Monday, June 27, 2016

Vegan Cooking Successes: Black Bean Burgers & Quinoa Crust Pizza

As I briefly mentioned in my previous Kayla Itsines' BBG review post, I recently started to eat a more plant-based, vegan diet. I started this simply because I noticed my body feels lighter and I have more energy when I go without eating meat, eggs, cheese, and other animal byproducts. I also suffer from ezcema, and find that my skin flares up when I eat dairy products. When I tell people I'm eating a vegan diet, the reaction I mostly get is "wow, that must be so hard," and "how do you do it? There are animal byproducts in everything." And although this can feel all too true sometimes, thankfully Pinterest exists. There is a plethora of amazing tried-and-true vegan recipes that offer (often) healthier options than their non-vegan alternatives. For example, black bean burgers and quinoa crust pizza, which I have tried and will be reviewing below!

Pictured above is my rendition of a vegan black bean burger recipe, found on Hummusapien's blog.
This recipe was very quick and easy to throw together, which is great for someone like me with a busy schedule. It yielded 6 burgers, and I found myself quickly finishing them as leftovers throughout the rest of the week. I was surprised at how much these burgers taste like the "real deal".

The toppings I used were: avocado, lettuce, tomato, mustard, and ketchup.
An alternative to the whole grain bun that I used for the leftovers: romaine lettuce leaves (not pictured, equally delicious).

Recipe level: Easy
Time required: about 20-25 mins. total
Rating: 10/10
Would I make it again?: Yes, I already have!

This next recipe I tried may be hit-or-miss for people who do NOT like vegetables and LOVE cheese (e.g. my boyfriend - love you, honey!). And despite not being the most photogenic meal, I found this recipe satisfyingly, amazingly delicious. I found this quinoa crust pizza recipe on Simply Quinoa's blog, and just excluded the cheese and added my own choice of toppings. I was surprised at how easy this was to put together, and even more surprised at the fairly low overall calorie content and the amount of great nutrients you get since this recipe tastes. so. good.

Toppings I used: tomato sauce, zucchini, tomatoes, red & green bell peppers.
Alternatives: The only quinoa I had was a mix of red, black, and white quinoa and it still tasted great; sautéing the vegetables before adding them as pizza toppings if you mind your veggies being raw.

Recipe level: Easy
Time required: soaking the quinoa for 6-8 hrs. (I do this in the morning) and putting together/baking for about 40 mins.
Rating: 9/10
Would I eat again?: Yes, I already have!


Pinterest is amazing for recipe ideas. I have found healthy, vegan alternatives for so many of my favorite foods, including these pizza and burger recipes. Although eating a more plant-based/vegan diet can be difficult sometimes, I find that when I discover recipes I like and I dedicate the time to make them, it doesn't seem so bad, expensive, or difficult!

What are your favorite healthy recipes? Do you have any kind of diet restrictions you have to work around?
Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Kayla Itsines BBG Review and Progress - Week 22

Hi all!

This will be a quick review of Kayla Itsine's Bikini Body Guide. I started this workout program back in February after hearing about it from Nikki Limo and seeing progress photos from girls all over Instagram. Before starting the program, I worked out doing mostly cardio (HIIT and running) without much weight training, and it was pretty inconsistent. I was in search of something that would give put me into a routine and give me some structure... I then downloaded the Sweat with Kayla app onto my phone! (You can also just purchase the guide without the app! All info available here).

I am currently on week 22 of the program and plan to continue on. I feel strong and fit, and people in my life have noticed the positive changes. My boyfriend, my family, and my co-workers have noticed a change in my overall happiness and energy levels. Some things I always try to keep in mind as a sort of fitness/health philosophy is this: Do the work, keep at it, don't focus on the numbers or scale, don't obsess over "progress selfies", and don't beat yourself up if you have an "off" day; but focus on how good your body feels, how strong you feel, how much energy you have, and how much you are able to push your body each week. Do the work and you will see a difference. The progress will come. Another thing I read a lot on Instagram is "Enjoy the fitness journey." This motto is awesome. Fitness is not something you can do for a week, or a few months, or even a year, but it is an ongoing thing. It's changing the small things you do every day to improve your mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Enjoy the journey!

Personally, BBG helps me enjoy the "fitness journey" and for me, it is a sustainable, realistic workout program that I can see myself doing for months and months to come.

Here is my list of pros and cons of the program:

-Combines both cardio (LISS or low interval sustained state) and resistance training (HIIT or high intensity interval training) to increase strength, burn fat, and tone muscles.
-The BBG community is inspiring and amazingly supportive. There is an entire community on Instagram (easily found using #BBG #SweatwithKayla) that consists of girls supporting and encouraging each other. Kayla Itsines also has an Instagram where she shares other girls journeys as well as inspiration posts. It is awesome to see so many girls supporting and uplifting each other no matter where they are in their fitness journeys.
-Provides me with the routine and structure I was looking for
-Simplistic style of the app
-Easy to follow workouts
-Costs about as much as a gym membership
-Each workout is only about 30 minutes each day. There are 3 HIIT/resistance workouts per week and 3-4 LISS/cardio workouts per week. This is awesome for people like me who have crazy busy schedules and find it hard to make time to workout.

-Meal planning. I personally don't use this aspect of the program. It is nice that there are options for most types of diets (regular, vegan, vegetarian, etc.), but I stick to my own recipes that I find on Pinterest. I can see how this can be useful to other people using the program, but I am happy with my diet right now (plant-based/vegan).
-The workouts can become kind of boring after several weeks. It is true that the HIIT workouts can become somewhat monotonous after several weeks, but I really can't complain because they WORK. After I started to see the changes in my body, it was motivation to keep at it. The LISS workouts (long interval sustained state, aka cardio) I try to switch up (walking, running, hiking, other workout classes like Barre). So, this con can be improved by a change in mindset.
-Some of the moves can be hard on my back. I have some minor back problems (mild thoracic scoliosis, minor chronic pain from turning/lifting heavier patients at work) and some of the moves simply do not feel good for my back. The main one I have a problem with are snap jumps. Thankfully, Kayla has built in alternatives for almost every move that are similar but offer a variation.
-Cost. The program is about $20/month. On top of that, equipment is required for most of the moves. Space to do the workouts, as well as weights, medicine balls, dumbells, a bench etc. Thankfully, I have the space in my basement to do the workouts as well as most of the equipment I need. Otherwise, I try to make do with what I have. For instance, I don't have a bench but I have a chair that works instead. But I know this isn't everyone's case and some people might be required to get a gym membership so they have access to equipment, which is an even bigger cost per month.

Do I recommend the program? Yes! (See list of pros and cons). But first, try the free trial to see if it's something you'd like. It's not for everyone but I fully believe anyone who follows the program will see results.

I have to admit that I am REALLY bad at taking progress photos but here are a few.

Before BBG:

Week 22:

Have you guys tried Kayla Itsine's BBG? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, would you ever try it or what program do you use?

Thanks for listening, hope you're all having a great week!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

I'm back

Wow. It has been TWO full years since my last blog post. *knock knock* Anybody still out there? I have been thinking about blogging regularly again on and off for the past few months. The main thing holding me back is that: I want to create original content. It is important to me that I have something different to say so that my voice doesn't get lost among the crowded blogging space on the internet.

In the past, my blog has focused on clothes and beauty products, and although I am still interested in these things, I have grown up in over the past few years. With growing up comes a change in priorities and interests. I am a full believer in inner beauty being a priority before outer beauty, and this is why over the past couple of years I have become more interested in health and fitness.

I do not want to restrict this space to just health and fitness, I want to be able to post about whatever is interesting to me at any moment in time.

I hope you all stick with me in this journey and that I can create original content for you guys!