Should You Try A Protein Powder? 3 Ways To Tell.

In the fitness world, protein powders are marketed as the fast track to “defined muscles” and a “quick recovery”. It seems like everyone is walking around with a blender bottle. Have you ever found yourself wondering if a protein powder is something you should be drinking too?

Do we really need these powdery drinks?

Here are 3 questions to ask yourself before you jump on the protein powder bandwagon:

1. Do you get approx. 20g/ protein per meal?

We all need protein in our diet. Protein helps maintain lean muscle, improves metabolism, supports immunity, provides energy and generally improves our overall well being. Clearly, it’s an important nutrient. The amount we need varies from person to person, depending on our age, weight and activity level. However, most grown, active adults tend to need about 20-30 grams of protein per meal (1).

Ideally, we would get all this protein from a variety of whole foods. Foods like fish, meats, nuts, seeds and legumes are all protein sources. Even vegetables contain a small amount.

However, if you start to take a look at your diet and notice that most of your meals only contain 10 or 15 grams of protein, then you might want to consider supplementing your diet with a protein powder.

(Don’t know how much protein your food has? We love nutritiondata.com to look up the amount of protein in common foods)

2. Do you have smoothies as meal replacements?

If you drink a smoothie in place of a meal (like having a green smoothie for breakfast)  it’s important to make sure that your smoothie has a good balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates. While you can add protein by adding nuts and seeds, it can take up to 1 whole cup of almonds to reach 20 grams of protein (2). Adding a scoop of protein powder is a convenient way to ensure your smoothie is a balanced meal.

3. Do you workout without having a meal or snack 2 hours before or 2 hours after?

If you don’t snack between meals and you’re active, you might end up going more than 4-5 hours without eating around your workout. (For example if you wake up at 6am and workout but don’t eat breakfast until 10am. Or if you eat lunch at 1pm, workout at 5pm but don’t eat dinner until 7pm). Studies show that a good snack or meal after an intense workout really does benefit our performance and recovery (and how we build muscle and burn fat) (3).

If you can’t get around to eating a meal after your workout, a protein powder shake is an easy and convenient way to  provide your body with the nutrients it needs.


Again, ideally we would be getting all the protein we need from whole foods like fish, meats, nuts and seeds.

And many of us do just that!

However, if you answered yes to one or more of the questions above, then adding a protein supplement might be for you.


But before you go pick up a tub of muscle milk…all protein powders are NOT created equal. There are some that are great and some that do more harm than good. Here are some guidelines to help you choose the best brand for you:

How to choose a protein powder

1. Look at the label and ingredients: How many calories and protein does it have per serving? Look for about 16-22 grams of protein per servings and between 100-150 calories. Also, take a close look at the ingredients. If there are more than 10 ingredients, it’s a bad sign. Most high quality protein powders just have the protein (whey, hemp, pea) and 3-4 other ingredients.

2. Look for “cold processed”, “undenatured” or “raw” : The problem with cheap protein powders is that they are usually heated and processed at such high temperatures, that the protein molecules become damaged. These can make protein powders hard to digest and can be a big waste of money. (This is particularly important for whey protein which is especially sensitive to heat).

3. Remember, it’s like a serving of food: A good way to think about protein powder is as a serving of protein! It’s worth spending an extra $10-20 on higher quality product.

Resources:
1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22150425
2. http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3085/2
3. http://www.precisionnutrition.com/about-post-workout-nutrition

A Healthy 4th of July Menu: 3 recipes to makeover your BBQ

Nothing says 4th of July like a summer BBQ, right?

Whether you’re hosting your own or bringing a dish to a friends’, we want to send you off with some healthy recipes to impress. So we gathered our favorite mouthwateringsummer recipes for you below:

Basil Guacamole….
Spicy Pineapple Chicken Kabobs…
Coconut Cream and Strawberries

Drooling yet?

These recipes are filled with the flavors of summer, but are much healthier than traditional BBQ fare. (Your friends won’t even notice the whole menu is sugar and gluten free!)

Basil Guacamole
(recipe via Food52)
The addition of basil gives rich guacamole a refreshing summery twist.
Ingredients
1 small shallot or 1/4 red onion, finely diced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed, finely diced
2 large avocados
2 cups basil leaves, stems removed and finely chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Cumin and salt to taste

Directions
Use a fork to mash avocados and mix in remaining ingredients (or use a food processor)
Serve with low salt tortilla chips and fresh vegetables

Spicy Pineapple Kabobs
(recipe adapted from The Gunny Sack)
If you haven’t already tried grilling summer fruit, trust us when we say it’s a crowd pleaser. These sweet chicken kabobs are a much healthier option than burgers and just as delicious.

Kabob Ingredients
1 pound organic chicken breast dices into 1′ thick pieces
6 red bell peppers dices into squares
1 can diced pineapple (save the juice)
1 red onion, diced into large pieces

Marinade Ingredients
1/4 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons tamari
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil (or olive oil)

Directions
Mix together marinade ingredients
Cover chicken with marinade in glass pan and let sit in fridge for 4-6 hours

Assemble chicken and other kabob ingredients on pre soaked skewers
Grill turning regularly for 10-15 minutes or until chicken is cooked through

Coconut Cream and Strawberries
(step by step tutorial here)

While most BBQ’s opt for ice cream or cake for dessert, impress with this healthy take on berries and cream. Canned coconut cream separates when refrigerated, and when whipped creates a sweet and rich whipped cream with a slight coconut taste perfect for dipping strawberries.

Ingredients
1 can full fat (NOT light!) coconut cream (make sure there are no other additives as this can affect how well it whips. Trader Joe’s makes a great one)

Directions
Refrigerate can overnight
Remove from fridge and flip upside down so that the liquid will be on top and the cream on the bottom
Open can and pour the liquid off (save for smoothies or other uses)
Scoop hardened cream into bowl and whip with a hand blender until fluffy
(Optional to add a sweetener like powdered or regular sugar, but we think it’s sweet enough as is)

Serve with fresh strawberries

 

Which recipe will you try? Make sure you tell us by leaving a comment!

Foods to Fight Muscle Soreness and Fatigue

Have you ever noticed that some days you feel full of energy during your workout, like you could do your regular BCSF class and stay for the next class too? But other days a push up feels like the hardest thing you’ve ever done?

While there are lot’s of factors that can contribute to this swing of energy (sleep, hormones, amount of carbohydrates, food timing, stress levels, ect.) there is a chance that it could be that you’re low on one of these specific nutrients.

We believe that with a well rounded diet, you can get most of the nutrients you need. Make sure you’re incorporating these nutrient rich foods to fight muscle soreness and fatigue.

IRON

Iron is an important nutrient for energy levels. (This is because iron is a key component of blood which helps carry oxygen to our muscles) Without enough iron we can feel tired, sore and fatigued. Including some iron rich foods in your diet can help prevent fatigue.

Heme sources:  Heme sources of iron are the most absorbable and include animal products such as red meat, fish, poultry and eggs. The best source of iron is actually liver and muscle meats! (Try purchasing a high quality organic liver and mixing it in with your next meatloaf or stir fry. It’s hardly noticeable and will make for an iron rich treat)

Non heme sources: Iron can also be found in many plants, nuts and seeds. Leafy greens like spinach and chard are high in iron as well as many seeds such as pumpkin and sunflower seeds. The herbs parsley and thyme also contain a surprising amount of iron.  However, non heme sources of iron are not as absorbable for our bodies.

TIP: A great post workout snack would be a leafy green smoothie or a hard boiled egg and handful of pumpkin seeds. 

MAGNESIUM

Magnesium is what is known as the “relaxing” mineral. It’s a natural muscle relaxant and pain killer. This makes it a great nutrient for those sore muscles (Ever heard of Epsom salt baths to relax? Epsom salts are rich in magnesium and we absorb this through our skin in the hot bath!) Many people are deficient in magnesium because we lose magnesium in our sweat.

If you are struggling with muscle cramps or any mild ache or pain, try including more magnesium rich foods in your diet.

Sea vegetables are the single food richest in magnesium. Try snacking on nori sheets or adding dulse flakes to your salad dressings or soups. Many nuts and seeds also contain magnesium.

TIP: Try a homemade magnesium rich trail mix of cashews, brazil nuts, almonds and coconut flakes (all rich in magnesium). 

EPA & DHA OMEGA 3’s

Omega 3’s are a type of fat that are especially important for active people as this type of fat actually reduces inflammation. When we are very active, our body has to do a lot of work to repair and recover. If we are not able to repair and recover quick enough, we can show signs of inflammation. Anything from muscle soreness to slow recovery can be a sign of inflammation.

The best  kind Omega 3’s to reduce inflammation are EPA & DHA found in fatty fish such as salmon and sardines. Walnuts, chia seeds, hemp seeds and flax also contain Omega 3’s but a different variety (called ALA).

TIP: Add salmon into your dinner rotation on a weekly basis. Try canned salmon or sardines for a quick and budget-friendly lunch.

 

Try some of these tips during your weeks 3-6 of bootcamp when you might be a little (extra) sore. And see if you can notice a difference (we think you will!).

Revealed: What Your Trainer Eats

You might think your BootCampSF trainer eats, sleeps and breathes burpees. And as much as we do #eathillsforbreakfast…we do actually eat. And no it’s not burpees.

So we asked around to see what our trainers are eating for breakfast and post workout.

Turns out, these trainers are one healthy bunch. Check out what they choose to fuel their day and workouts:

Katy
Favorite go-to breakfast:  Egg white veggie scramble with a slice of whole wheat toast.  I love that the scramble is easy to make and I get my day started right with veggies.

Favorite pre or post workout snack:  Protein shake because it helps my body repair after an intense workout. Or a handful of almonds since they help keep me full without being too heavy before a workout.

Lee
Favorite go-to breakfast: Oatmeal with peanut butter, banana and jelly plus an all-greens smoothie. Fills me up for a long morning of personal training and still gives me the energy to workout.

Favorite pre or post workout meal: Vegan tuna mayonnaise with baked potato and a huge salad with teriyaki dressing.

Tracy
Favorite go-to breakfast: Oatmeal with berries and banana. Simple and quick.

Favorite pre or post workout snack: Toast with peanut butter makes the perfect snack after a workout.

Rebecca
Favorite go-to breakfast: Greek yogurt with fresh raspberries, sprinkled with chia seeds. Good source of protein from the yogurt and amazing benefits from chia seeds to start my day.

Favorite pre or post workout snack: Small handful of almonds. The protein and good fats give me an energy boost.

Paul
Favorite go-to breakfast: Oatmeal! It’s heavy enough but light enough at the same time and gives me an easy breakfast option to incorporate fruits and grains together, leaving me with a satisfied stomach.

Favorite pre or post workout snack: I prefer to workout on an empty stomach and save my hunger for after the workout. My favorite post workout meal has to be any vegetable, rice, and meat combo. Its a very replenishing meal after a strenuous workout that digests easily and tastes great.

Molly
Favorite go-to breakfast: A protein smoothie with berries, leafy greens, kefir and a whey or pea protein and a hard boiled egg. I make my smoothies the night before and always keep hard boiled eggs on hand so I can have breakfast on-the-go!

Favorite pre or post workout snack: Green vegetable juice, fresh fruit + pumpkin seeds or a rice cake with almond butter. It’s always something small and light, there is nothing worse than feeling full during workout.

Insights from Jaw Surgery: Or How Recovery Is a Little Like a Fitness Journey

Hi BCSF Family!

Catherine (Cat), BootCampSF co-owner, here. We’ve likely emailed in the past, chatted on the phone or maybe I’ve even taught you a thing or two about kettlebells? I hope so! Well, I am currently on the couch with some chipmunk-esque cheeks because on Thursday May 8th I underwent a double jaw surgery and I wanted to share some insights with you.

I wanted to tell you all about this transformative life experience of mine because as I’ve waxed philosophical in the days leading up to surgery and as I’ve been recovering, I’ve had lot of time think about how this process has had striking similarities to the struggles we all go through with fitness and overcoming all the hurdles that get in our way. Seem like a stretch? Well, admittedly, since fitness is my life’s work, the parallels do come easier for me. But stick with me and maybe you’ll be surprised too!

You see, I’ve known that I needed this surgery for years. Since I was in my late teens, actually, but I put it off for so many reasons. Because it sounded painful. Because it’s expensive. Because who wants braces as an adult? And I’d thought that the only reasons to have the surgery were aesthetic: to be prettier, to fix my crooked jaw and look more “normal”. To be honest I thought that was shallow and I was better than that! I was a progressive San Francisco lady. But as the years wore on it became apparent to me that there were other reasons to do it: I had increasing pain in my left joint; my teeth were wearing unevenly; clicking and slipping of my jaw was just getting worse and worse. I had trouble eating sushi — I had reached a tipping point, because a life without sushi is no life at all, am I right?!

And call me crazy, but I know that most of us have gone through this with fitness and with weight loss. We know we need to start. And maybe sometimes we are angered by the shallow aesthetic-driven fitness culture that exists. And you? You are better than that. We live in open-minded San Francisco, right? But just as my jaw surgery was for far more serious reasons than the aesthetic, we hope that you know that there are more reasons to exercise than looking better for bikini season. For the health of your body and mind. For the health of your soul.

It’s always hard to start a new routine and we know it won’t be easy. The road to jaw surgery and the recovery is similar. It has been an emotional journey and the past week the physical aspects have been tough. Feeling weak enough waking up from the anesthesia to need help walking to the bathroom is not a feeling I am used to. But I know that I, too, have been down this road before. Workouts are not always comfortable. When I first started attending BCSF after college, I thought I’d need a wheelchair after experiencing the soreness of a lifetime! We’ve all been through it. We know that running is hard, that burpees are awful and that sometimes squats feel impossible.

But, getting over that hump is what it’s all about, right?

It’s that feeling you get a few months are starting your workout routine that everything seems…easier. Or maybe, just, not easier, but not impossible. I was looking for that moment in my recovery process and it’s been happening every day. I am just six days post-op and my swelling has receded amazingly well. I’m not taking any more painkillers. I am walking my dog, I am getting back to my BCSF admin work.

(Day after surgery on left, today on right! I can even smile a little bit!)

You see, here is the part where I feel fitness is not a metaphor and simply a direct player. My recovery is going swiftly. Despite having a particularly complicated jaw surgery (5 hours under the knife!) I seem to be hitting recovery benchmarks days and weeks ahead of many of the hundreds of people I have connected with online that also have had similar procedures. I can’t help but see a connection between my commitment to fitness and healthy nutrition in my everyday life as playing a major role in an easier recovery process. I am certainly no doctor, but it’s clear that I am ahead of the game for which I am very grateful!

This proces isn’t something I could have done alone. I have an amazing community of people helping me. My orthodontic team, Dr. Good and Sears, have been amazing (Dr. Sears has done many sessions of BCSF!). And while I was in the hospital my pup, Stella, was at Didgeridog – her favorite place in the world besides the dog park. My sister helped me throughout my hospital journey and the first few days at home (there is nothing better than your big sister rubbing eye cream on your face the morning after jaw surgery!). And my brother, Keith (BCSF founder!) left his adorable kids for a few days to stay with me and make sure I was fortified with enough smoothies.

Friends and BootCampers have and will be swinging by with smoothies and soups. Neighbors have come by to take Stella to the park. And knowing that our amazing team of trainers would take care of you guys and put you through your workouts was such a relief. Of course, I owe a special shout-out to Trainer Katy who continues to support my admin work and will be taking our phone calls for weeks to come as I am wearing a splint and am unable to speak clearly.

The thing is, is you don’t need to go your fitness-journey alone, either. Whether it’s BCSF you lean on (and you should!), your friends, spouses/partners, or co-workers, you absolutely need SOMEONE in your corner. Because change is scary. Being uncomfortable sucks. And being able to lean on someone when the going gets tough can often be the tipping point to success. Because to be honest, without my best friend, Lindsey, giving me the push last year to finally get that surgical consult I would have kept putting it off. Her simple words of advice ring true for so many things: “What’s the worst that could happen?”

I’m glad I didn’t have to go through surgery alone. And please don’t force yourself to go through your fitness journey alone, either, just because you think you “should” or because you’re “independent”. We are definitely greater together.

Thanks for reading and I cannot say enough thanks for having you be a part of our BCSF community. I am truly lucky to have the best members a company could ever ask for. My life is so much richer for having you all in it. Thanks for being a part of the ride!

See you outside,

-Catherine

What To Eat Before And After Your Workout

If you’re spending time and money working out, we’d guess that you’d like to be getting the most out of your nutrition as well. If you’re wondering what to eat before or after a workout, you’re not alone. It’s a common question here at BootCampSF.

And you’re right…your nutrition is an important aspect of your fitness. What we eat has a huge impact on our health goals and how we perform in our workouts.

Let’s give you some info on how and what to eat right before and after your workout so you can get the most out of every last push up and burpee.

First of all, you should be familiar with the macronutrients. The three macronutrients are protein, fat and carbohydrates. The most common to approach pre and post workout meals is by playing around with these macronutrients.

Before a workout

What:
Simple carbohydrates + protein + little/no fat

When:
Meal 1-2 hours before
OR
snack less than 60 minutes before

Why:
To fuel your workout you want to eat a meal or snack prior to working out with enough time to digest. Carbohydrates are the easiest food for our bodies to convert to energy so it makes sense that that carbohydrates that are easy to digest is what we want to eat right before a workout. These are called simple carbohydrates.

What is a simple carb? Fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains are healthy, whole-food simple carb options. (By “whole food” we mean non processed. For example, cereal is a carb but highly processed one. Try to choose carbs in their whole food states).

We also want to include protein in your pre workout meal. Protein will help balance your blood sugar and help prevent muscle breakdown for after the workout.

If you’re eating a snack less than 1 hour before a workout, too much fat might make you feel nauseous or slow you down. Avoid proceed foods, sugars, coffee and other stimulants right before working out.

In general, think light and easy to digest foods.

What to reach for if you’re snacking:

  •  banana or green apple + nut butter
  •  berries +  organic cottage cheese or organic full fat yogurt
  •  hard boiled egg

What to reach for if you’re eating a meal:

  • egg scramble with onion, tomatoes and black beans
  • steel cut oatmeal topped with nuts, seeds and berries
  • leafy green salad + serving of chicken, salmon or steak + garbanzo beans + quinoa + vegetables like bell peppers and cucumber + olive oil and vinegar.

After a workout

What:
Protein + Healthy Fat + Carbohydrates

When:
Meal 1-2 hours after
OR
Snack less than 60 minutes after

Why:
Post workout nutrition is all about balance of our three macronutrients. We need protein for recovery and repair. Protein is also the nutrient that enables us to grow new muscles. However, no need to feel guilty if you didn’t slam down a protein shake. A balanced regular ‘ol meal or snack is all you need.

Regardless of in the intensity of our workout, we use up our stored carbohydrates. Replacing these carbohydrates “re-stocks” our energy stores to be used in our next workout.

Including a healthy fat (avocado, nuts and seeds, virgin oils) will make the meal a “balanced” meal and keep us feeling satiated. The key here is balance and nutrient density.

Bottom Line
If you regularly workout 3-5X per week for 1 hour or less just remember a balanced and unprocessed diet with sufficient protein and vegetable intake is all you need. Choosing quality foods will trump when you eat every time. And choosing foods that make you feel best trump any “rule” or “should”.

Actionable Step
Next time you eat, think about the three macronutrients. Ask yourself: does this meal/snack have…

Protein?
Fat?
Carbohydrates?

Pretty soon, you’ll be eating balanced meals like a pro and feeling so energized you just might do an extra burpee…just because you feel like it.

 

 

 

This is your Brain on Exercise: IDEA World Convention

This past week while attending the IDEA World Fitness Convention I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by Dr. Terry Eckmann a professor from Minot State University in North Dakota. In many ways her lecture was very self-gratifying for those of us that work in fitness:  exercise is good for you and it’s good for your brain. We feel this intrinsically, right? As in, it’s obvious to us because we feel this in palpable ways:  we feel more refreshed, awake and are able to focus after a fantastic, butt-kicking, morning workout. But delving into the science of this matter is helpful because it provides legitimacy to these things that we think are simply feelings or nice side effects to exercise, when in fact there is some pretty powerful stuff going on in your head!

Quick Facts About the Human Brain

*The average brain weighs 3 to 4 pounds; or on average, 2% of your body weight.

*The average brain consumes 20% of your body’s energy.

*The average brain uses 1/5 of your body’s oxygen.

In terms of these quick facts, some interesting things to note are that 20% of your daily energy supply (essentially your calorie intake) is used by your brain, even though it’s only about 2% of your body weight. Food for thought, indeed!

30-minutes of Consistent Moderate to Vigorous Aerobic Activity has the following effects on the brain:

*Stimulates BDNF, which causes neurons to fire more efficiently. BDNF = Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factors.

*Increases neurogenesis in the hippocampus. I.e. you generate new neurons.

*Gets oxygen and glucose to the brain faster.

*Repetitive gross motor movement strengthens dendritic branching. The more branching there is, the more communication there is between these brain cells. In the end, you have a more “active” brain.

*Reduces obesity (obese persons have twice the risk of dementia).

*Improves mood and elevates stress threshold (i.e., things don’t bother us as much).

*Balances brain chemicals and system functions.

*Prepares the brain for optimal learning.

Exercise also increases levels of key neurotransmitters and neurotrophic factors, specifically:  dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin and BDNF.

Dr. Eckmann told us that in many ways, BDNF is “miracle grow” for your brain. And the good news is that all the research shows that exercise increases BDNF and in studies, it continued to increase even after 90 days, which is amazing, as we all assumed that it would plateau at some point. Dr. Eckmann suggested that there hasn’t been distinct research into figuring out when increased BDNF production does plateau.

I walked out of her lecture focusing on a few things, but mainly my thoughts revolved around our motivations to exercise:  sometimes you may not see the precise results in your body that you are looking for. It can be a let down when your abs are not perfect. Maybe you are gunning for a sub 2:00 hour half-marathon and you’re on your 3rd attempt. But, this lecture caused me to focus on the reasons to keep yourself motivated even if you haven’t met those aesthetic or performance goals yet, that is, that your body is responding to the hard work that you are putting in out there, it may just not always be as fast to work in the areas that we want to see it (to be clear, we know you can meet those aesthetic and performance goals, too, with a little time and hard work).

We may not be able to see the changes happening in our noggins, but all this research shows us that it’s happening. And that, my friends, is as a good a reason to get out of bed and show up for your workout as any that I can think of.

P.S. If you’re interested in Dr. Eckmann’s resources, she has an extensive list of the research articles she referenced/utilized in her lecture that is simply longer than is practical to include in this post. If you’re interested in receiving this information, please just give us a shout!

 

Fighting Back Against the Snack Attack

Since moving to San Francisco last year I’ve been working from home which is a blessing and a curse in equal amounts. Working in pajamas gets major bonus points but having constant access to my kitchen can be a real pain in the you know what. Actually it’s more of a pain in the zipping up my jeans department.

That being said it’s not like I’m not fully aware of what types of foods trigger “snack attack” moments in me. I don’t keep sweetened breakfast cereals in the house, ice cream, or candy. My issues with Wheat Thins alone might have enough angst to fill an entire novel so those are out too. When I make cookies and other high calorie baked goods for my blog I try one and then ship the rest off to my boyfriend’s office because keeping them around the house for extra sampling is how I got here in the first place. I also live next door to a Panera and it quite cruelly smells like cinnamon rolls 50% of the time. Jerks. But in the end my one true nemesis and downfall is cheese.

How do you quit cheese?! I simply can’t do it. But I have managed to curb my love a bit via individually packaged means. For instance, I’m a huge fan of Precious Pepper Jack Cheese Sticks and the reduced-fat Colby-Jack Sargento snacks. They even make Brie Bites these days which are absolutely fantastic. These all offer just enough of a cheese fix that I can eat one and stop dreaming about gigantic bowls of macaroni and cheese and the like.

Of course a girl can’t live on cheese snacks alone so I’ve also been trying to make or have on hand a lot of the following items to keep me honest in the all things edible department.

Avocado Toast
Every time I eat an avocado I feel a little sad about the fact that I didn’t even try an avocado until I was something like 20 years old. RIDICULOUS. I feel sad about all of the amazing avocado opportunities I missed in my “I’m a picky twit” phase. My favorite way to eat them is mashed and spread on whole wheat toast or an english muffin sprinkled with sea salt, freshly ground pepper, and a lot of spicy red pepper flakes. I sometimes also drizzle a tiny bit of extra-virgin olive oil but honestly that’s sort of overkill. Sometimes I also just eat all of the above in a bowl and skip the extra carbs too.

Banana “Ice Cream”
So ridiculously simple and so delicious. No heavy whipping cream, eggs, or sugar touch this dish but it tastes creamy and rich. Get the whole scoop (so to speak) on how to make this dead simple dish at The Kitchn.

Hard or Soft Boiled Eggs
When I tried to do the Paleo, Primal, and Four-Hour Body diets at various times I ended up hating eggs. I couldn’t stand eating them for breakfast and I wasn’t a big fan of having potato-less beef stew at 6:00 AM every morning so eggs always seemed like the only option. I’m way over that aversion now and will happily pop a couple of eggs into boiling water for a protein packed snack. PS: adding 1/2 a teaspoon of salt to the pot really does seem to help get those finicky organic egg shells off in less than 100 tiny slivers.

Quinoa
I’m in love with quinoa. I can’t cook it properly on the stove top though so if you have a similar problem with your quinoa coming out in a mushy mess I urge you to try cooking it in your rice cooker. I make great big batches and then just let it cook and steam until it is fluffy and lovely. Then I pack it away in the fridge and have a cup with roasted red peppers or edamame (really you can throw anything on there). This has been a go-to lunch for me recently and I can’t rave enough about the versatile nature of this grain. There’s also a great cookbook out now that has a ton of quinoa recipes to get your started on your own quinoa kick from morning to night.

Those are a few of my favorite snacks right now. I’d love to hear about any tips or tricks you have for keeping the cookie monster at bay!

Oh Hi, Slow Cooker!

Do you own a slow cooker aka crock-pot? Chances are that you do. Here’s a hint. It’s probably hidden in the back of a closet or cupboard somewhere, and if you don’t then they’re seriously easy to come by. I’ve even seen them for sale in Walgreens and CVS. You know for all those times when your to-do list reads: pick up some gum, a Mother’s Day card, and a slow cooker.

My most vivid crock-pot memory hails from my grandmother. She used to make a killer crock-pot beef stew that I absolutely loved. Mostly because it was full of potatoes, turnips, carrots and zero peas. My mother made her stew with peas and I was a great big twit and refused to eat them. I have no idea why I thought turnip was awesome and peas were the devil. I certainly don’t feel that way now. However, as part of my dinner time argument, I often pointed out that the family dog would literally eat around peas if any happened to be on a plate set down in front of him. Matlock would have been proud of my evidence gathering skills.

So what are you supposed to do with this big plugged-in pot once you get it home? Well, there are pretty much a million-and-one things you can cook. Some of them are fantastic ideas that will yield great tasting and healthy meals while others encourage you to make macaroni and cheese and (I kid you not) cheesecake in your new kitchen toy. Let’s not focus on those right now though. I’m here to inspire you to give your crockpot another look, not make you gain ten pounds.

Breakfast Ideas
These get-up and get-going dishes will be the perfect thing to wake-up to on mornings when you workout. Plus, imagine how good your home will smell when the alarm goes off and you have a steaming pot of oats, apples, or eggs just waiting for you in the kitchen.

Overnight Oatmeal with Apricots and Buttermilk
Effortless Crockpot Breakfast Burritos
Slow Cooker Baked Apples
Crockpot Whole Grain Breakfast Cereal
Peach and Coconut Quinoa

Dinner Ideas
Here’s where the real fun starts. Who wants to slave over a hot stove after you’ve gotten up early to run around outside with your fellow bootcampers and slogged your way through another day at the office? Even though I love to cook I still answer with a resounding, “Not me!” at least a few times each week. Fortunately, if you own a crock-pot you can toss a few simple ingredients in the bowl, set the controls, and arrive home to a drop-dead-delicious dinner with very minimal additional evening effort.

Pulled Pork with Low-Sugar Barbecue Sauce
Crockpot Chicken Tortilla Soup
Slow Cooked Boston Baked Beans
Whole Chicken in a Slow Cooker
Homemade Crockpot Marinara Sauce

Of course, after looking at all of these recipes I’m seriously starving! If you’d like some helpful tips on choosing a crock-pot that will work best for you definitely consider checking out this post from SlowCookerFromScratch.com. It features a great round-up of reviews and frequently asked questions. These ladies and gentleman are serious about slow cooking and will have you hooked in no time at all.

Additional Blogs to Gather Recipes From:

http://crockpot365.blogspot.com/
http://www.slowcookerfromscratch.com/
http://www.skinnytaste.com/2007/07/crock-pot-recipes.html [with Weight Watchers Points]
http://www.coconutandlime.com/search/label/slow%20cooker
http://www.theperfectpantry.com/slow-cooker-crockpot/

I also made a new Pinterest Board for you to follow if you’re into that sort of thing. It’s called “I Swear I’ll Use My Slow Cooker Someday.”