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Review: Fitbit Force

February 28, 2014
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view of fitbit force app screen

It’s time for my yearly fitness product/app/whatever review. I got a Fitbit Force (thanks mom!) for my birthday, and I’ve been using it since then to track my activity during Weight Loss Month Or More (turns out it needs to be More.)

The Fitbit Force is basically an advanced pedometer that you wear like a bracelet on your wrist. It tracks steps, flights climbed, active minutes, total miles traveled, calories (burned, eaten, and left to eat for the day), pounds to lose, sleep patterns, and water consumed. With the Force you can press a button on the side of the display to see your progress, or use their iPhone app or online dashboard.

The pros:
-Really easy to set up and check stats on. I downloaded the Fitbit app for my phone so I rarely use the computer syncing chip, but the online dashboard is just as good if not better.
-Comfortable. The Fitbit is just a thick bracelet, which isn’t even noticeable if you are wearing long sleeves. Water resistant, choose blue or black in color, wear on your non-dominant hand.
-Super long battery life. Needs to be charged less than once a week.
-Cost. As I mentioned, I was lucky enough to be gifted the Force, but at $129 it’s not particularly cheap. However, I would say there are much pricier investments you can make in your health, and this one is definitely worth it. If you wear it every day for two months, that’s just $2 a day.
-It makes you hyper aware of how active – or inactive – you are, and it encourages you to be more active. More on this below.

The cons:
-Does not recognize all activities as “steps” or “active minutes.” For example, I take a strenuous heated yoga class that shows up as nothing on my Fitbit, yet I know I am being active. Walking in place also seems to be hit or miss – it catches maybe 80% of your effort. But, you can add an activity and it will estimate your calorie burn.
-The food finder used to estimate your calories burned is not as intuitive as that on the Lose It! App. (Or, I’ve just been using Lose It! for so long that it’s too hard for me to switch over.) However, a pro is that you can link Lose It! (and several other apps) to your fitbit easily, and all of their information just syncs together.
-The sleep function isn’t particularly useful, to me at least. I guess this isn’t really a con, just an observation. I’m pretty aware of when I’ve had a bad night’s sleep, so having it tell me that I was restless 18 times isn’t really information that I need or want.

The Fitbit has definitely opened my eyes to my basic, non-gym activity level. The default goal settings are 10 thousand steps, 15 flights, and 30 active minutes- and I really thought that since my job is fairly active,  I would blow those away before even working out. Nope. Most days, it is a real challenge to hit 10K steps, and I really have to hit the gym to get there and above. In my normal, non gym activity – full day at work, doing a few errands, walking to my car – I typically top out at 6.5K, on a good day.

What I’ve found is that this makes me park farther away from Target, or take several trips instead of one, or walk in place in front of the tv to hit an extra thousand steps. I’ve become a real step-fiend. I’ve also become fidgety. If I find myself standing for long periods of time (something that happens at my job), I’ll start walking back and forth to get in some steps. I walk when I’m checking my email. I walk when I’m cooking dinner. I walk when I’m blow-drying my hair. (This is probably getting pretty annoying to everyone around me.)

I’ve also found, unfortunately, that on the off day that I do hit my goals before I head to the gym, I’m kind of like, nah I’m all set, I hit my goals. This is either an unexpected deterrent, or a function of laziness brought on by extreme cold this winter. The bottom line is that, overall, the Fitbit Force is a great tool to get a real sense of your basic activity level, and to encourage you to move more in every day life, in addition to whatever workout regimen you already have.

Food: Healthy Broccoli Cheese Soup

February 26, 2014

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This soup has about 250 calories per 1 cup serving (before the cheese topping), is filling and healthy. It is slightly adapted from a Moosewood recipe. It would be best served with some sourdough bread if that is in your calorie budget/food plan.

2 tbsp butter
1½ cup onion, chopped
1 waxy yellow potato, peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1 bell pepper, diced
4 cups broccoli, chopped plus 1 cup florets rough chopped and steamed
2½ cups veggie stock or water
2 cups 1% milk
½ cup fromage blanc
pinch nutmeg, pinch cayenne
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
salt and pepper to season
Optional toppings:  grated cheddar, scallions, fromage blanc, etc.

Melt butter in large pot,  sauté onion and bay leaf with salt over medium heat until onion is clear. Add bell pepper, broccoli, potato, and stock. Bring to a simmer, cover, and continue cooking for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until broccoli is well cooked. Discard the bay leaf and purée the soup in batches, adding cheese into the blender at the end. Stir in fromage blanc and spices, bring almost to a boil, top with optional florets (plus cheese or other toppings), and serve.

Food: Heart Healthy Steel Cut Oats (Happy Valentine’s Day!)

February 14, 2014

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In perhaps my lamest Valentine’s Day post ever, I give you Alton Brown’s recipe for Steel Cut Oats (with minor modifications). He says it serves 4 at 142 calories each, but I’d say it serves 2, so that would mean this is about 300 calories (before toppings). This took a good 45 minutes to make, but it’s worth it on a weekend. And my Valentine said it was the best oatmeal he’s ever had, so that’s a pretty good endorsement.

Ingredients:
1 tablespoon butter
1 cup steel cut oats
3 cups boiling water
1/2 cup whole milk (you could definitely substitute 1% or skim milk here)
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon low-fat buttermilk

Optional toppings:
brown sugar, cinnamon, berries, greek yogurt, peanut butter, jelly, etc.

In a large pot, melt the butter and add the oats. Stir for 2 minutes to toast. Add the boiling water and reduce heat to a simmer. Keep at a low simmer for 25 minutes, without stirring.

Combine the milk and the buttermilk with the oatmeal . Stir gently to combine and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until it reaches a consistency you like. Spoon into a serving bowl and top as you like.

Food: Macaroni NOT Cheese from Engine 2

February 12, 2014

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Several of my coworkers are taking the “Engine 2 Challenge,” which involves following a plant-based, basically vegan diet for a month. I’ve been trying several of the recipes (when someone at work makes them) and so far I’ve had a great vegan chili and an equally great vegan sloppy joe (both were heavy on lentils). Someone suggested I try the Macaroni NOT Cheese, since regular mac is a favorite of mine. Below is the recipe from the Engine 2 Site, with my notations.

1 onion, chopped
1 cup cashews
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/3 cups water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast (THIS IS IN THE BAKING AISLE AND COSTS $6)
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
16 ounces whole grain elbow pasta, cooked

Instructions:

Sauté onion on medium heat in non-stick skillet with a little water or low sodium vegetable broth for 5 minutes, until translucent.

In a food processor, combine the onions, cashews, lemon juice, water, and salt. Gradually blend in roasted red peppers, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and onion powder.

Thoroughly toss the sauce with the pasta.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden brown on top.
(THROW DIRECTLY IN THE TRASH. THE END.)

Welcome to Weight Loss Month, AND Turkey Chili

February 6, 2014

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I’m pulling out all the stops for this year’s Annual Weight Loss Month Or So. (See all my gluten free entries for the theme of last year’s Annual Weight Loss Month Or So.) This year I’m using my new FitBit Force (thanks mom!) in conjunction with the Lose It! App I’ve been using for the past year minus the last few months.  I’m going gluten-reduced, and focusing on increasing any possible daily activity (hence the fitbit) and eating lots of greens and low fat protein. Oh, and as much hot yoga as I can get to, because I love it. (Insert shameless plug for CorePower Yoga here.) This chili has approximately 200 calories per 1 cup serving (not including toppings), is easy to make, and filling. Plus, beans are good for you.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, chopped
1  yellow onion, chopped
1 red or green pepper, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin or latin spice blend (available in most grocery stores, try Whole Foods)
1 pound ground turkey (leanest you can find)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 cups water
1  chipotle chile in adobo sauce (seeded and chopped)
juice from 2 limes
Salt and black pepper
1 can black beans and 1 can kidney beans (or whatever combination of beans you like), drained

Optionally toppings:
Avocado, chopped (or guacamole)
Scallions, chopped
Cheddar cheese, shredded
Non fat greek yogurt or sour cream

Put the onion, pepper, and carrots in a large pot with the oil, cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are soft. Add the spice mix or cumin and stir until incorporated. Add the turkey, raise the heat and cook until meat is no longer pink. Add tomatoes, lime juice, water, chipotle, and salt. Cover and simmer at least 30 minutes. Add beans and cook, partially covered, at least 10 minutes longer.This can be eaten immediately but is best when left on low heat for a few hours. Season to taste before serving with more salt, pepper, or lime juice.

 

It’s My Birthday

January 23, 2014

birthday

It’s my birthday. Here are some things:

After 34 years I’ve finally realized that new year’s resolutions are no good for me because a) my resolutions usually involve eating less cake but my birthday is less than a month away and necessitates cake and b) January kind of sucks and I just want to eat meatballs and wear fat sweaters.

I periodically find gray hair now, and I. Hate. It.

I feel 10 years older, thank you very much, but in a good way.

Last year I learned how to get married, and not just in the “what color flowers for the bouquet” way. The cat and I learned how to live in a tiny space with a wonderful man and his wonderful dog. Hopefully this year I’ll learn how to buy a house with said man and dog. I learned how to build a team from scratch and to open a business with that team, and to work harder than I ever have. I learned how to do yoga in a very hot room. I learned that I miss writing on a regular basis, and that I need to get back to this blog. I learned, again and again, how awesome and supportive my friends and family are.

And I got to wear a fabulous, fabulous dress.

It was a good year.

bday 2

STILL GOOD: Veggie Skillet Cakes with Green Goddess Dressing

December 14, 2013

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These are really good, and a lot healthier than regular potato pancakes with sour cream. The original recipe comes from Whole Foods Market, and you can see below for the ways I messed it up the first time, and then the tweaks I made to the original recipe and cooking method, and the addition of Green Goddess Dressing.

Ingredients:
3/4  teaspoon chili powder
2   (8-ounce) russet potatoes, peeled, shredded and squeezed of excess moisture  (SQUEEZED WITH A PAPER TOWEL. MESSY. USE REGULAR TOWEL.)
4  tablespoons unsalted butter
2   parsnips, shredded
1  large egg, lightly beaten (DID NOT BEAT)
2   carrots, shredded
1  teaspoon fine sea salt (USED WHATEVER SALT I HAD)
1/2  cup finely diced red onion (ONLY HAD YELLOW ONION)
1/8  teaspoon grated nutmeg (WAS OUT OF NUTMEG AND DIDN’T WANT TO BUY MORE FOR LIKE, TWO DASHES OF NUTMEG.)
1/4  cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1  large egg white, lightly beaten (WHAT? NO.)

Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, until it begins to sputter and is covered with a layer of foam, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and wait until sputtering stops. Skim off and discard foam; pour clarified butter into a small bowl, leaving behind any milky liquid. (THIS SEEMED LIKE A STUPID EXTRA STEP. JUST MELTED SOME BUTTER.)  

In a large bowl, combine the vegetables and onion. Sprinkle with flour, salt, chili powder and nutmeg, and toss to coat. Stir in egg and egg white.  (I JUST USED TWO EGGS AND MASHED EVERYTHING TOGETHER WITH MY HANDS.)

Brush a large skillet with clarified butter and line just the bottom with parchment paper. (PAIN IN THE ASS.)  Brush the paper and sides of the skillet generously with 1 tablespoon more clarified butter. Heat the skillet over medium heat until hot. Pour in vegetable mixture and press gently. Cook, running a spatula around the edges of the skillet occasionally, until bottom is very brown, about 12 minutes.  (BOTTOM WASN’T GETTING BROWN, GOT IMPATIENT*. TURNED UP HEAT.) *THE START OF ALL PROBLEMS, ALWAYS.

Place a round platter upside down over the top of the skillet. Grasp sides of the skillet and platter with oven mitts and invert pancake onto the platter. (THIS SEEMED LIKE A LOT OF ACROBATICS. BUT I DID IT!) Press back in any stuck bits of pancake. (PLENTY OF STUCK BITS) Wipe the skillet clean, place parchment back in the skillet and brush generously with clarified butter. Slide pancake back into the skillet (browned-side up) and continue to cook over medium heat, loosening edges with a spatula and shaking the pan occasionally to loosen the bottom. (STARTING TO SMELL SOMETHING BURNING, BUT PANCAKE LOOKED OK.) Cook until bottom is browned and crisp and pancake is cooked through, about 12 more minutes. (AT ABOUT 10 MINUTES REALIZED PARCHMENT PAPER WAS ON FIRE. HAD TO REMOVE) Invert the skillet again to remove pancake. Cool 5 minutes before cutting into wedges. (PANCAKE WAS MORE OF A HASH AT THE END, AND A LITTLE CHARRED. BUT STILL GOOD.)

MY EASIER, LESS HEALTHY, PARCHMENT PAPER FREE VERSION:

Ingredients:

1 red onion, sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and grated
2 carrots, peeled and grated
2 russet potatoes, peeled and grated, squeezed and drained of excess liquid
2 scallions, diced
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 stick butter

Add all ingredients except for butter to a bowl, mix with your hands until eggs and flour are incorporated. Heat a non-stick skillet on medium and add 1/4 stick of butter. Drop mixture by heaping spoonfuls (you can make these as big or as small as you want, depends on how long you want to spend cooking) into skillet, and cook over medium heat until both sides are browned (at least 5 minutes per side, depends on how big you make them). Press frequently with spatula to keep them in pancake form, but if these fall apart you can just cook them into a hash and they are just as tasty. Let skillet cool between batches and add more butter before each batch. Top with Green Goddess Dressing, recipe follows.

Green Goddess Dressing:
2 cups 0% (fat free) greek yogurt
2 scallions
juice of one lime
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper
4 gloves garlic
at least 1 cup chopped basil, have two cups available so you can adjust if it is not basil-y enough

Throw everything in a blender and puree.  Add more basil if you want. Puree again. The end. This should last 4-5 days in the fridge.

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