Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sprouts Farmers Market

Happy May to you! And happy May to West LA, because we have a new grocery store!

Today I (along with a few other local bloggers and media) got to tour the new Sprouts Farmers Market, located on Westwood Boulevard, just north of Sepulveda. Surprisingly, I've never shopped at a Sprouts, though they've popped up all over Southern California in recent years.

The tour today provided a sneak peak at the lovely store and a chance to ask some questions about how Sprouts stocks its shelves.

First, Sprouts is called "Sprouts Farmers Market" because they try to emulate a sense of shopping at a local farmers market, hence the wooden crates and fairly natural light.

Sprouts emphasizes that their specialty is produce, and they certainly do host a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Our lovely "tour guide", Lauren, offered tons of fun facts about the rest of the store too...

Tomorrow the store is hosting a huge grand opening and has crazy sales throughout the store.

Sprouts, like many grocery stores, has their own brand of some foods. We each received a goodie bag today, and these wafers were delicious!

Lauren called this label the "three Nos" - No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives. 

Perhaps my favorite part of the store: a bulk spice section, so if you don't want a full jar of a spice you can just grab what you need.

Tons of coffee options, including free samples.

The bulk section truly impressed me--especially the bulk whole wheat flour! Have you ever heard of such a thing?

LOVE this idea--small blocks of cheese to try something new!

A refrigerated bread section for specialty breads and sprouted breads.

A culture I can definitely agree with!

A deli and soup section, complete with Boar's Head meats.

A HUGE Vitamins section--I'm already eager to head back and buy some daily multivitamins, because they have such a wide selection.

(I included this sign partially for an inside joke--my family and our family friends always tell this silly joke about a guy named Arty who murders three people and is paid a buck for it, and then the paper the next day says, "Arty Chokes Three for a Dollar").

Other highlights:

  • A bakery, a meat counter with custom-cut meats, and alcohol (coming soon).
  • Foods for every lifestyle, from gluten free to vegan to carnivores to splurges.
  • A wide range of options for most foods so you can select the brand you like.
  • NO loyalty card required--same price for everyone (hallelujah!).
And my honest opinion, based only on my first impression: I love it! I am thrilled to have another grocery store close to our home, and I really can't wait to go back and scour the shelves for all the foods I really love. I already noticed some of my favorite brands, which I can normally only find at specialty stores or Whole Foods:

Overall, I'd say Sprouts is a cross between Trader Joe's and Whole Foods. It has the wide selection and variety of Whole Foods but the awesome prices of Trader Joe's. I imagine I'll still frequent the actual farmers market for most of our produce, but I'm excited to make use of Sprouts' packaged goods that I normally can't find at Trader Joe's.

Our swag bags! So generous of Sprouts to offer some samples. :-) 

Scout had fun with that one...

To find a Sprouts Farmers Market near you, check out their locations. I had a wonderful experience today and look forward to sharing about future visits!

What's your favorite grocery store and why?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Back, Biceps & Legs Strength Workout

My incredibly fit husband mentioned recently that he's ready to incorporate some additional strength training into his workout routine, and of course I was thrilled to write up some new workouts for him. 

Honestly, I would absolutely complete this same workout if I wasn't in the middle of boot camp. But since a lot of the workouts I create are more focused on stabilization and strength endurance, I thought this one would be a welcome change, especially for anyone seeking some bulk.

In my NASM training, I learned about the three aspects of resistance training: stabilization, strength, and power. Within the strength phase, an emphasis on muscle size is called hypertrophy. I created a hypertrophy workout that left Terry feeling fatigued.

Some form cues:

I hope it's a tough one for you! Get ready for some bulging biceps!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Science and Food at UCLA

Last week, Terry and I took an opportunity to check out a lecture, part of UCLA's series about Science and Food. The program, called "Edible Education", featured a short introduction by life scientist Amy Rowat, a detailed lecture from Chef Alice Waters, and a panel discussion with Dr. Wendy Slusser and Chef David Binkle.

The night began with an introduction from Amy Rowat, a UCLA researcher in the Life Sciences department. Her focus was eating seasonally--and my goodness, am I convinced! Later this week I'm hoping to provide more information on how exactly to go about eating seasonally and why I'm ready to dive in.

Though it's a tough call, I think my favorite part of the night was Chef Waters' talk about Fast Food Values and Slow Food Values. She explained that we live in a "Fast Food Culture," a term borrowed from Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation. Her emphasis was that a fast food culture values:

  • uniformity (everything should look, taste, feel the same--a loss of cultural differences)
  • efficiency (speed over quality)
  • availability (constant access, as opposed to eating seasonally locally)
  • cheapness (if you're paying less than the full value of something, someone is getting cheated somewhere)
  • more is better (increased volume, but it's really just the illusion of choice--in most cases, all "choices" are the same or are from the same large company)
  • misused terminology (what does "natural" mean? and "sustainable"? we don't have standards for these terms)
  • dishonesty (a willingness to lie in order to increase profits)
The counter force, naturally, is a slow food culture, which values:
  • tradition (thinking back to how our ancestors ate)
  • brightness (think brightly colored produce and bright sunshine)
  • integrity (doing the right thing, even if the right thing is paying more or not earning as much)
  • true economy (focus on value instead of getting a deal)
  • honesty (being forthcoming and open about your products)
  • beauty (acknowledging the beauty in nature and not messing with it to create new foods!)
  • love (appreciating each other and enjoying each other's company, especially over a meal)
  • creativity (finding new perspective)

I also liked that Chef Waters related all these food ideas to other topics as well: education, work, healthcare, communication, and politics, to name a few. She illustrated how the fast food culture has changed so much of the rest of our society, and how a slow food culture could benefit virtually the entire world.

Upon arrival at the event, everyone received a little box with food samples: a hearty slice of banana bread, a big sweet potato muffin, and an orange slice.

Chef David Binkle addressed those samples later in the evening and explained that they are actual options for students at LAUSD. Chef Binkle is working to change the culture of food in Los Angeles's public school system and has made major progress, including:

  • shifting away from additives and preservatives
  • increasing use of local foods (I think he said about 70% of foods in LAUSD are from within 200 miles of Los Angeles)
  • working with companies to change their foods in order to serve higher quality meals to the students
I felt so inspired and uplifted listening to Chef Binkle. As a public high school teacher, I often feel as though there are issues in education too big to tackle. But Chef Binkle took a huge issue--feeding healthier meals to 600,000+ students daily--and made some major changes in just a few years. I'm thrilled that LAUSD found a chef, not a politician, to implement these changes and ensure that the students are eating quality ingredients every day.

The final panelist was Dr. Wendy Slusser, a pediatrician and integral part of the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative. Aside from officially making UCLA a smoke-free campus this week (the first UC to do so!), the Healthy Campus Initiative aims to "make the healthy choice the easy choice". Here's how they're making that magic happen:
  • at the new dining hall at UCLA, the choices are seasonal, healthier, and prepared with minimal additives
  • new Fiat Lux courses (one-unit seminar classes offered to first year students): Nourishing Emotional Health through Creative Process and Nutrition and Body Image Life Skills (the second one was actually offered when I was a student also and is creatively subtitled "Cosmo Thinks You're Fat? Well I Ain't Down with That")
  • medicinal herbs garden at the UCLA hospital
Dr. Slusser also talked about "getting back to Julia Child," so you know I was totally smitten with her. But she also emphasized the importance of internal vs. external cues (the size of the plate, using all five senses to experience your meal) and breastfeeding for infants (as a pediatrician, this point was particularly close to her heart).

Looking back on the evening, one point that stood out to me above many others was from Chef Waters. She said that we need to focus on good taste. When food tastes good--fresh, seasonal, local, ripe--it is more satisfying. When we are already satisfied, we don't continue eating because we're not looking for more. Bland, overprocessed, generic foods lack that flavor and genuine satisfaction that should come from eating a delicious meal.

Overall, the night was extremely educational and fascinating. It reinforced some ideas I've already been learning about and also provided some new insights. I'm excited that so many people--at least two hundred--were there to hear about such an important topic. I'm eager to learn as much as I can about the food I eat, so I'm happy to see I'm not the only one by any means!

The Science and Food series, hosted by the UCLA Life Sciences department, has another lecture next month: The Science of Pie. I'm seriously considering going to that one, too, though the topic is obviously not about food reform but instead about delicious pies and the famous pastry chefs who make them!

If you could attend a lecture on any topic, what would you choose? I think I'd go for something about fitness--perhaps recent trends and what is most effective and why. 

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Learning to Love My Greens

I've wanted to write this post for a long while now, mostly because it shows how even the most stubborn little girls can grow up to become quite healthy (though still quite stubborn) women. So settle in for a tale I like to call "The Girl Who Refused to Eat Her Green Beans."

It happened about once or twice a month. I'd walk into the kitchen, and Mom would ask for help trimming the stems off the green beans. At some point during the oddly satisfying task of ripping the heads off the skinny little demons, I'd start to plot how exactly I would get away with not actually eating them.

One time, the night of The Refusal, I had apparently decided that I'd had enough. Who the hell did these people think they were, trying to force me to eat string beans? I would simply not eat them. As dinner wound down, Dad pointed out that I hadn't touched the veggies. (I should note here that my father is the source of my gift of sarcasm, and in this circumstance his snarky comments only fueled the fire for what was to come. I'm not faulting him for The Incident, but there were two of us at that table.) I continued to ignore the pile of mucus-colored tubes, though they stared at me throughout the meal. I remember feeling smug, defiant, and anxious as hell.

The thing is, I wasn't exactly opposed to all vegetables. Most, yes. But I didn't mind salad, and corn was its own food group in my diet.  I could munch on celery and carrots and had no aversion to potatoes. I could eat onions and peppers without too much complaint, and the heads of broccoli (don't you dare mention the disgusting, chewy stems)--when smothered in Squeez Cheez--tasted just fine.

But green beans... It wasn't just that they didn't taste good. It was the rubbery texture and the way they squeaked as I chomped down on them. It was the way the bean and the pod mashed together and somehow tasted flavorless and horrible simultaneously. It was the gag reflex they ignited every time I tried to swallow. I hated those damn green beans.

So as my brother was excused from the table and Mom started to pack up leftovers, I asked to get down. Inevitably--what did I think was going to happen?--I was trapped. Dad sat back as he always did after dinner, his right ankle resting on his left leg, and stared at me as I faced my reality: I was going to have to eat these beans.

One by one, I miserably chewed and gagged and choked through my tears. I tried to negotiate--"How about just one more?"--to no avail. I cried and pouted and mumbled about how unfair it was. Dad sat there patiently, unaffected by my impressive display of despair, and an hour later I finally finished the last damn bean.

Despite this obvious case of child abuse, I survived The Incident, and my relationship with vegetables has evolved to a point where I daresay I like them. And as someone who hated vegetables so vehemently for so long, I would be doing a disservice if I proceeded any further into writing this blog without sharing some of my wisdom for how to like your greens more.

1. Find a preparation method that you actually like--sadly, deep fried doesn't count. I think my mom is a brilliant cook, and I still call her for cooking advice, but she almost always steamed our green beans. For me, I've found that roasting my veggies with just a touch of olive oil, salt, and pepper makes a huge difference in flavor.

To Roast Vegetables: Chop into similar sizes (you can roast multiple vegetables all at once)--either cubes or slices. Toss with just a bit of olive oil (1-2 tablespoons, depending on how many vegetables you're roasting), salt, and pepper. Then spread on a sheet pan (avoid too much overlap to ensure even cooking) and roast at 400 degrees. Depending on the vegetable, you might need anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, so check your oven once in awhile until the veggies are slightly crisp on top and lightly browned.

2. Find veggie-packed recipes of foods you already enjoy. Some of my favorites:

3. It's okay to not like them all...just find several that you do like. Try some new stuff! Vegetables are tastiest when in season, so find ripe options at your local farmers' market. Once you find one you like, search online or ask around for similar flavors. If you like sweet potatoes, you might be a fan of other root vegetables. If you like zucchini, squash might be the way to go. 

4. If all else fails, hide your own vegetables. I can't wait to use this trick on my kids someday. Sneak spinach into your smoothies, zucchini into muffins, and cauliflower into pasta dishes. You can't taste the difference, and you're getting a serving or more of a nutrient-dense vegetable!

So if I can do it, you can do it. Let's find ways to eat more vegetables. And you better believe I'm bracing myself for a child who doesn't like vegetables--you know what they say about karma.

What's your favorite vegetable? Your favorite prep method for veggies? You favorite veggie-packed recipe? Share below!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

My Favorite Lower Body Exercises & WIAW

Despite a terrific first few weeks of Best Body Boot Camp, I still love and miss creating my own workouts. Tina's program is super flexible, so I have room to add or swap out workouts whenever I want. Good thing, too, because I've been craving a Tabata workout lately and might create one this weekend!
Meanwhile, today I got to thinking about my favorite lower body exercises. In lieu of an actual workout, I thought I'd just share a few tough moves with you!

One-Leg Deadlifts (Source) - Hardcore hamstring and balance work

Talk about getting your heart rate up while toning!

180 Squat Jumps (Source - Shape.com) - Awesome functional workout and a total booty blaster

Walking Lunges (Source) - A classic for a reason

Clams (Source) - An ideal low-impact exercise to strengthen the gluteus minimus and medius and hip muscles - my friend Heidi (a physical therapist) showed me this exercise when I was recovering from my foot surgery

Plie Squat (Source) - Inner thighs, hips, quads...I love it all!

Of course, I could go on and on, but these ones really hit the absolute top of my list. I love that shaky leg feeling from a solid lower body workout, and these exercises are sure to make that happen! For a full workout, check out one of the tough lower body workouts below:

Have fun!!!

And now for today's meals: 
Check out the other WIAWs!

6:30 am - Breakfast - Egg sandwich (doesn't that egg look fake?)

Whole wheat toast, fried egg, cheddar cheese, and raspberry jam

10:00 am - Snack - Applesauce and peanut butter 

We were out of yogurt (and out of pretty much everything else in the house), so I rolled with it. Not terrible but not something I'll likely try again. I missed the creamy yogurt!

1:00 pm - Lunch - Whole wheat pasta, marinara sauce, and broccoli (leftovers from last night)

Would you believe I DIDN'T have a snack?! I don't know what is wrong with me. Actually, it was likely because there really just isn't anything to eat in the house right now, and I raced home to grade instead of going to the store.

6:30 pm - Dinner - Wahoo's! Terry stopped to pick up dinner because I am knee deep in grading like a madwoman. I had the Bonzai bowl - grilled fish, veggies, and brown rice. Plus a Stella!

8:15 pm - Dessert - Salted caramel brownie square with caramel swirl ice cream

There's a good chance I'll eat another something before bed, because I'm still feeling a bit hungry. Terry was generous enough to go to the store this evening and picked up apples, grapes, and oranges, so at least we have some healthy options around here!

Another delicious day done, and another workout scheduled for tomorrow morning. It's a cardio day for Best Body Boot Camp, and I can't wait!

What are your favorite lower body exercises? Do you like working your lower body or do you prefer upper?