Monday, August 22, 2016

Kale-Cranberry Quinoa Salad


DELICIOUS and REFRESHING!!!

Kale-Cranberry Quinoa Salad

2 celery stalks, diced
3 scallions, chopped
1 large leaf of kale, deveined and finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup cooked, rinsed and cooled quinoa
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Mix together and let marinate for at least an hour in the fridge.

1 Cup Serving =
1/2 YELLOW
1/4 GREEN
1/2 ORANGE

Monday, May 16, 2016

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad


2 cups quinoa, cooked and cooled 
1 medium tomato, finely chopped 
2 Persian cucumbers, finely chopped 
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded & finely chopped 
1 medium avocado, peel & core removed, chopped 
2 tbsp red onion, finely chopped 
1/2 cup parsley or cilantro, finely chopped 
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled 
10 Kalamata olives, pitted & cut in halves 
juice of 1 lemon 
2 tsp cumin 
1 tsp black pepper 
1 tbsp garlic powder 

Combine all ingredients - makes six 1 cup servings 

1 YELLOW
1/4 GREEN 
1/2 BLUE 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Chopped Salad inspired by Portillo's

Portillo's Chopped Salad, gorgonzola, salad, clean eating salad, Portillo's, chopped saladChicago natives know Portillo's and if you've never been before, you are missing out!  The menu does not include the healthiest of foods, mostly hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, and all things greasy.  But they have this salad that is just AMAZING!  Their chopped salad is something you must try if you go to Portillo's.  But....since you may not be from the area or you may not want the real version (which may have just as many calories as their cheeseburger), you can duplicate this salad to pretty close, but with much less calories and fat!  It's very filling and you can make it your meal!  Great for summer parties or a side dish to whatever you are grilling.  The recipe below is enough to serve 4 adults.   
DRESSING INGREDIENTS:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
2 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

SALAD INGREDIENTS:
1 cup ditalini pasta, cooked al dente and cooled
4 slices of turkey bacon, cooked and chopped
1 cup crumbled gorgonzola
2 hearts romaine, chopped
1/4 small head red cabbage, chopped
10-15 grape tomatoes, quartered
4 scallions, chopped
2 small grilled chicken breasts, diced (optional)
For those following the 21 Day Fix, or their portion control containers, a 2 cup serving would equal: 
1 1/2  GREEN
1/4 YELLOW
1/2 BLUE
1 ORANGE
1/2 RED (Optional)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Chipotle Inspired Burrito Bowl - 21 Day Fix Friendly




Seriously, who doesn't love a burrito bowl from Chipotle?  A couple years ago it was my go-to dinner when I had not planned and prepped, and definitely one of the healthier options you can choose for fast food.  I got to thinking that the ingredients are nothing complicated at all and usually I have everything I'd need in my fridge anyways, so on those nights when things don't go as planned, it's one of those meals that you can quickly whip up, and for very little cost!  If you did plan in advance and have it on the menu, you can prepare some of this ahead of time and have it mostly ready, making dinner time simple.  Good nutrition does not have to be complicated!

If you have a family, this is also super FAMILY FRIENDLY.  It can appeal to everyone, while allowing you to stay within your portion guidelines.  My kids especially love it because they can pick and choose their ingredients and build their own meals with the foods they eat....and the best part ---> without complaint!



All the ingredients listed below are based upon your preference, but can be used in your burrito bowl:

 - Brown rice with chopped cilantro and freshly squeezed lime juice (YELLOW)
 - Sauteed fajitas peppers and onions seasoned to taste with cumin and chili powder (GREEN)
 - Freshly made pico de gallo (PURPLE)
 - Freshly grated cheese (BLUE)
 - Homemade quacamole (BLUE)
 - Black beans whole, or smashed (YELLOW)
 - Shredded romaine lettuce (GREEN...or free - what the heck, it's only lettuce ;)
 - Grilled chicken breast, lean steak, ground turkey, or shrimp all seasoned with
   cumin and chili powder (RED)
 - Plain Greek yogurt (RED)

Pico De Gallo:
4 ripe roma tomatoes
1 small yellow onion
1 jalepeno with the seeds removed for a milder taste, or with the seeds for a spicier taste
1 cup of chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste

Guacamole:
2 ripe avocados, smashed
1/2 small red onion chopped
1 cup of chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Salt and Pepper to taste

To assemble, use your Portion Fix containers to measure out the perfect portions and begin layering your bowl based upon your daily allowance.  I like to begin with the rice on the bottom, and end with a dollop of guacamole on top.  There is no wrong way.  I wind up mixing mine all up anyways. 

I hope you enjoy this meal as much as my family and I do!  After making our own burrito bowls at home, I prefer the homemade version now to Chipotle's! 








Tuesday, April 19, 2016

How to Peel a Perfect Egg!

Hard boiling eggs and peeling them .... FRUSTRATING!! 😩 I used to lose half my egg whites because the peel would stick and I could literally spend 5 minutes on one egg carefully removing the shell tiny piece by tiny piece and be left with half the egg I started with. I tried it all - baking soda, vinegar, salt in the water, using old eggs versus new eggs. NOTHING WORKED! Then someone told me to 👉STEAM THEM. So I tried it and no kidding, every single egg peeled perfectly and effortlessly.

Using a steamer basket fill the pot with water and the trick is to not let the water touch the eggs.
Cover the pot, turn on the stove to medium high and set your timer for 15 minutes.
When the timer is up, turn it off and let it sit for 5 minutes.
Move the eggs to an ice bath and then peel. You will get perfectly peeled and cooked eggs EVERY SINGLE TIME!

NEVER BOIL AN EGG AGAIN - STEAM THEM INSTEAD!!

Try it and tell me what happens!!

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Incredible Transformations!

Proof is in the pudding!  What I absolutely love most about what I do is that I get to share what I know works, and pass it on to other people, help support them through their journey and then see them reach their goals.  

A transformation that happens when someone decides that it's finally time to make a life change goes beyond the scale, beyond the physical looks, and creates such an emotional change within.  We focus so much on wanting to lose weight because we want to look good and feel good physically, but losing weight can also improve a person's self-esteem, and we cannot forget that exercise improves cardiovascular function, bone strength, fights diseases, improves mood, boosts energy, improves sleep patterns, improves and protects your mobility, and will improve your quality of life as you age.  

Taking 30 minutes a day to move your body is so worth the effort and I'm sure each one of these people will tell you the same.  Every single person you see pictured here has taken a leap of faith, stepped out of their comfort zone, trusted the process, and put in a lot of hard work.  Every person here has completed a program from beginning to end and gotten results!  Seeing this happen is the best part of what I do each day!  Here are their stories:

Lynne's Story...
"January 1st of this year I was exhausted! I was tired of being tired. I woke up tired, spent the day tired and went to bed even more tired! Working two part-time jobs as a CT Technologist in two busy hospitals and driving four children to baseball, softball, soccer, basketball, swimming and volleyball had really taken a toll on me. I decided it was time for a change. Time to take a long hard look at what I was eating or not eating and just how much exercise I truly was getting! I had always been a runner but only about three days a week, four at the most. I ran a few 5k's and a few 10k's but I never crossed trained or pushed myself beyond my comfort level! I did the 21 Day Fix and lost a few pounds on that but I didn't keep up with it! I ate decent after the program but I relied heavily on starchy carbs that really didn't have a ton of nutritional value. What could I do better? What could I change? What could I do that didn't require me to drag the kids out of the house or take away from my time with them? I decided to do the Beachbody Ultimate Reset to start out!! I loved the program. The meals were really easy to prepare and to this day I still use many of the recipes from the reset. My favorite recipe, hands down is the roasted sweet potato bisque! I incorporate the recipes into at least one meal a day! I gave up caffeine as well which was huge for me! I had at least two cups of coffee a day and while some caffeine isn't bad, the 1/4 cup of chemical ladened creamer and pure sugar I was putting in was! I don't do dairy and I eat very little meat. I find that my body runs most efficiently when I'm eating fruits, vegetables and healthy carbs like steel cut oatmeal and sweet potatoes. I also added in Shakeology! I love the Vegan Chocolate and have it almost every morning for breakfast! If I don't have it for breakfast I have it as a post workout snack! After the reset I decided it was time to look into a fitness program. I actually didn't have to look much farther than the dusty DVDs sitting on my shelf that I purchased years ago! I decided to give Insanity a go again. I started that journey on Feb. 1st and finished just around April 1st!! It was amazing! Just the push I needed to get back on track. I LOVE Shaun T. I truly can feel the excitement and motivation coming right out of the screen at me while I work out! All together on my journey I am down 20 lbs and about 14 inches since the start of the year! I have also gotten away from the scale. It can not measure my happiness, my health or my fitness level!! I weighed myself only because the program asked me to!! I have decided to start coaching and hopefully help others as I continue to help myself! Next up is the 22 Minute Hard Corps! Whooo-rahhhh!!!"



Amanda's Story...
"In 2008, I was at my heaviest weight of 194 pounds. This was 4 years after the birth of my second child. For 5 years I battled with yo yo dieting, diet pills, crash and burn diets, you name it, I tried it. I tried weight watchers and lost 40 pounds, but it never kept me interested. A friend from high school started posting pictures of her success while doing the 21 Day Fix and she looked amazing. I started asking her more about it and I decided that I have to give this a try. So I purchased the 21 Day Fix Extreme in October 2015. It sat in the box until January 4, 2016 when I decided it was time. So, I started the program and about a week into it I decided to give Shakeology a try. Once I started drinking the shakes and incorporated them into my diet, I thought why did I wait to start this!!! I've done 3 rounds of the 21 Day Fix Extreme with Shakeology and I've lost 17 pounds and 5 inches off my waist!!!! I feel full of energy and the best I've ever felt!!!!"


Patty's Story....
"I had gastric bypass surgery in April of 2015. The day of surgery I weighed 384 pounds. I'm now down 150 pounds and feeling awesome! It's been a great journey so far, but not always easy. I've been pretty shy about sharing this publicly up until now. At first I felt like a failure for having to have surgery to lose weight, but I don't feel like that anymore. The surgery was just the first part of my new life. I see it more like a tool that I use to help reach my health and fitness goals. I still have to eat healthy and workout. I have to really work at it. It wasn't just a quick fix, without a life change. It's not just about the weight loss for me, it's about being healthier too. I have some chronic illnesses too and all that weight was not helping.
Now I'm using Shakeology and BeachBody to help me get closer to weight goals and to meet my nutritional needs."   (If you would like to follow Patty's journey, you can find her on Facebook and Instagram @ FitCakes79)





Amy's Story...
Amy has been my friend since junior high!  We reconnected years ago through Facebook and we've been on this journey together pretty much ever since!  She is a nurse, wife, and mom to 3 kiddos, and a coach on my team.  This is what 65 pounds lost looks like, but you can obviously see that she's dropped several dress sizes and tons of inches, and she's so much happier.  She's loyal to drinking her Shakeology, and completing several Beachbody programs, and living a healthy lifestyle.  I know that Turbofire and the 21 Day Fix, 3 Day Refresh, plus a few more, have all contributed to her success.  You can also find Amy on Facebook and Instagram @ Move More Daily.





Saturday, April 9, 2016

Clean Out the Fridge Minestrone - 21 Day Fix Approved!


In my house, by Saturday, the fridge is pretty much empty of anything that can constitute a meal. Sounds familiar on your end too, right?  There are always some veggies still lingering that did not get used for my other meals, and some are starting to turn soft.  I used to toss them out, and boy was that a big mistake!  Don't throw them out!  You can salvage those veggies!  Take all the left over veggies you've got and make a minestrone soup!!  You'll get several meals out of what would have been trash, money that would have gone to waste!

Soups are so easy to make!  Unless you head to the store to get the ingredients fresh, there really is no wrong way to do this and if you don't have everything, no worries, just use what you've got.  

Suggested Ingredients:
2 Tbps Olive Oil
1/2 head of Cabbage
3 Carrots
3 stalks Celery
1 Red Pepper
1 Parsnip
1 Onion
1 Zucchini
3 cloves of Garlic
1 large can of stewed tomatoes
1 can of cannellini beans or garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
Salt/Pepper to taste
For the broth you can use water, chicken stock or vegetable broth
1/2 cup (dry) choice of small pasta, like ditalini, orzo, etc.  Quinoa may be a good option too for protein!


Directions:
Chop up all the veggies into bite size pieces. In a large hot pot, add the olive oil, carrots, celery, onions and garlic.  Turn the heat down so not to burn, and cook for a couple minutes, stirring occasionally until veggies are softened.  Then add in the rest of the vegetables, and continue to cook for a couple more minutes to soften.  Do not let them get brown.  Add in the broth, enough to cover everything.  Add in the tomatoes, beans, salt/pepper.  Cook for at least 1-2 hours on low, or until all the veggies have softened completely.  If you choose to add a pasta, add it in about 20 minutes before serving and turn up the heat a bit to create a gentle boil.   When the pasta has cooked all the way through, you are ready to serve.  Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese and enjoy!!

*You can also add green beans and cauliflower, but I did not have any on hand.

21 Day Fix/Portion Fix Equivalents:
2 cup serving = 1 Green, 1/2 Yellow (If you add the optional cheese, use 1 Blue)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What is Clean Eating?

The buzz around health and fitness these days is all about "clean eating".  It's actually nothing new, but all the hype is probably a really good thing because many people have gotten away from this way of eating as the food and marketing industry has put out some pretty dangerous stuff, labeled as food.  It's time we go back to a cleaner way of eating!
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First things first, let's just get it straight that clean eating is not a diet, rather a lifestyle choice.  Diets are temporary and may give quick fixes, in which people are often left feeling hungry, depleted of essential nutrients, and feeling just plain miserable.  So what happens?  They give up because it's not an ideal way to live and the body begins to crave the wrong types of foods as it starts lacking the nutrition it needs to sustain.  As a former yo-yo dieter, I can attest to feeling this way, and not only did I give up, I gained backed any weight I lost plus more!  Dieting just does not work...plain and simple!

Clean eating, along with a consistent exercise routine will not only give you the results you are looking to achieve, but will help you create habits that will last a lifetime.  Just a few of the side effects include: fat loss, better sleep, increased energy, healthier hair and skin, increased mental well-being, and a better physical feeling overall.

So, what does it mean to "eat clean"?  Well, just eliminating all processed foods and any additives, like preservatives and artificial ingredients are the basics of clean eating.  It's just making a choice to eat whole, unrefined foods.  Choose foods that come straight from nature in an unaltered state, like fruits and vegetables - organic is always best, but it's not always economical.  Get your meats straight from the butcher or prepared by you.  Stay away from prepackaged sausages, hot dogs and hamburgers, and even some ground meat, which have so many fillers and additives that can be harmful.  Include whole grains into your meals, like brown rice, quinoa, millet, barley, oats, bulgar, etc.  Stay away from white carbs, like white rice, pasta, white bread, etc.

Become a label reader and don't always believe what the front of the packages say.  Something labeled as "low fat" usually means that they have added other ingredients, usually chemical and artificial ingredients, to boost flavor.  Something labeled "sugar free" means that it contains artificial sweeteners, which are linked to cancer and other diseases.   

If you must purchase something prepackaged, look for those with less than 4-6 ingredients and make sure they are all something that you recognize and can pronounce.  If you can't identify it, then it's probably not good for you.

Follow these guidelines:
* Eating small frequent meals 5-6 times per day, or every 2-3 hours to level blood sugar and prevent hunger
* Include lean proteins like fish, chicken, turkey and pork, and whole grains and heart healthy fats in each meal choice
* Avoid ALL processed and/or refined foods (sugar, baked goods, candies, white flour, white rice, etc)
* Avoid saturated and trans fats
* Avoid sodas, high calorie juices and other drinks that give your body no nutritional value and lots of unnecessary (unwanted) calories - water is the best!
* Avoid high calorie, non nutritious foods - NO JUNK FOOD!
* Drink at least half your weight in ounces of water each day
It may take some time to become a 100% clean eater, but once you make the transition, you will soon realize that your body will start to crave whole foods and all the bad stuff won't even be a temptation anymore.  You may also start to realize that eating clean is actually a less expensive way to eat!  There are so many great cook books and clean eating recipes out there!  Check out some of my recipes here!

High Protein Berry Pancakes

I am always searching for high protein, low sugar breakfast recipes that will appeal to my children.  Try these delicious high protein pancakes for a healthier alternative to conventional pancakes.

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup Rolled Oats
1/2 tsp. Baking powder
5.3 oz. Greek Yogurt
1/2 medium Ripe Banana
1 Egg
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1/3 cup Frozen Berries

DIRECTIONS:
Place all ingredients in a blender, except for the berries.  Blend until smooth.  Let thicken, then drop onto a pan and add berries.  Top with pure maple syrup or agave.  ENJOY!

Clean Homemade Salad Dressings


You can make a batch of the following dressings and store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.  ENJOY!

BASIC VINAIGRETTE:
1/2 cup EVOO
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp. Himalayan salt
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. unfiltered honey or raw agave
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
Optional: 2 tsp. fresh herbs: basil, oregano, parsely or dill
Makes 8 servings

CREAMY GARLIC DRESSING:
1/2 cup EVOO
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
3 to 5 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. Himalayan salt
1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. unfiltered honey or raw agave
Mix in a blender
Makes 8 servings

CITRUS VINAIGRETTE:
6 Tbsp. 100% orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. raw honey (or pure maple syrup)
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
6 Tbsp. EVOO
Whisk in a bowl to blend
Makes 16 servings, about 1 Tbsp. each

BASIL VINAIGRETTE:
3 Tbsp. raw honey (or raw maple syrup)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
5 Tbsp. EVOO
1/3 cup packed fresh basil leaves
Mix in a blender
Makes 16 servings, about 1 Tbsp. each

CREAMY HERB:
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
6 Tbsp. mayo
2 Tbsp. finely chopped herbs (like chives, parsley, basil, marjoram or thyme)
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1 dash ground pepper
Mix in a blender
Makes 16 servings, about 1 Tbsp. each

SWEET CHIPOTLE VINAIGRETTE:
2 Tbsp. raw honey (or raw maple syrup)
6 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
5 Tbsp. EVOO
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. chipotle chili powder
2 tsp. ground paprika
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
Mix in a blender
Makes 16 servings, about 1 Tbsp. each

CUMIN VINAIGRETTE:
6 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. 100% orange juice
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground pepper
6 Tbsp. EVOO
Whisk in a bowl
Makes 16 servings, about 1 Tbsp. each

SESAME-GINGER MISO DRESSING:
2 Tbsp. miso paste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. Bragg Liquid Aminos
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1 tsp. minced ginger root
Water, as desired
Mix in a blender
Makes 8 servings

Clean Eating Snack Ideas

It's so easy to fall into the junk food trap because when you are needing a quick snack, let's face it, junk is easy.  It's already prepared in a handy little bag or box, probably months or even years in advance, hence all the preservatives.  But, those quick and easy packaged snacks are usually laden with sodium, refined sugars or flours, artificial flavorings, and numerous preservatives, and they are NOT deemed clean.  Don't let your need for something fast, derail your progress in eating healthier.  There are plenty of speedy snack options, we just may need to get a little creative.  And, I find that if you take a little time to prep food ahead of time, you can have all your snacks ready for grab-n-go ease.  For example, when you get home from the grocery store, wash and cut up your veggies.  I store mine in airtight Snapware containers.  I find that produce will last 2 times as long when I store them this way.  I like to store my celery and carrots in water, as it rehydrates them and keep them fresh and crispy.  You can also prep ahead by portioning out the dry snacks, like nuts.  Check the nutrition label for serving sizes --- a serving of nuts is not very much and you can very likely over-indulge if you are not conscious of this.

Here are some suggestions of healthier, cleaner snack options:
1. Carrots with hummus
2. Fresh fruit
3. Ants on a log (celery with peanut butter and raisins)
4. Trail mix
5. Dried fruit
6. Popcorn
7. Veggies and homemade dip
8. Hard boiled eggs
9. Greek yogurt with honey and berries
10. Cheese stick
11. Apples with peanut butter
13. Cottage cheese
14. Homemade fruit popsicles
15. Frozen grapes
16. Granola
18. Fruit and veggie smoothie
19. Quinoa and avocado
20. Steamed edamame



No-Bake Energy Bites

energybites, peanutbutter, flaxseed, cleaneating, proteinballs, proteinbites, snackfoods, cleaneatingsnacks

Clean Homemade Ranch Dip

This is a delicious homemade, clean version of the classic ranch dip/dressing:
 
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • sour cream
Instructions
  1. Mix together the first six ingredients down to the pepper. Store in an airtight container.
  2. When you are ready to make the dip stir 1 tablespoon of the spice mixture together with ½ cup sour cream. Serve with fresh sliced veggies or whole-wheat pretzels.
  3. Save the remaining dry spice mixture in spice cabinet or pantry for another day.

Banana-Peanut Butter Oat Bites

What I love about my challenge groups are the constant sharing of recipes finds.  Today someone shared a recipe for "Sinless Cookies".  I took that recipe and modified it to make it my own.  This batch was devoured by my kids before they could even cool.
Here you go....Banana-Peanut Butter Oat Bites! ENJOY!

INGREDIENTS:
2 ripe bananas mashed
1 cup of quick oats
1 cup of quick oat flour
2 tablespoons of natural peanut butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
*yields 1 dozen bites
>>If you are following the 21 Day Fix, 3 bites are equivalent to 1 PURPLE, 1/2 YELLOW, and 1.5 TEASPOONS<<

DIRECTIONS:
1. Mash the bananas in a mixing bowl with a fork until creamy.
2. In a blender (I use my Vitamix) or a food processor, add 1 cup of quick oats and pulse until it becomes flour.  Add the oat flour and 1 cup of whole quick oats to the bananas.
3. Add in 1 heaping tablespoon of natural peanut butter.
4. Add 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract.  Mix until it's all blended and smooth.
5. Using a measuring spoon or a scooper, drop the mixture onto a baking sheet.  Bake @ 350 degrees for 15 minutes. (I use a 2 tablespoon size scooper)
6. Allow to cool and enjoy!



How to Stick with Your New Year Resolution

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Come January every year, the same thing is always true.  It is always filled with people resolving to eat better, lose weight, save more money, and get more organized.  Gyms LOVE this time of year as the influx of new members flood their doors.  I know this all too well because I've done this year after year.  I'm sure I have joined a gym a dozen times and have spent thousands of dollars on this cycle.  I get all excited and start a plan, go daily for the first month, then a couple times a week for the next few weeks, and then slowly but surely it fades away.  I keep shelling out the monthly fee with hopes of going, but I fail. I'm sure you know what I mean....sound familiar?

5 years ago I resolved to FINALLY stop that cycle.  I DID NOT join a gym.  I devised a plan, connected with a coach, and I started my lifestyle change.  5 years later I have succeeded!  70 pounds lighter and a whole lot more confident and healthy.  I'm finally comfortable in my own skin. I can actually play with my kids without feeling exhausted.  I feel better, physically, than I did when I was in my twenties.  I am LOVING LIFE!  On top of this all, I have created the BEST friendships with people who are also fit-minded.  I've paid off thousands in debt, becoming 100% consumer debt free.  My weight loss resolution changed my life is so many more ways than just physically.  Besides marrying my husband and having my precious babies, it has been the best thing that has ever happened to me.
How to stick with your resolution:

1. Set your GOALS: If you are wanting to change your body, think of a goal based upon size.  Something that I have learned along the way is that pounds do not dictate size.  Two people can have the same weight, yet be completely different in size.  There are factors that come in to play like height and muscle mass.  A pound of fat takes up more space than a pound of muscle.  Therefore, the scale is not an accurate way to gauge progress on your goals.  Instead, set your goal based on your body shape and composition.  Determine your body fat percentage, take your measurements, and photograph yourself in minimal clothing.  This will be the truest form of measuring your change and progress on your goals.
Click HERE for your FREE account with access to fitness tools, goal tracker, and more!

2. Devise a PLAN: First, determine your fitness level.  There are options out there for EVERYONE, even if your mobility is limited.  If you have medical restrictions, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any program.  Next, evaluate your current nutrition.  Are you eating clean, unprocessed whole food, shopping the perimeter of the grocery store? or...Do you tend to go with quick and easy pre-made, boxed and bagged foods?  Are you taking a daily multi-vitamin?  If you find yourself having cravings during the day, you are probably lacking in essential nutrients.

3. Change your MINDSET: The ONLY way that you can fail at this is if you quit.  Your change won't happen overnight.  You did not get into the shape you are in by one or two bad choices.  It has been a culmination of a series of choices over a given amount of time.  Getting healthy will happen in the same kind of way.  It's a compound effect of the choices you make.  If you make better choices, compounded over time, you will make positive changes in yourself!  You just have to start!!  You are human and you will have bad days, you will not be 100% on target every single moment and that is perfectly normal and fine.  You won't sabotage yourself by indulging in life every now and then.  What will matter is what you do on a daily basis.  Secondly, rid your mind of the words "I'm on a diet".  Diets do not work and won't make you happy.  Instead just focus on eating healthy, reading labels and viewing your food as your fuel.
Click HERE to read more about Clean Eating.

4. CONNECT with like-minded people: Thank goodness for social media because there are thousands upon thousands of groups on any topic you can think of out there.  There are a plethora of health and fitness support groups to join.  When you are a part of a community of other people who are focused on their goals, and you have a sense of accountability and motivation from that group, you are more likely to stick to your goals and succeed. TRUTH!  And, I will coach your for FREE.  I work on myself daily and participate with you.  If you would like for me to be your coach, click HERE.
Click HERE to join my FREE online Facebook group for daily motivation and accountability.

5. Set your SCHEDULE: We are all so very busy with our families and our jobs and just getting in all things in a day.  But, you MUST make time for yourself in order to do everything else very well.  The best gift you can give your family, is a healthy YOU!  Oh, and when you are healthy....it naturally creates happiness!  Who would not want that?  First, schedule your workouts like it's an important meeting that you cannot miss.  Schedule it for the same time each and everyday.  Find a time that will work into your schedule, maybe early in the morning or late in the evening.  It will be hard at first, but eventually, it will become routine just like brushing your teeth.  You will gain more energy and your endorphins will be on a high!

6. PLAN YOUR MEALS in advance:  I guarantee that when you plan your meals in advance, you will not only save money, but you will save on the frustration of figuring out "what's for dinner?", and also will save on calories because when we don't have a plan we often opt for the quick and easy, which is usually not so good for us.  You will also find that you waste less food because it actually will get eaten instead of being left sitting in the fridge to eventually get tossed out.  So, here’s what I do every Sunday morning, and it’s quite simple!...
I look in the freezer to see what kind of meat I have available. I ask my family what they want to eat for the week. If I don’t know how to make the meal/s from memory, I locate a healthy recipe.  I really like the blog “100 Days of Real Food”, and I have a library of healthy, clean eating cookbooks.  For example, Tosca Reno’s books on Clean Eating are great!  I also subscribe to “Eating Well”, “Cooking Light”, and “Food Network” magazines.  These have really good recipes, but you can also find a lot of great ones on the internet.  Just pay attention to the ingredients and make sure they call for unprocessed ingredients, and watch the sodium content.  I think about my week and what I’ve got going on.  If we have an evening activity, on these days I make sure that my dinner meal is something that I can prep or cook beforehand and reheat, or something that is quick.  Then I go through each recipe and determine what I’ve already got in the house and what I need to get and this is how I build my grocery list.  I make sure to write down our dinner menu plan somewhere visible so I don’t forget that I’ve got a plan!  And it’s a good reminder to the rest of the family when they start wondering “What’s for dinner?” I do all my grocery shopping on Sundays and then I spend some time on Sunday prepping the meals for the week, i.e. thaw and marinate the meat, cut up veggies, make soups for lunch, pre-cook my whole grains like quinoa, farro, brown rice, make salad dressings, etc.   When you’ve got the work done beforehand, dinner is not such a chore.  Since I’ve been meal planning, my grocery bill for a family of 6 has been less than $100 per week.   I purchase all my meat in bulk at Costco and then portion it out and freeze.

7. Last but not least...Determine your WHY:  You must be thinking that your life needs to improve, or else you would not be reading this.  We all have choices and our lives are guided by the decisions we make.  Your reason why you want to be healthy and fit should be so powerful, so you need to dig deep.  When you feel like giving up, reflect back to why you want to make a change in the first place and this should keep you grounded.  For example, my reason why is because I have 4 children that need their mother to live a long and healthy life for them and to be a good role model so that they learn how to live to the fullest and with the highest quality of life.  I don't want them to struggle like I have or to ever feel uncomfortable in their skin.  Starting them on the right path is extremely high on my list of priorities.  They are the reason why I get up every single day and keep going.

Your determination and dedication to yourself is critical.  If you truly want to make a change, you HAVE to change what you are currently doing.  If you need help, please reach out to me.  I have brand new groups starting each month and based upon your needs, I can help you come up with a plan and stick to it!  Email me at karlaobrienfitness@gmail.com.

Homemade Chicken Soup!

chicken soup, bone broth, clean eating, comfort food, healthy eating, 21 Day Fix, chicken noodle soup, mirepoix
Nothing says comfort food like a good old fashioned chicken soup!  And what I love about making soup is that it is probably the easiest meal to cook, and it's a great way to use up your veggies before they go bad.   The base of many soups are pretty much the same - onions, celery and carrots.  They call this a mirepoix (pronounced meer-pwah).  Making the stock just takes some meat with bones, so after Thanksgiving you can take the carcass of the turkey with the bones and all and just throw it on in the pot and cover with water.  The same can be done with a bone-in ham or a whole chicken.  Super easy and you won't waste anything!!  And of course, we all know the healing affects of a homemade chicken soup - or maybe it's just that it reminds us of Mom!  I love to serve soup to my kids because I know they love it and it's a great way for me to make sure they are eating their protein and veggies.

INGREDIENTS:
2 cups of diced celery (approximately 4 stalks)
2 cups of sliced carrots (approximately 4 medium sized carrots)
2 cups of diced onions (approximately 2 medium sized onions)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 whole parsnip peeled.
4 cups of organic low sodium chicken stock
6-8 chicken leg drumsticks
6 cups of water
Himalayan salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
2-3 bay leaves
half a bunch of flat-leaf parsley chopped
brown rice or whole grain noodles (optional)
Makes approximately 14 ONE cup servings.

21 Day Fix portions: 
1 cup = 1/2 GREEN, 1/4 RED, 1/2 TSP, 1/2 YELLOW (if adding rice or noodles)

DIRECTIONS:
Step 1:  Chop the vegetables.
 
Step 2: Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to an 8 quart pot.  When hot, add in the onions, carrots and celery and cook on medium until sweated.  At this point, I like to add fresh cracked pepper, and some Himalayan salt.

Step 3: Form a well with the vegetables and place the whole, prepared chicken in the pot and brown on both sides. (Note: I have updated this recipe to use chicken drumsticks instead of a whole roaster chicken.  I find it much easier to de-bone the legs than the entire chicken and it makes a tastier broth)

Step 4: Cover with 4 cups of prepared organic, low-sodium chicken stock, and then add 6 cups of water, or enough to completely cover the chicken.  Add in the whole peeled parsnip and bay leaves. Cook on low for at least 2 hours.  If it starts to boil, turn the heat down to simmer.

Step 5: Remove the chicken from the pot, let cool slightly so not to burn your hands.  Remove the skin, tear off the meat in big chunks.  The meat should just fall off the bone - that is a good indicator that you've cooked it long enough.  Discard the skin and bones.  Return the meat to the pot.  At this point, if you want, add whole grain noodles or brown rice, and continue to cook on low until rice or noodles are cooked all the way through.  Remove bay leaves and add in chopped parsley. ENJOY!!   When the soup has cooled, you can store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.

John's Hearty Turkey Chili

For the past few years my husband, John, has been making chili, each timing tweaking to make it better than the last.  Since he's perfected it, I am no longer allowed to make the chili, and quite frankly, I don't think I could make anything that would even come close to the flavor that this chili has got.  I wholeheartedly believe that this chili could wins contests!  John finally let me in on his secret and allowed me to write down the method to his chili madness.  If you like a chili with beans, tomatoes and a slight kick, you will LOVE this!  The best part, it's healthy for the most part and packed with protein.  A one cup serving will fill your belly!  Chili freezes well, so if this makes too much for you, just portion it out into smaller servings and stick in the freezer.  Voila!  You have a meal for another day when you are short on time!....and oh!  This is 21 Day Fix friendly.... a 1 cup serving is 1 RED and 1 YELLOW container.


Ingredients:
1/2 stick of grass fed butter
1 large onion, diced
2 lbs. ground turkey
12 oz. beer of your choice
1 can of kidney beans, drained
1 can of pinto beans, drained
1 can of black beans, drained
small bag of frozen corn
2 cans of stewed tomatoes
3 large peppers, diced (1 green, 1 red, 1 yellow)
4 Tbsp. ancho chili powder
1 Tbsp. Cumin
2 tsp. adobo seasoning
2 tsp. granulated garlic
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. chili powder (add more if you like a chili with more heat)
6 oz. bottle of chili sauce

Directions:
1. Melt the butter in a large pot.  Add in diced onions, cook until sweated.
2. Add the turkey to brown.
3. Deglaze the pan with the beer of your choice, making sure to scrape the bottom and get up all the little      bits.
4. Add in the beans, corn, stewed tomatoes, peppers, all the seasonings and the chili sauce.
5. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook to let the flavors meld together.  The longer the better!
6. Enjoy!

21 Day Fix friendly...... 1 cup = 1 RED and 1 YELLOW

Peanut Butter Granola: 21 Day Fix Approved

granola, low sugar, diabetes, clean eating, recipes, peanut butter, glycogen storage disease,
If you are label reader like me, you will notice that sugar is in EVERYTHING!!  Even plain Greek yogurt has around 9 grams per 8 ounce serving.  Of course, sugar makes everything taste appealing, but if you are trying to lose fat, you are going to want to stay away from it as much as possible.  Sugar is very addictive and when consumed causes the blood glucose to rise.  The body's response is to produce insulin which then drives the blood sugar back down.  When you hit that low, you then begin to crave....SUGAR!  It's a vicious cycle, but it can be broken.  Once you start eliminating refined sugar from your diet, your body will stop craving it.

My children have a rare blood sugar disorder called Glycogen Storage Disease and in their type of GSD, their livers do not store glycogen.  We have to get really creative because they should only be consuming around 15 grams of sugar PER DAY!  Sweets are out of the question, and even a lot of fruits. :( However, as we are learning to cope with this, we are finding and tweaking recipes so that they can still have a cookie every now and then, but their version will be a lot healthier and without sugar.

My attempt at making peanut butter granola cookies did not turn out the way I expected, and instead of just throwing the mixture away, I decided to turn it into granola!  Apparently sugar does play a significant role in binding the ingredients together...oops!

So here you have it, my version of a ZERO SUGAR peanut butter granola.  It's probably not as sweet as the granola you are used to, but if you are trying to stop that sugar craving cycle, this is going to be a much better option for you.

21 Day Fix portions:  1 cup serving = 1 yellow, 1 blue, 1 tsp.

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup coconut oil or butter
1 cup of Stevia in the Raw - OR - 2 tsp. powdered or liquid stevia
1/2 cup all natural peanut butter
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups of oat flour (2 cups of rolled oats pulsed in the blender or food processor until it becomes powdery)
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. himalayan salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 cups of old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raw nuts (almonds and cashews)

DIRECTIONS:
  • Using a mixer, cream together coconut oil, stevia, and peanut butter. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla. Combine oat flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon; stir into the creamed mixture. Mix in oats.
  • Spread onto a cookie sheet, sprinkle nuts on the mixture, and bake in the oven at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes
Enjoy with yogurt as a parfait, or just by itself!  You could also add some dried fruits and/or dark chocolate cacao nibs, but keep in mind that will be adding sugar.

21 Day Fix Pork Carnitas

I think that Mexican dishes are not only a good comfort food, but also easy to make and can be very 21 Day Fix friendly.  Load up on the veggies, choose lean cuts of meat, use brown rice, corn or sprouted tortillas, use oils sparingly, and you can have a dinner that the entire family can enjoy.  I also love that each person can make their tacos to their own liking by adding what they want.  We usually devote one dinner a week to some sort of Mexican dish.  This particular recipe is one of my favorites!

This dish is so simple and can be prepped the night before so that all you have to do in the morning is put it in the slow cooker and walk away until dinner time!  This serves a lot of people and you'll still have left overs.

Ingredients:
3lbs pork loin
2 bay leaves
1.5 cups of organic chicken broth
2 tbsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp oregano
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl and rub onto the pork loin (you can do this the night before to let it marinate if you wish).  Place the seasoned pork loin in a slow cooker with the chicken broth and bay leaves.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.  Remove the bay leaves, shred the meat, and then return to the juices and stir.

Pico De Gallo:
1 large ripe tomato, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 Persian or pickling cucumber, diced
1/4 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 avocado, diced
Juice of 1/2 lime
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

and the BEST PART.....

Cilantro-lime Sauce:
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup lime juice (approximately 1 whole lime)
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1 tsp honey, or 4 drops of liquid stevia
Blend in a blender until smooth

Serve with corn tortillas, chopped romaine lettuce, and shredded cheese.

***21 Day Fix count***
1.25 red (cilantro-lime sauce and meat)
1 yellow (2 corn tortillas)
1 green (lettuce)
1 purple (pico de gallo)
1 blue (avocado and cheese)