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Thursday, September 8, 2011

canned fish

The Nickel Pincher: The Best Canned Fish You've Never Tried

Getting your weekly dose of omega-3s can cost a pretty penny, unless you shop in the canned fish aisle.

By Jean Nick

Find BPA-free brands of canned fish and learn how easy it is to dress up your lunches and dinners.
Don't turn up your nose! Canned fish can be surprisingly tasty if you know how to use it.
RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Wild-caught fish is a tasty source of protein, low in saturated fats and high in health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids. But it's not exactly sustainable, considering that most wild fish stocks are grossly over-harvested, nor is it cheap, unless you know where to shop—in the canned fish section of your supermarket! Canned, and these days "pouched," fish is an incredible deal: modestly priced, fully cooked, shelf-stable, and packed in manageable, no-waste, no-fuss sizes, even single servings.
Of course, with any canned food, problems inevitably arise related to the hormone-disrupting plastic bisphenol A (BPA), which is used in the epoxy linings of nearly all canned goods. This harmful chemical, linked to a variety of ailments (from hyperactive behavior in children to heart disease in older women), is best avoided at all costs. Fortunately, sustainable seafood companies have been working to find replacements for BPA-based can linings: Vital Choice and Wild Planet Foods have both removed BPA from most of their product lines, and those pouches, made from plastic sandwiched between layers of foil and used by other, more mainstream companies, are BPA free as well.
While on the topic of canned-fish caveats, I also generally avoid canned tuna. Though tuna melts and tuna casseroles were nutritious, inexpensive staples during my childhood, tuna is best left swimming in the ocean, both from an ecological standpoint and because it's high in mercury. If you simply must have it, albacore tuna caught on the Pacific coast of the mainland U.S. and Canada are more abundant and lower in mercury than other tuna; look for American Tuna brand as well as tuna sold by the sustainable seafood companies listed above.
Satisfying Salmon
So what canned fishes are OK to eat, and what can you do with them? After tuna, the next-most common and versatile canned fish is salmon. According to Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, wild-caught Alaskan salmon is the most sustainable type to look for. (Though even wild Alaskan salmon face many challenges, including attempts to produce and spawn genetically engineered salmon and gold and copper mining near Alaskan coasts that could pollute the fishes' waterways.) I’m especially fond of Chicken of the Sea’s 3-ounce pouches of Premium Wild-Caught Alaskan Smoked Salmon, and larger cans of salmon are even more economical, provided the cans are BPA free. If you want to ease your family into enjoying the slightly different taste, try mixing salmon half-and-half with one of the aforementioned brands of albacore tuna for a few runs. Canned salmon often contains skin and bone, both of which are edible and packed with nutrients, such as calcium.
Toss canned salmon into a pasta salad, sprinkle it over a green salad to make it a meal, or mold it into "salmon burger" patties for a sit-down meal. Below are a few other ideas, and check the Rodale Recipe Finder for more serving suggestions.
Quick Salmon Bagel Sandwiches Mash a 3-ounce package of smoked salmon, juice and all, into 2 to 4 ounces of organic cream cheese or soft goat cheese, and spread on your choice of bagel (whole grain if you can get it).
Salmon Salad Substitute salmon for tuna in your favorite tuna salad recipe, and spread it on whole-grain bread or over a bed of mixed greens. Try adding a few finely diced green olives for variety.
Tasty Tiny Fish
By definition, the most sustainable fish are those that are harvested when they are small and those that reproduce quickly, allowing their populations to rebound. One such fish is the oft-maligned, lowly Pacific sardine.
Sardines are actually various kinds of small fish in the herring family. Wild-caught sardines from the Pacific (not those in the Atlantic or Mediterranean) are among the most sustainable and healthful fish on the market; they're rich in omega-3s and vitamin D, without all the mercury. Fresh or frozen sardines are sometimes available in fish markets, but the vast number end up in tiny cans, usually packed in oil and sometimes in mustard or spicy tomato sauce. I prefer the kind packed in olive oil.
Canned sardines can be somewhat more fishy tasting than tuna or salmon, but are very tasty all the same. The easiest way to enjoy them is right out of the can (mashed or whole) on crackers, but there are dozens of other ways to use them, depending on your individual preferences.
Bean-and-Sardine-Spread Sandwiches Mash one can of sardines in the flavor of your choice, and blend it with 1 cup of cooked, drained white beans. (To make life even easier on yourself, use Eden Organic brand canned white beans, also packaged in BPA-free cans.) Spread on a good whole-grain bread and complete the sandwich with some fresh watercress or arugula.
Mini Sardine Pizzas Toast an English muffin and spread each half with 1½ tablespoons of spaghetti or pizza sauce, put on 3 small sardines (or one larger sardine split in half), and sprinkle with 1 ounce of shredded cheddar or "pizza" cheese; broil for 3 to 4 minutes, until the cheese is melted and just beginning to brown.
Greek Salad with Sardines Toss oil-packed sardines with chunks of fresh tomato, cucumber, feta cheese, and good olives, and dress the salad with a lemony vinaigrette (use the oil from the sardines in your dressing for an extra burst of flavor).
Despite their reputation as cheap and smelly, sardines lend themselves to truly gourmet dishes that are surprisingly quick and easy to make on even the busiest night of the week.
Pasta con Sarde
A quick, classic dish that is ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. It's delicious hot, and even better cold the next day for lunch!
Makes 4 modest or 2 large servings
8 ounces dry fettuccine pasta (I always use whole grain pasta)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 3.75-ounce can of sardines (flavored or in oil, your choice)
1 lemon, juiced
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
While cooking the pasta in boiling water, heat the olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the onion till soft. Add the garlic and cook until it just starts to brown, then add the sardines and any oil or sauce from the can, and stir, mashing the sardines into small pieces. Let the mixture simmer. Once the pasta is al dente (still just a wee bit stiff in the center), drain it and toss it in with the sardine sauce, stir, turn off the heat, cover, and let it sit for a few minutes while you make a green salad. Squeeze the lemon over the pasta, arrange it on plates, and top with the cheese.
Spanish Potatoes with Sardines
A great one-pot meal that is good hot or cooked ahead, chilled, and served on a bed of greens.
Makes 4 modest or 2 large servings
1½ Tablespoons olive oil
1½ pounds potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1" chunks
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup diced tomatoes with their juice (fresh or out of a box; I don't eat tomato products out of cans)
1 teaspoon sea alt
1 teaspoon Spanish paprika, ground
1 bay leaf
1 cup water
1 3.25-ounce can sardines in olive oil
Heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet or Dutch oven, and sauté the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook until it just starts to brown, then add everything else except the sardines. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes until the potatoes are very tender. Stir in the sardines and their oil and either dish up right away or cool and refrigerate the dish for later.
Farm gal, library worker, and all-around money-pincher Jean Nick
shares advice for green thrifty living every Thursday on

Saturday, November 6, 2010

8 Steps to Helping You Alleviate Low Back Discomfort

8 Steps to Helping You Alleviate Low Back Discomfort

HFPN Editorial Team

Low-back discomfort is an increasingly common problem. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, low-back problems are the leading cause of disability in the workplace. To help alleviate low back pain, we suggest undergoing these 8 steps with your health and fitness professional.
Step #1: Undergo an Assessment
When it comes to low back pain, the one-size-fits-all approach to exercise programs is commonly unproductive and potentially dangerous. Therefore, prior to beginning an exercise program, we suggest undergoing a thorough assessment for causative factors. 
With respect to low-back discomfort, causative factors include muscle imbalances, instability, and movement deficiencies (see Tables 1 and 2).
Table 1
Common Muscle Imbalances Seen With Low-Back Discomfort
Short/Tight Muscles
Long/Weak Muscles
  1. Rectus femoris
  2. Iliopsoas
  3.  Adductor complex
  4.  Hamstrings
  5. Piriformis
  6.  Tensor fascia latae (TFL)
  7. Quadratus lumborum
  8.  Erector spinae
  9. Latissimus dorsi
  10. Soleus
  1. Gluteus maximus
  2. Gluteus medius
  3.  Inner unit musculature*
  4.  Posterior tibialis
* The inner unit consists of the transversus abdominus, multifidus, diaphragm and pelvic floor musculature.

Table 2
Common Movement Deficiencies and Instabilities Seen With Low-Back Discomfort
  1. Inability to hip flex or hip extend without excessive lumbar spine compensation during movement
  2. Loss of segmental control (inability to tilt the pelvis independently of the lumbar spine)
  3. Abnormal spinal flexion and/or extension when squatting or lunging
  4. Excessive abdominal protrusion during functional movement

Step #2: Begin with an Integrated Warm-up
An integrated warm-up can be defined as a group of exercises performed before specific activity. The benefits of a properly structured warm-up are many. They include:
  • increased body and tissue temperature
  • increased blood flow through active muscles
  • increased metabolic rate, increased speed at which nerve impulses travel
  • increased soft tissue extensibility 
Examples of possible warm-up components are listed in Table 3.
Table 3
Possible Components of an Integrated Warm-up
  • Self-myofascial release (SMR)
  • Static stretching
  • Neuromuscular stretching
  • Active isolated stretching
  • Dynamic stretching
  • Treadmill warm-up
  • Elliptical warm-up
  • Cycling warm-up
  • Versa climber warm-up

Step #3: Improve Your Core Control
To prevent back injuries, you must develop optimum levels of core stabilization, strength and power. In simple terms, thecore is defined as everything but the arms and legs. Core stabilization is defined as the ability to prevent sudden or excessive forces from straining joints and ligaments. Core Stabilization Training involves isometric holding of the spine and is designed to teach the body to properly stabilize the spine and pelvis when the arms and legs are moving.
Core strength is defined as the ability of the core to control the whole range of motion of all joints, including the spine. Core strength training replaces isometric holding adding movement of the spine and emphasizing eccentric control.
Core power is defined as the core's ability to transform physical energy into force at a fast rate. Core power training involves movements performed at high intensities/velocities and therefore requires adequate stabilization and strength.
Step #4: Achieve Optimal Levels of Balance
An extremely important component in preventing back injury is your ability to stabilize your center of gravity over your changing base of support. Traditionally, balance is considered more a static concern (standing on one foot) than a dynamic one (walking, running); however, balance is an extremely dynamic matter. For example, every time we move, we must control our center of gravity over a base of support that is constantly changing. In order to move safely and effectively, we must have the ability to control our joints and our overall structure in relatively unstable environments. This becomes especially important as the population becomes more sedentary, but also holds true when performing exercises in relatively stable environments (such as weight training machines).
Our bodies are extremely adaptable. However, if we never expose ourselves to these unstable environments, our bodies will not be able to respond effectively when these environments are encountered. Balance training will enhance joint stability as we move, thus decreasing stress on joints. It will also enhance our spatial awareness and improve our ability to stabilize ourselves in environments of instability.
Step #5: Enhance Your Muscle Reaction Times
Reactive training is essential because the nature of human movement involves a quick stretching, then contracting, of muscle-from an eccentric muscle action to a concentric muscle action. However, the magnitude and rate at which this training component is applied will depend on your individual capabilities. No matter the population or the activity in question, an individual's ability to react and generate force quickly is crucial to overall function and safety during movement.
Step #6: Improve Your Integrated Strength
Strength is defined as the ability of the neuromuscular system to produce internal tension and exert resistance against an external force. However, strength can and should be delineated into different categories for optimal results. Of the different categories available (absolute, maximal, endurance, speed, relative, stabilization, core, and functional strength) training for core strength, stabilization strength, endurance strength and functional strengthis the most applicable to back-pain prevention.
Step #7: Cool-down
A cool-down can be defined as a group of exercises performed after the workout which bring the body from an active state to a resting state. The main objective is to facilitate muscle relaxation, reset muscle length, promote removal of muscle waste products, reduce the chance of muscle soreness, and allow the cardiovascular system to adjust to lower demands.
Step #8: Make Sure Your Program Fits Your Capabilities
This means adjusting your acute variables to match your abilities and needs. Acute variables consist of repetitions, sets, training intensity, training volume, tempo, rest interval, exercise selection, , training duration, training frequency, and range of motion (to name a few). Believe it or not, ALL of these must be considered when creating your individual training program. In cases of low back discomfort, proper progression is paramount to providing results that last! So try to avoid moving into more demanding exercises too fast.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Circuit Program Leg Boost Circuit

Tyler Wallace, NASM-CPT, PES, CES

Give your legs a quick workout you can do virtually anywhere. Exercising at different speeds and planes of motion (front, sideways, and turning) is a great way to give your legs the integrated functional workout that they need.
Do this circuit 2 - 3 times per week and perform all exercises in succession, taking 90 seconds to rest before the next set.
Circuit Program: Leg Boost Circuit
Exercise Sets Reps Tempo Rest Coaching Tip
Prisoner Squats 
2 20 Medium 0 sec Keep your chest up and feet pointing straight ahead as you squat down
Front Step Up to Balance 

2 15 Slow 0 sec Extend your leg and stand up tall when you step on the box
Side Lunge 

2 12 Slow 0 sec Keep your foot straight ahead on your lunge leg
Turning Hop with Stabilization 

2 8 Medium 90 sec Keep your hands on your hips and try to stick the landing

          • For best results keep your feet straight ahead and your knee lined up over your 2nd and 3rd toe
          • Always think about contracting your glutes during the concentric (muscle shortening phase) phase of each movement

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Change Your Cardio "Routine"

When it comes to cardio training - one size does not fit all.  So this begs the question - if resistance training programs are individualized, why aren't cardio training programs?
Our bodies are as unique as our goals and the way we train should be a reflection of both.  The days of simply going for a run or hopping on a piece of cardio for thirty minutes without a clear plan are no longer the way to perform a great cardio workout.  There is a smarter, more efficient way to train your heart and the best part is - it can create amazing results!  Heart rate training has become the most useful and efficient way to perform cardio workouts.  With the ease of use and applicability to all exercisers, using your heart rate as your guide can revolutionize your cardio fitness programs and excel results.  The trick is to understand your training zones, explore interval training and progress your training in stages.
What are heart rate training zones?
Heart rate training zones are used to establish training intensity.  Heart rate zones are a good starting point for developing cardio training programs and are simple to use.  For fitness purposes, there are three training zones to focus on.
Zone 1, often referred to as the recovery zone, uses a lower heart rate (65-75% of heart rate max) and is great for recovery from a hard workout or creating a strong aerobic base.
Zone 2, uses a moderate to high heart rate which helps to raise your  anaerobic threshold (AT) (the point at which your energy sources move from utilizing a higher percentage of fat to utilizing a higher percentage of glucose).  This zone is important as it increases your aerobic base making your heart more efficient and helps you burn more calories during and after exercise.
Zone 3, is your peak heart rate zone and helps to increase your anaerobic threshold (AT) as well as increases the caloric burn during and after exercise.  This peak heart rate should not be trained in consistently as sustaining a peak heart rate can lead to  overtraining  and adverse effects on your results.
To determine heart rate training zones, simply use the following formula:
(220 - age) x % of HRmax = Training intensity
Training Zone HR Formula Purpose
Zone 1 - 65-75% (220 - age) x 0.65 or 0.75 Helps build an aerobic base and is used for warm-up and recovery.
Zone 2 - 80-85% (220 - age) x 0.80 or 0.85 Increases anaerobic and aerobic capacity, can build leg strength and fuel calorie burning.
Zone 3 - 86-90% (220 - age) x 0.86 or 0.90 Increases speed, power, metabolism and anaerobic capacity.
What is interval training- it sounds hard?
Interval training involves training at different intensities for certain periods of time in a given workout.  Interval training can be a challenge!  This form of training allows for you to overload your body, helping to create the cardiovascular changes you want while providing your body the opportunity to work harder without overtraining.  Depending on your level of fitness, interval training may mean training in two to three different zones during your cardio session.  Don't worry - we recommend beginning your interval training programs in stages, called stage training, to help you ease into the harder workouts!
What is stage training and will it help me lose weight faster? 
Stage training is a pre-set system of interval training designed to use all three training zones.  This is important as it allows you to avoid plateaus and break-free from the worries of overtraining.  Overall, stage training helps you begin and progress your training in a way that can accelerate your results.  If you begin in a program that is too difficult you may burn-out or over-train - and if the program is too easy - you won't get the overload that your body needs to ignite change.  So stage training allows you to vary the intensity of your workout and keep you progressing over time.   
I have a specific goal of weight loss - so where do I start?
No matter what the goal is, the solution begins with assessing your starting point and your ability to begin a cardio training program.  You may need to visit a local fitness facility for a complete cardio assessment and ask your physician before you begin a cardio training program.  If you are new to cardio training, start in stage 1 and progress after a few weeks.  Intermediate or advanced exercisers can begin in stage 2 and progress to stage 3 as shown below.
Now let's get that heart pumping!  Choose whatever form of cardio that you enjoy most and find the perfect heart rate zone and stage for you - three different fitness levels, three different training stages to focus on to achieve weight loss success.  Pick your level and get moving!
Stage 1: Beginner - You are new to cardio training and need to build up your stamina.
Create a training base!   You can perform cardio training up to three days a week making sure to allow yourself a day of rest in-between your cardio workouts.  Start slow and remember - your body will advance over time - don't push yourself too hard!

Stage 2:  Intermediate - You are an avid mover and need a push to get past those pesky plateaus!
Push ahead!   Alternate days one and two according to how many days you plan on performing cardio (i.e. if you plan on doing four days of cardio, they should be performed as follows:  Day 1, Day 2, Day 1, Day 2).

Stage 3:  Advanced - You are a weekend warrior and fitness fanatic with no time to spare!
Go for it!   We suggest a minimum of three days of cardio training for you  - just remember to alternate your cardio workouts so that you allow yourself plenty of recovery time (i.e. if you plan on training more than three days a week - always perform a recovery day after a high intensity day to allow your body to recover).

You can perform any type of cardio that you enjoy - the exercise type is up to you!  Remember that cardio training is individual - start at the stage that best suits your current fitness level and progress your training over time.  


(1)   Wilmore JH, Costill DL. Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 1994

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fitness Bar