I don’t permanently count anything out of my diet BUT, when preparing food at home I like to make it as lean and clean as possible. One of the easiest ways to do this is with your choice of protein. Many people think that eating lean means weighing your portions and force-feeding yourself unseasoned, unsalted baked or boiled chicken breast for breakfast lunch and dinner. Let me tell you first hand, we are better than boiled chicken. To keep my at home diet interesting, I opt for the ever versatile, California grown Foster Farms Organic (97% lean) Ground Turkey. I love to sub ground turkey into any recipe that calls for ground beef. Burgers, meatballs, tacos, lettuce cups, casseroles, pasta sauce and my favorite, chili.
Compare 4oz of Foster Farms Organic Ground Turkey to 4oz of normal Ground Beef Chuck and the stats look like this:
Calories – 160 FF Turkey vs 270 Chuck
Total Fat – 9g FF Turkey vs 21g Chuck
Protein – 22g FF Turkey vs 20g Chuck
If the nutritional stats didn’t already win me over, the USDA Organic certified standards Foster Farms adheres drives it home. Their land is farmed without pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. Their turkeys are fed an organic, all-natural and vegetarian diet. No GMOs, antibiotics or growth hormones. I encourage you to trade your protein in for turkey and start with my moms chili recipe below:
Protein Packed Turkey Chili
My mom has made this chili recipe with soft tofu for years… I upped the protein with ground turkey. A key ingredient for this chili is the blackstrap molasses. Blackstrap molasses is high in magnesium, potassium, iron and it has a low glycemic rate so it adds a little sweetness without spiking your blood sugar.
Of course turkey chili is amazing with the classic toppings, but I love using it for nachos and healthified huevos rancheros (chili and eggs) topped with a dollop of plain greek yogurt and a few tortilla chips.
- 1 package Foster Farms Organic Ground Turkey
- 1/2 salt
- 1/4 pepper
- 1/2 chili
- 3 T blackstrap molasses
- 4 cans stewed and seasoned tomatoes
- 1 can black beans
- 2 cans kidney beans
- 1/2 onion diced
- 1 red pepper diced
Dice and sauté onion and red pepper with olive oil until soft (3 min)
Add ground turkey, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper
Break apart turkey with wooden spoon or spatula until cooked/slightly browned
Add all cans of stewed tomatoes, 3T molasses, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp chili
Simmer for 5 – 10 min
Open and rinse beans. Be sure to shake the excess water out of the colander
Simmer for 10-15 min – simmer longer for a thicker chili but remember that chili is always thicker as leftovers
Let me fess up to a few neurotic habits I’ve committed to while I was on a health kick — Preparing all my food without oil or salt. Bringing my own meals to parties. Eliminating fruit except apples and berries. Counting my almonds. I was borderline insane and 100% not living life. Eating food that is delicious and more importantly satisfying around the clock is what keeps my on track today. Nut butters give you that fatty satisfaction and protein to keep you full. I am thrilled to partner with Mara Natha to share how nut butters are easy to travel with, quick to fill you up and satisfy both your sweet and savory cravings. Here are my favorite MaraNatha recipes that keep me motivated throughout the day.
Almond Swirl Overnight Oats
Most mornings I barley have time to brush my hair and let’s be honest, a lot of these healthy breakfast bowls and smoothies require so many dang ingredients it’s just too much to think about while running out the door. My go to for a busy week is throwing together a couple jars of almond butter swirl overnight oats on a Sunday night. You can add fruit, jam, chocolate, protein powder, the list goes on make them but here are the basics, no measuring involved!
Spoon MaraNatha almond butter blobs into jar
Fill HALF the jar with oats (I mix steel cut oats and rolled oats for a variety in texture)
Sprinkle a some chia seeds and cinnamon on top of oats
Drizzle some maple syrup or favorite sweetener
Fill the jar with your favorite milk (I use almond)
Screw lid tight and shake to mix oats and swirl almond butter
Refrigerate a few hours or overnight
Cinnamon Almond Butter Dip
I’m sure I’m not the only one who likes to eat nut butter by the spoonful and dip anything from apples to pretzels to fig newtons right into the jar. To slow my roll on polishing off an entire jar in one sitting I mix coconut milk (thicker dip) or almond milk (thinner dip).
Blend 1 part milk of choice to 1 part MaraNatha almond butter + cinnamon ( + sweetener as you’d like ). The photo was 1/4 cup almond butter and 1/4 cup coconut milk (from the can)
10 Second Energy Bites
Easier than making powerballs and cleaner than eating a packaged protein bar, these energy bites take 10 seconds tops to throw together. In a pinch or before I work out I grab a pitted date, smear some MaraNatha almond butter on it and sprinkle bee pollen on top. The date gives you the natural sugar, almond butter protein and fat, and bee pollen for B vitamins!
Almond Tahini Pad Thai
After a long day, these is a recipe for me to look forward to – Here is a fresh twist on Pad Thai. In these photos I used brown rice Pad Thai noodles, but I’ve also made the dish with kelp noodles, zucchini noodles, and a no noodle version served on top of brown rice. It’s really about the almond tahini sauce- make it as thin or thick as you want by varying the amount of water you add. Also, feel free to add less spice, but do make up for it by adding soy sauce or else your Pad Thai will reside in bland land 🙂
Make the sauce
- 1/4 cup MaraNatha almond butter (crunchy or smooth)
- 3 tsp Sriracha
- 1 T Tahini
- 1 tsp ginger – either graded fresh or I use a jarred for convenience
- 3/4 cup water
Boil a pot of water for your brown rice pad Thai noodles, rice or any other grain. Prepare as advised on packaging.
Slice your favorite veggies so they’re similar in size – I used spiralized zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, broccoli and broccoli slaw.
Heat vegetable oil or coconut oil and 1 clove of garlic minced. Sautee veggies until soft.
Add protein and noodles to cooked veggies. To save time, I buy a rotisserie chicken (no salt option is best), shred the meat. For a vegetarian/vegan version, add cubed tofu.
Remove from heat and add sauce, stir
Top with the juice from 1/2 to 1 whole lime, slivered almonds and cilantro
Everyone is always harping on about protein intake. We know it keeps you feeling full and your muscles feeling strong, but why is that? Turns out, like all things in life it’s not that complicated. Protein literally passes through your body (a.k.a. metabolizes) at a slower pace than fat or carbs. This is why a protein heavy choice keeps your energy up and your cravings at bay (hopefully) longer than a gorgeous pastry or cream cheese smeared bagel. That being said, protein is not stored in the body which is why we need to eat it on the regular– at least 0.8g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. I am 5’7 and 135 lbs (61.23 kilograms) which means I should eat about 49 grams of protein per day. However, athletes and the super active should eat more. For young women that’s 15-23 grams of protein post workout. When I am in peak shape, I’m eating 20 grams of protein per meal (60g/day). A typical day looks like this: shake in the morning, eggs, egg whites, beans or quinoa at lunch, and chicken breast or turkey burgers for dinner.
The morning is often the most difficult time to get protein in, especially after a sweat sesh and before work. This post-workout shake will help soothe your muscles, replenish your strength, and sustain your energy well into lunchtime with 3 key ingredients:
OLLY Super Foods Smoothie Mix –
I have long embraced plant based protein over whey (dairy) which is why I love this OLLY Super Foods Smoothie. I consider dairy a gateway drug: with cheese comes bread, with milk come cookies. OLLY protein is a blend of pea, golden chiorella and flax. Unlike other vegan proteins like rice or soy, pea based proteins are considered “complete” meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids. The Super Foods blend has two serves of fruit & veggies with 6 different super foods which is great when I’m super crunched on time I can shake it up with almond milk and run out the door.
Bok Choy- Chinese Cabbage
Like broccoli, cauliflower and brussel sprouts, bok choy is a crucifer. Its leaves and stems are soft and fully edible. It’s great in stir fry, salads and soups, but not often forgotten when it comes to smoothies. Bok choy is high in antioxidants, vitamin K and omega-3s which help reduce muscle inflammation – key for post workout fatigued and sore muscles.
Tart Cherry Juice
I’ve long heard about runners drinking tart cherry juice to expedite muscle recovery. An Oregon Health and Science study found that runners who drank tart cherry juice immediately after a run, had 23% less pain than those who didn’t. However you’re sweating, unsweetened, 100% cherry juice is packed with antioxidants and potassium both major contributors to soothing your worn and torn muscles.
Tart Cherry Super Food Smoothie
2 scoops OLLY Super Foods Smoothie Mix
2 Bok Choy leaves and stems
½ cup Tart Cherry Juice (unsweetened)
½ cup Milk or Nutmilk (I used Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk )
5-6 Frozen Strawberries
½ Frozen Banana
1 Tablespoon Almond Butter
This post is in partnership with OLLY however the views are all my own!
I woke up missing the south of France! I once lived in Monaco for 4 months and would go to Nice to eat my favorite street food: SOCCA. Made from chickpea flour, socca is naturally gluten free, vegan and has a bit of protein. Traditionally you’d eat socca plain, but I like to top it with anything I’m craving to make a pizza/crepe like meal. In the photo below I went with wilted arugula, spicy chicken sausage and sautéed onion and red peppers.
Combine and mix all ingredients well in large bowl. Coat a hot non-stick pan with oil. Pour 1/4 cup batter into pan and shift it around until it thinly covers the entire base of the pan evenly. Cook for 3 min and flip-the edges should be crispy. Drizzle with oil (I use flax) and salt and pepper.
Yields 4-5 pancakes
- 2 cups chickpea flour
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon Cumin
In my last blog entry I discuss some brain boosting foods that help you focus fast and sustain your energy throughout the day.
Here is my absolute favorite food for thought, an Almond Butter Berry Bowl. I originally created this bowl for an article on SimonSAID, but am so obsessed with it I had to share it here. Unpeel and freeze bananas in a plastic bag or Tupperware in advance. Using frozen opposed to fresh banana and berries will create the thick, satisfying smoothie bowl you are hoping for. Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth. My favorite post workout meal to date!
1 Cup Frozen Mixed Berries
1/2 Frozen Banana (I always keep peeled and bananas in a Ziplock in my freezer!)
1 Scoop Protein Powder
1 T Almond Butter
1 T Chia Seeds
3/4 cup Unsweetened Vanilla Almond milk (1/2 cup for even thicker bowls)
Top with your favorite brain foods— I used dark chocolate, blueberries, whole grain granola and shredded coconut.
These days your mind is at a constant tug of war with so many worlds. While you can’t tell the world to stop spinning, you can take control by feeding your brain with the nutrients it craves. Using food as fuel you can funnel your focus, harness a sense of control and turn your mind into an ally. While a venti triple dirty chai sounds like the perfect pick me up to focus fast, you risk a heavy crash. Whether for a meal or on the go, nutrient dense foods with a balance of healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein will sustain your energy level when you need it most.
In creating this balance, there are certain foods you can incorporate that contain especially powerful brain boosting properties:
Flavonoids are an important component of berries. Not only do the flavonoids give the berries their gorgeous color, they feed the hippocampus which is the portion of your brain responsible for memory and learning. Their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power helps your blood flow through your body and to your brain without inhibition.
Like coffee, dark chocolate is a natural stimulant but has a fraction of the caffeine so you can get a boost, but avoid the crash. 1 ounce of dark chocolate (5-6 squares) contains ¼ of the caffeine in an 8 ounce cup of coffee. Like berries, dark chocolate contains flavonols and antioxidants which can do the work so your attention span doesn’t have to.
Probiotic foods like yogurt, kefir and kimchee help balance the bacteria in your gut referred to as your gut microbiome. “The key to optimizing our cognitive and physical health lies in the health of our gut. When we feed our gut a healthy diet we are truly fueling maximum health,” explains Bruce Lowell MD of Lowell Metabolics.
The benefit of eating your greens is no new news but, recent studies link the consumption of 2 cups of greens per day with a lower level of cognitive decline*. Greens such as spinach, kale and swiss chard are loaded with Vitamin A, and folic acid which has been shown to improve mental clarity.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are especially high in good fat and vitamin E. Both properties help keep your heart healthy and brain functioning properly, increasing focus and concentration.
Click here for my favorite food for thought… an almond butter berry smoothie bowl!