New Life Ahead of Me

In my last post, I mentioned that I would be moving to Orlando, FL.  Well, I’m here.  It took about 20 hours of driving a jam-packed car full of clothes (mostly) and other necessities, but I made it here.  I begin my new job in just over a week.  In this moment, I’m much more scared and nervous than I am excited.  But I have faith that the excitement will return (I hope).

Early Wednesday, I said good-bye to my friends and family in Connecticut, and started off for my long journey.  It was really hard to say good-bye to everyone.  Obviously, my mom cried—that’s one of the hardest parts.  I’m so close with my mom that re-adjusting to being 1200 miles from her will be a huge challenge.  I hugged my close friends, and I already miss them.  I’m somewhat of a weird person, so when you find weird friends to click with, you just never know if you’ll ever make such wonderful friends again.  I love them.  My brother, sister-in-law, and niece were one of the hardest parts!  I even had to say good-bye to my husband and my cats.  They will be joining me down here in sunny Florida at some point, but we don’t know when yet.

So, on my travels, I stopped in North Carolina.  Folks are super nice in the south, but definitely different.  Then, obviously I passed South of the Boarder.  For those of you who are not familiar with this road-side deathtrap, consider yourself warned.  Maybe it was fun at one point in time, but I stopped there once and thought I was going to be murdered.  Needless to say, I didn’t stop for gas in that town.

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I’m now in my new apartment…though it’s rather empty.  Me, a blow-up mattress, my clothes.  That’s about it, really.  I did go shopping and picked up some food and other necessities (iron, trash basket, alarm clock…).  And the local Whole Foods had Kevita on sale—score!  I added that to my breakfast, as my new coffee maker doesn’t arrive until Monday.

 

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Breakfast of champs! Gluten free toast with peanut butter and some healthy probiotics.

Oh, and I also made a fun purchase today—a new bike!  I haven’t ridden a bike in years!  So much fun!  Although, carrying your bike up to the third floor isn’t exactly something I look forward to doing on a regular basis.  We just never like to choose apartments with elevators ha!

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We have a lovely patio to enjoy the summer air, and our bedroom practically feels like it’s outside.  Once my husband and cats get here, maybe it’ll feel a little more like home.  At the present time, it’s rather lonely and empty.  But I’m keeping my chin up and looking forward to brighter (warmer) days ahead in the Florida sun.

New Adventures and Almond Cake

Needless to say, I haven’t posted much lately.  It’s been a really crazy few months, to be honest.  Okay, when is life ever not crazy?  In updated news about my life… I’m moving… far.  I’m heading down to Orlando, FL this coming week.  Yesterday was my last day at my “current” job, and I’ll be starting yet another new job in just a few short weeks!  I’m really excited for this new adventure in life.  My husband has been wanting to move back to Orlando (he lived there for 3 years) for a long time.  I, on the other hand, have not been willing to move out of state.  My family was my priority for the past few years.  And though leaving them is going to be incredibly difficult, I know that it’s time to venture out into the great big world and find our own niche together.  And so we’re off… err, I’m off.  Funny how things work out, huh?

So, with that little update, I now proceed to the important part of this post—a new recipe!!

 

Grain Free Crunchy Caramelized Almond Pound Cake

 

Ingredients

4 eggs (3 yolks, 3 whites, 1 whole egg)

½ cup granulated sugar (organic is best)

½ cup grass-fed butter, softened (Kerry Gold is my favorite brand)

1 ¼ cup almond flour

½ cup tapioca flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoon almond extract

 

½ cup melted grass-fed butter

1/3 cup brown sugar (organic is best)

 

Instructions

- In a medium bowl, beat the 3 egg whites until stiff peaks form.

- In a separate bowl, beat the 3 yolks plus the whole egg with the ½ cup granulated sugar. Once that is a creamy yellow color, add in the ½ cup softened butter; continue to beat.

- Into the egg mixture, add in the almond flour, tapioca flour, baking powder, salt, and almond extract. Beat it all together.

- By hand, mix in about 1/3 of the egg whites. Then gently fold in the other 2/3 of the egg whites.

- In the bottom of a bunt pan, pour in the melted butter and sprinkle around the brown sugar on top of the butter. Then pour in the cake batter.

- Bake at 350°F for about 35 minutes. Cool about 10 minutes and pop out of the pan to finish cooling.

 

The melted butter and brown sugar give this pound cake a delicious caramel crunch that's tasty, sweet, and the perfect added texture to this delightfully moist, soft cake.

The melted butter and brown sugar give this pound cake a delicious caramel crunch that’s tasty, sweet, and the perfect added texture to this delightfully moist, soft cake.

 

Makes about 12 servings

Nutritional Information (per serving): 280 calories, 21g fat, 152mg sodium, 23.5g carbohydrate, 1g fiber, 17g sugar, 4g protein.

I think we’re all losers when it comes to how we deal with our health in America.

This past Tuesday, I was one of many who watched the finale of NBC’s The Biggest Loser.  I was also one of many whose jaw literally dropped when the winner, Rachel Fredrickson took stage for her final reveal.  However, unlike most, I was actually quite horrified by nearly every contestant’s dramatic weight loss.  And actually, I’ve been rather horrified by the show in general.  As each season has progressed, contestants seem to lose more and more weight.  The challenge to out-lose the last season’s contestants seems to be raising the stakes.  It’s not only disturbing, it’s unhealthy and a terrible way to promote weight loss to a country of people who already struggle with extreme dieting issues.

Notice the trainers' faces and the contestant in the background.

Notice the trainers’ faces and the contestant in the background.

Overweight and obesity are major health problems in America, there’s no arguing that fact.  69.2% of American adults are overweight or obese.  Almost 36% are obese.  Over 18% of children aged 6 to 19 are considered obese, and over 12% of 2-5 year olds are obese (1).

On the other hand, eating disorders are another horrifyingly disturbing health problem in this country.  Up to 24 million Americans suffer from an eating disorder.  About 20% of people with anorexia nervosa will die from complications related to their disorder.  We have extreme ideals in America.  My guess is that most people would not recognize an “obese” person because it is so common to see people of that weight classification.  Similarly, we don’t recognize when someone is underweight because we tend to idealize people who are “too” thin.  A shocking 42% of 1st-3rd graders want to be thinner and 81% of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat (2).

To put this bluntly, we are raising obese children who are afraid of being “fat,” and who then learn to dislike their body figure, feeling shame and embarrassment regarding their weight.  They are taught that being skinny or muscular is “ideal” and dieting is the way to get that figure.  Over 50% of teenage girls and about 1/3 of teenage boys use unhealthy methods of weight loss, such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and/or taking laxatives (2).

The Biggest Loser gathers together a group of obese individuals who are “unhealthy” and generally have a history of struggling with their weight and force them to lose mass amounts of weight in a very short period of time.  The “biggest loser” wins money.  This season’s winner, Rachel Fredrickson, lost 155 pounds in just 5 months.  This equates to about 1 pound per day, which is quite a lot of weight!  If you go by the standard way of thinking (not that I entirely agree with this, but it gives you an idea of how much a person has to burn to actually lose this kind of weight), that would mean that she was burning 3,500 calories every single day.  That means that through dieting and exercise, her body was in a deficit of 3,500 calories every day for 5 months.  That is extreme.  For a super rough estimate, I’d say that a 130 pound person (not taking into account multiple factors, such as lean body mass or gender), would have to jog nearly 9 hours each day to burn 3,500 calories.  He/she could exercise less by also decreasing their caloric intake.  So maybe they decrease their intake by 500 calories…this still means that they would have to jog for over 7 hours each day.  Not to mention that losing such a drastic amount of weight in a short period of time puts an individual at risk for many complications, including loss of bone mass and lean body mass, an increase in bone marrow fat, heart conditions, electrolyte imbalances, and obviously psychological issues.

Those involved with the show generally try to defend its purpose, touting that the show is meant to inspire others to live a healthier lifestyle.  Healthier??  By what, drastically losing large amounts of weight in a short period of time?  Or by pushing themselves so hard in the gym that they are crying and vomiting?  Or by limiting their daily caloric intake so that their bodies are not even being supported in vital functioning?  Or by recommending “healthy” foods, such as Subway sandwiches, low fat dairy, and Progresso soups?  To top it off, trainer Julian usually attempts to “help” and “heal” contestants’ past struggles by screaming at them until they break down and cry.  As if one moment of tears is the magical cure for their lifetime of weight struggles…  The contestants actually ridicule their former selves.  This doesn’t seem like a positive weight-loss journey to me.

Rachel belittling her former self.  A sad image on numerous levels.

Rachel belittling her former self. A sad image on numerous levels.

I am biased.  I am negative when it comes to the entire format of the show.  I am a registered dietitian and beyond that an opinioned American who witnesses the imbalance of health in this country.  We live at extremes—obese or anorexic (or both!!)—and I think this show is the perfect example of the problems we are promoting in America.  Don’t fool yourself—little girls (and boys) watch this show and they watched Rachel laugh at her “fat” self and praise her new emaciated body.  Those 10 year old girls who are afraid of being fat watched this episode and prior episodes and learned to over-exercise, diet, and lose weight fast.  They will not ask for help or tell anyone what their plans are in regards to losing weight.  But when they do lose some weight, boys will notice them and adults will likely praise their efforts and “strong will power.”

Our country isn’t going to change overnight.  That can’t happen, just as we can’t lose weight overnight.  But what we can do—each one of us—is stop supporting unhealthy messages, products, and companies.  We can stop supporting processed foods by not purchasing them (supply and demand!).  We can stop giving The Biggest Loser our ratings.  We can stop buying magazines that idealize thin girls and ridicule those who don’t live up to our thin standards.  We can stop teaching unhealthy USDA guidelines to our nation of adults and kids.  We can support a more natural lifestyle that includes eating real food.  There’s no need to understand everything about food labels; glance at the ingredients.  Too many?  Can’t understand or pronounce most of them?  Put it down and replace it with something that doesn’t even have a label in the first place!  Don’t worry about fat free or low fat or even reduced fat products; purchase real food with less preservatives and you’re likely to feed your body and your children’s bodies in a balanced manner.  Understand what foods are proteins, carbs, and fats.  Eat a good balance of these foods at each meal.  Be a good example for yourself and your kids.  Eat when you are actually hungry and stop when you have had a realistic portion.  Eat treats on special occasions, not daily.  Enjoy food without fear or guilt.  Disconnect what you eat from the shape and/or size of your body.  Focus on the full picture of life, including body movement and relaxation.

Yes, I could go on and on and on and on… But I will end this post for now.  I can’t express enough how passionate I am about this topic.  I am so passionate about the health of America and how important it is to create balance—not weight loss or gain.  I hate when people come to me and just want to focus on weight loss.  I will tell you what I tell them: to achieve true health and happiness, we must heal from the inside-out, not the outside-in. 

Until next time, healthy, happy, balanced eating and living xo.  I leave you with my love and hopes for healing us all in America and across the world <3

 

1.) CDC.  Obesity and Overweight.  Nov. 21, 2013.

2.) ANAD. Eating Disorder Statistics.  2014.

Quality Over Calories

As a dietitian, many clients come to me with a preconception that counting calories (or points) is absolutely necessary for health and weight loss.  This, I feel, is a major misconception.  I fully believe that counting calories is not only a waste of your precious life’s time but also a practice that leads to unhealthy thinking patterns and even a tendency towards obsessive behaviors in relation to food and diet.  I have seen people come to me in near panic because they were unable to figure out exactly how many calories or points were in their dinner out at a restaurant.  They not only feel as though they overate, but they are ridden with guilt and anxiety, and truthfully, did not even enjoy their evening out with friends and family as they were so distracted with the idea of counting calories.

On a side note, I’m not a proponent of putting calorie information on every menu in America.  I have always felt that this practice only drives our obsession with calories and fat rather than looking further into the quality and true nutritional benefit of foods—even in choosing a meal out at a restaurant.  A pasta dish with tomato sauce will likely contain less calories and fat than broiled salmon with prosciutto wrapped asparagus.  What’s the more nutritional choice?  The salmon dish WINS. 

I recently taught a nutrition lesson to a class of kids at an inner city elementary school.  Some of them were slightly familiar with the USDA’s concept of MyPlate.  Rather than focusing on this imbalanced picture of what our meals ought to look like, I like to focus on a different plate method: the macronutrient concept.  Each category contains various types of foods.

 

Protein: Chicken, fish, meats, pork, turkey, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, unprocessed cheeses, eggs.  (Organic is preferable and grass-fed meats and dairy are best.)

Carbohydrate: Grains, fruits, vegetables, milk, yogurt, sweets.  (Minimize grains and when you do consume them, choose ancient grains, such as quinoa and millet.  Avoid sweets on a regular basis and consume them only on special occasions.)

Fat: Olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, grass-fed butter, avocados, olives, cream cheese, sour cream, mayo, nuts, seeds, nut butters.  (Avoid vegetable oils and refined, heat-treated oils as much as possible.  Mayo made with olive oil is best.)

Oh, and alcohol (for adults):  Limit your consumption.  Have a drink 1-2 times per week, if desired.  Don’t rely on alcohol for emotional comfort or relaxation on a daily basis, but do enjoy an occasional drink with friends, family, or your couch on a cozy evening in with your cat :)

Usually, I bring some paper plates and markers and have kids (or adults) draw three sections on their plate.  They then have to write or draw pictures/words of their favorite foods in those sections.  For older kids and adults, I have them create actual meal ideas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  It’s something that seems quite simple, but it really gets you thinking about balancing your meals.

Your body runs on these three macronutrients.  Biochemically and metabolically, these are the nutrients that your body requires.  It also requires a whole slew of vitamins, minerals, and water.  By choosing the highest quality sources of PCF, you will likely consume all of the nutrients that your body requires.

If you choose a low calorie cereal, such as honey nut cherrios with a cup of skim milk and ¾ cup of blueberries, will your breakfast be under 300 calories?  Sure.  Will it be balanced?  Nope.  Cereal=carb; skim milk=carb; blueberries=carb.

A better breakfast would be a few hard-boiled eggs and a banana with almond butter.  Eggs=protein; banana= carb; almond butter=fat.  PCF!  And this breakfast would probably be around 440 calories, 27 grams of fat, 20 grams of protein, 33 grams of carbs, 6 grams of fiber.  The cereal breakfast would be roughly 297 calories; 2 grams of fat; 10.5 grams of protein; 57 grams of carbs; 5 grams of fiber.

So when I read articles on the internet that eating less than 300 calories for breakfast is the secret to weight loss… well, you can surely guess how aggravated I feel.  Sure, you may lose weight, but will you won’t be healthy.  And you’re likely to put that weight right back on—and then some.

More important than losing weight fast is the process of healing your body.  What do I want to see for you?

1. I want your body to truly begin healing from the inside-out, not from the outside-in.  This means that you may not see weight loss immediately.  That is OKAY!  I want your symptoms of discomfort and imbalance to lessen (i.e. constipation, bloating, excessive gas, chronic headaches, consistent generalized anxiety, sleep disturbances, constant cravings for sugar, binge-eating habits, etc.)

2. I want you to eat REAL FOOD.  Not fiber bars, not refined and enriched cereals, not bread with added inulin, not milk with all the naturally occurring fat removed.  I want your diet to consist of food that is closest to its most natural form.

3. I want your body to get the nutrients that it actually needs: protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water.  I want these coming from real food sources, not pills.

4. I want you to respect your body, no matter what shape or size it is.

5. I want you to focus on quality and quantity, not calories

 

The good news: you can stop counting calories.

The better news: you can begin loving your body and accepting it for all its flaws and imbalances.  It’s not your body’s fault that it’s not healthy, and you can heal it and feel better.

Until next time, happy, healthy, balanced eating.

Lower Carb Brownies

Let me begin by saying… this is not a low fat recipe.  Who wants a low fat brownie in the first place?!  It is a near paleo recipe (and one that you could simply tweak to make 100% paleo.)  It’s one for true chocoholics.

As a child, one of my favorite things was when we would make brownies.  The house would be consumed by the aroma of warm chocolate baking in the oven.  And once they were done, we would cut them right away and enjoy a warm brownie with a glass of cold milk.  Really though, is there anything better?  Now, we’re adults, perhaps with kids of our own, and we live our “adult” lives.  But who the heck doesn’t still love the scent of cooking brownies and the warm, rich flavor of a freshly baked treat?  Just because you follow a low carb/primal/paleo diet doesn’t mean that you can’t still have your cake (i.e. brownie) and eat it, too!  Here’s the recipe for the Low Carb Chocolate Lovers’ Brownies.  This is a rough recipe, meaning I will be playing with it a bit further to perfect some flaws that I think need adjusting for my own taste preference.  They are a cakey brownie.  If you like a fudgey brownie, refer to this post.  However, those are not paleo-friendly.  I will make a fudge brownie paleo recipe asap :)

Ingredients

1 ¾ cup almond flour

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon salt

2 eggs, beaten

¼ cup cream (or you could use canned coconut milk to make this a true paleo recipe)

1oog 85% dark chocolate bar (I used Lindt)

3 tablespoons coconut oil

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ cup raw honey*

½ cup (heaping ½ cup) almond butter

*I think that the brownies need to be slightly sweeter, so you may want to up the honey to ½ cup.  Next time I make these, I am going to use a date paste instead of honey because I find that dates sweeten desserts more to my liking.  I will use 15 dates processed with ¼ cup warm water.

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Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. In a double-boiler, melt the chocolate bar and the coconut oil.  Cool slightly, then add the vanilla.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine the almond flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

4. In a small bowl, combine the beaten eggs with the cream or coconut milk.  Slowly temper the eggs with a few tablespoons of the melted chocolate.  Then add the egg mixture to the chocolate and stir to combine.  It will thicken slightly.

5. Add the chocolate mixture into the dry ingredients along with the almond butter and honey (or date paste.)  Mix to combine.

6. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes.  Remove, cool, cut, enjoy.  Or remove, grab a fork, enjoy.

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Unbaked brownies

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Baked brownies

For those of you who are interested in the breakdown…

Servings: 12 brownies

Calories – 279

Carbohydrate – 15g

Fiber – 5g

Sugar – 8g

Fat – 23g

Protein – 8g

Cholesterol – 32mg

Servings: 16 brownies

Calories – 209

Carbohydrate – 11g

Fiber – 4g

Sugar – 6g

Fat – 17g

Protein – 6g

Cholesterol – 24mg

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Owl salt and pepper shakers were hoping for a nibble…

Until next time, happy baking to all you chocoholics! :)

Spiced Chai Bars

In Workout Routine #1, I mentioned that I had made some super scrumptious spiced chai bars.  Well, here I am, as promised, with a post dedicated to those very bars.  It was a cold and wintery morning here in Connecticut (as is the case most of the year…), and I was wide awake and hungry for something warm and comforting.  Sure, I could have simply followed a recipe from one of many cookbooks that are a part of my massive collection.  But if you know me at all, you’d know that I haven’t really followed a recipe since I was probably 6 or 7 years old.  It’s just not my style.  So instead, I threw into a bowl whatever I had around the house that would create the aroma and taste that I was craving.  And there was born the Spiced Chai Bars.

Ingredients

Date paste (15 unsweetened dates + ¼ cup warm water, blended in a high speed blender/food processor)

¼ cup coconut flour

¾ cup almond flour

¼ cup ground flax

¼ cup chopped raw almonds

¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds

¼ cup all natural almond butter

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 packet chai protein powder (I used Raw Vanilla Spiced Chai)

3 tablespoons hot coffee

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

¼ teaspoon salt

It seems like a lot of ingredients, but here’s the brilliant part… dump them all into a bowl, mix em’ up, toss it all into a baking dish (8” x 8”) greased with coconut oil, and press down with your fingers to level it out.  Pop it into a 350F oven for about 20 minutes.  And you’re done!  They are slightly crisp when they first cool, but if you store them at room temperature, they soften to a perfectly delectable texture.

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I topped mine with some pumpkin seed butter. I was a happy camper :)

Not that anyone is counting (I hope!), but here’s the breakdown…

Makes 12 bars, per bar:

160 calories

10g carbohydrate

4g fiber

12g fat

6g protein

110% pure deliciousness :)

Until next time, happy noshing!

Workout Routine #1

Today was sort of a “day off,” if you don’t count the time I spent at work.  It was a pretty decent day, overall.  I woke up with Templeton breathing on my face, which always makes me smile :)  He’s a little furball that I can’t help but love.  Once I was actually out of bed, I relaxed, had breakfast, and drank some coffee.  Nothing better than starting the day with cats, some morning news, and good coffee.

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Paleo bread, sunflower seed butter, banana, and coffee.

Following breakfast, I decided to bake something that would fill my home with the warm smell of the season.  So I made up a recipe for spiced vanilla bars.  I’ll share that recipe soon.

I also had time to enjoy a great at-home workout.  So rather than spending this post sharing the recipe, I’ll dedicate it to my latest workout routine.  If you decide to do a similar routine, be sure to modify it for your individual body strengths and weaknesses.  Everyone has a different capability and differences with the strength of their muscles.

5 Sets of the following:

10 bridges

10 ab cycles

30 second plank (I had a cat on my back, as well.  Oh Charlotte)

10 goblet squats (I used a 12 pound sandbell)

20 arm punches (I used 4 pound weights in each hand)

10 jumping jacks

10 starbursts

Then I usually dance it out for about 30 seconds in-between each set

 

5 sets of the following:

10 overhead tricep extensions (I used the 12 pound sandbell again)

10 sandbag side bends (10 each side) (With the 12 pound sandbell)

50 jump ropes

 

2 sets of the following:

20 torso rotations holding a balance ball

20 spell casters (using 4 pound weights in each hand)

 

I also was listening to dance music throughout this workout, so I was bee-bopping around and enjoying the music.  So however you find your fitness throughout these cold winter months, keep it fun.  Until next time, happy exercising!