Healthy Oatmeal toppings

Oatmeal is soul food. It’s got that childhood nostalgia, cozy, comfy vibe. There are endless possibilities when making your oatmeal to add healthy oatmeal toppings which allows you to mix it up every day and try new flavors. You can customize it depending on what you have going on each day. It is the perfect pre-workout meal for both long and short workouts or for when you have the day off from training but still wants that solid and filling morning meal. (You can also grab my free workouts here).

Customize it…..but how you ask? Let’s take some time to really dive into oatmeal. Let me give you my tricks on types of oatmeal, ways to bulk it up and ways to make it the perfect well-rounded breakfast…..or really any meal of the day!

Oatmeal and the body

Oatmeal releases it’s carbohydrates slowly. This slow release allows you to keep your energy levels constant and keep hunger away. That can allow you to train harder for longer without the dreaded bonk if you have a solid workout planned. But it can also help keep your mind focused by giving you energy and keeping those distracting hunger pains away.

According to the USDA, a half a cup of dry oatmeal contains over 13 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and about 52 grams of carbohydrates. Plus over 8 grams of filling fiber.

This filling food also is full of nutrients. Oatmeal contains both magnesium and iron which many Americans are low in. Plus zinc, B1 and B5 vitamins. For those of you expecting little ones (and those who are not) a half cup of dry oatmeal contains 11% of your daily folate. It is a B vitamin that your body uses to make DNA and other genetic material. Taking before and during pregnancy can help prevent certain birth defects. With all this nutrition oatmeal is considered a very nutrient dense food.

Trying to eat healthily and lose weight but can’t shake the “all or nothing” approach.  Listen to this episode of the Feel Amazing Naked Podcast where I give you tools to learn how to live in the grey, instead of the black and white.

So what is oatmeal?

Oatmeal is made of hulled oat grains called groats which are the seeds inside the husk. The oat grains are dehusked then heated and cooled to stabilize the oats. That heating provides the nutty flavor of oatmeal. They are then milled to produce the different types of oatmeal you see in the stores such as steel cut, old fashioned oats, and quick oats.

You are probably asking yourself which type of oatmeal should I purchase? There are many different types of oatmeal out there. There are also oatmeals which contain a variety of grains and seeds already mixed in.

First off it is best to steer clear of those flavored oatmeal packets. Many of them contain artificial flavors and loads of added sugar. Later on we will explore ways to flavor your oatmeal but for now, keep in mind that plain oatmeal is the best way to start.

Steel cut oats are minimally processed and provide more fiber and density than other oatmeal. They also go by the names coarse oatmeal, Irish oatmeal and pinhead oats. This oatmeal has a very sturdy texture and is almost chewy. If you have the time this can be one of the best types of oatmeal since it’s so close to its natural state. One way around the long cooking time would be to make a large batch to eat throughout the week. Steel cut oats can be made in the slow cooker or instant pot as well.

Don’t have the time or enjoy the texture of steel cut oats? The next best would be rolled oats or old fashioned oats. These oats are made by steaming whole oats and then flattening them. They cook faster than steel cut oats. Old fashioned oats are best made in a large batch since they can take a little while to cook. They also can be made in the slow cooker or instant pot.

The fastest cooking oats are also the most processed and those are quick oats also called instant oats. They are pre-cooked then dried and rolled to be slightly thinner than rolled oats. They cook the fastest but do not retain as much texture and can get mushy if overcooked.

I suggest the best oatmeal purchase would be as least processed as possible that works with your schedule. All three types of oatmeal are all made from whole oat groats so you will be getting the same nutrients. The main differences are the texture and how quickly your body processes the oatmeal. If you eat oatmeal that started off already processed your body will not need to work as hard to break it down and will digest it much faster. You may not get the same filling effect from instant oats that you would from steel cut or old fashioned oats.

How to cook oatmeal

You can make your oatmeal with water, cow milk or any plant-based milk. Making your oatmeal with milk can add a nice creaminess. However, keep in mind that cow’s milk will add some protein however many plant-based milk (besides soy and fortified plant-based milk) do not have the protein so you may need to add some additional protein another way.

Bulk up that bowl

Now that you have your oatmeal base figured out let’s talk about ways to bulk up your bowl of oatmeal. You can really increase the volume of your oatmeal to make a very satisfying meal. These days there are loads of recipes out there to bulk up your bowl! This can be especially helpful if you are looking to lower your carbohydrate intake for the day but still want to feel satisfied.

The easiest way to increase the volume of your oatmeal is to add more liquid and cook it longer. This may take some experimentation on how much liquid to add and how much time you have to make your oatmeal. Or do this hour before or the night before to really add some volume to your oatmeal.

There are different things you can add to your oatmeal to change the macronutrient content to fit your needs while also adding some volume.

Add micronutrients and volume

One of the most recent ways I have seen growing in popularity is adding riced cauliflower! Not only do you increase your volume but also get a serving of vegetables. This one can take some experimentation. Try starting by adding a fourth cup or less and build from there. If you enjoy the taste of cauliflower you may be able to add a lot more and still find it palatable.

On a similar note, canned pumpkin is another great addition to your oatmeal bowl. Pumpkin is a nutritional powerhouse without adding a lot of calories. Half a cup of pumpkin contains only 40 calories but about 3.5 grams of filling fiber. Not to mention a whopping 380% of your daily vitamin A requirements which help keep your eyes healthy!

Healthy Fats

Another way to thicken up your oatmeal plus add some nutrition are chia seeds and ground flax seeds. Both of these seeds will thicken up your oatmeal nicely if you give them a chance to sit and soak. They absorb the liquid and give you oatmeal a very nice texture. Both of these seeds are high in fiber and healthy fats.

Protein additions

Want to add some filling protein to your oatmeal? There are many ways you can do this depending on your nutrition goals and taste preferences.

One way to add some protein is with eggs. You can add some beaten whole eggs or egg whites. I suggest adding the eggs or egg whites after you have cooked your oatmeal. Stir in the eggs and then throw the oatmeal back into the microwave or on the stove for a few more minutes. This will cook the eggs and give your oatmeal a very thick texture.

You can also add in a protein supplement to your oatmeal. A favorite of mine is Vital Protein (you can read my blog post on collagen here). Again I suggest you cook your oatmeal first then add the protein powder. Depending on what flavor is your favorite you can add chocolate or vanilla or anything you have on hand. Or even unflavored if that is your thing.

Add in protein

Still looking for more protein? Add in some powdered peanut butter. You get around 6 grams of filling protein per serving and only 4 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fat. If you have not tried powdered peanut butter yet I suggest you go out there and get some. It is peanuts that have been roasted then pressed to remove the oil. Then it is ground into a fine powder. You can get the flavor of peanut butter without all the fat.

Finally, you can always add in some creamy yogurt after your oatmeal has cooked. Yogurt not only contains lots of filling protein but also probiotics to help keep your digestive system running smoothly. However, be aware of the sweetened flavored yogurts out there. Many contain lots of added sugar and/or artificial sweeteners. Look for a more natural flavored yogurt or better yet a plain high protein one. You can add your own flavors later.

Bonus carbs

Searching for some additional carbs? How about mixing in a mashed up banana. This will give your oatmeal a very creamy texture and add lots of healthy nutrition. Bananas are high in fiber (both soluble and insoluble), easy to digest and full of potassium.

So those are some ways you can add volume and protein without a lot of extra calories. Now how about flavor. I could go on and on about the different toppings you can put on your oatmeal. The key to topping your oatmeal is to be aware of the calorie dense options that should be used sparingly and the options that you can be a bit more liberal with.

Fruits are a great way to add lots of flavor and micronutrients. They pack a big punch without derailing your nutrition goals. You can use either frozen or fresh. It has even been shown that frozen fruit retains more of its precious nutrition. However, either one is a great option. If you opt for dried fruit just be aware that dried fruit is a lot more macronutrient dense so you may want to be aware of the quantity depending on your goals.

Flavor it up with spice

You can also add in spices or extracts to your oatmeal to give it some flavor kick. Cinnamon gives your oatmeal an almost sweet flavor without any added sugar. One of my favorites is pumpkin pie spice. It is a combination of cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, ground cloves, and allspice. Extracts such as vanilla or almond can add a nice flavor punch just make sure not to add too much because they can be very overpowering.

Then, of course, there are some very delicious but very macronutrient dense toppings out there. These are great in moderation and can add a nice touch to your oatmeal. If you are looking for a little crunch granola, nuts, seeds or toasted coconut flakes can be a tasty option. Want a healthy chocolate crunch? Add some cocoa nibs to your bowl. Nut butters mix nicely into oatmeal again just make sure you watch the portions.

Looking for some sweetness you can add honey, agave nectar, real maple syrup, brown sugar or coconut sugar. Even a bit of fruit jam can add the perfect amount of sweetness.

Build it like a pyramid

To sum it up I like to look at building my oatmeal like a pyramid. Start at the bottom with the highest volume ingredient and then slowly moving up and decreasing your quantity. So think of your oatmeal and whatever volume add-ins you want as your base. Then you have the mid layer of fresh fruit or added protein. Finally topping your bowl off with some more macronutrient dense toppings that add some crunch and texture.

I am sure you have been thinking of hot oatmeal this entire post. Well, you can also enjoy oatmeal cold. Check out my post on overnight oatmeal here! This is a great way to have your oatmeal ready to go in the morning. Go ahead and add some flavor and toppings to this oatmeal the same way you would hot!

As a bonus for those of you who are gluten-free, feel free to indulge in a bowl. However, make sure to purchase certified gluten-free oatmeal because many oatmeals could contain gluten due to cross-contamination.

The nice thing about building a bowl of oatmeal like this you can customize it to meet your nutrient goals. You can fill in some gaps where you see fit and go lighter on other macronutrients depending on what you need.

I hope this has given you a new take on oatmeal and all the flavor combinations. Go have some fun with your bowl and enjoy a filling, healthy and delicious meal!

Looking for some workouts to fit into your day?  Grab my free workouts here!

Work Hard Be Kind,

Amanda

How to make a healthy salad

Salad misconceptions

Ok friends time to look at salad in a whole new light….think of salad as endless possibilities.  So many combinations that can fit your nutritional goals.

But salads can also kill the food budget in one quick swoop.  Imagine you are sitting down to enjoy a nice dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.  You spy the Chicken Caesar Salad. Sounds healthy enough right! Grilled chicken, romaine lettuce, a sprinkle of grated parmesan cheese.  Well sorry to burst your bubble but that salad comes in at a whopping 1510 calories and 1450 milligrams of sodium. This seemingly healthy salad option can derail your healthy eating plan in one sitting.

Have no fear….I am here to help you learn how to build a healthy salad and have some fun with it.  With these tricks and tips, you can enjoy a filling satisfying salad while sticking to your nutrition goals.  A delicious salad does not need to be difficult or complicated. Let’s do this…..

A salad is like a pyramid

Think of salad like a pyramid.  You can’t have a solid structure without a base that you build upon.  Let’s work our way from the bottom with the greens as the foundation. Top those greens with some vegetables, then protein, some healthy fats and finally a splash of salad dressing.  The pyramid shape can help remind you to go heavy on the items at the bottom and slowly decrease amounts as you build up to the top.

Grab a big salad bowl and let’s fill it up.

The foundation: Greens

Ok so let’s focus on the foundation….the greens.  There are so many possibilities when it comes to greens.  What it really comes down to is what kind of texture and taste you are looking for.  I will just point out a few of my favorites but feel free to grab any type of green you enjoy.  

The best part about greens is that they provide a lot of bulk and nutrition without a lot of calories.  They contain filling fiber which will keep hunger away. What that means to you is….load them up! Fill that bowl up with a good solid base of greens.

If you want a really hearty green that requires some extra chewing then kale is a great option.  Kale is considered one of the most nutrient dense foods on the planet.  One cup packs over 100% of your daily value of vitamin K, A and C.

If you are looking for a green that has a unique taste you can go with arugula.  This green has a slightly peppery taste and many time can be somewhat overpowering.  It is best mixed with other greens however if you enjoy that flavor can make a delicious base on its own. Fun arugula fact….it’s 90% water so it’s a hydrating food great for the summer!

Looking for a versatile green that packs a nutritional punch but is a bit lighter than kale??  Look no further than spinach.  Mature spinach can be a bit more substantial and hearty.  Although delicious, many times the leaves can be quite large and require cutting.  Baby spinach is more delicate and has much smaller leaves. Spinach is high in potassium and magnesium along with lots of other vitamins.

For a more neutral green, a great option is romaine lettuce.  The leaves are very sturdy with a firm center rib.  This green is popular due to its crunchy texture. It is high in vitamin C, K, and folate.  This lettuce provides a lot of bulk with little calorie impact with a cup coming in at 8 calories and 1-2 carbohydrates.  

Want a trendy green that has been growing in popularity….fill your bowl with microgreens.  They are immature greens produced from seeds of vegetables and herbs.  It has been found that these immature greens pack a nutritional punch and can contain forty percent more nutrients compared to their mature counterparts.

So those were just a few options for greens. Feel free to get creative and remember greens are your base so load them up.

All the veggies

Next up comes vegetables. This is a great way to really add a lot of variety to your salad again without blowing your nutritional goals.  I could go on and on with vegetable options…including the standards like carrots, cucumber, radish, broccoli and so much more. Vegetables not only add lots of nutrition, flavor, and crunch but they also make your salad look great.  Food that looks good always tastes that much better.

The key to making your salad so much fun is to be creative on how you prepare those vegetables.  You can rice those vegetables or you can spiral them.  For a quick way to add veggies grab your grater and quickly grate them over your greens.  Add them raw or roasted. If you roast them you can control the different herbs and spices you use.    

However, there are a few creative veggies that I like to add to my salads.

A great way to add some crunch is to grab a bag of pre-shredded cabbage.  You can sprinkle this on top of your greens for some added crunch.  You can even purchase bags of shredded purple cabbage which adds lots of colors.  Cabbage is full of vitamins but also has a high fiber content which can help keep digestion on track.

Another salad topping I love is artichoke hearts and hearts of palm. Both can be purchased in a can and are ready to go. Just a quick chop and they can add some amazing flavor and texture.  Though not related they both have somewhat of a similar flavor. Just make sure you purchase the ones packed in water not its oil.

Looking for a really crunchy vegetable that will add some great flavor….look no further than Jicama.  This root vegetable has been described as the cross between an apple and a turnip.  It gives you a very solid mouthfeel while being low in calories, sugar, and starch. To eat it simply peel the outer brown skin and cut into bite size pieces for your salad. As a side note, this vegetable is great for dipping when cutting into matchstick pieces.  Add it to your radar!

Ok…I could go on and on about different veggies to add to your salad but I think you get the idea.  Now you have your greens and vegetable base it is time to add your proteins and fats to make it a well-rounded meal.  Those greens and vegetables add some good quality complex carbs but a meal is not complete until you add in the protein and fat.

Protein time

Let’s talk protein.  Again there are many different kinds of protein you can add to a salad. I am going to lump them into categories to give you a guideline.

The first group is the animal proteins.  This can include chicken, beef, turkey or pork.  Open up that refrigerator pull out some leftover animal protein from the night before, slice it up and you have your salad protein taken care of.  If you plan to make lots of salads one idea is to prep a large batch of grilled chicken for the week.

Another animal protein that is amazing on salads are eggs which can be batch cooked at well.  Hard boil a batch of eggs, grab one, slice or dice it up and you have your protein. Include that egg yolk to make sure you don’t miss out on some vital nutrients.

Meat not your thing…..how about legumes! Legumes are the fruit or seeds of plants of the legume family for example peas or beans.  There are so many different types of legumes out there that provide a variety of flavors. A few good ones include black beans, kidney beans, green peas, and garbanzo beans.  I suggest picking legumes that hold their shape well and don’t get mushy. Beans are generally low in fat but high in protein and fiber. For example, one cup of black beans contains 15 grams of protein, a whopping 15 grams of filling fiber and only 1 gram of fat.

You can purchase beans in a can or you can make them at home.  They are super easy to make at home and the best thing is you can control the amount of salt and seasonings.  Beans absorb the flavors you cook them in so have some fun creating some bean flavor combinations.

I am putting soybeans into its own protein category because it has so many options and I feel it can stand on its own.  Soybeans come in many different shapes and sizes. Most grocery stores sell the whole soybeans called edamame usually in the frozen vegetable section. They come in the pods or sold already shelled.  A quick pop in the microwave or some boiling water and you have your protein. For more of a crunch, you can add roasted soybeans that usually can be found in the Asian section of your grocery store.

You can also purchase soybeans in the form of tofu which is curdled soy milk pressed into a solid.  It comes in many different consistencies such as soft, firm or super firm. For you salad purposes it is best to purchase a firm or extra firm so it holds its shape.  

Another form is tempeh which is fermented soybeans pressed into a thick cake and is a bit less processed than tofu.  It has a firmer texture and a bit stronger flavor. However, both tempeh and tofu soak up whatever flavor you marinate them in. They can also be enjoyed either cooked or straight from the package.

Bring on healthy fats

Your salad is almost complete. You have your greens, vegetables and now our protein. The final step to making this a well rounded and filling meal is to add some fats.  Your salad fats can come in several different forms.

Perhaps the easiest fat to add to a salad are nuts.  Roasted, raw, unsalted or salted.  Whole, slivered, sliced, chopped or ground.  It is up to you and what fits your needs. Some nut toppings include almonds, pecans or walnuts.  But you can also think outside the box and add macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts or pine nuts.  

Another healthy fat option for salads is avocados.  As many of you know I am a super supporter of this healthy fat. Did you know that avocado contains more potassium than a banana?  They have loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acids and filling fiber. So not only do they taste great but they will fill you up and keep hunger away.

Another option for fats would be some high-quality cheese crumbles.  You want to pick a cheese that packs a lot of flavors. High flavor means you can use a small amount and still add a lot to your meal.  Some of the best cheeses for salads include crumbled goat cheese, feta or blue cheese. Their strong flavors help a little go a long way.  They are also relatively easy to track down in your grocery store.

One more fat option that tastes great is olives. I am not just talking about those little black olives you see on pizzas…which are also delicious and worthy of a salad topper.  Don’t forget about green olives or kalamata olives both widely available in the grocery stores. These days many grocery stores have olive bars.  Go pick up a few new varieties of olives to try. Olives usually have a very strong taste so a little goes a long way. Chop them up and add them as a healthy fat topper.  Just make sure you remove the pit before serving….that would not have a good ending.

Dress it up

So now your salad is built and there is just one thing you may want to add….salad dressing.  Depending on how many other flavors you have on your salad you may not need any dressing. A light sprinkle of salt and pepper may do the trick.  However, some real simple ways to dress your salad that won’t add many calories are a splash of fresh lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. You could even think outside the box and use salsa or a light plain greek yogurt.

D.I.Y  dressing

Making your own salad dressing is super easy and you can control what you add to it.  Trust me once you make your own dressing you will never go back to store bought. You can make a big batch of dressing that will last the week.  Below are a few recipe ideas. Put the dressings in a mason jar for storage. Some may need to be taken out to get to room temperature before serving if they thicken up when cold.  If your homemade dressing is too thick you can also add a splash of water. It won’t change the taste and will help make the dressing thin enough to drizzle over your creation.

Skinny Thai Peanut Dressing

Creamy Tahini Dressing

Oil-Free Balsamic Dressing

Now that you know the basics of building a salad pyramid there is nothing stopping you from creating a healthy meal that fits your nutritional goals.  You can even have some fun and make a salad bar at home. Let the kiddos get involved and create their own salad. When they get involved it can increase the chances they will eat those veggies.  Plus with a salad bar each person and customize the meal to their taste and needs.

So give it a go! I can’t wait to hear all about your salad adventures!!!  Happy Munching!

 

Work hard Be Kind,

Amanda

 

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Client Success Story: Creating Her happy

Client: Creating Her Happy

Age: 33

Time: 6 months

One of my favorite things to share is client success…but it’s been awhile.

It reminds me why I do the work I do.

This week’s success story is about a Mom who was just about to throw the towel in on herself until we connected.

Through our work together, she is not only 20 pounds down BUT is maintaining it…she also has made the connection that when you grow in one area of life it is contagious in another!

Here is her story:

When I started my journey with Amanda, I had the same goal that most women have – to get my pre-baby body back. However, I was four years into this goal with zero results. I ate (pretty) healthy, I worked out (hard!), but my body composition never changed. I was beyond frustrated and had almost allowed myself to accept that I would never look how I want, and would never be who I want.

We chatted with a couple of her clients and decided that after vacation, we would dive into learning how to become more food aware. We were nervous because we lead incredibly busy lives and we weren’t sure how this would fit into our schedule, but we were both ready to try.

I’ll let my husband tell his own story – but for me, I wish I could say that the weight fell off right away, but it didn’t. In fact, my weight crept up the first week. In chatting with Amanda, she noticed that I was not giving myself any rest days from working out. I started incorporating rest days and then I finally started to see a change. In the first month, I was down four pounds.

Then life happened. I had to have emergency surgery to get my appendix out, and my grandmother died the next day. I had to fly redeye two days after surgery in order to be at her funeral. I was an absolute mess. But then Amanda emailed me. She was so supportive and encouraging.

Towards the end of my third month, I took another trip back east to spend some time with my family. I was very nervous about this trip – I was seeing such great progress that I was sure I would ruin it somehow. However, Amanda doesn’t just teach you to count macros or calories. She teaches mindfulness – she teaches you to really think about what you’re putting into your body and how it will fuel you. I’m proud to say that when I got home after more than a week, I had not only met my goal weight but surpassed it!

So here I am, after 6 months of working with Amanda. I am down 20lbs (beyond my goal weight) AND maintaining it. I feel great. My pants are HUGE on me. I went from a snug size 6 to a size 2.

It’s amazing to think about…6 months ago I was ready to give up on myself and accept that I would always feel gross and unattractive. But now, I feel wonderful. I feel strong and healthy. Amanda once told me that after finding success in one area of life, you’ll want that feeling for everything. She is 100% right! I have some other things in mind for my future that I would never have considered had it not been for her guidance.

It’s not just about food – it’s about life.

If you want to change your life too and are seeking the “bigger picture” of balance, I’d love for you to complete this application for a FREE coaching call.

 

Work Hard Be Kind,

Amanda

5 Ways To Save Money On Real Food

Several years ago I watched the documentary “SuperSize Me” created by Morgan Spurlock. If you haven’t seen it here is the premise: he decides to document what will happen to him if he lives on a diet of McDonald’s fast food exclusively. The results and statistics shared will astound you. It is worth your watch. One point brought up in the film has stuck with me over the years:

It is cheaper for a family of 4 to 5 to eat at McDonald’s than to buy healthy food.

Don’t buy into the lie. 

Here is why:

6 cheeseburgers at $1.00: $6.00

4 orders of Small French Fries at $1.39: $5.56

4 drinks at $1.00: $4.00

(plus tax of course)

Meal Total: $15.56

If that family were to eat McDonald’ five times a week for the entire month (let’s call it 20 times) that is $311.20 for a month. In my house that is what we budget to feed our family for 10 DAYS of groceries for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And we eat well with that budget.

According to the USDA, the average American household spends $150 to $300 on groceries per week. Our family is on the high end of that average and yet we still spend less than it would cost for our family to eat at McDonald’s that frequently.

Here is an example:

I made burgers, sweet potatoes, and broccoli for my family of four last week one night for dinner (2 adults, and a 7 and 5-year-old):

1.25 lbs of lean ground beef: $4.98

2.5 lbs of Sweet Potatoes: 3.19 (on sale)

2 crowns of Broccoli: 1.49

(plus tax of course)

Total Meal Cost: $9.66

You tell me…what would you rather feed your family?

I Needed To Contribute

When I left my teaching job to stay home with our kids, I was desperate to find ways to contribute financially. I began couponing and finding simple ways to pinch pennies here and there with digital coupons and the Ibotta app.

What I discovered was that the majority of the food we ate was fresh produce and meats and rarely allowed for couponing. Most coupons available were for process foods and toiletry items. I began to find other ways to save on those foods by being “real food” savvy.

I want to help you realize the same. Sparing no expense for quality foods is something I am not willing to compromise on. You shouldn’t either. There are ways to save — you just have to think out of the box, be willing to invest your time, and PLAN.

5 Ways to Save Money on Real Food

From that experience, I found 5 ways to save money on real food that we ate regularly. Not the stuff in boxes that lasted forever, but on food that we needed to eat quickly because it was actually going to go bad.

(Want to learn how to fill your body with real food to look and feel your best? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

Buy What Is In Season

Did you know eating the vegetables that are in season provides benefits to you?

It is something often overlooked because of the grocery store convenience. We have access to almost anything we want year round. Most of us can’t even tell you what produce is in season. But my Grandma, she knows, because she had no choice when she grew up. The benefits to eating produce when it is in season are plenty.

  • It just tastes better because the environment for its growth is ideal.
  • Less human interaction. If it grows when it is supposed to that means humans probably had to do less to help it grow.  That means less chemical exposure and lower price potential.
  • They tend to be cheaper because they are easier to come by. It is the good old supply and demand principle.
  • It is fresher. When things are fresh they tend to have more nutritional value and a richer taste.

This link is so cool!  You can select your region and time of year to see what produce is in season in your area.

Start approaching your grocery shopping a bit differently and think about buying foods that are in season to reap their cost (and nutritional) benefits.

Don’t Forget To Shop The Clearance Section

Clearance on whole and real foods?  Um, yes! Almost every grocery store puts fruits, veggies, and meats that are almost about to expire on sale. This is perfect for you and I because we have a FREEZER. Take those items and throw them in the freezer for later use. Like those brown bananas that are $39 cents per pound? Slice them up, store them in a freezer bag in your freezer and then throw them in a smoothie or into a blender for some nice banana ice cream. You will also have a freezer full of options to pick from for meal prep without having to visit the grocery store as frequently.

Peek At The Grocery Store Ads and Apps

I know you’re thinking “does this really even happen anymore”?  I promise it does, just not so much in the paper version. Almost every store offers a digital version of their weekly ad. Even cooler, many stores offer digital coupons that often include coupons for sales on produce, tubbed greens, and meats. They want you to use their app and retain your business so these coupons need fully taken advantage of.

It only takes one minute to scroll through their ad and coupons and that minute could be worth lots of money for you. I’ve used digital coupons on packages of mixed greens along with store’s weekly sale to get a large container for just about $1. That is several nights worth of salads to pair with a meal for less than $.33 for your ENTIRE family. Sprouts, my favorite local retailer, has even joined i, and offers an app to highlight their digital coupons and sales of the week. And to top it all off, Wednesday is double ad day which equals double savings when shopping.

Coupons are not abundant for real foods but surprise!  There are some great sites that do provide such an opportunity. All Natural Savings is one of those sites that offers coupons and rebates on organic and high quality options.

Another great one is Be Frugal. They show ads for almost all grocery stores, including Sprouts, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. They highlight the deals of the week and coupons at each of those major grocery store chains. Boom, one-stop savings right there!

Buy The Store Brands

I am not talking about the bottom of the line store brands. I am talking about nice quality frozen store brand fruits, veggies, and meats. Every store offers them now and that is to your benefit. Grocery chains are now recognizing that its consumers are demanding higher quality for ourselves and families.

A great example is my favorite mainstream store brand by Kroger called Simple Truth. It is a mostly organic brand that rivals its non-store brand almost always in price. Not to mention, stores want you to buy their brand so they put them on sale more often too. Cha-ching! Although frozen, these foods still offer you a major healthy go-to on a busy work night.

Meal Plan, Meal Plan, Meal Plan

The biggest tip to saving money on real food is PLANNING ahead.  I know it takes time, it takes energy, and it takes using your noggin. In my opinion, your health and the health of your family is worth every minute it takes. Use the ad to guide your menu planning. Decide what vegetables to use that week based on what is on sale.

My advice is five dinners a week. It is a really reasonable goal, with the other 2 nights being used as a great time to eat leftovers (boom, a little-hidden money saving tip right here too). And hello — we all love a night off from cooking! Just by planning for 5 dinners you are saving money on that temptation to hit the drive-thru.

The bonus of trying to save money on real food is that you are investing in your health as a byproduct. Therefore, completing the cycle of awesomeness I’ve talked about before…health, wealth and happiness.

Maybe the claim of healthy, nutritious food being expensive is less about cost and more about convenience. There is no way healthy living costs more than fast food. But it does take more work. Get started by using these 5 tips to invest in your pocketbook and in your health.

How do you save money on real food?

Work Hard Be Kind,

AWalk

5 Simple Tips to Achieving Nutritional Goals – Set Goals Not Resolutions

I love the feel of a new year. I love the internal feeling of accomplishment of another year gone by when the clock strikes midnight (that is if I actually stay awake for it). And I love the feeling of hope of the unknown for what the new year will bring.

But I can’t honestly say I’ve never sat down and said: “these are my New Year’s resolutions.” It just seems too fluffy, too manufactured, and too static.

To be honest, resolutions are intended to be so long term that you almost forgot you’ve made them. In fact, 92%  of New Year’s resolutions fail by January 15th. Seriously. That’s as far as people get.

What is a resolution?

The word resolution means “a formal expression of intention”. To have the intention to do something is one thing. But to actually put it on paper and take action is another. The word resolution implies to me that you failed the year before, that you resolve to do better in the next year.

The failure from the previous year is not a failure at all, but rather experience that will drive future change and behavior in this year.

Set goals, not resolutions. 

(Ready to stop putting your health on the backburner? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

What is the difference?

You might be asking, “Is there really a difference between a resolution and a goal?”

Well yes, there is, thanks for asking.

A goal is defined as “the result or achievement toward which effort is directed.” In other words, there is a tangible target that you want to hit with some type of behavior that will get you there. Goals are measurable, specific, and are written down with the intention of continually coming back to them to evaluate progress.

When I was a teacher, we set goals for our students’ progress and we assessed that progress each unit to identify our students’ areas of improvement and our own. With my clients now, I am constantly asking them the same.

As people, we should be doing that for ourselves constantly— in life, in marriage, in parenting, and of course, in health.

You Need Goals

You actually need goals. People who set goals and write them down succeed in life 50% more of the time than those that don’t use goal setting. In addition, when goals are set and achieved overall well being is improved and happiness is attained as a result. By setting goals you guarantee your life to be filled with greater success and happiness.  Goal setting is FREE, simple, and requires no major supplies. It is a no-brainer.

Goals are Dynamic

Throughout the year goals are meant to be dynamic, not static. That means they are constantly moving and changing. You might find that by February you achieve a goal set. When that happens, it gives you the opportunity to modify it and challenge yourself even more.

The moment your goals become static, you become stagnant.

When I see my clients begin to feel stagnant we work together to reevaluate their current goals and up level them for greater growth.

Nutritional Goals

Being a nutrition and lifestyle coach, I help my clients create their own goals related to health, weight loss and gain, performance gains, and overall life. I know after hundreds of clients that when they communicate those goals to me in writing and we constantly evaluate progress, that their success is far greater than those who go it alone.

There are a million posts out there written about goal setting and achievement. From my own experience and coaching practice, there are 5 keys to goal setting that must happen to maximize nutritional success.

5 Keys to Achieving Nutritional Goals

1. Be specific

Setting goals feels awkward sometimes.  You don’t know exactly what to say or how to say it.  Once you have a general goal in mind target in on the specific outcome you want. Just saying you want to lose weight is too vague. Will you feel like you’ve achieved your goal if you lose 1 pound?  Or do you want to lose 20 pounds?

Instead, make it specific.

  • “ I will lose 10 lbs by March 1st”
  • “I’ll drop 2 inches from my waistline in 8 weeks.”
  • “I will eat 1 serving of vegetables at each meal”
  • “I’m going to work out 3 times per week”
  • I will track what I eat all meals of the day

Making a goal specific allows you to come back and monitor your progress.

2. Make goals measurable

Nutritional goals can be measured in so many ways: through a body weight scale, body measurements, DEXA scans, before and after pictures, and through personal records at the gym.

When you have a specific goal, measure it by collecting data and monitoring that data to make sure it is headed in the direction you want.

Within your goals include a reasonable marker of progress to measure. This could be quantitative data such as weight, pounds lifted, and inches lost. However, measurable data can also come from quantitive measures such as perceived energy levels, fit of clothes and quality of sleep.

3. Find somebody to hold you accountable

People have a hard time hiring a coach or asking a friend to become their accountability partner. It is almost as if by doing this they are admitting they can’t get it under control themselves. I think those people are the smart ones.

Your results will be far greater if you have someone in your corner. They will help you get back on track when you fall off, assess your progress, and ask the hard questions when you need them. I know this from my own experience and the clients I lead. Ask your spouse, friend, or hire a coach to keep you accountable.

4. Make it a priority

Don’t make up excuses. I hear it from clients often. The week was busy, we traveled, we had a party, etc. If you want your health, your body, and your gym performance to change than it has to be a priority. If it truly matters to you, you will find a way to make it happen. The effort you put in is the outcome you will get. That effort is 100% in your control. To make a change you must change the behaviors to get you to achieve that goal first.

(Want to make your health a priority in the new year? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

5. Celebrate Progress

Often times we rely on scale weight to judge our progress. The scale is just one indicator of progress along our health journey. Celebrate the aesthetic change you see in the mirror, the way your clothing fits, your changes in strength and stamina at the gym, the compliments others pay you, and your overall health improvement.

It is not all or nothing. Celebrating small markers of success help keep motivation and commitment high along your journey. If a bad day falls upon you, get right back on track the next day and celebrate your ability to identify that.

Be the 88% of the population that uses goal setting as a strategy for getting what you want, including nutritional success.

What are some of your goals?

Work Hard Be Kind,

AWalk

Scale Obsession

The dreaded scale. Sometimes I just want to take that thing and throw it as far as possible. Some days it is my best friend. I know the scale obsession feeling well. I’ve been there and have allowed the scale to determine my perception of progress. I am here to tell you — that little piece of metal and plastic is merely a device to collect data and I want you to get to the point that you can agree. Did you hear that?  A tiny little device can determine your mindset for the day?

That is over starting NOW!

When you embark on a nutritional journey or program you have to find a way to assess the outcome. The scale is easy to use, and many people resort to it because the scale should tell you everything, right?  It doesn’t judge you subjectively, it gives you concrete, black and white data every single morning. You can’t talk it into subtracting some digits or adding them. Instead, its consistency day to day can give you some extremely useful information.

However, the scale alone is not your greatest indicator of progress. The scale obsession has to stop. Understanding and taking time to assess and celebrate your other progress indicators is key to your physical AND mental success.

Non-Scale Indicators

Here are five non-scale measures of change that show health progress is more than just the scale.

Your Health

Your own health is a serious indicator of success.I know shocking, right? How do you feel when you eat, after you eat? Are you eating quality foods or falling victim to taste all the time?

What’s your overall health panel like? Having a baseline of health history to judge against once you embark on a nutritional journey provides so much great insight into your health.  There is more to “health” than we can actually see with our eyes. For example, the scale may have you thinking you’re overweight. But if it’s all muscle, and if you feel good because you’re eating healthy and wholesome foods, wouldn’t that mean the scale is wrong?

(Ready to stop putting your health on the backburner? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

Food Awareness

I use the term food awareness with my clients all the time. It is honestly one of the tools I find most valuable to people in their sustainable relationship with food. It’s taking time to understand a nutritional label, not just read it. It is using that information and applying it to their own life and nutritional goals. If you have gained that ability through a nutritional program then that is a HUGE indicator of nutritional success.

Food awareness is more about knowing what you’re putting into your body, vs. trying to stick to a calorie goal. A low-fat coffee cake isn’t healthy just because it’s low-fat. See where I’m going here?

Food awareness is important, especially when you’re looking to take care of your body long-term.

Your Performance

Athlete or not, you perform in some way in your life. Maybe it is having enough energy to keep up with your kiddos or being able to climb ladders to install light fixtures. No matter what it is, you have to perform every day in your life….and I know you want to do it well.

How you feel during this performance is a huge indicator of success. Do you barely have enough energy to get by or are you ready to take on the world still late in the day?

Being in control of your intake in order to perform at the top of your game feels so good.  Sometimes you don’t even realize your performance is lackluster until you take time to document it, reflect on it and make changes towards improving it.

Your Composition

The real change that is important is what you see in the mirror not what the scale says.  I encourage before and after pictures to all my clients. And no, they don’t have to be shared in social media for the entire world to see.  Instead, they are your own private progress indicator that can truly show your body transformation.

Your Confidence

Confidence trumps composition any day in my opinion. Gaining the ability to love you for you, the body you walk with every day and the power to ignore those that think otherwise is a gift of maturity. This confidence, in my opinion, is really the greatest indicator of your success.

Sometimes we slave over food prep, plan everything perfectly, and think “Yes — this is the week for some awesome weight loss!”. But then you step on that scale and you are in total denial. “Up a freakin’ pound?  You’ve got to be kidding me!”. Trust me, I know that statement all too well because clients send me that frantic stress all too often.

It is virtually impossible to control all the variables that play a part of weight loss. Factors like changes in daily energy expenditure, efficiency in energy creation and absorption, training recovery, gastrointestinal fluctuations, hydration, fiber, and the list goes on. It takes some serious scientific equipment to even get a close gauge of your personal expenditure.

(Want to build your confidence and love what you see in the mirror? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

Way Back…Back into Time

Take yourself back to your freshmen year of high school and basic science. You spent time learning about data correlation and trending way back then (trust me you did, I taught this course for 10 years and not much has truly changed).

You learned that data collection can be all over the place. Plotting points on a  graph often reflect ups and downs over time. It’s the overall trend, or you may remember the “line of best fit” that truly shows your scale trends. That is reflecting over long-term scale data gives us much greater insight into your success versus day-to-day markers. It gives us a whole bunch of data points for which to assess long-term changes.

best-fit-graph

When you step on that scale I want you to see it as merely data collection. Don’t give it the power to control your destiny that day. Celebrate and take note of all of those other successes you are having through your journey; the compliment someone gave you about how great you are looking, how freakin’ awesome you felt after or during a workout last week, your decrease in cholesterol, and how you feel about yourself right now!

Have you ditched the scale before? How did it make you feel?

Work Hard Be Kind,

AWalk

10 Tailgate Tips For Healthy Eating Success

Do you ever get excited about the football season? I always am at around, well, um… the end of February every year! We love football at our house!  Just the sound of it in the background makes me happy. My husband played football for a bit in college, and having a game on takes me back to our college days together and the total thrill of the game.

The Tailgate

For many people now, football season takes on a whole new meaning. It is a major social event. Whether you are watching the game on the big screen at home or have season tickets, now football is all about tailgating. Throwing a football around, eating BBQ, and drinking a few adult beverages seems to be a prerequisite for the full football experience.

But — when the tailgate starts at 10:00 am and kickoff isn’t until 3:00 pm, there is a lot of room for that tailgate to take a turn towards a nutritional nightmare. But, have no fear! There is still a way to enjoy every moment of that tailgating experience and still stay on track with your nutritional goals.  

(Want to focus on your health and make it a priority? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

With 17 weeks of regular football season play, plus post-season playoffs, there is a whole lot of time for football and tailgating to come in between you and your nutritional goals. So, don’t make any excuses.  It is possible for you to find a sustainable way to enjoy watching your favorite team and the social element that comes along with the big game. Don’t be a victim to your Sunday FUN-day. Instead, follow these 10 simple tips for tailgate tracking success.

 

10 Tailgate Tips For Healthy Eating Success

Pre-Plan

It’s the name of the game — literally. You have to plan ahead and pre-log your food to stay on track. Ask ahead and find out what’s going to be cooking on the grill and save a space to enjoy the meal you want. If you know in advance what choices you will have, you will come out with greater success.

You can also plan ahead if YOU are the one catering for a group of people. Find ways to cut out the crap that you’d rather not eat. For example, use greek yogurt instead of mayo. Go without the bun if you plan on eating a few hot dogs or burgers. Add a side salad to the menu. Making healthier choices is easier when you pre-plan for them.

Bring Your Own Food

The great thing about most tailgating is that it’s potluck style. You can bring along a dish you love so that you know exactly what you are eating! For me, I love bringing some fresh and cut up fruit with a delicious dip. Or, I’ll bring some veggies in foil packs that can be thrown on the grill and enjoyed with burgers and hot dogs. This allows me more control over what I put in my body, and also allows me to enjoy the “not so great” foods in moderation. 

Eat Lean Leading Up To It

If you plan to really enjoy yourself and tailgating is your “go ham” moment then eat lean leading up to it. The morning of, prepare yourself an egg white omelet with lots of veggies and lean Canadian bacon. Stock up on greens and other veggies to fill you up with a lean lunch meat option like deli turkey, ham, tuna or chicken breast. Make a smoothie. Just fuel your body with healthy foods so you can indulge a bit at the tailgate. 

Pick A Lean Meat

Meat on the BBQ screams Tailgate. Choose one that you know will support your goals. Choose chicken breast, a lean pork tenderloin, salmon, or a lean cut of beef over a higher fat option like ribs or ribeyes. They taste amazing on a grill or in a smoker just like their full-fat sister options when done right. And on top of that, if you go a little overboard, it’s a lot easier to recover from the chicken breasts than it is a huge rack of ribs! 

Don’t Let Peer Pressure Bully You Into Giving In.  

OK — you are an adult and you should know how to say no!  You, however, must have the willpower to do so. Don’t blame your friends for your poor choices. They are not in charge of your health and well-being, you are. Be willing to stand up for your goals and follow through. They will respect you more for it.

Plan For Adult Beverages

Alcohol is part is of the tailgate experience for most. Don’t be so restrictive to say you won’t have a drink. All you need to do is choose a light beer, or higher proof alcohol and sparkling water to keep carb values down. Plan for it and then stick with it.

Bring A Dip and Chips-“ish”

Tailgating breeds snacking. Chips and the dips we dip them into tend to be an easy talk-while-you-eat option. Pretty soon five chips can turn into a bag and NOOOOO! So, make and take your own. Use a Greek yogurt-based dip to spare the fat of sour cream or heavy cream and mix in your favorite seasonings like a dry Ranch Mix or Onion Soup mix and serve with Pop Chips, veggies, or homemade corn tortilla chips.

Pack Fruit

Fruit is a simple and healthy option that still gives you that snacking feeling and can even satisfy your sweet tooth. And bonus — you know there is nothing bad or guilty about eating fruit. You can even add a vanilla greek yogurt dip as a treat on the side.

Keep Your Protein Up

Make sure to eat your protein. Protein is usually scarce at social events. Be sure to hit that protein goal by planning ahead and maybe finishing off the night with a small quantity of a protein supplement to hit your goals! Plus, eating more protein will keep you satiated, and less likely to reach for those not so good for you snacks. 

Stick To The Plan

Seriously, the simplest of all tips and yet, the hardest to do. Maintain your willpower and keep your eyes on the prize.  Be a “weekend warrior” so that Monday ends up being a day of progress and not regret.  

(Ready to stop putting your health on the backburner? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

 

Football season lasts 5 months. That is an opportunity to make progress for 5 months or allow it to determine your nutritional fate. Show up to your tailgate owning your goals and I promise, others will follow.

What are some of your favorite healthy tailgating recipes?

Work Hard Be Kind,

Awalk

Do You Know Your Food

I had a recent conversation with a friend who was so excited to tell me about her “fat-free” olive oil spray. I remember thinking —huh? It’s olive oil; made of only one macronutrient… fat. After some discussion, I helped her to realize that the serving size listed on the can was for a 2-second spray.

The reason the manufacturer could claim that it was “fat-free” on the label was that there wasn’t enough fat in one serving to have to label the fat content. Then I realized — if she didn’t understand that, there are many more people just like her out there!  It made me want to ask, do you know your food?

Do you know your food?

How well do you know your food labels? Do you know what’s really in your food? Are you familiar with the terms that many brands and companies use to entice you to buy their products? Let’s put your knowledge to the test!

(Ready to get in the habit of knowing your food and nourishing your body? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

Product Labeling

Fat-free, sugar-free, and low-fat are all labels you find commonly on foods. But do you really know what these common food labels mean to the food you are putting into your body? I dug a little deeper into the Food and Drug Administration’s website to find out exactly what a product must contain or not contain to acquire these labels. Here are my findings.

“Sugar-free”:  When a label says it is “sugar-free” it means the sugar has been replaced with another artificial sweetener made through a chemical process. The FDA requires that sugar-free products labeled sugar-free have less than 0.5 gram of sugar in a serving.

Sugar-free sweeteners and sugar alcohols like aspartame, neotame, saccharin, sucralose, xylitol, sorbitol, or maltitol may be some of the ingredients you read on labels replacing sugar and lowering carb calories. Because of their lower carb offerings “sugar-free’’ foods are very popular. However, their nutritional risk may outweigh their rewards based on an article released by Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public Health (1).

“Non-Fat”: To be considered non-fat the product must contain less than .5 grams of fat per serving. In other words, a 2-second spray of olive oil can be considered non-fat… even though olive oil is a fat.

“Reduced Fat”: When something is “reduced fat” that just means that it must contain at least 25% less fat per serving than the food it is referencing, typically the full-fat sister version. The way the fat content is reduced varies greatly depending on the food type.

“Vitamin Fortified”: A fortified food simply has vitamins, minerals or other nutrients not normally present in the food added to it during processing.  This is typical because processing them takes out any minerals and vitamins that existed.

Fortification began long ago when large-scale public health concerns led to the need for vitamins and mineral increases due to major deficiencies. As it stands right now, fortification still exists on a sliding scale dependent on culture and location (2).

Knowledge is Power

If you truly KNOW your food, you can make informed decisions about what you put into your body.  Labels can be deceiving and manufacturers sometimes take advantage of labeling loopholes to entice shoppers. As you progress through your nutrition and life journey, I believe it teaches you a lot about your own food boundaries.

As adults, we make important health decisions, not just for ourselves, but for our entire family. For me, my choices aren’t just about me. They influence my children and my husband. My choices can also impact their health either negatively or positively. With those decisions comes both reward and consequence. So, I challenge you to read your labels and get to know your food.

Fooducate

At the early stages of really investigating food quality, I discovered a great resource called Fooducate. It quickly became one of my favorite tools. It gave me more insight into the foods I was eating or interested in eating during the learning process.

Fooducate offers a website filled with great info, but the app is where the real power is. Fooducate offers a “health tracker” to log your daily food intake. It is incredibly close to My Fitness Pal, which I also love. The feature that I love from Fooducate is their “Food Finder” option. It allows you to scan the food and will then give you a food quality rating of A-D. The rating is based on nutrient density, ingredient lists, amount of processing, and a few other variables. I encourage you to download the app. It really allows you to evaluate the quality of the foods you purchase regularly.

Fuel for My Passion

This very topic is what motivated me to take my passion to social media and the internet. I want people to think about what they are fueling their body with and find a sustainable balance with that knowledge. Adopting a healthy lifestyle is meant to give you goals to hit on a daily basis to guide you to the progress you are looking for.

In my opinion, a healthy lifestyle is not meant to be a system to consume foods that have no nutritional and beneficial content that allows you to manipulate more foods into your day because of their chemical composition. Moderation is key and having these foods occasionally can be a valuable enhancement to sustainability, but shouldn’t be a frequent addition to your day.

(Want to focus on your health and make it a priority? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

Sustainability in leading a healthy lifestyle doesn’t come from living at either end of the restriction or glutton spectrum. Sustainability comes from finding a lifestyle that works long-term, that helps you gain power through knowledge about what you are eating, and that gives you confidence in yourself. Knowledge truly is power, and I want you to have power in your choices.

Are you surprised to hear about food labeling? What do you look for when choosing food products?

Work Hard Be Kind,

Amanda

Resources:

(1) https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/artificial-sweeteners/

(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3319130/

Click HERE for more of the FDA’s labeling information

Are You a Weekend Warrior?

Oh, the weekend. Two full days of no routine, little to no accountability, and a whole lot of opportunity for whatever the heck you want to do! My weekend calendar usually consists of a kid’s birthday party, family dinners, and errand running. Somewhere among all the business of the weekend comes FOOD. Food can easily consume your social life on a weekend or be a faint memory because of your jam-packed schedule. However, without a plan, your weekend can quickly halt your week-day nutritional progress.

You can stop the cycle

I’ve seen the cycle of losing motivation and jumping off the nutrition bandwagon often. The cycle basically goes like this — five days of awesome weekday eating and exercising, and then over the weekend, two days of haphazard. Then, Monday rolls around, which starts the cycle all over again. And the worst part? You weight the same as you did last Monday. This cycle continues over and over again…with little to no weekly progress. Be honest with yourself, are you being a weekend warrior? Or are you a weekend victim?

Don’t be a victim

Weekends are a challenge for even the most committed. It’s even harder when you’re just starting out on your wellness journey. We all have those social gatherings, birthday parties, and date nights. And sometimes, we just need a break from our weekday routines. But that leaves us tempted.

So, put those excuses aside. Don’t be a victim to the weekend and allow it to sabotage your results and goals. The hardest thing for me as a coach is to watch my clients fall victim to this cycle and literally come to a standstill. I know it’s even harder for my clients. That’s why it’s important to understand how the cycle works, and use the tips below to overcome it and become a weekend warrior.

(Ready to start taking the steps you want to take to become an everyday warrior? Check out my Feel Amazing Naked challenge by clicking here.)

5 tips to help you become a weekend warrior

I am destined to help you become a weekend warrior.  Here are my 5 tips to use when you start to find yourself falling victim to your weekend.

Plan for the social event

Think about any events that you’ll have over the weekend, and start planning for them in advance. Where are you going to eat? What will be available to eat? Can you make substitutions or order something off the menu so you can stay on track with your goals? By asking yourself these questions, you can then gauge your responses and make healthier decisions. For example, if you know the BBQ place won’t provide the healthiest options for you, you may want to eat something at home and then enjoy an appetizer while you’re there. Plan ahead so you can be prepared!

Leave a cushion

I like to leave some extra cushion in my day too just in case I eat a bit more than expected. For this, you can check out the restaurant menu in advance or even call if you have questions about their nutritional information. I would hate for you to overindulge when it could have easily been avoided.

Say no!

Sometimes, it’s just easier to say no thank you to the food being offered at an event. When you are in control of your food, you just simply get more of it. It is actually nice sometimes to step back and put conversation or friendship at the forefront of a social gathering rather than the food that surrounds you.

Fill up on a great meal at home before heading to the gathering so the desire for food doesn’t even exist. At the very least, fill up on the healthier and more nutritious options (like veggies and hummus) and say no to those options that you know won’t help you reach your goals.

Keep the Adult Beverages in Check

Alcohol is a huge temptation in social settings. Remember, you don’t really need alcohol to survive. Sure, it’s delicious, and man does it make you feel good! However, alcohol is just a filler, and it’s not going to keep you full or help you stay healthy. Plus, by drinking alcohol, you’re filling your stomach with calories that you could’ve just eaten!

I don’t know about you, but I like to eat! I’m not saying you can’t drink alcohol, but drink it in moderation — as the body responds by identifying it as a toxin and hormones react to get rid of it. If you are pushing hard for results, consider passing on it for now.

Stick to Your Plan

This is the hardest of all the tips I’ve mentioned because it involves willpower.  The power to be in control of what you put into your body is easily challenged by the power of temptation. Why is it that the food that tastes the best is often the food that is the worst for you?

To be able to say no to something that prevents you from pursuing your goals is empowering. Sticking to your plan creates that domino effect of success that allows each no to become easier. Besides, wouldn’t you rather be able to say that you stuck to your plan and are reaching your goals than say that you keep breaking your promises to yourself?

It’s time to BE a weekend warrior! 

I want you to do something for me. I want you to push hard for seven days, stick to your plan, and eat wholesome food. I also want you to exercise regularly and do some activities that you love doing. It can be anything from CrossFit, to walking around the block a few times, to attending a kickboxing class. Just take the time and stick to your plan, and you will quickly start seeing the benefits. Monday won’t hit you in the face so hard! And then, you will really begin to see that your seven days of hard work is 100% worthwhile. I promise you, it really does work.

Do you struggle to stick to your plan for the weekend? Let’s talk about it!

Work Hard Be Kind,

Amanda

Arugula vs Spinach

A big “tub-o-greens” is one of the easiest ways to have veggies on hand to grab and go, add to a meal, or throw in a salad or smoothie. However, they aren’t always a crowd favorite.

Our mothers’ always said “eat those leafy greens,” but does their demand actually have validity?

If so, does one type of green contain more benefit than another? When picking out a leafy green two heavy hitters some in mind — spinach and arugula. These two are easily found in most grocery stores and on restaurant menus. In this article, we will compare these two greens so you can make an informed decision next time you are faced with the dilemma of arugula vs spinach.

Struggle to eat your greens OR have picky eaters at home (including the adults too) check out this episode of the Feel Amazing Podcast where I give you tools to help them.

Eat your greens

First off let’s quickly tackle why you should eat your greens. One of the main reasons is they are chock full of vital micronutrients such as A, C, E and K and also folatewhich is a B vitamin that promotes heart health and prevents birth defects.  Because of their high antioxidant levels among other things, leafy greens may be one of the best cancer-preventing foods.       

If you are looking for purely aesthetic benefits, leafy greens are where it is at. They pack a nutrient punch without lots of calories and due to their high nitrite content they can aid in fat burning. Both have been shown to have anti-aging effects. They can provide UV protection at a cellular level due to carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin. The high fiber content in leafy greens can keep your gut microbes happy and lead to better digestion, which ultimately can result in a less bloated stomach. That filling fiber can also help keep hunger at bay.

(You can make better food choices without the guilt. Click here to find out how.) 

Arugula vs spinach  

Spinach is part of the amaranth family and is related to beets and quinoa.  It originated in Persia but is now mainly grown in the United States and China.

In grocery stores, you can choose between both baby spinach and regular spinach.  What is the difference?  Baby spinach has been harvested earlier in the stage of plant growth.  Usually 15-35 days after planting versus mature spinach that is harvested 40-65 days after planting.  Baby spinach has smaller leaves, is more tender, and tends to be a bit sweeter than mature spinach. Mature spinach will have a thicker leaf and stem.  The leaves are noticeably larger.

Nutrient-wise, baby spinach, and mature spinach are the same. When deciding which one to purchase it comes down to taste and texture preference. Baby spinach has a lighter texture and lends itself better to salads and eaten raw. Mature spinach has a hardier texture so holds up well when being cooked. However, both types can be eaten both raw or cooked.

Spinach Nutrients

Speaking of nutrients…spinach is full of vitamins such as A, K and C. Plus calcium, iron, and potassium. It is low in calories with only about 23 calories per 100 grams. This has a lot to do with the fact that is is about 91% water! 100 grams has about 3 grams of protein, 3.6 grams of carbs and less than a gram of fat. Plus 2.2 grams of filling insoluble fiber. This fiber adds bulk and passes through the digestive system helping keep things moving along. So if you want to add volume to your diet, spinach is a great way to fill up without breaking the calorie bank.    

When picking out spinach you want to pick out leaves that are dark and without too much of a stem. You also want to avoid spinach that has any yellowing, wilting or decay. Once you get the perfect batch of spinach do not wash it until ready to use. Exposure to water can encourage spoilage. Many times I will put a few paper towels in my spinach container. The towels will soak up moisture and help prolong the shelf life.

Preparing Spinach

When preparing spinach, make sure to wash it very well since it tends to hold onto dirt and sand.  Trim off the roots and separate the leaves. Pull out any leaves that are wilted or have begun to show signs of spoilage.  Put the leaves in a bowl of water and let the sand and dirt float to the bottom. Do not leave the spinach soaking long because the water-soluble vitamins can leach into the water robbing you of valuable nutrition. Then rinse one more time before putting into a salad spinner to dry. If you don’t have a salad spinner you can drain well and lay on paper towels to dry.

As mentioned earlier, there are many ways to enjoy both baby spinach and mature spinach. Here are a few recipes to help motivate and inspire your spinach consumption.

Sneak Your Veggies in First Thing

Spinach Frittata

Scrambled Eggs With Spinach and Parmesan

Blender Spinach Banana Muffins

Wild Blueberry Banana Spinach Power Smoothie

Throw Together A Tasty Salad

Strawberry Feta Spinach Salad

Amazing Chickpea Spinach Salad

Quinoa Spinach Power Salad

Mix Spinach Into Your Main Dish

Flatbread Pizza With Spinach and Goat Cheese

Mushroom Spinach Quinoa Risotto

Spinach and Feta Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Arugula

Now that we have team spinach covered, let’s move onto team arugula which also can go by the names salad rocket, roquette, or rucola.  It is in the same botanical family as watercress, cabbage, and broccoli. It is native to the Mediterranean region and has been eaten for centuries. Both the seeds and the leaves have been consumed for a long time, but these days the leaves seem to be the more popular way to enjoy arugula. It is mostly harvested in the spring but can be enjoyed year-round thanks (or no thanks) to modern agriculture. 

The leaves are tender and bite-sized.  Arugula has been known to have a stronger, almost peppery mustard taste. It also carries with it a peppery smell. This makes it a great green to mix with other greens if you don’t want to overpower your palate. However, it can be eaten alone and many enjoy it that way.  My favorite way to enjoy it is alongside a runny egg and sauteed sweet potatoes.

According to the ANDI (Aggregate Nutrient Density Index) arugula is one of the top 10 most nutrient-dense foods.  For example, it comes in almost 30% more nutrient dense than cabbage and 50% more nutrient dense than cauliflower. It is rich in lutein which can aid in the prevention of eye diseases as well as colon cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Arugula is also high in vitamin A which helps keep your vision, immune, and reproductive systems healthy.  

This leafy green also contains high levels of nitrate, which has been shown to reduce blood pressure. It can aid in lowering the amount of oxygen needed during exercise thus enhancing athletic performance. To top it off, arugula also contains potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

Arugula packs a nutritional punch without lots of calories.  One hundred grams comes in at 25 calories. This breaks down to four grams of carbohydrates and two grams of protein. It also brings along one gram of filling fiber.

Preparing Arugula

When purchasing arugula, like spinach, you want to pick out leaves that have a bright green color and no yellowing. Look for leaves that show no sign of wilting or a dark green slimy texture. That indicates it is past its prime. It must be kept in the refrigerator and usually has a shelf life of several days before it is no longer consumable. Like spinach, and most leafy greens, put a few paper towels in with your arugula when storing it to help soak up any extra moisture. Also, like spinach, wait to wash arugula until you are ready to enjoy it. Then give it a rinse and toss in a salad spinner to dry.

Arugula is most often consumed fresh and raw in a salad but it can also be enjoyed cooked.  Because the leaves are very tender they saute very quickly. Because of the stronger flavor, chopped arugula leaves can be used in place of herbs like cilantro or parsley. It is also commonly used as a pizza topping post baking due to its peppery flavor.

Here are a few recipes to help motivate and inspire your arugula consumption.

Rise and Shine Arugula

Tomato Arugula and Goat Cheese Frittata

Arugula Breakfast Salad With Soft Boiled Eggs

Arugula-Ricotta Omelet for One

Pear Arugula And Avocado Green Smoothie

Salad Time

Arugula Salmon Salad With Capers and Shaved Parmesan

Apple Pecan Arugula Salad

Quinoa and Arugula Salad With Mediterranean Chicken

More Than Just Salads

Creamy Vegan Arugula Soup

Spring Gnocchi With Mustardy Arugula Pesto

Lemon Arugula Pizza

Arugula vs Spinach

After reading this post you have probably realized that both arugula and spinach have their own powerful nutrition benefits. So in essence, there’s no need to choose arugula vs spinach.  In a perfect world, you would consume both. There are many creative ways to mix them (take a look below) or you can just throw a simple salad together as both for the leafy green base.   

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Can’t Pick? Eat Them Both

Spinach and Arugula Lasagna Roll-Ups

Arugula and Spinach Hummus

Spinach Arugula Almond and Pomegranate Salad

Spinach and Arugula Tartlets

At the end of the day, it isn’t about having to choose a single team, but rather making sure that greens are a regular part of your intake.  Although spinach may win slightly in nutrient benefits, having a diversity of greens in your day truly provides a winning combination.

Are you team arugula or team spinach? 

Work Hard Be Kind,

Amanda