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Welcome to the Live Well Furman blog!  This blog is designed to help support healthy behaviors in the Furman community and beyond.  Be sure to sign up for our email subscription to have the latest campus wellness offerings, wellness news briefs, healthy meal ideas, and exercise tips delivered straight to your inbox each week!

How much hidden sugar is in your favorite beverage?

How much hidden sugar is in your favorite beverage?  It may be more than you think.

Although you can’t see it, popular beverages like soda, lemonade, sweet tea, sports drinks, and coffee drinks pictured above all have 15- 26 packets of sugar per bottle.

Most folks probably wouldn’t eat 26 packets of sugar but don’t realize that they are drinking them.

A single 20 ounce soda actually has 130-150% of the daily value of added sugar that is recommended for an entire day.

Which drinks had the most?  Among those that we tested, soda came out on top.

Third place was cola. One 20 ounce bottle had 65 grams of added sugar which is 21.7 packets or 130% of the entire daily value.

Second place was orange soda. One 20 ounce bottle had 73 grams of added sugar which is 24 packets or 146% of the entire daily value.

The grand prize was a tropical lime soda with 77 grams of added sugar which is almost 26 packets of sugar or 154% of the daily value for an entire day.

While soda came out on top, we found an alarming amount in sweet tea, lemonade, sports drinks, and coffee drinks also. In fact, a sweetened coffee from a popular chain may have 90-100 grams of sugar which is almost two entire days’ worth.

What about diet drinks? They replace sugar with chemical artifical sweeteners that are virtually calorie free.  While artifical sweeteners are not likely to harm your health, large amounts may not be helping it either.

That is because “repeated exposure trains your preference.”  The consumption of large amounts of artificial may sweeteners may encourage a preference for sweet flavors– also known as a “sweet tooth.”  So we end up eating other sugary foods all day long and negate our calorie savings.

The best sweetener is one that isn’t really sweet at all. Try to cut back on all added sugar in foods and beverages. The less you eat, the less you will likely crave.


New PT45 Group Training Class Offered This Fall!

Are you looking to take your exercise training to the next level?

Stop by the PAC on Thursday, August 24 from 12:15- 1 p.m. for a free trial of a new PT45 group training class.  PT45 will consist of a variety of sport conditioning and functional fitness moves that include equipment such as battle ropes, sand bags, kettle bells, tires, TRX, and resistance bands.

Classes will be led by Stephen Opskar, MS, CSCS, Furman Fitness Center Coordinator of Fitness and Wellness Services.

The Fall session of PT45 will be held on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 12:15-1 p.m. in the PAC Basketball Gym.  The cost is $75 for the entire eight week session from August 29- October 20.

The classes are limited to the first 16 people to sign up.  For more information, contact the Furman Fitness Center at (864)294-3581 or email

Furman Group Exercise Schedule Fall 2017

Furman Group Exercise Classes begin August 22.  Classes are open to Furman and community members.  (Click on images to enlarge)

Summer Scholars 2017: Prospective Students Learn Basics of Lifestyle Medicine

This summer, sixteen rising high school juniors and seniors got a taste (literally) of the basics of Lifestyle Medicine.

Lifestyle Medicine is a growing movement that promotes the utilization of healthy behaviors as a therapeutic intervention to help slow, halt, or even reverse many chronic diseases.  More specifically, it focuses on strategies such as physical activity, weight management, healthy eating, and stress management to battle conditions such as heart disease, obesity, diabetes, mental health, and certain cancers.

These prospective students had the opportunity to stay on Furman’s beautiful campus, take courses from the Health Sciences department, enjoy daily exercise sessions, and partake in afternoon field trips.  The students visited Furman from all over the U.S. and left with a new vigor toward living a healthy lifestyle.

Here is a snapshot of some of their activities:

In the classroom, students learned fundamental nutrition theories and practical ways to incorporate healthful foods into their diets.  They raced each other in a Supermarket Scavenger Hunt to test their knowledge and food label savvy.

Students learned how exercise is medicine and can be used to treat or help alleviate many chronic conditions.  Dr. Scott Murr, Furman Health Sciences professor, provided the students with a tour of the Human Performance Labs and let them observe a VO2 max treadmill test to assess aerobic capacity.  Students also witnessed state-of-the-art body composition analysis via Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry (DEXA) and learned about the world renowned Furman Institute for Running and Scientific Training (FIRST).

By the end of our week, the students were ready to cook and prepare some of the healthy foods that we had discussed all week.  We toured the Furman Farm that uses organic and sustainable growing techniques to educate others and provide food for Furman Dining Services and the Furman community.

To wrap up the week, the students worked together to plan, shop for, and cook a healthy meal.  Here is a sampling of some of their dishes:

Whole wheat crepes with fresh berries and whipped cream (featuring whole wheat pastry flour for a delicate texture)

Caprese Salad featuring homegrown tomatoes and basil, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar

Teriyaki Tofu

Baked Lemon Pepper Salmon

Black Bean and Mango Quinoa with Cilantro and Lime

Baked Banana and Mixed Berry Oatmeal with Almonds

Almond Butter Squares with Dark Chocolate, Nuts, and Seeds

The Furman Summer Scholars program is offered every summer.  For more information, please visit:

FUEL Cooking Workshop 7/17 Easy Make Ahead Meals

I have a confession.  I have a love-hate relationship with cooking.  I love to cook… just not when I am hungry and tired.  That is why I often cook enough food for about 3-4 days and stock my refrigerator.  I only have to dirty up the kitchen once and have a few days of homemade meals ready at my convenience.

We sampled some of these Easy Make Ahead Recipes at the FUEL Healthy Cooking Workshop sponsored by Furman Employee Wellness on July 17.  These programs are offered free for Furman employees and families throughout the year.  We run similar programs for Furman students and athletes and will soon be branching out into local homeless shelters and soup kitchens this fall with our new FUEL the Community internship.

FUEL recipes are based on a simple plate-based eating guide that fills half of each plate with vegetables and/or fruits, 1/4 with whole grains or potatoes, 1/4 with lean proteins, and a little bit of healthy fat.  The Furman Department of Health Sciences has tested this easy eating strategy on over 150 employees over the past seven years.  The results suggest that it helps most individuals to 1) improve nutrient intake, 2) maintain or lose body fat, and 3) improve health outcomes such as cholesterol, blood pressure, or diabetes.  But the best part is that it adapts easily to just about any cuisine and you don’t have to be overly restrictive with portion sizes or count calories.

Let’s see how to make some Easy Make Ahead FUEL meals for individuals on the go.

Turkey Taco Bowls

This is a really simple idea with a few flavorful variations.  Spread a little bit of cooked brown rice over the bottom of your lunch containers (1/2-1 cup depending on your appetite).  Top with your favorite toppings such as turkey taco meat, tomato salsa, black beans, fresh kale salad, and roasted corn.  They will hold for a few days in the refrigerator and can be warmed up in the microwave at meal time.

Fresh Kale Salad with Lime Juice and Salt:  WAIT!  Don’t run just because I said the “k” word.  The participants raved about this salad and never knew that kale could be so tender and flavorful.  Start with about 4-8 cups of fresh kale.  I usually use the pre-washed and pre-cut kale in the bags.   I prefer to remove the woody stems and give them to my dogs (yes, my dogs eat kale).  Feel free to leave the stems in there if you don’t mind the tough texture.  Spread the kale over a large cutting board and roughly chop it into smaller pieces.  Transfer it to a large glass or plastic bowl. Drizzle 1 Tbsp of olive oil, 1-2 Tbsp fresh lime juice, and a pinch of salt over the kale.  Using very clean hands, massage the dressing into the kale leaves.  This makes it really tender and flavorful.  You can eat this right away but it will also hold nicely in the refrigerator for a a few days.  The kale will become more tender and flavorful as it marinates.

Roasted Corn:  If you have access to fresh, local corn, this easy recipe is a must.  Start by shucking the corn and removing the silky strands.  I use a vegetable scrubber to do this easily.  Stand the corn upright on a large cutting board.  If you have a bundt cake pan, stand the corn cob on the center cylinder to catch all of the rollaway kernels.  Either way, stand the corn cobs upright on your cutting surface and use a sharp knife to cut the kernels away from the cob in a downward motion.  Rotate the cob until you have removed all of the kernels.  Fresh corn kernels are amazing raw and I often snack on them while I am doing this task.

To roast the corn, toss the kernels with a little bit of vegetable oil and a pinch of salt.  Spread them out evenly into a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet.  Roast for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees F until they are lightly golden, stirring halfway.  Roasted corn can be frozen and reheated later.

Fresh Tomato Salsa:  Quarter grape tomatoes and combine them with a little bit of minced onion, garlic, chopped fresh cilantro, and a pinch of salt.

Turkey Tacos:  In a large skillet over medium high heat, saute a chopped onion in one Tbsp of oil until slightly softened and golden.  Add one pound of 93% lean ground turkey.  Season with 1 Tbsp of cumin and chili powder and 1/2 tsp salt.  Break the meat apart using a spatula and cook until for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add a 15 oz. can of fire roasted diced tomatoes; simmer until cooked through.

Black Beans:  Just open a can, rinse and drain.

Roasted Corn

Another delicious version of this meal is to serve it as a salad.  Spread kale over a plate and top with turkey meat, roasted corn, fresh tomato salsa, and black beans. Top with fresh cilantro and serve with a dollop of guacamole.

Simple Roasted Vegetables and Potatoes with Chicken

Our cooking workshop participants requested more Sheet Pan Supper ideas and this one was a big hit.  Quarter small waxy potatoes lengthwise.  Toss them with a little bit of oil and a pinch of salt.  Spread them over a rimmed baking sheet and roast them in the oven at 425 degrees F for about 30-45 minutes until fork tender and lightly browned.  Meanwhile, cut fresh vegetables such as broccoli, green beans, and carrots   I usually cut baby carrots in half lengthwise and cut stalks of broccoli into slimmer pieces to maximize the surface area and help them all cook at the same time. Toss the vegetables with a little bit of oil and a pinch of salt.  Roast them at 425 degrees F for about 20 minutes until lightly browned, stirring halfway.

Because reheated chicken breasts tend to be dry, I used a moist cooking technique in the slow cooker.  Simply place a few chicken breasts in the slow cooker and add reduced sodium chicken broth to almost cover the chicken. Cook at high heat for 2 hours or low heat for 8 hours.  Remove the chicken and set aside for a few minutes to rest.  Use two forks to easily shred the chicken apart.

To assemble the meals, fill half of each lunch container with vegetables, 1/4 with roasted potatoes, and 1/4 with chicken.  Vary the flavors by packing a little container of your favorite sauce such as teriyaki, barbecue, curry, Asian Ginger, pesto, or any other flavors that you like.  Try to choose sauces that are lower in sugar, fat, and salt and have ingredients that you can recognize.

Easy Roasted Vegetable Frittatas

Eggs are an easy and inexpensive protein source.  We made them portable by baking them in muffin tins with roasted vegetables.  Serve them with Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Cups and Fresh Fruit.

Lightly coat a 12 cup muffin tin with oil.  Silicon muffin trays work really well with this recipe to help the frittatas release easily.  Pour a few tablespoons of vegetables into each muffin cup.  I used finely chopped roasted broccoli, roasted bell peppers (red, orange, yellow), and roasted red onions.  This is a great way to use up leftover cooked vegetables.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 10 eggs with a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.  Pour the egg mixture evenly into the 12 muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees F for about 20 minutes or until the eggs are set and cooked through.  These frittatas can be made ahead and simply reheated in the microwave each morning for breakfast.  Serving size: 1-2 frittatas.

Blueberry Banana Oatmeal Cups

Oatmeal with a bunch of blueberries and a few almonds has always been a big hit with our FUEL participants.  This easy make ahead version is perfect for individuals on the go.

In a large bowl, mash 4 ripe bananas.  Try to use really ripe bananas with little brown sugar spots on them so you won’t have to add any additional sugar to the recipe.  Add 4 cups of old fashioned oats, 4 lightly beaten eggs, and 1 cup of 1% milk; stir to combine.  You can sweeten the mixture slightly with a little bit of sugar, honey, or maple syrup but I usually don’t find it necessary.  Lightly oil a 12 cup muffin tin (I used a silicon tray but muffin liners would also work nicely).  Divide the mixture evenly into the muffin cups.  Sprinkle a few fresh blueberries on top of each cup and press them down gently into the mixture.  Top with a little bit of shredded coconut and/or slivered almonds.  Bake at 375 degrees F for 20 minutes until lightly golden and cooked through.  Leftovers can be served cold or warmed in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

Homemade Granola with Dried Cherries, Apricots, Almonds and Coconut

Lori’s second recipe for our Simple Make Ahead Meals Workshop was a delicious homemade granola.  This was so outrageous that I had to be careful not to eat the entire batch.  Try this over a large bowl of fresh berries or peaches with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkled with granola.

Homemade Granola with Dried Cherries, Apricots, Almonds, and Coconut

(By Jennifer Segal, inspired by the granola served at The Inn at Occidental in Sonoma County, CA)

Yields 9-10 cups.  Serving size 1/4 – 1/2 cup.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line a 13 x 18-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. (This step is important since the finished product is sticky).  Pour 2-1/2 cups of old fashioned oats (not instant or quick oats) in a large bowl.  Add 1/2 cup each of of sliced almonds, pecans, walnuts, and sunflower seeds or your favorite combination.  Add 1 cup shredded coconut, 1/2 cup toasted wheat germ, 2 Tbsp sesame seeds, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp salt; mix well.

In a small bowl, whisk together 2/3 cup honey and 1/2 cup vegetable oil until combined. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix well. Spread the granola mixture evenly onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes, stirring and re-spreading a few times with a spatula, until the entire mixture is medium golden brown. Watch carefully towards the end; it burns quickly and will brown first in the corners and on the bottom. Transfer the granola to another baking sheet or heatproof surface to stop the cooking process (simply lift the granola off the baking sheet using the parchment paper overhang). Toss the granola with a spatula and mix in 1 cup of dried fruits such as dried cherries and apricots.  Spread and press into an even layer, then let cool in the refrigerator (preferred) or at room temperature. Break the granola into clusters and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

Lori served samples of this delicious granola with a dollop of vanilla bean yogurt and a sprig of fresh mint.

Chicken Shawarma with Heirloom Tomato Greek Salad and Whole Grain Pita

This summer, the Furman Employee Wellness Program sponsored two healthy cooking workshops for employees and families.  The second workshop featured easy Make Ahead Meals that could be used for brown bag lunches or quick meals when you are short on time.  It was led by Lori Nelsen (Furman Earth and Environmental Sciences) and Kelly Frazier (Furman Health Sciences).  Because we shared so many recipes for this workshop, I’ll be posting them in three separate posts.

First up was one of Lori’s show stopper recipes for Chicken Shawarma with a Fresh Heirloom Tomato Greek Salad served in Whole Grain Pita.  Don’t be intimidated by the fancy name, it is really simple for the home cook.

Chicken Shawarma with a Fresh Heirloom Tomato Greek Salad and Whole Grain Pita

Shawarma is a Middle Eastern sandwich of marinated meat that is usually stuffed into a pita with fresh toppings like hummus, tahini, or cucumbers.  Typically, the marinade has an intricate blend of seasonings and the meat is slow cooked all day.  Lori’s genius version is so simple because it is baked in the oven.  

Oven Baked Chicken Shawarma

(Inspired by Chicken Shawarma Deluxe, No Rotisserie Required)

Prepare marinade for the chicken by combining in a glass or plastic bowl:  the juice of 2 lemons,  ½ cup of olive oil, 6 cloves of fresh garlic (minced), 1 tsp kosher salt, 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp paprika, ½ tsp turmeric,  a pinch of ground cinnamon, and a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes; whisk together.

Add 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs,  toss to combine well, cover, and marinate in the refrigerate for 1-12 hours.  When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Coat a large rimmed baking sheet with oil.  Cut a large red onion into 1 inch chunks, add to the marinade and toss well to combine.  Remove the chicken and onion from the marinade with a slotted spoon and transfer to the baking sheet.  Roast for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and lightly browned.  Remove from the oven, let cool for a few minutes, and slice the chicken into bite sized pieces.  Top with chopped fresh parsley.

Heirloom Tomato Greek Salad

Heirloom tomatoes are treasured by local farmers for their unbelievable flavor and unique colors and shapes.  Look for them at your local farmer’s market.  If you can’t find them, substitute local tomatoes.

Combine chopped fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, feta, olives, a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar (balsamic or red wine),  salt, pepper, and fresh parsley.  Toss to combine.

To serve the Chicken Shawarma, open a whole grain pita half and spoon in the chicken mixture.  Top with the Greek Salad and a dollop of nonfat Greek yogurt and/ or hummus.  Garnish with fresh parsley.


FUEL Cooking Workshop 6/24 Farm to Table


This summer, the Furman Employee Wellness Program sponsored two cooking workshops for our employees and families.  The workshops were led by Lori Nelsen (Furman Earth and Environmental Sciences) and Culinary Institute of American trained chef David Porras.  Lori and David plan to open a new farm to table restaurant called Oak Hill Cafe on Poinsett Highway in 2018 featuring local and sustainable foods.  They were gracious to serve us a sampling of their tasty cuisine.  Here are a few recipes from their first workshop featuring “Farm to Table” foods.  The menu focused on quick, easy, and inexpensive meals for the home cook.

Simple Curried Spinach and Chickpeas

Their first dish focused on plant-based proteins and had a delicious blend of seasonings that packed a ton of flavor.  Leftovers would freeze well or make a great brown bag lunch.

Defrost 1 pound of frozen spinach and squeeze to remove most of the liquid.  Rinse and drain a 15 oz. can of chickpeas.  Warm a medium pot over medium heat.  Saute a small minced onion in 1 Tbsp. of canola oil over medium heat until for about 5 minutes or golden brown.  Meanwhile, combine the spice mixture in a small bowl:  1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. ground coriander, 1/4 tsp. turmeric, 1/4 tsp. paprika.  Stir the spice mixture into the sauteed onions and cook for another 5 minutes.  Add the chickpeas, one (11 oz) can of tomato sauce, and the thawed spinach.  Simmer 5 minutes until heated through.  Serve over brown rice and garnish with cilantro.

Nappa Cabbage Salad with Toasted almonds, Ramen noodles, Soy sauce vinaigrette, and Fresh mint

We love to experiment with unfamiliar vegetables in our FUEL cooking classes.  This delicious salad was a new refreshing twist on Nappa Cabbage and Bok Choy.  Both are very mild flavored Asian styles cabbages that can make your salads more exciting and nutrient packed (1).

Rinse and chop one large head of Nappa Cabbage or Bok Choy into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl.   Coarsely chop or break apart a package of ramen noodles (omit the seasoning packet).  Pour 1/2 cup of sliced almonds into a dry skillet and toast over medium low heat for a few minutes until fragrant and lightly golden.  Add the almonds and a few ramen noodles to the salad.  To make the dressing, whisk together 3/4 cup of vegetable oil, 1/4 cup of white vinegar, 2 Tablespoons of sugar, and 1 Tbsp. soy sauce in a small bowl.  Drizzle some of the dressing over the salad and toss to combine.  Garnish with fresh mint.

Panzanella Salad with Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Queso fresco, and Fresh Basil

Panzanella is a Tuscan bread salad made with toasted or day old crusty bread and flavored with the juice of tomatoes, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and other fresh vegetables.  It is a perfect way to use day old bread.  Serve with a piece of baked chicken or fish for a complete meal.

Cut one pound of cherry tomatoes in half and place them in a colander set over a bowl.  Season with 2 tsp. of kosher salt and set aside at room temperature to drain, tossing occasionally.  Cut a 3/4 pound loaf of whole grain baguette into 1-inch cubes.  Spread the cubes over a baking sheet at toast in the oven at 350 degrees F for 5-7 minutes until crunch and crisp; set aside to cool.  In a large bowl, combine the toasted bread with the tomatoes, 1 large cucumber chopped into slices or cubes, 1 bunch of fresh basil leaves, a drizzle of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, freshly ground black pepper, and some Queso fresco cheese.  Queso fresco cheese is a mild and slightly salty Mexican fresh cheese.  If you can’t find it, substitute feta.  Let the salad rest for 30 minutes before serving, tossing occasionally until the dressing is completely absorbed by bread.

Local Peaches with Vanilla Yogurt Granita, Lime zest, and Honey

A Granita is a Sicilian frozen dessert that is usually made from fresh fruit and water, blended and frozen until icy, flaked with a fork and frozen again.  This clever variation uses the same technique with a carton of vanilla yogurt. It was my favorite dish of the entire workshop because it was so simple but packed a ton of fresh flavor.  

Chop 1 pound of local peaches into bite sized pieces and place them in a medium sized glass or plastic bowl.  Mix in a little bit of sugar and/or honey and let them sit for at least 20 minutes.  This process is called maceration and will soften the peaches and create a sweet syrupy liquid.  Next, make the simple homemade vanilla frozen yogurt.  Pour one quart of non-fat or low-fat vanilla yogurt into a a glass Pyrex pie pan.  Greek or traditional yogurt can be used.  Place the dish in the freezer for 30 minutes, remove and scrape with a fork to make a granita.  Repeat again 2-3 times until you reach a slushy yet creamy texture.

To serve, spoon some of the peaches into a bowl and top with some of the frozen yogurt granita.  Drizzle with a touch of honey, fresh lime zest, and garnish with fresh mint.

Chef Porras also demonstrated how to make Huevos Rancheros, a Flank Steak Burrito, Thai Pork and Green Beans, and Creamy Eggs on Toast with Goat Cheese and Fresh Tomatoes.  What a delicious feast!

If you are interested in attending future cooking workshops, be sure to email subscribe to this wellness blog so you will receive the latest updates delivered directly into your inbox.  We sponsor cooking workshops for Furman students through the Furman Culinary Club and workshops for employees that are sponsored by the Furman Employee Wellness Program.

(Above) Chef Porras demonstrating to our two youngest participants how he uses every portion of a green bell pepper in his cuisine– even toasting the seeds to use for a garnish.

Easy 3 ingredient Banana Oat Pancakes

Looking for a low fuss breakfast idea? Try these simple Banana Oat Pancakes made with just 3 ingredients: ripe bananas, eggs, and oats.

In a medium bowl, mash 2 ripe bananas. Stir in 2 eggs that have been lightly beaten and 1/2 cup of dry oats (quick oats or old fashioned).

Warm a skillet over medium heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray or a light glaze of butter.  Pour about 1/3 cup portions of batter onto the skillet and cook until the pancakes are firm around the edges and small bubbles form on top. Flip and cook on the other side until golden brown.

Serve plain or with a light drizzle of syrup.

Serves 2.

For variety, try some of these tasty combos:

~ Top with sliced strawberries and pecans

~Top with blueberries and walnuts

~ Top with sliced peaches and almonds

~ Stir in a little bit of peanut butter to the batter before cooking. Top with extra banana slices.

~ Stir in a few mini chocolate chips to the batter before cooking and then garnish with fresh raspberries.

Serve with a glass of milk and enjoy. Leftovers reheat nicely in the microwave.