Chicken Fajita Bowl

January 28, 2015

In an effort to make a fast and lean dinner, the chicken fajita bowl was born. I have been making a ton of taco salads lately, and this was a way of keeping up the variety to prevent food boredom. 

I am not crazy about eating the same thing week after week, so part of my own practice is to stay on top of when I am getting bored with my current go-to foods. My process for creating something new often starts with two questions: How will I get 15-25 grams of protein? How will I include veggies for fibre, volume and obvious health benefits?

Ingredients:

2 chicken breasts, thinly sliced

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp chili powder

1 tbsp taco seasoning

2 bell peppers

1/2 white onion

6 large kale leaves

1/2 avocado

3 tbsp salsa

Makes 3 servings. 

Heat olive oil in a large pan or wok. Add chili powder and taco seasoning and stir into oil, heating for 1-2 minutes at medium heat. You will start to smell the spices as they heat up. Place chicken breast slices into pan and cook until no longer pink, a few minutes on each side. I used tongs to flip over each slice. 

Move chicken to the sides of the pan and sauté onions and peppers until slightly softened. If you have a lid that can cover the pan, this helps to keep the steam in and cook the veggies a little faster. 

Tear kale leaves into bite size pieces and steam until slightly wilted. I used a separate frying pan with a small amount of hot water, but a steaming basket in a large pot works well too. This takes less than one minute. 

Assemble your fajita bowl with greens, chicken, pepper and onion mixture and topped with 1 tbsp salsa and a few avocado slices.

This makes great leftovers that you can use as a salad topper.

4 Tips To Create An Easy Way Of Eating

January 25, 2015

I think we might be addicted to the idea that anything worth achieving has to be really hard. You know those amazingly emotional commercials that come around during the olympics that show athletes as children, falling, struggling, and then ultimately competing and standing upon the podium in triumph? Well I love those commercials and they always leave me sniffling. 

Sure, there are many challenges in life where the struggle makes the triumph more worthwhile. Many of the most amazing human feats have come after years of challenges. 

Does eating healthy have to be one of these ultra-challenges too?

I would argue that no, eating healthily does not have to be hard. But we sure do a great job of making it tough! 

Tip #1: Stop thinking that eating healthy is boring, restrictive and lame

The more we make the mental comparison that salads are for when you are trying to eat healthy and burgers are for when you are eating something that tastes good the more we perpetuate this mindset that healthy eating sucks. 

Just like Jerry McGuire says, 'help me, help you'. You can make choosing lean choices at a restaurant or packing your own healthy lunch to be hard, lame and un-satisfying. I know, because I have done it. What does your mental chatter sound like? 'Ugh, here we go eating this stupid salad again because I can't have x, y, z.'

Start with the mindset. Eating to support your energy levels, fit into your favourite jeans easily and get healthy is important to you! If it wasn't, you probably wouldn't be reading this. 

Check out the options on a restaurant menu, what would you enjoy that would leave you feeling great before, during and after you ate it?

What happens when our actions, priorities and goals all line up? Results. 

Take ALLL the responsibility for your choices. No blaming your family, friends or co-workers, it really is all on you. This is great news because you have about 100 chances each day to make some awesome decisions. 

Tip #2: Find solutions for when you #dontwannacook

Ohhhh breakthrough. I had a huge breakthrough on this topic over the past year. You see, I really love cooking! I love going to the grocery store, I even love chopping vegetables. 

I love cooking until I don't feel like cooking. 

Then the old way for me was to revert to ordering pizza or going out for sushi and eating a deep fried appetizer and a few rolls. The thing is, this is totally not a big deal. I still order pizza and I still eat sushi rolls, just not as often. 

I now have a better back up plan for when I #dontwannacook (feel free to use this hashtag and share your healthy go-to meals made by someone else!) Like the photo below, I do not immediately go to the head space that if I am not cooking for myself that I have failed and I may as well resort to eating pizza every time. 

 

This salmon, brown rice, broccoli and teriyaki sauce really hit the spot and was a perfect dish to grab from my local health food store, Community Natural Foods. 

I go for sushi and order a green salad, spinach gomae, tuna sashimi and green tea. Love it, totally satisfying, a decently lean option and no dishes after. 

Or I will order in from the greek restaurant down the street - a huge greek salad and chicken or lamb souvlaki skewers. Perfect? No. Good? Yes. 

Tip #3: Find supposedly unhealthy foods that keep you on track

Have you ever heard about foods that you should never eat? Of course you have. What if I told you that including some of these so-called 'unhealthy' foods in your diet every few days could actually help you to stay on track? 

The best part about this strategy is that it will be totally individual. The foods that I use every few days to avoid eating a whole bag of chips or a whole pizza (yep, totally done that before) include salami, red wine, chocolate, dark chocolate, a blizzard from dairy queen, shredded parmesan cheese and bacon.

I chose these specific foods for a couple reasons. 

1. I like them. 

2. I do not need to eat a huge amount in order to feel super satisfied. 

3. They often add to an already nutrient dense meal like the one pictured below. A chopped salad with carrots, red pepper, spinach, onion and avocado with my faves salami and parmesan cheese. 

 

For me, this is exactly what 'finding balance with food' is all about. What foods do I love to eat that are not considered healthy foods, but when I eat them in moderation 1-3 times a week I can consistently make better choices?

Ask yourself this question and if you do not know the answer, try my options and see what works for you. 

Tip #4: Do less, but do it better and therefore more consistently

This tip can certainly aggravate the crowd who are 'doing everything but nothing is working'. Ah yes, I see that you are trying to do it all, but how successful are you at actually DO-ing these actions day in and day out. I can tell you that I was great at eating very clean Monday to Friday and when the weekend rolled around there wasn't a chance I could stay on track because I had used all my willpower, attention and focus all week long. Weekends for me equalled mindless mode. 

The other day on our private Blast Fitness Lifestyle Club coaching group, one of our members shared an a-ha moment she had. By increasing her daily water intake to 2.5 litres each day she said her daily chocolate cravings mostly disappeared. Hydration has a huge effect on cravings, hunger and energy levels (not to mention our immune system). 

What can you do every single day that takes a little bit of effort (not a ton) but helps you in other areas that you struggle with?

In the name of full disclosure, I have struggled a ton with finding a healthy balance with food. Whether it was counting calories, being super restrictive and avoiding social engagements because I didn't want to eat what everyone else was eating to the other end of the spectrum where I ate what everyone else was eating and didn't pay attention to a single thing. There is value to the struggle, I just do not think that we have to make eating healthy out to be this super hard, ultra challenging mountain to climb because it is just not. 

Slow down. Do less, but do it more consistently. Stop listening to every single nutrition guru and fear mongering foodie and pick a couple important pieces you can do today to build a strong nutritional foundation. 

Drink water, eat enough protein, get carbohydrate conscious via picking veggies and unprocessed starchy carbs. Start there and do your best in each moment. 

Sincerely, 

Lana xox

3 Simple Meal Trades For Hormone Balance & Fat Loss

January 21, 2015

This weekend I am going to be talking ALLL about hormones and how to balance them through what we eat. My 1 day event, Creating Your Healthy Hormone Balance is almost sold out! 

 

One question I know will come up is this:

 

'So if my hormones are balanced does that mean I will lose body fat?' 

 

Yes and no. 

 

If your hormones are balanced, and you have created a caloric-deficit then you can burn body fat. The thing is, we want to create hormone balance so we can continue to stick with our healthy eating habits in the long term. 

 

Balanced hormones allow us to feel significantly less cravings, balanced hunger cues, stable energy levels, better moods and better sleep quality. 

 

So the answer to lasting fat loss from an eating perspective is balanced hormone levels and a caloric deficit. When it comes to food, the most important hormone to balance is insulin. Insulin is released in greater amounts when we eat starchy or sugary foods. Insulin is controlled when we eat foods higher in fibre and protein. We want to balance insulin levels so we can become better fat burners. 

 

In order to give you some real life tools (that is what I will be focusing on during my presentation this Saturday!) I thought I would give you 3 meals you can trade out for a better choice to help you balance hormones (especially insulin) create a caloric deficit and still enjoy the way you eat because that is super important!

 

Meal Trade #1 Toast and Peanut Butter for Scrambled Eggs, Spinach & Feta

 

The biggest thing missing in your toast and peanut butter meal is protein. Protein is a potent stabilizer for our blood sugar levels. This means eating enough protein (15-25 grams per meal) releases less insulin and we do not experience as much of a blood sugar high and low. Insulin is a fat-storing hormone so balancing it is vital for fat loss. 

 

Meal Trade #2 Vegetable Panini for Cobb Salad

 

Two reasons why I want you to trade your veggie panini for a Cobb Salad. Look at the volume of food on your plate. When we eat foods that take up more space (volume) for not a ton of calories (hello, vegetables!) we work to create that caloric deficit we are looking for. Add in the protein from a boiled egg and chicken on your salad and that helps to balance insulin levels as well. 

 

Meal Trade #3 Pad Thai Noodles for Stir-fried Beef, Broccoli & Brown Rice

 

Before you start to think we are having a hate-on for starch, guess again. I want you to choose higher fibre starches like brown rice rather than traditional noodles and breads. Trading in your starch-packed pad thai for a more balanced meal of beef, broccoli and brown rice will leave you with balanced insulin levels, a lower calorie 'volume' from the broccoli and you will stay fuller for longer. 

 

I hope this helps you to get some real life tools you can use to start balancing your blood sugar today. This is not just about fat loss, it is about better energy, better health and ultimately, your happiness! 

 

Sincerely, 

 

Lana 

P.S. If you want more tools and even more of the science-y facts behind hormones, calories, health and fat loss, our Healthy Hormone Balance Event this weekend has only a couple spots available! Get the details and sign-up HERE

I will not be creating you a meal plan, and here is why!

January 18, 2015

To start off, some of you may be wondering what a meal plan includes. So here is a brief description: 

A meal plan is a list of meals, foods and specific amounts for you to eat based on your personal goals, body weight and activity level.

The goal of a meal plan is to assist the user in eating a certain type and amount of food to reach a desired goal. The facts are that meal plans are a dime a dozen, they are prolific on the internet and all promise to get you shredded, or slim or whatever your desired goal may be.

The thing is that most meal plans (like most diets) DO work! They work to help us follow a more restrictive than necessary program. Meal plans often work to get results in one, two or four weeks (the short term).

And then what?

Life happens, you go on vacation, you just can’t seem to follow the plan anymore, and your weight, measurements or body fat percentage start to creep up.

So you start looking for another meal plan.

Can you see how you are never really solving the problem? You are never getting to the root of what steps you need to take to find a healthy and fit body composition you can maintain.

“I don’t care!” You say. I just want to lose the weight, and then when I get there I will be fine. I will try harder this time. I will be more strict.

This is the EXACT mindset that keeps us in the cycle of diets, and meal plans in the first place.

My goal and mission with Blast Fitness is to help you break the cycle of going plan to plan. Thinking about food all the time, counting grams and calories and measuring food amounts is a huge use of our willpower and decision making capacity. It is no wonder the meal plan and dieting crowd experiences a 95% failure rate when it comes to losing weight and keeping the weight off for one calendar year. It is simply not sustainable in our lives.

Here are just a couple reasons why we need to kiss our meal plan obsession good-bye:

You do not burn the same amount of calories each day.

This is especially true for women. Our monthly cycles create hormone changes that affect our hunger, energy, moods and cravings. During the last week of our cycle we experience a decrease in both estrogen and progesterone. The absence of these hormones makes us more acutely reactive to stress, and to crave sweeter foods. Our cycles are by definition more calorie intensive on some days compared to others. Rather than white-knuckling to follow our meal plan, what if we listened to what our body wanted a few days each month? Had a dark chocolate bar or a glass of wine to take the edge off and then got back to tons of veggies and lean protein.

What if you have a particularly busy day at work in which you use a ton of mental energy? This costs a ton of calories. What if you are experiencing acute stress due to a disagreement with a family member? This affects our ability to stay on plan. Our body requires different amounts of energy each and every day. Learning to listen to our hunger cues is a challenging but oh-so powerful tool.

Life is not predictable, but you can choose your reactions.

Meal plans do not teach you to trouble-shoot the times when your lifestyle is not conducive to following said meal plan. I want you to feel like you can travel anywhere in the world, eat at any restaurant and make a choice that works. When I say choose protein and fibre at each meal while staying conscious of choosing healthy, whole carbohydrates this narrows down your choices on any dining out menu to a few healthy choices. Go for a salad with lean protein and loaded with veggies. Choose fresh fish with quinoa and greens. Skip the deep-fried appetizers and sugary drinks and find one non-negotiable to keep you satisfied (hello, red wine anyone?).

I want you to be able to solve your own problems.

By educating you as to which foods help you to stay fuller for longer (protein), which foods help you to feel satisfied (fat) and which foods you actually enjoy eating day after day you get to be the master of your own destiny. You learn how to solve your own problems rather than having to run to your trainer every time you meet a roadblock.

We start with guidelines:

Eat protein and fibre at every meal and snack.

 

One of the easiest ways to ensure enough protein and fibre intake is to whip up a protein shake with berries and spinach either as a meal on days when I am not super hungry (hello, listening to hunger cues!) or as a snack on days when I need more sustenance. 

Drink at least 2 litres of plain water each day.

Aim for real food over packaged items as much as possible.

Add treats to your plan a few times a week to help you stay on track for the long term.

 

One of my favourite ways to get protein + fibre is with a satisfying salad. I add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and use a drizzle of balsamic reduction so I am happy to eat this type of salad frequently!

For those of you who struggle with the lack of specificity of the above foundations, I say this: this is where the work begins on your part. The work that is hard, but ultimately priceless. The work that will cause you to believe that you have the tools to make great food decisions that serve you and your goals every single day.

Let me help you!

In mid-february I will be launching my most comprehensive project to date (hint: it is not a meal plan!). It is so much more than a meal plan. I have created a nutrition system called the Balanced Meal Blueprint that is designed to take you through the exact process of finding what works for you. I provide you with all the guidelines, recipes, coaching, a process to move away from food journaling and it is all in a do-it-yourself format. The waitlist for this program is open HERE so you get first dibs on the product release.

To your success,

Lana 

Do stress hormones really matter for fat loss?

January 11, 2015

Yes. Stress hormones do matter for fat loss, but not as you may think. 

Stress hormones are actually required for us to burn body fat. But, when stress hormones are chronically high they can impede fat loss and accelerate fat gain. 

Huh?

Yes, it is true our physiology can be a little complicated. As always, it comes down to balance. We want the right amount of stress hormones at the right time in order to burn body fat effectively. 

Your most prominent stress hormone goes by the name CORTISOL. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands which are two small glands that sit atop each kidney. We release cortisol during times of physical and emotional stress. 

Real or perceived stress is still stress. 

Stress can be physical like exercise or other tasks that place a load on our bodily systems. Stress can be mental when we perceive a situation to be dangerous, worrisome or anxiety-causing. 

In our upcoming event Creating Your Healthy Hormone Balance on January 24th in Calgary, we will be going deep into the relationship our body and mind has with cortisol. Not only will we give you the knowledge of the beneficial and harmful elements of your stress hormones, we will teach you hands on techniques and tools to balance your hormones for a healthy body composition and a peaceful mind.  

Here are two of the ways in which we want to balance out our cortisol levels for more effective fat burning:

Avoid going too long without food.

Yes we want to experience our hunger cues in order to ensure we are not over-eating food, but consistently going for more than 4 to 6 hours without food will cause your body to release cortisol. In this situation, cortisol's job is to elevate our blood sugar levels so we can continue functioning. Our brain needs glucose (our blood sugar) to operate and this is why we can get irritable when we go for long periods of time without eating.

Chronically high levels of cortisol can cause muscle wasting from our extremities which is harmful to both our metabolic rate and ability to maintain muscle mass in the long run. This is an example of why eating smaller mini-meals can be an effective option to maintain a lean body composition. 

Adopt short, intense interval workouts rather than longer duration cardiovascular activities. 

Adding intense strength training or cardio training intervals to your routine greatly improves our fat burning capacity. While training at these intensities primarily uses carbohydrate as fuel, we would store this unused carbohydrate as body fat otherwise. Interval training releases human growth hormone which is a potent fat burning hormone in this exact type of situation. Cortisol is an effective fat burner when it is in the presence of human growth hormone. 

Intervals are an effective way to burn body fat without losing muscle mass. 

At the other end of the spectrum we have moderate intensity cardiovascular exercise. Take a moderate intensity run in which you are maintaining your heart rate at 60-70% of its maximum. Our body actually raises cortisol (in the absence of human growth hormone) during this type of exercise session making it not the best choice if your goal is fat loss. If your goal is to run a faster half marathon, then go right ahead! 

At the end of the day, it is important to recognize that exercise is a stress. Just like work deadlines and family disagreements, too much exercise can cause over-production of cortisol. This is why we want intense exercise sessions that bring our muscles to fatigue to see change without adding to our stress hormone load. 

Take a look at your daily and weekly exercise schedule, is there an area you can decrease the duration of your workout while upping the intensity? How about your eating schedule? Do you always experience an energy crash and end up going through the drive-thru on the way home? Adding more food during the day or increasing your eating frequency can help to combat this common roadblock.

Now go and get in action with these changes!

Lana

PS. We only have 4 tickets left for Creating Your Healthy Hormone Balance so click the link HERE to grab your spot!