Category Archives: nutrition

Strength training for beginners… & thinking about going veg?

It’s so cliché, but this is the perfect time of year to think about making a big change. Sometimes we just need a flip of the calendar to switch us into a new gear! If you know you need to lift heavy things once in a while but have no idea what to do with a set of dumbbells, I’m offering a 6-week workshop this January just for you. It won’t be easy, but it will be basic. We’ll take the time to correct form and make sure you’ll know how to venture into the free-weights area of your gym by February.

And if you already do plenty of exercise but need a little tweak to your diet to make a change, try going meat- and dairy-free. Or at least eat less of them. You think you can’t live without cheese, but guess what, not only can you live, but you’ll live longer. And much happier. There are so many (SO MANY) reasons to let go of those animal products, and your weight is only the tip of the iceberg. Don’t be fooled by the meat and dairy lobbies that try to brainwash you into thinking you need animal protein to be healthy. Educate yourself about the benefits of a plant-based diet. I’m not saying it’s all or nothing. But trust me: eat more plants.

If you follow me on Instagram (@karenthefitnessgirl) you’ll even find a weekly menu, complete with recipe sources, that shares what our family is eating…posted in time for you to hit the grocery store before the week begins!

Reading This Might Change Your Life

I’ve been feeling antsy lately. More like amped up. I feel the need to go deeper with my clients—which will be no easy task since for many we’re already treating our sessions like therapy. But I’m screaming inside and can’t contain it any longer; the evidence is just too great, and so I’m going to have to talk more about the plant-based diet. Maybe even nudge a bit.

The results I see in my gym are astounding. My core-focused strength training program is undoubtedly successful—lives are changing with the exercise component alone. But the cholesterol might still be high. The blood pressure. The fat around the middle. I say I don’t judge you for eating animal products, and I don’t, but hear me now: If you truly mean what you say when you tell me you want to see change, you need to switch to a plant-based diet. I am convinced that you will see the results you want, and your overall health will improve.

Why plant-based as opposed to vegan?

I’ve never been a proponent of all-or-nothing choices. Deprivation doesn’t work because it causes pain (read: diets don’t work because they include deprivation). So “vegan” is extreme and not really necessary unless you decide it’s right for you. (Remember, vegan equals no honey, no leather, not even some wines.) Plant-based to me means that I eat a mostly vegan diet, but that I’m not a drag to have over for dinner (I won’t refuse to eat your birthday cake just because there’s butter and eggs in it).

But where will you get your protein?

If I had a dime for every time I’m asked that freakin’ question… So here’s the hard truth: you’ve been brainwashed by the agriculture and dairy industries to believe that you need mega amounts of protein to be healthy/have energy/be full. How is it then, that a protein shake is used by both the bodybuilder looking to gain weight and the middle-aged mom trying to lose weight? I know, right? Think about it. This might blow your mind, but there is protein in plants. I do not eat meat or dairy and I have so much energy I can’t even contain it.

The problem is, you’ve been planning your meals around a “protein” for so long, thinking about planning a plant-based meal is intimidating, even overwhelming. My suggestion is to dip your toe in and go slow. Maybe one or two nights a week you experiment with a plant-based meal. See how you feel, how you sleep. How your stomach doesn’t feel so heavy—or worse, reject your meal. Maybe you could pack your lunch and snacks a couple of days, too. Meanwhile, you can look into some new cookbooks, perhaps find a few new items for your pantry. Just test the water—you absolutely do not need to dive right in.

I will share our planned meals week to week to give you ideas. I’ll offer snack suggestions if you’d like, and will be glad to help you locate the weird ingredient you’ve never encountered in a recipe before. Slowly but surely, I almost guarantee you’ll fall in love with your new lifestyle—because that’s what this really is, a change in lifestyle. I always tell people, far from having less to choose from when we cook, we have more. So much more. Our plates are colorful (as you know if you follow me on Instagram), and so incredibly full of flavor. And the best thing is we stay inspired. We feel so good and love our food so much, we can’t wait to dig into the season’s latest offerings. I won’t lie—it takes some effort—but if it makes you feel amazing and leads to a greater enjoyment of life, isn’t it worth a try?

In our house, my husband is the chef. On Saturdays he flips through cookbooks and chooses our meals for the week, writing up a shopping list as he goes. He leaves two nights open for dining out or being spontaneous. Sometimes he bases his choices on leftover sauces or veggies, and sometimes he just feels like trying something brand new. Bowls are great for weeknights. It takes time to find a rhythm when you’re serious about this new lifestyle, but we did it, and you certainly can, too.

Here is the menu Mike planned for this week (clearly we’re way into our new Minimalist Baker cookbook!):

Sweet Potato & Chickpea Buddha Bowl

http://minimalistbaker.com/sweet-potato-chickpea-buddha-bowl/

Smoky Tempeh Burrito Bowl

http://minimalistbaker.com/smoky-tempeh-burrito-bowls/

Plantain & Black Bean Tacos

http://minimalistbaker.com/spicy-plantain-black-bean-tacos/

Mediterranean Bowl

http://minimalistbaker.com/the-ultimate-mediterranean-bowl/

Roasted Butternut Alfredo

http://www.theppk.com/2012/10/roasted-butternut-alfredo/

 

Breakfast Is Included

Just got back from a glorious week-long vacation. One thing I love about vacation is NO DISHES! It is challenging to eat healthfully on the road, though. Especially when you’re a vegetarian. A little easier out west, maybe, but it was still a “thing” every meal. Most days, breakfast was included at the hotel—you know, the buffet line, where everyone pads down pre-makeup, kids in jammies, to fill up their plates with eggs, biscuits, sausage…have to get their money’s worth. Well we did fine with our other meals, but those breakfasts—they just make me sick. I literally made a note in my phone: “Blog about depressing hotel breakfasts.”

So here I am, and just thinking about the breakfasts—and there were several different hotels’ worth—still makes me feel gross. The unhealthy food, the gluttony, the WASTE!! We made do, we always do. My kids chose “treats” they usually don’t get, a bagel for Bella, a bowl of sweet cereal for Davin, and Mike and I always head straight to the oatmeal, often scraping the last bit out from the bottom, adding raisins and some brown sugar, good enough to get us through to the next meal. But ohmygoodness, the plates of the people around me! Piled so high with cheesy eggs, sausage AND bacon, biscuits, MORE butter. I’m doubting their plans for the day included a long hike in the mountains.

You don’t have to eat everything on the buffet to “get your money’s worth.” But say you do. Who wins then?

Energy for the day? More like ingredients for a stomach ache.

Energy for the day? More like recipe for a stomach ache.

Enlightened Miso Power Bowl: A Vegan Dish That Proves That “Rabbit Food” Really Can Be Filling

We are loving our new Oh She Glows cookbook! I’ve been telling people about some of the recipes, and it sounds like you might like to try a few of our new favorites. This one looks light, but boy, does it fill up the belly! Don’t worry that it’s not enough food!

As good as it looks: Enlightened Miso Power Bowl

As good as it looks: Enlightened Miso Power Bowl

Ingredients
(Comment from the Fitness Girl: Trade out veggies as you like. We used red peppers and broccoli once. And we leave out cilantro, green onion, hemp seeds and sprouts, so use what you’ve got!)

1 sweet potato, cut into 1/2-inch rounds
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil or coconut oil, melted
Himalayan sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup frozen shelled edamame, thawed
1 medium carrot, julienned
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon sesame seeds
1 tablespoon hemp seeds
1/2 cup sprouts

For the Orange-Maple Miso Dressing:
3 tablespoons light miso
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon tahini
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon maple syrup

ASSEMBLE:

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the sweet potato rounds on the prepared baking sheet and drizzle them with the oil, rubbing it on both sides to coat. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes, then flip and roast for 8 to 10 minutes more, until tender and lightly browned.

2) Meanwhile, cook 1 cup of quinoa with 1 and 1/2 cups of water. Cook for 20 minutes or so.

3) To assemble, divide the cooked quinoa evenly between 2 plates or bowls and season it with salt and pepper. Top with the roasted sweet potato rounds, edamame, carrots, green onion, cilantro, sesame seeds, hemp seeds and sprouts. Drizzle with Orange-Maple Miso Dressing and enjoy!

MAKE THE ORANGE-MAPLE MISO DRESSING:

In a mini or regular food processor, combine the miso, vinegar, sesame oil, tahini, orange juice, water and maple syrup and process until well combined.

Source: Oh She Glows Cookbook

I Am My Body

Dr. Seuss’ birthday is March 2nd. So here, a tribute:

 

I am my body, my body is me.

I’m living inside it, you get what you see.

 

Treat it with care and the world seems so vast,

Strength and agility make youthfulness last.

 

Energy leaps from my fingers and toes—

I follow that spirit wherever it goes.

 

To yoga! To spinning! To run on the ‘Line!

Of course to lift weights, too—(you’ve got to make time…)

 

Water, I must say, is my drink of choice,

To recharge and hydrate, and here we rejoice—

 

Because also that water can help keep me slim!

It’s not like your Cokes that you sip on a whim.

 

One sip, then two sips, then three sips, then four—

Now you are looking but can’t find your core.

 

It’s missing! It’s buried, it’s in there somewhere—

Your abs were so tight once, you know they’re in there!

 

Come back to the bright side. Take shelter, get clean.

Bad habits are just that—and from those you can wean.

 

Remember your body is your living space.

Be tidy, sweep often, live large and EMBRACE!

Homemade-so-you-know-what-you’re-eating Energy Bars (that happen to be vegan)

Ever wonder if your “energy bar” is really more like a candy bar with a good marketing firm? If not, you should. Make a batch of these and they’ll last you for weeks (and won’t clean out your wallet like those bars).

Super-Scrumptious Homemade-so-you-know-what-you’re-eating Energy Bars
(Thanks to New Jersey restaurant Wildflower for this recipe, published in a book we love, Virgin Vegan)

3 c quick oats
6 oz chocolate chips (dairy-free if possible)
½ c shredded coconut
½ c sunflower seeds
½ c chopped walnuts
½ c sliced almonds
½ c dried cranberries or raisins
1 c nut butter of your choice
½ c agave syrup
½ c brown rice syrup
½ T vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and liquid ingredients in a small bowl. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry; mix well. Pour batter into an 8” x 8” (or similar) baking pan and press evenly with spatula until mixture is well distributed. Bake for 18 – 20 minutes until top is light brown. Remove from oven and cool.

What's in YOUR energy bar?

What’s in YOUR energy bar?

Can be cut into bars once cooled. Keeps at room temperature for weeks! (But can be frozen for extended time.)

Cleanses and Detoxes and Superfoods….and YOU??

What's in your stash?

What’s in your stash?

Where do you fit in with all these trends? Is it all hype to you? Or are you on Day 3 of your please-don’t-mention-food-to-me juice cleanse?

Does your diet have enough color, variety, antioxidants, nutrition, ahem, produce to keep you healthy? It is so hard to know in this age of powders and mega-nutrients packaged affordably and at eye-level, making us question whether we really are getting enough sea vegetables in our daily intake of normal-people food.

I myself have bought into it, to a degree. I mean, I have my shelves of nutritional supplements, including Spirulina, chia seeds and “Power Fuel.” I do feel good about these few add-ins, but in truth, I wonder if I even need to take my daily multivitamin anymore, now that I’m hyperconscious of every bite I take, and now that plants have become the largest slice on the pie chart that is my diet. If I consciously eat bell peppers simply because I haven’t had enough color in my diet yet today, I think it’s likely I’m at a point where my diet doesn’t need supplementing.

But what if it does? The constant barrage of news and findings in the media keeps us wondering, and there’s just something about second-guessing when it comes to your health. You don’t want to do it.

So, what’s my advice? As usual, everything in moderation. That means, if your heart is telling you it’s time for a juice cleanse, then try it. But don’t do 30 days; do 10 days. Take a look at the supplements out there, then take a look at your diet. Know that the supplements are not going to do the work of a good diet. They are not going to keep you healthy if you swallow them and then sit down to a greasy hamburger. My advice is to always eat consciously, aware of the nutrients you are consuming. Only then can you decide if your diet is lacking in something. If you scan the aisles at Whole Foods the sheer number of supplements available can be overwhelming…even enticing. But necessary? I’m not so sure.

A Good Time for Transformation

The way I see it, life is pretty mundane unless you’re working on some sort of transformation. Giving up smoking, becoming vegetarian, becoming a parent—whether it’s a small or huge change, there’s a reason every year begins with New Year’s resolutions and the excitement about “starting fresh.” Life would be a long walk on a treadmill if we didn’t throw some challenges in its wake every now and again.

We love us a good transformation. It’s my favorite part of a talk show—when they show the grizzly bear of a man in the “before” picture, and then have the Men’s Health cover-ready version walk out on stage in the “after” version. Or the dowdy woman who has never cut her hair or shopped at a mall who walks out in a trendy new ‘do and J. Crew outfit? Forget about it. It makes me tear up. And I just bet it has the same effect on you.

In my world, the transformations I see most often are flabby to tight. Weak to strong. Heavy to much, much lighter. Carnivore to herbivore. Mindless to thoughtful. You see, becoming a healthier being is not just about waking up early to get your 30 minutes in at the gym. It’s also about transforming yourself, mind, body and spirit. Imagine you are going to be the guest on that talk show: what would your “before” picture look like? And what about the “after”? What is it you hope to transform?

I consider myself a constant work in progress. My body—that’s a given. I’m always finding ways to push myself to higher boundaries. But spiraling out of that is the diet transformation, which has gone from vegetarian to mostly vegan, always looking for more ways to be more plant-based and learning, learning, learning…. It’s genuinely a thrill. Then there’s the spiritual, metaphysical part of me that’s goading my transformation from a reluctant successful trainer to allowing myself to ask, what if? What if I do allow my business to blossom? What if things get big? What if?

I do love a good walk on a treadmill, but I can’t imagine being stuck on it for too long. I stay inspired by watching the transformative successes of my clients, and by creating new challenges for myself all the time. What does your “after” picture look like? What small steps can you take now to get yourself from here to there?

Just a typical Thursday night dinner (aka thank G-d my husband is the cook)

The answer to “What do you eat for protein?” (Which is, by the way, the most tired question. A) Do you really still buy into the “man-beating-chest must have protein” way of thinking? and B) By now, you must know about legumes, lentils, tofu, nut butters……..)
Cast Iron Stir-Fry With Avocado, Basil & Peanuts from PPK

Cast Iron Stir-Fry With Avocado, Basil & Peanuts from PPK