Happy Monday! I have some exciting news and a super-simple, delicious dessert recipe to share. First, I want to clue you guys in about how my brain functions when it comes to food these days and give you a crash-course on my (pretty cool) family background.
Last week, I posted a “before and during” picture to my Instagram and FB accounts, and the number one question/comment I received was “what did you change?” The side-by-side comparison really illustrates the impact that re-learning how to eat has had on my body.
The “before” part of the picture was taken last May. At that point, I’d successfully made a habit of working out at boot camp 5 times a week, and I thought I was eating healthily. I wasn’t great about regularly tracking my food, and I still thought weekends were “free.” That slice of pizza, nachos, 6 shots, and 4 vodka waters on Saturday night didn’t count, right? Neither did the hungover trip to the Chinese buffet line on Sunday. I thought my turkey wrap and Baked Lays for lunch were “good enough” and I never put much forethought or preparative efforts into what I ate during the week. Detailed meal planning and weekly Sunday food prep never happened. And I wondered why I wasn’t seeing results…
The “during” part was taken last week. Today, I work out at about the same frequency as I did “before,” but my relationship with food is completely different. A LOT has changed in my body since last May, but the changes have gone WAY past what you guys can see externally. The way that I approach food has shifted, and without the mental shift, the physical changes wouldn’t have happened. I recognized the fact that I’d been selling myself short for almost 6 months and was half-assing my weight loss efforts. I knew I needed to make a change.
After my amazing coach gave me some VERY handy guidelines about how to feed my body, I completely immersed myself in researching good nutritional habits, recipe substitutions, and meal planning best practices. Since I was cooking for Ryan, too, I started brainstorming ways to liven up the traditional “clean eating” menu of eggs, oatmeal, chicken, quinoa, and broccoli. He’s picky and needed more variety. My passion for good, flavorful home cooking and a healthy lifestyle wouldn’t be mutually exclusive — I was determined to find a way to incorporate both into my world.
Moderation, Moderation, MODER-FREAKING-ATION.
I didn’t want to follow a strict fad diet with a ton of rules because I simply don’t have the patience to learn and abide by all of that. Plus, in my experience, there’s a vicious cycle that ultimately results in self-loathing and failure when I give myself too many rules around what I “can” or “can’t” eat. It looks something like this: too many rules –> inevitable breaking of aforementioned rules –> massive binge eating –> severe disappointment in myself –> giving up. That’s NOT a party. I’ve never felt okay with labeling foods as “good” or “bad” — restrictive dieting has NEVER worked for me because it’s too hard to maintain. Our social world is built around food: happy hours, going out to lunch/dinner with friends and coworkers, holidays, and pretty much everything else seem to all revolve around eating and/or drinking, so too many “can’t-have” foods leads to a really complicated, depressing social life. I’ve slowly come to realize that I can’t tell myself “no” to everything if I want to be healthy AND happy. It’s about moderation and balance.
When someone asks me what I can or can’t eat, I tell them that I don’t tell myself “no” as much as most people would think. I’m just smarter about my choices. I try to make most of my meals at home and I don’t add all of the extra crap that most restaurants would. I measure out everything that I cook, because I’ve realized that “portion distortion” is a VERY real thing thanks to places like the Cheesecake Factory and their humongous serving sizes. If I want a glass of wine with dinner, I’m going to have one. I even have Pop Tarts in my pantry at home (gasp). I keep about 85% of my diet “clean” and allow myself some freedom in the other 15%, because that’s the only way that I can keep my sanity and not binge.
When I say that 85% of my diet is “clean,” here’s what I mean: the majority of stuff that I cook with can be picked up from the produce section in its natural state. It comes from a farm somewhere instead of a factory, and it doesn’t have any chemicals or additives that are just “filler” (AKA crap that my body doesn’t need). About 15% of what I eat — treat meals, yogurt, jerky, cheese — is packaged, and I almost always pick the option that has the shortest list of ingredients.
My Family Roots and a Passion for Food
The funny part about all of this is that my family history is deeply rooted (no pun intended) in farming. My mom grew up on a farm outside of Phoenix, AZ and I spent a considerable portion of my childhood there. My grandpa, uncle, and cousin are all experts in growing produce from the family land. (My cousin, who is also an amazing artist, put together this cool website with an interactive map of the farm history. Check it out if you’re interested.) A little over a year ago, I spent Christmas of 2012 on the farm and picked carrots the size of my forearm straight from the ground outside of my grandpa’s door.
I never realized how significant and rare that was — being able to eat food that was grown straight from the ground where I stood — because I never cared about my nutrition or eating whole, clean foods until last year. I wish I’d understood this at a younger age, and I really wish I’d spent more time on that farm when I was growing up. Maybe I wouldn’t have taken so long to fully comprehend the value of eating real food.
Sadly, as our world becomes more “advanced” and developed, farm land — including the land where my mom grew up — is slowly starting to disappear. There’s a giant Wal-Mart and several car dealerships down the street from the family farm that weren’t there before I moved to Texas, and there’s a portion of the farm that has a giant highway running straight through it which wasn’t there 5 years ago.
My future kids won’t be able to experience picking carrots or cotton like I did. At some point, there will probably be a strip center or restaurant franchise where those carrots are today. As I’ve grown up and taught myself a few different lessons in fooducation, I’ve become more and more convinced that the general population is becoming less healthy because of urban sprawl and industrialization. We’re more likely to buy our food from the drive-thru window instead of making it ourselves from real ingredients. The immediate convenience factor outweighs the longer-lasting health benefits of choosing whole, natural foods. We buy processed, poorly-manufactured crap because it’s easier. We eat the crap on a daily basis. As a result, we look and feel like crap.
The process of mentally piecing all of this together in the last year — my family history, the fact that the farm is slowly disappearing before my eyes, my struggles with my weight, and the success I’ve seen in becoming a fitter, healthier, happier person as a result of what I eat — is where my passion for healthy cooking stems from. This passion has grown into a desire to learn more about nutrition, and I’ve made the decision to take an online course and get the credentials to be a Fitness Nutrition Specialist. The meal plans and healthy recipes that I’ve been building out for my family and friends are fun for me to put together, and I love educating people on how to cook healthy food that actually tastes good. I’m not leaving my day job to do all of this, but I want to help people see the success that I’ve seen in improving my health. Meal planning and hosting cooking workshops are what I dream about doing. I never would have had these dreams a year ago.
So, that’s my news: I’m investing my time and money to learn more about healthy nutrition, so the stuff you read on here will be legit, textbook-based knowledge in addition to the flavorful, creative recipes that you’re used to and stories from my personal experience in losing weight. :o) I’ll also be offering detailed custom meal plans with shopping lists and step-by-step recipes. On top of that, I started an outline for an eBook that I’ll be working on this weekend. 20+ healthy recipes for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and desserts all in a handy, downloadable PDF. I’m excitedddd for all of this!
Some Good Things DO Come in Packages: Quest Bar Dessert Pizza
I’m not saying that all processed foods are terrible. There are a few companies out there with GREAT products that come in a package and are made with good ingredients, but they’re harder to get your hands on because grocery stores usually don’t stock them. Thankfully, my coach is now selling what I consider the best protein bars that you can buy — Quest bars! BUY A BOX. NOW. Seriously. You’ll thank me later.
People in the fitness industry go nuts for these bad boys. They are SUPER low in sugar, very high in protein, and their ingredient list is way shorter than any other protein bar I’ve ever seen. If you need a simple snack to keep at your desk at work, go with these and bypass the vending machine. They have a slew of delicious flavors ranging from Vanilla Almond Crunch to the new Cookies and Cream (my favorite is the Double Chocolate Chunk), and you can do tons of fun things with them like MAKE DESSERT PIZZAS. This recipe was inspired by an amazing blog that I follow on pretty much every single social media outlet: Protein Treats by Nicolette. This girl does amazing things with Quest bars.
Nutritional Overview (per 1/2 pizza)
Serves: 2 (Ryan and I split these)
Cook time: 8 minutes
- 1 Peanut Butter Supreme Quest Bar
- 1/4 package sugar-free fat-free Chocolate Jello pudding mix
- 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 2 tbsp marshmallow cream
- 1/2 tbsp dark chocolate chips
- 1/2 tbsp peanut butter chips
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
- Unwrap your Quest bar and place on a piece of parchment paper
- Microwave the bar for about 15 seconds
- Remove, roll it into a ball of doughy goodness, and shape it into a cute little dessert pizza crust on the parchment paper
- Transfer parchment paper and crust to the oven and bake for 4-5 minutes
- While your crust is baking, combine pudding mix and almond milk in a small bowl until the clumps are gone
- Zap the pudding mix for about 30 seconds to thicken it up
- Remove the crust from your oven and top with pudding mix, marshmallow cream, and chips
- Cut in half and dig in. I paired mine with chocolate peanut butter Arctic Zero protein ice cream, topped with rainbow sprinkles (of course).
REMINDER: BOOT CAMP GIVEAWAY!
Don’t forget to participate in the giveaway that I posted last week! If you aren’t a member at Synergy, live in the Austin area, and want a free month of boot camp, comment on this post with your favorite recipe from the blog. If you’re a current camper and have non-camper friends that have been wanting to try Synergy, share the details with them! I’ve only had a few people enter so far, so the chances of winning are pretty high. DO IT!