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So, what are whole grains anyway?

So, what are whole grains anyway?

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You walk into a grocery store and see a whole lot of wholes. Not to be mistaken for deep circular pits of doom that break apart long stretches of highway, 'whole grain' and 'whole wheat' products are food items labelled with numerous health claims and caveats. What should you buy? What are whole grains anyway? Are whole grain products even good for you? Let's take a step back and get a closer look.

Whole Grains vs. Refined Grains

Grains can either be whole or refined. Whole grain food essentially contains the entire seed of certain plants. To be classified as such, whole grain products need to contain all three parts of an individual grain kernel: the bran, endosperm, and the germ. These contain valuable nutrients and they're a major source of insoluble fibre, which can keep you fuller for longer and reduce cravings associated with having high blood sugar (no more midnight snacking)!  Refined grains don't have the germ or bran— think white Wonderbread and white sushi rice.  This means that refined products lack some of the nutrients that whole grain products have. What's more, refined grains are generally simple carbohydrates: they make your blood sugar go up and down faster than the tide at Huntington Beach. This induces cravings and it can even make you feel sluggish afterwards. Simple carbs are great if you need a quick burst of energy before a race, but they require minimal work for your body to digest.

 

Whole Grains vs. Everything Else

In some places, the distinction between whole grain and whole wheat becomes a bit tricky. Take Canada, for example. According to the Whole Grains Council, Canadians face a problem resulting from regulatory naming conventions: whole wheat flour can leave out as much as 5% of the original grain seed. What's more, multigrain and organic products might actually contain minimal to zero whole grains.  Whole grain products must contain 100% of the original grain seed.

Don't eat things you can't pronounce except quinoa (you should eat quinoa) // What are whole grains anyway? - The PumpUp Blog

How to make sure you get whole grains

Almost always sold as whole grains: Amaranth, buckwheat, bulgur, quinoa, millet, sorghum, teff.

What to look out for:

To be extra sure that you're eating whole grains, a general rule of thumb is to check if the word 'whole' prefaces the actual grain (ex: whole barley).

  • Barley should be hulled or whole barley, rather than pearl barley
  • Corn should not be 'degerminated'  if it is to be classified as a whole grain.
  • Farro should not be 'pearled'
  • Oats should be 'whole oats' or 'old fashioned oats'; instant or quick oats do have the same nutritional value, but they have a slightly higher glycemic load
  • Rice is generally considered a whole grain when sold as colored rice, such brown rice, wild rice, and black rice. White rice is a refined grain.
  • Rye should be listed as whole rye or rye berries. Rye bread may not necessarily be a whole grain product.
  • Spelt can be sold refined, so it make sure it appears on the ingredient list as whole spelt.
  • Wheat, when listed by itself, can refer to refined wheat. Look for whole wheat or (if you're in Canada), whole grain whole wheat.

So what are whole grains? We hope this helped clarify a few things! Let us know what your favorite whole grains are in the comments below! What is your favorite way to prepare whole grains?  Cover image via PumpUp member vegan_federica. Quinoa photo via Flickr.

The most mind-blowing smoothie hack ever : DIY Smoothie Packs

The most mind-blowing smoothie hack ever : DIY Smoothie Packs

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Prep in the name of love. We mean it. Frozen smoothie packs will change your life. When you need to rush out the door faster than you can sing the entire length of Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On, these smoothie packs will be a lifesaver. The last thing you want to do in the morning is to chop and peel oddly-shaped citrus fruits while you're half asleep. That's a health hazard. Reserve one day for smoothie prep: you'll have delicious and nutritious drinks for the rest of the week.

How to make DIY Smoothie Packs

Make sure that you mostly freeze produce in these bags. You'll be adding liquid, powders, nuts, and nut butters on the day that you decide to make the smoothies.

  1. Label freezer-safe plastic bags or Tupperware containers with smoothie ingredients and days of the week. Use permanent marker and masking tape to create simple labels.
  2. Chop ingredients up and portion them into your labelled bags.
  3. Store bags in freezer and blend on designated days of the week. If you need to add powders, seeds, water, or milk, add those in after you take the ingredients out of the freezer.

DIY Smoothie Packs - The best smoothie hack for busy mornings // the PumpUp Blog

Smoothie packs can be assembled in bulk. Think about the smoothies that you usually make on a weekly basis, portion out the produce ingredients, and label your bags or containers with whatever needs to be added to the smoothie afterward. Here are some great ideas for your smoothie inspiration.

DIY Smoothie Packs - The best smoothie hack for busy mornings // the PumpUp Blog

Let us know what your ideal smoothie pack would be in the comments below! Check out our #AliveJuly nutrition challenges here.  Cover photo via PumpUp member @rawincollege.

#AliveJuly - 4 weeks of nutrition challenges

#AliveJuly - 4 weeks of nutrition challenges

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Make nutrition your primary focus for the month of July. Live life in the present, live life in the fullest, and challenge yourself in new and exciting ways with #AliveJuly. To get you in the right mindset, we put together 4 complete weeks full of miniature nutrition challenges. Each day of the week has a different theme. You'll be challenging yourself creatively and you'll become more in tune with how your eating habits impact your overall wellbeing. Feel alive and well. Take the #AliveJuly challenge. Smoothie Sunday: New and exciting ways to spruce up your morning smoothies

Meal Prep Monday: Tips to make healthy meal preparation much easier for the rest of the week

Tasty Tuesday: Show off your culinary skills. Try your best to make healthy cooking a part of your lifestyle.

Willpower Wednesday: Give yourself permission to say 'no' to anything that doesn't serve you. Learn to eliminate or minimize your intake of salt, preservatives, and added sugar.

Try It Thursday: Try something new. Whether it's a new ingredient or a new way to eat, you'll push your boundaries.

Food Fact Friday: Learn more about yourself. Become more aware of your own eating habits and patterns. Identify what you're already doing well, and what you can improve upon.

Superfood Saturday: Some ingredients are nutrient-dense powerhouses. See if you can incorporate these superfoods into your diet at least once.

If you're participating in these nutrition challenges in July 2015, your starting date will be Sunday, July 5.

#AliveJuly 2015 4-week nutrition challenge and calendar by the PumpUp Blog

Check back on this page for more details about the nutrition challenges each week. We'll include weekly checklists, useful links, and more.  Use the #AliveJuly hashtag so that we can help you with the challenges! Link back to this page very easily by bookmarking bit.ly/alivejuly

Sign up for weekly email reminders about the challenge

We'll send you checklists for every week of our #AliveJuly nutrition challenges, helpful resources, and a care-package of motivation straight to your inbox! Subscribe here.

AliveJuly - four weeks of nutrition challenges (week one) // The PumpUp Blog

Week 1

Smoothie Sunday: Prepare and freeze smoothie ingredients into small containers or freezer-safe Ziploc bags! You'll never have an excuse not to drink a smoothie ever again. Bananas, kiwi, pitted fruits, and berries tend to be your best. Here are some great smoothie recipes to get you started! Check out our guide to DIY smoothie packs here.

Meal Prep Monday: What's in your grocery cart? Healthy choices start with your groceries. Try to stay away from pre-packaged food and ingredients as much as possible in order to reduce your sodium intake! Here are some great tips for healthy grocery shopping.

Tasty Tuesday: Cook with whole grains (not to be mistaken for whole wheat). Incorporate whole grains into your any of your dishes today to complete the challenge. Here's our useful guide to whole grains.

Willpower Wednesday: Say 'no' to added sugar! You might feel a difference in your energy levels afterward. Opt for fruit when sugar cravings hit you, or make healthy Homemade desserts like these vegan coconut energy bliss balls: 400g pitted dates, 5 tbsp cold coffee, 5 tbsp water, 5 tbsp melted coconut oil, 125g almond flour, 53g shredded coconut, 7 tbsp cacao powder, splash of vanilla extract. Blend dates with liquid ingredients, add in rest of ingredients, roll into balls and roll them around in the coconut.

Try It Thursday: A few extra veggies won't hurt! Add an extra veggie to your plate and share about how you felt on PumpUp. Here are some awesome vegan recipes that you can use for your inspiration.

Food Fact Friday: Become aware of when you eat. It might help you to identify times of the day when mindless snacking gets the best of you. Write it all down and share about it on PumpUp to keep yourself accountable. Are your eating patterns consistent? Irregular?

Superfood Saturday: Oh, quinoa. Everybody talks about it. Tons of people cook with it. Eat some quinoa today to complete the Superfood Saturday challenge. Name one fun fact that you learned about quinoa on PumpUp!

AliveJuly - four weeks of nutrition challenges (week one) // The PumpUp Blog

Week 2

Smoothie Sunday: A little greens ain't never hurt nobody! Add leafy greens to your morning smoothie in order to complete the #AliveJuly challenge of the day. If you're impartial to the taste of kale, try a more neutral vegetable like spinach.

Meal Prep Monday - An organized fridge will make it much easier for you to whip up healthy meals together in an instant. Cleaning out your fridge will also help you to identify which items of food you don't need. This is your opportunity to get rid of pesky guilty pleasures.

Tasty Tuesday: Go lean or go home. Opt for white fish or lean meat. If you're a vegetarian, eat tons of beans, nuts, and seeds. Protein will keep you much fuller for longer!

Willpower Wednesday: Put the chips down: excess salt consumption can lead to hypertension and bloating. You may not realize it, but several common grocery items (like cereal) contain tons of sodium. Dance it out, shake your body like a salt shaker, but go easy on consuming the actual mineral itself.

Try It Thursday: Try a new ingredient in your repertoire of meals! Explore the abundance that the Earth has to offer. Whether it's a fruit that you've never tasted or a spice that you haven't cooked with, be adventurous with your culinary skills today.

Food Fact Friday: Track your fiber intake. Lots of insoluble fiber can lower your cholesterol and combat cardiovascular disease! Oats and whole grains are a great way to up your fiber intake.

Superfood Saturday: Packed with tons of cancer-combating antioxidants, blueberries make the perfect on-the-go snack. Keep a few blueberries handy in a container for your snack, or garnish one of your meals with a generous handful of them.

Week 3

Smoothie Sunday: Give your smoothie a boost! Today, we're using hemp hearts. All you'll need are 5-7 strawberries, 2 frozen bananas, 1 cup of frozen mixed berries, 1 tbsp hemp seeds, and 1 cup of water. Find more recipes and a video of this recipe here.

Meal Prep Monday: Never tried meal prepping before? Start today! Make tomorrow's breakfast. You won't have any excuse not to start your morning the right way. Overnight oats are always a great idea for this.

Tasty Tuesday: Do you have a secret healthy ingredient that makes all of your dishes extra special? Whether you sneak zucchini into your brownies or flax seed into your smoothies, share about an ingredient that you love to add to your meals!

Willpower Wednesday: Minimize your processed food intake today and see how it impacts your energy levels. Highly processed food tends to contain a lot of salt, sugar, trans fat, and extra preservatives to increase their shelf life. Just say no. If you're craving french fries, make your own sweet potato fries instead!

Try It Thursday: Try a new recipe and broaden your horizons in the realm of food preparation! There are tons of healthy recipes waiting to be discovered from other PumpUp members, including smoothies, healthy summer snacks, and even a healthy summer potluck recipe guide.

Food Fact Friday: How many servings of fruits and veggies do you eat in a day? Are you eating enough? Too little? Be conscious of this and share about it on PumpUp!

Superfood Saturday: Get creative with chia! No, you won't need to grow a furry little chia pet. But you will need to incorporate the protein-packed and fibre-filled superfood into your diet. Chia pudding is a great way to start.

Week 4

Smoothie Sunday- Make a smoothie bowl and tag your recipes with #TeamPumpUp. You'll consume your smoothies more slowly and have more time to savour it. Check out these awesome smoothie bowl recipes

Meal Prep Monday- Now that you have a pretty decent grasp around how meal prep works, try to prepare all of your meals for tomorrow ahead of time! You won't have an excuse to not eat healthy if your meals are already laid out for you.

Tasty Tuesday- Post a photo of your favourite healthy meal. Are you great at making a particular recipe? Share it on PumpUp! Is there a healthy meal you love to eat at your favourite restaurant? Share that too! Check out these awesome ideas:

Willpower Wednesday- Late night snacking can get the best of us. Close the kitchen after dinner and see how you feel the next day! Your metabolism is much more active at the beginning of the day, rather than late at night when you're more sedentary.

Try It Thursday - Fill 1/2 your plate with greens and eat more veggies today! These edamame recipes will certainly help you to get your green on.

#AliveJuly 2015 4-week nutrition challenge and calendar by the PumpUp Blog

Share about these nutrition challenges on Instagram and PumpUp with this square version of the calendar.