Cubs

Kim DeJesus shares healthy eating tips

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Kim DeJesus shares healthy eating tips

I was thrilled when Chicago Tribune Live asked me to come share my passion for juicingblending and encourage people to kick off 2013 with a green drink. We had a blast on the show. If you have already wavered from your New Year's goals, get up off your fanny! Today is a new day, tomorrow has no mistakes and it is never too late to start your wellness plan.
First off, let me say I am not an expert. I am simply a vegetarian who loves the way eating clean and juicing make me feel. I have my days where I just feel like eating a slice of pizza, a delicious bowl of pasta or a vegan cupcake! I also enjoy a good night out with friends with a glass of wine (or three, depending on who I am with). Some weeks I do great, and others I waver, so don't expect perfection out of me or my diet because you won't see it.
But I have a wellness plan in place and am very aware of the negative effects that sugar, dairy and processed foods have on me, so I really try to limit them. It is crazy how quickly I feel the negative side effects after eating a sugary snack or processed food choice. Headaches, stomach aches, break outs, etc...my body hates it. Just because the FDA has approved a chemical as edible does not mean it is good for you by any means.
And then there's sugar. Sugar is 'no bueno,' folks. And the major problem with sugar is that it's in so many things. Don't even get me started on artificial sugar or I might pass out. Oh, and white breads and pastas? They turn into sugar so fast your body doesn't really does not know the difference between that and a slice of cheesecake. Yikes. Our country is surrounded with over-processed, sugary foods, so it's certainly not easy to make perfect choices all the time. It's important to be educated on the foods we put into our bodies so when faced with difficult food choices it's easier to make the right choice.
It would make me so happy to see people drinking their greens every day and trying hard to eliminate sugary processed foods! In the DeJesus household you will see lots and lots of green drinks; even my little guy loves his spinach juice! We totally believe in the healing power of green drinks.
It's no secret that we all know eating veggies is good for us (and hold the phone, I'm not talking about broccoli covered in Cheese Whiz or fried mushroom balls, people). Even though we all know this, unfortunately most people don't get nearly the amount of fresh veggies or fruits into their diets. That's why I say juicing and blending is an incredible way to get these raw nutrients into your bodies (and your kids). It's easy and its delicious!
Here are just some of the major benefits you can get from drinking your greens:1. Veggies and fruits are loaded with the vitamins and minerals your body requires to thrive -- there is magic in that fridge of yours (or Whole Foods produce section, depending on what is in your fridge).
2. Many veggies and fruits are anti-inflammatory (inflammation is the cause of many chronic diseases). This is HUGE, guys.
3. Anti-aging, helps with acne (good for your skin)
4. Helps prevent and fight diseases
5. Aids digestion
6. Helps with weight loss
7. Energy! Green drinks will give you energy that won't make you crash or have the jitters.
8. Nice booty ... it can help with cellulite, ladies.
9. Eating clean can help with depression and insomnia.If you are looking for a good juicer or blender, I know it can be overwhelming. There are tons of good ones on the market. I love my Vitamix; I use it probably two times a day. It's an investment but I have encouraged several friends to get one and they all say it's their favorite appliance.
I also have a Breville juicer. I incorporate both blending and juicing into my diet, but on the segment we only made blends. Following recipes is great if you're just starting and don't know what to do (the two recipes we did on the segment are below). I personally just usually use whatever is in my fridge. It's always best to use fresh produce, however I always keep frozen organic berries in my freezer in case I am running low on produce and need to make a quick blend. Plus they make a tasty dessert if you are craving sweets: blend up a frozen banana, frozen strawberries, a tiny bit of almond milk and a little spinach with maybe some blueberries and you've got yourself a delicious dessert. So simple.
Other things you can add into your smoothies to give them an extra kick are hemp powder or hemp seeds (for protein), flax seeds, chia seeds, cocoa nibs or cocoa powder, spirulina (strong taste), almond milk, coconut water or milk, hemp milk, etc. Just please don't put dairy into your smoothies. Whole Foods has a ton of great things you can add into your blends.If you juice and then follow it up with a juicy cheeseburger smothered in cheese with a side of fries, I can't promise you amazing results. That's why a wellness plan is important. If all this overwhelms you, start small and work your way up. If you need to start really simple, how about making a goal to try and start each day with a green smoothie or green juice? Juicing and blending are such easy ways to get so many benefits into your body. Not only is it amazing for your body, it is truly delicious. Kris Carr has a great book out there if you're looking for more info, called Crazy Sexy Diet.I have plenty more I could say but we're in the middle of preparing for our foundation's first official event, "Strike a Pose." We are going to try our hardest to raise money for ALS. It's a brutal disease, one for which there is not cure or treatment. it's coming up here in a few days and I've got lots of work to do! Sure hope to see you there, though! You can check it out on our website at daviddejesusfamilyfoundation.org if you want to come.But basically, guys, I'm not reinventing the wheel here. This is not rocket science. So how about in 2013 we all make a commitment to be nice to our bodies. We don't have to be perfect, but let's try to be nice most of the time. If you have any questions you can ask me at @kimdejesus9 on Twitter. I don't promise to have the answer though. Ha.To sum it up:1. Avoid sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed foods and dairy as much as you can
2. Juice or blend as many greens into your daily diet as possible. Drink your greens. It's fun, easy and incredible for you.
3. Try to eat clean most of the time (don't beat yourself up if you have a bad day)Here are the recipes I used on the show:ZEUS JUICE (recommend this to start off your day)1 pear, quartered and seeded1 apple, quartered and see1 orange, peeled12 a zucchiniHandful of spinachHandful of kale1 carrot, cut in half1 celery stalk, cut in halfabout a half cup of water2 cups of icePut all into a Vitamix and blend. If you don't have a Vitamix, cut up each fruit and vegetable and blend individually. Feel free to mix up the veggies here or use substitutes; the darker shade of green a vegetable has, the better nutritional value it has.GREEN GURU SMOOTHIE from Crazy Sexy Dietavocadoabout 8 romaine leaves1 cucumber1 bananastevia for taste1 cup almond milk (or water)(then I like to add ice to this recipe and also hemp seeds for some protein)This is more of a comforting smoothie; the avocado gives it a nice texture and the stevia makes it sweet. Please don't ever use sugar in any of your smoothies! Stevia is a good way to start if you don't normally drink your greens. I wouldn't add it to every smoothie either, just when your craving something sweet. Go easy with it -- a little goes a long way.Tips: If you're blending, you can even make a big batch and it can keep in the fridge for about two days. Juices you should usually consume right away or within 24 hours if you can for the best impact.

Cubs still waiting for Willson Contreras' offense to take off, but they know it's coming

Cubs still waiting for Willson Contreras' offense to take off, but they know it's coming

If every Major League Baseball player was thrown into a draft pool in a fantasy-type format, Willson Contreras may be the first catcher taken.

Joe Maddon and the Cubs certainly wouldn't take anybody else over "Willy."

The Cubs skipper said as much in late-May, placing Contreras' value above guys like Buster Posey, Gary Sanchez and Yadier Molina based on age, athleticism, arm, blocking, intelligence, energy and offensive prowess.
 
Contreras strikes out more, doesn't hit for as high of an average and doesn't yet have the leadership ability of Posey, but he's also 5 years younger than the Giants catcher. Molina is possibly destined for the Hall of Fame, but he's also 35 and the twilight of his career is emerging. Sanchez is a better hitter with more power currently than Contreras, but a worse fielder.

Remember, Contreras has been in the big leagues for barely 2 years total — the anniversary of his first at-bat came earlier this week:

All that being said, the Cubs are still waiting for Contreras to display that type of complete player in 2018.

He's thrown out 11-of-32 would-be basestealers and the Cubs love the way he's improved behind the plate at calling the game, blocking balls in the dirt and working with the pitcher. They still see some room for improvement with pitch-framing, but that's not suprising given he's only been catching full-time since 2013.

Offensively, Contreras woke up Saturday morning with a .262 batting average and .354 on-base percentage (which are both in line with his career .274/.356 line), but his slugging (.412) is way down compared to his career .472 mark.

He already has 14 doubles (career high in a season was 21 last year) and a career-best 4 triples, but also only 4 homers — 3 of which came in a 2-game stretch against the White Sox on May 11-12.

So where's the power?

"He's just not been hitting the ball as hard," Maddon said. "It's there, he's gonna be fine. Might be just getting a little bit long with his swing. I think that's what I'm seeing more than anything.

"But I have so much faith in him. It was more to the middle of last year that he really took off. That just might be his DNA — slower start, finish fast.

"Without getting hurt last year, I thought he was gonna get his 100 RBIs. So I'm not worried about him. It will come. He's always hit, he can hit, he's strong, he's healthy, he's well, so it's just a patience situation."

The hot streak Maddon is talking about from last season actually began on June 16 and extended to Aug. 9, the date Contreras pulled his hamstring and went to the disabled list for the next month.

In that 45-game span (40 starts) in the middle of 2017, Contreras hit .313/.381/.669 (1.050 OPS) with 16 homers and 45 RBI.

It looked like the 26-year-old catcher may be getting on one of those hot streaks back in mid-May when he clobbered the Marlins, White Sox and Braves pitching staffs to the tune of a .500 average, 1.780 OPS, 3 homers and 11 RBI in a week's worth of action.

But in the month since, Contreras has only 3 extra-base hits and no homers, driving in just 4 runs in 29 games (26 starts) while spending most of his time hitting behind Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.

What's been the difference?

"I think it's honestly just the playing baseball part of the game," Contreras said. "You're gonna go through your ups and downs, but I definitely do feel like I've been putting in the work and about ready to take off to be able to help the team."

Contreras admitted he's been focused more on his work behind the plate this season, trying to manage the pitching staff, consume all the scouting reports and work on calling the game. He's still trying to figure out how to perfectly separate that area of his game with his at-bats.

"With my defense and calling games, that's one way that I'm able to help the team right now," Contreras said. "And as soon as my bat heats up, we're gonna be able to take off even more."

On the latest round of National League All-Star voting, Contreras was behind Posey among catchers. The Cubs backstop said he would be honored to go to Washington D.C. next month, but also understands he needs to show more of what he's capable of at the plate.

"If I go, I go," he said. "Honestly, it's not something that I'm really focusing on right now. ... I do think I've been pretty consistent in terms of my average and on-base percentage and helping create situations and keep the line moving, at least.

"But right now, I know my bat hasn't been super consistent so far. It would be a great opportunity and I'd thank the fans."

As a whole, the Cubs have been hitting fewer home runs this season compared to last year. Under new hitting coach Chili Davis, they're prioritizing contact and using the whole field over power and pulling the ball.

Contreras has a 19.3 percent strikeout rate — the lowest of his brief big-league career — while still holding a 9.6 percent walk rate, in line with his career mark (9.9 percent).

Thanks to improved defense, Contreras still boasts a 1.6 WAR (FanGraphs) despite the low power output to this point. Posey (1.7 WAR) is the only catcher in baseball more valuable to his team.

Just wait until his power shows up.

"He hasn't even taken off yet," Maddon said. "He's gonna really take off. Remember last year how hot he got in the second half? That's gonna happen again. You see the pickoffs, what he does behind the plate, how he controls the running game — he's a different cat.

"And he's gonna keep getting better. He's not even at that level of consistency that I think you're gonna get out of him. Great athlete, runs well, does a lot of things well, but it does not surprise me that he's [second in NL All-Star voting at catcher] with Posey."

Feeding off their defense, Cubs starting to feel those 2016 vibes

Feeding off their defense, Cubs starting to feel those 2016 vibes

A year ago, the Cubs were struggling to float above .500, sitting 1.5 games behind the first-place Brewers.

Two years ago, the Cubs were10.5 games up on the second-place Cardinals in the division and already in cruise control to the postseason.

As they entered a weekend series in Cincinnati at 42-29 and in a tie for first place, the Cubs are feeling quite a bit more like 2016 than 2017.

The major reason? Energy, as Joe Maddon pointed out over the weekend.

That energy shows up most often on defense.

The 2016 Cubs put up maybe the best defensive season in baseball history while last year they truly looked hungover.

After a big of a slow start to 2018, the Cubs are feelin' more of that '16 swag.

If you watched either of the wins against the Los Angeles Dodgers this week at Wrigley Field, it's clear to see why: the defense.

"I like the defense," Maddon said of his team last week. "I'm into the defense. There's a tightness about the group. There's a closeness about the group. Not saying last year wasn't like that, but this group is definitely trending more in the '16 direction regarding interacting.

"If anything — and the one thing that makes me extremely pleased — would be the continuation of the defense. We've fed so much off our defense in '16. We've been doing that more recently again. We do so much good out there, then we come in and it gets kinda electric in the dugout. I'd like to see that trend continue on defense."

The Cubs scored only 2 runs in 10 innings in the second game against the Dodgers Tuesday night and managed just 4 runs in the finale Wednesday. Yet their gloves helped hold the Dodgers to only 1 run combined between the two games.

Wednesday's game was a defensive clinic, with Jason Heyward throwing out Chris Taylor at home plate with an incredible tag by Willson Contreras while Javy Baez, Albert Almora Jr., Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber all hit the ground to make sprawling/diving plays.

"[Almora] comes in and dives for one and I'm just like, 'OK, I'm done clapping for you guys,'" Jon Lester, Wednesday's winning pitcher, joked. "It's expected now that these guys make these plays. It's fun on our end. It's the, 'Here, hit it. Our guys are really good out there and they're gonna run it down.'"

The Heyward throw, in particular, jacked the team up. 

Maddon compared it to a grand slam with how much energy it provided the Cubs. Almora said he momentarily lost his voice because he was screaming so much at the play.

There was also Baez making plays in the hole at shortstop, then switching over to second base and turning a ridiculous unassisted double play on a liner in the 8th inning.

"That's what we're capable of doing," Maddon said. "In the past, when we've won on a high level, we've played outstanding defense. It never gets old to watch that kind of baseball."

The Cubs are back to forcing opposing hitters to jog off the field, shaking their head in frustration and disbelief.

"It could be so dispiriting to the other side when you make plays like that," Maddon said. "And also it's buoyant to your pitchers. So there's all kinds of good stuff goin' on there."

A lot of that is the play of the outfield, with Almora back to himself after a down 2017 season and Schwarber turning into a plus-rated defensive outfield.

After finishing 19th in baseball in outfield assists last season, the Cubs are currently tied for 6th with 14 outfield assists this year.

Schwarber has 7 alone, which is already as many as he tallied in the entire 2017 season.

"I feel like they'll learn quickly on Schwarber, if they haven't yet," Heyward said. "You gotta earn that respect. You gotta earn that sense of caution from the third base coach.

"But please keep running on me in those situations. I want it to happen."