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Meatless Mini Burgers

Here’s something that made me say omg in the middle of Ralph’s yesterday (grocery store). Gardein is my vegetarian food brand of choice — you’ve probably seen it mentioned a number of times in this blog. I had seen this product on their website some time ago but hadn’t seen it in a supermarket until now.

Who doesn’t love sliders in one form or another? Whether they’re made of meat, fish or fake meat, mini sandwiches rock. Most of the time, I prefer ones without real meat, so I’m stoked to try these. They are waiting for me in my freezer, in close proximity to both a bag of frozen onion rings and sweet potato fries from Trader Joe’s, both of which I bake in the oven. Looking forward to enjoying some pseudo fast food soon!

 

Big on Bananas

I eat a banana just about every day. I got back into a habit of eating them regularly about a year ago when I started working out harder and doing more serious strength training, which resulted in much sorer muscles. They’re a great source of energy, but also provide important nutrients like antioxidants, vitamin B6, and potassium. Everybody needs potassium, especially physically active people, because its essential for healthy muscle growth and functioning. Low potassium intake is linked to muscle cramping. Ever had a charlie horse? (YOW)

Something else to consider: we lose potassium (and sodium) through heavy sweating during more intense exercise, so athletes and serious exercisers may need to consume a little bit more to replenish what they’ve lost and maintain optimal levels. Potassium is also important for heart health and is involved in regulating blood pressure and cardiac muscle contractions (heart beats).

Because I’m a big believer in bananas, I was excited to read about a new study published by the Public Library of Science that found bananas have the same athletic performance enhancement benefits as traditional sports drinks. The study compared blood tests and performance outcomes of cyclists consuming either sports drinks or half a banana periodically throughout the course of a 75 kilometer (2.5 to 3 hour) bike ride.

Aside from being just as good in terms of performance enhancement, researchers also point out bananas contain lots of other important good-for-you stuff that sports drinks don’t, which are often just a new version of sugar water. Bananas contain healthier, natural sugar and because they also contain fiber, the sugar in them is digested more slowly than refined sugar so it gently raises and lowers your blood sugar as its digested. Refined sugars typically spike your blood sugar very quickly, which results in a blood sugar crash soon after.

Something else to note is that the study was funded by Dole, so of course it found that bananas are awesome. But their nutritional merits are well established and these findings are not hard to believe at all. Something else cool about bananas is that they’re super cheap. (19 cents at Trader Joe’s!).

A few other high potassium foods I’m a big fan of: avocados, sweet potatoes, citrus fruit, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and leafy greens.

Toasted peanut butter banana sandwiches can be indescribably delicious

Active Times

Is it me, or has this year been a whirlwind? This feels like the fastest year of my life so far. Especially these last couple months. I’ll admit I was kind of living under a rock for awhile with starting a new job, studying for my personal trainer certification exam, and getting lots of workouts in so that I could feel justified in eventually calling myself a personal trainer and fitness instructor.

That responsibility is ongoing, I’ve realized. It’s funny, the challenge of finding the time (and focus and motivation) to work out never goes away, even when exercise is part of your job. I like feeling more of a professional responsibility to stay fit now and that it’s officially part of who I am and what I do.

I passed my personal trainer certification exam at the beginning of May. After 3 hours of sweating and head scratching, it was thrilling to see the “Congratulations! You passed!” message pop up on the screen after I hit “submit”.

Since then I’ve started teaching spin and gravity training classes, which was my get-started goal for getting into the fitness industry. I’m loving it so far. Something else that I love is that I’m doing something I never would have believed I’d be doing if you had told me this a year ago.

It’s almost been a year since I got laid off from my previous job. Now I’m actually thinking of celebrating the anniversary of that day that was so shocking and upsetting last year because it’s turned out to be such an opportunity for change that I’m so grateful to have had. When I look back on that bump in the road, I’m simply relieved that it happened.

The point of this blog is just to say that I’m back 🙂 And I hope to get back to posting a lot more. I sure have missed it and there’s been plenty on my mind lately.

Got my certification through the American Council on Exercise

I’m not vegan but I’m a big believer in making an effort to eat less meat and animal products. The first time I tried vegan pizza, though, I was not sold. The cheese tasted weird!

Pizza is one of my favorite foods, so not only can I not live without it, I also can’t accept phony-tasting substitutes.  (It’s the Berkley Vegan pizza from Zpizza that I’m referring to.) That one definitely didn’t do it for me, but I have to say, all their other regular pizzas that I’ve tried have been delish.

Yesterday, I had my first good vegan pizza at Stephanie’s Bakery — a vegan bakery and cafe in Ocean Beach.

I’d heard this place was good but kept forgetting to try it until I saw a “$15 for $30” Daily Save coupon for it a few months ago. I love coupons and had to snag this one to make sure I got around to trying Stephanie’s.

Because our last vegan pizza experience wasn’t so delish, I chose a weekend when Chris was out of town to try Stephanie’s. I got the “supreme” pizza on wheat crust, which was loaded with spinach, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, olives, vegan pepperoni, and red onions. It was really good! It had just the right amount of cheese, too, which tasted…real! I was totally impressed and I would definitely like to give them repeat business some time.

German Chocolate Cake minus eggs and dairy. Pretty darn good, actually...

Run Fun

I’m not much of a runner as I’ve said before, but I do like to do races because I like the enthusiasm and team spirit and it feels good to push myself.

Last weekend I ran a 5k that I really had not been training for.  Having the flu the week before the race kind of prevented any last minute preparation. Although I hadn’t been running much prior to being sick, I was in pretty good shape from all the spin and strength training workouts I’ve been doing so it made my fitness comeback easier.

Because I was still recuperating, I wasn’t able to push myself very hard so I didn’t beat or match my best 5k time, but I was able to run the whole thing. Since I have asthma and was still working through some lingering chest congestion, that was enough of an accomplishment for me this time.

Despite not being able to finish as strong as I would have liked, I still had a great time running and participating in the event. Turns out, Alison Sweeney, host of The Biggest Loser, didn’t just make an appearance at the event. She ran the 10k race and finished strong. Pretty cool of her. Post-race, she lead a stretching session. Fun!

I’m considering doing a 10k at the end of April now. There’s an Earth Day 10k here in San Diego around then — one of my favorite causes! Might be my calling to take a shot at the next level. Hmm…

Genius Water

I’m a fan of sparkling water. It’s super refreshing and often nicely flavored without the artificial sweeteners and other weird chemicals that are in diet sodas. I’ve really cut back on diet sodas in recent years. I’ll admit, I used to drink them a lot thinking just because they had no calories or real sugar in them, no big deal! But really, I don’t see how it can be good to have all that weird stuff circulating through your body on a regular basis.

Instead, to scratch my carbonated or flavored beverages itch, I often have sparkling water and am totally satisfied with it. There are a lot of good brands and flavors out there, but (in my opinion) there is a clear winner among waters that nothing tastes nearly as good as:

La Croix Natural Coconut Flavored Sparkling Water!

It’s so delicious. I guess if you don’t like the taste of coconut it wouldn’t mean much to you, but if you do, wow! I just find this to be the most refreshing water…ever.

Strangely, La Croix doesn’t have this flavor listed on their website. (They are probably worried about people trying to steal their brilliant idea!) I promise, it exists. My local Target stores carry the coconut flavor as well as La Croix’s other delicious, but not quite as life-changing flavors (grapefruit, berry, orange, lime, etc). All La Croix cans were actually on sale at Target over the weekend (I stocked up) and might still be! 🙂

Drinking straight from the coconut in Puerto Rico

Vegan Chick’n Parmesan

I don’t think I ever had chicken parmesan before I met Chris. Had I married someone different, maybe I never would have tried it. It’s not a must-have Italian dish for me but I do enjoy having some when Chris makes it.

Speaking of the guy, he makes great tomato sauce — something I have not learned or practiced yet. Earlier this week while I was sick with the flu and unable to function, he made a bunch of tomato sauce that I could easily heat up and eat with various things.

The other night I decided to make my own version of chicken parmesan sans chicken. And sans parm too, actually. I was still a bit sick and not feeling the cheese. Instead of chicken, I baked a couple of Gardein’s Chipotle Lime Crispy Chick’n Fingers in the oven. These things are so good — nice and crispy and so meat-like.

Then I just heated up some leftover tomato sauce  and cooked a single me-sized portion of spaghetti. I often cook with whole wheat pasta, which might sound questionable, but it can actually be really good. It often just depends on the brand/variety — some are much better than others.

I didn’t have any whole grain on hand at this particular  moment so I just used the healthiest looking spaghetti I could find in the cupboard, which turned out to be a variety that was a little bit higher in fiber and lower glycemic than regular pasta so it has a less dramatic effect on your blood sugar.

Once everything’s good and hot and ready to go, get a cute pasta bowl out of your cupboard. Add the spaghetti, chick’n, and lots of sauce and have fun!

You might be wondering about the chipotle/lime seasoning not fitting in with the tomato sauce and chicken parm theme, but those flavors are actually really subtle and I didn’t even taste them underneath all the sauce. Yum!

Crispy Chick'n Salad: another recent love of mine.

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