Not all Bars are Created Equal

If you know anything about me, I’m a BAR kind of person. Not the bar for drinks, but the “grab and go” rectangularly shaped conglomeration of food! These snacks are awesome so you don’t find yourself hungry and grabbing for junk, but make sure you take a look at the nutrition label, or you could find yourself mistaken when you think you’re helping your health and you’re actually feeding it chemicals.

As a society, we LOVE convenience and we need portion control… bars can be a great way to have both! There are so many out there, but I’m going to just tell you my opinion about a few that I’ve tried. Rule of thumb is to at least LOOK at the label and see if you feel comfortable and confident consuming it, and always consider REAL food the best option for meals. 🙂

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THE GOOD: 

LARA BARS

These are likely the cleanest general type bar out on the market and still tasty, made with 100% whole food and they typically contain only 4 or 5 ingredients. You just have to be sure to balance sugar intake for the rest of the day as they use dates as the primary ingredient. They’re high sugar, but it’s good sugar from food at least instead of added or artificial sugar. These are great for lifestyle purposes to keep you full between meals and are gluten free, dairy free, soy free, non GMO, Vegan and Kosher. Calories are around 200.

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QUEST BARS

I LOVE LOVE LOVE Quest Bars! I can’t get enough of the taste. These are the cleanest PROTEIN type bar with 20g of protein, 17g of Fiber, and 1g of sugar.  They are sweetened with Stevia and freeze-dried fruit, and come in SO many flavors. MY favorite being Chocolate Chip cookie dough (which you can put in the microwave for a few seconds and pretend you’re eating warm actual cookie dough…) If you’re not meeting your daily fiber intake, like most Americans, or need post-workout protein, this is your jam. You can also make tons of other delicious “desserts” with the bars 🙂

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Mini CLIFF BARS

These are organic and natural, but less of a every day snack and more for high performance workouts, energy and recovery. The sugar and carbs in it are often used for endurance runners and are SUPER FILLING, like mini-meal status. They’re non-GMO and made with organic rolled oats. I say mini, because the regular ones have upwards of 250 calories, whereas the minis stick around 100 and are a better snack option.

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KIND BARS

This is another type of “nut” bar, usually under 200 calories and often include seeds like chia/flax and added vitamins. These are also non-GMO and have very few ingredients (depending on the flavor). They are sweetened with honey and dried fruit, but just be a little more careful of the ones with chocolate added 🙂

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THE BAD:

SPECIAL K

This is known to be the quintessential “dieting bar” and brand. I even used to eat them in early college when I was fooled by their marketing techniques! For a very low calorie bar, they sure have over 50 different ingredients. High Fructose Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Artificial flavor, soy lecithin, soy protein isolate, trans fat, processed rice… not even worth the empty calories.

POWER BAR

Guess what the number one ingredient in this energy bar is? Sugar. That’s right, there’s more sugar in this bar than anything else. And there’s less than one gram of fiber. You might as well have a candy bar! NO NO NO. Remember how highly addictive sugar is HERE in my post “Sugar is Killing Us”. Don’t be fooled just because something says “PROTEIN” on the wrapper.

Nutrigrain Bars 

High Fructose Corn Syrup… need I say more? I’m not sure why these were like the breakfast of champions when I was growing up, but they’re nothing but enriched processed flour and fake fruit filling. Not a great way to start the day. They also have red #1 and blue #1 colorings which are known to cause several illnesses.

Think Thin 

It’s hard to “think thin” when you’re eating a bar with more saturated fat than the American Heart Association recommends. This energy bar also has SO MUCH sodium (like 300g) and is heavy on the SOY (look for WHEY as a higher quality option). These DO have 20g of protein and are 230 calories.

Healthy Mexican Food

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I recently went out to eat with my in laws when they came into town to visit. My father in law LOVES Mexican! We don’t mind it either… who doesn’t love to down some chips and salsa for 30 minutes before your meal comes!?

Going out to eat for a special occasion like CINCO DE MAYO doesn’t have to ruin your healthy eating plan! Mexican food can actually be GOOD for you! (notice I said the FOOD, not the fancy drinks! haha)

Here are some suggestions to get you prepped and ready for the celebrations:

  • For the most determined person: Ask your waiter not to bring chips before the meal so you aren’t tempted to fill up beforehand.
  • Look for grilled lean meats. Let your eyes skim past anything fried! An easy go-to is chicken fajitas with peppers and onions… or something with shrimp or fish.
  • Skip the sour cream and extra cheese piled on the side of your plate before it even reaches the table. Minimal toppings are best, but hot sauce or salsa can be great low calorie additions to add a lot of flavor
  • Ask if you can swap out the the refried beans for black beans, which are high in fiber and protein and likely not cooked with fat like the refried ones often are. 
  • If you have to, choose guacamole over nacho cheese. Healthy fats are better than artificial cheese, but just be mindful of your portion sizes. Avocado is still super high in calories, even though it’s good for you. A little bit goes a long way! 
  • If you are someone’s home, you may be able to purchase or bring whole wheat tortillas to use for burritos or quesadillas instead of flour. If at a restaurant, they may allow you to swap out for corn tortillas too, which are better than the flour ones! (Same goes for trying to switch out the rice for brown rice. Never hurts to ask!)
  • If going for drinks, aim for a light beer with less calories than a huge margarita, high in carbohydrates and sugar. 
  • Don’t fall for giant combo serving sizes. The A La Carte Menu can be your friend to pick and choose healthy options for you, especially if you wanted to add a side a vegetables to your meal.

GOOD LUCK & have fun!

Strawberry Delight Chicken Salad

I hesitated posting this because it’s technically not SUPER clean/healthy with the dressing. BUT then I realized that I like to eat some things in moderation and we all should be able to ENJOY the foods we’re eating, as long as we don’t eat dressing every day!

Let it be known that I LOVE CHICKEN SALAD. This chicken salad is perfect to make several lunches or take to a summer cookout with friends, and at least it doesn’t have mayo 😉

This recipe has some sentimental value to me because it is LITERALLY the first thing I ever tried to make for myself…and for Ryan back when we were dating. I was so scared and thought it was so hard; but now it seems to comes together so easily! 🙂 I haven’t made it since the first time 3 years ago, when Ryan and I went strawberry picking in VA Beach, and made it with fresh strawberries. I’ve been holding on to the recipe for the perfect occasion–like a sunny work from home day!

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Hands on time: ~20 mins

Total time: 2 hours to chill

Ingredients: 

(Organic) Strawberries

Chicken Meat

Fresh Basil

Green Onions/Scallions (you can buy these pre-minced)

Poppyseed dressing

Chopped almonds (optional)

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1. Stir together 1/2 cup bottled poppy seed dressing

1/4 cup minced green onions

3 tbsp chopped fresh basil

1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper in a large bowl.

2. Fold in 4 cups chopped cooked chicken (or about 3 -10oz cans of natural chicken like I used today) and 2 cups diced fresh strawberries; add salt to taste.

Cover and refrigerate 2 hours. Stir in 1 cup chopped almonds before serving. 

Today, I put it in a Whole Wheat tortilla to make a wrap for lunch, but you can also serve with crackers or with vegetables.

ENJOY!!
XOXO,

Ro

Why am I so sluggish?!

You know the look on many days of the week, when co-workers come into the office half-asleep, or just can’t seem to get up enough energy to think clearly for a meeting.

We’ve all been there ourselves and it’s NOT fun.

Sometimes our long-term tiredness is a deeper issue, like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Depression or a thyroid condition, but often times, it is simply a matter of our lifestyle choices. Take inventory of this list if you’ve been feeling sluggish to see what you might be able to get back in balance! You’ve gotta choose what’s best for the one body you’ve been given!

Sleep. DUH. The obvious #1. You’re not getting enough sleep! (7-9 hours) OR you’re inconsistent about it. 5 hours during the week and 15 hours a night over the weekend isn’t going to cut it. A crazy sleep schedule makes your body have a “hangover effect”. Try to get to bed within an hour of the same time each night, and not to look at your phone an hour before bed to keep your brain from feeling over stimulated. There is no shame in prioritizing your sleep when possible!

Your Nutrition is off. Lots of sugar spiking your blood-sugar? Simple Carbs not filling you up? Junk food putting you in a food-coma? Late night eating not giving your body enough time to digest during the night? Vitamin D or Iron deficiencies? These can ALL leave you feeling down. Try to eat veggies with at least 2 meals a day and not after 8pm to solve this. Your body will thank you for the nutrients, fiber, and protein to keep you energized. Think green: peas, spinach, brussel sprouts, and broccoli.

Your Liver is overworked from removing junk food toxic chemicals because of your diet. It’s totally singing “You’re toxic, I’m slippin’ under…” Lack of energy, headaches, brain fog, can all be a result of the weighed-down CEO of your body: your liver. Don’t be so hard on it! Looking for an awesome way to DETOX for a fresh start? Check out this safe and effective 3 day refresh to kick start and clean up!

Water Water Water. Dehydration makes your blood volume thinner, so your heart has to work harder making you feel more tired. Think about drinking HALF your body weight in ounces! Have a water bottle with you all day. If nothing else, maybe having to pee will get you to stand up and walk around 🙂

Sitting all day looking at a computer screen can wipe you out. Then all we feeling like doing is coming home and sitting some more. This is totally my downfall! I know it’s awkward or inconvenient but for every 30 minutes you sit, you need to move for 5 minutes to get your heart rate up. My personal favorite is walking to the bathroom and doing some squats in there. Stand at your desk for 10 minutes. Turn the brightness on your screen WAY down to reduce eye strain that makes you tired.

Move More. Also maybe an obvious one! Exercise is proven to significantly improve the sleep of people who have insomnia. It improves circulation and oxygen flow to help you sleep deeper, and relieves stress to help you fall asleep faster. BUT, like anything, too much of a good thing can ruin it. If you’re exercising TOO MUCH, like really long hard cardio sessions every day wearing yourself out, your body may be depleted of minerals and/or calories and be in a constant state of inflammation that makes you feel sluggish. Proper balance is everything!

You’re overdoing it. We can’t all be superheroes. We can’t be ALL things in the same season of life. I hate to break it to you, but there are only 24 hours in a day…If you’re over worked, over socialized, over tasked, and under taken care of, you’ll break. It’s called burning the candle at both ends. The goal is to take time, even if it’s 5 minutes every morning, to FIND REST and PEACE. The world won’t fall apart if you’re not always in control. YES we have responsibilities, but we cannot fully accomplish them if we are functioning at 50% all the time. It’s okay to scale back, or even take a break just for a time. In this busy world, the art of saying “NO” is really helpful in getting a good night’s rest.

Rest

“Fancy” Family Dinner

My husband’s college roommate came into town Sunday afternoon, and by time I got back from babysitting and girl time at 6pm, I realized I probably should make them dinner while they were catching up and lost in the world of business endeavors. Of course I wanted to make something a little fancier than normal because we had a guest, but also something filling and healthy that I would want to eat too. Cooking for two grown men has to be hardy enough!

My first thought was the organic zucchini squash I picked up over the weekend (thank goodness I just went grocery shopping!!) and was determined to finally use a wedding gift. Thanks also to the person that got us the viral veggie cutter! I went out on a limb trying it for the first time with a guest, but I was VERY surprised at how easy it was.

1. I just twisted the zucchini into a skillet with olive oil on medium heat and added some minced garlic seasoning. I used 4 smaller sized zucchini, which was the perfect amount for 3 people, as the noodles shrink a little when cooked. I flipped it and pushed it around off and on for about 10 minutes. After draining it, I just added some pasta sauce and served it like a pasta side!

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2. The chicken tender pieces were prepared with some drizzled olive oil, small slices of mozzarella cheese on each piece, with fresh basil and sliced tomatoes. I’ve never tried that on chicken, but I love it as an appetizer at fancy restaurants and figured it’d be fun for something different! Baked at 375* for 18 minutes. 

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3. I had some frozen organic broccoli florets steaming for 8 minutes while the chicken was cooking. On a normal basis, we just have plain vegetables as a side. BUT again, attempting to be a little more special, I drained the broccoli, put it in a nice serving bowl and added a couple scoops of pesto basil and mixed it up. It was the perfect flavor to compliment the taste mozzarella from the chicken! For anyone looking for an easy seasoning, you CAN’T GO WRONG with Pesto Basil on everything. YUM.

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Below is my little serving with the pasta sauce on the zucchini, and chicken on top of the broccoli… A LOT OF green, but super healthy!

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Reviews from the guys was that they loved the veggie noodles and I should make them more often! For those trying to sneak more vegetables into meals, turning them into a “pasta” is a delicious, quick way to do it. Zucchini is a very low calorie vegetable, rich in fiber, Vitamin C, antioxidants, and Potassium. Broccoli also has a strong detoxification affect, high in Vitamin D/C, and Folic Acid. Consider this a SUPERFOOD meal 🙂

Bonus: we even have some chicken and broccoli left over for lunch! Y’all know I like to keep chicken in bulk!

ENJOY!

XOXO,

Ro

Chicken Quesadilla

This isn’t a mind blowing recipe. I recognize that it’s pretty basic, but I aim for healthy, quick and easy; the less stress the better. And I know there has to be someone out there who just wants an idea for a healthy weekend lunch, like we had after church today when we came home starving.

Turkey sandwiches for weekend lunches in the first few months of marriage got really old. Lately, we have switched to this delicious tortilla to use for wraps and quesadillas.

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Quesadillas are a great way to sneak in veggies and is the perfect example of why I try to always have some extra baked chicken in the fridge for when the moment of hunger strikes.

1. I used Roasted Red Pepper Hummus as a spread, which provides a little healthy fat and extra protein.

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2. I piled on as much organic spinach, kale, and chard (they came together in a bag) as I could fit! Then I cut up a few grape tomatoes we had in the fridge, and also cut up half of a chicken breast. Feel free to add any other vegetables you have!

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3. We had some shredded sharp cheddar cheese (say that 3 times fast) in the fridge so I lightly sprinkled that on top before heating. I bet feta or goat cheese would have also tasted wonderful!

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4. I LOVE using our George Foreman grill, so I grilled it on there for about 4-5 minutes. You can also throw it in the oven for 10 minutes, or even the microwave for a minute, but it won’t be as crispy obviously. For my husband who needs more calories, I fill an entire tortilla for the bottom and put another one on top so I can fill with more chicken and veggies.

ENJOY!!

XO,

Ro

Eating Healthy is Expensive & Exhausting

At times, YES it can be—but it doesn’t have to be! I’m not an expert by any means, but I hope some of these tips might steer you in the right direction or make you think of ideas that can work for you. Between my 9-6pm job, personal training, Soul Strong, church activities, friend time, marriage and home life, the last thing I want to do is spend all night in the kitchen.

At the end of the day, I’d rather pay the money up front for a healthy body, than pay the money down the road for the meds and doctor visits. My health is a priority, and therefore, an investment. Not gonna lie, it’s definitely where a huge chunk of our monthly budget comes from, but we try not to break the bank, especially when living a super busy lifestyle and craving convenience. This list is work in progress 🙂

Eating Healthy on a Budget

Save going out to eat for very special occasions. Once or twice a month? Maybe people hate that I do this, but even when I schedule lunch dates, I often ask if we can bring out lunches and meet to eat together in the park, or at a Starbucks. I’d rather make that $$$ go further for our family to eat well on a daily basis.

Eat Frozen: not the TV dinners, but veggies, no sugar added organic berries, or pre-made bulk meals from the weekend. Fresh is typically more expensive, especially if it’s not in season. To save time, use a steamer. This thing has made cooking vegetables so easy. Plus, it keeps more nutrients in the vegetables than boiling, AND takes about 8 minutes. Leave them in there, come back, and it’s ready to dish.

Buy heavy on the sales! When the chicken goes on sale, we easily stock up on 6-8 packs and freeze them, knowing we will consume them at some point in the next month. When the wheat pasta goes on sale, our entire cabinet is filled with it so we don’t need to buy it for many months.

Be realistic. We don’t buy organic chicken at this point, but settled for the natural chicken with no antibiotics or preservatives. It’s awesome if you can do everything organic, but the reality is, it can double your grocery bill. Be picky and decide what you will and won’t give on. We go organic on the Dirty Dozen vegetables and all our fish is Wild Caught, but other than that, we just do the best we can. Our nutrition isn’t perfect, but it works for where we are in this phase of life. Do some research on what’s most important to you to splurge on.

Buy some things canned. You don’t want to live off of a canned diet obviously because of the preservatives, but soup on sale or wild salmon is a wonderful thing to stock up with in the Winter. Another way we save money to eat the foods our bodies really need, is doing soup for a meal once every couple of weeks. This is the lazy man’s go-to. So maybe we don’t feel super stuffed afterwards, but we don’t mind denying ourselves occasionally to eat really well for all other meals.

Plan Ahead. Each Sunday I try to create a meal game plan for the week to make sure we don’t waste any food or let anything go bad. I look at the calendar. If I know we won’t have time the next night to make dinner, I make double the night before. On Sunday, I often take an hour to pre-make big quantities of items I can keep in the fridge, and throw together to heat up during the week in less than 5 minutes. We almost always have extra baked chicken and quinoa in containers in the fridge!

Get the rewards card! The Giant where we shop (we go to Trader Joes for a few cheaper fresh items occasionally), offers gas points for grocery items. I can’t even tell you how much money we have saved on gas!! sometimes knocking 30 cents off each gallon. If you spend a little more on healthy foods, you may be able save in other areas. Take advantage of these deals! I haven’t found time to get into coupon-ing in the “city life”, but maybe that’s something that you could try! SO many websites dedicated to the secrets of coupon-ing.

Cut out the juices–they’re super high in sugar without the fiber– and cut out Milk. The only drinks we buy are almond milk or coconut milk to put in shakes, whichever of those happens to be on sale. Other than that, water is our life-blood. Humans have no nutritional requirement for milk and most Americans have a hard time digesting it anyway. Opt for things like white beans, kale, almonds, or tofu to get your calcium.

Eat the same thing. Variety can be costly. We try to branch out with something “new” biweekly if possible or on a Friday date night at home. But we mostly rotate dinner between the same kinds of foods and just use different seasonings each time. Studies show people that are successful with healthy diets stick to what they know (and they know how much it costs!) Making different recipes is cool…ain’t no body got time for that everyday…

Ie. We choose one from each category:

*Meat: Chicken, 99% Lean Ground Turkey, Fish. (occasional red meat) *Vegetables: Broccoli, Tomatoes, Spinach, Green Beans, Cucumbers, Cauliflower, Spaghetti Squash (super cheap!) *Complex Carb: Quinoa, Brown Rice, Wheat pasta, Sweet Potato (these are EASILY heated quickly in the microwave). We often get fats from cooking with olive oil or coconut oil.

We have Shakeology for breakfast every morning. Protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, adaptogens, probiotics, pre-biotics, over 70 all natural superfoods in a meal-replacement shake… if we spend the money to get all of those things separately we would easily spend an extra $400 a month. We no longer buy bagels, bars, yogurts and cereal for breakfast, we just stick to our $3.30 (coach rate) dense nutritional breakfast to start our day off right, even if we end up not having the perfect lunch/dinner.  The convenience, extra energy, and digestion improvement is really worth it for us!!

Go Vegetarian one day a week. Consuming 2 boiled eggs and quinoa for your protein is a lot cheaper than a 8oz piece of quality meat. It might take getting used to for those meat-lovers out there (myself included!), but I promise it’s just as nourishing! I usually boil one dozen eggs for lunch snacks and quick salads additions, and keep another dozen fresh on hand for cooking purposes. Beans are another cheap option!

Check the Unit Price. See which is cheaper: buying a bigger box, or buying multiple smaller ones. We tend to buy bigger quantities for things like almonds, brown rice, and chia seeds, that take forever to go bad. Some people love buying fresh groceries every week, but it saves us a lot of time to try to make our food go further.

Research/Trial and Error.  There are several grocery chains near us. Over time, we’ve started to look at our reciepts and compare prices. We have to weigh getting gas points or saving on non-name brand items at Giant with saving money on fresh cheaper vegetables or specialty organic items at Trader Joes. I try not to go to BOTH each shopping trip because time is money, but as we run out of things I see which store caters to what we need most and has the best sale at the time.

I hope this helps!! I would love feedback from YOU as to how you save money and eat healthy.

XO,

Ro

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