Roasted Beet, Avocado & Quinoa Salad

With the warm summer months fast approaching, this refreshing and nutritious side dish is bound to be a crowd pleaser at any cookout. What’s more is it looks as good as it tastes! Bright colors like this are a great way to get picky kids to eat something healthy! They can even help mix it all up!

Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

For the Salad:

2 cups cooked quinoa

4-5 medium-sized beets, diced and roasted until soft (I suggest par-boiling them first to cut down on cook time)

1 orange bell pepper, diced

2 avocados, cubed

For the Dressing:

3/4 cup fresh cilantro

2-3 limes, juiced

1 orange, juiced

1 tbsp agave nectar

1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil (may need to add more, depending on flavor and consistency)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. First, prepare the dressing so the flavors can bloom while you prepare the rest of the salad. Combine the cilantro and fruit juices in a blender and blend about 30 seconds until beginning to get smooth and combined. Add the olive oil gradually and the agave nectar and continue to blend until liquified. Add a dash of salt and pepper and place the dressing in the refrigerator while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  2. Prepare the quinoa according to the package and roast the beets until soft (you can also just boil them but I find that roasting makes the flavor sweeter).
  3. Allow the quinoa and beets to cool before adding the other salad ingredients. You can place them in the fridge if you’re on a time crunch.
  4. Once the quinoa and the beets have cooled, combine them with the diced pepper and avocado in a large mixing bowl. Remove the dressing from the fridge and give it a good shake to mix it all up again. This is where you want to taste it to make sure that it’s the balance you’re looking for. If not, you can add more oil, salt and pepper, or juice. I leave this up to the chef because some people like things zestier than others.
  5. Pour the dressing over the salad, mix together, serve and enjoy!

 

 

Phase 2!!!

I am officially DONE with Fresh Start Phase 1! Was it easy? No. But I wouldn’t say it was hard either. Yes, it sucked when I wanted a food I couldn’t have, but really the most challenging part was just making sure I planned ahead. However, if you’re someone who struggles with prepping food ahead of time, this would be a good way to get into the habit.

So after a week of raw fruits and vegetables and water, I am feeling AMAZING. It’s hard to describe exactly what has changed, but I just feel better, like cleaner. I haven’t had headaches like I used to, my skin looks and feels better, I’ve lost a little weight, I’m sleeping better, and my body just feels like it’s doing its job better. Like a whole system reboot. And I think it’s been totally worth cutting out some of my favorite foods for a week.

Phase 2 of the Fresh Start program is health-building. You gradually reintroduce foods, such as dairy and gluten, so it’s similar to an elimination diet in that sense. This allows you to identify foods that your body doesn’t process as well so you can choose to avoid them going forward. So, while it is tempting to jump right in after a week and eat all the cheese, that is not what I’m doing.

Today’s food is something like this:

Breakfast – a Shaklee Life protein shake with kale, berries, and almond milk. For the rest of Phase 2, I will be substituting a shake for one meal per day, but if I were looking for more dramatic weight loss, I would substitute two.

Snacks – healthy options like fruit, a handful of nuts, a hard-boiled egg

Lunch – lean protein and veggies (cooked or raw) and/or fruit. Today I had a salad with some grilled chicken.

Dinner – Half of dinner should be non-starchy vegetables, 1/4 a lean protein, 1/4 a starchy vegetable or whole grain

Essentially, you are eating clean for the next 4 weeks. Water intake continues to be crucial and things like coffee and alcohol should be limited.

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I’m also taking a new supplement this week, the Shaklee Life Strip. This thing is amazing. Seriously, look at it! The dark-colored liquigels are a polyphenol blend to repair and protect DNA; the yellow liquigels are an omega-3 fish oil; the two dark yellow pills are multivitamins; and the last lighter pill is a B and C complex. That is some major nutrition!

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So, how is this different from a diet? Well, the difference is that Fresh Start is not something that you blindly follow until you’ve hit your goal weight and then stop doing and bounce back. The primary goal of this program is not weight loss and you’re not going to lose 100 pounds doing it. Instead, you start out healing your body with food and optimizing your body’s functions. Then you reintroduce foods in a way that teaches you the right way to eat. And you don’t experience the crazy bounce back because you eliminated most if not all cravings during your first week by essentially rebooting your system. Your palette actually starts to change and your body starts craving the food it needs instead of foods that don’t fuel it and make it sick. It’s a great way to jumpstart your new healthy lifestyle and get you on the right track for sustainable weight loss.

This second phase of the Fresh Start lasts 4 weeks. I am excited to see the results at the end of it but so far I am really impressed with this program.

Fresh Start Day 6 – The End is in Sight!

Today is the second to last day of the Phase 1 Fresh Start cleanse and today is the first day where I am really noticing differences. I’ve been feeling really good this entire time and have had plenty of energy, but today is the first time I’m noticing physical differences.

First, I am feeling weight loss for the first time. My stomach feels flatter and my rings are looser. I wish I had done a before and after weigh-in, but I don’t own a scale (more on that in a later entry).

I’m also noticing a difference in my muscles. Yesterday I decided to do a super quick, easy, low-impact cardio workout, less than ten minutes, just to get my heart rate up. I mean SUPER easy and low impact, like less than jogging in place. And this morning I woke up stiff and sore from it. I typically workout 3-4 times a week and they’re intense workout sessions, both cardio and strength, so I’m really not happy about this. I mean, it’s totally to be expected – I haven’t had any significant protein for almost a week – and I knew going into it that I may lose some muscle mass. I am really anxious to get back to my regular workout routine, though, and now I’m concerned about how quickly I will be able to make that happen. Today and tomorrow I will be doing some stretching and I will give myself some time next week after I start eating protein again before I start working out.

I’m off to stretch so that’s all for now!

Fresh Start Day 4

“I was doing really well…until I read the word ‘bagel'”

Yup, I said that today. Not my finest moment. Also, America’s Test Kitchen and Phantom Gourmet are not my friends right now.

I am definitely missing some foods today, mostly carbs and cheese. But I’m finding that it’s only when I’m hungry. As soon as I have something to eat, I’m fine and not missing any foods. I guess that makes sense, but the fact that I’m able to be satisfied without eating the food I’m thinking of is pretty cool. I’m also getting better at getting to the root of these urges. For example, if I’m feeling like I want cheese, something with more heft and texture like avocado or mango satisfies me. It’s more the creaminess I’m after than the food so my body is likely telling me it needs some fat. Notice that I haven’t been using the word “craving” here. A craving is something that gnaws at you so you can only focus on getting the thing you want and that’s not what I’ve been experiencing at all. I think of a food that I would like to have, but I don’t feel like I need it and I can easily let it go. That is pretty amazing and I think really shows how this week helps reshape your body systems.

Speaking of body systems, this is a great week to really take care of your body. In addition to cleansing and slowing down, there are a number of self-care actions you can do that will actually help the cleanse along even more. For example, today I took a long, hot shower and exfoliated with a lavender sugar scrub. Exfoliation and massage are great for your lymphatic system. Getting plenty of sleep is crucial and I’ve been taking care not to eat before bedtime because fasting overnight helps your body focus its energy on detoxifying while you sleep.

One last update, I’m pleased to report that I have not yet experienced any Herxheimer reaction symptoms. As I think I mentioned in a previous post, this is when, in the course of a healing process, you must essentially feel worse before you feel better. Your body is being pushed into detox mode in this cleanse week and it’s common to show side effects, such as a headache, breakout, even flu-like symptoms as your body rids itself of toxins. Typically such symptoms crop up at around this point in the cleanse, so I’m pretty happy I haven’t had any (knock on wood).

So I’m over the halfway mark and still going strong. But, I can’t help but say THREE MORE DAYS!!!

Fresh Start Day 3

Today is Day 3 of Fresh Start and it’s still much easier than I thought it would be.

Yesterday, I woke up with a pretty awful sore throat and was nervous I was getting sick and would have to cut my Fresh Start short, but I took some Nutriferon for my immune system and am feeling 100% better today. So that’s a relief!

During this cleanse week, you’re really not supposed to exercise – 1. because your body is working hard to heal and 2. because you’re not eating any significant sources of protein so it could hurt your muscles. However, walking and stretching are A-OK to do, so I’m going for a walk with my mother today and I’m really looking forward to getting some movement in after spending so much time in the car over the past couple days. I’m used to getting 3-4 intense workouts in a week so holding back this week is challenging me.

Walking will definitely make me hungry so I’m going to be sure to bring some snacks with me: an apple, some carrots and cucumbers, maybe some celery, and, of course lots of water.

Just a quick check-in for today but I will be posting more updates this week!

 

Fresh Start Day 1

Today is my first full day of the Fresh Start program and, I have to say, with a little planning and creativity, it’s been pretty easy.

As I explained in my previous post, this first week of the program is a cleanse week in which I can only eat fresh fruits and vegetables (or lightly steamed) and drink lots of water. I am also taking several supplements from Shaklee to help the cleanse process along. These supplements are alfalfa, Liver DTX, Herblax, and Optiflora probiotic.

I have spent this whole day consuming nothing but raw fruits, vegetables, and water. I’m actually staying with my “sister-in-law” today and tomorrow and she has done Fresh Start before so it’s been really helpful doing the program with her to start out. Since fruits and vegetables don’t pack nearly as much of the calories as protein or carbs, I am eating a lot more to keep my blood sugar stable and to keep satiated. Basically, we’ve been eating all day long. But we planned ahead for this. Last night, we cut up some carrots, radishes, and red peppers to snack on. We also made a dip for them by blending up some peas and avocado with some cumin, salt, and pepper. And we made some roll-ups using collard leaves stuffed with slivered carrot, pepper, guacamole, and salsa. All of that came with us to her office this morning (I was shadowing her) and we polished most of it off along with some oranges and an apple. We started the day off with a fruit and vegetable smoothie, a banana, and some herbal tea. For dinner tonight we had some cauliflower rice with mushrooms seasoned with cumin and a side salad of kale, greens, carrots, and avocado with some olive oil and vinegar.

So far, the most difficult part isn’t the food – it’s staying hydrated. When you eat a lot of fiber, as we are with so much raw produce, it’s critical to drink a lot of water – even more so when your goal is to flush toxins from your body. I’m at about 78 ounces of water so far and it’s been…inconvenient, if you know what I mean. But I don’t feel like I’m forcing myself to drink more than I want – I’m actually needing this much water.

In preparation for this week, I cut way back on my coffee intake last week because I knew that would be a challenge to give up along with carbs, diary, meat, etc. One thing that I have learned in giving up the coffee is that I really don’t NEED it physically. I’ve been doing fine energy-wise and have gotten only a minimal headache. However, I’ve come to realize that coffee for me is a major comfort source. I like to take my mornings slow, stay warm in my comfy clothes, and the aroma of coffee brewing and enjoying that warm cup is a huge part of my happy morning ritual. So I’ve been finding that I am craving coffee far more on an emotional level than a physical one.

 

Today has really brought to light for me just how much mindless eating I do in a day. I keep catching myself wanting to reach for the open bag of this or that on the counter or wanting to accept whatever food someone is offering a taste of. This week will definitely be an exercise in mindfulness.

I know that as the week goes on, I’m going to have to get more creative with my food to keep myself from getting bored. So I’ve put together some meal options that I can create during the week. Some of those are:

  • Sweet potato noodles with EVOO, sage, and diced apple
  • Beet noodles with balsamic and shredded brussels sprouts
  • Avocado and salsa with peppers instead of chips for dipping
  • Riced cauliflower with corn, carrots, peas, mushrooms, and liquid aminos (similar in flavor to soy sauce)

All in all, Fresh Start has been a piece of kale (see what I did there?) so far. I’m feeling really good today and am looking forward to how I’ll be feeling at the end of the week. Check back here for more updates as the week goes on!

 

Fresh Start

I refuse to recommend anything to my clients that I wouldn’t use myself – that’s not something to brag about (or it shouldn’t be); it’s just basic professional responsibility (or it should be). And that is why next week I’m going to be test driving a program that some of my amazing colleagues and I are running later on in the spring and I’m documenting it here for all to witness.

The program is called Fresh Start, a health-building program to help you get back on track dietarily. It’s a 5-week program with the first week being a nutritive cleanse to help eliminate those cravings that often get in the way of getting into a new healthy eating regimen and to help your body systems function more optimally in eliminating toxins from your body . The cleanse week is followed by 4 weeks of “health-building” – being coached through healthy eating habits with a different set of dietary supplements for nutritive support. After the 5 weeks, your body is functioning more optimally than before and you are in a much stronger position for pushing forward with a healthy lifestyle.

So, next week I start my cleanse week. That means no coffee, no dairy (no cheese!), no grains, no meat, no sugar, and no alcohol. I’m not gonna lie – I’m not looking forward to it! That’s not really true – I’m looking forward to what a difference I will feel during and afterwards as I heal my body with food. I’m also looking forward to being able to tell YOU about the experience and its impact firsthand.

So let’s be real: as someone with no food intolerances who firmly believes in the importance of eating a variety of foods, that’s a lot of stuff for me to cut out of my diet all at once, so I’m actually easing into it this week by cutting a little out at a time beforehand. Don’t judge.

The coffee  was a particular point of concern for me so I decided to cut that out this week to make next week less of a shock all at once. I’ve been drinking coffee since high school. I drink it black – no milk or sugar, just pure, unadulterated coffee goodness – and I have a three-cup-a-day habit. I tend to get headaches if I don’t get my coffee so I’m not expecting that I will be a pleasant person for the first part of this week. Don’t. Judge.

This is Day 2 of no coffee and I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised by how easy it has been. I was positive that I was going to be wearing my cranky pants and guzzling Advil but I haven’t had a headache and I haven’t been an intolerable jerk to be around – at least not that anyone has told me. I also haven’t really been craving it at all, which really surprises me. I never would have thought that starting the day with a cup of herbal tea instead of coffee would do it for me, but it’s really just the habit, not so much the substance.

I’m also starting to cut back on dairy and grains this week in preparation for next. Like a step-down approach. I think it will also help me start thinking of meal ideas and recipes for next week.

One thing I want to point out that I’m NOT doing this week is going all out and overindulging before starting this program. A lot of people will do this before they start a diet or program and I don’t see the point. First of all, I don’t feel well when I consume a bunch of junk and sit around so it’s not worth feeling like crap to me to get in all the foods I won’t be eating next week. I have my whole life ahead of me to eat those foods if I choose to so I don’t need to eat them like there’s no tomorrow.

I also think that this approach gets you in the completely wrong mindset. Before you even start you are looking at it from the angle of deprivation. Guess what? Shockingly, human beings don’t respond well to deprivation. Essentially, you’re setting yourself up for failure at worst and an incredibly unpleasant experience at best. Instead, I recommend looking at things like this as an opportunity or a new beginning. It’s exciting! You get to see your body functioning better and you get to pat yourself on the back for getting through it.

This is also the mindset that gets you into diet mode rather than lasting lifestyle change. You’re setting up the cycle of overindulgence –> deprivation –> overindulgence –> deprivation which is at the core of all crash diets.

Finally, if you’re going to run a race, why would you take 10 steps back from the starting line first? To me, that is what you’re doing when you have a crazy blow-out week eating all the things before you start a healthy eating program. By doing that, you are guaranteeing that you start off feeling like crap, you feel more deprived, and you may even be starting off heavier than you would have otherwise (if your goal is weight loss).

So that’s what I will be doing for the next month+. Be sure to check back here for updates on my progress – I’m sure it will be comical and may involve me sitting on the floor in a closet savoring a contraband piece of cheese.