Protein Baked Goods: Yay or Nay?

I don’t get protein baked goods. My (nonprofessional) gut reaction is that they’re weird and unnatural, but I’m not actually sure if protein baked goods suck or not. I can’t say that I’ve ever had them. I’m normally not one to judge something without giving it a shot, but can we maybe discuss?

I think the clean eater in me just doesn’t get the protein baked goods concept (medical concerns not taken into account – see below). Most protein powders are pretty processed. Even the protein powder I’m using (one I selected because it’s made from plant ingredients) isn’t exactly “clean” in the sense that I didn’t pluck it out of the ground. I mix my powder with water and use it as a post-workout protein source since it’s easy to pack before work and store in my bag all day. Anywho, I guess when I think of baking ingredients, I’m thinking flour (whether that’s unbleached all purpose, whole wheat, spelt, or a gluten-free substitute like almond flour, etc.), butter/oil, sugar, eggs/flaxseed eggs, etc. You know, the basics. I do like experimenting with vegan baking ingredients, but I try to stick to the clean ones there, too (like using flaxseeds for eggs). I can’t imagine adding protein powder let alone completely substituting flour with it, though I do understand some people like or need to do so.

I have seen on some sites that moms will post questions looking for ways to add protein to baked goods because their son/daughter can’t consume most protein sources. Since those situations don’t impact me, my personal preference is to seek natural, clean protein sources or to say hey, maybe that muffin doesn’t need to be protein-laden. And, I understand that I’m fortunate to be able to have many options when it comes to eating and to being able to make choices out of preference and not necessity. But, outside of having some sort of medical or other need, can someone help me understand if I’m missing something fabulous with these protein baked goods that I’m currently unlikely to try?

If protein baked goods make you happy or keep you healthy, then I say keep on keepin on. But if you were new to this concept and asked my opinion, I’d suggest looking for natural, whole food sources of protein first and if they don’t work for you (for medical or other reasons), then exploring protein powders, if that’s what you need to be healthy.

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{Above: preview photo for a new muffin recipe I’m working on…made with flour…not protein}

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Protein Baked Goods: Yay or Nay?

I did get this interesting tweet last night from one of my twitter friends who is an RD, and it was very interesting to read. Without knowing much about this topic, it seemed likely that some people may need to do protein baked goods, but I previously didn’t understand who. This tweet helped me understand one of the many medical reasons someone may need to opt for protein baked goods. Thanks, Samantha! You can check Samantha out on her blog, Nutrition to Fruition.

So, what say you? Protein baked goods: yay or nay? Why or why not?

Loving Lately: Glass Lifefactory Water Bottle

Of all the Christmas gifts I get every year, my reusable water bottles have been some of my favorites.

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This year, I received a beautiful, turquoise glass water bottle that I’d been eyeing for awhile. It’s by a company called lifefactory.

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First of all, I love the wide mouth at the top. This makes it so much easier to clean and add ice. I’m often making up some ice water before teaching Zumba, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stood in the office break room slowly shoving ice, piece by piece, into one of my other water bottles.

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I also appreciate how the bottle is BPA free and also free of other things that hadn’t been on my radar (BPA being the big thing lately, it seems): BPS, PVC, or phthalates.

And I thought the whole “water tastes better in glass!” thing was a little overrated before, but it really does taste better to me, almost more clean. And on top of taste, since the bottle is made of glass, you can put other things that may have reacted with some metal containers, like fresh slices of citrus: lemons, limes and oranges! I can’t wait to make up some of that for the summer (or sooner, perhaps…why wait for the summer, right?). But, I’d also consider putting other things in here I wouldn’t have with my metal containers: juices or smoothies.

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Did I mention it’s dishwasher safe? I’ve grown accustomed to hand washing my reusable bottles over the years, and I’ll still hand wash this one sometimes, but it’s nice to have the option to throw it in the dishwasher on my busy days.

The only downsides I’ve seen with this bottle so far are: it’s a little heavier (0.95 lbs) and sometimes the lid seems to go on slightly off kilter causing the water to leak out if you’re not careful. Otherwise, this baby is leak-proof and great to use!

The 16 ounce bottle is $19.99 on the lifefactory web site, but it’s currently $17.80 on amazon.com and ships for free with prime. When I wrote this post, I saw 5 color options on the lifefactory site and 8 on amazon! Of course, the turquoise is my favorite. And there are also kid and baby options! So cute!

Are there any other great, reusable water bottles out there I should check out?

My Balanced Approach to Clean Eating

Since I’m planning to blog a little bit more about healthy living, I thought it was important to share where I am these days, specifically around diet. And by “diet,” I mean my “diet” as in what I eat. Although I totally understand that diets are very effective for some people, I’ve learned that they don’t work for me. I’ve struggled with restrictive eating in the past, so I choose to focus on a more open approach. For the last couple of years, I’ve turned my attention towards eating clean, which I like for many reasons. For starters, clean eating reminds me of the way my dad encouraged us to eat growing up. He was always big on avoiding processed foods, growing our own vegetables, and supporting local farmers. I also like how clean eating is pretty simple, flexible, and tends to focus on the positives of healthy eating – enjoying beautiful, whole foods that make you feel great.

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My approach to clean eating is a non-restrictive strategy that balances choosing whole, organic, local foods with everyday stress, money considerations, and a busy schedule.

If time and money were no object, I’d eat clean, locally-grown, organic food all the time. I’d grow my own vegetables, have my own chickens in the backyard, and shop the farmer’s market daily. I’d make everything from scratch. Chicken broth à la Ina Garten? Done! Homemade gnocchi à la Mario Batali? Done! Grind my own wheat to make bread? Well, maybe I wouldn’t take things quite that far.

But, I’m a busy, working woman with one too many hobbies on her hands. I’m in the office Monday – Friday at my 9-to-5, and after hours, I teach Zumba, blog, and am trying to re-learn how to program. Did I mention that I’m so not independently wealthy? So, I’m constantly trying to balance my schedule and money with my desire to eat clean, local, and organic food.

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I’ve done the extremes…on both ends. I’ve eaten almost all processed foods (from fast food to even when I was even eating in), and then I’ve eaten almost no processed foods. I’ve found that I’m not happy with either extreme. I probably ate the most processed foods during or just after college, and since then, I’ve worked my way towards eating more and more clean. But, there was a time I went too far…at least, too far for me.

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Spending too much time and money to eat clean became overly stressful. It made me reach a point where I almost wanted to give up. Have you been there? Where you find yourself thinking, “I just can’t do this…why do I even try?” When you find yourself wanting to quit, you may have just pushed yourself to an extreme. Instead of quitting, I believe you have to find the level of clean eating that works for you…and by works for you, I mean, the level that makes you happy and has you enjoying eating clean.

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To me, the key to happiness with clean eating is striking a balance between eating as clean as possible and not driving yourself crazy by being too prescriptive. I just don’t see things as black and white. It’s not eat processed food or eat clean. I don’t think to enjoy eating clean that you have to eat clean 100% of the time. I think there are levels. Over time, I try to work towards eating more and more clean and I try to make the best decision possible on a daily basis. Though I prefer to not use them, I do use some processed foods. It’s just that over time, even my processed foods have become more clean. The trick is paying attention to the labels and learning how to check and read them so you can make the best choice for you. I have an upcoming post with some label-reading shortcuts for busy people, so hopefully, some of you will find that helpful.

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My everyday approach to clean eating:

  1. First and foremost – strive for doing your best, not being perfect. No rules. No restrictions. I just focus on doing the best I can at any given time. I try to eat as clean as possible, but I don’t beat myself up about not being perfect.
  2. When time/schedule/money allows, make things from scratch using whole (unprocessed) foods/ingredients. Bonus points for using organic and/or local ingredients!
  3. If you need help, take as little as possible. if you can grill some chicken and steam some broccoli but just need a little help, then a box of rice pilaf can go a long way. Or if you want to make soup with fresh, local vegetables but don’t have time to make your own vegetable broth (Who does?! If you do, make me some!), then use a boxed broth. It will still be 10 times better than cracking open a can of soup.
  4. If you use processed ingredients, make the best choice you can find and afford. Not all processed foods are equally processed or are the same by level of quality. One box of macaroni and cheese is not the same as the other. Canned beans can vary greatly, as can boxes of vegetable broth. Learn how to read ingredient lists, and pick the cleanest you can.
  5. If someone else makes it, it can still be clean. I like to take a little help from grocery stores with similar eating philosophies to mine. Whole Foods, Earthfare, Healthy Home Market, and local health food stores often offer prepared foods. I’ve gotten pre-made chicken salad and put it on Great Harvest bread and called it a day for lunch. Yea, I didn’t pluck any of it from the ground, but I look at it as them making food the same way I would, I just paid for the time-savings and their expertise.

Any other clean eats enthusiasts out there? What’s your approach to clean eating?

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Insta-Chic {8/4/13}

You guys know I love to cut shirts.

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I like making little tweaks to stretchy Zumba tank tops and turning unisex t-shirts into loose-fitting tank tops and halter tops.

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So, every once in awhile, I host a t-shirt cutting workshop for my Zumba class where we go over some of the basics. I share my tips and tricks and help them cut some practice tops. It’s always such a fun time, and I love seeing everyone’s creations – that night and after.

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I went out for some post-Zumba and post-t-shirt-cutting-workshop eats at Chloe’s recommendation – Bistro 88. I’ve been looking for a favorite Chinese restaurant in Charlotte, and this may be the one. I’d been here one time before, but I thought it was good but not a stand-out. This time, Chloe told us about the “secret menu” – the Cantonese one. They only give you this menu if you ask for it. We all ordered off the Cantonese menu. I got the cabbage with chicken, which was boneless chicken with baby bok choy in a light white sauce (I also saw pieces of fresh ginger in the mix). Chloe got the Beef Chow Fan (which is also on the regular menu) and shared a bite. Those noodles could easily be addicting. The flavor was wonderful, and I def recommend trying it if you visit.

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Here’s one of my yummy lunches from last week by the Roots food truck – pulled pork with pickled veggies and pasta salad. So fresh, so good! It’s so nice there are restaurants and food trucks in town that support local farmers.

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Not sure if you follow me on Instagram, but I bought a tiny bamboo plant to cheer up my office desk and posted about it on my account awhile back. I named her Lucy, and my desk-mate liked my plant so much, she got one, too! Her plant’s name is Ethel. Yup, Lucy and Ethel.

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Guess what showed up in my email inbox the other day? My Zumba Convention 2013 tickets!!! I’m so pumped. This will be my third year attending Zumba Convention, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite things to do every year. I’m about a week and half away. Can’t wait!

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And I made chili today for some friends and was reminded of why I try to read ingredients lists. My chili calls for three types of beans, and I found pretty clean versions of all but one. Most of the beans had three ingredients – beans, water, salt. But one of the cans had beans, water, salt, PLUS calcium chloride and calcium disodium edta. Now, I’m not going to freak out over these added ingredients, nor will I refuse to eat them, but I do try to avoid them whenever possible. I mean, if I were seasoning the chili, I wouldn’t be like, “Okay, I’ll add one tablespoon of chili powder and 2 teaspoons calcium chloride.” This is where I try to stick to the Food Rules by Michael Pollan.

I tried researching those last two added ingredients online quickly. There were different stances on calcium chloride – some calling it safe and others saying it has negative side effects. But, one quick hit was that calcium disodium edta is on the Whole Foods list of unacceptable ingredients in food. Pollan’s logic is still enough for me to try to avoid both.

How do you feel about added ingredients in your foods? Do you have a hard and fast rule to not eat them, do you try to avoid them when possible, or do you not care about eating/drinking them?

Perfect Eating is an Illusion – Be a Qualitarian

Vegetarian, flexitarian, vegan, carnivore, pescatarian…there are many words to describe the way people eat.

I finally found a word that accurately describes my eating style: Qualitarian

One of the best things about this style is that it can be combined with others. You could be a Vegetarian Qualitarian or a Carnivore Qualitarian. It’s a simple, but effective concept and one that I’ve followed for awhile now, though I never had a single word to describe it.

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I discovered the above snippet in my January/February 2013 copy of Vegetarian Times. I know it’s April, and I’m a little late sharing, but better late than never, right?

In case the the above photo gets broken or isn’t view-able for some reason, it’s a photo of a snippet from the magazine, and it reads:

Be a Qualitarian: “The best change you can make in the New Year is to become a qualitarian,” says Ashley Koff, RD, founder of the ashleykoffapproved.com (AKA) Stamp of Quality Nutrition. “That means making the better-quality choice – note, I never say best quality – for everything you put in your body.” Aspiring to eat perfectly all the time isn’t practical, but in most situations, there’s a better choice, she says: “For example, if you’re at a convenience store grabbing something on the go, that could mean buying water, unsalted nuts, and a piece of fruit. If the fruit isn’t organic, aim for organic next time.”

This pretty much describes my eating style from the last couple years to the present. I like to say, “it’s about choosing the better choice…not the perfect one.” But, it hasn’t always been this way.

I have perfectionist tendencies, so I used to beat myself up about not getting things just right. I found that this type of thinking led me down a negative path that was not conducive to my goal of healthy living. Worrying about not making the perfect choice was stressful and would sometimes make me feel more like quitting than moving forward.

“Perfection is an illusion. Imperfection is beautiful.” -Tanya Beardsley

When I started focusing on a more positive approach, thinking about making better choices instead of perfect ones, I really started feeling more confident and happy about healthy eating. Mostly, when I started focusing on choosing better over perfect, I found a certain sense of freedom…like the weight of perfection had been lifted. It was wonderful.

We all have different budgets, time constraints, and resources available. What works for one person may or may not work for the next. Personally, I strive to eat clean, local, and organic food, but I take help from processed foods sometimes and I definitely don’t eat 100% local and organic. Do I beat myself up for eating boxed mac and cheese? Nope. Not any more. But, I do try to purchase the ones with cleaner ingredient lists. To me, this choice is better in two ways. It’s better than eating a more processed version, but mostly, it’s better than giving up completely and just getting fast food. Grilled chicken, steamed broccoli, and boxed mac and cheese > fast food

Bottom line – my current eating strategy is to do what I can, focus on the positive, and make the better choice. Yup, I’m definitely a Qualitarian, and I’m loving it.

What better choices have you made recently?

The Forgotten Component of Health: Wellness

The Other Component of Health

I bet a lot of you reading think a lot about your physical and nutritional health, but do you ever think about your mental health? I remember when I first started doing Small Changes, Big Results by Ellie Krieger, almost four years ago now (click here to read about my journey), that wellness was my weakest area (nutrition and fitness were the other two). And this is likely a common problem, not just for me.

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According to Ellie:

“The third component of the program is often overlooked by fitness-minded people. They realize it is important to eat better and move their bodies more, but they’re surprised when I tell them there is one more key factor – to examine their lives to determine the biggest stressors, and figure out ways to reduce or eliminate them. You can learn to eat a nutritious diet and exercise regularly, but if you ignore your mental health and emotional well-being, you won’t feel good.”

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Oops. I know I’m guilty of this. What about you?

Stress: Pain in the Neck…Literally

I found myself rethinking my approach to healthy living when I woke up at 6:30am this past Sunday with excruciating neck pain. My neck had been sore most of the weekend, but on Sunday morning, I could barely move, and I felt sharp pain radiating from my neck even though I was just laying there. Not fun.

As I lay there, I wondered how to remedy my situation. I felt like traditional medicine would only focus on treating the symptoms with pain medicine. And though I did take some, I really wanted to think about my situation from a more holistic perspective. What was the cause of the pain? That was what I needed to fix, maybe for the present but mostly for the future. I didn’t have to think long before I came to the conclusion that I’d been working myself into the ground the past few weeks without giving de-stressing or relaxation a second thought. Heck, I couldn’t even make myself get a decent amount of sleep. Sound familiar?

Later that morning, my dad (we were visiting my parents) decided to turn to Dr. Weil for some advice, so he consulted his copy of “Spontaneous Healing.” I’d quote the book, but it’s at my parent’s house, and I just ordered it on Amazon today. Hopefully, I can share more later. But, basically, the book confirmed my suspicions. We read that neck pain, even if tied to a previous injury, is usually related to stress. Hmm…

I knew I’d been pushing myself a little (way?) too hard, but what was I doing about it to counter that stress along with other, everyday stressors? I tried to think back to the last time I’d paid any attention to relaxation and de-stressing. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d thought about either of those things. I couldn’t even remember the last time I’d gotten at least 8 hours of sleep. In fact, as I tie all of this together, I’m reminded of how I didn’t pay as much attention to the wellness challenges of Small Changes, Big Results. I guess I’m stubborn like that. Always pushing rest and relaxation to the side burner. In some ways, I don’t feel like I deserve it. Like I haven’t earned it or something. Who knows.

Going Forward

But, I think it’s time to re-evaluate things. Healthy Living is about more than just food and fitness. And I guess I could just pop some pain medicine every time my body flips out, but I’d rather fix the cause than treat the symptoms. Stress is going to happen, but what can I do to minimize it? Additionally, what can I do to better handle it?

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According to Dr. Weil from this article:

“While it is always worth trying to change external situations that are destructive, keep in mind that you have a choice as to how situations affect you. In time, you can learn to change your reactions to them – simply making changes to what you see as the external aspect of stress (such as getting a new job, moving, ending a relationship) does not give people tools for managing future problems any better. Therefore it is also important to learn how to relax and protect yourself from the harmful effects of stress.”

So, what does this mean for you? If you’re good at relaxing and handling your stress, then, probably not much. And I’d be surprised to see you’re still reading this, though maybe my train-wreck-workaholic-self does lend some entertainment value. Either way, I hope to be more like you one day. But if you’re stressed out like me…if you’re paying little or no mind to rest and relaxation, then I invite you to start doing so.

My Plan for Better Managing Stress

My plan is to spend more time (even if only 5 minutes a day) focusing on relaxation and learning how to better handle stress. I think I’m going to take another look at my SCBR book and maybe do just the weekly wellness challenge for the next 12 weeks. But, I’m also planning to do additional research to find more helpful info. It’s time to pay more attention to the third aspect of healthy living – wellness. Care to join me?

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You can start now.

Challenge: The first challenge in SCBR is to spend 5 minutes focusing on your breath. Pay attention to how it changes. Do you feel more relaxed? I tried this last night right before bed and fell asleep. Not sure if that’s what Ellie was going for, but I did feel more relaxed, at least. I’m not going to give away all of Ellie’s challenges, but this 5 minute breather is one that is simple enough, anyone should be able to include it in their daily activities. If I can do it, you can too!

Ready for more?

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Reader questions: Do you devote time to relaxation? How do you handle stress? Do you have any recommendations for further reading on relaxation and stress-management? Please share in the comments!

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