Recipe: Clean(ish) chocolate chip cookie bars

I am a complete sucker for chocolate chip cookies. It is my weakness; my downfall. I was so happy to come across this guilt-free recipe from ToneItUp.com and made a few changes according to what I had in my pantry.  Lessons learned: blend well – you don’t want chunks of chickpeas visible in the cookie. Perhaps blend the chickpeas well first, then slowly add in the rest of the ingredients. The coconut sugar is something I use in baking a lot – it tends to darken whatever I bake, so keep that in mind. Enjoy!

Blend all ingredients (except chocolate chips) well – I had to use a bit of oil.

No one will ever guess the secret ingredient!
No one will ever guess the secret ingredient!

3/4 cup Creamy Unsalted Peanut Butter – Almond Butter is best but I didn’t have any on hand.

  • 1/2 cup Organic Coconut Sugar
  • 1 can (15oz) Garbanzo Beans, Canned, Rinsed
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp, Baking Powder, Aluminum Free
  • 2 tsp (5 mL), Vanilla Extract

Mix in via spoon:

  • 1.5 cup Chocolate Chips

Pour batter into greased 9×9 pan. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1
Servings Per Container 16

Amount Per Serving
Calories 128 Calories from Fat 54
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 6g 9%
Saturated Fat 1g 5%
Trans Fat g
Cholesterol mg 0%
Sodium 178mg 7%
Total Carbohydrate 17g 6%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 8g
Protein 4g 8%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

 

(Recipe adapted from ToneItUp.com)

 

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Be Fit for Ramadan

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By Ayesha Akhtar, MPH, CPT

O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous. (Surah Al-Baqarah: Verse183)

With Ramadan approaching in just a few short weeks, many of you, like myself, are wondering how to maintain a level of fitness throughout the month of Ramadan, so as not to lose endurance and muscle tone (neither are completely true). Fear not! There are several habits you can adopt throughout your day, and can maybe even enhance the spiritual aspect of fasting by giving you a little extra energy here and there. I’ve share below some of my own lessons learned. Feel free to share your own!

For my readers who are not familiar with the logistics of Ramadan, allow me to share. Fasting for 30 days during the month of Ramadan (one month on the lunar calendar) is one of the five main pillars of Islam. This year, Ramadan begins at the end of June. Physically and mentally able Muslims (there are several exemptions) will fast from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food, water, smoking, and sex during those times. At sunset, it is tradition to break fast with a date, which is essentially a superfood, water and the company of others. It is such a beautiful time of togetherness and camaraderie. Many faiths participate in fasting on some level. The first few days are tough, then your body gets into a groove, the last 10 days are hard, knowing the end is near. It is a time for physical cleansing, and spiritual resetting. Many will attend the Mosque for prayers more often than, others prefer to stay at home. We end the month of Ramadan with Eid ul Fitr, a celebration lasting three days, with gift giving galore!  Continue reading Be Fit for Ramadan

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Ultimate Veggie Burger 

I really liked this recipe, and the chickpeas make a nice base. It’s also a nice change from black beans.

It makes a lot… halve the recipe for 4 good sized servings.

Recipe from 101 Cookbooks, adapted by Love and Olive Oil

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups sprouted garbanzo beans (chickpeas) OR canned garbanzos, drained and rinsed
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 onion, chopped
Grated zest of one large lemon (or omit, if you’re not a fan)
1 cup micro sprouts, chopped (try broccoli)
1 cup toasted (whole-grain) bread crumbs
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

If you are using sprouted garbanzos, steam them until just tender, about 10 minutes.

Most of you will be using canned beans, so jump right in and combine the garbanzos, eggs, and salt in a food processor. Puree until the mixture is the consistency of a very thick, slightly chunky hummus. Pour into a mixing bowl and stir in the cilantro, onion, zest, and sprouts.

Add the breadcrumbs, stir, and let sit for a couple of minutes so the crumbs can absorb some of the moisture. The mixture should be moist enough to easily form and hold a patty shape. Add more bread crumbs a bit at a time to firm up the dough if need be. Conversely, a bit of water or more egg can be used to moisten the batter. Form mixture into 12 patties.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium low, add 4 patties, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms begin to brown. Turn up the heat if there is no browning after 10 minutes. Flip the patties and cook the second side for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties. Serve on buns topped with avocado, tomato, onion, and more sprouts, if desired. Alternatively, you can make extra-thick patties (1 1/2 inches), and slice them in half after cooking. Put the filling inside the patty, and you have a self-bunning-burger.

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4 Ingredient Cookies

4 Ingredient Cookies

  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1.5 cup oats
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips
  • 4 tbsp peanut butter.
  • Mix well with hand and
  • Bake for 8-10 min at 350 degrees.
Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1
Servings Per Container 16

Amount Per Serving
Calories 84 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 5%
Saturated Fat g 0%
Trans Fat g
Cholesterol mg 0%
Sodium 19mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 12g 4%
Dietary Fiber g 0%
Sugars 4g
Protein 2g 4%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
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#PoweredbyBits: Review & Giveaway! + Winner!

Travel tin
Travel tin

Recently I joined a weekly #Runchat twitter chat sponsored by ENERGYbits. I was very intrigued to learn more as I had increasingly spotted their travel tin all over on Instagram by fellow runners and plant-based athletes. Organically grown spirulina for energy? Heck, I’ll try anything once. I was very excited to receive a sample to review and tell you how you can win a sample for yourself. I also have a discount code for you!

What is spirulina algae?

Spirulina algae is a super hero in the world of super foods. Research done by NASA showed that that 1 kg of spirulina had the nutritional  equivalent of 1000 kg of fruits and vegetables! (Yes, NASA feeds astronauts algae!)  Spirulina’s nutritional pedigree is so impressive that The World Bank, NASA and Olympic athletes have all declared spirulina to be the most nutritious food in the entire world. Why? Well for starters, it effortlessly and naturally boosts your energy like an energy drink, energy bar or coffee  but without the downside of chemicals, caffeine, calories, gluten or sugar. Gram per gram, there is no denser source of nutrition than spirulina algae. (www.ENERGYbits.com)

What are the ENERGYbits tabs?

Have you ever (un)intentionally drank ocean water? The tabs remind me of the salt water and of seaweed. They’re very small and can easily be swallowed with any liquid.

I looked at the tin of dozens of tabs and thought, ‘How on earth am I going to take 30 right now?’. For those of you who aren’t the pill popping, vitamin consuming types, this may pose a problem. I decided to start easy and take a few at a time.  I took 5 tablets every 90 minutes and found them to be remarkable. I had sustained energy throughout the day, which included numerous exercise activities (swimming, running and lifting). The tabs are VERY green, so it’s best to swallow them instead of chewing.

They have the highest concentration of protein in the world (64% protein which is three times the amount of protein in steak), over 40 nutrients, and are just one calorie per tab. 

The next couple of times I took the tabs I was expecting similar results, and I tried them at different times of the day, knowing when I would be at an energy deficit. I was pleasantly surprised that the bits delivered every time.

Just a handful of 30+ bits will not only fill you up, they will meet most of your daily nutritional requirements, and all for just ONE calorie per tab.  

I’ve taken my fair share of energy gels which often leave my stomach unsettled. I had absolutely no negative after effects from the tabs.

Why does this product work?

Spirulina is a nitrogen based algae, and since nitric oxide opens up your blood vessels, taking our ENERGYbits® will give your brain and your body a steady and natural supply of oxygen and nourishment.

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As any plant-based athlete knows, searching for protein sources can be a full-time job. These bits not only sustained me with energy throughout the day enduring multi-sport training, but it also curbed my hunger, revved my metabolism and helped me avoid the infamous 3pm slump. Perhaps the best benefit from the product was that the day after I did a mini practice triathlon, I was not sore or overly fatigued in any way. These tabs are essential for endurance training. Here are some listed benefits of the algae spirulina tabs (and I most certainly can vouch for most of them):

Best used for:

  • Increasing Energy

  • Increasing Endurance

  • Increasing Mental Vitality

  • High Protein Snack

  • Curbing Hunger

  • Meal Replacement

  • Reducing Fatigue

***Leave a comment below, or click HERE to enter yourself in a raffle to win a sample tin of ENERGYtabs! They also provided me with a discount code for you. Enter the word “BLOG” into the coupon box and the 10% discount will be instantly applied.***

 

** Raffle winner–>

Congrats!
Congrats!

To learn more about ENERGYbits, join their Health and Fitness Twitter chat, held Tuesday nights at 8pm (EST) at #PoweredByBits

You can also find them at www.energybits.com or at http://www.pinterest.com/energybits/fit-with-bits/

They say carrying a tin of ENERGYbits is like carrying around a salad and a steak! Check out the nutrition label:

ENERGYbits Nutritional Information
ENERGYbits Nutritional Information
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Eating Clean Every Day

Many people scoff at the thought of having to ‘clean their diet’. (Again, not a fan of the word ‘diet’, prefer to use nutrition or food sources). It sounds exhausting and as if it would involve a lot of kale and brussel sprouts? If you’re seeking to clean your lifestyle and eat 100% raw, then yes, your food sources will involve fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, legumes, etc. However, there are very easy switches you can make to your food on a daily basis to eat clean, and you will feel better instantly. I took a walk into the grocery store and snapped photos of food we eat every, such as yogurt, bread, and oatmeal. Take a look at how easy it is to make the swap. When selecting packaged foods, you should know what every single ingredient is, as well as its purpose in your food. That implies that you can pronounce it as well. Don’t know? Take the time to learn and educate yourself about proper nutrition. Your body is a vessel and will do whatever you make it do, and will perform according to however you feed it. So feed it right!

Let’s start with oatmeal. Now if you don’t have time for steel cut oats, or even making oats from scratch in the morning, you may turn to instant oatmeal. No big deal, until you get to the grocery aisle and find 10 different choices. Think about what ingredients should be in your instant oatmeal. Sugar? The one on the left still has artificial flavors but at least the second ingredient is not sugar. Don’t forget sucralose is also a form of sugar. So the box on the right is getting a double dose, even though it says “lower sugar”.

Instant Oatmeal. Easy to miss this one, you assume Quaker is the best so you grab it but you're also grabbing extra sugar where you don't need it.
Instant Oatmeal. Easy to miss this one, you assume Quaker is the best so you grab it but you’re also grabbing extra sugar where you don’t need it.

Yogurt. Here I’ve compared two versions of Greek yogurt. The market for it is really hot, so brands will add fruit and flavors to entice you. Greek yogurt is essentially a thicker yogurt, due to the method of straining which removes whey and results in a consistency somewhere between cheese and yogurt. Some brands will add thickeners in lieu of, or in addition to straining to attain the desired thickness. Every brand has its own trade secret / method of straining so beware of ingredients — you shouldn’t see a long list for yogurt, just the necessary probiotics.  Also, strained yogurt  claims to have twice the amount of protein than regular yogurt, so always check to make sure that is the case.

Chobani Greek Yogurt vs. Dannon Greek Yogurt
Chobani Greek Yogurt vs. Dannon Greek Yogurt

The photo to the left is Chobani, arguably my favorite brand. (And yes I’ve visited the #Chobani store in Soho..many times.. You have to go!) To the right is a competitor, Dannon. Both were the strawberry ‘flavor’, both had roughly 11 or 12 grams of protein. I was really surprised to find corn starch and carmine in the Dannon brand of Greek yogurt.  I thought yogurts had moved beyond adding carmine. What’s carmine, you ask? It’s also known as Natural Red #4, and is a dye that is extracted from boiling a batch of cochineal insects.  A vegetarian’s nightmare! Hence when you see ANYTHING that is pink or red, you should ask yourself, what is creating this color? Sometimes you will find ‘beet juice’, others, carmine. Beware. You don’t need carmine in your daily dose of Greek yogurt, this much I know for sure.

And for the finale, check out 100% whole wheat bread. I absolutely detest the bread aisle because there are dozens of choices, all touting 100% whole wheat, or whole grain, yet you will inevitably find brands that sneak in high fructose corn syrup. Or they will use enriched flour. If the first ingredient is not whole wheat flour, then it’s not good enough for you. Wheat is not white, it is brown, and enriched with sugars to form white bread (pasta, cereal, etc). Stay away from enriched flours in general.

Whole Grain vs. Whole Grain
Whole Wheat vs. Whole Wheat

The brand on top is Brownberry, whole wheat flour is the first ingredient. They bolded it to make sure you notice it. There is no HFCS in this bread. The other brand is Butternut. While the first ingredient here is 100% whole grain whole wheat flour, corn syrup and several dough conditioners are also added. Both seem decent when you examine the packaging, but taking the extra second to check the label and weed out the one that has HFCS is the step you need to take when eating clean.

I could have photographed so much more: pretzels, ketchup, cereals, soups, etc to show you how easy it is to make the healthier, cleaner swap. Select foods with ingredients you can pronounce, or sources you are aware of. Don’t be fooled by packaging – READ everything.

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Lean, clean & green

There are endless possibilities for a lean, clean and green meal, here are some ideas to get you started with what you already have in your kitchen:

Lean protein with greens. Lean chicken breast or fish pan-seared or baked. The meat will be 1/3 of your plate. To prepare the chicken or fish, use any marinade that is light and just a few ingredients. I like lime juice, olive oil, salt and crushed red pepper. Prepare any green to represent 2/3 of your plate. My favorite is roasted brussel sprouts. Slice and toss them in a bowl with olive oil, paprika, red pepper, salt and rosemary. Towards the end of roasting, I add sliced almonds.

Quinoa bowl. Cook 1 cup of quinoa as directed (serves 2) and portion between bowls. I love this because it’s quick, easy, and can be eaten cold or warmed up. The ingredients you add are endless. The best part is the presentation of the bowl (you can have a theme!) Here are some that I like:

  • roasted chick peas (seasoned with red pepper & paprika — do you spot a theme yet?)
  • fresh or roasted fennel
  • cucumbers
  • fresh peppers
  • carrots
  • roasted corn
  • avocado
  • tofu
  • chicken breast
  • fresh spinach / kale
  • tomatoes
Cauliflower mac & cheese
Cauliflower mac & cheese

Cauliflower Mac & Cheese

  1. Boil the whole cauliflower in stock for 5-7 minutes, remove it from water and break down into little florets.
  2. Boil 1 cup of pasta in the same water. (or could use quinoa). When you finish the pasta you can toss all but 1 cup of water.
  3. Place florets & pasta in a lightly oiled baking dish.
  4. Next saute onions, garlic in a bit of butter/oil. Add to it 2 cups of milk of your choice and about 3 tbsp of flour (some people use nutritional yeast). I added about 2-3 tbsp of dijon mustard, some salt & pepper. Add about 1 cup of grated cheese, whatever kind your heart desires.
  5. Pour this into the baking dish, add the remaining cup of water, and sprinkle bread crumbs all over the top and bake at 400 for 10-12 minutes, or until you get that nice brown crust.
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What is a plant-based diet?

I am often asked about ‘my diet’, and ‘what type of diet I follow’. I’m not a fan of the term ‘diet’ because to me it implies that you are giving up something, which could lead to binging later. Besides, how many people are on a diet that lasts longer than a month? I find that when you think of your food as nutrition, it gives you a more wholesome approach to what you put into your body. And that way of eating becomes your lifestyle. Plant-based simply means consuming less processed foods, selecting foods that are nutrient-dense, eating clean, and as close to raw as possible. You are eating fruits, vegetables, and grains at its source, pure and unrefined. I have been meaning to write about my experiences dabbling into the plant-based world over the last two years, and recently I’ve found myself talking about it more than before. Here are some questions I’m asked all the time:

Disclaimer: I am not 100% vegan, but I have vegan tendencies. I am not 100% vegetarian, but I have vegetarian tendencies, hence I call myself a flexitarian.

  1. Where do you get your protein from? (quinoa, brown rice protein powder, lentils–that’s easy, I’m Pakistani)
  2. Does your family eat the way you do? (some eat everything, some won’t eat anything. I have to keep trying, right?)
  3. Do you count calories? (never, no need)
  4. What do you eat? (some of what I eat: protein pancakes, egg white omelets, whole grain pasta, Pakistani food, black bean burgers, quinoa bowls, green smoothies, loads of brussel sprouts, fish and lean meat…and of course good dessert)
  5. Why? (I can’t think of any reason why not? It’s better for my health, the environment, the animals, and it is also following the tradition of the Prophet Muhammad).
Rockin' Moroccan Bowl @ Native Foods Cafe
Rockin’ Moroccan Bowl @ Native Foods Cafe

It’s been about 5-6 years now that I’ve migrated to a more ‘flexitarian’ lifestyle, but the last 2-3 years are more focused on plant-based. Leaving meat behind was something I found challenging, especially growing up in a Pakistani household where meat is on the table every single day, and more often than not, twice a day. Consider my challenge cutting meat to only once or twice a week! My parents were at a loss and very confused when I would come to visit and announce I would not be eating what they served, or that I wanted vegetables, without the meat. But you need protein, they would insist. And my husband and I would start reciting all the alternative sources for protein and maintain that surely we were not robbing ourselves of nutrients. Aside from the dozens of documentaries that have come out in recent years, all touting the wonders of eating clean, more plant-based and ‘meatless Mondays’, there are traditions in my faith that also encourage eating meat sparingly.  Fast forward to now and I’m happy to say they’ve also changed their ways and we’re all on our way to eating healthier and sourcing more plants into our diet.

So, you’ve always wondered how to get yourself started?  Here are 10 ways you can jump start a plant-based lifestyle.

1. Swap out dairy for  nut / seed milk – not only will you feel instantly better, but you will save yourself the calories and fat. I’m not lactose intolerant or completely dairy-free however, I still enjoy greek yogurt :)  Soy is a suitable alternative, when consumed in its purest form.

2. Add brown rice protein powder to smoothies. Either as a replacement for whey protein, or to increase your daily protein consumption. If you are loading up on fruits for carbs, then adding brown rice protein to the smoothie will balance out your glycemic index.

3. Love your spaghetti? Consider roasting spaghetti squash and using the flesh as the ‘pasta’ instead. Finish with your favorite marinara sauce. This is a lot of work, but if you are interested in trying new things, it’s worth it. Of course whole grain pasta is not a bad option either :)

My favorite quinoa bowl
My favorite quinoa bowl

4. Swap out rice for quinoa. This one is tough to accomplish in the Pakistani household, but I sometimes keep 1 cup of cooked quinoa on hand because it is so versatile (can be eaten cold or hot).

5. Love stirfry? Swap out chicken for extra firm tofu. My son doesn’t mind the difference.

6. Drink a green smoothie daily. Get your fruit and veggie fix: kale, bananas, pineapple, berries, beet greens, spinach, peanut butter, hemp seeds, maca powder, you name it. Add some chia seeds for extra fiber and brown rice protein to balance out the glycemic index and at 3pm you’ll be more energized that that coffee you were previously drinking. (I also make fresh juices in the summer for a couple days at a time).

Juicing for 1-2 days
Juicing for 1-2 days

7. Construct massive salads.  If you want to eat plant-based, then, well, you have to eat plants. Rotate your leafy greens on a weekly basis, and add various sources of protein to it. Here’s where you need to be creative: seeds, nuts, fruits, tofu, beans, veggies..

8. Love wraps? Consider using a collard green as the wrap, instead of a tortilla. Lightly warm up the green on the stove to soften it and fill it up as you would a tortilla. Not only completely green, but also gluten-free.

9. Love burgers? Here’s the real challenge for me! I do love my burgers, after all I’m a Chicago girl and appreciate a good burger :) Black bean burgers, or even garbanzo bean burgers are equally satisfying and easy to make at home.

Overnight oats
Overnight oats

10. Oatmeal for breakfast. Even though this sounds obvious, how many of us skip breakfast? This is perhaps the most portable, perfect breakfast you can consume. Load it up with nuts, cinnamon, cacao nibs, dried fruit. And in the summer, opt for overnight oats and eat them cold right out of the fridge in the morning. Check out Oh She Glows for some awesome starter ideas!

The bottom line is that eating more plants has made me feel lighter, healthier, and responsible. I have never been stronger and more physically fit than before, and I really attribute a considerable portion of that success to eating more plant-based foods.

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