Getting Back on Track in 5

We all fall off the fitness wagon. Don’t despair, just get back on.

Perhaps you just finished the blessed month of Ramadan, congratulations! Hopefully you had a great month of fasting and were able to reap all the spiritual and physical benefits of fasting for 30 days. Fasting can certainly be difficult on the body, and whether or not you kept active during the day, here is how you can get yourself back on track.

1. Start your day with apple cider vinegar – use organic, raw and unpasteurized! (Bragg’s)

bragg-apple-cider-vinegar1

  • Boosts your metabolism
  • Neutralizes the pH of your body
  • Improved digestion
  • Improved stamina & energy
  • Decreased restless leg syndrome symptoms with increased potassium
  • How to drink it: mix 1 tbsp with 6-8 oz of water or apple juice.

 

2. Ease back into exercise and strength training.

  • If you are getting back into running and are easily able to run, then great! Otherwise, consider a run walk strategy given that your endurance may have been compromised.
  • Move first thing in the morning. Whether its a quick yoga sequence, 10-15 minutes of jumping jacks, crunches and pushups, or a jog, get moving for 20-30 minutes every day.

3. Drink half your body weight in ounces of water per day. Add fruit slices or mint leaves to jazz it up if needed.

4. Craving carbs? Choose complex carbs. Add protein.

  • Hummus with veggies
  • Apple slices with a nut butter
  • Fruit smoothie with protein powder

5. Eat lean, clean and green! The days of eating late and ‘whatever you want’ are over, so get back into eating a well-balanced meal! I ate bits of superfood greens throughout Ramadan. Each single calorie tab is loaded with 64% protein!

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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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Recipe: Homemade Lara Bars

I was recently inspired to make my own version of Larabars, given my recent conundrum with soy lecithin being found in lots of things I like, particularly Luna bars, but also because of my quest to eat clean. I already make my own granola, so I thought, why not take my turn at the classic fruit & nut bar. Well, I’m hooked! It was significantly easier than I expected and something even my boys would enjoy making.

Making homemade fruit & nut bars
To make 2-3 bars:

1) Pulse 1/2 cup dried fruit of your choice. I used dried cranberries and dates. I added an extra 1/4 cup of dates when I saw I needed more ‘fruit paste’. Remove from food processor.

2) Pulse 1/2 chopped nuts of your choice. I used chopped walnuts and pulsed them to make them really small, but not too fine because some texture is good.

3) To the nuts add any extracts or spices you wish. I added almond extract and carob chips.

4) The fun part! Place everything into a bowl and mix well with your hands, then shape them onto a plate and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before you cut them. After I cut them I individually wrapped them and put them back into the fridge until they were ready to be devoured!

 

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 1
Servings Per Container 12

Amount Per Serving
Calories 53 Calories from Fat 27
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3g 5%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 48mgmg 2%
Total Carbohydrate 6g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sugars 5g
Protein 1g 2%

*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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