A New Spin on Breakfast in Bed

Romance-red-rose-newspaper-breakfast-in-bedWhat better way to pamper a loved one than by serving them breakfast in bed! However, many times these special meals consist of biscuits, donuts, toast, waffles, pancakes and syrup. We might have the best of intentions when making these menu items, but a heavy refined-carb breakfast may make one feeling sluggish and bloated a couple of  hours later. Not to mention, this wouldn’t make the best choice of food items for someone who has blood sugar problems. This is a new breakfast that I am absolutely obsessed with! I made this for my mom and sister while visiting them in Tennessee. There’s nothing better than starting off the day with a light, healthy, green and omega-3 rich meal!

Veggie Scramble with Smoked Salmon

Serves 4-5
• 1 tbsp coconut oil
• ½ bundle of asparagus, cut into small segments
• 1 zucchini, diced
• 5 tbsp leeks
• 5 oz baby spinach
• 2 garlic cloves
• Pinch of salt/pepper
• 9 eggs
• 4 oz goat cheese
• 6 oz smoked salmon

photo 3

1. In a medium-large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Meanwhile cut and prepare vegetables.

2. Once oil is heated, add asparagus, zucchini, leeks, spinach and garlic sauté for about 8 minutes or until asparagus stalks become slightly tender.

3. While veggies are cooking, whisk together eggs and goat cheese. Pour eggs on top of cooked vegetables and let sit for about 1 minute. Then begin to gently push eggs around with spatula until cooked all the way through.

4. Add smoked salmon once eggs are cooked and continue to heat for another 1-2 minutes. You may season with a small amount of salt and pepper or dill and chives. I sprinkled a little bit of remaining goat cheese on my dish.

Simple, delicious and a slight gourmet touch!
Recipe adapted from againstallgrain.com

Tips To Fight Fat

These are great tips that can be applied for either a weight loss program or healthy living in general!

photoPlan, Plan, Plan Ahead! Both my husband and I value eating healthy, clean, minimally processed food. We exercise at 6 a.m. which means that we always have to plan tomorrow’s meals the night before. Sure, there are many nights where I am tired and crabby, but I know that if I do not prepare my meals the night before, then my alternative would be going out for breakfast/ lunch. Now, I know healthier options can certainly be made at cafeterias and fast food restaurants; however, this does increase one’s processed food intake. In the picture here, you can tell it is getting late at night, but I have prepared some chicken breasts that both my husband and I will use in tomorrow’s lunches as well as my omelet and sweet potatoes that will be part of my breakfast meal.

Drink a glass of water first thing every morning. Adequate hydration goes hand in hand with leading a healthy lifestyle. Often, our first beverage in the morning is a cup of caffeine. Naturally, the body becomes dehydrated while we sleep. (This is why the color of your urine is darker first thing in the morning).  Try having a glass of water immediately after you wake up (and before you eat something). This is especially important if you are an early AM exerciser like myself. Make water your main beverage for the rest of the day. It is perfectly fine to have coffee or unsweetened tea as long as they are not trumping your water consumption.

Change up your workout routine. For years, my workout routine consisted of cycling, teaching Zumba and abs classes and doing additional strength-training on my own. While I was maintaining my weight fairly well, I wasn’t noticing any differences in my body fat %. It wasn’t until I started doing crossfit that I finally began to notice that my arms were more toned, my posture was better and my pants were fitting looser. What’s even more interesting is that I have actually gained weight; however, my body looks firmer and smaller since I have been able to decrease my body fat % while increasing my lean muscle mass percentage.

Make room for stress. I know this recommendation seems odd, but if there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that stress can strike us at any time in our life and often it seems to strike back to back! For some of us, stress is a constant and many of us turn to food when we are stressed out. Since we can’t necessarily get rid of all stress in our life, we simply need to learn how to better manage it. Exercise and eating clean always make me feel positive about myself and when I am in a positive mood I can definitely tackle day-to-day stressors much easier.

It’s OK to indulge…on special occasions. When you walk into a restaurant, ask yourself, “Am I here because I am celebrating something or am I here because I didn’t want to cook dinner?” If you are dining out because you didn’t feel like cleaning up a mess at home, then try your best to stick to the healthier menu items. If you’re celebrating something special such as a birthday or anniversary, then it’s perfectly fine to order some less-healthy menu selections (as long as you are continuously practicing good moderation skills at home).

Woman Measuring StomachMake small, simple changes if slight weight gain has occurred. If you have noticed a small weight gain, consider making small changes to your diet vs drastic changes. I had noticed that one of my pairs of pants was fitting tighter so I stepped on the scale and noticed that I was three pounds heavier than I normally am. Upon reviewing my diet habits, I realized that I was consuming way too much almond butter and nuts throughout the week. All I did was cut back on how often I packed almond butter in my lunch and sure enough, that’s all it took to drop those few extra pounds.

Know your “red flags”. Become aware of those certain foods or situations where you may not always make the best decision. If you know that you always give in to “donut Fridays,” make sure you eat breakfast before work on those days and pack healthy snacks so hunger doesn’t tempt you to overindulge.

A New Kind of Breakfast Muffin

egg muffins“I don’t have time to make breakfast in the morning” “I don’t know what I can eat for a healthy snack.” I am going to knock out two birds with one stone for this one: egg muffins.

This is one of the easiest recipes that will have you stocked up with healthy breakfast and snack options throughout the week. Cooked eggs will stay good for 5 days, so if you make a batch of these on Sunday night, you will be good to go for the week.

Eggs are like a blank canvas when it comes to adding additional ingredients. I feel almost all vegetables go great with eggs, so the possible flavor combinations are endless! I have provided a suggested mix of my favorite veggies to go with eggs, but you can certainly substitute with other items like zucchini and yellow squash, diced carrots, red onion, tomatoes, you name it! Try to avoid adding cheese if you can. Typically, most Americans already consume too much cheese in their diets.

This is a healthy protein-packed, low-carb dish. Grab two with a piece of fruit for breakfast or take them to work to help fight that afternoon sugar craving!

 

Egg Muffins

6-8 eggs
½ bell pepper, diced
½ onion, diced
½ cup chopped mushrooms
½ cup chopped spinach
Salt and pepper to taste
Coconut oil
1. Pre heat oven to 350 F. In a sauce pan, melt 1 tbsp of coconut oil for 2-3 minutes. Once heated, add chopped vegetables and sauté for about 5 minutes. Once cooked, set aside and let cool.
2. Meanwhile, whisk eggs together in a medium-sized bowl. Add sautéed vegetables into whisked eggs and then pour about 1/3 cup mixture into each cupcake container.
3. Place in oven and cook for 15-20 minutes until eggs have puffed up. Use a butter knife to stick into egg muffin to make sure it comes out clean.
4. Season with salt and pepper and enjoy as a quick on the go breakfast or protein-packed snack choice.
5. Variations to the vegetable mix can include zucchini, carrots, red onion, meat, tomatoes, etc.

Start Making Healthy Changes Now

Woman Tying Measuring Tape Around Her WaistI am not an advocate for “quick fixes” like weight loss supplements, juice cleanses and the like. While quick fixes may result in fast weight loss, these results are only temporary and chances are, your depressed metabolism will cause you to rapidly gain the weight back…and then some. Seven-day or 21-day weight loss plans typically instruct you to drastically cut caloric intake and often severely limit the variation of food in your diet. Once these week-long or month-long fast diets are over with, most people resume their previous eating habits and unfortunately circle right back to square one with their weight loss efforts.

What’s unfortunate is these quick diet plans do not teach you how to eat for the long-run. You can’t drink a “body by Vi” shake forever; eventually you’re going to have to learn how to make real food for your meals. Research has shown that a multitude of different diets such as low-calorie/low-fat, high-fat/low-carb, Mediterranean diet, vegetarian diet, paleo dietetc., can all help individuals lose weight. Sometimes, losing weight is not the problem; it’s keeping the weight off. This fact stresses the importance of lifelong habits that one must take on, not quick diet fixes, in order to maintain their weight loss efforts. Here are some “quick” healthy changes that you can make today and turn into lifelong habits.

1. Start your day with protein. Breakfast is the most commonly missed meals reported by Americans of all ages. And when we think of breakfast, we typically think of a large bowl of sugary-sweetened cereal and a tall glass of orange juice. Breakfast meals high in these simple sugars can lead to a quick drop in energy come 9:00 a.m. Try to find ways to incorporate more protein with your breakfast meal. Add nuts into oatmeal, make a veggie omelet or pair fruit with high-protein Greek yogurt.

imgres2. Switch to water. Water is essential to one’s health and its benefits far surpass the simple purpose of hydration. Drinking more water is a habit I have been working on for quite some time now and it’s really sticking. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I previously was consuming about 4 diet sodas per day. To wean myself off of the diet soda, I would tell myself for every soda I consumed, I would have to drink a bottle of water. Now I keep a water bottle with me at all times so there are no excuses for not drinking enough water.

3. Stop serving multiple starches with meals. This is an easy fix that will help you naturally control your carbohydrate intake with your meals and make them more well-rounded. Our typical American western diet revolves around meat, potatoes, bread or some other starch like noodles and rice or corn and peas with most of our meals. Begin your meals by choosing a healthy lean protein, add one starch (preferably a healthy starchy vegetable like sweet potatoes or butternut squash) and fill the rest of your plate with non-starchy vegetables and fruit, if preferred.

4. Bring your own snacks to work. It seems almost every week, someone brings in a new “Pinterest-inspired” sweet treat to share with everyone at work. Sure, these decadent treats look great, but consuming these items regularly as snack choices can lead one to a spike in blood sugar followed by a drop in energy. Plan ahead and make sure you always have healthy, nutrient-dense snacks packed with you for your workday. If you feel bad about turning down your co-worker’s cheesecake bites, you can politely decline by saying you had already packed an apple with almond butter for your snack today. Or a simple, “No thanks, but thanks for asking,” always does the trick too!

exercise_02F026015. Exercise. Daily physical activity is one of the most important keys for a healthy metabolism and weight management. It’s time to put the “excuse book” away and start moving today.

Figge’s Favorite Groceries

grocery shoppingWith the success of  Figge’s Favorite Things blog post, I thought I would follow up with a list of some of my favorite foods that frequently occupy my shopping list. Years ago, my diet heavily consisted of processed luncheon meats, frozen dinners and snack bars. Today, fresh fruits, vegetables and meats are typically what fill up my grocery cart. This was no overnight process, but slowly, I began to step outside my comfort zone and taught myself how to prepare and cook with fresh ingredients. To stay healthy, I rely on clean, minimally processed foods. Combined with a healthy dose of physical activity each week, clean eating helps keep my cholesterol down, energy up and promotes a good night’s sleep.

  1. Eggs. Eggs have been hounded over the years for their fat and cholesterol content. However, with today’s research on eggs, we are learning that 1) the cholesterol found in eggs is not what is causing high cholesterol in individuals and 2) the benefits of the yolks include a Vitamin B12 source, eye-healthy lutein , zeaxanthin antioxidants, and choline, which is essential for cardiovascular and brain function.
  2. fresh-spinachSpinach. This green giant gets sautéed in with my eggs each morning and makes several appearances in other meals throughout the week.
  3. Peanut or almond butter. If I could eat almond butter every day, I would; but because the cost of it is often more than peanut butter, I tend to go back and forth between these heart-healthy fat and protein snack additions.
  4. Cauliflower. My kitchen often looks like a cauliflower war zone. For those of you that regularly cut up cauliflower, you know what I’m talking about! My preferred way of cooking it is steaming in a sauce pan and then mashing it in my food processor. Add a pinch of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, butter and garnish with chives and you have a great vegetable side dish (not to mention for the cost of $3 or less!)
  5. Spaghetti Squash. We have been having a lot of fun with spaghetti squash this winter. It is a great substitute for pasta in recipes. To me, it is not very tasty when served plain, but if you add mixed vegetables, seasonings, sauces or a homemade mayo to the mix, you’re set-to-go for a delicious meal.
  6. Chicken. This is the most popular protein consumed in our household. For that reason, I am constantly finding new ways to season and prepare it. We also consume beef, pork and fish but chicken definitely takes the podium for most consumed.
  7. Apples. This fruit is a good source of antioxidants and soluble fiber. I usually have at least one and sometimes two apples a day with my peanut or almond butter for heart-healthy, filling snacks.
  8. Whey protein powder. Since both my husband and I do Crossfit, we need a quick source of protein for our post-workout snacks. One scoop of protein powder poured in 8 oz. of almond milk allows my body to quickly refuel after a workout, promote lean tissue growth and speed up recovery time.
  9. Ground flaxseed. This antioxidant powerhouse can be easily mixed into recipes or sauces or can even be sprinkled on top of foods to add fiber, omega-3 and healthy lignans to any dish.
  10. Sweet potato. These Vitamin A giants interestingly are most often consumed with my breakfast meal. I’ll sauté a medium-large sweet potato in 1 Tbsp of coconut oil on Sunday nights and then portion out servings to grab and go for the week. NCI5_POTATO

Holy Guacamole!

Avocado on whiteYes, one of my favorite fruits is the avocado. In fact, I eat half an avocado almost every day. If I don’t slice it on top of my eggs in the morning, it usually tops a salad later on in the day. Historically, avocados have had a bad reputation because of their high fat content. We now know the fat found in avocados and other plant-based foods like nuts, peanut butter and oils is actually very good for us!

Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fat, specifically omega-9 fat that can also be found in olive oil, canola oil and nuts/seeds. The reason it is important to include these healthy plant-based fats in our diet is because monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) can actually help lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. Reducing the bad cholesterol level can help reduce one’s risk for heart disease. Research also indicates that this type of fat can also help insulin levels and blood sugar control, which is very important for those with diabetes. MUFAs also help our bodies absorb specific vitamins. These are just some of the reasons why fat is important in our diet.

Avocados also contain antioxidants, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, which are important for their role in eye health. This green fruit is also a good source of fiber and potassium. An avocado is ripe for eating when the skin gives gently when pressed on. If you buy a hard avocado, it will usually soften within a few days. There are many varieties of avocados and they ripen at different times of the year. This is why avocados are in season all year long! Avocados are a mildly sweet fruit and can be combined in many traditional dishes. Here are few ideas to get the molé rolling:

  • Slice avocados and add to your favorite breakfast egg dish (omelet, scrambled, frittata, over easy)
  • Add slices of avocados on top of sandwiches or salads.
  • Mash ½ avocado on 1 slice of whole wheat toast and top with 1 egg and low-fat cheese for an on-the-go breakfast.
  • Top whole grain cracker with avocado slice and smoked salmon for a delicious appetizer.
  • Create delectable salsas by combining avocado slices, tomato chunks, onion, black beans or corn kernels with cilantro, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Remember “fat-free” and “low-fat” products are often more processed and contain higher amounts of sodium and added sugars. Consuming only fat free products may put your body at risk for becoming deficient in certain vitamins and essential fatty acids. However, consuming too much fat (even the good kind) can lead to excessive caloric intake. A healthy fat intake level is achieved when 20-35% of total calories consumed come from good fat sources. Monounsaturated fats are one of the foundations of the Mediterranean diet, which in most studies has been linked to lower rates of heart disease. Check out this Mediterranean semi-gourmet sandwich http://www.tastespotting.com/features/green-goddess-grilled-cheese-sandwich-recipe for a great Sunday brunch idea!

For even more ways to incorporate avocado into your diet, Check out these amazing recipes adapted from www.theamazingavocado.com

Avocado and Citrus Salad with Dijon Avocado Vinaigrette http://www.theamazingavocado.com/recipes/avocado-and-citrus-salad-with-dijon-avocado-vinaigrette/

Portabella Burgers with Avocado Spread http://www.theamazingavocado.com/recipes/portabella-burgers-with-avocado-spread/

New York Breakfast Pizza http://www.theamazingavocado.com/recipes/new-york-breakfast-pizza/

Have you ever heard of a BLT stuffed avocado? Neither have I until I came across this fantastic twist on an old classic: http://www.farmgirlgourmet.com/2013/01/blt-stuffed-avocado.html

**For healthy recipe substitutions, choose mayonnaise that has been made with olive oil and use whole wheat bread instead.