Category Archives: health

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!

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!

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!

Snack Happy! Spicey Pepper Dip: Bean, Gluten and Dairy Free

I’ve been on this mission to create healthful snacks.  I know my body works best when I eat three meals a day plus two snacks in-between.  If not, I get hangry and that’s not good a good thing.  Never heard of hangry?  Well, I can guarantee you’ve felt it!  It’s when you’re so hungry you get angry and then become one with the refrigerator!!!  ERRR!!!  You almost feel a little out of control mainly due to your blood sugar dropping, and you end up eating whatever you see first vs. something satisfying and healthful.  I don’t know about you, but I like to save up my calories for something really good and not binge hangry eating!!!  80 healthful and 20% whatever you want.  Important not to switch those numbers around and a hangry appetite can do just that!

So the journey began to find a healthful snack.  I’ve tried all kinds of homemade, healthful things…but have begun to get bored.  Hummus with veggies – BORING!  Apple and almond butter – BEEN THERE DONE THAT!  Cheese and celery – SNOOZE!  Although these snacks are very healthy and could absolutely fill my hunger, I was getting bored with them and found my way into the fridge more times than I needed because I wasn’t satisfied!

Above everything else, my body has decided to reject beans.  BEANS.  I could live off chickpeas.  That means no kind of hummus or bean dip.  Ugh, now I’ve really have to think outside the box and figure out something that will cover all my needs:  filling, healthful, satisfying and above all not boring.  What’s a girl to do?

I recently read a fantastic book called The Beauty Detox Foods and was inspired by all the healthful foods you can have in your life and still be satisfied.  (Check out the book if you need some tips on healthful eating.  The author’s vision is clean vegan eating and foods that heal the body.  Love that!  Everything homemade.)

Have you ever had Muhammara Dip?  I hadn’t until I picked up the book.  It’s a traditional Middle Eastern dip packed with walnuts, red peppers, spices and olive oil.  But the author of The Beauty Detox Foods managed to make it healthy by keeping it raw and eliminating the olive oil.

This particular dip totally inspired me to get in the kitchen and test our some new recipes.  I’ve toyed around with a recipe for some time now.  I love to mix it up and have found my version of a healthful pepper dip.  It’s delicious!  It’s spicy, tangy, sweet, and is 100% satisfying.  Goes with any kind of veggie or you could turn it into a spread or thin it out for a healthful dressing.

The base of my dip is roasted cashews.  I’m using cashews for a few reasons.  Roasted cashews add a richness to this dip that regular nuts just wont do.  In addition, cashews, when ground, give a starchy quality that thickens your recipes without actual starches.  It’s great to thicken soups, stews, curries (it’s typically the base of curries) and desserts.  The plus is that cashews have great health benefits.  They are a good source of Iron, Magnesium, Potassium and Protein.

Behold, your new favorite snack:

Spicey Pepper Dip

Ingredients:
1 cup roasted cashews
4 small tomatoes, roasted or grilled
3 hatch chilis, roasted and skinned
2 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 tbsp lemon juice (1/2 large lemon)
1 tsp tamari sauce
1/4 tsp salt

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Directions:
Place cashews, sesame seeds, and garlic powder into a high-speed blender.  Blend until it comes to a mealy texture, almost paste like.  Then add remaining ingredients and blend until smooth!

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It’s that simple.  A few minutes and you’ve got the base of a healthful and satisfying snack.  Think about how great this would be at parties in addition to your daily snack.  It’s easy to make in a large batch and with no dairy, it can sit out worry free!

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Some things to note:
**This version of the dip is not raw.  However, you can change to accommodate raw eaters!  Raw cashews, garlic, tomatoes and chilis would be perfect in this recipe.

**I HIGHLY recommend roasting your own veggies.  They take about 10 extra minutes to prepare on the grill or under a broiler.  The chili peppers I did skin, but the tomatoes I just left whole.  If you’re not into that, you can substitute canned fire- roasted tomatoes with green chilis.  But again, TRY to roast yourself.  It’s super easy, I promise!

It’s time to Unplug!

My husband attends many conferences each year and this week he attended one in Palos Verdes, CA, which is driving distance from our home.  I decided to go with him and enjoy the beautiful grounds that the Terranea Resort has to offer.  We arrived early and our room wasn’t ready, so I ended up wandering around the amazing grounds alone as he shuffled off to his meetings.  It was still quite early and the morning was a little misty with the marine layer.  It was just me and a bottle of water on a hunt for nothing!

No cell phone!  I left it in the car.  And I ended up on this breathtaking path along the bluffs on the Pacific Coast.  (Sorry, no picture!  Seriously, there were no electronic devices with me!)  What a fantastic walk.  I was lost in the moment, listening to the waves crashing against the rocky shoreline and birds singing their morning song, while I walked along the path.  I could hear each step that I took as my feet struck the sandy walkway.  Aimlessly meandering, I ended up at the end of the path that led to a beach with tide pools and continued my adventure.  All you could hear was nature.  The ocean was a little rough and the waves crashed along all of the beautiful rocks.  The seaweed bobbed up and down with tiny fish popping out to catch the smell of the morning air.  Seagulls rested alongside the beach and surfed the waves looking for their early morning snack.  What a wonderful way to start out my day; no plans needed.  This was nature’s way of saying Good Morning and I was taking it all in.  No distractions from ANYTHING or ANYONE.  How fortunate am I?, I thought?

I wandered back towards the resort and found myself at the Spa, and with luck, there was an ocean-side spin class that was about to begin.  Why not?, I asked myself!  And so I ended up spinning for 60 minutes sea-side.  Even with the misty morning, there was a great view of the ocean and Catalina Island.  The class was one of the most difficult classes I’ve ever taken.  The instructor was personable and challenging.  I was thankful to have stumbled across the class.

With such an active morning, I needed a quick snack and ended up at the on-site coffeehouse.  There I found myself sitting next to a man and his two small children – Lexie and Belle.  Lexie was a baby and was only interested in her morning nap and a bottle.  She stayed tucked up in Dad’s arms.  Now Belle on the other hand…Belle was interested in so many other things.  She was two and was chatty and inquisitive.  Such a doll.  She and I ended up singing Itsy Bitsy Spider together while we finished our breakfast.  She then told me about her trip down and how she was visiting her grandparents.  Adorable, to say the least.  One of the best conversations I had all week!

Why am I sharing this story with you?  Because I know I wouldn’t have had any of those experiences if I’d had my phone with me.  Think I’m crazy?  Think again!  I know my head would have been down not paying attention to what was around me.  Earbuds in, not listening to nature, just music.  Cruising the internet, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram just because I can, not because there’s really something on there I just cannot live without!  Does this sound familiar??  I’m sure I’m not alone here.  We are so quick to take our phones with us everywhere we go – even the restroom.  I recently read something that said,  “Anybody have plans to stare at their phones somewhere exciting this weekend?”  Makes you stop and wonder how much you’re missing out on because your head is down?  Are we missing out on the little things that life has to offer?  So precious.  So simple.  And yet, we continue to keep our heads down and see life through our phones.  Taking pictures instead of being in the moment.  Texting instead of taking in the scenery.  Earbuds in listening to music, instead of listening to the surroundings and what nature has to offer.

Am I asking you to put down your phone?  YES, I sure am!  Think about the last time you went an hour without your cell?  Without your iPad?  Without your laptop?  Without the TV?  Can you remember it?  Think about it?  When was it?  And when you had to step away from your phone or other electronic device, how quick were you to turn it back on when you had the chance?  Was it immediate?  I bet it was.  Was anything that important that it couldn’t wait?  Aside from running a country, I don’t think any of us really have to be on-line all the time.  NOTHING is that urgent.

When I moved in with my now husband seven years ago, he didn’t have a TV in the bedroom.  I don’t even think he had cable TV at the time.  I was wrecked.  It was almost a deal breaker for me!  How would I survive without watching TV in bed?  It was my favorite pastime.  I fell asleep to TV and loved laying in bed on a lazy Sunday and watching reruns of 90210.  (Don’t judge, it’s my guilty pleasure!)  What am I going to do?  How will I fall asleep?  But with time, I didn’t miss it.  I had meaningful conversation and time with my husband and ended the day quietly.  I fell asleep just fine and in fact, slept better.  I got my lazy self up on Sunday and went for a walk or made us brunch instead.  My husband was onto something then, and we all need to shift ourselves to be onto something now.  UNPLUG!

Life is precious and short and if we continue to be on our mobile devices instead of living in the moment we will miss out.  This is just a fact.  We lived without them before.  Just a short 20 years ago we didn’t have all this technology and the world continued to spin just fine.  I had more meaningful relationships with family and friends and I miss those days of actual voice-to-voice conversations.

What’s my HEALTHFUL message?  Get off your phone and be PRESENT.  There is so much life around you that you’re missing out on while you’re checking emails, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  Leave your phone off!  Unplug your lap top.  Take the time to enjoy what’s important to you!  You’ll thank me, I promise!

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(I did take my phone to the pool…I’m a work in progress too!!)

Got Flexibility Training in your Workout Routine?

Flexibility Training is a hot topic in the fitness community.  I hear things like… Is it really necessary to stretch or put in the effort to have a routine for flexibility?  I only have a short amount of time to put into my workout and don’t have time for flexibility training.  I’m not flexible, why bother?  Stretching does nothing for me.  I don’t get the burn I’m looking for.

Well, I cannot disagree more with these statements.  Flexibility Training is imperative to keeping your body strong and injury free.  Even 5 minutes can support your workout to be injury free and effective.  This is separate from your normal 5 minutes at the end of your workout – two very different things.

In this day and age, we live in a society where we are plagued by postural imbalances due to sedentary lifestyles technology and repetitive motions.  Between sitting in classrooms for multiple hours on end or sitting in an office cube for long hours, we have seen an increase in things like lower back and neck pain, carpel tunnel and of course an increase rate in obesity.  Flexibility Training is being recognized as an important way to aid in preventing of a number of injuries.  Flexibility Training is being recognized as an important way to aid in preventing a number of injuries.  I had to repeat this because sometimes we’re so focused on the end goal that we forget about a few steps we need to take to get there.

So what is Flexibility anyway?  Flexibility is the normal extensibility of all soft tissue that allows the full range of motion of a joint.  In other words, having the capability of elongating or stretching out a particular muscle.  And why is flexibility so important?  Because when you are unable to extend or elongate a particular muscle, you could injure that muscle or end up using a different muscle to compensate.  Either way, it isn’t good and will end up with some type of issue long-term.

Have I sold you on Flexibility Training yet?  Think about this, have you ever been working out and felt this knot in the center of your back?  Hurts so badly that you have to cut your workout short?  This isn’t a normal workout burn.  This is a tightness (like a Charlie-horse) that feels like it’s going to rip out of your back.  Sound familiar?  Maybe not in your back, but in your arm or leg?  This is due to not adding Flexibility Training into your routine.  You see, if you spent a few minutes working out that tightness in your muscle BEFORE your workout, you might have avoided this.

Flexibility Training should be done prior to your regular workout.  Sounds strange, I know.  It’s different from stretching.  Your stretching routine should be kept at the end of your workout.  But for Flexibility Training, you need 5-10 minutes focusing on areas where you feel like you have muscle imbalance or where you already know you have some aches or pains!

The best way to understand where your aches, pains or muscle imbalances are is to use a foam roller.  If you don’t have one, I suggest getting one.  Typically gyms have them but I keep portable one in my gym bag.  They come in all shapes and sizes, however, I suggest getting a regular foam roller to start out with (as in photo).

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When thinking about your Flexibility Training routine and using a foam roller, you’ll want to consider a few muscle groups that they are particularly helpful for:  Calves, Outer hips to knee (TFL), Inner and Outer Thighs (Abductor and Adductor Magnus) and Back/Lats.  These are major muscle groups and will be helpful when starting out your Flexibility Training.

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Complete BEFORE your workout.
  2. Find a level area at the gym or home where you have plenty or space.
  3. Use a foam roller that is stiff, not overused or flat.
  4. When rolling, roll slowly.  Once you find an area that is tender or knotted, STOP and HOLD for at least 30 seconds to work out that muscle.  This is one of the most important steps.
  5. Complete 3-5 times.

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CALVES

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HIPS

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TFL
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LATS

So, get up a few minutes early, starting today, to add in these simple foam roller exercises into your workout.  Because of the Flexibility Training, you’ll have a great workout, injury free and more effective than your last!