Why You Should Be Eating More Protein at Breakfast & How to Do It

Unless you have time to go all out in the mornings, most breakfasts are simple, quick and easy to prepare and eat, oftentimes on the run. Things like cereal, granola bars, toast, fruit, etc. While I would rather see someone eat at least SOMETHING, these things lack protein, which leaves you starving and raiding the office candy jar before 10am. I can’t tell you how many clients come to me complaining that they can never get full and the culprit usually starts with a sparse, carbohydrate-based morning meal.

Here are the reasons why I recommend beefing up (haha) your morning meal:

  • Consuming a higher protein diet has been show to reduce overall calorie consumption throughout the day.
  • Protein is digested more slowly than carbohydrates, keeping you fuller longer.
  • It reduces the hunger hormone ghrelin and increases the satiety hormone peptide YY.
  • Protein helps speed up your metabolism because it takes more energy for your body to digest. This is called the thermic effect of food.

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And here are some tips on how to do it if you eat:

  • Oatmeal or Cereal
    • Cook it in milk instead of water (oats) or drink all the milk (cereal) (+8g PRO)
    • Add 1 Tbs. nut butter or 2 Tbs. whole nuts (+4g PRO)
    • Stir in an egg white (oats) (+3g PRO)
  • Toast, bagel, English muffin
    • Choose the whole grain variety (+2-4g PRO)
    • Swap butter for nut butter (+4g PRO)
    • Swap cream cheese for vanilla Greek yogurt (+6g PRO)
  • Eggs
    • Use the WHOLE egg, not just the white (+3g PRO)
    • Add a slice of cheese (+5g PRO)
  • Granola bar
    • Crumble on top of a container of Greek yogurt (+12g PRO)
    • Choose a high-protein brand (Kashi GoLean, Luna bars, RX bars are some of my favorites)
    • Add a hardboiled egg or a handful of nuts (+4-6g PRO)

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Now, is it breakfast yet?!?

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When Your Fitness Identity Changes

I’ve wanted to write this post for a long time. I’ve started and stopped multiple times, each time because the words just weren’t coming out as fluently or as concisely as I wanted them to in order to truly convey my thoughts and feelings. Come to find out, that’s because I was going through an identity crisis of sorts.

You see, for a long time, I’ve been known by friends, colleagues and family members as the“fit” girl. I’ve taught spin classes for 6 years and recently decided to take the leap of faith to get certified to teach BodyPump as well. I have been a religious 6am gym-goer 5-6X/week for as long as I can remember and always chose the stairs vs. the elevator whenever possible. I was constantly pinning new workouts to try in order to challenge myself and it was truly difficult for me to take rest days even though I knew my body needed them. I also had have more workout clothes than regular ones. Basically, I LOVED working out. Not because it made me look good, or to burn calories, or any of the other silly reasons people force themselves to workout, but because I truly ENJOYED it. It was a part of me.
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Recently, however, my passions and priorities have changed. It all started a couple months before I graduated grad school this past May. I had just started my first “big girl” job as a dietitian working part-time at a hospital. Obviously, working combined with classes and finishing up my master’s project limited my time, but I still desired to workout and made an effort to hit the gym, albeit less frequently, because I still wanted to. After graduation I went to full-time and this is where the real change happened.

I had to be at work from 8a-4/5p and it was a little over a 30 minute commute (on a good day, that is). I thought, “well this sucks, but I’ll just have to get used to it”. I recognized that I no longer had the flexible schedule of a college student or a university gym within walking distance to keep me motivated.

I purchased a pricey membership at a gym right up the road because it was the only one that could accommodate my 5am workout schedule. I continued like usual, lifting weights for 45min-1hr before work. Then, I would hurry back home to shower, get ready and make the drive to work, eating my oatmeal cold in the car on the way (so NOT ideal). The gym did not have spin bikes (the horror) or my beloved group fitness classes and, frankly, I was getting bored just lifting weights all the time. Yes, I gained muscle mass and liked how strong I was getting, but the fun and variety was gone. For the first time in a long time, I really had to force myself to exercise and the early morning wakeup calls were getting to me. I’d arrive home exhausted and couldn’t wait to crawl into bed.

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I remember walking to my car one morning feeling so tired, irritable and just plain miserable. That’s when it hit me. This wasn’t healthy for me anymore. Working out was taking away my energy and happiness, not providing it like it used to. I took a little hiatus from the gym and mostly walked outside after work or during my lunch break with the occasional at-home yoga session thrown in there. Once I was mentally recharged and ready, I entered the gym once again, but this time only 2-3X/week. I only went when I truly wanted to and my body felt great! Better than it did when I was working out twice as much.

Fast forward a couple of months and I got a new job, my dream job, working in the mental health field as an eating disorder dietitian. I saw even more clearly how our society’s perception of health and fitness is so skewed and causes so many UN-healthy behaviors towards exercise (and eating of course, but that’s another topic for another day). There are so many rules we are taught to believe we must follow including “you must exercise 5X/week for 30-60 minutes” and “it must be a perfect combination of strength, cardio and flexibility training” and “you must push yourself each workout or it doesn’t count”, blah blah blah! Whatever happened to simply finding and doing what you love?

Fit doesn’t mean working out everyday or lifting weights or running a 5K or doing cross fit. Exercise doesn’t have to involve a gym. These days I work out a lot less and I don’t push myself nearly as hard as I once did. Do I still enjoy working out? Yes, but not as much as I once did so I do it less frequently. Am I scared I’m going to lose my definition, muscle and overall fitness? At first, but honestly, I haven’t seen this happen yet which goes to show how crucial rest days really are and how you don’t have to work out at high intensities everyday for results. Do I consider myself lazy now that I choose sleeping in or Netflix on the couch over working out? NO. I consider myself more balanced and health-IER.

Fitness is not stagnant, it is fluid and changes throughout the lifespan, just like everything else. Maybe you used to be really into running but now, walking sounds more appealing. Maybe you trained for a bikini competition and lifted weights all day err day but now yoga is what you like doing. Go with it. Maybe one day “enter old exercise of choice” will sound amazing again, maybe it won’t, who knows? Don’t force yourself to stay stuck in old habits or identities. The body is smart and knows what it wants. Don’t compare yourself to others or to the person you used to be. Move how you want, when you want and in a way that feels good friends. That’s what “fit” truly is.

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WIAW #7-An Extra Hungry Day

I haven’t done a WIAW post in forever, and yesterday I got inspiration to do so. You see, yesterday was one of those days where I was CONSTANTLY hungry and felt like I was eating ALL THE TIME. Back in the day, I used to try to resist this and would not allow myself to eat more even though my body was crying out for extra fuel. I thought eating more would make me gain weight but that is far from true.

This is one (of the many) reason (s) I do not count calories or advocate counting calories to my clients. The amount of calories you need is not “set” and varies day-to-day based on what you have going on. For instance, how long you are up, your activity level, the amount of stress you are under, how much sleep you got the night before, what was going on the day before and much more.

Some days your body needs more and some days it needs less. It naturally evens out. The absolute worst thing you can do is ignore this and deny your body the energy it needs. This not only makes you miserable, but also messes up your metabolism, which, long –term, can make your body hold on to weight. The best thing you can do you ask? Carefully listen to your body’s signals and answer them.

Don’t let your mind counteract this with thoughts like “I just had a balanced lunch, I can’t be hungry again…I’m going to just ignore it and wait until dinner to eat again” or “I’m only allowed to have two snacks, maybe three tops. If I have a fourth one I’m going to gain weight”. Remember, everyone is different and within that, everyday is different.

As always, remember that the point of WIAW is not to compare your eats to mine, but to gain meal ideas and recipe inspiration. Plus, it’s always fun to get a glimpse into the lives of the bloggers you follow! See what everyone else is eating here and check out more of my own eats here.

With that, let’s get on to yesterdays eat where I demonstrate eating when my body told me.

 

3am-cherry yogurt with ½ chocolate zucchini muffin

Yes, this is when I knew it would be an “extra fuel” day…I woke up multiple times throughout the night with hunger pains. The first few times I tried to ignore them and just drank a bunch of water because sometimes you could just be dehydrated, especially in the middle of the night. However, the third time I woke up, I knew that was not the case and that my body needed food. So, I got out of bed and sleepily ate a yogurt topped with one of the muffins I made. Recycled photo because that was not on my mind at that point…bed was.

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5am-1/2 Larabar

I’m back to teaching spin after a couple month hiatus after graduating at a new gym where I just moved. Even though I had an adequate snack a couple hours before, I knew I needed a bit more to fuel myself through teaching an hour-long class so I went with my usual pre-workout snack of half a bar. Good thing I did because by the time I was done, my stomach was GROWLING and I was more than ready for breakfast.

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7:30am-Banana oatmeal topped with peanut butter + iced latte

There’s a Starbucks on my home from the gym (dangerous) so I decided to treat myself to an expensive $5 iced soy latte. When I arrived home I made a delicious bowl of oatmeal

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11:45am-Omlette w/veggies and Swiss cheese + roasted broccoli + apple

No picture (bad blogger) because I was so hangry by this point that I scarfed it down before I remembered to take one. I definitely could have done with another AM snack, but was in and out of multiple meetings and just didn’t have the opportunity to grab one in between.

2pm-M&M cookie

It was there, it looked good, it was delicious. No more explanation needed. Again, no picture because it was eaten during a meeting (a RD meeting at that! See even dietitian’s enjoy cookies).

5:30pm-Sloppy Joe sandwich + more yogurt w/a muffin crumbled on top + green bean mustard salad

I also could have done with an afternoon snack, but since I had an earlier dinner on the books I decided to just wait until then to eat again. So by the time that rolled around I was starving again. I felt like this was a pretty large meal, but then I reminded myself, it’s ok to eat larger-than-normal meals if your body needs them.

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8:30pm-Bowl of chocolate oatmeal topped w/Greek yogurt

By this point in the evening, I had just gotten home from work and was very tired. This was more of a craving/habit snack since I normally have something to snack on in the evenings. I intended trying to skip it since I wasn’t necessarily “hungry”, but my mouth wanted something sweet to end the night and it would have made me mentally “hungry” and deprived to skip it. So, I had this delicious bowl of chocolate to end the night before turning in and I’m glad I did!

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As you can see, this was a day full of food. Some things that could have contributed to the added hunger? Well, I was up early (5am-10pm), had a long work day (10am-8pm full-time job + teaching spin early in the morning), lifted weights the day before for the first time in awhile and was tired from two long days. Plus, there are probably extraneous factors that only my body knows that I am probably not even aware of. So, remember, you are going to have extra hungry days and that’s ok! You are also going to have some days where you naturally eat less so it evens out. Your body is so smart, listen.

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cherry Muffins

Even though I’m a dietitian and love me a huge kale salad more often than not, sometimes I’m just not feeling those veggies. To compensate, I decided to hide some greener than green zucchini (which is super cheap and in season right now BTW) in a chocolat-ey baked good. I developed my own version of this recipe based off of what I already had on hand in my own kitchen. The result? When masked in chocolate, eating your veggies isn’t difficult at all. In fact, it’s a little too easy…

QUICK! Take advantage while zucchini is still in season and BAKE THESE MUFFINS.

 

Double Chocolate Zucchini Cherry Muffins

Makes 12

Ingredients:

1 C oat flour*                         ½ C pure maple syrup

½ C cocoa powder                5.3 oz container plain or vanilla Greek yogurt

1/2 tsp. baking soda             1 small zucchini, grated

1 ½ tsp. baking powder       2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg, beaten                         ½ C chocolate chips

1 chia or flax egg**               ¼ C dried cherries

Directions:

Preheat oven to 3500 F. Coat a 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and cocoa powder. In a large bowl, mix together maple syrup egg, chia/flax egg, yogurt, zucchini and vanilla. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips and dried cherries. Pour batter into prepared muffin tins and cook 17-20 minutes or until done. Cool and enjoy!

*To make oat flour, add double the amount of flour called for with whole oats (i.e. in this recipe it would be 3 ½ C) into a food processor. Process until a fine flour has formed. Can also substitute whole-wheat flour or ½ whole-wheat, ½ white flour

**Optional (could sub another egg). To make, combine 1 Tbs. chia/ground flaxseed + 3 Tbs. water and let sit for a couple minutes until water is absorbed

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Spicy Thai Peanut Vegetable & Tempeh Noodles

Recently, I’ve been in a food rut. Meaning, I’ve fallen into the routine of NOT meal prepping and just cooking easy fast options over and over again (i.e. lots of salmon burgers, eggs and roasted veggies). Although I love these options, they become boring and unsatisfying after ohhhh the third week or so.

In order to remedy this, I perused the Internet for fresh, different, and more “exotic” if you will, recipes to try. I found one for Thai peanut noodles and I decided to take a stab at my own version with one of my girlfriends one night. I’m glad we did, because this recipe turned out AMAZING. It came together fast, is packed with veggies and utilizes a somewhat new-to-me vegetarian source of protein, tempeh!

Like tofu, tempeh is made from soybeans. However, it is fermented during processing and is much firmer than it’s tofu cousin. I actually prefer cooking with tempeh because 1.) I like the nutty flavor and 2.) the firmer texture is easier to cook with and also makes it more satisfying to me. Tempeh is also CHEAP! About $4 for an 8oz block, making it a great substitute for meat every once and awhile.

The key to cooking tempeh is marinating it in some sort of sauce before cooking so it soaks of all the flavors. Another note, I like spice. A lot. If you are not much of a spice lover, simply omit or decrease the amount of Sriracha you use. Finally, I’ve enjoyed adding a fried egg on top of my noodles for extra protein every once and awhile so give that a go if that sounds good to you!

 

Spicy Thai Vegetable & Tempeh Noodles

Serves 8-10

Ingredients:

1 10 oz. package spaghetti noodles

1/4 cup + 2 Tbs warm water

½ cup soy sauce

¼ cup + 2 Tbs peanut butter

3 tsp sesame oil

3 tsp rice vinegar (can sub white wine vinegar)

1 Tbs Sriracha (more or less to taste depending on how spicy you like it)

2 Tbs honey or brown sugar

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1 cup carrots, chopped

1 head broccoli crowns

2 green onions, chopped

½ cup cilantro, chopped

8 oz. tempeh, crumbled

Olive oil

Directions:

Prepare pasta according to package. Meanwhile, make sauce by combining warm water, soy sauce, peanut butter, sesame oil, vinegar Sriracha, honey and garlic. Place half of the sauce in a separate bowl and add tempeh, coating well. Soak tempeh in the sauce for 5-7 minutes.

Place a medium-large skillet on medium heat. Add olive oil (enough to coat pan and prevent sticking), pepper, carrots and broccoli and sauté for 3-4 minutes until vegetables are slightly softened. Add tempeh and cook an additional 3-4 minutes. Turn off heat.

Drain pasta and add to vegetable/tempeh skillet. Add additional sauce and toss to coat. Mix in cilantro and green onions. Plate (or bowl) up and eat!

What is Healthy Eating Really?

Our society has a pretty messed up version of what constitutes “healthy”. In a country notorious for obesity and unhealthy eating habits, there seems to be a lot of information (or better put, misinformation) of what we should and should not be eating.

Here is what healthy eating really means:

 

Healthy eating is…

Eating the foods you LOVE

Whether it be chocolate cake, craft beer or pizza or kale smoothies, salmon burgers or oatmeal. You need to eat your favorite foods in order to have a truly healthy lifestyle and relationship with food.

Eating what you want when you want and listening to your body’s cravings

Sometimes I truly crave a hearty spinach salad topped with a perfectly grilled salmon filet with a dabble of goat cheese. Other times, all my body desires is a large piece of my favorite cheesecake for dinner. Yes, FOR dinner. Healthy eating means ignoring those silly “food rules” that our society has created, and doing what is best for YOU.

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Enjoying food and drinks without guilt

One of the things that makes me happiest, is trying out new restaurants or spending the day at a winery with friends. This wouldn’t be the case if I obsessed over how much butter was used to prepare my pasta dish or how many calories was in that bottle of wine. When you stop trying to analyze everything, food really is more enjoyable.

Overindulging sometimes

I’m not talking binge eating or stuffing your face without reason here. No, I am talking about sometimes enjoying more than you usually would because you don’t deny yourself. This may mean enjoying three to four extra alcoholic beverages because you’re out celebrating your best friends bachelorette party. Or, it may mean trying all the local street food while traveling to a new city or country.

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Healthy eating is NOT…

Eating based on a number

Don’t be a slave to a specific calorie count or macronutrient level.

*Side rant- when I see people who follow “If It Fits Your Macros” (IIFYM) on my Facebook, insta or twitter feed I immediately un-follow them. This is such a diet mentality and is so restrictive and unhealthy. I don’t see how depriving yourself by only eating egg whites and protein powder during the day, then bingeing on Oreos smothered in peanut butter at night because they have “leftover macros” is viewed as healthy. Ok, rant over, moving on!

Anyways, your body needs different things and amounts everyday based on a variety of factors, so it’s silly to try to hit a certain number everyday. Some days you may need more calories because you are extra hungry (which is your bodies way of telling you it needs more fuel!) and other days you are naturally less hungry. The body is so smart and balances itself, so there’s no need for your brain to worry about the numbers.

Completely eliminating certain foods/food groups

Eliminating an entire food group is JUST NOT HEALTHY for the body. Carbs do not make you fat. Fat does not make you fat. Protein does not make you skinny. You need a balance of all these things, not an excess or restriction of one or the other.

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Restricting yourself

Don’t deny yourself something just because it’s “unhealthy”. This sets you up for failure and a life of misery. What’s life without your favorite ice cream sundae every now and then? Food provides us with joy, don’t take that away from yourself.

 Following a radical “fast fix” or fad diet

The word “diet” actually means: the foods eaten, as by a particular person or group. This is in opposition to today’s perception of the word, which is usually correlated to restriction, elimination and deprivation. A diet is a lifestyle that you can sustain throughout your entire life and I don’t know anyone who could do this by following one of those drastic, fad diet plans (hence why most people gain the weight back right when they go off them).

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In sum, healthy eating is different for everyone as we all have unique needs, lifestyles and cultural backgrounds. However, one commonality exists: healthy eating means enjoying the foods you love, while respecting and listening to your body. It is not about abusing your body through restriction and deprivation or fearing food. Now go eat something delicious tonight <3.

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Lean Mean Bison Burgers

Hi there! Long time no talk, er blog. Truthfully, the thought of writing up a coherent, engaging, and educational post after a long day of work has just sounded like, well, more hard work. But, tonight I made a recipe that I just HAD to share with you guys. I’m in the process of moving so I am getting creative with cleaning out the food in my freezer. I had a pound of ground bison in there along with a package of mushrooms in my fridge (that I had high hopes of using in another recipe but never did).

Ironically, I developed a flyer at work yesterday titled “10 Creative Ways to Get More Fruits & Vegetables”. One of my tips was to add chopped mushrooms to your ground beef recipes. This not only sneaks in an extra serving of veggies (which you won’t taste, I swear!), but also saves you money! Adding mushrooms doubles the amount you get from this recipe. So, instead of getting 4 burgers from 1 lb. of meat, you get 8! This trick can not only be used for burgers, but any recipe calling from ground beef like tacos, sloppy joes, etc.

I want to end by once again emphasizing that YOU WILL NOT TASTE THE MUSHROOMS AT ALL! Seriously, even the die-hard meat eater won’t notice. Just don’t tell them, or they’ll swear they will because they’re stubborn ;).

 

Lean Mean Bison Burgers

Serves 8

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground bison OR lean ground beef/turkey*

8 oz. mushrooms

2 Tbs. favorite burger seasoning (I like Canadian steak seasoning)

Directions:

Preheat a large skillet or grill, lightly greasing with non-stick spray to prevent the burgers from sticking if necessary. Place mushrooms in a food processor and pulse until they become fine, little pieces. Combine mushrooms with bison and seasoning. Place onto heat and cook until desired doneness is reached. Serve with your favorite toppings.

*”Lean” meat is classified as 92% or higher

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