Advertisements

Finding the balance of physical and mental health through adventures and fitness

Tag Archives: flexible dieting

I won’t lie, whenever I see smoothie bowls online I am always envious because they also look delicious and perfectly put together. I don’t know about you, but fruit doesn’t keep me very full so it’s something I typically pair with something else. I may have berries in my oats or a banana with my protein shake. I top yogurt with fruit and nuts sometimes. But on it’s own I could eat a ton of fruit and not be full for long.

However, since  March we’ve been consuming a ridiculous amount of fruit that has led to the purchase of large bags of frozen mixed fruit. It lasts longer than fresh fruit and it’s perfect for in yogurt and smoothies. I do buy fresh, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE crisp fruit, but honestly guys, read the labels. Frozen fruit is just as nutritionally dense as fresh and you can find bags that have NO additives, which makes it a pretty economic choice when some fruits aren’t in season.

What brought me to this recipe is the search for a snack while lunch was cooking. For me this was an appetizer to baked chicken. I was running low on veggies and was trying to figure out a carb to have with lunch. I then realized that I could just have lunch in parts and call it a meal.

What You’ll Need

  • 1 cup of frozen fruit
  • 1/4 cup of milk or milk alternative
  • 1-2 tablespoons of protein powder
  • Optional toppings: nuts, seeds, granola, shredded coconut, chocolate chips, more fruit

Directions

1. In a food processor, grind/chop 1 cup of frozen fruit for a few minutes. You’re going to want to pulse the fruit as it start to chop. I used mixed fruit from Dole that I got a sale a few weeks ago.

*Using a few fruits gives a good base of flavor and textured. You could combine bananas, strawberries, blueberries, etc. if you don’t have a pre-bought bag.

2. Add a 1/4 cup of milk or milk alternative to the chopped fruit. I used almond milk. After blending in milk, consistency should be thick like frozen yogurt.

3. Add 1-2 tablespoons of whey casein protein powder. I added 1 tablespoon, which is about 1/4 scoop of protein powder. The more protein you add, the thicker it’ll be and you may need to add a little more milk. If you’re using whey isolate it may not be as thick as whey casein blend. If you’re using a vegan or plant based protein, I’m unsure how thickness will be impacted.

4. Transfer fruit base to a bowl and level out.

5. Optional: Top with your favorite toppings. The fruit base will have a lot of flavor so you can eat it on its own or you can jazz it up with toppings.

* Be mindful of you’re toppings and what they add nutritionally and calorically. This base is a moderate carbohydrates base with 5-12g of protein depending on how much protein and brand (1 or 2 tablespoons) you added. Nuts/seeds/nut butter will add fat and some protein; fruit will add more carbs; coconut will add fat and carbs, etc.

Estimate nutrition for my specific base: 1f | 18c | 7p

With toppings: 9f | 30c | 9p

 

Advertisements

Guys, it’s hot outside, which means it’s hot inside. It’s not just hot, it’s humid and muggy. If I had allergies like JP I would also bitch about the pollen count, but I don’t so I won’t.

Last year when we moved into our apartment, aside from the fitness center, one of the outdoor amenities that really excited us, was the grilling. We have access to both charcoal and gas grills. While charcoal is perfect for s’mores, gas is perfect for everything else.

We’ve grilled more this year than last year and that’s because we have more time and our jobs allow us to be home at roughly the same time. While grilling is easy and the dinner prep is minimal, it may require more hands than two.

This recipe is something that I made last week so that we had something quick to eat after work, but didn’t have to put too much energy into it – the heat kills our motivation for cooking and the last thing I want is a hot kitchen.

Aside from Pinterest, I have way too many cookbooks for someone my age and a subscription to Food Network Magazine. I get ideas and then roll with them. This one is a combination of three recipes – from the spices to the ratios.

What You’ll Need

  • Chicken breast of tenders
  • Ground Cumin
  • Curry powder
  • Minced garlic
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Skewers (wood or metal)
  • Plastic bag

Directions

1. Trim excess fat and cartilage off of your chicken, then cube into small bite-sized pieces. I used 8 ounces of chicken, so my ratios are for 8 ounces, which is about two servings.

2. In an empty, plastic bag add a teaspoon of each: ground cumin, curry powder and minced garlic. As far as brands, I don’t use a specific brand – I buy what’s affordable/on sale at the time I need it. The store brand is fine and if you’re brand loyal, that’s also fine.

3. Add to the bag, juice from half a lemon. I opened the bag and squeezed it directly in.

4. Add a tablespoon of olive oil (not pictured) to the bag.

5. Add chicken to the spice bag, seal and shake. When sealing the bag, don’t remove all the air out so that the chicken has freedom to move around and get coated.

*After bagging my chicken, I put it in the fridge for the day while I went to the office. To prevent potential contamination, I placed the bag in a glass bowl on the bottom shelf.

6. Divide chicken in half and skewer.

7. Pre-heat grill for a few minutes so the grate can get up to temperature, this may take 3 to 5 minutes. Place skewers on hot grill cooking each side for about 3 to 5 minutes. The duration may change depending on how big the chicken has been cut and how much chicken is on each skewer.

How we plated:

9. Slice a red onion and tomato into small pieces. I cut red onion rings in half. I also did the same to the tomatoes.

10. On a pita, spread a tablespoon of hummus (plain, garlic or roasted red pepper would pair well with the spices) and a tablespoon of tzatziki.

10. Place red onion and tomatoes on the pita and sprinkle some feta.

11. De-skewer chicken and place on top of pita.

If you’re not interested in plating like we did, this would be great with rice and veggies – we had broccoli and salad on the side of ours. You could also use it on top of salad.

Do you enjoy grilling in the summer?

❤ Cristina


Eggs and egg whites are a staple in our house. We eat them a ton of different ways, although it’s fair to say scrambles and omelettes are the easiest and most often form they’re consumed in.

AS we packed up to head to JP’s parents house for the weekend…and decided to bring a few things with us that we didn’t want to have to throw out when we returned, I found myself with two bowl-like pieces of red onion. The first thing I thought was “I could cook an egg in there.”

I’m pretty sure not many would think of that, but I did.

A few years ago, I shared a recipe for egg stuffed tomatoes – something I still make, but not as often. While that recipe is easy and a favorite of mine, it leaves you with soft almost fully cooked yolks. It also involved a bit more time and an oven.

What You’ll Need

  • red onion bowls or thick red onion rings
  • eggs – 1:1 egg per onion piece
  • cooking spray
  • shredded cheese (optional)

Directions

1. If you have a whole onion, cut thick slices about half an inch to an inch thick. Separate the rings and utilize the largest rings. If you have an end piece of an onion like I did, cut the bottom of the onion out like pictured below.

2. Using cooking spray, lightly coat a skillet and place onion rings or bowls in the pan. Cover with a lid for a minute or two so that steam can help soften the onions. Flip onions and recover for another minute.

3. Crack a whole egg in the middle of the onion bowl or ring. Allow for the bottom to cook before recovering pan with lid. You shouldn’t need any more cooking spray than the initial amount used in the beginning when the onion was added to the pan.

4. Uncover the pan after a minute to determine doneness. If you like your yolks runny, cooking may only take a minute or two. If you prefer a more cooked or soft yolk, allow egg to cook covered for about 3 or 4 minutes.

5. Garnish with shredded cheese. I choose mozzarella and used about half a serving per egg. This step is optional and so is the amount. If you like cheese or have more room for higher fat in your diet then go to town!

6. Plate a serve. We had our with fresh heirloom tomatoes and toast.

Notes: I wish I had Everything but the Bagel seasoning with me because I think those flavors would’ve been great with onion and the yolk. I choose red onions because I prefer the spicy flavor they have after cooking, but you could use any onion type. Just be mindful of cooking. I find that yellow onion cook down faster.

Nutrition for just the egg stuffed red onion: ~7F/4C/9P

 

❤ Cristina


The last post talked about what carbohydrates were at the molecular level. I know it can be boring and in many cases it’s a lot of information to be taking in, but it’s also a good base to understand what they do for our bodies, how much we need and where we can find them.

What do carbohydrates do for our bodies?

The simple answer – they provide energy for us. They are the first fuel source utilized and they are preferred by different organ systems like the nervous system. This doesn’t mean we can’t get fuel from other macro nutrients like fat, it just means that the optimal choice for a healthy body is typically carbohydrates. We get 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates consumed (Thompson & Manore, 2015).

The more complex answer glucose provides the necessary nutrients in cellular respiration for the creation of Adenosine triphosphate or ATP (Reece, Taylor, Simon, Dickey, & Hogan, 2015). Below is the process of cellular respiration – it utilizes glucose and oxygen, which breaks down to carbon dioxide, water and ATP, energy not used can be lost as heat (not pictured). This answer gets even more complicated, but if you’re interested and have 10 minutes, here a little video about it.

Image result for cellular respiration equation

ATP is needed in  almost all forms of cellular work. You want to dance – you need ATP. You want to run – you need ATP. You want to walk around the house cleaning – you need ATP, or maybe you don’t want it. Each action we do, from sitting at the breakfast table to lifting weights in the gym needs ATP to be performed, but they all use different amounts of energy.

Our cells can only store a limited amount of ATP, which means we need to continuously create it throughout the day.

I know some of you are thinking, yeah, but what about the keto diet and running on fat or ketones. I talked about that in this post. But for the sake of lessening carbohydrates as an enemy, we’re just going to talk about them here.

So how many carbohydrates does a person need in a day?

This question can be tricky because it goes back to the individual and the goals. Someone who is more active may need more than someone who is less active. Activity can be related to your job like a teacher who walks and stands most of the day or an office employee who sits most of their day. Activity also relates to additional exercise like lifting or running or yoga or swimming.

Currently, it’s recommended that carbohydrates make up the largest part of your nutritional intake between 45-65% of calories. The United States bases these numbers off of a 2,000 calorie diet – so for the sake of round numbers means 900 calories (225g) to 1,300 calories (325g) should be consumed (Thompson & Manore, 2015). That’s a lot of carbohydrates.

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences “estimates that the average adult needs to take in food that provides about 2,200 calories of energy per day” but they also acknowledge that this will vary ( Institute of Medicine, 2005). Regardless, that’s a lot of calories and when I think about the conversations I hear about weight loss and dieting – many doctors suggest low calories. My doctor years ago tried suggesting I stick to 1,200 calories to lose weight. So if energy balance is estimated at 2,000 to 2,200 calories, why do people suggest such drastic nutritional decreases? Faster progress? I don’t know the answer.

Anyway, my own carbohydrate consumption makes up 42% of my total calorie intake at around 185g on average.

After working with clients, my own trial and error and other research – I don’t fully agree with this recommendation and here’s why.

  1. Many people aren’t eating a 2,000 calorie diet.

This caloric recommendation is inflated and is all to hopeful that individuals are working out a specific number of times a week for a specific length of time – that’s just not realistic. Also, not everyone needs this many calories for optimal function plus exercise. I eat just under this recommendation, sometimes going higher when I go out to eat.

2. Even those who have healthy organ function, don’t necessary feel great eating this many carbohydrates regardless of the carbohydrate source – remember fruits and vegetables are carbs too!

I can attest to this. When I consume more than 240g of carbohydrates, I feel tired and sluggish – even when the carbohydrates are combined complex from grains and simple from veggies and fruit. Some vegetables also make me bloated like brussels sprouts and broccoli because of how they break down in the digestive system #enzymes, which also means I have to be mindful of how I build my meals and how many greens I’m eating. Yes, even without the cookies or process carbohydrates, I don’t feel great eating that much.

3. Those focusing on a whole foods, minimally processed approach can easily consume more carbohydrates through beans, quinoa, rice and higher carbohydrate veggies and fruit like sweet potato, apples and bananas – but this can still be a lot of volume.

Volume keeps us full, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. If you’re too full from breakfast, even five hours later, it’ll be hard to consume lunch, which can prevent someone from hitting caloric goals. It might be great in a deficit to be full, but not so great when you’re trying to maintain or build. The feeling of constantly being full isn’t pleasant. Also, if you think about how we discuss carbohydrates and the stigma that carbohydrates lead to obesity and general weight gain – a lot of people aren’t eating beans, quinoa, rice or carbohydrate dense vegetables and fruits.

I’ve had a number of clients tell me they weren’t allowed to eat bananas and apples before because it was too many carbohydrates. My suggestion – if it fits your plan calorically/macro nutrient-wise and keeps you satisfied, there’s no reason to get upset about eating fruits.

So, what are your goals because like I mentioned above the body uses different amounts of energy to fulfill different activities.

The more intense the activity, the more carbohydrates may be necessary. The reason behind varying amounts of carbohydrate consumption? Studies have shown that most people have more than enough stored fat (body fat) to support exercise, but because of how the body uses carbohydrates we need to replenish glycogen (stored carbohydrates) (Poole, Wilborn, Taylor, & Kerksick, 2010).

Both strength and endurance athletes need an adequate amount of carbohydrates. So whether you’re lifting in the gym or are an active runner or marathoner, you may need more carbohydrates. Not only does this provide fuel to conduct the activity, it can help with preventing muscle loss by utilization of glycogen. Carbohydrates post-exercise also replenish depleted stores.

So what is adequate for an athlete? The higher end of the recommended intake for carbohydrates (45-65%) would probably be more adequate, but you need to listen to your body and how it feels on carbohydrates. Old research used to suggest over 65% of calories coming from carbohydrates, but newer studies show that isn’t necessary.

According to a study conducted in 2010 examining the role of protein and carbohydrates post-exercise found both protein and carbohydrate consumption were necessary to promote protein synthesis (the process to develop proteins i.e. muscle) and glycogen synthesis (process to replenish glycogen stores). They found that amount and timing can be impactful for synthesis, but more importantly the quality or kind of source for both nutrients played a huge role (Poole, Wilborn, Taylor, & Kerksick, 2010).

This doesn’t mean that you need to drink a protein shake immediately or you need to gobble up a cup of oats as soon as you take your shoes off.

While this post is about carbohydrates, it would be irresponsible to divide the research in protein or carbohydrates because they go hand-in-hand in this case.

Here’s what you should know:

  • Protein consumption can happen within an hour of exercise for optimal protein synthesis.
  • The kind of protein matters:
    • Casein is slower digesting
    • Whey is faster digesting
  • Digestion happens in your stomach, which can result in some bloating if you do consume large quantities of protein – not a terrible thing, but can be uncomfortable.
  • The amount of protein matters. This study showed positive results from only 20g of protein consumed post-exercise.
  • Carbohydrate consumption post-exercise was found to be most effective in glycogen synthesis for up to two hours after exercise had ended.
  • Combining the two may have the best results.
    • “A small amount of whey protein in addition to carbohydrate consumption in the recovery phase of exercise is a more sufficient means of increasing protein synthesis (Poole, Wilborn, Taylor, & Kerksick, 2010).”

So go home, shower and make your food and grow.

So where can we find carbohydrates?

When we think of carbohydrates and when I hear people talk about carbohydrates they immediately think of this:

Image result for bread

Or they think of this:

Image result for dunkin

But really, carbohydrates can also mean this:

Image result for fruit

And it can mean this:

Image result for vegetables

While I share the fun eating that I do and how it fits into my plan and lifestyle, I also have a large number of fruits and veggies in my daily diet that also make up my carbohydrate total.

Here’s what’s I eat:

  • blueberries
  • Brussels sprouts
  • oats
  • sweet potato
  • broccoli
  • English muffins
  • rice
  • bell peppers
  • onions
  • tomatoes
  • black beans
  • pretzels
  • pickles
  • navy beans
  • asparagus
  • strawberries
  • romaine lettuce
  • avocado
  • jalapenos
  • spinach
  • bananas apples
  • spaghetti squash

In the previous carbohydrate post, we talked about simple and complex carbohydrates and the difference. It’s about the rates in which they breakdown. Fiber can help a food be more complex and slower digesting, which can help keep us fuller for a longer period of time. It also slows the increase in blood glucose levels, which is important for people who are diabetic.

When I talk to my clients about how they’re creating their meal plans for the week, we discuss how they’re combining food and how it makes them feel. I have one client who says that she feels great with oats and yogurt in the morning, but I have another client who says lunch has to be her carbohydrate dense meal because in the morning she’ll feel sluggish otherwise regardless of how much sleep she gets.

Like I mentioned when we talked about fat and the Ketogenic diet, I believe there’s no reason for elimination of food groups and nutritional sources for someone who has healthy functioning organs. The recommendations set by governing bodies are  created from studying a healthy functioning body. Having an allergy or intolerance or autoimmune disorder/disease is a completely different story and should be controlled differently.

Eating for fat loss is about being in a deficit, which is what elimination diets assist with, but moderation of all food groups assists your body in getting everything is needs down to the micronutrient. If I’m going to be blunt – being in a deficit takes self-control, elimination diets don’t teach you how to have self-control around “normal” food or how to make better choices when going out to eat. They teach you to say “I’m allowed” or “I’m not allowed”. We learn to categorize things are “good” and “bad” – the conversation surrounding food becomes a reflection of ourselves…But that’s also a tangent for another time.

I believe that paying attention to the source of carbohydrate and how it makes you physically feel teaches us how to create a nutrition plan that fits our needs. I don’t like being bloated so I try to not eat broccoli and Brussels sprouts on the same day, unless I’m also taking a digestive enzyme. I know I feel better with moderate carbohydrates so I stay between 150 to 200g of carbohydrates.

I challenge you to think of carbohydrates in this way. Ask yourself:

  1. What carbohydrates you enjoy eating and how they make you feel?
  2. What foods are your surprised to learn are carbohydrates?
  3. Does your daily diet consist of simple and complex carbohydrates?
  4. Do you consume more simple or more complex carbohydrates?
  5. Could you be more balanced in how you create your daily plan so that you stay satisfied to stay on track and accomplish your nutritional goals whether they’re for fat loss, maintenance or building?

There are days I know I can be better and choose a piece of fruit over a piece of chocolate – we all have those days. But I also know that a piece of chocolate won’t hurt me just like one serving of fruit or vegetable won’t exactly help me. It takes a string of good days to add up to progress. Just like it takes a string of bad days to really make a detrimental impact.

Be kind to yourself. Don’t yell at the cookies when you walk by the snack aisle. Remember vegetables are carbohydrates too.

 

References

Institute of Medicine. (2005). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

Poole, C., Wilborn, C., Taylor, L., & Kerksick, C. (2010). The role of post-exercise nutrient administration on muscle protein synthesis and glycogen synthesis. Journal of Sports Science Medicine, 354-363.

Reece, J. B., Taylor, M. R., Simon, E. J., Dickey, J. L., & Hogan, K. (2015). Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections. New York: Pearson Education.

Thompson, J., & Manore, M. (2015). Nutrition: An Applied Approach. San Francisco: Pearson Education.


Did anyone else feel bad for Regina George when she was duped by Cady Herron when she asked if butter was a carb? I found myself laughing at the time the movie came out, but after a year of working with clients and more time talking with others, it’s clear that it can be hard for people to think about food in terms of their macro nutrients, especially carbohydrates.

So what is a carbohydrate and why is it important?

This post will talk about the what because it’s slightly more complicated that you think. There’s a little bit of the why in here, but that will mostly come in the next post.

Ok, so what are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are the first source of energy for us. They are fuel for us when we are sitting, sleeping, exercising or thinking of doing all of those things.

The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Range (AMDR) suggests that carbohydrates make up 45 to 65% of your diet…if you’re consuming 2,000 calories a day. We’ll talk about this more in the next post because I think it’s safe to say that most people won’t fit these guidelines.

The Institute of Medicine set the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)  for carbohydrate intake to a minimum of 130g a day. Obviously, this amount wouldn’t fit the AMDR – it would be too little based off a 2,000 calorie diet. The RDA number is set based off the estimated minimum use of glucose for the brain for an average body, which means it’s relative (Institute of Medicine, 2005). It might be slightly lower or slightly higher.

Since we have some of those basics out of the way, let’s start small, molecular small.

This is where biology and chemistry meet.

Carbohydrate means hydrated carbon (Reece, Taylor, Simon, Dickey, & Hogan, 2015). At the molecular level (and trust me this is helpful to know later) carbohydrates are made up of CH2O – 1 carbon, 2 hydrogen and 1 oxygen. In biology we actually learned a little upbeat rhyme of the abbreviates to memorize the molecular make up for carbohydrates, lipids (fats), nucleic acid and protein: CHO CHO CHOPN CHON, but you had to study so you knew how many of each were needed. Moving on…

The simplest carbohydrate is a monosaccharide – you’ll find these in glucose and fructose, which are sugars that carbohydrates break down to (Reece, Taylor, Simon, Dickey, & Hogan, 2015). You’ll find fructose in fruit. Glucose can be found in corn syrup and plants and found in the blood stream after certain carbohydrates are consumed and broken down. No your blood isn’t made of corn syrup.

Below are the chemical layout for glucose and fructose at the molecular level so you can see the difference.

Glucose and Fructose molecules

When you add two monosaccharides together, they form a disaccharide. For this binding to happen, water has to be lost. This is how we get maltose, which is used to make beer, malt whiskey and malted milk candy (Thompson & Manore, 2015).

Below is a picture of maltose, so you can see how glucose joins together. It’s like they’re holding hands if molecules had hands.

 

maltose

We also get sucrose when glucose and fructose join together. Sucrose is found in plants and it’s how we get table sugar (Thompson & Manore, 2015).

Below is a picture of sucrose. See more water is lost. Goodbye H2O!

sucrose

A longer chain, known as a polysaccharide are made up of hundreds of thousands of monosaccharides connected by water loss. Starch is an example, this is found in plants and contains glucose mononers. Glucose is stored in us in the form of glycogen in our muscles as a form of energy.

There’s a lot of ‘oses.

Here’s a few other ‘oses:

  • galactose – doesn’t occur alone in foods. It combines with glucose to create lactose.
  • lactose – “milk sugar”. A common disaccharide found in cow’s milk and breast milk.
  • ribose – five-carbon monosaccharide produced in our bodies from eating other carbohydrates. Can be found in the genetic material in our cells

Knowing the information above can be helpful for this next part. Carbohydrates are considered either simple or complex (Thompson & Manore, 2015). Like stated above the simplest carbohydrate is a monosaccharide and consists of one sugar; disaccharides are also simple and consist of two molecules of sugar. As you imagine, the most complex is the polysaccharide that is made up of hundreds of thousands of monosaccharides.

What is considered simple?

  • fruit (fructose)
  • vegetables (fructose)
  • milk (lactose)
  • fermented beverages (maltose)
  • sweeteners like honey, maple syrup, table sugar, brown sugar (sucrose)

What is considered complex?

  • starches including grains like rice, wheat, corn, oats and barley
  • legumes like peas, beans and lentils
  • tubers like sweet potatoes and yam

The digestion process is different for each macronutrient (fat, carbohydrates and protein), which means they breakdown at different rates (National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2017). Carbohydrates breakdown the fastest out of the macronutrients with fat being the slowest.

There are a few enzymes that help breakdown carbohydrates.

  • Salivary Amylase is found in the mouth in your saliva
  • Pancreatic Amylase and Maltase are found in the pancreatic juices (yes, gross I know) that are released into the small intestine to breakdown maltose
  • Sucrase and Lactase are found in the small intestine and help breakdown sucrose and lactose, respectively
*side note: when your body lacks the ability to create enough enzymes you may find intolerances like lactose in tolerant – you lack enough lactase enzyme to breakdown lactose. This can result in bloating or other digestive issues.

This is important to know the rate of digestion for a couple reasons:

1. Simple carbohydrates are digested and absorbed more easily causing a quicker energy utilization, which is why you may feel a “spike” in energy after eating something high in sugar, but then feel a “crash” later. This is also why individuals who are diabetic are encouraged to eat low-glycemic foods – foods that will breakdown at slower rates causing less of an increase in blood glucose since their bodies can’t produce insulin at all or don’t produce enough.

2. Our bodies can’t utilize complex carbohydrates in their consumed state, they need to be broken down to glucose (Thompson & Manore, 2015). These foods also contain fiber, which impacts how satiety controlling hormones are released (Chambers, McCrickerd, & Yeomans, 2015). This is why these foods keep us fuller longer even though protein has the highest satiety effect out of all three macronutrients.

When there’s not enough carbohydrates for this process the body turns to fat. To learn more about that, please check out this post.

Understanding the difference between simple and complex carbohydrates can be helpful for a  couple of reasons.

1. You can create a meal plan that combines complex carbohydrates with other foods to not only provide energy in the immediate time, but help you stay feeling full longer. That’s why oats and peanut butter “stick” with you for a long time. Being satisfied for a longer period of time prevents snacking and can assist you in staying in  caloric deficit if you are seeking fat loss.

2. You can create a meal plan that prevents or lessens “energy crashes”. Like stated above, complex carbohydrates take a longer time to breakdown a, which means glucose enters the blood slower so feeling tired or fatigued are less likely or are less impactful.

Carbohydrates that aren’t easily digested and broken down into this simple state are classified as fiber.

What is fiber?

Fiber is also a carbohydrate and is considered a polysaccharide, but it’s not easily digestible so it doesn’t provide energy to us (Thompson & Manore, 2015). There are two kinds of fiber:

  1. dietary – nondigestible parts of plants that make the form of the plant like leaves
  2. functional –  nondigestible parts of plants that are extracted or manufactured in a lab that is added to foods for health benefits

Even though fiber doesn’t provide energy to us, fiber is important because it helps regulate blood sugar. It also helps prevent constipation when consumed in a moderate (relative to an individual) amount, however, it can also cause constipation when over consumption occurs (also relative to an individual) (Anderson, et al., 2009). Foods with fiber also help regulate satiety hormone leptin, which tells our brains that we’re no longer hungry.

Currently, the recommended amount of fiber daily is 14g per 1,000 calories consumed, however, this number is relative to an individual and may be a little more or less based on your own caloric intake, weight and activity level. You should listen to your body to determine true needs. I personally need a little less fiber or I get bloated and constipated #everyonepoops.

 

 

Ok, so we know carbohydrates are the first source of energy for us. We know they breakdown at different rates. We know they’re relative to each individual. We know that they are found in fruits and veggies just like they are found in cookies and pizza.

Before we get into why they’re important and what the do for us, think about the carbohydrate sources you consume on a regular basis. Do they make you feel energized? Do you crash quickly in the day? Do you feel bloated? Do you combine simple and complex in your diet? Do you get enough fiber?

 

 

 

References

Anderson, J. W., Baird, P., Davis, R. H., Ferreri, S., Knudtson, M., Koraym, A., . . . Williams, C. L. (2009). Health Benefits of dietary Fiber. Nutrition Reviews, 188-205.

Chambers, L., McCrickerd, K., & Yeomans, M. R. (2015). Optimising Foods for Satiety. Trends in Food Science and Technology, 149-160.

Institute of Medicine. (2005). Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein and Amino Acids. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. (2017, December). Your Digestie Syste & How it Works. Retrieved from National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/digestive-system-how-it-works

Reece, J. B., Taylor, M. R., Simon, E. J., Dickey, J. L., & Hogan, K. (2015). Campbell Biology: Concepts and Connections. New York: Pearson Education.

Thompson, J., & Manore, M. (2015). Nutrition: An Applied Approach. San Francisco: Pearson Education.


Currently, there are 10 jars of nut butter sitting in my cabinet.

1. Cinnamon Raisin Swirl from Peanut Butter and Company

2. Mighty Maple from Peanut Butter and Company

3. Nutella – yes, that counts, hazelnuts!

4. Unsalted cashew butter, store brand

5. Pumpkin Spice from Peanut Butter and Company

6. Extra Crunchy Skippy

7. Smooth Jif

8. Brownie Batter from D’s Naturals

and now, chocolate protein walnut butter and plain walnut butter

It started with an email from The Peanut Principle telling me about their year of sale or coupon, regardless, I sighed because 1. I have a lot of jars in the cabinet and 2. I didn’t really need to spend the money on more right now. JP and I were getting dinner ready and I asked him if he thought we would have time to try to make our own this weekend.

He immediately turned to the cabinet and grabbed a full bag of whole shell walnuts and said “could we use this?” Yep. Yep, we could.

So I looked online so see if there was any magic to making nut butter and you know what, there’s not. So we played around and gave it a go.

Here’s What You’ll Need

  • Food processor
  • 1 to 2 cup of nuts, unsalted
  • optional – salt
  • optional – protein powder, we used Chocolate Cupcake from PEScience
  • optional – Hershey’s chocolate syrup
  • optional – vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Pick your nut! I know, I know, but you need to decide what butter you want. I chose walnuts.
  2. If your nuts are already shelled, you can add between 1 to 2 cups to your food processor. If they’re not shelled, shell them and make sure that all the piece of shell and inner skin are removed.
  3. Pulse your food processor on chop for a few minutes before switching to grind. If your food processor doesn’t have multiple settings or has numbered settings you will want to processor the nuts until they are smooth. Scraping the sides every now and then to ensure that all pieces of what may be meal now continue to be ground down.
  4. When ground to desired smoothness, pour into a jar and store in the fridge.

To make protein infused nut butter

  1. Make the recipe above and divide in half then add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
  2. Once vanilla is blended in, add a scoop of protein of your choice slowly. We used chocolate frosted cupcake by PEScience, which will cause the nut butter to dry out slightly. I believe all powders would cause the nut butter to dry out though, not just the whey casein blend.
  3. To combat the dryness of added protein, add a little bit of water. I added 1/2 a tablespoon of water at a time up to about 2 tablespoons of water.
  4. To enhance the chocolatey-ness of the nut butter or because I wanted to add chocolate sauce… I added 1 tablespoon of Hershey’s syrup and blended.

Nutrition for a 28g serving of protein walnut butter using 100g of blended nut butter: 12.5F/3.6C/7.1P

*Notes*

I would wait until the next day to put add-ins into the nut butter because this gives the mix time for the oils to separate, which may help with mixing in the protein. Since it is naturally and minimally made, we have had to mix both butters before every use so that oils are mixed thoroughly.


I write when I feel that I need to, so as you can tell it’s been a solid month since I’ve written, but I don’t think this is a bad thing. I’ve been finding outlets in running more, unpacking my apartment, hanging out by the pool and busting my ass with class. Side note – 8 more classes and the summer sessions are done. That by a lot faster than I imagined it would!

Anyway. I write when I feel inspired. I write when I feel like I need to brain dump. So let’s just jump in. I’m going to preface this post with I’ve made excuses for myself in the past, I’ve heard JP make excuses for himself as well. I have clients who make excuses too. EVERYONE builds walls and barriers that prevent them from being as great as possible in whatever it is they are seeking to accomplish. But, progress and the journey is about backing away from those excuses, tearing them down and pushing yourself to see what you can accomplish because it doesn’t matter what others tell you – if you don’t stop making excuses you’re never going to be successful.


At the beginning of the month, I got an email from Panera saying that as a reward member I was eligible for free bagels for the whole month. One bagel per day, no purchase necessary. Well, as you can imagine, goals have shifted since the spring and bagels fit into my plan pretty well, so, challenge accepted.

How many bagels can I eat in a month from Panera? Let’s find out.

I set some rules – I had to try them all once before I could go back for the same one again.

First up – Chocolate Chip. Not bad, but not my favorite.

IMG_6920

Favorite bagel? Cinnamon Crunch. It’s covered in in cinnamon-y and sugar goodness, do I need to say more? Also, it’s perfect toasted and plain no need to add anything, which is perfect because it’s 82g of carbohydrates.

IMG_7059

Anyway, here’s what I learned by eating as many free bagels as I could this month.

  1. I will willing eat 7 bagels in a month.
  2. Bagel sandwiches are most definitely in my top three for breakfast carbs, pancakes and waffles in first and second place, respectively.
  3. Free tastes better.
  4. Plain bagels are a waste of carbohydrates – so I didn’t even have one of those.
  5. If you want something bad enough, you make it work.

 

Let’s talk about #5.

I wanted a bagel, so I made it work into my day. I planned my other meals around my bagel and focused on lean protein, high volume fruits and vegetables. This allowed me the joy of consuming anywhere between 50 to 90g of carbohydrates in the bagel of my choice, while still eating enough volume to stay full and enough calories to be energized for the day.

I’ve had clients tell me that they don’t want to track their nutritional intake. Whether it’s specific grams of macro nutrients or calories (specific or broad tracking), they didn’t want to have to monitor it. Well, how do people think they got to where they are to begin with? How do you think I became over 240 pounds in college? It doesn’t just happen overnight. The only way to have fat loss is to be in a caloric deficit and the best way to do that is through daily diet. Abs are truly made in the kitchen and you can’t out work a poor diet.

I also believe if someone has never tracked, but wants to lose weight, it’ll do them some good to track for at least a short period of time and understand the difference between a portion they serve themselves and a serving size. How can they complain about no progress if they don’t know how their own behavior impacts them? It’s also heartbreaking when you realize how much peanut butter is in a serving versus what you believe should be the serving. Aside from being specific with consumption, I’ve had talks with people who don’t want plan the week’s meals in advanced because don’t want to eat the same thing every day. Trust me, I don’t blame them. But planning or prepping doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing – that may be the easiest thing to do, but it’s not the only way. The real world isn’t a bubble. There are parties and holidays and you can’t always say no to a glass of wine or a burger at the BBQ, so why should a bubble be created to be successful?

The “right” path encompasses finding balance and having more good days than bad. It’s about a specific balance that is unique to an individual’s lifestyle. Planning ahead allows for the ability to make a change when something comes up last minute. It allows you to learn how to create a balance of food that fuels you and a cold beer with dinner. If they can’t learn that balance when seeking to live a healthier life, the struggle will continue even after the goals are met.

Creating a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about nutrition though, it’s also about being active and creating a plan that allows you to accomplish your goals while not shutting out other areas of your life. Everyone has a busy schedule – busy is relative. Maybe there’s some financial constraints. As a millennial, my time and money are precious and as someone who recently went back to school I understand the importance of both of these things, but if you want something bad enough – you figure it out. Planning ahead allows me to be more careful with my time and prevent burn out. Looking at my calendar for this upcoming week tells me that Monday is too busy and I will be exhausted by the time I can make it to the gym, so that day I should focus on better meal creation, but Tuesday is more flexible and I have time to be active.

Everyone has walls that prevent them from success, whether they are self-created or not. But if you want something bad enough out start to break those walls down or go around them. You stop making excuses and you make small changes. All goals are about finding something that fits the individual’s lifestyle, something that they can believe in, but at the same time, be a little uncomfortable and break out of their bubble to see change. If you want the bagel bad enough you will find a way to make it fit.

 

❤ Cristina


What happens when I find things in the pantry I forget I had? I start skimming through Pinterest so I can make it a fun consumable and get it out of the pantry. Today’s adventure was with a can of pumpkin puree. In the fall I always have a can on hand and I won’t lie I was surprised when I found a can today. After going through some pins, I got an idea of the basis for a protein bite or protein ball, let’s be real though, 5g of protein doesn’t make something a protein snack. It does, however, support the well rounded nutrition in a snack, but I just can’t call it a protein ball.

So with a can of pumpkin, some protein and a canister of oats I made some magic in the kitchen.

What You’ll Need

  • 120g or 1.5 cups of oats
  • 264g of canned pumpkin
  • 1 scoop of protein – I used a sample of Sun Warrior vanilla vegan protein
  • 30g of 1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 3T of Splenda
  • 2tsp of vanilla extract
  • a few dashes of cinnamon

Directions

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, weigh out your oats.
  2. In the same bowl, weigh out your canned pumpkin. I added pumpkin a little at a time until the oats were sticking together.
  3. Mix in Splenda, cinnamon and vanilla extract. I added cinnamon a little at a time until I got the taste I wanted. At this point it tastes like an unsweetened pumpkin pie mix.
  4. Add in protein powder. As I’m using up the pantry, I used a sample of vegan protein powder. You can use any protein powder. A basic flavor may be best like cinnamon roll, vanilla or snickerdoodle. I don’t think there would be an issue using whey, casein or a blend. *If you find that the casein or blend protein makes the mix hard to combine, add a tablespoon or water or two.
  5. Using your hands, mix in coconut flakes.
  6. When thoroughly combined roll into a ball and divide into your preferred servings. I wanted to keep the macros under 30g of carbohydrates per serving, so I made 5 equal larger portions.
  7. After weighing out the total serving fell free to make into small pieces. Each larger portion made 4 pumpkin and oat bites.
  8. Chill to keep fresh. Because these are a no bake, minimally additive food, please keep in mine that they may mold if kept too long.

Of course before I could chill the container, JP felt the need to take one to try – a row of 4 was a serving. I put pumpkin spice peanut butter on mine, but you could have them plain or with a different nut butter. JP and I agreed they tastes like an unsweetened version of pumpkin pie. Cinnamon and vanilla was subtle, but tasty.

Macros per serving without peanut butter: 5.9F/22.4C/7.6P

I hope you enjoy!

❤ Cristina


I have no issue getting crazy in the kitchen. I also have no issue hunting down products at the store to make my menu interesting. I notice that a lot of my friends are the same – fit and non-fit people, you know regular people exist too.

After someone reached out to me about Trader Joe finds, I decided to reach out to some of my friends and ask what they like to find at TJ’s. I thought I would try some of their finds, but also share them with you.

So first up. My friend Liz or @liz1315. Her TJ finds are super macro friendly and can be helpful for someone seeking lower carbohydrate options.

  1. Broccoli and Cauliflower vegetable patties. Macros per patty: 2F/6C/2P

I tried one plain with my lunch. I baked them and followed the directions on the box. They were awesome plain, but I tried them next with some roasted red pepper spread and a yolky egg. That was magical.


Next… something versatile. Rice cauliflower. I know my first thought was why would I do that. But after seeing some of Liz’s creations I decided to give it a try. It really is versatile and her and I have decided to do a post about the recipes and crazy stuff we come up with to eat on prep and in daily life to hit our macros. It’s going to be centered around this guy!

2. Riced cauliflower: Macros per 3/4 cup serving 0F/4C/2P



Next up, something sweet. My friend Alicia or @_alicia_h said Joe-Joe’s were the thing to buy. I completely trust Alicia here, she is also an excellent judge of doughnuts so I kind of have to. We still have a box of pumpkin Joe-Joe’s and peppermint Joe-Joe’s in the pantry. Both unopened just waiting until after competition season.

3. Joe-Joe’s. Macros per 2 cookie serving: 5F/20C/1P (slightly better than an Oreo)

 

Ali or @ali.widdis listed a few things such as flowers, cold pressed juice, but also said that she has to really want something because it’s a distance from her house and there are something that are pricey – it’s just a novelty thing.

4. Goat Cheese. Macros per 28g serving 6F/5C/6P (depending on flavor)


Spices, nuts and nut butter. Those are really reasonable to TJ’s. Here are some of my favorite.

5. Chile Lime seasoning. It’s good on eggs. It’s good on chicken, ground turkey and beef. It’s just good. Flavor is important, I don’t like sauces as much as I used to.

 

6. Bagel seasoning. It’s like the bagel, but without the carbs. So far I’ve mostly put this on my eggs, which I highly suggest you do. But Liz and Ali have found other carby sources to put it on to turn the average English muffin into a mock bagel of sorts. I imagine savory oats will be happening next week with this as well.

I don’t think the next one needs a reason to be purchase. It’s $1.99 and damn tasty.

7. No stir creamy peanut butter, I also have no stir chunky peanut butter.

 

 

Sometimes you just want to change up your protein sources. Chicken and ground turkey can get old. Sometimes you don’t want or like a salmon burger. The flavor on these is awesome and the macros aren’t bad either. I do think they could be a little more spicy, but if you don’t mind mild, you need to give these are a try.

8. Chile Lime Chicken Burgers. Macros per burger patty 6F/3C/19P

Breakfast is comfort food, well for me at least and I don’t think the next one needs an explanation at all.

9. Hashbrowns. Macros for 3 ounces: 0F/14C/1P

Also, a bunch of you came to the rescue and told me where to find unsweetened shredded coconut.

10. Unsweetened coconut. Macros for 1/4 cup: 20F/2C/2P

Here are some other things I’ve purchased at TJ’s that I think you should be mindful of as well:

  1. nuts – they are a lot cheaper at TJ’s than they are at most stores
  2. sushi – pretty tasty and macro-friendly enough meal when you’re on your lunch break
  3. mini peanut butter cups – 27 minis are a serving…that’s a ton of chocolate and peanut butter!
  4. chocolate covered espresso beans
  5. chunky reduced guilt guacamole – I don’t feel guilt eating guacamole usually, but this is made with Greek yogurt and you can consume a lot more for the same or similar nutritional value

A few sent me DM’s on Instagram about their favorite finds:

@jaynabean “chocolate croissants – I must have a box in the freezer at all times for when the occasion strikes.”

@woolandiron “rustic cinnamon graham crackers. They are so freaking delicious and have an awesome molasses taste. And the pink $2 Chuck. And the powdered chai. And frozen chicken gyiza/dumplings. I need to go to TJ’s now…”

Happy hunting!

❤ Cristina

 


Let’s talk sweet tooth.

I think most of us can agree that there are some things you hate passing up on, but at the same time you wish there was an alternative. I feel this way about doughnuts and cupcakes, but I won’t lie those are sacred and I will never try to find a replacement.

When I started flexible dieting the idea of protein cheesecake was one of the most glorious concepts ever. I’ve tried different recipes,  one or two maybe posted on this blog, but as I’ve evolved in my knowledge of flexible dieting and exhausted myself in the kitchen, I realized some things can’t be completely left out just to make something healthy taste like the real thing.

Right now I’m talking about fat.

Last week, I played with a new protein powder I bought on sale – mocha cappuccino from Optimum Nutrition. It’s a whey isolate, which is different than a blend. It’s thinner for one, but it also doesn’t add fluffy or thickness like a casein blend does when mixed with other things.

To make cheesecake no- bake I couldn’t use whole eggs, but I knew I needed to keep fat somewhere otherwise the texture would be spongey and while I can tolerate that, I don’t want to if I don’t have to. This is something I’ve dealt with when making other recipes, but I’m over that nonsense. Either it needs to have some fat to be smooth or I don’t want it.

My fat source was light cream cheese, enough fat to have flavor and texture, but less than normal so that my macros wouldn’t be blown out of the water.

What happened in the kitchen was magical and I felt kind of silly for not trying to find a no-bake recipe sooner. So here it is. Play with it and let me know your thoughts!

What You’ll Need

  • 8 ounces of cream cheese – I used the store brand’s light cream cheese
  • Vanilla extract to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Splenda – or any sweetener
  • 46g of egg whites/3 tablespoons of egg whites
  • 2 scoops of protein powder – I used whey isolate
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt – I used 0% to bring the overall fat content down
  • Keebler graham cracker crust pieces

Directions

  1. In a mixing bowl, add cream cheese. Put in the microwave to soften. Heat for 20-30 seconds at a time. I needed about a minute and 20 seconds.
  2. With a hand blender, mix the cream cheese until smooth. Add yogurt and blend. You don’t need to use 0%, but if you’re trying to keep the total fat content down then it’s highly suggested.
  3. When thoroughly mixed add vanilla extract. I used 2 teaspoons, but this is completely on preference. Blend until smooth.
  4. Add in egg whites and 1 tablespoon of Splenda. At this point it should taste like cheesecake, this is the basic form.
  5. Pick your protein and add it slowly while blending with the hand mixer and scraping the sides as needed. I used a whey isolate, using a casein blend may make it thicker – if that’s the case a little almond milk or water may help with consistency.
  6. Since I track my macros very closely I weighed the total batter and then divided by the amount of servings I wanted. For this I wanted 4. These macros are slightly rough, but it’s really the best way to be as accurate as possible.
  7. I divided the filling into 4 mason jars for easy storage and travel. I let them sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours before consuming.
  8. I topped the cheesecake filling with 1 tablespoon of crushed graham cracker from Keebler. You could also use the mini pie shells Keebler makes or Goldfish grahams.

Macros for just the filling: 9.6F/5.8C/15.5P – nutrition may vary depending on protein and cream cheese used.

Try it out and let me know how it goes! What protein do you think you would want to try using for your filling?

❤ Cristina

Save