5 Ways to Avoid the Holiday Eating Frenzy

Let’s be honest – we’ve made it to the final stretch of 2020, but we’re all on fumes at this point.

Worn down by a non-stop news cycle and the never-ending pandemic, not to mention all the other “2020 things” (election, natural disasters, murder hornets and homeschooling, to name a few), most of us are probably considering just burying our faces in a pint of Eggnog ice cream and calling it a year, right?

But here’s where I tell you there’s a better way – a way to enjoy the holidays without the pressure of resolutions to undo all the damage come January. And best of all, it doesn’t have to suck the life out of your holiday season.

It’s all about making a few little shifts to set yourself up for success when navigating holiday eating landmines. Here are five ways to get started:

1. Think small. Small = sustainable. Abstaining completely from your favorite holiday treats isn’t realistic. Instead, aim for eating (and taking the time to savor) one serving of the things you really love. 

2. Just keep swimming. End up going overboard? First, don’t beat yourself up: There’s no failure, only feedback. Second, assess the situation: Is there something that triggered you – i.e. stress, loneliness? And third, make a list of alternate ideas for addressing it next time. For example, instead of turning to food for comfort when you’re missing family, try Face Timing them or writing a letter.

3. Prioritize protein. It’s the macronutrient responsible for muscle repair and recovery, plus it’ll keep you more satiated (read: less susceptible to filling up on those hyper-palatable treats that are devoid of healthy nutrients). So rather than starving yourself all day before a big dinner, a better strategy would be to fill up on protein and veggies at breakfast so you don’t go berserk later.

4. Aim for progress, not perfection. Don’t let perfect get in the way of good enough. It usually leads to the all-or-nothing cycle of “starting again on Monday,” which never works. Be realistic. Choose fewer processed foods. Grab a handful of veggies when you think about it. Swap a diet pop in for a regular pop. And, for goodness sake, drink a few more glasses of water.

5.  Take the focus off food. Sure, food is front and center during the holidays, but it doesn’t mean we can let the other puzzle pieces slide. Getting enough sleep helps ward off cravings and regulate hormones, moving your body gets endorphins flowing, and taking time for recovery and mindfulness will help tie it all together.

Need some extra accountability? Join us December 1-21 for 21 days of movement and healthy habits with our Healthy Holidays Challenge 2020!

Details are below; signups are underway, and we’ve got prizes for participation, so get ready to end the year on a high note.

Integrate Fitness + Nutrition’s Healthy Holidays Challenge 2020

December 1-21

$21 for 21 days of workouts + healthy habits

CLICK HERE TO REGISTER!

Already dreading the scale come January? It doesn’t have to be that way; we’ve got your back this year!

Join us for a 21-day challenge, and partake in your favorite holiday indulgences without wreaking havoc on your health and fitness goals.

You will receive:

  • Daily 15-minute bodyweight workout
  • Daily 5-minute nutrition action
  • Ideas for enjoying the season while staying on track
  • Private group for support and accountability
  • Incentive prizes to stoke a little friendly competition!

Make time to take care of yourself this season. Our Healthy Holiday Challenge will:

  • Keep you active and focused on healthy habits
  • Help with stress relief
  • Provide you with accountability and extra motivation
  • Give you a head start on your New Year’s goals

Don’t deprive yourself; let us help you shift your focus without the pressure of resolutions!

And here’s how we’re sweetening the deal… Earn participation points each day, and WIN awesome prizes!

  • Workout + Nutrition action completed = 2 points
  • Social media post (tag us & use hashtag #IFNhealthyholiday2020) = 3 points
  • Recruit a friend to join = 5 points

Tracking is the responsibility of each participant & works on the honor system. Let us know your final score at the end of the challenge = the three people with highest points win!

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP!

Need even more support and accountability? I offer 1:1 nutrition coaching as a certified Pn1 sports nutrition coach. Shoot me a note (jennifer (at) pulsecreativepdx (dot) com) if you’re interested, and let’s chat!

Six Simple Ways to Incorporate (More) Movement in Your Life

Exercise is more important than ever right now. Not only does it boost the immune system, prevent weight gain (hello, Quarantine15) and improve sleep, but it also (and perhaps most importantly) reduces stress and anxiety and supports mental health.

But what if you’re stuck in rut or not feeling particularly motivated at the moment?

First, I don’t blame you. Now is the time to give ourselves grace – not extra pressure. And second, that said, it’s still important to move your body as regularly as possible with the current constraints.

So here’s the plan: Al Painter, 19-year strength training veteran and owner of Integrate Performance Fitness, and I teamed up for six quick tips (three physical & three mental) to help you get back in the game.

Three Ways to Put the ‘Physical’ Back in Fitness (c/o Al):

  1. Twenty is plenty. Ready for the fitness revelation of the ages? You DON’T need a 60-minute ass-whooping of biblical proportions with each workout. Keep it short and sweet; 20 minutes is more than enough to make a change.
  2. Use compound movements. Pick 2-3 exercises that will use every muscle in your body – preferably from the push, pull and squat departments. For instance, body-weight squats are a great option because there are so many varieties. You could even go with something as simple as a crawling. Throw in some lunging left and right, and you’ve just put together a full-body workout in a very short amount of time.
  3. K.I.S.S. The rule of thumb here is that basics work best. Don’t try and to combine your favorite CardiogaPlyolatesKickBoxSculpt-X classes in your workouts. Trying to get better at everything in the same workout leaves you better at nothing over all.

Put it in action:

Here’s how Al describes one of his favorite “Twenty is Plenty” circuits with an exercise band:

  1. Squatting with an alternate arm pull because this gets my glutes, obliques and every muscle of my pull chain.
  2. Stepping and pressing with an alternate arm pattern because it looks like running, walking and skipping and lets me hit damn near every muscle in my body at once in an incredibly functional way.
  3. Anti-Rotation Lunges because this hits all of the muscles that stop rotation that will reduce your chances of having lower back issues. Plus this is a left and right side exercise so you can get an additional bang for your buck with more movement.
  4. I like to set a clock for :30 of moving and :30 of rest and a total set number of 20. This gives me just under 20:00 (19:33 to be exact if you’re keeping score at home) of movement.

Three Ways to Up Your Mental Game (c/o yours truly):

  1. Give yourself a goal. Set your sights on something S.M.A.R.T. – that is, Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Timely. Once you know where you want to go, it’s easier to make a plan for how to get there. And being able to break that plan into small, incremental steps will help you focus your efforts and stay motivated.
  2. Try it for 21 days. Whether or not you subscribe to the fact that it takes 21 days to develop a habit (one study says it’s more like 66, on average), three weeks is a great starting point when making a new behavior part of your life.
  3. Peer pressure FTW! Groups are great for accountability and morale, so find a like-minded community to help you go the distance. If that’s no an option, try recruiting friends and family to help keep you honest; their support – and cheerleading – can go a long way when it comes to achieving your goal.

Put it in action:

Here’s an exercise I like to use when setting up a S.M.A.R.T. goal; just start small and go from there:

  1. Specific – What do you want to achieve exactly? The more detailed, the better. If you commit to more speedwork in your running, saying “I’m going to join X group on Monday nights for their coached track workouts each week” is much better than “I want to work on my speed.”
  2. Measurable – Define criteria for measurement (if your goal is weight loss, say a pound per week), which allows you to check your progress regularly and make adjustments as needed. Smaller increments are more manageable, meaning you have a better chance of staying on track.
  3. Achievable – The best goals stretch you outside of your comfort zone but aren’t so unattainable that they become demoralizing. On the other hand, go too easy, and you may never find out what you’re truly capable of. Find the middle ground, and go for it.
  4. Relevant – Pick what’s personally meaningful, not necessarily what’s most popular, and you’ll be willing to work towards it. Don’t set your sights on a marathon if you can’t stand running long distances; instead, find something that suits you and your investment will be that much higher.
  5. Timely – Give yourself a deadline. When your goal is time-bound, you’ll stay motivated, focused and on schedule. Ahead of schedule? Great! Pat yourself on the back, then adjust your goal and keep moving toward that next milestone.

If you’re interested in testing out these tips for yourself, Al and I have a proposal for you: We’re launching a Core Commitment Challenge starting June 15 and would love for you to join us.

It’s 21 days of just 20 minutes of movement per day. Short, sweet, simple. Designed for people who are crunched for time but want to add some movement to their life.

Register here (use code 21DAYS to get the challenge for just $14 if you register by 6/11/20). It’s open to everyone, and we can’t wait to get moving with you!

Why KISS Should Be Your New Fitness Mantra

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Well, hello! It’s been a while, but it’s great to be back. Time away to reflect (and raise two tiny humans) has given me a renewed mission: to inform and inspire, along with igniting a passion for the process of getting fit. It’s not about letting go of your dreams, aspirations and ultimate goals; it’s about gaining the perspective to maintain a healthy balance while pursuing them. Curious about this new outlook? Read on…

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and that’s where we’re at with the fitness industry these days.

Set goal –> Achieve goal –> Set bigger/longer/faster goal –> Get injured –> Recover –> Set even bigger/longer/faster goal –> Achieve goal (maybe) –> Get injured again –> ???

Sensing a pattern here?

Now, I’m not knocking goal-setting. It’s great to test yourself every now and then, both in relation to your former self and to others. But solely focusing on the achievement of a goal (or string of goals) isn’t just short-term when it comes to fitness; it’s short-sighted.

I’m guilty of this myself. After my son was born, I couldn’t wait to start training again; I had BIG GOALS for a half marathon PR. I thought I was being responsible, doing preventative PT, easing back into running and even going as far as to hire a coach to help rein in my training mileage.

But now I realize that a need to prove myself combined with a narrow focus was ultimately my undoing; I was still missing key strength components to help my new (postpartum) body navigate training.

The PR came, but at a cost: a stress fracture that left me wondering what it was worth.

It turns out there’s a fine line between relentless and reckless. And you don’t often know you’ve crossed it until it’s too late.

Over the past 20 years (I started my writing career at Windy City Sports magazine in Chicago during the early 2000’s), I’ve seen the industry evolve in a way that’s become a lot about ego: followers, PRs, races, workouts in “beast mode.”

The common thread? Bigger, better, stronger, harder, longer, faster, more, more, MORE!

We push-push-push to validate ourselves, thinking that we’ll finally feel the sense of worth that comes with PRs, qualifications, nailing skills or hitting certain levels.

But, the truth is, we still won’t feel good about ourselves, and the finish line just keeps running away.

I’ve talked about this extensively with Al Painter (a friend, colleague, 19-year fitness industry vet and former mountain bike racer), and we commiserated over the shared experience of chasing the elusive “win.”

“When I raced my mountain bike, getting faster was never fast enough. Every ride had to be a training challenge,” Painter told me.

“Winning races weren’t really victories because the second I crossed the finish line, I realized I had to start training for the next event, keeping me from feeling good about the one I just finished.”

We agreed that it’s high time to stop putting pressure on ourselves for PRs, and us competitive-non-elite-athletes are in desperate need of a mental shift.

Whether it takes getting sidelined by a major injury or being quarantined at home due to a global pandemic, we should be utilizing this time not to bemoan missed races, but to re-think our current routines and get back to valuing – and celebrating – the basics.

But don’t basics = boring?

Nope. That’s just your ego talking.

Think of fitness like a pyramid. At the bottom are things like adequate sleep, good nutrition, postural alignment, structural imbalances, etc. When we master these things and are doing them consistently, only then should we gradually layer on other training components.

The top of the pyramid is reserved for elite athletes; not only are they invested in conditioning their bodies for super specific niches, but they also benefit financially from doing so.

“If your livelihood depends on a certain level of fitness to get paid to perform a demanding physical task, you’re playing by an entirely different set of rules,” Painter said in a recent Red Delta Project podcast interview.

For the rest of us, we need to have an honest conversation with ourselves about training our bodies for the life we are living. Or, as Painter says (and I’ve since adopted as my mantra), “You’re not getting paid to play; you’re paying to play.”

I used to measure my fitness in running PRs, but now I define it more broadly: Running’s always been my therapy, so can I keep doing it and stay pain-free, with the occasional race thrown in? Can I lift my toddlers without tweaking my back? Can I go into each day feeling my best, so I can show up for myself and my family?

My challenge to you (and myself) is to take a simpler, kinder approach to your fitness. KISS, if you will. And here’s how we can start:

  1. Define why, then what. There’s no better time to do some soul-searching. What’s are your motivating forces, and how can you translate them into improving your health in ways that make you feel genuinely good about yourself?
  2. Develop body-listening skills. Pain isn’t something to be ignored, pushed through or “dealt with;” it’s your body trying to communicate something. Instead of trying various ways to shut it up, have the courage to converse.
  3. Identify blind spots. Your least favorites are usually the things you need to focus on most: core work, strength training, mobility, posture, etc. Turning weaknesses into strengths is the game-changer. What are you currently resisting?
  4. Learn what advice to take. And, more importantly, learn who to ignore. There’s a big difference between “expert” and “influencer,” so do your research.
  5. Reframe fitness success. Mastering one skill is impressive to people who are also concentrating on that one skill – i.e. running. But, again, unless you’re operating at the elite level, it’s not real life. Are you able to touch your toes, do yard work, take a dance class or throw a ball with your kids?

Think holistically, and the way you define yourself, your fitness, your successes and your failures fundamentally shifts.

Don’t stop dreaming; there’s a time and a place for goals. But just don’t base your self-worth on the achievement of them because it’s a slippery slope.

Channel your excitement into what it takes to get from here to there, and then that PR will simply be icing on the cake.

 

 

Recipe: Power Smoothie…for Pregnancy & Beyond

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Whether you’re an athlete or pregnant woman (or both…or neither!), iron is essential to optimal health. In fact, it’s a critical component in helping our bodies make oxygen-carrying red blood cells.

Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), iron deficiency is one of the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S., with almost 10 percent of women being considered iron deficient.

But did you know that eating foods high in Vitamin C can help you absorb more iron? That’s why this recipe is a great option for anyone who is looking for a nutrient-dense snack to fuel their day.

Plus, just a handful of ingredients provides the following:

  • Peaches = Vitamins A and C, calcium, potassium & magnesium
  • Spinach = iron, Vitamins A, C and K, folate, manganese & potassium
  • Dates = good source of energy, natural sugar & fiber
  • Chia seeds = fiber, protein & Omega-3’s
  • Hemp seeds = protein, fatty acids (Omega 3, 6, 9 & GLA), & all essential amino acids
  • Greek yogurt = protein, calcium & probiotics
  • OJ = Vitamin C & folate
  • Almond milk = protein, fiber & Vitamin E

So, without further ado, I present to you the…

Power Smoothie…for Pregnancy & Beyond!

Ingredients:

  • 1c frozen peach slices
  • 2c loosely packed fresh spinach
  • 1 Tbsp Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp hemp seed hearts
  • 1/2c Greek yogurt
  • 1c orange juice
  • 1/2c unsweetened almond milk

Directions:

  1. Measure all ingredients into blender.
  2. Cover, blend & enjoy!

Note: If this isn’t up your alley, ingredient-wise, but you still want to whip up your own custom smoothie that’s a perfect fit for your fitness goals, my friends over at Natural Delights made a nifty smoothie builder that allows you to create your own concoction – complete with all the nutritional info.

Happy blending and healthy living, friends!

This post is sponsored by Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool Dates, but the recipe and opinions expressed therein are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that partner with KineticFix.com!

What You Don’t Know CAN Hurt You: Outdated Guidelines for Pregnancy & Exercise

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via Getty Images

Disclaimer: This post does not constitute medical advice. If you’re pregnant – and especially if either you or your pregnancy are considered high-risk – always check with your health care provider for exercise recommendations before starting new a fitness routine. 

In a recent physical therapy appointment, my PT asked about how workouts were going now that pregnancy has progressed to the “oh-she’s-definitely-pregnant-not-just-overindulging-during-the-holidays” stage.

For the most part, great, I told her. Although no training’s happening at the moment, I put myself on a loose schedule of cardio, strength training, PT exercises and workout classes throughout the week to keep moving.

The major difference between this and my first pregnancy? I’m feeling larger and dealing with the usual minor discomforts earlier this time around.

And the biggest similarity? Oddly enough, how other people are reacting to my current state – particularly when it comes to fitness: instead of addressing the obvious and offering advice/adjustments, it feels like most instructors simply opt for avoidance.

Yes, there are potential ramifications and legal complications for trainers giving pre- and post-natal fitness advice when they’re not qualified to do so. But given the fact that the average pregnant women isn’t sure what she should (or shouldn’t) be doing, some general guidance would be helpful.

Literally, I have to bite my tongue every time I see another pregnant woman past her first trimester doing sit-ups. 

And what’s even crazier is that some doctors still adhere to dated exercise principles (aka the heart rate one below). This is not to say you should ever go against your doctor’s advice, but rather that you should shop around and find someone who is up on the latest research if you’re wanting to work out at a certain level with baby on board.

So today we’re tackling a few of my biggest pregnancy pet peeves (outdated exercise guidelines and common myths!), as well as some common-sense do’s and don’ts for a happy, healthy pregnancy for both you and baby:

Myth #1: Keep your heart rate below 140 bpm. 

This is perhaps the most common preggo urban legend, but did you know that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists (ACOG) actually removed this recommendation from their guidelines back in 1994?

It’s still a prevalent piece of advice, however – in fact,  a 2010 study of 93 practicing physicians and midwives found that 64 percent of all respondents believed that maternal exercise heart rate should not exceed 140 beats per minute.

Your best bet? Again, check with your doctor for specific metrics, but also consider using breathlessness and perceived exertion to keep yourself in check during workouts.

Myth #2: Don’t lift more than 25 pounds. 

This is actually an arbitrary number, meaning there are no studies that show that lifting more than 25 pounds has an effect on birth weight or premature labor.

It is true that a woman’s capacity to safely lift a load decreases throughout pregnancy, but this has more to do with a change in center of gravity affecting balance, as well as hormones causing connective tissue, ligaments and tendons to soften in preparation for labor.

The safest game plan? Gradually reduce your maximum load as pregnancy progresses, and pay special attention to keeping proper form to avoid unnecessary injury.

Myth #3: Vigorous exercise will overheat the baby. 

You’ve heard the term “bun in the oven” but no woman wants to inadvertently cook her poor fetus!

Interestingly enough, pregnant bodies have a few mechanisms in place to prevent this, however: First, increased blood volume and a lower sweat threshold make it easier to get rid of excess heat. And, second, mama’s weight gain means more tissue that needs to be kept warm.

Of course, use common sense and don’t run in the heat of the sun at the warmest time of day. But as long as you hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and keep cool with sweat-wicking fabrics and proper ventilation, etc., you should be good to go.

Myth #4: Ab workouts are off limits. 

Yes, doing crunches, sit-ups and other ab exercises on your back are a major no-no after the first trimester because they put you at an increased risk for diastasis recti. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore your core!

Depending on the state of your stomach (check with your doctor or a physical therapist first), things like planks may even be off-limits. So modify, as needed, and monitor for “coning” to help avoid separation of your abs.

What else can you do? My best advice here is to see a physical therapist who specializes in pre- and post-natal work to develop a personalized program to keep your core strong – yet safe – during pregnancy.

Myth #5: If you weren’t active before, now is not the time to start. 

You can use your pregnancy to get off the hook when it comes to a lot of stuff, but never – I repeat NEVER – is it an excuse to be totally inactive (unless you’re on doctor-prescribed bed rest, of course).

The exercise benefits to both mama and baby are so great that it’s worth the time and energy investment throughout your pregnancy – just (again) use common sense and stay away from activities that increase your risk of falling. Be mindful of the belly!

If you’ve been active, perfect – simply stick to your usual routine, dialing it back to adapt to your changing body. And if you’re new to working out, even better – now’s the best time to start a wonderful habit with lasting positive effects on both mama and baby for years to come.

Again, it’s worth repeating: Always clear any kind of activity and/or exercise with your doctor. S/he knows your unique situation and can give the best advice.

And, above all else, listen to your own body. You’d be surprised at how mama intuition kicks in when you leave expectations and ego at the door and simply appreciate what your body is able to do!

Recipe: No-Bake Mocha Energy Bars

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I think we can all agree that snacks are pretty awesome.

That quick energy boost is a must, whether you’re deep in race training, pushing through the mid-afternoon slump of a work/school day or chasing after a toddler with a battery that just keeps going and going…and going.

But, alas, very few snacks lie at the intersection of “treat yo’self” and “treat your body well,” which is why I’m really excited to share this recipe for my No-Bake Mocha Energy Bars.

You guys: If fudge and a brownie had a baby, it’d taste just like this – but the best part is that they’re made with just a handful of whole-food ingredients.

Not only did they pass the husband-taste-test with flying colors, but they’re also loaded with protein, fiber, natural sugar and all kinds of vitamins and nutrients. So get your snack on!

No-Bake Mocha Energy Bars

Ingredients: 

  • 1/2 c almonds
  • 1 c walnuts
  • 2 c Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool dates
  • Near-boiling water (to soak dates)
  • 1/4 c warm water
  • 3/4 c cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp instant coffee
  • 1/4 c brown rice syrup (or honey)
  • 1/4 c almond butter
  • 1 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 c pumpkin seeds

Directions: 

  1. Pre-soak dates in hot water for 10-15 minutes, then drain.
  2. Process almonds & walnuts in food processor until they’ve reached a mealy consistency. Place into a medium bowl & set aside.
  3. Process soaked dates and warm water in food processor, adding in cocoa, vanilla and coffee until well blended.
  4. Continue processing date mixture, adding in brown rice syrup, almond butter and the nut meal from step 2.
  5. Transfer ooey-gooey goodness into a medium bowl, and add in oats and seeds. Stir to combine.
  6. Press into a 9×9 pan lined with parchment paper, and freeze for 30 minutes to harden.
  7. Lift bars from pan and chop into smaller pieces. Store in an airtight container in the freezer to keep from getting too sticky at room temp.
  8. When ready to eat, enjoy straight from the freezer!

Let me know if you try these; I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Recipe: Blueberry Pie Protein Smoothie

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When we moved into our house in the ‘burbs almost a year ago, one of the biggest draws was having a backyard — a little breathing room after years of city living.

While we miss the convenience, good restaurants, nearby friends and other perks of city living, our backyard has been a constant source of pleasure, relaxation and…unexpected surprises.

Like when I realized about a month ago that the large cluster of bushes in one corner happened to be blueberry bushes, just bursting with purple berries.

Needless to say, we’re up to our eyeballs in berries — whether freshly-picked and eaten or baked into pies, folded into pancakes and blended into smoothies, such as the one below.

This one’s been a recent favorite in rotation and is perfect as a quick mid-morning snack with protein, antioxidants and nutrients (plus enough staying power) to help you in that final push to lunch!

Blueberry Pie Protein Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup frozen blueberries
  • 1 scoop of your favorite vanilla protein powder
  • 1 Tbsp Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 1/4 cup full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tsp wheat germ
  • 1 Tbsp cashew butter
  • Graham crackers (optional)
  • Lemon zest (optional)

Directions:

  1. Measure ingredients into blender (or large cup for an immersion blender)
  2. Blend on high until smoothie is your preferred consistency
  3. Top with graham crackers and and pinch of lemon zest…enjoy!

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I’m taking suggestions for more blueberry recipes, if you’ve got a favorite to share! 

Recipe: Orange Dreamsicle Protein Smoothie

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Maybe it’s just my Midwestern roots, but the taste of an Orange Julius always brings back fond memories of trips to the mall with my mom.

The only problem? Now that I’m grown up and we’re all better informed about eating healthy, the drink’s nutrition information (or lack there of?) is a tad disturbing.

Yes, I’m talking about you, 0 grams of dietary fiber and 54 grams of sugar in a SMALL serving. 

So in a recent Oregon heat wave I set about recreating this classic treat. Step one was removing any kind of artificial ingredients. Step two was giving it a boost in the nutritional value department.

Typically I sweeten my smoothies with bananas, but this one was just begging for dates. Why? Not only do dates have 50 percent more potassium by weight than bananas, but they don’t overwhelm the flavor if you’re working with a recipe like this.

And to amp up the fiber, I added ground flax seed and wheat germ. Don’t worry; you won’t even notice ’em, but your body will thank you for the extra omega-3’s, lignans (which reduce the risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men), vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, thiamin, folate and phosphorus.

One taste, and you’ll be transported back to childhood!

Orange Dreamsicle Protein Smoothie

Ingredients: 

  • 1 c orange juice
  • 1/2 c milk
  • 1/2 c plain, unsweetened yogurt
  • 1/4 c Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool date paste (directions here)
  • 1 scoop of your favorite vanilla protein powder
  • 2 Tbsp flax seed meal
  • 2 Tbsp wheat germ
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 15 ice cubes
  • Sprinkle of granola

Directions: 

  1. Toss all ingredients into a high-speed blender or food processor & blend.
  2. Pour into two glasses, garnish with a sprinkle of granola & serve immediately.
  3. Enjoy!

Recipe: Cocoa Recovery Truffles

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Eating well on the run isn’t always easy. But eating well while running…or, more specifically, while training and building mileage can be even tougher.

Suddenly justifications abound for treating yourself. And before you know it, “just this once” becomes a regular part of your routine. Or at least for me it does.

That’s why I’ve started whipping up batches of what I’ve dubbed my Cocoa Recovery Truffles. Full of protein, good fats, vitamins, antioxidants and decadent flavor, they hit the spot when you’re craving sweets yet still deliver some great nutritional benefits.

Cocoa Recovery Truffles

Ingredients:

  • Approx 1 cup almond meal (use leftovers from making almond milk)
  • 2 cups unsweetened, finely-shredded coconut
  • 1/4 cup hemp hearts
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp water
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 10 Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool dates, pitted
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil (warmed to liquid)
  • 1/4 cup cacao nibs

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Directions:

  1. Combine almond meal, coconut, hemp hearts, cinnamon, vanilla, water, salt, dates & cocoa powder in a food processor, blending to a uniform consistency.
  2. Turn off food processor & scrape down the sides.
  3. Replace cover, turn it back on & slowly pour in coconut oil until fully incorporated.
  4. Transfer mixture to a bowl & stir in cacao nibs.
  5. Using a spoon, scoop mixture into hands & roll gently into small balls.
  6. Store in an airtight container, separating layers with parchment paper, for up to one week.

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Almost as good as my favorite indulgence of diving spoon-first into a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough!

Recipe: No Added Sugar Banana Zucchini Date (Smash!) Cake

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They say that with age comes wisdom. But, for me, it took being responsible for another little life to finally smarten up about my eating habits.

Sure, Ben and I have always tried to eat healthy, which mostly meant forgoing sugary treats until we’d eventually cave into temptation…only to start a cycle of guilt, restriction and inevitable relapse.

But it wasn’t until I got pregnant that I decided to cut myself some slack and relax when it came to cravings. Although with space in the belly at a premium, you’ve got to make every calorie count.

When I stopped thinking of foods as “good” and “bad” and started judging them on their nutrient density, I felt empowered instead of deprived. Not to mention it felt great to fuel my body — and my baby — with whole foods that would help both of us thrive.

Enter Bard Valley Natural Delights Medjool dates. I’ve partnered with them this year to help our family make the swap from refined sugars to a more natural alternative: whole foods that the body can recognize and pull nutrients from.

My 2015 almond milk experiment started what has become a passionate love affair with these little gems. Medjool dates deliver sustained energy from their combo of fiber and natural sugars, plus they’re packed with potassium to support muscle fuel and recovery.

So Wyatt’s first birthday “smash cake” became an experiment of sorts in substituting date paste for processed sugar. It may have taken me a few attempts — the first was too moist, the second was too dense — but the third time was a charm, as you can see from the shot below.

This recipe works for birthdays, but I think it’s even better made into muffins for a quick energy boost throughout the day. Finally, you can have your cake — and eat it (along with some very valuable nutrients), too.

No Added Sugar Banana Zucchini Date Cake

Ingredients: 

  • 2 small zucchinis, grated & squeezed dry (about 2 cups)
  • 1 ripe banana, mashed
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup date paste
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup coconut flour
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease muffin cups with coconut oil (or use muffin liners).
  2. In large bowl, mix together zucchini and banana. Add eggs one at a time.
  3. Blend in date paste, peanut butter and vanilla.
  4. In small bowl, mix dry ingredients. Add slowly to wet ingredients, stirring to incorporate.
  5. Spoon into muffin cups, filling each 3/4 of the way.
  6. Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into muffin come out clean.

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Give it a try, and let me know what you think!