Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The All Time Best Nut Betters and Spreads!

Wowza. That's quite a mighty claim considering the massive market for nut/seed butters and spreads.

Now, if you simply walk into your chain grocery store and meander down the peanut butter aisle, you may see a good number of options, however, if you expand your search to farmer's markets, the internet, and beyond, you will be absolutely astonished at the number of options. 

I consider myself a bit of an expert. I have tried many a nut butter, some good, some not-so-good. I decided to attempt to compile my top 10. It's difficult because some brands offer a wide array of flavors and some may be amazing while others fall short. Some brands are made fresh on a small scale so one batch may be a little better than another, but I'll do my best. I took into consideration taste, consistency and ingredients. 

Top 10 Nut Butters and Spreads

  1. Epic Spreads 
This stuff is truly EPIC. I actually first came across Epic Spreads by winning it in a giveaway a few years back. I fell in love and have since made many purchases. 

Epic Spreads
Why do I love it? The flavors are incredible and hit the nail on the head. The texture is perfect for swirling, drizzling, melting in oatmeal or whatever your heart desires. It uses a combination of peanuts and cashews. My personal favorites are Birthday Cake, Toffee, and Mocha. You can use my code: epicmeg for a discount if you order online at EpicSpreads.com or you can find it on Amazon or at several locations in California. 

     2. Crazy Richard's Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter is two words but the ingredients list is just one. That's right. Peanuts. That's it. If you like peanuts, you'll go crazy for Crazy Richard's. It drizzles like a charm and who can compete with the purity of that ingredient "list"? Pro tip: Store it upside down and in the fridge to prevent oil separation problems! Check them out here: CrazyRichards.com

Crazy Richard's in Oatmeal
*Side note: I recently tried Spread the Love which is also made with just peanuts so it's a comparable product. It's made in small batches with love in California, however I've never seen it in stores locally. You can check them out here: https://spreadthelovefoods.com/

     3. Legendary Spreads

What makes these nut butters so legendary? They taste amazing with no added sugar! Just look at these flavors: Pecan Pie Almond Nut Butter, Apple Pie Almond and Cashew Nut Butter, Blueberry Cinnamon Bun Nut Butter, Peanut Butter Cup Nut Butter, Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Nut Butter. 
 They have no artificial flavors, no sugar, and are made with ingredients found in nature. You'd never guess it. My favorites: Peanut Butter Cup (think melted chocolate peanut butter candy) and Pecan Pie. The texture is a bit thicker but that makes it better for eating by the shovel-ful. Check out these spreads here: LegendaryFoodsOnline.com

    8. Cocoa Bar in a Jar

I was recently introduced to this stuff, and wow! I was hesitant to add it to my top 10 because it's relatively new to me, but I love chocolate so it made the cut. It's peanut butter cup flavor and certainly is reminiscent of a peanut butter cup in spread form. There's no artificial sweeteners or flavors, it's low in sugar, vegan, GMO free and gluten free. It contains coconut butter so mine hardens up in the winter, but just a few seconds in the microwave and I have a delicious, peanut butter cup spread! You should definitely try this! Check them out here: CocoaBarInAJar.com.

    5. Buff Bake

So many flavors, so little time. Buff Bake is a protein boosted nut butter/spread that comes in many decadent sounding flavors. I haven't tried them all but the ones I have tried, tasted great! They also have a thick, spreadable consistency! They use all natural whey protein also have chia and flax seeds in some flavors and are low in sugar. They make almond and peanut spreads for any nut lover! Check them out here: https://buffbake.com/

    6. GButter

GButter Brownies make a great ice cream topping! 
 GButter is truly a unique spread that is packed with protein, no added sugars and non GMO. I call it a spread rather than a nut butter because have quite a different consistency than your typical nut butter. It's more, for lack of a better term, gooey. It's sweetened with stevia and seriously tastes delicious in every flavor. Here's the truly magical thing about Gbutter - if you scoop out two tablespoons and microwave it for about 20 seconds it turns into a delicious brownie, cookie, etc. etc. So gooey, warm and yummy. The macros are incredible too. A 2 tbsp serving, varying by flavor, is 100-120 calories and about 10-14g protein! You can use my code "gbuttermeg" for your purchases on https://www.gbutter.com/. I rated it a bit lower because I find it not quite as versatile due to the texture. 

    9. Abby's Better Nut Butters

I've only tried one flavor, so again, I was hesitant to add it to the list, but alas, here we are. Why did I choose to include it: the texture is great! I've tried the Coconut Cashew and it was thick, creamy and spreadable. What more could you ask for. Another reason is the simplicity of the ingredients. Each flavor is made with all natural, simple ingredients. Another reason is that I'm super impressed by the young girl behind this company. She is just 15 years old and already doing amazing things. Check out her nut butters here: https://abbysbetter.com/.

     8. Peanut Butter & Co.

Here's one that is more prevalent at grocery stores. It has a texture similar to your average Peter Pan or Jiffy, however, the taste is great and it melts so perfectly in oatmeal. Every ingredient they source is Non-GMO project verified, contains no hydrogenated oils, no cholesterol, no trans fat, no high fructose corn syrup, gluten free and vegan (with the exception of "The Bee's Knees - honey). Check them out here: ilovepeanutbutter.com

9. Reginald's Homemade Nut Butters

Reginald's has peanut butters, and other nut butters in a variety of flavors. They are ultra creamy which is something I love because I love to drizzle! They use the "finest" all natural ingredients and this pays off. I love this nut butter in my oatmeal. Check out all their fun flavors here: https://reginaldshomemade.com/

Reginald's in Oatmeal
    10. SunButter

This one is only for sunflower seed lovers but I love the uniqueness. I also love that there is a "No Sugar Added" Variety. The ingredients are just sunflower seeds and salt! It's non-GMO and free from the top 8 allergens, so it's great if you're bringing food into an allergen-free environment like certain schools, or if you, yourself have allergies or  an intolerance. I like to melt it and drizzle it! I buy mine from LuckyVitamin.com because they usually have good prices on a lot of products.

So who didn't make the list?

Justin's and Maranatha - tried and true, these brands are easily accessible at stores like Walmart and Target. I simply didn't see anything outstanding about them.

Nuts 'N' More - I've only tried one flavor (Toffee) of this protein boosted spread and it certainly tastes delicious. I debated putting it on the top 10 but something had to give and since I have limited experience with this spread, I booted it. The toffee flavor, though, was great with toffee chunks throughout and a great drizzling consistency!

Monkey Butter - I haven't had this brand in quite some time but I remember it being delicious. It's artisanal peanut butters made in small batches in Canada and they use all natural ingredients - no hydrogenated oils. http://monkeybutterpb.com/ I simply left it off the list because it has been years since I tried it.

5150 Nut Butters, Bliss Nut Butters - These are both smaller brands and quite good as all nut butters are, however, consistency was not perfect to my liking,

PBCrave - They came very close to making the list but I'm not a huge fan of fruity flavors. They have no hydrogenated oils, nothing artificial, and are Kosher certified. I recommend the Cookie Dough flavor.

Skippy, Jif, and Peter Pan - While there's nothing wrong with these classics, they just seem mediocre to my high nut butter standards XD. I often use Peter Pan in baking.

YoufreshNaturals Muscle Butter - I hate to say it, but I've had some less than favorable experieces with this company and finally decided to stop wasting my money. The good jars are good, but the not-so-good took a dive in the trash. 


Brands I want to try: Wild Friends, Artisana, Teddie Peanut Butter, Vermont Peanut Butter, Peanut Butter Principle, Nuttzo, and Meenut Butter, Julie's Real, JEM Organics and Nut Butter Nation.

What's your favorite? Have you tried any on my list that I need to try and what do I need to add to my list! Let me know!





Friday, December 8, 2017

Friday Finds!

Heyyooo, It's Friday again.

It comes every week. Aren't we blessed?

So with it being Friday, here are a few things I've been digging lately!


  • Squash
I did not previously know the wonders of winter squash. Butternut to spaghetti to pumpkin and beyond. Winter squashes are so comforting and many of them have a sweetness to them. I've been roasting and enjoying squashes more than ever before and finding new uses for them. Some favorites are using butternut in healthy desserts, using acorn as an edible dish, or using spaghetti squash in place of pasta. I love to smell them roasting! I haven't been able to find Delicata or Kabocha but I'm on the hunt!
Acorn Squash stuffed with an egg scramble!


  • Brooks Ravenna 8

So I can't say I'm in love with them because they haven't even arrived! I currently run in the Brooks Ravenna 7 and have had no issues with them. I rely on a more stabilizing shoe because I am prone to injuries due to my imbalances from my spinal cord injury so these have worked great in helping me. I've only ever run in Brooks and hope my new pair is just as amazing! I also love their motto: Run Happy!
photo from Dickssportinggoods.com


How cute is this?!
  • Candles!
I don't know why but in the winter, I just love to have a sweet smelling candle burning! There's something so cozy and comforting about that. I was so excited to get a Vellabox in the mail! Vellabox is an artisan candle subscription box. They follow strict guidelines when choosing the candles they include in their boxes so you get only the best. I received a Burn Candle Company Pumpkin Pie candle and it smells so good! It also came with a cute little snack all wrapped up in my cute box. It just made me want to chill and read a book! Check out Vellabox here: https://www.vellabox.com/ - it could be a good gift idea!

Monday, December 4, 2017

So you want to start running?

Do you ever see someone running down the road and think: "Wow, that looks so fun, but I don't know where to start"?

Maybe you just think you're not a runner. That's totally fine - we all enjoy different things, however, I believe that anyone can become a runner if that's what they truly want! Here are some tips that can help you to get started!
  • Find a running buddy! This is not just for motivation, because if you truly want to start running, you have some intrinsic motivation (though it can be challenged on chilly/rainy days lol), but when you start running, you're going to talk about running. Trust me, your non-running friends won't really care to hear about your pace or distance or those hills you conquered. You could join a running group or club, find a friend who wants to start running as well or maybe you already have a friend that runs!
  • Start slow! When I started running, I could not run a mile without stopping and that's true for many people. Don't get discouraged! You can look up programs like couch to 5k or any run/walk programs online. You can also just try to listen to your body. For example, when I started, I would run for a while and then when it felt too hard, I would walk for a bit, then when I felt ready I would run again. I ran the same route on a regular basis so I was able to gauge my progress. 
  • Use an app! I use the Nike Run Club app and I love it. You can set it to tell you your pace at different intervals (mine is set to 1/4 mile) and you can even connect with friends, view your previous runs and more!
    Nike Run Club App
  • Find something to listen to. I used to listen to music which is great and a lot of people enjoy that, but in the past year I started listening to podcasts and I really love it! Other people enjoy listening to books! I recommend the podcast: Marathon Training Academy. I love listening to it and it's so encouraging whether you want to run a marathon or not!
  • Set goals! I love to participate in 5k races and just better my self. Sometimes, I'm trying to have a better pace, or increase distance or conquer a big hill. Whatever the case, it's fun to change it up. I find races to be very fun with the camaraderie and exhilaration! 
  • Be prepared. Good running shoes are absolutely essential. Along with this, you will want comfortable running clothes, headphones that stay put and an armband if you plan on listening to something, good running socks, gloves and headbands if needed. If you're dressed appropriately, it will make running that much more enjoyable!
  • Don't neglect recovery! Take care of yourself. Running is a very repetitive movement and runners often get tight hips. I enjoy doing different runner's yoga routines I find on Youtube. Foam rolling can also be very beneficial for recovery. 
5ks are great for runners of all levels!

Most importantly, HAVE FUN and don't forget to be safe and smart! 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

You Can't Trust Nutrition Labels!

Are you in panic from the title of this post? Are you nervously questioning every packaged food in your house?

Don't panic! I'm going to explain why you can't trust nutrition labels and why it's not that vital!

I was intrigued by this matter when Lauren First (@_fitness_1st_) opened my eyes to the real nutrition facts of a snack that I had been downing like nothing! The snack was New Pop popcorn - I even raved about it on my blog here: Product Review: New Pop Skinless Popcorn.

From @_fitness_1st_ instagram
Don't get me wrong, the popcorn is still delicious and addictive in my opinion, however, the nutrition facts were way off, and as a result, I feel a little less respect and trust in the company.

Apart from labels that are completely incorrect, a label with 20% error is still considered compliant by the FDA standards.
"the label is considered to be out of compliance if the nutrient content of a composite of the product is greater than 20% above the value declared on the label. For example, if a laboratory analysis found 8 g of total fat/serving in a product that stated that it contained 6 g of total fat/serving, the ratio between the laboratory value and the label value would be (8 / 6) x 100 = 133%, and the product label would be considered to be out of compliance.
Reasonable excesses of class I and II nutrients above labeled amounts and reasonable deficiencies of the Third Group nutrients are usually considered acceptable by the agency within good manufacturing practices."
-excerpt from FDA.gov

So, you really cannot put your trust fully in nutrition labels, and that's only reasonable as it would be impossible to be 100% accurate for each batch of a product, not to mention products that are out of compliance!

However, I ate bags upon bags of New Pop - you know what happened to me? Nothing. I maintained my weight, energy, and state of health, all while unknowingly eating these extra calories and carbohydrates from the New Pop. Listen to your body, don't fret over nutrition labels. Some may be higher than stated, some may be lower. Consider too, whole foods. Perhaps one apple is sweeter than another. Could it have more sugar?

My main point of this post is not to scare you, rather to show you that hitting your macros or calorie target, etc. is not essential and really not that serious. Enjoy your food. Enjoy your life. If you like, enjoy some new pop!

What are your thoughts on this? Let me know!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Superfood Black Bean Brownie

Shut my mouth and superfood slap my grandma.
I was skeptical from the beginning but I decided to give this idea a whirl and magic ensued.

These brownies are gluten free, no added sugar, high in fiber, packed with extra protein and superfoods. Yet, they taste like real brownies. 

Thus, my opening statement.

Let's get down to business.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups (1 can) drained and rinsed black beans
  • 2 tbsp Nunaturals cocoa powder
  • 1 scoop chocolate protein powder
  • 1 scoop Slap Nutrition fudge pop greens powder
  • 6 tbsp Know Better syrup 
  • 1/4 cup melted butter/coconut oil
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 5-6 packets Nunaturals NuStevia No carb blend

Directions:

The batter is like pudding!
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray or line an 8x8" baking pan. 
  2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Blend until completely smooth. 
  3. Spread batter in the prepared baking dish and bake 15-18 minutes. Allow to cool completely. If they seem undercooked, you can store them in the fridge to set up. Enjoy!

Topping Options:

  • whipped cream cheese mixed with Nunaturals peppermint flavoring and stevia, top with crushed peppermint pieces
  • peanut butter, duh
  • greek yogurt mixed with peanut flour and stevia






    Fudgy and delicious!

Substitutions:

  • For the Know Foods syrup, you may substitute pure maple syrup, sugar free syrup, honey, or agave
  • For the Slap Nutrition greens powder, you may try a different chocolate flavored greens powder or an additional tablespoon of cocoa plus extra sweetener to taste
Have you ever made a dessert out of beans? Let me know if you try these brownies and how you top them!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Easy Chocolate Protein Bites with Caramel Sea Salt Frosting

Believe me when I tell you that these babies are so easy to make. They also got the approval from my mom who loves sweets and dislikes most protein snacks and bars.

There's chocolate. There's caramel. There's Himalayan sea salt. Sounds like a recipe for success. I baked them in muffin tins but the texture is not muffin-like. They are dense, almost fudgy, protein bites and you can make them start to finish in just 30 minutes or less!

They also happen to have prebiotics, probiotics, anti-inflammatory tart cherry powder, glutamine and BCAAS, thanks to Eboost Chocolate protein powder. You can read more about Eboost on my post here: Boost Your Workout!

Let's get to it!

Ingredients

Chocolate Bites

That sea salt sprinkle!
  • 2 scoops Eboost Chocolate prime protein powder
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup Cocoa Bar in a Jar Spread*
  • 1/4 cup cashew milk or milk of choice
  • pinch salt
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract

Caramel Sea Salt Frosting

  •  1/4 cup cream cheese/cream cheese alternative**
  • 1/4 cup Swerve confectioners sweetener
  • 1/8 tsp caramel extract
  • Himalayan sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  2. Line a muffin tin with 5 liners. 
  3. Whisk ingredients together vigorously. I melted my cocoa bar in a jar spread a bit to make it easier to combine. You may also use a mixer but I was trying to keep the mess to a minimum! 
  4. Pour the batter into the lined muffin tin. 
  5. Bake for 9-12 minutes. Mine took about 10 minutes but all ovens vary. 
  6. While the chocolate bites are cooling, prepare the frosting. 
  7. Using spreadable cream cheese doesn't require softening but if you are using a brick, allow it to soften. Stir vigorously to combine the sweetener, cream cheese and caramel extract until it is a smooth, creamy consistency. 
  8. Once the chocolate bites are cool, spread the frosting on top and sprinkle sea salt on top!
Macros for the bites without frosting:
106 calories 4.2f/8.5c/8.3p

Naked Chocolate Protein Bites
*Cocoa Bar in a Jar was the only chocolate spread I had on hand and I think it tastes amazing, however, if you don't have this available, you could use any nut spread!

**If you use fat free cream cheese, this will add about 12 calories per bite. Other options include low fat cream cheese, non dairy cream cheese, kefir, quark, etc. 

Let me know if you try these out! Do you like trying recipes with protein powder?






Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Is Healthy Chocolate an Oxymoron?

Jumbo shrimp. Definitely maybe. Seriously funny. Healthy chocolate?

Is healthy chocolate a contradiction? While I believe the term "healthy" can be interpreted many ways, there are now tons of chocolate options on the market to fit into many diets including: low sugar, no sugar, dairy free, gluten free, etc. I wholeheartedly support this because I believe everyone should have chocolate!

It's one of my life goals to get chocolate from as many countries as I can. So far, Italy has had the best chocolate (if you go, find Venchi!). Clearly, I'm an un-certified chocolate aficionado. So it is my duty to try all the "healthy" chocolates that I can get my hands on!

JOJO Chocolate Bark

This chocolate comes in two varieties: 70% dark chocolate bark and peanut butter delight. The dark chocolate bark encases raw almonds, pistachios, and dried cranberries. It's non GMO, has only 8g sugar and a boost of Non GMO casein protein! I really loved the nuts and cranberries and the dark chocolate had a good flavor. The peanut butter delight is studded with pieces of peanuts, made with peanut flour and plant based protein. It contains just 6g sugar and boasts 6g plant based protein. It is also non GMO and made with their premium German chocolate. If you like peanuts and chocolate, this is the bar for you! They also guarantee you will love it or they will refund your money - you can't lose! JoJo's was designed to help people kick their sugar cravings by cutting down on sugar and boosting with protein!


Nibmor Chocolate

Nibmor is a line of organic, non GMO, vegan and gluten free dark chocolate bars and squares. They have several flavors so I have not tried them all but what I have tried, I have thoroughly enjoyed! I'm normally not one to love fruit in my chocolate, but their all natural superfruit bars (cherry and blueberry) are really enjoyable. They also have boxes of "daily dose" chocolates. These contain individually wrapped squares of dark chocolate and I loved the covenience of just unwrapping one single square to get my daily dose of chocolate! They also have organic drinking chocolate that I have yet to try! A serving of the 80% dark chocolate bar is 160 calories with 8g sugar, 12g fat, and 2g protein so it doesn't have the protein boost but it still keeps the sugar in the single digits (if you can keep to one serving, that is!) This is a great brand to try for any dark chocolate lovers. 

Learn more: http://nibmor.com/

CocoPolo Chocolate

This chocolate is gluten free, Non GMO, and has no added sugar all while tasting ridiculously good. They utilize stevia as a natural, sugar free sweetener but there no stevia aftertaste. They were created to be Diabetes friendly and now everyone can benefit from this healthy chocolate. They have both milk and dark chocolate and several flavors that incorporate superfood ingredients! These bars truly melt in your mouth and taste great. The 70% dark chocolate bars are vegan as well. 10/10 recommend if you can find them! You won't believe there's no sugar!


FlavaNaturals 

FlavaNaturals dark chocolate bars preserve the cocoa flavanols in their processing resulting in 5x the cocoa flavanols of a comparative dark chocolate bar. From the bean sourcing to the processing, they have this down to a science! What are cocoa flavanols aka why do we care? Cocoa flavanols are plant based antioxidants shown to benefit circulation, brain, heart and skin health. So I guess I should eat more chocolate to be the pinnacle of health, right? I won't get into the nitty gritty of the science because I'm no expert on that, but you can read more about it at flavanaturals.com and cocoaflavanolscience.com. Anyway, these bars come in six flavors: blueberry and green tea matcha, crystallized ginger and Saigon cinnamon, classic dark chocolate, espresso ground coffee, pure cocoa nibs, roasted almond and Himalayan pink salt. These chocolate bars are not for the faint of heart - they have a deep, rich and satisfying dark chocolate flavor and each variety I've tried so far is very true to it's name. For instance, the crystallized ginger was literally studded with crystallized ginger and the rich dark chocolate was complimented by the subtle spiciness. The sugar count, however, does creep into the double digits as the classic chocolate bar has 12g sugar (this is a 35g serving vs JOJOs 34g serving and Nibmor 31g serving). If you like deep, dark chocolate and the prospect of potential health benefits from natural antioxidants, try these out!


The Good Chocolate

With a name like that, it better be good! The Good chocolate is a bean to bar, organic, zero sugar chocolate bar. They are vegan (with the exception of the milk chocolate flavor), soy free, antioxidant rich and have only 1g net carb! They utilize erythritol, stevia, mesquite and vanilla as a natural sugar free sweet-blend to create a melt in your mouth chocolate experience. I recommend the Himalayan salt flavor! You just can't beat the salty sweet combination! This is a great option for those following a low carb/keto diet or anyone! How could something that tastes so good, be bad?


Overall, I would recommend any of these brands for dark chocolate lovers. If you're a milk chocolate lover, CocoPolo is the way to go in my opinion! Whatever your dietary preference, delicious chocolate is within your reach and thank goodness for that!

These are just a few of the "healthy" chocolate brands on the market right now! Have you tried any "healthy" chocolate? What did you think of it?

Keto Friendly: CocoPolo, The Good Chocolate
Diabetes Friendly: JoJos, CocoPolo, The Good Chocolate
Vegan: Nibmor, FlavaNaturals, all other brands have vegan options








Thursday, November 16, 2017

How to Avoid Getting Sick!

Here we go again. Cold and flu season.

I hate getting sick. I refuse to get sick. So when someone around me gets a sniffle, paranoia sets in. What can I do? Getting sick is not completely within our control, but there are some steps we can take to try to avoid it!

Tips for Avoiding the Cold or Flu

  1. Avoid people who are ill. I mean, duh, but I might as well say it. Try to avoid close quarters with people who are sick to the best of your ability and definitely don't drink or eat after them. 
  2. Wash your hands. You've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times because it works!
  3. Eat healthy foods. Fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins and minerals that will help your body stave off illnesses and build up your immune system. 
  4. Zinc, echinacea, Vitamin C and Vitamin D supplements may be helpful to preventing a cold or even shortening it if you have already caught it. 
  5. Don't overexercise or under-eat. These things stress the body and cause you to be more susceptible to sickness. 
  6. Get your ZZZs. It's no mystery that many people don't get enough sleep, but giving your body the rest it needs will help it to be strong in defending itself against harmful invaders!
Now what if you caught the cold? I'm no doctor, but I think Netflix + bone broth will help you feel better in no time!

What's your latest Netflix binge-worthy addiction?

It's Hip to be Square!

By now, this is practically old news, but Square Organics, a company that makes plant based chocolate coated protein bars, came out with NEW products.
That New New
And let me tell you, it's hip to be square.

I have loved their protein bars already but they recently released:

  • Crisp Bars
  • New flavor chocolate coated bar
  • Protein Popcorn

Crisp Protein Bars

These new crisp bars come in three flavors: Chocolate Sea Salt, Vanilla Cashew, and Toasted Coconut. They have a perfect crispy texture, just like a rice crispy treat packed with 10g plant based protein. The sugar is in the single digits for all three flavors and they are a source of healthy fats with cashew butter being the first ingredient. They are gluten free, dairy free, soy free and have no sugar alcohols or artificial flavors. The ingredients are simple and the taste is great! I'm a sucker for chocolate sea salt, but I'm nuts about chocolate anything!

Chocolate Coated Cookie Dough Bar

Woah. Chocolate. Coated. Cookie Dough. Yes, they did it. It is one of my top three chocolate coated flavors for sure. They used a base of cashew butter, vanilla extract, and cacao nibs to create the doughy middle and then coated it in chocolate. As always, their ingredients are organic and simple, no sugar alcohols, no artificial flavors. 

Protein Popcorn

Most people who know me, know that I adore popcorn so I was so excited to hear they were coming out with protein popcorn and I was not disappointed. I hate to be partial, but this may be my favorite new release from Square Organics. The popcorn comes in three flavors: sea salt, mild spicy, and lightly sweet. I truly can't decide which flavor is my favorite! You're going to want to eat the whole bag but don't worry because an entire bag is just 240-260 calories with 10g plant based protein, 8-9g MCTs, 5-6g naturally occurring fiber, not to mention they are organic, non GMO, gluten free, dairy free, and soy free! Snack on!

Have you tried any of the new Square Organics products? What do you think of them?

Find them here: Square Organics and use my code "HEALTHY_HAPPY_AND_FREE"  to save 20% off! 

P.S. Anyone catch the song reference in the title?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Eat Enlightened!

Have you found Enlightenment?

While spiritual enlightenment may be a continual search for many, snacking enlightenment is well within reach!

I have been a big fan of Enlightened products for a while now so I thought I would do a little post about my love for Enlightened!

Snacks on Snacks on Snacks!
Enlightened has 3 types of products right now including: roasted broad bean crisps, marshmallow crisp treats, and ice cream!

Roasted Broad Bean Crisps - The name of this snack totally does not do it justice. Every time I munch on them, I'm reminded just how good they are. They have both sweet and savory flavors to satisfy any snack craving. I love the 100 calorie snack packs for a quick grab-and-go snack to put in my purse. I also love using the sweet ones on smoothie bowls, yogurt bowls or protein fluff bowls. I've even used them as a topping for ice cream. The savory ones are great on their own or on avocado toast or as a salad topper for some added crunch! My favorite flavors are cocoa, barbecue, and sriracha!

Pumpkin Yogurt Bowl with Cinnamon Crisps
The marshmallow treats are HUGE. I usually eat half at a time but you can feel free to eat the whole thing. They are low in sugar and a nice treat to snack on! My favorite flavor is either birthday or double chocolate. I just can't decide!
Birthday Cake Pint with 1/4 a birthday rice treat!

The ice cream - ah the ice cream. If you know me, you know my love for ice cream runs deep. Enlightened makes a vast array of flavors of healthy, protein packed ice cream. They use quality ingredients and are lower in sugar and calories than typical ice cream. They are so rich and creamy, you could probably fool someone into thinking it's regular ice cream. The peanut butter chocolate chip, cold brew coffee, sea salt caramel, caramel oatmeal cookie crunch and frozen hot cocoa are just a few of my favorites. 

You can purchase Enlightened ice cream from http://www.icecreamsource.com/ or check their store locator to find where it's sold near you. If it's not sold near you, submit a product request form to your local grocery store. They really work! That's what I did and Enlightened ice cream is now sold in two stores in my area. 

The crisps and treats can also be found in stores or ordered from their website. If you order from their website, you can use the code HEALTHYHAPPY20 for 20% off. Find crisps and treats here: https://eatenlightened.refersion.com/c/d068df

Have you tried any Enlightened products? Which are your favorites?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Friday Finds!

It's time for Friday Finds - a round up of some things I've been enjoying lately or have recently discovered!

  • S.W. Skincare and Functional Fragrances
The people at S.W. Basics were so kind to send me some of their products to try. I tried the Cleanser and Lavender functional fragrance so far and will definitely try the cream scrub and who knows what else. The products are made with minimal ingredients that are natural. The cleanser makes my face feel like a baby's bottom, but that's not all, it removed my makeup without having to scrub like a maniac. They also make a make up remover if your makeup is particularly hard to remove. The lavender functional fragrance was such a good choice for me. It helps to ease anxiety and has soothing and cleansing properties plus I smell like a flower! It's a win-win and I really enjoy it. It's diffused in sunflower oil so you can apply it right to your skin. All their products are cruelty free and they use all natural ingredients that are certified organic, fair trade or sourced from family farms. Check them out here: http://swbasicsofbk.com/

  • Healthy Human Stein
Water, water, water. It seems like I can never drink as much as I should. I recently got a Healthy Human Stein and I have been carrying it with me every day and drinking all my water. I love how stylish they are - they come in an array of designs and colors. They are more than just a cute water bottle, though. They are made of premium food grade stainless steel, keep cold things cold for 24 hours, hot things hot for 12 hours, BPA free, made ethically and are on a mission to reduce waste. That's a lot from a water bottle! Check them out here: https://healthyhumanlife.com/

  • Stranger Things
Image from wikipedia.org
If you haven't heard of Netflix' series "Stranger Things", where you been??? I heard all the excitement over the release of Season 2 so I figured I would see what all the fuss is about. I started watching Season 1 and I am really loving it! It's like Twilight Zone meets Goonies meets alien encounter. I have a lot of episodes to go though so don't give anything away! 



  • Krunchy Melts
What are Krunchy Melts? They're meringue cookies that are all natural, fat free and gluten free! Meringue cookies are cookies made from egg whites and sugar and not much else but there is a bit of an art to baking them to achieve the proper texture. Krunchy Melts has mastered that art because they are crunchy on the outside but then you just let the sweet bliss melt in your mouth! They are so good and satisfy any sweet tooth! They also have tons of fun flavors and even come in sugar free varieties if you're looking for a super macro friendly sweet treat. I haven't tried the sugar free so I can't say how those are, but the regular are delicious and still just around 90 calories for 8 cookies! Locally, I have found them at Big Lots but they are also sold in a few other retailers and online at Amazon. Check them out here: https://www.krunchymelts.com/

Cappuccino Krunchy Melts on top of Halo Top

What have you been loving recently? Have you watched Stranger Things?



Beer and Pancakes 5K 2017

Another 5k in the books, my friends.

I've expressed my enjoyment of 5ks before, but this NC MedAssist 5k on November 4, gave me an extra dose of anxiety with my excitement. Why?

1. My work sponsored it.
2. They found out I placed in my age division last year and were counting on me as their "star athlete" (jokingly, but the pressure was on).
3. I sprained my ankle the week before!

I sprained my ankle running through a pile of leaves the week before so I transitioned to using a stationary bike to maintain my cardiovascular endurance but a stationary bike is really not the same as running.

The morning of the 5k was unseasonably warm, which I was thankful for. I fueled up with a Western Bagel and made the trip to the Brewery which was hosting the 5K. The proceeds go to a MedAssist program for people who can't afford insurance. It's hosted annually at a brewery where participants are treated to a breakfast of pancakes and bacon afterward. Oh, and beer, to replace glycogen stores I guess lol!

Don't worry - the bacon was unlimited for VIP!
I used KT tape and a YouTube video to tape my ankle for stability and nervously awaited the start time. I popped a piece of Neuro Gum and approached the start line not knowing how this race would go - I hadn't run in over a week!

The run did not feel great at all. I felt like my legs didn't want to go any faster. The course was pretty nice with no extremes, although it did end on an incline. My finish time was 22:33 with a 7:16 pace which is pretty good for me, especially with an injury!

I came in second place in my age group winning a beer glass. I chowed down on some bacon and tried to ignore the pain in my ankle.

I definitely made my ankle injury much worse and will be back to the bike for now but I'm happy I was able to finish strong!

My "trophy"!



Thursday, November 9, 2017

Review: Dairy Free Halo Top

Vegans and dairy intolerant ice cream lovers rejoiced when Halo Top announced their new line of vegan ice creams!

I, personally, do not follow a vegan diet, however, I'm always open to trying new things, especially if those things are in the form of ice cream! 

The dairy free pints are soy free and made with a coconut milk base. They also incorporate pea protein and rice protein to add a vegan protein punch. 

The flavors range from 280 calories per pint to 360 calories per pint, which is pretty impressive for ice cream made with coconut milk!

They average about 14-16 grams of fat per pint, 52-72 grams carbohydrates (not excluding sugar alcohols), and 12-16 grams of protein. 

I first tried Chocolate which is the lowest calorie of the vegan line coming in at 280 calories. 

Topped with a Square Organics Crisp Bar!
This flavor was just alright to me. I felt like the pea protein lent to a bit of a graininess. It wasn't horrible but I wouldn't go out of my way to purchase this pint, whether I were vegan or not.

Just add chocolate.
The next flavor I tried was Oatmeal Cookie. This one I liked better than the chocolate! It had a great cinnamon, oatmeal cookie flavor and oat pieces throughout. I know that some people criticized the oats in the dairy version but I actually like them. I think the addition of mix ins detracts from any effects of the pea protein as well because it was much less noticeable.

The next flavor I tried was Sea Salt Caramel - that has to be good, right? Well..it may have just been this particular pint, but Halo Top really dropped the ball. There was hardly any caramel ribbons so the execution fell flat. The flavor wasn't outstanding and the vegan graininess was still there. I had high hopes. This flavor could be way better if it had more caramel ribbons, so maybe take a gamble and see if you can get one with more caramel!

Sea Salt "Caramel"
Next up, Caramel Macchiato! Again, the caramel ribbons disappointed me. It had a nice, lightly sweet, coffee flavor but the caramel aspect was lacking.

Where is the caramel?
Peanut Butter Cup - please let this be good! Ah, sweet success. This pint actually had ribbons of peanut butter swirled throughout which detracts from the grainier vegan texture. This is definitely in the top 2 ranking for Non-dairy. I would say the flavor is very similar to the dairy version of this flavor! If dairy is not an option for you, this is a great choice!
Peanut Butter Cup!
The highest calorie of them all, coming in at 360 calories - Cinnamon Roll was the one I had the highest hopes for and I was not disappointed this time. It did still have the grainier texture, presumably from the vegan protein sources, but it didn't overtake the great cinnamon flavor, gooey cinnamon roll filling swirled throughout, and chunks of cinnamon roll "dough" studded throughout. This pint takes the cake...er...roll. You get the idea. I rank this number one for the non dairy pints!

All the Cinnayum toppings!
Last and least, yes, least, was Chocolate Covered Banana. I really did not have high expectations for this one because I'm not usually a fan of banana flavored things. (Enlightened Banana's Foster ice cream is my one exception!) The flavor was very artificially banana. It did, however, have a nice fudge swirl although that could have been thicker. There's no such thing as too much chocolate! I did finish the pint and I will say it grew on me a little bit but I would not purchase this flavor in dairy or non dairy. I'm just not a fan.

That Swirl!


Overall Rankings

1. Cinnamon Roll 
2. Peanut Butter Cup 
3. Oatmeal Cookie
4. Caramel Macchiato 
5. Sea Salt Caramel
6. Chocolate 
7. Chocolate Covered Banana

My final verdict is that these pints are pretty good for the macros and being non dairy, however, if you CAN have dairy, the dairy pints have a much more pleasing texture for similar calories.
Do you eat dairy? Do you think you will try the Non Dairy Halo Top or have you already? Let me know!


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

How to Cope with Less Daylight

Got a case of the Winter Blues?

If you're anything like me, you love the sunshine! I love to be outside soaking up the sun. What's a girl to do when the clocks fall back and the sunshine is limited to what seems to be just a few measly hours? It really can take a toll on your mental well being but here are some ideas to counter that:


  • Keep a routine and do your daily activities. Don't allow yourself to get into a slump. If you would normally go to a friends, cook dinner, go to the gym, go to a pottery class, then do that!
  • Try to get some sunshine in! It can definitely be a challenge if you go to work in the dark and come home in the dark, but strive to get some natural Vitamin D, even if it means going outside during a lunch break or sitting near a window. 
  • Enjoy citrus! Citrus foods are invigorating and they are in season during winter so enjoy! 
  • Stretch often - it will keep your blood flowing so you will feel awake even if its dark!

Remember, Spring is just around the corner! Don't wish your life away. Be grateful for every day!

Do you have tips to get through the winter? What's your favorite season?

Thursday, November 2, 2017

My Top Ten Protein Bar Picks!

If ten seems like a lot to you, you haven't seen the full scope of protein bars on the market. 

First of all there are some things I look for in a protein bar and some of my top picks don't check all the boxes but I love them anyway. Determine what's most important to you to choose your protein bars! 

I look for:
  • quality ingredients i.e. I prefer no soy, high fructose corn syrup, etc. 
  • lower sugar - If I was going to eat a candy bar...
  • decent amount of protein 
  • taste and texture - chewing on bricks is not my favorite thing
  • price - homegirl is on a budget 

My Top Ten Protein Bar Choices:

  1. Quest Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie - I'm not going to list out every quest bar, but this is one of my favorites from their classic bar line, the ingredients are pretty solid, protein is pretty high, sugar is pretty low and it's oh so soft, chewy and delicious!
  2. Square Organics Nuts and Sea Salt/Cookie Dough Chocolate Coated Bar - Again, I'm not going to list every square bar but those are two of my favorite flavors. Square bars happen to be vegan so I highly recommend them to vegans and non vegans alike. The ingredients are great, they are non gmo and organic. Protein is a bit lower than a typical whey based protein bar but still decent. They taste so good - I love the chocolate coating! Get them at a discount with my code: Healthy_happy_and_free 
  3. Fit Crunch Peanut Butter - Okay, so Fit Crunch bars do employ some less favorable ingredients such as soy and corn syrup but if you put one in your mouth, you'll understand. They are freaking delicious like a candy bar, yet the sugar is low and the protein is high! The "snack size" is my go-to because the regular size is huge.
  4. Power Crunch Red Velvet - Remember those nutter butter bars with the peanut butter creme and the wafers and the chocolate coating? Yeah, power crunch bars are basically those in a medley of flavors that taste delicious. They are a bit higher in fat and lower in protein, but sugar is still single digits. 
  5. Perfect Bar Peanut Butter - It's just perfect, right? The ingredients are awesome including over 20 organic superfoods, yet it tastes oh so peanut buttery and delicious. The sugar, does creep up a bit with organic honey as the second ingredient. If you're watching calories or fats, this can be a downside too because they clock in at 330 calories for the peanut butter flavor. 
  6. Ooh Snap Vanilla Marshmallow - You might not believe these bars have only 3 grams of sugar because they taste like a rice krispie treat! They have 15 grams of protein and only 150 calories. They do include soy and a long list of ingredients. You win some, you lose some. 
  7. Bia Bars Peanut Butter Fudge - The name doesn't lie. This bar tastes like straight fudge and is slightly more macro friendly than the Perfect Bar. It has 15 grams of protein for 220 calories, however, the addition of honey as a sweetener again drives the sugar into the double digits. 
  8. Yup Brands Cinnamon Roll B-Up Bar - These bars are so soft and have a light but tasty flavor. They use xylitol as a sweetening agent and whey and milk proteins to hit 20 grams of protein in a 170 calorie bar. 
  9. Detour Bars Salted Caramel Cookie Dough - They state they are non gmo, gluten free, nothing artificial and contains 20 grams of protein in a full size bar plus they taste delicious to boot! I love a good chocolate coating! P.S. The cookie dough smart bar rocks my socks off for a snack bar!
  10. Quest Hero Bar Vanilla Caramel - Not for the faint of heart when it comes to sweetness, this vanilla coated bar is uber sweet, just the way I like it. They utilize a new-to-the-market sweetener called allulose which apparently does not affect your blood sugar levels but is required to be listed as a sugar on the Nutrition label. The hero bars are like a sweet candy bar packed with protein. 
Sersiuosly, I'm definitely not sure about the order of those and there were others I debated should be in the top ten but in an effort to just finish this post I'll list some other honorable mentions:

Grenade Caramel Chaos, Raw Rev Creamy Peanut Butter (Vegan, too), G2G peanut butter chocolate chip, Oh Yeah! Birthday Cake, Unico Cinnamon Bar, Wella Bar

Bars I want to try: Fitjoy Lemon, Dive bars, The Best Bar, Rise Bar, SinFit bars, RX bars, Optimum Nutrition cake bites, ThinkThin cake bites, Proatein bar, Zing bar, Mars Protein bar, 

What are your favorite protein bars? Which ones do you want to try?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Review: Good Zebra Animal Crackers

My spirit animal is food.

Or a dragon. According to Good Zebra's spirit animal quiz. What is Good Zebra, you ask?

Hungry like the Wolf!
Good Zebra has created the world's first "spirit animal crackers". These animal crackers are sweetened with organic honey and organic coconut sugar. They use a combination of whey and organic pea protein to pack in 12g protein per serving. They come in three flavors: Vanilla, Chai, and Lemon!

Vanilla! Macros: 1 bag (57g) 230 calories 8f/30c/12p

These taste straight up like the classic animal crackers I remember when I was a kid and the texture is on point too!

Lemon! Macros: 1 bag (57g) 230 calories 8f/29c/12p

This flavor has a light, refreshing lemon zing. It's not overwhelming or overly tart - I would say it's just right!

Lemon Greek Yogurt with Lemon Spirit Animal Crackers
Chai! Macros: 1 bag (57g) 230 calories 7f/30c/12p

These have a nice light spiciness with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves. I imagine this would be great dunked in your daily cup o Joe or chai latte!

Not only are these snacks nostalgic, convenient, tasty, and fun, but their social media and webpage are a lot of fun too (they even have a quiz to find your spirit animal)! Check them out! Their instagram is :https://www.instagram.com/goodzebra/

Did you eat animal crackers as a child? What was your favorite childhood snack?

Discover your spirit animal here: Good Zebra Spirit Animal Quiz