Kera Harrod will put hundreds of people through workouts this summer. They’ll run, they’ll lift, they’ll stretch, they’ll sweat. But they won’t lose weight – at least not as much as they want – if they don’t follow Harrod’s advice to eat right.
“They come in and work out, that’s usually not their problem,” said Harrod, a fitness instructor for the YMCA. “It’s what they do at home that’s trouble, or what they do over the weekend.”
The advice applies whether your exercise consists of going to the gym, bicycling, walking, swimming, gardening or any other physical activity. While all can improve strength, flexibility and cardiovascular health, you won’t lose weight unless you consume fewer calories than you expend. And you won’t have the energy to exercise unless you eat a balanced diet.
The flip side is that a good diet combined with exercise can accelerate weight loss, letting you push your body even harder and achieve more fitness goals in a happy cycle.
Harrod went to Butler Community College on a tennis scholarship and eventually earned a degree in kinesiology and sports medicine from Wichita State University. She splits her time between the Y’s in El Dorado and Andover, leading individual and group fitness sessions.
“I love what I do,” she said. “I work with kids, I work with obese clients, I work with people who’ve come out of surgery. I just like the variety.”
She also loves to cook, a skill she first learned from her mother. She enjoys trying to find lower-calorie and low-fat substitutes for certain ingredients – applesauce for sugar and plain Greek yogurt for sour cream or mayonnaise are two favorites – as well as re-creating popular restaurant items such as Bonefish Grill’s Bang Bang Shrimp Tacos in a healthier form.
“I love to try something, mix something up, make something old new,” she said.
For clients whose main goal is weight loss, Harrod starts with some comforting advice: “Don’t stop eating what you enjoy, but look at how much you’re eating, and how often.”
Some people, for instance, starve themselves all day, lowering their energy level in the process, then consume an entire day’s quota of calories or more in a late-night meal, when there’s no chance to burn them off. Harrod would have people stand that approach on its head, eating their biggest meal of the day for breakfast and smallest for dinner. Realizing that sitting down for breakfast is difficult given some people’s schedules, she’s a big fan of breakfast casseroles, which can be made in advance, portioned out and reheated as needed.
“It’s something I can take in the car or between clients,” she said.
Harrod said she usually makes at least six servings of any recipe she prepares, giving her nearly a week’s worth of ready-to-eat meals. For clients who want to follow suit, she suggests packing a fresh vegetable, a carbohydrate such as rice or pasta, and six ounces of meat for each meal. It’s all part of getting the most out of your exercise by watching what you put in your body.
Kathryn Thurber, a yoga and group exercise instructor at Genesis Health Club, also preaches the importance of eating breakfast – and not just a slice of toast with coffee.
“Any sort of protein for breakfast first thing in the morning, after drinking a little cold water, is the best thing you can do for yourself,” said Thurber, who also manages the All American Dave restaurant inside Genesis’ Rock Road location.
Thurber is a fan of eggs at any time of day. She keeps a stash of hard-cooked ones handy for protein-filled snacks or meals, and counts egg white scrambles among her go-to quick meals to fix. That’s not as bland as it sounds, since she sautes some garlic and spinach, scrambles them with the egg and sprinkles a little mozzarella cheese over all. “Throw in a little sea salt and Cholula (hot sauce) and you’re ready to go,” she said.
Sweet potatoes, skins left on, sliced into medallions and sauteed in coconut oil are another favorite nutrient-packed dish.
The best way to avoid that empty feeling between meals: Drink water, and lots of it. Thurber challenges the people who take her classes to drink a gallon of water a day.
And like Harrod, she says nobody needs to be good all the time.
“Something I’ve gathered in my history, no one can be perfect,” she said. “I love Freddy’s (Frozen Custard and Steakburgers). But instead of having the largest shake and a big basket of fries, get the mini and quench your thirst for that.”
BAKED DENVER OMELETE
1 cup chopped, cooked ham
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 large eggs
1/3 cup milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sliced avocados, for serving (optional)
Chopped chives and hot sauce, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a 7-by-11-inch or 9-by-9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Sprinkle ham in an even layer in bottom of baking dish.
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Once hot, add red and green bell peppers and onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Evenly pour pepper mixture over ham layer, then sprinkle evenly with cheese.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended. Season with salt and pepper and stir, then pour over mixture in baking dish.
Bake in preheated oven until puffy and set, about 20-25 minutes. Cut and serve warm with avocado slices and optional chives and hot sauce.
Here’s another make-ahead recipe that requires no cooking. The oats absorb liquid while they’re refrigerated overnight.
1/4 cup steel-cut or old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup nonfat milk
1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1/4 cup fruit of choice
2 spoonfuls protein powder (optional)
Mix all ingredients together in a mason jar or airtight container. Place in refrigerator overnight. When ready to eat, open and give a quick stir. Mixture can be heated in the microwave if desired.
OMG FISH TACOS
1.5 lbs. tilapia filets or other white fish
Emeril’s Blackened Seasoning or other favorite seasoning
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
2 tablespoons sweet Thai chile sauce
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
Toppings: sliced avocado, shredded cabbage, minced red onion, chopped cilantro
Rub fish filets with olive oil, then season to taste. Grill or bake until fish is cooked through and flakes easily with a fork.
For sauce, combine yogurt, Sriracha, sweet Thai chile sauce and rice wine vinegar in a small bowl.
Serve fish in tortillas, with sauce and toppings of choice.
ALL-AMERICAN BURGER WITH UNFRIED RICE
This healthy take on fried rice uses a nonstick pan and a little water to steam vegetables instead of sauteing them with rice in oil.
1/2 to 3/4 lb. ground beef
1 1/2 cups cooked short-grain brown rice
1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 cups broccoli florets
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 avocado, sliced
Sriracha or other hot sauce, optional
Garlic powder, turmeric, black pepper, sea salt, to taste
Cook brown rice according to package directions. Season to taste with turmeric, garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt and black pepper. Keep warm.
Form ground beef into thin patties; season to taste. Grill, broil or cook patties on stove top until done. Slice into pieces, set aside and keep warm.
Meantime, place onion, broccoli, bell pepper and a little water in a large nonstick pan set over high heat. Cook a few minutes, occasionally stirring, until tender. When vegetables are done and water is evaporated, clear a little space and crack egg into skillet. As it sets, stir egg into vegetables, then add rice to pan and combine.
Divide rice mixture between plates, top with sliced beef patties and sliced avocado. Serve with hot sauce if desired.