35 minute Full Body Workout

Here we goooo! You’ve seen the food part, now let’s get into the other dimension of healthy living: exercise. I developed this workout based on some of my personal favorite strength training moves. You can do this at home or at the gym. All you need is a barbell or set of dumbbells. If your using barbells substitute back flys for the clean and presses. I like it a lot because it’s something I can do when I’m pressed for time but want to squeeze in a challenging strength sesh. By the end of this, I was sweating and woke up sore the next day #bestfeelingever.

Choose an appropriate weight for your current fitness level. You should feel fatigued by the end of each set, but should be able to maintain good form. If your form wavers, it’s a sign you may be using too heavy of a weight. Don’t be afraid to start lighter and work your way up as you gain strength.

Unsure what some of these moves are? Follow the links below for demonstrations:

Clean and press, Back flysChest press, Upright row, Tricep dips, Overhead press, Plank side raises

*Disclaimer: Although I am a certified Spinning instructor, I am not a certified personal trainer. Be sure to check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.

35 minute full body workout

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Butternut Squash Bean Chili

Even though yesterday was the first “official” day of spring, it sure doesn’t feel like it here in the Midwest. Although I am more than ready for warmer temperatures and spending all of my free time outdoors, I decided to take advantage of it by posting a recipe perfect for those chillier days (pun intended): butternut squash bean chili.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogs, Peanut Butter Runner, and adapted it to fit my preferences. I would never have thought to add butternut squash to chili, but it totally works. Butternut squash has a nutrition profile similar to that of pumpkin but contains even more vitamin A! One cup also houses 1/3rd of your daily values for vitamin C, supporting a healthy immune system.

This recipe is extremely easy to put together. The most time consuming part is peeling and cubing the butternut squash (look here for a tutorial), but after that you basically throw everything into a pot, let it simmer and voilà! A hearty, healthy dish that pairs perfectly with your favorite cornbread!

Butternut Squash Bean Chili
Adapted from Peanut Butter Runner
Serves 8-10

Ingredients:
1 T. olive oil
½ large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
2 C butternut squash, cubed, seeds and skin removed
1 jalapeño, diced, seeds removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can black beans
1 15 oz. can kidney beans
1 15 oz. can low-sodium chicken/vegetable broth (or the entire thing if you like a thinner chili)
2 T. chili powder
1 t. cumin
¼ t. red pepper
½ t. salt
Avocado, shredded cheese or Greek yogurt for topping (optional)

Directions:
Heat olive oil in a large stockpot on medium heat. Add garlic, onion, pepper and jalapeño. Sauté for 2-3 minutes or until soft. Add beans, broth, tomatoes squash and spices. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes, covered. Uncover and continue to simmer for 10-15 more minutes or until desired thickness is reached. Enjoy plain or topped with your favorites!

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How I Got to Where I Am Today: My Food Journey

Today, I want to delve into a more personal story about myself. I want you (my readers) to see how I ended up where I am today, pursuing a career in nutrition and exercise. You see, I wasn’t always as passionate about healthy eating and exercise as I am today, nor have I always had a healthy relationship with food. Like most people in America, I have had my own ups and downs. I am not immune to the pictures of air brushed models or the tempting fast food advertisements that line every highway. I don’t always look forward to working out and I don’t always feel good about what I eat. Sometimes I feel bloated and gross. The point is, I am a normal human being, just like you.

Believe it or not, I have been on both ends of the weight spectrum. I’ve been both overweight and underweight and I know the unique struggles, negative thoughts and emotions that go along with each. Being called “skinny” is just as hurtful as being called “fat” and I would not wish either upon my worst enemy. It wasn’t until these past few years until I could finally say with confidence that I truly have found my “happy weight” and made peace with food. Here is a timeline of sorts, illustrating how I developed my balanced approach to food and exercise that I live by today.

**WARNING: Lots of words and no pictures to follow**

Birth-1st grade: I pretty much ate whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Like most young kids, I relied on my hunger-cues to guide me. I ate when I felt hungry and stopped when I felt full. I didn’t worry about my weight or the nutritional value of my meals. My mom was (and still is) health-conscious, so I grew up eating mostly healthy meals with the occasional Kraft mac n’ cheese and fast food dinner thrown in there. No formal exercise was needed, as I ran around outside constantly with the other kids on my block.

2nd-7th grade: This was a turning point for me, as I began turning to food for comfort. I distinctly remember when it first started. I was going to a summer camp and had a difficult time being in a strange, new environment without anyone I knew. I was shy and didn’t make friends easily. One night, my mom was eating a bowl of vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate chips and so I asked for one too. It tasted SO good, and made me forget about my problems for a few moments. Well, after that, each night I would sit down to the same big bowl of ice cream to make me feel better and the downward spiral began. I started going back for second helpings, ate dessert every night, skipped breakfast and snacked mindlessly. Add that to the fact that I was physically inactive and the weight quickly added up. I wasn’t extremely overweight, but I was chunky and didn’t feel good in my own skin.

7th-9th grade: After trying dieting alone, where I was very restrictive with what I ate, I finally got smart and tried a more moderate approach. It all started with adding exercise to my routine. Just as I distinctly remember when my unhealthy lifestyle began, I distinctly remember when my healthy turnaround started as well. We have an old elliptical in our basement and I decided I would get on it for 15 minutes, that was it. Well, I felt so good and strong that I ended up working out for a full 20 minutes which amazed me. That night at dinner I wanted continue with that healthy feeling and I switched to using a smaller plate at dinner, instantly reducing my portions. I also decided not to go back for seconds. I started reading fitness and health magazines and the labels on food. Instead of having ice cream every night, I had it every other night. These small changes resulted in success. I lost weight, but in a healthy manner. I didn’t feel deprived or like I a slave to the scale.

9th-12th grade: These are the years where I went from being healthy to obsessive with foods and exercise. It was not intentional, but I did not have enough knowledge to know when to stop losing and start maintaining. I did not have an eating disorder per se, but I did develop disordered thoughts. I made and followed silly rules that I thought were healthy, but really weren’t. For instance, I told myself I had to wait at least 4 hours between meals before eating again and I couldn’t eat after 7pm because all the magazines said that was “unhealthy”. The lower the calories, the healthier I thought the food was for me. Eating out went from being fun to exhausting because I had to analyze everything on the menu to figure out which entree would be the lowest in calories. I never overate because I was constantly vigilant, making sure that my portions were “perfect”. I became strict with my workout schedule and exercised 7 days a week, even though I spent all day dreading it. I restricted myself to such an extent that food was all I could think about. I became underweight and skeletal looking. During this time I began having digestive issues and I saw a Registered Dietitian. She was able to get me back on track and reminded me that choosing nutrient-rich foods was more important than calories.

Freshman-Sophomore year in college: I was in the dorms my first two years at Purdue, so I was forced to eat almost all of my meals at the dining courts. I did not see what was going into the foods, nor did I always have SUPER healthy options to choose from. It forced me to become more relaxed with my eating. I went back to the basics, making half my plate fruits and vegetable, choosing a lean protein and whole grains whenever possible. I took advantage of the salad bar and grab-n-go fruit. I also took advantage of the dessert bar, but in moderation. I chose small portions of what I was craving and didn’t feel guilty. Yes, I over-indulged on occasion, but I didn’t beat myself up, just remembered how it made me feel and got back on track the next day. At this point, I was still pretty regimented with my exercise schedule and hit up the campus Rec 6-7 days per week. Even though I was constantly walking all across campus, I still felt like I needed a “formal” workout each day.

Junior year-Now: I got an apartment and was thrilled to have my own kitchen. Cooking is a stress reliever for me and I loved chopping, sautéing and baking my stress away. This is good, because during this time in my life I also got busy…busier than I had ever been before. I began eating for fuel and eating what I truly crave. Nutrition takes care of itself. I am still very dedicated to exercising because I know that is also something that helps me release stress in a positive way. However, I am more relaxed and realize that forcing myself to workout is counter productive and that I need to give my body a break. Sometimes it’s better for me to skip a planned workout in order to get other stuff done. Just as I strive to eat intuitively, I have learned to exercise intuitively as well. I allow myself a fun night out where I eat and drink too much because I know it will not ruin my healthy lifestyle. Eating out is one of my favorite things to do and one of my goals in life is to move to a city where there is a variety of unique restaurants for me to explore. I’m comfortable splitting half a bottle of wine or going a few days without exercising now and again because that’s what life is all about.

You really do live only once, so don’t live it constantly on a diet depriving yourself of one of life’s simple pleasures: really.good.FOOD!

Sun-dried Tomato Salmon Burgers with Avocado Aioli

This recipe was inspired by my first dietetic internship rotation. I was at a mobile food pantry in Toledo, OH called Food For Thought, where the focus is on providing low-income individuals with healthier packaged food options and fresh produce. Before seeing it in person and talking to the pantry patrons directly, I really didn’t have a true sense of the many barriers this group faces when it comes to healthy living. I now know that when the primary goal is to simply provide enough food to feed your family, nutrition takes a back seat unfortunately.

In an effort to demonstrate how some of the healthier, less commonly chosen foods could be used, one of my projects was to find and develop recipes to give to patrons. I noticed many people avoided the canned salmon and I don’t blame them! Canned tuna and chicken is one thing, but canned salmon? In my non-cooking days, this ingredient would have intimidated me as well.

Thus, after some experimentation of my own, an easy salmon burger recipe was born. This recipe is a play on the original version I made for the food pantry because I spiced it up by adding sun-dried tomatoes and an avocado aioli. Salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids which offer a multitude of benefits including improved cognitive function, better eye health and reduced inflammation. If that’s not enough, evidence suggests consuming fatty fish like salmon can improve heart health and reduce the signs of aging. Sign me up.

Ingredients:

Burgers

1-15oz. canned salmon, bones removed

½ C breadcrumbs**

1 egg, beaten

¼ C sun-dried tomatoes, chopped

1 scallion (white and green parts), chopped

½ T Dijon mustard

Pepper to taste

Olive oil

Whole wheat buns, tomato slices and spinach

Avocado Aioli

1 large avocado

½ C light mayo

¼ tsp. garlic powder

2 T fresh cilantro, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Stir and combine all the ingredients for the salmon burgers in a medium bowl. Form into 4 patties. Coat a preheated, large skillet with olive oil. Add patties and cook 3-5 minutes on each side or until cooked through and browned on top.

Meanwhile, add all aioli ingredients to a food processor to combine. Once burgers are done, place on buns with sliced tomato and spinach and finish with a dollop of avocado aioli. Serves 4.

** Cooking tip: I like to make my own breadcrumbs by toasting a slice of bread then adding it to the food processor, pulsing until fine crumbs are formed. One slice of bread is equivalent to ~1/2 cup breadcrumbs.

Sun-dried tomato salmon burgers with avocado aioli

5 Steps to Packing a Healthy Lunch

I’ve been an avid lunch packer since high school, when I first got into healthy eating and exercising. There are so many pros to packing your lunch. You know what goes into your food (no funky additives) and it can save you calories, fat, sugar, sodium, etc. It also allows you more time to eat since you don’t have to leave to get food, order and wait for it and then walk back. This gives you a chance to actually enjoy your meal instead of having to quickly scarf it down. Finally, it saves you precious moola ($$), which is always appreciated.

Packing a healthy lunch doesn’t mean turkey sandwiches and baby carrots everyday, nor does it mean spending a lot of effort developing creative recipes to take. The following are helpful tips you can use to help you create a delicious, satisfying and portable mid-day meal.

1.) Choose a protein, carbohydrate and fruit or vegetable
A combination of these will keep you full and satisfied throughout the afternoon, instead of scrounging for a snack an hour later.

  • Protein takes a longer time to digest compared to fat and carbohydrates, keeping you fuller longer. Research also shows consuming more protein can help people lose weight. Options include meat, poultry, fish, nuts, beans and dairy foods.
  • Fiber provides bulk, helping you feel full faster and for a longer period of time. It also helps support healthy digestion. Healthy choices include 100% whole wheat bread, pastas and crackers, as well as starchier vegetables such as potatoes and corn.
  • Fruits and vegetables add a pop of color, which means valuable vitamins and minerals for your body. Tired of bruised bananas and raw vegetables? Try a new-to-you piece of produce, different cooking method or a fun dip such as sun-dried tomato hummus or wasabi mustard to shake things up.
Veggie and cheese omelette over toast with leftover bacon brussel sprouts. Apple and yogurt + granola for snacks.
Veggie and cheese omelette over toast with leftover bacon brussel sprouts. Apple and yogurt + granola for snacks.

2.) Prep food ahead of time
You’ve seen this before, but it really does help. Prepping food ahead of time ensures you have a healthy option waiting when you are stressed for time. Do this on the weekend or on a night when you are less busy. For more details on how to food prep, go here.

3.) Pack it the night before
Mornings are busy enough without adding the extra step of remembering to pack your lunch. Focusing on simply trying to get out the door on time can result in a lack of time to pack a complete meal. This causes you to resort to fast food or a meal out. Avoid this, by packing your lunch the night before.

Grilled chicken and avocado wrap, baby carrots and hummus, and whole grain crackers. Grapes for a mid-morning snack
Grilled chicken and avocado wrap, baby carrots and hummus, and whole grain crackers. Grapes + cheese stick  for a mid-morning snack

4.) Make enough at dinner to have leftovers for lunch
Double recipes you make for dinner so you have leftovers to pack for the next day. Pack them in your lunch box right after dinner before cleaning up to save time and energy.

Leftover spicy chicken thigh over quinoa and frozen broccoli. Banana + peanut butter and crackers + cheese stick for snacks.
Leftover spicy chicken thigh over quinoa and frozen broccoli. Banana + peanut butter and crackers + cheese stick for snacks.

5.) Have healthy backups in your freezer

Try as you might, there will be times when you don’t have time to meal prep, are out of lunch staples and don’t even have leftovers from dinner to rely on. This is where freezer meals can come in handy. Choose brands such as Amy’s Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice and Kashi which use minimal preservatives and additives. Include an additional piece of fruit or vegetable or a glass of milk for extra staying power, as these meals tend to be very small.