Tag: diet

Recipe: Stuffed Bell Peppers with Turkey

While everyone says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, I say that lunch should be the biggest!

Some of you know that I am on a healthy journey and trying to lose some weight that stress, moving, and the holidays have all packed on. One of the changes I wanted to make was to take a page from the Mediterranean diet and make lunch my biggest meal. This helps me to eat and burn. In other words, I am not going to bed after eating a large meal and letting my body turn those calories into sugar which adds to those hips! By eating a larger meal at lunch, I am active for hours following which means those calories are absorbed as energy instead!

So one of the best things about living in California is the abundance of produce no matter what time of the year! After a trip to the grocery store this past weekend, I came home with a receipt that was way too long but managed to scoop out some great items! One of which was these amazing red bell peppers. So what to do with these sweet treats?


Stuffed Red Bell Peppers with Grounded Turkey and Basmati Rice

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Ingredients

  • 4 large green bell peppers
  • 1½ teaspoons extra virgin cold pressed olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
  • 6 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground turkey
  • 1½ cups cooked basmati rice
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce, (1 cup), divided
  • 1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt (add more to taste)
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Directions

  1. Make sure that your Basmati rice is cooked al dente. Remember that it will cook a little more in the peppers!
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Hollow out the peppers by cutting out stem ends of bell peppers; I saved the tops to put on top for decoration. Scoop out seeds.
  4. Make sure the bottom of your large nonstick skillet is coated with olive oil. Heat the oil in over medium heat. Add onion, shallots, and garlic and cook, until the onions are soft (about 3-5 minutes). Add turkey mixing with the onions, shallots, and garlic, just until it looks brownish, about 2-4 minutes.
  5. Add precooked Basmati rice and mix with turkey. Add 1 cup of tomato sauce and continue to mix together. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Stuff the peppers with the mixture, leaving behind any fat and place them in an oven-safe dish like a 2-quart casserole dish. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes to finish cooking the meat and rice mixture. Then cover and finish baking for 10-15 minutes until peppers are tender.

So inquring minds want to know… Are you going to try this recipe? Have you made something similar? Do you have any go-to meals that you make for dinner/lunch? Tag me on your IG if you try this recipe or your own variation of it – @ms_bella_daniela!

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Health: Protein Powder Supplements

In order to maintain a healthy weight and still allow my body enough nutrients, I have been turning to protein powders to fill some of my dietary gaps. Many of you know that I have opted to having a healthy, homemade smoothie every weekday that usually supplements my breakfast and lunch. So how do I get one little smoothie to actually fill me up that much that I’m not order GrubHub every day? Protein.

Now by protein I don’t necessarily mean straight out fish or eggs or meat or diary but rather a supplement powder that can be added to the cocktail of fruits and vegetables. I am sure you have seen a wide variety of protein powders on the shelves of your local grocery store, but are they all created equal? Simply put, no.

So I want to break down the different types of protein powders available which are the foundation of the supplement, regardless of whatever name is on the label. Some supplements are good for vegans while others are meant to help you gain muscle mass. So which is which? Keep reading!

1) Whey Protein – this is originally derived from milk and is the leading type of protein that is used in supplemental shakes. It is often sold in a powder form and is believed to enhance the immune system. It is also the least expensive type of protein powder and is often enhanced to have better taste by the introduction of flavorings like chocolate or coffee or vanilla. Whey protein also comes in two varieties:

  • a) Whey Concentrate
  • b) Whey Isolate

Yep, so you get twice as confused when you head over to your nutrition store or order online. The main difference between the two? Whey concentrate, like the name states, is concentrated so it is less expensive and has a lower dose of lactose. On the other hand, Whey Isolate has almost no fat and typically has little to no lactose.

2) Casein or Milk Protein – Yep, so this is not to be confused with whey protein which is also a milk derivative (whey and casein actually make up whole milk on a 20:80 ratio). Casein, unlike whey, is slowly absorbed by the body releasing amino acids more steadily. This form of protein has been noted by researchers to be the better option for those that are active while whey is more aligned with stimulating protein synthesis during periods of rest.

3) Egg White Protein – So the name gives it away, but this protein is the old time go-to for protein supplement. Though the taste is gross in comparison to the flavor-enhanced whey and casein proteins, egg white protein has the same low levels of fat and carbs. So perhaps this is an option if you must stay away from dairy.

4) Plant Protein – Instead of listing out each one, this cumulative “plant protein” concept includes protein from plants like soy, rice, or pea. Vegetarian or Vegan? This is the option that is selected most by people that cannot have dairy or are staying away from animal products. They provide the same amino acids, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants as their competitors. However, these also provide their plant-benefits so for example, soy protein also has isoflavones which provides added antioxidants and has heart benefits. Typically these are more expensive than their milk counterparts but are easily found at any store.

5) Beef Protein – Saved for last as it is most commonly used by bodybuilders, as is beef in general. Beef protein, as the name suggests, is derived from beef but is also sorted down to remove high levels of fat and cholesterol while also introducing a flavoring like chocolate or vanilla. In addition to the protein benefit, this protein also offers creatine (which is an organic acid that provides energy to the cells of the body, specifically muscle).

So that’s the list but what does it mean and do you need added protein in your diet? Since most of us are not athletes or body building, please keep in mind that I am speaking to and for average consumers. That means that the following are reasons why the average person is suggested to consume that protein concoction:

  1. You’re not done growing – You are a teenager whose body needs protein as fuel for your muscles to continue to grow.
  2. You’re not done growing – You are an adult that is looking to grow more muscle mass.
  3. You’re not done growing – You have decided that running on the treadmill is not enough and you want to participate in a marathon or started HIIT workouts. Amped up workouts, or workouts that are beyond one’s normal regimen, would require additional fuel in the form of protein.
  4. You’re done growing but you got hurt – Protein feeds your muscles and helps them heal so if you’re in recovery, protein helps the healing process. This is also why it is often recommended to have protein after a workout.
  5. You’re vegan – Nothing wrong with this lifestyle, but there are certain minerals and vitamins that are not readily obtainable if you gave up all meat and animal products, so you need to supplement your diet.

So back to the original question… Do you need protein? Yes. Do you need protein to lose weight? Not really. Do you need to shell out big bucks or jump on various company bandwagons to get protein? Nope. Will I continue to consume my daily protein shake which consists of a variety of the ones listed above? Yep!

Again, protein is for your muscles and even lean muscle needs fuel, but if you are looking to tone or drop a few pounds, you could probably get away with just introducing some more fish or nuts to your diet. Now, if you are trying to increase muscle mass or have changed up your routine altogether, then yes, please invest in the right protein supplement for you.


Shaw, G. (n.d.). Protein Powder: What You Should Know. Retrieved January 11, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/protein-powder

Taylor, M. G. (n.d.). Choosing a Protein Powder - Nutrition Express Articles. Retrieved January 11, 2016, from http://www.nutritionexpress.com:9080/article+index/authors/mark+g+taylor+ms/showarticle.aspx?articleid=896

Volek, J. S. (n.d.). Whey vs Casein: Which one best maintains muscle mass? Retrieved January 11, 2016, from http://www.nutritionexpress.com:9080/article+index/authors/jeff+s+volek+phd+rd/showarticle.aspx?articleid=1082

Smoothie Recipes – Week 02

As promised, though a day late, the smoothies from last week. Despite Monday being Memorial Day, I made it a point to keep up with the 5-day streak! In fact, I used Monday as a test day to see how a recipe I had planned for later in the week would be.

Just as a reminder, please check out Week 1 – Smoothie Recipes for a recap on what protein, collagen, and other ingredients I use in each smoothie. Also, I do not use any MLM products nor do I do any juicing – I want to make sure I get ALL of the nutrients from my smoothies…fiber and all.


Monday (Memorial Day) – Key Lime Pie
Greek Yogurt, Spinach (for color), ice, protein, one whole lime, lime juice, honey, organic graham crackers, collagen, and Maca. The liquid base was water.

Tuesday – “Pick Me Up Tuesday”
Old-fashioned oats, dates, greek yogurt, iced coffee (I used actual coffee I froze in an ice cube tray), collagen, protein powder, Maca, Greens Powder. The liquid base was almond milk.

Wednesday – Key Lime
Repeated Monday’s recipe!

Thursday – “Going Banana Nuts Thursday”
Banana, chia seeds, almond butter, Maca, cinnamon, walnuts, collagen, protein powder. The liquid base was almond milk.

Friday – “Going Choco-Bananas”
Banana, cacao powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, Greens Powder, protein powder, collagen, Maca. The liquid base was almond milk.


The biggest hit this week was “Going Banana Nuts Thursday” by a landslide! Also, key lime came in second though I still want to manipulate that recipe for a future smoothie!

I have also been dabbling in non-dairy yogurt as an option because some of my friends are steering clear of dairy right now. The only issue I have noticed is that non-dairy yogurt is much more watery than regular or Greek yogurt. In order to maintain a smoothie consistency, I have to cut some of the liquid that I use.

I have also started to add some Creatine powder to my husbands’ smoothies because he is deficient, which we found out after some blood work, and he is looking to start building more muscle mass.


Comment below if you are going to try any of these or are interested in learning more! Do you have any recipes or suggestions for me to try?

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Smoothie Recipes – Week 01

It is officially the end of week 01 of my smoothie series and as promised, I want to update you all on the recipes used, and since several of you have inquired, my protein of choice! I will add links to the every day items below if I can find it from Amazon but please know that some of these, like my protein powder, I get at Costco or other retailers. In fact, this month, Costco has a sale on my protein powder so you know I am stocking up!


Let’s start off with the products I use every shake. If you plan to make any of the recipes below, please do not forget to add these items!

Combat Protein Powder
Don’t be scared by the “cookies & cream” flavor because you do not taste it! This protein powder only has 2 grams of sugar which is one of the lowest I have seen in a protein that still tastes good. And over 25 grams of protein. It also have different types of protein which means it has a long lasting benefit.

AmazingGreen Green Superfood
One scoop of this is added to help me get my 3+ servings of fruits and veggies a day! It is full of organic greens, fruits, and other vegetables. It blends easily and tastes great! It is gluten free, organic, and does not add any additional sugar.

Collagen Peptides
I mentioned this is in one of my recent posts, but this is added every day!

Maca Powder
This is a new addition to my shakes, but there have been a number of intriguing benefits that have been uncovered by this root vegetable (think potato-esque). It has been consumed for years in Peru and has said to have benefits for both men and women including: increasing energy and stamina, helping balance hormones including during menopause, promoting athletic endurance and recovery, improving immunity levels, and boosting blood circulation.


So on to the weekly recipes including the top 2 favorites of the week!

Manic Monday*
Fresh Orange Juice, chia seeds, frozen peaches, fresh banana, cucumber, lime juice, celery, and flax. The liquid base is water.

Green Tuesday
Mixed organic greens (kale, spinach, lettuce), raw and fresh zucchini (3 slices), cucumber, dates (2), raw and unfiltered honey, and ice. The liquid bases are aloe water and almond milk (50/50).

Mint Chocolate Wednesday*
Fresh mint, cacao powder (think raw and unsweetened chocolate), fresh banana, matcha powder, old-fashioned oats, Greek yogurt, and flax. The liquid base for this is almond milk.

Thirst Quenching Thursday
Cucumber, baby organic spinach, lime juice, celery, fresh and raw zucchini, fresh apple, beets (this has to be steamed – do not add completely raw), frozen peaches, chia seeds, and ice. The liquid base for this is water.

Berries & Cream Friday*
Fresh strawberries, frozen blueberries, Greek yogurt, fresh banana, and honey. The liquid base is almond milk.

The top two favorites this week were: Berries & Cream Friday and Mint Chocolate Wednesday!

All of the ingredients included are customizable to your preferences and how much you are making. If you would like for me to be specific on exactly how much I include, please let me know in the comments below! And don’t forget to check out my IG for day-to-day updates on the shakes of the week!

Do you have a favorite shake that you make? What are your preferences for ingredients? Do you prefer coconut milk or almond milk? Comment down below!

Health: Weight Loss Check-In

I sincerely wanted to share an update on my health journey. There have been a number of changes just within the past couple of weeks!

First and foremost, while I loved OrangeTheory, the schedule wasn’t ideal for my workdays and I guess the word got out because the classes were always packed! Therefore I had to terminate that membership…for now. And since CycleBar started to become more like SoulCycle: The Teenie Bob edition, that member was also cancelled.

But locally we have a full fledged gym, similar to LA Fitness if you have seen those. I was fortunate enough to get a discount because of where I work and signed up myself and the hubster. This was one of the best moves we have made! We can go on our schedule and spend as much or as little time as we want. We can do cardio or machines or weights or participate in classes or swim… And even though we don’t have a trainer, YouTube has become a great way to educate oneself on exercises and regimens!

But more importantly than how I exercise is what I am eating. They say weight loss is 80-90% diet and 10-20% exercise and I believe it! I am not doing a fad diet or signed up for a coaching program or drinking detox anything. I am eating cleaner, more vegetarian and making myself my own smoothie every weekday!

I will update you more on the smoothies and new items that I introduced into my diet in my next post but I wanted to leave you all with photographic evidence that what I am doing is working!

In just my face alone my hair is more radiant, my skin is clear, and the shape of my face has slimmed down a lot! And before you try and call my bluff, these are both done with the same filter and in natural sunlight and yes I am wearing makeup in both photos. These are one year apart almost to the day and you can now see my cheekbones again and my jawline whereas before my face was more round that oval.

It isn’t easy and there are some days I look in the mirror and want to say it doesn’t matter or it’s not enough but that defeating behavior is what got me to balloon in weight in the first place. Down almost 25 pounds in a healthy way without giving up my vices or taking medication is arduous but doable.

And the best part is when I step on the scale, which is just one indicator in my health journey, and can say I hit my first milestone and each day gets better. And my support system has also made each workout or shedded pound that much more rewarding.

So here is to the next phase of the journey! Please let me know if you are interested is being a part of the journey too.

Healthy Journey – You Are What You Eat

Yesterday I was speaking to a friend of mine and she asked me an interesting question which started a 30+ minute conversation and then got me thinking that maybe I should make a post about this… We chatted about how I am working on my health and losing weight and regaining my life back. She was very happy for me and asked me what I changed in my diet to support the weight loss because it is common knowledge that weight loss and fitness is more than just exercise and it in fact starts in the kitchen!

While there is more to my fitness journey than food, like supplements and vitamins, no one wants to read a 20-page blog post (I’ll save that for my dissertation). Below is a view into what my diet consists of and why.

Breakfast

This is always drilled into us as the most important meal of the day and the skipping this is detrimental. Well, I have to admit that breakfast is almost never on the table (ha, literally) for me -weekdays or weekends. I usually wake up around 6:30am during the weekdays (and that is after hitting snooze a few times) and have to get ready for work and out the door in a little over an hour (yep, I push it close). So sitting down to have toast or cereal or oatmeal…none of that is on my morning list of things to do. So long as I have a few minutes to have my coffee and grab the headlines, I am good to go.

Now you could say I should wake up at 6:00am and make time for a meal but beyond time, I am also simply not hungry. I do not want, nor find the need, to consume calories when I am not hungry. It is almost like eating just for the sheer fact of eating and that is not at all necessary. In fact, the days that I eat breakfast like when I am on a vacation or at a conference, I feel sluggish and bloated.

So what do I have? I have my coffee with almond milk and agave, along with a few vitamins that I can take on an empty stomach, and I’m good to go. I gave up dairy milk about 2 years ago and haven’t looked back though I do consume dairy-based cheese and ice cream so this is not due to an lactose intolerance. I just simply did not like the taste of dairy milk nor did I like the treatment of cows to get said milk but that is for another day. I use agave over stevia or sugar or any other sweetener for a few reasons. Agave is a natural sweetener from the blue agave cactus so if you have ever had tequila, you’ve basically had agave. It has a lower glycemic rating than sugar and because it is liquid, it will mix better in hot or cold beverages. It has a slight earthy taste by itself but once mixed with my coffee, it cannot be tasted. I have tried stevia and have not liked the taste or aftertaste so I stopped testing the 1385 variations I found in the grocery stores. I don’t like other sugar alternatives because of the chemical compounds and eventual breakdown (equal and sweet-n-low have been linked to unsafe levels chlorine once dissolved).

Morning Snack

If I start to feel hungry, I will grab a handful of raw or roasted, unsalted almonds. Almonds are low in fat and have been recently linked to heart health when consumed on an empty stomach because it acts similar to fiber in pushing out that gunk. I may also have a banana to help with my potassium intake and my very small sweet tooth.

Lunch

This is always the heaviest meal of the day for me because I know I am going to be able to burn it throughout the day. I will make sure that I take the time to eat my meal too because a lot of times we are rushing through the day and scarf down whatever is available. I bring food from home that I cooked earlier in the week whenever possible and will make sure it is balanced with some sort of starch and some protein; when I have a salad, I will make sure to have a protein like tuna or chicken and a few crackers. This will keep me going throughout the day without feeling hungry. I also make sure to portion out my food and will usually only take one small individual-sized Pyrex with my whole lunch. Quick to heat and easy to eat.

Afternoon Snack 

When I feel a 3pm-dip coming on, I always have some sort of snack on hand that is not a candy. bar, a donut, or some other heavy food. Again, I tend to turn to a handful of almonds, a piece of fruit, or dark-chocolate raisins. Sometimes on the weekends, I will have some string cheese and a few crackers since I know dinner will most likely be late. If it is going to be a long day, I may snack on a protein bar or a granola bar as well. I will also have a detox tea without sugar or honey -this just helps keep my tummy full and regular without bloat or gas.

Dinner

First rule for me is that I will not eat a heavy dinner. Second, 7pm is my cutoff. Why? Because I know I need to be in bed by 10pm and sleeping by 10:30pm — sleep is one of the other BIG weight loss and healthy actions for the body and I need at least 8 hours. So when I do eat, I tend to have a like protein like chicken or fish and always have to have some sort of vegetable -salad, corn, asparagus, broccoli…

When I do workout, because of my work schedule, it happens to be at 6 or 6:30 in the evening so when I do eat “dinner” it is always after 7pm. When that is the case, my “dinner” is almost always the same –a good-sized bowl of greek yogurt with granola that I buy at Sprouts or Whole Foods and I will add chia seeds and flax. The chia seeds are an excellent source of plant-based protein while the flax is a fiber-source; the yogurt is full of enzymes that help regulate my digestive tract as well as, for women, help with our lady parts; the granola serves also as a fiber and expands in the stomach to help me reach that “full” feeling and not feel deprived. Sometimes I may change things up and add a few shakes of my “Everything But the Bagel” seasoning from Trader Joe’s or a little honey for a hint of sweetness.

Dessert

Never ever deprive yourself of something because that is when you will fall off the wagon and spiral. Now I do not tend to have a sweet tooth but when I want something sweet, I have yogurt ice cream bars in my freezer which surprisingly are delicious (coffee flavored of course) or some fruit -cherries, watermelon, figs and peaches are my favorite when in season.

Water

Now this is what I like to call my secret weapon since I refuse to count calories, cut carbs, or heaven forbid drink those disgusting and useless shakes. Water is the staple for our bodies since we are over 70% water and every organ and system needs water to sustain operation. I actually have an app on my phone that reminds me to consume more water so on my days when I have horse-blinders on and forgot to even eat, I will always remember to drink my water. I drink over 100 ounces of water a day and when I have a workout day, that is the bare minimum.

When I feel adventurous and have the time, I like to add some flavor to my water by adding fruit or herbs. This helps keep things different, adds some vitamins and minerals, and serves as motivation to drink more. It is amazing how adding a few strawberries to your bottle will make you want more water.

Water also helps keep me feeling full so I will always drink a glass before a meal and I will have at least one glass during my meal, whatever that may be.

Miscellaneous

As I mentioned before, I do not and will not deprive myself of the things I enjoy just to shed a few pounds faster because when you have a “cheat day” or a special occasion, you are essentially counteracting everything you do on your other days and may even feel depressed which is detrimental to the success of the journey.

So when I want a beer or some wine, I will consume it in moderation and will make sure to balance it out with my meal, my workout, and my water consumption. For example, if I have a bottle of beer with dinner, I will have a glass of water as well. If I have some popcorn or chips, I will make sure that I will go an extra 10 minutes or take a small walk. If I have some tempting gelato or pizza, the next day will be a salad and few extra ounces of water.

I also have to mention that I will not turn to meal supplements like SlimFast or shakes that promise to help you lose weight. I have done more than enough research and those are all a part of fad diets. I do have protein powder in my kitchen and protein bars at my desk at work. I will admit that I have tried quite a gambit of shakes and meal replacements in my day and they are not effective, especially long term. Yes, you may feel better the first few days, but the longer you deprive yourself, the worse it gets and the harder it is to stay on track. Also, if you want the vitamins and minerals that these powder drinks offer, you may want to look at actual vitamins that your body, based on your needs, will actually help.

So tell me, what diet have you tried that has helped you? What is your daily food regimen?