All posts by Healthy Little Secret

Healthy Snacking!

So, I’m back. I had a little sabbatical there for the month of December and most of January.  I’m sure you all can relate; sometimes the things you love the most are the things you have to give up first. Eeek! My Holidays were wonderful, action packed even! Hope yours were as well.

I do love a snack every now and again.  Who doesn’t?  I mean the SUPERBOWL is headed here in a week.  Who won’t be snacking that day?  Sometimes it gets me in trouble, but most of the time I snack to have smaller meals throughout the day.  This works particularly well on days where I work out and need to keep the metabolism going all day long.  I typically go for something savory in the afternoon—anything from veggies with hummus, a piece of protein, some dip or a little bit of cheese.

A few years back, my husband and I started making our own hummus.  It’s 100% better than anything you can buy in the grocery store.  Not to mention, our in home version didn’t have all the extra ingredients that store bought processed hummus had.  Why not make it at home?  It’s simple.  Dump in blender, blend and serve!  Done.

Last year, I discovered that beans no longer agreed with me.  Every time I ate any type of bean, even the smallest amount, I immediately became bloated and filled up with gas (I know, the thing we don’t like to talk about) with sharp pinches of pain in my abdomen.  It became so uncomfortable that I decided to take them out of my diet completely.  (Enter sad face here.)  I’m a bean LOVER.  I used to put beans in almost everything.  From soups and stews to sandwiches and salads.  Chickpeas were my favorite.  I’d eat them daily.  No joke… right out of the can.  I even stewed them at home.  I would give up meat for beans, that’s just how much I enjoyed them.  So what’s a girl to do?  Almost all kinds of hummus are made from some type of bean, mostly chickpeas.  What could possibly take the place of the beloved hummus?

I tried to make hummus out of a few other veggies like cauliflower and eggplant, but it wasn’t quite right.  And then…ARTICHOKE! Yep, artichokes.  They have a similar texture to chickpeas when blended and are full of flavor.  And even better… they are considered a SUPERFOOD packed with antioxidants and have been known to have properties to help lower cholesterol and detox the liver.  I don’t know about you, but this is a win-win for me!!!

ARTICHOKE HUMMUS
Makes six ½-cup servings

Ingredients:
1 can artichoke hearts (whole or quartered, NOT MARINATED)
2-3 cloves of garlic, cut in half  (can use roasted garlic for milder flavor)
¼ cup tahini
¼ cup olive or avocado oil
2 tbs lemon juice (more if you like the tang)
½ tsp salt
⅛-¼ tsp cayenne (optional heat)
Dash of paprika

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Directions:
Place all ingredients in blender or food processor.
Blend until desired texture is reached.
If too thick, add additional lemon juice or oil.

 

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Place in bowl and drizzle with a tsp of olive oil and dash of paprika.

That’s it. It doesn’t get any easier. You can use this hummus to snack with veggies, smear on top of fish or chicken or even put in a lettuce wrap.

And don’t forget about your Super Bowl party that’s coming up!  This would make a perfect addition to your spread!!!

Snack Happy!

Move over Pumpkin: Sweet Potatoes are here!

There are all kinds of veggies that make their way out during the fall season.  Pumpkin is the all time favorite. It’s the king of the fall veggies. Everything turns pumpkin—POOF! Just like Cinderella’s carriage.  There’s Pumpkin cereal, Pumpkin Spice Latte, Pumpkin Crackers,Pumpkin Stew, Pumpkin Biscotti, Pumpkin Ice Cream.  The list goes on and on.  One local market has over 22 varieties of pumpkin flavored products.  Yes, 22!  Over-kill?  Well, I suppose they have to strike while the iron is hot.

For me, the fall is more about subtlety.  No need to crack yourself over the head with pumpkin everything so that you’re sick of it by the Thanksgiving Day.  Autumn lasts about 60 days.  Sixty wonderful days of leaves changing, brisk winds and cozy sweaters.  So what’s the rush?

The sweet potato is one of those veggies that doesn’t get its time in the spotlight as it should.  It makes an appearance at the Thanksgiving table, but then it’s quickly gone.  But why?  What’s not to love about the sweet potato?  Why shouldn’t they be a part of your healthy lifestyle?

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In a one-cup serving, sweet potatoes have the daily recommended value of:
● 214% of Vitamin A
● 52% of Vitamin C
● 50% of Magnesium
● 36% of Copper
● 27% of Potassium
● 26% of Fiber

In addition:
● Has Anti-Inflammatory Nutrients
● May improve blood sugar regulation
● Filled with Antioxidants

Wow…all that and it tastes good!  Score!

We’ve eaten sweet potatoes several different ways.  Mashed, roasted, fried and even in pie.  But what about a delicious breakfast bar? One filled with oats and quinoa?

Behold my Sweet Potato Quinoa Oat Bars.  These little delights will have you in love well past the autumn season, well into winter!!!  They are delicious, gluten free, and the quinoa is packed with protein to keep you fuller, longer.  I can’t think of anything better!

Sweet Potato Quinoa Oat Breakfast Bar
Makes 16-18 Bars

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Ingredients:
2 cups quick oats
1 ½ cups cooked quinoa
1 15 oz can sweet potato
3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
1/3 cup honey, raw organic
1/3 cup almond butter (or favorite nut butter-I used cashew)
2 tsps vanilla extract
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon, heaping
½ tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp ginger
Optional:
½ cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
½ cup raisins

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 8”x8” baking pan with parchment paper in the center only.  Grease the sides.

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients: oats, quinoa, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a second smaller bowl, mash bananas to a smooth texture. Set aside.

In a third bowl, whisk eggs together until scrambled. Add vanilla, honey, nut butter and sweet potato puree; combine. Add mashed bananas to wet mixture and blend together (a spatula works best).

**TIP**Steps 2 and 3 and be combined if using a blender. Add all wet ingredients to blender.  Blend for 20-30 seconds on medium speed until all ingredients are combined.  The only difference is you will get a smoother texture, since the banana will become pureed instead of smashed.**

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Now combine the wet and dry mixtures together. Batter should not be too runny. If it is, add more quinoa or oats until desired texture.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until bars are golden brown and firm to touch. Remove and let cool completely in baking pan. Cut into 16-18 squares. May store in fridge for up to 4 days or freeze.

These can easily be made into muffins. I use silicone liners, but traditional liners will work as well. The batter typically makes 16 muffins, but you can make them smaller if you’d like, just reduce the baking time.

These are so easy to make and so satisfying! I usually make large batches of them and freeze.

They warm up perfectly in the microwave, or thaw in the fridge overnight.

Remember to give thanks to the sweet potato as well. Don’t let pumpkin have all the fun!!!

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Happy Baking!

 

A Healthy Start: Change up these 8 things to have a healthier lifestyle!

It’s really difficult to start a healthy lifestyle if you’re new to it.  There are hundreds of different diets and eating programs out there.  Friends and family tell you what worked for them, and countless commercials and advertisements tell you how easy their programs are.  So which one is right for you?

The process of switching to a healthy lifestyle isn’t an easy one.  If you’re not in the right mindset, you may become bitter and feel like you’re being punished.  The reality is, no, you won’t be eating pizza or desserts on a daily basis.  Know anyone that’s thin and is in great health that eats poorly all the time?  Me neither! 80/20 is the way to go. It is about moderation! Yes, have a piece of pizza every once in a while.  The key here is every once in a while.  The 20% of this rule is easy, right? You already know the guilty pleasure foods you love to eat.  Figuring out the 80% is the tricky part. How to do it, what to do, and should this be all at once or in phases.

This part will be completely up to you.  I truly believe it can be done in either fashion—changing everything at once, or a little at a time. In the end, the rabbit and the hare both win!!!

SLOW AND STEADY:
In this case, you slowly exit certain foods out of your diet and replace them with some alternatives.  You know yourself well enough that your will power is not quite there yet.  You’ve struggled with adjusting your food habits before and know that you need a little cushion.  That’s half the battle. Understanding yourself and knowing how you operate.  Then go the slow way.  You can start with the below list all at once, or one at a time.  Do what you personally think you’ll be able to continue and make a part of your healthy lifestyle.  Remember this is about you making this become a part of your life long, daily routine. That 80% that just comes naturally over time.

Top EIGHT things to switch up starting TODAY!

Crackers. Yes, they can be tasty. I get it. They’re crunchy, buttery and salty. But what’s the nutrition value in a cracker? For example, a Saltine Cracker.

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The facts are there. Nothing in a saltine cracker that is a healthy snack.  Disappointing, I know.  If you’re one that just cannot live without crackers, try eating a nut cracker.  Diamond Nut Crackers have many different flavors and the base of their crackers are nut flour and rice flour.  Considering the alternative, these are much better. Use them until you are ready to give up completely.

Bread.  Oh bread.  So many memories of fresh-baked bread at home.  It’s comforting.  The scent will take you back to your childhood.  Waiting for the bread to come out of the oven or toaster.  It can take you back. This will be one of the most difficult things to give up.  Bread is something quick and easy to prepare and more importantly it’s nostalgic.  What’s it giving to your body??

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Same thing here as a cracker.  No nutritional value.  If life cannot be lived without bread try replacing your bread (white, wheat, rye…) with whole sprouted bread.  Ezekiel breads and wraps are a better option than your Wonder Bread!  They are denser and you’ll only need one slice versus two and will keep you fuller much much longer.

Peanut Butter.  Peanut Butter is a tricky topic.  Peanuts are technically a legume, which if you haven’t heard cause inflammation.  In addition to the inflammation, most peanut butters have added salt, oils and sugar to them.  It’s just not necessary!  Again, peanut butter is just something we grew up with and it’s familiar.

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It’s hard to believe there are better options out there, but there are.  There are so many wonderful alternatives to peanut butter. Cashew, Almond or Macadamia nut are just a few to mention.  The fats are these actual nuts are the healthy ones that you want in your healthy menus.  This will be an easy adjustment, one I know you’ll actually prefer!

Refined Sugar.  Sugar.  White table sugar.  I’ve talked about sugar before.  This isn’t a new topic and I’m sure you’ve read all the articles about the dangers of sugar.  Sugar is in EVERYTHING.  I’ve even read recently that it’s in table salt.  What? They even hide it in there.  Like bread, this will be a difficult one to take out of your house.  But in time, your palate will adjust and you’ll actually curb your sweet tooth.  This too has no nutritional value and because it’s has zero fat, it’s often added to foods for taste.  What’s funny is sugar is one of the most addictive things out there, more so than cocaine and this is one of the reasons you’ll find it in so many products. To keep you buying!

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Replacing sugar can be done in a few ways.  One is with Organic Raw Honey.  This is a great option to bake with, use in smoothies and even create a simple syrup with to add in coffee or tea.  Yes, it will taste a little different in the beginning.  But you will come to love the taste.  Another great natural alternative to table sugar are dates. Dates can be added into almost anything to give a touch of sweetness.  I blend mine up with nut milks to bake with.

Pasta.  Momma Mia!  Are you kidding me here?  Nope.  I, too, have a love affair with pasta and eat it once or twice a year, typically homemade.  But eating pasta on a weekly basis to fill up the family needs to end.  It like bread, crackers and sugar just doesn’t have the nutritional value and basically ends up like a lump in your stomach.  It’s yummy, I know, but living a healthful life means eating healthy foods and this just isn’t one of them and has to be put in your 20%!

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My new love for pasta replacement has been spaghetti squash.  I make a spicy batch of homemade sauce and smother all of the squash. It has a very similar texture, almost al dente style!  If that just won’t work, try eating quinoa pastas.  They are a great option to semolina flour pastas!

Cereal.  Hundreds of cereals are on the shelves right now.  HUNDREDS.  It’s easy, portable and almost all of grew up on them (there’s that nostalgia again).  I’ve eaten many bowls of Cap’n Crunch as a kid as I’m sure you have too!  But the average box of cereal is packed with sugar and yes, sometimes will have some vitamins added to trick you into thinking it’s healthy.  The fact is most cereals do not have the fiber and protein needed to get us to a good start to the day.

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Replace with Gluten Free Steel Cut Oats or another breakfast item, like eggs.  Either will give you the nutrition you need and keep you fuller much longer.  It is key first thing in the morning.  You’re just finished an overnight fast and the first thing you eat in the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day!

Rice.  White rice is packed with dense calories with no to minimal nutritional value here.  Yes, when I go out I do have rice with certain meals, but it’s just an accompaniment, and not something I eat cups and cups of.  It’s just not needed.  It’s a filler food.  And the funny thing here, it doesn’t keep you full!  Get it out of the pantry!!!

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Rice can be replaced with a few things.  One is cauli rice.  If you haven’t heard of it, look it up.  This can change your world! It’s not as nutty as rice, but it has a similar texture is cooked correctly.  Don’t forget about quinoa.  Although high in carbs, quinoa also has many other benefits like protein to make it a whole food.

Milk.  There is a lot of talk about milk right now.  Personally, I haven’t been a milk drinker since I was a kid. (Feels like I’m drinking lard!)  But I know many people who still drink it daily or have it in their cereal.  There are so many other fruits and veggies that can give you all the nutrients and calcium that milk provides without the fat and hormones that almost all milks have.  Past the age of 2, there is really no reason to drink milk.  Animals in nature don’t even provide milk past a certain age to their young.

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There are so many great alternatives to milk, one being nut milks.  Similar to replacing peanut butter, nut milks can be made at home with a blender, 1 cup soaked nuts and 3 cups water.  Blend. Strain. Done!  You can also find tons of different nut milks in your grocery store.  One thing I love using is canned coconut milk.  This is a great option for replacing not only milk, but cream.

FAST:
This is for the person that is focused and ready to move forward.  No packaged foods what so ever and maybe a few replacements.

Crackers or Bread:  Use celery, apples or pears!  Give you the crunch you’re looking for without being processed!

Peanut Butter:  Just like above, replace with your favorite (actual) nut or seed.  Almond, cashew or sunflower butters are wonderful.

Sugar:  In the end, sugar is sugar and affects the body the same way.  Be careful here. Choose things on the lower index when looking for a substitute here.  Dates or dried figs are great options when baking or creating puddings.  Organic raw honey too is a perfect option.

Pasta:  Go with spaghetti squash!  It gives a similar texture and has long strings to feel like you’re actually eating spaghetti.

Cereal:  This one is tricky. If you’re looking for a grain free option, go with chia seeds.  If you’re ok with whole grains, try a gluten-free oat, like steel-cut oats.

Rice:  Again, if you’re looking to go grain free, try cauli rice.  It’s another way to get veggies into your meal!

Milk:  So many great options out there.  I’d suggest making your own nut milk. 1 cup soaked nuts with 3 cups of water.  Blend and strain (if you want) and it’s done!  This will keep 5-7 days, if you don’t slurp it up first.

Whichever way you decide to take your path, fast or slow and steady, DO IT.  Don’t feel afraid.  Don’t feel like you’re going to fail. Be positive and know how much better you will feel!  You’ll immediately have more energy, clearer skin and have more focus.

Here’s to your health!

Welcome Fall! Coconut Carrot Butternut Squash Soup

So, I’ve never really been a “fall” person. I know, I shouldn’t really say that out loud! I don’t even really like Pumpkin Spice Latte. Yep, there… I said it! Don’t judge me.  There is a reason, and it makes perfect sense.   I grew up in Miami.  And the weather stayed 85 degrees all year round, for the most part.  There really is no such thing as fall there—or winter for that matter.  Drinking something hot to warm you up wasn’t a thing.  This was just something I grew up with.  I LOVE hot weather. I’m just that girl.  Warm Blooded!!!

Time went on, and I landed on the West Coast.  Funny thing, here in the OC, we still don’t get fall and winter seasons like most of the country.  But the weather shift is slight and a cool breeze does come our way.  Just today, it’s actually raining here and the temperature hasn’t gotten above 65 degrees (by the end of the week it will back up to 95) and I’m taking advantage of this.  These types of days are best for chilies, stews and baking.  But today, I’m thinking soup.

Soup is one of those dishes that brings back memories, cures the common cold and is just a bowl of comfort.  What I love most about soup is it can be made out of almost everything, appeal to almost anyone and can hit almost every type of flavor. Chowders, Chicken Noodle, Beef and Barley, Split Pea, Broccoli and Cheddar…the list goes on and on.  My love for Asian spices tends to come out more during these cooler months for some reason.  Pho and Tom Kha soups are two of my favorite to eat this time of year.  I could eat them daily!  Both very different, but I love the subtle tastes of ginger, cilantro and lime in both.  Ahh. Love.

I’ve been messing around the kitchen, trying to create something that has that similar flair, but as a veggie option.  The great thing is the original version is Vegan, Vegetarian, Paleo and Whole30!!!  A soup that will fit the needs of everyone at your dinner table!!!

Carrots and Butternut Squash are two fantastic fall veggies, and what better way to appreciate them then to make a soup. The Coconut Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup below will become your new favorite, I promise! It’s so easy to prepare, a one pot/blender wonder!  Ready in about 35 minutes you’ll have love in your bowl!!!

What’s great about this soup is that you can take it in so many different directions.  You can prepare it as shown, make the texture completely smooth, or have it chunky.  Use different types of nut butters.  Add different types of toppings.  Leave out the coconut milk.  The options here are endless.  All you need is some imagination, a large pot and a blender and a few ingredients and SOUP IS ON!

Coconut, Carrot and Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 4

Ingredients
2 tbs coconut oil
1/2 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, diced
2 cups carrots, scrubbed (or peeled) and chopped
2 cups butternut squash, peeled and chopped
Salt and Pepper
2 cups Veggie Stock
2 cups water
1 can coconut milk, whole
1/3 cup creamy cashew or almond butter
2 tsp chili garlic sauce (use less for less spice)

TOPPINGS: Fresh basil, cilantro, or mint; chopped nuts, Siracha or chili garlic sauce. For heartier
soup, add roasted kale or Brussels sprouts and fried pancetta or prosciutto (takes it to another level!!!)

Instructions:

Heat a large pot over medium heat.

Dice onion and garlic. (Can leave whole as well.  Cook time will be a little longer).  Add to pot with 2 Tbsp coconut or olive oil. Add carrots and butternut squash and cook for 5 minutes.

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Season with a each salt and pepper, then add veggie stock and 2 cups of water and stir.

Bring to a low boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until veggies are tender.

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Transfer to a blender (or use an immersion blender) and blend until smooth and creamy. (Cover with a towel in case your lid leaks any soup while blending.)

Add nut butter and chili garlic sauce to the blender and blend to combine.

Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Add ½ can of coconut milk to start. Blend. Add rest for desired taste/texture.

Add more chili garlic sauce for more heat.

Serve immediately by itself or with desired toppings.

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Enjoy!

Why Gluten Free? Why?

BRAIN WASH ALERT.

Have you noticed the recent additions to your grocery store shelves?  All over the store, little tags on different shelves and aisles calling to you.  The marketing teams for grocery stores are good.  They are able to capture the consumer’s attention. And what is the current marketing ploy? Gluten Free! Gluten Free is all the rage.  Everywhere you turn you see labeling on everything from sauces, cookies, chips, pastas, drinks and frozen foods.  And why not?  Gluten Free is the current food diet trend, haven’t you heard?  You have to strike while the iron is hot!

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So what’s the deal with Gluten Free?  Why live a Gluten Free life?  Originally it was primarily to support those with Celiac Disease.  The treatment of symptoms and disease related complications.  From there it sprung to Gluten Allergies.  And if you were not allergic, then you were Gluten Sensitive.  Now a days, Paleo, Atkins, Whole30 and other diets follow a Gluten Free based meal plan and hence the explosion of the Gluten Free product.

Don’t get me wrong here. As someone who lives an 80/20 life, I stay away from gluten products.  I understand that it causes inflammation and digestion issues. In addition, I don’t need all the extra calories from something that doesn’t support my nutrition and honestly doesn’t make me feel good at all.  When I do have that piece of bread (typically French bread…love) my stomach bloats immediately and then afterwards I end up in a fog.  That slice of warm French bread tastes delicious, and so I only partake 20% (or less) of my balanced healthful life.

What does gluten actually do to the body?  Why isn’t it good for you?  There are many different reasons and explanations of course. But the simplest way to explain it is the inflammation that it causes to your entire body.  Joints, muscles, organs even your skin.  Inflammation is a way of the body telling you, This isn’t good for you and we’re fighting it off. Everyone reacts differently to gluten. We are not all designed the same, that’s the beauty of Mother Nature. But the simple fact is, if you’re bloated, feel lethargic and have no energy after you eat a slice of bread…it’s not good for you! Listen to your body. It will tell you when you’re eating things that are right or wrong for you and your health.  Be mindful of that.

Back to the where we started at the grocery store and all the Gluten Free products.  Why am I a little peeved by all of this? Because I don’t use the term lightly!  Living a Clean-Eating life means no processed foods, none.  And as I walk down aisle after aisle at the store I see all these over processed foods with a sign in lights, Gluten Free, just calling for shoppers to stop and take a look.  PROCESSED cookies, chips, pastas, drinks and sauces. Gluten Free does NOT mean that it’s good for you. It can be confusing to those who are trying to start a healthy lifestyle to hear things like Gluten Free and think it’s healthy.  It’s really frustrating to me.

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I picked up a box of cookies with the tag Gluten Free and read the ingredients.  First one was SUGAR. How is that healthy?

My service announcement to you: Don’t be brainwashed.  All Gluten Free products are not created equal.

You’ve got time for THIS breakfast!

Breakfast food items are probably the most consumed processed food in the grocery store besides snacks! And why not? No one has time to make breakfast any more. Your kids need to get to school, you’re running late for work, or you think it’s just not worth the time and effort. Muffins, frozen breakfast meals, granola bars, breakfast bars, cereal and bagels are the quickest and easiest things to eat and in the morning and are always well stocked at your local grocery store.

When I was on Weight Watchers, breakfast was a cinch. Packaged foods, done! Two Kashi Waffles into the toaster oven and 2 Jimmy Dean Sausages into the microwave and within 2 minutes breakfast was served on a paper plate and into the car I went. Believe it or not, that was considered a good choice at WW. I stayed within my points and got some protein.

It’s hard to believe that I ate so many overly processed foods before. My husband and I chuckle about that from time to time. Before Kashi, I ate Eggo’s. There were frozen English muffins, crackers, granola — even frozen pizzas. Ugh, makes my stomach turn just thinking about it.

As someone who eats clean now, that means NOTHING processed. That includes everything from breakfast sausages to salad dressings. If it comes pre-made and I don’t know where the ingredients came from or can’t pronounce them, I don’t buy.

So what’s a girl on the run to do when I’m needing some carbs for my double workout and don’t want Overnight Oats? Quinoa Breakfast Bars, that’s what. I LOVE these bars. They are filled with oats, quinoa, almond butter and banana. All the good stuff to keep you sustained for a busy day or workout. A friend of mine training for Iron(wo)Man makes these delicious bars in a muffin tin, freezes them, and then takes them on her long rides. This way she gets the carbs she needs (about 18.5% per muffin/bar) and protein (about 4% per muffin or bar) without eating processed sports goo’s or bars. WIN!

How long does it take to makes these amazing power muffins? Only 5 minutes to prep and then about 20 minutes in the oven (times will vary depending on pan size). That’s it. The entire family will love them. Make them on Sunday, keep in the fridge, and eat all week. These bars are great with a hard boil egg, smear of cream cheese or slice of chicken breast if you need a little extra protein or more substantial meal.

Quinoa Oat Breakfast Bars
Makes 16 Bars or Muffins

Ingredients:
1 ½ cup quick oats
1 cup cooked quinoa
3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
¼ cup honey, raw organic (can use less if bananas are extra ripe)
¼ cup almond butter (or favorite nut butter)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ tsp nutmeg
Optional:
½ cup walnuts
½ cup raisins
½ cup unsweetened coconut

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 8x8” baking pan with parchment paper in the center only. Grease the sides, where parchment doesn’t meet the pan.

In a large bowl combine the dry ingredients: oats, quinoa, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg (nuts, raisins and coconut if using). Set aside.

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In a blender, add the banana, honey, almond butter and vanilla and blend for 20 seconds on medium-low until ingredients are smooth.

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(No blender, that’s ok: In a second smaller bowl, mash bananas to a semi-smooth texture. Set aside.  In another bowl, whisk eggs together until scrambled. Add vanilla, honey and almond butter; combine. Add mashed bananas to wet mixture and blend together (a spatula works best).)

Combine the wet and dry mixtures together. Batter should not be too runny (if it is, add more quinoa until desired texture). Add to 8X8 lined pan or 16 muffin cups.

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Bake for 20-25 minutes (muffins about 15) until bars are golden brown and have a spongy firmness to the touch. Remove and let cool completely in baking pan. Cut into 16 squares. May store in fridge for up to 4 days or freeze.

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Here’s the fun part about these bars/muffins, you can create any kind you want. Let your imagination run wild. You won’t mess them up. Like sunflower seed butter? Add that instead of the almond butter. Like dried apricots? Chop those up and use instead of the raisins. Think the recipe calls for too much honey? Don’t add it. It’s really up to you. Because this isn’t a traditional bread or cake all you have to do is touch the center to feel if they are ready. Start baking at 15 minutes and then go from there. They should be just soft to the touch.

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I hope this helps you with your breakfast dilemma and keeps you out of the frozen food aisle, cereal aisle, and bread aisle during your next trip to the market!

Happy Eating!

Top 15 Organic Items at Costco!

I’m not someone who strictly follows an organic lifestyle. I stick to the Dirty Dozen and look for pesticide free items at my local Farmer’s Market. I choose organic vs. conventional solely due to the fact that the crops are not sprayed with synthetic fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides. Isn’t that reason enough? On Fridays I go to my local Farmer’s Market. Not only can I find organic and pesticide free produce, I enjoy talking to the vendors/farmers and actually knowing where my food is coming from. I can’t always get there, and when I’m in a pinch I go to Costco. With the amount of greens that my husband and I eat, it makes sense to buy in bulk. Did you know that Costco is known for being a top supplier of organic products? Yep, it’s true. Tons of organic items from produce, to canned diced tomatoes and even olive oil. Costco has even gone as far as to label their organic items in green so you can identify them quickly. Smart and effective!

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Organic Eggs 24 ct $6.99 Kirkland
I eat eggs tons of different ways and they are a must in our household. Typically, I buy an organic, grass fed, no hormone feed egg, which is what the Kirkland brand offers. Eggs are filled with protein, 6g, and at only 70 calories I can have two!

Bananas 3lbs $1.99 One
We joke that we have monkeys living in our house because of the amount of bananas we go through. And at this price, it’s ok! Bananas are great to bake with, eat alone and pop into a smoothie. Oh, and don’t forget a quick dairy free ice cream! Bananas are packed with a ton of nutrition like 422g of Potassium, 17% of needed Vitamin C and 20% of Vitamin B-6.

Romaine Hearts 6ct $3.49 Earthbound Farms
Lettuce is great to have in the house at all times. It’s not only good for salads. I put mine into smoothies, grill it, and more importantly it’s become my substitution for bread/taco shells. Lettuce is full of water which is great for hydration and, believe it or not, one serving of romaine will cover you in Vitamin A for the day, at 148% of the daily recommended serving.

Power Greens 1.5lbs $4.59 Earthbound Farms
The mighty mix of kale, spinach and chard! This bag is filled to the brim with 290 mg of Potassium, 2g of Protein, 90% of recommended Vitamin A and 60% of Vitamin C. I love this mix and use it in things like smoothies, sauteed with onions and, as a salad base. TIP: Toss into the freezer as is and use at a later date in a smoothie, if you’re unable to use it all at once. They freeze and store great!

Baby Spinach 1lb $3.59 Fresh ‘n’ Natural
Spinach is actually a part of the Dirty Dozen. It soaks up all the toxins that are placed into the ground making it important to purchase organically. Again, a powerhouse green, spinach is packed with all the good stuff like Potassium at 167 mg and Vitamin A at 56%. It, too, is great in salads, smoothies and as a quick sautee.

Blueberries 18oz $7.49 Rainier
Anything that shade of blue has to be good for you! What’s great about blueberries is that they have 4% of fiber per serving, satisfying you and giving you a lasting fullness. They are packed with 114 mg of Potassium and 24% of the recommended serving of Vitamin C. These little gems can be topped onto yogurt, put in overnight oats or salads, and are perfect for desserts. Only 100 calories for a cup too! Blueberries come off and on the Dirty Dozen list, so go with the good stuff!

Carrots 5lbs $4.59 Bunny Luv
Baby carrots are my go to when I want something crunchy and need a quick snack. One medium carrot gives you 203% of your Vitamin A serving. Just one carrot! I love having the baby ones around for salads, stews, smoothies and soups.

Broccolette 2lbs $5.49 Earthbound Farms
I love broccoli, but what I love even more than broccoli is broccolette/broccolini. These are great on the grill, roasted in the oven or steamed. So tender and perfect for any meal. I barely use any seasoning on them, just S&P and enjoy! Broccolini has 6g of Protein per serving and 196% of Vitamin C at 117 mg.

Squash Mix 3.5lbs $5.99 Green Wave
Zucchini and yellow squash is a must in my house. I eat them with eggs, grill them, and now there’s thezoodle’ wave! One cup of this gives you 35% of your Vitamin C for the day and 325 g of Potassium. Not to mention other minerals like Magnesium and Phosphorus, which are great for the body!

Green Beans 2lbs $4.99 Green Wave
An entire cup of green beans contains only 31 calories and is filled with Fiber, Potassium and Vitamin C. This veggie, along with most, is so versatile. Right now Beans are in season and we eat them weekly. Try pickling them! Perfect for a snack on a hot evening!

Coconut Oil 5.2lbs $26.49 Kirkland
This is A LOT of coconut oil and comes in two 2.64 lb containers. I highly recommend storing in a cool dark space or splitting with a friend. The quantity seems like a lot but at a fraction of the price for one small container at your local market. Coconut oil is great for so many things: Cooking, dressings, grilling and baking. Not to mention all the homeopathic healing it has!

Chia Seeds 2lbs $8.79 Nutiva
Cha cha chia! I eat chia seeds every single day! Love them. They’re great in my overnight oats and so many other things like homemade granola, chia pudding, salad dressings and smoothies. An ounce serving of chia seeds has 138 calories and has 10g of Fiber, 115 mg of Potassium and 23% of Magnesium. A little goes a long way!

Quinoa 4lbs $14.79 Nature’s Wild Grains
Living a clean lifestyle, I’ve taken out white potatoes and rice but I need a little ‘starch’ every now and again and quinoa fits the bill. There a lot of debate out there if it’s a seed or not…but I’m sticking with seed! Quinoa is great in muffins, stir fries, and salads. 2.8g of Fiber and 4.4g of Protein are only a few of the benefits that quinoa has to offer.

Diced Tomatoes 8cans $6.35 Kirkland
I don’t usually recommend canned products, but every now and again I have to bend because it’s not summer year round and I cannot get fresh all the time! These are a great staple to have in the pantry for sauces and stews. Lycopene is what causes that deep red color and is the best source of antioxidants.

Honey 1.5lbs $13.79 Kirkland
Organic honey is not always easy to locate at such a great price. This product comes in 3 bottles for easy storage and usage. Honey is a natural substitution for sweetener and great to add to just about anything! I use it in sauces, dressings, chia puddings, smoothies and with just a cup of hot water and lemon.

There are many more items at Costco that are organicfar to many for me to list. But these are great daily staples many can benefit from. Remember, every Costco store is different. Prices and items will vary! A Costco in one direction from my house has Kombucha and the one in the other direction doesn’t but has Acai.

Look for the green signs!
Happy Shopping!

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!

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!

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!