Many people start off the New Year reflecting and strategizing about a variety of things; finances, food choices, fitness and the list can go on and on. When you set realistic goals for yourself, you’ll find these New Year’s resolutions are just a few habits away.

Let’s focus on getting back to fitness. We know physical activity has numerous benefits including; an increase in energy and mood; decreasing your risk of chronic lifestyle diseases; maintaining a healthy weight, and promoting better sleep.

With the Winter Olympics just around the corner, it is the perfect time to make a few fitness goals with some added barley foods to get 2014 off to a great start. I recommend choosing fun activities. Establish simple goals that are realistic and achievable; write them down and post them where you’ll see them (on the fridge or in your office). If you haven’t exercised in a while, walk for 10 minutes a day to start, then walk for 30 minutes four or five times a week, leading up to a brisk five kilometre walks several times a week. In no time at all, you’ll feel like you an Olympian!

Schedule workouts as you would any other important activity. Busy? Integrate a workout into your day and multitask by walking the kids to school, walking to work or by turning the dog walk into a workout. If you want to lose weight or meet specific fitness goals, you may need to exercise more. Record your daily physical activity so that you can track your progress.

How does barley factor in with your back to fitness goals? Barley is considered a heart healthy ‘smart carb’ with a low glycemic index. This nutrient dense whole grain contains the soluble fibre called beta-glucan. All of these good things keep your blood sugars balanced throughout your activities and will keep you full of energy on those longer workouts.

Here are my three “back to fitness with barley” recipes:

These chocolate banana muffins are 180 calories each and are sweetened with maple syrup. The recipe packs in one cup of whole barley flour, two bananas, canola oil and unsweetened cocoa powder. These muffins are an easy on-the-go fuel during the family trail walk or include one muffin as part of a balanced breakfast to keep your morning workout energized.
After your lunch workout, refuel and rehydrate with this delicious hearty chicken barley soup (made the night or weekend before). It is perfect during the winter months.
These vegetarian zucchini barley bulgur stuffed tomatoes can be made ahead of time (on the weekend or on a calm week night). They are a great appetizer before your evening dog power walk.
The bottom line: physical activity gives you a chance to unwind and simply engage in fun activities. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity and at least one barley food every day!