Fail-proof Roasted Veggies 🥕

Fail-proof Roasted Veggies 🥕

Hey fam 😊

Hope you’re loving summer, wherever your summer might have landed you!

If there’s one summer meal must-have, it’s grilled fish. Or grilled chicken wings. Or, grilled anything. If there’s two – oven-roasted veggies are going on at the same time.


I’d like to let you in on the secret to perfect roasted veggies, because I feel like it’s a complete game-changer. If you already know about this, you know exactly what I mean. And once you’ve got a method you like, it’s easier to want to try different veggies and easily bring a lot more variety to your plate.

Who ever thought asparagus could look so tempting? 👀


Ok. Here’s the classic “recipe” –

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You’ll need:

  • An oven
  • A baking sheet, or pan of any kind
  • A spatula
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Veggies (carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes asparagus, broccoli, etc.)
  • Other spices/parmesan (optional)

Start by preheating your oven to “bake” around 375 F, or a little hotter for potatoes. Maybe 425. You’ll figure out what works best for your oven/each veggie pretty quickly, but you can always cook longer or less depending on how toasty you want them to look!

Wash up your veggies if they’re fresh – use a scrubber to get all that dirt off 😝

(This works great with frozen veggies as well! Just pour them right outta the bag onto the pan.)

If you’re using potatoes or something bigger like that, you can chop them into thin strips, little wedges, chunks, “fries” – whatever!

The fun part- drizzle a little olive oil all over your pan of veggies. About a tablespoon for a decent-sized tray, or just enough to lightly coat the veggies.

The good fats in olive oil help us absorb more of the vitamins and minerals in veggies, so it’s a win-win for taste and nutrition.

Then, hit em with a few pinches of salt. Sea salt, pink salt, whatever! You can add other spices if you have some you really like. If you’re roasting sweet potatoes or butternut squash, you could skip the salt and add cinnamon. But they’re good salted too!

P.S. – If you’re watching your sodium, either a) measure the total amount of salt you use and make sure you don’t consume more of a serving than you need, or b) substitute other spices or one of Mrs. Dash’s salt-free seasonings. Or skip it all together, because just the olive oil will make these pretty darn good.

Once you get ready, stick your pan in the oven! You should do this about 1 hour before you wanna eat.

Cook 25-30 minutes, pull the tray out (with hot pads!), flip all the veggies over with a spatula, and cook 25-30 more.

If you wanna add some Parmesan, pull the tray out again with 10-15 minutes to go and sprinkle some on. This is especially great on green veggies like asparagus or broccoli! 😊

And after about an hour, here’s your final product!


Veggies should be crisp and lightly browned. YUM 👅

Temperature, time, etc. are totally modifiable to suit different ovens, vegetables, and tastes – but this should be a good outline to cooking veggies well. It’s hard to mess up – and if you turn the oven light on, set a timer, and stay nearby, you’re not likely to!

It’s also a nice method because you can put these in, forget about them until your timer goes off and it’s time to flip, and use that time to get the rest of your meal ready. Or, if you have some chicken or something already cooked, you can roast these and keep studying or cleaning or whatever, heat up the other stuff in the good old ‘wave, and you’ve got a super low-maintenance but awesome dinner.

This method has also been known to win over even the pickiest of veggie eaters, because it makes them taste super crispy like french fries 🍟

Hope you love ’em!

If you have (or find) a favorite roasted veggie or a favorite spice to add, let us know in the comments below!

xoxo 😘 Stay bright!

Rae

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

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M-day 💕

I hope you all had a great Mother’s Day 🙂 Ours was perfect. We started off the day making some “real deal” chocolate chip waffles with bacon, and ended with seeing our grandparents, picking up my sister from dance rehearsal, and scarfing down some amazing grilled shrimp that I was too hungry to consider taking a picture of.

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Real whipped cream + toasted coconut + berries 🙂 And some special cold brew coffee with almond milk!

One day or one weekend to celebrate moms is absolutely not enough, because they are the reason all of our lives are possible. On top of that, they do so much thankless work. Thank them for everything you can think of, because there is always more that goes on behind the scenes.

That being said, we ought to just be able to give moms a rest day, but I know mine always ends up working, even on Mother’s Day. Laundry is still running, and Mom is still full-throttle getting us ready for the week ahead. She’s superhuman.

However, it is possible to incorporate restfulness into even the busiest of days. Whether it’s a yoga session, enjoying a good meal, watching a little TV, or just going to bed early, rest is important to your mental health. We weren’t created to run 24/7, and many moms (like mine) have figured this out.

You’ve probably heard it before, but if you want to be present for others, you need to take care of you. Why not take initiative and incorporate planned rest into your life? In my experience, if you try to be “on” all the time, you’re going to crash. Give yourself the satisfaction of taking breaks, on your own terms.

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, probably because they thought the M’s would be cute. May is actually a really good time to think about it, though, because for many of us the school year is coming to a close. Things get really busy, and then they just drop off. If you’re in the busy phase, it’s a great time to consider how you can improve your performance by keeping your mental health strong. If you’ve made it through, congratulations! Allow yourself to relax, and definitely consider de-stressors that you can incorporate into your life when it winds back up again. If life is calm for you, considering your mental health can boost your happiness, help you to care more for others, and just overall make you whole and healthy.

Many say that mental health is just as important as physical health – and I agree. You might work your tail off for a performance, or to look good for an event… but when you get there, can you enjoy it? In our everyday quest to keep our bodies healthy, if we stress ourselves out, we will not succeed. We might make the grade, reach our body goals, or lower our cholesterol, but we are not fully healthy or successful if we are not mentally healthy. Mental health will determine the overall quality of your life. Everything you experience is processed in your brain… the way you interpret life is ultimately what matters.

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It’s not just a concept – physical proof of the negative effects of poorly managed stress on the body includes elevated cortisol – a stress hormone that is naturally elevated when we stress the body. Cortisol isn’t all bad – levels go up when we work out hard. It’s essential for performance, but if elevated all day long, it can negatively influence fat storage (more around the middle), among other negative effects. A workout only temporarily spikes cortisol, but not getting enough sleep or being under constant stress can result in chronically high cortisol levels. Additionally, stress itself has been linked to an increase in heart disease! You can do all the healthy things, but if you don’t live life with moderation and allow yourself rest, you could seriously impact your physical health.

Exercise, though it temporarily stresses the body, is good for your mental health because it releases other “feel-good” hormones, like serotonin. Encouraging, not forcing, the body to move will give us the best results. I don’t mean stop if running or lifting is hard- challenge yourself, but don’t work beyond sense. Don’t push exercise to the max if you are feeling drained. Work with your body, not against it.

Being mindful with exercise ties right in with one of my favorite things in the world – mindful eating. Learning to listen to my body’s true needs when it comes to food has been one of the best changes I could ever have made in my life. God gave us hunger and fullness cues, and emotions, for a reason- and it’s our job to listen and nourish ourselves well.

A healthy and varied diet full of good fats, lean protein, whole grains, and colorful fruits and veggies can really make you feel and look your best. And the body is happy. However, food was also meant for celebration! Though I do feel rejuvenated after eating most days, there’s something fulfilling about enjoying a special meal with family. Though my healthiest breakfasts might contain more antioxidants than chocolate chip waffles, those waffles we had yesterday had their own sort of benefit. Happiness, letting go, not caring that they’re full fat and full sugar. Letting yourself enjoy a total splurge is good for the mental state.

The thing is, we don’t have to deserve good food. We don’t deserve anything in life. It’s all a gift. Our bodies are a gift, too.

I have also found that good old fashioned dessert loses its luster if you start feeling “entitled” to it. What’s there to celebrate is you eat this way every day? I say, enjoy healthy food most of the time, and fearlessly indulge when your body needs it. You don’t have to have cake on every occasion, but you should certainly have cake in your life. Or ice cream. Or whatever you love. Structure and groundedness in your diet are good. Making treats healthier is good. But chocolate chip waffle mix from William’s Sonoma is good, too.

And don’t call it a cheat meal. Call it living your life.

To close, here are some of my favorite ways to keep my mind healthy and happy –

  1. Going to bed early
  2. Yoga
  3. Taking walks
  4. Drinking hot tea ☕️
  5. Hammocking
  6. Crossfit
  7. Watching the sun rise
  8. Reading my bible
  9. Relaxing with friends/ family
  10. Bubble baths 🛀🏼

These are just examples, and I encourage you to find your own ways to incorporate rest and healthy movement into your lives on a daily basis. Your mind, body, and family will all thank you!

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Be well,

Rae

Whole Foods {State of Mind}

Whole Foods {State of Mind}

No class on Friday = big shopping trip! I really enjoyed trying on the dresses and the shoes, but I’m pretty sure I got the most excited in Whole Foods 🙈

The produce was, AMAZING. Have you ever seen a watermelon radish before?


If you’ve ever tried one of these… let me know!!

Anyway, didn’t buy any produce (long drive home), but here’s my mini haul from Whole Foods.


I bought a whole case of these Nuts and Seefs Clif bars! My family loves them, and I thought they weren’t selling this flavor any more. They’re the best because they’re so hearty, but not overly sweet. The cashier may have thought I was a little overexcited, but I really don’t care 😏 You like what you like!

I also grabbed some grass-fed whey protein that I’d been eyeing online. The price wasn’t bad, and grass-fed means cows were allowed to graze on what they like, leading to healthier tummies and healthier cows overall! I’m not in love with the flavor, but it’ll do and at least it’s good for me and the cows. PSA: Quest protein just can’t be beat for flavor.

I also grabbed some almond milk (organic!), and this little superfood oatmeal cup from Vigilant Eats that I had for breakfast this morning. Oh my. YUM!


I’d never tried mulberries (dried mulberries in here!) or maca powder, but they’re both delicious. You can eat this stuff hot or cold, and you can use milk or water. It even comes with its own little spoon! The nutrition stats are pretty nice – the sugar’s not bad compared to your typical oatmeal cup. What I loved most was the cacao nibs, and the stellar ingredient list. 😊


By no means does a product’s presence in a certain store make it “healthy.” Whole Foods is very particular about what they sell, and make sure that it’s good for the environment and not full of junk or preservatives. However, organic and vegan or not, chocolate cake is chocolate cake, and it’s not going to cure your diseases or make you lose ten pounds.

And neither will my nuts and seeds clif bars. As much as I love them, I try to use them more for “on-the-go” than every day.

Shopping at a store that puts emphasis on fresh and healthy choices really puts me in the mood to eat well. Good thing you can make healthy choices at any store or restaurant, because I sure couldn’t drive 45 minutes to grocery shop every week.

With “whole” foods on the brain, I’m challenging myself this upcoming month to eat more whole and natural foods. May is such a fresh month… spring is leading us into summer, and my birthday is 20 days away! It’s my favorite time of the year.

The salad I had at Panera on our trip helped spark this idea. When I ate it, I immediately felt energized and amazing! Then, the next day, I had a buttery bacon biscuit at a local restaurant. It was amazing… and then I felt like a slug. 🐌

So I thought, I enjoyed both of those a lot, but I know what I want more of in my diet! Today, I hit up Publix for some fruits and veggies, oats, yogurt and my favorite Califia farms almond milk. I have nine days left in Troy, and I plan on feeling good for them.

I’m initiating a “May Mindset Makeover.” If you want to join me, I’m going to try to reach for food that’s closer to its original state (how God made it!), and focus on the perimeter of the grocery store where the produce and healthy protein sources are found. For everything in the inner aisles, I’ll focus on reading ingredient lists. Less crap that we can’t pronounce, and more whole, healthy ingredients.

If you need a little inspiration, check out my friend Jenna’s zucchini pasta recipe here. Fresh posted today!

Eat good, feel good. Let’s see just how good we can feel this May!

Best wishes,

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