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Serrano Honey Shrimp & Avocado Summer Salad

One of my favorite things about summer is the crisp, fresh, and delicious foods we New Englanders are finally surrounded by. This summer salad is a bit of a riff off of ceviche with the exception of the fact that I cooked the shrimp. It combines fresh vegetables, like peppers and onions, with fresh fruits, like avocado and pineapple, with seasoned chili-seasoned shrimp for a refreshing and simple dish. What really added depth and outstanding flavor to this dish was the addition of Serrano Honey Balsamic Vinegar from The Branch Olive Oil Company in Peabody, MA. In addition to the acid of the vinegar, this balsamic brings with it the sweetness of honey and just a little heat from the serrano chiles. It’s the finisher that really makes this dish pop. If you have a cookout coming up and want to bring something that really stands out and is completely different, this is the dish to go with.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 whole avocado
  • 12-15 shrimp (size 16/20), rinsed and tails removed
  • 1/4 of a red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 orange bell pepper, diced
  • 3/4 cup fresh or frozen pineapple, diced
  • 1.25 oz The Branch Serrano Honey Balsamic
  • Chili powder
  • Garlic powder
  • 1/2 lime
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp EVOO or EV, cold-pressed, unrefined coconut oil

Instructions:

  1. In a skillet, heat about 1 tbsp olive oil or coconut oil over medium-low heat. Sprinkle both sides of the shrimp with chili powder, garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Place shrimp in the pan and cook 2-3 minutes on each side until firm and cooked through. Remove from heat and set aside to cool completely.
  2. While the shrimp is cooling, begin prepping the chopped fruits and vegetables for the dish and combine them in a large bowl with the chopped cilantro.
  3. Once the shrimp is cooled, cut it into small pieces and add it to the bowl. Add the balsamic vinegar and a squeeze of lime juice. Stir to coat everything.
  4. Cover and place the mixture in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving.

This dish is great to eat on its own or you could serve it in lettuce wraps, with tortilla chips, or over cooled rice or quinoa. I served mine over brown rice with a side of roasted broccoli as shown below.

Maker:S,Date:2017-1-22,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

If you haven’t been to The Branch yet, I highly recommend you check them out. If you go in person, you can taste pretty much everything in the store and the employees there are super helpful. If you order online, they offer free shipping which is awesome, needless to say.

Product Review: Boozy Seltzers

Ok. You might be thinking “um, a health coach is reviewing alcohol?” Yes, I am, because I think balance is very important when it comes to health and wellness and, if you want to enjoy a drink occasionally, you should. And so, with that, I give you my take on boozy seltzer.

I’m sure you’ve seen them in the package stores by now, thin, classy-looking cans of spiked seltzers advertising how low-calorie and low-carb they are. I also couldn’t resist and tried them out.

Overall, the alcoholic seltzers out there are typically lower in calories and carbohydrates than the average beer or wine. However, there is a good amount of variation amongst the different brands. I tried 3 of the most popular brands and will tell you about each in order of my least favorite to best.

Truly – least favorite

The Truly brand ranks at the bottom of the boozy seltzers. In terms of nutrition information, Truly are similar to the White Claw brand: a 12-oz can (5% ABV) contains Trulyjust 100 calories, 1 gram of sugar, and 2 grams of carbs, so they really are a low-cal, low-carb option. I also really love that they don’t contain any artificial sweeteners, which have been link to numerous health problems, the full extent of which we still don’t know.

I’ve only had their citrus flavors and I do like the taste. They’re not super sweet or super tart and don’t taste like fake flavoring. What I don’t like about these, and what put them at the bottom for me, is that they are extremely acidic. I actually couldn’t finish the package I bought because every time I drank one I ended up with such awful heartburn that was really difficult to cure. I don’t really have a sensitive stomach and I’ve eaten my share of horrifying food combinations, so this was surprising to me. Seltzer is an acidic drink to begin with so this one is that much more. If you have a sensitive stomach or sensitive teeth, this is something you want to be aware of.

Spiked Seltzer – Runner Up

The runner up in the seltzer game is Spiked Seltzer. These are a bit heavier than the Spiked Seltzerother 2 brands reviewed here. A 12-oz can (6% ABV) contains 140 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates (sugar info is not listed on their website). This makes it more caloric than a Bud Light (110 cal) and about on par for carbs (6.6 grams). It’s also more caloric than a glass of white wine (120 cal on average) and contains more carbs (4 grams on average). So, really, if you’re looking for a adult beverage with less calories and carbs, this one really isn’t the one you want to go with…at least not if you like Bud Light or white wine more.

In terms of overall yumminess, my favorite flavor is the cranberry. I’ve also had the lemon, lime, and grapefruit. I cared least for the lemon as it tasted kind of fake to me, although there are not any artificial flavors in it. Just not my flavor. All of the flavors are a nice balance between sweet and tart.

White Claw – The Winner!

The White Claw brand is hands-down my favorite. A 12-oz can (5% ABV) contains 100 White Clawcalories and 2 grams of carbohydrates and sugar, making it a nice, light option. Of the three brands, I like the taste of this one the best. The black cherry flavor is my favorite and the lime flavor is a close second. They all taste natural, aren’t super sweet, and don’t have a harsh, acidic bite. Like the other two flavors, White Claw contains no artificial flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives. This is the brand of boozy seltzer you will find me sitting around the campfire with.

As a health coach, I have to say that, if you want to have a little boozy indulgence, alcohol-spiked seltzers are a good option to go with without tipping the scales. Cheers!

Tips to Help You Eat More Plants

We have a plant problem in the US today and I’m not talking about marijuana. By and large most Americans aren’t eating enough plants in their diets in spite of volumes of studies showing that eating plant-based diets is key for lasting health and weight management because they are loaded with so many vital nutrients our bodies depend on. Part of the issue is that we are a very meat-centric society and many of us just don’t know how to work more vegetables into our cooking routine because we are so used to meals consisting of a meat, a vegetable, and a starch. However, there are many plants that are great sources of protein and can easily stand in for that meat on your plate. Here are some tips to get you started on eating more plants.

Eat something green with every meal

This one is a great rule to live by and will instantly get more plants into your diet. Just add a green vegetable to every meal. This could mean adding spinach to your eggs in the morning, throwing some greens into your sandwich at lunch, and having some kale or green beans with dinner. Having green vegetables with your meals will help fill you up and can buffer against the effects of high-fat meals to a degree.

Practice Meatless Mondays

Commit to eating vegetarian one day a week. This one will require some work on your part because it’s very easy to just resort to carbs, like pasta and bread, and you may need to search for some good recipes. But it’s worth it!

Eat more quinoa

Quinoa has become a wellness buzz food and for good reason. This little seed is a complete protein and is a good source of calcium, lysine, B vitamins, and iron. It’s also gluten free. Prepared like you would rice, quinoa can be flavored pretty much any way and is versatile for use in meals. I’ve used it like rice, made pizza crust with it, made meatless meatballs with it – lots of things!

Make friends with cauliflower

Cauliflower is another versatile plant food that can be used for a large number of things. For example, you can make pizza crust with it, puree it to make an alfredo sauce, or use it as a substitute for rice. These recipes are super easy and are a great way to eat more veggies!

Give vegetable noodles a try

Don’t have a spiralizer? That’s OK! Most grocery stores now carry a variety of vegetable noodles, from squash to zucchini to sweet potato to beets. And the internet is loaded with different recipes for every type of vegetable noodle. You could use spaghetti squash instead of regular noodles as well.

Load your pasta sauce

Marinara and pasta sauces are a great place to hide vegetables, especially if you have picky eaters. You can load your sauces with bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, spinach, zucchini, squash – you name it. Keep it chunky or puree it for a smoother sauce. Either way, you just ate way more vegetables!

Drink more smoothies

Smoothies can be another good way to increase the amount of plants you’re consuming on a daily basis. Using fresh or frozen fruit and adding some vegetables like spinach, kale, or cucumber, you can make a powerhouse of a smoothie. Just be careful not to overload your smoothie so you end up with a high calorie treat rather than a healthy snack or meal.

Replace those chips and crackers

There are many healthy plant options you can choose for snacks on the go other than chips and crackers. Nuts, for example, are a great source of protein and fiber. Crunchy chickpeas are also a yummy plant snack on the go and can be bought or made in a variety of different flavors. Carrots, celery, and sugar snap peas are also taken on the go very easily and are great for dipping.

Treat yourself to the cut fruit plate

Many of us balk at the pre-cut fruit platters they sell at the grocery store because they really charge you for the convenience. But, in my opinion, it’s a worthwhile investment if it will make it easier for you to eat healthier.

Replace your bread with greens

Replace your wraps with collard leaves and your tortillas with lettuce cups. You could also use slices of sweet potato or cucumber instead of bread for your sandwiches.

It may seem like a lot of work at first, but it is actually quite easy to get more plants into your daily diet. Once you find some recipes you like and work them into your routine with some minimal prep, you’ll be eating plants like you’ve been doing it all along.

The Skinny on Fat

This blog post is another National Nutrition Month request. If you’re interested in joining the conversation or asking your health and wellness questions, join the Live Your Best Life Wellness Community on Facebook. 

Fat is a very confusing topic for a lot of people and for really good reason. In the 80s and 90s, we were inundated with messaging that fat is bad for you and the source of the American obesity epidemic and chronic illnesses. However, in recent years, it’s come to light that fat isn’t the evil we once were told it was and that sugar is actually a bigger problem (in spite of the sugar industry’s relentless lobbying efforts). But, it seems that some have taken advantage of this change in the tides and have taken the fat message in the opposite direction, creating diets that claim that eating lots of fat is healthy and will help you lose weight. And then there are the different kinds of fat with vague names that make it hard to keep them straight – saturated, unsaturated, trans, omega-3s, polyunsaturated, omega-6s…it’s dizzying. In this post, I’m hoping to clear things up for you.

Saturated Fats

Before we can talk about good fats vs. bad fats, we should cover what their names mean.

The dietary units we call “fats” are actually fatty acids which are made up, in part, by a chain of carbon atoms. When every carbon atom in the chain is bonded to a hydrogen atom, it is called a saturated fat. I remember this by thinking of the hydrogen as saturating the fat like water saturates a sponge so that every bit of the sponge is soaked.

Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature – so foods like butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter – these are saturated fats.

Saturated fats are often thought of as unhealthy fats, but that is not necessarily the case. Here is where it gets a little complicated: within the saturated fats category, there are short, medium, and long chain saturated fats. There is an important role in our diets for short and medium chain saturated fats: they help stabilize our cell membranes, help us convert Omega-3 fatty acids into usable forms, have antimicrobial properties, and have anti-inflammatory properties. Coconut oil falls into the medium chain category and that is the root of what makes it a healthy fat option. The health concerns come from overconsumption of the long chain saturated fats, such as animal fats, dairy fats, and cocoa butter. These are the fats whose excess consumption is linked to high cholesterol levels and heart disease. They also are higher in calories and are stored in our adipose, or fat, tissue. Unsurprisingly, Americans in general eat too much of the long chain saturated fats and not enough of the short and medium chain ones.

So what does this mean the fat in your diet should look like? This means eating lean cuts of meat (beef, pork, poultry, etc.), low-fat dairy products, and minimizing our consumption of things like butter. When it comes to the short and medium chain saturated fats, they do play an important role in our diet, but we don’t need to be eating a lot of them to derive the benefits and it’s important to remember that fat is a calorie-dense food. Therefore, moderation really is the key.

Unsaturated Fats

Since we now know that saturated fats have all of their carbon atoms paired with hydrogen atoms, we can guess that unsaturated fats have one or more carbon atoms not paired with a hydrogen atom. Instead, those unpaired carbon atoms form double bonds with the carbon atoms next to them. This chemical structure makes unsaturated fats less stable than saturated fats so they are liquid at room temperature. Examples of unsaturated fats are olive oil, flax seed oil, and fish oil. These are fats that are more vulnerable to going rancid and becoming carcinogenic when cooked to temperatures too high.

Unsaturated fats play very, very important roles in our diet, including: brain development and energy, maintaining healthy body tissues and skin, regulating our hormones, assisting in the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, and cushioning our organs. These are very healthy fats that we should consume regularly.

Within the unsaturated fat category, there are two types: monounsaturated fats have one double bond between carbon atoms while polyunsaturated fats have multiple double bonds between carbon atoms.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3s fall into the polyunsaturated fats category and are often considered the healthiest fat. Omega-3s are found in fatty fish, like wild salmon, flax seeds, and Omega-3 eggs. While Omega-3s are found in plant sources such as flax seeds, it’s important to note that the form those fats take in plants are not a form that the human body can readily use (ALA). This means that our bodies must first convert them into usable forms (EPA & DHA) before they can be used. Unfortunately, after that conversion occurs, our bodies’ absorption rate of those fats is less than 5%, so it’s more efficient to consume Omega-3s from fish sources than plant sources.

The health benefits of consuming Omega-3s include: building healthy brain cells, helping to reduce the risk of heart disease, lowering the rate of certain cancers, elevating our mood, and improving our learning, attention, and vision. In general, we Americans do not eat enough Omega-3s.

Omega-6 Fatty Acids

Omega-6 fatty acids are also a form of polyunsaturated fat that are very good for us. They play a critical role in our brain function and normal growth and development, among other roles. They are found in vegetable oils, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, edamame, and sunflower seeds. In general, Americans consume plenty of Omega-6s. The ideal ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3s in our diet is 2:1.

Trans Fats

Trans fats are the bad fats. These are fats that do not occur naturally; rather, they are created by taking an unsaturated fat and adding hydrogen molecules to it, a process called hydrogenation. This was a profit move by the food industry in the early 1900s to stabilize vegetable oils so they would have a longer shelf life (the invention of Crisco). Trans fats have become very common place in prepackaged foods these days although there is a perception that they have fallen out of favor since the backlash against them. However, this is the food industry being sneaky. Legally, if a food contains less than 1/2 gram of trans fat per serving, they can put “0 grams trans fat” or “trans fat free” on a food package label. The lesson here: you can’t trust what the front of a package says. Instead, what you need to do to determine whether a food contains trans fats is to look in the ingredients list for the word “hydrogenated.” Hydrogenated oils are trans fats.

There are a number of compelling reasons to avoid trans fats: their consumption has been linked with low birth weights, high blood sugar, increased LDL (“bad” cholesterol), a decrease in nutrition density levels, a decrease in visual acuity, a decrease in Omega-3 levels in the brain (which we now know play a critical role in brain function), and a decrease in HDL (“good” cholesterol).

What About the Keto Diet?

The recent rage in fad diets has been putting your body into a state of ketosis by decreasing our carbohydrate consumption to very low levels and increasing our fat consumption to force our body to burn fat for energy. There are a number of problems with this diet craze.

For one, our bodies don’t burn fat for energy anywhere near as efficiently as they burn carbohydrates for energy. So by cutting our bodies primary fuel source drastically, we are depriving ourselves of the energy we need. Many on keto diets will experience low energy levels and mood levels because of this.

Secondly, you can overdo it with fat. The saying “too much of a good thing” really applies here. Yes, fat plays an important role in our diets but eating too much saturated fats (long chain), for example, can increase your cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease. Furthermore, on high-fat diets such as this, you can’t be just indiscriminately eating loads of fats. The healthiest way to to eat is to focus on fish and plant sources of food. You want the majority of the fats you eat to be unsaturated, particularly polyunsaturated. Cutting carbs and eating loads of meat and butter and dairy may help you lose weight for a little while but it can have negative long-term health effects.

Finally, and perhaps more practically, this diet is not sustainable. Keto dieters may lose weight for a period, but they will crave carbohydrates and will swing back in the other direction and gain that weight back. This is simply what happens with deprivation in humans. This can contribute to a pattern of yo-yo dieting which has been shown to contribute to a slower metabolism over time and higher weights.

Bottom Line

When it comes to fats, high fat or low fat isn’t answer. Right fat is the answer. If your focus is on eating healthy fats, omega-3s, omega-6s, and other unsaturated fats like olive oil with a balanced diet, then you are eating a right fat diet, supplying your body with the fats you need without negative health impacts.

Veganism/Vegetarianism – Are they healthier?

March is National Nutrition Month so I am going to be focusing heavily on more nutrition-oriented topics in my blog this month.

One nutrition question I get frequently is whether it is healthier to go vegan or vegetarian over meat eating. My answer probably irritates many who ask: not necessarily.

So first let’s get the differences between the two out of the way:

Veganism

In the most basic sense, veganism is a diet in which you don’t consume any animal products whatsoever. This means no dairy, eggs, fish, meat, honey, or gelatin and no products containing these ingredients. Some vegans are stricter than others. For example, certain beers are clarified using animal parts and some vegans will not consume them based on that while other vegans don’t mind as much because the animal parts are not actually part of the beer. Likewise, honey is technically not vegan in the strictest sense, but many vegans still use it.

Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism allows a lot more dietary options than veganism. In the most general sense, vegetarianism is simply not eating meat. Other animal products, such as honey, eggs, dairy, and gelatin, may be OK for a vegetarian. Some vegetarians, known as pescatarians, will eat fish, while others won’t. Likewise, lacto-ovo vegetarians eat eggs and dairy, but no meat. As with veganism, there is a spectrum of dietary choices that fall into the vegetarian category.

Are Vegan or Vegetarian Diets Healthier than Eating Meat?

Not necessarily. Sorry. While both of these diets have the potential to provide your body with loads of healthy nutrients and help you maintain a healthy weight, there are some mistakes that can make them less healthy.

As a certified health coach, I immediately get concerned whenever the prospect of eliminating entire food groups comes up. That to me is an immediate alert that the individual adhering to that diet needs to be really diligent in making sure they are getting all of the nutrients they need.

One thing that I know from my vegan and vegetarian friends is the most annoying thing people say to them is, “are you getting enough protein”? In our meat-centric society, we often assume that meat is the best or only source of protein. The difference between animal protein and plant protein is that animal protein is what we call a “complete protein” – it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids our bodies need. Plant proteins are known as “incomplete proteins” because they contain some but not all 9 essential amino acids. However, you can combine different plant proteins to make a complete protein and you don’t need to eat them all at once to do it. For example, you could have nuts for a an afternoon snack, tofu as part of your lunch, and pea protein in your morning smoothie. So protein is a concern for vegans and vegetarians only if they are not varying their protein sources enough (generally speaking).

Vegans have a bit more of a challenge than vegetarians when it comes to making sure they are consuming all of the nutrition their bodies need. Eliminating one food group is one thing, but when you eliminate several, it can make things more difficult and complicated. With any diet, it’s important to monitor what you are eating to make sure you’re getting enough variety and nutrition but vegans have that much more monitoring to do. One nutritive concern that I have for vegans is their Omega-3 consumption. The best source of Omega-3 fatty acids (AKA the healthiest fats) is fish – partly because it is already in the form our bodies can use so we readily absorb it. There are plant sources of Omega-3s, but they are in a form that our bodies cannot use. This means that our bodies must first convert them into the usable form, but, once that conversion is done, our absorption rate is less than 5%. So it’s more of a challenge to eat enough Omega-3s without eating fish or taking a fish oil supplement. Iron is another nutrient that we get primarily from eating meat in our society. However, there are a number of rich plant sources of iron. As with protein, it’s really important for vegans and vegetarians to make sure they are eating enough plant sources of iron (like spinach for example), especially for women of child-bearing age.  Click here to receive my list of plant-based, whole food sources of iron.

The last major concern for both of these diets that I will discuss here is the meat substitute products found in grocery stores. Most store-bought, pre-packaged vegan and vegetarian foods are highly processed and loaded with all kinds of fillers and preservatives. These are not healthy options. The healthiest options are organic tofu and organic tempeh, not breaded faux-chicken from the freezer section. If you are vegan or vegetarian or are considering either, make sure that you really read all the labels of products you want to buy to make sure they’re not full of scary ingredients. If you’re a hands-on person and have the time, making your own animal-product substitutes at home is even better. For example, it’s actually pretty easy to make your own nut milks and you can use flax seed meal and water in place of an egg in recipes.

Is Meat Bad for You?

Again, not necessarily. Sorry.

As I said above, meat, fish, and poultry (I’m just going to call them all “meat”) are all complete proteins delivering all 9 essential amino acids. Meat is also a good source of iron (particularly red meat and liver) and fish is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Where the meat question gets tricky is when it comes to quality. Americans in general have no shortage of saturated fat in our diets and these are not the healthy fats we want to focus on consuming. Overconsumption of animal fats (excluding fish) has been linked to a number of health issues, particularly heart issues. Therefore, it’s important to consume lean cuts of meat as much as possible – this means lean cuts of beef, eating more poultry and avoiding the skin and fatty parts, eating more fish, etc.

Another quality factor when it comes to consuming meats is considering what that meat ate when it was alive. Much of the meat we eat in this country has been treated with antibiotics, hormones, and other substances that we eat when we eat the meat from those animals. Many of the animals in the factory farms that supply most of our meat also don’t feed their animals quality food and that affects the meat we eat as well. There are also a number of really awful humane issues associated with factory-farmed meat. Considering all of this, it’s important to eat organic meat as much as possible. Ideally, select meat from free-range animals that consumed their natural diet rather than some cheap mystery feed. The most ideal situation, is to actually know where your meat is coming from – supporting local farmers at the farmers’ market or joining a local meat share. Obviously, this is not always possible, but following the first two guidelines I mentioned will get you into healthier meat eating.

Read This If You Just Want the Gist of This Post Without Reading the Whole Thing

Science has shown time and again that plant-based diets are the healthiest option for us. Both veganism and vegetarianism can be extremely healthful diets when followed properly. They both have the potential to deliver loads of wonderful nutrients to your body and sustain its health for a lifetime. However, in our rush-rush, convenience-centric society, it can be hard to eat the variety of foods our bodies need and it’s very easy to opt for those junky convenience foods most of the time, regardless of whether or not you eat meat. Eating a variety of plant-based foods is critical to our health. This does not mean that eating meat is unhealthy or that we shouldn’t ever do it, though – meat can deliver large amounts of nutrients our bodies need all in one stop and, as long as you are eating lean, good quality, organic meat, then meat-eating isn’t a health problem. The majority of what you eat, regardless of your diet, should be fresh fruits and vegetables, but meat is a food you can eat every day and it plays an important role in many diets.

 

Quick and Simple Tomato Sauce

As I was just writing my review of Flatzza sprouted grain pizza crusts, it occurred to me that I should share my recipe for a quick and easy pizza sauce. I prefer to make my own sauce for pizza and pasta for a couple reasons: 1. it’s cheaper than buying store-bought sauce, 2. I can avoid that added sugar and sodium found in jarred sauces, and 3. I can make it taste however I want. I came up with this in a pinch one night and it’s been my go-to ever since: simple, quick, easy, yummy.

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 tsbp tomato paste
  • 1 28-oz can of whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes
  • 1-2 tsbp of fresh or dried oregano
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Process:

  1. In a large sauce pan, heat about 2 tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring and mashing it in the oil.
  2. Add the oregano and stir around, cooking for about a minute.
  3. Using your hands, squish and smoosh the tomatoes into the pan (be careful of splatter!) and pour in the liquid from the can.
  4. Further smoosh up the tomatoes with your spoon or spatula and bring to a low simmer. Add garlic powder, salt, and pepper to taste. Allow sauce to cook for at least 5-10 minutes. The tomato paste will thicken it as it cooks and the flavors will further incorporate the longer it goes. You can add any additional seasonings you’d like!

Super easy, right?!

Product Review: Flatzza

Sooo I have a bit of a pizza obsession…honestly I could eat pizza every day but I don’t because it’s not good for me. However, that doesn’t mean that I am not constantly looking for ways to make my pizza habit healthier. You may recall my review of the Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Pizza Crust that was a heartbreaking disappointment. That was why I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much when I found the Flatzza Sprouted Grain Pizza Crust but I had to give it a try.

7GrainFlatzza12oz-2016-1This is from a company called Angelic Bakery which makes it seem even more virtuous. They come two in a package and are super thin crusts made from a mixed sprouted grain mash. They don’t carry the USDA Organic label, but they are non-GMO and are also produced in a very allergy-friendly facility (according to the label). As with the frozen cauliflower crust, there were a lot of factors I took into consideration here, including ingredients, nutrition information, texture, and flavor.

Verdict: We have a winner!

I have a new favorite pizza product and it’s these pizza crusts.

What’s the Deal with Sprouted Grains?

Sprouted grains are a bit of a fad right now, and for good reason. Sprouting the grains used in breads actually increases many of the key nutrients found in whole grains, such as B vitamins, vitamin C, folate, fiber, and certain amino acids. Sprouting the grains may also lessen their impact on individuals with food sensitivities as they have a lower gluten content and higher soluble fiber content than grains that have not been sprouted. These factors make sprouted grains a nice addition to your diet.

Now onto the product itself…

Nutrition

Looking at the Nutrition Facts, a serving of 1/4 of this crust contains 140 calories, a impressive 5 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and just 1 gram of sugar. It’s also a good source of Calcium and Potassium and a source of Iron. Depending on what you put on your pizza for toppings, you could feasibly up your serving size of this crust as well. As a heath coach, I love seeing 5s in the fiber and protein categories – not only is this good nutrition, it also means that these thin crusts have a surprisingly high satiety factor.

Ingredients

Talk about clean eating! The first 6 ingredients in these crusts are the various sprouted grains found in them. From there, it’s all good, real food ingredients that you would expect to find in real food – no strange chemicals or artificial ingredients. Again, loving this.

Flavor

OK so these are nice and nutritious, but do they taste like cardboard? They’re actually really yummy! They taste like pizza crust, not like cardboard. They have a very slight nuttiness from the grains. Because they’re a thin crust, it’s easy for the flavor to be kind of overpowered by the toppings but I found them to be just right for my tastes.

Texture

When it comes to the texture of a pizza crust, I will admit I am a huge snob. Floppy, soft, or soggy pizza crusts are an abomination. I like a nice, crispy pizza crust and was a little worried that these wouldn’t be able to deliver since they are thin and could presumably become water-logged by the liquid in the tomato sauce. This wasn’t the case though! It took longer to cook than the packaging says, but we got them nice and crispy, just the way I like. If you like your crust softer, just don’t bake it as long. If you are a crispy crust person like me, I also suggest pre-baking it for just a few minutes before you top it to further protect against the liquid in the sauce.

Price Point

For any of you who buy Ezekiel or other sprouted grain breads, you are probably bracing yourself for the price on these crusts – I know I was expecting $5+. We paid $2.99. For two crusts! My frugal little heart was very happy with this!

It’s Important to Note…

that the crust is just one component of the pizza and that what you choose to put on it can really make or break your meal nutritionally. While the crust may be 140 calories per serving, if you load it with 3 cheeses, pepperoni, and sausage, you’re going to be eating way more than you probably should be. I recommend keeping the cheese to a single layer and using veggies for your toppings. We typically buy sliced provolone cheese and use that to top our pizza so it’s just a thin layer of cheese. Then, we top it with peppers, onions, mushrooms, and sometimes broccoli and spinach. Making your own pizza sauce is also a great way to keep track of what you’re putting on your pizza. Store-bought sauce often contains a lot of added sugar and sodium whereas a homemade sauce doesn’t have to. Plus it’s actually super easy to put together a simple but delicious tomato sauce.

 

All in all, I am super happy with these pizza crusts and would definitely suggest them for your occasional pizza night.

Deskercise!

This week, I’m happy to bring you a guest post from Concept Seating. We are a very sedentary society and that lifestyle takes its toll on our bodies and our health. Health risks of sitting too much include neck and spinal issues, muscle tightness, obesity, and metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol levels, and excess body fat around the waist. These translate into conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Many of us think that our half hour on the treadmill in the morning means that sitting at work for the rest of the day doesn’t matter, but that simply isn’t enough.

For many of us, the modern work environment leaves us little option than to sit most of the day, so it’s important to try to counteract those effects as much as possible throughout the day. How? Well, getting up and taking regular walking breaks is one way – try setting a reminder to get up and walk around your floor or the building every half hour or hour (some fitness trackers do this for you by buzzing every so often). As an added bonus, taking these breaks can improve your focus and thinking when you get back to your desk. Stretching is also critical to counteracting the muscle contractions that happens from hunching in front of a computer screen for hours on end.  The following exercises from Concept Seating give you a great combination of stretching and strengthening that you can do at your desk at any time of the day.  They help improve your posture, loosen up those shrunken muscles from hunching, and get you moving. Give them a try and let us know what you think!

Deskercise

Infographic courtesy of Concept Seating

 

Why Do I Get Sick When I Start a New Workout Routine?

Does it seem like every time you try to start a new exercise routine you get sick and end up having to start all over again? You’re not alone and this is an actual thing – it’s not just your body betraying you, though it may seem like it.

So let’s look at what’s going on when this happens and the steps you can take to stop it from happening to you next time.

Stress on Your Body

While exercise is really good for your body, it’s important to remember that it is also a stressor on your body, especially if it’s different or more vigorous than you’re used to. That stress on your body can temporarily run down your immune system, making you more susceptible to germs and viruses. It’s similar to how your immune system can get run down if you’re lacking in sleep for too long. One way of thinking of it is that your body has so many resources to allocate. If it needs to move more of them to exertion and healing/recovery from a workout, there are less resources to allocate to your immune system. Obviously, this isn’t quite what’s happening but it’s a way of thinking about it.

Gyms are a Germ Pit

I’m not being dramatic- they are a germ pit. Unfortunately, civilized human beings who actually thoroughly wipe down the equipment they use when they’re done are few and far between, so you’re sharing whatever they left on the treadmill before you. Free weights in particular are the dirtiest piece of gym equipment. In fact, one study found that free weights contain more than 300 times the germs found on a toilet seat. Sorry, but you needed to know. It makes sense when you think about it – how many times have you seen someone actually wipe down the weights before they re-rack them? Exactly. Never.

Your fitness classes are also guilty of being germy places. Yoga mats in particular are fantastic incubators for a number of infection-causing bacteria. And, just as at the gym, you can’t count on your neighbor wiping down her equipment as diligently as you do.

Add to this germy mix a rundown immune system and you have a perfect equation for a fitness de-railing illness.

So what can you do to end the vicious exercise-sickness-exercise cycle?

Tips for Keeping Healthy

  • Wipe down your equipment BEFORE and after use.
  • Avoid touching your face until you’ve washed your hands thoroughly.
  • Bring your own towel – some gyms transport their dirty and clean towels in the same gym, thereby recontaminating the clean towels with bacteria.
  • Try to make sure you wipe your face with the side of the towel that hasn’t touched the equipment – you can do this by putting a mark on one side of your towel or using a towel that has a pattern on one side.
  • Ease into your new workouts instead of running headlong in so it’s less of a strain on your body. You can do this by taking more modifications in your first class or starting your runs at a slower pace, for example.
  • If you’re going to try a new workout that’s more strenuous or just different from what you’re used to, do what you can to support your immune system – drink lots of water, take your vitamins, get enough rest, eat lots of fruits and veggies for those phytonutrients.

My Routine

I’m a fairly fit person, but I’ve dealt with the struggle of starting a new exercise regimen and getting sick immediately many times. Most recently, I tried a new HIIT class which is very different from what I’m used to and I got majorly sick within a couple days. So I have developed a new routine to avoid that.

Hydration. Not only do I make sure to drink water while I’m working out, I make sure to refill my water bottle before I leave and continue to drink it on my way home with the goal of replenishing fluids and then some.

Hand Washing. I try to be mindful about not touching my face during my workout and I wash my hands in the locker room before I leave. I also wash them again when I get home even if I’m going to shower right away (Confession: I usually eat before showering #priorities).

Immune System Support: I make sure to support my immune system by taking a Shaklee Vitalized Immunity tablet with a big glass of water when I get home and I take my vitamins with a nutritious snack or meal.

Rest. I’m an early to bed person. I have always needed a lot of sleep and that hasn’t changed with age so I listen to my body for bed time.

Restore. I don’t go right back to it the next day. I give my body a break by doing something lighter that will still get my blood pumping, like a long walk or yoga. Then I’m giving my body some chance to recuperate while stimulating the lining of my blood vessels, the endothelium, which releases its own natural “medicine” to help me continue to recover.

Once you’ve gotten over this hurdle, be sure to check out my tips for keeping yourself motivated to workout so you can keep up the good work!