Commute Life Meal Prep

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So I started a new this week and have a much longer commute, which inevitably means I will be getting home later and having less time to cook. I was not about to let that get in the way of healthy eating so last night I baked chicken breast, roasted butternut squash and just steamed mixed veggies. Portioned it all out for ready to grab and re-heat dinners.

Boom.

Baby Steps to Paleo III: Read Ingredients

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How is everyone doing with their Baby Steps to Paleo so far?! Have you identified your mantra and ditched the big “no-no’s”?! If not, go check those posts out first and then come back to see what’s next!

For those of you who have already checked off the first two steps, the next one is pretty easy but VERY IMPORTANT! I almost made it step #2, but after attending the Balanced Bites Seminar in January, I had to stress the importance of getting rid of a few things immediately. But anyways, here’s step three:

Stop Counting Calories – Start Reading Ingredients

I used to be guilty of eating granola bars and 100 Calorie Packs on a daily basis in college. Like the majority of people, all I knew about nutrition was about these things called “calories.” I knew that if I wanted to lose weight/not gain weight all I had to do was not eat more calories then I burned (aka “calorie defecit“).

So I latched on to websites like Livestrong and My Fitness Pal to track every single calorie I ate. While I did lose weight doing this, I still didn’t feel great since I was paying NO attention to ingredients or nutrients.

What matters more is the info UNDER the Nutritional Facts – the actual INGREDIENTS. The actual ingredients that make up those calories and grams of carbs/fat/sugar matter SO much more than those numbers. Take a look at the ingredients for the two processed snacks (100 Calorie Pack Oreos and Fiber One Bars) below, which I’m sure many of us have been guilty of eating:

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FiberOneChewyBars90CalorieChocolatePeanutButterEven though these two convenient and tasty little packaged goods are only 100 and 90 calories, they each have a laundry list of ingredients (some of which I can’t pronounce and don’t even recognize). If you can’t pronounce it or have no idea what it is, chances are it is not real food.

Real food looks like this:

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EPIC-Bar-Ingredients1Simple ingredients that you know. There is nothing foreign sounding or looking in the above two packaged goods (Wholly Guacamole and EPIC bars – which I will be reviewing soon).

Why are these better for your body? Because your body was not meant to digest processed foods. We evolved eating meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and starchy tubers. We did not evolve eating Oreos and Fiber One bars. Our bodies are not adapted to digest and absorb these “foods” so it makes getting the nutrition we need really difficult. The stress our bodies undergo merely digesting and breaking down these processed foods is also very harmful and can cause inflammation.

Focus on QUALITY not QUANTITY. By default, you will most likely eat less because your body will be more satisfied with the “good” kind of calories, so weight loss may still happen! Even if it does not, you will most likely feel better by nourishing your body with real food that is rich in the nutrients our bodies need to thrive.

So the next time you are reaching for something you have to un-wrap, take a moment to flip it over and read the ingredients. You might be un-pleasantly surprised!

How many of you already pay close attention to ingredients? What are some you absolutely avoid? 

Be Well
-Steph

Additional Reading/Sources

Legal Disclaimer: I am NOT a licensed medical professional, nutritionist, dietitian or expert of any kind. I am merely a passionate advocate of the paleo lifestyle who wishes to share her views/beliefs with others. The content of this blog is NOT intended to be used as medical advice and is the expression of my sole personal views. All content is intended to be used for educational purposes only. Always consult with your Doctor/Physician before making a diet change, diagnosing or treating any conditions.

 

Mental Fitness Though Meditation

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I’ve recently realized that a healthy lifestyle goes beyond physical fitness and nutrition. For many years I tried to achieve perfect health through exercising and eating right, but never felt like it was enough. I was never satisfied and struggled to figure out why.

The past few months I have (yet again) had a whole lot thrown at me at once. Because of this, my exercise regime has not been as consistent and I’ve wavered a bit from the paleo eating habits I once had SO down pat. But one thing I’ve actually started doing better is being mindful. Although my stress levels have increased, my anxiety levels (most days) have decreased because of my improved ability to just breathe, keep things in perspective and live in the moment.

These three things have become a part of my meditation practice, which is something I recently picked back up. It has been so beneficial that I felt compelled to write a post dedicated to the health benefits of medication and how you can get started.

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To help me get back into meditating, I re-read a few pages from several books I own, but for those of you who have never done it before, I found this article to be quite helpful. There are also several apps and websites that can help with guiding you through meditations. I personally use “Stop, Breathe & Think” – which I love because it asks how you are feeling and then gives you several meditation topics to choose from based on your mood.

The hardest part of meditation is clearing your mind. I mean really clearing it. This HBR blog post really illustrates just how hard it can be to do this, since we all usually have 10 different tasks or worries in our minds at any given moment. Meditation is all about pushing those worries aside and refocusing on something positive. Once you are able to do that, you can find your “P” (something I talk about in this post).

Most of us probably already know that meditation is great for stress reduction, but it has also been cited as benefiting conditions such as high blood pressure, asthma, cancer, depression, anxiety, addiction and chronic pain/fatigue. This is because meditation has a profound effect on the brain. It literally calms our brains down and changes neural connections (in a good way). This leads to better focus, better memory, less anxiety, less, stress, more creativity and more compassion. I can personally attest to having experienced all of those after meditating. It is amazing what just 5-10 minutes can do for you.

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So the next time you are feeling stressed, or even just a little “off,” go somewhere quiet (without your electronics) where you can have a few minutes to yourself. Breathe deeply and focus on your body and your breath. Push any thoughts that creep in aside.

Just Breathe.

Be well.
-Steph

 

Baby Steps to Paleo II: Ditch the Big No-No’s

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Hey there Rockin Fit Nommers! How did you all do with Baby Step I?! Did you Identify Your Mantra?! If you haven’t already, please stop reading this next step and make sure to go back and start with the first. I think it is so important.

For those of you who have already identified a strong reason for going paleo (or just getting healthier) here is step two:

“Ditch the Big No No’s”

These are things I would tell ANYONE to avoid (Paleo principles aside) at all times. They are man-made “foods” that nature NEVER intended for us to consume. They should be ditched ASAP and avoided as much as possible.

1) Ditch Man Made & Seed Oils

AVOID: Margarine, Butterly Spreads, Canola Oil, Vegetable Oil, Soybean Oil, & more (see guide linked to below).

I know you’ve been told that “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” is better for you than real butter, but it is NOT. Real butter is real food. Fake butter is fake food. I could just end it there, but for those of you who need more details, keep reading…

The science-y reason for why man-mad fats are not as good for us as we have been told is because they are highly unstable and inflammatory. Unstable fats are easily oxidized, and as I briefly mentioned in this post, oxidation is what we are protecting/repairing with all those anti-oxidant super foods! These oxidized and damaged fats are also highly inflammatory and inflammation is unfortunately the cause of MANY more diseases and health issues. The paleo diet is meant to reduce or completely avoid causing inflammation in the body.

Stable and undamaged fats, however, are critical for health. Our body’s cell membranes, and most of our brains, are made up of fat – so we need to provide our body with enough to keep those cells happy and healthy. We also need fat for energy and to be able to absorb fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K). So I am by NO MEANS telling you to ditch fat completely! Your body NEEDS FAT. It just does NOT need the unstable and damaged kind.

USE: Olive Oil, Coconut Oil, Ghee, Grass Fed Butter (Kerrygold, Smorj, Culture Valley)

Important Note: Heat, light and oxygen are the three things that damage fats – which is why it is important to still use the good fats I’ve listed properly. This Balanced Bites post has a great chart with smoke points of fats and oils. It is important to not heat fats and oils ABOVE their smoke points. In other words, do not roast vegetables with olive oil – roast them with refined coconut oil or ghee.

CHECK OUT/PRINT: Balanced Bites Guide to Fats

Additional Note: Unfortunately most restaurants cook with man made/seed oils. If you limit your dining out and do not ever use any of these oils at home, I say its OK. I still occasionally go out to eat and buy pre-made food from Whole Foods, that are sadly cooked in canola oil. Just make sure to limit your exposure to these oils and you should be just fine in the long run. Also watch out for these oils in other products such as Tuna, Boxed Soups and anything packed in oil.

2) Ditch Chemical & Refined Sweeteners

AVOID: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Splenda, Equal, Sweet & Low, Bleached Stevia (Truvia)

I would hope that merely reading the words “chemical” and “refined” would give you enough reason to stop shaking that Splenda packet into your coffee every morning, but I know most of us need a bit more convincing.

So point #1 is that artificial sweeteners are anywhere from 200-700 times sweeter than regular table sugar! (Yikes). Our taste buds and brains get used to that super sweetness and desensitized to the natural sweetness of natural foods we eat, such as fruits and vegetables. (I kid you not, whenever I do a round of The 21-Day Sugar Detox baby carrots start tasting sweet to me).

Aside from changing how our brains react to sweetness, artificial sweeteners have been shown to reduce good bacteria in the gut, stimulate appetite and, worst of all, cause a list of neurological symptoms such as headaches, mood changes and “fuzzy” thinking. Does any of that sound good!? I hope not…

But what about one of the most common ingredients found in processed foods, high fructose corn syrup? I swear if I had a nickle for every time I read HFCS on a label, I’d be loaded. So what’s bad about it? It comes from corn, right? Corn is natural? The problem comes from its chemical make up, more specifically its chemical bonds (or lack there of). There is no chemical bond between the fructose and glucose in HFCS, unlike regular sugar. This means that both the fructose and glucose are rapidly absorbed by the body, and anytime sugars or carbohydrates are rapidly absorbed it leads to a blood sugar spike. Why is that bad? Because blood sugar spikes cause a lot of insulin to be released (to lower blood sugar) and repeated blood sugar spikes over time can lead to insulin sensitivity – which means your body literally does not respond to it anymore. (Not good!) We need a healthy insulin response to maintain healthy blood sugar levels and avoid developing diabetes.

USE: Green Stevia (or Stevia extract), Honey, Maple Syrup

Additional Note: Unfortunately, avoiding refined and artificial sweeteners also means that you should avoid soda and anything “sugar free” (which will most likely contain an artificial sweetener) such as GUM. Sad news, I know. Check your condiments – chances are they all have HFCS of some sort of syrup in them! You can find “clean” condiments, just read ingredients! Helpful fact: Whole Foods CANNOT carry products with artificial sweeteners in them, so you are safe shopping for anything there!

CHECK OUT/PRINT: Balanced Bites Guide to Sweeteners

What do you think, will you be able to take this baby step by cutting these franken-foods out of your diet?! 

Be Well
-Steph

Sources/Additional Reading
Mark’s Daily Apple on Artificial Sweeteners
How Stuff Works: Artificial Sweeteners
Weston A. Price “Know Your Fats”
Mark’s Daily Apple on Canola Oil
How It’s Made: Canola Oil
Balanced Bites on Safe Cooking Fats
Balanced Bites Nutrition Seminar
It Starts with Food
Your Personal Paleo Code

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
Legal Disclaimer: I am NOT a licensed medical professional, nutritionist, dietitian or expert of any kind. I am merely a passionate advocate of the paleo lifestyle who wishes to share her views/beliefs with others. The content of this blog is NOT intended to be used as medical advice and is the expression of my sole personal views. All content is intended to be used for educational purposes only. Always consult with your Doctor/Physician before making a diet change, diagnosing or treating any conditions. 

Mud Run Training Season

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Last week marked 14 weeks until my first mud run of 2014 – the Warrior Dash. After having such a blast last year, I said “absolutely” when my friend asked if I wanted to do it again this year. And after all, we have a much bigger race to train for that the Warrior Dash might help us get ready for – the Spartan Race (I bet you thought I was going to say the Tough Mudder… but I am nowhere near ready for that race, yet).

So I decided last Monday that I need to start training. I can’t even run a mile anymore, which is so sad to me since I once trained for a half marathon. I haven’t run in months and months so I knew I needed to start slow. I immediately thought of using the Couch to 5k App, but wanted to make sure I could run MORE than just a 5k. I figure if I can run DOUBLE that, the running part of these races won’t be nearly as tough as it was last year. This lead me to downloading the 10k Trainer – Run for PINK App and I am LOVING it so far. The first couple of weeks focus on walking/running intervals, which REALLY help your body get used to the running, slowly.

In addition to running, I have been focusing on body weight exercises. A lot of the articles I’ve been reading about mud run training stress the importance of body weight exercises, in addition to some strength training. I figure it will be easier for my body to get used to this training if I just start with strictly body weight exercises after my runs for the first 2 to 3 weeks. I basically do a couple rounds of body weight exercises after my run and then make sure to stretch and use my foam roller.

A few routines I did last week were:

3 Rounds of:
10 Body Weight Squats
10 Push Ups (on knees)
15 Sit-ups

4 Rounds of:
5 Lateral Lunges (each side)
5 Tricep Push Ups (on knees)
10 Lying Leg LIfts

5 Rounds of:
5 Lunges (each side)
5 Diamond Push Ups
30 Sec Plank

I basically did a leg move, push-up move and an ab move. The number of rounds I did depended on how much time I had or if I did one or two circuits. I look for new ideas on my fitness Pinterest board along with the Mudderella workouts site (which is another Mud Run I will be doing this Fall). I started easy last week but will be adding more reps/rounds to my circuits as the weeks go on. I’ll then add weights to some of them and/or add in a few sets of strength training exercises (especially assisted pull-ups).

The last element I will be adding to my mud run training is hill running. I have read countless blog posts and training articles that said they wished they had trained more for hills. It is inevitable that you will have to run hills in any mud run, so why not train for them? Yes it sucks, but it will suck more during the race if you haven’t run one in ages.

Who else is getting ready for mud run season!? Any additional training tips for me!? 

Baby Steps to Paleo I: Identify Your Mantra

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With the new year, I have had more and more people contact me to ask about what this whole “paleo” thing is all about. Unfortunately many of them have already tried it and failed after just a few weeks. Mostly because they dove in head first and went cold turkey. Well I’ve been working on a series of posts that I am very excited to kick off tonight, as the Olympics end (anyone else feel like they flew by this year, or was that just me!?).

Rockin’ Fit Noms Baby Steps to Paleo I

Identify Your Mantra

Wait what, my first step has NOTHING to do with FOOD!? Yes that’s right – it is FAR more important to get the right mindset FIRST anytime you make a diet/lifestyle change.

It is important to determine a strong reason for wanting to start eating paleo (or just eating healthier in general) – it makes “sticking to it” a lot easier. Your reason can be purely for health reasons or can be much more personal. It just needs to be strong, sustainable over the long run (so “To lose 10 pounds” is not sustainable over the long run), and easy to recite. Your reason can then become a “mantra” in tough social situations, when you are stressed or just at your wits end with all this healthy crap.

Some Examples: “To get to & maintain a healthy weight,” “To control my autoimmune disease,” “To prevent or control cancer and disease,” “To support strength and muscle building” or simply “To stay forever young”

So if you are thinking about taking the paleo plunge, or already have and failed, ask yourself first – WHY? And find your mantra.

Would love to hear some of your mantras – please share in the comments if you are willing :) 

Be Well
-Steph

Easy Italian Paleo Meatballs

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Whoa, where have I been!? Dealing with the real world, unfortunately. But that doesn’t mean I haven’t had time to cook delicious, paleo meals. I had a friend over for dinner this week and threw these meatballs together. Was a little nervous they wouldn’t be good, but they were GREAT and super EASY, so I just had to share!

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Easy Italian Paleo Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1lb Ground Pork, Veal or Turkey
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion
  • 1 Large Egg
  • 1 tbsp Coconut Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp Dried Parsley
  • 1/2 tsp Granulated Garlic
  • 1/2 tsp Sea Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 tsp Grass Fed Butter (Kerrygold)
Directions
  • Preheat oven to 425 Degrees Fahrenheit
  • Melt butter and grease square or rectangle baking dish
  • Chop onion and place into mixing bowl
  • Add meat, egg, coconut flour, herbs and spices
  • Mix well to incorporate spices and flour
  • Form into 8 large meat balls and place in baking dish
  • Bake for 25 minutes
  • Enjoy!