Namaste, or whatever…
I love clean eating, but I also love granola bars. It’s so hard to buy them at the store, because most of them are loaded with all kinds of sugar and other random things…which kind of defeats the purpose, don’t you think? If you’re in a pinch, as I usually am when I travel, KIND makes great granola and granola bars with all ingredients you can pronounce and they come in just about every flavor you could imagine. But if you’re able to, making homemade granola bars is so much better. You know what is in them and you can add whatever you want! All these ingredients aren’t cheap, but I’ve found that I usually have enough to make at least 2 batches, so really, I can get about 30-35 granola bars out of them…in which case, it becomes really cheap. this recipe is pretty basic, so feel free to play around with it and add whatever sounds good.
Paleo Granola Bars
- 3 cups assorted nuts (I used pecans, almonds, and pumpkin seeds)
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 2 cups shredded coconut
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- ½ cup almond butter
- ½ cup raw honey
- ¼ tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment or wax paper
- Mix assorted nuts in a large bowl
- Take 1 cup of the nut/seed mixture and place on a cutting board. Chop the nuts/seeds into smaller pieces with a sharp knife.
- Place the remaining 2 cups of the nut/seed mixture into a food processor and pulse until they are chopped into much smaller pieces than the first cup.
- This assortment of sizes and textures will work well for the bars.
- Add all the nuts back into the bowl and stir to combine.
- Add the dried cranberries and stir until well mixed.
- Add the shredded coconut and mix well.
- In a small saucepan, add the coconut oil, almond butter, honey, vanilla, sea salt, and cinnamon and heat over medium-low heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Remove from heat. Make sure to stir constantly to prevent burning/sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.
- Pour the liquid mixture over the nut mixture and stir to combine, making sure the nut mixture is evenly coated.
- Pour the entire mix into the baking dish and use a second sheet of parchment or wax paper on top to firmly press and pack the ingredients together.
- Let the mixture set and settle on the counter at room temperature for 2 hours
- Cover and place in the freezer to set for 1 more hour
- Cut into whatever size bars you like and enjoy! I cut mine into a typical “granola bar” shape and size. This recipe makes 16 typical granola bars.
- I wrapped mine individually and put them all in a Ziploc bag and stored them in the refrigerator for freshness.
Happy Monday, y’all! I hope that you have all thoroughly enjoyed your weekend. I’m home from Texas after my epic Petey Birthday Weekend with my other half…more to come on that later this week…and wanted to share some Monday Motivation with y’all. Last week I blogged about healthy eating, but there’s something else that is just as important…physical activity
Benefits of Activity:Sure, being healthy involves eating healthy foods, but the other side of that is treating your body well, and keeping it working well. Think about it this way: if you don’t treat your car well, it doesn’t matter how great or expensive the gas is that you put into it; it’s not going to hold up well. Our bodies are the same way. Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do to take care of your body. I know so many of us think of exercise negatively. It’s a chore, just one more thing to add to our list of things we have to do today. But let’s take a minute and remember why exercise is a positive thing, and something that we should want to do. Like I said last week, when I understand something, and how it affects my body, it helps me to be better about taking care of myself. When you exercise, several things happen. Some of the immediate benefits of exercise are the release of endorphins (yeah, remember those things from last week’s blog that have the same euphoric properties as opiates…it’s those, except these are beneficial to you and don’t involve chemicals that are detrimental to your mind and body), a decrease in blood sugar, and a decrease in appetite. If you exercise regularly, some of the benefits you’ll see are an improvement in your cardiovascular, respiratory, and musculoskeletal systems (this means your heart and your lungs will work better, your muscles and bones will be stronger, and your body will work more efficiently). I could geek out over all the physiological things that exercise will do for you, and maybe in a future post, Audrey or I will go into detail explaining all of the ways exercise is amazing, but for now, we just want to talk about some of our favorite ways to get moving.
It can be cheap:Exercising doesn’t have to cost a ton of money. It doesn’t have to cost any money, actually. Do you have some stretchy pants/shorts, a t-shirt, and some decent tennis shoes? You can head out the door and go for a walk or a jog. You can do simple exercises like lunges, push-ups, sit-ups, squats, and planks in your living room. When I travel, I frequently find myself without any viable gym options. My solution? I head over to You Tube or Pinterest and find myself some quick “do at home” exercise options and get going. If I’m in a safe area, I’ll head out for a walk or a jog, and if all else fails, I have run the stairs in the hotel before. Audrey has a little boy she has to accommodate with her workouts…they go to the park and run and play, climb up hills, and hike on uneven terrain. Sometimes they go to the “kids jump” hour at the local trampoline park, and she spends an hour jumping on a trampoline for the cost of one kids’ admission (if you haven’t done trampoline jumping since you were a teenager, trust me, it will be harder than you remember it being). I know for a fact she also squeezes in at-home workouts while he is napping as well. Add a couple free weights or resistance bands, which can be found for reasonable prices, and you can do even more with your routine at home.
Take a class:The point is, you don’t need an expensive gym membership to work out. I actually got rid of mine last year because I prefer doing things on my own and being outside. There are lots of exercise classes that have grown in popularity, and if you enjoy those and can afford them, then by all means, go for it. I know Audrey and I both have our favorites, but we won’t go through all of them here. My advice is (and I know Audrey’s is too) make sure that the class has a reputable, certified instructor, don’t do anything that doesn’t feel right, and don’t keep going if something hurts. Ask questions of the instructor, you are paying good money for their instruction, so if you have questions, or something doesn’t make sense, ask for help. And please, for the love of God, stay for the cool down and stretching portion. It is a part of the class for a reason, and it is not only rude and disrespectful to the instructor to leave, but it could be dangerous or detrimental not to stretch and cool down. If you absolutely have to leave before the cool down is over, let the instructor know ahead of time and ask what you should do to make sure you cool down properly. (End soapbox rant.)
Get Motivated:How much should you exercise? I’d say if you are new to exercise, shoot for 30 minutes 3 times a week, and then aim to work up to at least 5 days a week. I like to try to do something active at a minimum 5 days a week for about an hour. Some weeks are better than others, but I try to make that my “baseline”. Some weeks I am insanely busy, but I like to remind myself that I have the same amount of hours in a day as Beyonce…and so do you. I like to exercise, but I find things to do that I enjoy. Did I always enjoy exercise? Nope. Stick with it for 3 weeks…21 days…that’s how long it takes to create a new habit. Make exercise a habit like brushing your teeth or washing your hands, and it won’t seem like such a chore. I try never to go more than 3 days in a row without some type of physical activity. It takes 21 days to form a habit but only 4 to destroy one. Don’t let yourself get to that 4th day. If you need motivation, there are things like FitBit, Fuel Band, etc…I am someone who likes concrete numbers and objective data, so my FitBit motivates me to get moving. If you’re a goal oriented person (also me), set a goal, sign up for a 5K, or a group hike…anything that you will have to train to accomplish. If you are a social butterfly, find a walking or running group, head out to the park with friends, sign up for a local sports league. The bottom line is just get moving. It doesn’t have to be hard and it doesn’t have to be painful, but I guarantee you it will make you feel like a better person. And the flipside of my car analogy from the beginning: if you take care of your car, you aren’t going to want to put crap cheap gas into it. In the same way, exercise will motivate you to keep fueling your body with healthy, whole foods. Give it a try. Tell us what some of your favorite inexpensive or fun exercises are. How do you stay motivated? And, most importantly, what makes you feel awesome?
Now I’m going to go exercise to relieve my depression from having to leave Texas. Namaste…or whatever.
Y’all want to know my secret? My secret is that there is no secret. If you want to stop feeling like garbage, you have stop putting garbage in your body. It won’t be easy. Giving up processed food and wheat products isn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever done. But it’s not the hardest either. I will be up front and tell you that the first 2 weeks are the worst. I had headaches, I wanted to eat an entire loaf of bread in one sitting, and I wanted to punch anyone who even mentioned something about a cookie. I swear there was one day that all I wanted was cereal and doughnuts. Withdrawal was especially fun the week I was traveling and everywhere we went out to eat, all of my coworkers were like, “This bread is amazing…did you try it? Oh…sorry”. What I said was, “No, that’s totally fine. I’m glad you liked it.” What I was thinking was, “I hate you.” So, yeah, those first couple weeks are going to be miserable, and you are going to have to make a conscious decision every minute of the day not to eat garbage. Trust me…if I can do it during 7 days at my parents’ house after my grandmother died (at one point I counted almost 20 desserts in their dining room), you can too. I’ve always found that the key to overcoming any obstacle is understanding it, and the more I learn about gluten, the more I understand what it does to me and the more I don’t want it in my body.
First, what is gluten? Well, in Latin, it means “glue” (first warning sign). Gluten is found in wheat products and processed foods and it gives them their shape and structure. I feel it’s also worth noting that gluten can be found in cosmetics, hair products, and some dermatologic preparations (getting more concerned). But here’s the real kicker. When gluten is digested, it produces exorphins (like endorphins but from a source outside the body). If you’ve ever gotten a runner’s high, then you are familiar with the effects of endorphins. Well, exorphins do the same thing. You know what else does the same thing? Opiates. Yep, eating products containing gluten produces the same effect as taking heroin or morphine (major alarms going off now), which really explains a lot, especially for those of us who are emotional eaters. This is why when you’re sad or upset or have had a terrible day, you don’t crave carrot sticks and hummus, you crave cookies and cake and comfort food. Some studies have actually shown that gluten can be just as addicting as heroin (yikes). You know how they say a drug addict is constantly trying to reproduce that first high? I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve eaten a piece of cake or something and gotten done and thought, “that wasn’t even that good after the first couple bites”. I’ve always known that I had a small addiction to these types of food, but this really puts it into perspective.
I’m not saying that everyone needs to cut gluten and processed foods out of their diet. I know plenty of people (who are apparently not predisposed to unhealthy addictions) who can eat processed foods every once in a while with no problems. I am not one of those people. So, I made the decision to cut out gluten and most processed foods. Here’s what I noticed: I have like 100 times more energy, and I feel alert, not like a zombie going through the motions, which may be related to the fact that I am sleeping amazingly. I can focus on what I’m doing. I would never have called myself ADD, but I am kind of known by my coworkers as always doing 5 things at once…having one conversation and still listening to another while on a conference call and working on a document. Sometimes I love the rush of doing all of that at once, but that can really take a toll on the brain. But now, if I’m working on something, I can focus directly on what I’m doing without my mind wandering to a million different places…although I’ll admit I’m watching March Madness and checking twitter at the same time I’m writing this…something about a tiger and its stripes, I guess. My favorite things I’ve noticed, though, are how flat my stomach is (I literally look like I have a food baby when I eat processed crap) and the fact that my joints don’t ache nearly as much. I was trying to think of how to describe it, and the best I can do is just to say, I feel great and happy and motivated. Is that because gluten was making me depressed? Or is it because those changes I’ve noticed are rewarding? Maybe a little of both, but it doesn’t really matter as long as I feel great.
How do I stick to it? I give myself ONE day to eat whatever I want…typically Sunday (Sunday Funday is my favorite day of the week). The funny thing is, that I might eat something flour and gluten filled and processed at one meal that day, but I usually don’t finish it, and once I’ve eaten it, I don’t really crave anymore that day. As a matter of fact, I tend to start craving “real” food like fruits and veggies after indulging. Probably knowing that Sunday comes every week keeps me from feeling the need to eat like it’s my last meal on earth. So, what’s my message, my secret? Knowledge is power. Put whatever you want in your body, but know what it is and how it affects you and your body. Learn your body and how it reacts to different things and make decisions that make you feel your best. Know that just because something says “gluten free” does not mean it is “healthy”. Read ingredients. Know what is in the food that you are eating and know that just because gluten isn’t on that list, does not mean that it’s not a processed food. When in doubt, eat real food. Use the 80/20 rule and make at least 80% of your intake real food. No one’s perfect, but make an effort to be pretty damn close. I am in no way a dietary or gluten expert, and I am only speaking from my own personal experiences. Being physical therapists, Audrey and I have a natural predisposition for wanting to help others be their best selves, so let us know your thoughts or questions. We hope to do a post on some of our favorite foods and products that help us eat clean soon. We also love helpful tips…we are always still learning just like you, and we don’t ever want to stop learning.
The whole reason we have a page named “Namaste, or Whatever” is because as much as we try to live clean and healthy lives, neither Audrey or I would ever sacrifice fully enjoying life for the sake of being the healthiest person on the planet. Have I mentioned that we don’t take ourselves too seriously? If you haven’t already figured that out about us, it won’t take you much longer. We try to be healthy, but we try to be real. I love Whole Foods as much as the next person (and probably more than I should), but if you don’t have access to a fancy, expensive grocery store that makes you want to drop everything and start doing sun salutations immediately, you can still eat just as healthily as those of us who are lucky enough to be able to spend twice as much on our produce. Namaste…or whatever. Translation: Health is just as much about making sustainable healthy choices that you feel good about as it about what you eat or don’t eat. Stressing over the perfect diet, exercise regimen, calorie intake, etc. does nothing to improve your well-being.
Let me start this by saying, in no way am I anywhere near perfect with sticking to clean eating when I’m on the road and traveling. I do my best, but when you’re traveling to new places all the time, you get lots of “You have to go here…they have the best pizza/cupcakes/fries/margaritas ever”. And I am never one to turn down the best pizza, cupcake, fries, or margarita. So some weeks I do better than others. (More on all of these places with the best “fill in the blank here” coming soon, so you’ll see how much splurging I really do on a regular basis.) Obviously, travel in the spring and summer when all the vegetables are fresh and there’s tons of good fruit around is easier…but so is eating healthily at home. I try not to splurge too often when I travel because travel is more of a way of life than a vacation for me, but if you travel a lot and are looking for a way to keep from packing on the pounds, I’m here to tell you it can be done! I am anywhere from 10-15 pounds lighter after my first year of traveling for work. Even if you don’t travel all the time but want to stay healthy on your vacation, more power to you, but remember to allow yourself to indulge and enjoy things outside of your normal routine…not every meal, but whenever you want to. And then when vacation is over…get right back to it. If you get yourself a good base of eating clean and healthy before your trip, you’ll probably find that you have less desire or appetite for those splurges, but when you do, indulge them. You only live once. (I’ll spare you the sarcastic hashtag remark here.)
Here are some great ways to keep eating clean on the road, or if you are just learning what “eating clean” means, try implementing one or two of these into your lifestyle and see how great you feel!
1. Drink water…a lot. When I am dehydrated, I feel like crap. And when I feel like crap, I eat like crap.
2. Find a clean, healthy on-the-go option for when time is short. Lara Bars are the most amazing thing ever. Well, probably not really, but they are pretty tasty and come in a variety of flavors and are great to grab and take with you to eat when you get hungry. They are vegan and gluten free and have only natural ingredients.
3. Find an alternative to dairy. Almond and coconut milk are awesome. More and more coffee places and delis are keeping these for lattes and such, so I always ask. If they don’t, I’ll ask for soy or non-fat milk. I try to stay away from too much dairy, but a little non-fat milk in your latte probably won’t wreck your whole day. But, then again, I like my coffee black.
4. Opt for healthy sweet treats. Dark chocolate or fruit are great for when you are really craving something sweet. It may not be exactly what you want, but most of the time it does the trick. You can grab these on the go just about anywhere. I try to stick to greater than 70% dark chocolate if possible.
5. Gorge on veggies. A salad makes a great, filling, but usually clean and low-calorie meal, and salads are available at most restaurants, so, yes, you can go out to eat…just watch the croutons and the cheese. And high calorie salad dressing. If you have to have these, try picking one and asking them to leave the others off.
6. Be a cheese snob. If you must have cheese, make it a strong cheese with really rich flavors. I’m not a big fan of blue cheese, but I do like feta and goat cheeses. If I’m going to have cheese on a salad, I make it one of those. You can get bigger flavor and usually less calories. Trust me…try leaving your cheddar/Monterey jack off your salad. They don’t add much flavor, and I bet you won’t even notice.
7. Go NUTS!! If you really need to munch on something crunchy, nuts make a great snack. Almonds are the best, just because they are the most nutrient dense, but I like cashews and pecans also. I try to eat mostly raw or lightly salted/roasted almonds, but if you’re really hankering for a flavor, I still think eating flavored almonds is better than a bag of chips. Try roasting them at home tossed with some coconut oil. Most airport shops or gas stations have some form of almonds you can grab if you’re on the go and can’t get to a grocery store for supplies.
8. Cheat Wisely. If you really want some chips (and trust me, sometimes I do), there are some great gluten free options out there. Garden of Eatin’ for one and Way Better for another. They are made from mostly corn or beans. I wouldn’t get in the habit of eating these all the time, but on occasion with some fresh salsa or guacamole they are perfect. I have seen Way Better chips in more and more airport shops lately.
9. Go Local. Local restaurants tend to have more fresh, less processed foods than chains. Don’t get me wrong, chains are all well and good, but they order things in bulk and they serve the same thing across the country, so how fresh can it be? Local restaurants usually source local meats and produce and are much more likely to cook things that are in season and easily obtainable, thereby reducing the amount of processing and preserving that has to be done. Besides, you can eat at Olive Garden anywhere…try somewhere local…be a part of the culture you’re in.
10. Give Yourself A Break. When you eat like crap, own it and move on. We all do it. Sometimes, that greasy slice of the best pizza ever and 2 (okay 5) margaritas just happens. You’ve done it, and you can’t undo it (and please don’t go throw it up, and if you do, please seek help), so just own it, enjoy how delicious it was, and go back to being awesome. Don’t let it send you spiraling into more unhealthy eating just because you did it once, and don’t let it take away your enjoyment of the rest of your meals. You are not going to get fat from one unhealthy meal. And no vacation (or day at work, for that matter) is worth ruining over feeling bad about yourself.
Do you have any tips you think are worth sharing? We’d love to hear and I’m always up for trying new things. Keep being your awesome self, and we’ll keep loving you!
Namaste, or whatever…