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Fill Your Toolbox: The Right Tools for the Job! Part 1: Cardio Machines

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Fill Your Toolbox: The Right Tools for the Job! Part 1: Cardio Machines

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It seems like everyone has a favorite apparatus or type of apparatus when trying to get into shape.  For many gym goers, the cardio machines beckon to them from the door.  They are easy and mostly foolproof.  Basically, you get on and go.  Barring the odd misplaced step, they also tend to be pretty safe.  This appeals to most people because, well, see above for foolproof.  The problem is that cardio machines, whether you are talking treadmills, ellipticals, Stairmasters or stationary bikes, are repetitive and boring. Our bodies acclimate to them quickly and begin to show little to no return on investment.  Sure you can take a spin around the various programs available on most cardio machines.  And, yes, you can play with elevation and resistance.  But there is no escaping the cold, hard facts.  These bad boys only go in one direction and only repeat the same motion and, sadly, the motion is suspiciously similar across all of these machines.  

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In training terms, they utilize the sagittal plane (forward/backward movement), mostly forward, and that’s it.  Yes, you can get creative and go backwards on some which is good but still it’s the same basic motion.  For the avid fitness fan, cardio machines serve a couple of acceptable purposes.  They are okay to warm up on.  They are good for an active recovery period between sets. And, they are good for your easy days when you don’t want to think and just want to feel your heart rate go up, get a good sweat on, hopefully triggering a few endorphins for the day.  However, for the average gym goer, cardio machines equate to what they think is a lot of work with diminishing results.  I can’t tell you how many steadfast people I’ve seen show up day after day, hop on their favorite machine, and take it for a 2 hour cruise only to shed very little by way of pounds or muscle gain.  Disappointed, they eventually give up, concluding they are physically incapable of losing the weight they so desperately want or need to lose.

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Two interesting variations on cardio machines are rowing machines and spin bikes.  Spin bikes have been hugely popular for a number of years and with good cause.  They offer  high intensity cardio set to music with energetic teachers.  With no impact, they can be good for people with a variety of injuries and the nearly infinite resistance is completely within the control of the rider.  While still highly repetitive (sit, stand, turn knob up, turn knob down, go forward, now go backward), spin bikes offer most a very good sweat as well as a great endorphin rush, accomplishing good stress relief for those who really throw themselves into their rides.  In the few years, I’ve also seen some very creative approaches being taken with the spin bike generation that definitely peak my curiosity in a positive way.  Some forward thinking souls have found ways to implement a lot more core into their spin bike classes and that I find very interesting.  I would say my biggest note of caution is for those who build leg muscles easily and for those with certain knee issues as too much resistance can exacerbate your knee problems (for some, any resistance may create issues).

Rowing machines are conversely an awesome upper body cardio workout in a field littered with forward motion leg machines seeking to simulate running or biking.  They are very popular with CrossFit boxes that have brought the rowing machine out of relative obscurity.  When I first began training, the club I worked in offered one rowing machine that was rarely in use.  Today, I can peek into any CrossFit box to find numerous rowing machines lined up against a wall either in use or waiting patiently for someone to hop on to perform the 2 or 3 minute stint in the day’s WOD.

With any cardio machine, I offer the following guidance to my clients—once maybe twice per week and change it up if possible.  However, my normal recommendation is to err on the side of caution and send my clients to an elliptical machine to plug in an interval training program with instructions to push as hard as they can for 30-45 minutes.  Why?  With no impact and no assistance from a motorized belt, the elliptical machine keeps their joints the safest while not under my watchful eye but still forces them to do the work they need.

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Yummy Egg Muffins

·      9 Eggs, beaten

·      ¼ C Unsweetened almond milk or water

·      ¾ Tsp Salt

·      1 Tsp Fresh or ½ tsp dry Oregano

·      Dash Pepper

·      8 oz Ground turkey, browned with onion (OPTIONAL)

·      1 C Finely chopped fresh cauliflower

·      ½ Finely chopped fresh bell pepper (any color)

·      10-15 Grape tomatoes, quartered

 

1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2.     Beat eggs, almond milk or water by hand in large bowl.

3.     Add salt, pepper and oregano, beating lightly to mix

4.     Add ground turkey, if using, and vegetables

5.     Using either a standard muffin pan or jumbo muffin pan, spray pan with coconut or other oil lightly to prevent sticking and divide egg mixture into muffins cups (¼ C for standard or ½ C for jumbo usually works)

6.     Cook in 350 oven for 25 minutes

7.     Cool and remove from muffin pan

 

1 Jumbo Muffin or 2 Standard Muffins = 1 serving

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Basic Pasta Sauce

4lbs Fresh Roma Tomatoes
1 can Tomato paste

1 tbs olive oil
1 Onion
1 Bell pepper
3 Cloves garlic
1 tbs Oregano
1 tbs Thyme
2 tsp Basil
2 Bay leaves

Place tomatoes in boiling water until skin splits open. Remove from water and allow to cool. Peel and dice tomatoes. In a large skillet, heat oil, add onion and bell pepper and cook until onion is translucent. Add garlic and saute briefly. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano, thyme, basil and bay leaves. Cook to desired consistency.

Add ins as desired:

Zucchini cut into 1 inch quarters or 1/2 inch halves

Green beans

Browned ground turkey

Cooked chicken breast

Serve over brown rice or pasta

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Kale Salad with Orange Vinaigrette

Makes 1 serving

Ingredients 

1 cup steamed kale

¼ cup canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1 cup thinly shaved fennel 

½ cup cooked quinoa

2 tablespoons Orange Vinaigrette (see below)

5-6 mint leaves, finely chopped

freshly ground pepper

Combine kale, chickpeas, fennel, and quinoa in a medium mixing bowl and toss with the orange vinaigrette; be sure to coat everything evenly. Add mint and parmesan, saving just a little bit of both for garnish, and toss gently, just to combine. Transfer to a plate or bowl, and garnish with the remaining parmesan and mint, plus freshly ground pepper, to taste.

Orange Vinaigrette

Juice of ½ large orange (about 2 tablespoons), strained

1/2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

⅛ teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

In a small mixing bowl, combine orange juice, apple cider vinegar, and kosher salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while vigorously whisking the mixture with a small whisk. Whisk for an additional 30 seconds after all of the oil has been added. Add crushed garlic.

Vinaigrette will keep for up to 3 days, refrigerated in an airtight container.

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Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (13.5g fat, 0 Carb, 0 protein; 119 cal)

2 large onions, chopped (.4g fat, 28g carb, 3.2g protein; 120 cal)

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

2 cups dried split green peas, picked over and rinsed (4g fat, 248g carb, 104g fat; 1360 calories)

5 cups water or vegetable stock

Juice of 1/2 lemon (reserve the zest) (0g fat, 2g carb, .1g protein; 8 cal)

A few pinches of smoked paprika

Add olive oil to a big pot over med-high heat. Stir in onions and salt and cook until the onions soften, just a minute or two. Add the split peas and water. Bring to a boil, dial down the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the peas are cooked through (but still a touch al dente). Using a large cup or mug ladle half of the soup into a bowl and set aside. Using a hand blender (or regular blender) puree the soup that is still remaining in the pot. Stir the reserved (still chunky) soup back into the puree - you should have a soup that is nicely textured. If you need to thin the soup out with more water (or stock) do so a bit at a time. Stir in the lemon juice and taste. If the soup needs more salt, add more a bit at a time until the flavor of the soup really pops.

Ladle into bowls or cups, and serve each with a good pinch of smoked paprika and a touch of lemon zest.

Serves 4 to 6: 4 servings = 4.5g Fat, 69.5g carb, 26.83g protein; 402 calories OR for 6 servings = 3g fat, 46.3g carb, 17.9g protein; 267.84 calories

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Dina's Vegetarian Chili

1 C Dry Black Beans, soaked or preferably sprouted

1/2 C Dry Small Red Beans, soaked or preferably sprouted

1/2 C Dry Small White Beans, soaked or preferably sprouted

1 Onion, diced

1 Bell pepper, diced

2-3 Cloves Garlic

1 tbs coconut or olive oil

1 Can diced tomatoes

Paprika, cumin, chili powder, salt to taste

Soak/sprout beans separately. Cook beans separately. This will avoid dying all the beans to one color and make a more attractive meal. This should take 1-2 hours at most.

Sauté onion, bell pepper and garlic in oil until onion is barely translucent.

Once beans are tender but not soft, drain excess water and combine all ingredients including spices and salt in a stock pot or crock pot and cook, stirring frequently, until chili is ready. If using a crock pot, high heat is fine. If using the stove top, cook on medium and stir frequently.

 

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Any Day Black Beans

1 lb. dry black beans 

1 lg onion

1 lg bell pepper

3-4 stalks celery

2-4 cloves garlic

1-2 tbs Liquid Smoke

Water to cover beans + 1-2”

Soak or preferably sprout beans. This improves their digestibility and, when sprouted, converts the protein into complete protein. When beans are ready to cook, mince or puree vegetables. Add water, Liquid Smoke and salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for several hours until beans are tender.  Stir frequently to prevent beans from sticking to the bottom of the pan. When beans are nearly finished, uncover and continue simmering until liquid is at your desired consistency.

I often double the onion and bell pepper, chopping the second half and adding them to the cooking process for more flavor and texture.

 

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Dina's Vegetarian Stuffed Bell Peppers

3 C Basic Pasta Sauce

1 C Cooked Quinoa

1 lb Cooked Lentils 

6 Bell Peppers, tops, seeds & membranes removed 

1/2 large onion

1/4 C chopped bell pepper (I use the tops from the above bell peppers)

4 cloves garlic minced

1 tbs olive oil

Using same recipe at “Basic Black Beans” or bulk version of Cooked Lentil recipe above, cook sprouted lentils. Drain any remaining liquid once lentils are cooked. Cook onion, bell pepper, and garlic in olive oil. Add vegetables and cooked quinoa to the lentils and mix well. Add 3 C basic pasta sauce (or enough to blend well with lentil mixture). Divide even and spoon into bell peppers*. Place peppers upright in a 9X12 baking pan. Bake in 350 oven for 15-20 minutes until hot through and peppers are cooked.

*You may need to cut bottoms of peppers level so they will stand up, ensuring not to cut open the bottoms.

Per stuffed bell pepper

329 calories; 3.12g fat; 54.9g carb; 18.8g protein; 8.5% calcium; 27.5% iron

 

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Black Bean Burgers

BLACK BEAN BURGERS

2 cans (14.5 Each) Seasoned Black Beans (or use equivalent amount of Basic Black Bean recipe for better health and flavor!)

1 cup roughly ground, rolled oats (F-7, C-64, P-14)

1/4 cup Grated White Onion

1 whole Egg (F-5, C-0, P-6)

1/2 teaspoon Chili Powder

Salt And Pepper

Drain, but do not rinse, the black beans. Place them in a bowl and use a fork to mash them. Keep mashing until they're mostly broken up, but still have some whole beans visible. Add the ground oats, onion, egg, chili powder, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Stir until everything is combined, then let the mixture sit for 5 minutes. 

Heat a tablespoon or two of olive or coconut oil in a skillet over medium-low heat. Form the bean mixture into patties slightly larger than the buns you're using (the patties will not shrink when they cook.) Place the patties in the skillet and cook them about 5 minutes on the first side. Flip them to the other side and continue cooking them for another 5 minutes, or until the burgers are heated through. Top with lettuce and tomato, then serve hot!

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

 

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Any Day Cooked Lentils

1 TBS Olive Oil

1 Medium Shallot, finely minced

2 Garlic cloves, finely minced

1 TSP Paprika

1-1/2 C water

3/4 C Dry Lentils, rinsed

2 TBS Tamari, divided

1 TSP Apple cider vinegar

In medium saucepan with lid, heat oil over medium heat. Add minced shallot and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and starting to soften, about a minute. Add paprika, lentils, water, and 1 tablespoon tamarin. Bring mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally, for 45-55 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

Remove pot from the heat and let the lentils sit, covered, for 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon tamarin and apple cider vinegar. 

Cool completely before storing leftovers. Lentils will keep for up to 5 days refrigerated in an airtight container.

NOTE: Spouting whole lentils for 1-3 days prior to cooking rather than using split lentils, makes proteins and other nutrients more available and absorbable to the body!! However, be sure to plan for increased cooking time in your meal prep.

 

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Cauliflower Steaks

1 Head of Cauliflower

1-2 TBS Olive or Coconut Oil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove stem from cauliflower. Place cauliflower head, stem side down, on cutting board and cut 2-4 1/2-1 inch slices from the center.  Cut up remaining cauliflower for roasting and save for another meal or snacks for later. Drizzle slices and cut pieces with preferred oil and place on a cookie sheet (lining the cookie sheet with parchment paper saves clean up time!) and roast in 450 degree oven until done, usually 15 minutes per side.  Serve with lentils or beans or other protein source for a healthy meal!!

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Overnight Oats

1/4 C Rolled oats

1 Svg Unflavored protein powder (optional*)

1 1/2 tsp Chia seeds

1/2 C Unsweetened Vanilla Almondmilk (Unsweetened Vanilla Cashew milk is also very nice)

Add 2-3 add-ins of choice: 1 tbs shredded coconut, 1/2 tbs sliced dry roasted almonds, 2 tbs fresh fruit, 1 tbs dried fruit, etc.

In single serving containers, measure out and mix all ingredients, pouring Almondmilk in last. Thoroughly stir the ingredients, ensuring the protein powder is well blended with the other ingredients. 

Place finished containers in the refrigerator overnight. They will keep for up to 4 days--3 if using fresh fruit. No cooking is necessary. The ingredients will absorb the nut milk and be ready the next morning. Dry ingredients can be prepped farther in advance and then add the nut milk and fresh fruit when you’re ready. 

*I use Collagen Peptides by Vital Proteins but VEGETARIANS will need an unflavored vegetable based protein like ProMix's Vegan Unflavored Protein or PlantFusion's Unflavored Protein. All are available on Amazon.

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Quinoa & Egg Muffins

4 eggs

1 cup cooked quinoa (I used vegetable stock to cook the quinoa for added flavor)

1 ½ cups of chopped vegetable (I used my food processor to mince broccoli & red bell pepper, but tomatoes, spinach or kale, onions and mushrooms would also be nice!)

Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350F and line muffin pan

In a bowl, beat eggs and add quinoa and chopped vegetable of your choice; stir until well combined

Divide egg mixture evenl into 6 large muffin cups--you can use liners or spray with coconut or olive oil

Bake for 20mins (mine took exactly 20 minutes; make sure the muffins are cooked through on the inside)

Serve immediately OR store and grab for a quick snack or breakfast on the run!

This is perhaps my fastest and easiest go-to recipe for snacks. Very little work goes into making this recipe and within 30 minutes, I'm done. Six muffins = 6 prepped snacks for the week! No fuss, no muss!

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Quinoa Patties

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Quinoa Patties

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2 1/2 cups / 12 oz / 340 g cooked quinoa, at room temperature (cooking in vegetable stock adds a richer flavor)

4 eggs, beaten

1/2 teaspoon fine-grain sea salt

1/3 cup / .5 oz / 15 g finely chopped fresh chives*

1 yellow or white onion, finely chopped*

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped*

1 cup ground oats

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or coconut oil, divided in half

Combine the quinoa, eggs, and salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the chives, onion, and garlic. Add the ground oats which substitute for bread crumbs, stir, and let sit for a few minutes so that the oats can absorb some of the moisture. At this point, you should have a mixture you can easily form into twelve 1-inch / 2.5 cm thick patties. I err on the very moist side because it makes for a not-overly-dry patty, but you can add a more bread crumbs, a bit at a time, to firm up the mixture, if need be. Conversely, a bit more beaten egg or water can be used to moisten the mixture.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-low heat, add 6 patties, if they'll fit with some room between each, cover, and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until the bottoms are deeply browned. Carefully flip the patties with a spatula and cook the second sides for 7 minutes, or until golden. Remove from the skillet and cool on a wire rack while you cook the remaining patties.

Alternatively, the quinoa mixture keeps nicely in the refrigerator for a few days; you can cook the patties to order, if you prefer.

Makes 12 little patties.

*The use of my food processor makes the task of finely chopping the onions and garlic far less painful (I am one of those souls cursed to be highly sensitive to onions and end up crying profusely whenever I need to chop them so finely chopped onions are terrifying to me :-)!! The food processor ends this problem AND speeds things up immensely). I then pre-chop the chives and add them to the food processor to blend them evenly with the onion and garlic before adding all to the quinoa and egg mixture.

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Low Calorie Sample Non-Vegetarian Meal Plan

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Low Calorie Sample Non-Vegetarian Meal Plan

BREAKFAST SNACK LUNCH SNACK DINNER
1 2egg whites + 1 whole egg (110 cal) scrambled w/bell pepper, onion, mushroom & spinach (30 cal) [140 total calories] 1 apple (80 cal) 3 C spring mix salad (20 cal + 50 cal other veggies) 1/4 avocado (62 cal) w/4 oz grilled skinless chicken breast (184 cal), 1/2 oz chopped walnuts (84 cal) 1-2 tbs Balsalmic Vinaigrette (45-90 cal) [488 total calories] 1-2 C fresh raw veggies 30-60 cal) w/2 tbs hummus (50-70 cal) 4 oz grilled fish (170 cal) and 2-3 c steamed veggies (30-90 cal) [260 total calories]
2 1 c cooked Steel cut or rolled oats (170 cal) w/cinnamon, chopped almonds (5=35 cal) or walnuts (.25oz=46 cal) and 1/4 c fresh seasonal fruit (13-35 cal) [240 total calories] 1 c strawberries (45 cal) 4 oz grilled salmon (170 cal), 1/2 c cooked brown rice (115 cal) and 2 c fresh veggies (30-70 cal) [355 total calories] 10-12 raw almonds (170 cal per oz--85 cal) 2-3 C Stir-fried fresh veggies (spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, etc.) (30-90 cal), 1 tbs pumpkin seeds (65 cal) w/4 oz grilled chicken breast (184 cal) + 1 tsp canola oil (40 cal) [379 total calories]
3 1 Apple w/1 tbs Peanut or Almond Butter (185 cal) 1 oz walnuts (185 cal) 1/2 c cooked quinoa (114 cal) stir-fry w/4 oz skinless chicken breast (184 cal) & 2 c veggies (30-70 cal) + 1 tsp olive oil (40 cal) [408 total calories] 1 orange (80 cal) 4 oz. ground Turkey (260 cal) & 2-3 c veggies (30-70 cal) [330 total calories]
4 2egg white + 1 whole egg omelet (110 cal), fresh veggies like tomatoe, onion, bell pepper, etc. (30 cal) topped with 1/4 avocado and fresh salsa (70 cal) [210 total calories] 1 banana (120 cal) 4 oz ground turkey (260 cal) & 1 c veggies (40 cal) over 1/2 c cooked brown rice (115 cal) [350 total calories] 2 C Kale Chips See pbalance.com for recipe (117 cal) 4 oz. Lean steak/beef fajitas (200 cal) w/2-3 cups of grilled bell pepper, onions and veggies (70 cal) 1 tsp canola oil (40 cal) [310 total calories]
5 1 Banana (120 cal) with 10-12 raw almonds (85 cal) 1 c grapes (100 cal) 3 c salad (20 cal + 50 cal other veggies), 1/4 avocado (62 cal) w/4 oz Lean steak fajita (200 cal) w/1 - 2 tbs balsalmic vinaigrette (45-90 cal) [422 total calories] 1 Peach (80 cal) 2 Kabobs Grilled skinless chicken breast (6oz) (276 cal) & veggie (30-50 cal) [326 total calories]

The basics:

1.  Have no more than 1-2 servings of grain per day and have them for breakfast &/or lunch not at dinner time.  One slice of bread is a serving.  1/2 cup cooked brown rice is a serving.

2.  Have no more than 1-2 servings of fruit also during the day not at dinner or later.  One piece of fruit or 1 cup of cut fruit is a serving.  

3.  A serving of beef, chicken or fish would be 3-4 ounces.  A serving of beans or lentils (protein) would be 1 cup cooked OR LESS.

4.  Avoid "white" foods like potatoes, white rice, breads and pastas with enriched flour or other white flours, sugars and other sweeteners [or foods with sugars like marshmallows :o)].

5.  Avoid all dairy including milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, etc.

6.  Eat vegetables abundantly!!  You can have as much as you want of most vegetables 6-7 cups or more per day is fine.  However, be careful with things like peas, corn, beans, and other high calorie veggies as it is easy to overeat on those and take in too many calories.

7.  Obviously, for now, you need to avoid sweets :o)

8.  Snacks should be light--a fruit with 10-12 raw almonds or fresh raw veggies with 1-2 tbs hummus.

9.  Please try to eat dinner early if possible.  The best is to try to be finished eating by 6 or 7pm.  After dinner, you should be done eating for the day.

 

I also recommend avoiding processed foods of all types as the quality of the food is diminished in the processing.

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