How to Get Motivated at the Gym: 5 Steps for Success

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OK, so you got your gym membership. Check. Now it’s time to actually go!

With the winter months approaching, it’s easy to ignore your exercise routine; especially when you no longer have to worry about looking good in your bathing suit. Don’t fret, there are a few tips that will make your gym membership pay off.

1. Prep with tunes

I’m never happy with the overhead music they play at the gym – do they expect it to pump anyone up? No problem. Make sure your iPod is jam packed with the music that you just can’t help but get up and dance too – or run to!

2. Have a plan

Spend your drive to the gym thinking about what you’ll do when you’re there. I’ve found simply having a plan (even something as simple as “running for 30 minutes, followed by an arm workout, and finishing up with abs and stretching) can keep you from getting distracted, or worse – giving up and going home.

3. Get yourself there

I find one of the hardest parts about getting motivated at the gym is simply getting there. Once you step in the door, it’s hard not to get to work!

4. Have goals

You have a plan, but what are you working toward? Do you want to run for a mile longer than you did yesterday? Or maybe for just 5 minutes longer? Do you want to be able to do 5 more reps of a certain exercise? Or lift 5 pounds more? Goals keep us on track and even better: keep us motivated to keep coming back for more!

5. As for the 5th tip?

Well….why don’t one of you suggest one of yours! What keeps you motivated at the gym?

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Roasted Salmon with Veggie Sushi Salsa

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When my ten year-old was a toddler, he would eat anything. From Thai food to cooked fish sushi, like many kids he was game for any flavor experience out there. He was especially fond of salmon: I remember buying it at the grocery store back then: one pound for my husband and me, and half a pound for my two year-old.

As he grew up, his desire to experience varied foods was trumped by his desire to control his food intake, and again, like many kids, his preferences narrowed; eventually, we could accurately apply the “picky eater” label to him. His love for salmon fell by the wayside with many other foods, and I forced myself not to freak out, instead deciding to be patient and wait this phase out.

Well, that phase lasted about 6 years, but eventually, his love of salmon was rekindled after I actually paid him a dollar to take a bite. He loves it again—as do my other two children–and now, with a family of five to feed, we can go through a lot of salmon in one meal. He still hasn’t gotten back in touch with his “sushi period,” so I decided to develop a recipe that might lure him back to the exciting tastes and textures of Japanese food. It’s one thing to label my son’s food choices as “picky.” It’s another thing entirely to let that label affect how I choose to feed him. And my choice is, and always has been, to encourage adventurous eating in a no-pressure way. Since I believe a varied diet begets a more balanced diet, it’s worth the effort—and high risk of rejection—to keep trying…

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Fats: The good, the bad and the yummy

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Which do you think is better for you, butter or margarine?

Ever since studies came out demonstrating that trans fat is more harmful than saturated fat in terms of heart health, there has been a movement to reinstate butter over margarine as the healthier solid fat. Personally, I think it’s being used as an excuse to eat butter. I mean who doesn’t like butter? When my oldest daughter was preschool age and we went out to a restaurant, she would take a pat of butter and just eat it plain while we were waiting for our food to arrive. I can still see that satisfied look on her face.

Butter is made by mechanically processing (churning) cream or milk turning it into a solid (or saturated fat) at room temperature. Margarine is made by chemically processing oil turning it into a solid fat. This chemical process is known as hydrogenation and the partially hydrogenated oils found in shortening and hard margarines contain the types of trans fats that lower the “good” fats in our bloodstream, high density lipoproteins or HDL.

In terms of heart health, anything that lowers HDL is a no-no. We want to raise HDL levels in our bloodstream – since HDL carry cholesterol to be eliminated by the liver, thus lowering the risk of atherosclerosis or heart disease. Both dietary fats, saturated and trans, raise the “bad” fats in our bloodstream known as low density lipoprotein or LDL. It is obvious that we want to limit saturated and trans fats in our diet, so when we do use a solid fat, which is healthier, margarine or butter?

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University Nutrition Series: Two Peas in a Pod

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And so begins my third adventure into the chaotic world that is the dining hall.

Chaos exists in all shapes, sizes, and scents: the smell of warm cinnamon monkey bread competes with the aroma of zesty brick oven pizza. Some students are speeding through the crowds; others are moseying around carefully combing through their options. Time commitments find students on the edge of their seats, shoveling in their day’s energy while others relax with friends.

UNH freshmen Julia and Liz found their own place in this dining hall pandemonium. They were there at 11 o’clock – the dining hall was still serving both breakfast and lunch; so of course their meals consisted of both. Combined, they had waffles, home fries, cheesy eggs, a whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter, spicy shrimp & rice, and pudding – a smorgasbord to say the least.

My status as a nutrition major seemed to scare the girls a bit, making them embarrassed about some of their food choices – but we established together that everything in moderation is okay. They each revealed the good news that Guiding Stars ratings in the dining hall and in the grocery store give them a big helping hand in knowing what choices to make. Liz explained, “We don’t necessarily base our meals off of the ratings but when there is an obvious better choice we’ll choose that one.” Julia added, “It’s a helpful way to compare foods.” The starred ratings also assist the girls in meeting what they define as nutrition: “Having a healthy balance of everything, lots of veggies and fruits, and limited sweets.”

Julia and Liz agreed on their favorite foods: omelets, Chinese food, fried dough, strawberries, seltzer water, and coffee. They also see eye to eye on pretty much everything else. Their best-loved activities are listening to music, shopping, going to the beach, and just hanging out with each other. The girls do, however, differ in academics as Julia studies nursing and plans to be a nurse while Liz studies Psychology and is interested in the industrial organization field.

After our lengthy conversation, the girls were ready to try my Guiding Stars inspired “burrito bowl.” This meal consists of whole grain…

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Warm Beet Salad with Pistachios and Gorgonzola

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As the crisp air of fall approaches, our priorities start to shift. The kids are back into the routine of school, the beach gear is getting put away, and the grill is getting a bath before it goes in for the winter. Here at my place, the garden is waning, and what’s left in the ground heralds the coming chill: potatoes, onions, and winter squashes will be cured in the breezy and cool shade to prepare for their winter home in my root cellar. Dried onion tops will be braided to hang from the rafters like sleeping bats—they last until the following May at least—and the final batches of pickles and tomato sauce have been canned and stored. The firewood is in, next year’s logs are already bucked and starting their curing, and soon the herbs will be snipped and hung to dry to flavor holiday dinner. Even the chickens are wandering less and less from their home in the barn: they feel it coming too.

For those of us who love to cook, the coming winter also brings with it the promise of hearty stews, braises, and roasts—all the things too long-cooking and too body-warming to work in the dead of summer—the comfort foods that we associate with snowy days full of sledding or skiing or, in the case of us Mainers, the inability to leave our homes until the snow blower starts or the plow guy gets here.

But for every shank or rib or neck that makes it into your cold-weather repertoire, there exist countless other hearty but healthy permutations of seasonal ingredients that can satisfy your desires without triggering an accelerated trajectory toward hibernation weight. My Curried Squash and Apple Bisque with Leek utilizes seasonal ingredients to produce a warming cream soup that’s perfect for a cold night in: and it’s low fat and full of the vitamins your body needs. Roasted root vegetables–with a bit of good quality olive oil and fresh herbs–makes everyone happy. One of my personal cold-weather treats is oven roasted Brussels sprouts straight out of the garden after a hard frost; they take on an amazing sweetness, and the caramelization they receive in the hot oven gives them a meaty flavor that can’t be beat.

My Warm Beet Salad with Pistachios and Gorgonzola, below, is another way you can approach seasonal ingredients during a season that often seems, well, not so fresh. Beets are an excellent source of Vitamin C, fiber, and iron. Moms-to-be can rely on them as a great source of folate. While low in calories, beets are high in sugar, so care should be taken to exercise moderation. This salad balances the sweetness of the beets and caramelized onions with the piquant warm Dijon-onion vinaigrette and a healthy dose of baby spinach for contrast…

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Lose the Muffin Top: The Truth about Spot Reducing

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“How do I get rid of my muffin top (the abdominal fat hanging over the belt) ?”, “…lose the fat on the back of my arms?”, “…get rid of the fat on my butt and thighs?”, “…get rid of my love handles?” These are questions I hear every day.

I’ve been a Personal Trainer for over 30 years and have known the secret to spot reducing for all of those years. Why is it a secret? Beats me. I’ve been preaching it as long as I can remember, but it just doesn’t seem to catch on. I’ll tell you it… are you ready? Wait for it… the secret to spot reducing is…you can’t! That’s it. That simple. There is no spot reducing. There is no triceps exercise that will get rid of the fat on your arms, no abdominal machine or gadget that will hit those love handles.

So here’s how it works:

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Protein: Muscle builder or bust

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Protein is hailed as the king, the star that takes center stage at meals. For much of our history and even today, it seems as if a meal is not complete without meat, fish, or poultry – that slab of animal flesh. This is obvious when I watch the reality show Top Chef – as the chefs are off and running to compete in the next challenge, they are often seen grabbing the “protein” first and then the rest of the ingredients are chosen to highlight that.

Why have meat, fish, and poultry (MFP) been elevated to star status? We seem to enjoy eating it as much as we enjoy watching it being cooked since the typical American diet provides twice as much protein as we require. Out of the three macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) protein is needed in the smallest quantity per calories, only 20% of our daily calories. Remember that protein is found in more than just MFP. The other animal sources of protein include milk, dairy foods and eggs and the plant sources of protein are vegetables, grains, dried beans and peas (legumes), and nuts and seeds.

There are a couple of reasons why MFP foods have taken center stage for so long. One is that MFP as well as milk, dairy foods and eggs are considered high biological value protein foods. What this means is that they are ‘complete’ proteins, providing all the ‘essential’ amino acids needed by our bodies to perform a variety of important functions. There are a total of twenty amino acids which are the building blocks of all protein molecules. Of those twenty, nine are considered essential – they must be provided by our diet since our bodies cannot make them. The other eleven amino acids are equally important yet they can be metabolized from other foods in the diet…

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Oven Roasting: Fool-Proof, Healthy, Tasty

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I hauled 50 pounds of tomatoes out of my garden last week, and as I look out on this morning in the middle of September, I see another 100 pounds looking back at me. It has been an epic gardening year, and I feel fortunate to have had such success after such a difficult season in 2009. Now, a few years ago, I would have felt the panicky pressure about getting these tomatoes out of the field and into the pantry. But a few years ago, I started utilizing a different method with many of the items I can—tomato sauce, apple and pear sauce, etc.—that has all but eliminated the drudgery of the harvest season: oven roasting. And indeed, oven roasting can enhance many of our favorite garden finds, both taste- and health-wise.

There are several significant advantages to roasting that are worth noting for every home cook…

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