Thursday, May 30, 2013

Let's talk about favorite crave-worthy to-feta

I thought tofu was weird stuff but when I dove face first into trying the vegan thing last summer, I needed to figure it out. And most of the time it was a disaster. I didn't know the difference between Silken and non silken or why it had to be firm or extra firm. Poor John had to choke down many a dinners (with plenty of hot sauce!) I knew there had to be a way to do it right. After about 8 months of trial and error I found an amazing crave-worthy tofu recipe.

I was searching for a feta cheese substitute. Now the consistency is different. The flavor is a bit different. The key is not to expect feta. The flavors marry well with anything feta would go with but it isn't a feta replacement. But it is easy and yummy and I am in love with it. (And if I can get my meat craving husband to eat it and really like it, I am convinced that anyone can.)

This stuff is good on tossed salads, on pasta salads, in hot pasta dishes, and I am even going to try stuffing it into a portobello cap tonight. I have yet to find a way I don't like this tofu.

I found the recipe on which is a recipe site I tend to have a lot of luck finding yummy food stuff on. I did lessen the oil quite a bit and up the vinegar (I like stuff to have a lot of bite.) I felt like the 1/4 of olive oil made it very greasy the first time I made it. Start with less, you can always add more is a pretty successful mantra I have found in the kitchen (especially for a girl who can sometimes be too lazy to get out the measuring cups and measure things.) I have also subbed out the herbs in the recipe when I was out of basil or oregano and it still turned out great, just with a little different flavor. I think this marinade is awesome, adaptable and quite frankly when I buried it in pasta salad over the holidays this past year, I found it to be as success (and something I could eat--which can be really hard at holiday get togethers and parties. I usually end up starving or eating bread.)

The other super important part is to press the tofu. Drain the package and set the tofu on a giant wad of paper towels on top of a plate or cutting board. Add another giant wad of paper towels on top of the tofu. Stack some big heavy books on top. Check back in about 15-20 minutes. Change the paper towel (or kitchen towel if you are a better person than I am) and press it again. The more water you get out, the more flavor the tofu can absorb. This was a huge, giant, aha lightbulb in my adventures of trying to cook tofu. It is worth the time and the (minimal) effort needed to allow the tofu to absorb all of your marinade awesomeness.

My favorite way to use the to-feta....

Take whole wheat noodles boiled drained and hot. Drizzle with olive oil.

Mix them over a bunch of fresh baby spinach (this makes the spinach kind of wilty and warm. Ah-mazing!)

Add some chopped up sundried tomatoes, chickpeas, yellow raisins, the to-feta and some garlic.

Toss and eat.

Love it. Super easy. It is yummy warm or cold. My favorite though is room temperature.

And here is the recipe for the to-feta as it appears on

My to-feta on a big old yummy salad. *tummy growls* 

Serves: 16
Units: US | Metric

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 lb firm tofu, herb flavored, cubed or crumbled


1. Place everything but the tofu in the bowl and whisk together.
2. Add tofu, stir, and let sit for at least an hour.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Insanity: the good, the bad and the ugly (and why I am so ready to break up with Shawn T)

When I ordered Insanity, I had just done a month of bootcamp (with a Groupon) and was in love. I was getting up at 5 and busting my hump 5 days a week. My month with my Groupon was almost over (and I couldn't afford to stay without the discount) and I didn't want to lose the incentive or the good habits I had started. The infomercial for Insanity came on and I thought why not? I proved I could do more than I thought by taking a bootcamp class for a month, maybe this was step 2. Go big or go home. And really how much harder could it be? much harder. So much harder that I couldn't even get through the warm up without
pausing the dvd to catch my breath. Yes. The warmup. I was all wait a minute this is the warm up? I thought I just did the workout. This whole your workout is my warm-up thing I see floating around on the internet. Totally true. Jillian Michaels so did not prepare me for this. Neither did my beloved bootcamp.

Despite the difficulty, I was pumped. And that adrenalin and excitement got me through the first two weeks. Granted, week 1 I spent a lot more time watching than participating. I focused on what I could do and had to base my progress off of that, because if I didn't I would just quit. (Or go crazy because sometimes I just wanted to punch those people on the video in the face. Cheering and smiling while I was trying not to puke. Dude, I don't know if you know what type of activity constitutes cheering and smiling, but I assure you, this is not it. Go get drunk in a bar and dance on a table. Ride a roller coaster. Something.)

And then week 3 hit. I was tired. I didn't want to do it. When I was lacing up my sneakers, it seemed like every part of my body was whining, please don't make me! But I had joined a challenge group (something that was so not me.) And I had to post every. single. day. to strangers if I had worked out. Sure, I could lie. But I wasn't going to let strangers beat me by getting better results than me. (I have just a teeny tiny competitive streak.) I mean they were people I didn't even know. I could totally crush them. That is what kept me going. And as much as I didn't want to admit it, the challenge group was worth it. I had always scoffed at the idea of online support in the past. I mean talking to strangers on the internet was so 1994. I was envisioning something like a chat room (cue the dial up internet humming to life in the background) where people whined about how someone brought cake to the office. And that cake is the devil and that person is just so mean to sabotage your diet like that. They must be jealous. Or hate you. But it was just people posting about how well they worked out or ate. Some motivational stuff thrown in there by my coach. Just that little thing, posting in there every day about how well I did, gave me enough to push through the horrible third week.

By week 4 the end of month 1 was in sight! Whoo hoo! But at the end of week 4, I didn't feel ready to move on. What if it's harder? What if I can't even do anything? So I repeated week 4. Then I temporarily relocated across the country, dealt with packing and travel and jet lag. Did the recovery week. But by that point it had been a week and a half since I had done a death by cardio workout. So I was afraid. And I repeated week 4. Again. Ugh. Talk about being sick of Shawn T. Totaling up the weeks, I should have been almost done with this program. At this point, I was only halfway through. I had also finally broken down and told people (besides my online pretend friends) that I had bought the program and was doing it. So real people would know if I didn't do it. Grrrr....

I was pleased to find that month 2 was a little less death by cardio and a little more strength. I was so excited for it to be different. Yay variety! There is still crazy cardio in there but it didn't feel like a form of torture. It was good. I was good. Don't get me wrong I was still super excited for all the leg kicking but the cardio didn't make me feel like I wanted to die. Or just lay on the ground until John came home from work to physically pry my body off of the floor. Month 2 was good. I got through it. I had some pains toward the end, in my back and my wrists. But it was all downhill. If it wasn't for the finish line being right there, I may have thrown in the towel the last week. I was so ready to be done. And now I am so glad I didn't quit.

So here is the good:

The workouts are all pretty much under an hour. The first month they are 30-45 minutes. The second month they jump to 45-60 and the one or two days a week you ad the cardio abs maybe a smidge longer.

Despite all of my setbacks, I saw results. I didn't follow the meal plan. I wasn't a crazy person about my food intake. We did a temporary relocation across the country. We ate pizza and take out around that time. More often than I should have. On average I still ate pizza once a week. I still drank beer. And I still had successes.

The month one warm-up is the same on every dvd. Month 2's warm up is very similar on all the month 2 dvd's. I liked this because I knew what to expect.

I feel so much stronger. I can do things now, at the end of the program, I couldn't do at the beginning.

You stretch. A lot for a home fitness dvd. I was impressed with the amount of stretching he did in each video.

My flexibility has also increased. I've always been pretty flexible, but nothing compared to when I cheered and used and stretched those muscles all the time. Thanks to all the stretching built in, I am way more flexible than when I started.

My core is so much stronger. As a result, my balance is even better. (I've always had pretty good balance.)

The bad:

It does get a little bit repetitive. (Or maybe because I added the extra weeks I was annoyed by this and ready to break up with my new exercise boyfriend.)

The month one warm-up is the same on every DVD. Month 2's warm up is very similar on all the month 2 DVD's. (Both good & bad in my opinion. It depended on the day and what kind of mood I was in.)

The stretching is almost always the same.

I never was able to come close to competing with the people on the video who can jump like ninjas. Ugh. Maybe next time.

And there is so much jumping. If you have any problems in your back or your knees, this is not the workout to try.

The ugly:

By the end my lower back was starting to hurt - especially when doing things like power jumps. I modified those the last 2 weeks.

My wrists also started hurting. There are more push up and plank based exercises (sometimes those are combined) in month 2. For someone who has weak wrists (this girl right here) it was extremely difficult and I had to modify.

Total, I lost 9 lbs, 9.5 inches overall including 2 inches off my waist! Those are some pretty good results, all things considered. I'm not going to be recruited for an Insanity infomercial anytime soon, but I am pleased with where I am. 

In reality, Insanity was way out of my league. I am now compeltely comfortable admiting that. Despite my best efforts, I could never really do push up jacks followed by ab push ups followed by in and out abs. When I started I couldn't even do a push up off my knees! I may not be able to do the crazy combination above for a minute strait but I can do a push up now (on my toes!) My core is so much stronger. My cardio endurance is so much better. I started running again. Despite not having run so much as a mile since before my daughter was born, I was able to go out there and actually run a mile.  Better than I ever had before, even when I was making an attempt at running daily. (I really am a terrible runner, despite my best efforts.)

Had I been in better shape when I started, I think my results would have been better. But I am still so happy with what Insanity has given me. It gave me a schedule. I am now in the habit of working out 6 days a week without pause. It's just what I do. Completing Insanity was something I needed more for my mental state than my physical. Finishing has given me such a feeling of accomplishment. That I can do anything. That I will get there, even if I'm not there yet.

Last Insanity Workout Done! Yay!
I am excited to try Insanity again, although not anytime soon. My boyfriend, Shawn T, and I just need a break. I mean it was good while it lasted. Great, some days. But I just need some time. I learned a lot in the time we spent together and emerged a much stronger person, maybe even a better person. I learned to push my limits and what I am really capable of. But I am ready to move on and find someone I am a little more compatible with every day.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Full is Equal to Happy (Meat and Dairy free Veggie Lasagna Yummy-ness)

Sometimes I crave a big plate of heavy food that is going to leave me feeling full, fat and happy. Gross, right? But really sometimes I just want a giant sandwich or something that has some major substance to shove in my pie hole. Yesterday was on of those days for me. Beans and greens just weren't cutting it. Typically I am really happy with a nice big plate of greens, a grain and some mushrooms or beans, but not yesterday. Maybe because I have been pushing myself extra hard to end this Insanity journey with a bang or maybe because I might be a little homesick. I knew I needed to address this craving before it got worse, I got angrier and picked a fight with everyone around me.

And boy was I craving some good old Italian food like it was my job. So I decided to try some vegan stuffed shells. I took this recipe from Oh She Glows and modified it a bit to look like the stuffed shells my Mom used to make. She used to add in carrots and broccoli and other veggies to make it crunch, give it tons of kick ass texture and overall make them pretty awesome. And it gets all those vital veggies in there the doctors are always talking about. Yay veggies!

But to thwart my plan, the grocery store out here didn't have giant shell pasta (seriously, they have bee pollen but not shell pasta. I can't even handle it.) So I did some creative swapping and switched it up with lasagna. And they had whole wheat no bake noodles so the decision was made.  (And really what is the difference besides the pasta shape?)

So I took the tofu ricotta recipe, added a ton of fresh basil and garlic and it was awesome. I skipped cooking it since I pressed it forever. I also skipped the onion since it was in my veggie layer and the celery. (The idea of celery in something that is supposed to sub ricotta kind of made me gag.) It's not ricotta but it is some good stuff. I would also double it for sure next time. I couldn't get enough of it.

I cooked up some broccoli, carrots, onion and I had some zucchini I forgot to throw in (oops!) But I used this as what would traditionally be the "meat" layer. Although I think I could have thrown the veggies in with the tofu and they could have all had a party. It would have been easier than trying to spread out the tofu onto the noodles/pasta sauce. I also think I might skip using sauce next time too. God knows I don't have an Italian bone in my body and clean jarred sauce is so hard to find. I think some ripe chunky tomatoes and spices would be delish!

Plus this is another great meal that feels like a treat (or cheat) meal. How often can you eat lasagna that is awesome and doesn't have a bajillion calories? Paired with a big old salad, this dinner is a-ma-zing. (Even my carnivorous husband thought it rocked. After he came home and asked if there was anything weird going on in this dinner. I may have lied and told him after he ate three plates worth.)

Here is the recipe from Oh She Glows (it's a great site. Check it out.) And a pic of my awesome creation. (My food photography skills are growing. Go me!)

Tofu Ricotta:
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium sweet onion, diced
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh basil leaves, minced
  • 1/2 cup packed fresh parsley, minced
  • 1 (14oz) package extra-firm or firm tofu, pressed
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3/4-1 tsp fine grain sea salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes (optional)

1. Rinse block of tofu and wrap with paper towels followed by 2-3 tea towels. Place it on a cutting board or plate and add several heavy cookbooks on top. Press tofu for about 20-25 minutes to drain out the water. Alternatively, you can use a tofu press.

2. Grease a very large casserole dish. I used about 30 shells, but you’ll need to cook more than that as some shells will break during the cooking process. Cook shells in a pot of boiling water until al dente, about 8-11 minutes. Be careful not to overcook. Drain shells and set aside to cool.

3. Preheat oven to 400F. For the tofu ricotta: In a large skillet, sauté the garlic and onion in the oil for about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add in the chopped celery, basil, and parsley and sauté for another 5 minutes or so. Feel free to throw in some spinach for extra greens.

4. For the tofu, you can either crumble it into the skillet with your hands or you can give it a whirl in the food processor and then stir it into the skillet. If you use the processor, the texture will be very creamy like ricotta cheese and if you crumble it with your hands it will be more chunky/crumbly. It’s up to you how you want to make it. I usually opt to crumble it by hand so I don’t dirty the processor. Stir in the nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, lemon, and cayenne all to taste. Over medium heat, cook for about 8-10 minutes or until most of the water cooks off.

5. Spoon about 1 cup of marinara sauce into the casserole dish and spread around. Add about 2 tbsp of tofu ricotta into each stuffed shell and place shells on top of marinara sauce. Cover shells with the remaining 2-2.5 cups marinara sauce and any leftover tofu ricotta. You can add vegan cheese on top, but I don’t bother. Cover dish with tin foil and poke several air holes. Bake at 400F for about 20 minutes or until heated throughout. Serve with a basic green salad and garlic bread, if desired.

Read more:

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why I decided to become a Beachbody coach....

I always said that if I was an actress or model or *insert job that requires a hot body here* I would totally look that good too. I mean, it would be MY JOB. I am going to work hard for my job or not get paid. If the model doesn't look good, she doesn't book any jobs, she doesn't get paid. Well, it's time for me to put my money where my mouth is because I just made it my job. One of the best reasons I saw for signing up to be a Beachbody coach was that it was now my job to look good too. How am I supposed to motivate or help anyone reach their health goals while I am sitting on my ass eating popcorn all day? The answer is I'm not. So on those days where I just don't want to, please don't make me workout, it pushes me to do so. It keeps me accountable without having to go to a meeting to listen to people whine about how cake is the devil.

What I love about everything I have experienced so far is that there is no magic pill. No you aren't going to lose 60 lbs in 30 days (ok maybe someone somewhere has but the reality of that is super slim.) You aren't going to lose weight by sitting on the couch. It just doesn't work that way. You have to put the work in and you get out exactly what you put in. If I skip workouts and eat like poo, it is reflective in my performance and my results. I have literally given blood, sweat and tears to completing the Insanity program and worked my butt off for every single ounce I lost. And I didn't lose a ton of weight. I will not be the next infomercial star but I am so proud of myself for showing up and working hard.

I believe, as consumers, we are lied to every day and, as Americans (in one of the heaviest nation in the world) we are super sensitive to anything that promises to be an easy and quick fix when it comes to weight loss. Beachbody is not that. And I love that about this company. There are so many workout program options and they just ask you to push play and give everything you've got. That is something I can stand behind.

When I ordered Insanity, I had just done a month of bootcamp (with a Groupon) and was in love. I was getting up at 5 and busting my hump 5 days a week. My month with my Groupon was almost over (and I couldn't afford to stay without the discount) and I didn't want to lose the incentive or the good habits I had started. The infomercial for Insanity came on and I thought why not? I proved I could do more than I thought by taking a bootcamp class for a month, maybe this was step 2. Go big or go home.

And while my Insanity results weren't commercial worthy, they aren't anything to sneeze at either. I have tried so many programs, so many different diets, but nothing gave me results that came close to my Insanity results (even the bootcamp I loved so much.) One thing I really struggled with during Insanity (and I think I will with almost every Beachbody program going forward) was the meal plan. About a year ago, I gave up meat and dairy. Most of the eating guides are very meat (protein) heavy. I started searching the message boards and even asked in some of the Beachbody groups on Facebook. I found nothing. I really felt like there was a huge gap in the community. And when I found an "answer" it was to substitute tofu or other soy based protein product (which the jury is still out on how great these are for you too...) I don't mind tofu and I have actually grown to really enjoy it in some recipes (once I fumbled through a bunch of recipes learning how to cook it.) But I really didn't want to eat that much soy. I try to limit that to once a week not multiple times a day! Where is the help for someone looking for vegetarian or vegan nutrition? It just isn't there. I really want to be there to help people who are struggling with the meal plans, like I did.

Learning about plant based nutrition has lead me down this twisty turvy path that has me questioning
not only what is sold as food but what we are told about our food by manufacturers. We are generally given brightly colored boxes with nutritions claims and are virtually patted on the head and told we are good boys and girls for making the right decisions. The entire food industry treats us like we are children. No, honey, you don't really want to know how we put the fiber back in or how we made the fat free, healthy, death by chocolate cookie taste good or how we keep the bugs out of the corn. Those are messy, grown up things that you don't need to worry about. Now go eat your snack and stop asking silly questions.

I feel like my job as a Beachbody coach is not to get people to eat the way I do or get as fired up as I do about the food industry but to let everyone know it is ok to question what is in your food. Why do we have to add red dye to farm raised salmon? (and when I found out the answer to that I gagged and stopped eating farm raised salmon.) Why does Kraft make macaroni and cheese for European countries without artificial food dyes and will not do that same thing in America? (read more about that here. Thanks Foodbabe!) And that it is ok to decide that maybe you want to stop eating things with artificial dyes or sweeteners or even foods that are processed. As Beachbody coaches, I feel, that we need to get out there and encourage people to make their own decisions, to do their own research, to empower them to try things like clean eating and see first hand if it makes a difference in their lives. Our food is fuel for our life. I know I don't want to eat things that make me feel sluggish and tired and laying on the couch all day because I don't want to look back and see that I spent more of my days invested in the lives of fictional characters than I did invested in the lives of the people I care the most about.

And of course there was one more huge reason I bit the bullet and decided to become a Beachbody coach...

The discount! That was a huge incentive for me to become a Beachbody coach. I wanted the 25% discount. Even with the monthy website maintanance fee, it was still saving me around 15 bucks on my shakeology. That was a no brainer for me. Kind of like when I used to work retail. I loved getting the clothes on the cheap (and ended buying way more than I should have or needed.) I also get bored easily. I'm not the type who is going to keep doing the same workout over and over and over. Sure I might come back to a workout (maybe revisiting Insanity once a year or so) but I need to change it up. The discount gave me the ability to purchase more workouts (starting Turbofire next! Whoot!) and now that I am committed to exercising 6 days a week I need the variety. (And if I ever stop ordering "mom's shake" my toddler might never forgive me, as it has become her favorite snack.)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Let them eat...Greek! Clean Spanakopita Deliciousness

I wish I was Greek. The food. The culture. The food. I don't get cravings for Italian food or any other heritage-y food (I don't know anyone who craves German food except maybe my Grandpa. Beer, absolutely. Pretzels, yes please. Food, not really.) But do I ever get a hankering for all things Greek. Give me some feta and some olives and I am a happy girl. Grape leaves. Mmmmm.

But one of my all time favorites is spanakopita. The spinach. The flaky crust. Yum yum yum. So when I saw a recipe for spanakopita casserole on Clean Eating Magazine's website, (it's a pretty awesome site!) I pinned it immediatly. Because this is something I could eat. All. The. Time. And it's clean? whoot! I love meals that are healthy but still feel like I am being a little bit bad. Sure this isn't the greasy, yummy spanakopita from the street cart at the Art Festival downtown in the summer. Washed down with a giant ($10) beer from the cart next to it. But it rocks. The spinach is yummy and mixed with some creamy feta. The sweet pepper, mint and dill gives it lots of flavor.

Yes it breaks my no animal products rule by adding feta cheese. And I did use feta this time. I didn't have time to make some vegan "feta." For me it is all things in moderation. If I am watching my animal product intake and I have a little cheat (like some feta) it is still so much better than where I was a year ago. (Seriously, I had no idea how much dairy I actually ate until I tried to cut it out of my diet. Crazy business.)

But, oh, the spanakopita goodness - Mine wasn't as "clean" as it could be. I could only find one type of phyllo and it wasn't whole wheat.  (Small town, limited grocery options.) I also couldn't find fresh mint so I used dried and didn't really measure it. I just dumped some in the spinach mixture till it smelled amazing. No fresh dill either but dried worked just fine for the dill too.  I also didn't mist everything with (clean) cooking spray or cut the phyllo into strips. I just layered it in the pan and it turned out just fine.

I would actually really like to try this with some tofu "feta" which is super yummy and I am also obsessed with on my salads.

And I clearly need to work on my food photo taking skills as my flaky phyllo crust looks kind of like cheesy chicken. Oh well. Here is to improvement all around and cheers to Meatless Mondays!

Here is the recipe and what it was supposed to look like....

By Diane Welland MS RD
Serves: 6
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Total time: 1 hour
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sweet red pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large bags fresh spinach (9 oz each) or 36 cups loosely packed spinach
  • 1 tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg white
  • 1/2 cup feta, crumbled
  • 4 sheets whole-wheat phyllo dough (13 x 18 inches each; Try: The Fillo Factory)
  • Olive oil cooking spray
  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add pepper and onion and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add spinach in batches, waiting 2 or 3 minutes between intervals; cover tightly and cook, tossing frequently, for about 15 minutes.
  2. Drain spinach mixture in a colander, removing any excess liquid, before placing it in a large bowl; set aside. When spinach mixture is cool, mix in dill, mint and egg white. Then fold in feta until well blended. Set aside.
  3. Working quickly, roll phyllo out onto a clean work surface. Carefully cut each sheet lengthwise into approximately 4 3-inch-wide pieces. (TIP: Or cut each sheet in half lengthwise, then half each of the 2 sections again to create 4 equal pieces.) Place 3 or 4 strips across the center of a 1 1/2-qt or 9 x 9-inch casserole dish misted with cooking spray, leaving about 3 to 4 inches of excess hanging over on both ends. The strips should be overlapping slightly. Mist strips with cooking spray. Turn the casserole dish clockwise and place 3 or 4 strips across the original layer, at a 90-degree angle. Mist strips with cooking spray. Continue turning and layering until all strips have been used, about 4 layers in total, misting with cooking spray after each layer.
  4. Spoon spinach mixture into center of phyllo-covered dish. Fold phyllo hanging over edges into the center of spinach mixture, covering the top (no spinach should be visible). Mist with cooking spray.
  5. Bake in preheated oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until lightly brown and crispy. Let casserole sit for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Cut into 6 pieces and serve. TIP: Phyllo can be cut with a knife, kitchen scissors or a pizza cutter.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Clean Eating and Tosca's Rules

So there is a lot of hype right now about what we should eat, how much we should eat, when we should eat, if we should eat all organic or if it is a waste of money, if GMO's are safe or not and I could go on and on. There are so many differnent opinions that it makes my head spin just to start to sort them out.

One thing I have found that makes the most sense to me is Clean Eating. Now I hate even calling it that, does that mean that eating anything else is dirty? (Cue Christina Aguilera song now in my head.) But, when I look at what this way of eating is telling me, it just makes sense. Eat real food. Food as close as it can be to the way it was when it came out of the ground. Eat lettuce and apples and strawberries and beans. Don't eat chemicals, preservatives, things you can't pronounce (unless it is an exotic fruit or veggie) and don't eat overly processed flour & sugar (my Achilles heel.)

I have borrowed and read The Eat-Clean Diet Recharged by Tosca Reno twice now.  And although she does like to talk about how awesome and healthy she is (and put in  lots of pictures of herself) what she is saying (once you weed through all the narcissism) that we need to eat real food. And the idea of eating "clean" or eating real food isn't her idea. She just got great results and published a bunch of books about it. According to Reno, she borrowed the idea of clean eating from the physique industry. In the book, In Defense of Food, Micheal Pollan says there has been a push back against processed foods from the beginning. Either way, there are plenty of people talking and writing books about clean eating, even if they don't use the term "clean."

Tosca Reno claims that our physique is 80% nutrition, 10% training and 10% genetics and we need to focus on what we are putting onto our plates and into our mouths. (And she isn't the first person I've read that makes this claim.)

So here are her rules:

1. Eat more 

Aim for 6 small meals a day. Ideally this would be breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, an afternoon snack, dinner and an after dinner snack (and my Mom used to tell me snacking was bad...) but it can be adjusted to meet individual schedules. I typically don't ever eat a after dinner snack. We eat dinner late (close to 7 because of my husband's job) and I'm not hungry again before bed.

2. Eat Breakfast

Every day. Without fail. Within an hour of waking up. (I used to skip breakfast and drink about 2 gallons of coffee instead. I started with doing a smoothie or shake in the morning. After some time, my body got used to being fed first thing and I actually wake up hungry now. )

3. Lean Protein plus Complex Carbs at Every Meal

This one is hard for me. I don't eat meat often so I try to throw some beans on my salad or almond butter on my toast. But I also don't worry about it too much. Even veggies have protein.

4. Eat Enough Healthy Fat

This rule might be my favorite because it means I can eat some avocado every day! (I have an obsession. Avocado toast is my favorite breakfast.) Or olives (because I love those too!) Also using healthy oils (I really limit this though based on other books I have read who claim oils for cooking are also processed and not as healthy as we want them to be. And if I do use olive oil try to get cold pressed olive oil.) 

5. Drink Water

Lots and lots of water. 2-3 liters of water a day and sometimes more. 

6. Pack Your Snacks

Since we don't really know what is in all the foods that we order out, we need to get in the habit of packing healthy snacks or meals. This can be as easy (an apple and a handful of almonds) or as complicated as you want to make it. In the long run it should also fatten up your wallet since you won't be eating out as much. 

7. Depend of Fresh Fruits, Veggies and Whole Grains for Complex Carbs

I know it has been toted for a while but all carbs are not bad. If you lived through the low carb craze, this can be a hard thing to wrap your brain around. How I make it easy? Fruits, veggies & grains  = good. White rice, flour, bread, pasta, sugar, processed = bad. And I don't sweat it. 

8. Stick to Proper Portion Sizes

So overall her rules are pretty easy. I honestly feel so much better since cutting out processed foods. I can taste the flavor of fresh foods so much better than I could before. I have more energy. I don't feel sluggish in afternoons (or even when I wake up before my coffee!)

I am always running clean eating groups on Facebook.  Or check out my FREE clean eating bootcamp. If this is something you are interested in message me on Facebook. We share tips, tricks, recipes and generally keep each other on track. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Hello Gorgeous (some thoughts on Kris Carr & her book Crazy Sexy Diet)

From the first pages of this book, I so wanted to be friends with Kris Carr. And not just the veggie loving, juice drinking, chilled out meditating pillar of awesomeness that she is now but also the party girl who used to run around Manhattan drinking until the sun came up. Despite the fact that she has completely changed her life and how she looks at food and nutrition, she still has the party girl spark that draws others to her. She just uses it now to talk to us about how we can change our lives and possibly what we thought was our medical destiny. Reading this book felt like a conversation between friends over cocktails. That she was spilling all her juicy secrets and discoveries to me because we are the best of friends and she can't imagine something terrible happening to me. This is a powerful way to write a book. It either appeals or is a turn off. For me, it works. I mean anyone who calls me gorgeous on the first page has my attention.

Kris Carr decided to change her life when, at 31, she was told she had cancer in her liver and in her lungs. She went through a slew of doctors who had various recommendations. She finally found a doctor she jived with and the decided to wait it out and see what happened. She completely changed her life. She went back to school to study nutrition. She learned how to sleep and meditate. Today her cancer lays dormant. She has a documentary that focuses more on her medical stuff than this book does (Crazy Sexy Cancer) so if this is something that interests you, by all means pick it up.

After a brief introduction to her start down this path to wellness, she talks about the PH of the body. Acidic vs alkaline and how the right balance in our diet is the key. Animal products, processed foods, sugars, alcohol and even some legumes (black beans, soybeans & chickpeas) are the acidic and veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds and legumes are the alkaline. For drastic change we should strive for a 80/20 ratio and for maintenance a 60/40.

There is a lot of information about the benefits of going vegan in this book, but very little pressure. Her point is that if you can't give up all animal products or don't want to give up all animal products, strive to keep them to a minimum rather than the main. And if you are going to add in dairy or meat (in small amounts) make sure it is good quality. She keeps in mind the big picture and if not being able to eat a little bit of cheese is going to keep people from eating this way, giving into that little bit of cheese is better than going back to the Standard American Diet (SAD - every time I abbreviate this I giggle at the irony....)

There is a lot of info in this book from information about food, our digestive system (a whole chapter so if potty talk makes you uncomfortable you may want to skip or skim this chapter) juicing, meditating and more. It is light, conversational and has lots of pretty charts to help break down all the scary number stuff for people like me - especially when all the acidic balance chemistry talk started to make me a little dizzy. There is also a 21 day cleanse outlined day by day at the end of the book along with some recipes. And if those intrigue you there is a follow up cookbook (which I am going to try and pick up to review.)

Kris Carr is a remarkable woman who could have given up. Instead she empowered herself and is really living each and every day. I love the idea that we have the ability to create our strongest, sexiest selves based on what we pick up and put in our mouths. I love the strength in this way of thinking. It is up to us to do the research, try out the different recommendations for food and see what gives us the most energy.

The decision on how to live your life is up to you.  How's that for empowerment? It makes me want to go grab some kale.

To nab a copy of Crazy Sexy Diet click here.

For more info please visit her website at

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Pushing Through (when the exercise porn doesn't do it for you anymore)

My husband calls me a hobby dropper. I get something new. I love it to the point of obsession. I fill my hours and days with research about it and participation. And about a month later, I am sick of it and move onto the next shiny, sparkly thing I find.

I have reached that point with Insanity. I was so pumped to get it in the mail and get started. Even though the first week (or two) were so hard I spend more time on the ground than actually working out, I was pumped to run down to the basement every morning and work out. I creeped around the Beachbody message boards to see what everyone else was saying. I poked around on some Insanity survivors' blogs to see what their advice was and what their results were (I love seeing the before and after pictures - exercise porn!) I would get sucked in for hours dreaming that those would be my results too. I tracked my calories. Invested in  a BodyMedia Fit band (which is kick ass by the way and I will talk about soon.) Planned my meals. A week in I even gave up all my hesitation about the online support groups and contacted a colleague of mine to be my coach. She had great success and honestly if I was going to do this, I was going to do this. I signed up for a challenge group. Ordered Shakeology to try it out for a while. I was driven. I was going to do this.

I struggled to finish month 1 but made it through to the month 2 workouts. When I stared the new workouts, Insanity was all shiny and new again. The workouts were different. Yay!

Well the sparkle started to wane before the week was up. Every step of this week so far (and even the end of last week) has been so hard. I don't want to press play. I don't want to look at Shawn T's face anymore. I am sick of it. (Ironically, this lined up with reporting my 30 challenge group progress. I saw results in my pictures, weight and measurements this still was not enough to push me through.) I was dragging ass when I pushed play not giving it my all. There was no digging deeper. So what was the point. This is where I had to stop and assess what exactly I was doing.

Why am I doing this? Am I trying to make myself crazy? No, I want to see some results and not drop this hobby so my hubby can't say I told you so. (The monetary investment isn't anything to sneeze at either...)

So today I busted out my old gym playlist. I haven't really touched it since I let my gym membership lapse when I was pregnant (which was in 2010.) And I busted a groove. Music seriously motivates me. I love to dance and shake my ass. So I turned off the terrible music that plays in the background of the DVD's (sorry Beachbody, but it's bad) and I turned some Brittany on. I love me some poppy dance tunes and it never fail to not only put me in a better mood but to get me off my ass. I did what I used to do when I would run on the treadmill for an hour, I choreographed in my head. This maybe really weird but if in my brain I am dancing around (and not doing squat jumps or pushups) it really helps. During the water breaks, I wasn't laying on the floor praying for the minutes to move faster. I was dancing around in circles with my toddler. And then was ready 30 seconds later when it was go time. It was so motivating. I've had the best workout I've had in a few days.

Today's lesson: Find what motivates you and use it! As humans, we get bored easily so mix it up. Make it shiny and new everyday and your workout will feel less like work and more like a dance party (for me anyway.)

And when I am sick of my late 80's -90's jams I may just turn on some Pandora. I am hoping this will keep me moving and grooving (and sticking with this Insanity program) for another couple of weeks. Because I will finish this time.

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