Grocery Shop for Our ❤️’s 🍓

Grocery Shop for Our ❤️’s 🍓

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Hey everyone 🙂

Spending so much time with Auburn’s Sports Nutrition staff has filled my head with dozens of blog post ideas. The tough part is finding the time to put them into words!

My short-term internship project for this summer was an infographic on the health benefits of summer fruits, which I really enjoyed researching. It’s incredible how POWERFUL the simple plants that God has allowed to grow out of the ground are. There are so many compounds in fruits that you could really call “magical” – Anthocyanins in tart cherries, for example, have been shown to be almost as effective as ibuprofen at reducing inflammation. Zeaxanthin and beta-carotene, antioxidants found in cantaloupe, play a protective role in eye health. All of these compounds are at higher concentrations when fruits are at their brightest colors, which for these summer fruits, is right now! And FIBER in all fruits and veggies is so good for your heart. It lowers cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease risk – need I say more?

Putting this into practical application –

I went grocery shopping this week, and I managed to pick up a lot of really great stuff. I’m not gonna lie to you, though, I wasn’t really thinking about heart health benefits when I was in the store. I was mainly focusing on not hitting anyone with my cart, finding the aisles I was looking for, and getting good prices. And trying to restrain myself from buying too much fresh produce, because I know I can’t use as much as I think when it’s just me. And the worst way to waste money is having to throw things away because they got moldy!

In a perfect world, we’d roam the aisles thinking about our heart health. Our brain health. Our eye health. Taking our time, selecting each item that would make us more functional human beings. What do you think about when you shop? I’m definitely prone to distraction, ESPECIALLY when walking down the cereal aisle, even though I know what I like. For me, it’s gotta be old-fashioned oats, or a hearty, grainy, lightly sweetened cereal. That’s what’s always gonna make me feel the best and fill me up for the longest. This time, I bought some wheat Chex, which I really like. But there’s always some fancy new box that wants my attention. Chocolate-covered sugar-coma granola labeled “all-natural”. New cheerios claiming to be “protein-packed” (spoiler alert – they mainly contain 4 more grams of protein than regular cheerios because the serving size is bigger, and they’ll also provide you with 16 more grams of sugar and more than double the calories per serving). The grass isn’t always greener with some new product, guys. Don’t be a victim to the chaos 😉

So, how can we grocery shop with the health of our bodies in mind? Without falling prey to distraction and needless worries while we’re shopping?

Plan ahead. And take our time selecting items as much as we can.

  1. Make a general outline of bomb-tasting healthy meals for the week – things you’re really excited to make & eat
  2. Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need
  3. Make a deal with yourself – only 1-2 additional items may be thrown in frivolously (make em count!)

If you go in armed with a plan, you’re much more likely to shop well and ultimately consume a healthier diet. And this can affect much more than just how your pants fit – though that is a huge benefit. Your ability to focus, your memory, sleep quality, exercise quality, and mood can all be improved by eating a healthy diet. And a healthy diet in turn becomes something that you can feel, and that you will want to seek out – what does my body really want right now to feel truly good?

You might think that if you let yourself think that way, you’d hear your body whisper “chocolate cake” every second. Maybe if you’re listening only to the taste buds and the cravings. But after a while those fade, and then what about your brain? Your tummy? Your heart? Does your body enjoy being loaded down with sugar and sleeping off a food coma? Not really – it likes being energized and lively so you can go do things in the world.

A “discipline is the only way” approach might work for a little bit… but it can leave you still thinking about what you “want.” And in reality, the cake might be what you need some days, for your emotional well-being! But, if you stop and listen – something else might be more satisfying right now. Are you someone who doesn’t think you like eating “healthy” foods? I’d guarantee there are some you do like. Watermelon? Yogurt? Grilled Chicken? Roasted carrots, or potatoes? I bet you can find a few. Start small, and grow from there. Taste buds really can change, and the cooking and preparation of something can make a huge difference. For example – my family recently discovered that roasted beets are super yummy. Pickled beets… not our thing. But that’s okay! You just need to find a way YOU like! A beet is a beet!

And if you like a lot of “healthy” foods, but you like all the other foods too…

Remember that your best diet is a beautiful compilation of foods that do your body good – physically, mentally, and emotionally. This will vary based on your genetic makeup (metabolism, food preferences, intolerances), the season of life you’re in, the amount of time you have to prepare food, how long you’ve been cooking or eating well, various holidays, and family culture – but good nutrition is all-encompassing! It allows all of that to fit into a healthy, happy lifestyle. Your diet is everything that you eat, all the little small decisions, which add up to a huge picture of your health. With improving your health, body, choices, and habits, the key is consistency. And eliminating the stress of doing everything “right.” Just let yourself try your best, and then simply be. So much can be gained from slowing down and allowing yourself to think about your food choices, instead of rushing and self-sabatoging your health.

At the same time that little “poor” decisions get lost in the huge puzzle of a good diet, all the little decisions add up to form the picture that is your diet. So it is in the little choices that we’ll find health and success!

So, back to the shopping. What can you do if you want to improve your food choices? How should you plan for your next grocery trip? If you want to really give your body the fuel it deserves, and love doing so – here’s a few tips for your list.

  1. Start with your protein. 🍳
    • Great dinner choices are lean meats like chicken, turkey, fish, lean cuts of beef, pork tenderloin, or any of the many varieties of beans (combine with whole grains for a complete protein). Lunch protein can easily be dinner leftovers, repurposed into a salad or sandwich, or nut butter on anything. At breakfast, I love soymilk or soy yogurt (feel free to go for nonfat dairy, soy just makes my little tummy feel the best), almond butter, or eggs, for protein.
    • This week, I bought a big box of frozen (minimal additives) turkey burgers, so that I can pull one out and grill it when I want it! The other nights, I’ve had black bean & brown rice bowls, and I’ve still got some frozen baby shrimp and frozen chicken-maple sausage in the freezer for when I want to mix it up. Freezers are magical when you don’t go through things quickly!
  2. Fill out your meals with veggies. 🥒
    • I love keeping a container of greens (arugula, baby kale, and baby spinach rock) around so I can turn anything into a salad for lunch, or have a side salad with dinner. And – they’re great sautéed into your eggs with some salt and pepper. If you haven’t tried baby kale with eggs – please do. Game-changer.
    • Roasted veggies are AMAZING. And easy. Stay tuned for my next blog post on making ANY veggie delicious 😉
    • FROZEN VEGGIES – always have them in your freezer. They’ll be there when you need them!
    • It can also be nice to find a veggie you really like to snack on (with or without hummus)! Bell peppers, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and crinkle-cut carrots are my go-to.
  3. Make sure you’ve got grains. 🍞
    • I’d argue it’s easiest to mess up here. Because there are SO. MANY. OPTIONS. With bread and cereals, anything packaged, stick to this rule – a whole grain as your first ingredient, and the shortest ingredient list you can find. With cereals, aim for less than 10g sugar/serving (<5 even better!)
    • Brown rice over white, whole wheat pasta over regular, you get the idea.
    • Why? Fiber is healthy for your heart, and when it’s stripped away (white bread, etc.), things get kind of… weird. Messing with nature’s package too much. It’s missing something it was meant to have.
    • HOWEVER – the goal is to eat whole grains for at least half of your grains. That leaves you a lot of room for wiggle. The weirdness will only get you if you MOSTLY eat nutrient-stripped grains. It’s the big picture, folks!
  4. EAT ALL THE FRUIT. 🍒
    • This one’s easy. Buy it – fresh or frozen. Add it to cereal. Smoothies. Yogurt. A bowl. Supplement your diet with all the fruits – as much as your budget will allow, that is! You aren’t going to mess up here!
  5. The things you love.  💕
    • For me – the cart ain’t complete without almond milk, air-popped popcorn for snacking (it’s whole grain and actually a really good choice!), and probably one special drink of some sort (a kombucha, vitamin water, iced coffee, etc.) 😊
    • Every couple of months, some dark chocolate, halotop ice cream, or graham crackers might make it in my cart. #faves. Make room for your faves when your heart tells you to! And when you buy them, savor ’em!

Did I forget anything? There you go. My guide to grocery shopping. These items are gonna nourish you all the way to your heart, because fruit & veggie vitamins promote blood health, and fiber reduces blood pressure, helping to prevent added stress on the heart. So you can rest easy knowing your diet’s keeping your blood pumping!

Here’s some meal-spiration 🙂 –

 

 

 

Eating well, with a relaxed yet intentional attitude, helps you live well. And longer. And it boosts your self-esteem just by simply doing it.

Stay bright!

Rae

Bowls That’ll Make Moe’s Jealous

Bowls That’ll Make Moe’s Jealous

Finally home to spend the last weekend of Spring Break ’17 with my family! You know there’ll be some cooking going on. Tonight we tag-teamed this awesome burrito bowl meal, which we all agree is one of the easiest and best things we make. If you’ve been to Moe’s or Chipotle, you’ll know that burrito bowls are a big trend right now (rightfully so!) You start with rice, and top them with anything else you could fit into a burrito, minus the tortilla. Tonight we used chicken, but we’ve made epic shrimp bowls, too, and hope to try steak in the future. You could even go meatless and just use the black beans, or sautéed tofu. These bowls pack a lot of micronutrients, protein, and healthy fats into a small package, and also yield some great leftovers!

Here’s how our bowl-prep went:

Dad and I made the homemade guacamole while Mom and Anna started the rice 🙂 We used whole grain brown rice. I love the flavor of this, it’s healthier, and it’s way more fun than just plain white.

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Anna’s finished rice 🙂

Ever skinned an avocado? The easiest way we’ve found is to cut it in half, remove the pit, and scoop out each side with a spoon.

For our guac, we just add lemon juice and sour cream to taste, and mash it all together. This was 2 avocados, about 1/2 cup sour cream, and 2 big squeezes of lemon juice.

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Finished product! You can add spices, but we like to keep it plain for this so it doesn’t overpower the rest of the bowl.

After the guac, Dad and I drained and rinsed some reduced-sodium black beans, put them on the stove to heat, and chopped up 4 chicken breasts. We cooked those in a little olive oil in a skillet.

Meanwhile, Mom and Anna cut some corn off the cob and threw it in another skillet with another dash of olive oil. All 4 eyes going at one time, no big deal 🙂 Then Anna chopped up some fresh tomatoes, and that’s everything we needed!

And here’s our topping bar – freshly grated monterey jack cheese, sour cream, guacamole, black olives, tomatoes, and green tomatillo salsa. On the stove we had the rice, chicken, black beans, and corn.

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Once you prep all your ingredients – which can be as few or as many as you’d like – you’re ready to pile up your bowl! Here’s mine –

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Yup. 🙂

We also had some corn tortilla chips on the side (look for those with the fewest, most natural ingredients) with salsa 🙂 Here’s our pretty finished meal!

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I hope you’re inspired to throw whatever you want in a bowl and call it Tex-mex!

Bonus points if your Grannie brings over some key lime pie for dessert 🙂 Happy Spring Break!

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With almond milk, of course 🙂

Stay bright,

Rae

 

The Satisfaction Factor

The Satisfaction Factor

There’s something about a good day with friends. Especially sharing good meals and good laughs with people who get you.

Do you ever finish dinner and feel full, yet somewhat unsatisfied? It hits me occasionally, and I’ve even wondered aloud about that feeling. Sometimes a little chocolate will fix it – but sometimes, food isn’t what you’re missing.

Proverbs 15:17 says, “Better a bread crust shared in love than a slab of prime rib served in hatred.” I’d go so far to say I’d rather have salads with love than a steaming hot pizza with indifference. When your relationships are just, well, meh, sometimes you’ll leave the table with something unsatisfied in your heart. It feels like your taste buds, but it might not be. If you’ve ever shared a meal in love, you’ll know what I mean – it’s not about how good it is, but about how warm your heart feels when you leave the table.

Photocreds Jenna Oden (whatsheeatsblog.wordpress.com)

Tonight I started thinking about this idea of satisfaction when I had the greatest healthy chicken nachos with two of my track teammates. We were so proud of our cooking, and it was delicious- but it just felt so relaxing to have a great day with great people, exploring Troy and hanging out at the pool (yes, pool weather in February – thank you Alabama!). A day like this can only be a gift from God.

Shopping at Publix really helped, too, because that just always puts me in a great mood. We managed to make this entire meal for around $5 a person, and then whipped up some yummy mini pumpkin pies for dessert! You can read the full details of our nacho recipe at my friend Jenna’s blog.

Here’s a sneak peak:


Ps – you won’t believe this is vegan cheese. Tastes amazing. I highly recommend Follow Your Heart brand mozzarella and American. I’m not vegan or lactose intolerant, but I think it’s cool to eat dairy-free cheese sometimes and get different nutrients than you would from the same old cheese. This one’s made from coconut, primarily, but you’d never know it. Black beans, shredded chicken, and crushed olives made this recipe to die for. We even made the “chips” homemade from little corn tortillas!

Here’s the final product – a big batch of oven-baked nachos. We all just dug right into the pan, no plates or anything, and it was so epic!


And here’s desert, made from canned pumpkin, cashew milk, spices, and eggs in mini pie crusts.


Those nights where you roll into bed without second thoughts about needing a snack first? Those are good nights! 💕 I love my girls. I challenge you to a share a sweet meal with someone you love today – it really makes a difference.

Be blessed,

Rae

Best Grabs at Panda Express

Best Grabs at Panda Express

Along with our Publix, Troy also boasts a brand new Panda Express. Naturally, my friend Clair and I had to go try it, because it’s new and shiny. And, we like fortune cookies.

You’re probably thinking one of three things right now. Let me guess…

  1. Chinese food? MSG, fried rice, huge portions… it’s a splurge.
  2. Panda express isn’t even real Chinese food. Not worth it.
  3. Yum, I’m craving some takeout now!

I’m about to challenge all of these statements.

It actually doesn’t have to be a splurge. After doing some research on the Panda Express site, I learned that there is no MSG added to the food, and they actually give nutritional info as well as offering the WOK Smart Menu – entrees with 300 calories or less and at least 8g of protein. A bowl, the smaller portion, was plenty for me – we each were able to finish our chicken but left some of the rice.

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Let’s talk options – Panda Express reminds me of Moe’s or Subway in some ways, because your meal is what you make it. It can be a gut bomb or a light, fresh choice all depending on what you point at. These are the 3 things you’ll want to consider when you order:

  • SIZE – the bowl was plenty for me – 1 side, 1 entree. A bigger person might be able to tackle the plate – 1 side, 2 entrees – but judge for yourself (especially rice!) and don’t feel the need to finish every bite.
  • ENTREE – the WOK Smart options are great – they are much lower in sodium, and there are several options for grilled chicken, as well as a grilled beef with broccoli. I had the teriyaki grilled chicken (pictured above), and it was delicious. Not dry at all, teriyaki sauce came on the side, and it had a nice, mild flavor. Other grilled chicken options include mushroom with zucchini, black pepper with green beans, kung pao with peanut sauce, peppers and zucchini, and firecracker, with peppers in a spicy black bean sauce.
  • SIDE – brown and white rice are your best options by far! They’re simple and real – just like what you’d cook at home. In my opinion, you don’t need a fancy side like chow mein or fried rice when you’ve got a fancy entree already. Brown rice is delicious and is going to provide more fiber, so I’d put it in #1 spot. I also read after the fact that mixed veggies are a side option – I may try this next time and see if I like that even better!

(PS – Don’t see what you want out? They’ll cook it for you really quickly! The sides aren’t always all out front, either – just ask.)

At only 32 calories a cookie, the fortune cookies are an easy choice!

Now to address the “real Chinese food” aspect – Who cares when it’s good? You don’t need to go overboard on flavor to have a nice meal. I like that they have some options that aren’t fried, because I know those tiny Asian women aren’t eating that every night. I also really like the chain because they attempt to make the menu choices clear, and offer thorough nutritional info online. It’s like real food with a Panda twist – chicken and rice can be a part of any culture, but with a little teriyaki, it tastes like something special.

You’re not going to want takeout here – the atmosphere is so cool. The ceilings have the coolest detailing and light fixtures, and the place was so clean (it’s only been open 2 weeks, lol!) We ate in the restaurant and enjoyed the awesome smells and trying to use chopsticks. It’s my opinion that eating out shouldn’t be a nightly occasion, but a special thing – this allows us to truly appreciate it, and to develop our own cooking skills so that we appreciate someone cooking for us.

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The Panda says – stick to the basics. Sounds like a good argument for brown rice!

Stay bright,

Rae