Monday Must-Haves

Hey friends! It's been a while!

Lots of good stuff going on over here lately. I haven't written much on the blog because, well, I've been busy writing for other people!

When I started dietetics school, I always said I wanted to split my time doing PRN work (which is fancy medical speak for "as needed") at the hospital, plus writing. I've reached that spot in my career and I'm really enjoying it! It's definitely been a balancing act as I figure out how to manage my random hospital shifts with writing projects and home responsibilities, but it's well worth the effort. 

At any rate, I've been on a tear recently of finding new products/services that I love. Isn't it the best when that happens? It'd be selfish of me not to share my findings, right? 

So today I'm going to share a few of my new favorite health and fitness-related things. Without further adieu...

1. Ozuke Citrus and Ginger Kraut

I've never been a huge sauerkraut person, but I get such wicked cravings for this stuff. Seriously, I'd worry I was pregnant if I didn't know better.

 

This kraut has a tangy, light, and fresh flavor and is seriously filling. But the benefits extend beyond taste.

Like all true krauts, it's a fermented food. Fermentation encourages the growth of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria. Among other perks, kraut and other fermented foods promote healthy digestion.  

Just based on taste, I could eat an entire jar. But one serving (1/3 cup) does the trick for me at only 10 calories! I love to snack on it if I need a little somethin' somethin' to hold me over until dinner. 

I've also used it as a topping for street tacos or as a side dish for Asian-inspired meals. 

Ozuke offers krauts in several other flavors, but to be honest, I've been so stuck on this one I haven't tried the rest. 

2. PLNK

Crossfit will always be my first love. But I do enjoy mixing it up every now and again. 

Recently, I dropped into PLNK on a whim. PLNK teaches the Lagree Method, which involves 50 minutes of painfully slow movements on this death machine:

 

 If you're not familiar, it's become quite popular among celebrities.

I cruised into PLNK on my first day feeling pretty confident. I'm not crazy athletic, but I have a respectably heavy deadlift and have completed a few Spartans. 

I'm not exaggerating one bit when I say I almost cried 3 minutes into my first class.

It. Was. AWFUL!

And I'm completely hooked. I've been going twice a week since that first day and love love love what it's doing for my body (especially my mom belly). 

More importantly, I truly believe it's helping me with my other fitness pursuits. Since starting PLNK, I've made progress on several Crossfit moves that have always given me trouble. It's so different from anything else I normally do, and I think it's a great complement to other sports. 

While PLNK is exclusive to St. Louis, Lagree classes are available nationwide. Click here to find one near you. 

3. Flavor God Ranch Seasoning

I have a probably irrational fear of most packaged seasoning mixes. 

For some reason, some of the most popular taco and ranch packets gross me out. What is some of that stuff on the ingredients list? 

I've been pretty vocal about my love for King Seasoning. It's a great all-natural alternative to taco seasoning mix. 

Recently, I added Flavor God to my seasoning arsenal. 

Flavor God Ranch includes just 8 natural ingredients and tastes pretty baller (just as good as big-name Ranch seasoning). I love it on popcorn or mixed into my Buffalo chicken. It also plays nicely with King Seasoning. 

As is the case with most packaged seasoning blends, sodium can creep up on you a bit if you eat this in copious amounts. But it packs a huge flavor punch, so a little goes a long way. 

4. Daily Harvest Carrot + Chia Glow Smoothie

Are my kids the only ones who go on serious breakfast strikes? 

Some days, they scarf down a couple of eggs apiece. And others, it's like pulling teeth to get them to eat at all. 

A few days ago, I hesitantly shared a few sips of my favorite Daily Harvest smoothie with the kiddos (because 2-year-old Calvin reminded me, "Sharing is caring and caring is love."). They went crazy for it. 

And really, what's not to like about that? Daily Harvest makes it pretty easy to serve a healthy breakfast on days when I just can't even. 

If you're not familiar with Daily Harvest, they bring conveniently packaged soups and smoothies to your doorstep. You simply pop the lid, add a liquid (almond milk is my favorite for the carrot+chia), throw it all in the blender and give it a few seconds. Easy peasy. 

The carrot+chia tastes like a delicious pumpkin pie/carrot cake hybrid. Ingredients include banana, sweet potato, carrot, walnut, ginger, chia, date, nutmeg, cinnamon, and vanilla. 

Each package makes 2 servings, so I'll often divide a serving or so among my kiddos and then add a little protein powder to the blender for myself. This makes a healthy and satisfying breakfast that keeps me full for several hours. 

5. Insight Timer

If you've been following my blog (hi mom), you know that mindfulness is kind of a big deal for me. 

There are so many awesome health benefits to incorporating daily mindfulness practice into your lifestyle. From a nutrition standpoint, it can help you control weight and avoid stress and emotional eating. And in general, it's associated with lower risk for many common diseases. 

But sometimes, I'll admit, it's hard to fit it in the day. 

Recently, the teachers at my kids' school (we have free weekly mindfulness lessons after school--how cool is that?) introduced a group of us to an app that helps make mindfulness meditation easy. 

Insight Timer is free and offers a huge variety of guided meditations, ranging from just a couple of minutes to half an hour or more. It is highly effective in bringing about a state of relaxed clarity.

Lately, when I feel crazy busy and have a to-do list a mile long, I make an effort to stop the panic and do a short meditation instead. This is really helping me to manage my stress and be more productive throughout the day. 

What am I missing, friends? Any great new health or fitness finds you've come across recently? Sharing is caring, I'm told. 

Gold Medal Finds: Four Items that Help My Family to Eat Healthier

What is it about the Olympics that makes a person just want to go out and rule the world? 

Sure, the ripped bodies and awe-inspiring performances are sights to behold. But I think the athletes’ stories are incredible. As I get older, I am especially inspired by some of the mature athletes. 

How about Ruth Beitia, the 37-year-old high jump champion from Spain, who also serves as a politician?

Or how about freakin’ Kerri Walsh Jennings, the 38-year-old beach volleyball phenom and mom of 3? Kerri Walsh Jennings won gold in London while 5 weeks pregnant and brought home the bronze last week in Rio. 

My point is, if watching the Olympics for two straight weeks doesn’t inspire you to live your best and healthiest life, then I don’t know what will. 

Case in point: Last week, I completed my second Spartan Super race (recap coming this week!), and after a long hiatus from road racing, I've decided to do a half marathon in October. And while I'm generally a very healthy eater, I've noticed that I have cleaned up my diet even further during the Summer games. 

For those who don't get the itch to go out and sprint after watching the track finals, or for those who want to carry the torch of healthy living long after the Games, I do have a few suggestions for items to make your life a little healthier!  

Lately, I’ve come across a few items that I am really digging, and that help my family and me to be healthier eaters. Please note that these are not official endorsements—I get nothing in return for spreading my love of these miraculous creations. I just think it would be selfish to not share my favorite, RDN-approved products and events. 

Without further adieu (queue the Olympic theme song):

1. The Yeti 30-ounce Rambler
Am I the only one who is a sucker for a cool drinking container? Yeti's super-cool branding strategy lured me into dropping $40 for one cup on a late night Amazon sesh. You know what? It is worth every penny. 

Last weekend, I left my Yeti full of iced water in a very hot car for more than 5 hours while I completed my Spartan and hung out on the grounds. I came back to--wait for it--a cup full of iced water. The ice had barely melted! And this was no fluke--the Yeti has gotten me through a sweltering STL summer, including 4 Crossfit workouts a week in a gym with no air conditioning. 

And I don't know if it is its amazing insulation or just the fact that it looks cool (especially since I started hitting it with my awesome sticker collection), but I drink a LOT more water with it in my life. To me, that is a win. 

2. Marguerite's All Natural Mexican Seasoning
Eleven years ago, when I first started on my weight loss journey, I really struggled with some of the recipes I tried to cook. I am a Midwestern girl, and our cuisine is heavy on the cream-of-whatever soup casseroles with heavy sprinkles of cheese on top (my mouth waters just thinking about them). I made the rookie mistake of trying to recreate these dishes, only to be sadly disappointed by lack of taste and satiety. 

A couple of years into my new lifestyle, I realized that simply prepared fresh foods are the way to go. Much better to eat a small portion of a quality meat with some in-season produce, in my opinion, than to try to trick your tastebuds with ingredient substitutions. 

The key to making these more simple preparations more exciting is seasoning. With a few spices, you can transform meats, vegetables, and grains into flavorful entrees. The best part: Most spices add very few calories!

My new favorite spice blend is Marguerite's All Natural Mexican Seasoning. I put this stuff on EVERYTHING! I sprinkle it on my eggs in the morning. I add a little to my avocados. I put it on meat and fish. I sprinkle my popcorn with Marguerite's and a little bit of nutritional yeast. I coat chickpeas with it and roast them until they are crispy. You know how mass-produced taco seasoning has 100 mystery ingredients? You'll never need to buy taco seasoning again once you try this stuff. 

You get my point. 

Marguerite's is available here and here. Make sure you get the 11-ounce size. You'll thank me later. 

3. Bravo Tomato Mucho Gazpacho
This is a brand new discovery for me--I found it today while searching for a grab-and-go post-run lunch at a local market.  

I tried the original recipe; however, the brand offers a greens recipe and a beets recipe as well. The original recipe includes just tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, bell peppers, olive oil, vinegar, and salt. One bottle comes in at 115 calories and 10 grams of healthy fat (if this seems high to you, keep in mind that just one tablespoon of olive oil contains 14 g of fat). 

The texture of this is thicker than a V8. It is refreshing and satisfying. I added hot sauce, as I like my gazpacho spicy, although next time I'd hit it with some Marguerite's. I often grab lunch on the run, and this would be a perfect light meal with my favorite gluten-free crackers, as well as either a string cheese or a hard-boiled egg. 

Please note that this may not be a suitable choice for you if you are on a dietary salt restriction. One bottle contains 485 mg sodium, which is high for the calorie payoff. For reference, in my hospital rotations, we always advised those on salt restriction (2 g/day is most common) to keep all meals to 500 mg sodium or less. While this is filling, it needs a protein and perhaps a healthy carb to be a satisfying meal.  

4. Apple Picking Season!
Holy moly, I love Fall. It's still pretty warm in STL, but yesterday I got my first hint of Fall when I received an email that it is apple picking season!

Every September, my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, husband, kids, and I make the 40-minute drive to our favorite farm in Illinois for our annual apple picking mission. We ride hay wagons into the orchards and run through the rows of trees, picking bags and bags of apples. 

All apples are good apples, but we usually wait until both Golden Delicious and Honeycrisp are available. While we all love them plain, my favorite use of the apples is homemade crockpot applesauce. Look for a recipe here in the coming weeks, after I bring home my haul. 

So what about you, friends? Anything I should know about that helps y'all to be better eaters?