October is here! It’s time for some new recipes! I really enjoy eating pumpkin, but it’s harder to find outside of the fall season. I purchased two cans of pumpkin last week and decided to do something with them. I made a healthier version of pumpkin bars that are easy to make and have a good amount of protein. I added chocolate chips because I just love chocolate. You could substitute the chocolate with nuts or blueberries. These are great pre or post-workout.
- 2 scoops of chocolate protein powder
- 1/4 cup of flaxseed meal
- 1/2 cup of chocolate chips
- 2 whole eggs (can substitute egg whites)
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil melted (or leave out for less fat)
- 1 can of organic pumpkin
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 teaspoon of baking soda
- 1 and 1/2 cups of ground instant oatmeal
- Enough almond milk to wet the mixture to the consistency you desire ( you can also use water)
1. Spray a square glass baking dish and preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. Take about 2 cups of dry instant oatmeal and grind in the blender until it is the consistency of flour. Measure out 1 and 1/2 cups of the ground oats and place in a bowl. Add the baking soda and protein powder in the bowl with the oatmeal. Add the flaxseed meal. Mix.
3. In a separate bowl, mix the canned pumpkin, vanilla extract, eggs, coconut oil, and chocolate chips. You can also add in stevia if you want more sweetness.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until blended well. Slowly add in the almond milk to make the mixture smoother, but it should still be a little thick.
5. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Check often and make sure it doesn’t dry out too much.
6. Take out and cool.
7. Cut into 10-12 squares.
I have been at two opposite end of the dieting spectrum. At one point in my life I ate whatever I wanted, when I wanted, and didn’t care anything about it. I have also dieted down for a show to the point of extreme carb depletion with a very limited selection of food. I have seen what food can do to the body, both good and bad. If you ask anybody who has ever been on a diet and exercised what the hardest part is….they will tell you “the diet!” After all, we do have taste buds for a reason.
Eating is one of the most enjoyable activities in life. We plan majority of our social events around food….Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, Halloween, the Superbowl…and the list goes on. We eat mindlessly just because it is something we are expected to do and we even associate certain food with certain activities. Watch a movie and nine times out of ten you are eating popcorn. When you go on a mission to lose weight or eat healthier, it can be a very daunting task to eliminate all of the foods that you used to eat. Many people become so zealous that they avoid certain foods like the plague. But through my years of trial and error, I have learned that what we may think of as “bad” food is not necessarily bad. Living healthy is not about good vs. bad or restriction. Living healthy is about balance and better choices.
Many people at work are aware that I eat healthier than most and I workout on a regular basis. The most common question I get about my diet is whether I eat carbohydrates, if I restrict foods, or if I eat junk food. I wish I had the willpower to never eat “junk food” again but that is not happening. If I didn’t eat carbs, my body would shut down and I would not be writing this blog as we speak. After many years of struggling with food, losing weight, dieting for shows, and dealing with post-competition blues and trying to adjust to a “normal diet,”…I have decided that I am not classifying foods into good or bad categories anymore. These terms play tricks on the mind. I eat according to my goals, I eat to be healthy, I eat because I enjoy food, and I eat in a way that will leave me satisfied and feeling like I made a good decision. Unless you have allergies or a disease, or are involved in a sport that requires specific foods such as bodybuilding, you don’t need to be extreme. If there are foods you don’t like, that is fine. If you don’t want to eat them, that is perfectly fine as well. Only you know how you can control your eating.
Balance is the key to being healthy for life and as humans we like variety. Don’t get caught up in fad diets just because everyone else is doing it. Start tracking what you eat and you will see the amount of nutrients in your food and might even realize that what you thought was “bad” is not so bad. Become an educated food consumer, not just a blind follower of someone else’s diet plan.
One benefit of tracking your calories online is seeing not only the calories and macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein) that you are eating, but also the amount of vitamins and other nutrients you are consuming on a daily basis. I took a look at my food log today which gives me a grade for the day. If I get close to the proper amount of vitamins and minerals and stay within my calorie range, I receive and “A.” If I am far off, the grade goes down. I did pretty good today but while I was looking at my log, I couldn’t help but notice that I was closer to the recommended amount of fiber as well as potassium (which is really high). I ate more vegetables today than I have and I ate REAL food. I did have one granola bar and saw that it basically had no nutrients in it whatsoever….even though it is marketed as a healthy snack. Yes, it is better than a bag of potato chips but it would be far better to make your own granola than to buy a processed bar.
Even if you are not trying to lose weight, tracking your macros can help to ensure that you get all of the nutrients you need from food. You will be surprised at the difference small changes can make. To help transition to eating more whole foods here are some tips:
- Cut up veggies and fruits in advance so they are easy to grab
- Make your own “mix”…nuts and berries, dark chocolate, toasted oats and berries/nuts, anything you want to mix together
- Make your own protein bars: Example 2 cups of instant oats, 1/4 cup of nut butter, 3-4 scoops of protein powder…mix together and place in a pan. Put the mix in the freezer and voila…you have homemade protein bars!
It is not hard to eat real food. It just requires a little preparation and creativity so you don’t get bored.
Forget restriction, deprivation, and forbidden…just eat a good variety of healthy foods and make it fun. This approach will ensure healthy eating for a lifetime…not just a temporary diet. Have your processed foods in moderation.