Loaded Zucchini Boats

Hello friends 🙂

Welcome to mid-summer! Hope you are all happily immersed in the warm weather and cool treats the season provides 🙂

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I’ve been enjoying a lot of light, produce-rich meals, for the past couple of months which is a strong contrast to my hearty oatmeal, soups and stews during the winter.  Early in the day I prefer raw fruit bowls, smoothies and salads but for dinner I prefer my veggies cooked.

On Friday nights the bf and I like to have “something good” as he says. We have a little more time to get creative with cooking but we still try to keep it on the healthy side for the most part. This past Friday turned into something inspired by of one of my favourite indulgent appetizers before becoming vegan… I always LOVED spud skins but didn’t often order them because I knew they were probably the worst thing on the menu. I’ve been meaning to recreate a healthier “Loaded Skins” recipe and wow… I will never feel a longing for regular old spud skins again!

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Loaded Zucchini Boats

Ingredients

  • 5 medium zucchini
  • 1/2 pkg. Gardein Meatless Ground (or 1 cup black beans)*
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup mushrooms, chopped
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/4-1/2 cup Daiya cheddar style shreds
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • salsa & Tofutti sour cream for dipping

*The meatless grounds and beans are both optional. The difference is a meal or an appetizer.

Directions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°C
  2. Half each zucchini, scrape out the flesh and set aside.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a large pan on medium heat. Saute onions and garlic until starting to brown (~5 min.)
  4. Add mushrooms, meatless crumbles, and zucchini flesh to the pan. Add spices and cook until mushrooms begin to soften and flavours combine (~10 min).
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange zucchini halves in a row.
  6. Generously fill the skins with the mixture from the pan then top with tomatoes and cover in cheese shreds.
  7. Bake for ~20 min or until zucchini skins feel soft and cheese is melted.

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This will serve 2-4, depending who you’re dining with. I ate my share for dinner and a late night snack. I think we know how long my dinner date’s lasted 😉

Enjoy!

Liz xo

Fit Friday: Dumbbell Swings

So what if it’s been done?

It’s effective as hell and I want to make sure all of my followers know it! At home I do this move with a basic dumbbell because I don’t have a wide variety of equipment in my little apartment and I figure the majority of you don’t own a kettlebell or a sandbag either. At the gym, feel free to use whatever type of weight suits your fancy!

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Fit Friday: Dumbbell Swings

AKA: Kettlebell swings, sandbag swings

Weight: 8-15 lb weight, depending on your fitness level. Remember, your shoulders need to take this weight too!

Reps: 3 sets of 12-15 incorporated into a circuit or as part of any workout.

Method:

1. Begin standing with feet hip-width apart, core engaged, weight in hands. Perform a squat.

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2. Immediately return to standing by driving your heels into the floor and swinging the weight straight out in front of you.

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That’s one rep. Repeat 12-15 times, gaining some momentum, but not enough to take the work out of your legs and shoulders. The weight should be heavy enough that a little momentum is required to perform this move.

More Fit Friday fun:

Have a fit weekend 😉

Liz xo

Favorite Salads

I love salads!

So much so that I probably eat salad for lunch at least 6/7 days a week. You may think this sounds a little crazy… that you could never eat that much salad… that you’d be so bored and sick of freakin salad… right?!

Not if you’re eating my kinda salads 🙂

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I don’t usually opt for dinner unless I’ve eaten a heavy lunch or I’m at a restaurant, but here are a few reasons why I choose salad for lunch:

  1. Several servings of fruit and veggies
  2. A lighter choice to allow a productive afternoon at a physically demanding job.
  3. Low in calories & carbs
  4. High in nutrients, vitamins & minerals
  5. Instant energy from easily digested, fresh produce
  6. Simple & quick to make the night before work or to take on the road
  7. A dose of essential healthy fats to make nutrients more bioavailable
  8. Often the healthiest option at restaurants but be wary of the dressing and “extras” (see bottom)

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So how does one eat salad EVERY day?! When it’s not just salad, but a party on your plate! I could never share all of my favorite combinations in just one post but here are some of my staple combos that will leave you full, satisfied, and ready to take on the rest of your day 🙂

1. Strawberry Spinach Salad

  • 1-2 cups greens of choice
  • 1/3 cup chickpeas
  • 1/2 cup strawberries, sliced
  • 1/4 cucumber, sliced and halved
  • 1 tbsp nuts of choice

Service with raspberry or balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

2. Avocado, Cran-Almond Salad

  • 1-2 cups spinach
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced
  • 12 whole almonds
  • 2 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp sunflower seeds

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Serve with balsamic vinaigrette dressing

3. Santa Fe Salad (Boston Pizza Inspired)

  • 1-2 cups spinach or lettuce
  • 1/3 cup black beans
  • 1/3 cup corn kernels
  • 1/3 cup tomato, chopped
  • 1/4 avocado, sliced
  • 1/4 cup corn tortilla chips, broken over top

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Serve with salsa & (Tofutti) sour cream if desired

4. Quinoa Salad

  • 3/4 cup quinoa, cooked
  • 1 tbsp hummus
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • pinch basil, oregano, sea salt
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 cup cucumber, sliced & quartered
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1-2 cups spinach, optional

Option 1: Combine quinoa, hummus, lemon juice & spices then stir in chopped veggies. Serve atop a bed of greens if you wish. Drizzle with balsamic. Nom!

Option 2: Line plate with greens, top with chopped veggies, top with quinoa-hummus mixture, drizzle with balsamic. This is amazing even without the quinoa!

5. Sweet Potato & Sultana Salad

  • 1-2 cups greens
  • 1/2 sweet potato OR 1/2 cup butternut squash, baked
  • 1/3 cup chickpeas
  • 2 tbsp sultana raisins
  • 1 tbsp pumpkin seeds

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Serve with homemade “honey” mustard dressing. I love Dreena Burton’s recipe but a store bought dressing or balsamic works too!

6. Dinner for Lunch Salad

  • 1-2 cups greens
  • 1 serving of any dinner left-overs (baked tofu, veggie burger, fajita filling, sweet potato, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup chopped veggies (cucumber, tomato, mushrooms, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup fruit (orange, apple, berries)
  • 1 tbsp dried fruit (optional)
  • 1 tbsp seeds or nuts
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Spinach, sesame-orange baked tofu, cucumber, orange, pumpkin seeds, “honey” mustard dressing

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Spinach, lentil burger, mushroom, cucumber, peach-mango salsa

Serve with dressing or left-over side of choice. My mango salsa recipe can be found here!

7. Asian Pear Salad

  • 1-2 cups greens
  • 1/2 Asian pear, sliced
  • 1/3 cup chickpeas, optional
  • 1/2 cup sprouts
  • 1 tbsp slivered almonds

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Serve with any of the aforementioned dressings 😉

Tips:

  1. At a restaurant, read all ingredients on the menu and don’t be afraid to ask for healthy substitutions: Sub light dressing like balsamic or Italian for anything creamy. Ask to omit toppings like croutons or cheese. Request extra good stuff like root veggies or salsa to make up for the things you removed.
  2. No fresh fruit on hand? Sub for 1-2 tbsp dried fruit or a few pickled beets to add sweetness.
  3. No dressing? Try olive oil & lemon juice, salsa, hummus, or mashed avocado with spices.
  4. No greens? Use extra chopped veggies and fruit.
  5. No nuts or seeds? Try an oil-based dressing. Always include a healthy fat to help your body absorb the nutrients from your produce.

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You can pretty much do anything you want with a salad and make it different every day. That’s the joy of it. Haul out whatever veggies, fruit, protein, beans, nuts and left-overs you have around and see what combinations work for you.

If you have any questions or requests leave them in the comments box and I’ll be happy to help you amp up your salads 🙂

Liz xo

What Dark Chocolate Dreams Are Made Of

Hello fellow chocoholics 😉

I had my first expedition to a US health food store a few months ago while traveling for work. We have some great HF stores in the Maritimes and even my local grocers carry some amazing natural/organic/vegan products, but there are a few little gems that I can’t seem to find anywhere in my city…

  • Speculoos Cookie Butter, exclusive to Trader Joe’s
  • Annie’s Goddess Dressing
  • So Delicious Coconut Coffee Creamer

AND

  • PB & Co. Dark Chocolate Dreams

I think I had DCD with a snack every single night.. in yogurt, on rice cakes, mixed with berries, nuts, granola, EVERYTHING! So you can imagine my disappointment when the jar was finally empty…

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To my office couch I go… and return with 2 recipes for dark chocolate peanut butter! One from Angela and a variation from Emma. I combined the two to suit my preferences and the result was magical 🙂

It doesn’t taste exactly like the real thing which is a bit sweeter and thicker but I’m sure it’s better for me in a health-sense. DCD is still pretty decent (all natural, no trans-fat) but I’m sure this homemade 4-ingredient recipe takes the health cake.

Lizzie & Co. Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups peanuts
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 1/8 tsp salt (if your peanuts are unsalted)

Directions:

  1. In a food processor, process almonds until creamy and smooth, scraping the sides when necessary. This should take about 12-15 mins.
  2. While processing, use a double boiler to melt the chocolate and coconut oil. Be careful not to burn the chocolate or let any water into the chocolate mixture which will cause it to burn. You can melt it in the microwave as well but use short time intervals and stir to avoid burning.
  3. Add the chocolate mixture and salt to the nut butter and continue to process until fully combined. It will be hot and runny.
  4. Refrigerate and enjoy in a few hours!

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One of the recipes said to allow the PB to come to room temperature before serving but I didn’t find it was always necessary. Plus I just eat it right out of the jar most of the time anyway 😉

Enjoy!

Liz xo

Fit Friday: HIIT Me Up

Happy Fit Fri-Thursday 🙂

I’m posting early since I’m heading to Cape Breton tonight and won’t have the best cell service over the weekend. Another surprise: I’ve got a little something different for you this week! Since I’ve done about a month’s worth of exercise moves I figured I’d put together a total body workout. Its a combination of strength training & cardio for some high intensity interval training (HIIT).

I completed this entire workout using 12.5 lb dumbbells so the reps are based on what felt challenging for me. It looked pretty innocent on paper but it was a doozy 😉

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If you only have light or heavy weights on hand, adjust your reps accordingly but be sure to challenge yourself. If it’s not challenging you, it’s not changing you!

New to HIIT? A brief lesson: HIIT is a type of cardiovascular exercise that consists of alternating periods of high impact, anaerobic exercise with lower-impact recovery periods. This type of training helps improve athletic ability, boosts metabolism and provides a higher fat burn than any other type of exercise.

Fit Friday: HIIT Me Up

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You will need:

  • 8-12 lb dumbells
  • medicine ball (optional for #11)
  • exercise ball or bench (for #7)

The workout consists of strength training sets followed by a short cardio burst. Perform the cardio intervals as fast as you can and repeat the entire workout 2 times total (3 if you dare!)

  1. 12 squat to overhead press
  2. 12 lunges, left then right leg (24 total)
  3. 20 switch lunges
  4. 20 bent over rows
  5. 12 renegade row push-ups
  6. 12 burpee push-ups (push-up is optional)
  7. 20 chest press
  8. 12 elevated push-up knee tuck
  9. 12 squat jumps
  10. 15 side plank knee to elbow, left then right side (30 total)
  11. 12 leg lifts with weight overhead
  12. 40 mountain climbers

I recommend following with 20-30 minutes cardio of choice!

I’ve included a You Tube link to each move because I realize not everyone has a database of workout moves in their head. Maybe for my next workout I’ll make my own short video to highlight a few seconds of each move. What do you guys think?

Let me know if you give this a go 🙂

Liz xo

But How Much Do I Need?

*** First thing’s first: I am in no way educated or certified to give nutritional advice. The information below has been collected from the various sources that taught me about nutrition (books, podcasts, blogs, documentaries). I would like to share what I’ve learned through my own wellness journey to inspire others to reach their health and fitness goals. Second, if you struggle with and eating disorder and talk of calorie intake makes you uncomfortable, you may want to skip this post.***

Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates: The three primary macronutrients which provide bulk energy… but how much do I need?

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Lately, I’ve been seeing more and more discussion about macro requirements. I’ve also done my fair share of research because achieving/maintaining my goal body weight and a fully nourished body are extremely important to me. I’ve wanted to write this post for a while because I believe many of us are ill-informed, especially when it comes to protein. We’ve been told to cut back on fruit, to drastically increase our protein intake, and I don’t know if anyone is thinking about healthy fat.

I think part of the concern comes from the fact that we’ve been mislead to believe we need much more protein than we actually do. We’ve been cultured by the meat, dairy and egg industries to believe that animal-based proteins are the only way to meet protein requirements, achieve lean muscle mass, and maintain a balanced diet. In reality, our nation is suffering diseases of excess.  But on to the facts..

Calories

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The first step to determining your macro requirements is to calculate your recommended calorie intake. If you aren’t eating enough calories to begin with, then no, you won’t get your required amount of protein. For example, the average woman needs 1500-2200 calories per day with the average being around 1800. To find your recommended intake, calculate your BMR then multiply by an activity factor using the formula below:

1. BMR

Women:
655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

Men:
66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

2. Activity Level Factor

If you are sedentary : BMR x 20 percent
If you are lightly active: BMR x 30 percent
If you are moderately active (You exercise most days a week.): BMR x 40 percent
If you are very active (You exercise intensely on a daily basis or for prolonged periods.): BMR x 50 percent
If you are extra active (You do hard labor or are in athletic training.): BMR x 60 percent

3. Recommended Intake

BMR + (BMR x Activity Factor) = Recommended calorie intake to maintain current weight

Of course, to lose weight, the general rule is to subtract 500. Since 500 calories per day = 3500 per week and one pound is equal to about 3500 calories, this will provide a weight loss rate of one pound per week. If you are within 10-20 lbs of your goal, this may be harder for you. I lost my last ten at a rate of 1 pound per month because calorie restriction left me with little energy to exercise or do anything for that matter. Remember: slow weight loss is realistic and maintainable!

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Now let’s talk about quality vs. quantity. Fat is the most calorie dense, followed by protein and carbohydrates.

  • Fat: 1 gram = 9 calories
  • Protein: 1 gram = 4 calories
  • Carbohydrates: 1 gram = 4 calories

This is why foods like avocado and nuts have a high calorie content, but its also why trail mix gives you lasting energy. Though fat should make up a smaller contribution to your total calorie intake, it is essential for your body to function, unlike carbohydrates. Here’s the breakdown…

Protein

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The minimum protein requirement to replace what your body uses is 5-6% of your calorie intake. The government recommends 9-10% to ensure most people get at least the minimum. However, Americans consume anywhere from 11-21% with an average of 15-16% (source).

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Here are some plant-based protein sources that will help you easily reach your recommended intake:

  • 1 cup brown rice/quinoa = 10 g
  • 1 cup black beans = 17 g
  • 1 cup lentils/chickpeas = 12 g
  • 1 cup oats – 6 g
  • 1 cup tofu = 40 g
  • 1 cup green peas = 20 g
  • 1 cup spinach/broccoli = 5 g
  • 1 medium carrot = 1 g
  • 1 cup almonds = 30 g
  • 2 tbsp almond butter = 6 g
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, hulled = 11 g
  • 3 tbsp hemp seeds = 10 g
  • Larabar = 2-7 g

Fat

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The average 1,800-calorie diet should contain 20-35% of your daily calories. However, it is important to know the difference between good and bad fat.

Bad fat, also know as saturated and trans fat can increase your cholesterol levels and raise your risk of heart disease. Saturated fat should comprise no more than 10 per cent of your total calories and trans fat should be banned from your diet! 

Good fat is known as unsaturated fat (mono- or poly-) which is essential to your diet. Try to get it from oils, nuts, and seeds. Polyunsaturated fats are the omega-3 and omega-6 types but keep in mind that too much omega-6 can lead to inflammation. Healthy fats will help reduce your risk for heart disease and actually aid in weight loss by helping your body function properly.

Carbohydrates

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Once you’ve met your protein and fat requirements, the remainder of your calories should come from carbohydrates. Carbs are not essential for the body to function, however, they are your main source of bulk energy! They should comprise 45-65% of the average 1,800-calorie diet. Of this, 25-35 g should be from fiber, not from simple carbs like sugar.

I mentioned in a previous post that many people consume carbs in excess but I wasn’t suggesting restricting fruit, veggies, and legumes (beans/lentils). Also, there is nothing wrong with eating whole grains in moderation but I don’t recommend 2 slices of bread at every meal 😉

The bottom line…

Focus your diet on real, whole foods: fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, etc. If you are consuming a wide variety of plant-based foods you WILL meet your nutrient requirements. I used to stress about increasing my protein intake and cutting back on carbs, thinking this was the only way to reach my goals. Now that I have seen my own body change through a diet focused on whole foods I only wish I had found this “secret” earlier. I am the leanest and strongest I have ever been. These are plant-based biceps people. Pretty good for a girl, huh? 😉

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Also, regardless of what I do for my body, you need to do what is right for you! Don’t deprive yourself of something because you’re worried about maxing out your carbs for the day. Balance and is key and no one is perfect.

In case you were wondering about my own macro consumption I did the math on a random day this week to see what I consumed. On an unbiased Tuesday, my intake looked like this:

  • Calories = ~1800
  • Protein = 15% (that’s 55 grams!)
  • Fat = 20%
  • Carbs = 65 %

Believe it or not, I did not have any protein powder or supplements on Tuesday. My protein intake was more than enough, and my carbohydrates were mostly from fiber.  My meals for the day are listed below:

  • Breakfast: Green smoothie
  • Morning snack: Larabar and 1 medium orange
  • Lunch: Large veggie salad (cucumber, red pepper, tomato, spinach, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, balsamic dressing)
  • Afternoon snack: Carrots/broccoli with hummus/salsa mixed for dip
  • Pre-workout: 1/3-1/2 cup trail mix
  • Dinner: Mexican Lettuce Wraps
  • Bedtime snack: Coconut yogurt with almond butter & blueberries

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So there you have it. If you have any questions or requests please leave a comment or email me at lizziefitblog@gmail.com 🙂 I love hearing from you guys and if I don’t know the answer I can certainly help you find it! I hope this posts helps even just one person move toward a healthier lifestyle ❤

Liz xo

 

Mexican Lettuce Wraps

I received quite a bit of positive feedback on the Portabello Pizzas and I’ve chalked it up to 3 things:

  1. Quick
  2. Healthy
  3. Low-Carb

Not that I’m a hater when it comes to carbs… I just like to limit my intake, especially through the week. You need carbohydrates for a balanced, healthy diet but you don’t need them in the excess that most people consume. The majority of my carbs come from beans, fruit, oats, and sweet potatoes but I do enjoy tortillas, cinnamon raisin bread, the occasional white potato, and pasta from time to time.

But today is a day for subbing tortillas with romaine. This recipe meets the key 3 listed above and can be whipped up in less than 10 minutes, sans oven! It’s been a staple dinner for me since living alone and now the bf is a fan as well.

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Mexican Lettuce Wraps

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup black beans (canned)
  • 1/4 medium onion, chopped
  • 8 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • salt/pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp coconut oil
  • 4-5 romaine lettuce leaves, washed
  • 1 oz (non-dairy) cheddar cheese*
  • salsa, guac &/or (non-dairy) sour cream** on the side

*For non-dairy cheese try Daiya cheddar style shreds. You can find it in the refrigerated area in the natural section of your grocery store or possibly with dairy-based cheese.

**Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream is amazing. Find it either in the natural section or with dairy-based sour cream at the grocery store. Otherwise health food stores are sure to carry both the SC and the cheese.

Directions

  1. Heat oil in a medium sized skillet on medium heat
  2. Saute onions and garlic until onions begin to soften, ~5 mins.
  3. Add spices now or after beans. I prefer a little bit before and a little bit after since the beans aren’t in the pan very long.
  4. Rinse black beans well then add to pan. Don’t over-heat the beans or they will dry out!
  5. Add cherry tomatoes to the pan just long enough to warm them. You can also add them separately to each wrap if you prefer them cold.
  6. Grate cheese if necessary and assemble wraps as you eat 🙂

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Buen Provecho!

Liz xo