Food, health, healthy eating

National Food Holiday’s: Banana Day and Trail Mix Day

Month after month, we get to celebrate our National Food Holiday.  In August there are many to count!  One to two foods tocelebrate daily.  Everything from watermelon, to bacon, to banana and then wrap the month up with trail mix.  So many
recipes, so little time!  

For this week, two celebrations in one.  Banana Lovers (August 27th) and Trail Mix (August 31st).  Best of both worlds combined in my delicious Banana Coconut Trail Mix.

Bananas are a staple in my house.  My husband actually calls them ‘Monkey Sticks’ because “That’s what monkeys eat, he says referring to himself!”  I think we go through a dozen weekly and why not?  It’s a perfectly packed fruit with tons of benefits.  Bananas are perfect for a pre-workout snack, sliced up in your overnight oats, tossed into a smoothie, blending into a recipe for added sweetness or dehydrated to add to your trail mix!!!  Bananas have 422mg of Potassium which is 12% of your recommended daily value.  In addition, they have Fiber, Protein, Magnesium, Vitamin C and Vitamin B-6.  What’s not to love!

Trail Mix can be just about anything you want it to be.  Walk down an aisle of any supermarket and you’ll see 50+ varieties of trail mix.  Savory, sweet, spicy, and chewy.  You want it, they have it!  Now the key to choosing the right one, or in my case making it, it should not have any added sugar or gluten.  It’s just additional calories that you don’t need.  MAKE IT.  if you’re not going to make your own, you can easily pick up your favorite dried fruit and nuts and combine it yourself.

So where did trail mix come from?  Who thought of it?  Horace Kephart, that’s who!  He was an outdoorsman and this was his snack of choice and recommend it to some hikers and viola, the perfect snack was born!  Thanks Horace!  Much appreciated.

Onto my mix.  I bake mine to add some toastiness to it.  It’s a cross between a granola and trail mix.  The reason why I add oats is to give some carbs without having the added sugar.  When you think about trail mix and what you pick out first…it’s the chocolate.  Let’s be real.  Baking it and adding the oats gives it that something extra.  I also add my homemade dehydrated bananas and unsweetened coconut chips.  It’s the tropics on the trail!!!

Banana-Coconut Trail Mix
Ingredients:
2 cup Gluten Free Oats
1 cup coconut chips, unsweetened
1 cup dehydrated banana chips
½ cup raw cashews
½ cup raw almonds
½ cup raw macadamia nuts
½ cup raw pepitas
½ cup raw sunflower seeds
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
3 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Pre-Heat oven to 225 degrees.
In a large mixing bowl, combine oats, nuts, seeds, cinnamon and salt.

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In another mixing bowl, whisk egg white on high, with hand mixer, until stiff.  Fold in vanilla gently once whites are stiff.

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Then fold dry and wet ingredients together, being careful not to overwork the egg whites.

Transfer to baking sheet lined with silpat or parchment paper.

Bake for 60 minutes total, stirring every 20 minutes to break up into large pieces.  After the first 20 minute stir, add in the cococut and conintue for 40 more minutes.

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Let cool completely  and then add the dehydrated bananas before storing.  About 30 minutes.  Can be stored for up to 2 weeks in airtight container.

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All you need now is your sneakers and a great trail to enjoy this amazing Trail Mix.  

Enjoy the Holidays!

Food, health, healthy eating, Lifestyle, menu planning

Skip the Diet! Just eat Healthy!

Living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be all salads and granola type of foods.  It doesn’t mean you cannot have the joys of indulgent foods. I hear that time and time again, I like the food that I like and that’s it. or What’s the point of eating something I don’t want. I just want to enjoy  life. But in my opinion, healthy eating is an 80/20 choice, you can have your kale and cake and eat them BOTH! Enjoying healthy options most of the time and savoring those foods that we know should be eaten in moderation, 20% of the time. For me, that’s things like pasta, NY style pizza and wine. (I’m Italian, can you tell!).

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Clean Eating has become my lifestyle of choice for the 80% (or more!) of the time. And with that, I’ve taken dieting out of my vocabulary! I no longer eat things like overly-processed foods,rice, flour, deli meats and refined sugar. Dairy is only eaten on occasion. I fill up my plate with fruits, veggies, lean proteins, seeds, nuts and minimal whole grains. For me, beans have taken a back seat as well only due to some digestion issues, but I love them and wish I could eat them. This is my lifestyle and I know I’ve gone wrong in the past over-thinking about the foods I couldn’t have versus thinking about all the foods I could enjoy all the time! It’s not a punishment, it’s a way of life. A better life. I actually feel 100% better when I’m eating healthfully and when I stray on that 20% my body knows it. I’m lethargic, cranky and completely zoned out. It’s a really bad place for me to be. I’d rather eat real, unprocessed foods that are healthful and feel good than eat French fries and feel like crap the rest of the day. Again, that’s why it’s 80/20!

The other thing that has shaped my healthy eating is creating menus for the week. Meal planning has single handedly supported my healthful lifestyle. Not only does it give me a snapshot to what I’m eating for the week, it can support my workout schedule to ensure I’m eating the best foods to give me the energy I need for my more strenuous workouts. In addition to all that, it has actually helped with food expenses in the house. Because I’m creating these menus, I only buy what my husband and I need for the week. No wasted food! It’s awesome.

So what’s in the average healthful day for me? A lot! About 1,500 calories packed with all the nutrition I need. Three meals and two snacks keep me full and satisfied all day long.

For breakfast I usually eat overnight oats. Oats sustain me on my heavy workout days and I feel completely satisfied having them. With only ⅓ cup of oats they are packed with 33g of carbs, 9g of protein and 5g of fiber. It get all those nutrients in just ⅓ cup for breakfast! I top my overnight oats with some strawberries or blueberries (right now they’re in season here) for the perfect morning meal. I add a tablespoon of chia seeds as well to fill me up and keep me fuller longer and because the chia and oats expand so much overnight, I usually split this meal pre and post workout. This is the best breakfast for me to start my day.

For lunch I’ll eat a lean protein with veggies. Usually a salad since it’s been so hot this summer. My favorite right now is arugula with sauteed asparagus and onions, an ounce of feta, tomatoes and two poached eggs. A squeeze of lemon juice tops off the salad. It’s so delicious and keeps me filled up until my snack! (Check out my instagram https://instagram.com/healthylittlesecret/ for the recipe.)

A few hours later, I’ll eat a small piece of fruit with almond butter. Just a tablespoon is all you need to give some extra protein! My other go to snack is a bean free dip that I’ll eat with tons of veggies. Either snack will keep me full until dinnertime. (Spicy Pepper Dip on blog)

Right now in OC we’ve been having a little bit of a heat wave (to put it mildly) so the grill has been my method of choice for cooking dinner. I usually cook wild caught salmon along with kale and zucchini. If you haven’t made kale on the grill you’re missing out. It’s FANTASTIC. A grill basket and a touch of olive oil, garlic powder and salt and pepper to make this easy, light and yummy dinner. (TIP: I make extra salmon for lunch the next day. Nicoise Salad! It’s on my Instagram account as well https://instagram.com/healthylittlesecret/!)

The last snack of the day for me is dessert. Yes, living a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean not having something to treat the sweet tooth. For me, that’s DARK chocolate.  I’ve found many varieties that are 85% or higher and taste amazing. I usually get an organic bar and I don’t miss the overly sweet chocolates that I was eating before. One or two squares, that’s all that’s needed to end the evening. I don’t have this every evening, but at least 2 nights a week.

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Now, after reading my menu of choice, does it sound like I’m not living a life or am being deprived? I’m hoping you’re saying NO right now and agreeing that it sounded yummy!!! And you know what, healthy eating is delicious. Now actually living on this lifestyle I crave things like kale and overnight oats! It’s true. My cravings for pizza are few and far between.

I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries lately about the obesity epidemic we have in the U.S. Many things stood out while watching that I just cannot get out of my head: One, every person that is overweight knows that eating fast and over processed foods are what’s causing their weight and health issues. However, because it ‘tastes good’ they continue to eat it. Two, a man actually said he knows he’s going to die from eating they way he does, but he’d rather die at 55 and not give up his BBQ. DIE! Three, people feel that eating healthfully is too expensive and they’d rather use their money on other things. I just cannot get those things out of my head.  DEATH. MONEY. TASTE. That’s more important than HEALTH? What is going on here? Are we that brainwashed?

It’s time to break the cycle. I know it’s difficult. I was on the dieting roller coaster for 10+ years. I eventually snapped out of it and got on the road to health! 80/20, it can be done!

Skip the Diet. Just eat Healthy!

fitness, health, workout

Top 5 things you should do during your workout!

Have you ever dreaded going to they gym?  Felt a little overwhelmed by all the equipment, the size of the facility and all of the people?  And if you actually made it to the gym, were you unsure of where to start?  You’re not alone.  More than half of gym goers aren’t working out properly or making effective use of their time.  But who’s to blame them?   Gyms can be so overwhelming and without a personal trainer to assist it’s easy to get it wrong.

As a health and fitness coach, I cannot stress enough that the most important thing to remember is that everyone is at a different fitness level.  Do not expect to walk into a gym after not working out for sometime (or not at all) and do the same as others!  Your workout is for YOU and YOU only.  It’s your time to do something good for yourself!  Enjoy!  Who cares what everyone else is doing?

Your first goals need to be proper form and technique.  Slow and steady wins the race at the gym, otherwise injuries will occur.  If you’re unsure of a certain move or how to use a piece of equipment, ask a fitness professional at the gym to assist you.  Again, your safety comes first!  You only have one body so keep it safe.

The framework of the workout below can easily be adjusted to fit any fitness level and be accomplished either at the gym or at home.  It’s only FIVE different phases to use while creating a workout routine for your self.  It’s good to do your home work and go in with a plan.  That will make things less intimidating.

  1.  WARM-UP.  Warming up seems to be the one thing that most gym goers do not do or do not do effectively.  The funny thing is that it takes the least amount of time and prevents the most amount of injuries.  The warm up should include stretching, flexibility training and cardio, and on average take about 10 minutes total.Examples of an effective warm up are:
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    FOAM ROLLER:  TFL Stretch
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    STATIC STRETCH:  Standing Adductor
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    DYNAMIC STRETCH:  Tube Walking Side to SideIn addition to your stretching and flexibility training you’ll want to include cardio, about 5-10 minutes to your Warm-Up routine.  Treadmills, rowing machines or stationary bikes are great options to accomplish this.
  2. CORE/BALANCE/PLOYMETRIC.  The core (or abdomen) is the main hub of our body and needs, in my opinion, a signficant amount of time spent in developing it.  Think about how often you (should) use your core muscles.  It’s the center of all movement in the body and supports your posture and lower back and, with proper training can improve both.  Balance training links directly to the core and will help prevent lower lower extremity injuries.  For plyometric training it involves quick and powerful movements causing the muscle to contract, like a ‘cocking’ motion.  This doesn’t mean you have to complete all three types of training for this phase of your workout. Choose one or more depending on your fitness level.  Another option is to find exercises that incorporate all three moves. Examples of Core/Balance/Plyometric training are:
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    CORE:  Two-Leg Floor Bridge
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    CORE and BALANCE:  Single-Leg Lift and Chop
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    PLYOMETIC:  Squat Jump with Stabilization
  3. SPEED/AGILITY/QUICKNESS.  This may be something new to many of you, but what’s great about SAQ training is that it’s fun and effective.  (SAQ is the favorite phase of my workouts!)  It allows the body to enhance how you accelerate, decelerate and stabilize your entire body.  The speed gives you the ability to move your body in one intended direction as fast as possible.  The agility gives you the ability to accelerate, decelerate, stabilize, and change direction quickly while maintaining proper posture.  And the quickness gives you the ability to react and change your body position with maximal rate of force production, in all planes of motion and body positions.  The best way I can describe this phase of the workout is like playing Red Light, Green Light (taking you back to grade school).  Stop Go, Stop Go, Go Stop Go! Examples of SAQ are:
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    SAQ:  Box Drill, 10 yards each sprint98d24800080b405e80cfa8c29763b54e.jpg (736×348)
    SAQ:  Speed Ladders (using taped off boxes)
  4. RESISTANCE.  The resistance training phase is about the body increasing functional capacity.  In other words, building muscle.  It’s up to you how much or little time you want to spend here, and whether you’re looking to build muscle endurance, enlarge the muscles, build strength or increase power.  Again, everyone is at a fitness level and if you’re a beginner, you should choose endurance.  What’s great about resistance training is that you can use your own body weight, bands, free weights, medicine balls, strength machines, kettle bells, TRX and BOSU balls.Examples of Resistance training are:
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    Squat, Curl to Press
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    Push Ups
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    Standing Cable Row
  5. COOL-DOWN.  Ah, the cool down!  You’ve earned it.  This is the time to put yourself in a state of rest.  The cool down has tons of benefits like reducing your heart and breathing rates, cooling your body temperature and returning the muscles back to their optimal length.  It all sounds very scientific and there definitely is a science behind working out in general! Examples of a Cool Down are:
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    Foam Roller Stretch:  Hamstring
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    Static Stretching:  Soleus

And just like your Warm Up, you can Cool Down by getting back on the treadmill for 5-10 minutes at a SLOW pace to cool down the body.

A workout should take you about an hour in total if you’re only focused on one portion of your body (which I highly recommend).  Creating a workout schedule is really important.  For example, working out Monday, Wednesday and Friday is optimal, separating out muscle groups:  Monday: Back and Chest,  Wednesday: Legs, and Friday:  Shoulders and Arms.  This way your muscles rest in-between workouts and have time to recover.  I suggest writing this down on a calendar so you can plan out the entire month, and have accountability to it!

The important thing, with any workout, is to mix it up.  Don’t do the same routine over and over.  Not only will you become bored, but your muscles will get muscle memory and stop growing or strengthening and you’ll plateau.

It’s time to start enjoying your workouts again, and with the above routine I KNOW you will!

Food, health, healthy eating, Lifestyle

Happy National Watermelon Day!

Everyone loves watermelon!  That is why it’s appropriate to have a National Food Holiday for this delicious summertime fruit.  I have so many wonderful memories growing up (in the South) and eating watermelon – usually at a family picnic or gathering.  It’s one of the most satisfying fruits out there.  It’s sweet, crunchy, and full of water!  So refreshing.  I can honestly say, it’s the fruit I go to for that reason.  But when it’s hot out and I’m at a picnic or BBQ, have gone for a long walk/run or I’m just plan dehydrated, it’s the first thing I want and go for!!!

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Watermelon is about 92% water (hence the name), packed with nutrients, and it’s good for you.  Watermelon has gotten a bad wrap for so many years and it’s time to change it today, on its National Holiday!  Eaten at the right times, in moderation and combined with other ingredients it’s the most perfect food!

In a 2-cup serving you get:

Studies have shown that there are many health benefits including:

  • Heart Health:  The high levels of lycopene are good for protecting cells from damage and may help lower heart disease.
  • Anti-flammatory Properties:  Again, the lycopene levels in this fruit is an inhibitor for varies inflammatory processes and is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals.
  • Hydration:  92% water, this super fruit will keep you hydrated and the juice is a good source for electrolytes.
  • Digestion:  Although on 1% fiber, this small amount can help support the body in the digestion process.
  • Skin and Hair:  The Vitamin A is great for your skin and only a cup of watermelon has 1/4 of your daily-recommended intake.  Vitamin A helps keep the skin and hair moisturized and encourages new growth.
  • Muscle Soreness:  Due to the high levels of amino acids and arginine, which helps with circulations, if you drink watermelon juice before your work out, it has been known to reduce next-day muscle soreness.
  • Cancer Prevention:  Antioxidants and Lycopene aid in the prevention of certain cancers.  Watermelon is high in both and studies have shown this fruit, like others, aids in the avoidance of prostate cancer (for one).

I’m sold!  I knew I loved this fruit!  And now I have even more reasons to love it other than the taste and how refreshing it is.

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Watermelon is VERY versatile.  It can be blended into a drink, grilled, served plain, and put into salads.  I remember when I was a kid my Father would sprinkle salt on it, and I just didn’t understand.  Blah.  Salt and Watermelon.  Why mess with a perfect thing I would think to myself!   And now, I love mixing it up with different fruits, veggies, dressings and cheeses.

Here’s a simple summer salad I’m sure you’ll serve up tonight or at your next neighborhood BBQ.

Watermelon and Basil Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette 

Ingredients:
6 cups cubed Watermelon
4 ounces crumbled or chunked feta
1/4 cup basil leaves, cut into thin strips
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard

Directions:
In large bowl, place watermelon in and sprinkle feta and basil on top.  In small container, place remaining ingredients and shake well until combined.  Drizzle dressing on top of watermelon.  Add a touch of salt and pepper and toss to combine.

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It’s that simple.  You can really play around with this recipe too.  If you don’t like basil, add mint.  If you don’t like feta, add mozzarella.  Use your imagination.  I’ve even served this same recipe over a bed of arugula and it was amazing.  Add protein of choice and dinner is served!

Enjoy!