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A Definitive Ranking of the Best Holiday Food

Holiday Food Power Rankings

Ah the Holiday season. In my last article, I talked about the best parts about this wonderful season. Of course, holiday food made the list – but what kind of food, exactly?  The turkey, gravy, stuffing, dessert, bread…?

Here’s 2016’s Holiday Food Power Ranking, brought to you by Fit University.  (Note: the numbers represent a primary research survey, how comparative the food is with other meals, how amazingly tasty they are, and finally how often can you eat these foods without getting sick and tired of them.)

10. Candy Canes (17)

Check out these articles too: 13 Easy Tips To Stay Fit in College What Are Sports Supplements and Should I Be Taking Them? The Lower Body HIIT Workout You’ll Love to Hate When Healthy Eating Goes Bad

Let’s start off this list with a great holiday classic: candy. Honestly, I feel like I was obligated to add these to the list. And was I wrong?

9. Bread Stuffing (25)

Some prefer meat stuffing. Either way, whichever type you prefer, stuffing is an iconic dish for the holiday season. I consider it a complementary dish to pretty much everything else.

8. Hot Chocolate (29)

Hot chocolate indoors on a cold winter’s day. That is all. 

(Did somebody say marshmallows?!)

7. Gravy (33)

Gravy goes well with almost everything on this list (Ok candy canes and gravy, probably not that good though).

6. Mashed Potatoes (42)

 

Who knew when you boil potatoes, mash them, add some milk, butter and salt you create some godly dish?  Well someone did and they deserve a trophy for it.  This should be on everyone’s list, just depends how deep in the list.

5. Turkey (43)

I may receive some hate to have turkey ranked this low. Turkey is fantastic, we all know that. However, I have reason to believe that there is a better holiday meat that trumps this list. Stay tuned.

4. Sweet Potato Casserole (45)

Specifically, with MARSHMALLOWS.

Now I’ll be upfront, I’ve only had this a few times in my life, but it only takes one bite to understand this dish belongs in the rankings. Is it a dessert? Is it a side dish? Is it both? That is what makes it amazing.

3. All Pies (52)

Apple pie, pudding pie, sweet potato pie, pecan pie. There are too many to count, they’re all so delicious, how can pies not make anyone’s power rankings?

2. Crescents/ Bread (61)

I have said it once and I am sticking to it.  I love bread.

Bread alone is phenomenal. Personally its my favorite type of food. However, there’s something special about the holiday season and crescents.

I can crush way too many of these little guys. The only thing I love more than bread during the season is…

1. Spiral Ham (66)

The GOAT of the holiday season, at least in my household. Nothing beats a home cooked ham – its literally perfect.

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Look at it, strutting it’s stuff.

Other contenders: Chocolate (14) , Corn (11), Cheesecake (10), Cannoli (9), Cranberry Sauce (4) 

Happy Holidays, and enjoy your eating!

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5 Tips For Digestive Health During the Holidays

Anyone who’s gone way overboard at Christmas dinner (who hasn’t?) knows that overeating can wreak havoc on the digestive system. As glorious as enjoying a homemade feast can be, holiday indulgences can leave many of us feeling… well, backed up. 

Good news is, you can prevent indigestion this holiday season with these 5 tips for better gut health.

1) Get healthy beforehand.

If your digestive tract is already healthy, it will be much more well equipped to deal with the onslaught of Christmas dinner. 

Probiotic supplements containing important bacteria strains can help restore gut health. Frequently consuming fermented foods like Kombucha and sauerkraut also do wonders for a leaky gut. For more info on healing an unhealthy gut, learn the “four R’s” of gut health

2) Stay hydrated.

Remembering to drink enough water is hard even on a normal day, let alone on some of the most exciting days of the year. Alcoholic beverages like wine, cocktails, and champagne dehydrate your body, and sugary beverages like sodas and ciders can throw off your stomach’s natural balance. Enjoy these beverages in moderation, and don’t forget to drink water alongside them!

4) Know your “no no” foods.

If you’re sensitive to gluten or dairy, or know that a particular food/ingredient doesn’t agree with your stomach, be extra careful about it this time of year. Unfortunately, those sensitivities don’t disappear on holidays. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family what’s in their dish to avoid digestion issues. 

4) Be mindful of portion sizes and variety.

At holiday meals, it’s especially tempting to load up your plate with 10 different dishes and go back for seconds and thirds. Mixing too many different foods in gargantuan portions is sure to lead to an upset stomach.

Being mindful of how full you are and strategically choosing the dishes you want most can help prevent indigestion. If you’re prone to making 2 or three plates at holiday dinners, consider making your first plate smaller, and going back for only the foods you really enjoyed on round two.

5) Keep exercising.

Maintaining your regular exercise schedule throughout the holiday season is crucial. Not only does it help keep your body’s metabolism and general health regulated, but exercise also promotes gut health by facilitating the transport of food through the digestive system. Frequent exercise also can relieve holiday stress, another prime contributor to indigestion. 

Holiday meals are meant for indulging on foods you don’t have year round. We totally endorse indulging away; but remember that if you take these steps, your digestive system will definitely thank you.

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Beating the Stigma: You CAN Go Abroad and Stay Fit

The cover image of this article is me practicing after taking a yoga class…in Spanish…talk about accelerated learning!

Before I left to study abroad in Barcelona, Spain, people laughed when I said I was worried about staying healthy. I was told to eat all the paella, drink all the sangria, and enjoy my time abroad.

This sounds like an ideal scenario, except that I know how lethargic I start to feel after not eating much fresh food. I was used to cooking for myself in my apartment with familiar foods from Whole Foods that was conveniently at the end of my street. I was nervous I would not be able to restrain myself from eating paella everyday and skipping the gym.

Confirmed: The paella was AMAZING!

I, alongside those who doubted my healthy habits, was wrong.

Here’s my answers to your study-abroad fitness fears:

How am I going to workout?

The first week of my study abroad program, I joined a gym. It was a convenient 5-minute walk from my apartment and on my way home from school. It was the perfect location to help me make sure I was exercising at least four days a week.

I went on weekdays, but often skipped it on the weekends; I traveled a lot when I was abroad, so most of the time, I was unable to get to the gym Friday-Sunday. Occasionally, when I got home on Sundays, I would run down to the harbor and watch a dance group perform and run back. But the weekdays were more than enough to keep me fit.

When I was abroad, I started and finished Kayla Itsines BBG 1. It felt amazing to finally complete week 12. Heck, it felt good to pass week 5. It helped having a routine abroad that consisted of a lot of LISS via hikes and walking through the streets. Having a program to follow was very helpful because it gave me something to stick with, even with all of the excitement around me.

I appreciated having friends in my apartment and in my study abroad program who also belonged to the same gym as I did and who would go with me during the week. Friends are great motivators. I was able to stay disciplined, improve my health, and enjoy the experience of studying abroad.

Biking through Amsterdam to see the city and keep moving to stay warm!

Biking through Amsterdam to see the city and keep moving to stay warm!

What am I going to eat?

Here in America, we don’t have to think too much about what food we’re going to buy for the week. We know what we like, what brand to buy, and where to find it. This all changes when you go to a country that speaks a different language.

Lucky for me, I knew enough Spanish to read labels and find what I was looking for. This made it easy for me to try new foods during the week and cook local dishes with my roommates as well. The fact that I knew Spanish also helped because in my neighborhood in Barcelona, there was obvious price discrimination. If I walked into the convenience store to buy something, I would speak in Spanish and therefore, I would be charged less than my friends who walked in speaking English.

During the week, I would cook at home in our kitchen. You learn that it is possible to maintain a healthy lifestyle even when it would be so easy to empty your bank account at every savory restaurant in town. I ate a lot of ground turkey, pasta and vegetables. I packed a lot of protein bars and fruit in my backpack for snacks while I walked through the city to pass the time, and for lunch, I religiously ate a turkey grilled cheese. This made for easy grocery shopping.

La Boqueria, a large market on one of the main streets, La Rambla in Barcelona

La Boqueria, a large market on one of the main streets, La Rambla in Barcelona

When I would travel on the weekends, I would make sure to bring enough snacks. That way, I would not have to buy big, expensive meals at a sit down restaurant.

I ate a lot on the go and would sometimes eat food sold on the street. I learned about the traditional foods and never went hungry, all on a budget.

The key is not to deprive yourself: I still experienced all the great foods the country had to offer. But I would pick a couple of meals to splurge on over the weekend that allowed me to maintain a healthy(ish) diet and experience the local culture.

In some ways, experiencing the culture actually helped me stay healthy. We wanted to walk everywhere in the city we visited, so that we could absorb all of the sights. With that came all of the good food, too. My favorite place for cheap, fancy food was Prague in the Czech Republic. My favorite place for sweet, rich food was Florence, Italy. And my favorite place for any food, any time of day, was Barcelona, Spain (but I’m biased).

Brunch in Barcelona is to die for!

Brunch in Barcelona is to die for!

I learned that what it comes down to, no matter where you are in the world, is balance.

Every meal on the weekend cannot be a cheat meal; otherwise you come home from traveling feeling disgusting. But at the same time, that’s not to say you should avoid cheat meals. Cheat meals make you appreciate all kinds of food. It’s all about moderation.

I would make sure to try the signature dishes of wherever I traveled and I chose restaurants wisely so it was a combination of good food and easy on the wallet. Trying new things is the point of studying abroad! It just helps if you feel healthy, strong, and fit while exploring the world.

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Secrets of A Healthy Foodstagrammer

Ah, the foodstagram. A reservoir of healthy food inspiration, seemingly perfect nutrition, and allllll the food porn you could ever want or need. How many times can you like a similar picture of squash and zoodles in a day? The limit apparently does not exist.

zoodles

Of course, no two foodstagrams are alike. There are all kinds of foodstagram accounts on your feed, (read our breakdown of fitstagrammers here) but they all have one thing in common: they seem to have this whole “eating” thing figured out to a T. 

Well, as a healthy foodstagrammer myself, I’m here to tell you that that’s not at all true. We’ve all got our secrets (and if you foodstagram, too, I’m sure you understand). 

Here are 5 things you didn’t know about the life of a healthy food Instagrammer:

1. Sometimes the food looks way better than it tastes. 

Case in point: this toast tasted horrifically mediocre.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-8-22-42-pm

I know, I know. Disappointing. Wouldn’t we all love to live in a world where the prettiest, healthiest food was also always the best tasting? 

Foodstagrammers also love to experiment in the kitchen. Bad news is, not every experiment turns out great. However, we put in the effort to make that plate beautiful – we’re posting that sh*&. And you can bet we’re going to tell you it was fantastic. 

2. Sometimes, the food looks too ugly to post but tasted so amazing you WISH you could share.

Sometimes I share anyway.

Case in point: 

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-8-25-39-pm

But most of the time I just endure the unfortunate reality that the food’s greatness will go unappreciated. True tragedy comes in many forms.

3. We always add on more toppings after taking the photo. 

Yeah – food instagrammers eat way more food than their feed would lead you to believe. 

For some perspective, here are two pictures of the same salad bowl: 

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I also ate some grapes on the side. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

Still don’t believe me? Same bowl of oats:

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On top of whatever I post, I usually also eat some more other food in addition. However, the apple and chips I grabbed from my pantry aren’t matching my salad aesthetic, so I left them out. 

What can you learn from this?

DON’T BOTHER COMPARING FOOD.

No reason to try and gauge how much you “should” eat based on observing someone else. It’s pointless, and a flawed system. Why? 2 main reasons:

  1. Everyone’s body is different.
  2. Unless you literally stalk someone, you’ll have no clue how much or what they’re really eating. 

Listen to your body and eat for you. Those foodstagrammers are great inspo, but trying to follow them exactly is a pointless venture. 

4. We’re always getting caught being #embarrassing and scrolling through food pics in public.

Why yes, I did just run into you walking on the sidewalk because I was commenting on this picture of kale. (Whoops.)

5. There’s a reason we only post once per day.

Think we always eat healthily and prettily? L.O.L. 

Sure I ate that gorgeous oatmeal bowl for breakfast, but my lunch was a slice of pizza at a club meeting between class (whoops). 

Again: comparison is pointless. 

Also, healthy people eat junk, too. It’s a fact. 

6. We think finding aesthetic ways to use random foods we sample is a fun challenge.

Perks of having a food instagram? We get to try out new foods from various companies. Sharing the foods we enjoy is fun, but sometimes the best foods don’t photograph well on their own. Here’s where the creativity comes in. No, no one (including me) eats popcorn as a toast topper on the reg.

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-8-42-23-pm

Sometimes, the combos we come up with are weird. But dang it, I’m gonna find a way to make popcorn look pretty if it’s the last thing I do! 

7. We’re consistently late, or running late, because it takes TIME to make your food pretty.

Worth it? Sometimes. Lol.

8. We annoy allllll our friends when we go out to eat. 

“Can we walk over to that patch of grass over there first and take a pic?!”

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9. We have more Instagram friends than friends IRL.

“Thanks, babe! Hope you had a great day!” sent from a stranger who also happens to enjoy eating farro.

Foodstagram post likes? In the thousands. Personal Instagram likes? Barely scraped 100. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ 

10. We’re up to date with all the latest food trends, hashtags, and new products.

“Have you heard of sweet potato bowls?” Um, duh. Try sweet potato bowls roasted with vanilla ghee and sprinkled with grain-free granola. Where have you been? #plantbased

-brushes off the haters-

11. Our love for food, and foodstagramming, is too real. 

It’s a seemingly pointless hobby, sure. But it’s the most fun, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. 

You can follow me at @eating_peanut_better on Instagram 🙂 

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How to Eat Healthier at the Dining Hall

The dining hall is a place that makes living/creating a healthy lifestyle a challenge for many college students. Eating nutritious meals seems ridiculously hard in college, especially on a meal plan. Not only are you busy and not cooking for yourself, but there’s also an omnipresent spread of pizza, French fries, and dessert available in the dining hall 24/7. 

I mean, campus meal plans have their pros and cons. You can’t complain when your university prepares variety of healthy food items. Yet even then, it’s difficult to eat normal portion sizes – many cafeterias present you with an unlimited buffet.

But even if you do live on campus with a meal plan, there is hope to eating healthily on the regular. Here are some strategies I follow:

Seek Out the Healthy Items

salad bar

Yes, being on a meal plan is limiting, but you have the choice to choose the healthy options at the dining hall. Most dining halls have vegetables, a salad bar, omelettes, and grilled chicken. Next time you are at the dining hall, search for these types of items. You can even combine them in creative ways to prevent boredom.

Accountability

Want to reduce your temptation to snag unhealthy food items? Tell a few of your friends about your health goals so they can help you stay on track. Make a game of it and try to see who can make the best healthy meal out of what’s available.

Be Smart About Navigating the Dining Hall

My number one tip is to load up on breakfast. Why? Because it helps give you some energy to start your day and makes you more likely to make healthy choices all day. Some of the dining hall options I usually stick to:

  •  Oatmeal mixed with fruit and yogurt with nuts, fresh fruit, and granola. This is usually the fastest meal to get because you don’t really have to wait in line. Plus, it’s sweet, satisfying, and full of healthy carbs and protein.
  • Omelets. Because you can pack them with veggies and eggs are protein powerhouses, omelets are delicious and nutritious. If you don’t have time for an omelet, grab a hard boiled egg and some fruit.

For lunch and dinner, try to be creative and have a good balance of produce, protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrate-rich foods. Something like a sandwich with veggies and your favorite protein would be a great meal combo. Instead of a normal salad, you can throw some chicken, veggies, or tofu together and add corn, potatoes, or rice for some extra carbs. Don’t just stick to the same thing every single time or else you will get board of eating healthy very quickly.

And of course, if you want some fries or dessert, have them – just maybe not every day. Still, they’re delicious and balance is important. You can also make some healthier and dorm-friendly desserts when the sweet tooth hits. 

Want more ideas on how to build healthy meals in the dining hall? Follow me on Instagram to see how I stay healthy on a meal plan.

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8 Fitness Box Subscriptions You Need To Try

8 Fitness Box Subscriptions You Need To Try

Being a busy college student makes it hard to go shopping. Setting aside our textbooks and notes for even a day is impossible at times. But thanks to all of these companies that have come up with the brilliant idea of providing monthly top quality fitness items, we don’t have to stress anymore.

Below is a list of a few of my favorites that I personally have subscribed to and some that I love what they offer and hope you do too!

1. Gainz Box, $39 monthly* This company provide the best brands for the Crossfit community. They have everything from apparel, mobility, snack, supplements and so much more. When you sign up for Gainz Box, you get 10% off your first box! They provide a monthly, 3 month, 6 month, and an annual subscription. I have personally subscribed to this box and the quality of products is 5-star! It is also a veteran-owned company so that gets an extra star in my book.

2. BarBella Box, $49 monthly*– This box is very similar to Gainz Box except it is more exclusive for women. They have clothing, supplements, mobility and goodies as well. Subscriptions come monthly, quarterly or annually.

3. The Runner Box, $20 every 2 months*– This is great for the runner or want-to-be runner in all of us. It comes with nutrition bars, energy boosters, personal care and running accessories. This company is owned by two women who personally run marathons themselves. They are extremely active and passionate about the endurance community.

4. BuddhiBox, $34.95 + shipping  This company was started by female entrepreneur and yoga instructor, Maxine Chapman. She started the company to share her favorite yogi things and help enhance her students’ practice. Every month, a portion of the sales goes to support a different global charity. They provide fitness items, skincare, and fragrances. You can also buy individual products off the site as well.

 

5. Vull Sports, $53 If you are anything like me, you love athletic wear, and having the cute sports bras and shorts must. Vull Sports sends you a monthly subscription for sports bras. It is owned by a four-time Crossfit regional athlete so she knows what women in the fitness community is looking for. 

6. The Feed, price varies* This company is pretty sweet because you can curate your own box based on what kind of fitness you like!

7. Athletic Foodie, price varies * Owned by Olympic Gold Medalist Garret Weber-Gale, who was diagnosed with dangerously high blood sugar, this box makes healthy food taste great. Weber-Gale wants you to see the connection between what you put into your body and what you get out of it.

8. Paleo Life Box, $35 month* Each month, you get about eight to ten paleo snacks from some of the best companies out there. It delivers monthly, quarterly and bi-annually.

There are so many companies out there that provide this service and these are just a few that I love. It’s so nice to know that at least once a month on my doorstep there will be goodies and lets be honest opening up a package brings out the kid in all of us.

If you get a subscription box, make sure to post it on social media and tag @gofitu and #fituniversity!

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An Updated Version of the Classic Waldorf Salad (vegan + gluten-free)

Vegan Waldorf Salad | Fit University

Serve this salad for a flavorful and simple dish everyone will love.

Every time I used to go to California Pizza Kitchen, I’d order their phenomenal Waldorf salad, partially because it was huge, but mostly because it was oh-so-tasty. I don’t know who invented this combination of flavors, but I’m grateful for them. 

Since I’ve stopped going out to eat so much in the past few years, I’m not sure if they’re such a THING on restaurant menus anymore. What I do know, however, is that this juicy salad mixture needs to make a comeback, and it’s going to happen right here, right now.  

In an effort to eat more plant-based and improve the sustainability factor of my diet, this dish contains no animal products. I love the trio of balsamic vinegar (of course…do you know me?), crunchy red grapes, baby kale, and quinoa. There’s a fresh, light feeling to this salad, and I’m already dreaming about the next time I can make it! 

Time: 10 minutes

When to eat it: Lunch, dinner

Perks: Gluten-free, allergy-friendly, vegan

Sh*t You Need:

1/2 cup cooked quinoa
3 cups baby kale
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup white beans
2 tablespoons hummus
1 – 2 cups chopped red grapes

Vegan Waldorf Salad

The Recipe:

1. Blend all ingredients in a large bowl. Plate, serve, and enjoy. Easy peasy!

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13 Types of Fitstagrammers You See On Your Newsfeed

13 Types of Fitstagrammers You See On Your Newsfeed

Hello, millennials. If you are anything like me, you spend a little bit too much time scrolling through your Instagram feed.

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The majority of people I follow are college foodies, fitness junkies, yogis, or just people who have an interest in health & fitness. Recently, I have noticed that these fitstagrammers typically fall into one of a few categories:

  1. The Bowl Queen

“Throw sh*t together and mix” usually doesn’t result in aesthetically pleasing food, but these fitstagrammers make it work – and make it look totally effortless.

The Bowl Queen is closely related to the Smoothie Bowl Artist, who makes kaleidoscope-esque fruit bowls on the daily.

  1. The Powerlifter

These fitstagrammers can lift some seriously heavy weights while maintaining perfect form. Most of their content is video of their killer workouts, but they work so hard you can’t hate them for the occasional flex picture.

  1. The Allergy-Friendly Foodie

Usually swapping out ingredients in a recipe so they can eat it safely, but their food looks twice as good as the original! Mango salsa, anyone?

  1. The Protein Food Porn Fitstagrammer

Fit people can have #foodporn too! The post is never complete without a drizzle or ooze of protein frosting… and macros!

  1. The Diary Writer

c a r b s 🍝 *long post warning* If I was stuck on an island and only had to eat one type of food, it would be pasta with red sauce (with a whole bunch of veggies chopped in there, of course!) 😍 such a great post workout meal- refuels your body and you get the protein (I used ground turkey) you need without supps. Yes that is possible!! Surprise, the fitness industry understands the general population's insecurities and fears and uses that to their advantage. And I know you are better than that 😉 Its important to stay skeptical if you want what's best for your body. Today at the gym (shoulders and arms day woo💪) I saw a personal trainer on his phone on multiple occasions while his client demonstrated poor form on his exercise… then saw a trainer put the weight in the wrong spot, which is a total pet peeve of mine 😲 and these are "professionals" who people pay a lot of money for… 😡 makes me want to be better than them yaknow? As much as I love to complain, it doesn't really get anything done, actions speak louder than words💭 {@barillaus whole wheat penne + red sauce + @jennieo ground turkey + chopped zucchini + onions + carrots + basil} #fituniversity

A post shared by Christina Chu, CPT (@foodietunes) on

SHAMELESS PLUG: guilty as charged, these fitstagrammers do not hold back about telling you how their day went.  Warning: rants and tangents are included.

  1. The Entrepreneur 

If you think being a student is hard, try owning a business on top of that.

  1. The Bikini Competitor

Unflexed vs. flexed because I like to be honest with you all! You can really only see my abs when I flex them and breathe all my air out sorry no permanent chicken nuggets here! I must say though I am proud of myself because when I did that 2 months ago you couldn't see anything 😂 just always be mindful of what you see on the gram or any social media because I am also guilty of showing my highlights 🙃 #npcbikini #npccompetitor #npcbikinicompetitor #pharmacyschool #trainhard #liftheavy #fuelyourbody #foodisfuel #iifym #iifymgirls #iifymwomen #macros #reversediet #flexibledieting #absaremadeinthekitchen #abcheck #fitnessmotivation #fitspiration #motivate #inspirational #flexfriday #unflexedvsflexed #girlswholift #girlswithmuscle #girlswithmuscles #musclegains #weightlifting

A post shared by Z U R I C K | 23 | 5'6 (@taylorzurickfit) on

Typically posing or posting mirror shots, these competitors have washboard abs and chiseled muscles. Fortunately, there are some like Taylor who also show the reality behind their stage bodies vs. their everyday bodies.

  1. The Healthy Med Student

Dinner date with Dr. Dale Dubin ❤️📈 …actually jk I got distracted and now I'm watching Grey's😂

A post shared by Dose of Dinner 💊🍴| PA-S 2 (@doseofdinner) on

        Soon-to-be Meredith Grey’s and Dr. McDreamy’s have to eat healthy too!

  1. The Go-To Trainer

These fitstagrammers speak exercise as a second language. You typically find yourself searching for their page when in need of a new workout.

  1. The Minimalist Foodie

 Usually posting pictures with a simple and consistent background, they make #cleaneats look actually clean.

  1. The Girl-Next-Door

Typically has a mixture of posts- healthy foods, workouts, and lifestyle, including their own. It feels like you know more about them than just their food and/or workouts. They also tend to be the sweetest people when you meet in person.

  1. The Yogis
 

A photo posted by Amanda & Zani (@acroyogies) on

They bend so they don’t break.

13. The Aesthetic Fitstagrammer

How I do taco Tuesday 💁 #Grassfed taco meat, shredded romaine, tomatoes, chopped cilantro, and an #avocadorose 🌹

A post shared by Rachel | Real Food Athlete (@real.food.athlete) on

Effortless and flawless food. They make food that you would make, but theirs looks 1000 times better.

Show us your fitstagram by using the #fituniversity and tagging @gofitu!

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What a Former Meathead-Gone-Vegan Actually Eats in a Day

vegan eats

A day in the life of an experimental vegan.

6 weeks ago, I became a vegan. DUN DUN DUN. 

Don’t worry meat-eaters, this isn’t a lifetime thing (I don’t think…). I’m just in the midst of a two-month long vegan experiment. And you know what? I’m actually loving my plant-based vegan lifestyle. Under the watch of Skylar Griggs, I’ve squashed all worries of not getting enough protein and am actually eating a ton of food, AND I’ve even lost weight (which was part of the plan btw, based off my test results from Inside Tracker and Cenegenics). 

So you’re probably wondering…what does a former meathead-gone-vegan eat on a daily basis? How on earth does this former meathead-gone-vegan get all the protein she needs? Which bar will this former meathead-gone-vegan turn to instead of her beloved Quest bars? The answer my friend, lies in my Instagram. 

I present to you, a day in the life of eating for a former meathead-gone-vegan.

6AM: Pre-workout

Generally 2 clementines, a banana or a piece of toast with some coconut oil based buttah. Sorry, these things are not Insta-worthy.

8-9AM: Post-workout

I try to get the highest amount of protein in this meal because #gains (I should say #gaines but I won’t, though I kind of just did.) At the start of The Vegan Experiment, I went to GNC and tried to find myself a good plant-based protein powder. My goal was to try to find something that was high in protein, low in carbs & fat but didn’t taste like grass. I settled on Sunwarrior, vanilla flavor. It has subtle tastes of grass. That’s what I used here in my post-workout smoothie bowl.

For the record, after a few weeks with Sunwarrior, I got myself a package of Vega Sport to see what all the fuss is about and lemme tell you, that shit is good. Turned my smoothie green which I wasn’t expecting (the power itself is white) but it’s delicious and has zero notes of grass.

On other occasions, when I don’t gone home after my workout, I make myself overnight proats or I’ll head to a coffee shop and first get myself some sort of iced soy latte (giving me quick sugar and some protein) and then I’ll follow it up with toast and avocado. If I don’t have toast & avocado in the morning, I’ll usually find a way to squeeze it in at some other meal of the day. The obsession is real.

 

I love me a good breakfast sammmich 🤗 #fituniversity

A photo posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

It’s safe to say breakfast is my favorite meal of the day, here are some other post-workout breakfasts I’ve enjoyed…

 

Simple veggie breakfast hash: tofu, broccoli, sweet potato. 😋 #fituniversity #theveganexperiment

A photo posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

11:15AM Pre-Cyc

I’m a Cycologist at Cyc Fitness Boston (come ride with me!) and usually teach the 12pm classes. So somewhere between 11-11:30, I grab myself another piece of fruit. Maybe a shot of espresso if I need some added energy.

2PM Post-Cyc

I need carbs and protein post Cyc…I’m usually hangry. This meal usually consists of some sort of grain (quinoa, brown rice or cous cous), some sort of bean (black or chick pea – is a chick pea a bean??), lots of greens, lots of veggies, and some sort of dressing (guac, hummus, or olive oil). Ginny, the 7YO I babysit always asks, “Why do you eat salad EVERY DAY?!” Because it’s delicious and damn good for me Ginny! That’s why.

And sometimes if I’m really hangry, I’ll get Chipotle.

If I’m not teaching that day, I have the same sort of lunch…just an hour or so earlier.

PS: Don’t go double beans at Chipotle. Learned that the hard way.

3/4PM Snack

I don’t stay full for very long. A few hours after I eat, I generally start to get hungry again so I have myself a little snack. I’ve become a huge sucker for D’s Naturals No Cow Bars. Consider them the vegan version of Quest Bars. They have essentially the same exact amount of protein and carbs (including fiber). Fat is even a little bit lower on the No Cow Bars. My favorite flavors are the Mint Chocolate Chip, Peanut Butter Crunch & Raspberry Truffle. No photo evidence for you but trust me on it.

7/8PM Dinner

One of my favorite dinner stapes is  the same ingredient you can find in this meal. It racks in 25g of protein per serving and tons of fiber along with it. I generally use it as my base and top with veggies, of course.

Other frequent dinners are generally similar to my lunches…salads, grains and veggies. 

Or sometimes I go for tapas instead 😉

It’s been surprisingly easy to go out to eat, most restaurants have at least one vegan option on the menu or a few that I can at least modify to fit my needs. Thank god sangria is vegan.

 

Stratie takes Barcelona. 🍷🍷🍷

A photo posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

9/10 PM: Dessert

Sometimes (most of the time) I get hungry one last time before bed so I have myself half a Complete Cookie and maaaaybe top it with some nut buttah.

Follow me on Instagram and Snapchat (@sarahjgaines) to see how the rest of #TheVeganExperiment pans out!

Check out these articles too:

What Happens When A Meathead Goes Vegan
Why I’m Going Plant Based
Follow My Whole 30 Journey
What You Need To Know About The New FDA Nutrition Labels

4 Healthy On-The-Go Snacks You Can’t Live Without

I’m the type of person that needs to eat every 2-3 hours or I will continue to eat even after I’m full. So when I’m running around all day, I bring healthy snacks to ensure I get all the nutrients I need instead of eating junk food conveniently at my disposal.

These are a few food items that are my go-to whenever I pack snacks for the busy days:

1. Apples

Apples work for me on their own or sliced and dipped into nut butters. I only use nut butters that have 1 ingredient: nuts! You don’t need the extra salt added or any extra oils, so make sure you check the ingredients.

 Apples

2. Hard-boiled eggs

These are GREAT to bring around and are one of the best sources of protein you can get.  I’ll take 10 minutes while I’m getting ready in the morning to boil up some eggs if I know I won’t be making my usual scrambled eggs (which is rare because I eat them all the time, with tons of veggies of course).

eggs

3. Trail mix

I’m a huge advocate- can’t live without it. However, it is important to correctly portion out how much to put in your bag because the serving size (approximately ¼ cup) is smaller than you think; you will get full from it because nuts are addicting. But have no fear, the high fat, protein, and fiber will fill you up! In my trail mix I like to include slivered (or whole) almonds, peanuts, raisins and cranberries, sunflower seeds, and pepitas.

4. Carrots/grapes/any fruits or veggies

These may not be as filling as trail mix, but are perfect for when you just need something to nibble on. Many people are guilty of eating when they’re not hungry (myself included), so I always pack fruits/veggies (currently I’m obsessed with carrots) that I can chew on when those mid-day munchies start to hit.

There are many other portable snacks, but these are some of my go-to’s because they require minimal prepping and they’re nutritious. Snack bars are a viable option, but be sure to read the labels carefully.

So instead of snacking on those tempting chips from the vending machines, pack these healthy goodies in your bag during your busy days.

Check out these articles, too:

10 Instagram Worthy Ways to Make Toast Less Boring

Never eat boring toast again. 

Toast is a reputable snack choice, there’s no doubt. With a healthy mix of carbs and fats, it’s a great quick way to eat something yummy and substantial between meals.

But when you’re just eating bread and butter every day, it can get pretty dull. Well, I’m here to tell you that that’s totally unnecessary: these Instagrammers have got this whole “toast” thing down, and replicating their ideas is easier than you’d think. 

1. Mix your sweet and savory. 

 One slice fruity, one slice eggy. No yawns from this girl this morning, that’s for sure. 

And this greek yogurt tuna salad is a perfect healthy way to sneak in some more protein. 

2. One word: yogurt.

 

Don’t mind me, just having a super sweet Saturday 😋 here’s some more of my newest obsession: YOGURT TOAST 🙌 and PECAN BUTTER ❤️ . . thanks so much @purelypecans for introducing me to this creamy & sweet nut butter — it’s a winner for sure. . . Livin it up with the summer fruits with toast topped with: 🔹nonfat plan @siggisdairy Greek yogurt . 🔹stevia packet from @sweetleafstevia (told y’all I’m into this stuff 🙃) 🔹sliced frozen peaches 🍑 🔹blueberries 💙 🔹pecan butter from @purelypecans (this stuff is the 💣 diggity) 🔹cinnamon! 😋👌 . . . . . . . . . . . #yogurt #foodisfuel #protein #toast #breakfast #healthybreakfast #healthy #nutrition #peach #blueberries #blueberry #sweettooth #fruit #fruits #carbs #nuts #peanutbutter #healthyeating #healthyfood #healthyliving #healthychoices #healthyeats #strongnotskinny #snack #foodstagram #fitfood #fitfam #postworkout #plantbased #vegetarian

A photo posted by Holly Van Hare (@eating_peanut_better) on

Get a little extra protein in there with your sweet snack by spreading greek yogurt on your toast before adding fruit and other toppings. 

3. Make your own (healthier) jam. 

 

Post-workout breakfast today was 2 slices of @foodforlifebaking 7 Sprouted Grains bread topped with @wild_friends Cinnamon Raisin Peanut Butter, @hodgsonmill Flax Chia Blend, delicious warm berries (just microwave, mash, then microwave again! So yummy!), banana coins, and then an extra drizzle of peanut butter because you can really never have too much in my book 🙈 I made this colorful plate to try to brighten up this gloomy, rainy day and right when I went outside to eat, the sun came out ☀️☀️☀️ Workout this morning was a 20 minute bike HIIT + about 40 minutes of ab work with as little rest as possible! Hopefully they’ll start coming around to say hi if I keep giving them attention 💪🏻 if the rain holds out, I plan to go for a long walk with the 🐶 Wishing you the best Thursday #fitfam 😸 #happyandhealthy #health #healthy #healthyfood #healthychoices #healthylifestyle #healthyliving #healthylife #healthybreakfast #healthyfoodshare #healthyeats #healthyeating #workout #postworkout #cleaneats #cleaneating #foodie #foodisfuel #eeeeeats #eatclean #eathealthy #eatinghealthy #eattherainbow #eattogrow #eatrealfood #eatright #strongnotskinny #fit #fitness

A photo posted by Taylor (@hummusjunkie) on

It’s as easy as microwaving berries, mashing them with a fork, microwaving them again, and BAM. Sweet, juicy, no-added-sugars-in-this-corner HEAVEN. 

4. Get seasonal.

Make like this gal and find some seasonal-flavored nut butter (pumpkin spice PB, say WHAAAAT?!) and in-season figs. 

Or, you know, use whatever in-season fruits you have at your disposal. Really any of them work like magic.  

5. Use allllll of the superfoods. 

This classy gal used a nice mix of seeds, but you can choose whatever nutrient-dense toppings your heart desires. 

6. Put an egg on it. 

No, I don’t mean just plain old eggs and toast. Scramble some eggs with cheese, and each bite will taste HEAVENLY with cheesy, yolk-y goodness. 

7. Add more grains. 

 

Taking Toast Tuesday to the beach this morning ☀️🙂 Of course I packed some of my staple food items with me! There was no way I was going a week without peanut butter 🙅🏻 Just gotta be careful cause my cousin is allergic, so I only brought one jar 🙈 But sadly, I didn’t have room for my waffles so y’all are gonna have to celebrate Waffle Wednesday in my honor tomorrow 😔😫 But for today, I’ve got BBG week 1 arms and abs to do (because my legs got burnt like 🔥 yesterday so legs couldn’t happen) 😡 Still pumped though 💪🏼 Love arm day! Two slice @foodforlifebaking cinnamon raisin ezekiel toast 🍞 + @crazyrichardspb chunky pb 🍯 + banana coins 🍌 + one w/ @purely_elizabeth blueberry hemp granola & one w/ @arrowheadmills puffed kumat • Strawberries 🍓 + unpictured coffee w/ hazelnut @so_delicious creamer #health #healthy #healthyfood #yummy #legday #fitness #fitspo #fitgirl #fitfood #foodie #food #foodporn #diet #eatclean #cleaneating #cleaneats #eathealthy #eatforabs #weightloss #plantbased #bbg #gains #bbggirls #iifym #workout #getfit #instafood #instagood #breakfast #eat

A photo posted by Shannon (@fitstrongshann) on

Who doesn’t love carbs? Adding some puffed grains or granola can take your toast to the next level. 

8. Use greens. 

 

decisions I never regret: having more GREENS in my life 🍃 • whether it’s with my food, beverages, or SURROUNDINGS 🌳 after this afternoon’s cycle class 🚴 with @sarahjgaines (her classes at @cycfitness leave me feeling A+, every time 👌) I took a lovely walk around Boston Common. Just spending time outdoors and hangin around trees (as lame as that sounds) is a wonderful way to brighten your entire day ~ . ANYWHO enough of my rambling. Here’s some food lol • SNACK includingggg: 🔹1 slice toast 🔹some spicy avocado @hopefoods hummus (this stuff rocks 🎉 🔹arugula for some #greens 🔹edamame! 💚 . . . . . . . . . . . . . #snack #toast #healthysnack #healthy #arugula #green #eattherainbow #eatclean #eattherainbow #edamame #hummus #spicy #avocado #carbs #chickpeas #protein #healthychoices #beans #healthyfood #healthyeating #healthyliving #vegan #vegetarian #vegetables #veggies #plantbased #postworkout #fitfood #fitfam

A photo posted by Holly Van Hare (@eating_peanut_better) on

Getting more greens in your diet is never a bad thing. And there are lots and lots to choose from. 

9. Don’t use bread. 

WOAH. Game = changed.

Use sweet potato like this foodie: 

Or even try fruit slices if you’re feelin’ extra sweet: 

 

tbh tried to make one of those artsy apple sandwiches & ultimately failed, but hey, it still tasted good // broke my juice cleanse this morning with this gorg red delicious apple covered with PB, pepitas, @manitobaharvest hemp seeds, @simplyorganicfoods cayenne & lots of cinnamon (per usual) // but I also wanted to talk to you guys about balance, mindset & listening to your body. today I woke up too late for my 7am boxing class, but instead of freaking out like I would half a year ago about not working out, I saw it as an opportunity to let my body rest after all the work it’s been through. & so I went on a short (and by short I mean like actually ridiculously short) run in the morning – & it was enough. it was enough to feel my feet pounding the pavement, to breathe in the pre-rain air. it was enough that I wasn’t trying to burn calories or justify eating – I just wanted to enjoy the weather by being outside. & it’s balance that some mornings you eat apples for breakfast and have ice cream before dinner (because you gotta take advantage of #freeconeday amiright?) #approachingpaleo

A photo posted by N A N C Y CH E N (@approachingpaleo) on

10. Stick with the tried and true. 

 

can we all agree that avo toast is the most beautiful thing on the planet??? #approachingpaleo

A photo posted by N A N C Y CH E N (@approachingpaleo) on

Sometimes all you really need is a good, trustee slice of avo toast. AVOCADOS FOR LIFE. 

I’ll toast to that 😏.

Make Amazing Summer Veggies With Your Grill

These grilled vegetables are the perfect side dish for any and all meals.

Grilled veggies are like my favorite thing ever… Well, besides peanut butter, sweet potatoes, watermelon… Okay so I have a few favorites.

But I do eat these with my meals at least 5 times a week; I can’t get enough. They are also ridiculously simple and so perfect for the summer. Oh and they pair so wonderfully with these quinoa bowls… hint hint.

Time: 20-25 minutesvegetables

When to eat it: With any and every meal

Perks: Works for any vegetables, easy clean-up

Sh*t You Need:

Your favorite veggies (My go-tos include brussel sprouts, bell pepper, carrots, broccoli, and onion)
Fresh dill
Garlic powder
Coconut or avocado oil*

*Fun fact: Coconut and avocado oil both have high smoke points and don’t denature when exposed to high heats. Oils like olive and canola both have lower smoke points so they denature and become carcinogenic when heated; it’s best to try and use avocado or coconut when cooking and save the olive oil for things like dressings!

Grill
Aluminum foil

The Recipe:

1. Light grill

2. Chop veggies into large chunks.

3. Throw them on top of a large piece of foil.

4. Sprinkle with the dill and garlic powder (or whatever seasonings you like).

5. Spray with coconut or avocado oil.

6. Take foil and fold over to make a tightly wrapped packet.

7. Put the packet on the grill (temperature should be around 300°) and set timer for 10 minutes.

8. When 10 minutes is up, flip the packet over and set for another 10 minutes.

9. Take packet off the grill, unwrap, and enjoy!

Recipe was contributed by Becca Hauser (Sacred Heart University). Check out her Instagram for more. 

Check out these recipes, too: 

What Happens When A Meathead Goes Vegan

vegan

At first glance, you wouldn’t take me for a meathead. I’m 5ft, hair often in pigtail braids, and the majority of the time, you can find me either dancing, smiling, laughing or singing. 

What you think of when I say “meathead.”

 Actually me…

 

 

A video posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

 
But my small stature and fun times aside, I’m gonna put it out there and call myself a meathead. Here’s my justification:

  • I’m accustomed to 5-6 small meals a day, each consisting of lean protein
  • Egg whites, chicken, ground turkey & greek yogurt have been my go-to’s for years
  • I find great joy in picking things up and putting them down
  • There’s nothing I love more than a good flexing picture
  • My last names is GAINES – seriously. Check my bio at the bottom if you don’t believe me. 

So yes, I think it’s safe to say that I’m somewhat of a meathead. A meathead that’s about to go vegan.


I know. I know what you’re thinking…”What is she doing? How will she get enough protein? Vegans are crazy. This girl is crazy.” But hear me out.

For starters, I’m not doing this forever (at least I don’t think I am). I am adopting a vegan diet for a two-month long experiment. Veganism is such a heated topic: you’re either a vegan and want everyone in the world to be one too, or you think that vegans are a buncha crazy hippies. But putting all the generalizations aside, there is something to be said about a plant-based vegan diet.

The China Study, “The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition,” found a direct correlation between the growth of cancer cells and the consumption of animal-based milk products. Another massive study showed that red (and processed) meats are associated with significant increased risk of colorectal, colon and rectal cancers. Fabulous. On the contrary, meat contains certain amino acids – the building blocks of life! – that you simply can’t find in plant-based foods. Not to mention, meat provides all that good protein we need to build muscle. (In all fairness, I tried to find studies that said eating meat was good for you and I honestly couldn’t)

But the question remains…what do we do? Who can we trust?

The answer is simple: our blood.

Did that sound creepy? I apologize.

But it’s true! Who better can we trust than ourselves and our physical reactions? The incredible thing about our bodies is that every single one of us is different. Every single one of us will react differently to the same adjustment made to our lifestyle. In case you haven’t realized it by now, there is no “one-size-fits-all” way of eating or exercising that works for everyone. You have to experiment and figure it out for yourself. So that’s what I’m doing…. a two-month long experiment, adopting a plant-based vegan diet. That’s no animal by-products whatsoever: no fish, no meat, no dairy, no Quest bars *gasp*.

To conduct this experiment, I’ll be tracking my food intake, energy levels and mood on a daily basis. I’ll also be working with Inside Tracker, Cenegenics and Skylar Griggs to get serious about this experiment. 

Before I get into my results, a quick note about why I was really excited to do this experiment and document it on behalf of Fit University: As young people, we have the attention span of a gold fish. We take every statement we hear as truth and eat up what the media wants to be the next big trend (i.e. fad diets). Now, I know these are broad statements, but when was the last time you really dug into a claim made about the newest superfood or “7 minute workout that really works?” I was excited to do this experiment because I was excited to share the data I collected from it, and expose you all to that data. Real science is often not seen in health & fitness articles we skim through on a daily basis…until today. #sciencebitch

So without further ado, here we go. My body as a carnivore as of July 15, 2016…

Inside Tracker: Blood Don’t Lie

vegan experimentBefore starting this experiment, I asked a few people why I should or why I shouldn’t go vegan. The pro-vegans said I should do it because it will make me “healthier.” While the anti-vegans said I shouldn’t do it because I’ll miss out on certain macro & micronutrients that are so readily available in animal-based products. Steak was also a common answer – straight up, “Don’t go vegan because steak.” Fair.

So to really see just how healthy going vegan will make me, I turned to Inside Tracker. Inside Tracker lets you see “how healthy you are on the inside” by analyzing the level of minerals/vitamins/lipids, etc. in your blood and giving you nutritional, physical and supplemental recommendations to improve those levels. Here’s how it works:

  • Schedule a lab appointment to get your blood drawn (this is included in the price of the test).
  • A few days later, open your email with results and recommendations for improvement. Easy as [vegan] pie.

As a society, we’re so caught up on what fitness should look like on the outside, that we so rarely stop and think about what’s going on on the inside. Inside Tracker let’s you into that unknown layer and gives you scientifically backed info you need to improve it. 

While I won’t list every biomarker I had tested, here are a few that I think are most important to analyze in this experiment. At the end of the two months, I’ll get my blood work done again and see how things have changed. Let’s start with the bad stuff!

Glucose: Normal levels are 70-99mg/dL.

AKA sugar, AKA Carbs. Glucose is your body’s primary source of energy. Having high glucose puts you at risk for Diabetes, high blood pressure, weight gain and other fun things. Read more about glucose here. My glucose is in the normal range but as you’ll see from the graph below, is creeping up to borderline high.* Inside Tracker recommended I consider a vegetarian or vegan diet to lower my blood sugar. I think they know something…….

inside tracker

*You’ll see that I had my blood work done back in January and my glucose has increased since then. Too many acai bowls, Sarah!

HDL: Normal range is 40-50 mg/dL (men), 50-59 mg/dL (women).

HDL means high-density lipoproteins, if ya wanna get fancy. If not, “good cholesterol” will suffice. Inside Tracker says that HDL acts “as cholesterol scavengers, picking up excess cholesterol in your blood and taking it back to your liver where it’s broken down. If your levels of HDL are low, you may be at greater risk of poor heart health.” My HDL came in just a few points above low. But good news…if I lower my glucose, my HDL should increase. On the opposite side of the spectrum, both my LDL (“bad cholesterol”) total cholesterol were optimized. Sweet!

Triglycerides: Normal range is < 150 mg/dL. 

A complicated way to say fat cells. If you eat more than you burn, calories turn into triglycerides. Like HDL, high tri’s (not a medical term) are associated with high glucose. My level of triglycerides was high and one of Inside Trackers recommendations was to lose weight (omg how could they?!). This will connect with my findings from Cenegenics..but more on that later. 

Iron (Ferritin + Hemoglobin): Normal ferritin range is 24 – 336 ng/dL (men), 11 – 307 ng/dL (women). Normal hemoglobin range is 13.5 – 17.5 g/dL (men), 12.0 – 15.5 g/dL (women). 

A necessary mineral in our bodies that does all the things. My iron group showed optimized based off of my ferritin (protein that stores iron) and hemoglobin (iron-containing little guys that carry O2 from my lungs to my brain, muscles & digestive system). Optimal levels of iron improve strength, increase endurance, and enhance overall aerobic performance. As Skylar told me, this is an important mineral to keep track of during the next 2 months as vegans are at a greater risk of iron deficiency than meat eating peeps. Read why iron is so important here.

Calcium: Normal range is 8.5-10.2 mg/dL.

Keeps yo’ bones strong. My blood shows that my calcium levels are currently optimized – which is very interesting when you look at my bone density test done by Cenegenics. Stay tuned. But according to my blood, my calcium is good. Again, Skylar let me know that calcium is another mineral vegans need to be aware of since we tend to think of calcium coming from milk, yogurt & other dairy products. 

Vitamin D: Normal range is 20-50 ng/mL.

Think of Vitamin D as Calcium’s best friend. VD helps the body absorb calcium and therefore, keeps your bones healthy. My current VD levels are swell but I’ll need to be wary (and potentially take a supplement) since very few foods – especially vegan ones – contain VD.  

vegan experiment

My results
 Glucose: 89mg/dL
 HDL: 50mg/dL
 LDL: 67 mg/dL
 Triglycerides: 148mg/dL
 Ferritin: 63ng/mL
 Hemoglobin: 14g/dL
 Calcium: 9.9mg/dL
 Vitamin D: 42ng/dL

Cenegenics: Hello Sarah, Meet Your Body 

So now that I have a rundown of all things blood, I decided to take things a step further to see how this whole vegan thing would affect my body on a more physical level. Enter, Cenegenics. Cenegenics’ main goal is to help patients “get and stay healthy through a personalized program of nutrition, exercise, corrective hormone therapy, and nutritional supplementation.” Cenegenics provides a ton of tests, a few in which I was particularly interested in for this experiment.

It’s easy to think that we’re healthy or fit – or an the contrary, unhealthy and unfit – but Cenegenics takes the guessing games out by giving you real data on the spot.

RMR: Average is ~1350 for a woman my age & height.

Resting Energy Expenditure. In other words, how many calories you burn if you were to sit in bed and watch Netflix ALL day. Of all the tests with Cenegenics, I was most excited for this one. I’ve always attributed my difficulty losing weight to having “a slow metabolism.” When in reality, my metabolism is quite great for a woman my age… 17% better than the average, in fact! This is probably (definitely) due to the amount of muscle I’ve earned over the past few years. More muscle = stronger metabolism. What my RMR results made me realize was that my slow metabolism excuse can has got to go, and I just like to eat a lot – more than my body burns unfortunately. 

Body Fat: Normal range for the average person is 18 – 24% (men), 25 – 31% (women). 

The percentage of fat to muscle in your body. A certain amount of body fat is needed to for basic functions of living but too much fat can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and more! While I fall in the “normal” class for BMI, Cenegenics does recommend women don’t go above 25% body fat. So yes, I have more body fat than I should – GASP. This goes back to the Triglyceride count with Inside Tracker…remember it was high? So yes, I said it. I’m overweight. Do you not trust me as a fitness professional anymore?

Cenegenic’s DEXA scan showed I hold the most fat in my upper thighs and lower stomach, where women tend to hold fat. On the plus side (no pun intended), the scan showed that I have essentially zero visceral fat (bad fat surrounding your organs that can lead to all kinda bad diseases). Another thing that was cool about the DEXA was that is showed me my body fat % in each of my limbs..the meathead in me was very happy to see that both my right & left leg have pretty much the same amount of muscle. #symmetry

I’m interested to see how this number changes over the next 2 months. Based on my RMR, Skylar has me eating 2000 calories per day, which with exercise, should have me at ~1500 net calories per day. If you’re not good at math (like me!), that means I should lose some weight over the course of this experiment. I couldn’t really care less about losing weight – that was never my intention with this experiment – but what I do care about is not losing any muscle. Sure, I could lose weight by going vegan (a common misconception), but if I’m losing muscle and gaining fat, I will be one very sad lady. That’s why I’m working with Skylar, to ensure I’m eating both the proper amount of food & the proper types of food so that doesn’t happen.

VO2 Max: Normal range is 33.0 – 36.9 (women), 42.5 – 46.4 (men) for someone my age. Other ages found here.

How efficiently your body exchanges oxygen… the higher your VO2 Max, the better. To put it into perspective, endurance athletes like Lance Armstrong rack up numbers in 70-80 range. Your grandma that chain smokes? Probably 10-20.

 

A video posted by Sarah Gaines (@sarahjgaines) on

My 44.2 score put me above average and in the “Superior” fitness level. *Pats self on back*

Mark explained that leaner people tend to have higher VO2 maxes, so this number could potentially raise if I lose some weight. We shall see.

Bone Density: Normal range based on a T score at or above -1.0.

I didn’t have any expectations for this test…I’m young, I exercise, I’ve only broken one bone (knock on wood), and like Inside Tracker showed, my calcium levels are good. So it was very surprising when two vertebras in my spine showed Osteopenia – bone density lower than normal. Granted, I’m right on the cusp on Osteopenia and normal, but still…this is an issue that needs addressing and I would have NEVER known if I hadn’t taken this test. If you’re familiar with Osteoporosis, Osteopenia is one step below it. This was especially alarming to me because my mom has Osteoporosis so it clearly runs in the family…and again, I’m only 22!!! Wtf bones.

Mark explained that taking a Vitamin D & Calcium supplement and eating an alkaline diet – lots of leafy green veggies – could help to improve this. I’m pretty sure that changing my diet over the course of 2 months won’t make a huge difference but this is something that I will be getting a second opinion on and actively working to improve.

Of all the tests I had done, this was certainly most shocking. It just goes to show you that our bodies have so much going on in the inside that we may never know about. This is why it’s so important to be proactive and treat your body right. Eat good for you foods, exercise, and give your body the love & rest it deserves. Experiment with what YOUR good for you foods are. Figure out what kind of exercise you love most and what works for your body. I may thrive off toast & avocado and you may live off bananas & peanut butter. I may be a meathead and you may be a runner – we will probably never workout together and that’s ok! See you in yoga maybe? 

My results:
 RMR: 1613 calories
 Body fat: 30.9% (37.8 lb fat, 84.3lb lean)
 VO2 max: 44.2 ml O2/kg/min
 Bone density: L1 = -1.2, L2 = -1/4, L3 = -0.5, L4 = -.3

Summary

Over the next two months, I’m switching from a heavy animal-based diet to a plant-based vegan one. I’ve started the experiment off with blood work from Inside Tracker and a few physical tests from Cenegenics. I’m working alongside Nutritionist & Registered Dietician Skylar Griggs to make sure I’m getting all the macro & micronutrients I need. At the end of the two months, I’ll be getting all of these tests done again to see how things have changed. For better? For worse? Til death do us part.

I’ll be checking in back here after a month with an update but if you wanna see what I’m eating & feeling on daily basis, make sure you’re following me on Instagram and Snapchat: username is @sarahjgaines for both.

As I begin my vegan adventure down the road of legumes, kale and tofu, I leave you with one final thought….

vegan Until next time, friends!

The Argument Against Brunch

 

If I ever have to go to brunch, (yes, have to, it’s never my first choice) I eat a full breakfast a few hours beforehand.

People don’t like to eat brunch until 11 or 12, and by that point on a Saturday, I’ve already exercised, finished a reading for my International Relations class, probably gone grocery shopping, and definitely have been hungry and wanted to eat.

(A typical @wholesomelyhannah – approved breakfast!)

A typical @wholesomelyhannah – approved breakfast!

My mornings are so precious, so fleeting, and I am obsessed with enjoying them to their utmost capacity. I’m happiest on the mornings when I can workout, spend some time walking outside (weather permitting), and accomplish a chore or a task on my to-do list. I love to feel productive by 12PM on a Saturday, and not feel like my day is just starting with some eggs and coffee once noon drags around.

trees

Noon. That’s my lunchtime.

That’s the other problem with brunch. It clumps two meals into one! Who made that a thing?

I see the side of, “Well it’s great because then you can just eat sooo much more food at one time,” but who actually feels fantastic after wolfing down a gigantic, stuff-your-face-with-bacon, pancakes, and a sandwich type of meal? I may feel stuffed to the core (literally), but I do not feel content or feel that perfect type of satisfied, like I do after my regular meals.

Doesn’t this look like a great way to wake up?

Doesn’t this look like a great way to wake up?

I want to be able to sit down to a meal at least three times every day. To me, this feels like I get to eat more food, because breakfast and lunch are separated and happen at different times. Brunch messes up this ideal schedule.

Plus, I feel more balanced and checked in with my hunger cues. If I’m waiting until I’m starving and then devouring too much food in one sitting, I feel off-balance. I’d rather eat when I’m hungry, stop when I’m full, and repeat.

Now, I understand that some people simply are not morning people, and some love the idea of eating a ton of food at one time on lazy Saturdays & Sundays. And that is absolutely fine. You do your thing! We all have to find what makes us joyous and run with it.

breakfast

Other people, however, may just like the idea of going out to a meal on a beautiful weekend morning, which I can totally vibe with. Want to take me out to breakfast? Fabulous. I’ll be ready at 8:00AM.

Check out these articles too: 

10 Healthy Snacks That Will Get You Through Finals

healthy study snacks to get you through finals

1. Apples & peanut butter

Grab an apple, slice it up, and have with a side of peanut butter (1-2 tbsp is the average serving size). Give yourself a creative break and make your plate look as good as @jordankrausefit’s.

 

A photo posted by Jordan Krause (@jordankrausefit) on

2.Mint chocolate overnight oats

The excite-mint is real with this one. Make your overnight oats ahead of time so you can be ready to go first thing in the morning. @beccasbowl’s layers it with a chocolate banana protein shake then tops it off with half a protein bar and some granola. 

 

A photo posted by ? Becca’s Bowls ? (@beccasbowls) on

3. Cacao coconut bliss balls

Throw a handful of these in a plastic bag and pop a few when you’re getting hungry. @freshfitfearless has the full recipe in her e-book full of vegan recipes & smoothies. 

4. Greek yogurt with fruit & choco peanut butter

Protein-packed and crazy easy to make. Follow Fit U ambassador @ellen_slater’s lead with greek yogurt, chocolate peanut butter & some fruit.

 

A photo posted by Ellen (@ellen_slater) on

5. Cinnamon sweet potato fries

Your friends will love you – and possibly eat all of these. Fit U ambassador @wholesomehannah gives the full recipe on her blog.

6. Baked bananas & peanut butter

Bananas & peanut butter are good, but baked bananas & peanut butter takes it to a whole other level. Fit U’s Content Manager @bites.and.banter knows how to get it done.

 

A photo posted by Holly Van Hare (@bites.and.banter) on

7. Mixed nuts, dark chocolate & fruit

Incredibly easy, incredibly satisfying. Nuts are filled with healthy fats to fuel your study session. Fit U ambassador @foodietunes throws in some dark chocolate for added sweetness.

 

A photo posted by Christina Chu (@foodietunes) on

8. Celery sticks with drizzled chocolate

Ants on a log are a classic snack. @eatcleanandexercisedaily amps it up by adding drizzled chocolate (mix 1 tbsp of coconut oil & 1 tbsp of cocoa powder) and granola.

9. Oats & fruit 

You can’t really go wrong with oatmeal…it can be made 10000 different ways. @hummusjunkie adds peanut butter & fruit – between the fiber of the oatmeal and the healthy fats of the PB, you’ve got yourself an A level snack.

 

A photo posted by Taylor (@hummusjunkie) on

10. Banana ice cream

When you get home from the library at 2am and you really want something sweet, make @balanced_beaming’s banana nice cream. Here are some other healthy ice cream options you could try.

 

A photo posted by ? K I M ? (@balanced_beaming) on

You Need to Hear About Jamie Oliver’s Plan to Solve Obesity

What basic household item could possibly prevent 100,000 cases of heart disease, 8,000 strokes and 26,000 deaths? Food. Or really, lack thereof. Fit University, meet Jamie Oliver.

Jamie Oliver

You may know him as the UK Chef,


restaurant owner,


recipe developer,


successful author,


and TV personality,

 

My view when I’m cooking for you guys …. The crew

A photo posted by Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver) on


but how can this man help reduce childhood obesity?

 

Hey guys, I’m still so happy about yesterday’s news about the sugary drinks tax that will be introduced in the UK in 2 years!! It’s a bold and good first step by our government but this is just the start and i have some questions ill be asking. there are still other measures that must be put in place to protect the health and future of our kids. A tax on its own wont work. There are six things me and a load of health professionals have recommended to Mr Cameron that should be part of the Childhood Obesity Strategy due to come out this summer….. This is defiantly about protecting the future of our kids … please hit the link in my bio and take a look, share and #regram Just look at what we can achieve when we keep pushing!! #foodrevolution

A photo posted by Jamie Oliver (@jamieoliver) on

Known for his 2010 TV Show, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, where Oliver travelled across America revealing the hefty problems with our food industry, Oliver took his leverage back to his native country (I guess he needed a break from America, I get it, Jamie) and fought to apply a sugar tax on sugary beverages. He won.

Starting in 2018, Oliver would change the future of one of the least healthy countries in Europe. Here’s a breakdown of his plan:

  • A tax of 20 pences (30 US cents) per liter of sugary drink (this could include soft drinks, or even certain smoothies), to discourage consumers from purchasing the sugary drink.

grocery

  • The taxes yield up to 1 billion pounds (just under $1.5 billion, casual) to be recycled back into the community by funding programs aiming to decrease obesity.
  • A visual of the number of teaspoons of sugar in the drink will be displayed on its packaging. Traditionally sugar content is given in grams, which is harder for the average consumer to conceptualize than a teaspoon. It’s all about awareness!
  • Traffic light labeling with be enforced. Basically, red means bad and green means go. And yellow means “slow down and think twice”.

Jamie Oliver

  • Food education will become a priority in schools. This education involves students and parents; not only will students learn to cook and learn about nutrition, (i.e., where food comes from and how it affects your body), but in addition he parents will learn how to pack their kids a healthy school lunch. (Finally)
  • Products with high fat, sugar, or salt (“HFSS”) will not be marketed around school campuses. HFSS products sold in supermarkets will be strongly discouraged by the government.
  • Advertising for junk HFSS foods will not appear on TV before 9 pm. When children watch TV, they are no longer exposed to the tempting and convincing messages in junk food advertising.
  • Companies that fail to follow these new laws will be punished.

punishment

So yes, world; it’s that simple. If Jamie Oliver can do it for England, why can’t we do it here in America too?

And you can help! How? Simply making micro-changes to your daily life and influencing your loved ones to make small changes to live a healthy lifestyle can make such a difference.

Here are a couple of changes you can make, inspired by Jamie Oliver himself:

  • Reduce your soda consumption. I can’t stress this enough! Consuming soda (pop, coke, what have you) on a regular basis can increase risk of obesity, diabetes, cavities, and so many other health problems. If you regularly consume soda, try slowly decreasing the amount you drink. For instance, if you drink a soda with every meal, try limiting it to one meal a day. Then one meal every 3 days, then one meal a week to one meal a month, and so on. Little changes can lead to big differences!
  • Carry a water bottle. Ok so you’ve reduced your soda consumption, but that doesn’t mean your need for fluids decreases as well. Carry a water bottle with you wherever you go. That way instead of being tempted to buy a soda, just take a drink from your water bottle instead! Bonus: you’re helping the environment as well as your bank account… and who doesn’t like saving money?

Money Please

  • Try seltzer or flavored water. While these drinks aren’t as great as water, they could serve as a great, non-sugar-loaded, naturally flavored alternative to sugary or diet sodas!

Let us know what you think, and tag us in your movement for a healthy lifestyle on Instagram @gofitu and use the hashtag #fituniversity!

How I Learned to Eat Well for My Body

I’ve always been an athlete. For my entire life, I’ve been involved in fitness and athletics in some way, shape, or form. As a kid I played soccer, basketball, and lacrosse, and I swam as well. By high school I was swimming competitively– often practicing twice a day, spending hours in the pool. I’d grown accustomed to always having a fast metabolism and eating pretty much anything my body craved without having to think twice. 

It wasn’t until college when I stopped swimming competitively that my body started to understand the gravity of how much I was in the pool and the true intensity of my previous fitness level. At that point, I wasn’t practicing like a swimmer, but I was still eating like one. Like before, I still wasn’t thinking about what I was putting into my body; only now it was different. I wasn’t using all that energy in the pool. 

This is when my real journey with fitness started. I realized that I needed to find new ways to be active in order to compensate for the loss of my competitive swimming. That’s when I started running. Running gave me the same high I used to get from the pool. I started practicing yoga, cycling… just about anything I could do to get my body moving again, I was doing. Not only was I able to begin eating as I wanted again, but I also found new energy. I felt this energy within myself, and my body was satisfied again.

Up next? My vegan journey. Initially, my decision to become a vegan was morality driven. I have always been an animal lover. However, as time moved on, I began to feel the positive effects that veganism had on my body. By removing dairy from my diet, I unintentionally eliminated a large amount of saturated fats from my diet as well, which improved my cardiovascular health. I found that I could amp up my workouts for longer periods of time without feeling burned out to exhaustion. Since I removed meat and added salt, my cholesterol is more steady, keeping my heart healthy and happy. Eating all raw, non GMO, natural foods gives me energy and makes my body incredibly happy.

My fitness journey, like many things in life, is ongoing and constantly improving and changing. I love my new lifestyle and am thankful for the positive effects it has had on my mind, body, and soul. Getting into a fit lifestyle will forever be the best choice I have ever made in my life, and I hope to be able to share that change with others!

Make This Simple Stir Fry & Fried Rice in 15 Minutes

This recipe is a template for any basic stir-fry dish. If you’re new to stir fry, click here get the low-down on this cooking technique, and here for recipes for a whole range of stir fry sauces.

I’ve left most of the ingredients of this recipe open to interpretation, so you can personalize it to fit your dietary needs and preferences!

(Example, pictured above: Beef sirloin steak tips stir-fry with green bell pepper, broccoli, zucchini, and mushrooms in a hot and sour sauce with egg-fried rice. Sliced garlic and chili peppers used as aromatics.)

Ingredients:

  • Protein of choice, sliced thin: chicken, lean beef, tofu, tempeh
  • Hard and soft vegetables of choice, cut into equal and bite- sized pieces
  • 1-2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • A few slices of red chili pepper
  • 1/3 cup of stirfry sauce of choice, plus more if necessary
  • 2 tablespoons of grapeseed, peanut, or vegetable oil, plus more if needed
  • ½ cup of rice, cooked and cooled
  • Soy sauce, chili garlic paste, or Sriracha to top

Instructions:

  1. Do the prep work – AKA cut up all your food & prep your sauces – then get everything within arm’s reach.stir fry
  2. Heat up a skillet or wok over medium-high heat. It should get hot enough to vaporize a drop of water within a few seconds. Add a tablespoon of oil and give it 30 seconds to heat up.
  3. Add in the meat or tofu, if using, and Stir-fry until it is brown on all sides. Cook in small batches to prevent the pan from overcrowding.

stir fry

  1. Transfer the meat or tofu out of the pan onto paper towels to dry the excess oil. Take the pan off the heat for a second and wipe the excess drippings of the meat from the wok with paper towels.

stir fry

  1. Return the wok to the heat. Add another tablespoon of oil to the wok and heat for 30 seconds. Add in the aromatics and stir-fry for 20 seconds, before moving them immediately to the edges of the pan so they do not burn, the way that they unfortunately did in this photo 🙂 .

stir fry

  1. Add in the tough vegetables and Stir-fry until slightly tender. If the wok is drying up, don’t be afraid to add in small amounts of water to help hard vegetables such as broccoli and carrots soften up. Just make sure the water has been completely dried up before adding the rest of the ingredients.

stir fry

  1. Push the hard vegetables to the edge of the pan. Add in the soft vegetables and Stir-fry for 1-2 minutes.

stir fry

  1. Mix in the cooked rice along with the stir-fry sauce. Add the sauce along the edges of the pan to prevent the vegetables from getting soggy. Let the sauce cook for 1-2 minutes so it reduces down a bit.

stir fry

  1. Push the contents of the pan to the ridges of the wok and add the beaten eggs to the center. Mix the eggs vigorously over the heat until they are nearly cooked, and then mix back together with the vegetables and rice.

stir fry

  1. Add the protein back in to the pan, if using, and stir until the protein is cooked all the way through. Serve with extra soy sauce, chili-garlic paste, siracha, or chopped/slivered nuts. Enjoy this delicious meal tonight, and fill out your application to work at P.F. Chang’s tomorrow.

stir fry

Help! I Went Abroad And My Skin Freaked Out…

To whoever is having this problem right now: trust me, I know what you’re going through!

Everyone has different skin experiences, of course, so my causes and remedies may not be the same as what your skin needs. But I’m here to help however I can!

Let me give you a little background on my history with the issue.

While I had the absolute time of my life in Greece last fall (via the N.U.in Program at Northeastern), I did experience something I’d never truly dealt with before: skin problems. In high school, I was lucky to never go through a serious acne bout. And upon arriving in Greece, my skin looked the same as it always had (clear, with the occasional blemish or two). But a few weeks into the semester, it all started to go downhill.

Well, what sparked the unwelcome change? And what do I wish I had done about it?

DAIRY

IMG_8061In Greece, I regularly consumed milk chocolate truffles, sugary marzipan, gelato, creamy hot chocolate, feta cheese, and Greek yogurt galore (nope, not Chobani. We’re talking the REAL stuff).

I would always have a stomachache after, but I thought that was my only side effect. I told myself I could deal with that, because I mean, it was only a few hours of discomfort. And who doesn’t love cheese?? But what I refused to believe was that the new acne spots appearing on my face (within a few days of eating these foods) were caused by dairy products.

LESSON #1:

I wish I had taken the diet-skin connection more seriously; had I done so, my skin probably would have remained clearer. At home, I never consumed as much dairy as I did while abroad. Read more about the relationship between dairy and acne here and here.

STRESS

People who live in the Mediterranean are supposedly very relaxed, but me on the other hand? I did not adopt this attitude while living in Thessaloniki. In fact, I developed quite the opposite. I let every little thing make me anxious — catching buses and planes, finding our way around a new city, (not) getting lost, having enough food, packing everything I needed to, getting stuck in crowds and lines of non-English speaking human beings, watching my phone die… I was a total walking ball of anxiety. Stress plays a major role in all areas of our wellness, and most certainly in our skin’s health (and clarity). Read more about effect that stress can have on skin here & here.

LESSON #2:

I wish that I could have told my abroad self this: “RELAX. It is all going to work out. Take a deep breath. And now take ten more.” I should have taken myself for walks, gone to bed earlier, and talked to friends about this anxiety. I’m not sure what your stress levels are like, but if they seem elevated definitely try to: sleep more, practice deep breathing throughout the day, go on walks around your city, talk with your friends (in your abroad program or on Skype with ones back at home).

IMG_8348

SLEEP

Because of this stress, city-hopping every weekend, sleeping in a super uncomfortable bed, and having such broken-up sleep (because I’d have to use the bathroom twice a night since I drank too much water before I went to bed…I know, I was crazy), I certainly did not get enough sleep in Greece. I know that for me, rest is crucial for decreasing stress levels, providing energy, and giving my body time to heal; I definitely believe that if I had gotten more rest, it would’ve helped my struggling skin out!

LESSON #3:

If you can get 7 to 8 hours of sleep on weeknights, you’re a rock star. I know it’s a bit harder on the weekends (since you are probably traveling and catching planes, trains, and buses at weird times of the day/night…and not to mention going out and having fun). But if you shoot for 5 nights of the week with 8 hours of sleep, I think that will put you on a great track to success!

“FIXING” IT

I tried to “fix” the problem by constantly touching my face (hello, germs!). This, my friends, NEVER helpful or worth it.

LESSON #4:

The skin on our faces is very delicate, and I wish I had respected that. My advice here is to avoid touching and popping stuff as much as possible. I wish I had told myself something like, “Your skin knows what to do and how to heal on its own… Be patient; it might take some time to heal, but it’ll get better!”

“JUNK” FOOD

IMG_9677Okay. This is a big one. I’m not specifically talking about dairy products like above, but about unhealthy meals and desserts.

I completely understand that experiencing the food in different cities and countries in an integral part of the study abroad adventure. I can still recall how creamy the cookie gelato in Rome tasted, and how buttery and crispy the French fries in Brussels were. Do I regret constantly eating treats while travelling last year? Not really – food was a huge factor in our international adventures, and I’m sure it is for you, too; I certainly don’t want to encourage any abroad students to restrict (and not enjoy) treat foods.

LESSON #5:

In my experience, eating sugary, highly processed desserts, junk foods, and beverages (we can’t forget the rosé…) on a regular basis did have a negative impact on my skin. So, if you’re someone with newfound skin problems and want to figure out what’s causing them, I’d encourage you to take a look into what you’re eating, and try to remove some of the junk foods to see if it helps reduce blemishes. I know that this definitely helped my skin to get better, and it’s one of the main reasons why I enjoy eating a diet full of real, whole, unprocessed foods now. {If you want to check out what my meals look like on a daily basis, look here!}

I hope you have so much fun during the rest of your time abroad, and if you’re freaking out a bit about your skin (or if you’re not – that’s great!), just know that it’s going to get better. Take deep breaths, get some sleep, and just be conscious of the types of foods and beverages that you are fueling your body with. CIAO!

Mindful Eating, and Why You Should Care

National Eating Disorder Awareness week is February 21st-27th this year, where the focus is on bringing public attention to the needs of people with eating disorders and their families.

mindful eating

Why is this important? Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental disorder1 and 30 million Americans will suffer from an eating disorder at some point of their lives2.

With so much pressure to look a certain way, fitness and health can sometimes become confusing and completely consuming. In a society obsessed with diets and calorie counting, our eating behaviors may not be as healthy as they were once intended to be. Case in point, 91% of college women have attempting to control their weight through dieting3. It’s easy to go from wanting to “just cut back on calories” to becoming obsessive and meticulous about what you eat. However you like to stay fit and healthy, it’s important to consider different ways to reach your goals, while keeping your mental health and overall wellbeing in mind.

This is where the idea of eating mindfully comes in. Mindful eating is a different approach that attempts to take some of the stress, anxiety, and unhealthy behaviors out of healthy eating.

What is mindful eating?

mindful eating

Mindful eating is a practice that is aimed to resolve the love-hate relationship with food, as well as trying to combat the mindless, consuming, and guilt-inducing way that many people in our society eat today.

This is eating with a purpose—to nourish yourself and to enjoy food and its effects on your body. Mindful eating embodies the entire process of eating. This means that when you eat, you have a heightened awareness of physical and emotional cues, non-hunger triggers for eating, as well as choosing foods for both enjoyment and nourishment. It’s all about creating a balance, which ultimately is done with the goal of developing a better, healthier, relationship with food.

Why is it important?

Mindful eating can be useful for those who struggle with food, in relation to negative thoughts and feelings. If you’ve ever struggled with binge eating, overeating, or emotional eating, you may find mindful eating particular helpful. Studies show that mindful eating leads to fewer symptoms of eating disorders, like binge eating.4

Mindfulness can make you aware of certain behaviors, which allows you to identify triggers and make healthy changes. When you eat mindfully you are clear on when you are hungry or full, which allows you to create healthier eating behaviors. Overall, mindful eating increases a sense of wellbeing. That’s something that everyone can benefit from, no matter your fitness level or your personal relationship with food.

How can I do it?

Just like diet or exercise, keep in mind that mindful eating doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. You can incorporate a couple simple mindfulness tips into your eating and see the differences it makes in your life. Start slow; take it one tip at a time to begin to incorporate mindful eating into your life. Like everything, it’s a process, but over time it can lead to a healthier, happier, life full of balance. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you get started:

Eat slower. This will give you more time to appreciate the food and reflect in all of it.

Pay attention to what you’re eating-experience all of the flavors and textures of what you’re eating. Savor and enjoy your food and embrace the good it’s doing for your body!

Find support. Talk to your friends about your desires to eat more mindfully, social support goes a long way.

If you have more serious concerns about your eating habits, reach out! There are a number of resources on each college campus, ranging from the counseling center to the student health center. Eating disorders are treatable and early intervention can increase the likelihood of preventing the onset of a full-blown eating disorder. Early intervention can save lives. 

Check these websites, too: they’re great resources for not only awareness, but intervention and support as well! 

National Eating Disorders

National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders

Eating Disorder Hope

Sources:

  1. American Journal of Psychiatry, Vol. 152 (7), July 1995, p. 1073-1074, Sullivan, Patrick F.
  2. Wade, T. D., Keski-Rahkonen A., & Hudson J. Epidemiology of eating disorders. In M. Tsuang and M. Tohen (Eds.), Textbook in Psychiatric Epidemiology (3rd ed.). New York: Wiley, 2011. p. 343-360.
  3. Multi-service eating disorder association
  4. http://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/030413p42.shtml

Use This One Simple Trick to Eat Healthier…

use this one trick to eat healthier

Chances are, you have seen one of these claims online before:

Lose 20 pounds just by drinking this tea on Instagram!

False.

Eat this South American berry and never feel bloated again!

Try again.

Use this wrap and instantly lose cellulite!

Really?

In the health industry, one-step solutions are usually a scam. However, there is one trick that everyone can use for guidance to a healthier life style – portion control.

Yep: it’s that simple.

Use This One Simple Trick to Eat Healthier...

One of the most widespread issues in America is portion sizing; in most restaurants, one serving of food is 250% larger than the suggested portion size. That means if you finish your entire plate of food, (of a dinner that would average around 650 calories) you will have consumed an excess of over 900 calories. The excess food that you would have consumed is greater than the dinner serving itself. Let that sink in.

But to every problem, there exists a solution (unless we’re talking calculus; let’s be real, that’s a never ending plethora of problems that still haunts me to this day—shout out to my mathematician brother). And there is a solution to portion sizing. One way to correct your portion sizes is by using smaller plates and bowls during a meal. The Small Plate Movement is bringing awareness to and promoting action to fix America’s portion control problem simply by promoting the use of a smaller plate at the dinner table. Using a small plate, a portion of food is perceived to be bigger when compared to the same portion on a traditional oversized plate.

Use This One Simple Trick to Eat Healthier... Use This One Simple Trick to Eat Healthier...

So, what are some ways that you can control your portion sizes?

    • Eat with small plates, such as dessert plates (or even your grandmother’s china if you ask nicely). Take it a step further and eat with dessert forks and spoons. I actually prefer to eat with smaller utensil, for portion size’s sake and also because it makes me feel like a giant, and that’s always fun too!
      • Simply putting large dishes in a place where they are not in your direct view or in reach will force you to use the small dishes more often.

Use This One Simple Trick to Eat Healthier...

      • Meal prep in advance. If you prepare your meals in a big batch, put them in single-serving Tupperware. Every meal, eat the food from one of the pre-portioned containers. You will be less likely to go and grab a little bit of extra (which let’s be honest, turns into a lot of extra when you eat family-style) after you’re already full. Plus, your meal can easily become an on-the-go alternative, if necessary. Additionally, try putting snacks in single-serving containers. Snacks are one of easiest foods to accidentally over-consume; dividing them into separate pre-packaged units will lessen your chance of going back and grabbing more.
      • When you’re at a restaurant, ask for a take-out box and pack half of your meal to-go immediately. This way, you don’t accidentally consume the entire oversized plate of food. Plus, you technically get two correctly-portioned meals for the price of one! You could also “order two appetizers instead of one entrée” to change your perception of the quantity of food consumed.

While it is important to enjoy your food, the reality of it is, the majority of Americans consume over-sized portions. But a smaller portion doesn’t necessarily mean less enjoyment! Simply changing your portion sizes to the standard quantity can be a huge step to lead you on the right path to a healthy lifestyle.

The foolproof gluten-free dessert you have to make

gluten-free dessert

Gluten-free, four ingredients, no-bake, and made without butter, refined sugar, or flour. It may seem too good to be true, but it all applies to this delicious fruit tart recipe. With permission from Sally’s Baking Addiction, I tried out her recipe and cannot stop raving about it. I tell my friends, my family, my neighbors, and while most of them tell me to shut up (typical), I am obsessed with how simple and healthy this recipe is.gluten-free dessert This recipe uses dates and raw cashews as a crust. Yep, that’s it. Dos ingredients. Commonly used in energy balls and Larabars, the dates are sweet and adhesive while the cashews add a smooth and buttery texture. Also, Greek yogurt (I used vanilla, but you can use any plain or any other flavor) is substituted for the fatty cream cheese filling. While Greek yogurt might not be as rich as cream cheese, it gets the job done with less fat and a more prominent tart flavor (pun intended) to balance with the sweetness from the fruit and the dates. This treat is also topped with fresh fruit, obviously, but omits the unnecessary sugar-filled glaze.

Now, you may think, “why would anyone want to make this recipe when it doesn’t have any of the rich, delicious (yet unhealthy) ingredients?” Well, since this fruit tart does use healthy, wholesome ingredients, it has a lower fat and sugar content and a higher fiber, protein, antioxidant, and other general health benefits than a traditional tart. Also, the procedure is far simpler than a traditional tart recipe. There are only four ingredients, five steps and you only need a pan/tin, a food processor, and a spoon. And really, who is opposed to easy cooking?

gluten-free dessert

If need more convincing to make this recipe, below are some reasons to try it out:

  • Dates are a low-glycemic index food, which means it will not raise your blood sugar as fast as refined sugar, and are a great source of fiber (1.6g for just one date!). Dates are also a good source of Vitamin B and potassium.
  • Cashews are also a great source of fiber as well as protein and unsaturated fat (0.9g of fiber, 5g of protein, 2.2g of polyunsaturated fat, and 7g of monounsaturated fat per 1 oz!). Additionally, cashews are filled with copper, Vitamin K, and antioxidants that are regarded as anticancer agents.
  • Greek Yogurt has an average of 13-20 g of protein per serving without compromising its creamy texture. To put it in perspective, a serving of Greek yogurt has approximately the same amount of protein as half of a serving of chicken. It also has probiotics to aid digestion.

Healthy, Gluten-Free Fruit Tart Recipe

Ingredients:

Edit Ingredients

  • 15 dates
  • 1½ cups of raw cashews
  • 1 container of Greek yogurt
  • A variety of fresh fruit

Procedure:

  1. Soak the dates in warm water for ten minutes. Drain and slice dates in half to dispose of the seed.
  2. Spray pan (either a tart pan or a muffin tin for mini tarts) with non-stick spray or cover with parchment paper if necessary. I used a non-stick muffin tin, so this step was not needed.
  3. Using a food processor, blend the raw cashews and depitted dates until the mixture is thick and adhesive (see photos for reference)
  4. Spread this crust mixture in your pan, making sure that every part of the pan is covered with the crust, especially at the bottom.
  5. Fill with Greek yogurt and decorate with the fresh fruit.

gluten-free dessert

So go. Try this recipe out. Surprise the friends and family who doubted your ability to make food by presenting them with these beautiful and easy fruit tarts. Prove the Paula Deen’s of this world wrong by showing them that we really don’t need more butter with everything. Eat your healthy heart out and enjoy every moment of it.

 

5 Healthy Breakfasts That Might As Well Be dessert

5 healthy breakfasts that might as well be dessert | fit university

Are you a sweet or savory kinda-breakfast-person? Either way, everyone can use a dessert-like breakfast once in a while. These 5 healthy breakfasts are so good that they might as well be dessert, you’d never even know they were good for you.

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Brownie batter peanut butter swirl oatmeal

Chocolate? Peanut butter? You can’t get much better than that combo. The best part about this recipe is that it’s dorm-friendly… just make the oatmeal in the microwave instead of on the stove. Boom.

 Strawberry-Chia-Smoothie-Bowl-cu

Strawberry-chia smoothie bowl

Smoothies are no longer just for drinking…now you can sit and enjoy your smoothie by the spoonful. With just a handful of fresh ingredients, this breakfast is ready in a few minutes and doesn’t disappoint your sweet tooth. 

5 (healthy) breakfasts that might as well be dessert | fit university

Banana oat greek yogurt muffins

Let’s get one thing straight – muffins you see in convenience stores are not healthy. They’re packed with tons of sugar and fat, leaving no room for protein (one muffin can cost you ~500 calories). These banana oat greek yogurt muffins, however, are made with whole ingredients and almost no added sugar. 

5 (healthy) breakfasts that might as well be dessert | fit university

Confetti cake protein pancakes

If you’re looking for a protein-packed, dessert-like breakfast, you have met your match. Is it breakfast? Is it cake? You be the judge. These pancakes are the perfect Saturday morning, post-workout brunch.

5 healthy breakfasts that might as well be dessert | fit university 

Apple pie oatmeal cookies

You never thought you could have pie for breakfast… until now. These apple pie oatmeal cookies are gluten-free, low-fat and made with whole, healthy ingredients. Grab a few on your way out the door when you’re headed to class — or maybe crumble one into some greek yogurt added protein.

5 Tips to Eating Healthy in College

healthy eating in college - fit university

College isn’t exactly known for being the healthiest time of our lives—there’s dining hall food, late night snacking, and sometimes the freedom of choosing our own meals proves to be overwhelming. I believe that it’s possible for everyone to eat healthy in college, if they spend just a little time making that effort.

I’ve lived in a dorm room the past 2 years with a dining hall meal plan, so I get it. It takes a little practice to get in the hang of making these choices, but with a couple of my simple tips, I think you too could become a pro at this healthy eating thing while you’re in college.

Keep reading for my 5 tips to eating healthy in college…

  1. Keep it simple. Walk into any dining hall on campus and you will see all sorts of crazy foods that appeal to the typical 20-year old. Mac & cheese, chicken nuggets, French fries, mozzarella sticks, it’s like every child’s dream in the dining hall. Sometimes we run a little wild because there are “NO RULES”, and we end up with a plate that has every single option on it. Think about the balanced plate drawing we had to do as kids—the one that had proteins, grains, veggies and fruits on it. Go into the dining hall with this kind of mindset. Pick lean proteins and whole grains if they’re available, and always load up on veggies. If you go to dinner thinking about how you’ll make your plate a simple, balanced meal, you’ll be making healthier choices without having to think too much about it.
    eating healthy in college
  1. Take charge of your eating. This is for all of you living in a dorm with limited (if any) access to a kitchen. One thing that has absolutely been the key to staying on track in the dorms is having access to healthier alternatives in my own room. I always have healthy snacks on hand: carrots & hummus, string cheese, yogurt, popcorn, etc. This comes from the logic that if it’s available to me, I will eat it. If it’s healthy, even better. I also really enjoy prepping some of my meals in the communal kitchen of my dorm. This way, if I’m really not in the mood for any dining hall food, I can grab some prepared grilled chicken and brown rice out of my mini fridge. It’s like takeout, just a little healthier!
    eating healthy in college
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask for what YOU want. If you want to eat healthy in the dining hall, it’s really important that you’re able to advocate for yourself. A lot of the time, you’ll see me in the dining hall at the grill, asking the workers to make me a grilled chicken sandwich without the bread. When chicken breasts aren’t being offered in the regular entrees section, this is a great option. Getting the chicken allows me to make a huge salad with some protein, or to get rice and beans from a different station and have an easy, healthy meal.
    eating healthy in college
  1. Eat a variety of foods/try new things. The first time I ever tried Quinoa was in the dining hall. I knew it was healthy but for whatever reason hadn’t tried it. I love it now! Eating healthy requires a number of things and one of them is variety. If you eat the same thing time and time again, you’ll get bored and won’t want to continue to eat that way, no matter how healthy it is. Take advantage of having someone else preparing food for you and experiment with the things they serve. You never know when you’ll find a new favorite.  
    eating healthy in college
  1. Maintain balance and moderation. This is the most important tip I could give you. Eating healthy is part of a healthy lifestyle and it should be treated as such. There should never be pressure to eat a certain food or a certain way. Eating healthy is about doing what’s good for your body, but maintaining balance and moderation in your life is about doing what’s good for your soul. Balance to me means eating healthy and working out the majority of the time because you love it and how it makes you feel. It also means that you can take a break from the gym and treat yourself sometimes without it being the end of the world. This is the only time you’re young and in college, so take advantage of that. Go out with friends and have an amazing meal, make some memories! Living a healthy lifestyle is recognizing that you need both moderation and healthy eating to create an ideal balance in your life. That’s what it’s all about right?