Couples Challenge!

couples challenge

This coming week is going to be exciting–and not simply because the US Open begins (though, as a tennis-watching freak, I am SUPER pumped about that!).  This week will rock because the Beachbody Health Bet kicks off.  Curious?  Here is an easy 5-step plan to capitalize on this:

1. Join our challenge group, Betting on You!
2. Log at least 3 workouts a week–which can be any workout you wish (a BB program, a class at the gym, a run, yoga, ANYTHING!)
3. Post pics of your Shakeology at least 5 times a week.
4. Be motivated and held accountable at every step of the way by your awesome coach–me!
5. Receive a check from Beachbody when all is said and done.

Seriously, it doesn’t get any easier! We’d love to share this experience with as many couples as possible, but are welcoming solo participants as well. This just can’t be beat! Beachbody believes in its products–especially in Shakeology–so much that it is pledging between $1-3 million to be split among all qualifying challengers. I will lead the way and make sure each of you qualifies and gets PAID!

I am adding an extra twist to this group: while I will have one group geared towards women, I am also running a COUPLES CHALLENGE.  Get healthy, strong, and active with your partner.  You know what they say: the couple that sweats together stays together!

Fill in this submission form so I can get you started TODAY!

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Eat that Frog with Me!

SUMMER HAS KILLED MY PRODUCTIVITY

I may be a teacher and a coach, but it is my love of learning that makes me, me.  I am a student at heart.  I love to read and, most currently, to listen to podcasts relevant to my current areas of interest.  And what is my current area of interest? Productivity.

Many of you would have guessed it was fitness or nutrition.  Those are ever important to me and I am ever looking for ways to enhance both of those aspects within my day-to-day. Productivity, along with cutting down on procrastination, is the area in my life that needs work the most, however.

I’ve always loved planners and calendars.  I get into major color-coding moods and reorganizing moods and new-app moods within which I purchase, implement, and soon forget about one or more methods of keeping track and getting ish done. I most recently fell in love with Wunderlist–a simple app for list-creating–and have also been using Chalene Johnson’s PUSH planner. I love the way it is both specific and open at the same time, but I have not been as intentional and consistent with it as I’d hoped.  I don’t believe it is a lack of resources that plagues me.  How about you?  For me, it is a lack of implementable strategies.

me and mike

I’ve been attempting some time-efficiency strategies over the last few months.  The one that works best has been meal prepping.  By planning and prepping our meals ahead of time, I save time with my family and save the aggravation of paniced dinner making.  I also save money by minimizing on dining out.  Another habit that worked wonders–and I mean that in the past tense–was waking up early.  I began waking up early to workout and/or get some work done before my family woke up each day and it was a true game-changer.  I move through each day with a sense of accomplishment and a level of energy unmatched before.  This habit is no longer a habit, though.  I’ve allows the summer to slow me down and make my mornings lazy.  NO MORE!

I am committed to getting back in gear before the summer fades and the new school year dawns. Meal planning can’t be my only effective tool! I am committing myself to an August geared towards getting my mind and habits as strong as my body has already become.

DOES THIS SOUND LIKE YOU?

If so, you must join my next online challenge group, 21 Days to Strong! We will work on the wellness trifecta:

  • strong bodies
  • strong habits
  • strong minds

We often go through phases in life in which we work towards better health.  We begin exercising and eating better.  We make sure we are drinking water.  We get to bed at a decent hour.  That is all well and good; these are phases that jump-start wellness.  But they usually only impact our bodies.  In order for these physical or health changes to truly resonate and for our choices to become a lifestyle, we need our habits and our minds to become stronger as well.

Over this 21 day challenge, we will explore how our bodies can become stronger or leaner or more fit by following a trusted fitness program.  We will improve our nutritional habits with guidance, portion control, and clean eating education.  We will transform our minds by combating the procrastination and inefficiency that gets in the way of keeping the other two parts of this trio inline.  Our group will be reading and discussing Brian Tracy’s Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time. We will use the tools and strategies within the book to not only create a common language and nuanced focal-point for our wellness, but we will be able to motivate one another beyond getting through a set of burpees or reaching a goal weight.  This type of motivation will remain well beyond our 21-day challenge.

HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE YOUR OVERALL WELLNESS?

Join me!  Leave your information below and I will be in touch with all the details. Together, we will decide which fitness program best fits your goals and abilities.  I will then enroll you in an online accountability group.  This is a private Facebook community through which I will motivate, coach, and teach you at every step of the way.  And, if you are new to my program and purchase for the first time, I will send you the personal development text we will be following, Eat that Frog!, for FREE as my thank you! 

Don’t procrastinate! 😉 Join today!

The groundwork of all happiness is health. 

22 Minute Hard Corps: An Honest Review

I was truly hesitant to try 22 Minute Hard Corps.  I have such a girl crush on Chalene Johnson that the idea of not doing PiYo for another round kind of broke my heart.  But, I am a coach first.  I promised my challengers I’d try 22MHC along with them during our May “Make Time” challenge group. I am so happy I made this choice.

First off, let me tell you about my challenge groups so you can understand why it is so important I work along with the women in my groups.  I host monthly fitness and nutrition groups, which are private Facebook communities through which I can motivate, answer questions, and guide nutrition.  The best part for me has been the accountability these groups provide–both for me and for the challengers.  I have been more consistent with my early morning workouts, more deliberate with my meal prep, and more inspired to be a glass-half-full kinda gal thanks to the support and inspiration of my challengers. I know some of these women from earlier stages of my life, childhood or college, but others have come to me by chance and social media.  These women are moms or just married or brides-to-be.  These women all started their journeys with different goals.  These women are now all friends and have reached potentials and exceeded their own expectations.

We decided to up the ante this month.  As a group, we didn’t want to just focus on our fitness and nutrition.  We wanted to focus on ways we can fit time into our day–find the hidden minutes.  Plus, I wanted a way to explore a new program while keeping Chalene in my life. I decided to give 22 MHC a try–22 minute workouts give us plenty of extra minutes in our day–and to incorporate Chalene Johnson’s Push planner into our group to help us set realistic priorities and to work on time management.  I will share my thoughts on the Push planner another time (simply, I’m in love!). Let’s focus today on Tony Horton, some kick-ass veterans, and a workout that is deceptively tough while being perfectly basic.

Tony Horton and Beachbody created 22 Minute Hard Corps as a way to bring people back to simple, gym class style calisthenics (Yeah, I haven’t used that word in years either.).  There are three cardio workouts–simply named Cardio 1, 2, and 3–and three Resistance workouts similarly titled.  The cardio workouts incorporate plyometrics (Jimmy jumps, side shuffles, etc) and some body-weight exercises, like burpees. The resistance workouts, on the other hand, incorporate hand weights (or a sandbag–which I haven’t tried), a resistance band, and pull-up bar.  There is also a Cold Start (warm-up), and two Core 10-minute programs. 22 MHC comes with an 8-week calendar that shuffles the various workouts and allows for recovery and meal prep on Sundays.

Meal prep is a critical part of most Beachbody workout programs.  It is estimated that 80% of a person’s fitness results come from nutrition.  Like the popular 21 Day Fix, 22 MHC comes with the Portion Fix color-coded containers.  Tony and the creators of the program designed a Rations for Results nutrition guide that allows for 3 square meals, one snack, and one Shakeology each day.  The portions depend on your calorie intake, but the basic layout of the meals is the same.  For someone who enjoys grazing or snacking throughout the day or who likes to skip breakfast, this may feel like a shock to the system.  It is completely doable, though, and promotes eating real, clean food.  You will eat plenty when sticking to this plan; you will just be consuming the right mix of macronutrient groups to ensure your body refuels and burns fat.  I had become quite used to budgeting my container allotment each day the way I saw fit, so the three square meals have taken some getting used to, but now that I am 1 1/2 weeks in, I finally feel like I am able to enjoy these meals and not feel overloaded in one sitting.  By bedtime, I am still full from my day’s eating, which is perfect considering I workout first thing in the morning.

Let’s discuss the workouts.  Those of you familiar with 21 Day Fix are used to a consistent rotation.  This is a bit different.  The days alternate between Cardio and Resistance, but in a progressive way.  Tony Horton also varies the amount of reps for each exercise: some increase, some decrease from round to round, which keeps your muscles and your cardiovascular system guessing. I have yet to attempt Cardio 3 or Resistance 3 because I am still working to perfect 1 and 2 of each. This repetition allows immediate gratification for someone like me.  My first time through Resistance 1, for example, I labored through the weighted burpees.  I was definitely behind the count and, though I completed each exercise, I was off pace and therefore did not perform as many reps.  The second time through–and just days later–I was able to stay on pace with the veterans.

That’s right: veterans.  This program is back-to-basics training and Tony Horton is surrounded by veterans from all branches of the military who perform each workout.  It is motivating, truly sells the boot camp vibe, and intensely patriotic.  I find myself counting along with Tony or the lead vet’s cadence and yelling “Hard Corps!” whenever prompted.  Some say I have a group-think mentality.  Put me in a room with enough people excited about the same thing and, gosh darn it, I’ll be excited about that, too!  For example, I often attend teaching in-services lamenting the hours I’m about to spend listening to yet another teaching style and within the first hour I am already planning how I will implement these new practices.  It may be this almost addictive aspect of my personality that motivates me through each Hard Corps, but only partly.  These vets who invested their lives and their time for our country exude energy and discipline that is contagious.  Plus, Tony Horton is drill-sergeant strict and adorably personable at the same time.

One word of warning: This is not 21 Day Fix. This is an 8-week program; therefore, true results will take time. Being 10 days in I will say that I feel strong and lean and have maintained the definition from my previous programs.  I know that as I remain consistent with both the program’s fitness and nutrition components I will succeed and see results I can be proud of.

Who would enjoy this program?  Just about anyone who believes time is of the essence, who enjoys feeling motivated, who likes to vary their workouts, and who wants to shake off a few pounds for summer. 🙂

You can take a look at the program here.  Or, even better, fill in the contact form below and I will be in touch about joining my next challenge group!

 

Friday Favorites: Fit Family Activities

Round 2 of my Friday Favorites! I am taking a break from talking about food and clean eating and am talking about my true love: my family.  I am a mom of three, all autumnal babies: a 5-year old daughter, and 3-year old son, and an 11-week old son as well.  These tots–especially my oldest two–keep me plenty busy and plenty entertained.  Like any other mom, regardless of how old our kids are, I am also kept pretty insane thanks to these cuties as well.  They sure know how to push our buttons and fill our heart with love like no one else.

I am blessed with the world’s best career.  I am a high school teacher.  I may be on maternity leave for a few more weeks, but I know that it is like to be a working mom on a budget–both with our time and with our pocketbooks. I want to share with you some of the fun activities I do with my kids when the hours are short and the days or long. Most of these are free and allow me to share my interests and maybe a little fitness with my kids as well.

I am by no means reinventing the wheel here. We all know that kids love to ride bikes or go swimming or sled in the snow.  As moms, we have other tricks up our sleeves that keep our families busy or healthy or, simply, prevent our house from getting too messy. My husband often wonders why I spend most summer days playing with the kids elsewhere.  Less to clean!

Anyway, leave a comment with your favorite fun family activities so we have a growing list to tap into when needed.  Here is what the Bus clan loves.

  • Treasure hunts!
    • My kids and I enjoy two different types of treasure hunts.  When it is nice outside, regardless of the season, we will head out for a trek around the neighborhood with a list of “must-find” items and have a typical scavenger hunt.  The kids will create a pictured list, almost like a Bmeal on the goingo board, and we see if we can get a full line before we return home.  This fall, we had much luck finding cats and spider webs thanks to Halloween decorations.  My son loves putting swings on his board since he knows there is a swing set three doors down.  Have fun with this!  Sometimes, I’ll load the kids in our red wagon or jogging stroller, with breakfast or a bowl of ice cream or something, and just get a scavenger hunt moving because we have been in the house too long.
    • The second type of hunt, our real-deal treasure hunt, grew out of a funny story. One day, I was changing the sheets on my bed and had my comforter flung over the end of my bed.  My kids crawled underneath and started calling it their “pirate cave.”  Their obsession with Peter Pan Live! at the time may have been at fault–who knows!  Well, within 5 minutes, a cave wasn’t enough.  One of the kids said we should have a real treasure hunt. I thought about this for a minute and realized I could get a few quiet minutes if they had to stay in their cave while I prepped the treasure hunt. I filled two empty shoe boxes with some forgotten toys (You know what I mean, moms! Those Peppa Pig figurines they couldn’t do without a treasure mapfew months back that have spent more time under the couch lately?), hid it in the far reaches of the family room, and drew up a little map.  I may have also arranged the kitchen chairs and couch cushions to create obstacles, but that is unnecessary! The kids, and I, had a blast, were up and moving, and have designed their own for me and my husband as well. I even used this as a get inside from the snow before you get frostbite! ploy this weekend with a map that led to hot chocolate.
  • Playground obstacles & picnics
    • This is the easiest of all my suggestions and the one that involves the most fitness for you.  Next time you take your kids to the playground, make a little obstacle course or HIIT workout for yourself.  Do pull-ups on the monkey bars and stair steppers and calf raises on the steps. Is there a bench?  Tricep dips!  I’ll also run laps around the equipment, do jumping jacks, or jump rope while my kids play. They often like to chase me or run alongside, which is great to get their little bodies moving.  If your kids are anything like mine you will also get a decent arm workout pushing them on the swings for 15 straight minutes. Don’t let a work schedule get in the way of this fun activity, either.  On nights my husband works late, I’ll eat dinner when he gets home and my kids often have dinner at the playground while I get a workout in.  They love the picnic-aspect of it.  We are lucky to have a playground a few lots from our home, but don’t let proximity stop you!  On weekends or days in the summer when the temp is bound to get real hot real fast, we have breakfast playground picnics.  I promise that you will enjoy these as much as the kids. playground
  • Our bounce house
    • A few birthdays ago, we enlisted the grandparents in getting our daughter a bounce house for her birthday.  We went with a rather simple one, but the fun has not stopped.  I will set this up in our front yard–another upper body workout in and of itself!–and before long neighbors arbouncee over and everyone is bouncing.  My kids are staying healthy without even realizing it!  I’ll join them once in a while or do another HIIT workout in the yard, but mostly like to sit in a lawn chair reading a good book and soaking up their giggles.
  • Silly sports
    • I dread the days my kids are actually a part of competitive sports.  I fear the parent-politics of the sidelines and the imbalance between “in it to win it ALL” and “everyone gets a trophy.”  For that reason, I embrace silly sports for my kids. What I mean is, I give them the equipment, take them to the field or court, and just have a blast. No rules, no score, just silliness.  soccerWe are BIG fans of two of these in particular: soccer and tennis.  I can get an amazing cardio workout in running from goal to goal, ball or no ball, while my kids try to shoot soccer balls passed one another. We are lucky, again, that their is a huge soccer field across from our development. We head there right after school before the practices begin and just have a blast. Tennis is fun, too, because my kids will occupy themselves for long stretches just trying to make it over the net.  I can practice my serve (which is awful!) on a nearby court or even run the perimeter.  You can almost always find an empty or free court at local rec centers.  I sometimes think my kids’ favorite part of tennis is seeing who can pick up the most balls before it is time to head home.  tennis pat
  • The library
    • We love going to our local library.  It brings back memories of going with my mom when I was a kid! Maybe that fueled my passion for reading and writing.  Either way, this is a free and safe place to be regardless of the weather.  Most local branches have kids clubs, story hours, arts and crafts, etc., that make them even more fun, but we often go first thing in the morning or right after school and simply explore. My kids love checking out kids movies as well.  If your local library doesn’t seem very kid-friendly, check out a Barnes and Nobel near you.  They host story hours as well and often have Lego and/or train tables–and Starbucks!  One near by B&N has a Petsmart next door–even more free fun checking out the fish and animals! library
  • The zoo (my favorite!)
    • We have had a membership at the Philadelphia Zoo since our 3-year old was born, and I am obsessed with it. We go countless times over the summer and whenever we have a day off from school during the fall, winter, and spring.  Yes–even during a winter in the northeast.  Not all of the animals remain in their habitats, but there is still plenty to see.  Rainy days work well, too, because of all the indoor exhibits we often skip when the weather is nice.  Plus, the zoo is often less crowded on not-so-great weather days. zoo me.jpgWe get plenty of exercise moving from exhibit to exhibit and, since we know we will be back again, never mind if we don’t get to every animal each time.  Having the membership also allows us to go at various times of day.  Some animals are more active early in the day while different animals get moving in the afternoon.  We know many of the animals names and learn more interesting facts from the zoo keepers every time we go. A membership is a great gift idea, too; that’s how we got ours! tiger

So those are my “Friday Favorites” this week! Can you tell I am ready for the snow to be gone?! Please comment with fun outdoor or indoor activities that are family-friendly!

Clean Eating on a Budget

My grandfather used to always say that you do not skimp on food.  If you’ll eat it and it is good for you, pay for it!  This is a good reminder for those of us trying to prepare clean, balanced meals for our families.  We see the canned soups and boxed mac and cheese and aisle packed with sugary cereals and think two thoughts: cheap and easy.  I hear ya. Sometimes, cheap and easy is what we moms crave most.  But I would like to encourage you to think beyond these two words.  Instead, think healthful and worth it!

Perhaps our initial shopping bills were higher than normal, but only slightly. I keep my grandfather’s words in my mind and realize that my family’s health truly has no price. Regardless, this concern is common.  In that past few days since I began publicizing my family’s rather-layered journey to health, I have received comments and questions touching on this very issue.  How much more do I have to spend to eat clean? We can’t really afford this!  I hope to show you that you can.

My best piece of advice? Meal planning!  I am–or was–a coupon girl.  I was not TLC-worthy extreme couponer, but I spent a half hour to an hour most Saturday nights scanning circulars, organizing coupons, and creating a very specific list for my husband’s Sunday-morning super market runs. Clean eating has taken away my beloved coupons almost completely, but I now fill my momerific Saturday nights meal planning quite strategically.

Through meal planning, you can uncover patterns in recipes and plan accordingly. Follow my four-step process (which makes me sound like a pro. Nope! Totally figuring this out as I go!), and maybe you’ll find clean eating will work for your family.

Step one happens well in advance. Scan sights like mine (shameless plug, I know!), CleanFoodCrush, Eat Yourself Skinny, Skinny Taste, Fit Foodie Finds, and HelloHealthy and bookmark recipes that are must-tries for your family. Find more than a week’s worth–at least 10-20 meals–so that steps two and three are most effective.

Step two requires you to examine the ingredient lists within your collection of clean recipes for your “must buys.” These “must buys” are the seasonings, spices, oils, flours, etc.–basically, the kitchen staples–most required for clean eating and the recipes you are interested in trying.  This will most likely be your biggest expense, but it is also an infrequent purchase.  Buy most of these once, and they should last at least a few months.

Some of my “must buys” included various pure extracts (for overnight oats and smoothies and coffee flavoring), sriracha sauce, chili paste and powder, coconut oil, and sesame oil. I bought organic for some and didn’t worry about it for others. Eating, like life, is about balance. You may also consider old fashioned rolled oats and whole wheat flour (if you are not a gluten-free household, coconut flour if you are!) and stevia if you bake and want to eliminate sugar.  I stick to sugar, but that is just me.  Purchasing an all-natural peanut butter and an all-natural almond butter is smart as well.  Sun flower seed butter is a great alternative for allergies. These go perfectly in protein shakes and smoothies and on top of apples or Ezekiel bread.  And don’t forget brown rice, quinoa (any variety), various beans, and low sodium broths or stocks to have on hand.  You’ll be surprised how many recipes call for any or all three of these. Plus, they work well in soups, which are a perfect way to achieve step four, described later on.  This seems like a lot, but as I already mentioned, these have legs and last quite a while!

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Step three is a week-to-week meal plan. Take the time to figure out what meals best overlap. In other words, what fresh, perishable ingredients can be used in multiple recipes.  Find two recipes that call for half a yellow onion and make them two nights in a row. This is not only health-conscious and wallet-conscious, but earth-conscious as well.  I will share a sample weekly plan later.  Plan your shopping list with these fresh, overlapping ingredients in mind.  I also suggest weekly purchases of nonfat plain Greek yogurt, unsweetened plain almond milk, avocados, berries, bananas, lemons, and garlic cloves.

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Step four is more fun.  I am have decided to dedicate Saturday to ridding my home and my fridge of all that remains.  I have yet to find a meal plan that causes no excess.  On Saturdays, I vow to cook as much of it up as I can.  This is a fun way to experiment with different recipes and to save some money on the process.  My household fell into the Friday or Saturday take-out trap.  We are saving money and eating better now that we do this. You can read more about how we are managing this in my blog post “Out with the old; in with the new.”

We are still in the early stages of our clean eating journey.  I have a lot to learn–and will admittedly see how well I keep this up when I return to work post-maternity leave.  But we have developed such keen habits already.  I am confident we have now made this our lifestyle rather than a fad diet.

What does this look like in my household?  Here is a look at this week’s meal plan (recipe links included when possible) and how the ingredients overflow.

  1. Sunday: My husband’s famous chicken fried rice (Want this recipe? Leave a comment asking for it!)
    • fresh ingredients: brown rice, chicken breasts, carrots, zucchini
  2. Monday: 21 Day Fix-approved Meatloaf Muffins
    • fresh ingredients: lean ground beef, carrots, celery, yellow onion
  3. Tuesday: Carrot soup with Beef Stir-fry
    •  fresh ingredients: lean beef, carrots, zucchini, mushrooms
  4. Wednesday: Healthy Baked Quinoa Chicken Parm
    • fresh ingredients: chicken breasts, mushrooms, yellow onion, green pepper,
  5. Thursday: 21 Day Fix-approved Kung Pao Chicken Meatballs with Mashed Cauliflower
    • fresh ingredients: ground chicken, yellow onion, cauliflower
  6. Friday: Zoodles & leftover meatballs
    • fresh ingredients: zucchini
  7. Saturday: Leftover creation!
    • I’ll have some onion left over as well as some pepper and sweet potatoes from a dish I am making to bring to a brunch that morning.  I’ll probably defrost some chicken tenderloins and saute it all with some cannellini beans.
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Prep from Monday’s dinner

Some notes:

  • We only used celery in Monday’s meal, so I’ve been packing it in the kids’ lunches as a snack with some pb for dipping.
  • What do I eat for lunch? The previous night’s dinner!  I also buy avocados weekly and have a 1/4 of one on a slice of Ezekiel toast and a protein shake if not enough of dinner is left.
  • Breakfasts? We love overnight oats! Lots of recipes to be found!  We also like green smoothies or protein shakes–my kids included!

Best of luck! Please comment below with any tips you may have.  I also encourage you to check out the “contact me” page so I can get to know you better.  What info would you like me to blog about? 🙂 I am also organizing a FREE clean eating challenge group for mid February.  Want to try it for 5 days? I’ll coach you through! Let me know on the “contact me” page as well!

Friday Favorites: Post-workout Snacks

Who doesn’t love a yummy snack after a good workout or a healthful but delicious dessert while catching up on your DVR?  I do!  And I’ve discovered a blog trend I am going to try: fun Friday favorites.  This week, I am going to share my favorite post-workout or after-dinner snacks.  These provide a nutritional boost and assist in recovery, plus each one contains protein and/or healthy fats that keep our metabolism revving while satisfying our hunger.

In yesterday’s post, I discussed the 6-week boot camp in which I am participating. I love it!  I’ve been focusing on HIIT training, which isn’t a new notion for me, but I am training in a way that targets my body more effectively. In addition to 20-30 minute HIIT workouts, I have been doing 20-30 minutes of cardio a few days a week.  I love to run (hoping to train for a 10k or half marathon this year!) and also love Turbo Fire!  This program is especially great for cold or snowy weather or when I am home with all three kids and can’t get out for a run. I haven’t had a gym membership in years; I don’t need it.  Don’t let a lack of membership be your excuse to ignore your health and fitness!  I’ll be sharing more specific fitness strategies and goals in the coming weeks, so please follow if that interests you.  I’d love to help you find the results I’m experiencing.

Back to my Friday Favorites. What are post-work out snacks or desserts I love? There are two easy choices that anyone interested in fitness already knows: protein shakes and protein bars.  I am currently nursing my 10-week old, so I stick with vegan chocolate protein powder, a cup of unsweetened almond milk, and a few ice cubes blended together. I’ll sometimes throw in a half a banana, a teaspoon of natural peanut butter, a few frozen strawberries, or even a 1/4 of an avocado.  Play around and find a combo you like! Protein bars are great to keep in your bag–or diaper bag–for those times when you have to run out for a school pick-up immediately after a workout or for when hunger hits on-the-go. But these are easy, common snacks.  My three favorites are more as follows:

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  1. Apples with protein peanut butter

Since I was a kid, I’ve loved having apples with peanut butter as a snack.  I can still picture my mom slicing the apples and smearing them perfectly with peanut butter while my brother and I sat at the kitchen table doing homework.  I could never quite distribute the PB as perfectly as my mom could. She could spread it so evenly over every surface of each apple slice; my attempts resulted in more PB on the plate or stuck to the knife than on the fruit. Moms are great that way, at creating food miracles, which is probably why I am finally a successful PB-apple spreader. My mom’s feat was especially skillful, though, since you couldn’t pay my mom to eat PB! Anyway, this snack was always the perfect pick-me-up after a few math worksheets and a vocabulary exercise.

As an adult, I’ve re-imagined this snack to better fit my workout and macronutrient needs. My husband and I love Shark Tank and discovered Nuts ‘N More after the company pitched on the show.  The high-protein chocolate peanut butter is delicious in my protein shakes, but I am obsessed with it smeared atop a few slices of apple.  This also works well as a late-night snack when cravings for chocolate can hit.  Remember, indulge once in a while!  There are many flavors to try, so see what works for you. Just make sure you give the peanut butter a good stir first.

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2. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt topped with berries…and mini chocolate chips

The average 8 oz. serving of organic nonfat plain Greek yogurt has 22 grams of protein.  That is a significant benefit to a person burning fat and building lean muscle. Top with berries and even a small sprinkle of mini dark chocolate chips (I add these on my cardio days as a little reward) and this is good enough for dessert.

I am an ice cream lover.  Thanks to my dad, I grew up having ice cream almost every night.  I can still see him standing at the microwave warming up a pint of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream for a few seconds before settling on the coach to watch a Knicks game. I would often sit beside and have a scoop or two of something myself–a habit that followed me into adulthood and, especially, pregnancy.  I can now have a bowl of Greek yogurt instead to satisfy this childhood habit while staying on track.

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3. Apple Pie Oat Muffins 

The recipe for these muffins popped up on My Fitness Pal–the app I use to log my nutrition and fitness each day–and I immediately checked my kitchen for the ingredients.  I baked these yesterday with one substitution.  I used pumpkin pie spice instead of apple pie spice for two reasons: I happened to have it on-hand and I love it. I am a PSL girl, after all.  My 3-year old son helped me whip them up, which was fun and easy! East coast readers, this is a great recipe to try while you’re snowed in this weekend.  It will be the most delicious smell to come inside to after shoveling or sledding.

I had two for breakfast this morning (along with two slices of nitrate-free turkey bacon to make sure I reach my protein goal by the end of the day) and they were delicious.  I am keeping half of the batch in a storage bag in the fridge and the other half sealed well in the freezer.  My mother-in-law tried one last night and she approved as well! They are wholesome, clean, filling, and flavorful.

What are your favorite post-work out snacks? What clean desserts do you indulge in?  Let me know, and feel free to link to your own healthy snack posts so I can check them out as well!

 

Baked Chicken ala Yummy

I have a confession to make: I love chicken. That’s right, folks.  I am obsessed. This may seem like no big deal to you, but up until about a month ago I would have told you I don’t eat chicken.  I have never had the taste for it–unless if was processed and formed into a nugget and half-eaten by one of my kids and I snatched it up before scraping it into the garbage disposal.  When I’d make chicken parm for my family, I’d make eggplant for myself.  Chicken or fish at a wedding?  Fish, please.  This all changed at the start of 2016.

I am currently 2 1/2 weeks into an online fitness boot camp in an attempt to do the dreaded “lose the baby weight” thing.  I love working out and I love eating fruits and veggies, but I’ve also let being a mom–especially a working mom–break so many of my disciplined habits.  I became a perpetual snacker who hardly ate real meals, a woman who felt guilty leaving the house for even a 20 minute run, and a person who heard the slightest child-whine or baby-cry in the distance and immediately turned off any workout DVD I had managed to begin. Yes, I would have still considered myself fit and healthy, but I wasn’t as fit and healthy or happy as I could have been. I’d play outside with my kids and run with them in my double-jogger and enlist them to help me blend my morning green smoothie.  But, I was often tired. I lost my patience rather easily. I resented my husband’s longer hours at work. I was pretty normal.

This boot camp is changing all of that.  It allows me to find accountability, motivation, and mindfulness through a group of women all embarking on a virtual fitness journey.  It encourages me to workout and to invite others to join me, like my husband, sister-in-law, and my kids.  It inspires me to pay attention to my eating and to really make the most of it by eating clean.  I have lost 3 1/2 pounds since I started the boot camp, and I attribute this to a combination of regular workouts, a true support system, and smarter eating.

What does this have to do with chicken?  Just about everything.  My online fitness coach helped me realize that I was lacking protein in most of my meals. This caused me to feel hungry, to be sluggish, and to crave sweets. As I did my own research on foods rich in protein and lower in fat, chicken repeatedly appeared.  Turkey, beans, lentils, nonfat plain Greek yogurt–these were already favorites of mine.  But chicken? Bleh. I sucked it up, though, and found that when stripped down and incorporated into healthful, clean recipes, chicken may be my new favorite thing.  Need proof?  I am lunching on crock pot salsa chicken over mixed greens and avocado right now.

I am now a meal-eater.  My husband and I were revealing in that fact last night. I have nearly cleaned my plate at every meal since January 4th when this began.  I know my metabolism is revved up, but I am also not filling myself with needless snacks. I am incorporating protein in every meal as well, which keeps me fuller longer and helps my body break down the fats and carbs I do consume.  Last night’s dinner–which I am calling Baked Chicken ala Yummy–was a perfect example of all of my new habits coming together. I ate chicken. I finished my meal. I woke up still full. 🙂

In full disclosure, this is an old recipe I happened upon years ago, maybe from a cooking show or online, that I tweaked to make my own.  I hadn’t cooked in ages, though. When Mom doesn’t want to eat chicken, Mom hardly cooks chicken.  Perhaps the best part of this dish is just how yummy your house smells while you bake it, hence the name.

I served this with a side of zucchini spaghetti, so I’ll include those directions as well.

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Baked Chicken ala Yummy

  • Servings: 4-6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

A tasty, simple chicken dinner the whole family can enjoy!

Ingredients

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut thin (or 4 cutlets)
  • 1 slice nitrate free turkey bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 large garlic clove, thinly slice
  • 1 tomato on the vine, diced
  • 1/3 cup part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 lemon for juicing, halved.
  • 1 large zucchini, spiraled into spaghetti (I use the Veggetti)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray the bottom of a large baking dish with non-stick spray.
  2. Place the 4 cutlets into your baking dish. Top with bacon, tomato, and garlic slices.  Sprinkle evenly with cheese.  Squeeze the juice of one-half of the lemon over the chicken.
  3. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes uncovered, then cover with foil for another 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through and your home smells good enough to eat.
  4. During the second phase of baking, bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add zucchini spaghetti and boil for 6-8 minutes, depending on the consistency you prefer.  Drain, and top with the juice of the other half of the lemon.
  5. Serve warm.  Enjoy!

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You can play around with this recipe in countless ways: use traditional bacon, eliminate the lemon juice and drizzle everything with olive oil, add onion as well, you name it!  Before I was eating clean and trying to avoid as many processed foods as possible, I would serve this with a side of pre-packaged mashed potatoes or refrigerated crescent rolls or something of that sort. I have really been able to eliminate much of these types of foods and feel less bloated and overall much healthier. Give it a try and I am sure you will have similar benefits.

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Please comment below with ways you made this recipe your own! Happy cooking!