Hummus & Gym Membership

For some reason, I was craving hummus a few days ago. I’m not a fan of store bought hummus so I decided to make my own for the first time. I used this recipe from Inspired Taste, went off to the store and gathered the ingredients but discovered that a 16 ounce jar of Tahini was 9-effing-dollars at Hannaford. No thank you. I googled a substitute and found that peanut butter would work, which was perfect because I always have a jar of natural no sugar added peanut butter on hand. I followed their recipe to a T, except I replaced the 1/4 cup of Tahini for 2-3 tablespoons of that wonderful natural no sugar added peanut butter, and I didn’t add more olive oil for serving. Ugh, the hummus was so good and so easy. Better than any store bought hummus. TRY IT. I also made Quinoa Stuffed Peppers the same day, but I’ll post that recipe tomorrow.

hummus

Now for random thoughts: I’m debating on a gym membership. I’ve never wanted a gym membership because they’re costly and I’ve never had the extra money for one, and I’ve always preferred exercising at home. I’m three weeks into my new full-time job, and I’m struggling to keep up with my exercise regimen. I tried getting up earlier to exercise but I hated it, and I wasn’t giving it 100% because I was so sluggish. I’m doing my best to exercise a lot on my days off and do less on my work days, but all I’ve been doing on my work days is 15-20 minutes of Yoga or Pilates. Yes, it’s at least something, but to me it is definitely not enough. My plan is to get a membership at HealthLinks, and while it’s expensive, I think it would be worth the money. I would go after work on my way home. I need to do more strength training, and the 10-pound dumbbells aren’t cutting it anymore. I don’t want to keep buying a new, heavier set every month. So, I think a gym membership will be worth it. Also, I heard great things about The New Rules of Lifting for Women. I bought the book the other day on amazon.com, and I’ll follow that program.

nrolfw

 

And now, since it’s my day off, I better get my ass moving. Today’s workout: Jillian Michaels’ “Banish Fat, Boost Metabolism” followed by strength training and body weight exercises. Maybe Pilates a little later if I’m feeling up to it.

Advertisements

Day two: A HEALTHY DIET IS NOT EXPENSIVE.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Yesterday my boyfriend sent me flowers. Aren’t they pretty?

securedownload

It wasn’t the best Valentine’s Day. We received bad news about my poor kitty at his vet appointment today. His cancer has worsened, and it’s not looking good for him. So upset. This is Baby’s favorite sleeping spot for the night: in his new box with his pink camouflage blankie. I love him.

securedownload (1)

Today, I did my best to keep track of how much everything I ate was costing me. Dinner was tough to give an estimate – homemade vegan chili I pulled out of the freezer. Didn’t feel like cooking. But a can of tomatoes, beans and rice, some of the main ingredients, are cheap. So I’m just saying it’s around 99 cents for what I ate (about 1/3 of the batch I made). Good enough.

Cost of breakfast: $0.60
16 ounces of coffee (~2 tablespoons Maxwell House grounds): 30.6 ounces for $6.99 = 6 cents
2 tablespoons of Hannaford half and half: 32 ounces for $1.59 = 6 cents
1 Thomas’ Bagel Thin: 8 for $2.99 = 37 cents
1 tablespoons of Hannaford Natural PB: 16 ounces for $2.99 = 11 cents

Cost of lunch: $2.05
1 Zone bar: 6 for $4.34 = 72 cents (Normally I don’t eat these, but I didn’t have time to make lunch today, so it’s better than nothing.)
1 banana: (~5 oz.) 57 cents per pound: 18 cents
3 ounces Hannaford baby carrots: $1.70 per pound = 32 cents
1/2 red bell pepper: 2 lbs for $5 (~3 peppers) = 83 cents

Cost of snack: 23 cents
2 ounces of Hannaford mozzarella cheese: 16 ounce block for $3.68 = 23 cents

Cost of dinner: 99 cents
Leftover homemade vegan chili that I pulled out of the freezer: 99 cents, give or take.

Total for the day: $3.87. And you say eating healthy is expensive? Maybe if you buy out-of-season organic produce. That can definitely get pricey. I don’t eat a perfect diet, but I would say that 90% of the time, I eat pretty damn healthy, and, AS YOU CAN SEE, it doesn’t cost a lot. Be smart about what you buy – buy what’s in season, what’s on sale, make what you can from scratch, buy in bulk (sometimes it isn’t always cheaper, at least at the grocery stores around here). I promise you, you’ll spend a lot less money when you’re not buying junk food or drive-thru meals!

A HEALTHY DIET IS NOT EXPENSIVE. PERIOD.

It irritates the living hell out of me when someone says, “I can’t afford to eat healthy.” My head explodes when they add on, “…and that’s why I still hit the drive-thru.” WHAT? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? To ANYONE who thinks this, PAY ATTENTION. If you REALLY think that you save money on lunch or dinner by going to McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, WHATEVER it is, think of it this way: you are loading your body with simple carbohydrates, saturated fats, trans fats (I just scanned through the nutrition information of McDonald’s menu and found that more than half of their food contains trans fats, known to increase “bad” cholesterol and decrease “good” cholesterol and a contribute to heart disease. Take a look: http://nutrition.mcdonalds.com/getnutrition/nutritionfacts.pdf and read more about trans fats here.), and MINIMAL fiber. Hardly anything you eat from a fast food restaurant is likely to keep you satisfied for long. (If you’ve seen “Supersize Me,” remember how Morgan was hungry again soon after his meal at McDonald’s?) Anyway, you’re loading your body with not-so-good stuff that can contribute to a number of health problems: heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, cancer, just to name a few. Think of how much money you’d have to spend on visits to the doctor and medications, and it would be even worse if you don’t have insurance. So what would you rather do: eat healthy, take care of your body and reduce the risk of health problems or eat to death?

I would say I’m moderately frugal when it comes to grocery shopping. I shop for what’s on sale and in season, I buy almost everything generic, I make what I can from scratch (not only cheaper in most cases, but also healthier), I don’t eat out often and my family gardens so that we have lots of fresh veggies in the summer and fall. I’ve kept my receipts from the last week or so to calculate how much each meal is costing me. I’ll do the same thing tomorrow (hopefully with pictures). Here is today’s breakdown:

Cost of Breakfast: $0.90
16 ounces of coffee (~2 tablespoons Maxwell House grounds): 30.6 ounces for $6.99 = 6 cents
2 tablespoons of Hannaford half and half: 32 ounces for $1.59 = 6 cents
1 Eggland’s Best large egg: one dozen for $2.49 = 21 cents
3 Great Value (liquid) egg whites: $3.88 for 32 ounces = 58 cents

Cost of Lunch: $0.59
2 bananas (~10 oz. total): 57 cents per pound = 36 cents
2 tablespoons of Hannaford Natural PB: 16 ounces for $2.99 = 21 cents
1 teaspoon of Price Chopper cocoa powder: 8 ounces for $2.99 = 2 cents

Cost of Snack #1: $0.72
1.5 ounces of Hannaford mozzarella cheese: 16 ounce block for $3.68 = 35 cents
1 Thomas’ Bagel Thin: 8 for $2.99 = 37 cents

Cost of Snack #2: $1.60
6 oz. container of plain Chobani = 99 cents
1 cup of Great Value frozen fruit: 64 ounces for $7.98 = 61 cents

Cost of Dinner: $3.62
4 ounces Price Chopper whole wheat pasta: 15 ounces for $1 = 27 cents
2 tablespoons Filippo Berio olive oil: 25 ounces for $6.99 = 28 cents
5 ounces of shrimp: $7.99 per pound = $2.50
1 tablespoon of Price Chopper parmesan cheese: 8 ounces for $2.99 = 7 cents
4 ounces of asparagus: $1.99 per pound = 50 cents

Total for the day: $7.43. On a normal day, I wouldn’t have shrimp, but Mama was cooking and I wanted some. I’ll do this again tomorrow, and I’ll have pictures!

Perfect smoothies

Smoothies are wonderful. The options are endless. Almost any fruit combination works, and you can add anything from spinach or kale to flax seed. I make mine with greek yogurt (protein, yay!) and a combination of fresh/frozen fruit. Never ice or milk. Ice never crushes that well in my blender, plus it gets watered down. Milk always got too frothy. Yesterday I made a yummy smoothie, and I thought I’d share. What I used:

One cup of frozen blueberries

20130205-140803.jpg

One medium banana, sliced (my slices were slightly frozen)
20130205-140810.jpg

One cup fresh strawberries
20130205-140823.jpg

One cup plain greek yogurt and a splash (~1/4 cup) of juice to get things moving a little easier.

20130205-140831.jpg

Yum. Blend away!
20130205-140837.jpg

Perfect consistency, thickness, and it tasted damn good. 
20130205-140844.jpg

No added sugar (unless you count the splash of juice, which contained probably 2 grams of sugar) and full of protein, vitamins and minerals. Perfect snack!

“Is Sugar Toxic?”

Last April, 60 Minutes aired a segment about sugar consumption. Here’s the link to the segment. It’s about 14 minutes long.

http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7403942n

If you don’t feel like watching it (although I recommend you should because it’s interesting), let me sum it up for you. Dr. Robert Lustig has been crusading against sugar for years. He believes sugar is a toxic substance – both table sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup – and has come to the conclusion, after numerous studies, that sugar consumption is linked to a number of health issues, from heart disease to cancer. In the 70s, it was dietary fat that had the bad rap, and doctors urged the general public to reduce fat consumption for their health. When you take the fat out a food, it isn’t going to taste good. So food manufacturers replaced fat with sugar or High Fructose Corn Syrup. While sugar consumption has decreased since the 70s, HFCS consumption has made up the difference. And guess what? Heart Disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States. More studies have found that sugar can be just as addictive as drugs or alcohol. I’m sure 30 years down the road, scientists will come up with something else that can be blamed for obesity, heart disease, cancer; but for now, watch the segment, and just think about it.

I haven’t eliminated much from my diet with the exception of sugar and processed food. Sugar and HFCS are empty calories. They provide no nutritional value. On top of that, if I have something with sugar, like cookies or cake, I can’t stop at one serving. This past Christmas, I ate about 4 or 5 dozen cookies in 4 days. I know I’m addicted to sugar, and I avoid it when I can. I already don’t drink soda or juice so I never had to worry about that. I’ve eliminated most added and all artificial sweeteners from my diet, but if I have a plate of cookies in front of me, I know I’ll go crazy. I made peanut butter chocolate chunk cookies last week, and I averaged about 4 per day. It doesn’t sound THAT BAD but I’m all about portion control and moderation, and I have a hard time sticking to my own rules. It’s something that I’m working on.

By the way, my posts have been lacking this week, and I apologize. Between the concert on Tuesday (WHICH WAS MIND-BLOWINGLY AMAZING AND I STILL CAN’T GET OVER HOW WONDERFUL IT WAS) and getting sick and job interviews (I finally found a job, yay!), I’ve been a little distracted this week. But I’ve been writing up drafts and editing when I can, so I hope to have more posts coming soon!

Plyometrics, barbells and groceries

This won’t be a very informative post; my energy and excitement is minimal today. A few months ago, we found out that my 14-year-old kitty has oral cancer, and he was doing okay for awhile but it seems like he’s starting to go downhill more and more each day. Just looking at him makes me want to cry because I know what we’ll have to do eventually.

I distracted/tortured myself with a 20-minute Plyometric (jump training) workout. I love (and hate) Plyometrics. I compiled a list of 20 Plyo moves, and I did each one for 20 seconds and rested for 10, and did that sequence twice (after a brief 3 minute break between sets). I felt like my legs were going to fall off…but in a good way. I might post the workout tomorrow, so stay tuned. AND THEN, after that torturous 20-ish minutes, I ventured down to the basement to dust off and use the old bench down there. But first I had to move all of the booze and soda. How ridiculous is this? It didn’t go as well as I had hoped; there’s simply too much junk down there so I have to relocate it or relocate the junk.

20130124-193032.jpg

And what makes me happier than Plyometrics? Grocery shopping for good food. (Chocolate is a vegetable, okay?)

20130124-193744.jpg

I found a recipe for Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk cookies from How Crazy Cooks, which is what the chocolate was for. And I loved them! I had to pop them in the freezer or else the entire batch would’ve been gone by tonight. Sigh, hopefully tomorrow I’ll have a better blog post.

The Munchies

A few hours after every meal, the munchies hit me. It’s not that I’m necessarily hungry, I just like to eat. I’m a grazer. This is a problem I’ve struggled with my whole life. I like to eat even if I’m not hungry. I could have a huge meal and be stuffed, but I’ll still search for something to eat a few hours later. The other night, after I tracked my entire dinner, I had consumed about 1,850 calories for the day, which is the tippy top of my range. After dinner, I was still searching for food even though I wasn’t hungry. I ended up making kale chips. I went over my calories by 100 or so, no big deal. However, the problem is that I wasn’t hungry! I was considerably full after having leftover lasagna and 3 mozzarella sticks. Behavior like this is what kept me on the heavy side my entire life, so I don’t recommend snacking just because you feel like it. The only time I think it’s appropriate to eat when you’re not hungry is if you’re way below your minimum by the end of the day. Remember – habitually under-eating can slow your weight loss efforts. This is another reason why tracking your calories is so important! You could be hundred of calories under your minimum everyday and not know it.

So, when the munchies hit you, what should you do? Before making a beeline to your pantry, stop and think. When and what did you eat last? Many times, the munchies hit us when our last meal was not so balanced and not so healthy. Are you actually hungry? If you’re not hungry but you still want something, brew some herbal tea. (I’m in love with Celestial Seasonings Herbal Tea.) Are you bored? Go find something else to do! Clean, read, do something crafty; better yet, exercise! If you feel you MUST munch on something, go for some fresh veggies or fruit. Keep them handy and in plain sight. If they’re hidden in your produce drawer, you’re less likely to go for them. Slice up some carrots, bell peppers, celery, whatever you have on hand ahead of time and put them in a bowl front and center in the fridge. When the munchies hit, oh look! There’s a big bowl of fresh veggies with my name on it! Remember what I said about veggies yesterday, especially those with a high water content? They fill you up so you’re less likely to overeat during meal time. So not only have you solved your munchies problem, but you also won’t overdo it at dinnertime.

Moral of the story: SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS. You know the munchies will hit you at some point in time. If unhealthy snacks are more readily available than healthy options, chances are, you’ll go for what is more convenient. Make healthy food available for yourself!

Look what’s in my fridge right now: a big bowl of beautiful fresh veggies. I’ll be munching on these all day.

veggies2 veggies1

Healthy Snack Ideas

Most days I have a mid-morning snack, afternoon snack and something after dinner. I (try to, at least) stay away from things like crackers and pretzels because once I start, I can’t stop. Even if I get one serving on a plate, put the box away and sit at the table, I go back for more. I’m addicted. I like to have mini-meals that fill me up so that I’m not tempted to graze until the next meal. Other times, it’s just raw fruits or vegetables, which is a great option. Fruits and vegetables with a high water content have been shown to curb hunger, which means you’re likely to eat less during your mealtimes. Despite what you may have been told, drinking water does not have the same effect of satiety that eating high water content freggies does. Lettuce, tomatoes, spinach, carrots, celery, cucumbers, radishes, mushrooms, broccoli and cauliflower are some examples of vegetables with a high water content. Some fruits with a high-water content are strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, apples and grapefruit. So basically, snack on fruits and veggies!

When I want my mini-meals, I have to be careful. A mini-meal can turn into a big meal if you don’t pay attention to your portion sizes. Just like any other meal, I try to have a fruit or veggie and combine healthy fats, protein and carbs. Some good snack options that won’t leave you hungry an hour later:

Banana or apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter
Plain greek yogurt topped with 1/2 cup fresh or frozen fruit and 1/2 ounce nuts
Veggies with 2 tablespoons of hummus
Cottage cheese prepared in a number of ways – with fruit, vegetables, all sorts of things
Veggie egg white omelet
Grilled cheese sandwich (I always make mine with no butter and part-skim mozzarella)

Happy snacking!

Weight Loss Myths & Truths

Myth #1: I can lose weight as long as I’m exercising.

Think about it. Which one is harder to do – eating 300 calories or burning 300 calories through exercise? Weight loss is 80% nutrition, 20% fitness. You could spend hours in the gym working your butt off but ruin all of your efforts if you aren’t mindful of what you’re eating. You simply can’t out-exercise a bad diet.

Myth #2: Weight loss supplements are an effective way to lose weight.

I laugh every time Sensa commercials come on TV. Sprinkling some mysterious substance on your burger and french fries will not do anything to help you lose weight. These products are not regulated by the FDA, which means the companies that distribute these supplements don’t have to tell you what is in their product, they are able to make false claims about their product and the product could potentially be dangerous to take. These companies are only looking to take advantage of people who are desperate to lose weight. The one thing these supplements do is drain your wallet, so use the money you would be spending on supplements and buy a gym membership or fresh, whole foods.

Myth #3: The more I cut calories, the more weight I’ll lose.

Weight loss happens when you create a calorie deficit, meaning you burn more calories than you consume. Creating a deficit that is too large can do more harm than good and can sabotage your effort to lose weight. Habitually under-eating and/or over-exercising can cause your metabolism to slow down and can increase your risk for an array of health issues ranging from eating disorders to heart complications. It may seem counterproductive, but the more you exercise, the more you need to eat.

Myth #4: Women should lift light weights at high repetitions to avoid bulking up.

Many women seem to think that lifting heavy weights will cause them to “bulk up” and look like scary body builders. However, women don’t have enough testosterone to get them to a bulky state. Women SHOULD lift heavier weights because it has a number of benefits. Research shows it can help burn fat and calories, even after you finish your strength training session; it will make you look leaner (not bulky!), it will help fight osteoporosis, and it can help prevent injury Lifting light weights, I’m talking light enough to easily do 20+ repetitions with little to no muscle fatigue, won’t do much to build strength. When you’re not building strength, you’re not going to get that lean physique. A lot of people don’t know how heavy they should be lifting. As a general rule of thumb, your muscles should literally feel exhausted after completing your last repetition. This should be the last repetition you can complete with good form. For heavy lifting, it should be between 6 and 10 reps. Anything below 6 reps, you might want to try lifting a little lighter. Anything higher than 10, time to increase your intensity.

Myth #5: I will always be hungry when I’m dieting.

The trick to not being hungry throughout the day is to choose nutrient dense foods at your mealtimes – vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, lean proteins – that won’t leave you hungry half an hour later. Fast food, refined sugar, white flour, chips, cake, cookies, crackers, etc. won’t do much to fill you up as they’re merely empty calories, and you’re likely to be hungry again very shortly. You can easily overeat on empty calories, but try to overeat on fruits and vegetables. It’s almost impossible!

Myth #6: Since 1 pound is equal to 3,500 calories, I need to burn 3,500 calories through exercise each week to lose 1 pound.

To lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit. You do this by reducing the amount of calories you eat and through physical exercise, everyday activities (cleaning, washing dishes, grocery shopping, etc.) and your Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR, which is the amount your body burns at rest. My BMR is about 1,310. This is the amount of calories my body burns AT REST. Using the Harris Benedict Equation, I can multiply my BMR by 1.375 because of my activity level (“lightly active,” although I think I’m moderately active), which brings my daily calorie needs to 1,801. (http://www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator/) Basically, I have to eat around 1,800 calories to maintain my weight. Realistic, healthy weight loss is about one pound per week. (Remember that creating a calorie deficit too large can sabotage your weight loss efforts.) One pound of fat is equal to 3,500 calories, which means you need to create a weekly calorie deficit of 3,500 calories. 3,500 calories divided by 7 days a week is a 500 calorie deficit per day. With my physical activity level already accounted for, I would have to eat around 1,300 calories to lose one pound of fat each week. Keep in mind that this math may seem simple enough, and you could do ALL of the right things and still not lose weight. Our bodies can be really stubborn. Pain in the butt? I think so. But the good news is that you don’t have to burn 3,500 calories through exercise each week.

Myth #7: To reduce belly fat, I should do ab exercises, such as crunches.

You can’t spot reduce fat, especially with exercises that “target” those specific areas. Unfortunately, your body decides where the fat comes off. You can do all the crunches you want but they won’t do anything to help reduce your belly fat. If you continue to exercise and eat a healthy, balanced diet and within your calorie ranges, pretty soon the fat will come off. Maybe not as quickly or where you want it to come off, but it will happen.

Myth #8: Healthy food is too expensive.

“I can’t afford to eat healthy, so that’s why I still eat fast food.” WHAT? You, my friend, are kidding yourself. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this, and every time I get super irritated. Sure, if you buy out-of-season organic produce, it’s going to be expensive! You have to be smart about it. Buy what is in season and/or what’s on sale. And don’t always settle for grocery store produce! I’m lucky to be surrounded by tons of farms who were selling huge butternut squash for $1 each this past fall. At the grocery store, they were $1 per POUND. Support your local farmers by going to farmer’s markets and buying seasonal produce there. When you’re at the grocery store, use coupons when you can for products you buy. Oatmeal (the big containers of old-fashioned oats, not instant), dry black beans and rice can go a long way and can be prepared in a number of different ways. I’m going to elaborate on this at a later date and breakdown how much each food is costing me per serving, which I hope will convince all of the non-believers out there that eating healthy does NOT have to be expensive.

Myth #9: Detoxes and cleanses can help jump start my weight loss.

There is no medical evidence that suggests detoxes or cleanses removes toxins from the body. Our bodies naturally remove any toxins. The best “detox” you can do for your body is to just stop eating the junk food! There is no reason to do a cleanse or detox. Just start eating whole, clean foods, exercise and drink water. Simple as that!

High-Protein Oatmeal Banana Pancakes

I love breakfast. No really, I absolutely LOVE breakfast food, especially the ones that can be high in fat, sugar and flour: pancakes, muffins, waffles, french toast; oh yum.

Awhile back, I discovered a recipe for Blueberry Pancakes (original recipe: http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=416405) that are high in protein, low in fat and have zero flour. It’s super quick and easy to make, plus you can make it the night before and cook them the next morning for breakfast. I rarely have blueberries on hand in the wintertime (you could use frozen) so when I make mine, I use a banana instead and add some peanut butter in the batter for a little more protein. And then I eat the whole batch.

For my version (no added sugar/sweetener), all you need:

1/2 cup old fashioned oats
3 egg whites or 1/2 cup liquid egg whites
1 banana, broken into smaller pieces
1 Tablespoon of peanut butter
Dash of cinnamon

Throw it all in a blender and process until everything is combined. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes, then cook them up like regular pancakes. You can top them with maple syrup, fresh strawberries slices, apple slices, or even more peanut butter (not included in nutritional information).

Calories: 428
Carbs: 61 grams
Fat: 12 grams
Protein: 25 grams

20130118-133111.jpg

20130118-133103.jpg

I love this recipe. This is a great pre- or post-workout meal. There are so many ways you can make these, and I love experimenting with different fruit and toppings!