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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Sifting through protein powders

Hi all! I am asked frequently on the brand of protein powder I use. I thought I’d take a moment to write up some of my favorites.

I’ll try anything once (after careful consideration of course)! Over the last several years I’ve tried: Vega, Perfect Fit Protein, Drink Svelte, Muscle Milk (ready to drink), and most recently, GnarlyI’m going to outline them for you below, and I’d love to hear your comments or experiences with any of these!

Let’s begin by understanding what you DON’T want in your protein powder. This will help you sift through dozens.  Most of this should be self-explanatory. As always, conduct your own research, particularly on Carrageenan. I am not a fan, and I switched off the varying almond milks (Almond Breeze) that used it because I noticed my stomach always hurt after I would drink it. I normalized that feeling until I did some research on the thickening agent and decided to ditch it for good. Don’t be fooled by natural and organic products either – I’ve found it in Horizon Organic chocolate milk..

I grabbed this great meme from CalNaturale, they make Drink Svelte (read about them below). Continue reading Sifting through protein powders

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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.

Screen Shot 2014-05-06 at 8.52.33 AM

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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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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A Runner’s Diet

In the last couple of years, I’ve picked up many miles of running and have looked to resources such as RunnersWorld.com, WomensHealth.com and WomensRunning.com to keep me motivated and informed along the way. I’ve decided to collate all the information I’ve learned over the years and share that information.

The best diet is of course the one you can maintain without drastic life changes, binging and cheating. Personally I am strive to ensure that 50-75% of my diet is plant-based. At most 25% of what I eat is raw, with the remaining neither here nor there!

Create your own “fab 5 list”.  Here’s mine:

The Fab 5:

Pre-run. Some people run on an empty stomach, some need fuel.  Definitely don’t eat and run, give yourself at least 30 minutes to digest your food.  If you choose to eat, ensure you fuel yourself with some sort of carbohydrate. Your body will burn of the glycogen it stores and it keeps about 60-90 minutes worth.  If you plan to run more than 60 minutes, take a gel with you and consume after 45 minutes.  Best practice: a banana, coffee (yes, coffee – my go to is an almond milk latte), an apple, an energy bar (favorite is Lara), or some complex carbohydrate, like celery with almond butter. Continue reading A Runner’s Diet

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A few of my favorite foods

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A few of my favorite foods

I unexpectedly found myself with some extra time today and decided to enjoy Whole Foods instead of dashing in and out for the necessary item or two. I found some old favorites, some new things (always willing to try something once). In New York this summer, I tried something new and picked up some beet juice and instantly took a liking to it. The great thing about juicing beets is you can juice the root AND toss the greens into a smoothie. It’s great to mix up your smoothie greens anyway.  In addition to beets, it has apple, carrot, ginger and lemon. It’s absolutely refreshing and yes it’s an acquired taste.  Some other oldies are Luna Bars BUT recently I read more into soy products (after writing them off completely 6-7 years ago) and came to learn that while soy in its whole form is okay to consume, soy protein isolate (aka processed soy) is a product we need to avoid (especially women). For more info on this, I found the Dr. Oz segment to be helpful.  Check that out here.  So I begrudgingly picked up probably the last few Luna bars I’ll be eating (until I make a batch of my homemade Lara bars). Continue reading A few of my favorite foods

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Recipe: Banana date almond milk smoothie

During Ramadan, I consume a lot of dates. I enjoy them whole, but one day it occurred to me to try and blend them in a smoothie. What followed was probably the best tasting smoothie I had made to date (no pun intended).

Ingredients:

4 dates

1 banana (fresh or frozen)

4 oz almond milk

1 tbsp chia seeds.

Add ice if you like.

And a scoop of protein powder! I use a brown rice based powder by Perfect Fit Protein. 

Banana date almond milk smoothie
Banana date almond milk smoothie

 

 

 

 

 

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