Good Mood Foods: Nutrition to Balance Hormones

We all have our ups and our downs, it’s natural. Those days where we feel lost, unmotivated, heavy, and maybe even sad. We are humans after all, and you’re allowed to feel these things. However, while you are going through these occasional downs, there are ways to help your body, and your mind, feel better. By eating natural foods and healthy fats instead of turning to sugar and processed carbohydrates, you’ll begin to feel reenergized in no time, and the list below includes some of the top nutrition powerhouses.

Who doesn’t love an avocado? In guacamole, on toast, on a salad, as a salad dressing, they’re great for all meals! But what you might not know about avocados is that the healthy fat content helps your brain run properly by balancing your hormone levels, ensuring that the correct amount of each is being produced without interference. By including avocado in your diet, you can be sure that you will not only receive the proper amount of fat intake, protein, potassium, and various vitamins, but you will feel better while consuming it.

Raw nuts such as brazil nuts, almonds, and cashews all have high levels of serotonin, which is the feel good chemical in your body known to increase happiness and motivation. So, if you’re feeling down, eat some raw nuts of your choice! Look for the unsalted varieties on the shelf. Also, avoid eating too many as the body utilizes quite a bit of energy to digest them. Enjoy in moderation!

You always hear about the health benefits of leafy greens. Swiss chard is a top pick, as it’s loaded with magnesium. A majority of Americans are magnesium deficient, and it is a nutrient that is responsible for the biochemical reactions in the brain that boost energy levels. It’s best to get on the green bandwagon and start enjoying Swiss chard in salads and smoothies.

Speaking of greens, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts aid the liver in ridding the body of excess estrogen. Throw kale, cabbage and bok choy in the mix and you have a wonderful source of phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber.

Last, but definitely not least, is asparagus, which is actually one of the best sources in the plant kingdom for tryptophan, a prime nutrient involved in the creation of serotonin. Which is, of course, that feel good chemical in the body we talked about earlier. By having asparagus in your meal plan for the week, you are indeed increasing your happiness by upping the key nutrients in producing feel good hormones.

It’s always best to keep a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins and healthy fats and carbohydrates in your diet. Remember, the more color you eat the better you will feel!

Portion Size Guide

Imagine you’re at the salad bar of your local grocery store. You’re serving yourself from the healthy variety of leafy greens, vegetables, whole grains and proteins.

But how do you know how much?

What’s “1 serving” of vegetables? How much protein should you be adding? What’s the right amount of olive oil to use?

For most of us,  measuring or counting our food is just not sustainable. But that doesn’t mean that being aware of your portions isn’t an important part of eating a complete and balanced diet.

There’s an easier way to estimate measurements and servings sizes.

Check out the guide below to see how you can use your hand to estimate proper serving sizes for each of your food groups.

A balanced meal should contain all the major food groups: protein, fat and carbohydrates. Follow these guidelines to build balanced and portioned meals every time.

Pssst…here’s why this method might actually be a better way to manage portion control than calorie counting.  


Tough Workout? Try these snacks.


We often talk about what to post workout in terms of macronutrients: how much protein? how many carbohydrates?, ect.  And we’ve talked about pre and post workout nutrition on the blog before.

But today we’re giving you 3 specific foods to start incorporating into your snacks to help you recover and replenish.

Try these nutritious snack ideas when you’re recovering from a particularly hard workout. (But we won’t tell if you have ’em anytime. They’re too good to save!)

  1. Ginger has been shown to reduce muscle pain post exercise. And if it’s your joints and ligaments that are feeling inflamed, ginger is also a powerful anti-inflammatory. To incorporate more (fresh) ginger into your diet, try sipping on ginger tea, grating fresh ginger into your salad dressings or adding a 1/2 inch peeled piece to your smoothies or juices.

For a perfect post workout snack make these: raw gingerbread bites

2. Turmeric, the bright yellow spice used in curry, is known as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Did you know that some inflammation is actually a good thing? The body’s inflammatory response is what enables our muscles and cardiovascular system to adapt after a tough workout. Without a little inflammation, we would never grow stronger. However, it’s important to keep inflammation in check by incorporating rest days and consuming plenty of anti inflammatory fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. Enter turmeric. Add fresh grated turmeric (it looks like a small root similar to ginger) to soups, stews and sauces.

Try these turmeric roasted cashews with nori for salty, savory snack.

3. Ever drink a sports recovery drink or coconut water and wonder: what the heck is an electrolyte? Electrolytes are important micronutrients found within the body, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphate and chloride. All of which are lost in sweat. And since these electrolytes are what regulate your fluid levels and hydration, it’s important to keep them replenished. The more you sweat, the more electrolytes you need. One easy way to add these nutrients is to swap table salt for sea salt or Himalayan salt (since they contain electrolytes). Another way is to eat more hydrating electrolyte rich foods such as cucumber, celery, watermelon, pineapple or coconut water.

These 3 ingredient coconut water popsicles are a fun, hydrating treat.



Image via 101 Cookbooks.

Thai Chicken Lettuce Cups


This quick and easy meal also goes by the name of Larb, a thai inspired minced meat salad. It couldn’t be a more simple and flavorful meal for weeknight dinners.

We love using ground chicken in this recipe, but feel free to use your favorite ground meat. Vegetarian? Check out this tofu version here.

Thai Chicken Larb (serves 4)


  • 1.5 lbd. ground chicken (can sub ground turkey, pork, beef, lamb)
  • 2/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/3 cup fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 teaspoons chile sauce (like Sambal Oelek or Sriracha)
  • 1 cup thinly sliced scallions (whites and greens)
  • 1 Tbs. minced chili of choice (jalapeno, serrano)
  • 1/2 cup minced cilantro leaves
  • 1/3 cup minced mint leaves
  • salt
  • 1 head of butter lettuce or romaine to serve


  1. Whisk together lime juice, fish sauce, honey and chile sauce. Set aside.
  2. Heat large skillet on stove. Add a small amount of olive or coconut oil to bottom of pan. Once hot, add ground chicken and brown. As the chicken is cooking, stir occasionally to break up the meat.
  3. Once almost finished, add scallions and chili and cook 2-3 more minutes.
  4. Turn off heat and while meat mixture is still hot, mix with lime juice / fish sauce dressing.
  5. Mix in minced herbs.
  6. Salt to taste.
  7. Serve in lettuce cups.

Recipe adapted from epicurious. Photo from Bon Appetite.

Six Best and Worst Protein Bars

What do you do when you’re in need of a quick snack on-the-go?

We all reach for protein bars as a quick and travel friendly snack. But, not all protein bars are created equal. So today, we’re taking a close up look at some of the most popular bars and why we do (or don’t) choose them for fueling our busy lives.


Rx Barscoffee-chocolate-rxbar

Pros: These whole food based bars use egg whites as the protein source. With few ingredients and 12g protein, these bars are as unprocessed as you’re going to find on the protein bar shelf. Also, unlike some other bars, they’re dense enough to keep you full until your next meal.

Cons: If you’re watching your sugar, there is about 12-15g sugar per bar which might be high for some folks. However, this sugar is balanced by the fat and protein from the nuts, making this bar comparable to a mini-meal.

Molly’s Thoughts: These bars are my new favorite (I love the coffee flavor). They now sell them at Trader Joes, Whole Foods or Online.

51SYqedI5qLEpic Bars
Pros: The EPIC bar is a 100% grass fed animal based protein bar with flavors like Bison Cranberry and Beef Habanero Chili. Think jerky meets a protein bar. These bars offer a nutritional bang (12g protein and about 150 calories) without using any protein powders or products.

Cons: For those watching their sodium intake, these can add up quick. They’re also pretty small for their price at about $3 per bar.

Molly’s Thoughts: If you’re a jerky fan, these will be right up your alley.


kind-mad-vanilla-almondKind Bar
Pros: A simple and short ingredient list and low sugar (only 5g in some flavors) landed these bars in the healthy choice section for many of us. They also can be found everywhere from gas stations to Starbucks, making them a go-to when your choices are limited.

Cons: Some flavors have some red flag ingredients such as soy lecithin, whey isolate, palm kern oil and sugar.

Molly’s Thoughts: The packing on these bars can be deceiving “high protein” “low sugar” “non GMO” are all printed on the front. But when you take a closer look at the ingredients and nutrition label, they’re not all they claim to be. However, they can be a lifesaver for road trips and traveling when they’re the best option around.

Lara Bar

Pros: Similar to Rx Bars, these have an ingredient list under 5 items and all whole foods like nuts and dried fruit. They also have great flavors and are a winner in the taste department.

Cons: They can be heavy in the dried fruit, resulting in up to 24g of sugar per bar.

Molly’s Thoughts: Without the protein or fat to balance that out, these bars are better as a dessert or pre/post workout snack.


 c26-B001N2GRX8-matrix-1Cliff Bars
Pros: One of the pioneering protein bars on the market, Cliff Bars can be found anywhere from convenience to grocery stores. They’re hearty enough to be a meal replacement and taste pretty good.

Cons: The first ingredient in these bars is “brown rice syrup”, a type of sweetener. And with over 22g sugar per bar, these resemble more of candy bar than a protein bar. They also use soy protein isolate, a “not so friendly” source of protein.

Molly’s Thoughts: I’d leave these bars for emergency only situations. Or for long hikes or backpacking when extra sugar and calories aren’t a factor.

think-thin-best-protein-bars-pg-fullThinkThin Bars
Pros: At a glance, these bars look high protein, low sugar and fewer calories. They usually contain 15-20g protein per bar, which could be enough to have as an on-the-go meal.

Cons: The protein in these bars comes from whey and soy protein isolate, the most processed and cheapest forms of protein powders. Add glycerin, maltitol (both alcohol sugars), canola oil and soy lecithin to the list and these bars have no real food ingredients to be found.

Molly’ Thoughts: With few (or no) real food ingredients, these bars are all claims and no nutrition. I’d leave these bars on the shelf.

It’s ok to feel like choosing a healthy snack is confusing. With all the options, packaging and nutrition claims, it can be! So as a general guideline, look for your snacks to have about 5-10g protein, less than 6g sugar (except for dairy products or fruit which have natural sugar) and about 100-300 calories (depending on your needs).

Now, we’d love to hear from you! What are your go-to protein bars and healthy snacks? Let us know, by commenting below or on Facebook.

10 Healthy 4th of July Recipes

4th of July

Whether your plans for the 4th of July are swimming in the sun or celebrating in the San Francisco fog, you’ll definitely be enjoying some summer food. Substitute the burgers and potato salad for these mouth watering recipes and make your party the healthiest one on the block.


Tomato Basil and Peach Skewers (pictured above):  Adding peaches to tomatoes, mozzarella and basil will make an impressive, sweet and savory appetizer.

Avocado, Black Bean and Corn Salad: You can’t go wrong with these 3 ingredients. Dress with plenty of cumin and citrus and you have an easy, versatile dish to serve with chips, on top of tacos or as a side salad.

Watermelon Feta and Mint Bites: Simple and easy to make (only 3 ingredients). Plus, nothing says summer like watermelon and mint.


Napa Cabbage and Kale Coleslaw: While coleslaw is usually one of the only vegetable sides to a traditional BBQ, it’s usually more mayonnaise than veggies. Instead, substitute a lighter (but still creamy) miso dressing and add in lot’s of leafy greens.

Fresh Herb Potato Salad: This recipe from Thug Kitchen uses fresh herbs and a flavorful vinaigrette for a fresh take on traditional potato salad.  As they say on their site “nobody needs mayo in their life”.


Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers: Easy to throw these on the grill with your meaty burgers for a hearty vegetarian option without extra fuss. This recipe also includes an avocado chimichurri recipe worth making.

Grilled Fish in Foil: Cooking for only a few? These 20 minute grilled fish would be great for 4-6 people. Easy to clean up and unlike a heavy burger will leave you with room for dessert. These also work in the oven.

Grillable Veggie Burger: The problem with most veggie burgers is that they don’t hold up on the grill, right? Wrong! Minimalist Baker has a solution with a grill worthy vegetable burger made with only 10 ingredients.


Grilled Fruit: Try pineapple, peaches and even watermelon on the grill for a low calorie and festive dessert option that will please kids and adults, alike.

No Churn Peach Sorbet: As easy as making a smoothie. Just blend and freeze and you’ll have homemade peach sorbet.

Bring one of these recipes to your summer potluck or party and impress your friends with your healthy taste. You can even take all the credit for it, we won’t tell!

A Sweet Treat: Healthy Blondies

Healthy and blondies in the same sentence?!

We know, it’s a little crazy.

But before you hit that back button, give us a second. Here at BootCampSF we believe a little indulgence is part of a healthy lifestyle. We also believe that not all sweets and treats can (or should!) be healthified. But this recipe for blondies is so good, you’ll never miss the sugar and flour laden version.

No one will ever guess that chickpeas are the secret ingredient that give these a chewy, fudge-like texture that is higher in fiber and protein than any traditional recipe.

Sweets are eaten after dinner, closer to bedtime. But eating high sugar (a.k.a high glycemic) foods right before we hit the hay can spike our blood sugar, leaving us tossing and turning throughout the night. Swapping high glycemic foods for higher protein and fiber snacks and treats is a great way to maintain blood sugars during the night for a better nights sleep and improved energy the next day.

This recipe is the perfect treat to whip up during your bootcamp sessions when you want something sweet but are trying to keep your diet on track.

Flourless Chickpea Blondies
(recipe via The Ambitious Kitchen)
Makes 16 blondies

1 can (15 oz) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup (no sugar added) almond butter or peanut butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup chocolate chips
sea salt, for sprinkling


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees  and spray 8×8 inch pan with nonstick cooking spray (we suggest Trader Joes coconut oil in the spray bottle)
  2. In a food processor, add all ingredients except chocolate chips and process until batter is smooth. Fold in 1/3 cup of chocolate chips.
  3. Pour batter in pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and edges are a tiny bit brown.
  4. Cool pan for 20 minutes on wire rack. Sprinkle with sea salt then cut and serve.


Chia… Not just a Pet Anymore!

Growing up through the 1990s, I couldn’t go more than 20 minutes without hearing the famed “Ch-Ch-Ch Chia!” on the television.  I heard it thousands of times, and every single time it got me singing the theme in my head while at the same time thinking “Why would I want a pet plant that looks like Homer Simpson?”

The answer is there is no reason I would want a Chia Pet, and that answer stands today.  The pet itself does nothing for me or my apartment so I would never buy one (though maybe I could use one as a Valentine’s Day gift?), but the seeds from whence the pet sprouted are a different story.

Nowadays, it turns out that the makers of the Pet, health experts (Dr. Oz counts right?), long distance runners(such as the Tarahumara who play a prominent role in the book Born to Run), and NFL players are all touting chia as the go-to superfood.

Doing a web search for “chia” should lead you to many websites discussing the nutritional advantages of chia (some links of interest I’ve placed below) in a much more eloquent way than I ever could, so I’ll just mention a few highlights:  high fiber, high omega-3s (like those found in flax oil and fish), some protein, some iron, some calcium, good for energy and digestion.

So what’s the verdict?  Does chia provide you with all the benefits that people rave about?  Well for the past 20 days I’ve been having a tablespoon of chia seeds in about 8 to 10 ounces of water a day.  First thing to note, all accounts are true, these seeds really do absorb about 10 to 12 times their own weight in water.  Below are pictures of (1)one tablespoon of chia next to a glass of water, (2) 5 minutes later, and (3) 20 minutes later.

One Tablespoon of Chia Seeds and one Glass of Water
Five minutes after initial mixing
Twenty minutes after initial mixing

The result is a gel like solution that reminds me of drinking a boba drink (pearl milk tea) with really small balls of tapioca.  I didn’t really notice any taste, but I found that adding sugar, splenda or some other sweetener can actually make it quite refreshing.

Anyways, after 20 days of using chia seeds, I’ve got a few observations of note.  First, even with my considerable appetite I found that my hunger subsided for a couple of hours after having my glass of chia seeds in water.  This is probably due to the chia absorbing water and taking up a bunch of space in my stomach (and the fiber!).   Second, I think I’ve had more energy as I haven’t been craving hot chocolate and diet sodas to carry me through the second half of each work day.

My third and final observation is that if you decide to try chia seeds out, remember that they are high in FIBER! The first time I had my chia concoction, I went out for a  long run.  I was listening to an audiobook, feeling pretty good (hopefully it was the chia effect as opposed to a placebo effect) and after about 45 mins, I found that even though I wasn’t tired, I couldn’t run due to digestive issues.  I’m hoping you all understand what I’m saying there because I would rather not describe!  I definitely recommend you test out how chia affects your body before you try them for a prolonged exercise that leaves your far from friendly confines.

And that is my take on chia.  Seeds good, pet still just a novelty.

Thanks and have a good workout!

Some resources:

Dr. Oz


Live Strong

Huffington Post Article from 2010

WSJ Online article from January 20, 2012 about and NFL Athlete who used chia seeds

Cookie Salad

What is this cookie salad I speak of?  Is it exactly what is sounds like?  Mini-chocolate chip cookies, Madeleines, Oreos, with a sprinkling of M&M cookies and Christmas tree cookies for color?  Whip cream or vanilla bean (always bean, never the French variety) ice cream as your dressing?  Fat free frozen yogurt if you are into that?  Unfortunately not.

My version of the cookie salad looks like a regular salad as seen in the pictures shown.  It’s all green and healthy looking with some croutons, little baby tomatoes (as opposed to “big” baby tomatoes… yes, I just mocked myself), and a sprinkling of parmesan.  I know(sigh)… it sounds disgusting to me as well.

So why eat it?  For two reasons.  One, salads are healthy and if you pile on enough greens you will eat slower and hopefully it will keep you full (if not, i recommend drinking a glass of water before, during and after… check with your physician and BootCampSF instructor to make sure that my water recommendation is not crazy talk).  And two, and more important to one in my opinion, is that the end of a cookie salad is a …. COOKIE!!

In the case of the cookie salad in the picture, double chocolate chip and a sizable one at that.  My personal reasoning is that no matter what happens I am going to have that cookie.  I may be on a diet, but I need something to make me happy.  I’ve cut out less than satisfying work hot chocolate and other sugary treats (i.e. no more sugary iced coffee drinks which are just fancy milkshakes).  I’m eating a ton of veggies.  I deserve at least a little happiness.  Hence the cookie salad.  Whereas before I’d eat one to three cookies in less than 2 minutes, now I eat a cookie salad over the period of ten to fifteen minutes.  I still eat that cookie in like 30 seconds, but now I’m eating a salad a day!

One tip, if you do start having cookie salads, no dressing.  Soggy vinagretted or ranched cookies aren’t so tasty.  One more tip, just a sprinkle of parmesan otherwise you have a cheesy cookie(parmesan is what those white sprinkles on what is otherwise a pristine looking cookie).

Have a good workout!

Any questions or comments, please post on the Facebook page or email

Veggies are Delicious. Seriously. Under Certain Circumstances.

I love meat.  Steak?  Awesome.  Pork chops?  Delicious.  Chicken?  Good.  Fried chicken?  Even better.  Spam?  It’s been a part of my diet since I was six months old.  I love meat.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love eating meat.  In soups, with noodles, in a sandwich and especially over white rice.  I grew up loving meat, but unfortunately I neglected vegetables.  At Chinese restaurants I would take out the broccoli from the broccoli beef and just eat the beef.  At weddings, I would just watch people eat their salads all the while thinking, “Did I pick the steak or fish?  Duh, of course I picked the steak.”

But now, as I try to get healthier and in better shape, I realize that in addition to BootCampSF, I need to adopt a balanced diet and that means I need to eat more vegetables.  No longer will I only eat veggies in deep fried form (yes, tempura is so yummy) or claim that I had a salad because my cheeseburger had lettuce and a tomato.

So how do I do it?  Honestly, I hate salad (unless of course it’s showered in bacon bits and ranch).  Baby carrots?  Just a big disappointment because they aren’t cheese puffs.  What can I do to get over my distaste for vegetables?  The answer is simple, change how vegetables taste!!

Turns out that if you dip vegetables in hummus, the vegetables become edible.  For the past two days I’ve eaten an arrangement of baby carrots, broccoli, mini bell peppers and snow peas with hummus.  (see picture above of awesome container filled with veggies.  the other items are berries, string cheese and some pre-made chickpea salad)You don’t even need the vegetable to be completely coated in hummus, just a slight dip for some flavor.  I’ve eaten more vegetables in the past two days that I usually eat in an entire month and it turns out I like veggies!  Okay, I like hummus.  Please let hummus be healthy!!

***If you have any questions, please email***