Moving Through Winter

by Sara Scinto

Do you dread winter because it keeps you from engaging in exercise that you love? Are you looking for new ways to move your body that don’t involve the gym? Are you interested in making the best of what this cold season has to offer? Then read further for thoughts and ideas on how to move through winter with more enjoyment.

If you were anywhere in the Northeast during this holiday season, you likely experienced at least one major winter storm, cold spell, or both. Living in Northeastern Ohio where the lake effect snow regularly comes down by the foot, I encountered multiple while I was home for break. If you are an active biker, walker, or runner, snow and ice can really throw a wrench in your usual physical activity schedule. This is especially true if the mere thought of a treadmill (known to many as the “dreadmill”), stationary bike, or indoor pool makes you cringe. But instead of lamenting about these seasonal limitations, you can change your perspective on winter; it actually is an excellent time to try alternative types of movement, both indoors and outside.

Attending group workout classes is one way to build up body heat, fight frigid temperatures, and experience new forms of exercise during the chilly stretch between November and March. For me, hot yoga is the most effective remedy for the constant cold and low energy I often experience during winter. It leaves me feeling warm and relaxed for the rest of the day, as long as I make sure to take a shower and put on dry clothes before walking back into the brisk air (wearing sweaty clothes in the cold is a recipe for disaster). As Friedman students, we are fortunate enough to have multiple studios within walking distance of our school; just minutes down Harrison Avenue, there is both a Turnstyle (cycling) and a Corepower (varying levels of hot yoga) studio. If you’re looking for a nearby studio that offers something really different, check out Swet Studio, which has rowing, aerial yoga, and other antigravity activities! And if none of those get you excited, check out this list of 10 local classes that get your body moving in creative ways.

Title Boxing Club Boston Nutrition Students

Me and my friend after trying out boxing together (Photo: Sara Scinto)

Admittedly, these classes are often outside a graduate student budget, but some studios offer student discounts or even a first class for free! Although you may realize at the end of the class that it’s not for you, the complimentary class allows you to determine that without having to pay for something you don’t end up liking.

Another more affordable option for Friedman students is the Wang YMCA, where there is a wide selection of classes like Tai Chi, Zumba, cycling, and high intensity interval training (H.I.I.T) classes, just to name a few. With the discounted membership rate information that was emailed to all Tufts Boston Health Sciences students before the start of the fall semester, you can purchase a monthly membership to the YMCA for the same (or lower) price as most single exercise studio classes. Although the Wang YMCA is the closest location to Friedman, a membership allows you to get into YMCA branches all over Boston. This gives you access to even more varieties of physical activity like power yoga, barre, and kickboxing.

Even though it may not seem like it, winter is also a terrific season to experience the outdoors in a way that does not involve running or biking. Despite living in the snow belt nearly my entire life, I’ve only just begun to explore snow sports. And while not every winter sport is for me, I’ve found activities like snowshoeing to be wonderful. Trekking through a forest while the snow clings to the bare trees like floating cotton balls is breathtaking in more ways than one! Although my hands were frozen for the first 20 minutes, the discomfort was worth being able to view winter and snow in a completely new and appreciative way.

Sara Scinto Snowshoeing Massachusetts

A beautiful winter forest while snowshoeing (Photo: Sara Scinto)

Lack of equipment may seem like a big barrier for engaging in winter sports, but many places offer rentals at a reasonable price. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are generally less expensive options compared to snowboarding and downhill skiing, although there are ways to save on ski lift tickets. Making a day trip with some friends to engage in snow sports can be a perfect opportunity to get outside of the city and breathe some crisp, fresh air. Here is a great resource on locations near Boston to snowshoe, ski, and snowboard (I can confirm the Weston Ski Track is great for beginners). And if you don’t have a mode of transportation out of town, don’t worry! There’s still plenty of outdoor fun to take advantage of in Boston, including something called “frost bite” sailing on the Charles River (for experienced sailors) and ice skating and sledding in the Boston Common. Because in case you needed a reminder, you’re never too old for sledding. And marching back up Beacon Hill over and over really gets your heart pumping!

Winter offers an abundance of ways to move your body, some of which wouldn’t even be possible in other seasons. Although the urge to stay snuggled underneath the covers is strong, I encourage you to try a new activity this year that will help you view winter as a season of opportunity and discovery, rather than a season of limitations.

 

Sara Scinto is a second-year NICBC student, avid coffee drinker, runner, triathlete, and yogi. She has a love for rainbows and all things food/nutrition related. During the winter, she enjoys staying warm and active with yoga and running outside in *almost* any weather conditions (to avoid the treadmill). You can find her on Instagram @saras_colorfull_life.

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Pumpkin Spice: Fad or Fallacy?

by Sara Scinto

Would you want a watery pumpkin pie? A savory pumpkin spice latte? How about a stringy pumpkin bread? Yeah, I wouldn’t either. I adore pumpkin spice everything as much as the next person (pumpkin is actually my favorite food), but are pumpkin and spices actually in these products?

My mom and I enjoying real pumpkin whoopie pies

There has been an explosion of pumpkin spice products rolling out for fall in recent years and each season it starts sooner (apparently as soon as July in 2017). Fall flavors are creeping into summer because the consumer demand is there and food companies want in on the profits that have soared in the last 5 years. Tiffany Hsu from The New York Times article purports pumpkin spice sales “…surged 20 percent from 2012 to 2013, then 12 percent the next year, then 10 percent in 2015 and in 2016”.

Unfortunately, not all pumpkin spice products have either pumpkin or spice blends in them. Sugar is first on the ingredient list of both Pumpkin Spice Oreos® and Kraft’s Jet-Puffed® Pumpkin Spice Marshmallows; neither contain actual pumpkin NOR spices, unless they are hidden in the natural or artificial flavorings. However they do contain artificial colors to mimic that beautiful pumpkin orange. According to Wikipedia, pumpkin pie spice is usually “a blend of ground cinnamonnutmeggingercloves, and sometimes allspice”, but commercial pumpkin spice products typically include chemical compounds to simulate the taste of pumpkin pie. You are not only getting fooled by the absence of real pumpkin and spices, but you are not able to reap any of the nutritional benefits of these foods. Pumpkin is a rich source of carotenoids, vitamin C, and fiber; nutmeg contains multiple B vitamins; cinnamon is full of antioxidants; and ginger provides the essential minerals magnesium and copper. If you’d like to create your own pumpkin pie spice, here are the proportions recommended by Julie R. Thomson at the Huffington Post:

Natural pumpkin pie spice blend

  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 5 teaspoons ginger
  • 1 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cloves

 

 

 

Seemingly healthier stores like Trader Joe’s are no exception to the pumpkin spice fallacy. Their Pumpkin Shaped Frosted Sugar Cookies and Chocolate Mousse Pumpkins don’t include an ounce of pumpkin (they are just pumpkin shaped). And although Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Joe-Joe’s and Gluten Free Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Baking Mix do contain pumpkin and “spices” on their respective ingredient lists, sugar comes first. This is something to be cognizant of if your body doesn’t handle sugar well.

Pumpkin may not be as straightforward as it seems either. As it turns out, the canned pumpkin that is so heavily used in pumpkin pies and other fall goodies often contains one or more types of winter squash! For example, the company Libby’s uses a Dickinson pumpkin, which is more closely related to a butternut squash than a pumpkin you would find in your typical patch. Dickinson pumpkins and butternut squash are both part of the Cucurbita moschata species, while a traditional jack-o’-lantern pumpkin belongs to the Cucurbita pepo species.

Before you start a false advertising class lawsuit, a couple things should be clarified. Jack-o’-lantern pumpkins actually taste pretty bad and would make a terrible pumpkin pie. They’re stringy, watery, and not that sweet. This is why canned pumpkin companies use a variety of winter squashes that are more vibrant in color, “sweeter, fleshier and creamier” than a classic carving pumpkin. It just tastes and looks better. And these companies aren’t technically breaking any rules, since the FDA has a quite lenient definition of pumpkin, which includes any “firm-shelled, golden-fleshed, sweet squash”.

The reason pumpkin spice mania has taken America by storm is that sugary pumpkin spice products taste good! Food companies know this and give consumers what they want, which may not always be the best for the health of our bodies or our food system. But do not fear: we can still enjoy all the delicious pumpkin spice goodness by being more aware of ingredients and making our own treats.

Here are some of my all-time favorite recipes that have real pumpkin and/or spice blends in them:

1-Bowl Pumpkin Bread (V, GF)

1-Bowl Pumpkin Bread

DIY Pumpkin Spice Syrup (can substitute stevia for sugar or reduce sugar)

DIY Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Overnight, Slow Cooker, Pumpkin Pie Steel-Cut Oatmeal (GF, can be made V)

Slow Cooker Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal

Pumpkin Curry (GF)

Paleo Pumpkin Curry

Pumpkin Dream Cake (for very special occasions)

Pumpkin Dream Cake

Lastly, a pro tip for making your own pumpkin pancakes: substitute pumpkin puree for some liquid (whether oil or water) and shake some pumpkin pie spice into the batter. Play around with how much you substitute until it reaches a consistency that you like-there’s no wrong way to do it! The end product will be a dense and delicious pancake that pairs wonderfully with some maple syrup and/or berry topping.

Sara Scinto is a second-year NICBC student, avid coffee drinker, runner, triathlete, and yogi. She has a love for rainbows and all things food/nutrition related. During the fall, there is a 100% chance she has made some kind of pumpkin food within the last week. You can find her on Instagram @saras_colorfull_life.