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TrainerTiff: March 2012 >

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Recipe: Sweet Potato Chips with Sea Salt

Every now and then a craving for something salty might take over you. It's so easy to grab a bag of chips out of the vending machine or throw a bag in your cart while you're grocery shopping. I get it. Sometimes you need a little salty snack.

Hubby has a salt tooth, so I'm often trying to find healthy salty snacks for him. I'm overjoyed that after much trial and error, I've finally perfected my sweet potato chips recipe to something he'll like.

The chips are baked, of course -- making them a healthy alternative to the average white potato chip that's fried. Sweet potatoes are a good swap for white potatoes because they have a lower glycemic index rating, which indicates that your body is less prone to turn them into fat. Also, they are high in fiber, making you feel fuller longer.

Next time you want some chips, throw a batch of these together. Your stomach and waistline will thank you. Check it out.

1-2 sweet potatoes
Himalayan sea salt (or regular sea salt)
100% pure olive oil spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Wash sweet potatoes. I like to keep the skin on, but if you prefer, go ahead and peel them. Using a mandolin's super thin slice plate, slice potatoes. If you don't have a mandolin, you can cut the potatoes by hand. I recently discovered mandolins and am so happy I have one. It makes slicing so much more precise. Also, it saves you time and stress.

Using a wire rack -- I just used the wire rack from my roasting pan and flipped it upside down -- line potatoes, making sure they don't touch. Using a wire rack of some sort is essential and is the secret to good sweet potato chips! I've tried placing the potatoes flat on a cookie sheet and they just don't come out right. Lightly spray each side of the potato slice with the olive oil spray. Shake salt evenly over the potatoes.

Place wire rack on a cookie sheet (so the wire rack won't fall through the oven rack) and bake for 10-12 minutes. Ovens vary, you just want to make sure the chips are cooked and that you remove them before they burn. Keep your eye on them, burning happens fast.

Once done, remove from oven. Let cool for at least 5 minutes to allow the crunch to set in.


Monday, March 26, 2012

10 Tips to Break Through a Plateau

Photo by Kanko on Flickr
Consuming too many grains can keep you from seeing the results you want
So, you've been working toward your fitness goals and making progress. You've been getting to the gym on a regular schedule, avoiding the office snacks and eating a clean diet and all of a sudden you stop seeing results. How frustrating, right? Hitting a plateau can be discouraging, but making a few changes can help you see results again.

I've put together a list of training and nutrition fixes that can help you break through a plateau. However, if you're still doing things like drinking soda and eating a candy bars -- you need to fix that first -- and stop doing it. If that's the case for you, that's where you need to start. But if you're dedicated to putting in the hours at the gym and consistently plan your meals, then incorporating a few of the changes below will help you get break through that plateau you may be experiencing.

1.  Do interval training for cardio: train at a high intensity for 1-2 minutes, follow up with lighter intensity for 2-3 minutes during entire length of cardio session

2.  Switch training split: change the muscle groups you train together (i.e. change from training back and biceps together to training back and chest together)

3.  Change intensity of weight training routine: if you normally use light weights and higher reps, switch to heavier weights and fewer reps and vice versa

4.  Add plyometrics into your workout: plyos (i.e. squat jumps) are a great way to add new stress to the muscle, helping it react and grow

5.  Add cardio bursts between weight sets: run on treadmill for a minute, jump rope for a minute, do 5-10 burpees, 50 jumping jacks, etc.

6.  Reduce processed sugar intake: sugar is in everything and makes us hold onto fat, cut your intake in half

7.  Cut down on grains: too many grains can make us more prone to store fat, cut your intake in half

8.  Reduce or eliminate dairy: most dairy is high in fat and easily adds unnecessary calories

9.  Don't eat starchy carbs at night: eating starchy carbs at night are most likely to be stored as fat since we are less active at night and don't need the energy from them

10.Reduce fat intake: even if you're eating healthy fat (i.e. nuts, avocado, olive oil), too much is too much -- reduce by about 25%

Friday, March 16, 2012

Tasty Homemade Protein Bars

I used to be a huge fan of store bought protein bars because of their convenience and ease of adding protein in the diet. But it was always hard finding bars that didn't have a lot of junk -- like processed sugar, preservatives, artificial flavorings, artificial sweeteners and soy -- and also weren't like eating a candy bar.

I recently decided to give them up altogether and make my own.

I always recommend having protein immediately following weight training. These protein bars are a great post workout bar -- having a muscle fueling combination of protein, carbohydrates and sugar that your muscles need in order to recover and grow efficiently.

Having sugar post weight training is the only time I recommend consuming sugar that doesn't come from fruit. After a workout, our glycogen (sugar) stores become depleted and need to be replaced.

I played around with the ingredients in this recipe until I got it just right. And it is good, if I may say so myself! Check it out.

1 cup old fashioned or rolled oats
1 serving of vanilla protein powder (I used 100% Vegan Protein Powder)
3 tablespoons shelled hemp seeds
1 teaspoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon flaxseeds
1 teaspoon raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 teaspoon raw sunflower seeds
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3-4 shakes sea salt
3 tablespoons raw honey (or regular honey)
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of coconut oil (this helps the bars harden)

Servings: makes 4 bars

Note: This recipe is vegan, gluten free and soy free. Oatmeal is naturally gluten free but may get contaminated with wheat during the growing process. If you want a totally gluten free bar, opt for Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Oats. Also, since I use a vegan protein powder, it makes the recipe vegan but you can opt for any type of protein powder you like (i.e. whey). And you don't have to use all of the raw varieties of the ingredients, use whatever you can easily get your hands on.

In a medium sized mixing bowl, add all the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add honey and coconut oil. Mix together with hands for 2-3 minutes until mixture you can you can form a ball that holds together.

Next, line a loaf pan with wax paper. Pour mixture into lined pan and press down with the back of a spoon until completely packed.

Cover with foil and freeze overnight. After completely frozen. Remove lining from pan with the one solid bar.

Cut into four pieces. Store in fridge. 


Nutrition data:
1 bar: calories 251, protein 11g, fat 11g, carbohydrates 31g, sugar 14g, fiber 3g

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

New Product Promises to Maintain Hairdo During Workout

        Nicole Ari Parker Save Your Do Introduction from SaveYourDo on Vimeo.

Ladies, we've all been there -- putting off or avoiding the gym altogether because we either just got our hair done or don't want a single bead of sweat to mess up our hairstyle.

Actress Nicole Ari Parker has developed the Save Your Do GymWrap. The website describes that the headband/wrap works through Edge Control Technology that uses three layers of fabric to pull moisture and heat away from the hair, while allowing cool air to enter -- keeping your hair dry and in place.

The wrap comes in three different styles: narrow band, wide band and full triangle that covers the entire head. Priced between $25 and $30, they are affordable and provide a possible solution for many women who want to workout and maintain their hairstyle.

When I heard that Nicole Ari Parker had developed this, I thought to myself, "Hey, she has hair similar to mine, let me see what's up with this."

I definitely want to try one of these. I oftentimes wear my hair in its natural curly state because when I go through all the trouble to blow-dry and flatiron my hair, I want it to last at least a couple of days. I've even been known to revise my workouts to accommodate my hair situation -- skipping cardio or intense training right after I've gotten my hair done. It's true.

A product like this has been needed for a long time. I'm curious to see if the wrap holds up to its claims. If it does, no more excuses, ladies!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Leg Training: Stiff-legged Deadlift Demo

If you want to develop that curve on the back of your thigh and get a great looking butt, you need an exercise that targets your hamstrings and glutes. This is your move -- the stiff-legged deadlift.

I know there are a lot of ladies out there that don't like to go heavy in the gym for fear they will develop a physique like a man. Well, to that I say -- forget that. That's not the case. Women don't have the testosterone to produce huge muscles like men.

But what about bodybuilding women? Sure, well they are bodybuilding women and go through extreme measures to develop muscle size. If you're an average gym-goer, there's no need to worry about becoming too muscular.

Lifting heavy weights is one of the most effective ways to develop muscle giving women that toned look they want and giving men some serious size, as long as a regimented lifting schedule is followed.

The stiff-legged deadlift is my favorite hamstring exercise. Be sure to have correct form while performing the exercise to avoid injury and to maximize benefits.

  • Feet about shoulder width apart
  • Shoulders back
  • Abs held in tight
  • Don't lock knees
  • Hold head in direction of the movement
  • Squeeze glutes as you return to standing position
  • Breath: inhale on the way down, exhale as you stand

Include these on your leg training days. Pick a weight that allows a rep range of about 8-10 where the last couple of reps are difficult. Perform 3-4 sets. I suggest training legs 2-3 times per week.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Goodbye Old Blender, Hello New Vitamix!

The day finally arrived -- my brand new Vitamix Creations GC blender was delivered to my house, opening a whole new world of blending to me.

For the last nine months, I'd been fantasizing about replacing my old blender for a brand new Vitamix. Ever since I started making green smoothies, I couldn't help but to imagine how fantastically smooth they could be with a quality blender.

If you're wondering what the heck is a Vitamix -- I understand. This time last year, I had never even heard of it. Once you enter the green smoothie world, things you never knew about start popping up everywhere.

During the years (uh, my entire life minus the past year) prior to making green smoothies, my idea of a good blender was whatever was most expensive at Target. Oh, but it goes far beyond that. The Vitamix is a high performance blender that has a heavy duty motor and really sharp blade that is designed to take a whole tough vegetables, like carrots, and turn them into velvety smooth smoothies, plus a lot more.

As it was, the blender that I had been using was all wrong for the task of green smoothies, producing chunky green messes that kinda looked like a smoothie -- if you imagined really hard.

It was old and barely hanging on. The ten-year-old blender was purchased during my college years as a means to make margaritas. Ha! It was college. And being that it was during my college years, I got the cheapest blender WalMart had to offer.

Recently, the blender decided it couldn't handle shredding romaine lettuce -- and forget about kale. It protested by smoking. Yes, smoking -- I didn't know that was possible, I figured one day it'd just stop working altogether.

Since it was on its last legs, I felt somewhat justified in making the purchase for the Vitamix. I tend to be really cheap, (well ... let's say frugal) most of the time, so I did my $1 a day assessment to figure if it was a worthwhile investment -- and it passed. I take the cost of an item and figure out if I'll use it for X amount of days of the cost. So, if I was considering a $75 pair of shoes, I'd ask myself if I was going to wear the shoes at least 75 times? Yes answers make me feel better about a purchase.

OK, let's fast forward and get to the big question, you're probably asking, "how was it?"

Old vs New
I never thought I'd ever be so excited about an appliance or use the word "marvelous" to describe something, but here I am. I can really tell a huge difference in the texture of the smoothie. I don't have to chew it anymore, which is quite thrilling, really.

A book of recipes came with the blender and I can't wait to start making things like sorbet, almond milk, almond butter and tons of smoothies and shakes.

If anyone is on the fence about upgrading blenders, I would definitely recommend this purchase. Especially if you make a lot of things that are tough to process with most store bought blenders.

If you need me, I'll be off blending something.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Increase Healthy Fat Consumption with Hemp Seeds

Shelled hemp seeds
Photo by Evelyn Parham on Flickr
There is a lot of information out there when it comes to dietary fat -- good fat, bad fat, limit here, increase there -- it can be enough to make your head spin. To put it simply, eat the smallest amount of saturated fat and eat more healthy fats instead -- like hemp seeds.

Hemp seeds have a very light flavor, almost unnoticeable and are great to add into salads, giving it a little more heft. They can also be added into baked goods, shakes or yogurt.

Here are some things that I really like about hemp seeds:

  • They have a 3:1 omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acids ratio (most other nuts/seeds have a higher omega 6 content which most Americans already get plenty of through animal fat)
  • They are a complete protein containing all essential amino acids
  • They are high in fiber
  • They are a good source of trace minerals and phytosterols (known to help lower cholesterol)

According to the American Heart Association, healthy fats from nuts, seeds, fish and plant oils may help lower cholesterol when used in place of saturated fats.

Though we often hear about how bad saturated fat is, remembering why it's so bad and how prevalent it is, can be forgotten sometimes -- so let's review.

Saturated Fat

Over consumption of saturated fats are most damaging to your health resulting in heart disease, atherosclerosis and increased risk of heart attack. Most people get too much saturated fat in their diets from animal products such as beef, pork, poultry fat, butter, cream, milk and cheese -- to name a few.

The AHA recommends limiting total fat for the day to 25-35% of total calories and saturated fat should be less than 7% of total calories.

So what does this look like? Take someone who consumes 1500 calories for the day:
  • Total fat for the day: 375-525 fat calories which is 42g-58g 
  • Total saturated fat for the day: 105 saturated fat calories which is 12g
Looking at those numbers it seems like a lot, right? But if you start to look at how much fat is in food, you'll be surprised. 

I recently saw a tweet from Eat This Not That calling out On the Border's Dos XX Fish Tacos for being high in fat. After reviewing their menu, one variation of that meal has 121g of total fat, 28g being saturated fat. That is horrifying.

This just goes to show how important it is to pay attention to what is in the food you're eating.

One serving of hemp seeds is usually about 3 tablespoons consisting of 13g total fat, 1.5 of that being saturated fat.

Next time you're dining out, think about what is really in your food. If you know where you're going to eat beforehand, take a look at their online menu and nutrition data and choose something that is friendly to your waistline and health.

A better option would be to make your own food and limit dining out to an absolute minimum. If you're looking for an easy way to reduce bad fat and incorporate good fat into your diet, try to swapping a typical lunch for a large salad and sprinkle some hemp seeds on that -- super easy. Remember, small changes add up.