Monday, January 27, 2014

Oatmeal Banana Bars

The kid goes through “food phases.” That is, he is really into certain foods for a while and then not so much. Recently, he has been having green smoothies, banana yogurt (plain Greek yogurt, smashed banana, and vanilla stevia), avocado, and blueberries for breakfast. But all of these foods are not that appealing to him anymore.

So I was looking for some new breakfasts and thought I’d experiment with some bars. Now, if you know me, you know that I am not a baker. Over the years I have learned to follow a recipe when it comes to baking, and I do usually okay when I do just that. But the last time I experimented and tried to make gluten-free pumpkin cookies by experimenting with oats and no added sugar they turned out awful. In fact, the experience made me not want to bake for a while…

Luckily, I had a lot more success with these bars as we all enjoy them. I like that they have no added sugar but are sweet enough because of the bananas and raisins. They are also egg and dairy free. Plus, they are perfect for those ripe bananas you need to use up. While I set out to make breakfast bars, we eat them more at other times of the day rather than for breakfast, but they are a success nonetheless.

Oatmeal Banana Bars

Yield: 8 bars

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats, processed in the food processor for about 15 – 20 seconds, until the oats are smooth but still have some texture
  • 2 medium ripe bananas, smashed
  • 3 T almond butter
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/3 cup pecans, finely chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a 8 x 8 baking dish with parchment paper.
  3. Mix all the ingredients until well combined.
  4. Put the dough into the baking dish evenly and smooth out the top.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool. Take the parchment paper with the cooked bars out of the baking dish.
  7. Cut the baked dough into 8 bars.
  8. Let cool completely before eating so that the bars have a chance to set.
Nutritional Information per bar (I used the MyFitnessPal website to calculate the stats): Calories: 127, Carbs: 16 grams, Fat: 7 grams, Protein: 3 grams, Sugar: 7 grams.

These bars aren’t overly sweet, but sweet enough (at least for us) if you use ripe bananas. They are great for those who like sweet(er) breakfasts. If eaten for breakfast, I would definitely eat a higher protein food, such as some nuts, eggs or Greek yogurt, along with a bar or two. Personally, I tend to eat one a few hours after lunch with a cup of tea.They are also portable and have made appearances in Andy’s and the kid’s lunches as a little sweet, but not too sweet, treat.

Finally, the kid’s Korean school celebrated the Korean New Year with traditional Korean games and food on Saturday. Here are some photos.

Questions: What was the highlight of your weekend? Are you a baker? As I said, I’m truly not a baker, but I think I’m a pretty good cook. Cooking is just so much more forgiving... Do you like to experiment with baked goods? Since this experiment went so well, I’m curious and want to experiment some more. Not sure if that’s a good idea. Maybe I should quit while I’m ahead… What’s your favorite breakfast at the moment? I used to love “eggy” breakfasts. To me, there is nothing better than veggies topped with a couple over-easy eggs… Plus, it’s an easy and cheap way to get a protein-filled breakfast. But since I can’t digest eggs anymore, they are unfortunately off limits for me. So these days I always have a green smoothie for breakfast. If I’m still hungry after the smoothie, I often have some plain Greek yogurt with pecans or some other nuts.

Be well,

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Finding the Right Exercise Program for You

For me, the most important aspect of exercise programs is finding forms of physical activity that you truly enjoy. Years ago I wrote a post on the same topic, stressing the fact that you’ll only stick with a program if you like it. I got a comment from a very fit and influential blogger, who basically said that you don’t have to like the exercise you do, all that matters is that you do it.

While I respect the blogger, I disagree. I’ve been physically active my whole life, and I know I wouldn’t work out consistently if I didn’t like what I was doing. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have to sometimes push myself to work out, but I can genuinely say that I like all of my workouts and activities. Also, over the years, I had to often push myself outside of my comfort zone, especially when I tried out new workouts and classes in order to advance to the next level. But the bottom line is that there are so many options that everyone can find what works for them.

Here are my forms of exercise throughout the week:


I’ve been walking and hiking since my early 20s. In my 20s, I lived on the top of a big, very steep hill. When I stepped out the front door, the only way to go was down, and then I had to walk up again, which was a fantastic workout. Plus, I got to enjoy beautiful views of the San Francisco Bay. I have been enjoying my walks and hikes for over 20 years. Not only are they a great form of exercise for my body, but they are also so beneficial for my mental health. Since I got my Fitbit a year ago, I have been striving to walk at least 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) a day. My Fitbit has definitely made me walk at least a mile or two more per day, which adds up to a lot of miles in a year. If you need some reasons for walking more, Mark Sisson wrote an article with 17 reasons why you should walk more.

As I’m aging, I’m finding more and more that I have to exercise to maintain my body and what it can do.

Barre Classes
Several years ago, I developed severe low back pain. I couldn’t turn over in bed. I couldn’t get up when I was sitting down. I was miserable and felt a lot older than I was. I did some research online and found some exercises that relieved the pain somewhat but not completely. Luckily, soon thereafter I discovered barre classes – a  mixture of ballet, Pilates, and orthopedic exercises – and doing the barre workouts regularly has completely taken care of my lower back issues, and I haven’t had any lower back pain in about three years. Plus, barre classes are a great workout for your core, thighs, and glutes.


Over the past year, I have become much more serious about yoga. Besides taking one or two classes at a studio per week, I am also practicing almost daily at home. It’s a great way to start the day.

Strength Workouts
I don’t have a gym membership anymore, and I have been struggling a bit with my strength workouts. But I have been putting together different routines with free weights, and I’m excited again about being strong.

Here is what a “typical week” looks like (often the workouts happen on different days, but I always do the different workouts; there is no room for excuses):

Monday: morning yoga, 10,000 steps +
Tuesday: morning yoga, 10,000 steps +, strength workout
Wednesday: morning yoga, 10,000 steps +
Thursday: 10,000 steps +, yoga class
Friday: 10,000 steps +, yoga class (I usually wouldn’t take yoga classes two days in a row, but the classes fit into my schedule, and I love them; they are very different classes, and I love that)
Saturday: morning yoga, 10,000 steps + (my goal is close to 20,000 steps on Saturdays; I usually walk in the mornings with Andy, and then we go hiking with the kid in the afternoon); strength workout
Sunday: barre class, 10,000 steps +

Adjustments to my Workout Schedule

I think it’s important to evaluate your workout program once in a while and adjust it if necessary. Andy and I started sprinting late last year. To be honest, I haven’t been very consistent with the sprints, sometimes they happen, sometimes they don’t. One of my goals for this year is to sprint more consistently. In case you are interested in the benefits of sprints, Mark Sisson wrote an article on the 15 reasons to sprint.

Questions: What’s your favorite form of exercise? What new forms of exercise do you want to explore? What keeps you from exploring them?
Be well,

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Weekly Meal Prep 101

A few months ago, I wrote a post about my weekly meal prep. The post has been quite popular and is still getting re-pins. I have also received several emails from “quiet” readers about the post as well as my meal prep pics on Instagram and my Facebook page. Here is an old meal prep photo:

Meal Prep 1027

I thought I’d write a follow up post to show you how I turn all the food I prep into lunches and dinners throughout the week.

In a typical week, I prep the following:
  • A large pot of soup – our current favorites are curried carrot soup, lentil soup, roasted butternut squash soup, and potato/leek soup.
  • A protein – usually either ground grass-fed beef or ground turkey sautéed with vegetables.
  • Roasted veggies – There are always veggies to roast in our CSA box, and I also pick up veggies to roast at the Farmers Market each week. I simply clean the veggies and cut them into bite sized pieces and then roast them at 375 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the veggie. Our favorites are Brussels sprouts, asparagus, beets, green beans, and sweet potatoes.
  • Legumes: I try to cook beans from scratch most weeks. I usually cook beans in the slow cooker. I wash and sort the beans (to removed small stones, etc.) and then soak them overnight. Then I use 2.5 times the amount of water to dried beans (in cups), a chopped onion, 1 teaspoon salt and Tabasco each and spices (1/2 teaspoon each pepper, cardamom, turmeric, red curry, cumin, etc.) and cook everything on high for 4.5 hours.
  • Sautéed veggies – I usually make a quick stir fry with bok choy and other veggies. Lately, we also enjoy sautéed mushrooms a lot.
  • Spaghetti squash – When spaghetti squash is in season, I make one pretty much every week.
  • A grain – usually quinoa, brown rice, or black rice. I don’t eat any gluten-containing grains, and we don’t eat a lot of grains, certainly not with every meal, and often not every day. However, I often add some rice or quinoa to my soup to bulk it up a bit. If I don’t add a grain, I usually add a grass-fed beef sausage.
  • Fruit – I also make fruit cups with fruit that’s available at the Farmers’ Market. For the last months, we have been eating a lot of persimmons, but the season is now over. Right now, we still get awesome grapes.
  • Veggie bags – I try to mix it up a bit every week. Possibilities are carrots, celery, bell pepper, jicama, cucumber, radishes, cherry tomatoes….
And this is how I turn all the prepped food into lunches and dinners throughout the week. Here is an example from last week:

  • Salad with roasted veggies & sautéed ground turkey with mushrooms (x 2)
  • Lentil soup with grass-fed beef sausage
  • Spaghetti squash/asparagus/turkey bowl – I assemble everything in a glass container with a lid and season it with a little Tabasco (x 2)
  • Gluten-free and grain-free homemade mushroom pizza with roasted asparagus and green beans on the side. The pizza crust was from the Against All Grain cookbook .
  • Grilled mahi mahi with roasted asparagus & green beans
  • Rice and beans with sautéed mushrooms on the side
  • Quesadillas filled with ground turkey and sautéed mushroom
  • Lentil soup and a salad
I have planned meals for years, but since I am pre-cooking a lot on Sundays, life is a lot less stressful. There is always something to eat in the fridge, which is great when everyone comes home starving. Also, a cup of soup or some veggies with turkey make a great, healthy mini meal or snack.

Finally, we went on a beautiful nature hike on Saturday. If you follow me on Instagram or like my Facebook page, you’ve probably already seen it. Since Andy and I also went on a neighborhood walk in the morning, we walked over 20,000 steps.

Nature Hike

Questions: Do you plan your weekly meals? Do you precook food on the weekend (or on another day)? What was the highlight of your weekend? 

Be well,

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Little Book of Thin

I’ve been reading Lauren’s Foodtrainers blog for years, and when she announced that she was writing a book I was excited. Lauren is the founder of a New York City nutrition practice, and I really enjoy reading her blog, which covers nutrition as well as other topics.

Her brand-new book, The Little Book of Thin, was just released and when the opportunity arose to review the book I jumped at it. The book did not disappoint - from the look and feel of it to all the countless weight loss and maintenance tips and strategies, I enjoyed them all.


I love that the book is truly a “little” book and that it is filled with useful information without any extra “fluff.”

Lauren starts off by pointing out that it often isn’t lack of nutrition knowledge that keeps us from being thin. She states, “we know what to eat until life gets in the way” (x). Her solution is one I wholeheartedly agree with and that I have been using myself: planning and anticipating food obstacles.

The book starts off with 10 steps to svelte where she suggests for example eating a protein breakfast within two hours of waking up, enjoying one fruit daily – but no more, limiting grains, carbs, and starchy vegetables to once a day, and doing “dunch” (eating a bigger lunch than dinner).

After explaining the rational behind each of her ten steps, Lauren provides a checklist that lets you evaluate where you fall short on the list.

Next Lauren dishes out some tough love and says there are three No’s on her plan: no negotiation, no excuses, and no exceptions. She has a list of foods she never wants us to eat or drink, such as soda, “diet” food, and gum.

But rather than focusing on the No’s, there is a much bigger section on what you can eat and a convenient “LBT Cheat Sheet” that lists all the foods that are allowed. There are “regular” foods that are grouped into protein, carbs, vegetables, fruit, seeds, nuts, and healthy fats, salad accessories, condiments and flavorings, and beverages. Lauren also has convenient visuals for portion sizes, such a lipstick tube or less for cheese (something I have to remember!).

Lauren is big on planning and suggests spending some time on Sundays to plan, purchase and prep meals, something I have been doing for years and know works. To make things simple, she has a list of five easy breakfasts, lunches, and dinners that you can easily put into a meal plan. At the end of the book, there is a recipe section.

Next she gives many useful tips on how to deal with the “witching hour,” some time in the late afternoon when many of us tend to overeat. Again, it comes back to planning. Lauren also has a “pre-snacktual agreement” that she wants you to fill out – a great idea as you agree what to eat when you get hungry ahead of time. Again, it comes back to being prepared.

Another important section of the book is treat training. It’s not realistic to never have a treat, but treats can easily get out of hand, and Lauren has some good strategies – once again it comes back to planning and being prepared.

The book covers pretty much all imaginable food scenarios from kids’ birthday parties (no reason to eat the pizza and cake!) to dating to eating out to holidays and gives the reader practical tips for each situation.

One of Lauren’s strategies that I really like is to not “over-accessorize” your salad (as I tend to over-accessorize mine once in a while…). That is, you get to choose only one of the following: avocado, cheese, nuts, seeds, olives, dried cranberries, raisins, or bacon. If you think about it, it’s really not necessary to have more than one of them at a time…

The last part of the book contains simple recipes from anything from quinoa to kale salad to how to boil perfect eggs (it’s the way I do it too) to date-night salmon. I haven’t tried any of the recipes yet, but they sound good and easy to make.

I really enjoyed reading the book and picked up several things I’ll incorporate into my life, such as some detox teas and herbs she suggests, the “not-over-accessorizing rule,” and keeping a closer eye on my carbs and fruits. I’ll also try some of her recipes soon.

I think The Little Book of Thin is a great book for anybody looking to lose some weight as it gives no-nonsense advice that includes planning, strategizing and having firm rules. That’s certainly what worked for me in the past when I lost weight. In addition, I love that it’s a small book that is packed with information, including a section on how to lose weight quickly in special situations, like before a vacation.  If you are looking to lose some weight or fine-tune things a bit, you'll find many useful strategies and tips in The Little Book of Thin. You can order a copy of The Little Book of Thin here.

Questions: Do you have any “treat rules?” If so, what are they? Do you plan meals, snacks, and treats? Why or why not? Share any tips!
Be well,

[Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of The Little Book of Thin. All opinions in this review are my own.]

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

I usually avoid making big lofty New Year’s resolutions as too many changes at once don’t work for me. However, I always like to look back at the previous year. While we got bad news in the middle of the year, there is lots to be thankful for in 2013.

The kid and I got to go on a trip to visit family:

And later in the summer, we went to Lake Tahoe for a short getaway where we had a great, relaxing time: 


Hubby had a “big” birthday in October, and we celebrated it with his own Oktoberfest.

Andys Oktoberfest 009

And then we headed to Disneyland to celebrate the kid’s birthday. 

Finally, my parents came to visit and spent the last half of December with us.

As I said, I don’t have lofty goals for 2014, but I’ll continue to focus on living a healthy life every day, including the following:
  • start the day with a 5-minute meditation followed by a short yoga session at home (the 5-minute meditation is new)
  • drink 32 ounces of warm lemon water after yoga
  • have a green smoothie each day
  • walk at least 10,000 steps per day
  • do at least 2 strength workouts per week (I’m refocusing on my weight workouts and am working on mixing things up and planning more)
  • take at least 2 yoga classes per week
  • take at least 1 barre class per week
While I don’t usually make big changes at the beginning of a new year, at the start of 2013 I stumbled upon the Conscious Cleanse and made quite a few changes in January (starting the day with warm lemon water and a green smoothie and eliminating gluten and eggs which had caused major stomach issues). Because of these changes, I have been feeling better than ever.

Speaking of the Conscious Cleanse, if you want to try it for yourself, the next cleanse starts on January 11 and registration closes on Monday, January 6. Click here for more information and/or to register

Wishing you a happy & healthy 2014!

Questions: Do you have any goals for 2014? If so, what are they? What are you thankful for in 2013?
Be well,