Avo Citrus dressing blog pic

Avocado Citrus Dressing

I’m finally coming to terms with the fact that the groundhog was right and 6 more weeks of winter is among us. If you live on Long Island you were most likely off on todays “snow day”. By me it was legit rain. RAIN! I got all psyched for nothing. Despite the non-treacherous driving conditions I still had that snow day mentality, so I bummed around the house in my pajamas for hours before realizing I had no excuse to not get my ass BUTT to the gym.  

Side Note: I gave up red meat and cursing for lent (two very big sacrifices for me). One is going much better than the other..

When I came home from my workout I had this delicious salad and my quick and easy Avocado Citrus Dressing. I meant to add cilantro to the recipe but totes forgot to pick some up at the store. Overall it tastes creamy and refreshing and is very similar to tzatziki sauce.




My next blog post will be about listening to your body and how cutting back on exercise can actually help you lose weight. 

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cucumber
  • 1 large avocado, peeled and pitted
  • Fresh juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar with the mother
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tsp. honey (optional)
  • water

Directions:

  1. Purée all ingredients adding 1 tbsp of water at a time to thin to your preferred consistency

Salad Ingredients:

  • spinach or other leafy green
  • roasted organic chicken
  • Root and Bones Cordyceps (this is an adaptogenic herb I use to manage stress and give me energy)
  • vegetables of your choice (I did steamed carrots and broccoli,cauliflower rice, and organic bell pepper)
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped scallion

Directions:

  1. Sprinkle the root and bone cordyceps on your chicken and toss
  2. Throw all ingredients in a bowl and top with your avo citrus dressing!

buzzing bb pin

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!

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What I Ate Wednesday #4

Happy What I Ate Wednesday! Last week I was indulging on my double chocolate fudge birthday cake and today.. kale water.. LOL it actually wasn’t bad!

I’ve been experimenting with my dehydrator to make homemade green powder. After a few tries I finally made an easy to use kale powder that adds an nutrient boost to any recipe. Today my morning elixir consisted of warm water, 1/2 tsp. kale powder, lemon, ginger powder, tumeric and cinnamon. Before tossing in a packet of stevia to mask the odd combination of ingredients, I decided to take a sip and test it out in its raw form. Wasn’t bad! The stevia went back into the cabinet and I downed my kale water as is.

Today was my rest day so I went for a walk and then had steak, eggs and sauteed spinach for breakfast.

A few hours later I had 2 handful of crushed walnuts and homemade jerky

Lunch consisted of a simple salad of romaine, broccoli, radishes, baby corn, chicken and a sprinkle of kale powder. I dressed my salad with apple cider vinegar and EVOO.

Sunflower seed butter was my snack

By the time I got home from my internship all I wanted was food and sleep. I inhaled one of my chicken thighs and some string beans before realizing I needed to take a pic for my this post. I removed my one eaten chicken bone and quickly took this horrendous pic.

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Could Your Breakfast be Sabotaging Your Energy Levels and Fat Loss?

If you find yourself sluggish and/or hungry soon after breakfast it may be time to change things up!

A bowl of oatmeal topped with coconut sugar and fresh fruit is definitely a delicious way to start the day, but it’s all carbohydrates. It’s good to have carbs in your morning meal but too much (even the good kind) may lead to weight gain and sluggish energy.

What Happens When we Eat Carbohydrates?

  • Carbohydrates raise blood sugar signaling the release of a hormone produced in the pancreas called insulin. When blood sugar elevates insulin works to regulate these levels by taking up the sugar from your bloodstream and bringing it to your cells to use for energy. Insulin works to eliminate or store fat.
  • Too much insulin causes your body to stop burning fat and start storing it.

What Causes High Insulin Levels and Sugar Crash and How it Leads to Weight Gain 

  1. Refined carbs- When we eat low fiber refined carbohydrates (cakes, cookies, white bread, pasta, etc.) blood sugars rapidly increase (sugar rush). Insulin levels rise and quickly swoops in to take the sugar from your bloodstream (sugar crash).

2. Not including protein and fat in your meal– A breakfast consisting of sliced banana on 100%             whole wheat toast with a drizzle of honey has nutritional value, but its still all carbs. Although                 these complex carbs contain fiber which helps slow that rise and fall in blood sugar and insulin,             incorporating a protein and fat in the meal slows it down further. Remake your breakfast by                   adding greek yogurt or hard boiled egg for protein and nuts or nut butter for fat.

Do you find yourself needing to eat several times a day because of poor energy or hunger? Or do you think you’re hungry but you’re actually just tired? When we eat a meal that is high in carbohydrates and low in protein and fat we risk taking a ride on the sugar rollercoaster. When blood sugars run high and then crash it leads us to reach for more food soon after the meal we just had. The unfortunate result of this scenario is we tend to choose foods with high sugar content for quick energy. When we do this, the cycle repeats.

On another note fiber keeps us full, and since refined carbs contain little to no fiber eating a bowl of lucky charms for breakfast will not fill you up and lead to eating more food.

Carbs Stimulate Hormones That May Lead to Overeating 

Eating lots of carbs in the morning causes an increase in the calming hormone, serotonin and a decrease in cortisol, the hormone that gets us up and moving. Starting your day with a carb filled meal may make you feel tired and reaching for more food for energy.

If you have a hard time getting going in the morning try swapping out your bagel and cream cheese for an omelet with veggies and a slice of ezekial bread.

Bottom Line:

  • Eating a breakfast high in carbs (especially refined) and not incorporating protein and fat can lead to a sugar crash and overeating soon after your meal to compensate for lack of energy.
  • To avoid this eat complex carbohydrates full of fiber like fruits, veggies and wholesome grains like brown rice,  quinoa, and Ezekiel bread (or another quality 100% whole wheat bread).
  • Incorporate proteins and fats into all your meals

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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

Healthy dinner Ideas

Healthy Habits Part 3: Cleaning Up Dinner

I’m a little late on this post but here goes! The past few weeks we discussed how to change up breakfast and lunch to make them healthier. If you would like to go back and read those posts click on the following links:

Healthy Habits Part 1: Cleaning Up Breakfast

Healthy Habits Part 2: Cleaning Up Lunch

 

A brief overview of the previous posts:

  • Breakfast should be the largest meal of the day in terms of calories and carbohydrates. Since you are literally “breaking-a-fast” this meal should consist of proteins, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats.

 

  • Lunch should be a bit lighter (again in terms of calories and carbohydrates) but still filling to keep you going through the day. We achieve this by increasing the amount on non-starchy vegetables in the meal (leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, okra, etc.) and decreasing the amount of starchy veggies and complex carbs (rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, beets, peas, etc.). Doing this will increase the volume of food at lunch but not the calories or carbs.

 

Dinner, in my opinion, is the simplest of all meals. If your goals are fat loss I recommend keeping dinner nice and light making it the smallest meal of the day filled with a lean protein like chicken breast and fish and non-starchy vegetables. I do not promote or condone consuming starchy and complex carbohydrates at dinner, it all depends on your needs and goals. If dinner happens to be my post workout meal I do consume complex carbs, and if it is not then I stick to lean meat and non-starchy veggies. This is what works for me and may or may not work for you, so play around with it!

 

However, if you are striving to gain weight and build muscle then load up on the carbs!

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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/