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TrainerTiff: April 2012 >

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.

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

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. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Taco Salad Remix with Homemade Ranch

I love salads. I'm always experimenting with different combinations to add some flare to what otherwise could be a boring bowl of lettuce.

After a trip to Chipotle, I was inspired to create my own version of a taco salad. Now, this is definitely a remix -- it doesn't have any of the traditional ingredients like tortilla shell/chips or meat. It consists of brown rice, black beans and other toppings sitting on a huge bed of lettuce -- and it's delicious. What's really great about this salad is that it has no meat and is packed with 19.5g of protein.

It's topped with a creamy and light ranch dressing. I love ranch. But because it can be heavy and store bought dressings are full of preservatives, I've created my own. It is lighter than most store bought brands and it's free of artificial ingredients making it a better option to fix that ranch tooth.

Once you have all the ingredients, the salad is easy to put together. The recipe below is for one large serving. It's a meal -- you won't be hungry for hours. Check it out.

5-6 cups romaine lettuce (or lettuce of your choosing)
1/4 cup black beans drained and rinsed
1/4 cup cooked brown rice
1 small tomato, diced
1-2 tablespoons green onion, chopped
1 oz shredded monterey jack cheese
chili powder
cilantro (optional)

Directions: Place lettuce in large bowl. Spread brown rice over lettuce. In a smaller bowl, place the drained and rinsed black beans and mix with a few shakes of chili powder, then add to larger bowl with the lettuce and rice. Top with cheese, green onions, tomatoes and cilantro.

Ranch Dressing:

Yields: 3/4 cup
1/4 cup reduced fat buttermilk
1/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon rice vinegar
3 tablespoons green onions (white parts only)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried dill
1 tablespoon fresh parsley
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Place all ingredients, except dill, in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Add dill and pulse for a few seconds -- just long enough to blend. Too much blending with the dill added will make it turn a light green color.


Salad: 299 calories, 9.25g fat, 44g carbs, 19.5g protein, 8.5g fiber

Ranch: 1 tablespoon
42.5 calories, 3g fat, 0.2g carbs, 0.2g protein, 0.3g sugar

Friday, April 6, 2012

How to Cut Pineapple

Until about a year ago, I used to avoid buying whole pineapples because I didn't know how to cut them. I know for a lot of people, cutting a pineapple is the easiest things to do -- but that wasn't the case for me.

Anytime I wanted to have some pineapple, I would just buy the packages that were already cut. Then one day, I was out grocery shopping with a friend and she picked up a whole pineapple, like it was no big deal.

It got me thinking, "Hey, wait a minute. I need to figure this out." So, I bought my first whole pineapple. My friend told me how she picks them and cuts it. I got home and did a little research of my own, via YouTube (gotta love the internet) and found all kinds of pineapple demos.

So, if you're like I was and avoid pineapples because the thought of cutting them up is a little intimidating, this video is for you! Check it out.

Preparation tip: after slicing, cut into cubes or keep as slices. Be aware of the core -- you might want to remove that or cut around it. You could eat it, but it's hard and bitter.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Find the Root of Your Motivation and Stick It

Photo by AnyaLogic on Flickr
Figure out the root of your motivation to be fit. Write it down. And stick it by posting it somewhere that you will see it often -- like on the fridge.

Getting to the root of what motivates you to be fit is key. Many people aren't real with themselves as to the reason why they want to get in shape. I often hear people say, "I want to be healthier" or "I want to fit back into my clothes." These are great reasons, but why? Why? Why? Why?

Why do you want to be healthier? Why do you want to fit back into your clothes?

Once you get to the bottom of these questions, you'll find your true motivation. This can be difficult because oftentimes, the root may be a little vain or selfish -- and that's perfectly OK.

For instance, maybe your real reason to fit back into your clothes is because you'll look hotter. But nobody ever says, "I want to workout because I want to be hot." Instead, what is more likely to be said is "I want to fit back into my clothes because I can't afford to go out and buy all new stuff."

Maybe you're working out to be healthier. But why? What does that mean, "to be healthier?" Well, if that's the reason, you probably want to reduce your cholesterol and you want to reduce your risk for heart attack or stroke. That's great. But why?

Well, you'll live longer for one. And you'll also end up losing weight, looking better and be able to play better with your kids or grandchildren, or the kids you may have someday. These reasons can kind of feel a little selfish at the root, right? This is why most people who say they "want to be healthier," stop right there and don't assess the real reason why they want to be healthier because they might feel a little selfish.

Be selfish. Be vain. There's nothing wrong with whatever your motives are to become fit.

When we take time for ourselves, to make ourselves happy -- we feel more confident and it impacts our interactions with those around us for the better. Everyone benefits.

Take time to recognize what is really driving you to be fit -- dig deep, get to the root. Once you figure it out, own it. Play it in your head over and over. Write it down and stick it somewhere you can remind yourself of this often.

When you find yourself debating whether or not to have that ice cream you know you shouldn't have, refer back to your true driving force to be fit and let it guide you to stay on track.