Physical Activity: How Much Do You Need and Getting it Done in Less Time

Last month I attended a professional meeting , SCAN (Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics). The  program planners gave me a gift: they made incorporating some physical activity into my day easy by scheduling an early morning yoga class on the first day, and  early morning group runs on all the other meeting days. Horray for an organization that practices what it preaches!

Let’s face it, somedays it’s easier to find time to exercise  than other days and most people consider not having enough time in the day their single biggest  barrier. I tend to agree, and although I  enjoy exercise, I’m not immune from thoughts of  skipping it altogether when  I get overwhelmed with work, or even when I have other things I want to do,  like planting flowers and working in my yard .
However,  I know that some activity is better than no activity, and I feel I can maintain my  fitness goals with the  solution of decreasing  my overall time spent exercising , but increasing the overall intensity of my activity.

The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans conclude that most health benefits occur with a minimum of 150 minutes a week (2 hours 30 minutes) of moderate intensity physical activity, or  75 minutes  a week (one hour 15 minutes) of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity. In addition, muscle strengthening activities that are moderate to high intensity and involve all major muscle groups  should be incorporated twice a week.

When work piles up and deadlines loom,  or  when I just want more time to enjoy my favorite hobbies,  I exercise harder, but  spend less overall time exercising. For example,  if I’m doing  strengthening exercises, I  limit the time between sets.  I can accomplish a 30 minute workout in 20 minutes, and keep my heart rate elevated as well. This strategy not only increases my efficiency, it’s one of the ways I  believe I ‘ve been able to reduce my fit age. One final thought before I close,  remember to integrate nutrition and  training by properly fueling prior to  exercise. A high carbohydrate snack is usually just the burst of energy I need to power through a vigorous workout.  Coming soon, my  favorite pre-workout snacks.)



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Salad for One to Save the Earth

When you’re too full to finish a meal, what do you do? If you’re like most of us,  the scraps on your plate often end up in the trash can. What seems routine and normal is actually part of a gianormous problem:  food waste. Estimates indicate Americans waste  between 10 to 15 % of the food they buy and more than half a pound of food per person is sent to the landfill everyday.  In Honor of Earth Day, April 22, the Recipe Redux is asking members to  show how they reduce food waste. Here’s the challenge: Whatever you would normally toss, use it up. Share tips for reducing food waste in meal planning, prep or using up scraps.

I consider myself reasonably thrifty when it comes to cutting food waste by shopping with a grocery list,  purchasing what I know I’ll  be able to use up in a timely manner, and trying to use the entire vegetable (even the part that usually gets tossed) as in my Cast Iron Skillet Roasted Radishes with Brown Butter. But here’s where I  fail; sending scraps of food left on my plate down the garbage disposal. Geez. Today I’m sharing  

I’ve posted on mindfulness before, here and here. It’s my preferred  way to self regulate intake, and I encourage my clients to learn this skill as a strategy to reduce weight or maintain a healthy weight.  I my humble opinion,  the mindfull approach is also  a way to fight food waste. Wastefulness is a subconscious act; being mindful will help you think before throwing food away.

On Easter  Sunday, and I had a little more honey ham on my plate than I was able to finish. Instead of putting it down the garbage disposal, I wrapped it in piece of foil and  and stored it in the meat drawer of my refrigerator. The next day I used  it in a  salad made with the few ingredients I had on hand: Romaine lettuce, radishes, and dried cranberries. A homemade honey mustard vinaigrette set off the taste of the ham in this simple salad.  The recipe is below if you would like to recreate it , but more importantly, when you’re too full to finish a  meal, don’t waste it! Put it in a resusable container in the refrigerator,  and eat it the next day. Even amounts that  aren’t enough for a meal can make terrific snacks.


Salad for One

by Diane Boyd

serves 1 Prep Time: 10 minutes


  • 2 cups fresh salad greens
  • 2 sliced radishes or any raw crunch vegetable
  • 1 tablespoon dried cranberries
  • 1-3 ounces cold leftover ham or other scraps of food leftover from a previous meal

for the Honey Mustard Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt,
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil


1. Arrange salad greens on plate and top with radishes, dried cranberries, and chopped ham.

2. Whisk together ingredients for Honey Mustard Vinaigrette and drizzle on top of salad. Toss and serve immediately.

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Soft Baked Zucchini Bread Cookies

Soft baked zucchini cookies are not only a terrific  simple dessert, they’re one of my favorite pre-workout snacks.Staying consistent with a healthy lifestyle is important;   it’s not what you do once in awhile thats affects your health, it’s what you do on most days. My philosophy for better nutrition is eating in a way that  balances the goals of health with eating for pleasure. I do this  by  including the nutrient rich foods  my  body needs, without sacrificing enjoyment. I often modify recipes to boost the nutritional  value and still maintain taste. Like these..soft caked cookies  made with a combination of both white flour and white whole wheat, and  cutting back on total fat by substituting nonfat Greek yogurt.   When I ran the  nutritional profile (see below) I realized they meet the criteria I use for an pre-workout snack:

100-200 calories 24-40 grams carbohydrate, ≤ 5 grams fat, ,≤ 5 grams fiber, ,≤ 10 grams protein.

My family prefers cookies for dessert over almost anything. I’m glad they do, because  cookies are already portioned, and  they can be combined with other nibbles like  a piece of dark chocolate and a few dried apricots.  After dinner or pre-workout, these soft baked zucchini cookies are sure to please.
Nutritional profile: Each cookie is one hundred calories and 2.5 grams fat, 0 grams saturated fat, 0 grams trans fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 11o mg sodium, 17 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 8 grams sugar and 2 grams protein.


Soft Baked Zucchini Cookies

by Diane Boyd

Ingredients (3 dozen)

  • 1 pound zucchini (about 2 medium)
  • 1 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups 100% white whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 6 tablespoons cup canola oil
  • 6 tablespoons low fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract


1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. Trim stem and root end of zucchini. Using a box grater, grate zucchini. You should have about 3 cups.

3. Place the grated zucchini in a clean kitchen towel or several layers of cheese cloth and squeeze to press out as much liquid as possible.

4. Combine the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

5. In a separate bowl, whisk together eggs, sugar, oil, Greek yogurt and vanilla extract .

6. Add grated zucchini to dry ingredients. Pour liquids over the top. Gently stir and fold just until no more flour is visible.

7.Drop cookie dough by rounded tablespoons onto parchment lined baking sheets.

8. Bake about 10-15 minutes, or until edges are firm. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

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Sheet Pan Kale and Egg Bake

Nutrient rich,  ready in 15 minutes and  under 300 calories this sheet pan kale and egg bake is just as good for dinner as it is for breakfast.

It’s probably safe to say,  you ‘re as happy as I am to be welcoming Spring! Who doesn’t like blooming shrubs, greener grass, warmer weather,  longer days, and ..spring cleaning? Did I just say cleaning?  UGH,  sorry, we don’t like cleaning, do we?  But maybe we can agree that  we do love the results of time spent tossing out and tidying up. The Recipe Redux must feel me,  because they’re  challenging us with a Spring Cleaning Theme:

Cook with at least 3 ingredients that are actually in your pantry right now. Try not to go to the store to buy anything new. Give tips to make a healthy dish with whatever you have on hand.

Here’s the story behind how I completed the March challenge. Last Friday was extraordinary. The kind of day that rarely happens, I was home alone knocking out projects that were long overdue #springcleaning.  As the day wore on, I was working up a big appetite, and the urge to go to the grocery store was mounting, especially because I had nothing planned for dinner (yep it happens ).   I resisted putting an end to my productive day, not knowing  when I would have time (or motivation) to return to the mundane tasks I was undertaking.

After peeling off the last  remaining old  wall paper that was hung in the bathroom once used by my two children,  I headed  to my kitchen  to prepare a healthy meal for two, without a trip to the grocery store.  It began with a simple 3 step inventory of what I had on hand.

   First, I searched for protein. (Read why I’m a stickler for having 20-30 grams of protein per meal). Nothing left in my freezer; there was a can of tuna and a can of pinto beans in the pantry and a carton of eggs,  milk, cheese in the refrigerator.  Ok I can work with that.

2. Second, show me the  veggies?(remember, healthy meals are served with half the plate full of vegetables). I did have few frozen packages of vegetables  in the freezer and  half  head of kale (that was beginning to wilt) in the refrigerator .

3. Finally,  I looked  something to round out the meal,  carbohydrates, preferable whole grains, ( here’s what i found: brown rice, quinoa, and a day old half of a whole wheat baguette.)

After the rudimentary inventory, I picked items that were most perishable in each group:  the eggs, kale and baguette were winners, and that

 my friends, is how this breakfast for dinner meal came to be..

 40% daily value for calcium, 80% daily value for vitamin A, 70% daily value for vitamin C, 15% daily value for iron. This meal is low in carbs (4 grams per serving), so I was glad I had the baguette and I also  added a glass of orange juice  for a satisfying meal without leaving the house.  What tips to you have to get a healthy meal on the table with what you have on hand? 

Please see the links below to see how my colleagues are meeting the challenge of  making a meal with what’s on hand. Happy Spring! Sheet Pan Kale and Egg Bake

by Diane Boyd

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2  garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 2 ounces shredded Parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a pan sheet pan with cooking spray and set aside

2.Toss chopped kale with oil, lemon juice and garlic and sea salt. Massage with hands to coat thoroughly. Spread kale on baking sheet.

3. Make 4 holes in layer of kale .

4. Separate egg and place white inside of hole made in kale. Lay yolk on top of egg white. Repeat with remaining eggs.

5. Place baking sheet in oven and bake until eggs are firm, about 5 to 10 minutes.

6. Remove sheet pan from oven. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

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How Periodization Helped Me Reduce my Fit Age

Do you do the same exercise rountine day in and day out?  I was once guilty of this, until I learned how to periodized my training and I believe it’s helped me reach my fit age, 25 years younger than my biological age!

It  refers to cycling various aspects of training during a specific period, and the aim is :

1. to peak for your most competitve events

2. to avoid injury from too much training.

3. to make measurable progress.

Because  I have few events that I train for, I periodize my training  primarily for the last two points . Let me step back and review how I developed my present fitness… Twenty-five years ago, before the birth of my children, I ran daily. It was monotonous, the same distance and same pace e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y.  By the time I  turned 35 years old, (and in-spite of being slender),  I  was beginning to notice fat where I once had muscle.  Like most women, I complained to my husband *sigh*. He clamly explained I was experiencing age related muscle loss or sarcopenia, and he reassured me it was reversible! That was music to my ears!  The  solution, he promised, was strenth training.  I immediately started lifting; my routine was  light weights and 100’s of reps. Sadly,  I was spending long hours in the gym, until my knight in shining armor once again saved me from myself : ( .  He taught me the basics of  periodized, high volume resistance training (volume=total amount of weight lifted per session).  I began to learn a variety of different exercises using weights that  fatigued my muscles faster (with only 5-6 reps and 5 sets).  I  also use  nutrition to maximize my strength gains which   includes eating  regular meals containing 20 to 30 gram of protein about every 4 hours. My muscle tone is now better than it was when I was in my twenties. I have gradually progressed to using less machines and more free weights and body weight exercises such as chin ups, pull ups and dips. ( As I have increased my strength, I have thought about more powerlifting, but feel I need to work on technique before going there.)

Periodization generally  looks at a big picture: the whole year. However,  I focus on a shorter period, a mesocylce,  where I try to exercise a baseline with interment intensity of training  and distances somewhat dependent on my work/life schedule demands for that particular week or month. There are times when I’m not working out my hardest,  but  keeping a  baseline of activity gives me a break and allows me  to gear up for more challenging activities when they arise.  Right now my baseline training  looks like this:  2- 4 mile run daily, 2 days/week weight training, and trying  to incorporate  a new activity (yoga) several times a week to increase my  flexibility  and enhance my  core strength. My goal is to eventually be  able to pick up the pace and caliber of  increased demands and   higher volume goals (powerlifting?) and also take on new challenges that may comeup unexpectedly.

Periodization has helped me reach my fitness goals  and it keeps me energized. I believe  it has also  helped me reduce my fit age by allowing me to be consistent with activity by  allowing for adequate rest necessary to avoid injury and  keep me from burning out.  I like the flexibiltiy it offers so I can take advantage of runs that are purely for fun and enjoyment. Here’s a snippet of one of those spontaneous runs that occured Sunday when we experienced a rare March snow on the coast of North Carolina. Enjoy!



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