Healthy Holiday Hors d’Oeuvres

Holiday gatherings ’round these parts mean one thing: potluck parties. The promise of endless dips and chips, spreads and breads, and crunchies and munchies poses a fun challenge for the party goer living lean, clean, and green – whip up a deliciously healthy dish that is sure to please all taste buds in the room.

These healthy holiday hors d’oeuvres have it all: easy to prepare ahead, guilt-free ingredients, and down right tasty.

Mini Pepper Hummus Boats (makes 24)

Ingredients:
12 mini bell peppers
16 oz. of your favorite hummus (I used the Hummus Quartet from Trader Joe’s for flavor variety)

hummus

Directions:
Wash and dry mini bell peppers. Cut in half length wise and carefully deseed. Arrange halved mini bell peppers on your serving tray and spoon hummus into the cavities. Voila! When it comes to the hummus, try making your own and experimenting with flavors or toppings.

Cheesy Spinach Quinoa Bites (makes 12)

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa (dry)
1 cup low sodium vegetable broth
1 cup water
3 bunches chopped spinach
1 cup shredded almond or vegan cheese
2 egg whites (or 1/2 cup liquid egg whites)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Dash of sea salt
Zero sodium seasoning blend to taste
Cooking spray

quinoa

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook quinoa according to instructions on package, adding a dash of sea salt and your favorite zero sodium seasoning blend to taste. (I love to prepare mine in a rice cooker with 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth and 1 cup water). Allow quinoa to cool. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped spinach in batches until completely wilted down. Combine cooled quinoa and spinach in a large bowl. Add almond (or vegan) cheese, dried oregano, and garlic powder. Fold in egg and egg whites and thoroughly mix ingredients with hands. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray. Form quinoa mixture into 12 evenly sized balls and place in muffin tin, lightly patting down to fill mold. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before removing from tin. If you make these ahead of time, warm in the oven before serving!

Protein Peanut Butter Cookie Dough Balls (makes 12)

Ingredients:
3/4 cup natural peanut butter
1 tbsp coconut flour
1/2 cup vanilla Perfect Fit protein (if you are using a whey based protein, start with half the portion and add as needed)
1 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp dark chocolate chips

pb-bites

Directions:
Combine ingredients in a large bowl and mix thoroughly with hands. Fold in chocolate chips and form mixture into 12 evenly sized balls. Store in refrigerator until ready to serve.

*recipe from Ambitious Kitchen

Happy noshing!

fitlicity tip: Eat a satisfying meal prior to parties where food is the star of the show. With a full belly, you’re more likely to make healthy choices. And if you’re anything like me and can’t avoid your best friend’s lip-smackingly-good buffalo chicken dip… don’t! Set yourself a portion limit (for me, it was 3 dunks into the ramekin with wheat crackers) and stick to it.

Craving Compromises

The life of a fit-girl-in-progress in a big city can be full of fried and greasy ghosts. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not immune to cravings, but I have found that completely abandoning my lean, clean, and green eating habits leaves me feeling sluggish, sick and not my best self. And so with every neon-glow of the corner Chinese takeout spot or pizza joint, there is the choice: to cheat, or not to cheat?

Cheat meals. We hear about them all the time. Plenty of people love ‘em and swear by ‘em. But, the very definition of cheat is to “act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage,” and that just isn’t my thing. Too often, I find that cheat meals are a part of entire cheat days (or weekends or weeks) surrounded by excuses and emotions. And so my personal philosophy is, why cheat yourself when you can treat yo’self, girl?!

A healthy lifestyle is not about deprivation, it’s all about balance – smart, strategic balance. Like any other human, I love sweets and any combination of hot cheese & bread, but I also know that I have a history of abusing these foods. To help scratch the temptation itch, I’ve come up with what I like to call Craving Compromises. Craving Compromises are conscious meal choices that, when eaten in moderation, satisfy the urge to stray from the straight & narrow without totally derailing the tracks.

Here are my favorite Craving Compromises for some of my most coveted unhealthy eats:

  1. The Sammy Craving. (Hoagie, Panini, Grilled Cheese, Cheesesteak – you name it, I like it).
    • Opt for a hearty whole wheat (or GF) wrap. I typically go for turkey (ideally nitrate/nitrite free), lettuce, tomato, avocado and cheddar cheese – keep it dry. Craving Compromise tip: Avocado keeps your sandwich creamy without any full-of-artificial-ingredients dressings or spreads, and 2 slices of cheddar totally satisfies the need for cheese. Take it home and throw it on a George Foreman and you are living in warm panini heaven.

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  1. The Sweet Tooth Craving. (Chocolate, Candy, and Desserts galore)
    • Whip Up Something Decadent. Start with one cup plain Greek yogurt (I love Fage Total Zero). Mix in any (or hey, all) of the following: cacoa powder, grainless granola, dark chocolate chips or cacao nibs, fresh fruit (I love raspberries or sliced banana). Top with a drizzle of honey or all natural nut butter. Craving Compromise Tip: Take this tip to your local frozen yogurt shop with your girls! Fill your cup with plain fro-yo and top with fresh fruits and a drizzle of honey.
    • Make It a Perfect Fit. When Tone It Up founders Karena & Katrina couldn’t find an honest protein powder to recommend, they developed Perfect Fit protein and a slew of sweet, heavenly recipes: Perfect Fit BrownieChocolate DonutsChocolate Mug Cake.
    • Pick the Right Package. Nutrition labels are key! Look for easy-to-pronounce, simple ingredients. Steer clear of added sugars and crazy chemicals. Try swapping beloved mini frosted donuts with LaraBar Bites. These simply made sweets are one of my favorite pre-packaged snacks.
  1. The Grease Craving. (Hello Pizza, Mozzarella Sticks and French Fries!)
    • Pick Your Parlor Wisely. When possible, branch out from the big chains and look local. Some of your neighborhood pizza parlors may have a better alternative to the traditional pie. Start with a base of gluten free crust and organic marinara. Top with loads of veggies and finish off with light shaved or grated parmesan or fresh mozzarella. Craving Compromise Tip: Choosing a lighter cheese option saves majorly on the grease factor and spares your slice a painful napkin dab.
    • Get to the Good Stuff.  When it comes to cheese, skip the fried disguises (I’m lookin’ at you mozzarella sticks) and get right to the crown jewel. For a special occasion, experiment with gourmet cheese from your grocery store or local farmers market! Serve with stoneground wheat or GF crackers.
    • Don’t Discriminate. Sweet potatoes make great fries, too! With less calories, less total carbs, and more fiber than white potatoes, sweet potatoes pack a nutritional punch.
    • Choose Your Crunch. Try swapping your favorite bag of chips with a serving of Biena Chickpea Snacks. These salty, crunchy garbanzo beans contain more than double the protein and fiber of classic Lays – and the best part, they don’t leave your fingers full of grease!

Recipe: Cranberry Quinoa Salad

Thanksgiving: a day for celebrating family, reflecting on gratitude, and… eating food. I’ll be honest, the holidays are unchartered territory for my healthy and fit lifestyle. But, as with all other aspects of this journey, I choose to be empowered by challenge. Here’s my three-part plan for the feast of all feasts:
  1. COOK! So-long bottle of wine, this year I’m bringing my new-found love for creating delicious, healthy recipes to the table. Contributing my kitchen skills both guarantees a dish will be served that aligns with my lifestyle (hello, control!) and, most importantly, it gives me the opportunity to bond with my family in a new way through sharing something I’m passionate about.
  2. Portions on Point. It’s all about balance, baby. I’m loving this guide to the perfect Thanksgiving plate from ToneItUp.com!
  3. Relax & Enjoy. I’ll be happiest knowing I made the best choices for me! Not to mention, I’m looking forward to the added ab workout with some major belly-laughs 😉
This Cranberry Quinoa Salad (inspired by several Pinterest searches) is packed with fall-flavor-favorites and robust ingredients that make for a filling and satisfying side. Plus, it’s totally #tiuapproved with an optional Craving Compromise* (I’m opting in).
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Ingredients:
2 Bags Trader Joe’s Cruciferous Crunch blend (or mix trimmed and chopped brussels sprouts with your favorite kale)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dry quinoa
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup water
2/3 cup pecans (toasted)
2 oz. Goat Cheese *optional Craving Compromise
Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute to taste (or your favorite zero sodium seasoning blend)
cranberry-quinoa-salad
Instructions
Pecans: Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Evenly spread pecans on baking sheet and toast for about 5 minutes. Watch carefully!
Quinoa: Rinse 1 cup of quinoa in a fine-mesh strainer. (Check out this awesome guide to cooking quinoa here!) In a saucepan, combine rinsed quinoa with 1 cup low sodium vegetable broth and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium-low heat, cover, and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Add in your favorite zero sodium seasoning to taste, fluff with a fork, and let cool.
Salad: In a large bowl, combine greens, cooled quinoa, toasted pecans, and dried cranberries. Top with goat cheese* and toss thoroughly.
Fill your plate and serve with your favorite dressing! I recommend an orange vinaigrette or pomegranate-balsamic vinaigrette.
*Blog on Craving Compromises coming soon!

What is fitlicity?

To be completely honest, when I began my fitness journey I wanted just one thing: to lose weight. Probably, more specifically, to have the bod of Gigi Hadid. It wasn’t until my fitness journey unfolded that I came to the realize two things. 1. Surprise, surprise – I am no sun-kissed and freckled 5’10” frame (and never will be) and 2. This lifestyle is about far more than the physical.

I read once that a healthy outside begins with a healthy inside. For me, this wasn’t necessarily the case. In my experience, my mental and physical health developed simultaneously. Their roots so inextricably intertwined that where I watered one, the other would grow. As I nourished my body, my mental attitude bloomed.

The way I see it, each conscious choice I make towards a balanced, healthy lifestyle is an opportunity to flex my emotional & spiritual muscles – whether it’s pushing my limits in the gym or easing into a mobility flow, using food to fuel my body or fuel my soul.

That’s what fitlicity is about; it’s the alignment of mind, body, and soul. It is physical, mental, emotional and social well-being. It celebrates the process of progress and the beauty of becoming. It is as equally marked by consistency and discipline as it is about patience and self-love. It’s a state of happiness built on a solid foundation of healthy choices – and it’s how I define my life.

fitlicity (fit · lic · i · ty) noun: the point where happy, healthy, and fit meet.

 

 

#TIUtransformation

It’s hard to put into words something that completely changed your life. Especially when that thing is largely contained in the storage space of your iPhone – pdfs of meal plans and grocery lists, an Instagram community, workout videos and Spotify playlists. Below are excerpts from my Tone It Up Transformation submission, the most personal account I can offer you of what TIU means to me. Let this be a window to my past, an opportunity to understand my present, and a glimpse into all things TIU.
(P.S. The proof is in the pictures, baby! I encourage you to scroll through TIU hashtags on instagram: #tiutransformation, #tiuteam, #tiugirls, #tiuapproved)

 

Describe yourself in 10 words or less! GO!: BootyCall Lovin’, PFP Flippin’, Meal Preppin’, Squat Droppin’, Aspiring Mermaid!

 

How Did the Tone It Up Nutrition Plan Contribute to Your Success? The TIU Nutrition Plan did not just contribute to my success, it is the key to my success. For years, I yo-yoed between countless diets & fads, and was completely lost nutritionally. My perception of health was totally warped, and I found myself in a rut of bad habits. The Tone It Up Nutrition Plan provided me with the foundation needed to not only look, but feel, my best. The Nutrition Plan educated me on what was needed to fuel my body – and, most importantly, why it was needed. Besides the hundreds of lip-smacking recipes, the best thing about the Nutrition Plan is the tools it provides for success, no matter what. Gal pals craving Mexican? K+K have a suggestion for that! I can walk into a restaurant with friends confident in my ability to choose a meal that works best for me in accordance to the plan.

 

What made you decide to change and what was your biggest inspiration to finally make a change in your life? I have been all over the spectrum when it comes to health, fitness, happiness and body image. Diet fad? You name it, I’ve tried it. In all other aspects of my life, I am not one to take the shortcut or find a quick fix – why should my health & happiness be any different? At the turn of the new year, I was at a low point when it came to my perception of self. Looking in the mirror was not something I particularly enjoyed, and that just did not align with my ideals – we should all love ourselves! But in order to love ourselves we need to give love to ourselves. I wanted to live my best life each and every day, and I knew that a new perspective was within my grasp, if only I took the opportunity. When I found Tone It Up, Karena & Katrina and their girl boss, female empowering, totally uplifting community resonated with me so deeply, and I knew that was the start of my journey!

 

How did you keep yourself motivated to keep going? To put it simply, I was not willing to quit on myself. From past experiences, I knew what happened when I gave up – this time, I wanted to see what would happen if I didn’t. I look at it this way: a new day, a new week, a new month is going to come – how I feel when I get there is completely up to me! And with that, one BootyCall turned into another. Hundreds of miles, workouts, and meal preps later, there is no looking back.

 

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned about yourself? I am fiercely determined when it comes to my goals.

 

What advice would you give someone who needs encouragement to get healthier? I would first remind them that there is a great, big beautiful world for them to explore, and one life for them to experience. I would then tell them that they deserve to live that life to the fullest, and ask them to consider if their state of health & happiness is allowing them to do that. Then I would say, hey – I was there, I understand, but here is how I changed my life. And I would direct them to Tone It Up, and the rest would be history 😉

 

What are your favorite Tone It Up Nutrition Plan meals and snacks? Okay, I could go on FOREVER! Chili Lime Shrimp Tacos, Pesto Quinoa Bowl, Slimdown Scramble, Perfect Fit Pancakes, PerfectFit Banana Bread Muffins, Quinoa Crusted White Fish, K+K Salad, Strawberry Fields Bikini Wrap, Portobello Pick Me Up… to name a few.

 

What is your biggest #TIUgirl problem? Using the line, “But this is SO TIU!!” to justify any and all mermaid related purchases.

 

What is your favorite TIU workout? I am loving Upper Body Total Toner and Cardio Abs from Beach Babe 4. Making Waves Cardio is my Friday-fave!

 

How is the Tone It Up Plan different? The TIU Nutrition Plan is not a diet, restrictive, or bland. In fact, it is the opposite, it is a limitless lifestyle that embraces balance.

 

What shifts did you see in yourself, mental and physical, over the past 8 weeks? The pounds (12 to be exact) and inches I’ve lost throughout my TIU journey have been incredible, but to be honest – what I’ve gained from this experience is much more valuable. Hundreds of #tiubesties, confidence, a passion for life, happiness, lasting friendships. Over the past 16 weeks, I feel like I’ve peeled away several layers of doubt, fear, and negativity that were holding me back, only to reveal my true self in its best form.

 

  
What’s the most encouraging thing you saw from this community? The most inspiring thing about the #TIUcommunity is its realness. TIU girls are not afraid to share their struggles along with their successes, their hardships along with their triumphs – and TIU girls support each other no matter what the case. Women empowering other women every single day.

 

Do you have any advice to give to this team? If you don’t love your life every moment of every day, it’s time to make a change. You deserve to love yourself fully, and Tone It Up can help you do that! Take the plunge – K+K, the TIU team, and myself are here for you!
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Left: April 2016 / Right: November 2016
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Left: July 2014 / Right: September 2016