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

Road Trip Snackin’ 🚙

Road Trip Snackin’ 🚙

Long road trip… you pull up to a gas station… you’re hungry. You’ve been on a roll lately with your nutrition, and you don’t really want to settle for the Cheetos today. What do you choose?

On Friday, I drove down to Gulf Shores to present research at the ASAHPERD Conference (7.5 hrs, just me!), and I realized there really were some decent snack options at the gas stations along the way.

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My conference group with our posters 🙂

Here are my top healthy picks!

  1. Bottled water. Of course, you can’t drink too much on the road, but staying hydrated is key to keeping your mind alert while you drive. You just can’t beat a cold bottle of water.
  2. Bai drinks. I’ve loved this stuff lately! The mango and coconut flavors are really yummy (felt like I was still at the beach). Yes, there are some artificial sugars (erythritol), but this drink is relatively natural compared to many others, and has little impact on your day’s diet at only 10 calories per bottle. A yummy drink is a good choice when you’re bored and want to snack, but aren’t really hungry yet.

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    When you see the Flora-bama and you realize you’re 5 min out 🙂
  3. Unsweetened tea. A favorite in my family. We’re unsweet tea people. Some flavor, a little caffeine, and no bad stuff. Again, if you need it sweet, I recommend Milo’s Splenda Tea. You won’t miss a thing except the sugar and calories, and you won’t spike your blood sugar like real sweet tea will.
  4. Skinny-pop. Popcorn is naturally whole-grain – it only hurts us when we cook it in a ton of oil and drown it in butter. Air popped popcorns, or those popped in less oil and seasoned lightly, give you a lot to munch on for not a lot of caloric cost. And everybody loves popcorn!

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    My ammo for the return trip. (Water, mango Bai, and white cheddar Skinny pop.)
  5. Nuts, especially almonds. I like the single-serve pouches – you know, the tall skinny ones. They usually have around 20 almonds inside, which is perfect, because you won’t eat too many and get a tummy ache. Cocoa roast, blueberry, and lightly salted are some of my faves. They’ll give you a boost of healthy fats, protein, vitamin E, and calcium, as well as taking the edge off of your hunger.
  6. Jerky. I tried “Perky Jerky” Brand turkey jerky today, and I really like it. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better source of on-the-go protein than jerky – just check your ingredients. Beef jerky is great, but turkey is even leaner (and yummier, in my book). And of course, we want minimal preservatives. Look for things you can pronounce, and watch sodium and sugar.beach3
  7. Clif nut butter bar or Quest bar. Two of my favorites – I like them because the ingredient list is relatively short, and they’ve got less sugar and more protein than the average bar. Reach for this if you’re too hungry to mess around with popcorn – they’ll fill you up more like a small meal.
  8. Apple chips or Freeze-dried fruit. Traditional dried fruit often has added sugar – yeah, it’s fruit, but it’s not your best choice. Freeze-dried options are better because they’re closer to the natural state! Natural = better. And they’re SO GOOD.beach2
  9. Mints/ Gum. Great for taking the edge off, keeping the breath fresh, and keeping you focused. Mint is really good for that! They’re also a great option when you just want to buy something, but you’re not particularly hungry.
  10. Starbucks Coffee+Milk. Hands-down, it woke me up after hour 3 and got rid of my headache. A much better option than Starbucks’ bottled Frappaccinos – this deliciousness is made with just milk, sugar, and coffee. No crazy stuff. My favorite is the Vanilla 🙂

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And when you get home and you’re too hungry to cook (or you missed Saga), grab one of these from Chik-fil-A! (Southwest salad with chili lime vinaigrette) 🙂

Drive happy!

Rae

Be still.

Be still.

There are rough days when it seems impossible to stay on the wagon of life. Whatever it might be for you… School/work seems too hard. You feel dumb. Maybe you’re under a cloud of depression and you don’t know why. Maybe you feel unable to control your expressions of anger, fear, or insecurity. Maybe the world is getting you down.

Maybe it’s you that’s getting you down. It seems like that should be easy to fix, right? When we experience self-doubt, though, it can feel impossible to escape. We don’t believe in our own ability to help ourselves out. That’s the problem. This can be related to any area of life – sometimes it’s everything at the same time. Even the pursuit of a good diet, or kindness, or personal achievement can add stress to our lives and make us feel inadequate when we don’t live up to our own high standards.

When you come to that place – we’ll call it the storm – where your emotions are just falling apart, and you don’t know where to go… here’s a plan of action that will save your life. Courtesy of Herbert Cooper, message at churchofthehighlands.com.

  1. Stay on the Ship. Just keep going. Stay where you are. Breathe, trust, seek God.
  2. Be Still and Chill. Take a time out. Rest, and ditch worry and doubt. You know why?
  3. Praise God in the Storm. It’s not up to you to handle. He will get you there.

God can take you to your destination on broken pieces.

No matter what worries you. No matter how bad you’ve messed up. No matter how other people make you feel or how they insult you. No matter how little you believe in yourself. You can believe in Him.

When in doubt: Put on your fuzzy jacket, get some good lunch, and watch a sermon.

Response to The Daily Post: Prompt of the day for 3/2/17 – Doubt.

Best Dressed

Best Dressed

For the first few years of college, I really enjoyed the freedom of getting to wear whatever I wanted (that was athletic wear to class, all day, every day). I think it was actually good for me. We had a stricter dress code in high school, and I never really got to feel comfy at school. It wasn’t the dress code’s fault… but I just felt so much pressure to look “right” every day.

A lot of it, I put on myself, because I never felt like I measured up. I never, ever skipped mascara, and my outfit had to follow all the school rules but still make me look perfect. On a day when I didn’t feel super skinny, or my hair didn’t fall just right, you’d better believe it was even harder to get out of the house. You’d never be able to count all the mornings I spent stressing in front of the mirror, changing one more time, running to the car, and wondering “what will people think of me today?” all the way to school.

Enough re-living that. I really embraced RAE again in college, and I realized I can be proud of who I am without so much smoke and mirrors. I love not having to squeeze into stiff, tight jeans if its just not my best day. I love not having to worry about getting carded in the hall because my shirt is 5 fingers below my collarbone instead of 4. It’s amazing to be able to use my own judgement on what is and isn’t appropriate.

This year, I feel like I’ve realized something huge – Being proud of who I am allows me to take care in my appearance. It can actually be fun picking out a nice outfit and trying on new eyeshadow colors. Instead of trying to impress others, now I like dressing cute because it shows how I feel on the inside. It shows that I feel good about myself, and it makes me feel empowered to accomplish a lot and make other peoples lives better.

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You know what else? Dressing cute doesn’t mean you have to dress “up” every day. I feel good when I wear things that make me smile! I read a book during Christmas break on the art of tidying – the author insists that you only need things in your closet that spark joy when you pick them up. You know what really sparks joy? My otter socks that my friend Naomi got me for our team sock-swap. The snowman sweatshirt my “might-as-well-be-family” friend Tiffany got me for Christmas this year, along with the matching fuzzy socks and my sweater leggings. I pick things I like no matter if anyone’s gonna see them or not, because now I’m dressing for me. When I honor my appearance, I make better choices (diet is better, more school work gets done… I even clean more).

There’s also this thing we have called the Trojan Way – It involves dressing appropriately for the occasion. Like you’re proud of yourself. Like you go to Troy University, and you love it. Like you’re happy and you’re going to go big places in life. Each occasion calls for something different – maybe a dress, maybe jeans, maybe tights – but you ultimately get to decide each day when you wake up what you want to look like. And… even if you don’t get to choose what you wear, you get to own it with a smile. It really is the most beautiful thing you can wear – and it took me a long time to actually believe that was true.

And you know what’s behind a really beautiful smile? An honest one, that lasts? Confidence in something greater than you. Because, if you’re anything like me, you’ll never be enough. But when you remember that you’re chosen, pursued, and loved by the God of the universe – worth dying for (thank you, Jesus!) – that’s when you have the ability to truly shine and sustain it for the rest of your life.

Much love,

Rae

Bright Eats for 4

Bright Eats for 4

This weekend I had the privilege of hanging out with my family for almost 48 hours straight. It was absolutely the best. Running in college and being really tied down here has truly made me appreciate the times when I do get to be with my family, because they’re far fewer than I might have hoped for. The 4 of us (Mom, Dad, Anna, and myself) are a really tight-knit group, so we keep in touch daily by phone, but it was so nice to spend actual time with my crew. Credit goes to Coach Blount for this post.

I made the trip to Auburn, Al, our weekend destination, with my friend Mikayla (also meeting up with her family). I’d like to give you a glimpse into the sights of this beautiful city, as well as some fabulous eats.

Good eats began at Chick-Fil-a of Auburn with epic salads. I love the Spicy Southwest! I saved the pumpkin seeds they give you for topping as a snack for later. They came in handy.

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Salads @ Chick-Fil-a Auburn with Mikalya!

After we parted ways, I had a late-ish dinner with my family at a local joint. This fish was O-M-G. Tilapia is so great and hard to mess up! Pretty much my go-to order at restaurants.

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Tilapia, asparagus, and mashed potatoes with a lemon glaze. Yum.

Here’s us the next day, enjoying the sights –

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My sister and I at a gorgeous manmade waterfall on campus.

Cooking for 4 can be easier and harder in some ways than cooking for 1. It’s definitely more fun to have 4 people helping out. I’d say we did a pretty good job (groceries courtesy of Publix of Auburn)! I really enjoyed having fish this weekend, because it’s harder to come by on campus. I also loved having grilled veggies and oven-toasted bread!

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Grilled salmon, sweet potato with cinnamon, asparagus, and rainbow carrots – all my favorite things.

And finally, I introduced my family to Halo Top ice cream this weekend. Yummmm. It’s higher-protein, lower-calorie, and still made from relatively simple and natural ingredients. Can’t beat it! For 1/2 cup serving, it’s 60 calories. Barely a dent in your day, but yummy enough to feel like you really treated yourself.

halo top ice cream

When I left Auburn, my tank was fuller than when I arrived. I encourage you to strive for that type of family atmosphere – whether it be within your group of friends, home, extended family, or even just you, God, and your dog. Everyone needs a group that can help them recharge. We are physical, spiritual, and emotional beings – who sometimes forget about our need for quality fuel in each area.

PS – The eats and sights aren’t too bad in Troy, Alabama either. This is my view on the daily:

I encourage you to find the beauty (and good fuel) wherever you are!

With love,

Rae

Doubt-free French Toast

Doubt-free French Toast

“Dorm Baking, pt. 1”

Breakfast, at any time of the day, tends to be my favorite meal. It’s easy, satisfying, and usually… sweet. I read an article this week on, after Breakfast for Dinner at the dining hall, that led to some real soul-searching on the subject. The evolution of the modern American breakfast seems to have been one towards, well, dessert.

The article included an infographic comparing many commercial breakfast foods to their dessert counterparts – e.g., a muffin to a cupcake, granola to oreos, etc… and the dessert foods won out almost every time, having less sugar and calories than the breakfast items. Sobering. (Read it here at vox.com).

However, just because a Dunkin’ Donuts muffin contains “x” amount of sugar, fat, and calories, doesn’t mean that all muffins have to be this way.

One of the breakfast favorites at our campus dining hall is french toast – and we all agree that the toppings are what blow it out of the water. French toast is really just bread and egg, a fairly balanced combo of carbs and protein. I decided to create a really yummy version that can be made in any space, with minimal equipment, and that tastes fabulous without inducing a sugar-coma.

One of our team slogans is “Leave No Doubt” – we try to do this on the track, giving every run, workout, and race our best effort. We like to avoid doubt in our lifestyles as well – neglecting our sleep, studies, hydration, and nutrition isn’t going to make us a better team.

Without further ado, here’s my “Doubt-Free French Toast.”

You’ll need: 

  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup cashew milk (or whatever milk you like)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Cinnamon, to taste
  • 2 small-to-medium slices whole grain bread (I used Dave’s Killer Bread)
  • Toppings (I used almond butter and blueberries)

 

Now, for the easy part. Mix together egg, milk, vanilla, and cinnamon, beating the egg yolk with a fork. Tear up the bread into small, bite-sized pieces and drop into the mixture. Stir well to coat. Transfer to microwave safe mug or bowl.

Microwave on high for 1:30 – 2 minutes, or until liquid is mostly soaked up and mixture appears “set.” Add toppings, and enjoy!

I used 1 tsp Justin’s maple almond butter, and fresh blueberries. This would also be great with a light drizzle of maple syrup and a pinch of vanilla protein powder.

french-toast-blueberry-almond-mug
Yum.

Hope you enjoy giving this a shot! Cooking better rarely takes longer, just better ingredients, a little more thought, and moderation.

Leave no doubt,

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