whole grain

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"For unto us, a child is born." --Isaiah 9:6

Read: Isaiah 9

Soon we'll lay down the dumbbells and set aside the running shoes, and replace them with egg nog and wrapping paper. Christmas marks the crescendo of a chorus that began the day after Thanksgiving and will fade before the dawn of the new year.

For many, Christmas is a holiday of toys, food, family and new sweaters that we won't wear 'til next year (if ever). But through all the great things that come along with this season, all of which we too love to enjoy, let's remember the cliche is true. There is a reason for the season: that God came down to our level, because we couldn't get up to His.

So let us be first to say...Merry Christmas!

And finally, we at PrayFit want to thank all of you for your prayers of support, your time spent with us daily and for your encouragement. We're so excited about what God has in store for us and for you this new year.

May the Lord richly bless you and your loved ones today and everyday. May He guide and protect all of you and we pray for abundant health for everyone, so that we may continue to boldly serve Him all the days of our lives.

--Team PrayFit

NUTRITION TIP: SUPER SWAPS

As you look for ways to avoid the all-too-common holiday weight gain, or if you're planning on changing your dietary practices in 2013, your approach doesn't need to be as drastic as you think. Eating healthy does not have to mean a complete diet overhaul. A substitution-type approach can create big improvements in the way you eat, feel and look. To get started, try swapping the following:

• Processed grains for whole grains Research shows that eating whole grains reduces the risk of many chronic diseases. When shopping for breads and pastas, look for those with "whole wheat" listed as their first ingredient. And when dining out, don't be afraid to ask your server to switch your sandwich bread or hamburger bun to whole wheat. Many sushi restaurants will even make rolls using brown rice if you request it.

• Sugary beverages for water Drinks like fruit juices and sodas are high in refined sugar and calories. Their consumption can quickly lead to excess weight gain and eventually health problems. By switching to water, you can prevent this. You will also meet one of your body's essential needs, as water is required for carrying out most of its daily functions. If you'd prefer a bit of flavor, try adding some lemon. Aim for half your bodyweight in ounces of water each day.

• Empty calorie snacks for protein Foods high in processed carbs and fats yet low in nutrients are said to contain empty calories. They provide little to no benefit to our health and can easily lead to weight gain and the maladies that come along with it. Cookies, chips and candy are a few examples of snacks you'll want to swap out. By considering foods high in protein as an alternative -- like trail mix, yogurt, or natural beef jerky -- you will be giving your body a nutrient it needs to build and repair while satisfying your hunger in the meantime.

Amanda McDermott is an ISSA-certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition and the owner of Feed My Body, a nutrition coaching program. Learn more at feedmybody.com and facebook.com/feedmybody.

>> The PrayFit Daily will continue on January 7, 2013. To sign-up, or to get friends on our subscriber list, click here. For now, you can stay with us on Facebook, Twitter, HeavenUp and YouTube. And for a final look at how your health can be used as a means of praise, click 'play' to hear from founder Jimmy Peña.

Election Day Prayer

With today being election day, we have no higher calling than to stop and ask the Lord for His blessing. Together with close to 50,000 others, we join hands and circle around Max Lucado as he prays for the country:

Dear Heavenly Father,

You have given us this promise: ”...if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

So, we pray to you. We turn from evil and look to you, our God. Please:

Unite us

Strengthen us

Appoint and anoint our next president

In the name of Christ we pray,

Amen

SNACK SWAP: PITA CHIPS AND PRETZELS Snack foods don't have to be unhealthy. Use this healthy substitution to limit

Pita chips are only a marginally better choice than potato chips because they have a bit less fat, but you usually get a similar amount of calories per portion. Unless they’re made from 100% whole-grain pita bread, it’s just another source of refined grains, which during processing have been stripped of many of the nutrients that you would get from whole grains, such as vitamin E, magnesium, and fiber.

The same goes for pretzels –- yes, these are a low-fat food, but they’re usually made from refined flour.

Better bet: 100% whole-grain pita chips or pretzels made from 100% whole wheat. Even better, use zucchini or celery sticks, bell pepper strips, cucumber slices, or carrot chips (look for them by the bagged salads in the supermarket) to scoop up your salsa or hummus.

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, DC-based independent, nonprofit science organization, where her work is currently focused on environmental and policy solutions to obesity prevention. She also speaks to groups about health and nutrition and provides nutrition education to patients at a free medical clinic that serves low-income, uninsured adults in the Washington, DC area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.

Here I Am To Worship

"I will praise you, O Lord, with all my heart." --Psalm 138:1

Read: Psalm 138

Here I am to worship. If it's been a while since you've been to the gym, whisper it to the Lord as you open that door. If you're starting to walk after work with your spouse, pray it together as you take that step. Maybe you're about to take a swim, go for a jog or start your at-home DVD. Whatever the case, say it: Here I am to worship.

And as you do, remember -- it's not about the mirror, or lower bodyfat, or the muscle. Those things may happen, they may not. If they do, consider them gifts of obedience and blessings of diligence. But we believe it warms God's heart when we take care of ours. So go ahead. Lift, run, walk, swim, stretch. Have church. After all, you are a temple.

--Jimmy Peña

MENU MAKEOVER: Bread Pudding By Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC

With the kiddos being back in school, those after school snacks are back in business. And soaked in sugar, eggs and half-and-half, bread pudding is decadent to say the least. Good news: it’s possible to cozy up with a tasty version of this comfort food for less calories.

Nutrition Facts Classic bread pudding recipes can have over 600 calories and 30 grams of fat per serving. If you’re using doughnuts and buttery croissants instead of bread, you’d be lucky to keep things under 1000 calories.

The basic recipe is simple, combine bread with custard and bake. To lighten things up, you can use smarter ingredients at each stage of the recipe and keep portions to about ½ cup per person.

Bread Dense or sweetened breads will undoubtedly have more calories and monster portions just aren’t necessary. Consider using whole-grain bread for tummy-filling fiber and figure on 4 to 5 cups of cubed bread for 8 servings.

Custard Replacing half-and-half with low fat milk saves 200 calories and 25 grams of fat per cup. Don’t worry about the thinner consistency of the milk -- eggs help thicken the mixture and allow it to bake without separating. For every 2 cups of liquid, add 2 eggs and ½ to ¾ cup of sugar.

Extras Boost flavor (sensibly) with any of these embellishments: • Add 2 cups of fresh fruit or ½ cup of dried fruit • Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar before baking • Mix in ¼ cup dark chocolate chips • Add 2 tablespoons of rum or orange liqueur to the custard

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

An Avenue of Affliction

"In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider God has made the one as well as the other." —Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

Read: Ecclesiastes 7

On the treadmill to my right, walked a man maybe 80 years old; on the one to my left, a teenager with a disability. The three of us huffed and puffed, each with a window overlooking a busy intersection -- sort of a fitness fishbowl, if you will. Each stoplight ushered in a new array of commuters and though every once in a while we'd capture the attention of a driver or two, one vehicle in particular caught mine.

But first, isn't it interesting that you really don't know what motivates someone? Some things you just can't see. You can only see the result. Oh sure, while the dashboard on my treadmill might give me distance, it doesn't know what it took to get me that far. Pastor Chuck Swindoll wrote, "Although this journey along the avenue of affliction is unpleasant and unappealing, it is inevitable. Working through the hurt is essential if we hope to become effective for God."

To be effective for God. Isn't that the goal both physically and spiritually? And since we know that nothing hits us without Him allowing it, it's a compliment that He believes we can work through the hurt. Or better yet, we're never in pain alone. So as I stepped in between the two bookends of life on my left and right, it was a comfort to know the steps God took to see me through mine. (Lord only knows what was inside their hearts-the history, the pain, the drive,- but whatever it was, they walked).

And oh yes, I almost forgot. The car that got my attention? An Official Vehicle of the Department of Aging. Somehow, the three of us "vehicles" could easily relate. Wow. Can't you just hear the applause of Heaven? Listen closely, take courage and keep going. Because thankfully, the road we're on as believers? It's an incline.

--Jimmy Peña

CARBS: CHOOSE WISELY

While PrayFit isn't completely against low-carb dieting, we stress the importance of choosing the proper types of carbohydrates to fuel your training and other daily activities. Carbs are, after all, the body's preferred fuel source, so extended or extreme deprivation can backfire for dieters as well as the companies that stake their futures on no-carb schemes. Case in point...

"The low-carb diet craze reached its peak in 2004, with far fewer people following diets like Atkins and South Beach in subsequent years," according to John Robbins, author of Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples. "On August 1, 2005, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., filed for bancruptcy court protection."

Remember, the key is to control refined sugar, not to overly restrict healthy complex carbohydrates. Refined sugars, such as those found in sugary drinks, white bread and candy, digest quickly and spike insulin levels, which can cause the body to store fat. Complex carbs, such as those found in whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables, digest more slowly and provide sustained streams of fuel to cells.

Source: Healthy at 100 by John Robbins

Crusaders

"Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these?" --Isaiah 40:26

Read: Isaiah 40

What would your super power be? I know, it's kid's stuff, but somehow that question still makes it to the grown-up table. So let's pretend. Would you travel through time? Gain super strength? Or maybe my favorite -- you'd fly. C'mon, how many of us have ever wanted to swoop down and save the day?

But we can't. We can't find the car keys let alone leap tall buildings. Saving the day will just have to wait. But we should remember that while we're not caped, we are crusaders -- crusaders flanked by angels, sent to protect the only thing that will eventually fight gravity and win: our souls.

So if you're feeling grounded and restless, that's okay. This isn't home. You and I were meant for a land far, far away. All we need to do is wait for our Hero to say the day. And guess what? We'll rise up with renewed strength and fly.

--Jimmy Peña

P.S. Speaking of heroes, I'd like to share with you that my dad, Jerry Peña, has lost 40 lbs over the last 5 months. He's done it simply by eating less and walking a little more. And if he strolls by you, just know, there goes my hero on earth. Way to go Pop. I love you.

NUTRITION TIP: A Little White Lie? By Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD

A number of people I have counseled in nutrition are confused about the differences between brown sugar and white sugar. Some believe that brown sugar is healthier, using the logic that brown (whole grain) bread, rice, and pasta is better than the white (refined) versions of those products.

Actually, brown sugar is virtually equal to white sugar in calories and nutrient content. The only difference is that molasses has been added to brown sugar, which gives it its color and distinct taste. They key to maintaining a healthy weight is to use both types of sugar in moderation.

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, DC-based independent, nonprofit science organization, where her work is currently focused on environmental and policy solutions to obesity prevention. She also speaks to groups about health and nutrition and provides nutrition education to patients at a free medical clinic that serves low-income, uninsured adults in the Washington, DC area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.

PRAYFIT 33: Have you committed to take the PrayFit 33-Day Total Body Challenge? Order your DVD today to start this home-based, body-and-soul makeover, led by PrayFit founder Jimmy Peña. Then, keep up with the rest of the community, or just share your daily progress, at the PrayFit forums. "In just 33 minutes a day for 33 days, we can honor the one who gave us 33 years," Jimmy says.

AVENUE OF AFFLICTION

"In the day of prosperity be happy, but in the day of adversity consider God has made the one as well as the other."— Ecclesiastes 7:13-14

On the treadmill to my right, walked a man maybe 80 years old; on the one to my left, a teenager with a disability. The three of us huffed and puffed, each with a window overlooking a busy intersection -- sort of a fitness fishbowl, if you will. Each stoplight ushered in a new array of commuters and though every once in a while we'd capture the attention of a driver or two, one vehicle in particular caught mine.

But first, isn't it interesting that you really don't know what motivates someone? Some things you just can't see. You can only see the result. Oh sure, while the dashboard on my treadmill might give me distance, it doesn't know what it took to get me that far. Pastor Chuck Swindoll wrote, "Although this journey along the avenue of affliction is unpleasant and unappealing, it is inevitable. Working through the hurt is essential if we hope to become effective for God."

To be effective for God. Isn't that the goal both physically and spiritually? And since we know that nothing hits us without Him allowing it, it's a compliment that He believes we can work through the hurt. Or better yet, we're never in pain alone. So as I stepped in between the two bookends of life on my left and right, it was a comfort to know the steps God took to see me through mine. (Lord only knows what was inside their hearts-the history, the pain, the drive,- but whatever it was, they walked).

And oh yes, I almost forgot. The car that got my attention? An Official Vehicle of the Department of Aging. Somehow, the three of us "vehicles" could easily relate. Wow. Can't you just hear the applause of Heaven? Listen closely, take courage and keep going. Because thankfully, the road we're on as believers? It's an incline.

--Jimmy Peña

CARBS: CHOOSE WISELY

While PrayFit isn't completely against low-carb dieting, we stress the importance of choosing the proper types of carbohydrates to fuel your training and other daily activities. Carbs are, after all, the body's preferred fuel source, so extended or extreme deprivation can backfire for dieters as well as the companies that stake their futures on no-carb schemes. Case in point...

"The low-carb diet craze reached its peak in 2004, with far fewer people following diets like Atkins and South Beach in subsequent years," according to John Robbins, author of Healthy at 100: The Scientifically Proven Secrets of the World's Healthiest and Longest-Lived Peoples. "On August 1, 2005, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., filed for bancruptcy court protection."

Remember, the key is to control refined sugar, not to overly restrict healthy complex carbohydrates. Refined sugars, such as those found in sugary drinks, white bread and candy, digest quickly and spike insulin levels, which can cause the body to store fat. Complex carbs, such as those found in whole grain foods, fruits and vegetables, digest more slowly and provide slower, steady streams of fuel to cells.

Source: Healthy at 100 by John Robbins

HE VOTED: GRACE

August 2, 2011 Read: Isaiah 53

"...by his wounds we are healed." --Isaiah 53:5

I can't say I know all there is to know about politics, but the debt ceiling debate has been tough to escape. Turn the channel, pick up a newspaper or surf the web and there it is. And regardless of what side you're on, yesterday's vote was an emotional one; not so much for the outcome that saves the country from default, but because of who showed up for the vote. Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords appeared on the house floor for the first time since being critically wounded in January. Her appearance brought the house down. Fellow lawmakers described the scene as she raised her hand to vote "stunning" and "heroic." Giffords said she just had to be there for the vote. In her words, "I could not take the chance that my absence could crash our economy."

Please forgive the comparison, but you and I have a debt problem too. A debt no amount of good deeds, good thoughts, health, money, or otherwise could ever pay. Tally up the votes of every person of Adam's race, every voice that has ever spoken, and we wouldn't have enough yays for a victory.

But Jesus showed up to cast the only vote that counted; wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. He showed up, raised both hands and voted...grace.

--J.P.

WHAT'S IN A GRAIN?

One of the best and easiest things you can do to start cleaning up your diet is to make an easy switch. Whenever there's an option, elect to eat whole grain products. These healthier choices slow digestion, helping you to avoid the types of spikes in blood sugar and insulin that can leave your body drained and in a fat-storing mode.  But according to PrayFit contributing nutritionist Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD, there's much more to know about this wonder food.

"When selecting grain-based foods such as bread, cereal, pasta, and rice dishes, choose items that are made from whole grains," says Miller. "Whole grains are a source of B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, and fiber, as well as other plant substances that can help fight disease. Foods made from refined or enriched grains often lack some of these nutrients. To ensure that the food you are choosing is 100% whole grain, make sure you do not see the words 'enriched' or 'refined' anywhere on the package or in the ingredient list. Some examples of healthy whole-grain foods include 100% whole wheat bread or pasta, brown rice, popcorn, and oatmeal."

Emily Ann Miller, MPH, RD is a registered dietitian and works at a Washington, D.C.-based independent, nonprofit science organization, where her work is currently focused on environmental and policy solutions to obesity prevention. She also speaks to groups about health and nutrition and provides nutrition education to patients at a free medical clinic that serves low-income, uninsured adults in the D.C. area. You can view more of Emily’s nutrition tips and updates by following her on Twitter, @EmilyAMillerRD.