Tag Archives: fitness

Best Packaged Vegetarian and Vegan Foods

These days, many of us are doing our best to be healthy and avoid “processed” foods and eat lots of fresh veggies and protein and all that jazz. But hell, we’re also busy, sometimes in a hurry and sometimes just plain lazy/tired/hangry! There’s nothing wrong with that! These options are especially helpful if you are new to eating vegan/vegetarian and are looking for some help and inspiration. I didn’t realize how many amazing options there were.

These are my go-to foods when I just want a quick meatless meal that’s also tasty and filling.

SWEET EARTH BURRITOS

burritos

I am sort of embarrassed to say that since discovering these burritos, I practically live on them. But they are just SO good. There are several flavors including a few breakfast versions. They are all really high in protein and made of pretty healthy ingredients. Please note that the Kyoto, Curry Tiger, Anasazi and Big Sur Breakfast flavors are fully vegan. The others contain eggs and/or cheese.

GARDEIN MINI CRABLESS CAKES

crab

I admit I love seafood, especially shellfish, and my previous efforts at being fully vegan failed mostly because of this. UNTIL I DISCOVERED THESE BABIES! I went to a vegan restaurant a while back and had vegan crab cakes and didn’t stop talking about them for days. They were just SO good. When I was in the freezer section and WF and realized Gardein also made a version, I was skeptical. I didn’t think they’d be that good but I had to try them. I was so excited to learn they’re really good!! I don’t know how they make vegan ingredients taste like fish. I’m not sure I want to know. But regardless, I am thankful that I can enjoy the taste of crab cakes without thinking about murdered crabs. You really can find vegan versions of EVERYTHING!

BEYOND MEAT BEEF CRUMBLES

feisty

Another thing I loooved as a meat eater was beef tacos and nachos. I haven’t had beef in 5 years and I can’t say I miss it honestly. But I still love Mexican food and try to recreate my favorite restaurant dishes as often as possible. I was so excited to find the “Feisty” Beyond Meat Beef Crumbles because it has a great taco seasoning flavor. I won’t lie, the crumbles do have a bit of that funky fake meat aftertaste if you eat them alone, but if you slather salsa and guacamole on top, you’ll never notice. The texture is just like crumbled beef.

BEYOND MEAT SINGLE SERVE MEALS

meals

Stop the press. These meals have SAVED me at times when I am craving restaurant food (and also times when I have very low blood sugar and I am within 5 minutes of a meltdown). There are only 4 flavors so far – Indian Curry, Korean BBQ, Vietnamese Lemongrass and Roasted Sweet Potato Chili; however, they are really good. My favorite is the Korean BBQ. They are all super high protein and have a good balance of fats/carbs too. They heat up in 5 minutes and will keep you full for hours, but also keep your taste buds happy.

SWEET EARTH BREAKFAST SANDWICHES

break

I used to live on my homemade Egg McMuffin sandwiches. I had a hard time saying goodbye to Canadian bacon. However, Sweet Earth has made all my breakfast sandwich dreams come true! They have several flavors – Harmless Ham & Chickpea Patty (the only vegan one), Meatless Sausage Egg and Gouda, Harmless Ham Egg & Swiss and Benevolent Bacon, Egg & Cheddar. My mouth is watering just thinking about them.

ORGANIC VEGETARIAN CHILI WITH RED BEANS & ONION

chili

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trader Joe’s recently changed the packaging/label on the veg chili and I have to say I’m in love with this new 1970s Brady Bunch theme. I just want to stuff my face with chili every time I see the new cans on the shelf. Anyway, the recipe itself didn’t change at all (or if it did, I can’t tell) and there have been many times when I’ve lived solely off this chili for several days straight. Unlike a lot of chilis, this one really strikes a perfect balance of salty, spicy, beans, and “meat” (it’s tofu). It’s a great all-around meal that’s very filling and has 15 grams of protein….pa pow! It’s a tad spicy but in a very good way. Add a little sprinkle of shredded vegan cheese and green onions (because I am obsessed with green onions) and you have yourself a tasty meal.

 

 

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Bikini Competitor Diet Plan

If you’re female and want a healthy meal plan to get lean, I can save you lots of $$ and countless hours of research. And I can keep you from ending up with a horrible coach that rips you off and ruins your body. Everyone knows working out is really important but diet is everything!  Over the years, I’ve read probably thousands of articles/blogs/etc. on fitness, specifically regarding bikini competitions. And I’ve looked at MANY meal plans. I’ve paid for quite a few too, mostly for my own research purposes. I also went so far as to get a nutrition certification.

I can tell you that 90% of the meal plans I’ve seen are basically the same exact plan. The coach/competitor/whoever may swap a food here and there, but the calorie counts and breakdown of macros is almost identical. Clearly it works if almost every woman in fitness is following this and also prescribing it. But it irritates me that “coaches” charge hundreds of dollars for what amounts to the exact same plan being recycled over and over (not to mention, it’s not actually customized). Most coaches out there SUCK!!!!! Yes, even many of the ones that are “famous” that you think would be really good. Sometimes they are even worse because they have less time to focus on clients and end up giving out cookie cutter plans or, worse, pawning off their job on an assistant.

As far as the generic meal plan, it’s always 5-6 meals that are usually broken down as follows:

4 oz protein (usually chicken, turkey, fish or egg whites)

1/2 cup carbs (sweet potatoes, oats or brown rice)

1-2 cups of veggies (green things – spinach, broccoli, green beans, kale, asparagus, etc)

Add 2 healthy fats per day (~16 g of fat for each) somewhere in the form of olive/coconut oil, avocado or nuts/nut butter (or be a real rebel and eat whole eggs for protein and fat). Stay away from dairy. Limit fruit intake but it’s generally ok to have some berries as your morning carb or with oats. If you’re cutting, only include carbs at 2-3 meals (and eat them early in the day and/or around your workout) instead of all of the ones I listed above. Then add in another fat or two. Boom. Now you too can be a bikini model and/or competitor!!!!

(Ok, I’m being pretty sarcastic in this post but the part about the majority of meal plans looking just like what I’ve listed above is 100% true!!  Save your $, trust me.)

 

10 Things I’d Like to Tell Everyone at the Gym

Day after day at the gym I see people doing things that are just not effective and possibly counterproductive or even harmful. Stop wasting your time in the gym – work smarter NOT harder!

Here are the 10 things I’d like to tell everyone at the gym:

1. Ladies, please, lay off the damn cardio. Not to be mean but most people I see day after day on cardio machines are not in good shape. IT’S NOT WORKING. Endless cardio is actually counterproductive and can make you fatter. Google it.

2. Also ladies, use heavier weight. Yes, I promise you, your arms won’t fall off if you use more than 5 pounds. Your purse probably weighs 10. Go for 15 and make me proud.

3. Men, stop trying to be tough. Drop the weight and perform the exercise correctly. The dudes around you are secretly laughing at you. The women are not impressed.

4. When doing the lat pull, you should be working your lats, not your shoulders. When doing bench, use your chest (puff your chest up ladies, shoulders down and back). Shoulders are smaller, and therefore, weaker muscles. If you increase the weight, you won’t be able to overcompensate with your shoulders because they’re not strong enough to do what your back/chest can do.

5. Learn what exercises work which muscles. Bodybuilding.com is your friend. If you don’t feel those muscles working, you’re definitely doing it wrong.

6. If you can’t bend to 90 degrees during a squat, lower the weight!! Your ass (and lower back) will thank me.

7. Don’t use momentum to lift a weight. Use your strength. If you don’t have it yet, build up to it by using lighter weights, full range of motion and slowing the F down. Weight lifting isn’t a race!

8. STRETCH!! It’s so good for your muscles (post workout) and can help you relax and de-stress. You know you wanna.

9. Drink water. I am amazed at the high % of people that don’t have water bottles in the gym. Being dehydrated actually makes you weaker and less energetic. It also makes you fatter. Drinking enough water is the single easiest way to keep your metabolism revved up.

10. Eat at least 80% whole foods (things from the ground and/or with one ingredient – fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains, etc.). If you don’t, none of this other crap will make any difference. Not only is this the “secret” to getting/staying fit, but it will give you energy for days, improve your sleep and mental focus, decrease your stress and greatly increase the odds that you will live long enough to see your grandkids grow up.

Treat your body well and it will return the favor!

Top Fitness Coaches Weigh in on Carbs, Calories and Everything in Between!

(Note: I originally posted this on my LittleBlondeMeathead.com but since updated it for this blog)

Confused about what to do at the gym? Not sure how many carbs to eat? Tired of counting calories but not seeing results?  Do you need someone to help keep you on track with your fitness goals? Hire an online fitness coach! Right?! Well, not so fast…

This blog is about my experience with 3 separate, unnamed online fitness coaches. Let me preface this by saying I first set foot in a gym about 5 years ago and had no clue what I was doing. I was determined to learn so I did tons of research on working out, nutrition, competing and all things in between. I have since become certified in personal training, done loads of fitness writing and even did a bikini fitness competition. I have read so many fitness articles/blogs, studied countless meal plans, watched hundreds of YouTube videos and stalked many a fitness model on Instagram/Facebook. And I just have to say that the more I exposed myself to, the more confused I became. And the more I felt like I needed a coach/trainer to help me.

Let me also make it clear that I knew there were many, many crappy online fitness trainers/nutrition coaches out there just waiting to rob me blind. Lots of these so-called experts post nice photos of themselves but literally have no credentials in health/fitness. Just because they look the part doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing. It’s actually pretty hard to find one who knows what they’re talking about and is qualified to give you advice, yet so many charge hundreds (or thousands!) of dollars for super basic, cookie cutter training/meal plans that you can find on the internet. Your health is really not something you should mess around with and your fitness goals should not be something you take lightly. There are plenty of trainers who will flat out rip you off and ruin your health in the process.

About a year ago I realized my health/fitness goals had fallen by the wayside, as did my formerly strict meal/training plan. I knew I needed to get on track and really wanted accountability since I felt like that was the major thing lacking. So I ended up signing up with 3 different online fitness coaches (not at the same time). All were well-respected and quite accomplished in the fitness industry. I didn’t set out to sign up with 3. I signed up with each believing they would be the right fit for me but in the end none of them were. Before I signed up with the first coach, I was already pretty fed up with being overwhelmed by information and wanted some concrete rules to follow. I followed the first plan but then decided I also wanted to sign up for the others to compare and contrast different plans to see what commonalities I could take away from them (if any) in the end. This way, I would have some basic rules to follow with my own plan if theirs didn’t work and then I could share the rules with others. Because why should YOU spend thousands of dollars like I did when I can tell you what I learned for free, right?!

I picked each coach’s brain and asked lots and lots of questions about calories, carbs and everything in between. Not surprisingly, they had very different answers about most things. I realized quickly how misinformed people are about fitness and it’s through no fault of their own. Every so-called expert is preaching different things. It is obvious to me that different coaches value different things when it comes to fitness plans and it’s almost entirely based on the personal successes they’ve had with various elements of dieting and exercise. It is actually quite shocking how different they are in their opinions on a lot of the “basics.”

I decided to do a comparison of each of the plans on the biggest and most confusing variables for most of us (especially fitness competitors) such as carbs, calories, cardio, etc.. Here are their answers to some of the most common questions I see on fitness forums/blogs/etc.:

How many rest days should I take?
  • Coach 1 – 1 day per week
  • Coach 2 – strict 3 days on, 1 day off
  • Coach 3 – no full rest days (day 7 is HIIT cardio)
Can I eat dairy?
  • Coach 1 – yes
  • Coach 2 – yes
  • Coach 3 – no

What should I eat post workout?

  • Coach 1 – nothing special, just follow meal plan
  • Coach 2 – up to 50 g of any sugary low fat carb + protein shake
  • Coach 3 – 15 g simple carbs + protein shake
What supplements should I be taking?
  • Coach 1 – A ton! Literally $150+ a month worth of stuff (all things that the coach got commissions on of course — watch out for this trap!!)
  • Coach 2 – A few basics like fish oil and multi-vitamins
  • Coach 3 – None but recommended fish oil
How much cardio should I be doing?
  • Coach 1 – 5 sessions of 25-30 min per week
  • Coach 2 –  NONE
  • Coach 3 – 3 sessions of 25 min HIIT per week and one fat burning session (off day from weight training)

Can I flavor my food?

  • Coach 1 – adding low fat/no sugar condiments is ok
  • Coach 2 – “food shouldn’t taste good” – not permitted to use recipes of any kind and food should be bland
  • Coach 3  -add whatever you need to make it taste good including high quality oils
Should I be cycling my carbs?
  • Coach 1- no
  • Coach 2- no
  • Coach 3 – yes
How many healthy fats can I eat?
  • Coach 1 – some
  • Coach 2 – none – only a fish oil supplement
  • Coach 3 – lots – up to 62 g per day
How many carbs should I eat (on workout days)? (I am a 5’7″ woman weighing around 135 lbs)
  • Coach 1 = Less than 100
  • Coach 2  = about 165
  • Coach 3  =about 105-155 depending on day of carb cycle (my cycle was High, Low, Med, Med, repeat)
Am I allowed cheat/treat meals?
  • Coach 1 – yes, 1x a week, anything you want
  • Coach 2 – no (very strict on this)
  • Coach 3-  yes as long as it fits in your macros, you can eat it
Do I need to weigh/measure my food?
  • Coach 1 -Yes,  required to weigh all food with a food scale
  • Coach 2- Yes, required to weigh food with a food scale and strictly count calories (always stressed calories are MOST important)
  • Coach 3 – Yes, it’s good to weigh food but don’t worry about calories. Just count macros.
Do I need to eat before a workout?
  • Coach 1- yes
  • Coach 2- yes (strict)
  • Coach 3 – no only protein shake is fine
How many weight workouts per week do I need to do?
  • Coach 1 = 4
  • Coach 2 = 4
  • Coach 3 = 6

Craziest thing the coach said to me:

  • Coach 1 = It’s ok to develop a thyroid problem because “you just need to take a daily pill.” (This coach admitted to having a thyroid problem. Keep in mind that thyroid issues are very common with people who follow terrible fitness advice and end up undereating and overtraining!)
  • Coach 2 = When traveling, you should “pack frozen chicken in your suitcase and tell your hotel that you’re diabetic so they give you a mini fridge.” Huh?
  • Coach 3 = It’s good to throw up after a workout. You should “look like you just came back from a war” after your workout.

Cost of Plan

  • Coach 1 = $350 a month
  • Coach 2 = $200 first month, $100 each month after
  • Coach 3 = $150 per year

My conclusions:

Hardest Part of Each Plan For Me:
  • Coach 1 – Way too much cardio and it made the workouts were way too long. I truly hate cardio so I wanted to die most days. The workouts were insanely long.
  • Coach 2- Super rigid about weighing food and eating it bland. This got old really fast and I got tired of eating weird combos of food because I wasn’t allowed to use any recipes.
  • Coach 3 – The cardio workouts are killer….downright brutal.
Easiest Part of Each Plan For Me:
  • Coach 1 – The diet – I didn’t feel that restricted.
  • Coach 2 – No cardio — it was awesome!!! Workouts really short compared to other plans.
  • Coach 3 – The diet and rules about it are pretty flexible and some of the workouts were fun and challenging in a good way.
So after all that, what did I learn? Two things:
One is that if you are still thinking about hiring a fitness coach, make sure to do your homework. Research their credentials (find one with the right certifications, degrees, etc.), get current/past client referrals and don’t be afraid to ask a questions. Your plan should be customized to your needs/wants/body type, and if it’s not, it’s simply not worth the money. Trust me, you can Google plans like that for free.
The second thing I learned is that unless you are looking to compete or are brand new to the fitness world, you may not even need a fitness coach at all. There were a few rules that ALL three of my coaches agreed on and apply to anyone/everyone regardless of your current fitness level, weight or future goals.
And here they are:
  1. Drink a lot of water (a gallon or more a day)
  2. Eat a lot of high quality protein (lean meats, fish, eggs)
  3. Eat a lot of green veggies (as many as you can)
  4. Take fish oil every day
  5. Eat well balanced meals (protein, carbs and fat – moderate portions)
  6. Avoid sugar and alcohol!
  7. Lift heavy at the gym
  8. Measure/weigh food (ideally with a food scale)
  9. Be consistent with your eating/exercise and the results will come!

If you follow these 9 rules, chances are very good you will meet (and even exceed) your fitness goals. And with all the money I just saved you in fitness coaching, maybe you can take yourself on a nice little beach vacation to celebrate!

Easy (Non-Green) Salads

Getting our fruits and veggies is SO important for so many reasons. I don’t know about you but I am not a fan of boring piles of greens on a plate. I like really bright, unique combos — lots of crunch, a bit of acid and tons of flavor.

As a general rule, my salads pretty much always consist of at least one veggie, usually a fruit, an herb/spice, a crunchy element, and some type of oil and/or vinegar. I like to try new combos and see what I can come up with.

I’ve listed some of my all-time favorite non-traditional salad recipes that all take only about 5 minutes to make and are super fresh, healthy and tasty! (All you do is chop stuff up and mix it all together in a bowl!)

Blood Orange & Avocado Salad

  • 1 avocado (sliced)
  • 1 blood orange
  • 1/4 cup toasted pistachios
  • 1/4 cup shaved fennel bulb
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • salt and pepper

Cucumber & Feta Salad

  • 1 cucumber, chopped
  • 4 oz. feta, crumbled
  • One-half purple onion (sliced lengthwise as thinly as possible)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Roasted Pepper & Balsamic Salad

  • 1.5 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 2 roasted red peppers (you can also roast fresh ones on the stove)
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil (julienned)

Heirloom Tomato Salad

  • 2 ears sweet corn
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 2 heirloom tomatoes, cut in chunks
  • 2 avocados, pitted, peeled, and sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste