clean eating

Summer Snack Challenge: Fun Fruit Sliders

Hey there, readers! Today marked the last day of my first semester of MBA school, and I can’t believe how quickly the time flew by. Juggling two graduate-level business classes with a full-time job was no joke, so I’m definitely looking forward to having a nice little break from school between semesters. July may be nearly over, but it feels like my summer is just getting started! 🙂

Every good summer requires a trip to the beach, time spent outdoors, and at least one cookout with family and friends. I love creating fun little side dishes to bring out to social gatherings, so when I heard that Nuts.com was holding a recipe contest to create a summer snack using specific ingredients,  I knew I had to participate! 🙂

From there, these fruit sliders were born. Sprinkled with super foods like goji berries, which are filled with antioxidants, and chia seeds, which are rich in Omega-3, this snack is the perfect combination of healthy and delicious. These fruit sliders are so easy to make that they barely require a recipe, and the best part is, you can swap out the fruit depending on what you are in the mood for. I chose bananas, but apple slices would also go great with these ingredients!

This recipe serves one person as an individual snack, so adjust your quantities accordingly.

Healthy Fruit Sliders

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Peel and slice banana.
  2. Spread each slice with cacao butter as desired.
  3. Top with cacao nibs and goji berries (about one goji berry per banana slice should suffice, depending on how big your slices are).
  4. Sprinkle with chia seeds.
  5. Serve. (It’s really that easy!)

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For more fun summer recipes and other cool food products from a family owned business, visit Nuts.com. 🙂

 

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! 🙂

Adventures in Florida: Blueberry Picking in Ocoee

Hey there, readers – it’s been a while! A lot has happened since my last post, most notably that I started an MBA program and seem to know more about regression analysis these days than who’s who on The Bachelorette. It has been a wild ride so far, hopefully to be shared in another blog post soon!

Last month, as a much-needed break from studying, I decided to knock another item off my 25 at 25 bucket list. Just days before the season’s end, I took a little road trip out to Ocoee and stopped at the Tom West Blueberries U-Pick Farm.

TomWestBlueberries

I may stumble in and out of the world of paleo living, but one thing is for certain: I will always love my fruits and veggies. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that – as someone who lives in a warm climate hospitable to many types of produce – I would have to go berry picking someday.

In Florida, the peak strawberry and blueberry seasons run in the early springtime from around March to May, depending on your farm and crop of choice. Tom West Blueberries is a family owned and operated farm, offering activities for all ages during the U-Pick season.

TomWestBlueberriesThe process, while simple enough, was a whole lot of fun. Once I arrived, I grabbed a bucket and hopped on a tractor, which dropped me off in the nearby blueberry fields. There I had the opportunity to taste and pick the emerald blueberries, a very large and sweet variety of blueberry that I would highly recommend to anyone who visits in the future.

Tom West Blueberries

By the end of my blueberry-picking adventure, I picked and purchased about 3 pounds of delicious, perfectly blue blueberries, which I shared with friends, classmates and family over the next week. In hindsight, I wish I’d picked more so I could freeze them and enjoy even longer! Not only were the blueberries perfectly in season, but there was something so rewarding about eating something I had personally hand-picked at the farm, rather than in the grocery store. (Sorry, Publix – I still love you!)

tomwestblueberries2

Whether you’re looking for fresh produce or simply a fun way to spend the afternoon, I highly recommend visiting a local U-Pick farm! The experience really does appeal to all age groups, and if I ever have children, this will be a must-visit for them too. I look forward to returning to Tom West next season, and can’t wait to visit other local farms for different U-Pick experiences soon!

What types of U-Pick farms have you visited? Share in the comments section below. 🙂

For recaps of my other bucket list adventures, click here!

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals Back on TrackFor many of us, the beginning of a diet program can often feel like the beginning of a relationship. We’re excited to embark on something new, enthusiastic about the changes in our lives, and looking forward to the possibilities ahead. Of course, after that honeymoon period runs its course, sometimes it can be difficult to maintain that same level of enthusiasm toward the program, as we become complacent or begin to recognize the uncomfortable moments more often than we used to.

I began experimenting with a paleo lifestyle back in 2014 by completing my first Whole30, and since then, the program has played a significant role in my health and wellness. However, I sometimes struggle with motivation and consistency, and find my health journey to be a work in progress. The more that I talk to others in the Whole30 community, the more that I learn that a second, third, or fourth Whole30 can often be much harder than the first, because many of us do have difficulty staying on track even after we’ve experienced positive results.

Sounds a little counter-intuitive, right? Luckily, I’ve dedicated the better part of 2016 thus far to really focusing on ways to re-motivate ourselves once the magic wears off. Read below for my tips on keeping up with your program and remaining empowered even after the honeymoon period is over! 🙂

Reigniting The Spark: How To Get Your Health Goals On Track

How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track1. Dedicate time for meal prep.
Let’s face it — eating healthy can be time-consuming! You’re preparing most of your own meals from scratch, avoiding a lot of the quick but nutrient-deficient shortcuts a lot of us fall victim to. Because of this, it can be so easy to give up after a long day of work and other responsibilities, and order takeout instead. An easy way to save time and take out a lot of the guesswork is to create a meal plan ahead of time and do a lot of the prep work early. For me, Sundays are the perfect day to decide what I’m going to eat each day (and yes, I do incorporate my social outings into that plan), buy the appropriate foods at the grocery store, and begin prepping those foods.

So what does “meal prep” mean to me? Typically, I’ll put on some vintage Keeping Up With The Kardashians (or another show that entertains me but doesn’t require too much concentration), and set aside an hour or two to chop up veggies for dishes I’ll eat throughout the week, wash fruit for easy grab-and-go access, and hard-boil some eggs to have a convenient protein source available at any time. Your meal prep can be as elaborate as you choose — some like to prepare all of their meals to reheat, and that works too! For me, having my veggies pre-washed and pre-chopped makes it easy to just throw them on the stove or in the oven later in the week, and saves me a ton of time!

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2. Make things exciting in the kitchen.
Browse Pinterest for cool recipes you can try (check mine out here for inspiration!), or invest in a new kitchen gadget you look forward to using. Find ways to spice things up in the kitchen — literally! When I started to grow sick of scrambled eggs, I started adding cumin and turmeric for a bold new flavor profile. When I’ve enjoyed a new ethnic dish and wanted to make a healthier version of it at home, I’ve often searched “lightened up __” or “paleo ___” to expand my culinary horizons. Figure out those routine favorites that you can make quickly and regularly, but continue to branch out so that things don’t become too stale. Why not aim to try one new recipe each week?

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How To Get Your Health Goals Back On Track3. Incorporate positive mantras into your program.
I’ve struggled with body image issues for as long as I can remember.  Since I was in middle school, I always associated health and weight loss goals as something negative, something to be ashamed of, instead of as a way to improve your overall well-being. A few months ago, I decided to flip the switch on that mindset by giving myself motivational notes to wake up to each morning. These quotes and messages give me a positive affirmation to focus on throughout the day, and remind me of how far I’ve come. The notes were so successful for me that they even went viral on the Whole30 Instagram page! 🙂 I try to create new words of encouragement for myself each and every month.

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4. Hide the scale.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ve let that little number either make or break your whole day. One of the rules of the Whole30 program is to not weigh yourself for the entire 30 days, but over the years, this was the rule I always broke. I found that if I wasn’t losing weight fast enough, then even if I felt other positive changes from my diet (better skin, more energy, etc.), I often gave up halfway through the month. This January, I finally stowed the scale away in my guest room (out of sight, out of mind) and fully avoided it for the entire month. Taking a break from weighing myself multiple times per day was extremely helpful for me and showed me just how unhealthy my relationship with the scale truly was. If you consider yourself overly dependent on the scale, I challenge you to hide it for a month!

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5. Find accountability partners.
Use social media or find people in your real life with whom you can be accountable! I belong to a few private groups on Facebook, some dedicated to Whole30 and some more focused on clean eating as it differs by individual, and having a strong support system makes it that much easier to stay on track. Whether you join one of those private groups or simply find a gym buddy to keep you on your toes, find others who are just as health-focused and turn to each other!

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What are your tips for staying motivated? Share yours in the comments section below!

Turmeric Scrambled Eggs

One of my biggest struggles on the Whole30 over the past few rounds has been making sure I get enough protein into my diet — and the easiest source of protein for me has been eggs. Eggs are a fantastic superfood, can be hard-boiled in large batches for portable nutrition, and don’t require the same level of attention as handling raw meat.

Of course, eggs get a bad rap by Day 10 of a Whole30, as we start to grow sick of the monotony. After all, many of us feel like we’re eating Gaston-level portions of eggs! When I’m not following Whole30, I love scrambling my eggs with a little cheese, but because my diet is currently dairy-free, I’m stuck with a really boring breakfast.

Recently, I started experimenting in the kitchen to make a better, more flavorful scrambled egg dish. Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory, while cumin is a good source of iron and may be beneficial for diabetics and asthmatics. This “recipe” is so easy that I can barely call it a recipe, but too delicious not to share!

Turmeric Scrambled Eggs

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • A few shakes of turmeric (to your liking)
  • A few shakes of cumin (to your liking)
  • Salt to taste

Instructions:

  1. Melt your ghee over medium heat.
  2. Crack in your eggs and stir.
  3. Sprinkle on turmeric and cumin to your liking, and mix.
  4. Scramble until eggs are as well done as you prefer.
  5. Salt to taste.
  6. Serve.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies!

Sautéed Green Beans & Diced Tomatoes

In many circles, I am known as a picky eater. This is sort of a silly thing to be known for, and I hate when family members bring it up, but since childhood, allergies and food sensitivities have made me hesitant to try new foods. (I’m also half convinced that I am a super taster!) However, several rounds of Whole30 have opened me up to a lot of new foods, especially vegetables, that I never really bothered to eat in the past. Green beans are a veggie that – when prepared the right way – I have grown to love!

Sautéed Green Beans with Diced Tomatoes

For those of you who still are skeptics when it comes to green beans, test out this recipe as soon as you can! Green beans are a great source of nutrition that can take on a variety of flavors, and this recipe is a great way to incorporate a few different veggies into your diet. I love sneaking extra vegetables into my side dishes! This dish serves one — adjust your quantities accordingly!

Sautéed Green Beans with Diced Tomatoes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup green beans, stems removed
  • 2 tbsp petite diced tomatoes (for convenience, I used the canned kind)
  • 1 tbsp diced water chestnuts
  • 1 tsp ghee
  • Salt and garlic to taste

Instructions:

  1. Bring a pot of water to boil and add in your green beans. Cook on medium for 10 minutes.
  2. Remove from heat and strain. Pat green beans to dry.
  3. Over medium low heat, melt ghee on a skillet.
  4. Add green beans, tomatoes, water chestnuts, garlic and salt.
  5. Cook on medium low for 20 minutes or until desired consistency.
  6. Remove from heat and serve!

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies!

Easy Whole30 Sweet Potato Recipe – Perfect for Thanksgiving!

Get excited, friends – Thanksgiving is almost here! You might not have realized that, with all of your neighbors’ Christmas decorations already up, but it’s time to break out your favorite stretch pants and start fighting fellow shoppers for the best turkey in the store. (At least I think that’s how people celebrate?) 🙂

In all seriousness, Thanksgiving is a time to remember all of the wonderful things you are thankful for, and in my case, I’m thankful for being able to spend the holiday with my family. I’m also thankful for this easy and fabulous sweet potato dish I’m about to share with you today!

I’ve always loved sweet potatoes, but I’ve never really understood why people were so quick to add sweeteners and marshmallows to theirs. Aren’t sweet potatoes sweet enough on their own? My method takes very little time to make, includes no added sugars, and is so simple that I almost feel guilty calling it a recipe. I love to make these sweet potatoes when the weather starts cooling down – it’s a great way to warm up for breakfast, lunch or dinner! They are also paleo and Whole30 compliant. How much better can life get?

My recipe serves one, so adjust your quantities accordingly!

Whole30 Sweet Potatoes - No sugar added!

Ingredients

  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 cup applesauce, unsweetened (read your labels!)
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Directions

  • Peel your sweet potato and roughly chop into a few medium-sized pieces.
  • Bring a pot of water to boil and add in your sweet potato pieces. Cook on medium for 5 minutes.
  • Drain, then add the sweet potato pieces to your food processor.
  • Pulse for a few seconds until it starts to reach a desired consistency.
  • Add in 1 cup of applesauce, and pulse again.
  • Add in cinnamon, then pulse one more time.
  • Transfer to bowl, add a little more cinnamon for garnish (optional), and serve.

If you try this recipe, let me know what you think! Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies!

Healthy Veggie-Loaded Hash Browns

These healthy veggie-loaded hash browns are also Whole30 compliant!

When I think about hash browns, the first thing that comes to mind is the side dish at one of those diners where you always end up ordering way too much food and waddling back to your car. The second thing that comes to mind is a delicious potato recipe fried on a high heat with bad oils and more butter than Paula Deen would know how to handle. I love hash browns, but I hardly think of them as a healthy meal.

Of course, several rounds of Whole30 have required me to get a little creative (by the way, I’m on Day 1 today!), and after a recent hash brown craving, I wound up creating this masterpiece. White potatoes are considered Whole30-compliant — Hallelujah! — so why not add to the party by mixing other veggies to make a fabulous breakfast bowl?

Paderno Spiralizer

I use my Paderno 3-blade spiralizer to quickly shred my potatoes for this dish. If you’re considering a paleo lifestyle or embarking on a Whole30, I highly recommend you invest in a spiralizer like this — it’s a great way to integrate more veggies into your diet and enjoy a new texture. (As someone who misses pasta terribly, I love the noodle consistency that the spiralizer gives many of my compliant foods.)

Add in a couple of eggs prepared to your liking, and you’ve got a full meal! This recipe feeds one hungry person (myself) but could also serve as more of a side dish for two, especially if you’re cooking up a big breakfast. Adjust the quantities accordingly!

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole white potato, peeled
  • 1 cup broccoli slaw (mixed package of shredded broccoli, carrots and cabbage)
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced (whichever color strikes your fancy!)
  • 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp paprika
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: Garlic to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add broccoli slaw and diced bell pepper to the pan.
  3. Spiralize your potato with the thinner blade. Chop up the spiralized pieces afterward so you don’t end up with 12-foot potato noodles!
  4. Add the spiraled potatoes, paprika, salt and garlic powder (optional) to the pan.
  5. Cook on medium for about 20 minutes or until it reaches desired crispiness, stirring occasionally.
  6. Remove from heat and serve. Bon appétit!

I hope you enjoy today’s hash brown recipe! Test it out and let me know what you think. Don’t forget to share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies! 🙂

Aloo Gobi (Curried Cauliflower & Potatoes)

If you’re anything like me, you have a few favorite comfort food recipes that regularly make it into your meal rotation. In my case, I can’t get enough of this aloo gobi recipe — I make it at least once (if not two or three times!) per week. This Indian-inspired dish mixes cauliflower and potatoes and is not only easy to make, but it’s Whole30 compliant! In other words, it’s healthy and packed with flavor.

Aloo Gobi Recipe - Whole30 Compliant!

One of the great things about this meal is that you can easily customize it to match your taste preferences. Add in turmeric, garam masala, or tomatoes to switch up the flavor profile. Oh, and did I mention that it pairs amazingly with my curry and coconut crusted chicken bites? You can thank me later. 😉

I live alone and generally cook for one, so this recipe is meant to serve one fairly hungry person or two less hungry people with no sense of adventure (kidding). Adjust the quantities based on your needs!

Aloo Gobi Recipe - Whole30 Compliant!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp ghee/clarified butter (or regular butter if you’re not following Whole30)
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • Sprinkle of chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Optional: A few spoonfuls of petite diced tomatoes

Directions:

  1. Melt your ghee or butter over medium heat.
  2. Add in cauliflower florets and diced potato.
  3. Drizzle on olive oil, then mix in curry powder, garlic powder, chili powder and salt.
  4. Cook on medium for about 20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.
  5. Remove from heat, take a million photos of it until you can get the lighting right, post on Instagram with a few decent hashtags, and serve.

Bon appétit! If you try this recipe, let me know what you think. 🙂 Please share and subscribe to my blog for more recipes, Whole30 resources and other goodies!

Link Love Wednesday: Rock Mafia and Haunted Houses

ridinghoodshoI can’t believe Halloween is already almost here! The month of October really flew by, and I’m still not really sure what my costume will entail this year — although there’s a good chance that I’ll break out the famous tiger ears again! 😉

What are your Halloween plans this year? Let me know what you’re up to in the comments section below. (I’m in need of some costume inspiration!) As always, enjoy this week’s Link Love.

Things I’m Loving Lately

  • The delicious handcrafted marshmallows at Wondermade, a local cafe in Sanford, FL. You can purchase their many flavors as gift packages online!
  • When The Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka, about one family’s experience with the Japanese internment camps during World War II. A very moving read.
  • The Big Bang by Rock Mafia. It isn’t new to me, but I could listen to this song for hours on repeat.
  • My recent purchases made through Pop Your Pup. It’s an awesome place to make pop art T-shirts of your pets!
  • Julian Edelman, Wide Receiver for the New England Patriots. He’s been on my fantasy football team from the beginning, and what he lacked in points this week, he easily made up for in dashing good looks. 🙂

What’s your favorite link love this week? Share your latest findings in the comments section below!