Recipe: Zest Nutrition’s Cookies in a Jar

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When the ladies of Zest Nutrition whipped these little wonders out at their holiday party in December, it was love at first bite. And worth sharing now, even post-holiday, because I believe so strongly in their credo that “we deserve to eat food that tastes amazing and makes us feel good all year long.”

Since they’re so easy to make, I’ve been sharing them with friends who become seem to become equally obsessed (you’ve been warned). The first few batches were by the book, but I’ve since experimented by trying coconut flour in place of almond flour, adding half an extra banana and a tablespoon of chia seeds, and replacing the regularly-sized chocolate chips with mini morsels.

The Zest ladies also suggest swapping out the dried cranberries, chocolate chips and coconut for any other ingredients you like. Go wild, and indulge without guilt!

Cookies in a Jar

(original recipe here)

Ingredients (in jar):

  • 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Ingredients (to add):

  • 2 ripe bananas

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 350F.
  2. Mash bananas with a fork, then mix in jar ingredients until combined.
  3. Form cookies on baking sheet and bake for 20 min.

The best part? Each batch is perfectly proportioned for storage in your standard mason jar.

Mix ahead and save for a rainy day when cravings hit, or get crafty and share something nourishing — yet delicious — with your friends and family.

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Ever thought a vegan, gluten-free cookie with no refined sugar could be so tasty? Me, neither!

How I (Swim, Bike &) Run: Ironman athlete Kecia Place-Fencl

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Meet Kecia Place-Fencl, wife, mother of two black Labradors, 8th grade science teacher, triathlete, yogi and lover of fitness and outdoor adventures. She’s also a fellow Coeur Sports ambassador, which is how we first met (well, virtually…although we hope to get the Coeur crew together someday) and have been rooting each other along via our respective blogs ever since (check hers out here for some inspiration!).

What I love most about Kecia, though, is that no matter how jam-packed her schedule is between training and teaching, she’s never too busy to lift others up with a few encouraging words or offer support when someone’s in need (i.e. she’s talked me down from the ledge after my open water swim meltdowns). She’s a true team player, and in the world of solo endurance sports people like that are few and far between.

What’s also admirable about Kecia is the way in which she trains using SMART goals to set clear objectives and hold herself accountable. It’s changed the way I approach my own personal planning for the year, be it training or life in general, and I’d highly recommend trying out her technique.

But don’t let this lady’s kind demeanor and thoughtful approach to life fool you; inside Kecia also beats the heart of a competitive athlete. She’s set her 2016 race calendar and will be ramping up to her “A” event for the season: Ironman Wisconsin in September, her fourth time tackling the 140.6 distance.

Here she gives us a peek at how she’s prepping to make 2016 her best year yet…

1. What’s your favorite route or workout? Riding my bicycle in the fresh open air with my main squeeze beside me makes my heart happy! But honestly, I even love to ride my bike on the trainer! Insane??? Maybe!! But the trainer gives me safety, better time management and provides me with a more controlled environment for riding. There is a reason I refer to any bike ride I do as #bikelove…I truly LOVE to ride my bicycle!!

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2. What shoes do you wear — both on the bike and on the roads? When running, I rotate between the Newton Kismet (which I LOVE) and the Asics Gel-Nimbus. On the bike, I wear my Specialized Ember.

3. What other training gear can’t you live without? Swim Gear: My Roka X1 swim goggles are da bomb! They don’t cut into my eye sockets and allow me to focus on my swim stroke instead of the pain my face is enduring, which I have experienced with other brands. I know they were designed for open water swimming, but I use them for every swim I do…even in the pool.

Bike Gear: My Coeur Sports tri shorts. Hello seamless chamois and no angry kitty!! I have zero chaffing and can’t imagine my 120 mile rides without them.

Run Gear: My Coeur Sports tri top. Before I started running in these amazing tops, my chest would chafe until it bled. Since running in these amazing tops, I have experienced no chafing. It no longer looks like someone shot me in the chest after a run…that is a definite WIN!!

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4. What’s your best time-saver or “workout-hack?” My situation is unique. Both my husband and I train and race most of the same events throughout the year, especially Ironman races. This requires a lot of communication, planning and preparation. Each weekend, we plan and make meals (almost always homemade and healthy options), set out workout and work clothes, and coordinate who will tend to the dogs and when.

5. What part of each discipline (swim/bike/run) are you better at than anyone else? Swim: I grew up swimming in Lake Okoboji, so open water swimming does not cause me to panic like it does some people. My parents often called me “a fish” growing up…while I may not be a fast fish, I can swim at my endurance pace All. Day. Long. I often find myself singing “Just keep swimming” as Dory does ;)

Bike: Living in Iowa, I spend a great deal of time on the trainer. It provides me with safety and allows me to save time while completing my workouts. For many people, a trainer workout can give them too much time in their own brain, but that is not the case for me. The trainer gives me focus, structure and allows me to feel completely in control of my workout. It allows me to get physically and mentally stronger on the bike by teaching me about focus, strength and fortitude.

Run: I started my endurance lifestyle as a runner. I may not be fast, but I am very comfortable running and often control my pace quite well. I typically set myself up for a pretty successful run coming off the bike!

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6. What do you listen to while training? Swim: Growing up on the lake has instilled water as a calming agent in me. I love listening to the water move past my ears…it calms me.

Bike: During power work on the trainer, I listen to music with a good beat to keep my cadence up and help me push more watts. While riding on the open roads, I am always listening for traffic, animals and any commands from my main squeeze and other friends who ride with us.

Run: I typically listen to my husband and friends converse, my breathing and our feet striking the pavement. I have never listened to music while I run and enjoy listening to the natural sounds around me as I pound the pavement. I love the peace that comes with the sounds of nature that surround me.

7. What are you currently training for? My “A” race for 2016 is Ironman Wisconsin on September 11, 2016. I am excited to go back to my home course in the Midwest and push myself to new limits at Ironman no. 4!

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8. What are your recovery and sleep routines like? I definitely have my sleep routine down! I am typically in bed by 7:30 pm with a book in hand…this is my way to decompress before lights out shortly before 8 pm to guarantee at least eight hours of sleep. The alarm clock wakes me at 4 am for my “rise and grind” morning workout.

As for recovery, I consume chocolate almond milk with Osmo recovery after every workout to immediately start the refueling process. I also take an Epsom salt bath every week and get a massage every 2-3 weeks. I love hot yoga, but definitely need to incorporate more of it my training plan, especially during peak training. According to my massage therapist, I also need to spend more time with my foam roller ;)

9. What’s the best athletic advice you’ve ever received? To measure my success by the size of my smile. This came from Jim, a blogger friend. Definitely advice that will stick with me for years to come!

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10. What’s your favorite racing-related memory? Definitely Ironman Boulder 2015…I had the time of my life with lots of family and friends cheering me on and racing alongside of me. I raced to a PR of almost 72 minutes and finished before both my husband and a male friend who were also racing. Girls rule!!

11. Fill in the blank: I’d love to grab a workout with _________. All of my Coeur teammates! I would love to be able to workout with all of these amazing ladies at the same time. The amount of inspiration and awesomeness that these ladies exude is astounding!!

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Thanks, Kecia! Looking forward to following along on all the adventures to come this year…

Fit friends, please give me a shout (info (at) kineticfix.com) if you’d like to be featured!

January Goal Check-In

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Ok, 2016 — ready or not, here you are. Although it feels like we’ve just begun the year, we’re already a month in.

I’ll admit, pregnancy has given me a more leisurely attitude to this year’s goals…well, at least at this point in the game. And purposefully so.

Not only do I want to be kind to my body right now, but I’m also trying to stay present, cut down on unnecessary stress and enjoy the final weeks of Ben and I being responsible for no one but ourselves. All that’s about to change, and I know we’ll get back on track and into our competitive pursuits again eventually…but until then I’m making a concerted effort to keep things casual.

Read more about the five goals toward which I’m working in 2016.

Here’s where things stand at the moment:

1. Health & Fitness

Until Baby H’s arrival, I’ve been hoping to be able to stay active. That means continuing regular workouts with a mix of cardio, strength and flexiblity work throughout the week with one day off to allow my body to rest.

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Fortunately, my doctor’s fully in support of this plan. Despite some minor aches, pains and first-time-mom freak-outs (Me: “There’s a bruise around my belly button; what did I do wrong, and should I stop working out?!” My doctor: “Nope, that’s just pregnancy.”), she’s great with the fact that I keep moving so the baby will keep moving…ideally into the correct head-down birth position.

2. Training

As I mentioned in my initial post on 2016’s goals, I’m signed up for the Portland Marathon and am considering a few smaller races leading up to that (recovery permitting, of course). Since then, I’ve further revised this goal so it’s more about completion than competition; meaning, I’m going to train to be able to finish events without any expectations of times, PR’s or age-group placements.

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While that’s the stuff that typically gets my juices flowing when it comes to training, it’s been a relief to let it go and give myself permission to not feel like I have to push so hard to prove something. And in the meantime, I’m working on maintaining a solid foundation on which I can build post-baby with an ultimate goal of remaining injury-free.

3. Community

Earlier this month, we officially announced the new roster for 2016’s Team LUNA Chix Portland Run. It’s a fantastic group of women of all ages, abilities and interests…but the one thing they all have in common is that they’re stoked to be able to once again connect with the community, promote the sport of running among women and raise money for our charity partner, the Breast Cancer Fund.

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Next up is our team leader retreat next month where we’re setting some goals and doing a little bonding before the season officially starts in April. Mark your calendar! We’ll be resuming our FREE Monday night workouts (6:30 – 7:30 pm), and you can find up-to-the-minute details via our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

4. Career

Now that the holidays are over, things have been ramping up again work-wise at Pulse Creative. I’ve got several projects in-progress with clients, including website audits, messaging workshops and content creation, along with ghostwriting articles for Forbes and other outlets on behalf of C-level execs — flexing my old journalism muscles has been especially fun!

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But as I attempt to wind things down for my maternity leave, I’m already contemplating the direction I want to take my business when I return. In other words, what really lights my fire, work-wise, and how can I do more of that? 

It’s been something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately — not only in terms of where I can make the most impact for clients, but also how I can continue to create a sustainable career that allows me to find fulfillment yet maintain a healthy work/life balance. I want to continue to do this same type of project work, but I’m also exploring how to package up my favorite services for clients so I can serve them even better in the long run.

5. Life

Despite being proudly Type-A-organized, I will admit to having what I jokingly call a “Monica’s closet.” Look closely and you’ll see a bike helmet hung next to blazers and a hydration pack mingling among my purses. Yep, #fitpeopleprobs + #cityliving = interesting storage solutions.

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While my original goal was to finish  Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by mid-month so I’d have an update on it being in action for two weeks now, I’m behind schedule. I finished the book, but I know that one month isn’t realistic to be able to follow all the instructions laid out in it.

So I’m revising my timeline — this is about year-long goals, after all — and am aiming to tackle step no. 1 (my clothing) by the end of February. So if you don’t see me for the next few weeks, you know where I am…or what I might quite possibly be buried under!

How are your 2016 goals coming along? 

Triathletes: The Secret to Avoiding Injury This Season

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In theory, making the move from a single sport to three adds variety to your exercise regimen and will reduce injuries, right?

Well, the reality is a bit different, thanks to the “compound effect” of doing three activities: “What we have to compare it to other sports is the injury rate, and triathletes have one of the highest incidence rates of any sport,” Dr. Joshua Burns, a researcher and podiatrist at the University of Sydney in Australia, who has studied the nature of triathletes’ injuries told The New York Times in this article.

The bad news? Triathletes, in particular, are susceptible because they not only engage in a highly-repetitive stress activity, but also only move in one plane of motion (and likely sit all day at work), which contributes to limited range of motion in the mid-back and hips. The good news, though? With the right approach to strength training, you can correct imbalances, resolve weaknesses and vastly improve performance.

That’s where my friend Al Painter of INTEGRATE Performance Fitness comes in. Not only has he been teaching endurance athletes how to dodge the injury bullet for years, but he also knows. his. stuff. As you can see below, there’s a reason why he’s been named “Best Bay Area Personal Trainer” by CitySports Magazine, so I always love picking his brain about the latest workout crazes and geeking out together over the greatest fitness gadgets.

As training seasons begin to ramp up, I thought it’d be fun to sit down with him and talk about the not-so-secret secret for avoiding injury when it comes to multi-sport endeavors.

1. Triathlon is in endurance sport, so why is strength training important for triathletes? It helps to reset the body from the repetitive stress nature of training in one plane of motion. It can also keep the hips strong, which goes a long way for happy low backs and knees.

2. How much about it is preventing injury versus being able to perform better (i.e. faster!)? Yes to both! I think one leads to the other. Keep the muscles balanced, and you can reduce your chances of getting hurt and improve your chances of performing well.

3. If body weight is the only thing being “lifted” during a triathlon, why do triathletes need a training program that uses free weights, machines or other equipment? It can lead to more speed in the pool, more power on the bike and more efficiency running.

4. How does strength training for triathletes differ from programs used by bodybuilders, powerlifters and the general public? Triathlon training should emphasize split-stance and single-leg lower body moves while incorporating single and alternate arm patterns to work on diagonal loading of the hips and shoulders working through the core. I’ll definitely get into more of what endurance athlete specific strength training should like the night of the talk.

5. What do you think is the biggest misconception about triathletes and strength training? That it will slow them down, add bulk and take away from swimming, riding and running.

6. So is it enough to go lift weights at the gym a few times a week? No, there needs to be a program dialed in to address what endurance athletes need: solid mid-back, shoulder and hip mobility. It has to have a plan, a purpose and specific outcome as the goal. Plus, if there is a performance gap in the pool, on the bike or on the run, strength training can help to close it.

7. What’s the biggest mistake you see most triathletes make with their current strength training routine? Not enough emphasis on the back half of the body which is the powerhouse for performance and proper posture.

8. If there’s one exercise triathletes absolutely cannot afford to skip, what is it? I don’t know if it’s an exercise as much as it is a movement: Learning the hip hinge is critical to opening the front half of the body and strengthening the back half to help with both injury prevention and performance improvement.

9. Should triathletes adjust their program when training for different distances? How? My stance on this is that the longer the distance, the more hip dominant movements (hinges, bridges, etc.) they should do. It should be the majority of the lower body work to keep the glutes as “online” as possible. Once they shut down, the whole operation can go south.

10. Say someone’s deep into training and short on time; is there a minimum amount of strength training they should be doing each week? Two days a week for at least 30 minutes using compound movements. Exercises combining hinging + pulling and squatting + pressing work really well. Especially using a split stance with single or alternate arm exercises.

Thanks, Al — great info, as always! 

Attention Bay Area friends: Al’s doing a *free* triathlete-specific strength training workshop at Sunnyvale Sports Basement from 6:30-8:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 11. Swing by, say hi, and pick up some of his tips on the best kinds of strength training exercises to help you race stronger, recover faster and reduce the chance of getting injured this season. 

Click here for details on the event, and visit INTEGRATE Performance Fitness to learn more.

Triathletes, is strength work part of your regular training regimen?

StitchFix Shipment No. 9 Review

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My last StitchFix netted me two solid basics for pregnancy and beyond (read about it here) after asking my stylist for items that would grow with me and my ever-changing belly.

The dress was a life-saver this fall at both a retirement party and, sadly, a funeral. And while I have yet to wear the blouse (it’s just a tad roomy, and I’m trying to get away with wrapping the bump while I still can), I know it’s time is coming…as in when I need to switch to tent-like styles in the last month or so of pregnancy, plus afterwords while nursing.

For my ninth fix, I gave my stylist a heads up that I’d be a little more than eight months along. But rather than investing in additional maternity clothing at this stage of the game, I asked her to get creative with items that would double as both late-pregnancy and postpartum wardrobe staples.

New to StitchFix? Read all about how it works here

Let’s take a peek at what came in this month’s box, shall we?

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First up was the Le Lis Bray Raglan Textured Knit Top ($58). I have a hard time passing up a baseball-sleeve top for whatever reason, so this one was immediately intriguing.

My stylist picked it because I’d asked about chunky knit sweaters, so she thought this one would be a fun take on the traditional look. It’s super comfy and I love how stretchy it is; however, the thin, delicate — almost airy — knit of the sleeves makes me nervous, considering I’ll have a kiddo clinging to me soon.

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Next was the Laila Jayde Malaga Drape Cardigan ($48). This one had me at the robin-egg blue; what a great color, right?

I tried it out below with a casual tank and ballet flats, but it can really be dressed up or down depending on the clothing and accessories with which it’s paired. My stylist, for example, showed me two versions — one with a t-shirt, jeans and boots; the other with a pencil skirt, shell and heels — so if I can step out of my comfort zone with this one, it might be a good addition to my wardrobe.

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Third was the Mystree Rigley Knit Top ($58). I’m pretty sure my stylist included this one because I requested some fun, longer tops I could pair with leggings to look somewhat pulled-together when what I really want is to be in pajamas.

It seems like a pretty versatile top that I can wear with different kinds of pants and layer with scarves, sweaters and jackets. But the material is super thin, which is surprising with regards to the price tag, plus I’m not sure I’m loving where the length hits me.

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After that was the Skies are Blue Torry Embroidered Tunic ($64). By this point in pregnancy, anything that slims is beyond appreciated (my sister’s comment: “You don’t even look pregnant in that!”)…but I wanted to keep my wits about me when considering this one.

My stylist suggested this top for a dressier look when paired with any cut of jeans or even a dress pant. The collar detail and shape are flattering, as is the cut and color, but I’m just not sure if I need another blouse like this in my closet.

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And, finally, came the Rune Porter Leggings ($38). My stylist chose these because they’ve got a mid-rise, thicker waistband and feel more substantial than your typical legging, meaning they’re very post-baby friendly.

As you can see in the pictures below, they’re comfortable, versatile and flattering (well, as much as possible at 8.5-months pregnant), which is a win. But, again, I’m just not sure if I can justify that kind of price tag without any other bells, whistles — or slimming belly panels!

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So what did I end up keeping?

In the end, I opted for just the Le Lis Bray Raglan Textured Knit Top. The other items were nice, but this one got both my sister and Ben’s top vote for being cute, comfortable and unlike anything I’ve currently got in my closet.

My next fix is scheduled for May, and I requested items to perk up my warm-weather wardrobe. I know I won’t necessarily be back to pre-baby shape by then, but I’m hoping it’ll give me a little inspiration for some summer events we’ve got scheduled. So stay tuned to see what she’s got up her sleeve for fix no. 10!

Want to try StitchFix? Use my referral link to fill out your style profile and get started.

Disclosure: This is not a sponsored post. I simply love the service and think it’s fun to share my experience. I pay for Stitch Fix on my own. If you sign up using my referral link, I’ll get a credit…so thanks in advance for fueling my next fix! 

Fave Fix: Feetures! Elite Socks

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What do you do when you’re not able to run at the moment, let alone walk at a very brisk pace without getting winded or causing contractions?

You geek out over running accessories in the hopes that testing some new gear will help keep you from trying to distract yourself by cranking up the resistance during your current low-intensity, low-impact workouts.

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Which is why we’re talking socks today, particularly the Feetures! Elite Collection ($14.99 per pair), the brand’s most technically advanced product (yep, they had me at “targeted compression”).

Designed to provide maximum support in all the right places, these socks also feature a construction that reduces irritation and discomfort (i.e. protection from blisters), as well as material that wicks moisture to keep feet cool and dry.

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I tried out a pair from each end of the cushioning spectrum — one with light cushioning (in “Ultraviolet”) and the other with maximum cushioning (in “Atlantis”).

And no, not all of Feetures!’ socks come in such bright colors; they just knew I’m a sucker for loud workout gear, so they sent me two fun colorways to check out. 

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Since I have a pretty narrow heel, I prefer thick running socks; what I love about this max cushioning style is that the tab at the back is nice and cushy (see picture below) to act as both a buffer and a barrier as your feet inevitably shift in your shoes.

They held up nicely during a long walk on the treadmill in which I played with speeds and incline to try them from different angles, so I can only assume they’ll perform just as well once I’m back running out on the roads post-baby.

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As for the pair with light cushioning, they’re perfect for cross-training — so I tried them out during a bootcamp session, as well as the walk to and from class.

What I like about these is that they’re slightly less bulky, yet still provide plenty of protection thanks to an anatomical design in which there’s extra cushioning in high-impact areas (see the picture below where I flipped it inside out to illustrate), as well as seamless construction that virtually eliminates any irritation.

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Sure, “A sock is a sock,” you may be saying to yourself. But you’ll beg to differ the first time you have to cut a run short — or grit your teeth and tough it out if you’re far from your home/car — due to a hot spot that develops into a painful blister.

So do yourself a favor, whether your’re ramping up workouts, still enjoying your off-season, doing some pre-training planning for the year or simply sidelined (like me!) for the next few months, and take a moment to inventory and update your outdated running attire and accessories.

You’d be surprised at how quickly technology changes and how much more pleasant workouts can be when your gear works with you rather than against you!

When’s the last time you re-vamped your workout gear?

Recipe: Zest Nutrition’s Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

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When your doctor suggests that you double down on healthy fats to help your baby pack on the pounds in its last few weeks in utero, you happily oblige. Especially when you know you’ve got friends with something delicious up their sleeves to help perk up plain old nuts.

Typically, candied nuts are coated in butter and refined white sugar. But Megan and Anna, the brilliant minds behind Zest Nutrition, created a recipe that uses egg white instead of butter and maple syrup and coconut sugar for natural sweetness.

These tasty tidbits are their creation, which totally hit when spot when you’re looking for a quick sweet-n-savory snack. In fact, they’re downright addictive. You’ve been warned!

Sweet & Spicy Walnuts

(via Zest Nutrition)

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups walnut halves
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Coat walnuts in egg white and maple syrup.
  3. Stir together remaining ingredients and toss with walnut mixture.
  4. Bake for 20 minutes, option to stir halfway through.
  5. Allow to cool completely before storing. Flavors enhance once nuts have cooled and the crunch has set in.
How do you incorporate healthy fats into your diet?