04-16-2014

Eat Your Beans

So today I posted my “Health & Fitness Links” and one of them was about how eating beans can help you lower the “bad” LDL cholesterol

A team of researchers from the U.S. and Canada analyzed 26 randomized-controlled studies that included a total of 1,037 people, and found an association between consuming at least one serving a day of dietary pulses, or legumes — which includes chickpeas, lentils, peas and beans — and 5 percent decreased levels of LDL cholesterol over a median follow-up period of six weeks. (One serving of dietary pulses is equal to about 3/4 of a cup.)

I don’t know about you, but I love beans. Any kind. I can easily eat them every day. Which is why I am writing this post…to throw out some ideas on how to get your serving of beans per day. Sure, you could scoop out a serving and eat it with dinner, but there are a lot of great recipes that include beans! Here are a few I have regularly (bear with me and my not so great food photography):

Add beans to your salad

My favorite salad combo is mixed greens, tuna, strawberries and chickpeas. I have also used white/canellini beans, and loved the combo with my tuna cakes pictured below.

Tuna Cakes

 

Experiment with different types of beans in your salad and see what you like best. I think chickpeas are probably the best. Here are a few other tips to make a better salad ;)

You can also make sandwiches or wraps that include beans. I like a turkey wrap with hummus, avocado and chickpeas.

Make tacos or burritos

Who doesn’t love tacos or burritos? I mean…that’s why I go to Chipotle like once a week. Chicken burrito bowl? Yummmmmmm.

A_thumb

But you can easily re-create this at home. I wrote up a taco salad recipe once and it is still something in our dinner rotation. Whether you make a burrito or a bowl, throw in your favorite kind of beans. Making a taco salad or burrito once a week is a great way to get in your bean servings!

Chili or lentil soup

Now that it’s getting warmer out, you may not want soup, but it’s still delicious. My mom makes great lentil soup with melted cheese in it…so good. You can also whip up your favorite chili recipe. I’ve also made vegetable soup with beans in it, and sliced up avocado and crumbled pita chips in it. Sadly, I don’t have any pictures of any of these ideas, but I’ll make sure to do that next time my mom makes her famous lentil soup!

Black bean burgers

I have not tried this but am putting it on this list because I really want to try it. I would like to make my own but I’m not sure how much time it will take. Perhaps I’ll try the frozen variety first? Any suggestions?

Black Bean Burger

Here’s a recipe from the Tone It Up community (picture above goes with this recipe):

Ingredients:
1/2 red onion
1 red bell pepper
4 – 5 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. ground chipotle pepper
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro 
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 15.5 oz. can or 1 cup cooked black beans
2 tablespoons of water
3/4 cup of wheat germ (to make it gluten free I used cooked quinoa- it didn’t stick together as well so I cooked it on a pan rather than a grill, as it fell through the grill!)

From quickly reading this, I’m thinking maybe adding eggs would help make it stick together too? Once it gets warmer out and I start grilling, I’ll try this out and keep you posted!

So there you have it…a few ways to add in beans to your routine to help lower that LDL cholesterol. I’m sure these aren’t mind-blowing tips but still some reminders for quick meals you can make!

Have you tried making black bean burgers?

What do you order at Chipotle?

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04-10-2014

Chicken Quesadillas With Black Rice Tortillas

Disclaimer: Food For Life provided me with product for this post. All opinions are my own.

Yesterday, I was in the cafeteria at work, watching a friend get a chicken quesadilla. Sadly, I brought my own lunch to work, so I couldn’t order one too. Which is why I made them for dinner instead!

chicken quesadilla recipe

I’ve been trying to figure out how I could use my Food For Life black rice tortillas, and thought this would be the perfect thing to whip up. It’s so easy to make because I only used 4 ingredients.

This was my first time trying this product by Food For Life (love their Ezekiel bread), and I was excited to try it because it was gluten free. I have also never tried anything made from black ride flour. Here are the ingredients:

Black Rice Flour, Organic Brown Rice Flour, Filtered Water, Organic Tapioca Flour, Safflower oil, Organic Chia Seeds, Rice Bran, Vegetable Gum (Xanthan Gum, Cellulose), Sea Salt. Certified Kosher by KOFK

The only comment I have about the tortillas is that they were kind of brittle, so it was hard to cut the quesadillas and have the wrap stay together. This is probably because it is gluten free.

Chicken Quesadilla

I tried microwaving them first too, but it didn’t really help. Other than that, it tasted pretty good…it’s just that eating can get a bit messy!

Chicken Quesadilla Black Rice Tortilla

Black Rice Tortilla Chicken Quesadilla
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. Food For Life Black Rice Tortillas
  2. Chicken Breasts
  3. Cheddar Cheese (or cheese of your choice)
  4. Avocado (optional)
Instructions
  1. Cut your chicken, either diced or strips, and grill.
  2. Remove chicken. Place your tortillla on the pan (on low heat), add cheese to half of the tortilla.
  3. Once cheese is melted, add chicken on top.
  4. Fold tortilla in half, and place a steak weight on top (if you have one). Leave there for 2-3 minutes.
  5. Cut into 3-4 pieces and serve!
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What are your favorite quesadilla ingredients? If I wasn’t so lazy, I’d probably add in onions and peppers too ;)

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04-01-2014

4 On-The-Go Lunch Ideas

Sometimes you just don’t have time to sit down and eat a nice, big lunch. Whether it’s because you’re in a meeting, or driving to an appointment, or on a bus going to school/class…there will be a time when you need need a quick lunch – and something you can eat in public (not tuna or eggs, as much as I love those).

quick lunches

1. Turkey (or any deli meat) Sandwich. This is my go-to. I use whole wheat bread, turkey, cheese, avocado and honey dijon mustard to make my sandwich. You could also make a wrap if you don’t want to use bread. I either store it in a sandwich container, or wrap it in aluminum foil. I found this sandwich box from Urban Outfitters which includes another compartment for salad (or hummus, or whatever you want), and a fork!

Sandwich Container2. Greek Yogurt With Fruit. This is something you could easily eat in a meeting or on public transportation (unless there are signs that say not to do that, obviously). You can add in fruit, or other things like granola, oats, and nuts. Probably easier to eat it with a disposable spoon, but if I only have a real spoon, I usually pack a plastic bag to throw it in once I’m done. 

3. Protein Shake. There are a few options here. You can make just a straight up protein shake, which I usually make with protein powder, ice, almond milk, peanut butter and cinnamon. Add in banana or strawberries if you want some fruit too. My current favorite protein powder is PlantFusion, which is a plant-based, vegan powder. I use the Ninja XL blender which I love, which is currently on sale at Kohl’s for $99.99. I do want to upgrade to the blender that comes with the cups, but it’s not like I absolutely NEED that right now ;)

If you’re not embarrassed about people asking you what you’re drinking, go ahead and add some greens in their. I like spinach and kale. Here are some of my favorite green smoothie recipes. It’s a great way to get in your greens, and make your smoothie more filling! Perfect to drink on the go.

4. Turkey Meatloaf Muffins. I made these once and they were delicious…and awesome to have on hand! I found these through Jaimie Eason of BodyBuilding.com. Here’s a bloggers review and recipe. These are easy to pack, and easy to eat on the go. Here’s another lunch container which would be perfect for these muffins, along with some hummus and veggies. It’s a stackable container available at Kohl’s for $14.99.

stackable lunch container

So those are just a few ideas for some great, quick lunches. I always pack my lunch box, which is the next thing I wanted to talk about. I love cute, patterned lunch boxes. I figure, since I’m using it everyday, might as well look good :) The one I have I bought at Rite Aid, and it’s Igloo brand. I found the exact one I have on Amazon, just different colors. It’s insulated and keeps my food cold for hours.

igloo lunchboxI totally believe in the quote, “Fail to prepare, and prepare to fail.” Packing your lunch has a ton of benefits, such as saving you money, and being healthier. Even if you have limited time or space, you can still have a healthy, quick lunch.

Do you pack your lunch daily? What are your go-to lunches/quick lunches? I love new ideas!

**Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links…if you buy something I get a small commission, which can help fund my racing addiction ;)

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03-28-2014

Quick & Easy Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad Recipe

Okay so I know I’m not the best food photographer, but I had to share this quinoa salad recipe.

I made this last night as a side for some chicken my mom made. I was inspired by this Mediterranean Quinoa Salad recipe by Skinny Taste.

I love quinoa as an alternative to pasta and rice, and it’s so quick to cool – only takes about 15 minutes.

quinoa

I wanted to add some stuff to it though, as we usually just have plain quinoa with chicken and some sauce. So that’s when I resorted to Google.

All you need is 3 main ingredients! Here’s the recipe:

Quinoa Salad
A quick and easy way to spice up quinoa!
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. Quinoa
  2. Cucumber
  3. Tomato
  4. Olive oil
  5. Lemon
Instructions
  1. Rinse the quinoa first for about 2 minutes.
  2. Bring water to a boil, then add quinoa. Cook for 15 min.
  3. Once quinoa is cooked and drained, cut up your cucumber and tomatoes.
  4. Mix cucumber and tomatoes into the quinoa.
  5. Add in olive oil and lemon drizzle.
  6. Add salt & pepper or other seasonings to taste.
Adapted from Skinny Taste
Adapted from Skinny Taste
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If I had red onions, I’d definitely add those as well. Skinny Taste also added feta cheese to hers, which sounds delicious, but I didn’t have any so I sprinkled some Parmesan cheese.

How often do you eat quinoa? Please share some quinoa recipes with me in the comments!

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03-26-2014

Best & Worst Starbucks Drinks

I don’t know about you, but I love Starbucks (or any coffee shop really), because I love a good, hot cup of coffee. I used to only drink lattes and caramel macchiatos, but have since switched to just plain ol’ coffee unless I want a little treat.

Some of the drinks at Starbucks may surprise you with their nutritional facts. Way back in the day I wrote about what a caramel frappuccino actually entails…yikes…

Best And Worst Starbucks Drinks

I found a list of the unhealthiest drinks, and wanted to highlight a few, as well as provide you with some healthier options. But as always, I say “everything is okay in moderation!” If you want a latte, just get the latte ;)

The Not So Great

Chai Tea Latte

I would have never suspected this drink to me on the list, but a Venti has as much sugar as 2 melted Snickers bars! I usually never get a Venti of anything, but still good to know.

Caramel Flan Latte

8-Starbucks_Caramel_Flan_Latte-Starbucks (1)

Basically, any flavored latte will have a lot of calories and sugar. The Daily Meal claims that this drink is the equivalent of 6.5 slices of bread.

Mint Chocolaty Chip Frappuccino

Damage: 680 calories, 21 grams total fat (same calorie and total fat count for the venti whole milk, 2% milk and nonfat options according to Starbucks.com). Again, this is for a Venti. Most frappuccinos are in this range, although Starbucks does have lower calorie options like a plain, Mocha frappuccino. I couldn’t find a picture of this frap, but found one for a thin mint frappuccino which is on the secret menu? This sounds delicious.

thin mint frappuccino

Better Options

Caffe Americano

The Americano is just espresso and water. A Venti Americano only has 25 calories! When I’m craving a pumpkin spice latte in the fall, I usually get an Americano, ask for 1 pump of pumpkin spice syrup, and then add my own cinnamon and nutmeg to it. On a normal day, I add a bit of milk to cool it off, along with cinnamon.

Skinny Vanilla Latte

If you want a latte, you could always make it “skinny” which means they use non-fat milk. A Venti is only 160 calories but this does have 21 grams of sugar in it. Opt for the smallest size.

starbucks-skinny-vanilla-latte-with-soy-milk-i0

Iced Skinny Mocha

If you want something chocolaty and iced, go for a skinny mocha. A Grande size (16 oz.) has 100 calories. You could also get this beverage hot. I’m all about the hot drinks.

Plain Ol’ Coffee

The best option would be to get plain coffee. You can always spice it up by asking for 1 pump of a flavor, or add cinnamon or nutmeg. I know, this is kind of boring, but it will 1) help your wallet (lattes can get expensive!) and 2) help curb your sugar intake. Save the sugary drinks for a splurge when you are really craving one. Like I said, everything in moderation!

PS – I’m linking this post up to the link party by Fit, Foodie Runs! Check it out & check out her blog as well!

Do you frequent Starbucks? What is your favorite drink (both good and bad) on the menu? I like indulging in a Java Chip Frappuccino every so often ;)

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03-20-2014

Are You Eating Enough Calories?

When you want to lose weight, the “rule of thumb” is to subtract 500 calories from your total daily calories, or exercise to burn an extra 500 calories.

Apps like the LoseIt! app (which I do love), give you caloric numbers depending on what your goals are and how fast you want to lose weight. When I put in that I want to lose 10 lbs., it told me I should be eating 1,200 calories.

How often have we heard that number? 1,200 calories? It seems to be the “magic” number for how many calories to eat and lose weight, but also the number you’re never supposed to dip under.

But how many calories do you actually need?

calorie calculator

Well, it all depends on how often you work out and for how long. When I typed in my stats into the Mayo Clinic Calorie Calculator, it told me I should be eating 2,000 calories daily, and a minimum of 1,700! I’m definitely not eating 2,000 calories per day, but have been trying to be better about eating more. It’s just hard, but I’ll get into that later.

The Plateau

Have you been struggling to lose weight or bodyfat? It may be metabolic damage – or, not eating enough calories. Contrary to popular belief, you need to EAT MORE to LOSE. Recently, trainer Tony Gentilcore had a guest post from another trainer who discussed metabolic damage.

I’ve seen real people…exercising often and leading a busy life consuming less than 2000 calories a day. 

Hmmm….shouldn’t they be burning at least 623 calories a day from fat, leading to over one pound of fat lost a week? (3500 calories in a pound of fat).

Quite often, they don’t because their metabolism has adapted to such a low calorie diet that it won’t chance increasing energy expenditure for fear of burning through it’s precious energy stores.

Not eating enough calories puts stress on your body, and increases cortisol…along with other negative effects. This post also states that, “even if you don’t drop your calories too low, dropping carbohydrates too low can inhibit your metabolic functioning.” Don’t be afraid of carbs! Especially if you’re an active person!

The first time I heard about “metabolic damage” was when a friend sent me this video by trainer Layne Norton. He is mainly using fitness & figure models as the example here, but I think a lot of active people can relate. He really opened my eyes as to how dropping your calories or going low-carb can have a negative affect on your body:

He has said that what he does to help figure competitors recover is to have them eat a bit more calories each week until they reach the threshold for how many calories they can eat without gaining weight. It’s something that I have started doing as well. I used to only eat 1,300-1,500 calories because I wanted to lose bodyfat. Clearly, not enough!

Recently, I’ve been tracking my calories and trying to eat close to 1,700-1,800 and will slowly build to 2,000. It is really hard for me because I have no clue what to eat to get there! I can only eat so many protein shakes, fruit, eggs, etc. So any healthy snack ideas you have, please feel free to comment ;)

If you have been stuck in a plateau for a while (I certainly have), then how many calories you consume may play a role. Another thing to think about is your macros (protein, carbs, fat). Check out “If It Fits Your Macros” to get a break down of how many calories they think you should eat, along with macros.

I’ve written about IIFYM before, and don’t 100% agree with the premise, but I do agree with trying to calculate what percentage of each macronutrient you should be getting. Like I mentioned above, I use the LoseIt! app to track all of this.

If you want to see part 2 of Tony’s post about recovering your metabolism, check it out here.

If you want to get a clearer picture of your caloric needs, the best and most accurate thing would be to consult with a nutritionist or dietician.

Do you eat enough calories?

Do you track your calories and macros?

How does eating affect your workouts?

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02-28-2014

What Is Intermittent Fasting?

I had heard of “fasting” before, but usually equated it to not eating anything for blood testing purposes or religious reasons. The first time I really read about intermittent fasting was through trainer Jason Ferruggia.

intermittent fasting

Jason has a book called, “The Renegade Diet.” In the book, he promotes intermittent fasting – where you don’t eat for 12-16 hours. “What??!” Yes it sounds extreme, but it’s actually 12-16 hours after dinner (your last meal), so most of that time is while you are sleeping.

In the book, he outlines how intermittent fasting can help you lose body fat and feel better all around. Here are a few reasons intermittent fasting may help you lose fat, according to nutritionist Brad Pilon:

  1. Increases fat burning hormones
  2. Increased fat burning enzymes
  3. Burn more calories
  4. Burn fat instead of sugar
  5. Eat what you want guilt free

“But aren’t you supposed to eat every 2-3 hours?” I have read that in numerous places too. However, I’m not claiming to know the right answer. Jason states that the whole “eat every 2-3 hours” is a myth. He says:

“Most people stuff their faces every 2-3 hours to “crank their metabolism” or “stoke the metabolic fire,” and end up eating way more calories than they need.”

In his book, he explains the science behind it more, as well as meal timing (when to eat carbs, etc.). He also discusses breakfast, since if you’re fasting for 12-16 hours, you probably will not be eating breakfast.

Is Breakfast Necessary?

Everywhere you look, health sites are saying to eat a nice, big breakfast and make sure you include protein. But is it really necessary? Ergo-Log wrote about this, and a study that was done:

In the 1970s researchers did experiments in which they gave their subjects just one meal a day. [Chronobiologia 1975; 2(suppl 1): 33.] The meal provided just enough calories to maintain body weight. When the subjects ate their meal in the evening they maintained the same weight. When they ate their meal in the mornings they lost a little weight.

Losing weight is a good thing though, right? Ergo-Log goes on to show other similar studies that showed that the weight lost is muscle mass, which is not a good thing. It’s a pretty interesting read so I encourage you to check it out!

Here are a few reasons to “skip breakfast” according to Dr. John Berardi (and he also touches upon intermittent fasting):

1. It’s not required to boost metabolism. The idea that metabolism slows radically in response to not eating certain meals in a single day just isn’t accurate. The amount of calories you’re taking in and the composition of those calories—proteins, carbs, and fats—are really what impact metabolism.

2. It may lead to eating less overall. If you skip breakfast you can eat fewer, larger meals beginning later in the day, rather than six smaller meals throughout the day, which may be less satisfying. This can lower your total caloric intake for the day and may lead to weight loss.

3.There’s a payoff even if you’re only an occasional skipper. Intermittent fasting reduces insulin levels, so you can actually increase your insulin sensitivity for better blood sugar management. At the same time, your body will release more growth hormone, which helps to preserve lean tissue and burn fat tissue.

4.It can help lower your total carb intake for the day. Most of us are over-carbed. We eat too many refined carbs, too little protein, and too much fat. Skipping breakfast can steer you away from the typical high-carb breakfast foods (toast, oatmeal, cereal, pancakes) that may trigger an insulin response that kicks you out of fat-burning mode.

5. It can help you tune in to your body. You just might feel better sipping water with lemon or a green juice instead of forcing down food first thing every day. If you’re one of many people who feel nauseous early in the day, you’re better off listening to your body’s cues. Sure, you’re co-workers come into the office, bagels with cream cheese in hand, but at the end of the day (and the beginning), you want to figure out what works best for you.

I would list all of the reasons you should eat breakfast, but through Google and other resources I think we know what reasons we are constantly given: It helps you lose weight, boosts your metabolism, you won’t be starving and eat a ton a few hours later, etc.

I actually did try intermittent fasting for a month or so, and surprisingly didn’t mind it. You would think that if you get up early, you are going to be hungry, especially since you’re not breaking the fast until around 11AM-12PM. But your body gets used to it. Each day, I would break the fast either with a green smoothie, or with eggs. And I ate bigger meals for lunch and dinner, and actually got in MORE calories than when I wasn’t doing the fasting thing.

I always thought it was so hard to get in enough calories with eating pretty clean (because what do you snack on?), but with the fasting, the bigger meals with more protein, carbs and veggies kept me full and helped me hit my numbers.

So am I promoting intermittent fasting/not eating breakfast? Not necessarily. But I did want you all to know both sides, because sometimes if you’re in a plateau, something like this could help you break through.

Perhaps try it out and see what works best for you! Doesn’t it always seem like health professionals contradict a lot of things? Eggs (good or bad?), coffee (good or bad?), Cardio protocol? That’s why I like writing about these topics, in order to explore both sides deeper.

Do you eat breakfast or have you tried intermittent fasting?

Are you curious about trying intermittent fasting?

What do you think about these viewpoints?

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02-27-2014

5 Tips For A Better Salad

Salads can be so boring sometimes. But I have found ways to make tasty salads for myself that I actually like to eat…I used to hate salads! Now, I have one most days for lunch. I can’t have a salad for dinner though. That’s where I draw the line ;)

tastiersalad

1. Experiment with different protein options. My go-to options are canned tuna and hard boiled eggs. If I have leftover cooked chicken, I will sometimes use that. But tuna doesn’t have to be boring. There are so many options. I used to love Bumblebee’s Sundried Tomato and Olive Oil tuna, but then they discontinued it :( But they make new versions now with different flavorings, like Lemon and Pepper. Experiment and use a different kind for each salad. Also, experiment with different protein, such as tuna, eggs, chicken, tofu, beans, etc. Changing it up will keep salads from getting boring.

2. Add fruit to your salad. I used to think adding fruit to salad was really weird. It weirded me out to think of eating strawberries or pineapples with lettuce and some sort of meat. But now I love it. My favorite salad that I pack for lunch is canned tuna, mixed greens and strawberries. The combination is so good! I’ve seen recipes for putting watermelon in salad? Kind of scared to try it! I haven’t really experimented with other fruit in my salad, so if you have suggestions let me know :)

strawberry salad

3. Experiment with other toppings. This kind of goes along with the fruit thing, but try out toppings like nuts and dried cranberries. It will make your salad taste better and be more filling. Toppings can include things like beans too, like I mentioned in #1. I add chickpeas to my salad, and sometimes black beans. Again, it will help you feel full after lunch.

4. Prepare foods differently. So never would I have thought to make tuna patty cakes to put in my salad, until I saw that Minou Girl posted a recipe. Look through Pinterest, or  find bloggers with healthy salad recipes, and see if you can prepare something differently, such as canned tuna. This was a great way to spice it up and I have made it multiple times since. Here’s the recipe. Perhaps try doing fried eggs instead of hard-boiled, or cook your chicken differently.

tuna cakes

5. Try an assortment of veggies. Do you have your go-to vegetables you always use? I do too. But try adding new stuff to your salad and you may find your next favorite vegetable. I usually only add in tomatoes, but recently have been trying to add cucumbers as well. My current favorite is artichoke hearts though. Seriously so good and goes well with any protein. You can also try them in a sandwich!

You could also experiment with different dressings-though I don’t know too much about that because I only really use balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Let me know if you have a dressing you love!

What is your favorite salad combination?

Any tips I’m missing? 

What topping should I try in my next salad?

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02-11-2014

Green Smoothie Recipes *Updated*

I love green smoothies. What a great way to get in your greens without tasting them. For someone who hasn’t tried one before, sure, they may look gross, but I’m serious – you can’t really taste the veggies!

green smoothie recipes

One of my first posts was a list of my favorite green smoothie recipes. Most of these used only water, vegetables and a piece of fruit. Recently, I’ve been adding protein powder to my smoothies, while my mom has been using greek yogurt. Both are good if you want a protein shake AND a green smoothie ;)

Here are some of those veggie/fruit only smoothies (which are still delicious by the way):

Very Berry

  • handful of kale (or spinach)
  • 3-4 pieces of celery
  • 4-5 strawberries
  • 1/2 a banana

Simple Smoothie

  • 1 apple
  • handful of baby carrots

Current Favs

Here are my go-to smoothies (play around with measurements because it depends on how much you want):

All-Time Favorite Smoothie

Seriously tastes like a PB & Banana smoothie.

  • Water
  • Almond milk
  • Ice
  • Spinach/kale
  • Banana
  • Peanut Butter
  • 1 scoop protein powder (optional – I use Vega Vanilla)

Cold-Buster

Okay, this one you will probably taste some of the greens…

  • Water
  • Ice
  • Spinach/kale
  • Crushed garlic
  • Tiny bit of ginger
  • Add fruit of your choice

Strawberry-Banana

  • Water
  • Ice
  • Almond Milk
  • Spinach/kale
  • 1/2 banana
  • Strawberries
  • 1 scoop protein powder (optional)

A Little More Green

  • Water
  • Ice
  • Almond milk
  • Spinach/kale
  • 1/4-1/2 cucumber (depending on how much you want)
  • Strawberries (or your favorite berry)

Tips For Concocting Your Own Green Smoothie

If you want to experiment with making your recipes, here are a few tips:

  1. If you’re a beginner, use spinach instead of kale. It will be less green tasting, and once you acquire the taste for green smoothies, you can throw in kale (and other veggies) and it won’t taste as strong as the first time you try one.
  2. Just experiment with different combos. I found that I really like a carrots and apple combo, or a banana and PB combo. Some people like oranges or mangoes (never tried it myself), so it all depends on your taste. Try different fruits and veggies and see what you like!
  3. Use a high powered blender. I can’t afford a Vitamix right now, but I have a Ninja, which works really well. I never have chunks in my smoothie like when I used my Magic Bullet.
  4. Don’t put in the protein powder first (in your blender). I have found that when I do that and then add water, the powder gets stuck to the bottom, even if I blend it for a while.

Recently, I’ve been having a green smoothie most days. Like I said, it’s such an easy way to get in your greens and some protein too!

Do you like green smoothies?

Which of these have you tried/want to try?

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02-06-2014

Coffee: Healthy Or Not?

I got the idea for this post a couple days ago when my brother called me a coffee addict. I drink coffee every once in a while when I feel like I need it, but I used to drink it 2 times a day. He goes, “Did you know caffeine is the most consumed drug?” and I said, “Yeah but coffee is not bad for you like people think, there are health benefits.” He responds, “Yeah, OK.”

So that’s how I got here!

coffeehealthy

I wanted to talk about coffee, and whether it is “healthy or not.” We all know coffee has caffeine, which is a stimulant. That’s what gives you energy and wakes you up. There are lots of sources of caffeine (supplements, Red Bull, etc.) but I’m going to focus on coffee, because that’s really the only intake of caffeine I use. Plus, 54% of Americans over 18 drink coffee every day!

Random, but remember when people said if you drank coffee it would stunt your growth? I remember when people told us that in middle school about lifting weights too!

Here are results of a study done by Dr. Rob van Dam of the Harvard School of Public Health:

We did not find any relationship between coffee consumption and increased risk of death from any cause, death from cancer, or death from cardiovascular disease. Even people who drank up to six cups of coffee per day were at no higher risk of death.

6 cups?!? I thought my 2 cups was bad…

He goes on to say that most studies base this on 8 oz. cups (not a Venti from Starbucks), and on plain black coffee or with a little milk and sugar (not lattes).

Okay so let’s get into the pros and the cons.

Benefits

Here is another quote from Dr. Rob van Dam:

Research over the past few years suggests that coffee consumption may protect against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, and liver cirrhosis.

Other articles I found support this claim as well. Other benefits are:

The increase in energy in workouts is why I like to get GU with a bit of caffeine in it. Or I just drink a cup of coffee before heading to the gym.

Now let’s get to the cons…

Drawbacks

  • It may affect your sleep.
  • Jitters/tremors
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Increase in the hormone cortisol, which I talked about regarding my dilemma with running. “Cortisol is normally high in the morning, so if you drink some coffee at 6 a.m. and 10 a.m., you should be fine, as cortisol is naturally elevated at that time of day anyway.  However, your body may not appreciate coffee as much in the afternoon or evening, when cortisol normally drops. At that point, consider tea or something decaffeinated.”
  • Increased calorie and fat consumption if you’re drinking frappucinos and lattes regularly.
  • Two articles I came across discussed “that two or more cups of coffee a day can increase the risk of heart disease in people with a specific — and fairly common — genetic mutation that slows the breakdown of caffeine in the body. So, how quickly you metabolize coffee may affect your health risk.”

So what are we to do? Basically, it comes down to the age old saying: Everything in moderation.

The first study says up to 6 cups of coffee (!!) is okay, though the studies above say that more than 2 cups could affect you, depending on your genes and how your body metabolizes caffeine. So, just try to stick to 1-2 cups of coffee per day, or switch to tea in the afternoon, which is what I have started doing.

When I need an afternoon boost, I drink peppermint tea or decaf black tea, and I still feel a bit more awake after. I think my body just wants something hot for me to think it’s coffee ;)

Overall, I like to think coffee is okay, and there aren’t that many negatives (unless of course, it’s affecting your sleep, digestion, etc.). If you feel it is affecting you, try an elimination diet and see how you feel.

I actually quit cold-turkey once, and started drinking tea. I noticed that I slept much better at night, which helped me feel more awake during the day and not need caffeine.

So it’s really up to you and how it makes you feel! But at least coffee addicts can rejoice because there are a lot of health benefits :)

Do you drink coffee regularly? Or tea?

Do you like to use caffeine before runs or workouts?

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