Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Feed your inner chocolate monster

Hi, I'm Erin and I'm a chocolate monster. That is not to be mistaken for the Cookie Monster, which is a whole other entity. I'm just the chocolate monster.

I've discovered that I can't go a day with out having chocolate in some form or fashion. Sometimes it's in the form of my favorite vegan Chocolate Shakeology, but other times I just want to bite in to a piece of dark chocolate. I do love the vegan chocolate Shakeology, because it tastes like a dark chocolate shake. Dark chocolate is my favorite, and the vegan chocolate Shakeology feels like a cheat. It's not a cheat though, because I'm actually TREATING my body. Considering I drink Shakeology daily, sometimes I want that EXTRA bit of chocolate. Don't judge me! One of the lovely receptionists at my school has a candy jar at her desk that she always keeps filled. I've been struggling lately with hitting the candy bowl. I would like to blame end-of-the-year fatigue, but honestly it's likely to be lack of discipline with it.

Let me be clear, not all chocolate is bad! If you want chocolate, then aim for dark chocolate  that is 75% or more cacao. Dark chocolate that is 75% cacao or more will likely have less sugar and more flavonins (the good for your body stuff in chocolate). 

10 Reasons you should eat chocolate daily

1. People that eat dark chocolate consume 15% less calories and have fewer salty/sweet/fatty cravings in comparison to those who eat milk chocolate

2. Dark chocolate naturally helps you feel more satisfied and happy

3. Dark chocolate contains magnesium, which helps with PMS symptoms

4. Dark chocolate has the same type of antioxidants found in red wine and tea, which can help boost brain activity

5. Dark chocolate can help balance your body with their are stress-related imbalances. It can also reduce the levels of stress hormones

6. Dark chocolate has caffeine -  One ounce of 70 percent dark chocolate contains about 40 mg of caffeine, compared to 200 mg in 8 ounces of brewed coffee and 120 mg in strong black tea.

7. The antioxidants in cocoa trigger the walls of your blood vessels to relax, lowering blood pressure and improving circulation. This means better delivery of oxygen and nutrients to every cell.

8. Chocolate’s protective natural substances also help prevent cholesterol from sticking to your artery walls, reducing your risk of heart attack and stroke.

9. Heart attack survivors who ate chocolate just twice a week over a two-year period cut their risk of dying from heart disease threefold.

10. The type of saturated fat in dark chocolate isn’t the same as the artery-clogging saturated fat in a hamburger or whole milk. It’s a unique variety called stearic acid, much of which gets converted in the body to oleic acid, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fatty acid. (information from Self.com)

So, now you know that you should eat chocolate. You can totally go reach for that stash of Hershey milk chocolate minis, right? Nope, wrong. You have to reach for the right type of chocolate, and not one that is laden with chemicals, sugars, and milk. If you're dazed and confused about which brands to choose, here is a list of the best and worst brands of chocolate for your body. Obviously, this isn't all-inclusive. But, it should be a handy guide for your next Whole Foods trip!

The best and worst dark chocolate

Healthy Dark Chocolate

Pascha - Organic, fair trade, non-GMO dark chocolate. No soy lecithin. Range of 55%-85%

Sweetriot - Organic, fair trade, all natural dark chocolate. 60% with nibs, 70%, or 80%. Around 20 calories/square.

Alter Eco - USDA Organic and Fair Trade. Range of dark chocolate. 85% Dark Blackout is best.

Ghirardelli Intense Dark - 72% Cacao and 86% Cacao Chocolate Bars. They have bars as well as small squares.

Godiva - 72% Cacao Chocolate Bars. Not processed with alkali. There used to be an 85% – but we can’t find it anymore. There is also some controversy over whether they use GMO Soy Lecithin.

Lindt - 70%, 85%, and 90% Cacao bars. They also make a 99% cacao (this is hard to find).

Green & Blacks - 70% Cacao and 85% Cacao bars. Organic and sometimes fair trade (e.g. Maya Gold).

Valrhona - 70% Cacao bars.

Moser Roth - 70% Cacao and 85% Cacao Chocolate Bars.

Endangered Species - 72% Cacao and 88% Cacao bars. Also a 70% organic bar. Ethically traded cacao. Social enterprise.

Chocolove - 70% Cacao and a 73% Fair trade bar.

Taza - 70%, 80%, and 87% cacao bars. All 100% USDA organic.

Vivani -Vivani is a German chocolatier that sources ingredients from Ceres (100% organic). 72% and 85% bars available in USA and Canada.

Giddy Yoyo - Based in Canada. Raw, USDA organic. A large range of dark chocolate bars up to 89%.

Theo - Based in Seattle. 100% Organic, Fair Trade, and non-GMO certified. 85% and a large range of different flavored 70% bars.

Scharffen Berger - Atrisan US chocolate company (owned by Hershey). Selection of chocolate squares and bars (from 62% up to 82% cacao),

Unhealthy Dark Chocolates

Dove Dark Chocolate - Low cacao content. All processed with alkali.
CocoaVia Supplement Packs - These are similar to Crystal Light, except they have flavanols (the main chocolate antioxidant) added in. You will get some health benefits from this, but it is more important to eat the whole food that contains the fiber.
Hershey’s Special Dark - Processed with alkali. High in sugar.
Dark Chocolate M&M’s - The ingredients list is ambiguous (they list “chocolate” as an ingredient). However these are high in sugar (more like candy than healthy dark chocolate).

Milky Way Midnight - Like all the candy brands, this is not really a dark chocolate. It has more sugar than cacao and is processed with alkali.

Nestle Dark Hot Chocolate - Ouch! This beverage mix is the worst of the lot. Sugar, trans-fat, and processed with alkali.
Cadbury Bournville - 60g of sugar per small bar.
Cadbury Old Gold - It says dark chocolate on the label, but it is a dairy milk – with a high sugar content.
Brookside Dark Chocolate with Pomegranate or Blueberries - Even though this appears to have some fruit – a closer look at the ingredients says something different. (Information from Healthyeater.com)


Monday, May 11, 2015

Product Review: Buff Bake


Buff Bake recently sent me a jar of one of their products - Buff Bake Snickerdoodle Almond Butter. I was very excited to try a Buff Bake almond butter, because they offer a protein-packed almond butter. The one I got touted chia and flax in the ingredients - so I was even more excited because those are some of my faves! Honestly,  I normally go for the offerings that have "almonds" as the only ingredient, this stuff was chalked full of "love your body" ingredients. Each product varies, so I will only point out the Snickerdoodle - which is what I got. Buff Bake Snickerdoodle lists Roasted Almonds, All Natural Whey Protein, Coconut Palm Sugar, cinnamon, Coconut Oil, Chia Seed, Flax Seed as the ingredients.  That is a pretty sweet powerhouse of ingredients! It's also a huge plus for me that it's gluten free!


I normally have to limit my almond butter consumption to with apple slices or with my oats - only for the fact that I could eat a jar for dinner. :) But, when I saw it was snickerdoodle (one of my favorite cookies) I knew my spoon had to make the plunge!

You know when you taste something so heavenly that your eyes roll back and you just have to savor it? Yup, that's totally what happened with Buff Bake Snickerdoodle Almond Butter. I was in HEAVEN! This stuff will be a staple in my pantry, and I can't wait to try the other flavors they have to offer!

Here is one of my favorite recipes using Buff Bake Snickerdoodle Almond Butter. It's a protein and fiber rich breakfast treat. I love how the warm apples, cinnamon, and Buff Bake's Snickerdoodle Almond Butter all melt together for an amazing breakfast. It reminds me of an apple pie - for breakfast and way healthier! :)

(Hmm, now I'm thinking about one of my favorite guilty pleasures and trying this almond butter with gluten free animal crackers. That's going on my grocery list!)

Okay, enough rambling... here's the recipe!

Good Morning Buff Bake Snickerdoodle Oats:

  1. Cook the oats according to the package directions - using the almond milk and water for the liquids. 
  2. In a microwave safe bowl, add chopped apples. Sprinkle with some cinnamon and microwave for about a 1-1 1/2 minutes.
  3. Top the oats with apples.
  4. Top oats with Buff Bake's Snickerdoodle Almond Butter.
This would also be amazing with a sprinkling of dried cranberries. :)

ENJOY!! :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Body Image, Tips, and a giveaway!

If you're reading this, then don't expect me to have some incredible insight in to the topic of body image. This post is simply my rambling thoughts - fueled by some green tea and coffee. Clearly my caffeine is caffeinated today. :)

One of my lifelong friends has joined me on my fitness journey, and with that have come some very thoughtful conversations about fitness and all that it entails. First, I have to tell you that I've been friends with this girl since 6th grade! I'm 30-something, so that is a LONG time! We help keep each other accountable, helping each other reach our goals. One conversation the other day got my wheels turning. We were talking about body image and how it affects the way we think. I think pretty much everyone has had to deal with body image, as no one is perfect. I've noticed with myself that even when the scale goes down, the mirror and my thoughts don't see it. I'm not saying I have "body dis morphia" or anything like that. I am saying that it's simply hard to break the "fat girl" mindset. I'm sorry if that's a blunt term for it, but it's just the truth. In my head, I'm still a girl walking around in a size 12. When in all actuality, I'm just a girl walking around in a size 6.  I think it takes a lot of time for the mind to catch up with what the physical body does with respect to size and weight. For much of my life I was overweight, so I think it became ingrained in me. It was just a part of who I am, sadly. It will take time to truly see myself the way I am, the way God made me, and to break the mold of what has been ingrained in me.

I don't think that weight on the scale is a great judge or indicator of our health/image, as this can vary HUGELY! Depending on water weight, what's in your stomach,  and even whether you've gone to the bathroom or not can all be reflected during your weigh-in. It can be disheartening when you suddenly see a weight "gain." Always remember that you'd have to consume an extra 3,500 calories to gain a pound. It is unlikely that the bag of popcorn you had the movies last night literally made you gain 2 pounds (which would be 7000 calories!). It is more likely that the excess sodium in that popcorn is making you hold on to extra water.

All in all, as long as you are consistent with your nutrition and exercising regularly then you have NOTHING to worry about. You can't compare your progress to someone else. Comparison only hurts - either you or someone else. When you compare yourself, you're either making you feel less than someone else, or making yourself feel better than another person for their shortcomings. It's never good! Focus on yourself, your body, your health, your nutrition, and your fitness. You WILL get to your goal. Just be patient with your body. It takes a time to undo the effects of unhealthy habits and diet. Your body will adjust to your new lifestyle. Just love your body

Helpful tips
I am a fan of consistent weigh-ins for accountability-sake. For me, it helps me be more in-tuned with my body and makes me see how different foods affect me. Also, it's good to keep me in check so I don't stray. I weigh-in almost daily. Some people prefer a weekly weigh-in, to see the bigger losses, while others prefer daily.

I am also a fan of taking progress pics. It's hard to really see your own progress, since weight loss isn't overnight! It takes time, and the small changes can be harder to notice. I try to take progress pics every 30 days or so. That has been such a huge help for me so I can compare side-by-side over the past month or more. It really helps me see my progress and how my body  is changing! It really helps instill that since of pride in all of my hard work!

I have also learned to embrace measuring. I haven't measured much in the past, as I am a perfectionist and I worry I'm "doing it wrong." But, honestly it helps a lot! I'm not only able to see my own progress with my fitness journey, but I can also have a little bit of affirmation trying to ascertain what size I wear thanks to those little "sizing guides." Considering sizing can differ between brands, it's nice to get that "hey, I really do wear this!" It makes my heart smile. :)


Now, for the giveaway. This isn't one sponsored by me, but it's from the AWESOME Jane.com. There are some awesome prizes and a lot of chances to win. There are three prizes - 1 bike, 1 $1000 gift card for amazon, and 1 $1000 gift card to Sephora. Awesome, right! You can enter here using this link.