Category Archives: Fun

Hip healthy eats: what’s trending in 2017.

fancy jerkyIs kale finally over? Do we still need to put an egg on it? If you’re wondering what new foods you should pile on your plate this year to fuel your bod and your taste buds, read on. 

Of course you can eat well with the basics. Fill your plate with broccoli and chicken every day and live your life. But I need a lot of variety in my diet and screw around with new recipes. Thankfully, I can just scroll through my social media feeds to find plenty of inspiration (aka food porn, am I right?)

If you’re doing that too, you’ve likely already noticed certain foods popping up over and over. Are they really all they’re cracked up to be?

In the interest of research and a hungry belly, I test drove a whole bunch for you. Maybe there will be some fresh ideas. In any case, find out what’s healthy and what’s just hype with the new cool kids in your grocery store.

Before I dig into my list, remember this: all foods can be part of a healthy diet. The idea of superfoods is way overblown, as I recently discussed. But still, some foods make it easier to stay nourished and well than others.

Now that I’ve covered my butt in that disclaimer, let’s move on to the fun stuff.

Haha what?

Haha what?

I didn’t sample “functional food”, like supplements you add to smoothies like spirulina, which is apparently ridiculously good for you. I also left out things that while inexplicably popular, are expensive and sound hella stupid. I’m looking at you moon dust and sex dust. Yeah, sex dust is real. I don’t know what else to say about that.

I’m also leaving out recipes for cleanses and detox drinks. Because you don’t need any of that. Your liver does that job. Plus we all know that concoctions of lemon juice, maple syrup and God knows what else is going to taste like donkey. We good? Let’s do this.  

golden milk
My turmeric latte.

Turmeric – the golden child?

It seems that turmeric everything popped out of nowhere. It’s what gives curry powder its vibrant yellow hue. And it happens to contain a compound called curcumin, which provides anti-inflammatory effects to the body.

If its popularity on Pinterest is any indication, it would seem that turmeric has the ability to help fight off disease, help your brain, and maybe fight off ninjas. But you need to keep a few key things in mind:

In order to benefit from curcumin, you need to consume black pepper with it. It contains piperine, which allows you to absorb it way more effectively.

Most importantly, most of the research that finds turmeric to be beneficial uses turmeric extract. The foods and drinks you’re seeing all over the Internet don’t likely contain enough curcumin to improve your health.

Still, I had to try. I decided to go hardcore and use the fresh root instead of the powder form.

First I tried the much pinned “golden milk” or “turmeric latte”.

The verdict:
golden milk is terrible. Medicinal. I took one sip and poured the rest down the drain. The thing is, I’m not sure it was the turmeric that tasted so bad: the drink is usually mixed with quite a bit of fresh ginger and a bit of black pepper, along with coconut or almond milk, because everyone drinking golden milk appears to dislike dairy. Turmeric root itself smells fresh. I liked that.

I gave our relationship one more chance by grating some into my morning egg, cheese, and veggie scramble. On the plus side, it made my eggs prettier. And my eggs tasted great. Except I couldn’t detect any discernable turmeric taste. 

Try if: you want to add a little spice or color to your life. Be prepared for yellow fingers and countertops if you use the fresh root.

buckwheatbowl

Buckwheat porridge.

Quinoa, why you so basic?

Ahh, quinoa, the “ancient grain” that’s still plenty popular. It’s gluten free, though it’s not the protein powerhouse that everyone swoons over.

The term ‘ancient grains’ makes all the health food aficionados wet their pants. Just because something has been around awhile doesn’t automatically make it superior. But why not branch out? There’s a world of whole grains out there that have plenty of vitamins, minerals, and fiber to both power you up and satisfy your need for a little starchy goodness.

I’ve been digging other grains like Chinese forbidden rice, which is slightly chewy and has a gorgeous deep purple hue that you can Instagram to display your fanciness.

Nutty farro and freekeh are worth tasting too. Sprouted grains will likely get more attention this year as well. The process can increase many key nutrients within grains. Some people may tolerate them better too if they have sensitivities to grain.

I tried buckwheat this week. It has a neutral flavor and texture similar to steel cut oats. Though the name might sound like it contains wheat, it’s actually a gluten-free seed, often called a “groat”. It’s filled with plenty of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and amino acids.

Most importantly, it makes a bomb porridge for breakfast. Start with this recipe to get going. 

Try if: you want new textures and flavors in your whole grains.

Old trends. New trends. Coming together, on my plate.

Old trends. New trends. Coming together, on my plate.

Kale is dead. Long live other green stuff.
Okay, kale isn’t dead. I don’t even hate kale. But I predict people will branch out to discover some other good green stuff. I cooked up mustard greens, which have a peppery bite but taste less bitter than kale.

I used this quick recipe for wilted greens and onions from Martha Stewart, who probably has an entire garden of mustard greens at the ready. Of course she does. They paired perfectly with my avocado toast and poached eggs – two 2016 trends that don’t show much sign of slowing down. #avotoast #putaneggonit.

Try if: you want to feel more excited about leaves.

 

Bowl of power. Or something.

Bowl of power. Or something.

Buddha/Power Bowls
Yeah, yeah, these were a 2016 thing. But plenty of people are just coming to the power bowl party. The basic idea is just to mix plenty of veggies, a protein, and healthy fats – nuts, seeds, avocado, you name it. I threw together zucchini and carrot noodles, cabbage, cucumbers, chicken, and peanut sauce. It made a perfect light dinner that doesn’t require a recipe.

Try if: you like to throw together leftovers from your fridge.

Veggie burgers that taste like burgers.

Veggie “meats” that taste like the real deal.

Eat some peas: pea protein.
Protein is my wing mate. It helps me build and keep muscle, stay lean, and feel full. Protein is also becoming perhaps too much of a grocery shelf darling these days, as you’ll see it jammed into everything from water to cereal.

At the same time, more people are looking for plant-based alternatives to meat as their protein source. Pea protein is gaining popularity as an alternative to animal sources like meat, dairy, and egg. And it’s helping producers create veggie burgers that are more juicy and meaty than ever. I don’t know what kind of witchcraft this is, but I’d wager that the vegans are excited. 

I tried the new Beyond Meat beast burger to give these a test drive. Unlike most veggie burgers, this one packs a walloping 20 grams of protein into it. It’s also 290 calories, which isn’t anything spectacular for a protein to calorie ratio.

But if you’re eating only plant based protein, it weighs in pretty well. Pea protein is also good stuff because it has a good amino acid profile, is unlikely to cause allergic reactions, and lets vegetarians back off from eating a metric ton of soy products. I also plan to try the “chicken” fajita strips. I have high hopes.

Try if: you’re a vegetarian who secretly longs for a juicy hunk o meat. Or gainz.

I didn't spiffy up my "toast" very well here.

I didn’t spiffy up my “toast” very well here.

Sweet potato toast is now a thing.
Sweet potato toast is not toast. I don’t care what you put on it. Toast is bread. This is a thin slice of roasted sweet potato that happens to be a good delivery vehicle for #thingsontoast.

Some people have roasted them in a toaster. This sounded like a disaster waiting to happen. I didn’t want to burn down my kitchen. Well sometimes I want to burn down the kitchen, but only because I want a new kitchen. But I digress.

I read up on this not-toast. Roasting at 450F was apparently the way to go. You can always reheat them in the toaster briefly. I managed to burn most of my slices because I was looking at Instagram at pictures of sweet potato toast. Oh, sweet irony.

But I won’t lie, having a thin slice of sweet potato smeared with peanut butter and apple was delightful. I’ve never been so mobile with my root vegetables. Sure, I might lose a few fingers trying to slice a sweet potato into uniformly thin pieces. But it makes a mighty fine pre-workout snack to take out the door.

Try if: you love sweet potato, are terrified of actual toast, and also have a mandoline to make these less tricky.

I eat this straight out of the jar because I'm weird like that.

I eat this straight out of the jar because I’m weird like that.

Fermented foods – sour, funky goodness for your gut.
Gut health is continuing to gain more attention. Fermented foods contain probiotics that make your gut function well and help your digestion as well as improve other aspects of your health. Research into gut health is still emerging, but it holds quite a bit of promise for helping us function better.

I’ve been eating many of these for a while. Not because I’m trying to be healthy A.F. But mostly because plenty of them are packed with flavor. Think kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, yogurt, and kefir.

Wall-O-Kombucha

Wall-O-Kombucha

Kombucha gets a lot of love too. Whole Foods has an entire wall. That’s impressive. For some reason I can’t get excited about kombucha. It’s just too sour and has a weird, slippery feel. Some varieties contain quite a bit of sugar, unlike most fermented foods that I eat, which are very low in calories. However, the bottles I picked up at the market were very low in sugar. So knock yourselves out if kombucha is your thing,

Try if: you love flavor-packed foods that help you poop like a rock star.

Another power bowl with maple tahini sauce and that sexy forbidden rice.

Another power bowl with maple tahini sauce and that sexy forbidden rice.

Middle eastern cuisine.
Middle eastern food isn’t necessarily synonymous with healthy food – except much of it is. Vegetables and lean meats are star players in this cuisine, which makes wise use of spices to create layers of flavor. They also love tahini, which is high in calories but can be used in small amounts to perk up just about everything.

Watch for more recipes and restaurants featuring vibrantly spiced dishes like Za’atar chicken, dukkah dusted lentils, beans, tahini sauces, labneh, and the holy grail of egg-based breakfasts, shakshouka.

Try a middle-eastern vibe in your next power bowl, like this recipe for roasted sweet potato, beet, and forbidden rice with maple tahini sauce. The sauce was incredible. I added chicken for more brotein.

Pounding some seaweed.

Pounding some seaweed.

Under the seaweed.
Ever have a nori wrapper holding your sushi together? That’s seaweed. More and more seaweed products are available now in American grocery stores than ever before.

Try furikake, a Japanese seasoning, adds a dimension of flavor to veggies, meat, and fish. It’s made from chopped seaweed, sesame seeds, sugar, and MSG. Other seaweed based condiments are also popular in Asian cooking.

Seaweed is low in calories and  is super dense nutritionally. It’s high in fiber and vitamins and minerals,, including iodine, which regulates your thyroid; and vitamin B12, which is usually lacking in vegetarian diets.

I don’t mind nori wrappers when I’m eating sushi. But I took it a little too far. I grabbed these seaweed snacks. I wish I’d grabbed the furikake instead, it holds more promise. These snacks, imported from Korea, just tasted like seaweed. Crazy, right? I guess I’m not a fan.

Try if: you either get down to chow on seaweed or use this as a component in other foods to temper the taste of the ocean in your mouth.

Balls.

Balls.

More and more protein-focused treats.
From 2016-2017, the energy bar aisle exploded. Now there are vegan bars, raw bars, paleo bars, protein bars, energy bars, tree hugging bars, savory bars… you see where I’m going. It’s overwhelming.

And if you read blogs or social media, you may see just as many recipes for homemade versions, especially balls. Energy balls. Protein balls. Power balls. Hey, that’s a lottery game isn’t it?

Everyone loves balls.

While I’d rather eat a bigger snack that I don’t wolf down in under a minute, bars have the potential to be more nutritious than a candy bar. I think this is a key reason why people love energy bars. Because they want to eat candy and feel like they’re doing something better for their bodies with these.

It’s cool to eat some candy. It’s cool to put more nutritious food in there too.

Bars are “meh” on the scale of awesomeness, both with taste and nutrition. Many are little more than candy bars. The homemade versions contain fewer fillers, preservatives, and had the potential to taste good too.

What I mostly found were recipes containing a lot of nut butter, dried fruit, and honey. This might be perfect for powering up an endurance workout. But those foods don’t provide a meaningful source of protein yet also pack a ton of calories, which you might not want to spend on something so small.

I found a recipe that used protein powder, PB2 instead of calorie dense peanut butter, crunchy puffed rice and oats, plus just a small amount of honey and chocolate.

They tasted fantastic. And only 85 calories each. Except I ate three, because I was hungry and they were in front of me.

Try if: you want a portable treat that’s slightly virtuous. Just remember that even healthy treats contain calories. Damnit.

Other Trends to Track
I didn’t have time to eat all of the things. Just most of them. I think in 2017, you’ll see even more of these:

Foods prepared with bone broth. Bone broth is low calorie, nutrient dense, and flavorful. The jury seems divided on its worth so far.

-Poke bowls showing up everywhere. Poke has been popular in Hawaii for awhile. It’s a loose term for a bowl of fresh fish, plenty of veggies, seasonings, and sometimes rice. Healthy. Yummy. And eating poke on my bucket list for 2017.

-All the jerky. More fancy brands of dried meat – but also dried meat alternatives and fish jerky too. Remember the wall of kombucha? The wall of jerky is real too. I love it for a portable snack, so rock on with this.

-More matcha. The concentrated green tea powder is popular already, but with our national obsession over antioxidants, I expect to see some matcha Cheerios anytime now.

We like to over do a good thing, don’t we?

After a week of binge cooking and tasting, I’m ready to kick back with an untrendy but deeply satisfying plate of scrambled eggs and toast with no toppings. How about you? What food trends excite you, and which ones need to die? Leave a comment and share!

The last minute holiday gift list for gym rats.

fitsantsaDo you have all your holiday shopping wrapped up and ready to go?

No? Neither do I. Let us pause for a moment and thank the shopping Gods for the biggest gift of all: overnight shipping. 

I’ve thumbed through plenty of magazine articles with ideas for fit gifts. Some of them are great – many of them are aimed more at “yoga chicks who like fancy mats” than what I’m into. Fancy mats are cool too. But I’d like to move into some other territory. 

From gym tools and bags to easy DIY treats, I’ve got the gifts to grab this season. 

Gym Tools
These aren’t shiny and pretty, but they are useful. And sometimes that’s the best kind of gift to get:

Slingshot Hip Circle  $25

slingshot-hip-circle

The slingshot hip circle is an odd little tool that may make your glutes scream. I slip it right above my knees and use it for hip thrusts and lateral band walks. The inward pressure of the band encourages you to press back against it. The result is you lighting up your hips and butt like a Christmas tree. You can choose different levels of stretchiness – so pay attention to the details on each band.

 

Serious Steel Resistance Bands – from $10 depending on size
serious-steel

If you work out at a gym without these, quit that gym. Ok, I kid – but these are staple gym tools. If you don’t have any, grab a few to use for everything from assisted chin ups, band pull aparts and banded hip thrusts to pallof presses and triceps press downs. I think I pull one out in every single workout.

Buy a whole set, or pick one that fits the exercise you’d like to do.

Schlep Your Stuff
I really need a new gym bag. Currently I use worn out backpacks and sometimes stuff my gym shoes into my purse. That’s sad. Everyone loves a new bag, especially one of these:

Adidas Squad 3 $45
adidas-squad-3
The colors on this bag make it fun to tote. It also has an outside compartment to isolate your stinky shoes and sweaty clothes.

Lole Deena Duffel $85.99
lole-deena-duffel
This would make a good weekender bag as well as a gym tote. I like that it has plenty of room. Yoga people will appreciate the mat keeper, and it has several pockets for stashing all your random stuff you take to the gym. Plus it’s cute. Cute is good.
Sometimes you should go outside…

Flipbelt $28.99 and up
flip-belt
You know what’s B.S. about tights? They feel so good and yet rarely have pockets. Or pockets big enough to actually hold anything. When I walk outside, I find myself shoving my phone and my keys into my bra. Then I have that weird lumpy boob thing, and a sweaty phone at the end. Did I just overshare? I know someone out there is nodding their head.

This thing is cool. I like that it has a lightweight look to it and isn’t really a fanny pack. Yet it’s totally a fanny pack: just a sleek one for sportsing.

Wearable Safety Lights $19.95
safetylights
My friend Emily jogs in a bright reflective vest for her early morning sessions. I tease her and call her “safety ninja”, but she’s smart: getting hit by a car while on an early morning run, bike ride, or walk is no joke. Plus I think these things would make me feel like a little kid with light up shoes. 

Being able to slip them on to whatever shoes you’re wearing is helpful: if you cycle some days and walk on others, you’ll be set for both. The company sells glow bracelets too and other light up pieces, in case you want to pile it all on and pretend you’re going to a rave during your workout.

Healthy cooking
Everyone likes to eat. And if you eat well, you probably like new cooking inspiration. 

Subscription to Cooking Light $9.95
cooking-light

This magazine has provided me with so many easy and delicious meals over the years that I have to mention it. I appreciate that the mag always provides calorie and macronutrient counts as well as clear cut serving sizes. There are plenty of kid-friendly recipes in each issue too.

The Skinnytaste Fast and Slow Cookbook $18.00
skinnytaste

I’ve been a long time follower of blogger Gina Homolka of Skinnytaste. She’s published a few cookbooks but this is the first I’ve purchased. After cooking many home run hits from the book I can safely recommend that you go out and buy this book – as a gift to a fit-minded friend or for yourself.

Many cookbooks labeled “healthy” don’t provide much detail for the nutritional content of each meal. Homolka does that for every recipe in the book. Nothing in here tastes like “diet” food, and she’s creative without diving into the territory of exotic and impractical. That makes for perfect weeknight cooking.

Eating in the Middle $17.49
eating-in-the-middle
I fell in love with this cookbook. Not just because the recipes are wholesome, satisfying, and creative: but because author Andie Mitchell weaves a narrative that feels so close to home. She struggled with obesity, lost weight, and somehow had to find her own sustainable, middle ground. She doesn’t demonize food nor ignore the importance of nourishing ourselves. She finds the happy place, and it shows in her foods and words.

 

Flavor Kit from Raw Spice Bar – as low as $6/month for 3, 6, or 12 month subscription.
rawspicebar

Raw Spice Bar sent me a flavor kit to try. I received three packages of fragrant, globally inspired spice blends. They came coupled with recipe cards to give me cooking ideas. One of their recipes was a bit of a bust, but the others were outstanding. I’d buy this for just the spice blends and cooking inspiration. It makes for an unusual and healthy gift for anyone who likes to play in the kitchen. Use code FLAVOR6 to get a $5 discount. 

Splurge worthy
Fitbit Charge 2 $129.99
fitbit-charge-2
Verizon sent me this Fitbit Charge 2 to test drive and I have to admit: I was completely prepared to hate it. I get most of my movement at the gym through strength and conditioning work. Using a tool to check calorie burn is short sighted. Goals like building muscle and burning fat have a lot less to do with how many calories you burn in your workout and more to do with the effectiveness of your work and your dedication to your nutrition.

Still, the Fitbit did a few great things for me:

-It showed me that on many days, I sit on my butt way too long before getting out of my chair to move around.

-It helped me see that I wasn’t sleeping all that well at night and gave me a shove to nail down better sleep routines. I’m already sleeping better.

-It created reminders for me with the use of an app that you pair with the phone. I can track my water intake, movement breaks, total steps, and more. I get to decide which things I want to work on and the FitBit reminds me to get on that.

You can check your heart rate, count your calorie burn, and more. The beauty of the FitBit is that you can use it for what helps you, and just ignore the other features. For many of my clients, tracking daily steps motivates them to move more. And I call that a win.

Other cool things: it looks like a sleek watch instead of a clunky sports tool. It also now has interchangeable straps to make it look like a pretty piece of jewelry. I’m a girly girl and stand behind this.

TRX Suspension Starter Kit – $130
trx
If you work out at home, I wouldn’t call this a splurge – I’d call it a smart investment. One of the biggest issues with home-based workouts is needing a ton of dumbbells to get going. It’s also difficult to find exercises to do for the back when you’re without much equipment. The TRX is one of my go-to tools for rowing variations as well as brutal core exercises.

Lululemon Fast as Light Tights – $118
fast-as-light-tight
I will never own enough “pants that aren’t really pants”. There, I’ve said it. I poo-pooed Lululemon for a long time because they’re expensive. But I haven’t found another pair of yoga pants that makes my butt look like theirs do. They have some kind of butt-lifting pixie dust inside them. Now you know the secret. They also last forever and feel comfy all day. Buy some for your best friend or yourself. Unlike some brands, I find that Lululemon runs a bit small, so size up.

Fun and fresh
Not Vodka Water Bottle Mini Bullet 17 oz. $25. 
notvodka

Larger sizes are available too but this smaller one makes a great gift for $25. It’ll keep your water (or notvodka) cold for 30 hours and hot for 12. Non-toxic, non-leaching, BPA free. I own way too many water bottles, but I keep this one with me the most. Mostly because it makes me smile. 

Cozy Leg Warmer by Hansel from Basel, Inc. $48.
cozy-leg-warmer
I have a bunch of crop length workout pants that I normally don’t wear in the winter because I’m a delicate freaking flower and my ankles get cold. Duh, why not wear leg warmers? Plus we can channel the 80’s. These are super luxe, but any pair will do.

Tank tops from Raygun. $21+
sunsoutraygun
This store is a Des Moines original but you can nab their rad clothes and accessories online too. Along with a mind blowing selection of t-shirts, Raygun carries fun tanks and hoodies. Pair with your “pants that aren’t really pants”. 

Homemade and heartfelt. 
Gifts don’t need to make you go broke. Some of the best gifts just require a little effort. Here are a few DIY ideas that won’t make you want to scream at your Pinterest app. 

Sure, you could make soothing salves, bath bombs, and scrubs. But most of us who work out hard also love to eat. So my picks are all things that are things to nibble – low calorie but also slightly indulgent. 

Meringues
meringues

These little clouds are only 8 calories per cookie. WHAT?? And they actually taste good. Make one batch for a friend and another for yourself. You can also easily change up the flavoring by subbing in other extracts. I think almond would be amazing. 

Southwestern Three Bean and Barley Soup Mix
beanbarleysoup-mix

Soup mixes make a pretty looking gift when layered in a mason jar. Yeah yeah, mason jars are so 2014. But they work here. Plus who doesn’t love a dinner that’s ready to go on a cold winter night? 

DIY Protein Puppy Chow Mix
protein-puppy-chow-pinterest

Alright. I’m just going to come out and say that if you put a bowl of the classic peanut butter and chocolate treat known as “puppy chow” in front of me I would demolish it. Why not make this slightly healthier, bro’ed up version – in a portion controlled package? 

Skinny Hot Chocolate
skinny-hot-chocolate

I love the creative smoothie ideas from Dashing Dish, so it’s no surprise that this blogger’s hot cocoa mix is wonderful too. Put this mix into pretty jars and give a toasty gift for a chilly day. 

Raspberry Orange Chia Jam
chia-jam
Chia does amazing things for jam – not only is it packed with fiber and nutrients, it gels up fruit to create a jam-like consistency. This lower sugar jam would make a perfect treat. 

Give back

photo credit: girls on the run

photo credit: girls on the run

One of the best ways to feel the holiday spirit is to make a donation or volunteer for a charity. One of my favorite experiences was coaching with Girls on the Run, an organization that helps young girls build confidence and life skills through weekly activities and running games. 

Have any fit gift ideas or things on your own list? Leave a comment below and share. Happy holidays!

 

Disclosure: a few links in this post are affiliate links, which means if you buy from them, I’ll receive a few pennies from your purchase. This will go straight toward my coffee habit. Thank you! xoxo.