How to: Eat healthy at resturants

Restaurants, so delicious, and yet so often unhealthy. Most people unknowingly consume hundreds of calories when eating out at resultants without realizing it. You can easily eat more than 1000 calories in just one night out. Yikes. But eating out at restaurants  doesn’t have to be a unhealthy caloric nightmare, there are lots of tips and tricks you can employ to make eating out a stress-free and healthy experience.

  1. GO OUT. Okay this may seem obvious but it’s crucial. Don’s stay home because you don’t want to eat too much or are too worried about your calories and food consumption. You have a life to live, don’t let you healthy intentions hold you back and pass up opportunities for a good time to stay home and eat steamed veggies.
  2. Research. If you know you’re going to dinner somewhere scope out the menu ahead of time so you know what kinds of things they offer and see if there are options that you would feel good eating. Go to the burger place and order a juicy burger every now and then if you really want it, but a lot of restaurants will have some healthier options if you look for them.
  3. Speak up. I used to get totally frustrated when my friends or family picked a pizza place or somewhere to eat without healthy options that I wanted to eat and then I’d feel like I was forced into eating something I didn’t want to. That was stupid, I admit it. Offer to pick the restaurant if you’re worried about what’s onto menu and pick somewhere you know there are things for you.
  4. Don’t arrive starving. Often times people who know they’re having a meal out later they tend to skimp on food beforehand so they arrive ravenous. This really only tends to lead to overeating. You end up shoveling food down quickly so you’re body doesn’t realize it’s full until you’ve eaten much more then you needed and then you’re left feeling gross and like you need to unbutton you pants.
  5. Easy on the bread. It’s such a trap. You sit down, hungry and ready for dinner and then you eat 5 pieces of bread while waiting and you’re barely even hungry when you’re meal comes. It’s a classic mistake, don’t fall for it.
  6. Order a appetizer as your entree. Most of the time a appetizer size portion is the perfect amount of food for my meal. So if there’s a yummy looking appetizer I order it as my meal and ask it to be brought with the rest of the food, that way I don’t get a enormous portion and end up eating way more than I meant to. Plus its always less expensive.
  7. Go halfsies. That’s not a real word but you know what I mean. Order a entree and split it with someone at your table. Sometimes restaurants will even split the portion for you and bring it out on two plates and more often then not its enough food for two people. If its not enough split a appetizer too. This is also really cost effective, so tip generously!
  8. Dressing on the side. It may make you feel like a basic white girl on a date but most times salads at restaurants come drenched in sugary dressings that negate any of the health benefits of the vegetables it smothers. Ask for it on the side and dress up the salad the way that works for you.
  9. Look for buzzwords. You know the ones, (deep) fried, breaded, battered, crispy (i.e fried in oil), crunchy (see crispy), smothered, loaded – stir clear of anything described this way! Instead look for items that are baked, grilled, boiled, fresh, light, roasted, seasoned, or steamed, they’re much healthier dishes.
  10. Treat yo self. Sometimes you just have to go for it. Indulge a little, enjoy life. A little while ago I was out eating a quinoa and apple salad that, while tasty, I realized I pretty much eat similar food all the time at home. Order something you wouldn’t make yourself at home and just enjoy it. Don’t be afraid to take leftovers home.
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A particularly delicious meal from a restaurant in NYC (yes I shared it)

So thats about it. Life is about balance, go out and order dessert after your meal sometimes! You don’t have to be limited to the salad section if you want to be health conscious when you eat out, just be mindful of portions, they tend to be way more than you would usually eat and enjoy your meal out!

 

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Sugar-Free Chocolate Drizzled Pumpkin Bread

You heard me right.

So if you’re like most people and can’t get enough of the fall flavors, pumpkin bread is pretty much a necessity to get through the autumn months. For those of you who follow my blog you know I’m doing sugar free October. Full disclosure this recipe does have about 1/4 cup of honey in it, so its not 100% sugar free, but it does have no refined sugar, and unlike other sweeteners honey actually contains some nutrients. So its not quite perfect in that sense but if you’re looking for a healthier (and delicious) alternative to a staple fall treat, this one’s for you. Feel free to play with the ingredient amounts, especially for the chocolate drizzle and substitute gluten free flour if need be.

Here’s watcha need:

For the bread:

  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 eggs or you can use egg whites
  • 1/4 cup hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • optional walnuts

For the Chocolate Drizzle:

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil melted
  • 1.5 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon honey (to taste)
Here’s watcha do:
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease a loaf pan – I’m a fan of coconut oil spray.
  2. In a medium bowl mix together all the wet ingredients, stirring in the pumpkin last.
  3. In a separate medium size bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients.
  4. Mix dry ingredients with wet ingredients and then pour into loaf pan. 
  5. Bake for 45-55 minutes. Check that its done with a toothpick. Let the bread cool in the loaf pan for a few minutes, then move it to a cooling rack. 
  6. While the bread is cooling out of the oven prepare the chocolate drizzle. 
  7. Once the bread is cooled drizzle the chocolate over the top, bonus points if you make a pretty pattern, slice and enjoy!

 

Sugar Sugar

Ah sugar you sly dog, it sneaks it’s way into just about everything, hiding under so many different aliases, don’t let it fool you. Dietary guidelines for American suggest that added sugars (not the natural good stuff in fruits or milk) should make up only about 10% of your total daily caloric intake, a percentage that many Americans exceed after breakfast alone. Yikes. Many people have no idea how much sugar they are actually consuming, in part because food labels make it tricky. Ever notice that sugar is the only ingredient that does not have a daily percentage next to amount of grams on a nutrition label? Yeah that’s intentional, some food companies don’t want you to know that the 22g of sugar in your granola is actually about 50% of your daily sugar intake. Furthermore, the ingredient list is equally sly. Sure we all recognize the big players; cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup, but sugar is so much more than that including, brown rice sugar, maple syrup, brown sugar, glucose, dextrose, maltose, sucrose, honey, agave nectar, even coconut sugar to name a few added sugars.

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So a few days ago a friend asked me to do a 21 day sugar detox with her, it takes 21 days to make or break a habit so in theory after 21 days we should be no longer craving sugar, I was immediately like, YES lets do this! October is sort of the perfect month for a sugar detox, there are no major holidays, excluding halloween at the very end of course and all those tempting pumpkin and apple fall treats have been on the shelves since September so I’m betting you already had a apple cider doughnut and pumpkin spice latte or too. So if you’ve ever wanted to do a sugar detox join me! I started yesterday but I won’t tell if you just jump in now  🙂

Here’s a few things you can do to make it easier:

  1. Rid your house of sugary snacks so you won’t be tempted. You won’t cave and eat 4 slices of pumpkin chocolate chip bread if its not in your house now will you…
  2. Familiarize yourself with nutrition labels, you’d be suprised where sugar is lurking that you might not have thought. I’m talking whole wheat bread, lunch meats, Wheat Thins, even some salsas, so make sure to look over food labels for any of those sneaky sugar aliases.
  3. Realize what you can eat. This is actually really important, quitting sugar should be empowering, not enslaving and disheartening feeling like you can’t eat anything. I stocked up on fruit and made a few batches of date-almond butter-coconut bites and Larabars so I had something to grab when I wanted something sweet.
  4. Don’t just replace sugar with “sugar free” alternatives like sweeteners like Splenda, a little stevia is okay but the rest are bullshit that reek digestive havoc. Pass those up for berries or a date, all natural baby.
  5. Don’t give up! Okay so on day four you slipped up and had a bit of apple pie? That’s ok! Sure ideally you go completely sugar free for 21 days but don’t quit and throw it all alway after a slip up or two. Our bodies can process small amounts of sugar so all your hard work it not suddenly gone after a spoonful of this or that, just do your best and believe that you can do it!

So good luck if join me on the sugar detox! Some sugar free recipes will be coming your way soon. Who knows, by the time halloween rolls around you might not even want that halloween candy…

Trader Joes – the skinny

Ah Trader Joes, my second home. I love it there, like a lot. When I was out-of-state at college and missing home I would go walk around Trader Joes until an employee asked me if I need help, because it just felt familiar and reminded me of home. It’s not as weird as it sounds, okay maybe it is. Anyway, I love it there. However, I do think people tend to look at it as like the little cousin to Whole Foods (the motherland). They don’t carry generic brands and have a fraction of the products most supermarkets do, so many fall into the trap of thinking that everything there is pretty much healthy. Sadly no. So I broke it down for you on the best of the best uniquely Trader Joes products, what’s worth buying there, the healthy and the just plain yummy.

Favorite Healthy options:

Peanut Butter with Chia and Flax seeds: I’m obsessed with this stuff. Seriously I’m not above just eating it out of the jar with a spoon. It’s affordable, tastier than plain peanut butter and devoid of sugar or extra add-ins. It’s so good in smoothies too.

Joes Lows wraps: Low carb and only 45 calories in these little cuties. They’re a nice small size, high in fiber and low in carbs and calories, perfect alternative to most wraps that are closer to the 180 calorie range.

Ancient Grain Super Seed Oatmeal: I love oatmeal in the winter and this stuff is next level. Oatmeal mixed with sliced almonds, pumpkin seeds and quinoa for an added protein boost is the perfect healthy start to chilly mornings.

Quest bars: While not uniquely Trader Joe’s products, you won’t find them at a better price than at Trader Joes, $2.39 can I get a Hell ya?!

Avocado 4 pack: Because avocado toast is life and you can’t beat the price.

Cilantro and Chive Yogurt Dip: This is like a healthier version of sour cream and onion dip, but somehow just as good. Seriously they’re taste twins, except this version has only low-fat yogurt, chives and garlic. Amen.

Quinoa Infused black Bean Chips: A better options to potato or corn chips, these guys are yummy but still give that satisfying salty crunch.

Kombucha: I love this, it’s priced better than Whole Foods and its so popular it’s almost always sold out, so grab it while you can, it’s truly the perfect summer drink. They only have 2 flavors but they’re both fire, so you can’t go wrong.

Side note, most things at Trader Joe’s are pretty affordable, but they can easily add up quickly, so choose your items carefully. Trader Joes doesn’t have sales so I tend to get my berries and fruit elsewhere. The veggies are a pretty fair price though, as is their Greek yogurt and cheese.

The Just Plain Yummy:

Cookie Butter Ice cream: Yes, it’s exactly how it sounds, the legendary cookie butter mixed in with ice cream. My sister bought a gallon once and we ate the whole thing in a day and a half. I’m not even sorry. Rough break up? Girls night? Friday night? I don’t care the occasion, when you need it, you need it.

Gluten Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread: Full disclosure I haven’t actually tried this but I’ve heard its out of this world.

Chocolate Coconut Almonds: They are everything. But anything dipped in chocolate is.

Seasonal Candy Cane JoJo’s: These taste like Christmas. They sell out super fast so I always buy them the second I see them on the shelves in November.

They also have amazing trail mix, I could honestly go on for days. Anyways, hope I inspired a trip to Trader Joes, just remember everything there isn’t necessarily healthy, but there are tons of good options. Happy shopping!

Break it Down Now

Food that is, I’m talking nutrients not killer dance moves. (Sorry)

So something I find that tends to happen when people are trying to eat healthy and make good food choices is a strong sense of guilt when they go off plan. Just like that your positive and healthy choice to eat better can quickly become an unhealthy relationship with food. This sense of “guilt” from occasionally indulging in food is so common, and to be honest most of the time, unnecessary.

Ever hear the expression “one unhealthy meal won’t make you fat, just like one healthy meal won’t make you thin”? There’s a lot of truth in that. If you eat clean and healthy 90% of the time a slice of pizza on the weekend doesn’t suddenly undo all your progress. It’s not all or nothing.

I think that we tend to forget that our bodies don’t recognize foods as we eat them, our bodies actually digest and process food based on their nutrient makeup. Your body does not recognize that you’re eating a donut or a cupcake and immediately say, “that sucker in going straight to belly fat!” Our bodies break down food based on their nutrients and digest them based on the carbohydrates, fats, and proteins in them. When a certain food brings more of a certain nutrient than our body’s needs to form energy it generally gets stored adipose (fatty) tissue, but that’s not forever!

So chill out on all the guilty feelings! You don’t need to hit the treadmill for an extra 30 minutes the next day if you’re feeling guilty over you one cookie. Your body can process the nutrients in small occasional treats, so stop beating yourself up! I used to feel totally guilty if I caved and had chocolate or ice cream, like I was somehow erasing my great workout from earlier. Then I’d start stressing about it. That’s where it gets problematic. Not only is this an unhealthy attitude towards food, but also stress tends to trigger our bodies production of Cortisol, a hormone that actually tells our bodies to hold onto its fat. So the overproduction of Cortisol from all the unnecessary stress about a bite of cake or occasional hamburger actually is making it harder for ourselves to lose the weight than if we just enjoys our small occasional treats and stopped the stress and the guilt.

So it’s good news! Enjoy your cheat meal once a week if that’s how you roll. Or follow the 90% 10% rule and eat clean 90% of the time and splurge on goodies 10% of time. Allow yourself to enjoy those well-deserved indulgences. A positive outlook and healthy relationship with food will serve you so much better than trying to exercise some sort of superhuman self-control and be perfect 100% of the time and beating ourselves up when we inevitably stray. Remember you’re only human enjoy the ice cream cone!

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Here’s a photo of me post- workout shamelessly double- fisting ice cream cones (full disclosure only one is mine) but still guiltlessly enjoying a well- deserved treat!

A complete ranking of “healthy” snack bars

Based on taste & nutritional content

Power bars, protein bars, granola bars, you know the drill. Handy, convenient snacks, perfect for throwing into a purse of gym bag and marketed to us as healthy. But not all bars are created equal. gasp. Most are packed full of sugar and other unpronounceable ingredients and are anything but the healthy snack they are masquerading as. So I broke it down for you, ranking this little guys from best to worst in terms of their ingredients, nutrition and taste so you can make an informed decision next time your standing paralyzed with options in front of the
massive health bar section of the grocery store.

  1. Winner winner (Larabar) dinner! These guys win for a few reasons, the ingredient list is almost too good to be true, just dates, nuts and that’s pretty much it depending on the flavor. No unpronounceable ingredients, totally “clean”! They’re also damn tasty and come in a huge variety of flavors. I love to cut them up an eat them like a cookie after a meal because they basically taste like dessert. They’re also on the less expensive end of snack bars (Kroger always has them for a dollar each!) They don’t have a ton of protein only 5g, and do have some sugar, 16g, but its all natural (from the dates) so overall, it’s a winner! larabar.jpg
  2. Next up, Rx bars. I’d been wanting to try these for a while, they look like the cooler, hotter, older brother of the Larabar as they have the same minimal, clean ingredients but more protein, 12g (thank you egg whites). Sadly this was not quite the case, when I finally tracked them down in Trader Joes for $1.99 each, I was a little underwhelmed. While they have a mostly superior nutritional content to the Larabar, they actually have more sugar, 17g, and are just not as tasty. It may be just me but I found them very chewy, a little bland and definitely “healthy” tasting rather than “yummy”, but I can’t ignore that squeaky clean, “no B.S” ingredient list.rx-bars.png
  3. Third place goes to the Quest bar, America’s favorite protein bar, or so they claim. They come in at an impressive 20-22g of protein per bar, about 17g fiber and less than 1g of sugar which sounds pretty damn good. They taste good too, again like dessert and come in a medley of fun flavors, shout out to the mint chocolate chip, you my bud. However, they cost upwards of $2.50 each and they have a few unpronounceable ingredients with things like “Lo Han Gou” seriously WTF is that, it sounds like an item on a Chinese food menu. But most of the ingredients are things like stevia and raw almonds, so it’s not all foreign, but it ranks them behind their more simple-minded shelf buddies the Larabar and Rx bar. They’re a great choice for those looking for high protein option but I would be careful not to over do it, I ate a whole bar once and got a gnarly stomach-ache, so I’d be mindful of portion size.3DProteinBars_Fan_300dpi_01.jpg
  4. Fourth place goes to the Squarebar, the “organic protein bar”. These yummy little chocolate squared are damn tasty, if not difficult to track down. I finally found them at Whole Foods for about $2.50 a square. Yikes. They have mostly healthy and recognizable ingredients like egg whites but also include cane syrup and brown rice syrup and weigh in at 13g of mostly added sugar and only 6g protein. I like these cute little squares, it tasted like eating a chocolate bar, but only a slightly healthier version. It wasn’t bad, but I was kind like, F it, at this point I’m having a Reese’s. AAEAAQAAAAAAAAKNAAAAJDgxYzI5M2RjLTY4ZjMtNDk4Zi1iOWI1LTJkZWEyY2E1ZGVmYw.png
  5. Fifth place, almost a tie with fourth really, goes to the Kind Bar. Full disclosure I lived off the Cherry Dark Chocolate flavor for like a month in college, they are so tasty! Sadly their nutritional content suffers a little at thisexpense. Most flavors have around 9g of sugar and only 3g protein. They have some great ingredients like whole wheat oats and buckwheat, but like the SquareBar they also have added sugars like brown rice syrup and also contain a few unfamiliar looking ingredients. Anyone know what gum acacia is off the top of their head? No? Me either. king bars 800.jpg
  6.  Luna bars. A classic. I totally loved these as a kid. They have since updated their formula so it’s a bit more health conscious, but I think they still fall a bit short of those ranked in the top five. They have a huge number of flavors and not totally unreasonable cost, but the nutrition just isn’t quite there. They have around 10g sugar, 9g protein but 25g carbs and have a very long list of ingredients you almost need a magnifying glass to read. Overall they’re an OK option, but I’d choose one of the above before I went for the Luna bar. Luna-Bars.jpg7. Lastly I just wanted to address these guys. The Think Thin high protein bars because they just look so tempting, I mean 22g Protein and ZERO g sugar?! Get at me. Except after a little research, I realized not so much.. They take the cake for the most unfamiliar ingredients and have 11g sugar alcohol, so not exactly sugar-free huh? Plus the protein blend and the sugar alcohol can cause big time bloating and digestion troubles. So while I will concede that these little guys don’t taste half bad, I’d say skip it and pay the extra $1 for the Quest bar if you really need a protein fix. b23561fce7d9b823c5667a76a5cd3835.jpg

So there you have it, one girls attempt to make sense of the mesmerizing wonderland that is the health food bars. Of course this is just my take, my opinion on a few of the more popular options, it’s of course not all-encompassing (if anyone has tried a GoMacro bar let me know!) Everyone values different things in their “power” bar, be it protein, lack of sugar, overall taste or even fiber, I just tried to give an overall breakdown to help make sense of whats worth it in the health bar isle. Happy (and healthy) snacking!

Smoothie Style Coming up Strong

So if you’ve been anywhere near a social media site the past few months I’m sure you’ve seen the smoothie bowl craze. To say I am a fan is an understatement. Whatever simple minded genius came up with the concept of putting a smoothie in a bowl and eating it with a spoon instead of a straw deserves a major shout out. Somehow my brain seems to almost believe it ice-cream and in the hot summer weather who can turn down a refreshing, delicious and healthy summer treat!?

Here’s my favorite smoothie bowl recipe! breakfast, lunch or dessert!

1 cup berries – whatever kind you like

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 /2 cup kefir or plain greek yogurt

1/4 cup vanilla protein powder

1 tbsp peanut butter – bonus points if you use trader Joe’s chia and flax seed one!

sprinkle of cinnamon

1 tsp Acai berry powder (optional)

Blend and pour into a bowl. Then you can dress is up with fresh fruit, shredded coconut, chia seeds, honey, granola, whatever floats your boat!