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.

#SneakPeekSaturday: Health Apps I LOVE/USE

Fitbit

Yall, I know people might be sick of hearing about Fitbits, or other similar bands…but I LOVE THEM. I have tried from the beginning not to become obsessive about my steps, but it has really helped me be mindful on a daily basis of my sitting! I enjoy some healthy competition with myself and with friends/family, and as a fitness junkie, I love checking my heart rate while I’m working out to know how intense I’m working. On days I’m being lazy, I’m motivated to be a little more active, and on days I’m really tired, I have “proof” on the app of how hard I’ve worked. THE BEST PART IS THE SILENT ALARM! aka Waking up in peace.

MyFitnessPal

I have been using this app off and on for YEARS to keep track of my day’s calories. I’m not strict by any means with “counting calories”, but sometimes I like to be aware. I haven’t once looked up a food they didn’t have, even from restaurants! I can sync this app with my fitbit to adjust my calories for the day… if I’ve walked a lot or worked out hard, it will adjust my number to tell me to eat MORE so I don’t risk falling below what my body needs. In addition to keeping track of what I ate that day, I can be “friends” with my personal training clients and see their diary of what they’ve been doing for exercise/nutrition without me. It’s a good way to cheer people on and interact!

AchieveMint

Now I don’t have to do much for this app, but I keep it around because I’m slowly earning $$$$ for good habits. You can set different goals for yourself, and as you accomplish them each day, it rewards you points. Once you reach 50,000 points you get $50! It’s a good way to reward yourself after working hard to be consistent. Studies show we are often motivated by a reward we find valuable… like money (if doing it for your health wasn’t enough 😉 )

 

 

Beachbody on Demand

THIS.IS.AWESOME. The ultimate “no excuses” program. You can stream the FULL 60 or 90 day workouts on your phone, tablet, laptop from Insanity, P90X, P90X3, Turbo Fire, 10 Minute Trainer, Brazilian Buttlift, ChaLean Extreme etc.! I’ve done PI-YO and T-25, so those purchased programs also show up on to stream. So if I don’t want to take the DVDs with me on the road, I can always have a workout with me via technology. There are also a few trials of the other newer workouts, so you can try the 21 Day Fix, Pi-Yo or T-25 for FREE!!

You can get a 30 day FREE TRIAL to Beachbody on Demand! CLICK HERE

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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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Peanut Butter Protein Balls: The yummiest little snack

For all you peanut butter fans out there… this one is for you! A couple of these are perfect for a post-workout snack, or a very filling little sweet after a meal. My husband says it’s like eating a peanut butter cup without the excessive sugar.

As all my recipes are, this  one has to be the easiest to make yet!

Total prep time-just 5 minutes!

You need: 

  • 6 Dates or 4 Medjool Dates. If you don’t have a heavy duty blender, you may want to push out the pits inside of the dates before you put them in to the mix.

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  • 1 scoop (25g) Natural Protein Powder (whatever you have is probably fine! This is what I had in the cabinet leftover from last year. I used Vanilla, but next time I’m going to try with Chocolate Shakeology to get the Chocolate Peanut Butter taste).

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  • 4 tablespoons Crunchy or Natural Peanut Butter. As a warning, this ends up being nearly half of your jar! I had just enough left.

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  • 2 teaspoons Chia Seeds. My NutriBullet ground them up pretty well at the same time with everything else, but you may want to grind them first a little bit if you don’t want the texture coming out in the protein balls.

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Put all the ingredients into a blender, food processor, or I just used our Nutribullet. After a couple of quick pulses, the mixture was already soft and not sticky. Take the dough and roll into tablespoon size balls.

I put them in the freezer for about 3-5 minutes and took them out to enjoy a couple immediately! I’m planning to have a few in the fridge during the week for a grab and go filler.

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ENJOY!!

XO,

Ro