almond butter

The Weekend Five: Movie Night Snacks That Won’t Throw Your Diet Off Track

Ever since I began my MBA program in May, schoolwork has consumed a lot of my free time on the weekends that I would normally spend with family or friends. As I start to develop more of a routine, I look for little ways to add balance to my life so that work and school aren’t my only focuses. From a beach day with one of my best friends to berry picking adventures in Ocoee, I still try to make time for myself to enjoy the world and everything it has to offer.

On the weekends when it’s harder to get out, there’s nothing better than a night in with the perfect movie, a warm blanket, and delicious snacks. Of course, when we think of movie-related snacks, we tend to think of super-buttery popcorn (admittedly a guilty pleasure of mine), giant soft drinks, and boxes of Junior Mints — all very high in calories and not particularly good for you. Luckily, I’ve mastered the art of selecting guilt-free movie night snacks that still pack a lot of flavor, and I’m excited to share those with you this week!

The Weekend Five: Movie Night Snacks That Won’t Throw Your Diet Off Track

Healthy Movie Night Snacks1. SkinnyPop Popcorn.
Anyone who has ever lived within a 5-mile radius of me knows how much I love popcorn. What I don’t love is seeing how much my skin breaks out and how bloated I feel after I eat it! SkinnyPop has been a deliciously satisfying alternative for me. Their popcorn is low in calories (just 39 calories per cup) and doesn’t have any of the hard-to-pronounce artificial ingredients that comprise so many of our grocery stores’ snack aisles. They offer several flavors (the white cheddar is another one of my favorites!), and they also sell individual 100-calorie packs if you want to have them pre-portioned for you. SkinnyPop was the perfect treat for last night’s viewing of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof!

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2. Bowl of fruit.
I love to wash a bowl of grapes for an easy, no-mess movie snack, but the world is your oyster. Slice up a banana and combine with strawberries and blueberries for another healthy choice, or raid your fridge to mix up a fun fruit salad. That way, you’re getting plenty of nutrients while still enjoying yourself, and even if you go a little overboard, you probably aren’t doing yourself a whole lot of damage.

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The Better Chip3. Vegetable chips.
I’m obsessed with The Better Chip‘s Spinach and Kale chips, which have very few ingredients and still fulfill any chip cravings you might have. They have a variety of flavors to choose from, or you can go ahead and make your own. Love sweet potatoes? Try the Minimalist Baker’s Sweet Potato Chip recipe for something healthy, delicious and homemade.

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4. Veggies and hummus.
I don’t know about you, but I love to dunk baby carrots and other raw veggies in hummus! Hummus is filling enough that you’re likely to stop yourself from going completely overboard, and although there is some debate on the health benefits of legumes (sorry, paleo friends!), there is no denying that they taste absolutely amazing. 🙂

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ApplePizza5. Apple pizzas.
Cut up some apple slices, lather with almond butter, and sprinkle on raisins, unsweetened shredded coconut, and cinnamon! I could eat these for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but they also make for a delicious movie night snack. These are as much fun to make as they are to eat. They are filled with fiber and healthy fats, but will still satisfy your sweet tooth when you are looking for a healthy dessert.

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What are your favorite guilt-free movie night snacks? Share yours in the comments section below! 🙂

Your Health in Action: A Beginner’s Guide to Paleo Kitchen Staples

A Beginner's Guide to Paleo Kitchen Staples
A lot can change in a year.
 Since my first round of Whole30 in February 2014, I have transformed from a pasta-and-frozen-dinner connoisseur with minimal cooking skills into an amateur paleo foodie with slightly better cooking skills. I use words like “zest” and “poach” in conversation, make my own salad dressings, own a spiralizer and occasionally turn cauliflower into rice. I’m nowhere near perfect – I still succumb to processed foods on occasion and I’m no stranger to a burnt dinner. However, I’m amazed to see how far I’ve come in my journey to a healthier lifestyle.

Of course, nothing happens overnight, and I’ve undergone a lot of trial and error and last-second trips to the grocery store for that one final ingredient. Over time, I’ve learned to stock my pantry for more seamless meal prep, and I am excited to share my list of kitchen necessities with you!

Paleo-FunnyThis list is a must-have for anyone transitioning to a paleo lifestyle or beginning a program like the Whole30. For those who are unfamiliar, the Whole30 is a 30-day elimination program that cuts out grains (including gluten-free grains like quinoa and millet), legumes, soy, dairy, sugar/sweeteners, alcohol and a few other ingredients. I began my third round of the program in January and documented it here, for those interested in learning more.

Pin this article, save it to your favorites, or print it up and stick it to your refrigerator. Having these items on-hand ahead before you start cooking will save you a lot of time and extra grocery runs. 🙂 Be sure to check your ingredients before making any final purchases!

  • Almond Butter. Because I’m allergic to peanuts, I’ve always been a fan of almond butter! Peanuts are a legume, so for many paleo and Whole30 followers, peanuts and peanut butter are sorely missed. But fear not – almond butter is a fantastic substitute. Use it to top your favorite fruit for an extra protein/fat boost.
  • Almond Flour. Made from crushed almonds, almond flour can be used in a lot of recipes. In my case, I use it as a “breading” for chicken! I buy Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Accurate.

    Accurate.

    Broth. I don’t make my own bone broths from scratch, so I buy Imagine’s Organic Free Range Chicken Broth. Most store bought broths have added sweeteners like cane sugar, but not this one!

  • Coconut Aminos. You’ll be seeing a lot of coconut products when browsing paleo and Whole30 recipes, so you’d better get used to that now. Coconut aminos are a great substitute for soy sauce! I use this ingredient in my stir fry dishes and don’t taste a difference. I buy them at my local Earth Origins outlet, but they are also available at Whole Foods.
  • Coconut Flour. I use coconut flour for a similar purpose to almond flour, like with coconut crusted chicken. I buy Bob’s Red Mill.
  • Coconut Oil. Coconut oil is a great choice of healthy cooking fat, and it adds a little extra oomph to your dish without being overpowering. I use Spectrum’s coconut oil. Scramble your eggs in coconut oil for a fun mix of flavors.
  • m-meme-regret-donutsCompliant Sauces. Most store-bought sauces are filled with sugar or unnatural sweeteners, but if you can find something with healthy ingredients, it will be a huge time-saver when you need a topping for your zucchini noodles. I love Monte Bene’s Garlic Marinara sauce!
  • Dijon Mustard. I use Dijon all the time in my creamier salad dressings. Check the ingredients to make sure you’re compliant! I use Annie’s.
  • Emergency Foods. For me, Larabars are a perfect grab-and-go food. I have a very event-driven job that sometimes requires me to work during mealtimes, often with very tempting free foods nearby. Having my emergency foods on hand helps me stay honest and avoid breaking a promise to myself in the name of convenience. I also love That’s It Fruit Bars and the fruit bars sold at Trader Joe’s. (Of course, as always, check your ingredients – some bars may not be compliant with your program!)
  • Extra Light Olive Oil. Sometimes a recipe calls for olive oil and it’s not the taste you’re going for. I use extra light olive oil for lighter recipes, like Moroccan Carrot Salad. The Whole30 team also suggests this variety for homemade mayo.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This is another delicious cooking fat that you can find easily at your local grocery store. Use it for roasting veggies, pan-frying poultry or pouring all over your enemies before making a quick escape. (Okay, maybe skip that last one.)
  • Food Processor. This will save you a lot of time in the kitchen. I don’t have a preferred brand, but make sure you dust yours off before embarking on a Whole30!
  • kitchen staplesGhee. Ghee is completely magical and the only form of dairy allowed during the Whole30. Ghee is produced when butter is heated and the milk proteins (which a lot of folks are sensitive to) are separated. Ghee tastes just like butter and can be used as a cooking fat as well.
  • Shredded Coconut. Oh, hey, would you look at that? More coconut! Make sure you buy the unsweetened variety. This tastes delicious with chicken or even as a fruit topping for something a little decadent. This is what I buy.
  • Spices. Make sure you have a nice assortment of spices in your cabinets for delicious and natural seasoning. A few staples to keep around include salt, pepper, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, chili powder, cayenne, and Italian seasoning. Think about what flavors your taste buds enjoy, and add it to the list!
  • healthy kitchen staplesSpiralizer. I can’t believe I didn’t get one of these until recently. My spiralizer is fantastic for making “noodles” out of veggies, like cucumbers, sweet potatoes and zucchini. I have a very basic Veggetti spiralizer, but it does the trick!
  • Vinegar. Vinegar is great for homemade dressings and relishes, and many varieties are compliant as long as you check the ingredients. A few goodies to keep in your cupboard include apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar and rice wine vinegar.

While this is not an exhaustive list, I hope these tools, condiments and other staples are helpful to you as you embark on your healthy new journey!

Paleo pros: What do you think is important for everyone to stock in their kitchen? Share in the comments below!