4 Plank Exercises for a Stronger Core

Plank Exercises for a Stronger Core

A plank is an isometric exercise that strengthens and tones the muscles of the abdominals and lower back. It requires no equipment and little space, making it one of the easiest ab exercises to squeeze into your day.

When performing a plank, you should feel the work in your abdominals, bottom, and fronts of the thighs, instead of the arms and lower back. All of these exercises are done in a plank position on your elbows and your toes. You can modify the exercise by raising yourself onto your hands or by dropping to your knees, similar to a modified push-up. Whichever version you choose, remember that your shoulders should be aligned and your body in a straight line without the pelvis too high or too low. The American Council on Exercise provides helpful instruction on how to perform a basic front plank .

Start by doing each of these plank exercises for 30 seconds. As you grow stronger, continue to add 15 seconds to your time. Once you work up to 1 minute, repeat each exercise to complete 2 to 3 sets.

Side Plank Rotation

From the elbow plank, come up onto your hands. Position each hand directly under your shoulder. Shift your weight to your right hand and rotate your left shoulder above your right shoulder. Raise your left hand into the air. Keep your body in a straight line from your ankles to your head. Rotate back to the starting position. Shift your weight to your left hand and rotate to hold the side plank on your left side. Continue alternating side planks throughout the exercise time.

Plank with an Arm Reach

From the elbow plank, shift your weight to your left arm. Extend your right arm out in front of you and tap the floor with your fingers. Return to the starting plank position and then tap the floor with your left hand. Continue to alternate the arm reach and finger tap. Concentrate on holding the core tight, and try to keep your hips from rocking back and forth with the movement.

Plank with a Leg Lift

Keep your hips level as you lift your right toe off the floor raising your leg about 6 inches. Return the right leg to the starting position and raise the left leg. Continue alternating leg lifts as you hold the elbow plank.

Plank with a Toe Tap

Shift your weight to your left foot, move your right leg out towards the right, and tap your toe to the floor about 6 inches from the starting position. Return your foot to its original spot. Move your left leg out to the left and tap your toe. Continue to alternate toe taps from side to side as you hold your core muscles tight.

Carrot Cauliflower Pasta Salad

Carrot Cauliflower Pasta Salad Recipe

This pasta salad recipe uses less pasta and more vegetables to create a dish with fewer calories than the traditional recipe, and it doesn’t skimp on flavor. The cauliflower and carrots are also loaded with fiber and disease fighting antioxidants.

Yield: 4 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes


2 cups grated cauliflower

1 cup dry bow-tie pasta (about 2.5 oz.), cooked according to package directions

1/3 cup shredded carrot

2 tbsp finely diced red onion

¼ cup light mayonnaise

1 tbsp water

1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

¼ tsp honey

¼ tsp smoked paprika


Add the cauliflower, pasta, carrot, and onion to a medium bowl. Stir to combine the ingredients.

In a small dish, whisk together the mayonnaise, water, chives, honey, and smoked paprika until smooth.

Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and stir to coat all the vegetables and pasta. Serve immediately or refrigerate up to 30 minutes.

Nutrition information for 1 serving: Calories 118; Total Fat 3.9 g; Saturated Fat 0.5 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 0 mg; Sodium 152 mg; Carbohydrate 18.1 g; Fiber 2.2 g; Sugar 2.6 g; Protein 3.3 g

Teaching Children Healthy Cooking

Teaching Children Healthy Cooking

What are the Benefits of Teaching Children How to Cook?

Cooking healthy foods as a family can improve nutrition while providing quality family time. Cooking with children sparks an interest in healthy foods and can increase the willingness to sit down and share a meal as a family. Preparing food gives children the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the family, which leads to a sense of accomplishment and can build self-confidence. The cooking skills your children develop will last into adulthood, giving them the tools they need to live healthier lifestyles.

Measuring and mixing are only one part of the cooking experience. Be sure to involve children in recipe reading to help them better understand the process of cooking food. Cooking can also teach lessons of science, family history, and food culture. By exploring how foods cook and bake and the essential ingredients for creating these reactions, you can focus on science education. You can celebrate your family history and food culture by preparing recipes that your grandparents used to make, or study the globe, pick your favorite country and prepare the national dish together.

When Should Children Start Cooking?

Children of all ages can be involved in the kitchen. Begin with basic tasks, and as children grow and build skills, continue to increase the responsibility while providing supervision as necessary. Children under 5 can scrub root vegetables, rinse greens in a colander, count or measure ingredients, stir, and sprinkle. Children from 5 to 10 can learn to crack and separate eggs, operate a stand mixer, mash foods, and roll out dough. When using safe, kid-friendly kitchen tools, older children can grate cheese, peel vegetables, and begin basic chopping and slicing.

What’s the Best Way to Start Cooking as a Family?

Begin with simple foods that are easy to prepare and assign each person a task from the recipe. For example, a breakfast smoothie requires enough steps for each person to play a role in the preparation. Someone can measure the fruit and milk, another can place the ingredients in the blender, someone can operate the blender, and another person can pour the drink into serving glasses. Make a salad by assigning tasks like whisking the dressing, peeling and chopping vegetables, and tossing the vegetables together in the bowl. As your family becomes familiar with being in the kitchen together, you can progress to more advanced cooking.

Tips for Healthy Grilling

Tips for Healthy Grilling

Practice food safety.

When working with raw meats, poultry, and seafood, practice good food safety to prevent foodborne illness. Never use the same tray or plate for cooked meats that were used to bring raw foods to the grill. Wash your hands with soap and water after touching raw foods. Disinfect surfaces that have come into contact with raw foods. Stay mindful of the rags you use around the grill. If you’ve used them to wipe dirty hands, get a new one and designate it for clean hands only.

Choose healthy options.

Grilling can be a healthy method for cooking, but you can boost your nutrition by choosing the right foods for your meal. Focus on poultry, fish, and seasonal vegetables. Chicken breasts can be cut and made into kebabs, and delicate fish can be cooked in foil packets. Corn on the cob, zucchini slices, eggplant slices, whole bell peppers, onion slices, and heads of romaine lettuce are all examples of vegetables that are delicious cooked on the grill. Don’t forget dessert. Warm fruit kebabs with berries, melon, and pineapple sprinkled with cinnamon or drizzled with honey make a healthy end to your cookout.

Marinate your meats.

Grilling meats at high heat has been linked to carcinogens in the food. Research shows that marinating meats may reduce these carcinogens. Make marinades with healthy oils, vinegars and juices, and always add fresh herbs. Studies have shown that fresh herbs like rosemary and thyme help reduce the carcinogens.

Pick healthier seasonings.

Rubs and seasoning mixes can be healthier options for flavoring grilled foods when compared to heavy sauces, but not all spice seasonings are created equal. Some have added sugar and high levels of sodium. Choose low-salt, sugar-free spice rubs to make your grilled meal healthier. If you can’t find a healthy rub you like, experiment with making your own. Equal parts of spices like chili powder, cumin, oregano, and garlic powder with a little salt and pepper can be made into a paste by stirring in heart-healthy olive oil. Rub down meats and vegetables with the paste before grilling.

Make sure it’s done.

Everyone has preferences for how they like their grilled foods to be cooked, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has set guidelines for grilling temperatures to reduce the risk of foodborne illness. Poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit, ground beef to 160 degrees, and steaks to 145 degrees. Invest in a meat thermometer for safe and healthy grilling.

Crunchy Baked Zucchini Sticks

Crunchy Baked Zucchini Sticks Recipe

Zucchini and other summer squashes are antioxidant-rich and provide copper, manganese, potassium, folate, and fiber. In this recipe, zucchini sticks are coated in bread crumbs and baked until crunchy for a healthy snack or side dish.

Yield: 6 servings

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Baking time: 15 minutes


1 lb. small zucchini, ends trimmed

¾ cup panko bread crumbs

¼ cup grated parmesan cheese

¼ tsp dried oregano

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp fine ground sea salt

¼ tsp ground black pepper

1 large egg

1 tbsp water


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cut each zucchini in half length-wise, and then cut each half again length-wise to make 4 sticks per small zucchini.

In a large shallow baking dish, stir together the bread crumbs, cheese, oregano, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg and the water for 15 seconds. Add the zucchini sticks to the bowl and toss to coat each in the egg.

Transfer the zucchini sticks to the dish with the bread crumbs. Working in batches, coat each stick with crumbs. Place the sticks, skin-side down on a baking sheet covered with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the zucchini is tender and the bread crumbs are browned and crunchy. Serve warm.

Nutrition information for 1 serving: Calories 44; Total Fat 1.1 g; Saturated Fat 0.6 g; Trans Fat 0 g; Cholesterol 3 mg; Sodium 177 mg; Carbohydrate 5.4 g; Fiber 0.2 g; Sugar 0.3 g; Protein 3.0 g

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