Getting through Holiday Eating: 10 Survival Tips to Avoid Weight Gain


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week111Holiday eating. You know that time of annual time of year when you are around family, friends and co-workers and celebrate the festivities with food; lots of it.

It really starts with Halloween. All the extra candy you have from not enough ghoulish goblins and fairytale princesses appearing at your front door. All that sinful chocolate and sugary candy is too good to go to waste, right? So day after day, you work at emptying the candy bowl until it’s empty.

Next, just when all the candy is gone and you are feeling guilty for your overindulgence on sweet treats, it’s time for some turkey and trimmings, not to mention the endless choices of pies and desserts. Were stuffing, mash potatoes, corn bread and lots of leftovers mentioned? Then come Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. More celebrations and more food! An extra bite of cheese, another sip of alcohol, one more cookie…who is going to notice? Before you know it, your waistline to clothing is snug. Ugh!

While tasty and mindfully rewarding during the moment, eating mindlessly or emotionally for pure enjoyment or release during the holidays is neither wise nor healthy. It easily can play havoc on your body, put on extra inches on your waistline, and possibly throw your regular eating habits so far off that it’s tough climb to get back on track. Then, before you know it, it’s New Year’s Eve and one of your very first resolutions, as it is every year, is to lose the weight.

Let this holiday season be different. Resist overindulging and packing on the unnecessary and unwanted pounds. Here are 10 survival tips to make through the holidays.

  1. Awareness
    You’re reading this article so you are cognizant you may fall victim to holiday overeating and acknowledgement is a positive start. Realizing and admitting are the first steps in any prevention. Start planning and get prepared. The road is about to get bumpy!
  1. Discipline
    Your mind is powerful and deep down, you know you have what it takes to be in control. So, use it. When wanting to eat, use your hungry scale. On a scale of 1 to 10, how hungry are you? Is it mealtime? Are you actually hungry? Is your body actually thirsty? Use the determination and restraint powers you have from within and resist eating when you’re not and overindulgences.
  1. Diet
    You are what you eat. Maintain a healthy balanced diet with the proper food intake quantities and calorie count and avoid trigger foods, sugar, refined fructose, grains, and processed food. It may help to keep a food journal since recording your food intakes will make you more conscious and personal feeling of accountable. If you’re hungry in between meals, find a health 150-calorie snack to hold you over.
  1. Exercise
    With the onset of fall and winter comes the nature desire to want to stay in and hibernate. But don’t! Continuing your workouts is a must. The inclement weather and shorter days are all the more reason to keep exercising. Maintain regular strength training to fight off muscle loss and boost metabolism plus cardio for the calorie burn. If extra incentive is needed, add a new class or sport, such as aerobics and kickboxing or skiing and ice skating for a new fitness surge.
  1. Activities
    Less ideal weather should not equate to less activities. When at home, don’t get too comfortable on your couch. The last thing you want to do is fall into a rut of watching TV as your main activity with a big bowl of munchies in your lap. Instead, get moving and get involved. Stay active and keep busy to prevent snacking to sooth your boredom and winter blues.
  1. Parties
    Never EVER go to a party hungry or once you arrive you will head straight to the table of food and gorge on all the bite-size snacks with sneaky mounting calories. Instead, and before you feel guilty for overindulging, chow down on high-fiber fruits and vegetables to curb your appetite beforehand. Once you’re at the party, select from the healthiest selections, stop when your stomach feels full and put physical distance between yourself and the food.
  1. Alcohol
    It is the time for holiday cheer. But unfortunately, alcohol is just loaded with high calories, especially mixed cocktails. Without realizing it, you can easily drink as many calories that you consume in one meal, and perhaps more. Instead, it’s best to avoid alcohol and it’s empty calories all together. Or limit your drinks and sip a glass of water in between to help dilute calories.
  1. Sleep
    Get on a regular sleep pattern and aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Not enough shuteye causes an imbalance with of the ghrelin and leptin hormones, which normally work in harmony in maintaining weight. Consistent less sleep causes an imbalance. Also, avoid caffeine in the afternoon and avoid eating 3 to 4 hours before bed for a solid good night’s rest.
  1. Friends
    Watching what NOT to eat can be hard when temptations are almost everywhere you turn. So, surround yourself with family and friends who encourage your goal of not gaining. The emotional and mental support from a friend or family member who is cheering you on just might be the added incentive you need to make it through the holiday season.
  1. Damage Control
    Overate? Not enough exercise or sleep? Don’t beat yourself over the slip and don’t continue on the path of construction. Just make up for it right away by cutting calories from you day, adding extra exercise, and getting to bed earlier for a couple nights.

Keep a commitment to yourself to nourish your body with only the healthiest foods available and without the unnecessary and unhealthy overindulgences. The more you succeed, the easier it will become. You have one body so keep this in front of mind so true and good to yourself!

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

Preventing the Winter Blues


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week109With the clocks turned back last weekend and the days getting shorter and shorter with each passing day – not to mention the first snow has already fallen before the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday – it’s unfortunately that time of year when many people fall victim to the winter blues.
Like clockwork every year, many experience this mood disorder starting around the end of October, or beginning of November, and lasting through the start of spring. Also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), this condition of the winter blues can include mild depression, low energy, lack of motivation, increased sleep, social withdraw and a tendency to overeat.
Yikes! Not a fun set of symptoms and not a way to live year in and year out.  Fortunately, there are preventive steps one can take to stop the winter blues and not fall victim to the Snow Miser. But it will need a conscious effort throughout these months to keep the winter blues at bay.
First, lets take a quick look at SAD and then let’s see what can be down to fight and prevent it from ruining your winter and waistline.
With SAD, the lack of sunlight can cause your brain to work overtime producing melatonin, the hormone that regulates your body clock and sleep patterns and a hormone that has been linked to depression. So no, the winter blues is not in your mind; it’s a reality. In fact, approximately a half million of the U.S. population suffers from winter SAD! Three-quarters of the sufferers are women and onset is typically early adulthood. For me, it started in my 20’s.
Ok, how to fight it. I’ve broken it down to easy areas that one can adjust your daily life to conquer their blues.
You have to have a positive state of mind that you will not let the lack of sun effect your mood this year or next or ever! Make a promise to yourself, that this winter, you take the necessary preventive steps to combat this and not succumb. The mind is a powerful thing and can empower you to accomplish anything you set your mind to achieving.
The lack of sun is the main culprit here. Sunlight provides Vitamin D and releases the necessary neurotransmitters in the brain that affect mood in a positive manner. Hence, seeing the sun and feeling it’s rays every day is just as important as someone who gets seasick who needs to see the horizon when sailing at sea. So make an effort to get outside every single day – even if it’s bitter cold – and connect with the sun. Soak up that sunlight. Push back your window drapes to let the sun shine into your home and sit near a window when at the office. Also, start your day with a morning walk or run outside and take stroll outside during your lunchtime. You can also try using full spectrum light bulbs at home, which mimic natural light, and invest in a 10,000 lux light box for added light therapy.
Location, location, location! Yes, this definitely makes all the difference in the world for SAD suffers. The farther north from the equator you reside, the greater the risk you are to experiencing some degree of winter depression as SAD is more common with those living in cloudy regions or at high latitudes. Only about 1% of Florida residents have some winter-specific discomfort or depression compared to 10% or more with those living in Pennsylvania and north. So if you can live closer to the equator, than do so. If you can’t, just be ready every season with your fighting attitude and take the necessary steps to combat.
What you eat makes all the difference in the world, especially in the wintertime when the blues can set in and cause weight gain. By all means, try to limit your alcoholic consumption – which can bring you down – and avoid processed and refined foods. While they may feel comforting to a person feeling down, they actually can affect your mood swing and zap your energy levels. So be certain to eat as healthy as you and stay hydrated. Also, keep a food journal, if only for this time of year. “Reporting” should make you more conscious of what you are putting between your lips and help you to stay on track of not overeating.
If you ever need a time to get out and exercise, wintertime is the time! For a minimum of 30 minutes a day every day. Yes, it’s cold outside and the last thing you might want to do is exercise, but you simply must. Exercising will release that much-needed endorphin high, lower your stress, anxiety and depression, and burn calories. You will also gain more energy for your day and a more positive attitude.
Even though bears love to hibernate in the winter, there is no real biological need for people to get extra sleep during the winter despite feeling sleepier and having less energy. Resist the urge to sleep more. Your body clock is triggered by light and dark so make to make a conscious effort to get your sleeping habits into a regular sleep cycle. Go to bed at approximately the same hour every night and wake up the same time the following morning with a solid 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep.
Final recommendation is to stay connected with family and friends. Remaining active and social interaction is very important, especially at this time of year. So no matter how cold it is outside and how early the sky gets dark, make plans to get out of your home and stay involved with your inner social circles and regular activities. Perhaps now is the time to take up a new hobby or join a new activity group. Snowed in? Make a simple phone call, chat through Skype, get connected with social media, and don’t forget to a walk in the fresh snow with our next-door neighbor. Remember, never underestimate the power of friendships and fun activities!
Follow the above measures every day and your winter blues should be greatly diminished. Note I said “every day” as since this is a seasonal disorder, you will need to follow the above remedies every day until springtime. Skip a day or two and you’ll begin to feel yourself plummet back into the blues. So stay ahead and above. You can do this. You’ve got this!
Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

My Favorite Paleo Recipes – Part 6: Desserts


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week109When I was little, I loved walking into our house and smelling scrumptious desserts baking in the kitchen. Chocolate Wacky Cake was one of my mom’s specialties, so was her Apple Cake! But those yummy desserts call for white flour, white sugar and other no-so-healthy ingredients. So while I have yet to replicate and perfect Mom’s recipes with healthier ingredients, I have discover other yummy desserts that I have made for my family and friends. And they include some of our favorite foods – chocolate, peanut butter, apples, bananas and ice cream – but of course not mixed together. Enjoy!

Baked Apples
Total comfort dish! Cut and core 4 large golden delicious apples and place in a crockpot. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg to taste. Toss with spoon so all apple pieces get the cinnamon and nutmeg. Turn crockpot on to high. In a blender add chopped 1/2 cup chopped walnuts and 1/2 cup pecan halves, mix so they are finely chopped. Add nut mix to bowl and add 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 1/4 cup almond flour, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg and mix with fork. Spoon topping evenly on the top of the apples in the crockpot, cover and let sit on high for 2 hours. After 2 hours remove cover from crockpot and turn crockpot to low and let bake uncovered for 30 more minuets. Enjoy!

Banana Ice Cream
This is a must make! Peel 2 medium bananas and cut into medallions. Freeze until it hardens, about an hour or two. Remove and blend in a food processor or blender until smooth and creamy. Add 3 tablespoons almond butter and teaspoons honey and blend OR add 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons coconut milk and ½ teaspoon vanilla. Both combos are delish or toss in fresh berries. You can also just eat just plain. Transfer to freezable container and freeze for a few more hours. Then serve and indulge!

Brownies with Peanut Butter Frosting
Who doesn’t love chocolate? Now you can indulge without the guilt. Preheat oven to 350° F. Line an 8×8 baking pan with parchment paper, leaving flaps overhanging the ends. In a food processor or Blendtec, pulse together 1 cup fine almond flour, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda. Add in 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips and pulse until it is the texture of coarse sand. Add in 1 tablespoon cocoa powder, 1/4 cup honey, and 9 Medjool dates (pits removed, soaked 1 hour and drained) and pulse until combined. It won’t be very smooth yet. Add 3 large omega-3 eggs and 1/2 cup softened or melted coconut oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Smooth into corners and flatten the top with a spatula. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, checking occasionally after the 20 minutes to see if the center has set (it shouldn’t jiggle when you gently shake the pan). Once the center is set, remove from oven and let cool in pan, on a wire rack, for 2 hours before cutting. Eat as is or frost with peanut butter frosting

Peanut Butter Frosting
Beat 3/4 cup palm shortening and 3/4 cup smooth natural peanut butter (no sugar added) on high speed until creamy and smooth. Add 1/3 cup raw honey, 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract and 1/8 teaspoon sea salt. Beat on medium speed for about 45 seconds to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and continue beating on high speed until the frosting is thick and fluffy, about 3 to 4 minutes. You can use right away or place in the refrigerator for about an hour to let it firm up. Frost brownies and serve.

Pumpkin Tarts
Love, love, love pumpkin. Hence, this is a favorite of mine! Preheat oven to 350° F. Grease a 24 cup mini muffin pan with ghee (or butter if you eat dairy). Combine 2 cups fine ground almond flour, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon in a medium bowl. In another bowl, combine the wet crust ingredients. Add 1/4 cup melted coconut oil, 5 tablespoons raw honey and 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract to the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined and you have a smooth dough ball. Using a small cookie scoop, drop a ball of dough in each mini muffin cup. Press down with a tart tamper, dipping the tamper in almond flour after every 2nd or 3rd tart to keep it from sticking. Bake the tarts in the pre-heated oven for exactly 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. The tarts will have puffed up quite a bit. Poke a hole in the bottom of each tart with a toothpick to release the steam. Go back and press each tart back down with the tart tamper. Let cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack. Do not remove the tarts from the pan. While the tarts are cooling, combine 1/2 of a (15 oz.) can of pumpkin puree (about 1 cup), 1/2 cup coconut milk (canned, full-fat), 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger, pinch of sea salt, 1 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup, 1/2 tablespoon arrowroot powder, 1 omega-3 egg and 1 omega-3 egg yolk in a medium bowl. Using the same small cookie scoop, fill the cooled tart shells all the way with the pie filling. Cook for 10 minutes, the centers will still be slightly wiggly. Let cool completely on a wire rack. Use a small paring knife to separate the tarts from the muffin tin and serve with a dollop of whipped crust.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

My Favorite Paleo Recipes – Part 5: Dinner


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week108On Sunday mid-mornings when I was growing up, my brothers and I were not allowed to watch television after returning home from morning mass. Mom simply did not want us to get all caught up in a program or movie that could possible prevent us from sitting down to the table when she called us for dinner around noontime or shortly thereafter. As an Italian-American family, dinner was always served midday on Sundays and it was always pasta.

Needless to say, after growing up eating pasta twice a week (Mom also served it every Thursday), plus eating the same weekday dishes week in and week out (beef stew on Mondays, stuffed chicken on Tuesdays, homemade pizza on Fridays, etc.), all I wanted when I moved out was a variety to my dinners with little repetition and no white carb pasta ever again.

Now that I eat Paleo, I love exploring new recipes and finding ones that replicate the not so nutritious meals I once ate. Often my dinner guests will say to me, “This is Paleo?” I think they anticipate a plate of blandness with no pizazz. That is far from reality! Below are just a few of my favorite Paleo dinner dishes. I hope you enjoy them as much as my family and friends.

Bruschetta Chicken with Zucchini Pasta
A twist on Chicken Parmesan! Make the bruschetta ahead by combining 3 chopped large heirloom or garden grown tomatoes, about 15 chopped basil leave strips and 2 to 3 peeled garlic cloves into a bowl. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with sea salt to taste. Gently mix together just to combine flavors.  Let set a couple hours for flavors to mix. For the chicken, mix together the juice and zest from one lemon, 1 garlic clove crushed, 3 tablespoons fresh basil finely chopped, 1 walnut oil, and sea salt and pepper to taste. Marinade 4 chicken breasts in the ingredients for 30 minutes to 24 hours then grill until cooked through and no longer pink in the middle. Lastly for the zucchini noodles, slice 4 medium to large zucchinis thinly. Melt 1 teaspoon coconut oil in a pan and sauté zucchini until warmed throughout but al dente, approximately 2 minutes. Season with garlic salt and drizzle with olive oil. To arrange, place a small amount of noodles on a plate, then top with the chicken and bruschetta.

Lamb with Spaghetti Squash
A healthy makeover to spaghetti with meat sauce! Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut 1 small or medium spaghetti squash in half length-wise with a large knife or cleaver. Place cut side down in a shallow baking dish. Add 3/4″ of water to the dish. Bake for 45 minutes, until the squash is soft to the touch. After 30 minutes of baking, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat with 2 tablespoons coconut oil. Add 1 pound ground lamb (elk or bison), 1/8 pound ground liver (optional), 1/2 diced yellow onion, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional), 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon oregano and cook 5 minutes. Stir frequently. Add 8 medium white button or cremini mushrooms sliced and continue to cook until lamb is fully done, 10 to 12 minutes. Set aside. When squash is done cooking, remove it from the oven and cool until it can be comfortably handled. Turn the cut side up, and remove from the rind with a fork. This should be done cross-wise, so the strands of squash fall out like spaghetti. Spoon lamb mixture over spaghetti squash to serve. Top with either a Paleo Pesto or Mojo Verde sauce.

Mojo Verde Sauce
Place 1 bunch cilantro, 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil, 1 to 2 cloves garlic and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt into a food processor. Blend until desired consistency is reached. Makes approximately 1 cup.

Paleo Pesto Sauce
Place 2 oz. fresh basil leaves (about 1 cup packed full), 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup raw cashews, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon coconut aminos, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (optional), dash cayenne pepper, and 1/2 cup olive oil into a food processor. Blend into a smooth paste. Stop and scrape the sides of the bowl down to get an even texture several times during blending. Add more or less olive oil to reach desired consistency. Makes about 1-1/2 cups. Double or triple the recipe and freeze leftovers for future meals.

Steak with Pineapple Salsa
This is a neighborhood cookout favorite! Prepare grill or turn broiler on high. Mix 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 teaspoon chipotle powder together in a small dish. Brush onto both sides of 1 pound beef flank steak. Grill approximately 5 minutes on one side and 3 more minutes on the other. Or broil 3 minutes on one side, and 2 minutes on the other. Remove to a plate. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Grill 4 slices fresh pineapple rings for 2 to 3 minutes per side (or broil for 45 seconds to 1 minute per side). Cut the pineapple into small chunks and place in a medium bowl. Add 1 diced large red bell pepper, 1/2 diced red onion, 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and juice of 1 lime. Mix together. Slice the steak thinly and top with pineapple salsa.

Tilapia Wrapped in Bacon
This recipe is really easy and always a big hit with guests. Wrap each piece of tilapia with one strip of bacon. Place fish in a medium-hot skillet and sauté a few minutes on each side or until bacon is crispy. When cooked, place fish on a plate with a paper towel to soak up any bacon grease and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

My Favorite Paleo Recipes – Part 4: Appetizers


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week108Sweet, salty, crunchy, soft, gooey, hot or chilled, who doesn’t love tempting appetizers to pick at and on before your long awaited dinner is served? I am definitely guilty as being one of those dinnertime eaters who will indulge in so many appetizers that by the time the main course arrives I am way too full to eat any further (Doggie bag, please?). Why even order an entrée when you can make a meal just on eating delicious apps when you are sitting at the table famished, right? Or perhaps you are one of the lucky ones who can eat both appetizers and a main course meal with plenty of room still for dessert! Whichever eater you may be, just make certain the apps you devour are healthy and nutritious like some of my favorite Paleo appetizer recipes below. Inbox me with your own favorites!

Avocado Deviled Eggs
This recipe can easily be doubled! Peel 3 omega-3 hard-boiled eggs. Slice long ways in half. Give a gentle squeeze into a small bowl to pop out the yolk. Use a fork to mash the yolk, 1/2 avocado and salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze in the juice of 1/2 lime and add hot sauce to taste. Mix well and spoon mixture into a Ziploc baggie. Cut off the tip and piped it into the egg halves. Sprinkle with a little paprika for garnish. Chill until ready to serve.

Bacon Meatballs with Mango Honey Mustard Sauce
These are always a hit! Preheat your oven to 350° F. Place 6 slices of pork or turkey bacon (cut into 1 inch pieces) into a large skillet and cook over medium heat. Once bacon has rendered some fat in the pan, add 1/2 diced yellow onion. Mix together and poke at it randomly to be certain the bacon and onions don’t brown too much or burn. Once bacon is cook through, place bacon and onions on a plate lined with a paper towel to soak up some excess fat and cool. Next place 1.5 pounds ground beef or turkey into a large bowl. Add cooled bacon and onions, along with 1 omega-3 egg, 1/4 cup almond flour, 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Use your hands to mix together thoroughly. Then roll into little bite size balls and place on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Bake for around 10-15 minutes, depending on the size of the meatballs. Enjoy!

Shrimp Cocktail
Great for dinner parties!Combine 6 ounces tomato paste, 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar, 1/3 cup water, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon allspice and salt to taste to create a Paleo ketchup. Add 1 tablespoon grated horseradish root. Taste and adjust seasonings to suit your taste. Chill until ready to serve with 30 to 40 pre-cooked deveined shrimp.

Stuffed Mushrooms with Sausage and Spinach
This is a good amount of prep but worth it in the end. Preheat oven to 400° F with the rack in the center of the oven. PART 1: Place a foil-lined baking sheet onto the rack to preheat. Wipe the tops clean of 5 medium Portobello mushrooms with a damp cloth. Remove the stems then the gills with a spoon. With a sharp paring knife, cut a shallow “X” on the top of each mushroom. Brush avocado oil (or your favorite fat) all over the mushrooms and season the tops and bottoms with salt and pepper to taste. Place the mushrooms on the preheated baking sheet in the oven, gill side up, and baked for 10 minutes. Flip each mushroom and bake gill side down for 10 additional minutes. Remove tray from the oven and let the mushrooms cool to room temperature. PART 2: While the mushrooms are baking, make the stuffing. Heat a couple tablespoons of ghee (or your favorite fat) in a large skillet over medium heat and sautéed 1/2 small onion minced with salt and pepper until soft and translucent. In a medium bowl, add 1 pound raw pork or chicken sausage (removed from casing) plus the following seasonings: 1 teaspoon green peppercorns, 1 teaspoon dried chives, 1 teaspoon basil, 1 teaspoon tarragon, 1 teaspoon parsley, 1 bay leaf, 1 teaspoon dill weed and 1 teaspoon garlic powder. Mix in 2 large omega-3 egg lightly beaten, 8 ounces fresh spinach, 1 tablespoon coconut flour (optional), salt and pepper to taste. Transfer mushrooms onto another baking sheet lined with foil and tope with stuffing on each cap. Pressing stuffing down to make more compact. Baked at 350° F for 45 minutes. Top with your favorite marinara sauce and serve immediately.

Zucchini Roll Ups
This recipe is super delish! Heat grill. Remove ends and slice 2 zucchinis into 1/4 inch thick strips lengthwise with a knife or mandoline. Place zucchini in a bowl with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of garlic powder and salt and pepper to taste. Mix using your hands, coating the zucchini. Place 4 Italian sausages on the grill along with zucchini. While the zucchini and sausages are cooking, make the pesto. Add 1/2 cup walnuts, 1 garlic clove and1 cup fresh basil to a food processor. Add 1/3 cup olive oil while the food processor is running. Next add juice of 1 lemon and salt and pepper to taste. After zucchini has cooked 4 to 5 minutes and has begun to show grill marks, flip over. Once zucchini and sausage are completely cooked through, remove and cool. After cooling, use a spoon to spread the pesto down the center of the zucchini strip and cut off an inch or so piece of sausage. Place the sausage in the middle of the zucchini so the cut sides are facing toward the outer ridges of the zucchini. Wrap the zucchini around the sausage and use a toothpick to hold it in place. Makes 11-12 rolls.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

My Favorite Paleo Recipes – Part 3: Lunch


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week107I must admit, I’m a pushover for salads. They truly are one of my favorite meals, especially when it’s made with fresh spinach and lots of healthy goodies tossed in – such as chicken, shrimp, eggs, nuts, tomatoes, citrus and other endless options. So having a salad when eating Paleo is actually pretty easy for me. But there is more to lunch choices than just salads, right? Check out the Paleo recipe suggestions below that perfect for lunch. I’ve included just one salad must-have and other options – all delish!

Almond Flax Crust Pizza
Heat oven to 425° F. Combine flaxseed 1-1/4 cups flaxseed meal, 1 cup almond flour/meal, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 2 teaspoon natural baking powder and 1 teaspoon Italian mixed dried herbs together until lump-free. Beat together 3 omega-3 eggs, 3 tablespoons melted coconut oil, 1 tablespoon honey and 1/2 cup water until smooth. Pour liquid mixture into dry mixture. Blend well until smooth. Press into desired shape. Place on a pre-greased or non-stick pizza pan or sit on a silicon baking mat. Bake for 15 minutes in the center of the oven until cooked. Add favorite toppings of choice – such as grilled chicken, green peppers, red onions and marina sauce – and then return to the oven to bake for an additional 10-15 minutes. Yum!

Cream of Mushroom Soup
Perfect for a chilly day! In a large pot, sauté 1 diced onion, 2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms and 1 diced celery stalk in 1 tablespoon of organic butter or coconut oil for 5 minutes until translucent and tender. Add 6 to 8 cups of homemade chicken stock or 2 quart of organic chicken broth and 15 to 20 chopped asparagus spears, 2 cups of chopped chicken. Bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add 2 cups of chopped fresh spinach, 1 can of coconut milk and turn heat up to return to a boil. Salt and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low and simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off heat and allow mixture to cool for 10 minutes.

Grilled Chicken Salad Wraps
This recipe is super easy! Mix 1/2 cup chopped grilled chicken, 3 tablespoon chopped Fuji apples, 2 tablespoon chopped red grapes, 2 teaspoon honey, and 2 tablespoon almond butter together in a bowl. Place filling onto individual Romaine leaves and wrap around close. That’s it!

Spinach and Salmon Salad with Arugula Pesto
In a food processor, blend 2 cups packed fresh arugula, 1 clove garlic and 1/4 cup walnuts until finely chopped. With the machine running, gradually add the 1/2 cup olive oil, processing until well blended. Transfer pesto to bowl and stir in salt and pepper to taste. A quick side note, the pesto can be made a couple days in advance, just cover and refrigerate! For the salad, combine 3 cups spinach, 2 cups micro greens, 1 cup shredded cabbage, 1 carrot shredded. 1 cup chopped steamed green beans, and 1/2 cup pepitas in a bowl. Add 4 tablespoons of pesto and toss greens until well combined. Place in refrigerator or set aside while you prepare fish. Finally, for the salmon, salt and pepper both sides of 2 freshwater salmon filets and lay on baking sheet. Top each filet with 1 tablespoon of arugula pesto and spread over the top. Cook the fish under a broiler for approximately 5 minutes, depending on how thick filet is, or until fish is flaking and opaque. Top salad with fish.

Turkey Sliders
In a large bowl, combine the 8 to 10 ounce ground lean turkey meat, 2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano and 2 minced garlic cloves, and mix with your hands until fully combined. Form into two patties and set aside. Heat a grill to medium high heat. Spray 4 thick slices of zucchini (or eggplant, summer squash, etc.) on both sides with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Grill zucchini 2 to 3 minutes each side until there are nice grill marks and the zucchini still holds its shape. Add the turkey burgers to the grill, cooking 3 to 5 minutes per side, until cooked. Serve between zucchini slices and add your preferred toppings (sliced tomato, avocado, etc.). Serves 2. Enjoy!

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

My Favorite Paleo Recipes – Part 2: Snacks


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week106Who doesn’t love to snack? That little indulgence in-between meals to help keep metabolism energy levels going and consistent. Some people love sweet, some love salty, and many love both as long as it’s delicious – but more importantly, healthy! Below are some of my favorite and simple recipes for a healthy snack Paleo-style! Remember to send me your own favorite Paleo snack recipes. Enjoy!

Baked Zucchini Chips
For the chip eater in your home! Preheat oven to 225° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick foil, and spray with canola oil. Set aside. Slice 1 zucchini into thin medallions, about the thickness of a quarter. Place slices on baking sheet sprayed with and spray tops lightly with additional cooking spray. Sprinkle with seasonings of your choice. Place in preheated oven and bake 45 minutes. Rotate baking sheet, and bake an additional 30-50 minutes, until chips are browned and crisped to your liking. These are best eaten within a couple hours of removing from the oven, as they start to get chewy if left out. One zucchini yields one serving, 1/4 to 1/3 cup of chips depending on the size of your squash.

Carmel Apple Dip
Perfect in the fall and year round! Combine 1 cup pitted Medjool dates (about 8 to 10), 2 tablespoon full fat canned coconut milk, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Scrap down the sides if needed. Scoop out and place in a bowl. Serve with your favorite sliced apples and enjoy! Store extra in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.

Cauliflower Popcorn
A healthy makeover of a family favorite! Soak 1/4 cup raw cashews in 1/4 cup of water for 1 to 2 hours. Pour off the soaking water, and transfer your soaked nuts to a blender. Add another 1/4 cup of water and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt to your nuts in the blender. Blend until smooth. In a large bowl, pour the cashew mixture over the 1 head of cauliflower cut into florets and toss to coat. Spread out on teflex sheets or parchment paper. Dehydrate at 115° F for 12 to 24 hours.

Cinnamon Glazed Almonds
These are simply irresistible! In a saucepan, mix 1/2 cup water, 1 to 2 tablespoons cinnamon and 1 cup coconut palm sugar and bring to a boil. Stir in 2 cups soaked raw almonds and reduce heat to medium. Continue stirring mixture for about 25 to 30 minutes until mixture becomes very chunky. All liquid must evaporate to cause mixture to crystallize on the almonds. Immediately spread the almonds out on a sheet with aluminum foil or wax paper. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before eating. Serves 6.

Energy Bars
Running around during the day? Make these ahead of time to bring with you! Place 2 cups hulled fresh strawberries and 13 pitted Medjool dates (about 2 cups) into a food processor or high-powered blender. Process into a slightly chunky puree and not completely smooth. Pour fruit puree into a bowl and evenly mix in 1/4 cup flax seeds, 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/2 cup sesame seeds, and 1/8 cup chia seeds. Add sea salt to taste (optional) if you are using salted pumpkin seeds. Spread the mixture onto a food dehydrator tray lined with parchment paper or a dehydrator sheet. The mixture should be about one-eighth-inch thick. Dehydrate at 105° F for about 24 hours. After about 12 to 18 hours and when the top is no longer sticky to the touch and the bottom can easily peel off the parchment/dehydrator sheet, flip the mixture over so the top is now the bottom. This will help evenly dehydrate both sides. The bars are done when they have a fruit leather texture, not completely crispy like a cracker. Cut into bars using a pizza cutter and store in an airtight container, in a cool dark place. Can be stored six months to one year and less if not in an airtight container and the environment is warmer than 70° F.

Raw Cashew Balls
These are great for picnics! Place 1 cup pitted and chopped Medjool dates in a food processor and process until smooth. Add 1 cup cashews and 1/2 cup cashew butter. Process until the mixture forms a dough ball. Once a dough ball has formed, move the dough to a plate and form the mixture into 16 equal sized balls, refrigerate for at least an hour to harden and enjoy! You can also substitute the cashews and cashew butter for almond and almond butter.

Stuffed Apples
This is super easy and one of my favorites as I love the combination! Select your favorite apple (mine are the green Granny Smith!), one for each person you will be serving. Wash, dry and core the center of the apple without cutting it open. Scoop your favorite nut butter in center (I use almond). That’s it! It’s ready to eat! Wrap it in plastic if you are taking it on the go.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

My Favorite Paleo Recipes – Part 1: Breakfast


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week105If you are a regular follower of my blog, you will know that me eating Paleo didn’t happen overnight; it took years of trial and error plus refinement to determine what works best for my body and myself. If you are also a fellow Paleo eater, or are curious as to what one eats when following the Caveman Diet, I am going to share with some of my favorite go-to foods for breakfasts, snacks, lunches, dinners and desserts in a five part series. First up, breakfast. These are all delish! Inbox me with your own favorite Paleo breakfasts!

Cinnamon Roll Smoothie
This is a super easy recipe and is like dessert for breakfast! In a mixture, add: 1/2 cup almond milk, 1/2 cup coconut water (or more almond milk), 1 frozen banana, 1 tablespoon hemp seeds (or nut of choice), 1/2 teaspoon chia seeds, 1 tablespoon raisins, 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (or more to taste), 1 scoop vanilla Fat Flush Body Protein (or your favorite protein powder) and a handful or two ice. Blend all. Serve with more raisins and a sprinkle of cinnamon.

Almond Zucchini Bread
Moist and delish! Preheat oven to 350° F and grease two mini bread loaf pans. Combine 1 1/2 cups almond flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside. Combine 3 omega-3 eggs, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, 1 mashed banana and 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil in a stand mixer and beat on medium for about 2 minutes. Or combine in a large bowl and whisk together vigorously. Add 1 cup grated zucchini (water squeezed out) and mix until combined. Pour dry ingredients into wet and mix until incorporated. Pour batter into loaf pans. Bake for 32-35 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer bread out of loaf pan and cool on wire rack. Makes 2 mini loaves.

Scrambled Egg Whites with Spinach, Tomatoes and Turkey
One of my ultimate favorites! Brown 1 pound lean ground turkey in a medium skillet until cooked through and lightly browned. Drain excess juices from the pan. Place turkey in a bowl and set aside. Wipe the pan clean with a paper towel. Scramble 8 egg whites until dry. Add scrambled eggs to cooked turkey. In a small skillet coated with cooking spray, lightly sauté 2 coarsely chopped tomatoes, 2 c. shredded spinach and 1 clove garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press. In a large skillet combine all ingredients and mix until evenly distributed. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Bacon and Heirloom Tomato Frittata with Basil
Preheat oven to 350° F. In a medium bowl whisk 12 large omega-3 eggs together and add 1 clove of the minced garlic, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste. Cut 1/2 pound turkey bacon (8 slices) into 1/4 inch strips and cook in a 10 inch, cast iron skillet until almost crispy and much of the fat has rendered. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the bacon into a separate dish and reserve. Drain all but two tablespoons of the fat. Add 1 medium diced red onion diced and cook in the remaining bacon fat on medium heat until soft, about 3 minutes. Add another 1 clove of the minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add the bacon back to the pan and spread out evenly. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the hot pan and allow to cook on medium until the edges begin to cook and the eggs have cooked about halfway. Gently place heirloom tomatoes (in different sizes and colors cut into thick 1/2 inch slices) and onion slices on top of the eggs. Top with a few of the fresh basil leaves. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for approximately 20 minutes until the middle of the frittata is cooked. Remove from the oven and let the frittata set up and cool off slightly for about 5 minutes. Top with more fresh basil leaves and serve warm. Serves 6-8.

Banana Pancakes
Sift together 1 1/4 cup blanched almond flour, 1/4 cup coconut flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. In a medium bowl, whisk together 1 cup full fat coconut milk, 1 ripe mashed banana (about 1/2 cup), 3 large omega-3 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon raw honey (optional). Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto a heated griddle greased with cooking spray. Cook the pancakes for 2-3 minutes per side until bubbling stops. Serve plain or top with honey, berries, walnuts, or almond butter. Serves 4-6.

Coconut Waffles
Mix together 1/2 cup coconut flour, 1/2 cup vanilla Fat Flush Body Protein (or your favorite protein powder), 1/4 cup fresh or canned pumpkin puree, 1/2 cup almond milk, 2 omega-3 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda, and cinnamon to smell and taste. Pour about 1/3 cup batter into a heated waffle maker. Heat until no more steam rises from the waffle maker. Serve plain or top with honey, berries, walnuts or almond butter.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

What’s All the Hype About CrossFit?


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week101CrossFit. It seems to be all the rage. Gyms just for CrossFit are popping up everywhere with family members and friends of mine joining this latest fitness craze that has taken off like wildfire.

So I went exploring to check it out and see what this so-called “ultimate power combination” was all about. I checked out a few nearby facilities, reviewed their membership plans, and even contemplating investing in a CrossFit gym not too far from my home. But in the end, I decided CrossFit wasn’t for me (due to my longstanding lower back issues) but it might be the right fitness regimen for you! Here’s more.

Greg Glassman first came up with CrossFit back in the 1990s. Prior, Glassman first coached gymnastics at a local YMCA in Southern California and later trained professional athletes and celebrities in local gyms. He discovered high intensity workouts worked best with his clientele and later concluded bodybuilding and endurance programs should be incorporated when he began training law enforcers. In 1995, Glassman took his developed fitness technique and opened up his first official CrossFit gym in Santa Cruz. His program received immediate attention and recognition. Six years later, he launched as an open source program – meaning anybody could now use his program – that includes a library of workout and exercise demo videos, an active discussion forum and the Workout of the Day. Then a few subsequent years later, Glassman took CrossFit to another level by launching an affiliation program. Today, members of more than 9,000 affiliated gyms practice CrossFit worldwide.

Getting back to the program itself. CrossFit is a very unique strength and conditioning exercise regimen with the goal of bettering one’s muscular strength, cardio-respiratory endurance, and flexibility. This is accomplished by stringing together a perpetually varied mix of skills and drills that most commonly associated with Olympic weight lifting, gymnastics, and metabolic conditioning. All movements are continuous, diverse and performed at high intensities to help the exerciser to ultimately become more dexterous with their accuracy, agility, balance, cardiovascular endurance, coordination, flexibility, power, speed, stamina, and strength.

Workouts include short but intense movements using your body weight, such as air squats, back extensions, box jumps, burpees, cartwheels, dips, handstands and handstand push-ups, hanging knees-to-elbows and toes-to-bar, hip extensions, holds, jump rope, kips, L-sits, lunges, muscle-ups, pirouettes, pull-ups, push-ups, ring dips, rope climbs, scales, and sit-ups. For distance and endurance, it’s biking, running, swimming, and rowing. Weight training is a mix of barbell snatches, bench presses, clean lifts, deadlifts, kettlebell swings, power cleans, push presses, snatches, squats, thrusters, and wallballs with a medicine ball.

The key is to constantly move, constantly challenge yourself and constantly advance your abilities; to become measurably stronger, faster, and fitter. And due to CrossFit’s intensity level, it also yields a very high calorie-burning capacity with the actual count based on the participant’s physical abilities, weight and aerobic capacity on top of the actual workout itself.

When it comes to nutrition, CrossFit devotees typically indulge on a diet rich in vegetables, lean meats, nuts and seeds and, in more particulars, 30 percent protein, 40 percent carbohydrates and 30 percent fat, with the principles and guidelines of the CrossFit diet duplicating those in the Paleo Diet. Hence by combining two very distinct lifestyles together, participants will not only feel better but also perform better and possibly experience mouth-dropping results.

So if you have your own curiosity about CrossFit, check out a local CrossFit gym. Most offer free passes or the first month at a discount so you can first hand determine if this fitness program is for you. You never know what you will discover unless you give it a go.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.

Eating a Paleo Diet


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week102A few years back, I was having digestive issues. When I couldn’t seem to figure out the cause myself, I went to see a gastroenterologist who happened to be just about nine months pregnant. After discussing my digestive problems, examining my health and reviewing my diet, she just plain out told me to stop eating processed food.

“No processed food?” I had instantly thought to myself. “No more pumpkin pancakes, chocolate cake or oatmeal raisin cookies?”

I could understand possibly see why she would suggest such a thing, but how? At the time, I ate 85% “healthy,” but to go 100%? Ouch! I loved having a treat now and then as a reformed sweet and bread eater. It seemed like the impossible and unlikely.

Instead, I began eating a gluten-free diet. After doing further research myself, to me that seemed like a better answer and route. I created a list of all the foods I could eat along with all those I needed to avoid and carried the list around with me to restaurants and grocery stores. I was determined to beat my digestive issue and finding foods that were a gluten-free seemed like a challenging fun game to me.

To quicken my story here, eating gluten-free did not solve my issues; in certain respects, it made it worse. By then, my gastroenterologist was well into her maternity leave, so I continued fiddle around with my diet on my own. In the end, I discovered on my own what worked best for me was a diet of lean poultry, fresh water fish, seafood, garden vegetables, fresh fruit, omega-3 eggs, nuts, seeds, and fresh water. That’s it. By the time I reached this point with my eating, I was complete off processed foods and dairy and on my own terms – except for an occasional frozen yogurt as a special treat. And this time, it was easily achievable – and all of my digestive issues were gone.

Fast forward my diet quest further, and it wasn’t until I saw a chef on TV making banana ice cream, and I Googling the recipe afterward, that I connected the dots and realized that my eating habits were actually Paleo. A diet rich in the foods that can be fished and hunted as listed above plus grass-fed red meat and healthful oils – olive, flaxseed and nut – and all free of any food additives. An avid Paleolithic practitioner may also break down their diet and consume 56–65% of their foods from animals and 36–45% from plants. Foods not Paleo are dairy, grains and grain-like seeds, legumes, refined vegetable oils, salt, starchy vegetables, refined sugar, and processed food. Bingo! I my diet had a name and a following!

The Paleo diet (also known as the Paleolithic, Caveman, Stone Age, or Hunter-Gatherer Diet) may be one of the most talked about nutritional plans of today, but it actually first became popular back in the 1970’s when gastroenterologist Walter Voegtlin, MD self-published “The Stone Age Diet: Based on In-depth Studies of Human Ecology and the Diet of Man.” In his writings, he claimed humans are carnivorous animals and should feast on a diet a Paleolithic diet of our ancestors – mainly fats, protein, and small amounts of carbs. Dr. Voegtlin came to this conclusion after treating various digestive problems, including colitis, Crohn’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and indigestion. In the subsequent years, Stanley Boyd Eaton, MD; Melvin Konner, MD, PhD; anthropologist Marjorie Shostak; Staffan Lindeberg, MD, PhD and others followed and supported Dr. Voegtlin’s findings with their own published articles and books.

Today, physicians around the globe often recommend the Paleo diet to their patients suffering from serious illnesses or diseases and digestive issues, like myself. Studies also show that eating a Paleo diet benefits “healthy” individuals by helping to reduce their risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and most chronic degenerative diseases. It is known to slow down or reverse progression of autoimmune diseases, improve or eliminate acne; better mental outlook and clarity, aide in losing weight if one is overweight, and increase energy levels, athletic performances and libido.

For me, I’ve never felt better since following a Paleo diet; eating a “truly healthy” and process-free diet without any man-made foods and additives. So my question to you is why wait until you are sickly or possibly facing a life threatening illness to change what you are digesting in your body? Eating man-made foods, which misleadingly looks more appealing and may taste more appetizing, is simply not what your body needs or was originally intended to digest and breakdown. Just a thought to ponder. You have one body and one life. Treat it like the lifelong investment is truly is and watch what you digest. Can’t do like I had once thought? Sure you can! What it really comes down to simply mind over matter, wellness over weakness.

Be Fit. Be Strong. Be Well.