Tropical Blend Smoothie & Solo Dance Parties

Take a minute to think about what makes you happy. It has a lot to do with how you feel doesn’t it? This may seem obvious but how often do you take time to make yourself FEEL great? I spend a lot of time finding reasons why I shouldn’t feel great – I need to lose weight, I’m job searching, the house is a mess. It’s easy to get into this cycle. But with that being said, what if the next time you were starting to get down on yourself, you instead, found a reason and a way to make yourself feel great!

This is what a lifestyle change is all about. You have a choice with every meal you make or eat, with every opportunity you have to workout or get some exercise in, with going to bed at a decent hour, etc. Each decision we make can make us feel better or worse. It’s why I try my best to make healthy choices; eat foods that make me FEEL GOOD and do things that make me feel STRONG, encouraged, determined, and legit awesome.

It’s also why more often than not, I’m blasting music and throwing solo dance parties. My husband hasn’t caught me yet, but when he does someday, I hope he joins me. Yesterday I blasted one of my favorite tracks and just went nuts. Jumping, moving, dancing however I felt and let me tell you, after just one song, I felt so amped up and excited about life! I was so inspired I decided to throw on my heart rate monitor to prove to you how a solo dance party can do as much for your body as it can your mind.

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In just seven minutes I burned 70 calories! Is 70 calories a lot? Not really but it’s something! It’s about being active when we can. A body in motion STAYS in motion. The more you decide to be active and alive, the more you’ll WANT to move!

Now onto those other choices that make us feel good.

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A smoothie a day is one of the easiest ways to boost your weight loss and feel amazing! Here’s one of my new favorite smoothie recipes:

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 TSBP chia seeds
  • 1 TBSP ground flax meal
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup frozen pineapple
  • 1 cup frozen mango

Directions: Blend the spinach, water, and seeds first to ensure you don’t have any leaf chunks. Then add in fruit. Blend until smooth and pour into your favorite glass or mug.

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Then get ready to rock your day!

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Let’s talk about MSG – Monosodium Glutamate

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I’ve talked about Monosodium Glutamate quite a bit but the battle never ends to avoid it. MSG is an excitotoxin which means that it stimulates brain cells into such a high state of euphoria that they physically explode. No wonder those sour cream and onion chips taste so good and no wonder Lays says “betcha can’t have just one!” Because you can’t! It’s a drug. MSG is also a flavor enhancer and can make any food and any flavor taste better, more powerful, and more savory.

Why is this bad? Besides having food give you a drug-like reaction, MSG also makes you want to eat MORE! Even after you’re full, even after you’re done eating that specific food. Remember the Dominos times? It makes your brain crave more. So while you may only be eating 1500 calories a day, if you’re consuming products with MSG (which hides under a dozen (more like 40 actually) another names as well) you’ll find yourself having a harder time sticking to your goals. More and more people are battling with good addictions and while it’s a real thing, MSG isn’t helping!

You can view a list of other names for MSG here.

 

There’s WHAT in my pantry?! A look at hidden ingredients in your food

Like most people, I like to have a general idea of what’s in my food and what I’m putting into my body. I know that choosing a bottle of water over a bottle of soda is a better choice for a variety of reasons. But it wasn’t until recently that I started giving more thought to, well, everything I eat. The ingredients in any processed food I buy. I don’t know, I never thought I really needed to worry.

Last night I found out that my pantry and my fridge had some of the most dangerous substances in them when I started to really read the labels. I always used to think that people who bought organic everything and read all the labels were just —— assholes. No joke. Like it was some pretentious club “oh we’re better because we can buy more expensive margarine that saves whales and cures aids cancer at the same time” and while there are pompous jerks like that out there I realized that no, most of these people are just well-informed and have done their research. Something that I’ve avoided doing for so long because I already knew it wouldn’t be something I’d want to hear, realize, or accept.

What really had me start reading labels over a year ago was fake sugars. Sucralose, aspartame, stevia, you name it, they are in just about EVERYTHING and you can read more about my sugar rants here. The more conscious and I was about what I was putting into my body and what was in foods, the more aware I was that there are chemicals in so many food products and I don’t even know what 90% of them are or do.

So last night I decided to start reading the ingredients on some staple things I always keep in my kitchen. Re-fried beans for Taco Tuesdays, canned chili for when I need something in a rush, mayonnaise in my fridge; food items that I use often, food items that tons of people use often. I expected to see chemicals and things I didn’t know about, but what I didn’t expect to see was just HOW harmful these chemicals were when I started researching them.

The first thing I reached for was my beloved mayonnaise. I know it’s not healthy, at all really, but I LOVE mayo. I use it in my tuna salad, when I make egg salad, on sandwiches. It’s your typical bottle of generic store brand mayo.

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Then I turned it over to read the label.

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What the crap is Calcium Disodium EDTA and what exactly does “protecting flavor” mean? Immediately reaching for my laptop, I nearly dropped the bottle on the floor. Calcium Disodium EDTA (Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid) is a food additive commonly used in things like pickled canned goods and canned beans. It’s made up of three ingredients:

  • Sodium cyanide – this ingredient is an inorganic compound, which means it is not considered organic, has been synthesized and is typically not found in biological systems. “Cyanide salts are among the most rapidly acting of all known poisons.
  • Formaldehyde
  • Ethylenediamine – this compound reacts in humid environments with air creating a toxic mist. It is commonly used in coolants and paints as a corrosion inhibitor, which helps prevent the corrosion of a metal. It is also used as a chemical in fabric softeners, adhesives, dyes, and clearly as something to keep mayonnaise from spoiling.

No wonder mayonnaise stays good for so long! It has so many preservatives in it! And if you’re like me, you may also be thinking “oh it’s just TRACE amounts, this isn’t THAT big of a deal, of COURSE they have to put something in it to keep it fresh…I mean…it’s not a big deal.” But isn’t it though!

Next up was the so called “no fat” refried beans. Anytime I’ve seen fat free, sugar free, light, or anything of the sort, it’s usually full of added sugars or fake sugar substances. But did you know most processed food products are also full of trans fat, MSG, and other chemicals? Gross!

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Notice that these are labeled “no fat” not “fat free” and there’s a reason. When I usually grab this in the grocery store, like most people, I expect to be able to believe the labels. No fat should mean no fat, right? The problem is that labels aren’t regulated, even organic items are labeled differently and have different requirements to meet depending on the type of organic label used.

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GAH! We were doing so well, Rosarita, until you got to autolyzed yeast extract (a cheaper chemical extract similar to MSG but with less glutamates) and partially hydrogenated soybean oil – which “adds a trivial amount of fat.” OH SO BY “NO FAT” YOU MEAN JUST TRIVIAL AMOUNTS OF TRANS FAT -__- Define “trivial.” This makes me mad for so many reasons. Products are allowed to make claims on their labels that simply aren’t true or that in exchange have fake or extracted ingredients and isolates. Partially hydrogenated soybean oil is the most commonly used trans fat in processed foods. Why? Because it’s inexpensive compared to butter and coconut oil. These oils go through a process called hydrogenation which sends hydrogen bubbles through the fat cells, making them more dense. Giving you that creamy, savory texture in foods. The problem is that these trans fats aren’t normal for the body, they don’t work like normal cells and they can cause major issues for your heart health.

When I reached for my Quaker oatmeal, the kind I had so lovingly eaten my entire childhood, I was outraged.

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Maltodextrin – a substance that forms into MSG in your system. More partially hydrogenated soybean oil – at least this one SAYS its trans fat. But what’s the point in saying “adds a dietarily insignificant amount of trans fat” – it’s still awful for you! Comparisons that I’m now going to make to that statement:

  • Going to get a massage and having them poke you with a sharp toothpick briefly once every 10 minutes
  • Adding a drop of gasoline to every gallon of water you drink
  • Having your boyfriend or girlfriend kiss another guy or girl once a year – what! It’s an insignificant amount!

My main point here is that these things shouldn’t be in our foods but they are. Companies have solid reasons to add them: to retain their shelf life, so you can use them longer, so the expiration date doesn’t expire so soon, so they can spend less and make more money.

And while we do have a choice to make better and more informed decisions about the foods we eat, we’re also limited. Limited by how much money we even have to spend on food, limited to the amount of whole and organic foods available in our neighborhood, city, or region. Believe it or not there are places where people don’t have access to fresh produce.

Things are slowly changing but there’s still plenty of changes that need to be made!

 

 

 

Managing Stress & Relaxation

We keep hearing ways to stress less.

Just don’t be so stressed.

Stop stressing.

Don’t let that stress you out!

The truth is, stress happens regardless. You are never going to be able to get rid of stress entirely or completely. Sure there will be those blissful moments when we can take a deep breath and exhale all of our worries, but life keeps advancing and we have to learn how to adapt and cope.

There are ways, however, that we can work on how vulnerable we are to stress. Ever find that every little thing some days can completely annoy you? Usually it’s on those days where you didn’t’ get enough sleep, forgot to eat something all day, or have other worries going on deep in your mind.

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Start by taking this quiz from Stress.org to see how vulnerable you already are to stress. Daily habits like not getting enough sleep, eating a poor diet, smoking, and more can make you more susceptible to stressful situations.

Find ways to manage your stress:

  • Take deep breaths. Breathe in through your nose, exhale through your mouth. Sit up tall with a straight back and relax your shoulders. Close your eyes. Breathe in and out 3 times and tell me you don’t already feel better.
  • Drink some tea – a warm cup of tea can really be relaxing. Find a tea you love or a scent that makes you think of a fond memory. For me Earl Grey and Passion teas are divine and immediately bring up my spirit.
  • Get extra sleep – if you know you’re going through a stressful time or just feeling more overwhelmed, get to bed earlier. Extra sleep will allow your brain to rest up since you are processing a LOT every day. Ever feel mentally drained? Stress can have a lot to do with that. Extra Zzzs will allow your body and mind more time to relax and less time to anxiously worry about all the things you can’t control.
  • Make a list of everything you need to do (and everything you think you need to do) today. Then go through it and prioritize your list. What’s the most important? What HAS to be done within the next hour? Within the next day? What are the things you really don’t have to do right now? Cross those off to save for later.
  • Sweat it out – exercise can sound like the LAST thing you want to do but working out releases endorphins and will calm your mind. It will also leave you feeling motivated, powerful, and accomplished.
  • Take fish oil – fish oil has been shown to balance cortisol levels in your body if taken on a regular basis
  • Drink more water – drinking enough water will keep your body hydrated and keep you from having those awful stress headaches in the afternoon
  • Avoid caffeine after noon – too much caffeine during the day can drastically boost cortisol (the stress hormone). By avoiding coffee, soda, and high caffeine teas in the afternoon and evening, you will have an easier time relaxing once you get home and getting to bed on time at night.

Kelly McGonigal gives an amazing TED talk about how we choose to view stress and the impacts it can have on our health.

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Grocery Shopping 101

photo 1Grocery shopping. Some people dread it, other people have fun with it, and people like me turn it into a game that will be WON!! Over the years, I’ve spent some time (mostly trial and error) working towards getting better at budgeting, buying healthier foods, and doing all of this in a decent amount of time. While it would be ideal to have 4 hours of time to go grocery shopping and take our time dancing on rainbow aisles and drinking free coffee the entire time, that’s just not a reality. I wanted to put together some helpful tips to make grocery shopping easier, less daunting, and suggest some easy ways for you to save a chunk of money while stocking up your fridge. Plus, the more you plan what you’re going to eat, the less likely you’ll be to binge eat all those wheat thins you bought last Thursday when you were hungry and they were on sale 2 for $5.

Tip # 1: Planning Your Trip

A lot of people don’t like to plan for a shopping trip:

It takes too much time!

I already know what I need!

The problem is that it’s super easy to get off track once you’re at the store, especially when you’re hungry or tired. Taking just 10 minutes to write up a list of what you need will save you tons of time at the store, trust me.

  • Take inventory of what you already have at home. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve bought extra cream cheese, pasta sauce, or milk because I really didn’t think I had any at home. Not only is it a waste of money when you buy double of something that expires quickly, but it’s frustrating.
  • Keep a white board or list on your fridge of what you need and what you run out of. Run out of dish soap? Use the last of the cereal? Make an easy and creative way to track what you’ll need on your next grocery trip. That way when you go to make your list, most of what you’ll need will already be written down. It also keeps you from getting in the shower the next day and discovering you forgot conditioner….again.
  • Clear space for the new food. This may not seem obvious at first but I’ve come home so many times to realize that I need to re-organize my pantry or fridge because I have old/expired food in the way or have just been lazy shoving stuff back into cabinets.

Tip # 2: Couponing and Knowing the Sales

Don’t worry – you don’t have to go extreme couponing on your family to get some great deals and save a ton of money. Currently, I don’t even clip physical coupons, I just use a digital Safeway App that lets me add digital coupons to my virtual cart. I then enter my phone number at the store and everything is applied to my trip. More and more stores now are offering apps similar to this like QFC, Kroger, Fred Meyer, etc. Typically I save around 40-50% on my shopping trips. I try not to go below 30% savings. This can be HUGE though when you’re on a tight budget.orgnaic produce2

Signing up for a stores discount card will also bring you a lot more savings. Some people worry about the data that’s collected but my feeling on that particular piece is that yes they know what I’m buying more of, but then that comes back to me with more coupons and discounts for those specific items. Stores also base a lot of their purchasing off of this information. Commissaries now also offer a discount card.

If the idea of couponing (whether digital, paper, or both) overwhelms you, try browsing Couponing 101 that has some great tips and pointers on how to coupon without it taking over your life.

It’s also important to scope out the weekly sales at your local grocery store, you can find these flyers in the mail or online. Weekly circulars can let you know what you may want to stock up on while they are heavily discounted. Often times, I’ve gotten items for free because I’ll have a digital coupon for $2 off and if the item is on sale of $2 or less and sometimes BOGO (buy one get one) I’ll walk out of store with two boxes of granola bars for FREE!

Tip # 3: Don’t Pay Full Price for Things You Use All The Time

936830_579955968756004_907932427_nIn line with couponing is making sure you have a general understanding of how most things are priced. Some stores have contracts with vendors to provide products at a lower wholesale price or close to cost. Figuring out which stores offer EDLP (everyday low prices) on certain things you buy regularly may help you out in the long run. Of course, we don’t want to be making 5 different trips to different stores for one grocery outing. But for example, I’ll stock up on shampoo/conditioner and body wash when I’m at certain stores that I know have lower prices when I’m in the area and then leave weekly food items to my local store trips.

Learning when stores change their prices can also be helpful. If you’re a military shopper, the commissary site goes over the dates they change their product pricing, just twice a month compared to most stores that do so weekly.

Waiting until the last minute to buy staple items you run out of like toilet paper and shampoo can leave you rushed and spending extra money. I keep a list on my fridge of things I’m running low on and add that to my grocery list as well. That way if I notice that the large tub of peanut butter is on sale for $5 instead of $11, I’ll buy it. The key for me is stocking up on goods without hoarding. I may have 2-3 of a particular item I actually use all the time but I won’t stock up on things that I don’t use just because they are free. IF you do enjoy doing that though there are great ways to donate those items to food banks and military overseas.

Tip # 4: Know The Layout of Your Grocery Store

Most grocery stores follow a similar layout with produce and flowers near the entrance, dairy and cold items near the back, and all of the processed stuff in the middle aisles in between. Ever hear that grocery stores put milk in the back of the store to get you to walk all the way through other products? This is true but it’s also easier for vendors and employees to load in those items into fridges located near the rear of the store. Grocery stores DO have a method to their madness, however.

The following image from Food Pyrenees shows how most grocery stores are arranged. They also talk about the importance of sticking to the perimeter of the store for healthier foods. The deeper you get into the aisles, the more you’re going to find processed foods and ingredients like fake sugars, food thickening agents, etc. Let’s be honest, eating some processed stuff in moderation is not the end of the world, but a good rule to stick to involves buying cleaner foods that are most likely going to be on the outside of the aisles.

Supermarket-LayoutGrocery stores also place products according to their price and value. For instance, products typically found at eye level will be higher end and more expensive. Store brands and value items will usually be lower on the shelf or places that aren’t as easily accessible.

Tip #5: Don’t Shop Hungry!

This may be the most important one! My Mom always told me this and truer words have never been spoken. If I go to the grocery store after a long day without having a snack or a meal first, I will buy ALL of the things that 1) aren’t good for me and 2) aren’t on my list or in my budget. Hunger is a strong beast and will make it harder to stick to your game plan.

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Tip #6: Know the Ingredients

I’ve talked a lot in the past about fake sugars and a variety of ingredients that are put into processed foods to save on costs and make it easier to manufacture them. When you are standing in front of 100+ loaves of bread, the last thing yohonest_labels_600u want to be thinking about is where do I start? Educating yourself on healthier products, what to look for, and what to avoid can make you more confident about your consumer decisions. I mean, after all, this food is going INSIDE you and your families bodies, it should be good stuff!

I’ll do another article soon about some of my favorite foods but for the most part it’s all about choosing food with few ingredients. If it has less than 5 that’s stellar but if it’s got more than 15 and most of them have x’s and gum at the end of them, you might not really know what you’re buying. The first ingredient is always what the product is composed MOST of. If you buy bread and the first ingredient is whole wheat flour that’s much better than high fructose corn syrup. Ingredients are then listed in order with the last one being the ingredient that’s least prevalent.

I try to buy as real of foods as possible without chemicals if I can. While many of the things we see in foods such as guar gum, which is primarily used in foods as a thickening agent, are harmless in small amounts, I still try to avoid buying things with ingredients I wouldn’t add if I was cooking in my own kitchen.

Tip #7: Meal Planning

tacosaladdddThese tips aren’t necessarily in order of importance (or in the order you should do them) but meal planning is important with grocery shopping. What are you going to eat this week? What will you need to make that happen? Do you already have avocados? Is that one that’s been sitting in the fridge still any good? Answering all of these questions before you step out the door will help. In addition to meal planning around store savings and coupons, it’s also a great idea to organize the food you already have so you know what you need to eat and when. A while back I organized my entire fridge and even labeled stuff. While it was a little bit OCD, it also really helped keep me accountable of eating food I already had at home instead of going out to eat or buying more food…just because….well more food!

Having some sort of system where you place food that’s close to expiring at the front of the fridge or pantry will ensure that more food (money and time) ends up in your stomach and less ends up in the garbage or compost bin. I’ll even just throw cans of beans in my cupboard but make sure to put the fresher one in the back so I use the one that will expire in 6 months first.

It’s also easy some days to make extra food for dinner and plan for leftovers. I do that with my coconut tilapia. So good!

Tip #8: Have Fun and Make A System That Works for YOU

Some of these tips may be helpful to you, some may already be extremely obvious, some not so much. With everything we have to do in life – on top of everything else we already have to do – it’s great to turn these types of things into something fun that we can enjoy. For me, it’s seeing the savings at the end of my trip on the receipt. I even made a pact with my fiance that he doesn’t have to come with me as long as he carries all of the groceries out of the car once I get home.

Then again, sometimes you just have to go to the store with no idea of what you might end up with 😉

Happy shopping! What are your tips and strategies?

Banana Pancakes!!!

I’m make this a short (stack) and sweet because PANCAKES!

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium-large banana
  • 1 tablespoon whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon unsweetened applesauce

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Directions:

Mash up the banana and add in all ingredients. Mix with electric blender until smooth. Batter will be thin and runny. I usually make them into 5 small pancakes. Top with your favorites and enjoy! In this picture I topped it with a teaspoon of chocolate hazelnut spread and some sprinkles @_@

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Zucchini Pasta with Garlic Avocado Sauce

Pasta is a magical food. I could eat pasta all day every day. Spaghetti night? How about spaghetti week!! Seriously, I can’t get enough of the stuff but my goals for this year and proving otherwise. When 2 cups of whole wheat pasta comes close to 350 calories, it can be hard to justify going back for seconds. That’s when I figured out that 2 cups of spiralled zucchini was only 55 calories and I ended up dancing around the kitchen with zucchini in my hands.

I introduce to you, the zucchini, a vegetable that you may not have given enough attention to. I’ll be honest, I certainly didn’t. So what’s so great about this cucumber wannabe? Well first off, it has the magical ability to transform itself into soft pasta-like swirls and if you invest in a vegetable spiraller like I did, your world will change.

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Before I get to the recipe, let’s talk about how awesome the zucchini is, so awesome that as you read this, you may want to pronounce it “ZEE ZOO CHINI!” It just feels worthy of some italian splendor. This veggie is chalk full of nutrients and fiber that you may end up getting as addicted to it as regular pasta. Plus you don’t even have to get out a pot to boil it with. The stuff is ready to go the minute you spiral it. Thanks, veggie.

Zucchini is full of vitamin C and other nutrients and is so low-calorie you’ll be amazed at how filling it is!

The best investment I’ve made in a while is my vegetable spiraller that makes creating zucchini (or any squash) pasta super easy.

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For one serving, I spiralled 1 large zucchini and it made close to 2 cups of “pasta.” I then mixed an entire hass avocado with some garlic powder to make the sauce and then mixed it with the zucchini.

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Next, just cut up some grape or cherry tomatoes and add in the garbonzo beans and you’ve got yourself a creamy and filling meal!

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Ingredients:

  • 1 hass avocado
  • 1 large zucchini (yields about 2 cups pasta)
  • 10 cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup garbonzo beans
  • garlic powder

Directions:

  1. Spiralize zucchini
  2. Scoop out avocado and mash into bowl with desired amount of garlic powder
  3. Pour avocado sauce mixture over pasta and stir until well-coated
  4. Cut tomatoes into halves and drop on top of pasta
  5. Add garbonzo beans

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Eat for dinner or take with you as a satisfying lunch at work! Higher in calories but with 22g of fiber it will keep you full way past snack time.

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