Monday, May 26, 2008

Spark Stuff

I recently discovered that offers a wonderful set of tools that you can use to track your eating, your exercise, and even to find some tasty, healthy recipes. And membership is free! It's just a terrific and helpful online community. So naturally, I joined. I've actually been keeping track (on charts I made on the computer) of everything I eat, what workouts I do, and how I feel for the past year; SparkPeople just makes it easier. One of the tools is a Nutrition Tracker and Meal Planner. The site has millions of foods in the database, so when I select, "Strawberries, frozen, 0.5 cups" and add it to my smoothie ingredients for breakfast, it automatically adds the calories, grams of fiber, percent daily values of everything, and more. In the beginning stages it can be time-consuming to use the program, but I'm creating my own "Recipe Box" of things I make the most often - mostly smoothies and a few other favorite dishes. Once I've entered the recipe in my recipe box, I don't have to add each ingredient to my daily food list; I can just add the recipe and the program totals up the ingredients for me. Also, any time I use a SparkRecipe another user has shared (and there are lots of great ones to try!), I can click to add that to my meal, and again, the website does the work for me. At any point in the day you can see your caloric total and make sure you're staying within a 1,200-1,300-ish range (or whatever you select as your own optimal intake).

In the Fitness Tracker and Workout Planner section, you can select to add your own workouts or to be inspired with a new workout idea from SparkPeople. Lots of popular kickboxing and other workout videos (including some of the ones I own) are already in the database with information like average calories burned, etc. Tell the site what tools you have available (whether you have free weights, an exercise ball, or a whole gym at your disposal) and it'll limit suggested exercises to things you can easily do.

I'm still in the early stages of my SparkAdventure (I'm so clever), but so far I think this site is going to be a great tool in my ongoing pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. You should give it a try, too!

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