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TrainerTiff: 2012 >

Monday, December 31, 2012

5 Tips to Keep Your Fitness Resolutions


It's New Year's Eve -- that means many people will be getting their fitness resolutions together. If you're one, check out my tips that will help you stick to it throughout the year.

1. Understand your motivation. Be honest with yourself about why you want to reach your fitness goals. If you want to lose weight to feel sexier and more confident, then realize that those things are important to you. Don't tell yourself false motivations, such as to be healthier -- if that's not your real reason. Just be honest, at least with yourself.

2. Set realistic goals. Instead of starting the year off saying you're going to lose 50 plus pounds, start off with 5 pounds as your goal. Then reset your goal for another 5 pounds, then another 5 and so on. Setting your goals too high puts a lot of pressure on yourself and puts you at risk of falling off altogether.

3. Start small. Many people think that they have to change every bad habit they have overnight. Well, you can try, but I will about guarantee that come March, you'll have completely fallen off. Setting the bar too high can hinder progress. Think about building new habits each month. For example, in January commit to never skipping breakfast. Then in February, commit to a number of workouts each week and so on.

4. Schedule a race. If you plan to do a 5k, 10k, half or full marathon you'll have something to train for. If your goals are to be more active and eat better, having a race to perform in will help you stay on track.

5. Make your goals public. Telling your friends and family about your goals will help you stay commited. Nobody likes to be "all talk" when it comes do accomplishments. Stating your goals out loud will help keep you accountable to yourself.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Workout Clothes Subscription: PV Body Review


Don't you hate shopping for new workout gear? Well, for me, it's not my favorite task. And if you're like me, PV Body has got you covered.

Since I'm always in the gym, I will always need clothes to sweat it out in. My problem is that I never have time to shop. And when I do, I usually get overwhelmed by all of the choices -- and not to mention the cost of some items -- to the point that I end up leaving the store empty-handed.

You can probably catch me leaving the store mumbling something under my breath like, "Are you kidding me? A hundred dollars for a pair of black workout pants? Seriously?"

With that said, you can about imagine what my fitness apparel looks like -- a bunch of stuff that I've had forever and free tees that I've cut up into tanks. Here is an example. Geez.

Enter PVbody. For a monthly subscription fee of $49.95 they send you a new outfit consisting of a top and a bottom based on a style quiz profile you take when you sign up. And to sweeten the deal, they don't charge any shipping fees.

Some of the quiz questions ask about which activity you like to do best (yoga, running, etc.), which types of clothing fits you like, colors you prefer -- be it bold or conservative or somewhere in the middle, and of course your size.

My quiz results concluded that I was a Cardio Queen. I love the gym and bold colors.

I signed up at the end of November and my first shipment and billing was scheduled for December 17, as noted on their site when you log in and view your account.

I felt like a kid waiting for their birthday. I couldn't wait to see my new outfit. The best thing that I like about this service is that I don't have to do the selecting. As I stated before, that task is too much sometimes. I like that someone else is picking out the clothes for me. It's kind of like having a stylist -- which feels pretty awesome.

When I signed up, I got in on a deal that locked in my rate at $39.95 instead of the $49.95 that it is now. I also had a discount code that knocked off 20% for my first shipment. And because I signed up through Facebook, I was to get a free tank. Good deals all around!


On December 19, just two days after it shipped, the outfit arrived at my door wrapped in hot pink packaging. I eagerly opened the bag (again, like a kid on their birthday), to find the two pieces wrapped in tissue paper (nice touch). I peeled off the paper to find a bright blue racer tank and grey fitted leggings. Loved them. I was so happy that neither of the items were black -- a color I have plenty of.

The leggings were by American Apparel and the tank was by Electric Yoga. They both fit well.



I was so pleased with my items that I didn't even realize that my free tank was missing until the next day. This unexpected disappointment prompted me to log into my account and check things out -- only to be let down again. The billing wasn't right.

Remember that 20% off code I had? It wasn't reflected. I was charged the rate of $39.95 and not $31.96 that it should have been. Interesting too because the confirmation email that was sent to me had the correct amount with the discount. Sigh.

Yesterday, I finally got around to calling the company's customer service line. Luckily to my surprise (because these interactions are usually unpleasant), the guy on the phone was very helpful. I told him what went wrong and he quickly apologized for the issues. Then he said that he had just put my tee in a bag that would go out the next day and the discount got credited to my account immediately.

Nice.

That was probably one of the fastest and easiest customer service calls I've ever experienced. Overall, I'm really happy with this company and its subscription service. I'll likely continue with it for a while so I can stock up on some gear. You can cancel at any time with a hit of the "cancel subscription" button found on your account profile.

My next package ships out on January 17. I can hardly wait to see what they send me next. For a gal who hates to shop for workout clothes, I'm glad PV Body has got my back.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Holiday Party Eating Tips

Photo by Dano via Flickr
The holiday season is in full swing. Indulging in your favorite treats at holiday parties can be enough to add a few pounds and/or undo much of the weight loss progress you've made in recent months. Don't let that happen to you.

I'm not suggesting that you completely avoid that beloved pumpkin pie, egg nog or cookies. Have some. Just don't overdo it -- and have a plan.

Check out my tips below on how you can have enjoy holiday goodies with minimal damage.

Plan your treats. If you have holiday party scheduled, use that party as your weekly cheat meal.

Eat as clean as possible. In the case that you have multiple holiday parties in a week, make sure all of your other meals are as healthy as you can make them. This will give you an allowance to indulge without hurting your weight too much.

Set a limit. Before attending a party, set a limit as to how much you're going to have. For instance, if you want to have pie, plan to have one slice. Or plan to have a half of a slice of two varieties. Also, plan your alcohol allowance. If you know you'll only have one glass of wine beforehand, you'll be less likely to multiple glasses.

Get in an extra workout. Putting in some additional time at the gym will give some room to have a few extra treats. Either schedule extra days at the gym or increase the duration of your planned workouts. For example, if you typically do 20 minutes of cardio, increase to 30-40 minutes. Or if you typically get in three workouts in a week, get in four.

Don't feel pressure to indulge. If you find yourself at a party and you don't want anything, don't eat it. Instead, grab some water to sip and focus on enjoying the people you are with.

Don't feel guilty about treats. The holidays should be enjoyed and if that means having some pecan pie, you should enjoy it without feeling terrible about it. Just follow the tips above to minimize the effects.

This time period should be focused on maintaining your current weight. It will be very difficult to make any big strides toward reducing bodyfat if you're continuously having treats. But getting through the holidays with minimal damage can absolutely be done.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

French Bread Tomato Pizza


Let's face it. We all like pizza. I have not met a single person that doesn't like the baked bread, tomato sauce and melted cheese treat.

If you're going to have pizza, because I know you are -- at least make it yourself. Going the homemade route gives you the ability to control what's going in and on your belly.

Restaurant varieties tend to be really greasy and loaded with fat. The bread is heavy with oil and they use a lot of cheese. The fattening pepperoni, sausage and bacon toppings make it even worse.

When we want this treat at our house, I always make it fresh and vegetarian. It's really not that tough. In fact when I started making my own, I couldn't believe how easy it was and how much better I felt after having it as compared with a restaurant version.

I have a bunch of combinations that I've whipped up. I even make a homemade whole wheat blend dough. I'll be sure to post some of my other creations in the future. But for now, let me share with you how I make this delicious french bread tomato pizza. Check it out!

Ingredients:
1 store bought fresh french bread loaf
1 can tomato paste
1 cup water (more or less)
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3-4 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 package shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cut bread loaf on a diagonal into 1-inch thick pieces.


In a bowl, mix the tomato paste and water. Add the water little by little and stir completely before adding more water. Once you get to your desired consistency of pizza sauce, add the seasoning and garlic.


Next step is to assemble the pizzas on a baking sheet. Spread 1-2 tablespoons of sauce on each slice of bread. Top with cheese and tomato slices. Place in oven for 10-12 minutes until cheese is melted and bread is crusty.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

5 Tips to Rededicate and Motivate Yourself

A change in seasons can impact your fitness motivation.
Photo by Bartek Papiersk via Flickr
You've been eating well. Your exercise routine has been consistent -- for a long time even. You've also made a lot of progress toward reaching your fitness goals. Then it happens. All of a sudden your enthusiasm and motivation goes completely out the window.

Been here? We all have. And if you haven't, brace yourself because it's coming.

It can be a bit of a downer when you've been going so strong and then out of nowhere, your energy levels are zapped. You have no desire to workout and all you want to do is eat a bunch of stuff you know you shouldn't. Aye.

It happens.

Don't beat yourself too much up when you're faced with this predicament. You can only go for so long before you need to reset. Here are some strategies to help you refocus and get motivated again.

1. Take some time off. I recommend taking a week off every 8-12 weeks. You have to monitor yourself to see when the time is right. Taking a break allows your body to heal, gives you a mental break and gives you the opportunity to treat yourself to some foods you don't usually eat. If you schedule the time off versus just allowing yourself to mess up -- it will help prevent you from feeling guilty about not working out or indulging a little. If you know this time is coming, you can look forward to it and afterwards you'll be able to refocus on your fitness goals with new energy.

2. Sign up for 5k. There's something about having an event to train for that will kick you into gear like nothing else. Nobody wants to perform less than their best, so having a race to look forward to will help you get on track. And if you've done a 5k, challenge yourself with a tougher race -- a 10k, a half-marathon, a marathon or any kind of competitive race.

3. Change scenery. Changing where you workout can help make your workouts interesting again. If you  belong to a chain gym try a new location- or consider changing gyms altogether. If you usually workout in the morning, try working out in the evening -- the day crowd is always different from the night crowd. You can also try working out outdoors or try some new classes.

4. Do a fruit and vegetable cleanse. If you've fallen off the wagon and you can't quite get yourself back up, try a cleanse. I'm in favor of natural fruit and vegetable cleanses as opposed to cleanses you can buy in a box. For 1 to 3 days, eat a diet of all fresh fruits and vegetables for the entire day. This will help flush sugar and chemicals out of your system. Studies show that a diet in too much sugar and chemicals from processed foods, makes you crave that bad stuff even more -- making it extremely difficult to break the cycle. A cleanse will help give you a fresh start.

5. Set small attainable short-term goals. Looking at the months of months of hard work that may be necessary in order for you to reach your goals can be daunting. Keep in mind your long-term goals, but focus on smaller goals that are within reach in a small amount of time. For instance, if you have a hard time going all week and eating clean, make it a goal to eat clean for 2 days then take a day off -- and repeat. Or set a goal for the number of workouts you want to get in for the month. Tackling these smaller goals will strengthen your dedication to seeing that your long-term goals are achieved.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mixed Berries Protein Milkshake


Lately, I've been on sort of a kick, experimenting with different ingredients to make tasty protein shakes. The most common complaint that I hear from clients is that protein shakes taste gross. Granted, some powders aren't that great and you have to endure a little trial and error to find a brand that you like.

However, with a little creativity, you can make a protein shake that tastes just like a dessert. Win win!

This shake comes out tasting just like a fruity, delicious milkshake. The recipe is pretty basic, but the addition of açai makes it unique. If you're unfamiliar, açai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) berries come from açai palm trees that are native to Central and South America. These little berries are high in antioxidants (more than pomegranates and blueberries), omega fatty acids and fiber. They even have protein. You can find them at natural food stores or Whole Foods.

If you're looking for a spin to your usual shake, check this out.


Ingredients:
1 cup almond milk*
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 açai frozen smoothie packet
3/4 cup frozen mixed berries

Directions: Place all ingredients into blender. Blend for 30-60 seconds until all the fruit is smooth, but not long enough to where the heat from the blender starts to melt the frozen berries.

*For post-workout almond milk based shakes, I typically opt for a sweetened variety of almond milk because we actually do need to replace our glycogen (sugar) stores after a workout. This is the only time I recommend having sweetened almond milk. If you're having a protein smoothie during the day for a snack or meal (and not after a workout), then I would advise the plain, unsweetened variety of almond milk.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Cacao Protein Pudding


If you're looking for a new way to add a little more protein into your diet, this is just for you. Sometimes protein shakes can get boring. And there's only so much boneless, skinless chicken breast one can stand.

Here's your solution -- a little bit of almond milk, protein powder, chia seeds, some cacao powder, and you're all set.

A little bit about some of the ingredients:

Almond milk is my non-dairy milk choice -- you can use whichever you like. I try to avoid as much dairy as possible because it can be difficult to digest and, I can really do without the fat it contains.

Chia seeds are a great source of protein, calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, antioxidants and fiber. The thing that is really cool about chia seeds is that they are gelatinous. They are the secret ingredient that makes this pudding, well ... pudding. When the seeds come in contact with liquid they expand and become gel-like.

Cacao is different from cocoa, in that, it is less processed and has a high concentration of antioxidants. It also contains protein, fiber, essential fats and minerals. If you're going for a chocolate flavor, might as well get the added nutritional benefits, right?

Here's the recipe:

1 cup almond milk*
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 tablespoon cacao powder
3 tablespoons chia seeds

Directions: add all ingredients into a blender and pulse on a low speed for a few seconds. -- just long enough to break up the cacao powder. Transfer mixture to a bowl. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator overnight. The longer it sets, the more the mixture becomes like a pudding.

*For this recipe, I would suggest using original almond milk versus unsweetened almond milk. The cacao powder is a little bitter and the small amount of sugar in the original almond milk will help balance that out.

Enjoy!

Monday, October 8, 2012

#TOFC Week 1 Challenge Recap

Kicked off the challenge by running hills at the park. 
It may be fall, but it still looks like summer here in Arizona. 
The first week of the challenge went well for me. It was tough at times. For instance, giving up cheese is always difficult for me because I love it. I think we all have that one thing that we could eat entirely too much of in one sitting and be perfectly fine with it -- for me, it's cheese.

But in all, the week was fine. The best part was that my weight and bodyfat decreased! My overall goal of the challenge is to reduce my bodyfat by 2 percent. I tend to maintain around 20%, but I like to push myself to get to 18% when I hover at 20% for too long.

After competing in figure shows and having to lean out to 12-14% bodyfat (which is hardly sustainable for anybody), I've found that 18% bodyfat represents the perfect mix of lean and curves that is right for me.


I experimented a lot with food this week. In my attempt to drastically cut out any processed foods, for the first time I tried making homemade bread and almond butter. They both came out pretty good, though I know what I'll tweak the next time around to make it just right. Even Hubby was happy with the meals -- he's my taste barometer. He can be really picky, so if he likes it, then it must be good. 

Below, I noted in blue how I did with all the rules.
  • Exercise EVERY DAY  
    • Do an accumulation of 210 minutes of cardio each week I made it! On Sunday, however I had to pull a two-a-day to complete this -- one morning workout and an evening workout. 
    • Weight train 4 times each week I ended up weight training heavy 3 times this week. I would've done the 4th on Sunday, but I had to make up my missed cardio sessions that day. Next week, 4 days for sure!
  • Do a new type of exercise or class every week that you don't usually do (i.e. pull-ups, hiking, yoga, planks, Zumba, kickboxing, spinning, etc.) I ran hills which I don't do regularly and I added pull-ups into the mix. 
  • Every Sunday, write out your meal plan and workout schedule for the upcoming week. I did write out my meals and workout plan for the week. It helps tons!
  • Eat 5-6 times each day, every 2-3 hours. I did.
  • Never skip breakfast. I love breakfast time, I never skip.
  • Drink a minimum of 64 oz of water each day. I did, and some days more than 64 oz.
  • Reduce starchy carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, pasta, bread, etc.) I limited my starchy carb servings to 1-2 each day.
  • Allow yourself ONE cheat meal each week. Oh yes, nachos! I missed my cheese!
  • Reduce dairy intake in half or have none at all. No dairy.
  • Eat a minimum of 2 pieces of fruit each day. Most days more than 2 pieces.
  • Avoid as many processed foods as possible. None except for my protein powder/juice shakes. But I did make my own bread to avoid store-bought bread!  
  • No alcohol (you can have one serving at your cheat meal each week). None except with my cheat meal which was 6 ounces of beer. 
Check out my typical daily diet and my workout plan for the week below. 






For those of you doing the challenge, I hope your week went well too. And if you want to start this challenge, it's not too late to jump in. We have the rest of October.

Week 1 was productive. Now onto week 2. I've got my workout schedule and meals planned. I hope you do as well. Have a great week!





Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Healthy Snack: Sticks and Dip


When you're trying to think of a healthy snack, I'm sure carrot and celery sticks are one of the first things that pops into mind. While those are good choices, you don't have to stop there. Make it a little more interesting than that.

Branch out a little. Any raw veggie is a good snack -- well, most are. I don't know if you want to eat raw potatoes.

I put together a variety of sticks: cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, and of course, the beloved carrot. I also whipped up a quick and easy vegan avocado dip to go along with it -- because let's be honest, eating veggies alone can be a somewhat ... "blah."

If you're looking for healthy options to have between meals, give this a try.

Check it out.

Ingredients:
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 carrot
1 cucumber

Dip:
1 ripe avocado
1 tablespoon plain coconut milk yogurt
1/2 teaspoon dried dill
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 lemon, juiced

Cut the peppers, carrot and cucumber into sticks in the size of your liking. For the dip, scoop out the avocado and add to a food processor. Add the yogurt, dill, salt and lemon juice. Pulse until it forms a smooth consistency.

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tiff's October Fitness Challenge


If you're like me, you like a little challenge here and there. You know, to test yourself, and make sure you can buckle down and take care of business.

Maybe you didn't reach your goals for the summer and want to start now for next summer? Perhaps you want to get out ahead of the holiday feasting? Or maybe you just want a good 'ol challenge? Whatever your reason, I'm glad you want to take control of your fitness.

The entire month of October will be all about focusing on achieving a goal specific to you. Think of a goal you want to reach, and post it somewhere you'll see it frequently -- maybe your bathroom mirror? This will be a constant reminder of why you're doing this when times get rough -- and they will. Just hang in there and focus! It's only 31 days. C'mon, you can do anything for a mere 31 days, right?

Here are the rules.
  • Exercise EVERY DAY 
    • Do an accumulation of 210 minutes of cardio each week 
    • Weight train 4 times each week
  • Do a new type of exercise or class every week that you don't usually do (i.e. pull-ups, hiking, yoga, planks, Zumba, kickboxing, spinning, etc.)
  • Every Sunday, write out your meal plan and workout schedule for the upcoming week.
  • Eat 5-6 times each day, every 2-3 hours.
  • Never skip breakfast.
  • Drink a minimum of 64 oz of water each day.
  • Reduce starchy carbohydrates (rice, potatoes, pasta, bread, etc.)
  • Allow yourself ONE cheat meal each week.
  • Reduce dairy intake in half or have none at all.
  • Eat a minimum of 2 pieces of fruit each day.
  • Avoid as many processed foods as possible (see below)
  • No alcohol (you can have one serving at your cheat meal each week).
Recently, I came across the blog Eating Rules and for the month of October, people are pledging to go the entire month without processed foods. Seems fairly easy, right? Well, click on the badge below to find out more information --  it might be a little tougher than you think. 

Just about everything in a package is processed. And of course, some processed things are less horrendous than others. But I like this idea, and I think you should consider taking the pledge as part of this challenge. It'll pretty much eliminate any bad food choices and will help you stay on track to eating a clean and healthy diet.  

October Unprocessed 2012

In addition to the above rules, every day there will be a mini fitness challenge. Below is the list of the 31 challenges for each day of October.

Each number corresponds to the day of the month that you are to the challenge.
There you have it! Are you game? Can you handle it? I'm ready! I'll be doing the challenge with you. I encourage you to write out or print out the rules to the challenge and post it to your fridge. You may also want to bookmark this page for a quick reference. 

Follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page as I will post the daily challenges there. I will also post meal ideas and what some of my workouts look like. On Twitter, I'll be using the hashtag #TOFC, for Tiff's October Fitness Challenge, search for it!

Ready? BREAK! 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Tasty Cake: Sweet Potato Pancakes


The other day, the family was in for a treat when I made sweet potato pancakes. Not to toot my own horn, but I'm pretty awesome at making pancakes (toot toot!). I think the change in seasons from summer to fall made me want a sweet potato variety. So, I broke down and made some and they were delicious -- if I might say so myself!

These pancakes are better than what you may get from a restaurant and far better than any box mix because they are made from scratch and include low glycemic index ingredients such as sweet potatoes and whole wheat flour that will help reduce a drastic spike in blood glucose levels.

But make no mistake, these are definitely a treat. I wouldn't recommend eating pancakes every day. Pancakes are actually one of my cheat meals. As you start to eat cleaner, the foods you choose to indulge in will also get cleaner. Back in the day, I used to allow myself some fast food as a cheat. But today, the thought of eating fast food makes my stomach turn.

So, the next time you want to treat yourself with a fantastically delicious pancake, you must try these! Check it out.

Ingredients:

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
4 tablespoons sugar
2 dashes of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon brown sugar
2 eggs
6 tablespoons oil
2 cups milk
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup cooked and mashed sweet potatoes

Makes 8-10 pancakes.

Directions: Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl: flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, cinnamon and salt. Whisk together well. Then add eggs, brown sugar, oil and the 2 cups of milk to the dry ingredients, mix well. The batter should be slightly thick and smooth.

In a food processor, add the sweet potatoes and 1/4 cup of milk and pulse until smooth. Add to batter. Mix well.

THE SECRET TO PERFECTLY GOLDEN SKILLET PANCAKES

Heat a nonstick skillet to medium to slightly medium high. Every stove top is different, so you'll  have to play around to find the setting to get perfectly golden pancakes. It took a lot of trial and error in my pancake making experiences to finally get an evenly light gold colored pancake as opposed to a blotchy brown and cream colored pancake.

Having the right stove top temperature is key. You'll also want to let the pan sit on the burner for 5-10 minutes so the whole entire pan is heated evenly. Use an undamaged nonstick skillet, and no oil is necessary. If you're skillet is less than pristine*, put a teaspoon of oil or nonstick spray in the pan and spread it around with a paper towel until you barely even see it anymore. You definitely don't want any pools of oil anywhere. (You'll only need to do this oiling process for the first pancake and that's it.) I always do a tiny test pancake to make sure they come out right, before I start. Also, I find that pouring the batter from my spouted measuring cup pours the mixture well.

Pour enough batter for one pancake only. This will prevent overcrowding and ensure even cooking. Wait for the pancake to be full of tiny little bubbles/holes (2-3 minutes), then with a spatula, pull up the edge of the pancake to make sure it looks ready to flip. When it's golden, flip it. Let it cook for 30 more seconds, then move it to a plate. Repeat process until you have all the cakes you want. The batter will keep in the fridge for a day or two.

Enjoy!

* If you have a damaged nonstick skillet, you should replace it as soon as you can. Toxic particles from the pan can get into the food and that should avoided. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

How to Eat Clean While Traveling


My strategy for eating clean while traveling is to take a food kit with you. Yes, that's right, BYOF (bring your own food)!

It's easier to stick to a healthy lifestyle when you're at home. But occasionally you might need to travel and having a plan to avoid diet pitfalls will help you tremendously. 

When I travel, as soon as I get into town, I hit the nearest grocery store. I'll stock up on fruit, veggies, easy to eat snacks and meals. Since a lot of hotels don't have refrigerators, I buy one of those disposable styrofoam coolers, fill it up with ice from the hotel ice machine, and store all of my food that I want to stay cold. 

Now, I know most people aren't going to go through all that. Your next best bet, is to take along a food kit filled with foods that don't need refrigeration.

Here are my food kit suggestions:



Many items you can buy in packages that make it convenient for travel, i.e., vacuumed packed tuna pouches, almond butter packets, individual almond packets, raisins and oatmeal. 

For items that don't come in neat little packages, make your own. I made my own packages for the pistachios and protein powder (which were portioned off as one serving per bag). 

To save space, I put some seasoning for the tuna in a bag instead of taking the bottle. Also, I took the crackers out of their box, opened the bag to release some air so I could stuff it inside my bowl to prevent them from getting crushed while traveling. 



Bringing your own bowl and silverware is convenient so you don't have to bother room service to bring you anything. It's also a good idea to bring a little soap and a sponge to clean your bowl and utensils. 

If you're flying with only a carry-on and are worried about getting your silverware through security, just bring plastic silverware instead. Also, in the case of flying with just a carry-on, you might want to skip storing your food in a plastic container. To save luggage space, place the items wherever they can fit in your bag. 

Meal options:

BREAKFAST: 
  • Fruit
  • Oatmeal with raisins. (You can use the hotel coffee pot for hot water to make your oatmeal.)

SNACKS:
  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Orange
  • Crackers with almond butter
  • Protein shake (Mix with water. Or if you want to get almond milk or juice, mix with either of those.)

BEVERAGES:
  • Tea (Most hotels have coffee and tea, but sometimes we just want what we like, so bring your own.)

LUNCH/DINNER:
  • Lemon pepper tuna (If you're not up for eating it plain, ask room service to bring you some lettuce and make a wrap out of it or add it to a salad.)

There you go! A food kit that will help you stay on track while you're away from home. If you wanted to, you could eat only from your food kit while you're traveling (just be sure to load up on veggies once you return home).

But with most travel, there will be social gatherings. With that being the case, try to eat items from your food kit (keep them handy in your purse or bag) until you find yourself at a luncheon or dinner. 

At that point, don't go crazy and eat food that will undo all of your good efforts. My number one dining out food option would be to order a large mixed greens salad, topped with grilled chicken and a vinaigrette dressing. 

Additional travel tips:
  • Make sure you don't skip meals. Eat every 2-3 hours to avoid insulin spikes. Have one of your travel snacks to keep your blood glucose levels stable. 
  • When dining out, avoid starchy carbs (bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, etc.) as much as you can because restaurant portions are always too large. Instead opt for and load up on non-starchy carbs (green vegetables).
  • Before heading out to a restaurant, look at the menu online. Pick out your healthy meal choice before even getting to the restaurant. This will help you avoid impulsive bad food choices. 
  • If you're visiting friends or family, let them know that you're watching what you eat. This way, if they were thinking of making a pie for you or taking you out for ice-cream, they can think of other things to do for you. 
  • Limit your alcohol. My number one choice would be to have a single glass of red wine. Avoid sugary mixed drinks like margaritas, pina coladas, daiquiris, etc. 

Happy travels! 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Exercise Demo: Medicine Ball V-up


Here is a challenging move to incorporate into your ab routine, the medicine ball v-up. Just grab any sized ball that you think is challenging (I used a 4 lb ball here).

When performing the exercise, make sure your abdominals stay contracted throughout the entire move. Once you reach the top of the movement (when toes and feet come together), squeeze your core muscles by trying to pull your belly button down toward the floor.

Start off doing 10 reps and then build from there. If you can ultimately get to 3 sets of 20 reps with proper form, you'll be well on your way to having a rock solid core.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Add Some Flare to Your Eggs


Sometimes we can get into a meal rut. Today, I felt like changing up my normal boiled egg breakfast option. With just a couple extras added, I gave an otherwise boring egg some flare.

Breakfast today was delicious! And I think the fact that my two-year-old twins gobbled it up, pretty much proves it.

A recipe isn't really required. Just fry an egg, add some sliced tomatoes, avocado and a dash of dried dill. There you have it.

However, I will share my tip for cutting down on oil for frying an egg. Melt on medium heat a tiny amount of oil of your choice into a small frying pan -- just enough to barely cover the bottom. Crack the egg into the pan, then after it sets slightly after a few seconds, add about 1/4 cup of water to the pan. Cover with a lid, then let the egg cook for a few minutes to your liking.

This method cuts down on the amount of oil you need to use because the egg cooks in the water so lots of extra oil isn't necessary to prevent sticking. A bonus is that you don't have to worry about any burned edges to your egg that can happen with a traditional fry.

If you're looking for a change to your breakfast routine, give this a try!

Enjoy!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Workout: 500 Reps Total Body Circuit


Are you ready for a challenge?

This workout consists of 10 exercises that you do for 50 reps for each. Perform the warm-up which adds on 150 reps to the workout, then do each of the exercises as quickly as you can while maintaining proper form.

Since this is a circuit, try not to rest too much between exercises -- aim for no more than 30 seconds. Now, because this routine is a bit tough, you might have to take small breaks in order to complete all 50 reps of each move -- that's fine.

Clock how long it takes you to get through the workout and use that as your starting point. Each time you do this routine, try to get through it in less time.

Warm-up 
Jumping jacks
Jumping rope
Alternating lunges with arm extension

Workout
Front squats with overhead press
Push-ups with rotation
Tire flips
Stiff-legged deadlifts with hammer curls
Bentover rows
Overhead tricep extensions
Stability ball knee tucks
Ab circles
Side leg lifts
Russian twists

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Are Rice Cakes a Healthy Snack?

Photo by Mary Thompson via Flickr
Rice cakes seem like a healthy food choice. They are low in calories, fat and they're made from rice. Seems like a great option, especially if you get the plain brown rice variety, right?

Wrong.

I'm not a fan of rice cakes. Rice cakes are a high glycemic index food.

During processing, the fiber that was once in the rice is stripped down. Fiber is what we need to keep our blood glucose levels stable when consuming carbohydrates. Many rice cake brands have absolutely zero fiber and other brands have a tiny amount. But that tiny amount usually comes with twice as many carbohydrates.

You may be thinking, "So. I'm not afraid of some extra carbs."

We have to be careful of our consumption of starchy carbohydrates while trying to lose weight. And these refined processed carbs are not what you want to eat. You would basically be eating sugar. And sugar makes blood glucose levels skyrocket.

When these levels are spiked, the body is more prone to store fat. Eating a rice cake is not like eating rice. If you eat rice, your blood glucose levels do not increase as sharply as they do when you eat a rice cake.

Additionally, rice cakes are not filling at all. You may intend to eat only one, but will probably end up eating several, just to feel full.

Let's not even talk about the flavored varieties of rice cakes: butter, caramel, chocolate, cheddar, etc. I'll just say this -- all of that added sugar and those artificial ingredients are not good for our health or weight loss.

If you're looking for a healthy snack, opt for high fiber foods such as sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, pecans, apples, pears, oranges or strawberries -- to randomly name a few.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Exercise Demo for Upper Body and Core Strength


Try this variation of the standard push-up in your next workout. This move targets the chest muscles, like the standard version, but it is also is great for your core, shoulders and arms. As you rotate from side to side, your abdominal muscles are engaged. Alternating the arms engages the shoulders and triceps in a different way.

Set goals by fitness level:
Beginner: 5-10 reps*
Intermediate: 10-20 reps
Advanced: 20-30 reps

*Rotate to each side to equal one rep.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

5 Tips on How to Avoid the Office Junk Food

Does this photo remind you of your office?
Photo by Ben Sutherland on Flickr
It seems to be everywhere. In the kitchen. On your neighbor's desk. Just an arm's length away from where you sit. In a little dish setting out as you walk from one end of the office to the other. Let's face it, office junk food is ubiquitous -- and that isn't going to change.

There will always be a birthday. There will always be a time that the boss wants to buy lunch for the office. There will always be that one co-worker who loves to bake her famous brownies to share with everybody. There will always be that one person who keeps a candy dish filled to the brim at all times. And let's not forget the occasional office meal collaboration  -- there will always be a pot luck.

Sounds a little defeating, I know. But the good news is you don't have to give into the temptation. Follow these tips below and become a master at avoiding the office junk.

1. Reduce sugar intake in general. Believe it or not, sugar is like a drug. Research has shown that it is as addictive as cocaine. The more sugar you eat, the more you'll crave it throughout the day. Cut down on your overall sugar intake and it'll be easier to avoid sugary temptations as they come up.

2. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Sometimes you may just be hungry and if that's the case you can about bet that you will have zero will power for avoiding treats. For starters, make sure you aren't skipping any meals. Then try adding an additional piece of fruit or serving of vegetables to every meal. The fiber will help you feel full and satisfied for longer periods of time.

3. Come prepared for battle. Every day that you go to work, assume there will be some delicious treat waiting on you, to test your skills of resistance. If you're prepared ahead of time, you have time to get your mind right to deal with temptations. Being caught off guard will almost always result in you giving in.   You might even do well all day avoiding the munchies, and find yourself at the end of the day sneaking a piece of chocolate from the candy dish. Tell yourself, "no," before setting foot in the office. This way, when you do see the goodies, it's easier to resist.

4. Have a healthy snack food stash at your desk. If you have other options available to you, you're less likely to find yourself eating unhealthy food. Keep some nuts, and easy to store fruit, like apples, at your desk. When you find yourself feeling weak, have one of your healthy snacks. Sure, it may not taste like a donut, but you'll feel full and any craving you might have had will be reduced.

5. Get comfortable with saying, no thank-you. One of the hardest things to do is to stare at a plate of freshly made brownies being offered to your face by a co-worker, and say, "no." Not only do you feel rude, but look at those brownies, how do you resist that? When this happens, keep your goals in mind and keep them a priority. Ask yourself, "Is this worth it? Is this brownie worth me putting my goals aside?" It's not worth it. Just politely decline and say, "no thank-you." It may take some adjusting, but over time it will get easier.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Healthy Snack: Gourmet Guacamole


Last weekend, a friend of mine and I went out to dinner for her birthday. We went to Barrio Queen in Scottsdale, AZ which is known for its small authentic gourmet tacos. The tacos were great, but what I really loved was their guacamole. It was fantastic!

Our server brought a cart filled with little boxes containing all types of ingredients from tomatoes to serrano chili peppers to our table. Then she created a fresh and delicious bowl of guacamole right in front of us. I remember thinking, "This isn't your average guacamole." The fact that it had cubed pieces of avocado and dried cranberries in it, really stood out. 

It didn't take long -- a couple bites, when I decided that I would make my own version of it at home. I love going to restaurants and finding something I really like and being inspired to make my own version.

The main difference in my version is the tortilla chips. The restaurant used yellow corn tortillas. In my version, I use organic blue corn tortilla chips. The starch content in blue corn is lower than that of yellow corn chips, which results in less of a blood sugar spike. Keeping your blood glucose levels as even as possible helps prevent weight gain. And I prefer organic corn because most corn products that are not labeled organic, are made from corn than has been genetically modified (GMOs), which I try to avoid when possible. 


Here is the recipe. Check it out! 

Ingredients:
2 ripe avocados
1 Roma tomato
2 tablespoons finely diced red onion
1/2 lime, juiced
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
3-4 shakes sea salt
3-4 shakes hot sauce*
Organic blue corn tortilla chips

Open the avocados and slice lengthwise and crosswise so that when you spoon it out, it comes out in small cubes. Add the tomatoes, onion, cranberries and salt. Mix well. Lastly add lime juice and hot sauce and toss lightly. Serve with tortilla chips. 

The guacamole makes about 4 servings. 

*Instead of hot sauce, you can use any type of fresh pepper. I didn't have any on hand when I put this together, so I used hot sauce instead. 

Enjoy! 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Today's Workout: Saturday, July 21



I had a great workout today, so I thought I'd share. I've recently changed my workout split from select body parts each day to total body workouts. I always encourage changing your workout routine entirely, at least every 4-6 weeks. Otherwise, your body adjusts to the work load and it will no longer be challenging, which slows results. 


Here's what I did today:


20 min cardio: speed intervals on the StairMaster
Pull-ups
*one minute sprint on treadmill*
One arm dumbbell rows
*one minute sprint on treadmill*
Bench knee-ups (abs)
*one minute sprint on treadmill*
Straight-legged deadlifts
*one minute sprint on treadmill*
Front squats with overhead press
*one minute sprint on treadmill*
Step-ups with dumbbell curl
*one minute sprint on treadmill*
Swiss ball crunches
*one minute sprint on treadmill*
One-legged elevated lunges
*one minute sprint on treadmill*
Roman chair knee-ups (abs)

Then I followed up with total body stretching and a little yoga.


When I got home I made a pina colada protein shake inspired by a recipe I saw in the August 2012 Oxygen Magazine. I used almond milk, fresh pineapple, shredded coconut, vanilla protein powder and ice.


Have a great weekend!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Salad Prep Made Easy



Salads are one of the healthiest meals you can have. If you've been following me, you've probably seen me mention that I love them, a time or two -- or gazillion. It's true, I'm a huge fan of a bowl of greens loaded with veggies. But putting together a worthwhile mix takes time. And if you're short on time, like I often am, freshly making a salad, just doesn't always fit into the schedule. 

Each week I plan my meals ahead of time. If I have salad on the menu more than once, I find that prepping all the ingredients in advance helps save time and frustration. When I don't have everything prepped, the mere thought of freshly chopping lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, cabbage, etc., is enough to make me second guess my meal choice.

I put together a photo tutorial of how easy it is to prep all of your ingredients. Check it out.


And ...


There are a couple of things I'd like to mention. One, if you don't have a salad spinner, I strongly encourage you to buy one. They make all the difference when storing lettuce in a plastic zip lock bag. If there's too much water inside the bag, the lettuce will go bad very quickly. The salad spinner knocks off all the excess water -- and I mean, all. I'm still amazed my how much water comes of lettuce that looks fairly dry to me.

The second thing I'd like to mention, is you should buy a large plastic storage container if you don't have one already. I find that storing all the ingredients in one container is so much easier. In the past, I have used two or three containers because I didn't have just one large sized one, and almost always, I'd forget about one of those containers and end up skipping some ingredients.

If you like salads or are looking to incorporate more salads into your diet, take my advice and prep in advance. It make take a little time to chop everything, but you'll only have to do in once. As soon as everything is placed inside the storage container, you pop it in the fridge and you're done. Now, anytime you want a salad, all you have to do is get a bowl and put it together.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

4 Ab Exercise Mix-ins

It's easy to get into a rut with your ab routine. We end up going on autopilot and doing the same exercises over and over. If your goal is to get 6-pack abs, you have to mix things up. Our bodies adapt to the exercises that we do often, making those exercises less challenging. And when our bodies are no longer challenged, results no longer happen.

Check out these 4 ab exercises. There may be a couple new ones you haven't done before or haven't done in a long time and will be good to mix into your current ab routine. To keep seeing results with your workouts, it's important to keep your body guessing by changing things up.

Do 2-3 sets of 10-20 reps depending on your fitness level. If you can only do a few to start, that's fine. Be sure to hold your abs in tight during all abdominal exercises.

SLIDING KNEE TUCKS: These are great because they are definitely challenging, hitting the entire core area. You'll want to get a couple old towels and do this move on a tile or wood surface. You can also do this exercise on carpet if you have gliding discs.

SINGLE LEG KNEE TUCKS: Similar to the sliding knee tucks, the single leg version is the modified version, but still very effective, hitting the entire core are.

SINGLE LEG CROSSOVER KNEE TUCKS: The primary muscles targeted in this exercise are the obliques. The secondary muscles targeted are the rectus abdominis.

WALKING PLANKS: This move is a variation on the standard plank. Walking your arms up and down forces you to continually contract your abs in a different way than in the standard holding plank position. This move targets the entire core area.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Benefits of Spirulina

Photo by aria9 on Flickr
If you're looking for a food source that's a little bit off the radar and dense in all kinds of nutrients and health benefits, then consider spirulina. Spirulina is a blue-green algae that grows in warm, fresh water lakes but also is found in saltwater and natural springs. It's what gives the water that dark green color. Once it's harvested and dried, it's  then turned into forms of powder, flakes, tablets or capsules.

Here are some of its benefits:
  • It has 60-70% complete protein. It has all 8 essential amino acids and all 10 non-essential amino acids.
  • Rich in omega fatty acids.
  • Is rich in chlorophyll which is a blood cleanser. 
  • Easy to digest, protects the immune system, reduces cholesterol and aids in mineral absorption.
  • Helps maintain a healthy weight.
  • Reduces risk of developing degenerative diseases.
  • Has been shown to help correct degenerative disease.
  • Is rich in vitamin B12 which helps the metabolism of every cell and benefits nerve tissue. It is also contains other B vitamins as well.
  • Has protection against influenza, herpes and HIV.
  • Has high amount of beta carotene which is converted to vitamin A. Vitamin A is beneficial for immune system, eyes, skin and mucus tissue.
  • Its antimicrobial properties helps fight of harmful bacteria and yeast in the body.
  • Help protect body against allergic reactions. 
  • Helps increase energy and vitality. 
Though spirulina is a good source of complete protein, it should be noted that you would need to consume very high quantities of it to yield any substantial amount of dietary protein. It should also be noted that spirulina should be purchased from reputable brands to avoid any toxic contaminants. 

That said, I think adding a little spirulina to smoothies or juices is a great way to get an added boost of beneficial nutrients into the body. I should mention that it doesn't smell or taste good, so don't be surprised if you take a whiff of it and your nose is offended. This is why adding it to a blend of fruit and/or vegetables is wise. I like using the powder form. In addition to using it in smoothies, you may also want to sprinkle a little throughout a salad -- the dressing and other ingredients will help mask the flavor. You can find spirulina in all its forms at health food stores. 

Resources:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

10 Day Slim-Down Results

After making a commitment to myself to follow my 10 Days, 10 Rules Slim-Down, I got the results I was looking for.

In just 10 short days, I dropped 4 pounds and reduced my bodyfat percentage by 2.2%.

I was especially happy to get my bodyfat back under 20%. I use that number to gauge when things are getting out of control -- we all have some sort of tool to gauge this. For most, it's the number on the scale, for me it's my bodyfat percentage.

Chart from American Council on Exercise
I can always tell when my diet has been slipping, when I start to look a little softer than I'd like. Yes. Even I slip on my diet at times. And when this happens, it's time to be tough on myself!

The fix? My 10 Days, 10 Rules Slim-Down. It was difficult to limit my starchy carbohydrates to one serving per day and eliminating my after dinner glass of red wine. And dairy. Yes, saying goodbye to my beloved cheeses for 10 days was a little tough. But after the first couple of days, my body adjusted and everything went smoothly.

I almost had a major slip-up -- or so I thought. Saturday was the night of the Pacquaio vs. Bradley fight. The family and I went to a fight party to watch it. As you know, with any party, you fully expect all sorts of indulgences to be there. I brought a salad filled with tons of veggies and the host provided healthy options for dinner, which was nice. I did take two sips of a martini, felt guilty about it then gave the rest to Hubby. Whew.

Otherwise, I stayed true to the rules (with the exception of a couple graham crackers and spoonfuls of red beans and rice) and exercised every day. My normal workout routine is 4 days per week. That's a good maintenance routine for me, but when I'm trying to make some changes in my body, I know I have to step it up. And I did. And it worked!

I kept a log of all my meals over the 10 days. Check it out below. Now that the 10 days are over, what's next? Well, I of course will follow a clean diet and watch my starchy carbohydrate intake -- that's what does it for me. Too much bread (whole wheat even) or pasta (whole wheat even) will make the pounds creep up. I'll go back to my 4 days per week workout routine and limit my red wine indulgence to one glass per week. And that ought to put me in a good maintenance routine.

If you were following along with the Slimdown, I hope you got the results you were looking for. If not, consider using my meal plans and exercise routine as a guideline and give it another try.

Day 1 Mon
8:30 green smoothie, 1 banana, 1 cup grapes, 1/2 cup cherries
1:00 1 cup bulger wheat veggie salad, medium mixed greens salad with homemade vinaigrette
4:30 medium greens salad
6:30 medium bowl of cooked greens
8:30 slow cooked chicken breast, 2 cups broccoli
11:30 cup grapes (oops, late night munchies)

2 liters water. Workout (at home): jumping jacks, push-ups, rear delt raisies, abs circuit

Day 2 Tue
8:30 cherries, banana, pear
12:00 protein shake
3:00 vegetarian chili and salad
6:00 large salad
8:30 chicken breast and peas

2 liters water. Workout (at gym): 20 min cardio, back, chest

Day 3 Wed
7:45 apple, pear, hot water with lemon
9:45 oatmeal with cinnamon, stevia and almond milk
12:00 strawberry protein shake
3:30 large salad with nutritional yeast sprinkled, 1 boiled egg, 12 almonds
7:00 2 baked chicken wings, 1 cup peas, coffee

2 liters water. Workout (at home): abs

Day 4 Thur
9:00 green smoothie, apple
1:30 protein shake, homemade light veggie fried rice
6:00 1 boiled egg, apple
8:30 salad with nutritional yeast, handful pistachios

2 liters water. Workout (at gym): 20 min cardio, shoulders, biceps, triceps

Day 5 Fri
7:45 green smoothie
9:45 apple
11:45 protein shake
1:30 1.5 bananas, handful of almonds
4:30 can of tuna, 10 seed crackers
8:30 tilapia, 1.5 cups peas
10:30 graham cracker (oops)

2 liters water. Workout (outside): played basketball with the family and ran hills

Day 6 Sat (fight party)
9:00 coffee, banana, grapes
1:30 protein shake
2:00 chicken salad over spinach
5:00 2 graham crackers
8:30 1/2 lumpia, 1 chicken leg, 1 cup broccoli, salad, 2 sips martini, 3 spoonfuls mango and graham cracker dessert

2 liters water. Workout (at gym): 20 min cardio, legs

Day 7 Sun
7:30 banana
10:30 banana
1:30 chicken salad sandwich on whole wheat, salad
5:30 1/2 banana
7:15 3 spoonfuls red beans and rice (oops)
7:45 orange roughy, salad and bowl of cooked greens

2 liters water. Workout: Bikram yoga session

Day 8 Mon
9:30 banana, apple
1:30 veggie sandwich on whole wheat, large salad
4:30 orange, banana
8:30 pork chop, cooked greens

2 liters water. Workout (at home): abs

Day 9 Tue
9:00 2 cups grapes, banana
12:00 protein shake
4:00 1.5 cup basil, tomato pesto pasta
7:00 1/2 protein shake
8:30 pork chop, salad

2 liters water. Workout (at gym): 30 min cardio, back, chest, abs

Day 10 Wed
8:30 1 cup pineapple, banana
11:00 banana
12:00 1/2 cup oatmeal
2:00 pineapple, banana
4:00 1/2 can tuna, 10 seed crackers
7:30 baked chicken thigh, 1 cup peas

2 liters water. Workout (at home): abs

Sunday, June 3, 2012

10 Days, 10 Rules Slim-Down

Every now and then, even I, need to get tough on myself. My maintenance diet with an indulgence here and there has involved a few more indulgences than I intended. So, I've decided to get strict on myself for ten days.

To start a program, sometimes it's helpful to get into it and be very specific as to what you're eating and what you're doing for exercise.

Below, are the ten rules I'll be following for the next ten days from Monday, June 4 through Wednesday, June 14. If you're looking to start a program or fine tune your diet and exercise plan, join along with me! Are you up for the challenge?

Follow me on Twitter @trainertiff for my meal updates, workouts and overall progress. Let me know how you're doing as well. At the end of the ten days, I'll put up a post on how things went along with my food logs.

This starts tomorrow, June 4. Good luck!

RULES
1.  Eat a small meal every 3-4 hours which will be about 5-6 small meals each day.
2.  No processed food.
3.  No dairy.
4.  No added sugar.
5.  Drink a minimum of 2 liters of water each day.
6.  No dining out.
7.  Exercise every day.
8.  Limit starchy carbs -- one serving each day and none in the evening.
9.  Get minimum protein requirements each day.
10. No alcohol.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mediterranean Quinoa Pasta Salad



Eating pasta while trying to watch your weight can be challenging. Oftentimes, when we eat pasta, the portions we put on our plates are double a serving size -- or more. One serving of pasta is one cup -- or about what you can fit inside the palm of your hand. That said, pasta is still delicious and can be eaten as long as you don't overeat.

I created this recipe one day when I had a taste for pasta with a flare -- I put a Mediterranean spin on it. A bonus to this recipe is that it's gluten free because it's made with quinoa pasta. Check it out.


Ingredients:
1 8 oz box tri-colored quinoa veggie curls
1 small can sliced black olives
1/4 cup feta cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan reggiano cheese
1/2 cucumber, diced
1 Roma tomato, diced
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
black pepper to taste

Dressing:
3/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt

Directions: Cook pasta according to package and be sure not to overcook. Once pasta is done, drain and rinse with cold water.


You'll want to make sure that the pasta is completely cooled so that when it's combined with the cheese, the cheese does not melt. Then, in a large bowl combine the pasta with the olives, cheeses, cucumber, tomato, and parsley. Mix well.




Place all the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until emulsified (about 20-30 seconds). Then pour dressing over pasta mixture and mix well. Sprinkle with pepper to taste. I'd recommend allowing pasta to chill in refrigerator for at least 1 hour before serving.


Enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Vegan Strawberry Protein "Milkshake"


Having a protein shake immediately after a strength training workout is the best way to help your body build muscle. Some protein shakes can be really boring and gross. Why not have a little fun and make these shakes a little more interesting, right?

I play around with different recipes for protein shakes, protein bars and protein muffins -- to keep things healthy, but also tasty. My latest creation is is a modified strawberry milkshake made with almond milk, strawberries and protein powder -- and it tastes just like a milkshake! But it doesn't have all the high calories, fat and dairy. Different brands of milk and protein powder can effect the calories in the shake. But if you use the ingredients listed below, it's only 150 calories and has 16 grams of protein. Check it out.

Ingredients:
4 frozen cubes of Silk Pure Almond unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1/2 cup Silk Pure Almond unsweetened vanilla almond milk 
3/4 cup frozen strawberries
1 serving SunWarrior vanilla protein powder

The almond milk is only 35 calories per cup. The protein powder is plant based, vegan and is only 70 calories per serving. Nice!

Directions:
Place all ingredients in a blender. Pulse on low then to high speed until all ingredients are combined well and thick like a milkshake. Depending on blenders, you may need to add just a little more almond milk if it's too thick. 

For the frozen cubes of almond milk: I simply take an ice tray, fill up four cubes and freeze for at least an hour. You may want to plan ahead of time or just have some frozen cubes ready to go for whenever you want to make a shake. I find that if you run hot water over the bottom of the ice tray, it helps loosen the cubes if they don't pop out right away. Use a sharp knife to pry the cubes out if you need to. 

Enjoy!

Monday, April 30, 2012

Vegetarian Southwest Pizza


I love pizza but unfortunately most purchased pizzas are fast food and full of junk. When I get a taste for pizza, I like to make my own out of whole grain tortillas and some healthy assortment of toppings making for a much healthier option to traditional fast food pizza.

The other day, I noticed that I had some some tortillas, a can of black beans and some monterey jack cheese and I got the idea to whip up a pizza. I added some tomatoes, green onions and black olives and bam -- a delicious, light yet filling pizza was made. The recipe below makes two pizzas. Share a pizza with someone or save it. One pizza is only about 300 calories! Be sure to get a low calorie and low carb tortilla to keep the calories down. The tortilla that I used had 71 calories. Check it out.

Ingredients:
2 low carb, whole wheat tortillas
1/2 can black beans, drained
1 tsp olive oil
3-4 shakes of chili powder
3-4 shakes garlic powder
3 tablespoons fresh salsa
sliced black olives
green onions, chopped
1 tomato, diced
2 oz monterey jack cheese, shredded

Directions:
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Place tortillas directly on oven rack for 1-2 minutes, each side. Just long enough to get rid of their soft feel. You want them to be slightly hard because you don't want a soggy pizza crust.

While tortillas are in oven add the black beans, olive oil, chili and garlic powder into a food processor. Pulse until smooth. Then add the salsa and pulse for just a few seconds, long enough to combine.

Once tortillas are out of the oven, allow them to cool for a few minutes. Then spread the bean mixture on the two tortilla shells. Add 1 oz of cheese to each pizza. Top with tomatoes, black olives and green onions. Place in the oven for about 5 minutes, just long enough for the cheese to melt.

Remove from oven. Cut each pizza into 4 pieces. Enjoy!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Even Seemingly Healthy Meals Can Sabotage Your Good Efforts

Veggie burger and sweet potato fries from Joe's Farm Grill 
If you dine out and opt for whole grain bread over white bread or swap white potato french fries for sweet potato fries, you're off to a great start. Yes, a start. These seemingly healthy choices seem like a sure way to help you reach your fitness goals, but sometimes they can set you back.

This week my sister was in town for a visit. Of course I had to show her all around the Phoenix area. I had been wanting to go to Joe's Farm Grill forever, but my schedule never seemed to allow it. Now that I had time carved out, my sister's visit was a perfect opportunity to check the place out -- and let lil' sis experience a true one of a kind eatery.

The restaurant was featured on The Food Network's Diners Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Fieri. I had heard great reviews and the fact that there's always a line out the door, says something. The burger joint is known for its fresh approach on "common food done uncommonly well," as stated on its website. There is a farm directly behind the restaurant and all of the menu items' produce ingredients come from that farm. Nice. A true farm to fork restaurant.

I had heard that they recently added a veggie burger to their menu and I was eager to try it -- and I did. The "burger" consisted of a blend of grains, black beans and veggies. It came on a multi-grain bun and I ordered sweet potato fries as my side.

The meal was really good, but I was a little disappointed.

Though the meal was a healthier option, there were quite a few problems with this veggie burger and fries.
  1. The portions were too large. 
  2. The bun was gigantic, adding unnecessary calories.
  3. All components of the meal were loaded with starchy carbs. (Read a previous blog I wrote on starchy carbs here.)
  4. The fries, though sweet potato, were fried.
  5. I'm not sure about the ratio of grains to veggies on the veggie patty. It tasted like it had more grains than veggies. 
  6. I'd estimate that this meal had 1000 calories or more. Yikes! 
I'm sure this may leave you scratching your head and perhaps thinking, "then what is there to eat?"

I hear you.

The negative breakdown of this seemingly healthy meal may leave you feeling a little discouraged. Don't worry, there is a way to deal with this. 

For starters, if you view any meal that you don't cook yourself, as a treat, then you're doing yourself a huge favor. When we don't have control over the ingredients in our meals, we have to assume that something in there is not going to help us with our fitness goals. I strongly discourage dining out. But if you do find yourself at a restaurant, here a few tips to take that seemingly healthy meal, and make it better.
  1. Only eat half. Take the other half home, no matter what.
  2. If the bun on your sandwich is really thick, tear out the inner parts, making it smaller and eliminate 100 calories or more.
  3. If you're eating sweet potato fries, remember they're fried and don't eat all of them. And don't use any ketchup or dipping sauce because that adds unnecessary calories.
  4. Don't feel like you have to finish it. Eat until full, then stop. 
Dining out is a treat. I remember training for figure shows and hating having to eat out for social events. One time, I asked a server to cook my veggies "clean" meaning using no oils, butters or anything and he looked at me like I had two heads. Restaurants are in it to make things really tasty, to keep you coming back -- even the healthy options have their negative points and can sabotage your efforts. Don't let them. Know what you're eating and take the appropriate measures to stay on track.