May 252015
 

This post is sponsored by Blue Diamond Nut Thins.

Did you listen to the 2nd episode of our #ProteinPartners #ProteinChallenge series of the Sound Bites Podcast?  Melissa and I were chatting about the goal to get 25-30 grams of protein at each meal and that one strategy I have been using to get there is adding up the little things.

I’m a snacker, a muncher, a fill-your-plate-with-two-bites-of-everything-er, and it’s not uncommon for me to play the snack game when it comes to meal time.

For example, my favorite office snack plate lunch might get a boost in the protein department thanks to adding a serving of almonds and some cheese and/or deli meat to my lunch pack. But what I really think helps me get to the “goal zone” protein wise is being choosey on the items in my lunch that doesn’t always add protein in the meal.  I’ve been seeking out the types of these foods that do have a few grams of protein in a serving; being picking with my crackers, veggies, spreads and dips.

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Which explains while I was uber-stocked when I looked at the back of the box of Blue Diamond Almond Nut Thins I received as part of the Blue Diamond Tastemakers program and saw that a serving of these crackers brings in 3 grams of protein.  These are delicious, with a slightly nutty taste adding a depth of flavor regular ole crackers just don’t offer. I’ve been eating them smeared with peanut butter and preserves, served with salsa and shredded cheese – nacho style!, and as a device of getting spinach artichoke dip into my mouth on the double. SO TASTY!!

Blue Diamond Nut Thins come in a slew of flavors to boot! I’ve already started the hunt for some of the Artisan, cheese and honey thins in my local markets.

16 Dips to Share this Summer

I’ve also been on the hunt for dishes to share with friends on our deck this summer and dips and spreads are topping the list.  Here are a bunch of recipes I’m itching to make [and eat!] at THS HQ.

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Caprese Dip from Amee’s Savory Dish. My pal Amee calls this stuff crack dip and I can’t blame her!  There is a local Italian place, Johnny’s that has the most DELICIOUS caprese salad with made fresh daily mozzarella that is simply amazing and reading through this recipe has my mouth watering in the same way as that local favorite.  I need to get some basil plants for the porch STAT to help make this dip a regular thing in my life.

Honey Goat Cheese Spread from Ari’s Menu. There was a point in time that I “wanted a goat” as a pet for the pure intention of more goat cheese in my life. Thus, this speaks to me.

Easy Layered Dip with Sweet Potatoes from MJ and Hungryman. I am CRAZY about sweet potatoes and try to use them in my meal plan every week.  The sweet potato spin on a classic like layer dip is something I can totally get behind.

Pesto White Bean Dip from Koko’s Kitchen.  Pesto lovers unite! Loving this dip for the protein power packed in the white kidney beans, too.

The Best Vegan Buffalo Dip (not pictured) from Zeelemons. I’ve been fortunate to taste this dish made by Jona and she’s not lying – it’s DELICIOUS. I’m a fan of the non-vegan buffalo dips, too [this one is my go-to: Iowa Girl Eat’s Buffalo Chicken Dip] which made the yum-tastic level of this dish even more impressive, in my opinion.

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Corn Guacamole with a Zing from Diary of a Semi-Health Nut.  I love recipes from Amanda because she keeps it simple but never skimps on flavor.  I’ll take a bowl of this with a margarita, please!

Single Serving 5-Minute Taco Dip from More Than Just Dessert. Taco dip is a Midwestern MUST for any party, and I love that Emily made it nice and simple for me to make for myself any darn time I want. WIN!

Creamy Feta and Sun Dried Tomato Dip from The Wannabe Chef.  I’ve never met an Evan recipe I didn’t like and since feta does, in my honest opinion, make everything “betta,” I’m all about this one for my next party platter. I love a dip that works well with both veggies and crackers, don’t you?

Healthy Caramelized Onion Dill Dip from Chicago Jogger. Is there an ingredient more wonderful than the caramelized onion? It’s definitely one of the most favorites in the THS Kitchen and pairing it with dill makes this dip hit the very top of my “To Make ASAP” list.

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Spicy Avocado Dip from Alma’s Days. This dip looks delicious in the photo and I love Denise’s idea of pairing it with cocktail shrimp to compliment the Old Bay flavoring in the dip.

Zesty Carrot Dip from A Fit & Spicy Life. A nutrient packed veggie dip that hits the vegan, gluten free and paleo check boxes makes this dish super party-with-your-health-pals friendly.

Chocolate Party Dip from The Wannabe Foodie.  I’ve made this dip before and think it would be especially delicious with the Pecan Nut Thins that I’ve been hunting for at the market ever since I saw them on the Blue Diamond website.

Garlic Greek Olive Hummus.  I haven’t made hummus in FOREVER and this needs to change immediately.

Clean and Simple Black Bean Dip (not pictured) from Treble in the Kitchen. This dip would pair perfectly with the Spicy Avocado Dip above. Let’s have a fiesta!

 

What is your favorite dip or spread to share with friends? 

May 042015
 

In Mid-April, I began the #ProteinChallenge, a 30 Day guided challenge that aims to help you get a balanced amount of protein at each meal.  Some of the more remarkable benefits of eating protein throughout the day include feeling satisfied after a protein-packed meal, which helps reduce mindless eating. Also, meals with protein helps to build muscle and reduce body fat.  You can read more about the challenge and our participation in this #ProteinPartner collaboration from my RD partner, Melissa Joy Dobbins here: Join Us on the 30 Day Protein Challenge

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Monday April 27 – Sunday May 3

This Week I Learned… a few different things, all thanks to it being a week of CELEBRATION!  Tuesday was my birthday [Bar-thday Trivia trip included!], followed by a 5-day vacation from the office; the best gift I could have given myself! 

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The whole week/long weekend was filled with lots of celebratory eats [and drinks!] and I decided going in that I was going to aim for my protein goals according to the challenge schedule each day, but I wasn’t going to stress over any specific meals that I might not have control over.  Celebrating #THS32 > worrying about any one plate of food.

I was pleasantly surprised to see how easily hitting my protein goals came to me, especially on meals I was dining out.  I am a sandwich lover and ate my fair share of them over the past week, especially when out for lunches and dinners with friends. 

Favorite Meal of the Week: Here’s a tip for me fellow free-food lovers – if you sign up for the Moe’s Southwest Grill E-World, you’ll get a coupon for a free entrée with the purchase of any size soft drink for the days surrounding your birthday.  I love Moe’s for a lot of reasons and the coupons that come to my inbox throughout the year is one of them.

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Another reason I love Moe’s is the fillings/topping choices.  This time around I got a steak burrito with grilled mushrooms, peppers and onions, pinto beans, corn salsa, guac, and chipotle sauce on a whole grain tortilla and it was FANTASTIC.  And also giant size so I had plenty of food for leftovers. 

One last note – the current seasonal salsa flavor at Moe’s is Pineapple Cucumber and it is RIDICULOUSLY delicious. I want to sneak in a ball jar and fill it before they swap flavors. [Or you know… just make my own version at home like a normal human.]

Snacking Notes: I have mentioned it before, but I definitely see a difference in my hunger levels and a lack of mindless-afternoon snacking on days where I eat 25-30 grams of protein at both breakfast and lunch.  And I like that difference!  I have found myself gravitating towards protein heavy meals even on days that are scheduled as “rest” on the calendar because of it.

In terms of celebration snacks, I did treat myself to a fancy coffee at The Happy Cappuccino while I was out running errands one early morning last week – the April flavor special, the Samoa, which happens to be my favorite girl scout cookie.  Fancy, over-sugared coffee beverages are one of life’s sweetest, simplest pleasures in my mind.

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I also took advantage of the luxury of being on vacation and spent 15 full minutes just sitting in the window of the coffee shop, listening to the music that was playing [something instrumental and lightly jazzy], enjoying the people watching, and not reading, writing, making, or taking.  It was glorious and a reward I plan to treat myself to in the coming months after completing personal goals, for certain. I

Also, on a protein note – I’m estimating this large iced whole milk latte had between 12-16 grams of protein. BOOM!

#ProteinChallenge Reflections: I’m getting more and more comfortable being able to estimate where my meals are going to be protein wise before I track them, which is great for the goal of understanding protein in a “make a lifestyle change” type of way.  Being out and about a lot this week wasn’t all that scary because I was familiar with the ingredients I was eating and could estimate the protein content based on my previous tracking and journaling experience.  

ICYMI: Some protein recipes and resources from around the web I came across this week:

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Beef Expert Bureau.  Though this post is NOT directly sponsored by The Beef Checkoff, my participation in the Protein Challenge does full under my Bureau membership activities, which is a paid position.

Apr 272015
 

In Mid-April, I began the #ProteinChallenge, a 30 Day guided challenge that aims to help you get a balanced amount of protein at each meal.  Some of the more remarkable benefits of eating protein throughout the day include feeling satisfied after a protein-packed meal, which helps reduce mindless eating. Also, meals with protein helps to build muscle and reduce body fat.  You can read more about the challenge and our participation in this #ProteinPartner collaboration from my RD partner, Melissa Joy Dobbins here: Join Us on the 30 Day Protein Challenge

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Monday April 20 – Sunday April 26

This Week I Learned… a little planning goes a long way.  Last weekend, I looked at the Protein Challenge calendar as I was meal planning and spent time choosing lunches and planning dinners that were sure to meet the 25-30 grams of protein each meal for the days that I was looking to “protein shift” to meeting 25-30 grams for two of my daily meals according to the challenge schedule. 

“Protein shifts” were on the schedule for Monday, Wednesday and Friday.  On Sunday and Tuesday evenings, I spent 5 minutes writing out my planned eats for the next day while tallying up my projected protein intake.  Already knowing my meals were hitting the protein goals, I had no problem sticking to my menu for the day.  Friday I ate repeat meals from earlier in the week, so I knew my choices were hitting the protein totals needed in the shift.

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Favorite Meal of the Week: I ended up over achieving and hitting my protein shift for all my lunches last week because I food prepped Mexican Quinoa Bowls [errrr…jars] for five lunches (30 grams) and had pizza for two (26 grams.) 

The Mexican Quinoa bowls were my FAVORITE meal of the week.  I made a batch of quinoa and divided it into five ball jars, then added diced tomatoes, black refried beans, sautéed peppers and onions, sweet corn, and 1.5 ounces of leftover pork tenderloin.  So tasty! 

Snacking Notes: I’ve definitely noticed a difference in my hunger levels in-between meals on days where I managing to spread my protein intake in more evenly earlier throughout the day.  As a notorious day long office snacker this is a bit new to me.  I kept a lot of snacks on hand last week, but didn’t find myself reaching for them on days when my breakfasts and lunches both were above 20 grams of protein for the day.

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#ProteinChallenge Reflections: It’s oh-so-clear to me that planning ahead so much this past week was a HUGE help to hitting my protein goals, and therefore keeping my hunger at bay.  The week ahead is a bit more crazy for me; I don’t have a whole lot of “regularly scheduled” days in week 3 thanks to some PTO days and celebratory events eating out and away from home. I have a feeling keeping protein heavy snacks on-hand to pair with any possible light-protein meals will be key as I move through the coming week.

ICYMI: Sound Bites Podcast – Episode 005: with Protein Partner Heather Shugarman – Melissa has released the first of three podcast episodes we’re sharing through our #ProteinPartners experience!  In this episode we’re conversing about how starting the challenge went for each of us, along with discussing the challenges and solutions we each faced when it came to breakfast while starting the #ProteinChallenge.

Along the way we talk a bit about mindful eating, the desire for brownies at breakfast, what we’re loving most about the challenge. Please give it a listen and let us know what you think! 

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Disclaimer: I am a member of the Beef Expert Bureau.  Though this post is NOT directly sponsored by The Beef Checkoff, my participation in the Protein Challenge does full under my Bureau membership activities, which is a paid position.