Recipes and Fitness Ideas

Eat Your Wheaties!

Yes, I joke.  But seriously, they aren’t lying when they say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day! If I don’t have a substantial amount to eat, I’m starving by 11:30…and way more likely to give into the quick temptations of chips, cookies, and a sizable sandwich.  I live in a dorm, so I don’t have a huge amount of breakfast options: anything that can’t be made in a microwave is out! But I still love this meal, and find real peace in the morning when I can sit on my couch, drink a big cup of coffee, and watch the Today show in peace before I launch into my day.  Here are some of my favorite combos!

1) Cinnamon Life cereal, vanilla Danon Light and Fit yogurt, and banana parfait: I am obsessed with cinnamon life.  I mean, it’s getting bad.  I eat it for breakfast, for  a snack, for dinner…sigh.  But this combo is a great way to cover your bases of carbs, a little protein, and a whole piece of fruit! I eat this when I really need some energy to kickstart my day.

2) Whole wheat toast, peanut butter, and sliced banana: Ah, breakfast of champions.  This is very filling, and also a warm and creamy indulgence.  Nothing says goodness to me like peanut butter and banana.  Need a little sweetness? Sprinkle a couple of chocolate chips on top. Indulgent and healthy fuel for a long day.

3) Oatmeal with brown sugar: I like to keep it simple.  I keep a HUGE tub of quick oats in my pantry, and whenever I feel the need for some warmth and comfort, I break them out.  Personally, I think it’s much more healthy to add your own sweeteners instead of buying the prepackaged stuff.  Far fewer chemicals, salt, and sugar in most cases.  I usually limit myself to about half a teaspoon of brown sugar, but mix in whatever you like! I’ve had raisins, chocolate chips, peanut butter, bananas, apples…all of it’s good!

4) English muffin with margarine and a honeycrisp apple: Ah, simple delights.  I love English muffins with a passion.  Especially when toasted, drizzled with a little margarine and served hot with a honeycrisp apples on the side.  I’m sure you’ve heard me say this before, but apples are my crack.  I could eat one with every single meal and be perfectly happy.  Tip: if you’re craving some English sweetness for a snack, I love to toast these guys, top them with a piece of string cheese I’ve shredded up, and pop them in the microwave for thirty seconds.  It’s like an ooey gooey mini pizza! So good.

Interval Training…The 10th Circle of Hell

I decided to have my first experience running intervals on the treadmill the other day.  The elliptical was taken, and I was looking forward to a quick workout, so I decided to just suck it up and do it.  I usually really don’t like the treadmill, because it hurts my ankles and knees, and I find myself running with improper form–not good for any part of your body!  But if you stay focused on your breathing and your running posture, and don’t care that you sound like a ten ton dinosaur pounding away, it will be fine.

I set my intervals at 3.9 for two minutes (a very brisk walk, almost a jog) and 5.5 (a fast jog, almost over my level of endurance).  It was difficult to figure out the right balance: you need something you can actually maintain without dying, and your cool down intervals need to be calmer without being completely easy.  I did these intervals for 24 minutes, and then for the last minute, I set the pace as fast as I could stand (about 7, which was a full on sprint for me) and just did it.  This was actually my favorite part of the workout.  After moderating speed for so long, it was nice to just let go.

My Verdict: Intervals are great if you have a short amount of time and want to get a very intense cardio workout done.  They work every part of your body, especially if you get your arms into the action and set the incline pretty steep (I did mine at 3, and was definitely feeling the burn in my calves!)

Eating in the Caf….

…Terrifies some people.  I am not one of them.  After a year of figuring out how expensive it is to eat off campus, I have come to value the money that my parents put in to my meal plan.  Cafeterias are not where diets go to die, as some people see them.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, it all comes back to self-control.  Darn you, will power.  I have a simple guide for meals that I eat in the caf.  Do I give into a grilled cheese and fries every once in awhile?  You bet.  Do I feel awful afterwards? Yep. It really is a simple concept: if you put nice stuff into your body, it will work nicer.  The same goes for bad food.  Here are my tips for eating in the usual cafeteria.

1) Eat from the main lines or the deli.  Do not, I repeat, do not go to the grill line.  The temptation of french fries is too strong for most of us to handle!

2) Get a colorful plate!  If yours is a white blob of mashed potatoes, gravy, and chicken, you’re doing something wrong.

3) Half it up.  Half the plate should be made up of fruit or vegetables.  For me, this usually means getting a huuuuge helping of steamed broccoli and going to town.  I love that stuff.

4) Eat slowly! This is a hard one for me.  When I’m talking with people and on a tight schedule, I tend to shovel food in as quickly as possible.  This actually leads to you eating more–the body needs about twenty minutes to process that it’s full.  So eat as slowly as you can, concentrating on pausing to drink lots of water, and you’ll probably be fuller sooner than you realized.

5) Only water in the Caf! Also a hard one.  We are surrounded by soda machines in the caf, and I see a lot of my friends grabbing a diet coke with every meal.  Even though I love the sugary stuff, I never, ever, EVER drink soda in the cafeteria!  It either makes you more hungry (Diet Soda) or fills you up with chemical sugar (regular soda).  Have three glasses of water instead, and some black coffee or tea if you need the caffeine. This will suck for a little while, but honestly, I don’t even think about getting a soda in there anymore.

6) Go for the Sweets…in Moderation.  I will never tell anyone to give up sweets entirely, for I don’t know if I have the strength of will to do it.  Something in my body just looooves sweet food! So I try to treat myself a tiny bit once a day.  If you are craving dessert after a healthy dinner, go for it–in a very small way.  For example, when I’m craving a huge piece of fudgy chocolate cake, I take a deep breath, grab a dish, and take about two tablespoons of mini chocolate chips from the ice cream toppings stand.  This might not be as exciting, but it fulfills my craving, and I have nothing to feel guilty about afterwards.

My Favorite Salad

This delicious salad is from The Pioneer Woman Cooks, one of my absolute obsessions.  It’s healthy because it’s customizable–for example, I use low fat ranch dressing instead of bleu cheese and throw in a bunch of carrots.  So delicious…I would eat this every night.  Best of all, it is SIMPLE: that is my favorite word as a college student.  Find the recipe here:

Cheap Therapy: Get Outside!

This is a view from my absolute favorite walk in the world! It’s about a three mile stretch at home that goes through my neighborhood and the nature preserve behind it.  It’s incredibly gorgeous at sunset in the summer, and it’s also beautiful in the winter…when I usually spend the walk falling on my butt from slipping on ice.  But whatever.

The reason I’m posting this is because I remembered today how much I love being outside.  It’s where I think of some of my best ideas, and it’s also where I hash out all of my issues.  For some reason, the combination of good music and fresh air always makes me feel better.

Today, all I wanted was to take a nap.  I was exhausted from this week, in a really bad mood, and just generally down.  But instead of giving in to that feeling, I decided to get off my butt, click on Pandora, and go for a short half hour jog.  It was really cold out, with a brisk wind, and not very crowded on campus…and it was perfect.

Even though it can be difficult to get out there and get moving, sometimes it’s the absolute best thing you could do!

Need A Quick Workout?

This one kills me.  It doesn’t look so bad…until you get to about the burpees and feel like you’re going to die.  But I promise you will feel incredible! Turn on your favorite show (something really engaging so you stop thinking about the searing pain everywhere in your body…they don’t call it full body meltdown for nothing!) and go for it!

Brought to you by Pinterest 🙂

Run It Out: My Daily Workout Routine

My new daily workout has been really easy to fit into my insane college schedule! If you are worried about fitting some cardio into your day, I would strongly encourage you to check your school’s fitness center and scope out the elliptical machines.  Ellipticals work all of the muscles in your legs, your butt, and if you swing your arms as you run to balance, you will also be working your arm and back muscles! Staying steady also gives your abs a little workout.  It’s a wonderful all in one if you’re like me and hate the stress the treadmill puts on your ankles and knees.  My favorite thing about our school’s fitness center is that the ellipticals all have TVs attached to them.  I usually go at 10:30 in the morning so I get to watch an episode of my favorite tv show, Say Yes to the Dress!  This way, working out becomes a treat in your crazy busy day!

After my run, I spend about 15 minutes doing some strengthening work.  I usually head over to the fly machine (is that what it’s called?  The one that works your pecs!) and do about 30 reps there, and then grab some free weights and alternate for a full upper body workout. And voila! I’m done.

The big difference comes when you stop thinking about working out as a chore, and start thinking of it as valuable “me time” during the day.  This is some time that is all about you, when you can forget about homework, class, rehearsal, and all the other stressful things.  Afterwards, treat yourself to a healthy post workout snack, like an apple with some peanut butter and a little dark chocolate! Just make sure your snack doesn’t go over 100 calories, or you’ll be canceling out the work you just did.

The Perfect Granola! (Sans Nuts)

One of the depressing conditions of my healthy life is that I cannot eat nuts (except peanuts, which are actually a legume. Like a green bean. Who knew?).  This means that a lot of delicious trail mixes, granola bars, and cereals are just not an option for me.  Most sucky is the fact that I can never have store bought granola, which looks delicious and adds a nice crunch to yogurt, or a great traveling snack.  This summer, I finally found an easy breasy recipe I can make at home, that has absolutely no nuts, and gives you a little bit of a sweet kick for the day!

1. In a large bowl, stir together three cups of old-fashioned rolled oats, three tablespoons brown sugar, a quarter teaspoon kosher salt, and a half teaspoon cinnamon.

2. In another bowl, stir together one-third cup honey, a quarter cup canola oil, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Dump this over the oat mixture and combine thoroughly. Get your hands in it to mix everything well, and to coat the oats evenly with the honey mixture. Heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

3. Spread the mixture in a thin, even layer on a baking sheet and place on the center rack of the heated oven. Bake, stirring after 15 minutes, until the granola is a very light golden brown. It should take 20 to 30 minutes. If you like your granola crunchier with a toastier flavor, bake it a little longer, keeping a close eye on it—if it gets dark it will taste burnt.

4. Cool the granola completely, stirring it around so it doesn’t stick together. (It hardens as it cools.)

After this step, you can add any fancy stuff you want–coconut, chocolate chips, whatever! I personally think it tastes great by itself–I could eat pounds of this stuff! This recipe comes to me by way of my lovely coworker from home, Christine Rehak, who has all kinds of awesome healthy ideas!

SWEET SURRENDERS: Breakfast Edition

I will be the first to admit that I have a very real problem.  It’s an addiction, and I’m not proud of it.  I have an insatiable hankering for sweets, pretty much all the time.  I don’t care what breed– gummies, chocolate, cookies, cakes–and I don’t care about the size–from Hershey’s kisses to a big ‘ol box of frosted animal crackers, I will consume them all!  In the past, this predilection caused me some serious issues.  It is fine (I think) to have a cookie every once in awhile, or eat a piece of chocolate from a candy bowl.  My problem was always that I couldn’t stop at just one.  Soon I’d have a pile of fifty Kisses wrappers around me, and nothing to show for it but an upset stomach and an almost mind-numbing sense of guilt.  That is the worst part, I think, of overindulging: the moment when you absolutely hate yourself and feel like a failure for succumbing to temptation.  I have gotten over my binging past, and I really try to avoid that self-loathing moment by indulging in stuff I am really going to love, not just giving in to temptation and having a sweet snack when I don’t really want it.  That makes the treats so much better!  Today I’m going to give you a couple of awesome breakfasts designed to give me a little something sweet to kick start my day!

1) Sweeten up your yogurt!

I do not, as a rule, ever eat my yogurt plain.  I’m a huge fan of buying a big vat of delicious vanilla light yogurt, and adding my own mix to the flavors! Currently, I have to go-tos.  Some mornings, I crumble up a Nature Valley Peanut Butter crunch bar and dust it liberally over the top of my yogurt bowl, so I get a yummy and crunchy sweet fix.  My other idea is sooooo simple: I dig into the semi sweet chocolate chip packet, and add some in!  Chocolate chips are a great way to get a little chocolate fix, as they are fairly low in calories and pack a bigger sweet punch for their size.

2) Oatmeal Lovin’

I will admit it– I cannot eat plain oatmeal. So I sweeten it up myself! Do not, I repeat, DO NOT buy the prepackaged sweetened stuff!! While the flavors are tempting, all of that extra fake sweetener and flavor can be avoided by making your own.  If I’m craving a simple fix, I just add a little bit of brown sugar, to taste. This has been one of my favorite recipes since I was little.  I read on Taralynn’s blog that you can make a delicious sweetened hot cereal by adding a little almond milk and some chocolate chips, so I’m gonna try that soon!


So now that I’m back at school, I’m remembering just how difficult it can be to try to eat healthy in the cafeteria.  My school does a pretty good job of presenting healthy options, but here’s the thing: why would I want a healthy salad when a delicious texas toast grilled cheese is staring me in the face? I actually do a lot better eating at school then at home, mostly for two reasons: Lines for the good (ie, unhealthy) stuff are long and I don’t want to wait in them; and I’m so busy that sometimes all I can do is grab and go.  These make for lighter, but not neccesarily healthier, eating habits.  Here are some of my new rules and tips for this year; hopefully they help you too!

1) No soda in the caf. The bright allure of the coke machine kills me, but I do not need 160 empty calories at every serving.  I don’t let myself get away with diet coke either–that stuff is just chemicals and yuckiness!!

2) Thou shalt not eat only a side dish. I am always so, so tempted to just go with a huge ass plate of macaroni and cheese and call it quits.  This year, I’m going to be better about matching that with a nice olive oil and vinegar salad, or a bowl of fruit.  You have to trick yourself into getting more veggies and fruits in!

3) I will not eat grilled cheese, I will not eat grilled cheese. This mantra goes for every food with empty calories.  The last thing I need is processed crap that’s high in empty calories that will leave me craving more food later! I always go for a little bit of healthy pairing: for example, last night I got a cheeseburger without the bun, added a ton of lettuce and some mustard, and boom! Cheeseburger salad! Not everyone’s cup of tea, but it let me feel like I was getting a treat with some healthy benefits.

4) Avoid the heaping desserts. I am not one to give up a cookie.  In fact, I am one to knock others out of the way in desperate search for that perfect chocolate chip.  But I do not need to give in to the temptation of a heaping bowl of ice cream with brownies cookies and sprinkles.  I’ve started grabbing a little bowl of dry cereal that I can pick at at the end of the meal.  It’s a nice little sugar kick, but if I pick wisely, I’m getting some whole grains in there too.

Just a couple of tips to start the year off right!

FITNESS FUN: Mow the Lawn.

Seriously.  Just mow it.  I have never mowed in my life, and after about an hour and a half today in 94 degree heat, I am a convert.  Not only do you get a nice tan (don’t worry, I was slathered in sunscreen from head to toe); you get a full body work out, start in arms and back–cause you have to push the darn thing–and going down to legs and a little core strength.  My Fitness Pal, the app I have on my iPhone for fitness tracking, states that mowing burns 362 calories an hour.  So you will soon see me slogging up and down the banks of my backyard once more.  Who knew manual labour could be so exciting?

French Toast with a Healthy (well…kind of) Side!

My day on Tuesday left a lot to be desired.  Personal life drama, plus two hours of sleep, did not a happy Lauren make.  So I decided to cure my grumpiness with a quick dinner that packed a wallop of sugary goodness and comfort food flavor, without making me feel as guilty as a huge pile of the usual French toast.  Voila, a Pinterest recipe that I added a couple quirks to: Peanut Butter Banana French Toast.


Bread of your choice (I used 12 grain wheat…definetly gonna try it with something else.  It was a little crunchy in a weird way. Still good though!)

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/4 c skim milk

1/2 cup egg beaters (I was scared to use these…but it was delicious! Give them a try!)

Bananas to place on top

1/2 c peanut butter

Syrup or whatever other garnishes you prefer

Whisk together milk, eggs, vanilla, and spices into a shallow bowl that you can dip bread into.  Dip the slices into the mix, coating both sides.  Spray a skillet with cooking spray (I used a griddle, but I’m sure a pan will work) and set at medium heat.  Place the slices onto the skillet, and toast until they’re golden brown on both sides.  Put the peanut butter in the microwave for thirty seconds, to make it a slightly soupier consistency.  Put toast on a plate, and pour desired amount of peanut butter on top.  Place banana slices on; I used a whole banana on my two pieces!  Then add whatever garnishes you like; I used syrup and a little bit of powdered sugar.

The health benefits come from what you’re reducing from typical French toast: wheat bread instead of thick white, egg beaters instead of real eggs, and skim milk.  You could also technically just leave off syrup altogether…but what can I say, I was having a rough night. Enjoy!


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