6-Week Summer Slimdown

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In 2014, I embarked on a 4-week shred and Mission: Hot Body challenge. I mimicked the very strict & regimented diet and workouts of bikini competitors. Super clean eating , 2-a-day workouts…you name it, I did it. It was crazy hard…but I got it done. After 4 weeks of extremely hard work, I had abs and was the leanest & most cut I’ve ever been. The problem was that as soon as the challenge ended, it was my birthday and with it came ice cream cake & plenty of drinks throughout the weekend. To top that off, just one month later I ended up seriously injuring my shoulder…which I’ve recently had surgery to correct. Within two months, all of that hard work seemed to be for nothing. I still worked out and I continue to eat fairly well, but my body just doesn’t look how I want it to. I’ve also been feeling lost in the gym so I’ve decided enough is enough. Maybe it’s this whole recovery process or maybe I’m just tired of feeling so stuck…but this year I’m doing it again. Better than before. This time around, it will be a 6-week shred which will incorporate a stricter diet & some hardcore workouts. I’ve been working with a trainer to help me with corrective exercises throughout this rehab process so I’ve enlisted him to assist me with designing a more realistic…and safer workout program, which I’ll be posting as I go along.

First things first – the diet. In general, I eat pretty well…I’m just not super strict. For the next 6 weeks, I will be cutting out most sugar, alcohol, and processed foods as well as limiting my caffeine and dairy intake. Also, rather than guesstimate my portions I invested in a food scale. I’ve never been a huge fan of things like that but if I’m going to do this…I’m going to do it right. My only “treats(s)” will come for my birthday, which falls the week before the shred is set to end. My workouts are going to be structured to be hard…but not harmful to my recovery process. That being said, I have to be super diligent about everything I eat if I want this to work. It’s not going to be easy but I’ve done it before so I know that I can do it again.

My ultimate goal with this new challenge is to lose fat while gaining my lean muscle…and motivation…back. I’d love for you all to join me! We start Monday, April 17 & go until Memorial Day. Every night (for at least the first week), I will be posting my workouts and meals so as to help those who want to follow along. This is a list of the foods that I will be sticking to throughout the next 6 weeks, in case you want to reference it for food shopping:

  • Oats
  • Egg whites
  • Tuna
  • Brown Rice
  • Avocado
  • Lettuce
  • Chickpeas
  • Mushrooms
  • Sweet potato
  • Quinoa
  • Chicken
  • Ground Turkey
  • Veggies (kale, asparagus, string beans, zucchini, brussels, cauliflower, peppers, butternut squash)
  • Tilapia
  • Mahi Mahi
  • Calamari
  • Shrimp
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Cottage cheese
  • PB
  • Carrots
  • Frozen blueberries
  • RX Bars
  • Seltzer
  • Unsweetened cashew milk

**Not listed here are my kitchen staples (balsamic vinegar, spray/oil, hot sauce, mustard, spices, etc.) as well as my protein powder /BCAAs.**

Please feel free to message me at TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com with any questions you may have. Let’s get beach body ready & Fight to be Fit together!

-Gina

 

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A Healthy & Happy End to Summer

Image result for end of summer bbqSummer’s (sadly) coming to a close. I’m sure by now you think you have it all figured out and can throw the best BBQ party anyone has ever been to. However, I’m willing to bet there are many things you haven’t even thought of when it comes to hosting a healthy feast for your family & friends. In this post, I’ll give you some of my tips as well as some healthy ideas to end the summer of 2016 with a bang! Let’s get started!

One of my favorite ways to cook is on the grill. I wish that I lived in a climate that made this possible year-round but since I don’t right now…I’m stuck with it being summer only. Grilling gives everything such amazing flavor and it’s super easy for prep and clean-up. When people think of BBQ, they typically think of burgers and hot dogs BUT there are so many more options! You can make chicken, turkey burgers, vegetables, fish…virtually anything your heart desires. You can also use this BBQ time as meal prep for your week ahead. Grill some extra meats and you will be set for the entire week! The best advice I can give anyone when preparing for a Labor Day BBQ…or any get together – spend a little extra time planning the menu. Think of your guests and what they like…but also think of healthy options. Make your list, check local sales, and head to the store for those items. By being a little prepared, you will end up being a lot less stressed and your entire event will run much smoother.

In addition to the grill, you will need to think of snacks. One great option to pair with platters of chips, pretzels, & crudités is Chobani Mezé Dip™. Mezé Dips™ are made from Greek yogurt and real vegetables with only natural, non-GMO ingredients and no artificial flavors or preservatives. They come in flavors such as Roasted Red Pepper, Chili Lime, Three Pepper Salsa, and Smoked Onion Parmesan. Best of all, they are low in calories and good for you! Try that instead of traditional dip or hummus this weekend 🙂

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As far as side dishes go, have your guests bring something they love. This will keep everyone involved and cut down on your own prep time…and expenses.

Now then…the drinks. I’ve written about this in a previous post however this is such a common diet buster at get-togethers…it’s worth mentioning again. You have to be smart about it. Enjoy a light beer or skinny cocktail but save the calories for the delicious food instead. Trust me, you won’t regret that choice!

Lastly, and my least favorite – cleaning up. The best part of a BBQ party is how low maintenance it all really is. Head to your local Dollar Tree or dollar store and stock up on paper goods – tablecloth, napkins, plates, utensils, cups – get it all. While you’re there, get a few bowls and aluminum tins as well. When the party is over, you can throw everything away!! The only clean up required will be your grill (and putting away any leftovers, of course).

No matter where you go or what you do this weekend, make sure to enjoy every second. Life is too short to spend it unhappy. Stay safe  & stay healthy everyone!

-Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

Clean Eating on a Budget

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m ALWAYS on a tight budget. However, despite whatever financial struggle I’ve faced, I’ve still managed to lose and maintain a weight loss of about 70lbs….all while keeping my diet clean. It hasn’t been easy and some months it requires a little extra patience and strategizing…but I’ve been able to do it for less than $20/week (or about $50/month when shopping in bulk). I’ve written about this in a previous blog post but I thought I would shed some more light on this topic..since it’s a very common issue.
Organic vs. Not – Personally, I never jumped on this train. To me, a vegetable is a vegetable. I never understood the purpose behind spending twice as much for something labeled “organic.” This is a personal preference thing – if you really feel strongly for eating this way be my guest, just know that it will ALWAYS cost you more. People have their reasons and beliefs for why they believe this is the way to go but in general I wouldn’t bother. If it’s not a big deal to you, shop the sales like me and you will be able to eat clean while staying on budget.

Frozen Vegetables vs. Fresh – Whenever possible, you should always get the fresh vegetables. However, depending on the season (and the sale) it may not always be possible. I usually stock up on some of my favorite frozen veggies when they are on sale…which usually means each bag will be just $1. That way, if the fresh variety isn’t accessible I still have exactly what I need.

Name Brand vs. Store Brand – I have never been a label whore. Whether it’s clothes, food, shoes…I never care. If it looks good, fits good, or tastes good…to me that’s all that matters. You will notice that 9 times out of 10, the store brand has the same ingredients as the name brand…and is half the price. So why spend extra just for a name? Drop the ego and grab your generic store brands and you will notice a big difference in your wallet.

Meat/Fish – This is the one area that can get tricky. Buying meat or fish will almost always cause your bill to be higher. However, you have to shop smart whenever possible. Head to Costco or any other bulk grocer and get your chicken. The Costco brand usually has about 15 or 16 boneless, skinless breasts (sometimes more) per pack and it will run you less than $20. You can also grab the packs of ground turkey or chicken when they are on sale and keep them on hand in your freezer. Anything from the butcher or fish counters will run more money…so plan accordingly and stock up whenever possible.

Make a list and always check it twice! I can’t tell you how helpful this one is. Keep a running list on the refrigerator and add things as they run out. Right before you go shopping, go back through the cabinets/pantry and fridge/freezer to be sure you didn’t miss anything. You can then skim through the flyers and see which store has most of those items on sale. My favorite store to shop in by far is ShopRite. They always have the lowest prices and biggest variety for what I need. Another favorite is Trader Joe’s. I don’t buy many things there (they tend to be a bit pricey) but you can find some good deals on otherwise expensive ingredients. Plus, they always have bananas for 19 cents – so how can you go wrong?!

When in doubt always shop the sales. You can never go wrong when you do that. Sure, you may not get every item on your list but you will have money leftover to put towards the next shopping trip. Like other things on this weight loss journey it won’t be easy but with a little patience, I promise it IS possible. Take the extra time and you will save a lot of extra money in the long run.

Happy shopping!!

Stay strong & stay in the fight

-Gina

Healthy Eating On-the-Go

One of the most common questions that I’m asked is about eating on the go. What do you do when home cooked food isn’t an option? Let’s face it – life gets busy and there isn’t always time to meal prep. So, I thought I would shed some light on this topic by offering some of my favorite places to go…as well as some menu suggestions. We will start with lunch, since that tends to be the meal that gives people the most trouble. Let’s get started!

The first thing I want to get out of the way…Fast food can ACTUALLY be healthy. Yes…you read that right. I can’t believe I wrote that myself. The fact is that our budgets do not always allow for $10 salads or fancypants meals…but we still need to eat! Healthy options are available everywhere…you just have to look. With that out of the way, let’s go through some of my favorite places 🙂

Wendy’s – I have always loved their salads. Over the years, I stopped eating them but out of desperation I had one this week…and now I don’t know why I ever stopped. I had the Power Mediterranean and it was packed with protein and tons of healthy eats. Best part? It only cost $7!! That meal kept me full for hours and didn’t break the bank.

They also have other salads available, which do not contain as much protein but are equally good options.

Chick-Fil-A – I love me some Chick-Fil-A. Their meat is pure chicken and is always cooked fresh. I will be honest here and say that every time I go, I tend get the same meal – 8 piece chicken nuggets (not the grilled kind) with waffle fries and a sweet tea.

I know…not exactly a dieter’s delight. However, I don’t eat it often so I allow myself the treat when I do go. If this is what is convenient to you and you go more often, opt instead for one of their salads or grilled chicken options…and avoid the shakes & sweet tea altogether.

Moe’s/Chipotle/Salsa Fresca – This is by far one of the best options. The only rule – get a bowl…not burrito. Tell them to only put half the portion of rice (brown, if possible). Load up on veggies and meat. Stay away from the sour cream, add only a sprinkle of cheese and you are golden.

You can also get a salad and load it up with meat & veggies, which is equally good.

Boston Market – Another amazing option. Get the 1/4 white meal and add veggies as one of (or both) of your sides.

You can have any potatoes…just skip the gravy…and the cornbread. They put it on my plate above even though I refused it. However I didn’t eat it. I’ve had good cornbread…this isn’t it for me. However, if it is for you, then by all means enjoy it…just skip the potatoes.

Deli/Subway – When going to Subway you can get a 6-inch sub, have them scoop the middle of the bread out and get anything your heart desires. They don’t put a lot of meat or cheese anyway so anything you get will be ok. Delis can be a little more tricky. I would opt for a salad or a wrap with grilled chicken or sliced turkey. Watch your dressing and condiment selections but otherwise it should be good to go.

Diner – Diners are great for the simple fact they have HUGE menus. There are so many options to choose from and so many variations you can make.

Some suggestions: chicken souvaki (sauce on the side and NO fries), salads with grilled chicken (dressing on the side), or a turkey burger without a bun or fries. The list goes on and on. Another idea is to get breakfast for any meal. You can get an egg whites any way you like. The only thing you have to watch is your sides with this, since they definitely do not cook the eggs in a healthy way…meaning they load the griddle up with butter. Be cautious and use your judgment.

Chinese Takeout – Asian food can be really healthy if you do it the smart way. It may not look as appealing but it does taste good. Order your food steamed with brown rice (ie: chicken and string beans or broccoli) and get the sauce of your choice on the side. You will notice that if you spoon the sauce onto the food, you are using A  LOT less and therefore consuming at least half of the usual calories. Another good option – sushi. You have to watch the kind you get…and I would ask for brown rice instead of white, if possible…but it is definitely one of the better options on the menu.

Muscle Maker Grill – I LOVE THIS PLACE! There isn’t anything on the menu that I would advise against.

This place is designed for healthy eating and while it may not be budget friendly, is definitely worth the extra cash. If it’s local to you, definitely give it a shot!

I hope this helps just a little bit! When all else fails, find a salad or grilled chicken option wherever you are. You can never go wrong when choosing either of those. Just watch for your sides and condiments/dressing and you will be just fine!

For questions on this or any of my personal training/nutritional counseling specials, email me at TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

Until next week, stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

 

 

Game Day Essentials

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One of the hardest things about being on a weight loss journey is learning to make healthy choices with food. Whether it’s a simple dinner at a restaurant or a celebration it can be really hard to make smart choices with so many temptations in front of you. It can be especially hard while watching sporting events. I was reminded of just this with the Superbowl this weekend. I read somewhere that the average person consumes 5,000 calories during the big game. 5,000. That’s insane! We are all working way too hard on our fitness and/or health goals for that nonsense. I have come up with several healthy alternatives to typical Superbowl snacks. Try them out and let me know what you think!

Buffalo Chicken:  You can’t really have a Superbowl party or watch any sports without buffalo chicken. The normal version is deep fried chicken wings/tenders. Well…not mine. I have two different ways to give the same feel…with a fraction of the calories.

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For the wings, I marinate the wings in the sauce early in the day. Then about 1-2 hours before kickoff I get them going in an oven on 375. I take care to flip often so they are evenly cooked. Then about 30 minutes before I take them out I turn the oven up to 450 and let them crisp up. The wings pictured are BBQ and Buffalo flavored. I also make boneless version of this. I marinate the chicken in buffalo sauce then using a regular grill pan, I cook the chicken breast on the stove. Once it’s cooked, I pour a little more sauce on top before serving. The key is also to making your own buffalo sauce. Hot sauce contains a lot of sodium so the key is to marinate the chicken and let the excess drip off. I also don’t put a lot of butter in my sauce. This weekend, I used a butter alternative but if that is not available to you, use one pat of the real deal and that’s it. Butter is only used to make the sauce coat the chicken better anyway. Add pepper, parsley, and other seasonings to your taste thereafter.

Mac N Cheese: I LOVE mac n cheese but let’s be honest – it’s not the best for the waistline. Now, all pasta will contain the carbs but I have found a way to make the cheese sauce a lot less fattening.

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I use whole wheat pasta to start then in a separate pot I combine fat free american cheese and a 1/4 cup of unsweetened cashew milk. Yes, cashew milk. I have become a HUGE fan of that stuff…it is super creamy and I swear it makes everything taste better. I also mixed in a sprinkle of shredded cheese to thicken it up a bit, rather than using flour, and I added a little black pepper and parsley. The result was incredible!

Dips: This may be one of the biggest killers at a party. You just mindlessly dip the assortment of snacks as you watch the game…ignoring the crazy amount of calories consumed. You can make your own dip by subbing out the sour cream for Greek yogurt…or you can avoid it altogether, as I did. I made hummus and guacamole. Both contain the essential good fat and taste great.

Next time you host a party or attend a sporting event, do your best to make healthy choices. While it’s okay to indulge from time to time, it’s important to not go so far overboard that you ruin all of your hard work. There are always better alternatives available so it’s up to you to be strong and actually take them. Remember your goals and keep your eye on the prize – it will make the decision to be healthy that much easier.

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

Gina
TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

Gather ‘Round the Dinner Table

Dinner just may be my favorite meal of the day. There’s so many options and so many different foods to enjoy. Being on the #Whole30 diet hasn’t changed that. In fact, I’m learning to appreciate the beauty in all of the colorful foods that are compliant on this diet 🙂

I try to make enough at dinner to yield me leftovers at lunch. If that isn’t possible, I usually make my lunch while I’m making dinner to save time. Since grains are not allowed and I’ve been eating sweet potatoes earlier in the day, dinner always consists of a protein and vegetables. A lot of vegetables. I have also been on a balsamic kick since starting this diet. I had no idea that you could use it to make SO many things taste amazing!

As with my breakfast plan, these recipes all serve one but I am more than willing to assist you in making these recipes work for you and your family.

Tilapia Bruschetta
1-4 oz. Tilapia filet
1/2 can of diced tomatoes
Italian seasoning
Black pepper
Paprika
Pinch of salt
Crushed red pepper flakes
Garlic powder
Parsley

  • Begin by drizzling olive oil in a small pan; heat on medium-high
  • Season tilapia with pinch of salt, black pepper (to taste), a drizzle of lemon juice, and a sprinkle of paprika for color.
  • Place in pan.
  • Cook for 5 minutes then flip for another 5.
  • While that cooks, grab a small pot. Place diced tomatoes, pinch of salt, red pepper flakes (to taste), and Italian seasoning in pot and place over medium heat.
  • Remove fish from pan and top with sauce. Serve alongside your favorite veggies and enjoy 🙂
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Tilapia Over Italian Stirfry

*I make this all the time. When I’m not doing the #Whole30 I place fish over brown rice and serve with asparagus.*

Balsamic Glazed Chicken Cutlets
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1- pound (or a package) of chicken cutlets (or a 4 oz. chicken breast)
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Black pepper, to taste
Italian seasoning
Pinch of salt

  • Begin by drizzling olive oil into a grill pan and placing on medium-high heat.
  • Season chicken with salt, pepper, and italian seasoning.
  • Place chicken into pan and season the other side.
  • Cook for about 5-7 minutes (for the cutlets; about 10-15 if it’s a whole breast) and flip. Cook through.
  • Once chicken is just about done, add balsamic vinegar. Flip chicken to completely coat. Continue to cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  • Remove from pan and serve over salad or alongside your favorite veggies!

Grilled Eggplant
*this recipe can serve 4…or yields many leftovers!*

1-medium eggplant
Olive oil
Italian seasoning
Black pepper, to taste
Pinch of salt

  • Begin by peeling the eggplant and slicing into 1/4-inch thick slices.
  • Drizzle olive oil into a grill pan and heat on medium.
  • Season eggplant slices with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning.
  • Place slices in pan, seasoned side down. Season the other side. Cook for approximately 5-7 minutes and flip. Cook through and remove from pan.
  • Continue this until all eggplant slices are cooked.
  • Serve alongside other veggies or as a side dish with chicken. Enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash:
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1- medium spaghetti squash
Olive oil
Pinch of salt
Black pepper, to taste

  • Begin by preheating oven to 400 degrees and lining a baking sheet with foil.
  • Slice the squash length-wise; scoop seeds out of middle and discard.
  • drizzle olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Place both halves cut side down onto baking sheet and place in oven.
  • Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until fork tender.
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Using a fork, shred the inside of the squash, making “spaghetti”
  • Top with your favorite sauce and enjoy!

Sides:

Brussel Sprouts:
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These have a terrible stigma. I saw a bag of frozen sprouts in Trader Joe’s for only $1 so I took a chance….and it changed my life. They are phenomenal! Here’s how I cook mine:

1/2 bag of frozen sprouts
pinch of salt
black pepper
drizzle of balsamic vinegar
drizzle of olive oil

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees; cover baking sheet with foil.
  • Place sprouts on sheet; season with salt and pepper and drizzle the balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Toss to coat evenly.
  • Bake sprouts for approximately 20 minutes, or until fork-tender.
  • Remove from tray and serve alongside chicken or other veggies

Kale Chips:
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1/3 bag of kale (I use the one from Trader Joe’s)
Olive oil
Pinch of salt
Black pepper, to taste

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  • Spread kale onto baking sheet. Drzzle with oil and sprinkle salt and pepper. Toss to coat.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, or until crispy.
  • Serve as a snack or alongside your favorite protein dish.
    **I tend to use frozen veggies most often but frozen kale WILL NOT work for this. Trust me…its not pretty.**

String Beans: These are an absolute staple for me. Since being on this diet, I’ve eaten them every day for lunch and many times I also eat them for dinner. They are extremely versatile and I prepare them in many different ways. Some examples of this are: balsamic glazed, steamed and seasoned simply, and Italian style (with diced tomatoes). Typically I buy a bag of frozen whole green beans and go from there. They take hardly any time to cook and are delicious!

Italian stir fry: I wrote a blog on this a couple of months ago however it’s worth mentioning. I basically call anything with zucchini and tomatoes my Italian stirfry 🙂 Depending on what I have available, I add things such as peppers, mushrooms, and diced eggplant to that mix. This is a quick and tasty addition to your dinner table.

I hope this has been helpful. I will continue to post new recipes as they come to me. This diet isn’t easy and it may eliminate many of your favorite foods. However, that doesn’t mean you have to eliminate flavor. Spice things up and make them look pretty and you won’t even miss some of that other stuff 🙂

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina

TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com

Healthy & Hearty Italian Dinner

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Ladies and gentlemen….tonight’s dinner 🙌

In under 30 minutes you have a super easy, delicious, and healthy dinner! Here’s the recipe:

Pasta Primavera (serves one)
1 cup of whole wheat pasta (I used rotini)
1 cup of frozen zucchini (this was the Shoprite brand, which is already cut)
A handful of frozen pepper strips
A handful of mushrooms (sliced or chopped)
Diced tomatoes (approx 1 cup)
A drizzle of olive oil
Italian seasoning
Pinch of salt
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
-Boil water for pasta in small pot. Once water is boiling, dump the cup of pasta in. Stir until water boils again. While that’s working, grab a small pan and put all ingredients (besides the mushrooms) in.
-Wait about 5 minutes, then mix mushrooms into pan. Cook pasta for about 10 minutes, or until tender.
-Drain pasta, leaving a tiny bit of water in the pot. Return to stove and remove veggie mix from heat. Mix the veggies with the pasta and serve in a small bowl. Enjoy 💖
*I topped mine with a little cheese (as all good Italians should 💁) before eating…feel free to do the same!

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. This whole meal costs under $5 and took about 15 minutes to cook. You can adjust the amount of ingredients based on the number of people you are serving. Feed your body well and you will notice how amazing you feel.

Stay strong & stay in the fight!

-Gina
TheFight2BeFit@gmail.com