be lifting?” the answer is greatly dependent on many different factors. It’s impossible to give out a number without digging into the details, but you can get a head start by recognizing hunger cues (listening to your body) and becoming aware of appropriate portion sizes. Here’s how.

Learn: How Much Should I Eat? By: Listening First

Let me start off by repeating: there isn’t a cookie-cutter approach to determining: “how much should I eat.” Nutrition needs, just like your workouts, are not determined by a one-size-fits-all approach.

What works for them rarely works for you.

The secret: Listening to your body. Find out what you need to feel your best, in your workouts and especially during that typical 3pm slump. Determine what foods affect your energy, sleep, mood, etc. This awareness is essential to improve your LIFE.

Listening to your body will help us shed some light on the emotions that drive our eating decisions, our motivation to workout and helps us to check-in when we’re over-tired, over-stressed or over-emotional. It can also help us overcome the notion that we need to eat until every last bite is cleaned off our plate.

Are You Part of the “Clean Plate Club”?

Many of us are raised with the “Clean Plate Club” mentality. This compulsive need to polish off every single morsel can lead to overeating. Like many of us growing up, I was encouraged to eat everything on my plate. Instead of listening to our bodies and responding appropriately as kids, we often left the table feeling more full than necessary. This ingrained habit still affects many of us today.

Clean Plate Club: When one feels the need to eat all food on their plate (and/or their child’s plate), regardless of whether he/she is fully satiated at that meal.

So how do you overcome this as an adult? By practicing mindful eating and re-learning how to listen to your body’s fullness signals.

Research is still unveiling the many ways that our body is affected by our lifestyle choices. So many connections between our microbiome, stress, inflammation, etc. The food choices we make are literally sending signals to the cells in our body that impacts how we feel (much more on that later).

While it might sound cliche to “listen to your body,” if you want to establish lifelong health changes, it plays a key role.

Eat To 80% Full

If you’ve eaten until you’re full, you’ve probably already overeaten. Time to get back in touch with your hunger/fullness signals with a simple rating of 1-10. (1 = very hungry, 5 = comfortable, 8= satisfied, but not stuffed, and 10 = uncomfortably full).

Rate yourself before you eat and then again midway through your meal. Stop eating when you get to a “8”. Eat until you’re no longer physically hungry, but not to the feeling of being “stuffed” or “full.”

Don’t get hung up on the exact percentage, just shoot for the general idea.

Remember to eat s-l-o-w-l-y. Be patient and listen for that “80% full” signal rather than your social or emotional hunger cues). And don’t hesitate to leave food on your (or your kid’s) plate or pack it up for leftovers.

But, what if you’re experiencing strong cues, like no appetite or feeling hungry all the time?

No Appetite? What Does Hunger Cue Mean?

Lost your appetite?

So often, nutrition topics centers around overeating and weight loss, but undereating is important to address, too. Signs you might not be eating enough include: low energy, headaches, unintentional weight loss, poor sleep quality.

If you’re experiencing a lack of appetite it could be tied to psychological factors such as stress, depression or grief. Take a deep dive into stress management: Read: “Control Stress Before It Controls You,” for some great tips on finding a greater sense of calm and clarity in your day.

Stress, even the stress that our body experiences from overtraining, can cause an increase in hormones such as epinephrine and norepinephrine. This can inhibit appetite. It’s essential to incorporate recovery days to allow our bodies to adapt to the stress of exercise, replenish energy stores and repair damaged tissues.

Health-relation conditions may be at play, as well such as postpartum depression and the common cold or flu. During this time, it’s essential to stay hydrated and eat as much whole, nutrient-dense foods as possible. Like it or not, cold/flu season is about to rear its ugly head.

Read: “Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu Season,” for some helpful tips.

Hungry All The Time? What Does Hunger Cue Mean?

If you feel hungry all the time, it could be a result of lifestyle factors such as lack of sleep, feeling stressed (there’s stress again), drinking alcohol or being dehydrated. When any of these factors are at play, it can cause our hormone levels to fall out of whack which can lead to a feeling of hunger…when you’re really not.

Dehydration can greatly limit the processes in our body. By drinking enough water, you’re supporting digestion, metabolism and more. Need more convincing? Check out, “Importance of Staying Hydrated.”

Too many starchy carbs can also affect hunger. Refined carbs not only lack nutrients that our bodies need to function, they lead to a spike in blood sugar…and then a crash, leaving you hungry again.

A lack of protein or healthy fats can also leave you with the urge to snack. Healthy fats and protein can help you feel fuller, longer. Try adding avocado or a teaspoon of nut butter or coconut oil to your protein shake/smoothie and experience satiation all afternoon.

Other common causes of feeling hungry all the time are very much linked to emotional and environmental connections. Whether you’re bored, associate food with a certain event (like always snacking while you watch TV) or obsessing over counting calories, these could lead to overeating.

To help you identify emotional those triggers, simply ask, “Am I hungry?” whenever you feel like snacking. If you truly don’t feel any physical signs of hunger (growling stomach, low energy, etc.), it’s likely that the urge was triggered by emotional or environmental cues.

Test Your Hunger

Then test yourself. If you’re truly hungry, you’ll be down to eat a variety of foods, even a meal, to quiet your rumbling stomach. If you have an emotionally driven craving, you’ll often find yourself standing in front of the fridge with the door wide open whenever you’re bored. Or maybe you’ll feel a craving for a specific type of food such as chocolate or a salty snack.

Keep good tasting, wholesome snacks handy for those hunger pangs. Prepare cut-up vegetables to have handy with hummus or sprinkle plain yogurt with some nuts and frozen organic berries. Even prepare a couple protein shakes with a half a banana and greens ahead of time (store them in a mason jar in your fridge for an easy grab-and-go).

Get Your Portions In Check

So, to answer the age-old question, “How much should I eat,” intuitive eating is the overall goal.

But, it’s also important to become aware of your appropriate portion sizes and/or macronutrient needs. Some individuals may have the patience to weigh and measure their food to determine how many grams of carbohydrates, fats and protein. But for most people, that’s not practical.

Enter: Your hand.

Eating according to your hand guide helps you meet appropriate macronutrient portions without needing to count or measuring anything. And allow yourself to nudge up or down depending on workout days, cycle days, sick days, etc.

Find out more: “Portion Guidelines Explained” to get more guidance on finding a good balance for protein, veggies, smart carbohydrates and healthy fats. This goes for meals and snacks.

What’s important to remember is that determining how much you should eat isn’t necessarily about restriction or “being strict.” It’s about learning how to eat in a way that gives your body what it needs to feel good.

Dealing with Setbacks

Setbacks are a normal part of the process. And they’re actually an important part of the process.

It’s how we respond that makes all the difference in how we grow from there.

Life happens. When the weekend hits, it can become tempting to steer away from our plan and indulge. When we’re stressed, we often crave comfort food or may even lose our desire to eat or exercise completely.

Here’s how you can learn from these situations so you can prevent big setbacks later down the road.

Weekend Setback

Here’s the deal. While weekends, vacations, celebrations, etc. they’re are a good way to kick back, relax and destress, it’s important to rid yourself of the all or nothing mentality. One meal won’t ruin everything you’ve worked toward.

Find ways to fit in nutrient-dense meals and take the time to break a sweat. Use the time as an opportunity to work a little closer to your goals – making a better decision than you might have before- while still enjoying yourself. Rather completely going off the rails and (fill in the blank: eat the whole cake, drink one too many, finish off the fries, etc) be OK with a small, planned out, controlled portion.

For example. Let’s say you have a big celebration planned and are excited to indulge. Your normal drink of choice is a rum runner – made of two kinds of rum, fruity liqueur, fruity juices, grenadine- loaded with sugar. If you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to down a few of them before the night even gets started. If it’s not realistic for you not to have a drink at this event, consider switching from that sugar-bomb rum runner to a vodka seltzer with lemon or lime, and then alternate your drinks with a glass of water.

This way, you’ll still be taking a step in the right direction without feeling deprived.

The point is to be okay with enjoying yourself… without forgetting about your goals.

Read more: Top 3 Healthy Party Tips >>

Unexpected Setbacks

Some of the hardest setbacks to deal with is through a period of injury, illness or year of quarantined stress. No one is immune from sidelining stress. But, how you respond to life stressors will make all the difference.

This doesn’t mean you have to buckle down and charge ahead more intensely. It probably means you need to recognize what’s happening and let yourself heal.

It can take a lot of digging to find ways to turn a negative situation into a positive one; at least try find a way to help others by sharing your experience.

Do what you can to nourish your body with the right kinds of foods, hydration, sleep and stress managements. LISTEN to your body. And when the time comes that you’re ready to turn that setback into a comeback, do so carefully.

Learning from Setbacks

Whether it’s another weekend, you’re (finally) heading on vacation or life simply deals you a bad hand, it can get tough to stay on track with nutrition. But if you want to make a change, it’s essential to learn from your challenges so you can prevent them from happening again.

Regain control and reframe.

Dr. Greg Winch, psychologist and author of The Squeaky Wheel, says that regaining as much control over your situation as possible is necessary to help you “avoid feeling helpless and hopeless.” Once you regain control, be sure to find a moment in there that you made a positive decision (it’s in there, you just have to open your mind and look).

And then finally, remind yourself of your “why.”

“When you feel like quitting, remember why you started.”

The Importance of Mobility and Stretching

When it comes to living a balanced and healthy life, we often think of nutrition, exercise, hydration and sleep. In today’s fitness industry, it seems that the workout is what captures the most attention…but what about mobility and stretching?

As of now, most of us are quarantined. You’re probably noticing a lot of people posting workouts on social media to keep others motivated and MOVING! I love seeing how so many people around the world are coming together in this crisis and supporting each other on a daily basis.

We hear a lot about:

  • Eating nutrient dense foods
  • Working out (daily movement)
  • Drinking plenty of water
  • Getting enough sleep, etc…

But, something seems to be missing: mobility.

Have you been stretching, foam rolling and doing your daily mobility work?

Being flexible and mobile is a VERY important piece to overall health and wellness and a lot of people know they should do it but… they push it off.

Why?

Aside from the typical hour long workout, many of us find ourselves sitting, laying down, watching TV, scrolling through social media or just doing home office work most of the day.

Some common obstacles we hear include:

  • It’s uncomfortable
  • I don’t know how to do it
  • It takes time
  • It’s boring…

What many people don’t realize is that mobility can have a direct impact on their performance, sleep and quality of life. A good stretching and mobility session will help to improve muscle function, increase power, improve performance and even help to prevent injuries.

And that’s why we want to prioritize this piece of the puzzle!

Let’s take a look at mobility and how to make it a regular part of your day.

How To Make Mobility and Stretching a Regular Part Of Your Day?

The best way to include flexibility and mobility practices like stretching and mobilization work in your lifestyle is to develop habits just like you would with working out.

Establishing a consistent routine is key.

Just start with a small amount of time. Too much too soon can lead to failure. Even ten minutes a day can lead to differences in the way your body feels. Work up from there as you build consistency and confidence.

How To Improve Flexibility and Mobility

When it comes to working on improving flexibility and mobility, there are multiple ways to go about it. Remember, if you aren’t doing anything at all (or very little) start with what you are most willing to stick to get started.

Keep it simple.

Start with what you can do, consistently. Then as you progress you can change things up and get more ideas from there.

Stretching

Stretching is one of the most well-known athletic habits.

A gymnast, I should know that. haha!

But, most people don’t stretch consistently because it can be uncomfortable, sometimes painful or maybe they feel that it’s boring.

The truth is, it needs to become a priority if you’re looking to perform your best, feel your best, and reduce the risk of injury.

Two types of stretching to focus on are: active/dynamic and static stretching.

  • Active stretching is moving into a stretched position for 3-5 seconds at a time for about 5-10 times. It’s usually best to do before exercise or cardio (ex:running), because it helps to loosen up tight muscles and improve body mechanics.
  • Static stretching is often used more for lengthening tight muscles. This is typically done by holding a stretch for 20-30 seconds on an average (60 seconds if needed) and doing so 3-5 times. Static stretching can restrict some neural control to muscle fibers, so it’s best to be done after exercise, first thing in the morning, or as you unwind before bed.

Remember, it takes a little time for various tissues to lengthen safely so make sure you are doing it safely and go easy on it. Also, do not hold your breath as you stretch … I struggled with that for a long time. Controlling your breath will help you go into a deeper stretch.

On days you’re not working out, pick a time of the day when it would be most convenient, like before bed.

Again, again consistency is key.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling, as known as self-myofascial release can also be performed using a lacrosse ball, softball, or even your own hands.

Most of us have various trigger points or “knots,” that form in our muscles. This is especially true of an athlete who performs repetitive movements. You might even notice you get knots in your traps and upper back from being hunched over a keyboard at work all day.

Foam rolling involves massaging these pain points to gently loosen up the muscles, and bring them back into a relaxed state.

Benefits of foam rolling

Foam rolling, when done properly, can help to clear out some pain and help muscles return to normal function.

Basically, if you tend to have tight muscles or can’t move with your same flexibility after working out, this recovery routine is a great fit for you.

I know for me, it can make me feel better almost immediately after a tough training session.

It may feel uncomfortable at first but the more you do it the pain will start going away and doing it consistently will help your body feel better, can result in faster recovery and really improve your mobility!

How much pressure do I use?

To start, make sure to apply moderate pressure to a specific muscle using the roller and your body weight.

Roll slowly across the muscle group. As you locate painful or tight areas, stop the roller and pause for a few seconds… and remember to breathe!

Then, continue along the rest of your body or muscle you’re working on.

If you have a muscle group that is too tight or painful to directly press down on, you can always shift the roller around and put pressure on the surrounding area instead.

When should I use a foam roller?

You can use a foam roller just about anytime. Some people will use it before their workout to help improve mobility and full range of motion! Some will use it after a workout as part of their cool down to help reduce soreness. You can also use it in the morning, it will help release the muscle from a night of sleep.

For me, I have been doing 10-15 minutes of mobility and flexibility work every day before and after my training session.

Starting a Mobility Routine

Stretching is by far the easiest to get started with as it doesn’t require any equipment. It not only relaxes you, but it also keeps your muscles flexible so you’re less likely to experience discomfort during everyday activities. And bonus, doing it before bed can greatly impact and benefit the sleep your body gets throughout the night. It allows you to release some of the tension you’ve built up during the day so you can prepare both your body and mind for a good night’s sleep.

Here are 6 quick stretches that you can start doing before bed (or whenever works best for you): 

  1. Hip flexor opener

If you sit most of the day, this stretch is a must. Face your bed and stand about two away. Place your right foot on the edge of the bed and bend the right knee, shifting your weight forward (keep your left foot on the floor). Keep both feet pointing forward. Reach your left arm (or both) toward the ceiling, breath deeply and hold 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

  1. Hamstring stretch

Place your right heel on bed and keep the leg straight while flexing your right foot (toe toward ceiling). Hinge forward until you feel a stretch down the right hamstring. Tuck your chin toward your chest and feel the stretch extend deeper. Without moving your body, drop the right foot side to side four times. Repeat on the other side.

  1. Standing spinal twist

Face your bed and reach arms overhead until you feel a stretch in the front of your body. Hinge at the hips and place your hands on the bed, reaching forward. Lift your right hand off the bed and reach that arm upward while pressing into the left hand. Hold for several deep breaths. Repeat on the other side.

  1. Hip flexor stretch

Lie on your back and place a rolled-up pillow under your right hip. Extend the right leg and reach your right arm overhead, thinking about lengthening through the entire right side of the body. Now point and flex the ankles eight times. Repeat on the other side.

  1. Spine twist

Lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest. Straighten the right leg so it’s resting on the bed. Grab your left knee with your right hand and gently cross your body to the right. Rotate your head left until you feel a gentle stretch in the neck. Repeat on the other side.

  1. Happy back

Lie on your back with a pillow under your hips. Bend your knees (keep them above your hips) and wrap your arms around the back of your legs. Hold :30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.

Consistency is Key

Morning, noon or night, figuring out when and how to add these into your lifestyle is up to you. Like I said above, for me, I’ve started with doing 10 minutes, it turned into a habit … and now have it part of my active lifestyle!

But if that doesn’t work for you, or another time is better because you will do it more consistently, then do that!

Reference:
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-importance-of-stretching

Debunking Nutrition Myths

When it comes to food and fitness, how many false assumptions have you heard before?

Carbs are bad…fat will make us fat…if we do a gazillion sit-ups, we’ll get abs…to lose weight all we need to do is keep cutting calories, right?

Not quite.

Brainwash be gone!

Carbs are not “bad.”

Although low-carb diets do lead to rapid, short-term scale weight loss (spoiler alert: it’s mostly water weight), research shows that people who follow a low-carb diet end up gaining the weight back over time (and then some).

Fat does not make you fat.

Yes, the nutrient: dietary fat, has more calories per gram (9 calories per gram) than carbohydrates and protein (4 calories per gram), but it isn’t to blame for your body fat. What is? Too much of anything, really. Too much sitting, too much snacking, even too much restriction.

It’s complicated. And it’s not a cookie cutter answer. Speaking of cookies…

Sit ups will not give you abs.

Eat too many cookies and no amount of sit ups will show those abs if there’s too much body fat in the way. So, check your cabinets first then go do a plank.

It’s not as simple as calories in vs calories out.

Surprising to many, it’s not as simple as calories in vs calories out, especially when it comes to your energy, performance and health. Focusing solely on calories may cause you to miss the bigger picture. You need a lot of macronutrients to stay alive: carbohydrates, protein and fat. These three macronutrients have different roles within your body, and deliver energy that our bodies use as fuel.

Many different factors will determine your % macro breakdown needs and timing (basic metabolism, genetics, hormones, sleep habits, stress levels, non-exercise activity: NEAT, and intentional physical activity and more.)

In the end, opt for nutrient dense foods that provide higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial compounds per gram compared with less nutrient-dense foods.

Wild Salmon vs Farmed Salmon

Salmon is prized for its health benefits. This fatty fish is loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which most people don’t get enough of.

However, not all salmon is created equal.

Let’s take a look at some differences between wild salmon vs farmed salmon and how to tell the difference between the two.

What’s the Difference Between Wild Salmon vs Farmed Salmon

Wild salmon is caught in natural environments such as oceans, rivers and lakes. But salmon is also farmed. In fact, farmed salmon now accounts for about 80% of the world’s salmon supply. The problem with that? Fish farms, which use a process known as aquaculture to breed fish for human consumption.

The biggest concern with farmed salmon is organic pollutants like PCBs. If you try to minimize your intake of toxins, you should avoid eating farmed salmon too frequently. Antibiotics in farmed salmon are also problematic, as they may increase the risk of antibiotic resistance in your gut.

Wild salmon eat other organisms found in their natural environment, whereas farmed salmon are given a processed, high-fat, high-protein feed in order to produce larger fish.

How can you tell the difference? When raw, a salmon filet will display white lines running across its flesh. This is fat. Wild salmon will generally not exhibit this build-up of fat between its muscles.

Differences in Nutritional Value

For this reason, the nutrient composition of wild and farmed salmon differs greatly. The table below provides a good comparison.

Calories, protein and fat are presented in absolute amounts, whereas vitamins and minerals are presented as percent (%) of the reference daily intake (RDI).

Clearly, nutritional differences between wild and farmed salmon can be significant.

  • Farmed salmon is much higher in fat, containing slightly more omega-3s, much more omega-6 and three times the amount of saturated fat. It also has 46% more calories — mostly from fat.
  • Compared to their farmed equivalents, wild salmon is richer in omega 3 fats and the carotenoids (which is what gives them their vibrant coral color). Wild salmon also contains more minerals.
  • Farmed salmon is higher in vitamin C, saturated fat, polyunsaturated fatty acids and calories. The two main polyunsaturated fats are omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. These fatty acids play important roles in your body.

They’re termed essential fatty acids, or EFAs, because you need both in your diet.

However, it’s necessary to strike the right balance.

Omegas

Most people today consume too much omega-6, distorting the delicate balance between these two fatty acids.

While farmed salmon has three times the total fat of wild salmon, a large part of these fats are omega-6 fatty acids. For this reason, the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is about three times higher in farmed salmon than wild.

It’s also important to note that farmed fish tend to ingest more potentially harmful contaminants from the water they swim in and the foods they eat. Studies published in 2004 and 2005 showed that farmed salmon had much higher concentrations of contaminants than wild salmon.

Keep in mind that farmed salmon is still a healthy choice and provides healthy omega-3s. However, because of environmental and dietary differences, farmed salmon may contain more potentially harmful contaminants than wild salmon. While these contaminants appear to be safe for the average person consuming moderate amounts, some experts recommend that children and pregnant woman only eat wild-caught salmon — just to be on the safe side.

Budget may also play a factor in your choices. Wild salmon is also much more expensive than farmed and may not be worth the extra cost for some people. So, depending on your budget, it may be inconvenient or impossible to buy wild salmon.

The Bottom Line

Aim to eat fatty fish such as salmon 1–2 times per week for optimal health. This fish is delicious, loaded with beneficial nutrients and highly filling — and therefore weight-loss-friendly.

And, if your salmon comes in a package, remember to READ the ingredients list. Avoid products that have added dyes, sugar or have long lists of unpronounceable ingredients.

In the end, given its high amount of omega-3s, quality protein and beneficial nutrients, any type of salmon is still a healthy food.

Recipe: Cajun Salmon and Fruit Salsa

Salmon

Next time you buy salmon fillets, try this recipe from PN! The hint of spice paired with the sweet and refreshing salsa is sure to please your taste buds.

Ingredients

Prep Time: 10 minutes Cook Time: 20 minutes Yields: 2 servings

Directions

Begin by dicing up ingredients for the fruit salsa – mango, tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro. Put diced ingredients into a bowl and add the lime juice and a small pinch of salt.

Let sit.

Next, mix together all of the spices and coat each salmon on the flesh side. On a BBQ or stove-top grill (if stove top add 1 tbsp olive oil to the pan) – grill skin down for 15 minutes on low-medium heat, flip over and cook another 5 minutes. If the fish needs longer to cook – flip back to the skin side and continue cooking – it should no longer be pink inside.

Top fish with salsa and additional cilantro if desired.

Enjoy!

References:
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16251623/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15506184/
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15866762/

 

Micronutrients: Benefits of a Colorful Plate

colorful plate micronutrients

Fruits and vegetables often get their colors from the nutrients they have inside: MICRONUTRIENTS. Because these foods are generally low in fat and calories and provide complex carbohydrates that can give you energy and fiber that makes you feel full, they should have a starring role on your plate at every meal.

What Are Micronutrients?

You often hear about macronutrients like proteins, fats, and carbs when we talk about nutrition – and although these are important – micronutrients are important, too.

Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals, as well as chemicals found in plants called phytonutrients. Micronutrients play important roles in the functioning of the body and brain, from the workings of the nervous system to immune function and bone strength, but our bodies cannot manufacture most of them…so we need to get them from food.

Did you know that over 30 percent of Americans have some kind of micronutrient deficiency?

Some of the most common deficiencies in the US, according to the most recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), include:

  • Vitamin B6 11% of the total population
  • Iron 10% of females aged 12-49, and 7% of children aged 1-5
  • Vitamin D 9% of the total population (31% of non-hispanic Blacks)
  • Vitamin C 6% of people over the age of 6
  • Vitamin B12 2% of the total population

Additionally, deficiencies are particularly common among certain populations including:

  • The elderly, who may have trouble preparing, chewing, or digesting foods
  • Women (aged 19-50), particularly if pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Athletes, who have higher nutrient requirements because of the extra demands on their body

Go for a Colorful Plate to Boost Micronutrients

Let’s take a look at a few benefits of each color:

  • White fruits and vegetables provide dietary fiber. Fiber helps protect against high LDL cholesterol levels, which, in turn, protects heart health.
  • Red foods include tomatoes, watermelon, cherries, beets and peppers. These are foods that are likely to be rich in the antioxidants which are also valuable for heart health.
  • Orange and yellow foods get their hue from beta carotene, which your body converts to vitamin A. Vitamin A is vital to good bones and healthy skin.
  • Green vegetables provide vitamins C, K and E, which can all help support the immune system, healthy eyes and bones and reduce your risk of chronic diseases.
  • Blue and purple fruits and vegetables get their color from anthocyanins. Blue foods like blueberries have compounds that act as anti-inflammatories, reducing the risk of disease in your esophagus and colon.

Tricks to Get More Color on Your Plate

It’s not always easy to introduce new foods to your diet. If you are not sure how to make a more colorful plate with more micronutrients, try some of these simple tips below:

  • In recipes that call for potatoes, try sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes have higher levels of fiber and vitamin A, letting you pack more nutritional punch into each meal. Swap out baked white potatoes for sweet potatoes or use sweet potatoes in your favorite soups and stews.
  • Go with a colorful garnish. Diced red peppers, sliced green onions and other colorful foods are great sprinkled over a wide range of savory dishes.
  • Choose unusual varieties when you see them. You can find golden cauliflower, purple broccoli, red carrots and more.
  • Give vegetables a larger share of your plate. When you make a stir fry at home, include four or five vegetable ingredients and cut down on meat.
  • Eat fruit for dessert. If you like to end a meal with something sweet, try a bowl of berries or a tart made of fresh peaches.
  • Choose local. Choosing local can have a big impact on the micronutrients in your produce.
  • You’ve likely also heard that eating organic is “healthier.” But did you know that not all produce needs to be organic? Read: When Should You Choose Organic? to find out.

In a nutshell, the more colors you have on your plate, the more micronutrients you’ll consume.

 

From a Deprivation Mindset to a Decision Mindset

Moving From a Deprivation Mindset to a Decision Mindset

What we consume over the course of a day creates the experiences and energy we get to have during that day. 

If we eat clean, healthy foods full of energy, we’re going to feel full of energy, have clear thoughts, be productive and advance toward our goals. And the complete opposite is also true. If we eat garbage, we’re going to feel like garbage: sluggish, foggy thoughts, procrastinate and waste opportunities.

It can be a hard cycle to break. 

Your Environment Matters

If your kitchen is filled with tempting foods (whether they are yours or your kids), it can be… a real problem for goals. No matter how much willpower you have, it’s just natural to grab the most convenient and most tempting food options, especially when you’re tired, stressed, or ravenous.

A little effort ahead of time can lead to substantially better choices in the moment. That’s why we created the food list. The food list is a tool to help us prepare, clean up our choices (not deprive you) and allow you to embrace a decision mindset.

You Choose

The more you clean up your diet with highly nutritious foods, the more your taste for junk fades. But, this wonderful switch doesn’t happen until you shift away from a deprivation mindset to a decision mindset.

Think Differently

It’s your conscious decision to eat foods that make you feel better, look better and perform better. Own it.

So, instead of: “I can’t have that.”
Say: “I don’t want that.” “I don’t need that.” “I don’t eat that anymore.” or “I’ll have this instead (insert healthy alternative).”

Instead of labeling foods “good” and “bad,” reframe your thought process by identifying how these foods affect you. For example, let’s look at them as red, yellow, and green light foods.

Red light foods

Red light foods are those that present such a difficult challenge for you that they just aren’t worth the struggle. Red light foods may not work for you because:

  • They don’t help you achieve your goals
  • They’re tempting to overeat
  • You’re allergic or intolerant to them
  • You really don’t like them
  • You’ve made the decision not to eat them anymore

Yellow light foods

These are foods that you can eat a little bit of, be satisfied and stop without being tempted to go overboard.

Green light foods

These are nutritious and make your body and mind feel full of energy. You can eat them normally, slowly, and in reasonable amounts. Whole foods usually make up most of this list.

Make it a Habit

Just as I mentioned before, this kind of mindset is a habit. And as with any skill or habit, practice makes permanent. You know, we’ve heard forever: practice makes perfect, practice makes perfect. But, we all know that perfect isn’t real. Nope – no kind of practice will ever make perfection.

There’s only progress to work on making something permanent.

Practice that mindset habit daily.

Destination Fixation

The cornerstone of all success begins with your foundation: Your WHY.

What’s important to you?

What is the ultimate goal?

Why do you want it?

Once you clarify your why, write it down and stick it somewhere you can see daily. Written goals give us clarity and direction.

But you have to be willing to go deeper than JUST desires. Desires, such as: “I want to get in shape for summer!” are often mistaken for goals. Your “why” must be deeper than desires to give you the motivation and accountability to take action whenever you experience a road bump (and you will – it’s actually an important part of the journey).

Road Bumps are Part of the Journey

When Gino and I lived in California (before kids), he taught me how to ride a mountain bike…in the freakin’ singletrack trails at Mammoth Mountain Bike Park (which according to the website is a “downhiller’s paradise” with an elevation of 11,053 ft). One of the first things he taught me was: “Look where you want to go.” A very useful tip on Seven Bridges Trail (yup, that’s me in the picture).

Trail riding requires balance, endurance and a strong focus on where you’re headed. If you look at a big tree root, you’ll run right into the tree root and probably put your foot down or fall. I learned, however, that if I noticed a tree root and kept my focus out in front of me while preparing my body to absorb the bump, I would roll over the tree root and keep moving forward.

Buuut, If I stared down the obstacle, I would inevitably crash.

Keep Your Focus on Your Why

What I’m trying to say is this: Acknowledge the bumps in the road but don’t fixate on them or they’ll knock you on your butt.

Let’s work on catching ourselves when we start to focus on anything other than our “destination”– the why or positive end result of our goals. This kind of mindset is a habit and as with any skill or habit, practice makes permanent. We can’t avoid all obstacles, but we can keep the focus on our why.

You control your direction. Where you look is where you will go.

Make the Choice

Today is a good day. It’s the day you have decided to kick-start some serious changes (not just for a week or four weeks, but for good). From now on, things will be different.

And it’s all driven by that “why.”

“Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into visible.” Tony Robbins

How to Create a Bedtime Routine

Do you have a bedtime routine? Do your kids?

You both should! Here’s why.

Sleep does so much more than prevent us from feeling tired. When we sleep, we heal and repair our bodies. Get enough and you could experience an improvement in learning and memory (bonus for school!). Research also shows that getting enough sleep helps with feelings of anxiety and depression, and is associated with maintaining a healthy weight.

Check out these bedtime routine ideas and sleep solutions to help you get the best sleep your body needs!

Why Is a Bedtime Routine Important?

Sleep is an extremely important part of our overall well-being and health. If we don’t get enough, it may not be noticeable right away (although often it is), but the repercussions can add up.

Lack of a good night’s sleep can have immediate effects on our mood, motivation, focus, energy and strength the next day. This can affect our state at work, school, in our workouts and how we react at home.  A lack of sleep over many nights can have long-term effects on our health, too. From high blood pressure and obesity to psychiatric problems, including depression and other mood disorders, research shows that the risks of sleep deprivation are severe.

Read: Sleeping Tips for Athletes >>

Create a Bedtime Routine (That Works!)

Create a 5 minute (or more) routine that helps transition from day to night. This will prepare them for a good night’s sleep (and even better day tomorrow.

This routine should be separate from a typical “getting ready for bed” task like brushing your teeth or washing your face.

The routine can take any form you want, as long as it works for you. Think of physical habits (like stretching), mental habits (like journaling or reading), spiritual habits (like meditation or prayer).

Practice a Good Bedtime Routine to Sleep Sounder

Believe it or not, getting good sleep takes practice. And guess what? It all starts before you even close your eyes.

One of the best places to start practicing at getting good sleep is by creating your optimal sleep environment.

This includes both your physical space and mental state.

Follow these simple ABCs of Better Zzzzs to start sleeping better tonight.

Clear the clutter.

Turn your attention away from the endless to-dos, stressful sights and clutter of the day by clearing your space and mind. This practice can go a long way toward ensuring you are prepared to successfully get enough Zzzzs.

Research even shows that if notice that your bedroom is full of stuff when you head to bed, your brain thinks, “It’s time to ignore the clutter (or fix it),” which takes mental (or physical) effort. And working from home has only made matters worse as many people are working in their bedroom.

To restore order, get rid of the clutter. For example, get the unfolded laundry out of your bedroom, write down your to-dos so you can attend to them in the morning, straighten up your workspace at the end of the workday, etc. This practice tells your brain that your sleeping space is peaceful.

Turn it off.

If falling asleep is difficult for you or your child, consider setting a curfew on all your devices. The artificial “blue” light that is emitted by electronic screens can trigger our body to produce more daytime hormones (like cortisol) and disrupt our body’s natural preparation to sleep.

Instead, spend the last hour or two before bed reading a physical book or magazine (a real one with actual pages — not an e-book). This can also help you mentally wind down for the night, instead of getting fired up by your social media feed or disturbing news.

Keep it cool.

According to sleep.org, the temperature has to be just right for an ideal night’s sleep. In general, the suggested bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep conditions.

Improve ventilation.

A stuffy space can hike nasal congestion and hinder your ability to breathe easily while you sleep. Studies even show that those who keep their windows open overnight feel more alert the next morning. But if you suffer from seasonal allergies, it might help to invest in a room purifier alternatively.

Diffuse oils.

Create a bedtime routine that involves diffusing essential oils 30 minutes before bed. Certain scents encourage drowsiness and can signal your brain that it’s time to start shutting off. Try a few drops of lavender, frankincense, cedarwood and bergamot.

Keep it consistent.

What time you get out of bed is an important factor for a good sleep routine. If you sleep in, past your usual time, it messes with our circadian rhythms. You’ll inevitably be less tired at night and have trouble falling asleep. No matter what time you go to bed, try to get up within an hour of your usual wake time.

Fun fact: Did you know that 7:30am is the latest wakeup time you need in order to maximize your physical activity during the day? According to the National Sleep Foundation, every hour you sleep in after that, research shows a significant drop in daily movement.

Exercise

Science shows that exercise helps to increase the total amount of sleep we get, especially in that slow-wave restorative REM phase. During exercise, our core body temperature rises, which helps to decrease body temps at night. REM is associated with decreased core body temps, so you can see how exercise can help gear you up for a good night of sleep.

In fact, the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity did a new analysis of studies on sleep and exercise. They found that those who strength train actually fall asleep faster and wake up less frequently throughout the night. Too stressed to fall asleep? Stretching before bed also helps when stress is preventing you from falling asleep.

You move, you snooze.

Choose the foods that help you snooze.

What you eat and how you sleep are directly linked. Yup, research shows that your gut health impacts your sleep quality. Probiotics in foods like yogurt and fermented veggie, can improve sleep quality. Also, prebiotics (which our gut bugs need to thrive) in foods like onions and artichokes, also protects us from stress.

The less you stress, the sounder you’ll sleep.

And, it goes both ways. The sounder you sleep, the better and more diverse your gut microbiome is.

Your sleep quality can also impact your food choices the next day. Interestingly, a study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that participants who slept fewer than five and a half hours per night ate 385 more calories the next day. That’s another meal for many people – equivalent to guzzling two and a half cans of soda, a few Twinkies or a couple slices of pizza.

Another interesting note in the study: the sleep-deprived individuals chose different kinds of foods the next day compared to the well-rested subjects. The sleep deprived folks skimped on clean foods like protein and instead ate empty calorie foods like soda, candy, and pizza!

Why does this happen? Fatigue often leads people to seek out foods that offer quick bursts of energy or increased alertness: sugar and junk.

Get the right amount of sleep, your body will thank you for it.

Create Your Own Bedtime Routine

Take time for yourself and create your own bedtime routine. Consider that the time preparing for sleep is just as important as the time spent warming up for your workout. It puts you in the right mental and physical state to do the best job possible at what’s happening next: sleep.

Do you have a child or family member who struggles with sleep? Talk to your them about their ideas, and make a change together.  The more involved they are in the process, the more likely they’ll stick to it and establish some healthy sleep habits.

Read: Changing Habits >>