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)

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.


- ST

Monday, August 21, 2017

My Summer of (Not) Running

Hey everyone! I'm super sorry I've been MIA lately. It seems like these past few months have gone by in a blink of an eye. One moment it was the end of winter and the next moment the middle of summer. But I guess it's like the saying goes - time flies when you're having fun :)

But if I'm completely honest, I also haven't been posting because I haven't had a lot to say about running because ... I haven't been running.

It's kind of hard to explain. For the past several years, I've been all about running and I never once considered it wouldn't play one of the most major roles in my life. However ... something changed during the past few months. 

It started back in May. My body felt like it was breaking down again and I was losing motivation to train. If I really think about it, I guess I would really point back to a year and a half ago when the injuries started and never really seemed to stop. I would get injured, recover, then immediately get injured again, which meant I haven't been able to train as consistently as I did a few years ago. And once I started taking a few days off here and there, my motivation also decided to take a vacation.

When I had a run on the schedule I'd dread it for hours, wondering how it would go and if I'd be able to hit my times for the day. And when I finally did get out to run it was a chore that I just wanted to get done as fast as possible so I could cross it off my to-do list. You know all those motivational quotes that talk about pushing through day after day and never giving up? I told myself I was just going through a bad patch and in time I'd be able to push through and get back to where I wanted. I didn't want to be that girl who gave up, but I knew I was only digging myself a hole. 

So I decided the only hope I had of getting back to loving running was to take an extended break. I was really anxious about it at first because the past few years my life have revolved around running and fitness. Suddenly I didn't have a routine and all this extra time. As weird as it seemed at first, I grew to love having things less structured. A few weeks in and I found I hardly missed running.

I still went to the gym but only did a normal 4-5 workouts per week. To someone who used to force herself through 8-10 workouts every week, this seemed like nothing. I felt better rested and had more time to do other things I love like catching up with friends over drinks, going out dancing, following fashion and style, reading, etc. I also had time to try out new workouts, such as OrangeTheory Fitness.

The only thing that gave me pause was losing fitness as the weeks went by. Things that used to be easy suddenly weren't and my speed and endurance definitely took a hit. But I told myself I wasn't going to push myself to train for anything - or even follow a fitness routine - until I felt ready again.

Although I wondered at times if I was done with running, I've finally started feeling like I want to run again. It's been little things like getting excited about certain races or feeling inspired while watching the Track & Field World Championship races. And I've actually started to miss the routine of structured training and working toward a goal race.

It's going to take some time to get back into things but I think I'm ready. I'm not in the best shape right now (read: super slow) but I think if I work hard and regain the fitness I've lost, I still have plenty of fast times left in my legs. 

So that's where I'm at right now. Plugging away, slowing building up and hoping to get back to running fast again. 

It's been a long time, friends - tell me:
  • What have you been up to this summer? 
  • How is your running going? Any fall races on the calendar?
  • Have you ever taken an extended break from running? How did you know it was time to start up again?


- ST

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Carlsbad 5000 Race Weekend Recap

In the weeks leading up to my trip to Carlsbad, California, several people I know told me they couldn't believe I was traveling across the country to run a 5k.

Let's set the record straight. Carlsbad 5000 isn't your ordinary 5k race. It's the world's fastest 5k (16 world records have been set on the course!) and a must-run event if you're into shorter distances and/or just love running and racing. 

Racing Carlsbad 5000 has been on my bucket list for awhile because it's an event that's all about the 5k distance. Most races these days focus on the marathon or half marathon as the main event and the 5k is often considered a distance for newbies or walkers. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say "I'm just running the 5k" and I'll admit - I'm even guilty myself of saying it at times. But when you truly race a 5k, it's never "just a 5k" - in fact, it's likely one of the most painful and challenging distances you'll race!

The Midwest does not offer any large-scale 5k events (at least that I know about) so even though Carlsbad 5000 meant flying across the country, I didn't mind one bit. I couldn't wait to experience the race!

Because it's a large race, Carlsbad 5000 is divided up into heats: Masters Men, Masters Women, 29 & Under, 30-39, Elite Women, and Elite Men. I really like this format because I got to watch the other heats and it really made it seem like a festival of sorts. The only thing I didn't like was having to wait til later in the morning to race. But more on that later ...

Waiting for my race to start!

So race morning Mom ran first and it was great being able to cheer her on at the start and finish of the race. She lucked out because her race was earlier in the schedule so it was just starting to warm up - I believe temps were in the upper 50s at the start. Every race we do, Mom is always so worried she won't be able to finish. But as always she looked great at the end of the race and finished strong.

After Mom finished up, we headed over to the VIP area to sit down for a bit before my race. All Rock 'n' Roll events offer VIP access for purchase and it's well worth it. At Carlsbad 5000, we had access to an indoor space, private gear check, indoor restrooms, and pre- and post-race food and drink. It's a totally good deal and I highly recommend it.

Before my race started, I got to meet up with a group of people I know through the Rock 'n' Blog program. It was fun meeting a few people I've previously only known on social media. I also got to catch up with Nicole, my Bird Camp roommate. It was so great seeing her again and I can't thank her enough for all the great Carlsbad recommendations she made in the week's leading up to my trip!

 Thanks for the pic, Carlee!

Nicole and I lined up together at the start of the race. I was thinking we would be able to run the first mile together or maybe even the whole race but it was crowded and I lost sight of her soon after crossing the start line. My plan was to run conservatively during the first mile and I think I did a decent job of this considering how excited I was when I started running. Usually this leads to me taking off for the first half mile or so but today I kept it nice and easy. Or so I thought. 

After hitting the halfway point, the sun and heat really started to get to my Wisconsin girl self that is used to running in a cloudy 30-40 degrees. I could tell the wheels were coming off and I was slowing big time but I desperately tried to hang on. I remember looking over to my left and seeing the beautiful coastline and all I wanted to do was run across the beach and dive in the ocean! Nicole passed me with about a mile to go and I was toast soon after. It was a very slow slog to the finish line and I ended up with a pretty bad time for me.

At first I felt bad about flying across the country to run such a bad time but then I started feeling better when I realized how hot it was at race start - 70 degrees and sunny. If I do this race again I will definitely incorporate some heat training into my routine so I'm better prepared. I also hope I'm in better shape since I know lack of running fitness also played a role. 

After my race finished up, it was time to spectate the elite races. Mom and I stood near the finish line and it was amazing to see all the tiny elite men and women fly across the finish line. They were all so gracious after and some even ran back to high five spectators and pose for pics. Afterwards, Mom and I headed back to the VIP area to get our gear check bags and many of the elites were there as well. I noticed none of them were indulging in dessert! ;)

 Shannon Rowbury (1500 & 5000 American Record Holder)

Paul Chelimo - 2016 5000 Silver Medalist

I didn't hit the Beer Garden area after but it's worth noting there was one with a large concert, beer and pizza. It looked like a super fun time - more like a street festival than your typical post-race party. 

This race is definitely worth a trip. Rock 'n' Roll races are among my favorite and I love the series even more for offering an event like Carlsbad 5000. The organization was top notch and the atmosphere was unlike anything you'll find at other 5k races. I liked it so much, I'm already signed up for next year's race!

The race was the main reason for the trip but Mom and I also did plenty of walking along the beach, shopping and, of course, eating! We stayed at the cutest resort - Carlsbad Inn Beach Resort - and it was the most perfect location - right in the heart of the village and across from the beach. It had the cutest cafe on site and Mom and I ate breakfast there every day. We also visited the ice cream shop on site every evening. We were on vacation! 

When you're deciding where to race in 2018 I hope Carlsbad 5000 makes your list. If it does, I'll see you there!

My questions for you:
  • What's the furthest you've traveled for a race? Why did you decide to race there?
  • How do you prepare for warm weather races during the winter months?
  • Do you race 5ks? What do you love/hate about them?

Missed Carlsbad 5000 but still want to run a Rock 'n' Roll race this year? Use code RnB15 to save $15 off marathon and half marathon races at many U.S. and Canada tour stop locations!

- ST