Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Try It: Swanson Health Products

Let's face it - we're all incredibly busy these days. But that doesn't mean we want to resort to eating junk when time is tight. One way to make sure you're able to maintain a healthy diet at all times is to keep your pantry stocked with the basics so you always have ingredients on hand to whip up a delicious meal. 

A few months ago, Swanson Health reached out to me to see if I'd be interested in checking out their online shop and trying a few products. Of course I said yes! Healthy products + the convenience of online shopping? Score!


I had heard of the brand but wasn't super familiar with all of their offerings. It turns out the website has thousands of products. Everything from vitamins and supplements to food and cleaning products. There are even beauty products on the site! 

I immediately went to the food section to pick out a few items to stock my pantry. Here I found a great selection of nuts, oils, baking products, protein bars, pasta, grains, soups, and even cookies! I was expecting to pick from just a few products but it was like shopping the aisles of any brick and mortar health food store. 


A few of the things I added to my cart:

  • Pistachios
  • Macadamia nut oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Organic medjool dates
  • Honey
  • Almond flour

I was especially excited about the macadamia nut oil as it's a harder-to-find item. I like drizzling it on salads and pastas to add a nutty flavor. 

It's a good thing I stocked up on these things because I was recently in the mood to bake and found I had all the ingredients I needed to try Running on Veggie's Three-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies. These cookies are so easy to make - just add dates, peanut butter and 1 egg to a food processor, blend and bake. So simple and so good!



I would order from Swanson again (if you sign up for their email list you'll get discount offers almost daily) for the convenience and selection of products. It's definitely worth checking out - particularly if you don't have health food stores near you or if you don't have time to get to one!

Tell me: What's your go-to health food shop/website? 

- ST

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Hell Week, My Way

A few weeks ago, some of my friends started talking about Hell Week at Orange Theory Fitness. The idea is that there are eight themed OTF workouts during the week, and they will try to do as many as possible to push themselves and sweat like crazy.

I really love the idea of making a hard workout push for a week. Even though I'm not an OTF member, I decided to create my very own Hell Week. My version includes 10 total workouts - a combination of Lose It workouts, WAC group workouts and Y workouts. I know I'll be beat by the time my Sunday rest day rolls around but I'm looking forward to seeing what I can accomplish!


Here's my plan for the week:

Monday: 20 min walk + WAC Sprints & Core + WAC Cardio Circuit
Tuesday: 20 min run + Y-Blitz + WAC Squat Til You Drop
Wednesday: 20 min walk + WAC Triceps Training + WAC Kettlebell Circuits
Thursday: 20 min run + Y-Blitz + WAC Small Group Training
Friday: WAC Pump It
Saturday: 30 min run + Y-Blitz
Sunday: Rest Day

And because results don't happen without a healthy diet, here's a sample day of meals/snacks:

Breakfast: Turkey Bacon & Egg Wrap + Banana
Snack: Raw Veggies + Light Babybel Cheese
Lunch: Tuna Sweet Potato & Corn Salad + Clementine
Snack: Popcorn
Dinner: Sausage, Kale & White Bean Soup + Honeycrisp Apple

Fall temps recently hit MKE making it perfect soup weather. I spent Sunday evening making a large pot of Sausage, Kale & White Bean Soup for dinners this week. It's a super simple recipe and calculates out to only 3 Weight Watchers Smart Points per serving!


Sausage, Kale & White Bean Soup
Serves 6 (3 Weight Watchers Smart Points per serving)

1 tsp olive oil
1 container Trader Joe's Mirepoix Vegetable Mix (onions, celery & carrots)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 AmyLu Italian Chicken Sausage Links, diced
1 15oz can great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
6 cups fat-free chicken broth
1 Tbsp Penzey's Pasta Sprinkle (basil, oregano, thyme blend)
10oz raw kale (cleaned, chopped, stems removed)
Salt & Pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add Mirepoix veggies and garlic. Cook 1-2 minutes, then add diced chicken sausage. Cook another 2-3 minutes or until veggies are soft and sausage is lightly browned. Add beans and diced tomatoes. Cook 1-2 minutes before adding chicken broth and Pasta Sprinkle seasoning. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes. Stir in kale and season with salt & pepper to taste.

A little sprinkle of Parmigiana Reggiano could be amazing on top of this soup but it will add an extra Smart Point.

So that's it for me this week - it's just about grinding through the next few days and getting all my workouts in! Tell me:
  • Have you ever completed a workout challenge? What did you like/dislike about it?
  • Are you celebrating Halloween this weekend? If so, what's your costume?

Hope you all have a wonderful week!

- ST

Thursday, October 12, 2017

My Weight Watchers Foods List

My first few weeks on Weight Watchers were challenging. In the past, I've been more concerned about the number of calories in food and nutritional value. But on WW, foods are assigned a Smart Points value (based on calories, fat, sugar, protein, etc.). 

I quickly discovered even foods that are lower in calories can have a lot of Smart Points. For example, my favorite Kashi Go Lean cereal is off limits due to its high point value. I've also had to cut back on or eliminate many of my old diet staples, such as quinoa, farro, tomato soup, legumes, etc. All are too high in points to incorporate in my everyday diet. 

Fortunately, as the weeks have gone by, I've discovered a few lower point items to work into meals. This list doesn't include the obvious things like vegetables, fruits and lean meats. These are more little things I've found to create low-point meals or to eat as a small snack. 


0 Smart Points
Bumble Bee Tuna Pouches (My fave is lemon & pepper)
Dill Pickles
Turkey Bacon Bits
Egg Beaters
Whole Foods Nonfat Whipped Topping

1 Smart Point
Mini Babybel Light Cheese
Light String Cheese
Tumaro's Ancient Grain Wraps
Boca Vegan Burgers
Turkey Bacon
Lipton Cup-A-Soup Chicken Noodle 
Nestle Rich Milk Chocolate Fat Free Hot Chocolate Mix
Peanut Butter & Co Mighty Nut Original Powdered Peanut Butter

2 Smart Points
Sargento Ultra Thin Cheese Slices
Flatout Light Wraps
Halo Top Vanilla Ice Cream

3 Smart Points
Alexia Smart Classics Crinkle Fries
La Panzanella Mini Rosemary Crackers (half serving is 2 points)
Popcorn

Here are a few ways I've used these food items:

Cheese Plate (3 Smart Points): 3 La Panzanella Mini Crackers + 1 Mini Babybel Light Cheese + 1 Honeycrisp Apple 

Ice Cream Sundae (2 Smart Points): Halo Top Vanilla Ice Cream + Sliced Strawberries + Blueberries + Whole Foods Nonfat Whipped Topping

Breakfast Burrito (4 Smart Points): Tumaro Wrap + Egg Beaters + Turkey Bacon + Sargento Cheese Slice + Salsa

Cheeseburger & Fries (7 Smart Points): Boca Vegan Burger + Sargento Cheese Slice + Lettuce Bun/Wrap + Alexia Smart Classics Crinkle Fries + Dill Pickle + Ketchup & Mustard

It really comes down to how creative you can get. I'm still discovering low point items to add to my list and finding new ways to combine things to make tasty and interesting meals and snacks. 

Tell me: If you're on Weight Watchers, what are your favorite low-point foods? Or, if you're not on Weight Watchers, how do you keep your meals light & healthy?

- ST

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Zoodles Two Ways

Some people could take or leave a big bowl of pasta. I'm not one of those people. I LOVE pretty much any type of meal involving spaghetti, angel hair, linguine ... you get the picture.

Unfortunately for me, it's pretty much off-limits on Weight Watchers. 

So what's a girl to do? 

As much as I've made fun of zoodles in the past, I've had to embrace them these past few weeks. And I've discovered they're not bad! In fact, I've actually looked forward to my zoodle meals because it turns out they're pretty satisfying and help take away the craving for a giant bowl of pasta.  

Below are two of my favorite zoodle recipes. Mangia! 

Tomato Basil Zoodles
Serves 1 (3 Weight Watchers Smart Points)

1 tsp olive oil
1.5 cups grape tomatoes, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups zoodles 
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
Basil, chiffonade
Truffle salt, to taste

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add grape tomatoes and garlic and cook until softened. Add zoodles and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until zoodles are heated through. 

Transfer zoodles to a bowl. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with cheese, basil and truffle salt. 


Zoodles with Meat Sauce
Serves 1 (5 Weight Watchers Smart Points)

3oz ground beef, 93 percent lean
1/4 cup white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
3/4 cup tomato sauce (I used Hunts)
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
3 cups zoodles
1 Tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, grated
Salt & Pepper, to taste

Add ground beef to a large skillet and cook over medium heat. As the meat cooks, break it apart. Drain off any excess fat. 

Add onion, garlic and grape tomatoes to the meat and cook another 2-3 minutes until softened. Add tomato sauce and Italian seasoning and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Add zoodles and cook another 2-3 minutes or until zoodles are heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer zoodles to a bowl. Sprinkle with Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.  


I'm getting hungry writing this post! 

Help a girl out: What's your favorite way to prepare zoodles?

- ST

Friday, September 22, 2017

Happy Birthday to Charlie!

When Charlie first came into my life, he was a tiny kitten - only three months old and four pounds. He was so small it was hard to imagine he'd ever grow up. 



But here we are - Charlie is celebrating his 1st birthday on Saturday!

In kitty years, Charlie is an adult. But he's still a baby in my mind. Shortly after I got him he went through a goofy growth spurt. He looked kind of awkward for a bit with a long body, long legs ... and tiny face with big ears. But he's evened out and has grown into a gorgeous kitty. He's right around 9 pounds - so still small for a male cat.



He behaves like a small child or adolescent - he's always exploring and playing and if it's ever quiet for more than a minute or two I know he's up to no good. He's so active and constantly sprints around the house, attacks and throws toys, and sometimes he even attacks me (all in good fun!)! He's also quite the jumper/climber. Although he's small, he has long legs and I've watched him fly between pieces of furniture and climb to the top of tall bookcases. 







He's also the most joyful kitty. His expressions kill me and he talks all the time. There's constant mewing, happy squealing, chirping, purring, etc. He's not one to sit silently in a room!


But when he's ready to rest, he loves to be held and cuddled. He's a lap kitty at heart and if I let him he'll stay there for hours. And when it's time to go to bed, he curls up next to me. 


I love my little Charlie so much and it's been an absolute joy to watch him grow. Looking forward to seeing what the next year brings :) 

- ST

Monday, September 18, 2017

Losing It

Back when I did regular training for running/racing, weight was something I thought about but not something I worried about too much. I knew I had to be leaner to run faster but because of all the running and other training I did, I didn't have to diet - it was more about eating quality foods to support the work I was putting in.



But after taking the summer off from running, I've found myself needing to work at losing a few extra pounds. So I'm excited to share I joined Weight Watchers and am also doing a 12-week program called Lose It at the Wisconsin Athletic Club.

Most of you probably know what Weight Watchers is even if you don't know the exact details of the plan. All foods are assigned a point value and the goal is to stay within a certain point total every day.


Lose It is more fitness based and includes a 60-minute session with a trainer each week as well as small group training sessions throughout the week. Participants work to lose the largest percentage of body weight as well as improve body composition and overall fitness.

Originally I was only going to do the Lose It program but decided to join Weight Watchers on a whim. I think it was a smart decision as it will force me to make better food choices throughout the Lose It program and hopefully lead to more weight loss. In addition to doing the Lose It workouts, I'll also continue to do some running - I'm slowly starting to get back into it but building miles won't be my focus during the next few months - as well as do a few classes at the Downtown YMCA. By the end of the Lose It program, I want to be in position to start doing more run training. Right now, I'm mega slow!

So this week's fitness plan looks like this:

Monday: 4 mile run + Y-Core + WAC Class
Tuesday: 4 mile run + WAC Training Session
Wednesday: 4 mile run + Y-Core + WAC Small Group Session
Thursday: 2 mile run + Y-Blitz
Friday: 4 mile run
Saturday: 30-minute walk
Sunday: Rest Day

And the diet plan looks like this:

Breakfast: Egg & Turkey Bacon Breakfast Burrito (7 points) + Banana (0 points) + Non-Fat Plain Kefir (3 points)
Snack 1: Raw Veggies (0 points) + Light String Cheese (1 point)
Lunch: Tuna, Chickpea & Sweet Potato Salad (6 points) + Watermelon (0 points)
Snack 2: Popcorn (2 points)
Dinner: Turkey Pepperoni Flatout Pizza (8 points) + Spinach Salad (1 point) + Apple (0 points)

I'm really excited about the next several weeks and can't wait to see how much I'm able to accomplish. As I told my trainer, Ellie, I'm all in and will do whatever it takes to maximize results. It's going to be challenging at times but I know I'm going to feel so much better as I get back to my normal self and - fingers crossed - can start running faster again :)


That's really it for now - how about you tell me a bit about what's happening in your life:
  • What's new and exciting in your life?
  • Have you ever been on a diet (Weight Watchers, Zone, Slow Carb, Whole 30, etc.)? If so, what did/didn't you like about the plan? Were you able to stick with it?

I hope you have a wonderful start to the week!

- ST

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Quinoa Black Bean & Spinach Enchiladas

I recently had a craving for enchiladas with a creamy verde sauce. So I decided to use a little creativity and make one of my favorite comfort foods a bit healthier!

During a recent shopping trip at Whole Foods I picked up a package of Frontera Fire-Roasted Tomatillos. I had a feeling they would be a great base for a verde sauce once pureed. When combined with the plain Green yogurt, it's a deliciously creamy sauce that tastes super high-calorie/high-fat but is actually pretty healthy. 

Don't let all the steps scare you away. This one is worth a little extra prep time!


Quinoa Black Bean & Spinach Enchiladas
Serves 4-6

8 soft-taco size tortillas (corn or flour)
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable broth
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups spinach
1 package Frontera Fire-Roasted Tomatillos*
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt (I used Fage)
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp Mexican oregano
Salt & Pepper
1 cup chihuahua cheese, shredded
Cilantro, chopped

*Purchased at Whole Foods

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Add quinoa to a medium-size pot and toast over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Add vegetable broth, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1 tsp chili powder and bring to a boil. Top pot with a lid and reduce heat to low. Simmer until quinoa is cooked through - about 15ish minutes.

While the quinoa is cooking, add the tomatillos, Greek yogurt, 1 tsp cumim and 1 tsp Mexican oregano to a food processor. Process until smooth and well combined. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and black beans and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add cooked quinoa and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted and mixture is heated through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Spread 1-2 Tbsp of tomatillo sauce in the bottom of a 9x13 casserole dish. Add about 2 Tbsp quinoa filling to each tortilla and roll. Place each enchilada seam side down in the casserole dish. Top with the tomatillo sauce (you will probably have extra - freeze it for another batch of enchiladas or use on leftover chicken) and sprinkle with the chihuahua cheese.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes - or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired!

This is delicious served with a side of Mexican Street Corn Salad or with a simple avocado salad.

Enjoy!

- ST