Marie's Kitchen: Physical Fitness 101

Here we are again — at the beginning of a brand new year. With this column, I begin my seventh year writing “Marie’s Kitchen” for the Coastal Point and, as is my tradition, the first column of the new year revolves around health and fitness.

Robert Cairo with Tidewater Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Associates is my go-to guy when I need physical therapy. I’ve known Bob since 2001, and more times than either of us can count he has gotten me back in the race — both thumbs, shattered wrist, partial knee replacement, golfer’s elbow, tennis elbow and currently a strained bicep tendon. When patients end their therapy, Bob always provides a home program to continue the healing.

“The home program is often more important than the time here,” Bob said. “It’s very important for patients to continue the exercises at home. If they don’t, they often return to me with the same problem.”

During one of my recent appointments, I asked Bob for fitness advice for all of us for 2013.

Bob is a bachelor who works very long hours.

“Most days, I don’t get home until after 7 p.m.,” he said, “so fixing a healthy dinner has to be quick and easy.”

He and I agree that eating fish three times a week is one of the healthiest things you can do.

“Some people think that cooking fish is difficult,” he said, “but nothing is further from the truth.”

Bob often broils a piece of wild salmon to serve with fresh vegetables or a simple side salad. He and I both purchase bags of wild-caught frozen fish from BJ’s or Costco to keep on hand for healthy meals. (Beware: All salmon labeled “Atlantic” is farmed, not wild.)

Bob holds a master’s degree in exercise physiology and cardiac rehabilitation and a bachelor’s degree in physical education, with a minor in athletic training. When I asked for his definition of physical fitness, he said, “The ability to perform activities of daily living. I measure fitness by your ability to perform work-related tasks. But there are different levels of fitness,” he added. “Ask yourself if you can go through your day and do the things that you need to do to get through your day. If you can’t, then you need to take measures to fix the problem.”

Bob is a biker, and although he is able to peddle long distances, he can’t compete in time trials.

“After 11 surgeries (two hips, two knees, lower leg twice, both shoulders, hernia, et al), I had to tailor my exercise regime to what is best for my body. As we age and discover that we can no longer participate in some of the sports that we love, we must design an exercise program that meets our needs,” he said. “Everyone can exercise, but if you have a bad back, then walking may not be your method of staying fit; try the elliptical machine or a stationary bike. Plan exercise into your day; schedule it, just like brushing your teeth or getting to the office on time. Set reasonable goals.”

Bob and I discussed our country’s obesity epidemic.

“You need to take responsibility for what’s going on in your life,” he said. “You can’t look in the mirror and say: It’s everyone else’s fault that I’m obese. You need to own the responsibility. No one needs to run a marathon,” he said, “but everyone can exercise. If you’re 40, 50, 60 or 70 pounds overweight, you must get control of the problem and discipline yourself to take off the pounds.”

This is the time of year when old diets and new diets and fitness programs are hyped. Bob is not keen on people making New Year’s fitness resolutions.

“Goals are often too lofty and, by March, resolutions are a goner,” he said. “People should eat in moderation, monitor portion control, add regular and consistent exercise for your fitness level, and make the time to come up with and write down sensible lifestyle changes. The body is a machine. The math is simple. If you put 3,500 calories into your machine, that equals one pound. So, in order to lose one pound, you must omit 3,500 calories,” he said.

Keeping a food journal is also a great way to keep track of every morsel of food that you’re putting into your body. A little nibble here, a little nibble there, and, oops, an extra 3,500 calories goes into your “machine.”

Bob’s regimen is pretty simple.

“I try to eat fish three times a week, veggies five days a week (especially spinach). I take supplements, too. I eat blueberries or other fruit almost every morning, and I eat protein with every meal. I keep hard-boiled eggs on hand and bring two to work with me almost every day. I eat only the whites, which contain lots of protein. I do allow myself to cheat on weekends, but nothing major,” he said.

“I do not keep salt or sugar in my house. I sweeten things with fruit, which already has natural sugar in it. I also keep frozen wild salmon burgers in my freezer for a quick and healthy sandwich; frozen veggie burgers are also a great option,” he added.

Bob and I both eat out quite a bit. Top-quality cooks and chefs are more than happy to accommodate changes to menu items.

“Just ask,” Bob said. “I do it all the time and have never been turned down.”

Bob is very concerned about our youth.

“Our schools are not teaching lifetime sports,” he said. “We need to teach kids to play tennis, badminton, golf, aerobics, put them on bikes and elliptical machines, and have dance classes. Parents need to teach their children to be mobile,” he added. “And they need to teach them early. Take them canoeing, kayaking, hiking. We must stop our youth from being acorns falling from the trees of obese parents. If we don’t get our kids fit, they’ll become fat couch potatoes. We need to get them moving as much as possible.”

Bob recommends exercising three to four times a week.

“That’s enough,” he said. “And it doesn’t have to be vigorous exercise, especially if obesity is an issue. If you try to do too much, you’ll quit. It’s a turtle effect,” he added, “slow and steady wins the race.”

Bob practices what he preaches when it comes to our youth. He provides hands-on training for physical therapy students. He’s a tough taskmaster, but after six weeks of working with Bob, those students have learned far more than textbooks can teach them. I know, because they work on me and tell me what a great teacher Bob is.

“If I had a 16- or 17-year-old child,” Bob said, “I’d be encouraging them to go into the medical and allied health fields — physical therapy assistants (PTAs), occupational and speech therapy, nursing. These fields are booming,” he added, “and the need is only going to increase. For example, PTAs are in big demand. A PTA degree takes only two years,” he said, “and PTAs can start out making $40,000 to 60,000 a year.”

Tidewater Physical Therapy is currently planning to offer an adult/senior fitness exercise program run by a qualified trainer.

“It’s important for older people to know when enough is enough with physical fitness,” he said, “and to know what types of exercises are right for them at this time in their lives.” For more information on this program, contact Marta at (302) 537-7260.

If and when you need a top-notch and accomplished physical therapist, you will be ahead of the game by scheduling an appointment with Bob Cairo. His office is conveniently located at 63-A Atlantic Avenue in Ocean View (right next door to WSFS bank). For appointments, call (302) 537-7260 and tell Marta that Marie sent you.

For those who aren’t great lovers of fish, I’ve found that if you prepare a tasty (healthy) sauce to serve atop the fish, you’ll eat it more often. I like Pam Anderson’s book, “The Perfect Recipe for Losing Weight & Eating Great.” She provides a simple recipe for baked fish, and I’m including two of her healthy Asian “drizzles” to top the fish.

Baked Fish with Spinach
& Asian Drizzle


? 1 pound prewashed spinach

? 4 teaspoons vegetable or canola oil

? 1 teaspoon garlic powder

? 1-1/2 pounds fish fillets (trout, sole, flounder, mahi-mahi, catfish, tilapia, red snapper, cod, turbot)

? Salt (optional)

? Lime-Ginger or Soy-Sesame Drizzle (recipes follow)

Method for Baked Fish with Spinach:

Spray a large (18-by-12-inch) rimmed baking sheet with vegetable cooking spray. On baking sheet, toss spinach with 2 teaspoons of the oil and 1/2-teaspoon garlic powder. Arrange fish over spinach, spread with remaining 2 teaspoons oil, and sprinkle lightly with salt and remaining 1/2-teaspoon garlic powder.

Place on bottom rack of oven and turn oven to 400 degrees F. Bake until fish is opaque and spinach has wilted, 15 to 17 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare sauce.

Drizzle sauce over fish and spinach and serve. Yield: 4 servings; About 286 calories per serving with lime drizzle; 295 calories with soy-sesame drizzle.

Lime-Ginger Drizzle

? 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

? 2 tablespoons Asian fish sauce

? 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

? 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

? 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients. (14 calories per serving)

Soy-Sesame Drizzle

? 2 tablespoons soy sauce

? 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

? 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

? 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

? 2 teaspoons granulated sugar

In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients. (23 calories per serving)

The following two recipes are from “The Hilton Head Health Cookbook.” By keeping low-calorie/low-fat flavorful relishes and sauces on hand, you can perk up meals without feeling guilty. Cucumber Relish is one of my favorites. You can eat it as is as a relish, or spoon it over sautéed, poached or grilled whitefish like halibut or bass.

Cucumber Relish


? 1/2 cup diced onion

? 1 red pepper, diced

? 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

? 2 shallots, minced

? 2 cloves garlic, minced

? 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

? 1/2 teaspoon reduced-sodium soy sauce

? Pinch of black pepper

? 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill

? 1 English cucumber, finely sliced

Method for Cucumber Relish:

Combine all ingredients except cucumbers. Place ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and toss in the cucumbers. Let stand for at least 15 minutes. Yield: 4 servings; serving size: 1/2 cup; calories per serving: 35.

Serve Apricot-Ginger Sauce over stir-fried vegetables and steamed rice or over grilled chicken.

Apricot-Ginger Sauce


? 2-1/2 tablespoons minced shallot

? 1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

? 1 cup apricot nectar

? 1 cup chicken stock

? 2 tablespoons diced dried apricots

? 2 tablespoons currants

? 1-1/2 tablespoons brown sugar

? 1-1/2 tablespoons dark balsamic vinegar

? Cooking spray

Method for Apricot-Ginger Sauce:

Heat a pot and coat it with cooking spray. Sauté ginger and shallots. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes. Yield: 8 servings; serving size: 1/4 cup; calories per serving: 46.

I know that eating wild salmon is one of the best things you can do for your health, but salmon repeats on me, so I don’t cook it or order it from a restaurant menu as often as I should. However, when I found this recipe for delicious Salmon Burgers, I was able to amp up my wild salmon intake. I do not eat farmed salmon. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of salmon with skin removed, but it’s easier for me to buy 2 pounds of canned wild salmon and have it ready in my pantry on a day when the mood for salmon strikes.

The recipe is from “Hudson Valley Mediterranean” by Lauro Pensiero (William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2009). I know that many people can’t eat a burger unless it’s on a bun, but I’ve greatly reduced the amount of bread I eat, so I am happy to serve the burger atop dark salad greens, along with sliced tomato and red onion.

The author (and I) often double this recipe and store the uncooked patties in self-seal bags in our freezers. They thaw quickly and make for a healthy at-home lunch or in-a-pinch meal when guests stop by. For entertaining the author makes 1-ounce burgers and places them on mini-buns.

Salmon Burgers


? 2 pounds salmon, skin removed (I use canned wild salmon with great results.)

? 1-1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (I use Maille brand.)

? 2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise

? 2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce

? 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

? 2 tablespoons snipped fresh chives

? Salt and freshly ground black pepper

? 1 tablespoon peanut oil

? 6 to 8 hamburger buns (optional)

? Peanut oil (I use canola oil with fine results.)

Method for Salmon Burgers:

Remove any bones from the salmon, then chop it fine by hand or pulse it in a food processor; it should be chunky. Transfer the salmon to a medium-size bowl and add the mustard, mayonnaise, soy sauce, sesame oil, and chives. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I love lots of pepper), and stir to combine. Form the mixture into 6 to 8 patties, depending on desired size.

Heat the peanut oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat until it is hot, but not smoking. Add the patties and sauté for 4 minutes per side, or until just cooked through. Transfer the salmon burgers to buns, if using. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

When I worked full-time outside my home, I always packed my lunch. I’m a frugal person by nature, plus I like to prepare healthy, easy-to-pack foods. I’m not a big sandwich fan, so my lunches are often a combination of highly flavored items that leave me feeling full, even though the portions are modest. One of my favorite recipes is from the “Zone Meals in Seconds” cookbook by Dr. Barry Sears and Lynn Sears.

What I most like about this recipe for Zoned Hummus and Veggie Plate is that you prepare the ingredients in four serving-size portions, so when you’re ready to head out for the day, you pack your small containers and then combine them at lunchtime. You can serve some of the hummus inside one-half of a piece of pita bread, or omit the bread altogether. By adding tuna with the chickpeas in this hummus recipe, you get a better protein-to-carbohydrate ratio. This protein-packed dip goes well with vegetables in packed lunches.

Zoned Hummus
and Veggie Plate

Hummus Ingredients:

? 2 cups drained, canned, cooked chickpeas (save juice)

? 14 ounces drained, canned, no salt, water-packed tuna

? 2 hard-boiled eggs

? 1/2 cup raw or toasted, unsalted sesame tahini

? 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (l lemon)

? 1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

? 3 garlic cloves, minced

? 1 teaspoon ground cumin

? 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

? 1 cup chickpea juice or filtered water (I prefer water.)

? 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional)

? Ground paprika for garnish

Method for Hummus:

Combine the chickpeas, tuna, eggs, tahini, lemon juice, parsley, garlic, cumin, pepper and chickpea juice or water in the work bowl of a food processor. Add sea salt if desired. Cover and process until smooth, stopping to scrape down the sides with a spatula. Add additional water as needed to blend. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Divide equally into 4 containers with lids, garnish with paprika, cover and refrigerate.


? 5 cups romaine lettuce or baby greens salad mix

? 2 cups peeled, sliced cucumber

? 2 tomatoes, sliced

? 2 cups celery sticks

? 2 whole-grain pita pockets, halved

Method for Vegetables:

Divide the vegetables among 4 containers with lids. Place each pita bread half in a small plastic or wax paper bag. Cover and chill.

At lunch, spoon the hummus over the lettuce, tomato, and cucumbers. Stuff a portion of this mixture into a pita half and eat the rest on the side with the celery sticks.

Variation: Replace the pita bread with 1 orange and 1 small apple, quartered.

(Editor’s note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, DE 19970; or by email at Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by the Coastal Point.)