Tired of giving the same old humdrum gifts every year? Or feeling a bit unsure about what to give—friends, loved ones, co-workers? Look no further than these stay-fit, stay-healthy, and stay-inspired gift suggestions (see below)! We put these ideas together based on the things we’d love to get (hint, hint!). Hope you enjoy…and remember: it’s not about the how much you spend, but the thought that counts!
You know when Starbucks—the king of coffee—buys a tea brand like Teavana, and opens the first Tea Bar in Manhattan, tea is going to be the next big thing. Or maybe it is already, if you look at the stats from the Tea Association of the U.S.A. which says that on any given day, more than 158 million Americans are drinking tea. But there are plenty of reasons you should be one of them; here are the four top ones:
1) Tea—particularly green tea—may help prevent cancer. The magic number: three to five cups a day, according to a 2009 review of 51 green tea studies conducted by the Center of Integrative Medicine at the University of Witten/Herdecke in Germany. Research has focused on the fact that tea is rich in disease-fighting polyphenols, specifically catechins that appear to have cancer-fighting and health-promoting properties. (Green tea is particularly rich in catechins.) What’s the big deal about these? Polyphenols are thought to rid the body of harmful molecules known as free radicals, which can damage a cell’s DNA and may trigger cancer and other diseases.
Note: if you don’t like the bitter taste of green tea, try white tea. This tea is also high in antioxidants but has a more mellow, sweeter flavor than green teas. (Note that herbal brews, like chamomile and peppermint, are not technically considered tea; they’re infusions of plants. Tea is technically black, green, white, or oolong teas—all of which are made from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant.)
2) It may lower your risk of Parkinson’s
Disease. Drinking up to four cups of green or black tea daily has been linked with a lower risk of Parkinson’s disease (a progressive disease of the nervous system), according to the National Institutes of Health.
3) It may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Black and green tea have been linked to a reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. One Japanese study, in particular, found that adults who drank five or more cups of green tea daily had a 26 percent reduction in heart attack or stroke death when compared with those who had one cup or less. What’s more: the benefit seemed to be greater in women than in men.
4) It can reduce stress. That’s because the very ritual of sitting down for a cup of tea is relaxing. ”If you look at different cultures, like Japan and China, they have a very elaborate ritual for the taking of tea,” says Nancy Baker, founder of AnaBeall’s tea room in Westfield, New Jersey. “We look at tea differently than coffee; you don’t hear about coffee rituals” [unless your idea of a ritual is grabbing a cup of joe to go!].
From Teavana’s newest Manhattan outpost to small tea rooms like AnaBeall’s or Alice’s Tea Cup (which has various locations throughout New York City), you’re sure to find a spot to relax and de-stress. We got a chance to visit Alice’s Tea Cup—which boasts over 100 exclusive teas—from black and green tea to red and white blends—from around the world (not to mention Alice in Wonderland effects), as well as an amazing brunch. (All food is served on a three-tiered silver platter, and tea, in a personal-sized, colorful teapot.) If you’re looking for a sweet savory brunch with a delicate, Victorian ambiance, Alice’s Tea
Cup will make you feel like you’ve stepped inside the page of a fairy-tale! (Kate Holmes—and Suri—are fans.)
Our favorite teas at Alice’s: Drink-Me-Detox Tea, which is white tea blend with Pai Mu Tan, Silver Needle, Jasmine, and white teas with organic Rooibos, mixed together for a subtle brew; Alice’s Birthday Tea, which is described as a classic blend of black teas with tropical fruits and flowers; and Tranquil Tummy Tea, which is a blend of red teas with organic ginger, and peppermint. Alice’s Tea Cup’s has three locations: 102 West 73rd St, 156 E. 64th st, and 220 East 81st St.
Wherever you decide to have your cup of tea—know that it’s good for your health (unless you eat too many scones along with it!).
It’s not hard these days to come across “gluten-free” labels—in your grocery store and in delis and restaurants around the country. And with the recent standardization of gluten-free labeling by the Food & Drug Administration, you’re sure to see even more products being labeled gluten-free moving forward.
Why it matters: almost 30 percent of Americans are avoiding or eliminating gluten from their diet—many because it just makes them feel better and many others for medical reasons.
An estimated three million Americans suffer from something called Celiac Disease—a genetic autoimmune disease that damages the small intestine, and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food when gluten (the protein in wheat, barley, and rye) is eaten. (If you suspect you might have problems digesting gluten, ask your doctor to be tested.)
For those with Celiac Disease—just like those who have a nut allergy—flours, doughs, pastas, and any products containing gluten, can’t touch (or even mix with) gluten-free foods because it would cross contaminate them. Some people even suffer from airborne Celiac Disease, which can be particularly dangerous if food—particularly in a restaurant—isn’t prepared properly.
And therein lies the problem, says Alice Blast, founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Many chefs and foodservice providers remain unprepared and uneducated on how to provide gluten-free food that’s safe, says Blast, who has Celiac Disease herself. (Blast did not find out she had Celiac Disease until she was trying to get pregnant—one reason she wrote the article, “Celiac Disease and Reproductive Health Issues.”)
That’s the reason Blast has spearheaded a Great Kitchens‘ 10-City Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour , which recently kicked off in NYC at Iron Chef finalist Jehangir Mehta’s restaurant, Mehtaphor, located in TriBeca. The aim of this tour: to educate people, the media, and restaurants about what exactly gluten free is—and the importance of having gluten-free options available to those with Celiac Disease.
We got a chance to catch up with Chef Mehta, who is passionate about the importance of having gluten-free options on the menu. Here are his tips on eating gluten free:
1) Eat foods naturally gluten free. “One of my core beliefs as a chef is that your health and your diet are inextricably tied,” says Mehta, who adds that naturally gluten-free foods are a great option. Many ethnic dishes, he says, are naturally gluten free because places such as Mumbai, where he grew up, use a lot of rices, beans, and spices, in place of the more expensive wheat and flour.
Other foods naturally gluten free are those that are healthier for you than processed foods. These include fresh fruits (like apples, oranges, berries, and pomegranates) and vegetables (like broccoli, spinach, carrots, and cauliflower). Keep in mind that canned fruits and vegetables aren’t always gluten free; you have to check the labels. (The more ingredients, the greater risk one of them contains gluten.) Single-ingredient frozen fruits and vegetables (and simple mixes, sans sauces) are also gluten free.
Also, just because the lettuce you’re eating is gluten free doesn’t mean the dressing is, particularly if it’s bottled dressing. Be safe, and make your own with extra virgin olive oil and wine or rice vinegar (both are gluten free)—but skip distilled white vinegar and malt vinegar, which are not gluten free.
Fresh meat and fish are also typically gluten free, but be aware of meats and fish that are ready-to-cook or in ready-to-eat side dishes. These may not be safe to consume as the store may use sauces or even bread crumbs with gluten. Also be careful around processed meats like hot dogs. Many brands, like Applegate, carry the gluten-free label—but never assume if you don’t see the label.
2. Make your own. Can’t get what you want from your grocery store or local restaurant, make it. If you’re motivated to make your own gluten-free pasta, Meta recommends using chickpea flour, water, and grapeseed oil along with eggs (and an extra yolk to give taste and texture).
For a list of gluten-free recipes you can make at home, click here and check out this Holiday Pinterest Board, too. Also download the Gluten-Free Cooking and Baking Essentials Checklist. (Also, check out this great gluten-free website with recipes from author Elana Amsterdam.)
3. Become a label reader—and stay educated. Know which brands produce gluten-free (and even dairy- and nut-free) products. (Click here, for a list of manufacturers.)
4. Frequent restaurants that take gluten-free seriously. There are plenty of restaurants like Mehta’s Mehtaphor that offer plenty of gluten-free options. Click here to search for local restaurants with gluten-free menus.
For a sampling of what we tried at Mehta’s Mehtaphor, as part of the Chef’s Table Tour, scroll below (all recipes are gluten free—and delicious!).
There are plenty of exercise trends that come and go—but one workout that’s sticking around for the long haul: bootcamp. And for good reason. These non-stop exercise classes torch calories, a lot of them (about 500 to 1,000 calories per class)—and fat—and improve overall strength and conditioning. And who doesn’t want that?!
It’s the non-stop part of these workouts that’s the hardest. Most times, you exercise at your own pace for however long you want—and then stop. That’s what gets boring—and prevents you from seeing the results you want. Bootcamp classes keep you moving constantly thanks to interval training and switching up between pretty intense cardio and weight training.
We got a chance to try two different ones—on the beach and in the gym. Here’s what to expect at both (and how to find one near you):
On the beach: Cheryl Herzog—a trainer and owner of Surfside Fitness in Avalon, NJ.—has been offering bootcamp on the beach for 10 years now.
The class may seem intimidating at first, but waking up to a run on the beach, watching the waves roll in can be amazing!
The calorie-crunching routine: The class kick starts with a sprint down a stretch of the sand bar and back, followed by jumping jacks, lunges, and shuffles, all moves to get the heart pumping! This was followed with stretching exercises; push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, and squats. Then we moved on to stations that had been set up on the beach: one was a loop of push ups, sit-ups, spider crunches, and jumping jacks, while the other included a medicine ball toss, kettle bells, sand sprints, and rope tugs.
“The sand adds an unbelievable element that requires more stability, more power, and more coordination in every movement,” Herzog said, adding: “We incorporate 40 percent cardio, 40 percent high intensity training, and
20 percent core and flexibility.” (Classes are $12 each; a 10-pack is $100.)
Indoors: Barry’s Bootcamp is one of the most well-known bootcamp franchises—with locations from West Hollywood to New York to London —and a celeb following that includes Jessica Biel, Katie Holmes, and even Kim Kardashion pre-Nori.
We got a chance to try it out at the Tribeca location in New York (1 York Street) with master instructor Natalie Raitano* (check out this woman’s sculpted body; if this is what bootcamp can do for your body, sign me up for the long haul!).
According to Raitano, the key to success during one of these 60-minute workouts is the 30-second blasts of cardio and the constant switching of activities that really keeps the body moving. Add to that some pretty intense music (click here to sample one instructor’s Spotify mix of hip-hop workout music), and you’ve got one pretty amazing workout.
The calorie-crunching routine: The first half of Raitano’s class, we were stationed on treadmills at a 3 percent incline, running at 6 mph for one minute (not easy!), then climbing to 7 and 8 mph for what’s called a “warm-up” (but is so much more than that). We continued in intervals for 20 minutes, all the way up to a 10 percent incline sprint! You will sweat, guaranteed.
As if that wasn’t enough, the second half of the class focused on strength training: side-step squats (over a raised step) with weights of 10 to 20 lbs, followed by lateral side lunges, quick feet, normal squats with weights, and finally resistance-band exercises, which targeted the glutes and thighs. These blasts of cardio mixed with weight training and resistance are very challenging, but also fun! This class literally kicks butt! (1 class, $34; 10 classes, $320.)
To find a bootcamp in your area, check with your local gym, click on active.com and search for workout bootcamps in your area, or just do a search for bootcamps in your own city or town. But before you sign up, check to see if there are any prerequisites—and if you’re concerned about whether you can handle a class, check with your doctor.
* Full disclosure: We got to take a free class, compliments of Chobani yogurt. No only did we get to burn calories and build muscle, we got to refuel afterward with a Peanut-Butter Chocolate Chobani Shake…not too bad!
Times have changed from when we used to joke about people who ate “nuts and berries”. Today’s athletes routinely enjoy nuts and berries and are now looking for ways to notch up their diets with more seeds (such as flax and chia). This trend can enhance the health of both our bodies—and the planet. That is, by choosing more plant foods, we’ll end up eating less meat and animal protein. If each of us were to eat just one less pound of beef per week, greenhouse gas emissions would drop significantly.
While seeds are health-enhancing choices to include in your diet, their nutritional value can sometimes get exaggerated. The following information offers a perspective on some “trendy” foods that are getting mainstreamed.
Nuts and Seeds
Want to add a nice crunch, along with vitamins and minerals, to your diet? Sprinkle some slivered almonds, chopped walnuts, pistachios, sunflower and sesame seeds into your yogurt, cereal, salad, and smoothie. Nuts and seeds offer protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, and many other nutrients. The fact that a plant grows from a nut or seed indicates it is life sustaining.
Many nuts and seeds offer alpha linoleic acid, also known as ALA, a type of health-protective omega-3 polyunsaturated fat. While ALA from plants is not as potent as the type of omega-3s found in fish, any omega-3 fat is better than none. But dieters beware! When you nonchalantly toss a few spoonfuls of nuts and seeds into your smoothies and salads to pump up their nutritional value, you can also easily toss in 100 to 400 calories. While vegans may need this protein and calorie boost, if you’re weight-conscious, you might want to think twice.
Comparing Seeds and Nuts This chart shows how 1/4 cup of nuts and seeds (two spoonfuls or a large handful) adds a lot of calories but minimal protein towards the daily target of about 60 to 90 grams of protein. Vegans still need additional plant proteins, like beans and tofu, to get enough protein.
|Seed¼ cup/30 g||Calories||Protein g||Fiber g||Calcium mg||Ironmg|
|Daily target:60-90 g||Daily target:25-35 g||Daily target:1,000 mg||Daily target:8 mg men18 mg women|
Flax seeds, commonly consumed for their ALA omega-3 fat benefits, need to be ground before being eaten. Otherwise, they pass through your intestines whole and undigested.
Chia seeds also offer ALA omega-3 fats—but you don’t need to grind them. Just sprinkle chia on yogurt and enjoy the crunch. When soaked in water for 10 minutes, chia seeds create a gel that can be used as a thickener for smoothies and as an alternative to eggs and oils in some recipes. The slimy consistency of soaked chia seeds can be tough to enjoy for some. If you fall into the “no thank you” camp, worry not. You have many other options for enjoyably consuming similar nutrients in other seeds and nuts.
Sunflower seeds have a mild, pleasing taste when added to salads, trail mix, or cold cereals. For people with peanut allergies, sunflower butter is a popular alternative to peanut butter.
Pumpkin seeds, also known as pepitas, are slower to eat when you buy them in the shell. This can save unwanted calories.
Hemp seeds are touted as containing all the essential amino acids. Hemp adds a protein-boost to vegan diets, but at a high price. Hemp seeds costs about $15 per pound, as compared to soy nuts, that also have all the amino acids, about $3.50/lb.
Sesame seeds have a gentle flavor and make a nice addition to stir-fried tofu or chicken. Although sesame seeds are touted as being calcium-rich, their calcium is poorly absorbed.
Chopped nuts, such as walnuts or slivered almonds, add a protein boost—but not as much of a protein bonus as many people think. If you ate half a cup of walnuts (two big handfuls), you’d get only 8 grams of protein. For the same calories, you could add 1.5 cups of cottage cheese to your salad and get five times more protein (40 grams).
Copyright Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD
This Super Spice Trail Mix includes a yummy combination of health-enhancing nuts, seeds, grain, and spices. Pack it into into little individual baggies for snacks, sprinkle it into yogurt, or add it to cold or hot cereal. It offers a really nice crunch and flavor boost to shredded wheat and other bland cereals. (I found this recipe at www.McCormick.com. The McCormick Spice website offers lots of really nice and flavorful recipes filled with herbs and spices.)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ginger
2 teaspoons paprika
3 cups nuts, such as a mix of almonds, shelled pistachios, and pecan halves
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup roasted pepitas (shelled pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup apple juice concentrate, thawed
1-1/2 cups dried fruit, suh as a mix of dried cherries, cranberries, and golden raisins
1. Preheat oven to 250°F. Mix brown sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and paprika in small bowl. Set aside.
2. Place nuts, oats, and pepitas in a large bowl. Add thawed apple juice concentrate; toss until nuts are evenly coated.
3. Sprinkle with spice mixture, tossing to coat well.
4. Spread evenly on two 15x10x1-inch baking pans. Bake 30 minutes, stirring halfway through cook time. Cool completely on wire rack.
5. Stir in cherries and raisins. Store in airtight container.
Yield 24 ¼-cup servings Approximate calories per serving 200