Healthier Breakfast Options instead of Fast Food

If you’re like me and most other college students, then finals week(s) are fast-approaching. Even for those out of college, the end-of-the-season work year tends to get busier–deadlines to meet, meetings to schedule, jobs to accomplish. In all of the rush and stress, getting a healthy nutritious breakfast to start your morning off right can be tough. Maybe you stayed up all night studying so you skip breakfast, or you’re running late gathering the needed materials for a meeting with your boss so you stop by fast food to grab a bite. Either way, eating a wholesome and good-for-you meal can help you focus and be more productive during you day. Now, you may be thinking that you don’t have the time or energy to plan and produce a whole big breakfast…great, you don’t need to! A healthy breakfast doesn’t have to be stressful, time-consuming or burdensome. Here I have suggested healthier breakfast options to make at home instead of fast food (or skipping the meal for that matter) that will save you time, money, and your healthy eating plan! Enjoy!

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Breakfast Tacos/Burritos

I get it, Mexican for breakfast–delicious! But often those wraps are filled with unhealthy fats and other unwanted ingredients (such as enriched flour). Instead make your own using whole wheat tortillas, eggs, and plenty of veggies. Try this: scramble eggs with tomatoes, bell peppers, and onions. Stuff  whole wheat tortillas (I love La Tortilla Factory!) with the egg mixture and top with cheese, beans, avocado, etc. Making them the morning of is great if you have time, but if you’re busy (who isn’t?), you can easily make a batch of these on the weekend, wrap each individually once they’ve cooled, and stick them in the freezer. Then, on a rushed morning, throw 1 or 2 in the microwave and you have a deliciously quick burritos!

Breakfast Sandwiches

The popularity of the “Egg McMuffin” and other such breakfast sandwiches is no doubt there. And why not, right? It’s quick, convenient and filled with eggs, meat and other good nutrients. While this is true, oftentimes those convenience sandwiches are not as healthy as desired. But, luckily, making them at home with healthier ingredients couldn’t be easier! Whisk eggs and/or egg whites in a mug and add it to a sprayed hot pan. While the egg patty is cooking, toast your whole wheat english muffin or bagel thin and cook your meat in the microwave (turkey bacon is my suggestion). Once the egg is cooked, assemble your sandwich by adding the egg, meat and cheese to the bread base. Like many of these other breakfast suggestions, to make them even quicker, make a big batch when you have time and freeze them. Then, just pop a sandwich into the microwave to heat up when ready to eat. If you want to skip the bread, try finding a recipe for egg muffin cups, which are also freezable, as well as customizable for your taste!

Bagels

Bagels are often seen as the quintessential work or quick grab-and-go breakfast. They’re easy to pop down in the toaster, and quickly slather on a topping before heading out. Bagels are also food that could actually be semi-healthy depending on the type (whole wheat) and toppings (natural peanut butter); however, bagels don’t offer a lot of nutritional value and offer too big of a serving for just one. Luckily, there are options to make it better. Either way always go for the whole-wheat variety. Try bagel thins–equally delicious, but a smaller serving–or eat only half the bagel and save the other half for another day. Instead of slathering your bagel with fatty cream cheese or sugary jellies, find a reduced-fat version or top it with peanut butter, avocado, mashed berries, leftover salmon, etc. To add more protein, try adding a hard-boiled egg to complete your meal.

Yogurt Parfait

Although yogurt may seem the “healthy choice” at fast food restaurants (and it certainly is better than other options), those fast-food ones are often loaded with added sugars in the yogurt and granola. Making a quick parfait at home is just as easy and much healthier. Choose a plain Greek yogurt as the base and top with fresh fruit, nuts/seeds, and granola with as little added sugar as possible. You can even prep the yogurt and fruit the night before and then add the other toppings the next morning!

Muffin 

You may be eyeing that muffin (scone or pastry works too) while standing in line to order your latte, but let me just back you away from that thought. These muffins are often loaded with tons of sugars as well as fats and loads of calories–none of which will have a positive impact on your day. There are plenty of healthy muffin and scone recipes on the internet that you can find and make ahead of time for a quick and healthy breakfast. Or, to get a more nutritious meal, skip the muffin and have oatmeal. Oatmeal is one of the healthiest things that you can eat for breakfast. If you feel you don’t have time to make and eat a bowl in the morning (although it only takes about 2-3 minutes to make), try Overnight Oats. These are prepped the night before so that you have an already-made yet delicious breakfast delight the next morning. Or, store a stash of instant packets (try to get plain packets due to the added sugar in the flavored ones) in your desk drawer along with healthy toppings (nut butters, fruits, nuts, raisins) to make at work.

Smoothies

Generally, smoothies are one of the healthier fast-food breakfasts out there–depending on the contents. Yes, they are high in sugar, a lot of which comes from fruit, which is okay. However, you do want to be aware and watch out for lots of added sweeteners such as honey, syrup, sugar, etc. that places put in their recipes. Also, consistently purchasing smoothies can take a toll on your budget. For these reasons, I suggest making a healthy, filling and refreshing smoothie at home. Start with a base of water, milk, almond milk, coconut milk, etc. Add in any greens you may want such as kale or spinach. (Don’t worry–you won’t taste them, they just add more greens and nutrients to your smoothie.) Then, add in fruit, frozen or fresh, such as bananas, berries, peaches, mango, or pineapple. Lastly, other additions that are popular are protein powder, chia seeds, flax seeds, nuts, nut butters, coconut…you get the idea. The great thing with smoothies is that the options and flavor combinations are just about endless! Make it tropical or one of my favorites, peanut butter banana (tastes like a cookie!). To save you time, make freezer smoothie bags. In a freezable bag, place all your ingredients except for the liquid. Then, in the morning, pour the liquid into a blender, add the bag ingredients along with ice (optional) and blend! You can make lots of bags ahead of time for many deliciously refreshing morning meals!

What do you think? What are some of your healthy yet convenient go-to breakfasts?

 

Enchilada Quinoa Chili

How is it December already? Time has flown crazy fast for me, but we are heading into the most wonderful time of the year, so…Happy December 1st! I don’t know about ya’ll, but when the weather starts getting colder, there is part (okay most) of me that demands warming bowls of chili and soup. And if it can be made in a crock-pot, even better! I am in love with my crock-pot because I do 15 minutes of work, let the cooker do its thing, and BAM! I have a delicious dinner all ready to go after a busy day. One recipe I have found recently and absolutely loved was Enchilada Quinoa Chili from Fit Mitten Kitchen! It’s quick, easy and insanely delicious! Plus, it includes sweet potatoes, one of the best and tastiest super-foods out there. What more could you ask for? (But seriously, the sweet potatoes are my favorite part of this whole dish!)

The original recipe on her site is vegan and I originally tried it that way. I think next time I will try adding chicken in it to boost the protein content for myself. I don’t see why you couldn’t add other meats you desire or keep it like the original and do no meat if you are vegan or vegetarian. Either way its bound to be good, warm and filling! I mean just look at it. So, if you’re in need of a hearty, delicious, people-pleasing, new meal to make…look no farther than this Enchilada Quinoa Chili. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Enchilada Quinoa Chili

Prep time: 15 minutes   Cook time: 4 hours   Total time: 4 hours 15 minutes

Yields: 8 servings

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Photo creds [Fit Mitten Kitchen]
Ingredients

  • 2 cups chopped sweet potato, (about 1 medium and 1 small)
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 15 oz. can low-sodium black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • Garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, uncooked
  • 2 cups enchilada sauce
  • 1/4 cup water
  • juice of 1 lime
  • Optional: 1-1.5 pounds of chicken breast
  • Additional toppings: avocado, guacamole, cilantro, sour cream, crushed tortilla chips, etc.

Instructions

  1. If using chicken breasts, wash and add to the bottom of a slow cooker. (If not go to step 2)
  2. Add sweet potatoes, bell pepper, onion, black beans, diced tomatoes with juice, corn and garlic. Sprinkle in seasonings and stir together until combined.
  3. Add in quinoa, enchilada sauce, water and lime. Sir together until ingredients are evenly dispersed in the slow cooker.
  4. Cook chili on high for 3-4 hours until sweet potatoes are soft. If you used chicken, remove from the bottom, dice on a plate and stir into the chili.
  5. Serve in bowls and add on your favorite toppings!

Original recipe found here on Fit Mitten Kitchen.

Power of Positivity

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I know it’s been a while since my last post–thanksgiving break got the best of me. But it was a great time filled with traveling, relaxing and family time so I can’t complain. During this time of year, many people get in the thankful mindset and I certainly was over this past week, which got me thinking about a great blog topic I wanted to write about. It goes right along with the thankful/cheerful/grateful/happy mood that seems to linger around the holiday season. It’s called positive thinking. Now, I know you may be thinking this is corny or cheesy; however, positive thinking really can a powerful tool in your life. Whatever comes your way, whether small or big, going at it with a positive mindset can be a great aspect of living a healthy, happy life that you love. There really is such thing as the power of positivity.

Positive thinking is a way of life, an attitude that we adopt. It can affect our whole being from bringing more happy feelings, cheer and energy to putting us in good health. Thinking positively can affect the way we behave, perform and tackle all of life’s situations. For example, when heading into an interview or other big event, feeling confident and thinking good thoughts can actually cause you to feel and be more prepared and ace the event better than if you had thought and believed negative ideas. Barbara Fredrickson, a positive psychology researcher, has done studies on the affects on the brain of positive vs. negative thoughts. Negativity closes your brain off and focuses on the negative feeling while preventing your brain from seeing your other options and choices around you. Meanwhile positive thinking broadens your sense of possibilities and opens your mind, which allows you to build new skills and resources that can provide value in other areas of your life. It’s clear here that your thoughts can have a much bigger effect on your mind, brain, health, etc. than you may have thought.

So, now that you know just how important positive thinking can be, how do you make it happen? This can certainly look different in individual lives. I believe the one key area where people see negativity is towards themselves, their body, their ability, their own lives, etc. It’s really easy for us to be negative towards ourselves…thinking we cannot accomplish anything, we have no skills, we hate they way we look…the list can go on and on. However, if you asked someone to go and say these things to their friend or a stranger, most people who would be horrified to do so. So why is it that we would never be down on or negative towards another, but we can so easily do so to ourselves? It’s probably due to the fact that we set goals and expectations for ourselves and since we are not perfect, we will inevitably fail and make mistakes. In this area, the biggest thing is to try and think more positively about yourself and your life and to love yourself. Body positivity can be especially difficult in today’s time and it shouldn’t be! We should all love ourselves for who and what we are and yet that is such a difficult task for many (guilty!). I think the first main step towards being positive is to be mindful of your thoughts. Some people may be more negative than they realized or perhaps more positive than they thought. By paying attention to and trying to catch any negative thoughts, you can start implementing a more positive outlook.

The next thing that can really help is affirmations. Write down 3-4 affirmations and stick them somewhere that you’ll see every single day (hopefully even multiple times per day). This could be your fridge, your car dashboard, your mirror, your door, etc. Every morning start your day off by repeating these affirmations to yourself and then every time you pass by them, repeat them in your head. Example of this could include: I am smart, I can handle any task thrown my way, I am strong, I am capable, I am bigger than my thoughts, etc. One big thing to combat the area of negativity towards loving yourself and your body is to find things you like about yourself. Yes, much easier said than done I know. However, next time you look in the mirror really try to find 3-4 things you like about yourself and says those out loud–even write them down if that would help! Negative thoughts may creep in, but by repeating and thinking those positive thoughts, they soon will become a habit and part of your everyday life.

Lastly, I want to finish by saying that I know first-hand that being and staying positive is no easy task. There are those times when nothing seems to be going your way or it seems like you cannot do a single thing right–the future seems bleak and bare. I used to be really bad at viewing the world in that way and I was what some might call a “pessimist”. But, nowadays I am a lot more positive when thinking about my future and my life in general. Don’t get me wrong, I, nor anyone else I believe, can be fully 100% positive. Yes…not even those people who seem to have their whole life together on social media and in real life and whose smile never falters from their face. At some point or some time, perhaps in private, they too struggle with positivity. It’s human nature because we aren’t perfect and we do make mistakes. But, if you go about life with a positive mindset and think positive thoughts, then even when bad things do come your way you can help yourself be better off in those situations. There is a quote by Charles Swindoll that I really like: “Life is 10% of what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” This isn’t to say you can never be negative or unhappy or upset; it’s simply saying that being mindful of your thoughts and mindset throughout the day and aiming them towards good ones can lead you to experiencing the power of positivity in your life. And that helps you love yourself–living a life that you enjoy and staying Beyoutifully Healthy!

Here are other links to great articles about positive thinking:

https://www.powerofpositivity.com/using-power-positivity-actually-changes-world-around/

http://www.successconsciousness.com/index_000009.htm

What are your thoughts on being positive? What are some ways you stay positive?

 

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/james-clear/positive-thinking_b_3512202.html

 

Sample Workouts: HIIT and Circuit

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With all of the data and information floating around out there about what workout program or exercise regime is best, it can be mind-boggling as to what you should do. Exercise comes in many forms, not just split between resistance training and cardio, but even further split into long-distance, HIIT, Circuit, Tabata, etc.  Jump around to different sites and they’ll all swear that “their” way is the way to go, and granted it may be…for some. See the thing about exercise is, just as in any other way of healthy living there is not a one size fits all approach. Best suited exercises can be based on body type, fitness goal, preference/taste, ability, etc. That said, in general it is recommended that people add both some sort of cardio and resistance training into their exercise routine. (More to come in a future blog about the important of weight training!) From there, the amount and types is all up to customizing the plan for the best results for YOU!

Personally speaking, I’m going to be honest: I’ve never been a fan of running. Trust me, I’ve tried to love running, to become one of those people who hop out of bed every morning excited to run 3-5 miles (or more), but I’m just not. I think part of this is due to the fact that I was a volleyball player 9 years and used to a fast paced game. Plus, all of my high school and college workouts were centered around jumping, plyometrics, sprints, and weights–more fast-paced workouts rather than longer runs and distances. This was the idea of workout I became accustomed to. And that’s okay! There is no rule saying everyone must run 3 miles a day, although yes the benefits of running are tremendous. And to be fair, I’m preparing for a 10k next Spring, so I do run a bit longer once a week (more to come on that later). The reason this was okay, was because I found another type of workout–other than weight lifting of course–that really suits me and that I actually enjoy: HIIT/Circuit training.

HIIT stands for high intensity interval training and the basic idea is that you give all-out effort through quick bursts of exercise and then rest for a short period of time and keep switching off either for time or number of reps/rounds. This type of workout is effective because it gets and keeps your heart rate up, burns more fat, increases your metabolism and it is quick and convenient. Circuit training is similar to HIIT; however, instead of switching off between bursts of intense exercise and rest, you do a series of exercises in a row for a longer period of time with short rest in between sets. I like both of these for a variety of reasons:

1). Variety of exercises. I never get bored because I am constantly switching up the exercise that I am doing.

2). Allows me to workout harder. When I know I only have to do an exercise (say bur-pees) for a short period of time before rest or before I move on, I am able to workout at a higher intensity.

3). Sculpt multiple areas. Doing HIIT/Circuit vs. just running allows me to work on many different parts of my body and different muscle groups rather than just a few.

These are just a few of the reasons I love and choose to do HIIT/Circuit workouts. If you have never attempted either one, I suggest you give them a try to see if they fit you. Even if you aren’t looking to switch up your routine, it can always be good to try different programs to find what really works best for you and your body. Below, I have given 2 sample workouts (1 Circuit and 1 HIIT). These are just starting points. Feel free to add or take away exercises, increase or decrease the time, etc. in order to better customize this workout to your ability and fitness level. I hope you give these a try and find an amazing new way to love working out!

               HIIT                                                 Circuit

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