Healthy Breakfast Ideas

Dear Reader;

One of the toughest times of day to come up with a healthy meal is breakfast.  My clients ask me all the time for ideas of what to eat in the morning.  Traditional American diets consist of waffles, donuts or pastries, bacon and eggs or sugar laden yogurts and cereals.

And restaurants?  Forget it.  The choices for healthier alternatives are harder to find whenever you eat out.

Today I’m suggesting a few ideas for you to try, next time you find yourself bored.

The Power Bowl:

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What you’ll need:

1/2-3/4 cup of fresh organic blueberries

If I don’t have this on hand, I use frozen organic blueberries

2-tablespoons of organic raw walnut pieces

1-tablespoon organic ground flax seed

2-tablespoons of organic coconut flakes or shredded coconut

sometimes I use both

1/2 cup organic plain kefir

not sweetened or flavored – if you add sugar here, it defeats the purpose

If you’re concerned about saturated fat, omit the coconut.  Since I don’t consume much saturated fat in my diet, typically, I don’t worry too much about this (nor am I at high risk for cardiac event or have high cholesterol).

The jury is still out about the type of saturated fat in coconut and it’s effect on our LDL cholesterol levels.  Some experts think the saturated fat in a coconut is safer because it’s medium chain fatty acid instead of long chain fatty acids; medium chain fatty acids break down much quicker.  Either way, it is probably a concern only if you’re worried about cholesterol.  In my opinion, I think the benefits outweigh the risk, but if you’re not sure, simply omit the coconut.

Layer the ingredients in the bowl and pour the kefir over the top.  You can add as much kefir as you wish.

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I’ve substituted rice milk for the kefir (if you don’t like yogurt).  BUT the kefir’s probiotic benefit is one of the reasons I eat this.  You get healthy fats, low glycemic load blueberries and their antioxidant properties, plus probiotic, all in one bowl.  That’s why I call it the Power Bowl.

So, you’re looking at my breakfast choice several days a week:

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 Hard Boiled Eggs:

There are so many ways to prepare an egg.  One of my favorites is hard-boiled.  It’s so easy to just grab one if you’ve made them ahead; they store well and for 5 days in the fridge unpeeled.

hard boiled egg isolated on white

I’ve found that using my steamer works great; I put them in the steam tray and turn it on. Steam for 16-18 minutes (for harder boiled, 20-minutes).  When they are done, I put them in a bowl of ice water for 10-15 minutes before storing in the fridge.  Try this stove top steaming method if you don’t have a steamer:

Perfect Steamed Boiled Eggs – Serious Eats Blog

Green Smoothie

I am a HUGE fan of the green smoothie and not so much a fan of juicing.  If you want to know why, read my blog post about the subject: To Juice or To Blend.

Green smoothie is a perfect breakfast!  Especially if you plan to exercise soon after.  Since it’s almost liquid, you digest it much quicker than food and nutrients absorb much faster too.  You can add supplement powders (like your high quality organic unsweetened protein powder) to the green smoothie too.

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I have written several really great recipes to try in another blog post: Power Smoothies.

Once you’re comfortable blending though, you don’t really need a recipe.

Just follow a few guidelines:

Fill a blender with mostly leafy greens not packing it tightly, add in any other veggies or fruit that will fit and will compliment the flavors.

Add the juice of one lemon or lime.  Unless you think it will clash with flavors.  Other options to add are vanilla extract, almond extract, apple cider vinegar or a few tablespoons of yogurt.

Add two cups of liquid.  Or up to 4 cups if you like it less thick.  I use water.

Blend it for A VERY LONG TIME!  I blend for about 4 to 5-minutes.

Save any leftovers in airtight containers.  Mason jars work great!

The Portabella:

portabella mushroom with hard cooked egg

portabella mushroom with hard cooked egg

Honestly, it doesn’t get better than this.  This is a hearty breakfast and will fill you up for the whole morning, especially if it’s a large-sized mushroom.  Get it ready the night before and pop it into the oven while you shower.  OR save this one for a weekend morning since it does take the time to bake.

Find the recipe here: 3 Ways with Portabellas.

The Ham and Egg Cup:

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Can you say easy?

This is one of the most simple and delicious breakfast ideas.  I made those shown above with canadian bacon instead of ham.

The canadian bacon or ham that you use should be carefully checked for preservatives.  Nitrates should be avoided, so you’ll want to make sure you choose a brand that is nitrate free.

I used this brand of bacon in the cups pictured above:

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And I used organic pasture raised eggs.  Of course the healthier the chicken, the healthier the egg so make sure you use truly pasture raised eggs, if you can.

The original recipe came from fitsugar.

Texas Grapefruit:

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What is more convenient than a portable breakfast like the grapefruit?  You can grab it and go and peel it when you’re ready to eat it or you can prepare it like I explain in this blog post: Why You Should Eat Grapefruit.

P.S. this fruit has one of the lowest glycemic loads (6).

Standard GO TO:

Remember, breakfast doesn’t have to be a large meal.  Especially if you’re prone to a mid-morning snack.  Here are a few suggestions for a smaller breakfast.  Choose one of these for breakfast and one for mid morning snack.

You can’t beat these:

banana and a spoon of peanut butter (or even better: almond butter)

unsweetened plain 0% yogurt with sliced raw almonds and a drizzle of honey (watch out for the honey, only use a teaspoon)

handful of mixed nuts (use raw and whole): brazil, walnut, pecan, almond

one egg scrambled with fresh salsa on top

celery stalk with a tablespoon of peanut butter

half of an avocado with fresh salsa on top

Half of an apple with a string cheese or a slice of sharp cheddar

unsweetened plain 0% yogurt with a handful of berries or a tablespoon of nut butter mixed in

scramble an egg with chopped fresh green onion and a shake of garlic powder

roll up an organic corn tortilla with sliced avocado, chopped tomatoes and black beans (drained and rinsed if using canned)

Just remember that ingredients matter.  For instance, any of these items made with a peanut butter that has lots of other ingredients in it (hello JIF), is not healthy.  A good choice is to buy the fresh ground peanut butter at your store or buy it from your farmers market (as long as the ingredients are simply peanuts and salt).

Same goes for salsa.  Store bought salsas that are found in the refrigerator section are usually preservative free, but don’t assume!  CHECK THOSE LABELS.

Yogurt should not have added ingredients besides milk and cultures.  Especially no artificial sweeteners!

Ingredients going into a meal is what determine the outcome.

Quality over quantity is a great motto here.

Are You a Bully?

Gluten free

Dear Reader;

If you’re easily offended, you may want to turn the car around.  This is an honest post about something that is really bothering me about today’s society.  I have to speak up.  This post, if you’re still reading, is going to give you a glimpse into my life for a day.  Maybe after reading this, some of you can start to be a little more sensitive and maybe even start apologizing to anyone you may have offended by being completely uninformed.

Are you a bully?

Most of you will answer the question with a resounding “NO! OF COURSE NOT”.  My next questions will answer it for you, honestly.

Have you ever…

… rolled your eyes at the term gluten-free?

… posted or shared anything on Facebook insinuating the gluten-free “phase” is a load of crap?

… actually thought the gluten-free “phase” is a load of crap?

… made fun of the gluten-free crowd by mocking or making sarcastic comments to friends? ~ “May I have my water gluten-free please” ~ (yes, I’ve heard this one, right in front of me).

… assumed someone ordering gluten-free was doing so for weight loss or Paleo reasons without knowing for sure?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are a bully.  A new kind of bully, but one all the same.

I am here to tell you that what you’re doing is insensitive and immature.  Making assumptions regarding something you know absolutely nothing about is not the way an adult acts.

I know first hand what it’s like.

And it’s not fun.

I have Celiac’s disease.  It’s something I don’t blog about incessantly because my blog is not a Celiac’s blog. My blog is about health and wellness and fitness.  I talk about all kinds of dietary situations and sometimes, Celiac does come to the surface, but it’s definitely not something you would know about me by only reading a few posts.

I want to say one thing before I continue with my story.

NONE of this personal snapshot is relevant to the point I am making in this blog post, but I want to give you, the reader, some background on why I get so fired up about this topic and why those who bully those of us who suffer with the ingestion of gluten need to be stopped.

My diagnosis took 8-years from the beginning of my diagnostic testing.  The ironic thing about Celiac is that there isn’t a true “one stop test” (it starts with a biopsy or genetic marker blood test and maybe proceeds to more in depth blood work and vitamin and mineral testing).  Unless you’ve ingested gluten and are experiencing the symptoms at the time of the stomach biopsy, in which case, the stomach biopsy alone is enough. I had two different doctors perform stomach biopsies on me without informing me that I would need to consume wheat, barley or rye for approximately 2-weeks before the test.  Very strange, now that I know how the test works.  So, of course, my tests were negative.  Neither doctor performed the simple blood test that would determine if I was genetically capable of having Celiac.  That would come much later.

Fast forward many years and this year alone, I have suffered from 5 known vitamin deficiencies (all because of gluten) and have had a really hard time getting well.  Even knowing about the Celiac, gluten is so prolific in our food supply that it’s almost impossible for me to avoid it and it takes all of my energy to do so.

Defending gluten-free.

And all of my energy to do so, does NOT leave room for me to defend myself incessantly to others.

Most people still don’t know what gluten is, yet it doesn’t seem to stop some from having opinions about it.

Click on gluten for an explanation.

Here is an in-depth explanation of what Celiac’s Disease is.

In brief, Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.  It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide.  2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications. ~ Celiac Disease Foundation

My family is used to dealing with my varying degrees of gluten intolerance.  I’m sure some of my relatives probably thought the same things others think, but at least they had enough manners to keep it to themselves.

The worst thing about being Celiac for me is the statistic above – 1 in 100 and what it means for my kids: my children have a much higher chance of having Celiac themselves (this number is actually 1 in 10). I have constantly monitored their stomach symptoms for any signs of distress, especially bowel distress because that’s what my first symptom was, years ago.

So, imagine my surprise when we figured out that my youngest daughter’s Tourette’s Syndrome is related to her ingestion of gluten.

I never imagined you could have a neurological response to a food.  Not one neurologist has ever mentioned to my family that it can be triggered by diet, and no one ever asked me if I had a gluten allergy or intolerance or any food allergy, for that matter.  It may be because it’s so unstudied and unknown.  Territory not yet explored.   I can barely find out anything online about the link between Tourette’s and gluten.  My own pediatrician had never heard of it, either.

But one thing is for sure: it’s undeniable, the effect of gluten on her facial tics.  I’m not going to go into all of this (it’s an entire blog post in itself), but I want to make a very big point with this line of thought:

If you overheard my family ordering gluten-free for everyone at our table (in support of my 8-year old daughter, my husband and my oldest daughter have also stopped eating gluten), what would you assume?  think? or comment? be annoyed by?

What would you assume to know about us?  And even if your assumptions were true and it was for diet only, who do you think you are and why do you care?

Actually, my daughter’s gluten intolerance may be what energized me into defending this topic.  Mocking me is one thing…

Why is it ANY OF YOUR BUSINESS? 

This brings me to my biggest question about this topic.

Why?  Why do you care?  Why is it any of your concern or business if someone chooses to simply eat gluten-free or if they are doing it for medical reasons?

Why so angry?

Lately, I’ve heard and seen a lot of anger toward the gluten-free dietary choice.  All the negative comments on social media, including so-called news reports calling it fake unless you’re Celiac (which was me for almost 6-years, by the way) and eye rolling from friends of friends.  Some people speak out loud against it without even knowing who is within earshot that may be gluten-free.  I can’t tell you how many waiters or waitresses have acted annoyed by my questions about ingredients and food handling.  It’s like I should just stay at home and never eat out.

Thanks for the irrational anger and lack of support.   Much appreciated here.

The slow dissolution of people taking my disease seriously.

There is a downside to this dietary choice becoming more prevalent but there’s also a good side too (I’ll talk about that below).

By far, the worst consequence of the gluten-free diet becoming main stream is that now, no one takes my questions seriously.  They’ve determined that my affliction is ” all in my head ” because they assume to know… everything?  And probably read some dumb Facebook post or opinion on the subject by some reporter who decided to portray gluten-free as the new low carb diet of 2014.

Thanks.

I don’t really know why some people harbor all this anger or have an opinion about my plate of food.  It baffles me.  I do know that I am uncomfortable ordering in restaurants now; I used to feel safe after asking to talk to a manager or making sure something was prepared properly and didn’t contain gluten.

One meal in Las Vegas (my friends who were with me that trip, I hope you’re reading this), I ate iceberg with oil and vinegar.  That’s it.  I was so uncomfortable with the effort of the staff at that restaurant that I had to make a decision: risk it and eat lettuce with oil and vinegar and hope they didn’t chop it all up on a cutting board used for slicing up some sandwich…

…or not eat.

I ate and hoped the iceberg was uncontaminated and had less than “20 parts per million”.

When you’re on vacation, you have to make some sacrifices, I know, but how have we come to the age where we are so insensitive to other people’s food intolerances and allergies?  How did we get to the point where I am made to feel embarrassed and guilty for being a pain in the rear at a restaurant?  I incessantly apologize.

Why I do that, I don’t know, but this blog post may give me the push I need to really address my reasons and maybe I can stop being apologetic.

At some point, we have to stop making people feel insecure about their dietary choices just because some have an attitude about it.  It’s no one’s business why someone is gluten-free.

Stop being a bully.

Keep up the “phase”

Whatever the reasons people have for eating gluten-free, I’m really thankful they are doing it.  It’s opened up so many choices in products on my local grocery store shelf.  I have never had such a large selection of crackers that actually taste like crackers (and believe me, that’s one of the things I missed the most!).  So, I thank the “phase” and “fake movement”  for providing the supply and demand dynamic.  It’s definitely helped me more than it’s hurt me.

So, Bullies: Back Off!  Live and let live.

If you’d like further reading and want to open your mind to another perspective on the gluten-free diet by choice, this is a good blog post by A Woman’s Place. 

A Very Square Bar

Dear Reader;

When it comes to food, I subscribe to the theory of real food wins.  I lean more toward simple and whole and even a lot of raw.  I don’t do very much processed and preserved; trying to avoid added ingredients like flavors or colors, chemicals and sugars…

So, when I find a portable food that I can feel good about, of course I’m going to share it with you.

Meet the Squarebar:

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The fact that I rarely eat processed foods is one thing, but I really hesitate on what I feed my kids.  This happens to be the very first “protein bar” that I allow my kids to eat.  The ingredients (for a bar) are as good as it gets.  As with anything, we eat these in moderation and times where convenience trumps everything.

My Endorsement

I always feel the need to say this whenever I feature a product on my blog.  My intention with this site is not to make money and I accept ZERO dollars from any company, ever.  I endorse products that I truly like, have tried on my own and have purchased with my own money.  The end.

The Squarebar comes in 3 flavors

Cocoa Almond (my favorite)

Cocoa Coconut

Cocoa Crunch

I like each flavor, but my favorite is definitely the Cocoa Almond.  Based on the fact that they are often sold out of that flavor, it seems like it’s everyone’s favorite.

Their Price Tag

They aren’t the least expensive bar on the shelf.  They cost about $2.97 each in the store and are 10 cent less on their website.  I usually order them online, straight from Squarebar when they run a sale.  Right now they are offering FREE shipping and 10% off for joining their mailing list.

You can buy them in cases of 12.

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If you’re not interested in ordering them online, they have a LOCATE button on their site that allows you to find a store near you.  I bought my first Squarebar at Whole Foods Market.

Ingredients 

Each bar is ORGANIC and NON GMO VERIFIED!  They are also gluten-free and vegan; free of soy, peanuts and corn.

The bars contain approximately 200 calories, 12 grams of protein, 20 grams of carbs and 9 grams of fat (6 grams saturated – due to the coconut ingredients).

Each bar is slightly different, but you’ll find ingredients like these:

organic coconut nectar *

organic whole grain brown rice protein

organic dark chocolate (also sweetened with coconut nectar)

organic coconut oil

organic gluten-free oats

organic cocoa liquor

organic brown rice crisps

sunflower lecithin

sea salt

organic brown rice syrup

*Coconut nectar has a lower glycemic index score and contains 17-amino acids, minerals, vitamins C and B.  It’s a better choice than refined sugar, hands down.  The downside is that it’s kind of expensive…

Do You Eat Eggs? You Need to Read This

Dear Reader;

I learned some things about eggs recently that I wish I’d realized sooner.  I am no longer okay with the eggs I was totally okay with, just a week ago.  So, I’m sharing this information with you.

We eat a lot of eggs.  I feed my kids a lot of eggs.  They are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat.  BUT we may be missing out on a lot of that nutrition if we aren’t buying the correct eggs. Also, I care about things like the way we treat a chicken.

Maybe this post will impact the how and the where you buy your eggs, too.

Start by watching this quick but informative video by PBS called The Story of an Egg

(Or copy and paste this link: http://www.pbs.org/filmfestival/all-films/story-egg/)

This video does an awesome job of showing what the conditions on the “typical” chicken farm are.  It also does a great job of clarifying exactly what cage free vs. pasture raised actually means.  This is the part that I didn’t know before.  I thought I was doing good by the chicken with my 18-pack of “organic cage free” eggs that I purchased from Costco.  I was wrong.

UVA Health Systems blogger lists the different terms you may find when you look at meat in the grocery store.  The same premise applies to the egg.  The last term “pasture raised” is what I’m going for when I buy my next dozen:

Pasture raised: Animal lived outdoors without confinement.

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Let’s talk about the differences in nutrition.

Truly Pasture Raised = Nutrition is Better

If a chicken (hen) is raised on open land and able to wander in a sunny, grassy pasture, she’s able to eat vital nutrients for her own body, which translates into healthier eggs.  The more worms, green plants and bugs the chicken eats, the healthier he/she is.  Have you ever seen a photo depicting the different colors of the yolks of chickens raised on a pasture and those raised on purely feed?  You should keep this in mind when buying chicken to eat, as well.

This picture from Simpledailyrecipes.com puts it perfectly!

cage-free-eggs

I remember the very first time I cracked open a truly pasture raised egg.  WOW what a difference and to be honest, it kind of grossed me out.  Knowing why the color difference is there, may have helped.

Pasture raised hens lay eggs that are typically higher in vitamin A and E, contain more beta carotene and omega-3 fatty acids.  All around, a more nutritious egg.

Think about the difference between eating a miserable chicken (sick) and a happy chicken.  Let’s not kid ourselves and say there isn’t going to be a difference.  Plus, it’s being a better human being.  If you can afford to buy eggs that are truly pasture raised, do it.  Eat fewer eggs if you have to.  I’d much rather have fewer eggs that are healthier and humanely kept, but that’s me.

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Where to Buy These Eggs

This may be the bigger hurdle to overcome for most people than simply cost alone.  We are all busy and we may not have time to visit the local farmer’s market each week.

The best source of fresh nutritious pasture raised eggs are from your local farmer / farm who allows the chickens to roam freely.  If you have this kind of farm nearby and you know about it already, awesome!

If not, here area few ways to find pasture raised eggs near you:

Farmer’s Market – find out if your city has a farmer’s market.  Most will have a chicken farmer who has pasture raised eggs.   You can also use the USDA site to see if one is nearby.

The American Pastured Poultry Producer Directory may help you find a farmer.

Contact your local chapter of Weston A. Price Foundation who can help you locate a farmer.

Use Local Harvest or Eat Wild to locate eggs near you.

Some of the questions you may want to ask your farmer:

-How many hours a day do they spend outside?

-Do you supplement with feed?  And if so, is it GMO?  Is it soy?

-Are your chickens raised without antibiotics?

Organic?

The difference you may be most interested in between organic pasture raised eggs and not organic pasture raised eggs is their feed.  A lot of pasture raised chickens and hens are given supplemental feed which is usually a grain sourced feed.  98% of animal feed in the USA is GMO!  So, it’s up to you if organic is worth it or not.  Remember to talk to your farmer.  Just because it’s not organic, doesn’t mean your farmer uses conventional GMO feed.  A lot of farmers care enough to choose non-GMO feed.  YAY!

You Have the Knowledge

I know all of our food in today’s world is confusing.  It’s getting even worse as marketers coin terms to mislead us.  It seems that I constantly learn something I think I’m doing right is actually wrong.  Instead of becoming overwhelmed and giving up, I just keep going with the new knowledge and do better.  I am an army of one, but that’s not stopping me from taking my stand to protect my family from our toxic food supply and hope I make a difference.  Go forth, buy pasture raised.  The cost increase is worth it, for my family and hopefully it is for yours too.

If you have some extra time on your hands and are interested in learning more:

I enjoyed watching this video from Mercola.com that interviews my favorite farmer, ever~ Joel Salatin at his Polyface Farm in Virginia.

Do You Eat Bananas?

Dear Reader;

In recent years, I’ve come across blogs, diet plans, people and fitness gurus who have claimed we shouldn’t really eat bananas or at the very least, bananas are not the best choice.  Like this one, and this one (that’s kind of on the fence about them).

First, I don’t subscribe to any opinion that states we can’t eat a naturally occurring fruit or vegetable.  If you can pick it off of a tree and eat it, it’s a pure, whole, nutrition powerhouse.  It’s what we are supposed to be eating, not the other way around.

Eating should be more about nutrition and not as much about the waistline.  If you take care of the nutrition, weight follows.

Bananas are fruit and have fructose and can affect blood sugar levels, but a banana is pretty low on the glycemic index until it becomes over-rippened, when the sugars naturally increase (turning to simple), but even then it isn’t considered high glycemic.  There are lot’s of opinions out there about fruits in general, but that’s another day…  Fruit is nature’s desert and should be consumed (or thought of) as such.  It is a perfect means to sweeten.  Using naturally occurring sugars instead of  processed and refined is always a superior choice.

No one is obese because they ate too much fruit!  So let’s just stop acting like fruit makes us fat!  Fruit makes us fat only when combined with and is an addition to terrible other food choices.  The banana is not the problem.

The Mighty Banana

A banana has almost zero fat, sodium and cholesterol.  It has tons of fiber, decent amount of Vitamin B6, Maganese, Potassium  and Vitamin C.

Do you ever see the nutritive values listed for a food and wonder what on earth you need some of the vitamins and minerals for?

Fiber – fiber is what helps to cleanse our bodies of toxins, ushering things through the digestive tract and out the other end. It helps to lower our cholesterol levels and to keep us feeling full.  Fiber is not digestible, so it moves through our system intact, taking the toxins out with it.

Vitamin B6 – is a water soluble vitamin that helps our brain and nerve cells to communicate with one another and ensures our bodies metabolize protein and fat.  It is vital for immune function, especially as we age.

Maganese – is a dietary trace mineral that is necessary for our skin enzymes and helps to protect against free radical damage.  It’s also essential for bone building and connective tissue health.

The banana is a carbohydrate.  Carbohydrates are good!  You need them in order for your body to function at it’s best.  Obviously, the best choice of carbohydrates are fruits, vegetables and whole grains like steel cut oats (if you eat grains).  Carbohydrates are not as healthy when you do not have balance in your diet and a disproportionately large percentage is carbs.  That’s very common in the American diet.  We are carb over loaders, and usually not the good kind of carbs.

Each day when you choose to eat something, go for the most nutrient rich food possible for every meal and snack.  The banana qualifies!

Super Training Tip:

As a Personal Trainer, I seriously value the protein shake if you are following any kind of worthwhile strength training program.  It’s kind of difficult to have chicken every time you need a dose of protein.  However, I’m not a fan of the supplement industry and its way of adding so many un-needed and un-proven (even sometimes scary) ingredients into the supplement shake. I’m also not on the stevia bandwagon like the rest of the world and it seems a lot pf protein powders contain stevia.

How do I avoid all the bad additives?  I buy pure organic hemp protein powder, which tastes awful.  I don’t want to use sugar, artificial sweeteners or even agave or honey, but cannot stand the taste of hemp powder.  I want to drink a pure and nutritious shake without any harmful additives.  So this is what I do and the banana is a big part of it:

Mash several over-ripened bananas.  And I mean over-ripened!  Almost black!

Freeze the banana mash in a mini muffin pan.  Set it out to thaw slightly before removing the banana to be stored in an airtight plastic bag or container in the freezer.

This is how I freeze the banana mash

This is how I freeze the banana mash

In the morning, before you leave, add 8-oz of your choice of milk (I use organic unsweetened rice milk) and one or two of the frozen banana sections to your shaker bottle.  It should be thawed and ready to use in about two hours.

Take your powders with you, but don’t mix them into the milk yet.

When you’re ready to drink it, add your powder protein of choice and one teaspoon of organic cocoa powder and shake vigorously (I use a shaker bottle with the round wire ball).

The finished product is a healthy version of a protein shake.  There’s no need to ingest a bunch of foreign or toxic ingredients.

 

Need a few more reasons to eat the Mighty Banana?  Read this!

I did stumble across ONE point of view that I am on board with, for not eating bananas and it has nothing to do with them being a “bad food”.  I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself.

To see the full nutrition data for a banana = http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1846/2.

The PERFECT Chicken

Dear Reader;

I am a huge fan of the crock pot.  Any time I can cook easier and less messy, I’m in.  I use a recipe for a whole chicken (can’t even remember where I originally got the recipe from) that cooks the chicken absolutely perfect, every single time.  The only complaint I have is that it falls off the bone!  Which can make it hard to get it out of the crock pot, but it’s seriously good.  And I love to make these for lunches, think chicken salad or chicken sandwiches.  It’s a great alternative to nitrate and preservative filled lunch meats.

And don’t forget to save the juices and refrigerate.  The fat will accumulate at the top and you can skim it off, making the PERFECT broth (just add water)!

Recipe:

1-whole chicken (preferably organic, free range, antibiotic / hormone free, but this one pictured is only organic)

salt and pepper (optional)

5 even squares of aluminum foil

 

Directions:

Start with your whole chicken: rinse really well and remove the “innards” (reserve for another use or discard).

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Take the 5 sheets of aluminum foil and crumble them evenly, line the bottom of the crock pot, like this:

line the bottom of the croc pot

line the bottom of the crock pot

Place the chicken, breast up, on top of the foil balls.  The point is to keep the chicken from sitting in its own juices/fat.  It cooks the chicken super lean and delicious.  No need to tie the legs or anything, just plop it in.

place the chicken on top of the foil

place the chicken on top of the foil

 

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place the lid on the top of the crock.  Turn it on high and cook for 4-5 hours.

That’s it.

If you’re worried if it’s done or not, take the temperature of the dark meat, just at the lower portion of the leg (the thigh) and it should read 165, or above.  When it’s done, let sit for about half hour then pull all the meat from the bone (discarding skin!), including the dark meat.  You can serve the chicken as a meal, make chicken salad like this or you can use it for other dishes requiring chicken.

This chicken salad pictured, is made with mayo and relish. BUT my favorite is to use avocado in place of the mayo and add green onions and relish.

use lettuce cups instead of bread

use lettuce cups instead of bread or crackers

 

Cleanse

Dear Reader;

It may be hard to believe, but I just did my very first cleanse.  Besides the kind the doctor gives you before a colonoscopy (ugh), that is.  So, when I decided to go on a 3-day juice cleanse, I decided to try one of the juice companies that I had heard about through one of my clients.  I didn’t own a juicer, after all.  Of course, you are not surprised by this because you know I prefer to blend if you are a regular reader of my blog.  So, this is my first real experience with “juice”.

flyer that accompanies the cleanse

Austin Skinny Limits

Skinny Limits is a relatively new juice bar in Austin.  They have several locations.  I called the Far West location and spoke to the owner who explained the instructions, the different varieties of cleanses that they offer and arranged to pick up the next week.

Each day I sat at my computer and wrote what I was thinking, feeling, liking/disliking and everything in between.  Read on.

The general guidelines of the cleanse go like this:

-Each day, you drink 6 bottles of juice, in the order they tell you to drink them in.  They are clearly marked.  One flavor repeats 3x, so there are a total of 4 different juices.

-You don’t eat or drink anything else, besides water and if you need to, herbal tea or black tea.  You can eat celery, cucumber or avocado if you feel like you will die without food, but they encourage you to abstain.

-Continue all medications, supplements, etc…

-Exercise is fine, but listen to your body.

-Go on with your day as normal…

Why Cleanse

Immediately following the cleanse, I’m beginning a low FODMAP diet (following my doctor’s recommendation).  For those of you who don’t know what that means, click the link and read about it. It is often recommended to those who commonly suffer from gastric gas, bloating, pains, cramping, issues in general.  For me, it has to do with intestinal irritation and still trying to heal from wheat consumption.

Cleansing to lose weight is not something I recommend, but it can be a byproduct and a great way to begin something.  Cleansing to break food cravings or to kickstart a new eating program, would be a good reason to try a juice cleanse.  The cleanse really can help with cravings such as sweets and it can “clean out your system” so you can see the effects of an improved diet practically immediately.  So, if you’re beginning your new healthy journey, this may be a great first step.

Day 1

It’s almost one o’clock and my day began at 4:30am.  I am finishing up my third bottle of juice now.  It was a whole lot easier than I expected to get my day started without coffee.  I did however, yawn quite a bit during my 6:00am training session (so sorry L).  So far, I am surprisingly fine.  I thought I would be dying of hunger by now.  I did have a brief spell just before I opened this bottle, but it may have been brought on by my trip to Costco…

The juices taste really good.

I will say, I am COLD!  I don’t know if it’s because I’m drinking them fast (on purpose) or if it’s just because it’s only 65 degrees outside. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow and later on this evening.

Later in the day, a headache set in.

Day 2

Day two started out with a cup of coffee that I wasn’t supposed to have.  I woke up with a massive headache that seemed to remain from the day before.  Deciding it was caffeine withdrawal, I had 2/3 cup of black coffee (gross) and within an hour it was gone so I must have been right.  I felt like I really needed to go ahead and have the coffee; I do still have to go to work!  If I could have hung out at home all day, I may have made a different decision.

All the way around, day two was FAR better than day one.  I had bursts of energy throughout the day.  The hunger hit me a few times, especially while I was making meals for other people (I still have to be a mom too!).  All in all, a super easy day.  AND I am surprised by that.

Day 3

Went straight for the coffee and had another 2/3 cup black this morning and headache has not returned.  Overall, very easy.  Hunger wasn’t an issue at all. I have a slight amount of mental fog going on, but not terrible.  Energy is high, mood is great, feeling all around good!  I almost don’t want to eat tomorrow so I’ll continue to feel amazing!

Day After

Any and all gastro symptoms that I typically have are non-existent.  My stomach feels great.  I feel great.  I feel fresh and ready for the day.

I started out stow with food and ate 100% clean and fresh all day long.

I have zero interest in greasy, unhealthy, super sugary or junk foods, which is great.  I am craving real veggies and fruits, nuts and lean proteins, which is exactly what we should be eating.

Several Days Later

Bloated, gassy, crampy, uncomfortable stomach feelings that I normally have every day are still non-existent.  I’ve been taking a powerful probiotic each day, so that may be helping.  I’ve continued to eat super clean, so they don’t return.  It’s a relief to feel better.

Bottom Line:

I recommend the cleanse for the following situations:

  • beginning a new healthy eating program
  • to cut cravings for sugar or salt
  • to relieve uncomfortable gastro symptoms

 

Meet Heidi

Dear Reader;

One of my goals in writing this blog is to inspire others.  That inspiration could kickstart a weight loss journey, nudge your efforts towards a fitness goal or to simply help you learn how to become a healthier eater.  Whatever the case, I hope to inspire as many as I can reach, to put themselves and their health a little higher up on the priority list.

So, in that spirit, I decided to highlight a few people in my life that truly inspire me.  You may remember Andria from a few weeks ago and her incredible weight loss journey.  Today, I’m introducing you to another friend: Heidi.  Our mutual love of running is what made us connect as friends in the first place, so it’s totally fitting that I interviewed her about running.

When I first met Heidi, she had just finished her first marathon. Several months later, I got to know her on the running trail as she trained for her second marathon.  All those months of hard work, watching as she got up on Sunday mornings to run a “long run”, pushing herself through the tough days; the sacrifice she made to accomplish her goal…  She is a great example of what determination, goal setting and dedication can do.

It’s not like she was “born to run” and she didn’t come from a long line of runners.  She has a busy schedule as a 32-year-old mother of three (two of which are still very young) AND she’s a grad student.  As you read this, think of the many reasons people use to excuse why they can’t do something.

Are you letting something stand in your way of accomplishing your goal?

If she can do it, you can too!

photo 1

Heidi with her daughter at the finish line of her first Austin Marathon

Have you always been a runner? If not when did you start?

I haven’t always considered myself to be a “runner” even though I have been running for most of my adult life. I have always been an active person. I had never ran more than three miles until after I had my daughter five years ago. Six months after she was born I ran my first half marathon.

What made you take the first step? What was your motivation?

I was a stay-at-home-mom with an 8-year-old stepson, a 2-year-old son, and was pregnant with my daughter. Oh yeah, my husband worked/works an insane amount of hours and my stepson’s mom has never really been in the picture. I was not allowed to exercise during my pregnancy because I was at risk of miscarriage in the second trimester. All of these things combined drove me crazy!!! If you know me at all, you know that I am not your “typical” mom. I cuss…I drink…I’m less than crafty…I wear shorts shorter than I’m probably supposed to. Basically, raising small children did not come easy for me. I needed a goal for MYSELF. I needed something outside of just being a mom. So, six weeks after my daughter was born…I dropped her and my sons off at the gym childcare and hopped on a treadmill. After a couple of weeks I was running three miles. Then I thought…if I can run three miles I can totally run a half marathon. Everything progressed from there. The goal of the first half marathon was to cross the finish line. I did it. Then my goal for my second half marathon was to break two hours. I did it. Then I thought, why not just run the whole thing? I always kind of felt like a loser at the starting line next to the runners with their marathon bibs. Like I was just half-assing the race. So that was it…after two years of serious running I decided to attempt my first marathon.

Have you had any injuries along the way? What did you learn from them?

When training for my second marathon, my hips started really bothering me. This was incredibly frustrating. I felt like my body wasn’t letting me do what my mind wanted it to do. Somehow, I ended up finishing the marathon without having any issues on race day. I decided to give my body a rest from exclusive distance running and try to incorporate a variety of exercises. I realized that I needed to build up my strength (legs, core, arms, etc.) in order to be a strong distance runner and to avoid injuries. I still love to run…but I also have grown to love cycling, lifting weights, circuit training…I could go on and on. And to my surprise, I’ve shaved 1:20 off of my previous pace per mile by running less and focusing on getting stronger.

What keeps you going? Describe your mindset during a very long run. How do you get through it?

This is a great question. I basically think of anything and everything that gets me through the run. I try to set little goals in my mind to help me reach the larger goal. Like at mile 22…I just start telling myself “You only have four miles left. You’ve ran four miles a million times. You can do this. It’s just like going on a short run.” Sometimes a great song pumps me up. Sometimes I focus on how beautiful my surroundings are. Or remembering the feeling of crossing the finish line at a race can literally bring tears to my eyes.

What is your biggest challenge as a runner?

I think the hardest part is deciding to get out there and do the long runs when I’m training for a race. I always know they are going to be hard. It’s difficult for me to just suck it up and get the run done. I mean, waking up on a Sunday morning knowing that you need to get 18 miles in that day can be a bit overwhelming. About a month before race day I always end up having a breakdown and telling my husband I don’t think I can do it.

What have you learned about yourself, through your running journey?

I’ve learned that I am mentally stronger than I ever thought I was. I’ve learned that childbirth really wasn’t THAT bad in comparison.

If you could say anything to a beginner who is trying to find motivation to run a marathon what would it be?

I would tell them that anyone can run a marathon as long as they are 100% committed to doing it. It’s going to be hard, but it is the BEST feeling when you cross that finish line. I have yet to meet someone who said “I really wish I hadn’t finished a marathon”. It’s an amazing experience.

Did you ever have the mindset that you couldn’t do it? How did you get beyond that?

Absolutely! I remember running my first half and getting to mile 10 where the course splits up (marathon runners go one direction and the half marathoners go another) and thinking those people were CRAZY. I thought they were absolutely out of their minds. Why would anyone want to run that far? Then I became one of those crazy people and realized that it really was that hard to run the full. It’s like a whole different ballgame. The training is intense. And at about mile 22 I felt like I couldn’t go any further. Like I wanted to just lay down on the asphalt and give up. But then you start telling yourself everything you can think of to get yourself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. The crowds are incredibly encouraging towards the end. They definitely gave me words of encouragement that pushed me to keep running.

Are your parents runners? Or is anyone else in your family?

My dad was not an active person. I am pretty sure I never saw him run. He passed away when he was fairly young because he had a very unhealthy lifestyle. I think about him a lot during races. Especially if the run is for cancer. His memory keeps me going.

My mom was not a distance runner but she was always exercising. She still is. As a kid I remember my brother and myself going with her to the high school and playing on the football field while she ran the track.

I have three siblings and I am the only runner.

Did anyone inspire you?

I wish I had a better answer for this question, but not really. I think that I found the motivation within myself.

Do you have plans to run more marathons? Where are you with it now?

I am considering running another one in either December 2014 or January 2015. I’m on the fence because I know how much work goes into it. But, now that my speed has increased I want to see how fast I can finish it.

If you could say one thing to someone contemplating a long distance run, what would it be?

Probably not to think too much about it and just do it. Find yourself a running schedule to help with your training and take it one run at a time. Try to just focus on what you need to get done for the day or week. Don’t get overwhelmed by the end goal because you will get there in time. Also, running buddies are great to have! Running a long run with a friend goes by a LOT faster than running alone.

What’s your favorite piece of equipment that’s worth it / can’t live without?

Aside from the obvious (good shoes, great bra, good clothes) I never go on a run without my SPI belt. It holds my phone, keys, chapstick, tissues and I can’t even feel it. It’s amazing.

Heidi with her husband and his hilarious shirt!

Heidi with her husband (after her second marathon) and his hilarious shirt!