April 30, 2014

Abs are Made in the Kitchen and Revealed in the Gym

Since everybody is looking for toned and defined abs to complete a summer beach body, I want to post a little motivation.  This is also to motivate myself, since I've been slacking a little.

I firmly believe in the statements: abs are made in the kitchen, but revealed in the gym.  You can work your core for hours, but if you have a poor diet, you're work is negated and progress remains at a standstill.

I've seen the positive and negative effects that a poor diet can have on my abs.  If I eat a lot of processed sugars and sodium, my belly bloats and my abs go on vacation.  Once I resume my healthy diet, my abs begin to pop out again.

To get you started, I want to share one of my favorite ab routines as well as some diet tweaks that you can do to get you started.

  • Reduce processed food.

By reducing the amount of processed foods you eat, you’ll quickly see a decrease in belly bloat.  Processed foods are loaded with sodium and refined sugars which cause extreme bloating.  Try seasoning you foods with sea salt or natural sweeteners such as stevia, honey, or agave.
Because whole grains do not undergo heavy processing, they are higher in nutritional value.  Switching from processed white flour foods to whole grain based foods is beneficial because the white flours have been refined to reduce their nutritional value.  Fill your daily grain requirement with brown rice, oats, whole wheat pasta, and sprouted grain bread.  You’ll meet your daily fiber requirement which will also help keep you feeling fuller.

  • Healthy fats are key.

Be mindful of the fats you’re consuming.  Healthy fats are important to help boost your body’s ability to burn the bad fats.  Just because peanut butter considered a healthy fat, doesn’t mean that consuming the whole jar in one day is healthy.  Moderation and variety are important.  Stick to nuts/nut butters, avocados, coconut/olive oils to get most of your daily fats.

  • Add lean protein.

Lean proteins are going to help build muscles.  Stick to chicken, turkey fish, Greek yogurt, and whey protein to make sure you’re getting an adequate amount of protein daily to help repair muscle tissue.

  • Drink water.

Increase water consumption to help flush toxins out and keep you feeling fuller.

Now for the "reveal".  Here's a basic pyramid routine that will work your upper, lower, and side abs.  Give this a try 2-3 days a week.  For beginners, try reducing the pyramid numbers in half (30 second plank hold, 25 crunches, etc.) but still complete everything in the same order.

Remember that diet and exercise combined are going to help you achieve your goals!

April 24, 2014

What is HITT?

I get asked a lot about what kind of workouts I do.  Since summer is coming and lots of people are cramming for a nice summer body, I’ve decided to start posting some of them here as a way to share them with everybody.  For the most part I do strength training with weights and for cardio I incorporate HITT.

If you’re like me and can’t stand running on the treadmill for more than 5 minutes without getting bored, I suggest trading your treadmill routine for a HITT workout.  HITT or High Intensity Interval Training has become a popular buzz term among the fitness world.  It’s the concept of alternating high intensity exercises with low or moderate intensity exercises or rest periods in between.

You will achieve more progress in a 15 minute HITT workout than one hour of treadmill jogging.  The short bursts of high intensity will improve your aerobic and anaerobic endurance.  This will allow your body to burn significantly more fat during and after the workout while still preserving your muscles. 

There’s no excuse as to why you can’t complete a HITT workout because you don’t need an expensive gym membership or fancy workout equipment.  I’ve found that the best exercises to get your heart rate up are plyometric moves, such as jump lunges, and moves that don’t require equipment, like high knees.

For me it’s about maximizing my time and getting the most out of it.  I love going to the gym, but I’m not the type of person that will spend hours workout out.  I like to get in and get out in the fastest and most effective time possible.  Therefore, I try to include a HITT workout into my routine at two to four times a week.  I like to follow two different HITT formats.  I’ll either use an Interval Timer App to track either 60/30 or 30/10 cycled time period workouts (shown below: HITT Circuit) or do a circuit of exercises from high reps to low reps (shown below: HITT Workout).

HITT Workout
60 Jump Ropes
50 High Knees
40 Mountain Climbers
30 Speed Skaters
20 Russian Twists
10 Burpees

60 second: Rest
Repeat 4 Times

HITT Circuit
30 seconds: Mountain Climber
15 seconds: Rest

30 seconds: Air Squats
15 seconds: Rest

30 seconds: Split Jump
15 seconds: Rest

30 seconds: Burpee
15 seconds: Rest

60 second: Rest
Repeat 5 Times

I’m no personal trainer and I have no professional training, but I’ve found that this is what works for me and what keeps me motivated, so I’m sticking with it!

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

Most people indulged in a nice slice of carrot cake over Easter weekend and since I missed out, I had to make up for it by recreating it in my morning oats.  This was so fantastic and I was so disappointed when I reached the bottom of the jar, that I've had to recreate this breakfast several times this week!

Carrot Cake Oatmeal

  • 1/4 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup oat bran
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 5 mini carrots; grated
  • 2 T plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 scoop vanilla protein powder
  • 1 stevia packet
  • 1 T chopped walnuts or raisins (optional)
  • 1 T Walden Farms caramel sauce
  1. Combine all of the ingredients (except the caramel)
  2. Microwave on high for 3 minutes; stopping at 1 minute increments to stir the oats
  3. Top with additional grated carrots

April 16, 2014

Quest Bar Review

I’m a quest-a-holic.  These bars have saved me from my cravings so many times.  The best part is that I’m able to satisfy my cravings while not ruining my healthy diet.  Quest Bars are an all-natural protein bar and contain only 4g of "active" carbs.  They’re gluten free and don't contain sugar unlike most protein bars.  High in fiber and protein yet relatively low in fat, this is my go-to protein bar of choice.
These bars are great as a standalone snack, but I’ve gotten creative with them and incorporated them into numerous treats and meals. Since I've been sharing more and more Quest Bar related recipes, I thought I would do a review of my favorite flavors and preferred methods of eating them.

Cookies & Cream
Don’t get me wrong this flavor is gets a nice creaminess when microwaved, but I was hoping for more of an Oreo flavor.

Double Chocolate Chunk
This flavor is similar to the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, but if I had to choose, I’d go with the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough just because, in my opinion, it resembles a traditional cookie more.

White Chocolate Raspberry
This is one of my favorite flavors.  I love adding it to my morning oats with some added raspberries.  It’s also great microwaved.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
My favorite flavor!  It’s saved me from my cookie monster cravings time and time again.  I love it microwaved, baked, and broiled. 

Chocolate Brownie
When microwaved this bar does resemble a brownie.  I’ve found this flavor, like all of the peanut butter flavors, to be a little hard.  Once microwave though it does resemble a gooey brownie.

Vanilla Almond Crunch
Another one of my favorite flavors.  Great broiled to resemble a cookie or muffin!

Peanut Butter Supreme
The peanut butter flavor isn’t very strong.  I’m a peanut butter addict and was hoping for something more, but left let down.

Apple Pie
I didn’t think I would like this flavor as much as I do since I’m not a huge apple pie fan, but I was surprised by how good this tastes.  It’s great when added to oatmeal or broiled.

Mixed Berry Bliss
I rely on Quest Bars to satisfy my sweet tooth cravings and this particular flavor did nothing for me.  I suppose if you like fruity cereal bars, you might like this flavor.

Similarly to the Peanut Butter Supreme flavor, I was let down with the lack of peanut butter flavor.

Banana Nut Muffin
This bar is best broiled to crispy perfection and enjoyed in the morning as my “morning muffin”.

Chocolate Peanut Butter

Again I was letdown with the peanut butter flavor.

Cinnamon Roll
This flavor not only reminds me of a traditional cinnamon bun, but also Captain Crunch cereal.  I’ve never been a fan of the cereal, but I can imagine baking this bar in small pieces and serving with vanilla almond milk would be delicious.

Coconut Cashew
Another one of my favorites because I love anything coconut!  It’s best broiled with a dollop of almond butter on top!

Strawberry Cheesecake
Strawberry cheesecake is one of my desserts of choice, but this bar doesn’t do the dessert complete justice.  The flavors are there, but somewhere along the way this bar has become one of my forgotten flavors.

Lemon Cream Pie
I’m not a huge fan of the tangy flavor of lemons, so this bar doesn’t do anything for me.

Peanut Butter Cups
If you’re expecting something similar to a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, you’ll be disappointed.  The problem with these is that the middle peanut butter part is very dry.  The flavor isn’t terrible, but I was left needed to wash it down with a glass of water.

April 15, 2014

Eggplant Slider "Buns"

This is more of an idea than a recipe.  I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy my burgers without loading up on the breaded bun.  I usually make a lettuce wrap, but I saw these cute, little eggplants at the store and instantly knew I wanted to make slider "buns".

Eggplant Slider "Buns"
Serves 2
  • 1 small eggplant; sliced 1/2" thick
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Cooking Spray
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil
  2. Arrange the eggplant slices on the baking sheet and spray both sides with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper
  3. Roast for 9 minutes
  4. After 9 minutes, flip each eggplant piece over
  5. Return to the oven to roast for another 9 minutes or until cooked and crispy
  6. Transfer to a plate and use as the "buns" to your favorite slider recipe

April 08, 2014

Strawberry, Basil, and Mint Salsa Chicken

Spring is finally in the air.  It's been a while since I've had a nice piece of grilled chicken, so after giving the grill a nice spring cleaning, I naturally had to get it messy again.  This is a plain-Jane piece of chicken brought to life with the delicious flavors from a strawberry salsa.

Strawberry, Basil, and Mint Salsa Chicken
Serves 2
  • 2 chicken breasts; cooked
  • 1/2 cup strawberries; diced
  • 2 t fresh mint; chopped
  • 1/2 t dried basil
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
    • 1 1/2 t balsamic vinegar
    •  1 1/2 t basil infused balsamic vinegar
  •  1 stevia packet (optional)
  1. Combine the strawberries, mint, basil, balsamic vinegar, and stevia
  2. Refrigerate the salsa sit for at least 1 hour
  3. Top the chicken with the salsa

April 07, 2014

Southwest BBQ Tortilla Pizza

Recently I made a Chipolte Ranch Tortilla Pizza which was so tasty.  I wanted to recreate the meal but change it up slightly, so for this tortilla, I added honey BBQ sauce and paprika for a smokey flavor. 

Southwest BBQ Tortilla Pizza
Serves 1
  • 1 low carb tortilla 
  • 4 oz. cooked chicken breast; diced
  • 2-3 T Walden Farms honey BBQ
  • 1/4 cup tomatoes; chopped
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1 oz. fat free cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 t cumin spice
  • 1/4 t paprika
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Arrange the tortilla on a baking sheet and bake for 5-7 minutes until lightly crispy
  3. Remove the tortilla  from the oven, spread the BBQ sauce on it
  4. Add the remaining toppings and sprinkle with the spices
  5. Return to the oven and broil for another 3-5 minutes until the cheese has melted

April 04, 2014

Apple Pie Quest-Tart

I present to you a healthier alternative to a poptart.  This makes a great breakfast or snack option and the flavor possibilities are endless.  

This apple pie quest-tart is one of my favorite flavors, but I also like a melty peanut butter and jelly poptart.  I smother a peanut butter quest bar with peanut butter and add some sugar-free jelly.

  • 1 apple pie Quest Bar (or flavor of choice)
  • 1 small low-carb tortilla
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  1. Place the quest bar in the middle of the tortilla and sprinkle with cinnamon
  2. Fold the tortilla around the quest bar as pictured to the right
  3. Place the tortilla in a panini press and cook until the tortilla has browned and the quest bar has melted