The Worst Holiday Foods to Eat

banner By:  Joella Baker

For most of us, food is one of the center points of the holiday season.  It’s so tough to have the willpower to say no.  Worst of all, we always think that we will just have a small piece and it won’t be too bad.  Unfortunately, the holiday favorites are by far the most calorie, fat and sugar packed foods we will have in front of us all year.  If you choose to indulge, then I recommend you have a solid exercise plan in place to burn the extra calories.

Ten common holiday foods you should eat or drink sparingly or try to avoid completely this holiday season: 

  1. Pecan pie:  One of the most fattening foods on our list. One slice is more than 500 calories, 37 grams of fat, and 26 grams of sugar. Try pumpkin pie instead, it is much lower in overall fat and calories, skip the whipped cream and it’s even lower. 
  2. Spinach and artichoke dip:  A staple at most holiday parties, has two very nutritious veggies, spinach and artichokes but also has mayonnaise, sour cream and cream cheese.  By making a few changes to the recipe, you can cut the calories by almost half.  Use low-fat cream cheese and skip the sour cream all together and add in some goat cheese. Use carrots and celery to dip and you have a great alternative. 
  3. Candied Yams:  Sweet potatoes are a superfood. Unfortunately, adding a couple cups of sugar to candy the yams and a ton of butter and you add over 400 calories to your plate. Trim down the sugar and butter by half.  You’ll still have a sweet treat and you can actually taste the sweet potato.
  4. Cheesecake:  Cheesecakes are a heart attack on a plate.  The average cheesecake has 700 calories and 29 grams of fat. You would need to hike vigorously for two hours or take a hard one-hour spin class to get rid of the calories in one slice.  Go back to the pumpkin pie or even apple pie. 
  5. Glazed ham:  Ham is a vitamin-rich lean meat. It’s also one of the most sodium-rich foods on a Christmas menu.  Six ounces of ham contains 1,760 milligrams of sodium and six grams of sugar.  Just take one slice instead of the 3 or 4 you typically put on your plate. 
  6. Sugar cookies:  You can’t have a Christmas without buttery sugar cookies.  They are Santa’s favorite and most kids favorites.  So adults, save the cookies for the kids and other adults and make another choice. Choose some fresh fruit and walk away from the cookies.
  7. Fruitcake:  A good fruitcake is an incredible treat, but extremely high in sugar.   Fruitcake can be very filling, so take a very small piece and enjoy every bite.  It will be tough not to go back for seconds, but that would require you to walk another hour to lose the calories. 
  8. Prime rib:  Unfortunately, it comes from the fattest part of the cow.  One piece of prime rib is around 750 calories and 45 grams of fat.  An eight-ounce serving also has 450 milligrams of cholesterol.  Opt for the beef tenderloin instead.  It’s leaner and lower in fat and just as good. 
  9. Green bean casserole with fried onions:  Green beans are great for you until you add cream of mushroom soup and those crunchy onion rings.  Once you do that, forget about the nutritional value.  One full batch has 785 calories and 4,128 milligrams of sodium.
  10. Dark-meat turkey with skin:  Turkey is usually a leaner and better choice than a lot of other meats.  Dark meat with skin has 70 more calories and three times more fat per serving than plain white meat without skin. The skin alone can hold up to 44 grams of total fat. So don’t eat the skin and eat the white meat instead. 

This holiday season, make sure every food you eat is worth the calories you’re ingesting.  If you really splurge, then make sure you’re exercising enough to burn off those extra calories.

Reference: and their 50 foods you shouldn’t eat over the holidays.

Summer, Time for Fun, Sun and Food

Mighty Moraine logo_no BG

 by:  Joella Baker

I love summer.  It’s easily my favorite time of the year.  Probably because it’s warm and I simply don’t enjoy being cold.  However, there are so many other reasons why I love this time of year.  I love being outside and I find it so much easier to be outside in the summer time.  If you simply walk out your front door, the opportunities to get fit and in shape are endless.  This summer, travel north a few miles and enjoy a few of my Butler County favorites. 

For me, summer is all about swimming, cycling, running, hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, playing games with the kids and just hanging out.  There is so much to do throughout the summer and you don’t have to go far to do it.

My favorite summer hangouts include Moraine State Park.  You can do so much at this treasure of Butler County.  From hiking, the endless trails, to swimming in Lake Arthur, you have so many possibilities to get out and stay in shape this summer.  I love to bike at Moraine, on the trail with my son Zachary or on the roads with my friends for a more serious workout. 

Another favorite is Zelienople Community Park is just North of Cranberry Township, this small park also has hiking and running trails, a great community pool, tennis courts, basketball, new pickle ball courts and more.  It’s easy to have fun at this park and it’s so close.  They also host my favorite July 4th Celebration.  This year, you can enjoy a 5K Run and Walk at 8:00 AM, The Firecracker 5K.  Following the run, enjoy the 4th of July Parade, hosted by the Zelienople Rotary Club and then head to the Zelienople Community Park for music, food and fun activities.  All of this takes place on the 4th of July and at the end of the day, find any place in town to enjoy the great Fireworks display.

Speaking of great community events, one of my all-time favorites is Horse Trading Days in Zelienople.  This year Horse Trading Days is celebrating its 50th Anniversary.  Taking place July 18, 19 and 20, enjoy great music, food and sidewalk sales from local establishments, games and events for kids.  You don’t want to miss Horse Trading Days this year, so get out to Zelienople and celebrate.

When I think about summer food, I don’t think about the food you get from all the local fairs and events.  Instead I think about the fresh fruits and vegetables that abound.  One of my favorite things about summer is the Community Supported Agriculture Programs.  I belong to the program at Glade Run Gardens in Zelienople.  It’s great!  Every Thursday, I pick-up my fresh share of organically grown fruits and veggies.  They send out an email telling us what we’re getting that week and even share recipes about how to use some of those unique foods you may not have tried before.  However, I try not to read what I’m getting.  For me, part of the fun is the enjoying the surprise when I pick up the share and see what’s in it.  Best of all, it’s all fresh and so good for you.  With all of the incredible fresh fruits and veggies, how can you not get in shape and eat healthier in the summertime?  If you’re interested in a CSA, check out the one at Glade Run or one of the other programs located throughout the Pittsburgh Area.  You won’t be disappointed. 

This summer, get out and have fun.  There is so much to do and it’s not too far away.  I challenge you to try a new activity, hiking at Moraine State Park or McConnell’s Mills State Park.  Try biking, paddling or enjoy a day at the beach at Moraine.  Play a game of tennis or dip your toes in the pool at the Zelienople Community Park.  Visit a new community celebration in a small town you may not have visited before.  Choose to by fresh veggies from a local CSA or hit a local farmer’s market in your town or stop by a farm market like Deener’s on Route 19 in Cranberry and enjoy the bounty of summer.

Lastly, if you’re really looking for a fun challenge this summer, check out the Mighty Moraine Man Triathlon Festival.  If you are interested in trying a triathlon, this is the one for you.  With Olympic distance or Half Ironman distances available, you can challenge yourself by competing as an individual or getting your friends together to participate in a relay.  Visit for more information on this new and exciting event I’m bringing to Butler County and Western Pennsylvania.

Whatever you choose to do, make this summer a healthy and happy one and remember, it’s as simple as walking out your front door.

For information on the Firecracker 5K in Zelie or the Mighty Moraine Man, please contact Joella Baker at 724-321-4265.



Forever in our Hearts…

Boston Marathon logoBy: Joella Baker

I intended to write an article about women’s health for our May edition, but the recent tragedy in Boston encouraged me to change my article.

As a long-time runner, coach and two-time Boston Marathon finisher, I’m heartbroken over this tragedy.  For those of us who run, running is our “happy place.”  It’s where we turn to relieve stress, think and just run.  It’s hard to explain what running means to those of us who love it so much.  As for the Boston Marathon, it’s the Super Bowl of running.  People run for years just trying to qualify for this prestigious race.  The amount of energy, hard work and time away from family and friends to be fit enough to qualify for this event is incredible.  Preparing for the actual race is even more challenging both physically and mentally. 

For the more than 17,000 runners who crossed the finish line on April 15, their day started with an excitement that is almost indescribable.  For more than 26 miles, the streets of Boston, from Hopkinton to Boylston Street, are lined with spectators who offer high fives, cheers, oranges, drinks and more to these runners.  These individuals make each and every participant feel special.  You know it’s your day; these spectators made it your day.  As you make the turn down Boylston Street to the finish line, you can’t help but cry tears of joy.  You’re about to finish the greatest road race of all time.  I know the feeling–the feeling that you’re invincible because you ran and finished the Boston Marathon.  You did it!  It’s now time to celebrate.


There were no celebrations this year in Boston, only shock, terror and tears.  I had two athletes and so many running friends at the race on April 15.  Their accomplishment will forever be tarnished by the tragedy that occurred.  However, I hope that every runner who did race that day will recognize that we are all proud of their race, their accomplishment and most of all their ability to deal with this tragedy.  Those who offered support to those injured, who did everything they could to get to their loved ones and friends is what our running community is all about.  It’s not about the race; it’s about who we are as runners.  We stick together no matter what.

The prestigious Boston Marathon, the running community and the lives of Americans will never be the same again.  Something as simple as going for a run and training to race on a day where thousands should be celebrated is now forever clouded by a terrible violence that continues to haunt our nation.  Words can’t explain the fear we all now have.  A simple sporting event that the everyday athlete can participate in is now no longer safe. 

My son Zachary is 10 years old.  He’s been at the finish line at Boston and many other finish lines at large and small races across the world watching me race.  He could have easily been a victim of this tragedy.  Today, he’s now concerned about the Pittsburgh Marathon.  My Get Fit Families Running and Triathlon Team sets up a Cheerathon Station at mile 25.5 at the Pittsburgh Marathon.  We hand out water and Gatorade, fruit, cookies, Coca Cola and more to the finishers of the Pittsburgh Marathon.  Zachary is now asking if we will be safe at this race since we’re so close to the finish line.  The endless tragedy that our children continue to face from the movie theater shooting in Colorado to the Newtown School shooting to the bombing in Boston is simply frightening.  The future is scary for us all.

I wish I knew how to truly comfort his fears, but in reality, I’m just as frightened.  Yes, we must continue with our lives.  We can’t live in fear, but even something as pure and grand as the Boston Marathon is no longer safe.  Our running community, who always finds comfort in running and racing, no longer feels safe.  We now fear for our family’s safety as they watch us complete these events, and we now have fear for our own lives. 

We know our sport has changed forever.  Large races will change.  Security measures will increase, and we can expect courses to change in an effort to keep thousands safe.  We know our sport will change.  It has to change. We can’t afford another tragedy like this.  Of course, through it all, we will prevail.  They will race in Boston again and all of the other races we love so much will go on.

We will continue to pray for the families who have been affected by this tragedy.  They will hold a special place in the hearts of every runner.  They are the people who support us, who cheer us on no matter what, who believe in our dreams and help us to achieve them.  These people are as much a part of the running community as those of us who log hundreds of miles.  Without them, we couldn’t cross the finish line.  Without them, we wouldn’t celebrate at the end of every race.  Without them, running wouldn’t be the same.  To the victims of the Boston Marathon Tragedy, you all will be remembered forever in our hearts.