Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Gummi Bear Dilemma: Cravings + How to Kick them!

The Gummi Bear Dilemma. In order to be successful in living a happy and healthy life where you feel like you're in balance (and not in the middle of some diet battlefield), one of the important things to master is cravings!

As I'm sure you'll know if you've spent more than an hour with me, I have a major sweet tooth. Major! ha ha The guys at work all make fun of me because when I want something sweet, everybody knows. I literally go from office to office asking if anyone has a stash of candy... ha ha! But then, almost always, everyone says no, so I make my way over to our lunch room & grab one of my freezer treats. They're just sweet enough to cut the craving, but still nutritious so there's no "damn! damn! damn! why did I just eat those neon gummi worms!" afterthoughts ha ha ha! ....what? is that just me?

What I've learned is you've got to reprogram your brain to act differently in the situation. What is that saying? The definition of crazy is doing the same thing and expecting different results? And it's so true! Until you change your attitude towards the cravings and find a new way of reacting in the situation, you will most likely end up defeated again.  So, here's a few of my tricks! :-)

- Distraction - I go and do something! A lot of times, I'm just bored, or thirsty, or saw someone else eating sweets. If you focus your attention on something else for 15 minutes and still can't stop dreaming about Reese's pieces, have a snack, but opt for something like fruit or a healthier substitute - in this case, my peanut butter protein cups would be a great substitute!

- Be Prepared! - Making sure I have other, much healthier, treats on hand, like the recipe I've got for you today -- Pumpkin Protein Bars

- The with-yourself Convo - I was in Wal-Mart last night looking for the natural peanut butter and of course, their organic foods are right between the 8 billion bags of chips aisle and 4,000 bags of cookies section. If this isn't temptation, I don't know what is! I started thinking about buying a bag of chips and "just leaving the rest for Adam" (my brother).... but as soon as I caught myself justifying it, I shut that voice off and switched into mantra mode. "Resist, resist, resist, resist" "Our character is a sum of our choices" -- and guess what! I walked right outta that aisle like it aint no thang! ha ha ha :-)

Anyways... now for the good part! On to the recipes!

Pumpkin Protein Bars 
pumpkin protein bars
This recipe is originally by a huge inspiration of mine, Jamie Eason. She is a serious fitness guru and has tons of great recipes and tips worth checking out! I couldn't find brown sugar xyla so I just used the regular kind, and opted for greek yogurt instead of apple sauce because it's a little higher in protein and it's what I had! A few other small changes and voila.. my version of Jamie's little treats. :-)

1/2 cup xyla (natural sweetener)
1/2 cup natural, plain greek yogurt
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground clove
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp non-iodized sea salt
2 tsp pure vanilla extract (not the fake stuff!)
4 large egg whites
1 can of raw pumpkin puree
2 cups brown rice flour
2 scoops vanilla protein powder (I use IsoNatural which is sweetened with Stevia, and has no artificial flavorings or additives)
1/4 c almond milk
1/2 c chopped walnuts

Get your oven up to 350 F & your pan ready to rock n roll. I use a dash of grapeseed oil to grease the pan, but you can use whatever type of oil you'd like. I also use a mini loaf pan because I have a bit of OCD... ha ha! This allows me to portion the bars properly and it just looks nicer and more intentional than baking them in a big tray & cutting them up. But you could just pour the mix into a 9 x 13 pan like Jamie does, up to you.

Be careful not to overfill! The recipe should
make 24 bars, so it fills each mini loaf
about 1/3 of the way. 
Mix all the dry ingredients in one bowl. Mix all the wet ingredients in another. Combine. Ooooohhh... ahhhh... such a fancy process.. ha ha (not!) I pour my flour through a hand sifter just because my dad's always used one and it makes sure it's nice and airy, but I don't think this is necessary! Also, if you want to throw in a few extra shakes of cinnamon, you go girl! (or guy?... ha ha) Cinnamon is absolutely packed with health benefits including lowering cholesterol, helping with dairy & fruit digestion and it's antibacterial & antifungal (prevents yeast growth which leads to stomach ulcers and a variety of other problems). Aaaaanyways... the point being: adding extra cinnamon is a great idea. ha ha

Depending on the tray/pan you use, baking time will vary, but start by checking them at 25 mins if you're using a muffin/mini loaf tin and at 30 mins if a larger tray. They're ready when you can stick a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean. I like to keep mine in the freezer because they stay fresh longer and I just like them cold.

Anyone else have any freezer treats they whip up and love??   Tried these & love em or hate em? Let me know!! I love reading your comments!

Happy Thursday all! Have a freaking fantastic day and remember that our character is a sum of our choices!

- brooke :-)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

fries + chips: skinny girl edition

My idea of a fantastic night just doesn't include sitting on the couch for 5 hours and downing a bag of chips. I know to some people, this sounds like heaven. But to me, not so much.

It's funny, a lot of my younger years included just this, especially in high school. Add to that slurpee runs to 7-Eleven with a few girlfriends (where of course we never just bought a slurpee -- we each came out with a little bag of candy in hand, too!). Sometimes we'd make a plate of nachos. A big plate! Of course, at the time, we would get so hyped up on all the sweeteners, MSG and artificial flavorings in that food that we were floating on a sugar-coated cloud 9! ha ha But I was miserable. I looked horrible, had no energy, and always just wanted to "nap". Yes, the candy tasted good, but what kind of life was I living? 

doesn't this get you even just a
 little excited!!? ha ha ;-) 
Now, 40 lbs smaller, and a million times happier, my habits and lifestyle have taken a complete 180. Yes, I love watching The Bachelor and Housewives (of anywhere! haha), but I do it for the last hour or two of my day, not as the highlight of my night.  I spend my nights enjoying my work out, reading health + fitness blogs, and picking up groceries (this is actually one of my favorite things to do! -- filling my little basket full of bright, colorful veggies, lean proteins and healthy fats just makes me happy... plus, the cute guys you're guaranteed to find at the supermarket doesn't hurt.... ha ha ;-) And yes, I still see my girlfriends, but our nights are spent hitting up a yoga class or going for a glass of wine + some edamame. 

Now, instead of greasy bags of potato chips,  I snack on much lighter and more nutritious foods -- my favorite salty, snacky foods at the moment are: sweet potato fries + kale chips!

Sweet potatoes are a great alternative to "regular" potatoes because they're lower calorie (sweet potatoes have 170 cals/cup, regular potatoes 278/cup), less starchy, and packed with nutritients! A cup of sweet potatoes also has 7 g of fiber, which keeps you feeling full :-) 


Sweet Potato Fries
To make sweet potato fries, I wash the skin really well, chop it into "fries", and toss it in a bowl with 1/2 - 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, whichever spices I feel like adding -- my fav right now is garlic powder & curry powder... delish! I always line my baking tray with parchment paper as sweet potatoes do stick sometimes, so this prevents that problem. Then, pop them into the oven at 350 F for around 30-40 mins, flipping halfway through. I take mine out when the flesh has just become browned a bit, but you can take them out before that point if you prefer. 

Kale Chips
Give the kale a good rinse under the tap, then rip off small pieces of the leafy green part and throw into a bowl (discard stem). Again, a splash of extra virgin olive oil and whichever spices you're feelin. I do mine with is garlic powder, onion powder and red chili flakes right now, but you could try anything! I've also done it with organic taco mix seasoning before and I really liked it! Get creative :-) Because kale is a lot more thin and delicate than sweet potatoes, I usually only cook these for 10-15 mins, just make sure you're checking often as they burn easily.  Take them out when they've turned from "chewy" to "crispy". 

For serving, I love ketchup, but just be careful with this one as it's high in sugar, especially "conventional" brands like Heinz. I buy organic ketchup, which is better, but still just be cautious of serving sizes as 2 tbsp comes in at 40 cals, 8 g sugar so it does add up quickly! Another fav of mine is Franks' hot sauce, which is much lower in sugar & cals and also has an added benefit - spicy foods actually boost your metabolism, so it's a win-win! 

My girlfriend Chaantal has a few salty tricks of her own -- she snacks on baked spicy chickpeas or edamame. I know there's got to be some other great ideas I've never seen, so if you have one, post it below, I'd love to try out your recipes! :-)

Make today ridiculously amazing, friends!

- Brooke