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Tuesday
Jun302015

Inspiration from a Meta Memphian

Fabiola has made activities like cycling a priority in her daily routineStarting last October, Wellness Brand Meta sponsored four “Meta Memphians” as part of its partnership with the City of Memphis, Tennessee. They served as inspiration in the city as they made small changes in their lives to create a lifetime of healthy habits. The Meta Memphians received support from local nutritionists and personal trainers, took part in health screenings, and integrated Meta products into their healthier lifestyles.

I asked Fabiola, one of the Meta Memphians, to share her story. Fabiola grew up in a culture where family gatherings centered around food and eating rich meals. She later opened her own catering company, but found that years of heavy eating negatively affected her health, sparking her to prioritize her health and wellness. Since then, she has made an effort to incorporate physical activities like Zumba or bike riding and health-conscious eating into a daily routine. Fabiola’s ultimate goal is to keep her cholesterol and overall health in check!

Q: What kind of food did you grow up eating (you mentioned family gatherings)?

A: We ate very healthy homemade food, not processed. It was a Middle Eastern diet with olive oil, parsley, bulgur, homemade yogurt, seeds and nuts. Also there were Guatemalan foods like black beans, homemade tortillas, fresh squeezed orange juice and lots of tropical fruits (mango, papaya, bananas).

Q: What inspired you to open a catering company and what kind of food do you specialize in cooking?

A: I felt that if I was working long hard hours for someone else and giving them ideas and food recipes, I could do it for me. But what inspired me the most was a good friend who saw my cooking talent and dedication, and believed in me. It only takes one person to believe in you!

Q: What types of health problems did you eventually develop? 

A: My cholesterol was high but I controlled it by exercising. It has been low for over 10 years now. In fact my good cholesterol improved once I started incorporating physical activity.

Q: What types of lifestyle changes and small healthy habits have you been able to incorporate that are realistic for you? 

A: I think just being aware of what are my triggers. Taking the time to eat and not feel so rushed. Slowing down and thinking about what I really want to put in my body versus, "Hey I'm hungry, move out of my way or else!"

Q: As a cook and former "heavy" eater, is it a challenge to eat smaller portions and cook lighter meals?

A: Haha! That is a good one—"former heavy eater." I’m still working on it. Cooking healthy, lighter meals is not a challenge, but eating too much is. The challenge is that I wait too long to eat and am starving once I sit down, so I end up eating too much. The hunger is greater than common sense. To avoid this from happening, I try and snack wisely throughout the day. For example instead of going for the cookies I'll grab a Meta Health Bar in between meals, which helps satisfy my hunger as a healthy snack. 

Q: What is one healthy cooking tip you use? 

A: Keep it simple but with lots of fresh colors from different fruits and vegetables: reds, greens, yellows. It is easy to add color to any meal. This makes the food taste better and at the same time my family and I get important nutrients.

Q: What are your current challenges with maintaining this lifestyle, and how are you overcoming them?

A: The fact that I realized I needed help was huge. Information regarding nutrition and healthy eating can be in our heads, but that does not mean we will use it wisely. Being aware has made me realize that although I love my job and what I do, it gets a bit stressful and hectic, and I forget to please ME. I please everyone all around me to the best of my ability. I have over 200 bosses in any given day, and I try to please them all. The biggest challenge has been taking time to give to myself.

Q: How would you encourage people who are trying to be healthier to stay on track if they become discouraged along the way? 

A: I would talk to them as they were my best friend going through some tough times. I would say, “Girl/Dude take a deep breath, let’s analyze this situation. It may seem like the end of the world but it is not. We can do this, I am listening. By talking about it, you have found the answer yourself. Take baby steps and if you need to start again, then do so. Every day is different, and today you are talking to me. You are okay and I am here to see you shine and reach your goal.” And one more thing: remember to laugh and have fun in the process!

Fabiola is a great inspiration for everyone to take small steps on their health and wellness journey! To learn more about Meta, head to MetaWellness.com.

Disclosure: I've partnered with P&G on this sponsored post but the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more information at MetaWellness.com.

Wednesday
Jun102015

MetaBiotic: Good-For-You Bacteria

Chances are, you know what probiotics are and may even be using them. These microscopic bugs are naturally found in our bodies, by the trillions. They're dubbed "good" or "helpful" because they're believed to promote healthy digestion, which in turn supports a healthy immune system (did you know 70% of our immune system resides in our gut?). Although all healthy individuals house a balance of both good and bad bacteria, probiotics are also naturally found in high amounts in foods such as yogurt and kefir made with live cultures, fermented products such as kombucha and tempeh, and some vegetables including artichokes and leeks. Because some of the probiotics from these foods are destroyed during normal digestion, they're also available as high-dose supplements (some are still destroyed but enough survive to be beneficial).

Probiotic-rich foods

Supplements can be useful to replenish low levels of healthy bacteria that may occur in certain conditions, such as undergoing prolonged stress or an illness, using antibiotic medications, or eating a highly refined low-nutrient diet. These situations can produce symptoms of bowel troubles, gas and bloating. Doctors may suggest probiotic supplements for digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, constipation and diarrhea.

There are many types of probiotics, each with slightly different benefits. Two of the most common and well-researched strains are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. I was happy to see that P&G included a probiotic called MetaBiotic in their new line of Meta wellness products. It contains Bio-Active 12 (Bifidobacteriumanimalis), a patented strain of bacteria that helps to promote a healthy immune system* and maintain digestive balance* when used daily.

Two concerns about probiotic supplements are that they are sensitive to heat and moisture, which can destroy them. Because of this, some supplements require refrigeration. If they are freeze-dried and stored in special packaging to keep out moisture, this lengthens their shelf life. MetaBiotic has been freeze-dried so it does not require refrigeration and is encased in a blister package, so it remains effective for two years (until their "best by" date). Each MetaBiotic capsule contains five billion live bacteria when manufactured. 

So far health experts agree that probiotics are safe to use if you are healthy, and there is not a risk of toxicity. (If you have a weakened immune system, check with your doctor first before using them.) If you suffer from any digestive problems, supplements with Lactobacillus or Bifidobacteria may be worth a try. As always, let your doctor know of any supplements you are taking.

For more ways to incorporate probiotic-rich foods into your diet and information on probiotic supplements check out A Healthful Dose of Bacteria — Yogurt Is the Best Probiotic Source, but Clients Do Have Other Options published in Today's Dietitian magazine.

Disclosure: I've partnered with P&G on this sponsored post but the thoughts and opinions expressed are my own. You can find more information at MetaWellness.com.

Friday
May292015

Review: My Vegetarian Experience at Burtons Grill

I was invited to check out Burtons Grill, a chain restaurant with ten locations on the east coast, five of which are in Massachusetts. I'd never heard of it so was curious to try. I noticed they offer a vegetarian menu, so I was especially interested! When I hear "grill" I think of a heavy menu featuring meats and seafood, along with the usual fattening sides. I wouldn't expect a meat-focused restaurant to offer tasty or innovative vegetarian dishes.

I chose the Burlington location just outside Burlington Mall. The inside decor was modern and pretty, and friendly staff greeted us. We arrived off-hours around 3:00 pm so service was quick. I ordered the Roasted Beet Salad and Wild Grain & Vegetable Bowl. Hubby ordered the Fish Tacos and my son chose his usual chicken fingers and French fries from Burtons "Choosy" kids menu, which is based on the MyPlate healthy eating guidelines. For kids 12 and under, for $7.95 they can choose a protein (five options including a vegetarian black bean patty) and up to four sides. You can view the side options below. 

To be honest, with the commercial strip location, mostly American-inspired entrees, and decor that reminded me of a typical family restaurant (but nicer looking), I wasn't expecting anything special. So yes I was very surprised how delicious my two entrees tasted. All of the ingredients were very fresh. In my salad, the beets were perfectly cooked and the crispy candied walnuts, roasted onions and salty creamy goat cheese created over-the-top flavors. It was so SO good that I didn't want the bites to end.

The exceptional Roasted Beet Salad with goat cheese, roasted sweet onions, candied walnuts, baby mache (type of salad green) and mustard vinaigrette My rice vegetable bowl didn't look as exciting and the portion appeared very small. Hubby thought it was an appetizer! But again, the flavor was completely gratifying from the first bite. The quinoa and rice were cooked perfectly (not soggy as is often the case with quinoa and not hard as brown rice can be), tasting like they were prepared in a light broth. I would have loved more vegetables as I saw only about two each of broccoli florets, cauliflower, button mushrooms, zucchini, carrot and red onion but the portion was suprisingly filling and just the right amount for me. It tasted light but every ingredient was seasoned just right. The chive olive oil vinaigrette added even more great flavor without overpowering.

Wild Grain & Vegetable Bowl with red quinoa, brown jasmine rice, roasted vegetables and chive vinaigrette

Fish Tacos with fish (not sure what type), jicama radish slaw and mango salsa

There were no complaints from hubby about his fish tacos. He just wished there were more! My son's lunch came with four good-sized chicken fingers, fries, a small bowl of plain pasta (he added butter), diced cucumbers and a bowl of frozen yogurt...a good deal for the price. He finished mostly everything.

Jake enjoying his chocolate frozen yogurt. He'd finished most everything on this plate, which is unusual.

Overall the food and experience was excellent. If there were a location closer to me, I'd be ordering the beet salad and grain dish regularly as take-out! Because they offered such tasty vegetarian items, I'm curious to try the rest of the vegetarian menu soon. An important detail to add is that we'd questioned our waitress on providing a dairy-free meal for hubby. They were accomodating and made sure the bread and his fish tacos were devoid of cheese and butter. I'd read great reviews of Burtons Grill on Yelp with several reviewers noting their attentiveness to various food allergies. Check out family-friendly Burtons Grill if you can. You will not be disappointed!

Disclosure: I received a gift card from Burtons Grill to help facilitate this post. The thoughts and opinions expressed are my honest evaluation of the menu items.