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Help! I Hate Vegetables

You know how great vegetables are for you. You’ve heard all about the fiber that keeps your cardiovascular and digestive systems healthy. You know they’re a great source of antioxidants, which help prevent disease from the inside out. And you know they’re an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, all of which are necessary for a balanced diet. Blah blah blah … but knowing the benefits isn’t making you like them any more. You’ve accepted it — you hate vegetables and there’s nothing you can do to change that fact. WRONG! Here are five ways to slowly but surely work more veggies into your diet and maybe even learn to love them:

1. TRANSFORM THEM

Raw vegetables aren’t nearly as satisfying as their cooked counterparts. Raw Brussels sprouts can be pretty unappealing to plenty of palates. But slice them, drizzle with olive oil and roast at 425°F for 30 minutes and you’ve achieved a total transformation. They’ve gone from bitter to sweet. Even humble romaine lettuce, often served on a sandwich or in a salad, gets new life when cut in half lengthwise, drizzled with oil and balsamic vinegar and popped it on the grill for 5-10 minutes. If you prefer vegetables bear no resemblance to their natural form, pureeing is the way to go. Roast butternut squash in the oven, scoop the insides into a blender and season with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth to make a delicious winter squash soup or better yet … stir the purée into mac-n-cheese.


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2. SEASON AWAY

Most food needs seasoning. Rosemary and lemon are a match made in seasoning heaven, and are the perfect combo to add to potatoes, carrots and onions. For those of you who like a little heat, use chili powder, cumin and paprika for a warm flavor. Toss diced sweet potatoes with a blend of these spices and then sauté to make a breakfast hash, or coat an ear of corn with the mixture and throw it on the grill. And don’t forget cheese — it can more or less mask other flavors. Try cheddar cheese melted over steamed broccoli or grated Parmesan atop grilled asparagus.

3. GET SNEAKY

With a little creativity, veggies can be hidden in some of your favorite dishes. Start by choosing those with a subtle flavor that are similar in color to what you’re making. An easy trick is to add finely chopped onions, carrots and red bell peppers to tomato sauce, or roasted and pureed squash to a cream sauce on a pasta dish. As your tolerance increases, you can get more daring. Grated zucchini and carrots can be mixed into muffins, while beets can be stirred into chocolate cake, brownie batter or blended into a smoothie with citrus and banana. Speaking of smoothies, try blending spinach into your next creation — it may add a green tint to your drink, but bananas and berries easily cover up its mild flavor.

4. KEEP IT IN THE FAMILY

Once you find a veggie you like, try others in the same family, since they’ll often have similar flavors and textures. If you like carrots, other root vegetables, such as turnips, parsnips, beets, jicama and yams, are the natural next step. Start by cooking them the same way that you found carrots to be the most palatable. This means if you like roasted carrots with a drizzle of maple syrup and fresh thyme, chances are you’ll like roasted parsnips prepared that way, too. If you can handle sneaking spinach into your smoothies, try subbing in other leafy greens, like kale, collard greens or turnip greens. Sweet potatoes are a great alternative to white potatoes.


READ MORE > ROOT VEGETABLES 101


5. EMBRACE THE REPLACEMENTS

Some vegetables make awesome (and low-calorie) replacements for traditional ingredients in recipes. Don’t believe me? Try using lettuce in lieu of buns or tortillas to hold your next burger, sandwich or taco together. You can also swap rice out for grated cauliflower or try these cheesy cauliflower grits. Veggies also make a great alternative to traditional pasta. Zucchini noodles, aka ‘zoodles,’ can stand in for spaghetti, whereas sliced eggplant can double as lasagna noodles.

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5 Signs Your Scale Is Sabotaging Your Weight-Loss Quest

We need to talk. It’s not you, it’s us. This relationship isn’t working for us anymore. Maybe it’s time we go our separate ways.

Is that a conversation you need to have with your scale? That little machine that often feels like it’s judging you can be your best friend in gauging your progress when you’re trying to lose weight. But guess what: Not only is it not the end-all, be-all for weight loss, it might be working against you. Is it time to break up with your scale? Here are five signs you might need to think about alternate ways to track your weight loss.

1. YOU’RE REACTING TOO EMOTIONALLY TO WHAT YOU SEE

If the number on the scale is making you change your behavior in the immediate term, it’s a sign something isn’t working. In my dietitian practice, I’ve seen clients who react to their weigh-ins by over-restricting what they eat if they’ve gained weight, or overindulging if they’ve lost weight. I call this “yo-yo weight gain,” and it can lead to an overly drastic approach to dieting. Having your eating habits dictated by your scale makes it nearly impossible to be mindful of your food choices. Self-sabotage is a slippery slope, and you need to take a hard look at the habits that make you go to the extremes — otherwise it’s it hard to keep the weight off for good.


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2. YOU’RE EXPERIENCING DISORDERED EATING BEHAVIORS

Bingeing, purging, restriction, orthorexia or over-exercise: Irregular eating takes many forms, but if you fall into any of these categories, it’s time to step away from the scale and talk to a professional who can help you find a healthier way to live. If you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, the National Eating Disorders Association has a good screening tool that can help advise whether you need to talk to a pro. We can all live a healthy life in this weight-conscious world, but building a foundation that involves a plan of action for recovery from disordered eating behaviors is the first order of business.

3. YOU HAVE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS ABOUT YOURSELF

Shame gets real deep, real fast. Self-loathing and blaming yourself for your weight affects more than just your progress — it also erodes your feeling of self-worth and your dignity. Shame isn’t a motivator. If stepping onto the scale makes you have negative thoughts about yourself, it’s a sign you need to ditch it. The number on it doesn’t say anything about your worth or value — it’s just a number, literally.


READ MORE > HOW OFTEN SHOULD YOU WEIGH YOURSELF?


4. YOU’RE WEIGHING YOURSELF TOO MUCH

If you’ve become obsessive about weighing in first thing in the morning or multiple times per day, that’s a sign the scale’s not doing you any good. Instead of tracking weight, take measurements. Often with healthy eating and exercise, your waistline will shrink even if your weight doesn’t move much. In fact, waist circumference may be a better predictor of health than weight.

5. YOU’RE BUILDING MUSCLE, AND THAT’S MAKING YOU GAIN WEIGHT

If you’re training hard but measuring results by the number you see on the scale — which is in turn making you unhappy — maybe it’s time to reevaluate your metric for success. Strength training and HIIT workouts can boost muscle mass, which means your body composition may be improving. But because the number on the scale is a sum of your whole body — including fat and fat-free mass such as muscle, bones, organs, ligaments, tendons and water — your total body weight doesn’t necessarily provide the full picture. Endurance training can create weight fluctuations as well, thanks to fluid retention and inflammation. If this sounds like you, you might want to focus on your training and pay more attention to how you feel, hitting performance goals, how your clothes fit and eating foods that fuel you.

The post 5 Signs Your Scale Is Sabotaging Your Weight-Loss Quest appeared first on Under Armour.

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We’re All Stressed Out, and It’s Affecting Our Workouts

If you’ve been stressed lately, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey from the American Psychological Association, two-thirds of Americans currently feel stressed about “the future of the nation.” More than half of the respondents also said the current political climate is a significant source of stress. All the time spent checking our phones and Facebook feeds isn’t helping. On a 10-point scale, the overall stress level for people who constantly check email, texts and social media is 5.3, compared with 4.4 for those who don’t check their phones as frequently.


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That much stress can have negative consequences for our health, well-being and even our athletic performance.

“It definitely has an impact,” said Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen, a clinical exercise physiologist at Yale and an adjunct professor at Columbia University, who has extensively studied how stress affects people’s health and performance. There’s no doubt it takes a toll.

When our brains are fatigued or placed under stress, it tends to have a physical and emotional component. We physically feel terrible, and studies have found we perceive the same workout as more difficult than when we are not under stress. “Everything seems to feel more effortful,” said Stults-Kolehmainen.

Stress has been shown to change behaviors, too, he said. One theory is that we operate with a limited ability to self-regulate, and when that is taxed we often don’t have enough willpower left to do things that are harder. This goes hand-in-hand with an increased desire for foods high in fat, salt and sugar.

Stults-Kolehmainen has found stress even impacts recovery, especially after a hard workout or race. “Even if you’re able to do the workout, you have a more prolonged recovery,” he says.

Here are five ways to cope:

1. USE EXERCISE AS STRESS RELIEF

It’s true that exercise can help reduce stress levels, though that benefit tends to come from light workouts or just getting outside and moving.

If you’re strung out and stressed — a bad day at work, bad news, everything’s going wrong — and don’t feel up for working out, Stults-Kolehmainen recommends simply extending your warmup and then seeing how you feel. It’s been documented that stress tends to make perceptions of effort harder and make it more difficult to ramp up quickly to intense efforts. A longer warmup can be enough to get yourself moving. If you’re still feeling too beat up at the end of the warmup to do a hard workout, then an easy version can help offset the stress.

2. REFRAME YOUR STRESS

It’s important to remember: “Not all stress is bad stress,” says Patrick Cohn, a mental-training expert at Peak Performance. When you’re stressed before a big race or an important work presentation, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It means all the right biological mechanisms are firing to pump you up. Think of it as your body getting ready to kick butt.

“Many people get stressed over stress,” says Nir Eyal, author of “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products,” which is a waste of energy. So stop doing that. When it comes to objectively stressful life events, though, how we respond is a highly individual process that depends on the stressor: whether it’s threatening or controllable, if it has high social consequences and if we can find a way to cope or reframe the situation. There are some people who are exceptionally resilient. Some people will even take a stressful event, like losing a job, and find a way to reframe it as an opportunity. Resilient people are often those who have more resources (literally and mentally) and have learned coping mechanisms, such as dealing with the problem directly, finding external support or re-focusing on their larger goals.

“It’s really hard to predict who’s going to be resilient,” says Stults-Kolehmainen.

3. PLAN AHEAD

“The best way to deal with stress is to anticipate it,” says Stults-Kolehmainen. Stressful situations we don’t anticipate — and especially ones we can’t control — tend to have the worst effects.

One of the reasons we often feel stressed out, emotionally or mentally, isn’t really because of stress, it’s because we didn’t plan ahead. Sit down, says Eyal, and figure out what matters to you, what your priorities are, and then plan those into the calendar. But be honest, not everything can be a priority. “You probably have too many priorities,” says Eyal.

“People have more free time than ever,” Eyal says, so if we’re feeling stressed out, it may actually be that we’re using our time to do other things like watch TV or flip through Instagram. “Is it really stress or is it an excuse?”

4. COMPARTMENTALIZE YOUR WORRIES

Even if we’re great at planning, and we tackle all of life’s challenges with gusto, there are still days in this 24-hour news cycle where it can all just seem overwhelming. That’s when it’s time to compartmentalize.

“If you can’t do anything about it, you shouldn’t be worried about it,” says Eyal. If you can and want to do something about whatever you’re worried about, then do it. But if not, then it’s not worth worrying about, he says.

“You have to be able to park what’s going on in your life for the next two hours,” says Cohn. He’ll have athletes make a list of the things that are on their mind, set it aside — leave it in a locker room or the car — and then choose to focus on the task at hand. Know you can always come back to that list later.

Mindfulness can also be extremely beneficial in athletic performance, says Stults-Kolehmainen. More research is finding the simple the act of being present in the moment, with purpose, and letting thoughts pass without judgment, can make you perform better, faster, stronger.

5. DISCONNECT

OK, so you know it’s probably a good idea to put the phone down and stop refreshing Twitter, but you just can’t. Eyal has found two useful tricks that work for him.

He’s gotten out of the internet cycle of constant worry over the latest news by subscribing to one — and only one — actual paper newspaper. That way, he savors and enjoys it, and he doesn’t fear he might be missing something.

The other thing he does is called “temptation bundling” — pairing something you don’t want to do with something you want to do. He wants to stay engaged and online, but he doesn’t want it to take over his life. So he’s deleted Twitter from his phone and only lets himself log in on his desktop, which sits over a treadmill desk. That way he walks a few miles while getting his social media fix for the day.

Want an easy way to feel less stressed? Leave the smartphone at home and go outside!

The post We’re All Stressed Out, and It’s Affecting Our Workouts appeared first on Under Armour.

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Why Dried Beans Are Better Than Canned

Beans are one of the healthiest things you can eat. But canned beans may not be as healthy as you think.

Try this on for size: a standard, 3 1/2 ounce serving of boiled red kidney beans has only 2 milligrams of sodium. The same serving of canned red kidney beans has 231 milligrams of sodium — that’s almost 10% of your recommended daily sodium intake. There are other “fun” ingredients found in canned beans as well, such as calcium chloride, animal fats and sugars, which can alter beans’ nutritional value. High fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners are also commonly found in canned varieties, which drives calories up. A single serving of canned beans can have as many as 100 calories more than its dried counterpart. Probably not what you want when you open a can of a seemingly healthy food.


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The simple alternative is to buy dried beans and soak them. If you aren’t already doing this, here’s why you should start:

  • Un-soaked beans can take up to 60 minutes to cook, but soaking them first cuts the cooking time by as much as 70%.
  • Soaking preserves more of the nutrients in the bean, so that you get the benefit of all the protein, vitamins and minerals, while allowing the bean to become more digestible.
  • Soaking also allows beans to slowly absorb the liquid they need to cook evenly and completely, minimizing the chance that they’ll split open or lose their skins.

Added to all that, dried beans cost significantly less than canned beans, and they’re easy to store. There are no added ingredients or concerns about toxins leaching in from the lining of the can. With dried beans, what you see is what you get: beans. Dried beans also allow you to cook the beans with other flavors and to the texture you prefer, which is especially attractive if you don’t care for mushy beans.

Sure, nothing beats the convenience of opening a can, but soaking simply takes a little pre-planning. All you have to do is soak your beans in water overnight, drain them (to reduce the gas-causing complex sugars, don’t cook them in the soaking water) and simmer them in slightly salty water until tender to the bite.

Still not convinced? Luckily, not all beans need to be soaked. The softer categories of legumes like split peas, lentils and butter beans don’t need soaking to cook evenly.

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