fit tip tuesday

Tea Tasting at Argo Tea: Fit Tip Tuesday

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Today I was lucky enough to participate in a tea tasting at my local Argo Tea. Full disclosure—I’m a coffee girl. Every morning, all morning, you will find a mug of coffee at my side. I never thought that tea was something I could justify replacing my precious latte with, especially since the prices are comparable and tea’s caffeine content is much lower. However, this hour-long tasting session completely opened my eyes to all the possibiliTEAs (pardon the pun…Argo is all about the puns!)

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When we first sat down we were met by the bubbly, tea-loving manager, Chris. He was more than prepared to convert even the strongest coffee addicts like myself to team tea.

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We sampled a few of their different teas plain: green, nilgri black and white tea.  Chris told us the back stories of everything we were trying and really put into perspective just how global their reach is. They get their green tea from China, the black tea from India, and the chocolate croissants from France (it was like I was back in Paris!)

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After trying the basic teas, we sampled a few of the signature drinks.  These included:

  • Green Tea Ginger Twist: “Fresh ginger blended with lemon and mild green tea for a mellow and spicy twist of flavor and unique texture”
  • Chocolate Chai: “Assam black tea, cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, cloves, vanilla and cocoa”
  • White Tea Acai Squeeze (iced): “Brazilian Acai berry, white Tea and lemonade made from real lemon and natural cane sugar”

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Each of the creations was pleasant and I could see myself going back for all of them, depending on the occasion. The white tea acai will be perfect when the Chicago summer hits and all I want is something fruity while I tan on the beach. The green tea ginger twist tasted like the perfect concoction for when I feel a cold coming on—it was full of natural ginger and honey flavor and had a profound kick to it. Finally, the chocolate chai. Oh, I could write a sonnet about the chocolate chai. It was like Christmas and Godiva chocolate came  together and were like, you know what? Let’s join forces and make a drink that will send people into a state of perfect bliss. It tasted indulgent but the tea made it a lighter, more heartwarming version of a traditional thick hot chocolate.

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Along with the drinks we got to taste some of Argo’s food. First was the chocolate croissant, which paired perfectly with the chocolate chai and helped me meet my sugar quota for the day. Secondly was the chickpea salad. I’m not normally a fan of chickpeas but this tasted just like the bean salad that my grandma made for us as kids—simple, healthy, hearty, delicious.  It was full of chickpeas, carrots, tomatoes, green peppers, red peppers, and parsley, all drizzled with oil and vinegar. I get excited when I think about how many nutrients are in that salad.

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Overall it was a great hour spent learning about a beverage that honestly didn’t ever interest me that much.  I’ve always heard that tea is healthy, but I never really realized just how healthy it is!

So WHY should you choose to start including tea in your diet?

According to Dr. Oz, depending on which tea you pick you can boost your metabolism, freshen your breath, fight aging, combat headaches, boost your libido, ward off cancer, get more sleep, etc. etc. etc. Now I know coffee has a lot of health benefits as well, but I’m not sure I’ve heard of anything so natural doing so many wonderful things for your body.

Aside from these benefits, tea has been around for thousands of years, acting as everything from currency to religious offerings to stress relievers and everything in between. It is currently the #1 most consumed beverage in the world besides water and is enjoyed globally.  While you can still get your caffeine fix from many types of tea, it always has less than a cup of coffee, allowing for the perfect combination of attentiveness and relaxation.

Fun facts I learned today:

  • There are 4 major types of tea: green, black, oolong, and white—all come from the same plant (technically there are more but these are the types most often found on the market)
  • White has the least amount of caffeine and black has the most
  • Argo uses only natural ingredients to create the signature drinks
  • All Argo cafes in Chicago are powered by wind power
  • ChariTEA: every season Argo picks one tea and donates 10% of its sales to a nonprofit organization
  • With the right additions, tea can taste goooooooooooood

I’m so happy I had the opportunity to sample these teas and learn all about their different health benefits. Even if you’re not a huge tea drinker now, go to Argo’s website and get inspired by some of their ideas. It’s an easy addition to your life that I think is definitely worth a “Fit Tip Tuesday” mention. And while I’ll never give up my dear friend coffee, I’m definitely going to start adding tea to my day. I think my brain and body will thank me.

PS I wasn’t compensated for this post–it just happened that the tasting coincided with Fit Tip Tuesday–it was fate!

Questions:

  • Are you a tea drinker?
  • If so, do you add anything to make it more exciting?
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Fit Tip Tuesday: What Is Clean Eating?

I’m so excited to participate in the new Fit Tip Tuesday link-up! Thanks Lisa for hosting!

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My tip for the day is figuring out what clean eating means to you.

I recently read an article in Health magazine simply titled, “What is clean eating?”  So many people have declared that they have the secret to clean eating. I’ve heard it all:

  • Clean eating means eating only raw foods
  • Clean eating means eating only organic products
  • Clean eating means eliminating all sugar, dairy, simple carbohydrates, coffee and alcohol from your diet

Here’s the problem with these “rules”: they’re all so different, they all claim to be the change that will make you fit, and they all are nearly impossible to follow.

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In the Health article, registered dietitian Cynthia Sass discusses how diet trends have changed over the past few decades. Remember the 80s (neither do I, 90s baby whaddup) when everyone thought the trick was to eat no fat? People literally made themselves sick inhaling bags of fat-free potato chips, holding on to a tiny shred of glee that they had finally “figured it out.” Can you imagine a life without avocados, cashews, or mozzarella? That doesn’t sound like a world I want to live in.

Needless to say, I’ve jumped on Cynthia’s bandwagon and think her tips are worth a read.

First up? Eat whole foods

When you’re scrambling for breakfast, instead of eating a banana nut muffin, eat a banana and some nuts.

There are always going to be times when all I want is a banana nut muffin, and I’ll be damned if I don’t get one in my belly ASAP. But for the most part, our bodies are happy when we feed it things that it can recognize. When you eat foods that only have one ingredient you can sleep easily knowing that you gave your body a food from the earth that hasn’t been stripped of its nutrients or modified to taste more addicting.

Secondly: Let the ingredients guide you

There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. If you want to be healthy, you have to read the ingredients. If you’re following step one, there isn’t even an ingredient list to read. But if you are cracking open a bag of your favorite snack, flip it over and give the ingredients list a check. No one should say “crackers are bad”. It’s all about what your crackers are made of. For example, you can turn over a Wasa cracker label and see that is has less than 5 ingredients, all pronounceable. So how does it make sense to say “No crackers!” and make a blanket statement that is taking away a product that can be a beautiful vehicle for other healthy foods such as cheese, avocado, peanut butter, hummus, etc.

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I’ve found that most blanket statements about food groups can be discredited with a simple look at an ingredient list. So many companies are creating products that are made with fewer ingredients because there is a market for it, so always keep an eye out for them.

Think Big Picture

Don’t just think about the way a food tastes. Think about what it’s really doing to your body. While there is a huge debate about GMOs, high fructose corn syrup and growth hormones, my simple thought is this: even if it’s not going to kill me, why would I want to put something like that into my body? If I can avoid it, shouldn’t I? Don’t get me wrong, I eat foods containing GMOs and HFCS without even knowing it (and sometimes knowing it). But when I’m grocery shopping, these are things I try to avoid.

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Do-It-Yourself

There are always going to be things you can’t replace.  When I want Cheetos, I want Cheetos. However, most of the time there are little homemade tricks to satisfy your cravings. For example, when I want spinach dip I make my own and replace half the sour cream with Greek yogurt. That way, I’m not only cutting back on fat but also upping the protein so I’m satisfied with a smaller amount.  All it takes is a little imagination and time set aside to discover that you can make healthy, whole foods taste comparable to many of the processed foods that you crave from time to time.

Listen to your Body

This is a huge one. There is no rule book for what your body wants to eat.  Gluten isn’t bad for everyone, and neither is dairy or nuts. While some people might have sensitivities or allergies to these products, that doesn’t mean that everyone else should rule them out. We’re all different.

With that being said, don’t wait for a diagnosis to change the way you eat. If you eat a whole wheat sandwich for lunch and suddenly feel bloated, you may have to watch how much gluten you consume. That doesn’t mean swear off all bread and pasta, but maybe have half a sandwich instead and see how you feel. When I was in high school I used to bake multiple times a week, often sampling tons of dough and not holding back once they were done.  Now, if I try to eat that much sugar, I wake up the next morning with a pit in my stomach that’s hard to shake for the rest of the day. There’s no diagnosis necessary, I’ve just realized that I can’t eat sugar in the same amounts that I used to. I became friends with my body, listened to what it said, and made a small change.

In my opinion, the biggest tip is to listen to your body. If you pay attention to it, you’ll know exactly what to eat, when to eat it, when to stop, and when to splurge. Isn’t that what healthy living is all about?

Question:

  • What does clean eating mean to you?

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Taken from “What Is Clean Eating” by Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD