By Allison Wells
I’m a lady who likes her food. Yes, I’m a nutritionist, and yes, I like to keep it healthy, but everyone loves a snack. Today I’m talking to you about my top five favorite snacks, and they all happen to be vegan. These aren’t pre or post workout snacks, though they could possibly be used as such. These are just snacks. Cuz, when a girl’s hungry, you better get her some food!
1- My absolute favorite snack is organic brown rice cakes (I prefer the brand Lundberg) covered in hummus. The brown rice cake has a nice crunch and hearty texture, and that creamy hummus packs in some flavor as well as a bit of protein and fiber. This munchie can keep me going for several hours between meals.
2- Next up we have an old classic with a twist. I love to snack on apple slices with a tablespoon of peanut butter, and a dash of cinnamon. Apples not only have a sweet, crispy, juicy crunch, but they also pack enough fiber to tie me over until the next full meal. That dab of peanut butter gives me a boost of protein and fat to keep hunger at bay. The cinnamon is full of antioxidants and gives the whole snack an extra punch of flavor. I am careful to measure my peanut butter, because I could easily eat half the jar if I’m not careful.
3- Here’s an easy one. If I’m on the go, or I know I’ll be confined to my car for a while, I’ll snack on a Mojo Bar (made by Clif Bar) or a Kind Bar. These are great combinations of grains, nuts, and a little bit of chocolate or dried fruit. My faves are the peanut butter pretzel and the chocolate almond coconut for Mojo, and the dark chocolate with sea salt for Kind. They provide you with carbs, fat, and protein, and all within 200 calories. The trick is to keep your eye on the sugar content. Choose a bar with 10 grams of sugar or less, and 200 calories or less, and you’ll be on your way!
4- Another easy on-the-go snack idea is a refreshing green juice. These green juices are all the rage these days, but keep in mind that just because it’s green, doesn’t mean it’s all healthy. The most important thing to watch is the sugar content in these drinks. The juices that are mostly all green ingredients with one or two fruits included are going to be the best options. Trader Joes has a cold pressed green juice for $5, which has mostly all greens, and only 11 grams of sugar (which is pretty low for any juice). Whole Foods has a couple options that offer mostly greens (kale, spinach, spirulina, parsley, cilantro), a few bonus ingredients (ginger, lemon juice), and a small bit of apple (or other fruit) juice just to take the edge off. Yes, I realize these are not as fun as the high fruit/ sugar loaded juices, but they are WAY better for you.
5- Last, but certainly not least, we have another classic munchie. Popcorn (preferably organic). Everyone loves popcorn! Because I don’t have a microwave (gasp!) I like to make mine the old fashion way… on the stove. Yes, it takes a little bit more effort, but I can tailor it to whatever I’m craving that night. I start by heating up a couple tablespoons of coconut oil in a large frying pan, with one kernel in it. Once that pops, I know I’m in business. After popping my corn, I can add some sea or lava salt, nutritional yeast and dried herbs if I’m in a savory mood. Maybe a little cinnamon and turbinado sugar if I’m feeling extra sweet. It’s light, simple, and super satisfying as an after dinner treat.
These are just a few suggestions if you’ve found yourself stuck in a snacking rut. Often we get into patterns of eating because they are easy, but they can also get boring pretty quickly. I hope these ideas serve you a little inspiration the next time your tummy starts grumbling.
By Allison Wells
Being a Wellness Coach is its own party trick. What do I mean by that? Well, I’ve been a personal trainer and nutritionist for over ten years, and when people find out what I do, the questions start flowing. They’re typically the same questions every time. I get it! Our society is obsessed with health trends, and everyone wants to know the fastest, most effective way to the most dramatic results. The truth is, your consistency and commitment to your healthy lifestyle (ie. diet and exercise) is what’s going to lead you to the body you desire, and maintaining that lifestyle is what will keep you looking and feeling incredible. Now, here are your Top 5 fitness questions answered.
1- Q. How can I lose “this”? Imagine someone pointing to a specific area of their body, typically the back of the arms (triceps), thighs, or “love handles”, and jiggling it around.
A. While it is certainly helpful to do exercises that target specific muscle groups (i.e. triceps, ab/adductors, glutes), you can’t program your body to lose fat from one place and not from others. A workout should impact your entire body, emphasizing certain areas you’re wanting to tone, though you will lose from and firm up all regions of your body. Keep in mind that every body is different, and each one stores fat in different places. This means it will be easier for some people to lose from certain areas, and more difficult for others. As we get older, some of those trouble spots become more stubborn. Grrr. I know. Super frustrating! Keep up the full body exercise with consistency and dedication, and you will see the progress over time.
2- Q. How many crunches do I need to do before I get a 6-pack?
A. Here’s the deal. Your abs are made in the kitchen, and perfected in the gym. What do I mean by that? The truth is that at least 80% of your physical results are due to your diet, and the remaining 20% are due to exercise. This means you can be killing yourself in the gym, and still building strong muscles, but you might not see the muscle tone and definition if you’re not strict about what you’re eating. You can do tons of core exercises which will certainly strengthen your abdominal muscles, help with stabilization, balance, and overall fitness, but you have to make that same commitment to your eating behavior to see those six-pack abs. Keep in mind, this is NOT an excuse to skip your workout and only focus on your diet! There are MANY health benefits to exercise besides just looking ripped.
3- Q. What’s better for weight loss, cardio or weights?
A. There are benefits to both cardiovascular exercise, and resistance training. One important thing to keep in mind is that when you’re performing cardio, your body is burning calories while it is moving, but stops shortly after you finish. During weight resistance training, your body is building muscle, and will continue to burn calories for up to an hour after you finish your workout (depending on how hard you train). This means your metabolism is kicked up a notch after the weights, where as not so much with the cardio. Having that said, if you only have 45 or 60 minutes to exercise, I suggest a combination of a short, but intense cardio session, followed by a quick weight lifting workout where you’re doing full body movements. A HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workout is also a great idea if you’re in a pinch for time.
4- Q. When is the best time to work out?
A. Everyone’s body is different and has energy fluctuations throughout the day. Some people have more energy when they first wake up, and others prefer to exercise after they’ve finished work for the day. Choose what feels right for you. You want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your workout, so do it when you have the energy. Also, make sure you eat something before your workout (leaving at least one hour to digest), and eat something after you’re finished, within one hour of completing your workout.
5- Q. How often should I exercise to really see results?
A. You should be exercising at least three days per week and as many as six days per week. It’s always good to give yourself 1-2 rest days every week to let your muscles recover. There are many things happening in life between work, family, and every other excuse you can think of that can get in the way of exercise, if you let it. Start asking the question “When am I going to exercise today?” instead of “Am I going to exercise today?” Even if you only have 20 minutes, it’s better than nothing. There are a plethora of quick fitness videos to be found online, or at least squeeze in a walk during your lunch break, or in your neighborhood before or after work. Every little bit helps. Aim to do SOMETHING five days a week for 20-30 minutes. Once this becomes more of a routine, you can choose a couple of those days for a more extended workout. Perhaps you find a class that fits into your schedule, or set your alarm early once or twice a week to get into the gym. Whatever you do, just move your body!
If there’s one thing I would like you to take away from this, it’s that exercise is a gift you give to yourself. The more you move your body, the more results you will see and feel. If you are healthy enough to be able to exercise, then that is something to take advantage of and be grateful for.
By Allison Wells
We all know that a regular exercise routine and balanced diet are the most basic tools for maintaining good health. But how do you know what type of exercise is right for you? There are so many options nowadays for group classes, trendy workout videos, and cutting edge fitness equipment, how can you possibly choose the perfect one for your schedule, your pocketbook, and your enjoyment? Like anything else, fitness has fads. Some concepts last for years, others are only hot as long as they’re being endorsed by a celebrity. The one thing they have in common is they are all designed to motivate you to firm it up, and sweat it out.
As a Wellness Coach and personal trainer, I’m constantly being asked by clients, friends, and even my doctor, what I think of various trending fitness phenomenon. There is Barre Exercise, Crossfit, Spinning, Pole Dancing, HIIT workouts, Heated Yoga, TRX, and dance videos, just to name a few. While I have not tried each and every single one of these, I do like to discuss people’s personal experience with them, to get an idea of what the class or routine has to offer, and who the target demographic is. The truth is, everything has is pluses and minuses. Not every class is made for every person. There are a slew of reasons why each individual may benefit from or be deterred by a specific routine or technique. We all have our own strengths and weaknesses, and the most important thing you can do is listen to your body and your intuition.
Whatever path you decide to take, here are a few tips to help guide you to a positive exercise experience.
1. Find What Works for YOU!
It can be challenging to get yourself into a regular fitness routine. Choose something that you truly enjoy. This could be a sport you participated in as a child, a dance class you’ve been meaning to explore for years, or a completely new and exciting environment that pushes your comfort zone.
You want to do something that fits into your schedule on a regular basis. Everyone has energy at different times of the day. You might need a 6am spin class, a lunchtime HIIT workout, or an evening yoga session. Whatever it is, work your schedule around it so you’re sure to stay committed.
Pay attention to how you’re feeling when you try something new. Is your energy increasing or decreasing? Are you sleeping better or feeling wound up? Exercise is not just about how you look, but also about how you feel emotionally and energetically. The right choice for you will give you a sense of accomplishment, an increase in energy, self-confidence, and strength. Not exhaustion to the point of dreading doing it again.
2. Be Safe!
Keep in mind that when you’re in a class or exercising on your own, there is much less (or no) personal attention from the instructor. Proper form is the key to injury prevention. If you’re not sure of a technique, ask the teacher. The person next to you might be doing it wrong, too.
Don’t be embarrassed to modify. Exercise modification is incredibly important, though sometimes our egos tell us to push beyond our physical limits. You can modify for your fitness level, as well as for any pre-existing injuries that you need to be mindful of. Keep in mind that everyone is coming from a different place, so there is no need to look at a class as competition. It’s no fun to hurt yourself and need to take time off from your exercise routine once you’ve finally gotten started.
3. Challenge Your Body to Create Change in Your Body!
The more you can confuse your brain, the more muscles it will have to recruit to perform the exercises. The more you switch up your routine, the faster you will see results, and you’ll be developing a well-rounded fitness program. It’s equally important to have a strong heart (cardio) as strong exterior muscles (resistance training). Adding variety is more likely to keep you inspired and excited, not bored.
Pushing yourself just beyond what you thought you were capable of is a great benefit to working out with a group. That being said, pay attention to the signals your body is giving you. A rigorous workout where you can “feel the burn” (ie. lactic acid in your muscles) is fantastic, but a sharp, shooting pain is an indicator to STOP!
4. Food is your Fuel!
Be sure to fuel your body before a workout, and replenish depleted cells afterward. You want to make sure you eat something small (up to 200 calories), balanced (a combo of protein and carbs), and healthy (no processed junk!), 1-2 hours before you exercise (you need at least an hour to digest).
After you get your sweat on, build those muscles back up with another balanced meal within 1 hour of completing your workout. If you don’t have time for a full meal, there are many natural snacks you can eat to help you recover. Greek yogurt with fruit, a natural snack bar (low sugar, high protein), or even a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (on whole grain, of course) will suffice!
Hydrate before and after your workout. Once your brain gets the signal that you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Get your ounces in before you sweat, so your body doesn’t have to worry about processing that cold water during your workout.
5. Fitness Trackers
The jury is still out on how accurate these fitness trackers are. Some are certainly more high tech than others. I suggest using them as a rough gage of how much you’re moving from one day to the next. Do your best to “get your steps in”, but most importantly, make sure you’re raising your heart rate on a regular basis.
We are fortunate to have so many options when it comes to health and fitness. Try out a few of these options, and see what resonates with you. If you feel like you need more one-on-one guidance and motivation, give me a call!
By Allison Wells