Choose Hard

Choose Hard.

 

90% of Americans are complacent in life.  Why?  It’s easy and it’s what is being pushed on us.

 

We live at the warp speed of our smart phones (not sure they are really all that smart but we can’t leave home without them.)  We hear a “ping” and our entire mindset is distracted.  It’s actually been proven to be addictive, more so than drugs.

 

We are surrounded with choices that provide instant gratification and can help us feel better in the moment.  Feeling stressed?  Overwhelmed?  Angry?  Choose Amazon, choose the local drive thru, Grub Hub or Shipt shopper.  We actually never need to actually leave our house anymore- it can all be done online and at the click of a button.

 

Easy is what our culture wants us to buy into.  We have unlimited access to processed foods, frozen pizza, candy and alcohol.  Why cook when you can just nook?  Why meal plan when you can just hire a mail delivery service to do it for you?  Why outfit plan when you have Stitchfix to do it for you?  (Okay, I digress, but you understand, right!?)

 

Living healthy is HARD.  It is the hardest thing you will ever do. 

 

You will have to make a grocery list.  You will have to figure out what meals you need for family dinners and lunches during the day.  You will have to physically go to the store, pick out colorful veggies and put them in plastic bags.  You will have to then go home, take them out of plastic bags and chop them up for the week ahead.  You will have to spend a few hours on the weekends getting your meals set up, whether that be chicken, soups, salads or snacks.  You will have to have difficult conversations with your kids or spouse about why there is no longer junk food in your pantry.   You will have to carve out time each day to move your body when you feel exhausted from work.  You will have to keep drinking water when you are sick of going to the bathroom all day long.  You will have to go to bed when you want to watch just one more episode on Netflix or scroll social media to numb the pain of feeling alone.

 

You will have to keep choosing hard when that damn scale gives you zero feedback.  When you did all the right stuff but you still feel ugly, tired or alone.

 

And why?  Why choose hard, when it’s so much easier to just give in and go with the flow of those around us?

 

Because we only get one shot at this thing called life. 

 

And you only get one chance to the be the best version of you. 

 

When you choose healthy, you choose hundreds of options in front of you.  When you choose easy, you choose to be mediocre and fit in with everyone around you.

 

Why not be different?  Why not make a difference?  This world certainly needs people who are kinder, happier, healthier and more confident.  And I guarantee your world of humans needs someone who is kind, happy, healthy and confident too.

 

Choose hard.  Choose healthy.  Choose YOU.  One day at a time. 

Healthy Eating on the GO!

By Kendra Bylsma

Whether your job takes you across the country or your kids take you across town with extracurricular activities, we all must eat. With school sports starting back up for our kids and getting back from two weeks of vacation travel, I know first hand how hard it can be, even as a health professional.  Eating a balanced and nutritious diet on the road is one of the biggest challenges faced by those who spend considerable time traveling.

The “road warrior” lifestyle is one that can create major health issues over time. In a recent study done by Harvard University, researchers found a strong correlation between the frequency of business travel and various health risks, especially those who traveled more than 14 days a month. From higher BMIs, increased depression and lack of physical activity, traveling creates real barriers when it comes to sustaining healthy habits on the road. One of the biggest challenges is eating out.  Choosing healthy foods in an airport, drive through or five-star dining can feel impossible.  But… still possible, with a few key strategies in place:

  1. Power up with protein. Start your day with a protein-packed breakfast that will keep you from being hungry and making less-than-desirable choices later in the day. Whether that means making breakfast at home before hitting the road or enjoying a hotel breakfast buffet, be sure to make healthy, hunger-fighting protein the focus. I love to make an egg sandwich to go or sit down with a scrambled egg veggie hash.  Other options could include a greek yogurt with granola or whole grain toast with peanut butter.
  2. Pack snacks. Snacks have actually come a long way. You can ditch the bag of salty chips for healthy, delicious and filling snacks that aren’t loaded with empty calories. Plan ahead and pack nuts, granola bars, fresh fruit, low-fat cheese sticks or veggie and hummus packs.  You may pay a little extra for things to be “pre-packaged” but it’s worth it if it keeps you on track and cuts down on prep time.  I love the individual hummus containers for my kids’ lunches or my afternoon driving/  Plus, I love Larabars, pre-cut fruit cups, apples with sharp cheddar cheese slice or walnuts and dried cherries in a baggie!
  3. Don’t fear fast food. Fast food or fast casual restaurants are inevitable in life. At Allegro, we don’t believe you can eat clean and wholesome 100% of the time.  It’s all about balance and a nutrition plan that you can live with long term.  When faced with that as your only option, don’t fear the menu. Instead, break it down by entree/sandwich, side and drink and make the best choices in each category. Choose grilled over fried, salad over fries, water over soda, and steer clear of value meals that are only valuable to your pocket book but detrimental to your waistline!

Creamy Vegan Queso!

 

Cinco de Mayo is right around the corner, so why not whip up a non-dairy vegan queso for your next party?
This creamy vegan queso from Pinch of Yum is SO tasty! It’s made with just three ingredients: cashews, green chiles, and taco spices.

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup cashews
1/2 cup water
4 ounce can diced green chiles (or less, to taste)
1 teaspoon taco seasoning (add a pinch of salt if it’s unsalted)

INSTRUCTIONS:
Blend on a high setting until you get a very smooth and creamy texture. Taste and adjust to how you like it.
Use it as chip dip, a sauce for roasted vegetables, or just smother it on your tacos, burritos, and crunchwraps.

Garlic Lovers Broccoli & Chickpea Salad

This simple but hearty salad is bursting with flavor and addictively delicious! Perfect salad for meal prep or feeding a crowd. Easy to prepare, the broccoli is perfectly “cooked” but crunchy broccoli and so flavorful! Note: “Cook time” is the broccoli resting for an hour after being tossed with the hot garlic oil.

Active time: 20 minutes

Author: Healthy Gluten-Free Family, Vegetarian

Serves: 6 servings

Ingredients
  • 1½ teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 4 cups broccoli florets, preferably cut into bite size florets
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • Large pinch crushed red pepper flakes (or more to taste)
  • ½ cup sun dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped into bite size pieces
  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, drained and well rinsed
  • ½ – 1 teaspoon oregano (add more to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon pepper or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Fresh thyme or more to taste
  • ½ -1 cup feta, crumbled
  • ½ cup fresh basil, torn
  • salt to taste
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, stir together the vinegar and the salt
  2. Add broccoli and toss to combine
  3. In a large small saucepan, heat olive oil until hot but not smoking. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, lowering heat as needed. Should take about 1 minute — remove from heat when garlic starts to brown
  4. Stir pepper flakes
  5. Pour ½ to ¾ of the hot oil over broccoli and toss well, reserving the remaining oil for later.
  6. Cover the bowl with the broccoli and let sit for 1 hour at room temperature.
  7. After broccoli has sat an hour, add the chickpeas, sun dried tomatoes, oregano, pepper, remaining garlic oil, and thyme. Toss well to combine.
  8. Add feta and fresh basil, Toss to combine. Taste and add more of any herb or ingredient to taste. Serve and enjoy!
  9. Stores well in the refrigerator in a sealed container for several days.

⚡️Cilantro lime chicken cauli rice burrito bowl⚡️

⚡️Cilantro lime chicken cauli rice burrito bowl⚡️

What you need:
Primal Kitchen Foods Cilantro lime (https://www.primalkitchen.com/products/bbq-ranch) dressing (or some other dressing like this)
  • Lime
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1 lb organic pasture raised chicken

Make the chicken
Chop and sauté your white onion and garlic in avocado oil for a few mins until soft. Add your chicken and a good pour of avocado oil. bring to a boil and cover for 1 min.
Remove lid, flip the chicken and cover with the cilantro lime dressing. Cover again, bring to simmer and set your timer for 20 mins.
Squeeze half a lime over your chicken, garnish with cilantro and you’re ready to serve!

Make the rice 
Sauté riced cauliflower (buy in the freezer section at Trader Joes’s, Meijer, etc.) until nicely cooked. Take off heat and toss in cilantro & the juice of half a lime
Make the beans 
Sauté 1 garlic clove and 1/4 cup of onions in a pot, add in 1 can of organic black beans and a few grinds of pink salt, heat until piping hot

Assemble all ingredients in a bowl and drizzle with a little bit more BBQ Ranch!

Sheet Pan Cuban Chicken & Black Bean Rice Bowl

*Spicy citrus seasoned chicken that’s inspired by cuban flavors. Complete each bowl with steamed rice, black beans, homemade mango salsa, and avocado for a dinner that’s packed with fresh flavors and healthy ingredients. Great for meal prep too!
  •  prep time 20 minutes
  •  cook time 20 minutes
  •  total time 40 minutes
  •  servings 6
  •  calories 285 kcal

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons orange zest, and orange juice
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 red or orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 3 cups steamed white or brown rice
  • 1 can (14 ounce) black beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 avocado, sliced

MANGO SALSA

  • 1 mango, diced
  • 1 red fresno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1 lime
  • Get Ingredients Powered by Chicory

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
2. On a rimmed baking sheet, combine the chicken, 2 tablespoons olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, oregano, cumin, cayenne, orange juice + zest, and lime juice + zest. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Toss well to evenly coat the chicken. Add the onions and bell peppers and toss with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Arrange everything in an even layer. Transfer to the oven. Roast for 20-25 minutes, tossing halfway through cooking until the chicken is cooked through and the onions have caramelized.
3. Meanwhile, make the salsa. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss to combine.
4. To serve, spoon the rice into bowls and top with black beans, chicken, peppers, and onions. Add avocado and the mango salsa to each bowl. Enjoy!

TO MEAL PREP:

1. Prepare as directed above through step 3.
2. Divide the rice among 4-6 storage containers and arrange the black beans chicken, peppers, and onions on top. Store the salsa and avocado separately and add just before serving.
3. Alternately, you can store the rice, chicken, and veggies in separate containers and assemble when ready. Food will keep in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.
4. Before serving, warm each bowl, if desired, and top with mango salsa and avocado.
Half Baked Harvest

5 ways to get your extra servings of veggies in!

Hide it:

It’s the easiest way, even for the most pickey of eaters. Maybe you don’t like the taste of a lot of fruits and veggies, or maybe eating them alone or raw is a complete turn off.

  • Add broccoli to Mac & Cheese give your comfort food some extra nutrients
  • Spinach in your smoothie! I promise you won’t even taste it.
  • Add an extra can of tomatoes to chili.
  • Peppers and onions on tacos or fajitas.

 

Spice It Up:

If there was a choice of steamed veggies with no seasonings in a buffet, there is a good chance that I would pass and just get the fries. Make the veggies fun add some spices make the potatoes garlic and herb, or cajun or taco style. One of my favorite brands of spices is Mrs. Dash because It’s all the flavor without the added sodium. In the past Mrs. Dash had only the original flavor. However, if you go to the spice isle today there will probably be an entire section of just Mrs. Dash with flavors ranging from spicy cajun to tomato basil and onion. A little olive oil and a dash of seasoning can go a long way when you are making vegetables.

Make it colorful:

There are a ton of health benefits to eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. Eat the Rainbow! It’s not just about the broccoli, green veggies and lettuce, they are great for you but colors other than green are good too. If you want extra detail on how all of this works, check it out at http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/110308p34.shtml

 

Pick it with a plan:

Do not  just buy a vegetable from the grocery store because you were told it’s good for you. If you are not going to eat it, or do not have a plan to eat it, it can add up to a lot of expensive food  rotting in your fridge. The plan does not have to be some extravagant dish that takes you hours to make, unless that’s what you wanted. Sometimes the plan can be as simple as washing your produce, cutting it up and leaving it on the counter during the day to snack on. The point is, only buy it if you are going to use it.

 

Make it pretty:

Much of what we choose to eat is based on how the food looks. Over cooked soggy burnt vegetables are unappetizing regardless of the taste. If the food looks gross you probably would not even taste it to see if it is better than it looks. Try not to overcook your veggies. Grilling, sauteing and blanching veggies can keep them looking as delicious as they taste. If it takes adding cheese to your broccoli to eat broccoli, do that. Make it the way that you know you will eat it!

 

If you are looking for more specific recipes on ways to add fruits and veggies to your everyday foods feel free to shoot me an email, I’d love to talk food with you! jenabartholomy@gmail.com

Top Strategies to Stay Active Through the Holidays!

As the busy holiday season approaches, it can easily be used as an excuse to derail from your fitness program.  But don’t let it!  The busier we get, the more we need movement.  Not only does exercise build our resiliency to harmful stress hormones like cortisol, it increases our energy output and enhances our feel-good mood boosters.  Exercise does a body good!  Here are Coach Kendra’s top tips to staying active this time of year:  

Let go of perfect.  We don’t expect it in other areas of life – school, work or in with our family members.  So why do we expect “perfect” when we think about our fitness routines? You may miss a workout.  I do it all the time.  It’s not the end of the world. Really. Just make sure you get the next one done.

Forget your workout routine; just challenge yourself.  You may not have time for your full routine, so don’t do it! Exert yourself for 10 minutes if that’s all you have. Your body responds to the challenge of exercise, not the amount of time you spend doing it.

Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t.  Every year I hear an endless parade of, “I’ve just been so busy with the holidays and family visits, that I couldn’t workout.”  This year, focus on what you can do instead of what you can’t. 

Pick your top 5 favorite exercises.  Write down your 5 favorite exercises– I’m sure squats will be on everyone’s list this year!  When you need a blast of movement, do all of them for 30 seconds each. It will be easier if they are bodyweight exercises, but you can use anything as long as they are your favorites. 

Remember that the holidays come at the same time every year.  Your favorite holiday comes on the same day each year (for the most part). Those annual celebrations won’t catch you by surprise, so there’s no reason why you can’t plan for them. Unknown interruptions to your fitness program like sick kids or an urgent work meeting can’t always be avoided, but when celebrations come every year there’s no excuse. Enjoy the holidays but don’t wreck your fitness plan in the process. Keep at it and you’ll get a little better each year!

 

Healthy holiday appetizers so good, you’ll forget they’re good for you!

Have you been brainstorming what to make for your upcoming holiday parties? Wanting to take something healthier, but ensure everyone will love it too? We have got you covered with not one, but THREE, simple, tasty recipes to whip up for those holiday parties. Or any other time, really.

 

Chocolate Almond Fruit Dip

  • 1½ cups fat-free Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Add all the ingredients to a bowl and whisk together until smooth.  Cover in fridge until time to serve with fresh fruit (apples, strawberries, pineapple, clementines, etc.)

 

Sweet Potato Bites with Bacon & Avocado

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean, peels on
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup granted 2% sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 medium avocados, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 2 tablespoons non-fat or 2% plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 3 ounces bacon (about 4 slices)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 F.  Line two rimmed baking sheets with foil, then brush with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil each. Slice potatoes into 1/2 to 1/4 inch cross-sections (use a mandolin if you have one.) Arrange slices in a single layer on the oiled baking sheets, then brush tops with remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and black pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown underneath, rotating the pans 180 degrees and changing their positions on the upper/lower racks halfway through. Flip, then roast for an additional 8 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cheddar, then return to oven and bake for an additional 3 minutes, until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the avocado, Greek yogurt, lime juice, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and smoked paprika. Mash lightly with a fork, but still leave the mixture slightly chunky. Set aside.

Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium heat, then remove from pan and set between two paper towels set atop a dinner plate. Blot away excess grease and, when cool enough to handle, chop into small pieces.

Once the crisps have baked, top each with a dollop of the avocado mixture, chopped bacon, and cilantro. Serve warm or at room temperature.

 

Skinny Mediterranean 7-Layer Dip

      • 8 oz. hummus
      • 1 tomato, diced
      • ½ cup diced cucumber
      • ½ cup nonfat Greek yogurt
      • ⅛ tsp salt
      • ¼ tsp paprika
      • 2 canned artichoke hearts, chopped
      • 2 roasted red peppers (4 halves), diced
      • ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
      • 2 tbsp minced flat-leaf parsley
      • Kalamata olives, chopped (optional), for garnish

Instructions In an 8- by 8- square serving dish, spread the hummus evenly on the bottom. Layer the tomatoes and cucumber over top.  Dollop the yogurt over the vegetables, then gently spread with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle the yogurt with salt and paprika.  On top of the yogurt, layer the artichoke heart, roasted red peppers and feta cheese. Sprinkle the parsley over top and garnish with olives.  Serve with fresh vegetables, pita chips or crackers.

Tasty, Simple Thai Shrimp Pizza

img_3772Pizza! Everyone’s favorite meal, right? Switch things up and try this simple, unique pizza at your next family dinner! 

Thai Shrimp Pizza

Pizza crust:
Make your own or purchase one at the store.

Other ingredients:
1.5 cups shrimp
1 red pepper
½ white onion
½ to 1 cup cheese of choice – Goat or feta, mozzarella, pepper jack (we suggest a white cheese)
1 tbsp. oil

Sauce:
5 tbsp PB2
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice vinegar
Sriracha to taste
Directions:

  1. If pizza crust is not pre-baked, or you’re making your own, place in oven according to directions.
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Place 1 tbsp. oil in heated pan, cook shrimp. Add in any seasonings you’d like. I used a little salt, pepper and curry. Set aside in a bowl once cooked.
  4. Sauté vegetables in the same pan shrimp was cooked in.
  5. Spread vegetables and shrimp over pizza crust. Sprinkle shredded cheese over top.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, until cheese is all melted and turning just golden brown.
  7. While pizza is baking, make sauce.
  8. Take the pizza out of the oven, let cool for just a couple of minutes. Then drizzle sauce over pizza and serve!

*Take note from our mistakes. The sauce tastes much better when put on AFTER baking.