Upgrade Your Thanksgiving To Slim Down!

Turkey, creamy mashed potatoes, sugary cranberry sauce, buttery stuffing and pie, lots of pie. This is what comes to mind when we thing of celebrating Thanksgiving with our families. We give in to the idea that we will spend hours indulging in some of the most calorie filled foods, only to vow to “be good” for the weeks that follow before we do it all over again around Christmas.
From the cheese ball and crackers before to the pumpkin pie after, Thanksgiving meals can weigh in at more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat, according to the Caloric Control Council. That’s more than twice the number of calories most of us should eat in an entire day, and enough dietary fat for more than three days!
But Turkey Day needn’t leave you feeling so stuffed that you need to loosen your belt at the end of the day. If you’re cooking this Thanksgiving, then you’re in control of your own destiny because you can decide how much butter, cream and sugar goes into each and every dish. By making some smart substitutions for each recipe, you can easily save calories and fat without sacrificing flavor. A few years ago I began to experiment with upgrading my favorite family holiday dishes into less guilty versions, that were just as tasty. The responses I received from my friends and loved ones were the confirmation I needed to continue to find more ways to indulge guilt free and pain free. These recipes have now become our family traditions for years to come. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of this article to try some of my favorite recipes!

My 3  Tips and Tricks to a Better Thanksgiving Dinner. Cheers to no longer feeling disgusting!


  1. Make your side dishes gluten free. Gluten is the protein found in what products (stuffing, breads, crackers etc.). Gluten acts like a glue in our belly (it literally is used as a glue to make things like envelopes stick together) You can imagine how it makes everything stick together in our digestive tract. Want to feel like there’s a big boulder sitting in your belly? Want the feeling like you have to hunch forward after your meal, because it hurts to stand? Then keep enjoying your gluten. I on the other hand decided about 3 years ago to try a different path, as I realized gluten wasn’t making me feel my best. I brought home a gluten free stuffing and as I reached for my second helping to my great surprise there was none left to be enjoyed. My family was so impressed by the fact that my stuffing tasting just like theirs, even better they said. As I left my relatives they requested that for now on we only have gluten free stuffing. SCORE!!!
  2. Make your side dishes mostly vegan. This is a great trick to decrease your calories. Substituting heavy creams for lower fat milks or even better for veggie/chicken stock. Using olive oil instead of butter can decrease your calories and fat significantly and you’d be surprised at how little of a taste difference it makes. I began to make all of my desserts vegan and to be honest I think they taste better! There is also a psychological difference when you know that what your eating isn’t that god awful for your health. You tend to enjoy yourself more and can really be in the moment with your food.
  3. Decrease your sugar. Go ahead blame the bird for making you want to fall asleep at the table, but just know that you are pointing the finger at the wrong culprit. It is a total myth that turkey makes us sleepy. Over dosing on sugar and carbohydrates is really what contributes to this state of comatose. Decreasing my gluten definitely helped me with this feeling, but what really does the trick is substituting refined sweeteners like white and brown sugar for lower glycemic sweeteners. My favorite is Coconut Palm Sugar.  Click Here for other sweetener alternatives. Making your cranberry sauce or baking with these sweeteners are so much better for your health and your waistline. My gluten free, vegan, pie made with coconut palm sugar is the biggest hit of our thanksgiving!
Click the links below to get some awesome recipes for your staples sides this Thanksgiving:

“Mashed Potatoes” -Made from cauliflower. You won’t believe how real this tastes!


5 Charts That Changed My Diet Forever

Numbers and statistics  have the ability to change the world because they show us the big picture that we cannot perceive in our own daily lives.  Furthermore, their power is greater than mere opinion pieces because it’s harder to bias numbers that come from sound studies. As I have done my own research for Unite’s blog in the last year, I came across several charts that have dramatically changed my perspective on the “right” food choices. You have to see it to believe it!

These charts opened up my perspective from a narrow “ME” focus to a “wider WE” focus.  For years, I’ve read studies and experimented with my diet,  always looking for what to eat that will balance optimal health and personal enjoyment. While I have always cared for the environment and other people, I had no idea just how much my daily food choices where impacting the earth and society.

Here are the 5 charts that sent me on a path to creating the soon to be released, Sacred Six Diet.  This new diet manifesto takes into account not only what is best for our bodies and minds, but the environment and society as well. We can no longer just think of ourselves because there are dire consequences given the size and connectedness of the population and world food industry. I’d like to note that I do not subscribe wholly to any concept listed below. these are great learning tools that provoke us to think about what we eat and why.

1. Food Efficiency Factor

I love this chart because it ties together the energy needed to produce foods with the energy gained by consuming them (calories) into a ranked list that really makes you think differently about the term “luxury food”.  That is assuming you care about the success and health of our society as a whole and feeding all its 7 billion people.  What the efficiency factor tells us is what foods are most efficient for a growing society to produce and consume.  Knowing these factors we can start to put some smarter structuring to our diets that limits the poor efficiency foods (meats) and focuses more on the highly efficient ones (grains, dairy).

2. Food’s Carbon Footprint

A recent study showed that 2/3 of Americans now fully believe in human driven climate change and think we should do something about it. We hear a lot about clean versus dirty energy sources, but we don’t hear about how much our dietary selections impact greenhouse gases. Did you know that the largest producers of greenhouse gases are the cows we require to meet our increasing demand for  beef! This is true mainly because of how much methane gas cows produce (25 times more potent than carbon dioxide) as well as the amount of feed they require. Check out this chart detailing the drastic differences in greenhouse gas emissions from the production of various foods.  Interesting to me that the top offenders also have other health risks: toxins in farmed salmon, nitrates in processed turkey/ham, saturated fat in cheese etc.

3. Total Impact of Meat Eating

As the last two graphs show, meat, especially lamb, cows, and pigs, come up as the big offenders on both greenhouse gas and societal eating efficiency, but the story actually gets worse for beef production. Producing beef requires 28 times more land and 11 times more irrigation water than any other animal product. I have enjoyed meat my entire life and don’t plan to go vegetarian.  However, looking at the total impact of producing beef and to a lesser extent pigs, I have reduced my meat consumption and supplemened that protein with cleaner, more responsible choices.

 

4. Mineral Content Organic vs. Conventional

I notionally figured that organic produce and grains are somewhat healthier for you nutritionally, but these numbers show that organic has significantly, and in some cases exponentially, more mineral and vitamin content. Our bodily functions need those minerals and vitamins to facilitate the chemical reactions needed to work properly. Roundup, #1 pesticide used to kill weeds, does so by stopping the uptake of needed minerals from the soil, which has a similar albeit lesser effect on the actual crops. We also know that the longer produce takes to go from picked to eaten (unless frozen), the more it breaks down naturally with less nutrients. That is also why many seem to experience local, organic as better tasting produce as well. Not to mention the extra green house gases and energy used in transportation.

The organic movement started as a movement not to get more nutritious food, but to avoid toxic chemicals in our foods. When the crops use pesticides, the water, meat and fish all get pesticides too.  The US alone uses 1 billion pounds of pesticides and  the long-term effects have not been understood. We are freely putting toxic and unnatural chemicals into our environment and expecting it to stay balanced and healthy.So eating organic produce is definitely the way to go.

5. Antibiotics and Hormones in Meat

According to the FDA’s data we are pumping our animals full of antibiotics and hormones to enhance growth, milk production and prevent disease, but to what end. Bacteria are everywhere (our stomachs have millions alone) and can help humans or hurt them. Things like anti-biotics can help us, but when we over use them the bacteria evolve to be resistant, exposing us potentially to deadly outbreaks.  Additionally, the bovine growth hormone has been banned in Europe and 27 countries, yet the US still allows it. More reasons I have gone to organic dairy and meat, but unfortunately that doesn’t solve the antibiotic issue.

I’d love to hear what y’all think about this topic! The world needs some new voices. 

 

 

5 Reasons Why You’re Getting Fatter This Summer

It’s already mid-summer and your supposed to be rocking that beach body by now. Instead you’re wishing it wasn’t 90 degrees out so you could hide under more layers of clothes. You’re doing everything you’re supposed to, hitting the gym like crazy and eating more salads than ever (after all who wants to eat hot food in this humidity), yet none of it’s working and that six-pack’s looking more like a two-pack. It might even be fair to say that you had a better body pre-summer. How is this possible? Here are 5 reasons you’re getting fatter in the summer time and some natural ways to remedy them!

1) You’re eating more frozen treats. Fro-yo anyone? Even though this dessert is no fat/ low fat and a so-called “healthier” option it is packed with sugar and horrible chemicals. And let’s not forget about all the delicious toppings you put on there. What started out as an innocent low calorie dessert has now become more calories than eating half a pint of Ben and Jerry’s. Let’s stop being delusional people! A great way to fix this craving is by buying your own frozen yogurt from the store. Stony Brook Farms makes a delicious frozen Greek yogurt and it’s more natural and I guarantee you’ll eat less than you would at a yogurt shop. You can also try making your own “ice cream” by freezing a banana and putting it in a blender (banana-whip). Try mixing with cocoa powder and a little peanut for a take on a “chunky monkey” for a great organic treat.

2) Drinks anyone? When the weather’s warm there’s more happy hours and outdoor functions to attend. Who wants a low sugar, dry glass of red wine in this heat? Most of us opt for sugary white wine or a mixed drink, like a frozen margarita (a whopping 280 calories and 42 grams of sugar). Check yourself before you wreck yourself! It’s fine to indulge once in a while, like on a tropical vacation, but this kind of behavior on a school night is a recipe for the a muffin top. If you must drink, switch to vodka club with a splash or orange juice or cranberry, or my favorite a mojito without the sugar. Believe it or not the mint and lime juice flavor it enough.

3) Do you have a Starbucks Gold Card? Who doesn’t? I can’t wait until my points build up and I earn a free drink. Have you noticed though, that the lines at 3pm in the summer time at Starbucks have doubled? There’s nothing more exhilarating to get you through the last couple hours at work than sipping on an iced Frappuccino. If the previous statement is really true, it might be time to look for a more exciting job. But seriously there are better ways to cool your body down and don’t knock these ideas until you actually try them. First of all drink more water throughout the day so that you don’t constantly crave other kinds of beverages. The craving for a sweet drink is actually your body craving WATER! Try an unsweetened iced green tea and if you have to have a sugar fix, put in a packet of honey. When the honey gets hard from the ice it’s way fun to suck up little balls of sweet deliciousness through a straw. Mint tea also has incredible cooling properties to calm your sweat down.

4) Eating out more. Summer, summer, summertime, time to sit back and unwind. It’s so much more fun to head out to a restaurant in the summer, than it is in the colder months. On a great breezy night, sitting outside with great company and food can be heavenly. One problem is you seem to be doing this more and more, meaning your scale is now hidden in a dark corner afraid to be used. Try not to let summertime be an excuse to eat out at a restaurant more than twice a week. If you love socializing over a meal, invite people over and cook something healthy for them. If you have access to outdoor space and a grill, then you have no excuse not to have most things you enjoy at a restaurant right in your own home.

5) I’m so much more active in the summer! Oh, you mean you walk to and from work or you go to the park more often? Yes, that is more active than sitting on your ass watching TV, but it doesn’t quite make up for the ice cream and beer you had the night before. Moving more is fantastic and I encourage you to do as much as you can, but a 1 hour leisurely walk only burns 200-300 calories, while the plate of french fries you just ate has 400-500 calories (let’s not forget about all the extra calories from the ketchup). How about being more active and working out traditionally, by doing cardio and weights.

So no more excuses in the summer, it really is the time to show off your hot bod!

 

How Do You Score? Healthy or Not?


Can you quantify how healthy you are? Why yes, yes you can. Unite Fitness has developed a cutting edge scoring system to determine if what you’re eating will promote longevity and a lean body. Who doesn’t want to live a long time and look sexy in the process? This fast and easy test should only take you about 10 minutes to complete and can constantly help you strive to upgrade your eating habits. It is a really in-your-face way of knowing how well you are doing with your nutrition and a great tool to inspire you to incorporate healthier foods and habits. We are not only looking for what foods you’re eating, but when, how and why. All of these components help make up a well rounded diet.

You can take the Unite Diet scorecard test as part of Unite’s Phase 1: Assessment, which we highly recommend for all new members and anyone looking to decrease their body fat and be as healthy as they can be.

This is an essential step to ensuring faster success because Unite’s Assessment also includes:

• Full Body Measures
• Functional Movement Screen
• Unite Diet Scorecard
• Goal Planner & Recommendations
• 1 Body Composition Retest

To schedule your Phase 1: Assessment contact annemarie@unitefitness.com

Your Kids Are Fat and It’s Kind of Your Fault

It’s heartbreaking to see a toddler that requires insulin for their adult onset type-2 diabetes, or a 12-year-old girl who can’t find clothing in her size, because she tips the scales at over 250 pounds. These are the horrific problems our world, not just our country, is facing. Even worse, it’s kind of our fault.  We’ve known how to cure obesity. Eat less and exercise more right? We are more diet obsessed than we have ever been. We have restaurants and food companies restricting our calories for us and there’s a new workout program that pops up every month. So why is it that with all of these resources, we continue to get fatter and fatter?

A recent documentary, powered by Katie Couric, called Fed Up sought out to answer this question. I highly recommend this movie to shift the way we see our future society. We are in big trouble if we don’t make some serious changes.  It is our responsibility to educate ourselves. If we don’t, no one will. I don’t want to give everything away so I am going to highlight the important teasers of this film and hopefully you will find some time to increase your awareness, and in turn help humanity by watching this film.

  •  This generation’s children are the first that will not outlive their parents. We are seeing 16 year olds dropping dead from heart attacks!
  • Pediatrician Rob Lustig, a leading anti-sugar campaigner, notes that “we have obese 6-month-olds. You wanna tell me that they’re supposed to diet and exercise?”
  • The government food recommendations are wrong and are keeping obesity on the rise. Big food companies are essentially paying government officials off in order to keep certain industries alive and thriving, like sugar and corn for example.
  • Michelle Obamas campaign “Let’s Move”, shifted to just focusing on exercise, rather than eating whole foods, due to a food industry backlash. 
  • The diet foods we are being served up aren’t actually contributing to weight loss at all. They are full of more sugar and chemicals that increase our waistline and perpetually keep us hungry and eating more. It’s a vicious cycle that the food industries are happy about. If you’re always hungry you will eat more and buy more.

“Fed Up” is probably the most important movie to be made since “An Inconvenient Truth,” to which it’s related in a couple of ways.” - NY Times food writer Mark Bittman

Watch the trailer NOW!

Unite Meal Service – ENROLL NOW!

Unite’s Meal Service is a convenient way to get the balanced nutrition you need and chef prepared meals you want.

How it works:

1. Choose your plan

  • 8 x meals, $86/week
  • 5 x meals, $56/week
  • 3 x meals, $36/week

 

 

 

 

2. Select menu items

  • Produce is pesticide free, non-gmo, organic and local
  • Fish is wild caught
  • Beef is grass fed
  • Poultry is organic and local when possible

 

 

3. Pickup your meals

  • Pickup location Unite Fitness, Philly East
  • Mondays and/or Wednesdays

 

 

Continuing the meal service is easy.

  • Your order is automatically replicated each week.
  • Changing your order is easy and can be done each week
  • Cancel or Freeze your order anytime, no long term commitment

To take advantage of this amazing offer, just click on the ENROLL NOW button and choose your meals.

 

Unite Meal Service

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Unite Meal Service – Get up to $50 OFF your first two orders!

For a limited time you can get up to $50 OFF your first two weeks of delicious and healthy meals.

Unite’s Meal Service is a convenient way to get the balanced nutrition you need and chef prepared meals you want.

How it works:

1. Choose your plan

  • 8 x meals, regularly $86/week – INTRODUCTORY OFFER SAVE $50* on your first two orders ($61/week)
  • 5 x meals, regularly $56/week – INTRODUCTORY OFFER SAVE $30* on your first two orders ($41/week)
  • 3 x meals, regularly $36/week – INTRODUCTORY OFFER SAVE $20* on your first two orders ($26/week)

 

 

2. Select menu items

  • Produce is pesticide free, non-gmo, organic and local
  • Fish is wild caught
  • Beef is grass fed
  • Poultry is organic and local when possible

 

 

3. Pickup your meals

  • Pickup location Unite Fitness, Philly East
  • Mondays and/or Wednesdays

 

 

Continuing the meal service is easy.

  • Your order is automatically replicated each week.
  • Changing your order is easy and can be done each week
  • Cancel or Freeze your order anytime, no long term commitment

To take advantage of this amazing offer, just click on the ENROLL NOW button and choose your meals.

*Introductory offer is good for New Customers only, Offer ends Wed. 5/14  (orders placed for the week of 5/12 and 5/19)

 

What Your Fitness Trainers Are Addicted to!

We all have our go to foods we can’t live without. We asked 10 trainers at Unite Fitness to inspire us to get a little healthier and spill the beans on the foods they eat regularly. Some of these may or may not surprise you!

Coach Mackie:  Steves Original Tropical Paleo Bar–A grainless granola bar.

 

Coach Jess: Corn on the cobb–Naturally sweet and delicious.

 

Coach Eric: Sushi—His favorite place in the city Fat Salmon.
 
 

Coach Juliet: Chocolate Peanut Butter Quest Bars–She sticks one in the microwave for 30 sec for a gooey treat!

 

Coach Gavin: Sunflower seed butter–A great alternative to nut butters, especially if you have an allergy.

 

Coach Michele: Fruit of any kind!

 

Coach Anne Marie: Fage Plain Greek Yogurt with fresh berries or chopped apple. Her breakfast almost every day!

 
Coach Kelly: Pure Maple Syrup–She puts it in her coffee to get some flavor and added magnesium and zinc.

 

Coach Nancy: Lindt Chocolate!

 

Coach Ed:  He’s big fan of the 4 food groups that make all other foods better: cheese, chocolate, peanut butter, and bacon.

The End of Paleo: Our Meat Obsession Cannot Continue

Population has risen steadily, but the demand for meat has gone through the roof.  This stunning graphic shows how much more meat we produce and eat than 30 and 50 years ago. We probably aren’t even aware of our own recent meat obsession. Trendy, extreme diet crazes like Paleo are bringing it to a head however. The US Department of Agriculture estimates that the typical American consumes around 127 pounds of meat per year – on average, that’s 40 percent more than other developed countries. This has to do with the increase in wealth to afford meat but also the “efficiencies” that were gained by the industrialization of meat production.  The factory farming of cows, pigs and chickens has kept the price down, while trying to keep up with our exponential demand but at what cost. This trend in meat consumption is not sustainable for our planet and there are major health trade offs to cheap meat we need to be aware of.

Think of the value meat must have had back when we lived in villages and traded for goods and services, which relatively speaking was not long ago. Cows were prized possessions, mostly for their milk, and meat was a special treat. Key word is treat, not a heavy daily intake and a part of every meal like it is today. The Paleo Diet’s story is that if we go back even farther, a lot farther, we find hunter gatherers who lived off meat and nuts, berries, and vegetables they could pick. The concept is that this is how humans were meant to eat and that our digestive systems are not supposed to eat cultivated grain products.
First, humans have lived off ancient grains for thousands of years without problems and our system is extremely adaptable to handle almost anything. Second, Paleo humans lived quite a rough, short and uncivilized life partially because of there diet. Paleo purports this archaic diet and lifestyle for the modern age when the main goal back then was to survive and yet they died by 30.  Even more ironic is that they usually died of hunger because the efficient, sustainable, storable grains were not yet cultivated. Yes processed sugar, soy, wheat breads and pasta, etc. aren’t helping anyone stay lean and full feeling. We shouldn’t however throw out our amazing, healthy, filling, efficient whole grains and beans because of there stripped down versions. Beans are a super food for goodness sake. Please eat brown rice, quinoa, farro, bulgar, kidney beans, lentils, etc. and see how they effect you.  Grains and beans give me great sustained energy, stable digestion and a feeling of fullness.
Another part of the Paleo lure is that eating a higher percentage of your calories from protein is better for keeping a lean muscular body.  Unless we track and calculate our protein intake, most of us don’t really know what it currently us, nor what it ideally should be. Humans have shown that they can live well with different proportions of protein, fat and carbs in our diets but there is a minimum amount of protein that should be determined in grams not percentages of total. Above that amount our body will take excess protein and do an inefficient process to turn it into energy. As it turn out, we tend to get plenty of protein for the need of rebuilding our cells, yet America is currently in the midst of a protein and meat obsession. We can partially thank the Atkins and now Paleo diet crazes for this irresponsible focus on eating so much more meat and protein than is necessary for regular people. Unite’s nutritionist will be happy to help you determine your protein intake as a part of a custom menu plan.

Simply put, Paleo is a bogus concept and it’s “ancient roots” have been warped into a nostalgic, strange story to make it popular. Did you know that if everyone ate a Paleo diet, we simply could not produce enough meat for the population?  If we keep trying to eat and produce more meat, the environment will be ruined in short order. Raising and killing cows and pigs for beef and pork are the biggest culprits in energy inefficiency and waste production with tons of greenhouse gases emitted and copious amounts of fresh water used. It is simple to understand really. Creating animals for eating consumes way more energy and input than plants require, especially the big animals, so the industrial process tries to optimize this unnaturally. To keep up with demand, forests are cleared and burned to make room for the cows and pigs.

The other big issue to be aware of is how unhealthy some of this industrial meat is for our body. The animals are kept in pens and fed the cheapest, non-organic grains and given synthetic hormones to grow faster than normal. If you haven’t yet please watch one of the many documentaries on food manufacturing such as Food Inc on Netflix or internet. Imagine those bulk packs of super cheap, low grade burgers and hotdogs that have become such staples in American life from sports venues, to school menus, to home barbecues and fast food. Oddly, the price of buying a meat and bread burger is now less than a salad bowl. Meat can be great, but this low grade hormone meat, particularly beef and pork, is cheap for a reason and hurting adding to our problems. This might be the only kind of meat we will be abel to afford if we demand to eat it so often. Furthermore, they are now finding that the “bad” saturated fats in red meats, is really only “bad’ in the industrialized versions, with grass fed remaining healthy. Our bodies and the environment feel the impacts of this low grade meat, so STOP buying them!

There is a natural balanced diet that can achieve our health goals and be practical about the world we live in today. What is effective about Paleo, is true of all natural diets: cutting out or reducing processed, sugary carbs will help support fat loss. What is not effective about Paleo is the ability to sustain cutting out an entire type of food, which is a staple for most cultures and in all ways healthy.

So what am I suggesting we do about this meat issue?

Well 25% of the world is vegetarian and gets along just fine, so we can take a few ideas from them.  Vegetarianism has shown to increase longevity and reduce risk of illness, not to mention be completely sustainable from a feeding the world stand point. Like many of you however, I grew up eating meat, I like it and would be concerned about getting my protein intake if I dropped meat altogether. There is no need to cut meat out but we should all think about reducing our meat intake to previous levels, especially certain types of meat.

There are many sources of protein but when you look at the statistics they have wildly different impacts on the world.  See the chart on energy efficiency factors of the food groups below and note the tremendous difference between grains (102%) and milk(45%) compared to pig (8.5%) and beef (4.3%). After I saw this graph and did my research about what we are sacrificing personally and societally, my view of meat eating has changed forever.  Here is what I will be doing about it:

  • Reduce my meat/fish intake to once per day, choosing efficient and healthy chicken and fish with beef and pork as a treat.
  • I will buy/order high quality, hormone free, grass fed beef, wild caught fish, organic chicken, etc. to ensure the best nutrition for my body and safe guarding the environment.
  • Replace my reduced meat/fish intake with more efficient protein sources: dairy, eggs, beans and whole grains, again going for the local, organic, hormone free versions, especially with dairy!
  • Keep the bulk of my food intake from sustainable, nutrient dense plant sources: vegetables, whole grains/beans, plant fats, fruits.
  • Buy organic, local, non-GMO produce as much as I can, especially looking out for the Dirt Dozen!  I am in my third year of using a local CSA, Crop Share, through Lancaster Farm Fresh that gives me weekly pickups of seasonal vegetables, fruits and eggs!

 

Coach Gavin McKay
Founder Unite Fitness