John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Morgan Freeman

jyb_musingsI am at a point in my life when it would really help a lot if I had a voice that sounded like Morgan Freeman’s so people would listen in wonderment when I spoke to them.

Instead I often am asked to repeat myself. And I do. In my non-Morgan Freeman-esque voice.

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I sometimes like to tell myself that ice chai tea latte is really a cover for some sort of secret super human jet fuel.

That way I don’t feel as guilty for drinking so much of it.

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“You can still say the wrong thing later.”

Food for thought before I blurt out an unneeded opinion in a tense situation.

Josh Bowen: The Five Best Snacks

It is astounding to me how many nutrition blogs, books, websites and magazines there are.

In the United States alone, there are 2,500 diet/nutrition books on the market.

2,500? Holy cow! What for?

I digress though.  After training for 11 years, I have found that most people go wayward on their nutritional plan in between meals and at night. People get the munchies and they want things to snack on. Chips, candy, chocolate and a litany of other nutritionally lacking foods become the staple of one’s snacks. This leads us into a false sense of control and snowball’s us off our well planned out nutrition plan.

joshThis can be solved, very easily, by picking more nutritious, easy access foods. 5 of which I consider the best snacks at my training desk. Always ready for when my blood sugar crashes and I need a quick boost of energy but cannot eat because I am training a client (eating while training clients looks awful by the way).

So without further ado, here is my list of the 5 best snacks:

  1. Quest Bars You can define whether a food is good for you or not by the amount of ingredients it has in it (most of the time). Quest bars are the only protein bars I have seen that have fewer than 100 ingredients in them (joke). All joking aside, they come in a variety of flavors and are made up of all gluten free ingredients. For more information check them out here http://www.questnutrition.com/ingredients/
  2. Almonds I love almonds! There are a staple for me when I need something to get me through a couple of hours of training before I eat a meal. A handful of almonds can supply a sufficient amount of calories but also nutrients to get you through to your next meal or get your through a hard workout. Loaded with healthy fats, almonds can help in decreasing bodyfat (Omega 3s), decrease the chance for heart disease (Omega 3s) and decrease inflammation (ta da Omega 3s). Also, very versatile with almond butter and almond milk being a great substitute for peanut butter and milk.
  3. PB2 and Protein Powder A great combination to snack on to get your through the day. PB2 is a powder peanut butter that has 85% less calories than regular peanut butter. Add in a good protein powder (UMP by Beverly International is my go-to) and you have a great snack that has a lot of protein and a little bit of fat to keep you full for a few hours. Have a sweet tooth? Add some cinnamon and it tastes great!
  4. Rice Cakes You laugh but I love rice cakes. Especially when I need something quick and need something that has a crunch. This usually keeps my cravings to a minimum (I love crunchy foods) and goes best post workout when I need some carbs. You can add almond butter or some PB2 to make it more a meal, if you chose.
  5. Suja Those unfamiliar with Suja http://www.sujajuice.com/ it is a brand of juice that is cold pressured. Via their website here is how they describe the process: Cold Pressure, also known as High Pressure Processing retains food quality, maintains natural freshness, and extends microbiological shelf life without heating to high temperatures. After our juice is bottled, a high level of cold pressure is applied evenly to destroy pathogens and ensure the juice is safe to drink while preserving vitamins, enzymes and nutrients. These make great snacks that you can drink and pack all your nutritious fruits and vegetables into one drink.  In my line of work where I sometimes preform 6-8 sessions in a row, I need quick and easy snacks to keep me going. I also need food ready so that I do not go without food and/or make the wrong choice on what to eat. These work great for me and hopefully they work great for you.

Erica and Matt Chua: He Said/She Said: Best Wine Regions in the World

After a few bottles of wine it’s hard to determine, which wine and region are the best.  But we do our best in a sober moment to discern the best wine regions we have visited and where we are most looking forward to imbibing.

HE SAID…

Why is the sun so bright today?  Why does my head hurt so much?  Why is my mouth so dry?  Man, I need water…  Groggily opening my eyes to the noonday sun must mean one thing: I’ve enjoyed a wine region a little too much.  As the staunch environmentalist I am, I just can’t spit out the wine I taste, no, I, for the sake of not wasting, swallow every taste I have.  It’s easy to judge wine regions by the experience, the sommeliers, or the views, but let’s look at it another way: where do you look back, head hurting, and say “I love this place!”

Mendoza, Argentina is hard to beat.  It sits at the base of Aconcagua, the tallest mountain outside the Himalayas, and many of the towering Andean peaks.  The wines are tasty and can be taken home for less than $10 a bottle.  Those things may be nice, but what makes it great?  All-you-can-eat steak.  Sure, you could go visit wineries, but why not enjoy wine the way the Argentines do?  Paired with meat, lots of meat. For less than $20 you can get all-you-can eat steak and all-you-can-drink wine.

Time for bed.  A young me after enjoying a night of Mendoza.

This isn’t a Sizzler special, it’s Porterhouse and other quality cuts, delicious sausages, and just about every piece of meat you can imagine, barbecued up for your indulging.  Yep, you’ll wake the next day wondering why you ate and drank so much, but then you’ll head out for more…

SHE SAID…

After a few wine tastings any wine region can become your favorite, however a few places stand out as areas I would love to return to.  Wine is a beverage that breaks down language barriers, brings people together and has been a highlight of our travels from Australia to Japan and back to the U.S. While I have enjoyed wine from each of these places there are also a few wine regions that have reputations that precede themselves.

Did I say that wine breaks down barriers?  It also helps to create new friendships, me, my Mom and Matt from Ekhidna winery in Adelaide, Australia.

The bold reds of Australia’s Coonawara wine region, the fruity wines of New Zealand, the rice wines of Japan and the spicy zinfandels of the Russian River Valley in the U.S. all stand out as excellent wine regions.  But, if I had to pick just one wine region as a front runner it would be the Sonoma Valley in Northern California.  The friendly tasting room staff, no tasting fees, bike-ability of the area and the wonderful restaurants and accommodation in nearby Healdsburg make this the region I would return to again and again.

While Sonoma has held the top spot on my list of favorite wine regions for quite awhile I am really looking forward to exploring the wines of South America.  We fly to Buenos Aires at the end of December 2012 and Mendoza is a high priority.  Not only am I looking forward to the array of reds in Argentina, but they should be the perfect pairing for the great steak.  We’ll keep you updated as our favorites list grows with our travels.

Do you have a favorite wine region or a specific wine that you love?  We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

 

Erica and Matt Chua: How to Make Gyoza

The Chinese may get credit for the invention of this little dumpling, but our Tokyo host Takeshi gets credit for teaching me how to make them. The gyoza, known more commonly in the U.S. as “potstickers”, was not introduced to Japan until the 1940′s most likely adapted after the Japanese invasion of China in the late 1930′s. Since then the Gyoza has become so popularized that there are Gyoza restaurants and even a Gyoza Stadium located in Osaka, Japan. The Gyoza Stadium has a museum complete with history and explanations of the many varieties of this adopted dish, while we didn’t visit I am sure it was fascinating…

This recipe includes a dipping sauce and instructions on how to assemble and cook “potstickers” as taught to me by Takeshi, so the amounts are rough estimates- you might have to play with them a little.

Yields about 48 potstickers.

Ingredients:

  • Dumpling wrappers (these can be bought at Asian specialty stores)

Filling:

  • 8 ounces Napa cabbage
  • 3 tsp salt, divided
  • 1 pound lean ground pork
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions, with tops
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • Dash white pepper

Dipping Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • hot pepper flakes or use a chili oil instead of sesame oil

Other:

  • 2 – 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Chicken stock

Preparation:

Cut the cabbage across into thin strips and then mince into tiny pieces. Mix with 2 teaspoons salt and set aside for a few minutes. Squeeze out the excess moisture so that your dumplings aren’t too wet while you assemble them.

In a large bowl, mix the cabbage, pork and green onions with the remaining 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sesame oil, and the white pepper.

Putting the pork and cabbage mixture in the dumplings.  Getting the right amount (about 1 tablespoon-full) of mixture makes sealing the dumplings easier.

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Erica and Matt Chua: How to Make Gyoza

Josh Bowen: 10 Foods You Need in Your Diet

joshOf all the types of questions a fitness professional is asked, nutrition is the most common subject. Quite frankly people are clueless when it comes to what they eat. Conversely, that is not their fault. In this country we search for the quick fix, the easy way out and our media has done a great marketing job on “diets.” These diets usually consist of restriction some selection of food; fat, carbs, meat etc. So we are constantly told what we “shouldn’t” eat and rarely are we told what we should eat. So I wanted to put together a list of 10 foods that most everyone needs (barring food allergy, religious reasoning or preference). These 10 foods have various purposes that go beyond how many calories they consist of. These foods help the body ward off disease, decrease inflammation, and add vital vitamins and minerals to our body.

1. Eggs- Eggs are on this list for a variety of reasons; the whites are full of high biological value protein (that is a good thing), the yellow is full of leptin (which controls appetite) and they are extremely versatile (scrambled, poached, boiled etc.).  Eggs also have 12 vitamin and minerals, one of which (choline) is vital for brain development and increased memory. Eggs are nutrient dense only containing 75 calories per egg.

2. Nuts- If you only look at foods based upon their fat content and calorie count you would probably leave these section of food out. You would be missing the point of the article. Yes calories matter, however a twinkie may have less calories than a Big Mac that does not mean it is a good option. Most nuts are loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids that are good for the cardiovascular system and act as an anti-inflammatory warding off potential disease. Also nuts are considered an antioxidant which has the potential to decrease the potential for cancer. Because most nuts are high in fat, thus high in calories, use proper judgment and portion control and monitor the salt as well. Almonds, cashews, pistachios are all good choices.

3. Sweet Potato- One of my all-time favorite foods that packs a punch and is nutrient dense. Sweet potatoes are technically a vegetable, although we rarely think of them in that way. Their dark orange coloring makes them high in Vitamin A and C and an outstanding source of potassium. Diabetics can enjoy these foods because they are lower on the glycemic index than white potatoes, generally because of their high water content. Sweet potatoes also act as an anti-inflammatory.

4. Broccoli- Another one of my all-time favorite foods. Without the cheese, broccoli is a true super food that is packed with potassium a rich source of Vitamin A, C and K. It can be very beneficial for diabetics because of its high fiber content. Just remember, no chees

5. Apples- Not all fruits are created equal. Some are good and some are not. Apples however are unique, the skin is full of fiber (blunting the insulin effects of sugar) and they have high antioxidant content. Apples have been linked to prevent lung cancer, improve lung function and help prevent Type II diabetes.

6. Salmon- the American Heart Association recommends eating salmon twice per week because of the high Omega 3 content. It is low in calories, high in protein and low in saturated fats. If at all possible choose fresh salmon versus farm-raised.

7. Kiwis- They are a nutrient dense food that has an entire days requirement of Vitamin C in one large kiwi. Also high in fiber and potassium and a good source of Vitamin A and E. Great taste and texture makes this fruit a great super food.

8. Beans- Beans are loaded with insoluble fiber which is great for ridding the body of unwanted waste. These are heart healthy foods which are low fat good source of protein. Beans are versatile, they can be a good side dish, a great substitute for meat and chicken and can also be mixed in with other foods to make a great snack.

9. Quinoa- What? Yea Quinoa (pronounce keen-wa) is an ancient grain that is now readily available in health food stores and sections of your commercial grocery stores. Its high in protein and fiber and a good source of iron. It is as easy to prepare as rice and can be combined with nuts and beans as a good meal.

10. Berries- pack an incredible amount of nutritional goodness into a small package. They’re loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients, low in calories, and high in water and fiber to help control blood sugar and keep you full longer. And their flavors satisfy sweets cravings for a fraction of the calories in baked goods. Blueberries lead the pack because they are among the best source of antioxidants and are widely available. Cranberries are also widely available fresh, frozen, or dried. All can add flavor and nutrition to numerous dishes, from salads and cereals to baked goods and yogurt.

So instead of focusing on foods you shouldn’t eat, concentrate on the foods you should. Start incorporating the above and watch your health increase dramatically which will vicariously help you reduce body fat, lower your blood sugar and help you build more muscle. Let me know if you have any good recipes!

Saul Kaplan: 100 Calorie Bite Size Snacks

Saul KaplanOne of the great things about having the kids around the house this summer is the temporary return of snack food.  But this summer is different; the snacks are all lined up in the cupboard in 100-calorie bite size packages.  As if the packaging alone will ensure portion control and make snacking consistent with our attempts at healthy living.  Of course it only works if you stop with one 100-calorie package, which I seldom do.  While snacking I have been thinking about the idea of bite size packaging and wondering if breaking up big hairy social goals into 100-calorie bite size packages of work tasks would better enable us to harness the power of social media to get more stuff done.  

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are incredible at stirring up the pot but not as good at serving the meal.  I have been amazed at the way social media enables the exchange of ideas.  The school doors are open 24/7 for life long learning.  Diverse communities of interest arise spontaneously reacting to world events, spectacles, and provocative ideas. But how do we translate interest and commentary into action?

I am fortunate to interact every day with passionate and motivated innovators who agree that we must transform our health care, education, and energy systems.  We also agree that the technology we need is available today to enable transformative change. This is our window of opportunity. Tweaking the current systems won’t work.  We need real systems change and the key will be to unleash the power of social media beyond exchanging ideas to taking meaningful action.  What if we could make it as easy to take an action step, as it is today to contribute and react to ideas?  The way forward is to break these seemingly overwhelming social tasks down in to bite size 100-calorie packages so that social media enabled communities can engage by rolling up their sleeves and contributing deliverables that will advance these important causes.

We have to get better at asks.  Asks have to be simple.  Asks must be accessible at the point of interest.  Asks should not require more than 140 characters.  It has to be easy to say yes and to accomplish the bite size task.  There should be immediate feedback on all completed tasks and it must be clear how the task fits into the bigger picture contributing to the overall social objective and systems change.

Social media platforms have the potential to move beyond talking about changing the world to actually enabling us to change it.  We can accelerate progress by breaking down wicked goals in to 100-calorie bite size packages that are easier to snack on.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Diet Update

jyb_musingsDone! 

Almost…

A little over six months ago I saw a friend, Kent Oyler, and told him I had just started a diet. He asked me my weight goal and I said I didn’t have one yet and he thought that was a mistake. I agreed and then asked Kent, since he was my height and in great shape, what he weighed. He told me and I said that was my weight goal. It was 27 lbs for me to lose. 

Last night I reported to Kent that I was actually only 3 lbs away from my goal of reaching his his weight. But Kent then reported that he had actually gained 3 lbs this summer and we were now at the exact weight.

I raised me arms in exultation….feeling, for a moment, like I had achieved my goal of attaining Kent’s weight. But being honest with myself my real goal is still about 3 lbs away and I’m hanging in until I reach, well, both goals!

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Tooting my Own Horn

jyb_musingsThere’s nothing wrong with tooting your own horn from time to time. If you don’t, who will? Right?

As baseball legend Dizzy Dean famously said, “It ain’t braggin’ if you’ve done it.”

Well, this morning it finally happened for me. I was the very first customer of the day at the Springhurst Starbucks in The Summit (or whatever they are calling it now).

I didn’t win a prize of any kind and the Barista wasn’t even going to tell me until I asked solicitously if I was, in fact, today’s first customer. After a brief pause while she fished through the cash register for my change, she looked up and without making eye contact, sighed and said, “Yep. You are.”

Those words, “Yep. You are,” were just what I was hoping to hear after so many mornings asking that same question and getting a “Not quite,” or “Almost,” or “No,” or “Are you serious?” (Followed by whispers to a fellow Barista.)

Finally, today is the day, fittingly on the day we celebrate our nation’s birthday, that I finally made it as Starbucks “First Customer of the Day.”

Dizzy Dean was right.

In fact, I’m thinking of taking the rest of the day off. But only until tomorrow morning.

Erica and Matt Chua: He Said-She Said: Missing the Holidays

Most of the year being away from home is just fine.  Daily life doesn’t give us much to miss, but the holidays are a different story.  Do we want to be at an ugly sweater party?  Yeah, you betcha!  Do we want to be feasting on unhealthy food just because it’s a holiday?  Of course!  Here are the key things about the holidays we miss.

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HE SAID…

December is a deceptively good month at home.  The fun of the holidays outweighs the fact that in Minnesota the temperature drops below freezing; a mark it won’t rise above until sometime in May.  While the air outside becomes frosty, inside it’s a different story, the warmth of people abounds.  Everywhere becomes festive, downtown Minneapolis hosts a nightly parade, stores that seem barren in the summer are wrapped in decorations, and people open their homes to share great food, catch up, and drink a little too much eggnog.  Overall, December is a month that I wish were longer.

Ever seen The Hangover?  At the end they find a digital camera with photos of the night before that show scenes that are unbelievable for even those that were there.  Our friend’s holiday party is like that.  Part of you wishes there were no digital cameras and facebook, but you also realize that’s a big part of the fun.  The party doesn’t really celebrate the holidays, rather it uses the holidays as a reason to party, in costume.  This year’s theme, Punk Rock Christmas, will celebrate the decade we were born in, but too young to rock mohawks and leather jackets without our parents’ agreeing to pay for them.  Being the season of giving, there is a gift exchange where you can expect to walkaway with household essentials such as stuffed bobcats and profane inflatable objects. This is one holiday party that is a shame to miss.

Stuffed bobcat!?  You know you want one and the gift exchange is a great place to get it.

A close second to missing Punk Rock Christmas is being able to indulge in eating without shame.  The holidays are a time when it’s seemingly OK to catch up with family while holding a plate that only contains prime rib, lamb, and turkey.Sure, there are plenty of other things I could put on my plate, some carbs for example, but why?  Spending time with loved ones and a plate of meat is what makes December different from Thanksgiving when people will plop sweet potatoes onto your plate against your will.  The holidays are all about food, family and friends, which makes December a great month.
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SHE SAID…

I have always had a white Christmas, being from Minnesota having snow on the ground is a sign that the holidays are just around the corner.  While we have chased summer weather around the world, I miss the snow that tells me it’s time for holiday parties, ice sculptures and long standing family traditions.  Sure I wish I could attend friend’s ugly sweater parties and play secret santa, but what I miss most is our traditional  Christmas Eve meal and our eclectic Christmas Day gathering of friends and family.

My plate of food with Swedish meatballs, Swedish sausage, lefse and a tiny bit of obligatory lutefisk.

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Erica and Matt Chua: He Said-She Said: Missing the Holidays

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Dear God

jyb_musingsDear God, 

Don’t get me wrong and please know I am just trying to help.

I appreciate you keeping up the regular supply of much needed water to us. But splashing us every few days with water everywhere with these rain storms just makes it seem like you aren’t keeping up with the times. Nobody down here is saying anything yet about your old fashioned water deliver methods but I worry they eventually will–you know how we are. And who needs that?

For example, I was at a Thornton’s early this morning (the one off Shelbyville road in Louisville, KY across from the Starbucks) and out in front there are, like, 50 cases of bottled water all lined up in neat rows. (I think it’s that fancy water that comes from the French Alps. And if the French can transport tons of water in neat little bottles, I know you can come up with something even better than that!!)

Look, it’s 2014 and there are all kinds of ways to deliver water to us that are way more efficient than the old way of just raining it down on us every few days without notice.

If you want me to ask the bottled water guy at Thorntons for some ideas for you, I will but won’t tell him I’m asking for you. We can keep it between us.

Just trying to help,

John

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