Sunday, February 19, 2012

Food Blog Series, Part 2: Snacks!

Hey friends!

I hope you were able to enjoy the first of my Food Blog Series, focusing on choices for breakfast.  If you missed it, catch up here.

This week's food blog is focusing on another VITAL piece of the healthy eating puzzle - snacks!

I really think snacks are underrated.  In fact, in previous attempts to lose weight, many times I would cut out snacks as I didn't want to use up my calories for the day.

The benefits of snacking are:

1) Snacking keeps your metabolism going throughout the day - if you eat a snack in between meals (just don't get crazy of course) you will keep your body burning all the time. 
**By the way, the same article said that eating breakfast is the first step in boosting up your metabolism; in fact, studies indicate that people who eat breakfast may increase resting metabolism by 10 percent.  That's alot! See the entire article, about 7 ways to boost your metabolism here.

2) Healthy snacks keep you from overeating at mealtime.  I know I eat less when I'm not ravenous.  I eat when I'm hungry and try to stop when I am full.  I am also a fast eater, so its even more important that I snack and don't get over hungry...or I eat way too much too quickly.  Damage done.

Some challenges to snacking are:

1) What do I choose?  There are TONS of options for snacks out there.  How do you know what is best?

2) It takes time to plan and portion snacks out.

3) You have to constantly keep variety going, or boredom will set in and you'll find yourself looking for something else to snack on vs. what you brought for yourself.

Obviously, I'm a believer in snacking, so let me share some of my absolute favorite snacks with you and why they are my faves.

I'm a HUGE fan of greek yogurt.  Yogurt period is a good choice most times, but greek yogurt has almost twice the protein of regular yogurt.  It definitely takes a bit of time to get used to the texture of greek yogurt, it is thicker and feels more substantial going down - because it is!  Twice the protein means you will stay fuller, longer.

This yogurt is 5.3 oz, and has 120 calories, 0 fat grams, 45 mg sodium, 17g of carbs (16 g of that is sugar)  and 13 grams of protein.  It also has 15% of your daily calcium requirement.

This brand and flavor is my new SUPER favorite greek yogurt (the blueberry and the peach are also VERY yummy).  The little pocket to the bottom right of the photo is full of strawberry jam to  mix in with the plain yogurt in the larger section.  It is just the right amount of sweetness.

This was my original favorite brand and flavor - now don't mistake the caramel flavor for the honey flavor.  MAJOR difference in taste.  I love the caramel flavor.  This one is 4 ounces and has 110 calories, 0 grams of fat, 60mg sodium, 140mg potassium, 17g carbs (16 g sugar) and 10 grams of protein.  It also has 15% of your daily calcium allowance.

The plain greek yogurt can be fairly bitter, so you need something to mix in it. If you prefer to buy plain, you can mix in some honey and/or granola to flavor it up. Greek yogurt is a GREAT choice for snacking, and I typically choose it for my mid-morning snack between breakfast and lunch.

Pistachios!  I love love love these nuts.  I portion them out into baggies - because like ANY snack that isn't already portioned out, they can be dangerous if not eaten properly!  This baggie (1/2 ounce) has around 80-100 calories, 6.5 grams of fat, 4g carbs (3g dietary fiber).  You have to crack them open, which keeps your hands busy (or your stapler on your desk at work, for that one or two in the bag that aren't easy to crack open - lol!).  These are a great mid-afternoon snack for me.  Now, the side of the bag of pistachios will tell you that one ounce is a serving (around 49 nuts) whereas I have quoted you half an ounce above.  Cut that in half, and you have a good healthy snack without overdoing it. I also really like roasted almonds, we're just on a pistachio kick at our house right now. :)

Trail mix!  This is a newer favorite of mine.  Now, that is 1/4 cup of tropical trail mix which equates to 142 calories, 6 grams of fat, 22 carbs and 2.2 g of protein. You must be careful with trail mix, just like you are with nuts as it is easy to grab a bag and then wonder where the heck it went!  Recently, I was lucky enough to get to tour a plant that bags up nuts and trail mixes - and saw how they portion things out to go into the baggies - its all very scientific and the machines drop the different components onto a conveyor belt at certain speeds to control how much of each thing goes in each bag.  This is why you never run into trail mix that is mostly chocolate (darn!).  Thought I'd share that tidbit with you.
 Wait, didn't I share Larabars as breakfast items?  Well, folks, they can also be a snack!  I don't recommend eating more than one a day as they are higher in calories, though they are nutrient dense - meaning they pack a good punch of health and no preservatives (huge to me!).  These are great on the days I eat oatmeal or cereal for breakfast, just before one of my 2 hour workouts in the evening.

Yeah, that's an apple.  A gala apple at that.  Does that seem boring?  It shouldn't.  Once you rid your taste buds of all the sugary processed crap you've been eating, this apple will taste like candy.  I promise.  Apples range from 70-100 calories per apple depending on the size.  Try some different brands and types until you find your favorite!  They are also a great source of fiber.

Bananas are a great choice as well.  They also range around 80-110 calories depending on their size.  I love a banana as a morning snack, or sometimes just before my workout in order to prevent cramping and get my blood sugar to a good place just before I sweat like crazy. I don't eat a banana as a snack on the days I chop one into my oatmeal or cereal.

Not pictured are my little grapes and baby bell cheese snack baggies (I'm out right now).  Basically I put about 15 grapes in a baggie with a little round baby bell light cheese round.  The cheese is around 50 cals as are the grapes.  It is SUCH a yummy snack and very satisfying with the protein and fat from the cheese and the sweetness of the grapes.  Those seem to stave off my search for sweets in the afternoon.

So there you have it, my most frequent snacks!  Sometimes I pair the apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter or almond butter if its post long run or something like that.  I also like my almond milk mixed with a serving of ovaltine for a "chocolate milk" type of snack.  Filling and yummy.

Do you notice anything common about my snacking?  Most of it is real food with minimal processing.  Look, I am not a perfectly "clean" eater, but the cleaner I do eat, the better I feel, and my tummy thanks me...along with my scale being a good friend to me.

This next week I'm traveling for work and there will be an ABUNDANCE of food around. My biggest goal? Stick to my healthier options (which may mean stealing a banana off the breakfast buffet for later) and not to eat just because food is available.  Food will be available to me forever, God willing.  I don't have to sample everything, all the time.

But I also will NOT allow myself to get so hungry that I eat things I don't really like (because I'm staaarving) or clean my plate and feel miserable the rest of the day.

My other plan of action?  Go to the hotel gym EVERY morning AND dance at every opportunity (there will be several).  This will be funny because I've never been much of a dancer in public, and since I haven't had alcohol at all in around 7 years, I'm wondering, who do I think I am planning to dance? 

Well, ya know what?  If I can do Zumba, and I'm half Colombian, darn it, I should be able to cut a rug.  And cutting a rug or two will help me out if I decide I *have* to have that chocolate torte at dinner.

Pray for me?

Have a great week.


PS - next Food Blog adventure will take us into the land of LUNCHES!  Hoping to get some good pics for you this week or next while traveling of some of my favorite lunch options.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Food Blog Series, Part 1: Breakfast!

Hey friends!

So as you know I have LOTS of opinions on food  and what is healthy.  Ha!  I get questions all the time about what I eat exactly and its kind of tough to describe exactly how I eat without going into the "why."  I don't believe in "dieting" and yet, what you eat does constitute your "diet."  When asked, I usually don't recommend anyone dive into eating like I do today cold turkey as my eating has morphed over the last 2.5 years slowly and hugely.  It morphed slowly so my new healthy lifestyle could be "doable" to create a permanent change, rather than having an end date for my eating plan and ultimately, my health.

Over the course of a few blog posts, I'd like to share my favorite food items with you along with why I like them and how they fit into my healthy lifestyle.

Why don't we start with the most important meal of the day?  I get asked about what I eat for breakfast all the time.  If you are like me, alot of times your mornings are a scramble to get out the door with everything you will need to have with you for the next 15 hours...for me that would include snacks, lunch, my water bottle filled with green tea and more snacks if its a workout night.  Many times my breakfast ends up going with me as well by the time the rest of that is all packed up!

BREAKFAST is VITAL to starting your day off well. It's really not just something "people" say.  If I eat a good breakfast in the morning, I tend to eat better the rest of the day.  If you don't eat, thinking you are saving a few hundred calories, you will certainly make up for them in your starvation snacking later on during the day.  Don't like breakfast?  Learn to like it - or don't blame me when you find yourself waking up from an I-ate-everything-I-brought-for-the-day-by-10am coma.

Here are some of my faves:

Sometimes I start off with a smoothie with Almond Milk as the base (I like Silk's brand, or Blue Diamond; whichever is on sale at the time - Vanilla and unsweetened is good to have some flavor without too much unnecessary sugar.  Stephen also likes to use this as his coffee creamer). I am not a coffee drinker; I simply don't have a taste for it.

One scoop of this Vanilla Whey Protein packs a big punch of protein (15 grams) and only 100 calories.  So far our smoothie is only up to 140 calories.  Add in a handful of fresh spinach (it only changes the color NOT the taste! Also add in a handful of your favorite frozen fruit - I love frozen blueberries, or you can freeze a banana and add that in.  The frozen element is essential to your smoothie being cold.  Smoothies don't have to have a milk type base; yesterday I made one with a half cup of OJ, handful of spinach and 5 strawberries blended up (I did NOT add the protein powder - only when I make them with almond milk).  It was delicious and about 150 calories, went nicely with my sandwich for lunch and added a bunch of veggies/fruit to my day.  Bottom line; smoothies are a great start and if you make the protein shake version it is great for post-workout recovery as well.

When I don't have time to fool with the blender, I grab a Larabar and a Banana.  I love Larabars as they are all natural (they are also gluten free - but for the record I will say I'm not an advocate of going gluten free UNLESS you have an allergy).  The ingredients label reads: dates, cashews, semi-sweet chocolate, sugar, cocoa butter and vanilla.  The chocolate chip cookie doug is my absolute favorite flavor, its like eating cookie dough without the sin and guilt.  Now Larabars seem small for the calorie punch which is why they should be limited to one per day - but realize they really do fill you up!  220 Calories, 11 grams of fat (6 grams of which are monounsaturated = good fat!) 320 mg of Potassium, 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein.  These are also a GREAT pre-workout snack and I'll do that often in the evenings before my 2 hour workouts (as long as I didn't have one for breakfast!).

When I have a few minutes in the morning (not a run day usually) I will mix up a batch of oatmeal in the microwave.  I put a 1/2 cup of oats in a bowl with enough water to cover it and microwave for a minute on high. When it comes out, I mix in a splash of the vanilla almond milk, 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and....

Two tablespoons of Golden Raisins.  You could also mix in Craisins, a chopped apple, banana, etc.  It is totally up to you what you want to use to flavor your oatmeal.  This is healthier than buying the pre-sweetened oatmeal as they typically have many more additives and preservatives and even more sugar.  Check out the label next time you are shopping and compare the plain oats with my additions to the boxed sweetened kind.

Uncle Sam's cereal was a part of my life once.  It isn't just good for breakfast, it serves a purpose.  Not to get too graphic, but sometimes we aren't as "regular" as we'd like to be and that can, well, be a PAIN!  With 8 grams of Insoluble fiber per serving, this cereal will DEFINITELY help in that department.  That said it is super bland in taste on its is best eaten with 1 teaspoon of sugar (15 calories) and either raisins, craisins, bananas, strawberries etc.  I try to eat this most days if I am not too rushed.  You can also mix 1/4 cup of this into your favorite greek yogurt to add some crunch to your snack.

So there you have it - my breakfast "regulars."  I also LOVE eggs and on the weekends I like to sautee one over easy on the stove and put it on top of a toasted piece of wheat bread and let the yolk run all over the bread. Yum!  I really don't believe that real eggs are "bad."  It's what we do to food like eggs that makes them bad!  I don't add cheese, and truly do not miss butter on my bread either.  Those little tweaks have really made a difference over time.  Now the egg beaters...hmmm...what does the label say?  Just saying.  Oh - and I DO love the occasional chocolate chip pancake with pure maple syrup (I use the whole wheat blend pancake mix or I mix up my own with whole wheat flour).

Overall, if it has 3 or more ingredients that I can't pronounce without assistance, or are not actual FOOD, I won't eat it (for the most part).  Period.  That makes it easy!

That's all for now...I will do a series of posts about food over the next few weeks including snacks, lunches, etc.  I plan to try to share some of my dinner recipes as well as time permits.

Hope you get to planning your breakfast for tomorrow!


PS - coming soon on the blog will be a review of a BUNCH of workout videos! I have tons of them and tons of opinions to share about them! 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Why the Scale Isn't Everything...

In having a conversation with a friend tonight who recently began her weight loss journey, we were discussing the scale and I was complaining that I have been in the 180s forEVER!  I also complained this morning to my friend Meggan, and earlier this week to my friend Beth.

I'm sure my friends are sick and tired of hearing me complain about it.  In the interest of keeping said friends, I've been trying to readjust my mindset about it.

The scale is important in that you should weigh within a certain "range."  Is it the antiquated BMI range?  Not necessarily.  But you probably have your own healthy weight you are reaching for and that's good (your doctor can help establish it too if they aren't so fuddy-duddy and BMI-chart-gospel).  That's why I only have the main "scale" goal to lose weight in increments and I only record my weight weekly, sometimes bi-weekly if I have an off week or its my bloat week...but my other goals involve overall health, like my BMI, body fat %, healthy eating, and athletic endeavors.

I'm working into understanding and fully owning that I cannot focus so much on the scale as it has been consuming me lately (pun intended).

The most frustrating part about the scale, is that it might not move, but then my clothes show a difference and I can see a difference in the mirror!

I began the 180s as a solid size 14.  I am now a size 12, and can fit into several items (dresses and jeans) that are size 10.  So while I've been in the 180s for 6 month (geez already, right?) I am still shrinking physically.

If you've been following my blog, you know that I recently began a new workout schedule.  Still running several days a week, but have begun focusing on other endurance sports like Boot Camp and Zumba.  Both of these activities are making me train my upper body in a way I almost never have consistently since I am a runner primarily, especially Boot Camp.  I have seen a visible difference in my chest, back and arms in just a few weeks! 


1) At Zumba on Wednesday night, I caught a glimpse of myself when I had my arms in the air and was jumping - I did a double take and decided the glass must be messed up as I looked slender!  Then I saw the woman to my right and her reflection was exact. 

2) Wearing my size 10 jeans on a date with my husband.

3) Putting on a size 10 dress and rocking it (below).

4) Someone gasping when I mentioned being overweight and saying, "You are SO not overweight."  And it wasn't a "friend" who might feel they needed to say it - lol.

5) My good friend tonight commented on the same; she said she has seen my shape change drastically in the last 6 months.

So while I am not settling for staying in the 180s forever, I am realizing that I might not have 20 more pounds of FAT to lose that won't be replaced, in some part, by MUSCLE.  GASP.  What if I end up in the 170s at 5'6?  Preposterous!  Well, if my body fat percentage ends up being below 25% then the BMI chart can take a long stroll of a short pier!

Not to mention changing the landscape of your body takes time.  I should know.

I'm not losing this weight quickly; I never have.  And I think that is part of why I don't have a bunch of skin leftover, especially with my muscle development.  I'm excited that I likely will never have to have a skin removal surgery to get my body to look how I want it to.

Because I'm not trying to be bone thin.  I'm working on being fit, strong, and I'm totally fine with having fabulous muscles.  Not necessarily body builder looking, but I'm good with some toned arms and legs, and I'd like my stomach to be as flat as possible (giving up on concave, ok?).  Oh, and for my butt and my thighs to have a clear beginning and end.  :)

It helps that I don't "look" like I weigh 180 something.  People tell me that all the time when I share my weight (part of why I don't mind sharing my number - ha!). What do you think?

So if the scale hasn't been your friend lately, don't stress too much about it, ok?  As long as you are working hard and feeling stronger, your body WILL change with time IF your nutrition is on point as well.  I posted a recent link to my facebook page to an article about "malnubesity" which is a sort of made up term about people who eat small amounts of crappy food (i.e. fried, sugary, white flour, etc.) and even though their caloric intake may be low, they will not lose weight as they are nutrient starved.  Think about WHAT you are eating...and of course, how much, but WHAT is almost more vital to begin with to be sure you are getting the nutrition you need.

I'm down to 30% body fat.  I started at 56% body fat!  I've almost cut that in half.  I'm incredibly proud of that, and happy.  Averages online say between 25-31% is considered average.  I'd like to get below 25% into the "fitness" range. 

I'm excited to check my body fat % a month from now when I've been at this new crazy workout schedule for 6 weeks.  No matter what the scale says then, if that number changes, and my size continues to shrink, I will be a HAPPY girl.

Find your happy in something OTHER than the scale this week, ok?  My happy in the form of yet another non-scale victory came yesterday when I ran my 2 miles in the morning after a crazy workout schedule the night before and my legs felt STRONG not tired.

Make friends with your scale weekly if you must, but don't let a daily step up create a meltdown in your mood or routine.  Celebrate those "non-scale" victories, like wearing that new dress finally, zipping up the next size down jeans, realizing your legs don't rub together like they used to.  They are many if you'll pay attention to more than just the number.  Keep on keeping on!

I plan to!