Ready, Set, SASS!

Happy Monday!  As always, I like to start my week with a fresh slate, so despite the fact that it’s actually a day before New Years, I’m ready to rock and roll!

Snowmen

The first order of business, the starting weigh-in.  My least favorite part.  The time where you get to see the reality on the scale after dodging it for months and hoping the tightness of your jeans was just occasional bloat.   I was disappointed to see that I’m back at 137 pounds, exactly halfway back to my original 2010 starting point before shedding 14 pounds.  I worked my ass off to get that body, completely reforming my eating habits, getting on a regular workout schedule, and swore to myself that I wouldn’t ever go back.  At least I’m catching myself now before slipping all the way back, and I learned so much that year that I’m much more prepared to start over again now.

Starting Weight:   137 pounds (December 30, 2012)

My Goal:   125 pounds

Deadline:  April 1, 2013

The Plan:  S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim (click for more details)

I am following the S.A.S.S Yourself Slim plan, by Cynthia Sass, which was released previously as Cinch!, and frequently referred to in my previous blogs.  The premise is pretty simple – you start with a 5-day detox (the “Fast Forward” phase), losing 5-9 pounds instantly (mostly water & waste weight), then eat a balanced diet with 4 evenly spaced meals throughout the day.  It’s not really a diet – more like a new lifestyle!

The 5 Day “Fast Forward” Phase

First step is grocery shopping.  You’ll need 8 simple ingredients for the Fast Forward phase:  Spinach, Raspberries, Eggs, Yogurt, Almonds, Almond Butter, Oranges / Tangerines, and Balsamic Vinegar.

1)  15 cups of raw spinach, approximately 2 large 10-oz bags.  You’ll be cooking this for your breakfast, and also eating daily salads.  I also like to use a Spinach / Spring Mix blend for the salads, especially if you don’t like the flavor of raw spinach.

Spinach

2)  20 cups of raspberries, about 8 frozen 10-oz bags or about 12 small cartons if buying fresh.  I much prefer fresh, but they don’t always look good, and can sometimes be very costly.  But if you buy frozen, be sure and read your ingredient labels!  Some of them have added sugars, listed as “sucrose”, “fructose”, “cane juice”, or many other names designed to hide the word “sugar”.  I recommend you buy a split of both for the sake of both taste and cost.  Use the more expensive fresh variety for your morning cup of berries, as well as on the salad, but the frozen work well for the yogurt parfait and the smoothie.

Raspberries

3)  2 cups of sliced almonds.  You will be using these as a topping on fruit and yogurt, so I like the sliced almonds that you can usually find in the Baking aisle.

10 Tablespoons of natural RAW almond butter, about 1/3 of a 16-oz jar.  After realizing the the organic product I had at home had added sugars and oils, I tossed it, then had to look at almost every jar in the organic section before picking MaraNatha All Natural RAW Almond Butter.  When in doubt, read the ingredient label and be sure all that it includes is “raw almonds”… no oils or sugars.  You can also make your own in a food processor, or at the nicer grocery stores!

5)  60 ounces of non-fat PLAIN yogurt , 2 of the 32-oz tubs.  Be sure to get the non-fat, plain variety, such as the ones shown below.  Plain greek yogurt is a great option as well, but keep in mind that the plain variety is very tart and you can’t use any sweeteners, real or artificial!  If you simply can’t stand plain yogurt, my recommendation is for Dannon’s Light ‘n Fit Vanilla.  It does have artificial sweeteners, but is relatively low in sugars compared to plain.

6)  10 large eggs.  There are different sizes and types, but I like Eggland’s Best LARGE eggs.  Careful not to get extra large!  You’ll also want to boil 5 of them when you get home so they’re ready for your dinners.  You can store un-peeled hard boiled eggs in the fridge for about a week.

7)  3-4 oranges or tangerines (for flavor & salad dressing)

8)  Seasonings  – herbs (salt-free) cinnamon and nutmeg (plain, without sugar), balsamic vinegar.  NO SALT!

MEAL PLAN

Below is my meal plan, along with suggested times based on my schedule.  You can eat at different times, but be sure and eat within an hour of waking (rev up that metabolism!) and then every 3-5 hours.

1)  Meal 1  (7:00 am) – scrambled egg with spinach; raspberries and almonds.  2 cups water.

The egg & spinach combo can be a little bland and the spinach flavor really stands out, so I experiment with un-salted seasonings, such as basil, cumin, parsley, and pepper.  NO SALT!!  Overall, not bad.  The raspberries and almonds are very yummy.

  Meal 2  (11:00 am) – yogurt parfait with raspberries and almonds.  2 cups water.

This is delicious and tastes like dessert!  I add a little cinnamon and nutmeg on each yogurt layer and that really spiced it up.  It’s also good with a little sprig of fresh mint.

  Meal 3  (3:00 pm) – spinach salad with raspberries, almonds, boiled egg, homemade tangerine balsamic vinaigrette .  2 cups water.

This meal is my least favorite of the day, primarily because I’m not much of a salad fan, and do not care for a strong vinegar flavor.  You can experiment with making your own vinaigrette, but the book calls for a mix of fresh-squeezed orange juice and vinegar.  I also like to mash a few of the raspberries with the fresh orange juice and use that instead of vinegar.

  Meal 4 (7:00 pm) – smoothie with yogurt, raspberries, almond butter, ice.  2 cups water.

The smoothie is great – kind of like a fruity milkshake to finish out the day.  I have to add a little bit of water to help it blend, and also add a sprinkle of cinnamon.  For those that are used to a super-sweet smoothie (my husband played guinea pig), you might find this a bit sour or bitter due to the plain yogurt and raspberries.  I’m not sure what to suggest other than give it time for your taste buds to adjust.  By the end of 5 days, you are supposed to have a new appreciation for natural flavors.

Here’s to a succesful detox!

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Holiday Recovery

Did anyone actually get a wink of sleep last night?  Lots of neighbors were shooting off fireworks, which we enjoyed from our bedroom, but became very annoyed when it went on and on until midnight!!  Then I tossed and turned all night.  When my alarm when off at 5am, I considered staying in bed for another hour and skipping my workout, but would 1 hour of restless sleep really help?  Probably not, and I’m glad I got up because I had an awesome 6.2-mile run. 

I will be the first to admit when I mess up on my healthy eating habits, and I messed up big time this weekend.  We went to visit my grandmother, who after losing my grandfather 3 years ago, has decided to make cookies, chocolate milk, and ice cream her diet staples.  Hey, I guess when you’re 83 you can eat whatever you want!  At age 31, however, I need to eat well to ensure that I not only make it to 83, but still feel decent.  What’s more, she’s become a lot more “honest” in her older age, and despite losing 14 pounds since January, still tells me I’m “not a small girl”.  Um, thanks Grandma.  I love you too.  Needless to say, after that comment, I lost my will power and joined her in eating cookies and ice cream the rest of the weekend, in addition to the healthier meals I made for all of us.  Blah.

I got back on track Monday, despite a handful of Hershey kisses.  I ran my favorite weekly errand – grocery shopping – and spent about 3 hours cooking and prepping food for the week.  So let’s review what I made . . .

First up, Quinoa Porridge.  I actually got this recipe from a Kroger newsletter, along with great coupons.  I love Kroger.  It was very quick and easy to make, and was delicious!  I halved the recipe and made 2 servings, subbing cranberries for raisins and topping it with 1 tsp of sugar-free maple syrup.  It was just as delicious fresh out of pot as it was microwaved this morning, and made an excellent pre-workout snack.  A+ rating.

Next up, Sweet Potato Quinoa Cakes.  I got this recipe from fellow blogger, “Eating Bird Food” (click for link & recipe), and decided to try it because I love anything with sweet potatoes.  They were surprisingly easy to make.  I chopped the sweet potatoes and microwaved them for 5 minutes, rather than steaming them, and that seemed to work just fine.  I did not have any sage, so I used a Moroccan Spice blend that I got from Pampered Chef, which added a very nice flavor.  I then paired them with spinach for healthy lunches the rest of the week:

Now on to dinner … I decided to try the new Philadelphia Cooking Creme after getting a good coupon and recipe for Creamy Italian Chicken & Orzo.  I chose the Italian Cheese & Herb flavor, and used whole wheat spaghetti instead of orzo pasta.  The recipe was easy to make, and I really liked all of the fresh veggies, but I was shocked that it called for the entire container of cream cheese, which adds 440 calories, 36 grams of fat (20g saturated), and 1920 grams of sodium for approximately 4 servings!  Yikes.  I cut it down and only used about 2/3 the container, then added some fresh basil for more flavor.  My husband, who is a picky eater, gave it 7 out of 10 stars after smothering it in extra cheese.  I’d probably give it about a 7 also (without cheese), but will probably not make this again due to the calorie and sodium content.

Finally, dessert!  I found a recipe for Coconut Pops, a childhood favorite.  I subbed Truvia for sugar, used unsweetened coconut flakes, and 1% milk.  After 6 hours in the freezer, they were not quite ready to eat last night, which was very disappointing, but I did use a spoon to scoop out a little and try it and they were quite good.  I’d definitely make these again before buying the sugary variety at the grocery.

So there you have it.  My fridge is full of food for the week.  Besides the prepared foods above, I’m fully stocked with my weekly staples as well, which fill the gaps in my daily menu – berries, bananas, apples, greek yogurt, wraps, avocado, beans, fresh salsa…  And my garden is finally starting to come alive, so I should have fresh veggies very soon!  I’ll blog about that later.

Have a great week!!

Weekly Weigh-In + Meal Ideas

6 days to go on Bikini Body Countdown!

Hello world!  It’s that time again – time for my weekly weigh in, with only 1 more week to go before we leave for Hawaii!  I was so excited to see 132 on the scale this morning!  After literally 16 years of yo-yo dieting, I can’t believe I’ve finally solved the weight-loss puzzle without really feeling like I’m dieting.   Thanks to Cinch for my diet guidance, and my husband for his intense work-outs!  Just 2 more pounds to go until I reach my goal weight, and then, who knows?  I’m not sure how much I actually have to lose to reach my ideal weight, so I figure I’ll just keep eating healthy and working out and my weight will end up wherever.

*****

I’m a little behind on my blogs this week, but I’ve taken lots of pictures of quick, Cinch-approved recipes.  First up, breakfast!  I’ve learned to love Pumpernickel bread.  Supposedly it’s the healthiest type of bread you can eat and very low on the glycemic index, meaning it will be released into the bloodstream very slowly, resulting in lasting energy rather than a quick burst.  So several of my recipes this past week have included this dark bread with a distinct rye-flavor.  I even tried it at breakfast, toasted with a little light cream cheese and honey, along with and egg and glass of carrot juice.  It was actually really good, so I ended up having it several times!

Next, I tried it as a sandwich, both times layering the bread, 0% plain greek yogurt (in place of mayo), cucumber slices, spinach, and a little pepper-jack cheese.  Once again, I was pleasantly surprised how good it tasted.  A word of advice, however, don’t make a sandwich with yogurt on the bread too far in advance.  It gets soggy pretty quick, but it did great at holding everything in place and tasted great too.

Also this week, I made some really yummy strawberry spinach salads with an interesting pear vinaigrette I found at the store.  One day I added pumpkin seeds (shown) for my protein, and another I added 1/4 of an avocado.  It was so good that I decided to keep the salad for next week’s detox instead of cooking the ingredients for Meal 3 (more about this tomorrow).

I got some seafood from work – scallops and lobster – so I incorporated those in my meals.  For the scallops, I cooked them in a skillet, about 5 minutes on each side with nothing but cooking spray.  Then I added them to a little brown rice and cooked cabbage, drizzled with some sweet chile sauce for a yummy lunch.  For the lobster, I baked them and drizzled them with lemon juice.  Yum!

If there’s one meal I’ve adopted into my diet most frequently, it’s yogurt parfaits – yogurt, berries, nuts, and sometimes wheat germ on top.  They are so easy to make and I’ve learned to love them.  I still don’t care for the bitterness of plain yogurt though, so I usually use either Dannon’s Vanilla Light ‘n Fit or 0% non-fat greek yogurt with a little Truvia.  I usually use strawberries, blackberries, or blueberries, and either almonds, walnuts, or pistachios for the nuts.  For the one below, it’s greek yogurt, blueberries, pistachios, wheat germ, and Truvia. 

Keeping with the yogurt and berry theme, I also love the dessert version… vanilla frozen yogurt, or light ice cream, with berries and nuts / coconut.  YUM!

Today we hosted a Memorial Day party and I was determined to keep things pretty healthy.  My husband made burgers and grilled veggies – eggplant, zucchini, squash, and mushrooms.  Then we had Guiltless Gourmet Black Bean Chips, a family favorite, with healthy homemade guacamole and salsa.  I’m well-known for my guacamole and salsa, which is funny since it’s so easy to make and good for you!  For the salsa, I start with tomatoes and onion.  For the guacamole, it’s avocados and 0% plain greek yogurt.  I use a store-bought spice pack for both, which is usually found near the tomatoes and avocados at your local grocery store.  If you don’t find it, I’m sure you can Google a spice blend recipe.  Either way, I only use 1/2 the spice pack since it’s pretty high in sodium and prefer a milder flavor anyway.  Then I add lime and cilantro for a natural burst of flavor.  

Homemade Salsa

  • 5-6 roma tomatoes or 3-4 regular
  • 1/4 to 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 a salsa spice pack, or equivalent
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Fresh cilantro, about 2 T. chopped
  • Combine all ingredients in a food processeser and blend until desired consistency.

Homemade Guacamole

  • 2 avocados
  • 1/4 cup 0% plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 guacamole spice pack, or equivalent
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • Fresh Cilantro, about 2 T. chopped
  • Mash avocados and mix with other ingredients until desired consistency

… there are always opportunistic dogs nearby when clumsy Mommy is in the kitchen.

Whew!  OK, finally caught up.  Tomorrow I start detox once again to completely de-bloat before Hawaii.  Wish me luck!

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY!

Starting the Week off Right!

Bikini Body Countdown – 27 days to go!

It always helps to start your week by slipping easily into a suit that was a bit snug last year.  I’m really enjoying getting dressed these days, suddenly my entire closet is a possibility again.  So, let’s keep up the momentum with a good week of healthy eating and vigorous exercise as I continue on my Bikini Body Countdown.  I’d like to be down another pound this Friday (134), although given how much weight I’m lifting, I’d also be OK breaking even as long as my clothes keep getting looser.

So the day began with a Fruity Waffle Sundae, sans dairy (didn’t have any on hand).  This was one of my favorite Cinch recipes and I continue to eat it about every week.  *** For more about the Cinch Recipes, refer to my January blogs – there are lots of them!  There’s also a Cinch Spreadsheet that includes a lot of the recipes, plus a food journal and weight tracker. ***

 

 

 

 

MONDAY  
Meal Plan Time
Fruity Waffle Sundae 7am
Watermelon, Sunchips, Almonds 11am
Big salad with veg & avocado 3pm
Banana, pretzels (pre-bike snack)  6pm
Small veggie wrap 8pm
   
Workout – Chest/Back weights, 15 min elliptical, 10-mile bike  

More Workouts + More SuperFoods

I’ve really stepped up my workouts lately and thus have encountered a new problem – increased hunger!  I’m not sure why the proper balance of food and exercise is so difficult for me, but I can’t seem to get it right.  Just when I was getting in a groove with the Cinch 4-meal / 5-ingredient philosophy, my caloric needs have changed as my workouts have increased, and I need to figure out when and how to add more healthy calories into my diet.  Seems easy right?  I’ve added a small snack before my morning workout, and eat a full breakfast and lunch, but am still famished by late afternoon and end up overeating at night in my rage of hunger.

Hmm, what to do.  I will start by trying to add more healthy fats and fiber to my earlier meals and see if that helps.  It will also help that the junk food in my house is now gone and there isn’t much left for me to “splurge” on.  My favorite healthy-fat & high-fiber foods are below, along with recipes.  All of these items are also considered “SuperFoods”!

AVOCADOS– chopped in a wrap, as a topping, or even use in smoothies (max 1/2 avocado per day)

Avocado Banana Berry Smoothie (1 serving, great post-workout / high-protein snack.  There are several other avocado smoothie recipes in the Cinch book.)

  • 1/2 ripe avocado, halved, pitted, and removed from the skin
  • 5-6 strawberries, fresh or frozen, stems removed
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • 1/2 cup skim milk or almond / soy / coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey or 1 tsp Truvia
  • Handful crushed ice or 4 ice cubes
  • Blend all ingredients and enjoy!
  • Nutrition: 300 calories, 17g healthy fat, 35g net carbs, 9g protein. 

 

BEANS– black, red, white, chickpeas… toss them on salads, in a wrap, in soups, or eat them plain.

Black Bean side dish (1 or 2 servings, depending on how you use it.  I make this often, sometimes as a side dish, to top a salad, or even throw in a wrap with avocado and shrimp.  You can also sub chunky salsa for the veggies)

  • 1/2 cup cooked black beans (low-sodium) 
  • 1/4 cup corn, cooked but still slightly crisp
  • 1/2 tomato, diced
  • 2 T chopped onion
  • 1 T fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • Mix, chill, serve
  • (for an extra kick, add a little jalapeno or green chiles)

 

Black Bean & Mango Salad (6 servings)

  • 1 15-oz can black beans
  • 2 cups diced mango
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, diced
  • 6 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped 
  • Mix and servce.  Makes 6 Servings. 
  • Nutrition: 140 calories, 3g fat, 19g net carbs. 

 

 OATSOld-Fashioned or Steel Cut are best, as they are less processed and do not spike your blood sugar as much as the quick-cooking variety.  But if you prefer softer, more gooey, oat products, the quick-cooking variety is OK.

Grab & Go Homemade Oatmeal (1 serving, no microwave required!  I make several and store them in my pantry)

  • 1/2 cup dry oats
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit and nuts (raisins, cranberries, chopped apricots, almonds, walnuts…)
  • 1 tsp flax or pumpkin seeds
  • Place all ingredients in a tupperware container at least 3x larger than the dry mixture
  • When ready to eat, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of very hot water (such as the kind from a coffee machine) to the dry mixture, seal the top, and wait at least 5 minutes.
  • Remove the top, stir, and enjoy.
  • Nutrition: 200 calories, 7g fat, 39g net carbs. 

 

Click here for a LIST OF SUPER FOODS and their benefits.

Manic Monday (Cinch Core day 3)

Meal Plan for the next 3 Days:

Meals  Time
1) Almond butter blackberry toast  7 am
2) Cinnamon walnut apple crisp  11 am
3) Ricotta primavera penne  3 pm
4) Black bean tacos with cilantro-jalapeno-guacamole  7 pm

  

  

  

  

 

Today’s Workout:  Strength-training (upper-body) + 3-mile interval training with hill sprints! 

*****

No matter how much you prepare, Mondays are always a little manic aren’t they?  It seems like I’m always rushing out the door in the nick of time.  Thank goodness for my well-stocked fridge…

 

Breakfast: Almond Butter Blackberry Toast.  Here’s some advice – don’t make it while wearing light-colored clothing!  Berry stains are the worst and somehow always end up on you.  I couldn’t quite imagine the blackberries staying put on the toast, so I portioned a little less than a cup and added a tiny bit of agave nectar, then mashed them into a jam before spreading them on my almond-butter toast.   I subbed almond butter for peanut butter because I prefer the taste, plus all we have is regular peanut butter with added oils and sugars and I don’t really want to invest in yet another jar to clutter up my pantry or fridge.  It was so yummy that I forgot to take a picture!  But then again, it just looked like an open-faced PB&J.  I was supposed to also have it with milk, but milk is also called for with my snack later, so I instead had a 1/2 cup of cottage cheese for my dairy. 

 

SnackCinnamon Walnut Apple Crisp.  I made 3 of these yesterday, so they were ready to go this morning.  I did not mix them entirely, since I was worried about the oats and walnuts getting soggy, so instead I chopped the apple and mixed it with cinnamon, nutmeg, and lemon (I used a little extra lemon juice to prevent browning), then put the walnuts and oats in a separate snack-baggie and put both into a tupperware container.  Then when it was ready to enjoy my snack, I heated the apples in the tupperware, then mixed in the oats and walnuts.  It was very good, although I think it would be better if I were home and could bake it for a few minutes. 

(Whoops, forgot to show the walnuts, which were hand-picked in my grandmother's yard. It doesn't get any more natural than that!)

 

Lunch: Ricotta Primavera Penne.  I really wasn’t sure how good this would be re-heated, plus I ended up over-cooking the veggies and the finished product looked kinda ugly.  However I was pleasantly surprised that it was actually really good.  A couple of comments about the recipe… first off, how do you measure 1/2 cup of cooked pasta when it’s raw?  Sometimes there’s a handy little diagram on the box that shows you how much dry product to cook for a serving, but not this time.  I decided just to cook the whole box and then freeze the leftover (which I’ve done before and it works just fine).  Also, does anybody else wonder why so many recipes seem to call for an abundance of onion?  Not just Cinch, but a lot of recipes!  Don’t get me wrong – I like onion – but a 1/2 cup in a single bowl of pasta!?  I ended up using a 1/2 cup for all 3 servings combined and the flavor was just right.  I guess you have to be your own judge.  Also, be sure and only cook the veggies for a few minutes until “slightly tender”.  I ended up cooking them too long until they were soggy, but still tasted pretty good when it was all combined.  I’m sure it would have been even better if eaten immediately rather than cooled and re-heated.

As one reader pointed out, I haven’t mentioned my daily chocolate indulgence.  Yes, I’ve definitely been eating it!  Actually, I’ll be doing an entire blog about my dark-chocolate comparisons later this week.  I decided that I like my chocolate best right when I get home from work.  I’m usually hungry by the time I get home, so it’s my sinful little treat that holds me off until dinner.  Check back to see my chocolate taste-test… mmm.

Dinner: Black Bean Tacos with Cilantro-Jalapeno-Guacamole.  They aren’t pretty but they sure are tasty!  I was so full after I ate this, it felt like I’d completely blown my diet!  I wasn’t sure about the spinach, but it was actually really good.  I added 1 extra-small tomato for some color, plus I just love tomatoes.  I also decided to use a tiny bit of coconut oil (about 1 tsp) instead of the veggie broth to saute’ my veggies.  I work out a lot, so I figure I can afford to add a tiny bit extra with a couple meals a day to supplement my calorie deficit and prevent starvation mode.  I guess you can tell I like to sub.  =)  I know some of you are worried about subbing, and that’s understandable, but I’ve spent 10 years learning how to eat and sub healthy ingredients in recipes.  If the scale doesn’t budge for a couple of weeks, however, I’ll stop subbing and stick to the recipes.  I also made my “meatitarian” husband a version of this, omitting the onion, mushrooms, and avocado (all of which he does not like), and adding chicken and cheese.  He loved it!  And I was happy because he ate something besides meat and cheese!

Now it’s off to bed, full and happy from another successful day!

Cinch Spreadsheet

Hi ladies!  Everyone has been asking about the famous spreadsheet, so here you go!  I merged my spreadsheet with Susan’s and there are some great tools in here, including a Weight Tracker, Favorite Recipes (so far), a Menu Planner, and a Grocery List.  Please note that there are 5 total tabs.  Enjoy!

Cinch Spreadsheet 

During this process, I discovered that you cannot upload an Excel Spreadsheet to WordPress due to security / virus concerns.  So, I instead had to upload it to my DropBox.com “Public” folder.  So in case you’ve run across this issue before on your blog, now you know!

*** Special thanks to SUSAN for the awesome spreadsheet! ***