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Buzzing Blueberry Smoothie (GF, Paleo, Dairy Free)

This smoothie may be low in sugar, but it’s high in nutrients and gets me buzzing with energy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup organic coconut milk (or any milk you like)
  • ½ cup frozen cauliflower florets
  • Handful of organic blueberries (berries are highly sprayed with pesticides so opt for organic if possible!)
  • 1 Tbsp. sunflower seed butter (or any nut butter you like)
  • 1 packet stevia

Directions:

  1. Blend coconut milk and frozen cauliflower
  2. Add in blueberries, sunflower seed butter and stevia and blend once more

 

 

fruit free green smoothie edited

Fruit-Free Green Smoothie (Low Sugar, Paleo, Whole 30, Gluten Free)

I’m not a huge fruit person. As a child all of my friends would reach into their lunch-boxes at snack time and pull out an apple or banana. Meanwhile my dad hooked me up with chocolate chip mini muffins and a fruit rollups. LIT.

But veggies were never a problem. Throw some ranch on the side and watch me go to town on a plate of raw carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. Now, as an adult I’ve developed allergies to a significant amount of fruits so just more of a reason to stay away. This smoothie is not too sweet but it is creamy, filling and gets you buzzing with energy. Since my stress levels have been through the roof I decided to add some Root and Bones Reishi powder. This powder is an adaptogenic herb so if you have a lot of stress and anxiety in your day to day life just a teaspoon each day goes a long way. These adaptogens keep your body at an even keel by supporting your adrenals and thus decreasing your stress response. If you can’t get to a yoga class and make time to distress yourself then you should look into these ancient medicinal plants. Click HERE to get your Reishi on!

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup nut milk (I used macadamia milk)
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ jicama
  • ½ juiced lemon
  • 1 cup steamed kale (raw kale is no bueno for your thyroid and will have you sprinting to the bathroom all day)
  • ¼ avocado
  • 1 tsp. Root and Bones Reishi (good for Stress relief)
  • 1 tsp. Maca powder (good for thyroid)
  • ¼ – ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 packet stevia
  • 5-8 mint leaves

 

Directions:

  1. Blend together nut milk, water and jicama
  2. Add in the remainder of the ingredients and blend until smooth and creamy!

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21 Day Sugar Detox Round 2!

Last month I completed the 21 Day Sugar Detox by Dianne Sanfilippo. After a long holiday season of cookies, cakes and other treats I needed something to get me back on track, but this detox did more than just that. My sugar cravings diminished and even 3 weeks post detox I no longer feel overpowered by the need for sweets. I have become one of those people who can eat one Reeses cup and NOT THE OTHER! Like what?! A little nibble of chocolate doesnt turn into a full blown binge anymore.

I’m excited to announce that my friend Lea and I are doing a round 2 of the detox. I loved seeing the positive changes I made physically and mentally and am excited to embark on the journey once more. During my detox a lot of people contacted me looking for help getting started. Whether this is your first, second or third time around I welcome you in joining us on the detox February 15th- March 8th.

Feel free to follow our progress, tips, tricks and recipes here and on my Instagram @CrunchandLunch as well as Lea’s @Lea_fitlife .

If you are interested in seeing a recap of my first round on the Sugar Detox (level 3) click HERE

This will also be Lea’s second time doing the 21DSD (level 1) and here was her progress from the first round:

10-12lbs lost!

Final 21DSD Banner

Final Review and Weeks 2 and 3 Recap of the 21 Day Sugar Detox

Technically the detox ends in 2 days, but I’m stretching it out to my birthday this Wednesday to get some added satisfaction when I take that first bite of cake.

Nothing major will change from now to then so I’m gonna go ahead and recap the past two weeks. I will share my overall thoughts of the diet and the progress my family and I have made. If you would like to read my previous posts regarding the 21 Day Sugar Detox click the links below:

Starting the 21 Day Sugar Detox

Week 1 Recap of the 21 Day Sugar Detox

I would be lying if I said I was perfect the entire 21 days. Week one I stayed very strict, but week two there was so much going on that I’m actually impressed with how well I did. It’s like I was being put to the test.

And if I was the teacher I’d give myself an A– !

Week one I was surrounded by people doing the same detox as me, there were no outings or events, and although my cravings were strong I was able to push past them.

By day 7 it was as if someone flipped the switch– my cravings diminished. During week two it felt like I was doing something that surrounded me with food and alcohol everyday, but I wasn’t phased one bit by the sight of cake, wine, etc.

On Wednesday my sister, Candyce and I headed into the Manhattan to see Billy Joel at MSG.

Prior to the show we went to out to dinner. While Candyce sipped on Merlot I chugged my ice water with lemon. I ordered grilled steak and a salad but barely ate because I was too excited for the concert.

The following day I drove to my boyfriends apartment for an extended weekend stay. Andrew has the bare essentials in his fridge so the only thing I really had to stay away from was his stash of double stuffed Oreos– easy peasy.

Friday night we to dinner at a restaurant called Char where I (again) did not get glass of wine. I normally don’t eat so much red meat in a week, but I ordered another juicy grilled steak and truffle fries. Fries were my very obvious cheat but I didn’t care. At the end of the meal Andrew pointed out the warm chocolate chip cookie sundae but it didn’t even appeal to me!?! My biggest weakness has always been chocolate chip cookies, but my palate has changed to the point where my mouth watered over something savory (like fries) rather than a sugary treat.

Progress

This past week marks the Verna family’s final days on the sugar detox.

  • For me, not much as changed. I still feel great, my clothes fit looser, energy levels are high and I’m not a slave to any sugar cravings. I do not weigh myself or take measurements but I can tell I look leaner.

  • My Mom lost 5lbs and my brother lost 8lbs. Considering a healthy weight loss rate is 1-2 pounds per week, this is a great accomplishment on their part! They lost this weight with only diet, no exercise (imagine if they threw a few workouts in?!)
  • My Dad lost 3lbs. I called him out for cheating on his detox haha

Bottom Line:

  • Week one kind of sucked but we got through it
  • Week two the skies cleared and I had zero cravings (well, maybe except for caving in to those truffle fries)
  • Week three I feel lighter, have tons of energy and am more satiated throughout the day

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What I Ate Wednesday #2

Wake up: Room temp lemon water to wake up the digestive system and rehydrate after 8 hours of sleep

I took Brandy for a walk (in the rain) and found a 20 bucks on our way home!

I contained my excitement as we finished our walk, but inside…

#Feels

Breakfast: After our walk I was hungrier than usual so I made myself a V(Egg)ie Bowl. You can check out the exact recipe here, or just sauté whatever vegetables are sitting in your fridge! For someone who does not workout I recommend adding complex carbs (potatoes, beets, pumpkin, oats, quinoa, rice) at breakfast. I save these types of carbs for my post workout meal.

Post Workout: Since I was pressed for time today and had to get to my internship I did a Peripheral Heart Action workout (PHA). I plan on writing a separate blog post regarding PHA, but in short PHA is a type of training that alternates from upper body to lower body exercises causing the body to shunt blood back and forth from upper to lower. In a time crunch this is the most effective way in getting in a high intensity workout in a short period of time.

I drove to my internship, lugged my Isobag inside and ate lunch which consisted of baked chicken breast, peas and broccolini.

A few hours after post workout meal I had homemade chicken jerky, sunbutter and lots of water

Dinner: I’m terrible but by the time I got home from my internship the last thing on my mind was taking a pic of my food. I had a small piece of skirt steak and chicken with steamed broccoli, cauliflower and sautéed garlic.

Post Dinner Walk: I felt like I didn’t move enough today so I got some steps in on the treadmill.

21dsd week 1 banner

21 Day Sugar Detox- Week 1 Recap

After a long December of warm chocolate chip cookies, creamy Christmas cocktails and gluten laden meals I needed to get my body and mind back on track! #NewYearNewMe right?!

About a week ago the whole Verna family took on Diane Sanfilippos 21 Day Sugar Detox. I think I speak for most when I say the first week of any diet is the most difficult. It was a hard 7 days, but doing this as a family made it a million times easier.

My brother and I have been making batches of homemade chicken, turkey and beef jerky.

My Mom rid the fridge and pantry of all No-No foods

And my big Italian Dad…

Well, he’s certainly trying his best! I think he’s getting used to cooking healthier, and after a little scolding he stopped rebuying the foods my Mom threw away.

In addition to the strong support system at home I also came up with some tricks curb the inevitable chocolate cravings.

  1. Set an Incentive, Treat Yoself!: At the beginning of each week set a non food related reward for yourself. If you stay on track with your diet enjoy a mani/pedi, massage, day trip, a new outfit, shoes, sneakers, etc. This gives you something to look forward to, which might increase motivation.

Last week my mom and I decided to treat ourselves to a cute outfit from the Gap and after a                  successful week, today we cashed in on our reward!

  1. Chug! Chug! Chug! – On JJ Virgins health podcast she mentions curbing sweet cravings with sour flavors. Next time you have a hankering for a Reeses cup try mixing 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in a large glass of water!
  1. Get some Z’s- Stop eating 3 hours before bed (this doesn’t mean you should be going to bed later!). When my cravings spike at night I force myself into bed. Majority of the time I lay there awake reading a book or surfing the web, but my mind is occupied and my body is way too comfy to go all the way to the kitchen.

Progress:

Everyone in the family agrees they feel more energized and have already dropped a few lbs!

As for me, I never focus on what the scale says, instead my progress is based on how I feel and how my clothes fit. Here is a quick summary of my personal experience after one week on the 21 DSD:

  • I feel less bloated!- My cousin bought me adorable workout leggings for Christmas. When I tried them on a week ago they did not fit, but today I slipped them on with ease and they fit PERFECTLY! (wee!)

  • Glowing skin- I don’t normally have skin issues but I can absolutely tell a difference in my face from when I began the detox
  • My energy levels are up

Final Thoughts: With the exception of 2 slices of swiss cheese and one bite of a protein bar, that I have to review as a BodyBuilding.com rep, I have stayed on track with the detox. The progress from week one is amazing and motivates me to crush week 2!

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Post-Workout Nutrition and Why it’s So Important

This morning I woke up extremely sore and super energized. After noticing the sky was still pitch black I grabbed my phone to check the time– it was 3:50AM! I shut my eyes and tried to go back to sleep, but after an hour and a half of counting backwards, meditating, and changing positions I realized there was nothing left to do but get up and roll with it *Sigh*.

Let’s rewind and discuss why my body was reacting this way.

One of my best friends, CarlyAnn, recently moved back to New York from Nashville. Yesterday she suggested we hit the gym to lift and catch up. The intense leg workout left us hobbling back to my car in a successful yet miserable state.

The smart thing to do would be to have a nutrient dense meal, but instead we decided to skip lunch and run a couple errands!

When I finally got home (hours later) it was almost time for kickboxing. I grabbed some homemade jerky and headed to the studio. Towards the end of class my body was shot and my muscles felt useless. I dragged my lifeless body home, forced down a piece of fish and peas and turned in for the night. This morning I woke up extremely sore.

Can you tell where I went wrong? Lets see..

  1. I totally overtrained my body
  2. I did not refuel properly

What Happens to Our Bodies When We Exercise

Here are just a few things going on inside our bodies during exercise:

  1. Fatty acids from fat, protein in the form of amino acids, and glucose and glycogen, both of which are sugars that come from consuming carbohydrates are used as fuel
  2. Muscle fibers are being torn (this is a good thing! With a good post workout meal and adequate sleep these muscle fibers repair, grow, and gain strength!).
  3. Cortisol levels rise

What is Glycogen?

Glycogen is a form of sugar stored in the muscles and liver. Our bodies are programmed to use the sugar in the blood before tapping into glycogen stores (1). When blood sugar levels drop too low, glycogen is released from its stores to give the body quick sugar and a jolt of energy. Think of glycogen as a backup battery pack for the body.

Cortisol the Fat Burning, Lean Muscle Building Hormone

Cortisol is a steroid stress hormone that gets a bad rep for being associated with weight gain, acne, etc. But when released at the right time cortisol acts fat burning, muscle building and energizing stimulant. Cortisol levels peak in the morning to help wake us up and get the day started. As the day progresses, cortisol levels naturally begin to drop so that by the end of the day we are able to fall asleep.

We also elevate cortisol when we engage in physical activity. Cortisol production promotes the development of lean muscle which is essential in losing fat (yay!). However, when we finish our workouts cortisol level are high and should be lowered by having a wholesome meal of mainly protein and carbs. If you make it a habit to not eat upon exercise cortisol levels will remain elevated causing weight gain (mainly in the abdominal region), sleep disruption, and muscle breakdown.

Bottom Line:

After an intense workout..

  • some of our glycogen stores are depleted
  • muscle is broken down
  • cortisol remains elevated causing a multitude of negative effects

Therefore the purpose of a post workout meal is to restore glycogen and repair muscles in order to build beautiful lean muscle, lower cortisol levels and to just feel good!

How Soon Should You be Eating After a Workout?

It is important to eat within 60 minutes of your workout, but if you really want to take full advantage of your revved up metabolism eat within 30 minutes of exercise (2). The quicker you get some nutrition in your body the sooner you restore glycogen stores and rebuild muscle proteins to stimulate the growth of new lean muscle.

What Should You Eat?

A meal consisting of protein and medium to high glycemic carbs that is low in fat is the quickest and most efficient way in recovering your muscles and utilizing the meal as energy rather than storing it as fat.

High Glycemic Carbs: Digest quicker

Protein: Helps repair muscles

Keeping the meal low in fat: Fat slows digestion and we want our muscle cells to be replenished as quickly as possible.

The following lists contain examples of simple and easily digested foods:

Carbs:

  • Potatoes
  • Carrots, corn, peas
  • Rice
  • Fruits (pineapple, berries, banana, kiwi)
  • Rice cakes
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Note: I always promote eating wholesome foods but if you’ve been craving lucky charms or that chocolate chip cookie (AKA cheat meal) then post workout would be the best time to eat it!

Protein

  • Grassfed organic protein powder
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Wild caught fish
  • Chicken
  • Lean beef

 

References:

  1. Berg JM, Tymoczko JL, Stryer L. Biochemistry. 5th edition. New York: W H Freeman; 2002. Chapter 21, Glycogen Metabolism. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21190/
  2. Jentjens, R. & Jeukendrup, A. (2003). Determinants of Post-Exercise Glycogen Synthesis During Short-Term Recovery. Sports Medicine, 33(2), 117-144. http://dx.doi.org/10.2165/00007256-200333020-00004

Photos:

  1. Carbohydrate metabolism. (2017). Slideshare.net. Retrieved 8 January 2017, from http://www.slideshare.net/ganeshbond/carbohydrate-metabolism-31707764
  2. Ballachey, G. (2017). Cortisol and Sleep – Sustainable Balance. Sustainable Balance. Retrieved 8 January 2017, from http://sustainablebalance.ca/cortisol-and-sleep/

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Starting the 21-Day Sugar Detox

Towards the end of my December recap post I briefly mentioned embarking on the 21 Day Sugar Detox. Here is some information on how I discovered the detox and my experience thus far…

I dipped a toe into the pool of podcasting over the summer at the start of my dietetic internship/grad program. Normally I like to stay up late and research interesting fitness and health related topics to stay current with the literature and become more knowledgeable for my clients and myself. However with my day spent at the hospital and my nights consumed with grad work I began losing out on my research time (and sanity! haha).

 

A friend suggested I start listening to some health podcasts during my long commutes to and from the hospital. This is how I discovered Balanced Bites Podcast and co-host Diane Sanfilippo’s 21-Day Sugar Detox.

I’ll be honest, with my background in nutrition I can be very skeptical while listening to these wellness podcasts, but co-hosts Diane and Liz preach the same nutrition beliefs as myself. These ladies get me through a 2 hour commute each day with discussions ranging from nutrition for thyroid functioning to gut health to skin care. Through my incessant podcast listening Diane mentioned her 21-Day Sugar Detox book and I was immediately hooked.

Again, I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to buying nutrition books but I trusted Diane and went forward with my purchase. The detox wasn’t filled with wacky juice recipes, soup cleanses, etc. but rather whole foods, clean and tasty recipes and insightful information.

Side note: I originally had a colorful picture of fruits, veggies and proteins but found an avocado putting on pants to be more interesting

Anyways! In her book, Dianne goes through a preparation phase, which includes enlisting friends or family to embark on the detox journey. I have successfully recruited my mom (the sweets QUEEN), my dad (the carb loving Italian), and my brother (the “if you don’t put your name on it I’m eating it” offender). The day before the detox we all indulged in some creamy Cold Stone ice cream before saying “sayonara!” to all things sweet.

Today is day 2 and everyone seems to be holding up pretty well! I will fill everyone in on our triumphs, struggles and (hopefully) progress!

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Healthy lunch Ideas

Healthy Habits Pt 2: Cleaning Up Lunch

Last week in THIS post we discussed how to tweak your breakfast in order to instill long lasting energy, satiate hunger and trim your waistline. Hopefully you were able to implement some of these ideas and are ready to hear all about healthifying lunch!

During the day you should be tapering your meals down.

Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a Prince and dinner like a Pauper. We ate a larger amount of the days calories at breakfast so now it is time to lunch like a Prince…

Lunch is not necessarily going to be smaller, but should be lighter than breakfast in terms of calories and carbs. It is important to carryover the same breakfast principals such as incorporating quality protein, healthy fats, non-starchy veggies and good natural complex carbs. In order to decrease the amount of calories consumed at lunch while still staying full it is important to include lots of non-starchy vegetables.

I personally experience a energy slump between 11:00 and 2:00PM which is reversed with a nutrient dense midday meal.

Lets think about how to put together a healthy lunch…

Start with a protein:

  • chicken
  • turkey
  • ground beef
  • ground turkey
  • salmon
  • cod
  • shrimp
  • organic deli meats (like Applegate)
  • etc.

Add in fat(s):

  • grassfed butter
  • olives, olive oil
  • full fat cheese (if able to tolerate)
  • avocado, avocado oil
  • coconut oil
  • almonds, brazil nuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, pecans, etc.
  • pesto sauce
  • etc.

Go crazy with non starchy veggies:

  • artichokes
  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • brussel sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • cucumber
  • eggplant
  • garlic
  • green beans
  • jicama
  • kale
  • mushrooms
  • onion
  • peppers
  • spinach, romaine, arugula and any other leafy green
  • etc.

Incorporate a small portion of complex carbs like good whole grains and starchy vegetables (sorry! no refined breads and pastas) :

  • beets
  • green peas
  • pumpkin
  • rice
  • squash
  • sweet potato
  • sprouted whole grain bread (Ezekial bread!)

Add a little dairy

  • If you are able to tolerate dairy I recommend opting for grassfed choices

Now that you’ve chosen from the list, just put it all together…

Sample lunch ideas:

  1. Spinach salad topped with nitrate-free organic deli turkey, chopped beets, jicama, cucumber, olive oil and a sprinkle of walnuts
  2. Romaine Lettuce Wraps filled with flank steak, peppers, onion, rice and salsa
  3. Sandwich using Ezekial bread, grilled chicken, a slice of organic nitrate-free bacon, a slice of grassfed cheese
  4. Spaghetti Squash with pesto, ground chicken meatballs and sautéed veggies

Bottom Line:

  • eat lunch like a Prince making it lighter than breakfast. The meals listed above may seem like a lot, but loading up on non-starchy veggies increases the volume of your meal while still remaining low in calories and carbs
  • incorporate protein, healthy fats, lots of non starchy veggies, and a bit of complex carbs
  • feel free to add in a little grassfed dairy if you can tolerate it

Stay tuned for my take on Dinner this time next week*

stuffed bell peppers

Turkey Stuffed Bell Peppers

As if we haven’t had enough turkey this time of year, here is yet another reason to chow down on the nutrient rich and protein packed poultry.

 

  • 4 large red bell peppers
  • ½ Tbsp. olive oil
  • olive oil cooking spray
  • ½ cup diced onion
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper (use the tops of your bell peppers)
  • 1 cup brown rice (may omit or substitute with another grain)
  • 2 garlic cloves minced
  • 3lb package of ground turkey
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¾ tsp. pepper
  • 1 cup no salt added tomato sauce
  • 4 slices part skim mozzarella (may omit)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cut the tops off bell peppers and remove the seeds
  3. Place peppers in a large pot of boiling water and boil until tender (about 3 minutes)
  4. Remove peppers from the water and set aside on a plate
  5. In a separate pot cook rice according to its instructions
  6. Coat a large skillet with cooking spray and on medium heat add in olive oil
  7. Sauté diced onions and bell pepper in the same pan cooking until the peppers are tender and the onions are translucent
  8. Add ground turkey, garlic, salt, and pepper to the onion pepper mixture. Cook until the turkey has browned breaking it apart in the pan with a spatula.
  9. Mix in brown rice and tomato sauce
  10. Place bell peppers onto a baking sheet and fill each with ½ cup of the ground turkey rice mixture
  11. Bake for 5 minutes, remove from oven, top each with a slice of cheese and bake again until the cheese has melted.

 

NOTE: After baking them I put the broiler on for a few minutes to crisp up the cheese a bit. If you do this watch your peppers veryyyy closely!