Day 213, Quote 22: Trust Yourself

“Learning to trust is one of life’s most difficult tasks.” —Isaac Watts

I like new things. They bring mixed emotions – excitement, fear, shock, joy.

Changing up my routine isn’t new, but I guess the way I’m going about it is a bit different and that’s going to make it interesting for the next few months.

The past few weeks as I was tracking my food less and focusing on my lifting – focusing on being capable of lifting heavier, I started to think about the next step.

Every goal has and needs a different approach and while it’s not hard to talk about that with others, it can be difficult to fully take that advice.

The past 13 weeks I focused on growing strength and for some lifts it wasn’t about necessarily growing my strength to surpass old maximums, but getting back into a routine and working in the direction to at least meet old maximums.

I was in a caloric deficit the last time I hit some of these maximums, but I had to remember that I need to look at each goal in its own box. My stressors are different, my schedule is different, my goals are different (not competing). Mindset really is everything. I had started with being in a slight deficit at the beginning of this program, but I ended up dabbling on maintenance, which overall I feel okay about mentally. It’s okay for goals to change and to change during the process don’t ever let anyone tell you any different. Physically, I’m pretty okay with my size.

Transitioning to new programming is always exciting. There’s also a routine I go through in my first week – locate equipment, determine how much I want to be utilizing for specific ranges I’ve set for myself, make notes if that’s reasonable (before and after), calculate how long it takes to complete the workout. I like this routine. It helps me set the tone.

I enjoy the gym and if there wasn’t anything else to do in the day I wouldn’t have an issue spending time there, but since there are other things to do – my goal is to have fun and work hard, but be strategic. If I’m spending an hour and a half to two hours at the gym then I know I need to reevaluate what I’m doing and why it’s taking me so long.

My lift on Saturday took about 45 minutes, which I think is a completely reasonable amount of time and honestly, with how much total volume I lifted, I could’ve taken a little bit longer rests – that’s noted for this coming week.

This next block or section of time or months, or whatever – isn’t just getting a change up in programming.

MFP

Last Thursday was the last day that I tracked my food using MyFitnessPal. This tool has been tremendously helpful the past four years – as I competed, as I tracked macros. It’s a tool I recommend to anyone who is getting started.

Before any clients start a new nutritional or eating style with me, I ask them to track their food for a week. We need to know what we’re facing. Do they lean towards one macronutrient over another? Do they easily overconsume calories in general? Maybe they’re not eating enough at all. How much sugar and salt are they consuming? What about fiber?

Knowing these factors allows us to determine more strategically a better first step than diving in – not everyone can go balls to the wall on the first day and that’s okay.

This tool will always be something I recommend so don’t take this post as a diss to tracking #that90slife. But for my goals right now, it’s not necessary.

Also, taking this step with my nutrition isn’t me saying that I don’t believe in counting macros. I fully believe that this style of eating helped me focus on creating flexibility and allowed me to participate in social settings, which is something that traditional diet culture discourages or can discourage. I believe that it allowed me to not only create a healthy balance of diverse foods, but during competition season I was able to lean down for the stage without depriving myself. In between seasons, I felt that I was able to grow my strength because I was able to increase my nutrition to match my movement and goals. I didn’t feel the guilt that I had when I was focusing on clean eating.

My purpose for this break is that 1. I want a break from numbers 2. We shouldn’t want to count for the rest of our lives 3. It’s important to learn to trust ourselves. 4. Health is more than just size, it’s also about feeling.

This is truly the first time in four years that I won’t be tracking my macronutrients. I won’t be tracking calories either. However, what I will be tracking is my portion size and the specific foods. However, I would argue that after a few years of extensive tracking and understanding labels, I have a pretty good idea of where I can and should be with the food consumption in a day.

The notebook that I’m using for my workouts will also double as my notebook to journal my food intake.

I think this is the compromise to work towards tracking less and living a more normal life after weightloss. I don’t believe you can go cold turkey. Mentally it’s a hard transition from one behavior to another, just like going into weightloss to begin with, so this is an intermediary.

I’m looking forward to changing up my workouts and to focus on feeling good. Whether it was for my health or it was for competing, I was body focused – and there’s nothing wrong with that either, we should like how we look and be proud of that. However, I’ve been liking my body more at this size… even though this size is technically not a big change – recomposition is a weird thing.

What’s been eye-opening for me is the emotional connection to numbers. I’ve noticed I’ve felt less guilt for having foods like avocado or eggs – both are foods that I have always enjoyed, however, I’m not stressing out about having them in larger quantities. I always say that I’m terrible about hitting protein, but I’ve noticed that I’m more willing to consume even more fats than before. I was consuming ~60g a day, while I don’t think I was going much over that if at all, I wasn’t paranoid or too picky about my food selection this week.

Looking at the foods as whole items and working to create diversity in my day so I’m still getting the vitamins I need is definitely a bit tricky, but at the same time, I do feel like I’m getting enough calories and micronutrients overall.

I’m enjoying the foods I’m eating because they’re not really any different than before with the exception of salmon in the freezer and a few more avocados for a recipe later this week.

One “strategy” I have for tracking in this way is making sure that I’m eating an assortment of fruits and vegetables – not all dense (sweet potato/squashes) and not all volume (asparagus/broccoli). I’m making sure that I don’t consume too many grains in a day like if I have waffles for breakfast, I’m mindful of crackers, pitas, pretzels, oats throughout the rest of the day. Like before, I want my carbohydrate sources to be varying. Like I mentioned in a previous post, I’m changing up my fats and protein sources a bit, but still aiming for about 4-5 servings of protein in a day (eggs/red meat/poultry/fish/shake).

Tuesday was probably one of my favorite days. Here’s what I ate that day:

Breakfast

  • cinnamon raisin English muffin toasted with 10g of reduced fat cream cheese + 1 ounce of smoked salmon and 1/2 cup of egg whites
  • hazelnut coffee with whipped cream

Lunch

  • 4 ounces of 93/7 ground turkey + 70g of avocado (half an avocado) +100g of diced fresh tomato + 30g of Bolthouse Farm ranch dressing

Snack

  • 100g of blueberries + Oikos Zero mixed berry yogurt
  • 1″ brownie with walnuts

Dinner

  • Pita with 40g of roasted pepper spread with a whole egg

Dessert

  • slice of paleo-ish zucchini bread

My fats were a bit higher, protein a bit lower and carbohydrates were probably pretty moderate. I felt like I ate enough and woke up on Wednesday ready to go, but not starving.

As far as measurements, I think a good plan would be to check in with myself every few weeks until I adjust. It’s one thing to not look at the scale or take measurements when you’re tracking all or a portion of your food, it’s another to completely eliminate specific food tracking patterns.

I’m sure some of you think this is crazy and others are waiting to see what happens next, but really as some who gained the quickly and then lost it steadily and hasn’t lived in this body for long –  I think it’s reasonable to want to find normalcy and have a better relationship with myself and with food.

A step was to explore healthier options and lose the weight. Another step was creating the competitor and adding in the exercise. Another aspect is how to trust myself to not regain the over 100 pounds I lost. While I truly don’t believe I would ever regain that weight, I also know that I’ve never allowed myself to trust myself fully in the decision-making process.

In the future, macro counting will be utilized for other goals, but right now, I want to focus on trusting myself and where I can go in the gym riding on that.

❤ Cristina

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Recipe: Egg Stuffed Red Onion

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

Recipe: Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad

I owe you this recipe. A few weeks ago I went on a chicken salad kick, mostly because I love dill and this was an easy way to get in some protein without a ton of carbohydrates. I don’t like to put food into categories – I want to eat what I want when I want it, so chicken salad and tuna salad are often snacks in this house.

Like most of you, the weekends are for grocery shopping and meals are a moshposh until that happens. So we were looking at all the parts that we had in the fridge and tried to figure out what we could do with them – that’s where the cinnamon raisin bread in this recipe came into play.

Greek Yogurt Chicken Salad for Two

What You’ll Need

  • 8 ounces of cooked chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used 2% Fage)
  • 2 tablespoons walnuts
  • 1/3 cup grapes, chopped
  • 4 slices of bread (I used Pepperidge Farm cinnamon raisin)
  • 1 teaspoon of dill weed
  • salt
  • pepper
  • Oven or toaster oven

Directions

1.In a medium sized mixing bowl mix cooked, cubed chicken, Greek yogurt and dill weed. I had seasoned my chicken when I baked it, but it can be plain as well. Mix thoroughly.

 

2.Mix in chopped grapes. I quartered our grapes because they were large, but whatever size you prefer. Depending on the size of the bread or if you choose a wrap may not need to quarter them.

 

3.Mix in walnut pieces. I put my walnuts in a bag and used a meat tenderizer to break them into smaller pieces. I’ve found that using a knife can be a long process and dangerous if your knife isn’t sharp enough. If you have walnut or pecan pieces already you can skip this step.

IMG_0574

4.(Optional) Toast your bread! For a hearty sandwich, I find that they can fall apart if there’s a lot in the middle, so toasting helps prevent this. I put my toast in the toaster oven for 2 minutes at 300 degrees. You may not need to toast for this long, again, it’s preference.

5.Add half of the mixture onto your toast and serve!

Nutrition for 1 serving: 372 calories, 10F/39.5C/37P

  • Fats decrease without or with less nuts
  • Carbohydrates change depending on bread/grain type
  • Protein changes depending on amount of chicken

Recipe: Tuna Burgers

It wasn’t until after college that I ate seafood other than canned tuna as tuna salad. However, it wasn’t until a former student of mine and I met for sushi a few years ago that I started to really get adventurous with my seafood. There are still things I don’t like such as lobster – I know, blasphemous to many who are from New England. I had a bad batch of scallops that made me sick so I stay away from those too.

We will make seafood dishes every now and then, but as many people say financial barriers can make it hard to make healthier choices and that’s a huge reason why we limit the diversity in the seafood we have at home. When shrimp go on sale we will buy them and same with salmon burgers, fresh white fish and squid, but canned tuna is probably always going to be my go-to lean protein because it is more reasonably priced.

To help prevent meal burn out I try to keep diversity in my meal planning, but sometimes you can only have chicken so many ways before you decide it’s not what you want for lunch. Last week, while I was trying to figure out what I wanted for lunch that wasn’t chicken, I decide I could go for tuna, but I didn’t want a tuna sandwich or a tuna melt. I’ve had salmon burgers at a few restaurants in the area, not steaks, but a formed patty with spices and binding ingredients. I figured I could probably make a tuna burger if I looked hard enough.

tuna burger blog post

 

What You’ll Need

  • 1 can of tuna
  • 1 egg
  • 2T of flour
  • 1 tsp of seasoning blend of choice
  • Baking sheet
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Prep your baking sheet with a little cooking spray. You could also use olive oil.
  3. Drain a can of tuna and add to a small bowl. Break up tuna into smaller chunks.
  4. Add an egg and flour to tuna. Mix well. You may want to add the flour a little bit at a time so that it doesn’t poof out of the bowl.
  5. Add seasoning blend to tuna mixture. If you want want to use a seasoning blend, you can add salt, pepper and individual spices to your taste.
  6. Once mixed, take a flat spatula and move mixture to the middle of the bowl forming a circle. Slowly dump mixture to baking sheet and shape to a circular patty about half an inch thick. You can make one patty or two 2 ounce patties.
  7. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes. Patty will be crispy on the outside and cooked through on the inside.

I served mine on top of lettuce with onions, tomatoes and sriracha mayo. You can serve it on a bun or in a salad. There’s a place in town that makes an excellent broccoli slaw.

Well, damn, Now I’m hungry.

Macros for a 4 ounce patty: 4.5f | 10c | 28p

❤ Cristina

 

 

Recipe: Banana Peanut Butter French Toast

We’ve been having a little fun with some food, while being mindful to not be too big of assholes. I still enjoy eating healthy, but we’re being a little more flexible with our breakfasts and making them a little bigger…especially on lab days where I can’t bring food into the room because #dissection.

What You’ll Need

  • Bread – your choice, I used Pepperidge Farm Cinnamon Raisin
  • Egg whites
  • Peanut Butter – your choice, I used Jif
  • Half a banana
  • medium sized skillet

Directions

  1. On both sides of the bread spread your peanut butter. I used a full serving for my sandwich so I divided it evenly on both sides. I know someone is thinking, but the fat! Yes, I know, but trust me it’s worth it.
  2. Slice your banana into pieces about a centimeter thick. I used about half a banana for my toast – so a whole banana for both our sandwiches.
  3. Put slices onto one side of the bread and close with the other side. Yep, directions for a 5-year-old. This is where the full serving of peanut butter becomes more than tasty and is useful. It holds the sandwich together because bananas are slippery.
  4. Preheat skillet so it’s hot for when you place your sandwich on it.
  5. Place your sandwich in a shallow bowl and pour egg whites over. We eat half a cup of egg whites regularly, so I measured a half cup and poured that over. By pouring the egg whites over the sandwich you ensure that it gets covered and is less likely to fall apart.
  6. Immediately after covering your sandwich in egg whites, bring it over to your skillet and cook for one to two minutes before flipping. You may need to use your hand to hold the sandwich together during flipping just because it’s heavy.
  7. If you feel that it needs a little more cooking time that’s completely fine, bread thickness and amount of egg white absorbed will change cooking time slightly.

 

The macros for my sandwich and toppings – left over egg whites not used on sandwich eaten on the side – were: 11F/48.5C/20P

All the items I used to make my sandwich were found at my local grocery store. They’re not fancy and in many cases people view them as bad foods. I’ll preach moderation because it’s true.

I’m interested to know if you try different nut butters and breads and how your sandwich turns out. If you make this, send me an email and let me know how it was!

❤ Cristina

 

 

Trader Joe Finds

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

 

Recipe: Breakfast “grilled” cheese

As a lover of food, I am constantly searching for new recipes and ways to use ingredients I want to get rid of quickly. Most of my ideas come from having a small amunt of something left over that I don’t want to throw out. However, sometimes my ideas come from tweaking recipes that I have come across.

I may be guilty of purchasing the Food Network Magazine every time it comes out. So much so that for my birthday JP bought me a year subscription. Well, before he did that. I found an issue that had a number of sandwiches in it. Here’s the link for the online slideshow that has the 10 spins on grilled cheese. I definitely want to try the apricot and brie grilled cheese!

Here’s how I made my grilled cheese.

What You’ll Need

  • 2 slices of whole wheat cinnamon bread with raisins, somehow this has less macros and sugar than their regular cinnamon raisin
  • a serving of soft cheese – I’ve used vanilla blueberry goat cheese, cinnamon cranberry goat cheese, cream cheese with pumpkin pie spice and maple pecan goat cheese
  • baking sheet
  • oven

Directions

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Measure out a serving of the cheese of your choice and gentley spread it on both sides of bread. The most recent cheese I used was maple pecan goat cheese, which is a soft cheese, but also tough to spread without ripping the bread. So treat your bread nicely, ha!
  3. Put your bread together, place on the baking sheet and place in the oven.
  4. Bake on each side for 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melty/bread is toasty.

That’s really it. I know many of you know how to make grilled cheese. Some use butter on each side to help with the toasting and creation of the perfect crunch. Some use mayo – don’t make a face, some do! If you wanted to do this stove top you could use butter or cooking spray to cut down on fat. I prefer mine baked so I don’t have to worry about the grease or added fat. I also care more about creamy, melty cheese.

 

Create your own spread

When I’ve used plain cream cheese I’ve added spices and seasoning to it. A serving of cream cheese is 2 tablespoons and I’ll add 1 teaspoon of whatever spice I want. Here are some of the spices you could add:

  • Pumpkin pie seasoning – if you don’t have this on hand, mix: cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg
  • Flavor God Chocolate Glazed Donut Seasoning
  • Italian Herb spices – if you don’t have this on hand, mix: oregano, salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme, garlic

Picking a bread

I prefer my breakfast “grilled” cheese to be sweet, but you could play with pairings. if I want savory, I typically make a yolky egg to dip my sandwich in.

Here are breads I’ve used when creating in the kitchen:

  • Cinnamon raisin
  • Whole wheat
  • Olive and herb
  • Italian

Let me know what kinds of pairings you think may be good to try. Are there any cheeses that you think would be perfect this way?

❤ Cristina

 

I don’t even think the FDA knows what that means…

This post is to help those who have questions about flexible dieting and nutrition in general. Recently, more specifically since I started my reverse, which is going swimmingly by the way, I have had a lot of questions regarding the foods I consume.

I’ve talked about how flexible dieting works for me in my life. I’ve mentioned how during my competition season I hadn’t really eliminated many foods for my nutrition plan. The ones that I did were things that I truly had no control over the macros such as some pastries and sandwiches at a local bread company (this one killed me). Aside from these two things, I still ate what I wanted as long as it fit during the day and helped me reach my nutrition goals. I’ve also mentioned that I don’t like labeling foods as clean or dirty because I believe the negative connotation can create a poor relationship with food. Some don’t believe this and that’s 100% fine, but I also have binge eating disorder in my history so this is my philosophy.

So, some of the foods I like to enjoy happen to be “processed”. This word is tricky because many foods are processed, even if it’s only minimal. Let’s look at the FDA’s definition:

United States Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, Section 201, Chapter II

Processed Food: “Any food other than a raw agricultural commodity and includes any raw agricultural commodity that has been subject to processing, such as canning, cooking, freezing, dehydration, or milling.”

So really, if you buy frozen vegetables or fruit because they’re cheaper than fresh, but you know them to be just as healthy – you’re eating something processed. Also, please keep in mind, just because you buy a bag of frozen broccoli, doesn’t mean that’s the only thing in that bag. I have found that a few brands will add salt to preserve the vegetable;however, if it’s frozen there really shouldn’t be a need for salt in the bag.

Granted, an Oreo is more processed than a bag of frozen veggies, the definition is very broad. I love Greek yogurt, for me it truly helps promote good gut health. However, it’s also a processed food. If this word concerns you, you may want to look at your cart the next time you go to the store and rethink your grocery list.

Under the same chapter are other definitions, such as raw.

Raw: “raw agricultural commodity” means any food in its raw or natural state, including all fruits that are washed, colored, or otherwise treated in their unpeeled natural form prior to marketing.

So foods that have been treated with coloring can be still considered raw… interesting.

When looking at food labeling and how the FDA has enforce regulations on companies to ensure that consumers know what they are eating, it seems as though the FDA doesn’t necessarily have clear definitions or ever thought out their expectations for recent years. Food labels were introduced 20 years ago and in 2014 the FDA was looking to make a few changes, but there were a few issues that came up, such as the definition of natural.

“Although the FDA has not engaged in rulemaking to establish a formal definition for the term “natural,” we do have a longstanding policy concerning the use of “natural” in human food labeling. The FDA has considered the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic  (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food.  However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation. The FDA also did not consider whether the term “natural” should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.”

So for the most part, your food may be natural, but the term doesn’t take into consideration anything that happens at the factory. What happens at the plant, stays at the plant. I guess I should be slightly concerned about the chicken I buy.

Along with natural, people like to shop “organic.” For me, I think this partly a waste of my money, especially if I’m going to wash and peel the skin of the food. I understand wanting something that you will be eating in whole like grapes to be organic, but if natural isn’t fully or clearly defined, what does organic mean?

The National Organic Program is under the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service. That took some effort to say. The role of the NOP is to develop regulations and provide guidance on organic standards such as labeling.

So what can farmer’s use on crops and still be considered organic? Well, in Title 7, Subtitle B, Chapter 1, Subchapter M, Part 205, Subpart G of the Code of Federal Regulations— aren’t you glad I hyperlinked that? Here you can find substances that are allowed and not allowed for organic crop production.

So what’s allowed?

Algicide, disinfectants and sanitizer including ethanol alcohol and isopropanol – I know those are some long words and I’m pretty sure that I can’t even pronounce them even if I tried, but essentially, as long as you’re not contaminating the crops, soil or water, these can be used and the food can still be listed as organic.

Continuing the list: Chlorine materials for pre-harvest like calcium hypochlorite, chlorine dioxide and sodium hypochlorite. As long as the the levels in the water that is sent to the irrigation systems don’t exceed a specific level, disinfectant can be used under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The list goes on and on to add herbicides and hydrogen peroxide. So really, what is organic? What would it mean to not use these products on large numbers of crops? Growing cucumbers in your side garden is one thing, it’s another to have acres of veggies that have a greater potential to be damaged by insects and disease.

Like I said, I really don’t buy organic and from the skimming through some of the regulations, it doesn’t seem like it matters a whole lot that I don’t.

I know there are some other ethical issues that others follow much more closely than I do, but the purpose of highlighting this information is to show that the terms processed, natural, raw and organic are more like marketing terms to push or influence consumer to purchase certain items. My choice to eat a variety of foods including those that man believe to be of poor nutritional value, hasn’t hindered my weightloss or health in anyway. I believe this is because of the balance I try to create by consuming vegetables and meats along with my cupcakes and cookies. There are so many eating styles and everyone’s body is different. Learning about the different styles and the science behind them may create more understanding rather than elaborate skepticism and questioning.

 

 

 

 

 

Adventures with spaghetti squash

I can’t remember the last time that I actively bought a box of pasta and had an Italian night in. Even when I go out, I stay away from pasta. It’s not that I eat low carb or don’t like pasta, but I don’t feel satisfied when I eat it. I do feel full when I eat it, but within 30 minutes I’m staving again; this could be because a serving size isn’t very big or that there isn’t much nutritional value in pasta. Regardless, I’ve sought out alternatives that are lower carb and higher volume so I can stay fuller longer. Spaghetti squash is a vegetable that I’ve used multiple times with a variety of ingredients to keep it interesting and provide a similar taste to my favorite pasta dishes.

Basic how-do cook spaghetti squash

What You’ll Need:

  • large pot
  • water
  • spaghetti squash
  • ice cream scoop

Directions:

  1. Fill a large pot about 75% of the way with water and set to get it boiling.
  2. Wash the outer skin of your spaghetti squash and pat dry with a towel.
  3. With a large and sharp knife cut the squash down the middle, length wise.
  4. With an ice cream scoop or spoon, scoop out the seeds.
  5. Place the squash in the pot and cook until tender. Depending on the size of the squash this could take 20-30 minutes.
  6. Once it’s full cooked, drain the squash and with a fork scrap out the meat of the squash. it’ll cook out in strains, which is where it gets its name from.

Buffalo Chicken Bake

What You’ll Need:

  • cooked spaghetti squash
  • Frank’s Red Hot
  • cream cheese
  • shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • cooked chicken
  • casserole dish

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray casserole dish with a little bit of cooking spray. I used a mini bread loaf pan because I was making this for one serving, but you can use any size that you believe will fit all of your ingredients.
  3. Cut chicken into bite size pieces. I used left over chicken that I had already baked. *Make sure your chicken is already cooked.
  4. In a bowl weigh out your spaghetti squash. Since this was one serving, I used 100 grams of squash.
  5. Mix in each ingredient one at a time so they are all fully mixed.
  6. Add in Frank’s Red Hot to taste. I used 3 tablespoons because I like the kick.
  7. Add cream cheese. I used 1 table spoon of fat free cream cheese just a store brand.
  8. Add shredded cheese. I used Mexican cheese blend, but you could use cheddar or Monterrey Jack.
  9. Pour mixed into casserole pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350.

 

Italian Style Spaghetti Squash

What You’ll Need:

  • cooked spaghetti squash
  • Newman’s Own pasta sauce
  • cooked ground turkey
  • shredded Mexican cheese blend
  • small pot

Directions:

This recipe is for one serving so adjust the ingredients as you feel is necessary to make a larger quantity.

  1. In a medium pot  heat up 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of pasta sauce. I used Newman’s Own because it has less sugar than a lot of other brands and therefore less carbohydrates.
  2. Add 150g of cooked spaghetti squash to the sauce and mix. Make sure that the squash is completely covered.
  3. Add in 4 ounces of cooked ground turkey. I cook my ground turkey like I do for Sloppy Joes, nice and crumbly. Also, make sure to drain the grease.
  4. Lastly, add in shredded cheese and mix so the it melts and is stringy.

I add spices to this recipes like basil or oregano. I also will add cooked onions, peppers and mushrooms too if I want more volume. Obviously, it doesn’t fully replace spaghetti, but the flavor is pretty darn close.


I’ve also tried Alfredo sauce and spinach with spaghetti squash, but I wasn’t that big of a fan. These are definitely my top two ways to cook it. It’s also good plain with a little bit of salt as a side too.

I love playing with alternatives and veggies. I hope you get inspired by these two combinations and get creative in the kitchen to think of your own!

 

❤ Cristina

Healthy choices, exercising and traveling: My trip to DC

Let’s not pretend that being healthy while traveling is easy. We all know there are many challenges we face. If we’re flying the questions you may ask yourself are: can I bring food into the airport? What restaurants are in my terminal? What snacks are served on the plane? Will I be able to drink enough water during the day?

If you’re driving the questions can be different because yes you can have your own food packed, but is it easy to eat your meal while driving? Is that safe? Will you eat a hot meal cold? How often will you stop to use the bathroom if you’re drinking enough water? Will that add a lot of time to travel?

Also, planning to be healthy on travel is a pain in the ass. Let’s be honest.

Once you’re at your destination there’s a longer list of questions. Will I have access to a gym? Do I have time for a gym? What food is available to me?

I love lists. I love spreadsheets and I’m a planner. I’m organized because it helps me stay on track, not just in my healthy life, but my work life too. I’m in week 9 of prep and I had to take a 3 day trip to Washington DC during week 7. I have a lot more flexibility than most in my work travel because I do say where I’m traveling to and where I’m staying. So let’s start there.

How am I traveling?

Living in Massachusetts I knew I only had the option to fly to DC, so that meant I needed to look at my flights and determine what my eating schedule would be as well as what I would want to eat for the day, including in the airport and on the plane.

As long as your food is solid, it will most likely get through security. You can’t bring water or liquids in, but you can bring in an empty bottle – I brought in a blender bottle since I had packed a protein shake for later in the day while navigating the airport. As a pancake lover, I decided that since my flight was over brunch-ish time, protein pancakes were the way to go. I could make them in muffin form, they’re solid and they travel well. This would be my part of my airport meal. I also packed half a nut butter sandwich because again, solid and portable, but the carbs and protein from the nut butter keep me full for longer, which can make it easier to stick to your plan and not snack throughout the day, like when the stewardess hands you a bag of pretzels. You can also say no to the in flight snack.

 

Bella with a peanut butter pie protein bar on the flight.

Since TSA is a little tricky, I had given myself some extra time before my flight. At home I had looked to see what would be in my terminal – a Starbucks, the love of my coffee life. I had a black coffee with my lunch and I filled up my blender bottle with water I had purchased.

Now it was time to sit back and relax until my flight boarded.

Where am I staying while I travel?

Figuring out the hotel can a pain in the butt because it’s really about your schedule and what you want to accomplish. It’s also about affordability. I’m a fundraiser and I knew where my meetings were going to be, so I looked at hotels that were kind of in the middle. After I found one that fit my budget, I started looking through their site. Having a gym on location is important to me because regardless of how busy my day is, I will get up and make time for my workout. I could tell they had a lot of equipment, but I decided to call and ask the front desk about the facility. Most places don’t mind if you do this, not everyone will be knowledgeable, but they’ll try their best. This hotel had the best gym I had ever seen and I will probably continue to stay there when I travel to DC.

A girl has to eat, what’s going to be on my plate?

Since I knew most of my meals would be out at restaurants, I wasn’t concerned if there was a fridge in the room that I would have access to. If that was a concern I would do the same thing I did with the gym and ask if there is a fridge guests can use for free in their room. Most of the time there’s little space, but you can use the fridge – helpful if you bring yogurt or small snacks with you.

Just two girls with their protein shakes!

Since I was gone for a few days, I knew I would have to check a bag, this meant that I would also have some space to pack snacks. Snacks are important to me because they help me get to the next large meal, they also help supplement what I can’t get while on travel such as protein. Here’s what I packed for my trip.

Snack List:

    • 3 Quest protein shakes
    • 2 servings of Amino Energy aminos
    • 2 Oh Yeah ONE protein bars
    • a bag of Goldfish Grahams – vanilla cupcake flavor
    • a bag of Boom Chicapop Kettle corn
    • a bag of snyders pretzels

a blender bottle

*  also pictured: FlapJacked protein pancake muffins and half a CashewFit on whole wheat cinnamon raisin sandwich

 

It sounds like a random assortment, but bear with me, because it’s actually quite strategic.

This trip had been planned weeks in advance, which meant aside from planning my snacks, I had time to look over the menus for restaurants I would be going to and planning what I would pick from those menus. Some restaurants can be hard because nutritional information isn’t available, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make good decisions when you’re eating out. On Wednesday (the day I landed), I had dinner over happy hour and thankfully the restaurant is a global chain, which means they are regulated to provide nutritional information on their menu. This made happy hour the easiest meal I was having with a donor on this trip. I also was able to enjoy orange glazed sriracha chicken because it fit.

On the Thursday I was in town, I had breakfast on my own, two coffee meetings, a lunch and a dinner. For breakfast I had researched and found a Starbucks near my hotel, perfect for my own morning coffee and I knew they had some healthier options for a meal. I don’t usually eat at Starbucks – those little calorie signs freak me out, but I had posted on IG and got some great feedback from those who do eat there. I got the spinach and feta egg white wrap. Old Cristina or fat Cristina as I call her sometimes, would’ve appreciated the fact that the wrap tasted like a hot pocket. it was really kind of awesome and it kept me full until my mid-morning meeting.

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spinach and feta egg white wrap = classy hot pocket

Instead of diving into every meal and every decision I made, here’s the spreadsheet I made when I was planning this trip. I shared this with my coach because it helped us figure out if I would be eating enough on the trip – definitely a fear of mine because I want to leave room for some of those restaurant treats, but under-eating is just as bad as over-eating.

IMG_3640

I know this looks ridiculous and to some it’s intimidating, but my current goals are different than someone who wants to be just healthy. I used GoogleSpreadsheets to create this, which allowed my coach to update it if she wanted to. On Thursday because 2 meals were hard to fully track you notice there’s a discrepancy in the macros, but trust me they were consumed :]

Will I actually get in a good workout? What if I don’t have time?

This piece truly is up to you. DC is a walking city and I knew I would have a ton of miles on my shoes, but I’m also in competition prep. It’s a very different goal than someone just wanting to make better decisions when on vacation or on work travel. For me, getting my workout in was necessary. In my daily life, I get up at 435/450 – that’s when my alarms go off – for the gym. I also go to bed around 9 pm every night to accomplish this task. Since I had control over my work schedule while in DC, I was able  to be in bed around 9/930 every night, so keeping up with my early morning routine was a piece of cake. In fact, it was easier because all I had to do was go to the 2nd floor for the facility in the building – I save 15 minutes of driving!

Like I mentioned before, this facility was THE BEST I HAVE EVER SEEN IN A HOTEL. I only had to change one exercise on Thursday – bicep curl machine to bicep curls with dumbbells.For my HIIT circuits, I used 2 different bikini body guide or BBG workouts because the only cardio equipment available were treadmills and ellipticals.

Look at all that equipment!

When I came home from DC, I was exhausted according to my Fitbit, I had walked over 50K steps in the 2 days I was actually in the city. I felt good about the decisions I had made with my eating, I also felt good about my workouts. So I wasn’t completely surprised when I checked in and had lost a full pound that week.

Planning can be stressful. Being organized can be hard. My advice would be to write down your goals of your trip and plan according to them. If you want to be healthier, but not perfect – because we’re not, maybe it’s not having bread at the table when you go out. Maybe you have dessert one night, but not two nights in a row. Maybe you are careful about breakfast, but have some fun at dinner. I will encourage you to look at menus before heading out to a new place. I would also encourage you to call ahead at the risk of sounding crazy, trust me they get crazier questions than “how many ounces is the salmon?”

I have an overnight trip to New Jersey this coming Sunday into Monday and then I head to Florida for 5 days for work the following week. I have called the hotels and they all have gym facilities on site.I have also checked about amenities and they have fridges and microwaves so I’ll be able to pick up yogurt or make a microwave protein muffin. I’m exciting to see how I do while I travel. I’m currently 8 weeks out and I’m loving my progress, but I know as the stage day gets closer the struggle may become harder.

Stay strong my friends!

❤ Cristina