Fifty and Fabulous

The thoughts, loves, rants, interests & inspirations for Gen X


Should I Eat Back My Exercise Calories?

(I found this post on the My Fitness Pal Blog here. It’s really helped me to re-focus some of my new healthy lifestyle goals and habits. It’s not rocket science but sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the basics.)

Congrats! You’ve gone to the gym, put in some time on the treadmill and now have a few hundred extra calories in the bank. But what do you do with those extra exercise calories? Should you run to the kitchen and gobble them up, save them for a special weekend treat or ignore them altogether?

When faced with this decision, it’s important to consider several factors, most notably your weight goal (whether you’re wanting to lose, gain or maintain), the frequency, intensity and duration of your exercise, and your overall level of hunger.

For the average exerciser trying to lose or maintain weight (i.e. someone who burns an additional 200-500 calories a few times per week), exercise calories don’t make up a significant portion of overall calorie burn, generally in the 1500-2200 per day range. Unless you’re exercising at a moderate to high intensity for an hour or more, several times a week, or are actively trying to gain weight, you most likely don’t need to be worried about eating all of those calories back.

The main reason is this: It’s easy, and fairly common to overestimate calorie burn (both from everyday activity and from exercise) and underestimate calorie consumption. By going out of your way to eat back every calorie you expend during exercise, you may unintentionally undermine your efforts to lose or maintain your weight. Additionally, you could be overriding your body’s hunger cues if you don’t feel particularly keen for those exercise calories but eat (or drink) them back them anyway. If your body isn’t telling you it needs fuel, it’s best to save your exercise calories for when you want them–say, for an unexpected hunger pang or a weekend treat meal with friends.

Now if you’re trying to lose weight, chances are you’ll be on the hungry side even without exercising since MyFitnessPal’s weight loss calorie goals are calculated independent of exercise. The upside to this is that those exercise calories become a “bonus”–so if your workout leaves you feeling a bit hungry afterwards, by all means you should enjoy the bump in calories and eat something. (Just read the 5 tips below beforehand to make the most of them!)

The vast majority of us who are trying to shed a few pounds or maintain our weight need not be concerned about eating back all of our exercise calories, but those trying to gain weight, and/or who are training heavily several times per week should be mindful about getting in enough calories–both to fuel physical activity and promote muscle growth, repair and recovery. For those of you who fall into this category, here are some great pre- and post-workout meals and snacks.

Whether you’re exercising to lose, gain or maintain your weight, improve your fitness level, or just reduce stress, one thing to remember when eating back exercise calories is that the quality of those calories is just as important as the quantity.

To help you get the most out of those hard earned calories, here are 5 tips to healthfully handle those post-workout hunger pangs:

1. Start with a hydration check. Thirst can be misinterpreted for hunger so, if you’re on the fence about whether you need to refuel or not, make sure you’re not just dehydrated. Here are some hacks from other MyFitnessPal users for staying well hydrated.

2. Hone in on your hunger cues. Rather than running for the kitchen cabinet the moment you get home from your workout, trust your tummy to tell you if you need a post-workout snack.

3. Don’t get stuck on the number. Remember, the calories you eat and exercise off are estimations, and we’re more likely to overestimate calories burned from exercise. If hunger hits between meals, start slow–particularly if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight. Begin by eat back a percentage of your exercise calories (say, 50%) rather than all of them, and see how you feel in 20-30 minutes.

4. Focus on high-quality protein and wholesome carbohydrates. Doing so will optimize muscle repair and recovery.

5. Spread ‘em out. Our bodies aren’t able to store protein like carbohydrates and fat so, if you have a significant number of calories to eat back (lucky you!), be sure to include protein with each meal and snack over the course of the day for optimal muscle building and repair.

Nutrition Note: Large calorie deficits over time, whether through calorie restriction, exercise or a combination of the two, can lead to nutrient deficiencies and other health problems, so it’s always a good idea to consult with a doctor or dietitian if you are unsure about how many calories (exercise or otherwise) you should be consuming.

This Post Was Written By:

Elle Penner, MyFitnessPal Registered Dietitian
 Elle Penner, M.P.H., R.D.

Elle Penner, M.P.H., R.D., is the Registered Dietitian and Food & Nutrition Editor at MyFitnesssPal, as well as an active runner and food-enthusiast. For more healthy living inspiration, connect with her on Twitter and Pinterest.

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What Nutritionists Eat When They Want to Slim Down

I found this article on the My Fitness Pal blog here. My main thing is portion control, I can’t leave food on my plate so I have to make sure that I reduce what I put on it!

What Nutritionists Eat When They Want to Slim Down

After an indulgent vacay or even a few too many dinners out, your body’s probably craving a diet cleanup. Nutritionists go through this cycle, too—but the good thing is, we have training and knowledge that’s taught us how to slim back down in a healthy way. So I’ve asked some of my favorite registered dietitians to share what changes they make when they’re on a mission to slim down.

Angela Lemond

Angela Lemond

I make sure to add adequate protein to meals—about 30g—especially at breakfast. People do not get enough protein at breakfast. Eggs are getting a reprise, and they are wonderful mixed with dark green and red veggies topped with fresh mozzarella cheese. Add a side of mixed berries and you have an amazing breakfast. In fact, a recent study suggests that adequate protein in the morning helps tame appetite throughout the day.”

—Angela Lemond, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Rebecca Scritchfield

Rebecca Scritchfield


“When I’m not feeling my best it’s usually because I haven’t gotten enough sleep. I add in a bedtime snack of dried tart cherries and walnuts, which have melatonin to help me get shut eye and keep my hunger hormones in line.”
—Rebecca Scritchfield, MA, RDN

Kathleen Zelman

Kathleen Zelman


“I lean on nuts, tomato juice, popcorn and tea. I top my Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts at breakfast, eat salads at lunch, snack on popcorn and tomato juice and rely on tea instead of dessert. My only splurge is a glass of wine at dinner.”
—Kathleen Zelman, WebMD Director of Nutrition

Kate Geagan

Kate Geagan


“I make a hearty Tuscan white bean soup that’s chock full of baby greens (like kale or spinach) and some diced vegan sausage…I love this soup because it’s packed with satisfying protein, rich in plant based nutrition (fiber, folate and antioxidants), and soup is a fantastic comfort food that lets you feel full longer on fewer calories.”
—Kate Geagan, MS, RDN, author of Go Green. Get Lean.


Marie Spano

Marie Spano

“I swap out any treats (frozen yogurt, for instance) with fruit and prepare my food very simply—herbs and spices for flavor versus sauces and mixed dishes. I also cut down on bread, crackers and other similar carbohydrates, because those are the foods I am most likely to overeat, and replace them with some combination of produce and protein (apples with peanut butter, melted cheese over steamed veggies).”
—Marie Spano, MS, RD, CSCS, CSSD, Sports Nutritionist for the Atlanta Hawks


Tara Gidus

Tara Gidus

“Since sweets are my biggest downfall, I cut back on chocolate, ice cream…all the places I get too many excess calories. I replace them with more fresh fruit to take care of the sweet craving as well as more Greek yogurt (topped with fruit). I also just really watch portion control. I may simply just take a little bit less on my plate, or fill more of my plate with veggies rather than higher-calorie items.”
—Tara Gidus, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N, Co-host, Emotional Mojo, national TV show


Regan Jones

Regan Jones

“As an RD I certainly believe that no one food or nutrient is solely responsible for weight gain, but for me too much sugar and too little protein at breakfast does seem to be a big influence on an (unwanted) tighter waistband. If I notice it’s time to cut back, I start by swapping in plain Greek yogurt for some of the sweetened varieties that I love. And I add in an egg (either hard-boiled or microwave scrambled) at breakfast. These are very small changes, but they make a difference in how hungry I am later in the morning and by lunch.”
—Regan Jones, RD, Founding Editor at

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A New Way to Lower Risk of Peanut Alleries

Peanut butterHere is another very interesting article that I found on the My Fitness Pal blog here and although this is a US study carried out in the UK, I have heard similar suggestions this side of the pond from other sources.

A new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine revealed some good news about peanut allergies: There may be a way to prevent them.

The findings of this landmark study, a randomized control trial (the gold standard of studies) revealed that early consumption of peanuts may actually reduce a child’s risk of developing an allergy to it.

The rate of food allergy (and our allergy awareness) has increased steadily over the past couple of decades. A 2010 study found that the rate of peanut allergy tripled in the United States between 1997 and 2008; more recent figures indicate that number has now quadrupled. Food allergies are quickly becoming a global health concern, with rates increasing in Western Europe, Australia and a more recent emergence in Asia and Africa.

A peanut allergy typically develops early in life, and is rarely outgrown. Children with a family history of peanut allergy, who have eczema and/or are allergic to eggs, are considered to be at high risk for peanut allergies.

Allergic reactions can range from mild to severe. More mild symptoms include itchy skin, hives (ranging from small spots to large welts), itching in or around the mouth or throat and nausea. Severe reactions can cause throat swelling, constriction of the airway, a severe drop in blood pressure, a racing pulse and loss of consciousness.

For many years the advice has been to avoid giving babies foods associated with allergies—peanuts included. The 2000 guidelines from The American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that peanuts be withheld from children at risk of developing allergies until they were 3 years old. But in 2008, the Academy revised their recommendations, stating a lack of scientific evidence to support the earlier recommendation. Unfortunately, at the time, there was no strong evidence to suggest that peanut consumption may help prevent allergies, either; this left both parents and doctors wondering what was the right thing to do.

Study Overview

The study published in the New England Journal of Medicine was conducted in the U.K. and sponsored in part by the National Institutes of Health. It looked at babies aged 4-11 months with eczema and/or an egg allergy, both of which puts the child at high-risk for developing a peanut allergy.

The babies enrolled in the study were assigned to one of two groups. In one group, the families were asked to give their baby peanut-containing products (such as dissolvable peanut puffs or peanut butter mixed into other foods) at least three times a week. The other group was asked to withhold peanut-containing foods until the child turned 5 years old.

Infant Peanut Allergy Study

Infant Peanut Allergy Study – some promising results!

Of the 640 babies enrolled, 98% completed the trial. The 13 who did not were unable to tolerate peanuts from the start.

Study Findings

Overall, study results showed that early introduction of peanut products significantly decreased the frequency of peanut allergies among children at high risk for developing this sensitivity. Babies who ate the equivalent of about 4 heaping teaspoons of peanut butter each week were almost 80% less likely to develop a peanut allergy by their 5th birthday. Even counting the 13 children who were unable to complete the study, the data still suggests a strong protective effect from introducing peanuts early on.

These findings are so strong the researchers have decided to continue the trial. Over the next year, they will investigate whether the protective benefits of early peanut exposure are sustained when peanuts are removed from the diet, or whether children need to continue to eat peanut-based foods.

What Does This Mean for Parents?

Before you grab that jar of peanut butter in the pantry, if you have an infant or young child with eczema, egg allergy, or you have a family history of peanut allergy, consult with an allergist or your pediatrician prior to feeding him or her peanut products for the first time. The doctor may request that you come into the office so he or she can help in the event of a more severe reaction.

If you have a child with eczema, egg allergy or have a family history of peanut allergy and your child has been able to tolerate peanut-based foods thus far, it’s likely safe (and beneficial, as this study suggests) to continue feeding him or her these foods. Continue to monitor your child closely for a possible allergic reaction, since food allergies can develop at any time.

If your child is not at high risk for developing a peanut allergy, it’s generally safe for him or her to begin consuming peanut-based foods (such as peanut butter mixed into mashed banana) at the time you introduce him or her to solid foods (around 6 months of age). Make sure to monitor him or her closely, as a food allergy can develop even in the absence of other risk factors.

As always, consult your pediatrician or allergist first if you have concerns about when or how to introduce peanuts into your child’s diet.

Elle Penner, M.P.H., R.D.

Elle Penner, MyFitnessPal Registered Dietitian
Elle Penner, M.P.H., R.D.


Elle Penner, M.P.H., R.D., is the Registered Dietitian and Food & Nutrition Editor at MyFitnesssPal, as well as an active runner and food-enthusiast.

For more healthy living inspiration, connect with her on Twitter and Pinterest.

Leave a comment

What are processed foods?

In my ever continuing journey to become more fit and healthy, I came across the article below on the NHS website here.  Thought you might be interested too!

processed-foods  Processed foods aren’t just microwave meals and other ready meals. The term ‘processed food’ applies to any food that has been altered from its natural state in some way, either for safety reasons or convenience. This means you may be eating more processed food than you realise.

Processed foods aren’t necessarily unhealthy, but anything that’s been processed may contain added salt, sugar and fat.

One advantage of cooking food from scratch at home is that you know exactly what is going into it, including the amount of added salt or sugar.

However, even home-made food sometimes uses processed ingredients. Read on to find out how you can eat processed foods as part of a healthy diet.

What counts as processed food?

Microwave meals  Most shop-bought foods will have been processed in some way. Examples of common processed foods include:

breakfast cereals
tinned vegetables
savoury snacks, such as crisps
meat products, such as bacon
“convenience foods”, such as microwave meals or ready meals
drinks, such as milk or soft drinks

Food processing techniques include freezing, canning, baking, drying and pasteurising products.

Dietition Sian Porter  Dietitian Sian Porter says: “Not all processed food is a bad choice. Some foods need processing to make them safe, such as milk, which needs to be pasteurised to remove harmful bacteria. Other foods need processing to make them suitable for use, such as pressing seeds to make oil. Freezing fruit and veg preserves most vitamins, while tinned produce (choose those without added sugar and salt) can mean convenient storage, cooking and choice to eat all year round, with less waste and cost than fresh.”

What makes some processed foods less healthy?

spilt salt shaker  Ingredients such as salt, sugar and fat are sometimes added to processed foods to make their flavour more appealing and to prolong their shelf life, or in some cases to contribute to the food’s structure, such as salt in bread or sugar in cakes.

This can lead to people eating more than the recommended amounts for these additives, as they may not be aware of how much has been added to the food they are buying and eating. These foods can also be higher in calories due to the high amounts of added sugar or fat in them.

Furthermore, a diet high in red and processed meat (regularly eating more than 90g a day) has also been linked to an increased risk of bowel cancer. Some studies have also shown that eating a large amount of processed meat may be linked to a higher risk of cancer or heart disease.

What is processed meat?

Processed Meat

Processed Meat

Processed meat refers to meat that has been preserved by smoking, curing, salting or adding preservatives. This includes sausages, bacon, ham, salami and pâtés.

The Department of Health recommends that if you currently eat more than 90g (cooked weight) of red and processed meat a day, that you cut down to 70g a day. This is equivalent to two or three rashers of bacon, or a little over two slices of roast lamb, beef or pork, with each about the size of half a slice of bread.

However, it’s important to remember that the term “processed” applies to a very broad range of foods, many of which can be eaten as part of a healthy, balanced diet.

How can I eat processed foods as part of a healthy diet?

Nutrition Food Labels have the information we need.

Nutrition Food Labels have the information we need.

Reading nutrition labels can help you choose between processed products and keep a check on the amount of processed foods you’re eating that are high in fat, salt and added sugars.

Adding tinned tomatoes to your shopping basket, for example, is a great way to boost your 5 a day. They can also be stored for longer and cost less than fresh tomatoes – just check the label to make sure there’s no added salt or sugar.

Most pre-packed foods have a nutrition label on the back or side of the packaging.

This type of label includes information on energy (kJ/kcal), fat, saturates (saturated fat), carbohydrate, sugars, protein and salt. It may also provide additional information on certain nutrients such as fibre. All nutrition information is provided per 100 grams and sometimes per portion of the food.

How do I know if a processed food is high in fat, saturated fat, sugar or salt?

There are guidelines to tell you if a food is high or low in fat, saturated fat, salt or sugar. These are:

Total fat –  High: more than 17.5g of fat per 100g – Low: 3g of fat or less per 100g

Saturated fat – High: more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g – Low: 1.5g of saturated fat or less per 100g

Sugars – High: more than 22.5g of total sugars per 100g – Low: 5g of total sugars or less per 100g

Salt – High: more than 1.5g of salt per 100g (or 0.6g sodium) – Low: 0.3g of salt or less per 100g (or 0.1g sodium)

The Traffic Light Table

The Traffic Light Table

For example, if you are trying to cut down on saturated fat, try to limit the amount of foods you eat that have more than 5g of saturated fat per 100g.

If the processed food you want to buy has a nutrition label that uses colour-coding, you will often find a mixture of red, amber and green. So, when you’re choosing between similar products, try to go for more greens and ambers, and fewer reds, if you want to make a healthier choice.

However, even healthier ready meals may be higher in fat and other additives than a home-made equivalent. That’s not to say that home-made foods can’t also be high in calories, fat, salt and sugar, but if you make the meal yourself, you’ll have a much better idea of what’s gone into it. You could even save yourself some money, too.

When cooking food at home…

For tips on how to eat healthily on a budget, read our healthy recipe ideas and check out the Eat4Cheap challenge.

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Book Review: Return to Bluebell Hill, by Rebecca Pugh

Another compelling review from the lovely Paris (that’s another book added to my Amazon wish list! Lol!)

Paris Baker's Book Nook

As sweet and satisfying as strawberries and cream! This British summertime, get out in the garden with Rebecca Pugh’s sparkling debut novel.

Return to Bluebell Hill 04

Home is where the heart is…

Jessica McAdams has never belonged anywhere; never truly felt at home. Of course, what did she expect from parents who never made her feel welcome in her own house? Leaving her life in London to return home to the charming country village of Bluebell Hill is harder than she thought. Especially as she never considered she’d be returning under such heart wrenching circumstances…

Clearing out the stunning and imposing Bluebell House after her parents’ death is difficult for Jessica—they never had the best relationship and now it’s too late. Yet spending time in the house that was never a home, having afternoon tea with dear old friend Esme—and sharing hot, sizzling kisses with delectable gardener Rueben!—opens Jessica’s eyes to the potential of…

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