Friday, September 30, 2011

"5 in 5" Week 2: Strength Train at Least Twice a Week

You've got a good rhythm going with eating a healthy breakfast each morning for Week 1.  Your goal for Week 2 is to continue to those daily breakfasts and incorporate at least two days of strength training into your routine.  If you're a beginner, twice a week may be plenty.  Some of the all-stars may be doing a more advanced program with several days per week so there's some extra space on the "5 in 5" log if needed.

When you want to transform your body strength training should be your top priority (only to be bested by proper nutrition).  Yet somehow the average Joe's and Jane's are still brainwashed into doing countless hours of "aerobics" even though it doesn't yield them the results they want.  And even though any respectable fitness professional would recommend other methods.

For some sample strength training routines and an explanation as to why all the cool kids are doing it, check out my "Training" page on the blog.  I would also recommend the following books for a good place to start:


You should always consult your physician before starting any exercise program or increasing your current activity level. Additionally, contact a fitness professional to ensure proper form for safety and effectiveness.  No sense doing it if you're not doing it right.  Right?  Everyone has a different fitness level so it is important to participate in a program that’s appropriate for you. You should not train the same muscles on consecutive days so be sure to give yourself at least one rest day in between training sessions.
"Like" my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter so we can keep up with each other's progress in the challenge!

We'll talk about what to eat post-training session for Week 3.  Until then, focus on eating breakfast and working at least two strength training sessions into your schedule.  Have a great week!


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Baked Chicken Fingers with Sweet & Tangy Dipping Sauce

One of my all-time favorite chicken recipes is from a cookbook called Cuisine Lite.  The original version is quick and easy for a weeknight dinner, but it needed to be adapted for game day.  And what's better than finger food you can pop in your mouth without taking your eyes off the tv?  The result of my changes were crispy chicken tenders served with a mouthwatering sauce sure to wake up your taste buds.  As always, I used real food ingredients for the entire thing.

Baked Chicken Fingers with Sweet & Tangy Dipping Sauce
  • 1 lb chicken tenders
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tsp hot sauce
Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Beat egg in a shallow dish.  Combine bread crumbs, salt, pepper, oregano, and garlic powder and place in another shallow dish.  Dip each piece of chicken in egg, then in the bread crumb mixture.  Press bread crumbs into chicken and coat all sides evenly.  Place chicken on baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes.  Flip tenders and bake for another 5-7 minutes or until done.

Meanwhile, heat a small saucepan over medium heat.  Combine zest, lemon juice, honey, and hot sauce in the pan.  Bring the mixture to a bubble and cook until it thickens.

Serve chicken fingers with sauce on the side and enjoy!

Big 10 conference games start this week. 

Full Whitehouse
photo: Onward State

Friday, September 23, 2011

"5 in 5" Week 1: Eat Breakfast Daily

Here we go!  Week 1 of the "5 in 5" starts Monday so hopefully you have your pre-measurements done. Your first task is very simple. Eat a healthy breakfast every morning, preferably within an hour of waking.

Think of your metabolism like a wood-burning stove. The fire is out while we sleep, meaning our metabolic rate is at its slowest. Eating something first thing in the morning is like putting a log on the stove. It ignites the flame and our body starts burning calories. The sooner you fuel your fire, the sooner it starts burning. Imagine if you wake up at 6am every day but your first meal isn't until lunch at 12pm. That's six hours of extra calorie burning potential wasted!

In addition to kick-starting your metabolism, it also has psychological benefits. A healthy breakfast sets the tone for the rest of the day. Chances are you'll be more consistent in making smart choices with the remainder of your meals. Carving out the time also shows you value you. If you are not a priority to yourself, then reaching your goals will always be a dream rather than a reality.

Try to eat real food. If your great-grandparents would recognize it, it's a good choice. For example, they would know what cooked oats topped with fresh berries was. A pre-packaged oatmeal bar with fruit preserves and icing in a zigzag pattern? Probably not. Here are some ideas:
  • Eggs scrambled with whatever chopped veggies you like
  • Oatmeal flavored with a spoonful of natural peanut butter, berries, or cinnamon and nuts
  • High fiber cereal with low-fat milk
  • Whole wheat toast with natural peanut butter
  • Low-fat Greek or regular yogurt mixed with fruit
  • High protein breakfast smoothie with low-fat milk, your choice of fruit, a scoop of whey protein powder, and ice (blend together and experiment with different combinations!)
So starting Monday, September 26th your goal is to eat a healthy breakfast every morning. It is highly recommended that you record what you eat. Plenty of research studies have shown those who regularly track their actions toward a goal are far more likely to achieve it than those who don't. You can use Post-it notes, a journal, or whatever else you like.

To download a customized "5 in 5" challenge log click HERE.

Don't forget to "like" my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter to let me know how you're doing!  I'll be sharing my "5 in 5" progress daily.

Next week our goal is to incorporate at least two days of strength training per week.  I'll be giving you guide on how to do so then.

Hope you have a great Week 1!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Amanda's Better For You Buffalo Chicken Dip

No tailgate would be complete without something buffalo-flavored and buffalo chicken dip is always a fan favorite.  As delicious as it is, I have a hard time stomaching the more traditional recipe which typically includes a block of cream cheese and half a cup of ranch or blue cheese salad dressing. 

I knew I could do better with two simple improvements.  My version involves a few more steps, but the end result is so worth it. 

First, I used real food.  The only thing that wasn't close to its natural state was the bottled hot sauce.  Real chicken breasts were used instead of canned chicken.  The cream cheese and bottled salad dressing were swapped out for cottage cheese (trust me, you won't notice).  The end result was still a creamy, gooey dip consisting of real foods your body will recognize.  What was missing was a bunch of artificial, processed ingredients with names that are hard to pronounce  (if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it!).

Second, I added veggies that typically accompany dishes with buffalo sauce.  It was a great way to add volume to the recipe without the extra calories.  That means you get to eat more, FYI.  They also upped the nutritional content since they come equipped with lots of wonderful vitamins.  

Oh, and did I mention it's still freakin' delicious? 

Amanda's Better For You Buffalo Chicken Dip
  • 2 cups of shredded chicken breast
  • 1 1/2 cups nonfat cottage cheese
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cup hot sauce, depending how much heat you prefer
  • 1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 4-5 baby carrots, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
Toss a couple chicken breasts in a crock pot with water and season with salt and pepper.  Once cooked through, use two forks to shred.  This can be done a day or two ahead of time and stored in the fridge.  It took about one pound of chicken breasts to yield 2 cups shredded for me.

Place cottage cheese in a food processor or blender.  Blend until smooth and creamy.

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a skillet.  Add carrots, celery, and onion.  Saute about 8 minutes, until soft.

Add all ingredients together and mix well.  Place mixture in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees about 20-25 minutes until bubbly.

Serve with whole grain tortilla chips and carrot and celery sticks.

Get in my belly
(This is half the recipe)

Below is a comparison of my recipe with a popular one made with low-fat cream cheese and fat-free ranch salad dressing.

 You could probably top that if you went with organic varieties.  I just used what is easily found in any grocery store.  Hope you enjoy!  On that note...

Image Detail

Let's not play like last weekend, ok guys?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

5 in 5 Fall Challenge - Getting Started

Last week I announced our first motivational program, the "5 in 5" Fall Challenge.  Each week we'll address a different habit geared toward getting you on track to a better body.  Five weeks means there are five different habits we'll work on incorporating into our lifestyles.  The challenge will start on Monday, September 26th and conclude Sunday, October 30th.

If you're in, there are 5 simple steps to take before Week 1 begins.  You'll be recording some baseline measurements which will then be repeated at the end of the challenge.  If you don't have anything to track your goal, how will you know when you get there?  Though there are many different metrics you can measure, we're going to keep it as simple as possible.  All you need is a scale, a tape measure, and something to record your results in.

  1. Weigh yourself.  Make a note of what time of day and what clothing you were wearing so you can be consistent for future measurements.
  2. Measure your waist.  Line a tape measure up with your navel and measure the circumference of your waist.  It is a good idea to do this in front of a mirror to make sure the tape measure isn't lopsided.  Pull it snug but not so tight that it indents your skin.
  3. Measure your hips.  Wrap the tape measure around the largest part of your lower body when standing with the feet hip-width apart.  This will probably be around your butt rather than right at the hip bones.  Follow the same precautions above so you get accurate results.
  4. Write down a goal.  What made you take on this challenge and what do you hope to get out of it?  Make sure it is specific and time-based.  Use strong, confident language to convey the actions you will take.  For example, "I will incorporate at least two strength train into my routine every week" is a strong goal.  "I want to lose 10 pounds" or "I will exercise more."
  5. Describe how your life will be different when you reach your goal.  How will you feel?  What will change?  How will the people closest to you be affected?

Later this week, you'll be receiving info on Week 1, which starts Monday, September 26th.  Here's a reminder on the 5 habits:
  • Week 1:   Eat a healthy breakfast every day
  • Week 2:   Strength train at least twice a week 
  • Week 3:   Refuel after every training       
  • Week 4:   Do two metabolic sessions twice a week
  • Week 5:   Eat protein at every meal

Don't forget, be sure to "like" my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter so we can share progress and daily updates!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Scrambled Egg Bites & Fresh Fruit Kabobs

If you're not always in the mood for a six course meal for those 12 o'clock games, this is a great midday meal.  Bite-sized scrambled eggs and fall fruit skewers are just as satisfying. 

Bacon and Cheddar Scrambled Egg Bites
  • nonstick cooking spray
  • 8 eggs
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 6 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
  • 2 - 3 tbsp green onion, chopped
  • 1/3 cup low-fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Set the oven to 375 degrees.  Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray.  Beat eggs and milk together.  Then add bacon, green onion, cheese, salt, and pepper and mix well.  Use a small scoop and fill each muffin hole about two thirds of the way.  Bake 8-10 minutes (mine actually took a couple minutes more).  When done, let cool for a couple minutes before removing from the pan.  This should make about 30 mini egg bites.  Get creative and try different flavor combinations!

Fresh Fruit Kabobs
  • apples, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • pears, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 parts vanilla Greek yogurt
  • 1 part nonfat milk (almond milk would also be good!)
  • cinnamon to taste
  • skewers

Arrange the apples and pears on skewers.  For the yogurt sauce, mix two parts of no- or low-fat vanilla Greek yogurt to one part of nonfat milk.  Sprinkle with cinnamon to taste.  Whisk the ingredients together and carefully pour over the skewers.

Penn State Nittany Lion

We are.....PENN STATE!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Sneak Peak: "5 in 5" Fall Challenge

The end of summer always feels like the party is over and it's time to get back to business.  To help you get there, in terms of fitness, I'm launching my blog's first ever motivational challenge.

The "5 in 5" Fall Challenge starts September 26th and ends October 30th.  Each week we tackle a different habit geared toward getting you on track to a better body.  Five weeks means there are five different habits we'll work on incorporating into our lifestyles.

Next week, I'll give you some instructions on how to take pre-measurements before you begin.  Then, we'll start the challenge.  Here's a sneak peak at what to expect:
  • Week 1:   Eat a healthy breakfast every day
  • Week 2:   Strength train at least twice a week 
  • Week 3:   Refuel after every training       
  • Week 4:   Do two metabolic sessions twice a week
  • Week 5:   Eat protein at every meal
If you're in, be sure to "like" my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter so we can share progress and daily updates!

Photo: mcdlttx

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Spicy Steakhouse Burgers with Blue Cheese & Healthy Snack Chips

It's still early enough in the season to grill outside so burgers are on the menu for this week!  This menu is a grown up version of chips and burgers, on a health kick of course.

Potato and Kale Chips with Lightened Lemon Mayonnaise Dip

I use Giada De Laurentiis' recipe on the Food Network following her instructions to a "T" with a few exceptions:
  1. I only made sweet potato chips because they have more beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin A than their white counterparts.
  2. The lemon mayonnaise dip is delicious, but to lighten it up I did half light mayo and half nonfat plain Greek yogurt.  It's a great way to cut down on fat and the yogurt provides a few extra grams of protein.

Spicy Steakhouse Burgers with Blue Cheese

Back in high school and when on break from college, I worked in a chain restaurant that specialized in gourmet burgers.  My version is  inspired by my absolute favorite I used to serve back in the day but much healthier.  I eliminated the fatty mayo and greasy fried onions from the original but kept all the distinct flavor.

  • 4 ground beef burgers
  • 4 whole wheat buns
  • Ground chipolte seasoning, to taste
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
  • 1/4 cup of your favorite bottled steak sauce
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Olive oil
Coat a skillet with olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onions and saute until caramel brown.  Meanwhile, season the burgers with chipolte depending on how much "kick" you prefer.  Grill to desired temperature.  Once done, add a burger to each whole wheat bun.  Top evenly with steak sauce, blue cheese crumbles, and sauteed onion.

**My tailgate recipes are lighter in calories, contain more real food ingredients, and/or provide more nutrients than their more traditional counterparts.  It's important to note that while these recipes are healthier in nature they do not necessarily reflect my eating habits for the remainder of the week.  Game time = my cheat time.  I tend to indulge more and break some of my rules once a week.  Because I'm often asked what I eat on a day-to-day basis, I will have an upcoming post on the subject to give you a better picture.

Let's go State!  Beat 'Bama!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Resolution Reality Check

Ever have big plans in mind for the year and then quickly realize there's less than four months left before you're due to make a new round of resolutions?  I had big goals in mind for 2011 as I'm sure many of you had too.  This was the year you were going to lose ten pounds.  This was the year you were going to pay off debt.  This year you were going to train for a half marathon.  Now that it's almost over, how’s your progress been?

If you're further from your goals than you originally intended it’s time to re-strategize and get to work. 

I’m big on writing things down and dissecting them further into strategies that are easily manageable.  But that isn’t enough.  You have to actually do it which is the hard part.

In a recent webinar on success secrets for females in the fitness industry, Rachel Cosgrove said she reads 30-60 minutes a day and goes through a book a week as part of personal and professional development.  For those of you who don’t know Rachel Cosgrove, THIS is why she’s such a well-respected figure in the fitness industry.

When I set my goals earlier this year, reading more was definitely one strategy I mapped out .  If I had to grade myself, eh, I’d give myself a B -.  Slightly above average, but definitely room for improvement.   I know I can earn an A if I tackle the huge pile of books I've purchased or borrowed earlier in the year.

How am I going to do this?  Well, I’ve mentioned before more time will never miraculously appear.  We all have the same 1,440 minutes in each day.  The difference between being successful or not comes down to how we prioritize them. 

Sometimes serious sacrifices have to be made.  Think about how you spend each minute of each day and which ones are being wasted.  Mine is through mindless TV watching.  I turn the TV on for background noise whenever I am home by myself.  I crash on the couch in front of it after dinner until I can muster up the energy to climb the stairs to my bedroom.  As challenging as it will be, keeping the TV off is the best way I will free up some more time to move closer to my goals. 

Photo by: reid

When all the new shows debut in a couple weeks, I will be limiting myself to three hours of leisure TV.  The time I gain from not watching can be better delegated towards accomplishing my goals, like reading more regularly.  Weighing one versus the other just made sense.  Yes, TV might entertain me for an hour or so, but life will go on as usual the next morning whether or not I know the current status of Meredith and McDreamy’s relationship on Grey’s Anatomy.  On the other hand, utilizing the time to read is an investment in myself.  When I wake up the next morning, I have new knowledge that brings me one step closer to reaching my goals.  Life does not go on as usual.  And in this case, it's a good thing.

What part of your life could use some de-cluttering?  If 2011 flew by and you’re not where you hoped to be, think about what you need to do to get there.  The result you achieve will only be equal to the effort you put forth.  Though some sacrifices will be made, the feeling of accomplishing a goal will be ten times more satisfying than any loss.

While you re-strategize, I'll be contemplating how to delegate my 3 hours of TV... 

Note:  The morning news, college football Saturdays, if when the Red Sox are in the World Series, and movie/date nights with my husband do NOT count towards my 3 hours of leisure TV time.  All of the above are essential to my sanity.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

"Rock Your Socks" Tropical Guac


It's time for college football, my friends.  Anyone who knows me knows capturing my attention on a Saturday from here until November is a lost cause.  Because I am entranced in nonstop coverage of college football all day and will never stray more than a 20 foot radius from the TV.  (Why 20 feet, you ask?  Because that's about how far away my kitchen is and that whole spread of ligthened up tailgate food isn't going to make itself, now is it?) 

Since it is technically not fall yet, the first tailgate of the season deserves a summery dish.  Guacamole is my specialty and recently I did an experiment inspired by a local Mexican restaurant who makes unbelievable varieties of my favorite green dip.  What hatched was nothing short of Caribbean heaven on a tortilla chip. 

It may sound like an odd combination but trust me on this one.  The addition of fruit gives it a subtle sweetness and a lot of extra vitamins.  Don't fear the amount of fat in the avocados or cashews either.  It's healthy fat your body needs.  While it is a calorically dense side dish, you can feel good that what you're stuffing your face with is NOT loaded with artificial ingredients and preservatives like some store-bought varieties.

"Rock Your Socks" Tropical Guac
  • 3-4 avocados
  • 1/4 cup white onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp jalapeno, minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • juice of 1-2 limes
  • 1/4 cup pineapple, diced
  • 1/4 cup mango, diced
  • 1/4 cup cashews, roughly chopped

First, slice the avocados in half and remove the pit.  Scoop insides into a bowl and mash.  I use a handheld potato masher for this.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix carefully.  If you prefer a creamier dip, add a tablespoon or two of sour cream.  Serve with tortilla chips or any other south-of-the-border fare desired. 

Note: my traditional guacamole recipe is all of the above minus the fruit and cashews.

For more munchies of a similar nature, try my pico de gallo and watermelon cucumber margaritas

Go PSU!  Beat Indiana State!