Healthy Recipe, Charred Zucchini and Scallion Pasta

It’s amazing how much depth of flavor can be achieved from basic ingredients with a few tweaks in the cooking, as Yasmin Fahr demonstrates in this recipe from “Cook Simply, Live Fully.” Here, summer squash, which tends to be bland, is charred first in a dry skillet with thin slivers of lemon and scallions. Olive oil, grated Parmesan, and the starchy water from the cooked pasta transforms into a creamy sauce rich with umami rather than fat. Not only is it healthy, delicious, and filling, but it’s also easy on the wallet and a snap to make. Serves 4. – Susan Puckett

Ingredients

  • Salt
  • 2 large or 3 medium zucchini or other summer squash
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 scallions
  • ¾ pound rigatoni, fusilli, ziti, or other short tubular dried pasta
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese, or more, as needed
  • Red pepper flakes (optional)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water seasoned with about a tablespoon of salt to a boil. Meanwhile, halve the zucchini or squash lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and cut into ½-inch-thick half-moons and set aside.
  2. Cut the lemon in half. Leave one half of the lemon whole for squeezing. Slice the other half into thin rounds, poke the seeds out, and cut the slices into ¼-inch-thick matchsticks. Set aside. Then trim the roots and thinly slice scallions.
  3. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook according to package directions until slightly underdone by a minute or two. Reserve 1 cup of the pasta water, then drain the pasta.
  4. While the pasta is cooking, heat a dry 12-inch cast-iron or other heavy skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the zucchini to the dry pan, season lightly with salt, spread out in an even layer and cook, undisturbed, for 2 minutes. Then flip with a spatula, scooting some of the slices up to rest on the sides of the pan if it looks crowded. Allow the slices to cook again, undisturbed, for 2 more minutes. Repeat this flipping process in 2-minute increments until the zucchini is browned in spots, 6 to 8 minutes total.
  6. Add the sliced lemon and scallions to the zucchini and cook until softened, about 3 minutes longer. Stir in the olive oil and season lightly with salt.
  7. Lower the heat to medium. Add the cooked pasta, ½ cup of the pasta water, and ¾ cup of the Parmesan, stirring well to form a creamy sauce. Add more water if the sauce looks too dry or more cheese if the sauce looks too watery.
  8. Remove from the heat, squeeze in the reserved lemon half, and stir. Season to taste with salt and red pepper flakes, if desired.

Check Out These Over-50 Fitness Influencers

We love bringing you news and information that will inspire your fitness journey.

And on social media, particularly Instagram, there’s no shortage of interesting, helpful fitness influencers in the over-50 fitness category. In fact, we would never try to pick a “Top 10” list.

But we are more than happy to share a few that we think you might enjoy. And feel free to share with us any others that you like.

And before you scoff about the value of “influencers,” read what the National institutes of Health had to say about them:

“Studies have proven that fitness influencers positively affect people’s exercise intentions or behaviors. Fitness influencers can be seen as health communicators on social media who use their professionalism, reliability, and attractiveness to motivate people’s fitness behavior.”

Happy scrolling!

1. Joan MacDonald @trainwithjoan. She started getting fit at age 70 and now trains with her daughter. She’s lean and muscular and sports a great smile.
2. Ashley Ward @itsashleywardd. This “hot daddy” type really keeps it in the family, too, frequently posing online with his buff young son. He’s a former pro rugby player and coach and frequently poses in sexy shirtless pics, if you’re into that kind of thing.
3. Jean Titus @titusunlimited. This “Silverfox squad member” also sports the physique of a fitness model half his age. He’s been featured in ESPN and BET.
4. Wendy Ida @wendyidafitness. She says her life was in shambles before she found fitness. Now, she’s a champ and an author in her 70s.
5. Old Lady Gains Apparel @oldladygains. This women-owned business sells “fitness apparel for unstoppable midlife+ women.” With attitude!
6. Debra Atkinson Fit4Menopause @flipping50tv. The podcaster, author and speaker helps woman over 50 live their best lives with strength, bone and brain health, and “science-based hormone-balancing exercise.”
7. Shaun T @shaunt. OK, he’s not quite 50, but this bodybuilder, famous from infomercials a few years back, shows it’s possible for “older” men to pack on the muscle and keep it.
8. Kim Hale @mskimhale. Not all fitness happens in a gym, as this dancer proves. Hale was an aspiring chorine on Broadway years ago and has now returned in her 50s to make her dreams come true.

If any of these influencers – or anything else you see on the Internet – inspires you to make healthy changes in your life, then we say that’s a good thing.

But you’ve gotta do more than just watch these folks and others on your phone. Call us or come see us today and let’s get you moving with purpose.

In no time, you’ll be an influence on others around you, who will start to wonder… What’s the secret?


Healthy Recipe, Spiced Meatballs

Here’s a fun idea for your next outdoor get-together that’s more exciting than burgers and hot dogs and has more nutritional value to offer as well. It’s adapted from a recipe inspired by a Moroccan chef on the French Riviera in Rosa Jackson’s “Nicoise: Market-Inspired Cooking from France’s Sunniest City.”

Made with ground lamb or beef, the cumin-spiced meatballs are loaded with vitamin-rich herbs and can be cooked on the grill or stovetop. A drizzle of paprika-spiked yogurt and a side of lemony chickpea salad eliminates the need for mayo or a bun. A simple lettuce and tomato salad tossed in a light vinaigrette adds just the right touch of color and crunch to round out the meal while keeping the fat and carbs under control. Serves 4-6. – Susan Puckett

Ingredients
Chickpea Salad:

  • 2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup thinly sliced cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, white and pale green parts only
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus more
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Meatballs

  • 2 ounces day-old sourdough bread or baguette
  • ½ cup milk
  • 16 to 18 ounces ground lamb (or beef)
  • ½ cup finely minced red onion
  • 2 finely minced garlic cloves
  • ½ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup finely chopped mint leaves
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup neutral oil (if pan-frying)

Sauce

  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika or chili powder

Instructions

  1. Make the salad: In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, cilantro, parsley, scallions, ¼ cup of the lemon juice, olive oil, and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add more lemon juice if desired. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 hours.
  2. Make the meatballs: Break the bread into chunks, place in a small bowl and cover with milk. Set aside for at least 15 minutes or until milk is well absorbed.
  3. Place the meat in a large bowl, Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, mint, parsley, salt, pepper, cumin, ginger, and egg. Squeeze the milk out of the bread and add the bread to the mixture, discarding any pieces of crust that haven’t softened. Knead the mixture with your hands for up to a minute, until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  4. If grilling, prepare a medium fire in a gas or charcoal grill and shape the meat mixture into 2-inch balls (large enough so they   won’t slip through the grates) and flatten the meatballs slightly with a spatula.

If pan-frying, shape the meat into 1-inch balls. Heat the oil over medium-low heat and add enough meatballs to fill the pan without crowding. Flatten slightly with a spatula and cook, turning once, for 6 to 7 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through. (Take care not to use higher heat so the onion will have a chance to soften.)

  1. Make the sauce: In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt and paprika or chili powder.
  2. To serve: Arrange the meatballs on a platter alongside bowls of the chickpeas and the sauce. Drizzle the meatballs with the sauce or dip them into the bowl of sauce.

Healthy Recipe, Indian Okra

Okra is a staple of the American South: fried, pickled, stirred into gumbos. It’s also the primary component of a popular North Indian dish called bhindi (okra) masala, the inspiration behind this recipe lightly adapted from William Stark Dissen’s “Thoughtful Cooking: Recipes in the New South.” Bursting with bright curry spices and fresh herbs, it’s also loaded with nutrients and fiber. Pair it with rice and a yogurt-based sauce to make a quick vegetarian meal in a bowl. Serves 4.

Cucumber Raita: 

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced small (about 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 2 teaspoons chopped mint leaves
  • 1 ½ teaspoons lime juice
  • ¼ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt to taste

Okra and Tomato Stew:

  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
  • 2 medium plum tomatoes, diced
  • 1 pound okra, stems trimmed and sliced crosswise ½ inch thick
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • Jasmine or other white rice and lime wedges for serving

Instructions

  1. Make the raita: In a medium bowl, stir together the yogurt, cucumber, garlic, cilantro, mint, lime juice, cumin, garam masala, cayenne, and salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Make the stew: In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 7 minutes.
  3. Add the turmeric, cayenne, 1 teaspoon salt, and a few grindings of black pepper. Cook and stir until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes; cook and stir for a minute more. Add the okra; cook and stir for 2 minutes more.
  4. Cover and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the okra is tender but not mushy, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in half the cilantro, lime juice, and garam masala.
  5. Divide the okra among serving bowls and garnish each with a dollop of raita and the remaining cilantro. Serve with rice and lime wedges.

Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.

Diet Is More Than What You Eat

When someone asks about your diet, you naturally think about food, right?

But what if we expand our ideas about the word “diet” to include everything we consume in other aspects of healthy living? What would your exercise “diet” be? Your emotional diet, your spiritual diet, etc.?

It’s more than just an interesting way to look at things. This can be a helpful tool in assessing the various categories of your wellness – which, in turn, can help you see how to improve something here, tweak something there, and even applaud yourself for something else.

“Diet” is really just another word for choices we make habitually. So, let’s consider what we consume across the spectrum. What are some good, healthy choices, and how can we look out for pitfalls that can throw of four diets as surely as a giant slab of birthday cake with ice cream.

Physical. Exercise and nutrition are essential to maintaining health and independence. You know this. So – move your body and eat right!

Do This More: Resistance training. Stay strong so you maintain muscle mass, balance, and everyday functional performance.

Do This Less: Sitting. Go for a walk, take dance breaks during TV commercials, and stand during part of your computer time.

Emotional. How well do you cope with challenges of life? Are you trustworthy and respectful?

Do This More: Meditate. Pause throughout the day to focus solely on your breathing, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Do This Less: Consume news and social media. It can be so overwhelming and depressing. Limit yourself so that you stay informed and in touch, without going down any dark rabbit holes.

Intellectual. Engage in creative pursuits and things that stimulate your brain.

Do This More: Read and write. That means read good books, not snippets off screens, and write in longhand, not on the computer – poetry, fiction, or letters to loved ones.

Do This Less: Consume sugary drinks. You already know they contribute to physical problems like obesity and diabetes. But consuming too much sugar also raises your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Professional/Vocational. Even if retired, you still gain satisfaction using your skills as a mentor, volunteer or caregiver.

Do This More: Volunteer with a community organization that needs help in your area of expertise.

Do This Less: Complain about how things aren’t as good as they used to be when you were in charge or coming up.

Social. Our interactions with family and friends keep us connected, lowering stress and depression.

Do This More: Call someone you’re thinking about. Go back to your house of worship, recovery program, or community center. Start dating again, if it’s time.

Do This Less: Complain.

Spiritual. Let your personal values guide you to a life of meaning and purpose.

Do This More: Say “Thank you” to whomever or whatever you believe in. Make a gratitude list.

Do This Less: Live in the past. Memories are nice, but we only have right now, so enjoy your blessings and spread the bounty today.

Environmental. Be aware of how different environments affect you, and of your effect on the environment.

Do This More: Plan your next trip to somewhere that makes you happy or fires your imagination.

Do This Less: Put yourself in settings that cause you stress. Seriously. You can just say no to all kinds of things.

Keep it simple. Remember, you are what you eat. But you’re also what you read, believe, tell yourself, do with other people, and put into the world.

Living well is a banquet. Enjoy!

Healthy Recipe, Quinoa Bowls 

This one-bowl vegetarian dish adapted from Clarissa Stanton’s new cookbook, “Seriously, So Good,” is so filling and flavor-packed, it’s hard to believe it’s good for you. And it’s a snap to assemble. Toss together chickpeas and veggies with a little olive oil and seasonings. Then roast them on a sheet pan while you blend lemony tahini sauce. Heap the roasted veggies and chickpeas artfully into a bowl alongside diced avocado and quinoa. Serves 4.
Roasted Chickpeas and Vegetables

  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 1 red pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper

Lemon-Tahini Sauce

  • ¼ cup tahini
  • 1 clove garlic, grated or finely chopped
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup or honey
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • ¼ to ½ cup hot water (or more, as needed)

Bowls

  • 1 cup quinoa, cooked according to package directions
  • 1 avocado, peeled and thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese or vegan feta (optional)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400. In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, broccoli, red pepper and red onion. Add the olive oil, turmeric, garlic powder, ginger, salt, and pepper and toss to coat evenly.
  2. Spread out in a single layer on a large sheet pan and roast 15 to 20 minutes, tossing halfway through.
  3. Blend tahini, garlic, lemon juice, syrup or honey, salt, and cayenne. Slowly add hot water until the sauce is pourable.
  4. Scoop ½ cup of the quinoa into each bowl and divide the roasted chickpeas and vegetables, avocado, and feta between the bowls.
  5. Drizzle with the lemon-tahini sauce.

Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.

Are You Ready for the Summer?

Peter likes to run the trails in his neighborhood and work out on equipment in the park.

Maria is crazy about hiking with her weighted backpack.

And Joe rides his bike as often as possible, even to the grocery store and his favorite watering hole.

These are just three of the responses we received recently when we started asking people what kinds of activities they enjoy outside of the gym.

We believe working out with us is important and can improve your life in countless ways.

And one of them is being able to get outside and enjoy yourself more, with the confidence that comes from the strength, agility, and endurance we help you develop.

Time Outside Is Healthy

Living the way you want is one of the main values of functional fitness, and everybody has their own individual goals. But time spent outdoors is good for us and might even help us live longer, according to research in the Lancet Planetary Health.

It says that being around greenery improves longevity for folks who live in cities.

  • Parks, for instance, give us space to move our bodies and play, which is good for us in countless ways – from lower blood pressure to calmer moods.
  • Trees reduce noise and improve air quality.
  • Another study reported that women near green spaces had lower rates of death from kidney disease, respiratory disease, and cancer.

New York and Paris are among the globe’s top metropolises adding greenery, at least partly to add years to residents’ lives. The French capital even wants to make a third of its public green spaces into sustainable farms, complete with chickens and beehives.

Many in cities everywhere can enjoy the benefits of grass and trees in parks or back yards. Some trails have activity stations that encourage calisthenics and stretching along the way, like the ones Peter enjoys.

The point is, fitness in the gym helps you enjoy fitness outdoors for all kinds of activities.

And that sunshine on your shoulder makes everything just a little bit easier.

A Big Bike Trip

What are you most excited about as we head to summer?

  • Maybe it’s just being outside in the sunshine, walking the dog and working the yard.
  • Being able to travel to see friends and family who live far away?
  • Maybe you’re itching to spend more time on the golf course or pickleball courts.

Chris is one man with big outdoor fitness plans for the summer.

After working out at a gym for years, he has taken up biking, with a group and on his own, three or four times a week. This followed time spent running, hiking, climbing, and paddling at a local park that has a range of activity options.

Now he’s ready:

“I’ll turn 63 on a big ride out West, somewhere in the backwoods of Montana,” he says proudly, part of a 2,400-mile, off-road ride down the Continental Divide.

Chris knows: When you’re fit, you’re ready for anything.

Healthy Recipe, Corn Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

Local sweet corn at its height of freshness is delicious straight off the cob. Here, those kernels are tossed together with other summery ingredients and simple dressing of olive oil and lime juice for a colorful, refreshing salad that’s portable for picnics and potlucks and infinitely adaptable. This recipe is lightly adapted from one in “Pizza Night,” and while it would indeed go well with your favorite slice, it also makes a nutrition-packed meal on its own when embellished with protein-rich edamame and feta cheese. It’s also good with chips. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  1. 1 cup frozen, shelled edamame
  2. Kernels from 4 ears of corn
  3. 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  4. ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt, plus more, to taste
  5. Freshly ground black pepper
  6. ¼ cup extra virgin-olive oil, plus more, to taste
  7. 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more, to taste
  8. 1 cup torn fresh basil leaves
  9. ¼ cup torn fresh mint leaves, finely chopped chives, or finely chopped green onions
  10. 1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and diced
  11. 4 ounces feta cheese, preferably in brine, cut in 1/8-inch-thick slabs

Instructions

  1. In a small pot of boiling water, blanch the edamame for 15 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water; pat dry.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the corn, tomatoes, edamame, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste. Add the olive oil and lime juice and toss.
  3. Taste and adjust seasonings, lime juice, and olive oil as desired.
  4. Add the basil, mint, avocado, and feta. Toss gently and serve immediately.

Susan Puckett is an Atlanta-based food writer and cookbook author.

Is Weight Loss the Most Important Goal?

If you want to get in shape, you better believe this: Nothing is more important than losing weight!

The number on the scale is all that matters!

And we have a special deal for you on a certain bridge in Brooklyn!

Trust us, folks. Despite society’s focus on it, your weight is not always the most important factor in your health and fitness. And losing weight should not necessarily be the No. 1 goal of exercising on a regular basis.

That’s a common misunderstanding that frustrates many newcomers to fitness. It keeps others from even trying to get in shape.

It’s true that weight loss is a common goal. It’s an excellent goal for many people. And being at a proper weight is essential for your health.

But there are so many more reasons to pursue or maintain a fit lifestyle. And there are so many other indicators of health than just pounds – like body fat percentage and strength.

  • Thin doesn’t necessarily mean healthy.
  • Strong is the new skinny.
  • You might weigh a little more after losing body fat and gaining muscle.

Remember that daily movement is essential for optimal aging. It keeps you feeling better, moving better, and – yes! – looking better.

It lowers healthcare costs.

It extends independence.

So, let’s go over some of the main facts about fitness over 50 that often get overlooked in all the misinformation out there.

Focus on Function

Cody Sipe, a professor and co-founder of the Functional Aging Institute, fights ageism and focuses on functional ability rather than merely someone’s weight or age.

He points out a few of the common false myths.

  • Older people should never lift weights. Not only can most mature people lift weights, but they shouldlift weights. Strength training builds muscle mass, which we lose as we age. And it protects bone health.
  • Walking is good enough. Walking and jogging are nice first steps, but we must do more. That includes strength, cardio endurance, balance and mobility.
  • You’ll hurt yourself if you exercise. Wrong. It’s more dangerous to sit all day than to move your body with purpose.

A Few Top Motivators

People over 50 have endless reasons for wanting a healthier lifestyle.

  1. Grandkids. If you don’t think you need strength, agility and endurance to be The Fun Nana, well, guess again.
  2. Travel. Try carrying luggage, putting it in an overhead compartment, and enjoying activities WITHOUT being in good shape.
  3. Mental Health. Exercise relieves depression, battles dementia, and improves sleep. Hello!
  4. Physical Health. It keeps you at a healthy weight, which lowers your risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and countless other issues as you age.
  5. Sports and Hobbies. You can continue your favorite leisure activities if you are fit. This is true for everything from pickleball to ballroom dancing.

So, you see, although it really is important to maintain a healthy weight, this is a much more rewarding journey than just obsessing about that number on the scale. Questions? We are here to help!

Healthy Recipe, Chicken Thighs with Limes  

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are a low-fat, low-cost protein source that’s convenient to have on hand. But without the skin and bones to keep them moist and hold them together, they can use some extra TLC in the prep. Here’s one fast and easy idea worth keeping in your back pocket, adapted from a recipe in Yasmin Fahr’s “Cook Simply, Live Fully. Serves 4.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more, as needed
  • 2 limes, zested and thinly sliced into rounds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, cilantro, or mint
  • Rice and green salad for serving (optional)

Instructions

  1.  Heat a broiler with a rack 6 inches from the heat source to high.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the yogurt, Parmesan, sumac (if using), cumin, 1 teaspoon of salt, the lime zest, and 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the chicken to the bowl and stir to coat.
  3. Arrange the lime rounds on a sheet pan (lined with parchment for easy clean-up if desired). Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and spread them out. Arrange the chicken pieces on the pan.
  4. Set the pan under the broiler and broil until the tops of the chicken pieces are lightly browned, 6 to 7 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces over and broil 4 or 5 minutes longer, or until the chicken starts to darken. (To test for doneness, cut through a thick piece with a knife to see if the juices run clear.) If the chicken is charring too quickly, move the pan down a rack to finish cooking.
  5. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with the chicken and limes (which you can eat) with the herbs.  Serve with rice and salad, if desired.