Wait. How is it almost July? This is not okay. I need more pizza, sunshine, and TIME.
Yesterday was my first day out on the lake this Summer; it was bright blue, refreshing, and just what I needed. The fresh air, cocktails, and perfect breeze screamed Minnesota Summer. By the way, I captured a bit of it through the new Instagram video.
In other news, I’m thinking about doing a 30 day yoga challenge. The ultimate goal is to attend a class every single day for a month. I’m determined that I can do it, but here’s the thing: this isn’t your typical yoga. It’s the yoga that makes your body hurt because your jump squatting with weights and the room is 95 degrees. Yikes. What am I thinking? I am clearly not, but a good challenge is always fun.
Anyway it’s been a while since we’ve talked about the things I’m loving, my weekly inspiration and all that jazz. And what’s funny to me is that these posts are some of the easiest to write, it’s just a matter of taking the time to do it.
I recently attended the BlogHer Food conference in Austin, Texas. It was a complete blast! I ate ice cream sandwiches the size of face, listened to established bloggers speak, met Joy the Baker (my baking inspiration), and so many talented women who love food just as much as I do.
Here we are with Ree, also know as The Pioneer Woman. I also had the opportunity to meet her amazing sister Betsy, who runs Tasty Kitchen. Both were sweet and full of smiles.
It’s time to talk nutrition, clean eating and weight loss on Ambitious Kitchen. I’m sure you all know how important it is to feed your body with nourishing, good-for-you foods. You could run for an hour every single day but if you aren’t eating right, you’ll never see the results you desire. To top it all off, there are SO MANY diet out there; how do you even know what’s right? While I agree that it’s best to eat for your body type and what makes you feel good, I am also a huge advocate of clean eating.
So, what is clean eating? It’s basically a no-junk approach to your diet, plus it’s actually incredibly simple AND delicious! You don’t have to sacrifice the things you love, you just make alternative choices.
Here are some examples:
Roasted vegetables with herbs instead of chips — I roast veggies with a tiny bit of olive oil and an array of spices. YUM!
Sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes — Sweet potatoes are a complex carb, which means they take longer for your body to break down. I love topping mine with a tiny bit of almond butter or maple syrup.
Water instead of juice or a latte — Always reach for water. Most of the time when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty.
Nonfat plain Greek yogurt instead of sugar-packed ice cream — I could go on forever about the benefits of Greek yogurt and how I like to use it in recipes. My favorite swap is adding a packet of Truvia to Greek yogurt, then swirling in fresh fruit, pumpkin butter, peanut butter, or sometimes cocoa powder. Amazing!
Whole grain bread instead of white — If you must have bread, always go with whole grain or whole wheat. Read labels and watch out for breads with sugar added or high fructose corn syrup. Sprouted bread is great too.
Eggs instead of waffles every morning — It’s best to start your day off with a healthy breakfast. Think high protein and low sugar. Make a great choice to start the day, and you’re likely to stick with it.
So you’ve probably heard all of those before, right? Yes, eating clean is a conscious choice but it can also be a constant battle. Come on, are you kidding? I’m not perfect. I drool over Bon Appetit magazine and sometimes I just really crave an ice cream cone from McDonald’s. However, I live by the 80/20 rule which means most days I’m eating simple and clean. This makes me feel better, more confident, and in general, happier. I love the way my body feels when I’m eating healthy foods. Simply put, eating an apple is much more energizing then eating an Oreo. Wouldn’t you agree?
Now I’m not an expert or a nutritionist, I can only speak from my own experiences with weight gain/loss, dieting, and in general being a female. Obviously there’s a huge amount of pressure on women these days, and it’s easy to feel uncomfortable in your own skin. Most importantly, you also have to remember that only YOU are in control of your habits. If you want to make a change, you have to start somewhere. It’s certainly not going to be an easy road, but the good news is that little changes absolutely lead to BIG results!
If you’re not sure where to start on your road to clean eating and weight loss, here are my biggest tips:
Know how many calories you should be eating, then write down everything you eat. Yes, this is annoying but it will be a crucial part of your success. Monitoring what you are putting in your body is SO important. Most of the time we are unaware of how many calories that we’re actually consuming. I like to use the MyFitnessPal app on my phone, but you can also access it online!
Read nutrition labels. Nutrition labels are available to you for a reason. There are also serving sizes for a reason. Try to stick to these! Don’t make it a habit of purchasing foods with ingredients that you can’t pronounce.
Eliminate all of your ‘pleasure’ foods, but one (for a little bit anyway). This sounds difficult, and it is! Think of it more as a challenge. If you can take a look at your diet and see what foods you don’t need, then try to slowly eliminate them. I used to really love ice cream so every week I would go to Dairy Queen for a really big Reese’s Blizzard. I realized that this wasn’t making me feel good and that I didn’t really need it. Other examples would be cookies, pastries, your morning latte, chips at lunch, sodas, extra cream in your coffee, that sweet ‘granola’ bar, sugary cereals, etc. Keep one of your pleasure foods for one day a week to enjoy, then don’t feel guilty about it. Moderation is key!
Prepare, prepare, prepare, AND eat out less! Having healthy foods available to you will make eating healthier a lot more easy. Grill a couple of chicken breasts, make healthy breakfast burritos with egg whites, prepare oatmeal and soups in your crockpot for the week. Do what fits your lifestyle best, but try eating at home as much as possible. You will save calories and money! Here’s an example grocery list I created for The Food Network.
Try your best to NOT eat for emotional reasons: I have done this countless times, and perhaps it’s personally my biggest obstacle. Know what your triggers are. Currently I’m reading a phenomenal book on emotional eating. It’s really helped me in managing my stress and understanding my eating habits and triggers.
Always eat breakfast. Breakfast is the best; it kickstarts your metabolism, and allows you to stay on track the rest of the day! I love yogurt with fruit and nuts, an egg white omelet, or oatmeal!
Watch your fat and carb intake. Don’t get me wrong, healthy fats are wonderful. I love coconut oil, avocados, and nuts; however, these foods are easy to go overboard with and the calories quickly add up. Just make sure you watch your serving sizes — especially with cheese! As for carbs, I love them! They give you energy and make you feel happy, but you don’t need to eat a 6-inch Subway sandwich to feel good all the time. Look for good carb sources such as fruits or whole grains like oatmeal and quinoa. Power foods!
I hope that you’ll find some of these tips useful. I’ve found them successful for myself, but I’m definitely not an expert. I’m only sharing my knowledge based on what I’ve read and experimented with in my own life. You can consider that a disclaimer.
Now I think we can all agree that snacking is so much fun and it’s really difficult not to reach for that candy bar at 3pm. But I’ve got a brand that I think you will absolutely love! Quest Nutrition makes protein bars that taste like candy bars. Seriously, I think if I could eat these bars every day for the rest of my life, I would. Yep, obsessed!
Recently Quest Nutrition reached out to me and kindly sent me a sample package of their protein bars. OH MY GOODNESS, I was shocked at how incredible they were. These bars are truly perfect for someone who either loves to work out, is watching their figure, or for a low carb lover.
So let me tell you a little bit about their bars: they’re gluten free, contain at least 15g of protein, are low-carb, and have no sugar is added. Yes, they are as amazing as they sound — I’m not kidding! For me these bars were wonderful before or after a workout or if I needed a quick breakfast in the morning. My favorite flavors are chocolate chip cookie dough, chocolate, peanut butter chocolate, vanilla almond, and strawberry cheesecake. And all of them taste incredible when microwaved for 15 seconds.
I can’t recommend them enough and lucky for you, Quest has agreed to sponsor a giveaway.
Here’s how it works: I will randomly selecting TWO winners who will receive a 12-sample pack of Quest Nutrition Bars.
Before we get into weekly favorites, I’d like to share with you my best banana bread recipe. Now I only know that it’s my number one because apparently I can’t even wait to slice into it. Yes that’s right, I basically pick the entire top of the bread and shovel it into my mouth as soon as I pull it out of the oven. It’s just too irresistible when it’s warm and sweetened with a touch of honey and bits of chocolate chips. I really don’t think banana bread could get any better…. unless you slab on a little nutella! SORRY… but I’m totally not sorry.
Anyway the point of me telling you about delicious bread is because I think you should bake it for your mom this Mother’s Day! She’s probably a pretty special lady who definitely deserves a very special bread. Moms love homemade goods!
What are your plans for Mother’s Day? I’m going to treat my mom to a pedicure and hopefully we’ll see the new Great Gatsby movie. If you haven’t listened to the movie soundtrack, go do it now. I’m serious! Download the whole thing; you won’t regret it.
Other things I want to share with you: I’m thinking about making a change in my job. As you may know, for the past 2 years I’ve worked for myself; it’s been stressful, crazy, and amazing… but it appears that there are some really incredible opportunities on the horizon! Please keep your fingers crossed for me!
Yes, it’s the weekend! Finally it’s beginning to become beautiful again in Minnesota.
Yesterday was gorgeous too, so my friend and I went decided to embark on an 8 mile run. Don’t even ask me how that happened since I just started running again last week. I’m thinking it’s because of those magical quinoa stuffed peppers and probably the fact that I put myself on a baking restriction last week.
Besides that, it feels like I’m in a really good place right now. I’ve been trying to take a little more time for myself. In fact, today I went on a fun date! We went to this specialty shop and stocked up on gourmet cheeses, french bread, olives, and chocolate; then had a picnic by the lake. I can’t tell you how nice it is to take a break, relax and just enjoy little moments. I forget to do that sometimes, don’t you?
Anyway, I’m not posting weekly favorites this week but I am sharing with you this unbelievable Dark Chocolate, Raspberry, and Brie Grilled Cheese Sandwich that I made for a fun contest!
Oh… did I mention I NEED YOUR VOTE in order to win?! Yes, you and your awesome self can help me travel to California and tour a winery. HOW AMAZING?! Please head over to the St. Francis Wine Facebook page, and vote for my sweet and savory sandwich! Note: you’ll need to like their page in order to vote!
Like my new yoga shirt? I got it from my yoga studio and I’m obsessed. Serious question though: why isn’t it acceptable to wear workout clothes to work? It would really save me from doing laundry every other night.
Anyway it’s finally sunny in Minnesota, so I went for a 5 mile run this morning. There’s nothing better then starting your weekend off with a good work out. I feel like superwoman! That’s a lie. My hips are actually killing me… welcome to running season.
Other than working out, I have a lot of meal planning to do. Right now quinoa is currently cooking on the stove top. I haven’t quite decided what to do with it yet, but I’m sure it will be something weird and healthy, so look for that soon.
Here are a few of my favorite things from this past week:
I’ve added some photos of my vacation for you to look at. I’m a little bit depressed since there was a snowstorm yesterday in Minnesota; I thought it was April showers bring May flowers? Lies.
Okay, I’ll stop complaining. All I really want right now is to get back to sunshine. Why hasn’t anyone invented a teleporter? You know, Star Trek style.
Whatever it’s the weekend, so I’m pretty happy about that. In fact right now I feel like I could run a marathon; I’ve consumed wayyyy too much caffeine. Fridays require extreme happiness and excitement, and sometimes that requires 3 cups of coffee.
Ohhh but I’ve got some fun, delicious links that I’ve been dying to share with you! Here we go:
It’s another Friday and thank goodness for that because I’m sitting here with my Key Lime 100 Calorie Yoplait yogurt wishing it would somehow transform itself into actual frozen yogurt and still be low calorie. Maybe I should put it in the freezer? Forget it, I am too impatient to wait and it is magical enough by itself. I guess Fridays can be a little rough but that’s what happy hours are for, right?
Now the last time I had my weekly favorites I asked you if you’d like to see a weekly post about my healthy living tips, and a lot of you seemed interested. Therefore, I’ll work on gathering up some fun ideas! Feel free to pass any along that you’d like to see.
Hmmmm what else? Well I’m still in the midst of figuring out my blog design and had sort of put it aside while on vacation, but hopefully you’ll see a much cleaner version of Ambitious Kitchen within the next month or so! My goal is to bring you something much easier to navigate and less cluttered in general.
Okay, okay, okay! Let’s get on to my weekly favorites:
OMG how is it almost the end of March? I swear the weeks are flying by faster and faster! This past week I made my famous turkey tomato meat sauce with basil, garlic, and major amounts of melty mozzarella. Mmmmm LOVE at first bite; plus it’s also secretly healthy!
Speaking of healthy things, I’ve been thinking about starting a new weekly post about healthy living, including my tips for eating right and any helpful advice I can offer. Let me know if you’d like to see that happen, and if you have any questions you’d like to see answered.
One last thing: I’m on season 2 of Felicity and absolutely fell in love with the series all over again. Thank you Netflix for causing me to stay up until 1am during the weeknights. I’ll probably watch Dawson’s Creek next and I’m not sorry about it (PACEY FOREVER!).
Alright now let’s get to some delicious links:
I need to bake these cupcakes and then ascend to heaven.