Almond Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Clean Protein Bars

image.jpeg

Obviously, my goal was to come up with the longest name possible for these bars. Mission accomplished!

But I digress. These are delicious. These are easy. These are loved by my entire family. Yep, husband, kid, toddler, and my mom all approved. These are chewy and filling and full of protein. Plus, I know every ingredient since, well, I made them.

image

I’ve recently discovered–and become obsessed with–Luna bars. As a woman attempting to blend eating clean and following the 21 Day Fix nutrition plan and nursing/pumping for a five month old, I’ve had to find ways to consume healthy fats and complex carbs throughout my day. Enter the Luna bar and various nuts and seeds and avocado in my ShakeO, salads, and overnight oats. I keep one or two Luna bars in my bag at all times, though, so if hunger strikes and I’ve gone through all my snacks, I know I have something healthy and full of real food to nosh on. Two flavors are my faves: chocolate covered almond and chocolate chip cookie dough. Delicious, dessert-like, and perfect for my macros and hunger pangs.

This weekend, I began prepping for an upcoming clean eating group, Clean Eating with Kids. I have almost 40 participants already and want to make sure this 5-day push is helpful, healthful, and happy for all involved. My goal for the group is to educate moms–stay-at-home, working, single, etc–in the ease of clean eating and in the basic ins and outs of an 80/20 lifestyle. I will share a clean menu for all meals of the day, I will provide meal planning and prep tips and strategies, and I will provide motivation and accountability for the participants who wish to “cook along.” Most importantly, though, I want to free these moms, to help them gain more confidence in letting their kids get involved in the choices and cooling that take place in the kitchen. My experience is that the more my kids are involved in creating meals or snacks, the more likely they are to eat these foods. I was going over some of my menu ideas for the clean eating group with my 5 year old daughter and 3 year old son and told them I was considering making our own protein bars. “Yes!” Kayden exclaimed. “Let’s do that now!” So, with no forethought and no new ingredients, we set out to plan our own recipe. The kids checked the cupboards and I read through a few recipes I’ve pinned for granola bars and protein bars and energy bites and, with my two Luna fave flavors in mind, this is what we came up with!

image

Our recipe can be gluten free, but we did use peanut butter. You can easily substitute another nut butter if there is a peanut allergy. You can even leave out the almonds and/or add in something else–like shakes coconut or dried cranberries or chopped walnuts or whatever!

Almond Chocolate Cookie Dough Protein Bars

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Filling and yummy and gluten free if needed!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups rolled oats, roasted (certified gluten free if you need)
  • 1 cup all-natural peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup all-natural apple sauce
  • 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I used Shakeology)
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I used Shakeology)
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life dairy, soy, and gluten free morsels and chopped them roughly)
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds (I also chopped these roughly)

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick coconut oil spray and sprinkle the oats on top. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes. (This brings out the flavor and texture of the oats!).
  2. Let the oats cool, then combine all the ingredients, folding in the chocolate chips and almonds last. Your dough may become thick. We mixed a little by hand.
  3. Regrease your cookie sheet and shape the dough about 1/4 inch thick. It may not fill the whole sheet. A half sheet may work perfectly!
  4. Bake for 22-25 minutes. Allow to cool for 3 or so minutes before cutting into bars.
  5. Store in an air-tight container. Enjoy within 5 days.

image

Let me me know how they turn out. If you tweak the recipe at all, I’d love to hear that as well!

Want to try Shakeology to make this recipe? You can purchase it here or fill in the “contact me” below and I can send you a sample! ūüôā





 

Friday Favorites: Fiction Books!

Writing has been my first love for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I constantly wrote stories. ¬†I still remember a few gems. I drafted one story when I was 7 or so in this cool orange pen I found while on a play date at my neighbor Jessie’s house. ¬†The first full page of white-lined paper detailed the characters’ names and the names of all of their pets. ¬†What was rising action? ¬†I didn’t know. ¬†The next story I’ll always remember was intriguingly entitled “The Newsroom.” ¬†This grew out of my fascination with news reporters and desire to maybe become a meteorologist. I scribbled this story–along with illustrations–with a black pen and top-spiral mini legal pad I found at my grandparents’ house. There was a a marriage between the meteorologist and the sportscaster, a wannabe news reporter cue-card holder (this was 1992 or so!), and a purse thief mystery the station was able to solve. ¬†How no one has yet to pick up the television rights to this tale is beyond me. ¬†In second grade, we wrote weekly stories in our Squiggle Books based solely on a line or arc or swirl our teacher sketched on the facing page. ¬†A fan of short story series even then, I made sure my book was called All About Billy and that each story was, in turn, all about a fictional boy named Billy. ¬†I penned a “novel” in 8th grade,¬†Sarah Gold Turns 10 Years Old, which is as ridiculous as it sounds,¬†and have played around with countless other stories and poems¬†since.

But reading? ¬†This was a struggle for me. ¬†I am a slow reader, even now. ¬†I used to hide a notebook in the pages of our in-class reading books so I could write instead. Over time, though, I have come to treasure reading. ¬†Certain books, which I will share in my Friday Favorites today, have resonated with me. ¬†Now, as an adult, I always have a book or two I am reading. ¬†My love for reading came later in life–a fact I share quite honestly with my high school English students. ¬†Let me tell you about the books that, at various points in my life, paved the road to reading for me. ¬†I hope you’ll find a book to spark your interest. ¬†Please comment as well with the book that did it for you! ūüôā

1. The first book to stay with me: Stone Fox¬†by John Reynolds Gardiner (genre: children’s lit, ages 8-12)

I will forever remember when we began reading¬†Stone Fox¬†as a class. ¬†I was in fourth grade and had Mr. Sabol, my first ever male teacher and a true rock star in the classroom. ¬†He gave us all fun nicknames and made learning both entertaining and impactful. His wife taught across the hall, and they often engaged in playful banter from room to room with louder-than-usual comments like “I KNOW my class will perform better than HER class on this science project!” or “Just be glad HE’S not your teacher!” ¬†They were adorable and real. He remains a role model for me as not only an educator, but as a spouse as well.

But back to Stone Fox.¬†When Mr. Sabol¬†distributed the thin, pale blue books to us one morning, he said, “Trust me, kids, you will see me cry when we get to the ending.” ¬†He was right. ¬†The day we finished reading aloud, we all cried–boys and girls and teacher. When I got off the bus that day, I urged my mom to drive to the book store so we could buy it. ¬†We sat on the couch and read it cover to cover, and we cried, too. ¬†This is a story of triumph and fear and loss and family and second chances and so much more. ¬†This is the first book that got me. The memory alone still pulls at me.

2. The “pass around the cafeteria table and hide from our moms” book:¬†Forever by Judy Blume (genre: young adult)

Scandalous! That is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Forever¬†by Judy Blume. ¬†This book chronicles a shy girl’s first long-term high school relationship with blunt honesty and without a cheesy, forced romantic ending. ¬†This was a nuanced choice for an author at the time. ¬†Young adult books now, such as those by John Green, consistently push the envelope. ¬†Forever did this first. I remember when I happened upon this book in our school library in ninth grade. ¬†I immediately tore through it and encouraged every girl at my lunch table to read it as well. ¬†It was our own secret little book club. ¬†Forever¬†taught us about relationships in a way our moms and health classes didn’t. ¬†It was a contagious read. ¬†I have gone back and read it a handful of times since. ¬†Though it does have many out-of-date references (it was published in 1983) and technology has completely reshaped high school dramatics, it is still a classic that I may not recommend as a teacher, but I recommend as a girl.

I can recall 10 years ago when my yet-to-be mother-in-law asked me if I approved of her middle school-aged daughter reading it. ¬†I quickly told her, “no way!”. ¬†Then, I sent Rachel, who is now my sister-in-law and a wonderful aunt to my three cuties, an AIM message and told her to finish it anyway and talk to me when she was done. ¬†Sorry, Susan! ¬†It is a teen girl’s right of passage.

3. My favorite series for all ages and stages: Harry Potter by JK Rowling (though The Prisoner of Azkaban is my favorite one!)

I was late to the¬†HP¬†train, but once I boarded at Platform 9 3/4, I became¬†hooked for life. ¬†There are some die hard¬†HP¬†fans out there–my mom and best friends among them–and while I love each word and every crafty sentence of all 7 novels, I am not going to win a trivia contest or receive my honorary doctorate of wizardry from Hogwarts. But I know excellent writing when I read it, and Rowling delivers. The scope and depth of the story and backstories and character lineage alone truly create a world that exists¬†and not just in a reader’s mind; it is that complete and thought-out. I don’t believe one is ever too old or too young to give these novels a try.

I finally “caved” and read the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,¬†during my sophomore year of college. I was completing an independent study in which I co-ran a book club at a women’s maximum security prison and our goal was to read texts that allowed for mental “escape”. ¬†We selected the first¬†HP book,¬†The Giver,¬†Their Eyes Were Watching God,¬†and a few others, but Harry and his hoard of budding wizards won out over the other muggle-driven texts. This book showed me that literature, or even just the act of reading, can create a solace so vitally¬†needed in a person that it saves her. ¬†This book club, and this series, accomplished that for the 7 women I worked with at Edna Mahan.

4. My favorite “just for girls” series:¬†The Ya-Ya¬†books by Rebecca Wells (genre: realistic fiction, southern lit, short stories)

There was a period of time during and after college that I was decently obsessed with audiobooks. When we weren’t at school, Mike and I lived 2 hours away. ¬†Every other weekend, I spent 4 or so hours in the car to and from his house and fell in love with countless characters and tales. ¬†My favorite of these, though, is¬†Ya-Yas in Bloom¬†by Rebecca Wells. ¬†When I picked up this audiobook, which is a series of short stories, I didn’t realize it was a part of a trilogy¬†and wasn’t even the first book. ¬†I listened, loved, and laughed every minute of my drive. ¬†Not only is the writing¬†honestly humorous and hauntingly sad and femininely silly at the same time, but the voice actress reading the text nailed the southern accents. I have since purchased all of the books in the series and reread them in whole or in part many times. ¬†Each book contains interlocking short stories, so it is a perfect starting point for those who do not feel they have the time to commit to a full novel.

The stories follow the complex and sometimes strained relationships between mothers and daughters as well as the lifelong bonds of female friendships. Like JK Rowling, Wells creates a world for these women that is so vivid and crisp I have a hard time imagining it is all pretend–even the heart breaking moments.

5. The book that reminded me why I want to be a writer:¬†The Things They Carried¬†by Tim O’Brien (genre: metafiction, short stories)

I first read this “novel”–though, truly a collection¬†of short stories–in a creative writing class in college. ¬†Reading this text as a writer rather than as a reader reshaped who I thought I would become as a teacher and reignited my deep love for writing. ¬†This book taught me the value of using the writing of others to inform my own writing. ¬†Tim O’Brien’s use of metafiction is complex and sometimes confusing, but his details are precise and concise in the best way. ¬†I use small excerpts of the stories from this work when I teach craft to my English I students. ¬†Tim O’Brien knows the power of a word much like he knows the power of memory, a theme closely explored throughout¬†TTTC.¬†

The Things They Carried follows soldiers before, during, and after the Vietnam War.  This makes it a great choice for male readers looking to connect to a text. The short story layout, as I mentioned earlier, speaks to those who can only pick up a story every once in a while.  Some of the details are gruesome, but life can be, too.

6. My greatest reading accomplishment: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (genre: Russian lit, fiction, literary realism)

I read this book during the final semester of college. ¬†Yes–the entire semester. ¬†On top of course work and job interviews it did take months. Plus, the book¬†is really, really long! ¬†That is why¬†Anna Karenina¬†is my greatest reading accomplishment. ¬†This sweeping saga follows a Russian socialite through a personal awakening of sorts that ends her marriage but awakens her soul. ¬†Sappy sounding, I know, but I enjoyed this novel as much for its torrid love story as I did for its look into Russian history and culture. ¬†I fell in love with some characters, like Katia, and despised others. ¬†I embraced¬†the descriptions and coldness of both the people and landscapes. ¬†I just adored the experience.

Reading this book really was an experience. ¬†I remember getting to Dr. Meixner’s seminar class early just so I could sit alone and read a few pages. ¬†I would read while I was on the elliptical machine at the gym. And, oh, I loved the feel of the book. ¬†I had never had that much adoration for the feel of a book in my hands. ¬†I linked the exact version I read so you can understand what I mean. ¬†It was beautiful. ¬†The cover was so soft. ¬†The pages were thin, Bible-like. This book is most likely the reason I have a hard time using an eReader even now. There is nothing quite like having the perfect book in your hands; this one did that for me.

7. My favorite mindless, funny, yet real read: Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella (genre: chick lit)

I have love affairs with authors. ¬†If a book clicks with me, for whatever reason, I will read the author’s entire catalog before moving on to someone new. I am very much like Taylor Swift in a reader kind of¬†way. ¬†Sophie Kinsella’s fun, light-hearted, and self-aware novel Can You Keep a Secret?¬†ignited my love for her and my appreciation for chick lit. ¬†I am a serious English major turned English teacher. ¬†I am supposed to only read classics, right? ¬†No way. ¬†This story and its protagonist, Emma, are as self-deprecating, quirky, klutzy, and anxiety-ridden as can be–much like me. ¬†I find¬†Emma, and all of Kinsella’s other heroines since, so relatable in the most exaggerated of senses. ¬†This was refreshing to me as a reader. I love all of her books, but three¬†other must-tries are¬†Remember Me?, Twenties Girl,¬†and¬†I’ve Got your Number.¬†I actually shed a tear at the end of that last title, and not because the ending was sad. ¬†I was sad to end my reading relationship with the main character.

8. My favorite “everyone should read it or has read it already” novel:¬†The Kite Runner¬†by Khaled Hosseini (genre: historic fiction)

This is a must-read.  If you can, though, I suggest the audiobook of The Kite Runner as well as it is narrated by the author.  His authentic accent and bodily connection to the story make for the most perfect experience. This is a story of fathers and sons and friendships in both pre-war and war-torn Afghanistan.  It is eye-opening, heart-breaking, and breath-taking. Hosseini is one of the most gifted writers of exposition I have encountered.  He is so subtle you almost overlook the true depravity of a situation.  But he treats life with a sense of fragility and kindness that makes you feel real emotion, not fictional emotion.

I implore you to read¬†A Thousand Splendid Suns¬†as well. ¬†I actually love this book more than¬†The Kite Runner,¬†but went with¬†Kite¬†for my list because it is more widely recognized. ¬†Suns¬†chronicles a female perspective of life in Afghanistan and how the lives of different women from different circumstances cross paths in unexpected but honest ways. Again, the subtlety and beauty of Hosseini’s descriptions will leave you breathless.

There you have it: my 8 favorite fiction texts.  I cannot wait to read your suggestions as well!

 

In a future post, I will explore the non-fiction and children’s books that I love and my kids enjoy. Happy reading, now that you have 8 books to add to your list! ¬†ūüėČ

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!

IMG_6711

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.

IMG_6661

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.
IMG_6639
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? ūüôā 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:

IMG_6553

  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.

IMG_6540

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 H√§agen-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.

FullSizeRender (7)

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!