Friday, August 17, 2012

Food Friday: Take flight

180 calories and 39 grams of sugar.

That's how much a grande Caffe Vanilla Frappuccino Light will cost you. Well, 180 calories, 39 grams of sugar and about $5.

But you don't have to spend so much.

5 Sparrows, a Montana-based company, offers sugar-free drink mixes that include Snow Ghost Frappe (vanilla), white hot chocolate, hot chocolate and chai. Sweetened with stevia, the mixes have between 35 (frappe) and 110 calories (chai). They are also gluten- and dairy-free.

When the company offered me the chance to try them, I couldn't resist.

About the company:
For us, coffee is as much a way of life as an occupation. For eight years, we owned and operated a specialty espresso business on the beautiful west shore of Flathead Lake in Northwest Montana. We evolved into devoted baristas. We found great pleasure in working with our hearts, our minds and our hands as a means to connect with people. It was out of this earnest dedication that 5 Sparrows was born. 5 Sparrows is the result of passion, a manifestation of our desire to offer an experience over a product. Our skills as baristas have allowed us to design our formulas specifically for handcrafted beverages. Furthermore, our café products line is comprised of superior ingredients, methodically prepared and routinely tested to ensure perfection. At 5 Sparrows, you will find a family of individuals invested in our vision and ready to help you achieve yours. From product application to marketing, sales or shipping we are committed to finding new ways to defy convention and bring you an unparalleled experience.
Sounds pretty awesome, right? If you aren't so sure, I can assure you that it is.

Over the past few weeks, I've tried all four varieties and have been nothing but pleasantly surprised. We all know that sugar-free products often taste, well, sugar free. And while the 5 Sparrows products don't taste like getting a hot chocolate with whole milk from Starbucks, they don't taste like the diet Swiss Miss that I have to doctor just to drink. I found the Snow Ghost Frappe to be very creamy and the only thing that could have made it better was for me to use strongly brewed coffee rather than the day old coffee I had. The white hot chocolate was rich and tasty, especially made with half coffee, half almond milk.

My favorite, though, had to be the chai.

Chai is a favorite indulgence of mine, and I don't often drink it because the low-sugar varieties don't taste good and I don't think the Starbucks Tazo is worth the calories. The 5 Sparrows chai, made with soy, was spicy and sweet but not overly so. And rich. Definitely rich.

Feeling generous, I offered some samples to my co-workers who had nothing but praise for the drink. Even the ones who don't drink sugar-free products. They said that you could tell it wasn't from a barista but didn't mind. It was hot and satisfying - perfect with fall around the corner.

A big thanks to 5 Sparrows for letting me try the products - be sure to check them out.

And speaking of checking things out ... hello, 98 Degrees on "The Today Show."

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The sound quality sucked and the dance moves seemed a bit ridiculous for men nearing middle age but I grew up in Cincinnati, where Nick and Drew Lachey call home, so I've always had a soft spot in my heart for them.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Three Things Thursday: Ready to be seen

Once. Then twice. And then it was three times.

Three times in less than a half-mile when Miles, Denali and I slowed or stopped on our run this morning. It was a minor annoyance as I struggled to hit my stride after previewing BODYPUMP 83 last night but I had known it was coming. "It" being school year traffic.

Running this summer - if you take away the record heat and oppressive heat - was bliss and not just because Mark was around. The break in school meant a break in traffic in our neighborhood where we have two schools within a quarter-mile. Often times, we could run the mile to the park/trail without stopping once (unless Denali needed to, ahem, well, you know).

With school in session for some of the private schools and Fort Wayne starting Monday, stops like this morning will become much more frequent. Thankfully, I only hit the traffic on the out or the back but it's enough to pause, take notice and make a few changes in our running routine.

1. Color run. This morning, I ran in my favorite offensively bright Nike outfit (as seen in a run from our Colorado trip). Wearing easy-to-spot colors helps drivers see me blocks away and brings attention that I'm not running alone. As the days get shorter and mornings darker, I will start to clip on my Supernova lights from Road ID for added safety.

2. Mindfulness. It would be nice to think that people are paying attention to what they are doing when they are driving but the truth is that they aren't. Mark saw a driver blow through a four-way stop on a run last week, and it's an intersection where I rarely do more than pause when I run through. I will definitely be paying more attention to traffic as I'm sure a car full of kids can be distracting as well as rerouting runs when possible so that we can cross at traffic signals.

3. The rules of the road. I run in the street whenever I have the stroller and while I 99 times out of 100 follow the guidelines, I do sometimes - gasp - run on the right side. As traffic picks up, I will be in the park path when possible or the left side of the road, opposite traffic. It not only allows oncoming traffic to see you but it allows you to see what traffic is doing and react appropriately. I can't tell you how many times I seriously questioned whether a car was going to make room for me.

For more rules of the road, check out this page on the Road Runners Club of America site.

How do you stay safe?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sweet solutions

My halted effort to get a bag of Peanut M&Ms left me jonesing. I wanted chocolate, and I wanted it now.

I found myself practically running to the most likely stash: my co-worker's desk drawer. There's usually a community hat (yes, hat) filled with mini Twix and bite-size Snickers. I opened it up quickly only to find a lone peppermint candy. My eyes darted around the office, my brain whirring as to who else might have candy. I thought of the reporter who usually has dark chocolate Kisses but I hate raiding her jar too often. I thought of the table where people put unwanted food but all that was there was an old phone charger. (Don't ask.) Finally, my work husband offered me a small piece of a Milky Way and I retreated back to my desk like a feral animal with a bone to chew on.

Obviously, I had a problem. It was a problem that I decided could only be solved by meeting it head on.

I needed my own supply of chocolates. While some people might not be able to have a bag of candy in their desks, I thought that having a bit around would help avoid those runs to the vending machine and the guilt that comes with pillaging my office mates' supply of sugar.

I picked up a bag of dark chocolate minis (and a Cherry Coke Zero for the win) at CVS on my way to work. After looking at the nutrition stats at a traffic stop, I decided that I could have two pieces of chocolate each day after my lunch. 

Two pieces have 80 calories, and I like to keep my sugar fixes to 100 calories in the afternoon.  A third piece wouldn't kill me either but I find that dark chocolate is rich enough that I don't need to continually go back to the bag. 

I enjoyed my Hershey's with a mug of hot water spiked with True Orange - my latest obsession as I try to limit coffee but still crave a warm drink in the cold newsroom.

And that there is one of my tips for maintaining portion control: make the dessert something you sit down to eat and enjoy rather than grabbing it from a bowl and eating it mindlessly. I literally take a 5-minute break for candy, turning away from the computer, so that I can taste the candy.

Other tips hiding in here:

*Select rich foods that don't leave you wanting more. I could eat jelly beans till the cows come home but make them black jelly beans (my favorite), and I only need a few.

*Buy individual/mini-sized treats. It's hard to know just how many M&Ms you're eating if you buy a family-size bag and stick your hand in several times. The fun-size bags, like the ones you give to trick-or-treaters, are a better bet. Even if you eat five bags, you know that you ate five bags and can track it.

*Speaking of tracking, I entered the two mini bars into MyFitnessPal before I even made my hot water. I hate having to go in to adjust my diary because I binged.

*Like everyone is so fond of saying, have a drink - preferably the non-alcoholic kind as I'm writing about afternoon snacking and you might be at work. It's hard to eat 10 pieces of candy if you have 10 ounces of water floating in there.

*Finish it off with a peppermint. Sugar free peppermints have about 10 calories and make pretty much everything else taste disgusting. Also, your co-workers will thank you as you decided to bring raw red onions to dip in hummus.

*The most obvious: Don't buy anything that you can't control yourself around. I'm pretty good around candy but if I were to take Ruffles and French onion dip to work, all bets would be off.

What are your portion control tips? Do you have a candy stash?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The "C" Factor

It's not cute when you claim that your exercise routine consists of walking from the couch to the refrigerator.

It's not cute when you state that the only time you will run is if you are being chased.

It's not cute when you joke that your idea of portion control is eating one doughnut instead of the entire dozen.

It's not cute when you laugh about ordering a Diet Coke with your super-sized value meal.

It's not cute to take a glib attitude toward your health. In fact, it can be deadly.

::stepping off soapbox::

I guess you could say people have been making ne a bit cranky, with their snide remarks about pieces I have written for the newspaper and the way I choose to live my life. I never want to come off as being better than someone because I've managed to break through to the other side. However, I don't want people to seemingly judge what I do out of a place that I can only assume comes from jealousy. It is frustrating and totally not fair.

And so I decided that what I needed on a dreary, dreary, frustrating Monday was to sparkle.

I discovered that it is cute to take a break in the day to try on your co-worker's dress from her high school show choir days. It's even cuter when it actually zips. Cuter still, when you add jazz hands. Add in a hat, and it's done.

Sometimes, you just need a mental break. You need it more than the Peanut M&Ms in the vending machine calling your name. (Incidentally, the vending machine would not let me have them. Ninety cents gone forever.)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Marathon Monday: Break the habit

I am training for the Columbus Marathon and following a schedule loosely based on the "Train Like A Mother" finish it plan. These posts document my training.

The week, in running:
Wednesday: 5 miles* (+stroller)
Thursday: 7 miles, negative split
Friday: 5 miles* (+stroller)
Sunday: 14.4 miles, long run

*One of my 5-mile runs this week was supposed to include 3 miles at marathon pace. Both days, I thought I kept it relatively "easy" but ended up fairly close to the prescribed workout. Wednesday's run included miles at 9:17, 9:23 and 9:22; Friday's splits were 9:47, 9:16, 9:14, 9:25 and 9:24. My pie in the sky dream is a 4-hour marathon, which is a 9:09 pace, and my "let's get it but be realistic" goal is a 4:15, a 9:44 pace.

◊ ◊ ◊

My summer vacation is over. Well, it's technically Mark's summer vacation that is coming to an end but it's also been a break for me, too.

I've been able to run the miles that have been prescribed for me without so much as a third thought. (I was going to type a second thought but there's always a second thought in parenting.) Mark and Miles would join me for the runs they could, or at least part of a run, and I could go out on my own as need be. Mark would push the BOB for tempo runs so I could run hard without resistance I could shower without worrying about my climber taking the stairs or turning on Elmo. There was always coffee waiting, and I could pack my lunch with two hands.

As the school year resumes, I will revisit my days running with both the stroller and the dog and logging as many miles as someone (ahem, Miles) allows. It's a fine routine - waking up, giving Miles breakfast and heading out for 5 miles before coming home to Elmo and a hot shower.

It just doesn't jibe with marathon training.

My weekday runs are getting longer (though I'm capping them at 8 miles) and the quality runs are getting more intense (hello, 4x1 tempo this week). It's not practical nor is it appealing to take the stroller out for that long, and the dog has a limit of 5 miles until it gets cooler. Mark and I have talked a lot (read: Kim has obsessed while Mark plays on his iPad) about what my options are, and I think I have a few solid choices.

1. Take the stroller. I still have some 5-mile runs in the mix, and I even think I can test my child for 6 miles. This plan is dependent on Miles waks

However, I did learn that this option does not work two days in a row. I set my alarm for 5 a.m. Friday only to get up, get dressed and lay down on the couch. I got up an hour later when the boys started stirring and ended up taking Miles and Denali on a 5-mile run.

3. Go halfsies. For longer runs, I can get up at dawn and log part of my run before swinging by the house to pick up the BOB and dog. This option requires Mark to ready the boys and stand in the street but it could work on days like Friday when I don't want to get up.

Of course, I think it will take a couple weeks to see how things shake out and figure out what I like best. And to remember what it is like to push a BOB for 5 miles.

◊ ◊ ◊

The winner of "Train Like a Mother" is ...

::cue drum roll::

CERISE. Email your mailing info to hlthystrides (at) gmail (dot) com, and I will get you a copy.