No matter how “healthy” you eat, if changing your body composition – losing fat, gaining muscle – is a goal, it won’t happen until you get a handle on how you’re fueling your body.
To lose weight (and fat), you have to eat less fuel than you burn.
How Many Calories Do You Need?
I created this calculator to help you see how many calories you actually need during the course of a day, along with a handy macronutrient calculator so you can try to get the ideal amount of protein, fat, and carbs based on your goals.
When it comes to choosing a macronutrient profile that suits you, remember: each one of us has a unique operating system.
If you’re trying to lose weight and are healthy, you can help stay full and maintain muscle by eating a higher (not necessarily high!) protein diet.
But there’s no need to overload your body with protein (or fat!). Experiment and see what works best for you!
Note: the calculations for women are different than men, so I’ve tailored this specific calculator for women. If there’s enough interest I’ll make one for men too 🙂
How Do You Track Your Macros?
Exactly how you follow your macros is another post for another day, but a good app to use is either Fitbit’s food log or MyFitnessPal. If you’re overwhelmed by the idea of tracking your macronutrient protocol, just focus on the calories.
I figured out how to do it myself, after monkeying around with some nutrition calculators. Honestly, I think that’s the best way but there can be a high frustration level.
I’ve written a super-cheap book on how to track your macros (the link is in the menu bar) but I’ll also put together an easy-to-follow post in the near future. I just wanted to get this calculator out to you!
Do you get into food ruts? You know, when you tend to eat the same meal every day?
Sometimes I do – and I’m OK with that. Especially when it comes to breakfast.
Because when I have a favorite go-to meal every morning, it starts my day out right. I look forward to it (although maybe not as much as I look forward to my morning cup of coffee!).
My most recent fave breakfast was a Berry Good Green Smoothie with kefir. It was creamy, refreshing and had just a little “bite” from the kefir, which is packed with probiotic and protein.
But when I went to the grocery store last week, there was no kefir to be found.
So I asked one of the clerks, “Where’s the kefir?”
After much investigation, we had the answer, which confused even the clerk, as the demand for kefir is so high they have a hard time keeping it in stock.
They were no longer going to carry it.
Hello, Berry Chia Green Smoothie
Now, I know I can make my own kefir (and someday soon I might) or go to the health food store and buy it there.
But I took this as a little challenge to mix things up.
You see, a while ago my doc ran some food sensitivity tests and I came up “highly intolerant” of dairy. And in fact, most of us are intolerant of dairy – 65 percent of us have issues digesting it after we leave infancy. (1)
It’s not like I consume a bunch of dairy on a daily basis. And kefir can actually help with intolerance issues because of all the enzymes and nutrients it contains. (2)
But that didn’t matter at the moment, because there wasn’t any kefir to be had. I had to come up with a new breakfast that would make me happy.
I don’t know about you, but a lot of typical breakfast foods leave me hungry soon after I eat. I love cereal, but it makes me want to eat all day long. Or, it makes me want to eat the entire box.
Eggs and bacon? Yum! But who has time? Plus, there’s something I like about a cool breakfast.
So anyway, as I stood there in the Hannaford “healthy foods” aisles, my stubborn streak came out and I wanted to preserve as much of my original smoothie as possible.
And I realized I could do that with chia seeds.
Chia seeds, before and after soaking for 10 minutes
You’ve probably heard about all the health benefits of chia seeds: they’re rich in antioxidants (which is why they don’t go rancid quickly), high in fiber, and also contain calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and more. Plus, they’re loaded with omega-3 fatty acids.
Some people toss chia seeds directly into smoothies but I like to let mine soak for at least 10 minutes, or as long as overnight. That gives them a gel-like consistency that gives your smoothie a creaminess that’s really delicious.
Now, I happen to think negotiating the maze of non-dairy milks is a very low-impact version of walking through a minefield. There’s no super-nutritious alternative. Unlike non-dairy milks, “real” milk is loaded protein and calcium – but it also has that other stuff in it that makes it hard for a lot of us to digest.
Plus with dairy, even if it doesn’t bother you or you load yourself up with enzymes to help you digest it, you have to be really careful what kind you buy. Otherwise, what comes out of the jug or carton can be riddled with hormones and antibiotics.
That’s why I tend to change out the non-dairy milks I regularly use, and I make sure to choose organic non-GMO varieties. When you’re choosing a non-dairy milk, consider steering clear of those that contain carrageenan (a common ingredient in almond and coconut milks), as it might have an impact on gut health. (3)
Green Smoothie with Chia and Berries
So anyway, that’s the very long story of how I came up with my latest breakfast go-to. It’s especially delicious if you blend it for a couple minutes to let it get nice and fluffy. If it’s too thick, just add more milk.
Have you tried Buddha bowls yet? I’m probably late to the party, but that’s OK. They’re so good I had to write a post about them anyway.
If you haven’t tried them, you’ve got to make one soon. They’re an easy, tasty way to throw together a super-healthy meal that also happens to be gorgeous to look at.
Now, I’ve been a big fan of one-bowl meals for as long as I can remember. In fact, at one point in my life, someone near and dear to me called me a bowl-using m-fer. Is that sweet or what?😹
Anyway. Buddha bowls are like the ultimate one-bowl meal.
I guess you could define them as salads that also include warm ingredients. They get their name from their big, overflowing “belly” bowls, which are kind of like Buddha’s belly.
How to Make a Buddha Bowl
There’s a basic formula to create “hippy bowls” (another name for Buddha bowls):
Start with a base layer of greens
Add grains and/or beans of your choice
Layer on some veggies
Sprinkle on some seeds and/or nuts
Top with a dressing or sauce
Any of these can be precooked or prepped so you can throw them together when it’s time to eat.
You’ll notice that there is no animal protein (i.e., cheese, egg, seafood, poultry, or meat) in that formula. Traditionally, Buddha bowls are entirely plant-based, but hey, it’s your meal so if you want to load on some hard-boiled eggs, shrimp, or whatever, that’s up to you.
No Recipes Required
When it comes to one-bowl meals, I am not a huge fan of actual recipes. I usually have a basic formula and use ingredients that taste good, and generally the meal comes out pretty fantastic.
This lack-of-recipe situation can be a bonus, because you’re not nailed down to specific (or expensive) ingredients. You can make do with what you have on-hand.
But it can be kind of a bummer if you come up with a combo that’s especially stellar and you can’t remember the specifics of what/how much you used.
Comfort Food ‘Salad’
Back to this recipe. I’ve been thinking a LOT of about roasted veggie salad lately.
One of my “things” for 2017 was to eat a salad 5 times a week. And maybe because we’re deep into the pummeling that January offers, it’s hard to get excited about eating plain-old cold salads.
When the temp dips under 20 degrees (and even moreso when it’s under 10 or sub-zero), I don’t know about you but I crave warm comfort foods.
That’s why I came up with this combo, based on the formula above.
The awesome news is that roasted veggies taste amazing when they’re chilled, too, so if you happen to make this another time of the year, you’ll still love it.
You can precook the quinoa and veggies and heat them up when it’s time to eat, and then throw together the Buddha bowl.
I’m all about convenience and frozen veggies (I rarely throw away frozen veggies, but fresh sometimes go bad before I have a chance to use them up!). The good news is you can easily roast frozen veggies. Here’s a great tutorial from The Kitchn.
Crispy Chickpeas = Crave-Worthy
Also, if you haven’t tried crispy chickpeas yet, put those on your list too. They are so crispy and tasty you’ll wonder why they didn’t become trendy till now.
The trick to crisping them is to rinse the chickpeas and then dry them very, very well before you pop them onto the stove. Now, if you’re looking for more specific how-tos when it comes to making crispy chickpeas here’s a basic guide to making them on the stove (although I use much less oil). A lot of people do prefer making them in the oven, but they don’t seem to get as crispy for me.
Now, the “sauce” I made for this particular bowl veers off-track a little because it contains yogurt (which is not plant-based), but I was in the mood for a creamy dressing. You can use whatever dressing you happen to love. I didn’t need much of it – just a tablespoon plunked on the side that I dipped my fork into occasionally.
Roasted Veggie Buddha Bowl
This roasted veggie Buddha Bowl makes a filling and delicious lunch. If you prepare the quinoa, roasted veggies, and crispy chickpeas in advance it takes just minutes to throw together.
Toss frozen veggies in 2 tbsp oil and some salt and roast in preheated 450-degree oven until done.
While veggies are roasting, heat the remaining 1 tbsp of oil in a skillet until it "pops" when you add a drop of water. Add rinsed, dried chickpeas. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until crisp. Season to taste.
Remove roasted veggies from oven and season to taste.
To make dressing:
Place yogurt in a small bowl. Squeeze in lime juice and whisk together with a fork. Add salt and spices to season to taste.
To assemble Buddha bowl:
Put baby spinach in bowl. Top with quinoa, chopped veggies, and roasted veggies. Add crispy chickpeas and pepitas.
If you prepare the roasted veggies, quinoa, and crispy chickpeas in advance this will come together quickly.
Also, feel free to substitute rice or sweet potatoes for the quinoa, and you can use other beans in place of the chickpeas.
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Making an elaborate breakfast in the morning isn’t my style – I’d rather log the extra sleep time.
But eating a delicious breakfast that takes no time AND is good for me? Yes please!
True story: I am not a big fan of oatmeal. At least not when it’s sitting in a lumpy warm pool in the bottom of a cereal bowl. Yuck. I’ve tried and tried to enjoy it, and have found ways to make it tolerable, but … meh.
I mean, I use oats for a lot of things, but for straight-up oatmeal? No thanks.
So when I saw a recipe for baked oatmeal, I thought it would be a good way to use up the leftover rolled oats I had in my cupboard.
And boy, was I ever right. It’s amazing. And you can make it when you have time (i.e., you don’t have to get up early to bake it), because it keeps for days in the fridge.
High-Protein Baked Oatmeal
Dry ingredients: oats, baking powder, spices, and salt.
I’ve been playing around with the original recipe for this dish for a few months now, and I’ve found the right combo for me and my needs. But the fact I’ve been playing around with it and it’s come out great every time is testament to how versatile it is.
For instance, I initially put nuts in this dish, but I ended up taking them out because I wanted to save some calories for later in the day (I’m a small woman and not a huge calorie burner so I have to be strategic this way!).
Still, the nuts were super delicious. You could add pecans into the mixture for texture and taste.
I played around with using different sweeteners (honey, brown sugar, maple syrup), or using no sweetener at all. To boost the protein I tried several different protein powders. And I changed up how many eggs I included, and also what kind of fruit.
Amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing, amazing!
Use Frozen Fruit, Save $$
The first time I made this I used a frozen fruit medley that included mangos and cherries. It was awesome and refreshing. I’ve also made it using frozen berries, which gave it a little more staying power hunger-wise.
One thing I love about this dish is that you don’t have to thaw the fruit before you bake it. You just put it all in a baking dish, pop it in the oven, and it’s done in 45 minutes.
It keeps well in the fridge. Sometimes I reheat it before I eat it … and sometimes, I don’t.
You don’t have to include a topping for your baked oatmeal, but I created one to boost both the taste and the satiety (fill-you-up) factor. This topping adds a whopping 20 grams of protein to the dish!
All you do is mix 1/2 cup of plain low-fat (or nonfat) Greek yogurt with a half-scoop of vanilla protein powder, and plop it on top of the baked oatmeal just before serving.
This recipe lasts me several days, when I can stop myself from snacking on it between breakfasts.
Looks like dessert, but it’s a healthy breakfast or anytime snack.
Give it a try and let me know how you like it!
High-Protein Baked Oatmeal
This baked oatmeal dish makes a delicious breakfast or afternoon snack. Add the high-protein topping and it'll keep you feeling full for hours.
1 3/4 cup milk (I use unsweetened coconut milk, but use your favorite)
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 large eggs
3 tbsp melted coconut oil or grass-fed butter
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups frozen fruit
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with a little of either the butter or coconut oil.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oats, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, salt and optional protein powder. Whisk to combine.
In a smaller mixing bowl, combine the milk, maple syrup, eggs, the butter or coconut oil, and vanilla. Whisk until blended. (Note: if you're using coconut oil, sometimes it solidifies when it comes into contact with colder ingredients. If that happens, stick the bowl in the microwave and heat it up in 30-second increments till the coconut melts.)
Put the berries on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover the fruit with the dry oat mixture, then drizzle the wet ingredients over the oats, moving the baking dish around to make sure it soaks down through the oats and evenly disperses. Pat down dry oats on top.
Bake for about 45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.
Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes before serving.
To make the protein-packed topping, for each serving take 1/2 cup of plain low-fat or nonfat Greek yogurt or coconut yogurt and mix in 1/2 scoop of vanilla protein powder. Just before serving, put the topping on the baked oatmeal.
Wendy Fitness Coaching http://wendyfitness.com/
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When I was growing up, one of my mom’s go-to weekday meals was American Chop Suey.
Basically, it was ground beef, macaroni, and spaghetti sauce, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. And we loved it, especially when it was served with crusty bread from the Shop ‘n Save bakery and a lettuce salad doused in her homemade oil-and-vinegar dressing (vegetable oil, of course!).
But the truth is, that recipe doesn’t love me so much these days. I mean, I love pasta, but whenever I eat it I end up ready to fall asleep a half-hour after my meal. And, TMI, it also makes my stomach feel not-so-awesome. And I haven’t got the patience for that!
So as a result, I had forgotten how much I loved my mom’s recipe … and also how no-brainer it was to cook.
Cut forward to last week, when I was looking around for new recipe ideas and I found a pretty awesome one on CleanFoodCrush. Not only did it look easy and delicious, it was cheap! (BONUS!)
I looked at the recipe and prep list and tweaked it to suit my own tastes and what I had on-hand.
Here’s the thing though: even though I changed it up, I didn’t realize this recipe was basically a cleaned-up, gluten-free, fiber-filled, Mexican version of American Chop Suey.
But when I was cooking, I was like: “Doh!” That’s EXACTLY what it is.
Mexican-American Chop Suey
Why? The format is exactly the same, using different-but-similar ingredients, with spices to flavor it up.
The starchy-carb pasta is replaced with fiber- and protein-rich beans. (Seriously: a single serving of this includes 9 grams of fiber!).
Sodium-laden spaghetti sauce is replaced with a homemade fresh-tomato-based mixture, with spices and salt to season. And the veggie component is boosted with the kale/spinach (greens haters: you won’t even taste it, I promise) and peppers.
For the meat, the “hamburg” we used back in the day is replaced with ground turkey (although I have made this with grass-fed ground beef and it’s super delish).
And instead of using Parmesan, I went with shredded cheese, which added a creaminess to the recipe. But you can skip the cheese if you don’t love dairy and add avocado for richness.
Give this one a try and let me know what you think! It’s even better the next day.
Mexican-American Chop Suey
This is healthy update to the classic American Chop Suey recipe we all grew up with: it's hearty, comforting, tasty, and super nutritious.
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If you haven’t already heard about resistant starch, you likely will very soon because it’s on its way to becoming a major nutrition buzzword (or buzzphrase).
Chances are you’re already eating foods that contain it. And chances are, you might feel slightly guilty and/or “bad” about it if you’re trying to lose weight.
That’s because it involves eating carbs.
But resistant starch isn’t bad for you at all. In fact, it’s pretty awesome.
That’s because foods high in resistance starch (or RS) – including rice and potatoes that have been cooked and then cooled off – contain a certain type of fiber that resists digestion.
Boosts your ability to burn fat
Keeps you feeling full
Reduces your hunger
Helps keep blood sugar under control
May help lower cholesterol
And has promise when it comes to fighting disease
What are starches? They are complex carbohydrates, which are composed of molecules of several sugars bonded together.
Starches are made up of two kinds of polysaccharides: amylopectin and amylose.
Amylopectin’s structure is highly branched, which gives it lots of surface area. That means it’s more digestible and broken down quickly, causing a spike in blood sugar, followed by another spike in insulin, which is what your body uses to shuttle that sugar to your cells to be used for energy.
That rise and fall in your blood sugar can leave you feeling tired and hungry soon after you eat.
But amylose is built differently: it’s a straight chain, which means it has less overall surface area. As a result, it’s digested more slowly, causing less of a chance that your blood sugar will quickly rise and then fall.
And amylose is the kind of polysaccharide that is generally found in foods high in resistant starch.
Resistant Starch Digestion
When you eat foods high in RS, your small intestine can’t absorb it. That means the RS travels to your large intestine, where it’s fermented by your intestinal bacteria so it can be broken down. That longer transit time helps keep you feeling fuller, longer.
There are four types of RS:
Type 1, which physically resists digestion because of its strong outer coating. Your digestive enzymes can’t break it down. This includes legumes, some grains, and some seeds.
Type 2, which contain resistant granules that aren’t easily digested. This kind is found in raw white potatoes, unmodified potato starch (uncooked), green under-ripe bananas, uncooked plantains, and uncooked banana flour.
Type 3, which is “retrograded.” That’s because it includes foods that have been cooked and cooled, changing the structure of the starch itself. It’s in white rice (the highest amount is in parboiled and basmati), white potatoes, legumes, and pasta made from potatoes or rice. Even if the starches are reheated again after being cooled, the resistant starch remains intact and, in some cases, might even multiply.
Type 4, which is man-made RS and is found in processed foods or in “high-maize” supplements. Because it’s a processed food, I’m not a fan.
Here’s a fun fact: you know when it comes to calories, carbs have 4 calories per gram? Well, resistant starch – because we can’t completely digest it – has only about 2 calories per gram.
Don’t Overdo It
As you might guess, because it’s hard for our bodies to digest RS, eating too much can lead to unpleasant consequences. That’s why it’s a good idea to begin adding it to your diet slowly to see how you react.
Also, we all react differently to some kinds of resistant starch. For instance, eating type 1 RS (like legumes) can have different effect on your body than type 3 (liked cooked and cooled potatoes). And those effects might be completely different for you than they are for someone else.
Want more info about RS? I’ve got some helpful links below.
6 Recipes Containing Resistant Starch
I try to get some resistant starch in my diet every day. My usual go-tos are with legumes or uncooked oats (see the muesli recipe below for one tip). But there are plenty of other ways to incorporate it into your diet.
1. Whole30 Potato Salad
Who doesn’t love potato salad? And thanks to the cooked-then-cooled potatoes it contains, it’s filled with RS.
But if you’re going to have traditional potato salad that means using mayonnaise, which often is filled with questionable fats.
Good news: this recipe contains a healthy homemade mayo that’s made entirely of whole ingredients: egg, olive oil, salt, and your choice of apple cider vinegar, lemon, or lime.
I’d personally go with organic natural apple cider vinegar like Braggs because it is filled with healthy probiotics.
This healthier version of the French classic contains plenty of RS-filled legumes. And if you opt for white potatoes instead of sweet potatoes, your leftovers will contain even more resistant starch. (Since this is my own recipe, I can attest that it’s super tasty either way.)
Bircher muesli is basically a Swiss version of raw “overnight” oats, but it was designed to be eaten as a light evening meal.
The original recipe included apples, nuts, raw oats, and cream and honey, but this version uses cherries. You obviously can use any fruit you want. I happen to like using frozen fruits in mine to save money.
Because the whole rolled oats aren’t coked, it preserves the resistant starches.
(Note: here’s the tip I hinted at above. Unrelated to this recipe, I’ve been known to toss 1/8 cup of rolled oats into my salads or other veggies, and douse them balsamic vinegar. Sounds gross, but they add a nice nuttiness and you don’t even notice they’re in there).
This smoothie from Dr. Oz includes green, unripe bananas. Now, this recipe would personally not keep me feeling full for very long as it is pretty high in carbs, so I would add some plant-based protein powder to it.