Tasty, Healthy Vegeterian Tacos

15 02 2011

When I became a vegetarian, I wanted nothing to do with meat. I was sick of it, I thought it was gross, and I knew I wouldn’t miss it. As the years passed, however, I came to understand how to eat a healthy meat-free diet, and I eventually discovered soy-based “fake” meats. I have come to incorporate veggie burgers, veggie hot dogs, veggie ground beef, etc. into my diet. I even eat veggie sausages!

There is a bit of controversy regarding soy products (some possible links to breast cancer, trigger for hypothyroidism), and while no studies are conclusive, I don’t recommend eating too many soy products each day. I do think these things are okay in moderation, and I highly recommend substituting a meat product for a “fake” meat product, as it will greatly decrVeggie Tacosease the fat and calorie content of your meals. In fact, despite some soy product controversy, the USDA incorporated a recommendation for an increased consumption of soy products into their guidelines today!

This is one of my favorite dinners–vegetarian tacos. It’s SUPER easy to make. We’re talking less than ten minutes. Plus, I can make it a few times a week since the ingredients will last.

Vegetarian Tacos Recipe:

Whole-wheat or spinach tortillas (I like ones that are fat-free or low-fat)

Plain, non-fat Greek yogurt (I use this instead of sour cream–tastes EXACTLY the same in a recipe!)

Boca burger crumbles (this is the “fake” ground beef–there are other brands that are good, too. Find it in the frozen section of the grocery store)

Optional Toppings: Salsa, tomatoes, lettuce, shredded cheese, black beans, avocado, etc.

The burger crumbles are incredibly easy to make. Just put a bit of olive oil in a saute pan with the crumbles and they cook up in five minutes. I add spices like cayenne pepper and Cajun seasoning. Then just add the toppings you like, and voila!

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P90X Plyometrics: The Best Calorie Burner Out There

10 02 2011

The P90X workout program is intense. At best. It’s a 90 day exercise program containing a variety of DVDs–13–that you do six days a week. The videos range from yoga to chest and back to cardio, and so on. Each and every muscle gets used and abused in this program–until your 90 days is up and your stronger and fitter than ever.

I finished the program about a month ago, and I have to admit, I was so sick of it by the end. The videos get repetitive and I was craving the gym. I wonder how many times in my life I’ll say that? But it did help me break out of an exercise rut of doing the same old, same old. The guy who started the program, Tony Horton, is pretty humorous and keeps you cracking up through the videos. Until you have them all memorized and you want to beat the crap out of your TV if you hear him tell you not to eat Krispy Kremes one more time.

P90X Poster

Photo by bestbuyp90x.blogspot.com

The video I want to tell you guys about today is one of the hardest workouts I’ve ever endured. And I had to endure it again..and again..and again until my 90 days were up. As much as I love to hate it, though, I still try and do the Plyometrics video at least once a week because it is amazing for your body.

Plyometrics is jump training. You know, like you did during high school sporting practices? Those jumping lunges, 180 jumps, and knee hops? Yeah, this video has everything. It is an hour long, and you’re basically jumping the entire time. Tony says at the beginning of the video that this kind of training is out of fashion. And it’s true. This high impact kind of exercise has largely been deserted for more low impact training, such as the elliptical machine. And while I don’t recommend Plyometrics for people with injuries, doing the video once a week is great for your overall fitness.

Basically, there is NOT a workout where you will sweat more. You’ll be more out of breath, more beet red, and more exhausted than ever. But once the video ends, you feel incredible. It is a great metabolism booster, and you’ll keep burning calories all day long.

I have the entire program–which is pricey. It’s about $150, and you need a few sets of free weights. There are ways, however, to download just a single video..albeit illegally? Not that I’m a proponent of this method, but I know some of my roommates have been able to download some of the videos on their computer. Whatever your method, if you are serious about exercise and want to get one of the best workouts of your life–I suggest you try P90X Plyometrics.





A2 Yoga: Yoga for Exercise-aholics

10 02 2011

I didn’t believe in yoga for a long time. Yogis are crazy. It all just seemed weird to me. It didn’t seem like a real workout. You don’t sweat. You don’t work your muscles. I am much better off running on the treadmill for an hour than holding some stupid pose. Right?

WRONG. so-so-so-so-so wrong.

I’m still not a die-hard yogi. I won’t pretend to be. But it has greatly improved my fitness, it has helped me recover from injuries, and it has given me something to look forward to during my hectic weeks.

I have to admit, though, I am super picky when it comes to a yoga class. If I am going to go to yoga, I want a workout. A real workout. And let me tell you, the A2 Yoga power vinyasa classes give you just that.

The power classes at A2 yoga are amazing. They are 75 minutes long and very challenging. They also heat the room to around 80 degrees or so. Class skill ranges from the ridiculously advanced (those crazy people who can simultaneously hold both legs in the air at a 45 degree angle while doing a military push-up) to somewhat beginners. Although, I do recommend some athleticism and stretching ability. They tell you this isn’t a class for beginners–and I’d agree with that since beginners won’t be aware of common yoga poses. If you are a beginner, try a vinyasa 1 class first before moving on to the more advanced classes.

A2 Yoga

Photo by a2nia.com

You will sweat, your muscles with shake, and you’ll get a great workout. What I really enjoy is watching my skill evolve from week to week. I started out being unable to do many things, and now I can generally keep right along with the instructor. From tripod stands to one-legged splits, you will do it all in this class. Plus, you have the added benefit of clearing your mind and feeling amazingly calm afterward. Check out this WebMD article on the benefits of yoga — including increased strength, flexibility, posture, decreased stress, and the possible treatment of arthritis, asthma, and back pain.

The studio is located on Commerce Road — right off Stadium. It’s a quick 5 minute drive from my house, and by far my favorite yoga studio in Ann Arbor. (I’ve tried Center for Yoga, Sun and Moon Yoga, YMCA yoga, CCRB yoga.) Plus, drum-roll please, your first class is free! And there is a student discount. Drop-ins are $13. Pricey, but so is all yoga.





My Personal Diet “Rules”

10 02 2011

My relationship with food is complicated. I could write a million-word post offering all of the advice I’ve swallowed up over the years regarding dieting, calorie-counting, restrictions, foods to avoid, when to eat, how to eat, what to eat on, even. But I won’t put you through the complicated mess swimming around in my head.

I’ve been there and seen it all when it comes to eating habits, but today, I’m going to give you some advice that I try and follow. My diet isn’t perfect. No one’s diet is. This is what I try to do, and some days it works, some days it doesn’t. That’s okay. I don’t beat myself up for eating an ice cream cone..I workout too much to worry about that anyways. I try to remember each day is connected and there’s always a chance to recover from some dieting catastrophe.

My typical diet “rules”: I call these “rules”–with quotations–because they are sometimes meant to be broken. I can’t adhere to them everyday, and as long as a loosely follow them, I’ve seen results in the way I look and feel.

1) I eat about 1500 calories a day. I only know this because I was a strict calorie counter for over a year. I DON’T recommend you do this. But I do believe that calorie counting can be beneficial for everyone…only for a week. Websites like livestrong.com have an online database containing the nutrition information of all the foods we eat. You can enter what you ate, how much, and when, and it will keep a calorie log for you. I recommend this only for a week or so, just enough time to figure out portions and what you really are putting in your body. Most people are clueless.

 

Livestrong MyPlate

Livestrong MyPlate -- Photo from Chellbellz.com

2) Balance your protein/carb ratio: We eat WAY too many carbs. It’s hard, everything has carbs. Generally, I try not to eat two meals based on carbs in a row. For instance, if I eat oatmeal with fruit for breakfast–that’s mainly carbs. So I would eat a salad with fake meat for lunch, to get protein and vegetables. Then, for dinner I might eat a stir-fry with rice, tofu and vegetables to balance out. On the other hand, if I ate eggs and a fake sausage for breakfast (protein meal), I might eat a hummus, apple and cheddar cheese sandwich for lunch (carb meal). I wouldn’t eat the oatmeal and then the sandwich on the same day. Plus, I am a vegetarian, so I need to make sure I am getting enough protein and this “rule” helps me keep track.

3) Don’t stuff yourself. I don’t get full. A lot of people freak out when they hear this, but it’s honestly one of my greatest diet tips. When I say full, I don’t mean you shouldn’t be satisfied. You need to listen to your body and figure out when you’re satisfied after a meal. You should not eat until you’re bursting at the seems. I HATE when my stomach is full and bloated from a meal. After years of issues with food, I often associate that feeling with guilt. And who likes that? I would rather eat smaller amounts and be hungry more often. I’d prefer to eat something every few hours than to eat a huge meal and feel weighed down afterward. To do this, I usually eat part of my meal and then take a little break. It takes our bodies 10-20 minutes AFTER WE EAT to get that full feeling, so you may keep eating and not even know you’ve had enough. So, I’ll chat, or watch TV, or read, or whatever halfway through my meal. Then, if I’m not full, I will continue eating. This way, I don’t get stuffed and uncomfortable.

To give you some ideas of how this works in practice, I’ll post a food diary of my own for a day this week.





My Current Pump-It-Up Workout Playlist

3 02 2011

To me, there’s nothing worse than going to the gym without my iPod. I rely on my music to get me pumped up and energized during a workout. The problem is, I get sick of music–fast. When you workout each day, you need to constantly revamp your workout playlist to keep you going. When I add new music to my iPod, I honestly get excited to workout. I love high energy, fast-paced music when I am working out, and I wanted to share some of my current favorites with you guys.

First, check out this Robyn video–not only is she super fit, but her music is some of the best workout music out there. Plus, her dance moves will make you want to hit the dance floor tonight. (or if you’re like me, the dance floor in front of your bedroom mirror..) Not a bad way to burn some calories!

My current playlist:

1) Florence and the Machine – Between Two Lungs

2) Edward Maya – Stereo Love

3) Big Boi – The Train Part 2.

4) Dirty Projectors – Stillness is the Move

5) Discovery – I Wanna be Your Boyfriend

6) Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Janglin

7) Kanye West – Devil in a New Dress

8 ) La Roux – I’m Not Your Toy

9) Lykke Li – Little Bit

10) Matt & Kim – Good Ol’ Fashioned Nightmare

11) Miike Snow – Animal

12) Mike Posner – Gone in September

13) Passion Pit – Little Secrets

14) Robyn – Dancing on my Own

15) The Temper Trap – Sweet Disposition





Add a Daily Salad to Your Diet

2 02 2011

Salads can be boring, I know. I definitely go through phases where the thought of eating another salad makes me want to puke. The thing is, there are THOUSANDS of different salads you can make. If eating that same old stupid salad you have eaten every day for the past two months sounds awful, you just need to switch it up.

I try and aim for one salad everyday. Typically, I make one for lunch. It’s a great way to get lots of veggies, and as long as you avoid tons of cheese and dressing loaded with fat, you’ll feel super energized and great for the rest of the day. And you shouldn’t worry about not feeling full when you eat a salad, there are plenty of ways to make it healthy and filling.

Lizzy's salad

My salad for lunch

To ensure that you avoid the late afternoon stomach rumblings, add a sliced chicken breast, some turkey, steamed tofu, or a hard-boiled egg to your salad. Or skip the dressing and use a few tablespoons of hummus instead. The trick is to add enough protein to the salad, because this will keep you full for longer.

As a general rule, if I am going to use dressing on the salad, I will use very little or no cheese at all. In place of salad dressing, I typically use vinegar. Some people think it’s too strong, but I love it, and you avoid the calories and high-fat content of dressing. I like red wine and balsamic vinegar. You can also drizzle a little olive oil on top if you like. (We don’t need to avoid fat completely, olive oil is a healthy fat that is fine in small amounts). If I do use dressing, I make sure it isn’t cream based (NOT ranch) and something light–like a lime vinaigrette or light Italian.

I like to add half a pita on the side. Sometimes I’ll replace the pita with Reduced Fat Wheat Thins and hummus. Or, you can even toss some toasted whole-wheat pita right into the salad.

Here are some topping ideas to get you started:

Raspberry Almond Salad

Mix together lettuce, fresh raspberries, orange slices, slivered almonds, dried cranberries, and raspberry vinaigrette.

Avocado Tomato Salad

Mix together lettuce, avocado (again, a healthy fat. Don’t be scared of avocado!), tomatoes, shredded carrots, onion, and shredded mozzarella cheese. Toss in light honey mustard dressing.

Greek Salad

Mix together lettuce, cucumber, tomato, red onion, reduced fat feta cheese, and red wine vinegar with a drizzle of olive oil.

Asian Salad

Mix together lettuce, mushrooms, broccoli, peas, meatless chicken nuggets (I chop them up into the salad), and an Asian vinaigrette.

These are some basic ideas. You can add or subtract whatever ingredients you want. Change it up, be creative, and figure out what you like. I’m a vegetarian, so I add fake meat or hummus to things. Add some chicken or turkey if that’s your thing. Check out one of my favorite blogs, No Meat Athlete, and look at their recipe page. There are tons of awesome salad ideas. Just try eating a salad every day for one week, you won’t regret it! Salads are a great, easy way to stay healthy and slim, and you should definitely include them in your diet.





Start Lifting Weights Today for Weightloss

2 02 2011

I have a confession to make. I’m in love with every fit and toned celebrity woman out there. From Michelle Obama to Jessica Biel to Gwen Stefani – I have a thing for them all. Along with toned legs and washboard abs, these women have arms. Muscular, toned, beautiful arms.

Jennifer Aniston

Jennifer Aniston--Photo from dietsinreview.com.

Many girls think that all they need in terms of exercise is some cardio. Meet the 30 minute requirement and you’re all set, right? This is SO wrong and you need to change this mindset! Weight training is necessary to maintain a fit and healthy lifestyle, and in many ways it is even more beneficial than cardio.

If you don’t believe me, check out this excerpt from an article in Women’s Health Magazine:

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, a mere 21 percent of women strength train two or more times a week. What you don’t know: When you skip the weight room, you lose out on the ultimate flab melter. Those two sessions a week can reduce overall body fat by about 3 percentage points in just 10 weeks, even if you don’t cut a single calorie. That translates to as much as three inches total off your waist and hips. Even better, all that new muscle pays off in a long-term boost to your metabolism, which helps keep your body lean and sculpted

Weight training, unlike cardio, helps¬† you to burn calories 24/7–long after you’ve finished your workout. It’s also an easy way to get rid of fat and get some definition in the biggest trouble areas for women. And come on, who doesn’t want to look like Jennifer Aniston?

I strength train about four days a week. Usually¬† three days a week, I do 45 minutes or so of upper body exercises. Then, once or twice a week I do lower body exercises for the same amount of time. On these days I still fit in time for cardio, because it is still an important part of the fitness equation. This is a rough estimate, though–as some days I’ll go to more fitness classes or workout from home.

A few tips on strength training: mix it up. Don’t work the same muscle groups two days in a row because your muscles need time to recover. This includes abs, ladies! Also, keep varying the exercises to keep your body guessing. Muscle confusion is the best way to get a toned body.

Make sure to use enough weight. Women are often worried about “bulking” up and shy away from heavier weights–trust me, you will not bulk up. We are not built like men and don’t have the ability to get huge. (Without MAJOR diet adjustments and possibly some chemical help..) I have been lifting weights for about seven years now, and I definitely do not look like a bodybuilder. Aim for 10-12 reps of the exercises for a few sets. You shouldn’t be able to lift past 15 reps with your weights, or else you know they are too light.

Below are photos of easy, quick at-home arm exercises. You don’t need weights, just a chair, so anyone can do these from home. Even get a few sets in while you watch TV. Every little bit helps.

 

Chair Pushup

Chair Push-Up

Tricep Dip

Chair Tricep Dip

Tricep Push-Up

Tricep Push-Up